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Friday, March 30, 2007

The Martha Of All Fibs?

Here's another example, courtesy of the Nation, of what Martha Karua described in an interview with Hardtalk as the frustration of corruption cases by indictees who insist on filing constitutional references to delay proceedings.

Only this time it seems that the left side of the government's brain doesn't know what the right is doing. As High Court Judge Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch put it: "It is clear to me that there are weighty matters that need to be sorted out especially between KACC and the Attorney General before the criminal case [instituted by the Anti-corruption agency against former Intelligence boss Mr James Kanyotu] can proceed."

Such basic blunders coupled with the incompetence of the AG in drafting legislation and prosecuting cases is one reason why the Kibaki administration has failed to secure the conviction even a single "big fish" in the so-called war on corruption.

But, of course, they'll never admit it . It is easier and more convenient to blame the accused persons who are only guilty of exercising their legal rights.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Karua Hitches A Ride on the Propaganda Train

Following the furore over my excoriation of Finance Minister Amos Kimunya's presentation in Atlanta, Gorgia, here's more evidence of the Kibaki administration's propaganda drive. This time from the UK.

In an interview with the BBC's Hardtalk, Justice Minister Martha Karua has said that she could offer no evidence that the war on corruption was being won. After more than 4 years in power, the she admitted that the Kibaki administration could not produce a single corruption conviction of note. All she could come up with were "indicators" such as increased revenue collection (up by over 80%), GDP growth (up to 6%) and a budget that's 95% domestically funded.

Whatever happened to zero-tolerance of corruption? Is it not a telling indictment that the government is unable to even deliver on Kibaki's promise from "our very first day in office" to implement the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes? That report recommended that Professor George Saitoti and Fred Gumo "be investigated with a view to prosecution" for his role in Goldenberg. However, one of the first acts of Kibaki's Presidency was to appoint the said Saitoti and Gumo to his Cabinet!

Apparently referring to Saitoti's subsequent case challenging the findings of the Kibaki appointed Commission of Inquiry on the Goldenberg Affair (which also recommended that he be prosecuted), Karua states that the Goldenberg report is not conclusive. Though the plaintiff may have succeeded in convincing a constitutional court to expunge certain parts of the report, that in no way prevents the reintroduction of proceedings in case of fresh evidence.

The clear implication is that investigations against Saitoti are on-going. If so then why was he reinstated as Minister for Education? Keep in mind that the AG appealed Saitoti's case. It is then obvious that he has not been cleared of wrong-doing. His reappointment to the Cabinet is therefore a betrayal of the zero-tolerance promise and a slap in the face of all right thinking Kenyans.

The question remains, given all of the above, how can Karua possibly support her statement that the government is "winning the war on corruption"?

Monday, March 26, 2007

What's in a Name?

Just heard this on BBC radio:
Coming up after the news: Studying llama droppings to determine the fate of an ancient civilisation. This is Roy Lama with the headlines....

A rather unflattering definition of my name is to be found at the Times of India:
Tribal families in and around the kothaguda and nallabelli mandals are in grip of fear. They apprehend that the gathara (contagious disease) may assume the form of an epidemic and take a major toll in the region if the authorities fail to take necessary steps in controlling it.

Best acronym I know was for the Lift operators, Cooks, Janitors, and Allied Workers (LOCKJAW) trade union on the ancient British comedy Mind Your Language.

Kimunya's Propaganda Train

Over the weekend, Finance Minister Amos Kimunya made a presentation at the Kenya Diaspora Investment Forum in Atlanta, Georgia. Though the Minister's presentation is not available online, Hash has helpfully posted pictures of the Minister's slide show, which he describes as "stirring". After reviewing these, and without the benefit of hearing the Minister's verbal explanations (I hope these were recorded and will be available online at some point) here are my initial reactions. I find it less than impressive.

After painting a rosy picture of our economy under Kibaki, Kimunya drops this bombshell without bothering to explain: "Some have argued that the recent growth momentum is due to a change in the way GDP has been calculated. This cannot be supported by the facts." Why not give updated figures figures for Mo1's tenure using the new calculations? Then we can all make up our own minds.

Further on, regarding the fight against poverty, agricultural reforms, increases in government revenue collection, increased expenditure in health, education and water provision, higher disbursements under LATF and CDF are presented as if they are ends in themselves. Their impact on rural poverty is hardly discussed except for vacuous statements such as "The strong rebound in growth of the agricultural sector has impacted positiely on rural incomes where most of the poor Kenyans live."

The economic decay Kenya experienced over the last 40 years was largely due to kleptocratic and incompetent governance. However, the Kibaki administration efforts in this regard merited only one out of the 33 slides presented by the Minister. And that single slide is also full of meaningless generalisations. Though he claims to have "taken administrative actions to reduce corruption in public sector", no mention is made of any concrete achievements in the fight against corruption (to be fair to the gentleman, there have been none). Introduction of legislation is again presented as an end in itself as is "creating anti-corruption awareness".

In spite of the glaring omissions, the Minister goes on to declare: "We have accomplished what we set out to do under the Economic Recovery Strategy." God help us! Perhaps most telling is this quote from the presentation (again courtesy of Hash):
“Compare the size of the windshield to the the size of the rearview mirror. Let that tell us what we should be paying attention to.”
In essence, the minister is urging us to judge the government's performance, not by what it has accomplished, but by what it is promising.

As for the much vaunted Vision 2030, my take on this can be found here, here, and here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The War on Error (WOE)

I hold this truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, but some are created more equal than others.

CNN reports that a Pentagon investigation will recommend nine officers, including up to four generals, be held accountable for missteps in the aftermath of the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to serve in the military following the 9/11 attacks. He was killed in Afghanistan by fellow troops who mistook him for an enemy soldier.

It's telling that the US military is willing to punish senior officers for the accidental death of one American while no one is held accountable for the death of thousands of Iraqi civilians who are the victims of an illegal and incompetent US occupation of their country.

On a related note, I have just finished reading James Bovard's book Terrorism and Tyranny (which won the Lysander Spooner Award for the Best Book on Liberty in 2003). The book is an excellent critique of the War on Terror and shows just how it has become a war waged on freedom, not for it. I would recommend it to all. The book relates the case of Gen. Hussein Kamel who was chief of Saddam's secret weapons programme till his defection to Jordan in 1995. In August 2002, months prior to the Iraqi invasion, US Vice-President Dick Cheney declared that the defection of Kamel "should serve as a reminder to all that we often learn more as the result of defections than we learned from the (weapons) inspection regime itself". And just what did the US learn from Kamel? He revealed that "Iraq had halted the production of VX nerve agent in the 1980s and destroyed its banned missiles, stocks of anthrax ans other chemical agents and poison gases soon after the Persian Gulf War...I ordered the destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons -biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed".

In spite of having this information in 1995, the US insisted on maintaining punitive UN sanctions that killed approximately 500,000 Iraqi kids. According to the UN, the infant/young child mortality rate shot up from 50 per 1000 live births in 1990 to 133 per 1000 in 2001 in what Professor Richard Garfield declared to be "the only instance of a sustained increase in mortality in a stable population of more than 2 million in the last 200 years". Dennis Halliday, former UN administrator of the oil-for-food programme called it "nothing less than genocide". To date, not a single US official has been held to account for what seventy members of the US Congress in a letter to President Clinton described as "infanticide masquerading as policy". (In a grave indictment of the current US occupation of Iraq, a recent poll commissioned by the BBC, ABC News, ARD German TV and USA Today ahead of the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion found that 50% of Iraqis thought that their situation was actually worse than before 2003.)

Finally the role the media played in stampeding the US headlong into the conflict is rarely discussed. But now a timeline by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), a self-proclaimed US media watchdog, reveals the complicity of US journalists and media houses in creating the impression of imminent threat, scaring millions of gullible Americans (and at least one Kenyan: I was taken in by the everyone-was-in-agreement-on-the-intelligence-regarding-Iraqi-weapons fib) into supporting what was clearly an unprovoked and unjustifiable attack on Iraq. Excerpts:

September 7, 2002
—Speaking of the need to disarm Iraq, George W. Bush refers to a report by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) alleging that Iraq was six months away from developing a nuclear weapon. No such report exists, as MSNBC reports on its website (oddly, the article was quickly removed from MSNBC's website, as Paul Krugman would note months later—4/29/03). Bush's lie mostly escapes media scrutiny; as John MacArthur recalled months later (Columbia Journalism Review, 5/603), the Washington Post half-heartedly acknowledged the problem deep in a story: In the twenty-first paragraph of her story on the press conference, the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung did quote an IAEA spokesman saying, in DeYoung's words, "that the agency has issued no new report," but she didn't confront the White House with this terribly interesting fact.

September 16, 2002
—"DOOMSDAY PLOT" is the New York Post's cover story. "Saddam Aims to Give Terrorists Briefcase Bio-Bombs," was the subhead, accompanied by a photograph of someone holding a metal attaché case. What a scoop for the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper—especially since none of the other papers that morning seemed to have even heard this catastrophic news. How did the paper uncover the plot? "U.S. intelligence officials fear that Saddam Hussein has concocted a doomsday plan that would use Al Qaeda to attack America with Iraqi-provided biological weapons, the Post has learned." Intelligence officials fear? "The threat has been raised in secret intelligence assessments.... The officials came up with the nightmare scenario—which could include easily concealed briefcase bio-bombs—after concluding that Saddam has few options available once U.S. attacks begin." Came up with? Could include? Apparently "POST EXTRAPOLATES FROM ALARMIST SPECULATION" was too long for a headline.

October 1, 2002
—CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather proclaims that a report by Pentagon correspondent David Martin points to "new evidence" linking Al-Qaeda and Iraq, "which is at least enough to keep suspicions alive." Martin's "evidence" is thin, however. His "clearest link" is that a senior member of Al-Qaeda allegedly fled to Iraq after the US invasion of Afghanistan, although there is no indication that anyone in Iraq's government knew about it or approved of his trip.

—Responding to a trip to Baghdad by Congressional Democrats opposed to the Iraq War (Reps. Jim McDermott and David Bonior), Washington Post columnist George Will writes that "Saddam Hussein finds American collaborators among senior congressional Democrats."

October 7, 2002
—As noted in a FAIR Action Alert (10/10/02), CNN host Connie Chung takes Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Ca.) to task for expressing doubts about claims made by George W. Bush about Iraq's weapons. At one point Chung interrupts Thompson to say, "You mean you don't believe what President Bush just said? With all due respect....you know... I mean, what..." Chung adds: "So it sounds almost as if you're asking the American public, 'Believe Saddam Hussein, don't believe President Bush.'


None of the journalists lost their jobs over this media fiasco. On the contrary, during the war itself, the unfortunate Peter Arnett was fired by NBC and National Geographic for saying on Iraqi TV the U.S. war plan has "failed."

Friday, March 23, 2007

An Islam-Dunk Case?

This shocker courtesy of the BBC

Anger at German Koran divorce ban
German politicians and Muslim groups have expressed outrage over the case of a German judge who refused to allow a Muslim woman a quick divorce.

The woman, a German citizen of Moroccan descent, had asked for an immediate divorce, saying her husband beat her. But the female judge ruled that, under the law of the Koran, the woman had not been subject to unacceptable behaviour, the court in Frankfurt said. The judge had now been removed from the divorce proceedings, it said.

She had argued that the couple's Moroccan cultural background meant it was "not unusual" for the husband to physically punish his wife. The woman's domestic abuse therefore did not make her case one of exceptional hardship, she claimed. When challenged about her ruling, the judge cited a passage from the Koran.

Since when did Germany become an Islamic state? And does the Koran authorise wife-beating? Beats me!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Short Road to Vision 2030

Here are a few proposals I would like to see on the proliferating presidential aspirants' manifestos. However, I'm sure they will never be debated in Parliament even though their enactment would do more than anything else to improve the lot of our people.

1) Ensure every elected leader resides in the area/constituency that elected him. After all since Parliament only sits a few months in a year (and the MPs are absent for much of that time anyway), it is easy to make arrangements for them to travel (via public transport) to Nairobi to attend the sittings.

2) Make it mandatory for MPs kids and their families to attend public school and hospitals. This is non-negotiable irrespective of how wealthy they are. We should not tolerate leaders who cannot abide by the systems they recommend for the rest of us.

3) Scrap all benefits (including tax exemptions) that are not enjoyed by the rest of Kenyans

4) Give them NHIF cards and not a publicly funded private insurance package. They can raid their own pockets if they wish to get a private package.

5) On transport, give them the cheapest cars we can get on a lease-buy basis. Ensure they are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of those vehicles which they would be entitled to own after a certain time.Kama hawataki, wapande matatu like the rest of us or let them save up and buy the cars of their choice with their own cash.

6) Take away their gun licences (or at least force them to apply for one as any Kenyan would do), their government provided security (unless they can individually show a compelling reason for it)

7) Scrap the retirement package. Give them NSSF cards so they can contribute to the fund like any other Kenyan. Wakitaka, they can chose to contribute to a private fund.

8) Create an independent body to determine how much MPs should be paid. Any pay increase should only be effected after an intervening election. And the pay should at no time exceed a percentage (to be determined by economics and labour experts) of the prevailing minimum wage.

Before anyone accuses me of communism, please note that the measures I propose would not be binding on private citizens or organisations (though taking into consideration our MP's legendary selfishness, I imagine everyone would want to buy into the 1st class education, health and retirement benefits systems we would suddenly be bequeathed!)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dealing in Death

The debates over the legality or otherwise of the Internal Security Minister John Michuki's shoot-to-kill order and the proposal to turn illegal gun ownership into a capital offence mask a great inconsistency at the very heart of our judicial and law enforcement system. Despite the seeming consensus within our security agencies that the death penalty deters crime, over the last 20 years not a single individual out of the many murderers and armed robbers littering our jails, has been executed. The authorities have simply ignored the death sentences passed against these people.

It is remarkable that the same government that gives the thumbs-up to cold-blooded shooting of innocent suspects (innocent because their guilt is only alleged and not proven), exhibits a befuddling queasiness about hanging convicted killers. Even stranger is the Commissioner of Police's deluded belief that the mere threat of a death sentence upon conviction is enough to deter illegal gun possession regardless of the likelihood of any such sentence ever being carried out.

If the Police and the Security Minister truly believe that capital punishment will deter the Matheris of this world, why not begin by petitioning President Kibaki to expedite the executions? Why not propose a motion in Parliament to censure the government (and specifically the President) over the two-decade long abdication of responsibility for the security of Kenyans? Why not fast-track the executions of the most recent cases (courts are still sentencing people to death y'know)?

Killing innocent suspects while preserving the lives of those who have been adjudged in court as deserving of death is unlikely to deliver security any time soon.

PS
The Nation reports that the first ever Mayoress of the Kitui Municipal Council has been arrested for crossing swords with Mrs. Lucy Kibaki. Mary Mbandi was arrested for the crime of threatening the First Lady after she dared to defend ODM presidential aspirant Kalonzo Musyoka against accusations of engaging in a "persistent hate and smear campaign based on falsehoods against the Kibaki government" levelled by Mrs. Kibaki. So much for expanded democratic space!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Inconvenient Truths

I just finished watching the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" by the-politician-formerly-known-as-the-next-president-of-the-United-States, Al Gore. I would recommend that everyone watch this movie (you can order a DVD at http://www.climatecrisis.net/) to get a sense of the danger global warming poses to the entire world and the need to get such issues higher up on the global agenda. However, the film does neglect to emphasise some inconvenient truths that most in the developed world would rather not acknowledge.

The first is that since the industrialised world is primarily responsible for the environmental mess we are all currently in, they should correspondingly shoulder the financial burden of sorting it out. It is all well and good to harp about the pollution from China (and there is some justification for insisting that the Chinese clean up their act). However from a historical perspective, the Chinese emissions pale in comparison to those of the West. It seems unconscionable to argue that the developing world revises its economic ambitions while the industrialised nations continue to enjoy the benefits of their environmental malfeasance.

The second inconvenient truth is the responsibility the rich countries bear for the deaths and impoverishment of millions of Africans (and others) through the relocation of precipitation. The film mentions this only in passing. Phenomena such as global warming, and its lesser known cousin global dimming, directly caused the devastating famines of the 80s in the Horn of Africa. Africans have contributed little to such phenomena but continue to bear a disproportionate burden of their effects in lives lost and social disruptions. The industrialised countries need to own up to this and pay reparations to the affected countries. What they currently give as "humanitarian aid" is a pittance in comparison to the destruction they have wrought.

Speaking of inconvenient truths, my attention was drawn last week to the claim by film maker James Cameron that he had found the "family tomb" of Jesus Christ. The Discovery Channel which aired the documentary, states on its website:
"New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah."
Not to be outdone, Kenyan clerics (and their global brethren), most of whom had neither bothered to watch the documentary nor to familiarise themselves with the evidence it cites, quickly declared it a fiction "full of imagination". According to Newsweek, in the US the president of the National Clergy Council labelled Cameron and his project part of the “Anti-Christian Hollywood establishment” and urged his 90,000 constituents to boycott not only the film and the book, but also to stop watching the Discovery Channel

Now, without delving into the many issues raised by this film, it seems obvious to me that anyone wishing to come to an accurate understanding of the historical Jesus and of his teachings should at least consider all the evidence before coming to a conclusion. The Gospels do render an account of his life, but surely science can help us either confirm or refute what they state. Unless, of course, if we are afraid of the conclusions such enquiries might lead us to. In that case, what are Christians to make of this exhortation by the apostle Peter: "Do not be afraid of them....Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting of (other versions read: a reason for) the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:14-15)?