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Kenya @50- the need for a new social contract : Part II


The Donors

Elections have no consequences, let’s build indigenous institutions

Before the elections, the donors constant refrain was,” elections have consequences”, “we shall maintain only essential contacts” an implicit warning to the Kenyan voters to think hard before electing Kenyatta and Ruto. Kenyan voters were chaffed at what they deemed as unwarranted interference, and voted in protest for the two candidates.

After the elections, there seems to be a change of heart by the Western countries, where realpolitik trumps principles- immediately after the elections, Kenyatta was invited to the London Somalia conference by the British Prime Minister. Either Britain felt Kenya was a key partner in the war on terror in Somalia, or, with elections over, it was time for a reset – Britain relations are restored after bruising campaign in which most of the local civil society organizations receiving funding from Britain were demonized as lackeys. 

The rejection by the voters, especially young urbanite is a clear manifestation yet the donors place, just like other institutions is not as assured as it has always been. Never mind they underwrote most of the “reform” -political hygiene projects over the last two decades.  Two reasons account for this; The Western duplicity is slowly being unmasked, with the expansion of information and communication, people are more literate about the real goals of western countries. The presence of China has changed the Western leverage over Kenya, coupled with the decline of the West post the 2008 economic crash has made Kenyan’s, albeit, sometimes uncritically, say let’s face East.

Further, the mind-numbing bureaucracy involved in getting any project funded by the West as opposed other rising powers, have made many to opt out. The paper work in involved in accounting for nickels and dimes, takes more time than actually implementing the projects. For tied project, the cost-benefit analysis favors not receiving the money at all. This has been execrated by the 2008 financial crisis where the donors are extremely sensitive about their domestic constituencies.

Over, the aid has never been purely about altruism- it is appendage to the foreign policy. Most projects funded have specific foreign policy objectives, and in many cases are not necessarily aligned with the people’s specific needs. These double standards, even at the rhetoric level have been hard to run away. The transformation to partners, the evolution of private-public partnership sound hollow.

The triumvirate of donors, the civil society and the media seem to be blinded by their sense of importance and are proud to change course. Their significance has been eroded, their impact as agents of change diminished, and role taken over, albeit with limited success, by alternative institutions. It will be cruel to see such useful agents of change be impotent after what they have fought for is now in fruition- the constitution. But if they want to reserve their legacy, and continue to play a significant role, they need to rediscover their mojo.

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