Reflections on the challenges of 2014

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By Machel Waikenda

How true is the ring of Joseph Chilton Pearce’s counsel that “There isn’t a ruler, yardstick or measuring tape in the entire world long enough to compute the strength and capabilities inside you!”

For long after we promulgated the new Constitution to shape the post-Second Liberation Kenya, it became abundantly clear that our greatest resource lay in the raw expectations and hard work of our people.

The journey has not been without its pitfalls, challenges and frustrations, but we can all agree that we have recorded enviable progress. Today, I want to reflect upon the challenges we have faced in the past calendar year and next week, examine a raft of achievements upon which we have to build in the coming year.

We had a tumultuous 2014 that saw our biggest threat come from runaway insecurity, fueled in large measure by the Al Shabaab militia, a secessionist movement at the coast and radicalization of youths. It pricked our soaring tourism sector balloon and left most of our hotel beds unoccupied and the coastal and larger economy that much poorer.

This spawned a raft of measures starting with revamping of the police service with better emoluments, decent accommodation, more modern equipment and cars for faster response, as well as enhanced recruitment to increase the boots on the ground to counter the menace. Financial, immigration and other incentives were floated for hospitality industry operators in order to keep them from sinking.

Kenyans also had to contend with the cost of running two levels of government – national and county – runaway expectations by new cadres of workers and representatives at both levels, all competing for a larger share of the Treasury pie. It saw confrontations between Members of County Assemblies, their governors, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the Transitional Authority, the Budget Office, and various employment and oversight agencies. The drama was played out in various county assemblies, hotel symposiums, the streets and the corridors of justice. The jury is still out on whether the waters have stilled and expectations met.

The biggest beef of the Bomas talks was the chapter on land and, predictably, remains a thorn in the flesh of all stakeholders. The chokehold that the Lands ministry and the National Land Commission have on each other has seen them engage in unending supremacy battles that leave the thorny issue of land reform mere work-in-progress.

Teachers, doctors, nurses, university staff and lecturers took to the streets to demand better remuneration and paralyzed operations in their various places of work, at various times of 2014. There remains a lot of miles to be plodded to appease each of these groups of critical workforce.

Illicit brews and road accidents took a great toll on our people as unscrupulous brewers and inebriated drivers signed up to the impunity of yesteryears. As a direct consequence the National transport and Road safety Authority acted to clamp down on errant motorists through speed guns, cracked down on those refusing to install speed governors, introduced the Alco-blow to nab drunk drivers and enforced registration of public service vehicles into Saccos as well as prohibiting night driving.

Former legislator John Mututho was to make a comeback as the Chair of the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse when it appeared that illicit brews and drug abuse were becoming more than a national embarrassment and approaching national disaster levels. Again, the campaign appears to be bearing fruit, but a lot more needs to be done to wean our impressionable youth and productive age groups from these vices.

We appeared to have devolved some of the negatives of former administrations as corruption reared its ugly head as tenderers and supply chain managers appeared to be defeating the resolve of the majority in order to line personal pockets. Virtually all tenders of mega projects envisioned by national and county governments were sidetracked with allegations of impropriety, grandiose theft and misappropriation. As a result, many programmes that should have been up and running one day after the 2013 General elections are stillborn or under review. The Public Procurement Oversight Authority and various oversight/policing agencies clearly have their work cut out for them if the hopes and aspirations of the new Kenya are to be realized.

Negative ethnicity, misuse of social media platforms, hate speech, cattle rustling, Female Genital Mutilation and tussles over various resources like oil, coal, game parks, mines, ports/harbours, pasture and water-points continued to distract Kenyans from their core business of growing the size of the national cake.

I will put my faith on the line that we shall overcome all these challenges. We have only been sidetracked but not lost the plot since the Kenyan Dream remains valid. For just like epic movie Superman star Christopher Reeve observed: “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

ENDS…
(The writer is a political and communications consultant. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)

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