|When we got our independence in 1963, there was something leaders of the time liked to call The Kenya Dream and what a wonderful dream that was. Modern day politicians also talk about it, the loudest being those in the Orange Democratic Movement. The Kenyan Dream was essentially a victory against Poverty, Ignorance and Disease. While I agree there is more to good leadership than a fight against these three evils, the success of such a fight can form a sound basis for assessment of any regime. It therefore makes sense to analyze how Kibaki fared in this front and whether his performance played a role in his re-election.|
There is a very interesting statistic that I kept hearing when I was coming through (probably when in fifth standard in 1992); that 56% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. Politicians like to quote these statistics to advance their cause but the truth is that Kenya’s poverty index used to be 56% in the ‘90s. Kibaki took over when it was 50% and he finished his first term when it was 46%. That is not a too shabby performance over five years in my opinion.
You cannot talk about poverty eradication without looking at the state of the economy. Mwai Kibaki’s government oversaw a period of high economic growth. Of course there are those who believe otherwise, but then we can’t all agree on all things. Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique are the only African countries that recorded higher growth rates than Kenya in 2006/2007. When one considers what the ‘growth’ was five years ago, they cannot fail to appreciate the gains. There is an argument that Kenyan latter day economists like to advance that the trickle down effect is just not there. Any Poverty report says that poverty has reduced in the last five years. What then exactly do they mean when they say the average person does not feel the economic gains? Where do the people of Kenya take the money they used to pay primary school Development levies with? If people used to ‘fund raise’ to erect classrooms and village dispensaries, where are they taking that money today? The CDF was a good idea and the fact that the economy can support that without a sweat is good news to everyone. If healthcare is cheaper than it was six years ago, doesn’t that mean the Kenyan people are either saving money or spending on stuff they used to live without? It is just plain dishonest for anybody to claim that the economic growth statistics are a fabrication. What that basically means is that the government has made some strides in the war against poverty.
The War against ignorance; Mwai Kibaki’s administration’s biggest success story is the free primary education. Bill Clinton said in 2003 his biggest wish was to meet Mwai Kibaki and thank him for making elementary school education accessible to every Kenyan child. Since the introduction of the free primary school education, school enrolment rates have shot up. Many children were being locked out of school due to the high fees. Today, Kenya boasts the oldest primary school pupil in the world. He had stayed out of school for almost a century and in my opinion, there is no better way of proving that you are fighting ignorance than having an 80 year old man enroll in class one. It has been argued that the quality of education has been compromised but to be fair everything comes with some side effects. Even so, the deterioration of standards is yet to be proved because performance in the national exams has continued to improve every year. The country’s literacy level as well as general education attainment is something we are all proud of.
The last aspect of the Kenyan Dream is victory over disease. When Mwai Kibaki’s government came to power in 2003, the HIV prevalence rate was 14.2%. It was 6.7% in 2004. 6.1% in 2005, 5.9% in 2006 and 5.1% in 2007. These figures were given by Alloys Orago, the Director of National Aids Control Council in August this year. It would be very selfish for the government to claim solo credit for this decline, but no one can rule out their role either. The fact that HIV/AIDS victims can access ARVs at no cost in public hospitals is one of the biggest reasons for the decline. Healthcare is less costly than it was six years ago. The general health of Kenyans is better and that is why we are talking about a life expectancy of 55 up from 49. That means we are not doing badly in that front either.
I know that some of these statistics may not make sense to a lot of people, but honestly how else would you assess the country’s situation without looking at them? These were noble goals that our founding politicians set and Kibaki should be rightly proud for being in charge at a time when all indicators show a favorable trend. Americans did not think very highly of President Bill Clinton, but when they looked at statistics on unemployment rate, inflation, economic wellbeing, home ownership, and welfare roles, they started seriously considering him as one of the country’s five best presidents ever. When we ask ourselves what it is we expect a president to do, we will agree that it is to provide leadership on things that matter to the governed. When you report to a right thinking Kenyan that there is better business environment, there is more money in circulation which they can get if they work hard, healthcare is better accessible and more affordable and that their children are better educated than they were six years ago, you will definitely see them smile.
There are other areas of governance that must be assessed before passing a verdict on Kibaki’s regime. These include expansion of the democratic space to allow people of normal intelligence like Najib Balala to make fun of the president and his family. There are other things like his wife’s attempt at intimidating the press, the failure by his government to midwife the writing and adoption of a new constitutional dispensation acceptable to a majority of the people of Kenya and his war against corruption and insecurity. His performance in some of these aspects of governance was ‘outstanding’, ‘average’ on others and ‘outright failure’ in others.
After considering all these, I think it’s fair to give the president a general score of 6.5/10. That in my opinion is a score that merits some reward. It is not too bad if you ask me and I am sure some people considered some of these things when casting their vote.
“The World is full of willing people; some willing to work and others willing to let them.”