Thursday, March 29, 2018

A legacy of immiseration

Miguna Miguna is an extremely unpleasant person. He is also a Kenyan whose rights have been grossly violated. Mr Miguna's plight continues to affirm the state of Government, the body politic and the place of the people in the questions that affect their lives. Mr Miguna's tribulations are of a piece with the political theatre that surrounded the wrong neurosurgery of the wrong patient at the Kenyatta National Hospital, the schizophrenic declaration that Government was importing "affordable" maize stocks from Uganda while NCPB silos were bursting at the seams, the total abandonment of the one-laptop-per-child programme in favour of the "pilot" phase of the "new" curriculum rollout, and the continued failure of both the executive and parliament to comply with the two-thirds gender principle of the Constitution.

In the days when cabinet ministers were powerful men, like in the late John Michuki, it never occurred to judicial officers to give orders or directions that would displease the president; that was a sure way to great personal jeopardy. It all changed with Mwai Kibaki's election in 2002 and the chants that rent the air on the day he was sworn in: YOTE YAWEZEKANA BILA MOI. It was a rallying cry for the end of impunity. It was shortlived, in many cases, but with Mwai Kibaki's ill-fated "radical surgery" of the Judiciary, a anew cadre of judicial officers was appointed that, against great and corrupting odds, have kept more or less to the path of governance reforms.

Our Judiciary still has many things to get right, but by and large, beginning with the radical surgery, things are improving. The same is not true of the executive or parliament. In both, impunity goes from strength to strength, bolstered by a keen desire to not paint each other in bad light. Parliament will not hold members of the executive to account for their gross acts of constitutional sabotage and the executive will bend over backwards to ensure that the gravy train members of both institutions are riding remains untroubled by court orders or constitutional principles. It is why the Cabinet Secretary for Health hasn't lost her job for presiding over disfunctional referral hospitals and why the Cabinet Secretary for Education can get away with declaring blithely that it is parents' and children's faults that students and pupils perform abysmally in national examinations. It is why the National Treasury CS will one day admit that the Treasury is broke and then turn around the following day and utter those famous words beloved of Kenyan politicians: I was misquoted.

If there is an event that showed just how disfunctional the executive has gotten, it was the presence of the wife of a senior state officer together with public officials from the roads ministry at the sight of numerous fatal road traffic accidents for the purposes of a religious ceremony known as a "cleansing". Government had completely failed to get a proper handle on the accidents on that stretch of road and had decided to fall back on superstitious practices overseen by dubious ministers of religion as the only solution. It reminds me of that time the Zambian president called for prayers to halt the kwacha's freefall against global currencies.

Miguna Miguna is what happens when public institutions atrophy and then shut down. Everyone is in it for themselves. The rights or the needs of the people play second fiddle to the need of Government to sustain itself at all costs. It is almost certain that in the next four years as the executive and parliament try, and fail, to implement the Big Four Agenda, public healthcare services, basic education, public safety and the rule of law will all take massive hits after massive hits. The lasting legacy of this regime will be the immiseration of the most vulnerable and neglected Kenyans: the ones who are and shall remain poor.

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