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Predictions for Kenya in 2005

Dec 26, 2004 Humour, Sunday Nation

It is fashionable at this time of year these days to offer predictions for the year ahead. So allow me to chance my arm, climb the prophecy tree, go out on a limb and look into my crystal ball, all in one smooth movement. Here’s what I think 2005 portends for Kenyans.

Let’s start with politics (why not, when it’s what Kenyans seem to want to consume, day, night and into the afterlife). It can safely be stated that NAK and LDP will still be at loggerheads in 2005. They will squabble over every single issue, and will not forsake any opportunity for bickering. Why should they when it’s clearly so much fun, and lets them avoid the need to do any real work? Kanu will continue its seemingly terminal decline unless it manages to make a clear and clean break from its awful past. Ford-K will continue to wallow in the miasma of irrelevance (to paraphrase one of its former leading lights, now departed). All of this will not advance our development one inch, yet we will all follow the intricacies of the latest political conspiracies as though our lives depended on it.

As a result, the chances of Kenyans receiving a new constitution in 2005 are extremely dim. The political classes have taken over the process, and they will only offer us a constitution that suits their interests, at a time that suits them. The needs of the ordinary Kenyan tend not to dominate their thoughts, so I fear that the radical document known as the Bomas Draft may not see the light of day again. Yet I am willing to bet that many of those excellent fellows known as parliamentarians have never, ever read the Draft; they have only shouted about it in rallies. But we will continue to call them our representatives, and allow them to vote for us in this monumental matter. Christmas quiz question: when a dimwit represents you, what does that make you?

Throughout this, the official government spokesman will continue to tell us that we are the most privileged nation in the world led by the most far-sighted government the planet has ever seen. He will continue to defend the indefensible, justify the unjustifiable and excuse the inexcusable. He will also regularly pick undiplomatic fights with diplomats. On the bright side, he will create more and more employment in his office.

What about the economy? It’s safe to say that we will be in the grip of a high interest-rate regime throughout 2005. We are back in the grasp of our true masters, the International Monetary Fund. Interest rates go up, IMF aid money is released: two entirely unrelated events in late 2004, I’m sure. Or not. Again, our economic minders have found it too hard to think for themselves. Again, they have ignored the example of many East Asian countries, and even South Africa, and have conceded stewardship of the economy to an alien entity. So, if you were one of the mugs who swallowed Narc’s rhetoric of low interest rates forever, and were reeled in by the banks that went on a cheap loans spree – you will have 2005 to count your bruises. Pole.

As in 2003 and 2004, however, Kenya will create many, many jobs. The figure of 1.5 million or so jobs to date will be mentioned in passing by some junior minister in parliament in November next year. All attempts to obtain some specific numbers on job creation by sector, region, industry etc will be entirely futile. We will be left speculating whether these jobs are all in the security industry (which booms every year), or in the form of personal assistants to MPs (another surging sector). Our forecasts for “realistic” future growth in GDP will be revised downward yet again in 2005: we will most likely start hearing ministers talking about 3 per cent growth as the desired target for the economy (do you need me to remind you that 7 per cent seemed a piece of cake during the post-election party?). In spite of all this, the market for seminars, workshops and conferences will go through the roof. Hotels with conference facilities will rake it in; travel allowances and per diems will continue to become a major component of our national income. We are indeed a nation of workshopkeepers.

But let’s leave all that “macro” level gloom and doom aside, and focus on ordinary Kenyans going about their ordinary business. It is certain that Kenyans will not abandon their many day-to-day peculiarities. Speed governors will continue to be as effective as all other governance mechanisms in Kenya; despite this, ordinary people will continue to sit in buses and matatus doing 140 kph without a murmur and without a seatbelt. They will plunge headlong to their gruesome deaths, which will be reported on prime time TV news in remarkable detail. Most viewers will shake their heads in dismay before boarding a death trap themselves the following morning.

Kenyans in 2005 will continue to run across very busy highways when a footbridge is available; we will continue to charge into lifts without waiting for the occupants to disembark first; we will continue to jump queues in banks, government offices and life in general, all the way to an early (queue-jumped) death; we will continue to wonder what indicator lights are for in a vehicle; we will continue to ride dark bicycles on dark nights wearing dark clothes; we will continue to make intimate contact with roundabouts, streetlights and ditches in our cars on Friday and Saturday nights; we will continue to wear thick woollen suits, jackets and ties in a very hot country; we will continue to close our businesses rather than reduce prices and profit margins; and we will continue to be mesmerised by the trappings of wealth.

In case all this makes you want to end it all (a cross-country bus trip would be an effective method, incidentally), let me stop there. No point in losing readers, after all! Let us look at 2005 in a somewhat different light.

I can state with absolute certainty that despite being led by gluttons and shepherded by wolves, Kenyans will continue to be amongst the most cheerful, resourceful and resilient people around. We will continue to craft our own solutions to our day-to-day problems, and to survive against the odds. We will continue to be hospitable to visitors and generous to strangers.

At the end of the day, our happiness in 2005 is entirely in our own hands. We can fritter the year away in blaming politicians, donors, and neo-colonialists and depress ourselves; or we can decide to be cheerful regardless of what happens around us. We can choose to be fearful and angry all the time; or we can learn the power of acceptance and live a life of all possibilities in 2005. Let us enjoy an unprecedented boom in our care and concern for each other, and keep laughing at our peccadilloes. That much is entirely within our own control. May you have a year filled with kindness and mirth.

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