I would like to congratulate our Members of Parliament for the excellent show of passion that they waged as they exchanged angry words, blows, and water bottles in the National Assembly during the recent debate on the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill. The normal practice after such an episode is to condemn with the strongest terms because the parliament is an august house, the most honorable space. As such, I wish to clarify that I am acclaiming their show of passion and not the fight or reason for their fight. Now that we realize that we do not need to use a ‘passionometer’ to appreciate their desire to fix national issues, I suggest that they channel this passion and fight to deliver the following five major solutions that will endear them to the electorate.
The first fight is for their own reputation. It is in bad shape! In 2021, a report by Afrobarometer, a Pan-African research network, revealed that Kenyans perceived half of their legislators as corrupt. This perception was lent more credence when an MP from Central Kenya told BBC that he had received a bribe of Shs100,000 to back the appointment of the majority leader. He further confirmed that such bribes were common. Although only a few of them may be guilty as charged, one bad apple can spoil the bunch. Friends, if you have to exchange angry words, blows and throw bottles at each other to deal with this shame, then go ahead, we may excuse you someday.
The second fight that our MPs must wage is for agriculture. We need to drastically expand the market reach of our agricultural products which accounts for more than 20% of our GDP and supports approximately 75 percent of our labor force. We must take Judicial, Legislative, and Executive action to multiply the current 600,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya and increase their revenue impressively.
The American Food Chain KFC recently revealed that they don’t source potatoes from local farmers. While they may be at fault, it is also incumbent on our leaders to infuse global standards into our farms so that our agricultural produce can sell competitively on the global stage for the good of Kenyans. If this is a reason for a real fight, let our legislators fight on.
The third fight that our Legislators must passionately wage is for local manufacturing. Vision 2030 seeks to employ local manufacturing as means of creating employment and wealth. Unfortunately, our own leaders sometimes sabotage local manufacturing when they pass legislation that harms tenets of localization.
As long as we continue importing what we can build capacity to manufacture locally, we will keep shooting ourselves in the foot. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the total value of imports from January to October 2021 was Sh1.719 trillion against total exports valued at Sh608.4 billion. This trade deficit is a mammoth wake-up call for our leaders to fight tooth and nail for local manufacturing to take root in the country.
The fourth fight that our leaders must wage is for healthcare. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. In 2021, Human Rights Watch revealed that Kenya has 58,000 registered nurses, 12,000 registered doctors, and 14,000 clinical officers which are far below the World Health Organization’s recommended doctor to the patient ratio of 1:1000. Although several bold steps have been taken our leaders must fight tirelessly to further improve our healthcare. If such a fight necessitates the exchange of bitter words, blows, and water bottles so are it.
The fifth fight that our leaders must wage is for peace and unity. Our Constitution rightly states that we, the people of Kenya are, ‘determined to live in peace and unity as one indivisible sovereign nation.’ Further to this, Article 10 lists national unity as one of our national values.
We must hold accountable any leader whose words or actions contradict national unity. Even when we disagree vehemently, we must not do so in a manner that breeds disunity. This is where our legislators may appreciate that the exchange of words, bottles, and blows may never work because we the electorate expect them to unite our Nation by thinking and acting green.