Friday, December 01, 2017

Reform-proof attitudes

I may be wrong, but even in Kenya the police surely must undergo some form of training to know when and how to use deadly force. It is thereason why the Kenya Police Service has Kiganjo and the Administration Police Service has Manyani. Lord knows where the General Service Unit undergoes firearms training, but I am assuming the same basic instruction will cover the hows and wherefores of the use of deadly force.

What I cannot be sure of is whether the so-called police reforms recommended in the Ransley Report took into account the reason for the existence of the National Police Service: national security. The Constitution defines "national security" as,
"the protection against internal and external threats to Kenya’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, its people, their rights, freedoms, property, peace, stability and prosperity, and other national interests."
Despite the constitutional definition of "national security", which applies to the national security organs established in Article 239 (1) including the National Police Service, the principal reason for the existence of the police is the preservation of the power, authority, prestige and dignity of the national Executive as personified in the President. In the Service's mind, anything that threatens the power, authority, prestige or dignity of the President is a treasonous crime, and anyone who commits that crime is guilty of treason and anyone who offers the traitor any assistance whatsoever deserves the same fate.

The National Police Service very rarely sees its principal duty as the safety of the people or their property. Indeed, one of the signs that it considers the people as the enemy or potential enemies or fifth columnists hell-bent on aiding in the commission of treasonous acts by the enemies of the President is the hyper-militarisation of public spaces: the police occupy these spaces as it were an military occupying force in enemy territory. It is why policemen are always armed with assault rifles and situate armed personnel carriers at key choke-points in public spaces, especially urban areas.

Because of its character and guiding philosophy, it is almost certain that the policeman who shot dead Geoffrey Mutinda will ever be known or held to account for his or her actions. The late Master Mutinda was a casualty of a policy that treats any possible embarassment of the Commander-in-Chief as a national security crisis to which the only rational response is overwhelming and deadly force. Master Mutinda was killed because he lived in an area whose residents had allowed to be used by traitors who intended to embarass the President on the day he was to take his oath of office. This could not stand. And when less effective messages were ignored by the President's enemies (senior officials in the county government arranged for lorry-loads of garbage and sewerage to be dumped in the venue), there was no choice but to put down the treasonous insurrection with deadly force if needed. The President's enemies would not back down. The use of live ammunition was inevitable. Master Mutinda's tragic death was all but certain.

How the police reacted afterwards is instructive. A senior member of the National Police Service declared that the police is "the authority that enforces the law", implying that it is the police to decide what the law means, including when it is fit and proper to enter any area under force of arms and deploy deadly force to deal with a threat to peace and [national] security. Since the general election of the 26th August and the second inaugural of the President on the 28th December, the number of Kenyans who have been killed by the police as it attempted to crash all attempts at embarassing the President have only exposed the National Police Service as a handmaiden to a philosophy that has defied all reform. We have issued them with new insignia, uniforms and titles but policemen retain the same attitudes they did before the promulgation of the Constitution in August 2010 and no constitutional definition of the Service's mandates will change the situation unless the reason for its existence changes.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
It's an old joke but in it is a lesson that we all eventually come to learn, some the hard way and some not so hard. There are many young people who watch the effortlessness with which TV characters solve problems and achieve their wildest dreams, from attractive spouses to unimaginable riches , and who delude themselves that it is possible to simply come into the skills witnessed on TV without hard work. Practice is something they stopped doing when they finished secondary school because, as I have been reassured by many, "degree ni mchango".

I may never find out what motivated university students to hatch a plan to rob a bank and I will not subscribe to the self-serving cop-out by one of the thieves' father that his son robbed the bank because society has normalised theft. I, however, have an explanation of why the thieves were caught: this is not what they did for a living. They were mere amateurs, unpracticed in bank robberies and getting away with the crime.

It is only normal for "right-thinking" Kenyans to have a dim view of the "criminal underclass".  After all, they have rejected the norms of honest living, hard work and communal trust for the high risk, high reward world of crime. Every day amateur criminals are arraigned before magistrates, having tripped up on their way to cashing in on their ill-gotten gains. A basic truth often escapes them: to successfully live a life paid for by the proceeds of crime, practice makes perfect.

It matters not whether the crime is bank robbery, purse-snatching, chicken theft or fraud - practice, practice, practice and you will make it to the Carnegie Hall of a successful life of crime. Our intrepid bank robbers came up with a caper that captured the imagination, an echo of successful TV bank robberies involving tunnels and unsuspecting coppers. It turns out that this was the easy part. The hard part was getting away with the crime; fifty million shillings might be a piddly sum for many successful fraudsters in Kenya, but for young university boys, it is a headache that almost always develops into an unmanageable migraine. It is probably only after they had the money at hand that it occurred to them that disappearing fifty million shillings is not easy. This is where the "practice" part would have come in handy.

Knowing who to deal with when "washing" fifty million is not information that is offered on street corners and dimly lit bars. Only the known members of the criminal underclass have access to this kind of information and you only become a member of the criminal underclass by having proven yourself time and again by doing what criminals do: rob, cheat, steal. It would help that you have been a guest of the Government on at least one occasion to build up your rep as a proper criminal. We all now, but cannot prove, that there is a vast network that is capable of turning fifty stolen millions into untraceable assets and the only people who have access to it do not include ambitious university students with a plan.

Of course, a simple question should have occurred to them to ask: why had no one before them pulled off such a caper? They were not the first ones to have come up with the brilliant idea of tunnelling into a bank vault in Kenya. There is a reason why in Kenya the preferred mode of taking banks' monies almost always were either inside jobs involving bank tellers and their managers or violent assaults on cash-in-transit convoys that almost never ended in death or bloodshed. Kenya's criminals are not fools: the one-third of the national budget that goes missing every year should tell you that it is not to be trifled with. So there is a reason why banks haven't had their safes tunnelled into from the outside. That they probably didn't ask this question almost guarantees that they will be convicted and sent to prison. Amateurs!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Democracy for teenagers

I watched an ODM speaker of a county assembly and a Jubilee member for a Rift Valley constituency appear on a TV current affairs show in which they were giving their honest views about the National Resistance Movement's "people's assemblies". It was clear that they had entrenched positions: the ODM guy, a lawyer, could cite, chapter and verse, the provisions of law that gave legitimacy to the NRM scheme while the Jubilee hardliner, a former parastatal CEO, couldn't understand what miraculous constitutional interpretation that permitted such an abomination to be contemplated by otherwise intelligent people. What was painfully clear to viewers was that both held each other in utter contempt. The ODM guy couldn't believe he had to discuss serious matters of law and constitutional interpretation with a man he was sure had the intellectual heft of a loaf of bread. The Jubilee hothead couldn't understand how a county speaker in a backwater county who looked as if he was starving thought he was his peer, a member of the National Assembly and a leading light of the ruling alliance. They spoke past each other and at each other that it is almost certain that this is how the next year will be. Clearly, this is democracy for teenagers.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Political magnanimity is the only way

Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka were on the ballot on the 26th October, 2017 when the fresh election ordered by the Supreme Court on the 1st September was conducted by the electoral commission. Mr Odinga had announced that he would not participate in the election and neither he nor his running mate campaigned at all for the fresh election. The day after the fresh election, Mr Odinga announced the formation of the National Resistance Movement, NRM, and urged his followers and supporters to boycott companies and their products because of their association with the Jubilee government, its members, supporters and followers.

Between the invalidation of the presidential election on the 1st September and the dismissal of two petitions challenging the result of the fresh election on the 20th November, much blood has been spilt in Kenya. The victims have been the poor and the perpetrators have mostly been policemen. Incendiary language by members and supporters of the Jubilee Party as well as of the NRM have heightened tensions, with the latter accusing the former of using national security organs to entrench "dictatorship" in Kenya and the former accusing the latter of undermining the peace, unity, stability and security of the nation.

Meanwhile, though Government has settled matters with Kenya's nurses who were on strike for almost half a year, university staff are still on strike on account that their dues, hard won after a previous strike, have not been settled by Government. No one knows when the strike will end and whether the lecturers' demands will be met; after all, Government spent an additional unanticipated twelve billion shillings on the fresh elections, money that was raised by drastically reducing allocations to all public institutions. Increased taxes loom menacingly over the horizon because of this.

What is clear, though, is that there are those who will take advantage of the fraught politics of the country to advance their own agendas. Like a senior member of the Jubilee Party who has fervently, and hysterically, advanced the proposal for "benevolent dictatorship", in which the wise and enlightened president will eschew the finer points of the Bill of Rights -- because democracy is a stumbling block -- in order to accelerate our economic development along the model pioneered by the Asian Tigers. He isn't so much interested in development per se so much as the violent suppression of men and women who have refused to bow down to the inimitable logic of the superiority of one ethnic community over all others.

Among the members of the NRM, a self-styled "general" has emerged as a vocal voice of the NRM cause. It isn't lost on keen observers that the bombastic and uncouth bully is a failed politician who had a spectacular falling out with Mr Odinga. His rudeness and oftentimes misogyny rubs even people who would agree with him on political issues the wrong way. During the run-up to the 8th August election, he had nothing but unflattering things to say about Raila Odinga and all who surrounded him deeming them as corrupt among other unproven allegations. His dwindling political fortunes have proven to be his Damascene conversion to all causes dear to Mr Odinga's heart.

We are confronted by a Jubilee government that enjoys unparalleled advantages: it enjoys a majority in both Houses of Parliament and controls a majority of Governor's offices and county assemblies. If its previous behaviour during the life of the Eleventh Parliament is anything to go by, little inspires confidence that its tyranny of numbers will be used for the national good. It is almost certain that the national debt will continue to careen out of control, the misuse and abuse of national security organs will become more brazen and more and more public servants will down their tools in frustration. "Business as usual" will bring us nothing but grief.

No one expects magnanimity from the Jubilee's electoral winners but it is sorely called for. The first step is to acknowledge that the NRM has genuine grievances and that Raila Odinga is the NRM's unchallenged leader. For sure minnows like the Third Way Alliance have a stake in the political arena, but it is foolhardy to build them up as some sort of alternative to the political constituency commanded by the NRM. The only way out of this political morass are negotiations between the ruling alliance and the NRM, while taking into account all the outstanding political questions of the past fifteen years, including the recommendations of the TJRC report and the Ndung'u report. We have kicked the can of political myopia long enough down the road. It is time to settle our political problems once and for all.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Zeke is not an outlier

I don't know who had the great idea of Punk'ng Ezekiel Mutua, the major domo (pun very much intended, my Swahili-speaking friend) of the Kenya Film Classification Board, but they are geniuses and their bosses should give them a massive raise.

This past week, at the ungodly hour of 4:00 a.m. and perusing the still-at-140-characters of Twitter, I stumbled upon a Nairobi News link to a YouTube audio with our favourite Christian-censor-warrior-in-chief. Someone had the good sense to ask him what he thought of the gay lions in the Mara. As I understand it, some mzungu tourist doing his tourist-y thing saw two, full-mane lions, doing the nasty and decided to commit the event to digital memory. Needless to say, the pictures have gone viral. Then someone -- seriously, Nairobi News, that person needs a massive raise -- decided to call Good Ol' Zeke and seek his, uhmmm, opinion on the matter.

Of course Zeke wasn't diving head first into the whys and wherefores without confirming a few things. He needed to see the lions' "bio" to confirm that, indeed, they were lions and not overly hirsute lionesses. He was also quick enough to remind his interlocutor that "we don't regulate lions" but the "conduct of human beings" according to law. Then he suggested that some research was needed into the "phenomenon". Then he got into the substance of it all -- "on a lighter note", as he put it.

He found the actions of the lions "bizarre, totally bizarre" and "it is not normal". He declared with seeming zoological authority, I might add, that "the very nature of intimacy, even among animals, is between male and female". He suggested that the lions "ideally, they should be isolated" because "that is a phenomenon for scientific study". He reminded his interlocutor that he has "always argued that homosexuality has some demonic force behind it" and "demons even inhabit animals". In his very strong belief, the lions "are demon-possessed" and that the "demonic spirit inflicting humanity seems to have caught up with animals".

His advice was that we should "isolate the crazy gay animals, study their behaviour, they might require counselling, it could be something that we can arrest because it is not even normal among animals" because "very idea of sex, even among animals, is for procreation". He argued that "we have normalised abnormal behaviours to the extent that even animals are aping" completely missing the irony of using "aping" in this context. On being questioned how the lions would be counselled, Ol' Zeke had the perfect zinger: "probably they have been influenced by the gays who have been going to the game reserves or to the national park and behaving badly! Male and male, in the bush" completely missing the innuendo inherent in "in the bush".

Other than the Standard Three language (and reasoning) by Ol' Zeke, it is interesting to see how resilient long-discarded notions of homosexuality are in Kenya and how much sway they hold over senior public officers. In his mind, there are only two possibilities to gay lions: demon-possession or men behaving badly in the bush in sight of lions. These are his sincerely-held beliefs. Facts -- scientific facts -- are not as persuasive as these beliefs. If you are not horrified at the intellectual rigour that our censor-in-chief brings to public discourse and, it is presumed, public administration, then you don't know how scared you should be. It is time you started paying attention to these things because Ol' Zeke, funny as he is, is not an outlier. He has many senior colleagues. Some of them carry firearms.

The inadequate band-aid

What happens if everyone seeks a private solution to public problems? --
It is the year 2017, Current Era, and there is a wave that threatens to wash over the addle-minded enamoured of the intoxicating whiff of autocracy with their morning coffee or whatever it is the residents of Uthamakistan drink in the morning. This wave is known as critical thinking and I shall attempt to employ it as I take a stab at answering @Gladwellotieno's question.

We are reminded, usually in the form of a joke, that there are two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. Of the former there is no escape; of the latter, evasion invites (in normal states) the unremittingly unforgiving attention of the State. Taxes are the means of dealing with all manner of public policy issues; without the revenues raised by taxes, doctors and nurses will not be paid, and their patients will suffer. Many will probably die. A few patients, at least those with the wherewithal, will engage the services of private healthcare providers and probably escape suffering and death. That, in a microcosm, is a private solution to a very public problem. It is one that millions of Kenyans are familiar with for in the past one year, both doctors and nurses employed in the public service have gone on strike, patients have suffered, many patients have died, and a few have survived because they could afford private healthcare services.

However, what seemed to be a solution was only half that. The unseen ripples of the pebble thrown into the still, healthcare pool will continue for a long time, years perhaps. In the over 160 days of the nurses' strike, childhood immunisation was not done for hundreds of thousands of children, tubercular patients did not have their medicines administered to them, hundreds of cancer patients were forced to dig even deeper into their savings to access private oncology services, and so on.

What will be immediately apparent is that while suffering Kenyans had no choice but to pay their taxes lest they invited the attentions of the taxman, the services those taxes were supposed to fund were not provided and so they were forced to spend what little they had saved on privately-provided services. Family incomes have been decimated. Local economies have been stunted. Mini-epidemics are certainly on their way. Misery has been visited on families. Private solutions to public problems are no solutions at all. They are band-aids on involuntary amputations, that is, wholly and utterly inadequate.

Mr Sonko's colours

Sometimes it pays to re-state the obvious: Mike Sonko is a politician of rare talent. What he is not, and probably never will be is a statesman or political leader of great talent. I don't mean that he will not find future electoral success; given his remarkable political career since he won the Makadara by-election, Mr Sonko will probably continue to surprise and confound his detractors for the foreseeable future. The manner he has governed the Capital City, though, shows you the limits of one-note political talents, such as his for winning elections against all odds.

It only needs to rain for a few minutes for Mr Sonko's leadership deficit to be revealed. That the low hanging fruits of city leadership have so far escaped his grasp should worry his constituents, backers and fans. That he has attempted to cover this deficit by robustly and rambunctiously taking on political rivals as far afield as Migori shouldn't surprise us; where Donald Trump leads, Mr Sonko is likely to follow. Even his "partnership" with Polycarp Igathe, his supposed technocratic deputy with a firm grasp of business management techniques, will not hide the fact that in basic city leadership, the second Nairobi City county government has failed and continues to fail its residents.

Drains remain clogged more than a week after the rains started. Pavements in the unfashionable parts of the CBD are still held hostage by hundreds of "hawkers", while others are muddy tracks that force pedestrians onto the roads. Roads, for the most part, remain unmarked, making them high-risk environments at night when it is raining. Water and sanitation services by the Nairobi water company, wholly owned by the county government, are inadequate, to say the least: many residential areas must make do with rationed supplies and other do without. Public transport remains chaotic, at best, leading to lost man-hours occasioned by the traffic jams caused by matatu crews. And despite Mr Sonko's social media blitz on his war against garbage, a casual stroll through the unseen parts east of Moi Avenue quickly disabuses one of the scale of his success: Mfangano Lane, Ukwala Lane and dozens of similar alleys are spectacularly filthy.

Good leaders know how to organise their workforces to achieve specific goals. Great ones know how to inspire their stakeholders to aim for the seemingly unattainable. Mr Sonko is neither good no great. His City Hall remains disorganised: the never-ending combats between his inspectorate and "hawkers", that almost always leads to injuries, loss or destruction of private and public property reminds us that organisational discipline is not Mr Sonko's strong suite. The same excuses that millions of US citizens made to persuade themselves that Donald Trump would "grow into the job" are the same ones we made about Mr Sonko. The fact that he could be referred to as "Mr Sonko" should have been a clue that sometimes we should judge books by their garishly flamboyant colours.

Kenyans are not morons

No one is neutral and if they say they are, well, I have a bridge in London you might want to buy. One of the most important relationships in Kenyan politics has been between Kenyan businessmen and the ruling party, its senior-most officials and its senior-most representatives in Government. This relationship has been a fact of life since the Queen of England granted the Imperial British East Africa Company a charter to operate in East Africa. The lowering of the Union Jack in 1963 did not alter one iota of this relationship. Kenyan (and sometimes foreign) businesses and Government are intertwined like the tendril-like formations of mangroves' root systems. The Kenya Private Sector Alliance's declaration that it is independent and neutral is a facile attempt to pull at our patriotic heartstrings in order to frustrate the National Super Alliance's calls for boycotts of companies associated with the ruling alliance. It will persuade very few Kenyans because Kenyans are not morons. Whether the boycotts work will depend on how many Kenyans think that it is worth the fight. That number is not as large as Nasa seems to think nor as small as the Jubilation dismisses it as. But what Kepsa has done has only added fuel to the fire. It might live to regret its "press statement".

Monday, October 30, 2017

Legitimacy? Nah, fam.

Legitimacy is not that difficult a concept to understand. Constitutional and statutory legitimacy is quite often easy to achieve if one is a stickler for the strict reading of constitutions and Acts of Parliament. In Kenya, especially over the past fifteen years, constitutional and statutory legitimacy has come to supersede all other forms of legitimacy, including moral, ethical or political legitimacy. The October 26 fresh presidential election is a testament to the triumph of legal legitimacy in the face of great moral, ethical and political illegitimacy.

The ruling alliance is dead set against admitting that it is in the throes of the greatest lack of faith in its legitimacy on five years. It has managed to sink even lower than it did in the wake of its "accept and move on" victory in 2013. On the 26th October, no matter how the numbers are managed, massaged or statistics-ised, out of 19 million voters, more than half, perhaps more than two-thirds, chose to stay away from the polls, hewing to the clarion call of the Doyen of the Opposition to boycott the poll because of the steadfast refusal of the ruling alliance and the electoral commission to make concrete and meaningful changes to ensure a credible election.

Even if we accept the bad-faced canard that "seven and a half million voters chose to participate in the election, this represents only about 40% of the registered voters. In an atmosphere of great mistrust, especially of the ruling alliance and the electoral commission on account of the harsh indictment of both by the Supreme Court, when sixty percent of the voting public chooses to stay home on the day of the presidential election, whatever legitimacy one enjoys cannot be moral, ethical or political even if the strict letter of the law is observed to the last comma (which it has not even in this fresh election). But when the ruling alliance glories in declaring whose swathes of the population as "paid militia" and sees no wrong in the heavy-handed police action in "opposition strongholds" that have led to scores of dead Kenyans, any talk of legitimacy is an insult to any rational adult.

The fresh election has exposed the ruling alliance for what it is: a money-obsessed, formalism-ridden, intellect-bereft, immoral and ethically bankrupt cabal of power-hungry managerialists whose idea of a peaceful nation is one in which all its enemies -- aka rivals -- are dead. The ruling alliance is not interested in the education of its young, the health of its people or the safety of the nation; the ruling alliance is hell-bent on selling national assets in the market of developmental economics come hell or high water. In this scenario, the ruling alliance is the hell and the high water. Legitimacy? No, good people. The ruling alliance is far, far away from legitimacy.

On our own

I watched the junior senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, announce that he would not be seeking re-election when his term came to an end in 2018. While he agrees with Donald Trump's policy agenda, Mr Flake cannot stand the debasement of the US political process that is underway because of Mr Trump's tone, style and temperament. Mr Flake and Bob Corker, another senator who will not seek re-election in 2018, believe that Mr Trump is temperamentally unfit to be the leader of their party or of the country. In this age of everyone getting theirs no matter what, it is strange that there are politicians willing to stand on principle, something that Kenyans have been denied by the belligerent politicians who have driven our country of constitutional cliffs without realising that what they do in the pursuit of political power ripples in every sphere of our lives.

When we voted on the 8th August, we did so in the full knowledge that neither the political actors or the electoral commission had the nation's best interests at heart. Since the last disputed presidential election in 2013, it was increasingly certain that the ruling alliance was attempting to use the post-1969 play book to win the presidential election at all costs, especially by packing the electoral commission with its people and doing everything in its power to limit the Opposition's room for maneuvering. Laws were amended to give the ruling alliance every possible advantage. These underhanded tactics were exposed when a majority of the Supreme Court invalidated the presidential election and ordered a fresh one in sixty days, which was held on the 26th October.

Neither the ruling alliance, which now enjoys a very large majority in Parliament, nor the electoral commission took to heart the scathing observations of the Supreme Court in setting the stage for the fresh presidential election. Laws were once again amended without the hint of a reference to the concerns of the Opposition, and the commissioners and the commission's staff were bullied into toeing the ruling alliance's line.

When the commission's man in charge of information and communication technology for the commission was murdered, we should have realised that there were men and women who had concluded that the presidential election was too important to be left in the hands of the voters. The murder has not been solved. The Supreme Court agreed that the commission and its officers had committed illegalities and irregularities and it is hard not to conclude that part of the reason why these illegalities and irregularities occurred was because of this unsolved murder that may have allowed the electronic electoral system to be manipulated from the inside as well as by outsiders.

For this reason we mustn't take the panicked flight by a commissioner's brother and his family from Kenya on account of death threats easily. Indeed, a week before the fresh presidential election, the commissioner fled the country and refused to participate in the management of the election. She had also faced intimidated by agents of the ruling alliance when she had, after the Supreme Court ruling, been briefly detained at the airport while on her way out of the country. The members of the Supreme Court who had voted to invalidate the presidential election had also faced increasing acts of bullying and intimidation, name-calling and threats from members of the ruling alliance including from the riling alliance's senior-most members. The signal that an attack on the Deputy Chief Justice's driver sent to the rest of the country must have emboldened the Opposition to boycott the fresh election.

Between the invalidation of the presidential election and the fresh election, parliamentarians were faced with decisions that political events required them to take. Those in the ruling alliance chose to lay supine as constitutional norms were laid to waste. Those in the Opposition, taking hardline stances, chose to misinterpret and misapply the law, including the rulings of the Supreme Court. The effect was a stalemate that has not been resolved even now that the fresh election has been held, the ruling alliance has announced victory, the commission has elected to believe its own hype and the rest of the country that isn't occupied by armed police or marauding Mungiki gangs, has heaved a sigh of relief, shrugged its shoulders and gone back to its hustle. What we haven't seen are parliamentarians taking a firm stand against the constitutional and political impasse without paying obeisance to their political godfathers. Kenya is yet to witness a Jeff Flake or a Bob Corker. Kenya is yet to witness a principled stand against chicanery. Kenyans are on their own.

Monday, October 16, 2017

On temporary incumbency

134. Exercise of presidential powers during temporary incumbency.
(1) A person who holds the office of President or who is authorised in terms of this Constitution to exercise the powers of the President...(a) during the period commencing on the date of the first vote in a presidential election, and ending when the newly elected president assumes office...may not exercise the powers of the President specified in clause (2).
140. Questions as to validity of presidential election.
(3) If the Supreme Court determines the election of the President-elect to be invalid, a fresh election shall be held within sixty days after the determination.
This is where my laissez-faire attitude towards grammar and comprehension that comes to bite me in my backside. The 1st September invalidation of the 8th August presidential election have given rise to the a simple question with profound implications: is Uhuru Kenyatta bound by the provisions of Article 134 on the exercise of presidential powers during temporary incumbency?

It all depends on how you interpret the judgment of the Supreme Court on the 1st September. The Supreme Court was called to determine whether or not the presidential election was valid. It found that the election of the president-elect was invalid. The key expression in Article 140 (3) for our purpose is "president-elect". Taken together with the words in Article 134 (1) (a), "during the period commencing on the date of the first vote in a presidential election, and ending when the newly elected president assumes office", Uhuru Kenyatta is bound by the provisions of Article 134 because, notwithstanding that his election was invalidated, the period described in 134 (1) (a) is not yet spent.

The date of the first vote in a presidential election was the 8th August. A newly elected president has not yet assumed office. What the Supreme Court ordered, in the language of Article 140 (3), is not a presidential election but a fresh election for the office of the president. Until Uhuru Kenyatta is successfully elected on the 26th October, and a petition under Article 140 is defeated, he remains a temporary incumbent in the office of the president and is bound by the provisions of Article 134.

Friday, October 13, 2017

To the wilderness or not?

On elections, this is the hierarchy of laws: the Constitution, the Elections Act, 2011, the Election (General) Regulations, 2012, IEBC guidelines and the like. Some of you already know that one other source of law is known as common law, the body of decisions by the highest court on relevant matters. What many of you might not understand or appreciate, is that common law is only applicable when the Constitution, Acts of Parliament and subsidiary legislation (including guidelines, etc.) have failed to address a matter that is in controversy. Common law is the interpretation of the law as well as the circumstances necessitating that interpretation that seeks to resolve a matter for which the written law is silent, ambiguous or contradictory. Common law, just like all other sources of law, is not infallible and is to be relied on only as a last resort.

We have the benefit of two Supreme Court judgments filed by the same petitioner against the same respondents in two separate presidential elections. Both judgments form part of the common law on presidential elections in Kenya. Both judgments lay down what can and can't be done in relation to specific provisions of the Constitution and the electoral law of Kenya. Both judgments are flawed and have done little to resolve the political or administrative problems that necessitated the presidential election petitions in the first place. If for nothing else, we must thank the Supreme Court for familiarising us with Articles 138 and 140 of the Constitution, section 13 of the Elections Act, 2011 and regulation 52 of the Elections (General) Regulations, 2012.

Article 138, over which much has been said, relates to the procedure at a presidential election. It guided the presidential election on the 8th August. From the moment the presidential candidates filed their nomination papers with the IEBC to the the 11th August when the Chairperson of the Commission declared Uhuru Kenyatta duly elected as the President of Kenya, Article 138 held sway. Article 140, on the other hand, was invoked by Raila Odinga in his petition challenging the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as President of Kenya and the Supreme Court invoked its powers under clause (3) to invalidate the election and order a fresh election within 60 days. The judgment of the Supreme Court now forms part of the common law of Kenya on presidential election petitions and presidential elections. And it is a mess.

The 2013 judgment, at paragraph 290, obiter dictum or not, refers to the abandonment of a presidential campaign by a candidate under Article 138(8)(b). This is what it says,
[290] Suppose, however, that the candidates, or a candidate who took part in the original election, dies or abandons the electoral quest before the scheduled date: then the provisions of Article 138 (8) (b) would become applicable, with fresh nominations ensuing.
The problem is not what the Supreme Court said but what Article 138 (8) (b) actually provides for. It states,
(8) A presidential election shall be cancelled and a new election held if—
(b) a candidate for election as President or Deputy President dies on or before the scheduled election date...
There are two important things to note about Article 138 (8). The first is that it deals with the cancellation of an election, not its invalidation. The second is that clause (8) (b) deals with cancellation on account of the death of a candidate, not  his abandonment of the electoral quest. A cancellation of the presidential election is a power than can only be exercised by the IEBC, not the Supreme Court whose power is exercised only under Article 140 (3) when it declares a presidential election as invalid. The 2013 judgment is badly written and it makes for bad common law. Its paragraph 290 must be revised. The Supreme Court must also set out what it means for a presidential candidate to abandon the electoral quest after a presidential election has been invalidated under Article 140 (3) and whether it would serve as sufficient ground for the Commission to cancel the election and set a new date under Article 130 (9), which has the same 60-day time-frame as under Article 140 (3).

You will notice that I have not examined the Elections Act, 2011 or the Elections (General) Regulations, 2012. This is because they cannot provide for what was not provided for in the Constitution, namely the effect of the withdrawal of a presidential candidate from a fresh election that was necessitated by the invalidation of a presidential election. Regulation 52 of the regulations that has been much-quoted on social media is not applicable in any way; it only provides for withdrawal of a candidate within three days of filing his or her nomination papers with the Commission. Because of the 2013 judgment at paragraph 294, there is no need for fresh nominations in the case of a fresh election which has been necessitated by the invalidation of a presidential election under Article 140 (3).

In theory, the hierarchy of laws and the place of common law in that hierarchy is supposed, as far as possible, to address niggly issues like those raised by the invalidation of a presidential election and the withdrawal of a candidate from the fresh election, as has been threatened by Raila Odinga. In our case, we are nowhere near finding a solution that is both practical and respects the provisions of the Constitution. Our constitutional, statutory and jurisprudential architecture is deeply flawed. In the extant case, the only logical solution is political: both parties, Messrs Kenyatta and Odinga, must negotiate a settlement that permits both to participate in the fresh election and sets down a road map for the amendment and clarification of the constitutional, statutory and regulatory provisions of the electoral law of Kenya. If they fail or refuse to defuse this time bomb, they will both be responsible for setting Kenya down a constitutional wilderness for which solutions may never be found.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Handy scapegoats

Is there a profession more reviled than that to which I have devoted my adult life? Not really, going by all the Nazi Germany allusions that are increasingly being made in these days of perpetual anti-IEBC demonstrations. Some of the people responsible for fanning animus against the Kenyan Bar are members of professions that have not covered themselves in glory, most notably the members of Kenya's Fourth Estate. You get the impression that members of the Law Society, whether or not they are of good standing, have colluded to foment as much civil, political and constitutional unrest with the unholy and ulterior motive of converting the Republic into a nation run by, for and of lawyers, jurists and similar odious specimens. It is a comfort to know who your enemy is, to put a face to it, and to wage against it. But what if the enemy you're afraid to confront is yourself? How do you fight yourself?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Supreme Court is wrong

[290] Suppose, however, that the candidates, or a candidate who took part in the original election, dies or abandons the electoral quest before the scheduled date: then the provisions of Article 138 (1) (b) would become applicable, with fresh nominations ensuing. -- The Supreme Court of Kenya, Presidential Petition (2013)
If you are a keen reader of the Constitution, then you are aware that Article 138 does not have a clause (1) (b). The error by the Supreme Court is important because it affects the outcome of the upcoming fresh presidential election, scheduled for the 26th October if Raila Odinga makes good on his threat to "not participate in the fresh election".

It seems that the Supreme Court made up its own provision in Article 138 and then proceeded to hang the "fresh nominations" hat on its interpretation of what the fictitious provision meant. Article 138 deals with the procedure at a presidential election: from qualification to the declaration of results. It doesn't deal with invalidation, the subject of Article 140 (3); instead, it describes the circumstances surrounding a cancelled election at clause (8). Suffice to say, cancellation and invalidation are not the same nor do they operate in the same constitutional process.

Fresh nominations are contemplated in the context of a cancelled presidential election under 138 (8). They are not contemplated in Article 140 (3) where a presidential election has been invalidated by the Supreme Court. The Elections Act, 2011, at section 13, is of no help; it doesn't contemplate the effect of a resignation by a duly nominated presidential candidate after submission of nomination papers to the electoral commission.

As it is, the Supreme Court declares that the parties to the petition that invalidates a presidential election, where the petitioner was a candidate in the invalidated election, shall be the ones to stand in the fresh presidential election. Where the successful petitioner was not a candidate, then all candidates who were on the ballot in the invalidated election shall stand in the fresh elections. Their status immediately after the invalidation of the election is, going by the Supreme Court, that of nominees whose nomination papers have been accepted by the Commission.

A wrinkle now appears. Neither the Constitution nor the Elections Act provide for the withdrawal of a nominated candidate from the presidential election, fresh or otherwise. Even if Mr Odinga's refusal to participate, whatever that is, is taken to mean that he has withdrawn from or abandoned the presidential election, neither the Constitution nor the Elections Act recognises that act. It seems that whether he participates or not, an election must be held within the 60 days' constitutional threshold and Mr Odinga's name will be on the ballot, whether he participates in the election or not.

The Supreme Court corrected the error found in paragraph 290 of its 2013 Judgment; paragraph 290 was an interpretation of Article 138 (8) (b), which states,
(8) A presidential election shall be cancelled and a new election held if...a candidate for election as President or Deputy President dies on or before the scheduled election date...
Article 138 (8) deals with a cancelled election, not an invalidated one; and even if one were to allow that it 138 (8) could deal with an invalidated election, the only circumstance contemplated in clause (8) (b) is the death of a candidate, not the abandonment of the election by that candidate. The Supreme Court's interpretation of Article 138 (8) (b) is wrong.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

I need a nap

What our country needs is a benevolent dictator with a clear mission of making Kenya great. He should appoint judges, order hanging of the corrupt and oversee a clean-up of our systems. -- Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu, Jubilee Party of Kenya)
A key phrase in the oath or affirmation of a member of parliament, to which Mr Nyoro would have subscribed when he was elected as a member of the National Assembly, states,
...that I will obey, respect, uphold, preserve, protect and defend this Constitution of the Republic of Kenya...
The Constitution, which he has sworn or undertaken to obey, respect, uphold, preserve, protect and defend, states in the preamble that the people of Kenya recognise "the aspirations of all Kenyans for a government based on the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice ad the rule of law", which may be incongruous with Mr Nyoro's vision of a benevolent dictator who will "order the hanging of the corrupt".

The Constitution also states that "any attempt to establish a government otherwise than in compliance with this Constitution is unlawful, which may not jive too well with Mr Nyoro's fantasies of benevolence from a dictator who "must be given a free hand to make things right on our behalf", completely ignoring the provisions of Article 10 on the values and principles of national governance, of which the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people are very hard to miss.

Mr Nyoro is an apt example of the shocking discovery that very smart people can be incredibly stupid, their stupidity having nothing to do with their successes in academia or business or politics, or all three as is the case with Mr Nyoro. Stupid people are capable of great academic, professional and political success, as has been shown by Boris Johnson, the UK foreign affairs minister and Dr Ben Carson, the US secretary of housing and urban development. These two have taken stupidity to heights never seen before. Mr Nyoro is about to surpass them.

As with those who have recently discovered the virtues of being ruled by a dictator, their motivation for this craving for an iron rod and an iron fist stem from the desire for great material wealth and overt signs of "development" -- superhighways, megadams, speedy railways -- the so-called "real deliverables" against which all benevolent dictators measure themselves. Democratic markers such as social justice, human rights, freedom of choice and freedom of speech are "expensive and clearly not working" as is plain to see. Many parliamentarians from the Jubilation have discovered that they want and need to be ruled by an iron-fisted iron-rod-wielding dictator who will check his worst impulses and instincts through the application of benevolence in pursuit of the national goal of "development".

These parliamentarians have forgotten the core of the message in the oath they swore when they were elected to Parliament. They have betrayed their oaths to obey, respect, uphold, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. And all because they don't like the way the Opposition has used the Bill of Rights to advance its agenda. In the Jubilation's horrified gaze, "opposition leaders can misuse freedoms and make pronouncements that are likely to cause ruin and chaos is proof that we are disorderly." They fervently would like to get rid of the Opposition leaders. But that would cause even greater chaos and ruin. So, they want their beloved benevolent dictator as a counter-power center. Sometimes this level of stupidity is so overwhelming to contemplate that I need a nap afterwards. I need a nap.

It's the corruption, Sir.

We have no choice than to think, work and produce like other global citizens. We need more of Safaricom and The Java Coffee Houses. Companies that understand that they are playing at the global stage and benchmark with the best. The one man-heroics will be history. What a price to pay for state nurtured mediocrity! -- Jua kali, the weed killing Kenyan formal economy
In Kamukunji, in that zone bordered by Landhies Road, Kamukunji Road, NACICO Plaza, Kamukuni Secondary School, the Nairobi River and Lamu Road, you will find jua kali manufacturers of metal boxes beloved of all Form One students on their way to boarding school, chicken feeders, roof gutters, wheelbarrows, two-wheel trolleys, window frames, doors, shovels, chips fryers, nyama choma grills and dozens of other manufactures. The cacophony in this zone is sometimes overwhelming, the dust incessant. In this zone are employed hundreds, directly and indirectly, as manufacturers, salesmen, food and beverage vendors, transporters and medical practitioners. This zone has remained virtually unchanged for nigh on forty years.

Business and Government have a symbiotic relationship; neither can exist effectively without the other. In both are constituencies of special interest groups, determined to maximise returns, sometimes at the cost of the overall system. In Government are to be found men and women willing to relax the rules for an unlawful fee. This is known as rent-seeking. In business are to be found men and women willing to pay this fee in order to skirt around rule and regulations so that they can maximise returns on investment. It is simply not true that the jua kali sector is single-handedly responsible for keeping Kenya back; the active participation of public officers cannot be gainsaid. If Government had not relaxed the public transport rules that applied against the Kenya Bus Service, matatu culture may not have gripped every segment of the economy like it has today.

The secret sauce to the disfunction is, of course, political corruption. The Kenyan administrative state did what all administrative states usually do: it thrived by expanding the areas of commercial activity that required licenses and permits by publishing ever more rules and regulations, both at national and municipal level. With this growth in regulation there was a corresponding growth in the power of bureaucrats -- the erstwhile administrative officers of the administrative state. And this power was exercised in many ways, the worst being the power to "look away" for a fee whenever a businessman wanted to skirt around the rules and regulations. When the Kenyatta government asked the city council of Nairobi to "allow" matatus to operate in the city, this was an example of the administrative state allowing the relaxation of established standards for political benefit. When the Ndegwa Commission recommended that civil servants could engage in business or own property, this was the beginning of the end of the administrative state and its takeover by the political classes. From then on, politicians in need of campaign war chests used and abused their administrative powers, further entrenching matatu culture in commercial activity.

By all accounts, Kamukunji's jua kali manufacturers could have grown into formidable large-scale manufacturers if the rule and regulations in the sector were applied fairly and consistently. It is a truism in life that the longer you do something, the better you get at it, and the higher the quality of your product. Some of the industrial designs by manufacturers in Kamukunji have taken years to perfect, whether it is in manufacturing systems of final products. But because of the collapse in the values and principles of national governance that have led to the disfunction in the fair application of rule and regulations, even if a jua kali manufacturer managed to register his or her designs with the Kenya Industrial Property Institute or obtain trademark recognition, he or she is not guaranteed protection either by the administrative or political officials in Government, or a fair hearing and a just outcome in courts of law. And without protected intellectual property to his or her name, he or she is unable to access credit or finance from commercial lenders and thus business growth will eventually hit a plateau from which it will not surpass, especially when his or her industrial designs are copied and applied by other jua kali manufacturers. This cycle has become a permanent feature of the jua kali business environment.

Two examples of the unfair environment in the business sector will suffice. In 2008, Safaricom was sued in relation to an upgrade to its MPesa platform. If Safaricom had not been the colossal financial behemoth it was even then, the challenge may very well have succeeded. But the intellectual property at the heart of the suit was not registered and was most likely unprotected. Another example is the protection from competition sought by a powerful middle east company that holds the rights to Carrefour in Kenya. Majid Al Futtaim Retail has the cash to fight this battle while most of the small-scale retailers it has in its sights will give up if they want to stave off insolvency. Now while the man accusing Safaricom of stealing his intellectual property and the Two Rivers Mall's small-scale businesses may not be jua kali, they share the same challenges that jua kali manufacturers face: when bigger and more "valuable" companies attack, they don't have the capacity to fight back or protect their commercial interests. This is not because of their jua kali nature but because of the matatu culture that privileges some business interests over others.

Kenyans don't suffer mediocre manufactures or services because of the inherent mediocrity of the jua kali sector. Kenyans suffer mediocre products because the business environment, jua kali and otherwise, is regulated with the private interests of the regulators in mind more than the overall health of the sector in general. If the regulators protected the interests of all businessmen equally, without picking favourites, they would have greater incentive to formalise many of their activities, if not all, and this would raise the standards of their goods and services. The obvious first step is to crack down on the officials in regulatory agencies, both administrators and political appointees, who are in it for the rents their power affords them. Until that happens, not even formal business colossi like Nakumatt will survive.

Friday, September 29, 2017

What is the minister playing at?

“Why should you carry around a whole platoon of police officers to go and commit a crime; to evict constitutional office holders?” the minister said in reference to threats by Nasa to lead supporters in storming offices of the electoral commission and force out staff they claim bungled the presidential election. Daily Nation (29/9/2017)
The members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, are, indeed, "constitutional office holders" as the minister puts it. However, the secretary and chief executive officers and the remaining staff of the commission are not. All have the right -- indeed, the opportunity -- to ignore the Nasa brigade and its unreasonable demands. For instance, the chief executive, Mr Chiloba, has studiously ignored the Nasa demand that he must resign for being responsible for the irregularities and illegalities committed during the August 8th election as the Supreme Court found. Mr Chiloba did not need the minister to fight his battles for him. Neither do Mr Chiloba's underlings.

The minister, it seems, has used the Nasa anti-IEBC protests as the pretext for withdrawing the bulk of the police bodyguards afforded to Nasa leaders -- a former Vice-President and a former Prime Minister. Of course it will be seen as a partisan affair -- the minister playing hatchet-man to the sore-losers in the Jubilation who simply can't understand how a serial electoral loser could prevail against them at the Supreme Court. Their Supreme Court. Mr Odinga, his unholy cabal and the Supreme Court have to be taught a lesson and the most important is how vulnerable they all are without the warm blanket provided by the personal security of the tough-as-nails General Service Unit commandos. The Supreme Court, its judges (well, most of them, anyway) and its members of staff, faced this intimidation on the days before they delivered their opinions. It is the Nasa leadership's turn to face the music.

The minister is the singular expression of the petulance exhibited by the psychologically unhinged among the Jubilation. He brings their childish revenge fantasies to life. That he is blind to how he looks when he carries out the bidding of the Jubilation's lunatic fringe is not surprising; their masters' voices very rarely get to step back and consider whether or not unswerving loyalty is boon or bane to their individual reputations or character. They enjoy exercising untramelled power without thinking of the consequences. They are like those children who get a test for torturing household pets and have never been caught or punished for their cruelty. In many respects, they are psychopaths who excuse their cruelty with that old dodge: "I was just following orders."

Obviously no one really wants or expects the Nasa leadership to suffer any security scares. But these are not normal times. All it takes is one mistake that endangers their lies, one lunatic hearing voices in his head about how the gods want him to restore athamaki. All it takes is one accidental shooting. All it takes is for the insane fantasies of the Jubilation -- of a world in which That Man is gone -- to come true in violent fashion for their world to disintegrate, armed police or not. It is scary that one coalition can house so many imbeciles that it begs the question: what is the minister playing at?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Of bullies and intellectual charlatans

Ten years ago he hounded Samuel Kivuitu out of office. Last year he hounded Isaack Hassan out of office. Today this same man is working hard to ensure Ezra Chiloba leaves office. The only crime all these men committed is to be at the helm of an electoral commission that did not announce him President of Kenya. -- Raila a bully who insults, wounds -- Ngunjiri Wambugu
Ten years ago, in December, the Electoral Commission of Kenya oversaw a general election that ended in some of the greatest violence related to an election since Independence. A commission of inquiry headed by a respected South African jurist concluded that while it would never be proven who had actually won the presidential election, the electoral commission was to blame for the manner in which the election was managed. It will remain highly contested territory whether or not "mass action" calls by the Opposition led to the violence, but the spark that lit the tinder was laid by the Commission and its chairman, the late Samuel Kivuitu.

One of the recommendations of the Kriegler Commission that investigated the management of the 2007 general election was that the Kivuitu commission had to go home. Raila Odinga was not the only one who indicted the Kivuitu commission; Johann Kriegler and the members of his commission of inquiry did so too, as did the vast majority of Kenyans who had suffered the consequences of the decisions of the election commission and its chairman.

As for Mr Hassan and his commission, the widespread failure of the electronic voter identification kits during the 2013 general election could not go unchallenged especially as it formed a major plank of Mr Odinga's rejection of Uhuru Kenyatta's election. The Supreme Court disagreed with Mr Odinga -- mostly because it refused to entertain the proof he alleged to have compiled in a 900-page affidavit. Mr Odinga accepted the verdict of the Supreme Court but vowed to lead the charge in reforming the commission and the law relating to elections. Mr Odinga succeeded. The commission was reconstituted and the law amended. This was done with the active collaboration of the ruling coalition, though some of its members attempted to sabotage the reforms in January 2017.

Mr Odinga's current animus against Mr Chiloba is not founded on the well-worn canard that Mr Chiloba's chairman, Wafula Chebukati, "refused" to announce Mr Odinga as the President of Kenya. Mr Odinga alleged that the 2017 general election, especially in the presidential election, was conducted in the midst of irregularities and illegalities that rendered the outcome of the election as lacking in credibility, integrity, transparency or accountability. The Supreme Court, this time around, agreed with Mr Odinga and invalidated the presidential election. (Of the over 340 election petitions filed so far, the Supreme Court decision is set to become a well from which the waters of justice may never be exhausted.)

Mr Odinga, for better or for worse, has become the face of constitutional and political reforms in Kenya. Ever since his spectacular falling out with Mwai Kibaki in 2003, after Mr Odinga had led the charge in ensuring Mr Kibaki's electoral victory, Mr Odinga has been at the forefront of holding the national government, its officials and agents accountable for their acts of omission and commission. He has made many mistakes in his actions but he has inexorably moved the nation towards greater openness and transparency regarding Government's operations. Some of his actions have required a certain measure of public pressure -- of public officials and institutions -- and this was to be expected. Entrenched retrogressive elements will not budge simply because we say "pretty please". They must be shown shows of force. Great pressure must be brought to bear on them in order for them to see the virtues of change. This has been the story of all political and constitutional change in Kenya since the days of Saba Saba, something Mr Wambugu, in a fit of intellectual dishonesty, refuses to acknowledge.

A distinction, though, must be made about Mr Odinga's tactics and bullying. Mr Odinga is undoubtedly as selfish as we all are. He seeks ultimate political power like the thousands of politicians in Kenya. But despite this basic truth, it is also true that Mr Odinga has been responsible for shining a light on some very discomfitting aspects of the way Government operates, including how elections are managed. Kenyans are the better for it too. Perhaps Mr Odinga enjoys emotional satisfaction in removing senior public officers from office but when they have been responsible, by acts of omission or commission, in the deaths of thousands, the destruction of billions of shillings worth of private and public property, or the loss of billions of taxpayer funds, this is undoubtedly a good thing for the peoples of Kenya. Peace and stability cannot be used to cover up the misdeeds of public officers. That is not the constitutional bargain we made for ourselves with constitutional provisions such as those found in Article 10 or Chapter Six. If it takes a "bully" to reveal public officials as being devoid of integrity and unworthy to hold public office, then so be it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The face in the mirror

"Babu Owino"What do you expect of a society where children are raised & socialized by maids, shamba boys, drivers & boarding schools? -- @alexawiti
The arrogance is breathtaking, isn't it? When it was announced that domestic workers -- maids, shamba boys, drivers -- were entitled to fair wages and fair working conditions, the loudest voices against the announcement belonged to men and women you would have thought belonged to the "middle classes". Then, it seemed to me, that the paternalistic attitude borne against domestic workers reduced these humans to an un-humanity, against whom it was permitted to be inhuman, to use and abuse them, to gratuitously insult them without facing any sort of social sanction, and to treat their inherent dignity by pretending the dignity didn't exist.

Whether or not Mr Owino was raised and socialised by a maid, shamba boy, driver or boarding school, is neither here nor there. What is important is that @alexawiti holds the view that only a maid, shamba boy, driver or boarding school could so socialise a human who would call another human by an epithet that is frequently employed against maids, shamba boys and drivers. It doesn't occur to him that the middle and upper classes are just as poorly socialised in Kenya. It is how a presidential candidate, campaigning in 2012 saw fit to bring up the vexed question -- to his mind -- of Kenya being "ruled" by a candidate from a community that does not circumcise its boys. It is not so much how the candidate brought up the question of circumcision-as-leadership but the actual words -- crude epithets that revealed the same insinuated lowness of character that @alexawiti attributes to Mr Owino.

We all, of course, remember the daring offer by the then member for Nyeri Town who offered, should the unthinkable decision to try a prominent Kenyan at the Hague for international crimes, to strip naked and parade herself as a curse against the tormentors of the prominent Kenyan. The last time aged women had stripped in public in such a publicly political manner was in 1992, when the mothers of political prisoners stripped naked in the culmination of an eleven-month long strike. Needless to say, Baba Moi's government was sufficiently embarassed to release the political prisoners soon after. The mothers' action was not a stunt as the Nyeri Town MP's was seen to be.

The pièce de résistance is of course the salacious innuendo -- subtle and unsubtle -- by a very prominent Machakos politician, a billionaire and a pillar of the business community, at a rally at Uhuru Park in 2015 that lowered the bar even further in Kenyan politics. What he said about a member of the Cabinet ranks as one of the lowest points in Kenya's political sensibilities, reminding Kenyans that when it comes to class, civility, dignified conduct, self-respect and common courtesies, money, wealth or power are irrelevant to whether one has such fine qualities -- or one does not.

As for boarding schools, they are a reflection of our national priorities. As a people, we are are committed to turning boarding schools into incubators for the production of university-ready "A" grades and nothing else. The fires that are breaking out -- again -- in boarding schools all over the country in which our children are being injured or killed are a reflection of our determination to secure "top marks" for our children regardless of their living conditions or whether these schools are educating our children as opposed to simply drilling them for national examinations. By his broad tarring brush, @alexawiti refuses to admit that Mr Owino is not an anomaly; Mr Owino is the face in our mirrors. Like I said, the arrogance is breathtaking.

The UN is not the solution

In the past three years we have appointed a new electoral commission and installed a new electronic vote results transmission system because we are held hostage to our history of life-or-death presidential elections. Neither the commission nor the electronic vote transmission system inspires confidence, the commission because it is riddled with corrupt officials and the system because it may be vulnerable to outside manipulation. Into the breech, many have suggested, should step the United Nations. Sometimes our lack of foresight shocks me.

The United Nations is a sprawling bureaucratic organisation that accommodates a remarkable diversity of ideologies and actors. Its failings, however, render it wholly unsuited to the role of impartial arbiter in a Kenyan presidential election. We all acknowledge some of the good works it has done, but these are despite its inherent flaws which reveal a system that prefers status quos even when those status quos are grossly dehumanising.

Many will be familiar with the United Nations's response to the cholera epidemic it caused in Haiti in 2010 that led to the deaths of thousands. Some will be familiar with the persistent allegations that the United Nations leadership has refused to take any steps to prevent or punish UN peacekeepers who have raped victims escaping civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The UN's vacillation in 1994 was responsible for the worst genocide in Africa in a generation. The UN Security Council, the most powerful organ of the United Nations, did nothing to stop the United States and its "allies" when they descended upon Iraq, toppled its leadership, ushered in a decade of sectarian fighting and gave oxygen to the most violent terrorist organisations. And, of course, who can forget the United Nations's membership electing serial human rights violator, Saudi Arabia, to the chairmanship of the UN Human Rights Commission.

Our electoral challenges will not be fixed by a corrupt outsider like the UN. The only ones who can fix things are Kenyans being honest about the roles they play in their electoral system. The vast majority are afraid of the leaders they elect or appoint to high office. We are afraid to speak up because it will almost certainly lead to summary dismissal from frequently low-paying jobs. We are afraid to speak up because some leaders are known to command paid armies of violent young people who will kick in our heads at the snap of fingers. We are afraid because for generations we have been trained to be silent when our leaders speak. We are afraid because in Kenya it is very easy to be killed.

Until we contend with this fear, neither the UN or some other do-gooding international organisation will fix our presidential politics. We must be unafraid to call out the liars, thieves, murderers, embezzlers, fraudsters, rapists and buffoons we have elected or appointed to public office. We must be unafraid to speak up when billions are spent on white elephants that saddle the generations to come with debts that will cripple their potential. We must be unafraid to speak when the princes of the city, the captains of industry, the ministers of faith, the intelligentsia and the civil society mavens foment inequality, inequity and insecurity by their acts of commission and omission. In short, we must be unafraid to speak truth to power, to shout it from the skyscraper to the hilltops, the valleys to the basement clubs.

Until we can overcome our fear, we will be led by the nose about the worthwhileness of appointing the UN -- temporarily of course -- to supervise our elections. Did you know that UN peacekeepers have been on temporary duty in Jerusalem to monitor the peace between Israel and Palestinians since 1948? With its record of "successes", why would you want it to supervise a presidential election in Kenya in 2017?

Monday, September 25, 2017

The politics of the 2017 judgment

163. (3) The Supreme Court shall have—
(a) exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes relating to the elections to the office of President arising under Article 140... - The Constitution of Kenya
The Committee of Experts, reflecting national obsessions that have led to great violence, bloodshed and death, and a two-decades-long lesson in political impunity, gave the Supreme Court the principal duty of hearing and determining presidential election petitions. This duty comes before the duty to hear appeals from the Court of Appeal or any other court or tribunal, and the power of the Supreme Court to give an advisory opinion at the request of the national government, any State organ, or any county government with respect to any matter concerning county government. In keeping with our national priorities, it is fitting that the Supreme Court's first duty is to determine presidential election petitions.

The Supreme Court's power, therefore, is not a purely judicial one. It is also a political power and the judges of the Supreme Court are undoubtedly political actors because of it. Tom imagine otherwise is to fail to properly contextualise the role of the Supreme Court in the organisation of Government, in which the exercise of its judicial power in any dispute in which the national executive or the members of the national executive are parties will have political ramifications.

In recent days, a to-and-fro has emerged between those who argue that the invalidation of the August 8 presidential election did not involve the national executive but only the candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, and those who argue that the invalidation was a "judicial coup". The former, of course, is wrong. Whether or not Uhuru Kenyatta exercises temporary powers of incumbency, he remains the head of state and government, and the invalidation of his election affects the functioning of the national executive. The latter is spectacularly wrong. The incendiary suggestion that the Supreme Court has overthrown the lawful authority of the national executive finds no currency in logic. The truth, therefore, is somewhere between these two extreme and partisan positions and it reveals the Supreme Court's political role, as opposed to its judicial one.

Kenya has at least three decades of judgments of the superior courts, especially the Court of Appeal, that demonstrated the political role of the Judiciary if not the Court of Appeal itself. Almost all of those judgments that the exposed its political purpose related to presidential election petitions. Whatever else it did, the Court of Appeal played its part in ensuring that Kenya enjoyed political stability (at the expense of justice or human rights) by relying on technical reasons to strike down presidential election petitions. One of the most important technical rules it established was that presidential election petitions had to be served in person against the respondent. The petitions could be served by alternative means -- such as advertisement in the newspapers or by affixing it to the known address of the respondent. You had to deliver the petition to the respondent in person -- almost certainly the process server invited the enthusiastic attention of the presidential bodyguard when he went to serve Baba Moi with the petition.

This rule -- established by the Court of Appeal -- might have seemed overly technical in nature but it had profound political ramifications. In 2013, the Supreme Court adopted this technicality-driven approach when it sat as an election court to hear the Raila Odinga petition to invalidate the election of Uhuru Kenyatta. Its rulings and determinations may have been technical in nature butt heir effects were political. The technical ruling that prevented Raila Odinga from filing his voluminous pleadings had the effect of establishing a political rule: it doesn't matter what the process in an election was. So long as the process did not substantially affect an election, the election would stand. This was a logical extension of the rules regarding presidential elections that had been established and cemented by the Court of Appeal down the decades which favoured conservative political principles such as "stability" that had been responsible for making a mockery of Kenya's Bill of Rights, such as it was, in the former constitution.

The Supreme Court is now attempting to re-engineer a system that has deep roots. The judgment in the 2017 presidential election petition is remarkable in one instance -- it acknowledges the existence of the past and the "stability" it guaranteed on the political plane but it declares that that stability is founded on grossly unjust principles. It is no longer enough to rely on technicalities but those technicalities must shew fidelity to constitutional values and principles. (The dissenting opinions go to great lengths to demonstrate that the principles established by all presidential petitions up to the instant date, in effect, are faithful to the constitutional values and principles of this constitution even if they were established under the interpretations of the former.) The political repudiation of the line drawn by the former constitution and rubber-stamped by the 2013 judgment beyond which the superior courts would not enquire -- does process matter as much as the outcome -- is earth-shaking. Its reverberations are unlikely to subside in the life of this parliament or the next. This is a profoundly political exercise of power by the Supreme Court.

The political act of electing a government has always been guided by the maxim, "The end justifies the means". In this case, the "will of the people" isn't determined by the thoroughness of the process or the truthfulness of the outcome, but that the outcome is pronounced at the proper time by the proper authorities and endorsed by the election courts. So what if polling stations went dark for a few hours or presiding officers declared fictitious returns? The whole purpose of the electoral system was to provide a veneer of constitutionality and legality to elections, even if the veneer cracked here and there as minor elected representatives had their elections reversed by subordinate courts. With one judgment, the Supreme Court has declared that a political system founded on half-measures and technicalities cannot stand, and a presidential election shall -- in theory -- be held again and again until constitutional values and principles are fully respected by everyone involved in the election. The era of half-measures and technical reasons for upholding the good-enough-ness of half-measures is under assault. Whether or not this assault on the past is sustained -- and successful -- depends almost entirely on what the beneficiaries of the perfidious past system do.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Bend it will

So the date of the fresh presidential election has been pushed back by nine days and the world of KCPE and KCSE candidates has not coming crashing down. That the national executive -- in the guise of the hard-charging education cabinet secretary -- believed that it would not bend to Mr Odinga's will shows foolhardiness taken to perversely extreme ends. It also demonstrates the folly of believing ones own press. The 17th October was too close to the date of the detailed ruling of the Supreme Court for the IEBC to make meaningful changes to how it would conduct the fresh presidential election without inviting another petition in the Supreme Court. The examination-timetable excuse was only persuasive if you didn't remember that national examinations have been rescheduled on previous occasions. Mr Matiang'i, to paraphrase the former police spokesman, intended to measure his strength against Mr Odinga's and has now had to bow down to the inevitability of Tinga's demand's. He should never have attempted it in the first place. Now we can focus our attention on the contest between Mr Odinga and the IEBC which still labours under the delusion that it is the maligned party in the fresh-elections saga. How soon it too bends is speculative at best, but bend it will.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Long-winded and mean-spirited

Five judges of the Supreme Court sat from around 10:00 a.m. till 9:45 p.m. on the 20th September to deliver a Majority Judgment and two Minority Opinions on the petition to end all petitions of 2017. The Majority Judgment invalidated the election of Uhuru Kenyatta. The Minority Opinions disagreed in excruciating detail with the findings of the Majority. If there was any doubt as to why J.B. Ojwang' and Njoki Ndung'u were unsuited to be Chief Justice or Deputy Chief Justice, it was removed not by their temperamental rebuttal of every single point relied on by the Majority, but their mulish and stubborn insistence in reading every single word of their Minority Opinions, though they skipped some parts and skimmed through others. Especially for the Professor, he used his extensive scholarship to cudgel the Majority in some of the most incendiary terms, relentlessly reminding them -- and us -- that he is well-read, learned and wiser. Judge Ndung'u, on the other hand, in effect called her colleagues in the Majority lazy for not verifying -- in person -- the allegations made by the Petitioner. Their ill-will was palpable. I hope nobody is ever foolhardy enough to make them Chief Justice or Deputy Chief Justice.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wishes don't make policy

Trams and underground rail may be no more than just pipe dreams for a cash strapped Nairobi City County, but a public bus system is not only within reach, it can be made possible even in a few short months. -- #Frontrow
There is a fundamental assumption made by all who claim that a state-funded, a state-owned or a state-managed public transport system is the answer to the traffic problems of Nairobi: that the genie of a liberalised public transport sector can be put back in the bottle of a nationalised public transport system. Evidently they have great faith in the powers of national and local governments to see through the nationalisation of public transport. They have not reckoned with the power of the liberalised sector not only to resist the gambit but also to revise it extensively or, more likely, to defeat it decisively.

For a brief period, before the City Council of Nairobi lost its mind, municipal services were the envy of many. Streets were swept, rubbish was regularly collected, drains were unblocked and public transport was efficient, affordable and reliable. But between the appointment of a series of commission to run the City and the liberalisation of the public transport sector, city fathers lost their minds, corruption became a defining feature of municipal administration and the national government engaged in active sabotage of its own programmes, such as the establishment of the Nyayo Bus Corporation to compete against the Kenya Bus Service, the company that offered bus services in the City of Nairobi with the blessings and support of the City Council with the approval of the Ministry of Local Government.

The aftermath of liberalisation policies saw the introduction of thousands of buses, minibuses and vans offering public transport services in cut-throat competitive conditions. Both the Nyayo Bus Corporation and the Kenya Bus Service went out of business, the former being looted for all it was worth and the latter unable to offer cut-rate fares in competition with the surging matatu sector. An entire economic ecosystem is built around matatus and the blithe assumption that "a few short months" are all that are needed to re-nationalise public transport simply ignores the facts on the ground.

First, no matter what we think of matatu crews, they are in employment in one form or the other. Drivers, conductors and touts form the bulk of the employees of the matatu sector. Re-nationalisation of the sector almost certainly means that the vast majority must find alternative employment. Second, some form of compensation must be paid to all those whose buses, minibuses or vans will be pulled off the road on one pretext or another. If not, many individuals will face bankruptcy or insolvency and many financial institutions will have to manage bad debts for years on end. Third, the ecosystem supported by and reliant on the matatu system will have to reorganise. Importers of both chassis and used or second-hand vehicles, importers of new and used spare parts, mechanics, car-park yards, body fabricators, vehicle interior designers, insurance agents and brokers and finance institutions will have to find other recipients of their services. These "stakeholders" are important components of the economy and their needs must be addressed in any campaign to re-nationalise the public transport sector.

We already have a public transport system. What we don't have is a state-funded or state-managed one. We should keep it that way. What we need is a well-managed system. If there are standards, they must be applied, implemented and enforced fairly and firmly. If there are laws, they must be enforced without fer or favour. If there are offenders operating in the system, they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We already have the experience of what happens when a corrupt government runs a bus company. There is no guarantee that the county government of Nairobi City is corrupt-free enough to be trusted with a monopoly in the public transport sector in Nairobi. Its recent pronouncements and clarifications don't imbue one with confidence either. Until someone puyblishes a comprehensive paper on what it means to have "a public bus system", let us treat #Frontrow's proposals like the wishes children make while blowing out candles on cakes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What ails the Jubilation?

The Chief Justice has been accused of treason by a consultant who is closely connected with an online college that recalls a more colonial era in its name. The reason is simple enough to detect: in the wake of the truly earth-shattering ruling issued by the Supreme Court -- by majority decision -- the Chief Justice, as the President of the Supreme Court and head of the Judiciary, has become the target of the misguided ire of the members of the Jubilation who were caught flat-footed on the 1st September. In invalidating the election of Uhuru Kenyatta, announced by the Chairman of the IEBC in the dead of night on the 11th August, the Supreme Court's judges attracted a level of political scrutiny that not even the much-reviled 2013 ruling could have elicited and none more than the Chief Justice has become the target of the Jubilation's intensely baleful focus.

The President and the Deputy President have not been shy of bandying words about regarding the invalidation of their election. "Civilian coup" and 'judicial coup", uttered with vehemence at many public events, set the stage for ne'er-do-wells to loudly question the "loyalties" of the Chief Justice and his colleagues and to insinuate that there was something un-Kenyan, underhanded and malign in the manner that the Supreme Court "refused to give reasons" for the invalidation of the election of the president and his running mate.

The "we respect the judgment of the supreme court but disagree with it" facade was jettisoned when the member for Nyeri Town in the National Assembly, a freshman elected representative, availed himself of the rights contained in Article 168 and filed a petitioned the Judicial Service Commission for the removal of the Chief Justice on the grounds of gross misconduct. It isn't that the Jubilation hadn't intended to do so but that it had intended to so as soon as the detailed judgment of the Supreme Court was read out, on or before the 21st September. With the cat out of the bag, all pretense was set aside: unfavourable and inflammatory stories about the Chief Justice and some of his colleagues have been planted in the press and more petitions are being filed for the removal of judges of the Supreme Court on grounds of, you guessed it, gross misconduct. These are now being buttressed by picketting crowds outside courts, including outside the Supreme Court building, over the past two days.

Distractions like the aforementioned consultant and his online screeds passing off as reasoned political commentary will continue to build the case that the 1st September ruling amounted to treason, the unlawful removal from power of the president -- though, of course, the president is still in power. Allegations of gross incompetence will continue to be made by malcontents unhappy with the manner in which the Supreme Court interpreted the laws passed by the bullies of "Tyranny of Numbers" fame. The people -- you and I -- are being primed for the removal of the Chief Justice and some of his colleagues. This unsubtle campaign of intimidation is well-choreographed but it is not so difficult to discern the outlines of the marionetteers in the background.

The Supreme Court, the moment it was given original jurisdiction in presidential petitions, became a political institution no matter how reasoned, reasonable and detailed its rulings would be. This may be one of the more asinine decisions of the Committee of Experts and we have little choice but to live with it. But we must acknowledge that the neutrality of the Supreme Court, after the events of the past three weeks, is shot to hell and we can thank the Jubilation and their jackbooted red-shirts for this. All the Jubilation had to do was let the IEBC cock it up again in October so that it could join NaSA in finding friendlier election officials for the third presidential election of the year. Instead, it is increasingly resembling the more unhinged parts of the former Soviet Bloc.

We need to learn, again, how to think

I don't think the parliamentarians of the National Assembly will heed the call and #RejectFinanceBill2024. They will tinker. They will v...