Our country Kenya turns 54 on the 12th of this month and like every birthday we have plans to throw a party on the Jamhuri Day complete with a great speech from the President. But really, besides getting older what else is there to celebrate?
We’ve just gone through a most trying period in a competitive poll that nearly tore us apart and left a section of the country still sore. But being the people that accept things and move on, we’ve moved on.
Essentially we’ve gone back to being our usual mediocre selves. It appears 54 years of self-rule has turned us into lawless, angry people who have little patience for logic.
It sure does sound like a broken record every time analysts come on TV to remind us that at independence we were at par with Malaysia which is not the case now. Or how we gave aid to South Korea in the 60s and now we’re beneficiaries of their tax payers money, yet these statements are quite telling.
What then are we celebrating? Retrogressive-ness? We have retrogressed in nearly every sector despite the choir of politicians in government singing about this development and that development.
Major Towns stink
The major towns that became cities after independence were already set for the same by the white government. They had running water, proper sewerage system and a good public transport system.
Today, nearly every city that’s worth that term struggles with a broken sewerage system. Poor garbage collection system and a complete lack of urban planning and development.
Even the capital Nairobi has nothing worth to report home about after 54 years. God forbid it rains for one week straight. You’d be forgiven to think we’re living in the days of Noah. All the roads get flooded and pedestrians wade through the water which sometimes is knee-deep. You can only imagine the waterborne diseases that come out of that clear lack of urban planning.
The white man left us clean organized cities that we turned into filthy, disorganized urban places. And today more than 50years later, for every posh estate we have a slum as a reminder that ethnicity is not the real problem.
Fifty four years down the line and we have completely ground the public transport to a halt. People hardly bought cars in the immediate post-independent Kenya and those who did were considered affluent. Today people buy cars for convenience. The public transport is as unreliable as the meteorological department.
And Kenyans living in more urban places with “good roads” not dirt road, have to contend with potholes that significantly reduce the value of their cars after a few kilometers on the road.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that the government gave up on public transport long before we could pronounce privatization. What is left is a poorly managed matatus sector with rowdy conductors; mostly frustrated youths who hike the price at the change of weather.
The only thing to boast about in the transport sector is the Standard Gauge Railway that has replaced the Lunatic Express. Despite its inflated construction price it’s one of the few good stories to write home about.
Ailing Health sector
As we plan to slaughter chicken and goats on Jamhuri Day we should truly reflect on what exactly we’re celebrating. Is it okay for women to give birth at home these many years after independence? Is it worth paying NHIF when you still get referred to private hospitals and chemists for drugs?
Worse still is that the children who went to school in colonial Kenya had a better chance at succeeding than today. Why do we have free primary education that only serves to drive education inequality? Is it okay to celebrate when rural folks have children studying in mud houses or under a tree?
As we celebrate Kenya’s 54th birthday, we ask that the President and his team go back to the drawing board and see why we have fallen so low. Figure why it took nearly 50years to make North Eastern Kenya accessible.
Please seal these gaps in the public sector that result in sabotaging public institutions at the expense of private institutions just to make a few people rich. We need a Kenya that works for all of us. Bridge the divide between the rich and the poor.
In short, until we stop the over-reliance on private sector that is designed to make a few people rich we should not celebrate Jamhuri Day. Jamhuri Day gains relevance only where majority are happy with self-rule. Happiness here is derived from a good functioning public health, transport and education systems.