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Sunday, 31 August 2014

JUSTICE IS NOT A 7 LETTER WORD


Justice is served
I bow and stride into the City Hall Magistrate’s court on a warm Friday morning in the center of Nairobi. Court is in session. A subdued silence inspires me to pay attention to the cases being mentioned. As I sit down on a cold antique bench, I am reminded of archaic British furniture. I am here to observe the wheels of justice grind along and more importantly soak up why the common man is so disgruntled by the country’s justice system.

There hangs a coat of arms patched high behind the magistrate and right below it is a wall clock that has stopped working. I assume its part of the décor.  

In hindsight those two are very symbolic of the state of the justice system in Kenya.

Let me explain, for one the coat of arms was predicated on the royal coat of arms, which appeared in every courtroom in England and its extensive empire. It demonstrated that justice came from the monarch. This is why lawyers and court officials bowed when they entered the courtroom; they were not bowing to the magistrate but rather to the coat of arms, to show respect for the Queen’s justice. 

In this courtroom, I saw the tradition ‘misappropriated’, which was indicative of who we are as Kenyans: every person who came in when the court was in session bowed. As soon as the court went into recess, people were walking in and out like it was a hotel lobby. The padded chairs were worn and torn but still standing owing mainly to the quality of wood used. The case files that were in circulation in the courtroom were dog-eared, greasy and dusty and they looked like they could magically disappear and appear at will.

case files in court registry
There was a palpable lack of trust and general sense of disorientation from the people in the courtroom, its like the justice system was an imposition that they had to go through despite the fact that they had lost confidence in it.

The court officials had ages ago sensed and understood this. They took advantage of the ignorance and fear to request for ‘tokens’. Bribes exchanged hands in eager anticipation of some level of assistance to lubricate the wheels of justice. 

All this happened as I sat quietly in a corner.
The economist  - Global anti-corruption efforts are growing in scope and clout.

A short walk away at the court registry I notice computers sitting indignantly beside stacks of court files. ‘Clients’ walk in and out of the tin house in a way that one would conclude there is some mischief adrift.  The officials happily converse in vernacular and from time to time walk out with ‘clients’ to converse in low tones. 

Bribes are exchanged in the guise of services rendered. Outside the registry, on the notice board, there is a large poster that has seen better days, some letters are missing obviously from the effects of wear and tear, but you can still tell it states, “This is a corruption free zone”. A number of inconsequential posters have since been super-imposed and one can almost sense the act was intended to diminish the power of the original poster. 




A short visit to a correctional facility in the city also left me shocked at the blatant levels of corruption present. At every level of interaction with the officials was the ‘inspiration’ to offer a small bribe to facilitate a faster process, since the “normal process” was deemed long and arduous. And they were quite elaborate on things they could assist the prisoner in getting if one could only part with a small token.

The World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index is an annual report in its fourth annual release that seeks to portray the rule of law in 99 countries around the world.

“The Index presents a portrait of the rule of law in each country through a set of 47 indicators organized around nine themes: constraints on government powers; absence of corruption; open government; fundamental rights; order and security; regulatory enforcement; civil justice; criminal justice; and informal justice.”

“The power of this diagnostic tool is in helping identify strengths and weaknesses in each country under review and encourage policy choices that strengthen the rule of law.”

“Kenya ranks 86th overall and occupies the bottom half of the regional rankings across all the major dimensions captured by the Index. In spite of improvements in the perceived ability of the legislature and the judiciary to act as effective checks on the executive branch (ranking 62nd overall, up 13 places), and relatively good marks in the areas of freedom of religion and freedom of assembly and association, the country presents a number of challenges. Corruption remains widespread (ranking 93rd globally and third to last in the region); regulatory enforcement is ineffective by regional standards; and the civil justice system, although on par with the regional average, needs improvements across many areas. Crime and vigilante justice are also areas of concern.”

The above statement from the Index report indicates what most Kenyans observe on a daily basis, when engaging the justice system. The justice system in Kenya is understaffed and inadequately resourced to meet the needs of the nation.

The court and the correction facility I visited are located in capital city they are as close to the axis of power as one can get. The situation becomes more appalling as one travels further from the center of power.

It is no surprise that the police and courts in Kenya are among the most corrupt institutions in the country. Poor remuneration and deplorable standards of living, I dare say, are the main reasons why corruption is so deep seated. With insufficient number of personnel serving a nation of more than 40 million people, it is no surprise when efficiency and high quality service becomes as foreign a word as chutzpah.

Zapiro on police problems

 
It does not help that the citizenry stand as one when deriding every effort that the justice system makes to exonerate itself.

As human beings the “innovation” most public servants in this system have come up with is centered on not worrying about the nation, but rather about ones own personal welfare. Since in retrospect how cruel is the nation as to allow public servants to live in such disgraceful conditions. Thus corruption flourishes and continues unabated.

If the justice system was to be adequately staffed, properly remunerated, treated with dignity and adequately resourced. The seed that is the benefits of our justice system will have found the right environment to germinate and flourish.

There is a lot that can be done with technology from automating the processes essential in the justice system to introducing technology in the capture, storage and archiving of information.

But to avoid this uptake of technology from becoming a mockery, there will be need to review and even reengineer the very way information flows through the justice system. Public servants and the citizenry will have to be educated and ‘indoctrinated’ in order to change their current ways. This will take time and it is a gradual process, but with consistency and patience the required results will be achieved. A case study here.

I believe it’s imperative to appreciate the effort that went into the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) Strategic Plan 2012- 2016. If this plan is implemented and supported unequivocally by all members of the council there will be a marked improvement in the justice system in Kenya.

During the launch of the NCAJ Strategic Plan in June 2013, the Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga mentioned a number of imperatives, which must be highlighted:

  1. The need for cooperation and non-competition among member institutions
  2. A common redress of individual challenges and inadequacies
  3. The need to overlook institutional sovereignty for the common good of the citizenry while avoiding narrow jealousies that may threaten or collapse the council.
  4. The need for members to be accountable to each other.

In closing, I would like to note that the current situation is articulately documented and well understood. What is lacking is a concerted effort, to overthrow deeply rooted vested interests for the sake of the nation. We require at the echelon of the justice system more than anything else virtuous leadership and exemplary management skills; persons willing to sacrifice self-interest for the good of the nation. 
We need a citizenry that is outraged and constantly lobbying for change in the current system. And indignant to the grinding political machinery that is at hand, there is no place for neutrality, when we are faced with a moral crisis of this magnitude.  

I believe what Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

I also believe what Robert F. Kennedy said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

What do you believe?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

THE FALLACY THAT IS PUBLIC EDUCATION: ARE YOU THAT EDUCATED?


One of the hardest things to embrace and accept in Kenya is that the public education system that a majority of us have gone through is a failure in its entirety and no matter how many patches we apply, or clutches we give it to stagger on, it still is a failure.


Typical Classroom in Kenya
Don’t get me wrong it worked fine in another century and a different generation, but its usefulness ended a long time ago and just because factories are producing typewriters it doesn't mean every person has to learn how to use one.

Let me clarify that statement, the problem with the public education system is that it is predicated on mechanical mass production where people go through a moving conveyor belt called the education system. They are grouped by age and expected to go through higher and higher levels of indoctrination so that at the end of the production line, they conform to a specific ‘quality’ assurance criteria that renders them ready to join other similarly standardized and sanitized group of people who will fulfill the economic agenda of the industrial market.
The industrial education system

The only problem with this approach is that while it was well suited for the industrial revolution of the 19th century. It is maladjusted for the 21st century and beyond.

The period between 18th and 19th century was unique in that it was the first time that millions of people living in abject poverty across the western world were able to leave servitude in the farmlands and productively take part in mechanized industries that progressively offered better wages.

This altered the social hierarchy and necessitated a transfer of wealth; a middle class arose that was more assertive and politically enfranchised and it demanded for more government involvement in state affairs. In time legislation was enacted in England and other industrialized countries to ensure schooling became compulsory.

With industrialization governments realized that more could be gained from a literate population. Subsequently, the education system was modeled around the prevailing economic requirements of the day. Studies show that part of the reason Prussia overtook England by the late 19th century in many sectors was due in part to its concerted effort in educating its population. 

Having said that it’s imperative to note that the education system was designed and conceived in the intellectual culture of the enlightenment, which lay emphasis on academic ability predicated on deductive reasoning and knowledge of the classics.

The genetic makeup of public education today is based on this logic, which then proceeds to group people into two: the academic and the non-academic, those who are smart and those who are not. Woe unto you if your lot is cast in the ‘not’ group. 
Because of this, more and more people have checked out of the system literally or mentally way before they graduate stifling their ability to learn.

It is unfortunate that with time this model of education has remained and become more entrenched. 

Today more than ever before the public school system destroys divergent thinking, which has come to be appreciated as essential for creativity. Apparently, high IQ does not guarantee creativity. 

"In 1968, George Land gave 1,600 5-year-olds a creativity test used by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists. He then re-tested the same children at ages 10 and 15. The test results were staggering! 98% at age 5 registered genius level creativity, 30% at 10 year and 12% at 15 years of age. The same test given to 280,000 adults placed their genius level creativity at only 2% In his book 'Breakpoint and Beyond', co-authored by Beth Jarman, Land concluded that non-creative behavior is learned".

The conclusion is that there is something that happens to people during their formative schooling years that destroys their creativity. They lose more as they become educated.


Human beings are diverse and different. No amount of trying to make them similar will work. Most education systems around the world for the longest time have instilled conformity and dissuaded diversity.

Children on the other hand thrive in an education system that celebrates their broad range of talents, because it brings out elements of their psyche that are otherwise untouched.

We need to understand that teaching is a creative profession. It should stimulate, provoke and engage. Education should be about learning; there is no point in educating if there is no learning going on.  The task - teaching has to have an intended achievement - learning. The role of a teacher is to facilitate learning, not to dictate, indoctrinate or control a student.


In the recent past, education systems have focused not on teaching and learning but on testing. When students go to school in order to get a good grade and are propped up by exams, then all they do is memorize, they don’t learn or more importantly acquire skills essential to drive their countries’ economies into the 21st century.



Testing should be a diagnostic tool, not the reason for education; it should support learning and not inhibit it.

If you look at the Shanghai School System, which was noted as the best in the world by Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) latest report released in 2013, there are pertinent elements that could help any country transform it’s public education system:

  1. Individualize teaching and learning.   No learning can occur without relationships, understanding relationships is essential in learning. Great learning actually happens in groups, collaboration is the stuff of growth.
  2. Attribute a high status to the teaching profession. There is no education system in the world that is better than its teachers. Support them, value them and respect them. The Chinese have a long tradition in doing this.
  3. Chose great people who are passionate about the profession to be teachers. Support them in their professional development. Investing in professional development is not a cost but an investment. Teachers in Shanghai must complete 240 hours of professional development in five years.
  4. Devolve responsibility to the school level in getting the job done. Education and learning doesn't go on in the legislative rooms of government but rather in schools. If you remove this discretion learning stops working.
  5. Allow for broad and diverse curricula. China implemented in 2008, a renewed effort to encourage student learning rather than accumulation of knowledge, which led to eight curricular “learning domains” encompassing: Language and literature, Mathematics, Natural science, Social sciences, Technology, Arts, Physical education and Practicum
  6. Have close links with the community. This will allow for content that is geared towards the market. In Shanghai schools are encouraged to develop their own curriculum and outside groups such as museums became partners in education. Part of the new curriculum includes an emphasis on inquiry-based education.


Our rapidly advancing world depends on diversity and not singularity of skill and purpose.  Students’ questions are the seeds of real learning. They are the evidence of curiosity and the beginning of divergent thinking. Have you noticed how a 4-year-old child will ask so many questions, and as they grow older this ability recedes? Teachers have to embrace and nurture curiosity from both the students and themselves.

In education, change is highly dreaded, due to the possibility of failure. The messy process of trial and error needs to be celebrated and inculcated. Or else we will still be looking at the same education system 50 years from now, and still wonder what went wrong.

In the final analysis the real safety of a nation lies in preparing the next generation to take up its role, we can only do so if we get our act together in the education sector in Africa.

Mind you I have not mentioned the current situation, or spent time on the education problems that afflict Africa today. And they are many. What I would rather leave you with is a link that directs you to what China as a nation is doing to reform and develop its education system in order to empower its human resource by the year 2020.

Be inspired and lets change Africa.

Your comments are greatly appreciated so keep them coming.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

THE GREAT RESTRAINT IN KENYA: WHAT THE SPANISH FLU, EBOLA AND THE MEDIA HAVE IN COMMON


Soldiers in Trenches in WW1
As men from across the world fought side by side in the 1st World War, an insidious disease was mutating in the trenches of the Western front-line.

Late in the spring of 1918, the Spanish wire news service Agencia Fabra, sent cables to Reuters’ service headquarters in London, stating the nature of the disease.

The 1918 influenza epidemic had originated from China, mutated in United States and exponentially transformed in the close quarters present in the battlefields of the war in Europe. It is noted that after it was over, 50 -100 million people across the world, as far as the remote Polynesian Islands had died. 

Men in War Hospitals in WW1
Strangely it was called the Spanish Flu, not because it originated from Spain, but because Spain a neutral country had a more independent stance while reporting about the war. 

During the war information was carefully selected, distributed, emphasized and framed to serve the interests of the nation. Debate was bounded and divergent speech was muted and not always tolerated.

During this 1st World War propaganda became to democracy what violence was to a dictatorship.

Of interest during the 1st World War was the increased travel and modern transportation systems that had just become available at that time thus making the worldwide spread of the disease possible, in many ways the spread of the Spanish flu is similar to how information flows on the Internet today.

Ebola is arguably one of the world’s deadliest diseases and can kill up to 90% of those it infects. Due to this high mortality rate, it has created tremendous levels of fear around the world despite the fact it doesn't have the potency or spreading power of the Spanish flu. Why? Mainly due to misinformation and distortion of facts, fear an irrational emotion has taken root. While it is true that there are ‘accurate’ sources of information on how Ebola is spreading, including www.healthmap.org, which utilizes online informal sources to monitor and keep track of health threats. A larger question that looms is the role of media in the world today.

The Creel committee was an American government agency created to influence U.S public opinion regarding their participation in the 1st World War. They extensively used every available media (newsprint, posters, radio, telegraph, cable and movies) to encourage and inspire Americans to be involved in the war effort; they mainly used propaganda to achieve this. The use of positive news was paramount even when it was disinformation.

Edward Bernays, who wrote Propaganda (1928), understood the irrational behavior of the crowd and ascribed to the manipulation of public opinion in order for a select few to control the masses.

Women smoking in the 1920s and 1930s

1920s smoking advertisement
As the “father of public relations” he was central to the change of public opinion and culture over the 1930’s-60’s.  One of his early successes was in using the mass media to transform and alter the taboo associating women and smoking. In 1929, he organized a group of ‘successful looking’ women to walk during the Easter Sunday Parade holding their ”torches of freedom” and at the right time before the press they lit up and smoked liberally in public.  He then made sure that this act was extensively publicized across the country. This was used to exploit women’s aspiration to be emancipated and equal to men. By 1935, the number of women smoking had astronomically increased across America.

With the help of psychoanalysts, the inner most irrational emotions of people's fear, worry, anger, jealousy and so forth were manipulated to make them buy products from the large conglomerates.

You will be forgiven if you notice this practice still present today due mainly to its effective nature and the maturity of the Kenyan market.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels, who headed the Nazi Propaganda machinery, read Edwards Bernays’ book Propaganda and used it effectively, in manipulating the German people into a submissive, xenophobic and militaristic people.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels addressing a crowd in Germany
Adolf Hitler wrote extensively on Propaganda in Mein Kampf. Allow me to quote copiously 

“All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed.

The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another.

Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth, which is favorable to its own side.

The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all-effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

After the two World Wars, it became more evident that governments did not want the masses to influence or make decisions on certain pertinent issues, be it war, or the turn around of an economy or generally any hard decisions that needed to be made.

Despite the belief that George Gallup, through the public opinion poll, believed that the public was rational and well informed. It is also true that over a period of time the general public in America, Libya, Ukraine, Tunisia, South Africa and so forth has been manipulated through the use of irrational emotion.

One form of manipulation that is constantly being used in Kenya is the philosophy of futility where people are constantly being primed to be consumers of different products especially banking products and frivolous thrift products. And the major decisions are not in the public arena. Thus the power of the vote dissipates, and a close focus on what the government is engaged in is lacking.
 
An expression of a modern slave
The current situation is that the growing middle class in Kenya is burdened with loans and mortgages while the banking sector, which has directly or indirectly understood the irrational nature of the Kenyan population, is making super normal profits.

Another product of this philosophy of futility is diversion, where the masses end up being enthralled by things that divert them from the real issues.

A careful analysis of the Kenyan society and one realizes that most people prefer being enameled by music, gossip, socialite and sports news, as opposed to having a better understanding of the world around them. This then translates us into narrow-minded people in terms of our ability to make tangible decisions.

Through constant priming we become more worried about what we think other people think of us than what the state of affairs of the country is. We essentially delegate this responsibility to the elite in society and limit our development based on what we think we can and cannot do.

With constant bombardment by the mass media on a thin focus of interest, our ideology slowly erodes and changes and we lose sense, value and ability to judge the world around us on an objective level.  On the other end of the funnel, you are given certain information to gear you to embrace a certain ideology, be it birth control, female genital mutilation or homosexuality and then you are given the tools that will make you more accepting of that view.

A good example of an effective psychological tool is when you feel arrogant about the little you know despite the fact you haven’t researched about the pertinent issue. The fact is, we all have an ego, we are driven to be lazy and most people get to know about the world and develop a stance from the newspapers we read or the programs we watch on TV.

Another method being used is pressure from above and pressure from below. Where an uprising by a group(s) of people receives widespread media coverage. Pressure from below. And then the government (or foreign entity) to combat the problem institutes legislation or sanctions to combat the problem. Pressure from above.

Pressures abound
In the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014, Pierrie Omidyar's Omidyar Network funded the revolution groups with assistance from the US. The US coalition funded the Anti-Gaddafi rebels against the Libyan Army. 
 
For the citizenry, the mass media will tag on their irrational emotions with signs of a dire situation, possibility of civil war, misrule or corruption, xenophobia and so forth, it then pans to a person or entity that will solve the problem. And thus people are driven to either trust their government or criticize it.

What has also become evident with the use and pervasiveness of the Internet is the presence of misinformation which tends to travel even faster than facts.

To bring about new insight it is essential to use new information. But if this new information is flawed then the insights people arrive at will continue to be constricted and a fallacy. And in certain situations outdated beliefs will continue to persist. It is thus imperative that people learn how to filter and sieve new information.

The future is such that, the body of what humanity will know will sit in knowledge systems and less than 30% of that knowledge will sit on people’s minds.

As this happens we are in the process of ushering into the workforce 'Generation Z' persons born in the 1990s and beyond, whose spectrum of concern has so diminished that they only value video games, music videos, fashion and other superficial things (and please note this is massive generalization).  Their online activity is even more glaring, with their focus being mainly driven by their interests, which has nothing to do with public policy or the quality of our leaders.

You only have to look at the number of people who monitor and observe what our various levels of government be it parliament, county assemblies or senate do on a daily basis....

We are more concerned about watching the Premier League!

As a closing statement, I want to take us back to September 10, 2001, the American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, held a press conference to disclose that over $2 trillion in Pentagon funds could not be accounted for.  Such a disclosure normally might have sparked a huge scandal. However the events of 9/11, which occurred the following morning, made sure that the story still remains buried in the annals of history. Trillions more were subsequently appropriated to fight the “War on Terror”. Why?  Because someone understood that you can manipulate even the elite in government by using the irrational emotion of fear.

Do you think the media in Kenya is independent and able to protect you from these issues? 

Let me know...

Sunday, 3 August 2014

THE KENYAN PSYCHE: A COMPARISON WITH SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN




Arthur Golden said, “Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are”.

After the Second World War Japan’s prestige was in shambles, all its cities bore severe marks of war. Nagasaki and Hiroshima were utterly devastated. More than 3 million people had died, and a further 10 million faced eminent death by starvation.
 But the Japanese, a resilient, focused and hardworking people enameled by the Samurai honor code where the ultimate price was offering ones life in Harikiri (ritual suicide by disembowelment) stood firm.  

The Korean War of 1950 -1953 was considered a ‘gift from the gods’ by the Japanese and allowed them to implement a well-coordinated plan of industrialization. By the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, the world was sufficiently shocked by the level of development that Japan had just gone through in less than 20 years.

Another nation that sent its delegation to the Olympics was South Korea. At that point in time South Korea was poorer than Kenya. See pictures.



Poverty in South Korea














But what they had was a visionary dictator in Park Chung-Hee, a man who would orchestrate the “miracle on the Han River”, and in 20 years transform South Korea into an economic powerhouse. 

The trauma that the Japanese and South Koreans had to go through experiencing war first hand, losing loved ones, homelessness, starvation and disease were enough to equip them with a desire to become better, they had sufficiently hit rock bottom.
Hiroshima after the bombing 1946

American soldiers in Japan
In contrast Kenyans have known peace all their lives, despite most of our neighbors being at war at one point or another and losing civilian and military lives, Kenya has been a bedrock of peace and tranquility since independence. 

Kenyan Matatu Madness

Then again war cannot be the primary source of adversity that drives a population towards industrialization and development. The contrary is evident across Africa. There has to be something more rooted in the psyche of a people.

The Japanese come from a stock of people, who believe that they are the best in all they set to do and history has proved them right countlessly. Read piece mentioning them.

The Samurai honor code cascades across society to a point that when they went into ship-building to rebuild their economy in the 1950s and were pitted against the world’s best, a project manager was willing to commit Harikiri (suicide) if the project failed. Due to this seriousness, every person in the project was intimately involved and driven to ensure that they were successful.  
 
Further more the Japanese were trained and educated to be highly coordinated, disciplined and loyal. They glorified the group more than the individual.
They were taught that they needed to be frugal with what they had because they were no longer an empire with abundant colonies to mine resources.  They had to innovate on their feet.


Kenyans have lived in relative tranquility under the equatorial sun. Our first two presidents were not pressured by any personal proclivity to jolt the nation out of a long siesta.  When sense of direction and visionary leadership was lacking Kenyans who innately crave for these two things looked for inspiration and affirmation from the only ‘parents’ we knew, our colonial masters and the western world.  

Kenyans like their leaders became individualistic, driven to achieve personal goals, and aspirations, in a jungle of other like-minded people. Group speak was subconsciously shunned and looked upon as a weakness. It did not help that Ujamaa and communism failed.

Kenyans want to compete and be wildly successful; to the detriment of all and sundry.  Common good is only touted and supported when there is short-term personal gain to be obtained.  While this is the truth it doesn't apply to all situations. 

Kenyans are non-confrontational as a people. Lessons inculcated by the ‘Moi era’ where there was an all-seeing, all-knowing intelligence apparatus functioning. This is why today we experiment with the ‘anonymity’ of social media to voice our previously unsolicited and well-guarded thoughts.

Used to this docile nature Kenyans corporately will wait until they are on the precipice of death before they clean a septic festering wound. This is why bad governance, is only talked about openly but no counter-action is taken. Unavoidably, due to this peaceable attitude Kenya has witnessed ‘atrocities’ done to its resources and people by the political class, Kenyans themselves and terrorists, because “Kenyans are sufferable”. It does not help that Kenyans have a pandemic ability to forget past injustices and forge ahead undeterred. To counter this peaceable and docile nature Kenyans' coping mechanism is a self-preserving culture of short-term focus, greed and corruption, ready to make a quick buck from every ‘investment’ idea, presented at their doorsteps.

It is thus not disputable to state that Kenyans are willing to sell their birthright that will transform their future for immediate gratification.

How else will you explain the current slaughter of elephants and rhinos for ivory or the high road carnage across the country?

While the truth is corruption is not unique to Kenya, we can only be blamed if we don't realize that it is disastrous and unacceptable for us to dabble in it.

Kenyans are enterprising and hardworking, one of the best crop of people to hire in any institution around the world. Despite that there is an edge that can be learned from our Asian brothers who have experienced adversity and succeeded.They understood that for a country to advance, government and business had a responsibility to fulfill; while government offered a conducive environment for rapid growth, the Zaibatsu (Japan’s conglomerates) and Chaebol (South Korea’s conglomerates) were expected to provide jobs to the locals and embrace the government agenda of industrialization as a strategic objective.   Protectionism should not be equated with isolation, offered innovatively it can push the economy of Kenya to greater heights

Kenyans also need to be weaned from their pessimistic nature, which casts doom and gloom in every action taken by a person. Politicians, socialites and individuals have suffered disdain and disrespect when they are perceived to be different or controversial. Persons in authority are expected to bring about change and make no mistakes, when they do make mistakes which everyone does eventually, people are not so forgiving and will deride them as incompetent and unworthy even before the ink settles on their appointment letters.

Despite the clamor for change, Kenyans are petrified of change, they say they want a corruption free country, yet they give bribes, they say they want good leadership, but still vote along tribal lines. ‘Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t know’ is a common statement that comes to mind. They say they want a government that is lean, but don’t support retrenchment. And the contradiction goes on an on. Politicians understand this double speech and exploit it with relish.

We talk of the ‘Kenyan tribe’ as a concept worth uplifting and then deride it as unattainable and unrealistic. We speak against tribalism and its ills eloquently in public, but privately our prejudices can be seen in our speech and actions.  

Unfortunately, to cap it all, Kenyans don’t read, research or strive to innovate away from what others have already done. This is why quail eggs, Ponzi schemes, ‘cheap’ plots and other ideas do their rounds in the country for an extended duration of time before they become unacceptable.

Kenyans rather prefer to read and digest political commentary and gossip day-in-day out. And the evidence is in the kind of news available at prime time, or the gossip websites which have the most traffic, so too the plethora of soap operas on TV. We are predisposed to think we know-it-all, and talk like we know-it-all despite the fact that we have little substance or understanding on most of what is happening around the world. We are broad on information, but thin on depth. This is why we complain insistently about problems but offer no solutions.

Few Kenyans really do world-class research, or invest to innovate we prefer to copy, let others do all the hard work, then jump in and ride the wave. A result of this is that we don’t place too much emphasis on quality that is why the service we get from both government and private entities is hogwash.  Is it not true we buy second hand cars and call them new?  But then again have we collectively witnessed what world-class quality is to demand for it?
  
The mental block that Kenyans have developed over time is the only stumbling block to any real achievement.

Having said all this, Kenya still has a bright future, but we need a common enemy that can rally the population into one solitary unit. Either manufactured or natural, I believe a concerted effort needs to come into play that will inspire Kenyans to be proud of who they are, and for them to know that they can achieve the impossible and be the best in the different sectors of our economy.


I am afraid that assertion can never be achieved on the whims of the masses; they are just too hungry, too unemployed and disillusioned to see past tomorrow for now.

What we need is a visionary, no-nonsense leader, who has the best intentions for Kenya. Who will rally Kenya to become industrialized, will utterly frown upon corruption and who has both the political and personal temerity to herd Kenyans where they need to be, forcefully or subtly, but resolutely. So that in good time all will see the light and embrace it.

NB: Let me know what you think.....