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No, Kenyans, don’t be numb to these outrages

Whatever became of moral outrage in Kenya?

“Nothing changes, no lessons are learned. Kenyans move on, and forget about the whole thing. And so buildings will continue to fall, and bombs will keep being planted. Ferries will keep sinking, and trains will be derailed. Buses will continue crashing in exactly the same places for decades. Planes will keep falling out of the sky. Famines will occur annually with complete predictability. The makers of toxic brews will carry on apace. When the death toll is high enough, we will call in our friends, the Israelis, Americans and Britons. And then we will shake our heads in dismay and carry on.”

No, I didn’t write that paragraph last week. I wrote it five years ago. Sadly, absurdly, inexplicably, it remains valid.

Take the Peculiar Kenyan phenomenon of collapsing buildings. Where’s the moral outrage? People are being killed and maimed on a regular basis. Read that sentence again: it said PEOPLE, not insects. Rogue property developers and contractors are responsible for these deaths, in cahoots with corrupt officials. They pad their bank accounts, and are carried away in lustrous limousines. Innocent construction workers, meanwhile, are carried away in coffins.

But here’s the astonishing thing: nobody pays the penalty. How many buildings have come crashing down on human heads since I wrote that paragraph? I stopped counting. How many more people have died in order to enrich the rogues? I stopped counting. On the other side of the equation: how many culprits have been jailed? How many unfit structures have been pulled down? How many overhauls have been done of the regulatory departments and processes? Those we can all count.

Is there a law against unlawful killing in Kenya or not?

Take the other Peculiar Kenyan phenomenon of grand scams. The latest one is the foul stench emanating from the Education ministry. Where’s the moral outrage, people? Did you understand what happened? Money was stolen from the pockets of this country’s poorest children, in the name of free education. Some people have apparently padded their bank accounts, by taking desks, chalk, books and classrooms away from the hands of YOUR children.

We have responded in the usual way. Some people have asked other people to resign. Other people have refused to do so, and have said there is no evidence against them. Other people have blamed their predecessors. Other people have said that nothing was in fact stolen. Other people have whipped up their tribespeople to protect them.

What about you, reader? Your answer is…what? Shake your head and say “Oh dear, not again?” Have another drink? Wait for the new constitution to fix everything? Wait for the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to bite as well as bark? Let our donor partners raise a hullabaloo on our behalf? Hope that those pesky activists will chain themselves to railings in protest?

People, this is OUR country, OUR money, OUR issue. The cancer of corruption is eating away at our very core. We are becoming numb to the pain of these repeated scams. We just look away. We must demand that an end is put to these outrages. We must demand that those who abuse our trust pay a heavy price. We must demand that no one can enrich himself at our children’s expense.

Let me repeat for the umpteenth time on this page (and prepare you for umpteen more repetitions to come): these problems are not visited upon us from outside. They are our own doing. We have constructed this sick society that steals from orphans and refugees, and treats the lives of poor people no better than that of dogs. We must heal ourselves. At the very least, let us not forget to feel the outrage. It’s not OK.

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