Government and MPs’ intolerance and recklessness spoiling the party

Written By Michael Maunda on Sunday, December 1, 2013 | 8:33 PM

I am afraid that as we celebrate 50 years as an independent nation we may come to the painful realisation that our best years are behind us.
The government and Parliament’s stand on various issues is threatening to turn us into a repressive, paranoid state.
Constitutionally, Kenya faces its biggest test. In just nine months the Jubilee-dominated Parliament has passed laws that threaten to severely erode basic rights and freedoms enshrined in our new constitution.
A controversial media Bill threatens to shut down the free press in and take us back to an era that Kenyans thought was well and truly behind them.
Similarly, the Public Benefits Organisation Bill threatens to close all avenues of dissent and debate by imposing punitive rules on the NGO sector, which, according to one estimate, employs about 300,000 people.
Regionally, Kenya is losing its elevated economic status as neighbouring countries, such as Tanzania, threaten to overtake Kenya’s economy on several fronts.
As an analyst recently pointed out, Bagamoyo may soon become the port of choice for land-locked countries in the region, as there are plans to build a port there that will be 30 times the size of Mombasa.
Tourism
And thanks to a punitive VAT regime approved by this Parliament, tourists are now heading to Tanzania for safaris and beach holidays.
The VAT on virtually every product and service, including tours, has increased the cost of doing business substantially and is already having a devastating impact on the tourism sector and on local consumers.
On the international scene, Kenya has alienated almost all its traditional allies, notably Britain and the United States. Our leaders have belatedly discovered their African roots, and have even convinced some African states that the International Criminal Court is a racist institution.
(The up-side to all this, if indeed there is an upside, is that Kenyans, who are often mocked for being amongst the most colonised and brainwashed people in independent Africa, may be finally be reclaiming their African identity.)
In addition, reckless remarks about certain Western countries have been made by our MPs, diplomats and the president himself.
These remarks may not have immediate consequences, but they will definitely guide these countries’ foreign policies towards Kenya in the near future.
What good will it do to the Kenyan economy to have the United States and Britain reduce their significantly large aid packages and investments in Kenya?
UN offices
Do members of the Jubilee government think through their utterances before they make them? When an MP says that the United Nations should move out of Kenya, as one did recently, had he made a calculation of how much the economy would be affected if it actually did pull out of the country?
Some years ago, it was estimated that the UN was the third largest contributor to Kenya’s economy, and certainly, of Nairobi, where Unep’s headquarters is based.
The economic spin-offs of the UN’s presence in Kenya include a vast procurement chain of goods and services obtained by the UN locally. The UN also employs a significant number of Kenyans.
I am now wondering whether parliamentarians are deliberately sabotaging the economy or whether they just don’t know any better.
What is not clear is whether they are making these laws with the tacit approval of the president or whether these laws are just a sycophantic reaction to the “personal challenge” the president is facing at the ICC. Both scenarios are equally disturbing.
Yet we are repeatedly told that Kenya is about to take off for greater economic heights. With a toothless media, an emasculated civil society, no friends or allies in the West, little UN presence, and a massive debt, are we entering an era of more repression, weaker institutions and a collapsing economy?
Our future now depends on the choices President Uhuru Kenyatta makes. He must live up to his name by ensuring that the freedoms Kenyans have enjoyed in the last 10 years are not eroded.
He must stay true to the Constitution and not reverse any of the gains the country has made in the last 50 years.
rasna.warah@gmail.com