I just read a piece by Jeffrey Gettleman, the sensationalist East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times. From reading the piece one gets the impression that Kenya is nothing but a dystopia: There is corruption everywhere, ten million people face starvation and everyone seems to be a victim of the violence that rocked the country last year. To some extent Mr. Gettleman’s assessment is accurate and it would do us some good if our politicians read some of his work – the sensationalism might just embarass them enough to have them change their ways and start acting in the interest of Kenyans.
But are things really that bad? Are we really on the verge of total collapse as a nation state? I don’t think so. Yes, ours is probably one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Crime may be high in Nairobi and other urban centres. And it is true that millions of Kenya are currently dependent on government food aid. But these phenomena are not unique to Kenya. Other countries have or have had similar problems in their history without necessarily becoming failed states.
I say we stop all the negativity. Yes we can and should criticize the government and our politicians when they do things against our interests. But we should never buy into the idea that we are a society on the brink of collapse, as some journalists out there would want us to believe. Even in the midst of our woes Kenya is seeing some important progress – not just economically but also politically. No one can dispute the fact that the Kenyan parliament has become a stronger institution (and a better check to the executive) than it used to be. The private sector continues to grow and the Kenyan civil society remains strong and committed to its duty to point out the government’s failings whenever necessary.
I am not saying that things are not bad. They are, big time. What I am saying is that they are not too bad to be fixed.