Friday, May 20, 2016

The lie

Some of the most fabulously wealthy people in the world are oil barons while others got there by writing computer code or designing flat-pack furniture or insanely expensive automobiles. Still others got there by getting humans to kill each other with the weapons they manufacture or by selling extremely cheap, extremely tasty, extremely unhealthy meals in thousands of cookie-cutter-same outlets. In Kenya, though, whether settler descendants, home guard descendants or entrepreneurs, many fabulously wealthy people got there by stealing from the peoples of Kenya through corruption.

It is hard to impress upon an outsider how strange it is to find someone's fabulous wealth is not the result of hard work, intelligence, luck and perseverance, but the ruthless grand scale thuggery and rapine that defined British East Africa for almost a century. There are so many Kenyans who are proud that Kenya has "discovered" huge deposits of oil and gas, rare earth and precious metals, because they think that Kenya is about to join the ranks of the truly comfortable Scandinavian, western European and north American nations.Thy believe that Kenyans will enjoy the same standard of living as Norwegians, Germans, Canadians or US citizens because of our discoveries oil, gas, rare earth and titanium.

These are Kenyans who have fallen for the lie. They hold sincere beliefs that their leaders have their best interests at heart. It is a belief that cuts across ethnic, economic and academic boundaries. It is supported by glossy brochures and easy-to-decipher pie-charts. In their world, A leads to B which leads to C, a straight line from discovery to great comfort and wealth. Naysayers who point to resource curses like the ones bedevilling Nigeria and Angola are accused of being wet blankets, hellbent in giving Kenya a bad reputation among outsiders. The ones doing the loudest accusing have a vested interest in the continued belief in rosy, saccharine endings.

Most Kenyans' tunnel vision regarding, especially, the oil hides the godawful truth about the future. If you look at the acrobatics and gymnastic contorting that took place to arrange the administration of our oil, you will notice a pattern that is wearily familiar. That pattern ends one way only: those who hope for a fair shake at the end of it all are going to find themselves in even greater debt and in ever greater penury, because these resources are not for the good of the people but for the good of the few. We are not members of the few. We never were.

Look at how the most precious capital has been allocated in Kenya, and you notice "the people" were a mere afterthought, noticed only when the buccaneers "developing" that capital build patently unsafe houses, illegally obtain certificates of occupancy, are waved on by every single regulatory agency, and cash in when the bloody reality occurs and dozens of Kenyans are killed in the dead of night. How Kenyans can still believe the fairy tale that they will get a fair share of the oil, the gas, the rare earth, the titanium...how they can believe after all these decades is a testimony to the brilliance in selling the lie. The lie has now taken a life of its own. It has become ubiquitous, like God. 

Kenyans hold onto its promise because the alternative is catastrophic disappointment. Kenyans will tolerate much because they believe that in twenty years, they shall be living in the Paris of Africa. Better yet, Paris will be called the Nairobi of Europe. The harsh, hard, cold truth would destroy us, it would destroy truth, it would destroy God. Yet the lie will never be allowed to die. Oil is here to save us.

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