Thursday, February 17, 2011

In the name of mediocrity: Part 1

I will be making arguments of what I think is wrong with Kenya and how I think it can be fixed, the posts will be multi-part. I don't believe that Kenya's problems are any specific person, but rather a systemic failure on all levels for which I blame the enlightened among the citizenry the most. It should be noted that I deliberately said enlightened and not learned, and I consider myself to be on the list of those culpable; here I try to play my part.

A common comparison
With that said, I will start off with what I believe to be the main problem with Kenya and try and explaining our current predicament. People love comparing Kenya and Korea as equals in terms of per-capita GDP during Kenya's independence, and pointing out how we have failed given that Korea is currently a first world country while Kenya is a third world country. I would say that this is an unfair comparison; a fair comparison would take into account social, political and cultural aspects of the two countries. An interesting difference is in the politics; on April 19 of 1960 Korea had undergone a revolution comparable to the Egyptian revolution of 2011 that saw Mubarak leave power. A striking difference of the two is the fact that in Korea it was meant to remove a president who had just rigged his way into power. In Kenya on the other hand, as recently as 1987, our MPs were still changing the constitution for the sake of individuals; most of the amendments were meant to give more power to the president. We had a highly esteemed founding president who died after holding on to power for 14 years as President and 1 as Prime Minister. For reasons that I don't understand, he is still an infallible hero, a feet even Mao Zedong could never pull off, he was "seven parts good, three parts bad".

I resist my propensity to explain the success of South Korea as the result of democracy and the population's view on justice as demonstrated by the April 1960 revolution. But I believe that for the same reason they succeeded economically, they had the revolution and a stable democracy but I will not make any attempt to identify that reason, that I leave that to Korea experts. Nonetheless there are few things I know about Kenya that hold us back.

In my humble opinion, Kenyans' view on justice and democracy should be the first thing to change if we are to go anywhere. This coupled with realism could salvage our country. To illustrate, we all believe that extra-judicial killing is wrong and evil in principle, but most Kenyans, including the groups most at risk of this crime, are willing to look the other side if it gives them more "security". On the other hand, we have human right activists who would like to see the officers involved in such acts as the devil personified. In my view, a more realistic approach, that would actually lead to positive results would be one that appreciates the fact that we have an ill equipped, ill trained, understaffed and underpaid police force. The first step towards a real solution would be giving the police force more money; for rubber bullets, for forensic labs and experts, for equipment, better pay and better terms of employment.

For the sake of emphasis, I give an anecdote. I recently met a police officer shortly after his colleague was shot to death by thugs and seemingly, he needed to talk. I lent him an ear, although I was eager to leave. The murdered officer had children and wife, yet there in no insurance that I'm aware of for the next of kin of officers killed in the line of duty. It should also be noted that in Kenya, police officers are not unionisable and thus have no means of airing their any grievances they may have with their terms of service or deplorable working conditions, yet we expect nothing shot of good and selfless service from the same force. I wonder where the realism in that is. One may claim that Kenya doesn't have the funds to finance a good police force, assuming that we don't lose tens billions through corruption, this would be a sad state of affairs given that security is a very important need. In the end, there is a lot of unanswered injustice against the police force resulting from bad governance. At this, it would be nice to see COTU and KNHCR fight for the right of our police force given that the force in not unionisable.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Genesis

Alone I stand in no man's land,

Between antiquity and Zeitgeist,
Aware of my predicament,
Oblivious of its inception.

Alone I stand in a desolate land,
Plagued by drought,
Death by famine is my portion,
Like my forefathers of old.

Alone I stand in lack,
In a life with no direction,
From my elders little instruction,
Of which none provide.
I have for a while wanted to give my perspective on Kenya's current affairs and politics, a goal that has been rather elusive given that I am not the most eloquent of people. In the process, I rediscovered a passion I had for poetry back in high school.

So this is you, this is me, this is all of us.