Thursday, June 30, 2016

The re-election of UhuRuto

You treat Uhuru Kenyatta as an idiot at your peril; you treat William Ruto as wounded only if you wish to witness what happens to wounded lions. None of the analysts reading the 2017 tea leaves is wiling to put money down that come hell or high water, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto will secure five more years to rule. The key to their victory lies in the early reconstitution of their campaign propaganda machinery and the deployment of influential voices to far-flung foreign capitals with significant populations of deep-pocketed Kenyans capable of being persuaded to dig onto their pockets for the cause.

The President and Deputy President are smart, smarter than you or I. If they weren't, the message we would be receiving today of their reign would be one of disappointment, lethargy, in-fighting and antipathy. This is a message that resonates among the partisan members of the Opposition coalition; it does not resonate with the millions of Kenyans who, for the first time, have access to Huduma services, tarmacked roads, electricity, piped water, computers, free maternity care and Chinese noodles. For sure large swathes of what was developed Kenya is decrepit; but the even larger swathes that were not developed have been pulled into the twenty-first century for the first time in the history of independent Kenya. The have nothing but praise for the Government and, by extension, the President and the Deputy President.

Careful curating of social media spaces and public broadcasting, equal parts cajoling and bullying of the print media and good old fashioned coercion and bribery have guaranteed that the Opposition is seen as a team of malcontents unwilling to do anything positive for the people instead engaging in acts that have ended in tragedy more often than not. What is amazing is how somehow neither the President nor the Deputy President has been tarred by the brush wielded by the likes of Moses Kuria or William Kabogo, while the doyen of the Opposition is very much linked to every hare-brained scheme and utterance of the vulgar Johnston Muthama and Jakoyo Midiwo.

For the sophisticated among us, the assumption is that how we understand the three years of media management and strategic communication by the Presidency is the same way that the rest of the nation does. It isn't. I am not implying that they are less intelligent or educated than the Nairobi set. No, they are our equals in innate intelligence and academic achievement. What they have is a realistic appreciation of the rules of political power. They do not live on promises, much as urban Kenya does; they reward concrete returns for political capital paid. I will put money down that every Kenyan for whom the Government has provided electricity, free health care, piped water, tarmacked roads, market access and cheaper access to information will vote for Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto even as they vote for the Opposition in the counties.

The mothballing of the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit is not a retreat from the political field of battle; it is the first volley by the Presidency in the War of 2017. The President has stolen a march on the opposition once more. The Opposition is busily making and putting out internal political fires. The Opposition might have made up for lost time when it comes to registration of voters, but it has concretely lost when it comes to the other areas of political warfare. The counties under its control remain backward, undeveloped, filthy, expensive, chaotic and violent. That is not a winning combination. Not by a long shot. This time round there is no need to control too tightly the electoral body or the Supreme Court (which is why Jubilee is fighting so hard to control them because if it wants it then, Godammit, CORD wants it too.). Once more, the Opposition has lost before the first shot was fired. Don't believe me? Follow #MakingNairobiGreat on Twitter and witness the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How business is done

One of the strangest things happened without much fanfare yesterday: the tribunal appointed to investigate the conduct of Philip Tunoi, retired judge of the Supreme Court, wound up its sittings arguing that with the retirement of the judge, it had become "functus officio", that is, the retirement of the judge no longer required the tribunal to continue to investigate his conduct because he was no longer a judge. The winding up of the sittings or the reasons for the winding up are not the strange part; the strange part is how the whole thing unfolded in the first place.

The basis for the appointment of the tribunal was an accusation by a journalist that he had been denied his due in a scheme to pervert the course of justice. The judge's accuser claimed that he had acted as an intermediary between the newly-elected governor of Nairobi City County and the judge in a scheme to bribe the judge to guarantee a favourable ruling for the governor in an election petition filed by the governor's principal rival in the 2013 general election. The bribe has never been proven.

The saga begins in a strange way. The accuser goes to a contact he knows at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and asks for help to get his cut of the bribe from the judge. He informs the CID man that the judge has for months been dodging him, fobbing him off with twenty thousand shillings. The CID man, for some reason, sends the man to his superior who, rather than open a criminal investigation into the alleged bribe, asked the man to find a lawyer to help him swear out an affidavit laying out the sum and substance of his accusations. The lawyer he settled on happened to be the lawyer for the Judicial Service Commission, which had already asked the judge to retire.

The man gave the affidavit to the Chief Justice some time in 2014. Why he gave it to the Chief Justice remains a mystery. The Chief Justice on his part decided to "investigate" the allegations using the administrative machinery of the Judiciary. The man grew impatient as the judge didn't seem to be paying a price for allegedly cheating him out of his cut. So he went to the press with a copy of the affidavit, forcing the Chief Justice's hand who in turn announced the appointment of a team to investigate the affidavit and make recommendations. The team recommended the appointment of a tribunal to investigate the judge. The recommendations were forwarded to the president.

The president blew hot ad cold on the appointment of the tribunal, eventually being forced to do so by a sustained bad press over the whole affair. The rest, they say, is history, for while the tribunal sat, the Court of Appeal ruled that the judge should have retired at the age of seventy years and the Supreme Court, in a fit of madness, is unable to do anything about it because the Chief Justice has retired too, as has the Deputy Chief Justice, and two members of the Supreme Court have recused themselves from hearing the matter and, therefore, the Supreme Court has no quorum to hear the matter.

I find it strange, though, that the man who accused the judge of withholding his cut of the alleged two million dollar bribe was not charged by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions with his part in the alleged crime. He has vanished from the newspaper pages, TV studios and blog posts. The whole saga has been about the judge and whether or not he received a bribe from a governor. The Chief Justice behaved strangely, too. Even with his notorious open door policy, how did he come t receive the affidavit and to whom did he share it? Was he so hell bent in forcing the judge out of office on account o his age that he would enter into a scheme to force him out on account of alleged bribe-taking? The judge himself created the circumstances that exposed him to this state of affairs by engaging with both the governor and his accuser in the months before the accusation.

With the winding up of the sittings of the tribunal, and the notorious secrecy instincts of the presidency, it is almost certain that we will never know the truth of what really happened between the three of them. That will be in keeping with the way Kenya does business, which is, really, how the whole world does business.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The one-hundred year rule

When Uhuru Kenyatta conceded defeat to Mwai Kibaki after the 2002 general elections, Kenya embarked on a short-lived political transition that it has never recovered from. The defeat of KANU should have coincided with the defeat of KANU-ism; instead, what President Moi prophesied as a hundred-year KANU rule seems to be coming true.

Many Kenyans point to the 2007 general election and the 2007/2008 crisis as the turning point in Kenya's politics; I believe it is the appointment of the likes of Kiraitu Murungi and Peter Anyang' Nyong'o to Mwai Kibaki's Cabinet that set Kenya back in terms of political maturity. The co-option of political malcontents into the maw that is the Cabinet has ended in disaster. Instead of steering the ship of state into calmer waters, we find ourselves foundering on jagged rocks.

The principal goal of any government is its continued stability. Since Mwai Kibaki's first Cabinet, stability has been seriously lacking. President Kibaki fired half  his first Cabinet after it defied him and actively campaigned against a draft constitution that the President favoured. The referendum was lost and President Kibaki canned his Ministers. His second Cabinet spent so much time raising money for the 2007 general elections, no one noticed when a few rogue members set out to make the peace as ungovernable as possible.

His third Cabinet was beset by the fallout from the Post-election Violence and never cohered while the nusu mkate Cabinet was a study in backbiting, backstabbing, infighting, intrigue and great corruption. Kenyans hated it. The legacy of Kibaki's governments has been visited in Uhuru Kenyatta's, where the principle objective is not stability but re-election. It is why the president and the deputy president have spent great treasure and time attempting to corral a parliamentary majority that has never cohered and has never seen the forest for the trees.

KANU-ism lives on in the political divide-and-conquer that empowered Mwai Kibaki and continues to empower Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in their co-presidency. It is revealed in the patronage politics that has shared and re-shared the spoils of war, from high positions in the securocracy to vice-chancellorships in Kenyans burgeoning higher education sector. But the common thread that links the KANU-ism of the the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, the 2000s and today is the great corruption that robs the people of their innocence and faith in their nation and government.

Jomo Kenyatta had his Million Acres Programme. Daniel Moi had the well-orchestrated collapse of the Kenya National Assurance and Goldenberg. Mwai Kibaki had Anglo-Leasing and Triton. Uhuru Kenyatta has had a revolving-door policy regarding the anticorruption commission and the eyesore that are the Standard Gauge Railway and LAPSSET contracts. Corruption is the glue that binds the KANU-ist ancien regime to its modern day incarnation. Corruption fosters neither stability nor longevity. Corruption hollows out the institutions of legitimacy and authority. Corruption is a poison that slowly kills the body politic.

KANU's defeat in December 2002 was not a true defeat; it was a tactical retreat. Three months after the Uhuru Kenyatta concession speech, KANU-ism regrouped and KANU-ists tooks steps to reassert their political dominance. Kiraitu Murungi will always embody the worst of KANU-ism with his hyperbole that neither matched his actions nor the outcomes of his policies as justice minister. The next governments, regardless of who their heads will be, have their characters cast in stone. KANU, the party, might be dead but KANU, the ideology, is set to rule for a century, just as Baba Moi predicted.

Burning down the school

Rules are meant to be applied fairly. When we permit a few to play by a different, laxer set of rules, we encourage many to seek such accommodations, whether they are "entitled" to them or not. Rules are meant to guarantee a fair outcome for all, not privileges for a few at the expense of the majority. Kenyan public administration is a study in how unfairly rules are applied, how privileges are distributed and how conflict is managed when the outcome is less than optimal. In Kenya, the privileged few play by a set of rules that elevate them over their fellowman.

The results of the Kenyan way are evident. Conflicts are not easily resolved. Conflict has become hardwired among Kenyans and dispute resolution has become more difficult to manage. Whenever disputes arise today, the option readily to hand is violent confrontation sometimes with tragic consequences. The privileged elite ask why it is not possible for groups in conflict to peaceably negotiate to find solutions forgetting that they themselves don't negotiate for the privileges they enjoy. Young Kenyans are internalising this way of looking at things: if they don't get their way, they will burn down the house even if it means that they will sleep outside in the cold.

That is what happened last night. A boys' residential school's administration refused to allow the boys to watch a football match. If this boys' school is anything like my alma mater, it is likely that the manner in which the decision was communicated to the boys would be described as "high-handed," which is not how you address boys who have been cooped up in school for weeks on end. As evidenced by the rise of school-burnings in recent months, the outcome was predictable. The boys protested the decision without succour from their teachers. The protest escalated and ten dormitories were set ablaze. It could have been worse if the mob had somehow managed to "invade" a nearby residential girls' school. When the blood of a mob of boys is up, there is no telling what the boys are capable of.

What these boys did was what they think they have seen on TV and read about on the internet, that if their demands are not met, they have the right to "strike" and in striking, anything goes. After all, that is what their teachers have done on numerous occasions, using some of the most incendiary and unlettered language possible. It is what doctors, the epitome of academic excellence, have done on numerous occasions. It is what their political leaders have done since time immemorial without paying a price for it. Most importantly, it is what their parent do every day, sometimes to survive and sometimes to obtain an unfair advantage. The social compact that we are supposed to have made with each other - to live by the rule of law and to respect the equality of everyone - has been abandoned at the altar of individual need and greed at the expense of the greater common good.

With the ;spread of modern communications technology and media, young Kenyans are shown the benefits of bad behaviour by everyone. When inebriated pastors run down and kill other road users, they lie about it and use their positions of leadership and authority to escape from the consequences of their actions. Then they justify it at the pulpit on every subsequent Sunday. When politicians suborn murder and violence, they are not arraigned in court; instead they are celebrated as "liberators" and "champions" of the people. When civil servants extort from the poor and the vulnerable, their bosses do not demand, at the very least, their resignations; they ask for forbearance because the civil servants' service is too hard. Bad deeds, young Kenyans know, need not have bad outcomes. It is almost certain that unless we change how we relate with each other - how we respect the law and uphold our equality - more school dormitories are going to be set ablaze.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Less than owed

Who are your heroes and role-models? Mine happen to be the only two people I have ever truly disappointed: my parents. They are famous - within their circles. If you google their names, by the time you get to page 10, you'll be exhausted. I want to focus on my mother, though, because I think her experiences are what made me appreciate the key phrase "legislative and other measures" in relation to "past discrimination" (by the State) against the women of Kenya.

One of the funniest things - at the time I was five or so and didn't know better - my mother ever told me was that until 1985 or so, women didn't really need national ID cards. After all, they were either a man's daughter or a man's wife. There was no third classification. A woman's father or her husband was sufficient for the purposes of identifying a woman in Kenya. You can imagine the scenario - that for a woman to register as a voter - the principle of universal suffrage was accepted in theory - she had to be accompanied either by her father or her husband. So if she wanted to stand for elective office, whether as a councillor or a member of Parliament, ditto! husband or father required.

This paternalistic view of women, even rebellious ones like Wangari Maathai, was the hallmark of the State and it prevails even today, though many of the ridiculous shackles have been loosened. When she won a scholarship to finish her PhD in the UK, she had not just to receive permission to leave the country from her university, the Ministry of Education and the Office of the President, but she also needed my father's written "consent" to obtain a passport and travel overseas. She smiles when she says this, but you can tell she found it ridiculous and frustrating in equal measure back then.

Today, you would think that the women of Kenya have overcome the entrenched patriarchy that has cause so much grief in Kenya. You would think so and you would be wrong. While women are free to obtain documents of identity without relying on their fathers or husbands anymore, and while they can travel to any destination whether or not their husbands or fathers think they should, in key areas, women continue to suffer disadvantages that hinder the full realisation of their full potential. 
I remember this line from a song with a wildly different context, "The oppressor says that turning to politics is the only way" and it seems strangely apposite when it comes to the question of how we can erode the entrenched patriarchy that holds half of the Kenyan population back. It is why we have internalised the false narrative that the only way to break with a perfidious patriarchal past is to elect or nominate ever more women to Parliament and county assemblies and appoint ever more of them in public service positions. (Or, if it is non-political women, hand over sacks of cash as part of "women entrepreneurship development" and hope for the best.)

The "legislative" part of our constitutional contract with women (and other marginalised groups) seems more or less settled; all that remains is for the political deal-making and horse-trading to take place, and, come the 12th Parliament, elected and nominated women representatives will form a substantial core of the elected classes. When it comes to "other" measures, other than "enterprise funds", women have received less than they are owed.

Take a recent discussion I had with a blogger I respect. She had been invited to moderate a panel that had just one other woman among three other men, yet the online advertising would lead you to believe that it was a panel of men alone. You would have had to click on the link to the event in order to know that it was a sausage fest. In subtle and insidious ways, we erase the presence of women in our lives, whether professionally, socially or personally. We mansplain them away without shame. It is why, try as hard as you can, few of you remember that there have been more influential women in Kenya than just politicians. (Google "Orie Rogo Manduli Safari Rally" and thank me later.)

My mother is an accomplished women despite the patriarchy she survived on her way to greatness. I am lucky that my father and my grandfather were contumacious that my mother and aunts were not treated any differently from my father and uncles. That cultural rebellion has given us a family that is well-rounded and well-represented in all the professions. Our family needs no government handouts or quotas in order to make a mark; we make a mark simply by being us. I am inordinately proud to be her son, even though I have done absolutely nothing to deserve her and one day, if the winds of fate blow in the right direction, my precious R will live up to my mother's expectations - the ones that I didn't live up to.

Nairobi politics: sharp elbows needed

City politics is not for the faint of heart or for the meek of the Earth. City politics is for the brawlers and for those with egos the size of small planets. Less is definitely not more in city politics. Balls of brass, whether one is of the male species or not, are a requirement. Because when you go in, to stay in you will need fortitude of the testicular kind. Johnson Arthur Sakaja is slowly coming to realise that a suave approach to the siasa za Nairobi will not give him the edge to edge out the incumbent, the hapless Evans Kidero.

A stupid tweet - it was rather daft - by Mr Sakaja suggests that Nairobi traffic will improve if only most (or all) Nairobians drove city cars and didn't obsessively go for 4x4s. The deluge of scorn that followed was impressive, especially for a Sunday morning when most Nairobians are supposed to be praying in church, nursing massive hangovers or nursing massive hangovers in church. It exposed Mr Sakaja as the neophyte who couldn't get nominated or elected in the party that he is chairman of. Now he wants to unseat Mr Kidero. Like I said: big brass balls.

Evans Kidero was elected because Nairobians were tired of the City Hall Way. We didn't want anything to do with Ferdinand Waititu or Mike Sonko. Jimnah Mbaru was too keen by half and too short to make it past our ideals of a mwanasiasa. Evans Kidero ticked off all the superficial right boxes: well-read, well-spoken, tall, stellar (supposedly) business background, boatloads of cash and the right political party. It's been almost three and a half years since Mr Kidero took over a City Hall and his reign has been a disaster.

He has a few accomplishments to his name: the e-platform, security lights in the CBD and the efforts at Pumwani Maternity Hospital. By and large, however, Mr Kidero has failed and failed spectacularly. The mounds of garbage that simply refuse go away, the matatu madness that seems to grow worse every week and the collapsing residential buildings that seem to grow in scale - these are all on Mr Kidero's watch. No one trusts him any more to get to it right. So now Mr Sakaja joins the acerbic-tongued Miguna Miguna and the colourful Mike Sonko in the Kidero Must Go bandwagon. He will need sharper elbows than he has demonstrated so far.

If the allegations are true, it was a $2 million bribe that kept Ferdinand Waititu from City Hall. But Mr Waititu himself is no shrinking violet. The way he stomped on Mr Mbaru's ass during the TNA nominations was a thing of wonder. Sonko is no stranger to playing hardball as Ms Shebesh (and her husband) can painfully attest to. He may have attempted to rebrand himself, but Sonko is no gentleman when playing in the rough and tumble of siasa za Nairobi. Mr Miguna has yet to prove himself in an election; the last time he tried his hand at it was somewhere in Luo Nyanza where, depending on where you sit, the Odinga hypnosis was unbreakable or he was just too arrogant for the electorate who are pretty arrogant themselves. This colourful group is against whom that Mr Sakaja intends to run.

It remains unclear whether Mr Sakaja has the money, the muscle, the cunning, the ruthlessness and the asshole factor to prevail in Nairobi. He is smooth and he seems to have some money to his name, but whether he can finance the kind of rabid support that Sonko does or organised chaos that Waititu seems to favour or the ad-buys that Kidero definitely can remains a mystery. Can he spend more than a minute in the heart of Korogocho without turning up his nose? I don't know. Can he join The People as they wade across Nairobi's many rivers of shit on their way to work? Who knows? Does he have the stones to call a rival candidate a thief or a drug baron? Only time will tell. What is certain, though, is that he will need very sharp elbows and a way of throwing them that won't get him called out for it.

Some bosses lead, some bosses blame

Bosses make great CX a central part of strategy and mission. Bosses set standards at the top of organizations. Bosses recruit, train, and de...