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Siasa 101: Let’s celebrate 50 years of stupidity

By Peter Wanyonyi | Saturday, Dec 31st 2016 at 10:28
Photo:Courtesy

Kenya marked an important anniversary in 2016.

Looking back in history, one sees very quickly that 1966 is where the country had to choose whether to be an accommodative space in which everyone’s opinion was respected — even if not agreed with — or to be a pseudo-police state with the attendant and inevitable consequences of such oppressive places: corruption, fear of the police, economic mismanagement, the thriving of a small political elite at the expense of all else. After not too much consideration, Kenya chose the latter path – and the results are obvious wherever you look.

First to go was our spanking new majimbo constitution. The government of Mzee Kenyatta felt that they needed far closer control of the country than even the colonials had. This necessitated the conversion of what was a budding open country into a police state – you couldn’t even breathe without permission from State House!

The impunity with which the majimbo constitution was ripped to shreds set the stage for what was to follow: thinly-disguised government assassinations of anyone that looked like developing an alternative centre of power.

Ironically, the architect of the move to destroy the majimbo constitution was none other Tom Mboya — and he paid the ultimate price himself, as the terrifying new dispensation he helped usher in lead to his own assassination, shot dead like a stray dog in the streets of Nairobi.

With the katiba thus watered down and any pesky opponents silenced — either by detention without trial or by the assassin’s bullet — we then set about the challenging business of robbing the country dry. Beginning from the 1970s, small cases of public fund pilferage by politicians and civil servants began to creep into public knowledge.

In the 1980s and 1990s, these grew into fairly respectable corruption scams, culminating in the mind-boggling Goldenberg scandal. But even this wasn’t unmanageable: we waded through donor SAPs and similar economic mumbo-jumbo quite comfortably, so what’s a few billion shillings pilfered by an enterprising Kenyan brother?

The new millennium found Kenya on the cusp of something truly remarkable: a peaceful change of government through the ballot box. We loved it. Optimism soared as Kenyans voted in Mwai Kibaki’s government. Euphoria peaked when he put together a government that looked like Kenya, with ministers and the like sourced from across the country.

Like a nice dream, this was always too good to be true, and the fallout in that government laid the stage for the infamous post-election violence of 2008. It would not be Kenya if a little money wasn’t involved, though, and the many scandals in the Kibaki government – from outright money pilferage in the Anglo-Leasing scandal to thinly-disguised land grabs by senior politicians – showed us just what happens when a government goes rogue.

We were so corrupt that foreign diplomats from donor nations took to penning angry poems denouncing our gluttony.

A fool doesn’t know when he’s gone too far. Considering the state that Kenya is in, it’s clear that our leaders are, without exception, fools. And in their stupidity, they have actually managed to outdo themselves: the current government has now gone down in Kenyan history as the most corrupt ever. Given how corrupt we already were, that’s astonishing.

But it is in the last couple of years that an even more disturbing phenomenon has gradually come to light: corruption in Kenya has metastasised. It has slowly spread through the police service, the national examinations council, the national Olympic bodies, schools, hospitals, even the National Youth Service.

After 50 years of beating about the bush we restored a version of the majimbo constitution, suitably watered down and severely neutered as to make it both in credibly expensive and totally unworkable at the same time. But what has worked is graft – our governors are now the leaders of devolved stealing centres, our county assemblies are little more than the regular gatherings of dens of thieves, and our county officers are in place ostensibly to serve just the one purpose: to get rich while making their bosses richer.

Forming the background to this sorry, sordid tale of mismanagement, thievery and grand larceny is the average Kenyan citizen. And, if the politicians are fools, the average citizen is twice as stupid. No other group of people on earth are as capable of voting against their own interests as Kenyans are.

We are an incredible lot: we have allowed our politicians to not only steal everything moveable in the country, we have gone ahead and created justifications for the theft. At the top of our list is tribe, that old monkey on our collective back. We feel an incredible pride when our tribesman steals money or grabs a piece of land off some impoverished peasant.

Young Kenyans take to social media to applaud their tribesmen for insulting anyone that doesn’t agree with them, and we have formed these online alliances and groupings that descend like swarms of locusts on any item they don’t like, and then proceed to spread verbal excrement on those items.

We are an incredible lot: we have allowed our politicians to not only steal everything moveable in the country, we have gone ahead and created justifications for the theft. At the top of our list is tribe, that old monkey on our collective back. We feel an incredible pride when our tribesman steals money or grabs a piece of land off some impoverished peasant. Young Kenyans take to social media to applaud their tribesmen for insulting anyone that doesn’t agree with them, and we have formed these online alliances and groupings that descend like swarms of locusts on any item they don’t like, and then proceed to spread verbal excrement on those items.

We are an incredible lot: we have allowed our politicians to not only steal everything moveable in the country, we have gone ahead and created justifications for the theft. At the top of our list is tribe, that old monkey on our collective back. We feel an incredible pride when our tribesman steals money or grabs a piece of land off some impoverished peasant. Young Kenyans take to social media to applaud their tribesmen for insulting anyone that doesn’t agree with them, and we have formed these online alliances and groupings that descend like swarms of locusts on any item they don’t like, and then proceed to spread verbal excrement on those items.

Thus comes 2016 to a close – and, unfortunately, there’s no good news for 2017. For one, it’s an election year. That means the plunder of public monies will reach new heights, and the impunity of the political class will break all records. By the end of the year, the current government will have been re-elected – sitting presidents don’t lose elections in Kenya, regardless of the actual vote count.

We will have spent a small fortune on the campaigns, many will have been killed and others maimed, only to end up with the same group of thieving politicians and their tribal acolytes. How stupid can we get? Happy New Year!

Peter Wanyonyi is an IT specialist based in Newzealand

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