Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What is wrong with you?

Christian countries produced freedom. Those who hate freedom tend to hate Christians. Put aside differences. Stop the new Dark Age. It’s coming fast. - Stefan Molyneux
East Africa, or British East Africa, as it was known when the freedom-loving Imperial British East Africa Company came calling, built the Lunatic Express and alienated hundreds of thousands of "idle land", was spectacularly un-free.  People didn't have security of person or property, were not allowed to think freely or freely express their opinions, and were constrained in what they could do or where the could go. The reason for this extreme state of un-freedom was that the entire region had not accepted the principles of Christianity that prized individual freedom above all else. The existence of the soon-to-be-bankrupt IBEACo was proof that the Christian God loves freedom, especially the freedom to trade that seems synonymous with Christian values these days.

Obviously - OBVIOUSLY - that whole paragraph is bullshit. Even a cursory examination of the historical record shows that there is nothing freedom-loving about colonialism, genocide, xenophobia, racism, racialism, misogyny and sexism - all the things that have been associated with "Judaeo-Christian values" as practiced by the "founding fathers" of "western civilisation" since the European Reformation. "Christian countries" as Mr Molyneux calls them certainly "produced freedom" but only for white men at the expense of everyone else, regardless of the cost, pain or suffering the white man's freedom entailed.

Recent history - indeed, contemporary history - puts the lie to the claim that "those who hate freedom tend to hate Christians". In 2001, an organisation that had been financed for decades by white Christian USA people, in search of a new "holy war", attacked the Great Satan with box-cutters and four passenger airliners, killing just a little under 3,000 people. In response, the USA's first truly "Christian" president launched two wars that, seventeen years later, have metastasized into the sort of martial quagmire that produce massive amounts of un-freedom. One of the US president's motivations in starting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was his Christian faith and a fervent belief that he and his nation were spreading freedom and democracy abroad - at the barrel of an M16 and the tip of a JDAM bomb. The reincarnation of IBEACo were the the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater - true-blue flag-waving promoters of "freedom".

Only a white man could possibly imagine the world was un-free until the Judaeo-Christian Anglo-Saxon man came along with his bible, cannon and musket. Only a white man could imagine that the territories of the world that were colonised and plundered, and whose native populations were massacred were un-free because of their "pagan" beliefs and rudimentary economies. Only a white man could ignore the entire human historical record that has demonstrated the remarkably bloody record of Christian crusading. Only a white man could have the arrogance to believe that he could possibly be right. Only a fool could even entertain for a minute that this white man has a leg to stand on when it comes to the concept and practice of freedom.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Why the haste?

I said a stupid thing the other day. I declared, "One of the truest expressions of governmental excess is the Penal Code and the plethora of offenses established by written laws. Only three classes of offenses should be prosecuted by the State: murder, all sexual offenses and theft." My friend Gitonga challenged me to set down my views in a post and so here we go.

In modern society, it is impossible to live without effective governmental regulation of both public and private affairs. In one form or the other, Government has an obligation to regulate our affairs in order to protect us from harm, even if the harm comes by our own hands. How Government goes about protecting us is of vital importance. It must be given power to take certain measures to protect us but it must not be given too much power that it becomes oppressive. It is in this context that I made the stupid declaration about laws and governmental excess.

In recent weeks, Government has sought to consolidate our personal information in a new database, the National Identity Information Management System, and to issue every Kenyan with a unique identifier, the Huduma Namba. In theory, the consolidation of personal information in the NIIMS, as the system has been named, and the issuance of the Huduma Namba, will allow for the seamless provision of public services by all governmental agencies. There is a fear though, that such a consolidation is ripe for abuse, especially in the absence of a law regarding the protection of such personal data as will be consolidated in the NIIMS. Mass surveillance has been listed as one of the downsides of consolidation as has been the sale of private data to non-governmental entities. (Many have experienced the unlawful use of their personal data because entities holding that data have shared it with political parties, business entities and unscrupulous persons seeking to swindle us.)

Some have argued that the information being consolidated is already in the possession of Government in its various databases: the Civil Registry, the Kenya Revenue Authority, the Land Registry, the Births and Deaths Registry, the National Transport and Safety Authority, the National Hospital Insurance Fund, the National Social Security Fund, and the Immigration Department, among others. They argue that there is nothing wrong with the consolidation in the manner that is being prosecuted by Government with NIIMS. What they haven't been able to explain is the secrecy surrounding the whole affair, especially with the existence of a statutory and administrative regime set out in the Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service Act.

The Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Service, its Board and the Director of Immigration, under the Act, were the institutions charged with the type of consolidation of personal data contemplated in the NIIMS and yet no explanation has been given as to why, 8 years after the law was passed by Parliament and assented to by the President, the law has not been operationalised or why no steps have been taken to operationalise it at all. No reason has been given as to why a system that had already been endorsed by Government has been abandoned even before it got off the ground. The unseemly haste with the operationalisation of NIIMS and the coercive undertones of its implementation raise doubts that the proposals and rationalisations behind NIIMS are on the up and up. For this reason, skepticism is warranted, hyperbole aside.

An analysis of NIIMS and the system contemplated under the Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service Act are fundamentally the same. The key difference is the manner in which both came to be. The former was pushed through by an amendment to the Registration of People Act (which was done through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 2018, which was assented to on the 31st December 2018. No one, in the heat of Christmas and New Year celebrations, noticed the amendment and very few even commented on the proposals. The latter was an Act of Parliament that, even with the madness of the last two years of the Kibaki Government, underwent considerable public review and participation before it became the law of the land.

I don't have a problem with the proposals in NIIMS but I have a problem with the haste, the secrecy and the coercion behind its implementation. I have a problem that it is being done despite the fact that a similar system already exists, at least in law. I have problem with the implications of a lack of a data protection law in the face of the haste and coercion related with NIIMS. Finally, I am skeptical with the argument being advanced that NIIMS is merely the digitization of our personal data. During the second Kibaki Government and the first Uhuru Kenyatta Government, under James Orengo and Charity Ngilu, the Lands Registry was digitised twice over at great public expense. The National Transport and Safety Authority has digitised traffic and drivers' data since its establishment. KRA, with the iTax system, is fully digital. No reason has been advanced as to why the other elements of the NIIMS system are yet to be digitised.

Finally, the risks of consolidation of personal data in the current climate evokes fears of abuse and misuse. In 2001, in Godhra, India, Muslims in Gujarat were attacked and massacred by the thousands. One way that their attackers used to find them was the state's voters roll which identified Muslims by name and address down to the apartment. In Kenya, the 2013 and 2017 general elections were marred by allegations that the digital voter register and digital voter tallying system were manipulated to boost some candidates' number and reduce other candidates'. Secrecy and coercion are not a recipe for public trust. NIIMS is secretive and coercive. If that doesn't change, there is no reason why we should take the word of its boosters that it is for our safety.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Ghosts never sleep easy

We were talking - I mean I was talking and She was praying I would shut up in thirty seconds or less - about how we collectively remember or forget events, traumatic or not. We use the expression "national narrative" sometimes. We describe events in ways that require collective acquiescence that the recollected event can only be recollected one way. It is why it is easy to claim that "Kenyans have short memories".

My people are not pigeons. Just because they haven't strung so-and-so up by his shins and caned his buttocks until they ran red with blood doesn't mean that they have ten-second memories that are erased as soon as another "scandal" is, with Herculean effort as the scribes of the Fourth Estate would have you believe, heaved onto the public square to be stared at, talked about, poked and prodded, discarded and forgotten for the next fix.

We remember, always. The assassinated. The tortured. The disappeared. The "enemies of the state". We remember them all. We remember the ones that said that assassination, torture and disappearance were all part of the messy thing we call democracy in Kenya or words of similar effect. We remember the ones that denied assassination, torture and disappearance were never used against their fellowman. We remember the ones that "washed away the sins" of the assassins, torturers and disappearers. We remember it all and just because our memory is not expressed at the ballot or in a revolution does not mean that it isn't there, that it isn't consequential. Just because the heirs of Wangari Maathai and the Free the Detainees' activists haven't stripped naked and visited curses on the assassins, torturers and disappearers does not mean that we have forgotten. We remember. We remember the curses. And we know that despite all evidence to the contrary, we shall prevail.

But don't for a minute think that we shall prevail by Animal Farm-ing ourselves into a vicious cycle. No. No. When the edifice has been brought down. When the dust has covered them all. Choked them. Suffocated them. When their whitening desiccated bones have been picked clean by the buzzards of the Chalbi. When their heirs are ashamed to use the family name. When their heirs' shame leads to ostentation acts of expiation - libraries, wings of hospitals, chairs of university departments. We shall prevail Maybe not in our lifetimes. But then again, as we all know, ghosts never sleep easy when the blood of the innocent covers their dark souls.

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...