Monday, November 05, 2012

Mr Kenneth has spent way too much time around Kibaki and Moi to be of any use to us

For a smart man, Peter Kenneth is spectacularly unimaginative. Watching the launch of his presidential id on Sunday, and listening keenly to his political promises, Mr Kenneth sounds about as dull as the other presidential candidates. Two of his promises demonstrate in rather stark relief his colossal lack of imagination - to provide the police with three-thousand vehicles and to build referral hospitals in all 47 counties.

Let us take the first promise and see what we can see. Public safety in Kenya revolves around the hackneyed question of a subject euphemistically referred to as internal security and internal security is all about policing-by-the-numbers: more is always preferred to smart. More police, more spies, more guns...that is the definition of Kenya's internal security apparatus. Mwai Kibaki has overseen the massive expansion of the security establishment to unprecedented levels. He has overseen the modernisation of the security establishment so that it stacks up relatively well against Ethiopia and Sudan. Mr Kenneth intends to perpetuate this system for the foreseeable future.

Ostensibly, the presence of armed police on our streets and in our villages is for our safety and the protection of our property. The events of the past 20 years would seem to belie that casual assumption. In 1992 politically-inspired "ethnic clashes" yanked the scales from our eyes that Kenya was a nation with common aspirations and common needs. In 2007 hundreds of thousands of Kenyans lost their properties and their homes and the right to call themselves satisfied Kenyans. The common thread running through from 1992 and earlier to 2012 is the overmighty hand of the Kenyan security apparatus. These men and women in uniform are not armed to the teeth in order to keep us safe; they are there to keep the government of the day safe from its own people. Kenyan presidents know that they do not have the power or the intelligence to improve the lot of the ordinary mwananchi. 49 years after Uhuru, more Kenyans continue to die of preventable diseases; nearly one in twenty cannot read or write; and one in two still lives below the poverty line. Mr Kenneth believe that he could easily solve our "internal security" problems by providing the police with three-thousand vehicles. What he'll be doing is providing his regime with the means to get to us faster in order to suppress us more effectively.

Now, regarding his promise to build 45 new referral hospital, we might take that with a large pinch of Magadi salt. Let us presume that only in counties where no district-level hospital exists will he build a new referral hospital. Let us also assume that because it will be a massive public works programme, the funds for his hospital-building or upgrading spree will be welcomed by the hyenas in the National Assembly sitting on the appropriations committees. Mr Kenneth will still come up against an iron law of public administration: unless he is prepared (like Prof Anyang' Nyong'o, deep in the gloom of the doctors' strike, proposed) to hire doctors from outside Kenya, his expensively built and upgraded referral hospitals will be white elephants to mock the Kenyans who will inevitably die waiting for doctors, nurses, technicians and medicines that will never arrive. Pie-in-the-sky promises are par for the course for any politician; it will take more for Kenyans to line up behind Mr Kenneth and cast their ballot for him in 2013. Perhaps he has spent too much time near Mwai Kibaki and Daniel Toroitich arap Moi to be of any use to us in the future. He should confine his ambitions to his Gatanga backwater and trouble not the good people of Kenya.

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