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December 10, 2018

Obama fired us up to do what we've always known we should do

US President Barack Obama waves as he boarded Airforce 1 for Ethiopia at JKIA. Photo/MOnicah Mwangi
US President Barack Obama waves as he boarded Airforce 1 for Ethiopia at JKIA. Photo/MOnicah Mwangi

Now that Barack Obama has come and gone, like seasoned journalist Kwendo Opanga, I can breathe again. I can go back to the city, reclaim my space and step into areas that for a few days became exclusive United States of America territory.

Now that Obama has come and gone, I hope the Kenyans who leave everything to sirikali, will have been inspired by his local speeches and instead of crying out, "sirikali saidia" all the time, become responsible citizens and wherever possible, take action to better their lot. Obama did not tell us anything new, but maybe hearing it all over again from a foreigner and the most powerful one at that, might just make a slight difference.

In the euphoric days of the ‘Narc dream’, Kenyans were so hopeful and so determined that they practically outlawed corruption on our roads and did away with illegal taxes imposed by the provincial administration in the guise of harambee. Traffic police officers stopped taking bribes and started doing what they are employed to do. This message of zero tolerance reverberated loudly to other sectors, But soon, Kenyans, a people with little staying power, gave up the fight and presently it was business as usual. And we went back to crying ‘sirikali saidia’.

It should not take Obama to tell us that this country belongs to all of us whatever our political persuasion and that we should guard it jealously while doing our best to right what is wrong. He should not be the one telling us to stop riding the coattails of western leaders begging them to make things work for us. In 2010, we voted for a new world-acclaimed constitution which we committed to guard and obey, but those who were most vocal in its support, today shout that the government in place in illegitimate, despite the fact that the Supreme Court (a creation of the said constitution) affirmed it.

Did it take Obama to tell us we have a duly elected government and that all of us should work with it for the prosperity of this nation? It should not take Obama to tell us to become accountable citizens who take responsibility for their nation instead of continuous moaning. The man is nobody’s head boy.

We do not have to take the law in our hands but we can for example make it our responsibility to shame and stop the bribery that takes place every day right under our noses. Those who travel by matatu know when and how the bribery between the police officers and crews take place. Why don’t we shout it out, instead of watching mutely as dirty money change hands? In our work places and in the offices we seek services, we know who take bribes, so why don’t we finger them? This way we could be on our way towards minimizing corruption in our own small ways and then we can start crying ‘sirikali saidia’ on the mega corrupt deals.

It is commendable that President Kenyatta admitted in front of his host and the world at large that in the fight against terror, his government may have made mistakes that led to feelings of marginalization against certain communities, but as he said, this is a new frontline and his government is learning on the job and therefore bound to make mistakes. What his local detractors including the opposition and leaders from the affected communities should do, is work with the government in its quest to eradicate terrorism instead of spewing empty criticism and providing lip service to that and other initiatives.

Devolved governments were among other things introduced to ensure a level ground and fair play in the development of the country and its peoples. If the resources that are allocated to and generated by the county governments were properly used, this country would be well on its way towards addressing the disparities Obama talked about last weekend. However what Kenyans did by forming county governments, was to devolve corruption. Instead of uplifting their subjects the leaders of these tribal governments (for that’s what they have become), are instead fleecing them as they pile the 2017 political stash.

I was around albeit much younger when Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was president, I was doing what I am doing today when Mwai Kibaki was the head of state and government for ten years and I am still banging the key board. I have nothing to show for being a fellow tribesman to two former and a sitting president, so for me and many others, benefiting from tribalism is hollow. Its fruits are enjoyed by a select few.  I agree it is a big issue, but I would rather be discussing the need to close the gap between the haves and have-nots.

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