This week’s release of the Rule of Law Index report by an American-based civil society organisation known as the World Justice Project was as yawn-inducing as it was meaningless, and it is a wonder it was given any space at all in our newspapers.
This is because what the WJP had to say, Kenyans have heard it all before in many variations and there was no likelihood they would lose much sleep over the report, however true its contents may be.
Busybody “international” organisations passing judgement on Kenya’s performance in the area of governance have become a dime a dozen. The only problem is that besides the fact that the bona fides of such bodies have not really been established, all their reports appear to follow a particular template without any deviations whatsoever. In any case, the revelations that are supposed to be earth-shaking are rarely anything of the kind. This is probably because, however damning they may be, they never attract sanctions.
What is the point, for instance, of going on and on, accusing someone of being a habitual thief, and neither punishing him nor rehabilitating him? What incentive is given to the subject to change his ways? In fact, a preacher stands a better chance of making an impact; at least he can promise fire and brimstone to sinners, or paradise in the afterlife to those who follow the straight and narrow. Reward and punishment are the greatest motivators, and where one is lacking, no behaviour change should be expected.
Let’s put this matter in the right perspective. This country has for the longest time been known for its corruption, and the only thing that we want is for our leaders to fight and defeat it. Reminding us constantly that they have failed in that seemingly hopeless task leaves us absolutely cold.
We know it already. Secondly, we have lived under one form of insecurity or the other for a very long time. We know all about it because we are the victims. Why would we need outsiders to tell us what is so obvious? And by the way, who are these, our interlocutors?
The World Justice Project is an international civil society organisation whose mission is "to advance the rule of law around the world". To do this, it “measures how the rule of law is experienced and perceived by the general public in 126 countries and jurisdictions worldwide, based on more than 120,000 household and 3,800 expert surveys”. More tellingly, it has links to the American Bar Association — at least it did when set up in 2006 — but now it is an independent entity whose mission is to “help identify countries’ strengths and weaknesses and encourage policy choices that strengthen the rule of law within and across countries”.
In short, this organisation is yet another tool used by patronising Westerners to remind us in the Third World just how backward we are on nearly every parameter of governance. Why we are supposed to take the findings of such a nebulous entity seriously is beyond comprehension. According to its report this year, Kenya does very badly in almost every parameter, beating only the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda in the continent.
It would be interesting to know just how the United States scores on those same indices now that Americans finally got to elect the most enlightened leader in their history — the Chosen One.
And now to a lighter issue that should warm the cockles of your heart. A month ago, I was on my way to Nairobi from Ongata Rongai, the untidy dormitory town cheekily called the Diaspora, when something happened inside a matatu that left me completely bemused.
Soon after I had settled down, a young woman entered and sat across the aisle. Now, on the rare occasions when I make such a trip, I buy a Nation newspaper to while away the time in case of traffic jam. I did it this time and was about to enjoy a quiet read when the lass politely asked to “look” at it and I quietly obliged — for two reasons.
First, I am a sucker for youth and beauty in this dreary world. Second, it is rare to hear a 20 something-year-old girl express a desire to read any newspaper at all, and so I was understandably fascinated, more so because she did not start with the fashion pages as I had expected: she read the damn thing from end to end while I watched.
Somehow, it never occurred to her that I may have bought the paper for a purpose. When it came time for her to alight minutes before I did, she thanked me curtly, handed over the paper, and took off.
I’ll never know what caused that kind of rudeness and certainly she will never know my feelings, but I’ll tell her this for free: Don’t try this caper too often; you might do it to a boor and come to hate the pursuit of knowledge in confined spaces for the rest of your life.
Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor ([email protected])