LAMENTATIONS

Poverty creates conditions for poor leadership

All over, there is always a lot of negativity about leaders

In Summary

• Our economic circumstances have failed Kenyans, so expect more surprises, especially in politics.

• Angry and hungry people may not necessarily make rational choices.

A crowd at Uhuru Park during a political rally
NO CHANGE: A crowd at Uhuru Park during a political rally
Image: Monicah Mwangi

Whenever I read news or analysis online, I don’t fail to see leaders being condemned over this or that. There is always a lot of negativity about leaders.

This is not just in Kenya but also globally. I have always wondered about this bitterness yet these are the same people who put individuals in leadership. If you look at campaign rallies anywhere, you always see jollity among the attendants and heavy expectations, if not very hopeful people. The campaigners also appear very kind.  What changes when the campaigners or the leaders get into office is baffling.

I have witnessed many campaign rallies in Kenya. At one time as a researcher for some NGO, I covered many rallies across the country in a general election. I traversed the country gauging the issues at hand and how the electorate expected them to be solved and if the candidates had a sense of the expectations of the voters. The sense of belonging to the campaigner or the candidate always seems surreal.

Many candidates had a good grasp of issues at hand. Yet after elections, lamentations by voters aggrieved by the poor performance of their leaders followed. Was the grasp of the issues real or just pretence? One can’t easily tell. Probably campaigning and getting the job done are two different things altogether.

There have been periods of great excitement and expectation in our history. One such moment is when we attained self-rule and then independence.  Years later, there was clamour for change and when the multiparty politics was reintroduced in 1992, where was another moment of excitement and expectation.

There were many changes and the clamour continued until Mwai Kibaki rode to power through Narc. Kenyans were the most optimistic in the world. There were disappointments with the Kibaki administration. 

In 2010, we promulgated a new constitution leading to another round of hope and excitement. We are yet on another paradigm hoping for more changes. What is the missing link?

Our economic circumstances have failed Kenyans, so expect more surprises, especially in politics. Angry and hungry people may not necessarily make rational choices. Poverty is demeaning and destructive and creates conditions that can worsen political circumstances and even worsen economic choices.

This is what is making Kenyans so receptive to populist politics. This is why there is palpable anger all over.