Cabral Pinto: Kenya is ripe for fundamental reforms and mass action

Kenya is ripe for fundamental reforms; it is also is ripe for mass action. The consequences of not addressing the reforms means continuous instability.

And it looks as though without mass action there will be no reforms.

Kenya has reached a stage where state intervention is needed in the economy, the re-examination of the growth of social justice philanthropy and the creation of various civic spheres for the people to voice their grievances without the state trying to stop peaceful and non-violent civil disobedience.

Market fundamentalism has failed and the so-called state bailouts are about it revisiting its legacy of development, which the world witnessed after World War II and whose end it saw towards the completion of the presidency of Jimmy Carter.

UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan reinforced policies that strengthened market fundamental¬ism and the system of world economy we now call neo-liberalism.

The so-called collapse of socialism and communism that was symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall reinforced the vision that capitalism was the worst system of economy, although it had no alternative.

This is all behind us now, however. The world has to change or the spectre of revolution will be back to haunt it. And this, after all, may not be a bad thing for a peaceful, prosperous and non-exploitative world. And given what is happening in the world, Kenyans must be wondering what kind of MPs they have.

Why would a nation's elected leaders refuse to pay taxes? Progressive taxation must be an important fundamental reform in Kenya. It is through this that the rich will enable the state to boost its revenue for fundamental economic reforms.

Do our MPs understand and appreciate that it is in their interest that the reforms are car¬ried out?

The Constitution stipulates that judges' allowances be not taxed, and this provision needs to be amended. Judges are well paid and should pay taxes. They are rich Kenyans who should know that their economic comfort zones will exist only if fundamental reforms are carried out. Kenya has to abandon the culture of selfishness and greed and heed the biblical commandment that we love our neighbours as ourselves. The Kenyan rich spend a lot of time in churches, but it looks as though they have learnt nothing from the scriptures.

It is painful that as the MPs reject the taxation of their perks the price of maizemeal has risen from Sh45 to Sh120 a 2kg packet. Is this not an important aspect of the people's lives that should touch the heart of any person who claims to be a people's representative? What kind of people lead this country?

Where are the voices of women and men of integrity in Parliament that will hold high the flag of people's interest? Are we represented by people who think we should eat cakes if there is no bread? May be Shakespeare was right when he wrote that people whom the gods wish to destroy he first makes mad.

The good news in this sad tale is that lobby groups are planning public action to shame the MPs. It is time Kenyans went back to the streets and all other areas of mass action to protest at the high food prices and the leaders' selfishness and call for basic changes.

It is time for an alternative political leadership that will mobilise Kenyans for the changes. It is also time to make it clear to the people that the country should have new representatives if it is to survive. The current crop of leaders suffers from poverty of ideas, delusional grandeur and arrogance that would make Marie Antoinnette turn in her grave.

But it is important to consider what mass action will be successful. The people have to revisit the history of mass action, starting from the early colonial days to early this year. But for peaceful mass action to be successful the state must accept the fact that peaceful civil disobedience cannot be stopped.

The state may invade a peaceful protest at its own peril. And we learn from history that although a protest may be peaceful, there will always be casualties.

Indeed, three great prophets of non-violent civil disobedience — Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther — were murdered. Peaceful civil disobedience has no political value unless an alternative political leadership is waiting on the wings to take over.

The National Convention Executive Council's mass action of 1997 failed because the alternative political leadership was part of the political class. NCEC got involved in furious intra-elite struggles that ended when the same elite realised that it was in its interest to conduct free, fair and peaceful elections.

It is important, therefore, for the lobby groups to take these lessons seriously and consider who their political leaders are going to be. The current ones have so disgraced themselves that they cannot survive any serious non-violent mass action.

Let the lobbies pour into the streets over issues Kenyans care about most — food prices, housing, quality education, health, land, corruption, peace, women's rights, the plight of the youth, drugs, unsafe water, rotten infrastructure and all.

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