Sunday, May 27, 2012

We must protect Kenya from the government

Sunday Nation 27 May 2012

Observing events in Kenya today, I am reminded of a story one of my medical school teachers told me during my undergraduate training. Hopefully retelling this story will help us reflect on the weight of responsibility on the shoulders of the common citizen of this country. So here goes.

In a certain European country’s teaching hospital, the tradition had it that a group of trainees, including undergraduate and postgraduate medical students, would arrive early in the ward to prepare for the teaching ward round, presided over by a senior consultant. One morning, he arrived bright and early, and proceeded to the first bed in the children’s ward. He then listened keenly as a postgraduate student gave a summary of the patient’s condition and what had been done for him so far.

The consultant, as usual, asked probing questions meant to help the students learn, and equip them with the right mix of knowledge, skills and attitudes for their future practice. At the end of this presentation, however, the consultant did something completely unexpected. He took out a large scalpel from his pocket and proceeded to slowly and painstakingly slit the child’s throat, in full view of all the students and staff.

Although they were all shocked, none of the observers made any effort to stop the consultant and, astonishingly, they proceeded to the second bed where he repeated the action on another patient.

Fourth bed

It was only on the fourth bed that one of the students asked the consultant to explain what he was doing, at which point he looked up quizzically, as if coming out of a trance, and blinked in confusion. Only then did the rest of the staff in the unit realise that something was wrong, and they took the consultant away. He was later found to be suffering from a mental illness, but the damage had already been done.

With this story, my teacher taught me to constantly scrutinise every action or utterance by an individual on its own merits, rather than on the basis of authority or some other affiliation. In my opinion, Kenyans would do well to take this lesson to heart as well.

We must realise that leadership does not give one access to the fountain of eternal wisdom, and that our leaders make mistakes too. Indeed, a mistake made by a leader has the potential to harm several times more people than the mistake made by a common mwananchi.

It is time, therefore, for us to put our leaders under a microscope, lest we wake up and discover that they have killed our children’s future while labouring under some delusion or other. We must learn to tell them to desist from raiding the national coffers whenever they need some money for their own purposes, and punish them appropriately whenever they do so.

Point out

We must point out to them instances when they make laws and regulations that fly in the face of our Constitution. We must be the voices that they hear last as they go to bed, reminding them constantly that they serve only at our pleasure, and that we can snatch their positions from them when this pleasure runs out.

As Thomas Paine is reputed to have observed, it is the duty of every patriot to protect his country from its government.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association and lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine

1 comment:

  1. I think a higher percentage of Kenyans feel the same and are ready to take a stand on this issue, what is however lacking is a lack of commitment by the general mwananchi to combat any type of abuse from the government.
    There is a lack of umoja na ungano.
    Most of the effort is put into protecting the government from the people plus most Kenyans don't question the relevance of some steps the gv takes.
    Hopefully things will change as the more "aggressive" post independence babies come into power.


Say something about this post!