Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Clenched buttocks

I can't tell you how terrifying it is. I haven't clenched and unclenched my buttocks this fiercely since I was a boy in high school having being summoned to the discipline masters office after being, falsely of course, accused of being a disruptive member of the class by one of those brown-nosing class monitors. Anyway, in the past three days I have committed myself to a course of action that has rendered my already fragile medical constitution even more fragile and today was a key test. In an hour -- or three, dpending on the rain -- we will finally find out whether I have set myself on a path to utter personal ruin or whether I have what it takes to look a man in the eye and see the contents of his darkened, blackened soul.

The forty-fourth

Between the Preamble and Article 250(4) of the Constitution, "ethnic" and "ethnicity" are mentioned fifteen times. However, neither the Constitution nor any written law of Kenya established who the official "tribes" of Kenya are. There is no written law that enumerates the qualifications a community must have in order to be described as a "tribe" of Kenya and, therefore, there is no law that describes the process of "recognising" a community as a "tribe" of Kenya. In Kenya, per the Constitution and the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act, 2011, you are either a citizen of Kenya or a foreign national. Neither the Constitution nor the law on citizenship and immigration categorise Kenyans in terms of "tribes".

No Kenyan enjoys special constitutional or statutory privileges because of his or her tribe, but many Kenyans have been discriminated against because of their tribe -- and others because of their race. It is why the Bill of Rights explicitly outlaws discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnicity, and directs that the State shall take legislative and other measures to promote the inclusion of traditionally marginalised communities, including ethnic communities, in the public service including in elective offices. If are a citizen of Kenya, the State (or any other person, for that matter) shall not -- or shouldn't -- discriminate against you.

What does it mean, then, that the Government of Kenya has "recognised" Kenyans "of Asian heritage" as Kenya's "forty-fourth community"? When the acting Cabinet Secretary for Interior intoned, "Now you are part and parcel of us formally," what did he mean? His offer that Kenyan Asians should "now participate in Government processes" crowned his declaration that Kenyan Asians were...I still don't know what they have become. 
Kenyan Asians have always been citizens of Kenya. The community has, as many minority and marginalised communities of Kenya, also faced discrimination from Government officials. Many Kenyan Asians have, however, surmounted the hurdles placed in their way by, and succeeded in their endeavours -- many successful Kenyan companies are owned or run by Kenyan Asians and out of one of their most prominent sons' efforts, Kenya's constitution is superior to most others. Of course the community has its share of villains -- the Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing scandals are the demonseeds of Kenyan Asians.

What remains to be seen is what it means to be officially recognised by the Government as a "community". Will it mean special quotas in recruitment to the public service? Will members of the community enjoy special tax privileges? Will they get a national day of their own? Was it all a political gambit, designed to burnish the "inclusiveness" credentials of the Jubilation? Time, I guess, will tell.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Free-market cholera

In the first episode of the final season of the immensely popular Game of Thrones, the Hound has a few things to say about how men die. Some, he states matter-of-factly, "shit themselves to death." That is exactly how a person who is infected with cholera dies -- they shit themselves to death. A person who has "cholera-like symptoms" is, in effect, shitting himself to death and, barring the intervention of medical personnel, is likely to shit himself to death. When two Cabinet Secretaries of the Government of Kenya were admitted in hospital "suffering from cholera-like symptoms", they were shitting themselves, and would have shit themselves to death if it hadn't been for the intervention of doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Cholera is not an "infection of the poor"; cholera is an indictment of a water and sanitation system that does not provide sufficient quantities of potable water to a population while failing to effectively evacuate and treat waste effluent, especially sewerage. Since a wedding in the upper-class Karen area in May, cholera has seemed to deliberately avoid poor people -- doctors at a high-end hotel got their chance to put their medical expertise into practice in June and failed miserably to either detect the cholera symptoms among their colleagues to manage the aftermath of the outbreak. Especially at the hotel, scapegoats were quickly found for the outbreak. Rest assured, the rich hotel was not to blame but the poor Kenyans living in "informal settlements" who shit in the various Nairobi "rivers" whose waters seep into underground aquifers, are extracted through boreholes and end up being used in places like the high-end hotel, putting hotel guests at risk.

The market logic of reforming and liberalising water services in Kenya was unimpeachable. Government had failed to properly manage water services. Millions who lived in urban areas did not have access to adequate potable water and millions more did not have access to sewerage services of any kind. Water "reforms" led to the creation of water services authorities, water services boards, and water and sanitation companies. Water "reforms" were supposed to lead to better and better water and sanitation services. The water "reforms", like it or not dear private-enterprise-capitalist zealot, failed. Its failure is writ large in the violently loosened anal sphincters of your foremost free-market proseltysers, the aforementioned Cabinet Secretaries. 

Because of the water "reforms", the City of Nairobi witnessed an incredible thing: in a period when water was being rationed, and only the well-heeled could afford private supplies (from god knows where), the most pampered class go hit by the shits that mostly arrives because of contaminated water supplies. If the water "reforms" hadn't been screwed up the way they were, fewer and fewer urban dwellers would have had to shit in water bodies, thereby contaminating water sources, suffering a period of drought-induced rationing, that led to reliance on "alternative" water supplies that happened to be contaminated because of the shitting in water bodies. Our casually cruel treatment of the poor and marginalised in our urban areas led to two Cabinet Secretaries, a whole bunch of doctors and foreign guests at a wedding, to be struck down by acute diarrhoea.

Free-market zealots, many of whom champion liberalisation and "deregulation" of market, lower taxes, smaller government and "personal responsibility", almost always forget that "market logic" and "the invisible hand" are not absolute truths, not when they apply to human beings in all their emotional volatility and complexity. Humans are not programmable computers or computer systems and will never, ever react predictably to all circumstances. The water reforms agenda was sound when looked at from the pure logic of free markets, deregulation and capitalism. If only the logic had been pure you wouldn't have Kenyans at risk of shitting themselves to death.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Rights and visions

That there are respected thinkers who believe -- fervently so -- that the Constitution of Kenya is a vehicle for economic, or even human, development gives me pause. I have always seen a constitution as serving one principal function -- the organisation of government, that is, the establishment of the form of government, the delimitation of the powers of government, the manner of electing or appointing senior officials of the government. In delimiting the powers of government most constitutions now rely on bills of rights that enumerate the rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens.

What a constitution does not do is set out a blue print for economic or human development. For sure, if government is organised as intended in the constitution and it does not exceed its powers as delimited in the constitution and not only protects the rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens as enumerated in the bill of rights, then the outcome is likely to be enhanced human and economic development. But while these are outcomes of constitutionalism, they are not objectives of constitution-making.

Part of the reason why many believe that a constitution is a a human or economic development blueprint is in how bills of rights have incorporated economic and social rights (the right to housing, healthcare, education, social security, water and sanitation), as part of the traditional bill of rights. These "second-generation" rights almost always are economic in nature and their protection or guarantee by the government will almost always have economic implications for the government. For example, the more people who have access to affordable healthcare -- whose affordability is a mixture of a well-regulated insurance market and public subsidies for citizens who can' afford insurance premiums -- the lesser the number of citizens living in poverty and likely to compete for better-paying job opportunities. But, as I have pointed out, while the objective is to guarantee, for example, healthcare for all, the objective is not to guarantee healthcare for all at a cost that would bankrupt government.

It is for this reason that economic planning plays a vital role in meeting the human development needs of citizens. Economic planning, part of the mandate of government, is guided by the delimited powers of government and with the overall object of protecting or guaranteeing the rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens. Economic planning is the servant of the constitution, and not vice versa. But they are not the same thing.

It is why I agree with those who remind us that Kenya Vision 2030 is not the constitution -- and that it is not cast in stone. It is a mere economic blueprint. To revise it -- or jettison it -- would not lead to a constitutional crisis. It is not the Vision 2030 tail that wags the constitutional dog. The easiest way to look at the differences between the two is this: the outcome of the implementation of the Kenya Vision 2030 may be greater protection or guaranteeing of the rights and fundamentals of Kenyans, but that was never its objective. The obligation of government to respect, protect and guarantee Kenyans rights and fundamental freedoms is to be found in Chapter Four of the Constitution, not the pages of the Kenya Vision 2030.

The Constitution is the rule-book that allows the government to aim at specific economic development goals. Vision 2030 is the roadmap that shows the economic development tasks that must be completed in order to attain those economic development goals. Without the constitution, there is no government and without government, there might as well be no economic development goals. The reverse is not true. Regardless of Vision 2030, the government still has a constitutional obligation to respect, protect and guarantee ones rights and fundamental freedoms.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Be deathly afraid

I actually want to thank and congratulate the KDF, who did this. I wish we would have more mass graves of these people. Because if we do that, we shall go the Ethiopian way. You see, in Ethiopia, although we have a very large border -- Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia -- Ethiopia has a larger border with Somalia yet we do not find these terrorists coming, going to Ethiopia because Ethiopia is very very strong in handling terrorism. I am thinking of the four children who died in Lamu with the four police officers when these people put IEDs. See if I could get the people who put those, I would murder them, I'd even not bury them so these other people can learn the medicine. This Mandera people have been very unco-operative. They see terrorists, they lie with them, yet they don't say anything. Now they're sympathising with the five dead, five buried. They are not sympathising with the people who were killed in a quarry. They do not talk about the people who die in buses in Mandera. So if the KDF found these people and found that they were the guilty ones, don't even bury them. Throw them to the, to whatever! And that is the justice that I would like seen for us to eradicate terrorism in Mandera...The medicine for these people is just kill them the way they kill us. You take them to  judge, then he's given bail, then the...hapana! Just kill! Let them go!
This is a transcript of a diatribe by the don of a state-funded university, that he made on a morning television programme on Tuesday, the 19th July, a day after a mass grave in which the remains of five men were discovered where they had been disposed of by members of the Kenya Defence Forces. The diatribe took place after a video was leaked online showing what appeared to be a member of the Kenya Defence Forces shooting and killing an unarmed man (presumably, in Mandera).

Kenyans may have peculiarly short memories but the victims of state-sanctioned terrorism never forget. A running mate in Kenya's general election refuses to countenance the full implementation of the report of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission because "it will divide Kenyans along tribal lines", forgetting, or ignoring, that many of the victims who testified before the Commission suffered at the hands of the disciplined forces, including the army and the police. The names of the places where they suffered have become part of our human rights lingua franca -- Wagalla, West Pokot, Mt Elgon, North Eastern, Tana River.
Only once has Kenya come close to reckoning with its legacy of state-sanctioned terrorism, when the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Act was enacted in 2008. The day after it was enacted, Kenya went back on the objectives of the statute by setting itself upon the task of appointing an insider from deep in the heart of the Moi Era Government to be its chair, a slap in the face of some of the victims for whom the law was enacted in the first place. Since his appointment and the litigation that stymied his, and the Commission's effectiveness, much blood has flowed down the Tana in the name of anti-terrorism -- not the least the extra-judicial execution of troublesome radical clerics, the detention of thousands of Kenyan youth on suspicion of being terrorists and now, so it seems, the videographed execution by members of the defence forces of suspected terrorists.

Armies are not built for policing the civilian population; they are built to fight wars. Point them at an enemy, and it is the sworn duty of the soldiers to destroy the enemy. It is true that terrorists are the enemies of Kenya and Kenyans but, unless they are massed in standing armies challenging Kenya to a war, to beat them is a two-pronged approach of counter-intelligence and criminal investigation. In other words, more often than not, the police force is well-equipped to investigate terrorism-related offences, while the intelligence service is designed to identify threats and neutralise them before they are realised. This is not the job of the defence forces, certainly not on domestic soil bar a declaration of emergency and their deployment to police the civilian population.

The bloodlust expressed by our don is an indicator of the ideas of justice that are percolating in our institutions of high learning, where the men and women responsible for shaping the minds of our young are concerned with revenge at al costs and are blind to the malign effects of an unrestrained national security apparatus. If our very own university dons remain oblivious to the lessons of our blood-soaked history, it is no wonder that young Kenyans are susceptible to fascist ideologies such as those that have been advanced by some members of the Jubilation in this election season. It is why the presidential shoot-first-answer-no-questions edict has received such great purchase, even among well-travelled and, supposedly, enlightened Kenyans. It brings to doubt every loft promise about "peaceful" this and "peaceful" that as repeated by members of the elected classes. Quite frankly, we should be deathly afraid that the ground is being prepared for us to unquestioningly accept extra-judicial executions as the antidote for armed crime.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Can people actually be so blind?

In the early Aughts Kenya grappled with the runaway dangers posed by adherents of the Mungiki, an organised criminal organisation that hid behind the guise of a reawakened traditional African "church". The Mungiki had enjoyed the patronage of influential Moi-Era Mount Kenya politicians during the 1995 - 2002 period and, because of this patronage, the forces of law and order had turned a blind eye to the Mungiki's expansionist tendencies as it slowly took over the matatu sector. By the time Mwai Kibaki turned his attention to the problem, the Mungiki had become a law unto itself, immune to the niceties of the constitution or the efforts of the forces of law and order. The Mungiki had become a threat to the stability of Mr Kibaki's government.

What happened between the date of Mr Kibaki's inauguration as president and the conflagration of 2007 remains shrouded in UN reports, speculation, abortive criminal prosecutions, accusations and counter-accusations. What is known, however, is that Mr Kibaki took off the leash from his internal security ministers and the national security apparatus and set them on the adherents of the Mungiki. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young men and women were executed in the dead of night without the bother of criminal charges or criminal trials. Many, it turns out, were innocent, turned over -- or "misidentified" -- by their executioners in many extreme cases of score-settling. Philip Alston, the UN Rapporteur on Extra-judicial Killings, documented these executions in a report that indicted the Government at its highest levels. The executions of the Mungiki slowed down then stopped. But the lessons of the strategy had been learnt -- especially how to hide executions from the public while co-opting the public in the silent massacre of the "enemies of the people".

The tactics used against the Mungiki were perfected and deployed against "radical Muslim clerics", though every now and then a particularly public extra-judicial execution of a troublesome cleric was conducted to the unrestrained praise of many in Kenya's intelligentsia. Never mind the constitutional protections granted to Kenyans -- yes, even to "terrorists" -- there is a section of Kenya's opinion-makers who have no qualms reviving the feared Kibaki-Era Kwekwe Squad to deal, once and for all, with the al Shabaab enemy and their sympathisers in the civilian population. Six years after the Kenya Defence Forces invaded the Republic of Somalia in "hot pursuit" of al Shabaab fighters, the terrorist organisation has not been vanquished. In fact, it seems to have entrenched itself in Kenya's lawless areas such as the Boni Forest in Lamu, from whence it has launched attacks against security forces and Government officials. Night-time curfews and permanent armed patrols in the "affected areas" do not seem to have hampered the ability of al Shabaab to strike with impunity.

What the shoot-them-all cabal forgets of the Kibaki Era anti-Mungiki massacre are the human rights abuses that took place. The security forces became emboldened and engaged in criminal acts with the excuse that one "fights fire with fire". This impunity can be recalled in the way the police tried to cover up the night time extra-judicial execution of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl in Kilifi in 2015. Or, for that matter, the brutal assassination of Erastus Chemorei when he wouldn't go along with a scheme to mishandle a massive cache of drugs seized by the police in 2005.

The latest shoot-to-kill order, issued in the wake of the abduction of the public works' principal secretary by al Shabaab fighters and her subsequent rescue by the defence forces, will almost certainly follow the same pattern as the anti-Mungiki campaign of terror and the anti-al Shabaab I operations that took place in 2008/2009. It is almost certain that giving the security forces a free hand to determine guilt or innocence will lead to many innocents being caught up in the dragnet. Many of those championing this policy might not be touched by the long, violent arm of the law -- these are the movers and shakers who can afford to count senior government officials among their closest friends -- and they will never see the destruction that security forces can unleash when off their constitutional leashes. That these anti-democratic, anti-constitution exhortations are being made with weeks to spare to the general election, it beggars belief that the malign outcomes are being so blithely ignored. Sometimes you must ask: can people actually be so blind?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nancy Baraza was an anomaly

I once was on attachment in the Government of Western Australia in the Department of the Attorney-General. The experience was eye-opening. The man I worked for was the Parliamentary Counsel of Western Australia, that is, he was responsible for the drafting of laws for the whole WA government. Without his say-so, on many matters, a bill proceeded to debate or died a still-birth. To my mind, he possessed great power, both administratively and politically, and this was reflected in the respect he commanded among the members of the elected government, including his boss, the Attorney-General.

Working for him was one cultural shock incident after another. First, he didn't have a driver-bodyguard or a preferred parking spot in the office garage. Second, he didn't have a personal secretary and receptionist; his entire department operated with one receptionist -- and one tea-lady. Third, so far as I could tell, everyone called him by his first name -- Walter -- even the tea-lady, whom we all feared because she was the one who decided whether or not you got Tim-Tams with your morning tea. Fourth, he didn't stand on ceremony; if you wanted to see him, you called his desk and checked if he was free -- if he was, you simply walked over.

If you have worked for a Kenyan senior mandarin, you will understand why my WA experience left me all shook. The higher you climb the administrative greasy pole, the more people you drag into your comet-like tail: drivers, bodyguards, secretaries, receptionists, "personal" assistants, and the like. You also seem to be the only one who seems to have an "official" tea-lady; your underlings enter into inform arrangements with clerks' assistants to perform tea-making duties (for which a small stipend is set aside from "petty cash"). The only ones allowed to call you by your first name are your peers -- witness the awkward first name handwritten on official correspondence in the the salutations. If any of your underlings even contemplated doing so, you would most likely exile them to the bureaucratic hinterlands -- the "confidential" registry, say -- where they will not be a disruptive influence on the other minions. 

Pomp and circumstance are the reason why you wanted that top job in the first place. From the moment your chauffeur-driven Peugeot 508 is spotted -- or Prado VX -- minions start an automatic ritual: the APs at the main gate swing open the gate and salute as you glide by behind blacked-out windows; the private security person at reception has already called for your lift, pushed open the glass doors and saluted as you entered the building and jumped into your lift to your top-floor office-suite. There, your receptionist, secretaries and personal assistants relieve your bodyguard of your jacket and briefcase as they await your commands.

Even though my WA sojourn was brief, it never occurred to me that the Attorney-General would raise a ruckus at the Perth airport because of how she was treated by the security staff. In Kenya, it comes as no surprise that someone has lost her job because she disrespected a member of the Cabinet. Her sin was in not knowing people. Her sin was in presuming that members of the Kenyan Cabinet are ever likely to be considered security risks while the reality is that, even in the secure confines of public airports, they are at heightened risk from the flying public. 

You never know who among them is trained in martial arts and has been sent by the waziri's enemies, of whom there are legion. If you don't understand the dangers facing the waziri, refuse to accommodate his obvious impatience taking the dangers he face into account, you can ask for all the millions you think are available in vain. Nancy Baraza was an anomaly. She was a woman, she was in the wrong arm of government and she did not have a powerful constituency backing her up. Her ouster did not establish a new rule. Kenya's Magufuli will not be taken down by an uppity airport askari. No way, no how.

All hat, no cattle

Voting is an opiate, giving an illusion of control. Control lies in placating the masses with jobs (money). Watch the [west], as jobs vanish. @Awan_ken
Save for the men and women in the public service, the Government is not, and should not, be responsible for the bulk of jobs created in the economy. Its principal job, in the grand economic scheme of things, is to ensure that economic policy leads to economic growth and, consequently, economic growth not only leads to wealth-creation but job-creation as well. @Awan_ken seems to be a member of that school that glorifies "economic growth", especially the one that comes without having to deal with the other necessities of a functional economic system: democracy; free, fair and credible elections; human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The thinking is simple, if not overly simplistic. The vast majority of voters almost always vote for the "wrong" people; these "wrong" people make the wrong policy decisions; these wrong decisions lead to waste, "theft" of public resources and poor economic development numbers. The simple solution, so they say, is to take political decision-making from the people who almost always make the wrong decisions and entrench the power to think "correctly" in an elite, usually the large taxpayers or investors -- almost always the rich and, because of their wealth, the powerful. In fact, take away democratic institutions such as elections and you can unlock the economic potential of the national treasure wasted on such frivolous, opioid and illusory frivolities. Let the fate of the republic be decided by unaccountable and faceless men making decisions in secret boardrooms.

Let us acknowledge that freer people are prone to greater conflict and, therefore, require and rely on robust and independent institutions to mediate their conflicts with as little violence as possible. Of these institutions, the technical ones only offer technical assistance: the civil service in general, the judiciary and the disciplined services. The ones that are critical to properly mediating conflicts almost always are political institutions, like the elected government and the political parties through which political organising mostly takes place. The election is the culmination of the process of mediation and negotiation among citizens and their interest groups including trades unions, employers' federations, chambers of commerce, and industry associations as well as faith-based and other charity organisations.

The freer the political process, the more robust and independent political institutions need to be. Not the obverse. Free people are innovative and adventurous, capable of great achievements and incredible wealth-creation. Un-free people are more likely to become the victims of the elite who make all the decisions, unlikely to enjoy even the freedom of thought deep in the recesses of their minds. Un-free people are almost always the enemies of the people. Un-free people are only free in one respect: they can be killed at any time with little remorse or shame.

I don't trust anyone who doesn't trust me and my fellowman to make the best decision about my life, who believes that the democratic process we have chosen for ourselves without coercion or undue influence is the wrong one, and who would champion the equivalent of a dictatorship of thought -- all for my mine and my fellowman's benefit. I don't trust anyone who would sweepingly declare the political process to be an opiate, illusory, who has not offered himself in the agora to lead the people to his political utopia where the people have not succumbed to the debilitating effects of opioids. Either you have the conviction of your principles or you don't. So far as I can see, the democracy-is-bad-for-the-economy bandwagon is made up of the all-hat-no-cattle cabal.

Elitism's resilience

In my opinion, this is a fundamental flaw in the one-man-one-vote electoral democracy. I think we should change it so that on those registered as taxpayers should be allowed to vote – barring, of course, companies, societies and other corporate entities...We should even go a step further and give additional votes based on the amount of tax one has paid during the preceding parliamentary term; say, one additional vote for every Sh10,000 paid in the five years before an election...This would make the national election similar to a company or Sacco. In companies, for example, shareholders are assigned votes equal to the number of shares they own. WORLD OF FIGURES: Why only registered taxpayers should vote in elections
Elitism in Kenya is not a unique phenomenon. Its paternalistic fingerprints can be traced to the moment a European settler and colonist declared that Black peoples were to be civilised and given the right history. Civilising missions almost always followed the same pattern: religious proselytising about a Christian God; training and instruction in the formalism of European education with its focus on standardisation and certification; further religious proselytising about capitalism in all its iterations; and, most importantly, the centralisation, organisation and necessity of constitutional government and the exercise of its mandate, especially the imposition and collection of taxes.

We ended up with the civilised government that the settler-colonist intended for us and the tax system is proof of the settler-colonist's success, especially the arrogance that is engendered in the man or woman who pays taxes while his poor fellowman relies on the handouts of well-wishers or, worse, the tax-evader plays hide-and-seek with the taxman, skulking in the corporate underworld like the smelly skunk he is, an uncivilised being to be shunned by all right-thinking tax-paying citizens. This arrogance decrees that only those who pay income tax should be afforded political rights and, by extension, political power. (The small matter of any Bill of Rights that guarantees political freedoms to all citizens is a minor detail that statute law can address.)

If a country was the same as a SACCO or a company, and each citizen owned shares in the country, then there could, in theory, be a case to be made for votes to be based on shareholding and, therefore, political rights and political power. That is not the case with Kenya, is it? In a population of 45 million, or thereabouts, there are only 2.1 million registered taxpayers. Are these 2.1 million Kenyans -- we presume that they are all Kenyans -- shareholders in the national entity known as Kenya? If they are, should those who pay the highest amount in income tax have the greatest say about who should and shouldn't form the government and, as a consequence, determine what laws are needed?

The US Revolutionary War was indeed fought over the question of taxation without representation. But that is not the whole story, is it? The Thirteen Colonies may have had principle on their side when they took on the British Crown, but they didn't extend the same privilege to the Black men and women held as chattel property, who were included in the revolutionaries' financial statements when paying taxes. Black humans were not humans to the taxpaying white man in the American Colonies. Even if we skirt around whether or not citizens who don't pay income taxes are citizens to begin with, what other privileges will the government of the taxpayer grant the taxpayer at the expense of the non-taxpayer? In other words, what discriminatory policies should the government implement to reflect the non-rights of the non-taxpayers?

When Johnson Sakaja was mulling a bid for the Governor's office, he suggested that Nairobians should be encouraged to buy SUVs in order to bring the traffic chaos under control. Those residents of this city who commute by public means or, as many do, walk to work, were not high up in his vision for the city. They might as well have been invisible. When Kenyans were being bombed and shot at by terrorists, the president and his securocracy suggested, behind their phalanxes of armed bodyguards, that, in effect, Kenyans should sort out their own personal safety and security on their own and leave government alone. Security, the said, begins with you.

Elitism has not traveled that far between the Portuguese visitors to the East African Coast and their forts and the columnists on our national newspapers. The poor and unlettered will always make the wrong choices when it comes to "leaders" and, for their own benefit, some of their privileges must be curtailed. There are many things wrong with Kenya's democracy. Undemocratic screeds are not the solution.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Kanuism's resilience

Three Kanuists have died in the past week. This is an astonishing rate by any standard. Two of them were stalwarts of the Moi Way, which eschewed the rights and fundamental freedoms of Kenyans and, instead, translated presidential fiat into action on the ground. The third was some sort of fixer-henchman-financier of considerable power during a twenty-four-year presidential reign of terror. I look forward to the intellectual contortions Kenyan politicians will twist themselves into looking for something, anything, to say in praise of the late unlamented Kanuists.

While Kanuists are shuffling off their mortal coils, Kanuism is alive and in very rude health. Jill Cottrell Ghai grapples with Kanuism in her most recent Op-Ed in the The Star, as she examines the unenforceable Gazette Notice by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources and the resurgent presidential habit of "creating" new administrative units as sops to voters during political campaigns. While she diagnoses the constitutional infirmities that both Kanuist actions suffer from, she refuses to name the ultimate reason for their very existence in the first place: new constitution or not, Kenyan politicians and senior Cabinet nawabs are still firmly wedded to Kanuism as their guiding philosophy of governance.

Kanuism was famous for its fidelity to the letter of the law which it preferred to interpret as broadly as it could when its proselytisers imposed their will on us and as narrowly as it could get away with when the people attempted to hold Kanuists to account in the courts of law and of public opinion. Take the "plastic ban" as an example. It has the feel and look of a lawful statutory decree because it pays lip service to sections 3 and 86 of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (No. 8 of 1999), but it has the firmness of a puff of smoke because a careful reading of both sections shows you that the waziri has done nothing to satisfy statutory and constitutional requirements in her "ban". This trick was used often by Kanuists to rob hundreds of thousands of Kenyans of their land, their homes, and their lives.

Kanuism is also notorious for remaining deaf to any and all challenges to its legitimacy. Kanuism serves the Kanuist, not the people. The "creation" of sub-counties, with the imprimatur of a statute that makes a mockery of section 17 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution -- to restructure the...provincial administration to accord with and respect the devolved system -- serves the recently resilient Kanuists fighting at strength. Do not expect the pace of creation to slow down after Uhuru Kenyatta is re-elected; it might just pick up a new head of steam. The people are a means to an end, and the new-administrative-unit-creation is a useful lever in moving them to vote the right way.

Kanuism's roots are well-entrenched and rooting them out will take more than the goodwill engendered in the Constitution. We must confront the enemy by first acknowledging his presence, identifying the reasons why he is so resilient and taking the fight to him on multiple theatres: the courts, the Op-Ed pages, social media, everywhere. Jill Cottrell Ghai does us an important service by reminding us that Kanuism continues to thrive. We must strike at its heart if we are truly to enjoy the benefit of the phrase, "Justice be our shield and defender" as we intone it in our national anthem.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Saba Saba lessons

Saba Saba finds us in another election year with the lessons of the Second Liberation scattered to the four winds on the backs of  a not-so-sub-rosa-debate on whether Kenyans want a peaceful election -- or a credible one. One media-savvy Kenyan who commands a loyal following and great influence in certain quarters argues that peace must be the only goal of the election; that the choice between credible and peaceful elections is a false one because, in her words, no justice can be found in war (which she seems to believe is the antonym of peace).

Saba Saba was not peaceful. How could it have been? It was the culmination of decades of violent political repression by the institutions of the Government in the name of peace and stability, the very things that a peaceful election are supposed to deliver. Between 1969 and 2002, only the winners of elections believed that Kenyan elections were credible as did those who benefitted from electoral victory. The vast majority of Kenyans lived under the shadow of the agents of the State who would snuff out lives, destroy livelihoods, and shatter dreams, and who corrupted the very soul of the nation in the name of peace, something that has eluded Kenyans in every single election since 1964. The scale of the violence might have varied -- the nadir being the 2007 general election -- but violence has been the constant spectre hovering over the nation at every general election. The 2002 election might have been the most peaceful but it had its violent moments, the least not being the the mysterious car crash that put Mwai Kibaki in hospital for two months, his life hanging by a very thin providential thread.

Dr Wandia Njoya writes -- tweets -- more eloquently and intelligently than I can on these matters. I'll paraphrase her. Kenyans, at every election, have exhausted all peaceful avenues to change regimes. In 2013, they stared in weary resignation as a brand-new Supreme Court betrayed them. Again. So far in this election, Kenyans have not turned on one another -- though thousands have quietly made plans to flee to boltholes should things take a turn, as they are wont to do in Kenyan elections. Kenyans have, by and large, shrugged their shoulders and gone about their affairs as public resources have been mobilised in political campaigns and billionaire swindlers have sunk their claws into the electoral system to assure victory for their favourite naggy equines. Kenyans are clinging to a sliver of slender hope that despite the things they have seen and heard, the election will be credible.

Dr David Ndii is not wrong to warn of what might happen when the credibility of the general election is in doubt. Whether or not his prediction comes true on the scale that he fears is neither here nor there. The peaceniks calling for peaceful elections are fools to believe that stolen elections won't be the final straw that broke the camel's back. Every Kenya wants peace. But many Kenyans have been denied peaceful avenues for protest or regime-change. If these elections are stolen in any way, shape or form -- if they lack credibility -- singing Kumbaya at the top of your voice, ma'am, will only serve to enrage the people more. Deny the people the credible election they deserve and the lessons of Saba Saba will truly have been forgotten.

Listen to what Gen Z is saying. Hear them.

Kenyan Gen Z seized the moment that was made for them and threw down the gauntlet at the feet of the Kenyan State. With the memory of the bi...