Lucy Oriang': We have a government, but who’s the sheriff around here?

WITH THE SWEARING-IN ceremony out of the way, it is time for soul-searching. Never again should we find ourselves in the murderous situation that prevailed in the first few months of this year.

Never again should we find ourselves stuck with elected leaders who incite us to turn on each other, killing people who are as much victims of leadership gone haywire as we are.

But to move forward meaningfully, we must set the record straight. The first thing we need to make clear is who the sheriff is around here.

Thursday, we gave 92 or so MPs the authority to run our government – and hopefully, put a lid on one of the most shameful chapters in Kenya’s history.

But if the past is any reference, many of them went home with the notion that they are the bosses and we their servants. If we do nothing else in the next five years, we must get them understand that they perch on their comfortable seats at our discretion; that they enjoy status and an extraordinary lifestyle at our leisure, and that they can feast extravagantly, but only after we have had our fill.

The new leadership has a tough challenge. It has to work against the temptations of absolute power, and it can only achieve this by bucking the trend since independence.

We started out with a generation of nationalists supposedly committed to giving us back our freedom and country, and lost track of reality somewhere between 1964 and today.

The only way we are going to have a new dispensation in Kenya is to first establish where the real power lies. It is time for the true owners of Kenya to make their presence felt and take back the controls. Believe it or not, that is you and the next person.

This is easier said than done. It will take a long time to undo the damage done to this country, some of it dating as far back as the pre-independence days.

But those of us still standing today do not have the luxury of passing the blame. If the roles have been reversed, it is because we have allowed it – and even cheered as those responsible stamped all over us.

For much too long, we have allowed those we elect and those who con their way in to dictate their own terms and conditions of service. We have ceded power to them and let them get away with looting and murder – literally in recent times.

This is a gross distortion of reality. Somewhere along the line, we became convinced that the men and women holding up the Bible and other religious symbols every five years are our bosses. We have let them manipulate us and use us shamelessly.

AFTER ALL WE WENT THROUGH in the first months of the year, we go into this term with the blinkered view of leadership they have rammed down our throats.

Yes, we have a new Cabinet. But the background noise remains the same: Our tribe has only one minister. The solution might be to have a standing Cabinet of 42.

Our district has been neglected, even though we gave so many votes to this-and-that party. Now that is a tricky one, since we throw a district at the grumbling masses any time our leadership is under threat. One day we might have a district for each clan.

We go through the list of Cabinet ministers and Assistant ministers with a fine-toothed comb, and tally up the numbers. The more there are from our community and the more powerful the portfolios they hold, the more glory we can bask in even though it does not add a single sufuria to our kitchens.

There has been not a single elected leader who has fallen prey to the ethnic violence that has flared up with virtually every election. And there is none who has made a home in a camp for internally displaced persons.

We have the right to ask whether we have a team in power that will lead us to Canaan. We do so every five years. The answer has been just as predictable, and they even appeal for divine intervention when it will score points. Church attendance was a major campaign plank in December, but the tempo has slowed down dramatically in recent days.

There is one major difference in the leadership game this time, and the women and men sworn in Thursday would do well to pay heed.

They are inheriting a Kenya that is significantly different from the one of even just a year ago. It is a rather ironical turn of events, when you come to think of it.

Just a few months ago, the average Jane and John discovered the Terrible Truth – that we have the power to run out of town anyone who does not fit the bill.

Seventy per cent of members of the last Parliament are out in the cold. It could be that the best is yet to come.

It is to be hoped that by the time this five-year cycle is over, Jane and John will have prevailed upon their leaders to learn how to count – and to do so using conventional methods. The ballot lies only if it is tampered with. Only those who understand this and sign on the dotted line should be present at the next swearing-in ceremony.

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