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January 21, 2019

Betrayed, abused and defiled

Abused Kenyan
Abused Kenyan

The Jubilee regime is hitting itself on the nose. The presidency and its functionaries are scoring own goals with singular regularity. That this should drag on for weeks, a few months to the general election, is a reality check for electoral strategists of the status quo.

Meanwhile, the numbers of the unhappy, the uninterested, the apathetic, the hungry are soaring at a spectacular pace. The disenchanted are a highly educated but hungry people with a cause, and rights to assert. They are also armed with the weapon of preference in a democracy.

One jobless graduate in Tunisia messed up the insular regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali that had run a stable dictatorship for 23 years. The Arab Spring had a humble beginning: One angry man lit himself up to protest against the abuse of his right to a decent living.

The numbers of the disenchanted are higher here: Someone bring out the calculator: About 500,000 public university students are wasting away across party and ethnicity divides.

The students have dissolved into the anonymous crowds of city streets. The young minds are probably doing the wrong things at the wrong time, instead of learning and preparing for end of semester examinations. Some parents do not know where their children are.

In one hostel in Rongo, Migori county, the 100 students in residence have trickled down to seven. The rest disappeared after waiting for too long for their university to give direction.

Initially, the students did not expect the striking lecturers to picket for this long. The students would go away for a few days and return to their residence. They were hoping classes would resume soon. But by the end of January, the numbers were dwindling.

By the end of last month, there were 15 students. Now only a few mischievous students are around, chatting and playing loud music, with regular binger breaks. These are second year students who stayed away from the university from April last year to January 2017. The students are three semesters behind their graduation schedule.

Meanwhile, poor parents are paying the heavy bill - tuition, accommodation and maintenance – for students on the streets. Universities are also incurring heavy costs.

The 500,000 students have 500,000 mothers, 500,000 fathers, and more than 2 million siblings, relatives, and friends. These taxpaying adults are concerned about the collapse of the public university education system.

There are also about 30,000 staff in the 33 public universities. The 9,000 or so lecturers have been on strike since January. These public sector employers have children, relatives, and friends who do not understand why a stable system can stall for three months.

Then there are suppliers and others who make a living through the university system. Kiosks and cybercafes around these universities are losing business. The familiar hawkers who sell fruits and assorted wares around these universities have disappeared. The collapse of the public university system has robbed them of a livelihood.

There are also doctors who have been on strike for 102 days. These could be another 800,000 people. These people have children, parents, relatives and friends.

There are also other people who depend on these doctors to earn a living. These are probably right-thinking adults of voting age. They are angry. They are hungry. They feel betrayed, abused and defiled.

These angry people are ready for the August 8 general election, against the backdrop of great disappointment. Then there are millions of starving citizens and others fleeing insecurity in the North Rift.

Together, there are about six million people who may probably know there can be another Kenya, where public institutions work. They may know there can be leaders who are sensitive to the cries of the angry and the hungry.

Jubilee electoral strategists may probably know this upswell of raw emotion is the wrong context for elections where performance is being belaboured. The power of context may probably define the regime’s fate.

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