The following article originally appeared in The Star.
Kenya has very many good leaders—but they are all in the wrong places. This could be easily discerned from the grand exhibition of exemplary leadership by the captains of the private sector when they launched, mobilized, and actualized the Kenyans for Kenya (K4K) campaign. While the political class is busy haggling and haranguing over who will be the next president, senator, and governor following the expected elections in 2012, the private sector took decisive action around those affected and afflicted by famine in Northern Kenya. Now that’s leadership!
So here’s a thought: what if K4K transformed itself and became the political party for change? With our newly minted constitution, those involved in K4K will have a head start over the political elite in terms of what a new Kenya should embody. For example, they will not be averse to fully paying their taxes given that they are already habituated in remitting the highest figures when it comes to tax payments. In fact, rather than try to evade the payment of taxes, one can see them doing the exact opposite as the new political leadership: engaging in healthy competition to see who among them would remit the highest taxes while in political office. It would be like in the old days when politicians strove mightily to outdo each other during harambees—only this time, the money would be going to the exchequer.
The K4K party would also stand for the end of famine in Northern Kenya—indeed, all famine in Kenya. Remember how former Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph in his recent remarks at the K4K fundraiser at the Serena Hotel lamented how it has become a three-to-five year ritual for the private sector to intervene to save lives following drought outbreaks? The point is simple: the current famine situation is due to negligence on the part of government. This is not a situation which was unforeseen or an Act of God—it happens repeatedly and is expected at regular intervals. Why then are we forever scrambling to save those at the sharp end of the famine outbreaks?
Clearly, the K4K party would ensure that such laxity would never recur. Indeed, it would move a step further than damage control and fire-fighting—it would reclaim the whole of Northern Kenya and make it viable for production—the same way deserts and semi-deserts elsewhere have been reclaimed and put to productive use. So rather than set up mercy missions to feed the Northern parts of the country, those resident there would be the ones providing the food for the rest of the country.
In fact, the whole issue would not just be about food security but also water security. Those behind K4K are indeed well schooled in the advantages of ensuring that there is clean and accessible water. They know the deleterious effects of lack of water: from creating unhealthy and unsanitary environments to catalyzing electrical power shortages since the electrical power sector in Kenya is dominated by hydro-electric power.
In fact, power shortages would also become history under the K4K. K4K’s business interests have continuously taken huge hits whenever power is cut or arbitrarily interrupted as happens frequently in the country. Hence, K4K would make it a priority to ensure that power generation is stabilized and optimized rather than just engaging in such expensive branding exercises as currently happening that change the name but not the product.
Insecurity would also be frontally tackled under the K4K party. Insecurity is antithetical to any sustainable economic investment so the K4K would ensure that the primary or root causes of insecurity rather than its symptoms are tackled. Being a results-oriented group, the K4K would, for example, note that the shoot-to-kill policy has not eliminated crime in the country and, hence, would look for more effective measures. These would include engaging in prevention as well as attacking some of the social and economic enablers of crime.
This would mean that the K4K would take on poverty and joblessness as a matter of urgency. K4K members are in the business of job and wealth creation as a matter of course; for this is the only way that their businesses grow and profitability increases. Imagine them transferring this wherewithal when they are the anchors of government? The creation of 500,000 new jobs a year would no longer be a pipe dream.
Talking of jobs, the K4K would not stand for this tribalism maneno where jobs (plum or graveyard shift) go only to those speaking a particular dialect. This "It's our turn to eat" business would end instantly because K4K is not an ethnic platform but rather a platform for all ethnicities. This is why when they see the people of Turkana suffering, they don’t hesitate to assist then on the pretext that the Turkana are not "our" people. Indeed, being business minded, the K4K would only hire people on the basis of merit. Political patronage would be at an end.
Of course, corruption would also become enemy number one. This is because corruption undermines the social, economic, and institutional tapestry of a country: and this is something that the K4K would not rather see happen. Corruption creates wastage—how many social amenities, for instance, have been lost to corruption—and K4K cannot stand for waste. Hence, K4K would see to the total prosecution of the war on corruption.
Would Kenyans elect the K4K party? This is the million dollar question: for as a colleague once remarked, Kenya is a place where one sees lots of Kikuyus, Kambas, Kalenjins, Luos, Luhyas, and so on and no Kenyans. Politics, Kenyan style!