Of Jubilee, NASA and the ‘Informed Voter’

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto of Jubilee Party

With the political party nominations coming to a close, the countdown begins towards the August 8th elections. The yet to be concluded party primaries have seen a surge in the number of youth seeking elective seats whether as Members of the County Assemblies, Members of the National Assembly, Governors as well as Senators. The general youthful argument being to provide leadership that is a stark departure from the old guard ethnic balkanizing of the electorate as well as the open voter bribery incidences that have marred elective politics for decades. It, however, remains to be seen whether these sentiments are merely populist public pronouncements or whether the youth actually desire to be different in preaching political tolerance and accommodating diverse political views. This badge that many claim to wear with pride and honor is unfortunately just that, a badge. Deep down, many still desire the raw ethnic profiling and making politics about ethnic communities and not policy or ideology.

The social media today, unlike 10 years ago has become a key battleground in the scramble for a favorable public opinion. Unfortunately, it has also doubled up as a platform for bullies and ethnic chauvinists to quash alternative opinions with the hope of anchoring the very same divisive notions that took Kenya to the doldrums in 2007/2008. No Kikuyu or Kalenjin is obligated to support the Uhuruto ticket for re-election. In the spirit of democracy, the power to choose is vested on the voter, even where he or she may suspend reason in electing representatives. Similarly, the alternative leadership presented by the Railonzo ticket is never a do or die affair for the voters. The candidates have a right to sell their agenda to the people, who also have the right to apply or suspend reason in choosing or rejecting their political ideology. Therefore, like in the case of the Uhuruto ticket, no Luo, Luhyia or Kamba is obligated to support the Railonzo ticket.

The 5 NASA Principles during unveiling of their flag bearer at Uhuru Park

Kenyans have for the past 54 years of independence allowed politicians to colonize their mental faculties, operating like automated robots when engaging in civic processes. We have belonged to political parties because our ethnic kingpins subscribe to them, shifting allegiance in a heartbeat when our tribal henchmen change parties. No wonder elected representatives hardly deliver in the roles assigned them. All they need to do is take a swipe at a particular ethnic community or its leading figures and voila, their electoral base reeling in euphoria, fall in line. Aspiring politicians also play this very card to earn popularity within a desired ethnic base then present themselves as party loyalists and defenders of party leadership. But Kenyans already know this. We have read and re-read such analyses but opt to turn a blind eye because we believe that everyone else is playing by these crooked rules. We feign helplessness even when we know very well that we are getting a raw deal and suffering the repercussions with every passing day.

I fall in the bracket of Kenyans that believe that we can do something to change the dominant political narrative. Nothing, however, happens where the will is lacking. For starters, we can actively interrogate the political ideologies as presented by the political parties and coalitions we subscribe to. Secondly, we can look at the individuals constituting a political party or coalition and question their track record in meeting the ideologies they have outlined. There can be no two ways about this. A little bit of research to inform popular statements that we reiterate once spoken by politicians can go a long way into transforming the electorate and especially opinion leaders from ‘Yes Men and Women’ to principled individuals with a grounded idea on the type of future we want for ourselves and our country Kenya.

The Writer is a Research Consultant for Savic Consultants in Nairobi.

Kenyans Are Not Angry Enough: A Call to Action

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By Ooko Victor

Something is wrong with Kenya. Many of us think that it is entirely with the leadership. Others like me see the leaders as the disease, not the cause. We are the cause, me and you. The leaders we elect are a reflection of who we are. The impunity we see is what we choose every 5 years. Of course it is packaged in glittering campaign slogans, and accompanied with enticing ethnic music and jibes; anything to make ‘our kind’ seem superior to ‘them’, something that appeals to one of our fundamental need: belonging. And we have constantly traded this for good public service; for transparency in government operations; for strict adherence to the rule of law. And no, we never learn.

There are lots of myths surrounding what it takes to be a political leader in Kenya. A popular joke goes that all you need to do is to engage in corruption, capital corruption. Corruption so big that when it is computed, it can adequately sink 500 boreholes in North Eastern Kenya and make you the undisputed kingpin of the region. The capital corruption that awards you enough capital to launch massive irrigation projects across the dry areas of Ukambani and of Coastal Kenya. If anyone stole public money to launch such projects, that person would not be a thief worth having in public service and roaming around freely dishing out proceeds to Kenyans who really deserve it, such a thief, a benevolent thief would have been locked up in the deepest cells available at the Prisons Department. That thief would never get media coverage and public sympathy. That do good thief, who broke away from the code of thieving and plunder would have received a straightforward guilty verdict destined for the hang, and Kenyans would jeer him.

Of course Kenyans know we are facing tough times. We are programmed to fasten our belts for even tougher times. We have doctors who have downed their tools for the third month and counting. The nurses, recently out on the streets for similar pay demands are already threatening to down their tools again, barely a month since resuming work. Students in public universities are disillusioned with lecturers joining the ever-increasing list of aggrieved civil servants with long-standing disputes. And our Members of Parliament, among the best paid in the world, are currently hatching a plot to award themselves Kshs. 3 billion in benefits for being in office for 4 years in which Kenyans paid them slightly over a million shillings in gross pay! As if to add insult to injury, there is also a move to pay another Kshs. 3 billion to Members of Parliament who served between 1984 and 2002, periods of time characterized by unchecked land grabbing and misappropriation of funds set aside for the running of parastatals to name a few. The funds are available, just not enough to improve the plight of common mwananchi; rather, little bits to ensure the comfort of mheshimiwa.

I am an angry Kenyan. I am so angry that when I hear Moses Kuria or Johnstone Muthama speak, I imagine myself holding a bat to their face, certain that the very words I am afraid to hear will stumble out of their mouths. The kind of words that make reliving the 2007/08 post-election violence a certainty. I am an angry Kenyan who cannot trust persons who grabbed land from private citizens and public corporations. A very angry Kenyan who refuses to be ‘cultured’ in the ways of blind loyalties to ethnic crusades. Anyone who wants my trust should earn it. And I expect the same treatment from the world; no apologies. My anger is also directed at my teachers, well schooled individuals who teach me the values of a true leader and a true patriot, only to pull the rag from my feet when the ‘community’ is affected. Preach, preach, preach, but no practice. This makes me so angry!

But I do not let my anger blind me, and neither should you. I will not vote a 6 piece because I want to be politically correct. I will vote the hat that fits; the shoe that is comfortable and the trousers that reaches my feet. I will choose the coat that hugs my medium build, not these reflectors that all preachers seem to wear or oversize jackets that are passed down generations. I will wear the cloth that fits to my character and my ideals; my hopes and aspirations for myself and my country. My duty to those that believe in me to be different, to be better. Not perfect, just better.

Kenya cannot change if we keep doing what our parents and grandparents did. The same thing over and over expecting different results. Why do we put leaders in office? To serve us or to preserve the political party kingpins with hardly any agenda for mwananchi? It is obvious that we will one day awaken from this stupor; we can as well get over with it right away. Pour some cold water on our faces and realize that we deserve more. Government collects more taxes and instead of this resulting to more services, what we get is more corruption and more rewards for parliamentarians and their cronies. Every single play on the chessboard a selfish move to amass even more for the rich and hardly any crumbles falling off the high table to reach the citizenry; de jure kings but de facto paupers. Such is Kenya for you!

It is time that you got angry enough. So angry that you choose to move beyond the angry tweets supporting Amb. Amina Mohammed’s loss at the AU to actually registering as a voter or changing your vote to a place nearer to you. Angry enough to grab a clip board, collect a couple of signatures and run for office yourself like President Obama did not so many years ago in the United States of America and as Donald Trump also did recently. Otherwise, you are just another whining Kenyan with nothing to show for your claims of entitlement. Yes, you pay taxes; it is your right to expect the best. But when you don’t get what you are owed, you fold your sleeves and hit the road. It is time they paid up. I am collecting; are you?

Kenya does not need angels to save itself, Kenya needs you.

This man Boniface Mwangi: Celebrating a Real Kenyan Shujaa.

Boniface Mwangi heckles COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli during 2013 Labor Day Celebrations

Boniface Mwangi heckles COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli during 2013 Labor Day Celebrations

By Ooko Victor

When Boniface Mwangi first made the decision at civil disobedience, his friends, with whom he had planned to heckle the then President Mwai Kibaki failed him. They simply did not show up at Nyayo Stadium, the venue for the 1st June 2009 Labour Day Celebrations. Boniface stayed on course nevertheless. He sat among the crowds and waited for his moment. I can only imagine what it felt like, waiting under the scorching sun, performance after performance, speech after speech. The fear that creeps in, the moment of doubt, the second thoughts, and the big moment drawing ever so close. When the President finally began reading his speech to the thousands who had turned up, Boniface lived up to his promise, rising up to speak. He called on the President to remember the post-election violence victims; to stamp his authority on the runaway corruption. He could barely say more; his actions were taboo. He was grabbed by security agents, his mouth covered, huddled out of the stadium, thoroughly beat up, and thrown behind bars. Swift and efficient ‘justice’ against activism in Kenya.

Who is Boniface Mwangi?

Boniface Mwangi’s background resonates with that of millions of ordinary Kenyans. He grew up in poverty in Eastlands, Nairobi in a family of seven children, typical of many Kenyan families back then. Boniface did not go to the best schools, maybe never even scored the best grades. He even had a stint as a street urchin. Yet he rose above all this to put his country first. He documented the images of the victims of the 2007/2008 post-election violence. These very images sparked him into action, called on him to act, to speak up, to advocate for change in his country, our country Kenya.

Boniface Mwangi

Boniface Mwangi

It is so easy, in all our immediate comforts, to forget that a few years ago, Kenya was on the brink of destruction. Many innocent civilians were killed because of their ethnic identity or political leanings. Much more were raped, shot at, maimed, left homeless, even displaced from their homes. Roads were impassable, with tires burning all over. Yet Kenya and resilient Kenyans survived all this, it would be a big mistake for us to get too comfortable. The symptoms still abound, and Kenyans like Boniface Mwangi can see them. It is up to us to rise up and treat the disease. It begins by standing up to speak.

Picha Mtaani public exhibition

Picha Mtaani public exhibition

Evolving Strategies

Boniface Mwangi’s strategies towards civil disobedience as an act of activism have changed over time. Following his June 2009 arrest, he began Picha Mtaani, a street exhibition of the post-election images he had captured while working for the Standard Media. These images were meant to foster national healing, especially among the youth who were the key perpetrators of the post-election atrocities. These images, the work of Boniface Mwangi and others in the media, played a great role in ensuring peace in the 2013 general elections. We learned from our mistakes, and these images, a painful reminder of why we cannot afford to backtrack on the promise.

Other acts of activism included supplying mock caskets to parliament to symbolise the politicians’ endless plunder of Kenya’s funds since independence at the detriment of ordinary citizens. Boniface Mwangi also led the supply of pigs to parliament symbolising the greed by Kenyan Parliamentarians by their move to increase their salaries. On Friday 7th October 2016, Boniface was sued over allegations that he defamed the Deputy President, William Ruto through a Twitter message in which he claimed that the Deputy President was intent on killing him for his public pronouncements that the Mr Ruto is a corrupt leader and a land grabber. The court, however, dismissed the case against Boniface Mwangi.

The controversial Boniface Mwangi tweet

The controversial Boniface Mwangi tweet

The latest wave of controversy against the activist came as a result of his walk out from a live programme #JeffKoinangeLive (#JKL) for which he was invited to discuss the state of corruption in the country in addition to him taking on the Deputy President in the social media over allegations of corruption and murder. Barely through the interview with renown journalist Jeff Koinange however, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, once a party to Boniface Mwangi’s criticism appeared in an attempt to join the show forcing the walkout by the activist, a gesture that was interpreted as cowardly and courageous in equal measure across the social media spectrum. The interview came a day before Boniface led a demonstration aimed at calling the President to either commit to the fight against graft or resign from office. The demonstrations were however thwarted by the police.

The Shujaa Within?

The big question, however, is whether Boniface Mwangi is really a Kenyan shujaa. Admired and loathed for his antics in equal measure, many have questioned his loyalty to foreign powers. In fact, in 2014, Boniface ‘retired’ from activism amid allegations of government intimidation and threats over his life. He would however not stay long in the shadows. This time round, it appears he is here to stay. His message, thought-provoking and projecting the ideal dream for the millions of youth in Kenya to rise up and act. I am not advancing a narrative that Boniface is perfect, far from it. Moses Kuria has claimed on his social media platform that the activist was actually peddling pornography at his time as a journalist in Standard Media, allegations that have not been corroborated by anyone else. More disturbing, however, is the fact that these allegations follow a consistent script whenever someone stands up against corrupt government officials or corrupt dealings in government. What no one is addressing is the corruption that has got Boniface Mwangi so worked up in the first place.

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Boniface Mwangi in a previous protest

Boniface Mwangi comes from a background that believes in a better Kenya, much better than yesterday, the same Kenya that I am excited about, that I want to fight for. This fight, however, is not for Boniface alone. It belongs to each and every other Kenyan who is fed up with the kind of leadership that fancies corruption and shields ethnic bigots. That Kenyan should be you and me. It is time we stood up with boniface Mwangi, for Kenya.

The writer is a Research Consultant for Savic Consultants in Nairobi.

Of thieving State Officials, Failing War on Terror and a Clueless President

By Ooko Victor

Any concerned citizen waking up in Kenya today would cast a dejected soul at the disturbing goings-on envisaged in our country with every dawning day. In the middle of all political rhetoric and faction loyalty, three things stand out clearly for anyone, caring and objective enough to see.

  1. The thieving by State Officials is rising with every minute this administration spends at the helm of power.
  2. More and more civilians are finding it unsafe to live, work or visit North Eastern Kenya  with the unabated threat of the Al-Shabaab.
  3. The President, in the full glare of the media, has admitted to his inability to execute his mandate in the war against corruption. And as is evident, the war against terror.

Runaway Corruption

I recently published an article detailing the growing cases of corruption that seem to be sprouting towards the end of the first term of the Jubilee Administration, and how this is a similar occurrence to the 2005 discovery of the Anglo Leasing scandal that to date, remains unsolved. Its culprits living large and some even holding public office (see John Githongo dossier here). The article Graft Theater: Contextualizing Kenya’s Fight Against Corruption details the strategic use of state machinery to cover up corrupt details while hoodwinking government supporters of attempts by the opposition to tarnish the name of the government, with the intention to ‘steal’ power.

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Maternity section at Komarock Modern Health Care at Utawala, Nairobi. Photo courtesy of Daily Nation.

The past 4 years is a testimony of just how fallacious and manipulative such a statement could be.  Indeed, the discovery of a scandal, bigger than the National Youth Service scandal, and right at the center of a key pillar of the Jubilee Manifesto; Delivery of Free Maternal Care, would point at two things; the unrestricted greed among senior ministry officials ostensibly appointed to oversee operations by the government or, and worrying so, the complicity of government in abetting this thieving with the intention of siphoning money for 2017 campaigns that are almost here.

The latter, of course, would never be publicly admitted by anyone from past experience. The last time an official resigned over a similar-type corruption scandal, she elevated her game and is now set to take a shot at a gubernatorial seat with the capacity to manage much more than just public funds.

A positive out of this latest scandal, however, is the auditor’s insistence on an above-board audit process and the public informed of any attempts to cover-up the investigations into the missing funds. The health sector has enjoyed a relative period of progress and these latest development seek to point out just how bad things were under the uneasy silence. The county governments have been worst affected, having to own up the public image of opposition to noble government projects while, as we can now see, the rot was growing elsewhere with plunderers, not the least concerned about the effect of their actions on ordinary citizens without the financial capacity to pay medical bills. And just to put matters into perspective, KES 5 Billion would be a  hefty reprieve to cancer treatment, enough to buy 16 state-of-the-art cobalt cancer-fighting equipment to add to the only one available at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

Is Kenya winning the war against terror? 

I recently contemplated joining the army. Yet that’s where it ended, a contemplation. I respect the courage of these great men and women of the soil. The sacrifice they have made, and continue to make for this country has no price tag to match it. I recently watched the video on the El Adde attack that claimed more than 100 lives of these diligent soldiers (You can view the video here), and the corresponding cover-up by the government without publicly acknowledging the exact number of soldiers killed. I would consider this a betrayal of the cause for which these ardent young men and women enlisted. Is it time we brought our soldiers home? It is time we invoked an exit strategy out of Somalia. Our borders remain porous even with government claims that the building of a wall was underway. A wall which now, after public chest thumping and endless PR, looks nothing short of a wire meshed fence, and only for several kilometers along the border. In 2016, more than 2010, the number of youth crossing the border to join this war for our enemies skyrocketed. These youth, are crossing over the same borders we are securing to wage war against us. Ironic!

Leaders from North Eastern Kenya decrying Insecurity.

Leaders from North Eastern Kenya calling for increased government intervention.

Attacks on civilians have continued unabated. The border towns are under constant threats of Al-Shabaab attacks with some regions within our borders, less secure than similar towns within Somalia. Yes, we are in a war, but are we taking care of our people while at it?

The non-Muslim population in Mandera whether teachers or quarry workers, not to mention young thespians out to fork out a decent living and a few coins to spare continue to perish under our watch. Time and time again we have heard of intelligence reports of imminent attacks that were not acted on. The images of families torn apart by the ‘execution’ of their loved ones including breadwinners are stories of the average Kenyans out to eke a living for their dependants. They like hundreds of others becoming a historical statistic of the price of the Kenyan war on terror. Or the failures of the government and security agencies to protect its civilians.

A Clueless President?

Honesty is a virtue long admired in every human being. Few still embody this key mark of integrity. President Uhuru Kenyatta is among the few who fit into this bracket of ‘nobles’, we would all cheer him more if he listened to his soul and relinquished the powers bestowed on him by the voters as well. Let us look at this in a simpler way:

#CryBabyPresident?

#CryBabyPresident?

If you were to give me a job, with all the tools to effectively undertake that job. Then towards the end of the contract period, I come out to you, my employer, declaring my inability to do the job assigned to me, would it make sense if I asked for a new contract, to undertake the same job I had already confessed to being unable to perform in the first place? Honestly, if it were up to me, I would fire your sorry ass!

President Kenyatta last week just admitted to being clueless in his job. He is clueless about corruption, he is clueless about insecurity and until last week, he has been clueless about the conditions attached to the social contract that he swore allegiance to serve and protect.

All this, however, may not mean much to radicalized political supporters who care not to question such weighty matters. I would say political radicalization of intellectuals, is the worst form of radicalization the world can ever have. Far much worse than radicalization for the cause of terrorism. It hurts individuals capacity to make rational choices, rendering factual information secondary to ethnic allegiances and the fear for change.

The writer is a Research Consultant for Savic Consultants in Nairobi.

Graft Theater: Contextualizing Kenya’s Fight Against Corruption

By Ooko Victor

corruption1Kenya was ranked position 139 out of a total 168 states in the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International. The CPI tool has been used to rank countries based on perceived levels of corruption elicited by opinion surveys and expert assessments.The latest rankings put Kenya 29 places above, Somalia, perceived to be the most corrupt nation in the world. A more recent report released by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) however paints a different picture altogether. According to PwC, the rate of economic crimes in Kenya is 25% above the global average! For this stellar thieving performance, Kenya secured its place in the medal standings as the 3rd most corrupt country in the world.Asset misappropriation, bribery, and procurement fraud have been on a steady rise in Kenya from 54% in 2014to 61% in 2015. In fact, Kenya is estimated to be losing approximately KES600 BILLION equivalent to 8% of the GDP. To sum this up, one of the leading anti-corruption crusader in Kenya Mr. John Githongo labeled the current Kenyan Government as the most corrupt in this nation’s history.

This sad state of affairs begs the question, is Kenya genuine about its fight against corruption? Or is all this rhetoric about waging war against corruption another convenient government gimmick for political mileage with little being done to actually clamp down on the vice?

History of Anti-Graft Bodies

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission(EACC) is the body tasked with the investigation of corruption allegations against individuals and organizations and recommending legal action where necessary to the Director of Public Prosecutions(DPP). However, the history of the fight against corruption in Kenya lends little credence to EACC or other anti-graft agencies that came before it in as far as independently effecting their mandate is concerned. The first agency constituted in the fight against graft was the Anti-Corruption Squad, a unit withing the Police Department constituted in 1993. The squad was however disbanded in 1995 before it could register any meaningful gains. In early 1997, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority was created and former Kilome MP, Mr. John Harun Mwau appointed its first Director in December of the same year.

Mr Harun Mwau

lumumba

Prof. PLO Lumumba

Mwau would only serve 6 months in office before he was hounded out of office in 1998 and replaced with Justice Aaron Ringera in 1999. However, the High Court in December 2000 found the existence of the KACC unconstitutional and this followed its immediate disbandment. In August 2001, following an executive order, the Anti-Corruption Police Unit (ACPU) was created under the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kenya Police to fill the void left by the scrapping of KACC. ACPU would go on to operate until the creation of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) in May 2003.
Justice Ringera was reappointed as the Director and served in that capacity until his

resignation in July 2009 following pressure from Parliament. Prof. PLO Lumumba was then appointed Director of KACC in September of 2010 serving for a year before the establishment EACC in September of 2012, under the new constitutional dispensation. Mr. Mumo Matemu was appointed as the first Chairman of the new anti-graft body and Mr. Halakhe Waqo as its Secretary and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Matemu would resign in 2015 and be replaced by Mr. Philip Kinisu in January 2016 who would go on to serve less than 6 months in office. This is the metamorphosis of a troubled institution that reflects upon the lack of political will to fight corruption.

Political insincerity

The fight against corruption reeks of political insincerity on the part of government and politicians alike. Mr. Mwau recently received adverse mentions in relation to the international drug trafficking racket, yet he once served as the head of an institution charged with prescribing ethical codes of conduct and the investigation of unethical practices in Kenya. Mr. Kinisu, on the other hand, was able to assume office despite pending questions over his involvement as a Board Member of his family Company, Esaki Ltd in the National Youth Service scandal involving loss of billions of shillings of public funds.

Kenyans are paying the ultimate price

Kenyans are paying the ultimate price

Today, Kenya is far worse into corruption than we probably were 10 or 20 years ago. According to the PwC report, Bribery and Corruption were reported at 47% as compared to 23% and 27% in the 2012 and 2014 surveys respectively. This increase could be catastrophic to economic growth and fair market competition. The rate at which state officials are fleecing national coffers is at an all time high. Several public institutions have suffered the brunt of corrupt dealings set to benefit a few at the expense of the general public. In 2015, Kenya experienced arguably the largest examination leakage scam in the history of the country! Examination papers were procured and all one needed to do to revise for examinations was to sit tight and watch the actual question paper in the full glare of the media! The former retail giants, Uchumi Supermarket, on the other hand, is facing another collapse with several of its officials charged with misappropriation of its cash and assets. Staff previously fired from the retail chain are alleged to have formed companies that currently supply the supermarket with products at inflated prices, rendering the supermarket unable to compete in the saturated retail stores market. A recent financial audit on the national carrier Kenya Airways on the other hand also revealed a scheme by several managers, lenders, and suppliers to defraud the company. Senior officials have been named as having diverted large chunks of money to the Dubai Bank(now under Receivership) thus starving the airline of necessary funds to effectively undertake its operations. Not even the body charged with overseeing Kenya’s involvement in Olympics has been spared the corrupt practices! Aside from the doping-related bribery allegations against a top official of the National Olympic Committee(NOC), athletes complained over missing kits despite the kit sponsors Nike categorical insistence on having provided sufficient kits for the athletes and their coaches. NOC officials also carried with them family members to Rio at the expense of Coaches for the selected athletes. There was also allegations over accommodation arrangements with some Kenyan athletes having been locked out of the Olympic Village due to late arrival. Then there is the land issue that involves politicians grabbing public land for personal gain. The Deputy President, for instance, had lost a court case and was ordered to pay KES 5million after he was found to have grabbed land from a private citizen, Mr. Gilbert Muteshi.

Historical justification

In addition to these public institutions, there is speculation concerning the utilization of the Eurobond proceeds with the government unable to satisfactorily account for close to $1.2 Billion(KES 120Billion) . The actual amount lost to the National Youth Service scam is also emerging to be around KES 2 Billion.  Various other scandals continue to haunt Kenya, chief among them the Anglo Leasing Scandal and the Triton Scandal involving the Kenya Pipeline Company. In his dossier released to the public addressed to the former President Mwai Kibaki, Mr. Githongo while serving as the Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics, provided a chronological account of his investigations into the Anglo Leasing scam, mentioning top government officials including the current Senator for Meru, Hon. Kiraitu Muriungi and former Vice President Moody Awori. Anglo leasing was actually Kenyan Politicians fundraising for the 2007 general elections, a practice that further casts similar doubts on the current utilization of the Eurobond proceeds as borrowing from this long-standing misuse of public funds to maintain governments in power
corr

Is the government really sincere in its fight against corruption? Comparing the Kenyan situation to our Tanzanian neighbors under President Magufuli, the political will to stamp out corruption is apparent. The public faith in government is restored and more and more intolerance to corruption adopted by the people. The result is a more committed and accountable public service and of course, reduced corruption and wastage of public funds. The long-term strategies, however, will involve legislation to ensure the system seals avenues that would enable corrupt practices. Kenya, on the other hand, lacks this political will. The public faith in crucial institutions are low and getting lower. Crimes remain unsolved because police demand kickbacks and brokers continue to infest the system hijacking ordinary citizens out to seek services from government offices dangling the promise of quick and efficient service at a fee. Reporting of such cases by citizens goes hand in hand with the confidence that action will be taken.

How do we get back to a trusted public service?

corruption-4First, we would need to ensure freedom of the press to enable them to expose corruption without encountering unnecessary bureaucratic red tapes in their pursuit of information or access to government officials. Secondly, the government needs to take advantage of the available media channels to provide readily available data to the public. Several government departments are already implementing this practice but much more could be done to ensure access to this data. When the government is forced to release information as a result of pressure from the Civil Service Organizations or the Opposition, it raises further speculation over a possible cover-up. Third is ensuring zero interference with judicial activities. A truly independent judiciary restores public confidence in the pursuit of justice. Luis Franceschi intones, ” It is not sufficient for the Judiciary to be independent; it is also necessary to appear to be independent.” The general public understands the difference between what the law says and what is actually happening. Fourth, amendments to the Penal Code and the Economic Crimes Laws is also highly necessary to ensure the imposition of stringent sanctions and stiffer penalties to those found guilty of the offense. Restrictions should also be instituted against the use of proceeds from corrupt dealings. This would tame the larger than life perceptions that suspects of economic crime float around further giving credence to the vice. Finally, there is a need to check on the wastage of county government funds. The Members of the County Assembly are almost becoming the main consumers of County funds with unwarranted travels and seminars that add no value to their constituents.

Conclusion

The Kenyan government needs to move beyond the numerous policy formulations and reign down on real culprits at the top of the chain. The fight against corruptions is impeccable on paper yet so empty in practice.corruption-endThe fight against corruption should be a movement and Kenyans need to believe. None of this, however, will be achieved without the government leading the way in breeding intolerance towards the vice and persons mentioned in relation to graft. The ultimate decision is made by the electorate on the ballot.

The writer is a Research Consultant with Savic Consultants in Nairobi, Kenya.

Substituting the ‘cut’: A Look into Alternative Rites of Passage

xBy Ooko Victor

One Palestinian woman when asked what she thought about some of the retrogressive cultural practices that women and girls have to live up to said this, ‘When we are born, we are controlled by our fathers, we grow up and we are controlled by our brothers. We are married and controlled by our husbands; then we give birth and are controlled by our sons.” This statement, though probably spoken in a context devoid of the optimism of a world in which gender equality was a possibility, summarizes the challenges that an average girl and woman continue to face and the desire to be free of this domination. Like other forms of violence that seek to exercise control and belittle the place and person of women in society, Female Genital Cutting(FGM) is both physical and psychological in its ramifications. It has caused untold pain, suffering, and humiliation to over 125 million women and girls the world over. In addition to severe pain, FGC has put women through shock, hemorrhage, bleeding, tetanus, sepsis and the risk of death.

There have however been a tremendous effort to fight female genital cutting and instead explore Alternative Rites of Passage(ATP). Various communities and organizations are involved in this exercise that ensures the preservation of the cultural value of the right of passage while empowering women and girls by doing away with the dehumanizing practice of female cutting. In addition to that, girls are not expected to be married and raise families immediately after. Rather, key stakeholders in the community are engaged in concerted efforts to popularize these ATPs that are slowly gaining popularity within various ethnic communities in Kenya that practice FGM.

Amongst the Meru Community of Kajuki, Kenya, ATP seminars are conducted as part of a St. Peterslifeline UK sponsored program. These seminars are preceded by discussions with the local circumcizers, parents, and elders as well as the teenage girls who would otherwise be considered ripe for ‘cutting’.  Permission is granted by the girls’ parents and the local leadership to have the girls congregate in a secluded location for the 5 day exercise. The seclusion is a similar practice to the 1 week period provided in actual traditional initiation ceremonies for the girls and provides a different setting away from the chores and responsibilities that await the girls on a typical day at home. xxThe daily forums include lectures, group discussions and games with breaks for meals and helping out in responsibilities when assigned. The girls are taught their rights from all forms of sexual violations and how to raise the alarm if they feel threatened. Other topics covered include the male and female anatomy, friendship, dating and marriage processes, various forms of female cutting as well as the dangers involved in the practice. Upon graduation the initiates are awarded with certificates in a public celebration in which their parents and the local community are invited. The program is supported by the local Catholic church and has been instrumental in reducing the FGM cases in the area.

The Maasai community of Loita Hills, in South Western part of Kenya, have a slightly different form of ATR. The girl has her head shaved as is the case during the actual ceremony. However, instead of the cut, she has milk, an integral product in Maasai culture, poured on her thighs. The girl then reappears wearing a traditional headdress as a sign of the transition into womanhood and a bracelet as a symbol of her graduation.

Shompole Maasai’s work hand in hand with Amref Health Africa to provide ARP to the young girls.  Most of the traditional rituals are retained with the exception of the actual cut. The girls have 2 to 3 days of seclusion in which they are taught the dangers of FGM, early marriage, and teenage pregnancies. To mark the graduation, the girls are paraded and blessed by the elders after which a big celebration is held for the ‘new women’. Amref has also helped to dispel the notion that ‘uncut’ girls will not find suitable husbands by involving the ‘morans’ in these programs where they publicly promise to marry ‘uncircumcised’ girls.More than 9,000 girls have gone through an Alternative Rite of Passage since Amref began partnering with Maasai communities.

xxxAmongst the Kisii and Kuria Communities, the Young Women Christian Association has set up rescue centres to which young girls escape when faced with the ‘cut’ especially during school holidays. The local communities have also largely embraced the ATP programs provided to their girls and in some cases, the parents have become members of YWCA to help advance the cause of zero FGM in the locality.

The successful implementation of ARP requires the integration of all stakeholders.  Without input from the parents, local schools, and religious and community leaders, little progress can be realized. Education also plays a key role in ensuring the proper understanding of the negative effects on the girl child.

The writer is a Research Consultant with Savic Consultants in Nairobi

Why Kenya is Ill-Equipped to Contain Fires

indexBy Ooko Victor

Just how prepared are you in case of a fire outbreak? What safety measures do you have in place in your area of residence?

Whereas emergencies require immediate response, foresight comes in handy in predicting the exact habits necessary to guarantee safety. Yet I can bet that the Nairobi County Government and by extension the entire country has this vital component all wrong. I will focus on just one component, the fire extinguisher, and show just how this component could be the game changer in the way the city is managed.

A fire extinguisher is easy to operate. Yet to someone who has never learnt how, leave alone seen one, it could be quite as complex to handle. Better still, the instructions on how to use it, complete with the image breakdown on how to use it to fight fires is inscribed on it. However, in a country where reactionary approach is preferred to anticipation, none of this seems to be of immediate importance.

How many buildings have fire extinguishers?

index1 The first question would be on the availability of the fire extinguisher. Do you have one in your house? How many are available in the apartment you live in? Do you think it is important to have one around? Have you engaged your landlord/lady over the same?

We all take it for granted that fire extinguishers are necessary if not important in all artificial spaces we occupy. When a fire emergency occurs, we are left flat-footed and lose friends and family in addition to property of great value. Businesses have time and again been razed to the ground, and in numerous of these cases, basic fire-fighting skills and equipment could have come in handy to contain the situation.

Nairobi County is reported to have a paltry 100 firefighters employed in its ranks; this against a population of 4 million and steadily growing. With such glaring staff shortage, minimizing the risk of fire outbreaks could be the game changer to ensure the safety of numerous dwellers beyond the reach of this vital resource.

Government Intervention

Nairobi Residents living to the South of Uhuru Highway feel this brunt more than their compatriots to the North. With the booming real estate industry, numerous buildings are put up without the slightest regard for emergency evacuation scenarios. I am yet to read the law in relation to this. It is almost as if the only thing that matters is that the buildings erected are strong enough to last! Yet setting up legal stipulations that ensure all buildings have at least a functional fire extinguisher could go a long way to improving the way our city is managed. This is how;

index2Ensuring that all buildings under the Nairobi City County’s jurisdiction has a fire extinguisher before it can be used by a customer would most definitely trigger conversations surrounding legislation to ensure the extinguishers are made mandatory. These legislations would also include periodic training to tenants and businesses occupying these premises. Such training would in turn go a long way to improve communication within residences in a Nairobi where ‘Nyumba Kumi’ is hardly effective. With such communication, then it is not only the fires that would matter, the same would translate to security issues, further bolstering neighborhood response to insecurity. In addition to this, it becomes even easier to talk about proper waste management in our neighborhoods! These by-laws developed in neighborhoods with loose relationships ultimately matter in ensuring conformity.

There is so much that ails our city. Our leaders unfortunately, try to focus on doing everything at the same time. This strategy is all wrong. We can perfect on one thing and use it to enhance all other aspects of our lives. And if not worthy of consideration as a development strategy, then at least, give it consideration as a basic safety requirement, because it is.

All this seems difficult until someone comes up with a sober implementation plan to oversee the same. I have taken the first step to write about this, then, I will approach my agent for a follow-up. It can be done and it should be done. As the convenient cliche goes, better safe than sorry, right?

The writer is a Research Consultant with Savic Consultants in Nairobi.

Decision 2017 Not all about the Money

By Ooko Victor

15 Billion: the legally sanctioned upper limit for campaign funds for a single political party in Kenya which translates to about 0.24% of our GDP (as at 2015). Never mind that there are 2 leading rival political factions with the mathematical capacity to land the top seat, campaign funds notwithstanding. This is proof of just how expensive the price of ‘democracy’ in Kenya could be. The IEBC early this year alluded to a budgetary estimate of 40 billion, necessary to effectively conduct the 2017 General Elections(Business Daily 14/01/16). Against 12 million registered voters, this would translate to Ksh. 3, 300 ($33) required to enable a single registered voter to cast their vote, a record high for the country.

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The entire nation has been treated to the political show of might this past weekend during the grand launch of the Jubilee Party at the Capital which coincided with  their arch rival ODM’s  10th anniversary at the Coast. The message was clear. The battle lines have been drawn; the war chests filled and aching to be opened. Mwananchi must be dazzled and impressed with grand convoys branded in party colors and multi-billion worth of premises bought or leased to serve as the respective headquarters. All this is to convince the fence-sitting citizens to stand in line with the winning team.

Where does all this money come from?

To say ordinary citizens experience hard times in between elections would be an understatement. In contrast, the run-up to general elections are accompanied by attempts to ‘repair roads’, ‘organize tournaments’ and ‘visit the constituents’ all in a bid to remind them that the elected representatives are working for them and with them.  6 months into office and the default political modus operandi is activated. Kenyans keep falling for the same trick over and over again. We keep selling our stake for community development not to the highest bidder, rather to the bearer of the cash in hand.

Political power brokers accumulate campaign funds for a preferred candidate at whatever cost. Whoever said charity begins at home did not envisage the political arm-twisting that comes with political contributions. Yet, who will vote for a broke but visionary leader?

The laws are ineffective

It still remains to be seen whether the limits to Campaign financing will be observed. From personal experience, money recorded can be tracked. The same however cannot be said of unrecorded finances. In a country where corruption is a preserve of political geniuses, it would be interesting to see how this law would be implemented. I would however mention here that despite the high rate of election offenses, few politicians have been charged with the crime. Voter bribery is a demanded right by the electorate. The arresting officers are not any better. What use is the law if a few people cannot line their pockets with advance salary?images

Too much money in circulation during elections is synonymous to auctioning our democracy to the highest bidder. It is a disadvantage to the women, youth and persons with disability whom despite great leadership potential may not have enough finances to match their loaded counterparts. The alternative for which of course is power brokerage.

Ensure implementation

The IEBC needs to do much more than just communicating the laws. Actual strategies should be laid on the ground and candidates’ accounts keenly scrutinized to ensure compliance.  Election hotlines could also be instituted where cases of voter bribery could be reported. A media team if not currently functional, could be formed to monitor the IEBC website, Facebook Page and Twitter handles and a round the clock customer care center for instant information on the happenings in the constituency in real time so as to dispatch police officers where necessary for swift action. Whereas this may not curb electoral malpractices 100%, it would make the violation of electoral laws a cumbersome affair.

It should also be mandatory for all aspirants to declare their wealth before seeking elective office. Electoral laws formulated to that effect would go a long way in protecting public finances from thieving hands.

The buck stops with the voters

index1Despite the legal frameworks crafted to protect the electoral space, the buck stops with the Kenyan voters. Whereas we compare ourselves to Botswana and Republic of Korea and wonder where the rain started beating us; we need to realize that we are the product of our choices. We are the leaders we elect into office. And the only way of ensuring radical change that mirrors our expectations is to vote in sound leadership.

Whereas finances are necessary in fronting a good campaign, it should not override the candidates’ policies and character. The goal is not to eat today without considering tomorrow.

Mr. Ooko is a Research Consultant with Savic Consultants

The Political Combination that could topple Jubilee

kalmuEvery supporter of Raila Odinga seems to believe he is the only candidate able to wrestle the reins of power from incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and thereby topple the Jubilee administration. That may be true as long as the perception is from a solitary point of view. Yet political strategy cannot just have a single stand point.  At least, not if the saying ‘there are many ways to kill a rat’ persists.

Raila’s greatest successes have come not while fronting himself as the candidate, rather, when standing up for the greater good. He is a mobilizer extraordinaire! And his loyal troop of soldiers from the Luo community would provide any general some level of pride and self-assurance, almost to the point of sheer arrogance and overconfidence. Yet even with three attempts under his belt, Raila could only be as close as to caress the presidency despite his political mastery. The game plan needs to change!

First, Raila should support the calls for Luhya Unity rather than seek to undermine it. If indeed the opposition is the best alternative government, then the unity of purpose would ensure an endgame to the Jubilee strategy. The people of Mulembe have been their own greatest undoing for quite some time now, it seems like they are now willing to unite and speak in one voice. And not just Luhya Unity, the Coast Leadership is crumbling too with Gideon Mung’aro keen to mastermind its eventual division. The Jubilee forays into the region have seen a few leaders singing to their tune. The hostility between Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and the Senator Mr. Hassan Omar is public records. When battling against the tyranny of numbers, a little disunity should be a cause for severe headache.

Secondly, Raila could then recuse himself from contesting the CORD ticket and rather support Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka, with the condition that Western Kenya produces Hon. Musalia Mudavadi as his running mate. Now look at this combination! Odd? Indeed but capable of working. A growing number of Kenyans may not want Jubilee in power, and neither does Raila as the alternative. Therefore Kalonzo would provide a much better alternative. And why the Presidency? He is the only original co-founders of CORD beside Raila remaining in the equation. Besides, I have never really imagined Wetangula as the Western Kenya Kingpin. With the support of the Western Kenya Unity, Mudavadi may be just the person to deliver the Luhya vote if the Luhya unity were to actually work.

Thirdly, Raila could then mobilize the entire Nyanza machinery behind the proposed leadership and make these candidates into contestants for the Presidency. And like I had already said, Raila is the go to politician when you are after actual mobilization. And with this combination, all key players would urge their strongholds to come out and vote in a Kalonzo-Mudavadi ticket as fronted by the general himself, Raila Amolo Odinga. I believe a deal like this could be struck to first of all end the current air of political mistrust and disloyalties abound. And Raila could finally have another major win since 2002, enough to make him bow out gracefully and focus on matters of African statesmanship.

And talking about the numbers, uniting the Luhya population and concentrating the all other regions together is the best possible shot the opposition has at the Presidency. In fact, even Gideon Moi could finally throw his entire weight behind the CORD presidency without compromising his own family in the historical Raila-Moi feud. And with this pact in place, of course other deals may be stuck here and there to accommodate the political egos, then the ‘Kibaki Tosha’ memories that pushed President Kibaki from the confines of a wheelchair to State House are bound to get even better.

Would this combination be a wild card? Maybe, yet you cannot assume the capacity it has to actually work! In order to win, you must not always be the one on the front-line. Sometimes, being the one to push the others could be all that is needed for the country to take on a different course. Sacrifice.

Ooko Victor

[victorooko@gmail.com]

MY HEAD AND I

I have been meaning to write something here for almost two months now. Mine is the worst case of writer’s block ever. That being said though, I have promised myself to find a way to make your time here worthwhile or just bore us both to death, fingers crossed. I came across something recently that really caught my attention. My head and I were trying to find ‘meaning’ in our life so we decided to search the big ol’ world wide web for inspiration. Next thing I know, am so intrigued by something on different types of personality traits out there and what they are all about. Heck I even took a test to see my personality type.

I found out that there exist four temperaments, which is basically a proto-psychological theory suggesting there are four personality types. Don’t ask me the meaning of that word, I also don’t know. The four temperaments are; sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic and melancholic. I know I know, they may seem foreign to some of ya’ll but keep calm because I got your back.

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18th century depiction of the four temperaments. Top: phlegmatic, choleric. Bottom: sanguine, melancholic.

 

 

Taking the test revealed that phlegmatic temperament subdued the other three in my case. Sanguine came in second, choleric third while melancholic temperament was least. I am therefore of the phlegmatic group in matters temperaments. In that light it is only right that I focus on phlegmatic first.

Phlegmatic

This temperament is traditionally associated with the element ‘water’. Mmmh, coincidentally I’m also Aquarian whose zodiac representation is the water carrier (I guess I have a thing for water). These are the sort of people you would refer to as ‘wallflower’. People with this temperament tend to be calm and peace-loving. They avoid conflict at all costs; they rarely start conflict and would be the last person to get involved in trying to stop one if it occurred, these are the people who will move to the furthest point in the room and watch the drama unfold from a safe distance. They tend to take blame for others’ mistakes to make them feel better. They often feel traumatized when faced with the task of decision making in the face of many choices and would rather others do it for them.

They make very good friends as they tend to hold on through thick and thin. They barely reveal emotion or their inner thought but are very attentive listeners and would rarely let others know they’re bored even if it is clearly the case. They are content with themselves and prefer stability to uncertainty.

Let their perceived introvertedness however not fool you as helplessness, naivety or ignorance. They may be more knowledgeable and rich in thought then meets the eye. Their keen eye often hints at an appreciation of the arts and literal indulgence. Abstract art is kind of their thing.

Their interest is often awakened by experiencing others interest in a subject.

Sanguine

This temperament is traditionally associated with the element ‘air’. These people are a box of energy waiting to burst open, also known as ‘the life of the party’ or that crazy friend who would do anything to get others’ attention. They thrive in the spotlight and as such make friends very easily. A room full of strangers to them is an opportunity to make new friends rather than a foreign uncomfortable situation. They are often expressive and will let you know what they think whether you asked for it or not. They are like an open book in that they tend to let their feelings and emotions out in the open for anyone who would care to look. They may come off as ‘touchy-feely’ as they are always ready to dish out hugs and hold hands. They live for compliments and praise from others; in the case of females, they’d be the first to try out new hairstyles, make-up techniques and wear the trendiest of clothes. They may struggle with following rules and performing tasks to completion. Leave it to the sanguine to flourish in the lateness and forgetfulness department.

Awakening their love for a subject and admiration of people is the best way to get through to them.

Choleric

This temperament is traditionally associated with the element ‘fire’. These are the people often told they are ‘full of themselves’. Any time is a good time for them to let everyone know that they are ‘boss.’ They have their egos for driving forces and always seek to assert their dominance over others thereby putting themselves in positions they regard as superior to the rest. Have you ever come across those people who initiate arguments and debate their hearts out even though their position is clearly wrong? This is them. They may be aware at the back of their minds that they’re totally off but persist just so they don’t lose and seem inferior. They are the sort of people who appreciate a good challenge, the kind who work their butts off to do something just because they were told they cannot.

They tend to be pragmatic in their endeavors and often say things as they are rather than sugar-coating as would the phlegmatic. The choleric would for example say ‘poor, work harder at Y’ where the phlegmatic would say ‘not very bad, maybe you should change a little of Y’.

They make very good friends as they will always have your back if you are on their good side. Being on the other side is no walk in the park as they will strive to rub your nose the dirt if they perceive you as being their rival. They are the breed of people who would do anything to get ahead and stay there even if it means cheating or breaking a leg, cause when they’re on top then they are superior thus better than everybody else. They take ‘thick-skin’ to a whole different level as they tend to brush off criticism and laugh things off than take them personally.

They can best be reached through mutual respect and appropriate challenges that recognize their capacities.

Melancholic

This temperament is traditionally associated with the element ‘earth’. People with this temperament are often susceptible to depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Perfectionism is their second name, I feel sad for them knowing how messed up the world we live in is! They are the sort of people who don’t just accept things as they are as they prefer knowing ‘why’ they are as they are. They look at the logic and analytical causes of everyday actions that other people tend to ignore. Their perfectionist tendencies often result in self-deprecation as they feel inadequate whenever they are unable to meet their impossible standards. They are not the fastest people to make friends because their nature often makes them critical of others, many of whom are usually unable to meet their standards. They as a result have few but close friends who they stick to loyally.

They respond poorly to compliments; ‘that’s a nice drawing you got there’ would elicit a response such as ‘I don’t know, I the head is too big’.

This is probably the most introverted of the four temperaments. People with this temperament relish alone time and would trade it any time to being around other people, those that don’t meet their standards at least. They however tend to open up and become more interactive in a quiet, peaceful environment around people they like. They may be very emotional and are not the most forgiving to people who hurt them. They find it hard to trust people who harm them as there is no logical explanation for the sudden change of heart unless certain drastic measures are taken. They are usually not aggressive and tend to flee from distress. They would rather get back at those who wrong them by making them feel guilty than directly attacking them. Thin skin usually has melancholic temperament written all over it.

They can best be reached by awakening their sympathy for others and the suffering of the imperfect world.

 

 

If you have a thumping heart and blood running in your veins, a.k.a human, then you might relate to at least one of the above. Google has you sorted. Answer a few simple questions to find out where you lie, that is if you want to though…. (gotcha phlegmatic temperament! *wink wink).

By Odera Evelyne