BY JOHN GITHONGO
The current government complains it doesn’t have Sh17 billion to implement the pay rise that the Supreme Court has legitimated much in the same way that the election that brought the current regime into power was legitimised.
The teachers – in the 18th year of the fight to have promises made to them kept – are portrayed as fiscally unfeeling and unsympathetic to a Jubilee regime struggling to balance the books during increasingly difficult times.
It’s true that times are difficult and part of the reason for this is global economic developments that will undoubtedly continue to impact government budgeting adversely. But then it is also the case that Kenya has never had as profligate a regime as the current one.
It thus that when the government should roar about the need for ‘fiscal prudence’, it comes out like the squeak of a mouse whose mouth is full of cheese imported from China using dollars bought by floating a $2 billion bond in Ireland, which could have funded the salary increase to the teachers for 12 years.
Teachers are a special breed in Kenya. We love education. People sell land and cows to educate their children. But we don’t treat our teachers as if they matter that much. Thus the deep angst that striking teachers cause among Kenyans.
Supporters and sympathisers of the regime have started to strike a tone I find most fascinating. It hasn’t been tried before in Kenya as far as I know. It goes something like this: all these strikes for higher pay; all the demands by groups to have a say; all these demonstrations of needs are fuelled by the fact that we passed too liberal a constitution. Kenya simply wasn’t ready for so much freedom and now people, like children, are out of control. They want too much, don’t appreciate where it’s going to come from and shout too loudly and disrespectfully.
The cacophony is disconcerting and makes the country look bad. Older Jubilee supporters present this argument with a nuance that comes across as an apology for the President’s challenges, failings and foibles. As it were, ‘too much democracy’ as the apology for Kenyatta’s travails. All because there is the feeling and appearance of haplessness on the part of the current regime as it seems to move from crisis to crisis often caused by transitioning seamlessly from one blunder to the next.
Part of the problem here is institutional. We have among the most liberal constitutions in Africa being implemented by an elite whose history, traditions and ingrained modus operandi is inimical to the essential spirit of this new contract with the Kenyan people.
Under ‘normal circumstances’, old-timers opine, the head of the teachers union Walter Sossion would have been threatened, arrested or bought out by now. The thing is that key institutions needed to make the constitution work are not only nascent, they have also at times been the subject of sustained attack by elements of the regime determined to maintain the old order. This in part explains the Executive’s regular and shoddy disregard for court orders.
On the other hand, for example, the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, which is the government’s own human rights oversight body, would appear to be recovering from a period of political and bureaucratic isolation, and clearly deliberate budgetary constraints. This week it released its report into the regime’s handling of the so-called war against terror, The error of fighting terror with terror that impressively does not seem to pull any punches.
The Kenya National Audit Office is another constitutional agency that has been inspiring at its efforts to sustain accountability on the part of the spending of public funds; its independence and impartiality. There have been significant changes in the judiciary; the Public Account Committee has been riven by tumult – but all demonstrate flickers of trying to produce in line with our new constitutional dispensation.The key challenge is not too liberal a constitution but an elite trying to recreate Kenya circa 1974 for a young population making 21st century demands and whose trust and confidence in political leaders has taken a nosedive. We don’t need a new constitution but a new elite.
John Githongo is active in the anti-corruption field regionally and internationally. Email: email@example.com
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Source: www.the-star.co.ke/news/teachers-strike-and-trying-blame-constitution