The Star (Nairobi)

2 February 2013

Kenya: Our Leaders, Our Success Stories

opinion

Just like you, I have been watching the political debates on TV avidly. I have also been following commentary on Facebook and after about a week of this, I have finally figured out what I think and feel about all this.

We live in a corrupt society. We live with laws that do not allow us to succeed past a certain level without some type of illegal activity. It is no wonder that the people who want to be our leaders, the success stories in this corrupt society, are law breakers and benders.

When is the last time you had a run-in with the law? Were you on the phone while driving? Did you need a certificate of good conduct urgently? Were you behind on your taxes? What did you do? Did you insist on following the law to the letter and paying your dues? That Sh5,000 fine at the cop station? Waiting the designated time for your certificate? Or paying all the back taxes you owe? Or did you, like most Kenyans start a conversation like "Ah Boss... kweli nimekosea..."and went ahead to 'negotiate' your way around the law?

Any small business owner knows that if you are trying to conduct a profitable business in Nairobi while paying all your taxes, you soon realise that the government is making more than you are. The 16 per cent VAT + 30 per cent PAYE [for every employee who makes more than Sh11,500] + import tax [let's face it very little of what small businesses sell is made here] = more money to KRA than the business owner. When you are looking at math like that, morality seems a very expensive and luxurious choice.

The other day on the phone with Shan Bartley, my best friend who happens to be white, I mentioned that one of my least favourite qualities about mzungus is their pedantic adherence to law. Mzungus believe in law, so much so that they tell on each other when the law is broken. So much so that they take each other to court to solve what we deem 'domestic issues'.

The up-side of this belief in and respect for law is a system that works. People mind their manners because society has agreed on a certain code of conduct; buses are on time because some rule book says so, and yes you will not only be prosecuted for committing a crime, your neighbours will corporate with the cops to provide evidence and you will go to jail.

Kenyans, we just do not work that way. Perhaps it is because the judiciary was inherited from our colonialists so we still think of it as 'other' and punitive. Perhaps like I said above, our laws don't allow us to flourish and thrive while following them.

Perhaps we have a national entitlement complex ... I don't know. Either way, here we are in 2013 and each and every presidential candidate that stands a real chance of ruling this country has some corruption scandal that they have yet to answer to.

Nairobians are talking about slim pickings with Bishop Wanjiru [who willfully misled us about her education]; Waititu who has picked up rocks to express himself when language failed and Sonko, who needs to declare where his wealth came from if we are ever to ignore the rumours against him.

Our leaders do not represent Kenyan success stories; they are Kenyan success stories. We need to accept who we are so that we can have a candid conversation about how to change and what kind of leaders we want. Any recovering addict will tell you that acceptance is the beginning of healing.

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