Corruption and impunity is no longer considered as ‘breaking news’ in Kenya but rather ‘In other news’. The ease at which substantial amount of money is lost in Kenya under the watch of decorated and overrated institutions surprises me. It was painful to maintain an eye contact with a tax paying ‘Mama Mboga’ when the Deputy President comfortably claimed that ‘just 7 billion and not 21 billion’ was lost through the dam projects in Arror and Kimwarer. I have lost count of how many corruption scandals we’ve had in this country, but one thing I’m sure of is that they are always in billions or at least over half billions. The question always remains, ‘who is to blame?’ Allow me today put democracy on trial to answer the charges of impersonation and robbery under false pretense.
In December 1991, after President Moi allowed Parliament to repeal Section 2 (A) of the Constitution, the section that made Kenya a one-party state under KANU, the promise of a ‘free world’ and democracy swept the country, injecting Kenyans with the poison of ‘the rule of the people, by the people and for the people’. Fast forward to the present Kenya, and we can as well agree that democracy might have come a bit too soon in Kenya. The foundation of democracy lies on well-built and structured institutions headed by sober and dedicated leaders, and supported by citizens who have complete faith and trust in them. That was the intended blue print of democracy. In Kenya, however, this is a fairy tale.
It seems that our pursuit of human rights and democratic ideals is slowly but immensely impeding our ability to industrialize and develop as a nation. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is a principle that has now set more criminals free and has made more lawyers rich and given birth to more corrupt billionaires. Our liberal democratic laws, which places individual human and political rights above economic and societal interests has been the prison that has held the progress of this nation captive. Until a country has reached a certain level of economic empowerment, democracy could propel internal conflicts that undermine economic development. It may, therefore, be in our economic interest to seriously ponder whether we, as a nation, can afford this expensive pursuit of wider democratic space and a constitutional structure that focuses on civil and political rights.
Elections and other political processes have proved costly. Kenya, just like most of African countries, allocate a large share of its budget in ensuring that the bodies mandated with the task of carrying out elections is well funded. Such requisite amounts are sometimes higher than those allocated to institutions that carry out economic growth activities. A quick glance at our economic performance during or around election period and you’ll notice a slow down or a slump in our economic growth rate. It is around this time that Kenya is considered hostile as far as investment is concerned, due to our obsession to the election process. It is less than two years after the 2017 general elections, and there is already talks of having a referendum and the annoying 2022 succession politics. And sometimes I wonder if we really need to have presidential elections after every 5 years, leave alone having them at all. We are yet to see a sitting president lose a Re-election bid, and we all know it is easier to clap with one hand than to see the possibility of this occurring. How much will it hurt, then, to have a president go for a one full 8-year term?
If there is a good chance to get a benevolent dictator or an authoritarian regime, if that is what will take to sanitize this country and attain economic development, then we should really consider it. The lack of discipline in this country is really worrying. I am not sure China and the Asian tigers would have been able to achieve such an economic development if there focus was on politics. One thing I have learnt in this country is that the law is a limit set for the poor and a weapon used by the rich. Rwanda is an example of what happens when a country decide to focus on the more important and urgent needs of a country. To catch up with developed and established countries, we don’t need freedom to demonstrate and destroy our own resources because of our dissatisfaction with an institution, but a well-tuned focus, determination and discipline. Whereas democracy can boost economic development in developed countries, it is discipline that drives the economy of the developing countries like Kenya.