By Maina Kiai
The media did well as we celebrated 50 years of independence, reminding us of our history.
They should do this regularly so that our youth can learn something and avoid making the same mistakes.
Letâ€™s hope politicians got something from that â€” even as they wrapped their expensive cuts of meat with the papers â€” as we navigate what will surely be years of intrigues, confusion and crisis as the ICC cases unfold and as the regime struggles to meet its outrageous top-heavy wage bill and secret expenditures to British law firms, dubious intelligence and security services, while trying to leave a wee bit for development.
From the 1960s, we learnt that Kenya benefits when we look both East and West.
Thousands of Kenyans got their education from both sides. And we also gained massively from investments from both.
Growth rates were some of the highest ever recorded.
So it is the height of perfidy, and against the national interest, that we are engaged in an imbecilic debate about turning East.
That may suit the personal interests of some in power, but it hurts the majority.
Leadership should be about subordinating personal interests for the national good.
For if we could get additional resources from both East and West, why should we deny the majority simply to make a false personal point for those in power?
It is like saying that because half the country does not support the regime and feels marginalised, they should not get development!
Worse, those leading the â€˜look-to-Eastâ€™ charge, are tied with an umbilical cord to the West: using Western legal services, public relations firms, expertise in their corporations, investments, sending their children to Western universities, and offering exclusive Western education in the private schools they own. Why are things Western good for them but bad for Kenya?
We learn too from 2003 to 2006 that growth and development rise highest with an expansive democratic space.
When there is freedom of expression, association, assembly and information, we do better as a country, able to stifle corrupt deals, close down money-laundering banks and force repayment of proceeds of corruption.
We do better when we force police to be more careful. But when they run riot, we get into crisis mode creating tensions, insecurity and instability.
From the 1970s, we learn about the sense of entitlement within the ruling Kiambu Mafia, unable to fathom that anyone else could govern Kenya.
But for the forward thinking of Charles Njonjo, we would have accelerated the slide downhill in the 1970s, whatever we think of Daniel Moi now.
And from the grumbling by sections of the URP, it appears that same sense of entitlement is re-emerging. And while URP exhibits similar signs of entitlement cultivated through Moiâ€™s 24-year rule, it should take the lessons from the 1970s seriously and remember the words of John Michuki who asserted that there was no need for a new Constitution since what some wanted was simply to return Kenya to â€˜competentâ€™ leadership. We all know what he meant!
URP therefore, should be wary of any changes to the Constitution, especially those that come covertly in statute law, directives or policy, solidifying the powers of the Executive, while reducing the democratic space and freedom they will need in future.
While they hope to use the same powers when their supposed turn to eat comes, they should know there will be no willing power transfer as long as the sense of entitlement continues.
Have yourself a non-entitled, thoughtful and learning Christmas!
This article was first published in the Daily Nation under another another title.