MWANGI: Poor Kenyans fought for uhuru but lost out to gullible leaders

MWANGI: Poor Kenyans fought for uhuru but lost out to gullible leaders
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Recent events in Kenya offer a good lesson on history’s uncanny tendency to repeat itself, only that it’s all so tragic for millions of people. Indeed, it is to the credit of Kenyans that they have retained a great sense of optimism – call it gullibility – in the face of repeated betrayal. The August polls promise to regurgitate this history once more.

It all started with one Jomo Kenyatta, a demagogue who spoke big but delivered little, promising to lead the people to freedom but instead perpetuating their misery. And Jaramogi Odinga, who should have known better than to trust a man who so admired the ways of the oppressor that he was prepared to auction the interests of his own people to foreigners.

In this manner, Jaramogi came to epitomize the dashed hopes of generations of ordinary Kenyans, while Kenyatta started the elaborate exploitation that has seen the sons of former home guards  and collaborators use every trick in the book to sustain their privileged position at the expense of the masses.

Fast-forward to the advent of the multiparty era in the early 1990s, all the way to the defeat of the Kanu independence party in the 2002 presidential contest. Again, the victory was stolen. Alas, a man who had once been quoted saying that fighting the one-party state of former president Daniel arap Moi was like cutting a mugumo tree with a razor blade suddenly became a hero of the masses! As expected, he lived to disappoint those who had hoped for a genuine break from the past.

It is this scenario – and the associated frustrations – that led to the post-election violence of 2007-08. But even the anger was misdirected: Instead of facing the grand thieves who had reaped where they never sowed, Kenyans turned against their own neighbours who, like them, were mere pawns in the game of their oppressors.

The quest for justice continued with the search for a new constitution that would encapsulate the hopes and aspirations of Kenyans, while guaranteeing protection for citizens from the excesses of past regimes. That effort resulted in the enactment of the new constitution in August 2010. Quickly, the people were once again hoodwinked to retain in power those who had all along served to oppress them.

The much-touted second liberation, then, was hijacked in a fashion reminiscent of the betrayal that took place at independence some five decades earlier. While it is true that Kenyans now have more basic freedoms than ever before, it is business as usual for the nation’s robber barons on many fronts: Extrajudicial killings have continued unabated; corruption and theft of public resources now involves mind-boggling figures; and the people’s will has been subverted through electoral manipulation and fraud in the last two presidential elections.

What makes it particularly difficult for Kenyans to extricate themselves from their present predicament is the fact that many of them have resigned themselves to the ethnic manipulation and lies advanced by the regimes that have held power since independence. Those who have stolen public funds are idolized and easily elected into public office, while ethnic chauvinism is at its peak. Today, Kenyans are being asked to preach peace – meaning the absence of civil strife – without addressing the injustices that have plagued the country since the advent of colonialism.

Thus, the scenario after the coming polls is not difficult to envision. Those who have looted public institutions and are now seeking to sanitize themselves by seeking elected public office will easily have their way – with the masses caring little beyond the meagre handouts they receive.

The opposition outfit that presents itself as an alternative government – the National Super Alliance (Nasa) – is itself full of individuals who have served at the highest levels in the current and previous oppressive regimes. Many of them have a questionable past tainted with corruption, yet they are now being heralded as the nation’s saviours.

While many Kenyans desperate for change are putting their trust in opposition leader Raila Odinga, it is obvious that his ability to deliver will be greatly hindered by the people surrounding him, many of whom would only be interested in getting another bite of the cherry. Other less well-known but worthy presidential candidates who cannot muster the huge campaign resources of the two major formations have been relegated to the sidelines.

Still, the fear that a Raila presidency evokes among the grand looters of the current and past regimes is enough to make them do whatever it takes to protect their grabbed land and other stolen wealth. What are the chances that a genuine transformation is about to take place in Kenya as we approach August? Your guess is as good as mine. Another lost opportunity?

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Story By Isaac Mwangi
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