Kenya is at a crossroads at the present. Despite having passed a new constitution last year, many Kenyans and politicians are still stuck in the old way of thinking about the role of the citizens, the government, the politicians and other social and political institutions in the development of the country. As a result, the corruption, impunity, tribal alliances, arrogance, selfishness and gender chauvinism that characterized Kenyans and their institutions persist despite the best efforts of many of its citizens and the new constitutional dispensation.
But the Hague confirmation trials, worrying economic trends and deficits, upcoming general elections and campaigns, implementation of the new constitution and its attendant appointments and acts of parliament, insistence of the police to treat the big fish as though they are above the law and tough economic conditions in much of east Africa and the world have led to a lot of political brinkmanship, tensions, lies and generally a feeling that a big chunk of the political class is insistent on not implementing the new constitution, or ignoring it in both letter and spirit so as to conserve their ill gotten wealth and connections in economic and political sectors.
Hence Kenyans must be extra vigilant to ensure the new constitution is implemented, as well as ensure that the economic troubles facing the citizenry are addressed. We must be prepared to play a bigger role in government affairs and politics if we are to ensure that the monumental challenges facing us are to be successfully navigated. But how do we do this? Below are some steps I think we should take to enable us to be better equipped to bring about change in Kenya.
Think as citizens
Time has come for Kenyans to start thinking more as citizens as an identity, before other defining characters such as professions, tribe and gender. We all are part of the land, and we have to think, talk and act as shareholders of this country. We have delegated power to the government to perform legislative, executive and judicial functions to ensure that our future as a country is guaranteed, and we can live in a peaceful and prosperous country. We are the ones with the power, ability and responsibility to bring about change to this country no one else!
Read and understand the new constitution
The new constitution, especially chapter 1 which talks of the sovereignty of the people and supremacy of the new constitution, and chapter 4, that is the bill of rights, is a must read if we Kenyans are to understand what its spirit and letter says, instead of always relying on the politicians to interpret it for us how they want it. Not only must we read it, but we must understand its limitations and strenghts. This will then enable us to fight for its implementation, weed out those leaders and Kenyans who are against it, and change our mindsets from old Kenya to new Kenya.
Kenyans must be prepared to actively participate in politics if we are to take the space that the tribalists, thieves and looters are incapable of occupying, those of the sensible, selfless and patriotic citizens. Signing online petitions, emailing, posting and writing to our politicians, joining politically inclined groups and people, taking part in marches for peace and democracy in Kenya-all these actions are necessary in this exciting but risky times if we are to ensure that a new Kenya is born as a result of the new constitution and changing of Kenyans mindsets.
This means that Kenyans should also engage more in seeking solutions for the problems we face, talking with each other across tribes, religions and races to find common ground as well as promote national unity, and educate each other on what we need to revolutionalise our country in the way that the constitution cannot.
Avoiding beliefs contrary to the roles of a citizen, and values of the constitution
We have to disengage ourselves emotionally from our political, social and religious leaders when looking to create a new Kenya. This will enable us to critically analyze the leaders, their policies (or lack of), their beliefs, track record and ideological standing on the role of government, ethnicity and citizen in making a great nation for our children to live in.
We also need to stop believing in the lies and wishful; thinking that leads us to abdicating our roles as citizens in creating a new Kenya, such as: “what Kenya needs is a benevolent dictator”, “we need someone new to vie for president.” As much as these sentiments may have persuasive points, the most important and integral person in the fight for a new Kenya is YOU, and any ideology that leads to the aloofness of YOU from the civic duties of building a new Kenya can only have negative consequences.
Any misplaced affirmative action based on gender or race that will lead to contradiction of article 27 (5) that says no person should discriminate directly or indirectly on any grounds including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic/social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth…must be shunned as we look for the next president of this nation.
Conversing and teaching each other
We must share ideas, educate each other on the new constitution, our hopes and dreams for the future we want to grow old in, our perceptions on the past, and the divisions that have led to the making of Kenya. The social media has a big role to play in this. We must use facebook and twitter for more than leisurely activities since they are powerful mediums that can help us talk with each other and share information across borders and large distances.
We must also educate our parents even as we reject any tribal or racial chauvinism that may be residual on our elder’s feelings, beliefs and ideas. We are from different times, and since firm rejection of ant discrimination of any grounds speculated in article 27(5) of the new constitution, e must take what is good and reject the bad ideas from our elders.
Every generation has a mission, and our mission is to ensure that a new Kenya whose values and foundations are based on the constitution that was promulgated on August 2010. We must not cower from it.