Friday, November 16, 2007

A Few Questions for ODM

Now that ODM has launched its election manifesto, I have a few questions I would like answered. (Disclaimer: I have not had the opportunity to look through the manifesto and would appreciate it if someone availed it online. The queries here are based on media reports.)

On the Constitution
1.What are the specific constitutional structures that ODM wants to put in place to achieve Ugatuzi?

2. If these are contained in the Bomas Draft which has already been scuttled by the 9th Parliament, is there not need for new legislation to govern its reintroduction in the 10th Parliament? If not, then since the Act that created the Bomas review process gives Parliament the final say on the Bomas Draft, how can they guarantee that MPs will not meddle with the Bomas Draft (as they did during Kibaki's tenure) especially considering that ODM is unlikely to have have a majority (112 MPs) in the 10th Parliament?

3. Will there be another referendum so Kenyans can give their verdict on whatever comes out of Parliament?

4. Is 6 months sufficient time to enact a new review law and/or have the Bomas Draft debated in Parliament and/or hold a referendum?

On Free Secondary Education
1. Since ODM holds the view that free primary education has been at best a qualified success (emphasising quantity and not quality), wouldn't it have been better to conentrate of repairing that system instead of exporting the problems to secondary education?

2. Where is the funding going to come from to fix primary education as well as make secondary schooling free? Does he have any estimates on how much he is expecting to spend to ensure the success of the policy?

3. What measures will he put in place to prevent the chaos, caused by the sudden influx of students into schools were ill-equipped to accommodate them, that was witnessed in the first days of free primary education repeating itself with regard to secondary schools?

On the NEP
1. Since he is proposing a Ministry for the North East Province, will he do the same for other marginalised areas in Kenya?

2. Will he give up the Presidential power to rule the NEP by decree (I'm not sure if the IPPG reforms did away with these)?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


This morning I listened to Raila being interviewed by Patrick Quarco of Kiss FM on his candidature. Interestingly, Raila says that Jua Kali business is a contributor to poverty, that as President he would grant a general amnesty for past economic crimes with only the proviso that those involved own up and return their loot (i.e. no prosecutions), and that an ODM administration would raise the necessary cash to implement free secondary education by stopping theft of public resources while at the same time admitting that free primary education has been an unmitigated failure in the sense that kids are in school but no learning is taking place. On insecurity, Raila seems to believe that all crime is a socio-economic phenomenon that can only be solved through better economic policies and not by better policing.

On the first point, it seems strange that someone campaigning under the banner of redistributing the benefits of economic growth and reducing unemployment should be against a sector of the economy that for the past 2 decades has been the largest source of employment for urban poor. When the economy was languishing under Moi and formal sector companies were either closing shop or downsizing their workforce, it was the Jua Kali businesses that kept Kenya afloat. The vast majority of jobs were created in this sector as has been admitted by the current government and the sector's importance is illustrated by the growing realisation by banks and financial institutions that there's a lot of money to be made by servicing it.

Secondly, Raila faults the Kibaki for not implementing the recommendations of the Goldenberg Commission and for largely turning a blind eye to grand corruption within his administration. The Goldenberg report did not recommend amnesty but rather prosecutions. If a Raila administration was to grant an amnesty, it is unclear to me how this would be a deterrent to future corruption.

On crime, it surely obvious that poverty is no excuse for criminal activity. Better economics would help but, as noted by J. Edgar Hoover, only certain and timely punishment deters crime. Raising police wages would do for that institution what raising parliamentary salaries has done for the House -absolutely nothing. In fact, in the latter case, the wage hikes simply served to whet their appetite for further acquisition. Integrity cannot be bought. Better living conditions will never eradicate crime. To do that we must insist on integrity, better training, professionalism and independence in our law-enforcement officers and not just seek to give them better pay as a reward for their woeful performance.

Finally, instead of fixing the problems created by free primary education, Agwambo proposes to export these woes to secondary education. The lack of facilities and personnel witnessed at the primary level are multiplied when one looks at the secondary school scenario. It is unlikely that in the event of a Raila win that corrupt bureaucrats would suddenly cease their thieving ways in order to provide the resources for free secondary schooling as the candidate seems to hope (an outcome made even more remote by his promise of an amnesty).

I hope that the ODMites here can explain the seeming inconsistencies in their candidate's proposals. It is not enough to point out the Kibaki's many failures. If we want to do better, we must insist that whoever wishes to replace him desists from giving us half-baked-pie-in-the-sky promises and seriously addresses the issues.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thoughts on African Unity

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ass-Covering Manoeuvers

The leaking of the Kroll report has just highlighted many of the reasons why we remain in the doldrums. First, the government which has long maintained that it is doing all it can to trace our looted wealth has been shown to be less than diligent. Having sat on the report for 3 years, ignored offers of help from the UK government and actually abetted in the theft of our Safaricom shares through its silence on the ownership of the shadowy Mobitelea Ventures Ltd, all the Kibaki administration could do was engage in elaborate ass-covering manoeuvres. The government's dismissal of a report it itself commissioned is proof that there is no appetite for punishing past wrongs.

The opposition fares no better in this regard. I am amazed by the silence of those who are tasked with the function of oversight. Where are the calls for impeachment, resignations and prosecutions? Where are the votes of no confidence? (And wasn't that Chrysanthus Okemo I spotted at the ODM delegates conference? He is named in the report as one of the shareholders in "a business in the name of the Government of Kenya" along with Moi, Saitoti and Biwott.)

Finally our press seems more interested in using their freedom (won at our expense) to indulge the political class. It is surely inconceivable that none of our investigative journalists was aware of the existence of this report. That we had to wait 3 years for an anonymous leak on the internet is an indictment of the laxity with which the Kenyan media approaches its function of keeping the citizenry informed. It is illustrative too that over the weekend, more space and resources were devoted to covering the ODM convention than on discussing the implications of a government abdicating its responsibility to its citizens and choosing to side with the enemy.

It is at times like this that I truly feel ashamed to be called a Kenyan.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Peculiar Recalling Habits

If Michael Joseph did actually attempt to mislead Parliament's Public Investment Committee by presenting forged documents as alleged in the committee report, shouldn't he be in jail? What are we to make of the fact that the principals cannot agree on when or why Telkom transferred 10% of our shareholding in Safaricom to Vodafone Plc? Why do the Safaricom CEO and government officials keep insisting that the company has only two shareholders when all evidence points to the contrary?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Big Brother Kenya

The Standard reports that new legislation to cover marriages, the Marriage Bill 2007, is on the way. The Bill seeks to "consolidate into one all the nine Kenyan laws regarding marriage".

The Bill seeks to reduce incidences of divorce by introducing reconciliatory measures to solve differences among couples. It now seems that the government is set to turn wedlock into padlock. If the bill makes it into law, married couples will be compelled to refer their dispute to a "conciliatory body" prior to being allowed to divorce.

Just picture a committee of bureaucrats sitting in judgement over your marital woes! What gives the state any authority to determine to whom and for how long we should be married? Seeking to "save" marriages or family through legislation is not only an exercise in futility, but is also an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of citizens.

Other features of the bill include the recognition of come-we-stay unions as well as a clause "that gives a green light to polygamous marriages, so long as the man makes it clear before undertaking the first marriage that he would be polygamous".

Now, I have nothing against polygamy so long as all involved are OK with it. My only question is whether, in the interests of fairness and gender sensitivity, we should not also register polyandrous unions. Apparently, this issue is not addressed in the Bill. It would be interesting to hear what our sisters have to say about this.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Crying $hame

Onion News Network (ONN) panelists discuss whether Americans should spare Africa's feelings by not telling us about the global economy.

In The Know: Is Our Wealth Hurting Africa's Feelings?

Tha Shiznit or Whatever that Means

Just ran my blog through Gizoogle which "transizlates" pages from English into wachamacallit. Here's how my last post comes out(Hat Tip: globalizati):

In a pizzy last week, I asked ridin' in mah double R: "WH-to-tha-izzat has become of tha PIC Chairman Justin Muturi's promise ta git ta tha bottom of tha [Safarizzles ownership] affair?" Well, tha Siakago MP seems ta be respond'n.

Today's Nation reportsthiznat tha parliamentary watchdog committee is pimpin' tha suspension of tha firm’s public sale of shares, valued at Kshs. 34 billion, till tha issue of who owns 10% of tha company is resolved fo all my homies in the pen. The PIC states in a report that tha sharehold'n was irregularly transferred ta nigga Mobitelea Ventures Ltd or Vodafone Plc n demands its immediate return ta Telkom Kenya . Boo-Yaa!.

The report furtha suggests thizzat tha share in question, once transferred, should be held in trizzay fo` tha public n be factored into tha privatisizzles of tha company n tizzy tha Communicizzles Commission of Kenya CEO John Waweru S-T-to-tha-izzep aside "until tha investizzles is completed" fo` his roles on tha board of tha defunct Kenya Posts n Telecommunicizzles Corporizzle n Telkom at tha time of whiznen motherfucka of tha share in question tizzy place n shit. The MPs also want those officials who approved tha playa of Safarizzles shares in 1999 barred from spendin' public office and my money on my mind.

Curiously, though, tha committee report states thizzat "Mobitelea Ventures is not based in nor does it operate in Kenya" which flies in tha face of reports in tha East African that Mobitelea Ventures Ltd and yo momma. wiznas, at least tiznill 2000 a non-trad'n arm of Telkom Kenya.

Let us hizzle tha truth wizzay out rappa ratha tizzy shot calla. Drug Deala way, Safcom wizzle pay a steep price fo` tha deception.


Safcom's Ukweli Tarriff

In a post last week, I asked: "What has become of the PIC Chairman Justin Muturi's promise to get to the bottom of the [Safaricom ownership] affair?" Well, the Siakago MP seems to be responding.

Today's Nation reports that the parliamentary watchdog committee is recommending the suspension of the firm’s public sale of shares, valued at Kshs. 34 billion, till the issue of who owns 10% of the company is resolved. The PIC states in a report that the shareholding was irregularly transferred to either Mobitelea Ventures Ltd or Vodafone Plc and demands its immediate return to Telkom Kenya.

The report further suggests that the share in question, once transferred, should be held in trust for the public and be factored into the privatisation of the company and that the Communications Commission of Kenya CEO John Waweru step aside "until the investigations are completed" for his roles on the board of the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunication Corporation and Telkom at the time of when transfer of the share in question took place. The MPs also want those officials who approved the transfer of Safaricom shares in 1999 barred from holding public office.

Curiously, though, the committee report states that "Mobitelea Ventures is not based in nor does it operate in Kenya" which flies in the face of reports in the East African that Mobitelea Ventures Ltd. was, at least till 2000 a non-trading arm of Telkom Kenya.

Let us hope the truth will out sooner rather than later. Either way, Safcom will pay a steep price for the deception.

Monday, August 06, 2007

When a Journalist is not a Journalist

In the past few weeks, the local media has been beside itself over the passage of the Media Bill 2007. In editorial after howling editorial, parliamentarians have been excoriated (and rightly so) over their attempts to force journalists to reveal their sources. However, the mainstream media is itself far from blameless.

In May, Bankelele wrote a post on the difficulty of obtaining an online copy of the just passed Media Bill 2007. Back then he wrote: "It was disappointing that so far everyone talks about it, but few (member of the public) have seen it. Even media houses have remained selfish with the document, withholding it and only telling us what’s bad about it." The original Media Bill 2007 authored by Information minister Mutahi Kagwe is available online here, though considering the reports of "deals" between "media stakeholders" and the government, it is unlikely that it was passed in this form. And perhaps therein lies the reason why neither the government nor the media houses want you to see it.

One of those "deals" was amending the clause defining who is a journalist. The original definition in Kagwe's bill reads: "'journalist' means any person who earns a living from the practice of journalism, or any person who habitually engages in the practice of journalism and is recognized as such by the Council". According to the Standard, some "media stakeholders" would like to replace this definition with one that includes the provision that a journalist is one who "holds a diploma or degree in mass communication from a recognised institution of higher learning and is recognised by the council as such". Media Owners Association (MOA) chairman, Mr Hannington Gaya thinks, "[The proposed amendment] makes journalism a respected profession as it distinguishes who is a journalist and who is not".

However the effect of such a clause would be to deny many lifelong journalists (including cartoonists such as GADO and MADD) legal recognition on the pretext that they do not possess the requisite academic qualifications. By this definition, Wahome Mutahi would not be considered a journalist. Many self-published individuals such as bloggers would also be denied similar recognition as would members of the so-called "alternative press". Since this is a statutory definition, all of us would lose any protections offered to mainstream "journalists" under the Bill.

Nothing more than a thieves' bargain, this is a crude attempt by the established Media houses who make up the MOA to hog the media space. Far from seeking to bring "respectability" to what Paul Muite calls "a necessary evil", the amendment seeks to place limits on who may or may not practice journalism. It also plays into the hands of politicians who would like nothing more than to limit the avenues through which information can be conveyed to the public. It needs to be opposed by all.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Weird Notions of the Daily Nation

Today's Daily Nation editorial should give us all some pause for thought, but not for the reasons the Nation editors would like. For the newspaper actually seems to equate democracy with freedom from the constraints of law. It treats our statutes as something of an inconvenience, to be disregarded whenever expediency demands, in the rush to avail ourselves of the right to protest. The editorial states:
"It is often said that nobody has the right to hold processions without permission. That is usually just an excuse to block, for political reasons, the exercise of free expression. Every other day, all manner of groups hold processions without hindrance. The only time police interference would be justified is when such groups present threats to law and order."
This is what the relevant law (Public Order Act, Chapter 56, Section 5) has to say:
5.(1) No person shall hold a public meeting or a public procession except in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(2) Any person intending to convene a public meeting or a public procession shall notify the regulating officer of such intent at least three days but not more than fourteen days before the proposed date of the public meeting or procession.

. . . . . . . .

(8) The regulating officer or any police officer of or above the of inspector may stop or prevent the holding of-

(a) any public meeting or public procession held contrary to the provisions of sub-sections (2) or (6);
Clearly, the police do have every right to stop the proposed marches if the organisers fail to provide notice of the intended demonstrations. Furthermore, it is a nullity to argue, as the editorial does, that the police should have done nothing because the protesters were voicing "a very genuine public concern — a proposed send-off package by MPs". The Penal Code, Chapter 63, Section 9 has this to say concerning intentions and motives:
9.(1) Subject to the express provisions of this Code relating to negligent acts and omissions, a person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission which occurs independently of the exercise of his will, or for an event which occurs by accident.

(2) Unless the intention to cause a particular result is expressly declared to be an element of the offence constituted, in whole or part, by an act or omission, the result intended to be caused by an act or omission is immaterial.

(3) Unless otherwise expressly declared, the motive by which a person is induced to do or omit to do an act, or to form an intention, is immaterial so far as regards criminal responsibility.
So it matters not that the organisers sought to do good. That does not absolve them of their legal obligations.

Now, while it is perfectly clear that the police had every right to stop the demonstration, the arrest of the organisers is another matter entirely. The Police Act, Chapter 84, Section 16 says:
16.(1) It shall be the duty of the Force to regulate and control traffic and to keep order on and prevent obstructions in public places, and to prevent unnecessary obstruction on the occasions of assemblies, meetings and processions on public roads and streets, or in the neighbourhood of places of worship during the time of worship therein.

(2) Any person who disobeys any lawful order given by any police officer acting under subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence, and may be arrested without a warrant unless he gives his name and address and satisfies the police officer that he will duly answer any summons or other proceedings which may be taken against him.

It seems obvious that the 5 activists would have easily been able to fulfil the conditions set out in sub-section (2) above and therefore their arrest was totally unnecessary. In this, and in unleashing violence on a largely peaceful though illegal gathering, the police over-reacted. In that sense I do agree with the Nation's call for the police to apologise and "take action" against the concerned officers. I only wish that the newspaper was as vocal in calling for the punishment of the other lawbreakers in this sorry tale.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Still the Bitter Option

Now that Safaricom shares are set to make their debut on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, has anyone cleared the air over the ownership of, and relationship between, Safaricom, Vodafone Kenya Ltd. and Mobitelea? Or is this one of those issues that Kenyans love make a lot of noise about and then promptly sweep under the carpet?

Here are the issues I would still like addressed:

However, the government insists that there are only two shareholders of Safcom i.e. Telkom Kenya (60%) and Vodafone Kenya Ltd (40%). According to the East African, Mobitelea Ventures Ltd. was, at least till 2000 a non-trading arm of Telkom Kenya. It appears that sometime between March 2001 and May 2002, Mobitelea acquired a stake in Vodafone Kenya Ltd. (which by then was wholly owned by Vodafone Plc) . This implies either of two things.

One, that Telkom, through Mobitelea and using public money, bought shares in VKL thus increasing its effective shareholding in Safaricom to 70% without informing the public. It then sold the equivalent of 5% of that shareholding back to Vodafone Plc generating $10 million and again failed to report this. It would also mean that contrary to its declarations, Telkom actually effectively owns 65% of Safaricom and is trying to hide that 5% from us.

Or two, Telkom had by then quietly sold (or given) Mobitelea to someone who then managed to convince Vodafone Plc to sell them a piece of VKL on the hush-hush. This begs many questions. Whom did Telkom sell (or give) Mobitelea to (last year a search at the Company Registry conducted by The East African failed to determine the ownership or directors of Mobitelea Ventures), why and for how much? Were the proceeds declared in the company's accounts? Can Telkom so easily dispose of a public asset without informing anyone? Why doesn't the company come clean on this matter?

Isn't there a contradiction in Safcom CEO Michael Joseph refusing to divulge the details of Safcom's ownership structure to Parliament's Public Investment Committee, while at the same time seeking to access more of the public's money through a listing on the NSE? And do the rules of the NSE not compel him to release that information now?

What has become of the PIC Chairman Justin Muturi's promise to get to the bottom of the affair?

Tsk.. Tsk..

In keeping with my stated respect for the rule of law, I must admit that a few things about yesterday's demonstration and its aftermath do not sit well with me.

First, the careless disregard exhibited by the protesters of the legal requirement to inform the police before holding a public demonstration. Today's Daily Nation quotes one of them, Ms Ann Njogu from Creaw, admitting to the police yesterday that “some matters were urgent and we are angered to an extent of forgetting the need to notify you”. There can be no excuse for such an oversight and the police were well within their rights to declare it an illegal gathering and to order them to disperse. It is the height of hypocrisy to demand that the government comport itself within the bounds of law while the very activists demanding this are busy ignoring its provisions. That said, I still maintain that the subsequent police reaction (lobbying tear gas canisters etc.) was excessive and unwarranted. Furthermore, locking up people who clearly pose no threat to the public is an abuse of police powers. It would have sufficed to get them to record statements and order them to appear before some magistrate the next day.

Secondly, the Nation article also reports on Cabinet Minister Charity Ngilu successfully abetting the escape of Ms. Njogu from police custody. Again, this is a flagrant violation of our statutes and does much harm to the cause Ms. Njogu and her fellow protesters were fighting. Just because one disagrees (as I do) with the premise of their arrest does not suddenly relieve one of the responsibility to act in a lawful manner. I hope to see the Minister for Health presently arraigned in court along with Ms. Njogu.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More Victories in War on Crime

The Daily Nation is reporting that police have tear-gassed activists protesting against the recent proposed MPs pay-hike and have arrested 5 NGO officials among them Mwalimu Mati, Cyprian Nyamwamu and Anne Njogu (Click here to download a video of the protesting thugs courtesy of Mars Group Kenya). Now, Kenyans can rest safe in the knowledge that MPs can now go about the business of fleecing the nation undisturbed by those pesky activists and their demonstrations. Little annoyances (such as the constitutional rights to free expression, liberty and peacefully to assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances) will not be allowed to stand in the way of safe-guarding the interests of the 200 or so individuals whom we have the dubious honour of calling our leaders. Way to go Commissioner Ali!

In another imminent victory, the Government plans to effect ("within 100 days") on-the-spot fines for such heinous offenders as drivers "dropping and picking up passengers at non-designated areas, driving vehicles emitting smoke or visible vapour, driving on footpaths and . . . . not wearing seat belts." However, perpetrators of the relatively minor transgression of shoddy and late road construction simply got off with a stern warning from Roads Assistant minister Joshua Toro. No word on when the warning is expected to take effect.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Kenya Police Declare Victory

Yesterday's Daily Nation reports that barely 30 days after one of the bloodiest months in recent Kenyan history (112 dead in gang related violence and police shootings), the Commissioner of Police Major-General Hussein Ali is declaring victory in the war on crime. He is also dismissing press reports linking police to executions of suspected criminals during the month. Apparently believing that reports of the victims' deaths were highly exaggerated, the COP accused human rights agencies of "seeking media coverage in connection with claims that officers were executing a shoot-to-kill policy while pursuing Mungiki followers". If this is winning, I'd hate to see what losing looks like.

Friday, July 13, 2007

There's A Hole in the Budget, Dear Kimunya...

Has anyone given thought to the effect the multiple city-wide public smoking bans are having on Amos Kimunya's spending plans? Wasn't he categorical that a significant part of his recently read budget would be funded by so-called "sin" taxes on alcohol and cigarettes? His anticipated windfall may soon be going up in smoke.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Why Kivuitu and Gachegu Must Go.

Now that the High Court has spoken and Uhuru Kenyatta is rightfully confirmed as the Official leader of the opposition, should we not be in anxious anticipation of the resignations of both the Registrar of Societies, Bernice Gachegu, and the Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Samuel Kivuitu? After all, the panel of judges accused both officers of perpetrating outright illegalities in their apparent haste to do the Kibaki Administration's dirty work.
Today's Daily Nation reports:
In their ruling, the judges said the registration of new officials was “choreographed and became a charade tainted with both procedural impropriety and outright illegality on the part of the registrar.”. . . . Further, ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu they said, acted contrary to the requirements of National and Presidential Elections Act by purporting to convey a decision of the commission and later rescind it on oath.”
The judges also accused the ECK (which, of course, is loaded with Kibaki loyalists after the President tore up the 1997 IPPG "Gentleman's Agreement" that allowed the opposition a voice in the selection of commissioners) of surrendering its independence by meekly acquiescing to the government's blatant attempt to appoint the leadership of a party in the opposition. As I wrote at the time, the government's actions represented "an existential challenge to our hard-won democracy. If the Government is allowed to get away with determining the leadership of opposition parties, then we are on our way back to the days of de facto one party rule. The ridiculous vista of government ministers applauding the (s)election of the man supposed to lead the way in scrutinising their actions speaks volumes. The government seeks a free hand to do as it will without the encumbrance of a parliamentary opposition."

Given that the stakes are so high and that these two were the very officers tasked to prevent just this sort of mischief, their resignations (or those lacking, moves to ensure their swift removal from office) are indispensable if public confidence in our institutions is to restored. The same fate should befall the mysterious Cabinet Minister who was said to have prevailed upon Ms. Gachegu to register the Biwott faction.

However, this being Kenya, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Predictability of Stupidity

A good many years have passed since President Mwai Kibaki instituted the National Anti-Corruption Campaign Steering Committee under the chairmanship of the Rev. Mutava Musyimi. Last year, the President challenged the members of the largely dormant and ineffective Committee "to come up with innovative ways of ensuring that the general public become an active partner in the fight against corruption". The response? Well apart from the launch of District Anti-Corruption Civilian Oversight Committees (whatever those are) in 9 out of 71 districts in February, precious little has been heard from the supposed anti-corruption stalwarts.

That is, until today. The Daily Nation reports on yet another brilliant innovation. A report from the NACCSC recommends that "a list of shame of people involved in grand corruption like the Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg scandals should be made public and the culprits prosecuted". Ummm.... Hello...! Which planet have these guys been living on? We have had Lists of Shame ad nauseum and simply compiling another one will neither deter nor ensure punishment of the evil-doers.

The Committee goes on to recommend the setting up of kangaroo courts (which Jed Pittman, Pasco County Clerk of Circuit Court, defines as "sham legal proceeding[s] in which a person's rights are totally disregarded and in which the result is a foregone conclusion because of the bias of the court or other tribunal") to deal with cases of illicit brews. Yikes!

According to the Standard, after stating that many Kenyans "feel the Government has done "very little" to combat graft despite overwhelming information on the vice", the committee commended the Government for establishing the Ombudsman’s office, saying reports received from district and national levels "can now be acted upon swiftly". Well, I am yet to see evidence of any accelerated action on cases of grand corruption.

To be fair, some recommendations, such as the proposal to driving licenses be accepted as forms of identification for the purpose of voter registration, as well as the push to initiate a system where traffic fines are paid immediately at specific points to minimise cases of corruption in the traffic department, seem to make sense. However, even there the devil is in the details. Issues of double registration, fake DLs and location of payment points for traffic offenders (I am assuming that the arresting officer is not the intended recipient of fines -that would defeat the whole purpose), need to be sorted out.

All in all, it seems that the NACCSC, like the rest of the myriad outfits set up by the Kibaki administration to fight graft, is nothing more than a very expensive paper tiger (any ideas on their budget and salaries?). Its sole purpose appears to be to generate the impression of an active war on corruption while obscuring the reality that no such conflict exists.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gathara's World: Season 2

It's been such a long time since my last post and so much has happened that I do not know where to begin.

The Mungiki seem to have faded from the headlines apart from the occasional report of police killing suspected members.

Budget day came and went and Amos Kimunya's speech predictably had more to do with securing re-election than solving the pressing needs of our people.

Again predictably, the ODM-Kenya electoral challenge seems to be fading in the face of continuing bickering, greed and myopia prevalent in its leadership. The stage seems set for another 5 years of lost opportunity under the wholly uninspiring non-leadership of Mwai Kibaki.

Nearly a year has now passed since the court ruling that effectively stopped George Saitoti's prosecution (and not cleared him as some are wont to think). The AG has, again predictably, failed to keep his word that he would appeal that decision.

John Githongo remains in exile, Kiraitu Murungi is still in Cabinet, our hopes of transparent and accountable governance in limbo.

On the international stage, the misguided US War on Terror continues to hobble along, fatally wounded by the adventure in Iraq. George Bush's travails with the English language continue unabated (see here) while his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez' paranoia gains strength and absurdity with each passing day. Iran still seeks nuclear weapons, Israel continues to bomb and blockade the Palestinians, the Palestinians are still their own worst enemies.

So much has happened yet nothing has changed!

I shall be visiting Washington DC next week to attend the AAEC 50th Anniversary convention. Any ideas where I can catch up with my fellow Kenyans for "one"?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When the Police See Red

When constabulary duty is to be done,
A policeman's lot is not a happy one!

A week ago I had a conversation with a total stranger at my local pub which centred on the rampant insecurity and the recent deaths of 3 policemen at the hands of armed gangsters. The fellow made an interesting point: the police are at a distinct disadvantage because they are required to identify themselves while the thugs are anonymous faces in the crowd. So to even out these odds the police simply treat all as potential gangsters, shooting first and asking questions later.

Reports in yesterday's Nation seem to bear out this out.
Police in pursuit of suspected car-jackers shot dead an innocent vegetable trader, Cyrus Kabiru Mwaniki, at his kiosk in Dandora estate, Nairobi, even as the man went on his knees begging for mercy...Mr Mwaniki’s younger sister, Anne Wambui, who also stays on the same plot, recalls hearing gun shots outside the compound and running with the neighbours to peep through the cracks on the wooden gate to see what was happening. Ms Wambui remembers hearing three gun shots minutes apart and the voice of her brother pleading to be spared as he was not a thief. "Mwaniki shouted about 10 times, 'I am not a thief! I am not a thief!' But finally he went silent after the third gun shot was heard," said a tearful Ms Wambui...."It took him some time to realise they were police officers and when he came to, he knelt and started pleading saying he was not a thief," said a man who was being served in the kiosk opposite at the time of the incident. The witnesses said police shot another man who was running away before ordering Mr Mwaniki to lie down and also shooting him on the head, killing him instantly.
Mr Benson Mwangi Waraga’s body was found at the City Mortuary only 10 hours after he was arrested from his business premises near the scene of a shoot-out between police and gangsters... A picture taken by a Nation photo-journalist between 2.30pm and 4pm on Thursday at the River Road scene of crime shows Mr Waraga sandwiched between a policeman and an unidentified person, both of who were being forced into a police Land Rover...When he went missing from the police station, his relatives were worried and started looking for him. They later found his body at the mortuary. The father of eight was [according to the police] among those killed in a shoot-out between the police and gangsters near City Park on Thursday afternoon.
The question is: Are the police justified in engaging in extra-judicial murder in their bid to rid society of the agents of insecurity? A while back I argued on several blogs that that should not be the case. When the infamous Matheri was gunned down in dubious circumstances (following a "shoot-out" with police which witnesses say never happened), many applauded the police action then. I hope that they will be rethinking their stand in the light of the latest events.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

OP-position Politics

I read with amazement the recent polls showing that President Kibaki's popularity is on the rise. This despite all the evidence of governmental malfeasance in the Artur saga, despite the disarray in his presumed party of choice, NARC-K, and despite his damning record on corruption. It made me wonder whether Kenyans actually do get the government they deserve. After all, didn't Moi win TWO elections in the multiparty era? Do we intentionally sabotage our future well-being? Is that why we tolerate such mind-numbing mediocrity in our leadership?

However, further reflection sent my mind in a different direction. Perhaps I was asking the wrong question. Maybe what I should be concerned about is this: Why is it that, despite all the the mess Kibaki has made, the opposition is unable to convince Kenyans that they offer a better alternative? The rising popularity of the incumbent is probably more a comment on the incompetence and myopia of opposition stalwarts such as Raila Odinga, than it is an endorsement of Kibaki's leadership. (Ditto for Moi's electoral triumphs.)

Just look at the comedy that is the ODM's attempt to find a single presidential candidate. Not only are the numerous contenders afraid to subject themselves to the will of their members (preferring a "consensus" method), we now here that they are concocting another MoU of sorts (having obviously forgotten the lessons of the last one): they are proposing to share out among the losing candidates several non-existent vice-presidencies! Of course the winner will promise (perhaps swearing on the Holy Book) to honour this proposal should he ascend to the Presidency. However, since after five years of trying these same fellows have yet to develop a formula for forcing a sitting President to adhere to pre-electoral agreements, it is a safe bet that come next year it will be business as usual.

Further evidence of the opposition's penchant for missing opportunity is to be found in their manifesto, or more precisely, their lack of one. No one can tell exactly what Raila or Kalonzo stand for or exactly why each feels Kenya needs them as her next President. What exactly do they want to change (apart from the personnel)? Why does it need changing and why are they the best people for the job? After all have they not both served without distinction the Moi and Kibaki administration? Weren't their tenures more notable for sycophancy and naked greed rather than concrete achievements?

Perhaps they think that it is their turn to eat. After all, according to Mbita MP Otieno Kajwang' : "Kalonzo’s supporters say he is the best, going by opinion polls. Mudavadi is being told he is a coward who left for Uhuru the other time so he must run to prove he is not. Raila’s people say he has struggled and supported other people for too long. The people of Rift Valley are investing in Ruto and he has to carry on. Uhuru is a party chairman, so if you tell him not to run, it is like killing his party." None of these "election manifestos" give Kenyans confidence that the ODMites would govern any better than the NARC-whatevers.

I am starting to hope that Kenyans are finally wising up to the truth: those who seek to supplant Kibaki are no better than he is. Their ineptness is shouted from the rooftops and worn as a badge of honour on their lapels. In a very real sense, by electing them we would simply be playing musical chairs with the Presidency, changing like for like. And I suspect, and fervently pray, that many of my countrymen have grown weary of playing this game.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Artur, Artur Nonsense

Like the sponging relative you just cannot shake, the Arturs are back. Today's Standard brings news of the impending wedding of Miss Winnie Wangui Mwai (the daughter of "Narc activist" and President Kibaki's alleged -and repeatedly disavowed- wife No. 2, Mary Wambui) and Mr Artur Margaryan.

It is amazing how, despite being categorises by Interpol as an international fugitive on the run, Margaryan can still make time to have a relationship -"she comes to see me very often, we are together a lot of the time"- give press interviews and author a book (imaginatively titled "The Artur's X-Files" -I wonder what genius came up with that). This doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the police, does it? Margaryan goes on to declare: "In a week’s time, she (Wangui) will join me." Why not simply put a tail on her? Or is that beyond the capabilities of Interpol?

Anyway, this latest Artur foray into the headlines is sure to revive public interest in the fate of the Kiruki Commission findings. The report is gathering dust at State House despite a promise of "speedy action" from Margaryan's future father-in-law. Fat chance of that now!

Margaryan ("I used to call him James and I would like to be called Mrs James or Mrs Margaryan after the marriage is formalised," says his fiancée -MRS. JAMES! LOL!) has also provided further details about his "deportation". He and his brother, Artur Sargasyan, were said to have been deported from the country in June last year, following a security rumpus at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport during which Margaryan reportedly drew a gun. However, his version of events reads rather differently. "They (read authorities) put me on a top class airline to where I chose to go. That's not being removed".

Finally, further proof that love is blind (and stupid) was provided by the bride-to-be. Speaking of the man who flouted Kenyan laws in broad daylight, threatened to unleash his dogs on the Commissioner of Police, and despite claiming to spend hundreds of thousands of shillings daily, ducked paying rent for his Runda house, Wangui says: "I never saw him as arrogant and rough as claimed. He was a good-hearted and honest person . . . . I know they were not criminals." That gives the phrase "madly in love" a whole different meaning.

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 attachĂ© 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 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.

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 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)?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Maina Kiai Finds His Voice But Loses The Plot

Finally, the Chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has spoken out on the gunning down of Simon Matheri Ikeere and an "accomplice" by police, but I was kinda disappointed with what he had to say. I would have expected the top watchdog on human rights to raise the issue of the apparent violation of the suspects' rights and the danger unchecked police action poses to the enjoyment of these rights by others.

Instead, while declaring: "Police have a lot of lies. Why should we believe liars?", he seems to uncritically accept the police line (not subjected to review by any court) that the suspect was indeed the man behind the orgy of killing that has terrorized the capital for the last few weeks. The Nation quotes him as saying: "Tens of police officers where deployed just to kill Matheri and ignored the fact that the gangster would have given them information about who is behind his numerous missions (italics mine)."

He seems to be more concerned with helping the police pump information from suspects than with the protection of the suspects' rights. And why is that? In a blatant ploy to play politics with the crime wave, he continues (according to the Standard): "We want to speak with suspects. We want them to tell us their accomplices. Maybe it is a top politician." He also speculates that the killing of Matheri could be an attempt to cover up the real story.

I expected better.

As I have argued severally on this blog, the denial of the human rights of anyone (that includes those of persons we detest and fear) immediately endangers the same rights for the rest of wananchi. It is immaterial whether we think the suspect is guilty or innocent. When police are allowed to decide who is and isn't guilty, and who does and doesn't deserve to live, we effectively do away with the entire justice system and with the presumption of innocence that protects the rest of us from arbitrary arrests and execution.

That should have been the main concern of the man charged with looking out for our human rights. At the very least I would have expected him to call for an independent and public inquest into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Matheri and his supposed accomplice. Kiai's "Gotcha!" mentality and approach sullies his otherwise excellent reputation at the KNCHR.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Ghosts of Athi River

Yesterday something remarkable happened. In the full glare of the Press and to a cheering public, the Kenya Police branded a Kenyan citizen "Public Enemy No.1", tracked and executed him in front of his family without according him so much as a court appearance. According to the man's wife, who was a witness to it all, the Police threatened to burn down a house with a pregnant woman and six innocent children inside and when the suspect peacefully gave himself up, he (and an accomplice/friend) were interrogated for 30 minutes before each received a bullet to the back of the head. It was only after he was dead that the Police sent for his father to confirm that they really had gotten their man. Following this, the villagers of Gachie, "determined not to have another Matheri in their midst" as the Standard put it, caught another suspected accomplice, beat him up before setting his body, his house and his belongings on fire.

But, hey, no one wants to rain on the national parade of collective relief and self-congratulation at this rare "success" in the war against crime. No one will ask why our Press, which is meant to give voice to the voiceless, chooses to dismiss out of hand the allegations of Police misconduct and cold-blooded murder levelled by the widow of Simon Matheri Ikeere. No one will question the silence of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and its normally irrepressible Chairman, Maina Kiai. No one will grieve for Simon, the man known only as "M", and the victim of the Gachie mob; just as no one will shed a tear for the common rights to life, property and due process whose demise we are celebrating today.

We will all cling desperately to the illusion that the above could never happen to us. The Police would never mistakenly or deliberately arrest and kill an innocent man. A mob would never drag us from our homes and lynch us. These guys got what was coming to them. Why waste a judge's time?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Caught in a Spin?

The Nation reports that a team studying ways of making Kenya an industrialised country by 2030 has figured out what needs to change. And that is. . . . nothing! That is, if you believe Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua.

According to the Standard, a book which was yesterday described by Mutua as "a statement of facts....the accountability statement and not a political statement" claims that if the current pace of socio-economic development is maintained, Kenya would attain a First World status by 2030.

Given that we have apparently already cracked the secret to a better and richer life, why is the President chairing a National Economic and Social Council meeting on Kenya's Vision 2030 in Naivasha next week? In fact, seeing as the acting director of Vision 2030 Dr. Wahome Gakuru says that the Council has yet to come up with a master plan, why do we need them (and their vision) at all?

Could it be that the President is wise enough not to get high on his own supply? If so, he should be wary of the spokesman who believes his own spin.

Here's a little something I came across on e-lauGhs that I'm sure Mr. Mutua would appreciate:
This is an actual report that was turned in by a brick mason after an injury.
This is what he said to his employer:

When I got to the building, I found that the hurricane had knocked off some bricks from the top.
So - I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building, and I hoisted up a couple of barrels full of bricks.
When I had fixed the damaged area, there were a lot of bricks left over. Then I went to the bottom and began releasing the line.
Unfortunately - the barrel of bricks was heavier than I was and before I knew what was happening the barrel started coming down, jerking me up and I decided to hang on since I was too far off the ground by then to jump.
Half way up, I met the barrel of bricks coming down - FAST.
I received a hard blow on my shoulder.
I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my finger pinched and jammed in the pulley.
When the barrel hit the ground - HARD- it burst its bottom, allowing the bricks to spill out.
I was now heavier than the barrel.
SO - I started dawn again at a high speed!
Half way down, I met the empty barrel coming up - FAST.
I received severe injuries to my shins.
When I hit the ground, I landed on the pile of spilled bricks, getting several painful cuts and deep bruises.
At this point I must have lost my presence of mind because, I let go of the line.
The barrel came down - FAST - giving me another blow on my head, putting me in the hospital.

I respectfully request sick leave.
(And so should you Mr. Government Spokesman)

Ever Wondered?

Where do the wigs and hair extensions our ladyfolk so love come from? Shiyin has a clue:
I saw this programme which basically explains where do wigs and hair extensions come from. No, they are not from dead bodies. In India, little children will collect hairs dropped from their mothers every morning when they comb their hair. Then there are hair collectors who go around collecting these bundles of hair from the children in exchange for sweets and stickers. The hair collectors then sell the hair to hair dealers who employed workers to help separate the strands of hair, wash off the coconut oil and straightened the hair. Then they send the sacks of hair to…. China! They will then dye, perm, sew the hair into wigs and sell them to the western countries. Ta Dah! Fascinating. But I don’t think I will want to do hair extensions after watching the documentary.
As the Kikuyu say: "Mwenda uthaka ndacayaga (he/she who seeks beauty doesn't wince)"

Giving the Devil his Due?

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

-An excerpt of a dialogue between Sir Thomas More and his daughter's suitor, William Roper, as set forth in Robert Bolt's two-act play, A Man For All Seasons.
The Nation is reporting that most wanted criminal Simon Matheri Ikeere was gunned down at 2 a.m. this morning in Athi River. Though the details are sketchy, it seems that he was shot after he obeyed police orders to exit the house they cornered him in or it would be burnt down. Apparently there was also a woman and six kids in the house at the time.

Now, as much as one may want to congratulate the cops on the elimination of what they told us was a threat to society, I have several problems with the way they went about it. First, the threat to burn down the house shows a callous disregard for the lives of the innocents the police are sworn to protect. Secondly, to gun down a man after he has given up (the Nation story makes no mention of resistance by Ikeere), is an abuse of police firearm procedure and amounts to an extra-judicial execution. Where is the respect for due process?

Far from making me feel any safer, both these actions highlight the need to tame a rogue police force which arrogates to itself the office of judge and executioner. I sincerely hope that the Nation got it wrong on both counts. If not, an independent inquest into this and other police killings should be held post haste. We cannot hope to protect our right to life if we allow the agents of that protection to deal in such an off-hand manner with that right.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Spoils of War

Now that the government has taken the step of honouring Mau Mau leader Dedan Kimathi more than 50 years after his hanging, I think it is also time that we had an realistic appraisal of the uprising, its leaders, causes and effects. Over the course of half a century, the Mau Mau war has entered into the realm of legend, with little to distinguish between fact and fiction. Many who then opposed or shunned the insurgency nowadays proclaim themselves to be at its forefront, while the real fighters languish in long-forgotten and overgrown graves or are still awaiting the recognition and rewards they insist are due them.

Basics such as the source of the term Mau Mau have yet to be settled. Kimathi himself preferred that his army be called the Kenya Land and Freedom Army and Josiah (JM) Kariuki, who was also interned in prison camps from 1953 to 1960, and later murdered by Kenyatta's agents, talked about the Land and Freedom Army saying that: "The world knows it by a title of abuse and ridicule [Mau Mau] with which it was described by one of its bitterest opponents." The Kikuyu themselves called it Muingi ("The Movement"), Muigwithania ("The Understanding"), Muma wa Uiguano ("The Oath of Unity") or simply "The KCA", after the Kikuyu Central Association that created the impetus for the insurgency.

The statistics of the war itself are also a source of perennial controversy. Some sources have the Kikuyu death toll at nearly 20,000 with, according to Wikipedia, 10,527 Mau Mau killed in action, over 2000 arrested and between 70,000 and 100,000 Kikiuyus interred in concentration camps. The British losses were remarkably light, with less than 100 dead. What accounts for this discrepancy? Was the conflict, as some (including the British) have termed it, a civil war within the Kikuyu community? In a paper entitled "Emergency in Kenya: Kikuyu and the Mau Mau Insurrection", Major Roger D. Hughes of the US Marine Corps says about the conflict:
The Mau Mau movement is usually viewed strictly as being politically motivated toward national independence. The less popular view is endorsed herein, that two separate, multi-facited movements existed, one motivated by nationalism, and the other by a blind, irrational quest for revenge. In the process of each attempting to exploit the other for self-serving purposes, they became uncontrollably intertwined, which resulted in near disaster for the Kikuyu tribe. Totally lacking in quality intelligence regarding the origins of Mau Mau at the outbreak of hostilities in 1952, colonial forces struck out blindly to suppress the violence and treated the movements as one. Thus, the Military resolution is traced through 1956, when the preponderance of hostilities were finally suppressed in what seemed at that time more like an intra-tribal civil war than a war of independence.

And what of tactics? Both sides utilised the tactics of terror and neither spared innocents. Just compare these two accounts, one by Peter Swan, a British policeman who guarded Kimathi after his capture:
The Mau Mau 'Freedom Fighters' were no more than thugs whose terrorist activities were directed mainly at their own tribesman than at the 'whites'. Having come across Meru women, gutted with an unborn child torn from them; children whose heads had been cracked open; an old couple that where burnt alive after being ham-strung to make sure that they couldn't get away, it was difficult for me and the twenty African policeman to have any sympathy for those Mau Mau that we encountered. We took no prisoners. To hear them classed as heroes' of the day goes against the grain.
and another from an Australian living in Kenya during the ‘Emergency’:
We was joined by two of [a settler named] Bill’s mates in another Land Rover and just about dawn we seen two Africans crossing the road ahead. Bill fired a shot across their bow and they put their hands up. I tried to tell Bill that those lads, hardly more than boys they was, didn’t look like Mickeys (Mau Mau) to me but he says, “They’re Kukes and that’s enough for me”. Well he roughs them up some but they say they don’t know where the gang of Mickeys went to, so he gets some rope and ties one to the rear bumper of his Land Rover by his ankles. He drives off a little ways, not too fast you know, and the poor black bastard is trying to keep from ploughing the road with his nose. The other cobbers are laughing and saying, “put it in high gear Bill” and such as that, but Bill gets out and says, “Last chance, Nugu (baboon), where’s that gang?” The African boy keeps saying he’s not Mau Mau, but Bill takes off like a bat out of hell. When he comes back, the nigger wasn’t much more than pulp. He didn’t have any face left at all. So Bill and his mates tie the other one to the bumper and ask him the same question. He’s begging them to let him go but old Bill takes off again and after a while he comes back with another dead Mickey. They just left the two of them there in the road.
Even accounts of Kimathi himself tend to differ with this TIME Magazine article, published in 1956 and titled "The Terrorist" saying of him:
There was no fiercer character in all the jungle than Dedan Kimathi, a scarred, stocky ex-clerk who had fought and jockeyed his way to the leadership of all the guerrillas. Not content with his popular title, "General Russia," Dedan capped his arrogance by calling himself Field Marshal Sir Dedan Kimathi and appointing a parliament of his own to preside over....A refugee captured by Kenya police as he left Kimathi's camp recently has provided a vivid picture of the once great chieftain in his twilight hour. Broken in health and mind, 35-year-old Dedan Kimathi now spends his days making wild speeches to the jungle trees and his nights raving endlessly. He lies on a litter of branches, blubbering and blabbering about reform in the Liberation army, while his friends search the woods for monkeys to eat. Whenever a police patrol comes near, the 20 loyal henchmen (and teen-age henchwomen) who still surround him hustle Kimathi into a nearby cave and gag him to keep him quiet.
while Peter Swan, quoted above, paints an entirely different picture of the man:
Our first hours together were almost silent. My command of Kikuyu language was reduced to the long drawn out greetings 'Moogerrrh' which should have elicited the reply 'Moogerrhni'. His command of Kiswahili and mine were similar, in that we were both well versed in what was loosely termed Kaffir Swahili. He was, I discovered, soon after joining him in the hospital, well versed in English and we later spent time swapping tales of our bush activities in that language. His wound was in the thigh and he had to be stretchered everywhere. Up to then he had received rudimentary first aid and he was still dressed in the leopard skins that had been his trade mark during his Mau Mau operations....Dedan Kimathi and I sat and read the books that I brought in to pass the time. Our conversations were occasional and without animosity or conflict on either side. He knew the penalty for his activity was death, and he expected that sentence. He believed that the sentence would not be executed and that he would survive. There was a quiet and distant confidence in his belief.
I think Kenyans deserve to know the truth about what has come to be known as the fight for Uhuru and why it is the sons of the homeguards, not the "freedom fighters" who reaped the fruits of independence. Why is it that the Mau Mau continued to be a proscribed organisation up till 2003? Why do we insist on honouring dead fighters while ignoring the plight of those still alive? The blog What An African Woman Thinks has an informative interview with some of these fighters including Field Marshal Muthoni, in which one General Karangi, "is hard put to understand why those who successfully evaded bullet, bomb and grenade are less praiseworthy than the one who got caught".

While the Mau Mau lost the military fight against the British, they lived to see the White Man ejected from Kenya. However, 50 years on, their land and legacy is now being stolen anew by those who collaborated with the colonialists. It seems to me that we, as Kenyans, have striven to erase from our minds what should be a heroic chapter in our common history. Instead we seem determined to construct a new tale in which the villains of yesterday become the heroes of today while the real fighters, their accomplishments, and eventual betrayal is consigned to history's dustbin.