It is an indisputable fact that Kenyans are at present experiencing the worst social and economic conditions since independence. The statistics bear this out: Kenya has the dubious distinction of being almost at the bottom of the list with respect to inequity in income distribution. Partly as a result of economic causes, one million people in Kenya will be dead of AIDS by next year. Our country is the third highest in the world in respect of the rate of corruption. In addition, we are destroying our environment at an alarming rate: it is said that since independence we have lost more than 40 percent of our forest cover.
There is a fairly broad agreement as to the reasons why we find ourselves in this predicament. However, when it comes to deciding what to do about the situation, there is much difference of opinion. Many people continue to be pessimistic that anything can be done: having no faith in the fact that their own actions can make a difference, they become apathetic or focus on getting at least their own family ahead. Still others look for single answer solutions: cutting down on the population, having our national debt forgiven. Then, of course, there is a large section of the population who are so taken up with the struggle for bare survival that they have no time or energy left for thinking about the ills of the country.
Among those who are committed to change, civic society, the NGOs, some religious organisations, the opposition parties, there has generally been an absence of a common vision for alternatives, as well as a lack of long-term planning. For instance, it is a common complaint among Kenyans that the opposition parties have little more to offer than the party in power: their platforms do not generate enthusiasm by their vision.
Of late, however, there is some cause for optimism as far as long-term planning is concerned: in the last few years we have seen the birth of a number of think tanks where researchers make it their business to give thought to the future of the country. We think of such bodies as the Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) and the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), among others. These are broad-based research bodies which try to come up with alternative policies for governing the country and for bringing about a more just society. Last year IEA published the book: Our problems, our solutions: an economic and public policy agenda for Kenya. This book touches on a wide range of problems and suggests policies and courses of action to take on them. (For more information on this book and its companion summary, see p. of this issue.)
Our concern with studies of this kind is that, unfortunately, far too few people know about them and that, partly as a consequence of this, there is too little public discussion about the alternatives proposed. Yet, without a common vision of where we want Kenya to be in the next ten years, how will we work out the policies which will get us there? And where will we get the public support for these policies if people have not been persuaded that they are in their best interests? What is needed, therefore, is an all-out information campaign to make people aware of the issues involved and to make them realise that all of us have a stake in working for a better future for this country.
We need to get away from our inordinate concern with personalities and where they come from and start discussing the kind of society we envision for ourselves, for our children and grandchildren. Yes, we do need good leaders, but we also need visionaries. However, above all we need an educated and committed public who will support these leaders and visionaries. We must reject easy answers and have the determination to study our problems and the various solutions proposed. For instance, there is a lot of talk about industrialisation by the year 2020. But what kind of industrialisation are we talking about? There are some international conglomerates which pay starvation wages to their workers and rape the environment. With this in mind, we must discuss the real objectives of any industrialisation policy. With respect to transport, our present practices in this sector are not only very bad for the environment, they go on guzzling up resources which are not renewable. Are there alternatives and what must we do to make them workable in practice? What about the idea of a doubling of tourist beds in the next decade? Recently a local paper had the wisdom to publish an alternative view about the so-called benefits of tourism for the third world. These alternative views must be made known and discussed.
In order to assist in this discussion, Wajibu asked experts in various social and economic subjects to give some thought to a number of these policy issues. Whether you agree or disagree with the solutions presented by our contributors is not our main concern. What we are aiming at is to get more people aware of the need for a broad discussion of proposed policies in order that eventually we can reach agreement about the kind of society we wish to live in.
Our present situation is indeed very bad. But in order to prevent an even worse scenario in the future, we need to make an all-out effort to reverse this situation. We must bring all our human, intellectual and spiritual resources to bear on the solution of our problems.
"Where there is no vision the people perish" was a saying current among the Jews of king Solomon's time. These words are as true today as they were when they were pronounced many centuries ago. Too many of our fellow citizens are already perishing as a result of our apathy and selfishness. We can bring about a change in this situation if we care about a better tomorrow for all the citizens of our country.
APPEAL TO OUR READERS
Special appeal. On this page of this issue you will find a special appeal for contributions to the Wajibu Trust. If the future of the journal concerns you, please turn to this page.
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS
Okwach Abagi is an Education and Gender Specialist, who holds a doctorate in Sociology of Education from McGill University, Canada. He is the head of the Education Sector and co-ordinates the Internship Program at IPAR. Dr. Abagi has over ten years research, capacity building and consultancy experience and has published and trained widely. He has quality skills in social mobilisation and gender training. He also has extensive experience in programme management, besides possessing gender mainstreaming and programme evaluation skills.
P. Anyang' Nyong'o holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Political Science. He lectured for four years at the University of Nairobi, after which he became a visiting associate research professor at El Colegio de Mexico, Centro de Estudios de Asia y Africa. In 1984/85 to 1985/86 he served as Associate Professor of Political Sciences and International Relations in the College of Social Sciences, Addis Ababa University. In 1987 he was a Research Consultant at the Eastern and Southern African Management Institute (ESAMI). He held the post of Head of Programs at the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi from 1987 to 1991. Professor Nyong'o has been a Member of Parliament in the Kenya National Assembly since 1992 where he serves as the Parliamentary Leader of the Social Democratic Party and is a member of various Parliamentary committees. He has published a number of books, one of which has been translated into French. Prof. Nyong'o is a member of several pan-African and third world organisations. In 1995 he received the German African Award for contribution to scholarship and democratisation. He is married to Dorothy and they have four children and two adopted children.
Peter Kimuyu is an Associate Professor of Economics and a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research. An energy economist by training, he has a continuing research interest in the utilisation of commercial energy, efficiency of power systems, the dynamics of enterprise development, industrial economics, and ethical issues related to economics. He is a member of the New York Academy of Science.
Jackson Kinyanjui holds a degree in Economics and Business Education from Kenyatta University (1981). He also holds a Masters degree in Development Economics, from Williams College, Massachusetts, USA (1986). He was employed by the Ministry of Planning and Development in 1981 and seconded to the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, dealing with policy designs and analysis of the housing sector and was involved in the housing survey for Kenya in 1983. In 1988 he was transferred to the Ministry of Transport, where he worked until 1992. In that year he was seconded to work for UNCTAD in an Information System transport sector project, known as the Advance Cargo Information System (ACIS) covering Kenya Railways and the Kenya Ports Authority. From 1995 up to the present he has been working for the Common Market for Eastern Africa COMESA) as the ACIS National Co-ordinator.
Naftali Manddy Onchere was until recently the Development Advisor to the Combat Desertification Mobilization Programme (CDMP) programme of EcoNews Africa. He is now the Fundraising Coordinator for Africa for ActionAid. An agriculturist by training, he has wide experience in the international and Kenyan civil service as well as in development assistance, consultancy, policy development, fundraising, local capacity building, lobbying and advocacy. He is a member of several civil society networks and professional associations. With a Diploma in Divinity, he is a member of the Rosicrucian Order and spends his spare time building the capacity of local institutions.
Gerald J. Wanjohi lectured in philosophy at the University of Nairobi for many years and was chairman of the Department of Philosophy in this institution when he retired from teaching in 1993. He now spends his time in research and writing as well as keeping in touch with his roots at a small farm near Mt. Kenya. He is the publisher of Wajibu and chairman of its Editorial Board. He is a signatory to the Platform of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World and has translated this Platform into Swahili.