February 25th 2018

Opinion / Commentaries

'Harambee philosophy' has lost its noble cause in our modern Kenya

The spirit of harambee, a Kenyan culture of community self-help event, was even encouraged by our post-independence leaders like the first prime minister, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. From then onward, the forces of harambee have mustered a crushing momentum.

By Athanas Kipchumbaakipchumba@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 09 Dec 2016 20:23 EAT

I am neither enthusiastically in opposition of fundraising nor casting aspersion upon the magnificent causes accelerated by harambees. In fact, it would be completely wrong for me to falsely claim, with conspicuous braggadocio, that fundraising is seldom carried out in our community. They are legion, of late. This is so because the society we are living in is inundated with a myriad of challenges, stretching from huge hospital bills, a mountain heap of school fees arrears, thanks to expensive education system, funeral arrangements or suchlike expenses, to the general “development projects.”

Whoever introduced the harambee philosophy was a genius of some sort. For through harambees, the wheels of the community's development projects would be effectively greased, thus resulting in expeditious national socio-economic advancement. The spirit of harambee, a Kenyan culture of community self-help event, was even encouraged by our post-independence leaders like the first prime minister, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. From then onward, the forces of harambee have mustered a crushing momentum.

Reason? The government's [deliberate] spectacular failure to uniformly distribute the major development projects throughout the country has mobilised the denizens of the marginalised regions into organising funds drive with the sole objective of bankrolling their community projects like dispensaries, schools, and so on and so forth.

Due to dismal and exclusive government policies, particularly on healthcare and education, the largest segment of the Kenyan population today is stuck between a hard rock and deep blue sea. Multitudes are unable to settle huge hospital bills or pay for the monthly NHIF; many incapable of clearing their children's school fees! Mind you that these challenges are easily avoidable. Only if, the power-that-be is sincerely willing change things for better.

With this reality in mind, which alternative way or means would our impoverished people, most of whom are below the poverty line, have resorted to if not funds drive? Are the aforesaid challenges, honestly speaking, beyond the government's ability to reverse them? Are our avaricious legislators willing, perhaps any time sooner than soon, to make progressive legislations aimed at improving the general healthcare system by leaps and bounds, drastically slumping the cost of education, enhancing equitable distribution of national cake and advocating for equal opportunities for all Kenyans?

As long as our political elites across the political spectrum are deeply immersed in their sickening self-indulgence, pampering their seemingly wounded egos, fiercely defending their thieving and/or looting political coalitions, the sufferings and afflictions of our cash-strapped people are not about to vanish!

To cushion ourselves from the hard-hitting economic shocks, we have made up our minds to organise harambees for the primary purposes of addressing emergency issues, completing stalled projects, and maybe start new ones. Yes,this is a fantastic step in the right direction.

However, our morally bankrupt politicians have disgustingly misused the purpose of harambees [funds drive]. Of late, politicians are using these noble causes to achieve their individualistic political ends! Obviously to the massive detriment of the taxpayers, whose money is being looted right, left and centre by the political elites!

Don't get me wrong. Can you consider this, with a surgical accuracy: a friend invites you to, say “must-attend” harambee, for whatever reason. The only money 'between you and your poverty’, to borrow from my humorous camaraderies, is a thousand. Frankly speaking, how much would you give out to your ally? Some would donate 450, others 600 and whatnot. Am sure nobody gives out everything, aren't I?

Fair enough. What can we say of the likes of our flamboyant DP, whom I recently dubbed “the master of mock politics” based on his nauseating political chest-thumping and incessant scoff of the unmatched Kenya's political leviathan, Raila Odinga, who donates roughly 18 million a week to harambees ,and yet we know he earns less than 1.7 million monthly?

There is nothing wrong with donating anything, to those in need. In fact, the Bible encourages the spirit of giving. [Proverbs 3:27] do not withhold good from those to whom it's due, when it is in your power to do it. Which means Mr Ruto and the likes' deeds are in perfect harmony with the scriptural inspiration. Up to the mark.

Well, my main bone of contention is the foggy source of this staggering amount. Especially at a time when media revelations of mega scandals are becoming the orders of the week in our country, curiously under Jubilee regime.

It couldn't be outside the range of truth when someone, authoritatively, concludes that part, if not all, of the bundles of notes[money]in millions lavishly donated by politicians of the DP's ilk are the spoils of grand looting of public resources. It's a tough nut to crack for anyone to imagine how “big-hearted” our politicians are!

Contrary to what the scripture graphically says, our political class wants all and sundry to know how much they have donated at some harambee, maybe somewhere in his constituency, ward, or county. Let's see what the bible says on giving. In Mathew 6:3-4, we are told: But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what you right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. You could think these political actors are sticking to the scriptural teachings, but alas, they are merely desperately straining every sinew to right their past four-year or so political wrongs! Don't be deceived, folks.

What precisely has made harambee lose the nobility of its cause? More often than not, fund-raising has become a showbiz where politicians ostentatiously showcase their affluence, with the goal of wooing the gullible electorates. It is in this harambee thing that the voters are boxed into believing that politicians are attending to harambees due to the bigness of their hearts. Sorry folks, you are being hoodwinked and conned via fund-raising. Ulterior political motives abound!

This harambee also reinvigorates the plundering of public resources frenzy. Particularly if those in positions of trust are the key contributors. In my view, political leaders should be barred from attending harambees, particularly at a time when election is within a spitting distance.

The funds drive, if not, checked would also create corridors for immoral extortions! Which calls to mind the recent directive issued by the IEBC, telling MPs to desist from presiding over funds drive, in their counties/constituencies. This is a welcome move, but it won't be spared of resistance from some predictable quarters.

Unless we change some things, the nobility of the causes necessitated by harambee in our modern Kenya has been lost, maybe forever!

Kipchumba is a staff writer/columnist at the Kenya Free Press

Stay Connected