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A Go-Fund-Me for Kenya

If you ask the mob on the streets of Nairobi, Mombasa and other towns and cities of Kenya, they believe they can run things better…

If you ask the mob on the streets of Nairobi, Mombasa and other towns and cities of Kenya, they believe they can run things better than William Ruto. But Ruto is accountable to two or three masters. If he professes any faith, he is answerable to his God, then the people who believed that they elected him, and most importantly, the guys in Washington DC. I am not talking about Joe Biden but the suit-wearing officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Except it happens on Judgement Day, we won’t know what kind of conversations Ruto has with his God. As far as the protesters in the streets are concerned, Ruto knows the antidote to their problems – send armed security agents down with orders to shoot and kill, if possible. If he issued the order in the first days of last week’s demonstration, they almost carried it out to the hilt. At least one woman lost her son. She vows he was actually walking away from the protest in company of his friend when a bullet hit him.

Human right groups claimed to have counted two corpses at least and about 300 injured. Scores were arrested. It took Ruto by surprise. The journey to the generation of $2.7 billion he needs to keep Kenya afloat started in earnest in May 2023. That was when he proposed the now infamous New Taxes Finance Bill 2024.

Like all presidents, including those in Africa, who just use the title, Ruto had other distractions. First, he was not particularly happy that some parliamentarians were turning their backs on European suits. They adopted the watered-down version of that king of all formal dressings they imported from neighbouring Zambia. It was called the Kenneth Kaunda suit, a bottom-down version of the ancient stuff.

Not willing to see the old English version go to ruin, and to discourage an invasion of the bawdy garb that Nigerian politicians wear, Ruto and the parliament outlawed it. They adopted the zany suits, complete with a white shirt and tie, apparently preferably red. That law passed without a protest in the streets.

About a month ago, Ruto was in Washington DC to see Joe Biden, one of the first African presidents to be received at the White House, since he is after all, like me, manifestly black. There, he was garlanded a non-NATO Ally, much like winning all the gold medals at the Olympics of governance.

While some silly African nations were aligning with Russia, Ruto went to reassure the Americans that Kenya would remain their boy. Only its most famous writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, was unhappy about that alliance. He does not live in Kenya and his lone voice drowned before he finished writing it.

Anyway, so Njuguna Ndung’u, Ruto’s finance minister, proposed this bill to raise an extra 350 billion shillings that is needed if Kenya is not to be put on lien to China. That is about $2.7 billion. Mr Ndungu trusted poor Kenyans to cough out that in taxes. His plan read like the third rail, but he was sure he could push it through, until last week Tuesday when Kenyan youths trooped to the streets.

It is a shock because this bill is not at all anti-people. It proposed a 16 per cent tax on bread. Most Kenyans survive on Ugali and occasional Nyamachoma. If anyone ate glutenous bread, it would be those people who wear suits. It is supposed to compliment their dressing. The bill would have raised taxes on motor vehicles by 2.5 per cent.

Now, that is not bad if you understand that obesity is a number one killer of kwashiorkor victims. It was meant to help Kenyans keep their svelte shape, but the mob does not know.

If that bill passed, the cost of Matatu transportation would have increased, but then, the alternative is always trekking, which is good for the body if you ask any medical doctor.

Some say a rise in transport costs would exacerbate the cost of essential commodities. This is the claim of trade unionists and social media activists. We all know that in Kenya, nothing is essential after maize. It would have increased taxes on foreign exchange transactions and other banking issues. This is not supposed to affect ordinary Kenyans because they are not known to use banks and have no use for the dollar, except when tourists show up.

According to Western media, which always parachutes its African correspondents to these events at the expense of their local counterparts, Kenya is indebted to corruption. It has practically sold itself to Chinese debtors and needs to start paying or give up its sovereignty. Obviously, it didn’t consider the latter a better option.

With the mob in the streets, Ruto had to back down a bit. He promised to talk to the protesters as he scratches his head for where to get the $1.5 billion or 200 billion Kenyan shillings shortfall that his proposed budget needs. The financial year is supposed to start July 1.

As the only dependable ally of America, Ruto might have to appeal to Joe Biden for a Go-Fund-Me if he is to meet his target to the Chinese and other lenders this fiscal year.

For now, tea drinkers might have to take the healthier option of not using sugar. Women would have to return to traditional means of sanitation because the cost of sanitary ware is likely to go up. Enemies of the system in Kenya claim that the Chinese loans and projects were actually not priorities. They should have said so when Uhuru Kenyatta was signing on the dotted lines. As far as the crystal ball reveals, it is not yet uhuru for Kenya, and that is not good news in the streets.

The heat dome

If you ask me, God is heating up the earth in preparation for that promise to burn it down eventually. According to those who claim to know, the earth has been warming at an alarming rate, but this year, it broke recorded history.

Even from an arctic heartland in Canada, this writer considered himself lucky to survive the last week. That was when 100 heat records were broken in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces.

While we were sheltering in malls and cooling centres, the 1.8 million people that performed this year’s obligatory pilgrimage or hajj in Saudi Arabia had no respite. On Arafat Day, temperatures hit a record 51.8 degrees, basically enough to boil eggs. But those who had eggs kept them away in their refrigerators.

Unfortunately, about 1,300 pilgrims died from that heat wave. Over 600 of that number were from Egypt and, according to the Saudis, had performed the hajj ‘without permission.’

Scientists don’t share my religious theory. They believe that the things we have been doing to the environment over time is responsible for this heat wave. Trouble is, if you look around the world right now, not much is being done to halt the slide towards Hades. The allied forces are still bombing themselves to smithereens in places like Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Palestine. There are annihilating wars in Sudan and Yemen. If God is not frying the environment, we humans are, and it will be our nemesis.

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