Thursday, July 24, 2014

In 1978, when Mzee died...

My friend, Eric Ng'eno, may not want me to repeat this, but our mutual friend, Kirono, is right: in 2017, the general election (if there will be one, to begin with) will be #TeamDigital's to lose. A majority of the voters made the generational leap of electing a President and Deputy President who were under 55 years of age. #TeamAnalogue has expended goodly sums of disposable income to ensure that Baba, Brother Steve and that guy from Western Kenya continue to retain a patina of youthfulness. (We all know that it has failed and failed abjectly but who will bell the cat?)

It is important to remember that until the #TeamJubilee triumph, Kenyan leadership was old, crotchety, doddery and prone to gall stones, gout and multiple bimbo eruptions. Post-2013, it seems, the new look leadership has jettisoned all the foibles of the Old School - except bimbo eruptions. Nairobi's senior-most elected representatives are just the most famous of the Bimbo Eruption School of Politics.

It is difficult to express why the likes of Makau Mutua are living in a fantasy world. Mr Odinga - Baba - is the consummate Kenyan politician, but he does not have the touch - the one that elevated a shady Governor from a no-name rust-belt State to the White House in 1992 or a toothy lawyer with a pushy wife to No. 10 Downing Street in 1997. He does not seem to have the killer instinct that led to a frumpy politician being underestimated as she made her way to becoming the Chancellor of Germany in 2005. He is not shrewd enough to cobble together winning coalitions such as the most hated Hindu in India managed when he became the fifteenth Prime Minister of India. What Mr Odinga is is old, tired and bereft of any ideas that would work in the digital world. If #TeamJubilee even had one good idea, Mr Odinga wouldn't have a leg to stand on or acolytes in far-flung places singing his praises.

It is Kenya's tragedy that fresh ideas have not percolated to the top with the ascendancy of the Kenya's youngest government in two decades. Jubilee has done everything it can to sabotage its place at the top of the political food chain. Its Cabinet is one of the most reactionary in a generation. Not even Mwai Kibaki in the middle of the Orange Rebellion had such a problem with his Cabinet; sure, it had rent-seekers and some of the dodgiest crooks in Kenya's history, but it had certain cohesiveness that Uhuru Kenyatta must envy. If Mr Kenyatta's government were to be dumped into a swimming pool, it would have the aquatic abilities of a suitcase.

It is not the Cabinet-level officials who deny Jubilee a chance at glory; sub-Cabinet and sub-sub-Cabinet minions have done everything in their power to shoot Jubilee in the foot. Free laptops, Standard Gauge Railway, Kasarani Concentration Camp, Lamu, Westgate, Konza Technocity, Saba Saba...the list is long and it reads as an indictment of a Team that boasts youthfulness and fresh ideas but operates as if it were the reincarnation of the Kiambu Mafia and Mwakenya Movements rolled into one neat package of retrogressive thought. Every time Jubilee has been given an opportunity to drag Kenya into the Twenty-first Century, it has hesitated and every time things have proven difficult, it has fallen back on tried-and-tested analogue ideas, tools, tactics and actors.

Despite all that, despite the epic under-performance of Team Jubilee and the because of the decrepitude of Raila Odinga and his Minion-Principals, it almost as good as certain that in 2017, if you are significantly over 55 years of age, you will be laughed at when you come trolling for my vote. You can salvage some pride by simply doing the less expensive thing: buy a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, get a nice place in one of those shiny new flats along Rhapta Road, install a comely twenty-two-year old there and never, ever be seen anywhere near the precincts of Parliament. This is a game for the ones who don't start their sentences with the phrase, "In 1978, when Mzee died..."

From Homeguard to...Time stood still.

One institution cries out for reform. It is begging for it. It is also the one hidebound institution that will resist reforms until it is yanked, kicking, screaming, scratching and biting into the Twenty-first Century. Proof for the desirous efficacious effects of reform are to be found in two incidents, none surprising or shocking. 

The recruitment of ten thousand policemen proceeds apace to fulfill the President's desire  to hire ten thousand policemen every year. Luis Franceschi has described the cattle call that the aspiring officers go through before being selected as a vestige of the colonial system that wanted robots than computers. The colonial government used the same cattle call for the recruitment of the Home Guard which later became the provincial Administration. How a relic of a bygone era has managed to survive for fifty years remains one of those peculiarities that define the Kenyan experience.

The other incident is the death while in police custody of a man who owed a debt of six hundred shillings. He had borrowed money from a businesswoman in Githurai. He managed to pay back a substantial portion of the sum he had borrowed. At no point had he been accused of conning the woman out of her money or stolen from her. By all accounts he had met his obligations save for the balance of six hundred. He wanted more time. She would not grant. She reported him to the police. They arrested him. He was jailed pending "further developments." One of the policemen offered him an alcoholic beverage. He died the following morning "under mysterious circumstances." The police promised a "full investigation into the incident."

Daily, Kenyans get to interact with the forces of law and order, most commonly policemen and policewomen. Some are decent men and women; despite having seen much, they are very empathetic to the plight of others. Others are not, neither are they deliberately cruel. Still others are cruel, deliberately and vindictively so. It might have something to do with the manner they are trained, the manner they are treated by their superiors and the manner that they are treated by the public. But surely, we must all accept that as a nation we have treated the men and women who watch over our safety with casual disregard, hostility and utter selfishness and to expect anything other than the same in return is pretty naive.

President Kenyatta's government, having fallen in love with United Nations' statistics, has decided to build up the National Police to the tune of an additional 10,000 men and women a year for the next four years. But in tune with his predecessors, he has made tokenism in his treatment of the police a hallmark of his policy on police reforms. It is why some police will get decent housing; it is why some police will get a smidgen of insurance. The vast majority of an almost hundred-thousand man police force will make do with new equipment - leased cars and the like - but will live in squalor and filth while the hardened hears of their bosses continue to enjoy the benefits of "gold" level healthcare, apartments in leafy suburbs, chauffeured vehicles and opportunities for academic advancement. Where the freshly recruited 10,000 will end up remains a mystery.

The Government of Kenya is enamoured of public procurement, especially when the words "upgrading" and "reforms" are attached. Policing in Kenya is set to become the darling of the security sector procurement kings. Billions will be expended providing "insurance" to members of the National Police; billions will be spent building them "decent" housing; billions will be spent upgrading their equipment; billions will be expended sending some of them for "specialised" training in foreign nations; billions will be spent leasing cars and trucks. But unless how we as a nation view our police undergoes a sea change, cattle calls at recruitment drives and mysterious deaths in police custody will remain par for the course until the cows come home.

You can't look back if you want to conquer the future.

Beware the voices of inexperience promising solutions to problems that have bedeviled even the Devil himself. Scholarship is bereft of education today; it's principle aim, it seems, is to wangle the fattest paycheck in the shortest time for the fanciest toys. Scholarship is desecrated in the mad rush to move up in society, be seen at the right party, be seen with the right people, and be seen in the right accoutrements of material achievement. Scholarship is notable for the absence of wisdom and the haste with which new ideas, which are not really so new, are embraced as panaceas for what ails the Republic.

The constant battle waged between generations is in full swing in the political arena that Kenya has become over the past decade. In March 2013, #TeamFresh, in the words of my friend Eric Ng'eno, triumphed over the Old Men. But it might turn out that the victory of the Jubilee pair may be Pyrrhic; it's cost continues to devastate vast swathes of the national psyche. If there is one thing that is notable about #Team Fresh, it is the distinct lack of wisdom that characterises their obsession with the moves and countermoves of Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula.

It is satisfying, in a childish way, to kick the Minority Party while it is down. Some children, who end up as some of the most crass of adults, spend a considerable portion of their childhoods with magnifying glasses torturing small creatures under the scorching noontime sun. They take great pleasure in causing pain to others. Their "curiosity" is never sated; they grow up to be the high school bullies and the self-entitled wingnuts atop political or commercial enterprises of dubious provenance.

The Minority Party, unless one is wearing blinders and quaffing the Kool-Aid with wild abandon, is ashambles. This is something even the former Prime Minister will admit in the privacy of his coldly calculating mind. It is not a mess simply because its principals are Old Men; it is that their ideas may have been progressive in the heat of anti-establishment combat in the darkest days of the 1980s and 1990s, but today they are moribund and decrepit. Their ideas do not tug at the heartstrings of the demographic bulge that scares some and brings hope to others. It therefore beggars belief that #TeamFresh continues to obsessively track an Opposition peddling pig swill to a generation that has refused time and again to be seduced by that very pig swill. If #TeamFresh really was fresh, its ideas would prevail, it's programmes would receive overwhelming support and it would not even bother to dignify the 13 Points with a response.

What distinguished #TeamFresh in 2012 and 2013 was its unprecedented professionalism in running a political campaign, its munificence in political expenditure and its deployment of new media. Its manifesto, sadly, did what all Kenyan political manifestos did; it overpromised. But no one seriously thought of holding #TeamFresh to its campaign promises; we have been promised the moon so many times it's time we started taking Lunar Shares at each general election. But we did not anticipate that in governance #TeamFresh would, and with determination too, adopt battle-tried-and-tested "analogue" solutions to twenty-first century problems.

Two examples will suffice. When faced with a shambolic, though popular, demand for dialogue by a shambolic Opposition fast losing friends and allies, rather than redeploy the campaign braintrust that allowed it to keep ahead of the political game, #TeamFresh reached back to 1969 and 1990 and unleashed the forces of law and order on the opposition. It even deployed the same rhetoric in its allusions to political zones where the Opposition was unwelcome.

When faced with increased threats and violence against the public safety, #TeamFresh reached all the way back to Operation Anvil (1952) and rounded up every suspicious person it could find, evidence be damned, and deported those it could, jailed those it could, held many in a concentration camp and secretly assassinated those it could not handle.

We were seduced by the rhetoric of #TeamDigital versus #TeamAnalogue. We were seduced by the Twitter handles and Facebook pages. We were seduced by the matching red shirts and yellow shirts. We failed to peek behind the curtains. We didn't bother to ask the hard questions. We allowed "youth" to be a catchall for "change" and the "future". This nation is devoid of progressive leaders, never mind our progressive Constitution. If the likes of Mr Ng'eno believe that #TeamFresh is the future, it is time they injected wisdom in their ideas. It is time they turned their eyes firmly to the future and withdrew their hands from the cookie jars of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s or 1990s.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bend or Break.

If you are one of the few sadists who does not feel for the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, stop reading now and go find a copy of Fifty Shades of Gray or something. President Kenyatta the Younger is having a crap year. He is slowly coming to the unappetising realisation that he cannot govern without Raila Odinga and he cannot govern with Raila Odinga. Baba Moi found this out. So too did Baba Jimmi. Sooner or later, President Kenyatta the Younger will arrive at that unpalatable banquet and eat crow.

Raila Odinga is the Kenya political landscape, even when he has proven disappointing at actual governing. He has wrecked three successive governments with his hard-to-meet demands. Baba Moi wouldn't choose Agwambo as his successor, so Tinga rode roughshod over KANU before flouncing out of the government with his MPs in tow. Baba Jummi reneged on a dodgy deal and Agwambo fucked up his constitutional referendum forcing Baba Jimmi to find a last minute political vehicle to bring him to the 2007 general election. Baba Jimmi's second governemnt was going nowehere until he got into bed with Tinga; that marriage was the stuff of poisonous dreams that it inspired books.

In 2013, #TeamJubilee was sitting pretty, the cats that swallowed the canaries. They were chuffed that they had trounced the CORD's Raila Amolo Odinga. They used the Odinga Petition in the Supreme Court to humiliate him, saying cruel and intemperate things that did not befit their narrow numerical victory. They did not contend with the man's giraffe-like vision. It is barely a year and a half later and Uhuru's #TeamJubilee is staring at the wreckage of their agenda: Standard One pupils are yet to see their laptops; the Standard Gauge Railway may have been commissioned but a single kilometre of rail is yet to be laid; the Million Acres Irrigation Scheme has been commissioned but it turns out that neither the money nor the land has been set aside for a #TeamJubilee flagship project.

But worst of all, despite white folks in the United States and Europe going crazy over Kenya's first foreign-floated, dollar-denominated bond issue, Kenyans continue to be slaughtered like sheep by brigands, bandits and thugs. #TeamJubilee has attempted every propaganda trick in the book, but Kenyans simply refuse to heed the flowery rhetoric by dying at the hands of brigands, bandits and thugs. On national security and public safety, #TeamJubilee has been an abject failure. The only thing left is to feel deeply for the men who wanted the job: Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. On their watch, more terrorists, brigands, bandits and thugs have killed more Kenyans than at any eighteen month period in history. Not even the Mungiki were this prolific when Baba Jimmi ordered the late John Michuki to deal with it.

So that he does not have to speak about it on national TV, the Commander-in-Chief, the man we handed over a sword as a symbol of his authority over our disciplined forces, is now reduced to flagging off trucks of relief food from the safety of the militarised State House. His Strategic Communications Unit has been asleep for far too long and it is time they started to really consider the strategic part of their agency's role. For a nation that is boldly going into the Twenty-first Century without any illusions about its place in the world, what is the message our President communicating to our friends and enemies alike when he allows a security chief reduced to the caricature of a chef out of his depths? Or a food-surplus nation asking for food aid?

I feel for the President. No matter what he does, the flaws in his administration are the Achilles Heel that Raila Odinga intends to exploit. Whether he is in or out of government, Raila Odinga will be the one setting the agenda. #TeamJubilee will be the one playing catch up and attempting to misuse the tools in their hands for political ends. A change of tack is warranted. Whether the President's and Deputy President's egos permit them to do so remains the known unknown. Their current strategy to contain Raila Odinga is a tragic joke. Will they bend or will they break?

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Article 32 says a few things on the freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion. The United States, in the First Amendment to its Constitution, provides for both freedom of speech and freedom of worship. In recent months, the United States Supreme Court has made rulings that have greatly affected the manner in which Americans enjoy the protections afforded them by the First Amendment. Kenya's High Court, is yet to grasp the nettle that Article 32 is bound to become.

It s reported in some of the less-rigorous fact-checkers of Kenya's Fourth Estate that Muslim students at a school in Eastleigh have been prevented from attending school by the school administration because they violated a rule made by the Ministry of Education against the conversion of students from one religion to another. Apparently students of Maina Wanjigi Secondary School converted a female Christian student to Islam. Her parents were not amused. They protested to the school administration. The school administration locked out the Muslim students from the school. They demonstrated against the action of the school administration. The police intervened. The school was closed. And Article 32 took a walloping.

First, obviously, is the rule that states a student cannot be converted. Would such a rule apply if a student converted to another religion without being compelled or persuaded by another? Would the rule apply if the student converted as an act of protest against the school or the parents? What is a student converted in secret? Would then conversion have been so drama-filled if the conversion was from Islam to Christianity? The Ministry of Education rule is a violation of the constitution, regardless of the explanations that the Ministry exists to protect the students, even from themselves. It purports to know without a doubt that the religious feelings and beliefs of a student can remain static until the student is no longer a student or that it can prevent a student from believing what the student believes. In any case, the obvious solution would be to segregate students on the basis of their religious sentiments. Which would run afoul of Article 27 on equality and freedom from discrimination.

Second, it seems that the Ministry and the school's administration overreacted. This seems to be a particular brand of reaction of the Government of Kenya, whether one is in the Executive arm, or the Legislative of Judicial arms. In an increasingly cosmopolitan metropolis, the interactions between children of different cultural, economic and religious backgrounds will be more and more common. There are districts that will have more of one or the other. It is inevitable, especially when one includes the class considerations that will be inevitably in play. As a consequence, children will increasingly come under influences greater than what they experience in their families or homes. An event that is set to become more common will be conversion from one faith to another, whether through proselytising or admiration. If the Ministry and the schools' administrations react by sending in police, we can expect conflicts to multiply.

Finally, while Article 32 is not an absolute rule, any derogation from the rule would have to be reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic secretary based on human dignity, equality and freedom. The rights of children have not been derogated from simply because they are below the age of eighteen years. Therefore, while the Ministry, the school's administration and the parents were responsible for the welfare of the student, when she exercised her inalienable right to believe in another faith and expressed her desire to worship under a different tradition, their reactions should not have been to place the students they blamed for the conversion under siege, but to determine, as far as they could, why the student agreed to abandon Christianity for Islam. If there were psychological factors involved, as there usually are when dealing with hormonal teenagers, perhaps the student could have been persuaded that what she did was not necessary. Instead what was a cultural event was quickly militarised, children were traumatised, and the embarassment the public officials wished to avoid became a snowball.

The recent fulminations against Islamic fundamentalism and radicalisation in Kenya have polarised the country. Parents are now worried about sending their children to schools with large populations practicing faiths that are not theirs. If we do do not pull back from the edge, parents will start pulling out their children from one school and enrolling them in another simply because of the number of Muslims or Christian present in the former or the latter. Will this contagion spread to places of work, places of entertainment, hospitals?

Political hangings are back in vogue.

It used to be, in the dying days of Kenyatta the Elder's presidency, that any fool bold enough to imagine, countenance, contemplate and other wordy adjectives employed by Charles Njonjo the death of Jomo Kenyatta, he or she would have his or her ass hauled in front of a judge and charged with treason in the full expectation of conviction and a swift hanging thereafter. The immediate reaction to the latest leak out of the National Executive - that asking for the proper interpretation of the law on treason - will be a strengthening on the restrictions regarding access to information and an investigation in the Attorney-General's Chambers to find out who leaked the damning letter. The "why" should be pretty obvious. But perhaps it is not. 

Was the demand for a legal opinion a sensitive security matter? Did it affect the defense of the Republic? Did it affect the foreign or diplomatic relations of the Republic? So far as I can tell, the answer is "No." The request from the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service seemed like a political request at the behest of someone high up in the presidency to find a legitimate reason for taking the leadership of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy into protective custody.

Why is #TeamJubilee (Jubiree! Jubiree!) pursuing this course, when better alternatives are available? Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula are suffering a terrible malady. Their malaise can be traced back to the the height of the 2012 campaigns. Then, Mr Odinga had been informed that the Orange Democratic Movement was facing a crisis in the Western Region; both in Nyanza and Western, nominations had led to very popular outsiders challenging lacklustre insiders and the insiders were seeking his protection lest they be left out in the political cold during the life of the Eleventh Parliament. Mr Musyoka, on the other hand, had just been reminded why Mwai Kibaki was the survivor; he had refused to endorse Mr Musyoka, his vice-president, while quietly assuring those who needed assurances, that he was foursquare behind the young upstart from Gatundu South. Mr Wetangula remained colourless among the chubby jolliness of Musalia Mudavadi, the earthy witticisms of Bifwoli Wakoli and the misguidedness of that Eugene Wamalwa fellow.

The CORD is a political joke, never mind the numbers it attracts at its rallies countrywide. Both its friends and enemies know that it is a political joke. So it is baffling why the presidency is so interested in ensuring that there is legal action against the CORD's leadership and why this legal action must be in the form of a capital offence in the shape of a treason charge. Kenya is yet to execute anyone since 1989. It's last hangman is probably dead. Even if these two could be resolved, Messrs Odinga, Musyoka and Wetangula arrested, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to hang on treason charges without setting the nation on fire, who would stand to gain? CORD may be bankrupt and bereft of ideas, fresh or otherwise, but Mr Odinga remains popular. Any attempt to kill him, whether using the law or some Aboud Rogo-style assassination, will only end in greater bloodshed than the Republic could bear.

The CORD's thirteen demands resonate with many Kenyans, but their resolution will not be possible if the CORD's Parliamentary party remains the intellectual backwater it has become. Parliamentary stars of the coalition have become mutes; they never say anything, and when they do, it is nothing of note. What makes this state of affairs tragic is that the #TeamJubilee side is made up of crass men and women whose imagination only runs as far as anti-Raila rhetoric and foreskins. If CORD is in an intellectual dessert, #TeamJubilee is marooned on a dessert island with a copy of Hustler magazine for intellectual nourishment. So one has to ask himself why the presidency would even bother to find new and creative legal tools for cutting Raila Odinga and CORD down to size and why the only tool they have found is the sledgehammer of treason.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Do not doubt the degree of my scepticism.

A strange event occurred yesterday: a parliamentary committee was divided over whether the deal between Government of Kenya and Safaricom Limited was in the interests of the people. This  shouldn't come as a surprise.

We are assured by many astute managers of money that nearly all our elected representatives are not as rich as we would presume them to be; they have too many financial commitments for which the million-shilling-plus package is insufficient. There is a parliament that was ignominiously outed as possessed of members willing to take bribes from "outside interests", I believe is how they were described, to ask questions in the National Assembly. The same parliament's members were willing to take bribes to vote for or against censure motions, regardless of party whips or loyalties. It is not too great a leap to presume that this parliament is not possessed of members who would be willing to take bribes to scuttle a government security tender...or protect one once it has been awarded. No one is alleging that to be the case, but we would be naive to believe that it could not possibly be done.

Some of us have taken pragmatism to a pathological level. We are the skeptics' skeptics and until Lord God Himself walks among us and shows us He is God, we are unwilling to take the assurances of probity broadcast far and wide by the members of the elected classes to be true. Therefore our deeply held suspicions about the near-certainty that members of the security establishment and the parliamentary establishment may be trousering a fraction of the billions of shillings being bandied about in relation to the security of the Republic remain at troublingly high level. Therefore, the political pantomime being enacted and re-enacted in front of the cameras of the broadcast media and the theatrical accusations and counter-accusations made for the benefit of the unwashed masses will not trigger in the most pragmatic among us an automatic belief that one side or the other is in the pocket of one interested party or the other.

If you want to know why we are skeptical about the whole thing, this should sober you up. Some time in the mid-2006, the Official Leader of the Opposition was the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. The Committee investigated bent transactions in the security sector. Their hearing were very public and very impassioned. The Committee recommended the cancellation of tenders, agreements and stoppage of payments. Kenyans were impressed. Eight years later that PAC Chairman is now President and he has just authorised the National Treasury to make payments for the same tenders and agreements that he had passionately and publicly caviled against. Do not doubt the degree of my scepticism.

I do not ascribe to the theory that Kenyan politicians can be salvaged. It is a theory that has even bested-bleeding heart liberals, or what would pass for bleeding-heart liberals in Kenya. The insidious infiltration of the political arena by specimens of humanity that even hell would reject for the extremes they will go to in their interests has seen the core business of Parliament being auctioned off to the highest bidder with the basest morals. It is how billions of shillings can simply be palmed off to a trickster without the firmament of government going into anaphylactic shock. It is how we can turn a blind eye to men, women, children and livestock starving to death but still consider setting aside hundreds of millions to feed wild game. Do not doubt the degree of my scepticism.

Ideological twaddle.

A few weeks ago, a Jubilee (Chupilee! Chupilee!) elected representative declared, rather grandiosely I thought, that the Jubilee coalition is conservative. He did not say what the CORD was; safe to say he did not think that CORD is conservative in any way, what with its reckless declarations of "regime change" and "dialogue."

"Conservative", as Wikipedia tells us, is "holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion." If that is Jubilee then a lot is clear about the decisions of its leaders, especially its leaders in the National Executive. For example, President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto have decided, against all conventional wisdom, that the security of the Republic is safe in the hands of Joseph Ole Lenku, Raychelle Omamo, Mutea Iringo, Monica Juma, Michael Gichangi and David Kimaiyo. They will not be fired nor will they be asked to resign. Jubilee, you see, is "cautious about change or innovation".

 He would have been better off not saying anything, or attempting to create that Jubilee was a political party of note. It is a coalition of interests; the jury is still out whether the interests of the Jubilee coalition intersect with those of the peoples of Kenya. Kenyan political parties, bar KANU, Ford-K and Ford-P, have pretty remarkable shelf-lives. NARC didn't even last a year before bad blood led to the Liberal Democratic Party rebellion from within. DP managed to survive until the day Mwai Kibaki decided to dump it for PNU. PICK never moved on from being proof of one man's planet-sized ego. Who is willing to put money down that TNA and URP will exist by the time the ICC Question is settled and Kenyans are gearing up for the next general election?

It takes time and determination to build a political party brand that can outlast its founder-members. A party is sustained by its rank-and-file; the leadership may provide strategic guidance but it is the rank-and-file who breath life to it, who mould its political ideology and who ensure that it can fight every election as one united and committed entity. There was a time when KANU very nearly became such a party but with the relentless assassinations of outspoken and charismatic political leaders, KANU became a briefcase for the avarice of a few.

Kenyans' disillusionment with their political leaders is demonstrated by their utter lack of interest in political parties as institutions. They have no problem turning political parties into matatus of convenience but they will not take the time to build institutions that they can be proud to be associated with long after they have shuffled off this mortal coil. Our degree of civic participation is abysmally low; we do not join political parties, we do not subscribe to political ideologies, we do not pay to support political parties and we do not care who are nominated in the political parties that we happen to be affiliated with at any one time. It is how politicians who crassly refer to foreskins become nominated by political parties today to stand in elections.

Whoever thought of comparing brand Jubilee with the Grand Old Party of the United States did his coalition and conservatism in general a great disservice: his coalition will forever fall short of  any comparison with the GOP; conservatism will have been joined by a crass upstart interested in foreskins and not much else. In the absence of ideas or ideology, it seems, foreskins define at least one party in Kenya. Tragically, the man making the bold claim to conservatism does not understand just how possible it is to mistakenly apply orthodoxy and traditional values to preventing the advancement of new arguments and ideas that may very well preserve that orthodoxy or tradition. Conservatism, quite frequently these days, is short hand for a fear of knowledge and learning. If there is a group of people who have demonstrated a pathological fear of learning and knowledge it is Kenya's elected representatives, whether they are in the Jubilee or the CORD or all points in between.

It is no that we do not have a substantial middle class but that it is substantially uninterested in anything that could threaten their little comforts, something that the travails of the tourism industry has hammered home in recent months. The ones squealing the loudest about the effect of the political noise are those whose bottom lines are shrinking every month. They are lucky that Uhuru Kenyatta's government is trying to find solutions though the ones that will work require more than President Kenyatta is able to deliver. The middle class in Kenya has been afraid of pointing out the nakedness of the emperor for as long as it has existed; in the harsh Twenty-first Century it will not stick its neck out for the good of the political system if the price of its ex-Dubai Land Cruiser is going to skyrocket or the cost of a Dirty Weekend in Zanzibar is going to put them in the poor house. They will go along in the hopes that one day they will get a fat wallet in their Christmas stockings.

Can we de-tribalise, really?

A man endorsed by The National Alliance to stand in the by-election to elect Gatundu South's next member of the National Assembly has, in his attempt to get the electors of Gatundu South to give him their votes, alluded to "foreskins" in his campaign. He is not the first Gatundu South political candidate to do so. It is unlikely he will be the last. His allusion to that particular cultural shibboleth is a subliminal attempt to remind the electors in Gatundu South that the tribal card has special facility in Kenya's Twenty-first Century politics.

Koigi Wamwere has written extensively on the politics of negative ethnicity. He has pointed out that had it not been for some of the men who surrounded Jomo Kenyatta in the decade after Independence, the colonial legacy of divide-and-rule would not be expressed in the politics of tyrannies of numbers. Lets I be misunderstood, this is not a screed endorsing the idea that a community must rally behind one of their own in order to prevail and succeed; that has remained the intellectual bastion of the men and women who have dared to contest elections in Kenya since the declaration of the Republic.

The Orange Democratic Movement Party is seen as a Luo-dominated party. The National Alliance is seen as a Kikuyu-dominated party. The Wiper Democratic Movement Party is seen as a Kamba-dominated party. The United Republican Party is seen as a Kalenjin-dominated party. The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-Kenya Party is seen as Luhyia-dominated party. The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-People Party is seen as a Kisii-dominated party. And the list goes on and on. If the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ever fixes its website, perhaps Kenyans will have the opportunity to go through the data the Commission holds and determine whether the parties' protestations that they are Big Tents, welcome to all, holds water.

That is the allegation, anyway. That politics and, by extension, public policy, is driven solely by the thought that "my tribe" shall have this, that or the other. Some of the optics, as crass as it might sound, are not encouraging. On #SabaSaba, the men who seemed to be third-wheeling uncomfortably in a largely ODM affair were Ford-K's Moses Wetangula and the Wiperists, Kalonzo Musyoka and Johnston Muthama. Odinga, Orengo, Nyong'o, Kajwang'...the optics could not have been better. Jubilee's affairs are no better. When the new Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps took his oath of office, those present hailed from the same general geographical and cultural region.

A keen look at the forty-seven county governments is revealing. Save, perhaps, for Nairobi, Mombasa, Machakos and Nakuru, the county executives of the county governments are dominated by one or two tribes. The county assemblies and county public services, too, reflect this uncomfortable fact. Turn your eye on state corporations and the same trend prevails. Surprisingly, too, state universities have joined the trend. What is shocking is that the phenomenon is also to be observed in the private sector, where one would expect that profit above all else would motivate whom one hired and whom one traded with. But when you observe that the so-called "tenderpreneurs" simply want to trade with the government and the government alone, it all makes sense.

In order for Kenya to make the leap from third-world middling backwater into a successful economic powerhouse in which poverty, illiteracy and disease are confined to the extreme fringes, where opportunities for success are available to all in a generally level playing field, and where institutions are respected and trusted, we must take concrete steps to reverse the trend of tribalising everything. We can begin by simply reducing the size of government investment to the bare minimum: schools, hospitals, policemen, roads and high-tension power lines. This business of trading with the government must be reduced to the barest minimum. How that can be done remains the one nut not even the advanced Western democracies have managed to crack.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A bad workman blames his tools.

Listening to Barack Muluka and PLO Lumumba on #JKL last night I was heartened that neither of them considered asking the politicians to "take politics out of the discussion of public affairs." It is not politics that has failed us. Politics is neither good not bad, but it can lead to either good or bad outcomes. Politicians, on the other hand, the principal practitioners of politics, can be good, middling, bad or catastrophic. 

Mr Odinga, on some days, is very, very good. On other days, he is spectacular. but every now and then, he has a bad day and has to start from the Bottom. #SabaSaba  was a bad day for Mr Odinga. The President is not a very good politician, though he has very good days. On balance, he seems to have more good days than bad and as a result he is the President of Kenya and Mr Odinga, who has had more bad days than good, is not.

Mr Muluka gave us an example of a bad politician: Moses Kuria, the TNA aspirant for Gatundu South, the President's old seat before he was elected president. Mr Kuria has brought notoriety on himself with his statements and his antics. In the heat of political combat, a lot is said and a lot is done in order to persuade the people to elect someone or not to elect someone else. A lot of the saying and doing is said and done by politicians. Mr Kuria has distinguished himself across different media including TV, FM radio, and social-media sites such as Facebook and Twitter with the shallowness of his intellect and the viciousness of his vitriol against certain other politicians. If he stood for something - anything - it would at least be an explanation. But Mr Kuria seem to be of a kind with 99% of all Kenyan politicians: they are in it for themselves. Their constituents and their needs don't mean anything to them.

#Sabasaba was billed as a rally that would "change things" by its sponsors. The 13 demands by CORD, as Mr Muluka and Prof Lumumba both agreed, are legitimate; the manner in which the demands were made and the threats that accompanied the demands are not legitimate means for dialogue. Both are right to question the politicians' motives by the manner the politicians have made their demands for dialogue. If they were the astute parliamentarians they have styled themselves to be and the constitutional lawyers they have persuaded their constituents they are, they would have found more civilised means of stating their case. But because they are unwilling to do the boring work that all politicians must engage in - educating their constituents, talking to their constituents and not at them and so forth  - they have given their constituents the only valid reason to choose someone else come the next election: they are lazy and while lazy people usually find the easiest method to accomplish a task, in politics there are no easy methods.

Both CORD and Jubilee find themselves in the enviable position of having some of the worst political specimens that the gates of hell have rejected. If only the President and the former Prime Minister did what they were required to do - lead - the staggering amount of negative political noise being made would abate and the President would not have to be reminded every single day that Gatundu South is soon to be represented by a man a world apart from him in manners and common sense; a man many would refer to as a thug.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Let them eat grass.

There is a special group of people for whom Divine Intervention is the only way that their Sisyphean tasks will be eased. Every time providence provides them with the opportunity to excel at the mundane, their focus fails them and enfeebles their capacity to decide correctly - or properly. When faced with a fork in the road, they will not choose one path or the other, but they will attempt to walk both. Worse, they might choose not to do anything at all, rendered impotent by the weight of expectations about their choices.

The Cabinet Secretary it East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, or Environment, Water and Natural Resources? of the two has larked onto one of the stupidest decisions ever made public by a public officer in the life of the Jubilee administration. Perhaps more stupid than the order to "detain vehicles with tinted windows." (We will ignore the tortured grammar for now.) Definitely more stupid than the declaration by a lowly governor that he had "intelligence" about the chaos a political rally would wreak in his county. One of the two has decided to broach the idea of spending scarce public resources to buy grass for wildlife "because of the drought."

I have alluded several times before that I hold the professional political classes in very low esteem. And when members of those classes were members of the cabinet, I reviled them so much the bile was always up. I did not think that even with their poor public speaking skills and their relatively naive view of the public service that the new Cabinet's members would make statements and act like the aforementioned revolting political classes' members of the Cabinet. Yet here we are; in Turkana, Josephat Nanok is trying to find a way of guaranteeing better beef prices for farmers in his county in the midst of the same harsh drought with nary a cent being sent to Turkana in the name of fattening up the cows. But we are going to find no doubt hundreds of millions of shillings to buy grass - which ideally should go to the beef and dairy farmers - for wild animals? Are you fucking kidding me?

Kenyan tourism, it seems, is supported by Kenyan wildlife. Kenyan wildlife is under threat from drought. To restore Kenyan tourism we must protect Kenyan wildlife. To protect Kenyan wildlife, we shall allocate money from our disaster management fund, if we have one, to providing food for wildlife. Somebody else can worry about livestock and humans; in any case, cows, goats, sheep, camels and 99% of the human population don't really contribute much to tourism. If the two cannot see the message for what it is then it is time to congratulate them for becoming the one thing Kenyans thought they had banished from the Cabinet: a virus that has afflicted the National Executive and will eventually kill the body politic.

Priorities continue to flummox the National Executive. This new one is a humdinger. News has been tightly controlled but the starvation deaths in Kenya's forgotten bits are becoming harder and harder to hide, even in the midst of a raging war in Lamu and Tana River counties. For senior members of the government to propose feeding animals and not people is the height of cruelty. And if the proposal was actually made by either of the two, it would have been made by a woman, the universal symbol of compassion. If women leaders wish to be seen to be the equal of men, then this monstrous suggestion is a very good step in that direction.

Hypocrisy won't do.

The right of for-profit corporations to turn a profit is not absolute, even if they play significant public policy roles. For-profit corporations must comply with regulations for the safety of the people who consume their products, must pay taxes, must pay their employees decent wages, must not exploit their employees and must be properly registered in order to carry on their businesses. So long as they remain principally for-profit organisations, they must also face hostile business environments that might be engendered by economic downturns or increased competition or disruptive technologies.

Print advertising is oftentimes done by for-profit organisations, whether they be ad firms or media houses, meaning news organisations. The Nation Media Group, the Standard Group, Media Max, Royal Media Services and several others form the core of the political news organisations in Kenya, though they are diversified media companies offering anything from hard political news to teen pop music shows to religious fare. The core of their operations, however, is not the political news they print or broadcast on a daily basis, but the advertising which the political news attracts. The members of the Media Owners Association will not be quick to admit that politics, for them, does not drive greater public discourse or civic engagement in government, but drives advertising - the main source of revenue and profit for any serious media organisation.

It is in this context that the recent editorials by media owners are to be seen. The two leading sellers of advertising space to the Government of Kenya are the Nation Media Group and the Standard Group. They would love to perpetuate the duopoly, even if it means shaving the facts to suit their circumstances. While both have a pretty strong online presence, it is not particularly innovative. It is too sophisticated for most Kenyans save for the elite minority that can afford greater internet access and mobile bandwidth.

While many Kenyans have made the leap to smartphone ownership, few of them can afford the extortionate cost of going online and so rely on their smartphones for basic e-communication, such as e-mail or instant messaging services such as WhatsApp and its ilk. They will not read the Daily Nation or the Standard from their phones. And they are unlikely to spend money on the paper version either. Kenyan media houses have failed to find the most cost-effective way of converting their content - and the ads that go with them - to the rudimentary mobile platform available to the millions of Kenyans with mobile phones or smartphones.

The argument that the attempt by the Government to diversify the forms of advertising it will use to communicate with the people is a threat to media freedom is specious, at best. The Government has not said that news organisations cannot report the news; it has not said that media houses cannot broadcast. All it has done is to allocate less money to traditional print advertising. This is not a threat to media freedom; it is merely a threat to media houses' profits. The Government has not made new rules about what can and cannot be reported, has it?

The media was all in support of austerity by the government to ''trim the wage bill" and reduce "government wastage." Even if the savings from advertising amount to only a hundred million shillings, this is not money that many Kenyans will sneer at. It is a sum that can buy ambulances or seeds or something useful that the people can use. If the media houses/news organisations want to keep making fat profits, they have the same decision to make like the government - what are they going to do in order to be more effective and boost profits? Maintaining a white-knuckle grip on government advertisement is not the way to go. Just ask the Washington Post Company which has been shuttering foreign and domestic bureaux since before 9/11.

What is your message, Eric?

Communication, messaging, whatever the latest sirkal buzzwords might be, must mean that what the government - and by government we mean the National Executive - is saying reflects largely what it is doing. My friend, Eric Ng'eno is the Senior Director of Messaging in the Strategic Communications Unit out of State House, Nairobi. (He'd want me to use the definite article and the "senior".) His boss - I think it is his boss - Manoah Esipisu is in charge of the whole kit and caboodle.

When it comes to saying things and writing things, Eric and his colleagues have not stuck their enormous feet in their mouths too many times. But when it comes to matching the spoken word and the written word to the deeds of the National Executive, the paths diverge - simply put, the massive machinery of the National Executive is determined to make liars of the hardworking people in the Strategic Communications Unit. (They really need to sit down with Alfred "Alfie" Mutua and discover the secret of coping in this snakepit.)

Eric and his colleagues face enormous challenges. First, the President doesn't seem to want a cheer squad with cameras like his predecessors did with their Presidential Press Units. He seems genuinely interested in communicating clearly and effectively with the people. Eric and his colleagues failed in their first strategic communications task - the Massive Egos in the civil service have done things a certain way since dinosaurs roamed the Earth and goddammit! they will continue doing so long after Eric and his colleagues have flounced off back to the private sector where they rightly belong. And they can leave poor Manoah alone; he did not deserve to be stuck with the lumpen elements from #TeamJubilee who simply do not understand How Government Works. So long as the President doesn't tell the Massive Egos in the civil service that they must stop their nauseating obsequiousness, they will resist all entreaties from #TeamDigital to move with the times and instead, they will commiserate with the long suffering Manoah, who is really their boon friend when you think about it.

Second, even if Eric & Co somehow managed to get everyone to sing from the same songbook - spout the same bland message with the same pretend degree of enthusiasm without looking as if they would rather eat sand - they would come up against another iron law of the civil service: people with real power in the government will say what they are ordered to say but do what they want, fuck the consequences. The President has real power and because he is the president, we don't want idiots taking pot shots at him with AK-47s on his way to work so we gave him a massive armoured cavalcade. But carrying on a tradition started by Baba Jimmi, he moved his official office from Harambee House to State House, thereby sparing thousands of Kenyatta Avenue - Uhuru Highway - Parliament Road - Harambee Avenue commuters the hassle of having to make way for his cavalcade. That was a positive message. It made people think that the President was a considerate man.

His Cabinet and sub-cabinet minions do not seem to see it quite like that. Eric will pretend that the message is not getting garbled but when assholes with Cabinet and sub-cabinet rank push us around because they think they have real power, the message is garbled. If the boss won't push us around even when he could, why should minions think that the same rule does not apply to them? And why do they even have such revoltingly ostentatious cavalcades when the President is urging us towards greater national austerity in the name of economic growth? Eric must be told - the message is being garbled by assholes in civil servants' clothing.

Third, even if they have to engage in a little #TeamJubilee political burnishing, surely Eric and his colleagues can tone down the extreme rhetoric a bit. They really should spend a bit more time getting the entire firmament of the National Executive communicating in one basic style; we can't have the aforementioned assholes making decisions over how certain sensitive or politically hair-raising information will be conveyed to the general public without firm guidance. After all since they tend to behave like children, it is only proper that there be adult supervision of the whole lot. Sure, the Strategic Communications Unit will be accused of being a ministry of Propaganda, but that is what it is - and propaganda is not necessarily a bad thing, never mind the genocidal tendencies of the Third Reich.

Finally, Eric & Co have to answer the one question governments always try to answer: do they love us? I belong to a very large constituency: employed with a fair take home package; unburdened with the responsibilities of automotive ownerships; possessed of largely good health; professionally situated in the surprisingly quiet Harambee Avenue. In other words, I commute to and from the office part of the way on foot and part of the way in Nairobi's not-as-notorious-as-they-once-were matatus. There is little Eric can do about that particular tribe of automobiles; but his Unit can make the lives of the walking masses easier which will engender positive thoughts about his President (my President too) and make the job of selling #TeamJubilee slightly less onerous. They can do this by reversing their obsession with "security" and ordering every public or private institution in Nairobi, including Harambee House, Harambee House Annexe and the massive edifice that is Kencom, to give the people back their pavements. We have no desire to play chicken with tonnes of automotive steel; our lives are hard enough already.

First admit that you are wrong.

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). After the spectacular collapse of al Shabab fighting forces in and around of the port of Kismayo, KDF/AMISOM became the new sheriffs in town. Kismayo was the preferred port or the export of the one commodity that was almost as valuable as bullets and fighters: charcoal. It is now rumoured - maliciously perhaps - that KDF has done what Kenyan security officers tend to do: it has entered into the lucrative business of exporting charcoal to the gulf.

The rationale behind the KDF deployment in Somalia was to prevent further attacks, especially in the border areas between Kenya and Somalia, by al Shabaab. With the prevention of al Shabaab attacks, KDF would then target their sources of funding, which despite the breathless repetition about piracy, was charcoal. Finally, KDF would deny al Shabaab territory to operate in as Kenya attempted to build a buffer zone between al Shabaab territory and the border. One of the promised outcomes was that many al Shabaab fighters would attempt to reintegrate, while the hard core members would increasingly find their theatres of operation shrinking and their options reducing. There would be one or two signature attacks in Kenya, but these would peter out as it became clearer that al Shabaab had lost power, territory and legitimacy and, with it, the will to fight.

Instead what we have today is a complex problem that has highlighted key flaws in Operation: Linda Nchi. If it had just been a short-term military operation meant to punish al Shabaab without engaging with them for a prolonged period, we would not be having a debate about whether KDF should continue to be deployed in Somalia. Operation: Linda Nchi or whatever it is called now is in its third year. Attacks along the border with Somalia have reduced considerably. Attacks in Kenya have gone up considerably. The problem is no longer a military operation against a militia, but a policing and intelligence war against a well-armed and determined fifth column in Kenya. In the former, KDF were triumphant. In the latter, the National Police and the National Intelligence Services have been abject failures.

It is not unreasonable to demand the return of KDF from Somalia now. Their job there is done. If the powers-that-be wish to keep them on deployment, they can do that along the border to reinforce the National Police Service's border patrols. The war has shifted to the homeland and the broadsword of the KDF is useless among the civilian population. What we need now is a scalpel in the form of better intelligence co-ordination and better policing tactics. On the intelligence front, unless someone has a dossier on the inner workings of the NIS, we will give intelligence officers the benefit of the doubt especially as they do not have the misused powers of their predecessors in the Special Branch.

Policing, on the other hand, is in complete shambles. Despite the assurance of the President, Deputy President, Interior Cabinet Secretary, Interior Principal Secretary and the Inspector-General and his spokespeople, it is now an immutable fact that confidence in the police is at an all-time low. It's tactics are derided by every professional in the security business. It's failures are highlighted at every turn and its statistics on improvements on policing are treated with disdain. The obsession of the policing infrastructure with political problems of the Jubilee administration and not the safety of the people means that n regardless of what we are told, we will continue to avoid any direct interaction with the forces of law and order. If the sub rosa war against al Shabaab is to be won on the homeland, it is time that we all admitted that current policing tactics have failed. That is the most important step going forward.

IEBC, hubris and the laws of physics.

Hubris. Icarus was given wings held together with wax. He flew higher than he should have. The wax melted. His wings fell apart. He plunged to his death. It is a lesson that Kenyan public officials continue to ignore until it is too late. In the past decade alone, Christopher Murungaru, David Mwiraria, Amos Kimunya and the late Samuel Kivuitu have come to taste the bitter fruits of hubris. It is a matter of time before the commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) do so too. Every institution connected to the IEBC and the 2013 presidential election will be tainted.

In March 2013, Kenyans went to the polls and elected a President and Deputy President, a Senate, a National Assembly, forty seven Governors and Deputy Governors and County Assemblies. For the most part, the elections passed off peacefully enough. But there was a spectacular collapse in technology deployed for the elections, technology we were promised would make the process faster and more credible.

First, there was the registration of voters. Electronic devices were imported at exorbitant cost for the purpose. What the election petition against the presidential election results attempted to demonstrate is that despite the public pronouncements of the IEBC that the voter register was complete, it was nothing of the sort. The IEBC all but admitted this when it came to the accusations it levelled against Kethi Kilonzo, who wished to succeed her late father as the Senator of Makueni, when it came referring to various "books" in relation to the registration of voters, the registration of voters with unmeasurable biometrics, the registration of voters after the process was officially over, and so on and so forth.

Second, there was the actual casting of ballots. Voters were to be identified on the basis of the biometric data collected by the IEBC. This was to be done by separate electronic devices also acquired at exorbitant cost. A sensational investigation by Kenya's favourite "investigative reporters" revealed that there was no practical reason for using separate systems to register and verify the details of voters. The equipment used for the registration of voters was perfectly adequate for confirming the details of the very same voters. More importantly, there would be no reason to engage in the exercise of transferring the data from one electronic system (which we knew worked) to another system (which we now know had not been tested to verify that it worked).

Third, there was the transmission of the results. The results were to be transmitted using a dedicated network acquired by the IEBC at yet even more exorbitant cost. Again, the transmission system had neither been tested nor had it been verified that it would guarantee accuracy. During the week of the election, beginning on election day, even the IEBC admitted that the transmission system failed in large swathes of the country.

Despite all this, the IEBC declared results and announced winners and the tallies of their votes. This will remain in dispute for years to come, but only those who won or who successfully defended their seats against election petitions think that the elections were credible. The elections were not credible. They might have been free and candidates may have been accorded a level playing field during their campaigns to promote fairness, but the election was not credible. How could it be when all the billions that were expended to collect voter data, verify voter data and transmit election results went to waste because it was unusable and fatally flawed? Part of the reason why Kenyans were keen on the acquisition of electronic devices to secure parts of the electoral process was that the mainly manual system that had existed since 1960 was deathly susceptible to manipulation.

The IEBC commissioners continue to do as high ranking government officials in Kenyan tend to do: they declare for all the world to hear that their consciences are clear; that they did noting wrong; that the mistakes committed by them and their Commission are minor ones that should have no long term adverse effects on the nation; that they have successfully superintended by elections without allegations of lack of credibility being made; that they should be trusted to oversee the next general elections. This is hubris. They may prevail today because of the political bickering between the majority and Minority parties. But one day the commissioners will fly too close to the sun, the wax will melt, their wings will fall apart and they come face to face with an immutable law of physics: gravity.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Rule No. 1: Stop digging.

One of the stalwarts of the Free Press gave Raila Odinga sage advise the other day: when in a hole, stop digging. It seems that he took the advise and slow-rolled back his "Dialogue-or-else" stance that had so driven certain special members of the Jubilee to apoplectic rage. Now he has a set of "thirteen demands" and no timeframe within which they must be met. If Raila Amolo Odinga can revise his targets and the means of hitting them, surely even the epically thin-skinned security establishment can do so, never mind the wailing-louder-than-the-bereaved by some of the I-will-shout-you-down-brigade in the Senate and national Assembly.

Lamu County, especially the zone around Mpeketoni, is a war zone in all but name. It takes a special kind of boldness for the attackers to keep hitting the same area for three weeks in row, especially as there are police stations, GSU camps, KDF camps and, allegedly, secret US special forces camps too. The boldness of the brigands was demonstrated when they struck on the same nights that the Cabinet Secretary of the Interior and the Deputy President visited the zone. This is cocking a snook at the government with impunity.

After each Lamu atrocity, the President, representatives of the National Executive and know-it-alls from Parliament have promised to "leave no stone unturned" and "to pursue the killers until they are caught." But after insinuating that rather than the incompetence of the security establishment it is the dastardly evil genius of the opposition that is to blame, we know that we have reached the end of all reasonable and rational consideration of facts. It is time that the court jesters in the Jubilee court did what court jesters of old would have done - whisper in the king's ear that he got it spectacularly wrong.

There are some Senators who will make witty debators, though spectacularly uninformed and unintelligent. Kenyans are not idiots and of course they remember that Raila Odinga, James Orengo, Dalmas Otieno, Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, Otieno Kajwang and Amos Wako were key members of the Grand Coalition and that they were responsible for some of the decisions that have come to bite us in the us: the appointment of Mr Kimaiyo as Inspector-General, Mr Muhoro as Director of Criminal Investigations and Mutea Iringo as Principal Secretary in charge of internal security. But that is not reason to say that the buck does not stop with the Commander-in-Chief; he has the power to say that his predecessors were wrong and that a new strategy is needed. In this Lamu war, the President is in a hole; it is time he told his most bootlicking-ish acolytes to stop digging.

Even if Mr Kenyatta does not dismiss Mr Kimaiyo, Mr Muhoro or Mr Iringo, he must admit to himself that the current strategy is not working if for three weeks despite the attention of all security agencies in Mpeketoni, Kenyans continue to be murdered in the dead of night. I have no doubt that if the Commander-in-Chief wanted something to get done, he would not need to lift his voice. Anyone who defied him would feel the full force f the weight of the Presidency bearing down on them and they would either crumble, or leave. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are alike in many respects; but Kenyatta the Younger could learn a think or two about bootleg turns and confound the enemies of the peoples of Mpeketoni.

Immigration and national defense.

National defense - not national security - is a complex arrangement. One of its principal components is a coherent foreign policy and, its corollary, a coherent immigration policy. So it was rather startling to hear the Elgeyo Marakwet senator mention "immigration" on national TV in one of his longwinded and self-serving responses to the CORD #SabaSaba rally. Given that he was trying to show up CORD's Junet Mohamed (Suna East, ODM) it is understandable that Mr Murkomen was unable to elaborate on what exactly he though immigration reform would entail in the long war against al Shabaab attacks in Kenya, now in its seventh year.

I have alluded to the problems bedeviling our foreign policy before. It is time to re-examine our foreign policy in the context of immigration into Kenya. Kenya has always had immigrants, whether they were wazungus escaping harsh winters in the winters of their lives, or refugees fleeing death and famine from Somalia, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda or Congo.  There are many hardworking immigrants who have contributed positively to the economy of Kenya, whether as employers, managers, entrepreneurs, investors or workers. There are many who have enriched our universities and colleges with their outlook on key issues. 

Baba Moi's serikali is notable for the explosion in the eating pathogen. Every civil servant with an ounce of discretionary power took to Jomo Kenyatta dictum to eat where one was with avid earnestness and during Moi's twenty-four year ruinous rule, some of the fattest eaters were to be found in the Office of the President, State Department for Immigration. By the time the hapless Otieno Kajwang was coming along as waziri, we were no longer talking of the rot having set in, but the rot being the only thing that defined the Immigration Department and its counterpart, the Registrar of Persons.

Work permits, national identity cards, birth certificates, passports and refugee cards were all for sale for a price. It did not matter whether one was a génocidaire, a drugs smuggler, a poacher, a pederast, a murderer or an inveterate cheat; all one needed was the right connection with the right civil servant and Kenyan permanent residency or even citizenship could be had. Kenya has always been welcoming; corrupt civil servants have taken advantage of our hospitality to abet the perpetration of some of the worst crimes known to humanity.

The 1998 embassy bombing, the 2007 Kampala-bound bus grenade attack and the 2013 Westgate mall attack were all perpetrated by foreign nations will genuine papers, so the scuttle-butt goes. These attacks would have been difficult to mount if these people would have had to be smuggled in, rather than the easy stroll across the border with papers purchased from a civil servant with the determination to follow in the lead set by Kenya's top political leadership.

Mr Murkomen might be the President's stalking horse regarding immigration reform; indeed it might be another of the Jubilee's red herrings designed to distract Kenyans from more pressing problems. But now that the subject has been broached, it behooves us to have a serious discussion of what it means to reform our immigration policy. Even the United States is realising that immigration is increasingly more of a commercial concern than just a purely security one. In Kenya this has been a reality since the Imperial British East Africa Company set up here. (And then went bankrupt.) This is an area that should be well suited to parliamentary examination. However, parliamentary committees are now loaded guns used to browbeat and extort Cabinet Secretaries, rather than the last bastion for serious thought and considered debate. How we thread this needle will determine whether we can begin the long process of defining our foreign policy and our immigration policy in the context of the defense of the nation.

Are you proud of Nairobbery?

Unless one came up in the projects, if one is a resident of the Big Apple one has great pride in the World's Capital. Many Nairobians will never visit the Big Apple and sample its delights such as Madison Square Garden, Broadway, Yankee Stadium, Liberty Island or the Bronx Zoo but we are infused with a sense of New York City from cultural imports from the Great Satan, as the most devastating Islamist of them all referred to it. From what we have seen and heard of New Yorkers, there is great pride in their city and its institutions. Even the recent controversy over the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy is informed by the desire to make NYC the best place to live, work and play for all, residents and visitors alike.

New York's mayors are famous the world over, though a few have been infamous. Many will remember Rudolph Giuliani as the 9/11 Mayor and Michael Bloomberg as the Billionaire's Mayor; the jury is still out on Bill de Blasio. Even New York's governors are famous. We may not remember him or know him, but Mario Cuomo was a household name in certain circles in Nairobi in the early 1990s. Now his son, Andrew, is the Governor, a position once held by Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States.

Nairobi City has had some famous mayors. Charles Rubia and Margaret Kenyatta come to mind. But after the appointment of the Nairobi City Commission by the Minister for Local Government some time in the late 'eighties, Nairobi morphed from the Green City in the Sun into Nairobbery, and its mayors and councillors played a pivotal role in this transformation epitomised by the collapse in municipal services and an explosion in corruption. When the Nairobi City Council was restored to office after the 1992 general elections, whatever civic pride Nairobians had in their city had been completely eroded. It is around this time that organisations like the Karen-Langata Residents' Association took steps to permanently sever ties with the City Fathers.

Nairobi City and it's county government are mirrors to the nation. The degree of despondency reflected in Nairobians' relationship with their county government is the same one that Kenyans experience in their relationship with their government. The calls for nationhood and patriotism by the president and his cabinet, and echoed by the high and mighty and the media, are all well and good. But until the government and the high and mighty give all Kenyans a reason to feel proud to be part of the nation, these calls will fall on increasingly annoyed deaf ears. In the here and now, it is the men and women who have captured the State who have a reason to smile; the vast majority cannot afford three squares a day, live in neighbourhoods in which crime is rife and municipal facilities are notable for their absence or decrepitude.

The State is more interested in making money off of the people than in helping the vast majority of the people make a decent living. Jogoo Road at night demonstrates this rather starkly: the street lights do not work, but the advertising signages have light. Nairobi City County would like us to spend money than see us get home in safety. And now all public walking spaces in the CBD are slowly being captured either my paranoid State institutions or by corporations and big businesses. The walking majority of Nairobians are an afterthought, if at all; it is the driving public who are seen as the only serious priority. It is for that reason that we may never speak with pride of Nairobi and why it is increasingly difficult to do so about Kenya. The Cabinet Secretary may sell the world on our traditional hospitable nature but one day, if she and her government are not careful, we won't care how we are portrayed in the media and we won't do anything to help. The only difference between the Nairobi City Commission and the Government of Kenya is scale.