Thursday, December 31, 2015

Promise

There was one massive disappointment, and I kick myself each time I think about it. But it is overshadowed by the one massive win. Life is balance, isn't it? The best thing about it, though, wasn't the win; it was the promise of the future. The chance that I have now is one that I never thought I'd ever get and now that I have it, I am making choices and decisions that were alien just a year ago. They reminded me that I may plan all I want, but a random thing like a smile or a wayward canine ir an unexpected mole or stems to kill for, makes all the difference and that difference, my friends, is promise.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

All hail the Chairman

I spent a beautiful three days in the company of the most exciting person in the world. He is a bundle of energy. He has a laugh that is overpowering, and a giggle that is so infectious that once he gets going, the whole house gets going. He still has no clue what "words" are, but when he turns his big, beautiful eyes to you, you get the message pretty fast. He has simply refused to do the crawl-walk-run thing, and simply skipped the crawl part. He is definitely the apple of his father's eye, and his mother's pride and joy. More than anything, my nephew is most definitely the Chairman of the Board. All hail the Chairman!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A thing of wonder

What a year! I thought that Kenya had found its nadir in the cauldron of 2007/2008's post-election conflagration that threatened to burn down the whole country. But 2015 has proven a true heartbreaker. The callousness demonstrated by officials of the Government has proven, if more proof were needed, that the hoi polloi are none but political cannon fodder. 

The Garissa University College massacre paled in comparison to the Westgate Mall siege, yet official government tears were not shed for the one hundred and forty seven students massacred as police assets were used to ferry fatcats to the scene of the massacre and the families of high ranking police officials to Mombasa. The lives of the 147 were celebrated in foreign capitals and by civil society windbags, but the official government and the official opposition only paid lip service to those lives snuffed out in their prime.

Do you remember the 1,300 Kenyans who were brutally murdered in 2007/2008 and the 600,000 who were "internally" displaced? Do you? Someone sure does in 2015 because they have done a pretty damn good job of making sure that Kenyans don't talk about it ever again. Instead, Kenyans have been treated to the perverse spectacle of grown men and women acting like asses at international conferences, getting paid to be international pests, all so that words like "murder", "rape", "international crimes" and "forcible displacement of persons" don't mean what everyone thinks they mean. The 2015 Assembly of State Parties meeting at The Hague was the bluntest message possible that the victims and the dead of 2007/2008 don't matter at all.

Then came the fiddles with our hard-earned taxes. 109,000-shilling wheelbarrows. 2 million-shillings Facebook pages. 791 million-shilling three-person tenders. Now-you-see-t-now-you-don't billions from sovereign bonds. International, multi-country junkets to study fine dining. Mileage claims for journeys not taken. Loans granted without security. Kenyans were told to mind their own business or they would live to regret it. 2015 reminded Kenyans why they so loathed the KANU era because the new fiddles may have a veneer of sophistication about them, but in truth they are the incarnation of the KANU era smash-and-grab that minted billionaires from dust.

What a year, but I bet 2016 will top it all. Not the terrorism. Mandera Kenyans are proving rather daring in defending their fellow-Kenyans against terrorists. On the financial fiddles, they will either go big or burn the National Treasury down, because 2017, yes sir, is an election year. Don't forget the 2016 referenda, which will be a dry run for how many more billions than the paltry 250 Eurobond billions they will be able to yank it out of the public coffers. 2017, and the twelve months leading up to the general elections, will witness an unrivalled avarice a voracious appetite for public monies, an unapologetic resurrection of ghosts long thought to be buried in the ash-heap of the 2002 genera elections. We have lost billions already. 2016 will give us the first trillion-shilling swindle and it will be a thing of wonder.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2016

It's a little hard to believe, 
But it is a wonderful world, 
And getting better.
 
Thank God.
 










I can't wait,
For what I should,
Or know I should,
Because I just can't.

2016 beckons...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Law Society: Stuck in the past.

Despite the Law Society of Kenya Act (No. 21 of 2014), the Law Society is a caricature of a Bar association stuck in a colonial world; the only new thing is a change in titles. The statutory scheme contemplated by the LSK Act retains the hide-bound ideas of the repealed Act, the colonial sensibilities inherited by the Black Bar, and the centralisation of power beloved by fascists and Ugandan despots. There is nothing innovative about the Act or the Society. In many respects the Law Society apes the mindset of the mandarins that keep the lights on in Harambee House, the place where ideas go to die and where the asylum is no longer under the control of the medical staff.

And like a fascist government, the Law Society is enamoured of the accouterments of power: a council; a loyal hatchet man (Secretary/CEO); white elephants (IAC); regular "elections"; titles, titles, TITLES (Mr President!); obsequious obedience from the serfs—sorry, members. Crucially, like all fascist governments, it is bereft of ideas and in a slow decline, enlivened, every now and then by half-measures such as Act No. 21 of 2014.

If this was an isolated thing, I would let it go. But looking at the "manifestos" of the candidates for President of the Council, I fear we are about to enter the accelerating lane in the continued decline of the Law Society. I just saw a candidate from the wayward town of Nakuru marshalling the advocates in Nakuru to sign a petition to have the Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court removed from office because, among other things, the Chief Justice has not "posted enough land and environment judges to Nakuru". This prompted the Secretary/CEO to wade in with "this is a cheap publicity stunt when you are seeking an elective position in LSK". These are the major issues of the day being addressed by the Society and the more ambitious members seeking titles and the offices that come with titles.

Members should consider whether they need a national Bar association, run from the centre, having outposts managed by loyalists unwilling to rock the boat in case they fall out of favour with "the president." Isn't time, in the spirit of devolution, for the Law Society to lead the way again? The fascist centralisation of power has engendered controversies, the latest being the IAC but the way be charted by the pro-government/anti-government law suits of the 1990s. If the Law Society wasn't one central bar association, but several bar association, perhaps based on the branches, white elephants like the IAC wouldn't crop up, unless the several bar associations' members wanted it in the first place. But in the centralised commissariat that is the Council of the Law Society, the voice of the entire membership was not heard as the Council cooked up this monstrosity that is the IAC.

It is time to break up the Law Society and promote more localism to reflect the changes in Kenya. It has proven impossible for the Council to adequately address the professional needs of 8,000 advocates, pandering to the whims of the members from Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu at the expense of the rest. The professional standards should be common across all bar associations, and there is no reason why advocates from Wajir or West Pokot or Kapenguria or Kibwezi should be held hostage to the diktats of the commissars in Nairobi under the thumb of "the president." That no candidate for office has considered this is not surprising; after all, many of them were commissars at one time or the other. Every now and then English homilies hit home: you really can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Law Society of Kenya: What a waste.

You know an institution is bereft of ideas, crippled by mediocrity, sclerotic with mendacity and completely out of touch with reality when the one change it tom-toms to the whole wide world is a change in titles. The Law Society has hit a nadir; by obsessively picking over the change from "Chairman of the Council" to "President of the Council," I am left with little doubt that the Law Society will not be welcoming the future with open arm, but will have its eyes firmly shut as it buries its head in the sand, in denial about the world in which it is supposed to operate in.

We have spoken of reform. We have listened to speeches about reform. We have read and reread numerous paper on reforms. Yet the Law Society remains in crisis. The best example of the decrepitude of the Law Society, especially of its leadership's decrepit thinking, is the fiasco over the International Arbitration Centre, the IAC, a boondoggle of doubtful value and the reason for the schism between the Young Turks and the Ancien Regime. The Law Society, like the medical doctors' Board and the engineer's Board, plays three key roles: it maintains the professional standards of its members; it advises the people on legal, especially constitutional, matters; and it looks out for the welfare of its members. The Council of the Law Society has failed to persuade members that the IAC contributes to any of its goals.

The Secretary to the Council, who is the Chief Executive Officer, once published a screed of breathtaking tone-deafness on the, to him anyway, vital importance of a dress code for advocates of the High Court. How the Council of the Law Society permitted this astounding document to be published further demonstrates the paucity of ideas abroad in the Society. Rather than evoke the spirit of the Constitution, including the political tae kwon-do that saw it being promulgated, that proclaims "justice shall be administered without undue regard to procedural technicalities" at Article 159(2)(d), the Law Society, through its Secretary/CEO, set down in writing whether or not women counsel would be permitted to wear shoes that revealed their toes. How long did it take these seniors to come up with that rule? Had they or their fellow seniors on the Bench been scandalised by some toes, bring ill-repute upon the other members? I do not know; but surely, when grown men and women choose to focus on pediatric acceptability rather than on the crisis in professional training, you know that they are not just scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to ideas, but that they have given up thinking as a responsibility to far.

None of the candidates who have offered themselves for office come the February elections inspires much confidence. Insiders with insiders' knowledge of the Council's affairs, they are best treated as more of the same. It is almost certain that they too will fight the general membership tooth and nail to see the IAC imbroglio decided in the Council's favour. You can abet your last shilling that the new Council will zealously "protect the traditions of the Law Society" like making damn sure women counsel do not wear peep-toed shoes and that if a man has the temerity to wear a bright pink tie to court, he should be flogged in the town square.

We have serious problems in the profession. Among them, of course, is the crisis in professional training at both the university and the Kenya School of Law. The Council of Legal Education will not help; like many government agencies, it is only interested in one thing: power and expansion of its mandate. The School itself has been starved of leadership for so long that it will follow the Pied Piper to its utter ruin, a path it is on currently. The head of the legal profession in Kenya, the Attorney-General, remains hostage to politics, politics, politics and so he is of no use.

Kenya proclaims that it is a capitalist market, where merit and competition are the keys to success and wealth. That proclamation is disbelieved by the Council of Legal Education and the Council of the Law Society, and it is why the Law School remains a one-building affair in Nairobi and the professional qualifications and professionalism of both universities and Law Societies seems not to have troubled the members of the two councils. It is the IAC, and the rent-seeking it seems to have engendered, that animates candidates for the moronically grandiose office of President of the Law Society. How low the mighty have fallen.

French lessons

Like a moving target, the story of Air France Flight AF463 is a testament to Harambee House's crisis management capabilities. What we know of AF463 until it made an emergency landing at Moi International Airport in Mombasa remains the same through all the iterations of the story: somewhere overt the Indian Ocean during what would have been an eleven-hour flight between Mauritius and France, a suspicious package was discovered in a lavatory. By all accounts the flight crew acquitted themselves well as they investigated the package, keeping the passengers calm and landing safely in Mombasa.

From there on things take on a touch of the farcical. After the plane landed and the passengers evacuated from it, Kenyan authorities called in the police and the Kenya Navy to remove the suspicious package from the plane. At first, the police stated that it is a bomb and that it had been safely detonated. Then they changed their story and stated that it had not been detonated, but had been disarmed. Then they changed their story once more and stated that it was not a bomb, but a carefully designed hoax meant to sow panic among the passengers and cause the plane to crash in the ocean. In any case, the police detained six passengers, including the one who discovered the suspicious package in alerted the flight crew, for interrogation.

The Air France CEO, in Paris, had a more measured response to the affair: he recognised and lauded the professionalism of the Boeing B-777 crew, and he reminded the world that since the Paris attacks, Air France has suffered a spate of hoaxes similar to this recent one. He promised that Air France would weather this one too and that it would continue working with its partners and airports' authorities wherever it flies to in order to make the flying experience on Air France a good one. Kenyan airport authorities and security bureaucrats could learn a thing or two from M. Frederic Gagey abou how to communicate information and what information to communicate.

Kenyans are used to the national security mindset of its securocrats; the French are just being introduced to it. While senior bureaucrats, including the Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary, flew down to Mombasa to "take charge of things," they left behind a confused machinery at Harambee House that will not take action unless expressly directed by the Mombasa-bound securocrats. The confused social media posts that came forth from the Ministry and the National Police demonstrated that a habit of following orders down the chain of command blindly had left the secucocracy with men and women incapable of thinking innovatively, creatively or proactively. It coems through every time securocrats fail to agree on a message and its form.

I is something of an embarassment that Kenyans believe outside news sources more than they believe their own government, even when the man with the message is relatively trustworthy like Mr Nkaissery, the security minister. Online voodoo like the one practiced by the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit has one little to overhaul this legitimacy deficit. Until the institutions with the message wrench themselves from the pernicious colonial and post-colonial legacies, Mr Nkaissery will remain a relatively good man in a vile institution, and nothing he says will ring true for the Kenyans who believe that securocrats don't care two shits about the safety of the people, but obsess neurotically and psychotically about the security of the President. Air France just got a whiff of that.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Happy Anniversary, George and Polly

Jamhuri Day is a little special to me because George and Polly got married on a rain-soaked Jamhuri Day. If there's one thing you have to do before you get flattened by a Citi Hoppa, it is to meet George and Polly. Think of them as a power couple, without the megalomania, the narcissism, the moody-neuroticism, the overweening desire to me-too. Think of them as milk and honey, kittens on trampolines, cute dalmatian puppies, movie-perfect sunsets, full-moon Sundays and true-blue Italian chocolate-chip-cookies and espressos. If they weren't that perfect...well, they are!

I remember the first time I met Polly. She probably thought I was an odd brother for George to have. She probably still thinks so today, except all she keeps reminding me - no, demanding - is, "Siku kuu!" (Whatever that means.) I remember her smile, because when she smiled, George smiled. Men are so easy! But what's amazing is that her smile has remained the same since 2006 when I first saw her with George. His, too, has remained automatic too. She smiles, he smiles. He smiles, she smiles.

I've known George all his life. He was the only one of the three of us who never fell down the stairs, even when he was two. (Rei and I have an intimate knowledge of those beige/off-white risers.) He's always been the best; he's remained the best, getting better since meeting the beauteous Polly. (Just in case you're wondering, Polly has equally beauteous sisters whose smiles, in my estimation, are likely to collectively raise the blood temperature of all men in short order.)

I don't get to see them often enough, mostly because I am an idiot when it comes to these things. I'd love to, and thank God I have Her to interpret these things for me, and Rei and Lizz to make sure I get the interpretations right. But I love every moment I get with them, even amidst the incessant "Siku kuu!" demands. They are special and everyone whose ever met them can sense just how special they are. They are special to me because they are the true reflection of style, poise, character, honour, grace and love—especially God's incomparable love. It's been awhile, but Happy Anniversary, George and Polly. (Siku kuu inasija!)

(Oh, and to Jennifer and Andrew, I'm glad you both got Jamhuri Day on your anniversary lists too.—Jennifer and Edgar meet Andrew and Lydia.)

The Chairman and Her

There's this picture of Her with the Chairman in her arms. The Chairman, by the by, thinks I am a monster and will scream his head off if I even breath the same air as he. Anyway, there's this picture of Her and the Chairman. It's black and white. He seems content. At least, as the picture is being taken, He has decided not to take umbrage and remind me that I am not His favourite chew toy. It is one of those pictures that remind me, every now and then, that I am in trouble.

It was a public holiday and the rains had abated long enough for Musyoki and I to not screw up the nyama choma; our frequent Dunhill breaks threatened to upend that smooth arrangement. Anyway, She and the Chairman came round the corner, with Her whispering something in the Chairman's ear that made Him smile in that incredible way that tells you that there are a whole bunch of dads buying shotguns because he is going to break a thousand hearts. Anyway, the Chairman and She came round the corner and the moment demanded a snap, as we used to say in Masaku.

The Chairman did what he usually does when I am in the vicinity: He whimpered in displeasure. She did what She is so good at: She said something, I refuse to say what, and the Chairman turned his big, soulful eyes towards her near-perfect countenance, and the moment is now immortalised in ones-and-zeros. (Snaps have changed a lot since the days of Agfa.) No, I won't be sharing the snap with you; that is a privilege only the Chairman's El Rei and Lizz can give you. Besides, I don't want the Chairman coming after me in his Timbalands when he finally learns how to kick.

She smiled, and the Chairman experienced what I get to experience every now and then: bliss. She has rather strong arms, so the Chairman was in a safe pair. But it is the voice that makes the sun that much sunnier, the clouds that much cottony, the moon that much soulful, and the beach that much whiter-and-sandy. When the day gets a little longer, the Chairman and She, digitally immortalised, make it all better. I just thought you should know.

Mutuma Mathiu is right

In 2013, Parliament considered the Parliamentary Society of Kenya Bill, 2013. It's object was, "The object and purpose of this Act is to provide a legal framework for the participation of former members in the promotion of the ideals of parliamentary democracy,promote networking amongst former members and facilitate their reintegration into professional life." It proposed to establish a Parliamentary Society of Kenya," and among its functions was, "facilitate the maintenance and promotion of the status and well being of former members of Parliament."

It's memorandum of objects and reasons states, in extenso
Most members of parliament abandon their careers and spend most of their time in public service. It becomes quite difficult for such members to feel part and parcel of the ordinary civilian populations and their employment prospects are greatly reduced. It also becomes psychologically difficult for such members to adjust to life outside parliament and this affects such members psychologically. As a result there are stories of ex-members including their partners suffering nervous breakdown, divorce, heart attacks, alcoholism, school debts and even bankruptcy.

This Bill therefore seeks to come to the rescue of former members, some of whom have offered selfless service to the country. The Bill is aimed at ensuring that former members receive the necessary counseling which is important in ensuring that they are able to get back to ordinary life. The Bill also aims at ensuring that employment prospects of such members are not too badly diminished and in this respect the Act aims at offering consultancy service to members so as to ensure that they get into gainful employment.

The Bill establishes the Parliamentary Society of Kenya whose functions among others is to facilitate professional counseling services, provide advise on retirement, advise on re-employment or re-training and financial planning to former members of Parliament. Further the Board is empowered to provide outreach programmes where former members of Parliament can visit and speak at universities, academies, schools and voluntary groups to give their experiences, particular skills and a clear idea as to how Parliament works.
Mr Mathiu was addressing the youth who are mesmerised by the meteoric rise of public figures such as Babu Owino and Steve Mbogo, and the perceived fame and wealth of Vera Sidika and Huddah Monroe, who seem to live lives of luxury. However, Mr Owino, Mr Mbogo, Ms Sidika and Ms Monroe are no different from the parliamentarian who drafted the Parliamentary Society of Kenya Bill, 2013.

Parliamentarians are paid an exorbitant salary. Before the promulgation of Kenya's second Constitution in 2010, Parliamentarians were at the heart of financial scams that impoverished the nation and imperilled the public finances of Kenya. In the KANU era, parliamentarians were demigods, making decisions that had far-reaching ramifications on the lives of ordinary Kenyans. They made a good fist of isolating themselves from the people they purported to represent, a situation that persists today, and no one can claim with a straight face that they lived lives of penury.

Parliamentarians pioneered the art of wealth sans hard work. Even a back-of-the-envelope assessment of the worth of all previous Parliaments since Independence will demonstrate that we barely broke even as a nation for the national treasure Kenya expended for the luxury of parliamentarians, Cabinets and the judiciary. To demand, as the Bill did, that we must expend more national treasure to rehabilitate the unrehabilitatable parliamentary class was an affront that shouldn't have surprised us. This mindset is responsible for the frequently unrequited dream of wealth without hard work harboured by a growing cohort of youth, star-struck by "celebrities" and "socialites" of dubious repute. And when the youth are emulating their parents, who have adopted the parliamentarians' mindset, we are truly at risk of losing this nation to scams that do nothing but create millionaires and billionaires while yoking our fortunes to the World Bank, the IMF and the Chinese.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Data? What data?

The Traffic Act, chapter 403 of the laws of Kenya, is designed to be the perfect tool for police extortion. So it appears from the current campaign by the National Police Service and the National Transport and Safety Authority to amend the Traffic (Minor Offences) Rules, 1972, to raise the limit of fines levied under the rules for minor traffic offences and to provide for an electronic (read: mobile money) means for paying the fine. The NTSA calls them instant fines. That, dear people, is the sum and substance of the NTSA brain trust's solution to speeding and other traffic no-nos.

Both the National Police and the NTSA have data on road traffic accidents; it remains a mystery whether they have data on road traffic accidents, their frequency, a demographic breakdown of victims, a breakdown of the classes of victims (motorists, passengers, pedestrians), and so on and so forth. Data, my friend Gathara know, is the foundation of policy and accurate data is the foundation of good policy. Despite its mandate to conduct research, no one truly believes that the NTSA is really interested in data or accurate data; it is more interested in fines and fees. That is a shame.

The Traffic (Minor Offences) Rules were first enacted in 1965 and other than the 1972 amendments, they have not troubled the makers of policy. The recent reanimated interest in the Rules is only so that the NTSA can increase the quantum of fines and make the process of paying them that much faster through mobile money. In its zeal to go after traffic offenders, the NTSA has not even attempted to analyse the data it has so that it can determine whether what is needed is a stiffer enforcement of the law or a change in the approach to road transport safety.

The colonial mindset in the Government is to punish, punish, punish. When in doubt, punish. When not in doubt, punish. The statute books are a litany of don'ts, and if you do, the penalty shall bes. The offences-and-penalties clauses are the only thing that matters to institutions such as the NTSA and the National Police all care about, because they are avenues for rent-seeking and extortion. (If you doubt this, read through the anodyne sounding Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Act, 2013, and stare in wonder at the administrative mishaps that have become criminal offences.)

Fr a safety authority, the NTSA focuses shockingly little on its safety mandate and more on its authority mandate, and this shows through whenever its officers accompanies policemen on night-time drunk-driving raids across the country. There aren't enough NTSA officers to go around to make these raids a success. A reasonable suspicion is that the NTSA and the police are conducing these raids for selfish and nefarious ends.

Some of us (not me, though) have had an opportunity to watch traffic laws being enforced in advanced economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany (with its famed Autobahns), France, Japan and Brazil. There is graft too, in these places, but the rules themselves are pretty logical and easily enforced. The Byzantine nature of the Traffic Act makes it difficult to enforce effectively. If the NTSA and the National Police want to amend the Act, first they must seek to understand what the Traffic Act intended to do, whether it has done it, if it has, whether it as done it well, and whether we need a complete overhaul or not. That is something that the Kenya Law Reform Commission can help them with. But I have no doubt that the NTSA will ram through its proposed amendments, whether they improve the situation or not.

A waste of space

"What a spineless wuss!"

If that wasn't your first exclamation, then you've missed quite a bit over the past two weeks. A while back, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Service Commission was so alarmed at the state of affairs of the Commission's management of its finances, that he, fearing graft was the reason matters were fraught, approached the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission to examine its processes and recommend ways to improve things. He did not choose wisely. That was his first mistake.

The anti-corruption boys went over Parliament's financial management affairs. There's an old saying: to a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail. For the EACC, every investigation is an anti-corruption investigation and every anomaly in any financial system is an indicator of a corrupt act or an economic crime. It's report to the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Service Commission was a litany of allegations against Members of Parliament, alleging financial improprieties that, when revealed to the public, somehow managed to lower the image of parliamentarians than the last time it was lowered. The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Service Commission accepted the report, and the recommendations, of the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission and promised to take steps to see that they were implemented. That was his second mistake.

When parliamentarians, especially the ones adversely named, got a hold of the EACC report, they were livid. They made their feelings known in all fora. It didn't matter whether they were vetting ministerial nominees or debating the Statute Law (Miscellaneous) Amendments Bill, 2015, they didn't miss an opportunity to bring up the unfairness of it all: of being "investigated" by teh EACC at the behest of the Speaker of the National Assembly. It remains murky whether the Chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission called a meeting with parliamentarians or parliamentarians summoned the Speaker of the National Assembly to a dressing down, either way, when they met, he received such an earful about the EACC investigation, report, findings and recommendations, that he not only apologised for ever inviting the EACC to their house, he castigated the EACC for its poor professionalism. That was his third mistake.

Kenyans are pitifully aware that the the leadership of Parliament, in both chambers no less, is pitiable. The behaviour of the Speaker of the National Assembly/Chairperson of the Parliamentary Service Commission has been lamentable. If he wanted an examination of the financial management structure of his commission, he should have called on the Auditor-General, who is the nation's top accountant, and who would have been in far better and authoritative position to recommend how to improve the system. He didn't and instead chose the EACC. When he received the report of the EACC and accepted its recommendations, he should have stood firm in the face of parliamentarians self-serving anger. He didn't and he chose to jettison the recommendations. But his worst wuss-like behaviour was when he not only backed off from an investigation he had asked for and a report he had accepted, he threw his own choice investigator under the bus. What. A. Wuss!

The report and its recommendations are in the public domain. The findings against MPs might have been unsubstantiated, if you choose to believe the self-serving MPs, but the recommendations by the EACC are meant to address real problems i the commission when it comes to the public finance management infrastructure. This is not something that the Speaker can run away from. If he fails to make changes, he will not only b a wuss, he'll be a waste of parliamentary space.

Death won't stop me

I remember the first time it all turned to shit. It turned my stomach. I stared at that damn piece of paper, looked at the comments by my professors, and I knew for damn sure that it was all over. I stood there feeling foolish. I thought back over everything I had done, every decision I had made, and all I wanted was hit somebody. I hated that piece of paper, and I hated the asshole who'd drafted it, and I hated the idiot who had delivered it. It wasn't the worst day of my life, but it came pretty close.

It all worked out in the end. I wasn't the first lawyer to get a bad result; I will not be the last. It took me a long time to accept that very, very few of us have an uninterrupted forward momentum. Everything has a rhythm to it; ebbs and flows, ups and downs, fits and starts. Some of us suffer terrible reversals and still others face terrible catastrophes. These are the truths that feel-good pop entertainment fails to show us.

Some of us are so deeply engrossed in our social-media worlds and the close-knittedness of our relationships, secure in the comforting cocoon of the love and friendship of our family and friends, that we forget that life has a nasty habit of causing us pain and disappointment. We must face them and move forward. Or we can idle for a while as we collect ourselves, get a hold of our emotions, and act when it is clear that the pain or disappointment hasn't killed us.

I went on to a career that, while not exactly Tony Starkian, has been more satisfying than frustrating than I could have predicted. I have done more in the past five years, accomplished more than I thought, achieved more than I hoped, and built a reputation that I jealously protect than that day of rage could have predicted. I have had the support of my friends, the love of my family, the jealousies of my competitors and the sabotage of my enemies to spur me inward and forward. I am slowly perfecting my craft, bringing what little wit and wisdom that I possess to getting it better and better every day. One day, with dedication and perseverance, I will be the best at it. Or I'll die trying.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

They still don't get it.

The verdict need not wait until all the proof has been adduced. The Government of Kenya and the Government of Nairobi City have proven that when it comes to running global talk-shops, they are in a class of their own. The veneer of civility that the two governments are capable of is a sight to see. Streets look as if they were a parade boot that has been spit-shined by a United States Marine. The bits of the city that are likely to be encountered by the visiting hordes are "flooded" with uniformed police bearing G3s, AK-47s and H&K MP5s. If you are white and visiting, Nairobi is an oasis of calm, clean and relaxing and, with the evanescent exuberance that comes naturally to Nairobians, a place that you will definitely want to revisit, again and again.

Behind the veneer, though, is a sad reality, harsh in its immediacy. You only have to venture east of Moi Avenue for it to become clear that Nairobi is schizophrenic, just like the two governments that call it home. The presence of uniformed armed policemen does not imbue that zone with a sense of safety or security, but fear. Further east, out of the business district, are mountains of garbage, rivers of burst sewerage, in the rain, muddy and potholed roads, muddy sidewalks (pavements), burnt-out street lights...These are not places that the delegates to the World Trade Organisation's Ministerial Conference will ever see, if they know what is good for them.

They will have been impressed by the cleared-off streets; Nairobians are best advised to keep off City Hall Way, Parliament Road, Harambee Avenue, Taifa Road. These have been reserved for the delegates. Nairobians simply can't be trusted by both their governments to put their best foot forward, even if these "security measures" inconvenience Nairobians and compel them to make unnecessary alterations to their itineraries. After all, as both governments declare, the conference will be good for us all and so we should sacrifice and "bear with them."

Promises were made to the residents of Nairobi; about the only one that has been kept is ever greater surveillance of the people. The billions being spent on the Safaricom network have gifted us hi-tech surveillance cameras that record our every movement, night and day. But the things that make the lives of residents bearable remain on the back-burner: surface drains need to be fixed; sewers need to be unblocked; public transport needs to be un-fucked; traffic needs an adults-only approach; and small-scale vendors and hawkers need a true market of their own. Both governments have failed nairobians. The visiting delegates, on the other hand, will enjoy all the things Nairobians really need. As it should be, I can hear the self-righteous in the upper echelons of the two governments. Pity.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Laughing through the rage.

Tell me you weren't just a little bit jealous that a fairy godmother wasn't stuffing millions of shillings in your bank account every year simply for driving (or flying) home? This "scandal" is delicious in so many ways, but in only the proper way is it truly delicious: nobody actually knows how much parliamentarians have stuffed down their trousers/skirts/whatever. Which is tragic. But still funny.

For a brief period when I wasn't busy hating my father and plotting to disown my mother, my father decreed that I would run a business. A small shop, it turned out. I hated that thing. It smelled funny and I couldn't just make off with the Sportsmans, which happened to be my favourites then. I had to account for every single damn thing in that shop, from the Big-G to the 1-litre Coca-cola, from the sachet Blue Band to the 50g tins of Simba Mbili Curry Powder, from the assorted BAT offerings to the KCC half-litre packs of long-life milk to the Akyda already going bad.

Every morning at the ass-crack of dawn, I would stand shivering on my father's front stoop - it was front-of-the-house-duka - and wait for the milk guy and the bread van. I'd hand over yesterday's crate; they handed me full crates. Then I would count everything, the milk or the bread and make sure that the expiry dates matched and that they weren't expiring today. Then, and only then, would I hand over the cash. Then I'd write all that down in the cash-bloody-fucking-book. tweny-four packets of milk. Sixteen loaves of bread. I must have had a psychotic break because I don't remember the unit cost. Every time some of my dad's pitiable neighbours bough something, I'd write it down in that damn book. Number of unites at the unit price (whip out calculator - because I kept getting Ds in math) and tot up the total. Every single transaction. I hated it. But I never lost money; and every now and then I'd make some on top.

Obviously the bunge cash office is busier - all those dwarf-planet-sized egos and hairdos looking to get first, fast service and they will be fucked if they stand around as if they are waiting to negotiate something delicate with the bursar or the bursar's assistant. But the same rule really does apply: this is the money I have in my hands. If I give you a cent, your name goes down, the amount next to it, and the security, if any, next to that. Bunge cash people say the don't really do that. It's like they keep getting held up every month by the same hoods. Don't tell me you don't see the funny? Then we find out - never mind how, mheshimiwa - wabunge get really, really upset. Not at the bunge cash office monkeys; they get upset at their Speaker!

The little shit called someone to help him keep track of things at the bunge cash office. What kind of idiot wants to reduce waste in bunge, the wabunge are asking. Kwani, does this guy hate money or something, they wonder. I mean, it's not as if anyone knew and even if they did, wabunge wako na Parliament Square and all the hoi polloi and their civil society shithead friends can't do jack shit about it. So why the fuck did the Speaker just expose their fat asses to ridicule like that? In other words, Nia yake ni nini?

That is the funny: the equivalent of highway bandits accusing their babe-in-the-woods leader of bad faith because he doesn't want to hold up people on the highway any more. Kenyans are being bullied into taking on more and more fiscal burdens in the name of austerity and sacrifice all the while the bullies are spending our taxes like drunken pirates on shore leave! It is tragic. But it is funny.

What a waste

Allow me, good people, to bring up once again the utter uselessness of the Government of Nairobi City County. I don't know what the eggheads in that government have against me and members of the walking public, but the hostility is getting out of hand. Now the city fathers are afraid that the walking masses will do something bad to pavements - those ones, it seems, have been outlawed for the duration of the World Trade Organisation's conference. If you have been on Taifa Road this morning, the only place that is left for you to walk on is the road. The police don't want you anywhere near their steel fence; Uncle Kidero doesn't want you anywhere near the pavement.

But that is neither here nor there. I am prepared to live with serikali idiocy, but only if that idiocy isn't idiocy for idiocy's sake. Do you remember that building that collapsed in Nyama Kima (the junction of River Road and Ronald Ngala Street)? That building now stands tall and proud. But that stretch of road between Tom Mboya Street and that Nyama Kima building is, more or less, a permanent car park for Thika Road-bound buses. The other side of Ronald Ngala Street between Uyoma Street and Tom Mboya Street is a parking for Umoinner Sacco, the most ill-mannered, reckless and ill-tempered Sacco in Nairobi.

Mr Kidero's city will playhost to thousands of delegates to the WTO conference; another feather in his cap after the visits by the President of the United States and the Pope. He seems to have no idea about what to do with all these fancy-shmancy visitors. Public transport is still organised like a mafia racket. Traffic is run as if by toddlers with bumper cars. Drainage? Don't be stupid. The Central Business District, Westlands, bits of Kiambu Road, bits of Argwings Kodhek Road and that vast hinterland known as Karen are okay, as far as you can tell, but the rest of the city is one giant rubbish tip. He kept Obama and the Pontiff from seeing the true state of his city; he will not succeed with the WTO conference-circuit adventurous set to camp out in Nairobi till the 22nd looking for he "authentic" Nairobi. They will all go back home thinking that Nairobi is one giant slum that has a few houses and offices for the rich.

Why has this county government failed so spectacularly to sort out its solid waste problem, when less high-powered teams dealt with it? It is like all that intellectual firepower is a camouflage, gods know for what. What a complete waste. At some point we have to ask whether we want technocrats anywhere near our matatus or our garbage, because the ones we have seem to have turned up their noses at the sight of the great unwashed and decided to lest us stew in our own fecal matter. They are more comfortable supping with presidents, popes and foreigners than in governing like we had elected them to do. What a waste.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Publish or die.

Raila Odinga is a like a Jedi Master. He has managed to make the President's anti-corruption war all about him. He has so discombobulated the Jubilee Alliance that the ruling alliance's members simply don't have a rational way of taking him n except threaten the doyen of Opposition Politics with "dire consequences" and sundry other bad things. Mr Odinga, in his own inimitable way, has gotten under the Jubilee Alliance's skin, and that itch is becoming a full-blown rash.

When he orchestrated the resignation of the former cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Jubilee had more or less uttered the Kimunyan "over my dead body." He did it using Shaka's, of the Zulu fame, two-pronged flank attack by training not just the CORD's guns on the former minister, but key members of the Jubilee team's too. She was the darling of the presidency: keen, hardworking, intelligent, youthful and got things done. She most likely had nothing to do with the loss of the 791 million that is missing from the National Youth Service's coffers, but that matters little because she had said she wouldn't resign, the president had said she wouldn't resign, his party had said she wouldn't resign, but resign she did.

Mr Odinga alleges that there is something amiss with the sovereign bond Kenya floated on the Irish Stock Exchange. The explanations from the National Treasury have not done much to inspire confidence that the issuance of the sovereign bond is on the up and up. Nor have the self-conscious shrieks from the presidency or the ruling alliance. There is a fear abroad in the alliance that if the former Prime Minister has trained his guns on the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, there is a slight chance that he too will be forced from office. This is an embarrassment that the alliance would like to avoid at all costs.

That says something about the people making decisions in government: few of them have the measure of Mr Odinga. He has them in a corner but they can still get out of it if they are smart. Panicky reactions, like the Jamhuri Day addresses, will not do. Knee-jerk reactions, like the ones by the alliance's parliamentary leadership, are a waste of time. They need to take on Mr Odinga in the one arena where he is vulnerable: messaging and propaganda. It will also require the kind of tough decisions that they have been unwilling to take so far.

The Eurobond was undoubtedly a success. It was oversubscribed and priced at a very competitive interest rate. Everything after its issue was wrongly handled. Being the first one Kenya has ever issued, the main aim should have been to keep everything on the up and up. Accountability and transparency were jettisoned in the mad rush to get things done. That was the same mistake the former devolution minister made and it cost her her job. So far the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary has done a piss-poor job of explaining things. It is only a matter of time before the presidency has to consider the viability of letting him go and finding a new minister.

More importantly, every scrap of paper that has anything to do with the Eurobond must be published. Mr Odinga wins when the presidency instinctively retreats to secrecy and threats by the anti-corruption commission, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the the parliamentary leadership of the ruling alliance. That secrecy gives Mr Odinga the opportunity to say that Kenyans are being swindled. Publish everything and he loses the oxygen for his fires. Keep things secret and Mr Odinga thrives. If the ruling alliance is not careful, its penchant for secrecy will cost them another minister. Losing seven ministers in one five-year term is not an appealing prospect. Losing two to resignations is a disaster. But doing so because of Mr Odinga's machinations will be catastrophic. Like they tell doctoral candidates, publish or die!

Burundi isn't France.

When the Russian Federation annexed the Crimea in eastern Ukraine, the world responded muscularly, and lost. Russia still calls the shots in the Crimea. When Rwanda descended into a genocidal civil war, the world ignored it and almost a million Rwandese died. When South Sudan descended into civil war, the half-hearted attempts to stave off disaster did not stop the displacement of  one-tenth of the population and the immiseration of millions. Now it is Burundi that is descending into civil war while the African Union, the East African Community and the United Nations sit on their hands and pray for a bolt from the blue that will stave off disaster.

Ever since Pierre Nkurunzinza rammed through a constitutional amendment that gave him a third term, and muscled his way to an electoral victory, he has been indulged by the EAC and the AU, and Burundi has slowly descended into civil war. Threats by the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into the Burundi situation have played perfectly into the anti-ICC hands of the AU and the EAC.

Mr Nkurunzinza is a bad man indulged by selfish men. He cuts the figure of a Nero who fiddles while his country burns. He does not seem to have the hold on power that Rwanda's Paul Kagame does, nor that of Yoweri Musevini of Uganda. He may have succeeded in getting the Burundi supreme court to see things his way and the Burundi parliament to rubber-stamp his selfish whim, but he has lost his country and whatever moral authority he may have had to rule. He is now in the style of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the late Mobutu Sese-Seko of the former Zaire in that he is determined to hold onto power long after he has lost the country and the people. And because the world's institutions are unwilling to turn their attention from their wars with ISIS or in Yemen or in Afghanistan or in Ukraine, many more Burundians will die.

The East African Community has taken a very strange approach to resolving the crisis in Burundi. Leadership ought to be offered by Kenya, the most advanced democracy and economy in the regional bloc, but its president is concerned with the security of his deputy who is being tried for international crimes at the ICC and the security of his government which is being roiled by corruption allegations. Uganda and Rwanda, Burundi's closest neighbours have their own fish to fry with their interference in the affairs of the other smouldering cauldron in the Greot Lakes Region: the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose president is unsure whether he should make way for the next president or intervere to shape the next government.

When Burundi finally descends into a full-blown civil war, the entire EAC will be affected. The flow of refugees will engulf all four other EAC partner states. Economies will be upended and communities will be disrupted. But until the EAC takes a stand on the Burundi crisis, the world will watch a country burn. By the time the world comes back with their reconstruction loans and their strings-attached aid packages, it will be too late. A nation will be destroyed and we will watch as the world's leaders wring their hands and in mealy-mouthed sentences promise, "Never again!" Burundi isn't France, and the world has done a good job of reminding us.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Bob Collymore for MCA.

Safaricom is a telecommunications behemoth by any standard, and it leads the way in may respects. It has become such an integral part of our day to day lives that we never stop to think about what it means to have Safaricom in our lives. The bulk of those with mobile phones communicate on the Safaricom network. The bulk of those who go online using smart devices such as tablets, phablets or smartphones do so on the Safaricom network. The bulk of those who use mobile money transfer services, do so on Safaricom's MPesa platform. So it is no surprise that Safaricom leads the way, once more, in transparency as its CEO, Bob Collymore, reveals the details of his wealth.

Safaricom does business with the Government of Kenya, the least not being the multi-billion shilling surveillance network it is building for the Government. Safaricom would like to keep doing business with the Government and Mr Collymore is attuned to the value of symbolic gestures. He is under no obligation to declare what his salary, remuneration or benefits are, but it demonstrates that he has very little t hide when it comes to his management of the affairs of Kenya's most valuable company and in its relations with the Government. The same cannot be said of some of the other billion-shilling companies or their billionaire CEOs. The recent revelations surrounding the Eurobond and the National Youth Service stand in stark contrast to Mr Collymore and Safaricom.

I believe, however, that what Mr Collymore has done is more than being symbolic; it is a signal to the rest of the business community that Mr Collymore intends to play it straight when it comes to his company's affairs and its relations with the Government. The company's largest shareholders is Vodafone, a London-headquartered global telecommunications behemoth which operates in a strictly regulated business environment, and neither the Vodafone CEO nor Mr Collymore would wish to jeopardise their reputations because Kenya's business environment is "dynamic," to say the least.

Some of us sneered when the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, KEPSA, proposed a bribery Bill to the President as a way for the private sector/business community to contribute to the President's war on corruption. Our reasons were founded mostly on the fear that legislation only seemed to encourage greater graft. What Mr Collymore demonstrates is that even in the absence of specific legislation, it is possible for the business community to contribute to the war on corruption by simply embracing as much transparency as they can get away with. Mr Collymore is announcing to the world, and Kenyans in particular, that his fortune has not been made through rent-seeking or dubious contacts with public officials. His wealth is the just reward of a CEO just doing his job.

It is striking that despite the many years he has spent in Kenya running the company, Mr Collymore is yet to be infected by the hubris and arrogance that infects Kenya's rich and powerful. Some of us may envy his toys - the helicopter and the supercar - but none of us hold him in contempt the way we hold some of our most celebrated and lionised business magnates. The causes he has championed outside of a fat bottom line have revealed a man who understands that life is not just about fat bank accounts; for example, the Safaricom Foundation's mission statement is to build communities and transform lives, and I believe this down to leadership like Mr Collymore's and his predecessor, the inimitable Michael Joseph. It is seen in the struggle the company undergoes when it wishes to keep sports sponsorship free of the thuggery prevalent in sports associations offices. If only Safaricom and Mr Collymore had like-minded partners in the business community.

Sadly, Safaricom is the rare company that somehow manages to operate within the law in a very hostile regulatory environment where rent-seeking bureaucrats seem to come out of the shadows at every turn and "well-connected" CEOs seem to live for the opportunity to make a killing from the Consolidated Fund without remorse or shame. Mr Collymore, unwittingly perhaps, exposes his fellow CEOs for the remorseless sharks and their businesses for the scams they are. I just hope he keeps an even head, doesn't take Kenyan citizenship so that he can become an MP or something. If he really wants to hold elected office in Kenya, he should become an MCA; he'd do more good there.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Will bottoms sting?

Kenya has the Penal Code, the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act, the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the Kenya Deposit Insurance Act, the Public Finance Management Act, the Election Campaign Financing Act, the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act and the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. These are about a third of the laws used in the War on Corruption. Kenya is not short of statutory provisions of institutional arrangements in this war. Kenya isn't even short of political will in this war. What Kenya seems to lack is a will.

What I mean - Kenya is unwilling to do the hard things that must be done or take the hard decisions that must be made in order to prevail in this war. Kenyans seems to prefer that their sacred cows be left ell alone and for this Kenyans are prepared to live with a revolving door at Integrity House and quislings everywhere else. The temporal distance between the overhyped chairmanship of PLO Lumumba and the low-key nomination of Philip Kinisu is an indictment of our commitment in this war.

It is why I am a little amused when people sneer at the "lawlessness" of President Magufuli in Tanzania as he goes about firing public officials without any particular authority to do so. Tanzania is not the paragon of anti-corruption virtue its boosters would have you believe; Anne Tibaijuka, a former UN-HABITAT bigwig and a darling of the Kenyan media, was fired by President Kikwete, President Magufuli's predecessor, for corruption. What Tanzania isn't is self-righteous and obsessively self-conscious about its anti-corruption credentials nor so wedded to the idea that public service is the only true route to great wealth, like Kenya is.

What Tanzanian presidents seem to get is that for the people to support the government, hard choices must be taken, like firing favoured Ministers and senior officers of the government as a warning. (Of course, the warning could be that while corruption will be tolerated, blatant corruption will not.) Either way, President Magufuli is leading from the front in what he clearly feels is a crisis situation. Tanzanians, the only constituency that matters, seem on board with his maverick ways. Sooner or later, though, the status of the law will have to be clarified and whether or not he has the powers he seems to exercise with such determination.)

In Kenya, from President Moi to the incumbent, the war on corruption has been the war to write newer and more complex legislation. The presidential will in the war has been remarkable by its absence. Ministers have gotten away scott free. Billions have been looted. It is getting to a point where even small fish are getting away scott free. (When senior policemen were being "vetted', it emerged that their "wives" held bank accounts with hundreds of millions of shillings whose provenance remains a mystery to the National Police Service Commission, whose members are living in fear after a severed human head of a secret witness was deposited outside their offices at the start of the "vetting" exercise.)

Kenyan presidents seem to live in perpetual fear that their governments will fall if their ministers, principal secretaries, police and army chiefs, diplomats and elected representatives are jailed for corrupt acts. There are some lauding the president for finally "dropping" the five minister whom he asked to "step aside" in March. He should simply have fired them in March. He waited until the Devolution and Planning minister resigned amid a flurry of allegations against her.

No. We don't have the will to fight and that is why "corruption networks" will prevail. We must be prepared to burn down the house in order to get rid of the rats. There is no logical reason why a Cabinet Secretary should join the government when he is worth a hundred million shillings and leave it when he is worth fifty billion unless that reason is corruption. Lifestyle audits are all well and good, but if all they do is lift the skirt without making bottoms sting, then we'd rather just ignore the whole thing. The taste of the pudding is in the eating, and our dessert has been shit for a decade.

The Magufuli Effect

I am curious: Saturday is Jamhuri Day, December 12. Is there a obligation for the Government to lead the celebrations? I mean, is there a requirement for the President to read a speech at Nyayo Stadium or Uhuru park, and have the same speech read in the forty six remaining counties by his Commissioners? Is there a requirement for the forty two governors to lead the celebrations in their counties? Other than it being a public holiday, what are our obligations vis-a-vis Jamhuri Day, and for that matter Madaraka Day and Mashujaa Day?

I ask because John Pombe Magufuli "cancelled" celebrations for Tanzania's Independence Day. What that entails, I imagine, is that funds that may have been earmarked for the event will not be spent on the event. As reported, he has directed that the funds be spent on hospital equipment - beds and the like because many Tanzanians admitted in public hospitals lacked beds to sleep in, something he confirmed when he paid an impromptu visit to a public hospital.

I also ask because there seems to be a school of thought that demands the enactment of a law to cancel such celebrations. Kenya has the Public Holidays Act, Chapter 110 of the Laws of Kenya, which provides for which days shall be public holidays and how public holidays that fall on a Sunday shall be treated. Kenya also has Article 9(3), (4) and (5) on national days which shall be public holidays. Both the Constitution of Kenya and the Public Holidays Act are maddeningly silent about what should be done on a national day.

Before you lose your head, the Finance Act has little to do with national days' celebrations; a Finance Act usually amends laws that affect the national finances of Kenya (Banking Act, Capital Markets Authority Act, Central Bank of Kenya Act, Insurance Act, National Social Security Fund Act, National Hospital Insurance Fund Act, and the like.) It is the Appropriations Act that would appropriate money for the celebration of national days. 

The appropriation by Parliament is usually made to the Office of the President or, more likely, the Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government. Either way, the President has the discretion to spend the appropriated sum for the purpose it was appropriated: celebration of a national day. I am yet to find a definition of "celebration of national day" either in the Constitution, the Public Holidays Act or the Interpretation and General Provisions Act, Chapter 2 of the Laws of Kenya.

Kenya's and Tanzania's public finance infrastructure is quite similar so it is likely that Tanzania has similar arrangements, both constitutional and statutory when it comes to national days. It is likely that a similar interpretation of the law permits the President of the United Republic of Tanzania to declare that purchasing hospital beds is more in keeping with the celebration of Tanzania's Independence Day than holding a parade at which military hardware will be displayed and the President, as Commander-in-Chief, will take the salute at a parade of his armed forces.

This would not require the enactment of a specific law, nor would it require the re-allocation of monies appropriated to the Office of the President or responsible ministry. Indeed, it wouldn't even require a drastic change in policy, if a policy on national days even existed at all. It is the Information Age and where President Magufuli will need to adapt is on the need to inform the people of the reasoning behind his "many declarations" and whether they are founded on an interpretation of the law or a policy that he is pursuing for the good of the people. He cannot Lone Wolf it all the way to the next election or he will be called high-handed, or a dictator.

Monday, December 07, 2015

KoT and political propaganda

I don't know who told poor Manoah that a list of  "wins" from his master's foreign junkets would quiet the insatiable online hordes. It won't. Kenyans on Twitter, the forty-third tribe, has proven impervious to the inimitability of facts, preferring rank speculation and sordid innuendo. Someone should just tell poor Manoah to ignore the online horde; it will forget that it has been slighted and, as it is its wont, move on to the next bauble that catches it pigeon-like fancy. KoT, poor Manoah should realise, are not awash in erudition or logic, and are unlikely to bring his master to disrepute not his government to its knees. 

If poor manoah doubts this, he should recall how KoT puffed out its chest and vowed to install Peter Kenneth in State House. Poor Kenneth has been reduced to write post-Obama and post-Pope follow-up, self-help columns in the Sunday papers. What he is not is the President of Kenya. And he never will be. That online mirage will never turn out to be an ocean of water. Ever.

I don't understand what these people are worried about any way. So what of the president has made more trips abroad that Baba Jimmi and Baba Moi combined! Who gives a shit?! Since when have presidential junkets had to be justified to unelected windbags on Twitter? Uhuru Kenyatta was elected by over six million Kenyans. His ruling alliance was similarly elected and commands an absolute majority in Parliament. If President Kenyatta's electors, and those of his ruling coalition, thought that he should stay at home and mind the shop, so to speak, they would say so. The jealous whingers should be seen for who they are: sore losers!

There is every possibility, as poor Manoah attempted to show, that the presidential junkets have had a salutary effect on Kenya's foreign relations and its balance of payments. But again, it could also be that poor Manoah and his minions are simply cooking up stuff to placate an online horde of little consequence. If you have been following the saga of the "missing" Eurobond billions, you would have no problem believing the scurrilous allegations that poor Manoah and his assistant cooks are just making shit up to create the impression that presidential junkets are worth their weight in gold!

Poor Manoah and his staff are in uncharted waters. How can they continue to draw a salary when they simply ignore the first rule of effective political propaganda? When faced by a faceless, formless, amorphous enemy, find out who it is before responding. They have been punching at shadows for months now, and the fact that they have yet to admit their folly is starting to worry me about the kind of counsel they offer my President. I'd be worried even more if he listened to their counsel. KoT is not a political constituency: STOP. COURTING. IT.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

What's good for the goose...

A fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a lawyer, or an advocate of the High Court, leads to ridiculous presumptions about the causes of, and solutions to, graft. A cornerstone of any constitutional democracy, indeed of any democratic arrangement, is the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. In non-democratic arrangements, frequently to be accused is to be convicted. A trial is but a rubberstamping of a conclusion reached in other quarters.

In recent days the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning has resigned her office and has had her home raided by agents and officers of the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission in search of proof of her hand in the financial scam that has engulfed the National Youth Service and the Ministry. She has pleaded innocence and innocent she is unless she is convicted by a court of law. She has done what any person confronted by the spectre of legal proceedings against them would do: she has retained the services of a lawyer.

In the court of public opinion, however, she and her lawyer have been painted as two sides of the same perfidious coin. Public opinion has already convicted her of the alleged crime of graft and her lawyer has been branded as the master of cover-ups, out to ensure that his guilty client never spends a night in gaol and that she continues to enjoy her ill-gotten wealth. Some of her most vocal accusers are human rights defenders, sworn to fight to ensure that Kenya's Bill of Rights protects the weak and the powerless. They seem less concerned about the rich and powerful as if the by the acquisition of wealth or power somehow means that the Bill of Rights no longer applies to the rich or the powerful.

It is, therefore, surprising that they would, first of all, accuse her of having committed a crime without a shred of proof and, second of all, wish to deny her the services of a lawyer of her choice when their accusations have exerted such an enormous pressure that the forces of law and order have began to pursue the possibility of charging her with a crime. Simply because they are convinced of their own moral superiority in relation to the former Minister, they are prepared to ignore her human rights because they believe she is beneath their contempt. They fail to realise that they are advocating for that which many of them have challenged: an unequal application of the protection of the laws.

Gibson Kamau Kuria, speaking during one of his submissions before the Bosire Commission investigating the Goldenberg Affair, once declared that if the Devil was in need of legal counsel, he wouldn't hesitate to offer it. He was right. The lawyer represents the legal interests of both the innocent and the guilty; it is his job to ensure that the system of justice operates within the law. A judicial process is equally about the proper application of the law, the assessment of lawfully obtained and verifiable facts and the arrival at a just outcome. Justice, sometimes, is never fair. That is why we have left the business of determining just outcomes to judges and magistrates and not to impassioned, enflamed lynch mobs, whether the mobs are tapping away at keypads or roaming the streets with pitchforks and nooses.

Friday, December 04, 2015

To Sir, with respect.

Sir, 
 
The Eurobond is not it. Cabinet Secretary Rotich and Governor Njoroge and Principal Secretary Thugge and the eggheads at JP Morgan Chase and the money men active on the Irish Stock Exchange are not idiots. If you are looking for windmills to tilt at, stay as far away from the Central Bank and National Treasury; not even the Auditor-General nor the Controller of Budget will hand you the political blowtorch you're looking for. Focus your attention, instead, on the Standard Gauge Railway if all you want is a stalking horse for your unrealised presidential ambitions.

Kenyans are not entirely as forgetful as is popularly presumed. The late Prof Saitoti's and Musalia Mudavadi's stints at the Treasury Building may be unfamiliar to the under-thirty five demographic, but not all of us were asleep then. The fiddles that took place then are not taking place now; it is almost impossible to get away with a billion-dollar scam in the Information Age. Ours may not exactly be a Digital Government yet, but there aren't enough Firewalls of China in the world to keep fiddles and swindles from coming out. Have you forgotten how WikiLeaks made you life, and Mwai Kibaki's, difficult with all its leaks about your coalition?

The SGR offers a target as juicy as the National Youth Service because billions are at stake and these are billions that are the subject of tenders. You understand tenders, don't you? Those things that flourished under your watchful eye during that difficult famine in 2012 or the bits of Finance Minister Kenyatta's Economic Stimulus Programme that came to be known as Kazi Kwa Vijana. I hope you do, because you know the right questions to ask when it comes to this SGR and LAPSSET.

As soon as you start with the questions, you can sit back and watch the sky fall on their heads. So I am curious as to why you haven't focussed your eye on the SGR. Could it be that you do not come with clean hands? Could it be that some of your minions do not come with clean hands? Or, horror of horrors, could it be that you don't really know anything about anything any more and you're just going through the motions because Ireland and New York City are way out over there? Okay, so maybe you're not interested in the SGR for some reason or another. There's always the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme, that million-acre land grab that seems to produce less than advertised and where the transport costs would make the yields about as competitive as importing grain from Thailand.

You've already started playing patty-cake with Cabinet Secretary Rotich. That is never a good sign. If he has any brains, which he probably has in plenty, he will make you eat your words about him being a crook and being in bed with crooks and being responsible for economic crimes and shit like that. It is time to say you are satisfied with Mr Rotich and then focus on the alleged shady goings on of Michael Kamau and Nduva Muli and the SGR. They are already out of government having a whale of a time with the EACC and the DPP. They should give you something to do. It looks like you need the work.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Can Uchumi be great?

Uchumi Buru Buru was a beacon of hope in a world going to hell in a handbasket. The Tuskys next door was better stocked and cut-throat in its price competitiveness. Mutindwa remained the preferred venue for certain other orders; Mama Mbogas are not known for being militantly opposed to maintaining wafer-thin margins. It's electronics were shit, quite frankly; semi-knock-off Chinese Hi-Fis were more their stock in trade than the finest Japanese sound systems. What they did well - very, very well; better than Tusky's and Mama Mbogas - were the liquor section and the bananas.

The Uchumi liquor section was a Mecca for the non-teetotal among us. It had a good selection; if you wanted better, quite clearly then, Buru Buru was too down-scale for you and it was time to upgrade your life to Kilimani or some similarly leafy bit of Nairobi. It was pocket-friendly and it never went low on your favourites. That, sadly, is no longer the case. It is now the shittiest bit of the supermarket and I don't really know what Julius Kipng'etich is doing, he clearly isn't doing enough to revive my Uchumi to its glory, booze-soaked days.

I remember when Jonathan Ciano took over and how quickly praise was heaped on him for making what seemed like a miracle turnaround for the troubled supermarket chain. For a while it seemed like suppliers and creditors were taking the turnaround plan in their stride, working with Mr Ciano and his team to bring some sanity to the Uchumi operations. The same positive vibes are being spread of Julius Kipng'etich, recently of Equity Bank, having quit his previous job as KWS Director-General almost a year earlier than his contract warranted.

I have no doubt that Mr Kipng'etich is eminently qualified to run Uchumi Supermarkets but let us not get carried away. Mr Kipng'etich, to my knowledge, has not declared a facility with magic or claimed the powers of s small god. Facts, as John Addams is quoted, are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. Uchumi is not the darling of the securities markets; and it is a pariah when it comes serious and sensible banks.

Nakumatt, Naivas, and the johhny-come-latelys from south of the Limpopo are going to eat Uchumi's lunch and steal its lunch money too. Mr Kipng'etich has hitched a somewhat stellar reputation to a moribund, stodgy, out-of-touch brand that is slow;y becoming a byword for everything that is wrong with corporate Kenya. The insider-dealing, the swindles, the remarkably bad stock performance - these are not things that one would want to be associated with if they knew what was good for them. I will hold my praise for now; if my favourite tipple makes it back on the shelves again, I may raise my esteem of Mr Kipng'etich a notch. Just one. He doesn't need Mr Ciano's big head.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Mother Nature

Do you love nature? You do?! Are you a masochist? Nature is designed to do one thing and one thing well: kill. It is a serial killer and it has no remorse about it. Nature is the ultimate alpha predator, at the top of all food chains. Now, you have a brain which can conjure up complex thoughts and plans and schemes and shit like that but nature only concentrates on one thing: to kill you.

Check this out from World War Z (Paramount Pictures, 2013):

A full plate

I am middle-class. Nearer the bottom of the middle middle, but middle all the same. I don't hate members of my class; solidarity is big with some of us. One of the things a middle class should do is participate fully in civic affairs, like political organisation and electioneering. I won't be doing is political organising or electioneering. I find it to be the most distasteful thing in the world. It ranks up there with shitting your pants.

People, especially middle class people, tend to be reasonable and amicable until they get into their heads that they should exercise their democratic rights. That's how it almost always begins, with a desire to exercise a democratic right and then it goes downhill from there on out. Reasonable people become rigid and unbending, making patently unreasonable demands, especially on fellow middle class people who just want to sell the government overpriced condom dispensers and buy Range Rovers from RMA. I don't want to inhale and swallow large dollops of teargas.

The real middle class that goes into political organising tends to have a few nuts loose, like a Studebaker. You can see them when they become party bigwigs, in their really shiny suits, even shinier pointy-toed Congolese-style dress-shoes made of snakeskin and their gold-encased latest iPhones into which they are always screaming in their native mother-tongue dialects at a lowly minion they underpay and misuse in service to some political baba. They tend to be insufferable. Now they have brought their insufferable ways to social media.

You see them tweeting and facebooking and instagramming as if they were socialites of the Kenyan variety selling not social cachet but something less salubrious. Come to think of it, these oily and unctuous middle class political operatives usually end up becoming "sponsors" of Kenya's socialites of note, using party funds, where they can lay their paws on them, to fly their paramours to exotic locales like Paris, Dubai, Phuket or Shanghai for assignations of a carnal nature leaving behind bereft spouses and zoned-out scions high on weed or something.

I don't think I am middle class enough to get involved with the political operatives who believe they are my betters. I still think that decent human beings should be honest with those they engage with about common affairs. If you are operating in the world of political operatives with the eye to influencing public policy, please tell your spouse whether or not that lobbyist who paid for your UK-bound business-class ticket did so on the strength of your convictions or the ardent nature of your horizontal mambo. That way both of you can decide how much gray you will both shade on your common moral code.

I am not angry enough, either. Sure, these people make my life hard, but it is not all unpleasant. I can still eat what I want, tooth cavities notwithstanding. I can still go where I want, although Mombasa tourist hotels are not my cup of tea because of their built-in, anti-Black hostility. I can, with a bit of adjusting here and there, live where I want. And if I got fired today, I could survive very comfortably till Thursday next week. So I can't see myself joining the likes of Team Courage or hashtag armies like #GoBeyondTwitter. That just seems like too much work and I already have a job, a side-hustle and a lifless shamba. My plate, Mr Middle Class Organiser, is full.

I don't think she is a thief

The fact that she bought a 100 million shilling spread in Kitisuru means nothing. An auditor wrote some time back in the papers that when an audit is conducted, the bottom line in the books is of secondary importance; an audit is meant to reveal whether or not the accounting rules that apply to an organisation have been complied with. So you look at the paper work, and make sure that for every entry or payment on the books is accounted for. If it s an audit of a public institution, you confirm that the cash the department received matches what expenditures it made according to the law and according to the approved budget, especially the budget line items.

The former Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning is nobody's fool. By all accounts she is hardworking, intelligent and driven. She has been in employment far longer than her stint in the public service and to simply presume that her entire wealth has been bought and paid for from her proceeds as a public servant is a scurrilous accusation for which no proof has been advanced. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that she made a fortune before she became a Cabinet Secretary and, which her advancing years, she felt it was time to invest in prime property when she eventually became Cabinet Secretary.

Those attempting to insinuate that there is a link between her wealth and her former office as Cabinet Secretary without providing even a scintilla of proof betray a personal animus against her that demonstrates that they had a personal vendetta against her. The financial mismanagement at her former Ministry have been well-documented by the newspress, but not one person has drawn a line between her wealth and that mismanagement. Not one person has been able to show that she took money for favours or that she had a hand in the the theft of the 791 million shillings at the heart of her resignation.

She was not a very good Cabinet Secretary, despite the accolades her former Ministry garnered for its initiatives. She forgot that even in a technocratic Cabinet, Cabinet Secretaries are still important political actors and that they do not simply operate in a world of laws and by-laws. Politics informed many of her initiatives and she should have realised that despite her successes, politics would inform any challenges she faced from corners outside the national Executive. In fact, the perceived presidential special treatment she received, was going to be a millstone around her neck sooner rather than later and she should have taken steps early enough to carve out a robust political persona that did not rely too much on the President or his Parliamentary Party.

Neither the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission nor the Auditor-General have alluded to any links between her wealth and her former office. If they had, she would not be described as a witness for the DPP, but a suspect. The raid by the anti-corruption agents on her property seems to be a publicity stunt; it is unlikely that the Cabinet Secretary would be in possession of any documents related to the IFMIS scam as the Cabinet Secretary is not an authorised user of the IFMIS system. I will be shocked if she is ever charged in a court of law with any offence linked to the missing 791 million. Very surprised indeed.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

WTH?

The Chief Justice must issue guidelines on bail amounts to ensure that those set by the courts are commensurate with the seriousness of the crimes in question.

There is also a need for guidelines to ensure that magistrates and judges do not issue unwarranted pre-emptory orders that may be seen to defeat the pursuit of justice. ~ Graft war is won by more than just words
This, dear friends, is the lazy thinking from the civil society and, quite frankly, lawyers who should know better than to append their names to these kinds of foolishness. First things first. Are the authors of this remarkable document suggesting the Chief Justice has the power to command what ruling a magistrate must make when it comes to the small matter of bail or, more worryingly, that the Chief Justice can direct when injunctions can be granted and when they cannot?

This is not rocket science. The Judiciary, even with all its problems, is not the reason why corruption has felled the best and the brightest. Our weaknesses, if that at all, stem from investigations, evidence-gathering and prosecution. The National Police (including the Directorate of Criminal Investigations), the anti-corruption commission and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions have the responsibility to collect the relevant evidence in regard to a corruption investigation and present a strong case in court. Why the belief that bail policy or an injunctions’ policy will be the key to winning the war on corruption is gaining currency is a mystery I cannot explain.

When it comes to evidence-gathering, things have never been done on the up and up. The reason why accused persons are granted bail or preliminary injunctions is because either evidence against them is never collected or it is collected in a manner that ensures investigations are tainted from the start. It is not the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act or the Judicature Act that are to blame; it is the determination by the investigation agencies to ignore everything about the Evidence Act that sinks almost all corruption prosecutions. Willy Mutunga and his judiciary can’t help it if the DPP brings to court a shoddily investigated case. What do you think the judiciary is? Clairvoyant?

Obviously, the war on graft is not a war of words, but it is words that matter in the war. When evidence is gathered, it is usually in the form of documents. When a case is prosecuted in court, it is usually in the form of words. When a person is convicted, the convection is in the form of words contained in an order of the court.

An anti-corruption strategy is words on paper. An anti-corruption law is words on paper. Words are important. The right words are the difference between success and failure. We haven’t found the right words yet. The President’s words last week were beautiful, but utterly meaningless. They were not a strategy. They were not a true rallying call. They were just the same empty words we have heard over and over again. Now the authors of the above quotes are adding to that vast emptiness of words with ridiculous calls for the usurpation of the autonomy of the judiciary – and one of them is a damn lawyer! What the hell is going on?

Fantasies of easy victories

Walker, Texas Ranger. Jack Bauer. Dempsey & Makepeace. (That last one is for a certain cohort that really loved the eighties.) On TV, crime-fighting and counter-terror policing is easy: the hero always gets his man. You know the bad guy. You go after the bad guy. The evidence is always found. The bad guy either dies very violently or ends up in jail for a really long time. Al Qaeda, al Shabaab, Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, Al Qaeda in the Levant, Boko Haram and Islamic State have all but shattered that cozy illusion but only because we refused to learn the same harsh lessons that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Irish Republican Army, the Ulster Unionists, the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, the Red Brigade and the Black September Faction had handed down in the decades before.

You will be shocked by the number of adults in positions of authority who seem to think they are in some TV show, making decisions with little or no regard for the law or the rights of even their own operatives. It really is quite astounding.

Which brings me to my point. I want to be the Kenyan version of that cartoon character, Jack Bauer. That guy never dies, doesn't sleep or eat, I don't think he's ever taken a shower or a shit, he definitely has never peed on-screen. There's that season where he was abducted to some Chinese hellhole for two years and he didn't speak or break despite what is hinted at as seriously, Chinese torture. The one season where he was actually tortured by Balkan madmen, he actually died and pulled off a Lazarus and came back to life, and killed all the bad guys.

When he goes after proof, he seems to have a preternatural ability to crack locks and doors and his loyal sidekick, Chloe, seems to be a genius at cracking communications and computer systems. His bag never seems to run out of extra bullets unless the scene demand that he finds new bullets, preferably in the bad guys' bags. He never misses - unless he wants to. He is also an expert torturing people and, for some inexplicable reason, squinting with seriously deadly intent.


If I were Kenya's Jack Bauer, imagine the fun we would have. The President would call me with some cryptic message about al Shabbies or some similar shit and, without even a cent in my pocket, I'd find a helicopter, guns and computers and off I would go to do battle with the forces of evil. No women in this scenario, unless they are computer geniuses or bad guys' molls. Either way, Jack Bauer is not bothered by irrelevant things as human emotions - except anger and rage. And in the space of 24 hours, I'd find the bad guys, find out their nefarious designs, stop them, and possibly kill them all. It is really, quite a lot of fun for cartoon characters. It is, unfortunately, a fantasy and it is time that the securocracy realised fantasies are either for children or those in love.

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...