Monday, June 30, 2014

Masochists.

If you think that the job is worth the risk and the vicious name-calling that is sure to follow, by all means, send your curriculum vitae to Uhuru Kenyatta on the 4th July, 2017, one month before the general elections, and if for some ungodly reason Uhuru Kenyatta chooses not to stand for the presidency again, you could send your CV to whatever character that shall pop out of the political woodwork to test their mettle in the fire of national elective politics. 

I'd be wary about sending my CV to Raila Odinga, though; his record is three for three (or is it two for two?) and there is a strong whiff of uncertainty about his chances the next go around. Chances are that you are a masochist, though; so by all means, on the 4th July, 2017, send Raila Odinga your CV to and be sure to remind him that if it is about kissing ass, the fact that you are not running your own built-by-your-own-sweat billion-shilling enterprise means that you will vacuum-seal your lips to his sphincter for the entire ten years of his presidency! (You must start kissing ass early.)

A casual examination of the Cabinet Secretarial experiences of Joseph Ole Lenku, Jacob Kaimenyi, Phyllis Kandie and Anne Waiguru makes one wince. These, especially the latter two, are superbly accomplished people who have made their mark, whether in public or private practice. But their experience in Uhuru Kenyatta's Cabinet must have given them the hide of a rhino; the barbs and brickbats flung at them on a daily basis is enough to depress even the most even-tempered among us. It is a stream of hostility and negativity that does not seem to end.

If the ones hurling epithets at members of President Kenyatta's Cabinet suggested ways and means of improving things, it would not be so bad. The members of the Cabinet would evaluate the ideas against what is known and what is possible and either adopt, adapt or reject the ideas; but they would have a sound basis for moving ahead with any idea. That is not the case; the vitriol is laced with a heavy dose of ethnic victimhood. The argument is not so much on the technical capabilities of the members of the Cabinet but on whether they come from my tribe or the wrong tribe. (Any tribe that is not my tribe is always the wrong tribe. It just is!)

It is for this reason that if I were Bob Collymore's Director of Legal Services for which he paid me the princely sum of 600 thousand shillings each month, and I enjoyed the sundry benefits that Safaricom offered, the last thing I would do is pretend that I wanted to "serve the people" in 2017 and put my name forward for a Cabinet position. I would not trust that even if I were honest, well-meaning, dedicated and super-good at managing two hundred lawyers, that the State Law Office wouldn't somehow infect me with the "this is Government" disease where sloth and incompetence seem to invite reward. The only reason I would put my name forward to be a Cabinet Secretary would be a deep masochistic desire to experience the people's reaction to my "leadership" style.

I cannot imagine why Mr Ole Lenku remains in office; the things people have said about him are some of the most hurtful things. It is not the cruel jokes that revolve around his time in the hospitality industry that hurt the most; those, I believe, he can weather. But the accusations that he does not care about the dead, that he is not intelligent enough to see that he is hated by everyone, that he cares only for the opportunities to procure new cars...those must cut him to the quick. It is probably true that while the success rate of terrorists and brigands and bandits seems to be going up, the number of attacks that have been foiled by the Interior ministry might be even larger still. It might be true. The fact that no one believes Mr Ole Lenku when he claims to have foiled more attacks than the ones that have taken place must hurt him the most. And that is the only reason not to take up a Cabinet position: you are immediately placed under great suspicion and the moment something you do goes wrong or you miss something, whatever goodwill you had is yanked away and blame is instead heaped on your head. Only a masochist will go through that day after day.

The Kanu spirit.

Jackson Mandago, the governor of Uasin Gishu, was so offended with the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy's leaders when they refused to listen to the "intelligence" reports of potential violence by his government if CORD went ahead with its rally at the 64 Stadium in Eldoret, that he threatened Raila Odinga and his fellow leaders. His threats remained unspecific. He purported to cancel the rally; then he purported to reverse himself on the cancellation. 

Mr Mandago is living in 1992, when Kenya was partitioned into "zones" dominated by one party and everyone was "advised" not to peddle their political wares outside their "zones." Mr Mandago attempted - crudely so - to remind Raila Odinga that Uasin Gishu County, Eldoret and the 64 Stadium are URP political zones and that CORD was not welcome. Mr Mandago projected his hostility for the former Prime Minister as the hostility of the entire population of Uasin Gishu County.

In any event, the rally went off without a hitch; if there was violence, the Standard Group, the Nation Media Group, Royal Media Service, MediaMax and the Kenya Broadcasting Service, not to mention the scores of FM radio stations have conspired with the CORD to blackout any negative news about the dangers of Mr Odinga's rallies. Mr Mandago's fears were not realised.

His approach to political discourse, however, is almost proof that Baba Moi's declaration of a 100-year KANU reign is coming to pass. After all, it is not enough to have your political descendants in power; you also need your political philosophies and ideas to remain the foundations of political organisation. Political zoning was a tried-and-battle-tested philosophy; in 1992 there were KANU zones and only a fool ventured there with a DP or FORD-K message. KANU zones witnessed what we euphemistically referred to as ethnic cleansing; the United Nations and the International Criminal Court would use the word genocide or her phrase mass murder. The legacies of the ethnic clashes and land clashes of multipartyism are still with us today.

In any disagreement one person must keep the big picture in mind and be the bigger person. Usually it is the person with the upper hand. CORD has waged a single-agenda political campaign for "dialogue", whatever that means. It has so unsettled the Jubilee government that its leaders, at national and county level, have become quite unhinged though it is Jubilee that has the opportunity to rise above the fray and demonstrate the vacuity of the CORD agenda for all to see. One of the consequences of Jubilee's unhingedness, intended or not, has been to revive rhetoric and tactics that made 1992 one of the bloodiest general elections in Kenyan history. 

Few will recall the thousands who were burned out of their homes in Molo, Elburgon and Burnt Forest. But the most disappointing consequences has been the enlisting of key Cabinet Secretaries in the war of the parties; the desire to depoliticise the Cabinet is well and truly dead. It is Jubilee that is creating the right environment for the fire that will consume this country should Mr Odinga or President Kenyatta miscalculate. Saba Saba is coming; will we sigh in relief or will we look for cheap flights to South Africa, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom?

What ails devolution and a possible solution.

When they eventually decide to give nominated representatives a Fund of their own, whether in the national government or the county governments, it will be the natural progression towards the "everyone must account to the people" mantra that is being peddled with alacrity in the Senate by Kipchumba Murkomen, the youthful Senator from Elgeyo Marakwet. The Constitution, the County Governments Act, 2012, and the Intergovernmental Relations Act, 2011, are silent on what the role of the Deputy Governors should be save for the anodyne constitutional requirement that they will deputise for Governors and take over when Governors are unable to perform their functions.

I believe the creation of a near-mirror image of the National Government at county level was a mistake, especially in the structure of the county executive, even with the current constitutional limitations. There was no need to create the position of deputy governor; it would only be of use if the county government was such a massive enterprise that executive authority needed to be shared to ensure effectiveness and efficiency. Governor Mutua's county government is proof that while a deputy is a political necessity, he is not necessarily a management one. Governor Kidero and Governor Wambora, on the other hand, are proof that in some very special cases, a deputy is a management priority of the highest order.

Kenya tends to legislate away its problems without ever solving them. Every time there is a political crisis, the country's leadership instinctively reaches for the draftman's pen and enacts a new law with alacrity. It is how we ended up with the demon seed that was the Grand Coalition between 2008 and 2013, and how the Mututho Laws became a byword for ineffective illicit alcoholic beverage control. Mr Murkomen proposes to solve a political problem in the structure of county governments by amending the County Governments Act and the Intergovernmental Relations Act by assigning specific statutory functions to deputy governors. Like all previous attempts to sort out what are essentially personality clashes using the law, Mr Murkomen's plan will come unstuck.

Mr Murkomen and those who would defend devolution must admit that the problems bedeviling devolution are not with the law; they are not even with the administrative set up, but with the intellectual, political and managerial calibres of many of the governors and nearly all the elected and nominated representatives in the counties - and in the Senate. It is especially the limited intellectual capacity of members of county assemblies that make one weep with despair. They have adopted the avaricious and destructive habits of the much-loathed defunct local authorities' councillors. They demand finances for the most wasteful activities and they do it without taking into account the long term cost of the failure to establish facilities for the future of their counties. In this they are supported by self-interested Senators who simply wish to remain in the limelight even when they can see that the short term political gains will only create strategic problems.

Deputy governors do not need to account to voters for anything; but the county government must, collectively, account for itself. Of course, every now and then, individual members of the county government must be held to account, but the important thing for voters is not that the deputy governor has functions to perform but that the county government is providing services to the people. If Mr Murkomen wants the people to thank him for his selfless service in the Senate, he must start finding ways of ensuring that county governments are not held hostage to political passions. Giving deputy governors unnecessary statutory functions is not the way to go.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Soul revolution.

We revisit an old chestnut. I am not interested in as many services as sirkal can provide; but the ones it can provide, it should provide well and by "well" I mean to a standard that doesn't place Kenya at the same level of public service delivery with war-torn Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan. Big Ticket services, obviously, are those I have no chance of providing for myself: anything to do with foreign policy, diplomacy or national defence, we will leave in the competent hands of Amina Mohammed and, until she is fired, Raychelle Omamo. Whether they do a bang up job in their areas, we will leave the victims of "travel advisories" and terror attacks to testify to.

But there are those services that can only be provided at the right quality by the State: universal healthcare, universal basic education and public safety. We will not whinge at the swingeing 30% top rate of income tax; it is the price we pay for being citizens of a (semi-)civilised country where taxes support all sorts of public initiatives. Until these three are provided to an acceptable degree, the State has no business entering into the cement-making, hoteleering, milk-vending, gun-making, bookmaking, matatu businesses or any other business for that matter. But if it does engage in commerce, it can only be with the explicit goal of sending all its profits to support the hospitals, schools and police stations that are the principal concerns of all people in Kenya.

Sadly, real life is not that neat. In a nation that is still held hostage by the legacy of its colonial past and which has discovered new and imaginative ways to render itself asunder, it is not utopian political economics that will sort out our tax-collection v public expenditure challenges. Insidious infirmities that are near impossible to quantify have captured the imagination of all policy-makers to the extent that much of our national energy (and passions) are expended in attempting to correct these infirmities. If it was not for corruption or negative ethnicity, we wistfully tell ourselves, life would be so much better.

It is the explanation for the past eleven years: NARC and the Grand Coalition failed to greatly improve the lot of teachers and students, doctors and patients, or policemen and the non-criminal public because Mwai Kibaki's governments were determined to swindle as much money out of The Treasury as they could and every member of President Kibaki's Cabinets was determined to advance the interests of his "tribe" at the expense of the rest, even if it meant bringing down the whole house of cards.

Even with a new Constitution these infirmities continue to hobble advancement. So we will continue to pay swingeing taxes and we will continue to receive shit service because we are corrupt and tribalistic. The solutions have been proposed and some have shown limited success. What we need is a national lobotomy to surgically remove or chemically shut down that part of our collective national brain that advances only at the expense of someone else, that prioritises short cuts and lies over hard work and just desserts. What we need is a voice willing to tell us what we will not listen to. We need a new generation of Timothy Njoyas, Henry Okullus, David Gitaris, Alexander Muges and an incorruptible version of the Seven Bearded Sisters. We need a revolution to save the soul of the nation.

If you lie down with dogs...

The Parliament of Kenya will not be converted into a constituent assembly; that is not what Kenyan voters wanted when they elected a government in 2013. If this is the long term plan of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, the coalition should give up now. That said, it is the manner in which CORD is advancing its ideas that need a little more consideration than the cavalier accusation leveled by Naomi Shaaban, the Deputy majority Leader in the National Assembly.

Dr Shaaban declares, rather grandiosely, that "Never has this country’s inter-denominational faith sector been so bluntly and insolently shoved aside, even in times of war and other genuine national crises." (What does Raila really want with his incessant calls for national dialogue? Daily Nation, 27/06/14.) What she should ask is why the CORD found it easy to bluntly and insolently shove aside the country's interdenominational faith sector. The answers are not so difficult to come by.

Charles Njonjo, painted by Jeff Koinange as a wise Old Man on Jeff Koinange Live, gets it right when he declares that he cannot recognise the men of the cloth standing in the public square. He reminds us that there was a time when the Archbishop of Nairobi was a public figure who was respected because he did what was required without pomp or flair. And when the Archbishop of Nairobi spoke against you, it could only be after much soul-searching. If Naomi Shaaban can point out the thoughtful spiritual leader from among the gaggle of publicity hounds haunting TV and radio stations, her assertion will gain credence.

Dr Shaaban must have seen what has happened to faith-based institutions, especially in the past decade. They have become corrupt and corrupting. In the civil chaos of 2007 and 2008, but especially in the run up to the 2007 general election, members of the clergy distinguished themselves by the political positions they took and the number of political endorsements they made. When #UhuRuto campaigned in the hallowed precincts of houses of worship, bishops and archbishops laid hands on them, declaring them blameless of the ICC charges and praying for their political victory at the hustings. They were not the only ones, though. Raila Odinga and his fellow travellers in CORD visited just as many churches and received just as many endorsements.

That the country’s inter-denominational faith sector has taken the fateful step to be a player in the political arena, and having picked winners and losers in the game, how can it expect to be treated  with courtesy or kid gloves? In the eyes of the CORD, the country’s inter-denominational faith sector is now a political rival just as Jubilee and is, therefore, incompetent to play the part of mediator. It can only expect bluntness and insolence from its rivals. It might be bitter, but it is the truth and Dr Shaaban should know better than to paint the country’s inter-denominational faith sector in a favourable light.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Futile and stupid.

Faith is a special part of our lives, whether we are "religious" or not. In Kenya you are defined by whether or not you are a person of faith, regardless of the religion you practice. It is why many Kenyan evangelical Christians will make it a point o remind you that they keep their bodies pure by abstaining from alcohol or cigarettes, Muslims will make it a point to express their distaste for alcohol and pork, and so on and so forth. But, regardless of impure fluids and foods, all Kenyan people of faith are united by their hypocrisy regarding the serious question of sex, sexuality and sex education - and their government has encouraged them down this false path.

This hypocrisy was quite evident when debating the pros and cons of the proposed constitution in the second half of 2010.On that occasion there were two things that energised the Christian persons of faith, especially heir leaders. One was, of course, the question of the Kadhis' courts. Couched in weasel words, the opposition to Kadhis' courts was that it would "introduce sharia law" into the constitution, which would be against the will of the people. Those opposed to the Kadhis' courts were encouraged in their fantasy by the High Court which, quite inexplicably, declared one part of the former constitution (the one establishing the Kadhis' courts) as "unconstitutional."

The second was the Right to Life clause in the proposed constitution. Religious leaders, with he support of a vocal minority among their congregants, wanted abortion to banned explicitly and absolutely. They would not countenance the possibility of it taking place, whether it was a medical necessity or not. They were adamant that it was against their faith. They argued that the unborn had rights and that it was the constitution and the State that had the principle job of protecting the unborn. Today, the Kadhis' courts are recognised as part of the Judiciary and abortion is prohibited - save under certain prescribed circumstances.

Today, it is a combination of faith and morality that have energised persons of faith. They equate the two; one cannot exist without the other, they insist. Whether they are right or not regarding the synonimity of faith and morality, their adamant opposition to an effective policy to protect children in schools from sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies is myopic and foolish. In teh week that Senator Judith Sijeny introduced her Bill in Parliament, Kenyans were shocked - again - by a report that a twelve-year old girl had given birth in some back water in the Rift Valley and that the father of her baby had "run away" and was "in hiding." I do not remember men and women of faith demanding the swift apprehension, prosecution and, presumably, incarceration of the rapist. I remember the loud silence.

It is the naive who continue to live in a world where children are not experimenting with sex or with their sexual identities. If one watches what is on TV, even our very own local content, hears what is broadcast over the radio, and reads what is written in our newspapers and magazines, it is nearly impossible not to spot both the subtle and overt sexualisation of children and teenagers. Combined with the fact that it is the world that seems to be socialising children these days while their parents are simply struggling to get by, it is inevitable that social institutions that once enjoyed legitimacy are being overwhelmed. Faith-based organisations do not have the capacity to keep an eye on each member of the organisation, personalise the message of faith and morality and guarantee that sexual activity is postponed until a more mature age. (The message is further diluted when men and women who act as faith leaders seem to fall short of their high moral standards on a daily basis.)

If the Government of Kenya is determined to pursue an abstinence-only, no-contraceptives, no-condoms policy, then it must be prepared to take it to its logical draconian end. Strict segregation of boys and girls must begin when they become adolescents and enforced until tat least the day they turn eighteen or, more morally preferable, the day they get married. The no-mixing rule should be enforced by a special police-and-prosecution unit that will enforce the ban with violence if necessary. To prevent the risk of temptation, what is broadcast or published in Kenya will meet strict moral requirements. Just for the hell of it, why not just ban pictures altogether?

By now you should be able to sense he utter futility and stupidity of that approach. The genie is out of the bottle. In a world of twenty-four-hour entertainment, a great proportion of which is laced with sexual innuendo, teenagers are going to have sex, no mater what. And instead of equipping them with weapons to keep them from harm, we intend to handicap them further. The teen pregnancies - indeed preteen pregnancies - are about to see a surge. Tenn sexually transmitted infection rates are about to spike. And all because our faith and high moral code will not allow contraceptives and condoms in secondary schools.

Speak now or weep later.

I am compelled to revisit one of Mwenda Njoka's declarations from yesterday's Daily Nation. In Reasons why the country's security is in a shambles, and what to do about it (Daily Nation, 25/06/14) Mr Njoka seems to suggest that if only the courts co-operated with the forces of law and order and intelligence organisations in their fight against terrorism, we will have done a lot to take the war to al Shabaab and similar organisations.

The Good Old Days - Jomo Kenyatta's fifteen years and Daniel Moi's twenty-four -  should serve as a stark warning to those who would prefer to see a cozy relationship between intelligence officers, law enforcement officers, public prosecutors and the courts. During the heydays of the Presidency-Judiciary-Police cohabitation, the number of Kenyans that got railroaded is simply staggering. One of the allegations that has simply refused to die down revolves around the dubious practice of prosecutors determining the judicial hours of business, and judges and magistrates actually handing down sentences pre-determined by the Presidency and reinforced by the prosecutors. 

Those calling for a re-creation of that relationship might have persuaded themselves that that terrorists have removed themselves from the Pale of Political Discourse and that they have the unremitting hostility of the peoples of Kenya; no one will mourn the infringement of terrorists' rights, especially after they have shed blood and destroyed private property. And they might be right, too. But they shouldn't pretend that an insidious plot to weaken judicial independence is something that they should be applauded for. Instead, we as a nation should be very, very afraid.

Today it is terrorists, armed robbers and child molesters. Pretty soon it will be troublesome politicians, overeager trade unionists, or intellectuals who will not toe the preferred presidential party line. There are few leaders who set out to craft together a dictatorship; circumstances, many of them argue afterwards, and infinitesimal incremental change brought them to the point where they jailed "enemies of the State." All of them, however, usually start out with one clear enemy; but by the time they are done and they are being carried feet first out of the Presidential Palace, everyone has become an enemy.

The suggestion that Kenyans should watch idly as it is suggested that the independence of the Judiciary is whittled away don't think much of our dark past. The Constitution is flawed, but its flaws will not resolve themselves by whittling away at what little autonomy that exists between the arms of government. The President and Parliament have attempted to bully the Judiciary, without success. The suggestion of flexibility and teeth to deal with bail demands by terror suspects is the sharp end of the spear that will eventually be driven into the judicial heart of this country. If we allow such suggestions to gain credence, when they come for us, there will be no one to speak on our behalf.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mwenda Njoka should resign too.

In Reasons why he country's security is in a shambles, and what to do about it (Daily Nation, 25/06/14), Mwenda Njoka repeats the serikali line: the courts have been enfeebled by the Bill of Rights that places paramount importance on the people, and not enough teeth or flexibility to the courts to keep, for example, terror suspects in police custody by denying them bail. He goes on to argue that institutions have been emasculated because the National Intelligence Service, the National Police Service and the Provincial Administration have taken to acting autonomously and not in concert.

These are certainly reasonable justifications for why it is increasingly difficult for the Government of Kenya to secure the safety of the public for extended periods. But they are inherently flawed. Let us take the courts' granting of bail to one and all without a care in the world. The right to bail is found in Article 49(1)(h). It is not an absolute right; bond or bail can be denied. All the police have to do is to persuade the court that they have compelling reasons not to release an arrested person on bond or bail. It is not the courts' fault that the police are unable to persuade a magistrate that an arrested person should not be released; it is the police who are to blame.

This leads to the second major flaw in Mr Njoka's argument: while the pre-Constitutional security environment witnessed the seamless machinery of the Special Branch, Kenya Police Force and Provincial Administration working in concert to deliver on security, even Mr Njoka will have to admit that the "security" that his seamless machinery delivered had little to do with public safety and more to do with the perpetuation of a man and his regime in power. We did not throw out the baby with the bathwater when we jettisoned the former constitution; we simply replaced an iniquitous system with one that the security establishment, especially the police, has resisted conforming to.

The principal responsibility of a government is the safety of its people; the principal occupation of every Kenyan government from the colonial era to date is its self-preservation at all costs. Mr Njoka is not a fool. He has witnessed the lengths to which the Government of Kenya will go to protect itself from its people. Therefore, when he suggests that it is time to seriously reconsider the overhaul of the Bill of Rights in order to "give the courts more teeth and flexibility" and to recreate the seamless machinery of the Special Branch-Kenya Police-Provincial Administration triumvirate era, deep down he knows we will reject his proposal.

It is time Mr Njoka and his bosses at Harambee House arrived at the same conclusion everyone and their cat has. We are not demanding the resignations of the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police or the Director of National Intelligence because we have personalised the safety of the people by blaming these four for their failures which have led to the deaths of hundreds of Kenyans. 

We demand these resignations because because these men, bar maybe the Director-General, have resisted the diktats of the Constitution. They are determined to look at the Government of Kenya as the only entity that is in need of security. They have not demonstrated an ounce of sympathy for the families of the hundreds of dead Kenyans; their response - their only response - has been that they have done their best. Their best has not been good or good enough. We cannot elide the truth any longer; it is not the Constitution or the constitutional reforms that have failed us, but men who have refused to change with the changing times. If Mr Njoka cannot see this, then perhaps it is time he too resigned.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

You are Government.

It is with profound shock that one realises he has never faced the "full force of the Government" while engaged in robust political negotiations over one thing or the other. We do not, of course, mean that we have never voted; but it comes, truly, as a shock to realise that in the decades one has taken up space, in one form or another in Kenya, that neither Raila Odinga not James Orengo nor William Ruto nor Uhuru Kenyatta nor the late Tony Ndilinge inspired one to go out into the streets, banner in hand, to face down the rungu-wielding riot police in the name of political combat.

A little bit - a smidgen, really - of education and suddenly one can look down his nose at the men and women who have none, while throwing elbows and climbing the greasy pole that is Kenyan politics. Some have done it smart; others have behaved like hooligans (inspiring their "supporters" to do the same). Many more have done the simple job of articulating their peoples' problems and taking those problems "kwa wakubwa Nairobi."

Until the repeal of section 2A of the former constitution, it was easy to be inspired and seduced by political rhetoric; after all it was aimed at us by a perfidiously iniquitous system that had had its time in the sun. But, as Wallace Kantai points out in the Business Daily, we have always shown promise and each and every time that the promise was to be realised, we fell short. Sometimes we fell ignominously short. And so it came to pass after the repeal of section 2A.

The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy and the Democratic Party became, in the words of a wag with a perverse sense of humour, briefcase political parties and they spawned a hundred imitators. The Age of Cowboy Contractors gave way to the Age of Briefcase Politics. Kenya has been paying for that folly ever since.

What was once seductive and inspirational now sounds cynical and depressing. Kenyans no longer want to be reminded of their glory days, when the "economy was at par with the Asian Tigers." Kenyans do not want to be promised the sun and the moon if only if they were to choose "youth and fresh ideas" over "wisdom and experience." We've had enough of slogans. It is time for one or the other: to govern and to stop campaigning.

Whether CORD will admit this or not, when they refer to "the Government" they are referring to themselves. The Government of Kenya is Parliament, the National Executive and Willy Mutunga's Judiciary and as hard as it is to hear, Uhuru Kenyatta is the head of that government. Without a credible opposition, even the minority one that CORD is, there is no government. Mutahi Ngunyi's Tyranny of Numbers hypothesis is not a fait acompli to take their disgruntlement outside Parliament, but a reminder that even while in the minority, the majority must listen to them; whether the majority chooses to accommodate them depends entirely on whether the minority's view resonated with anyone outside of the briefcase. Therefore, whether they admit it or not, Uhuru Kenyatta cannot govern without the opposition, and the Opposition cannot point fingers at "the Government" without accusing itself.

Kenya's Dubai? Let's see.

This blogger has done everything in his quite considerable power to avoid paying a visit to a health facility managed by any of the ministries, departments or agencies of the Government of Kenya. Of course, this is only in the recent past when he has had the opportunity to earn a living and spend his own money. He has opted for snake-oil peddled by leading institutions in the private sector; they have not cured this blogger of all that ails his body, but they have done what they have done with a certain level of professionalism that is sadly lacking in the public sector.

But this blogger has recently been compelled to change tack, once again. It is becoming increasingly certain that the professionalism that attracted him to the private sector is slowly being snuffed out in the mad rush to empty this blogger's wallet. The pushing and jostling - metaphorical, of course - has become simply nauseating. The lengths to which private sector providers of healthcare will go to pick this blogger's pockets have taken a turn for the mercenary. Therefore, this blogger has made the half-hearted decision to reconsider his revulsion at the public sector.

But because it is a brand new dawn, this blogger intends to make his decisions based on certain metrics. Obviously, any healthcare facility under the increasingly incompetent thumbs of the Nairobi Governor is out. This blogger doesn't give two shits about the millions the governor has poured into Pumwani Maternity Hospital; had a similar amount been poured into the Ofafa Jericho Health Centre, these sentiments would most likely be rosier. Kiambu is out too; its reputation for gangsterism inspires a dread of visiting a healthcare facility that might be in hock to a mafia don.

Kajiado is not an easy option to make, but mostly because the only thing that seems to give it a name is that it is on the way to the Namaga Border. Border towns have grave public health challenges, which in this side of the border usually means TB and HIV/AIDS. That leaves Machakos.

Dr Alfred Mutua, the governor, is not a healthcare profession, as the Constitution puts, but a publicity hound. Despite all that, his moves in the public healthcare sector have engendered a level of trust for an elected official that demands testing. So this blogger intends to head for the previously much loathed Machakos District Hospital and find out whether his lowly NHIF card will afford him some measure of medical civility. Dear reader, do not hold your breath though. When this blogger was a sprog, the administrators at that facility demanded bribes even from children without a cent to their names before agreeing to treat them. But, Mr Mutua has done a good job of selling Masaku. It is time to see whether it really has the potential to become the Dubai of Kenya.

Bury it once and for all.

This blogger would ordinarily not admit this, but without the contribution of interlocutors such as the Presidency's Senior Director of Messaging, this blog would be deprived of maddening material to respond to. That being so, Eric Ng'eno's most recent diatribe against a former bearded sister of the Seven Bearded Sisters fame, an also-ran in the Presidential horse-race in 2002, a former Minister for Lands, and a luminary of the CORD constellation, is notable not because of the brickbats hurled at the indefatigable James Agreey Bruno Orengo but for the backhanded compliments given to Charity Ngilu, the Cabinet Secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

If Mr Orengo has anything to say in respond to Mr Ng'eno's astonishing attack, he is welcome to the Right of Reply column this blogger is sure that the Daily Nation will provide. However, he must be exposed for the intellectual pickpocket that he is. While appearing to celebrate Mrs Ngilu's spinal fortitude when she "stared down the syndicate" that had run riot at Ardhi House, exposing slightly over a million-and-a-quarter files that "had gone missing", he casually mentions that Mrs Ngilu had "limited patience with ideology" and "a comparatively modest education" without demonstrating why these are germane in the context of her apparently stellar performance at the Ministry of Lands.

This blogger has alluded to the misogyny that pervades the public service. Even with the rise of Mrs Ngilu in the company of Martha Karua, Betty Tett, Esther Koimett, Prof Margaret Kobia, it is still evident that even the Digital Generation of public officers are loath to admit that in the administration of public affairs, men and women are equal: equal in their venality and avarice on the one hand, and equal in their capability and dedication to duty on the other.

Whether one is ideologically minded or not, and whether one is educated to the highest level possible or not, there is a feeling abroad in the public service that women just don't have the stones to do the work. It is why their ambitions are seen as a fad, a passing cloud. Just like the Kiambu Mafia's passing cloud, this is a cloud that has simply refused to pass for twenty years. It is time that Mr Ng'eno and his fellow travellers accepted and moved on, to use one of UhuRuto's favourite slogans. These, of course, include Mithika Linturi who's petition to dismiss the devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary was not defeated on merit, but on a technicality; Mr Linturi did not admit to have been motivated by misogynistic animus, but chose to stay away from the debate on his motion and thereby guaranteed its failure. In the expansive arena that is the Government of Kenya, it is time that we admitted to ourselves that men and women are equals.

Monday, June 23, 2014

...not to reason why.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
  ~ The Charge of the Light Brigade

Erudition does not count for much if everyone thinks you're an ass and it won't matter if people will follow you regardless of what you said. This is a lesson that seems to be escaping the loudest voices on both sides of the Saba Saba defile, a chasm so wide that only the breadth of the former Prime Minister's popularity and the President's legitimacy will bridge it but only if they can surmount the hurdles supplanted by the enormous egos of their minions.

Mr Odinga, it is true, is an unelected leader, but he is a leader nonetheless. The Constitution, it is true, has established mechanisms and institutions through and by which structured dialogue can be held, but when the institutions do not enjoy legitimacy because of their acts of omission and commission, it is not enough to demand the strict fidelity to the provisions and the spirit of the Constitution without guaranteeing that calmer minds will prevail.

The rallies headlined by luminaries of the Coalition for Reforms and Development (CORD) have not attracted the "hundreds of thousands" of followers the coalition claims; nor have they been held in "near-empty venues" as maliciously suggested by the yokels of the Jubilee. It is for this reason that the Saba Saba ultimatum should be abandoned, whether CORD gets anything in return or not. Mr Odinga has already demonstrated that it is possible to communicate with the President without getting into a pissing contest. Sadly, it is no longer up to the President or Mr Odinga alone. 

Mr Odinga has a remarkable group of acolytes around him and in public you would think their loyalty to Agwambo is total. They perform the oratorical equivalent of prostrating themselves before Baba with their very loud declarations of fealty and the haste with which they rouse themselves to anger every time the name of the former Prime Minister is taken in vain by anybody, especially anybody who happens to be Jubilee. It is remarkable given that it is almost certain that Kenya has made a giant leap into the future where seventy-year olds will no longer have the capacity to reach for the brass ring, simply because they are too old - too old in the context of the dynamic duo that is #TeamJubilee.

But the President is the one who has been cornered by the most ardent sycophants in the twenty-first century history of Kenya. It is not that his sycophants are nincompoops - far from it. They are smart professionals from and of the Digital Age with fund-raising and networking skills at home anywhere in the world. But they seem to have made the same bargain as the the sycophants who surrounded Baba Moi for nigh on twenty years. They are willing to do whatever it takes to make the President happy and, just like the acolytes surrounding Tinga, they will spit verbal fire in the service of their feudal liege. They will twist and bend their professional skills so that they can remain members of the inner circle, men of substance, people to be seen and heard. They will shamelessly lay, metaphorically speaking, supine before the Commander-in-Chief just for the chance of a similarly metaphorical belly-rub, a presidential "atta boy!"

Both the President and Mr Odinga can, of course, roll back the excessive exuberance of their ardent followers. But if they do that, they run the risk of having nowhere to direct their energies to. Whether the minions on both sides will admit it, neither of their lieges has a clue what to do now that the general election is many, many moons behind us. It is why Raila Odinga is still campaigning and why Uhuru Kenyatta cannot seem to go beyond campaign rhetoric in his governance. It is why the political air remains poisoned. It is why many are apprehensive about tomorrow.

How can your conscience be clear?

They can quote all the numbers they want, and they can hint heavily and persistently about all they have done to keep us safe, but whether they will do it now or in a year's time, it is clear that "my conscience is clear" is not the standard by which we will judge the men and women who failed to anticipate and stop the raiders of Mpeketoni. If they had simply attacked once and withdrawn to their redoubts, Kenyans would only be slightly less outraged. But the fact that the brigands struck twice and in both attacks the security forces were dancing the night away at cabaret shows in Malindi or Mombasa brings the bile to our mouths and stiffens our hand against them.

Why do Kenyan public failures find it difficult to resign when it is clear that they are ineffective at their jobs? It is not that they do not know that when comparisons are made with their peers or some of their predecessors they come out poorer. Cabinet Secretary Ole Lenku has been compared in an extremely unflattering light to the frighteningly effective John Michuki, while Inspector -General Kimaiyo's command of the National Police Service has led to ever vocal demands to "Bring back Ali", the super-effective former Commissioner of Police, Hussein Ali. Perhaps the late John Michuki and Hussein Ali set the bar higher than is the norm in Kenya's shambolic national security infrastructure, but it is not enough - NOT ENOUGH - to claim that "my conscience is clear" as if that will reverse the blood flowing in the streets.

Uncle Moody, the affable former Vice-President set the stage with the my-conscience-is-clear mantra when he was asked to resign over the multi-billion shilling Anglo Leasing scams. Since then it has been the reliable fall back for every incompetent public servant - so long as their consciences are clear, they will not resign. So long as the numbers point to a slight improvement since they day they became the people in charge, they will not resign. So long as the President thinks the sun shines out of their asses, they will not resign. Even when bodies are strewn in the streets for the carrion-eaters to feast on, filmed and broadcast for the world to see - they will not resign.

If you had a conscience and because of your style of management - let us be honest: because of your incompetence - the only honourable thing to do is to resign. It is to remove your incompetent ass from the scene of the crime and repair to whatever sinecure you have established for yourself as far from the prying eyes of the world as you can get. It is not honourable, not in the least, to remind people that you are God-fearing, that you have done your best, that your conscience is clear. These are not justifications for your continued employment at the people's expense.

As a people we have inhered to some dark habits. We no longer bat an eyelid when a policeman casually demands a bribe. We do not blink when a nurse watches a woman go into labour without even the humanity to provide a towel. We accept and move on every single time school-going children, their parents and school administrators conspire to cheat in national examinations. After the tenth, fiftieth, hundredth, nth revelation of a love triangle involving a man of the cloth, we are no longer outraged that what we give in the name of Christ and tithe in the name of the Church has gone on to fund the increasingly decadently lavish lifestyles of the mtumishi and mchungaji. But we will have given up completely on everything we once believed in if the man in charge when over two hundred Kenyans have been murdered by terrorists blithely declares that he will not resign because his conscience is clear and that he has done the best he could in the circumstances. We will have given up on hope that we could ever be a better people.

Don't moralise everything.

This blogger has made this point before here. If Kenya insists on dealing with the subject only from a moral point of view, the outcome might be worse. The debate du jour, of course, is whether or not children in schools should be given free condoms or contraceptives in addition to being taken through what passes for sex education these days. This blogger comes down on the side of that which will keep children safe - and abstinence-only programmes have been demonstrated to be utter failures, except in the theocracies where capital punishmenthas been used as a method of the enforcement of chastity.

Statistics can be used to manipulate public opinion for or against anything, so this blogger has a leery view of statistics, especially Kenyan ones. But this blogger, as many Kenyans, is not blind. The number of teenage mothers has increased. Part of the explanation might be that parents these days aren't ostracised if their daughter is one of those girls, daughters are not killed to protect the honour of their families nor are they denied shelter because of their pregnancies.

Even pharmacists report that the demand for contraceptives and arbotifacients such as morning after pills among school-going teenagers has risen significantly, despite the exorbitant costs involved. One unreported statistic revolves around abortions among school-going children, especially unsafe ones where the one performing the abortion is inexperienced or where it is being done is in unsanitary or unsafe surroundings.

The numbers, even if they are inaccurate and improperly analysed, point to a horrific truth - teenagers are engaging in sexual activity without sufficient information or protection. It is only a matter of time before we stop worrying about teen pregnancies but about the rates of infection among teenagers that will surley become unmanageable. It is not just HIV/AIDS that we must contend with now; news out of Uganda warns of multi-drug resistant syphilis and gonorrhea, in addition to the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis which we are quite familiar with.

This shrill reaction by parents' associations and faith based organisations as well as elements of the Ministry of Education - including the Cabinet Secretary and his Principal Secretary - is foolish and naive. The parents who practice birth control whether by using contraceptives or prophylactics are not moral failures; they are responsible parents who wish to ensure that they plan when to have more children. Single adults with more than one sexual partner who use protection such as condoms might not rate highly in a church's radar regarding their morality, but these are people who care enough to protect their lives and those of their future partners when they decide to enter into monogamous relationships. The herd-protection arising out of condom-use cannot be downplayed either.

Objecting to the provision of the right information and the right tools to children for their protection will come and bite us in the ass. If parents had the time to sit with their children and advise them comprehensively about what to do - and what not to do - to keep their virtues intact, and if schools imparted the correct information to ensure that children understood the physical, psychological and physiological effects of sexuality and sexual activity, and if faith-based organisations offered the correct moral guidance to the people without being moralistic, teen sex and all its problems would not be at a crisis point that demands legislative intervention. If we cannot admit that there is a crisis and that the proposal before the National Assembly is a sensible one we will have endangered the futures of entire generations.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Secrecy, talking points and legitimacy.

Susan Rice is Barack Obama's Assistant for National Security Affairs. Before that she was Barack Obama's ambassador to the United Nations. In 2012 the United States' Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked and the US ambassador and other officials were killed. In attempting to get ahead of the situation, Ms Rice was given a set of talking points - things she would emphasise as the US government got to grips with the situation. Because of what she said and what was discovered later, when Barack Obama wanted to nominate her to replace Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State, the political cost proved to be too high.

Amina Mohammed, the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, may be treading the same path that Susan Rice did. She is echoing the talking points of the Presidency, sowing doubt about whether or not it was al Shabaab or "local politicians" who were behind the bloodshed in Mpeketoni on Sunday and Monday of this week.

She might not pay as a high a price as Ms Rice did; after all, it is only in Kenya where someone would find prestige and power after having served at the United Nations and various other global institutions. What the Cabinet Secretary re-affirmed is something that has afflicted Kenya since the colonial government was first established: the overweening desire to create a tiny circle of those "who know" and everyone else. The Official Secrets Act has become the main reason why it is possible for immigration and police officer to take massive backhanders without it being discovered for a dozen years and why regardless of the public communications strategy of the Government of Kenya, it is possible for a jobless politician to make the government look bad every time a vicious crime is committed.

In the Digital Age, information will leak, sooner or later. With advances in encryption and decryption techniques and technologies, it is naive for the Government of Kenya to live with rules designed for days when files were actual cardboard folders that held actual pieces of paper with the ubiquitous "SECRET" stamped in red across the pages. Any one with a camera-enable mobile phone is potentially the biggest leaker of "sensitive" information and it matters not that mobiles are confiscated or that portable drives are not permitted in sensitive areas. Sooner or later, that information will get out and it will always get out at a time designed to be most embarrassing for the government. If the Presidency doubts this, the experience of the Chief Justice should have a salutary sobering effect.

In the vacuum created by the Official Secrets Act, Kenyans will listen to non-government sources who may out to exploit Kenyans' ignorance. Some may have credibility - such as the New York Police Department's report on the Westgate attack - so they are likely to be believed more than what the government says. The President vowed to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to look into the Westgate affair; even with the parliamentary whitewash of the affair, Kenyans know - or think they know - more from non-official sources. Mr Kenyatta's exhortations and assurances over public safety are ringing more and more hollow. It is only a matter of time that many Kenyans simply switch to listening to more persuasive - and probably divisive - voices than that of the person who should be the symbol of unity.

Poachers and Bombers.

The Big Five. If you are Kenyan or you love Kenya, they mean something to you. They mean a lot to the Kenya Wildlife Service. They are under enormous risk these days, especially elephants and rhinos. Poaching has become a sophisticated and syndicated operation - insiders at the KWS, the National Police, border points and a worldwide trafficking network that cocks-a-snook at the global forces of law and order. And it is no longer a Kenyan problem; it is now continental in scale and devastation.

The problems in the wildlife sector, however, pale in comparison to the mayhem being visited on the innocent and the blameless. In the span of just one year, dozens of Kenyans have been blown up, shot, and had their properties destroyed at the hands of terrorists and brigands. Terrorism seems to be benefitting from the same sophistication employed - deployed - in corrupting the national security establishment. There isn't a Kenyan alive - not even the President - who believes that there are any honest officers left in the National Police. (Do you remember when the President warned the corrupt at Harambee House that they would soon face the full might of his office?)

It is only a matter of time before the link is found between the increased degree of poaching and terror attacks in Kenya. It is not as far-fetched as one might believe. The President may have his sights elsewhere, but he came as near as anyone to proving, in public, the link between politicians and violence in Kenya - because that link exists in the dark underworld of the poacher.

Many Kenyans might be docile but we are not fools and we are not blind. There is money to be made using lawful means; there is substantially more money to be made by cutting corners and committing crimes. The rumours, suspicions and innuendos regarding the involvement of senior politicians in poaching refuse to die down. It is not because Kenyans are inveterate innuendo-peddlers and rumours-mongerers but because we know, deep in our marrows, that we cannot trust the media. It has been in bed with every kind of charlatan and snake-oil salesman since the mzungu decided to build a free press in Kenya. And when it comes to covering up crimes in the name of profit, the Kenya media is second to none.

This blogger hesitates to speculate about what will happen when the link between poachers and bombers is broadcast in the open. This nation will be in uncharted waters. Links between one or the other have always been there, but proof of it will be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back. In our hypocrisy, we prefer to pretend that we do not know that our favourite parliamentarian is a wastrel and a vagabond in league with poachers or bombers from here and far or that the judicial officer who gives the reading in church every Sunday has been trousering millions to slant his judgments this way or that. So long as you are not blatant about it, we will tut tut in disappointment and get on with our lives. But now that the veil is slipping, some of the more excitable members of that demographic that should give the State jitters might decide to confront the problem, head on, once and for all. It will not be pretty.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

All Africa Games, Part 3

Even if we hadn't been taken for a ride by the architects (makes them sound like professionals) of the Anglo Leasing scandal (they are professional swindlers), the Kenya Police, now known as the National Police, and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, which was once known as the Criminal Investigations Department, would have had a forensics laboratory built for it. In this laboratory, this blogger's fevered imagination runs to, would be found boffins from all scientific backgrounds and they would have the capacity to identify forensic evidence collected by forensics collection teams from scenes of crime and link the forensic evidence to perpetrators or causes of crimes. And because of the forensic scientists, this blogger has absolutely no doubt, the National Police would have an eminently enviable record in Africa, perhaps the world even, in investigating and solving complex crimes.

However, the more pragmatic side of this blogger has come to certain predictable conclusions. These rely on a simple rule, though it is not necessarily simplistic: future action is determined by past behaviour. Civil servants - public servants in today's constitutional parlance - have had opportunities to make a good name for themselves and the Republic in the past. The 1987 All Africa Games were an opportunity for Kenya to shine on a continental scale. This nation was justifiably proud of its sporting tradition, especially in the long distance and middle distance races. What the Games will be remembered for, however, is the grift an American pulled on the whole country to get away with two hundred millions of our shillings.

That American gave the architects (there goes that word again) of the Goldenberg scandal the wings to not just fly, but soar. And today we have Anglo Leasing but no CID forensics laboratory, no police communications system, no postal corporation communications system, and no prisons communications system. (This blogger really doesn't believe that the Kenya Prisons Service needs a new or even an "advanced" communications system; its inmates seem to do very well with the one they currently have. It remains unknown how many billions these entrepreneurial inmates have made in the past decade.)

Which allows us to neatly segue into the fifteen-billion-shilling Safaricom-Interior Ministry deal to supply communications and surveillance equipment to the National Police. We have seen this movie before, haven't we? In the wake of the US embassy bombing in 1998, Anglo Leasing came to being - like a demon seed. The past year has seen an escalation of terror attacks and runaway violent crime and so the demands for the government to do something, anything, to stop the wave of terror. With Anglo Leasing, it was not about the overall price of the contract but specific provisions of the contracts that screwed us over. It is these provisions that allowed a man called Anura Perera to make like a bandit and another called Deepak Kamani to smile like the cat that swallowed the canary.

This blogger has no doubt that the Member for Tiaty (PNU) and the chairman of the National Assembly's House Committee on Administration and National Security is a conscientious elected representative, but he has not demonstrated that, especially when investigating the Westgate siege,  he can be trusted to follow the trail wherever it may lead when it comes to the Safaricom-Harambee House deal. If Kenyans had confidence that the MP was a gifted bloodhound, capable of sniffing out dodgy contractual clauses and holding the Interior Cabinet Secretary's feet to the fire, many would rest easy knowing that their concerns were being taken seriously. But after the Mpeketoni attacks where allegations that Safaricom's network was hacked and jammed, perhaps we are better off spending the fifteen billion on another armoured personnel carrier for the Commander-in-Chief.

Governments the world over use fear to get people to agree to all sorts of expensive boondoggles. This Safaricom-Harambee House white elephant is a humdinger - small enough to pass the appropriations committees, big enough for someone to buy an island in the South Pacific. Or the Bahamas. And because we do not have gifted defenders of the public interest - those charged with this duty are busily lining their pockets as fast as they can - Kenyans will continue to be felled by bombers, grenade throwers, gunmen and all manner of killers. This is mightily speculative, but there is no reason why ten years from now another multibillion shilling security system shouldn't be purchased on account of the deteriorating security situation while the Commander-in-Chief makes TV ads and the Interior Cabinet Secretary is mercilessly lampooned on social media. We seem to love sequels to movies that have the same script.

Second-hand shit.

Mitumbas are a bad, bad sign. There used to be the Kisumu Cotton Mills (KICOMI) and the Rift Valley Textiles (RIVATEX). Now what we have are fat-walletted entrepreneurs who have made  killing by importing used or already-worn clothes for a demanding market. The market exists because the market for quality, home-made textiles or clothing does not exist. Not any more. The alternative explanation is more painful: the capacity for the market to purchase quality, home-made textiles or clothing is substantially below the global average that it can only sustain itself by purchasing already-worn and used clothes.

This seems to be the case for motor vehicles: cars and commercial vehicles, mostly. CMC Motors, before it's sale to a Dubai car -dealer, sold 1,082 cars in 2013. The numbers from DT Dobie, Bavaria Motors, RMA Kenya, Marshalls East Africa or Toyota Kenya are not much better. The market for brand new motor vehicles in Kenya on a month-by-month basis is small, less than 3,500 motor vehicles. But Nairobi alone witnesses more than 300 new registrations every month, the bulk of which are reconditioned and used motor vehicles. The some phenomenon regarding clothing seems at play regarding motor vehicles: new buyers have been priced out of the new car market.

This is the dirty little secret of the Kenyan economy. It can only sustain a tiny elite. The bulk of employees and entrepreneurs barely make enough to survive. Hass Consult, a real estate developer, has found that even the proper middle class can barely afford the mortgages offered by commercial banks. We have become a second-hand-goods-based economy. In the short term, that was not such a bad thing in the madness of 1992 to 1995 period when the economy turned to shit. But carrying on in the same vein for twenty years, it is almost certain that we passed the tipping point a while back and barrelled on without a second thought.

It wouldn't be that bad if the government did not get in on the act. When Alfred Mutua justified the purchase of vehicles for his county executive n the basis that they were second-hand cars that would give value for money, it was the first time that we admitted to ourselves that we are at the point of giving up. This is the same sense you get when Football Kenya or FKF or whoever is in charge of the national team cannot afford the ten million shillings President Kenyatta "donated" to send the Harambee Stars to Brazil to watch the World Cup or the approximately 327 billion we will spend to lay a standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi that will increase average speeds by 40% using rolling stock that is at least three generations behind and which will raise he overall long term national debt by at least 15% and end up being one of the biggest and surest ways to corruptly acquired wealth for an elite few that we will ever see.

We are no longer thinking of grand innovation projects. This blogger is not calling for import substitution techniques that failed in India, for example, but isn't it time we stopped being the importers of the world's trash? Bidco, Keroche Breweries, Farmers' Choice and Brookeside show that with determination (and a little political connecting here and there) we are competitive. The industrialisation, commerce, international trade and education Cabinet Secretaries better see this too, style up and stop us looking like we enjoy taking home shit others threw out!

Madvertising.

The solution to terror attacks or low investor confidence is not "to market Kenya more aggressively" as is being proposed in some quarters. The solutions are, by now, well-known. Let us take low investor confidence as an example. The World Bank uses the rubric of "ease of doing business" to gauge whether a country is welcoming to foreign investors or not. But it gauges this "ease" through the rather dangerous assumption that "deregulation" makes investment easier and faster. Rwanda is an anomaly; it is not that Rwanda does not have regulations thereby making it an easier investment destination but that the regulations on the books are enforced fairly and speedily.

Secondly, efficient dispute resolution is a vital component of the ease of doing business. London, New York and Delaware are renown for the speed and certainty with which commercial disputes are arbitrated or determined by the courts. The financial world relies on these three jurisdictions for a majority of the commercial dispute resolution systems, especially those linked to the global financial sector. Despite Willy Mutunga's best efforts and partnerships with development partners, commercial dispute resolution in Kenya is still stuck in the dark ages of political illiberalism; foreign investors do not trust Kenyan courts. They will therefore invest only that which they are willing to lose.

Finally, obviously, is physical security and safety of investment resources, including personnel. Kenya fails on these two counts. It used to be if one was a foreign expatriate working in Kenya, one could expect to be fawned over and generally left alone even by the criminal element in the city. It is no longer so today. Not only have foreign expats become targets of home invaders (indeed several have been murdered in their homes), they are now also the targets of terrorists. The reactions of foreign missions in Kenya have not been overreactions as they are being accused of by very vocal elements in the Jubilee government; it is only prudent for the governments of those nations to protect their citizens from harm. If this requires Advisories" against visiting certain parts of Kenya or indeed the country at all, that cannot be avoided.

Kenya's response to terror attacks cannot be to point political fingers at someone the Majority Party has already labelled a political has-been. The continued presence in office of the men responsible for the security and safety mess we find ourselves in leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of millions. It is a major reason why no matter how aggressively Kenya is advertised in foreign markets, investors will be few and far between and those who do invest will not be doing so because of the advertising but because of the killing they anticipate they will make because of the fraught situation.

If Kenya did what was required of it - streamline its regulatory processes by eliminating bottlenecks such as corruption and duplication, streamline the judicial and alternative dispute resolution processes, and eliminate politics and stupidity from the security and public safety dockets - it would not need to market itself aggressively in order to attract tourists or investors. They would come because, as the Swahili put it, kizuri chajiuza, kibaya chajitembeza.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Don't be so easy.

It is not that difficult to ignore a parliamentarian. It really isn't. But it is even easier to ignore a parliamentary committee. These people are a joke; what makes it funnier is how serious they take themselves. Have you seen the Senate Majority Leader comport himself in public? He really believes that he is better than the people he is addressing and that they would be total idiots to ignore the weight of the substance of his pronouncements. The same, sadly, is true of the National Assembly Majority Leader; but he really, mostly thinks we are small children in need of constant adult supervision. We think that he thinks he is  nursery school teacher. He certainly thinks like one.

The paternalism that characterises our engagement with the government, whether it is pompous senior civil servants, or ass-hats in Parliament, would be really something if the wonderful world of the world wide web were restricted to that pair of characters. The casual misogyny that many parliamentarians - and civil servants - engage in would be largely overlooked. The overbearing and patronising tone that these VIPs used would never be the butt of ever more cruel jokes. And we would not have to put up with ridiculousness disguised as Serious Parliamentary Business.

Parliament, broadly, plays three key roles: making laws, representing voters' interests, and overseeing the other arms of the government, but mostly overseeing the Executive arm of government. Actually, when it comes to oversight, the only office that matters now is the presidency; every one else is not important enough - not by a long shot. It is not an understatement to remind readers of this blog that parliament has acquitted itself shamefully in the execution of its functions. It has enacted, time and again, bad laws. It's members have failed to even raise basic questions that affect their constituents or find solutions that would not be laughed out of a nursery school class. In its oversight duties, however, if there is a bottom of the barrel, parliament has found it - and kept scraping.

If you doubt this assessment, allow this blogger to remind you of some of the more notorious episodes. The Senate has impeached the Governor of Embu twice. Not different occupants of the office, but the same man. Twice. And both times the Supreme Court has tut-tutted and asked that august chamber to try again. The National Assembly has threatened to dismiss a Cabinet Secretary because he said mean things about one of its members at a fundraiser in a backwater no one has ever heard off. The National Assembly's miffed members sniffily went about collecting signatures because of the cheek of a mere Cabinet Secretary (who, by the by, has more academic degrees than is sensible) refusing to kow-tow to a parliamentarian, to pay proper obeisance to that worthy personage.

If these two are not persuasive, perhaps the saga of the Judicial Service Commission, the former Chief Registrar of the Judiciary and a former member of the Judicial Service Commission should suffice. When the Judiciary decided to acquire forty Mercedes-Benz limos for judges in 2012, this blogger warned that it was a sign that the graft that characterises public service had found a home in the judiciary. So did many Kenyans who challenged the rationales proferred by the former Chief Registrar and the former member of the Commission. But the judiciary doubled down and decided to buy the Chief Justice a mansion.

The Auditor-General examined the judiciary's books. He found money missing. The former member of the Commission and the former Chief Registrar had a falling out. Allegations were made. Counter-allegations were made in return. The Chief Registrar was fired. She appealed to a parliamentary committee for help and it rode to the rescue. It summoned members of the Commission to appear before it. They refused. It sought to have members of the Commission removed from office. The High Court rudely refused to oblige. The parliamentary committee's chairman made threats. He was ignored. But today, it emerges that neither the former Chief Registrar nor the former member of the Commission was entirely without blood on their shoes. And parliament is today contemplating a new law that "will force public servants to toe the line." I wonder how long before the High Court rudely declares the law (if it is ever assented to in the first place) as stupid as it sounds and shreds it to bits. This could get hairy. Do you see why it is not difficult to ignore parliament or parliamentarians? They make it so damn easy.

Dear Rais

Dear Rais,

It is time you admitted it to yourself. It is pointless to pretend that you do not see what we see, do not fear what we fear, do not know what we know: the men and women whom you have charged with the duty to execute your power to keep the people safe have failed. They continue to fail. Their failures have led to the deaths of Kenyans. Their failures have made you out to be a liar.

It might seem trivial to you, or perhaps it has been trivialised by the men and women you have charged with the safety of the people, but if your government continues to focus all its energy only on the pesky question of national security, you will lose the hearts and minds of the people. It is now almost twelve hours since gunmen opened fire in Mpeketoni. Scores of Kenyans have been murdered. Speculation and suspicion is rife. Yet all we know for sure is that the men and women you have charged with the safety of the people seem clueless; they have been unable to offer assurances that we would believe.

When the Westgate siege - which touched you personally - took place, Kenyans were united foursquare behind you; we supported you because we knew that you would do the right thing. We gave you the benefit of the doubt. We argued that you had hardly settle into your job; your team had yet to gel and work cohesively together. we can no longer do that. You national security team - the men and women you have charged with the safety of the people - are more focused on your next election than in the preservation of the peace or the safety of the people.

Sir, Presidents lose legitimacy if all they care about is their jobs. The presidency is not a job; we did not advertise in the dailies for applicants. We did not care about your curriculum vitae; we believed that your vision for the nation was the best one. You asked us for our vote; we might have had reservations when we gave it to you, but we gave you a strong mandate to govern. In return, you promised to keep us safe. You appointed men and women to do just that. It is time you admitted that David Mole Kimaiyo, Mutea Iringo, Julius Karangi and your entire national security team have failed. They have failed you and they have failed us. It is time for them to go.

We are not entirely oblivious of the lunacy that s the Saba Saba strategy of the Minority Party and we know that you must engage them politically. But your coalition is making your life difficult; you seem to have switched off from the politics and as a result you are getting pummelled from every direction. If you want the people to turn their focus from the inanities of the Minority Party, you must do something bold: sack your national security team; appoint an interim one; hold a commission to determine what we need to do as a nation to avoid being the target of brigands, gangsters and terrorists; and make the commission's report public. If you give us your trust - and confidence - you will not have to worry about your next election. If you insist in following the lead that has been given by the current national security team, it is not the next election that should scare you but that the lunacies of the Minority Party will gain popular support.


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...