French Revolution:Lessons from History for Kenya

Th French Revolution in 1789 irreversibly changed France,the rights of the individual and most importantly political power and the way people are governed today.The French peasants tired of funding the luxurious lifestyles of the nobility in addition to all the taxes they were burdened with from tithe paid to the church,property tax and even tax levied on the number of people in the family got fed up with the financial strain they were under. They were tired of servicing old debts that were used to fund the excesses of the royal court and they made their voices heard in one of the greatest revolutions in European history.

Judges could rule in your favour if you were wealthy enough and justice could only be guaranteed for those that had money.Tax collectors and public officials bought their positions which were then passed along as inheritance to their heirs .Once you secured your position you reimbursed yourself by milking tax payers as much as possible.Taxes were only paid by the peasants,business people and workers as the noble and clergy had exempted themselves from any form of taxation.Even attempts by several Kings to curry favour with their citizens by lobbying for taxation reforms had failed.

Kenya today is experiencing the same situation that faced the French almost three centuries ago.We are a heavily taxed nation with a limited source of revenue and each budget year Kenyans brace themselves knowing that the Finance Minister will spare no item in his quest to fund a government that is increasingly needing more money every year.Yet these representatives who claim to be the mwananchi’s spokesperson have refused to pay any form of tax on their salaries.While the new constitution has reduced ministries to 22 from the current 42,we have an additional cost in the form of counties and the administrative costs it will take to have them up and running.It is a sure bet that we will need a lot of money to cater for the new structure of government that is in the new constitution.

The French revolution at the time was spurred by the need for ordinary folk to have more say in the way they were governed,have fairer trials among other things.Kenya today has not reached the edge of the precipice and it may not be possible to see the same magnitude of revolionary changes that forever changed the history of France.This is because our conditions are somewhat better than what the French peasant faced but we are still grappling with some of the same issues.Ordinary Kenyan folk are still in awe of the political class that hardly ever listens to what their constituents think on national issues.It is like these MP’s who are paid out of the taxes we remit t the government live on another planet and occasionally grace the earth we mortals live on.How else do you explain the fact that no one is talking about the rising inflation and all attention is directed to the political class at a time when fuel prices are expected to rise by at least seven shillings.

When the view of the Kenyan mwamanchi is muddled by tribalism the political elite do very little to clear that picture but continue fanning tribal stereotypes through the statements they make.It is no wonder even that most of our comedy shows are full of tribal innuendos which at the very least is a cheap means of gaining popularity.

This period that preceded the revolution was referred to as the age of reason,a lot of the thinkers and philosophers of the time advocated for the use of human reason and criticism as a tool to advocate for change in human affairs.Kenya today has not lacked in the number of people who have called for a much calmer political landscape but no one is paying attention.The voice of any Kenyan calling out for the use of reason and dialogue to advocate for change in the country is like the voice of a lone man in the desert,no one is listening.Everybody is transfixed by the political intrigues devoid of any vision that are taking place in the political arena.No one is asking how history is going to judge the current crop of leader for all the murk they are leading us into.

Kenya today with a very high literacy level is wallowing in shame,a former shadow of itself at independence.For the past four decades we have seen mindless looting of public funds while the tax payer has been saddled with a national debt that five generations from now will still be serviced by ordinary Kenyans.The Debt Management department of the Ministry of Finance puts the average domestic and foreign debt average by each of the 40 million Kenyans at 31 thousand Kenyan shillings and it is not declining any time soon.

If we look at the drama playing out in the political field at the expense of development it is mind boggling.How many commissions funded by the Kenyan tax payer have yielded nothing?Even the CDF and LATF funds that were hailed as the savior of decentralization are either being wasted, cannot be accounted for are or are still lying idle at treasury.Just this week we have witnessed the flurry of activity over a trip of 2 days that saw over 40 members of Parliament follow each other to the Netherlands while there are over 20 bills waiting to be passed in Parliament.

Kenya needs help and fast!We need a leader who will see beyond his nose and the constant preoccupation with which side of the Rift Valley you live in order to drive the agenda of development forward.We need a seismic shift of attitude in the way we view politics,it needs to move away from being a popularity contest to one that encourages noble actions for the betterment of society .We need to demand nobler actions from our representatives.As people who have been given positions of responsibility by trust and not because they are entitled to them we need to see more action and less verbal talk,we need to see them living upto the responsibility that being in Parliament calls them to. Only by doing this will our country have any hope of achieving the dreams the freedom fighters had when they were fighting the British.A Kenya that is free from the shackles of tribalism,racism,nepotism and any other ism that have blurred the bright future this country had half a century ago.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s