By Boniface Mwangi, Nairobi – January 2, 2021
“The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off” -Gloria Steinem
This is an open letter to Kenyans. The New Year is upon us, time to reflect and set new goals and resolutions. I am starting the New Year in silence—so this is the only posting I will make on social media in a long while. I will be away, thinking and reflecting on our nation and nationhood.
Without a doubt, we are on our own. The fruits of Jubilee have been poverty, unemployment, crime, corruption, maternal deaths and police executions. Kenya is poorer today than it was eight years ago. It’s the harsh reality for most parents, as schools re-open next week.
We were promised funds for more classrooms to facilitate social distancing, but we know the classes are yet to be constructed. Basic protections like masks, that were also promised, will not be made available. Instead, the Education Minister is telling parents “who can afford” to provide their children with the items. He says there were no additional school facilities built around the world when the small central Africa nation of Rwanda built more than 2,000 new schools.
Rwanda learned very important lessons during 100 days of human massacre in 1994. Kenya learned NOTHING from 2007-2008 post-election violence and rewarded two of the principal players with a decade of presidency and deputy – now seeking to extend the suffering of Kenyans by another ten long years. A friend of notorious Rwanda human butcher Filicien Kabuga had vowed that a million Kikuyus would be dead by March 31, 2008 before international intervention stopped the carnage.
This year however, there will be adequate funds for a referendum. Indeed, it’s a safe bet that the next couple of months will be dominated by the politics of BBI. There will be campaigns and political rallies to promote BBI while some of you are unemployed, sick and hungry. Police will be deployed to protect those who support BBI and harass those who oppose it.
The people who stole COVID money will still be roaming free because our government has no interest in fighting corruption or impunity. Billions have been stolen since the presidency of UhuRuto came to power, but not a single person has been convicted. In our communities, police hit squads execute phone snatchers, citizens mete out mob justice to chicken thieves, while those who steal billions are well-protected.
If you vote for BBI, these men (it’s mostly men who are responsible for the mess in this country) will have created more positions to ensure that they, together with their children and friends, remain in power forever. There is no money to pay nurses, teachers, doctors, or county employees, but they lie to you that things will be better after BBI passes… and you believe them?
The 2010 Constitution is very robust, as currently formulated, but we gave it to Moi’s political heirs to implement. They want to ensure the Supreme Court never overturns stolen elections again and that after 2022, those who defied court orders aren’t jailed. The most-funded ministry in Kenya is the Interior Ministry —that’s the one the police and the military fall under—and the one with almost zero accountability or transparency.
If BBI is supposed to fix stolen elections, why trust the people who steal elections, and kill people who protest, to fix that problem? Think about it. I get hate messages every day for speaking the truth, but l won’t stop from speaking about uncomfortable things. Our politicians hate poor people – they call them pests.
They see you as their slaves. They know you have a price and can use 50 bob Raised to Ksh 1,000 during Msambweni byelection, or tribal currency, to get your vote. They will pretend that they’re devout Christians or Muslims just to get your support, but once they get what they want, you’re as disposable as toilet tissue paper or bush leaves in many rural areas without toilets.
Most Kenyans are so poor that they can barely afford to dream things could be better. You live in the slums, working as a casual labourer, you have to pay to use the toilet or bear the indignity of having to use a polythene bag, you buy water at prices that are much higher than for those who have tap water in their homes, but you still believe in the same politicians who have been around for the last 30 years? You live in a slum, or poor village somewhere, but you think once your tribesman gets elected, that you will be rich? How?
Kenya is 57 years old, out of which a Kalenjin was president for 24 years and the other 33 years had three Kikuyu men at the helm. Majority of Kalenjins live in huts with no hospitals, or good schools and burrow holes for water like wild animals. They are also prone to cattle rustling.
Baringo County, which produced Kenya’s second President Moi, is one of the poorest, and most unsafe, but Kalenjins believe a Gideon Moi or Ruto presidency will save them.
For Kikuyus, they have kept on voting blindly for their kin, but they’re still squatters in Rift Valley and forest fridges in Central Kenya. Their best land in Central Province is in the hands of home guards and multinationals and many of their sons are either alcoholics, or engaged in crime.
- In Rift Valley, the best land is in the hands of multinational tea companies, or some politically-connected, families.
- In Samburu, Narok, Kajiado and Laikipia, you’re either in a national park, a game reserve, a conservancy or a wheat plantation owned by settlers or some politically-connected honcho.
- Naivasha is flower farms and Nakuru big farms belong to those who were well connected during the Kenyatta and Moi regime.
- For Turkana, it’s the elusive oil company and bandits, coupled with drought. In North Eastern, Al-Shabaab and the perpetual search for water are the order of the day.
- Taveta has its sisal plantations, owned by the who’s who in Kenya, and Tsavo National Park.
- As for the Coast, the best beaches are privately owned and the locals are squatters on their own land.
- In Western, Kisii and Nyamira are full, Lake Victoria is a rich resource, but fishermen have to compete with cheap imported fish from China.
- It’s ironic that the most beautiful places in Kenya also have the highest levels of poverty. I could go on examining who owns Kenya; certainly not you and me.
Ask yourself, the politicians you love, do they love you back? Do they respect you the way you respect them? If you’re a motorist, they bully you off the road. If you take part in a protest, they send police to beat you up. After you vote them into office, they forget about the promises they made and spend all their time stealing the money that’s supposed to help resolve your issues.
We are a failed nation. A matatu driver and his tout will endanger your life, insult you, beat you and sometimes kill, but they’re untouchable because a police officer owns the matatu. If you are a victim of crime, you have to bribe the police to do their job, but if the criminal can pay a bigger bribe, they’re allowed to walk scot-free. In some of our villages you rely on vigilantes for security and political gangs never stop harassing you.
- The politicians live in a different universe, the world they promise to give you but never do.
- When you elect them they metamorphose overnight from the neighbour you have known walking to work with a torn umbrella into Mheshimiwa earning hundreds of thousands of shillings, riding in dark tinted luxury fuel guzzlers with body guards and cease to be ordinary mortals.
- They live in the safety of lush, green suburbs, their children go to private school and university abroad, they have access to the best medical care, all at our expense.
- You live in a slum, or those concrete high rises that don’t have natural light, open your window to a view with no trees, take your kids to underfunded public school, and if you get sick, the witchdoctor, religious elder or that public hospital, where they give Panadol to cancer patients, is your only hope.
- Your family of five lives in badly ventilated rental quarters where you can suffocate to death from the charcoal jiko you use to boil green maize to raise school fees and money to buy COVID-19 masks for your school children – as happened on the first day of 2021 in Githurai, Nairobi.
On any given day, I receive at least 100 messages in my inbox. Most people are crying out for justice, work or money to pay hospital bills. In a functioning country, people would go to the police and the judiciary for justice, the government would be creating jobs, and healthcare for all would be free, or at least affordable. In Kenya, the quickest way to become broke is be involved in a court case or get sick – the police and hospitals will bankrupt you. The things that should be free and accessible to all are the most expensive.
So what happens now? What should we do? We have to take back our country. Our current political leaders will not save us. The people that we pay so much money, that we provide with free cars, fuel, bodyguards and sirens, don’t care about us. Before Christmas, they agreed to increase our taxes from today, 1st January. They didn’t increase theirs. If they had, it’s they who would be fighting the fight that activists and civil society do for you.
Why do people who live like slaves, who are oppressed by their government, who are poor or only a salary away from poverty, hate the truth? It’s because the politicians have made us hate the messenger? If you were to realise that it’s the politician you’re supposed to hold to account, the politician would be in trouble. Don’t be like the Jews, they told Pilate to free Barabbas (the murderer) and demanded that Jesus, who hadn’t committed a crime, be crucified. That is what political charlatans have become and coined the phrase “maize wetu – mali yetu”
Most activists and civil society organisations aren’t elected, neither are they financed by the public. They are just bearers of truth. Instead of listening to what they have to say, we attack them. The government and politicians engage people on fulltime basis to attack some of us, saying that we are paid to fight the government. It’s the same tired line used to attack those who challenge the system world over.
Getting paid by a foreign power to fight your government is a treasonable offence and being accused of this is supposed to rile people up against you. Ironically, those same foreign powers are the ones in bed with our corrupt regime. They’re the ones giving our government expensive loans that end up being stolen and wired back abroad by our politicians.
I have learnt to fight like Zimbabwean Leader Benjamin Burombo who said, “Each time I want to fight for African rights, I use only one hand because the other hand is busy trying to keep away Africans who are fighting me.”
For Kenya to be liberated, everyone who is suffering must speak up. You must rise up. The system has lied to you that those of us who fight for Kenya and demand better are paid by external forces. Hence the question, must one be paid to fight for his or her own rights?
That’s why you suffer in silence, because you’re waiting for someone to be paid or a saviour to be born who will fight for you. Stop outsourcing your anger, use your voice, stop keeping quiet when injustices happen, when you’re a victim. As citizens we have transferred our responsibility to others. Now take back that responsibility. Demand accountability.
The President made campaign promises and none of them were to mutilate and destroy the Constitution, let him fulfill his promises. Demand the same accountability from your Governor, Senator, Women Rep, MP, and MCA. For those who can afford to fund and drive change, this is your time to look for candidates who represent your best interest and support them.
The qualification for public office must stop being a criminal record and questionable wealth. It should be servant leadership, a proven track record of service and integrity. For heaven’s sake, stop loving and electing crooks. The law is very clear on ethical standards for those who occupy public office.
The rich Kenyans who have barricaded themselves inside gated communities, with electric fences, dogs, guards and firearms, please support progressive candidates who will fight for a better Kenya. As long as those who work for you are poor, you’re not safe. Those you pay to protect you are the ones who will open the gate for the criminals, just ask Manu Chandaria.
You think you’re safe because you have a gun? Bunty Shah, 32, the son of billionaire owner of Bobmil Industries, Vipin Shah, was shot dead through his bedroom window by a police marksman. The Chinese, drug barons and those people paying slum dwellers slave wage salaries to work in their industries, fund our politicians to ensure the laws favour their businesses. Even the leader supposed to be fighting for worker’s rights is compromised.
Wealthy Kenyans, use your wealth to fund change. Multiparty democracy in Kenya was driven by rich people who funded the change agents or ran for office. Find those change agents in your community and support them. Decide you identify and support MCAs who will go to the county and represent you, not become rubber stamps for governors.
Help support grassroot activists in your villages who are demanding accountability. Pay for their town hall meetings and the advocacy they’re doing. Pay for their bail for those who get arrested and if you’re a lawyer represent them for free. If as a citizen your only power is your social media handles, use them loudly and proudly.
Start shaming those stealing our resources. Take them to social jails, don’t give them peace. When the Spanish economy collapsed, waiters and service providers refused to serve anyone who played a role in the collapse. 2021 is going to be the year we join hands and RISE UP against impunity because, if we fail, the lords of impunity will take full control. Fight for our present and our children’s future. If you believe the billionaire brothers initiative will get you out of poverty, then vote for it.
If you decide to vote for BBI and it passes either through electoral fraud or your vote, please note it’s the majority, the poor people who will suffer the consequence of bad laws. The rich can hire lawyers, or move to another country, professionals can get another job in another country, but the poor will suffer the most.
Let your poverty and the hard work you’ve put in to get out of it, inform the way you vote during the expected referendum and upcoming elections. Don’t vote because your tribal warlord says BBI is good, use common sense.
I have done my part. I have consistently stood up for the truth at a great personal price.
- After reading the above how do you view Kenya leadership?
- What have you done about the myriad of problems facing Kenya?
- Do you care about your Motherland? What are you doing about bad governance and corruption?
- Do you care about the country your grandchildren will inherit from you or you live for yourself?
- Are you the kind of passenger who sits in a recklessly driven speeding bus only to complain later in hospital about the driver?
Your voice matters. Your action matters. You have a right to clean politics and good governance. You pay for the huge salaries politicians are paid and the money corrupt civil servants and tenderpreneurs steal every day.
From colonial days to this date Kenyans are killed like wild game when they demand their rights. Thousands were killed during the struggle for independence and multi-party politics. Politicians ran away with all the benefits from the blood of innocent Kenyans. Promises of historic reparations remain just that – promises even when made from the august House of Parliament.
You have no business defending thieves unless you are one of them along with your family. Stand up against bad and corrupt leadership and their evil worshippers.