By S Nyanchwani
What makes the present recession all the scarier is that it is happening at a time when Kenyans have no alternatives.
When SAPS 1.0 happened back in the 1990s, IMF and World Bank had frozen remittances to Kenya after the Cold War ended and the West didn’t quite need Kenya and suddenly wanted Kenya to be a Multiparty democracy. Funny how the west always shapes the destinies of so many countries.
In 1992, the government was so broke, it took the genius of 26-year-old Kamleshi Pattni to device a scheme to fundraise for the elections. The scheme is what we call Goldenberg. Nobody was implicated and the chief architect was acquited in 2013 and went on to win Lifetime Africa Achievement Prize for Humanitarianism and Equity by the Ghanaian Excellence Awards Foundation. But that is not the point here.
What followed was the privatization of many parastatals and their eventual collapse. Many towns that were once vibrant like Kilgoris in Transmara, Kitale, Nakuru and such, all but died quietly.
We saw our fathers depressed but we didn’t quite knew what was happening. We were shipped back to the villages and we went to public schools, even as kids in the villages thought tulikuwa na tumaringo insistting on putting on shoes when everyone was barefoted. Soon, we were all patching the backside of our shots, and our sisters previously inaccessible to the common man were being dated by men across the ridge. Not just being dated but being married to poor families that under better circumstances they would not.
Most parents dropped dead, from depression or a disease that used to kill most of them. Our fathers’ generation became alcoholics and lost, for a reason. Losing a job is not funny. In many homes mothers became silent breadwinners and were it not for their stubborn determination, many families would have collapsed.
You will notice in Nairobi crime thrived. The 1990s was the decade that chokoras walked around with loose stool with the intent of spraying it on you unless you part with your valuable fast enough.
A Moi University sociology lecturer told me the SAPs were responsible for the runaway witchcraft and sorcery and the many lynchings back in Kisii, mostly targeting elderly women. They were being dispossessed of their land, and people could not countenance poverty and had to blame their neighbour for their misfortune.
But we survived because public schools were still functional. We survived because public hospitals were still functional. Crowded, badly ran, but there were no fake drugs and fake clinics and predatory private hospitals. Hate Moi all you can, but he held the country more firmly together amidst this economic collapse.
When the going gets tough for us, we resort to negative coping mechanisms. In the next decades, expect admissions to these expensive academies to drop. Parents will have to find alternatives to where to take their kids.
Public schools, with the exception of a few secondary schools are rotten. Matiangi all, but killed university education, it will not be recovering in another decade.
Health care has become so expensive that I get admitted into a hospital for pneumonia and I die, you will be left with a bill of Sh 600,000, and that is when it is an average hospital.
We have killed farming. We killed sugarcane farming, killed coffee farming and tea farming may be on the way out. Maize farming that for long was our mainstay in Kitale and Western Kenya has been badly compromised by corruption and greed, made the worse by climate change and the tilling of land until it has given up.
Basically, unlike in the 1990s, losing your job now is a terrible thing because you can’t turn to farm, you can’t risk getting sick, you have no schools to take your children.
Then there is automation that will render most jobs useless….
What I am saying, it is not going to be easy, but when the going gets tough, the tough get smarter.