November 28, 2014 Mad Hatter

CITIZENS DO THEIR ROLES MR. PRESIDENT: MAYBE TAKE YOURS A BIT MORE SERIOUSLY TOO

I for one, I do not expect the government to do everything. And this government is anywhere close to saying what can even be remotely close to everything. Kenyans are a conscious people who go on with their daily struggles and whose greatest wish to their government for now is to assure them the basics. Now, I wish not to assume knowledge of the many priorities a government has to grapple with. And many tough decisions holders of power have to make, but certainly a decision between heading back home to a grieving nation and watching a fascinating formula one race cannot be so hard to make. 

During my primary school days’ I pledged my loyalty to the President of Kenya every Monday and Friday morning. It was a ritual which my teachers inducted me into with such admirable commitment. Of course, in the excitement of my childhood, I enjoyed knowing I could recite those words.

Today, I go back to the vaults of my past, where in my childhood, the state lied to me to be loyal to the president first before my nation. It is a vault I despise, for today I realize the state wanted me to conform but the only place I can find a reason to be respectful today. So, inspired by the countless pledges I made to the presidency, and understanding that in so doing, I am abdicating my duty of vehemently rejecting bad leadership, I choose to be restrained. I hope to be restrained.

I have taken a deep reflection before deciding to write. And from the onset, I’d rather state the underpinnings of my rather strong opinion today.

I am aware, that presidents are human, and I have a feeble imagination of what the presidency could look like. I can imagine the burden of carrying a country on ones back; the impatience that each morning brings to a President’s plate. Security and other briefings that may disorient one, yet in all this, the person president is required to hold both their person and the country together.

Being human, I understand that criticism can weigh you down, especially when you know from your own eyes that perhaps you have done your best. You can wonder why other people are not able to see it. And it is very natural to want to shift or at least home that someone else should share in the blame.

And finally, I understand one thing, that rarely will a leader meet people’s expectations. The expectations are diverse and wide, and most of the times, leadership is about priority and sacrifice. It is again human, that even if you never achieve everything, people appreciate the little you do.
With these underpinnings, I have to express disgust at what is increasingly becoming a weird Presidency.

When responding to a Journalist’s question on why there seemed to be no improvement of security despite numerous re-assurances, the Deputy President responded: From where you sit, you may not be able to appreciate what has already been done. And that whatever we see, the deaths and a couple of explosions, was but a fraction of what was possible.

The good, Deputy President did not ask the country to clap for the security apparatus. But he seemed to be suggesting that may be, we should appreciate and not just offer blanket condemnation.

This equals a call for me to understand that there is something being done when 28 hardworking Kenyans are massacred by a ruthless gang. As a citizen, I have my duties and obligations. To pay tax, obey the law and build my country. I do not however have an obligation to understand the failings of the state. It is impressive to learn that our security forces have preempted many planned attacks, but if at best, still these large scale massacres will be witnessed, I am sorry, your explanations do not just make sense.
Now, there is this narrative the jubilee government has been choreographing, passing the buck. It started with a funny ad, on TV. It is funny in many ways, in particular, that part where the President says: Thugs, run and hide, because there will be a million camera’s watching. At best, this was theatrical. And of course, the signature, “usalama unaanza na wewe.”

This translated to the inspector General of Police asking Kenyan’s what their role was in maintaining security. And yes, the President reiterating that indeed, Kenyan’s bore a part of blame in the existing insecurity.

I am certain the anger in Kenyan’s at the thought of a government keen on sharing the blame arises from a very genuine confusion. Confusion because, Kenyan’s build fences around their homes and those who are able constructs gates without a call from government. Kenyans certainly lock their doors every night without the President asking them to. A majority pay taxes to the state on an understanding that the basics that a government should ensure will be guaranteed. And security is a basic.
It beats logic what a government means when it asks a mother whose child was raped why she left the child with a pest uncle. Of course that mother did not expect a police man to sit on the front couch with a gun cocked to protect the child. But how does such an unfortunate incident anyway justify Kapedo or Mandera?

To be honest, even if the mother knew that the Uncle is likely to be a pest, it does not make any big difference whether she carried the baby on the back or left her home, because even if she carried the baby, anyway, and used a public bus, she is likely to be stripped and sexually assaulted before the eyes of her child.

And so should all Kenyan women stay at home to take care of their three year olds in an economy where this very government has decided to drive up the cost of living.

Kenyans are forgetful people. May be our leadership has been so characteristically mediocre that we can excuse many things. uhuruto110214

But there are some of these questions that do not just make sense in this country. Will we ever have each person with a policeman, of course not? And we do not want it anyway. But we see some elected leaders walking in town with six guards, armed with AK 47 Rifles. In Nairobi, people who are not senior government officials or foreign diplomats have roads cleared for them with police sirens anyway. In fact, people, who if this country was one properly managed by structures, they would be either running away from the police or in prison.

I for one, I do not expect the government to do everything. And this government is anywhere close to saying what can even be remotely close to everything. Kenyans are a conscious people who go on with their daily struggles and whose greatest wish to their government for now is to assure them the basics. Now, I wish not to assume knowledge of the many priorities a government has to grapple with. And many tough decisions holders of power have to make, but certainly a decision between heading back home to a grieving nation and watching a fascinating formula one race cannot be so hard to make.

Other global leaders have been faced with way less grievous scenarios and responded with much more zeal. When Wright Foley, a British Journalist was allegedly executed by ISIL, the United Kingdom Prime Minister not only cut short his vacation, he headed back to the United Kingdom and a legislative review to secure the UK border through tough requirements on suspected Jihadists was born.

While, the watching of formula one may be excused, certainly coming back and asking citizens what their role is, is just not a response one would expect from their leader. I hope this is too much a naïve expectation.

And yes organizations are flying their personnel out of Mandera, and Kenyan’s who cannot guarantee themselves security want to be flown out of Mandera. This situation shall certainly not be cured by amplifying the role an unarmed citizen should play.

Tough decisions have to be taken, certainly. From a complete restructure of our security system to dealing with soft human issues around relations and specific community grievances. The government cannot afford the luxury of becoming a cry baby. It must be bold, consistent and persistent.
And the best way the government should get me to play my role, is to inspire us into a unity, not self justification.

And indeed, there seems to be a malaise in the government, an obsession with how good they believe they are doing. Like we noted before, quoting numbers mean nothing, unless this can be translated to actual impact on people.

I hope the presidency can understand that criticism, and even abuse characterizes public duty. And that the weight of a fearful nation rests on its shoulders. There will certainly be no one, except Uhuru Kenyatta, whom we will be expecting to both assure us security and actually provide that security. And certainly, I am sure the government feels the anger and frustrations all Kenyans have.

On another note, the luxury of irresponsibility depicted by government can only be afforded in a situation where the opposition is also impressively bankrupt.

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