This is not the ‘Uhuru’ we envisaged

Published on 03/06/2009

By Nancy Mburu

So, now we are 46. A toast to a long life, given that some of our peers on the continent have not been so lucky. Any middle-aged person will tell you that by 46, one should be enjoying the fruits of their labour, having toiled all their lives.

They would have built a home or would be paying a mortgage, their children would be in college, they would have a family car or two, they would have got job promotions or would be running successful businesses, and they would have savings in the bank.

As we rejoiced on June 1, 1963, after attaining self-rule, we anticipated good times ahead. For what is better than freedom? The motto of New Hampshire state in the United States, captures the priceless value of freedom: “Live free or Die”. This, was the spirit when we fought for self-determination and independence.

On December 12 of the same year, the Union Jack was lowered, and we were finally free of the colonial yoke. The British colonial masters begrudgingly left and belatedly wished us well with our new found freedom. It was an exhilarating moment alright. The new crop of educated African leaders told us ours would be a capitalist economy, where everybody would get a chance to work hard and enjoy the fruits of their sweat. And our smiles broadened as we looked up at them adoringly. Surely, our African elite was widely travelled and informed, hence it would take care us, we sighed contentedly.

But half a life-time later, we are singing a different song. Nobody told us that capitalism in Africa meant a man-eat-man society. That the predators at the top of the food chain would prey on the weak and suck their very blood, their livelihoods. Today, we are free as a State, but not free from want. The majority of citizen are still living like slaves on their own land.

Warlords and fugitives

Who owns Kenya? A reader warns that our country is slowly being taken over by people of foreign descent, and they are quickly lording it over us.

Who owns our beaches, large tracts of land, ranches, property in the city, indeed who owns our economy? Not indigenous Kenyans. And if they are, it is politicians or influential individuals with political connections.

Let me hasten to add I have nothing against anyone who is enjoying what is rightfully theirs. They invested wisely and reaping the rewards. But the socio-economic inequality in the country is appalling, and it is not getting better fast enough. Today, capitalist property managers accept money from a Somali warlord or a Rwandese genocide fugitive sooner than they would shake your hand. The reader warns that foreign Somali nationals are “invading our land from all fronts”.

He says: “They have taken over Eastleigh and South C, and are slowly encroaching on Ongata Rongai, Kitengela and Kajiado towns. The NCBD has not been spared either, since they are buying property at twice the market price. Before long, they will own the whole city and the suburbs. The threat to our national security and survival is real!”

Call him a bit paranoid but he claims these are facts. If foreigners can find a haven here, it means there is absolutely nothing wrong with our beautiful country. Look at the way people from India and Pakistan are only too willing to grease the palms of immigration officials to set foot on our land. Show me any other country in the West or Asia, which welcomes foreigners with such open arms, whether they have the money to spend or not, especially at the expense of the country’s citizens. And look at the way Kenyans, who are denied an opportunity to advance on their own land have fled in droves to face hardships elsewhere. The feedback we get from these countries is depressing. Kenyans have become orphans in foreign lands. Some have been condemned to die in China over drug related crimes. What a lonely way to die, and on foreign soil. Others are languishing in Asian jails.

Those who have sought greener pastures in the Arab world return with harrowing tales reminiscent of the slavery era. Those who are ‘lucky’ to set foot in the West are doing menial jobs. Is this the Uhuru we were craving for? Is the Government proud of this situation?

The National Hospital Insurance Fund has released shameful statistics: 80 per cent of Kenyans do not have medical cover. Many people do not own homes since there is no one to give them affordable credit. Others have been squatters all their sorry lives.

Workers are being laid off en masse and many families cannot put a square meal on the table. We have gone to school, then toiled all our lives but our version of the Kenyan dream has eluded us. Why the heck do we have a Government in place, whose role is only to oversee our troubles?

For me, it is not yet Uhuru.

—The writer ([email protected]) is a commentator on social and political issues.

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