By Dr Wandia Njoya
The Kenyan bourgeoisie here are getting scared by my saying that we shouldn’t pay back debts incurred by people we did not elect, and in our name without asking us.
And you better be scared.
The French Revolution, was a bloody ten years of upheaval that was caused by guess what? Debt.
The Royalty had racked up a big national debt that was caused by building a huge palace in Versailles and by France fighting wars. Things were made worse by the 14-year old Austrian princess, Marie Antoinette, who was entertaining herself and her friends at the cost of the public. As you can imagine, when the Parisians had no bread, they would get so angry that they’re starving while their taxes pay for Marie to party. That’s where the rumor that she had said people should eat cake started.
Remember also that there were 3 estates in France: the clergy, the nobility and the rest. Only the rest paid taxes, and yet they were the poorest.
In the rural areas, the story was the same. The dictatorship of debt. The peasants were required to work the land, and from the produce, they were supposed to give a significant portion to the landlord to pay back a debt that would never end.
While Paris was in distress, the king and his family remained in Versailles. Versailles was becoming a challenge to the people’s power that was strong in Paris. The people’s anger was made worse by reports in the emerging 4th estate that Versailles was holding lavish banquets at the expense of the people.
So in October 1789, a group of women marched six hours to Versailes. After a long stand off, they forced the king and his family to go back to Paris, where he would have no choice but to listen to the people’s assembly that had taken over government.
My point here is that the people who live in State House and work in Treasury have no idea what it feels like to live on our side of the street. They tell us we need an expensive railway, when what we need is good healthcare, education and jobs. They fly to Washington and Beijing, where Trump and Jinping tell them what our problems are, as if we have no mouths and brains to tell State House and Treasury ourselves. We’ve made Muigai’s foreign travels a joke, when in fact, we should do what the women of Paris did: tell him to sit his butt down in Nairobi and burn the midnight oil sorting this mess out. We don’t want to hear about foreigners we did not elect. Let him work like the rest of us and stop globe trotting.
As the French Revolution shows, there comes a time when debt becomes enslavement and becomes an injustice which we cannot accept to pay. Ironically, the greatest debt we have ever had is being incurred by a party called Jubilee. Yet the biblical Jubilee was the year when all debt was written off, whether it was paid in full or not, and the people of Israel were allowed to start working on a fresh slate.
We cannot be obliged to pay debts which were incurred through injustice. We need a political party, in the style of Malema’s EFF, to campaign on that platform, and promise international guys that we owe them nothing. We can still trade, but we the people don’t owe them anything. If we’re really nice, we can invite them to get their money back from the wealth of the rich 8,000 Kenyans who own 62% of the country. And that’s after we take back the people’s property like the land.
Now, a word to you educated Kenyans reading this.
You have been seriously, seriously, like seriously, miseducated. The way I see you panicking on my wall when I talk of strategic planning and freedom form debt is extremely strange. You pretend you are commenting on what I’ve said, when all you’re doing is repeating what you hear teachers and private sector say.
You went to school. The last thing an idea should make you do – whether you agree with it or not – is panic. Your fear means that you are invested in this dysfunctional system as it is, and that when you criticize GoK, it is because you fantasize that our problems are not systemic but a problem of human error.
But centuries of racist capitalism is not human error. It’s a system designed to fail. And the worst part for me is watching educated Kenyans hopelessly unable to grasp the idea of a bad system. That’s why they keep telling me “why are you blaming X?” or “the problem isn’t the system but the people in it. ”
You, you educated Kenyans are the people preventing change from happening in Kenya. You want the system to remain intact, but just the people within it to change. Every time the people start saying something is wrong, you start accepting calls from government ministers, visiting their offices and promising to draft policy to be tabled in Parliament.
All that is the same nonsense of Jomo’s approach of “conservative modernization,” where we lobby for inclusion in the colonial state without overturning the state. The thing we need to do is to explain to the people what the problem is, so that they demand for change where they are, not in workshops and manels in hotels. Soon enough, the Kenyan people are going to storm into our hotel workshops and tell us off, the way Nalongo Nana did in Uganda.
For the rest of us, this truth remains. We cannot pay this debt. We must not pay it. And maybe if we said it loud enough, this government will stop gambling with our lives. Forget what the titled professionals tell you about economic theories and whatever else. Justice demands that we cannot, and should not, pay back any loans incurred by Muigai and Rotich. Let them pay back that money from their own pockets.