The recent political violence in Murang'a County, Kenya, that left two people dead is a gruesome sign that the elections in 2022 might turn violent. The deadly drama featured the same cast and the same modus operandi. The players are wealthy politicians who live in fabulous palaces and poor youth who eke out a living in god-forsaken slums and villages.
The plot involved hiring youth for a few miserable shillings to go and stop or heckle a rival politicians’ rally. In addition to the pay, the youth are provided with weapons.
Needless to say, it is the youth who suffer maiming and death. No matter the education given to the youth not to allow themselves to be used as fodder by politicians fighting to win elections so as to secure even more wealth, there will always be thousands of them willing to risk limb and life for a few shillings.
In the case of the Murang'a violence, payment, according to the distraught widow of one of the dead, was Ksh1,000 ($92)!
The Reverend Timothy Njoya, an indefatigable crusader for social justice and equity, argues that the political class needs poor masses because, for a pittance, they will be amenable to doing the politicians’ bidding. A look at how poverty is created in Kenya gives credence to Reverend Njoya’s theory. Since 1963, money that could have been used to create jobs and provide social amenities ended up in the pockets of politicians and their close associates.
We developed a system rigged against the poor. For instance, the scandal at the National Cereals and Produce Board involved payment of billions to those who had illegally imported maize while bona fide farmers waited helplessly to get their dues.
In other words, a facility ostensibly designed to help small-scale farmers enriches well-connected crooks. All the grand thievery — from the serial heists at National Youth Service to the loss of Covid-19 funds — in effect robs the poor to further enrich the wealthy. It is a system made for politicians, a ready pool of poor people to help win political power so that they can accumulate more wealth.
There are, therefore, two ways to break the cycle of political violence. The short-term solution is to mercilessly prosecute without, fear or favour, those who pay youth to commit acts of violence. Similarly, youth who agree to commit these acts of hooliganism and murder must be mercilessly prosecuted.
The long-term solution is to dismantle the networks of cartels made up of state officials, politicians and criminals who have taken hostage of the Kenyan nation-state so that we can build a system whose raison d’être is to reduce, not create, poverty.
Where will the political class get pools of impoverished youth then sacrifice them for their megalomaniacal ambitions?
But who will lead the two processes when the political class benefits so well from this skewed system?