The middle class must rise up to Kenya’s political occasion


I am writing this from a small town in Meru called Mikinduri where I have met a group of young people donning T-shirts written ‘Meru Youth Network’. I have also learnt that this network has slightly over 10,000 members drawn from Meru County, who each pay Sh200 to work together. Meru Youth Network does local civic education on the constitution, as well as financially supports its members with small loans to enable them invest in self-development activities. This includes buying ‘boda bodas’, investing in chicken, etc.

The young man who runs Meru Youth Network is called Mike Mutembei ‘Makarina’. He suffers from a spinal complication that forces him to operate on a wheel chair. However he has decided to do what he can to ensure the young people in his county learn about their county, its politics and what they require to make their personal lives better.

To do this he is working from within the three key pillars of Vision 2030; engaging in social, economic and political local issues. He tells me that he has especially realized that even if you develop yourself economically and have good social relationships, if the politics around you is bad it does not matter how well you are living.

When one observes Mike in a public setting it is clear there is that calm confidence that is found across the Kenyan middle-class; a confidence that says you can be whatever you want to be, whatever the circumstances you find yourself in. He has chosen to use his middle class background and networks to help as many young people as he can. In the process he has become a recognized opinion leader in Meru County.

I have chosen to share Mike’s story because I need to speak to Kenya’s middle class. In urban centres you tell a middle class person from looking at the roof of their house; does he have a satellite dish? They are also most likely servicing a mortgage; operate two cars; run a minimum two-domestic staff household and more often than not go away on holiday every year. In rural areas the middle class person seats in every local group’s committee; participates in every church development project; and most probably has the best-run farm small-scale farm.

Kenya’s middle class are by default opinion leaders, nationally and locally. This is because the masses aspire to live like them. They are also the fulcrum of our economy because they pay the highest and most taxes. They are the backbone of Kenya’s industry, because they are the managers and technical coordinators of unskilled labor in the market place. They also determine our social interactions as they are key players in social functions; from weddings, to funerals.

Kenya’s middle class Kenyan is plugged in economically and socially no doubt. However they keep avoiding one crucial pillar; politics. Those who venture here only do so if there is a local or national crisis, then immediately disengage and watch from the sidelines, until the next crisis.

In fact, it can be argued that Kenya’s middle class has perfected the art of sitting on the fence and doing absolutely nothing where politics is concerned. They even discourage those who decide to get involved. (Since I joined the Prime Minister’s presidential campaign secretariat nearly everyone I have met in this group expresses their disappointment in my choosing to take a partisan role as we go towards the next general election, rather than continuing to comment from a neutral position. There is a general feeling that this is not ‘cool’).

In January 2008 a group of pretty well off and established middle class young professionals came together under an informal network, to see what they could do to save their country that threatened to go up in smoke. In a relatively short time they had used their social networks to present arguments to both sides of the feuding political wings on how the stale-mate Kenya found itself in would be resolved. They ended up playing a crucial though so far unrecognized role, in ensuring both sides of the political divide were able to navigate through the coalition government discussions and thereafter. Imagine how much a group like this would achieve if they started working before Kenya finds itself in a crisis?

Every time a religious institution has a project, they turn to the middle class amongst themselves and task them with the responsibility of getting such a project completed. The middle class then goes out and mobilizes the masses, as well as brings the required elite on board, around this project. It nearly always gets done.

Kenya has a project; the need for a united nation post March 2013. To achieve this we need a ‘committee’ that will help navigate the coming election in such a way that everyone feels part of the process, and part of the results.

This is the kind of project that needs Kenya’s middle class. Can we step up and get involved directly in the politics that will be played as we head there?

(Wambugu is the Executive Director – Change Associates Trust)

One Reply to “The middle class must rise up to Kenya’s political occasion”

  1. This guy is doing a great job and am sure he is blessed. But what about you Mr. Wambugu? You think your choice of PM Raila is perfect? You want to mean this guy who is a true cocktail of blood can be our best leader? You want tell us that this guy who cant speak three words without an insult is our mother of all leaders? Surely, Wambugu you know as much as we do he is NOT! Perhaps, as an economic opprotunist, may be is ok for you. But is it worth it? Man is supposed to stand on whats right regardless of the consequences no matter how extreme.
    PM Raila is man who has used malicious lies to fashion himself. He has done that using his numerous kinsmen in the media. They parade and fashion his illogicals with alot tribal loyalty. In real sense, without helping hand from these people, Raila is totally zero! They have tried to hide his blunders and even at times, try to justify them. Infact, only the other Raila was dismissing brother Miguna Miguna, his former aide, as a mad man. However, how he went about it was astounding. He said that he had refused to chase a mad man for his clothes after he took it he was bathing. Apparently, he didnt go for his clothes because he has very sound mind indeed. But you certainly wonder how the PM made his way home while he was naked. You must ask how thought of their naked prime minister heading home stark naked. Of course, you to understand that normally your clothes contains car keys, probably house keys and more importantly, cell phones.
    While PM Raila was unwittingly acknowledging that Miguna had uncovered falsehoods that have mantained him all these years, the way he went about it was totally off the mark. Its even unbecoming of the PM! But thats Raila in his true element. The press as usual, made sure that very little of these statements were published. Forgeting that a purported good leader has to be scrutinized without any fear at all. But we know guilty ones are always afraid. If Raila was properly put on integrity scale, there is no doubt at all he cant pass the test. Thats why he had to cook up matters in order cushion his obvious emptiness.
    Infact, his pronouncements during referendum campaigns for new constitution, were biscally attempts to try to fake his “ownership” of the document. First, when the law was drawn by constitutional experts, no single Kenyan said he/she didnt want it. Everybody agreed that the document would be perfect with just a few amendments. So it was actually passed even before the matter of when to effect amendments became issue! Needless to say, the NO camp only wanted those amendment effected before referendum passage and not opposed to the whole law itself. Same with YES camp, they wanted amendment after passage. In both the two camps, opposing, reformers, nonreformers and even watermelons wre never issues at all. There was certainly no place for such at all!
    But Raila unable to get bearings in a quickly changing situation, simply threw in drunken confusion to attempt create space for himself. Unfortunately, he ended up being kept on reserve benches! However, being the character that wants to set the pace not matter how illogical, that didnt stop from faking his importance in the whole process. To this day, he still keeps on calling others names to reinforce his false “giver” status. He cant even stop saying that those who were “opposed” to the consitution cant be allowed to implement it! Can someone show us a single who was opposed to the new law Mr. Wambugu? And if indeed there was no opposition, just someone’s drunken dilusions, how would there be watermelons? Clueless fellows were only using the press to assassinate characters!
    Raila’s initiation in to politics was a failed tribal coup attempt. In his book he admitted as much. Evidence is also there for those were fully tried and convicted. Raila would later pretend to have been fighting for Kenyans instead of being remorseful. When Kenyas were fighting for multiparty democracy, Raila was either jail or having fled the country dressed in lady’s, in veil to be precise! Nonetheless, he still pretends to have brought same for us. Infact, his fake claim to being the only reformer in a land of 40million people is based on that!
    Now Mr. Wambugu kindly tell us how Kenyans are supposed to rely, let alone trust such pathological imposter? Are true leaders made of self-praise? When president Mandela come out prison after 27 years, he simply said he was an ordinary loyal member of the ANC. He never forcefully rushed for the high table! Mahatma Gadhi even refused to be prime minister of India. He asked one of his younger Jawalal Pandit Neru to go for it. Even our own Mzee Jomo Kenyatta never asked for special treatment or pretended to have some self-entitlements! Thus, who is this Raila, some con or what? Why would a leader employ so much mischief and malicious make-believe lies? Whats the reason behind it? Can you tell us Raila’s REAL ACHIEVEMENTS not the fictitious stuff regularly paraded?

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