GUYO: Respecting rule of law is like growing magnolia for everyone - Daily Nation

Respecting rule of law is like growing magnolia for everyone

Monday July 9 2018

Uhuru Highway showing the 'Kidero grass' in full bloom

A section of Uhuru Highway showing the "Kidero grass" in full bloom on December 28, 2015. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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We all remember the valiant efforts former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero made to plant flowers in the city in 2015 in the hope that they would grow before Barack Obama’s first visit to Kenya as a sitting President of the United States.

‘Son of Kenya’ coming home aside, it was important that the streets looked spick and span for Obama’s arrival. This was Potus coming.

Then we were amused for days on end afterwards because the flowers failed to grow and Potus just had to make do with stunted magnolia (or were they? Whatever they were, the plants just failed to grow and we had quite a laugh about it — of course at Kidero’s expense.

The joke was funny then but, looking back, I wonder whether it was even necessary to go to such great lengths to plant flowers for just a day’s use.

In a nutshell, the hurried and haphazard way the flowers were planted for Obama’s welcome represents our knee-jerk reaction to issues.


The same could be said of roads that are only repaired and painted before our President’s visits around the country.

It might appear a fitting welcome for the leaders but I can only discern the dishonest way we approach issues. Such efforts are a sheer facade and smokescreen for incompetence — and corruption, perhaps.
Who is fooling who?

Kenya is not immune to organised crime and the latest series of cases of contraband imports and counterfeits should have been smoked out before we were inundated with them.

To have government agencies running helter-skelter after the horse has bolted just shows their lack of preparedness to avert serious matters that have the potential to be a threat to national security.

I won’t be wrong to infer that there is disregard for the rule of law if glaring security breaches occur in the country without a whiff of suspicion from those in charge.

I get this sense that rule of law is mostly understood in our country to begin and end with politics.

Beyond that, it seems, anyone with the wherewithal to break the law can get away with it scot-free regardless of its impact on the society.


The latest incidents of corruption and influx of counterfeits and contraband just show how unprepared we are when it comes to tackling issues that, indeed, have a negative effect on our lives.

We seem keen to do what is right by others to appease the world but fail to realise that respecting the rule of law means doing it right by us so that you and I and future generations end up living in a well-ordered society.

Rule of law means being patriotic to the country by realising that flowers can be grown and roads painted for us first so that we, the citizens, can enjoy the fruits of our labour.

Rule of law means knowing we have a sincere and honest leadership that provides services that are mandated and not just good at rolling out the red carpet for foreign dignitaries to hide those potholes we endure daily.

Knee-jerk reactions manifest the dishonest and cavalier way in which we deal with weighty issues of national importance.

We just throw darts in the dark after disaster happens and hope for the best.


Rule of law is something that the leadership should be drilling into the citizens until it becomes part of their DNA. However, it is difficult to achieve this when MPs are at the forefront of protecting their colleagues caught on the wrong side of the law.

They may chest-thump now and arrogantly justify their sense of wrongdoing, which, incidentally, translates as abuse of power. However, they must remember that there is a time and place when they, too, will be private citizens with no ‘tall’ relative but only the law to their rescue.

When the head is rotten the body is bound to follow suit. When those entrusted to be the custodians of the Constitution and, by extension, uphold the rule of law are the first to break the law, the rest of the country is bound to copy them.

The breakdown is having an impact even on our schools, where students won’t think twice about committing anti-social behaviour with total impunity.


Because having the ability to circumvent the law has trickled down to the level of our children.

Or how else can we explain the disorder in most of our schools, from wanton cheating at exams to burning down dormitories?

A good leadership should be prepared and proactive. Ability to foresee challenges is the hallmark of a good leadership.

Instead of planting that magnolia just that once for Obama and hope on a wing and a prayer that they grow in a day, why not ensure it is planted throughout the year for us all to enjoy? Rule of law is exactly like that.

Living in a well-ordered and prosperous society would always be much more beneficial to all than chaos, anarchy and management by crisis.

Respecting the law is the best example to set for future generations.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher in Kenya and the United Kingdom. [email protected]