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January 19, 2019

Outraged citizens do nothing


The more things change, the more they remain the same. The more Kenyans suffer lack of basic or shoddy services, in the face of even heavier taxation, the more the people seem to acquiesce.

Meanwhile, elected leaders are celebrating rapacity. They are taking strategic eating positions around the trough: They need leaders who can pay their rents, and fund their campaigns.

And, yes, from leaders - for lack of a better word - who serve mediocrity, while plundering their way to personal wealth. The effect of this plunder on the masses does not matter to them.

The people know what is wrong, but they lack the resolve to do anything to change their lot. The people are being robbed of their livelihoods. The sugar industry is crumbling. Millions who rely on the sugar economy have been impoverished. Maize farmers are begging, while broker-cartels are trading imported stock at the National Cereals and Produce Board.

The people have no water because money intended for this purpose ends up in private pockets. Unemployment is rising because a plundered economy does not create jobs. Insecurity is rising because millions of young educated people are unemployed.

Public health is in a shambles. Proper healthcare is unaffordable for many. Roads are abandoned cattle paths. Basic services are dead because those who have the opportunity, motive, and means are accumulating personal wealth through pilferage of public accounts.

The French have a poetic way of capturing our plight in the hands of a voracious leadership. 'Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same)' describes our stifled consciences; our inaction in the face of the ruthless greed of the thieving minority.

This thievery erodes the moral fabric of society; violates the social and economic rights of the poor and the vulnerable; undermines democracy; subverts the rule of law, which is the basis of civilisation; and retards development. This thievery denies the poor, and those without patrons in high places, the benefits of free and open competition.

'A connected house girl' is claimed to have imported about 196 million cigarettes, ducking a tax bill of Sh630 million. This is the Kenya where a connected hairdresser and a secondary school dropout from Naivasha show ingenuity at making money than a professor of economics.

The coalition of a compromised leadership and a complicit electorate has produced a stalled economy, and stunted democracy. The country is a dumping ground for contraband goods, and a playground for cartels. The cartels thrive because they enjoy protection from the very system that is supposed to secure public interest.

How did we drop in this hole? We are still digging, even when we are shoulder-deep in the cesspit of decadence. The journey to this junction - where right and wrong cross - did not begin yesterday. But the situation is deteriorating as we cheer.

The status quo is fortified when the rights of those suspected of crimes are rated above constitutional rights of the citizenry. This is bastardised justice and rule of law that do not cut both ways.

Four years to the 2022 General Election, raising funds for political conspiracies is taking a huge toll on the economy. A year after shambolic elections, the toll on the economy and human rights are yet to be quantified.

But the usual suspects are not thinking of accountability, or repairing the damage in the hope of a new beginning. No, the national preoccupation is politics of corruption where everything goes. Including importing poisoned sugar to fund mass amnesia.

The law is selectively applied to the advantage of owners of huge campaign war-chests. The warriors, the scavengers of opportunity, have a leg up if they know how to treat their choristers and victims. No attention is paid to how the war chests were constructed. Everything goes: It is about spreading proceeds of crime to fortify impunity.

The Church and other faiths are complacent as shepherds trample the rights of the sheep. Proceeds of impunity are sanitised on the pulpit. Huge offertories and massive contributions at faith functions are all it takes to silence the spiritual police. We clap, then praise their generosity.

Things do not change when the top has atrophied. It is this top leadership that should set the tone of national morality. Every house girl knows you clean the staircase by starting at the top.

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