Sunday, November 14, 2010

The future is here, go ahead and grab it

Sunday Nation 14 November 2010

Kenya is once again approaching that period in its historical life cycle when showbiz is more important than substance.

As we enter the twilight years of the Kibaki reign and approach the end of the Grand Coalition government’s life, politicians are becoming ever more alert to the symbolism of seizing the moment and capitalising on it for the next elections.

We have entered once again a period of divisions in government, where ministers are accusing each other of corruption in a sick game of one-upmanship that only serves to raise queries about the integrity of all those involved, and perhaps the appointing authority as well.

Politicians with an eye on the future are on the lookout for every opportunity to permanently hobble their opponents in order to ensure a free ride for themselves at the 2012 elections.

This is the light in which we must perceive suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto’s recent “triumphal return” from The Hague, as well as the infantile commotion in the Water ministry between a former assistant minister and the current minister.

In politics, image counts for a lot. In Kenya, where the average citizen has the memory of a gnat, image is all that counts.

We have no qualms at all rewarding with leadership positions those among us with the most despicable habits, and quashing the ambitions of honest young men and women whose aspirations go beyond the traditional tribal kraal.

I have argued before that the war on corruption needs to be personalised and politicised, and I still hold that this must be done to ensure a hostile environment for those that would fleece us even with the best of intentions. As has been pointed out ad nauseam by others before us, the price of democracy is eternal vigilance.

With the changing demographic profile of our country, a gradual shift is occurring in our national consciousness. Sooner rather than later, our political class will realise that making lots of noise and causing disruption and commotion will not necessarily translate into increased popularity and immunity from close scrutiny.

The herd mentality that has protected high-profile kleptocrats is slowly dissipating as more and more young people enter positions of responsibility in this country.

The clueless young “leaders of tomorrow” are rapidly giving way to very highly motivated global citizens with a more sophisticated worldview than their forebears. They are asking for more quality time with positive role models, and not more money or material comforts.

These young people are asking for more fairness and equity, and not the prevailing favouritism and nepotism. They do not want to be unfairly rewarded, but are asking for opportunities to exercise their creativity and entrepreneurial ideas. Kenya’s youth are demanding justice.

At this rate, the days of the tribal chieftain are numbered, considering this army of a global-oriented youthful population operating in the new political dispensation.

The law requires all of us to become the guardians and guarantors of the new constitutional dispensation, and to ensure that the rights of all Kenyans are respected and upheld by all.

The message to the youth is therefore loud and clear – the future is here. All that remains is for you to step up to the plate, and take it.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine.

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