Monday, October 31, 2011

How it should be, how it should have been

If there is anything that persuades me that the Committee of Experts' decision to eject politicians from the Cabinet it is the recent vitriolic public spat between the Minister for Medical Services and the Vice-President. Prof Peter Anyang' Nyong'o was incensed at Kalonzo Musyoka's decision to not only visit the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, but also to purport to make policy decisions regarding the problems bedevilling Kenya's second-largest referral hospital. His announcement that the Government would soon release KES 300 million to the hospital was, in Prof Nyong'o's eyes, so unpleasant, he had no reason but to write a whining letter to the President to complain. Kaplich Barsito, the Vice-President's spokesman, must have added fuel to that particular fire by suggesting that as Mr Musyoka is Mwai Kibaki's 'principal assistant', he was well within his rights to do as he did, seeing that he was speaking for the President. Mwai Kibaki, as usual, has not responded, leaving his Minister and V-P to sort things out between themselves. Now, the good professor is suggesting that some elements within government are out to assassinate him!

The destruction of Kenya's public service began in earnest under President Kenyatta and was cemented by President Moi's twenty-four year rule. Even in their oaths of office, Cabinet Ministers professed their fealty to the President first, the people of Kenya coming a distant second. Ministries that were perceived as 'powerful' or 'lucrative' were 'awarded' to loyal MPs; they were rewards for political loyalty and the men and women named to these positions were not appointed for their technical competence. As a result, the public service was used as a weapon to build up the careers of loyalists or to punish those who seemed to have stepped off the line. The people of Kenya suffered as these political games were played: national hospitals frequently went without life-saving medicines or proper managers; the education system is barely creaking along, etc. Kenyans have been getting the short end of the stick for nigh on forty-seven years and with the new Constitution, we have the chance to re-write the rules of political patronage that should serve us well for a generation at least.

Prof Nyong'o and Mr Musyoka should not try to persuade us that they know what is good for the people of Kenya; their records, such as they are, are plain to see. Both should admit that their primary motivation is political; everything else is mere window-dressing.Since the day the Coalition Government was formed, the Cabinet has behaved as if the people of Kenya do not have a voice or an opinion. First there was the unseemly attempt by the Prime Minister to lord it over all his Cabinet colleagues until he was humiliatingly slapped down by the President. Then there were the accusations and counter-accusations of graft by one wing of the coalition against the other. Now it is the apparent 'encroachment' of one member of the coalition into the ministerial turf of another minister in the opposite wing. These people have demonstrated an utter lack of competence that it is surprising Kenya has continued to chug along despite their spirited attempts to derail the country. Their departure from the corridors of power could not come too soon.

The decision to adopt a purely presidential system must have been informed by the fact that Members of Parliament are not appointed to the Cabinet for their technical competence, but for their political utility. The next government will not entertain incompetent men and women in the seats of power; performance will determine whether one is retained in the Cabinet or not. Of course, no one thinks that politics will be completely outlawed in the manner the Cabinet carries out its functions, but considering that it is for their technical skills that the President will nominate them, the chances that Cabinet Secretaries will be pursuing political objectives in their portfolios has receded greatly; the only person to carry the political ball in the Cabinet will be the President. Finally, Kenyans will have the opportunity to witness how an effective ad efficient government will be managed. As portfolios will no longer be used as the lollipops of assuaging the political gods of ethnic communities, perhaps Kenyans are about to enter a phase where the government serves their needs first and that of the political class second. or once, perhaps, politicians are about to become second-class citizens, a place they have long relegated the people of Kenya. If the Cabinet fails, the President has failed and the people will punish him mercilessly at the next general elections by choosing someone else. That is how it should be, how it should have been.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Kenya should aim for in Somalia?

In formal terms, international law is contained in bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements between states, international conventions and international treaties. It is embodied in regional and international bodies such as the African Union, the East African Community, the Community of Eastern and Southern African States, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the United Nations, the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court. 

However, from a political perspective, international law has a whiff of victor's law, as where the United States (and other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) determine what is in their best interest is also in the best interests of the global community, dictating what is right and what is not. The United Nations Charter specifically outlaws 'regime change' and yet, when it was expedient, the United States has effected regime change in Iraq, Afghanistan and, more recently, Libya. As it is, no one is going to suggest that George W Bush or Barack Obama be arraigned before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity or war crime for the command decisions they have taken in prosecuting their various wars around the world. Indeed, where George Bush was tentative in his use of remote-controlled, pilotless aircraft and special forces soldiers in his pursuit of 'terrorists', Barack Obama has not only carried on from where his predecessor left off, but has also expanded the use of these tools to wage an unrelenting global war against the enemies of the United States in places as diverse as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and in our own backyard, Somalia. In the words of a fictional TV character, all wars are crimes.

Kenya has decided to join in on the war gravy train, sending troops to bring the war to the doorsteps of al Shabaab after years of provocation. Someone should have a quiet word with those suggesting that Kenya may have violated the spirit of the UN Charter and other international agreements and remind them that regardless of the legality of the campaign being waged in Somalia, Kenya was and is right to do as it s doing. 

Ahmednasir Abdullahi, in today's Sunday Nation's Straight Talk suggests that Kenya may have broken international law in its war with al Shabaab; the government's reasons for engaging with al Shabaab, according to Mr Abdullahi, do not hold water and that this can be cured by the expedient withdrawal of troops from the battlefield (Legal pitfalls in pursuing al Shabaab across border). If the war is wrong in conception, the length of its prosecution is immaterial; it remains illegal regardless of the time spent on the battlefield, whether or not the objectives of the war are achieved. 

For two decades, Kenya has watched as the international community bungled the Somalia Question; it has spent time, money and manpower to bring the fractious clans to a round table and hammer out an agreement that would bring peace to that benighted land. All of its efforts have been for nothing and Somalia continues to be the Sick Man of the Horn of Africa. It is time that the warmongers among the Somalis were reminded that even apparently docile countries like Kenya have a breaking point and ours was arrived at a long time ago. So, regardless of Mr Ahmednasir's sage advice, Kenya should ignore the international rule-book and stay in Somalia for as long as it takes to persuade al Shabaab that waging their brand of liberation militarism should be confined to their side of the border; crossing over shall have serious consequences, as no doubt the Kenya Defence Forces are reinforcing even today.

It is Donald B Kipkorir, writing in Standard on Sunday's Shores Beyond! who takes the biscuit (Let us fight hard in Somalia but be clear on when to declare victory). Mr Kipkorir suggests that Kenya should aim for three alternative outcomes before declaring victory: the installation of a pliable government in Mogadishu; the sub-division of Somalia between Kenya and Ethiopia; or the creation of a buffer zone between Kenya and the government in Somalia by the creation of an autonomous state within Somalia that owes its allegiance to Kenya and not Mogadishu, to be headquartered at Kismayu. The first and last options are fantasies that will only be realised when hell freezes over. The second option can only be achieved if Kenya gives up the foolish notion that they can create a client state within Somalia that will do its bidding with regards to the security of Kenya. 

A buffer zone along Kenya's 1,200-mile long border with Somalia can be created by making it extremely expensive for al Shabaab and like-minded groups to operate there. This can be achieved by ensuring that the traditional command and control structures of al Shabaab in this buffer zone are demolished, and every time they are re-established, they are destroyed once more. Kenya, therefore, must be prepared to constantly violate Somalia's sovereignty every time it has intelligence that al Shabaab is re-emerging in the buffer zone. Kenya cannot afford a long occupation of Somalia; nor can it pay for the maintenance of loyalty of an autonomous region within Somalia. Our public finances are stretched thin and it would be the foolhardy president who decides to expend national treasure in a project that will not succeed. Until such time the West takes its head out of the sand and agrees on a realistic agenda for the Somalia Question, this is the only practicable solution to the al Shabaab problem today.

Our strategic interests in Somalia in the medium term are security related. Now that Kenya has gotten off the fence, it is time that it re-oriented its policy towards Somalia. Once its military campaign against al Shabaab is concluded, it should join the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, in bolstering the strength of the Transional Federal Government, the TFG, with the objective that the TFG will be expanded to accommodate all moderate voices in Somalia. Once the TFG is capable of holding and securing the whole country, Kenya can consider withdrawing its troops from AMISOM. This is the only reasonable strategic objective that can be pursued with any hope of success.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

An African Century

The death of Col Muammar Gaddafi at the hands of rebel soldiers was as brutal as it was short. Ever since he sized power in 1969, Col Gaddafi ruled with an iron fist, using his secret police and a feckless judiciary to harry, harass and murder his opponents. Other than for a few wide-eyed and misguided morons, no one will miss the colonel. Libya is on the cusp of a transition into a liberal democracy.

Pundits across the political spectrum have opined about the changes taking place in the wider Arab street, noting with satisfaction the overthrow of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and watching with avid interest the changes that are taking place in Syria and Yemen. The putative democratic putsch in Bahrain came to nought while no one is lamenting the place that King Hussein of Jordan finds himself. Meanwhile in Africa south of the Sahara, Zambia elected seventy-four year old Sata on his fourth try and he is doing his best to confound his critics, appointing a mzungu Vice-President and firing generals left and right. But it is the remnants of Africa's old school that continue their grip on power, with Museveni in Uganda having successfully changed the constitution to keep him in power for a further five years so that he can finish what he started (never mind that it is becoming more and more apparent that he really does not have the interests of Ugandans at heart, but rather the state of his wallet now that Uganda is about to become an oil power).

Kenya has gone off to war with a terror organisation a-la USA and has also managed to confound neighbours with the effectiveness of its military strategy so far. For a country that has never executed a war before, Kenya is playing it right, with nary a soul claiming human rights violations or bringing the international community down on its head. They keep claiming that the twenty-first century will be the Chinese century, what with the billions of dollars it is pouring in far-flung and forgotten regions of the world. Methinks it will be an African century. We have a young population, land to expand our populations in, and an interest in reforming the way we have been governed ever since the British, German, Russian, Portuguese and Spanish empires came to nought. We may not have the money or the technology to rival the 'developed world', but a hundred years is a very long time and anything could happen. If Kenya, Tunisia, Egypt and Zambia could do it, so can the rest of the continent. The Chinese better watch out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why a short campaign is better than a long one in Somalia

The President and the Prime Minister have come out strongly to justify why Kenya should conduct military operations in Somalia against the terror group, al Shabaab. Given that this is the first time that Kenya is carrying out hostile operations on foreign soil, the delay in the political leadership in making this statement remains unexplained, but we will take what we can. However, even in their various and varied statements, the politicians have failed to give a credible explanation of the political goals of Operation: Linda Nchi to date.

Regardless of their political affiliations, Kenyans are united in wishing victory for the Kenya Defence Forces. The peaceniks have been silenced in the face of continued provocations from al Shabaab and elements aiming to copy them in their tactics against Kenya. Ever since Kenyans were the victims of the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, it has been a matter of time before our patience ran thin and we took unilateral action against the terrorist groups operating in and out of Somalia. They have become a threat to the peace and security of Kenya, and their recent forays into parts of Kenya's coastal belt and the Capital City have only strengthened the resolve of our government to respond in kind. However, opinion continues to be divided over whether the operation should be short or prolonged long enough to eliminate the threat against this country.

If Kenya decides to become an occupying force in Somalia, then we must be prepared to bear the economic costs of such an occupation. Even a short operation carries with it the risk of escalation, causing anxiety in the capital markets and delaying much needed private investment in the private sector. The lessons that the United States and its NATO allies have learnt from the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should dissuade Kenya from becoming militarily entangled in Somalia beyond six months.

A longer occupation of that war-torn country will drain much-needed public resources from the country, resources needed to not only prepare Kenya for the complete transition to a new constitutional dispensation but also from other much-needed areas, such poverty alleviation and food and water security. Therefore, it is imperative that the political leadership provide Kenyans with assurances that a credible exit strategy has been formulated. Continued public information of the aims and objectives of the government is necessary to alleviate the fears engendered every time a nation goes to war. The President and Prime Minister must take this to heart or they may lose the public goodwill so necessary to sustain the military operation.

What is our plan?

The recent 'incursion' by elements of the Kenya Defence Forces into Somalia in pursuit of members of al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-affiliated militia responsible for murder and kidnapping across Kenya's border with the lawless Somalia elicited threats of retaliation from persons who claimed to speak for the terror group. This past Monday, two grenade attacks took place against civilian targets in Nairobi's Central Business District, killing one, but keeping the injury count mercifully low at less than 20. While police investigations are being conducted, speculation is rife that these attacks were by fifth-column elements of al Shabaab hiding in plain sight amongst the civilian population of Nairobi. Meanwhile, Kenyan politicians of Somali origin have thrown their might behind the government's efforts to neutralise the al Shabaab threat. However, noting the increased incidences of intimidation and discriminatory acts perpetrated against persons they claim to be innocent Somalis, they have called upon the government, in particular the security agencies, to proceed with great caution so that the civil liberties of the Somali community in Kenya are not held to ransom at the hand of the majority community.

As Kenya's 'incursion' into Somalia enters its eleventh day, it is becoming more and more apparent that the famed discipline of the Kenya's men and women in uniform is richly deserved (or, at least, we are very, very good at keeping news of indiscipline out of the national media). It is also becoming apparent that Kenya's foreign policy establishment leaves a lot to be desired. It was a mistake to re-appoint Moses Wetangula as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, though he seems to have the consummate diplomatic operator in Thuita Mwangi as his Permanent Secretary. It helps that Amb Francis Muthaura can be counted on to offer direction as Head of the Public Service. The Minister has been unable to craft a well-thought out diplomatic strategy in support of Kenya's operations in Somalia, failing even to get the President of the Somalia Transitional Federal Government to sing from the same song-book as his colleagues in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD. He has been unable to keep the intemperate Minister of State in the Office of the President for Defence, Yusuf Hajji, from speaking to the media, and when he does speak, to do so with circumspection and deliberation. And he failed spectacularly to get the President and Prime Minister to come out early with public statements to justify their going to war at a time when Kenya is facing severe budgetary contractions, its currency is at its weakest for almost a decade, and drought and famine-related emergencies have yet to be fully resolved.

On the home front, the Minister of State in the Office of the President for Internal Security and Provincial Administration, Prof George Saitoti, has come out of his shell and, it seems, lit a fire under his security chiefs asses to do more with significantly less. The Kenya Police Force (soon to be renamed the Kenya Police Service), the Administration Police Service, the Anti-Stock Theft Unit, and the General Service Unit have been placed on high alert, and despite the dastardly attacks of Monday, are responding as swiftly as possible to internal security events. Indeed, even the recent murderous squabbles over pasture in Isiolo South District have received the full attention of the Minister and his staff and he has assure the residents of the violence-prone area that the disarmament programme that had been suspended in the wake of the Referendum Campaign of 2010 will be revived and pursued with renewed vigour.

Despite all this, it remains unclear what our tactical and strategic objectives are as a country. All the players involved in this matter seem to have taken a holiday from advising anxious Kenyans of what is going on and what it is hoped will be achieved. Dr Nene Mburu, a former army officer, writing in today's Daily Nation, makes this point forcefully, going so far as to call the incursion a strategic miscalculation (Kenya's much-hyped incursion into Somalia a strategic miscalculation). Pointing out that al Shabaab is not a national army, does not fight under a national flag, and can easily disband and regroup, Dr Mburu argues that to eradicate it completely as threat would require the establishment of a fully functioning national government whose writ extended beyond o few neighbouhoods of Mogadishu to the whole country. He also points out that Kenya's push for the creation of Puntland as a nation-state to act as a buffer with war-torn Somalia proper would be a strategic mistake, as the instability in Somalia would still overwhelm Puntland and cross over into Kenya's North East. The bottom line, despite the tom-tomming of Kenya's punditocracy, is that unless we have a clear strategic objective or a credible exit strategy, our adventure in Somalia may come back to bite us in the ass.

KKV not enough to sink Odinga's chances

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Dr Bonny Khalwale, has declared that if his Committee finds the Prime Minister liable for the Chinese accounting that took place in the Prime Minister's Office with regards to the World Bank monies meant for the highly popular Kazi Kwa Vijana programme, it will not hesitate to call for the Prime Minister to take political and personal responsibility for the quick-fingeredness of his mandarins. 

Prime Minister Raila Odinga managed to survive the maize scandal in 2008 by shifting the blame squarely on the Minister for Agriculture at the time, William Ruto, who has shown that he can give as good as he got. It is too bad that the people supporting his call for the PM to take responsibility, step aside and allow full and impartial investigations, are his fellow political travellers in the Gang of Seven Alliance, including the hapless Eugene Wamalwa, brother to the late, great Michale Kijana Wamalwa, and a putative presidential candidate in next year's general elections.

It is also too bad that the Kazi Kwa Vijana programme and the scandal it has now engendered do not have the same visceral appeal to the punditocracy as the maize scam did or the scandal that attached to the Kenya Primary Schools Support Programme that saw Education Minister Prof Sam Ongeri come under popular fire for the manner in which he had handled it. The Prime Minister has decided to keep mum over the matter, despatching loyal lieutenants to calm the political waters on his behalf. However, he may have miscalculated by having only loyal Luo Nyanza politicians fighting this particular battle on his behalf and if he is not careful, he may be tarred with the tribal brush putting paid to his presidential ambitions.

Love him or loath him, the PM is the consummate Kenyan politician of today, playing off his opponents against each other in a symphony that has prevented them from finding their political footing. He remains more popular than the leading lights of the Gang of Seven; every time they seem to land on a new strategy, it seems to wash off the PM's back like water off a duck's back. Despite what many perceive as autocratic tendencies in the manner that he has executed his duties as PM or as the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement Party of Kenya, Raila Odinga has emerged as a nuanced and pragmatic politician, capable of making hard decisions as and when needed. 

The manner with which he dumped Miguna Miguna is encouraging, given the untenable position his former Advisor on Coalition Affairs had placed him in. This time too he must act with ruthlessness; if there are public officers who abused their offices in the manner with which the handled the World Bank funds in the KKV programme, he must jettison them at the earliest opportunity and change the political narrative. Resignation is not an option he can exercise safely. Not if he wants to retain his position as the front-runner at the hustings next year.

Looking at the expanding field of presidential contenders, it is clear that at present Raila Odinga presents the people of Kenya with the best choice possible. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, unless the Pre-trial Chamber II comes back with a different decision, will have a hard time managing presidential campaigns while undergoing trial at The Hague. Eugene Wamalwa is a neophyte prone to intemperate statements and dodgy alliances. Martha Karua will not shake off her hard-eyed and steadfast support for President Kibaki in the aftermath of the 2007 general elections. Raphael Tuju and Peter Kenneth suffer from the fact that they do not seem to have constituencies larger than the ones that sent them to Parliament. Tuju, also, has to explain away how the good people of Rarieda got rid of him after just one term; claims of an ODM wave will no longer wash. Unless Raila Odinga makes serious political mistakes between now and 2August or December 2012, the presidency is his to lose.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lessons from Gaddafi's fall.

It was all going to end badly for Muammar Gaddafi. When the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation decided to join hands with what would eventually morph into the National Transitional Council, his goose was well and truly cooked. To his dying day, Col Gaddafi believed that he was right in the manner that he had ruled, though he would dispute the fact that he was a ruler in the traditional sense. His death at the hands of the ill-trained, ill-equipped elements of the NTC was predictable; what was not, was the fact that Washington DC and London showed such disinterest in the whole affair. But then again, Barack Obama's administration had kept their involvement in the whole affair at arms length, and London had long since given up strategic leadership in the matter to the Brussels-headquartered NATO. 

After swiftly recognising the NTC as the legitimate heirs to Col Gaddafi's regime, the combined leadership of the West turned their attention to more urgent and pressing concerns such as the imminent collapse of the Greek economy, followed by the efforts of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to stabilise the global economy following its less than stellar revival after the end of the 2007/08 crisis.

This is the lesson that Kenya needs to take away from the sorry affair in Libya. When Col Gaddafi decided to give up the pursuit of Weapons of Mass Destruction, handing over the results of his research and detailing his international contacts with groups that were hostile to the West, he was, briefly, feted in the capitals of the West. Regardless of who was in power, he enjoyed favours from both the White House and No 10 Downing Street. Libya was taken off the list of sponsors of terrorism and was slowly being rehabilitated into international bodies and systems. 

But American and European leaders constantly underestimated the breadth of discontent from among the Libyans themselves, and when the uprising against Gaddafi commenced 6 months ago, it took them some time to get their ducks in a row and throw in their lot with the rebel fighters. But even their support for the rebels had the whiff of disinterest and now they are left with the choice of interceding more muscularly as the NTC tries to build new institutions in a nation that has gone a whole generation without any.

In the aftermath of the 2007/08 crisis, Kenya welcomed the assistance of international interlocutors, including the African Union, the European Union and the US Government. Now that we have decided to conduct military operations against al Shabaab in Somalia, we are once more begging for the intervention of these same powers, as well as hoping that they will legitimise our actions in the international arena. 

What we seem not to have considered is that they will only do so once they have determined what their interests in the matter will be. They will not intervene simply for altruism's sake, but because their national interests are at stake. Kenya will pay a price for the help it will receive from the international community, and we must honestly discuss whether we are prepared to live with the cost of such 'help'. The costs remain unknown for now, but without a national discussion they will continue to remain unknown.

For a decade now, Kenyans have studiously refused to come to terms with the nature of their government. Even during the referendum campaign in 2010, Kenyans were only preoccupied with the political nature of the contest, refusing to hold a candid examination of the nature of the government that they were choosing for themselves in the new Constitution. That attitude has allowed our political leadership to get away with almost anything. When the dust settles in the aftermath of the 2012 general elections, if indeed the elections are held in 2012, we may yet find ourselves at the mercy of foreign interests. 

For instance, devolution, we are assured, is the panacea for skewed development priorities going back 47 years, yet we seem incapable of agreeing on whether devolution is a good thing or not. We are also persuaded that a presidential system is preferable to a parliamentary one, yet there seems to be no candid discussion of how such a system will be implemented after decades of a parliamentary system. Without answering these and other thorny questions, we may find ourselves 'importing' foreign 'experts' to assist us to govern ourselves, with the result that the priorities that may be pursued may yet again favour foreign interests at the expense of our own. Watch what happens in Libya for it is a harbinger of a new form of neo-colonialism.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The experiment worked; our soldiers can fight. Now bring them home

It may be in bad taste to question official government policy when members of our armed forces are engaged in hostilities on foreign soil, but it cannot be helped. Prof George Saitoti, who is not the Minister of State in the Office of the President for Defence, stated yesterday, after the Mashujaa Day festivities at Nyayo Stadium, that Kenya would go to all lengths to destroy al Shabaab as a threat to security in the region. Now, al Shabaab is not a national army; it is not even a national criminal-cum-terrorist organisation. Unlike the Islamist, anti-Hindu terrorist organisations fighting in the Kashmir Valley in India, it does not enjoy the semi-public patronage of any government or secret police of any country. It is not a global terrorist organisation; its attacks have overwhelmingly concentrated on Somalia proper, with brief forays into Uganda and Kenya. However, it claims affiliation with al Qaeda, the organisation responsible for penetrating US defences to murderously devastating effect on 11 September 2001.

Somalia, two decades after it descended into bloody, internecine war, is a pale shadow of a functioning nation-state. The Transitional Federal Government, which is simply the biggest and best-protected gang in Somalia, enjoys legitimacy only among the members of the clans that comprise its membership. Regardless of the bloodthirstiness of al Shabaab, the TFG is seen as venal, corrupt and heavily partisan, and it will never enjoy the same level of legitimacy that the Islamic Courts Union, that flourished briefly between June and December 2006 and was foolishly toppled by the US-backed Ethiopian armed forces, enjoyed.

The piracy taking place in the Indian Ocean is proof that the terrorism that was engendered by the collapse of the Somali state after the fall of Mohammed Siad Barre has morphed into a sophisticated and well-oiled machine in 2011. Rough and unconfirmed estimates put the haul from the Indian Ocean piracy at $400 million, much of it not going to Somalia, but to the true merchants of death to be found around the Gulf of Aden, especially in Yemen and Oman. It is presumed that it is these benefactors who have an interest in perpetuating the Somali civil war, hence their suspected support for groups such as al Shabaab, which is by no means the only Islamist organisation in Somalia today. So given this scenario, who exactly have the Kenya Defence Forces been sent to vanquish? How long will they be in Somalia, and will their campaign turn into an occupation?

Once more, I turn to the question of what exactly our foreign policy is. At least during President Moi's long and ruinous reign, we knew where we stood in the comity of nations. Since Mwai Kibaki was sworn for the first time in 2003, we have muddled from one policy to another without a coherent strategy or even a basic plan, for that matter. Other than rapidly washing its hands of the Somali and South Sudan problems as soon as they showed signs of being resolved, what exactly has defined Kenya's foreign policy engagements in the Greater Eastern Africa region, especially with regards to the Horn of Africa? The answers to these questions are crucial to determining what will constitute success in our Somalia adventure. Unless we are prepared to keep our soldiers in Somalia indefinitely, or until the idiots in Washington, London, Paris and Bonn come to their senses, the moment our troops come home a new rag-tag Islamist militia will rise up to take the place of al Shabaab and this cycle will repeat itself.

So while I am proud of the courage of our soldiers and I pray that they remain victorious in their engagements with the enemy, I must ask that they be recalled and deployed along the border until the mandarins in Nairobi tell the nabobs in Harambee House and the National Assembly the truth about the true state of affairs. Wars are always fought for political reasons; what was the rationale for invading Somalia, pursuing what amounts to a cross-border criminal organisation with delusions of world domination, that does not control the territory it fights in or enjoy the legitimacy of the people of Somalia?

Why should I care?

I know I should care that the Kenya Defence Forces are engaged in operations in hostile territory, but I don't. I know that I should care that the President and the Prime Minister have demonstrated resolve, and are united in formulating a strategy to take the fight to al Shabaab deep inside Somalia, but I don't. I know I should care that Nairobi and, indeed, other parts of the country are on heightened alert because of the war with al Shabaab, but I don't. What I care for is the fact that I have been royally screwed by my Member of Parliament, and his colleagues, and that these hyenas show no remorse for the manner in which that have handled (and mishandled) matters of grave national importance.

Celebrating Mashujaa Day yesterday should have been a moment of pride in both my government and its leaders, but it wasn't. The spectacle of the last living members of the Mau Mau in their Sunday Best, but quite clearly poverty-stricken and ill, is the final sign of humiliation that I am willing to bear. How can it be that Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who benefitted so greatly from the activities of the Mau Mau, betrayed them so egregiously? Crude as this may sound, but the Mau Mau was formed primarily of residents of the Mount Kenya region dominated by the Kikuyu and yet, in a government dominated by Kenyatta and other Kikuyus, they saw nothing of the fruits of their labours. 

Twenty-five years after his death, another Kikuyu in Mwai Kibaki was elected president, and still they continued to be treated as unlettered pariahs in need of the occasional alms but no official recognition. Ironically, it was the colonial government that outlawed the Mau Mau, and this decision was not rescinded until well into the Kibaki presidency. And yet, even then, when the last of the Mau Mau decided to sue the British government for atrocities committed by the colonial government, the Government of Kenya did nothing to support or facilitate their claims. To this day the true heroes of the Mau Mau rebellion continue to be treated with callous disregard by a government that would not exist without their blood or sacrifice.

When Mwalimu Julius Nyerere described Kenya in cannibalistic terms as a man-eat-man society, he could not have known that we would sink even lower. The system of conferring national awards on ne'er-do-wells simply because of their political affiliations has a long and disgusting history in Kenya. Witness the thousands upon thousands of quislings that were officially recognised by the colonial British in Kenya. Witness the thousands upon thousands more that had national honours conferred upon them by not just the Kenyatta and Moi governments, but also the Kibaki regime who have nothing to commend them but the amount of money or 'political assistance' they can bring to the men and women in power. 

Yet, the true heroes - the men and women who bring honour and glory to this nation - continue to sit on the sidelines like spectators at a Gor-AFC clash, with the attendant innocent-bystander injuries to show for it. Men and women who have not only run down national institutions, but have lied, cheated and killed their way to national prominence continue to enjoy the official recognition of the Government of Kenya, while the men and women who have run marathons in record-breaking, award-winning times, the men and women who have volley-balled themselves into world championship status, have been ignored and treated with contempt, their running tracks and stadia taking second place to edifices of official corruption and impunity erected in every political back-yard, from the Turkwell Gorge on down.

I know I should care that the Kenya Defence Forces are engaged in operations in hostile territory, but I don't. I know that I should care that the President and the Prime Minister have demonstrated resolve, and are united in formulating a strategy to take the fight to al Shabaab deep inside Somalia, but I don't. I know I should care that Nairobi and, indeed, other parts of the country are on heightened alert because of the war with al Shabaab, but I don't. Why should I when I know that no one else does? Why the hell should I?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

No longer politricks-as-usual

The KKK alliance morphed into the Gang of Seven which has now morphed into the Gang of Seven alliance. When they first came together, their primary focus was how to prevent Prime Minister Raila Odinga from succeeding President Mwai Kibaki after the next general elections (whose date has been thrown in doubt because of the machinations of the Cabinet, the resolute stand of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, and the delays in setting up the Supreme Court of Kenya). They had resolved to direct all their energies to painting the Prime Minister if bad light, blame him for some of their more serious political difficulties, and generally show him to be the wrong person to be president come 2012. 

They have now come up with a new plan, which is essentially, more of the same. While they have resolved now to focus more on how they will govern and what policies the will pursue, their underlying philosophical reason for being, is to prevent Raila Odinga from assuming the presidency after the next general elections. The more things change, the more they remain the same, or so it seems when it comes to the Gang of Seven Alliance.

But even with their new strategy, they will still suffer from a credibility gap. For instance, they cannot legitimately promise to pursue different policies while in power if they have not proposed such policies in their various capacities in this government. Their promise that they will be different cannot be taken at face value since they do serve this government, with varying degrees of loyalty, and have shown no indication that they will resign in order to challenge the received orthodoxies of today. Mr Musyoka, who oversees the Home Affairs ministry in addition to his position as Vice-President, while waiting to move into his sh 383 million 'house', has done very little to improve the conditions in Kenya's prisons, including their overcrowding and the operation of criminal conspiracies by inmates and warders alike. 

Millions of Kenya's mobile phone users continue to be snookered by criminals behind bars through dodgy get-rich-quick schemes. Chirau Ali Mwakwere oversaw the concessioning of the Kenya-Uganda Railways to the shady Sheltam Corporation despite the fact that Roy Purfett, it's Managing Director, could provide no proof of his experience in such a venture nor provide sufficient capital to oversee the transformation of the railways. He was eventually bought out by an Egyptian company with experience in these matters. Mr Mwakwere, meanwhile, has not been investigated by either the Public Investments Committee or the Public Accounts Committee for the manner in which he oversaw the concessioning or the decisions that were taken under his watch. 

Mr Kenyatta has overseen the largest depreciation in the shilling and admits that the steps that may revive it will not have an impact for at least six months. Kenyans continue to suffer the effects of a weak shilling including high energy costs and a rising rate of inflation. The controversial reappointment of the Governor of the Central Bank continues to hang over his head, especially now that it seems that Prof Njuguna Ndung'u is unable to do much to shore up the shilling against other world currencies. 

Mr Ruto has been dropped from the Cabinet for, among other things, allegations that he has previously engaged in corrupt acts. The effect of the ICC trials on his political activities cannot be downplayed either. Eugene Wamalwa has made some strange forays into national politics over the past year. First he was seen in the company of the self-confessed leader of the outlawed Mungiki sect, a quasi-religious criminal organisation that has been blamed for some of the worst murders in Kenya's history. Then he made the rather incredible claim that his claim to the presidency was predicated on the promise that Mwai Kibaki had agreed to allow his brother, the late Michael Kijana Wamalwa, to succeed him and that because of the Vice-President's death, this obligation has been inherited by him. 

Prof George Saitoti, a former Vice-President, has been in charge of internal security at a time when Kenyans have suffered great casualties at the hands of foreigners along the Kenya-Somali, Kenya-Ethiopia and Kenya-South Sudan borders. The continuing deaths of Kenyans and foreigners in Kenya at the hands of groups such as the Toposa and the al Shabaab are glaring proof that he has failed in his duties.

If these are the men promising changes post-2012, we are better off recalling President Moi from retirement! It is also now emerging that the Gang of Seven Alliance has opened 'negotiations' of how to share power after the next general elections, with crucial positions being dished out to members of the Alliance, including those of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Speaker of the Senate, Presidential Running-mate and Leader of the Majority Party in Parliament. They have managed to maneuver Parliament into making key amendments in key Bills to ensure that some of their plans come to fruition; for instance, the changes that they proposed and were adopted in the Elections Bill and the Political Parties Bill are meant to strengthen the Gang of Seven's hand during the next general elections. So is the Cabinet's proposed amendment to the Constitution to hold the next general elections in December 2012. 

The upshot of all this is that the Alliance is not concerned with what will benefit the people of Kenya; rather, they are still obsessed with keeping Prime Minister Odinga from assuming the presidency. They are yet to admit to themselves that Kenya is a changed country and that politricks-as-usual will no longer cut it. They are yet to make a credible claim that one of their own will make a good president, let alone a better one than the Prime Minister.

Opinion is free but facts are sacred

Ahmednasir Abdullahi makes a startling accusation in today's Straight Talk (Voodoo economics and development corruption, Sunday Nation, 16 October 2011), while Prof Makau Mutua, in his Letter from New York, makes a rather sweeping declaration that in effect describes President Moi's entire twenty-four year reign as a tribal kleptocracy that did nothing good for the nation at all (Why Raila should not dance with Moi). Both authors attempt to create the impression that their statements, opinions if you must, are based on fact and that they should be accepted at face value simply because they attempt to explain why Kenya is the way it is today while simultaneously offering a guide to what it should do to become better in the future. Mr Ahmednasir accuses President Kibaki, in effect, of sitting at the head of a giant mafia corporation that has enriched a few at the expense of the many by concluding, without producing any proof whatsoever, that Mr Kibaki has created more billionaires in his nine year reign than all former presidents combined or, indeed any other country on earth! The impression that he creates is that he has information detailing the manner and means employed by President Kibaki and the billionaires created by his government to attain their Croesus-like riches. If this were the case, and respecting the laws of slander and libel, Mr Ahmednasir must produce this information and disseminate it to the wider public to allow them to know who is and who is not worthy of the respect and esteem such wealth brings them.

Prof Mutua will not accept that anything done during President Moi's twenty-four year rule was good; he will not accept that circumstances moulded President Moi into who he became, especially from around 1981 to 1983. President Moi did not set out to craft an authoritarian government; the circumstances he found himself in and the choices he was left to make shaped how his presidency came out. The men who surrounded the late President Kenyatta had attempted on several occasions to prevent Mr Moi from assuming the presidency and, failing that, attempted to undermine his presidency at every turn. Africa, at that time, was emerging from a century of European imperialism, and many fledgeling independent countries were unstable, to put it mildly, with competing factions seeking to rule. The received orthodoxy was that strong central rule was preferable to anarchic devolution or federal structures and hence President Moi's transformation into an overbearing, unforgiving autocrat who would brook no dissent or opposition. As one of the strategies of prolonging his reign, President Moi used the enormous powers of his office to reward loyalists and to punish dissenters. The truth is, though, he did not destroy the forces of change; they emerged in the late 1980s and forced him to change tack, repeal section 2A to the former Constitution, allow multi-partyism to grow, and eventually ceded power peacefully to a popular new government. An analysis of the twenty-four years that President Moi was in power will reveal a more complex and nuanced picture than the one painted by Prof Mutua.

Both authors betray a penchant for making wild allegations without foundation that has become another of the peculiar habits of Kenyans.No one will dispute that President Moi ruled more like a dictator than a democratically elected president, and no one will dispute that corruption has flourished under President Kibaki's watch despite his promises of fighting tooth and nail to eradicate it during his tenure. But this is not enough to state without reservation that Moi's reign was an unqualified disaster or that President Kibaki is solely responsible for the enormous levels of known graft within the corridors of his government. Other than the pacification of warring Somali clans in Kenya, and the ethnic cashes that characterised the 1992 and 1997 general elections, President Moi oversaw one of the most peaceful and stable periods in Kenya's history, and other than the mere allegation that Mwai Kibaki has created more corruption billionaires than any other president, his social programmes have done more to alleviate poverty than is acknowledged. He has managed to provide free basic education to millions of primary school-going children, and his Rapid Results Initiative and Performance Contracting System for the public service has done more to improve services to citizens than is being acknowledged. It is not enough to accuse the two presidents of being at the centre of some of Kenya's most intractable problems; one must also provide the proof for such crimes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

British imperialism in Kenya has a lot to answer for

I have read Murithi Mutiga's exchanges with RA Massie-Bloomfield with avid interest and I am staggered that someone would suggest that Kenyans should look at the period of British imperialism in Kenya with fondness or gratitude. We cannot suggest that Kenya go back to what it was before the white man brought Christianity and nationhood to Africa; the wheel of history has turned too far for there to be any reversal. But for anyone to suggest that the British did what they did with the best of intention is to be willfully blind.

When the British turned Kenya into a colony in 1921, they should have expected that Kenyans would play by the same rules that the colonial administration wished to impose o Kenyans. The immediate results of the declaration of colonial status were the Harry Thuku-led land agitations of the 1920s that would not die down until the British had been forced to grant Kenya self-rule in 1963. Operation Anvil and the declaration of a state of emergency revealed the colonial government for what it was - an administration unwilling to admit that it was racist to the core. 

No one who appreciates the importance of democracy can deny that what the British engaged in between 1952 and 1959 was authoritarian and akin to the much maligned Apartheid system in South Africa or the Stalinist dictatorship of the Soviet Union. Indeed, Mr Massie-Bloomfield would probably deny that the concentrations camps favoured by Nazi Germany were the direct descendants of similar tactics employed by the British, especially during the Boer Wars of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. 

The British continue to deny that gross human rights violations, which had the imprimatur of official sanction, were committed against the valiant warriors of the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s. Just as in the case of the Chagosians' claims against the British government that have been kept alive for close to three decades, the British government continues to deny the validity of the surviving Mau Mau fighters against the British government, and Mr Massie-Bloomfield continues to hanker for a golden age that was golden only for the white man in a black man's country. His is not an isolated condition; it is shared by the politicians in Whitehall and the thousands of white Britons who continue to believe that their mission to civilise and Christianise the African continent was a mission directed straight from On High.

The bitter legacies of British colonial rule are manifest today in the distorted land policies pursued by successive governments and the state of our political progress over forty-five years after Independence. While we may welcome criticism that seeks to ensure a more equitable nation, we must not allow ourselves to be talked down to by men and women who wold wish to deny the past. Successive British High Commissioners have seen fit to lay down what is and what is not right with the governance of Kenya forgetting that if it had not been for successive colonial policies pursued by their government, we would not be in the boat that we find ourselves in today.

Before anyone can profer advise about how we should go about resolving the myriad conflicts that confront us today, one must accept, without reservation, that the British colonial experiment did not acquit itself honourably or admirably, and that in its final decade, it did more to set back the wheel of democracy than the successive repressions of the Kenyatta and Moi governments.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Save the child, save the future

The Law Society of Kenya, the pre-eminent trade union representing the interests of practicing advocates in Kenya, guards very jealously its reputation. If an advocate is shown to have acted unprofessionally, or have brought the Society to disrepute, the penalties will be imposed without mercy. Which is why I cannot for the life of me understand how the Kenya National Union of Teachers would stand idly by as 641 of its members used and abused children under their charges, committing such acts of sexual violence against them that would surely bring tears to the parents who happen to read this little note.

Gabriel Lengoiboni's Teachers Service Commission has decided to act and the 641 animals will be sent home. About time too! Time also for the KNUT to follow suit and strike these animals from its roll. Regardless of the toll that this round of sackings will take on the teaching profession, it is the right thing to do. But, the Commission must go further - it must set about instituting proper early warning and reporting procedures to offer the children under the charge of the teaching profession the security they deserve, to protect them from the animals that have infiltrated one of the oldest and noblest professions known to mankind. And when these animals are caught, it should not be enough that they lose their teaching privileges. They must also face the full brunt of the law and total ostracisation by their fellow teachers. It is the least we could do to demonstrate that we will have no truck with men and women who would seek to snuff out the light of curiosity from the young and the innocent.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

An eco- or industrial future?

What should be the balance between environmental concerns and economic development? Since the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act came into operation in January 2000, this question has bedevilled the mandarins in the Ministry of Environment, the National Environment Management Authority, local authorities and developers and not one of them has come up with a satisfactory answer. The late Prof Wangari Maathai, who was cremated today, championed the cause of forest conservation for the better part of her adult life. As the founder and Director of the Green Belt Movement she stood up against the State just when the deforestation bandwagon was gaining traction. Many will remember with gratitude the war she fought with Moi's KANU when the then ruling party wanted to annexe a portion of Uhuru Park for the construction of a 60-storey building. They will also remember the wars she fought against Moi's regime when the Karura Forest was being systematically decimated by ecologically destructive developments authorised by the Moi government.

Prof Maathai managed to link environmental issues with governance, and in winning the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace she was vindicated by the global community for demonstrating that where people lack a voice in the governance of their nation, they lack the opportunities to manage their natural resources responsibly, effectively and for profit. But she never got a chance to demonstrate that environmental demands should supersede the demands of the business community. The record of the West when it comes to environmental issues has been mixed but only because the knowledge that we have gained since 1972 came too late to reverse some of the decisions that had been taken over a course of close to 250 years. The Industrial Revolution, while turning Europe and America into economic powerhouses, also decimated the natural environment and developed technologies that are the bane of the environment today. But without the assiduous employment of coal in the beginning of the Revolution, among other capital factors, their economies would not be where they are today, climate change concerns notwithstanding.

Kenya finds itself at a cross-roads. To industrialise, some environmental concerns must be jettisoned. There are enormous deposits of iron and coal in Ukambani, but to exploit them fully will mean generating many millions of tonnes of climate changing green-house gases. But without generating larger volumes of electricity, our steel and cement industries are dead in the water. These, by the way, are primary components in the industrialisation of this country. If we are to rapidly industrialise as Vision 2030 demands, we will have to set aside extreme environmental concerns for the economic benefits of industrialisation. Not many eco-extremists want to hear this.

Examining our options, we are left with few choices, but some advantages to the industrialising nations of Europe and North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. The information and technologies available today may help to a great extent to mitigate against the ill-effects of the industalisation of the nation. For instance, while the employment of coal will significantly increase the production of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, the knowledge gathered from carbon-sequestration studies suggest that the effect may not be completely negative if the correct techniques are employed in mitigation. Prof Maathai's One-Billion Trees project may also assist in restoring degraded forests and lands in Kenya, contributing significantly to reversing trends that have been observed since at least the mid-1970s. Ecological concerns and industrialisation are not mutually exclusive and the fact that Kenya is now part of an integrated global community means that the potential to co-opt many more partners in its quest for industrial growth has only increased. Perhaps it is time that the policy makers in government and the eco-warriors of the NGO sector joined hands to properly draft policies that not only ensure that our industrial future is sustainable, but that all sectors of the society benefit from the natural riches of this nation. This will be the true legacy of Prof Maathai's struggles for the environment.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Iron fists and velvet gloves

Kenya's foreign policy cannot be held hostage to the demands of the Mt Kenya Mafia. Kenya is surrounded by nations that are either in transition or in complete disarray. Somalia has been a festering sore since Mohammed Siad Barre was deposed in 1990. South Sudan, Africa's newest nation-state is still grappling with the after-shocks of nearly forty years of civil war. Ethiopia and Uganda are quasi-democracies in the grip of men who know that they are the saviors of their nations and as such, indulge in regular intimidation of Kenya along their common borders. But it is Mwai Kibaki's foreign policy that has failed to forestall the regular territorial incursions from 'militias' in our neighbours' territories that betrays our utter lack of a coherent foreign policy.

Under President Moi, Kenya sought to bolster its security by engaging with other regional and international partners to find lasting solutions to the wars that bedevilled Somalia and Sudan, ending up with a peace of sorts in Sudan and a Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. Mwai Kibaki's government has attempted to build on the successes of the peace initiatives with a marked lack of success. Instead, his government has allowed the economic agendas of a few to dictate how and when Kenya will respond to the changing situations in the two countries. Even in its relations with Uganda and Ethiopia, the Government of Kenya has relied more on soft-power diplomacy than on the overt deployment and use of its vastly superior armed forces. The result has been a constant stream of talking shops that do not seem to resolve basic territorial issues. 

Ethiopia will go ahead with the massive dam project on the River Omo despite the fact that it will adversely alter the livelihoods of thousands in Turkana for the worse. South Sudan, now that it has gained independence from the North, will seek to bolster its territory by laying claim to Kenyan territory it claims was filched while it was busy prosecuting its civil war. The lack of a credible central government in Mogadishu has allowed the al Shabaab to visit indignities upon Kenyans and their visitors almost at will. President Kibaki's declaration that Kenya will defend its territory against all comers misses the point: force must be the last of a long series of overtures aimed at stabilising its back yard.

The recent attacks by elements of the al Shabaab in Lamu demonstrate that the work of living peaceably with the Republic of Somalia is not yet done. Kenya, and the world, need to re-engage more robustly with moderate elements in Somalia to stabilise the country. Without a functioning national government capable of enforcing its writ in the whole of Somalia, closing the border will only be a temporary solution to a strategic problem. What is needed is a strategic initiative to strengthen the Federal Government, ensure the active participation of all political elements in the governance of the country, and the elimination of extremists from the political and military arenas. This will go a long way in restoring stability along Kenya's border with Somalia and reducing the acts of terrorism by groups such as the al Shabaab.

Mwai Kibaki must jettison the commerce-led interventions of the past 7 years and pursue a multi-pronged strategy that calls into play its military, diplomatic, cultural and commercial elements. The al Shabaab must be reminded that Kenya's military may not have fought in a war, but it is well-trained, well-equipped and highly motivated. They must be persuaded that they can make more money through legitimate means than through religion-fuelled terrorism. For that, Mwai Kibaki must authorise Kenya's defense forces to enter Somali territory every time there is an incursion along our borders. Anything less, and we will be dealing with the al Shabaab for a long time to come.

Friday, October 07, 2011

This is our time

Kenya's Second Liberation has been seen as an overtly political event, ignoring the changes, some of which were against received orthodoxy, that have taken place since at least the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century, especially the changes wrought on an unprepared nation by the mandarins of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. 

The Government of Kenya has been complicit in keeping Kenyans' eyes on the political arena and away from the economic and sociocultural liberalisation that accompanied the political changes that have taken place. With the ratification and Promulgation of a Constitution after a Referendum in 2010, the political project is on course to further liberalise the politics of Kenya as never before. However, it is in the economic and to some extent the sociocultural spheres that the lives of ordinary Kenyans have been greatly affected and our failure to examine and re-examine these changes has contributed significantly to the uncertainty and turmoil hat we are facing today.

September 2011 will certainly go down as one of the bloodiest in Kenya's history, the bloodshed not being the result of civil strife or political turmoil. The month has exposed the failures of the liberalisation that has taken place in Kenya since the 1990s. While the markets and the economy were opened up to competition from within and without, the political structures needed to ensure their successes have been wanting. The Kenyan State still remains fundamentally unreformed, with the changes that have taken place over the past fifteen years being concerned with ensuring its efficiency and not its efficacy. 

The Government has consistently failed in its liberalisation - failing to ensure peace and order, the rule of law, eradication of corruption or stable fiscal and monetary policies. As a result, the sociocultural and economic turmoil has not kept pace with the optimism engendered by the freedom agenda of the Second Liberation. Indeed, it could be argued that freedom came to Kenya too early and we are now paying the price for not keeping our eyes on the ship of state as it navigated the non-political waters of the economy or the sociocultural ocean.

With the explosion of the internet and mobile telephony, many urbanised Kenyans have access to information and ideas at a rate that is unprecedented, but with the unremitting hand of the state on their backs, it has been impossible for Kenyans to wean themselves from the "tunaomba serikali" mindset that characterises their day-to-day lives. As a result, what we would think of as a liberal economy is in truth an economy that is overly reliant on the government to do or not do certain things. This, to a large extent, explains why it is impossible for the people to pay for their basic needs or to afford the luxuries of life. 

Where trade with the government is prioritised over trade with other citizens or foreigners, there is no chance that the economy will be able to survive manipulation by a well-connected and informed elite. Rent-seeking is the natural result of the government being the predominant player in the market-place, and only those with strong ties to the ruling elite will have access to the best information or the opportunity to exploit this information for profit.

The Second Liberation is far from over and it behooves Kenyans of all stripes to participate in the transition from an oligarchic system to a truly liberal one. The advent of devolved government offers many an opportunity in making decisions that will have far greater impact on their economic lives than at any other time in Kenya's history. If we allow the devolution model to be hijacked by a political class that is still wedded to the halcyon days of the KANU Era, poverty, ignorance and disease will continue to stalk large swathes of this benighted country.

They all fall, eventually

The member of the National Assembly for Mumias East is a spectacularly unpleasant character. But he is not unique. A former member of the Na...