El Nino rains will not wash away Jubilee scandals


The weatherman must be feeling relieved to see the skies over Nairobi finally open, having had to contend with a cynical public questioning the credibility of his El Nino-linked rain forecasts in the past few weeks.

Well, the people at the Met are not the only ones who, conceivably, have had reason to look forward to the “above normal rains”.

You would imagine that President Uhuru Kenyatta and the other big shots in government have been saying silent prayers to the gods of the climate, too.

There is the small matter of the multibillion-shilling budget for the El Nino disaster preparedness and recovery plan that the cynics swear the government will have problems accounting for come rain or sunshine.

They look at how some officials recently fumbled trying to explain inflated prices of bar soaps and sanitary towels in that budget and see scandal clouds gathering above.

Of more immediate concern for Mr Kenyatta and his Jubilee government, however, has to be the unravelling scandals at the Treasury, the Devolution and Planning ministry and the National Youth Service (NYS).

As they say, when it rains, it pours.

The President and his deputy have in the past joked that they don’t read the newspapers and only use them to wrap meat.


But they surely must be sick to wake up every other morning to briefings by their aides that Eurobond, NYS and Waiguru are front page news again.

With Henry Rotich, the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, appearing to mix up his figures every time he opens his mouth and his Devolution counterpart Anne Waiguru effectively investigating herself, it looks like it will take nothing less than a real El Nino to replace the Eurobond and NYS scandals as headline news.

But every cloud has its silver lining, and Kenya’s democracy has quite a bit to gain from the robust public debate sparked by the latest scandals.

Indeed it has been a while since serious governance issues like accountability and transparency were given the kind of public attention they deserve and the protagonists approached the debate with so much maturity.

The standout performers for me have been the economist David Ndii and the Opposition Cord leader Raila Odinga.

Dr Ndii has in his regular column in the Saturday Nation taken to analysing and exposing the flaws in the figures the Jubilee government tends to throw at us to either paint a rosy picture of the economy or justify a wrong policy decision, like refusing to give teachers a pay increase awarded by the court.

For his part, Mr Odinga is seemingly listening to some good advisers and has lately chosen to engage his Jubilee rivals more on facts than rhetoric.

It is a small but significant victory for democracy in a country where important national issues are so often lost in the noise and theatrics of toxic political rallies.