Monday, August 24, 2015

That barrel!

Henry Okullu. I disagreed with him on the sex education stance that he took. But I had absolutely no doubt he was a man of great conviction, probity and a depth of honesty that inspired one to public service. Alexander Muge. If you doubted the depth of his feelings for the marginalised, then yours is a heart made up of cold carara marble. David Gitari and Timothy Njoya remain consciences of the nation, reminding you that the Church once stood for something.

These days, and I challenge you to use a more apposite metaphor, the Church - specifically, the modern Kenyan church leadership - has its pants around its ankles, it's bent over a barrel and it is shamelessly enjoying the ardent and unlubricated carnal attentions of Kenya's leadership classes. Allow me to be a bit more profane.

When a businessman-preacher was accused of causing the death of a motorist, he did not do the normal pastor thing. He did not present himself to the police. He did not offer free and unfettered access to his property, including his motor vehicles. He did not offer prayer for the soul of the departed. He ran. He hid. He obstructed the course of justice. He prayed for death and destruction for those who even countenanced that he could be responsible for the traffic offence. He hired a famous criminal defence lawyer. And he lied, and lied, and lied.

In this case he called on the assistance of the Inspector-General of Police who, in their parlance, swung into action, offering explanations and rationalisations for what might have happened. Then the ungrateful cockroaches that are Kenyans took to the internet, uncovering witnesses from the dark places they had crawled into to hide and they shamelessly exposed the lies of the pastor and his friends. The Inspector-General was forced by an uncharacteristically overzealous TV reporter and a rabble-rousing online horde to, Pilate-like, wash his hands of the whole affair. He threw the pastor under the Director of Public Prosecutions' bus and let his own police officers to stew in their own juices for getting him mixed up with the shady man of the cloth.

What I found rather curious is that the businessman-pastor's friends in the political trenches seemed to have developed a bit of amnesia everytime cameras and microphones neared them; sugar barons, sugar cartels, sugar imports...all things sugary seemed to animate them more. Their businessman-pastor friend had become a nettle and they didn't want to catch an unsightly itch.

They needn't have worried. They will never be the politician dog being wagged by the businessman-pastor tail. When it comes to delivering strokes, the politician dog will never find itself over a barrel, no matter what self-righteous and uncharacteristically overzealous TV show hosts think. For example, parliamentarians, who in December were throwing punches and panties at each other in Parliament over a "draconian piece of legislation," have just ganged up in the spirit of bi-partisan comity, to enact a "piece of legislation" that grants them immunity for anything done in good faith while in the course of their parliamentary duties. Then they went to church and got a businessman-pastor to lay his hands on them in prayer. Who has who over a barrel?

Someone asks where the Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge, Timothy Njoya and David Gitari of today are? Look no further than the recesses of your memory. And weep in shame.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Free to think, Free to be free.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. ~ Exodus 20:17

It is a sin to covet. The hierarchy of things one should not covet is set; his house is greater than his wife, and all of them are his possessions. This is why it is very difficult to take religious rules seriously, to rely on them to make laws for the regulation of humans. The godly - and the godmen - among us will insist that what their god has laid down for them to observe, we must legislate into being. So thinking of taking my neighbour's house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, ass or anything of his would be a crime.

This is a thought crime. Similar to the one that Charles Njonjo wrote: It is a criminal offence for any person to encompass, imagine, devise, or intend the death or deposition of the President. How would Mr Njonjo - or my pastor - know what is in my mind, unless I express it. Which leads us to the second pernicious aspect of thought crimes -  they are corollaries of speech crimes, once called sedition. (A certain Lt Wadi has just been sprung for gaol, jailed for saying something that displeased our modern day Nero.)

Patrick Gathara was on the receiving of an acerbic keyboard recently. Peter Mwaura, writing in the Daily Nation, gives six reasons why journalists should not name innocent third parties in news stories. He meant, I believe, that the cartoonist Patrick Gathara should not have named the President, Uhuru Kenyatta, in a cartoon of Moses Kuria, the Gatundu South MP, because "dragging the name of an innocent friend or acquaintance in an act or charge of crime is, in journalistic practice, unacceptable."

One of the ways of policing thought/speech crimes is through censorship, and what Mr Mwaura is suggesting is the most insidious type of censorship - self-censorship. Self-censorship requires someone - a cartoonist, say - to not only know what some other party is thinking, but also to know what will injure them and then to draw a cartoon that will not injure them. It is ridiculous line to walk because a sedition rule always works against the party being accused. In Kenya it used to be that to e accused is to be guilty. Therefore, it did not matter to Mr Mwaura what Mr Kuria is recorded to have said, including name-dropping the President with aplomb, Mr Gathara should have known that the President is innocent and, therefore, he should have drawn the cartoon without alluding to the President.

However, the endgame of a thought/speech crime environment is being told what to think. Now that we have established that we can have wrong thoughts, that those wrong thoughts, once verbalised are seditious and punishable, the next step is to tell us what to think - and how to think it. That is thought-control. And that is what the gods demand.
"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." ~ Matthew 5:28.
Thought control, the ultimate goal of the gods, is visited upon us mere mortals when we dare to think independently. It is why those with a tendency for the Stalinist prefer the automaton-like obedience of the ones "who follow orders" and thus are always creating quasi-military "youth" organisations that emphasise "discipline" as a means to "empower" the youth. Young people who are drilled to respond without question have little to offer in the field of innovation, especially innovation about how far the envelope can be pushed in the name of liberty. If you cannot think freely, then you cannot be free.

"Your mother" and the Two-thirds Gender Rule

Mutahi Ngunyi tweeted "The Luo Nation MUST liberate itself from the BONDAGE and poverty-producing SPELL of Odingaism. PERIOD. Is there a MOSES amongst the Luo?" The Star reported that Gladys Wanga responded with "'Poverty stricken' Luos do not belong to your mother." Are you still confused about why the Two-thirds Gender Rule is yet to take effect in Parliament? I'm not.

Article 27(6) states, "To give full effect to the realisation of the rights guaranteed under this Article, the State shall take legislative and other measures, including affirmative action programmes and policies designed to redress any disadvantage suffered by individuals or groups because of past discrimination." 

Article 27(8) continues, "In addition to the measures contemplated in clause (6), the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender." This is the Two-thirds Gender Rule.

The Rule is restated in Article 81(b) on the general principles of the electoral system thus, "not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender."

Paragraph 79 of the Advisory Opinion of the Supreme Court in the Gender-Rule Application in 2014 states, "Bearing in mind the terms of Article 100 [on promotion of representation of marginalised groups] and of the Fifth Schedule [prescribing time-frames for the enactment of required legislation], we are of the majority opinion that legislative measures for giving effect to the one-third-to-two-thirds gender principle, under Article 81(b) of the Constitution and in relation to the National Assembly and Senate, should be taken by  27 August, 2015."

When Aden Duale insulted the then leader of the Pesa Mashinani movement, Isaac Ruto, with the epithet, "Hii pesa si ya mamako," no amount of explaining or walking back the statement could hide the fact that it was an incredibly misogynistic statement to be uttered by the Leader of the Majority Party in the National Assembly. Many argued that it reinforced the fact that male parliamentarians were not ready to see their female colleagues as equals. Patriarchy, they argued, had proven resilient in the face of the constitutional guarantees of equality. They hoped that female parliamentarians would lead from the front, and make strong statements against the casual misogyny represented by the Majority Leader. In Ms Wanga, it seems, they might be barking up the wrong tree.

Ms Wanga reminds us of the casual misogyny that prevails in Kenya. The worst insult, it seems, is that some is really badly wrong if it is doe by one's mother. Mr Ngunyi is wrong about "poverty stricken Luos" because "they do not belong to his mother." If this statement was made by a man, we would have carried on in the belief that it is men who are solely responsible for the casual misogyny and the slow pace of implementing the Two-thirds Gender Rule. But Ms Wanga disabuses us of this notion; she not only participates in that misogyny, she sees nothing amiss in hurling such a dangerous epithet.

Some of us have been fortunate; even though our fathers came from a generation that was casually misogynistic, many of them escaped that cultural trap. Though gendered roles defined their relationships with their mothers, their wives and their daughters, many of them celebrated the small steps of gender liberation taken by their female relatives, if not their mothers, but most certainly their wives and their daughters. It is in my father's generation that many women became leaders in their fields, taking on roles that had traditionally been reserved for men, such as Wangari Maathai becoming the first woman university professor, Grace Onyango becoming Kenya's firs elected woman Member of Parliament, and so on.

But Ms Wanga still lives in a world where if someone does something wrong, the wrongness of the thing done can only be demonstrated if it could be done by someone's mother. This goes beyond the casual misogyny of "You mama" jokes so beloved of the United States teenager. It reminds young boys and girls that no matter how high a woman might rise in society, how good a life a probity she might lead, how pure of spirit she might be, a woman is always less than a man, and that a mother is the one person who can do the worst thing. I do not see Ms Wanga leading a fullthroated fight to realise the Two-thirds Gender Rule. She does not see herself as an equal of her male colleagues.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Do you think that you are better at being me than me?

Let's see. You have a penchant for "German machines." That is neither here nor there, but when I suggest, whether in jest or not, that if I could shoe-horn the innards of the E320 Estate into a Probox, I don't see why you should roll your eyes and harangue me about the "purity of design" or some similar schlock. I like the idea of a Probox Trojan Horse. If you don't find that funny, kind sir, move along and don't look back. You and I have very different ways of looking at things - which makes me think that we also have a very different way of looking at people.

You like a certain degree of order and predictability. I have had the good fortune to trace my lineage to two great peoples. My love for the written word does not extend to classical literature like it is on one side of my dual gene pools; politics and political thought fascinate me more and the more varied the ideas, the better. The other side has introduced me to vibrant colours and rigorous work ethics. If you're still going to "tsk, tsk" me because I chose to wear my garbadine suit with my Texas check and scuffed Safari Boots to work, dear lady, take your D&G stuffiness somewhere else. You might just rain on my technicolour parade.

I will not hate the same people you hate simply because I am your friend - or we are acquainted. I have no reason to hate anyone, just so you know. Hate just creates bile and leads to ulcers. I don't like ulcers. Yet you demand it as of right.You demand it as the price of your friendship. That is a price too high. If you will hate for it, so be it. Just so you know, too, I have no reason to love the people you love. I get to choose. Not you.

Why does it seem to you that you can live my life better than I can? Have I created the impression that you have carte blanche to make decisions about what I want, what I need, what I like, what I dislike? If I have, I apologise. It is not your life. It is mine. My mistakes are mine to make, yours to judge if that is what flats your boat. But you don't have a veto, friend. No one does. Not even the gods. When the boom comes down, as it may yet, you can "I told you so" till the cows come home, but remember this, it will only be important to you. But you will still not get a veto, a vote, a say. Never, ever.

Don't you think it was time you lived your life and left the trainwreck that is mine alone?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Maybe we should boycott stupidity instead

The Orange Democratic Party, ODM, is one of the stupidest political outfits. It isn't the stupidest; pride of place is occupied by the ne'er do well political parties with middling parliamentary presence and leaderships with the charisma of camels with gingivitis which they will not jettison people! But ODM is in contention to be the stupidest party in Kenya.

It's latest inane suggestion is for the good people of Kenya to boycott Brookside's milk because Uhuru Kenyatta...who cares?! This kind of stupidity is something you expect of the petty and the small-minded. It has no place in public administration, public discourse or political combat. The last thing a hard-suffering Kenyan wants to engage in is an exercise in futility. How do I know that it will be futile? Oh, allow me to demonstrate.

First, the Tyranny of Numbers. The ODM presumes to speak for many Kenyans aggrieved by the trade deals allegedly struck by Uhuru Kenyatta during his state visit to Uganda. Therefore, so the theory goes, if ODM exhorts the aggrieved Kenyans to boycott Uhuru Kenyatta's milk, they will do so, and they will strike a financial blow against Uhuru Kenyatta and bring him to the negotiating table to sue for peace. What the ODM does not consider, or ignores, is that if Uhuru Kenyatta were to call on his supporters to buy Brookside milk, and they being more in number, couple with the Kenyans who traditionally don't give two shits about the political winds, ODM's plan comes a cropper. As it should, by the by.

Second, is the admission by the ODM that it is at the end of any meaningful ideas on public policy. Who will take seriously a party leadership that makes threats it cannot see through? Kenyans are not playthings, no matter what the ODM high command thinks. In the halcyon days of the NARC regime, Kenyans were hopeful because public intellectuals like Peter Anyang' Nyong'o contributed greatly to public policy-making; one of their flagship policies is the Vision 2030 and another is the Performance Appraisal System for the public service, policies that have greatly improved public service delivery. 

For them to be reduced to making asinine suggestions like these is a testament to the decrepit thinking pervading the upper echelons of the party. This is not the stuff that garners popular public support except among the lunatic fringes of the party.

Third, luminaries of the party forget that they were in the heart of the government when many ill-thought decisions were made regarding commodities' production, including in the dairy industry. They were either members of the Cabinet or they were involved at the highest level in making decisions that affected dairy farming that allowed, to some extent, the rapid expansion of Brookside. They themselves, whether they will admit it now or down the road, took advantage of their offices to build up their business empires, some more successfully than others. Some might see this boycott call as sour grapes at being spectacularly bad at converting political power into economic power.

It should be obvious by now that Kenyans are not interested in economic boycotts. Too many of them have more pressing matters on their minds. If the ODM is too lazy to come up with a coherent political plan, credible trade policy alternatives and a believable narrative that is not all sour grape-y, maybe, just maybe, we may not think of it as the party of stupid. I fear, though, that we may have passed that point already.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Darling R...

My Darling R.,

You aren't born yet, but the world is already too hard for you. You have no idea what it took for your mother to carry you to term, what she had to give up in order that you would be here with us today. You are our promise of immortality, because in you we see the future clearer than we can see the past.

In many ways you are lucky. There won't be a shags for you to go to. (I wonder if your generation will call it shags.) So your mum and I won't be keeping cows or goats for you to milk and tend to. Maybe chickens, but not even your mum thinks I am cut out for the rustic life. Your grandpa has a farm, but don't tell him I said this, but his farm is more an idea than a real farm. As soon as he is done making the farm what it is, he will happily spend time with you at the Village Market or the Two Rivers Mall. 

Your grandma is definitely not a farmer and she will spend all her time with you on the beach reading Virginia Wolfe and filling your pretty head with terrible ideas about romance of a bygone age.

You will go to school - all the way to the end. You will play sports, if you want, or a play music, if your heart's in it. You will travel farther than your mother and I could ever manage. You will meet more people and speak more languages than you can shake a stick at. And in all this, your mother and I will not stand in your way or doubt that you can't do what you set you mind to do. They say, If you build it, they will come. You will build a mighty empire, my child, and the world will be your subject.

But yours will also be a hard life. We won't leave you much of a legacy. (The government will have grabbed most of it in the name of "inheritance taxes.") You will read a great deal about women empowerment, but all that is bullshit. They won't let you win like a man, which is a rather stupid thing when you think about it. They will demand that you must be graceful when you triumph, meek when you succeed, silent when you're proven right. Stuff all that. I want you to YouTube Serena Williams. When you conquer them all, I want you to do so while dominating the way she does, do you hear me my child? Nothing good will come from your acting weak. Nothing good at all.

But where they will surely never forgive you is in your sexual agency. Don't freak out that your father is writing to you about sex; no one else, bar maybe your mum, will. Your teachers are afraid that I might bight their heads off if they talk to you about it. You pastor is an idiot and he will mumble some rubbish about the bible and morality. Your friends are morons. Playboy, Hustler, Penthouse, whatever are not proper places to learn about sex. And I bought this shotgun so that your boyfriend learns that there are consequences to making wrong decisions.

Anyway, never be ashamed of who you are and what you want. Always protect yourself from hurt - both physical and emotional. If you doubt anything, ask your mum or I. If you fear for your life or your safety - run. Run home if you must. But run. No man - not even me - has a right to tell you what you can and cannot do with your body. It's your temple. Your mum and I will offer you the best advise we can. We will give you access to the best counsellors and advisors we can. But we will not dictate what you can and cannot do. And we will always stand by you, no matter what. You are our child. We will never abandon you.

I know that you will be many things to many people, but you will always be my child. You will have many hopes, and you will fear many outcomes. You will surpass your hopes and you will overcome your fears. You will build something truly great. Even if I don't get to see it - just as I can't see you now - doesn't mean that it isn't true.

All my love,


The Doctor's Legacy.

She thinks the world is one dark cloud; I think it has a silver lining, too. We can't both be wrong. But we can both be right, can't we?

Did you see the Chief Justice of Kenya busting cartels in the judiciary yesterday? I did. My heart sank. Why does it take for the Chief Justice of Kenya - the President of the Supreme Court - to walk along the corridors of his courts so that he can "unearth corruption in the administration of justice" as if management by walking around ever worked elsewhere? And then I felt like quite the heel for my uncharitable thought about my Chief Justice.

I don't know whether Dr Willy Mutunga is an honest man. I believe he is. He has tried every tactic in his considerable repertoire of tactics to tackle the endemic graft in his Judiciary and has faced resistance at every turn. Some of the resistance has come from the most unexpected quarters. He has had to adapt. He has had to form unpalatable, odious partnerships. He has had to carry more water than any other Chief Justice before him. He has had to do it all while overseeing the largest overhaul of a hidebound, conservative, pro-establishment institution in a half-century. And has had to do it while keeping his customary half-smile on his face.

I don't know if he will agree with me, but he owes Evan Gicheru, his predecessor, gratitude for setting the stage for the reforms that are taking place today. If Chief Justice Gicheru had not been so universally reviled by the newsmedia and the Kenyans who egged them on, there is no way that Chief Justice Mutunga would have been appointed to his office. Without the dark, you will never appreciate the light. Without Evan Gicheru, there would have not been a Willy Mutunga.

Mr Mutunga's term is drawing to a close. He is, in effect, a lame duck Chief Justice. I hope he takes his position seriously. The Traffic Court walkabout is a sign that he is about to dump the Chief Justice's Manual and revert back to the Willy Mutunga Playbook of Reforms. He's already warned his Judges and magistrates that he will have them vetted again if they keep on with their corrupt ways. I say, vet them afresh! The phoenix always rises from its ashes. Burn it to the ground, Mr Mutunga. Burn it all down.

He is right. How can a man look himself in the mirror after selling his soul for a handful of silver? There is nothing that deadens the spirit than compromising one's once deeply-held values of honesty, integrity, professionalism and trust just so that one can drive in a fancier Mercedes-Benz or live in a leafier leafy suburb. Mr Mutunga must drive all these salesmen from the temples of justice with a bullwhip and blowtorch. If he can do that in the two years he still has left, he will not need a great Supreme Court judgment as his legacy.

She may see the dark cloud; I will always see the silver lining.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Politicise everything.

Politicise the hell out of everything!
Politics (from Greek: πολιτικός politikos, definition "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a usually hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities. ~ Wikipedia.
You've heard the exhortation, "Don't politicise..." and no doubt nodded in agreement. You may also agree with the National Assembly's Majority Leader's proposal to "ban politics at funerals." But what does it mean to "politicise" things? Is it, in the peculiar way of Kenyans, when one politician speaks ill of one politician? Is it when a politician uses an ostensibly non-political platform to criticise the government? I can't wait to see the intepretation clause on the Bill to ban politics at funerals. I really can't.

You have what politics means, but what is it? I believe it is the only viable alternative to violent conflict. It is a tool for not just organising government, but also mediating conflicting priorities. Take a famous Obama observation during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit about the state of paediatric primary healthcare in Nyanza and Central Kenya. As a stark number, without context, it is easy to claim that healthcare budgeting favoured one over the other. But what if the cost of providing it in one part is greater than in the other? It is politics that we would use to prioritise the least well-developed region. The alternatives would be violence or corruption, neither of which are viable long-term strategies.

Kenya's politicians are spectacularly bad at their jobs. That seems to be the public impression they have made for themselves. We very rarely get to peek behind the curtains at their deliberations and horse-trading in private, away from the camera lenses. But we don't need to. Look at appointments to Boards of parastatals and state corporations and you will see politics thriving, and mediating disagreements on a national scale. It is not perfect. It is not pretty. But it works.

Eugene Wamalwa is a middling politician with little to commend him. He is an intelligent man. He is popular in his own constituency. He is, for a former Minister, without blemish of the corruption kind. He is also the brother of a dead and mourned Vice-President of Kenya. He has political value. In some parts of Kenya, he is a symbol of the greatness of those parts and it would be irresponsible for any government to treat him shabbily. It makes perfect sense that the President has carved out a ministry for Mr Wamalwa and expended political capital to see him successfully vetted by Parliament.

The appointments of Kalembe Ndile, Charles Njagua Kanyi, and Vimal Shah to various public bodies is smart politics. The West will pooh-pooh the whiff of patronage politics; but in order to ensure that the wheels of government don't get stuck because of sand, these appointments are the grease that keeps everything smooth. So I don't agree with the no-politics-at-funerals scheme. It is one of the institutions where the president can be informed that he is doing something wrong without seeking an appointment that will never be made. This is the political equivalent of Twitter.

Because everything that my government does is laced with politics, I have no problem politicising everything, even the appointment of nursery school teachers in Kilome. They will be paid from my taxes. My taxes fund other areas of government. The decision to fund something and not another is a political decision. Therefore, everything should be politicised. Including funerals.

Secret law-making.

Stick to what you know.

Here goes. Law-making is not the easiest walk in the park. I am not talking about the simple laws like the Public Service (Values and Principles) Act, 2015, or the Statutory Instruments Act, 2013. I am talking about complex statutes that have multiple moving parts, that affect our rights and fundamental freedoms in subtle and insidious ways, and which require the most delicate political touch to see them through. Like the Security Laws (Amendments) Act, 2014. It amended a whole bunch of security-related and quasi-security-related laws. And it was total mess.

From a technical perspective, it was an excellent piece of legislation. It was not overly wordy. It stuck faithfully to the linguistic styles of the statutes that were getting amended. It covered all the bases that the securocracy wanted covered. And, vitally, it had the complete and total support of the President and his party. It was still a mess, and it took the High Court to point out that some of its moving parts had moved too far from the norm.

Law-making is like trying to herd cats in a hurricane at midnight. Well-laid plans are laid to waste because this, that or the other vested interest feels shortchanged.And when all the pipers have been paid, the thing that you wanted to solve using the law metastasizes and becomes an unwieldy monster, incapable of being corralled into obedience. Then it gets messy.

The Security Laws (Amendments) Act was the proper response to the incessant barrage of bad news from the anti-Shabaab front. Somalia, by all accounts, was going swimmingly well for the Kenya Defence Forces. The African Union Mission in Somalia, bar one or two fatal errors, was propping up the Federal Government, Mogadishu was not getting bombed every day, Kismayu was making money hand over fist from sugar imports and charcoal exports, and the USA was integrating its Predators and Reapers into the anti-Shabaab campaign, visiting hellfire from the skies on the Shabaab's high command, decimating it with ruthless precision. Somalia, so far as we know, was going to be just fine.

In the homeland, however, things were getting out of hand. The straw that broke the camel's back were the ten-days-apart twin massacres in Mandera. It were no longer the indigenous residents of Lamu or Mandera who were getting butchered; expats from Murang'a and Busia were getting murdered under the noses of the forces of law and order. An ill-timed and ill-advised victory lap by the Deputy President about a pursuit deep into Somalia that took out a hundred militants and their "technicals" did nothing to restore confidence that the securocracy had things in hand. Hence the Security Laws (Amendments) Act.

It was a careful assessment of the security statutory environment. It was a well-thought analysis of the various moving parts, the overlapping mandates and the wide gaps in surveillance, interdiction, intelligence-gathering, threat assessment and inter-agency co-operation. In many ways it made sense to keep its development secret from the people it was meant to protect. After all, for decades, the people hadn't wanted to know how they were being protected, only that they were. It turns out, the past is a very different country and that overweening secrecy so beloved by the securocracy proved to be the Security Laws (Amendments) Act's Achilles Heel.

Back in the day, when information was not on a superhighway, securocratic secrecy was no big deal. No more. If it is on a computer somewhere, if it is written down somewhere, if it is spoken of in hushed tones to anyone, we will find out about it. In the digital age, after John Githongo led the charge, there is nothing sacred any more. If you have a securocratic secret, one way or the other it is going to come out. The minds behind the Security Laws (Amendments) Act should have built legitimacy for their project by getting all heir influences, dodgy and not, to sing its praises on all platforms. In this way they could have painted the leaden-footed Minority Party into a corner when the Bill crash-landed in the National Assembly. The Speaker wouldn't have had to resort to the tactics it did; the Minority Party would have looked like the small-minded elitists they are; and the Third Sector may have had a role in softening the blunt edges that the High Court threw out.

As it is now, secrecy and law-making are pulling apart. There are those who will make the transition with little fuss. There are those prepared to dig in their heels, and come hell or high water, no one is prying their precious secrets out of them. These are the people behind there's-a-sugar-deal-there-isn't-a-sugar-deal fiasco currently empowering the Minority Party and causing rifts in the ruling alliance.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A special place in hell.

There's a special place in hell for those who think that The Law is the be all and end all, and that if only their pet project was legislated into life, all would be right with the world. I say this knowing full well that I have contributed massively to the over-legislating taking place in my backyard. Every minister and his PS is busily turning every last shred of their humanity into an Act of Parliament. It will not end well.

Mostly because Parliament is not the best place to make laws. Trust me. It might seem like the "representatives of the people" should know what is best for the people and make it so through law-making. It would, I grant you. That view is utter nonsense. The best place to make law, bar one or two autocratic instincts, is the executive branch, especially when that law is being made by the bureaucrats who just want to coast to retirement and a fat pension. Minister and PSs are not the bureaucrats I have in mind; those would be directors of this, that or the other.

Take the Director of Medical Services. He is the embodiment of public health. By he time he has ju-jitsu-ed himself into office, he has seen the best and the worst when it comes to public health crises. Cholera, measles, whooping cough, polio, malaria, marasmus, HIV/AIDS...he has seen it all. He knows what works and what does not. He would love a bigger budget, but he knows that when it comes to intervening to halt a pandemic, what he wants is absolute power to command the institutions of the State to do his bidding.

His minister and PS, however, live in a world where money is the only thing they can see and the things it can buy. They love thirty eight billion shilling boondoggles. They like them even more when they can hide their uselessness behind the President; let him take the flak because, after all, he wants to spend money on healthcare.

If there is a person to listen to when drafting the perfect Health Bill, it is the Director of Medical Services. Not the chairman of the parliamentary departmental committee on health. He may have a casual connection with the health industry; he almost certainly knows nothing about public health policy. He too, like the minister and the PS, lies for billion shilling boondoggles so long as he can dictate where part of those billions will be spent: preferably in his constituency, preferably without too great an auditing eye.

Which is why the people who declaim loudest about The Law know absolutely nothing of how it works, what it is supposed to do, and how it is supposed to do it or to whom. A Health Bill is not just an administrative organogram with a list of offences and penalties tacked on for good measure. It is a statement by the State about powers that will be exercised by civil servants to protect the people from cholera, measles, whooping cough, polio, malaria, marasmus, HIV/AIDS and whatever other health risks are out there. But you wouldn't know it listening to the "stakeholders" of whom, too, special reservations have been made in hell.