It is grindingly dizzying to see what Uhuru Kenyatta is doing months prior to the general elections.
Some of the initiatives the President has announced are so astonishingly outlandish in terms of expenditure that it’s difficult to imagine how a country with a 900 billion shilling budget deficit could be so unabashedly extravagant.
Kenyans are already heavily indebted to local and international lenders and recent reports aver each one of us has a price tag of 59,000 shillings.
But this is an election year and the ruling Jubilee government is stretching itself wide and high to ensure it wins a second term in office.
However as one popular columnist likes to say, things are elephant, for Jubilee, as the opposition ramps up its campaign rhetoric.
Call it political expediency.
But should development be based on genuine goals and intentions or on flamboyant show-offs to win power at any cost?
Take the multi-billion shilling mass transport system for Nairobi announced last week. Everyone agrees that the capital city is too congested on pedestrian and vehicular traffic and a faster and a more efficient system of transportation is required to move people.
The long lines of cars in and out of Nairobi often paralyze movement with adverse consequences to the economy. Travelers to and from the airport are delayed and commuters are heavily inconvenienced, all this costing everyone money. So, a mass transportation system makes sense.
But the timing even for the announcement itself is wrong.
The economy is in shambles; tens of thousands of people are dying of hunger; public hospitals are shut down due to a doctors’ strike now in its third month. The majority of people do not have affordable health, hunger is everywhere, and water scarcity is widespread pushing women and children to drink contaminated water. Unemployment is hitting the roof and money has gone south.
In a nutshell, life has become a matter of survival for Kenyans. This week, the price of fuel went up for the umpteenth time, ratcheting the standard of living to unmanageable levels.
Everyone knows Jubilee wants to snatch control of the capital Nairobi from opposition hands. But intoxicating Kenyans with staggering financial commitments during these hard times is morally wrong even if reports indicate some of the funds will come from donors.
That is one. The other is the long-drawn saga of the doctors’ strike.
As I write, the government is preparing new pay packets for 600,000 civil servants whose salaries and house allowances are to go up. Twenty-six billion shillings have been budgeted for that purpose.
There is nothing wrong for civil servants to get an occasional pay increase. But how about the doctors who fall under a different category? Why can’t we just sort them out once and for all instead of playing roulette with human lives.
This week their leaders spent a few nights in jail for disobeying a court order to return to work. That was a sacrifice they had to make to drive home their demands.
Unfortunately, the strike has now been politicized, thanks to the government’s obstinacy.
The new pay scales for civil servants’ salary – to be released in July, a month to the polls – sound like an election strategy to win favor from this large group of workers.
Newspapers are already speculating that this year’s budget will be an ‘election budget’ with the government allocating huge amounts of money for pet projects between now and election day to lure votes.
Another example of political expediency was the decision a few weeks ago to create the 43rd tribe in Kenya by extending citizenship to 5,000 Makonde tribesmen. If this was not a scheme to corruptly lure the Mozambicans to vote for Jubilee then I don’t know what it is.
These people refused to return home despite pleas from their Embassy. The ease in which they were given Kenyan citizenship is baffling. My view is that Kenya has no business nationalizing them.
Why haven’t the Nubians from South Sudan, who have been in Kenya since the end of the World War, not been equally recognized for nationalization? Is it because they reside in an opposition stronghold and are unlikely to vote for the ruling party?
Then, there is the circus of title deeds. Every time elections beckon there is heightened vigor on the part of the ruling regime to distribute titles to the landless even if some of them are fake. This time around things are not any different.
Usually once the incumbent wins, the titles momentarily become useless not honored by banks and disputed by lands authorities.
Any move to dangle ‘goodies’ in front of people in exchange for votes is corruption. It is an old trick inherited from Mzee Moi that has no place in our political life today.
And that is my say.
Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of ‘Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator‘, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.
The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.
Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’ is also now on sale.
Joe’s latest book is ‘The Wretched Africans: A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements‘ which has recently been published and is now available to purchase.