By Munira Ali Omar
‘Kuuza sura, hawataki kuuza sera.’ To many, these are just lyrics, but when you unpack these lyrics from the song Utawala by Juliani, they are loaded with a powerful message: ‘They sell us propaganda, they do not want to sell policies’. During anti-government protests, many Kenyan demonstrators sang these lyrics to give them courage during demonstrations against police persecution and brutality.
These lyrics are as relevant today as they were a decade ago, and this song evokes so much emotion because, despite the attainment of independence, it is a reminder that Kenyans are still victims of modern slavery because of utawala mbaya. The song depicts the struggles of the hustler attributed to corruption, inequality, tribalism, and unemployment. To put it succinctly, it expresses the intricacy of bad governance – a problem still prevalent six decades later.
On June 10, 2008, Kenya Vision 2030 was launched to guide Kenya’s 30-year development plan. On the face of it, the vision looked like it was going to improve the living conditions of the hustler. Kenyans from all over the country were involved in the consultative process that they thought would better their lives by 2030.
Francis Muthaura, the former Head of Civil Service who was part of the team that prepared the plan, in his article Vision 2030 Holds the Key to a Better and More Inclusive Kenya had this to say:
“Vision 2030 was fashioned around the pillars- the political pillar to promote issue-based, people-centered politics for national cohesion and equitable sharing of resources; the economic pillar to deliver better incomes for all and inclusive growth; and the social pillar to ensure a high quality of life.”
Instead of implementing Vision 2030 to transform Kenyan lives, the Uhuru administration treated Kenyans to public relations gimmicks.
The administration spent a big chunk of 10 years in PR hype and propaganda aimed at diverting Kenyans’ attention away from the looting public coffers dry. From the Kshs60 million Voi Gemstone Centre, that is yet to be operationalized since its completion five years ago, to the SGR mega-inflated project, the grand Galana Kulalu irrigation project, and the infamous BBI, among many others.
When we thought we had seen it all, PR is here to stay. Ruto’s administration is no better than the former. It is one year old, but it is escalating PR, theatrics, and sideshows to unmanageable heights. The president gave many false hopes during the electioneering period through his manifesto dubbed as ‘The Plan’. Campaigns are over, but he is not stopping with his empty promises and deceptions.
Signs that this will remain one of the best PR governments the country will ever have are already showing. For instance, one of Ruto’s theatrics is that in April 2023, he promised to buy land from absentee landlords to resettle squatters in the Coast region.
‘We will buy land from absentee landlords owning huge parcels so that locals can stop living like squatters,’ he told Kenyans.
This is a pure definition of dishonesty and petty publicity sideshow because we are all aware that there is already an established settlement fund anchored in section 135 of the Land Act 2012. This fund is meant to help squatters access to land. So, instead of misleading Kenyans about land reforms, the president must show intent and political will to ensure that the funds are utilized for their intended purpose by implementing land reforms.
Put in other words, the president thinks that he is solving problems with populist ideas about vision, development, and projects that will help the hustler, but it does not matter how grandiose of projects, plans, promises, strategies, and vision he has for the hustlers, all these will remain deception and trickery until ‘The plan’ is seen to be implemented.
The glaring misuse of public resources and poor governance have been disguised in grand projects that are not transforming the lives of the hustlers. Kenyans are still struggling to see the promises of the grand Vision 2030 fifteen years down the line. They can only see governments full of PR, wastage, bent on plundering resources.
The clock is ticking, and the vision is dying. Manifestos come and go. Plans like CIDPs and ADPs come and go. The deciding factor has to do with commitment and implementation. That is what Kenyans want to see!