What you need to know:
- The fact is that the Jubilee government did not deliver on its key 2013 promises.
- The Covid-19 pandemic merely accelerated a process that had started with high taxation levels.
Presidential elections and power politics are a big deal everywhere, but the obsession Kenya’s leaders and its citizens have with these is shocking. It is so absolute it drenches everything, leaving little room for rationality.
Here it takes a life of its own as the very serious business of governing becomes an after-thought. It really is impossible to find the link between competing for political power, getting it and delivering on an agenda.
While it would be unfair to completely dismiss the last three years of the Jubilee administration as a waste, there has been an almost criminal neglect of core duties we expected the government to execute.
We can debate the assertion by Deputy President William Ruto that the handshake between the President and “opposition” leader Raila Odinga three years ago distracted the administration from delivering on its promises.
The fact is that the Jubilee government did not deliver on its key 2013 promises and the rupture that separated the President and his deputy merely accelerated the fall already in motion. They did not deliver on the promise of providing digital learning devices to all primary schoolchildren. They did not deliver on the promise of building new world-class stadiums and upgrading many others.
High taxation levels
The government then and now has been paying lip service to the need to invest heavily in smallholder farming, which can truly transform the lives of millions of rural poor. Even big agricultural projects like the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project failed under the watch of what had presented itself as a government that could deliver.
Yes, we have seen exponential growth in financial inclusivity, thanks to technological innovations that help farmers reach markets, that make it possible to transact online, that has made the hand-held devices vital tools for day-today activities. But this happened not necessarily because there was a clearly defined and executed policy, but because mobile phones, by their very nature, have been extremely disruptive of existing norms.
We know M-Pesa initially ran into policy headwinds because none existed to regulate it. These technological innovations have confirmed that there are a lot more poor Kenyans today (ironically more and more learned youth are falling into this category) than there were at the end of President Mwai Kibaki’s tenure.
The Covid-19 pandemic merely accelerated a process that had started with high taxation levels, with high cost of doing business forcing firms to close or relocate, and the ubiquitous corruption stifling the economic health of the country.
Roads have been completed and signature projects like the Lamu Port launched. The Likoni floating bridge is done and the Dogo Kundu by-pass is nearing completion. The Nairobi “floating” expressway becomes operational soon and we have seen the rehabilitation of the Kisumu port. The Thwake dam may be completed. But at what price? The Chinese could foreclose us if they wanted, yet the government has no choice but to borrow to pay!
Risk of starvation
The pain on wananchi is relentless. Last Tuesday, the government announced that three million people in northern Kenya are at risk of starvation due to a severe drought. Hundreds of livestock belonging to the nomadic communities have died, and more will die because there will be no rain any time soon in Marsabit, Turkana and Mandera.
The response is predictable. Food appeals and distribution giving good picture opportunities to ministers and governors. There may be cash handouts to people who will have nothing to buy and who, without livestock, are as good as dead. Poor rains will be blamed as if the officials have not known what the rain patterns would be like.
As crime escalates, school fees piles pressure on wananchi and the cost of accessing basics rises, the DP’s hustler narrative and the new but hardly original “focus on rural development” of Mr Odinga look to define the platforms that will face off at the next polls. Both are populist renditions of theories that require more than the rhetoric we are hearing. These guys won’t even have the money to do anything!
Politicians, even in wealthy developed countries, will lie and colour realities during campaigns to take power. We do not expect anything different from our own, particularly since they have been around and really can’t be excused for the below-par performance we see all around.
Bottom line: It looks like it is going to be another round of wasted ballots come August 2022.
The writer is a former Editor-in-Chief of Nation Media Group and is now consulting. [email protected], @tmshindi