Sunday, September 30, 2012

Look in the mirror.

Ferdinand Waititu is the face of the political class today. His colourful career risks sending him to prison. His antics are often funny when viewed from the comfort of ones own home, but tragic for the people of Embakasi. He has been filmed engaging in very unparliamentary behavior. He has been filmed at the forefront of confrontation with law enforcement officers. He has been filmed making intemperate statements. He has been filmed cocking a snook at the law. He has demonstrated contempt for the very government he serves in. He is now accused of hate speech. In a widely publicised event, he was filmed asking for members of one ethnic community to depart from the precincts of his constituency and never to return. He was reacting to reports that a member of that ethnic community had murdered a constituent of his. He claims that it is the wish of his constituents to clear their constituency of the presence of those people who have become a grave risk to the residents of Embakasi and that he was merely carried away by the emotion of the moment or that he misspoke. Now the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to prosecute him and if convicted by the courts, he may face imprisonment. This may very well be the end of Mr Waititu's political career for the moment.

The arrest and prosecution of Mr Waititu comes in the wake of the manner that Fred Gumo, the Westlands legislator who was being investigated for possession of a stolen vehicle. In Mr Gumo's case, all the DPP did was to ask the police to investigate. The police on their part treated Mr Gumo with deference, allowing him to record his statement at his own leisure. Needless to say, Mr Gumo was exonerated and the blame laid on others. It seems as if these 'others' will not suffer for their part in the crime; the DPP does not seem to have asked for the case file yet the vehicle in question belongs to a former President of Kenya.

Kenya is in transition. We are in the middle of a process of trying to rebuild institutions that were all but dead and creating new ones to perform new roles. We are attempting to rebuild democratic institutions with the causes of their atrophy still enjoying power and privilege. It is too much to expect that things will go smoothly and that everyone will be treated the same. Mr Gumo has a long and colourful political career, perhaps more colourful than Mr Waititu's. Who will forget the battle royale between him and Betty Tett for the Westlands seat when both were seeking the ODM nomination in 2002? Mr Waititu made his bones, in a fashion, in the politics of the City Council of Nairobi, rising to the position of Deputy Mayor. He was there when the Mayoral Chain went missing. He was there during the mayoral elections when furniture became weapons. He is now a Member of the National Assembly and was, until his sacking, an Assistant Minister. But both in age and experience, Mr Gumo beats him hands down. This may explain the manner in which both were treated by official organs of the State. Mr Gumo's prosecution would have been more embarrassing than that of Mr Waititu. This is proof that Kenya has a long way to go before it can call itself a civilised democracy where the scales of justice are not tilted in favour of one and against another.

This transition is constantly marred by disappointment. Political institutions have exhibited very strong resistance to reform. Political parties remain mere expressions of the wills of the men and women who head them. No one truly believes that they exhibit even a smidgeon of democracy. The Executive keeps blowing hot and cold over the terms and conditions of service of its legions of workers. Service delivery continues to suffer when doctors, teachers and university lecturers go on strike. The Executive's argument that the Treasury is empty fall on deaf ears when Kenyans witness the millions of shillings in salaries, allowances and other perks parliamentarians trouser every year. Kenyans dream of an equitable redistribution of national resources. They feel that their political leaders should not place themselves on financial pedestals at the expense of every one else. When these dreams fail to come true, their anger is released in wanton acts of self-destructive behavior. The Tana Delta and the violence in the port town of Kisumu are only the latest examples. No one doubts that in thirty days' time if the nurses are not accommodated financially by the Executive, services in our public hospitals will ground to a halt again, the third time in two years. And no one doubts that when the politicians fail to reform their political parties and offer the man on the street a genuine say in who is nominated to stand for the general election in 2013, that there will be violence on a scale that will render the country ungovernable.

Mwai Kibaki has done the best that he could with the opportunities that he had. It is impossible to lay the blame on him for the disappointments of the past three years. Blame is plenty to spread around. Kenyans had become used to the State dictating everything and doing everything. That era has come to an end and it is time Kenyans seized the opportunity to properly organise themselves for the sake of their survival. A majority of voters ratified the Constitution in 2010. They consciously chose a document that placed them at the heart of the government and governance of their nation. They have no choice but to set aside their selfish individual needs and work together to rebuild what could have been a great nation. Only Kenyans can restore the promise that was once Kenya. When they need to blame someone for the woes they suffer and for the disappointments they face, they should look into the mirror.

The CJ risks tarnishing his name and that of the Supreme Court

It was never going to be easy. When Dr Willy Mutunga was sworn in as Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court, the hopes of 40 million Kenyans were pinned on him and the other members of the Court to sweep out the Augean Stables that the Judiciary had become. As the head of the Judiciary, the CJ has not disappointed; he has led from the front, bar one or two unfortunate missteps that we have chosen to ignore. Perhaps we should have been more wary of getting our wish. The idea that a man from outside the Establishment was going to save us was always a risky proposition.

When Dr Mutunga asked for funds to buy helicopters for the Judiciary ostensibly to ensure that no part of the country was not served by his Judges, he made a logically defensible request. He was wrong. In a nation where magistrates and thieves rub shoulders every day in our mentally unstable public transport, his request had the elitism that we have come to associate with the political class. Shameless as the request was, it pales in significance to the suspicion that Willy Mutunga is picking winners and losers out of the crop of Judges and Magistrates facing the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board. Dr Mutunga is the head of the Judicial Service Commission in addition to being the head of the Judiciary. If he is already attempting to short-circuit the process of judicial vetting, how can we be confident that when the time comes he will act impartially when judicial officers require discipline by the JSC?

The CJ risks endangering the entire reform agenda for the Judiciary with his latest move to rescue the judicial career of Mohammed Ibrahim. Dr Mutunga may be confident in the abilities and probity of the Supreme Court Judge whose been given a second go with the vetting board, but it is not for Dr Mutunga to interfere in the process. Unfair it may seem to the CJ, but it is reprehensible that Mr Ibrahim had scores of judgements pending when he appeared before the Board. Indeed, in one instance, he had a judgment that has followed him around since he started his career on the Bench. Nine years is far too long for the Judge to beg for a second chance. The same resoluteness the CJ applied when Nancy Baraza was accused of improper conduct should have been applied in the case of Mr Ibrahim. Dr Mutunga risks being compared to Johnson Evan Gicheru who was accused of favouring some Judges over others and of appointing gatekeepers. It is for his colleagues on the JSC to remind Dr Mutunga of the oath he took when we was sworn in to protect and defend the Constitution and the law of Kenya.

Dr Mutunga and his Supreme Court are going to face greater challenges than the trials and tribulations of two judges. The level of inequality and unrest in the country demands that they be as dispassionate when leading the Judiciary as possible. If the CJ cannot countenance the loss of a favoured judge who has been accused of such great incompetence, it is doubtful that the CJ will remain untarnished by the lure of the political limelight when the scourges of the political arena find their way before his court. If this is a harbinger of how the CJ will act when faced with difficult problems, it is time Kenyans started seeking a new judicial Messiah.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mwai Kabiki's Legacy II

It is not for nothing that we must insist on a nuanced examination of Mwai Kibaki's ten years as Daniel Toroitich arap Moi's successor in State House. Many are disillusioned by the broken promises made in the run-up to the NARC whitewash of the KANU political juggernaut. Many have noted that graft seems to have flourished right under the President's nose. Many have lost faith in the many programmes initiated by Mwai Kibaki's government, arguing that once the fanfare of their launches is over and done with, the real work of "eating" and stealing begins and millions of Kenyans are left to suffer. We were once a proud nation with lofty goals of eradicating disease, poverty and ignorance. We promised ourselves safe drinking water, but kept changing the deadline for keeping the promise until now it seems as if the latest deadline is all but abandoned. We promised ourselves five-hundred thousand jobs annually for the legions of youth; instead, unemployment is running at a ruinous 40% or more, if official statistics are to be believed. Under Mwai Kibaki's watch, human rights violations were not eradicated, nor was the scourge of ethnic jingoism and negative ethnicity. But in one sense Kenyans must admit that Mwai Kibaki has done more for this country than all previous presidents combined: he has given us a measure of freedom that we could only aspire to in the dark days of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The freedom that Mwai Kibaki has allowed Kenyans to enjoy - yes, allowed - has opened up the realm of political discourse to such an extent that it is no longer unusual for Kenyans of all shades and stripes to castigate their government or call their elected representatives to account. For the most part, their government and their elected representatives are caught in a time-warp, hostage to the education that Prof Moi imparted over a period of twenty-four years. Some, like Mwai Kibaki, had their political education under the tutelage of the wily President-for-life Jomo Kenyatta. An example should suffice to demonstrate the extent of the freedom that Mwai Kibaki has allowed. When the Tana Delta exploded a month ago, the traditional response of the Executive would have been either to ignore the problem and suppress any reports about it, or to respond with overwhelming force and suppress any reports about it. Any of the elected representatives foolish enough to be quoted about the goings-on in the Delta would have been rounded up by the dreaded Special Branch boys, hauled before the President and if they were lucky, that would be the end of it; if they were not, they looked forward to months, or even years, of Executive-sanctioned harassment.

Look at the situation today. You have an Assistant Minister accusing a Cabinet Minister of being the hand behind the violence. Then you have a slew of elected representatives accusing the Executive of being asleep on the job, demanding the resignations of Ministers and police bosses. Then there are those brave enough to demand - demand! - the deployment of additional security personnel, including the army, to quell the violence. Then there is the ludicrous claim by the police that if they were to respond as they are wont to respond, they will be accused of human rights violations and have their bosses hauled off to The Hague to face international-crimes trials at the International Criminal Court. In a complete break with the past, the President caves in and sends in a contingent of fresh-out-of-training General Service Unit officers with a mandate to "deal with the matter". Ten days after their deployment, the residents of the Tana are lamenting their decision to ask for presidential decisive action and their elected representatives are singing a different tune.One has even go so far as to threaten the President with unspecified dire outcomes if he does not direct the GSU to be a little less GSU-ish in carrying out their duties. What is unique is that all these disparate voices are permitted to speak. No way would Moi have allowed Kenyans the lee-way to make demands as they saw fit. Nor would he have allowed them to question the wisdom of his decisions.

The freedom to think and speak as one sees fit is Kibaki's greatest legacy to Kenyans. It is all well and good to celebrate the hundreds of kilometres of tarmac laid down by his government or the billions of dollars invested in the country; but it is in the freedom that Kenyans now enjoy to hold their government to account that will lay the foundations for the future development of the country. Of course, not all things have changed for the better. The government, especially the national Assembly and the Executive, are loath to admit that they must account to the people for all they have done, especially over the past decade. But they will find it very difficult to reverse the changes that Mwai Kibaki has introduced. Mwai Kibaki has disappointed many Kenyans in many different ways; but even greater than his legacy of infrastructure development and foreign investment, he must be remembered for not being Moi or Kenyatta and letting Kenyans speak their minds.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Charles Kanjama misses


"For the Constitution, its key end is to promote the majority will and uphold the common good through a well-designed governance structure"
- Charles Kanjama, Interpretation of the Constitution should respect oath of office (Standard on Sunday, 16 September, 2012)
Abraham Lincoln's definition of democracy as government of the people, by the people and for the people, did not mention the will of the majority. The Greek tradition of the educated elite making all the decisions cannot be applied easily. Nor can the Chinese-style benevolent dictatorship flourish in our current political environment. The less said of the Iranian theocracy or the Stalinism of North Korea, the better.

The will of the majority can only be determined through democratic means. It is here that Mr Kanjama fails to demonstrate that such means exist. Kenyans have been led by nose for decades, listening to all the voices in the political arena to the total exclusion of all others. The results of the 2010 referendum were a demonstration of the will of the majority according to the mandarins of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. The appointment of the Supreme Court was the will of the majority. Is Mr Kanjama claiming that the will of the majority was wrong all along? We have made our bed of roses and we must now lay in it, thorns and all.

Why is it that the contemporary strain of conservatism is obsessed with the sexual lives and sexuality of the majority they claim to speak for? Why is it that they are not declaiming on the current state of financial affairs of the state? Why is it they are not promoting the rejuvenation of public institutions or the inculcation of the rule of law in the people? With them it is sex and sex only, to the total exclusion of all else. Their pronouncements of the state of the family merely constantly remind us of the assault that the family is under.

Their obsession in determining the rights of women over their bodies or of the sexual activities of the people limits their influence over the body politic. They must know that Kenyans do not want to discuss sexual matters. Ever. We would rather let sleeping dogs lie and turn a blind eye to homosexuals of all stripes. If indeed they are worried about the state of the family and the eviscerating effects of a free-for-all abortion environment, why is it that their programmes do not reduce the chances of unplanned pregnancy or the support for the hapless women and girls who fall pregnant? Simply asking the state to punish all who are involved in an abortion is not a credible solution. Neither is jailing every man who has sex with another man or woman who does so with another woman.

Before the will of the majority can be ascertained, we must have the means of ascertaining it. For better or worse, we have chosen for ourselves a political system that places at its heart the political party and an elected government. Therefore, the will of the majority can only be clear when the majority participates fully in the political process, by becoming members of political parties, participating in party activities (including the nomination of leaders who subscribe to their values and ideals), and recreating the spirit of Harambee that was the bedrock of communal public-spiritedness of the 1970s and 1980s. To promote the majority will and uphold the common good, we must revive the political institutions that are the vehicles of these ends.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

We are all complicit.

Fascism always rides on the back of violence. Hitler, Mussolini, Franco...all came to power on the back of violence. By identifying the "them" that had caused the downfall of their nations, they aroused the passions of the "common man" against their common enemy. Wielding their demagogic power, they used violence in the place of political discourse to seize power and determine the destiny of their nations. They fashioned dictatorships out of the passions they had aroused in the "downtrodden". They ruled with a mixture of fear and repression. They were spectacularly successful. But it is Franco who died in his sleep. Hitler and Mussolini died violently.

Mwai Kibaki has despatched policemen to the troubled Tana Delta. The violence between the Orma and the Pokomo is not new, nor is it surprising. The scale of the violence is new, but not surprising. The response of the government is not new nor surprising. Nor is the response of the punditocracy and the media. We are all engaged in charade, evoking the spirit of an already bastardised constitution to justify our pronouncements. In a few weeks, the police will claim to have successfully retrieved the over 3,500 firearms in the Tana Delta, the violence will abate and we will turn our collective attentions to the pressing matter of electing Mwai Kibaki's successor. The nascent fascism inherent in our politics will fester until the final crisis that pushes it to the fore. We will sleepwalk into another dictatorship. This is the script to which we are all playing a part.

We all invoke the dark cloud of the "culture of impunity" without batting an eyelid, confident that it afflicts only the political class and those well-connected individuals who have filched billions out of the national treasury. We refuse t admit that in many small ways we contribute to that culture every day. In the landscapes of our minds we have drawn lines separating small, petty rules that can be ignored from the "important" ones that we dare not. When we jump traffic lights or encourage drug-addled matatu drivers to take risks with our lives, we contribute to that culture. When we refuse to castigate our "leaders" when they manufacture ethnic hatreds and animosities, we reinforce that culture. When we claim exceptionalism, or peculiarity, as Kenyans, we admit to ourselves that we do not think that the rule of law applies against us, only against "them", whoever they may be. It is why even when celebrating Chief Justice Willy Mutunga's efforts, we do all in our power to undermine him at every turn. It is why we celebrate the imprisonment of the "small fish" while the "big fish" continue to swim in the ocean of impunity.

Politically-inspired violence in Kenya is not new. It has been with us ever since we declared ourselves a republic and finally shoved the last British administrator from the House that Jomo Kenyatta built. The Kenya that we inherited in 1964 was not a nation in which we could all claim pride, but a territory in which ethnic animosities would form the basis for political discourse for fifty years. The tribe-that-must-not-be-named is our political bete noir. Our relationship with it defines us, defines our politics and our national priorities. A new constitution will not fix this fixation; it merely changes the rules by which the traditional games have been played since 1964. The murderous violence in the Tana Delta is merely the latest manifestation of this truism.

The Constitution proclaims the national values and principles of governance in Article 2 that include "the rule of law, democracy and the participation of the people" and decrees that these shall bind "all State organs, State officers, public officers and all persons". The violence in the Tana Delta, and the quality of political discourse in the country generally, is an indictment the peoples of Kenya. Our indifference to these national values and principles is the feedstock for those who would seek to weaken us and to rob us of our rightful places in the comity of nations. We are the laughingstock of the world when we attempt to claim civilisation. We are to be pitied. We are to suffer the shame of being a people who have wasted the national resources God endowed us with in the pursuit of an individualised success story that can only be obtained when we are at peace with ourselves.  We are sleepwalking into slavery, and we are doing it with the active encouragment of the men and women claiming to speak for us.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Tana Delta is a mere blip on the political highway

That the Tana Delta is on fire is an indictment of the machinery of government for a century of official exploitation and neglect, no matter how counter-intuitive that thought seems. Since the Imperial British East Africa Co. entered into an arrangement with the Sultan of Zanzibar, the peoples of the East African coast have been exploited without mercy. Through the life of the Colonial Government and especially after Independence, the Coast has seen its share of tragedies, none worse than the total disenfranchisement of its peoples and the their relegation to the ranks of the underprivileged classes that Official Kenya wishes did not exist. The peoples of the Coast, including those of the Tana Delta, have been betrayed by every single elected representative they have had since 1963, and with the arrest of Dhadho Godana on charges of incitement to violence, that record remains unblemished.

For a month keen observers of the situation on the ground have warned that the conflict between the Pokomo and the Orma was heading for a violent denouement. Ever since the government approved the massive land-grab by TARDA and Mumias Sugar, it was just a matter of time before climate change-related drought ensured that arable farmland and grazing land shrunk leading to conflict between the agrarian Pokomo and pastoralist Orma. Either the security apparatus on the ground failed to appreciate the signs or the powers-that-be in Nairobi simply did not care. After all, the security situation in Kenya was evolving into ever complicated forms: Operation Linda Nchi was being muscularly prosecuted in Somalia, the Mombasa Republican Council had gotten one over the government in the Mombasa High Court and an al Shabaab-sympathising Islamist cleric had been assassinated in front of his wife and children, leading to riots in Kenya's number 1 tourist destination, Mombasa. The troubles of the tana Delta thathad been simmering for at least a decade were small potatoes compared to the other security crisis occupying the minds of mandarins in the Office of the President.

Even the leading national politicians refused to acknowledge publicly that the Tana Delta was tinder box awaiting a match. Not one of them saw fit to describe what a solution would like if they were elected president. Instead, they only saw fit to encourage the bad blood among the elected representatives of the Coast to behave like storm-troopers in their desire to secure the loyalty of those who mattered in the Coast. The parades and rallies national politicians have headlined in the Tana Delta have encouraged the animosities between the Orma and the Pokomo. The proof is in the deaths of over 100 Kenyans murdered, 12,000 displaced and villages on fire. Whoever ignores the echoes of 2007/08 and the clashes that came before gives credence to the residents of the Tana's claim that "wabara hawajali malsahi yetu".

Even with his latest order to deploy additional security officers in the Tana Delta, Mwai Kibaki and his government are still viewed with suspicion. After all the arrested MP was an Assistant Minister in his government while the Minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration is alleged to have downplayed the risks because the pastoralist Orma are "his people". Even with the presence of over 2,000 security officers, including a contingent of the dreaded General Service Unit, Kenyans continue to die in the Tana Delta. Those calling for the deployment of the army seem to have lost all faith in the police and some politicians are taking advantage of this situation to agitate for the hastening of the implementation of the police reforms; William Ruto is a vocal example.

Today, there are Kenyans being murdered just as they were murdered in the past in the run up to the general election. The politicians are busy campaigning for elective office to the total exclusion of all else. The government, that is the Executive, is busy managing the national security environment by focusing on events that have broader national security implications rather than those of a localised nature that have been there for years. Who doubts that the conflict in the Turner will be contained in the Tana? The punditocracy is determined to paint all players in this deadly episode with the same brush. Their commentary and news reporting is determined to expose the hopelessness of the situation because the machinery of government is ineffective. Their hypocritical statements hide the fact that they are enamoured of the men and women campaigning for high office and that the suffering residents of the Tana Delta are a bloody background to the political campaigns. Doubtless, as with everything else,their attention will wane and they will move on to another story and the conflict between the Pokomo and Orma will be but a footnote of history.

The Butcher's Bill

The grim butcher's bill of 9/11 keeps on rising eleven years after the United States suffered its most devastating attack on the homeland since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. In the  years after 9/11, George Bush's White House neo-conservatives launched a Global war on Terror, exacting revenge on the Taliban hosts of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and invading Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction. Barack Obama excoriated the Bush government for its pursuit of the dumb war at the expense of the necessary war, but today he finds himself in the untenable position of keeping open the patently illegal prison camp on the Caribbean island of Cuba and ordering the assassination of American citizens who have chosen to fight on the side of America's enemies worldwide. He has expanded George W Bush's War on Terror to far-flung places in the Middle-East and his use of the Predators and reapers has risen dramatically, killing both enemies and innocents alike. If you live in the Middle East, it is wise not to sit in a wedding party lest you become the latest casualty in a war without end.

Kenya must learn lessons from the United States' misadventures on the field of battle. In the past decade and a half, Kenya has witnessed first-hand the ruthlessness of its enemies. The bombing of the United States' embassy in the capital came hundreds of Kenyan casualties. As did the attack on an Israeli-owned hotel at Kikambala on Kenya's sun-kissed Coast. Then there are the home-grown criminal enterprises such as the Mungiki whose reign of terror galvanised the government to extra-legal means to contain them. This year alone, Kenyans have been bombed while traveling, while shopping, while worshiping. And now a growing inter-ethnic conflict is witnessing the introduction of small arms from the ungovernable Somalia, where Kenya has acquitted itself well in its war with al Shabaab. There is also the small matter of the Mombasa Republican Council which the High Court says is a legitimate organisation but the government claims is a front for foreign powers or organisations bent on destabilising the country before the 2013 general election.

Our responses have been poor. Murders are happening and no culprits are brought to book. Allegations are bandied about without proof. Kenyans are dying while their government worries about keeping its political leadership happy. And now public servants have had enough. Promises made have been broken and they have decided to go on strike - teachers, lecturers, doctors, nurses all. We and our government care only for the outcome of the general election. Who the President will be and who it won't be. To a lesser degree of obsession, we also want to know if Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto will indeed stand trial at The Hague. We aren't worrying about what form the government will take, how much we will be asked to pay in taxes, who will run our public institutions or whether we are prepared to sacrifice more for the upkeep of our elected leaders. Our blindness means that when al Shabaab and its acolytes strike, we won't have a sufficient response. We will be caught flatfooted. And innocent Kenyans will continue to pay the price. The butcher's bill only gets grimmer.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The constitutional honeymoon is definitely over

A new constitution for a fair land was supposed to make the pain of 1992, 1997, 2007/08 go away. Someone forgot to tell us that a constitution is not paracetamol. The past three months have been bloody so much so we are wondering if the nation ever recovered from the scars of 2007/08. The latest are the ongoing skirmishes between the state security establishment and the supporters of murdered al Shabaab-sympathetic cleric Sheikh Aboud Rogo. Mombasa is on fire and no one seems prepared to do what it takes to tamp down the flames and lower the temperature.

If we needed more proof of the ineptitude of our elected representatives, Mombasa should be a sober reminder. Kenyans should take the promises made on a daily basis on the stump by campaigning politicians with a truck-load of Indian-owned Magadi soda. While the politicians are the most visible symbols of the rot in Kenya's cadre of leaders, they are by no means unique. Institutions of higher learning have become battle-grounds for, as Eric Kiraithe might put it, each tribe to measure their strength against another. Faith-based organisations have become vehicles for the self-aggrandisement of their "owners". Corporations are organsied more like ethnic self-help groups and their chief executives operate more like tribal warlords than good corporate citizens. Professional institutions are divided into tribal alliances; not even the Law Society has escaped this sad descent into the abyss of ethno-chauvinism.

In this environment the more violently inclined among us take out their frustrations on sysmbols of the ruling class. In Mombasa, Garissa and Nairobi, these symbols have been churches and policemen. It seems no one has truly let go of the events of 2007/08 when the church and the police were accused of taking political sides for or against one presidetial candidate or the other. It is only a matter of time before attacks against private businesses become the norm as was the case at the height of the violence in 2007/08; the bombing of Assanand's House was the just the first salvo.

The National Security and Intelligence Service has warned that giving the Mombasa Republican Council political legitimacy is a bad idea. Perhaps they realise that the MRC has been infiltrated by foreign elements hell-bent on destabilising the country ahead of the general election in favour of more radical or radicalised candidates. Majo Gen Gichangi's warnings have been ignored by all leading presidential candidates, keen as they are to secure votes in the restive Coast region. In 1992, 1997 and 2002, they did the same when it came to (as the NSIS called them) organised criminal organisations such as the murderous Mungiki, Chinkororo, and Jeshi la Mzee. If politicians had not patronised these outfits, the bloodshed of 2007/08 would have been minimised; the country would not be in crisis and we would not be expressing disappointment at the tactics politicians are employing to get around the provisions of the Constitution.

The obsession by civil society types on the "implementation of the Constitution" without addressing the core problems this nation faces has only exacerbated the situation. Their obsession with the political system at the expense of socio-cultural questions has blinded them to the realities on the ground. Politics, of course, is the only vehicle for expressing frustration in governance issues but it is by no means the only one or even the most important. Some programmes that were crucial to moulding good citizens were abandoned when the government began the free primary education programme. Children are no longer being mentored to be leaders; nor, it seems are students in secondary schools or institutions of higher learning. Public universities have lost the most when it comes to their character. Student leaders, if they could be described as that, are mere pawns in the chessboard of national politics; they are easily manipulated and sacrificed. Few survive to be effective political, religious, academic or corporate leaders. Many become political thugs-for-hire without a name to themselves. The less said about the church...

Kenyans have few viable choices going into 2013. We know it. The politicians know it. Our enemies know it. But we will repeat past behaviour, fall into old patterns. The violence, bank heists, poaching and terror attacks are more of the same. We are prevented from properly vetting candidates for high office; our attention is on our safety, both physical and material. It is what politicians want. It is what our enemies want. But it is not what we need.

When did we become a civilised society?


Makau Mutua gets it wrong again. By claiming civilised society status for Kenya (Physical attacks on Miguna are barbaric, Sunday Nation, 2 September 2012), he betrays that he has been away from home for far too long. Let us examine some of the characteristics of a civilised society. Leadership, even when corrupt, is held to account. The members of the community take an active, sometimes loudly vocal, part in the governance of their communities, be it at grassroots, regional or national level. This is how someone like Barack Obama was able to rise from the level of a community organiser to the President of the United States. Institutions matter; it is why even in their decline, trades union, political parties, professional societies, and the like continue to play an important role in organising the voices of the masses. Everyone pays their taxes; those who cannot afford to are assisted to rise to a level where they can pay. In the USA and the UK, "the dole" or "unemployment"  is not a permanent subsidy; one is usually assisted to get off it and into a job as quickly as possible. Even in the middle of a battle over the curriculum offered in institutions of learning, politicians in civilised societies accept the vital role that well-managed schools play; for this reason, schools are funded to an astonishing degree.

Even a casual examination of Kenya betrays the fact that it is far from being considered a civilised country. Prof Mutua points out that in a civilised society, "free speech" is to be celebrated and protected. I couldn't agree more. For this reason, whether I think Miguna Miguna is wrong or the paid agent of the Prime Minister's nemeses, his right to speak and publish what he wants cannot be infringed upon, save under the laws of libel and slander. But Kenya is not civilised and speech is far from free. The history of the past decade has been a history of missteps and political corruption n a colossal scale. Mwai Kibaki, with the support of Raila Odinga, swept into power with the promise of a new beginning; a new broom to sweep out the Augean Stables that was the Kenya body politic.

What we got instead was the ever ballooning corruption and rights violations that culminated in the murderous blood-letting after the 2007 general election. Speech is only free in Kenya if it sings the tune of the politician of the hour. Miguna Miguna is discovering this to his eternal sorrow. When he hitched his wagon to the Raila Odinga movement, Miguna Miguna distinguished himself amidst all the lackeys, kiss-asses and sycophants, for his devotion and loud loyalty to the Prime Minister. His every public move until his spectacular falling out with the PM was calculated to paint Raila Odinga as Kenya's Second Coming and the PM's detractors as nitwits, nincompoops, morons and idiots-for-hire. He single-handedly contributed to making the PM the most loathed figure in the PNU camp; nothing the PM does today will erase the anger that Miguna Miguna aroused in his enemies. When he did what he did, no one saw fit to ask him to tone down his rhetoric; speech is free, right? It is only after he turned his cudgels on the PM and his coterie that we have somehow discovered the limits of free speech.

The hallmarks of a civilised society are only appreciated by the men and women with the wherewithal to blind themselves to the realities of the day. Kenya is a poor country, yet we behave as if we have a bottomless Treasury. We can afford to keep our army of elected representatives in a style to which many Kenyans can only imagine, but it is "unsustainable" to give in to the demands of doctors, teachers, nurses or policemen who live hand-to-mouth and suffer the indignity of being thought of as failures for their chosen careers. We can afford to take out massive foreign loans to build highways and bridges while hundreds of thousands of Kenyans live in hovels not even fit for the most rabid of dogs. We can afford to send our defense forces to fight wars in foreign lands (a popular move no doubt) but we are unable to prevent the corruption of our immigration and citizenship services which sees foreign pederasts and sundry other criminals claim Kenyan nationality on a daily basis. On what basis does Makau Mutua make the claim that Kenya is a civilised society? What?

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...