Where to begin. Sigh. History is a granary. On stilts. With only an unholy alliance of a piece of plastic or metal sheeting, mud, dung and wattle stopping evil rodents from consuming its precious cargo. It is a triumph of hope and resilience. A symbol of faith in humanity. History is a treatise on faith in humanity. History is locked up in our bellies, nourishing our hungry minds with lessons of what not to do. Or become. Kenya is no granary. There is no history in its belly. Or mind.
From the misty forests harboring MauMau freedom fighters in Kenya’s hinterlands to the gray and sterile Lancaster Conference tables to the cold Nyayo torture chambers. From the haze and fumes of tear-gas laden Saba Saba rallies and the crunching of riot police truncheons on hopes and bones of protesters. From the repeal of section 2A to the murder and mayhem of 2007 and the promulgation of the new constitution, Kenya’s history has hungered for better. In 2012, armed with what has been touted as one of the more progressive constitutional frameworks, Kenya was on the brink of making history once again. Making a break with the past and rising up to assume our meaningful place in the world. At least in Africa. The newly appointed Chief Justice, Willy Mutunga was considered the most important person in Kenya. And rightly so. For it was his province to ensure that the brand new constitution, especially its Chapter 6, the troublesome one on Integrity and Leadership, passed the test when the time for it do so came. And it did. Pretty rapidly. His courts were to make a ruling on the suitability of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto to run for the two highest offices in the land. You see, these 2 chaps had already been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on horrendous charges associated with the 2007 murder and mayhem. Well, that ended pretty well, no?.
Kenya exercised its sovereignty and Kenyans their right to choose their leaders. The consequences aside, this single act undermined Chapter 6 and all the hopes that come with it. You see, the rest of the constitution is really useless if the leadership and integrity threshold has been significantly lowered. In a sense, when the executive is perceived not to have moral authority to talk about leadership and integrity or when they do people fall about in derisive laughter (I mean, what is the reaction every time the DP waxes lyrical about government’s commitment to fight corruption?), it becomes a serious governance issue. Why? Because it percolates downwards and before you know it, we have Treasury mandarins who can’t tell a cash balance from revenue and think a missing 140B bob is not a big deal, Cabinet Secretaries who purchase pianos and condoms and 8,000 bob biros for their offices and get sweet nothings whispered in their ears in return.
Guess what happens next? Governors spending 2 million bob on curtains, renovating 8 million bob hospital gates, buying 100,000 bob wheelbarrows, installing 600,000 bob plus Adobe software, opening Facebook accounts for 2 million bob, buying speedboats to “fight” terror in landlocked counties….ad nauseum. With reckless abandon. And when nothing happens to these 47 feudal lords, guess what happens? MPigs and Senators waddle into the fray and engage in food and mileage wars. And launch footbridges and electricity poles! A record 29 out of 67 members of the Senate have joined the catering committee! Some even went on a benchmarking trip abroad to gain more insight on the quality of food to be served in Parliament and Senate!! Meanwhile, the cases of falsified mileage claims from MPs abound as is the scandal surrounding MPs who continue to draw salaries years after leaving Parliament.
Not to be outdone and in excellent synchronised cue, the 1,450 Members of County Assemblies (read over-glorified councillors) go on wild junkets in Germany, Israel, Japan and the Far East to learn how to shell groundnuts, graze cows, breastfeed, bake cookies, thread eyebrows and pee on sticks, and bushes. A couple of European and African nations actually banned the poor sods from contaminating their environments. Meanwhile Number 1 was racking up frequent flyer miles of his own (much to the envy of the MCAs) and issuing title deeds and warnings of dire action against corrupt public officials as Number 2 was busy traversing the Kenyan hinterlands, clutching brown bags full of cash to distribute at harambees for constructing churches (in direct contravention of the constitution). Incidentally, how many churches must Kenyans build? Is there such a huge shortage of churches that the national spiritual indicator falls short of the global ones? Is spirituality one of the SDGs?
Billions of our bobs have gone to waste as a direct failure to meet the leadership and integrity threshold. Kenyans are dying of cancer and childbirth because there is no money to purchase radiotherapy machines and build theatres. You now see the import of that ruling? Willy, other than digitizing court records, modernizing Milimani Law Courts and e-enhancing court processes, history will still judge you harshly as the guy whose hands got tied (some of us did not see the rope) when Kenya needed him the most, akin to Pontius Pilate who dealt Barabas the get out of jail card and condemned Jesus to the cross. Your courts felled the Chapter 6 tree. And failed Kenya. Happy New Year.
Dedan Kimathi photo courtesy of kangethemb.wordpress.com