martha karua for president?

You know, I have been thinking about the nature of African leadership over the years. For the most part the continent of Africa has produced two types of leaders. On the one hand have been the idealist intellectual visionaries, smart but completely detached from the realities on the ground. I think of great sons of the continent like Nkrumah and Nyerere and Senghor and Cabral. On the other hand have been the deranged half-wit dictators (the majority) who have run down the continent and made it the mess that it currently is. This camp comprises nearly all African leaders in history with a few exceptions.

Martha Karua, the Kenyan justice minister, fits neither camp. She is a strong-willed woman who shoots from the hip. She tells it like it is and seems to be the kind of politician who is never afraid to follow through on her beliefs. I am willing to speculate that if she could get elected she might be the leader Kenya has been waiting for – a radicalist who will shock us out of our stupor, bring in a new order and make us rethink who we are. She might also be a total disaster, but either way I think she has the potential to wake us all up. None of our current Big Men seems to possess the same qualities. Saitoti is a small man who was content being Moi’s stooge forever. Kibaki is an aloof intellectual who thinks that things just work out on their own and believes that the likes of Mutula Kilonzo, Murungi, Ruto and the rest know what they are doing. Raila is a populist. I used to like Ruto but his handling of the maize crisis has raised serious doubts. Mudavadi is a younger Kibaki. And Uhuru Kenyatta should never be president because deep down he is not a politician. Moi forced him into it. Martha Karua seems like the one who will demolish Kibera, Kangemi and Kawangware and build formal settlements in their stead. She seems like the one who will radicalise our constitution and provide a break from the reactionary politics that have shaped our history since 1991. And while she is at it she might even jail a few corrupt people, redefine gender relations in Kenya and bring some semblance of substance into our politics.

ps: I am not affiliated to any political party. Quite frankly, I have a beneath-the-ground opinion of nearly all our politicians, PNU and ODM and all their affiliates alike. I just find it interesting to put this proposition out there because many people have written Karua off because of her ethnicity and her stance after last year’s botched elections. But her faults aside, I think she could be the African Iron Lady. She is young, has no colonial and post-colonial hang ups and seems like she has the courage to make history.

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scandals in Kenya: can we please have some big names behind bars??

Right now Kenya seems like the most corrupt place on the planet (sort of a hyperbole, but it’s close to that). There is the running scandal of the sale of the  Grand Regency Hotel , there is that involving cheap imported maize, there is the one with the Kenya Tourism Board and then there is the giant one involving Triton and the Kenya Pipeline Company – and of course many smaller ones that never make it to the national news.

I am quite frankly disappointed by the coalition government. These old men running our country seem to have no idea of what it means for people to have trust in their government. There has to be less embarrassing ways to steal from poor people! There has to be smarter ways! That these thieves choose to steal in broad daylight and so shamelessly means that they have nothing but contempt for the average Kenyans. And for that they deserve punishment. Someone needs to be jailed for life – without parole. And they should pay heavy fines too. We must make corruption as expensive to the corrupt as it can get.

The current saga has got me thinking. May be the Kenyan model of mass movement of the 1990s has failed. Kibaki and Raila are both mass movement leaders but they are failing Kenyans almost in the same way that Moi did. May we should try a bourgeois liberation movement. May be if the middle and upper classes get politically active enough our leaders will listen to them. Because as it is it is so easy for Nairobi to dupe the millions of Kenyans who live in the rural areas and the slums in the major cities. Kibera, Mukuru, Kangemi and others prove this fact. But I don’t think that the Kenyan middle class would be so easily duped. The problem is that as a political constituency they lack the numbers and the courage. Many would rather spend their time in the many hypermarkets around town than to agitate for real change. Some might even owe their status to the corrupt ruling class.

As yet Kenya does not have leaders from the middle class – or the upper class for that matter. The little men who parade as gods around the country do not have any affiliations to any given class. It is no wonder that they usually just fight for their selfish interests. They have never been middle or upper class (not in wealth, but in their thinking) and they are in more than a rush to discard their humble roots (invariably by stealing from the public). They do not care much for the middle class, and they keep duping the vast majority of poor Kenyans (by playing on ethnicity). May be we need class conscious movements (nothing Marxist, just classist) to articulate the interests of various classes. May be then we shall have stable political parties that are based on ideas and not fleeting personalities and ethnic alliances.

The most frustrating thing about all this – African politics in general and the Kenyan corruption scandals in particular – is that our leaders seem completely oblivious. In some other place the minister in charge of the KPC would have resigned already. Just a few weeks ago the Belgian government resigned because of a scandal in the financial sector. I am not advocating for a government resignation. I just hope that someone high up there gets to pay for his mistakes. That’s all.