Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don't mess with the king, Mr Ruto.

I don't Miss JJ Kamotho any more. I vaguely remember Sharaif Nassir, so I don't miss him at all. For a minute I thought that Mike Sonko was The One, but then he went into that whole Rachel Shebesh thing and we all lost our collective interest in him. For a time Jakoyo Midiwo and Otieno Kajwang' seemed like they could be The One, but Mr Midiwo lacks panache and the legal fraternity still has a less than friendly opinion of Mr Kajwang'. But the gods of Kenya's politics smiled on us. They rewarded us for our patience. They have bequeathed on us the spiritual successor to JJ Kamotho and Sharif Nassir. All hail the rise of Aden Bare Duale, Leader of the Majority Party in the National Assembly, Member for Garissa Township (United Republican Party) and scourge of all rebellious Jubilee governors.

On Monday, the fifteenth, Mr Duale brought his A Game; attending something to celebrate the Maasai Mara, in the presence of the Deputy President, the Governors of Narok and Bomet and a visiting delegation from Tanzania, Mr Duale, as some wildly descriptive members of the Fourth Estate reported the affair, frothed at the mouth as he caviled with wild abandon at the Governor of Bomet, Isaac Ruto. Mr Duale brought his limited, but rapidly improving, oratorical skills and troublesome and troubling Swahili to bear in a tour de force that Mr Ruto from Bomet will not soon forget. Mr Duale reminded us, for many of us have forgotten, that loyalty to the king must be demonstrated and demonstrated with passion. Mr Kamotho must be chuckling to himself in satisfaction, Mr Nassir must be resting easy for his banner has been passed on to one worthy of his skills.

On Monday Mr Duale reminded Mr Ruto from Bomet that being the Big Fish in a Small Pond in one of the nation's rural backwaters was a perilous situation; every now and then a Bigger Fish will be introduced into the pond to control other predators. The results are sometimes quite disastrous for the erstwhile Big Fish. Mr Ruto from Bomet has been introduced to the political iteration of Newton's Third Law of Motion. Mr Duale was the proxy for the Deputy President and the President. On Monday My Duale cemented his place in the king's court; he proved his loyalty and he did it in style.

Mr Ruto from Bomet is scrambling to counter the verbal semi-trailer that ran over him on Monday. He is busily organising groups of sniffy miffed wazees to give press interviews decrying the unwarranted attack by Mr Duale. It is not working. If it had been a playground fight in Jericho's Rabai Road Primary School, Mr Duale would be First Body and Mr Ruto from Bomet would be the kid from Buru who's ass had been well and truly handed to him. What Mr Ruto from Bomet doesn't need to organise press interviews and shit like that; he needs to take the fight to the President and the Deputy President; they are the only ones who count in this War of the Referendum. Mr Duale is merely a foot-soldier in the service of the king. His destruction is neither here nor there. He is of no consequence.

In politics, as in football, everyone must learn to play in his position. Mr Duale knows his position; he is not the Mario Balotelli of the Jubilee Alliance. That position goes to the king. He has just reminded Mr Ruto from Bomet that Mr Ruto too must play in his position. He may be the chairman of the club of governors, but that doesn't mean anything unless the king says it does. If he wants more money for the counties, it is not the people who are going to give it to him, as Mr Duale reminded him. It is the law. And the law is made in Parliament. And Parliament will do the king's bidding. Therefore, Mr Ruto from Bomet must go, hat in hand, with his begging bowl to the king. He must curtsy, genuflect and pay obeisance. If he does not, the next time Mr Duale sets off on him, he might not hold back. It will be a case of out of the frying pan and into the blast furnace of presidential umbrage. At that time, what Mr Ruto from Bomet considered a rock-hard certainty of his place in the Bomet political firmament may turn out to have been a figment of his imagination.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A purge is the only way.

A year ago when the President made one of his "promises" regarding the "fight against corruption" I warned you that:
The solution, as with all things, is simple in theory, and hairy to implement in reality. Simply enforce the laws of the land as they were meant to be enforced. There should be no special favours or considerations. If you are caught in wrongdoing, only a good lawyer should get you off. If you wish to trade with the government, you should not sweeten your tender with a briefcase full of dollars. And so on and so forth. Theory? Good. Implementation? When hell freezes over.
Jasper Mbiuki, the secretary, Legislative Affairs and Regulatory Compliance, in the Office of the President, has decided to get in on the Give-The-President-Something-To-Do bandwagon: Uhuru Kenyatta is single-handedly going to win the War on Drugs.

We will not quibble overmuch regarding the excessively legalistic interpretation of court order and the like except to say, the President is not a magistrate or a judge, and the president does not have the authority to demand the destruction of narcotic drugs (unless they are interdicted in the high seas by the Kenya Defence Forces) or vessels transporting drugs. He should also familiarise himself intimately with the provisions of the narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1994, especially with Part III. I wonder whether he will revise his expert opinion regarding the President's powers regarding seizure and destruction of narcotics-bearing vessels.

Mr Mbiuki is a veteran of the #TeamJubilee election campaign of 2012 and 2013. He is not a professional civil servant; his understanding of the public service leads him to make obvious errors of perception. He must have observed what bBaba Moi and Baba Jimmi got up to and forgetting that the Constitution today is not the one that prevailed yesterday, seems to paint the picure of a President who can "lead from the front" in the War on Drugs.

The President is not the Inspector-General of Police, the Director of Criminal Investigations, the Director of National Intelligence or the Chief of Defence Forces. It is only the Chief of Defence Forces that the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, can command to do anything with the caveat that the orders must be lawful and in writing. The entire policing structure is insulated from the orders of the President or anybody, bar only an order of the courts.

The War on Drugs is not about the President blowing up things in the high seas; it is about a seamless collaboration among the National Police, the National Intelligence Service, the Directorate of Immigration and the Kenya Defence Forces, not to mention collaboration with similar agencies in neighbouring nations and global counter-narcotics organisations. It will mean working with the Directorates of Public health in the 47 counties to implement a proper policy on public education regarding the risks associated with illegal drugs use. 

If the War on Drugs, like the anti-poaching efforts of the 1980s and 1990s, were to succeed, it would not do so simply because the President has decided to scuttle a ship and its cargo in the high seas. It will only succeed when it is made abundantly clear to the doubtful that those who have taken a less-than-robust approach in the fight, that their days are numbered. Those that have taken bribes to look the other day are no longer welcome. Should they be caught, they can expect the full might of the State to come down on them like the proverbial tonne of bricks. Those who have "gone slow", who have compromised, who have vacillated and who have misread the presidential spine should be encouraged to find greener pastures elsewhere.

Blowing up things is what small children do. Is Mr Mbiuki suggesting that the presidency is engaged in an infantile exercise as part of the war on Drugs? We know why we are losing the war: corrupt public officers, including those in the disciplined services. And we know fatter salaries will not solve the problem. If Mr Mbiuki and the President want to win, it is not enough to blow things up. They must inspire us. They can only do so by purging every sclerotic part of the State's firmament. Purge and purge ruthlessly. It is the only way.

I am intolerant.

Stupidity can be addictive.

I wish I hadn't written that. What I want to say without sounding like an Ivory Tower jerk is that if you are going to purport to speak for me, whether it is in our august house or in church or at the local publican, I would rather that you read slightly more than the blurbs for books written by Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Paulo Cuehlo or Donald Trump. Read the whole book. Keep a copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary by your side; there will be words whose sense you will find extremely difficult to determine. Read widely. And Lord help me, but if you quote any American self-help guru, do not be offended if I snigger in derision.

On this rather sunny Monday, I am informed that I am expected to vote at a referendum in August 2015. I intend to sit with one or two of my peers an listen to their justifications for or against the idea. I will not be surprised if between the three of us there are ten opinions; I am after all a lawyer and I will be for against, partly for, partly against, mostly for, mostly against and undecided on the whole affair. Or it will seem like I am anyway. What I will not attempt, nor will my friends, is to speak for someone who has the capacity to think for themselves. I will make a decision regarding the spectacular waste of my time (are an act of great patriotism) that is the referendum.

But there is a group of men and women who have made it their mission in life to pretend to know what I would or would not approve, want, like, et cetera. One of them is a bald-headed, mustachioed-goateed bruiser from Kiambu who's obsessions are peculiar, even by Kenyan standards. Another has a slight squint, a tremulous alto and an inferiority complex that frequently calls for a hyperbolic conversational style and a multi-SUV cavalcade that's frequently running out of money. Still there is one who refuses to call herself a "journalist", has a massive superiority complex and who wishes to join certain clubs without just quite meeting the minimum requirements. She tries, but trying is not enough. Another has become the voice of the male-female minefield though he remains unencumbered by spouses or children so far as we know. Then there is that pair that have done a lot to elevate the degree of public debate without quite doing that; they have, however, managed to sensationalise public affairs using a crass veneer of quasi-intellectual discourse.

It is exhausting listening to these people. The willpower it takes not to rip out the home theatre system (borrowed) or the flat-screen TV (three installments remaining) from the wall (there will be a fee for the repairs once I "shift") and hurling them over the balcony (rented) onto the street below (it is a quiet street) is overwhelming sometimes. As a person who has witnessed the rise of the techno-society of screens and cables and broadband Wi-Fi, I am willing to tolerate a certain degree of loucheness when it comes to the employment of certain rules of grammar, syntax and sentence construction, in any language. My friend Leonard will tell you that it is the Octal System that rules our lives today.

I am prepared to turn a blind eye to the perfidious nature of the ruling classes and I will tolerate their avarice in their quest for ever more creature comforts. We are, after all, spectacularly selfish, though we are loath to admit it. I am prepared to harden my heart against the privations and depredations that the huddled and unwashed masses endure; life is not fair, is it? However, I am prepared to be intolerant, and to display my intolerance in extreme ways, of those who take to the public arena and mouth inanities. I am intolerant of those who will scoff at ideas because they do not understand those ideas. I am intolerant of those whose conceptualisation of public discourse is reduced to peculiar obsessions with penises, or marital infidelity, or Stalinist militarisation of public institutions. My intolerance is unremitting against the buffoon. I wear it with pride.

We are a nation of laws.

Every time one of our fearless leaders or his minions warbles that, "We are a nation of laws," I have to resist the urge to giggle hysterically. Like a teenage schoolgirl. Quite frequently the personage engaging in pomposity has been embroiled in some legal difficulty and come out of it victorious, usually at the expense of some long-standing social convention and after the employment of hitherto unknown statutory loophole. That victory, as is often the case, is also at the expense of a Small Fish. But it does not take away from the fact that we are a nation of laws. Many, many laws.

This is the legacy of the British colonists in East Africa. In addition to borders and colonies, the Berlin Conference introduced in Africa the concept of written laws that were primarily used to lie, cheat and steal without being called lying, cheating or stealing. They bequeathed on an entire continent "legal tender" and made it the controlling factor of our very existence. The demonstrated how penal statutes and penal systems could become the cornerstone of government. There are many things that the British colonists taught us in Kenya and Uganda, but none has stuck more than hypocrisy and the superiority complex that infects the ruling classes the moment they acquire a bit of power.

Our hypocrisy is demonstrated rather starkly by the spectacular number of laws we have on the books. We criminalise everything. I was surprised to discover that even in the writing of academic curricula, for which we have enacted at least three statutes in the past forty years, there are laws that could lead to imprisonment for term of years. Years! For committing an offence in the writing of a curriculum! But this hypocrisy would not be notable if it were not for the pompous superiority with which the ruling classes wield the law.

The American War of Independence  and the French Revolution were fought, primarily, over taxes. Taxes imposed by kings, collected by the king, spent by the king, spent as the king saw fit. Taxes over which the people on whom the taxes were imposed had no say. Taxes based on laws made by the king without the people's consent. Taxes that could ruin livelihoods, families, reputations. Civilised societies (never mind their slave-holding, slave-trading foundations) that determined that the king was wrong. In America they fought a revolution. In France the nobility became intimately familiar with the guillotine.

So it is in Kenya. In our leaders' minds, the reason Kenyans are Kenyans is so that they can pay the ever-swingeing taxes our leaders come up with. Whether harebrained schemes our leaders come up with work out or not is not the point; they will impose taxes for the realisation of those schemes and those who complain are either in the pay of foreign agents or are unpatriotic sour-pusses with massive chips on their shoulders and political axes to grind. In the manner of the British colonists, our leaders insist that we must meekly obey the laws they enact; when we rebel even a little, the wrath of the system will be brought to bear sometimes with spectacular vehemence. (Think of the five years imprisonment on average chicken thieves and phone snatchers get handed against the "fines" billionaire tax-dodgers, tax-cheats and tender-swindlers pay.

The laws on our books are well-written. For the most part, their enforcement is pretty good. The discerning will discover, though, that the laws are meant to police the poor and the weak, the ones who are likely to have major differences with the way taxes are collected, spent and stolen. It is why the law books are thrown at them the moment they step even slightly out of line. It is why liars, cheats, pederasts, sex-pests, murderers, traitors and thieves will pompously declaim, "We are a nation of laws" without batting an eyelid or an ounce of shame.

Shoe petitions and civilisation.

Dr Makodingo Washington is offended by Boniface Mwangi's assertion that shoe petitions have any place in Kenya's politics. The good pharmacist is offended that hecklers, shoe-throwers and rabble-rousers "attended" a rally at which the Head of State presided over a Global Fund programme to distribute treated mosquito nets in conjunction with the Government of Migori County. The indefatigable civil society bruiser, however, sees nothing wrong in the 'downtrodden" masses taking each and every opportunity they can find to make their feelings manifestly known to the man whom they blame for the sorry state of their lives.

Both may be right; equally, both may be wrong. Both their positions hinge on whether Kenya is indeed a civilised democracy. During the furore over the deaths of dozens for Kenya from adulterated alcoholic beverages, the word "civilised" was also bandied about, with the consensus being that those who chose to drink in "those filthy surroundings" and who were poisoned by their suppliers of the hooch were definitely not civilised and those that chose to drink bottled, Kenya Bureau of Standards-inspected alcoholic beverages in properly licensed pubs were.

I do not believe that Kenyans are a civilised people. Not yet. Not even with the increasingly large number of billionaires and millionaires, and the thousands upon thousands of men and women who go on to complete formal education all the way to the graduate and post-graduate levels. In civilised society, where the rules are obeyed by all, whether they are statutes or social rules of conduct, the ones who breach the rules are known and shamed. They are not rewarded. They are not celebrated. They are not respected. They are shunned. The people of Migori who hurled missiles and epithets at the President reflected our degree of civilisation. The reminded us that it is pretty damn low.

It might be a Gatundu thing but few remember that it is the President, when he was a mere Member of Parliament, who first referred to his opponent's foreskin in public. It has now become the preferred epithet of the President's choice as member of Gatundu South, the man elected unopposed because it is believed the President prevailed on all other contenders to step aside for him. Even in the heat of political combat, where the ordinary rules of the political game are sometimes suspended, it takes a particular crass character to use a cultural shibboleth as a political stiletto against ones opponent. In discerning whether or not we are civilised, that allusion to foreskins says it all about our degree of civilisation.

Omingo Magara, the head honcho of the People's Democratic Party, under which the Governor of Migori was elected, argues that it is un-African for "hosts" to attack their guests in the manner that the Migori hecklers did. Surely Mr Magara must know that visits among chiefs are not simply arranged over a weekend. The ground work is laid over a period of weeks, sometimes even months. Emissaries visit with the most influential villagers and agree to terms. The senior chief's visit is a choreographed affair, even if he is an unwelcome guest. The preservation of "face" is the ultimate sign of our Africanness. Whether Mr Magara wishes to admit it or not, the President's visit to Migori was ill-planned and he has none to blame but himself and his minders.

Kenya is undergoing tremendous change amidst great polarisation. Regardless of the rosy declarations by the World Economic Forum or the Bretton Woods Institutions, there is despondency abroad in the land. The President is the symbol of national unity but his choices do not seem to reflect that constitutional description. He has certainly united his friends behind him. He also seems to have solidified the opposition's animus against his rule. His public service appointments, whether they are merited or not, will not civlise us; they will only guarantee that shoe-throwing incidents become more common, and the dignity of his office is lowered.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Who gives a shit?

What does "due process" mean, really? We have always understood it as the protection of he rights of the individual when he or she is undergoing an administrative or legal process, quite often a criminal process. Issa Timamy was accused of being part of the conspiracy that led to the violent murders at Mpeketoni in Lamu. He was arrested. He was arraigned in court in Mombasa. He applied to be released on bail. The Director of Public Prosecutions asked the court to deny him bail because "investigations were still on-going." The court granted him bail. Now the court has ordered that Mr Timamy be set free, that no charges be preferred against him, and that his five-million shilling bail be paid back to him.

Mr Timamy is the Governor of Lamu. President Kenyatta, even while the fires were still smouldering in Mpeketoni, accused "local political networks" of being culpable in the Mpeketoni attacks. Mr Timamy is a member of the Amani Alliance, which has had a falling out with the Jubilee Alliance. Is Mr Timamy a member of the "local political networks" that the President alluded to and are his arrest and prosecution the Inspector-general's and the DPP's response to the President's accusation?

Mr Timamy arrest and prosecution echoes the charging of the President at the International Criminal Court before sufficient evidence had been obtained, analysed and relied on to file charges. Mr Kenyatta is likely to escape the clutches of the ICC because of the shambolic manner that his case was handled. In his case, the Office of the Prosecutor did not follow due process in his zeal to bring someone, anyone, to book for the post-election violence in Kenya. It is understandable that a foreign court would get it wrong when it came to dealing with a powerful Kenyan. That  is not an excuse that will satisfy Kenyans.

When Mr Timamy was arrested it was more than a week after the fires had been put out in Mpeketoni. In that time the President, he Interior cabinet secretary, the Inspector-General and the DPP had given assurances and undertakings that no stone would be left unturned in the investigation and prosecution of those behind the attacks. Under the current constitutional dispensation, due process should have guided all these characters on what could and what could not be done. the days of arresting someone, asking the courts to deny them bail and then complete the investigations are long done. They were a mockery on due process. They were the foundation for the torture chambers of Nyayo House and Nyati House, and they were the justification for the extra-legal execution of Mungiki leaders and their followers. If they dd not have the proof to successfully ensure Mr Timamy's trial and conviction, they should not have arrested him only to have the courts set him free later.

It is not enough for the main players in the administration of justice machinery to declare that they will respect due process without doing much to change the culture of riding roughshod over everyone that has defined that sector for three generations. Mr Timamy may very well have been involved, but the crude insertion of political considerations in the investigations demolished whatever chance for credible investigations there might have been. The people's confidence in the courts, the forces of law and order and the National Executive is a an all time low and the contemptuous treatment of constitutional principles by all three is doing nothing ton  restore that confidence. If a Governor of an important county can be treated with that degree of official and prosecutorial contempt, what of the working masses, the poor, the weak and the semi-literate that the State is determined to leave by the wayside of the road to Vision 2030 glories?

From Jomo to General.

My office happens to be under the flight path to the Eastleigh Air Force Base and lumbering Buffaloes and rather posh BizJets, all emblazoned with military colours, drone constantly overhead these days. Whether referenda take place or not, there is little likelihood that these planes will suddenly stop flying; after all, they do not belong to the National Police Service Air Wing. They belong, more or less, to the Kenya Defence Forces and those people are, more or less, professionals. Right?

In the past week, the Commander-in-Chief decided to witness some military thing in Isiolo and so, with the joie de vivre of a politician on the make, he decided to don jungle camouflage. (He should have worn spit-polished black combat boots instead of the USMC-lite desert camouflage boots he decided to wear.) He looked very martial with the five stars on his Commander-in-Chief's hat. Then he decided to go to Migori in a tan suit and "rowdy youths" threw extremely worn out akalas at him. (I think they were unhappy that he looked like C-in-C in Isiolo and came to see them dressed like the village headmaster.)

The jungle fatigues and the tan suit have everything to do with the referenda that seem to have thrown the National Executive into a panic. And those who do not think that the National Executive is not in a panic should witness the zeal with which the National Police Service is "investigating" and "prosecuting" the Migori Akala Affair in a bid to drive home the point that you either give the referenda a pass or suffer the attentions of the National Government in all its oppressive glory.

There is a generation of Kenyans that witnessed the tough-as-nails approach to dissident-destruction under both the Jomo Kenyatta and Moi dictatorships. Even the recent sickening fawning over the twenty-four years of Nyayo have yet to dim the memories of many people regarding the testicles that were squeezed and the assassinations that were committed or the fifteen years of cronyism, ethnic jingoism and constitutional upheavals that came before.

If there is one thing the late Jomo Kenyatta and the very much alive and kicking Baba Moi are thankful for it is that Kenyans were pussies when it came to standing up to the forces of corruption and dictatorship the two unleashed. The two documented coup attempts were by the military whose incompetence even then was something to behold. What we ended up with is not peace or calm; we ended up with a fifty year experiment in managed failure. Kenya may celebrate the entrepreneurial and industrial exploits of Tabitha Karanja, Manu Chandaria and Vimal Shah, but the despondency of the youth in every generation has only deepened. Today there are ever larger numbers of teenagers and young men and women under the age of twenty-five engaging in violent criminal acts than at any time in our history.

And as the National Executive reacts in panic, it does us no favours. It is militarising policing and the Youth Service. It has foolishly made the Inspector-General a spectacularly powerful individual, placing under his command the National Youth Service and the disciplined forces of the forest and wildlife services. Giving the Inspector-General an even greater footprint is the first step on the slippery slope of a scenario right out of George Orwell's 1984. And the referenda threats are the best excuse the Commander-in-Chief has for guaranteeing that we will see more and more of him out of mufti and in the combat gear of a militaristic C-in-C.

Bad prosecutor.

I am a lawyer. Much to my dear parents' great disappointment, I am a crap lawyer. Chances are if I were to appear against even a middling lawyer before one of Willy Mutunga's judges, I'd lose the matter, my client would lose his shirt and my unbroken streak of un-accomplishments would remain unsullied. But just because I am shit when it comes to the extreme sport that is lawyering in Kenya does no mean that my training was in vain. Even the dullest knife in our particular drawer can still cut through butter. It is why my befuddlement at the hemming and hawing by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is deepening by the month.

Under Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an accusation was made against Uhuru Kenyatta who was at that time a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance. Mr Moreno-Ocampo relied on the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence better known as the Waki Commission. He also relied on the report of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights headed a that time by Florence Simbiri Jaoko. Then there was the spirited campaign by the civil society industry in Kenya, especially by Makau Mutua and Maina Kiai, to ensure that the sponsors of the post-election violence did not get away Scot free.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo, by all professional accounts to date, did a shoddy job. He charged Mr Kenyatta with grave international crimes and then went fishing for evidence when the Waki Commission Report and all the other reports proved to be less than adequate. Then he retired. Fatou Besouda, the indefatigable lawyer from the Gambia, took up the job from where Mr Moreno-Ocampo had left off. I wonder if she stays up at night cursing the day Mr Moreno-Ocampo decided to build a mansion on quicksand.

It is increasingly evident that Mr Moreno-Ocampo's preparation was grossly inadequate. It is so for many prosecutors dealing with criminal matters that rely overwhelmingly on eye-witness testimony. This is not like the convictions that the Manhattan District Attorney has secured for insider trading in New York. Preet Bharara has had the good fortune of documentary evidence, only relying on witness testimony to confirm what is contained in thousands of pages of financial transactions.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo and Ms Bensouda had entirely different challenges to surmount. The most difficult is that while Kenya prides itself as a modern nation, it is in fact still stuck in the pre-digital age where paper documents reigned. The sort of records that a Manhattan DA would rely on are almost certainly unavailable. Then Mr Moreno-Ocampo made the mistake of taking Mwai Kibaki's and Raila Odinga's word that they would guarantee the co-operation of the Government of Kenya forgetting that while Mr Kibaki had the power, he was a lame duck looking for  successor, Mr Odinga did not have the power to ensure co-operation at all.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo and his successor were taken round the mulberry bush and we are now faced with the uncomfortable spectre of the collapse of the Deputy President's trial and the withdrawal of charges against the President. Moreno-Ocampo was a bad prosecutor. Ms Bensouda is paying the price. Whether it happens today or in a year's time, Ms Bensouda will have no choice to withdraw charges against Uhuru Kenyatta. And given the litany of recantations and witness hostility, Mr Ruto's trial seems set to collapse spectacularly.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

So are they dying or not?

I wade, once more and rather foolhardily too, into the murky waters of the "he said, she said" wildlife is in crisis/wildlife is not in crisis. The Kenya Wildlife Service, KWS, claims that according to their census of wildlife, populations of wild animals are actually increasing and contrary to the scaremongering and smear campaigns of the civil society industry, Kenya was doing much better than those African countries "that deploy their armies to fight poachers." If I had a heart, I would sympathise by the Director-General of the KWS. But I don't so I won't.

I will engage in a bit of baseless speculation, though, based on the thoroughly untested hypothesis that Kenyans are inveterate rumour-mongerers with a penchant for extreme rumour-monger embellishing. Obviously if the Government or one of its money-minting departments says that things are like, that's the moment to hedge your bets against what the Government is assuring you over. If it is in the small matter of wildlife populations, perhaps it is time we started planning for the white-elephant museums that we will erect in each county to display the remains of the Big Five. Every time sirkal tells us things are fine, we end up getting shafted even worse than had we known the dire straits we were in.

That is not to say that civil society industry is a paragon of political virtue. We have been to that dance before and we ain't about to be left holding two champagne flutes while civil society is getting rogered behind the stage by sirkal. No sir! When civil society fell in with Baba Jimmi's government, it was hop, step and a jump to when its leading lights were vocally defending the extra-legal execution of Mungiki men, women and children. (Yes, children. Many were under the age of eighteen when they were marched into forests and had their throats slit.)

Now that civil society seems to have weaned itself of its obsession with sirkal's, let's call them "assets", it has decided to cast a beady eye over the "catastrophic decimation of elephants and rhinos for two decades" as its scaremongering, smear-campaigning leading lights would have you believe. The only fly in that ointment is that little thing called credibility: civil society has about as much of it as a Roman Catholic priest in a boys' boarding school. Many members of the civil society industry are set up to scare the shit out of donors. The scarier the better, they figure because as much as the fear is there, the donors will pay for whatever solution civil society manufactures even if it is utter bullshit.

I sense the same phenomenon of "decimated" elephants and rhinos has reached the scare-the-shit-out-of-the-donors level and they are taking notice. It has something to do with the hypocrisy of the west where many donors reside. They believe in the romance of majestic elephants, tough rhinos, regal lions and such shit. Many sensible Kenyans view them as very dangerous pests, especially the elephants that tend to go overboard in maize farms or the lions that don't seem to have a problem with "borrowing" one or two cows from bomas. So civil society warriors will bandy about with great emphasis phrases like "human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures" as if the mere theorising of a solution is a solution in and of itself.

None of them can be trusted, the KWS or the civil society industry. We have had a very long history of betrayals. Until they can prove to us that their primary motivation for the pronouncements they make are not motivated by their insatiable desire for ever greater oodles of filthy lucre, I intend to hold my nose up. And my hand on my wallet.

Treat me with contempt, please.

Why is Raila Odinga special? For that matter, why are Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Kalonzo Musyoka or Johnston Muthama special? Of our public figures, and there are many, the special ones, whether they have achieved much or not, are known without their demanding it. In Kenya, you are special when the State says you are special and the State doesn't say it as loud as it does by whom it allows into or keeps out of the VIP Lounges at our border points. (The Artur Brothers, whom we miss dearly, were special too. Think on it.)

Every time some has-been CORD politician is denied access to a VIP Lounge, the whole country is held in thrall to the umbrage the "disrespect" being shown to a "man who has contributed so much to the country" as we are wont to be reminded. Those of us who know who the truly special Kenyans are simply roll our eyes. Many Kenyans, sadly, are not that level-headed and their unhinged minds are taken to the streets, sometimes with terrible consequences. Much bloodshed has been shed over whether or not Agwambo should or should not fly first class on the people's shilling.

In every political society there is that crass opportunist who will push every button to keep his name in the lights. In Kenya, those of recent notoriety have distinguished themselves with their obsessions with penises, foreskins and vaginas. There is a parliamentary caucus that has developed an unhealthy interest in anuses and to what use those anuses are put. These obsessives purport to speak for the people. They may be right; after all the peoples of Kenya have demonstrated an unhealthy obsession with foreskins, penises, vaginas and anuses. But in Kenya it is only the elected and formerly elected classes that obsess piteously over lost privileges.

They will do their very best to whip the emotions of Kenyans who should otherwise be obsessing over penises, foreskins, vaginas and anuses. They will do their best to make their case that a has-been and an also-ran should be treated with deference because of his previous service to the nation. Of course there are men and women for which the nation owes a great deal; that does not mean that our world will come to an end if the privileges we allowed them to enjoy for a few years are suddenly withdrawn. We cannot, after all, afford to keep them in truffles til the day they shuffle off this mortal coil, can we?

Let us be blunt. Raila Odinga has done a lot for the people of Kenya. But equally too, he has been petulant, petty, greedy and grasping. We were willing to tolerate his, and his acolytes', antics when he kept winning elective office. he is now a private citizen. He is not an elected representative. He can swan around as the "leader of CORD" if he wants; most of us don't give two shits about it. There is absolutely no reason why Uhuru Kenyatta's government, or the people of Kenya, should treat him as if he is a Greek god of mythology. There is absolutely no reason why public servants sweating in the VIP Lounges should be on hand to serve Mr Odinga and his bevy of ass-kissers whenever he is passing through any of our border points.

This colonial artifact must be destroyed in order to save the soul of this nation. There is no reason why we should elevate elected leaders and "senior public officers" to the status of Greek gods. They do not deserve it, especially if they take after the crass nature of their electors and appointing authorities. There is something amiss when a people fawn over and flutter around philanderers, pederasts, thieves, conmen, whores and suspected murderers. If the British wish to carry on as they have for millennia, that is their own affair. We have no reason to do so. Demolish the VIP lounges and the privileges associated with them. We are, as the Constitution grandiosely declares, equal. I will not genuflect to you so long as you treat me with the same degree of contempt that I do you.

The enemies of development.

I used to think hawkers were the pestilence that years of City Council-ing had inflicted on my quiet and serene Nairobbery life, that they were a punishment for, (a) not being old enough to vote for sensible councillors, and (b) for not being the sharpest genius in the room who'd get a scholarship to MIT or Harvard. (For some reason the idea of a Rhodes Scholarship did not seem terribly appealing.)

Then I went to Wakulima Market. Hawkers are not the problem; they are the proof that Uncle Kidero and his county executive are not just not better than the reviled City Council, they might actually be worse. That place is filthy. It is muddy, smelly and an absolute horror show of filth. How can so many Big Brains in the biggest city in East and Central Africa perform so dismally for so long without a revolt taking place? The answer lies somewhere on the Grey Scale, but for the purists among those who follow this blog, surely the answer is either in the broken politics of Kenya or in the incomprehensible lack of civic-mindedness of the people.

It had never occurred to me where a great deal of my veggies came from. Until I was exiled to the unforgiving and harsh world that was Machakos School, I believed that my veggies were shipped in straight from my beloved Makueni, God's Own County. Machakos School introduced me to economics, and i came to learn about demand and supply, supply chains and market forces. If you were in Nairobi, chances are your tomatoes, cabbages, sukuma wiki, spinach, dhania, brinjals, potatoes, carrots...the green stuff that are supposed to stave off cancer and death come from Wakulima Market. And it is absolutely filthy, almost a decade after the last Minister for Local Government oversaw the collection and disposal of sixty tonnes of rodent excrement.

The Wakulima Market is in the same troubled zone that has the Kenya Planter's Co-operative Union building, the Kenya Farmers' Association warehouse and Kahawa house. What all these buildings have in common are filthy lanes; I was shocked to discover that the lanes are tarmacked and not the murrum that I had come to associate with the area. The reason they look like goat tracks found only in those bits of Kiambu Jomo Kenyatta had a beef with is because the rules that are supposed to govern what can and cannot be done in our fair city have been given short shrift for decades now.

Nairobi is a pig sty. Uncle Kidero inherited a very filthy pig sty. But the men and women he appointed to help him sweep out the Augean Stables are almost certainly the reason why the problem is almost intractable; they are politicians first, and city administrators second and the former does not require a mind only an unlimited appetite for public funds without much accountability. If that were the problem, we could still hope for a turnaround.

But Uncle Kidero faces a hostile national government, and one that seems to have been captured by unsavory, self-entitled whingers of the most horrendous kind. And I do not mean the self-important, self-entitled servants of the people warming two-hundred thousand shilling chairs. I mean the flunkies, factotums and minions that flutter and swirl like butterflies around the self-important, self-entitled servants of the people. These are the sticks-in-the-mud who have done everything in their not inconsiderable power to stifle and stymie the efforts of the Government of Nairobi City County. They lie and cheat in the service of liars and cheats with the sole aim of ensuring that the Green City in the Sun remains an eyesore for the whole world to see. They are the true enemies of development for if Nairobi never develops, the rest of the country will be that much slower.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

We don't care about elephant murders.

Who doesn't like pictures of cute baby elephants? (They are called calves, but it is cuter to call them baby elephants, right?) Who won't get outraged by excruciating tales of the "murder" or "genocide" of elephants and rhinos? That is the language of the wildlife conservation-cum-protection movement. It is winning supporters in the world capitals of nations that have wiped out their wildlife heritages. It will win few hearts and minds in Kenya, or Africa for that matter.

On 31 December 1981, Jerry Rawlings launched a military coup in Ghana. A short while later enemies of the people were rounded up, tried by military tribunals and executed in the National Stadium in Accra. The military junta ruled for a decade. When elections were held, Mr Rawlings was elected with a landslide and served two terms. He retired peacefully and is, every now and hen, called on by the African Union to lead peace missions around the continent. Ghanaians and Africans alike don't care that Mr Rawlings is a two-time coup plotter or that the "enemies of the people" executed under his command were not tried fairly or impartially.

On 13 July 1985, simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom and John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, USA, western activists held the largest concert in the world to raise funds for the starving peoples of Ethiopia. Live Aid was in response to the catastrophic famine that had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and was set to decimate an entire generation. For the most part Africans did not care. South Africa was busily ensuring that apartheid would remain the ruling philosophy until hell froze over, Uganda was just getting into the swing of things with its rebellion against Milton Obote's government, Kenya was busily implementing IMF and Wold Bank-driven structural adjustment programmes that would cripple public services. Africans, then and now, did not give two shits about the starving masses of Ethiopia or any part of Africa for that matter.

On 7 August 1998, simultaneous bombings took place in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam against US embassies. Hundreds of Kenyans were killed in the attacks. Africans didn't give two shits about the bombings per se; they worried more that if Omar Hassan el Bashir continued hosting Usama bin Laden, they too could become targets of bin Laden's murderous attentions because of those countries' relations with the United States. Dead Kenyans did not feature high in the least of concerns; political instability did if al Qaeda waged war in Africa on a large scale.

Those campaigning for the "rights" of wildlife need to keep this in mind. Even their exhortations that wildlife resources are primary generators of employment and foreign exchange will not wash because for the most part, the profits from wildlife-driven tourism are almost entirely repatriated and the employment generated is not of the production variety and is prone to fluctuations that have nothing to do with wildlife. The great recession of 2007-2008 took a great toll on tourism globally. As did the Eyjafjallajökull disaster in 2010 and the string of al Shabaab kidnappings and bombings since November 2010.

The vast majority of Kenyans are not emotionally attached to wild animals. That we keep seeing them as "wild animals" is a partial explanation. The more germane one is that wildlife has always been the preserve of the wealthy, especially kaburus from the colonial era. Game Parks, National Reserves and conservancies are merely the newest devices for depriving poor Kenyans of land for their families and their livelihoods. We do not have a stake in the conservation of elephants or rhinos; the fewer of them near our farms, the greater the guarantee of good harvests. Even intellectually we do not care about the fate of wild animals. Because of the skewed ownership of the profits from wildlife, we are not even part-owners of the heritage. The few of us who have been "trained" to see things this way only see the cheque at the end of the month. We do not buy the argument that what happens to elephants will affect us in the long run. We are happy enough to see kaburus suffering slightly. Schadenfreude, the Germans call it.

Wildlife in Kenya has been a kaburu thing for as long as the subject has been alive. What the kaburus called the native population was to be policed as far away from the wildlife as possible. Since we have never been owners of the wildlife in Kenya, we don't care, one way or the other, if they are all wiped out. Since we have always associated wildlife with violence against us, both by the wild animals and the state, we do not care if they are being "murdered" or not. And since it is the high and mighty who seem to have a hand in the "slaughter" of elephants and rhinos, and many of us have sworn fealty to the selfsame high and mighty, all the kaburu-mzungu campaigns to conserve and protect wildlife will come to naught in the long, long run.

Next time pee on his dais.

Next time they should pee on the dais. Or introduce its occupants to the tried-and-tested flying toilet phenomenon. We are making a mountain out of the Migori presidential heckling molehill. Okoth Obado, the Migori Governor, and the Migori Pparliamentary group are right to apologise to President Kenyatta, but the National Police Service has lost all perspective if they indeed arrested hecklers" and "stone-throwers" and are determined to prosecute them to the maximum extent of the law.

Yes, next time the disgruntled should pee on the dais or emblazon it in jwala-ful quantities of excreta. This is politics; it was not an attempted assassination. President Kenyatta chose to "visit" a CORD - nay, ODM - stronghold in his "meet the people" tours of Nyanza and Western Kenya. He is the Head of State. He has an absolute right to meet his people. But we should not pretend that his people universally love him when it is quite clear, Migori presidential heckling aside, not everyone holds him quite in the same esteem that ardent acolytes like Moses Kuria do. The next time he chooses to visit a hostile constituency, I hope the hostilities really include pee and excrement.

It is time that we stopped looking at presidents like the demigods they and their people seem to believe they are. It is time we stood up and loudly challenged them. Baba Moi was very good at wagging his finger in our faces. We bore it stoically because even a wisp of dissatisfaction was sufficient to introduce one to the sadistically violent attentions of the Special Branch torturers at Nyayo House or Nyati House. Baba Jimmi chose a different tack: he ignored everyone, heckler or not. (Except to that fellow on that Jamhuri Day whose testicles will not soon forget that while Baba Jimmi was tolerant, his askaris had a very different attitude to in-your-face heckling.) Poor Uhuru Kenyatta; he is neither Baba Moi, in which case he would be feared, or Baba Jimmi, in which case he would take a laid back view of the whole thing.

This is probably sacrilegious to suggest but the President does not deserve respect simply because he is the President. If the presidency did respectful things, then the President would be respected occupant of the office. It doesn't and so he won't. Don't try and tell us that other nations respect their presidents; look at how South Africans make a mockery of that particular social edict. The Kenyan presidency has been accused of corruption and human rights abuses, marginalisation of communities and incompetence in problem-solving. The least the people could do is demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the presidency by heckling, stone-throwing and the new kid on the block, shoe-throwing. If their lives do not improve, and if this lack of improvement is because of the traditional dithering of the presidency, its ministries, departments and agencies, then the next time the President shows up, in addition to the heckling, they should introduce him to the exciting fragrances of flying toilets. Pee and excreta will be appropriate missiles.

Of presidents and shoes.

If I didn't know better, I'd weep buckets for the President and Commander-in-Chief for how he was George Bushed in Migori. Among the Arabs, so we are told by the wise heads of CNN and the BBC, throwing a shoe a person is the ultimate sign of disrespect. President Kenyatta not only had shoes flung at him in Migori, stones made their debut too. Why I will not weep for the leader of the Jubilee Alliance and the TNA head honcho lies in the post-Kibaki legacy of speaking our minds as freely as we can. In the heat and dust of the referendum political combat, President Kenyatta can expect even more vicious treatment in the political constituencies where Raila Odinga enjoys political primacy.

For more than three generations, it had been instilled in Kenyans that the President and the presidency must be respected, that these two institutions' integrity must not be sullied. If we are to achieve the laudable aims of Kenya Vision 2030 this officially-enforced instinct to genuflect and pay obeisance to the Head of State and Government must be erased from our minds. The President of Kenya is not God Almighty, nor is he Lord God's mouthpiece here on Earth. He is but a man, and a flawed politician at that. The institution of the presidency, as much as we would like to bend our knee to it in respect, enjoys about as much legitimacy as the National Police Service. Asking long-suffering Kenyans to bow and scrape in front of it is simply asking too much.

Kenya's first President laid the foundations for what came to pass in Migori this past Monday. Few Kenyans alive today will remember that the agitation for self-government in the 1950s was driven principally by the unfair land policies enforced by the colonial administration. The Mau Mau War was fought over land. Had Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's first administration honoured the spirit of the Mau Mau War, had he and his cronies avoided the beberu instinct of self-aggrandisement, and had he been honest enough about the challenges our fledgling nation faced, Uhuru Kenyatta would not be having shoes and stones hurled at him at a political rally in the opposition's strongholds. The edifice that Jomo Kenyatta built eventually became a Leviathan of corruption and misrule that was feared as much as it was distrusted. It was no longer a legitimate authority. There is no way it is going to recover its authority or legitimacy if all its occupants continue to obsess over their status rather than their responsibilities to the people.

For fifty years the presidency has been associated with many evils it was sworn to eradicate. For forty-seven of those years, Kenyans lived in fear of the midnight knock from the agents of the presidency. They witnessed billions upon billions of shillings squandered or stolen. They watched as hundreds of thousands of acres of arable land were parcelled out by the presidency to the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalised. They watched in horror as hundreds, nay thousands, of Kenyans were arrested on flimsy grounds, detained without trial, tortured and murdered all in the name of keeping the presidency in power at all costs. And for three generations Kenyans have had to listen to the lies that the presidency told in order to justify its crimes.

The presidency does not enjoy widespread legitimacy in Kenya. It has not done much to change Kenyans' minds. In the recent past it has been variously accused of standing idly by as terrorists kill and maim with impunity, aiding and abetting grand corruption, doing nothing to stem the flow of blood on the nation's highways, and of enriching the rich and powerful at the expense of the weak and poor by imposing unfair taxes on the latter and granting tax breaks on the former. Whether these accusations are true is not the issue; until it can demonstrate in deed as much as in word that it is doing everything in its power to offer succour to the poor, the President can continue to expect hostile receptions in opposition bastions, whether the hecklers, shoe and stone-throwers are paid or not.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Buru, my mirror.

Those who are familiar with that bit of Eastlands, Nairobi, known as Buru Buru will be familiar with certain tropes that  define its inimitable culture, never mind Mike Mbuvi Sonko's concerted attempts to change the culture. Even the dimmest bulb in Nairobi, sooner or later, is introduced to Five-Eight, Buru Ka-jinga and Buru Mambao, in that order. Then there are those realities that we have concertedly turned a blind eye to. Five-Eight kanges are a prolific lot; so many of them have sired three children by the time they end up in the Industrial Area Remand and Reallocation Prison for the first time. Their baby mamas - and they do think of themselves as baby mamas - usually, though not always, end up at either Buru Mambao or Buru Ka-jinga, in that order of preference.

Before sheng' made the determined leap from the lexicon of Eastlands and crashlanded awkwardly among the faux French, English or American patois of Kitisuru, Lavington, and L.A. (no, not that one; the one on your way to the Animal Orphanage), Buru's trendiest parents were well-versed, though typically about four dialect generations behind, in the intricacies of sheng' as a vehicle of intergenerational comity.

But in their desire to fit into their wayward sprogs' lives, many parents in Buru Buru forgot certain core lessons that had to be instilled and so the ranks of the teen-mom brigades swelled like the bellies of their daughters and many of their sons became prominent members of the kanges' community plying the Five-Eight or Two-Three routes, the only sensible competitor for infamy to Five-Eight. Not that their sons did any better; there are many parents who now have an intimate understanding of the public healthcare infrastructure, especially in relation to what we delicately refer to as STIs. (No! Not Subaru Impreza STIs. The other STIs.)

There are those of us who were lucky, depending on which side the green grass grows, to escape the boa-constrictor-like hold the district holds. We came back. Eventually. But we are no longer in thrall to its varied and variegated charms. (There is something to be said for the indefatigability of Njoki Ndung'u's successors in the sexual offences NGO circuit otherwise the teen-swollen-belly movement might have kept on claiming new experimentally eager adherents.) Our escapes were not as dramatic as the Silver Screen would have you believe; many, in fact, were mere happenstance: parents snapping out of their Buru-induced stupor and exiling sprogs to parts unknown. (OK. Mostly shags.)

Our return was preceded by some of the worst civic decisions ever foisted on an unprepared populace. Some idiot in City Hall, whom we pray shall have his testicles slathered in pure honey and stuck in an ant-hill, approved like a drunken sailor, hundreds of "extensions" and "security barriers" and now our beloved Buru looks more like a slightly upmarket version of Fallujah. Or Beirut. Nowadays there are more vagrants in our fair district than is acceptable and they all seem to be selling dodgy-looking tomatoes and fried-cum-roasted "meats" of decidedly dubious provenance.

A mere decade-and-a-half ago, Buru Buru was an oasis in a desert of squalor, filth and cultural backwardness. Today, it is competing avidly in a race to the bottom with the likes of Doonholm (a slightly upmarket Kayole), Kariobangi South (the only difference with Jerusalem is the streetlights), Ngei (even DoD HQ no longer considers it fit for even an unmarried bachelor), Ngumo (the phrase "trying too hard" comes to mind) and Lavington ("ni mbeca!" is the sound that rings through). The decline of my beloved district is mirrored in the decline of my beloved city and the increasing crass obsession with penises, vaginas and Vera Sidika's bum.

It's the Information Age.

These people are gnawing on my last exposed nerve. The National Police Service's mucky-mucks must really think we are all complete idiots, morons of the highest order. The Kabete OCS was shot in the hip after attempting to prevent a robbery by five men along Waiyaki Way. Will someone set Mr Inspector-general Kimaiyo straight; we will accept the fact that a policeman was shot, but please spare us the Jack Bauer scenario where he stops his car in the middle of a busy highway and rushes five robbers in an attempt to uphold law and order. At night.

It must be the same Einsteins who have taken us through the carjack drama that ended up in Tororo, Uganda. A car that has on numerous occasions been photographed closely following the ceremonial presidential limo is taken from its policeman driver. Its tracking system is "disabled". It is driven to the Busia border crossing point and over into Uganda. The policeman driver clams that he was carjacked at gunpoint, driven around town in the company of the carjackers, stripped naked and dumped in Ruai. All he loses is a loose sixteh thao, a fancy phone and his dignity. But, please.

If you are in the presidential detail, even if you are the lowly cop that has to stand in the hot sun at a particular corner the President will pass through, you have certain skills. In the words of Bryan Mills from Taken, they are skills that have taken you a career to learn; skills that make you a nightmare for carjackers and sundry criminal elements. They should spare us the tall tales of four-man carjackings. The more likely story is that he originally had a loose hando thao and decided to hæng with his old crew in the Old Man's beemer. But his friends have been jealous of him for a minute. And the moment he starts throwing raos at that Migingo in the forgotten bits of Eastlando, they decide to "activate" their network and the poor cop is given mchele, stripped to his skivvies and left to his own devices.

For a very long time, just like Philip Ochieng admits in the Sunday Nation (07/09/2014), the serikali decided what story the people would be told. And in what tone of voice. The 8-4-4 system became a byword for spoonfeeding a generation. No one thought for themselves anymore. None more so than the men who were appointed to oversee our safety and security. Theirs is to do or die, not to question why. And they have come to believe that all Kenyans fit into that neat little mould. It is why they are confident that the stories they peddle through the dailies are stories we will not question or challenge. We will accept their word for it. And we will continue living in blissful ignorance.

Isn't it time that #TeamDigital stopped treating us the same way the Grand Coalition did which was just an evolution of the KANU Way? We may not have the same quality of libraries that my father's generation did, and many of us might not have access to Jamii Telecom's five-thao-a-month Faiba 5mbps, but the advent of the one-thousand-five-hundred-shillings Mulika Mwizi means that information is accessible at an increasingly affordable price. You have priced us out of the housing market, the transport sector, the high education ivory towers and the privatised healthcare system. But thanks to the enormous capitalistic appetite for billion-shillings profits by Safaricom, #TeamDigital can lie to some of us some of the time, but not to all of us all of the time. It's the Information Age, bitches! Act like it.

Institutionalisation of cults of personality, Kenya style.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked those governors elected on the Jubilee ticket to quit the party and seek a fresh mandate from the people if they support the Pesa Mashinani referendum plan. One of Mr Kenyatta's eloquent apologists is a lawyer called Jasper Mbiuki who elaborates that if these governors support the calls for a referendum, they are doing so expressly against the "policies"of the Jubilee alliance and that it is politically unconscionable for them to remain in office if they disagree with a core plank of the alliance's political plans.

Both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Mbiuki, and indeed many of their allies, have taken the wrong approach against the Pesa Mashinani campaign. In the 1980s and 1990s, Kenyan schoolchildren were compelled to recite the Loyalty Pledge. Very few of us understood what it meant, but we did it anyway because, after all, children are taught to obey their teachers without question. Those days are long gone. In the Information Age it is not enough to simply declare something to be true without offering an explanation or proof that it is. A blanket declaration will simply demand that to those it is diercted find out for themselves whether the claim is true or not.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Mbiuki declare that it is "against the wishes of the alliance" to support any calls for a referendum. They use this as justification to threaten members of the alliance who support the calls with "dire consequences". What they have failed to do is prove that the alliance is indeed against the calls for a referendum. In 2012, the National Alliance and the United Republican Party made big shows of signing up members. When they submitted their applications to the Registrar of Political Parties, they were proud of the millions of Kenyans who had signed up to the parties.

Since those halcyon days, TNA and URP have done little to nurture their party memberships. Like all other political parties, TNA and URP, the principal members of the Jubilee Alliance, have become captives of the parliamentary party and the President and his deputy. The rank-and-file remain mere cogs in the parliamentary party-president-deputy president machinery designed to order the nation in a particular way. The rank-and-file, that is, remain political cannon fodder and are expected to toe the party leaderships' line whether they agree or not.

One of the utopian hopes of the Committee of Experts was that the management of political parties would be separated from the government of the country. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Mbiuki, both members of the national Executive, have put paid to that cozy idea. Mr Kenyatta retains the official-but-fuzzy title of Party Leader even while he is the President of Kenya. Mr Mbiuki retains his office as TNA's Legal Secretary even while he serves in the Office of the Deputy President. Both attempt to recreate the morbid arrangements of the one-party days when KANU was the government and the government was KANU. Ironically, this is an ideal that is also held by Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka and their fellow believers in the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy.

Mr Kenyatta's and Mr Mbiuki's declarations that any support for the referendum by a member of the alliance is against the wishes of the party is actually a declaration that any support by a member of the alliance is against the wishes of the President. Just as any support against the Okoa Kenya referendum is against the wishes of the people of Kenya is actually a declaration that is against the wishes of Raila Odinga. In in that lies the biggest threat against constitutionalism and the institutionalisation of the political process. This personalisation of political institutions, the creation of cults of personality if you will, is the principle reason why parliamentarians see nothing wrong with arrogantly arrogating to themselves ever larger sums out of the Consolidated Fund as if they have an absolute right to do so and to ignore the crushing burden of the economy on the backs of the people.

Friday, September 05, 2014

The incompetence of two men.

We have waited for the leadership to take steps to sort out the fiasco that was the recruitment of the magic figure of ten thousand police officers. "Leadership" would imply that the Commander-in-Chief, the Interior Cabinet Secretary, the Interior Principal Secretary, the Inspector-General, the Chairperson of the National Police Service Commission and the Chairperson of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority. It has been a month. All we have seen are various degrees of hemming and hawing as the leadership pussyfoots around the "sensitive" subject.

I love my fellowman. I love my fellowman when he is as devout a Christian as David Mole Kimaiyo. I love my fellowman when he goes out of his way to study the Word of God and spreads the message in all the corners of the world. But that won't stop me from saying that the mistakes that Mr Kimaiyo has made have resulted in the steepest decline in the peoples' confidence in a police boss ever witnessed. Mr Kimaiyo does not enjoy any form of credibility with the suffering peoples of Kenya. Mr Kimaiyo has become a byword for incompetence and ineffectiveness. His lapses might even border on the casually negligent.

The Commander-in-Chief declared that he wanted the people of Kenya to enjoy the same degree of security throughout the nation so that they could go about the business of prospering in this land of opportunity. He made this declaration in the chambers of the national assembly in front of the elected representatives of the people. He promised to take security seriously. Every day that he and his security apparatus have failed the people of Kenya is a painful reminder that the safety of the people has never been a priority, just the security of the fatcats capable of losing eight billion shillings down the back of the sofa.

While the Commander-in-Chief is busy playing musical chairs with his intelligence chiefs, the rest of his securocracy is busily finding new ways of demonstrating its incompetence. Take the scuttled MV Bushehr. Few intelligent Kenyans are willing to believe that the ship was "intercepted" when it was just about to berth. What we suspect is that the law enforcement officers and the heroin smugglers simply failed to agree on the size of the bribe. Or this mystery BMW that is "not part of the Presidential Fleet" that ended up in Uganda. Who among the intelligent isn't asking why the Commander-in-Chief's security seems so easy to infiltrate? What if the vehicle had merely been borrowed and then returned in the form of a Trojan Horse with a cache of explosives secreted in its bowels?

In these comedies of errors are the bespectacled, mumbling and flatfooted visages of the Inspector-General and the gap-toothed smile of the Interior Cabinet Secretary. There is regional balance and political horsetrading. Then there is tomfoolery of the highest order. Aren't there other qualified men or women from where the hapless Messrs Kimaiyo and Ole Lenku hail from? We have been patient, Amri-Jeshi Mkuu. We really have. Our patience is wearing thin. One more outrage and we might even start questioning the wisdom of the Commander-in-Chief swanning around in Field Marshall's fatigues while his people are put at ever greater risk because of the incompetence of two men.

Hostile to the poor; too expensive for the rich.

Quite uncharacteristically, and in this untypical rainy Nairobi morning, I took a leisurely stroll along the entire length of Landhies Road from the City Stadium to the Retail Market. Compared to a similarly daring excursion a year ago is remarkably similar inclement weather, the facilities for the walking masses of Kaloleni, Shauri Moyo and Muthurwa who choose to use Landhies Road are in good shape, especially now that they have all but guaranteed that the annoying boda boda riders will not use the footpaths. These facilities, too, expose the disdain and contempt with which the County Government of Nairobi City holds the poor.

Evans Kidero and his County Executive Committee think the poor are an afterthought, an irritant, an inconvenience. If they could all just go away. Far away. Back "upcountry". In the county government's estimation, Nairobi is designed for the middle class who drive and for those who don't drive but who take public transport. The walking public is a nuisance. They are the ones who attract hawkers and other "street vendors" into the Central Business District. They are the ones who litter the streets with the detritus of their lunches. They are the ones who frequent eating "joints" for whom the Public Health Act looms like the Swords of Damocles for all the cockroaches and rats that have run of those places.

Mr Kidero and his county executive should take a really close look at the world class cities they are trying to benchmark Nairobi City against. A visit to Bogotá or Buenos Aires should be an eye-opener. So too would a visit to Perth or Sydney. London and Berlin, Paris and Milan are out of our league and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. But Bogotá or Buenos Aires should educate Mr Kidero and his county executive about what it takes to make a world class city. A hint would be is that a world class city is not just designed for the motoring public.

Landhies Road exposes the surprising lack of imagination among the City Fathers. While pavements for pedestrians are in good shape, the drain and sewer systems are still a complete mess. As you pass Muthurwa and Retail Markets, the mikokoteni have commandeered the area as their preferred parking, inconveniencing the mass of pedestrians. And it is a mass. But one of the most egregious is the inadequacy of the space provided. It is as well-done as could be, but it is not designed for the hundreds of thousands who use it every single morning, inclement weather notwithstanding. At night, it is an obstacle course with pedestrians playing chicken with determined phone thieves, purse-snatchers and sundry petty criminals all because the place is so ill-lit and bushy that anyone can become a victim.

Of course Mr Kidero has come to the harsh realisation that Nairobi is the preserve of cartels. And being a serious manager, he has a painful understanding of the effects of cartelisation on consumer confidence, investment and the rule of law. Mr Kidero will be right to argue that without the support of the national government, Nairobi will never be the world class city we all wish it was. That is the tragedy of our fair city: Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee government would rather cut its nose (Nairobi) to spite its face (CORD). That degree of pride, exemplified in the penis-obsessed Member for Gatundu, is the reason that Nairobi will continue to rank as a hostile place for the poor and too expensive even for the rich.