BY DANCAN MUHINDI
The issues that severely ail our country have been deeply analysed, debated and documented since Independence in 1963. Tribalism, corruption, unemployment, institutional weaknesses, political mediocrity and a myriad of other leadership failures have been adequately explored by many competent minds. For instance, Michela Wrong’s recent book “It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower”, offers a particularly riveting look into the architecture of corruption in Kenya since Independence. I’ll therefore not bother to rehash what is already in the public domain.
Kenyans who genuinely want the best for their country have been yearning for answers as to why the nationalistic hopes of 1963, and again in 2002 failed to become a reality. My take is that the answers so far have not gone far enough in drilling down to the core problem. As we race towards another uncertain general election, perhaps its time to explore further afield beyond the conventional, as to why we never seem to get our act together.
After years of reading and listening to various descriptions regarding our national problems, it finally hit me what has been going on in our country over the last five decades. The intriguing answer has been undeniably staring at us for quite a long time. I would like to suggest boldly that our core problem as Kenyans is really quite simple – it’s the worship of money!
Am talking about the unabashed, brazen veneration and aspiration for everything that money represents, and particularly the open admiration shown to those who have lots of it irrespective of how they acquired it. This is the shameful reality despite the oft-repeated claim that 80 percent of Kenya’s citizens are regular churchgoers, and who’s creed would never countenance worshiping anything other than God.
I assert that this kind of idolatry is at the heart of our social-economic problems and the mismanagement of this country’s human and natural resources by our ravenous leadership. This is the reason our kleptomaniac ruling class finds solid and enthusiastic support from the poverty stricken masses unable or unwilling to connect the dots between their pitiful existence and their leaders’ lavish lifestyles (which the poor folks envy, admire and will do anything to have). Indeed, all our major problems since 1963 can be traced back to this single vile phenomenon.
What are our values as a nation?
I would like to submit that the tragic narrative of our nation can be adequately traced back to the way we founded our Kenyan state at Independence. What core values were put forth to guide the young nation by our founding fathers? The beautiful words of our national anthem certainly contain strong and noble values that if instilled could have seen the transformation of our nascent nation into an economic giant at par with the so-called Asian tigers such as Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
Unfortunately, our founding fathers woefully failed to lead by personal integrity and selfless sacrifice. Instead, they laid the foundation for the shameless accumulation of wealth mentality that today permeates our leadership and society. No nation on earth can pull itself out of poverty under that kind of leadership.
Interestingly, Kenyan professionals have over the years remained highly sought across the globe due to their good qualifications, hard work and the ability to learn or adapt fast. Sometime back, a World Bank labour productivity report on East Africa described Kenyans as having aggressive go-getter attitudes which make them very suitable for jobs such as marketing, salesmanship and business intermediation. Our world-renowned athletes also display these noble virtues through their resilience and hard work.
Strangely, these values have hardly been reflected in our country’s top leadership. Over the last decade, the late Hon John Michuki is probably the only government Minister who can be remembered by ordinary citizens for achieving transformational impact under the Ministries he led. Indeed among his cabinet peers, Michuki stood out as a rare gem in a sea of avarice and astonishing incompetence.
Liberation from the worship of money
Land grabbing, mismanagement of public resources, drug deals, pyramid schemes – these are just the manifestations of the underlying get-rich quick mentality in our society. Which probably explains the ease by which perpetrators of these scams have found favour with voters and remarkably, even churches. Kenyan weekend dailies often carry photos of elated church leaders hosting and endorsing wealthy politicians mentioned in various financial scandals.
This moral tragedy can only be understood if one accepts that perhaps a great number of our people don’t really see anything wrong with those crimes. Truth be told, many love to hobnob with these thugs masquerading as leaders hoping they could share part of their loot. More shameful, many admire these politicians as their role models and heroes. It’s therefore not surprising that they listen and take to heart every bit of their dangerous tribal drivel. No wonder most of our voters lack interest in issue-based campaigns.
Now, that is what the Bible describes as the “love of money which leads to all kinds of evil.” Kenyans are today living this reality with the embrace of all kinds of immoralities including recently, the overt agitation for so-called homosexual “rights” in the country. Astute biblical scholars will tell you that when nations start manifesting the deviant lifestyles detailed under Romans chapter 1, it’s the ultimate proof of their rejection of God and consequently their own destruction.
Is it any wonder then that we find ourselves grappling with the same basic issues 50 years after independence? Should we be amazed that voters enthusiastically support politicians whose track records would consign them to very long jail terms in other nations that observe the rule of law? When a certain Prophet David Owuor came on the scene a few years ago proclaiming that Kenyans needed to repent and turn back to God, a number of church leaders dismissed and scoffed at his dooms day predictions. Without validating Owuor’s predictions or his work here, I would like to say that the church leaders seemed to have missed the critical warning stated by Jesus in Luke 13:1-5 regarding the importance of personal repentance.
At a personal level, I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that unless as a people we sincerely repent of our idolatry to our God and creator, our country will continue sliding deeper into the murk as we watch. Let’s not be deluded that the new constitution can change our hearts or morals. Only a healthy fear of God can liberate our people from the worship of money and those who wield it, and appear hell-bent on destroying our nation through their empty politics. Otherwise, there’s little Kenyans of goodwill can do to stop the national conflagration that is sure to follow.
(The writer is a Communications Specialist working with the Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSD Kenya).)