“I, Uhuru Kenyatta, in full realization of the high calling…do swear that I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance to the Republic of Kenya…and that I will obey, protect and uphold the sovereignty, integrity and dignity of the people of Kenya.“
These were the words that, at the time, the President-elect of the Republic of Kenya recited on an electric Tuesday, April 9th 2013. It was a day that shall remain indelibly writ in both history and memory, for the man – who was also facing charges of crimes against humanity – chose to hold the same bible his father held in 1963 when he took his oath as Kenya’s first post-colonial head of government. A few months later, President Uhuru Kenyatta famously warned reprobate civil servants that ‘their days were numbered’. In addition, on Jamuhuri day, as Kenya celebrated its Jubilee year, you – a patriotic Kenyan – received another proclamation from Jomo’s son,
“I pledge to adhere to good governance and the rule of law and all leaders must be ready to be held accountable for their action.”
These proclamations came in the wake of bad politics, negative ethnicity and impunity that were the springboard of countless mega scandals in our country’s past: from the Ngei Maize scandal of 1965 to the Goldenberg scandal of the 1990’s that cost us over 10% of our GDP. Institutionalized theft had been the terrible norm, permitted by the highest offices in government. This is outlined in painstaking detail in various local and international reports and publications such as the 91-paged Githongo Report or the now infamous book ‘Looters And Grabbers: 54 Years Of Corruption And Plunder’ by Joe Hamisi.
When ‘Kamwana’ opined – during the Golden Jubilee-year Jamuhuri day celebrations – that he would use the newly reconstituted Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to “bring to book all those involved in corruption…” I have a feeling that you must have believed him. After all, he was our youngest president ever: finally, a ‘youthful’ president! He was also US educated and was amongst those who, in 1990, bravely petitioned Moi to allow an open democratic space at a time when the dictator was cracking his whip. For those who faulted him for his inexperience, his defense was that he had enjoyed some ‘leadership tutelage’ from the ‘Professor of politics’ himself. This was through various appointments and nominations: as the Chairman of the KANU’s Gatundu branch (1997), Chairman of Kenya Tourism Board (1999), Chairman of Disaster Emergency Response (2000), nominated MP (2001), Minister for Local Government (2001) and as one of KANU’s Vice Chairmen (2002). Under Nusu Mkate’s rule, he had also served as Deputy Prime Minister (2008) and Minister of Finance (2009) with barely any scandal besides a 9.2 billion ‘typing error’ as the Minister of Finance.
Uhuru was also regarded as a ‘nice guy’ – by sympathizers and critics alike – and those who had the privilege of his company said that he had the air of a charming and charismatic leader. “He has potential,” they said. Besides, he had received from his predecessor a recovering economy poised for accelerated growth. Perhaps he would undo the sins of his father, surge forward toward vision 2030 and restore the country to its rightful place, side by side with its former ‘equal’: Singapore. Oh naïve Kenyan, you are quicker than Christ to forgive and forget. Little did you know that the dark clouds that had hovered over the country since independence were never going to be dispersed.
Hard data on corruption is not easy to find, and it is usually even more difficult to quantify its extent. But even without the hard data, it is undeniable that the extent of the thievery that ensued since Kamwana’s inauguration is far greater than what one nation can bear. Within the first term of his presidency, ‘His Excellency’ began to excellently fulfil the exact opposite of his pledge. Just to mention a few, his reign oversaw the Eurobond scandal (>Sh215 billion), the ‘laptop’ tendering scandal (>Sh25 billion), the Kidero City Hall scandal (>Sh21 billion), the NYS scandal (>Sh0.791 billion), the GDC tendering scandal (>Sh10 billion), the Lamu Coal project scandal (>Sh174 billion), the ‘40 MPigs Karen Land’ scandal (>Sh8 billion), the ‘Chicken-gate’ IEBC scandal (>Sh0.052 billion), the Afya House scandal (>Sh5 billion), the Safaricom ‘security cameras project’ scandal (>Sh30 billion), the NSSF ‘non-existent shares’ scandal (>Sh1.6 billion), the Interior Ministry ‘lost money’ scandal (>Sh3.8 billion)…just to mention a few. This abridged list adds up to about Sh508 billion. To put this into perspective, that’s enough money to build 3 Burj Khalifas, or a six-lane high-quality asphalt highway from Mombasa to the Busia border 2 times, or 270 130-bed hospitals with a total floor area of 8,000 square metres each – 6 such hospitals can be constructed in every county: and each time we shall have enough left to pay our doctors and teachers their dues. All of that money, and potential for development, has been lost in just one term. So far, there has been no ‘high-profile’ prosecution or conviction. Not one.
The second highest office in The Executive was not to be left behind in this rape of Kenya’s future, for it has been mentioned in tandem with numerous scandals: the ‘hustler’s’ jet scandal (>Sh100 million), Muteshi land scandal, the Kenya Pipeline land scandal, the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital scandal and many more…including the ‘teargassing children’ scandal that cost us all the dignity we had left. As of this writing, the second term of Uhuru’s government is now barely into its first year. Yet we already have revelations of the SGR ‘non-existent landowners compensation’ scandal (>Sh3 billion), the NYS ‘Season 2’ scandal (>Sh10 billion), the NSSF ‘irregularities’ scandal (>Sh13 billion), the NCPB ‘maize and fertilizer’ scandal (>1.9 billion)….As these lists merely represent the tip of the iceberg, the looting going on is unmistakably relentless. These thieves in government are emptying public coffers with ravenous greed, and they aren’t going to stop until they have stolen every last blade of grass from us.
It would be inaccurate to say that the President has done nothing to fight corruption. However, whatever it is he thinks he has done has failed, terribly, such that it is as if he has done nothing at all. His government has failed to eliminate opportunities for corruption, to sack, prosecute and severely punish all state officers implicated in corruption scandals, to bolster auditing procedures, to provide for public scrutiny the necessary documents that outline expenditure in government ministries, to protect and reward whistle-blowers, or even to recover illegally acquired assets. This government has allowed thieves to feast on the work of your hands – entrusted to the exchequer for the provision of basic services – and has rewarded criminals with higher positions in public office. This government has brought dishonor to the august house, and as things stand, the common man’s ambition to be elected into public office is now fueled by his desire for the opportunity to steal some more for himself, rather than the desire to build a prosperous future for himself and his progeny.
Allow me to remind you, dear patriot, that in 2016 an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission survey revealed that on average, Kenya loses >Sh600 billion a year due to corrupt dealings. In addition, according to the Auditor General’s report of the financial year ending 2015, only 1.2% of public expenditure was lawfully and effectively utilized. Dear patriot, it should now be clear that you have been, are being, royally fucked. And I haven’t given a line or two to nepotism, cronyism, tribalism and other infirmities that still persist in government, in spite of the existence of laws, structures, institutions and professionals.
This kakistocracy exists because we have allowed politicians, bureaucrats and private agents to treat us like idiots. We have let the atrocities committed by ‘democratically elected’ leaders against their own people go unpunished, and consequently, we have legitimized our violation by foreign agents who come here in the name of development yet mean us no good. The absence of punitive action against generational thieves has allowed the culture of corruption to fester, so much that it has tainted even little children, who today would not run an errand for an elder without the expectation of a shiny coin. If there exists a crime that deserves the ultimate punishment, it is the befoulment of a generation.
Despite all this, I believe that the madness of an entire nation cannot disturb an enlightened mind. It is with a grave agony that I then raise my plea to you, the intellectual class of patriotic Kenyans. To what degree are you responsible for the ills of his nation?
First and foremost, you are the vanguard of the society. It is from you that spring the greatest qualities of an age: its art, its ideas and its identity. The glorious history of humanity is largely the history of a few – the intellectuals – and every golden age is defined by even fewer men. It is the intellectual class that wonders, envisions and creates: the rest of mankind merely builds. Whatever they permit, persists. None but the thinking man has kissed the bleeding edge of human knowledge and stared back into the abyss of his own ignorance. You are the best of us, and it is by you that we should be led.
Secondly, you are most fortunate. In this young country, only you have savored the pleasures of a fine education, which has enriched rather than impoverished your minds. Only you have had the leisure of travel across the world, which has polished your perception of reality and revealed to you just how far this country is lagging behind. In addition, only you can afford the leisure of non-scholarly intellectual pursuits that sharpen the faculties, keeping them from waning with age. You do not forget, despite the rapidity with which these transgressions fade from Wanjiku’s memory. Unlike that of the proletariat, your rapier is constantly sharp, ready for battle.
Thirdly, it is you that enjoys most fully the fruits of a flourishing democracy, and the rights and freedoms bestowed upon us by our constitution: it is he who knows the forest that knows the coolest shade under which to sleep. In addition, when these rights and freedoms are taken away, it is you that will feel their absence the most. Wanjiku may not know the thrill of publishing a piercing book, or of raising an eloquent dissenting voice to a rogue government, but she surely knows the sweetness of uninterrupted sleep in the Uhuru Park (thanks to the late Prof. Wangari Maathai), the joys of self-determination and self-exploration – thanks to the committee of experts who drafted the new constitution – the luxury of an affordable meal, and the tranquility of peace of mind. Whatever the multitude enjoys, you do too. Whatever they are denied, so shall you be denied.
Yet you have allowed the word ‘elite’ to be divorced from the ‘thinking men’ and be betrothed to the self-aggrandizing political class. The Kenyan political ‘elite’ are unworthy of the term. Their very existence is an insult to the people, and each breath they take impoverishes the nation. They are the political ‘scum’, you are the elite. Yet some of you have thus far deserted Wanjiku, forcing her to fight a war whose breadths and bounds she does not understand.
I call upon you, my fellow patriots, to rise up with one accord. Employ your gifts and talents for the emancipation of the Kenyan proletariat. Dissect the lies and propaganda of our rogue government without fear and outline its clandestine agendas for the common mwananchi to see. When the press goes to bed with the despots, it is you who must kick the door in and prise them apart. Emancipate your people, speak with a strong voice, and apply yourselves with the tact and efficiency of a fifth column. It is your moral duty to constantly expose the hypocritical moralism of our head of state, the blatant immoralisms of his junior(s), the impertinence of the Legislature, the villainy of the Executive and the pusillanimity of the Judiciary.
Let it not be misconstrued that it is only the academic that I herein regard as the intellectual. However useful it may be, academia is neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectualism. To be an intellectual, one merely has to reason well. In both past and recent times, we have watched as starling persons who if not exiled, have been shunned by the country, yet embraced by the world. Civil servants, businessmen and academics alike have been pushed into exile from their ‘democratic’ home country. They too are part of our intellectual class. Painters and sculptors, poets and rappers, writers, journalists, physicians…all of you whose trades primarily require the application of rational thought. You are all part of Kenya’s intelligentsia, and all of you are to blame for these infamies.
Wanjiku would be forgiven if she assumed that her tyrants have killed you all and that this country is now devoid of thinkers. Indeed, our post-colonial history of assassinations has greatly impoverished our intellectual history. We must always remember Thomas (Tom) Mboya, Pio Gama Pinto, Robert Ouko, comrade Titus Adungosi, Father John Kaiser, Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge, Jacob Juma, Chris Musando, and the multitude of those whose names we may never know. Endless dummy inquests and investigations which never end in justice cannot conceal the truth. We know the truth, and it is the truth that will imprison the despots as it sets us free. We know who these despots are, and it’s time for the hangman to fasten the noose.
The assassination of J.M Kariuki – who, although not flamboyantly scholarly, decried Kenyatta’s budding corruptocracy, token-like distribution of land and the growing distrust amongst the member states of the EAC with courageous eloquence – was the warning bell that many did not heed. “Kenya has become a nation of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars,” he often said, but few listened. Upon his assassination, comrades of the UoN matched in protest through the streets of the young city, and as if in prophecy of what would be the shameful tradition of the Kenya riot police, they stormed the crowd and did what no sane officer should ever do. The police, to this day, still commit the same crimes that they did in 1975, in addition to the new ones that they have invented.
But shall the murder of hundreds make hundreds of thousands cower in the shadows? Shall hundreds of thousands stand by in silence as millions of lives are destroyed by a few dozen men? Shall the threat of being hastened to an early grave coerce the awakened mind into submission? Where art the brave? They have merely killed a few of you, not all of you. You are legion.
I know that some of you have tasted the sweet sin of corruption and have been wooed by the handouts of an ‘untouchable’ political class. If the money is good enough, “Why not?” you say. “After all, ‘mtu hawezi kukataa pesa’[one cannot decline money].” I wonder, when did you discard your foresight? Why is it that you cannot perceive the consequences of these transgressions: you see merely the quietude of an overpriced apartment in Karen and some extra pocket change for the amenities of a comfortable existence, yet you cannot perceive the greater long-term benefits of an upright government, nor the terrors that shall soon plague both you and your children? Wake up!
Democracy is inextricable from the moral right to revolt against tyranny. In addition, all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya. I beseech you, people of Kenya, to sharpen your pencils and enflame your tongues. Raise your voices in uproar. Do your duty and put these thieves behind bars where they truly belong. Hold Wanjiku’s hand and tell her that corruption must come to an end. Persuade your fellows to join the struggle, especially those whose indifference makes them disinclined to dirty their hands. Rise up, or your indifference will be the death of us all.