Dear Mr. President, Stop More Promises; Kenyans Are Hurting

“When you tell the truth you don't need to have a memory” – what this means is that you don't need to remember specific details or keep track of a story because the truth remains consistent. In contrast, half-truths or lies require that you keep track of all the details of your stories, which leads to a more complex memory burden.

Mr. President, your political acumen is undeniable. How you defeated your political opponents including the opposition veteran, Mzee Raila Odinga, and his sponsor, a sitting president, under whom you served as deputy for a decade, was nothing short of a marvel.

You persuaded even the skeptics, those who initially dismissed you as a fleeting prince or merely as a political orphan struggling with self-identity. Rising from obscurity in a little-known Kamagut village near Turbo town in Uasin Gishu County, to humiliate the influence of two well-established political heavyweights and their family’s enduring political dynasty is a story that captures the imagination.

You succeeded in capturing power, and the intrigue lies not in how you achieved it then but in what you are doing with these instruments of power now. It’s a question that resonates beyond the triumph of political strategy and the mastery of persuasive language, that often cashed on the vulnerability of the hopeless majority – in a country that proudly celebrated her 60th birthday of self-rule.

Kenyans no longer care about the maneuvers and the electrifying political slogans in rallies painted yellow and green colors and symbols of a wheelbarrow.  As you exercise the power you adeptly secured on August 8, 2022, the focus ought to have shifted to addressing pressing challenges, including the escalating cost of living, rising food and fuel prices, high unemployment, and the growing burden of public debt – issues that formed the core of your campaign pitch.

Mr. President, no doubt you renewed the hopes and aspirations of a significant portion of the poor and struggling population across the country, promising them change through “bottom-up” economic transformation. In your own words, this was not just to be a government of hustlers but also by hustlers and for hustlers. Your passionate call echoed in every hamlet of the nation, promising to uplift the majority poor at the lower echelons of the economic pyramid – put money in their pockets – and establish the nation on a firm foundation of economic prosperity that is beyond your appetite for a second term in 2027.

It’s good manners to acknowledge and appreciate what your government has achieved this past year – even though the full impact of these successes is yet to be experienced by ordinary citizens. Here, I’m not referring to the success such as the hustlers’ fund or forced housing projects; rather, I’m talking about your extravagant claims.

Mr. President, those who may not share the same affinity for you have been forthright in telling you that everything is not okay in the country. That Kenyans are gripped by fear, disillusionment, and are on the brink of losing all hope. The stark reality may be obscured by the more promises and statements that you have consistently made post-election, blurring the line between what has really been achieved and what is still pending in these declarations.

Those expressing these concerns are also Kenyans who contribute to the broader national conversation. They are calling you to step outside the echo chamber surrounding you, where your speeches and pronouncements on the country’s economic recovery and progress are echoed back to you by your development partners, including those funding your government operations and the so-called economic advisors.

Your ministers and their surrogates follow the cue, echoing these sentiments all the way down to the “hustler nation” remnants. Unfortunately, these remnants, despite facing a worsened economic situation, still have the energy to attend organized protests christened “tumechoka kuishi slum – we support housing levy”. Perhaps they need a serious mental check-up as this behavior seems indicative of Stockholm syndrome tendencies.

Mr. President, please allow me to be completely upfront and honest with you because Kenyans are hurting. Throughout this ending year today, you talked too much with little action and concrete evidence to support the myriad promises you made including creating thousands of jobs. You spoke about numerous job opportunities your government was purportedly negotiating for unemployed Kenyans with other countries such as Germany and Saudi Arabia. While the idea of finding job opportunities rather than creating them is still appreciated, however, your speeches were filled with unrealistic numbers and figures, without actual evidence or supporting statements from the concerned countries.

In fact, Kenyans on social media have expressed skepticism, criticizing you and some of your government officials for repeatedly claiming agreements on jobs abroad without substantial proof. In one example, your then minister for foreign affairs was forced to retract a tweet about meeting Canada’s immigration minister after concerns were raised, and the Canadian government issued a warning about “misinformation” regarding non-existent immigration programs for Kenyans. This recurring pattern has given rise to widespread public doubt about you and your ministers for consistently making assertions and pledges that seem to offer nothing more than empty promises and false hope.

Mr. President, many Kenyans are going to bed hungry, uncertain about what tomorrow holds for them. Parents are deeply concerned and anxious about where to get school fees next week as schools reopen for the 2024 first term on January 8. Meanwhile, the healthcare system is in a coma, imagine! Hospitals are facing acute shortages of essential medicines and things like syringes. Healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses, are demoralized and on the brink of giving up. Health insurance like NHIF, is hanging in the balance. Yet private hospitals are only affordable to the rich like yourself and your associates.

The high cost of living is becoming increasingly unbearable for the majority Kenyans. The ever-increasing number of “tax this, tax that” has left citizens feeling overwhelmed, forced several businesses to shut down, and prompted investors to seek opportunities elsewhere. The stark contrast between the privileged few at the feasting table, which you preside over as the archbishop of the so-called “shareholding” government, undermines not only the business environment but also the trust and hope that the struggling mama mbogas and boda bodas under the “hustler” movement placed in you. This dissonance is a ticking time bomb.

Mr. President, the surging national debt is not only raising fears about the fiscal health of the nation and its potential long-term repercussions on economic stability but also raises questions about where these ballooning loans are being spent. This borrowing contradicts your own promise during campaigns where you stated that you would slash government debt and introduce policies aimed at putting money in the pockets of impoverished Kenyans.

Adding to this contradiction are the conflicting public debt figures provided by the National Treasury and State House, as well as the justifications given for the high cost of living in the country. Within your government, there seems to be a concurrency in messaging, where you and your deputy, Mr. Rigathi Gachagua, attribute Kenyans’ suffering and the high cost of living to a significant portion of loans and revenue being devoted to debt repayments – debt you both claim was incurred by the previous administration, ironically, while you both served as deputy president and member of parliament from the ruling party.

Despite your rhetorical assurances, Kenyans are deeply concerned about the latest public debt figures by the Controller of Budget. As of September 30, 2023, the national debt stood at a staggering 10.59 trillion shillings, surpassing the debt ceiling of 10 trillion set by lawmakers during your previous administration. Although this appears to be a classic case of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, the use of national debt as a convenient scapegoat for your administration’s perceived shortcomings in fulfilling the promises made raises serious concerns about potential deception by your leadership and leaves Kenyans in the dark about the underlying drivers of the economic issues they are facing.

Mr. President, it’s imperative to address the issues at hand transparently and provide clear explanations rather than resorting to deflective tactics. The Kenyan public deserves honest and accountable governance. Despite your claims of bringing the country’s public loan repayment under control, there is a notable lack of transparency concerning the actual payments made and the accrued interest. The echo chamber you’ve created seems to resonate only with your narratives of economic growth and transformation, yet tangible evidence remains elusive for the majority of Kenyans.

In your first year in office, Mr. President, foreign trips became a defining feature, numbering over 50 and still counting as Kenyans usher in the new year. On the minds of many Kenyans is: What concrete returns have these trips brought to our nation, this ended year?

Allow me, with humility and as a person of faith, to address you not merely as a religious person but as one who shares deep conviction from Christian teachings you ascribe to. The teachings from Matthew 7:15-20, state “You will know them by their fruits,” and John 8:44, states that “You belong to your father, the devil,” these two separate verses prompt a reflection on the importance of evaluating individuals based on the OBSERVABLE outcomes of their ACTIONS and not merely on their spoken WORDS.

The Matthew passage emphasizes discernment in assessing a person’s character through the tangible results of their behavior. In contrast, John 8:44, where Jesus warns opponents that they belong to the devil due to his deceptive nature, underlines the spiritual and moral alignment of individuals with their actions reflecting a connection to deceit.

In the context of your promises, Mr. President, these verses highlight concerns about honesty, integrity, and moral character, especially for leaders in influential positions like yours. During your charged political campaign and swearing-in, you pledged to address numerous issues affecting the economy, with a focus on tackling runaway corruption and inefficiency. You committed to promoting good governance and prioritizing the needs of the poor in your economic policy.

You promised that extra-judicial killings would become a thing of the past. You pledged to address ethnicized politics and uphold constitutionalism and the rule of law. As of today, exactly 1 year, 3 months, and 19 days since you assumed office, most Kenyans are uncertain how your government has fared in fulfilling these promises.

The spinning of economic growth narratives on social media by individuals linked to your government is losing appeal and failing to resonate with ordinary Kenyans. As you begin the new year in State House Mr. President, Kenyans are not interested in flashy and eloquent speeches filled with more promises; instead, they are craving for tangible improvements in their lives. Mr. President, take a moment to reflect deeply and act decisively to address the most pressing concerns of Kenyans—alleviate the burden of suffering brought by the high cost of living.

Address the pressing issue of exorbitant school fees, which has turned education into a luxury, and respond to the pleas of families in hospitals by establishing an efficient and functional healthcare system, while ensuring the motivation and well-being of healthcare providers. Refrain from making further empty promises, and break free from the echo-chamber effect that seems to dominate your public communication.

Mr. President, your legacy will be shaped by your actions and tangible results, and not by your eloquence and bravado. This year, carefully consider the impact of public perception and be mindful of the danger of well-crafted populist narratives on our nation.

This letter is a plea on behalf of all suffering Kenyans for you to consider a recalibration of narratives, a return to honesty and truth, and a recognition that their patience is wearing thin. Hope, once a guiding light, now flickers under the weight of economic uncertainty, hopelessness, and frustration. The road ahead demands a firm commitment to genuine and practical actions while upholding our constitution and the rule of law.

Yours truly,

A fellow Kenyan

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