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.

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

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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
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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

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]

Is Africa really ready for African Solutions to African Problems?

Children are among the key victims of the strife in Burundi

Children are among the key victims of the strife in Burundi

It is Christmas today, yet Africa has very little to celebrate. As the leadership clings to power, African nations continue to burn, and with them, the hope of ever benefiting from what we all thought was a break from colonial subjugation. Countries are held ransom, and all in the guise of advancing national interests.

Today especially, my heart goes out to the Burundians, and I will give a brief history as adapted from Wikipedia

Burundi gained independence in 1962 and initially had a monarchy, but a series of assassinations, coups, and a general climate of regional instability culminated in the establishment of a republic and one-party state in 1966. Bouts of ethnic cleansing and ultimately two civil wars and genocides during the 1970s and again in the 1990s left the country undeveloped and its population as one of the world’s poorest (An estimated 250,000 people died in Burundi from the combined conflicts between 1962 and 1993).

In addition to poverty (Approximately 80% of Burundi’s population lives in poverty), Burundians often have to deal with corruption, weak infrastructure, poor access to health and education services, and hunger. Burundi is densely populated and has had substantial emigration as young people seek opportunities elsewhere.

2015 witnessed large-scale political strife as President Pierre Nkurunziza opted to run for a third term in office, a coup attempt failed and the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections were broadly criticized by members of the international community.

President Nkurunzinza at a previous function.

President Nkurunzinza at a previous function.

In a nutshell, since gaining its independence in 1962, Burundi has not known peace. All Burundians have been treated to is tiny morsels of peace over a 50 years. And by the look of things, the situation is not bound to get any better.

My political sociology lectures cited governance and especially in relation to term limits as one of the main problems bedeviling the African continent and curtailing our cruise through to development. Yes there is corruption and ethnicity as key issues, but then the governments in place have played the role of a catalyst to an already volatile situation.

Attempts have been made all through to compromise between the two dominant ethnic communities, the Hutu and Tutsi, and in fact, in 1995, talks were initiated by Julius Nyerere, the former Tanzania President and upon his death, one of the prominent figures of African nationalism, had a continued with the negotiations that apparently bore little fruit. These were African leaders attempting African solutions to African problems.

Government forces apprehending protesters

Government forces apprehending protesters

Fastrack to 2015 and the story is the same. Today, a woman with her 6 children are homeless. Aimlessly wandering the streets hoping to stumble upon a refugee camp in a neighboring country because of political strife. Peace keeping attempts by the African Union have been rebuffed by the incumbent, and now, the whole continent watches as Burundi reverts to civil war.

This is indeed a sad development. Do we have a shortage of leaders in Africa? Rwanda under Paul Kagame and Uganda under Yoweri Museveni have already sought to doctor their constitutions to give an extra term to the sitting presidents! Whereas their track records may be ‘impeccable’, this is a blatant disregard to the spirit of constitutionalism. Whatever is wrong with a sitting president just retiring and becoming an elder statesman?

Nelson Mandela did it in South Africa, Daniel Moi of Kenya is slowly getting good at it despite his earlier reservations and the same applies to Thabo Mbeki, Benjamin Mkapa, to mention a few.

For how long will we watch as innocent civilians bleed all in the name of advancing a hard-line political statement? Till everyone has fled Burundi? Till more mass graves are unearthed in the deep forests outside the capital of Bujumbura? Till when?

It is not enough for Africa to claim that we can solve our own problems. It is necessary that we show the political goodwill, in the interests of common mwananchi, a factor that keeps lacking in the midst of greed and the politics of amassing wealth and robbing the public coffers.

The AU is a toothless body. At least that is a conclusion we can make thus far. And by the foregoing, we could very well say that without the United Nations, without the International Criminal Court, we may never remember what a semblance of justice feels like. The African leadership wouldn’t want to accord us such a long leash.

African solutions to African problems has not yet matured enough to stand on its own two feet. Today, sad as it may be to admit, we still need #UncleSam to hold our hand and guide us to the generally right direction, and keep hoping that we find it right.

Ooko Victor.

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.

Of Kenya, Uganda, Sugar and Brookside…

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Sorry I could not come up with a better title. This one appeals to me best; the tale of two countries, sugar, and a dairy processing giant in East Africa! To top it all, the politicking surrounding this entire issue having created a buzz that just refuses to go down. The big question here however is, does any of the political factions have the farmers interests at heart?

First, this is not the first time that Sugar has dominated the Kenyan political scene. The decline of Mumias Sugar Factory has been in the limelight for quite sometime now. Just recently, the Kenyan Government released Kshs. 1 Billion to help salvage the dying industry. Whether or not the mission is on its way to fruition is not public knowledge. At least not until it is realized that just like there is always an inlet to pour in ‘rescue funds’ in the name of the farmers, there is also an outlet that is very keen on siphoning every last penny off the sugar millers coffers. This angle however remains unaddressed.

The quantity of sugar consumed locally stands at 720,000 metric tonnes. This against a meager 520,000 metric tonnes produced by the local sugar millers. This therefore implies that we have a deficit of around 200,000 metric tonnes, the exact value for which COMESA had allowed for importation into Kenya, in accordance to the agreed on tonnes. What faces us now is the opening of the floodgates that would in turn see the influx of sugar into the country and a massive reduction in the purchasing cost of the same. The flip-side however will be massive losses by the local companies and maybe even their closure if they are unable to keep up.

 

Is it time we interrogated the level of technology of our local industries vis-a-vis the quantity and quality of sugar produced? If Malawi’s sugar production costs are 4 times lower that Kenya’s, doesn’t that point at something that could be done to improve on our current sugar woes?

It is common knowledge that we shall not always be protected from the market forces. Our industries have to keep up or risk losing out. Kenya needs to keep up pace with the rest of the world if at all we expect to compete effectively, not just where we have strengths but weaknesses too. If the sugar industry is so hot a task to manage then we really should consider privatizing it. That way, not only will efficiency be improved and bureaucracy eliminated, the farmers will be in safer hands. As things stand today, the government is perfecting the art of failing. And no matter the step they take, the ghosts of misappropriation of funds are not going away soon.

 

The opposition has a role in keeping the government in check. However, would they have approached the issue any different from the way government has? The Uganda deal aside, the Kenyan market was set to be opened to sugar products from the COMESA region anyway! So, is the calls for mass action just because Uganda was mentioned somewhere, or is it also in protest of Kenya’s trade agreements within the 19 countries in the COMESA region?

The opposition has not only to be realistic but thorough at approaching the whole issue. The elephant in the room is the high costs of sugar production. If they were lower, then maybe even the threat posed by COMESA would have been of no consequence. If we want to sell we must also buy. And that rule of trade will catch up with us one of these fine days, no matter what the opposition thinks.

Lastly, The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy has threatened to rally its supporters to boycott the products of the Brookside Dairy Company that is affiliated with the President Uhuru Kenyatta. My opinion is that this is a low jab. It is time we stopped personalizing national issues and actually sought to address the real problems affecting Kenyans. How will the boycotting of Brookside products reduce the cost of producing sugar in the country? Singling out companies associated with personality in the name of fighting for the well good of the entire nation is trivial. Does sabotaging one company that also provides jobs and revenues to the country necessarily contribute to national growth?

The opposition needs to get its act together if indeed they are keen on steering this nation one day. Otherwise, they will remain the whining dog that watches another dog gnaw at a bone they so much wish was theirs.

 

Ooko Victor.

Muslims Should Openly Denounce and Fight Terrorism.

Kenya is a secular state. No religion can therefore claim monopoly over the nation and it’s systems. Christians are more than Muslims, yet they are not any more Kenyan than the Muslims are. We are all children of Kenya.

There may have been historical injustices, unequal distribution of resources and outright disregard to the plight of particular regions of the country. Yet we are far much better off than we were ten years ago. We have a new constitution. We have increased representation. We gave devolved governments. The common man’s plight can finally be listened to.

Today, Kenya finds itself where it was close to 17 years ago. The year was 1998 and the scar though healed, is hardly forgotten. Then there was the Kikambala bombings, and much more recently, the Westgate, Mpeketoni, and Garissa massacres. All having the hallmarks of religious chauvinism and faith based intolerance.

What is disturbing is the great silence from our Muslim brothers and sisters. Why when your friends, neighbors, colleagues and even fellow Kenyans are being butchered? Is Allah really a reflection of the fundamentalist foot soldiers that kill, butcher and maim in his name?

Never have I seen Muslim activists take to the streets to protest these killings! Yet when Sharia laws were being reconsidered, there was disquiet. Or does Sharia law allow this heinous murder of innocent civilians just minding their business?

Where is your anger, my Muslim brother, on seeing all those gory images splashed on social media in the name of Allah and Islam? Where is your loud reaction of pain and disgust? Or do you enjoy it when others die while you walk scot-free for being able to recite the ‘Shahada’? Where is your humanity?

If it were the other way round, I would not have sat down to see anyone persecuted for their faith. This is not just terrorism. This is persecution. This is the crudest form of advancing religious ideology!

It is good that Hon. Duale finally saw the need to crack the whip on Alshabaab financiers and sympathizers. It is even more sad if he knew that these people existed all along. All through Westgate, all through Mpeketoni and now Garissa.

I want to be able to trust my Muslim colleagues. Just as I want to see them vent their anger via social media. I want to see them pray for the victims of Alshabaab in their Mosques. I want them to organize forums with other religions to reiterate their stand on freedom of religion.

If none of these happens, and after every attack you are continually spared, then you lack a conscience. How else can I explain the fact that in 5 daily prayer sessions one cannot find time for a Christian friend under persecution?

And worse still, how can someone who prays 5 times a day still find time in between to help in the senseless killing of Students just out to study?

My questions are numerous. Yet desperation drives me to ask them. Type your response. Or write an article to respond to this. I just need to get your opinion on this.

@Ookoscope on Twitter
Email – victorooko@gmail.com

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

United In Death- The Common Leveler

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Gerald Otieno Kajwang’ is dead. Well, this is no longer news to any of us. The media and especially social media has satirized the issue. Others have opted to be the detectives of malice and have already read foul play in his demise. This post is however not about any of that. It is about the rarity of this strange phenomenon called death.

In my primary school days, my headteacher, Mr. Kennedy Kiio Kyeva of the then Vitale HGM would call it the leveler and the avenger of all things. Pretty much the reason why capital punishment is still a thorny issue of debate the world over! That, am afraid is also a topic for another day.

The Kenyan political scene is always abuzz. From electioneering mood to the build ups to the next electioneering mood. Insults and abuses are hurled and court orders obtained. Supporters own their ‘kingpins’ emotions and the cycle continues, all through the post elections era. This is called politics. The battle of ‘ideologies’ and selfish interests. The battle of ‘sycophants’ and ‘rationalists’. Yet at the end of the day, it is never that serious.

The last few days since the demise of the flamboyant politician popular for his mapambano chants in political podiums, have seen the political bigwigs in utter shock and disbelief. The common mwanachi similarly seem not to decipher that this very energetic and charismatic political icon is no more! It is in the same  that I would call to mind the Late Prof. George Saitoti and Hon. Orwa Ojode. Though they are long gone, the reality seems far from the mind.

Politicians have made political statements of condolences and so have technocrats; students in varsities and other professionals in their own capacities. The Late Dr. Myles Monroe who passed on in a recent plane crash may have seemed to have it all figured out.

But then, did he?

Is there ever a moment that one is fully and completely prepared for death? I hold my reservations. Even Christ himself willed for that cup to be lifted; If only by the will of God. Death is indeed the ultimate leveler. The good book says, ‘From dust you came, to dust you will return’. But only when, not if, your time comes.

As the nation prepares to put the Late Hon. Senator to rest, it is my hope that his dreams for Kenya will be realized. His numerous contributions to the legislation as well as representation of Kenyans is surely appreciated. His great sense of humor will be remembered, and especially from the defining clips in the hands of our very able media.

As I seek to pen off, it is my humble hope and desire, that the current peace and tranquility in the political sphere will remain. And that our leaders will engage each other in the spirit of dialog and compromise so as to realize the  objectives they set out to achieve while giving us Kenyans the peace of mind we require to put that hard-earned meal on our tables.

Rest in Peace Mheshimiwa. Rest in Peace Senator. Rest in Peace Hon. Gerald Otieno Kajwang’.

Ooko Victor.