By Maina Kiai

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Old Bad Habits Die Hard….But We Must Force the Change We Want and Deserve

It’s the same old illegal, impunity-laden script that ridicules and insults Kenyans. It’s the “uta do?” culture at its best.

President Kibaki illegally dishing out districts as bribes on the eve of a historic vote, even after court rulings that clearly state that he can’t do this. Francis Muthaura instructing civil servants to campaign—using our tax money—knowing full well that this is illegal and against the provisions and spirit of the Public Officer Ethics Act just as he did in November and December 2007 under the guise of “popularizing Vision 2030” and leading to serious frustrations within the electorate that one PS car was stoned in Kisii.

And Prime Minister Odinga criticized this in 2005 and 2007 so his change of mind is incredulous!

MPs holding the country to ransom so that they can—in full unity and despite political differences—increase their perks and income even when they are the best paid MPs in the world, coming from one of the poorest nations in the world…

It’s insulting, unacceptable and wrong, no matter what the objective. Yes, civil servants can vote and have rights to expression, but not on our time and not using our money!!

And it sends a clear message to Kenyans about what to expect if the referendum passes on August 4th: The political class and the powerful elite will try to continue with “business as usual.”

They don’t see that passing a new constitution is symbolic of a break with the past. They don’t see that this should be the start of a new beginning, a new Kenya that makes them accountable to the people, rather than to themselves. They don’t see this as a step towards liberating Kenyans so that we have the space to think for ourselves and determine our own future politically and economically. No. The political elite see this as a contest and a game that may not change the rules that much.

In a sense this period and these sensibilities are quite similar to Moi/KANU in 1992. They passed the amendment allowing for multi-parties but continued to run the country like a one party state, without regard to anyone but themselves. And that opened the floodgates for one of the biggest episodes of corruption that the country has ever seen. It’s similar to 2002 when Mwai Kibaki was elected on a platform of change, zero tolerance to corruption, and reducing tribal divisions, but then slumped back to the old bad habits within months, crushing our hopes and aspirations.

It took the crisis in 2007/2008 to put us back on the path that we should have been on in 1992 and 2002!

And so they think they can continue doing the same old bad things, in the same old bad ways. So we Kenyans must stop them, for they can’t do so themselves.
How to force them to change? First, by preparing now for tough struggles in the immediate post referendum period, whichever way it goes. We must not give them a honeymoon and should send strong, firm messages, as early as possible, that we, unlike them, believe in the spirit of the Proposed Constitution and we intend to make it live and breathe for us, ordinary Kenyans. We must prepare to challenge the MPs and make them pay taxes as a first step to rationalization of the huge salaries that the top levels in “public service” take from us rather than earn it. We must get ready to force accountability for the offences during this referendum, beyond the Agenda 4 Commissions declaring that it is illegal for public servants to campaign. We must be ready to take up issues that increase the dignity of Kenyans, true to the rights that are in the Bill of Rights of this Proposed Constitution, especially breathing life to the right to protest and demonstrate against the political class.

It won’t be easy, and there will be obstacles and hitches. But we must test it and bring it to life. That is the challenge. They are not willing to change their habits, so it’s up to us to teach them that we will not accept the old bad habits anymore. And the sooner the better.

1 comment:

  1. The uta do culture is deeply entrenched in the common Kenyan's psyche, not just politicians. How do we propose we deal with this Mr. Kiai?