Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gold Digger

And here's the Bush Administration's retort...

The Devil is an Ass

Here's another gem from Hugo Chavez to go with his "Devil" rant at the UN. Almost makes me think that Kibaki's silence on issues might be a blessing in disguise. Going by his recent remarks, I don't expect he would be any more dignified.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Thoughts on the Benghazi Six Verdict

As promised, here's my take on the Benghazi Six case. Unfortunately, I have so far been unable to ascertain the Libyan side of the story. All news agencies (including, perhaps surprisingly, Al Jazeera) seem more interested in interviewing EU and Bulgarian government officials and the relatives of the 5 Bulgarian nurses. I saw no mention of the Palestinian doctor's relatives or the 11 Libyans who had been charged alongside the nurses. No interviews of Libyan officials, no analysis of the rules and procedures of the Libyan justice system. Based on the skewed coverage, it seems that there is a media consensus that the Libyans are either wholly incompetent or that the outcome was a foregone conclusion based on political considerations and not on evidence.

Now, on the face of it, the verdict does seem suspect. After all many pre-eminent scientists, including the co-discoverers of the AIDS virus, have trashed the state's evidence. One of the world's most prestigious science publications, Nature, claims to have acquired a copy of a document written by five Libyan physicians in 2003 that is the cornerstone of the prosecution's case, had it translated into English and presented to independent experts for assessment. All agreed that its accusations were unsupported by fact and riddled with suppositions. The trial has been lampooned by Amnesty International, Lawyers Without Borders, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the EU, Germany, the US and Bulgaria. However, without hearing from the Libyans, I am unable to come to a definitive conclusion. I have to rely on the credibility of the media, scientists, the governments of the West, international NGOs and the UN.

The scientists are, to my mind, the most believable of the lot. Their consensus points to the innocence of the accused. However, the scientific evidence has to be subjected to the rules and procedures of the court (remember the OJ Simpson case?) and I am ignorant of those.

How about the governments and international NGOs? The Benghazi case mirrors the trial and conviction of alleged Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. That trial too was denounced by Professor Hans Köchler, who was appointed as UN observer by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as a politically motivated "show trial" and "a spectacular miscarriage of justice". None other than Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, who drew up the 1991 indictment against the two accused Libyans and issued warrants for their arrest, has cast doubt upon the reliability of the main prosecution witness, Tony Gauci. Lord Fraser criticised the Maltese shopkeeper for being "not quite the full shilling" and an "apple short of a picnic".

In fact, evidence points to the framing of Libya as a scapegoat in that incident where 270 people lost their lives after a bomb exploded on board Pan Am Flight 103 as it overflew the Scottish town of Lockerbie. In 2005, a retired senior Scottish police chief gave defence lawyers a signed statement, which confirmed the claims made in 2003 by a former CIA agent that his CIA bosses actually wrote the script to incriminate Libya. He accused American intelligence agents of planting a circuit board fragment, identified as part of a sophisticated explosive timing device made by Swiss firm Mebo and only supplied to Libya and the East German Stasi. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP who played a crucial role in organising the trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, declared that Libya had nothing to do with the bombing. He accuses Iran of contracting the Popoular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) to carry out the atrocity, in retaliation for the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by a US Navy warship. On July 3, 1998 Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by the U.S.S. Vincennes killing all 290 passengers and crew as the plane flew over the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. In spite of the fact that the US ship was at the time of the shooting operating illegally in Iranian territorial waters, the plane was flying within an internationally recognised air corridor, and the US military issuing a statement holding the crew accountable for the shooting, the US refused to apologize and to accept responsibility and liability for the incident. At a news conference on 2 August 1988, then-Vice President George H. W. Bush declared, "I will never apologize for the United States of America — I don't care what the facts are". There was nothing in the way of punishment for the crew of the Vincennes. On the contrary, they were awarded combat-action ribbons. The air warfare coordinator on board, Lt. Cmdr. Scott Lustig, received a commendation medal for his ability to "quickly and precisely complete the firing procedure"--the same firing procedure that shot down Flight 655. In February 1996 the US agreed to pay Iran US$ 61.8 million in compensation ($300,000 per wage-earning victim, $150,000 per non-wage-earner) for the 248 Iranians killed in the shootdown in a successful bid to discontinue a case brought by Iran in 1989 before in the International Court of Justice. This pales in comparison with the US$10 million per family compensation paid out by Libya over the Lockerbie incident.

Why do I bring up these two cases? First, to counter the impression that the Western courts are more reliable than their Libyan counterparts in dispensing justice. The Lockerbie verdict demonstrates that they are just as prone to political pressure as are the Libyans. Therefore holding the Benghazi Six trial in Western capitals, as has been suggested, is no guarantee of a fair verdict. Secondly, to demonstrate that the West has a history of shielding it's nationals from the legal consequences of crimes committed in other countries. Bulgaria is in line to join the EU and I don't expect the EU to uphold justice when it is their potential citizens in the dock.

And thirdly, to show that the value the West places on the lives of citizens of other countries is much lower than that they place on the lives of their own citizens. This is best demonstrated by comparing the compensation paid by the US in the Iran Air Flight 655 case, with that demanded of Libya in the Pan Am Flight 103 case. Effectively the family of each adult victim on board Pan Am 103 would receive 33 times the equivalent sum of the family of each victim on Flight 655, whilst each child or senior citizen on Flight 103 would receive 66 times the amount received by the families of their counterparts on Flight 655. It is thus unlikely that the West would lose much sleep over the lives of 426 Libyan kids who may or may not have been deliberately infected with AIDS.

In the same way, the deafening silence of the media, Amnesty International and Lawyers without Borders on Al Megrahi's plight is a telling indictment of their credibility. Apart from a few dissenting voices, there has been no press coverage of the scale we are witnessing now. Lawyers without Borders have not sent anyone to assist with Al Megrahi's defence and I couldn't find a single statement on Amnesty International's website condemning the conduct of the case. He continues to rot in a Scottish jail, serving out his life sentence (parole is at least 20 years away), awaiting the results of a review of his case by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which has been looking into his case since 2004.

The UN though has been consistent in condemning both verdicts and so I choose to take their word. Combined with the consensus of the scientific community, it leads me conclude that it is most likely there has been a miscarriage of justice in Benghazi. I will await the results of an appeal to the Libyan Supreme Court to see whether the Libyan Judges agree with me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Benghazi Six Sentenced to Death

The BBC is reporting that 5 Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been sentenced to death a second time for deliberately infecting over 400 Libyan kids with the HIV virus. The Benghazi Six, as they came to be known, who have been in custody for 8 years, had had their initial conviction quashed by the Libyan Supreme Court on Christmas Day, last year and a re-trial ordered.

On December 7, 2006 the respected journal Nature published a new study which examined the mutation history of the HIV virus found in blood samples from the children, and found that they had likely been first infected years before the Benghazi Six arrived in Libya.

The Bulgarian foreign minister has expressed concern at the verdict and also doubts over the competence and independence of the Libyan judicial system.

The EU, which Bulgaria is set to join, has rejected the latest verdict and has called for Libyan authorities to exercise "humanitarian clemency". Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi has proposed releasing the six medics if, in return, the convicted Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, currently serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail, were to be released and $5.7 billion compensation were paid to Libya for the care of the HIV-infected patients.

I will be posting my thoughts on this case later.

Penis Envy and AIDS

Just a thought on the new front the Ministry of Health plans to open in the war against AIDS. The Standard reports that the Ministry is seeking ways of promoting male circumcision after a study involving 2784 HI-negative men in Kisumu demonstrated a 53% risk reduction in circumcised males as compared to the uncircumcised.

I wonder how this will go down in Luo Nyanza where traditional customs such as wife inheritance and more modern practices like the Jaboyo system, have conspired to provide the HIV virus ample opportunity to wreak havoc. The Luos do not traditionally practice circumcision and there have been cases in the past where unruly mobs from other communities have forced the cut on Luo men in their midst.

In the light of this, is it not predictable that any attempt by the government to encourage circumcision (whatever the merits) would likely be viewed as yet another attempt by a Kikuyu-led government to impose Kikuyu ways on the Luo? Especially now that we have a Luo-Kikuyu fight in the offing following the break-up of NARC?

The confrontation between these two ethnic groups has been a consistent thread running through the history of independent Kenya. From the Kenyatta-Odinga standoff in 1969 which led to the Kisumu riots and Kenyatta's vow never to return to Nyanza, to the break-up of the original FORD occasioned by the return of Matiba and his decision to go it alone in 1992, to the current ODM-NARC-K confrontation, the off-again, on-again alliance between these two tribes has set the tone of country's political discourse.

It is my fear that the MoH's proposals will be seen through the prism of this history.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Devil Stalks Langata

What does it say about our government when a self-confessed former leader of one of the most notoriously violent gangs, one that is responsible for the murder of tens of innocents, holds a press conference and declares that he is "capable of using full force to counter both police and ODM-Kenya"?

Listen to the Word of Mungiki-leader-turned-Muslim-turned-evangelist Ndura Waruinge, as reported in the Standard:

"I am going to stop at nothing until I make sure I express my feelings. I was peaceful until provoked and now I want to let Raila know that fire shall be returned with fire and I will make sure that I stop all the ODM rallies that will take place in Nairobi until I am given a chance to hold my rally....I told Raila to choose the plate he wants to use and from today all the sympathisers of ODM and LDP, who include police officers should know that I am capable of using similar force. This is just the beginning of a long battle."

Declaring that he no longer intends to comply with regulations requiring him to seek permits from the police for his rallies, he continues: "I will go there directly, I was testing the waters and now that I have come across provocative Raila youths soon I will show them what I am best at."

Truly, we all know what he's best at. Just ask the victims of the Kariobangi Massacre about the feelings this man wishes to express. It is a mystery to me why this guy is still a free man after the chaos and death his hoodlums have wreaked. He, along with his fellow "Men of God" Gilbert Deya and Paul Khamlesh Pattni deserve a special place in the filthiest dungeon the Kenyan justice system can come up with. However, I don't expect that President Kibaki (or anyone in his administration) will soon sprout a backbone and do the needful.

According to the Daily Nation, Ndura Waruinge has been arrested in connection with the Kibera violence in which 3 people lost their lives. No word of government intentions to prosecute him for his past crimes.

More NARCotics

Prof Kivutha Kibwana is once again giving verbal evidence of his hypocrisy. Not content with making bad law and re-writing history, the Environment and Natural Resources Minister who is also acting Minister for Lands is, according to a Daily Nation report, promising one those posts to the Meru "for their trust and support for President Kibaki". He is also reported as asking the Provincial Administration to refrain from political neutrality and favour NARC-Kenya interim officials because "it is the party in power". This from the guy who once incited mass action under the pretext of fighting for democratic change. It is most disheartening (though not surprising in this era of Orwellian "Animal Farm" politics) to hear him championing tribalism and favouritism.

Oh...and someone should disabuse him of the notion that NARC-K is the governing party. I think he long ago took leave of reality.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Low Standard(s)

The Standard has published this article from its Managing Editor, Quality and Production, Okech Kendo. Physician, heal thyself! The article is truly awfully written. And this from the guy in charge of quality. Small wonder our journalistic standards are so low.

This being my 100th post, I have a few awards I would like to dish out.

Elder of the Order of the Broken Promise:
Mwai Kibaki

Elder of the Order of the Lazy Bum:
All Ministers whose ministries ranked within poorest 10

Elder of the Order of the Broken Tooth:
John Michuki

Urchin of the Order of the Shameless Elder:
Khamlesh Pattni, Nicholas Biwott, Daniel Arap Moi, The Arturs, Gideon Moi, George Saitoti, Kiraitu Murungi, Moody Awori, David Mwiraria, Chris Murungaru

Elder of the Order of the Shattered Dream:
All Kenyans

More later.

Elder of the Order of the Lazy Bum

In a previous post, I stated that "the government has shown no inkling to punish or sanction any of the poorly performing ministries named in the recently released review of Government departments". Boy, was I wrong!

According to the Standard, three of the worst performing ministers Soita Shitanda (Housing), Mr Gideon Konchellah (Immigration) and Mr Moses Akaranga (Public Service), have just been awarded the Elder of the Order of the Golden Heart of Kenya in "recognition of outstanding or distinguished services rendered to the nation in their various capacities and responsibilities."

A working nation indeed! Only in Kenya. In the true spirit of Christmas, we have collectively turned the other (butt)cheek.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pastor "Miracle Baby" Deya Arrested

The BBC reports that evangelist Gilbert Deya, who claimed to have created pregnancies through the power of prayer, has been detained by the British authorities under an arrest warrant issued by Kenya where he is wanted for child trafficking. Now it up to a British court to decided whether he gets to join his wife in a Kenyan jail. Deya has managed to evade justice for over two years. Only a miracle (or Amos Wako's legendary incompetence) can save him now.

Kibaki Rejects Pay Increment

According to NTV, Kibaki has refused his proposed pay increment citing "more urgent projects that need the funding." Well done! However, I wish he had adopted this line of thinking from 2003 and vetoed the MPs salary awards.

Now if I switch to conspiracy theory mode, I am tempted to think that the whole affair was designed to make Kibaki out to be a man of the people. Surely, would they have awarded him a payrise in public without him asking for it (or at the very least without his knowledge)? Something smells not quite right....

Goldenberg -The Scandal That Never Was?

On Jamuhuri Day I had an interesting discussion with a prominent lawyer friend of mine who's involved in one of the many Goldenberg cases pending in our courts. He tells me that Kenya didn't lose a single cent in the Goldenberg scam and that, on the contrary, we got some much needed foreign exchange.

The way he tells it, following the end of the Cold War and the suspension of donor aid, Kenya needed quick cash to plug the gaping hole in our budget. A World Bank accountant (I've forgotten his name) came up with a scheme whereby the World Bank would provide compensation in hard currency for fictitious exports by Goldenberg, and then the Central Bank would purchase the same dollars for Kenya shillings which the government could print in infinite quantities. In the end therefore, while we did suffer the inflationary consequences of printing money, the "free" dollars from the World Bank helped tide us over in the lean years of aid suspension. In effect the real loser was the World Bank and this accounts for the fact that no successful prosecutions have been secured over the scam.

I have difficulty believing this version of events principally because everyone who has investigated the scam invariably comes up with figures of between Kshs 13B and Kshs 68B that we are said to have lost. Also, as I understand it, the 15% export compensation was paid, not by the World Bank, but by the Kenya Government. And the lack of successful prosecutions is simply down to the political mathematics of both the Moi and Kibaki administrations.

Anyone who could explain the mechanics of the scam and the money lost in simple English?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Performance Reviews and Kimunya's NARC-otic Rant

Not only is President Kibaki receiving a humongous pay rise (unconnected, by the way, to any performance review), the government has shown no inkling to punish or sanction any of the poorly performing ministries named in the recently released review of Government departments. Apart from naming and shaming the relevant Ministries, that is.

Now, it's all very good to name and shame. However, according to the DPM website, Permanent Secretaries and Accounting Officers did sign performance contracts on 7th February 2006, detailing the goals and targets they were expected to meet, and promising sanctions for non-compliance. Such contracts (and the review) are not worth the paper they are printed on if these officials are not fired for failing to fulfil them. Not transferred, FIRED!

And how about holding the Ministers responsible for the performance of their ministries? Are they not part of the "working nation" and shouldn't they have to justify their obscene salaries?

On a different note, Mambo's Blog reports that Finance Minister Amos Kimunya thinks "the good old story that there's no water in Nairobi taps is gone. Everyone is getting water". Speaking at the Kenya Diaspora Investment Forum in London, he also said that corruption was a thing of the past. Well, I think the poor Minister assumed his audience did not read Kenyan newspapers. Water rationing is a hard fact of life in Nairobi and his Justice and Constitutional Affairs counterpart would probably disagree with the notion that Kenya is corruption free. After all, she did publish a "List of Shame" and included several of her Cabinet colleagues in it.

And, interestingly, Jimnah Mbaru, when asked at the same forum whether economic growth can only be guaranteed under a Kibaki Administration, is reported to have said that no fundamentals had changed since 2002 -except the election of Kibaki. I have maintained in my posts that NARC is an impediment rather than a facilitator of economic growth. Sure they are less of an impediment than KANU ever was, but an impediment nonetheless. It now seems that no lesser personage than the Chairman of the Nairobi Stock Exchange agrees.

Friday, December 08, 2006

From Hero to Zero: The Fall and Fall of the Kenyan Opposition

How the mighty have fallen! Listening to the sycophantic fawning of Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi during the debate on the President's salary, one would be hard-pressed to imagine that he was the scourge of the Moi regime. In 2002, just the whiff of power was enough to get Dr. Kituyi to abandon his long-held (and I think genuinely held) principles. During the chaotic NARC nominations, I read with disbelief reports of him raining blows on another candidate who presumed to present his nomination papers. Then shortly after the electoral triumph of NARC and his elevation to the Cabinet, he was caught on national TV promising a fat government job to the Sabaot community. Just consider the words of William Ruto (not exactly an angel himself) during yesterday's Parliamentary debate: "In 1997, when I came to this House [Dr. Kituyi] could not afford to hire a car, but he now flies in a helicopter."

Dr. Kituyi's moral descent mirrors that of other former opposition and civil society luminaries such as Kiraitu Murungi, Martha Karua and Kivutha Kibwana. The question is, what is it about the Kenyan system that makes hyenas out of erstwhile sheep? Or were they never sheep to begin with? Why do we get internationally renowned lawyers such as Amos Wako and turn them into thieves (or abetters of thievery)? How come that formerly staunch defender of Press freedoms, Martha Karua, has, since she came to power, herself filed over 15 cases in court against the very same press? Why does the man who more than any other personified the fight for a people-driven constitution, Prof. Kibwana, turn around and try to foist a bastardized version on the people?

Before I am accused of ODM bias, I seem to remember Prof. Anyang' Nyongo defending the MP salary increment which was the first act of the current Parliament. This gentleman once famously spoke of those "incompetent to govern", referring to the KANU regime. Yet when he was placed in a position of authority, he did the exact same things they were doing.

When Raila Odinga dissolved his NDP party and joined KANU, he became one of the most vociferous critics of his former comrades-in arms in the opposition. As a Cabinet Minister, he once called for the prosecution of James Orengo and his Muungano wa Mageuzi comrades for treason. Their crime? Holding a series of anti-Moi rallies which had been banned by the police on "security" grounds -the same thing Raila's ODM colleagues were doing on Tuesday.

Now, I am not talking here about the Kibakis, Saitotis and Michukis of this administration. We already knew them to be incorrigibly corrupt and dictators at heart. I am asking about those who for many years and at great cost to themselves, fought against the tyranny of KANU, only to turn around and perpetrate the very same tyranny on the mwananchi. I think what we have here is not just a case of a few rotten apples but a systemic failure. And this leaves Kenya more vulnerable than during the KANU days. At least back then we had hope of an alternative, and yes, better government. Back then, we we had a vibrant civil society which could inspire and mobilize the people to fight against injustice. In fact, in the face of the ineffectual and divided Parliamentary opposition, civil society became the de facto check on KANU excess. However, in the euphoria of 2002, we allowed this movement to be decapitated. Its leaders all cashed in their chips and jumped ship. Now they are all arraigned against us with no one standing with us.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mugabe-nomics in Kenya

Yet another example of NARC's commitment to alleviating poverty. According to the Standard, the government has committed to the demolition of buildings and businesses worth Kshs. 5 billion at Mlolongo township to make way for the expansion of the Nairobi/Mombasa highway. This brings back disturbing memories of the 2004 demolitions which were to pave the way for the now fictitious bypasses. I wonder how destroying livelihoods improves the lot of Kenyans.

The fact is unscrupulous people have "grabbed" the road reserves and either developed or sold them to other unsuspecting investors. The government, under Moi, was largely complicit in this orgy of looting. The way to correct this state of affairs should not be Mugabe-style land redistribution. Considering the amount of money that has already been invested, the number of jobs that this investment has created and the fact that many of the affected investors are twice or even thrice removed from the original illegality (the owners of one demolished petrol station valued at Kshs. 70 million and employing 30 bought the land from the NSSF), the government should have approached this matter in a different way.

In Nairobi, buildings worth billions of shillings were reduced to rubble to implement plans that were over 30 years old. Estates like Runda did not exist when those plans were drawn up. Wouldn't it have made more sense to redraft the plans to take account of the "facts on ground" and then go after the individuals who grabbed the land in the first place? We could attach their assets as compensation instead of punishing innocents.

Similarly, the bulldozers at Mlolongo should never have been dispatched before alternative routes for the road were considered. And I have seen no evidence that that happened. Neither have I heard talk of compensation or plans to address the inevitable suffering this will cause. And all this from the very people who were shedding crocodile tears over Mo1's kiosk demolitions.

GoK AIDS Day Goofs

In a recent post, I decried the government's early World AIDS Day present to criminals (or would-be criminals) afflicted with the disease. Today brings news of yet another gift, this time to teachers. According to the Nation, Teacher Service Commission Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni has promised that HIV-positive teachers will "get transfer requests approved automatically while those seeking early retirement will also have their terminal benefits prepared within a short time". As all who have dealt with the TSC will no doubt attest, this is no small award. Many teachers wait for years to get their transfers or benefits. And now every AIDS patient has jumped the queue.

I acknowledge the havoc that AIDS has wreaked in our communities but I am unable to see how this is helpful. After years of fighting AFRAIDS, it seems we are now being asked not to treat sufferers same as anybody else, but to shower them with pity. We were once told that with proper medication, care and nutrition, people with AIDS could be just as productive (and just as criminal) as the next person. However, now the government has opted to make them out to be "dead men walking".

These government edicts reinforce, rather than fight, the stigma associated with the syndrome. They further the view that those with the disease are different and lesser than the rest of us. That the disease renders them incapable of coping with the daily challenges faced by the rest of us. Just as the physically disabled rightly resent such notions (remember "disability is not inabilty"?), so those with AIDS should resent this government's characterisation of them. What they need are not condescending nods to their condition but the means to continue living full and productive lives.