No, the PS Omollo didn’t ‘force’ NGOs to support BeTA

Raymond Omollo

Internal Security Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee at Parliament buildings in Nairobi on August 3, 2023.

Photo credit: dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

I’ve never been in the business of arguing, criticising, disagreeing or condemning opinion dispatches by my colleague Macharia Gaitho (Daily Nation, September 12).

To the contrary, I admire his contrite disposition consistency for anything that throws egg on the face of government. One learns a lot reading the tendency to disparage the person of his victims, laced with some veneer doubtful facts. He is entertaining to read.

Unfortunately, critical assessment of alleged maleficence of individuals in a system must be underpinned by greater understanding of the macro environment in which the victims of Gaitho’s punitive pen exist. Now, prodding, because the Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo didn’t ‘demand’, “Civil Society” to align their programmes to the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BeTA), isn’t draconian to attract the indignation “freedom” crusaders.

Not that I don’t like freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, but that I also value the corresponding exceptions and responsibilities attached to them. And it is the height of indolence for Gaitho to call BeTA a “slogan” when it is, as it will always be for governments to have, a base development blueprint that prioritises what and administration wants to achieve. Whichever “regime” you may admire in the world has an agenda it legitimately pursues while in office. For this reason, it isn’t strange to find that Gaitho’s plethora of NGOs, foreign development agencies, CBOs, welfare associations and religious groupings compete to lurch on opportunities provided in government development plans.

Gaitho may need to shake off and remove the blinkers of redundant neo-liberal posturing and face the reality that in the developing world, “Civil Society” is the pseudo name for extensions of government-owned or funded institutions from developed countries. We are, indeed, grappling with negative impacts of fashionable neoliberalism. We know what market-oriented reform policies such as “eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers” and reducing, especially through privatisation and austerity, state influence in the economy, of the 1980s have done to us. But we have moved on.

Any schooled and self-respecting public intellectual in a developing country ought to know that from their lofty offices yonder, foreign entities fund their surrogates that we’ve baptised civil society in the Third World, to advance the interests of their home “governments”. They don’t delegitimise their governments merely because of change of administrations, or for Gaitho’s benefit, regimes. Unlike Gaitho’s resume’, these organisations recognise that since humanity shielded itself against the hostile state of nature via the Hobbesian contract – a social and political contract that created civil society and political authority – and also created the State and government simultaneously, government is perpetual and regimes are transient.

It is not true as alleged that BeTA does not prioritise “democracy, human rights, good governance, constitutionalism, rule of law, transparency, accountability and a just and equitable social-economic order”. The concept of Bottom-Up economics is actually the antidote for his tirade, especially for a just and equitable social-economic order. To discount this truth amounts to elite intellectual dishonesty, a rudiment that inhabits those stuck in the bipolar world of the Cold War era.