Ars Politico Africanae: Those Who Lead

Part of my biggest problem when trying to get anything done here is that I always simply get frustrated when nothing gets done for no apparent reason. I sit and I ask myself, “Kenya is becoming a more and more globally-aware nation. Why are we not learning from other nations’ mistakes in their history, and using this knowledge to propel ourselves faster through this development and modernization.” I dislike when people make the excuse of, “Let us make our own mistakes,” because it makes me cringe. I most certainly do not want parternal development work, because that causes even more problems, but at the same time, when mistakes cost innocent peoples’ lives, are they acceptable?

Others tell me that it’s all about the leadership. Kenya has not had respectable leadership, leadership that the common man can look up to, leadership that leads by example and not just decree, for a long time. Yet everyone acknowledges this. From the mamas in the villages to the wealthy elite in the cities, people all over this country will gladly talk to you for hours about why nothing gets done, and many times it boils down to leadership at the top.

I begin to think: why is leadership not changing? Why are we stuck in this rut? Isn’t the whole point of a democracy that when enough of the common man is not going along with the politicians’ plans, things start changing. It doesn’t help here having a western historical perspective. For those who did not know, at the time of the American Revolution, only about 30% of the population of the British colonies were in favor of revolt. Only thirty percent! And yet we revolted, banished one of the up and coming global powers, and set off on our own. In my land of anecdotal statistics, I would say that well over 30% of Kenyans can tell you what is wrong with this country and assert they want to change it, but how much do they want that change?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Ars Politico Africanae: Those Who Lead

  1. Jan

    You raise some thorny questions. Kenyans are not alone in not being able to muster the political will to tackle their problems. I see much of the same inertia (or paralysis or complacency) mixed with self-interest at home. Could it be human nature to think/hope someone else will do the heavy lifting or make the sacrifices? Group think on a global scale?

    The question you ask at the end about Western expectations brought to mind an article in the current National Geographic about a tribe of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, the Hadza. They are an extreme case, of course, but the article made me wonder what forms of development are sustainable over the very long term. If, as Jared Diamond said, “the invention of agriculture is mankind’s biggest mistake” we are all headed over the cliff.

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/12/hadza/finkel-text

    And on that cheerful note, Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Jesse Osmun

    Excellent points..

    I think that there IS a slow movement of people trying to change Kenya for the better, but it has yet to pick up steam because most kenyans have be promised many things and were burned out on false promises.

    As such, Kenyans are wary and largely apathetic about change coming to their country. Sure they vote, but when your vote is essentially stolen or not even counted, does it really count? If I advocate for services, am I going to have to bribe someone to get them later on? If I advocate for democracy, will I be gunned down later for speaking out ( like recent killings last year and the open assassination of Tom Mboya)?

    These are the things Kenyans have as a mental tape in their heads. Change is not something Peace Corps or NGO’s can easily instill. At some point, Kenyan’s must take a proactive approach that doesn’t include rioting and ethnic conflict. The closest model to this has been the peaceful activism of Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement and her agitation as an MP for reforms.