Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Shame of it all

I am still amazed that Kenyans expect the politicians to do the right thing. When the Communications Amendment Bill is signed into law, it will not be because Kibaki does not understand its implications - he understands them only too well. When he and Raila arrived at an arrangement to deal with the matter of the tribunal, we were not privy to what was discussed. It is entirely possible that they are trying to bring the matter to a close in the most judicious manner possible. However, our experiences of these two principals is different.

Kibaki has betrayed his political allies in the past. So has Raila. So why won't they betray us on this small matter of investigating, trying and punishing those who caused so much death and destruction earlier this year? Why? Because it is in their nature.

I once asked why Kenyans reposed so much faith in their local politicians during elections. I still do not have a convincing answer, except that Kenyans are political idiots and they swallow the lines that politicians lay down. It is this level of stupidity that has persuaded the political class that they can ride rough-shod over us, shit on us and take us for granted.

It is why when the parties held their elections to comply with the Political Parties Act, cabinet ministers and 'senior' MPs took over the paerty organs at local and national level. This is in stark contrast to other mature democracies where the party and the state are two separate entities. These people are repeating the same errors of the KANU dicatorship. It is only a matter of time that our hunger and anger grows to be too heavy a burden to carry and we will act.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A clean break with the past?

When the Hon. Mr. Justice Philip Waki gave retired UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan that envelope, he broke with a past that was filled with death and disappointment. All previous Commissions of Inquiry, barring perhaps the Kriegler Commission, have had one true mandate - to give the government time to regroup after committing offences and getting caught. Even the Hon. Mr. Justice Kriegler (ret.) could not escape from the Kenyan way of doing things - he did not come out and state what we all suspected: that PNU stole the elections and that the ECK helped them do it. He apportioned blame equally which was the same as shelving the report as all previous reports have been shelved - just mention the Kiruki Commission and see what happens.

Justice Waki has destroyed an edifice that Moi and Kenyatta and, yes, Kibaki have spent the past 46 years creating. he has shown that given imagination and strength of character, one man can indeed make a difference. Now, while we may not have much faith in his brethren on the bench, Mr. Waki has shown us that we can repose our full faith in him without trepidation.

If only the political class, or as some of us think of them, the political underworld were so promising. The idiocies that have characterised theantics mo the so-called unofficial opposition beggar belief. But it is when their interests align, PNU and ODM, opposition and establishment, front-bencers and back-benchers, presidential candidates and also-rans, that they really show their true colours.

The side show between Martha Karua and Kiraitu Muungi, Mr. Johnstone Muthama and his cohorts over the payment of taxes on allowanvces collected by MPs simply tells me this: they will never put my needs first. Kenya is in great and urgent need of a sbetter higher education system, a robust economy, an efficient public and civil service, and security of the person and property. These hyenas in suits have done nothing to see to it that our priorities are addressed. It does not help that the so-called principles (Kibaki, Raila and Kalonzo) are the three legs of a stool that cannot support the weight of the population's aspirations because of their individual weaknesses - Kibaki, because he is a lame duck; Raila, because of his unbriddled ambition; and Kalonzo, because of his treachery.

In one fell swoop, Mr. Justice Waki showed us that it is possible to break with the past. It is now up to all of us to either emulate him or snuff out the candle of hope that he has lit for us.

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech

When the Communications Act becomes law by way of presidential assent, the members of the Fourth Estate vehemently opposed to it will have no one to blame but themselves. This is a fact of Kenyan political life. And if the editors of the Nation Media Group, the Standard Group and the other players in the news market deny that they are political players, they will never get off the state's, and indeed the National Assembly's, black-list. They will also not see the support of the masses in their bid for fairness.

When the Standard Group had its newspaper's premises raided and equipment impounded without explanation, did you see the huddled masses on the streets rioting on behalf of the media conglomerate? We simply tut-tutted, and changed the channel. This answer should tell the media houses that we have our own problems and the fact that they have not done anything to champion our rights means that we don't have to do anything to champion theirs. Who gives a damn about a free press when he goes hungry or is unemployed or has had his farmland confiscated without the due process of law?

The partisanship that was displayed by the media, which I believe contributed significantly to the chaos after the results of the 2007 general elections were announced, have persuaded Kenyans that the media is not out to look after the people's interests but its own.

The problems bedeviling the people of Kenya can be laid at the doors of the politicians and the media houses that give them air time, whose commentaries do not address the root causes of our problems, and whose profit-driven editorial content places more emphasis on retaining ad revenue than speaking truth to power. Until they face the truth of whe they are, the media have no business conflating a free fress with freedom of speech.

My right to free speech, my freedom to speak and think as I please, cannot be equated with the freedom of the Fourth Estate to lie and distort the truth in the name of a free press. I am sure that a free press is vital in the West; they have developed to a point where the people will listen and appreciate the assistance being offered - after all, many of the issues affecting the western world are litigated and interrogated in the press first. Kenya, and Africa, are remarkably and shockingly different. At least, during the Kanu era days, one had a very ggod idea where at least on newspaper stood.

The situation today is unparalleled in the manner in which the Kenyan press has become so wedded to the idea of more money that the rights of the people no longer feature in their abacuses. Their attempts to tempt the youth with professionally produced tabloids - for how would you describe the Nairobi Star and the Daily Metro? - simply prove that they are not interested in informing the people of the problems they are facing and propose solutions. Entertainment is all well and good, but what use is it for a media conglomerate to own radio and TV stations if it cannot nuse them to entertain?

They have failed us and they have failed themselves. They shouldn't ask us to help them out of this government-sanctioned turkey-shoot for they did nothing for us when we were at the receiving end of an enthusiastic, highly motivated politically inspired or government-sponsored lynch-mob.

We need to learn, again, how to think

I don't think the parliamentarians of the National Assembly will heed the call and #RejectFinanceBill2024. They will tinker. They will v...