It is when you consider the life of an ordinary Kenyan, then turn to the pages of the newspapers, that the fact that this is a nation of two faces hits you hard. Day after day in the morning, be it on Mbagathi or Ngong road, the snaking line of jobless workers trouping towards the center of the city never seems to end.
In the morning, it is largely towards town and later in the day all the way to the evening, the traffic will be towards the opposite direction. These are men and women with distant looks on their faces. It is seldom that you see a light skinned individual.
Even where an individual may be light, the dull clothes that cover their backs seem to compromise the shed of light. There is a sense of determination and urgency in their steps. For a majority of them life is a struggle. It is a daily battle to afford bus fare, to put food on the table — where there is one, and simply to make ends meet.
While others dream and speak of hope, there is very little of it for this crowd that treks every morning to industrial area yearning for a day’s job. Many of the men in this group may have their wives several kilometres away tucked in some small piece of land in yet another continuous struggle for hope. In their rural villages their struggle is no different.
They labour to eke a living from the small barren strips of land that make their home, to gather enough to feed their children and to cover them from the cold of the night. This is the reality of a majority of the Kenyan population. But there is another reality away from the dark corners of the slums. It is the reality one now meets on Kenyan newspapers day after day.
It baffles when the headlines splash the story that some dead individual has been paid millions of shillings to deliver one project or another. The constant drip of stories of money flowing out of the nation’s coffers to serve a corrupt end is never ceasing.
For those glued to the pages of the newspapers, it is always as if there is a never emptying pot of money from which one can simply scoop with abandon. The challenge we have as a nation is on how to reconcile these two Kenyan realities.
It appears as if the constant drip of the stories of corruption are creating in the nation a certain level of acceptance of corruption as a way of life. While in the past people would seek to hide as they exchanged the proceeds of corruption, it seems that increasingly it is becoming part of our culture, so much so, that some people have no problem offering the corruption fee in public. But this is not something that our nation can sustain.
It is difficult to constantly look at the stories of free flowing money and yet not be in a position to access some of it. Surely, from this high table, some crumbs should fall down to the rest of the population. Reconciling these two nations is an urgent task for our country’s leadership.
Too often the blame goes to the media for highlighting negative stories and stories on corruption. But it is an empty lament — it is part of the duty of the media to muckrake. On the other hand, it is the duty of the state to ensure that there is no dirt in the first place.
No muckraking will unearth dirt if there is none to start with. But where there is dirt it is futile to fault those who may find it. Constitutional proposals are in place with the establishment of relevant institutions to bring to a screeching halt the cases of corruption in our country.
We must refuse the myth that corruption is now so ingrained in our national DNA that nothing can be done about it. If the constitutional provisions don’t work, then the sober ones in our midst should go back to the drawing board to consider new options. This nation is too important and too precious for the citizens to throw up their arms in despair.
A look at the trekking crowd should be sufficient to remind us that the situation is unsustainable as it. The current circumstances have the ingredients that sow the seeds of a nation going to the dogs. There must be a way to bring hope back to the trekking millions. Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language and Performing Arts at Daystar University.