News 2008


At this rate, it's about time we asked Britain to come back


16. 02. 2008

Last weekend, I was invited to a private birthday party and in attendance was a senior State House official who has been my friend for decades. He told me that President Kibaki was to the right of the centre and ODM leader Raila Odinga on the left, and wanted to know where I stood. We agreed that I would answer him at an appropriate time. I would like to, in these columns, respond because the issue is a matter of public interest.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta is sworn in as Prime Minister by chief justice John Ainley at independence in 1963. Governor Malcolm Macdonald had handed over the reins of power. Photo/FILE

Politics in Kenya has never been ideological and, therefore, Kenyans do not belong to the centre, left or right. Instead, we follow our tribal chiefs, whether they lead us up a rocky hill or down a ravine. Moreover, the world is no longer dichotomised into left or right; in fact, it is moving towards the centre.

It is political parties that espouse centrist policies that win elections. Governments in Europe are centrist and the US will be there by November.

When I object to Mr Mwai Kibaki’s alleged victory, it is because I strongly believe that Mr Odinga won the presidential election.

In the flawed institutional systems Kenya operates under, I shall support whoever Kenyans elect as president, and not one that State House operatives and an amnesiac Electoral Commission want. In announcing the result, ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu broke all the provisions of the electoral laws and he should have resigned by now.

But then, we need to ask ourselves if we have a nation-state capable of nurturing ideological or institutional development. We seem to be held in a hole and are continuing to go deeper. Mr Kofi Annan is at a retreat with his mediation team to try to get us out of the hole, but his effort may deepen our dilemma.

We are at a time when we must be dispassionate and clear in our thinking and admit that Britain should come back and recolonise Kenya.

In 1963, the Union Jack was lowered and the national flag raised. We may have celebrated then and in the stillness of night honestly thought we were destined for the stars. Maybe we were gazing at the wrong stars where we have landed 45 years later.

As we went through primary school, our history teacher taught us that we had fought for our independence. But this is no time to question that part of the lessons; historians will do so in their own time.

At that day we will know if fighting missionaries for opposing female circumcision was part of the liberation struggle. What is not in dispute in history, however, is that when World War II broke out, a wind of change swept across St James Palace, London. London and Washington were fighting the German blitzkrieg and at the same time trying to hold back the spread of communism. It was not a time to have enemies within the colonies.

Without appearing to be denigrating people who may have fought for independence such as India’s Mahatma Gandhi, the sun was setting on the British Empire. In 1947, the British colonial office made it a deliberate policy to pull out of its colonies in an orderly and managed fashion. In fact, Britain put its colonies in a queue of self-rule. Kenya’s turn was to come even if we had folded our hands.

But did our independence come too soon? I dare say so, and I propose that one of the options we need to seriously mull over, and so should Mr Annan, is that we pledge allegiance to London in the mould of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Vanuatu.

All these countries, though independent, pledge fealty to the House of Windsor. And there are many reasons that compel me to appear so unpatriotic and to suggest that we swap our flag with the Union Jack.

When I read in the media the other day that Igad member countries are sending Foreign ministers prop up the Annan initiative, I was torn between laughing and crying.

Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda and Somalia sent theirs. The four countries are failed states, and do not know the meaning of elections, and they are bottom in every global ranking of achievements.

Their leaders are tin-pot dictators who brook no divergent view. In Djibouti, a country that doesn’t have a secretarial college, and whose only source of income are a Coca Cola plant and a French naval base, you dare not discuss politics. Ethiopia restricts the use of mobile phones and camcorders.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni is an emperor. God help us that these are the countries that wish to help us.

Finance minister Amos Kimunya and Central Bank governor have for the umpteenth time told Kenyans that our economy is fantastic and that its fundamentals are not affected by the current chaos. But is this the truth?

Current world measurements of human development, governance, corruption, economy competitiveness and foreign development investment inflows put us at the bottom 15 in each category.

In fact, for destinations of investment, we are ranked the 10th most dangerous country — lumped together with Chad, Iraq and Iran.

You don’t reinvent the wheel, so we should not shy away from admitting certain undeniable facts, among them that while Britain is the richest country in the world, we are at the bottom.

The latest measurements of wealth put Britain’s per capita income at over the equivalent of Sh3.3 million, ahead of the US for the first time in 100 years, and Kenya’s at a paltry Sh57,000. This means that were we to share all the money we make in a year, each Kenyan would walk away with Sh57,600 and a Briton Sh3.3 million.

Liberal democracy is the highest form of human political development, and this political thinking has certain mandatory imperatives that include the rule of law, a transparent and independent judiciary, a vibrant civil society, genuinely free and fair periodic free elections, accountability of security apparatus to civilian rule and applicable law and supremacy of and fidelity to the constitution. In Kenya, all these parameters are either absent or falling short. We are a long way away from meeting the barest minimum.

When Britain demands accountability in our processes, we shout ourselves hoarse proclaiming that we are a sovereign state. The same people who shout the loudest do not trust our education system as their children are studying in Britain or the US. We must walk the talk. British schools and universities are ranked near the top in every score in the world.

We may rave and rant, but every country — from Albania to Zimbabwe — wants to be like Britain and we want to know its language, culture and commerce.

When we resubordinate ourselves to Britain, the only thing we shall lose is our poverty and backward economy.

As said above, Canada, Australia and others have lost nothing for being part of Her Majesty’s royal dominions. We will remain a parliamentary democracy in its fullest and truest meaning, but under a constitutional monarchy. Being independent and poor is never a source of nationalism.

Haiti, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe which are so passionate about their independence, cannot pay salaries of their police or meet other financial obligations.

A walk through the countries is a walk through the Hall of Shameless under kleptocratic despots.

A snail’s pace

In going against the buck to ask Britain to come back, we shall jump the technology and development snail’s pace as our former coloniser will be morally compelled to bring us up to the same speed as the other dominions.

At the rate, we are developing and with our current mindsets, 100 years from now will find us with the same per capita income if we will not have disappeared into small tribal chiefdoms.

As we search for elusive peace, let us also be proactively pragmatic and admit our inadequacies as a nation-state. Forty-five years later, and we still steal elections, kill one another, practise negative tribalism and have no functioning road or rail system.

Water and power are still be foreign to over half the population Kenyans and we still suffer from malnutrition, while we spend tens of millions of shillings a year in research and development. We are independent indeed!

It is time we begged Britain to come back and even send a viceroy.