July 9, 2012 Mad Hatter

Elite Failure: Kenya’s Hopes Interred by Her Privileged


he knows that the media will irresponsibly lump the whole blame on the entire parliament. He knows that he can bribe his name out of a newspaper story. He knows that even if the newspaper wrote that he is the one who introduced the amendment, those who understand the risk it posses to democracy will leave offices in the evening, swipe their credit cards in supermarkets and rest on couches in the evening relishing the fact that they are about to get a masters degree. It is Kenya’s elite who kill their own aspirations”

NARC’S ascending to power in Kenya in 2002 signaled the end of the Moi era but created a stagnation of civil progress. While both the Ibrahim Mo and World Bank indices have showed that Kenya has shown improvement in governance, other social indicators of societal progress like the elite unity heavily lack in the fabric.

In a discussion with the CEO National Convention Executive Council, Cyprian Nyamwamu, a very peculiar truth came forth. The anti-Moi struggles prior to 2002 were just that, a country united against a person. In his words, Cyprian says, there was a duet of principles: For Kenya and For Moi.

I would therefore imagine that in 2002 the country united in voting Moi out. And as it would be, the rage attracted a considerable collateral damage. Those who remained intimate with Moi were swept, but never into oblivion. They sneaked back into political prominence because essentially, the country never thought of them as inherently bad people, they were thought merely as betraying the tide.

The 2002 scenario allows us knowledge of several crucial aspects; the first being the missing of long term commitment to good governance in Kenya. The most pertinent question we need to ask ourselves as a country is; were the struggles culminating to the KANU overhaul in 2002 genuine or fueled by self interest within the Kenyan elite?

To answer this, we need to admit the confusion that the 2002 overhaul created in Kenya. Just before 2002 happened, I previously alluded to the fact that Kenya was divided along those for the regime, and those for the country. The latter brought together the entire middle class. It merged opposition politics with the civil society creating total non distinction between the two.

In the struggle against Moi, we had a lawyer who was struggling to have ends meet, a teacher with a poor pay, a doctor with no facilities at work and a relevant donor who took pride in funding the civil society to raffle the government.

The donor community never believed in the possibility of a Mwai Kibaki presidency. The political calculations then heavily pointed to an Uhuru Kenyatta presidency. To reduce foreign influence in the 2002 election, Moi lead the donor community into believing that his usual tact would carry the day. Moi thought that the greatest risk to KANU’S continued hold and by extension his hold onto power through proxies would be threatened by unity of all the ambition then existent in KANU. KANU then had Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, George Saitoti and Musalia Mudavadi all believing that they were entitled to the presidency. In this ambition, Moi saw a way of retaining power.

He created internal dissent within the party by anointing Uhuru Kenyatta. In his calculations, a move that the donor community believed it would work, Moi anticipated a revolt. He hoped that all the ambitious within KANU would go separate ways hence a multiplicity of candidacies within the opposition and a divided vote. Then, one only needed a simple majority to be president.

It almost happened so. But strangely, the revolting Turks united under LDP and later with the NAK opposition and handed his regime a defeat. This defeat saw active pro-democracy activists join the government.

This created a confusing scene; an abrupt realization of the elite’s goal. Moi had become one thing around which the country was spinning. Moi embodied all the evil that Kenya wanted to rid itself. Subsequently he ceased being the just the face of politics, but a uniting factor philosophy. The disapproval people had of Moi started determining the social evolutions in the country.

Just like a partnership winding after completion of purpose, the Kenyan elite wound their union and receded into personal development. A lawyer left the street and went to the bar, an optimistic teacher went back to class and a private business person started investing again. While the whole country could join hands in blaming government for a pothole on Mai Mahiu-Narok Road, after 2002 that became a problem of the users of that road.

The fusion of social activism and state also created another confusion; while in the Moi era, when one talked about recognition of the Mau Mau, they could be seen as a burden to the state, the NARC era brought scenarios where civil society groups would meet with the Mau Mau delegations in the Minister of Justice’s boardroom. The NARC government moved in to create commissions and refurbish government departments empowering them to undertake crucial activities. Most of these activities had previously been undertaken by the civil society.

The empowering of Anti graft agencies for instance stole the spark from the civil society. But while the civil society had been genuine in its fight against corruption, the government backed agencies became masks. They used technicalities to excuse graft. On the other hand, the civil society was disintegrating. A part from the ugly fact that they could not attack an agency that they had lobbied for, the intertwining of politics and civil movements robbed the civil society unity.

With people hanging on individual strands, the country receded into a crude association. While in the Moi Era people united because of bad governance, the post Moi era created a vacuum of association and ethnicity stepped in. The NARC government created expectations which it foiled at the start. People anticipated opportunities which were never created. While they were united in the anticipation, they could only but separate in disappointment. The society then became cautious of regions, tribes and this fermented in part spilling out in 2007 into horrendous violence.

This probably allows us to regard a few factors; there ought to be a delicate balance between the civil society and the political interests. The political elite here mean the government and opposition inclusive. Whenever there is a blossoming intimacy between any faction of the political elite and the civil society, we ought to revise our priorities, since then, that would be sectarian and momentary interests that may not withstand a test of time. The society needs to continually set standards that are slightly higher than the delivery ability of the political class.

The civil society needs unite in bits with the political class but sustain a cautious friction that allows continuous pressure for performance. This is unachievable if there are cracks within those who do not compete directly for influence. The inability of Kenya’s privileged, those who have a chance of knowing unity beyond kinship or regional, those who know another commitments beyond immediate ethnic ties, their inability to unite positively is the reason for stagnation in the civil progress.

Politicians take risks which they know their electorate would either agree with or fail to understand. When a Member of Parliament introduces an amendment to allow for party hoping, he knows that the media will irresponsibly lump the whole blame on the entire parliament. He knows that he can bribe his name out of a newspaper story. He knows that even if the newspaper wrote that he is the one who introduced the amendment, those who understand the risk it posses to democracy will leave offices in the evening, swipe their credit cards in supermarkets and rest on couches in the evening relishing the fact that they are about get a masters degree. It is Kenya’s elite who kill their country’s aspirations.

The sudden expansion of space by the NARC government institutionalized stagnation. It exposed our Achilles’ heels in personalizing our struggles as opposed to having a pursuit based on a defined philosophy. We see enemies in people, not in betrayal of our strict aspirations of a pure governance system.

It would take a restructure of the Kenyan elite to renew a true pursuit of untainted governance in wholesomeness. It would take a creation of a philosophy. Beyond the flair of civic education on responsible voting, beyond the personalization of who should be president, beyond a look at the track records of our intended leaders, we need the privileged to have a commitment that transcends the moment.

In the restructure, the elite needs to know sensationalism and press conferencing will not influence policy. The fading civil society speaks of a detachment between the elite and the masses. This is what legitimizes political imprudence. Whenever you allow the political class to engage directly with the hearts of the masses without a credible check from those who ought to be the conscience of the society then you allow an imperial democracy.

We should not let the pursuit of the privileged to be insensitive to the collective good of the society, as in this there shall lay a legitimacy of demeaning privilege, devaluing education and allowing for political impropriety. Our inaction, has failed the country.

In a recent comment, the Director Vision 2030 wondered why Kenyans were dying on Thika Super Highway. He commented: when you have a first class facilities, and a third class mentality the sum total is third class. What Mugo Kibati might never have known is that when a citizen is third class, he is rightfully so, and when you place a first class facility in their midst, you are obliged to occasion an understanding of the first class and its nuances. It is we, those who understand that traffic jams result into huge monetary losses that are to blame for the deaths of those who fail to understand why they should use a longer footbridge, yet they can jump over the rails.

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