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CITY GIRL: Starehe MP Jaguar represents everything a leader shouldn’t be

Charles Njagua Kanyi (‘Jaguar’), MP for Starehe, is Kenya’s most ungainly mass of poor grammar, ignorance and hideous torn jeans that ever strolled the corridors of Parliament.

Politicians have the universal right to be foolish, but Jaguar has abused this right and the licence that all Kenyan politicians have to be stupid.

Following his xenophobic remarks against Tanzanian traders in Nairobi, I have concluded that Jaguar is the beau ideal of a semi-illiterate, backstreet hooligan who lacks the intellectual sophistication to grasp the full extent of the consequences of his utterances.

REJIG REAL NAME

I mean, you wouldn’t expect much from a grown man whose epitome of artistic creativity is to rejig his real name (Njagua) to match the brand name of a high-end automobile (Jaguar).

It was also too much to ask of a former musician — whose songs are barely literate compositions — to understand the breadth and depth of the East African Community integration and its immense benefits to Kenyans, including those he represents.

What Jaguar, a holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution from Mount Kenya University, does not seem to understand is that remittances from Kenyans abroad — including those in Tanzania — are at an all-time high of Sh197.1 billion, much more than our tea export earnings.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that this money increasingly contributes to our much-needed forex reserves over and above supporting millions of Kenyans, including those in his constituency.

LACKS BANDWIDTH

Even if Jaguar lacks the bandwidth to understand this, it is common sense that such inflammatory remarks against foreigners in Kenya have potentially fatal consequences for Kenyans living in other countries.

Of all Kenyan MPs, Jaguar now has the dubious distinction and has earned himself an unflattering place in the history of this country as one of the few Kenyan leaders discussed in the Tanzanian parliament.

But besides this newly found fame in Tanzania, Jaguar, through his remarks, has endangered the lives of thousands of Kenyans living in Tanzania, if the words of a livid Tanzanian MP are anything to go by.

On the flip side, Jaguar may have a valid point. Life and business have become tougher for Kenyan traders in markets like Gikomba that are brimming with foreign traders from China, Uganda and Tanzania.

Salons and barbershops in downtown Nairobi, including on Moi Avenue and Tom Mboya Street, are teeming with Rwandese workers whose services are significantly cheaper than those of locals.

It is also worth noting that most of Jaguar’s electorate work and earn their keep from Gikomba and Wakulima markets, so it is indeed his business if foreigners are posing a threat to businesses owned by locals.

These are facts, and the situation could probably be the same in other countries like China and Tanzania, although my hunch is that these governments have done better to safeguard their local traders.

There are businesses and services conducted by foreigners locally that their governments would never allow Kenyans to conduct in those foreign countries.

Indeed, Kenyans who work and live in Tanzania will tell you of the suspicion with which they are treated and the unfairness they are subjected to — a matter that has been in the public domain for decades.

We also have cases where Kenyans have been appointed to plum jobs in Tanzania and have had their work permits denied for one reason or the other.

MISTREATMENT OF KENYANS

Of course, the mistreatment of Kenyans in other countries like Saudi Arabia is now nearly becoming a national crisis. Above all, the issue of foreigners conducting business in this country is a matter that needs to be dealt with in the long run — and Jaguar’s incident is a symptom of a bigger, underlying problem.

What Jaguar lacked was the tactfulness and the decorum to handle such a delicate matter, and his loose lips have left in their trail a diplomatic hailstorm that might have unintended consequences.

He spoke explicitly about violently smoking out Tanzanian traders, he gave the government an ultimatum and whipped up emotions among a frustrated, possibly poor electorate — and that is everything a leader should not do.

But then again, Jaguar reflects our society because he was the people’s choice — a people that had the option of Jaguar and the activist Boniface Mwangi.

My unsolicited advice to Jaguar is that while he means well for his electorate, wisdom must always be applied in delicate matters such as this. It also does not hurt to equip yourself with a few facts — even when they might be a bit difficult to grasp. As for kuvuka border, Jaguar should forget about that for now, until further notice.