Maina Kiai's Column

Maina Kiai's Column

With an insensitive budget, we are widening economic inequality

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The Jubilee government has just unveiled a Sh3 trillion budget for 2018-2019. This is the biggest sign yet of burying our heads in the sand.  It is a sign of the unbridled greed that thrives in the ruling class, especially since at least half of the budget--Sh1.5 trillion--will be lost in looting, or wasted in living large. The regime’s own estimates are that a third of our budget is stolen each year. It is also a budget that expresses the contempt this regime holds for ordinary Kenyans. For them, we are just an ATM to be squeezed to the last…
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We have a leadership that thrives on outright impunity

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Given all the ongoing shenanigans, we should be the angriest people on earth. It is unbelievable — and traumatising — how our leaders treat us, and what they think of us. Kenya has been on the verge of real take off — socially, economically, and democratically — since 2003, and again after 2010, but we are now closer to the precipice due to poor leadership. Our problem is simple: We have a leadership that believes in impunity, that rapes us and our grandchildren (by encumbering them with debts up to their ears) and which wants to keep us poor, weak…
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Opinion: War on graft lacks fundamental commitment to integrity

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Make no mistake: The ongoing looting scandals involving the National Youth Service, the National Cereals and Produce Board and the energy sector were as predictable and foreseeable as night follows day! We may not have been able to pinpoint the departments that would lead the looting, but there was no doubt that there was bound to be serious looting. The NYS was always a likely target as would be any organisation whose budget rose by more than ten times in a short while. There is simply no way to move from a Sh2.5 billion budget to Sh25 billion and expect…
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We need to abolish provincial administration, increase decentralisation

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One of the more common excuses given by politicians to convince us to vote for “our own” is that if “our” Big Man is in power, then we “his” people stand to benefit. Our children will get jobs in the government; and resources—stolen or legitimate—will trickle down to the villages as mansions and castles are constructed. Indeed the middle classes of “our people” benefit, often hired in top jobs without proper qualifications. Those with silky tongues become favored tenderpreneurs and supplies of air.    But too often the weakest, poorest, and most marginalised of “our people” do not benefit from…
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Let's take advantage of truce to address what holds us back

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The March handshake — or hand-cheque as a Zimbabwean friend called it — has generated all manner of reactions. Perhaps because of the secrecy preceding it, some consider it a betrayal by Raila Odinga, who has historically symbolised desire for real reforms in Kenya. The William Ruto wing of Jubilee also sees the handshake as a betrayal if it leads to changes in the status quo that could impede his plans to reign. As the reigning master of intrigues, the status quo — legally, institutionally and personnel-wise — favours Mr Ruto. Any changes that would increase democratic space, lead to…
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Opinion: Sparks of hope abound but only if we grab opportunities

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I attended the ninth World Assembly for Democracy last week in Dakar, Senegal. The gathering brought together hundreds of civil society and social movement activists, journalists, academics, politicians and trade unionists to learn from each other and address the global recession affecting democracy and human rights. The meeting came at a time when the world is different from ten years ago, and when expectations for democracy have lowered. What was considered abnormal and unacceptable is now normal, such as open sentiments promoting racial discrimination, and growing intolerance and repression of the “other.”   Some say this is just a “normal”…
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