50 years on, what shall we be celebrating?

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OTIENO KAJWANG

There were major political campaign slogans and strategies laid by the nationalist political movement, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) against the British Colonisers and their opposition allies’ propaganda.

“Hakuna Kazi Hapa” There is no job here read one such propaganda placed on office and industry doors meant to scare job seekers who were part of the campaign against colonialism. “Uhuru na Kazi” Freedom with employment was an appropriate nationalists counter propaganda that also declared poverty, ignorance and disease and number one national enemies.

On account of these popular pledges, KANU trounced opponents who were seen as colonial collaborators in the 1963 General Election campaigns. In the 50 years of independence, none of these promises were ever fulfilled by the successive governments including that of the retired President Mwai Kibaki who belongs to the old school of political intrigues and manipulations.

KANU was elected consecutively for eight terms of five years each under the late President Jomo Kenyatta and his retired successor, Daniel arap Moi whose reigns were shaky and had to adopt tactics to tame internal rebellion, dissent and forestall agitation for the fulfilment of promises to the electorate.

With the support of western powers, nationalist popular movements in Africa in general and Kenya in particular were crushed underneath for allegedly preaching Marxist ideologies in newly independent nations. True nationalists paid a price with their lives and freedoms. Bildad Kaggia, Oginga Odinga, Tom Mboya, Achieng Oneko amongst others were earlier casualties of a crackdown on dissent.

That was the climax of reverses of popular ideas articulated in the Kanu manifesto. Consequently the country stagnated as it received massive resources to fight the spread of Communism and its surrogates. At the expense of any other development in the country.

The visible scars of neglect are indelible in the memory of many Kenyans who rose to challenge authority on service delivery. Tales of inadequate budgetary allocations and return of the same to the treasury for diversion to politically correct regions is the norm rather the exception. For instance, the paltry Sh210 billion budgetary allocation to line ministries in the 47 counties is one plot by the Executive to kill the county governments.

For purposes of take off, basic necessities like electricity supply, clean water, highways and rail networks are a priority now than ever before and the government of the day cannot explain why far flung parts of this country were denied those facilities. These requirements are just mere pipe dreams and least of all a priority of the successive governments that ignored chunks of the country in the quest to manipulate, control and dominate the vulnerable.

A half century of independence, colonial relics and retrogressive forces have emerged to back status-quo mongers. Three years after the promulgation of the new Constitution, the Executive, without reason, refused to allocate funds for the infrastructure developments in the newly created units. And now, behind the scenes, the Executive and Parliament are hell bent on killing the Senate on account that it is a burden on the exchequer.

It is in view of such intrigues and arm twisting that Kenyans in their thousands said that enough is enough and proposed changes in the governance structure that included checks on the legislature in a multi-party set up.

Like in the yesteryears, Parliament has never been comfortable with checks and balances. It is not a secret that the National Assembly is behind the battle to drag Kenya back to the days of ‘baba na mama.’

Behind the backs of delegates to the National Constitutional Conference, Parliament re-opened the Bomas Draft and scrapped the Senate, Regional Government structures and the National Salaries Review Commission. The doctored draft was defeated in a costly referendum. Partners in the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) were purged from the Cabinet for leading opposition to the document.

Senate and Regional Government structures in the country’s independence constitution were scrapped with the help of Parliament that allowed itself to be used as a rubber stamp of Executive desires.

Kenya is set to celebrate 50 years of self internal rule but the big question that was a taboo and remains thus is, have any of the promises made been fulfilled or were they mere political rhetoric? The latter seems to be the case as we can rightly point out that it is business as usual under the new constitution.

(The author is the Senator for Homa Bay. Email:[email protected])

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