Tuesday, June 28, 2022

No jokers wanted

It is possible that that the dog and snake-meat export promoting presidential candidate has a well-thought economic plan to deal with the serious debt question that faces the next government after the 2022 general election. It is possible. For example, it is possible in the same way that with enough theoretical physics one can show how a full-grown adult elephant can balance on the head of a pin. What kenya faces today is not theoretical; not even the expert massaging by the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya can hide the parlous state of the national economy. What Kenya needs, instead of unserious promoters of dead ideas, is a candidate serious enough to tell the truth.

I admit that I am biased against anyone who rose to the rank of Inspector in the Special Branch, especially anyone who did so at the height of the second president's regime's extensive violation of human rights. It is possible that our ex-secret-policeman has repented his sins, if not of commission, surely of omission, given the evils that Special Branch officers committed under the behest and direction of their Commander-in-Chief. He has not said publicly if he dissociates himself from those evil deeds and going by his promise to hang criminal offenders (with hemp ropes), I am not sure he has any intention of repenting. But that is neither here nor there.

Kenya's economic current problems are not only about the current account, though the current account deficit is worrying. They are not only about the challenges in effective revenue management (collection and spending), though revenue management has defeated three regimes back to back. They are not even only about the looting of the state's treasuries, though grand graft has proven a massive enabler of other crimes, violent and otherwise. It is all these and so much more. But worst of all, it is the nature of the public debt and the manner in which that public debt has ballooned.

Enough has been mentioned about the difference in quality between the Kibaki-era public debt and the current one, as well as the speed with which Kibaki-era debt grew compared to this regime. Little, if any, has been mentioned of the dereliction of duty by the Houses of Parliament. The way the National Assembly, especially, played its oversight role through the several Finance Bills, Appropriation Bills, Supplementary Appropriation Bills and other legislators that occasioned the additional expenditure of public funds should be scandal in and of itself, the subject of keen examination by presidential and parliamentary candidates of all stripes. Instead, a pro-psychotropic-substances candidate is of the opinion that the best solution is to round up (or breed, who the hell knows at this moment, right?) dogs and snakes for the export market! This lack of seriousness, and the adulation that it has invited, must worry everyone who has two functioning brain cells.

We know, and the realisation is dawning on those who have argued otherwise, that the public debt is unsustainable. That something drastic must be done to address the crisis. That it is not expansion of incomes and, consequently, income taxes, that is the solution. That it is not rationalisation of the public service, golden handshakes and parachutes all around, that will slow down the debt treadmill. Not even binning infrastructure plans of dubious economic value will cut the debt down to manageable levels. It is all these, and then some. More Kenyans must be allowed to keep more of their incomes than is currently the case. More Kenyans must be facilitated to invest in the domestic economy than is currently the case. And Government, in all its iterations, must spend greater proportion of what collects to facilitate those two propositions. If we must pay back what we owe, and pay it back without jeopardising the national economy - or damaging it irreparably - then we cannot entertain asinine suggestions about the billions of dollars we shall earn exporting dogs and snakes to god knows where. That kind of un-seriousness is a threat to national economic wellbeing.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Cast them out

While it is arguable that the Constitution of Kenya has an architecture that is maddening and inspiring in equal measure, there is one immutable fact about it: only the people who adopted, enacted and gave themselves the Constitution have the power to suspend it. It is not in the power of presidents, prime ministers, cabinet secretaries, parliamentarians, county governors, members of county assemblies, the securocracy or civil society to suspend the Constitution. That power is reserved exclusively and to the total exclusion of all others in The People.

It is fashionable among the political classes, after their failures of imagination, and the public's suffering of the consequences of those failures, to promote the suspension of the Constitution as part of a grand solution to political problems. The I-Will-Legalise-Bhang presidential candidate joins a long line of Quickmatt Julius Caesars who are arrogant enough to think that the powers of a dictator are all they need to right the ship of state and solve the problems of the people. He echoes the most recent demands that were made by political windbags of the ruling coalition at the height of the last general election when it seemed like their flag bearer was suffering at the polls. This constitutional imbecility must be nipped in the bud.

Kenyans have struggled for decades to overcome the dictatorship of their political masters. Many Kenyans have been murdered, jailed, exiled and violently assaulted for fighting against dictators. The Constitution, flawed as it is, is a testament to the struggle for self-determination by the people. Any presidential candidate that pines for absolute control over the affairs of the state, and the self-arrogation of the power to decide what rights the people shall enjoy, and the arrogance to pick and choose which fundamental freedoms to protect, must be cast out of the political arena like the constitutional skunk that he is. His constitutional values are a pox, deserving of not just inoculation but total eradication from the national political psyche. He deserves neither respect nor praise; he deserves nothing but the unremitting opposition of a people still fighting to be truly free.

Let it ring forth in the agora that Kenya does not need a presidential saviour. What Kenya needs is a politician capable of forging the national will into a commonweal, a resurrection of the Spirit of Harambee, where Kenyans of all stripes and shades will pull together towards a common goal: health, wealth, prosperity and peace. kenya does not want or need a presidential daddy and mummy. Kenyans are not infants to be told what they need. The days of "Kanu ni baba na mama" were buried in December 2002 when Kenyans sang "Yote yawezekana bila Moi!" and no one is looking to bring back the glory days of one-party rule and imperial presidencies.

Kenya faces serious problems and it needs serious politicians to help solve them. If the only thing one is bringing to the table is a desire to rule with untrammelled power, one demonstrates a lack of seriousness so colossal it is amazing that anyone even listens to him. We don't want dilettantes to be in charge of national affairs. It is time that we awoke to our responsibilities as citizens and banished the unhealthy desire for dictatorial powers in the same ash heap that we buried Kanuism and Moism.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Roe v. Wade, in Kenya

The Constitution of Kenya is a hodgepodge of constitutional principles and styles from across the word: South Africa, India and the United States of America. As a result, though it is lauded as one of the "most progressive constituents in the word", it lacks a certain coherence. Even reading the Preamble, one is struck by the fact that it is incapable of articulating a uniting philosophy. It does not have the We-Are-The-First sensibility of the US's preamble; nor does it ring with the fervour of self-determination in the Preamble to the Constitution of India; nor even the declaration of self-determination in the Constitution of South Africa. The Constitution of Kenya is proof that constitution-writing-by-committee doesn't always work.

What the makers of the Constitution of Kenya borrowed from the United States of America isn't even found in the US Constitution: the securitisation of the public service and the culture wars between the broadly progressive left and hard-line white-supremacist right. Of the most destructive elements of US constitutionalism that Kenya has adopted, are the White Supremacist Christian values such as the definition of family and the black-and-white fight over the right to life. In respect of the right to life, Kenya has adopted the language of live-begins-at-conception favoured by the White Supremacist Christian right wing of US politics. Article 26(4) states that "abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law".

The US constitution does not expressly mention the right to life or abortion. The Indian constitution protects life but does not mention abortion. South African declares that everyone has the right to life and the right to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare (which has been interpreted by many to include the right to abortion). Kenya is the only one that goes into some detail regarding abortion, in addition to the right to health care under Article 43(1)(a). Kenya's abortion constitutional provisions are a reflection of the religious and cultural wars among US political actors, and the recent annulment of the US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, will further entrench the US cultural wars in Kenya's constitutional evolution.

It is moot that the Government of Kenya relies a great deal on development partners to finance public health services. Among those development partners who help finance health services in Kenya is the federal government of the United States. The funds provided by the US government are provided in accordance with laws passed by the US Congress, including a law known as the Hyde Amendment which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. President Joe Biden eliminated the Hyde Amendment in the 2021 US federal government budget, but the recent Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade will surely complicate matters as the Republican Party, which is wholly opposed to abortion, is on the legislative ascendancy and Joe Biden's legislative plans are unlikely to survive the coming losses the Democratic Party will experience n the November 2022 mid-term elections.

Though Kenya is not directly impacted by the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the effects of that judgment will certainly affect the US federal government (including its financial assistance to overseas partners), and consequently, Kenya must be prepared to weather the cultural war that is surely to follow. But because we seem not to have developed a constitutional language, philosophy or principle regarding individual liberty, it is likely that the debate that will ensue will be just as incoherent as the preamble to our constitution. Ministries of faith (mainly Christian) that are affiliated with like-minded US (mainly Christian) ministries of faith will lead the debate. Government officials will try to square the round peg of US federal government rules in Kenyans' square peg of reproductive health care needs.

I encountered a band of teenage girls, they didn't appear older than sixteen or seventeen, who were discussing "kutoa mimba ya miezi tatu". At first glance, they wouldn't appear as if they knew anything about anything. But taking a moment to reflect, it is clear that the proportion of mostly-young Kenyans facing difficult reproductive healthcare questions is growing. More and more young people are engaging in unprotected sexual relations, the majority of which is experimental, though a growing number is coercive. Many girls are getting pregnant and are faced with extremely limited reproductive healthcare choices, whether due to legal restrictions, or cultural and religious ones. It is reckless to ignore this growing cohort of young people on the basis of religious, cultural and political decisions made in a country so far away like the US.

Kenya's constitutional debates are obsessively about the organisation of the Government rather than the Bill of Rights and the realisation of the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights. We worry about the sharing of political power among the same cadre of men to the almost total exclusion of the advancement of the rights of the individual to make choices regarding her or his liberty, life and body. As a result, we are led by the nose by an extremist and vocal religious minority in support of racialist white supremacist principles that have proven to be destructive throughout mankind's history.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Assholes one and all

I love walking. Despite my utter, utter loathing of crowded pavements, uneven road surfaces, and the total lack of street furniture of any kind, I love walking. If I were faced with the choice of commuting by car or PSV to the office or walking, I'd choose walking save for those days when the heavens play merry hell with the rainstorms and extreme sun. I love walking even though the Green City in the Sun is, nowadays, more and more the Slum in the Sun. So you can understand my feelings for the City Fathers and their mistresses for how far they have fucked up the City. Suffice it to say, my feelings will not be described by anyone as close to warm.

Every City Father since John Gakuo has done little to improve the liability and walkability of this City. Not Le Kidero. Not His Sonkoness. Not I-Am-Not-A-Drunk. Not the fucking general and his merry band of fucking "developers". Under their suzerainty, the City is a series of walled-off enclaves designed to put the hoi polloi in their place and to tend every municipal privilege under the sun to the wabenzi. The only variation, if that, is that among the wabenzi, the hierarchy of privileges is based on ones degree or melanation.

What makes my absolutely negative views of the City Fathers simmer like a boiling sea of magma in a no-longer-dormant volcano is that I cannot lay the blame on my true targets: the "urban planner" and "architect" that plays handmaid to the City Fathers. Allow me to give an example of why I my rage is slowly boiling over.

Some time recently, the Commander-in-Chief inaugurated the CBK Pension Towers on Harambee Avenue. It is sandwiched between Vigilance House and Harambee House Annexe (that seven-hundred-billion-shillings boondoggle from hell). It is an impressive building, and a nice addition to the City's skyline, with its glass facade and sharp curves. When it was finished, before the assholes got involved, it made proper allowance for pedestrians. After the assholes got involved (assholes who are taking their cue from he assholes in Vigilance House and Harambee House Annex and every government building on Harambee Avenue), pedestrians became a security risk and so the pedestrian pavement is going to be encircled by a seven-foot-high steel fence and the pedestrian can walk on the road for all these assholes care.

This kind of assholery is not the preserve of the asses in charge of CBK Pension Towers. City Hole has its fair share; its frontage on Wabera Street is verboten to pedestrians. KCB has gotten in on assholery as well; its frontage on Nkrumah Avenue has so many "security" features, you might think your are entering the Baghdadi Green Zone at the height of the Moqtada al-Sadr insurgency! Hilton Hotel started this trend of securitising public spaces to the exclusion of pedestrians and the current crop of City Fathers has bought into that asinine policy - aided and abetted by asshole urban planners and architects.

This shit makes it difficult to walk anywhere in comfort in this fucking City. No wonder everyone wants a car. Not that car-ownership is a breeze. On-street parting is notable for its scarcity. The car parks in the CBD are notoriously overcrowded; double parking is recklessly rife. In fact, the only sensible car park in town is the one at the Holy Family Basilica and at five hundred bob per day, incredible value for money. The rest of the parking spots in the City are shitty places where your car is exposed to the elements and the vandals that seem to operate with the tacit approval of the fucking City Fathers. Anyone that can afford to drive into the CBD hates the experience. Universally hates it.

I hate these people. I hate them with the passion of a thousand suns. I have absolutely no doubt that they are hated at home and it is the only reason they bring their level of shitholery to their work. They are fragile little man babies with the necessarily massive egos of small-minded assholes. The only people that like them are the assholes that win massive tenders to bring the excreta they call "public works" to fruition. I hope all of them are dipped in honey and stuck up to their necks in mounds swarming with fire ants for the rest of eternity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Have they read us right?

"I wrote the constitution" can be taken as the typical hyperbole of a politician seeking electoral glory, a statement that all know is made tongue-in-cheek. It is rare that the maker of such a statement expects to be taken seriously or, indeed, he himself takes the stamens seriously. Ordinarily, it is not considered a lie but merely an exaggeration. But, as we have pointed out in the past, Kenya plays differently in this league. Lying is so commonplace that it is safer to start from the presumption that a politician is lying than the other way around.

Quite often such a lie is part of a pattern of behaviour that paints the liar in even dimmer light. The problem is that the liar assumes that those he is lying to are so stupid that they will not even attempt a basic fact-check, and so he gets bolder and tells even bigger whoppers, attempting to paint himself as the paragon of political and constitutional virtue, and all his rivals as second only to Beelzebub for their chicanery, lying and unfitness for public office.

Were it a mere decade ago, the liar could hope to get away with his lies. In the here and now, with affordable internet bundles for the vast majority of people, access to multiple sources of information and databases quickly puts paid to most of the lies told in the heat of political combat. One can no longer allege, for example, that a person is an alum of a university and hope to get away with the lie without being called out for it by online sleuths.

But our vote-seekers reserve the biggest raspberries for their record of thievery and they amass massive legions of praise singers whose only job is to shout down the truth about the thieving ways of their masters. It is possible for a salaried politician to strike it big. It is possible in the same way that it is possible for lightning to strike twice in a bottle. Kenya does not traffic in "possible". In Kenya, the salaried politician makes his own luck - quite often in aggressive and inventive ways.

It begins with a truth that is verifiable and then it takes on a life of its own and consumes his whole existence. It is why we know, in our hearts of hearts, that what the peddle as truth is the largest load of malodorous buffalo excrement this side of the Maasai Mara. What is worse, they don't care anymore when they are caught in the lie. They pretend that the truth-seeker and truth-teller liv in an alternative universe, and that the universe of lies is the one that is real. This fantasy that they paint of themselves blinds them to the anger that is bubbling under the surface among the people whose votes they seek.

They ignore the goings-on in far-flung places like Sri Lanka where they have burnt down the ill-gotten wealth of some of their storied politicians. They seem to think that so long as they toss a pittance or two our way, we will be so grateful for the crumbs from the high table that we won't let go of the reins on our rage and give it its head. They imagine we shall remain quietly docile for all eternity.  They have invested their political and material future on that assumption. Only time will tell if they have read us right.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Banish them from the affairs of state

Ordinarily, the narcissism of a politician is enough to predict the degree of his ambitions: he wants to be the president. Kenya is anything but ordinary. That wag, Michael Joseph, and his dig about Kenyans' peculiar calling habits was more right that he will ever know. Kenyan politicians are not always motivated by the possibility of becoming president; it appears that the vast majority of them are motivated by the desire to simply occupy elected office and to use that office to wangle lucrative government tenders for which they shall be paid billions of shillings while delivering nothing more substantive than hot air.

Some time during the dark days of Kenya's Covid-19 nightmare, Nairobi City's senator was accosted by policemen in violation not only of the national curfew that was in force at the time but the strict social gathering rules that had been enacted to prevent the spread of the virus. Social media was awash with videos of the youthful politician invoking, variously, his status as a state officer and his connections to the highest offices in the nation. His loud, belligerent and uncouth claims were accompanied by threats and epithets against the policemen who were only doing their duty.

The wheel has turned full circle. Our once-blue-eyed boy finds himself out of favour with all those personages whose names he invoked with impunity. His gubernatorial candidature has come under heightened scrutiny and his claimed academic credentials have been undermined at every turn. It increasingly looks like his gubernatorial ambitions may come a cropper, and he has laid the blame for his straitened political circumstances at the feet of named and un-named high government officials.

What I find interesting is that for all his vaunted intelligence and cleverness, it never occurred to him that he may want to elevate his ambitions beyond the senate (a political backwater of shady deals and even shadier politicians), for which he would need to get all his credential ducks in a row. It appears that he laboured under the delusion that there are permanent political friends, and that as one of the boon friends of his current bĂȘte noire, he would always have a sympathetic ear whenever the forces of law and order threatened his cozy political sinecure. 

That our hapless candidate had to engineer a one-day bureaucratic maneuver in order to get his Ugandan university credentials past the IEBC officials should have warned him - and his boosters - that the smooth political road he had been traveling on had developed several deep potholes and it was time to shift gears. (Knowing what we know about the efficiency of Kenyan and Ugandan public institutions, it is nothing short of amazing that he got the Kenyan Commission of University Education and Ugandan National Commission of Higher Education to certify his university degree, and have the same reviewed and accepted by the IEBC and then, wonder of wonders, for him to be issued with a certificate of registration to stand in the election for Nairobi City governor.)

Our beleaguered politician is proof that foresight is not the defining feature of our political classes. He is merely the latest unprepared failure to trouble the national conscience, following hot on the heels of the recklessness of the former Vice President who has blown hot and cold about his place in one of the leading political coalitions fighting this year's general election. Both have shown that short-termism is what drives these people: their immediate needs blind them to the long-term benefits of defining their stances, choosing their horses, and planning accordingly. If both of them, and those like them, were to be banished for all eternity to the humdrum of "consulting", never to darken again the doors of the government, it would be too soon.

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...