|When President Kibaki led the nation in raising funds for resettling the displaced people, few dared to question whether this was not an abrogation of the law. This was because of the enormity of the problem at hand, and the desire not to be seen to be opposing a good cause.
The purpose for raising the funds was noble and the circumstances under which the funds were being raised were emotive. So everyone kowtowed along.
Nobody can argue about the fact that the displaced people need to be resettled quickly. Nobody can also dispute that the Government does not have the funds to carry out the exercise, hence the need for collective effort.
Yet there was every reason to be cautious. Past experience demonstrates how fundraisers have been exploited and turned into tools for extortion and economic suppression. It is for this reason that in 2003, the Narc administration, upon ascending to power, outlawed fundraisers and particularly, barred public officials from participating in them.
Our concern now is that after President Kibaki’s fundraiser, various ministries and departments have sent out circulars asking civil servants to contribute towards the kitty. This is likely to open Pandora’s box and give room for a fresh round of extortion.
When initiating the funds drive, President Kibaki and his advisers never envisaged such a development. Unfortunately, that is the danger with harambees — there is no other formula and that gives room for use of subtle force and extortion.
If this is not checked, then the whole thing will take a different form and sooner than later, Kenyans will start mourning and lamenting about endless fundraisers. That is exactly what happened in the Moi era.
Since the President and his ministers started it all, the junior public officers wouldn’t have qualms going the whole hog. This is why the Office of the President must quickly come out and clarify that what happened was a one-off and that the law against fundraisers must be adhered to.
Unless that is done, and the ministries stopped from forceful collection of funds, it will be but a matter of time before we bring back harambees through the rear door.