Monday, January 30, 2012

Why should I sympathise with the ICC Four?

Try as one might, it is near impossible to sympathise with the plight of Messrs Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Joshua arap Sang or Francis Muthaura, who face the prospect of a protracted trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity. Should their trials proceed, and should they be convicted, and should they further lose all their appeals, the face the even grimmer prospect of spending a significant proportion of the rest of their lives in a foreign prison, cut off from their nearest and dearest and detested back home by the victims of the violence that roiled the country in the aftermath of the fiasco that was the 2007 general elections. 

It is impossible to imagine how their families and friends will cope with such a result. And yet, despite these grim possibilities, one cannot feel sympathy for these men when thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children, the aged and the young, the employed and the unemployed, the rich and the poor, suffered such grievous harm - physically, materially and spiritually and the men and women that visited these violations upon them walk free, the Director of Public Prosecutions having done nothing in the months since he was appointed in 2011.

Messrs Ruto and Kenyatta did not suffer as the people that suffered did. Their families did not fall victim to marauding hordes of murderers, arsonists, robbers, burglars, thieves or rapists. Their properties, secure behind high walls, chain-link fences, and gun-toting private security agents, remained secure, while billions of shillings in low-income housing and the bric-a-brac of everyday life went up in smoke. Or was looted. 

Their children have not suffered the indignity of spending four years living amongst hostile host communities, in fields, under tents without running water, electricity, with the sub-conscious (and frequently, conscious) knowledge that their lives and their safety are not in the hands of the much-reviled Provincial Administration or Kenya Police, but in the hands of politicians like Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto. Despite what the two, and the men and women that sing their praises, say about the state of reconciliation between ethnic communities in Kenya, particularly between the ethnic communities that reside around Mt Kenya and in the Rift Valley respectively, not a soul believes that the next general elections will not be followed by another round of blood-letting and score-settling between the winning and losing coalitions and alliances.

Every time the twisting and winding road to the ICC trial brings the four accused persons to a new stage, the callous way in which the suffering of thousands upon thousands is swatted away in an orgy of prayer for the accused, there are not enough tears to shed for the victims of 2007/08. What makes it a double-whammy into the solar plexus is the incessant images of men and women of the cloth completely forsaking their duty to be a source of solace for the lesser of this world and laying their hands upon those accused of some of the most inhumane acts this nation has witnessed since Independence in 1963. 

Compound this with the manner in which their government, however imperfect it may be, has treated them. The Grand Coalition has used the plight of the homeless and the maimed as a plaything being fought over by two-year olds. It is shameful that for a Cabinet of over forty men and women, some of them very accomplished professionals, who have made their fortunes in all manner of legitimate, semi-legitimate and patently illegitimate ways, and who have on every possible occasion declared their solidarity with the victims of 2007/08, to see their plight persist, the promises of the government being forgotten, and the concern of the President and Prime Minister and their respective acolytes directed at the ICC accused and the ICC accused alone.

So it is impossible to sympathise with the ICC accused, with their high-priced lawyers, layers of professional security, billions in private assets, living in comfort and luxury while the men, women and children that suffered in 2007/08 continue to suffer. It is impossible to sympathise with Messrs Uhuru, Ruto, Sang and Muthaura when the victims' own government abandons them, refuses to restore to them their illegally appropriated property, and consistently demonstrates that its sympathies lie with the accused and not the victims. Since the accused have the sympathies of my government, one is not expected to add to that considerable amount of goodwill; one can only spare a thought of the families whose pain and suffering is yet to soften the hardened heart of their government.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Opportunist

Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, the eponymous Vice-President, cannot win. Countless times he has broadcast the message that he stands in solidarity with the DPM and Eldoret North MP. Did he not embark on a foolhardy mission to stave off the ICC trials for them? Did he not declare that he would challenge them to a fair fight in the nomination process to field the best candidate to face PM Odinga? Yet somehow, every time he opens his mouth, the doubts about his sincerity magnify. 

Things are not helped much when his party's Secretary-General proclaims with legal and constitutional certainty that the two other legs of the apparently dead KKK Alliance are ineligible to stand for high office. Not only must the Veep walk back such politically untenable statements from the bowels of his party, he must fight perceptions that this is his true position, being a lawyer too. He must fight the perception that he is secretly happy to benefit from the legal problems assailing his colleagues. The kupita kati kati business of four years ago has come back to haunt him.

Mutahi Ngunyi and every other pundit describe him as a political opportunist, reaping where he has not sowed. In 2007 he was a presidential candidate, in his mind the equal of the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, and the leader of ODM, Raila Odinga. At every opportunity he declared that he was not looking for a consolation prize; he wanted the top job and nothing was going to prevent him from taking it. Then Kenyans started killing each other and to put an end to the mayhem, he not only agreed to back the doubtfully elected Mwai Kibaki, but agreed to form an alliance with him to beat back the ODM claims of poll irregularities. After all, so it emerged, he really did want the V-P's post. So it should not surprise him that his erstwhile allies are suspicious of his loud support for them in their hour of need. Perhaps it is a strategy to mop up their political support and votes when they are eventually carted off to The Hague to stand trial for international crimes. He will have managed kupita kati kati once again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Even when declaring that the PNU alliance is the vehicle to beat, he is busily strengthening the stupidly re-named and re-branded Wiper Democratic Party. Even when he stands shoulder to shoulder with Ruto and Co, he is busily ensuring that he does not get ensnared by the ICC dragnet. Even while he is declaring that he will concede to a duly chosen flag-bearer come the general election, he is busily ensuring that he is Wiper's presidential candidate. That he is not alone in these maneuvres makes it twice as hurtful that he is the only one accused of opportunism. Mr Ruto has moved from KANU to NARC to ODM to UDM and has now settled on URP. His is the quintessential opportunism Mr Kalonzo is being accused of. Compared to Mr Musyoka's relatively short road to Wiper, Mr Ruto has travelled far to get to where he is today. As has the PM from FORD to Ford Kenya to NDP to KANU to LDP to NAK to NARC to ODM. So why is the tag of 'opportunist' only applied to the Veep?

When difficult choices must be made, Mr Musyoka has consistently failed to make the right choice. As Secretary-General of KANU, he was privy to the growing irrationality of the Moi decision-making process. In 2005, when the Orange Movement was at its height, he had already decided to set himself up as the next president, regardless of the democratic principles that the Movement claimed to espouse. When Kenya was ablaze in 2008, rather than demand that the vote tally be re-done, he decided to set himself up as the balance that would tip the scales in favour of the incumbent president. In 2011, despite the fact that he must have known that it would be futile, he engaged in a flurry of activity, ostensibly on behalf of the Ocampo Six, to have their trials conducted in Kenya rather than at The Hague. 

Mr Musyoka knows that regardless of what the political pundits and law commentators state, it will be very difficult for Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to stand for the presidency at the next general elections. He hopes to use their political infirmity to his advantage and to the defeat of the PM. What he forgets is that once a public perception is created of a person, it is very difficult to reverse, and every one knows him to be an opportunist. His chances of winning over Messrs Kenyatta's and Ruto's vote-banks recede by the day.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Different election year, same shit

If Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto want to stand for the presidency, why shouldn't they? Mr Charles Nyachae and Prof Githu Muigai, in rare unanimity, both contend that they can. Mutula Kilonzo, speaking as an advocate of long standing with decades under his belt as sharp legal eagle, thinks otherwise. Certainly, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto do not see any valid reason why they should put their political ambitions on hold simply because a court located thousands of miles away wishes to try them for crimes against humanity and other international crimes. The loud voices of civil society ensured that Mr Kenyatta and Amb Francis Muthaura stepped aside as Finance Minister and Head of the Civil service largely because the International Criminal Court's Pre-trial Chamber II confirmed charges against them. But, should they have resigned?

Three years ago, the President, the Prime Minister, two successive Justice Ministers and a Member of Parliament attempted to establish a local tribunal to try the alleged perpetrators of the violence that rocked the country after the 2007 general elections. All their attempts were in vain; many Parliamentarians were persuaded, largely through Mr Ruto's rhetoric, that The Hague was the better option. They saw in the President's and Prime Minister's attempts to set up a local tribunal a naked attempt by the Prime Minister to lock them up and prevent them from what they saw as rightfully theirs: the Presidency. However, when it became apparent that The Hague Option would be exercised sooner than they had hoped, they changed the narrative, blaming the PM for their legal woes. Be that as it may, who is right on the question of whether Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta can put themselves forward for the presidency?

Listening to the lawyers and law scholars, one is left even more confused. The law, even the Constitution, gives no satisfactory answers. They all point to different articles in the document to show why their argument should carry the day. This is the legacy of twenty-four years of KANU rule. When President Moi succeeded Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1978, not even he dreamed that he would remain at the helm for that long. If he had not faced resistance from certain quarters at every turn, and if he had not faced an attempted coup, perhaps he would have ruled with a much lighter hand, leaving the possibility of a less fractured political system. But, as they say, that is so much water down the Nile.

Today, one will be hard-pressed to find a politician in and out of Parliament who would struggle to satisfy the strict leadership and integrity tests prescribed by the Constitution. In Parliament today are politicians who before they were elected had been accused and convicted of financial crimes, were instrumental in fomenting violence against 'outsiders' in their communities, were the beneficiaries of questionable (illegal and irregular) government contracts, and all sorts of malfeasance. They have been elected and re-elected at least once. The people who sent them to Nairobi are not ignorant of these facts and have willfully chosen to ignore them. So why should civil society purport to speak for the voters when they state with finality that the DPM and the Eldoret North legislator cannot stand for high public office?

Presumably, the millions of Kenyan voters anxiously awaiting a date for the elections are alive to these facts too. If they are convinced that it is not wise or proper to have men accused of heinous crimes as their fourth president, they will demonstrate their choices by electing someone else. The ballot is the ultimate opinion poll. Not even Messrs Uhuru and Ruto can escape its verdict. Even the church leadership has largely avoided this debate, perhaps because it is not as moral as it presumes to tell us it is. They chose sides last time around; they chose sides during the violence and one presumes they will choose sides this time around. The morality of the question is a red herring that will be ignored, all politics being local. So, even if the two and their other two co-accused, stand trial at The Hague, and are convicted, I do not see them packing it in and leaving the field to their competitors. They intend to stay the course, regardless of what the mighty civil society says or does. After all, other than the scale of the accusations, what is so different this time around that we have not witnessed in elections gone?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why?

Why did they think they could get away with it? That is the question that will occupy historians for millennia. Just as historians keep going over and over the motivations of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, so too will historians go over the ashes of the 2007 general elections and ask themselves how the ruling classes thought they could get away with it. Thousands were murdered in their homes and in the streets, though the official figures put it at 1,300 or so. Tens of thousands were maimed, some for life. Hundreds of thousands were displaced and billions of shillings of private property looted and destroyed. To date, tens of thousands continue to languish in abject conditions. So, when we see alleged ring-leaders being held to account, we must ask, "Why did they think they were going to get away with it?"

When Samuel Kivuitu, the head of the dismantled Electoral Commission of Kenya, declared Mwai Kibaki re-elected in December 2007, he set the stage for what would be a bloody confrontation between the re-elected president's supporters and those of the eventual loser, Raila Odinga. When the leading lights of ODM called for "mass action", could they have predicted that things would get so out of control that the country would not be the same again. At that stage, it was well within the President's power to put an end to the mayhem. He controlled the army, the police and all organs of government. No has suggested that he was not in control. So did he not deploy the security services to quell the violence as it erupted. If it is true that he, and Mr Kenyatta and Mr Muthaura, met with representatives f the outlawed Mungiki sect at State House, and that it is at these meetings that a plan was hatched to retaliate for the perceived persecution of the Kikuyu in the Rift Valley, how were they going to keep details of these meetings from seeing the light of day? If it is true that Mr Ruto and Mr Sang plotted to persecute the Kikuyu in the Rift Valley, and that they had a system in place to do so long before the elections were called, how did they hope to get away with it?

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga could not have predicted the turn of events that the mediation process would have led to. Kofi Annan and his team of eminent African personalities conducted themselves honourably, though suspicions persist that they were acting in the interests of outside forces. As a result of their efforts, Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga share power uneasily in a coalition, Commissions of Inquiry were appointed to look into the issues surrounding the elections and their aftermath, and two landmark reports were issued, though it the Waki Report that has led us to where we are today.

If Raila Odinga and ODM had accepted the flawed results of the general elections, if the mediation had not led to the investigation of the violence, or the Kriegler and Waki reports, or the promulgation of the Constitution ... if, if, if. Today, as a direct consequence pf the 2007 general elections, Kenyans have a Constitution that they are proud of, their leaders are being held to account, and impunity, for once, has a fight on its hands, but the question "Why?" refuses to go away. We may never know, but we should never forget and we should always question. It is the least we can do.

Timely reminders

Servant leadership is defined as a management philosophy which implies a comprehensive view of the quality of people, work and community spirit. It requires a spiritual understanding of identity, mission, vision and environment. A servant leader is someone who is servant first, who has responsibility to be in the world, and so he contributes to the well-being of people and community. A servant leader looks to the needs of the people and asks himself how he can help them to solve problems and promote personal development. He places his main focus on people, because only content and motivated people are able to reach their targets and to fulfill the set expectations.

By that definition of servant leadership, it is quite clear that the leaders of Kenya, bar a few exceptional individuals, do not see themselves as having responsibilities to the people of Kenya, the men and women who every five years elect them to high office or appoint them to positions of responsibility. The debates surrounding the Nancy Baraza saga, and the resignations of both Uhuru Kenyatta and Francis Muthaura as Minister for Finance and Head of the Civil Service respectively, has failed to address the wider failings of the leadership caste in Kenya, instead focusing on the perceived ills this class have suffered at the hands of an overeager, overreaching civil society class that is unaccountable to no one, unelected and unappointed.

Looking at the allegations levelled against the three, one shivers to think that they could have held such lofty positions when such allegations were hanging over their heads. They may protest their innocence, but that they ignored the allegations, then fought them at every turn, and now have legal proceedings initiated against them speaks volumes about whether they see themselves as servants first, serving the best interests of their respective stakeholders, or rulers whose words are law, who are to be obeyed or else...

Mr Kenyatta's argument that his position as Deputy Prime Minister is political and that he need not 'step aside' as he has as Finance Minister does not wash. Neither does Ms Baraza's attempt to prevent the coming inquiry by a presidential tribunal into her actions on New Year's Eve. No poll has been taken, but there is a sense that an overwhelming majority of Kenyans favour the courses that are being charted in various fora. We want the process of determining their guilt or innocence to be concluded speedily and their fates to be known. Of course there are those who see a political windfall, especially in the tribulations of the Deputy Prime Minister, but these should not be used as a fig leaf to deny the people of Kenya an opportunity to see these persons held to account for their actions.

It is now apparent that many will fail the leadership and integrity test prescribed by Chapter Six of the Constitution. For decades Kenyans had hoped that their leaders would impose on themselves the standards that are now engraved in law. We were disappointed at every turn. Rather than serving the best interests of the people, our leaders, whether in the Legislature or the Judiciary, frequently turned a blind eye to our needs, with the political class only interested in political power and the Judiciary only interested in their rarefied confines, aloof and isolated from the masses in whose name they handed down judgments of guilt or innocence. Today, not only is a scion of the Kenyatta family fighting to preserve the family name in a court far, far away, but a leading light of civil society and the second-highest judicial officer is facing an end to a very short judicial career for acts that both should have known would not be in the public interest. 

We do not deny that we have granted our leaders privileges that ordinary Kenyans do not enjoy. Where we see fit, we will allow them first-among-equals status simply because they have achieved what many can only dream of. But this is not a license for them to treat us like dirt; they must be reminded, from time to time, that they enjoy these privileges because we allow them to. These privileges are not theirs as of right; they are theirs because we say they are.

None of us can predict how Mr Kenyatta will fare at The Hague, or how the Tribunal will rule with regards to Ms Baraza; but we can all be proud of the fact that two different jurisdictions have taken the bold and unprecedented step of holding the two to account. Ms Baraza's case may seem as that of turning a mole-hill into a mountain, but make no mistake, if that is how she treats the low among us, how will she be able to empathise with them when their appeals finally reach the hallowed corridors of the Supreme Court? Mr Kenyatta, and his co-accused, maintain that the crimes committed in 2007 and 2008 do not rise to the level of international crimes, refusing to admit their part in the sorry state of affairs. It explains why four years since those dark days, the thousands of displaced Kenyans continue to live in make-shift camps in fear and abject conditions. The legal processes underway should remind them, and their fellow leaders, that there are consequences to their actions and that to continue enjoying the privileges we have granted them, they must serve us first and not vice versa.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why not have a private sector in education?

It is tragic that the same narrative is being perpetuated long after it has been discredited by all objective analysts - the vast majority of children who attend private primary schools are not privileged, but come from what are euphemistically described as disadvantaged backgrounds. The tragedy is in the fact that the logic of the civil servant, of which yours truly is a proud member of that particular tribe, cannot be faulted: when he hears the word "private" he associates it with privilege and advantages that are quite frequently unfair. For this reason, it is almost certain that the nabobs and mandarins of the Ministry of Education will not be reversing course any time soon and ordering that all form one selections be conducted on the basis of merit - and merit - alone, not if they know where their political slice of bread is buttered. In the polarised atmosphere of the campaign for the 2012 or 2013 general elections, it is almost certain that no politician worth his ill-gotten salt is going to allow his mandarins to implement a fair and reasonable solution to the current impasse. Indeed, no politician is going to admit that under his leadership, the quality of Kenyan primary schools has deteriorated to such a state that they are getting creamed by 'private' schools that are no more than four flimsy mabati walls, roof and a two-teacher faculty that is one strong wind away from total disaster.

What the proprietors of private educational institutions have demonstrated is that there is a gap that can be filled by canny investors, and that there is gold amid all the dross that they have to contend with. Granted, many of the private 'schools' are little more than fly-by-night operations taking advantage of desperate parents unsure of the public school system. Looking at the shambolic way with which the Ministry f Education has disbursed funds, opening avenues for rent-seeking and outright theft, for the stakeholders in the sector, it is no surprise that tens of millions of parents are more trusting of quick-fingered, shifty-eyed operators than their own government and are willing to pay a fee to show it. So it is perhaps surprising that the private school system has not taken advantage of this situation to create an entirely private education system, where only the tax man should bother them.

While the bottom of the education system and the top of the system are dominated, increasingly so, by the private sector, it is a crying shame that the secondary school system is almost exclusively the preserve of the state, especially when it comes to elite schools. The national schools system, that has been boosted by the addition of 30 more schools, is usually dominated by the Alliance siblings, the Starehe siblings, Mang'u, the Precious Blood sisters, and every now and then, Lenana. Private secondary schools of note tend to be the exclusive preserve of the fatcats and plutocrats of Kenya, and increasingly, of parents from further afield. Why the private sector has not established private secondary schools that are within the reach of the millions of parents who spend vast amounts to send their children to private primary schools cannot be explained. Perhaps they have crunched the numbers and seen that the costs would surely cripple the parents; but when you consider that publicly funded secondary schools charge quite hefty fees, even in the era of partial subsidies from the government, it begins to look remarkably like the existence of an opportunity.

Musau Ndunda, the Secretary-General of the Kenya National Association of Parents, and his fellow travellers who are fulminating about the unfairness of it all miss this essential fact. Life is not fair and a poor government is always going to make poor choices, and poor compromises. Why they have not agitated for the total liberalisation of the education market, letting the best students flow to the best schools, whether public or private, and paying a price that is set by the market, beats all logic. It is a basic economics fact that the market will allocate capital to the most efficient user of that capital. Government is not efficient. The private sector is. Musau Ndunda and his cohorts should be fighting to ensure that the private sector competes with the likes of Alliance, Mang'u and Precious Blood, ensuring that when it comes to competition for university spots and white-collar jobs, they will not have it easy. Of course, government could shift goal posts again and ensure that only the majority of the mediocre students from public schools find places in the universities.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Take action or keep burying the children.

Why we are shocked that children are committing suicide over poor examination results defeats reason? When we have made the perceived success or failure in life a matter of life and death with the exam results, it is illogical to express surprise that the youth are taking this homily so seriously. Parents all over the country insist that only good grades should be obtained by their scions; anything less and the lives of their children will not amount to much. They would be better off in the ground than on earth, taking up valuable breathing space that is best enjoyed by the ones capable of surmounting the hurdles erected by the Kenya National Examinations Council. Or, they should 'repeat', take the examination as many times as would enable them to score respectable marks and therefore, earn a place in the pantheon of academic greats that have gone on to lead rich and rewarding lives.

Many parents across the country have taken to heart the claim that their children's teachers are to blame for their poor showing in the exams and have thus decided to take matters into their own hands, sometimes attacking the teachers or agitating for their transfer to other schools. Some respected members of society have decided to join the blame-the-teacher bandwagon, explaining that parents are surely justified in blaming teachers and school heads for the failure of the children, and the poor showing of schools in the, now unpublished, school rankings. To date, no parent has taken it upon himself or herself to question whether their parent styles are also to blame for the fact that their beloved children did poorly.

It is a tragic indictment of our education system that so much store is set by the results of the KCPE or KCSE to the total exclusion of all else. In a nation where a white-collar job is the be all and end all of life, a good exam score is a guarantee of a comfortable life. However, the sad fact is that regardless of the number of pupils who score well in the KCPE, or the number of successful KCSE candidates, or the legions of young people who graduate from our universities with undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, the policies of this government, and those that have gone before, there are fewer and fewer white-collar job openings on offer. It is almost certain that even if the bulk of our children were to achieve academic perfection, the comfortable life they have been promised will remain but a mirage, unreachable and untouchable.

The state of education is interlinked to the state of the economy and the state of national politics. One can no more separate these issues than one could separate breathing from air. If we are to make the best of a situation that seems guaranteed to continue in mediocrity, at best, or failure, as is certain, we must admit that there is much to be done and grave decisions to be made. At a local level, parents must be empowered, lawfully, to participate fully in the academic lives of their children, ensuring that school heads perform at their optimum and teachers are motivated to bring out all the talents of the children under their care. The numbers of Kenyans paying taxes to the government must be expanded so that the government can devote more financial resources to the provision of adequate facilities for the education of our children. This means that the economy must be managed in such a manner that more people are gainfully employed and earn enough to supplement the efforts of the government in providing for the education of young Kenyans. Finally, Kenyans must take greater care in choosing the men and women who will make decisions regarding the allocation of resources and the preparation of policies. Decision-making in the education sector by politicians has ensured that more and more Kenyans miss out on a quality education. The recent set-backs in the provision of free primary education to every child in Kenya are a sad reminder that when politicians are in charge we can only be disappointed. Until Kenyans play an active role in the education of their children, the direction of the economy and the selection of political and other leaders, their children will continue to be ill-served by their government and more suicides will be committed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Where is the LSK going?

4. The objects for which the Society is established are -
a) to maintain and improve the standards of conduct and learning of the legal profession in Kenya;
b) to facilitate the acquisition of legal knowledge by members of the legal profession and others;
c) to assist the Government and the courts in all matters affecting legislation and the administration and practice of the law in Kenya;
d) to represent, protect and assist members of the legal profession in Kenya in respect of conditions of practice and otherwise;
e) to protect and assist the public in Kenya in all matters touching, ancillary or incidental to the law;
f) to acquire, hold, develop and dispose of property, whether movable or immovable, and to derive capital or income therefrom, for all or any of the foregoing objects;
g) to raise or borrow money for all or any of the foregoing objects in such manner and upon such security as may from time to time be determined by the Society;
h) to invest and deal with moneys of the Society not immediately required in such manner as may from time to time be determined by the Society; and
i) to do all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of all or any of the foregoing objects.

It is campaign season for the Law Society of Kenya. Members of the Society are campaigning to hold positions in the Council, including as Chairman and Vice Chairman. Some have sent representations to other members, making promises which in all likelihood will not be kept. It has been this way for generations and unless someone decides otherwise, it will remain this way for generations to come.

In its heyday, the Society was feared by the Government and respected by the public for the weight of its pronouncements and the insight it offered into the murky world that the legal environment had become. It spoke out against the bastardisation of the Constitution and the abuses of power that the Executive Branch frequently indulged in. It was a stalwart member of civil society and it played a commanding role in bringing about the end of the KANU hegemony, despite several incidences in which, especially, the Moi government managed to infiltrate its ranks with men and women staunchly opposed to the political role the Society was playing.

However, as members of the Society soon realised, the issues that affected the working conditions of advocates in Kenya were frequently placed on the back-burner, playing second fiddle to the politics of the day. When Mwai Kibaki was elected president in 2002, it was hoped by many in the profession that the Society would begin to address these questions, with a view to ensuring that not only the Society flourished, but that it improved in all its aspects, including the working conditions of advocates. The institution of the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programme was a welcome step in ensuring that the professional standards of advocates remained high and that they continuously acquire new skills and competencies. However, you will be hard-pressed to find an advocate today who does not think that the CLE programme is a means of simply making money for the Society at the expense of practicing advocates. This, and a myriad other issues, must be addressed by the men and women seeking office in the Society.

Many allegations have been levelled at the Council, some dating back to the tenure of Tom Ojienda. They include the fact that some of the financial transactions that the Council has approved have been a way for the members of the Council to line their pockets without direct benefit to the members of the Society. For the first time, the Society approved sitting allowances for members of the Council, which led to the predictable case of the Council scheduling as many meetings as it could get away with without offending the long-suffering members of the Society. Another worrying development was the politicisation of the Council, especially after the advent of the Kibaki administration, with members of the Council taking sides in the aftermath of the disintegration of Kibaki's first administration. The Council today is divided down the middle with some members supporting the PNU/PNU Alliance and others supporting the ODM and its affiliated parties.

The men and women standing for office in the LSK elections of 2012 have failed to address these and other issues afflicting the Society. Indeed, one of the most glaring oversights of the campaigners is their failure to address the direction in which the Society has been led since 2003. It is disturbing that the Society has become so intertwined with government that its objectivity has been compromised., Today, dozens of members of the Society, especially members of the Council, sit in dozens of Commissions and state corporations blinding them to their ills that afflict these organisations. It is time that the Society withdrew from the all-encompassing of the Executive so that it could do its duty and keep an eye on the government, holding it to account. Until these issues are addressed to the satisfaction of the members of the Society, these elections will remain the sham they have been for the past decade. Which one of the candidates will take the bull by the horns and propose a new direction for the Society?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Who will point out that the emperor is naked?

Please, please be honest to yourself ...
- Culture

Otuma Ongalo, writing in today's Standard on Saturday (Sheep mentality politics is the bane of our nation), gets it wrong with his closing line when he says, "But sympathy lies for those who tag along foolishly". Looking at William Ruto's political nomadism and the men and women who follow him like sheep to a hyena's lair, Mr Ongalo would sympathise with the sheep led by Mr Ruto for they will come to a bad end. He correctly castigates the 'leaders' who do not lead, but are content to follow in the wake of a Big Man leading them to some Canaan where milk and honey flows like the River Nile.

It is time Kenyans admitted to themselves that what Mr Ongalo has diagnosed is what ails Kenya's body politic. Not even the sainted Raila Odinga has declared what he wants for the people of Kenya, other than the fact that he knows that he is what Kenya needs in this time of transition from a flawed Constitution to one that is the promised panacea for all our ills. Listening to the presidential candidates, or at least those who have declared that they are putting themselves forward for the presidency, one is struck not so much by the fire-and-brimstone quality of their daily declarations, but by their utter lack of vision or foresight. Mr Ruto's wanderings are merely the most extreme example of the disdain with which these candidates hold Kenyans, their utter lack of respect for the needs of the peoples of Kenya.

The Republican nomination process, in which the United States' Grand Old Party is looking for the man to challenge Barack Obama in November, has thrown up issues that need to be addressed, problems that must be solved by the US by the President when he is sworn in in January 2013. Regardless of what we may think of the pronouncements of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul or John Huntsman, no one can deny that while they are united in denouncing the presidency of Barack Obama as a failure, that is not the sum and substance of their presidential bids. They have identified what they see as the ills of the United States and have prescribed solutions which the members of their party will support and which, they hope, will stem the tide of bad tidings assailing the United States. Contrast the Republican campaign with that of any of our presidential candidates and you will weep in despair.

Characterised by platitudes and sloganeering, the statements attributed to Raila Odinga, Martha Karua, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Peter Kenneth, Eugene Wamalwa, Bifwoli Wakoli, Moses Wetangula, George Saitoti, Kalonzo Musyoka, and the rest of them are devoid of substance. What they are determined to do is to deny any of the other candidates the presidency by all means necessary - whether hook or crook.

It is true that we have allowed the public arena to be dominated by loud calls to personality cults, and to banish the voices of reason and scepticism. This can be attributed largely to our political infantilism and ignorance engendered by four decades of one-party rule. Presidents Kenyatta and Moi fostered the cult of personality, not for the common good but to retain and enhance their hold on power. Raila Odinga and his opponents have done nothing to reverse this sorry state of affairs, and with the acquiescence of our professional and intellectual classes, the cults of personality have only grown more elaborate. It is now not uncommon to see men being installed as elders of this community or that, not to ensure that those communities grow as a people, but for political gain. Of what benefit is it to be installed as a Kaya elder if one will not help the Kaya community navigate the treacherous waters of the modern world, preserving their culture while engaging fully with the modern world to banish disease, poverty and ignorance among their people?

We have deliberately blinded ourselves to the infirmities of the proposals being made by the presidential contenders. We have refused to acknowledge that despite the promulgation of a new Constitution, these men and women are not interested in the welfare of the people but the acquisition and retention of power at all costs. Serious discussions on the state of the economy, the state of education, the state of healthcare or even the state of political institutions, including political parties, have barely received acknowledgment, let alone mention in the hundreds of hours that they have been on the stump. 

Unlike Mr Ong'alo, I am unwilling to sympathise with the sheep being led to political slaughter. They have made their beds, and they are going to force the nation to sleep in it with them. It is time they were denounced from the public political pulpit and reminded that their paid-for loyalties are the reason why Kenya, despite Vision 2030, will continue to be poor, uneducated and riven with preventable diseases. Their leaders are traitors and they all deserve a traitor's fate.

Who will blink first?

Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka and Uhuru Kenyatta are acting coy all of a sudden, and it has nothing to do with the fact that their two-year long political romance is suffering from fatigue and over-familiarity. During the official launch of the PNU Alliance (party?), Mr Musyoka, the Vice-President, and Mr Kenyatta, the Deputy Prime Minister, let it be known that while their desire of denying Prime Minister Raila Odinga the ultimate political prize in Kenya remained undimmed, they were and remained the heads of their respective political parties and that they would "work together as friends" to ensure that the policies and objectives of the PNU Alliance were realised. This attack of coyness reflects the inherent mistrust with which they view each others' and, by extension, the PNU Alliance's long-term goals. It is slowly dawning on them that the provisions of the Constitution, the Elections Act (2011) and the Political Parties Act (2011), as well as the shifting sands of Kenya's political landscape, give little scope for errors, especially when it comes to realising political ambitions long restrained by President Mwai Kibaki's two terms since his election as President in 2002. The political troubles of William Ruto have only complicated an already fraught situation, making it clear that the long road to the next general elections will be beset by pitfalls that may appear as if from thin air.

When Messrs Kenyatta, Musyoka and Ruto first came together under the inaptly-named KKK Alliance in 2010, the storm clouds of the ICC were yet to be seen. When Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were indicted by the ICC Prosecutor, they may have laid the blame for their predicament on the Prime Minister, but their suspicions were of Mr Musyoka's motives in the light of their pre3dicament. Even the cheerleading squad led by Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Eugene Wamalwa and their fellow-travellers could not hide the fact that if the two were hobbled by an ICC trial, it is Mr Musyoka and Mr Odinga who stood to gain. Successive opinion polls have highlighted this fact for months now. The seeds of the destruction of the KKK and now, the PNU Alliance, were laid at that moment. So it comes as no surprise that the two, and Prof George Saitoti, the chairman of PNU, are busily building up their parties; they cannot take the risk that their putative alliance will not survive the Kenyan political turbulence to come and so they are hedging their bets in the hope that when the storm passes, they will be the last men standing and shall reap where the Alliance will have sown.

Kiraitu Murungi, he of the undisciplined utterances, has attempted to paint a picture of fraternal bonhomie despite the fact that the bonhomie is all talk and no trousers. Surrounded as he is by the likes of Johnstone Muthama and Ephraim Maina, Mr Murungi must constantly keep an eye out for the Brutus in his circle. The Bus that Mr Murungi is attempting to fill with like-minded passengers may never leave the station if the honoured passengers choose their own modes of political transport. The concept of alliances and coalitions that Mr Murungi and his allies in Parliament managed to entrench in the Elections Act and the Political Parties Act may not be the stick that they think it will be to whack Mr Odinga with at the next general elections, whenever they will be held. These provisions may turn out to be the albatross around their necks that brings them to political ruination. All their maneuvers hinge on the Alliance surviving through to the general elections, that despite their individual ambitions, they will rally behind one candidate whether at the first round of polling or at a run-off, if one comes to pass. Human nature, being what it is, is a fickle mistress and Messrs Kenyatta, Musyoka and Ruto may, in the end, jettison the group for themselves and take on Mr Odinga as individuals and not as part of the PNU Alliance, or its successor(s).

The judgment of the High Court in the Election Date Case may seem as a blessing to the Alliance, giving it time to put its house in order and all its ducks in a row, but it may turn out to be too good a thing to be true. If, as many Kenyans anticipate, the President and Prime Minister refuse to dissolve the coalition and the general elections are scheduled by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission some time in 2013, the politicians have at least one year to get everything in place. Further, depending on whether the ICC Pre-trial Chamber II confirms charges against Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, their campaigns may be laced with the rhetoric of victimhood and ethno-jingoism that may poison the political atmosphere. It cannot be discounted that if their charges are confirmed, they may feel that Mr Musyoka benefits at their expense and decide to go it alone. ON the other, if the charges are not confirmed, they may feel vindicated and use this to rally support behind their respective candidacies and still go it alone. Let us not forget, either, the so-called minnows. Peter Kenneth, Martha Karua and, even, Raphael Tuju, may take the opportunity of a PNU Alliance fall-out to offer the nation a principled third-party alternative that is untainted by the stink of the personal vendetta being waged by the PNU Alliance. This game is not decided yet and the extra twelve months bequeathed by the High Court will only make things more interesting.

A change is coming.

One week ago, Nancy Baraza was just one of the bigwigs of Kenya going about their business, surviving the minor indignity of having to confront some uppity security officer - a species that seems to have materialised out of thin air ever since Kenya decided to launch a military offensive against a shadowy terrorist outfit operating out of Somalia. Not even she could have predicted the speed with which her colleagues would act to put to rest the fallout from The Village Market incident. Yesterday the Judiciary Service Commission decided to recommend to the President that he suspend her and appoint a tribunal to investigate the Deputy Chief Justice's conduct. If the tribunal finds her guilty of the charge of gross misconduct or gross misbehaviour, her's will be the shortest-lived tenure on Kenya's nascent Supreme Court.

When Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga decided to call into session the JSC to investigate the incident, he sent a powerful message to the public about his resolve in giving the Judiciary a new lease of life. When the JSC appointed a task force to investigate the circumstances of the incident, many scoffed, reminding Kenyans that task forces and committees were the time-tested vehicles for burying unpleasant events and pulling the wool over Kenyans' eyes when they wanted to whitewash the actions of the high and mighty. But, today, the JSC stands proud in that it has put fidelity to the law above any considerations for the great and good of this country. It is now for the President, and the tribunal he appoints, to put this matter finally to rest. Kenyans must be prepared to live with the decision of the tribunal, whether it means the dismissal of the DCJ from office or some sort of reprimand that permits her to continue in office. Either way, the Chief Justice and the JSC have demonstrated that it is no longer business as usual.

The CJ's actions so far have put men in positions of power in an awkward position. It is standard practice that every time a politician or a policeman or some other bigwig is in trouble, they close ranks and ensure that the matter never sees the light of day. What the CJ has done is to abandon that time-tested system and institute a new rule: no more special favours. It would have been simplicity itself to sweep the matter under the carpet by paying off the security guard and ensuring that she caused no more trouble, perhaps even using the police to reinforce the message. That he has decided to break with this system is proof positive that his designs on the Judiciary are not merely cosmetic, but that root-and-branch reforms are well and truly underway. What the powers-that-be see of these changes remains to be seen.

For the time being, at least, the Judiciary can claim to have set off on a mission that the rest of government must follow if it is to be trusted by Kenyans. Even the latest ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Elections Date Case must be seen in this light. Justices Lenaola, Ngugi and Majanja have declared that short of the President and Prime Minister dissolving the Grand Coalition in time for an August general election, it will be held in 2013. Reading the judgment, Justice Lenaola declared that despite the fact that the ruling would offend some Kenyans, fidelity to the written word of the law was what was important. It is now apparent that the Judiciary will lead where the rest of the instruments of power must follow. They have no choice but to do what is just in the interests of Kenyans. It remains to be seen whether they will.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hubris and Mr Miguna Miguna

Hubris: extreme haughtiness, pride or arrogance; often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.
It is now safe to argue that Miguna Miguna, the Prime Minister's Adviser on Coalition Affairs, is suffering from a severe case of hubris. Since his acrimonious departure from the PM's office he has taken every opportunity to demonstrate that not only is he smarter than the PM, but that without him his political career would not be worth what it is today. Mr Miguna's hubris has led him to make public statements to the effect that he was the only voice of wisdom and intelligence in the PM's office, seeing that the PM is surrounded by charlatans, pretenders and thieves and that the PM blinds himself to all this for the sake of retaining what little political power he enjoys today. He has declared for all the world to hear that he is the PM's equal and that this is the real reason why he is no longer serving time as an advisor to the PM.

Pride comes before a fall and it remains to be seen how well Mr Miguna will survive his public attacks on the Prime Minister. He comes across as arrogant and without a care in the world. He seems not to care that in the grand scheme of things he is merely the latest of a long line of village mad men incapable of moderating their speeches or tempering their outbursts. His anger, nay, rage, at how he has been mistreated by the PM blinds him to the fact that despite his ambitions, Mr Odinga still enjoys an unprecedented level of public goodwill and that there are very few Kenyans willing to accept that the accusations levelled against him are true. Even his enemies acknowledge that Mr Odinga is a very intelligent politician, capable of surmounting almost all hurdles placed in his way. Despite the blood that was spilled in 2007 and 2008, ostensibly for him, Mr Odinga has managed to survive an acrimonious presidential campaign and work together, rather successfully too, with the man he blames for denying him the ultimate prize in Kenyan politics.

Mr Miguna has threatened to publish a tell-all book of the corruption, tribalism and nepotism that has characterised the tenure of Kenya's Prime Minister. He has indicated that the PM's fingers are to be found in the corruption that has bedevilled the nation since the creation of the Grand Coalition in 2008 and that despite Mr Miguna's strident warnings, the PM has consistently turned a deaf ear to the goings-on in his own office. Mr Miguna fails to explain why he has done nothing to bring these accusations to light. For example, the maize scandal that engulfed the Ministry of Agriculture during the famine of 2008, as Mr Miguna paints it, also involved the PM. Then, millions of Kenyans were starving and hundred were dying of hunger. If Mr Miguna had proof that the PM and the Minister for Agriculture were in cahoots, why did he hold his fire and refuse to provide the Parliamentary Accounts Committee with the proof needed to not only indict the Minister but also the PM? The same too can be asked about the Triton scandal in which billions were lost while the PM and the Minister for Energy twiddled their thumbs.

It remains to be seen what new accusations Mr Miguna will lay at the PM's feet with his tell-all book. If it is a rehash of the accusations he has made so far, it is safe to assume that he will rationalise his actions and paint himself as the only voice of probity in the whole sorry saga. But I fear that Kenyans will draw quite different conclusions. They will, instead, see a man who has consistently failed in his duties who is bitter that he is not the Indispensable One he thought he was. Mr Miguna's braggadocio will be the mill-stone that finally sinks him in the murky waters of Kenyan politics. He will not recover from this colossal lack of foresight.

It's early days yet.

Political nomadism is not new to Kenya. Raila Odinga moved from party to party before he finally became the undisputed leader of ODM in 2005. Those deriding William Ruto's search for a berth miss the point. He is merely doing what other politicians have done for ages. Whether he finally finds a party that will accommodate his outsized presidential ambitions remains to be seen.

When Mr Ruto supplanted Daniel Toroitich arap Moi as the leader of the North Rift Valley, perhaps even of the entire Rift Valley, his position was not without peril. The Rift Valley continues to be a region where presidential campaigns are either won or lost. Given the large numbers of votes to be won or lost, it continues to exercise the minds of all presidential candidates, especially now that Mr Ruto seems to be on the backfoot. While his leadership of the Kalenjin continues to be assailed by Mr Odinga, it remains to be seen whether the three leading presidential contenders will consolidate their numbers in the Rift Valley before the next general elections. Strangely, though, none seems to have thought of the ground game necessary to persuade the various peoples of the Rift Valley that their candidatures are the tonic that the region needs to move beyond the Moi Era.

The next president needs not just a majority in Parliament, but also to control enough counties in order to realise his presidential agenda without having to constantly campaign to implement it. For this, his foot-soldiers must include credible candidates for the Senate, the Governorships, and the county assemblies. These are the men and women needed to ensure that during the campaigns he garners enough votes not just to take the presidency but also to control the legislative agenda of Parliament and the county assemblies. Therefore, the men and women the presidential candidates surround themselves with must be strong enough in their own right to be able to win elective positions as well as help deliver the votes needed to not only win outright but also to win in the event of a run-off between two candidates. Polls constantly indicate that if Raila Odinga faces Uhuru Kenyatta in a run-off, he will lose, though these polls do not show how this scenario will unfold. Mr Kenyatta for all his popularity has not demonstrated that he has a credible team supporting him in the counties nor, for that matter, has Mr Odinga.

Mr Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka have demonstrated that they are in the race not just to win the presidency but to deny Mr Odinga a taste of victory. Those who have labelled the two as traitors fail to appreciate the fact that the presidency is not a gift to be given to the deserving or undeserving, but a prize to be won or lost at the hustings. If one wants to be president, he will not be handed the prize on a silver platter but he must challenge and defeat his opponents politically, using all the tactical and strategic resources at his disposal to do so. Among these resources are allies and supporters willing to put their ambitions on hold in order to secure victory for their preferred candidate. Mr Odinga, by and large, has managed to not only hold his party together, but also keep many of his MPs on-side during his spat with Mr Ruto. Mr Ruto on the other hand, has tried to keep the North Rift politicians in his corner together as he hunts for a party to challenge Raila Odinga at the general election. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Musyoka are consolidating their holds on their respective parties, though Mr Musyoka seems without challengers while Mr Kenyatta must contend with the Gideon Moi-Nick Salat axis that is hell-bent on denying him undisputed king status at all costs.

So far, not a single political party has conformed fully to the strictures of the Political Parties Act, even after they were watered down by Parliament. This may explain why none who has decided to stand for the presidency is yet to announce whom they will choose as their Deputy Presidential candidate. Some of the minnows, like Peter Kenneth, have ruled out being running mates so the options are limited. The candidates need running mates who will help them consolidate votes in counties where they are not strong while still portraying the image of a national outlook. Therefore, it early days yet to declare with authority that there will be a run-off or that it will be between Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta. More needs to be seen in order to give credence to this proposition. It is entirely possible that the next president may be elected without a run-off. It is also possible that he may yet face a hostile Parliament and barely control a majority of the counties. This race has just began.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Who will bell the Jogoo House cat?

The release of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination results was accompanied by the usual ministerial homilies about success and hard work, and the predictable roll call of those pupils, and schools, that engaged in cheating. A debate has erupted, one that is surely familiar today, on the emphasis placed on the selection of top pupils to national secondary schools from state-funded primary schools at the expense of those from private schools. 

Musau Ndunda, the indefatigable Secretary-General of the Kenya National Association of Parents, has echoed the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of parents when he declares the policy of favouring pupils from state-sponsored schools over those of private schools as unfair, perhaps even unconstitutional. The predictable response from Prof Sam Ongeri's Ministry of Education was to create thirty additional national schools to cater for the large numbers of pupils successfully completing the KCPE. That the Ministry chose to focus on what is ultimately a short-term solution over the long-term one of improving the quality of education in the other secondary schools is an indictment of a Ministry that has played merry hell with the futures of thousands upon thousands of Kenyans.

Kenya's basic education policy has been a political football for decades, held hostage by the whims of the ruling classes. The effects, to say the least, have been tragic. It is heart-rending to witness little boys and girls 'learning' in dire circumstances, frequently under trees or in class-rooms that are barely four-walls-and-a-roof. It is a testimony to the resilience of the spirit of the child that their desire to make their parents proud blinds them to the decrepitude that their government has foisted upon them in the name of free primary education. No one, least not me, would wish to reverse the policy that gave all Kenyan children an opportunity to go to school. It was the right decision by Mwai Kibaki's government; what they failed to do, or perhaps were unable to do, was to allocate the considerable resources necessary to ensure that not only did our young learn to read and right, but that their education would place them in a position to compete with the rest of humanity's children, giving them a leg up in what is surely a very competitive world.

In the decade since Mwai Kibaki became president, billions upon billions have been expended on the civil service, the armed forces, and infrastructure, but precious little on the education and well-being of our young in primary and secondary schools. Even with a shortfall of nearly 60,000 teachers, the few that are there are poorly paid and lack the motivation not just to educate our children, but to guide them and develop their talents to be the best that could be. Negotiations with the teachers' union, KNUT, are characterised by broken promises and industrial action. Meanwhile, the construction of superhighways and the prosecution of foreign wars refuse to take into account that this economy will sputter to a halt if the youth of Kenya are not given the educational opportunities they require, nor the skills to exploit those shiny new highways.

The blame for this sorry state of affairs can be laid at the doors of the Ministry of Education and the Kenya National Examination Council, KNEC. Even when well-meaning development partners have devoted significant sums of their tax-payers' monies to the education of the children of Kenya, the Jogoo House has consistently disappointed, husbanding these monies so poorly that billions have been lost to outright thievery by the very same men and women dedicated to ensuring that our young receive an education. The predictable results have been accusation and counter-accusation between politicians over who is to blame. Calls for Ministers and Permanent Secretaries to 'step aside' now constitute the policy of the Ministry. All that our mandarins and nabobs in Jogoo House do is to survive, whether or not the children whose fate they hold in their hands see a better future or not.

This is an election year, so it is highly unlikely that Prof Sam Ongeri or Prof James Ole Kiyiapi will initiate any bold reforms to ensure that education in Kenya not only reaches all children, but that it meets the minimum standards of quality. It is especially difficult to see any bold measures from Prof Ole Kiyiapi given that he has decided to join the political field as a presidential contender. The irony of having so many professors in charge of education in Kenya and over such a long period in our history is not lost on long-suffering Kenyans. If the educated elite are incapable of managing the education sector effectively, will our children ever taste the fruits of a sound education?

The Promise of a New Year

New Year Resolutions have been made. And broken. The New Year is well and truly underway and Kenyans, as is their wont, are optimistic that 2012 will bring happiness and wealth in equal measure. Those constantly whingeing about the challenges of the year are dismissed as the harbingers of doom and banished to their own solitary ruminations. It is the preachers of optimism who receive the blessings of the masses and the encouragement of the people. And yet, there is an undercurrent of anxiety. The Kenya shilling refuses to remain strong against world currencies, notably the US dollar. The economy continues to throw, to use a cricketing term, googlies at the working classes. The political atmosphere continues to be poisoned by the rancid ambitions of the men and women angling to succeed Mwai Kibaki to State House. The New Year has also brought with it old sins: the constant sexual abuse of children and young persons; the carnage on our roads has refused to abate; murders continue to be committed; and, the government assures us, it has finalised rules to carry on its programme of demolitions and evictions from properties it alleges have been acquired irregularly or illegally. Now we have the sad, unseemly spectacle of the Deputy Chief Justice being raked over the coals for acts, allegedly, that placed a security guard in a state of fear for her safety and her life. 2012 has started with a bang!

The war of words between the Commission for Implementation of the Constitution and the Office of the Attorney-General is yet to be decided decisively in favour of one or the other. Teachers, university dons, doctors, nurses and civil servants still threaten to go on strike if their pay demands are not met. Parliamentarians have resisted, and continue to do so, the calls by the Kenya Revenue Authority to pay income tax on all their earnings. "Grassroots" elections for all political parties have been scheduled; some have been suspended by the courts, while others have been challenged for violating political party constitutions. Depending on whom you wish to persuade, political alliances are either flourishing or are on their last legs. In all this, the Prime Minister continues to be seen as the man to defeat in 2012; not his party, but the man himself. Politics, as usual, is not about manifestos or policies, its not about ideology or principle; it is all about one man and the dozens that would defeat him at the hustings.

Disappointment in public television continues, as a does disappointment in the language employed by breakfast shock-jocks who take a perverse pleasure in broadcasting lurid and salacious content for the edification of their legions of listeners to the discomfort, shame and embarassment of the silent majority. The public discourse of matters of spiritual, political and social importance continues to be characterised by anodyne phrasing and craven ignorance. The State and the people seem incapable of having a conversation without resorting to time-tested sloganeering, shouting and fighting. It seems that everyone is doubling down on the mistakes of the past year, hoping that their tactics and maneuvers in 2012 will finally bear profitable fruit. It seems that the definitions of "mad" applies appositely: doing the same thing over and over in the hopes of a different outcome.

Yet, the people still hope. Parent have begged, borrowed and sold their properties to see their children off to school, even though the State, in its wisdom, has lengthened the period of instruction in the first two terms and shortened the last one in the hopes of giving exam candidates the proper atmosphere and environment to sink or swim. Doubts continue to be expressed about the wisdom of rejigging an 8-4-4 system that has been with us for nigh on thirty years. When change comes, whether at the instigation of the State or as the inevitable result of the turning of the wheel of time, we shall resist until it is apparent that resistance is futile. "Our children are our future" will be the slogan that we hurl at each other when they sit for their exams and it is apparent that only a privileged and lucky few will secure admission to institutions of higher learning or secondary schools of no mean repute. Hundred of thousands, meanwhile, will be consigned to the dustbin of mediocrity and invisibility, left to chart a course in a world that neither cares for their future nor their chances of success. And as the wheel turns further, millions of the young will join the existing millions without work or opportunity to work. Poverty will stalk them to their dying days, breeding resentment and anger and guaranteeing that the promises of the honey-tongued snake-oil salesmen that we call leaders do not come to pass.

In all this, the pundits, the opinion-makers, the leaders will continue to see only what they want to see ion 2012, blinding themselves on issues far larger than the political. The Succession will obsess them to the total exclusion of everything else. In their obsession, some rank outsider will see opportunity. With their minds firmly fixed on The Succession, and all its dramatic twists and turns, he will see an opportunity to fleece his fellowman, to lie, cheat and steal, and he will pray, for such people also pray, that his schemes and machinations come to pass. Millions upon millions will pay for this myopia. And when the year draws to a close, the same despondency that characterised the past one will envelop the nation and Kenyans will once more look forward to a New Year filled with promise.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Impunity is dead!

If it is true that the Deputy Chief Justice, and Deputy President of the Supreme Court, attempted to use her position of authority to intimidate a security officer at the Village Market - going so far as to use a firearm to threaten her - then it was right that the Chief Justice has called for a session of the Judiciary Service Commission to discuss the matter and chart a way forward. The usual response of high government officials in these situations is to close ranks and otherwise harass and intimidate the hoi polloi into withdrawing their complaints against one of their own. What Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga has done is to re-write the usual rules of the game by holding even his closest colleague to account for her actions.

This is indeed a breath of fresh air and it will go far in redeeming the image of the Judiciary from the heartless, bossy image that has characterised its relations with the people of Kenya since time immemorial. When High Court Judge GBM Kariuki was accused of attempted murder in 2008, the then Chief Justice Johnson Evan Gicheru did nothing to interfere with the police investigation that ensued or the prosecution that resulted from the investigations. Despite his apparently apathetic approach to management of the Judiciary, Chief Justice Gicheru set the ball rolling on the changes that are being implemented by Chief Justice Mutunga today.

Kenyans have called for the reform of the Judiciary since the day when the first African Chief Justice was appointed. Today, it is inconceivable, especially in light of the promulgation of the Constitution, that the Judiciary can continue to operate as a law unto itself, accountable to no one or no authority. With the convening of a session of the JSC, the Chief Justice has declared that not even Judges of the Supreme Court are above the law, and that like Caesar's wife, they must be above reproach in both their professional and personal capacities.

It remains unclear why Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza took such a highhanded approach to resolving the dispute between her and the security officer at The Village Market. During her interviews before the JSC, she had expressed a resolve to participate fully and robustly in the reforming of the Judiciary. She had demonstrated before the JSC that she was aware of the challenges of perception that bedevilled the Jdiciary and that if appointed, she would take a leading role in ensuring that the Judiciary not only improved its public image but also took steps to ensure that its members were guided by the Constitution and the laws of Kenya. While she took steps to assure the public that the incident at The Village Market did not reflect a callous disregard for the rule of law, the Chief Justice has demonstrated that mere words are insufficient to lay the controversy to rest but that the procedure laid down in the Constitution and the laws of Kenya must be followed to the letter. His decision to call the JSC together to consider the matter is important in the wider context; it demonstrates that at least one branch of government has taken its oath of office seriously enough to allow the law to take its course. Whatever the outcome of the JSC enquiry, Kenyans have been shown that when it comes to the Judiciary, there are no sacred cows or red lines that cannot be crossed.

Kenyans must now demand the same of the other branches of the government. Even with respect to the President and the Prime Minister, or the Speaker of the National Assembly or the Members of Parliament, the rule of law must be applied against all of them. All of them have taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of Kenya, therefore, they have no choice but to be held to account for any and all their actions. The impunity of power that Kenyans have long railed against can only be successfully defeated if all leaders, whether political or in the public service, abide by all the laws that are sworn to obey. The recent decision of the acting Minister for Industrialisation to suspend the Board of Directors of the East Africa Portland Cement Company must be seen in this light. Hard questions must be asked, and answered. If the acting Minister was acting within the law, then he will be vindicated by the courts. If not, then he too must face the full brunt of the law. Without exception.

This is also a welcome wake-up call to all Kenyans. Every day, millions of Kenyans engage in petty offences, thumbing their noses at 'minor' laws they see as inconveniences in their well-ordered lives. The most obvious of these offences involve motorists of all stripes, whether the dare-devil matatu drivers of Nairobi, or the self-righteous drivers of 'reconditioned' Japanese imports who flout any and all traffic regulations with wild abandon. Impunity is not just reserved for the high and mighty; all Kenyans engage in acts of impunity in one form or another, and it is now incumbent on all of us to follow the same path that the Chief Justice has set us on. Is this the beginning of the end of all acts of impunity? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A 47-County Ground Game

Barack Obama is setting up what is bound to be one of the most expensive and inventive campaign machineries that the USA has ever seen in order to keep the presidency he won against the Republican John McCain of Arizona in 2008. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, he of the Wiper Democratic Movement, has called for USA-style live debates to weed out the jokers in the presidential contest. He must do more if his dream of not just winning the PNU Alliance nomination, but the presidency too, is to come true.

Many have read the opinion poll-inspired tea leaves and believe that Raila Odinga, and the Orange Democratic Movement, is the man, and the party, to beat in 2012. But, what exactly has he done to capitalise on the goodwill he and his party apparently enjoy? So far, the Prime Minister has gone out of his way to tread softly-softly, lest his opponents brand him a radical unfit to lead. However, the ODM 'grassroots' polls were largely a sham; the Mombasa County polls were nullified by the High Court and will have to be re-done. It also seems as if the PM is reaching out to William Ruto before he becomes too entrenched in UDM; Mr Ruto is yet to be declared the UDM presidential flag-bearer. Indeed, he is yet to be a formal member of the party!

What we seen afraid to discuss is the fact that the various combinations and permutations, alliances and groupings being assembled to challenge Raila Odinga and ODM are principally tribal alliances, meant to isolate the Luo candidate from the national scene and ensure that he, and his tribe, are locked out of the corridors of power for all eternity. When the KKK Alliance was first mooted, even Kalonzo Musyoka was smart enough to disown it without walking away from it. Now, even Gitobu Imanyara, of all people, is calling for the Meru, Tharaka-Nithi and Embu Counties to remain in the Mt Kenya bloc in order to remain relevant in 2012. So why not look at the elections as a tribal numbers game and act accordingly?

The Constitution divides Kenya into 47 counties, which for better or worse, are largely tribal blocs, save for a few cosmopolitan counties like Nairobi, Mombasa, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru and Trans Nzoia, though even these enjoy at least one dominant ethnic community. A smart presidential candidate will set it up such that his party, or his alliance, has 'credible representatives' from each county, willing to give him fealty in return for some unspecified reward in the aftermath of the general election. It used to be that the president could appoint his 'loyal supporters' as Cabinet Ministers, ambassadors, heads of parastatals, or senior civil servants. That option has been removed from the table. The winning presidential candidate must control enough votes in Parliament to allow him to appoint proxies for his supporters to these positions with the assistance of Parliament.

A winning presidential candidate must also ensure that the men and women who front for him in the counties are credible enough politicians to not only win the governorships up for grabs but also the senate seats available as well as control the county assemblies by having like-minded men and women elected to them too. It will be an interesting experiment to witness where a successful presidential candidate only wins the presidency, but his party loses Parliament, and is in a minority when it comes to senate seats, governorships or county assemblies. The latter would mean that his agenda would be at the mercy not only of a potentially hostile Parliament, but a hostile devolved government too. The former would guarantee that what vision he has for the country can be attained with the minimum of rancour or divisiveness.

Debates are all well and good. As are tribal alliances. But what Kenya needs in the next 9 to 12 months is a vision greater than the cock-eyed defeat-Raila-at-all-costs scenario that Kalonzo & Co have in store for us. They must - all of them - mount a 47-county ground game that brings together competing interests with a view to fashioning a vision for this country that will address mass unemployment, a lackluster economy, an ever escalating cost of living, a soon-to-be-unpopular war in Somalia, an expansion and refurbishment of the education sector, especially secondary schools and universities, and reduces to manageable levels the decades of ethnic Balkanisation that has left the peoples of Kenya suspicious of their neighbours at every turn.

They all fall, eventually

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