Dr. Ndivo’s bitterness reminds me of an argument I made last year that our country’s economy could open up to the youth if we changed our system and values of providing the youth with resources. For instance, I said, artists could be provided loans on the basis of their ideas, rather than on title deeds, which most youth don’t – and are unlikely to – have.
And even if he tried, as he and his deputy claimed today at the Lands Ministry office, Kenyans aren’t listening because the fact that he won on a well-oiled campaign is too loud for us to hear anything other than the fact that land=power. And since Kenyatta II got into office, land has become a major subject of conversation and of our national psyche. Companies are no longer offering tickets to Disney Land or Rio in their promotions; they’re offering title deeds. Even at our Sunday services, we’re told that land is the most secure form of investment because its value always appreciates (which I find problematic because Christians should get wealth by the work of their hands, rather than through things they did not create). In university, where lecturers should be being encouraged to invent and patent, we too are being encouraged to get title deeds for financial security. Vision 2030 (which I completely disagree with) and Konza city are no longer the trademarks of the future. I am haunted by a conversation my father had with a cab driver who boasted of how he has used his earnings to buy several plots of land for his children to inherit, not of how he has educated his children. And he gave the example of the Kenyattas who were wise and “bought” land while Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was politicking instead of buying land. And, according to the driver, that was why the Kenyattas were in power and the Odingas were not. So no matter how many times the president says he wants to solve the land problem, I don’t think anyone – least of all his supporters – believes him.
And while the premium on land may be okay for those who value land, it isn’t okay for the majority of young people who can’t get access to it and, by extension, can’t get access to loans and social status as adults who have something to contribute to the world, and who can build homes and start families. Like Dr. Ndivo, they keep knocking on doors closed to them while the oligarchy has no clue what it is like to live in Kenya if one has no networks, aka, a relative in high places. After all, the very nature of feudalism is that one has to be well connected by blood. And the government’s focus on digitizing land registration shows that the government still hasn’t got it; it still thinks that the problem of Kenya is the lack of title deeds, not that land remains the central – if not the only – key to opportunity in Kenya.
I naively expected the CORD coalition to nail down the problem at the Saba Saba rally which was ironically at the same time as Kenyatta II stamped his foot down as a land president. Instead, they presented Kenyans with their agenda to get the Jubilee coalition to share power. Personally, I couldn’t care less if that’s what they want. My issue is that our political and economic logic needs to graduate from the settler logic we inherited at independence, go through the industrial revolution in two days, if possible, and finally get into the current information era where opportunity – not blood – is the key to prosperity, and where it is technology, creativity and ideas, not title deeds, that drive the economy.
My sense is that Kenyans either support or are sympathetic with CORD not because the party is offering a solution, but because the Kenyatta presidency symbolizes a very low glass ceiling which can be penetrated only by those who know, or those who are related to those in power. That’s the bottom line. Every other claim, or resolution, just avoids bluntly saying that most of us don’t believe that Kenya belongs to every citizen. In fact, that lack of confidence is both on the Jubilee and CORD sides, except that Jubilee doesn’t mind the status quo because it is the beneficiary. But meanwhile, we are going to produce a generation of bitter young people who, like Dr. Ndivo, just need an opportunity to flourish, but continually have doors slammed in their faces because the country’s institutions and political logic are still in the plantation mindset that sees Kenyans not as citizens, but as tribal slaves of master families, slaves who can be placed on the slave auction block that we have baptized "elections" or "power-sharing" agreements.