Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
John Michael Njenga Mututho (KANU, Naivasha) is on a campaign to better regulate the alcoholic beverages industry by moving a motion that would seek to regulate the manufacture, sale and distribution of all alcoholic beverages in Kenya. He has a point. In the recent past, many Kenyans have died or been blinded by the effects of methanol-laced alcoholic beverages, some produced in industrial units. It seems that the standards bureau has been ineffective in ensuring that the quality of what we consume is regulated effectively. This is not the first time that Kenyans are suffering injury or death after enjoying a drink at their local, but it seems that the government is not interested in checking the proliferation of distilleries that peddle such toxic offerings to the unsuspecting public. Every time there is such a mishap, the Provincial Administration swings into action and a few jua kali distilleries, usually in our expansive slums, are raided and the contents of their drums poured down the drain. This is what Hon. Mututho seeks to change.
The National Campaign Against Alcohol and Drugs Abuse Authority (NACADA) is the government's chief agent in educating the public about the harm that alcohol and drugs cause in people. It has been a failure for the most part. The number of youth who indulge excessively in alcohol and drugs is increasing. NACADA had a victory in seeing the Tobacco regulation Bill become law in 2008. If they have their way, the Alcohol Regulation Bill will also become law. However, it will not solve the underlying problem of alcohol and drug abuse among the youth.
In Kenya, even after the East African Breweries started insisted on carding people at clubs and pubs, images of teenagers smoking and drinking still continue to emerge. One news story showed how the students of a secondary school in Nairobi's Ngara area, in uniform no less, managed to access a pub near their school even on school days. Nairobi School was famous for the number of students caught in police swoops in Kangemi pubs. It got so bad that the police actually set up a police post in the school to ensure that the children concentrated on the studies and not on happy hour at the hundreds of vibandas that dotted Kangemi. Up-country students, more often than not, know the location and price-lists of every chang'aa den in the vicinity of their schools and frequently end up being the number-one customers. This is a problem that is getting out of hand and in some districts, it has become an epidemic.
Even if Hon. Mututho and NACADA successfully steer the alcohol Bill through Parliament, unless they start to educate the youth about the pernicious effects of alcohol and drugs, the problem of lethal brews will not go away and the arrest and prosecution of chang'aa brewers will not cease simply because there is a new law that requires them to meet KEBS standards. In the West, this problem is usually tackled by punishing heavily the owners and managers of pubs who 'contribute to the delinquency of the youth'. This should be a rule adopted in Kenya. It should be made prohibitively expensive for a pub owner or such similar person to offer for sale, sell or supply any person under the legal age any alcoholic drink or tobacco product. The children should not be let off either. In addition to constant education on their ill-effects, teenagers should face the consequences of their actions too. Some form of punishment is warranted that impress upon their still-forming minds that it is wrong to circumvent the law, even when one is a minor. In the end, if we value the children that we have charge over, we cannot sit idly by as an entire generation becomes captive to substances that are clearly harmful to their health and evey parent, guardian, care-giver and adult should take part in ensuring that minors are protected, even from themselves.
During the 2007 General Election, Raila Odinga attempted to run what was essentially an American-style campaign. It was a failure. President Kibaki did not even bother to campaign. The less said of the other political aspirants, the better. They relied on the old system of calling on our basest instincts to make their political statements. This is the reason why it is impossible to remain inspired by a politician and why we tire of them so soon after the last ballot is cast.
The Promulgation Ceremony at Uhuru Park was an opportunity for our leaders to inspire us to greater heights of self-sacrifice and dedication to the good of the country. They failed us once again. The Prime Minister styles himself as a rhetorician of the first order and he is capable of inspiring feelings of loyalty among the multitudes that throng his rallies. But he is no JFK or MLK. His speeches are bland and unremarkable, remembered only for the target of his particular ire when they are made. They are easily forgotten and it takes a dedicated Fourth Estate to regurgitate for the masses the paltry offerings of the perennial presidential candidate. In Salim Lone, he seemed to have a person who could, conceivably, re-shape his engagement with the people, but he quit in frustration seeing that his public relations skills were of no use to a man who will not, or is incapable of, listening to any voice other than his own.
Dr. Alfred Mutua, the government spokesman, has also failed to articulate the president's thoughts effectively. His press briefings have the feel of a Soviet-Era love-in, where the leader speaks and the masses adulate, whether they heard the speech or not. His job is akin to reading the menu at a restaurant; the information that he supplies could be gleaned from the front pages of our dailies without straining the gray matter.
Movie directors tend to take liberties with the subjects of biopics, but they usually stay true to the essence of the person they are filming . about. Watching the film Boycott, one cannot but admire the way Martin Luther King, Jr, prepared and rehearsed fro his public engagements. He would research deep into the night the remarks that seemed to off-the-cuff but which packed a powerful message to inspire the masses in their boycott of the racially segregationist policies of Alabama. President Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural address is remembered for intoning the words that government is not the solution to the (economic) problems that bedevilled the American people in 1981, but the problem. President Obama, as the Democratic Party's Presidential Candidate, will be remembered for inspiring the American people with his messages of change and hope during his remarkable presidential campaign. The same cannot be said for Raila Odinga or President Kibaki.
PLO Lumumba is eloquent and erudite in equal measure. His public speeches are usually well-drafted and delivered in a tone that evokes the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. But, even he, falls short of inspiring the nation. The statements that he has made after his confirmation as the new Director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, have been loaded with rhetoric ut have been short of policy statements of what he intends to do or how intends to do it. He does not inspire confidence going by his statements.
The next few years will require the nation to rally around the difficult task of implementing our progressive Constitution. The role of inspiring the people to greater sacrifices and dedicated hard work will fall upon our leaders. If they are incapable of writing, or having someone else write, inspiring speeches towards this goal, the job of implementing the Constitution will start to feel like a chore and the people will quickly lose interest and start to complain of the ills that the Constitution has failed to eradicate. Simply telling the masses that this is the best Constitution ever is not enough. We must feel a need to participate. We must be inspired. Our leaders should not fail us in our hour of need for we need them more today than ever before. Where will the inspirational speeches come from, I wonder?
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Ukambani has been reduced to three counties: Makueni, Machakos and Kitui. At present it has 17 MPs, led (if that is what it is) by the Vice-President, Kalonzo Musyoka. However, his hold on the leadership of Ukambani is not assured with the presence of Charity Ngilu and John Harun Mwau in the field. In recent months he has lost the support of the two Kilonzos, Charles and Kiema, both members of his party, ODM-K as a consequence of his vacillation on the question of whether or not to ratify the Proposed Constitution of Kenya. Even Hon. Ngilu's recent rapprochement with the Vice-President was not an endorsement of Kalonzo's leadership of the Akamba Nation.Save for the staunch support of the Hons. Mutula Kilonzo and Johnstone Muthama, Kalonzo increasingly cuts a lonely figure. Who can forget Hon. Wavinya Ndeti's harsh rebuff of the Vice-President some time ago? Or the continued antics of Kalembe Ndile?
The battle for supremacy ahead of the 2012 presidential elections sees Kalonzo as a viable candidate, especially if the so-called KKK alliance with Hons. Ruto and Kenyatta still holds true. However, as a Daily Nation cartoon so hilariously asked, what does Kalonzo bring to the table? Hon. Ruto was instrumental in rallying the Kalenjin Nation, almost to a man, in rejecting the draft. Hon. Kenyatta has been identified as the primary flag-bearer from Central Kenya, if the Maragwa 'fund-raiser' was an indication of the feelings of the House of Mumbi. Kalonzo could not rally the Akamba behind him in a convincing manner. Indeed, he was even thrown out of Kathiani by the same people he would be begging for votes in 2012. It seems his halcyon days, when he managed to pass between Raila and Kibaki in 2007, are behind him and he has to start from scratch rebuilding his Ukambani juggernaut afresh. Will he succeed?
It is said that you underestimate the Vice-President at your own peril. He has demonstrated that he is capable of removing obstacles that stand in his way. Poor Mutua Katuku and Kalembe Ndile learnt this the hard way when the ODM-K juggernaut rolled over them in 2007. Katuku has faded from sight and Kalembe is busy trying to resurrect his political career by jumping onto every anti-Kalonzo bandwagon that rolls into town. However, Charity Ngilu and John Harun Mwau proved that Kalonzo's writ does not run large over the entire Ukambani region and that it was possible to outspend and out-strategise the wily V-P.
Just like in the dying days of the Nyayo Era, it is now said that the man to beat in 2012 will be Raila Amolo Odinga. Who among the minnows will it be: Ruto, Uhuru or Kalonzo? Those reading the political tea leaves tell us that Ruto, Uhuru and Kalonzo must present a united front if they have a chance of denying Raila the presidency a second time around because between the three of them they control a larger political constituency than Raila. If this is true, Ruto and Uhuru have already proven that for the time being they command a far larger and visible political constituency than the V-P; that they have cemented their places as the leaders to beat in their respective regional strongholds. For Kalonzo to play at their level, he must prove that he commands a far larger constituency in Ukambani than what was revealed during the recently concluded Referendum. He must overcome the perceived view that 'his' people no longer trust him and that he can still bring out the Akamba en masse to vote for him.
2012 is unique because we will be choosing a President and Deputy-President. The winning candidate does not have the luxury of appointing his supporters from the legislature to the Cabinet. That particular pork-barrel has been yanked away by the New Constitution. Therefore, Kalonzo has to persuade his erstwhile allies that he is the primus inter pares, the first among equals. Will he be able to do so especially with his apparently diminished pull in Ukambani? He must also ensure that a sizable chunk of the 290 elected MPs in the 1st Parliament of the 2nd Republic consists of his allies or members of his political party otherwise he may be unable to govern effectively with what will essentially be a hostile Parliament nipping at his heels. Kalonzo must begin the arduous task of building a winning national coalition that will ensure that his party or his party in a coalition with other parties controls Parliament. This means ensuring that he teams up with people who will ensure that the Presidential votes from a majority of the 47 counties swings for him. If he is unable to do this, hs career is as good as over. If he loses the presidential election he will not even have the satisfaction of being appointed V-P again or a Cabinet Secretary. The Constitution, again, has removed this option from the table. He can't even be appointed to some parastatal or an ambassadorship somewhere. He may have to retreat to the Kalonzo Musyoka Foundation, though no one knows what exactly it does or indeed, whether it has done anything.
But it is in Ukambani that his machinations may come to nought. There will be 3 counties up for grabs with about 60 county seats in contention. John Harun Mwau, Charity Ngilu and Kalembe Ndile will ensure that Kalonzo spends valuable capital ensuring that his supporters control Makueni and Kitui Counties. For the moment, it does seem that Ruto and Uhuru can count on their supporters controlling the seats in the Counties in their backyards. This is not the case in Ukambani for Kalonzo. He has managed to lose the support of the MPs in his own party. It may be that Kiema and Charles Kilonzo and Wavinya Ndeti are not the powerhouses they style themselves to be, but they can ensure that the battle is lost. It may be that their rebellions are signs of things to come. Between them and Charity Ngilu and John Harun Mwau, they control 5 constituencies and approximately 25 county seats. These are sufficient to create momentum against the incumbent V-P and create the impression that he does not have a grip on things in his own house. That could prove dangerous while running for the presidency. It may create the impression nationally that he is not a safe pair of hands to hand over the reins of state to. And that would put paid to his ambition of being president.
For the time being, the politicians will be busy ensuring that the Constitution is implemented in a manner that will ensure that they continue to enjoy many privileges when the next general elections occur. That means that Kalonzo has an opportunity to rebuild his political constituency and build up sufficient political capital such that in 2012 he will be a serious player in the same rank as the resilient Prime Minister. That mans persuading, arm-twisting and otherwise commanding support among the remaining two power-brokers. If he fails to prepare sufficiently, 2012 will be his Waterloo and he will have none to blame but himself.