Monday, October 27, 2008


I have some misgivings about a Barrack Obama presidency and how it would affect us, most especially his stance towards global trade. For one whom Mukoma Wa Ngugi describes as "a mosaic of cultures and experiences...probably the first political leader to fit snugly into the skin of globalization", his proclamations on protecting American jobs and his opposition to Free Trade Agreements smack of good old-fashioned protectionism cloaked in the guise of a paternalistic and condescendng concern over the plight of poor people everywhere. 

In his memoir, Dreams From My Father, here's what he had to say on the subject of globalisation: 
"I tried to imagine the Indonesian workers who were now making their way to the sorts of factories that had once sat along the banks of the Calumet River [in south Chicago], joining the ranks of wage labor to assemble the radios and sneakers that sold on Michigan Avenue. I imagined those same Indonesian workers ten, twenty years from now, when their factories would have closed down, a consequence of new technology or lower wages in some other part of the globe. And then the bitter discovery that their markets have vanished; that they no longer remember how to weave their own baskets or carve their own furniture or grow their own food; that even if they remember such craft, the forests that gave them wood are now owned by timber interests, the baskets they once wove have been replaced by more durable plastics. The very existence of the factories, the timber interests, the plastics manufacturer, will have rendered their culture obsolete; the values of hard work and individual initiative turnout to have depended on a system of belief that’s been scrambled by migration and urbanization and imported TV reruns. Some of them would prosper in this new order. Others would move to America. And the others, the millions left behind in Djakarta, or Lagos, or the West Bank, they would settle into their own Altgeld Gardens [the projects where Obama worked], into a deeper despair." 

Idealizing the lifestyles of the poor (I am yet to hear Obama urging the residents of Manhattan to settle the prairies, weave baskets and grow their own food) is a pretext employed by those who have the most to fear from globalisation. And that’s not the poor, who are suffering anyway, but those who have benefited from the skewed nature of global trade, America and Western Europe. 

Even worse, it is just such mercantilist thinking that pushed the world into an economic depression in following the stock market crash of 1929. Once again the global economy stands on the brink of the precipice and we must be careful that those, such as Obama, who seek to protect their ill-gotten gains behind trade barriers are not allowed to push us over.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Waki Nation

Reading parts of the Waki report as detailed in the Nation, one thing struck me as a bit strange. The report contends that at least part of the post-election violence was stoked by the Majimbo debate. It seems to me that Justice Waki is declaring certain topics/issues to be no-go zones, that we have no business discussing alternative forms of  government beause such loose talk will inevitably lead to violence. This is just another recipe for the petrification of Kenyan society, and consequently a guarantee of the preservation of the inequality and thievery that's characterizes our present system. Furthermore, it perpetuates the notion that Kenyans are to treated like children, deemed unable to comprehend the complexities of the world. We need to be shielded from certain ideas which can only soil our naive souls, or worse, bring out the murderous savage that dwells not far from the surface of each one of us. Personally, I find such notions deeply insulting.

Today I spent an hour stuck in traffic courtesy of one Mwai Kibaki, whose idea of public service seems to include taking a drive through the city during the lunchtime rush hour. The experience just brought home another aspect of the idiocy of Mutula Kilonzo's idea of building a dedicated lane for VIPs (apart from the obvious ass-licking issues, of course!) I couldn't help but notice that Uhuru Highway has 3 lanes each way but the police never clear just one for the potentates. What makes the Honourable gentleman assume that adding a fourth will change this behaviour?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ken Lee Tulibu Dibu Douchoo....

The original:

The improved version:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Kenyan Obamanation

Not content with intimidating those alleging that Kenya is arming Southern Sudan, the government has now inserted itself into the US presidential campaign by arresting and deporting the author of a book critical of Barack Obama. According to Xinhua,
Jerome Corsi, who authored "The Obama Nation; Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality", was arrested at a Nairobi hotel on Monday minutes before launching the book meant to advance a negative campaign against the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate on his ancestral soil. The book questions the Illinois senator's character, his links to Prime Minister Raila Odinga and attacks Obama's fitness for the White House.

Corsi was grabbed as he entered the venue of the press conference and his books and copies of the media statement grabbedand later whisked to the Immigration department for questioning. In a statement he issued inviting journalists at the book launch, left no secret of the intention to hurl dirt at Obama and undermine his campaign from his ancestral home.

"Dr. Corsi will also expose details of deep secret ties between US Democratic presidential candidate Sen Barack Obama and a section of Kenya government leaders, their connection to certain sectoral groups in Kenya and subsequent plot to be executed in Kenya should Sen Obama win the American presidency," the statement reads in part.
Since when did it become a crime in Kenya to criticise Obama? And isn't this the height of irresponsibility? Not only does this harm Obama and open him up to accusations of intolerance, it also creates enemies in the one place we do not need them. What should happen if John McCain should  ascend to the US presidency? Won't our government have compromised our future relations with the most powerful nation on earth?

In fact, such action seems unnecessary considering, according Wikipedia
Corsi's book has been criticized for inaccuracies by news organizations such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, U.S. News and World Report, the Associated Press, Time magazine, Newsweek, The Daily Telegraph, Editor & Publisher, The Guardian, CNN, The Independent,, and The Boston Globe. According to The New York Times, "several of the book's accusations, in fact, are unsubstantiated, misleading or inaccurate." Peter Wehner of Commentary wrote: "conservatives should not hitch their hopes to" Corsi's book because "it seems to be riddled with factual errors — some relatively minor (like asserting that Obama does not mention the birth of his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, in Dreams from My Father; Obama does mention her), and some significant (suggesting that Obama favors withdrawing troops from Afghanistan; he wants to do the opposite)."
Not that its accuracy should be an issue for the government absent a libel complaint from concerned individuals (yes, libel is still criminalised in our statutes.)

On the other hand, perhaps this has nothing to do with Obama and everything to do with politicians covering their asses. What exactly was Corsi going to reveal during his press conference? According to Classic FM, the book "paints some local politicians in a bad light."

This is just more evidence that the Kibaki-Raila administration is not interested in promoting free speech.

MSNBC, quoting a "senior immigration officer", Carlos Maluta, is reporting that Jerome Corsi "was picked up by police Tuesday for not having a work permit."  He is due to be deported tonight. 
He was briefly detained at immigration headquarters before being brought to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for deportation, said Joseph Mumira, head of criminal investigations at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Hmmmm?! Does one need a work permit to adress the press? Does one need a work permit to promote the sales of a book (which sales generate tax revenue for the government)? Does Nameless need a work permit to go to the US and hold concerts to promote sales of his CDs?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Shooting the Messenger

The BBC is reporting that Kenyan police have arrested Andrew Mwangura, who's the spokesman for the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, over allegations that the tanks and weapons aboard the recently hijacked Ukranian ship, MV Faina, were destined for the autonomous government of South Sudan in a possible contravention of the Sudan Peace Accord, and not Kenya as the government claims. According to the Associated Press, Mr. Mwangura was the first to publicly state this though the claim has been subsequently repeated by a US navy spokesman. Kenya, Sudan and the Ukraine flatly reject the allegation.

The police have been looking for Mwangura since Tuesday apparently because "he has been too vocal on the media, we want him to share with us what he knows of these pirates," a police official reportedly told AFP.
"We just want to question him on a few issues. It appears he knows more on the ship. We want him to tell us about this southern Sudan controversy about the arms," added another official.
"All I can tell you is that he is being investigated for issuing alarming statements. Those are the charges he is likely to face," said another official attached to the Criminal Investigations Department.
The good folks at Mars Group Kenya have posted a series of questions which I think the Kenyan Government needs to clear up if we're to be convined that there is no sinister motive behind this arrest. Earlier this week, Mwangura had said that the Kenyan authorities had banned him from speaking to the media on the piracy saga. On what authority, I wonder? Whatever happened to freedom of expression? According Section 66 of the Penal Code (Hat Tip: Kenya Law Reports)
66. (1) Any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace is guilty of a misdemeanour.
(2) It shall be a defence to a charge under subsection (1) if the accused proves that, prior to publication, he took such measures to verify the accuracy of the statement, rumour or report as to lead him reasonably to believe that it was true.
According to The Scotsman (Hat Tip: Dinah Lord), Mwangura, 45, has run the Seafarer's Assistance Programme for the past 12 years, tracking down missing vessels, investigating deaths at sea and negotiating the release of hostages. 
When one of their ships goes missing, the millionaire owners telephone Andrew Mwangura, a former seaman who lives in a two-room shack and relies on internet cafes to communicate with his global network of contacts.
This would lead any right-thinking person to believe that he knows what he is talking about. His arrest therefore constitutes an abuse of the powers granted under Section 66. The police themselves claim ignorance of the facts he clams to advance, have not demonstrated a prima facie case that what he says is untrue (it all comes down to whether you belive Alfred Mutua or the US Navy) and I fail to see how whistle-blowing on the gun-running activities of the Kenyan Government "is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace." 

I think the situation is probably as Mwangura himself put it: "The government doesn't like what we do and there are lots of people making money from piracy who would like us out of business."
The gangs, he says, are masterminded by crimelords in Dubai and Nairobi who monitor shipping routes for lucrative targets. They pass directions on to as many as five pirate gangs who pay a "licence fee" to Somali politicians or clan elders. "The majority of the Somali leaders are warlords or mafia-like businessmen connected to pirates, arms smugglers, people-traffickers, illegal fishing, logging," he says. "A thief can't catch a thief." The first Mr Mwangura hears of a hijack is a phone call from a Somali source or a shipping company desperate to trace a missing vessel. He uses a network of contacts in Somalia to find the ship and make contact with the hijackers. "If we can find a cell number for the gunmen and ask to speak to the crew to make sure they are safe, then often we can, as long as we don't give away the position of the ship," he says.