Published on 25/06/2011By Billow Kerrow
Our great nation has again been ranked as a State in ‘danger’ of becoming a failed State. Ranked 16th out of 172 countries surveyed by Fund for Peace, Kenya is 15 places below the topmost failed state in the world – Somalia. We are ranked worse than Burundi, Liberia and Eritrea in the league of the world’s most vulnerable countries that are deemed to be a ‘threat to their own inhabitants’, the face of a ‘new world disorder’. Combined, the failed states are home to ‘humanity’s bottom billions’.
Believe it or not – that’s the way some in the world sees us – a nearly failed state! Meaning, Kenya is an unstable country.
We scored dismally on most of the dozen parameters used in the survey such as uneven development, delegitimisation of the State and factionalised elites. But our key weaknesses were said to be over-indulgence in foreigners to resolve our problems, demographic pressures such as the IDPs and growing insecurity.
The bottom line is that our institutions of governance are deemed to be dysfunctional. The risk of political instability is a major cause of worry for investors, international businessmen and even tourists who only visit the country on short stays.
So, what is the truth in these arguments? The 2007 post-election violence marked the beginning of our unfortunate descent into this league of nations.
Despite the rhetoric, we still have thousands of IDPs languishing in camps for fear of reprisals if they go back to their land.
In recent months, we have made world news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Our leaders are wanted by the International Criminal Court, US or Jersey because our criminal justice system is deemed to have failed. A good number cannot even fly to the US or Europe even on official State business.
We are literally told how to run our country – the US, Kofi Annan, Eminent Persons, etc who audit our progress every so often, ostensibly to ensure we carry out our pledges for reforms to prevent a repeat of 2007 chaos. WikiLeaks revelations spoke volumes about our leaders whose views are shaped by Western envoys.
Mega corruption scandals rock the nation every so often and the masterminds hardly get convicted. Leaders do not take responsibility for their actions, and do not get fired unless we shout ourselves hoarse, if at all. A third of our public expenditure is deemed to be looted every year in public procurements, driving the majority into abject poverty. Big time criminals with phantom ‘fly by night’ companies empty public coffers as they usually enjoy political patronage. And when they get caught in the act, they invariably get away with it, only if the loot is big!
In Northern Kenya, the inequality is appalling. Deprivation, destitution and squalor marks the vast landscape as residents fight for survival and even succumb to starvation. Images of Kenyans going without water and food for days, and livestock carcass dotting the area are a stark reminder of the disregard for human dignity and utter neglect. To residents of this region, truly the ‘country’ they know is a failed state because it has failed to provide for them the last 50 years.
Extra-judicial killings by the security forces particularly in Central Kenya, and torture during operations to flush out bandits in pastoralist areas are glaring human rights violations that have become common. We frequently feature in UN human rights reports in this regard. Remember Alison?
Ethnicisation and politicisation of policy and legal decisions by our leaders give an impression of a nation unable to savour the real fruits of democracy. Blatant impunity is the second nature to our leaders. Our elite are in the shackles of ethnic chauvinism.
Yet, despite all these signs, the country is making efforts, however feeble, towards reversing the trend. The variable, as often, is the leadership, not the masses!
—The writer is a former MP for Mandera Central and political economist.