By George Ojema
A government is the system by which a state or community is governed. In the Commonwealth of Nations, the word government is also used more narrowly to refer to the collective group of people that exercises executive authority in a state.
This definition does away with the artists, socialites and comedians who have millions of young people glued to television screens watching reality series and poorly stage managed scandals to garner fame or infamy in equal measure. These only rule the unoccupied recesses of our minds at the end of a long day. The government rule our day through the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
Rather than bore you with a civic education lecture, I will summarize what these arms do. The legislature made up of elected politicians is responsible for introduction of new bills, processing them into law and amending them so as to serve the people of the land. So the next time they tell you owning a gun without a license is illegal, these are the chaps responsible.
The Executive is made up of the president, a vice president and a cabinet and their job is to carry out the laws set in place by the legislature. In the case of your illegal gun, the cabinet secretary for internal affairs somehow has to put boots on the ground via the relevant agencies to relieve you of the weapon or register it…or not
Finally we have the judiciary where fair hearing and judgement is carried out on those suspected of breaking the law; which is really just saying deciding whether or not one should be imprisoned for said illegal weapon.
These three arms of government are supposed to serve you, the ordinary citizen and make your life better. But do they? Kenya has been an independent republic for well over 50 years now and the question lingers, do we trust the government?
A diverse history
Forget Vasco da Gamma arriving at the coast, the sham discovery of Mount Kenya and the lot. I term it a sham discovery because when Johann Krapf arrived at the majestic mountain in 1849 he found people there. Forget that lot and remember our other history. Titles such as Goldenberg saga should come to mind. It classifies as part of history because there are teenagers younger than it is and still it remains unsolved, making headlines occasionally when there is nothing else to scream about or with strange nostalgia.
Numerous inquiries have been carried out; many documents have been submitted to the executive and judiciary. The legislature has cried for the guilty to be prosecuted and yet nothing. The dragon falls asleep, waiting to be awoken again. We cry impunity without really understanding what the whole thing is about. We vow that we will not re-elect those implicated. Sometimes we even protest and block roads, causing traffic. But nothing happens. Two days later we are discussing what some socialite did to which celebrity.
And equally historic is the Anglo-leasing scandal. Same pattern, different name. Again, we protest the delays in trials, we call for the guilty to be named, shamed and prosecuted, we hold our breath in anticipation and then… someone poses nude and we forget about the snake!
I’m beginning to think socialites are God’s way of distracting us from ripping this nation apart due to political scandals. The divine design suggests everything has a purpose, right?
However, even with socialites and misguided celebrities Kenya continues to mill new corruption scandals. Chicken gate anyone?
We are livid at the government about this one. For weeks we waited for something to happen, following the case as it moved along in the United Kingdom and not at home. Some took to social media demanding action and still nothing. Some would be under the assumption the government was playing a wait-and-see game, others that the matter would be covered up. We might never know.
Then relief came in the form of the Ethics and Anti-corruption commission. They said, as always, “We will investigate”. Then they were asked to kindly vacate their offices soon after. Foul play? We wait, as ever, to see.
At least we know what Chicken gate is all about, right?
Caught on Tape
The media has been a watchdog for the citizens and for the most part it has done a good job. There are instances where it is gagged but it fights its way out of tight spots alright, usually taking chunks out of its oppressors in the process.
Thanks to our mostly free media we sometimes doubt our government. My mind shifts to the Westgate siege that begun on September 21st 2013. The Kenyan media did its best to report on a developing story under dire conditions. The government tried dealing with everything to the best of its ability. What Kenya’s saw was a government in confusion. From the hilarious press briefings, the inconsistency of reports by government agents, the barring of the local press from the site, the stand-off between the police and the army and the heroism of average Kenyans it was quite clear it was a circus.
And we ate it all up, glued to television screens every waking moment and trending on social media platforms. We believed that the terrorists were contained in the building for four days and that they had died on the fourth.
Then the media carried out its own investigations and the trust we had in the government begun crumbling. The terrorists are seen on the closed circuit television recordings only for the first day. So who were we containing for the other three? Jihadists don’t drink beer. Who drunk the beer at the mall?
And remember those paper bags?
A series of security measures were introduced to ‘combat’ terrorism soon after. So effective were these measures that when a terrorist style attack was carried out on Mpeketoni village in 2014, the government was sure it was politically instigated. So sure the president promised those responsible would be brought to book. Many believed him, some had doubts.
Recently, a video has emerged that has put the president’s address on the issue in tatters. The video, by the Al Shabaab militia documents the attack, its gruesome execution and chilling warning to Kenya’s to stay out of Somalia. It is expertly shot and edited suggesting the terrorist group has the resources for more than guerilla warfare.
In the video, the militants call Kenyan politicians liars and thieves and claim the attack, promising more to follow. So the question stands, can we trust our president’s word after a crisis? Does the government deliberately lie to us for our safety or is it just a force of habit?
Currently there are several issues in the public domain for which the government is on the spot light. There are the corruption allegations facing various government watchdog committees including the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). There is the never ending Mumias Sugar debacle and the ever constant tragedy of the Anglo-leasing saga.
Not to forget the investigations into the murder of politician George Muchai allegedly gunned down by a chap with red eyes and natty dread locks among others. This piles onto other unresolved murder investigations of politicians George Saitoti and Orwa Ojode, JM Kariuki and many more.
As always politicians from either side of the government promise to reveal all about the suspect deaths or resign if the killers are not brought to book but do they ever?
The public eye is now on Public Accounts Committee chair Ababu Namwamba and his secret recording. But how long before a socialite steals away our focus? And even then, do you trust your government?