Saturday, 14 October 2017

Kenya’s Current Political Stalemate Calls for Dialogue

Anti-IEBC demonstrations in Kisumu.
Photo: Courtesy
With the uncertainty of the October 26th repeat presidential election growing day by day, the animus between the ardent supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga also seems to be on an upward spiral. This politico-legal conundrum is a consequential effect of the unwillingness by the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance (NASA) to engage in a constructive and comprehensive electoral discourse. 

The electoral body, IEBC, has shown complete lack of effective leadership in steering discussions between the two leading political camps. Apart from the cosmetic show of concern by IEBC to initiate and mediate talks between Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga, the top leadership of this commission has been inconsistent in charting the way forward in regard to the processes and systems leading to the presidential election.

Hard line positions adopted by the Jubilee Party and the NASA coalition are in fact the fundamental basis of the quandary that the country faces. The amendments to the election laws by the Jubilee Party are hell-bent and only meant to trigger chaos in the country. One doesn’t really need to be a rocket scientist to take notice of the ill motives that fuel the Uhuru Kenyatta-led party in pushing for the ‘convenient’ amendments to the election laws.

Jubilee Party’s move highly qualifies as party dictatorship which was the political order during the hey days of the grand old party, KANU, as highlighted in a recent article. The Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi and his Senate counterpart Ken Lusaka, lack the leadership and resolve to preside over the order of business in Parliament particularly at this time. Their failure to provide effective leadership is deeply rooted in the political religiosity that they bear as dictated by their masters.

NASA’s demands, the now famous irreducible minimums, are credible and valid but can all of them be implemented at the moment? Methinks it is impossible to implement a number of the irreducible minimums but at least fundamental changes are necessary since the Supreme Court ruled that the outcome of the nullified presidential election was characterized by illegalities and irregularities.

Weak leadership by IEBC and the Speakers of Parliament to facilitate dialogue within an institutional set up has resulted in the ‘peaceful’ street demonstrations by supporters of Raila Odinga.

‘Peaceful’ Protests
Protests by a section of the supporters of Raila Odinga have been marred by incidences of violence with cases of deaths, injuries, looting and vandalism of property reported. The hallmark of these protests has been the failure to stick to the prescribed laws hence a justification of the subversion of the spirit of constitutionalism.

Take for instance the rogue police officers who have killed and maimed a number of the demonstrators and other innocent Kenyans not involved in the protests. Since the state is riddled with a high degree of complicity we are yet to see the killer police officers being brought to book.

Protesters who infringe on other people’s rights through destruction of property and looting should not be killed. In any case, the law is pretty clear on the course of action to be taken against such individuals with their prosecution guaranteed but not the kind of political persecution we are witnessing. Police brutality must be condemned and not condoned.

Mainstream media seems to be selectively cautious in reporting some of the cases of police brutality. Despite the fact that the police force is intimidating mainstream media from reporting on the inhuman acts by the police, they (media) must come to the realization that they have the right to uncover the injustices. I was expecting to see constant reporting about the act of criminality in which a vehicle rammed into innocent and peaceful protesters. The police officers are yet to arrest the driver of the vehicle. The mainstream media should not hesitate in singling out the rogue police officers.

Presence of a militia group that masquerades as ‘Nairobi Business Community’ raises elemental concerns in regard to the maintenance of law and order and the role of the police in protecting people’s lives as well as property. How did we get to a point in which a gang assumes the responsibilities of the police officers? It is either Kenyan police officers are incompetent or this gang is politically insulated or both.

In my view, the ‘Nairobi Business Community’ is a militia apparently being used by politicians to settle political scores, an affirmation of the heightened political differences and enmity between the leading political camps.  Its dreaded members are ferried in mini-buses to the capital’s central business district to strategically protect 'business interests'. This shouldn’t be the norm in a country that claims to have a progressive constitution with constitutionally mandated institutions.

The recast of the 2007/08 violence script is inevitable due to the re-birth of a police state and hard line political stances. As the scions of Odinga and Kenyatta square out for their political interests, the ghosts of a failed state and a banana republic are within vicinity.

In the event that Mr. Odinga fails to participate in the repeat presidential election and Mr. Kenyatta wins then the legitimacy of the latter’s administration will be seriously dented. Furthermore, Mr. Odinga’s withdrawal will be followed by intensified calls for self-determination (secession).

The negative perception of the governance institutions among Kenyans, depending on one’s political affiliation or way of thinking, is bound to rise. There is no doubt that the National Police Service will continue being perceived as a police force. IEBC’s ratings will also plummet as the electoral body seems to be a spineless institution rocked with suspicions among its senior officials. The Judiciary is already perceived as “enemy of the people” among the majority of Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters. Mr. Kenyatta promised to “fix” the Judiciary after his ‘victory’ was annulled and his sentiments, as echoed by other elected representatives from the Jubilee Party, signal the institutionalization of Executive despotism.

Way Forward
Short-term and long-term politico-legal solutions will be impossible if dialogue is not embraced. With the current impasse, dialogue involving the IEBC, Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kenyatta is crucially important. The IEBC must put its house in order and deliver a free, fair and credible election.

As the possibility of pursuing the secession cause by the NASA coalition and its proxies looms, that is in case Mr. Odinga fails to contest for the election, dialogue will be the most effective way to solve the issues that drive the calls for self-determination. As I documented in a previous article, secession isn’t good for the Republic but the political and economic exclusion practiced by all the administrations since 1963 make it seem a reality and an eventuality.

For the long-term, national dialogue is critically important and the outcome of this should be the adoption of a Parliamentary system of government that would effectively address the possibilities of Executive absolutism, help to establish politically civilized political parties among other short-comings of the current presidential system.

As Winston Churchill stated that “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war”, we must embrace dialogue at this juncture or perish altogether. The sooner we sit on the table and engage constructively, the better for the country’s present and posterity.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Why Kenya is Courting the Path of KANU's Dark Days

A file photo of all the four Kenyan presidents.
Image: Courtesy
 “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. Those are the words uttered by one of the world’s outstanding intellectuals and ideologues, Karl Marx. A classical illustration of Marx’s sentiments cannot be found any further in the Western world other than in Kenya, a country that is suffocating under the yoke of corruption and negative ethnicity.

Under KANU, the Grand Old Party (GOP) of Kenya’s politics, plundering of public resources was the order of the day. In the forty years that the cockerel party graced the country’s politics, the oligarchies of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi had a dubious yet exceptional distinction of not just looting and fashioning tribalism but also curtailing political and personal freedom of their real and perceived enemies.

The repetition of history as a tragedy first took place after Daniel Moi ascended to the presidency with his not-so-clever yet golden philosophy of “following in the footsteps of Jomo Kenyatta”. In following the footsteps of Kenya’s first president, a well-known tribalist and corrupt personality, Moi perfected the art of personalizing the government and the country.

He did this by gagging the political activists, dissenting politicians and even the media. Moi’s word was law a twin semblance to Jomo Kenyatta’s administration. Kibaki’s presidency never overcame the ghosts of corruption and negative ethnicity but at least overshadowed his predecessor’s through remarkable growth of the economy.

The farcical repetition of history has taken place under the administration of Uhuru Kenyatta. In the four years as president, corruption is at its apogee with the plum positions in government being mostly given to members of the Agikuyu and Kalenjin communities, the major political constituencies of the Jubilee Party.

Additionally, it is on record that there have been attempts in the last four and a half years to curtail freedom of the media among other stupid acts of intimidating members of the opposition and other dissenting voices. In fact, it is under the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta that there has been a re-birth of the nuisance of hosting political delegations at State House and the State Lodges akin to Jomo’s and Moi’s eras.

It isn’t a surprise at all bearing in mind that the old man from Baringo and the matriarch of Kenyatta’s family, Mama Ngina Kenyatta are the key behind-the-scenes advisors to Uhuru Kenyatta. Just like the older Kenyatta and Moi, these delegations have turned out to be political orchestras of parading broke political failures seeking to gain some financial windfall and party stalwarts being energized to exercise their sycophancy with a lot of fury.

Recent Happenings
Former president Daniel Moi, after enduring a series of frustrations by the dissenting voices, publicly stated that KANU will rule the country for 100 years. Likened to a giraffe by the doyen of opposition politics, Jaramogi Ajuma Oginga Odinga in his autobiography Not Yet Uhuru, Moi had indeed seen the country’s political future. In the Jubilee Party, I see the reincarnation of KANU famed for legendary corruption with a phenomenal honor of tribalism.

Legislation of the Security Amendment Act in 2015 and the Elections Amendment Act in 2016 without incorporating the participation of legislators from the minority side, illustrate the dead set approach adopted by the Jubilee administration. As a matter of fact, the final motions in the National Assembly to adopt the afore-mentioned laws were preceded by heavy deployment of the police officers.

Selective application and the hell bent interpretation of the law are rife under the era of the Jubilee administration. It is evidentially clear that members and proxies of the opposition who are deemed to have broken the law are treated in a demeaning manner than the surrogates of the Jubilee Party. There are two instances to demonstrate this antiquated political move.

First, peaceful demonstrations by supporters of the opposition are usually marred with violence with the police officers being responsible for instigating the chaos and confusion. This was the case after the announcement of the outcome of the annulled presidential election and most recently, during the short-lived anti-IEBC demonstrations. Protests by Jubilee supporters after the historic ruling by the Supreme Court were peaceful but the police appeared to be acting on instructions from above not to interfere with the fanfare and were even tempted to join the demonstrators in castigating the highest court on the land.

Secondly, the drama surrounding the arrest of Babu Owino, a sophomoric and perhaps an eternally intoxicated politician, following his foul remarks against the president offers some insights on the selective application of the law. Though I do not support Owino’s remarks, the capture and re-capture mechanism employed to ‘teach him a lesson’ should also have been equally used to tame the filthy and incorrigible hate monger, Moses Kuria.

Why does Moses Kuria propagate hate speech yet he seems not to be worried in fact, going to an extent of bragging that the authorities can’t apprehend him? Is it because he represents President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Gatundu South constituency in the National Assembly?

In a video clip doing rounds on social media, the functionally illiterate governor of Nairobi County Mike Sonko, is heard to be uttering obscenities directed at Babu Owino with no action being taken against the former. Double standards by the authorities must fall!

Denigrating attacks against the Supreme Court and the Judiciary, as outlined in a recent article, are reminiscent of the politically warped and perilous thinking during KANU’s regime. We have outlived the era where the Judiciary was an extension of an inept Executive but we are slowly drifting towards the dark past.

A stinking shame and revelation is the party dictatorship that the Jubilee Party seems to be fantasizing with. Still fuming with the majoritarian ruling by the Supreme Court, the threats by the President’s party to check on the powers of the Judiciary seem to be taking shape. The backward and notoriously dangerous legal attempt to allow for any judge of the Supreme Court to swear in the president has no place in modern day Kenya and it will be battled out using a two-pronged approach; through the courts and in the trenches.

Other proposals in the pipeline to amend the current election laws, as proposed by the Jubilee Party, constitute a political travesty. There is lack of proper moral understanding and standing in cementing the country’s democratic gains. Subverting the Constitution based on reckless and wretched short-termism is an exercise in futility.

Cheap thinking by the Executive prompted the withdrawal of the police officers assigned to provide security to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka. The flippant and witless remarks by Fred Matiang’i, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Interior Coordination, that the government will not restore the security of the two political bigwigs is outrageously ignorant and arrogant. This extraordinary ignorance and incredible arrogance is typical of the “Kanuism” ideology of yesteryears. The “Kanunization” of Kenya’s current political architecture is not only evil but also selfish. Creation of a police state is surely taking shape.

Police State & Third Liberation
With the establishment of a police state in the offing, the Constitution is set to be watered down through fatuous legislations and amendments as well as unconstitutional acts. Who wants to live in a country in which one’s activities are closely monitored by the state? Is Kenya turning into a ‘Museveni Republic’ or the dreaded days of the feared Special Branch effectively used by Daniel Moi? These acts of paranoia and dogma by those running the affairs of the state are an impediment to Kenya’s progress and eventual politico-economic prosperity.

Frustrations harbored by the oppressed may erupt into an uncontrolled spurt of mass action that will be the genesis of Kenya’s Third Liberation. In any case, the Third Liberation will be a political and historical juncture firmly informed by and founded on the negatives of political exclusivity, political excesses and negative ethnicity.

Occurrence of the Third Liberation will be a struggle against the cumulative ills of the past and present governments whose eventuality would involve hallmark changes to the Constitution with great focus on the total transformation of the electoral and political systems. Perhaps, the sweeping changes of the Third Liberation are needed to restore morals and sanity in the country’s political leadership.

The attempt to institutionalize a police state and a government that embraces the “Kanuism” ideology is totally unacceptable. For the politically upright and astute citizens this is a moment to jealously guard the country’s hard-fought political gains.


Friday, 22 September 2017

Attacks against the Judiciary Denigrate Institutional Independence

Supreme Court judges during court proceedings
Image: Courtesy

The last three weeks have been characterized by infantile political scenes and irritable political episodes following the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court to nullify the outcome of the presidential election. The scenes and episodes in question are nonetheless hypnotized political rhetoric that outrightly negate and demean the spirit of constitutionalism.

Honchos, the rank and file, sympathizers and the passionate supporters of the Jubilee Party and its candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, feel aggrieved by the majoritarian decision of the Supreme Court. In any polity that fashions and attempts to emulate the ideals of democracy, criticism is certainly warranted. The criticism, however, ought to be constructive and positive and not destructive and negative. For President Kenyatta and his camp, negative and destructive criticism of the Supreme Court is indeed supreme than the otherwise ideal constructive and positive criticism.

In understanding the vile and bile meted out to the so-called architects of the ‘Supreme Coup’, it is fundamentally important to revisit the institutional history of the Kenyan polity. As a country, we are still nursing hangovers of institutional complicity and conspiracy between the arms of government despite transiting from the retrogressive Lancaster constitutional doctrine to a more progressive legal dispensation.

Ideologically, we are accustomed to the evil antics of the Judiciary shielding the Executive without the requisite adherence to the rule of law. This culture was engendered by Jomo Kenyatta, perpetuated by Daniel arap Moi, observed by Mwai Kibaki and now being affirmed and cemented by Uhuru Kenyatta.

There is no doubt that the president and his associates are the unrivaled masters of double speak going by the black and white sentiments uttered in regard to the functions as well as importance of institutions. On several occasions, the president and his troops are on record urging members of the opposition to address their grievances through the courts. In fact, following the opposition’s dispute of the now annulled presidential election results, Jubilee’s leadership was categorical in persuading Raila Odinga and his compatriots to seek the intervention of the Supreme Court.

What changed? Is it that the Jubilee Party expected the Supreme Court to rule in its favor? I find it an extreme act of political destitution and constitutional disrespect by individuals who took an oath of office to protect the values and ideals of the constitution to constantly attack the four judges of the Supreme Court without any legal merit.

Threats by Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and the Jubilee Members of Parliament to whittle down the powers of the Judiciary are a subversion of the constitution and more precisely, a plan to carry out a constitutional coup. Issuance of threats by the Executive directed towards the Judiciary is an antiquated political antic that invalidates the maxim of the rule of law. Politically liberated and conscious citizens should not allow such a warped legal precedence to define Kenya’s fledgling democracy.

Political propaganda continues to take centre stage with various plots hatched to oust the four judges who declared the presidential results null and void. Fallacies by the Jubilee side of the political divide indicate that there was connivance between the four Justices and the Raila Odinga led NASA coalition. Propagators of this supposed golden propaganda are inherently hell bent and selective with facts. In any case, the actions of Jubilee’s leadership and its proxies amount to fashioning the doctrine of alternative facts.

At this rate, we are headed towards a direction where the Executive will be dictating the order of business in Parliament and what judgments are to be made by the courts akin to the dubious political games witnessed during the Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi’s administrations. As a matter of fact, there are two instances under the Jubilee administration in which the Executive has convoluted with its “tyrannical” majority in the National Assembly to legislate fishy pieces of legislations. These tyrannical episodes were during the passage of the Security Amendment Act and the Election Laws Amendment Act. We should carefully read between the lines.

Independence of the Judiciary is at stake with judges expected to rule in favor of the Jubilee Party. This certainly doesn’t observe and adhere to the sanctity of governance institutions. The Jubilee side of the political divide should stop these juvenile sideshows laced with outbursts of anger. Remarks made by Jubilee Party’s leadership on the conduct of the Supreme Court are notoriously dangerous in view of the spirit of constitutionalism. The president, his deputy and other Jubilee supporters must demonstrate in deed and not just in mere words that they respect the verdict of the Supreme Court.

Going forward, Kenyans of goodwill should not allow the political leadership to suppress and stamp out the fundamental ideals that informed the genesis of the Second Liberation. To this effect, institutional independence in accordance with our national constitution must reign supreme.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Key Issues & Concerns as Kenya & Rwanda Head to Polls

Image: Courtesy

Two member states of the East African Community (EAC), Rwanda and Kenya will be holding their elections four days apart this month. Rwanda is expected to kick-start the exercise on Friday August 4th while Kenya will be conducting the general election on Tuesday August 8th.

These two polities have similarities and differences socially, economically and politically. Rwanda’s political environment is perceived to be authoritative with President Paul Kagame viewed as a political leader bearing dictatorial tendencies. On the other hand, Kenya’s political landscape is considered to be democratic.

One of the contemporary challenges that African states face is neo-colonialism. Political neo-colonialism manifests itself in the nagging manner in which Western states and non-state actors, intellectuals and the academic establishment direct African nations to adopt the system of democracy and its principles.

This has resulted in the mushrooming of Western democratic franchises in Africa which do not embrace the existing socio-political and economic conditions of the continent. To me, the Rwandese people are not led by a despot as claimed by most of the Western world entities. They have only adopted a system that suits their local conditions.

Considered to be one of the democratic models in Africa with democratic institutions, Kenya is also well-known in the world when it comes to corruption. The Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International in January 2017 ranks Kenya at position 145 out of 176 countries in the world. The high rate of corruption in Kenya means that the so called democratic institutions in the country are neither effective nor efficient.

Rwanda, on the other hand, has managed to effectively deal with corruption even as President Kagame continues to be accused of being a “strongman”. The same report ranks Rwanda at position 50 out of 176 countries in the world and the 3rd least corrupt country in Africa. This is an indication that governance institutions in Rwanda are very effective.

When it comes to healthcare, Kenya is no match to Rwanda despite the former having a high number of medical practitioners, medical training institutions and medical facilities. Rwanda stands out in Africa having formulated and implemented the universal healthcare system. This system enables all the Rwandese citizens to access healthcare services.

The situation is different in Kenya with most Kenyans finding it difficult to access affordable and high quality healthcare services. The day that the country’s most corrupt yet highly paid politicians will seek for medical attention in public hospitals, is the moment when the healthcare system will no longer be broken.

Despite having a constitution that is considered as one of the best in the world with democratic institutions, Kenya is really struggling with the political inclusion and representation of women. In the 11th Parliament, women accounted for only 19.7% of the total number of MPs in the National Assembly and 26% in the Senate. Unfortunately, most of these women parliamentarians are nominated. In fact, the 11th Parliament failed to pass the Gender Bill yet this is an institution admired by many in Africa.

For Rwanda, women representation in Parliament is close to 60% which is the highest in the world. Indeed, the dictatorial regime seems to be performing extremely well in the inclusion of women in political representation.

Even on basics such as environmental cleanliness, Rwanda outsmarts Kenya. Compare the capital cities of the two countries, Kigali and Rwanda. Kigali is a very clean city in comparison to Nairobi which is full of filth left, right and centre. The county government of Nairobi has failed terribly on waste management. But also the residents of Nairobi lack the discipline and common sense of keeping the environment clean.

Kenya’s economy is more developed than that of Rwanda despite the latter registering high rates of economic growth in the last ten years. However, the level of inequality and economic destitution in Kenya is high. Political and economic institutions have failed to address the country’s economic disparities.

President Paul Kagame, loathed and loved by many, has been successful in leading the country. Under his leadership, Rwanda has established effective institutions that are results-driven. Kenya is reeling from the confusion created by the constitution in terms of the governance institutions. These institutions have so far not been effective with the main problem being the poor quality of the country’s political leadership.

As Kagame is assured of winning another term in office, many still question his decision not to let go the presidency. But if majority of Rwandese have given him a go ahead, who are we to question and pester him? There are certainly various ways of attaining socio-economic progress and not necessarily the one dictated by Western governments and entities.

Deng Xiaoping, the man credited with spearheading China’s market reforms and economic resurgence, famously stated that “it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”, indicating that economic growth and development can be achieved through various politico-economic systems. So, why don’t we appreciate that Kagame has invented a system that suits Rwanda?

The democratic Kenya faces a high stakes election that can either be won by the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, or Raila Odinga. Kenya’s economic progress has been hampered by corruption with poor accountability of public financial resources. Kenya’s governance institutions are largely ineffective with incompetent individuals.

Rwanda’s authoritarian regime has effective institutions while Kenya’s democratic regime is struggling with institutional efficacy. As the two states head to the polls, the future of their citizens will highly depend on the outcome of the elections with regards to the organization of the governance institutions. For the two, it is a date with destiny.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Sonkorism versus Elitism Underpin the Capital’s Gubernatorial Race

Left to right Peter Kenneth, Mike Mbuvi and Evans Kidero.
Image: Courtesy
Touted to be one of the epic duels in the forthcoming general elections, Nairobi’s gubernatorial race presents an opportunity for key lessons to be learnt in view of the morals and perceptions of a society; the perceived ills, dissension and reality of the economy; and the cherished ideals, values and doctrines in a polity. The society, economy and polity in reference are basically a representation of Nairobi and extensively the Republic of Kenya.

The frontrunners in the capital’s gubernatorial race are the incumbent Dr. Evans Kidero and the current Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko whose triumph will largely depend on the level of significance and sophistication that Peter Kenneth will bring into the race. Viewed from a superficial standpoint, Nairobi’s gubernatorial race appears to be a battle that will feature the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and the Jubilee Party. With pristine insight, however, the gubernatorial race in Nairobi County is a duel that centres on the failed promises of the political elite as well as the elite individuals and the hope that the populist mantra of political leadership gives to the majority of the electorate and/or citizens.

Dr. Evans Kidero, Peter Kenneth and Miguna Miguna are quintessentially members of the elite and hence their policies and even ideologies tend to largely subscribe to the ideals and the values of elitism. Mike Sonko, the flamboyant Senator who had embraced the ruffian brand of politics until his recent nomination as Jubilee Party’s gubernatorial candidate, is a master of the populist politics and his values and ideals perfectly resonate with the thoughts and wishes of the common folk and more specifically the average Nairobian.

The elitist gubernatorial candidates have often-times chided Senator Sonko as a political leader who is incapable of steering the affairs of Nairobi County particularly in the management of the economy a notion that is widely shared among Nairobi’s elites who most of the times are out of touch with the reality. The Senator as usual continues to fire back at the so-called learned political class terming it a bunch of PhD holders who have failed to turn-around the fortunes of the capital’s residents. This jibe by the Senator of course demeans the value of academia and extensively the values of intellectualism but I have to admit that it is the bitter truth and the harsh reality.

Criticism directed to the Senator’s populist politics and the activities of the Sonko Rescue Team appear to be more than correct from an outsider’s perspective. The outsider’s standpoint in this case represents the thoughts of the elites who as I noted earlier on tend to fashion formality which has made them to be out of touch with the reality. The activities and operations of the Sonko Rescue Team can be classified as a “collection of informal policies in action" which in fact forms a basis for further research on the viability, validity and vibrancy of such kind of policies within Kenya’s economy and polity.

An insider’s perspective that is shared among the average Nairobians reveals that indeed the Sonko Rescue Team has been beneficial and one needs to take a walk to the informal and low-income settlements or get to hear from the common folk in order to come to terms with the reality. I cannot dispute the fact that the Senator has also used this opportunity to gain political currency but the factual information on the ground and the fallacious imaginations fabricated by majority of the elite are clearly distinct as day and night.

The Sonko Rescue Team is an outcome of a failed and flawed policy implementation process especially by the county government of Nairobi. If the economic heaven that Nairobians were promised by the incumbent was to happen, then I strongly believe that the Sonko Rescue Team would have been emasculated and perhaps casted to the oblivion. It is therefore the failure by the current government of Nairobi County to honor the social contract it signed with the Nairobians 4 years ago that has made the Sonko Rescue Team to be a vibrant outfit and hence presenting the Team Sonko as a juggernaut in the capital’s gubernatorial race.

Senator Mike Sonko has positioned himself as the voice of the voiceless and an advocate of the ordinary Nairobian. This is the cohort of the capital’s electorate that turns out in large numbers to vote and it is Nairobi’s populace that literally runs the city’s informal economy. The informal economy is larger than the formal economy in Nairobi and Kenya as a whole. A larger informal economy and a smaller formal economy is one of the distinctive features of a dual economy. Nairobi region contributes more than 60% of Kenya’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and these estimates are majorly from the recorded formal economic activities. The informal economy creates approximately 85% of the total employment opportunities generated by the Kenyan economy of which Nairobi is largely responsible for.

The consideration and inclusion of the informal economy activities implies that indeed Nairobi contributes more than 75% of the total income generated in Kenya through formal and informal means. In short, it is the Senator who comes across as having a “realistic” plan for the Nairobians who eke out their living in the informal economy. The elitist political club of his opponents in the gubernatorial race cuts an image of an enemy of the informal economy with their economic ideologies and aspirations largely coming out as illusions of grandeur.

Party affiliation and tribal arithmetic are key factors that will determine the outcome of who will win Nairobi’s gubernatorial race but my bet is on Sonko to carry the day due to the failure of the political leadership of the incumbent. Nairobi is a cosmopolitan region and just like last time when the majority decided that Dr. Kidero was best suited to be the Governor than the battle-hardened Ferdinand Waititu, this time round the metrics will be based on the mega promises of the elite and the aspirations of the Sonkorism school of thought.

And by the way, some elites hold the opinion that the Senator’s lackluster performance in the Senate in terms of intellectually contributing to debates and drafting bills dwarf his ambition to be the next Governor of Nairobi County. But the reality is how many voters think of the debates and bills fronted by their representatives in Parliament when voting? Or rather, how many voters religiously follow the Parliamentary proceedings so as to know how intelligent their representatives are? In fact, majority of Nairobians voted for Mike Sonko as the Senator in the last general elections without considering how well or poor he was going to contribute to the Senate proceedings. The triumph of Sonko in the gubernatorial race will be an epochal moment and perhaps it’s time to taste new waters. The ultimate decision rests with the voters.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Of the Wagging Tail & Kenya’s Food Politics

Maize flour on the shelves of a supermarket.
Photo: Courtesy
For the common folk and the underclass of Kenya’s populace, their lives have literally been thrown into chaos following the on-going increase in prices of some of the commodities that are largely consumed by the households. The continuous rise in the prices of such commodities is said to be as a result of a number of factors depending on which side of the political divide you associate with and how knowledgeable you are as far as understanding the Kenyan economy is concerned.

Of course most of the supporters of the current regime and the not-so-insightful individuals relate the price increases to the perceived ‘natural’ forces of demand and supply backing up their arguments with explanations of how the market is adjusting itself naturally to the prevailing economic conditions. On the other hand, the associates of the other side of the political divide and a good number of Kenyans hold the view that perhaps the upward spiral of prices is the outcome of the activities propelled by the robber barons and a systemic failure of the current administration to fulfill its promise of lowering the cost of living for the majority of the Kenyans.

As to whether both political camps are correct or not, is for you to figure out as each is in the business of justifying its rhetoric with ‘facts’ with the end being to gain political mileage. The political class is part of the economic chaos and this will be evident later on in this article. With economic insight, it cannot be disputed whatsoever that the forces of demand and supply are responsible for the current increase in prices of some of the basic commodities. The crux of the matter, however, is the exact nature of these perceived forces of demand and supply in view of the continuous rise in the prices of commodities. Are the forces truly natural as posited by one school of thought as highlighted in the previous paragraph? Or are the forces largely artificial?

With the acknowledgement that depressed rainfall levels in 2016 led to a significant decline in the total yield of maize, sugarcane, rice and wheat, economic wisdom dictates and extensively reveals that the current situation is largely a creation of the proprietors and rent-seekers of the underworld economy. These are the robber barons and the cartels that are alive in the country. In the world, the activities and operations of any society, polity or economy are under the control of the cartels and the interest groups irrespective of whether an entity cherishes and embraces the ideals of capitalism, the values of socialism or a hodge-podge of the two systems.

In his book, Naked Economics, Charles Wheelan an economist and public policy analyst likens the operations of the cartels and interest groups in an economy to the tail wagging the dog. Yes, the tail wagging the dog and not the dog wagging the tail. This illustrates just how powerful the cartels are and such is the case in Kenya. The presence and vibrancy of the cartels in the economy is a strong indication of market failure which calls for government intervention in the economy especially in the production and distribution of the basic commodities including food.

A holistic look at the Kenyan price conundrum leaves a lot to be desired in the general management of the economy and most importantly the implementation of the relevant and existing economic and/or agricultural policies. Reflecting on the maize and sugar “shortage” in the country, a number of fundamental questions and concerns need to be posed and raised at the same time: how effectively and efficiently are the existing agricultural policies being implemented? Is it possible that the political leadership in Kenya tends to ignore the advice given by government agencies as part of the mitigation measures? How efficient is the absorption of funds set aside for the food security programmes and projects? In what way do the cartels outsmart the political leadership? Or is the political leadership in Kenya a conduit for the cartels?

The ship with the maize imported from S.Africa.
Photo: Courtesy
At the inception of the Jubilee administration in March 2013, promises were firmly made on how Kenya would be the foremost food secure country not just in the Eastern African region but the entire continent of Africa. It was at the backdrop of these promises that the idea of irrigating one million acres of arable land was mooted and conceptualized with the outcome being the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project. Over Kshs.10 billion have been allocated to this project over the last four years but the trickle-down effect is yet to be witnessed by majority of the Kenyans. From my perspective, the below par performance of the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project is majorly due to two main factors: there is a high possibility that the feasibility studies conducted to ascertain the viability of the Galana-Kulalu project were poorly done at the expense of gaining political capital; secondly, the funds allocated each financial year towards the financing of the project are poorly absorbed due to financial bureaucracy and corruption.

Kenya prides herself in being the most advanced economy in the Eastern Africa region but in a country where affordability of the basic commodities is a preserve of the haves illustrates just how cards are being shuffled under the table. Maize is Kenya’s staple food and any right-thinking citizen would expect that the political leadership would rise to the occasion to cushion the average Kenyan against any shortage that might be experienced. Towards the end of 2016, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) issued early warnings on the La Nina effects responsible for the depressed rainfall experienced in most parts of the country. The Executive and Parliament responded by stating that the necessary measures have been put in place to ensure that there is a constant supply of maize. This is hence a situation that the political leadership was well aware of not now but last year.

It is from such information from the NDMA and other agencies that the cartels began positioning themselves strategically; they hatched schemes to create an artificial shortage of maize. In fact, having known that last year’s total production of maize fell in the country from 43 million bags to around 37 million bags, the cartels were smiling all the way as opportunities to import maize were in the offing. It should be noted that Kenya has over the years been importing maize and maize flour from countries such as Uganda, Tanzania and even at one time from Malawi. Acknowledging the principle and concept of comparative advantage in trade between nations, it is comical for a country like Kenya that has a high agricultural potential to be importing a food crop like maize.

Fast forward, the ‘shortage’ of maize apparently forced the government to import maize and this came after the tax exemptions on maize and wheat imports as per the Budget Policy Statement presented by the Cabinet Secretary of The National Treasury in the National Assembly in March this year. Conflicting reports have been issued by some of the senior government officials on just who is importing the maize and the point of origin of the imported maize. Initially, reports issued by the government stated that maize was to be imported from Mexico with the importing entity solely being the government. Later on, it emerged that the maize was to be imported from South Africa by three private companies. Conflicting information and communication is a strong indicator that perhaps things are not adding up and it is from such that you can be able to detect the machinations of the cartels. As a matter of fact, the consignment of maize that has just been imported was apparently ordered late last year by the importing firms.

Packaged sugar on sale at a supermarket.
Photo: Courtsey
Turning to sugar, savage politics and economics shaped by the cartels continue to haunt this industry. At the moment, a 2 kg packet of sugar retails at approximately Kshs.400. Still there are some people who believe that the natural forces of demand and supply are fully responsible for the current shortage! The discipline of Economics, however, gives leverage to individuals to present different arguments and belong to different schools of thought hence the commonality of the phrase “on the other hand…” In August 2015, there was a heated debate around the country following the deal signed between the current administration and the Ugandan government to import sugar from Uganda. Kenya’s demand for sugar exceeds the local supply and this necessitates the importation of sugar but the supply deficit has never been chronic.  How then is it possible that most of the sugar companies excluding Butali Sugar Mills and West Kenya have been closed for regular maintenance? If so, then what informs such action that is devoid of any form or kind of strategic thinking? Let’s forget about the regular maintenance stuff because it has been happening year in year out. This is the strong hand of the cartels busy at controlling the economy.

The poor performance of the sugar-milling factories seems to be more of a political issue than an economic issue. The sugar industry has been politicized resulting in vague resuscitation programmes such as the common bail-outs from the national government. The sugar industry is under the manacles of the cartels and the latter strongly dictate which sugar-milling company is to be bailed out or not.

Fundamentally, the current economic chaos that is yet to morph into an economic crisis is as a result of an inconsistent political leadership. A consistent political leadership, both at the National Assembly and the Executive, would ensure that the formulated agricultural/economic policies such as the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and Vision 2030 are implemented as expected and would also viciously fight the cartels. Political leaders and other experts should not be talking about seeking for long-term solutions because there are existing economic blueprints whose implementation is erratic and inconsistent. The cartels in the Kenyan economy fashion the vicious circle of poverty and are sworn enemies of the ideal virtuous circle of prosperity. The tail (cartels) has successfully wagged the dog (Kenya).

This article was first published on

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Party Nominations Are a Reflection of Kenya’s Political Culture

Police officers providing security during a party nomination exercise in Mombasa.
Courtesy: Daily Nation
The electioneering period in Kenya is usually an interesting and eventful moment but how interesting it is solely remains to be a function of either one’s apolitical nature or level of political consciousness. Bearing the apolitical attitude is a dangerous precedence and a risky affair that not only undermines our Republic’s Constitution, in view of the responsibilities accorded to the citizens, but also jeopardizes the institutionalization of a moral and visionary political leadership for our state.

That a moderate and high level of political consciousness will translate to the establishment of a better political leadership is a fact and not a reverie basing on the political trajectories adopted by the polities that are perceived as democratic around the world. The electorate should exercise political consciousness at all times and not at certain times as it is the case for Kenya. This noble consciousness needs to take root right from the operations/activities of the political parties and should not just be exercised at the national political level.

Fast forward, the last few days have been crucial for the political parties with respect to the nomination exercise. As anticipated, the process has been characterized with incidences of violence, logistical challenges and other electoral malpractices such as rigging. The occurrence of the aforementioned activities is a pointer that there still exists an institutional as well as organizational weakness in view of the structural mapping of political parties in Kenya. One may argue out that a number of political parties have conducted their nominations in a peaceful manner but such a postulation is ignorant of the reality that defines and describes Kenya’s political architecture. What then is this reality?

To begin with, parties that manage to conduct their nominations without any cases of rigging, logistical challenges or chaos are not largely popular. Case in point, the nominations of the Orange Democratic Movement and the Jubilee Party of Kenya. It follows then that parties which conduct the primaries seamlessly are political outfits that are popular just within some political circles with their overarching feature being a narrow political base however significant this may turn out to be.

The party nominations present lessons and insight on the underlying fundamentals that guide and govern the politics practiced in the Republic of Kenya. It is therefore a perfect illustration of the “part” representing the “whole.” The political craziness and madness that grips the parties is a further representation of the values that are embraced by the political leadership of this state. The genesis of these shenanigans that are now becoming a permanent feature for the parties is the form and way in which these political parties are formed and how they operate. In one of the articles that I penned last year, I clearly argued on the ideological deficiency syndrome that affects political parties in the Kenyan polity.

Head of Jubilee Party Secretariat, Raphael Tuju, at a press conference.
Image: Courtesy
Political parties in Kenya are established based on the interests of personalities and not on the supreme agenda of the citizens. As a consequence, we have parties that only serve as special purpose vehicles and can be folded up at any point in time which proves to be a critical juncture. From the outset, therefore, it can be noticed that the mode of formation of the parties is one of the intrinsic weaknesses. Since political parties are centred on personalities, it implies that their operations are funded by individuals who are close associates of the parties’ bigwigs. In addition, this also means that the parties’ rank and file comprises of the people who have good “connections” with the parties high and mighty irrespective of how irredeemably incompetent they may be.

Rigging of the party nominations and other stage-managed antics and activities occur because most of the Governors and other incumbent politicians are some of the main financiers of the political parties. How then do you expect an individual who has been largely financing the party to “lose” the nominations? Logically, in the Kenyan political context it cannot work. The delays in the starting of the voting exercise in the party primaries and other logistical challenges that have been reported are some of the antics that have been stage-managed by the political parties to create apathy among the voters so that the preferred candidates carry the day. Even the parties’ high and mighty are well aware of this scheme.

Consequences & the Future
Chaotic and shambolic party primaries informed the decision by some of the aspirants to decamp to the political parties which are perceived as safe bets while a significant number of those who seemed to be confident of their parties but were rigged out have opted to contest as independent candidates in the forthcoming general elections.

ODM Elections Board chairperson Judith Pareno and commissioner Ismael Aden.
Courtesy: The Star
Going into the future, there will be a paradigm shift and change of Kenya’s political architecture based on two factors. Firstly, if parties are not going to conduct their nominations in a manner that is organized then we should expect that the number of independent candidates in the subsequent elections will increase. In fact, even in this year’s general elections, the number of independent candidates is going to be higher when compared to the 2013 general election. I therefore presuppose that at least there will be one candidate or so elected as a Governor with a good number elected as Members of Parliament and the County Assemblies.

Secondly, there will be an increase in the formation of new parties with their party leaders being mostly the Governors. The subsequent elections will witness an increased number of the small but strategic parties led by a number of Governors. This scenario will be more evident if the major political parties do not embrace sobriety with regard to the conduction of the nominations. The 2017 general election will present an opportunity for these small but strategic parties to have their candidates elected in all the political positions except the presidency.

Political Party Reformations
Despite the fact that the Kenyan polity is a fledgling multi-party democracy, there is need to ensure that reforms are carried out to inject some significant degree of proper organization and sobriety within the structures of the political parties. The reforms should effectively address and cover the following issues:
  • Amending the Political Parties Act to ensure that parties within the Republic of Kenya are citizen-based and not centred around personalities. 
  • Recruiting competent and qualified staff at the secretariats of the respective political parties.
  •  Instituting capacity building and development programmes for the officials who conduct the party primaries. This should be done on a continuous basis and not just three days or one week before the nominations as it is currently carried out.
  • Ensuring that parties have updated databases of their party members so that only the bonafide members participate in the nominations.

The political parties ought to adopt the institutional model of running their activities and not the current dispensation which fashions a lot of mediocrity because it is primarily based on a short-term agenda. The institutional model focuses on the long-term by helping to nurture competent political leaders and in shaping the policy debate of the country’s path to economic development as well as structural transformation. Strong and mature political parties beget a vibrant and mature democracy.