Dear Mr. President – or whoever it is that is running the country

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Dear Madam/Sir,

Good day and I trust that you are keeping well. Just a request before I start – please pass on this note to whoever is currently running Kenya? Thanks.

Kenya was renowned world over for being the oasis in Africa where there was no drama, conflict or senseless killings that had plagued other African countries. We had lived in relative bliss – there had been clashes and fights between different communities – but we were thriving as a country. Before 2007, the economic growth rate in Kenya was in the double digits. After the elections violence, things went downhill. But we had hope that the next president elected in 2013 would make a difference, that we would go back to being proud of our land.

Come 2014. And the people I know, the people I see and the people I hear of are in such a pit of despair.

Women screaming in town because their purses / earrings / necklaces had been snatched was a thing of the past. Street families hounding visitors and street boys threatening people with faeces was something we had forgotten. It is something we are coming to remember very quickly. I doubt that you ever have the need to walk in town, but let me just let you know. It is not safe.

I can’t even talk about Al-Shabaab and all the grenades, home made bombs and gun related attacks. In Kenya.

My sister can no longer walk from the bus stop to the house past 6pm. She was robbed by goons riding a motorcycle and everything she had was stolen. I can’t even walk / jog on Ngong Road, people have been robbed of their phones, earphones and shoes while jogging in the morning!

My house-help gave birth to a healthy baby boy who had a touch of colic. They took the baby to hospital and the nurses injected the little boy with something that wasn’t explained to the parents. The boy died instantly. And the hospital CEO branded one of my friends an “alarmist” because she brought this case and others that have happened in that hospital to his attention. People are dying because they cannot afford healthcare – some of the comprehensive covers cost Kshs. 5,000 a month and MOST people cannot afford to have this cover. And we had a Minister of Health who castigated Kenyans for travelling to India and other countries to seek for special medical care when “we have the best hospitals with the best equipment available”. It was sad to see him diagnosed with cancer. He went to States for treatment. Lucky him, he could afford better services than India.

In a country where 51% of the population is made up of women, why is there a discrepancy in regards to gender enrollment to our education systems?  It doesn’t matter what schooling stage you look at, there are more boys enrolled in school than girls. Is all we care about free laptops regardless of who is actually in school?

Road accidents are just what hurts me the most. They are no longer accidents. Accidents by definition are “unfortunate incidents that happen unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury” What is happening on our roads is not unexpected – when you drive on the road while drunk, results are not unexpected; the accidents are not unintentional – the policemen that accept bribes and allow drunk drivers, overloaded vehicles and careless drivers back on the road are very intentional in their dealings and the only thing that applies is that there is a lot of damage, injury and death. Did you know this?

Nairobi is now the most expensive city in Africa. With over 1 million residents, the Kibera slum is  part of the same Nairobi that is the most expensive city in Africa.  The residents in Kibera struggle to have more than one meal a day, with most of them living in temporary shelters (cardboard boxes, polythene bags) and having to walk kilometers per day to look for casual jobs that will guarantee their next meal. Most of these casual labourors are paid less than Kshs. 200 per day and they are not guaranteed of a job everyday. In this same Nairobi, we have people going on record saying that they have purchased hair weaves for Kshs. 500,000 and that they can never eat in restaurants that charge less than Kshs. 1,000 for a meal. Is it a wonder that the crime rates are soaring? The divide between the rich and the poor is growing wider and wider.

The banking sector is just a mess. I have heard of so many examples of where banks decide what to do with your money without your consent. And there is nothing you can do about it. Other than keep on visiting the bank to make your complaint. I have had to make a monthly visit (and when away send a monthly e-mail) to tell my bank to reverse the deduction they are still taking for a bank loan that I completed paying last year in August.  I hear there are millions sitting in reserves from people who have passed away but whose families are not aware of the money that was saved in certain banks – and you’d think that the banks would contact the next of kin, right? Wrong.

Dear whoever it is that is running the country, this note is to ask a simple question. What can I, Njenva, do to change the trends and make sure that my country doesn’t become a failed state? Kenya is currently number 17 in the Failed State Index ranking and I am in shock that countries such as Eritrea, North Korea and Egypt scored better than we did.  What can I do to change this? I thought the Members of Parliament would help. But they are too busy increasing their perks and salaries to ensure that they can provide for the multi wives they have legalised. Can’t talk to the Kenyan next to me; they have been mugged, raped, robbed and still have to use flying toilets, FSI ranking is currently not a priority for them, they are still trying to scrap together their dignity and self worth. It would have been nice maybe to have the army restore sanity on the streets and on the roads but we all know that we can’t really trust them especially after the Westgate debacle. A Bible Study leader asked this question on Sunday, “How much are we spending to conserve the rhino’s horn and how much are we even thinking of using to protect our people?”

Since you are the leader, you might have a better insight to what I can do because truth be told, I am at my wits end.

Yours,

Sijivunii kuwa Mkenya.

 

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30 responses »

  1. And I’m so sorry for your househelp. I remember you posting about her having a baby. That’s just so sad and frustrating.

  2. I am weeks away from completing my degree. Yes. Im happy. Again, not so much. We had a recruitment drive just around 2 weeks ago. The attendees included last year’s finalists. I was honestly saddened by that fact. Seeing a graduate go without a job for a whole year. My point is, a degree in Kenya is as useless as a form 4 leaving certificate. So no joy here. Just dismay. If and when I get a chance to leave this country in search for ‘greener pastures’ best believe I will not look back. I would rather hustle in a place where there is hope.

  3. Nairobi is not the most expensive City in Africa. Where did this facts come from. 1million residents in Kibera is also another error, but overall you make some good points, however you forget that this problems already existed, before he came in. The sad thing is there is no plan each time we elect new officials. President included. Kenyan’s need to look in the mirror.

    • Thanks M for your comments. I got the facts on Nairobi being the most expensive city in Africa from the Economist Intelligence Unit survey whose results were made public sometime last month. Check out the link on that paragraph for more information. On Kibera, it depends on whether we are counting people before they go to Industrial Area to look for jobs or whether we are counting them in their temporary shelters when it is raining and they have no where else to go…….. Okay, that is not a good joke. I took the highest number I found from my research on the estimated number of people who live there.
      Truth be told and if you are honest with yourself, I haven’t blamed the president for anything that has gone wrong. I am asking him as our leader to give direction and advise on the steps we need to take to avert the looming crisis.

  4. All the questions you’ve raised are valid however there are a few important things missing. What solutions do you propose to these problems? As an citizen of this great nation, what have you done for your country?

    I believe real change begins with the citizens then moves up the leadership hierachy not top down!

    • I agree with you Mark. What have I done?
      1. I pray for my country every day
      2. I obey traffic rules
      3. I obey the 10 commandments in regards to my country
      Although I feel that this may not be enough. I need to know from the leadership, what can I do to improve my country. It becomes a very smooth process if there is clear leadership on what this country stands for – citizens get emboldened to act.

      • We are the mos religious nation on the planet, Ok maybe second only to Nigeria and they are beating us to this in numbers, praying is obviously not helping much.

  5. Nation go to dogs when law abiding citizens watch the villians break the laws without lifting a finger.

    I must commend you for writing this great piece now go a step further and inspire the citizens to be alot more patriotic, to take an active role in the nyumba kumi intiative, expose those who break traffic rules, blow the whistle on corruption dealings, demostrate on the streets when the executive increase their salaries, enlighten the poor on their rights and reponsibilities, vie for a leadership position & create jobs for the unemployed youth by saving and investing in entreprise and not waste all their income on trivial stuff!

    Let you and I start a revolution to correct the predicament our country is currently undergoing without waiting upon the goverment…

    • Thanks, that answers part of the ‘What needs to be done”. How can it be done. So I am in a matatu and another one overlaps all the way from Kitengela to Nairobi. How do I report this? What action will be taken because of my report? There were some demonstrations some time back – burning coffins, the pigs demonstration, just to name two that come to mind. What results did these yield?

  6. Next time you in a matatu whose driver is overspeeding or drunk castigate him/her, incite the other passangers & walk out in protest!

    The demostrations were carried out because a few people choose to risk their lives for what they believed in. They may not have achieved what much in terms of reducing the MPs allowances but that act alone inspired many other activists to join the war. Now citizens are keen on how taxpayers money is used in the counties

  7. A good article that depicts the sorry state Kenya is in right now. But when all is said and done, I believe it boils down to one question; What is my contribution to Kenya? What if we stopped looking for jobs and started creating jobs to grow our economy. The government has a task of providing enabling environment for businesses to thrive and create jobs.

  8. As someone put it on Jeff Koinange Live KTN tonight / last night, its upon you and I to take control, let’s not become a “sirikal tafadhali nisaidie” people.

    I do love your article, well written, properly referenced, nice links, good grammar, perfect punctuation, perfect flow, but honesty as you name it its a rant. So allow me to also rant.

    You want to complain about the government but aren’t you and I the ones who put them in those positions?

    If that driver is over speeding, you as a passenger have every right to tell (not request him but tell him) to slowdown.

    If that public transport vehicle is full, its upon you and I not to get it. You want to complain that it’s unsafe for your sister to walk from the bus stage to the house at six, what have you done about it? Are you waiting for some unfortunate event to occur to take action? We (you, me, the person who shared this and generally everyone who reads it) are all to blame for the dwindling of our beloved country.

    I remember one incident where someone went to a rally at uhuru park in a bid to disrupt the events, I was shocked that the people he came with(his posse) never rose to the occasion to stand up and demand change. We all want to point fingers and blame “sirikal” for our woes, but believe it or not the sirikal you need to blame is you and I.

    So lets stop with the well written letters, let’s start small, pick up that piece of paper and put it in the bin, use the footbridges, don’t drink and drive, don’t get into an already full vehicle and yet you will still pay full fare!

    Suppose this letter like the millions other written don’t get to who runs the country does that mean we shall forever be doomed? Countries like Rwanda made it, what’s so different from Kenya.

    • Thank you Crawley for reading the post and for your comments.

      The Law of the Lid from John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You applies here. An organization, in this case the country, can only move forward as high as the leader’s effectiveness. Leaders provide direction and give a tempo of operation to the people that they lead. That is why we cannot have dodgy leaders and expect to achieve anything other than dodgy. I am not asking for a handout. Neither am I requesting “sirkal” to give me anything.

      I need our government to have a “high lid” when it comes to protecting people in the streets and on the roads as well as ensuring accountability for things that aren’t quite right. Look at Professor Mugenda of KU, the late Transport Minister Michuki and Manu Chandaria – the levels which they have taken (or took, for Michuki) their respective organisations is amazing. Did they give anyone anything? Not that I am aware of. They provided direction, didn’t condone mediocrity and they inspired followers to achieve great stuff.

      So, which leaders responsible for our country and whose actions affect your daily life – taxes, cost of living, safety, security or transport – inspire you today? Whose example are you looking to follow and who is providing direction?

      It feels a bit patronizing for you to assume that the actions you mention aren’t already second nature to me as an individual. I have carried trash in my purse because I couldn’t find a bin; I have been known to clean up / tidy up public toilets; I have gone to court because I refused to bribe a policeman; I failed an exam by ONE point last week and even though others were busy using Mwakenyas I didn’t succumb to the pressure; I have requested a cab to stop and paid full fare because I thought they were a danger to other road users.

      And still Kenya is still going through all these issues. Clearly it must be something outside what I alone can do.

    • Great response. I personally think Kenyans are becoming a complaining society who think the government can resolve all their problems. The fact is, it cant, and the writer should just deal with it!

  9. Hi to all,
    Mark you are right particularly regarding your intention to start a revolution without waiting upon the gov – Njenva you also have a good point fighting with the gov might not always be of much good effect though as Mark pointed to below it still may change things by time. Anyway I am sure the most important and immediate change has to come from the ground. Everyone has to find his own best solution. Generally I believe it to be better to move away from big towns and invest in organic farming nearby or any related craft

  10. Njenva, while i agree with you on a number of issues you raise, i also note that every Kenyan has an individual as well as collective responsibility towards making this country better. Many thanks

  11. To all the critics asking the writer ‘what have you done for Kenya?’ Well he or she has got onto Social Media which is arguably today’s most powerful information dissemination tool. Many people might know that Kenya has one of the greatest rich-poor divides in the world and again, many don’t. Secondly he or she pays taxes and amongst the highest rates in the world so it’s perfectly okay to expect basic services from the government in return.

    • I totally agree, Njenva is playing her role by starting this conversation, which in all honesty, most of us wouldn’t even dare to. In my opinion these conversations are exactly what we need. Thanks Njenva!

  12. Of course we all have a role to play and each person must do what he / she can – and it would make a big difference if more people took actions rather than just complain … BUT – the individuals in the Government have a special role – they are selected and paid by us to be responsible – so it is a real betrayal when they take advantage. If it was any kind of normal job, where performance counts, this Government would have been fired a long time ago.

  13. Be the solution you want to see. Kenya is MY country, I have no other place to call home. No matter the adversaries bombarding this country, I still bless it and pray that God will endow our leaders with Wisdom. Najuvunia kuwa Mkenya!

  14. Thanks Njeva for this piece. It is drawing interesting comments….
    I think Kenya is changing in a number of exciting ways. One of which is questions regarding Nairobi’s security, population etc. should be forwarded to Nairobi’s governor. The system of devolution we have adopted means that one’s governor affects one’s day-to-day life far more than the Presidency. We should expect more of him, if he cannot deliver, we simply vote him out.
    As a resident of Nairobi, I have a social contract with my county government. I am obliged to obey the national and county laws and pay my taxes on time. I should also do what I can within reason to better my county. In return I have a right to enjoy life in a reasonably clean, safe and inexpensive county. If I do my part but my governor doesn’t do his, then I have a right to complain loudly, as well as take other lawful measures that would compel my governor to keep his end of the social contract. If he fails then I vote for another candidate. My high expectations should push my governor to ether raise his game or let someone better take over.
    I can also ‘vote’ with my feet, by relocating to a county that is better organized and offers what I expect, depriving Nairobi county of my valuable skills and tax revenue. That will pile additional pressure on Nairobi county’s leadership. Just imagine if 50% of companies in the Industrial Area re-located to Machacos county and you will get my point.

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