Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Fellowship of the Wringer

After declaring he had rather die than resign, then "stepping aside" to allow for independent investigations which reportedly found him culpable for misleading parliament andselling the Grand Regency hotel with undue haste and secrecy, Amos Kimunya is back in Mwai Kibaki's promised "Clean Cabinet". 

He joins a distinguished group of presidential cronies who have been, despite all evidence to the contrary, "cleared of wrongdoing" (at least in the President's fevered imagination). The Fellowship of the Wringer. It includes persons such as George Saitoti, Fred Gumo, David Mwiraria and Kiraitu Murungi, who after being caught with their hands in the public till, are forced to resign (OK, OK Amos, step aside), subjected to Commissions of Inquiry whose reports and recommendations are neither released nor implemented and after a short stint in the backbenches to allow for public tempers to cool down, are reappointed to the Cabinet. 

The oldest members of this fellowship are Saitoti and Gumo, who even prior to Kibaki taking power had been included in a "List of Shame" in a report into the Goldenberg scandal by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes (popularly known as the Kombo report).  That report recommended that they both "be investigated with a view to prosecution" and candidate Kibaki promised to implement in full the recommendations. However, one of the first acts of Kibaki's Presidency was to appoint the two to his Cabinet! A subsequent Commission of Inquiry into Goldenberg also recommended that Saitoti be prosecuted. However, he managed to convince a constitutional court that he had been "cleared" by his fellow MPs. Attorney-General Amos Wako vowed to appeal that particular constitutional court ruling though an appeal that is yet to materialise several years later. 

And when it comes to being cleared by Paliament, Mwiraria's name was expunged from the Parliamentary Accounts Committee report into the Anglo-Leasing scandal, largely at the instigation of that other anti-corruption crusader, Justice Minister Martha Karua (who in an interview with the BBC's Hardtalk two years ago said that she could offer no evidence that the war on corruption was being won and admitted that after more than 4 years in power,the Kibaki administration could not produce a single corruption conviction of note). During the vote, the August House was less than a quarter full, and the motion was passed by a majority of 3 with Mwiraria himself casting one of those votes in his own favour! A thunderous vindication indeed!

President Kibaki has shown a propensity for disregarding the recommendations of the people he appoints to investigate corruption when their reports threaten to disturb hios otherwise peaceful slumber. He was AWOL when his own anti-corruption czar, John Githongo, was asked to "ngo srowry" in his investigations into Anglo-Leasing and eventually hounded out of the country, his evidence dismissed on the spurious assertion that it did not matter because he was not an "investigator".  The Kroll report into the looting of Kenya under Moi was kept under wraps for over 3 years and has not been acted upon till today. Similarly, Kibaki has now ignored the recomendations of the Cockar Report which he himself commissioned. 

Thus we conduct the War on Corruption.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stooping to Conquer

Having failed to achieve the initial aim of destroying Hamas, and then, after lowering expectations, failed to destroy the group's rocket launching abilities, murdered over 1000 innocents, undermined the Mahmoud Abbas administration and legitimized Hamas, Israel declared its military objectives in Gaza had been met and announced a unilateral ceasefire. If this is success, I wonder what failure would look like! George Mitchell certainly has his work cut out.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Handover

Is it a sign of white America's nervousness with an Obama presidency that they summoned all living former (and soon-to-be-former) Presidents to the White House to advise him on the challenges he will soon be facing? Such a gathering had not happened there in 27 years. 

Or is it simply a recognition of the humongous hole George W. Bush has dug them into and the fact that his successor would require all the help and advise he could get?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hanging Gaza Out To Dry

As Gazans continue to be crucified for the sins of Hamas, the international community seems helpless or unwilling to either lift a finger in their defense or reign in the rogue state that Israel has now become. Even what is supposedly the world's most powerful nation is willing to endure the humiliation of its diplomatic representative by Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who last week said concerning the US vote to abstain from a UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire:
"In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favor. I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now. He got off the podium and spoke to me.

"I told him the United States could not vote in favor. It cannot vote in favor of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favor....[Condoleeza Rice] was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favor."
While the US is disputing this particular version of events ("just 100% totally completely not true," the State Department declared Tuesday), the low-key response to an allegation by the leader of a foreign (albeit friendly) country that he makes US policy is a clear indication of the power and influence the Israelis actually wield in Washington.

Another sad aspect of the international response is the dithering by Arab countries on whether or not to hold an emergency Arab Summit to condemn the Israeli attack. The two largest Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have been at the forefront of moves to block the convening of such a summit with the former reduced to acting as a mediator between Hamas and the Jewish state. The tepid Arab response has been thrown into sharp relief by the actions of Bolivia and Venezuela, which have both cut their diplomatic ties to Israel over the war, leading one Kuwaiti MP, Waleed al-Tabtabai, to suggest that the headquarters of the Arab League be moved from Cairo to Caracas. He said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "has proved that he was more Arab than some Arabs." Gamal Abdel Nasser must be turning in his grave. 

The people of Gaza have also been abandoned by their own government in the West Bank. Today we were treated to the spectacle of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, proclaimed leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, snubbing an emergency Arab summit called specifically to discuss the ongoing attacks against his people. These are the same attacks his government has labelled “Israeli aggression” and demanded an immediate end to. Abbas preferred to hold talks in Ramallah with the hapless UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, at the end of which they both issued largely meaningless demands for a ceasefire.

On the other hand, Turkey, perhaps Israel's best friend in the Muslim World, has not held back in its evisceration of Israeli action. Turkey has been brokering indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel. But the war has stopped this process. Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sees the Israeli attack on Gaza as an act of betrayal and has refused any further contact with the Israelis, even reportedly denying Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's request to visit. According to Suat Kiniklioglu, spokesman of the country's Foreign Affairs Committee:
"We felt that our efforts and good offices in advancing the talks between Israelis and Syrians were damaged. It was extremely disrespectful because Prime Minister Olmert was here so recently, and this operation took place right after that!"
Apparently giving voice to tens of thousands demonstrating on the streets of Ankara calling for a severing of ties with Israel, Erdogan, who last week warned that a "curse" would befall Israel over "the children who died in those bombs", recently told Parliament that his criticism "is not as harsh as phosphorus bombs or fire from tanks ... I am reacting as a human and a Muslim."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Helping Handjob?

The Weekly Telegraph is reporting that the US porn industry is seeking a multi-billion dollar bailout from Washington similar to the ones dished out to failing banks and car companies. According to Larry Flynt, founder of Hustler magazine, the state of the US economy has many Americans "too depressed to be sexually active" and has teamed up with Joe Francis, creator of the Girls Gone Wild video series and convicted child abuser, to urge the government to pump in $5 billion "to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America." 

The pair acknowledged that , though DVD sales were down 22%, online traffic was booming and the $13 billion industry was not in any immediate danger of going limp. However, Flynt warned of dire consequences should the feds fail to get it (the bailout) up. "Americans can do without cars and such, but they cannot do without sex."

The Rapture

I wonder how Madonna's split up with hubby Guy Ritchie will affect future celebrity adoptions. After all, unions of the rich and famous are notoriously fickle. Remember the ruckus that was kicked up when she adopted David Banda from an orphanage in Malawi? After learning of her divorce plans in October last year, the boy's biological father, Yohana Banda, who has since remarried and is still siring kids he supposedly cannot take care of, has expressed his concern. "I am still a poor farmer with nothing to offer, but maybe he would be better off back with us", he is quoted as saying. "This woman Madonna told me herself that David was beautiful and made her happy, and she promised to take good care of him....Now I see him in a big bewildering crowd in the street with people pushing and shoving, and many cameras around, and without a mother and father to hold his hand. I'm feeling bad for him." 

Alarmingly, the Daily Mail reported that Madonna's marriage collapsed partly due to a disagreement over the singer's intention of adopting yet another Malawi kid, three-year-old Mercy James. 

I am surprised at the the silence of all those fine souls who were beating their breasts over the fate of the younger Banda. Was he just a passing fad? Yet another reason to rail at the West and then move on? Over to you MKW!