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Kenya’s political elephants are far, far more equal



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A few weeks ago, Governor of Migori Okoth Obado was released on bail. The release triggered mixed emotions. His supporters were ecstatic; their prayers had been answered. Others wondered, what a world, where a life is snuffed out and it appears that there are no answers, no justice.

While the governor is on bail, he has been subjected to a number of restrictions, such as not being able to travel outside the country or 20km within his county.

I am obsessed with George Orwell’s works, and most of us have come across Animal Farm. In there is one phrase that is often quoted, “All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others.”

The pigs were saying this to each other with smug smiles when they realised the hypocrisy of government. They could do whatever they wanted, preach equality but in actuality, they were the elite and owned the government.

I was at a meeting chaired by the Deputy President William Ruto where Governor Obado spoke about involving young people in agriculture. It was an informative and well-thought-out contribution, but it was difficult to pay attention to his words and not take note of how uncomfortable the room was.

When his name was first mentioned, people looked at each other, and it was obvious that on everyone’s mind though not on their lips was the question, “He is here? And he even has the guts to contribute?”

What is that feeling, of knowing there is a massive elephant in the room and pretending to be blind? But no one had the guts to call him out. I mean the deputy president does not have a problem with his presence at the meeting, so why should you? It seemed everyone was ready to move on.

If it were a woman, would she have easily dusted off her shoulders and kept on trucking? Or would she go underground for a few months and almost disappear?

But you see, we live in a country where nobody questions the powerful. Almost a year since the handshake and rolling out of the Building Bridges Initiative, those key players are suddenly getting regional jobs. Kalonzo Musyoka received his security detail back, in all his three homes, right after President Uhuru Kenyatta attended his father’s funeral. They appear to be mending their elitist bridges just fine.

But when we look at our situation, nothing much has changed for us.

Perhaps we should be “grateful” that at least the two bulls are not fighting each other, so we the grass will not suffer. Must be nice to receive a job that you didn’t know existed or even apply for. Plus receiving a salary that is not really needed (there are people who really need jobs out there, really!) Wait a minute, is that corruption? Ehh, what do I know?

But where we seriously miss the target, is when young people present in these spaces seem to be keener on taking selfies with politicians rather than challenging the issues being articulated.

Or when occasions arise to put their issues across to a particular individual in leadership, as soon as they enter the room, the focus is lost, they become star-struck and forget the major issues they were to bring out.

Happy with how things are?

On the other hand, some genuinely want to be progressive and see a better country, but these young people do not have access to powerful individuals. Behind closed doors, they start questioning whether we are well represented and our leaders know what is best for us.

When we come face to face and it is time to say what we want to say, we go back to acting, as though we were happy with how things are.

A friend from South Africa once asked me why Kenyans are not honest with themselves, especially when it comes to our leadership. I remember her saying that she loved how politicians in South Africa would say what they feel about a particular issue and stand their ground. Kenyans on the other hand seem flaky, one day saying this, the next day something else.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twittter: @NerimaW

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