Inequalities Could Easily Spur Tensions And Divisions

Maina Kiai by Maina Kiai
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This is a wonderfully beautiful country. Spending time around the slopes of Mt. Kenya easily explains why the British made Kenya one of its few colonies in Africa.

Kenya was a prized possession that they would inhabit and control as part of their Kingdom, while most countries in Africa were Protectorates that they would grant independence at some point.

We should not take this awesome beauty that is Kenya for granted. It is easier to destroy the country and its beauty than to build up: Those of us old enough to remember the decay, destruction, fear and misery of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s have a duty to never forget how hard and bad it was, and an even bigger duty to make sure that those who are not old enough are taught about those tough days as often as possible.

And building on the beauty of Kenya means a number of things. First, we really have to act on corruption, which is the primary source of our insecurity, inequalities, conflicts and anger. For the past 18 months, several well-connected people have asserted that Uhuru Kenyatta is serious about dealing with corruption.

But we have not seen actions that can serve as deterrents. Yes there is the Mutual Legal Assistance agreement with Switzerland that is supposed to bring to account several people involved with Anglo Leasing to account. But we are yet to see any results of that.

SENSE OF BELONGING

And in any case, since April 2013, there have been several new heavy cases of corruption, including the authorised payment for Anglo Leasing-related debts, and questions around the SGR railway.

The fact there was some transparency in paying some Anglo Leasing-related deals does not make it any less corruption. Indeed, that is exactly the same as Daniel arap Moi signing away public land and houses to individuals when the law stated that he could only allocate them for the public good.

Second, the regime must urgently work to give all Kenyans a sense of belonging, equality and importance to Kenya. This has been the Achilles heel of all regimes since independence and it does not help, for example, when the primary criterion for public jobs seems to be tribe.

Yes regional balance is crucial, but surely that does not mean that the Cabinet secretary for the Interior must be Maasai, or the Inspector-General of Police be Marakwet? Does the Chief of Staff in the Presidency, heads of NIS and KDF have to be Gikuyu?

Are there no qualified Kisii, Somali, Turkana or Pokot women and men for these management and leadership positions?

And belonging also means ensuring that all regions are given a fair share of services and infrastructure. Today, for instance, Othaya has the best roads in the country, bar none.

GLARING INEQUITIES

They go deep into villages, smooth and easy, making travel, business, education and other activities simple and convenient, having greatly expanded from the time when the tarmac ended at Mwai Kibaki’s rural home.

We should not begrudge the good people of Othaya these roads. But we need to ask some hard questions as to why other areas are not similarly served and regarded: Why Othaya and not Wajir? Or Siaya? Or Taita? Or Turkana?

Some will argue, as they have done with the Thika superhighway, that we need to start somewhere. Let’s grant that. But why is this extraordinary infrastructure mainly in Gikuyu-dominated areas? And since the Thika superhighway, have we seen the Garissa superhighway yet? Or the Narok and Kisumu ones?

It is these sorts of inequities that spur tensions and divisions. But they are not difficult to address. Mr Kenyatta would get a whole lot of mileage if he seemed as concerned about the deaths, through terrorism, of Luhya, Luo and Muslims as he seems to be about Gikuyu deaths.

We must not allow our leaders to take us back to the old days. No matter their ethnic backgrounds, or public relations gimmicks. We are better and bigger than that and we should show that this year.

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