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Everyone take cover, here come Kenya’s little dictators

by kenya-tribune

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An assassin casually walks to a parked car and fires shots through the window. The police swiftly apprehend the hit man, but he later dies in mysterious circumstances while in custody.

Then a university female student is abducted together with a male journalist. The journalist manages to jump out of the moving car. The girl is later found dead in a forest.

No, this is not a script of the latest James Bond movie. The two incidents are actual events that have shocked Kenya to the core.

Police are yet to solve the cases. However, two governors have been questioned in connection with the assassination attempt and the murder. They are, of course, presumed innocent until proven otherwise. The government must give the police every available resource to enable them to bring their investigations to a speedy and successful conclusion.

The casualness with which the murderers treated human life has brought out the evil that now lurks in our neighbourhoods.

The national outrage is a result of the realisation that murders going unpunished over the years has given rise to a culture where human life can be disposed of in the most callous manner. We now realise we could be the next victims.

The Kenyan middle class likes to think that it is safe inside gated, privately guarded communities, but these two high profile crimes have exposed everyone’s soft underbelly.

The question of the death penalty will and should once again become part of the conversation with respect to cases of sadistic torture and murder of people.

The two crimes happened in a context where governors and MCAs operate almost as a law unto themselves. MCAs have been captured on tape many times fighting with chairs or chasing each other in the streets with stones. Some have been accused of causing grievous injury and even murder.

As to their mandate – oversight of county expenditure – MCAs have proved prodigiously incompetent. They seem to have a quid pro quo relationship with governors; “Help us get trips to benchmark, facilitate our allowances and other perks, and we will support your agenda.” It is now clear that the integrity, educational and other requirements for MCA candidates must be raised and closely policed.

Governors on their part carry themselves like potentates, increasingly hostile to the spirit of devolution of consultation, not only with MCAs, but also with communities.

Signs of this monarchist tendency were apparent right at the outset. First, they started driving in motorcades. There was a time on our streets when there were so many black limousines with chase cars and police sirens, it seemed as if there was a VIP for every 10 Kenyans.

In fact, the number of VIPS as a percentage of our GDP and population size, makes us the country with the highest number of VIPs in the world.

Prime ministers of much richer countries, some of which give us aid, would be envious of the lifestyles of MCAs and governors. But their sense of what is of real value would prohibit them from aspiring to such lazy and lavish lifestyles.

They would ask themselves: A joy ride in Business Class or medicine in a rural hospital? Chase cars or the educational needs of children living with disability? Salary hike and allowances or better maternity care for rural mothers?

From their perspective, nothing would shout failure of leadership more loudly than having a huge salary, or as is now the fashion, a helicopter or two, when people die of famine every three years.

The governors then began having megalomaniac ambitions. They set aside millions of shillings as entertainment allowances.

Big billboards bearing the likeness of the governors were erected on county borders. TV advertisements were accompanied by the governor’s picture peering benevolently at his “subjects.” One governor even beat Kim Jong-Un to it when he had a picture of himself on mock exam papers in schools in his county. We have devolved the imperial presidency to the counties.

The governors now demand immunity from prosecution for crimes committed while in office, a privilege only accorded to a sitting president. They also want the police function to be devolved. I will leave to your imagination what would happen were governors to control the police.

If this megalomania is not checked resolutely and quickly, we will soon have fully fledged dictatorships at the county level.

Tee Ngugi is a social and political commentator based in Nairobi.

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