Tribalism has been touted as one of Kenya’s greatest ills but I beg to differ. Entire tribes do not benefit due to one of their own being in a position of leadership. I know that political leaders seek to create this illusion of tribal victory or loss but it is just that – an illusion. This illusion is enforced for various reasons all of which favour the politician. The politician gets the title of tribal lord and with that he can negotiate for power and in times of hardship he can rally the hapless tribesmen as his foot soldiers.

Kenya has had three presidents. President Kenyatta was a Kikuyu who come from a village called Gatundu, President Moi is a Kalejin who comes from a village called Sacho and President Kibaki is a Kikuyu from Othaya. It is common to hear that Kikuyu’s have eaten (Remember Wrong’s ‘It’s our turn to eat’?) and thus they need to make room for other communities to eat. Kalejins too were said to be eating during the 24 year rule of President Moi. However, a glance at these villages that have produced the three presidents reveals the same poverty that is evident in other villages in Kenya. Therefore these villages and the common tribesmen did not accrue any benefit from the Presidency or closeness to power.

So who are the people who accrue benefit?

These benefits are shared out by the people who are close to the person wielding power. During Kenyatta’s time there was the Kiambu mafia, during President Moi’s time there was Rift Valley mafia and during the early days of President Kibaki’s term there was talk of the Mount Kenya mafia. These shadowy men and women behind the throne (who most of the times are friends and relatives and incidentally share a tribal bond) are the ones who get all the spoils of war and end up being billionaires. In so doing they give the tribe a bad name but it is the common man who gets the flake for their misdeeds. This eating with friends and relatives spills over to all areas of governance and it leads to incompetence, unprofessionalism and corruption.

Stay with me, there is a point to my extensive background.

My attention has being drawn to different news items which separately may not have bothered me but cumulatively they draw a sad picture.

Chairman of the Interim Boundary Commission, Andrew Ligale is an ODM man who in the splitting of boundaries appears to have favoured his party. Water Minister Charity Ngilu reappointed Reuben Ndolo as the chair of the Athi Water Board. Ndolo had resigned to bid for the Makadara seat but he lost. In the same board seats, John Kiarie (KJ), an aspirant in Dagoretti constituency in the last elections. Julius Sunkuli is the ambassador to China, Kembi Kitura is ambassador in Belgium, both are former or should I say rejected politicians. The shortlist of the Constitution Implementation Commission chair consists solely of former politicians and political aides who are associated with the heavyweights in the current political scene. Water Minister Charity Ngilu is said to have awarded tenders to companies in her ministry to members of her immediate family. A look at who seats in most Constituency Development Fund boards reveals an assortment of cronies and relatives to the Member of Parliament.

This list is by no means extensive but it helps draw a picture of the problem of patronage that is facing Kenya. Qualification and experience are shoved aside in the quest to give favour to friends and relatives. This obviously leads to stagnation in our quest for development and it also breeds corruption.

Apart from the elites who benefit from this patronage system every other Kenyan suffers from it. Ignorance is bliss and thus your average Kenyan has no idea of the happenings or if he does believes that this how things should be.

I hope more Kenyans will wake up and smell the coffee. It’s not tribe x that is eating but rather the elites engaging in sharing the national cake amongst themselves in total disregard of Kenyans and Kenya’s development.

What is the way forward?

I have no idea! I have no fancy answers but something tells me that this will require a shift in the way that political office and any position of authority/power is looked at. A shift from looking at power as an opportunity to enrich oneself and serve only those close to you to seeing leadership/power as a noble calling to provide service to all.

Maybe I am being idealistic but for Kenya to move from potentially great African country to its rightful place as a great African country we have to re-evaluate our leadership system and this patronage system has to cease.



2 responses to “Patronage

  • Saitonne

    Amen to re-evaluating leadership and ending the patronage… I do think that it must be us to figure out the hidden links between the patrons and those that benefit. It starts with knowledge. Step 1.

    • moderatekenyan

      Yes it does start with knowledge. An informed Kenyan is a empowered Kenyan. And for your information the Chair to the Committee of Implementation of the Constitution, Charles Nyachae is the son of long time bureaucrat and politician Simeon Nyachae!

%d bloggers like this: