Are they marionettes?
I don't know what it is about Boniface Mwangi that rubs the cheering squad the wrong way. Perhaps it is the unapologetic and forthright manner (that is, rude and abrasive) that he puts forth his ideas. Perhaps it is that he refuses to be seduced by Kenya's seemingly rapid upward movement in socioeconomic indices of some repute. Perhaps it is that when he speaks, there is a sizable chunk of interests that heed his words, hew to his calls and spend goodly amounts of their money to help him spread his message. So, are Mr Mwangi and the civil society circus he is a part of, marionettes?
I don't know. I don't think so. But even if he was, so what?
Marionetteers come in all forms. In the 1980s and early 1990s, we had the strings called the Structural Adjustment Programmes being pulled by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These programmes laid to waste the Kenyan economy. Now we can argue about the degree of contribution that corruption made in the destruction of the economy, but only the naive still live under the delusion that the SAPs were a boon to the Kenyan economy. These strings were tied to Baba Moi and his Cabinet; no one still dares to suggest that the old man was a puppet even though, by accepting the SAPs, he most certainly was.
In 2003, Mwai Kibaki was staring at an empty treasury. He was an ailing, old ex-KANU warhorse. He needed a win. He corralled the geniuses in his party to come up with a plan, any plan. They gave him Kenya Vision 2013. Soon came Free Primary Education. Then he switched off and let his Cabinet lead the way. Soon enough, again, came strings attached to "superhighways" and "defence modernisation." The treasury remained empty; we were, after all, paying for our economic future. You wouldn't know it from the plaudits the taxman was winning for hitting his targets. The treasury remained empty. It remains empty today. The strings get ever tighter. No one called Mwai Kibaki China's marionette. None will. Even though he was. What? You though China gave us a "grant" like those car grants MPs keep fighting over?
Mr Mwangi has his flaws. He is not shy about them. He is not St Boniface of Ngara. But he is not wrong to harp on and on about the scabby, leprous bits of our Republic. That is no his job description. He hasn't arrogated unto himself the role of Whinger-in-Chief, but the ones who listen to him and the ones who agree with him must surely see what he sees. That is something worth wondering about. If Kenya is so perfect, if its leadership is so good, why are there scabby, leprous bits then?
How about Mr Mwangi's accusers? Do they have strings attached?
Take this odious suggestion that the malign policy of "cost-sharing" irrupted into Kenya by the SAPs should be embraced in the name of "national security." Read Article 239 of the Constitution clearly. Find the part that implies that "security begins with you and me." Mr Mwangi has highlighted this particular oddity. He is not the only one; he is certainly one of the loudest and most strident. But he is not wrong. Could the cheerleaders of the "security begins with you and me" choir be the marionettes of the authors of a Stalinist philosophy that stood Kenya's first two presidents in such good stead? Your guess is as good as mine.