Sunday, July 23, 2023

Eat the old

When I was in high school, I loved Sunday afternoons. We had free time between 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and part of that time was spent watching the NBA. The Bulls, the Celtics, the Cavs, the Warriors...I loved all of them. Every other Saturday was reserved for the EPL: Liverpool, Aston Villa, The Spurs...I loved most of it. Thirty years later, I can say, hand on heart, that maybe part of the reason why these leagues were enjoyable is because they dod not have the whiff of serikali about them.

From the moment Daniel Moi intervened in the identities of Kenya's football clubs, little that Government has done to "improve" and "reform" organised sports in Kenya has been a boon for sports or sports federations. The continued global dominance of Kenya's world class long-distance runners is despite the interventions of serikali, not its support. And the shambles of the way Kenyan athletes, if not all sportspersons, are treated at the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games by Ministry mandarins is proof that more Government intervention in sports' federations equals extreme poor treatment of athletes and their fans.

I can't remember who the last Minister of Sports was that did anything innovative to unleash the talents of the sporting fraternity. I bet that none of you can, unless you are like sports administration savants or something. We have powerfully emotionally redolent memories of sportspersons who brought us to near-tears with their talent: Washington Muhanji and Wilberforce Mulamba forever will bring a lump to my throat when I think of their exploits on the football pitch. We don't have fond, if any, memories of sports ministers or sports administrators. We revile the mandarins in charge of sports. We think of them as villains. They are, collectively, the cartoonishly evil Montgomery Burns of Kenyan sports.

I know that the present generation of sports fans still enjoy watching sports on TV. Where I am sequestered for the moment, a group of young people have extolled the virtues of Steph Curry that perhaps I may admit to myself that my fandom was considerably tame. But equally, save for organised intramural competitions among schools, few, if any, see sports (other than long-distance races) as a viable option. They know that serikali isn't interested in nurturing and protecting their talents. No number of we-will-build-this-that-and-other-stadium promises are expected to come true by Kenya's young people. (Long-distance running doesn't need a stadium, so little, if any, disappointment is feared.)

It looks bleak today when we think of the status of Kenya's sporting talents. Stadia are rotting. Talent development is infested by carpetbaggers, thieves and ne'er-do-wells. But at the top of the ash-heap of mediocrity sit governmental officials with neither the skill, talent, knowledge or motivation to establish frameworks and systems that will allow talents to flourish. Young people are at the mercy of old men with old ideas. I don't know what is to be done save to say, eat the old.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

How committed are we?

An arrested person has the right to be brought before a court as soon as reasonably possible, but not later than twenty-four hours after being arrested; or if the twenty-four hours ends outside ordinary court hours, or on a day that is not an ordinary court day, the end of the next court day. [Art. 49(1)(f)]

Together with Article 50(2)(a) on the presumption of innocence of accused persons, these are the principles that we demand for friend, foe and all people in-between. Hon. Babu Owino, MP, is an odious species of Kenyan and it has been the wish of thousands of Kenyans to see the back of him from public office and if it took a conviction for his casual recklessness with his licensed firearm, that would just be fine. But his recent arrest and detention, presumably, by members of the National Police Service, the concealment of his place of detention, and the failure to arraign him before a magistrate within twenty-four hours are the reason why the Bill of Rights, particularly Articles 49 and 50, exist.

The vast majority of Kenyans have no need to rely on the protections of Article 49 or 50; but whenever those protections are undermined, regardless of the reason, all Kenyans are endangered. Mr. Owino's arrest and detention, it is speculated, are connected to his central role in mobilising disaffected constituents of Embakasi East Constituency to demonstrate against the elected government of Dr. William Ruto and Right Gachagua over the cost of living crisis. Jacaranda Grounds falls within Embakasi East Constituency and it is presumed that the Kenyans who are motivated to attend incendiary political rallies at that venue do so due, in part, to the efforts of Mr. Owino and any violent clashes with policemen can be attributed, in part, to the role Mr. Owino plays in bringing them to the venue in the first place. This is, obviously, rubbish thinking but in Kenya rubbish thinking seems to be all that we are left with.

What is important to remember is that Kenyans have a long history of police abuses, especially the detention and disappearing of arrested Kenyans, sometimes permanently, during which may of the detained were tortured, permanently maimed or murdered. Mwai Kibaki's government was no respecter of the rights of arrested and accused persons. It wasn't as violently oppressive as the Jomo Kenyatta or Daniel Moi governments, but it was repressive just the same. Uhuru Kenyatta's presidency did not end with a clean bill. It appears that the full implementation of Article 49 and 50 has a long way to go under the present regime.

Kenyans are called to test their fealty to the protections afforded to arrested and accused persons and this call is connected to the treatments of one of the most recklessly disruptive and destructive politicians to be elected to the 13th Parliament. Mr. Owino was accused of grievously wounding another man using his licensed firearm. Mr. Owino, it is reported, has undertaken several schemes to undermine his prosecution and to interfere with the witnesses to his alleged offence. He is not a sympathetic victim of police excesses. And yet, if we can discriminate between sympathetic victims of police violence and non-sympathetic ones, then we might as well do away with Article 27 which expressly prohibits discrimination on any grounds.

Campaigning for the protection of Mr. Owino's rights and fundamental freedoms is not synonymous with asking that the charges he faces for his other crimes be set aside or he be released from his obligation to face justice. But merely because Mr. Owino is "known to the police" should not be an excuse to use him as the tabula rasa of the Bill of Rights, to be erased and rewritten at will by the forces of unlawfulness and disorder. Benjamin Franklin thought “that it is better a hundred guilty persons should escape than one innocent person should suffer.” If we truly wish to acculturate ourselves to the principles espoused in the Fourth Schedule, then we must hold the National Police Service, and the masters it appears to serve, to account for the arrest, detention and disappearance of Mr. Owino for if we don't, eventually, we will all be at the mercy of policemen exercising powers for no reason other than they felt like it. We cannot afford to rebuild the criminal presidencies of the four presidents that came before the incumbent.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Footnotes of history

One of the things that define a rule-of-law jurisdiction is whether the people who purport to champion the rule of law respect the principles that undergird the rule of law. For example, in Kenya, the constitution explicitly limits the number of terms a person may serve as president of Kenya to two. It doesn't matter if the presidencies are consecutive or separated by the presidential terms, the limit is two. The principal that laid the foundation for this limitation was one that was intended to inject fresh blood into political and administrative institutions. It is replicated in many written laws that establish public institutions such as the leadership bodies of state corporations; board members get a maximum of two terms.

This principle was promoted by many of the stalwarts of the Second Liberation Movement. They stuck to their guns when the issue came before the Bomas Conference. The principle survived the Bomas Constitution, the Ghai Draft, the Kilifi draft, and the Harmonised draft. It was, therefore, surprising to see that the proponents of the principle didn't;t believe it strongly enough when it came to institutions (albeit "private" ones) in which they served in leadership positions. It would take the concerted efforts of "stakeholders" to push them out even after to had long been apparent that they no longer adhered to the wider principles of the institutions and they had, instead, become albatrosses around the institutions' metaphorical necks.

One of these people, long in the tooth, has taken to "public intellectual" fulminations. His hypocrisies are no longer amusing, particularly as he purports to establish moral codes that he does not abide by. He has arrogated on himself an intellectual authority that relies, mostly, on his academic scholarship, and less on any public acknowledgement of its existence or legitimacy. On the basis of that academic scholarship, and a once celebrated leadership of public political discourse of years past, he continues to excuse himself form the restrictions of the moral code he purports to impose on others. His hypocrisy blinds him to the ridiculousness of his fulminations.

I return to the analogy of the rule of law. One of its core tenets is that even in corrupted judicial frameworks, the only recourse to legal disputations is to bring the matter before a judge. Even if the litigation proves to be futile, to serves the higher principle of respecting political and constitutional institutions. Secondarily, it establishes a written record for posterity. When Mr. Justice Riaga Omollo, judge of the Court of Appeal, was removed from office, his removal was founded, in part, on the written judicial record where he had exposed his constitutional shortcomings. No appellate court seriously entertained his pleas for reinstatement. The written record condemned him and he remains condemned to this date.

But our friend abjures the written record if he is not the one doing the writing. He wishes to write his own, and his benefactor's, history in a positive and heroic light. He fell into the same trap that African presidents-for-life fell into: the desire to manage their own legacies, forgetting that when they are dead and gone, the citizens will remember them as they were supposed to be remembered. In the United Republic of Tanzania, even the men and women who were bitterly disappointed by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's political leadership remember him in a heroic light because, even with his weaknesses, he led his nation with his peoples' needs in mind.

Our friend, a man who no longer believes the things he says he stands for, has allied himself with liars, cheats and thieves in service to a man who has also abandoned the principles that made him a hero of the Second Liberation. Our friend refused to condemn the leaders of his movement when they engaged in crass nepotism. He refused to take a stand when they allied themselves with the leader of a murderous political regime that had killed his own compadres. Our friend has lost what little moral authority he ever held. It is fitting that another hypocrite revels in ridiculing him on social media. In the end, when the annals of history are written, our friend might merit a footnote of derision. If he is lucky.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Obsessions and history

One of the obsessions of the Uhuru Kenyatta presidency had to do with legacy. The president, and his minions and acolytes, initiated projects, programs and initiative designed to secure his legacy. He wanted to be remembered the way his father, his father's successor and his father's successor's successor had been recognised. Jomo Kenyatta, his father, had the good fortune to be rounded up on the same night Kenyan freedom fighters were rounded up and detained by the colonial government in October 1952. He ended up being Kenya's first president-for-life.

Jomo Kenyatta's successor, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, once dismissed as a passing cloud, went on to rule, with an increasingly iron fist, for twenty-four years. Roads, shambas, hospitals and stadia are named in his honour. Mwai Kibaki, who succeeded the perfidious, murderous and utterly corrupt Moi presidency, will be remembered as the President who unleashed Kenya's economic potential before throwing it away and plunging the nation into a constitutional crisis that it has never recovered from, progressive "new" constitution notwithstanding.

Uhuru Kenyatta was in many respects an unfortunate president. He did not have an original idea of his own; the bulk of his proposals, programs, plans and initiatives were ersatz copies of things his predecessors had initiated or accomplished. The only difference is that Uhuru Kenyatta's initiatives also turned out to be the most corrupt. He built a new Uganda railway that never quite reached Uganda. Billions were lost in the bargain to corruption. He built an expensive elevated expressway whose economic utility remains doubtful to date. Billions more were stolen in the bargain. His "universal healthcare" program is a study of how quickly a ministry can squeeze tens of millions of dollars from "mobile clinics" that consist of nothing more than shipping containers branded with the national coat of arms.

Uhuru Kenyatta will get a legacy when the annals of Kenya's history are written. Only, the legacy is one of unmitigated graft. Pheroze Nowrojee, reportedly when asked why he and his colleagues in the Second Liberation Movement filed futile suit after futile suit in the corrupt courts of law, answered that it was "For the record! Nothing is more powerful in history than the record!" Uhuru Kenyatta did everything in his power to write his own history. History will show that he failed in that endeavour.

President William Ruto, over whom we pray that he receives the wisdom of Solomon and the conscience of David, looks set to repeat the mistakes of the Uhuru Kenyatta presidency - a reckless desire for legacy. He is faced with an intractable economic problem: a national debt that threatens to overwhelm whatever good the available national revenue can do. If he wants to win the legacy race, he should abandon the search for legacy. He should do the things he swore that he would do: obey the constitution and serve the public good. Legacy will take care of itself.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

We once aspired to national greatness

It is pointless to ask, nay, beg, Dr. David Ndii to sympathise with the political plight of Hon. Raila Odinga and his political orphans. Dr. Ndii has, time and again, stated for all who care to hear that he is a political harlot; loyalty, in the Kenyan political combat, is meaningless to him. It no longer motivates his political choices. He is willing to serve whatever regime that is willing to pay his price.

It is also pointless to try and shame Dr. Ndii into "doing the right thing". He is not a teenager from a middle class family for whom right and wrong are in stark relief to each other. He is an adult man in full charge of his political faculties and he is playing the game in the only way he knows how: with eyes wide open and an exit plan in the back pocket. Morality, or Kenya's political version of morality, means nothing to man who has been witness to chicanery of the highest order from Kenya's political saviours for nigh on thirty years.

Kenya's politics, and fealty to constitutional values, has been reduced to its basest, crudest elements: one will do what one must do in order to win an election, and form the Government. The whys and wherefores are irrelevant so long as one can claim electoral victory against all the other hyenas in the feasting of the carcass. Dr. Ndii listened to the promises of the "Official Opposition" for twenty five years. He watched as those promises were betrayed. He saw that neither the needs of the people on the street - Wanjiku, et al - nor their political values held much sway in the minds of the likes of Hon. Odinga. Not even Hon. Martha Karua could persuade Dr. Ndii that there was a light at the end of the tunnel of darkness.

So Dr. Ndii did what he thought he needed to do: he got himself a long spoon and sat down to supper with the devil, and in the bargain is now sitting in on Cabinet meetings where, maybe, perhaps, though probably not, his voice is heard when it comes to national economic decision-making. The recent toing-and-froing over the price of petroleum products might be proof that Dr. Ndii may have been bamboozled once more and he is one among eleventy-seven other men, women and scallywags of all stripes that have fallen prey to another spate of promises that shall not, will not, could not possibly be kept.

It is pointless to feel sorry for Dr. Ndii - or to sing praises to his political acumen. His bed is his own to lie in, rosy thorns and all. Ours is to choose whether or not we wish to engage in political harlotry in the pursuit of our own political objectives, and fuck the constitution in the process. Or are we willing to do the necessary and difficult work of building a political culture that tries, and perhaps succeeds, in rooting out entrenched political betrayals, lies and constitutional sabotage.

Once upon time, before Mwai Kibaki showed us what betrayal looked like, Kenyans had faith that "One Man could change things". That the "One Man" was not just one man - George Anyona, Masinde Muliro, George Nthenge, Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua, James Orengo....they all come to mind - is neither here nor there. What is important to remember is that there were Kenyans who stood for us, and helped us stand for something, who led the way, paid steep prices, sometimes ultimate prices, and who inspired us to rise above the petty pecuniary needs of the one home, one family, one individual. We once aspired to national greatness. Today, the vast bulk of us are willing to get fucked in the ass without the courtesy of KY jelly if it means that when we retire to our Runda palaces, out bank balances have as many zeros as a telephone numbers and our passports are accepted in all the major capitals of the world.

We once aspired to national greatness. Today we are all David Ndii. Broken, broken-hearted, having forgotten the KY jelly, bent over the proverbial barrel, our pants down around our ankles, our knees akimbo, metronomically chanting to ourselves "at least bank account iko na dough" over and over as our sphincter muscles are loosened for all eternity such that we will need adult diapers till the day we die.

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...