Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking forward to a happier new year

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 29 December 2013

In a couple of days, Kenyans will welcome the year 2014, largely hopeful that it will be a better year than 2013 in more ways than one.

Firstly, we all hope the security situation will be better next year than it has been this year. Since the beginning of this year, it seems our savage instincts were unleashed, and criminal violence has been reported all over the country. From so-called “cattle-rustling” through terror attacks to “normal robberies” with fatal consequences, no location in Kenya has been spared.

Despite the resolve displayed by the government in dealing more firmly with the security crisis after the Westgate terrorist attack, things have gone back to “normal”, with no visible changes in the security apparatus to increase the citizens’ confidence. One hopes that this will change in the coming year, and that the security of Kenyans will take precedence over other considerations in this government.

Secondly, it has lately become evident that the health sector is in disarray. Rushed devolution without first putting in place adequate structures resulted in a protracted strike by health care workers across the country. Despite clear constitutional provisions dividing health functions between the national and county governments, both levels of government spouted fallacious arguments that health is a “100 per cent devolved function”. Going by the chaotic processes of human resource management already being displayed, it is clear that it will become increasingly expensive for Kenyans to get sick in the coming days. 

Ironically, the relevant arms of government have belatedly discovered this danger and are now cautioning county governments against rushing to take over human resource functions that are currently still under the Public Service Commission. One can only hope that the government will listen to the grievances by public servants about ill-regulated devolution, and address them adequately in order to forestall further industrial unrest with the attendant suffering of hapless citizens.

Thirdly, the cost of living has been inching up inexorably over the past year. Government actions do not seem to inspire any hope of a respite in 2014. Increasing taxes and levies are constantly chipping away at the meagre earnings of Kenyans at the bottom of the barrel, and the year has ended with claims that State House is further pinching pennies from ministries for purposes of publicity.

Additionally, the President just signed into law legislation aimed at deducting a percentage of workers’ pay for purposes of social security, notwithstanding the fact that some may already be contributing to registered pension schemes. Unless government puts in place measures aimed at mitigating these escalating costs of living, there’s no telling where the situation will lead to!

Finally, we have spent most of this year under a cloud of uncertainty as to the legal status of our top leaders, who stand accused of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Despite indications that at least one of the cases is severely weakened due to lack of witnesses, the prosecutor insists that she will go ahead with the case after further evidence collection. One hopes that this cloud will be lifted once and for all without jeopardising the prospects of justice for the victims and survivors of our post-election pogroms of 2008.

Notwithstanding all that though, may providence grant us a largely happy and trouble-free 2014! 

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

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