Issued in Nairobi Kenya on 28 May 2019
State of the Kenyan Nation: Time to face the facts
1. The 56th Madaraka Day will be marked on Saturday this week. Madaraka is very significant in the life of our country. Indeed, Madaraka is the mother of Kenya’s independence. On this day, slightly over half a century ago, we Kenyans gained internal self-government. This meant that apart from Defence, Finance and Foreign Affairs, the rest of the government was in our own hands. Six months later, we gained full independence.
2. Whenever we mark occasions like Madaraka Day it is time to look ourselves honestly in the mirror and admit the truth that we see there. We should not gloss over things and the kinds of political half-truths and untruths, as we are fond of doing on these national days. We tend to roll out statistics that suggest the country is doing extremely well. Yet, the people cannot see or feel the alleged success in their lives. This is because what the Executive tells us about our country is simply not true.
3. The greater part of our Madaraka has been characterized with remarkable misrule and abuse of institutions. The State has been largely dysfunctional, and especially now. Our country seems to be in a free fall, at the behest of robber barons that have invaded Government. The truth is finally out. State officers are hiding billions of shillings in official budgets with the express intent to steal them. It is a slap in the face of our self-government.
4. Self-government means that our destiny is in our own hands. When we wrestled independence from the colonial master, the objective was not to run down our country. The intention was to build a thriving nation with equal opportunities. In the words of our National Anthem, the founders of our country dreamt of an equitable society of hard-working people. They dreamt of justice as our shield and defender, of unity, peace and liberty. But most significantly, they had a vision of a hard-working people. “Let the fruit of our labour fill every heart with thanksgiving,” they said.
5. Today we are seeing, instead, the fruit of stealing filling up a few hearts with arrogance and the rest of the millions of hearts with suffering and misery. We are seeing a country that is over-borrowing so as to satisfy the greedy appetite of a few thieves. To paraphrase the great Mahatma Gandhi, our country is adequately resourced to feed everyone’s needs. But it does not have enough resources to feed everyone’s greed.
6. Today, the national debt is just shy of Sh. 6 trillion. Most of this money cannot be accounted for. It certainly has not been accounted for. When we ask the Government to publish the country’s debt portfolio, they give us a deaf ear. How long will this reckless borrowing without accountability go on? The Jubilee Government and their partners must now tell Kenyans the true level of their country’s indebtedness and the detailed terms and conditions around each debt. Kenyans have a right to know.
7. The time has also come when we must now establish an independent public debt management authority. The authority must regulate and manage our present debt and future borrowing. It must move us away from the present arrangement, where borrowing is handled as if it is a function of a secret society. In this day and age of open governance, Government can no longer behave as if it is a secret society – and especially not when it is borrowing funds to be repaid by the citizens. There must, especially, be public participation in the decision to borrow and in deciding what we want to do with the borrowed money.
8. These are just a few of the concerns that President Uhuru Kenyatta must clearly address on this 56th Madaraka Day. When the President gave his state of the nation address last month, he left a lot to be desired. He glossed over issues. He spoke in vague and equivocal terms, painting glossy pictures of a strange non-existent country. The head of state’s address was a damper that left many of us wondering whether he lives in this country or somewhere else. He must use this year’s Madaraka to redeem himself.
9. The President must also address the question of youth unemployment. What is this Government’s agenda for the youth? Do the people in Government recognize that Kenya is sitting on a time bomb? Today there are about 8.5 million unemployed or underemployed young people out there. Does this Government care about them? If it does, what is it doing about them? How many young people would the hundreds of billions that have been looted keep in gainful employment? Why does the top continue to sit comfortably with the people who have denied our youth livelihood? Why are persons associated with theft from the public coffers still sitting in the Cabinet? Why are thieves still running all over the country with cartons and chests of stolen money, lavishly flaunting their loot at public gatherings? Are we proud to display to the world that we are a bandit economy?
10. The President must also address the ongoing wrangles in the education sector. Kenyans expect persons in Cabinet to be their servants and to comport themselves with the requisite humility. We cannot have overbearing individuals barking at Kenyans when they should be explaining Government policy. They say that if you want to destroy a nation, target its children. We are hearing frightful things about the new Competence Based Curriculum that seems to be forced down our throats. The Ministry of Education must now sit down with the leaders of the teachers’ unions and listen to their concerns about the curriculum. It is reckless to tell Kenyans that the train has already left the station. Where is the train going? Is there a broken bridge across the valley ahead?
11. Turning to regional affairs, our country has traditionally been a leader in regional peace initiatives. This role is now slipping away – literally through our fingers. We have our own tiffs with Somalia and Uganda over territorial issues. President Jomo Kenyatta used to underscore the sanctity of our territorial integrity. What seems to have gone wrong? We need to tap established international law forums to correct the question of our territorial integrity, without escalating relations with our neighbours.
12. We also need to recapture and resume our role as regional peacemakers. There exist intra-state challenges in Ethiopia, South Sudan and of course Somalia. Disturbing inter-state challenges also exist, for instance between Rwanda and Uganda; Rwanda and Burundi; Ethiopia and Somalia; Ethiopia and Eritrea; and Ethiopia and Djibouti. There are also issues between Rwanda and Uganda on the one hand and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the other hand. The latter is coupled up with internal challenges competing centres of power in the DRC. Without a doubt, both the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region continue to be powder kegs. They require a stable Kenya as a regional stabilizing player. Kenya must therefore swiftly put her house in order by addressing all the issues that I have raised above, before she can reclaim her leading role in the region.
Musalia Mudavadi, EGH
ANC Party Leader & Founder of the National Super Alliance