Whatever you do, do not mess up with our farmers

Wednesday March 18 2020

Repression is the filler in a vacuum created by a government that is not genuine. Good governance and repression are inversely proportional. They do not walk hand in hand. The better the governance the less the repression and the other way around.

Bad leaders have always refused to see this evident reality. When repression systems increase, and the state becomes a suppressive police state, any sensible leader must stop for a moment, reflect and ask himself or herself, ''why am I losing the people?''

Every dictator (here I include presidents who overstayed in power or those who did not frankly win open and transparent elections) is pushed to create repressive systems. Such dictators, in most cases, do not plan genuine peaceful transition and stick to power until it is too late, believing power to be eternal.


Think of Al Bashir, our closest geographical and most recent example. Picture the case of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Anastacio Somoza, Robert Mugabe, Nicolás Maduro and many others, who have refused to see the on-coming tsunami and subjected their population to blatant lies and genocidal submission rather than leaving power.

Sadly, in our world, love for power often undermines long-term sustainability. In our modern democracies, leaders have learnt to care more about re-elections than the country’s future generations. The vote is here and now; I win or lose an election today, and this is expensive... We will cross tomorrow’s bridge when it comes... though it may never come.

What keeps a leader’s sanity in place is popular love and support, not invented and manipulated support, but genuine love. To be loved, to be wanted and to some point needed.

Every society has some key buttons or switches that turn love on and off. One of them is hunger, food security. Ceaușescu, Bashir, Somoza, Mugabe and Maduro played with this switch… and this turned love off and their haters on. They refused to see it.

In 1981, Ceaușescu had introduced austerity measures in Romania. He asked the people to make a huge sacrifice. Thanks to these austerity measures, he paid the external debt in full (11 billion dollars or Sh1.1 trillion) in less than nine years, and kept on speaking of their wonderful communist revolution. The country was hungry…and angry. Everyone grew poorer and hungry except Ceaușescu and his cronies. The end was just a matter of time. In 1989, he was toppled and executed together with his wife.

Al Bashir and Maduro too defeated all economic principles and turned one of the richest countries into a miserable and hungry pit hole. They could not appear in public and gather sizable crowds unless they were helped by multimedia, militia and petty cash pay-outs.

Every leader must keep a delicate balance between good politics, popular decisions and sensible long term objectives. This balance keeps sanity. This balance is broken when leaders neglect key sectors (food production and food security, for example) and hand them over to cartels that enrich themselves at the cost of people’s hunger and misery.


The speed at which the Kenyan agriculture sector is falling prey to cartels formed by unscrupulous tycoons who do not feel the pinch of people’s hunger, is appalling. All the big issues that Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT), the press and our politicians are talking about (Huduma Namba, fake gold, NYS, etc.) are just a drop in the ocean of troubles the President will have to deal with if corruption is not kept off our agriculture sector. The cartels are taking over as we watch in silence.

What is going on is unbelievable, it is dangerous and it will cause great suffering to the people and the leaders. I would rather ask that we keep our fake gold circus on…after all we do not eat gold, genuine or otherwise.

If we lose our agriculture sector to unscrupulous individuals and cartels, only repression will keep us together. We hope it does not come to that.

Kenya’s economy depends on agriculture. Next week I will explain what is currently happening to our farmers, particularly in the sectors of maize, macadamia nuts, milk and organic manure. I will not deal with coffee, which we destroyed long ago.

Dr Luis Franceschi, Dean – Strathmore Law School, [email protected]