Cry, my beloved, mourning country

February 11, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – Kenya has indeed become a mourning country. That is now a well known fact. What has not come out clearly is that we have two sets of mourners.

The first set involves ordinary Kenyans who have limited options for implementing remedies to the myriad of problems that afflict the nation. They, alas, squandered their chances during the elections by voting in leaders based on euphoria of phantom change and the lure of monetary inducements.

Having lost their golden chance then, all they can do now is to mourn about anything and everything, from the failure to pay tax by the ladies and gentlemen they voted for barely 14 months ago to the melee of corrupt scandals that are unfolding with reckless abandon. Short of the recall clause in the constitution, the first set of mourning Kenyans have to wait for 2012 to spill blood and demonstrate their displeasure.

The second set of the mourning Kenyans involves leaders who have been vested with the responsibility to effect change and offer solutions to the problems affecting our people. The alacrity with which this group is wailing and mourning is really baffling. The milkman is crying about perpetual delays in milking the cows. The farmer is all tears about the weed that has invaded his farm .The chef is ashen with anger about the awful taste of the food he has cooked. What is the world coming to? If the store man becomes the chief wailer about the disappearing tools from the store, what about the rest of us, mere mortals?

Let’s just take a cursory look at three cases of this new-found style of professional mourning. I will start with the gallant lady from Gichugu, the Minister for Justice, Constitutional Affairs and National Cohesion, Martha Wangari Karua. Addressing the ‘Kenya We Want’ talking shop, the good Minister complained that there are 870,000 pending cases in our courts system. Yes, that’s close to a million cases pending. This, even by the standards of a banana republic, is an unacceptable situation.

It would have been better had that complaint come from the first set of mourners, the ordinary Kenyans. The bad news is that this mourning came from none other than the Minister in charge of the Judiciary. If the Minister who has real power, the separation of institutions notwithstanding, is the one leading in the mourning spree, what are we to do?

If I were the Minister for Justice, I would go racing to my boss and tell him; “look, I think you made the right choice by appointing me to be your Minister, but I think that there are other Kenyans from the same place. Hii kazi imenishinda and you would rather sort yourself out and get somebody else who can clear the mess in our Judiciary”.

For her efforts, the Minister for Justice earns herself a shining gold medal of the Order of the Wailing Warrior (OWW)

The second example of the wailing, shrieking store men is none other than the mercurial Prime Minister himself. The Right Honourable Raila Odinga was quoted recently saying that he had invited an international team to probe the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). Reason? He believes there may be some problems at the parastatal.

What he did not tell us is that the Public Sector Reforms and Performance Contracting Unit is right in the office of the Prime Minister. That is the unit vested with ensuring that there are processes within the public sector, including parastatals like NCPB that helps us not to close the stable when the horse has already bolted. The Prime Minister did not tell us that the Inspector General of State Corporations and the efficiency monitoring unit are all in his office. As he joins us in the wailing, he needs to advise us whether these institutions should be folded up now that he has invited international experts to probe the maize-gate. For this ‘slight’ omission, the Prime Minister earns himself a silver medal of the Order of the Wailing Warrior.

The bronze medal goes to the latest dreamer-philosopher, the Hon Mutula Kilonzo. When the nation was coming to terms with the grief that was the Nakumatt fire tragedy, the good mheshimiwa from Mbooni was lamenting about the lack of fire fighting equipment in Nairobi City, the heart of the grandiose Nairobi metropolis. Now, this lamentation did not come from the relatives of the Nakumatt victims; it came from the Minister for Nairobi Metropolitan Development.

While developing the lofty dream that is Nairobi 2030, the Minister did not see the need to start with small baby steps, what we refer to in management parlance as “Quick Wins”. Had he done so, he would have seen the need to start with deliverable number 001:-Fire fighting equipment for the City of Nairobi.

I honestly think that our ministers need to learn the spelling or pronunciation of one particular word. To be of unsolicited help, I will spell it for them. It is ‘R’ for Romeo (What your Juliets call you), ‘E’ for Echo (Like you hear when they call you Mheshimiwa), ‘S’ for Sugar (Duty free, of course), ‘I’ for India (From where the Prime Minister recently returned, enlightened), ‘G’ for Golf (Where you spend our billions relaxing) and ‘N’ for Nancy, whoever that is.

Short of that, Mr President, kindly do the needful.

The writer is the Secretary General, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) [email protected]. Views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Capital Group Ltd.


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