Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Too early for judgment day.

Will it be style over substance, flash at the expense of real work? The announcement of the first four nominees to the Cabinet by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto was certainly very different from the Mwai Kibaki and Moi moulds. Moi relied on suspended terror; he would make announcements in the most off-hand way. It became routine that every person concerned paid due attention to the one O'Clock news bulletin on the radio - Voice of Kenya as it was once - to discover whether they had kept their jobs or were in deep doo-dah with the Head of State. Mwai Kibaki tended to simply send a an announcement to media houses and stayed firmly behind the high walls and security of State House. Mr Kenyatta's unveiling of the four is the stuff of American-style politics, and it is a breath of fresh air.

There are fears, however, that he intends to be a micro-manager. These fears are without substance. There are other fears that it will be all politics all the time when his Cabinet finally gets to work. Again, these are without foundation. Just as are the fears that he intends to make mince-meat of the human rights provisions of the Constitution, especially freedom of association and speech. Nothing he has done since he was sworn in suggests that these fears are warranted. Indeed, his response to the Garissa massacres was criticized for not being American enough, and second, for being too draconian when he finally dispatched the Inspector-General and his internal security teams to that benighted town.

Mr Kenyatta's is a markedly different style from that of the self-styled Professor of Politics or of his acolyte, Mwai Kibaki. Mr Kenyatta ran a campaign promising change: in leadership and in governance. He has not ruled long enough for us to stand in judgment of his style. His Cabinet is yet to start working; neither is he yet to get the senior members o his civil service appointed. When he does, and when they begin their work, only then will we be able to determine whether he is the consummate back-seat driver or something else entirely.

Many still colour his future with the prism of the ICC. This is unfair, both for the President and for the nation. In their every utterance, his most ardent detractors paint a picture that is in dissonance with what we are seeing today. They argue that because of his indictment by the international court, he will be unable to discharge his functions of the office without distraction, some of which may lead him to make improper or dangerous decisions. Some have even attempted to link the free-laptop-per-child policy with the ICC! Some have began worrying that the witnesses against him are suddenly going to develop collective amnesia or that they are going to suffer acute lead poisoning. None backs up any of his conspiracy theories with hard facts or data.

This is not to say that we should casually remain aloof as the world falls down around our ears. The Constitution that we venerate so much provides for a more interventionist citizenry if only we are willing to organise and play our roles. Recent full-page ads in the dailies by various counties regarding the 2013/2014 budget is a pointer to what we are required to do to hold our elected leaders to account. The likes of Makau Mutua and Maina Kiai may cavil from the comfort of their sinecures in civil society, but it is at the grass-roots that Kenyans will be able t hold their government to account. It begins by organisation and education. If we do neither, and should Mr Kenyatta morph into a combination of his late father and Mr Moi, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

We. Don't. Care.

Larry Madowo and Farah Maalim had an interesting conversation on tonight's NTV bulletin. Their thrust was that the State was doing precious little to interdict the terrorists raining havoc on the people of Garissa and the forgotten Northern Frontier. They bemoaned the continued massacre of Kenyans at the hands of al Shabaab affiliates and wrung their hands at the continued hands-off approach of the State in securing the persons and properties of the long-suffering residents of Kenya's continually at-risk communities in the North Eastern Province. Larry Madowo and his co-anchor went out of their way to demonstrate that in the same week terrorists wrecked havoc in the city of Boston, and Garissa came under armed attack, the reaction of Barack Obama was markedly more hands-on than that if Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta. They questioned why Kenya's law enforcement agencies, including its security and intelligence agencies, continued to fight the war against crime that the United States' government seemed to be winning.

The harsh truth that we are unwilling to admit is that we get the security that we pay for. The United States, even in the midst of an economic situation that is hostage to the bitterly divided and partisan Congress, spends more on national, and local, security than any other country on earth, bar, perhaps, the dictatorships in Iran, North Korea and Cuba. Kenya, on the other hand, is not the fount of dollars that we'd all like to believe it is. Our priorities, such as we see them, seem to revolve around holding expensive elections in the name of "bringing democracy closer to the people." We spend more on our politicians and their pet white elephants than we do in the institutions that will guarantee us basic security, whether we are in our homes or places of employment or palaces of leisure. We laud such inherently unwise investments as free laptops for school-going children as by-words of "keeping election promises" instead of investing in the tools that will keep us safe. We have lavished billions of shillings on our soldiers in the name f keeping our borders secure, and still billions more on our politicians in the name of facilitating their function of "making laws for all Kenyans." Witness the hundreds of millions we spent on a Vice-presidential palace, a prime-ministerial "office" and a "refurbished" Parliament, and weep at our pro-democracy leanings.

Decades of political sclerosis have led us to this dark pass; waste and corruption has bequeathed us a national police force that spends more and more of its time reacting to criminal incidents (and collecting bribes from Kenyan motorists) than in investigating and intercepting would be brigands with proto-religious messages of "purity" and "liberation." In our zeal to eat at the same table as our political leaders, we care not for the things that make a democracy resilient in the face of incessant broadsides by those too invested in the politics of war and violence. When we walk by the ramshackle hovels we call Police Lines, we do not care to see the dehumanising conditions our men in uniform endure. Nor that of their families and loved ones. When they crack under the strain of keeping us safe and turn their weapons on each other, we simply chalk it up to "an act of God" (or the devil, depending on what your pastor said recently.) Until we can learn to prioritise our needs, and until we can learn, once again, what it is to be a nation, Garissa and similar attacks will forever be a hallmark of the "tranquility" we market to the "five million tourists" William Ruto wants to attract to our white-sand beaches of Mombasa.

As in the past, we will swear "to leave no stone unturned, no lead un-pursued" in our "zeal to bring the perpetrators of the Garissa attack to book." But we know this is just paying lip-service to the victims and their families. IN a day or two, we will return to our daily staple: whether Parliamentarians should earn a fatter pay-check or whether the Cabinet will "reflect the face of Kenya." By all means, shed a tear for the suffering, but please, try not to pretend that you care. If you did, David Mole Kimaiyo, Maj Gen Michael Gichangi, PS Mutea Iringo and the rest of the National Security Council would be answering hard questions from determined peoples' representatives and swinging into action. Baragoi, Tana Delta and Garissa are proof that we don't give a damn and never have.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Set their asses on fire

Now that Mithikia Linturi has taken the fateful step to attempt to dismiss the Salaries and Remuneration Commission through Parliamentary procedure, it is time that we interrogated the unrelenting greed of our elected representatives. Mr Linturi was a member of the much-reviled Tenth Parliament, so this is par for the course for the man and his colleagues. What boggles the mind is that he is willing to attract the unremitting wrath of his constituents, and other Kenyans, in his, and his colleagues', familiar desire to live like princes and princesses. What is not in doubt is that the proceedings of Parliament will be pro forma; they have made up their minds to dismiss the SRC and nothing short of an act of God will prevent them from doing so.

When the SRC invited members of the public, citizens all, to comment on their decision to cap the pay-and-perks of State officers, the overwhelming response was that, at least for MPs, the caps were not low enough. A rough citizens' cost/benefit analysis of the pay-and-perks of MPs demonstrated that they were not worth the millions they were trousering every year. Citizens wanted even deeper cuts and lower caps. Mr Linturi perpetuates a long and odious tradition of the National Assembly turning a deaf ear to the concerns of their constituents. Their arguments, so far, have been facetious at best, and down right immoral at worst.

They have, for a long time, lived as if they were in some European parliament or an American city, while their constituents continue to grapple with bread-and-butter issues that should have been consigned to the ash-heap of history. While millions of Kenyans live hand-to-mouth, our parliamentarians continue to eat in the finest restaurants (though some of them take it to extreme ends), live in the leafiest suburbs and are chauffeur-driven to and from their various political and personal engagements (including their assignations with persons who are definitely not their spouses.) They insist in defying the President when he warns them that the public wage-bill, of which their pay-and-perks is consumes a disproportionate amount, is unsustainable over the long term and imperils the Government's operations, including the vital legislation-making functions of Parliament.

But thankfully we have options, as provided for in the Constitution and the Elections Act. If they insist on doing that which we continue to find opprobrious, the power to recall them remains. If we could only set aside our minor differences and collected sufficient petitions to recall the likes of Mithika Linturi and Jimmy Angwenyi, we will send a powerful message to the men and women who continue to take us for granted. In the two years that we have, let us document every single act of parliamentary defiance, we may just have enough to set their asses on fire!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The silver lining.

Vestigial remnants of the "Tunaomba Serikali" mindset are to be seen in the utterances of various political leaders in the wake of the horrific flooding across the country. No one expected that the turnover to devolution would immediately usher in an era of self-sufficiency, but it is a little jarring to listen to governors, senators and members of the National Assembly begging the national government to intervene to solve one problem or the other caused by the raging waters. When devolved systems are finally up and running, it is only the most efficient of the county governments that will be able to offer their residents the kid of life we see in better run democracies across the world. This is not to say that the national government has no role to play; the announcement by William Ruto of the establishment of an expanded national emergency fund is salutary. But the fund should only augment what is already being done by the county governments; it should not supplant those efforts.

Devolution is just one of the magic bullets in the revolver of the transformation of governance (and politics) in Kenya. During Moi's twenty-four years at the helm, the State became a by-word for corruption, inefficiency and the steady decline in the delivery of public services. It is difficult to blame Moi for the problems caused by his administration without pointing out that the foundation was laid by the First President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. In his zeal to destroy all opposition, Jomo Kenyatta allowed many things to slide. Now, fifty years after Uhuru, we have the opportunity to re-shape our destinies, and in devolution we have the opportunity to engage in policy and decision-making at the grassroots like never before.

Take, for example, the suffering caused by the current rains. This is not a new phenomenon. Every year, when the rains fall, thousands of Kenyans suffer horrific floods and mud-slides. The Kenya Meteorological Department posts updates on where and when heavier-than-expected rainfall will occur. The Executive is frequently aware of this. All the floodplains have been mapped and it is no longer a question of where there will be floods, but when. So it is surprising that every year the same faces will be televised to millions of Kenyans asking for succour from the national government. It is whipsred that in every disaster is an opportunity for rent-seeking and if this is the case then the solution is in our hands. IN addition to identifying the many creative ways for siphoning off relief funds, the national government together with county governments must establish a mechanism for early warning, evacuation and rehabilitation. Long term they both must ensure that flood plains are protected, either through dykes or some form of canalization. If there are any victims, their welfare must be the priority of both government; these people must be assisted to return to productive work in the shortest time possible. The longer the income-earning members of a family are out of work, the greater the cost to the government in supporting them. This model could be replicated for all the disasters that seem to strike with metronomic regularity.

It is high time that Kenyans gave up the mentality that there is nothing they can do to help themselves survive their harsh environments. Grassroots organisation will be bolstered by the new sub-county structures established by legislation. If citizens had a greater say in how scarce resources could be allocated, they may feel that they have a stake in how their governments perform in development and disaster relief. It will no longer be a question of whether they will receive support from their governments but how that help will be channeled. Their participation in day-to-day governance issues will give them an opportunity to shape their fates. It s the only way that the phenomenon of "Tunaomba Serikali" can be eradicated once and for all.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's time Makua Mutua let it go.

Prof Makau Mutua's animus for the new President and Deputy President continues unabated (Is there too much Ruto at President Kenyatta's side? Sunday Nation, April, 14, 2013.) Mr Mutua, in the guise of analysing the chances of success or failure in the UhuRuto partnership, reads mischief in the apparently close contact between the principals of Kenya's fourth administration. This author will not deny the scale of Mr Ruto's ambition; it has been plain to see ever since he joined active politics as one of President Moi's ardent foot-soldiers in the 1990s. This author will also not deny that the glue that holds the two together is their shared experience of being indictees of the International Criminal Court. But this author would find it very unusual that the two would not be seen together in the first months of their administration; before the machinery of their administration begins to work with precision, the two must be seen together in order to cement in the minds of Kenyans that theirs is a partnership that will run the full course.


For instance, the President and Deputy President agreed on a fifty-fifty split of the Cabinet and Principal Secretaries' slots in their administration. Were they simply carrying on from a previous administration, the issue could be sorted out via e-mail, or as they joked on the campaign trail, Skype, they being the Digital Generation. But surely, even Mr Mutua must admit that that is not how politics is done. The two must, necessarily, meet and be seen to be meeting, when agreeing on who will and who won't be in the senior ranks of their fledgling administration. They must also, necessarily, be seen to be presenting a united front in their initial dealings with Parliament. The ramblings among Members of the National Assembly regarding the niggardliness of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission presents them with a political problem that must be solved quickly. Any hint that either may be peeled away from the other and convinced as to the wisdom of raising the MPs' salaries will spell doom for their economic and financial plans for the public service and the nation at large.


Mr Mutua is on record as rejecting the Uhuru Kenyatta presidency. Why, then, is he so keen to offer unsolicited advice to the duo? Would it not, perhaps, be better of the partnership was riven with discord from the very beginning in order to ensure that it is so strong at the next general election? Perhaps, despite his animus for the new administration, Mr Mutua does want them to succeed. It is what any patriot would want regardless of their personal feelings or political convictions. After all, if the UhuRuto administration is successful, then the nation advances that much closer to economic Shangri-La for the masses.


This author believes, albeit without any proof whatsoever, that the seemingly close contact between the President and Deputy President will lessen when their administration functions like a well-oiled machine, or as close to it as they can get it. Both will be too busy to be seen holding hands all the time. For sure, every now and then, political capital will have to be raised by shows of solidarity between the two very different men, but it will not be the leitmotif of their administration. Kusema na Kutenda was their campaign slogan; it will only be true once they get down to the serious business of governing and it will only be demonstrated when both spend more time getting things done than shows of political bromance.

The Law Society must transform itself to remain relevant.

I sprinkled a liberal dose of sodium chloride on Jasper Mbiuki's polemic on the Law Society of Kenya before digesting it because he is The National Alliances Secretary for Legal Affairs (Why Law Society lost its clout as the people's voice and watchman, Standard on Sunday, April 14, 2013.) But I must admit that Mr Mbiuki is right. The Law Society has lost its focus; it spends more and more of its energies on politics than on the unglamourous end of its statutory mandate, especially of civic education on the law of Kenya. Its obsession with the political end of its mandate has had quite pernicious effects, even on its management. In 2007, just before the general election then, the Law Society was split right down the middle into pro-ODM and pro-PNU camps that did little to forestall the violence unleashed after the presidential results were challenged. In 2013, the Law Society would not be heard by the Supreme Court because in its public utterances, or those of some of the members of the Council of the Law Society (its highest decision-making organ), were biased towards the Uhuru and Ruto team.


When the Law Society, under the chairmanships of both Paul Muite and Willy Mutunga waded into the political arena in the 1990s, it was as a champion of the rule of law and a defender of the fundamental rights of all Kenyans. Sure, the target of the Society's ire was the KANU government of President Moi, but it did not specifically ally itself to the fate or fortunes of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy movement that was at the forefront of agitations for greater political freedom for all Kenyans. Today, the Society has morphed into a partisan tool to be wielded against this or that political (usually presidential) candidate.


The Society faced a challenge in reinventing itself after the 2002 general election that ushered in the National Rainbow Coalition government. Many of its members were co-opted, in one form or another, into President Kibaki's administration. The Society ceased being a disinterested observer of the goings on in government. As a result, it could not find a unifying voice to cavil against the corruption and gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the Kibaki regime. The Society reached its nadir in 2007 and 2008 when it was unable to speak with one voice against the political violence that erupted after Raila Odinga of ODM lost to Mwai Kibaki of PNU in that year's presidential contest.


Today the Society finds itself unable to agree on a credible programme to advance its interests. If it is unable to persuade the highest court in Kenya that it is non-partisan, then it is incapable of being seen as an honest broker when major national events call for its advise. The Government of Kenya, all three arms of it, is undergoing transformational reforms in order to serve the peoples of Kenya better. It is time the Society took a leaf out of the political reforms being undertaken and undertook to transform itself for service in the Twenty-first Century. It still has a crucial role to play, especially in the political arena. But it can only play this role legitimately and credibly f it is not seen as a political plaything for one nabob or the other. The Society must have an internal debate about its future. It is the only way it can restore its bruised and battered reputation and be trusted, once again, as the voice of reason, truth and justice.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Untying the Gordian Knot

Untying the Gordian Knot of pre-election promises in his quest to form a Cabinet will be no easy task for the President. He has vital political interests to protect, not least when he has Najib Balala and Charity Ngilu, erstwhile ODM rebels, as his points-persons in key electoral zones (Coast and Ukambani). But President Kenyatta should not fall into the trap of keeping his political promises at the expense of crafting a dynamic team of go-getters who will implement his visions for the country.

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and, to some extent, Mwai Kibaki relied on suspended terror to keep their Cabinet Ministers in line. The fear of losing their flags kept their Ministers on their toes. In his second administration, the little leeway Mwai Kibaki had allowed his Minister flourished into an almost flagrant disrespect for the principle of collective responsibility. While his two administrations had achieved a lot, in the end, especially with the Grand Coalition Government, it became a hotbed of infighting, intrigues and conspiracies. John Githongo did a lot to make Ministers suspicious of each other, as well as ensure that senior civil servants were unable to collaborate even where collaboration was a necessity in implementing Mwai Kibaki's vision.

There are calls from all and sundry for Uhuru Kenyatta to accommodate minor political functionaries who lost elections in his administration. He should resist this. There are also desires by some newly elected representatives to resign their positions for a place in his Cabinet. He should discourage this too. The former have been rejected by the people; it is unconscionable that they should be allowed a say over the fate of the same people who rejected them. The latter are a vital cog in the implementation of his vision; if he allows them to resign and they are approved by Parliament before appointments to the Cabinet, there is no guarantee that Jubilee will keep its majority in the National Assembly or the Senate. The risks of losing seemingly safe seats remains high in light of the desire by CORD to win back whatever advantage it has lost since the Supreme Court ruling.

Many will suggest that Uhuru Kenyatta must appoint a generally youthful Cabinet as well as in the senior ranks of the public and diplomatic services. This is a valid point. However, he should ensure that the men and women he appoints not only have proven records both in the private and public sector, but that they share his vision as encapsulated in the Jubilee manifesto. They must also be prepared to take a huge pay-cut in some instances; public service is not the road to self-aggrandizement it once was, but a means of giving back to society for all the advantages they enjoy. These are the people he must identify and persuade to join his administration. He must not, however, ignore experience. In some cases old is not necessarily a byword for old ideas. By now, given his more than a decade of senior public service, President Kenyatta must have a list of senior public officers who have proven themselves in the service of the country. These are men and women who will help navigate the treacherous waters of the public service and he needs their counsel and assistance in meeting the objectives he has laid out for his administration.

Finally, he must keenly see to it that some of the softer requirements of governance are met. He must appoint a Cabinet that represents the face of Kenya. He must give the female gender prominent positions in order to inspire even more women to go into public service. He must give at least one or two positions to really youthful persons so that we too are inspired. Finally, he must make it a priority to ensure that persons with disabilities are no longer treated as lesser Kenyans. This will especially be reflected in how he makes it easier for them to communicate, travel and access public services or institutions. He must, after all, start thinking of re-election.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Uhuru's headaches (No, not the ICC)

Margaret Thatcher will be lionised by many when she is laid to rest. The Iron Lady, inspiration perhaps for Kenya's Martha Karua, changed the face of British politics and international relations. Thatcherism became a byword for making hard choices as and when needed, even when those choices ended in a lot of pain a a lot of people. In her foreign policy, however, are lessons for Kenya's brand new administration. She used he close relationship with Ronald Reagan to sustain British influence in world affairs at a time when the decline of Great Britain was being accelerated by economic woes and labour troubles as well as IRA terrorism.

Uhuru Kenyatta assumes the presidency at a time when Kenya is attempting to square the circle of low revenues against huge development priorities, especially in education, healthcare and infrastructure. Until the Chinese came calling with open wallets and a no-questions asked attitude, Kenya was at the mercy of the diktats from mandarins of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Its participation in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade talks, that morphed into the World Trade Organisation talks, Kenya was constrained in its dealings even with its neighbours because of the strings attached to all the money it had borrowed or all the agreements it had signed with the United States, the United Kingdom, or the European Union.

When Mwai Kibaki began the long and arduous task of disentangling Kenya's messed up finances, his Look East policy was a shrewd calculation that even a wholesome embrace of the Chinese Dragon would not push away Kenya's traditional Western development partners. When Uhuru Kenyatta finally demonstrated that he had the capacity to mount a credible presidential bid, despite his indictment at the ICC, Kenya's development partners, save for those in Asia and Africa, were aghast. The United Kingdom led the charge with its waffling talk of "essential contacts" while the United States piled in with its warnings of "consequences". William Ruto captured the mood of the people when he celebrated our peculiarities; instead of heeding the wise counsel of the West, we not only ignored them, but not only elected Uhuru Kenyatta and his ICC co-indictee as president and deputy president, we supported the Supreme Court when it upheld their election and asked the losers, especially Raila Odinga, to let it go and move on.

Mr Kenyatta faces tougher challenges than providing 800,000 free laptops to Standard One children in 2014. While Mwai Kibaki finally managed to turn around the economy and lay the foundation for future prosperity, job-creation is woefully low, economic growth is only in upper reaches of the middle classes and the wealthy, and the quality of essential public services such as healthcare and education continues to be a continental embarrassment. His challenge lies in not only ensuring the continued inflow of Chinese direct investment in infrastructure, but also keeping the West on-side in terms of technology transfer and a sympathetic ear in the halls of global institutions such as the United Nations Organisation, the IMF and the World Bank. He should chart a largely independent line when it comes to future revenue policies; if he allows them to be dictated by the West, the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the '90s will seem like a cakewalk. If he allows Chinese investments to raise the inflation rate, he'll have a balance of payments crisis on his hands that coupled with increasingly high cost of living that may lead to civil instability. He must temper his enthusiasm for domestic public spending with one for expanding manufacturing, exports of finished goods, increased food production and value addition for commercial crops. It is one of the ways that he can keep both the West and the Chinese in their proper places.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Step by Step.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (has a familiar ring to it, don't it?) lowered the boom on those who were looking forward to an easy ICC prosecution: international relations are based on mutual respect and reciprocity. Obviously, it is easy to presume that this means he will not be co-operating any further with the International Criminal Court. I don't think so. The case against both him and the Deputy President is already collapsing. More significantly, the African Union, the East African Community and other "well-wishers" are already mistrustful of the ICC given its record over the recent past. The fact that the United States, whose waning hegemony must surely chafe, has refused to ratify the Rome Statute reduces its moral authority when it comes to matters dealing with "international crimes". (So too its continued coddling of the Jewish State of Israel as it continues to massacre Palestinians, the crimes committed by its forces and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its continued dysfunctional relationship with the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Jordan.)


Not since the ascension of Daniel Toroitich arap Moi to the seat of power has Kenya had a dynamic youthful president being sworn (he was fifty-four when he took power). In the twenty-first century, it would have been anachronistic to take on a geriatric for Commander-in Chief. But in Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, Kenya embarks on a journey whose outcome, while shrouded in the mists of time, looks bright regardless the stain of an ICC indictment or impending trial. Their manifesto details the things they will attempt to accomplish in the diplomatic realm. With his declaration that diplomacy will be based on mutual respect ad reciprocity, President Kenyatta is announcing that Kenya will react according to the respect it is accorded and whether the other party reciprocates or not. Diplomacy is not a one-way street where Kenya gives in time and again while the other party just smiles all the way to the bank.


He links his diplomatic agenda to the security and stability of the East Africa region, including in the Horn of Africa, and commits Kenya's diplomatic and other resources to the continued efforts to stabilize Somalia. The President realises that our home economy is under threat whenever there is instability in Somalia's territorial waters in the Indian Ocean and off the Gulf of Aden. Shipping is crucial to the cost of doing business, and cost of imports, and a stable Somalia reduces the costs of both.


The assurances of the Common Market of East and Central Africa and the East African Community as well as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development that they will stand shoulder to shoulder with Kenya in its diplomatic and trade efforts means that we are beginning with goodwill in plenty. What remains to be seen is whether Parliament will play its proper role in advancing the interests of the country while keeping a beady eye on how the government goes about its affairs. In its oversight role, Parliament should not behave like a flower-girl. Nor should it become an undisciplined policeman by constantly taking the Executive to task for every little infraction it imagines has occurred. To advance Kenya's interests, Parliament must ensure that whatever international agreements Kenya intends to enter into are vetted and subjected to the scrutiny required to protect not just our sovereignty, but our interests, especially in world trade.


We await the President's inaugural address to a joint session of Parliament on the in seven days. How he manages his relationship with Parliament will determine the success or failure of his agenda. A clue as to how the relationship will work will be given by the process of vetting and appointing Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and diplomats. If there's even a hint of dysfunction in the relationship, all bets are off.

Kenya's Obama.

It must surely occur to you that a Kikuyu/Kalenjin presidency is not an odd thing, right? (Kenyatta/Moi, Moi/Kibaki, Moi/Saitoti, and now, Uhuru/Ruto). What is surely unusual is that in the past, the president was the dominant partner in that relationship. Moi was dominated by Kenyatta, and he in turn, dominated Kibaki and Saitoti. In the UhuRuto "coalition", none seems to have the upper hand, presumably because each is master of his own considerable flock. It also seems very odd that both are so freakishly young for African leaders; we are used to ancients sitting atop a bloody pile of bones. UhuRuto are simply following global trends in their ambitious seizure of power and only the mean-spirited refuse to acknowledge that their youthfulness is an incredible asset for the nation.


Now, Raila Odinga may have had the most progressive ideas for the advancement of democracy in Kenya, but that point is now moot. Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto had the more compelling ideas; they did not keep banging on about the constitution or democracy or "change" and to their credit, did not claim that these were not important. But they appealed to a large cohort of the youth because they addressed things that were important to them: opportunity, access and security. It is young people who are frequently denied opportunities in Kenya: employment, education, healthcare...you name it. They find it near impossible to gain access: to credit, procurement opportunities, institutions of power such as political parties, etc. And it is young people who experience, to an overwhelming degree, the total breakdown in security: they are frequently perpetrators and victims of major crimes.


The Jubilee Manifesto went to great lengths to identify the "issues" that appealed to the youth and to detail policies it would pursue and programmes it would implement to ensure that their lot in life was better than that of the generations that came before. It is only the blindly loyal of other coalitions that refused to acknowledge that while the Jubilee ideas appeared pie-in-the-skyish, they were well-reasoned and well-explained. CORD, forgetting the lessons of 2002, simply pursued the same strategy that had lost Raila Odinga the election in 2007 (he will forever claim that he won, and he and his acolytes may be the only ones who do.)


Kenyans are (usually) not the sheep they are presumed to be by their political overlords. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto realised this, even when many of their advisers like Francis ole Kaparo, Samuel Poghisio and Joshua Kuttuny did not. William Ruto's URP is a study in conservatve values, sticking to the tried and tested political style of KANU's dead past, while TNA engendered an insurgent spirit, youthfulness and military-like discipline. CORD became a byword for intrigue and infighting. When it was apparent that Jubilee would maintain an 800,000-vote lead throughout the count, I believe, this was because of the youthful Kenyans who threw in their lot with the flashy new toy rather than the crapped-out jalopy that simply would not run well.


Uhuru Kenyatta has done what not politician in Kenya has done at the national level: successfully take on not only the establishment but a powerful, if disorganised, opposition. When he held on to KANU for so long, none was sure why he did so. I think he wanted legitimacy for as long as possible before he identified the perfect vehicle for his ambitious goal. Had he jumped into Kiraitu Murungi's bus, he would have suffered the same fate Raila Odinga did when Kalonzo Musyoka "stole" the original ODM from under his feet. He found a party, or secretly financed its formation, injected hundreds of millions into it, ensured that it was managed by professionals an hired even more professionals to spread his message. Mr Kenyatta ran the perfect campaign. When he persuaded the URP and other minor outfits to get in line behind him, he cemented his position. CORD, and Raila Odinga, on the other hand, kept shooting themselves in the foot, especially when they allowed a Luo cabal to behave like hegemons.


When Mr Kenyatta receives the Instruments of Power from Mwai Kibaki today, he can be proud that he is now to be considered the Barack Obama of Africa. Not Kikwete. Not Nkuruzinza. Not Kagame. And Not Khama. Him. Read it and weep.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The next one.

My sojourn at the Coast comes to an end in a few days. I will miss the changing of the guard in Nairobi, but that is neither here nor there. Few, if any, worries flit in my empty skull, not being one to incessantly worry about the "What ifs" of the future. Security, it seems, is in the hands of men and women who know what they are doing. As does the transititon from the Kibaki Interregnum to the Uhuru reign. Whether he will have a firm grasp of the reins of power, what with his hands full of the instruments of power that Mwai Kibaki is going to dump on him, remains to be seen. After all, he has chosen one of the most dynamic, intelligent and ambitious politicians for his Deputy. In William Ruto, Mr Kenyatta has the potential of a dedicated partner in his governance project or a dangerous King Cobra at the heart of his administration.


CORD, on the other hand, is a ship at sea. Its losses since March Fourth continue to mount, and if Aden Duale has his way, CORD will be left with the PIC and PAC as the only watchdog committees of Parliament in its hands. While I harbour grave doubts about Mr Duale's intellect, I have no doubt that he has matured into an intelligent and effective political attack dog. He will make sure that CORD does not enjoy a second of peace over the life of UhuRuto's life.


The issues that bedevilled Mwai Kibaki's administration are going to bedevil Uhuru Kenyatta's. But Mr Kenyatta does not enjoy the near-imperial power that Mwai Kibaki or his predecessors did. He has t contend with a Parliament and county governors who may not see his writ as holy. Mr Kenyatta must stamp his authority over the TNA parliamentary party; otherwise, he may find himself negotiating with an undisciplined rabble that has, in the past, demonstrated a tendency to rogue behaviour, especially when it comes to self-aggrandizing schemes. He also faces the challenge ow working with spectacularly ego-centric governors who have already demonstrated in their first few public events that their main concern is not service to the people but to themselves.


It is now emerging that we are woefully uninformed about the content of the Jubilee manifesto, despite the pomp that accompanied its launch. Everyone is obsessed with the speed with which the freebies will be distributed by the UhuRuto government; none seems to care much for their economic or diplomatic policies. Today, Kenya is on the record that it will support all international efforts to hold those accused of heinous crimes to account; but the two have been indicted at the International Criminal Court. Whether one thinks they should stand trial or not, how they thread that needle while managing the diplomatic minefield to which they find themselves will be a test to their planning, cunning and intelligence. I see a glimmer of hope though; the recent statements by doyens of the human rights world may actually kill the ICC trials. But it is in international trade that Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto should devote the lion's share of their diplomatic efforts. Kenya must be allowed to trade with who it wants and on its own terms. And this trade must transfer valuable technology and skills to Kenya. It is the only way that we can achieve the lofty objectives of Kenya Vision 2030.


We should all look forward to a peaceful inaugural ceremony tomorrow. We should pray that despite the poisonous air of the presidential campaign, this atmosphere will not pervade politics for the next five years. We should all hope that Parliamentarians and governors get it into their heads that theirs is not the place to demand ever fatter wallets but to serve with humility and dedication in the hope that we will reward them for their efforts. We should try and nurture the goodwill we enjoy as a nation in the hopes that it will be converted into peace and stability for the long haul. It's time we stood up and were counted.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Recall them.

Is it wrong to state without fear that my heart is in Ukambani? I should hope not. Though I'm a long-time resident of the Green City in the Sun, it is the affairs of my motherland that keep me sane. One day, and that day may come sooner that we all think, I shall retreat to the home of my ancestors, raise a family and crops, not necessarily in that order. But my heart is distressed at the antics of one of my governors. Dr Alfred Mutua is obviously an intelligent man (we will ignore the hiatus as the government spokesman) and also, obviously, a consummate politician. Going toe-to-toe with the terrifying Wavinya Ndeti and Mutua Katuku to emerge victorious is a victory worth celebrating. But when he joins with the likes of William Kabogo and Ken Lusaka to demand "better treatment because we are governors," doubts about the governor's intentions for the people of Machakos begin to emerge.


Mwai Kibaki was quite right to tell off the governors assembled in Naivasha. The issues that they enumerated in their ill-advised memo to the President reveal men (and it is all men, remember?) whose idea of service delivery is setting up their (mostly) fat asses in palatial homes, offices and swanky cars, while the people they "lead" live in squalid misery. Back to my beloved Ukambani. Makueni has the rather brainy Kivutha Kibwana (we will forget the little hiatus as Mwai Kibaki's "advisor" on coalition affairs) while Kitui has the equally brainy Julius Malombe. Thank God the two are professors; it must explain why they are not getting all worked up over flags and offices the way "Dr" Mutua is.


Received wisdom has it that Machakos is set to be the most important county in Ukambani because of its proximity to Nairobi and Dr Mutua's ties to the Mt Kenya region. Allow me to offer an alternative: Kitui. Kitui sits on large reserves of coal, iron and limestone. The coal, if it is exploited intelligently, and not in the manner that Kiraitu Murungi's ministry had intended, is set to be the backbone of an electricity revolution in Ukambani, climate change deals notwithstanding. The limestone, if properly exploited, is set to establish Kitui as a rival to Machakos as a producer of cement. The iron...you get my drift, don't you?


Both Kivutha Kibwana and Julius Malombe demonstrate that governance is not about the flash-in-the-pan moments when one gets notoriety, the kind that Dr Mutua is attracting with his bandwagoning over the flags and whatnots of the past week. Governance is about establishing systems that will help you meet the challenges the your people face. This is the path that Dr Evans Kidero, who does not behave like "Dr" Mutua at all, has chosen to tread. (Now that we know he has the strength of character to sow panic in the corruption cartels in the City, we wait to see how long he lasts before things become kawaida.)


Dr Kidero, when he was informed that the PM's office would not be available to him as Nairobi's governor, announced that he would work even out of his car if necessary; it is not the trappings of power that make one honourable but the performance of his duty even in the face of challenges. Dr Mutua and the rest of cabal that thinks they should be treated like kings need to learn this lesson before we are motivated to seek their recall. In California, an actor unseated a sitting governor in recall election; this is something the new governors should keep in mind when going about their duties.

Kiai and Mutua: You are on your own.

It is interesting to observe how the ones who campaigned against the election of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, and who invested so heavily in the election petitions challenging the results of the election, are faring after the Supreme Court of Kenya declared that the election of the two was valid. The Mutunga Court, after fourteen days of intense legal gymnastics, declared that despite the irregularities that even the IEBC admitted had occurred, the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as president and that of William Ruto as deputy president was after all valid. Raila Odinga swiftly accepted the verdict of the court. However, there are those who are still fighting the election and the re-litigating the election petitions, long after everyone else has set their minds to move on.


Maina Kiai, the former head of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Makau Mutua, the director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, had done everything in their power to ensure that first, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto would not be on the ballot, and second, failing in that mission, to ensure they lost the election petition challenging their election. The two are two for two: Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were on the ballot and the court dismissed the petition challenging their election.


Messrs Kiai and Mutua have not taken the news well. Mr Kiai penned a poisonous diatribe against "home guards" linked to the Uhuru presidency and another one calling the Charperson of the IEBC vile names for the manner in which his lawyer, the combatively indefatigable Ahmednasir Abdullahi, defended him in court. Makau Mutua has declared categorically that he will not and cannot accept Uhuru Kenyatta as the president of Kenya.


For two eminent human rights campaigners to treat the will of at least 6 million Kenyans in such a cavalier manner beggars belief. The Second Liberation was all about unleashing the will of the people to make the choices that they will without the nannying, oppressive hand of the government leading them hither and thither. With the dismantling of the KANU machinery that had been abused by former presidents, Kenyans overwhelmingly ratified a new constitution that guaranteed them democratic rights that had been stifled for decades. The flip side of the bargain was that politicians, whether standing for the presidency or some other public office, had to offer themselves to the people in the most persuasive way possible. Mr Makau continues to argue that Mr Kenyatta is an insider and that he benefited from his links to the government and its machinery. He refuses to accept that Mr Kenyatta and the wily Mr Ruto made a compelling case to the people of Kenya, persuading many from areas other than their strongholds in the Mt Kenya region and the Rift Valley.


Some of us were opposed to the election of Uhuru Kenyatta or William Ruto and we made our feelings known at the ballot. That battle is now past and we are prepared to live with our choices, or lack of them. Some of us were never persuaded that the two should not be on the ballot, regardless of the persuasion from Messrs Kiai and Mutua. We never agreed that the ICC was the killer knock-out punch that would deny them their place on the ballot. And we never agreed with the two that they were hamstrung by Chapter 6 of the Constitution. We thought that their manifesto was a pipe-dream; now we will see whether they will prove us wrong once again. But we will not join Messrs Kiai and Mutua in their poisonous campaign against a government that is yet to even take office officially; that is a path to heartache or worse. We will do what other patriots are doing: we will work with the government we have to make our lives a little better.

They all fall, eventually

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