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Why the “Don’t Care” Attitude by Kenyans Undermines Development

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto unveiled some projects in Kiambu County in the past. Someone asked on Facebook whether these projects were under the national government or the county government. One person commented saying. “Who cares? Service delivery is what people need, not where it came from, why, how, etc…”

Another said, “Who cares? As long as they will help a common Mwananchi.” “Wanjiku hataki kujua ni za nani. We want services delivered to Mwananchi,” said another. Others include the source of the project being a ‘non-issue’ to ‘I do not care’ attitudes.

While these responses are just a few among many, they are very troubling. They prove that Kenyans are politically naïve and uninformed. They also portray CDF mentality where people only want to see ‘development’ but care less about the means of achieving it.

Public “don’t care” attitude weakens development

People want to see a road and use it but do not care how it came about or who shall maintain it in future. It applies to other projects like hospitals, classrooms, street lighting projects, etc. They do not care if the development comes from the national government or the county government.

These comments are dangerous and troubling because they show that people do not care about transparency and accountability. They care less about prudent utilization and implementation of public resources. All they want to see is their elected representatives ‘working’ by implementing tangible projects. This even includes legislators whose work does not involve management of funds and implementation of projects.

Yet, when these projects fail or become substandard, the people begin to complain. They cry foul about poor handiwork or neglect when no repairs take place. Yet, in their minds, they said they “don’t care” as long as they see these projects and benefit from them.

In the past, we saw the governors reject a deal with the Ministry of Health on the leasing of medical equipment. The national government concocted narratives that the governors were stumbling blocks who never wanted county residents to benefit. The public became angry with the governors. The sorry state of health in many counties at the time made the situation worse. People saw the governors as the reason why devolved health was failing.

The governors wanted accountability

Yet, despite the power play between the governors and the national government, the governors wanted accountability. Before signing the agreement on the leasing of the medical equipment worth billions of shillings, the Council of Governors asked for more information. For example, they wanted to know how the national government procured the equipment and who would foot the cost of operation and maintenance.

The governors did not want problems in future for the county governments. They were trying to shield the county residents from unnecessary costs that the county governments never included in their plans. They later agreed to sign the deal to end the stalemate but on condition that they continue to dialogue with the national government.

The “don’t care” attitude undermines public participation

In this case, the public should emulate the governors. When people say that they only want to see development, it also puts other issues into question, such as public participation. If people only want to see development where there is none, when do those concerned accord priority to public input? Alternatively, is public participation even important in the first place if we do not care who or what brings about the development, how they plan for the development projects, or if the development projects were a priority at all?

Unfortunately, this mentality by a huge number of Kenyans results from submitting to tokenism. This is another area on CDF mentality. When senior politicians or elected representatives go to the grassroots, the residents expect political goodies as a favor. They have a list of the problems that the President or other senior politicians should address in their visit. Some cite roads, others agriculture, hospitals, etc.

In return, the President or the senior politicians give them guarantees that their government will fulfil some (if not all) of their pledges. This behaviour goes back to independence and it relates to the ‘trickle down’ economy where people think that they elect people to amass wealth and then ‘trickle’ it down to them.

The “don’t care” attitude is a disaster

If people only want to see development happening at the county level, but do not care about the means of achieving it, then they should forfeit their right to public participation. They should give the government the exclusive right to decide for them. They should also demand a referendum to abdicate their rights on having the government consult them in decision-making.

The people should not bother about being involved in budget hearings, county, or national government planning. They should also forfeit their right to complain about substandard projects, shoddy contractors, loss of money through embezzlement or misuse (corruption), and such phenomena.

Yet, in the end, this “don’t care’ attitude by Kenyans shows many are ignorant about the roles of the national and county governments. It also proves to be a disaster because it gives both levels of government the chance to continue ignoring public participation in decision-making. Therefore, in the end, the public become the biggest losers.

Written by George Githinji

Githinji is passionate about devolved governance, public finance and cycling. He comments on topical socio-political issues in Kenya. In addition, he manages the @UgatuziKenya platform.

Follow Me → @EpiQKenyan

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7 thoughts on “Why the “Don’t Care” Attitude by Kenyans Undermines Development”

  1. The public needs to have a say in use of taxpayers money and see they get value for their shillings. However, public participation fora are not ‘user friendly’. They are held in days and times when people who could contribute positively are at work and probably only idlers attend. For example in my county, the forum supposed to start at 9am starts at 1pm. By then you leave frustrated. When the Supreme Court nullified results because IEBC could not show how it came by numbers sycophants were crying “figures”.

  2. If Civil Society spend the money meant for civic education as funded for instead of activism. Public Participation may be realized.

  3. It’s not don’t care attitude, it’s where, what can I do that’s killing dev. They only care when it’s their votes.

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