A look at Affirmative Action in Kenya

Just a quick look. 2007/2008 was  a culmination of a very long and rich history of discrimination brought to the fore. Will it happen again? It might, if injustices ingrained in our society are not removed and replaced with equitable mechanisms and institutions. The new constitution has proved vital in this process. However, we should remember that the constitution is just a stack of papers with ink on it. It takes more than that to implement reforms in the country. It takes will and determination and respect for the rule of law.

Affirmative action, simply defined, is a set of public policies and initiatives that are set in motion in order to correct past injustices. It’s more of a ‘reverse discrimination’ process that aims to balance the scales somewhat. It’s sth to be valued and appreciated, if properly implemented. If equitable distribution of resources and opportunities had been done from independence, we would not be hearing of MRC and other groupings. Corruption would not be as rampant as it is. Our country would be in the same league as Malaysia and Singapore.

Recently, efforts have been made to try to correct past injustices: the formation of the TJRC ( unfortunately plagued by leadership wrangles), the reservation of seats for women and other minorities, the push to have more women in the top rungs of the Kenya Civil Service. All these are efforts aimed at correcting past wrongs and discriminative tendencies that have been rocking the country for the past four decades. The discovery of oil in Turkana is bound to further heighten the pace of these reforms. Well fed people with employment opportunities will not oppose the building of oil wells in their own backyard. Malnourished and impoverished people will.

For now, it really doesn’t matter that some calls for affirmative action are being made with money as the endgame. What really matters is that discrimination, whether ethnic or gender based, is being rooted out. That is the only way we’re going to excise the ticking time bomb that is lying snugly in our laps.

However, it should also be noted that affirmative action should be limited in its very nature. What this means is that affirmative action should not be a big cloud encompassing everything and every region. There are some regions in the country that have been sidelined for a very long time. Areas in the North like Mandera, Turkana (of course the oil has earned the area a ticket in the first class section of the affirmative action plane), the coast (secession is a very real threat you know) should be AMONG the first areas to benefit from the initiative.

Effecting affirmative action in areas like Nairobi would be tantamount to discrimination to the rest of the Kenyan people. The top qualified people in the area would not enjoy the efforts of their labor as they would miss jobs just because of affirmative action being implemented.Affirmative action should seek to redress past wrongs, not create new ones.

Affirmative action should be time bound as well. It should not be propagated in perpetuity. This might make people enjoying affirmative action feel as if they did not deserve their positions in the work place.People negatively affected by affirmative action would also be resentful, and over time this could very well snowball and become another ticking time bomb. We have enough of those already.

Affirmative action is good and should be embraced with open arms. However, it should be equitably administered with the people and areas needing it the MOST getting most of the dosage. It should also be time bound, for example with a 20-25 year cap on it.

Affirmative action decisions are generally not supposed to be based on quotas, nor are they supposed to give any preference to unqualified candidates. And they are not supposed to harm anyone through “reverse discrimination.”” Quote extracted from here.

As I stated earlier, this was just a look, a glance even.

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