In the early seventies, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Njoroge Mungai, was asked by his Dagoretti South constituents what he had done for them to deserve re-election as their Member of Parliament.
The good doctor thought for a moment then pointed in the direction of Kenyatta Conference Centre and said: “I brought you UNEP”! What followed was a deepening silence then an explosion of chuckles mixed with a paroxysm of laughter. “Daktari,” they told him: “We don’t eat buildings.”
This may be an exaggerated version of what actually took place, but the story line is genuine and the content is accurate.
Dr. Mungai was not re-elected in 1974, but that encounter with his constituents was a humbling experience for President Jomo Kenyatta‘s first cousin who was used to pampering and political patronage.
The meaning of the story? People need more than concrete to survive.
As they crisscross the country, Jubilee leaders are bloviating about the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway line, the number of kilometers of tarmacked roads they have built, and about the millions of homes they have wired for electricity.
That’s fine but Kenyans neither eat tar nor gobble megawatts.
What people want answered are the following questions:
One, why are the prices of maize meal, milk, and sugar so high today than they were in 2013? For the majority of Kenyans, paying Shs60 for milk, Shs140 for sugar and Shs140 for a two-kilogram of maize meal is a challenge.
Two, what has the government done to deal with the spiraling unemployment? Jubilee’s promise of creating 5,000 jobs in five years has flopped. More than 35% of youthful Kenyans are jobless and have no hope of securing employment any time soon.
Three, why do so many Kenyans go to bed hungry? More than a third of our people are starving and dying of hunger and the government appears to be doing nothing serious about it.
Four, affordable health care. Why are Kenyans still dying of preventable diseases? Kenyans are perishing in their thousands from malaria and TB, deaths which could be avoided. In total, thirteen percent of Kenyans cannot afford medical care. Where is the government?
Those are the bread and butter issues candidates scrambling for leadership must be tackling, not arguing over the kilometer length of the road network. Whether Jubilee government has built 6,000km of roads or 1,500km is neither here nor there.
Bottom line our leaders have failed us, again.
As Kenyan skies buzz with shiny helicopter blades, and roads choke with high-powered motor guzzlers in this campaign season, the only thing poor folks can do is to line up for hand-outs and hope for the best.
By 6pm on August 8 when all the polling polls are closed, those bumptious wananchi who have been hauling opprobrious attacks against opponents in defense of their candidates will saunter home empty handed to begin another five years of poverty and misery.
And the big guys? They will fade into oblivion not to be seen again until 2022.
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.