What Baba Moi had began with Special Branch torture chambers, Emilio achieved with co-option and widespread pork-barrel politics. What Uhuru and, now, Ulliam inherited was a civil society that is not just a pale shadow of its 19980s and 1990s self, but one that is utterly unable to look itself in the mirror with pride. What we used to know as civil society, especially the section that acted as the real check and balance to the institutions of the State, is a deeply conflicted sector that is today renown for the contortions it engages in to preserve its privileges, whether from foreign influence peddlers or the State itself.
Take the recent policy declarations by the Government regarding public funding for high education institutions, the re-introduction of the shamba system in forest lands, the "comprehensive" review of the competency-based curriculum for basic education, and the plan to plant 5 billion trees in 5 years. The public discussion of these issues has not been led by well-reasoned arguments from surviving members of the Third Sector but by vested political interests looking to influence the outcome not for the good of the people but in order to demonstrate ones political capital and how it can be wielded to support or undermine the still-nascent government of the day.
No one demonstrates the depths to which civil society has fallen than the Robert Mugabe of the Human Rights Civil Society. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he and his partners played a leading role, together with the Law Society and ministers of faith like Henry Okullu, David Gitari and Ndingi Mwana a' Nzeki, to hold the Government to account when Parliament failed to do so. They articulated the issues that affected our day to day lives with clarity and passion and when they aligned themselves with Opposition politicians, it was with wariness and skepticism, not with their begging bowls out as is the case today. Civil society stalwarts were notable for the personal sacrifices they made, not the longevity of their tenures at the pinnacle of civil society organisations.
With the repeal of Section 2A of the repealed constitution, the appointment of the Ghai Commission and the promulgation of a new constitution under the tutelage of Nzamba Kitonga's Committee of Experts, civil society should have evolved, maintaining a healthy skepticism of the State, its institutions and its officers, while championing the needs of the people in a changed environment, including publicly-funded universal education upto university, publicly-funded universal health services (even in the case of specialised care for chronic diseases), and enhanced food and nutrition security without undermining indigenous and traditional farming systems. Instead, civil society has evolved into a cartel of well-fed morbidly obese activists who viciously compete with each other to suckle at the National Treasury's teat alongside parliamentarians and avaricious county nawabs.
The social media musings and ravings of the Robert Mugabe of the Human Rights Civil Society are the nadir of the fall of the civil society. The way he has abased himself in service of one over-the-hill politician would only be shocking if he were alone. One of his civil society contemporaries describes himself as a political whore, only interested in his political ends, regardless of whether he is supping with the devil with a long spoon or being spoon-fed. The less said about the ministers of faith, the better, because their fall from glory has denied the people they minister to a sanctuary where their tales of suffering always received a sympathetic hearing.
Young people have always been the engines of change. But they can only change things f the things they need to imagine a different way of doing things are available to them, under the tutelage of mentors who still have a passion for doing the right thing. But our schools and institutions of higher learning are moribund, if not dead. Our news media and commentariat is only interested in belly rubs from presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians. Our places of worship have become dens of thieves where the faithful are separated from their earnings in the name tithing, as the church of Christ withers and dies. Even playing fields, where social connections are made between children and young people from diverse backgrounds have been stolen and turned into hideous "apartments" or, worse, money-laundering enterprises masquerading as shopping malls.
When the revolution comes - we can't carry on as we are without inviting the wrath of young people - it will be a thing to behold, as all revolutions inevitably are.