With this kind of impunity, a bleak future awaits

Monday March 11 2024

Demonstrators protesting against the high cost of living in Nairobi, Kenya on August 8,2023. PHOTO | NMG


Reports in several mainstream newspapers have indicated stagnation or even regression on issues that have plagued this country since independence.

One issue was the haemorrhaging of public resources through endless foreign and domestic travel by government officials. Every official — from Members of County Assemblies to the President — loves to travel. Ironically, the President and his deputy once castigated Cabinet members for constantly being in transit to foreign destinations. Some ministers, said “Shareholder” Gachagua, “even change clothes at the airport.”

That was a damning indictment that should have resulted in serious sanctions. The Cabinet of a poor country should spend every hour thinking and strategising about how to deal with educational, technological, infrastructural and other shortcomings, not the next foreign destination and how to maximise personal travel and other allowances.

Despite a ban on non-essential travel in response to an outcry over the billions lost, the vice, according to a report by the Controller of Budget, has increased pace.

Read: NGUGI: Values of Kanu oligarchy will ruin our state

The papers also highlighted poor management of bursary funds. Why politicians have a say on the management of bursary funds beats logic. These funds should be managed by an independent institution or committee of professionals who can draw a research-based matrix of need, ensuring regional and gender representation.


An MP’s involvement should be limited to taking citizens’ complaints about management of the funds to the relevant authority for redress.

The other issue highlighted by the papers is housing in low-end estates. Houses here do not have proper ventilation and lighting. The sewerage system is poor. Developers do not make provision for leisure or recreational activities. Some of the houses are structurally unsound and, as we have seen so many times before, periodically collapse on tenants.

The houses are not just concrete death traps; they are also chaotic eyesores, which are causing, the papers reported, respiratory and other diseases. The relevant authorities and the somnolent Nema were aware of the deadly inadequacies, but they still gave permits. When one visits these so-called estates, one is overwhelmed by the sheer scale of disorganisation and dilapidation.

Read: NGUGI: Irony of looters finding solution to looting crisis

The papers also reported on a crime statistic that showed half of the Kenyan population experiences crime. While this is not surprising, given our immoral unemployment figures, its endemic nature is staggering and alarming. Endemic crime signals a trend towards a breakdown of law and order, Haiti-style. If we don’t stem the tide, we might have a reversal of roles, with Kenya asking Haiti to help to combat gangs in the streets.

Then the papers reported that the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities are overrepresented in the civil service. As if to emphasise this tribalism, the papers reported on court a ruling that declared as unconstitutional the hiring of officers in a government agency because of tribal favouritism.

Judging by these objective “unpoliticised” newspaper reports, are we headed in the right direction?

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator