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.

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

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.

#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

The Shades of Love

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Love
The potent 4 lettered word
Yet still attractive to the attentive
Enough to get heads rolling
And minds boggling

When sincere, it is a joy
When shared it nurtures hope
Belief that we are valued
We are appreciated
And that someone understands

When feigned, love hurts
It is exploitative and manipulative
It shatters dreams and disrupts futures
It is a double-edged sword
That just won’t stop cutting

No one really gets it
Not even they that have it
No formula is consistent
No approach is certain
Love is mysterious

Experts say,
Guard your feelings
True love waits…
Yet others have lost
Just because they held their horses!

Others say,
There is love at first sight
And that tomorrow never comes
Yet in seeming so eager
They appeared so desperate

There is never the way
The one true way
There are shades of love
You get what you can have
And if you do, count yourself lucky!

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.

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.

The Loss of the Beloved

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Death is cruel,
And life a big fat joke
Today you’re here,
Alive and well
Yet tomorrow finds you gone
Reaped away from your beloved

Waking up to each day,
With plans set in place
Oblivious of the next second,
minute or hour
Is our nature as humanity,
Our weakness as God’s creation

Seeing our friends leave,
never to come back
Is the price we pay
For loving them,
The cost of relying on them
And celebrating their existence

Today, like yesterday
Another one of us is gone
Today, like any other day
We are reminded of our mortality
Our limited time
In this life we take for granted

We choose to say thank you
For the moments we shared
We choose the silver lining
The hope and enthusiasm,
The humility and commitment
You taught us to always have.

And as we lay you to rest
Believing that you’re headed
To that better place
Our hearts are heavy
Our eyes teary,
But our hearts stronger.

Rest in Peace Kennedy
Again WE SHALL MEET.

 

Ooko Victor.

Of Kenya, Uganda, Sugar and Brookside…

sug

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.