Has the social , political and economic development of Sub Saharan Africa improved? Or are political efforts merely a “drop in the ocean?”
6 junio, 2016
Last Friday , I had the pleasure of speaking with Dionisia Kiragu, former councilor for the small town of Embu , Kenya. I had interviewed Kiragu, to establish if Sub Saharan Africa had made any progress in its social and political stance in the world. Kiragu, who worked for the local government in Embu during the years 1997-2002, gave me insight into her time in politics. Although , it was clear from the beginning, that Kiragu, believes that her efforts to make change in her local town of Embu only amounted to “a drop in the ocean” .
As local councilor, Kiragu’ s job involved policy making to ensure the social , economic and political development of Embu. Some of which included , road and housing construction as well as improving healthcare and “making the city green” by planting trees. However m,w hen asked about directly targeting poverty in Embu. Kiragu emphasised that poverty was “wide concept” and that in ways the local government did help actively in trying to eradicate poverty in that area, by constructing markets in which young men could make small business. Kiragu also mentioned that the local government produced bursaries and scholarship funds for those who could not afford school fees, but that such a high percentage of the population are poor , not all get to benefit from such stating that it was just a “drop in the ocean”.
Kiragu, who at many times, seemed disheartened in speaking at how little progress had been made to eradicate change, left her political career in Kenya because she found politics “to be very depressing” and instead moved to England to pursue other things. However, her family are still very much involved in politics and when speaking of her , in fact her brother Kithinji Kiragu is running for governor of Embu in the next elections due to take place next year. “KK” as he is often referred to , had infact run for governor, last year and despite winning the majority votes was not declared the winner as the elections had been rigged in order for his opponent to win.
When questioned on the issue of corruption, and how big of an issue it is Africa, Kiragu emphasised that it is a huge problem in Africa adding that , the political systems in many Sub-Saharan African states is very complicated ,due to ethnicity problems as various tribes speak different languages and that whilst the people may prefer a candidate, the President still has a lot of power in deciding who they want in politics.
Kiragu further mentioned , that the electorial system is not independent and neither are the courts , therefore once someone is declared the winner it will be very hard to overturn that, and whilst you can petition , you waste money and time as cases are never ruled in time.Indeed, poverty and corruption are two major issues , that hinder progress in many Sub-Saharan countries and Kiragu highlights the two’s overlap stating that for “ the 1 or 2 percent that is so rich the money that the money that is supposed to be channelled into the the development of the country, only half go to the hands of the poor”.
From Kiragu’s point of view , corruption stems from “poor leadership” , adding that until the quality of leadership is improved and until there are legitimate people committed to dealing with corruption, Kiragu believes that corruption will still be an issue for many African States. When asked whether she thought the African Union were helping to improve leadership and how well it has done in achieving its purpose? She stated that, although, she might be biased, from her viewpoint the African Union have done “very little” in addressing issues of good leadership or even corruption in Africa. Highlighting the case of the Kenyan elections in 2008 in which the person running for election believed the elections had been rigged and the case had been brought before the International Court of Justice , in which many of the key witnessed had been either killed or bribed by the government, but the African Union had rallied behind those people, so were not helpful in this situation.
Kiragu argues that in order for the African Union to be helpful in addressing the issues of Sub- Saharan Africa , she believes that “political education is vital in saving corruption”. .Adding that it has been achievable, with case of Malawai where their president had managed to solve the issue of food shortages in the country.
Finally ,as it seems Kiragu is knowledgeable in politics and that needed to be done to make changed. I asked why she left politics. Kiragu answered, that the main reason was due to poverty, stating that many of the councilors she worked with were not interested in serving people, only earning money. She became a councilor in order to make a positive contribution stating that “people came to me with problems, but there was a limit to how many people I could help”, stating that she couldn’t be in an institution where you were only “accountable to the people elected?” “ As an ordinary voice , you can’t make the difference you want to make and the efforts you do are merely a drop in the ocean. “
Dionisia Kiragu Interviewed by Gabriella Fernandez