Today let us assume Kenya is an individual who is eager to make her 2022 New Year resolutions. What would these be? The genesis of the New Year resolutions culture is associated with Romans, who annually made promises to Janus, their 'god of all beginnings', hence the name January.
Early Christianity too adopted this tradition during New Year's watchnight services. Today, we largely rely on self-will to enforce our resolutions.
What key challenges did Kenya face in 2021? These included: high-octane politics; the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftershocks; a depressed economy, loss of employment, business and livelihoods; high cost of living; lack of opportunities for young persons; drought, floods, famines occasioned by climate change; runaway debt, impunity and endemic corruption.
In 2021, we witnessed significant infrastructural milestones; people's resilience in the face of coronavirus and climate change; uncompromising judicial independence; notable nation-wide development through the counties; and so on.
I now attempt to suggest some New Year resolutions that would make Kenya, in my view, a better union and Republic.
As a country, in 2022 we must pursue genuine national unity in diversity. This is unity across race, colour, gender, ethnic, clan or social origin, language, class, belief, political party affiliation, economic orientation, age, and so on. A 58-year-old country should neither have marginalised communities nor a dynasty-hustler divide. Kenyans must shun political mobilisation on tribe or other sectarian parameters.
It is imperative we become an awakened citizenry. Kenyans were once referred to as 'a nation of sheep’, and more recently as 'Wanjiga Nyinyi' (You Fools) by King Kaka. Citizens must arise to fearlessly question political or any other authority. We must exercise the sovereign power granted under Article 1 of the 2010 Constitution.
In 2022, leaders and political parties must clearly articulate their manifestos. These must contain promises that can be fulfilled. It is mind-boggling how leaders churn out development promises, miserably fail to honour them, only to regurgitate the same pledges later and get voter buy-in. Citizens must henceforth vote for those who deliver and discard political misfits.
We must prepare our children and youth for the future. On the new competence-based curriculum (CBC), we should continue to work on the instructors' re-training and capacity to deliver CBC; appropriate classroom equipment; and critically empowering most parents to engage their children within the CBC system.
Additionally, let us continue to protect children – especially the girl child– from abuse within the family, educational institutions and all other environments.
The youth must be socialised to eventually seize leadership. Currently, the majority of youth are abandoned to illicit drinks, drugs and their own devices. They must be supported to recover their dignity, discipline and promise. Youth deserve a sound education, skills enhancement, employment, business and capital opportunities.
After the advent of the cell-phone, boda boda taxis and Mpesa, the next grand opportunity for mass youth engagement will be provision of affordable credit for the youth and other disadvantaged populations. This would rescue them from excessive 'fuliza' and 'shylocks'.
Further, we need to protect our women, persons living with disability, senior citizens and all vulnerable groups. In any country where women are not an integral part of the leadership, workforce or business, overall growth is sabotaged. To exclude persons with disability from the mainstream of the Kenyan society is to negate the contribution of 15 per cent of the population.
We also need a volunteer system for tapping the wisdom and experience of retirees through mentorship, coaching and advisory services especially to the youth.
Many sectors in our country are run by cartels. Undoubtedly, corruption and bad leadership rank as our number one public enemy. And it is not just tenderprenuers and other grand thieves, but also corrupt citizens in our cooperatives, community groups and so on. For citizens to accuse political leaders, they must be ‘clean’. In the forthcoming elections, citizens must reject hand-outs. A handout is 'tiny' corruption that opens up the mega corruption highway. We must, as a people, make a firm stand against sleaze.
Kenyans are unable to easily hold public conversations. We have not embraced Kiswahili sufficiently to guarantee its widespread use as Tanzania did. Most of Kenya's official communication is in the English language. This means that public officials cannot effectively communicate with the majority. Let us promote Kiswahili and our local languages as the primary means of communication.
Invest in innovation
We must invest in innovation. The Ministry of Industrialisation and other allied institutions have not promoted the development of products that our inventors and innovators have created so that they can enter the global market. Young people are endeavouring to innovate in the ICT field. A large number of Kenyans have latent talents that lack a mechanism for prompt discovery and promotion. A country's transformation is anchored on innovation.
Public projects are accomplished without much attention to maintenance and sustainability. As such, there is no people-centred project ownership. Let us create a robust public participation, maintenance, and sustainability framework and culture.
We must raise durable public and private institutions and servant leaders. Citizens must be ready to recall rogue leaders.
Let us commit ourselves to a clean environment in this era of climate change crisis. A majority of us callously throw garbage outside vehicle windows or even from our compounds. We must avoid deforestation and other acts that lead to environmental degradation.
The country must immediately stop incurring more public debt. Kenya’s national debt stands at Sh7.91 trillion or 63.9 per cent of the GDP. Lenders are beginning to deny us debt repayment holidays. And yet we are seeking more debt ostensibly to finance the 2022 polls. Good practice should bar an outgoing government from initiating fresh public debt in its sunset season.
Let us steadfastly nurture devolution. Despite its teething problems, it continues to be the fulcrum of our national development.
The 2010 Constitution acknowledges the supremacy of God in our country. We must in the New Year continue to invite God to divinely steer our country. We cannot go far on our own.
The final New Year resolution should be about guaranteeing that the August 2022 General Election is free, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful.
Elections are not about the competitors, but about the peoples' future. They must not be allowed to foment chaos and stagnate or reverse the country's economy and development.
Hence the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission must be absolutely independent. The state must refrain from capturing the election and succession process.
May we now hold ourselves accountable to implementing these and other national New Year resolutions. I wish you a prosperous New Year in which you accomplish your personal resolutions. By Kivutha Kibwana, Sunday Nation
The writer is the Governor of Makueni County