How Kenya will get on path to recovery

Nairobians go about their daily activities in Nairobi.

Nairobians go about their daily activities in Nairobi. As we re-establish our democracy on the footing of ethics and good governance, we must grow the economy and allow the magic of a responsible, inclusive and just market economy to thrive.

Photo credit: Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In Kenya, we do not need to write a second bill of rights. We already have it in our 2010 Constitution, one of the most progressive in the world.
  • A society without a moral anchor is destined for damnation. It is a society devoid of the rule of law.
  • We must return Kenya to the rule of law and the path of social, political and economic righteousness free of impunity.

The histories of states, peoples and nations are written by men and women who dare to dream and reach for the heavens.

The brave and valiant founders of Kenya wished for it to be perched on the summit of nations and to stand out as a beacon of hope, prosperity, social justice, equity and equality for all without distinctions and discrimination of any kind.

Our pioneers wanted a country free of poverty, disease and ignorance. In fact, theirs was a dream to establish a human rights state. In this journey, the supremacy of the Office of CITIZEN – not of the Office of the President or any other state officer – is paramount.

The people, even the least among us, are the mightiest in our midst. They own the state; they are the state. 

I want to recall an important speech given by one of the most consequential American presidents – President Franklin D. Roosevelt – known as FDR. In 1941, FDR gave the Four Freedoms speech at the height of WWII.

In it, he spoke of the Second Bill of Rights in which he hoped to lead Americans to a more moral and equal society devoid of all forms of suffering and oppression.

He spoke of an America defined by FOUR FREEDOMS – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

That was 81 years ago. President Roosevelt’s vision for America still rings true today as it did then. But that challenge was not for Americans alone. It is also our challenge today in Kenya. 

In Kenya, we do not need to write a second bill of rights. We already have it in our 2010 Constitution, one of the most progressive in the world.

Our challenge is not the lack of a written constitution or good laws on paper. Our challenge is our collective failure as a society – both leaders and citizens alike – to imagine a GREATER DESTINY for ourselves and our country.

We have let ourselves down. To get back on the right track, we need to stop our ADDICTION to the vices that have retarded our development.

That is the only path toward building a first-class global democracy. We cannot settle for less. To do so, we must build a state based on several key predicates. 

The first has to be leadership and integrity. This is where Kenya has faced the most serious setbacks. If we solve our leadership and integrity deficits, there will be no ceiling – no upper floor or limit – for our development as a country.

To do so, we must stop treating Chapter Six of the Constitution as a mere moral suggestion, or an ordinary page in the Constitution.

Chapter Six is the MORAL and LEGAL anchor of our Constitution. We will have no country worth talking about if we do not entrench and internalise Chapter Six of the Constitution.

We must write Chapter Six in our hearts and irrevocably imprint it on our minds. We must live and demonstrate it every day. In particular, our leaders must never deviate from Chapter Six. 

Rule of law 

A society without a moral anchor is destined for damnation. It is a society devoid of the rule of law. It is a society that is corrupt even in its bone marrow. It is a society of impunity.

A society of cartels, thugs, thieves and the most morally decrepit people. That is not the society our founders wanted us to create, or pass on to our children. 

We must return Kenya to the rule of law and the path of social, political and economic righteousness free of impunity.

That is why lifestyle audits must be conducted openly and without bias, fear or favour. Otherwise, we are doomed. 

Secondly, as we re-establish our democracy on the footing of ethics and good governance, we must grow the economy and allow the magic of a responsible, inclusive and just market economy to thrive.

Our people are hurting. Our economy is ailing because of internal and external factors. We must restore the dignity of our workers by making sure they earn a living wage.

Agriculture and manufacturing must form the backbone of our economic strategy for revival.

We must fully embrace our diaspora and make it easier not simply to remit billions back here, but to create a completely free environment for them to invest.

For them and the rest of the country, we must cut up and burn all the red tape that is a hindrance to investment.

We must lower the cost of power and farm inputs to allow for a great leap forward in our agricultural sector. We must revive cotton, tea, coffee and fruit farming. 

Debt situation

Thirdly, we must deal with our debt situation. Money borrowed must be spent ethically, responsibly and for the purposes for which it was borrowed.

Not a single cent should go into the pocket of a cartel, or looter. Procurement must meet the strictest international standards.

We cannot spend more than 70 per cent of our revenues on service debt. Our taxpayers must not be mortgaged to lenders.

We cannot risk what we have seen in some countries where colossal debts have collapsed governments, impoverished the people and turned states into vassals of creditors, robbing them of political and economic sovereignty.

Fourth, and finally, we must build a society of empathy and inclusion, not one of antipathy and exclusion.

How do we create an irreversible nation out of the many disparate communities that constitute Kenya?

How do we create a Kenyan out of our beautiful but separate ethnic, religious, regional and racial diversities?

How do we make sure that our rich diversity does not turn us against one another?

We must make sure any Kenyan can live and work anywhere without fear, or intimidation, and that his or her property will be safe and secure anywhere in the public.

There must be the opportunity for all no matter the class or social status. From the many, we must become one. We must become Kenyans first before anything else.

Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. @makaumutua.
 

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.