The Writing was on the Wall: Africa and The Failed States Index

“I guess Kenya will always have middle and long-distance athletics to fall back on.” – Anonymous.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or in one of Ferdinand Waititu’s deluxe Embakasi high-rises then you may have heard of some mzungu NGO that has released a report classifying Kenya as a “failed state”.

I hate to say I told you so.

Anyway, according to this list of Failed States, we are in the same league with Somalia, Ivory Coast and Haiti! These rankings are derived from a wide range of social, economic, political and military variables, which are taken as indicators of stability or latent instability. The index is supposed to rank, ultimately, all the countries depending their vulnerability to collapse.

I guess this would be a good time to pause and ask what is the definition of a ‘failed state’?

Failed States are those whose governments are ‘incapable of projecting power and ascertaining authority within their own borders, leaving their territories governmentally empty.’

Here is a more detailed definition of ‘failed state’, tell me which part of this does not scream ‘KENYA’:

“a state is failed when its government is losing physical control of its territory or lacks a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other symptoms include the erosion of authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, extensive corruption and criminal behavior, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, and institutionalized persecution or discrimination are other hallmarks of state failure”

People, this index is not there willy nilly to measure small things like who was throwing what stones at which Rally, this is the real deal. So lets stop being defensive and stubborn for once, soberly sit down and think about our Kenya as we know it. Ofcourse we verily concede that given the right conditions, any nation on earth is susceptible to internal conflict but the question we need to address ourselves to is why is Kenya featured on the Top 20 of this List? What have we done between 2010 and 2011 to be paraded on this List of Shame?

Whether we decide to list them alphabetically or chronologically, there are a number of things that immediately come to mind:

– We have two governments working at cross-lengths, cross-hairs and cross-purposes ALL THE TIME
– Northern Frontier skirmishes/ porous Kenyan borders in the North
– IDPs, IDPs, IDPs.
– Grand corruption
– Government Scams
– Sam Ongeri (aka Nemo) and the other ‘big fish’ in government
– A government that refuses to pay taxes (Parliament and Executive)
– ICC suspects being tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Hague.
– Wastage of government funds on ‘shuttle diplomacy I, II, III’ and Executive Suites at the Waldorf Estoria in New York.

I’m not one to air dirty linen out online so I’ll stop there. Long story short, Kenya rightly deserves a spot on the List of Failed States.

In fact, to be brutally honest, the only thing that Kenya has achieved since the last time we were on the list of Failed States last year is that now we have a brand spanking new Constitution intended to affirm Kenya’s status as an open and democratic nation whose society is based on human dignity, equality and freedom.
However we as Kenyans must understand that democracy alone cannot earn us status or hegemony or wealth. And while it is true that freedom and democracy may favour development, it is also true that people cannot eat democracy. Kenya may have gone through remarkable even ‘revolutionary’ transformation in the last year or so but the ordinary Kenyan has little to show for the enhanced democratic space. The media-hogging initiatives by Government and the public sector only target issues that are important to the tiny, town-dwelling middle class, and have little to do with the rural areas where the majority of Kenyans eke out a perilous and almost impossible existence.

And so with the decline of Kenya comes the consequent rise of Tanzania, by default. Tanzanians went to the polls the other day and re-elected Kikwete and no one barely noticed meanwhile Kibaki’s and Museveni’s re-elections were marred by violence, chaos and shame. This and many other reasons is why Tanzania is not ranked among the Failed States of the world. Kenya’s decline in the East African region is an indicator, not just of reduced prestige, but also of the external frustration that mirrors the frustration of Kenyans at their leaders’ incessant bickering and tolerance of corruption, not to mention their utter failure to deliver even a modicum of sane governance.

It would be naïve to deceive each other that we are not a failed state but it would be unforgivable for us to allow self-pity or foolish pride to prevent us from accepting the challenges at hand. We must continue to push for reforms in our own small ways, we must continue to assert our constitutional rights and we must demand institutional transformation while continuing to hold all our public officers accountable to their employers: the people of Kenya. It is for us through our government to prove that we do not deserve to be compared with Somalia but until we do, we will forever be associated with them.

People who want to arm themselves with more information about political topics such as failed states can find information at online college classes. Politics and economics are two subjects that rule our world, and it is helpful when we understand as much as possible about them.

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