Thursday, November 29, 2012

Who is Duale kidding?

Someone needs to educate Aden Duale, the combative Dujis MP who dumped ODM with his boon friend William Ruto when it became apparent that they would not become kings in Raila Odinga's kingdom: he is a member of the government by virtue of being a member of the disgraced Tenth Parliament. Someone also needs to remind him that MPs are not and should not automatically be entitled to protection at public expense simply because they are our elected representatives. It's time that Kenyans rejected the idea that their elected representatives enjoy privileges denied to the citizens. It is immoral for the National Assembly to call on police resources to keep them safe from the vagaries of the nation while millions upon millions of Kenyans live under the shadow of bandits' guns. Mr Duale wants us to believe that the National Assembly has played its role as an oversight institution vis-a-vis the Executive branch by scrutinising and approving the Finance Bills that have tracked mad through the hallowed halls of Parliament. In his mind, it is enough that MPs spend what little brain power they devote to the peoples' problems thinking up schemes for laying blame at the feet of one Executive agency or the other.

The deteriorating security situation in various parts of the country is not the fault of the Executive branch alone; the silent majority who stand idly by as marauding bandits walk among them must shoulder part, perhaps the lion's share, of the blame too. If the likes of Aden Duale were truly interested in sorting out the problems of, for example, cattle-rustling once and for all, all they have to do is engage in serious peace-building and not the truces that simply buy time for bandits and marauders to rearm and regroup. District peace committees have existed since the dark days of the 1992 land clashes; their effect has been limited at best. Organised as inter-ethnic negotiations, the peace-building committees have become the causes of entrenched stances among various leaders of ethnic blocs. Instead of attempting to reconcile communities, they have become talking shops in which participants earn meager allowances, civil society honchos earn fat ones, and everyone gives lip service to "culture" and "tradition" as reasonable excuses for inter-ethnic bloodletting and turn a beady eye to "political" interference in the process. It is time we admitted that these peace committees have failed, and that the failure has allowed persons with axes to grind, or billions to make, to take advantage.

What is not surprising about Mr Duale's casual approach to the problems is his equally cavalier dismissal of the allegations that Members of Parliament are divorced from reality regarding the plight of ordinary citizens at the hands of bandits. MPs see nothing wrong in tying up millions of man hours protecting themselves from the people that elected them. In their world, it is sufficient that they are elected representatives and that they say they know all. 

Mr Duale and his colleagues from the erstwhile Northern Frontier have represented some of the most back-ward communities in Kenya. They were elected in 2007 on the promise that that would make concerted efforts to reverse  the decades of official neglect that had left their communities bereft of even the most basic services. What they have done instead, is to aggrandise themselves on a massive scale, spending more time on committees and foreign junkets than on the business of serving their constituents. 

Even when their constituents have suffered from the violence that has customarily been suppressed by the State, Mr Duale and his colleagues have simply reduced their concern for the people into a contest between them and individual politicians; they have yet to confront the cultures and traditions that keep banditry and marauding raids alive. Mr Duale should stop taking the high road and instead, admit that his interest and those of the victims of the Baragoi massacre, both police and civilian, cannot rely on him for succour.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Which idiot will win outright?

Once upon a time a romantic notion prevailed abroad in the land that church premises were sanctuaries for those escaping persecution. This romantic notion was eventually extended to all places of worship; if you were on the run from greedy, grasping, iniquitous hands, you would find sanctuary in a place of worship. Nowadays, though, very few see places of worship as sanctuaries, or safe havens. They have become militarised, just as we have militarised every open public space in this country in the name of internal security. We used to take it for granted that even with the extremely uncouth behaviour of matatu crews, we would arrive at our destinations a little careworn but safe nonetheless. Rising cases of public transport bombings, as well as the occasional Gor Mahia anti-PSV rampage, mean that it is on a wing and a prayer that we board public service vehicles. It is common today to witness black-clad men (and women) of the cloth demanding that more police be hired, more police be deployed on the streets and in the valleys of death, and evil-doers be hunted down and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law; the Church has become an enthusiastic cheerleader of the more-police-more-security line of thought. This is sad.

Form has replaced substance. Even a casual examination of the Traffic Act as amended recently demonstrates that Kenyans have given upon substantive reforms—we no longer wish to reform our behaviour; we would rather depend on a draconian enforcement of laws we have no wish to obey to "keep us safe". It is becoming increasingly apparent that we have made a fetish of the form of our interpersonal relationships and turned it into an abstract thing our relationship with our government. The Law is an abstract concept; its obedience is an abstract act; its enforcement does not apply to us—it applies to everyone else.

When Kenyan police were murdered in Baragoi in the Suguta valley, our outrage was not that police were murdered in cold blood; our outrage was that the police who were murdered were "inexperienced". We have blithely stood by as social and family ties have withered and died in an environment of ever greater permissiveness and an increasing tolerance for violence, whether physical, verbal or psychological. Violence has began to characterise the discourse in the church too; what else explains the panel of men of the cloth demanding the deployment of ever greater numbers of "experienced" police to deal with the violence unleashed on the peoples of Kenya in this election cycle? When children are increasingly educated with the language of violence (in Sunday schools across the nation, children are exhorted to be "soldiers of Christ") and when politicians and other opinion-makers and leaders use violent imagery to define their opponents, it is too much to expect that a people primed for violence will not resort to violence to resolve heir differences. The cattle-rustlers of the Suguta valley apparently condone a tit-for-tat cycle that sees one ethnic community's rustlers raid another community's "territory" in the full knowledge that retaliation will take place regardless of what the Executive branch does or demands. Minister Katoo Ole Metito has responded as his ministry is wont to respond—by deploying more police in the area and by engaging in a "disarmament exercise". The minister must surely know that his efforts are wasted; in a month's time, perhaps longer, the retaliation will surely take place and we will be wringing our hands in despair and asking "Why?"

We must moan the removal of the rose-tinted glasses through which we viewed the Church. It is now one amongst a growing list of discredited social institutions that we once had faith in. Together with the total collapse of the village, the institution of high learning (aka the University) and the the State, Kenyans are left to fend for themselves and themselves alone. We only care about individual or nuclear family needs, sometimes not even the latter. The promises of the likes of Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are filtered through the prism of individual need and greed; we will line up behind them not because they are our ethnic champions, but because they are the surest guarantee that we will amass great wealth by crooked means. The moderating voice of the church leadership or the village elders or the university intellectuals has been stilled for the longest of times; their stillness promises that in 2013 we can only pray that some idiot wins outright.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The fetishisation of the Constitution

We are Americanising at an astonishing rate. It used to be that cultural exports from the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave captured the popular imagination, from MTV to Hip Hop and Gangster Rap, from Hollywood fare to pulp fiction. We now seem to have imported American political pillars into the Kenyan political arena such as the fetishisation of the Constitution and the obsession with "strategic coalitions and alliances". The so-called culture wars, the perennial battle between conservatives and liberals over abortion and family values, seem to have crossed the Atlantic and landed on our shores with a bang. The days when parents would decry the influence of 2Pac or the Notorious B.I.G. are well and truly gone; we should be more concerned that it is specific chapters of the Constitution that receive prominence while incidents, such as the deaths of dozens of police, receive little. Even as many call for investigations into the Suguta Valley Massacre and Matthew Iteere's head on a platter, our obsession is with the general election and the place of Chapter 6 on the presidential ambitions of Messrs William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Committee of Experts did an excellent job of harmonising the various drafts into one Proposed Constitution in time for the 2010 referendum. They did a piss-poor job of weeding out irrelevant provisions. Take a look at Chapter 6, for example. The sentiment behind the Chapter on Integrity and Leadership is laudable but it flies in the face of reality. There isn't a voter alive in Kenya who lives by the rules or accepts that the rule of law covers them. Impunity is not to be found only in the wretched political class; we are all guilty of impunity. So too with the Two-thirds Gender Rule. No one will argue against ensuring that representation in Parliament and the county assemblies should reflect the facts on the ground; that the genders are more or less the same in terms of numbers and expertise. But the rule flies in the face of reality too. We have done precious little to re-write the culture that makes, especially women, second-class citizens in Kenya. Even the church has done little to reverse this view. The Roman Catholic Church and certain branches of the Anglican Communion still refuse to ordain women priests. We have not set the ground to elevate women to positions of responsibility or leadership. How are we to achieve equitable political representation when we aren't even brave enough to state that representation in Parliament or the county assemblies should be on a fifty-fifty basis?

We have fetishised the law to an extreme end without addressing the foundations for the proper appreciation of the rule of law. The rule of law will not apply in an environment of general contempt for rules and regulations. Even social mores and norms contribute to a healthy respect for the rule of law. The general rules of the game, such as they are, ensure that our socio-cultural regulations are executed within certain accepted parameters. In family, one cannot marry a person in a prohibited relationship such as a first-cousin, sibling, parent, step-parent, half-sibling, adopted sibling, etc. This has been codified in law. But it was a social prohibition first before it became a legal prohibition. First the society decides then it legislates. We seem to have come to accept that it is acceptable to show contempt for rules. Even if it was not for the sensationalisation of child-defilement cases, it is almost certain that incidences of incest among siblings or between parents and their children are o doubt on the rise with the accompanying social sanctions. When officers of the law such as police and the courts engage in "negotiations" in order to resolve these anti-social actions, contempt for the law (impunity) is reinforced and every one knows that they too do not have to obey the general rules of the game. So while the elite of the elite in Nairobi obsess endlessly over the "implementation of the Constitution", millions of Kenyans continue to witness the ceaseless chipping away at the foundation of the rule of law, participate in it, and contribute to the impunity all hypocritically pretend to condemn.

Very soon it will be what is written on paper that matters rather than what is just or unjust. The Constitution will become our new idol. It will not be the only one. SMS lotteries provide a very good example of the changing moral fabric of the nation. It was expected of everyone that the path to success and wealth was hard work and dedication to a craft. One studied hard, worked hard and one was rewarded by material wealth and success. SMS lotteries and other forms of gambling have whittled away at this ethos. But this erosion of a core national value was also accompanied by the perfidy that leaders engaged in with wild abandon. The national narrative now is that one need not world hard to succeed; one need only be lucky or be in the right place at the right time. Children now learn that material wealth is the be all and end all and that it can be obtained simply by spending other people's money or by engaging in corrupt and immoral acts. The law is only loved by those who make it or enforce it; the people have since given up on it.

Are the G7 the Mitt Romneys of Kenya?

Willard Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election partly because he thought the United States is still run by old white men. The coalition that Barack Obama assembled to win the 2008 election survived largely intact in 2012 and helped re-elect him to the White House. By turning the Democratic Party into a big tent, Barack Obama brought together the youth, gays, Hispanics, single women, the elderly and pro-Israel Jews to defeat Mr Romney's ill-assembled coalition that tended to the same groups that the GOP has carried since the halcyon days of Newt Gingrich's speakership in the 1990s.

Kenya's presidential contenders continue to draw the wrong lessons from the United States' elections. The current political and media obsession is with the assembling of coalitions before a December 4 deadline, the most notorious being the negotiations between Uhuru Kenyatta/TNA and William Ruto/URP. Despite what Messrs Ole Kaparo and the old men at the helm of the URP claim, Mr Ruto is being treated not only as the leader of the UR but also as the leader of the Kalenjin as Mr Kenyatta is being treated as a leader of TNA and the Kikuyu. So too Mr Mudavadi is being treated as a Luhya leader, Raila Odinga as a Luo leader, Kalonzo Musyoka as a Kamba leader, and so on and so forth.The alliances being fronted are tribal alliances; the negotiations being prosecuted are being prosecuted in the name of tribal numbers. This is the curse of the 50+1 Rule in the Constitution that demands that the winning presidential candidate must get at least 50%+1 of the total vote cast in the election, as well as at least half the votes cast in at least half the counties. Kenya's presidential contenders are held hostage to bankrupt ideas about tribal coalition-building as the cornerstone of a successful presidential campaign. They refuse to acknowledge that after the 2007 general election, millions of voters will no longer be blindly led astray. Kenya is about to experience a demographic miracle the  likes of which has never been seen in its 49 years of uhuru.

Mr Kenyatta's and Mr Ruto's marriage of convenience if it comes to pass is founded on two flawed and interconnected reasons: antipathy for the Prime Minister and their indictments at the International Criminal Court. Mr Romney's backers were motivated by racial antipathy for the incumbent and a visceral hatred for his policies and accomplishments. It has always been easier to stand against something than to to stand for something but it is near impossible to sustain a policy of being against something. Sooner or later your constituents are going to ask for an alternative. What is the alternative that Mr Kenyatta or Mr Ruto offers the electorate of Kenya? So far they and their acolytes have yet to offer an alternative vision to that of the Prime Minister. For example, while we cannot make them like the PM, they should instead tell us why we should like them and why we should vote for them. By continuously banging on about why the PM is wrong, they should tell us why they are right; perhaps then we may be informed well enough to draw distinctions between their pledges and those of the PM. If all they'll concentrate on are the alleged flaws of the PM, we may be forced to decide that we are better off with the devil we know and elect him instead of them.

All presidential candidates, bar one or two no-hoppers, have drawn large crowds wherever they have gone and these large crowds have consisted almost entirely of unemployed youth, half of whom have been out of work for at least three years. It beggars belief that all these young people hear at political rallies, or what is reported about political rallies, is the promise of an alliance between this politician and that politician an not about the specific problems that the young people face. In their bubble, most of the presidential contenders refuse to see that their time in the government has been a disappointment to these people and that without addressing their problems, the talk of alliances and coalitions is only setting the stage for great strife and turmoil. The alliances and coalitions are acceptable or unacceptable only to an elite few; the majority of voters simply want to know that their day-to-day problems will be solved through the guarantee of opportunity and the promise of wealth if they work hard and apply themselves. If even this promise is not kept, the men and women fronting the alliances and coalitions will have no one but themselves to blame when the angry youth set their entire edifice on fire.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Here comes the whirlwind.

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
Hosea viii: 7

It is not every day that over 40 policemen are expertly ambushed and mowed down by gunfire in the dead of night as they pursue brigands making away with livestock. It is not every day that the government stands impotent in the face of escalating provocations. It is not every day that the loud silence of our armies of human rights organisations stand mute as families lose breadwinners and protectors at the hands of the scum of the universe. It is not every day that a nation shrugs its shoulders after the commission of a heinous crime and goes about its business as if dead police were not someone's parent, sibling, spouse or child. We continue to place the welfare of our police on the back-burner; our obsession is with the election of one or more of "our people". We continue to turn a blind eye to their depredations because we blame them for their venality without accepting that we force them to be venal. We have sown the wind; when the whirlwind comes, we will have no one to blame but the face in the mirror.

The escalation of the attacks on security forces has been disguised by common violent crime incidents. When the police were first deployed to the Tana Delta, no expected them to be ambushed, though they were. No expected the "riots" in Kisumu to include co-ordinated attacks on police stations and the holding of police officers hostage for brief periods. Everyone assumed that the cattle-rustling incidents in Samburu would be resolved as they usually are—by the deployment of contingent of regular police, a disarmament exercise that lasts a week and the recovery of some of the stolen animals. No one expected a sophisticated ambush, including the use of special tactics such as long-distance sniper attacks. But it was the savagery of the attackers that calls for pause. If they were capable of mounting such an ambush, why did they do it in the first place? They had made away with the livestock; their pursuers were not good enough; they could have gotten away. Why did they choose to murder the police, just as police were murdered in the Tana Delta?

Isn't it time we started considering whether Kenya is being primed for great violence in 2013? These escalating attacks on the police may just be a way of testing their training, tactics and response capability in the face of these continued extreme provocations. Someone surely must have considered that the units that would be deployed to respond touch whole-scale slaughter of law enforcement officers would be the general Service Unit and the Rapid Deployment Unit of the Administration Police. Are the people behind the violence against the police testing the response of these two elite units? If so why? They must also be testing the capacity of the National Intelligence Service to anticipate such incidents and its capacity to gather intelligence to head them off. Is the poor police response an indication of intelligence gaps in the nation or incompetence at the NIS? The continued murder of police should scare the living daylights out of every Kenyan.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Guided democracy has failed everywhere else.

The enlightened leaders of the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea, and to a large extent their fellow travelers in the Peoples' Republic of China and the Republic of Cuba, understand the value of guided democracy. To some extent Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda and many of his colleagues in Africa espouse some form of guided democracy. It shouldn't come as a surprise, therefore, that despite our Constitution's implicit rejection of the idea of guided democracy, there are men and women who would like to see it flower in Kenya. I take my cue from last night's NTV Governors' Debate in Migori County in which it was insinuated that "leaders of the county would sit down and decide, based on perceived relative strengths and weaknesses of ethnic communities in the county, that the Luo would retain the position of Governor while the Kuria would contest the Senate seat and one of their own would be appointed to the Deputy Governorship. Whether Kenya suffers the fate of Stalinist North Korea or enjoys the vast benefits of a liberal democracy as practiced by diverse nations as India, South Africa or Brazil, is to be determined at the ballot box come March 4, 2013.

A proposal doing the rounds, and it is a proposal not confined to Migori County, seeks to cut out the voter in the election of representatives to various public positions. In Migori county’s case, Okoth Obado and Prof Oyugi Akong’o alluded, during the NTV debate, to a visit by the Prime Minister to the county when he was presented with a “proposal by Kurians” that the positions of Senator and Deputy Governor be “reserved” for them at the next general election, due in 2013. Regardless of what position the two politicians took, it is striking that the views of the peoples of Migori were not ascertained. It is unclear whether the persons who presented the proposal to the Prime Minister had the authority to speak for the peoples of Migori or whether they were deemed to be the voice of the peoples of Migori.

Kenya’s experience with guided democracy has been a dark, as has been the case in China, Cuba and North Korea. Kenyans who lived through the fiasco that were the 1988 general elections will recall how the ruling party had degenerated. Using an easily manipulated system of queue voting, clearly popular leaders who had refused to kow-tow to the increasingly unreasonable demands of President Moi and Nyayoism were defeated at the party elections. Despite hundreds of thousands of party members supporting their candidacies, it is sycophants with increasingly tenuous links to the grassroots who were declared winners. This is the face of guided democracy that Prof Oyugi and Mr Obado casually discussed on Sunday.

Regardless of what one thinks of the “difficulties” of participating in the political process in Kenya, there is no shortcut to meeting the demands of a democratic society. If the peoples of Migori wish to adopt the guided democracy model, they must demonstrate this desire in the only way that counts—by participating in the political process. They cannot allow men and women to purport to speak on their behalf without proof of such delegated power. The easiest way to take part in the political process is to register as members of a political party, even if there is only one active political party in the county. If ODM is such a party, then it is only within the structures of the party that the members of the party can make a political proposal to the peoples of Migori that the position of Governor be reserved for the Luo; that the Governor will appoint a Kurian as Deputy Governor; and that that position of Senator be reserved for a Kurian. If the voters in Migori County accept this proposal, they will demonstrate their acceptance in the only legitimate way—by voting for the slate of candidates presented by ODM at the general elections. That is how we determine the will of the people.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Right Carrot.

Raila Odinga is still looking for the right carrot to offer William Ruto in his quest to succeed Mwai Kibaki. In recent days he has reiterated his desire to try Messrs Ruto and Kenyatta locally for the offences they allegedly committed in 2007 and 2008. Mr Ruto has rejected that offer. What is striking is that received wisdom has it that Mr Odinga is determined to ensure that the indictments against the two stick and that they are convicted and removed from the political arena once and for all. This flies in the face of the evidence.

Since the Grand Coalition was formed, Mr Odinga and the President have worked hand in hand to ensure that the long reach of the International Criminal Court does not extend to Kenya. In this they have been thwarted by the allies of Messrs Ruto and Kenyatta. Even in the face of this organised opposition, the two have attempted at various times to ensure that the matter is sent back to Kenya. IN this too they have been thwarted. It is disingenuous of Messrs Ruto and Kenyatta to claim that they are at The Hague because of the machinations of the Prime Minister without accusing the President too.

The ICC indictments do not seem to have dimmed their political ambitions though, nor do they seem to have been slowed down politically. Kenyans have not forgotten the rhetoric of the 2007 campaigns; incumbent and challengers flung enough mud to make a sty full of pigs very happy. None will forget that in the aftermath of the elections, the ODM unity was beyond doubt as was the PNU unity. It is only after the protracted negotiations failed to secure outright advantage of one side over the other that the true colours of the players was revealed. We may never know the full facts of the negotiations, but if half of what the likes of Miguna Miguna claim is true, then Mr Ruto's ambition may have gotten the better of his loyalty to the man he saw selling ODM down the river.

Raila Odinga has demonstrated that he takes after Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi for strategic vision and planning. It took him close to a decade to destroy KANU as a political force. It took him three years to destroy Mwai Kibaki's coalition; the President secured re-election in 2007 in part because of the Incumbency Factor as well as being the man in charge of the instruments of power. If Mr Odinga fails to succeed to the presidency this time round, it will not be for want of trying, planning or scheming. It is therefore, not surprising that despite what Mr Ruto or his allies have done over the past two years, he is determined to recreate what was a winning combination. No one will take the presidency without a significant chunk of the Rift Valley vote and this vote is controlled substantially by William Ruto. Mr Odinga will swallow shit if it means he and Mr Ruto are on the same page, or same ballot. All he needs is the right carrot to offer Mr Ruto.

Is Kalonzo done?

No one is surprised that the ever-vacillating vice-president has quit the Gang of Seven. When Uhuru Kenyatta and his allies alluded to the vice-president's record of picking low-hanging fruit, he was marking time in the alliance until the time was tight for him to jump ship. But the writing had been on the wall since the 2010 referendum; measured in terms of the votes Kalonzo Musyoka delivered to his side, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto did much better even when they were on opposite sides of the referendum question. All that remains to be determined is whether Kalonzo Musyoka will heed the advise of Johnston Muthama and join hands with Raila Odinga or he will, indeed, go it alone as he did in 2007.

Certain facts have changed since the last general election. For one, it is not a simple matter to craft a coalition after an election. Agreements must be filed with the Registrar of Political Parties well in advance if allies wish to share executive power. One of them must also abandon his party. Any post-election coalition can only work in the National Assembly. Recent talk of sharing the positions of Speaker, Majority Party Leader and Cabinet sots is only two-thirds possible; and that two-thirds will require the active acquiescence of the voters of Kenya. Not one presidential candidate can promise that any alliance he enters into will produce a majority in the National Assembly or Senate, control a majority of the county governments, or have the numbers to ram through a slate of Cabinet nominees.

Mr Musyoka must have realised that the manner he has been treated by his erstwhile allies is reminiscent of the manner he alleges he was treated by Raila Odinga and his allies on 2007; he was not going to be given the presidential nomination because of his seniority or his present position or the fact that of the three he is the only one not facing an international crimes indictment at the International Criminal Court. He must also have realised that he is being treated with contempt. Everyone is wooing everyone else because it is presumed that the other has the capacity to bring their ethnic blocs to the ballot as one group. In the eyes of Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto, Mr Musyoka is incapable of uniting the Akamba behind him; the Ukambani vote is split between Mr Musyoka and Charity Ngilu, with the John Harun Mwau factor yet to be considered. The two realise that Musalia Mudavadi commands a greater relative share of the Luhya vote compared to Mr Musyoka; this explains why he is constantly being linked to the Uhuru or Ruto camps and, strangely, not the Kalonzo camp.

Mr Musyoka has very little to show for nearly 30 years in the National Assembly and five years as vice-president. There are no signature achievements to his name. Even the lacklustre Mwai Kibaki managed to hold on to seniority in the opposition for a decade before finally taking the presidency in 2002. Raila Odinga is identified with the Second Liberation Movement. William Ruto has managed to supplant Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi as the doyen of the Rift Valley. Uhuru Kenyatta is Central Kenya's favourite son as Musalia Mudavadi is Western Kenya's. Mr Musyoka cannot even claim universal love from the peoples of Ukambani. No roads or dams or hospitals or schools or any public project is associated with him. Even in his signature achievement of the Somali peace process or the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement he has to share the limelight with President Moi and Gen Lazaro Sumbeiywo.He is, however, remembered for his steadfast loyalty to Moi and the Nyayoism that brought him to political prominence. He may have been more suave compared to Shariff Nassir and JJ Kamotho, but in his unswerving loyalty to an iniquitous system, he was unparallelled. That is his signature achievement and it is like a millstone around his neck. In the end, it will sink his presidential ambitions once and for all in 2013. Thank God.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Still waiting for Godot.

It is all well and good for one to be well-meaning, educated and experienced in the private sector when one is applying to succeed Baba Jimmi in 2013; it is not all well and good to have zero political skills. We may sneer at their chances of succeeding the president, but Peter Kenneth, Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua, Moses Wetangula, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Cyrus Jirongo have some political experience. Some, like Martha Karua and Charity Ngilu are consummate political operators. Presidential jokers like Kingwa Kamencu and James Ole Kiyiapi have overstayed their welcome on the political stage. Like Prof Lavai Shihanda, it would be best if they retired to the comfort of their armchairs and watched the spectacle of many rivers flowing into one mighty Amazon, whether the Amazon turns out to be Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto or Raila Odinga.

Much ink on newsprint has been poured to create the narrative that all one needs is excellent private-sector credentials in order to make a credible candidate for any of the new political offices up for grabs in 2013. Many candidates for the office of county governor tout their years of private- and public-sector experience as managers or leaders to persuade Kenyans that they are to be trusted with the reins of power at the county level in 2013. None has yet to persuade us that they have exceptional political skills for the onerous tasks that face them in implementing devolution as dreamed up by the Committee of Experts. This is not to argue that their managerial experiences will count for not in the management of the enormous public resources that will be allocated to county governments. On the contrary; these experiences will count for nothing if these men and women fail to forge a political consensus as to what to prioritise when it comes to these resources. They may have lofty ideas about shiny new highways of prosperity, but might find that their subjects prefer affordable healthcare or functioning produce markets. They will need to have exceptional political skills to persuade their subjects that good roads will eventually translate into functioning markets.

Kingwa Kamencu is fast-realising that despite her youth or inexperience, veteran politicians are not taking her candidacy lightly and have set out to stop it before it gets out of hand. The less-than-flattering items in the popular press regarding her campaign can be attributed to the established campaigns; this is how politics is played at this level. They will give her no quarter and will expect none in return. The more mature James Ole Kiyiapi is discovering that being a policy wonk in the government of Mwai Kibaki has not prepared him for the hurly-burly of the political arena. His campaign is dead in the water simply because he refuses to engage in the same political skullduggery that the remaining leading contenders engage in as a matter of course. If he thinks Kenyans are going to give him the benefit of the doubt because of his rags-to-riches tale, or his outstanding academic credentials, or his brief stint as a senior civil servant, or his strong faith in a Christian God, Kenyans are about to teach him an expensive, but valuable, lesson in retail politics. You could be the nicest guy alive but to win our vote you will need to persuade us politically, not logically. All the assets that the good professor possesses must be brought to bear in his political message and until he internalises this fundamental political truth, he will simply burn his wealth pursuing a chimaera.

This nation is in dire need of expert leadership - expert in economics, education, nuclear energy, oil and gas economics, dispute and conflict resolution, law-making and a whole host of governance issues. But without excellent politicians who possess this expertise, in 2030 we will still be looking for a vision with which to elevate Kenya to the ranks of the middle-income nations of the world. If there is one thing that we can confirm today it is that after 49 years, we now know that the men and women who purport to speak for us in the corridors o power, and justice, are incompetent at their jobs. They are the worst politicians in the world. China and North Korea do not count; those people don't have to stand for elections. Ours do. Three generations of politicians have managed to keep divided the peoples of Kenya; the dream that the colonial government had in 1921 is alive and truly kicking in the 21st century. We need a new crop of politicians. Sadly, Kingwa Kamencu and James Ole Kiyiapi are not it.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Mr Kenyatta's foreign experiment

Uhuru Kenyatta, the presumptive presidential candidate of The National Alliance, was in Burundi yesterday, having dragged the likes of Charity Ngilu and Musikari Kombo to one of the latest members of the East African Community for "alliance talks". Why he feels the need to do so begs more questions than answers. Mr Kenyatta, though, understands the power of what the Americans call optics better than anyone. He may have been born with the largest silver spoon in Kenya, but Mr Kenyatta, like his political bete noir Raila Odinga, understands the man on the street better than many will give him credit for. He knows the images of him sitting down with heads of state will create the right optical illusion that may swing a few more votes his way. The urban sophisticates in their ivory towers may sneer at his cross-border shenanigans, but Mr Kenyatta is not counting on their votes as much as he is counting on the votes of the millions of Kenyans whose level of political sophistication is demonstrated by their nostalgia for the three-piece voting ways of days past. Mr Kenyatta calculates that they will see images of him sitting down for serious talks with heads of state and come to associate him with the presidency. It helps that many know he is the son of Kenya's founding president.

Kenya is every bit as exceptional as the United States, just not as successful. In politics, we have confounded the naysayers who argued that Africans would always screw up self-governance. Make no mistake; 24 years of Nyayoism was a catastrophe and the incessant "ethnic clashes" and "election violence" continue to undermine the picture of Kenya as a sanctuary of peace in a region that is not. But we should not underestimate the continued existence of a "nation" composed of 42 other nations, many of which distrust each other (at least their political leaders do), 50 odd years after internal self-rule was "granted" by the colonial government. For this reason, Uhuru Kenyatta must not only persuade his "people" to vote for him come March 2013, he must persuade other peoples to do so and in large numbers if he is to secure the presidency. His forays in the East Africa Community are an attempt to inform Kenyans that he is not just eying the leadership of the nation, but of the region and that his reception in the capitals of Kenya's neighbours is an indication that he will not confine his leadership to the Mount Kenya Region, or Kenya alone for that matter. Mr Kenyatta intends to stamp Kenya's authority over the entire East African region.

This must have been the same conclusion that Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka arrived at in the last election when they both paid visits to Yoweri Museveni of Uganda during their campaigns. Their ambitions were merely to pay homage to East Africa's remaining strongman. Uhuru Kenyatta has demonstrated that they must have bigger ambitions for themselves and the nation.

Whether Mr Kenyatta's gamble will pay off depends on whether one still thinks Kenyans are politically unsophisticated. Kenyans have come a long way since the dark days of 2007/08. We have learned a lot since Mwai Kibaki was first sworn in as Kenya's third President. It is simplistic to presume that because over 60% of Kenyans lead a "simple life" that they are simple minded. Nothing could be further from the truth. The evolution of the Kenyan voter can be traced to the last bribe-filled election of 2002. Then, many Kenyans elected one candidate while taking campaign bribes from others. Whoever paid the highest bribes for votes sometimes lost in a landslide. 2013 is set to put paid to many political assumptions about Kenyan voters. Mr Kenyatta is testing one with his cross-border forays and if Kenyans refute the image that he is attempting to capture, we will have advanced another step towards limiting the power that politicians have over our body politic.

Lenaola and Abdullahi, pull the other one. Its got bells on!

Mr Justice Isaac Lenaola and Ahmednasir Abdullahi attempt to justify the purchase of forty Mercedes-Benz vehicles for the Judiciary in an article in the Daily Nation (We are Transparent: The purchase of vehicles for judges not ostentation; it is within the Constitution, Daily Nation, Thursday, November 8, 2012). It is easy to dismiss the argument that judges and magistrates deserve Mercedes-Benz vehicles on the ground that they have always driven these cars. Mr Abdullahi and Justice Lenaola argue that they have done so since the 1980s and that another judge, Richard Kwach, recommended that get even swankier ones for their use. Justice Lenaola be relieved of responsibility for this hare-brained scheme; Mr Abdullahi must find a better explanation. After all, during the tendentious public interviews the Judiciary Service Commission conducted when looking for judges of the Supreme Court, Mr Adbullahi and his colleagues on the panel created the impression that the men and women they were seeking for the highest court had to demonstrate that they could empathize with the lot of the peoples of Kenya.

The argument that what was done in the past must continue well into the future simply because it is part of their "entitlements and benefits" is an affront to the millions upon millions of Kenyan who pay exorbitant excise duties and VAT just so our high and mighty can lord it up like the truffles-snuffling colonial-era settlers and powers-that-were. Since at least 2003 Kenyans have been called upon to sacrifice "for the sake of the country" and  sacrifice we have. NTV recently televised the squalid living conditions of the rank-and-file police officers who stand as a bulwark between us and utter anarchy. Joseph Kinyua, The Treasury PS tells us that to meet the pay-deal arrived at with the police would not cost more than sh3.2 billion.

We seem to have accepted the argument that if one wants a comfortable life, all one has to do is do well in the private sector but cash in in the public sector. When one sees the millions that commissioners trouser every year, one is left in no doubt that the long-suffering masses shall suffer a little longer just so the men and women who decide on their fates can live lives of luxury. The sacrifices we make should be shared by the high and mighty too. It is not unfair to demand that judges and magistrates give up their Mercs, is it? After all, if all they are looking for is comfortable transportation, there is no reason why a Toyota Avensis or Premio should not do. One get the impression that the reason why the two authors are campaigning so strongly for this ostentatious purchase is because in addition to the prestige accompanied by the three-pointed star, they would like to see judges and magistrates one-up their counterparts in Parliament and in the Executive. Especially when it comes to judges of the superior courts, the fact that they trouser millions every year means that, if they are honest with themselves, they do not need government limos; they can all comfortably afford their own without troubling the long-suffering tax-payers of Kenya.

If it wasn't tragic it would be bloody funny.

I love Kenyans. No, I really do. Hours after Barack Obama secured a second term as the President of the United States, Kenyan politicians, especially presidential candidates, were sending him messages of congratulations and attempting to bask in the glow of his continuing history-making presidential career. That is par for the course. There isn't a world leader or aspiring world leader who did not send Barack Obama a message of congratulations. What makes our situation spectacularly, fantastically humorous was an ODM press conference headlined by Ababu Namwamba where he and his colleagues attempted to draw parallels between the Obama victory and the shambles that are the Kenyan presidential campaigns.

Isn't it time we admitted to ourselves and in public that we suck when it comes to the practice of politics as a profession, a calling or as an art? The last truly great politician was Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and we ruined him when we attempted to oust him before the good voters of Kenya had gotten fed up with him. If those idiot airmen had not decided that their coup was a bright idea, perhaps Moi would not have been the gargoyle staring down at us for the twenty extra years he ruled with an ever heavier hand. Raila Odinga may be the consummate politician, but Mwai Kibaki is the more successful. Even after he was 'demoted' by Moi, allegedly because he had become quite ineffective as Veep, Mwai Kibaki still managed to pass himself off as the doyen of the opposition, remaining Leader of the Official Opposition until the day the coalition crafted by others propelled him to the presidency. All of Raila Odinga's previous attempts to ascend to the highest office in the land have ended in disaster, none worse than the 2007 general election.

Despite Mr Odinga's many fumbles in his quest for the presidency, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta and the rest of them continue to underestimate Raila Odinga's political potency. In 2009 and 201, deep in the campaign for the Proposed Constitution, William Ruto bet all his marbles that he could outwit the Langata MP. Cleverly hooking up with the so-called watermelons, Mr Ruto would always take any position that challenged Raila Odinga's. Their falling out after the arrest of thousands of youth for the PEV and the eviction of thousands of families for the reclamation of the Mau water tower ensured that Mr Ruto had become Mr Odinga's strongest political foe. It came down to Naivasha. Mr Ruto predictably refused to go along with is party leader and co-deputy leader when they supported a Parliamentary System, rather than a Presidential System, for the organisation of government. Mr Ruto and his allies had set so many hurdles in the way of the constitutional review process that the Naivasha retreat was taking place very close to one of the deadlines in the process. If they got their way in Naivasha, they could stymie the Prime Minister's ambitions. When the PM ostensibly gave in to their demands and went along with the Presidential System that so engrossed them, they realised that they had been tricked; the PM all along wanted a Presidential System on the presumption that when he became president, he would not have to appoint the likes of Mr Ruto to his Cabinet.

The same too was the case when Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga joined hands and tried to forestall the ICC process before it even took off. Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta and their fellow travellers had assumed that the two Principals must be on the infamous Waki List handed to Kofi Annan for safe-keeping and delivery to the ICC prosecutor if the GoK failed to find a way of trying the persons listed by the good judge. Though the two voted with the President and PM to set up a local mechanism, they ensured that their allies shot down the Bills every time they came to the National Assembly for consideration. They must have jumped out of their skins when Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, unsealed the Waki Envelope and indicted the two but not the President or the PM. In the midst of the presidential campaigns they have had also deal with the ICC process.

The hilarious attempts of the likes of Ababu Namwamba to compare Barack Obama's successful campaign to any of the dozen or more presidential campaigns in Kenya is a mockery of the cruelest kind. These men and women are pygmies to Barack Obama's titan. They are small of ambition, small of intellect and small of public spiritedness. They are the epitome of everything we have come to loath about politicians. They are the stereotypical politicians parodied in popular media. Their leadership skills have been at the service of their avarice, leading their colleagues in the National Assembly on campaigns of self-aggrandizement at the expense of the welfare of the peoples they swore to faithfully represent in the National Assembly. Rather than comparing ourselves to the United States or Barack Obama, we should be comparing ourselves against well-known less-than-equal societies and nations such as the Stalinist Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Socialist Peoples Republic of China, the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, the apartheid-like Jewish State, socialist Cuba, Bolivarian Venezuela, or the one-man-rule Russian Federation. We are nowhere near to comparing ourselves to the world's leading democracies. Not by a long shot.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Lessons we won't learn

Once more my heart swells in pride as the United States re-elects Kenya's favourite son Barack Obama to four more years as  the most powerful man in the world. Never mind that the US presidency is not a panacea for global ills, that it is in the capable hands of a Kenyan - a Luo, for that matter - means that all Kenyans - indeed, all Luos - are represented in the most powerful country in the world, a country that Ronald Reagan and George Washington called the Shining City on the Hill. It is also heartening to see that Barack Obama's victory is resounding - over 300 electoral college votes to Mitt Romney's 203. US conservatives - and their Kenyan counterparts - must re-examine their principles, especially when it comes to the so-called culture wars that revolve around God, Gays and Abortion; in Wisconsin, an openly gay Congresswoman has been elected to the US Senate.

My heart sinks when I witness the shenanigans of Kenya's presidential candidates. In a crowded field, it is near-impossible to pick out a credible political message from the cacophony televised into our living rooms every day and night. A shiver of apprehension runs down my spine when I witness the determinedly underhanded way in which Kenyans will be registered as voters in November. It grows into a full-blown panic when I realise that we are all anticipating the worst, preparing for it, and making ready to lay the blame on any and all comers. It is unfair to compare Third-world Poor Kenya with First World Developed USA, but nonetheless there are certain values that no amount of wealth can buy and we seem to have refused to inculcate any of them in our children or our leaders or, even, ourselves.

Dishonesty and greed seem to be the only national values we are willing to promote. These are starkly outlined every time MPs raid the Consolidated Fund to finance their lifestyles, the Judiciary does the same to obtain luxurious limousines for its judges and magistrates, children cheat in national examinations, or men of the cloth take to the marital beds of members of their congregations. It seems that no one is happy with their lot in life and rather than working hard to change their fates, they will lie, cheat and steal their way to great wealth and fame. We will learn nothing from the US election that is of use to us. We will instead wring our hands in despair. And then plot to lie, cheat and steal to victory.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Mr Kenneth has spent way too much time around Kibaki and Moi to be of any use to us

For a smart man, Peter Kenneth is spectacularly unimaginative. Watching the launch of his presidential id on Sunday, and listening keenly to his political promises, Mr Kenneth sounds about as dull as the other presidential candidates. Two of his promises demonstrate in rather stark relief his colossal lack of imagination - to provide the police with three-thousand vehicles and to build referral hospitals in all 47 counties.

Let us take the first promise and see what we can see. Public safety in Kenya revolves around the hackneyed question of a subject euphemistically referred to as internal security and internal security is all about policing-by-the-numbers: more is always preferred to smart. More police, more spies, more guns...that is the definition of Kenya's internal security apparatus. Mwai Kibaki has overseen the massive expansion of the security establishment to unprecedented levels. He has overseen the modernisation of the security establishment so that it stacks up relatively well against Ethiopia and Sudan. Mr Kenneth intends to perpetuate this system for the foreseeable future.

Ostensibly, the presence of armed police on our streets and in our villages is for our safety and the protection of our property. The events of the past 20 years would seem to belie that casual assumption. In 1992 politically-inspired "ethnic clashes" yanked the scales from our eyes that Kenya was a nation with common aspirations and common needs. In 2007 hundreds of thousands of Kenyans lost their properties and their homes and the right to call themselves satisfied Kenyans. The common thread running through from 1992 and earlier to 2012 is the overmighty hand of the Kenyan security apparatus. These men and women in uniform are not armed to the teeth in order to keep us safe; they are there to keep the government of the day safe from its own people. Kenyan presidents know that they do not have the power or the intelligence to improve the lot of the ordinary mwananchi. 49 years after Uhuru, more Kenyans continue to die of preventable diseases; nearly one in twenty cannot read or write; and one in two still lives below the poverty line. Mr Kenneth believe that he could easily solve our "internal security" problems by providing the police with three-thousand vehicles. What he'll be doing is providing his regime with the means to get to us faster in order to suppress us more effectively.

Now, regarding his promise to build 45 new referral hospital, we might take that with a large pinch of Magadi salt. Let us presume that only in counties where no district-level hospital exists will he build a new referral hospital. Let us also assume that because it will be a massive public works programme, the funds for his hospital-building or upgrading spree will be welcomed by the hyenas in the National Assembly sitting on the appropriations committees. Mr Kenneth will still come up against an iron law of public administration: unless he is prepared (like Prof Anyang' Nyong'o, deep in the gloom of the doctors' strike, proposed) to hire doctors from outside Kenya, his expensively built and upgraded referral hospitals will be white elephants to mock the Kenyans who will inevitably die waiting for doctors, nurses, technicians and medicines that will never arrive. Pie-in-the-sky promises are par for the course for any politician; it will take more for Kenyans to line up behind Mr Kenneth and cast their ballot for him in 2013. Perhaps he has spent too much time near Mwai Kibaki and Daniel Toroitich arap Moi to be of any use to us in the future. He should confine his ambitions to his Gatanga backwater and trouble not the good people of Kenya.

Not 'til the fat lady sings.

What am I saying? Quite simply, that the pro-ICC civil society’s flagrantly incestuous orgy with local political formations has whittled away the Court’s affectations of impartiality and made it a pertinent political subject in the run-up to a fateful election.
- Eric Ng'eno, Sunday Nation, November 4, 2012
Our continued conflation of the fates of four Kenyans, especially that of three presidential candidates, at The Hague's International Criminal Court and the outcome of the 2012 general election continues unabated. The presidential contest, especially, will be determined by how Raila Odinga, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta spin the ICC process in their favour. Mr Odinga may not have been indicted by the ICC, but his fate is tied to that of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto simply because it is his contest with Mwai Kibaki that led to the indictments of his erstwhile allies in the 2005 referendum.

Opinion pollsters reading the tea-leaves tell us that it is a tight race among the three. Kalonzo Musyoka and the other no-hoppers in the contest barely get mentioned these days. It Is the Raila/Uhuru/Ruto show all the way. Opinion polls, once analysed, paint a very different picture though. The three leading presidential candidates may obsess endlessly about the ICC, but Kenyans have more important worries on their minds. Youth unemployment is the leading cause for worry for a majority of Kenyans who have been approached by pollsters. Their continued unemployment, and the government's failure to ensure that the benefits of the 2008 to 2009 economic stimulus were sustained is a subject that all three leading candidates continue to ignore. Perhaps it is that they have no clue what to do. Maybe they are are deeply aware that they can do nothing, could do nothing when they had the chance or they prefer the situation as it is because it places at their command a ready group of "warriors" to do their bidding when the situation calls for it.

This is just one of the topics that has been ignored because of the fates of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto at the ICC. Even experienced tea-leaf readers are spending more and more of their time worrying about the ICC and how it'll affect the general election. But even that obsession is strangely lop-sided. We shall continue to ignore the ICC prosecutor's claim that she is focused on the victims of the 2007/2008 violence; she and her predecessor are only interested in scalps to justify the continued existence of the ICC. The popular narrative in Kenya is that had it not been for a wildly successful civil-society campaign against the original Ocampo Six, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto would not have to contend with a trial and that the man responsible for setting off the whole affair is the Prime Minister by his call to "mass action" for his millions of disaffected supporters. Mr Kenyatta's and Mr Ruto's legions of supporters argue that if Mr Odinga had not called for mass action, the two would not be facing international-crime charges at The Hague. The two may not have an army of NGOs claiming their innocence, but they are not alone in this. No less a personage than the President has attempted to stave the coming trial. The Vice-President would not have embarked an his futile shuttle-diplomacy had Mwai Kibaki not demanded it. Security officials would not have stalled in giving their evidence had the President not demanded it. Let's not forget the dozens of MPs who rise or fall with the two.

The Second Revolution is not yet over, its denouement is from determined. It is yet to swallow all its children like all revolutions do. Its initial victims included the likes of Kiraitu Murungi, Kivutha Kibwana and Martha Karua. It seems to be overwhelming the efforts of the Chief Justice and the Law Society. Remnants of the KANU hegemony seem to have infiltrated the ranks of the Second Liberation warriors and seem to be succeeding in sabotaging it. But it is taking on a life of its own. The youth - such a derided term for an unempowered mass - are learning at a geometric rate the lessons of 49 years of national impunity. How they apply these lessons will determine whether the popular contemporary narratives survive for posterity.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Half the story

In the United States, Gallup and Dick Morris still hold on to the forlorn hope that Barack Obama will be a one-term president and that the Second Coming of the Republican Party on the coat-tails of Mitt Romney is well underway. In their fevered imagination, Barack Obama is not only discredited for the manner in which he has handled the economic recovery, but also for the ballooning of the national debt. Some, like Donald Trump, still hold on to the fantasy that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that all they need is time to prove it and bar him from serving as the United States' 44th President. The United States is a nation that loves its statistics and barring some unforeseeable events, the prayers of Gallup or Dick Morris, Barack Obama will be narrowly re-elected on November 6th and he'll serve out his second term in one of the most powerful positions in the world.

The case in Kenya is different. Much different. Opinions polls became popular in the 2007 general election campaign and they consistently showed the ODM and Raila Odinga leading. A popular explanation for Raila Odinga's loss to Mwai Kibaki, despite his party dominating in the polls, is that Mwai Kibaki or his handlers ensured that ballot-boxes were stuffed in the incumbent's favour at the expense of the ODM challenger. A retired South African Supreme Court Judge examined the Kenya elections and its electoral institutions and concluded that no one could know who won and who lost and by how much simply because the system was designed to encourage electoral malfeasance on a colossal scale. He added that every presidential candidate in that election engaged in electoral malpractice to some extent. Raila Odinga is not the paragon of virtue denied his just rewards that every one seems to desire.

The 2007 narrative is being replayed in 2012. Opinion polls consistently show that Raila Odinga leads, but does not lead enough to win outright should the election be held today. They also show that collectively the members of the Gang of Seven have a higher chance of winning in the first or even the second round if one of their own is the preferred presidential candidate with the others playing second, third, fourth and fifth fiddles. But the opinion poll numbers are incomplete. They do not take into consideration the state of the electoral environment today. There is no voter register. We are yet to decide whether Kenyans will vote electronically or using traditional paper ballots. The only thing we seem to have settled is that Kenyans will register as voters using electronic devices; we do not know how they work, whether they are secure and who will guarantee the quality of the register.

On the political field, some questions are yet to be answered. It is unknown whether an alliance will indeed guarantee a victory for the alliance's flag-bearer. Uhuru Kenyatta, the putative presidential candidate on The National Alliance's ticket, is enjoying a  surge of popularity, especially since the International Criminal Court scheduled his trial for international crimes for after the first round of voting. His party has the big momentum going into the Christmas season and it remains the strongest challenger to the ODM. At least according to the opinion polls that conflate Mr Kenyatta with TNA and Mr Odinga with ODM. Mr Kenyatta's party seems to be enjoying solid growth only in the Mt Kenya region and Nairobi. It seems completely absent in Eastern, Nyanza, the Rift Valley, North Eastern and even in the Coast and Western. So how will the party be able to guarantee Mr Kenyatta's election as president if it is unable to garner a majority in the National Assembly, Senate or control a majority of the county governorships? The answer may be in the riddle of 2007: it matters nothing what the party is. Mr Kibaki was elected despite the fact that his party was among the minnows in Parliament. So Mr Kenyatta may even win in the first round even when all its MPs will come from central Kenya and Nairobi. The same may be true of Mr Odinga's chances. ODM is not the same party it was in 2007 and it may fail this time round to control the National Assembly. Mr Odinga may win the presidency but his party may lose control of Parliament.

It is the spectre of a divided government that opinion pollsters have refused to examine and it is time they started crunching the numbers to analyse the implications of such an outcome. Of the leading presidential candidates, who has the best chance of governing effectively in such a scenario and who is likely to face such a scenario? Time is ticking away as we obsess over whether Raila Odinga's "apology" was an ethnic slap-in-the-face of Mr Ruto and URP, whether Uhuru Kenyatta's TNA is a Kikuyu wolf-in-sheep's-clothing, whether Musalia Mudavadi will live to toast victory or to slink back to his Sabatia backwater as happened in 2002, or whether Kalonzo Musyoka is The One to Watch. For such a small investment in 2007, Mr Kalonzo emerged ahead of the game by merging his miniscule outfit with Mwai Kibaki's party and taking the Vice-Presidency. While the Gang of Seven's two main players, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, continue to treat him shabbily, Mr Kalonzo may yet pull out another rabbit from the hat and bamboozle himself into power in 2013. The opinion polls have half the story. The other half needs to be told.

A reckoning is coming.

Some whack-job is suggesting that we "beef up" the security of all presidential contenders because if one of them is killed before the general election, the country will become unstable or some such rubbish. This is fast becoming the theme of the general election. Our perfidious political ruling class makes a grab for the last cent in our pocket, we stand idly by, and some idiot supports the money-grab through the feckless media. It is increasingly looking like the political ruling class dimply does not care that Kenyans have had enough of its avarice. They simply refuse to acknowledge that while the role they play in mediating the relationships of the peoples of Kenya, politically, economically, socially or even religiously, they are not as indispensable as we have led them to believe. Some, like Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Raila Odinga, are truly popular among their vast constituencies. Make no mistake, though: they are not indispensable.

Even a casual examination of the hundreds of millions of shillings they are collectively expending on their presidential campaigns will tell you that much of it is spent on the wrong messages and for the wrong reasons. If they were to set aside a smidgeon of their campaign war-chests for their protection, hiring the army of armed guards that someone claims they require, then our national treasury can remain for the solution of some of our most urgent problems. We were silent when our government spent upwards of 1 billion shillings buying and retrofitting an office for the Prime Minister. It never occurred to them that the position of Prime Minister would not last the life of the coalition or perhaps, they did not care. We have spent 500 million shillings building a mansion for the Vice-President which he may never get to use as the general election is just round the corner. Why he needed a mansion in the first place has never been adequately addressed. These two wish to succeed the President in 2013. They have singularly failed to explain why they should live lives of opulence and luxury to rival those of Russian oil oligarchs and Las Vegas casino moguls while millions of Kenyans barely survive day-to-day and hundreds of thousands of children make do with "elementary" instruction at school while dodging bullets, mosquitoes and pederasts.

Wealth honestly acquired is not a bad thing; it is something that all Kenyans must admire and emulate. It is in the pursuit of our happiness that we determine what wealth is enough for our needs or our greed. Such pursuit, however, must be honest. It cannot be based on the cutting of regulatory corners or the merciless exploitation of the less intelligent, the less strong. Our ruling class has demonstrated a singular passion for the amassing of wealth and it has been wildly successful. Bar a handful of relatively honest entrepreneurs, the vast majority is made up of buccaneers, profiteers, robber-barons and mass-murderers. But it is the cohort that sits in the National Assembly and in the Executive branch that has demonstrated the basest of passions. Blind to the suffering of the peoples they claim to represent, they have single-mindedly raided the national Treasury for their own personal gain, and gain they have. It is not enough that they earn several million shillings over the course of their terms as Members of Parliament or as Ministers and Assistant Ministers, they insist that we must "loan" them, collectively, billions more more housing, cars and foreign travel. We pay for their medical and life insurance and we have generously funded their pensions once they "retire" from the National Assembly. WE have led them to believe that these privileges - for they are privileges - are theirs as of right.

And now as their leading lights helicopter from one corner of the country to another, and the spread their messages of hate and animosity, they demand that we must place even greater national resources to keeping them safe from us. The irony completely escapes them. The commit great crime against us. They steal from us. They ask us to re-elect them or even promote them. And they ask that we must pay them for this privilege. A reckoning is coming. It is not the death of one politician that will set this nation on fire. A final straw is yet to be added that will break our collective camel's back. It will either be a child too many who has died of a preventable disease or has suffered at the hands of a pederast. It will be the village that witnesses one death too many from starvation  or banditry. It will be one community "relocated" one time too many to assuage the "feelings" of their "host" community. A reckoning is coming.

No one gets out unscathed.

Despite what our revered men and women of the cloth claim, the most important relationship outside of the family structure is between labour and capital: someone has the capital to pay for a service and someone has the skills to sell their labour to the one holding the capital. This is the predominant relationship between persons and the duty of the State, indeed the sole reason for the existence of the State, is to mediate this relationship to guarantee maximum returns for the owners of capital and minimum exploitation of labour. Everything else hinges on this basic relationship.

The Ministry of Industrialisation estimates that there are 21 million Kenyans of working age, of whom 2 million are employed in the formal sector while 7 million are employed in the informal sector. The Ministry does not state how many are employed in the diaspora or how many have taken a sabbatical and are pursuing education opportunities or are otherwise outside of employment. However, let us place this number at 1 million; therefore, there are approximately 11 million out of 21 million Kenyans of working age out of employment, whether formal or informal, a 52% unemployment rate. At the same time, The Treasury indicates that as at January 2012, the public debt was 46% of GDP (external debt was about 21% of GDP) at about sh. 1,496 billion. Finally, despite the hundreds of newsprint inches dedicated to their rhetoric, politicians have failed to demonstrate that under their stewardship after they succeed Mwai Kibaki, how they will accelerate Kenya's economic growth from sub-five percent to double digits.

It is therefore, odd that the politicians campaigning to succeed Mwai Kibaki in 2013 have failed to address the sorry state of affairs regarding our economy, unemployment and the size of the public debt. The government is the single largest employer in Kenya. Its influence over the market is huge and therefore, its inefficiencies affect the economy in myriad ways. It is now becoming apparent that the management of public funds in the National Treasury is getting more and more complicated with the three arms of government claiming independence from the other two and thus refusing the constraints of compromise or reasonable prioritisation. The recent grab by the Judiciary in order to finance a lavish lifestyle for the Judges of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court is only rivalled by the avarice of the National Assembly, voting to give each member a whopping 10 million shillings as a send-off package. The Executive has been on the receiving end of industrial demands by doctors, teachers, nurses and university lecturers and the Minister for Finance has had to dig deeper into taxpayers' pockets to finance the settlement of these demands.

The next five years are going to make or break this nation. The demographic benefits of having a very large pool of youthful persons of working age is going to be heavily discounted if the three arms of government only think of the comforts of the rulers of this nation. Economic policy should be geared not just towards achieving the lofty objectives of the Vision 2030 programme, but towards ensuring equity and justice in the expenditure of national treasure. The likes of Ms Shollei and Willy Mutunga for the Judiciary or Kenneth Marende for the National Assembly or even Mwai Kibaki of the Executive have failed to explain in the simplest terms possible why it is just and equitable for our rulers t enjoy a quality of life rivalled only by that of persons living in the developed West while tens of millions of Kenyans live in squalor, are unable to access affordable healthcare or quality basic education for their children. Why must the poor labour under the yoke of ever-rising tax demands from the state if these taxes are not put towards making their lives easier?

The history of successful revolutions is the history of the working masses getting fed up with being exploited for the luxury of the rulers. When the Bolsheviks finally toppled the ruling Tsars of Russia, it was economic as much as political considerations that were at play. The American Civil War, sparked off by the Boston ea Party, was much about the inequity and iniquity of paying taxes without being represented in deciding how those taxes would be employed. The Quit India Movement was founded along the same lines as was the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya. Kenya's rulers may continue to labour under the mistaken belief that they can manipulate the peoples of Kenya along ethnic/tribal lines for the sake of political hegemony. But when enough people go without food, when enough children die of easily preventable diseases, when enough children go to school under trees or in dark caves...when it is apparent that the lives of our rulers have nothing to do with the reality of the Kenyan Situation, the Second Liberation will be well and truly born and no one will get out unscathed.

Judges and politicians: Cut from the same cloth.

I will leave the High Court ruling regarding the vetting of judges and magistrates, for now, in the capable hands of Eric Ng'eno, Prof Makau Mutua and Gitau Warigi, my eminent seniors. I will, instead, weigh in on the blatant money-grab perpetrated by the Judiciary under the leadership of Dr Willy Mutunga, the Chief Justice and Gladys Boss Shollei, the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary. It is now becoming apparent that the Judiciary is just as avaricious and status-obsessed as out National Assembly. They must be seen to be judges and this is achieved only by amassing the accoutrements of power: fancy cars and even fancier homes. Ms Shollei has been having a back-and-forth letter war with The Treasury regarding the little thing of buying the Chief Justice a "ceremonial" Mercedes-Benz, the gadget-laden (fully-loaded to you), S350 model. At a wallet-bashing 14 million shillings, this is not your ordinary runabout and it is meant to stack up favourably with the limousines we have acquired for the President, the Vice-President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the National Assembly.

As reported, the Court of Appeal judges were set to receive 130,000 shillings and High Court judges were set to get 120,000 shillings as transport allowances. If they had all settled for the rather swanky VW Passats that the rest of the government is purchasing, that would seem to be sum sufficient to operate the vehicles with a tidy sum left over for other things. Ms Shollei though, is not impressed. That sum, it seems, is 150,000 shillings lower than what other constitutional office holders get. Her argument is not that the sum is not enough; her argument is that it does not stack up with the same amount given to others. This is the kind of argument that a Standard Three pupil will make to justify some outrageous act. Someone should point this out to the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary.

Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga have taken the perks of their respective positions to ridiculous heights. In a nation that can barely afford to educate its children or keep them from being mown down by preventable childhood diseases, it is immoral - yes, immoral - for our judicial officers, the one institution that is supposed to level the playing field between the rulers and the ruled, to raid the national treasury to make what is a very comfortable life even more so. When we cannot find the money to pay for dialysis machines n our national hospitals, or treat certain cancers because we have spent our national treasure in making the lives of the high-and-mighty more comfortable, none should be surprised when we take out our frustrations on the rulers with acts of gross violence.

I have warned that the 2013 general election will be a referendum on the privileges enjoyed by our rulers and if we even have an inkling that they are set to screw us over once more, like they did in 2007 and 1997, we will set this nation on fire. This time round, we will not go after our equally poor and desperate neighbours; if you live in Muthaiga, New Muthaiga, Runda or any of a number of leafy suburbs or golf gated communities, you had better pack your bags and retire to the comfort of your villas in the south of France for we will set your homes on fire. Dr Mutunga deceived us that the Judiciary would be different from the politicians we have come to loath. In 2013 if this nation burns, we will not spare his fancy new Mercedes-Benz or his 200 million shilling mansion. Neither will his judges of the Court of Appeal or the High Court. We will raze it all to the ground.

Friday, November 02, 2012

There is more to the URP move than meets the eye.

Raila Odinga's "apology" to the Kalenjin and the United Republican Party;'s reaction to it have been instructive. The Prime Minister is determined to make good a promise he made to himself more than two decades ago. He is going to be president of Kenya if it kills him. His single-minded focus on the task has compelled him to make difficult choices in his march to State House. In the aftermath of the 1992 debacle and after his father's death in 1994, he made the difficult choice of abandoning FORD-Kenya. in 2002, he had no qualms about a merger between his party, the National Democratic Party, and KANU in which he was appointed KANU's Secretary-General. As the merger collapsed, he had no qualms backing Mwai Kibaki for the presidency or walking out of the government in 2005 in time to defeat the Wako Draft at the referendum. In 2007, he swallowed his pride and formed an alliance with the likes of William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka, that latter betraying him and walking away, to defeat Mwai Kibaki after just one term. He would not accept defeat in the aftermath of the general election, calling for "mass action" to challenge the presidential results, and determinedly abandoning those who answered the call to mass action when the full force of Mwai Kibaki's security apparatus was brought to bear against them.

The victims of the violence that took place after the 2007 general election were to be found in the Rift Valley and Central Kenya, with pockets of others in the Coast, Nyanza and Nairobi. Many of the youth arrested for the mayhem came from the Rift Valley. The men accused of masterminding the violence come from Central Kenya and the Rift Valley. Mr William Ruto, one of the accused persons, is widely regarded as the leader of the Rift Valley and the peoples of the Rift Valley, that is, the Kalenjin. The Chairman of the URP, former National Assembly speaker Francis Ole Kaparo, and other leading lights of the URP, are adamant that Mr Ruto is not a tribal chieftain whose forgiveness must be secured by Mr Odinga in his march to State House. Mr Kaparo and his colleagues insist that the URP is a national party and that it cannot be reduced to an outfit representing the interests only of the residents of the Rift Valley, that is the Kalenjin or the Maasai.

Mr Kaparo's stance is mere posturing. For some reason, Mr Kaparo's animus against the Prime Minister is quite extensive. It prevents Mr Kaparo from acknowledging the simple fact that in politics it is interests rather than friendship or enmity that determine political success. In Mr Kaparo's and his colleagues' vitriolic approach to any negotiation with the Prime Minister, they reduce their party to a vehicle for pursuing a political vendetta against the Prime Minister yet, from all available evidence, they have not been the victims of anything the Prime Minister has done in his years as a politician in Kenya. The only conclusion that one can draw from the level of their vitriol is that they are being employed as stalking horses for other interests. It might be that Mr Ruto is playing a double-blind game, but no evidence of such a scheme seems to be available at this moment. Indeed, until Mr Ruto's spectacular falling out with the Prime Minister, the likes of Francis Ole Kaparo and Aden Duale did not seem to have anything in common with him. Nether did the likes of Chirau Ali Mwakwere. There is nothing that indicates what their common ground (other than Prime Minister Odinga's political downfall) might be. Again, therefore, there must be some other force behind their determination to prevent any form of rapprochement between Prime Minister Odinga and the URP supremo.

Despite this, it is apparent that Mr Odinga, Mr Ruto, Mr Kenyatta, Ms Ngilu, Ms Karua, Mr Musyoka and Mr Kenneth are all strong candidates in their own right, with political narratives that can compete effectively against the others. It is also equally apparent that none of them is strong enough, yet, to take the presidency in the first round. It would be foolhardy, therefore, to strenuously denounce any public attempt at rapprochement between these men and women, especially if it leads to peaceful elections or a winning merger or coalition. Kenyans should start questioning the logic behind Mr Kaparo's and his colleagues' desire to keep Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga apart. For whom do they speak?

We need to learn, again, how to think

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