How Kenya Lost Its Way

“Corruption in Kenya, just like racism in America, it isn’t an anomaly, but an inbuilt founding ideal of the country.”

By Darius Okolla

Ever wondered why corruption is such a core and almost undefeatable aspect of the Kenyan society?

This is how it works, world over. Every country has a personality; a sense of national self-conceptualization based on the core beliefs of the founders and the events surrounding its origins. It’s not a mistake that Rome drove politics and jurisprudence, Greece was famed for philosophy, America goes to war every 10-15yrs, and Britain obsesses about its Victorian morality and social ideals. Every nation has its founding ideals and flaws that flow through the generations.

The downside to this reality is that negative values also sneak in. For example, racism is not just a nasty reality in the US, it was a pervasive ideal among the white pioneer elites; it’s a core founding value of the American largely white state.

Now, Kenya was established as a colonial outpost; an industrial plantation to provide leisure for aristocratic adventurers and raw materials for their British factories. Nairobi was built as a dormitory town for the workers in white highlands, not as a modernized city. That’s why the provision of public social services i.e. water, security, housing is still so spotty, messy and accidental. So extractive logic, aristocratic excess, and corruption were dominant values at the founding of the Kenyan state.

Then, in 1963, we simply exchanged the white aristocracy for a black aristocracy with the same colonial logic. The extractive, criminal looting logic of Kenyatta I reflects this reality and mind-set. Nearly every aspect of Project Kenya from conservation, religion, academia, agriculture, corporate sectors etc. are either accidental or colonial in their logic. The policing logic of our security systems is still based on it; our policing units were built to protect the (white, and now black) aristocracy from the masses, not to maintain security.

In essence Kenya has never been nor has it ever transitioned into a democracy. It’s still an aristocracy where a bunch of elites have this perpetual political incest and continue to produce after their own kind through political patronage and family dynasties. [Herman] Manyora, once mentioned how just about every billionaire in Kenya is a criminal, has criminal ties or, has (in)directly benefited from the criminal Inc. of their fellow aristocrats. It’s virtually impossible to be a billionaire in Kenya without a bit of political deal-making.

This tragic fact is what makes it hard to weed out corruption.

A more critical downside to this criminal aristocracy is that it creates a zombie elite. Raw amassing of wealth through looting with no sense of national foresight or cultural sophistication produces a primitive elite. In most cultures the elite drive the future through funding research & passions e.g. libraries, conservation, musical, astronomy, labs etc. For a primitive elite built through stealing, their low self-esteem leaves them perpetually gatekeeping and trying to keep everyone else down. These are a bunch of fellows whose wealth is largely derived from killing parastatals and lacking in any sense of nationhood. They have no strategic conception of the future, can’t entertain ideas, and are spectacularly unimaginative.

Stories from all over Kenya, in politics, academia, agriculture, religious, and corporate sector stories of exploitation, patronage, factionalism and outright suppression of talent paints the picture of elites who can’t stand dealing with those smarter/more inventive than them. Lacking in both talent and confidence they are hostile towards any brilliant, ideational trailblazers and scared of everything they can’t control, steal from, or understand.

That’s why they horde drone licenses, frustrate inventors, shoot brilliant minds like [Chris] Msando, loath revolutionaries like @bonifacemwangi, demand veneration and can barely invent anything that lasts. Nations are built when elites can think, prioritize and budget decades ahead of time. Until we can have an elite that’s built through inventing mass market goods or services like @BillGates@elonmusk@jack@bezos etc. corruption will remain the primary means of making it to elite status in Kenya.

[Former CJ] @WMutunga once talked of generational accountability and the colossal failure of his generation to think and plan ahead, by laying the ground work for future generations. Sadly, the conversation would be muffled by the discomfort and that generation’s aversion to introspection.

For this primitive elite, instead of funding cutting-edge tech and generation of new knowledge the best they can do is set up massive concrete feudal outposts like the malls, Kahawa, Konza, real estate jungles just like the white aristocracy they inherited the country from. These concrete jungles are their version of white highlands. If there’s something that defines this Kenyan aristocracy/elite, especially the old guard, it’s this lack of imagination.

The Kenyan aristocracy today is dehumanizing to the hoi polloi because the black aristocratism itself is a royally dehumanizing experience that parallels the dehumanizing adventurism of Happy Valley that the black aristocracy are trying to imitate. #CurriculumReformsKE, for example, is about dealing with the faulty institutional logic built on the idea of ‘marketable courses’ and managerialism both of which are plantation era mess that saw African education is only good to the extend that it gives blacks, as only useful for the market(plantation) and not human enough to be granted liberal education that grounds their struggle and identity in the ability to to question, deconstruct, argue, debate and generate new knowledge.

The famous shrink Frantz Fanon in the Wretched of the Earth talked of the oppressors having the same psychotic symptoms as the oppressed. That’s because fundamentally dehumanisation eats up both the oppressor and the oppressed. It’s the age-old reality that bullies are projecting cowards. The future of a possible revolution lies in our ability as Kenyans to defactionalize national problems, legitimize people’s anger and give proper definitions to the national problems. The ‘security starts with you’, ‘responsibility starts with you ‘ bullshit makes Kenyans interpret the debt, ecological, political and economic mess as signs of personal failings rather than signs of an incompetent regime.

Until we the masses draw these clear mental demarcations and proper definitions of Kenyan reality, we’ll continue to carry the weight of a fucked-up aristocracy as our own problems, which they aren’t.

So dealing with corruption means admitting that the founding ideals of this country included the creation of an elite through looting coffers and grabbing land. That corruption in Kenya, just like racism in America, it isn’t an anomaly, but an inbuilt founding ideal of the country.

And that this corruption has borne a primitive elite who keep inventing newer ways of driving economic exploitation and corruption. And this primitive elite exists under the perpetual illusion that their relief lies in (stealing) the next million or billion…

And that their primitive elitism has the attendant effect of making them insecure, paranoid, violent, and keeps them in a perpetual state of fighting real and imaginary turf wars especially against the youth, the brilliant and morally upright.

Darius Okolla tweets as @TweetingBandit

Image source [Link]