Kenyans need leaders who are pro-people

Wednesday March 18 2020

Panelists lead discussions on how Kenya can attain its potential, during the Nation Leadership Forum at the University of Nairobi on July 29, 2019. We must begin settling for more, especially in leadership. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


When I talk about Kenya hating its people, it's an acknowledgment that love for people has never been part of the leadership culture.

That is why Kenyans confuse leaders who abuse power, violate laws and exert authority as strong while the opposite are seen as weak.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Love is an action word best demonstrated by the choices made towards the person claimed to be loved — in this case, the actions and choices made by leaders on behalf of the people.

People rarely forget how they were treated, be it good or bad. The choice to do either good or bad is in our control, more so our actions.

This is tied to Kenya’s abusive model of leadership that has for decades consistently chosen to be its people's exploiter and tormentor.

The amount of physical, mental and financial torment that Kenyans have to go through to make anything positive in their lives is insane.

The hurdles are as a result of a leadership culture driven by hatred for its people.


Considering that Kenyan leaders rarely make pro-people choices, many citizens often wonder what it's like living in a country that wants them to succeed.

How does it truly feel to live in a country that creates the ground for sowing its people's best seeds by not killing their dreams, lowering their self-esteem, draining all hope and perpetually hoarding opportunities because this is precisely what Kenya feels like?

Love for the people may sound fictitious but without it at the centre of leadership, contempt is the only fruit we reap.

Celebrated musician Muthoni the Drummer Queen aptly explained this in her TEDTalk that, "We cannot build what we do not truly love, and we cannot love until we love ourselves."

She explained how the thing we have to heal as Kenyans is our lack of self-love, our deep self-hate and the existential identity crisis. For this to be achieved, we must work towards a collective shift in our orientation.


This is precisely why we need more empathetic people in leadership, as empathy is one of the truest forms of leadership.

Empathy pushes people to actively listen. It creates an understanding of other people's issues out of the comfort bubble of privilege.

It is solution-focused and not lip service or the emotional performance that most Kenyan leaders exhibit.

It is realising that when you're responsible for people's lives, there are things you never negotiate like your people's ability to live, work and excel at an optimum.

For example, if Kenya loved its people, it would never condone the mismanagement of institutions or the theft of public funds.


These would be capital offences punishable even by death because they directly destroy real people's lives and futures.

Nepotism, tokenism, tribalism and favouritism would be punishable crimes for their continued expansion of inequalities.

But because Kenya doesn't love its people, it keeps treating them like unwanted step-citizens.

Lawyer Marilyn Kamuru puts it well: "Kenyans will be great despite the contempt of their leaders even though they shouldn't have to, but they will and that will be their legacy."

Ours is, therefore, to make the love of each other our culture; to make empathy our brand and begin settling for more, especially in leadership.

The writer is a policy analyst; [email protected]