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.

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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 symbolize 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 symbolizing 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 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 program #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.

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]

Odinga knows his numbers won’t add up

RailaElections are about garnering the highest number of votes and the opposition, under the leadership of Mr. Odinga is aware of this. My article seeks to substantiate what we all know; CORD cannot marshal enough votes to beat the Jubilee coalition as currently constituted. At least not without a miracle!

Article 88 of the Constitution mandates the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to regularly revise the voters register by adding eligible voters to the Principal Register and updating by deleting dead voters, effecting transfers and corrections. Unfortunately, Odinga and CORD are not taking this fact with the seriousness it deserves.

Early last month, an article on the IEBC website by CEO Ezra Chiloba laid out the apathy malady afflicting the opposition strongholds. A comparison of the 2009 census figures on the estimated population eligible to vote vis-à-vis the number of non-registered voters left a lot of questions that the opposition continues to avoid pondering over.

The percentages of non-registered voters in these counties are outlined: Kwale (43%), Kilifi (34%), Tana River (35%), Garissa (60%), Wajir (64%), Mandera (75%), Turkana (70%), Samburu (46%), West Pokot (55%), Trans Nzoia (39%), Baringo (34%), Narok (36%) and Kitui (31%). It should be noted here that none of these counties are presumed to be Jubilee strongholds.

The second headache for CORD is the counties with high populations but low voter registration. According to Mr. Chiloba, IEBC statistics listed these counties as: Bungoma (36%), Busia (27%), Kakamega (27%), Nandi (27%), Makueni (27%), Meru (24%), Migori (33%), Kisii (23%), Nyamira (21%), Siaya (20%) and Homabay (26%). With an exception of Nandi and Meru, all the remaining counties are presumed to be CORD strongholds. The voter turnout is even worse for CORD counties.

Comparing Kakamega County to Kiambu County; the population for Kakamega County as indicated by the 2009 census was 1,660,651 persons to Kiambu County’s 1,623,282 persons. The catch however, comes when we compare statistics for registered voters. Kakamega County boasted 567,460 voters to Kiambu County’s 861,829 voters. Whatever happened?

Although the mass voter registration by IEBC indicated a slightly higher number of new voters in the opposition stronghold, more voters have been registered in the Jubilee strongholds after the closure of the mass voter registration exercise than in CORD areas. How then does CORD intend to beat Jubilee fair and square without forcing a ‘nusu mkate’ once the inevitable happens?

The opposition MPs need to pull their act together and motivate voter registration first, then high voter turnout before complaining that the elections have been stolen. Tensions are high whenever IEBC protests are called. The country pulls apart with every aborted demonstration. However, the numbers remain the same; and so does the probability that the losing faction will blame it all on the electoral body. Mr Odinga, sir, this time around get your numbers right before disputing election results.

The writer is a Leadership and Social Development Consultant for Savic Consultants. Email: victorooko@gmail.com.

Why Ignorance Is Becoming Kenya’s New Normal

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Kenya is warming up to the next general elections. Today, it is close to eight years since the dark glares of the shadow of the post-election violence engulfed our country; tearing lives apart and turning neighbors against each other. Eight solid years since we last saw the glaring consequences of feeding from the raw political emotions of tribal chieftains; of taking it upon ourselves to perpetuate ethnic intolerance and outright hatred at them that we once considered our national brotherhood. Above all close to a decade since we followed through the path of war-torn states and engineered the massacre of fellow Kenyans as well as the uprooting of established livelihoods under the guise that they just did not belong amongst us.

Today, we have forgotten all about they that suffered the greatest pains that ultimately provoked the international community to intervene on our behalf and engage in saving us from ourselves. Even as we celebrate the gains of the new constitution, we fail to remember that it was that dark period that ultimately pushed us towards facing our opposition against each other and seek to strike a compromise that would ensure we pull each other and indeed our country into the future that though we view from different perspectives, we all admit is a shared necessity for our posterity.

The political class which back then was the key perpetrators of the violence, as well as the great beneficiaries of the peace-deal that followed has muddled the public scene with counter accusations over who betrayed their ranks. Who defiled their code of honor and ‘sold’ one of their own to the ‘monster’ that is the International Criminal Court (ICC). No one is talking about the fate of the victims; some of whom to date continue to live with the scars of the past and who, with every day we draw close to the general elections, relive the painful moments they underwent.

The finger-pointing however is not intended to hoodwink the political class! Not at all, the voting masses have everything to do with it. Whether it is the shuttle diplomacy to express solidarity with a colleague at The Hague or blunt dares at each other to explain the roles they played at sealing the fate of their own at the international court, the show is put up specifically to influence the masses and ensure the continued political cushion that comes with running the government of the day.

We are no longer talking about the rising cost of living. We are no longer talking about the dwindling quality of education (the World Bank having recently raised an alarm about Kenya’s half-baked graduates), even as the Law and Engineering students from several campuses across the country pursue accreditation for courses they studied so hard to qualify for in the first place. All these do not grab the headlines; all that does is the political games of who tells the best lies. Of course, no one is interested in the truth. We are busy buying what the politicians are selling, and in the process, playing straight into their political dragnet ahead of the 2017 general elections, where we suspend our problems for their own. We forget what is owed us by the political class and instead, play errand boys and girls at their pleasure.

When a politician openly uses inciting and derogatory language, we choose factions from which to analyze the statements and make prejudiced conclusions. In essence, we quickly forget how the 2008/09 political scene was manipulated to make us the vessels upon which the raw emotions of the political class were manifested to our own detriment. We choose to be used and reused at the convenience of the politicians on every run-up to the general elections and remain whining when the leaders we choose care not about their election promises.

When dusk falls today, we shall still be keen to watch the latest twist of the CORD-Jubilee counter accusations and forget that if ever there was witness coaching, then the political class not only engineered the darkest political period of our post-independence nation, but also denied us the opportunity at getting justice! Talk about being fu***ed both ways! And instead of calling for the arrest and prosecution of those who openly confess their role in the obstruction of justice, we ignorantly cheer at their political bravery and settle on our coaches with bowls of pop-corn to watch the drama as it develops.

Kenyans need to rally behind the pillar of true nationalism and not convenient patriotism if we are ever to learn from our mistakes and deliver our country from the political slavery that currently manifests through our biased political mentalities, either that or we shall forever remain the victims of different political generations that, in lieu of the current trend are bound to perfect the art of using us against ourselves.

Who Will Stand Up for Kenya?

Our country is is crisis. And am not a doomsayer to say this!

To begin with, we are currently playing witness to the attempted open arm twisting of the Judiciary by the Executive. A court order once issued is met by blatant disregard by those of might, while another that openly targets they that have less might is expected to be obeyed to the latter.

And secondly, is a lesson on how to deal with the courts, when you cannot get the judgement you expect, there are two options available, that you either craft up figures to justify the court’s apparent apathy of the economic times experienced, or you go looking for another verdict that suits you best. Mind you, none of these antics has anything to do with trying to read from the same script with the victims, in this case, the teachers who have been at the centre of the pay dispute for close to 20 years now.

This problem will hardly go away. A guarantee however is that, unless it is, then Wilson Sossion and Mudzo Nzili may not be there tomorrow, but whoever will be in charge, just like the preceeding governments, will inherit the right to keep pushing for the debt owed them and their predecessors.

It is a shame that teachers are always at the receiving end despite the nobility with which most of us regard the profession. Well, we may not necessarily have this feeling towards them but when the founding president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta reiterated the three enemies to Kenya’s development that needed to be vanquished, at the top of the list was Illiteracy. And it is the teachers who were the chief agents expected to oversee this transformation. Fastrack 50 years later and today, those same teachers continue to work under arguably disturbing circumstances with very little pay to effectively support their families and advance their individual aspirations. And as the country continues to lose billions of shillings to yet another of the independence setbacks (corruption), government still views an attempt to solve the teachers problem a luxury they simply cannot afford.

We continue to think that it is okay to still meet your teacher riding his old ‘black mamba’  to school while soliciting for funds through Harambees to educate his own children while the foundations they installed in our lives have made us millionaires!

We continue to think it is okay that the teaching profession continues to be associated with ‘low academic acievers’  yet still expect these same people to steer our children into the height of academic success? It is time we accorded the necessary respect to the teaching profession and gave them their slot at the high table as key partners in steering the national development agenda.

The ongoing court case should therefore not be viewed as a win or loss to the teaching fraternity. It should be a wake up call to government and Kenyans to note that the education sector if treated casually will continue being a perennial problem to all stakeholders.

In fact, the assembling of the Salaries and Remuneration Comission ought to have given special attention to the teachers plight. And unless the SRC is oblivious of the pay dispute history, they shouldn’t feign surprise at the open disregard of their authority by the teachers unions. In trying to comprehensively resolve a conflict, it is pertinent that you consider the historical issues that have rise to the conflict in the first place. Coming up with fresh laws doesn’t change the current problems, it just redefines them. The roots of the conflict still need to be addressed.

It really is time that someone stood up for what is right. Instead, the country is focusing on trivial issues surrounding the impeachment of the president (that definitely won’t mature)  and useless counter accusations surrounding the ICC; all clear political gimmicks aimed at diverting public attention from the actual problems bedevelling our country.

Ooko Victor.

Even In Kenya, Gay Rights are Human Rights

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According to the Kenyan President, his excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, gay rights and the entire debate surrounding the matter is a ‘non-issue’. At least, that is the famous rejoinder he issued to President Obama’s assertions that, and I quote,”I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law. And that they are deserving of equal protection under the law and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation,”

Kenya may be grappling with many other issues pertinent to the economy and to the well-being of its citizens but under no circumstances is a gay rights issue a non issue.

I recently engaged a number of friends and colleagues from different faculties and specializations on the issue over Facebook and one thing stood paramount, religion and culture were the greatest impediments to the understanding of the gay rights issue. Not really because the two exist, but rather, because those ‘deeply’ embedding their beliefs on the already established trends in religion and culture refuse to see any other way round the matter.

On a recent trip to Senegal, Obama reiterated, “When it comes to people’s personal views and their religious faith, I think we have to respect the diversity of views that are there, But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally. I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort.” These assertions pretty much summarizes my opinions on the matter.

Kenya is not a theocratic state. Therefore, religious beliefs or the lack thereof cannot be the basis upon which all individual and national issues are pegged. And suppose we decide to take the moral authority over the society’s sexual orientations, then what would be the ideal treatment for the Gay and Lesbian community that grows in courage and numbers day by day? Prosecute and persecute them? Burn them alive on the stake? Life sentence behind bars? Death by the hangman’s noose or lethal injection or what?

It is okay to hold strong religious beliefs over human actions and interactions, but should we expect the same of the state that has the obligation to protect the interests(including rights and freedoms) of all its citizens without fear of favor?

I will probably be stoned for this but just to quote my status update on Facebook:

If we think the Bible is the solution to humanity’s problems, then Karl Marx could not have been any more explicit in his insinuations. More and more nations continue to see this. Does branding gays take the gayism away? In fact, the population has been on the rise. This is a people you will have to learn to accept and live with. Either way, they will thrive. They already have in the US. So what, burn them on the stake or throw them to jail?

These are rational beings most of whom choose to be gay. I know of several. Should I spit where they walk just because our sexual orientations differ? Hiding behind religion is not a solution to this sensitive issue. Let them be people, either way, if you don’t today, then others will tomorrow. Whether or not you use documentation, these people are here to stay. And they will not always be explained by the Internet or the Bible!

It is immoral to claim moral authority only when it comes to one issue. Do you castigate your cohabiting friends every morning you see them? Do you severe ties with them? Beyond that gay or lesbian is a judge, a teacher, a doctor, etc. Like Jesus said, only cast the first stone if indeed you are without blame.”

Human Rights issues cannot be undermined as a non-issue.  The state must take its stand on the matter and be counted either for or against. Either way, gay-ism and the entire gay rights issue is here to stay. We just have to figure out a way to live with it.

Ooko Victor

 

Corruption is the Real face of Kenyan Politics

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Hardly a year passes in Kenya without corruption allegations being leveled against politicians and senior government officials. from the Goldenberg to the Anglo-leasing sagas; Triton to the Standard Gauge Railway heat; Free primary Education funds…the list is endless! And fresh allegations keep streaming in. the latest being shoddy land deals as well as credible indications that the supreme law making body, the National Assembly, is now in the center of it all!

Suggestions that the old and tired politicians were the corrupt prone component of Kenyan politics is now a proven fallacy. Corruption is embraced by all politicians in Kenya, both young and old. Those with whom Kenyan taxpayers; as overworked, underpaid yet overtaxed as they are; have entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring proper utilization of their hard-earned tax cuts for the development of the country are the actual hyenas, greedy with the appetite of amassing more and more for themselves.

In fact, the youthful generation are smart enough to share the loot amongst themselves and hence compromise investigations intended to enhance transparency in the utilization of public funds! Corruption is a shared evil for all, whether in government or the opposition. Here, the code is the same, ‘eat while you still can’.

This article cannot go without mentioning the hot issue at hand surrounding the youthful and flamboyant politician Ababu Namwamba. That many started considering him as the crop of leaders required to take Kenya to the next level in terms of political democracy, transparency and accountability is not a light matter. It remains to be seen just how far he will grope in the darkness before finally finding the light.

It is also absurd that our leaders would rather retreat to their ethnic cocoons to issue threats and ultimatums whenever they are faced with corruption charges. Instead of piling pressure on the individuals to clear their names, they act as the safety valve and coalesce around the villain like a prized gem. For how long will this go on? And better yet, is this the mandate that best serves the interests of the electorate?

The times are changing and the tides are fast approaching. The civil society and like-minded Kenyans are taking it upon the,selves to be the direct instruments of change. The society continues to ail, but for how long will the cure be elusive?

Ooko Victor