President Kibaki’s decision to cancel the traditional New Year’s Eve state festivities at State House Mombasa is a laudable and encouraging move towards people sensitive leadership. For a long time, the Kenyan civil society has been vocal in condemning the unnecessary, spendthrift and morally irregular expense of holding grand state festivities in the same country where citizens are suffering grand social injustices and unaccountable unresponsive leadership.
According to my calculations, by this decision alone, the President has saved the Exchequer approximately K.Shs. 100,000,000, not to mention the Kenyan public the cost of transmitting the celebrations live in their entirety on national TV. I would like to encourage the President to show similar leadership in other areas by taking an example from Cuba’s President Raul, who taking into consideration the global financial and food crisis cut down government foreign trips by 50% as well as scaling down on ministerial expenditure. As a Kenyan tax-payer, I am looking for President Kibaki to lead his government in adopting the same tune that he has. For example, in the next budget, rather than allocating 60% towards recurrent government expenditure, 20% towards paying for public debt and 20% towards development objectives, the government should in reverse allocate 60% towards development and utilise 40% for other expenditure.
2008 has admittedly been a very difficult year for all Kenyans. Our woes have been a kaleidoscope of irregular elections, internal displacement of thousands – many of whom still languish in squalid conditions in camps, political experiments in the form of a coalition government, public power struggles amongst the political elite, unrest within informal settlements, schools unrest, grand corruption scandals, food insecurity escalated by cartels supported by irresponsible and unaccountable leadership, death and starvation from famines, high food, fuel, transport and basic commodity prices and political impunity in the form of unpatriotic parliamentarians’ resistance to implementing the National Accord’s Agenda 4 in full, to implementing the Kriegler and Waki Commission recommendations in a timely manner, to paying tax on their full remuneration and more recently the attempted interference with the freedom of information through muzzling the media.
From my discussions with fellow Kenyans, as we listen to the Presidential state address to usher in the New Year, our wish list remains very clearly to hear concrete, practical and urgent action plans towards: ending food insecurity, reducing the cost of living, creating employment, implementing Agenda 4 - especially resettlement and compensation of IDPs, resolving land problems, ending political impunity – especially implementing parliamentarians’ taxation and ensuring commensurate remuneration for Kenya’s working class – especially increasing the minimum wage and sorting out teachers, nurses and the disciplined forces on their salaries.
I wish to urge Kenyans to keep up the growing awareness of their rights and freedoms and not to relent in resisting social injustices and demanding responsive, accountable and people sensitive leadership. With the uniting of Kenyans around common issues, the reduction in Unga prices, the reduction of VAT on electricity, the ban of exportation of maize and maize flour, the plans to subsidize fertiliser costs, the decision by some MPs to pay tax and many other similar victories, it is clear what people power can achieve. We can still make our leaders wake up and smell the coffee. Let us invite our leaders to join us as we march united into 2009.
By George Nyongesa
Bunge la Mwananchi