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.

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#WeAreOne: Celebrating the Mandera Heroes

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The security threat posed by the Alshabaab on Kenya has refused to go away. Every other day, we live with the fear of a new report about an explosive device recovered here or a hijacked passenger bus elsewhere. In each of these instances, the real test has been on whether we as Kenyans would allow ourselves to be divided alongside radical religious lines.

The selfless move by the Muslim passengers in the ill fated bus to shield their Christian counterparts from the Alshabaab bullets is an embodiment of true brotherhood. It is a victory of sorts against the religious propaganda wars waged by the fundamentalist groups. And a refreshing counter narrative for Kenya at this time before the seeds of religious intolerance began to take root.

The Pope’s recent visit to Africa reminded all people that it doesn’t matter what religion you are in. The most important thing for us is to keep our humanity. To maintain true brotherhood and to have great love and compassion to our neighbours.

The Alshabaab are a politically disgruntled lot that has opted to use religious allegiance to sow discord amongst nations and to further play god in deciding who deserves to live or die. The rate at which fellow innocent human beings are losing their lives, all in the name of making a political statement is sickening. And the whole world needs to borrow a leaf from the #ManderaHeroes on the need for uniting as one against terrorism.

Terrorist activities are in no way meant to benefit the Muslim religion either. Examples of countries that have experienced untold strife as a result of these fundamentalists are largely dominated by Muslim populations. Countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran are not predominantly Christian. Terrorism therefore is not Islamic in nature, and hence the need to rise up and unite against its perpetuation.

It is close to a year now since the Garissa University attacks which left families of more than 147 victims devastated. The #ManderaHeroes have greatly contributed to a change in that narrative. Today, we can hope again. Today we can look at each other United as victims of a war we never asked for. And because of that, we can choose to overlook religious differences as a determinant of who lives and who doesn’t.

The media should gobble down this story like never before. We now have a new lease of life against terrorism. A new narrative behind which we can renew the call for brotherhood and nationalism. As a country, we are grappling with a number of economic and governance issues, but we should not let religious intolerance find its way to that list. And even as we struggle for survival in these harsh economic times, let’s keep reminding these terrorists that indeed, #WeAreOne.

Ooko Victor