Tag Archives: voting

African Proverbs, Irony and Leaders

Every day BBC Africa tweets an African proverb. Today’s proverb, sent from Uganda, is “You do not punish a fish by throwing it in water.” Deep stuff – when you really think about it – as most proverbs tend to be.

Isn’t it ironic that it is an African proverb? Considering the fact that we, Africans, seem to have a knack for punishing fish by throwing it in water. What am I on about?

Well, let’s take our “leaders” for example. Every election year, they make these grand promises about how they will transform our countries and improve our lives. We gladly vote for them. Once in office, they swiftly switch to the corruption lane and take the exit to personal wealth accumulation. We spend the rest of their term waiting for them to reassure us that they still have our best interests at heart. We hope that they will make an effort to fulfill just one promise or at the very least feign interest in fulfilling even half of that promise. But nothing. They continue to busy themselves with themselves until the next election when they pound the campaign trail with reworded promises. We vote for them again and the cycle continues. We fail to hold our leaders accountable. Instead we reward them for their inaction by putting them back in to the very positions that they use for their own benefit and our detriment.

Wouldn’t we be better served by using our vote  to ensure the progress of our communities? By voting back in only those leaders who are efficient and doing a great job? By denying leaders who are enemies of progress any audience come election time? By voting in terms of performance and legitimate sustainable plans instead of ethnic relations? By realizing that the culture of accept and move on will not get us anywhere? By asking ourselves what kind of a society we would like to live in and then working to build it?

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Politicians are happy? So are we…or…are we?

Have you seen this infographic? It depicts politicians’ salaries and income inequality in various countries.

Source: http://visualizingimpact.org/
Source: http://visualizingimpact.org/

Kenya is leading the pack…no surprises there. The infographic hit the proverbial nail on the head – complete with the gourd-shaped belly balancing on toothpick legs image. I kid you not, a good number of Kenyan politicians look just like that. But I digress. Our politicians will look for any and every excuse to increase their salaries. “We’ll miss happy hour because we have to debate issues we are borderline clueless about…ergo we need to be compensated for that.” “If we had stayed at our previous jobs, we would have been promoted by now and well on our way to earning X amount of money…ergo we need to be compensated for that.” “We can’t walk in public without being recognized by paparazzi…ergo we need to be compensated for that.” “Our constituents expect us to pelt them with wads of money…ergo we need to be compensated for that.”

O.K maybe I exaggerated…a little bit. They haven’t actually said that…well at least not in public…but the reasons they give for their salary increases are just as ridiculous. I remember one politician saying he needs a pay raise because he left a well paying job. Ala!? Was he forced to quit his job and run for office!? If so, he should simply consult the person(s) who made him make that move. Another one said he needs to pay his father’s hospital bill. Say what!? Because obviously the rest of Kenya is responsible for taking care of politicians’ personal affairs. It’s absolutely insane, I say.

The thing about Kenyan politicians is that they spend so much time fattening their pockets and very little time fulfilling their overly recycled campaign pledges. If you have been a politician since early man’s hunting days, and your constituents still knock on your door for money for school fees, health bills, transport, rent and grocery shopping, then maybe you should do them a favor and quit. Clearly you don’t have and have never had a sustainable plan to ensure that your constituents are empowered and become financially independent.

Politicians are not the only ones to blame. We, Kenyans, have a role to play in this madness. We condone the politicians’ behavior and even enable them by defending some of their tactics. Every election cycle we vote the same people back into office with claims that voting for newer promising candidates is a vote waste. We are reluctant to hold them accountable because doing so is a supposed waste of time. When they fail to fulfill their election promises and instead take actions that are detrimental to our society, we don’t question them…we simply lament in private. As long as our politicians are happy then we laugh…shrug it off…accept and move on. We do so at our own expense. For how long will we accept and move on? Can we really ever move on if we are perpetually stuck in the same cyclical game that politicians play?