Friday, October 24, 2014

How to win.

When billions are on the line, whether the billions are denominated in shillings, naira or dollars, no one is above suspicion. Not if they carry a passport with the coat of arms of the Republic of Kenya they are not. Therefore, when it comes to all the public and non-public characters swirling around the laptops tender, the Lamu coal power plant tender, the standard gauge railway tender, the Kitui Mui Basin coal mining tender...our suspicion should be cranked up to eleven. I don't trust the people drawing up the tender documents. I don't trust the people reviewing the bids. I don't trust the people awarding the tender. I don't trust the people signing the contract. I don't trust the people appealing against the award of the tender. I don't trust the people hearing the appeals. I don't trust the people financing the whole kit and caboodle. 

I don't trust anyone when it comes to these sorts of tenders because I am not a naive, fourteen-year old girl visiting the city for the first time and being taken advantage of by an oily parliamentarian in Chester House. It is an attitude more and more Kenyans should adopt because their government has become a machinery for the collection of taxes and the conversion of those taxes into lucrative, white-elephant, billions-shillings tenders of dubious value, dubious utility and dubious legality. We have been here before. This is not our first time at the garden dance. Kisumu Cotton Mills, Rift Valley textiles, Kisumu Mollases, Nyayo Bus Corporation, Kenya Railways Concession, Turkwell Gorge Dam, the 10th All Africa Games, the Nyayo Pioneer Car is not a short list. So spare us the Vision 2030 fairy dust. Fool me once, shame on me.

We never seem to learn. Throwing money at a problem will generate short-term solutions, but will magnify the inevitably resurgent problem. Take the constitutional reform process. It gave us the Yash Pal Ghai team and the Nzamba Kitonga team, and swallowed up billions of shillings. We thought we were home an dry with the Constitution we promulgated in 2010. Then we held a general election. Whatever word we will use to define where we find ourselves, we should be honest enough to admit that the billions that the constitutional institutions are snuffling today are a pale shadow of the billions that all three previous regimes consumed because of the speed with which we are consuming billions today. It is the National Executive, the Judiciary and Parliament, plus the national-government based constitutional commissions and independent offices, plus the sprawling parastatal edifice, and the forty seven county executives and county assemblies. If the scale of the billions-shillings snuffling doesn't give you pause, you must have greater testicular fortitude than I.

The habit of solving all Kenyan problems through money or legislation is not a new one, but it is one that the Bretton Woods institutions favour against all evidence that these solutions have led to greater political and economic instability in Kenya. It is time we tried a new way. It is time o admit to ourselves that our problems will never be solved simply by making new laws or loading up on more debts. And it is time to admit to ourselves our government is too big for us to handle. The President had the right idea about government-owned entities, except he was too timid in what solution was, which should have been Bill to repeal every single Act of Parliament that establishes a government-owned entity, whether it carries out a vital function or not. 

Second, all those CORDists screaming themselves hoarse about a referendum have the wrong idea. If a referendum is to be held, it should be to merge counties and county governments, reduce them to the 8 provinces we used to have. Third, devolve everything but national defence, diplomacy, health and education to the counties. Yes, even policing too, should be devolved and in the larger province-sized counties, there should be no fear of mini-armies being created for restive governors. Amend the law to provide for a small armed national response police unit; the remaining county police should walk among us without bearing firearms. Devolution should also include that of the Judiciary and the Office of the DPP; a national Judiciary and a national prosecution service have proven to be the greatest impediment to the administration of justice.

Now since the national government has been substantially shrunken, there is absolutely no need for a 290-constituency, 47-county parliament of elected representatives. We can revert to the 122 National Assembly at one-third of the allowances they used to get. Tell me we won't be the happier for it?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TV shall distract, delude, amuse and insulate us

Hatemongers of God.

Some of the vilest hatemongers in the world are clothed in the garb of  men, and women, of God. It seems to matter not that they are Muslims, Jews, Roman Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Pentecostals or itinerant preachers of every shade. The degree of hateful speech that they spew into the world is sometimes quite shocking. it should come as not surprise that while some of them have been to school, it matters not because they wear a certain degree of ignorance with pride. Take that hatemonger called Pat Robertson as a template, and you have a pretty good idea of the type of character some of us are compelled to deal with from time to time.

The certainty demonstrated by men of faith is sometimes disconcerting. It explains how a pope ordered the murder of a scientist for demonstrating that the Earth revolved around the Earth, that the world was round and not flat. It explains why an imam, without a shred of proof, will declare complete strangers to be apostates simply because they do not profess the same fundamentalist beliefs that he does. it is how a rabbi will feel no qualms about the extermination of an entire people because the land of Israel was bequeathed on the Jews for all time. People of faith have perpetrated some of the worst crimes known to man.

What is ironical about the hatemongering and deliberate obtuseness is the constant litany of proclamations that "our religion is a religion of peace." There's a classic debate between men of the cloth over apartheid South Africa on YouTube which every sentient being on this planet should watch. Jesse Jackson takes on the racist Jerry Falwell and exposes the awful truth about religion, especially evangelizing Christianity and Africa. From the days of the Church Missionary Society at the turn of the twentieth century to the new era of evangelists and their mission to save souls through the planting of seeds, we have seen every shade of charlatan come among us in the name of God.

Beginning in the 1970s with the loosening of the bonds that subjugated the wills of women to those of men, the truly religious among us have waged a vicious war to maintain a patriarchal, paternal orthodoxy that is anathema to the advancement of women, homosexuals, non-Christians and non-whites. This war was fought to a bloody draw in the United States and now it has crossed the ocean to Africa. Kenya has not been spared. The past twenty five years has seen a veritable who's who of celebrity evangelists from the United States and Western Europe make a beeline for our borders promising wealth, prosperity, peace and salvation. Ethnic clashes, land clashes and post-election violence would seem to belie their rosy predictions for our lives.

What is truly depressing about it all is the polished, suave and reasonable-sounding cadences they employ to impart their messages. Listening to that hateful man, Robertson, explaining how one can get HIV/AIDS simply by using towels in Kenya, it is hard not to cast your mind to the same cadences employed by their lackeys in Kenya. Then there are the smiles. Smiles of guile. Smiles of deceit. Smiles of lies. That smile must have been patented by an evangelist because it is replicated in the faces of hatemongering charlatans the world over. The twisted interpretations of "holy" scripture, coupled with the demented desire to control the sex-lives of believers, and the fostering of hatred for everyone who is not part of their club while fleecing their believers of all their earthly material wealth is the sole reason to treat all celebrity pastors, preachers, reverends, evangelists, apostles, brothers, sisters...with contempt, and a bit of hostility.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Preservation, at all costs.

At the top of the securocracy is the Presidency. Beneath it are the civilian heads of the military and the police, and other civilian agencies with limited policing functions. Then come the security heads and their troops. It is a simple enough organogram to draw. It's time to toss it out. It's time to rethink what we know of security. It is time to redraw the map of national security and inject it with as much confusion as possible so that we can flummox any al Shabbies that manage to get past the troops on the ground. The securocracy is about to undergo a massive expansion.

We have paid little regard to the militarisation of policing that started with the appointment of Maj Gen Hussein Ali in 2004. In recent months, the National Executive has embarked on an ambitious programme to reform policing that has been shrouded in secrecy and rife with speculation. The latest revelation is the conversion of the National Youth Service to a bigger paramilitary force and its engagement in security and security-related activities. It will no longer recruit three to four thousand youth in a year; it plans to have 60,000 recruits in 2014/2015.

That, with the placing of the disciplined wings of the Kenya Forest Service and the Kenya Wildlife Service under the direct command of the Inspector-General of  Police, who commands the General Service Unit, the Anti-Terrorist Police Unit, the Border Patrol and the Flying Squad, in addition to the regular police and the Administration Police, means that more and more disciplined forces are engaged in security-related affairs than at any time in the past twenty years.

The sole focus of the National Executive, indeed of the National Government, is the preservation of the security of the state at all costs. It is why the Commander in Chief is increasingly favouring photo-opportunities in his Field Marshall/Commander-in-Chief fatigues. It is why he is placing more and more military officers or retired military officers in sensitive, security-related agencies. It is why purely civilian outfits are acquiring a para-military bent and their missions are being shifted more and more towards the security of the state and further and further away from their core functions of youth capacity enhancement, protection and preservation of forests or wildlife.

The National Executive consistently elides the link between national security and public safety. The former has always come at the expense of the later and yet if the focus is shifted to the latter, the former is bound to be enhanced. The focus on national security means that policing will be used as a tool to control the people in whose name policing exists in the first place. It will be reflected in the number of newer and newer offences created when enacting legislation. It will be reflected by the number of documents of identity a person must possess. It will be reflected by the number of places a person is not permitted to be in, to photograph, or even to speak about. It will be reflected in the number of documents classified as "sensitive", "confidential", "secret", "top secret" or "ultra-top secret''. It will be reflected in the secret powers of secret police to conduct secret operations among the civilian population. And it will inevitably be reflected in the number of secret courts, secret trials and secret executions conducted in the name of national security.

The National Executive has fed us a constant stream of fear-mongering news. The news media have done a brilliant job of broadcasting the fear far and wide. The intellectual boosters of the national Executive have described in acute detail the things that could affect our nation security and therefore, us. Now the National Executive has come up with a plan which it assures us will keep us safe and preserve the national security. But the National Executive keeps the policy document, its blueprint for our national security secret, and employs demagoguery of the vilest kind to browbeat us into submission. This is how it starts, the slippery slope to a Stalinist state. This is how it begins.

No bang for the buck.

There's a perverse logic in paying such exorbitant and extortionate sums for "administrative services" by the Executive arms of government: if we refuse to pay them what they demand, they are the ones best-placed to sabotage the operations of the Executive arms of government. That is why I have great faith that if the 350 million shillings transferred to the Ministry of Health to fight the Ebola virus is spent as the National Treasury intended it to be spent, a substantial proportion will go to "administrative costs".

The Ebola virus has killed almost five thousand people in West Africa. It has killed at least four in Western Europe and North America. We do not know if the Antipodes have been affected nor do we know whether here have been reported cases among the Asian Tigers, the "R" and "I" parts of the BRICS or in the darling of Africa, China. What we do know is that Western Africa will take, maybe, a generation to recover after the worst is over. And the worst is yet to come according to the World Health Organisation.

What should be agitating the minds of Kenyans is the sneaky suspicion that James Macharia is in over his head and that Dr Hadija Kassachoon is not playing at the same administrative league as her predecessor, Dr James Nyikal. When Dr Sultani Matendechero and members of his medical professionals' union warn that Kenya is unprepared, you also have the sneaky suspicion that Dr Matendechero & Co are angling for a piece of the 350 million shillings Ebola kitty and not really about preparedness for the day the Ebola virus sneaks into Kenya.

The reason we burn a bundle on administration is that we have consistently to pay attention to the development of robust institutions. The Ministry of Health should ideally be the premier public institution, second maybe to the Education Ministry. It is not. It never has. It probably never will now that Kenya is avidly discovering oil and gas deposits, and building or proposing to build power-generating plants. And therefore, in the obscurity of the constitutional transition, the Ministry has become an empire where money determines power or favours.

Look at what the United States has done in preparation for the Ebola virus. According to many American commentators, the US government's preparation has been shambolic and inadequate, and yet, it has only led to three deaths. Kenya has never even set aside funds for specialised suits, isolation wards (remember the brouhaha in 2013 over the sad state of the tuberculosis isolation wards at the Kenyatta National Hospital?) or border-crossing surveillance. When the virus crosses the border into Kenya, not even divine intervention will do us much good.

Mr Macharia seems like a bright enough spark, but he was taken hostage by the Ministry's bureaucrats and long before he knew what hit him he was losing credibility with health workers and users of Kenya's public health facilities. The spectacular public relations gaffes regarding Ebola will not restore confidence in him any time soon. The President loves loyalty; but even he must now start to worry about what his Cabinet Secretaries are doing. One by one they are proving to be more flash and no bang. Mr Macharia is just the latest disappointment.

Nyumba Kumi and police reforms.

As I understand it, under the Nyumba Kumi programme, I must familiarise myself with my immediate neighbours, participate in electing a leader from amongst us, and participate in policing my community to enhance the security of the community. The National Executive has embarked on a multi-pronged programme to enhance the security of the nation and includes amendments to key statutes such as the National Police Service Act, the National Police Service Commission Act, the National Intelligence Service Act, the Kenya Defence Forces Act, the Information and Communications Act and the Nyumba Kumi initiative. The overwhelming attention of the civil society industry has been focused on the Nyumba Kumi initiative.

What the National Executive and the other boosters of the programme seem to miss is that the legitimacy of the security establishment is low. It is low because it is obsessed with keeping our leaders secure; it is not overly concerned with the general safety of the public. It is riddled with corruption. It is prone to the commission of grave offences, though little proof has been advanced of those offences. It is renown for its cruelty and ruthlessness when dealing with petty offenders, and its kid-gloved treatment of millionaires and billionaires. It's partners in the judiciary and the public prosecutor's office are reviled for their rigid application of the statute books against petty offenders and, we suspect, highly motivated broad-stroke interpretation of those same statute books when it comes to the high and mighty.

Because my Nyumba Kumi group must work hand in hand with the police in policing my community, I will have to share personal details with the police. The National Executive already has these details in a database somewhere, the same database that contains my birth records, my application for a national identity card or passport, as well as my application for an income-tax Personal Identification Number and a Subscriber Identity Module card for my mobile phone. So sharing all this information with the police will be no big deal. It is what the police will do with that data that gives me reason for pause.

There isn't a day that passes without an examination of the nature of policing, especially in the context of corruption. We focus on the petty corruption among the officers of the traffic department. And it is in this context that the Nyumba Kumi programme will either succeed or fail. Many Kenyans' first engagement with the police is not in relation to the commission of crimes, but in the enforcement of the Traffic Act. 

Whether as motorists, passengers or, on rare occasions, pedestrians, many Kenyans have had the humiliating experience of having a policeman, under the cover of authority and the threat of judicial wrath, extort money from them. It is our coziest description of a policeman. It is unlikely to be reversed soon. It is the reason why the Nyumba Kumi programme has so far been resisted, vocally so, by the civil society industry and has found such great purchase with the ordinary Kenyan. Unless the police service can demonstrate that it is changing, that it is no longer a weapon for the extortion of the innocent, that it cares - really cares - for our general safety, then Nyumba Kumi shall remain an initiative for the enrichment of the few without serving a single discernible purpose.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It is not incest.

It is not an incestuous relationship, but it is riddled with perfidy, conflicts of interest, inefficiency and great anger. The relationship between business and the Government of Kenya, the whole government and not just the national government, is a strange one. Nurtured since pre-independence it has survived SAPs, PEVs, quasi-sanctions and five changes of government and three changes of the constitutional order. It is the only relationship that is perfectly symbiotic and mutually benefitting. It is an indictment of hope over sense, faith over logic.

The easiest way to assess the insidiousness of the relationship is to examine the ranks of the monied and the landed. For months now we have been discussing the Coast Land Question, with the President and his Cabinet Secretary, and the National Land Commission promising that the problem will be solved once and for all. But a not-so-casual examination of the land records of the Coast, where they can be found, will swiftly demonstrate that all this talk hides more than it reveals.

The number of former public officers and civil servants who happen to own and operate beach hotels sitting on land "allocated" to them in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980 and 1990s is a veritable Who's Who of the senior ranks of Jomo Kenyatta's and Daniel Moi's regimes, as well as former parliamentarians, army officers, policemen and "business associates" of the former presidents. Indeed, if there is a former member of the Cabinet in either regime who does not own a beach plot, that must be the rare Minister who ran afoul of Mzee and Baba.

So it is no surprise that business welcomes with open arms a new Bill to further regulate the securities industry, especially the so-called "advisors" offering financial and investment advice. You would think that the Bill is a solution to a problem that has bedevilled the financial sector what with the number of Kenyans getting ripped off by financial institutions. You would be horrifically wrong. The principle aim of the Bill is to establish another "authority" which shall levy fees and do precious little to solve the problems for which it was originally set up to do anyway. It's secondary aim will be to use the resources it has accumulated for the express purpose of joining the rest of the Government of Kenya in investing in the real estate sector by building a massive office building and charging exorbitant rents to those who have the balls to pay. 

And in a decade or so when a review of the law that led to its establishment is done, it is almost certain that a new report recommending a "restructuring" of the sector will recommend mergers of regulatory agencies "and streamlining" process by establishing a new super-agency. And the wheel will have turned full circle and we will be where we left of a decade earlier. What should make you smile in a light-bulb moment of realisation is that the men or women chosen to head these authorities have had deep and lasting relationships with the Cabinet Secretaries making the decisions, or their Principal Secretaries. And the ones appointed to "investigate" the problems in that sector and recommend the establishment of the authority are connected to those that will be appointed.

While in the past the sole purpose of the Central Government was to transfer prime land assets to favoured sons and daughters, the scarcity of such land and the conflicts now inherent in land have required the National Government to transfer financial assets or control of financial assets or control of the agencies that oversee the management of financial assets from the government to favoured sons - and daughters. What we have done is exchanged one part of the machinery of perfidy from land to finance without solving national problems - or indeed any problems.

Appoint a Commission, Mr President.

The ghosts of the Westgate Mall will not rest easily. Every time there are doubts over what kind of measures we need to take in the name of national security, Westgate is invoked with a degree of gravity to emphasise the urgency of the measures being proposed. The President, in his Mashujaa Day speech, invoked Westgate not less than three times while asking the people to support his government in its efforts to enhance the security of the nation through the incorporation of the National Youth Service, NYS, into the security sector and the Nyumba Kumi programme.

The speculation surrounding what the National Executive did during the Westgate siege will not die down and its constant invocation by the President and members of his Cabinet will only keep that speculation alive. Westgate revealed deep operational schisms between the National Police Service and the Kenya Defence Forces, something the President hopes to resolve by the establishment of the Metropolitan Military Command. It also revealed the woeful unpreparedness of the Cabinet Secretary for the Interior as well as his counterpart in Defence. It revealed that major changes are needed in the National Police Service, including in the Directorate of Criminal Investigations which we are now told is being starved of trained managers in the 47 commands established in the counties.

Parliament has singularly failed to oversee the affairs of the National Executive. Its creation of the the General Oversight Committee is an admission that despite the highfaluting talk of oversight, its committees lack the maturity to prioritise matters of national importance. Its examination of the Westgate affair was shambolic and is report was an embarassment.

Kenya is in a strange place. It is more mature than its neighbours in the establishment of public institutions. But it is hobbled by a complicated past that has not been addressed with sobriety or honesty. Too many ghosts hide in the closets and before we can even begin to reform the national security apparatus, we must grapple with uncomfortable truths about the men and women in charge of the national security. We must also hold a bold conversation regarding the place of national security in the general safety of the public. Before the President can exhort us to join in neighbourhood policing, he must make public moves to assure the people that they will remain afterthoughts as exemplified with the National Executive's obsession with national security at the expense of public safety.

The President has a chance to break with the past, as his predecessor did with the appointment of the Waki Commission after the violence of 2007/2008. He must appoint a Commission of Inquiry, as he had promised, to look into the national security apparatus generally, paying particular attention at the events of September 2013. It is the only way that the people can participate effectively in the reforms being undertaken in policing. It is the only way people can trust that the process will not confirm in office wolves in sheep's clothing out to make a killing from the people. It is the only way to have an objective assessment of the state of national security and public safety in Kenya. It will be a demonstration of the President's commitment to the peace, safety, security and welfare of the people.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rule #1: Don't embarass me.

In the spirit of positive criticism, it is time we had an honest chat about some peculiarities of the Kenyan public service, especially the one where the avoidance of "embarassment" at all costs still prevails. Truth be told, if there is someone who appreciates the ludicrousness of the Do Not Embarass the Government line it is the President and Commander-in-Chief himself. While the likes of Manoah Esipisu and the entire gang of protocol officers littering the corridors of the national Executive were shitting their collective pants when shoes and other missiles flew at the Head of State when he visited that dodgy Migori market centre, the President kept a cool head and later on used the fracas to gain political mileage.

If only Uhuru Kenyatta's sangfroid could trickle down to the hyper-sensitive minions in his government. It is one of the reasons why even laid back individuals coming in from their lucrative sinecures in the private sector are beginning to swan around like Arabian princes. They have been persuaded by the seniormost mandarins that they must maintain the dignity of their offices at all costs. So they surround themselves with gun-toting bodyguards, drivers, secretaries, personal assistants and a retinue of ass-kissing flunkies whose contribution to the effectiveness or efficiency of President Kenyatta's minions is doubtful at best.

I don't know if the Deputy President noticed when he was appointed to act as President when Uhuru Kenyatta went to The Hague, but the manner in which his security detail behaved left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. Of course we are aware that there are wackjobs who would not hesitate to do the Deputy President harm, but we can assure Inspector-General Kimaiyo and his National Police Service that ropes will not stop bullets or defuse explosive devices. What the police did over those two days not only endangered the lives of pedestrians, it was uncalled for and simply reinforced in my mind that our public service obsesses too much over embarassment or potential embarassment.

You can see it with the portraitisation of public offices. Under old Jomo and Baba Moi's iron-fisted regimes, it was the foolhardy that would not prominently display the portrait of the Head of State at their places of work. However, this began to change with the laid back, hands off approach of Mwai Kibaki. He would keep his dignity at all costs, but he would not demand privileges that simply created resentment. Today, in some public offices, in order to appear as if one is truly loyal and committed to the agenda of the boss, in addition to the Presidential Portrait, you will have a portrait of the man in charge and quite often that of that man's principal assistant. It is not enough to demonstrate our loyalty to the President, we must now demonstrate it to his minions and factotums.

President Kenyatta, I am sure, knows that things must change and one of the most important is that the people his government is in office for should not fear members of the public service, whether they are State officers or ordinary rank-and-file. President Kenyatta will likely trade the dignity of the office of a Cabinet Secretary or some similar Cabinet-rank official for the chance to empower the people to be true partners in national building. You can see it in his usual rapturous engagement with the people when he freaks out his security detail and mingles a little bit too freely. If only his Cabinet and the hyper-sensitive "protocol" obsessives could follow suit.

It isn't time yet.

I believe what I am about to write is the equivalent of eating crow. In the past two weeks I have had the privilege of sitting together with members of Kenya's elite, Judges, parliamentarians and members of county assemblies. I have interacted with them at length. I have socialised with them. I have listened to them make their case in relation to the work I do. Save for the embarassment of confirming that MCAs are a stain on the national conscience, away from the glare of the TV spotlight, Judges and MPs are thoughtful, conscientious and intelligent. Even as they grab ever larger shares of the national treasure, in the relative privacy of a conference room, they are persuasive and rather accommodating of divergent views or challenges to received wisdom.

In the spirit of revising my rather obdurate views of the elected classes, I have carefully gone over the statements attributed to the Speaker of the National Assembly. I believe he has been unfairly cast as the villain of too many pieces. In my view, while he has a knack for coming across as an arrogant and hubristic man too full of himself, Justin Muturi is a public servant performing a high-wire act over a river full of hungry crocodiles; a misstep and his career will be cut short. He presides over a chamber where political passions run high, where allotted time is little to make an erudite impression and where very little of the Jubilee agenda has been reduced into a White Paper or a Bill. Mr Muturi's National Assembly has been reduced to making resolutions which, so far, have not had the desired political or oversight effect the Members expected.

Even among the well read, few appreciate the magnitude of the changes being wrought by the Constitution. From a hybrid presidential-parliamentary system that favoured the presidency at the expense of Parliament to one that seems to favour the two-chamber Parliament, long-nurtured relationships had to undergo a sea-change. President Kenyatta and Speaker Muturi are in an unenviable position of trying to streamline both the process of overseeing the National Executive while performing the legislative role of the National Assembly in a chamber where the Minority Party does not have the numbers but punches way above its political weight. The complete transformation of the government may not be accomplished in this election cycle or even the next; it will take time and it is time that everyone came to this rather obvious conclusion too.

It is in this context that the reforms being pursued in various areas should be seen. Take for example the "militarisation" of the National Youth Service. It has been in existence since just after the attempted coup in 1982. It's first five years generated a generation of leaders who went on to university and beyond, achieving heights not seen before. The Nyayo Bus era of the NYS coincided with the explosion in graft in the public service and it was inevitable that the NYS would become another statistic in the hollowing out of public institutions by corruption. In a nation suffering high levels of youth unemployment, it was inevitable that the revival of a once-successful institution would be attempted. Some may see it as the militarisation of the NYS, especially with the recent placing of some its assets in the hands of the Inspector-general of Police, but an argument can be made that by making the NYS a more disciplined outfit might safeguard the proposed changes to its mandate and mission. Before we lose sight of the forest for the trees, let us monitor whether or not the NYS will contribute significantly to the reduction of youth employment and an uptick in youth entrepreneurship.

What we must do, rather than constantly nay-say, Like I have done for the past eighteen months, is give the government, all three arms of it, a chance to implement its agenda. We should monitor the changes taking place. We should hold dyed-in-the-wool sticks-in-the-mud to account. We should demand excellence in whatever pursuit the government engages in. We should keep a hawkish eye on the public finances. And when the next general election is held, a sufficient amount of time to gauge progress, we can assess whether we are better off or not. And then we can choose to celebrate or express our dissatisfaction in what I am sure will be creatively Kenyan ways.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Social graces.

I proclaim this with a very limited experience of five-star beach hotels, but things must surely be very bad if the only way you could see a hooker at the beach hotel is if you went out and brought one back with you. My recent working holiday was quite an eye-opener; "terrorism" has killed much of the mzungu-fuelled tourism; the few wazungu I saw had a larger than proportional number of "budget" tourists who are even more tight-fisted with their money than the local mzungu or the "domestic tourist."

My hotel had a prowling phalanx of watchmen; rather than make me feel safe, they made me nervous that they were nervous that some man with bad intentions would somehow make his way onto the hotel grounds with the intent to do bad things. Then when I was taking my time to partake of beverages that attract hefty excise duties down at the "beach bar", I saw a trio of blue-clad, sun-glassed, G3-armed policemen stomping up and down the beach. The fierce concentration in their faces as they struggled to not look at the hotel aroused a suspicion deep in the recesses of my mind that, (a) their G3s did not have live rounds to fire, and (b) if some al Shabby tried his thing at my hotel, the trio would take off like shots - in the opposite direction.

But my imagination was captured by the few patrons of the hotel who were determined to live a Mombasa Raha life while in Mombasa for the three days I was struggling to understand phrases like the forty/sixty rule, pensions viz. retirement benefits, pensionable emoluments and such like. Thee was this pair. Relatively young too. Clearly recently come into a big bundle. Obviously determined to make their presence felt. So, after valiantly stuffing themselves into pairs of jeans and figure-hugging vests with a suspicious degree of elasticity, they vanished in the middle of our cocktail and reappeared half-an-hour later accompanied by a bevy of Mtwapa's finest "college students."

I would have paid them no mind except that these two characters thought that I should appreciate the lovely nature of their companions. Readers of this blog will appreciate that I was in an untenable position. The three gentlemen I had been conversing with had proven to be singularly interesting, especially as the youngest is my father's age, and I had no intention of giving up their wise counsel for what I was sure would turn out to be a litany of banality that would stretch my very thin patience to breaking point. I politely declined the two gentlemen's offer to accompany them and their companions to the far end of the bar "where it was quieter." That was hat, I thought, until one of the aforementioned companions decided to challenge all the rules of social congress at once.

It is said that with age comes wisdom, but only if one learns the proper lessons of his experiences. Elder Gentleman No. 1 sensed that my blood was well up and that the chances of more social rules were about to experience a Zulu-like violation, so he suggested rather generously I thought, that perhaps the two gentlemen and their companions would appreciate a very large bottle of something very expensive at their table. Elder Gentleman No. 2 was already signalling the floor staff while Elder Gentleman No. 3 had somehow managed to clear out an entire section of the bar without lifting a finger - or an eyelid. Those three gentlemen are proof positive that a certain degree of professional and personal decorum, coupled with intelligence and experience, are all the power a man past the prime of his youth requires to prevail in a hostile world full of whippersnappers full of lead.

Suffice to say, I cannot say I remember the names of the jeans-and-tight-vest-clad characters; I probably never will. But the Three Wise Men have had a profound effect on my future plans. I am afraid that I may lose a few more "friends" in the process, but for the chance to do what the three have done and achieve what they have achieved, I will set on fire s many bridges as need to be burned.

All are not equal.

Perhaps I am not imaginative enough. Perhaps I do not have the capacity to ask the right question in order to get the right answer. Perhaps I have been too long in the wrong company. Whatever the reason, I cannot understand why the civil society industry is proclaiming outrage at the "lack of co-operation" by the Government of Kenya in relation to the long-stalled trial of Uhuru Kenyatta. It must be my lack of imagination because I believe the situation is plain enough to understand without searching for more complex "facts."

There are only two ways to examine the matter. Neither of them will make the civil society industry happy. The first, obviously, is that "the Government of Kenya has refused to co-operate." We are not small children in need of adult supervision, I believe. We are not naive. We are not idiots. We know what we know because we have the benefit of experience. So I cannot understand why the civil society could not anticipate this non-co-operation. This is not something that was out of the realm of the possible; it could have been countered by deft footwork, planning and astute political tea-leaf reading.

I have no doubt that the Attorney-General of Kenya spoke the truth each time he appeared before the Trial Chamber Vb of the International Criminal Court and detailed the elements of the co-operation of the Government of Kenya with the Court. I also have no doubt that the co-operation he detailed before the three judges falls far below what the Office of the Prosecutor would consider "full" co-operation. It all depends on who was in charge of doing what a what time and with what facilities and in what context.

When the Government of Kenya brings its might to bear against you it can be surprisingly efficient and effective. But if it suspects that it is being challenged, even by a powerful foreign court, it will do what it does best; it will marshall its resources, and it will apply them to its survival. The many elements that make up the Government of Kenya are like white blood cells and anti-bodies designed to destroy pathogens in the bloodstream. The ICC is a pathogen. It must be stopped or destroyed.

The second, of course, is the more plausible: the Office of the Prosecutor should not have brought the Uhuru Kenyatta case to the court and the civil society industry should not have underestimated the myopia of Kenyans. Philip Waki knew that Kenyans would do nothing about the violence. He had seen it before. So he demanded a local mechanism to investigate all the cases related to the violence. 

By publishing a secret list of twenty persons he held most responsible for the violence, Justice Waki was not saying that all the other complaints should be forgotten; he simply wanted the small fish to share the dock with the big fish, reinforcing the idea that all are equal before the law. The civil society industry and the Office of the Prosecutor failed to appreciate this subtle distinction and pursued headlines instead of justice for the victims.

Mr Kenyatta's case may never start. Too much time has passed. Too many witnesses have despaired at the delay. Too many victims have been revictimised. The crimes have become political footballs, used to win elections. The victims - survivors - have become pawns in political games. There might have been a moment when there was concern for their welfare. That moment is no more. Whether they ever recover seems not to matter to the ICC or their own government or their fellow citizens. It seems that the moment we find ourselves in is one where opportunists will milk the milch cow that is the ICC for all it is financially and politically worth. And then kill the cow once and for all. (For its skin.)

The folly of hubris.

It is impossible to follow the advice, "Don't take it personally." It is twice as difficult to do so when ones ego is the size of a small planet. But a snowball will survive in hell first before a person with the ego of a small planet and a self-righteousness to rival it decides not to "take it personally." That latter person is the embodiment of the Kenyan "leader": supremely egotistical and equally supremely self-righteous. Watching one of this species holding forth at a baraza, a rally or before generally fawning member of the supine Fourth Estate and you can sense the self-confident arrogance of the self-righteous egotist.

It is becoming a pervasive phenomenon, spreading like the Prosopis juliflora spp did in the drylands of Baringo, Tana River and Garissa.It is a contagion like the Black Death. It is persistent too, like the Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome. And it lingers like a bad smell, like the aftermath of a skunk's attack. That sense of egotistic self-righteousness can be observed today not just in the elected classes, but in "top" businessmen, "popular" preachers, "artistes", certain senior members of the public service, "socialites" and "celebs", and a few of our "top rugby players". It is being emulated. In many instances it crosses the line to hubris pretty easily.

Excessive pride, excessive self-confidence. That is hubris. Where some of us would harbour slight doubts even when we are the masters of what we see, our "leaders" know no such humility. They have conquered their worlds. They have done so by hook and by crook. They have done so despite the spite and jealousy of their opponents. They have done so because all the known gods are on their side. They planted the seeds of success, they watered the sprouting saplings, and now they are reaping the fruits. Because only they could do it. It would behoove us lesser mortals to keep this in mind when we are in the presence of greatness. It behooves us to genuflect, to curtsy, to be as reverentially deferential as demanded by greatness come among us.

That is the sense you get when you stumble on one of their secret redoubts, where the only hoi polloi allowed in are the servants, the pot-scrubbers, the watchers of men. In these habitats, these "leaders" reveal their true natures: crass; petty, small. It comes as quite a shock to realise that very few of their number have truly transcended great wealth and power. This elite few understands that power does what power does, it needs no spokesman. Power need not announce itself; it is seen, it is feel, it is experienced. It simply is. The vast majority of these "leaders" cannot but help prove that they have power and by trying to prove it they reveal that they do not. They end up as the dog being wagged by its tail. They end up as whispers in the dark, snatches of conversations past, vestiges of notoriety long forgotten. Their power play is piteous to witness. Their hubris blinds them to their folly.

Monday, October 13, 2014

If football has defeated us...

We know what ails football in Kenya. We have known it for two decades. Even in its halcyon days, football in Kenya was dysfunctional. It is why many Stars who turned out for the national team died in abject penury while the men - it was all men - in charge of Kenyan football grew fat on the money that football generated. None much has changed since the 1970s. Changing the thickets of laws, rules and regulations but keeping the same monkeys is not the solution. It hasn't worked anywhere else and it is futile to expect that it will work here.

Curiously, this is not a problem that is limited to Football Kenya. Athletics Kenya finds itself in the cross-hairs of a committed group who want changes. The wool of global glory in the marathon, long- and middle-distance races will one day be lifted and the truth will be there for all to see. And so the story goes in hockey, volleyball, netball, basketball, boxing, rugby, cycling, the martial arts, swimming...Sports in Kenya is the beneficiary of a plethora of rules, regulations, constitutions and associations and yet it is as if its management has been entrusted to the rank-and-file members of the Mungiki and not the top-level bankers, accountants and lawyers that keep that criminal outfit running decade after decade.

The problem is not even limited to sports in Kenya. Look at government, that behemoth that is the Colossus to our Alexandria. It is a sprawling enterprise. Its tentacles reach every nook and cranny of this no longer fair land. Its remit is without challenge. It disguises itself in various shades, hues, shapes - it is variously an army, a police force, a civil service, a teaching service, a health service, a road-builder, a water supplier, an electricity generator, a jailer, a judge, a legislator, a tax is many things at the same time. Yet for all its many disguises it cannot hide its true nature. In its disguises is revealed its nature. The masks it has worn over the years has fallen. What we see is Football Kenya writ large.

Football Kenya is the promise unfulfilled. Football Kenya is the cautionary tale. Football Kenya is that boy your mama warned you about. Football Kenya is the reason why millions of Kenyans will devote a considerable degree of their loyalty to Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and the top-flight teams of the Barclays English Premier League. And if Football Kenya is the Government of Kenya writ large, our imagination about what a government is will forever be captured by the Court of St James or the District of Columbia.

When we measure our achievements in the art of governing ourselves all the indicators will pile on the leaden feeling until we suffocate from the pressure. Take the most fundamental requirement of a representative government, to represent the interests of the greatest number for the greatest good. In our Year of Jubilee there isn't a man alive who can stare at our Leviathan without experiencing a rage that boils from deep inside his bowels. Look at what the wazungu call Human Development Indicators and watch the gap between the haves and the have-nots widen like the Great Rift Valley. It goes on and on. You know what I'm going to say next. You have half-expected it since you atarted reading his screed. If we cannot manage a football club, we have no business pretending that we can govern ourselves effectively.

King of Turd Mountain.

We all know one or two boys whose socialisation has left quite a lot to be desired, and who eventually come to believe what their parents have mad them ton believe: the one with the biggest penis is king and so, as surely as the sun will rise in the East, you will hear of an incident where the two of them whipped out their penises and compared which one was the bigger. This behaviour, bar one or two critical interventions that might successfully take, is adopted in their adult lives, where the man-boys find alternatives to their penises to measure against. Amongst the middle classes this is usually seen in the amount of money one makes or the number of academic credentials one acquires in the course of their lives, which we are assured is a perfectly healthy thing to do.

But there is a sub-class of the middle classes that cannot abide by money-degree rulers; their urge to whip out their penises remains undiminished decades after they walked out of their institutions of learning, whether higher or not. Because of the mores that keep up the pretense of civilisation and civility, these men cannot just take out their penises in public and because the available alternatives are not attractive a barometer for them, they have latched on to some others with less salubrious qualities.

Among this sub-class of the middle class, many of you will have noticed, exists a competition to acquire certain trophies: wives, mistresses, bed-post notches and, curiously, enemies. Their strutting and parading and oratory is directed towards "beating" the Other Guy in the number of thighs they can get betwixt. So they dress like peacocks, they roar like lions, they stomp like elephants, they spend like drunken sailors, they drink like fish. All in their peculiar desire to be sexual conquerors of national and global repute. You can see their psychological need in the language they subconsciously employ even when discussing mundane matters. Self-actualisation, whether academic, commercial, political, theological, is not on the agenda. Sexual conquest is the primary driver of their appetites. And they have persuaded themselves that their appetites can never be sated.

Now let us not pretend that this comes as a shock. We have fantasised about it. We have all thought, "If I had a million dollars..." and then daydreamed about the men and women we would bed. It is a primal need. But that need is usually satisfied when we have found the one or two women who will be our companions till the day we enter Hades. It is a normal part of our psychological development. It is not an aberration, as some wazungu are trying to insist, for a man to spend the rest of his rather short life hitched to one woman. Or two. 

But the man-boy never grows up psychologically. He remains hostage to his urges. He will go to great lengths to satisfy them. In the end they will destroy him. He can sense the coming destruction but he is powerless to do anything about. He will try and stave off disaster. For a period he will conform, he will tamp down the fire raging in his loins. But he has never been armed with the weapons to control his desires. He has been indulged his all life and he has indulged himself with abandon, being rewarded at every stage and in every step. He will give i. He must or he is destroyed. So he does. Again and again. Achieving more and more. Then he wakes up one day as the king of his mountain, only then noticing that his mountain is a mountain of shit and he is standing on it all alone.

The Tragedy of Sameness.

How do you know that your government loves you, cares for you and wants nothing but the best for you? You don't. Not really. Because the government is an abstract idea, a convenient fig leaf for when men and women with power conspire to make your every waking moment a nightmare. That must be the way the hundreds of thousands who survived the murder, rapine, rape, arson, assault, dismemberment, displacement, banditry and robber in the aftermath of the 2007 general election must feel. Elections should not have aftermaths; in Kenya only the 2002 and the 2013 general elections can be said to have ended without aftermaths, though they continue to live a bitter aftertaste. Anyway, back to today's whinge. The survivors of what Kenya's profiteering supine Fourth Estate has dubbed the PEV must be living the worst nightmares of their lives.

If you have never suffered an unfairness, an injustice, an assault you can never appreciate the bile that rises in your thorax when you see the cause of the unfairness, injustice, assault strutting around town like the cock of the walk, the cat that swallowed the canary, the Bull. Whether we will admit it or not, there are tens of thousands of women who have been violently disgraced, who cannot go back to their homes, their villages, their towns because their violators will be there, in person, smiling toothily for all to see with that secret knowledge that shouldn't be theirs. There are thousands of men who cannot go home either. What they had been brought up to believe could only happen to women, happened to them, in front of their wives, and daughters and in the full glare of their neighbours. Their humiliation is total. They can no longer hold their heads high. They cannot rebuild their identities. They are shattered shells held together by bitter, bitter bile.

The survivors remember the promises. They remember the insincere concentration of the members of task forces, commissions and offices of prosecutors. They even remember the politicians' deceptions about compensation, and truth, justice and reconciliation. How foolish they feel for believing. How foolish they must feel in the digital age to be mocked with the digital records of promises that shall never be fulfilled. How foolish they must feel that they gave their trust so freely. Again. Because it wasn't the first time they gave their trust so freely. Their fathers did. Their grandfathers did. And each time they did, freely, openly and hopefully, somebody metaphorically pulled down their pants, bent them over a barrel and without so much as a "by your leave" or a bit of Vaseline, proceeded to commit unmentionable violations against them.

Few of them care for the charges levelled against the President or the Deputy President. They never have. They have never me the two, see? In their secret hearts they know they will never meet the President or his deputy. They will read about them; they will see them on TV and hear them on the radio, but they will likely never meet the two, share a cup of tea with them, sit with them and tell them their troubles. But they will meet the men and women who committed such barbaric acts against them and their families, friends, neighbours. The survivors will meet them at the market, in church, on the bus, at the hospital. And the survivors will also meet the ones who ensured their violators walk scot-free. The survivors will meet their violators, and it is the survivors who will avert their eyes in shame. It is the survivors who will bow their heads in fearful, respectful silence. It is the survivors who will be forced to apologise for being nuisances, to mouth the words as they supplicate themselves for pittances. It has been so for seven years. It has sunk in by now. The survivors are on their own. The ICC has said so. Their government has said so. The civil society has said so. They have been reminded that while some things change, the things that define us as a nation, as a country, as a people remain tragically the same.