It was the 12th of December 2010, Nyayo National Stadium, and Kenyans from all walks of life had gathered to celebrate Jamhuri day. It was an important day. In fact, it was the same day in 1963 that Kenya became a republic. Politicians, foreign envoys, religious leaders, disciplined forces, school children, and other citizens were all present.
The prime minister and the president, who formed a coalition government after a disputed elections and post poll violence, don't usually agree in public. But this day was different. They both were reading from similar sources. They were furious and blasting the US ambassador, Michael Ranneberger. The previous week, WikiLeaks had exposed the US communication cable and views from the ambassador criticizing the two leaders on how they showed no efforts in fighting impunity and were anti-reformists.
Poor governance as a result of leaders not implementing reform agendas, not ensuring the citizens have access to basic needs, no accountability, passing of policies and laws that oppress people, not fighting impunity and providing an environment where citizens don't enjoy their rights.
The big question at the moment was, should foreigners meddle with our affairs or should we be left alone to handle our issues? What if the foreign envoys weren't involved? Who else apart from the free media would act as the voice of the people and question the government?
Implementing reform agendas passed in the formation of the coalition government power-sharing deal, and a new constitution, would bring a lot of changes. It would ensure political accountability, rule of law, respect for government and state resources. Due to vested interests by the politicians, Kenyans will have to wait longer than necessary as the lawmakers in parliament debate on whether to pass the laws that facilitate their implementation or not.
Billions of shillings have been lost in various scandals. Goldenberg, Anglo leasing, pyramid schemes, price-under estimation of the sale of Grand Regency hotel, maize scandal, paying of ghost workers in parastatals, price-over estimation of public graveyard site, awarding of tenders to ghost contractors and nepotism during tenders and contracts awarding are just some of the few practices that expose poor governance of the Kenyan government.
The judicial system has been compromised and justice has been delayed for several victims. The president appoints the high court judges, an act that raises eye brows. Efforts have been made by human rights commission and the law society to change the appointing authority but it seems they are fighting a losing battle. This means that the head of state appoints people whom the government can manipulate. Hence, it is difficult to have a top rank government official arraigned in court.
Exorbitant tax rates paid by the citizens, who majority earns very minimum wages, is a big issue. Sadly, the monies don't even reach their respective departments. Rather, they are either pocketed by a few or used in political campaigns. State properties are used to reward sycophants. Thousands of hectares of land, especially during the Kenyatta and Moi regimes, were given as accolades. This led to a lot of people being rendered homeless as the Kibaki government evicted them trying to recover public land. The sad story is that, even funds meant to resettle them, were being misappropriated by the same leaders evicting them. Where would they go to?
Kenyans, and the free media, should continue in the fight for good governance because Kenya is definitely not there yet.
By Oscar Otindo, Kenya
The writer is a Kenyan volunteer and activist based in Nairobi, Kenya.