For instance, the president won the elections in 2013 by saying he was a victim of imperialism, until even those whose relatives were killed in the crimes for which he was charged pitied him.
Every time we who fight for the people define a problem, the politicians pick it up. Before the selections last year, we were talking about social mobility and wanting a country where nobody has to know someone to get a good education. Within months, the president was talking of social mobility and everyone was agreeing with him, despite the fact that his very presidency contradicts social mobility.
So a charter that is very polite and is hesitant to identify the people and classes by name and interest, is likely to be adopted by the very people responsible for the mess Kenya is in. Our politicians are like the ogres of our folktales, who were handsome young men and very good dancers, but who turned out to have mouths at the backs of their heads with which they ate flies and who kidnapped girls to eat, before the girls were rescued by warriors. So I'm here to call the ogres by name.
We are ruled by a comprador elite whose job is to protect and promote the interests of international capital. That is why since independence, every Kenyan government's focus has been on getting wazungus here to invest and relax. So the roads, ports and infrastructure are for wazungu investors, and the underdeveloped areas are for wazungu tourists. In every sector, even health and education, the government talks of foreign exchange.
For instance, 3 years ago, members of the Kenya Tourist Board signed a health tourism MOU, and one of the directors was quoted as saying that Kenya is looking to the health sector to attract tourists, and has enough doctors for export. Just this year, the PS in education for TVET said that we are looking for enough train enough technicians to be able to export to neighboring countries. When there was panic about toxic sugar in the market, former minister Kimunya reprimanded us for speaking publicly about it, because we may discourage tourists from coming to Kenya.
Even when Melania Trump came to Kenya, her itinerary was to visit orphaned elephants and orphaned animals, as if to say that in Kenya, nobody grows to adulthood, and that's why wazungus must protect us.
All this racist mess comes from a succession of economic plans that treat Kenya as if it has no people. From Sessional paper no 10 of 1965, to Vision 2030 to the Big 4 Agenda, these plans put lofty goals above the people. Tribalism is written into these plans as well, because these plans divide Kenya into two. There are areas which are developed for wazungu investors, and there are areas which are denied development so that wazungu tourists can visit these areas to relax. We must call for an end to this economic tribalism, not just the one that politicians use to incite us. And that tribalism is dependent on racism. If you look at the way the Laikipia governor talks about the Maasai pastoralists, it's no different from how European anthropologists talked about us.
Therefore, the first thing we must declare is that we Kenyans, coming from a history of racist domination despite independence, hereby declare that we are human beings and deserve to live in dignity in this Kenya. The declaration must be made that WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS. And we are in this Kenya.
Having declared our dignity, we have a right to services that affirm our dignity, that support us when we are most vulnerable - either young, sick, challenged or old, and that help us be the best we can be. We need social services in addition to basic services, because the idea is that it takes a village to raise a child. We want not just water and infrastructure, but also healthcare, education, recreation, culture, public libraries, museums and a vibrant cultural life, because these are important for helping us to respect one another, maintain our mental health, and take care of our environment.
Even prisons are part of social services, when one thinks that with the kind of lifestyle Muigai Kinyatta lives, he would not have been president if he was not rich. He would have either died or gone blind from adulterated alcohol, been shot dead by police or livestock raiders, or have gone to jail. Like him, everyone has the right to a second chance.
Land scarcity is not just about somewhere to live or dig. The cramped up urban centers and rural villages, where youth have no land for recreation or to work on, are partly to blame for our poor mental health, alcoholism, the lynchings of elders in the name of them being witches, or the murder of family members because of frustration or land disputes. Culture must feature as a strong component of the charter.
Another reason why culture must be included is because we need a way to mourn what has happened to us since 1895. Every Kenyan is a walking trauma. We need culture to help us decide how to apologize, mourn and heal, and how to honor our heroes and sheroes.
In addition, we must respect the environment for more than just using resources for our benefit, as the charter says. We must respect mother nature because our African traditions demand that we do. In the African sensibility, the natural environment is part of us, that is why our animals belong to the same ngeli ya a-wa. Kwetu, wanyama si vitu, ni viumbe wenye uhai. We must stop looking at the environment as capitalists do, as commodities to sell. We must start respecting the environment, the rivers, the mountains, the plants and the animals as if they too have the right to be here. That is what our ancestors taught us.
The same applies to education. When we say that we want an education that is "competitive in the global geo-political and economic arena," we are still keeping our focus on foreigners to tell us how to educate. We need a pan-African education that teaches us about how our ancestors were innovative, that makes Kiswahili a language of academic work, science and law, and most of all, that affirms our dignity. The violence in the education sector is a scandal that is embarrassing. We are abusing our children mentally with high stakes exams and prison-like schools, and even sexually and physically.
We must talk about the rich. We must name the inequality that is gripping Kenya, where 8,300 people own more than 99% of Kenyans. The rich and the corporations they invite must pay taxes commensurate with their wealth, as opposed to now where the government relies on taxing the people at the bottom, either through salaries or taxing goods rather than company profits.
We also must talk about the oppressive feudal system of land ownership. Title deeds are a tool of the devil. Their use as documents to get credit from the bank are alienating our young people who cannot get credit to be entrepreneurs. Selling land also means that the rich get money from what they did not create. We must talk about how a few become rich on public wealth, and then capture the state and manipulate elections in their favor.
We need fundamental land reform that abolishes the sale of land as a commodity and that empowers the people in deciding what land shall be used for. We must have an idea of the commons, and of the public good.
The Kenya we want is a Kenya that cares for people. That is cares for the sick, supports the challenged, educates the public. We Kenyans have great ideas, and great skills. We want to work and contribute to this economy, not be sabotaged by sons of the rich whose only job is to inherit their fathers' wealth and power. And the test of that Kenya is that a child from Turkana or Kwale can tell the parents " I want to be president of Kenya when I grow up," and we won't think it's a joke or wonder who he has to sleep with or what she has to steal for that to be a real possibility.
* This is an edited version of remarks I made at the launch of the People's Charter under the Kenya Tuitakayo initiative on 11th October 2018.