Much appreciation to Mr. Martin Ngatia for signing the protest Statement that captures a broad spectrum of what ails the Kenya-Stockholm Embassy led by Ambassador Purity Muhindi. There are those who think that picketing is meaningless because the MPs or Purity will not change. Nevertheless, how can the country change if people don’t protest in various ways? Picketing is a valid channel of showing displeasure at the powers that be and by submitting a statement listing complaints, it is more effective than sitting in the warmth of Purity’s residence swallowing chunks of ugali and drinks in the name of “dialoguing”. From what is noted at KSB, Honorable MP Walter Nyambati must have done an excellent job by sharing his views concerning Kenya, and by listening to the picketers.
Ambassador Purity may not give protesters an audience or agree with any allegations of vice at the Embassy, but it’s the Kenyans who must pinpoint them for any action to be taken. No statement has ever come from the embassy refuting such claims because she has ties to State House, and does not feel shaken. There were similar allegations about visa cash misappropriations against Oginga Ogego, who is the immediate former Ambassador to Washington. We know that their boss Moses Wetangula, the suspended Foreign Affairs Minister, is alleged to have abetted corruption at various Missions.
Abject poverty, gender and systemic change
Majority of Kenyans still suffer from ignorance, abject poverty and disease, which were supposed to have been eradicated within the first 10 years of Kenyatta’s rule. Almost 50 years later, Kenyans still live in worse conditions, and almost no politician speaks about the lost goals meant to improve their quality of life. With an incredible salary-wage margin where an MP earns a minimum of Ksh 1 million per month, and a government worker earns Ksh 7,500 per month in the urban areas, they live in two worlds. Kenya is deemed a “Class society” with a sharp socio-economic divide categorizing the very few as rich, and the masses, as poor. This divide is glaring with the rich living opulently, while the poor living on “air” (meaning their poverty level is so high they can only afford the free polluted air but not the basics). Kenya has so many programs targeting the poor, yet due to grand corruption perpetuated by the Kibaki regime, they have not been implemented.
The first video link below shows a young poor Kenyan mother in Kibera giving birth on the floor because she cannot afford maternity fees at any hospital. She already has a battalion of kids but without proper support from her husband. She is a reflection of the poor family planning strategies by the Kenyan government that were disbanded during Moi’s era. When former health minister Charity Ngilu presented her comprehensive healthcare program to accommodate the poor, President Kibaki rejected it and has since not offered an alternative. After all, our politicians get top-notch treatment either at the Nairobi Hospital or hospitals in London, so they are not bothered to invest in healthcare.
When Kibaki’s younger son broke his leg at a resort in Mombasa last Christmas season, a military chopper evacuated him to the Nairobi Hospital and a large area was cordoned off by security, causing a massive traffic jam. No poor person gets such treatment yet they pay taxes, contrary to President Impunity Kibaki and his MPs who do not pay anything from their huge salaries. A World Bank audit once concluded that Kenya’s Executive and Legislative wings drain almost all the domestic budget and must be trimmed to meet other socio-economic goals.
Kenya’s socio-economic stratification reflects that of USA whereby the poor masses depend on minimum federal and humanitarian support to survive. During the Hurricane Katrina mess in 2005, the world was treated to glaring poverty among Blacks who could barely speak proper English which is their native language, because they have no formal education. Quite a number had no teeth, meaning they could not afford medical insurance which is a cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry. President Obama’s proposed universal healthcare plan is being resisted by the rich Americans (mostly Republicans), just as Kibaki’s government rejected Ngilu’s. Although the US leads in technology and other sciences, quite a lot of social engineering is required to improve the lives of her poor citizens.
Last week, a 40 year old woman joined form one at Kenya High School although she has a daughter at a local university. There is nothing wrong with this because education can be pursued at any time. However, it again depicts the failure of our Adult Education program, ended during Moi’s 24 years of “error and terror”.
Kenya needs a thorough systemic change to meet the Vision 2030 goals and by extension, the Millennium Development Goals. With a broad tax base generating high revenue to the Government, so much can be done to improve the livelihood of the poor. Some have argued that Kenya needs a benevolent dictator to turn things around because the political leaders we have had for almost 50 years, have shown no concern for the citizens who are generally voiceless. Unfortunately, records show that even those who come from their midst to represent them in Parliament, get engrossed in the thieving habits, thus the endless cycle of poverty.
Women cry for gender equality yet the current female political leaders in Kenya reflect “raw machoism”. Take Ministers Naomi Shaaban and Charity Ngilu who hold very powerful Cabinet portfolios. They are notorious for corruption and are on PLO’s list of those being investigated. The Agricultural Minister, Sally Kosgei, is alleged to have become super wealthy during her tenure as High Commissioner and Cabinet Secretary/Head of Public Service, because she was very close to dictator Moi. We recently heard the primitive utterances of Betty Murugi (Special Programs Minister) about locking up HIV+ people. Given these examples, it is questionable whether such women are capable of initiating systemic change.
Although Martha Karua has not been linked to corruption, she is on record as having been an ardent supporter of Kibaki while she was the Justice Minister, thereby showing she is susceptible to impunity. She only rejected Kibaki after he appointed Uhuru Kenyatta as the PNU deputy Prime Minister instead of her, thereby feeling shortchanged. Fast forward and we read that she did not care to vet the new Makadara MP Mbuvi Sonko, who has a checkered past. Karua had probably overlooked this as long as he brought his ill-gotten wealth into her Narc-Kenya party.
The Kenyan Diaspora
Some Kenya-Stockholm women have expressed a lot of negative things about the leadership of Purity. Her former deputy, Josephine Awuor, was another dictator who had no time for junior female staffers. These people live in utopia and must maintain the status quo accorded by their political godfathers/mothers in Kenya to survive. It is important to note that Purity’s role as Ambassador is what people discuss publicly and not her private life.
KSB acts as a vital platform for connecting Diaspora Kenyans, just as other online social networks like Facebook and Twitter. An armchair politician also contributes to Kenya’s political struggle because whoever can read will understand more than one whoever talks to a visiting Kenyan politician, but does not record anything for others to read or listen.
Mr. Martin Ngatia is an example of a fearless voice in the Diaspora, who does not shy away from expressing his heartfelt thoughts about the political rot at home. His tongue-lashing on former Water Minister Katuku, which is a classic Youtube video, is the example of what Purity fears — attacks launched at her cherished visiting dignitaries. She will not take it and that is why she prefers to secretly invite groups of docile Kenyans to eat and not criticize loudly.
There are many Kenyans who were in the political trenches before Kibaki’s leadership and would picket and protest at the Embassy’s entrance without a problem. However, they changed and don’t gather anymore to discuss the never-ending social problems that have now been perfected under Kibaki. When you sit and talk about the IDPs with them, they just gaze at you then tactfully switch the topic. It is rather frustrating that as long as one’s tribesman is leading, the policy remains: “see nothing, hear nothing”. Who then, will speak for those poor people who are sidelined by politicians living in State mansions on hilltops above the smoky slums of Kibera, Mathare and many others?
When Mr. Okoth Osewe wrote a book about Raila’s stolen elections and a holistic analysis of Kenyan politics, some critics were quick to condemn him for perpetuating tribal politics, even before it hit the stores. The naïve ones claimed he couldn’t have known what was happening on the ground without being in Kenya. In any case, they need to know that many theories are developed from such accounts. Interestingly, many Western-based writers thrive by writing about Africa without being there.
How can the Kenyan Diaspora develop a new socio-political mindset to share with those at home, as we approach the post-Kibaki era? How can we shift from the tribal leanings that steer the quest for the presidency to inclusive ideologies that can empower us? The African Diaspora has for many years produced both despots and progressive leaders to lead their countries. For Kenya-Stockholmers, there are small contributions we can make even if they are not politically-charged, like statements of protest or goodwill to our leaders which can play a big roll in government programs.
I read somewhere that during the first decade of Independence, the Kenyan Parliament had vibrant debates aimed at the country’s welfare. A lot has changed and currently, much of what is discussed is tribally-based, with attacks on those assumed to be “enemies” being targeted for ouster, come 2012. The presidential lineup is for sharing the pound of flesh strictly between dominant tribes or commonly, those who have the numbers. What about the minority tribes? When will the feeding trough come by their regions? It’s amazing how Kalonzo Musyoka is trying to squeeze into the giant tribes of the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, yet Uhuru and Ruto clearly don’t want him. Last month Uhuru reminded him in public that he had run away from KANU to join ODM, so had no place in the KK outfit. But Uhuru forgets that he also had a dalliance with ODM and mooted an alliance with KANU. Is he blind to the fact that Ruto toppled Moi’s dominance in the Rift Valley and is still the deputy leader of ODM, despite being a rebel?
Uhuru Kenyatta, politically infamous for Moi’s Uhuru-project, is not popular in his Gatundu constituency, and just like the father, has nothing to show by way of socio-economic development. Some women from Kiambu have said openly that they don’t like him because he sponsors the Mungiki killer gangs that force women into primitive Kikuyu traditions (e.g. female genital mutilation) which are not compatible with their well-being. There is also that mystery of Ksh 9 billion which was caused by “computer error” during this period of Uhuru as Finance Minister. Those in the know say the money is safe somewhere waiting to be used for his presidential campaigns in 2012.
There is no doubt that tribal numbers still shape Kenyan politics, but where is ideology? Ruto is a post-independent child of Kenya, yet he has never presented a single policy during his claims for the presidency in 2012. Eugene Wamalwa is another young MP who wants top leadership for the younger generation. But what does he have in store for the masses when he is already associated with the outlawed Mungiki?
I am proud to watch the events in Egypt and to hear Egyptians calling themselves Revolutionaries by objecting Mubarak and his autocratic regime. Without these protests, Mubarak would not have budged, yet in the two weeks of chaos, he has forcefully heeded to some demands which will definitely shape the country’s path towards democracy.
It’s amazing that the US has been supporting Mubarak for 30 years with a military grant of two billion dollars annually to sustain peace in the Middle East. There is nothing wrong with that, but why support an autocratic regime that suppresses citizens and does not improve their livelihood? What about alleged corruption whereby half the companies in Egypt are owned by either Mubarak’s family or his cronies? How did he make his vast wealth amounting to 70 billion dollars? America is famous for supporting world dictators in the name of peace and stability. We know that Kibaki’s fraudulent election results were immediately supported by the USA. The question is, whom will they support in 2012 to bring real change for the next decade?
Fellow Diaspora Kenyans, we can initiate a home-grown systemic change by networking on many aspects, regardless of political or tribal alliances.
Some “strategic” guests took their time to say hi and chat with protesters while others just walked in. Here, a guest greets Mr. Martin Ngatia, the spokesperson of the protesters.