Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Betty Njoroge
There are some distinctions that Kenya keep receiving that sincerely leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. Being distinguished for being in the top 20 failed states in the world alongside countries that have seen years of conflict and annihilation like Afghanistan or Somalia is one of those distinctions. To be put in the same category as such states is not only disappointing, it’s a scary perspective on our Kenyan reality.
Do you mean to tell me that while some upper class fellows are having a social media war with a restaurant over croissants, the rest of our planet sees us as little better than Somalia? Kenyans seem to be in a haze. We cannot see what fundamentals we lack in governance that makes us a failed state. Some even denied the reality presented in the failed state index; claiming that the west/US is keen to disparage us because they don’t like our choice of president.
It’s certainly a Kenyan thing to live in denial, to accept as natural utter perversities. Take, for instance, the fact that there are only 2,300 government doctors for 40 million people in this country. If one doctor dies, that is a national disaster! Majority of Kenyans do not have health insurance and if you get diseases like Cancer, Kidney disease or Cardio-vascular disease you WILL die. There are not enough doctors, there are not enough resources and there is not enough money allocated to the healthcare sector. Repeatedly we are told that the sector is on its dying bed. I think it’s already dead and buried.
And yet, this is the same country where politicians will promise millions of jobs and hatch a scheme called Vision 2030. This is the same country that will have fancy new highways, and plans to build a new port in the LAPSSET program. One wonders how a nation can be anything other than a complete failure when the humanitarian factors of governance are so desperately ignored in favor of industry. Rather than increase expenditure on healthcare, this government has consistently reduced expenditure and budgetary allocations for healthcare over the last 5 years. These are the absurdities; that your government will not spend money on social amenities like hospitals but will build a superhighway.
It’s only in a failed state where government does not serve the people but serves industry and corporate interests; as though industry does not require workers, as if government does need us to be healthy in order to work to submit taxes. Because the government refuses to provide adequate health services, the private sector tries to bridge the gap. The fact is, if you don’t have money in Kenya, you will not receive the medical attention you need.
It is a refusal – a clear and adamant refusal – by our government, to provide basic healthcare and other amenities for its population. It is a refusal that half the electorate fully supports; having voted blindly for this government in the last election. It is a refusal that the other half of the electorate quietly and begrudgingly accepts. They have moved on.
This country is considered a failed state because Kenya does not meet the parameters of governance that indicate a functioning democratic government. The government does not seem to exist to serve or govern the people; rather this government exists to serve an elite few.
The majority of Kenyans don’t have the problem of facing so called “racism” when buying baked goods at a pricey restaurant. They are barely surviving in this country, living no better than the haggard Somali, hardened by years of war. It is just as easy to die in Mandera as it is in Mogadishu. That is a shattering and frightening reality that those stuffing their faces with cakes refuse to accept. Maybe it’s the illusion of their money that lets people spend hours arguing about croissants online. Perhaps, this silly looking dispute over pastries is the only thing that keeps these Kenyans from going crazy because of all the absurdities, injustices and utter misery they face daily.
It would help us all, to just accept that we are a failed state. To accept that our nightmarish existence is shocking to non-Kenyans to the extent that it does seem that we are living lives comparable to those in war torn nations. In fact, the biggest failure in Kenya is our own refusal to admit that we are in shambles, wretched, wearing rags, diseased and starving; we refuse to see our own horrors because we are too busy admiring highways and ports and demanding croissants at cafes. It’s a pity that there are only about 100 psychiatrists in Kenya, we surely need help for this mental illness.
Betty Waitherero Njoroge is a writer, a human rights activist and a producer for television. She writes commentary and opinion pieces on socio-political matters in Kenya and runs her own blog on www.bettywaitherero.blogspot.com
She is passionate about the color red, loves roast chicken and red wine, will spend most of her day buried in literature, articles or texts, and she is a mother. Betty hopes to join the University of Nairobi in 2013 and pursue masters in Anthropology, concentrating on Gender, Culture and Language. Her favorite quote is “Brevity is the soul of lingerie” by US author and humorist Dorothy Parker; her rather amusing take on Shakespeare’s famous quote by Hamlet – “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Betty is participating in Storymoja Hay Festivals conservations on “Imagine the World; WAZA DUNIA”.