Dear Prof Gituro Wainaina, I listened to you with great shock and bewilderment as you stood on the National Dialogue Convention podium at Ufungamano house to proclaim that the solution to Kenya’s long list of problems is a dictatorship.
I wasn’t sure that I was mad about what you said, where you said it from or perhaps the quality of thought I had expected from a man of your calibre.
I had a whirlwind of emotions when you uttered those words; from anger, rage, and disappointment all within me.
Yet to imagine that a professor would stand on a podium and say that what Kenya requires to move forward is a dictator is the worst form of poverty of ideas I have ever seen. If it came from a village madman or a lunatic, we would excuse it. If the idea came from one of the loose canons we have in politics, we would understand. If some illiterate man made such a suggestion, we would laugh it off but a man of your calibre?
However, I would not ordinarily take my time to respond to a mosquito bite with a gun. But because I’ve heard such continued utterances especially from a section of Mount Kenya elites (David Murathe of Jubilee, Patrick Mburu of the Ruaraka land saga etc), we have to pluck the weed before it stifles the fragile tree of democracy currently under attack in Kenya.
Over 15 years ago, Kenya was an autocracy. Just before Kibaki took over power, the economy was on its knees, Parastatals had collapsed, and people had been tortured, killed and maimed. Detention without trial was the order of the day. Roads were horrible and crime the order of business. The National Police was (is) corrupt and monopolized by one ethnic community.
Extortion from criminal gangs was common. Getting government services was a pain if you didn’t have a bribe or didn’t know someone. Youth unemployment was common.
KANU had become a malignant tumour in the body of the nation. Inflation was runaway. Freedom of speech was non-existent and many Kenyans were grinding their teeth in poverty, pain, sorrow and confusion.
Mount Kenya paid a heavy price. The milk industry, one of their sources of livelihoods collapsed. Coffee returns plummeted as cartels took over. Sons and daughters of Mumbi were tortured, killed and maimed in a bid to cripple the political backbone of the community.
Many scholars and ordinary Kenyans fled the country leading to a massive brain drain.
Nyanza too bore the heavy brunt of the iron fist rule of Moi. Her brilliant sons were killed at their prime age. Marginalization entrenched poverty in a region that was rich with both natural and human resource. Projects were stalled as cartels scavenged over the region. Roads were dilapidated as the government took a policy of marginalization. The region was covered under a dark cloud of frustration and pain. No part of the country was spared except for the ones who went to bed with the dictator Moi.
On December 30, 2002, Kenya witnessed a monumental revolution when President Mwai Kibaki was sworn in on a wheelchair before a mammoth crowd singing ‘yote yawezekana bila Moi’ at Uhuru Park. The movement was led by ordinary citizens under the Rainbow coalition who were tired of KANU’s plunderous, dictatorial, murderous and destructive regime that had stifled the growth of the country for 24 long years. They plucked the feathers of the cockerel and slaughtered it at the altar of progress.
Let me remind you the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
What Kenya needs
This country needs more servant leaders who will be moved by the plight of the people. We need leaders who do not compete with the nation in doing business but put the welfare of ordinary Kenyans ahead of their family interests. Kenya needs leaders who are not driven by tenderpreneur ambitions or kickbacks, so they run to China to take humongous loans that we don’t need.
We need leaders who will say no and not allow our country to spend beyond what it has in its coffers due to greed. We need leaders who will adhere to the letter and the spirit of the 2010 constitution by faithfully implementing it to make our nation a rule of law country.
To imagine that what we need is a dictator is to take Kenyans for fools. Youth unemployment will not be solved through a dictatorship but creative ways. Fiscal discipline will not come pre-installed in the DNA of a dictator. The same level of thinking that created the current mess the country is in cannot be used to try to solve it.
To imagine that what we need is a dictator is to treat with contempt the heavy price second liberation heroes paid to set the country free from the shackles of KANU. It is to mock Koigi Wa Wamwere who was tortured and detained. It is to trivialize Paddy Onyango who lost everything in Nyayo torture Chambers. It is to take for granted the mutilated body of Ouko Robert, a minister who was murdered for being too bright and a threat to the rule of Moi. It is to dance on the grave of people who died; fighting for a free country where we can talk openly even if what we say is offensive and retrogressive. It is to forget the heavy price Raila Odinga paid and all the second liberation heroes including Micere Mugo, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, among others.
The country doesn’t need a dictator. We have the most progressive constitution in the region. If strictly adhered to, we will prudently use our resources, ensure there are checks and balances and guarantee equity for all. When Kibaki took over the country, we enjoyed the highest GDP growth in the country. Roads were built. Freedoms were expanded. Kenyans were the most optimistic people on earth. He did all that without being a dictator.
This latest diatribe about dictatorship reminds me of the Mount Kenya mafia who mutilated the constitution to cement power around Jomo Kenyatta. Only that they didn’t know who will come after him and would use the same rulebook to terrorize them plus the rest of Kenya. Be careful about the demon you feed.
When we make laws, we should imagine the worst person in power being the implementers.
@DannishOdongo is a journalist who is passionate about governance