By Mohamed Haji
About a month ago, the President of USA paid a visit to two African countries giving beautiful and passionate speeches on how some of the social and economic ills afflicting the Africa continent could be addressed.
From corruption to cancer and from democracy to inequality, the Africa continent and indeed the world is awash with these vices. Poverty is common across the world, corruption afflicts us all in different degrees, inequality stokes the fires raging in the world and terrorism in its various forms exploits vices and vulnerabilities living amongst us.
The president visited Kenya which is emerging from the 2007-2008 civil war ignited by a disputed general election results, afflicted by high level corruption where 60% of the country’s resources are lost to theft and 46% of its population live below the poverty line. President Obama also visited Ethiopia which has just conducted a general election where no opposition was elected to parliament.
In Ethiopia it is almost always the governing minority party that wins elections and election officials are appointed or disappointed by the government of the day. Journalists are subject to considerable restrictions and opposition members are arrested in mass.
I have, for many years, been listening to beautiful passionate speeches from leaders all over the world. Black, brown and white leaders almost always give speeches full of passion, appealing for unity, eradication of poverty and equal opportunity for all humanity. Sadly the world is getting worse not better. We have more people living in poverty, more corruption mostly officially sanctioned and organized crime growing.
There is a chasm between the speeches we hear from our leaders and the reality on the ground. Given these, methinks our leaders either do not believe in what they say or are powerless to implement what they say in their speeches.
Policy implementation may differ in scale in different countries but ‘implementation failure’ afflicts all countries of the world.
From USA, the only superpower in the world, where 45 million of its own citizens cannot afford basic health care to Kenya where 46% of its people live below the poverty line, the challenges remain similar. Why is the gulf between what our leaders say in public and what they do in private increasing?
Our Local Rulers
In our local counties, our leaders are broadly in 1 of 2 groups; the looters and the ‘waiters’. There is a benevolent looter. He is likely to share his loot with his friends and relatives. We give such people in our community a C and they may or may not be reelected. And then there is the malevolent looter who accumulates a war-chest for the next round of elections. He lacks moral compass and bribes his (it’s always a he) way back to power.
The community gatekeepers call such blind looter lawa xinninyood (a superman) and will not mince words eating his stolen wealth and bringing him back to power. We have the ‘waiters’ whose only difference is they currently do not have their fingers in the till. They are waiting in the wings to initiate a new round of looting when they replace the previous group.
They are only out of power because the clan gatekeepers are not sure how much of their future loot they will share with them. The clan gatekeepers use the waiters mostly as baits to siphon more of the malevolent looter’s wealth. The gatekeepers and the waiters play hide and seek. It is mostly the devil you know than the angel you don’t know mantra that prevails.
Completely missing from this are the ruled. Except the few spivs who sale our votes to the highest bidder, we are spectators of our own destinies. No serious consultation takes place between the ruled and the rulers.
This may be a good explanation of ‘representative democracy’ where the clan gatekeepers represent the ruled! Even a small but important exercise like budget consultative meetings hardly takes place. When it is said to have taken place, it’s shrouded in secrecy, it’s often rushed and information is inadequate.
And then we have the whiners. Because we think we are powerless we whine more than we act. Almost everyone I know either rightly complains about what afflicts us or has given up hope of change and discourages people from even complaining. Apathy to action! Why and how did we come to take all these on the chin? The best we do is complaining but then again comply.
The more we complain the more things remain the same. May be our leaders, not known for leading from the front, are taking after us. May be they know our whining will be inconsequential and not followed by actions. That leaves the ball in our court. How high we kick it and to where we kick the ball will determine what future our children will lead, which group our youth will join and what lives our elders will live.
Admittedly I am a whiner I hope to graduate to an actor.
Haji is a social commentator and Nepjournal columnist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @MWHaji