2012 is the year Kenya is facing the first general election under a new constitution which is bringing forth fundamental changes in its governance structures since independence. Multipartism in 1991 heralding to the 1992 election was a significant milestone and game changer but 2012 is clearly revolutionary. But with all this happening and a messy economic spectrum in 2011 what do the citizens of this important nation in Africa expect? Any hope of better economic fortunes?
Kenyans are ushering a new year (2012) at a period when the conditions in the economic sphere are making the majority to adjust their lifestyles. The high cost of living will necessarily push many to lower economic status, lower consumptions of most good and services and overall they are in for a strain. Worrisome is the political spectrum. The implementation of the new constitution has so far been bumpy and 2012 will largely be a presidential succession posturing, grand schemes, counter schemes and new political direction scheming.
It has been argued in different fora that whenever there is a political transition period there is emergence of high level graft and that’s when great economic saboteurs masterminds come to the fore to make selfish quick gains. Cases often cited is Russia in the era of Boris Yeltsin, South Africa during the transition to the era of black majority rule, Eastern Europe in late 1980’s when communism was a dying relic, many of the economic transformations periods in Latin America especially in the 1980’s and 1990’s ,so much in Asia and particularly in India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and so on.
When it comes to third world politics periods of transition provides so much uncertainty and also create vacuums that are exploited by those close to power or in power to make illicit gains. So 2012 will also be a year to keep a lot of vigilance on the economy and various economic operations. Sugar, oil, energy projects, maize, privatization, currency, strategic infrastructure tenders, important government tenders, emergence of new financial institutions and so on are areas to keep a keen watch. I’m not sure Kenyans are aware during election years emergence of dubious financial scams and institutions like pyramid schemes come into to the fore. There are people who not necessarily in the government but with influence and connections who exploit the loopholes or create them to make some quick buck or fundraise for political schemes.
On the other hand key areas or events to watch include the implementation of the new constitution, political alliances, constitutional amendments, political parties , strategic state or state bodies/agencies appointments , the depth of devolution laws and resources and so on. Obviously the war in Somalia (Operation Lindanchi) and its consequences is critical in regional stability and the opportunities availed by a stable Somalia are an important occupation of the state psyche. The ICC confirmation or none of it of the charges on the Ocampo Six is an important aspect of the nation’s political life.
In a nutshell 2012 provide a fragile state of affairs in both the political and economic realms. Importantly the new constitution if well implemented could thrust the country to a better future. However the actors include those who used the old constitution to sabotage positive political developments in the past and the challenges of embracing change still loom large. The economic maladies, growing poverty, high unemployment levels, insecurity, threats of terror, chaotic urbanization, chaotic devolution and high cost of borrowing are some of the hardships to welcome Kenyans in 2012. Moreover there is hope at least that high inflation levels can be curtailed. There is no reason why the nation cannot be sufficient in food in 2012. There is nothing to impede progress in new infrastructure like modern railway, expansion of the airports, new port of Lamu, decongestion of port of Mombasa, Construction of Voi to Taveta roads, better roads to Masaai Mara game reserve, Dongo Kundu bypass construction, several roads across the country, prevention of aflotoxin in our maize meal, growth in tourism, opening of new tourist circuits across the country, new capital inflows etc.
Sort out politics and the economic kingdom shall follow. Have a better and prosperous 2012 dear Kenyans. You deserve it.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda: Nairobi, Kenya.
The writer is a Consultant and Researcher working for a Not for Profit Organisation with an office in Kenya covering the African region.