Friday, February 28, 2014

Pull the other one. It has bells on.

It is important for Kenyans to take a moment and reflect on the self-delusions of their elected representatives. These characters believe themselves to be our saviours, out to right the wrongs of history. In the here and now, many portray themselves as the saviours of devolution against all other enemies. Therefore, the Senate claims to be the safe-keeper against the Governors; the Governors claim the same against the Senators. Meanwhile the National Assembly members are torn between kicking the Senators while they are down or kicking devolved government because it is more prestigious than their piddly little constituencies.

But every time the esteemed members of the Senate, the National Assembly or the Governors' council stand in front of crowds to speak, they ooze the milk of human kindness. When they are comfortably ensconced in front of TV cameras on high-brow TV shows (or what passes for high-brow in Kenya), they sound as if they have read and re-read the Constitution of Kenya from cover to cover. The reality, sadly, is that each and every one of them is peddling snake oil with the charm of a Louisiana second-hand car dealer.

Someone needs to whack us really hard on the head to remind us that elected representatives have been the bane of this nation since the much-loathed Legislative Council was inaugurated. The mzungu taught us all sorts of legislative tricks when it came to disenfranchisement, land-grabbing, "development" and "representation." we took our lessons to heart and perfected the art of governing by misgoverning. We are past-masters of sophistry and cant, and we deploy these vices on a national scale when we seek elective office and are actually elected. Kenyan elected representatives have the capacity to stand in front of cameras and deny scientific fact. (There was that Rift Valley worthy who declared it as fact that "trees do not bring rain!") They are capable of causing bloodshed and mayhem and do not have the capacity to admit that they were wrong.

When we see them on TV or hear them on radio or read of them in the newspapers speaking with authority regarding their determination "to make devolution work", we need to remember that when they were required to ensure its success, they were more concerned with fattening their wallets. They did this at the expense of the transition process. They did at the expense of dialogue to prepare the nation for the changes devolution would wring. They did it at the expense of advising their president that the uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

The fires that are burning because of the devolution challenges were foreseen but nothing was done. Anyone who claims to be devolution's defender is flat out lying. It is time we called them out on it. And laughed in their faces.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Opium of the masses.

Ideals, it seems, are more important than human life. If one goes by the arguments advanced in favour or against abortion or homosexual love in Africa in the past decade, one will be hardpressed to identify anything that sympathises with the plight of the living. Abortion is a hot potato that gets revisited every now and then, but with increasingly diminishing returns as more and more African women ignore their men and their faiths and instead, take matters into their hands. It is not surprising that a diminishing number of regimes even bother to enforce the portions of their repressive penal laws that criminalise abortions.

In recent months, though, the war of the morals seems to have shifted inexorably towards the men and women who wish to express more publicly their homosexual inclinations. Uganda and Nigeria have reacted with determination and zeal. The anti-homosexual bandwagon seems to be gathering passengers too; Kenya's Parliament has a growing population of cultural and sexual purists who are demanding stringent action against the forces of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some of the Kenyan worthies are demanding an audience with the Attorney-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Inspector-General of Police over what, the worthies hysterically claim, is a lackadaisical approach to the heinous homosexual agenda.

But a more nuanced view of the thing is warranted. Uganda and Nigeria, and indeed Kenya, have become very familiar with violence on a scale not witnessed in Africa since the dark days of military coups and civil wars. It is only recently that Africa's longest running civil war in the Sudan came to an end. But Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army and Nigeria's Boko Haram remind African governments that just because a government has made strides in one area or another that it will not face resistance for some of the things it has not made strides on. Museveni, Uganda's president, seems determined to rule until the day he keels over in office. Goodluck Jonathan seems to be presiding over a petro-fuelled kleptocracy that simply won't stop.Both presidents and their governments have singularly failed to establish institutions that enjoy the legitimacy of broad public support; instead, they are faced with open rebellion because their peoples have absolutely no faith that things will get better.

This, in part, explains why Uganda's and Nigeria's governments find it easy to identify an enemy everyone can rally behind: homosexuals. In Africa, where the scars of colonialism are still fresh in many minds, cultural colonialism has become the new frontier of pseudo-nationalism. Anyone that suggests that Africa is ripe for open homosexuality has not been paying attention to the facts on the ground. Ironically, the anti-homosexual agenda is manipulated from the same cultural enemies of the African peoples. The gay/anti-gay war is the an extension of the United States' Culture Wars. Where one lot won or lost in the US, they are determined to prevail in Africa. In Uganda they have found the perfect partner in Yoweri Museveni who uses "culture" and "tradition", "right" and "wrong" to cement his grip on power.

This blogger holds no brief for the gay lobby; far from it. But this blogger also realises that Kenya is unique, perhaps more so than the "exceptional" USA. In the decade of Mwai Kibaki's government, Kenyans demonstrated that "real" issues animated them: life, death, safety, security, famine, drought, unemployment, healthcare, education and the like. Until the proxy culture warriors brought up the subjects, Kenyans did not give two shits about homosexuals or abortion. Now, when hunger stalks northern Kenya, and corruption cartels threaten to derail Uhuru Kenyatta's agenda, while thousands of Kenyans are killed or maimed annually on our roads, and millions of man hours are lost annually in Nairobi's traffic jams, three Members of Parliament think that Kenya's senior-most public servants should spend their days worrying about how to roll back the homosexual agenda.

Life or death issues are no longer the concern of the rulers, it seems. Their principle worry is how to con the people out of ever larger sums and how to keep their ill-gotten loot  without attracting the wrath of the people. That is why they find it convenient to  distract the people with "wars" against gays and battles for the unborn, than in solving the problems of poverty, unemployment. rampant graft or run-away crime. In Kenya, corruption, and not religion, is the opium of the masses.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We'll screw it up our way.

The battle between the National Government in the odious guise of Parliament and the devolved government in the unsophisticated form of several governors is much more than about "transparency" or "accountability." Senators have fired the first salvo by taking an overly muscular interest in the management of finances by the devolved level of government, laying the blame squarely at the  feet of governors, many of whom are inept and hapless before the rapid-fire hotshot interrogators of the Senate such as Bonny Khalwale and Kipchumba Murkomen.

Kenyans have lived through the fifty-year experiment of centralised government; to a man, they revile it to its core. The presence of the hated provincial administration in our midst in the twenty-first century is proof that the old way of governing is still being clung to by those who should know better. The presence of a mheshimiwa in Nairobi telling us how our money will be spent is a hangover from the days when the central government was baba na mama. The televised gargoyle-like spectre of Kithure Kindiki, another voluble senator, that Parliament would work towards the erosion of the powers of the devolved government is proof that even the most eruditely intelligent who have tasted a bit of power tend to lose their marbles in the marbled corridors of Parliament Building in Nairobi.

This blogger comes from the semi-arid badlands of Makueni. To our eternal shame, famine is a constant companion, stalking our county like a colossus and laying waste to families and livelihoods. By the grace of God alone, our county is spared the banditry and violent mayhem that seems to define parts of Northern Kenya, the Capital and the chang'aa-drenched highlands of central Kenya. What has ensured that famine destroys this blogger's county has always been the heavy-handed way that the central serikali mishandled everything. The co-operative farming movement was snuffed out at its infancy. Agricultural extension services were notable by their glaring absence. Then Mzee jomo and Baba Moi decided to impose kingmakers amongst our people who could barely read or write, but whose loyalty to the central government bordered on the idolatrous.

As a consequence, roads were not built, schools remained mere dreams, hospitals were rumoured to exists in Wote or Masaku , and hunger stalked our people like the Angel of Death. In 2010, while our national leaders bickered unseemingly as they had been trained over the previous 47 years by the central government, we determined for ourselves that devolution was our saviour. In Ukambani we chose madaktari: Julius Malombe in Kitui, Kivutha Kibwana in Makueni and Alfred Mutua in Masaku. Whether they are honest or not, they are our choices. It is not for the loudmouths in Nairobi to tell us whether they are doing their jobs well or not. It is not up to the old-fashioned central government to tell us that Mutua wa Masaku is a thief; like my taxi driver says, Hata kama ameiba, kazi ametufanyia ambayo serikali haikufanya!

How the senate can dare to question Malombe wa Kitui about mashilingi we do not understand? Is it because they want to remind him that just like Wambora of Embu, they will snap their fingers and all his bold initiatives for the benefit of the peoples of Kitui from the coal, limestone and coal will go Poof! When we elected the three, and the county assemblies, we did so consciously. We knew that deep down the central government would never let us go, but we are determined to shake of the unremittingly dead hand of the central government and do things our way. It is our turn to determine what we think is best for us. Bonny Khalwale, Kithure Kindiki and Kipchumba Murkomen better go peddle their book theories elsewhere. They should take Johnstone Muthama with them too. We want to screw things up our way.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mavuno Church got it right.

Your father, unless he has less conservative inclinations, will not talk about it. Mothers might, but only with their daughters, and only if they suspect the village Lothario is sniffing around the girl. For sure, your pastor will stay as far away from the subject as possible. Your teacher won't even bother to take a whack at it. Your peers will snigger knowingly, though they'll probably all be blind as bats on the subject. Your elder siblings will acquire an aloof, thousand-yard stare when you bring up the subject, or you stumble upon it...but they will be of little help. Magazines,. books, films and music of dubious provenance will provide much of your initial information on the subject, though with careful editing to ensure that the picture being luridly painted in your mind is totally unwholesome. As you reach the stage of taking bold steps on one path or another, certain encounters with certain third parties may either end well...or with years of shame to contend with.

The subject is sex and sexuality among the under-eighteens, especially the teenagers. This is the other sex-mad Kenya that seems to dominate the airwaves every time some idiot provokes the ire of the moral majority. In this case the idiot happens to be one of Nairobi's flashiest "it" churches, Mavuno, and its provocation was an online invitation to their Teenz Konnect service that has elicited reactions that are as panicky as they are hypocritical. 

In a poor country with an oppressively domineering sense of Christianity, any perceived assault on the morals of the people will be met with resistance, whether the resistance is rational or completely unhinged. Mavuno Church does not describe itself as a progressive church, but one that addresses the issues of its congregation without sophistry or cant. If it intended to provoke the interest of its congregation alone, it bit off more than it could chew. (Though it seems to be doing just fine.) But the reactions, online and off, by the leaders of Nairobi's other evangelical sects have been overwrought, principally this blogger believes, because they don't have the "it" glamour anymore. They have been wracked by so many scandals over the past month that they are unhappy that Mavuno has shone the spotlight on them in their period of infamy.

Yet this blogger believes that Mavuno did no wrong, that what it did focused the minds of the people, their church and their government on a problem that is bound to loom ever larger in the coming decade. Whether the subject of sex and sexuality is tackled clinically by medical professionals, academically by teachers, or spiritually by pastors, it must be tackled and tackled today. Cultural imperialism by non-Kenyans, especially the United States, Latin America and Western Europe have distorted our young people's minds regarding the subject. Many have been raised on television and radio that glorifies sex and sexuality without explaining the sociological, emotional, psychological or spiritual context.

Many youth have a distorted view of sex and sexuality, and are immature, incapable of dealing with the complex influences on their lives. The burden of dealing with the aftereffects of the poor education of the youth on this subject falls disproportionately on parents and the extended family, whether it is in the form of long-term health conditions without cures or unplanned additions to families.

Our reaction as a nation and as a society is to ignore the problem, to focus on the sensational, to react with faux outrage every time our sensibilities are assailed, and to wail louder than the bereaved. This blogger is glad that Mavuno has taken the lead to guide the youthful members of its congregation in their years of confusion and hormonal impulses. This blogger would recommend similar programmes for all congregations in Kenya, with the full backing of the State. It is time we yanked our heads out of the sand and admitted to ourselves that this is not the Kenya of the 1960 our parents speak of with such unpersuasive fondness.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Senator v the Grand Mullah

This blogger frequently disagrees with Ahmednasir Abdullahi, the sharp-tongued publisher of the Nairobi Law Monthly and the author of Straight Talk in the Sunday Nation. In his weekly column, Mr Abdullahi has crossed pens with many who hold themselves out to be the conscience of  this nation including Makau Mutua, who pens a column for the rival Sunday Standard. The relationship between Mr Abdullahi and Mr Mutua in recent weeks, especially when viewed from their exchanges via Twitter, have been anything but gentlemanly.

This past Sunday, Mr Abdullahi let rip with The trouble with Kenya's 'test-tube' politicians (Sunday Nation, 23/02/14). The column was written in his usual no-nonsense style, skirting the limits of the laws of libel and slander. In it Mr Abdullahi argued that the former Prime Minister and the Deputy President, Raila Odinga and William Ruto, were consummate creators of "greenhorn politicians...[who] become[s] [an] expert[s] on all things from devolution to mineral exploration. [He] fights all enemies of the regime, real and imaginary, honestly thinking that [his] master wants him to do so. [He] then unilaterally but secretly declares [himself] defender and sycophant number one of the regime. [He] goes full circle. [He] becomes a national nuisance."

The article elicited a rather surprising response from Kipchumba Murkomen, a Senator from the Rift Valley, a region that Mr Abdullahi claims has its fair share of Deputy-President-created test-tube politicians. In what became an escalating war of words on Twitter between Mr Abdullahi and Mr Murkomen, the latter claimed that the former was targeting him using the allusion to "a broad category of politicians," as Martha Karua observed.

This blogger will not wade into whether Mr Murkomen was the target of the Grand Mullah's (as Mr Abdullahi is fondly known in some quarters) pen; but we must wonder whether his diagnosis of the current quality of politicians is due to a flaw in their selection and subsequent election. Patronage politics has defined Kenya since even before Independence. What has remained a shameful secret is that those who eventually made it into the colonial Legislative Council were frequently men considered loyal to the colonial administration. The same became the case after Independence; only the party loyalists would be selected to contest party and general elections. Eventually, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Toroitich arap Moi ensured that only those who were loyal to the president would contest the party elections and the general election.

With the return of multi-party politics, and the splintering of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy in 1991, the political party was no longer just a vehicle to presidential power; it was a vehicle to the untold wealth held by the national government. All it took for one to become fabulously wealthy, especially after 1997, was to be elected a Member of Parliament. And the keys to the kingdom were held by the Party Leader. Loyalty to the Party Leader guaranteed one a chance to battle it out with other candidates loyal to their party leaders at the general election. Whoever prevailed would get rich, but only if they did exactly as they were told by the Party Leader. The disloyal or the malcontent soon found the avenues for self-aggrandizement closing and their plaintive calls in the wilderness of political adventurism being ignored.

Mr Abdullahi is right. It is the party leaders who mould politicians in their parties. The party leaders' demands for absolute fealty, and for acts of obeisance, must have led the Grand Mullah to call them "test-tube politicians." Their acts of obeisance have compelled some of the them to engage in acts of political contortion that would break lesser men. Some have become masters of sophistry; in their mouths, black is white and night is day. Mr Murkomen should have taken the opportunity to read between the lines of Mr Abdullahi's commentary; then he should have determined that if indeed he fit the description of a test-tube politician, the wisest course of action was to pen a counter-commentary, setting out as lucidly as possible why being what he is is not a bad thing. He still has a chance to respond. Whether he will will do so in a sober manner is something this blogger awaits anxiously.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Conservative-lite.

The loudest opinions on sex and sexuality seem to belong to men, especially when they claim to protect our morals or our culture or our essential Africanness.Uganda and Nigeria are "conservative" countries going by the commentary by respected pundits, and the enactment of laws to ban homosexuality and mini-skirts. Kenya has its own share of "conservatives" who have announced a plan to roll back the trend by famous Kenyans to come out of closets best set on fire with them in it.

What the hell does being "conservative" mean? Does it mean that Jesus is the driver of the bus you happen to be traveling in as you run over the gays, lesbian, bisexuals, transexuals, mini-skirt-clad cleavage-bearing temptresses out to destroy marriages and the occasional teen looking to terminate an unplanned pregnancy without her father's consent? Does it mean that you understand the "proper roles" for men and women, that they complement each other, that the woman is the helpmeet of the man? Does it mean that the Law of God supersedes the man-made Constitution that has taken us two decades to promulgate?

Listening to the "conservative" voices in Kenya, in Uganda and in Nigeria, it is difficult to separate them from the crazy ones that have pervaded the extreme fringes of the right-wing of the United States political scene. The African conservatives seem to draw inspiration from utter nutters who fill the US morning air with diatribes that are quite unhinged. It is a wonder that the US right's obsession with keeping and bearing arms doesn't seem to have made the crossing across the Atlantic yet, unless it is also on the cards.

The conservative ideal is one that calls for limited government, strong families, low taxes and trade-oriented policies. Indeed, it is the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that is or should be the foundation of the conservative movement. It protects the state from the passionate embrace of any one religion; it encourages the people to engage in a robust debate about things that matter; and thanks to the United States' Supreme Court, it protects a person's privacy against the unwarranted intrusion of the state.

That is not what the Kenyan conservative-lite movement seems to be advocating. First it seems to demand a very strong place for Christianity in the affairs of the state. Every time they claim that Kenya is a Christian nation and its laws should inculcate Christian values, they betray their complete lack of a sense of history, or foresight. Second, they would wish the state to have a hand in the private affairs of man; hence their obsession with identifying and punishing homosexuals for being homosexuals, for engaging in homosexual conduct, for promoting homosexuality. Third, they see no irony in demanding that the public wage bill be cut to a manageable number and simultaneously demanding state intervention in every single matter, especially job-creation and infrastructure development. Finally, it never crosses their minds that their obsession with gays and lesbians in a nation that does not openly speak about sex and sexuality is unusual, kooky.

Kenya faces challenges that have bedeviled it since Independence, and before. Governors Alfred Mutua and Isaac Ruto may seem a bit unhinged when it comes to public spending, but we should not underestimate the effect all the ambulances they have acquired will have on the health of the peoples of Machakos and Bomet. This is especially so when the Government of Kenya has had forty-five years to fuck things up to such an extent that patients to government-run hospitals would routinely be expected to pay in cash for syringes and gloves, and send out for blood (where transfusion was required) and share beds (if hospitalisation was ordered). The National Government will spend billions of shillings on laptops for children but still cannot find money to build water-proof classrooms for the hundreds of thousands of pupils who undergo their learning under trees, if they are lucky, or the harsh noon-time sun (usually before they have to skip school in order to herd their fathers' cattle).

The conservative movement in Kenya is a joke, and a cruel one at that. It will not see the pain and suffering of the person described in the newspapers as the ordinary Kenyan. It will instead obsess over the problems of Kenya's burgeoning middle-class that seems to offer a home for drug addicts and sexual perverts. While millions of Kenyans starve to death, Kenya's conservatives will ensure that gays and lesbians do not spread their disease to other upright Kenyans. It is not immoral to watch a child starve to death; it is immoral to watch a man kiss another man on the lips. That, at least, seems to be the message of the Kenyan conservative. They have learnt their lessons well from their United States fathers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A sex mad country!

It is a measure of our obsession with earth that the victims of sexual violence during the aftermath of the 2007 general elections have been completely forgotten. Every Kenyan and his dog wants a piece of earth to call his own. It is who we are, or so we have all come to believe. Even when it is impractical to hold on to the point-something of an acre in our names, we will kill to keep it (or to get it). But sexual violence, whether it is against women (who are the majority of victims in Kenya) or men, is simply elided by everyone, whether they are in the government or the flourishing civil society industry.

Sexual violence in Kenya has a long history. Sexual violence as an anti-insurgency tactic was extensively used by the colonial administration during the years of the Emergency. The men and women who fought with, supported or were associated with the Mau Mau came to understand the bitter pain and shame that rape and other forms of sexual violence brought. Sexual violence was extensively documented in the aftermath of the 2007 general election. Many of those who documented the stories of the victims heard that rape, especially, was meant to humiliate "outsiders" and to push them out of areas where they didn't belong. Ironically, sexual violence was employed during the Land and Freedom Struggle as it was employed in the 2007/08 crisis as a means of ensuring that earth belonged to the chosen community, and none other.

Therefore, it comes as a bit of surprise that certain members of the Jubilee bandwagon have chosen to focus their attention on the rising numbers of men and women who are declaring for all the world to hear that they are either gay or lesbians or somewhere looking for their sexuality's answers. The announcement of the the legislators that they will summon the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions and determine why the two personages have not hauled the men and women coming out of the closet to court will be greeted, by the cultural and religious warriors among us, with relief. For the thousands of victims of sexual violence, it will be one more chapter in a charade that has been running for years. What Jubilee, and Parliament, are reinforcing is that they care more for the safety of our moral (and sexual) health and don't give two shits about the men, women, boys and girls who were violated in such a beastly manner in the weeks after 27th December 2007.

It is a narrative that repeats itself in all manner of things, our misplaced priorities and the things that will get Members of Parliament all hot and bothered. While two-thirds of Kenya's rural backwaters are without running water or electricity, governors have entourages to rival that of the President of the United States. While Kenya's Forgotten Frontier's residents are besieged by armed marauders from over the border, our security establishment is minting millionaires and billionaires at a rate that ought to make the publishers of Forbes magazine proud. While thousands of Kenyans are either killed or maimed on Mwai Kibaki's Chinese-funded shiny highways, carpetbaggers and charlatans of all stripes are busy cornering the market for all eternity on rail transit. Our focus is always on the shiny new toy. Gays and lesbians are it today, thanks to one or two high-profile revelations in the past few months. But the old raggedy doll that is victims of sexual violence during Kenya's descent into madness remain an official afterthought, well and truly ignored even by the chanting yokels of the civil society industry and their donor partners.

What many refuse to accept is that this nonchalance is having a pernicious effect on the youth and children. Especially because of our embarrassment when discussing sexuality between generations, many children and youth grow up knowing little about the opposite sex and how to navigate the roiling hormonal waters of sex and sexuality. Hence the panicky reaction to pregnant girls in primary or secondary schools and the bat-shit-crazy reaction to gayism and lesbianism in our legions of single-sex boarding schools. Many men, and quite a few women, are now sexual predators because they know that we will not talk about it, we will do nothing about it and the State will focus more on homosexuals and abortions and the things that animate the far-right USA conservatives.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The authors of our doom.

Arundhati Roy, the award-winning author of The God of Small Things, once wrote that one of the ways to end the insurgency in Indian North East was to provide cheap TV sets to the insurgents and their families. When they witnessed the opulent lives of the characters on Indian soap operas, there would be a subtle shift in their ambitions; they would give up the gun for a Bajaj scooter and a BPL Kelvinator. It seems that the same logic prevails in the unbridled avarice of the average Kenyan today.

There is a generation of Kenyans that came of age during the age of the liberalisation of the airwaves. Before the advent of the Kenya Television Network, Kenyans were shackled to the timetable provided by the state-owned-and-run Voice of Kenya, which became the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. But with the going live of KTN, youthful Kenyans were introduced to MTV, Neighbours and Spanish-language telenovelas. What the new TV fare had in common with each other were the lives of opulence the characters in those shows enjoyed...and many Kenyans wanted a piece of that pie.

It is around the same time that it became increasingly clear that if one wanted to live the live of their favourite TV character, they needed access to large amounts of unaccounted for cash. How they determined that Parliament was the place to be remains a bit of a mystery. It is why every man and his uncle will burn down his town for the chance to become a mheshimiwa. In the evolution of the Kenyan politician, and Kenyan politics, away from service to the people and towards self-aggrandisement, the values and mores that held communities together have frayed to breaking point. The young witness, daily, the lengths to which their parents will go to make a fast shilling and they draw vital lessons. This coupled with the images of opulence bombarding their impressionable minds have had pernicious effects on their sense of value.

The young have learnt the lesson of selfishness well. Where children used to play with each others' toys, parents are now confronted even with inter-sibling selfishness that baffles them no end. The individualisation of children guarantees that as they become teens and grow into adulthood, all they will take into consideration are their own interests, their own feelings. They have no motivation to think of the outcomes of their choices beyond the simple question of whether their bank accounts are fatter or not.

Our pursuit of money or its nearest equivalent, a US Green Card, has come at a very high cost. It is the defining feature of our national psyche. It is no longer pride in what we do or ho we do it; all that matters is money, wealth and power. All that matters is the Green Eyed Monster festering in our peers' chests at the sight of our "success." Our children are internalising this psychosis at ever earlier ages. Many of them will not enjoy their childhoods; they will be pursuing "success" at the expense of learning or maturity. They are the leaders of tomorrow. God help us all.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Comfy, convivial...Nice.

This blogger enjoys his tipple, but he is not a connoisseur of fine liqueurs, wines or brandies. this blogger is partial to Heineken, Corona Extra, Pilsner and the almighty Absolut. Crucially, however, this blogger is very partial to a convivial atmosphere while imbibing, an atmosphere that has become rarer than civility on Nairobi's murderous roads. It is an atmosphere that can be found in very few establishments in Nairobi's increasingly Very Loud CBD: The Porterhouse in the KCS Building along Mama Ngina Street.

The patrons of this fine drinking-and-dining establishment are a cross-section of Nairobi's professional classes with a generous spread of age-groups, intellectual rigourousness and socio-economic standing, with the occasional unwelcome Loud Drunk. The fare is fairly priced. This blogger is happy to report that when you order a cold one, it is properly cold and manages to remain cold for longer than seems possible given the laws of thermodynamics. The staff (sorry, Kioko...my Thesaurus is currently being mauled by a colleague across the table) is personable, helpful and, rather surprisingly, constantly displaying a measure of probity that will put some of their patrons to shame; feel free to leave your laptop, smartphone, tablet, whatever on the counter as your teeter decorously towards the facilities, which are clean and well-served with water and tissue of so-so quality.

This blogger does not have the buccaneering and pioneering spirit of many of his peers; he wanders far shorter distances from his regular haunts and The Porterhouse has proven a convenient stop between this blogger's offices and the taxi rank. (Mututho has made life difficult for the drink-and-drive cohort.) But more than that is the generally welcoming and generous (up to a point) character of the patrons of The Porterhouse. Conversations are easily joined, hotly debated and intellectually dissected. It is the poor conversationalist who leaves The Porterhouse without having learned something new or having experienced an opinion other than, Yes Sir! The Porterhouse is a part of Nairobi history and this blogger is happy, quite happy, that the proprietor has not succumbed to the Fast Buck Bandwagon that seems to have turned every decent pub in the CBD into a den of iniquity for the corruption of the morals of the youth.

This blogger's colleagues have taken a poll and decided that this coming Valentine's Day they must redouble their efforts to ensure that there is a wedding in his future. Towards that end, they are determined (women lawyers are a sight to see when they set their mind to something) to ensure that this blogger's Friday ritual is interrupted by Cupid or Eros or whoever they Shanghai in this ill-fated, doomed project. For this blogger intends to wend his way to his favourite corner (in the extremely agreeable Smoking Section) and park his ample hindparts on one of The Porterhouse's tremendously comfy stools. And bar the success of one or two women lawyers of fierce reputations, that is indeed what shall come to pass.

Sasa, nini hii?

There was a time when a presidential threat was thing to be feared, because it was so rare and always indirect and oblique. There is a generation of Kenyans who remain pitifully unaware of the Kenyatta I regime. More are familiar with the Moi regime, where cut-outs, marionettes and mouth-pieces were the vanguard of a system in which the President's word was holy writ and it took expert dissemblers and tea-leaf readers to discern the will, and the threats, of the President.

President Kenyatta, the Younger, has gotten into a habit of threatening people. No, no; I do not mean he is singling out individuals and telling them he'll whup their asses. No! Instead, he seems to make sweeping threats against unknown persons who have committed unspecified sins against the people and the government. In his brief, but excitable presidency, he's trained his guns on terrorists, carpetbaggers, corrupt civil servants, incompetent governors, rogue policemen, rogue judicial staff...the list is long. Indeed, this is the flip side to the President who is constantly promising to do something about one thing or the other without actually spelling out how it will be done, who will do it, when it will be done and how long it will take.

The presidency, never mind the high-minded promises of the civil society industry, is, and must be, strong. It must be seen to be strong. It should exercise its strength with determination and focus. It cannot be wasted on nonentities and humdrum matters. When a statement issues forth from the presidency, it must remain unquestioned by the riff-raff and the uninformed. It must call forth a counter-reaction from the forces out to ensure its brief spell in the State House. It must be precise when needed, and vague when necessary. If the presidency wishes to wipe out terrorists, it cannot do so tentatively or incompetently. When the presidency targets you, there must be no doubt that your days of liberty are numbered.

Since the Penal Code became part of the Law of Kenya, corruption has always been the target of officialdom. Decisions made by Kenyatta, the Elder, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki ensured that come hell or high water, the agents of corruption had bastions at the heart of the highest decision-making organs of the State. Since the Republic of Kenya was born, there have been corruption scandals that have exposed the Janus-faced approach to fighting corruption by officialdom. Iconic scandals dot the Republic's history; it seems the past is set to be repeated over and over. A sign that Kenyans no longer believe the anti-corruption rhetoric is the indifference with which they receive presidential t6hreats of action. Mwai Kibaki was the Great Big Hope. Under his watch, Anglo-Leasing and Triton will forever mar his words. Uhuru Kenyatta has promised action over and over again; the Nairobi Law Monthly and Alfred Keter claim that the Single Gauge Railway will be his Anglo-Leasing.

It is easier to speak of corruption in the abstract: "corruption will fight back;" "corruption networks;" and the like form now part of the anti-corruption lexicon. Formal anti-corruption campaigns were launched with the appointment of the John Harun Mwau-led Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority, followed by the Aaron Ringera-led Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission which was inherited by the eloquent PLO Lumumba. Now we have the late-to-the-party Mumo Matemu-led Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. The records of the authorities and commissions are there for all to judge. The voice of the voiceless, according to the civil society industry, is an indictment of the anti-corruption efforts of the State.

It is not enough for the Government of Kenya to appoint new Commissions and Commissioners, enact new laws and regulations, or for the Head of Government to threaten unknown people with unknown consequences for unknown offences in the name of fighting corruption. Until the people, in whose name the fight is being fought, have an absolute buy-in in the fight, the efforts of the government will be meaningless. In the here and now, with the people despondent and desperate for economic survival, and the Government of Kenya lurching from one crisis to another, that buy-in has as much chance of being manifested as chicken will manifest teeth.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I have mixed feelings.

It is fallaciously presumed that only one emotion can reside in one person at any time in reference to a person, a place or a thing. The Freudians and Jungians alike will confirm that it is possible to have mixed feelings about multiple subjects. It is the same with the Jubilee government. We both love and loath it to varying degrees at the same time. There are those who, in addition, hold it in utter contempt, persuaded that it is made up of a bunch of carpetbaggers out to make a fast shilling at the expense of the whole damn country. There are those who are so fiercely loyal to the Jubilee stalwarts, they are in danger of being accused of idolatry by the fundamentalists of the Christian persuasion.

This blogger, too, has mixed feelings about the Jubilee administration. This blogger would like to see the government achieve all its objectives, fulfill its manifesto and wipe away the tears of the past decade. But this blogger is a pragmatist; he does not expect that the Jubilee government is all-angels or all-demons. It just is.

For a decade-and-a-half, Kenyans have been fed the lie that the government is their Number One problem-solver, if only the right people were in charge. This lie has become so large that its perpetrators have began to believe it too. Thus you have the spectacle of grown men and women unhinged at the thought that the "wrong" man is in charge or that the "right" man is over the hill. It largely explains, too, why even intelligent men and women are incapable of thinking about their government without the subtlest intimations that serikali ni baba na mama!

It is this welfare-state mentality that guarantees that Blue Ribbon policies like Kenya Vision 2030 will remain works in progress long after their target dates have been passed. If you see this as a bit harsh, remember that the Government of Kenya has promised water for all since at least 1972 with the target date of achieving the aim being pushed and never attained. Same too the promise of universal maternal care. In contrast, the always-in-crisis United States of America may have some of its citizens whingeing piteously about the winner-takes-all attitude of the Republican Party, but no one seriously proposes that the Federal Government nanny everyone all the time the way Kenyans expect to be nannied by their serikali.

Therefore, while I may admire the youthful facade of Team Jubilee, it is increasingly apparent that it is stuck to a serikali-ni-baba-na-mama mindset that has guaranteed poverty, illiteracy and disease on a colossal scale for nigh on thirty five years. And that makes me as angry as a rhino that has been disturbed from peaceful slumber. Why they insist on riding the same square-tyred bicycle that the Kenyatta I and Moi regimes rode to destruction remains a mystery. And to camouflage their complete paucity of fresh ideas, they cover their flaws with Big Ticket projects riddled with pork and five-fingered discount specialists: Single Gauge Railway, Laptops-for-tots, LAPSSET...the list is familiar and depressing.

It begs the question why stellar private sector titans like Adan Mohammed and Sicily Kariuki are still doing in the government. When their contracts come to an end, and they peddle their CVs at international institutions, they will face the same harsh scrutiny their Cabinet Secretaries will face because they will have completely fucked up the machinery of the State because they were unwilling to move beyond the tried and tested serikali-ni-baba-na-mama mindset.

I have mixed feelings about Team Jubilee. And that is as it should be.

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...