Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rule #1: Don't embarass me.

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

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

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

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

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

It isn't time yet.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Social graces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All are not equal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The folly of hubris.

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

If football has defeated us...

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

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

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

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

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

King of Turd Mountain.

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

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

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

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

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

The Tragedy of Sameness.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Age of Ideas.

I cannot imagine what went through the President's mind when he was sitting in that court room at The Hague. All those hours spent flying there and then listening to men and women speak about him, about his government and how they feel about him without being allowed a word in edgeways or an indication of what the court would decide. Those who have had to wait for decision over which they had little control must be able to relate to the President and even if their feelings about him are conflicted, they should be able to sympathise with him.

When he was first named as a suspect there were many that reacted with a touch of Schadenfreude, taking a perverse pleasure at the sight of the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance being treated like a criminal. There were others who were outraged at the idea that a prosecutor in a foreign court would dare to charge our Deputy Prime Minister with such heinous crimes over which he couldn't possible have had a hand in. But it has been four years and much water has flowed down the Rubicon since then.

We will never know whether there has been a concerted conspiracy in the highest levels of the government to stymie the ICC investigations in Kenya. What we do know is that the longer the matter has hang fire, the more precarious the Office of the Prosecutor's position has become. It is now accepted, even in the corridors of the ICC, that Luis Moreno-Ocampo did a piss poor job in his investigations, choices of suspects, choices of witnesses, pre-trial and trial strategies and in his choice of words. Whether there has been non-co-operation by the Government of Kenya or witness tampering by the accused, Mr Moreno-Ocampo's, and now Ms fatou Bensouda's, cases were a houses of cards that would collapse under the weight of their own infirmities.

Kenya's cases are unique. Without a doubt heinous crimes were committed. Without a doubt there are hundreds of thousands of victims. And without a doubt the Government of Kenya, civil society and the International Criminal Court served the victims poorly. But the crimes that were committed were not committed in the same manner that the crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994 or Bosnia in 1992 - 1995. It was a civil conflict without clear rebel armies at war with the forces of the State. There was no overall commander. There were no decisive battles. Massacres took place, but there were no overt organisers of the massacres. Mr Moreno-Ocampo spoke of a "network" but even he must now admit that the "network" idea will no longer hold water in the absence of Maj Gen (Rtd) Hussein Ali or Amb Francis Muthaura in the list of suspects in the dock.

Political conflicts in Kenya have always led to severe violence. It happened in 1992 and it happened again in 1997. 2007/08 may have been the worst but it did not differ significantly from the 1992 or 1997 clashes. The solution, despite the ardent campaigning by civil society and the overt and covert interference of key European governments and the United States, should have been a political one. Which was what the Grand Coalition Government should have been. Reconciliation would only come about if the people who had been displaced were restored to their properties, and where murderers and rapists were identified by victims were prosecuted and convicted or the victims given a chance to forgive their attackers. The campaign to turn the political problems of 2007/08 into legal ones has merely postponed the day of reckoning.

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto have a chance to set the clock back and solve the seemingly intractable problems of 2007/08 ironically because of their parliamentary tyranny of numbers. They will have to overcome the objections of the hardliners in their alliance. They will have to build a unity government in all but name so that the broadest coalition of political interests can be accommodated in settling our political problems once and for all. It is the only way that the politics of marginalisation will end and we can enter the age of the politics of ideas.

Sonko is a genius.

It was a damp squib. Maybe not for the Nairobi's senator. But for the others it was a damp squib. Hundreds of thousands of shillings were expended. Perhaps millions were expended. Only so a president, in his private capacity, could travel half way around the world to sit in a court room - and not say anything. Then there is the case of the Nairobi senator who "accompanied the president for moral support" and brought with him a "rescue squad." Whatever else we may think, Gideon Mbuvi aka Mike Mbuvi aka Mike Mbuvi Sonko is one of a kind and I think he is brilliant.

While the likes of Kigumo's Jamleck Kamau and Kajiado Central's Lt Gen Joseph Nkaissery would want to look and sound urbane and sophisticated, in the mould of the parliamentarians in the Palace at Westminster, the sad truth is that none of Kenya's parliamentarians are that urbane or sophisticated. And Sen Sonko embraces this fact with unbridled glee. He is without a doubt one of the most honest politicians in Kenya and Kenyans need to thank him for his service to the nation. Without Sen Sonko we would still continue in our delusion that we are like the British or the American members of Congress. We are not. We are nowhere near them.

The Americans and the British are very good at hiding their warts. The British parliamentarians have proven to be very good at swindling the British Exchequer. However, when what was dubbed by the Fleet Street as the Benefits Scandal was unearthed, British Parliamentarians resigned in disgrace. The American members of the House of Representatives have not covered themselves in glory either; many of them have been forced to resign over sex scandals. Just last year two congressmen resigned because they sent sexts to women who were not their wives and a governor was forced out for having an affair with an Argentinian and lying about it while another governor is being tried for receiving gifts from a wealthy benefactor.

Kenyan parliamentarians think of themselves as a cut above the rest of us, They think of themselves as members of the elite upper classes. If it was just about membership of a club or deep pockets, they would be right. But because of their character, their behaviour and their influence, they remain firmly stuck among the middle classes. Crass, openly avaricious, vicious, petty and vindictive; these are qualities that permeate all the classes, but among the elected representatives of Kenya, they are more openly discerned. I would go so far as to declare that the last classy elected class was elected in 1983. Since then successive elections have elected successively low class representatives.

It takes a Sonko to flash a light on the elected classes to remind them of their true worth. Sen Sonko does not hide his colourful past; he embraces it with gusto. He has money and he's not afraid to show it, its provenance being a matter of jealous speculation among his colleagues in Parliament. He doesn't pretend to be an aficionado of Brioni or Hugo Boss; his tailor remains in business because of the Senator's unquenched thirst for primary colours. He's not Italian, so Italian cuisine is not very high on his bucket list. Nor Italian for that matter. Or French, German, Spanish or Portuguese. He's no academic in his ivory tower so he does not need to philosophise about why he does what he does. He is the true politician. He wants something. He finds a way to get it. His colleagues could learn from him.

He did not go The Hague to make a point about the rule of law or the magnanimity of the President. He went to The Hague to tell the International Criminal Court, the Office of the Prosecutor, the witnesses against the President and the victims' representative to get stuffed. He did it like he knows best: loudly. And he brought a gang with him. And it was just as loud. And it was brilliant. He should start preparing for his presidential bid. Perhaps he has. He'd be more honest as a president than any of the pretenders to the throne.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

On politics and the ICC

There is a whiff of the theatrical to the choreographed temporary handing over of power by Uhuru Kenyatta to William Ruto. And it is all fine. They are, after all, politicians and they are very good ones when they get what the Americans call optics right. Mr Kenyatta is embattled at home; his Jubilee manifesto is almost in tatters because of an avaricious Parliament and equally avaricious county assemblies. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is determined to nail him for what it alleges is his key role in the post-2007 general election violence. So in his address to the Joint Sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate President Kenyatta did what every politician with his feet to the fire do: he deflected, he dissembled and he misdirected. And he did it in style.

There is this trope in discussing public affairs against the "politicisation" of matters. Those who cleave to this idea misunderstand the vital importance of politics in the life of a nation. Without political actors, political acts or politicisation of affairs, the only solutions available to the people involve arms, violence, bloodshed and death. It is through politics that we can mediate the diverse differences that threaten to rend asunder a nation. It is how different coalitions, factions and interests are brought to the same table to iron out their differences. Politics works when it is not taken as a zero-sum game where for someone to gain another must lose. It is through politics that priorities are set and it is through politics that meagre national treasure is expended for the general well-being of the people.

The world of the management consultant is about efficiency: efficient allocation of resources and efficient use of resources. Efficiency is not a bad thing in and of itself. But a nation is not a commercial enterprise where the logic of efficiency would deny resources to "low potential" areas and concentrate them in the "high potential" ones. This was the rationale for the Sessional No 10 of 1965 and its effects have lingered long after the conclusion of the fifth five-year plan. Northern Kenya is bereft of modern signs of development: regular electricity, piped water, educational facilities, public safety and the like. Part of this general underdevelopment in Northern Kenya can be attributed to the poor employment of politics to mediate between the need to protect the upward trajectory of development of the high potential areas with the acute need for massive dollop of resources for the low potential areas.

Therefore, those who refuse to acknowledge the place of politics in the governance of a nation are also the ones who are likely to turn a blind eye to the privations of the ones they would purport to speak for in their world of efficiency. Every government must make a choice about what to do with the parts of the nation that have been left behind. Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Toroitich arap Moi made the wrong choice time after time. Mwai Kibaki attempted to change things but his tenure was marred by abuse of office by his underlings and massive graft. Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy have the opportunity to move beyond the management-speak of efficiency. If Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto perfect the art of politicisation there is hope yet that they will deploy their political skills to finding solutions for the most intractable problems facing our young nation. 

Mr Kenyatta's case at The Hague and Mr Ruto's trial have proven to be political problems for which they must find solutions. If they cannot solve the PEV Problem, they may yet find that their government fails on every front. The dead laptop project can be traced to their PEV Problem; politicians and public officers do not have confidence that the President and Deputy President have their minds fully committed to seeing through the Jubilee programme. And because they have been careful enough that the opposition cannot raise a ground t remove them from office they are in a political half-life: until the ICC is tamed they cannot move their agenda forward; and because they are yet to find the political solution for the ICC they cannot put their minds and their skills to moving their agenda forward. Therefore, while we may deprecate their political successes so far, it is time we prayed that their ICC problem is resolved soon so that we can see whether their plans for Kenya re for the better or not.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

A permanent stain.

Every military commander knows that military plans do not survive first contact, or words to that effect. The commanding generals of the Jubilee Alliance have had to adapt to the changing political environment, especially with the changing fortunes of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Fortune favours the prepared mind and Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto are reaping the benefits of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's (and her predecessor's) missteps in the two Kenya cases. Innocent till proven guilty is the foundation of the Doctrine of Presumption of Innocence and Mr Kenyatta, bar the unexpected, is going to witness the collapse of an international case against him. Mr Ruto may yet be acquitted.

That, at least, is what we are told to see. Let us go beyond the superficial, though. Kenya, in 2005, acceded to and ratified the Rome Statute and pledged to uphold its provisions. There was no reason for Kenya to accede let alone ratify the treaty; Kenya my have had serious political violence in its brief history as an independent nation, but even the clashes of 1992 and 1997 did not raise in the peoples' minds the spectre that in Kenya war crimes had been committed. Mwai Kibaki and his Cabinet may have been persuaded by the financial sops that come with these kinds of treaties to sign the treaty, but there really was no reason to accede and ratify the Rome Statute.

Mwai Kibaki wasn't really interested in a second term; he was sickly and he knew he wouldn't cope well with the strains of leading a fractious nation, a termite infested government and a shady opposition. But he changed his mind. He mobilised his political troops. And he refused to concede. Then the country went to shit. Raila Odinga claimed victory. Kibaki and his troops told him to get stuffed. Then it got worse. Thousands were murdered. Hundreds of thousands were raped, maimed, and displaced. Then it became apocalyptic. Mwai Kibaki's government refused to investigate, prosecute or try any of the thousands of cases that arose after that election. 

He did the next best thing. He appointed a Commission of Inquiry and hoped against hope that it would do what all previous commission had done, that is, whitewash the whole affair, exonerate the key suspects and give Kenyans a chance to vent but essentially guarantee that nothing would be done. But he made the grave error of appointing Philip Waki who had no love lost for people who would have radical surgeried his ass out of the judiciary on what turned out to be false testimony who proceeded o investigate with a certain vengeance, prepare and publish his report and then invited the International Criminal Court to Kenya.

In all this, we were assured that the plight of the victims was the reason for the maneuvering. The Office of the Prosecutor was investigating on behalf of the victim. Civil society organisations were participating in the investigations on behalf of the victims. The main suspects reconciled for the sake of the victims. Lip service, one and all. It has been five years. The victims have not been compensated for the lost property. Many lost their lands; they will never go back home. Witnesses who vowed to tell of the horrors of the violence have recanted. The worst betrayal must be the people who claimed to be their leaders and to speak on their behalf have abandoned them to their fate. Politicians and men of the cloth have washed their hands of the victims; they have hitched their wagons to the train pulled by the suspects.

When all is said and done, when the dust has finally settled, and the history books are written, UhuRuto will be praised for its tactics, determination and vision. The footnotes, however, will be a painful reminder of the betrayal of the victims by their government, the Office of the Prosecutor, civil society and the mighty International Criminal Court. This betrayal will linger long after UhuRuto's bones have whitened; it will be a permanent stain on the national conscience.

Monday, October 06, 2014

The bully is always afraid.

Bullies have a certain cretinous way about them, or so decades of received pseudo-psychological wisdom would have us believe. According to some of our local legends, the man who crows the loudest down at the local is most likely the most henpecked at home. But until someone brave stands his ground and refuses to give ground to the bully, we may never know that he is a paper tiger and given the inevitable bandwagon effect that is bound to take place, the bully will find himself with an entourage of flunkies, brown-nosers, ass-kissers and sycophants of every shade - and shape.

When you listen to them, whether you believe them or not, you cannot help but be impressed by the totality of their loyalty, their fealty, their absolute devotion to Their Man. It comes as a quite a shock to realise that professional credentials mean nothing in the here and now if they cannot be dedicated to the success and survival of the one to whom one owes absolute obedience. It is easy now to understand how Gaius Julius Caesar must have felt betrayed when Brutus, Cato and the rest of them refused to give him their total devotion even after they appointed him dictator.

The bully need not have real power; all he needs is the illusion of power which can sometimes be a powerful sight to see. True power comes from legitimacy; it can only be wielded absolutely if the people have handed it to you without reservation. Therefore it is the rarest of things. Indeed, it can be argued that only Adolf Hitler came close to possessing true power which is why every fascist in the making admires the developed Germany of the 1930s but pretends to hate Hitler for the murderous things he had done though the two cannot be separated.

Kenyan bullies rarely, if ever, even enjoy the illusion of power. Their power is frequently purchased by a credit note deposited by their fathers. Some have broken free of the shackles of their family legacies; many are held hostage to ideals they do not espouse for privileges they did not ask for and might not want. They are victims of circumstances which they struggle to shape. And so they surround themselves with similar sons, not necessarily age-mates but definitely members of the same class. And if the bully has even a smidgen of intelligence, he will shape the minds of his cabal and they will swear fealty to him - mostly for selfish ends. But like ,an insidious virus, the fealty-for-selfish-reasons will morph without their realisation and they will find themselves foreswearing reason, logic and sense. They will become the pitbulls to their bully's master and they will maul one and all in his name.

Watching the pitbulls tells one a lot about their master. The more vicious they are in his defence the greater the likelihood that he is but a clay-footed statue, a bit of water and all will be mud. They will deploy their rhetorical and intellectual gifts in his service in order to hide the paucity of his capacity. They will focus on an enemy so that he can be seen to be a general at war. They will achieve little because in their world, every one is a threat and every threat will damn the rest of us to eternal hellfire. They fear the day a David to their Goliath will slingshot himself into the history books and send them and their bully-champion to the ashheap of history. They live in fear because the bully is always afraid.

Our land, our solutions.

When an accusation is levelled against you, whether you committed the offending act or not, there is a hard knot in the pit of your stomach, your mouth runs dry and you always wonder, "Why me?" It is a natural human instinct, I imagine, to defend oneself against any accusation. Even if one did the deed, the shock of the accusation alone will cause the bile to rise in ones mouth. Unless, of course, one is a sociopath, a psychopath or one has some deep psychological problems. When Luis Moreno-Ocampo fingered Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Gen Mohammed Ali, Amb Francis Muthaura, Henry Kosgey and Joshua arap Sang in 2010, he and Kenya could not have known that the dance would be long and devastating.

Whether Uhuru Kenyatta did it or not is now moot; the International Criminal Court is widely discredited and reviled in Africa. Members of the African Union may not volubly share their disappointment with the Court, but few of them will lose any sleep if its defanged and emasculated. It has failed to live up to its billing. While Africa is home to monsters of every shade, the hypocrisy underpinning the rationale of the Court has proven a bitter pill to swallow even for the relative angels in the African Union. Whether we wish to admit it today or when the League-of-Nations style of mishaps are finally apparent for all to see, the International Criminal Court is an artifact of the post-colonial vestiges of the White Man's Burden.

Africa is the laboratory for crackpot ideas. In the Eighties and Nineties, the Bretton Woods Institutions played merry hell with the economies and lives of hundreds of millions of people with their Structural Adjustment Programmes. Their pernicious effects can still be felt today. More recently, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have descended on bits of Africa on another civilising mission, this time dropping democracy along with their cruise missiles on Libya, Somalia and Egypt. As expected, that experiment has not turned out quite as they expected; there are now more unstable regimes wherever the United States and its various "coalitions" have dropped their bombs and planted their flags than at any time in the past twenty years. In time, even Maina Kiai and George Kegoro will be forced to admit that in the annals of human rights progress, the International Criminal Court was a colossal mistake.

The reason is not so difficult to discern. As with all other Western imports to the vast expanse of the African continent, the largely monolithic "Western world" refused to accept the reality of the beautiful diversity that is Africa. Artificial lines drawn at the turn of the Nineteenth Century could not erase cultures and traditions that went back in some cases five millennia. "African solutions for African problems" may sound trite but there is a kernel of truth to it. If there is a continent that will be able to crack the problem of total war, genocide and crimes against humanity, it is Africa - but only if the tried-and-tested shoot-first, shoot-everything policy of the United States and its "allies" is not tried nor tested anymore in Africa.

Yes, African despots have murdered millions of Africans, and yes, African tyrants have looted the treasuries of their nations. So what? It is not as if the much praised "founding fathers" of the United States were saints seeing that their built their nation on the bones of the First Nations. Genocide is a global tradition. It is not as if the British royals were not looters and pilferers of global proportions; when they hand back the Koh-i-Noor to its rightful owners in the Indian subcontinent.

Yes, we can draw lessons from the past gross human rights abuses of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the Vatican, but please do not insist that these lessons can only come from the "West." There were African civilisations that did not treat women like chattels; Pharaonic Egypt and the Aksumite Empire come readily to mind. we are thankful for the mechanised technology that the West has bequeathed the world; but do not mistake technological advancement and prowess for moral authority. We will find solutions to our problems and we will do it with or without the hypocritical whingeing of the boosters of the International Criminal Court.

Empire-building in Kenya.

The Nitpicker, in this Monday's Business Daily, details the hardluck life of those who are unfortunate enough to come face to face with the forces of law and order in the transport sector, as we so eloquently describe it. The subtle intimidation to pay a bribe to the cop who accosts you for one traffic infraction or another. The not-subtle-anymore intimidation when you are detained and asked to post a cash bail. The sledgehammer of the judicial process when you attend court for your date with justice. The minutiae of dealing with the National Police Service, the Judiciary, the Kenya Prisons Service and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions are laid out in the Nitpicker's How traffic laws breed graft instead of ensuring safety and order on our roads, if you know what to look for.

Allow me to add to the discussion. I am told by parliamentary counsel (that is legislative drafters to you, dear reader) of a certain vintage that lawmaking in Kenya had a certain order to it, a certain logic that determined when a law was required. The questions that revolved around the necessity of a statute or a set of regulations formed what civil society operators now know as the policy environment. Difficult questions would be asked and persuasive answers would be found to address the questions. In the policy environment the answer was not always a new statute or an amending statute; sometimes a set of regulations or guidelines would suffice. The decision to pursue a particular course would only be made after a policy paper was prepared that took into account the complex, interlinked circumstances that gave rise to the problem eh policy was supposed to address. That order, that logic, it seems, is no more.

When the Second President discovered that he was on his way out, that the people were not really as grateful as two decades of sycophancy had led him to believe, he took his overbearing hand from the helm. Policy-making died in 1992/1993. National problems could be solved with a mix of ill-conceived legislation and corruption-fuelled ethno-jingoism. The wheels truly came of the bus during the spectacular ten years of the Third President's two terms. Statutes were enacted without rhyme or reason to address so many myriad problems that sometimes a law would be enacted to address something that another law was already addressing.

Many failed to see that the flurry of law-making hid empire building on a colossal scale. Once Moi's dead hand was finally yanked away from the levers of public administration, every permanent secretary worth his salt was busily and steadily building an empire of his own by establishing parastatals and other forms of government-owned entities which would draw from the Consolidated Fund and serve as, (a) retirement plans for the PSs and their cronies or as, (b) piggy banks for the inevitable political ambitions of the PSs. Soon enough the asleep-at-the-wheel members of the cabinet were not asleep any more and they got in on the racket. It was not long after that that our indefatigably avaricious parliamentarians decided that they wanted in on it too. And this is how we ended up with the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) and its penchant for enforcing obscure bits of the Traffic Act.

The NTSA came to life in a policy vacuum; the prima facie rationale for its establishment is sound. A deeper analysis of this rationale will inevitably point out that the benefits of the NTSA's existence will quite soon enough be eroded by its costs. In the current corruption-fuelled law-enforcement environment, it is only a matter of very little time before the NTSA joins the National Police Service's traffic officers and certain members of the Judiciary in the still growing ranks of the corrupt. The true reason for the establishment of the NTSA is to wangle out of the Consolidated Fund ever greater sums for which little oversight will be undertaken by the National Assembly. Past behaviour is a guide to future action. When it comes to billion-shilling allocations from the Consolidated Fund, there has always followed wild speculation with the funds, gross misuse and rife graft. The NTSA can publish its Vision, Mission and Core Values all it wants. That won't prevent it from becoming ever more the parasite that the traffic police are.