Thursday, June 2, 2011

Getting beyond an individual

The notice from President Obama to the US congress identifying 2 Kenyans (i.e. John Harun Mwau (Kilome MP) and Naima Mohamed Nyakiniywa to be on the list of Designated Foreign Narcotics Kingpins has me thinking. I have no idea who “Naima Mohamed Nyakiniywa” is, but most Kenyans are very familiar with Mr. Mwau.

To frame these thoughts, I would like to further point out
  • the media stories circulating at the end of last year about the list of 5 individuals that the Kenyan Government had shared with the US government who were banned from travelling to the US; and
  • the stories naming 4 MPs Harun Mwau, Gidion Mbuvi, Hassan Joho and William Kabogo and Mombasa businessman Ali Punjani as suspected drug lords for whom there was insufficient evidence to charge them in court.
I will start by firmly stating my belief that everyone should be “innocent until proven guilty”. No court of law has yet has found any of these individuals guilty of anything. Although, by reputation some of these guys are not very nice people, and could very well deserve to be behind bars, I think we all want and need for our legal systems to apprehend, prosecute and punish them within the bounds of the law because we will all be better off for having a government that works. However, that is a discussion for another posting.

I also believe that the United State doesn't arbitrarily designate individuals as drug-lords without some pretty darn good evidence so those names….... hmmmmmmm.......

But what i really want to do is to look at something bigger. I am concerned about what this says about us as a Kenyan people, what lessons we need to learn looking back, but also what is says about our future. What should our response as a society be when an elected official or person in leadership position has some serious issues that clearly call into question their leadership qualities.

I remember my high school days when supposedly all good upstanding citizens became doctors, lawyers, accountants and the trouble makers, the school dropouts and thugs became politicians. And for a long time, the rabble rousers, those who could round up the local hooligans during election time beat up opponents and by fear, bribery and all other means necessary won their parties nominations and were duly elected to be our parliamentarians. So, i have to ask, are we surprised at how corrupt and broken the system has been. If no self respecting Kenyan would get into politics, were you really expecting our country to have turned out any different.

But things are changing and have changed. I have watched with immense pleasure the process to find a new Chief and Deputy Chief Justice and while not perfect, there is clearly hope. When individuals begin to realize that public service is really public service and we the people can and must hold every individual accountable for their actions, then we can begin to hope for a government and public institutions and systems that serve for the good of the people.

So going back to the point i am trying to make. We have a long list of people that we keep electing back to office with very questionable links, deals and scandals hanging around them that we must get beyond. Think about Goldenberg, Anglo-Leasing and the myriad others. I think anyone in leadership needs to be held to a higher standard. How can we have extremely senior members of our government constantly implicated in questionable at the best or criminal activities and we the people keep on electing them or allow them to keep their government positions.

At some point, we have to find for ourselves a group of leaders that we are proud to represent us, that we can look up to and trust they are leading the country in a direction that gives us a future we can look forward to for ourselves and our kids.

To end, i will quote Ahmednasir Abdullahi responding to Aaron Ringera to defend the Judicial Service Commission’s decision to not shortlist him for the new Supreme Court:

“The position the judge applied for is not anybody’s birthright. The era of entitlement is over. Kenyans should outgrow the culture of entitlement and embrace a new culture of fair competition.”