We are barely into the New Year 2019 and change is in the air in Kenya, at least those are the vibes we are getting from the tone-setter in chief a.k.a. President Uhuru Kenyatta. As the old adage goes “change is a constant” and that is a good thing. However, change for the sake of change isn’t necessary beneficial, in Kenya’s case, the issue is whether the change itself is good or bad. Depending on who you ask, Kenya is undergoing a transformation that to some will spell doom to some while ushering a new era of hope and prosperity to others. I suspect all of us have in our minds what we would like to see happen in Kenya this year, President Kenyatta has expressed his vision and so have some of the some of our leaders. If I could wave a magic wand and remake Kenya this year and beyond, what would my ideal Kenya look like? What about you? Here are my top five (5) changes I want to see in Kenya in 2019, tell me how this measures with your thoughts:
RECONSTITUTE THE GOVERNMENT – Abe Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, Kenya has been the epitome of division for quite a long time courtesy of negative ethnicity and bad politics. President Kenyatta has a golden opportunity a golden opportunity to bridge the tribal divide in the country for the greater good of Kenya and to his credit has proactively taken affirmative steps in uniting the country by way of the now famous “handshake” with the “people’s president” Raila Odinga. I personally don’t necessarily endorse the truce but Let’s give credit where credit is due and that is, the “building bridges” initiative as it is called is that there are discernible dividends in the form of peace and stability, to me that is the bigger picture that supersedes all else. However, the president is clearly haunted with the bad politics inherent in the deal he supposedly made with his Deputy William Ruto. Barely a year into Kenyatta’s second term Ruto’s itch to succeed him has gotten the best of him, his primary obsession is becoming president in 2022 and instead of assisting Kenyatta fulfill the pledges they made to Kenyans, he’s pulling in a different direction with his premature campaigns and is a major distraction that threatens to imperil not just the president’s agenda but also hold the country at ransom. Kenyatta’s government in this second term should necessarily be of the same accord, a fine tuned ONE BAND ONE TUNEorchestra, as a and instead we are being subjected to constant campaigns by Ruto and his surrogates. RUTO IS trying to have it both ways, whereas he and his proxies such as Dennis Itumbi, Bahati MP Kimani Ngujiri et al are actively undermining the president’s agenda with their premature campaigns and even “launching” new NON BIG 4 projects in direct defiance of the president’s explicit ban of the same he’s also busy paying lip service to the BIG 4 and trying to take credit for it, that is simply an untenable for Kenyatta to be in.
What’s Kenyatta to do? What would you advise the President to do? Mine is really simple, I say the buck stops with you Mr. President, put an end to these charades. ONLY YOU CAN FIX THIS. Time is of the essence, cut your losses as soon as you can, RECONSTITUTE & REFRAME your government, frankly this is something you should have done long ago if you ask me; release from its midst the elements that are in the way of your agenda and yes that means Ruto and those of his mindset. Instill discipline; free them up so he can focus his energies on the 2022 elections before he renders you a complete lame duck way too prematurely, stamp some authority in the government and advance the people’s agenda, don’t provide Ruto a platform to advance his agenda at the expense of the people’s agenda, let Ruto advance Ruto’s agenda outside of government.
END CORRUPTION – It is no secret that Kenya’s corruption levels are still at epidemic levels. It is estimated that 1/3 of the country’s GDP is driven by corruption. Most of the corruption is in government, from rank and file all the way to highest cadres of government. I applaud President Kenyatta for his public stance against the vice but it appears that this is really a Public Relations exercise because there seems to be no tangible or meaningful dividends from the president’s push. The biggest problem is that those with the most to account for are in the president’s inner circle, at least that’s what the perception they have created, whether it is DP William Ruto himself of ambassadors posted far away outside Kenya, truth is the onus is on the president to make believers out of us that he’s serious in ending corruption. Just as an example, is a situation in Washington, DC where word on the street is that the ambassador, notorious for rampant corruption, tribal chauvinism, high-handedness at the office and purveying negative ethnicity in America, openly flaunts Kenyatta’s patronage as reason he cannot be touched or disciplined; for those of us who witness these things or live through them, it is hard to take the president seriously when it appears that the prosecution of corruption is selective. Here is what I want to see in 2019 Mr. President:
Lifestyle Audits – Live up to what you promised Kenyans, put on some blindfolds and drain the swamp starting with those right under your nose. The president said there will be lifestyle audits and those audits will be public but we haven’t heard a whimper about it. What happened? In one chat groups out here, members questioned the president’s sincerity in the audits and Dennis Itumbi, Ruto’s propagandist responded and I quote, “Nzioka Waita Already told KTN both the President and DP have undergone lifestyle Audit. Done. Finished. Next.” When the likes of Itumbi responds in this manner, it mocks the whole purpose of the so called “lifestyle audits” exercise. It appears that this is a private affair and more importantly a PR stunt on the president’s part, not good. Be sincere about this and make this credible Mr. President otherwise you shouldn’t have brought it up at all and gave the public false hope that something meaningful and substantive will happen. Purge those mentioned
Fund the Judiciary – The Judiciary, a co-equal branch of government is way underfunded if the reports we read are anything to go by and yet it is a critical piece of the puzzle in the fight against corruption. The other two branches of government’s budgetary allocations are obscenely exorbitant relative to the value or lack thereof to taxpayers and I can’t reconcile the reason. If there is a time the judiciary needs funding and tools/resources to fight corruption, it is now.
“Whistleblower legislation” – Whereas corruption in the United States is virtually non-existent, different levels of governments, Federal, State and Local have whistleblower statutes in the books aimed at encouraging the public to report corruption and fraud. These are particularly helpful in catching tax cheats, corruption, etc. The government splits recovered proceeds with the whistleblowers, Kenya desperately needs whistleblower laws and will be way better served by adopting similar policies, we need all hands on deck and the public need to be a major part of the ending the scourge.
RECONNECT WITH THE DIASPORA – This is the one area that President Kenyatta needs improvement, like big time improvement. There is tremendous untapped opportunities for the taking with Kenyans in the Diaspora. We would like to be formally plugged into Kenya’s economy especially the President’s BIG 4 Agenda and help mobilize capital flows to finance some of the projects that the president wants to implement. As it is Kenyans in the Diaspora contribute more than KSH 200 Billion to Kenya’s GDP annually and yet we get no love from the Kenyan government, we are not even at the table in any decision making process, frankly we are more like on the menu – a cash cow or is it the goose that layeth the golden egg, whatever we are to this government, it is certainly at the low end of the totem pole. Occasionally the president and his team would say a nice word or two about us when they visit but this constituency, nicknamed the 48th County, gets practically nothing to show for the massive contributions we make to the exchequer. By the way it is not that we are asking for much, such as infrastructure development or massive benefits such as roads or hospitals, oh no, not at all. It is opening avenues so we can participate more fully in growing Kenya’s economy, having a fully functional Diaspora Secretariat that liaises with the government to promote investments (by the way a secretariat led by Kenyans in the Diaspora and not impostors the likes of Shem Ochuodho) and services such as timely delivery of passports and IDs; invest in Kenyans in the Diaspora Mr. President, you will be surprised how far just a little genuine engagement and a few resources will go, give it a shot.
ECONOMY – Clearly everything boils to the economy, Kenya now has a unique window given the relative calm courtesy of the “handshake” to register respectable growth in GDP and yet it appears that some of the government’s own actions are undermining its own explicitly stated goals. Pertinent in this the government’s completely asinine and misplaced actions of demolishing buildings worth Billions of shillings for the flimsiest of flimsy, it is counterintuitive and needlessly puts a stranglehold on the president’s BIG 4 agenda as it has a chilling effect to would be investors, I mean who can trust government development permits after this? Additionally it appears that the government is selectively targeting those buildings owned by the not so well connected and allowing fragrant abusers get away scot-free, all Kenyans deserve equal access and protection under the law.
I can’t reconcile the government’s rhyme or reason for its actions, it is just BAD. The owners of demolished buildings received permits from the government and to now turn on the investors and destroy that which they have worked so hard to build on a whim is callous beyond measure, it is just wrong. I want to see an end to this, just STOP the DEMOLITIONS.
EDUCATION – Kenya has one of the most illustrious talent pool of any population in Africa but we are only as strong as our weakest link. If I were to rank Kenya’s weak links, education is a close second to corruption. The country’s curriculum is obsolete, been so for so long and it is high time the government took steps to remedy glaring problem, it is a low hanging fruit that should have been fixed long ago. Kenya needs to keep up with changes of an ever changing world, technology and innovations are changing rapidly and it is no wonder the country keeps churning out low skilled graduates who can’t find jobs let alone create any for themselves or their peers. In 2019 I expect to see a complete overhaul of the country’s curriculum, I would like to see graduates who are practical and make things; theories don’t create jobs, manufacturing does.