Saturday, May 21, 2011

Talking 'Bout A Revolution

Our society has reached a point where fewer and fewer people bother to follow laws and rules. Just spend a day in Nairobi and you will see what I mean. Overlapping reins on most roads with even a little bit of traffic (overlapping is the Kenyan name for the phenomenon of overtaking traffic queues and cutting in close to the junction), pirated CD's and DVD's are being sold on every street corner, watch news and you will hear politicians threatening and inciting. Do business and you will realize that corruption, nepotism, cronyism, dishonesty and theft are rampant.

The question now arises: How do we change this state of affairs? How do we arrest this slide into lawless anarchy and change our society into one where decency, honesty and respect for law are the norm rather than the exception?

I have had a couple of short twitter conversations with Information and Communication PS Bitange Ndemo (@bantigito) where he says we need a "moral revolution". I unfortunately disagree with this point of view. Strongly.

Infact, I have said before that we need to design, implement and enforce systems that are not only effective when applied to the best set of hardworking, devoutly religious and honest people, but we need to design systems that stay effective when applied to bone lazy, dishonest, thieving miscreants.

The systems/rules/laws we produce must be efficient, effective, easy to understand AND carry a very big stick when not adhered to. This in my opinion is the only way that our society can change. Moral imperatives alone cannot and will not work. 

The reason impunity has flourished is not because we are lacking or have ever lacked sufficient moral guidance, it is simply because we have lacked efficient and effective systems/laws. And mainly it is because even where laws and rules exist, we have lacked effective policing and enforcement. 
- If the penalty for overlapping was one year in jail, and if this penalty was seen to be enforced with no exceptions, would there be any overlapping on our roads?
- If the penalty for overloading was taking the vehicle off the road for 3 months and suspending the driver's license for 3 months, would there be any overloading?

I firmly believe that effective and efficient systems, coupled with strong penalties and real enforcement would transform this society very quickly. 

I therefore put forth that what we need first is not a moral revolution at all but rather an enforcement revolution.


  1. I agree fully, working systems is what this country needs and swift enforcement too.

  2. The rules and regulations as well as laws following and obeying must start from the top. Once it's seen that the top people are following the rules and the laws..........everyone else will fall in shape!

    If GK-Numbered vehicles can follow the rules....and be arrested when they fall short without fear or favour...everyone else will fall into shape. Breaking rules is a matter of perception....knowing that you can't be apprehended is one thing...seeing the moneyed left scot-free due to their position spoils everything altogether!