East Africa

Kenya Kwanza Manifesto – An Ambitious Progressive Platform

The Kenya Kwanza manifesto seeks to add meat to the bones of what bottom-up economics means. Bottom-up economics is based on creating government policy that helps put money in the hands of the lowest earners in society. It is the opposite of top-down or trickle-down economics.

It is actual solid economic policy built on firm economic theory, contrary to what the unethical, irresponsibly partisan, openly pro-Raila Kenyan media would have you believe.

In fact, DR. William Samoei Ruto, or WSR as he’s popularly known, is quite likely the only African leader campaigning for office with an ideological platform as opposed to a tribal platform. This is the exact opposite of what Raila Amollo Odinga (RAO) has always run on.

Raila Odinga up close speaking into a microphone

Raila Odinga campaigning in 2013

Ruto is the only Kenyan politician that has ever run on an ideological platform. For once it has the potential to turn the country away from the negative tribal politics that has been the staple and mainstay of Raila’s politics that have unfortunately so unduly dominated Kenya.

Hopefully Kenyans will put paid to tribal politics once and for all after Dr. Ruto gets into State House ending that type of negative politics. Unfortunately, we have seen that RAO has his disciples for the politics of tribalism and violence in people such as Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho, former MP for Rarieda, Otiende Amollo, as well as the current MP for Dagoretti North who’s currently running for governor in his home county of Kisii, Simba Arati.

Former Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo

Former ODM MP, Otiende Amollo

If the Bottom-up economic model is implemented with intentionality and seen to succeed, there is a chance that Kenyans we’ll be able to put paid to this negative politics of tribe permanently.

The manifesto’s ideas of cooperatives are very progressive with great potential to provide great social and economic returns. Existing coffee and tea cooperatives in Kenya have been wildly successful and internationally known to the point of being studied for replication in other countries.

It would have been nice to hear details on how to implement agricultural policy specifically to ensure support and protection of small-scale farmers from being drowned out by the international push for commercial agribusiness. Both Zimbabwe and Eritrea offer great examples of African countries that have ensured this and further ensured that native small grains and native animal breeds have been promoted and backed with research to ensure maximum returns.

There is a component for increasing salaries for the police force which is long overdue. However, I question why the salary increases are only for the police force and not for all Kenyans. I personally truly believe that Kenya is running on a western level economy in all but salaries. Prices in Kenya are at par with prices in the west for most goods, including food items and oftentimes more expensive.

The only difference comes in housing costs for those at the very bottom of the economic ladder who live in the temporary structures that we call slums. This of course is no way any human should have to live in a country with a national budget as high as Kenya’s. Dissecting the manifesto however, there were many good points.

If implemented with consultation of economists who truly believe in bottom-up economics as opposed to the current elitist top-down economics, then Kenyans have a real chance to truly turn around our economy and society.

At the manifesto launch, Kenya Kwanza communications director, Mohammed Hussein, stated that “upon our independence in 1963, we not only inherited a colonial legacy but in fact perfected that colonial legacy”. That statement was evidence of an accurate, clearly well-thought-out assessment of the situation Kenya currently finds herself in.

Sadly, we are the ones who continue to perpetuate colonial policies, indeed the colonial treatment of each other. Our police force inherited the institutional memory of a colonial police force whose job was to protect the white minority and oppress native Kenyans. We inherited a government administration whose job was the same, to serve the white minority while simultaneously frustrating the native population. That institutional memory has never left. It needs to be done away with finally.

The police force needs to become an institution of service, rather than an oppressive force as so eloquently stated by the Kenya Kwanza team. At the very least, somebody has clearly demonstrated that they have recognized these issues.

Of course, the current Kenya Kwanza manifesto as good of a start as it is, still isn’t perfect. There were a couple of items that stood out as the exact opposite of bottom-up.  An example is the water policy that involves selling our most essential national and natural resource, water, to private corporations. This suggests an incoherence in the policy that beggars the question of whose vulture capitalist influence made its way into an otherwise progressive platform.

They also spoke about “conservation tourism” which sounds good in theory, but in practice has been used by international “conservation” organizations as cover for highly destructive big game hunting. It has proven to be cover for deplorable policies allowing theft of land specifically from indigenous people and transferring it to so-called “international conservation organizations”.

These organizations turn around and sell big game hunting rights to private corporations claiming that this is a way to curl excess animal populations and bring in money for conservation. These benefits are nowhere evident anywhere across Africa.

There’s the situation that is currently taking place in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro region where the native Maasai are being forced off their lands to make way for big game hunting that has been sold as “conservation tourism. Native African populations have lived in harmony with the environment and wildlife for millennia. The very people who have destroyed the planet cannot claim to be its saviors.

Policies pushing a return to traditional agriculture and native farming methods backed with scientific research would be far more beneficial to the growth of agriculture and food security. Zimbabwe has greatly increased food security despite debilitating sanctions.

Furthermore, this emphasis on the use of fertilizer is regressive. We should be exploring alternative sources of manure or natural fertilizer and moving away from expensive and likely cancerous, imported, chemical fertilizers.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether there will be the goodwill to implement the policies as stated once Kenya Kwanza wins. However, it is still very refreshing to hear aspiring leaders state these things out loud. It displays a deep understanding of what ails Kenya. After all, one cannot treat a problem without accurately diagnosing it.

What we have seen in the Kenya Kwanza manifesto is a very good grasp of the ills of the colonial legacy. This legacy is what dictates that Kenyans must earn slave wages, that Kenyans must sell our natural and national resources at pennies for the dollar.

Indeed, this legacy goes even further to subject, not just Kenyans, but Africans in general to currency exchange rates dictated by the United States treasury whose currency is backed by nothing other than a printer.

African currencies on the other hand are, in fact, backed by our vastly valuable natural resources that drive economies the world over. We shall wait and see once Ruto is elected as seems most likely given his support, not just in the Mt. Kenya and Rift Valley regions but also in advances made in other regions that previously exclusively supported his opponent.

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