Thursday, January 31, 2013

Strathmore was the wrong venue for governors' debate.

There is something shameful about a mature woman with a family to support sitting in a busy street selling barely edible vegetables from a mat, one eye out for the Council askaris who prey on her and treat her as a malingering social parasite that should be eradicated. There is something shameful about a mature man with a family to support spending his working day screaming for passengers at a bus stage, keeping an eye out not just for the Council askaris who think he is a menace to society but also for certain elements of the criminal underworld who will shave off a few percentage points of his daily take. There is something shameful about able-bodied young men and women selling sweets on public service vehicles because alternative sources of livelihood are unavailable or they do not have the right papers to access the ones that are. This is a shame that all Nairobians must bear. But when you listen to the likes of Evans Kidero, Jimnah Mbaru and Philip Kisia extolling the virtues of a twenty-four hour economy and the mechanisation of security, you get the sense that an arrogant Nairobi elite simply does not get it.

KTN did us a service by televising a debate of prospective governors of Nairobi from the halls of the up-market Strathmore University. Residents of Nairobi who have the privilege of affording a television set and the electricity to power it were treated to three experienced men expounding on their plans for the Green City in the Sun. They all spoke of their plans to "invest" for the future of the city. They spoke of their plans to sort out the perennial problems faced by the residents of the city. All their plans sounded good; the one-liners kept their audience rapt with attention. They all failed to articulate a future for the city in which a rising tide would lift all boats. They kept their eyes firmly on the promised land in which they, and they alone, occupy: a land for the wealthy, by the wealthy and of the wealthy. This is a Nairobi where 60% of its people have no place and no say over.

Evans Kidero brightly pointed out that Nairobi has over 800 villages that operate as social microcosms in which the daily grind is just that: a grind. But his plans, as his colleagues', has no bearing on the facts on the ground. The Mama Mbogas, makangas and sweets vendors of Nairobi have somehow managed to survive in an environment where the law is applied harshly against them without the "right-thinking members of society" batting an eyelid. They have managed to feed and clothe their families, house them, educate their children and keep their health up as best they could without the likes of the three gubernatorial contenders ever bothering to find out how they thrive in such a hostile environment. If they did, they would discover that all these people want is safety and security as they go about their daily lives; if there are opportunities to be seized, all they ask for is an even shake. These Nairobians all have tales of harassment at the hands of their city, some so harrowing one might think they were made up. No one is talking of how to remove the unfair, unflinching arm of the city off their backs and letting them get on with the business of living their lives because no one knows of the weight of that iniquitous hand.

If there are roads to be built, this Nairobi would also ask for pavements to be built too. If water and sanitation services are to be improved, this Nairobi would only ask that they get their fair share of the water and that their drainages and sewage pipes remained unblocked during the rainy seasons. If more police were to be hired, this Nairobi would only ask that there were adequate lighting in their villages that they can walk home unmolested. If investors were to be lured to invest more in Nairobi, this Nairobi would demand that the labour law of Kenya be applied fairly and stringently such that they were safe at work, secure in their rights and capable of supporting their families. Messrs Kidero, Mbaru and Kisia seem not to realise this, if they ever did.

Nor it seems does KTN. Strathmore is a fine university with an enviable record of accomplishment. It is also the wrong venue to talk about the problems that bedevil the City of Nairobi. It may be a short distance from the sprawling hovels of Kibera, "Africa's largest slum", but it is in a different world altogether. As the place to lay bare the problems of the Other Nairobi, it is just about as accessible by the denizens of Kibera as the De La Rue mint is to the general population. If they wanted to have an open and frank debate on the future of Nairobi, they would have been better off finding a venue in Kibera, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Mathare or Korogocho; places where the vast majority of Nairobi lives and works. They did not; they should not be surprised that on Election Day, Nairobi may instead plump for Ferdinand Waititu, who had the good sense to keep away from the place. Ivory Towers have their place in the scheme of things; but in a city where the vast majority will never set foot in one, they are symbols of the oppression they suffer at the hands of the men and women who claim to understand their problems, but do not.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Who will protect our children from Mutula Kilonzo?

The Education Minister, Mutula Kilonzo, while announcing the results of the 2012 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination results also published a list of the top 25 child-friendly schools n Kenya. He should release a list of the top 25 worst schools for children too.

2012 was surely a year of pain for scores of parents. Many young lives were snuffed out in the environments that we mistake for schools. Some of them were killed simply because, in the zeal to save shillings and boost profits, their schools were not designed for quick escapes in case of emergency. Others died because the schools' proprietors refused to invest in child-counsellors who should detect instances where children are under psychological strain and intervene to prevent acts of vandalism, including arson.

The Ministry has published guidelines for the health and safety of children in schools. These guidelines are routinely flouted or ignored. The result has been an escalating number of death and injuries while children are in the care of schools and their teachers. It is time, regardless of the set backs to the free child education rule in the Constitution, to shut down schools that place the lives of the children in their charge in danger.

Many parent have pooh-poohed the idea o sending their children to state-run schools and with good reason too. Because of the free primary education programme, many are overwhelmed; teacher:student ratios are frequently in the range of 1:60. The quality of education too has deteriorated, what with the labour disputes teachers in state-run schools have with the government and the fact that the amount of money dedicated to improving these schools has not kept pace with the ever escalating cost of living in Kenya. These parents have resorted to "private" schools to prepare their children for a life of harsh competition. While there are many fine private schools, especially the ones in the mould of international schools, in Kenya, many more are but mabati shacks in the depths of Kenya's mushrooming slums. While the likes of Braeside charge a king's ransom to educate the scions of Nairobi's high and mighty, hundreds of others charge a pittance and lack even the barest of necessities to even qualify for recognition by Mutula Kilonzo's ministry, and the ministry has done precious little to compel the proprietors of these schools and the parents that send their children there to improve matters. The cost in shattered and lost lives is escalating.

If Kenya is to make a mark in the world, it cannot rely only on the scions of the rich and powerful being comfortably educated while the millions of children of the hoi polloi make do with the dregs of the government's neglect. If Kenya is to participate in international rankings of education performance, it must do more to ensure that all its children are educated in roughly the same manner and enjoy the same access to facilities and teachers. It is heart-rending to witness the children of Kenya's huddled masses trudging through mud and filth to get to class only to be squeezed into a tin can that is poorly ventilated and is located a stone's throw from a garbage dump or a car-wash yard simply because the parents do not have viable alternatives. That Mr Kilonzo failed to even begin the process of reversing this sorry state of affairs should be an indictment against him and the President. Indeed, it is a reasonable ground for the good people of Makueni to reject his bid to represent them in the Senate.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Make the Code Objective, not Subjective.

The Law Society of Kenya is surely right: advocates must conduct themselves in such a manner as they earn respect, protect and enhance the dignity of the legal profession, and avoid anything that would cause them to be treated with disrespect or bring the profession into disrepute. However, the argument that the revised Dress Code for Advocates cannot be challenged on free-expression grounds is preposterous. The proper response should have been whether a challenge can be sustained.

Every law student is taught to appreciate the special place of advocates in the grand scheme of things. Advocates, and lawyers generally, play an important role in the society. They are called upon to act in instances where there is a dispute or a conflict. They are, ideally, problem solvers, and their role in the resolution of disputes and the untangling of untenable situations must not be jeopardised because they are perceived as non-serious or frivolous. In St Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, we are called upon to put away childish things. In effect, St Paul asks us to grow up. It is the same with the practice of law. It is such a noble and honourable undertaking that it must be treated with dignity and respect, and the manner we dress demonstrates whether we take it seriously or not.

However, the Dress Code suffers from uncertainty. Some of the phrases used in the Code may be interpreted broadly or narrowly, depending on the person and the circumstances. For example, the words flamboyant and garish are terribly subjective; the Dress Code would have profitted from precision, which, contrary to legal orthodoxy, does not arise from using the most complex sentence structure or prolixity. Simplicity is the key to making the Dress Code understandable and capable of being applied without accusations of bias. It would benefit greatly if the Code simply stated what could and could not be worn and in what colours, rather than delving into the minutiae of particular styles and patterns.

It is for this reason that one must accept that the Code could be challenged on the ground that it is an unwarranted assault on the advocates' right to expression protected under Article 33. To accuse an advocate of professional misconduct, as a violation of the Code is, the advocate must act in a disgraceful and dishonourable manner that is incompatible with the status of an advocate (s. 60(1) of the Advocates Act). The manner in which an advocate dresses may be considered disgraceful and dishonourable and might bring the advocate into disrepute if it is so outrageous that a person may feel that the advocate is not acting like an advocate should. The standard for what constitutes disgraceful or dishonourable, and what might bring the profession into disrepute, have been laid down by decades of precedent. However, because of the provisions of Art 33, it may be time to re-think these standards, especially as the standards of society have undergone a great evolution since the time when it was improper for female advocates to be seen in trouser suits.

The Law Society has every right to regulate how advocates dress and act, but it must exercise its power in a manner that will not only instil confidence in the profession, but will also allow the advocates to express themselves in manner they feel enhances the dignity of the profession. Rules such as the one prohibiting the wearing of shoes that expose the toes seem capricious and ill-informed, especially in light of the fact that, especially for women generally, shoe fashions evolve faster than there are seasons in a year. The Law Society would benefit greatly from a plainer drafting of the Dress Code; this would protect it from accusations of stodginess. Indeed, many would argue that since the Law Society published the revised Dress Code, it has been the object of ridicule, lowering its dignity and making it the laughing stock of the public. If its intention was to enhance the dignity of the profession, it has failed in its attempt. Erick Mutua, the chairperson, Apollo Mboya, the secretary, and the Council of the Law Society should withdraw the revised code and publish a new one that considers the changes that have occurred in Kenya, especially when it comes to matters such as fashion and good taste. Indeed, if the Code was applied against the stud-wearing Chef Justice, it is likely that he would be accused of professional misconduct, would it not?

Friday, January 25, 2013

The business of Kenya is...what?

Why do we not venerate corporate titans in Kenya? We respect many of the corporate honchos that invest and thrive in Kenya. The likes of Manu Chandaria have been lionised by even the State, but on the whole, we reserve our adulation for less worthy personages. William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi hog the limelight without actually doing much to advance anything other than the poisonous political air of the country.

Much as we try to emulate a consumerist society as the United States, we do not seem to have business superstars in the mould of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or the robber-barons that built the US like JP Morgan or Howard Hughes. The United States' business is business and it is time that we realised that the principle role of the State, especially its institutions of governance, is to make it easier for citizen to trade with citizen and the rest of the world. Instead, we elect leaders and enact legislation for the sole purpose of perpetuating political gamesmanship to the almost total exclusion of all else.

When we examine the business climate in Kenya, some corporations demonstrate that it is possible to thrive even in the skewed environment that we have. Safaricom enjoys near monopolistic power in the corporate jungle. Devki Steel Mills, Bamburi Cement, BIDCO and Nakumatt have flourished despite the incessant problems they face when operating in Kenya. If it is not the yo-yoing price of energy, it is the sometimes shabby application of the tax code or the political interference in their operations. CMC Motors has demonstrated that if the laws are applied improperly, even a favoured cow may decline in entrepreneurship and profitability.

The business environment benefits from a stable political playing field; but it benefits more if the institutions tasked with regulating it are well-structured, well-managed and operate under clear laws and regulations. It is not enough to claim that we have a reformist Judiciary; if it sees its roles as simply ensuring that the political gains made over the past ten years are safeguarded and it takes its eye off the corporate disputes that require resolution, we may be in for greater instability in business investment or job creation. The business environment requires that all the partners play within the rules; it also requires that the rules be clear and the enforcers and Judiciary to apply them fairly. It is not the business of the state to pick favourites; that will surely distort the marketplace and lead to lower investment and lower economic growth.

For decades, the business environment was characterised by those that were close to the political power centers and those that were not. CMC Motors, again, comes to mind; it was close to the government for so long it imagined that it could continue to survive for eternity because of that relationship. This prevented it from expanding its market-share to regions outside Kenya. Its stock is trading at an all-time low. It remains unclear how it will fare once the government changes in March 2013. Mixed judgments from the Judiciary are exacerbating the uncertainty. On one hand the courts issue injunctions in favour of one faction or the other. On the other the courts still remain unclear of how to untangle the boardroom mess in CMC Motors. If teh courts do not act swiftly, CMC Motors may end up a basket-case that may never be revived.

The next president must keep his government secure and stable, not for the sae of perpetuating his regime but to ensure that the business environment is as free of friction as possible. Investors should not be compelled to run from pillar to post in search of one permit or another; instead, they should be facilitated to get their projects off the ground in the shortest period possible. Indeed, if Kenya can rise up the rankings on ease-of-doing-business surveys, it may go a long way on persuading investors that it is not only politically stable, but that it welcomes all forms of investment. If it continues to languish in the bottom half of those surveys, Kenya will not attain middle-income status, not in 2030 or ever.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It is time.

It seems as if things are getting out of hand, does it not? Moses Wetangula goes on record on the stump that some properties, acquired by the family of a Jubilee luminary, are of questionable antiquity and that Kenyans should reject the candidate because of those dubious antecedents. This is an escalation from the tit-for-tat between the said Jubilee luminary and the CORD standard-bearer from a few days ago. In other quarters, candidates and potential candidates are storming the offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission because of the shenanigans going on in their own party. Mutterings of dark forces have been made by some who believe they are the Second Coming and all should bow down before them. Of course they wrap their rhetoric in the cloak of the phrase "the people have decided" as if it covers their dubious attempts to paint themselves as the true representatives of the voice of the poor and the downtrodden.

Still in other quarters, candidates are rejecting "direct" nominations because they believe the positions their parties want them to contest are "beneath" them. They believe they have the intellectual heft to sit in the Senate. Of course they base their claim to intellectual superiority on their academic documents, forgetting that not all intellectuals are lettered or that innate intelligence sometimes is not revealed by the grammatical syntax of the candidate but by the wisdom of the choices they make and the manner in which they represent the interests of those they claim to speak for.

The IEBC has a lot to prove, not the least being that it is better organised than the briefcases we mistakenly call political parties. If the country is to be rescued, the nawabs of the IEBC must get off the bench and engage in a series of show trials. It is unconscionable that politicians continually behave in a manner that undermines the spirit of the Constitution and the electoral law of Kenya while the IEBC wiles its time away watching the countdown to the general election. The Commission must remind all candidates that they stand for the election only on its sufferance, observing all constitutional and legal niceties of course. The "little" infractions that it has allowed candidates to get away with should come to an end once it hauls one or two before its tribunals and strips them of their certificates of nomination.

It is only in Kenya that ideology and principle are mere words to hoodwink the electorate as to the sincerity of the men and women seeking to rule them. We pretend to emulate "mature" democracies by enacting laws and establishing institutions to govern us. The truth of the matter is that we no longer care for the laws we enact or the institutions we establish; as soon as they are enacted we work twice as hard to undermine them and as soon as soon as they are established we find reasons to ignore them. This was the case with the electoral law of Kenya; we enacted legislation to level the political playing field and discipline politicians, but the Tenth Parliament reminded us why it is we find politicians a scourge that should be eradicated by the political equivalent of DDT. They amended the law at will to give themselves a greater chance of prevailing at the hustings, but as the good people of Luo Nyanza demonstrated, you can only lead the people by the nose for only so long. Their nascent rebellion against a prominent Luo political juggernaut should be a warning to the remaining Caesars in waiting that the moral arc of history bends towards fairness and justice.

Kenyans have been reminded time and again that the general election is a make or break one and that if they get it wrong this time round, they will regret it for generations to come. Kenyans do not want to be reminded of this fact; they are not all toddlers being entertained by the class clown. We are a sophisticated people who have discovered the emperor is butt-naked. We know what we know and on The Fourth so too will the men and women who have treated us like shit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The best president we will never have.

When Peter Kenneth is given the opportunity, he comes across as a sophisticated thinker of what ails the Kenyan body politic. His interview on KTN's Newsline on the evening of twenty-second January was an eye-opener. Despite his obvious problems of charisma, problems the good people of Gatanga do not seem to share, he has a credible plan to improve the economy, reform the governance of Kenya, improve the conditions of learning for all Kenyans, and, in effect, change the way we view ourselves as Kenyans. Mr Kenneth, of all the politicians who have put their presidential plans forward, has one of the best unwritten manifestos in recent memory.

Mr Kenneth, unfortunately, demonstrates starkly why he will almost certainly not be the next president of Kenya. From the shambles that were the nominations on the seventeenth and eighteenth of January reveal a disturbing fact about our politics. We have refused, time and again, to vet the candidates being offered by the various political parties, alliances and coalitions. Instead, we have given an inordinate amount of time and consideration to the ephemera that peculiarly identifies the Kenyan political process: ethnic aka regional balancing and the power of charisma aka personality.

Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee cohort continues to refuse to accept the fact that Mr Kenyatta's and Mr Ruto's ticket is fraught with risk because of the International Criminal Court's indictments hanging over their heads. Because of this, the pair's political narrative, regardless of the many policy promises they have made while on the stump, are necessarily coloured by considerations of what will happen if they emerge triumphant on March Fifth or when the IEBC declares them victorious. As a result, and especially also because of their bitter rivalry with the Raila/Kalonzo ticket, very few Kenyans have taken time to interrogate their candidacy on the basis of policy and plans. Mr Kenneth's lofty ideals and manifesto will not receive the proper consideration they deserve because he is seen as another stone on the wall in the way of the Kenyatta/Ruto ticket's march to State House and the postponement of their date with the ICC.

Innovation lies at the heart of the future of Kenya, but if the lack of serious innovation witnessed in the political process can be extrapolated into the governance of Kenya, then it is only the likes of Peter Kenneth who seem to have publicly grappled with what needs to put Kenya on a footing to take on the rest of the world. Mr Kenneth's narrative is not as radical as even he would have it; he is a consummate politician and his achievements cannot simply be sneered at. In his public pronouncements and interviews he has set forward a credible plan for the economic recovery and prosperity of the country. His party, despite its almost nondescript status, is a model of efficient and effective management. He has captured the imagination of right-thinking Kenyans and it is a pity that he will forever be the best president we never had.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Style and substance: a choice between a Corporate Raider and Baba Yao.

Let the message go forth that the good people of Nairobi are not yet convinced that the likes of Evans Kidero and Jimnah Mbaru have our interests at heart. The intellectual bellwethers of the CORD and Jubiliee alliances may have built impressive résumés, and they may have built up industrial and financial empires to rival the best of the best on the African continent, but their understanding of the needs of the ordinary Nairobian leaves a bad taste in our mouths. On Sunday, Dr Kidero had a golden opportunity to introduce himself to the wider Nairobi electorate, not just the die-hard Raila fanatics of the Orange Democratic Party. Invited together with the doyen of Embakasi, Ferdinand Waititu, on Citizen TV, he spent the entire programme behaving like an intellectual boor, attempting to needle Mr Waititu into coming across like his alleged thuggish self.

Dr Kidero represents the worst of the elitism inherent in Kenyan high society. He believes that his academic and financial exploits place him over and above the men of the people who spend their entire political careers in the mud and filth of Nairobi's various "informal settlements". It was all that Dr Kidero could do not to sneer at what he clearly saw as his intellectual inferior. It may all have been posturing and that Dr Kidero is not this obnoxious in person, but given that politics is a game of optics, even the intellectuals he was attempting to communicate with were left feeling that he was not possibly the best candidate for Nairobi's governor's office.

The wider question of the suitability of a "man like Ferdinand Waititu" to occupy the office of the governor was not properly addressed and is yet to be addressed in a serious fashion. Many look to the public antics of the former Embakasi MP and refuse to see that his style of leadership is effective in that he has managed to provide many of the things the men and women who sent him to Parliament needed. The most important thing that Mr Waititu did was to give his constituents a consistent ear. In this he emulated his predecessor-but-one the indefatigable-unto-death David Mwenje. Mr Waititu, just as the late Mr Mwenje, went to ridiculous lengths to represent the interests of the Embakasi constituents who elected them. Indeed, both have been guests of the state for brief periods in their zeal for fighting for the interests of the residents of Embakasi. Indeed, Mr Waititu proudly reminded both Dr Kidero and Citizen TV interviewer, Julie Gichuru, that under his watch not only have schools been constructed to help educate the children in his constituency, but that hundreds of acres of public land had been rescued from the greedy hands of grabbers.

In fact, when it comes to the question of integrity in public life, the only black mark that seems to be made against Mr Waititu concerns his constant run-ins with the police. No one has been able to demonstrate that Mr Waititu, even when he served as a councillor on the City Council of Nairobi, had been involved with graft, despite the fact that the City Council and Mwai Kibaki's two administrations have been riven with great corruption. In contrast, while Dr Kidero has impressive credentials, and has managed billions of shillings without money disappearing under his watch, he was also the man in charge when tens of thousands of Kenyans were displaced from the Tana Delta in order to make way for a sugar project that would not, according the most reliable reports, raise the standard of living for the displaced Kenyans. If his ideas of development and progress are grand projects that wish to sweep under the carpet the lives of thousands of Nairobians, destroy them without a second thought, then perhaps it is right and just that he faces Ferdinand Waititu for the post of Governor on the fourth of March.

Mr Waititu is arguably one of the least polished members of the Tenth Parliament, a distinction that may only be rivalled by the antics of the former Makadara MP Gidion "Mike Sonko" Mbuvi. Despite his gauche ways and utter lack of polish or sophistication, Mr Waititu has achieved more for the people he represents than all the government White Papers published since the 1960s. Dr Kidero, on the other hand, has not had such a spotless career as his boosters would have us believe. The Tana Delta project is just one of the projects that he has overseen that has benefited an impersonal entity like a corporation but destroyed the lives and livelihoods of the poor and marginalised, of whom there are numerous in the City of Nairobi. Indeed, they form over 60% of Nairobi's population. Given a choice between the devil in Waititu whom we know and the angel in Kidero whom we don't, millions of Nairobians would rather go with the former Embakasi legislator. He is after all popularly known by the peoples of Embakasi as Baba Yao!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Will we sink or swim?

We expected too much of the political parties. We spent all this time listening to their officials brag about how well-prepared they were for the nominations conducted on the seventeenth and eighteenth of January, that we failed to properly assess their capacities to hold free and fair nominations. Part of the blame must surely lie with an apathetic electorate that participates in voice only. Not one of the political parties of note, namely the Orange Democratic Movement or The National Alliance, could pull off a smooth nomination because both, and the near-dozen others, do not have an organisation built for honesty or integrity.

When Kenyans ratified the Constitution in 2010, hopes were high that it would reform the political process. Kenyans placed great hope in the magical powers of the Constitution and in due time reality reminded them that the Constitution, just like any contract, is a document that can be undermined by a few determined anarchists. The Tenth Parliament proved very able to the task, keeping Kenyans on tenterhooks every time they near-missed a deadline to pass a crucial law or tinkered with the very laws that it made. When the electoral laws were enacted, they set strict deadlines for when specific acts were to be done; the Tenth Parliament took time to study them and then acted with determination to undermine them. The result, as all Kenyans witnessed over the past three months, was to water down the electoral law of Kenya such that it is a cruel joke on the peoples of Kenya.

We should have seen this coming. One of the important rules in the Constitution concerns the role of appointed state officers. Ministers and Assistant Ministers are appointed state officers. They are barred from holding office in any political party. Through the alchemy of Judicial opinion and an interpretation of the Sixth Schedule, all Ministers and Assistant Ministers in Mwai Kibaki's Cabinet who held offices in political parties transmuted their continued hold in their respective parties into legitimate acts; not a single one resigned their offices. As a result they continued to play a hard and fast game with the rules in those parties, gerrymandering them in their favour when it suited them. The Tenth Parliament demonstrated that when it suited it, the rules would not apply against its members. The result has been a night of long knives for MPs out of favour and a good day at the nomination stage for those in favour.

In Kenya, it is fashionable today to be an elected representative. A Member of Parliament or a Councillor wielded enormous power, especially when it came to the small matter of public procurement. Because of his proximity to members of the Executive Branch, whether at national or local level, he could swing a tender the way of his favoured or preferred candidate. And because of the cartel-like behaviour of elected representatives, they could determine their pay and perks as they pleased. All they needed was a pliant occupant in State House to have their way. They were not disappointed. For a relatively poor nation Kenya paid its Tenth Parliament very well. Their take home pay was in the region of 700 to 800 thousand shillings a month, more than 100 times what the lowest paid worker in Kenya. This explains why the members of Kibaki's Cabinet who held positions in their political parties were loath to give them up, from the Prime Minister on down.

Many of them saw themselves as experts at running a complex organisation as a political party and a complex event as a nominations exercise. The shambles over the last three days should persuade Kenyans that these people lack the technical skills required to run anything, let alone their government going into the general election. These people, even the indefatigable Martha Karua, have proven singularly inept at managing the political parties they struggled so much to keep. Their management of the nomination, despite their bombast about their level of preparedness and professionalism, should be a cautionary tale for those looking for the leaders of the Twenty-first Century. The manner, especially, in which they have handled men and women who have managed billions of shillings and thousands of employees should remind you that these people do not care for the nitty-gritty of management, just the capture and retention of power at all costs.

In March, many Kenyans fear that they will be driven to violence because of the decisions of the men and women that oversaw the nominations. The callous and hard-eyed way they went about the process of securing nomination tickets from their first, second and third choice parties should tell us that on March fourth, they will do all in their power to grab power, the wishes of innocent Kenyans notwithstanding. In 2007, we didn't see the carnage coming. If we repeat the mistakes of the past, doom awaits us.

The next President's main challenge.

The single most important item on the president's in-tray come March fifth, if there is no run off and the IEBC doesn't dither, is youth employment. Mwai Kibaki's two terms were a failure on the unemployment front; youth unemployment, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, stands as high as 40%. It might be higher if one takes into account the increasing numbers of youthful Kenyans graduating from our universities and technical colleges. Mwai Kibaki, in 2007, promised to create half-a-million jobs annually. As did ODM's Raila Odinga. Even today, that dream is being kept alive by both the leading coalitions, CORD and Jubilee.

The new president faces grave challenges regarding the employment of Kenya's youth. The economic policies of the last ten years have ensured that the environment has been receptive to new players in diverse industries, but this has not translated into increased employment. Rather the same numbers of Kenyans have had to work sometimes three times as hard. In other words, the policies have brought about greater efficiency in economic productivity over the decade, such that the Kenya Revenue Authority has every year set for itself ambitious targets in revenue collection and, more often than not, met them. The most startling result of these efficiencies has been the explosion in the collection of income tax as well as the increased level of compliance in revenue remittance by the private sector. However, these gains on the revenue front continue to be overshadowed by the stagnation in youth employment.

One of the more unfortunate outcomes of unemployment, especially among the youth, has been an increase in incidences of crime, especially violent crime. Since Mwai Kibaki was first sworn in as President in 2002, more and more Kenyans have become victims of one form of crime or the other. The same period has seen a rise in the number of organised criminal gangs operating in all of Kenya's major towns, especially Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu. Mr Kibaki's internal security ministers, John Michuki and Chris Murungaru, attempted to address this problem using draconian means and failed. The end-result, especially of the late Mr Michuki's violent assault on gangs such as the Mungiki, was the labelling of the government as one prone to violate the fundamental rights of criminal suspects, many of whom were in the age group of 25 years to 35 years.

Kenya is at a delicate stage. Mwai Kibaki realises this and he has been laying the ground work to ensure that more young Kenyans have the necessary skills to survive in an increasingly competitive job market. His decision to elevate many middle-cadre colleges to full universities is aimed at addressing the short fall that the private sector claims exists in relevant skills. However, it is his decision to offer free basic education that will set the stage for a large cohort of the young making it to Kenya's increasing numbers of universities. But this is just part of the complex economic environment.

The next president must pick up from where Mr Kibaki leaves off. It is in the interests of the nation that the next president concentrates in making the private sector as vibrant as the public sector has been over the last decade. Job growth cannot come on the back of a ballooning public sector; that is a recipe for chaos. The public sector cannot consume all national revenue to the total exclusion of other sectors. Mr Kibaki attempted to balance public sector investment by investing heavily in infrastructure development; but all this did was to help a few companies profit and not the entire private sector. Several judgments by Kenya's reforming Judiciary have set things back a tad. Ever since the labour law of Kenya was revised, the private sector has been under siege and the Judiciary has not helped matters by seeming to favour the rights of the employed rather than those of the employers. The new President must attempt to re-balance the equation without taking away the rights that workers have gained under Mr Kibaki's watch. That is the challenging economic environment that the new president will find himself (or herself) in after the general election.

The main aim of the new president must not only be to reassure the private sector that he understands the plight the find themselves in as a consequence of the decisions made by the Judiciary, but that public investment shall focus more on creating an enabling environment for ever greater investment by the private sector in areas such as manufacturing. Vision 2030 is a beautiful blue-print; to achieve its objectives, the president must ensure that not only do the youth of Kenya have the required skills to contribute to their achievement, but that the private sector is incentivised to invest larger sums to its noble goals. If he can achieve positive job growth for the youth of Kenya, he will have made greater strides into not only turning Kenya into a middle-income economy, but also in setting the nation on a path to greater political stability.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Where does the money come from?

How much will the parries spend on the nominations due on the seventeenth of January? It is a colossal financial and logistical exercise to nominate quite possibly tens of thousands of candidates in all the political parties contesting the 2013 general election. It remains vague where all these parties are finding the financing for not just the nominations but the campaigns for the general election. Kenyans, as is their wont, have turned a blind eye and stony silence to the sources of all the money that will be spent in this election season. Indeed, some respected economists are predicting that inflation will inch up a point or two due to the flood of money that will flow through the economy over the next three months.

Kenya's campaign finance law remains unread, un-discussed and unknown. Kenyans simply don't seem interested in the mechanics of electing their representatives. The Tenth Parliament was very good at distracting Kenyans from what went on in the National Assembly, what with their constant tinkering with the Political Parties Act and the Elections Act. It might be that our education of the political and electoral process is an on-going exercise and that we are evolving slowly as an informed electorate, but at times it feels as if the evolution is akin to the leap from primordial ooze to the first high order organisms: it's taking too damn long.

The political process is necessarily complex and only the urban sophisticate has the time, the wherewithal and the determination to update himself on the intricate details of the process. But for this country to advance politically and economically, Kenyans must get over their inferiority complex about learning and educate itself on the process. It is the only way that we can hold our political betters to account for their sins of omission or commission. We must educate ourselves on not just the Constitution, but the laws regulating the political process and the constitutions of individual political parties that seek to nominate men and women to reign over us.

It is irresponsible that we do not know, or speak, of the sources of funding for political parties. Where do we imagine this money comes from? The Tooth Fairy? That would imply that millions of Kenyans are going about toothless, just like their Registrar of Political Parties! Rumours have swirled for years that much of the money being poured into political campaigns comes from dubious sources including the drug barons that never seem to get caught. Some even claim that "computer errors" in financial estimates of the national government are merely cover for massive flight of national revenue into private pockets. I shudder to imagine that Colombian, Afghani and Mexican drug lords are laundering their ill-gotten wealth through Kenya's political institutions or that all the Anglo-leasings, Goldenbergs, KKV scandals, maize scandals and the rest of them are merely cover for the pilfering of our tax shillings for the sake of perpetuating political careers that should ideally be consigned to the ash-heap of political history.

The nominations that take place this week are momentous because for the first time, they are being done in the full glare of the cameras and with one of the most massive participation of Kenyans in history. Those that emerge victorious, certificates of nomination in hand, will have demonstrated that they have the capacity to raise the millions required to triumph on the fourth of March and that they have the capacity to marshal lethargic and apathetic Kenyans to their cause. They will also demonstrate that political parties are coming of age; the days of direct nomination, at least for the major parties, are a thing of the past. Doubts, however, of the sincerity of the party leaders and their ardent acolytes will continue to float if Kenyans are not informed about the sources of the billions that will be poured on the seventeenth.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Look in the mirror.

2013 opened in characteristic fashion. Dozens of Kenyans died on our highways. We shrugged our shoulders, made some empathetic noises and went back to our daily grind. If there is an analogy to the manner in which we consider whom we will elect and whom we will toss by the wayside, it is in the manner with which we treat the escalating cost in lives, property and time that our highways claim every year. There is no big switch that we can push to stem the flow of blood loosed on the roads. There is no magic wand that we can wave that will ensure that everyone survives a road journey in Kenyan. All the wishful thinking in the world will not reverse the trend in lives lost on our roads. All the finger-pointing in the world will not lay the blame on anyone else. If we were to stare in the mirror, we would know who is responsible. On December 1st, a Saturday no less, the amended Traffic Act came into force. All that we had hoped it would address it did not. And we are to blame for that sad state of affairs.

On December 4th, the nation was treated to one more spectacle on the road to the general election: alliances and coalitions were mooted, formed, broken and reformed. Who will forget the image of a non-committal Charity Ngilu at the signing of the CORD alliance agreement, or that of a beaming Musalia Mudavadi at the Jubilee jamboree? We are fast approaching another milestone; on January 17th, parties and alliances are set to nominate men and women who will fly their flags at the March 4th general election. There isn't a soul alive in Kenya who is not alive to this fact. We are told that Kenyans are waiting with bated breath to see the list each party/coalition/alliance will present to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and which parties/alliances/coalitions will suffer the biggest number of disgruntled elements claiming they have been "rigged out" of their preferred parties.

Dim slivers of concern can be discerned from the punditry on the nominations. A minority of pundits has opined that without the active participation of party ranks-and-file, the nominations will be shams. This is at the core of the kind of democracy Kenya will be after the general election. In mature democracies, mainly Western European ones, the United States and India, political parties are defined by the active membership of their members. Parties that have active members demonstrate that it is not just about the party leadership; the party must stand for something and represent the will of its members. Obviously, in Kenya this is not something that parties advertise. In Kenya, the party is a reflection of its leadership and is a demonstration of the financing that the leadership can raise for the party's activities. It is true of TNA, ODM and all the briefcases advertising in the papers for "direct nominations" for a fee.

Kenyans have turned whingeing against politicians into high art. We do not bat an eyelid when we call the members of Parliament names and accuse them of usurping the will of Kenyans. We see no contradiction in ignoring our responsibilities in the political sphere while placing all of it on the politician. On Thursday as parties nominate their candidates to various elective posts, we will do what we have always done: shrug our shoulders, make some sombre statements of regret at the poor state of affairs, and go about our business as if nothing momentous is occurring. But should things turn sour, and we revert to our instinctual habit of blaming the politicians and party leaders, we would be advised to look into the mirror at whom to blame.

Kenya's transition from KANU hegemony to mature democracy has always suffered because the hordes on the streets demanding change have frequently been paid agents of one politician or the other. They have rarely expressed the will of the masses. If it were not for the monies that the likes of Raila Odinga or Uhuru Kenyatta poured into proving their political superiority, we would have a very different political system. But Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta and their fellow travelers are not interested in numbers for the development of their parties; they are only interested in numbers that will serve their selfish interests. Their parties are not a reflection of the needs of Kenyans, but of their own only. They can get away with this because Kenyans do not participate in party activities, and are not interested in building parties into institutions. We are only active when we get paid to be active. For some of us, the money is never enough so we never even bother to answer the call when it comes. An ideology, for example, cannot be built by the party leadership alone. The leadership can offer direction, but the ideology can be shaped only by the members. If the members do not participate, their manipulation is inevitable.

We can no longer afford to blame the politicians for the sad state of our politics. If we do not take an active interest in the management of the affairs of the political parties that will nominate our government in March, then we have given up our right to complain and whinge. We will have only ourselves to blame if the likes of Mike Sonko, Ferdinand Waititu and Margaret Wanjiru trounce Jimnah Mbaru, John Gakuo and Evans Kidero at the nomination stage.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Kicks of a dying horse?

Scratch the surface and you'll discover that the veneer we've spread over our politics hides a sclerotic dysfunctional system that has all but collapsed. Change either comes gradually or in one radical transformation. Kenya has been in transition since 1992. Two decades later and it is possible for some to be suffering from fatigue at the snail's pace of progress. 2007 represented the nadir in the process, though the disappointments of 2003 and 2005 revealed that the reform process was under siege at all times. But we have reached a plateau where the old ways are no longer viable. It is for this reason that that the circus surrounding the formation of alliances and coalitions, and how to manage them, reveals the limits of old school tactics.

It is important to realise that Kenya is far from being ready for an issues based political discourse. Issues may agitate the elite in their urban conclaves or the upper reaches of the civil service, academia and the diplomatic circuit, but in a Kenya in transition, the tribal strongman counts for more than all the white and green papers a politician can marshal to memory. But the myth of the Big Man means that there is a deep entrenchment of the idea that the Big Man will make all the Big Decisions; all decisions are Big Decisions. When one exams the looming shambles that will be the nominations on December 17th, one can identify the Big Man syndrome as the foundation of that chaos.

When CORD and Jubilee and the other alliances were being mooted, party constitutions did not address the questions of what rules would be applied during the nominations, whether they could be conducted jointly or individually, or whether a hybrid system would be designed to handle the situation. The main aim, it seems, of the alliances was to lock out this or that ethnic community from this or that region. Agostinho Neto, the man who succeeded to the late Orwa Ojode's Ndhiwa seat and Kipchumba Murkomen a candidate in the March elections, do not necessarily see the Big Man politics of Kenya as a bad thing. But surely they must agree that it has had a pernicious impact on decision-making and planning.

It seems, with the possible exception of The National Alliance, that Kenya's political parties remain perilously unprepared to handle the routine affairs of the parties such as recruiting and registering members, maintaining and updating registers, reporting to party members decisions of the top organs of the party, or such important events as nomination exercises to choose the party's candidates at elections. ODM especially, stands accused of being Raila Odinga's party in all but name. He is not alone in this; being the most vibrant party until the departures of William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi and their acolytes, he must shoulder the blame for not leading the transformation of the party from being a poor caricature, albeit a successful one, of the former ruling party, KANU. In this he has been emulated by the wily William Ruto (URP), the hapless Musalia Mudavadi (UDF), Martha Karua (NARC-K), the professorial James Ole Kiyiapi (RBK) and the comical-but-devastating Kalembe Ndile (TIP). It seems that only TNA has an effective management in place. There is room for doubt though; when its secretary general pronounces that he is yet to design the nomination ballot paper and that only he (and his design team will do so), it reminds one of the high-handed KANU ways Kenyans had hoped were consigned to the dustbin of political history.

We have deliberately placed political parties at the centre of political discourse in this country and for better or worse, we have allowed these parties not to be ideologically-driven, but leader-driven. If we wish to avoid the conflagrations of 2007 and 2008, to which poorly managed nominations exercises contributed, then all the tens of thousands of Kenyans who have signed up to become members of political parties must take their responsibilities as members of those parties seriously. Seriousness of intent can only be demonstrated by the payment of subscription fees and the full participation in party activities. In 2007, there were party delegates for hire. In 2013, it is presumed because there are electronic databases of party members, this phenomenon has seen its last. It is the only way that nominations exercises will be as free and fair as possible. When the nominations are overseen by self-interested politicians, as in the case of ODM/CORD, bloodshed is to be expected.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Family values: We all have a role to play.

As Kenya approaches elections in a reform environment, some civil society organisations led by Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) have chosen to undermine our moral and family values by deliberate promotion of abortion, homosexuality and rampant teen sexuality."

- Charles Kanjama, Politicians should state their stand on moral values, Standard on Sunday (January 6, 2012)

The ideal family is modelled on the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph (a child with their father and mother). For centuries this has been the norm. The Twentieth Century saw a blurring of the lines between what was normal and what was perverse, especially coming out of the Nineteenth Century where even persons of different races were not permitted to found families of their own. In the United States, the Baby Boom generation led the charge in redefining societal norms, indulging in great excesses such as "free love", drug use and defined by the rock and roll music of The Beatles and Elvis Presley. The Civil Rights movement, led by icons such as The Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, and Thurgood Marshall were the voices championing the rights of the African Americans in the face of great opposition from White America.

In the 1980s, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, long ignored by the conservative Reagan administration, again redefined sexual relations. With the influx of millions of American women in the work force, the home was again redefined: it was no longer anathema for the woman to bring home the bacon alongside her husband. Indeed, many women, in the pursuit of higher education and careers, remained unmarried longer than had been the norm and some never married at all. The end of the '80 and the beginning of the '90s saw, especially in the African American community, the rise of gangsta rap and hip hop, with the likes of Tupac Shakur, Dr Dre and Easy E further shattering the final shackles that kept young black men and women from expressing themselves, especially on "young love" and sexuality. The end of the 1990s and the beginning of the Twenty-first Century saw the broadening of access to the information and communication tools that would redefine a generation's aspirations, their hopes and dreams, and act as a catalyst to the rapid spread of new ideas, both good and bad.

Between 1963 and 1992, Kenya was defined by the struggle for individual rights, the so-called human, political and civil rights. Until the repeal of Section 2A of the former Constitution, Kenya was the personal plaything of the President. His word was law, and it mattered not that there was an elected Parliament. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Kenyans were the victims of the abuse of power by the President, his government and the ruling party. Individual expression, presumed to be the received orthodoxy, was conservative. Alternative voices were stifled. Laws that the colonial government had relied on to divide and rule a restive country of forty-two odd ethnic communities became the very same weapons that successive independent governments used to control and oppress Kenyans. The final defeat of KANU in 2002 did not simply mean that only political life would be redefined; it also meant that such institutions as the family would have to also. The rise of organisations such as the KHRC meant that sooner or later, when the political landscape had been re-shaped, there would be an attempt to re-shape other institutions. It was to be expected that taboo subjects such as homosexuality, teen sexuality and abortion would be discussed in the light of day with both for and against groups claiming legitimacy and accusing the other of being "puppets" and "frauds".

Those opposed to the liberalisation of attitudes towards teen sexuality, homosexuality and abortion claim that this is an attempt to corrupt Kenyans' family values. But if the nature of the family has been redefined irreversibly, could their stand be tenable? They frequently argue that the Constitution is being debased by a liberal interpretation of its core principles, rejecting the argument that it permits these ideas. However, and until the Supreme Court says otherwise, the Constitution could be interpreted as the most profound expression of individual liberty this country has ever witnessed. The Bill of Rights prohibits discrimination. In addition to the 17 grounds that it lists, and with the use of the word "including" in the Non-discrimination Clause, some believe that the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and expands the liberty of the individual to make choices regarding their person, especially on such matters as sex and abortion. If a child cannot be discriminated against because of their age, the decisions that the child makes regarding sexuality can only be limited if such decisions place that child at risk. It is for this reason that an adult is prohibited from having sexual relations with a child, regardless of the child's consent, such as it may be. But a teenager frequently ignores the wisdom of their parents, their teachers, their pastors, and the government, and engages in acts that place their at risk, such as sexual relations, before their have the maturity to make good decisions. The failure to rein in teen sexuality is not the fault of the state, the KHRC or the law, but the failure of society, the family, and social and family institutions.

The same can be argued about abortion or homosexuality. Before political freedom became the overriding national obsession, the state, the church and the family played a crucial role in not only educating the children, but in moulding them into moral upstanding citizens who knew right from wrong and who understood what their obligations to each other were. In only exceptional circumstances would an unplanned pregnancy be terminated and only in exceptional circumstances would a person see another person of the same sex as an object of sexual desire. Today, it seems that all these institutions have crumbled to dust. The state can no longer afford to care for its sick or for the living for that matter. The individual has been left with the burden of deciding the best course of action for his life. The church has been corrupted. Even the established churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, no longer play the moral leadership role they played in the past. Sexual scandals continue to rock these institutions, especially for the Roman Catholic Church which has had to contend with revelations that for decades the hierarchy has covered up rampant sexual abuse of children and women by priests.

The question of family values is a vital one. In it we will find the moral values that must govern our lives, and our nation. But it is dangerous to look at family values only through the prism of an idyllic past that never was. In the Twenty-first Century, family values are not just guided by religious or political leaders. In Kenya, especially, individual freedom to make decisions regarding such personal matters as who to love and whether or not to have a child, must also inform the debate on family values. We must, by all means, debate whether it is proper to permit "abortion-on-demand" or whether to teach children about sexuality; what we cannot do is to allow the debate to be one-sided or to simply ignore facts on the ground. The spread of information and communication technology, especially the democratisation of telecommunication through the supply of ever cheaper internet-ready mobile phones will challenge us to come up with the best way to mould our children into the best they can be, morally, spiritually and in civic matters. Their access to different ideas, both good and bad, is greater than it was even ten years ago; it is not possible to turn back the tide of information on sexuality, or abortion. If we accept this, perhaps, just perhaps, we may be able to address these challenges with a view to moulding them into men and women capable of acting in their best moral and spiritual interests. It is time we all got involved fully in these questions, especially by insisting that institutions such as the Church stop fighting unseen enemies, but instead go back to being what they were: sanctuaries for the faithful where they can receive counsel, succour and safe harbour.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A rainbow moment?

An unfortunate side-effect, if it could be called that, of making the world a village through trans-national transport and information and communications technology has been the influx of new ideas and cultural norms into Kenya. It seems a storm is brewing over the homosexual overtones of Witi Ihimaera's Whale Rider, one of the set books in use in our high schools approved by the Kenya Institute of Education. Education minister Mutula Kilonzo has declared that he'll have the book withdrawn from classrooms more than a year after students ave already studied it. Mr Kilonzo is reacting to entreaties from faith-based organizations, parents and teachers that are opposed to the "corruption of the minds" of the young from such "foreign" ideas. While the country has made great strides in the political arena, it seems that these strides do not extend to even the discussion of such subversive ideas such as homosexuality. Wishing homosexuality-infused books away - the literary version of burying our heads in the sand - seems to be the preferred strategy.

Some months ago, KTN aired a rather disturbing show on the homosexual scourge in Kenya. The TV channel invited Kenyans into the lives of homosexual sex workers in the country. It emerged that they are many and that they count as their clients many married men - and women. More than a decade ago, homosexual practices in boarding schools agitated even the National Assembly to action. Recently too, KTN aired the plight of prisoners undergoing years of confinement without conjugal visits from their spouses or significant others and their adaptation to the circumstances while incarcerated.

Kenyans are now faced with the stark reality of the matter. Homosexuality forms part of an unacknowledged discourse on sexuality and the fair treatment of all persons. Kenyans are now accusing each other of hypocrisy. In the light of day, we will condemn homosexuality as a sin and un-African; in the dead of night we will indulge in homosexual carnal pleasures. Married men and women will lie with their homosexual partners while keeping their partners in the dark about their urges and their escapades. Preachers will cavil against the scourge and congregants will loudly agree with them. The reality, however, is starkly different. More and more homosexuals will come out of the closet. Pretty soon, they will be a force to reckon with; there will be no turning back the tide.

Matters are complicated with the Non-discrimination Rule in the Constitution. While it does not mention sexual orientation at all, it does not preclude it either. Eventually, a brave litigant will argue in the courts that their right to be recognised and not to be discriminated against is guaranteed by the Constitution. This may compel the state to not only acknowledge the rights of same-sex partners, but to protect them too from the harassment they suffer at the hands of the so-called homophobes. Despite the general population's antipathy to homosexuals and the discussion of homosexuality, a day is coming when we will be forced to confront the issue head one and acknowledge that gay men and lesbian women - and bisexuals and trans-gendered persons - are human too and that they deserve the same recognition and protection that the rest enjoy.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Reading the 2013 tea-leaves.

It is a fraught exercise to predict the future in Kenya; even the Waganga from Tanzania keep off from such activities. Therefore, we must look at past behaviour to attempt a look to future acts. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, Jubilee's principal actors, have their hands full in the coming year. Not only must they trounce CORD and all other alliances/coalitions at the hustings in March, they must also ensure that should their trials at The Hague proceed, they emerge victorious. In 2013, it is almost certain that their acolytes will attempt to link their impending trials with the general election, exhorting Kenyans to elect them as a rejection of the charges that have been preferred against them by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka have their work cut out for them in attempting to persuade millions of Kenyans that their alliance is not merely an alliance of convenience but a serious meeting of the minds designed to offer Kenyans a fresh alternative to the tired old politics of years past. The two have had a poisonous relationship for decades. Mr Musyoka, the Vice-President, has been the blue-eyed boy of the Moi regime, playing the KANU game better than many and surviving in that snake-pit against all odds. If it wasn't for Mr Moi's last-minute decision to elevate Uhuru Kenyatta to the senior-most, first-among-equals position n 2002, Mr Musyoka would have been well-placed to take over after the Nyayo Era. In 2002 and 2005 he was forced into a forced alliance with Raila Odinga in order to advance his interests. IN 2007, he betrayed the Orange Movement flock to pursue his own presidential ambitions, costing Raila Odinga the Big Prize and leading to a difficult co-existence since then. How the two will swing the argument that they are different, especially after inviting the likes of Cyrus Jirongo into their alliance, remains to be seen.

Pambazuka's Peter Kenneth and Raphael Tuju have an easier time; theirs may turn pout to be the best alternative to CORD and Jubilee. Mr Kenneth is the more impressive of the two. His stewardship of the Gatanga CDF kitty has been a model of effectiveness and probity. Not many current presidential candidates can boast a CDF record as his. Neither, apparently can any one do the same against Mr Tuju; his only misfortune was losing his seat in 2007 by going against the ODM wave in Luo Nyanza. By all accounts, his development record in Rarieda was quite impressive. Perhaps he would have done more with five more years. Both are eloquent and personable; both, sadly, lack the charisma and public profiles of Uhuru Kenyatta or Raila Odinga. Despite their denials, as with Jubilee's Kalenjin/Kikuyu axis, Mr Tuju's and Mr Kenneth's is a Luo/Kikuyu alliance. It is unfortunate that they are not the popular politicians that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are, otherwise they would give CORD and Jubilee a run for their money. But yet, if Kenyans decide to listen to their ideas, rather than be impressed by their charisma, they may upset the applecart on March 4th.

Martha Karua is captaining a listing ship. She has been abandoned by the erstwhile voluble Danson Mungatana who has hitched his wagon to the Jubilee train. She seems not have any other popular acolyte to act as a foil to her intensity. Her hard-eyed approach to politics - a winner-takes-all attitude that grates - has alienated those who would otherwise find her an attractive alternative to the CORD, Jubilee or Pambazuka alliances. The likes of Asman Kamama will simply not cut it in the cut and thrust of 21st Century Kenya presidential campaigning. At best, she will be a footnote in the annals of presidential politics. At worst, she'll be forgotten, even though it was her strategic mind that ensured that the constitutional review process was safeguarded from sabotage by her colleagues in the National Assembly.

But it is Charity Ngilu's continued spiral into political irrelevance that will keep us staring at the TV. Her rash decision to set sail in the Jubilee boat will come back to bite her. She has jettisoned her presidential ambitions for a senatorial run in Kitui, coming up against the astute, though underrated, David Musila. Mr Musila has created a formidable team on the ground in his bid to be Kitui's senator, and Mrs Ngilu is coming to the game a bit late in the day. Whether she overhaul Mr Musila will depend entirely on whether Uhuru and Ruto trust her sufficiently to give her a boost when she needs it most. But given how they have treated Musalia Mudavadi, and how Mr Ruto is handling Linah Jebii Kilimo, I would not bet on Mrs Ngilu triumphing in her decision to go for the Kitui senate seat.

Musalia Mudavadi and Eugene Wamalwa are set to be the jokers in the 2013 campaigns. Mr Wamalwa, the Justice Minister, has had a roller-coaster ride over the past year. Starting out with Jimmi Kibaki's Simama Kenya, he briefly flirted with Maina Njenga (until tear gas put paid to that arrangement), had a long dalliance with the Gang of Seven (where he got his Justice docket from), attempted a marriage with Pambazuka before he ended up in the Musalia Mudavadi bear-hug with Gideon Moi's and Nick Salat's KANU hovering in the shadows with Baba Moi's blessings. Neither will be able to shake the suspicion that they are a project, whether Mwai Kibaki's or President Moi's. They are destined to make up the numbers of the also-rans that includes James Ole Kiyiapi and Bifwoli Wakoli, should he decide to throw his hat in the presidential ring.

It is the Nairobi City governor's race that will attract the most attention in down ticket races. In ODM/CORD, it is a battle between Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and former Mumias Sugar head-honcho Dr Evans Kidero. In TNA/Jubilee, it seems that the nomination is Ferdinand Waititu's to lose. Odds are that the contest will be between Mr Waititu and Bishop Wanjiru, both having demonstrated that they are not afraid to play hardball when need be. Mombasa and Kisumu do not seem to have attracted the same level of fevered attention as Nairobi. Yet. Things could change, but Kisumu seems to be a safe ODM bastion while Mombasa, because of the MRC threat, remains an unknown quantity.

No one seems to expect the same level of violence as 2007, but given the stakes in 2013, no one is holding their breath. Mwai Kibaki, determined to secure his legacy, has prepared for all security-related eventualities. A new Inspector-General of the Police has been appointed. His deputies await presidential appointment. The election is in a convenient month. The IEBC enjoys the confidence of the people. All the same, if things go tits up, no one believes that things could be salvaged as they were under the aegis of Kofi Annan and the Panel of Eminent African Personalities in 2008. We pray, and we hope.

Listen to what Gen Z is saying. Hear them.

Kenyan Gen Z seized the moment that was made for them and threw down the gauntlet at the feet of the Kenyan State. With the memory of the bi...