As it appears that I will be hanging out in Kenya during the elections, I have decided to begin a series of posts with my thoughts on and ideas about what is going on during this year’s Presidential elections.
One thing I have discovered recently is just how long-running the big issues are in Kenya. I am currently finishing reading the book Lost Lion of Empire by Edward Paice. The book tells the improbable story of one of the British pioneers of Kenya, Ewart Grogan. While his story is fascinating, the biggest thing that struck me is how the problems of the Colonial period are still the biggest problems in Kenya today:
- ineffective, if not incompetent governance
- corruption at all levels
- ongoing fighting over the unequal distribution of land and resources
- the politics of ethnic division
- lack of proper policing and security
All of the above problems only served to concentrate even more power in the hands of the elites during the Colonial period. A fact that Grogan took advantage of. Today, it is still the wealthy and political classes that take advantage of those factors.
Today, when I look at all the candidates, all I see are huge (largely meaningless) manifestos replete with images of high-speed trains and skyscrapers. With the word JOBS written all over the country in BOLD print, you have to be sure that somewhere on election day there will be some poor soul that gets to the ballot and asks, “Where is JOBS? I don’t see his name here on the ballot.” And you know what, that simple person will actually be right. The programs on offer only serve to reinforce those key problems that have plagued Kenya.
That’s the negative. What I see (hey, we Americans are optimists) is that there is a huge opening for someone who can offer real-world solutions… not pie in the sky.
What am I talking about? It’s quite simple… begin with things that are doable. I think there is a huge opening for a candidate who can forcefully layout a clear plan to do some easy things that would make a huge difference. As a modest proposal, just let me present two.
1. Clean-up Kenya’s roads. Eliminate potholes and insure that proper infrastructure is in-place for Kenya’s transportation needs. The economic (and even job) knock-on effects will be profound and long-lasting. The President that eliminates Kenya’s potholes and traffic jams will become a hero!
2. Fix the police and security. It’s not rocket science. Hire the right people and the right amount for the size of the population. This also includes being active, if not proactive when a crisis occurs like the Tana Delta. Where has Kibaki and the military been on this issue? AWOL mostly. Severe threats to law and order have to be met with police and military force in a decisive manner. For example, why hasn’t there been a declaration and enforcement of martial law in the Tana region? Security threats to the state should not be swept under the table. While the Tana conflict IS about resources, it is also about a rise of religious extremism and separatism in Kenya’s coastal communities. Facts like those cannot be ignored and those people posing direct threats to the state need to face the consequences of their actions.
Fixing just those two things will bring a big boost to Kenya’s economy and whoever pursues such a policy would easily win a second term.
Why am I sure it will never happen? The people who benefit are the people of the country, not the elites… there you go.
Originally posted at www.rationalista.com.
JCMach1 is a long-time blogger, on-line activist, and eccentric originally from Florida, but currently living and working in Kenya.