Sunday, 28 June 2015

Political Immaturity That Shadowed The Week.

The ending week was one that had political events that were intriguing and interesting. I think Kenya and especially the Kenyan politicians will always hit the headlines for reasons that are apparently negative. They will always carve out the negativity out of the positive situations and events of nation-building. Hitting the nail on the head, there are specific happenings that I will write about.

First, what was the exact reason why some of the residents of Kibra (Kibera) decided to burn some of the public facilities the national government is putting up in this part of Nairobi? Definitely, somebody is likely to answer by uttering the usual political shenanigans. I found this incident to be queer and bizarre. Look, here is the central government trying to better the lives of the Kibera residents who have always cried foul of why they are never helped by the government and due to some skewed thinking, physical destruction was hence in the offing. I wish to dissect the precursory events to the Kibra happenstance. 

So, our dear former Premier the Right Honorable Raila Odinga claimed that the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Devolution and Planning, Anne Waiguru was responsible for the scam at the National Youth Service where it has been alleged that over Kshs.800 million was embezzled. This resulted in protests in the capital city by some of the youths who have benefited through employment from the on-going NYS projects. These young Kenyans took to the streets to discredit the opposition chief for not changing the lives of the Kibrans for the entire period of time he was the Member of Parliament for Lang’ata. In due cause of the peaceful demonstrations, there were allegations that Raila Odinga was being abused by youths hired from Kiambu County.

The abuses apparently angered the supporters of the Orange party leader who saw it fit to destroy some of the NYS projects initiated by the national government. This is a state of myopia and backwardness. Do these people really know that at the end of the day, Raila will not troop to  their houses to wine and dine with them? Do they have the imagination that Raila lives a royal-like life and uses luxurious facilities? The bile that exists between Raila’s supporters and those of President Uhuru is so intense. It is illogical and politically incorrect to set ablaze social facilities set up by the government with the misplaced view that it belongs to the other side of the political divide. The misconstrued notion is that the NYS projects in Kibra belong to President Kenyatta, his entire government and supporters. This is political immaturity at its highest point.

In any case, the president is a symbol of national unity and we should thus embrace whoever wins this seat irrespective of our political inclinations and ideologies. Therefore, it is the right of each citizen to have better living standards and in the same spirit, it is the responsibility of each government to ensure that this is effected. I choose to sympathize with the Kenyans who took part in the chaos that ensued in Kibera due to their ignorance which is sometimes an incurable disease. It is the nature of such events that we are truly pictured as politically immature as we always tend to drag political affairs in matters that deal with development or rather we smear the development issues with destructive politics.

The bailing out of Mumias Sugar Company elicited politically charged emotions with political temperatures also rising. A delegation of 15 MPs from western Kenya lead by the ODM Secretary General, Ababu Namwamba paid a visit to President Uhuru in State House in a bid to rescue the sugar miller and their efforts were rewarded by the issuance of a cheque worth Kshs.1 billion. Personally, I never saw anything wrong with it provided that the local farmers are enduring harsh and unbearable economic moments. 

However, others chose to see it as a political gesture by Ababu Namwamba to lean towards the government side for political gains and survival. It might be true or false but in my own opinion, it is a bit of tomfoolery for some of the opposition members to berate their colleagues who were at State House. They were scolded because western Kenya is considered as a backyard of Raila Odinga. But again who said that any part or region of Kenya belongs to somebody? In other words, since Raila didn’t capture the presidency then this means that western Kenya should remain largely undeveloped. This is what some of the opposition members are communicating. This is again political immaturity at its highest. 

We should change tact in our political way of thinking by engaging in politics that enhance development instead of crippling development through the promotion of destructive and negative politics. Being in the opposition doesn’t mean that its members should be resigned to such positions and state where they cannot engage with the government for the sake of the welfare of Kenyans. Before I forget, what is the point of a political leader stripping naked just because of allegations that Raila was abused by the Deputy President William Ruto? And is it foolhardy for one to refer to Raila as Raila baba, Raila mwana, Raila roho mtakatifu ( Raila the father, Raila the son and Raila the holy spirit) ? To me, these are not only jokes taken too far but also insanity that stems from political sycophancy.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Political Review of The Eastern Africa Region; 2015 and Beyond.

The political situation of the Eastern Africa region will surely be redefined beginning this year until somewhere in 2018. This is because the nations that are located within this geographical area will be charting their political paths in this three year period. Ethiopians went to the ballot some three weeks ago and later in October this year, the Tanzanians will also be participating in the general elections. Come 2016, the Ugandans will also be voting and our dear friends in the Democratic Republic of Congo will also be engaged in the same exercise. In 2017, the focus would then shift to Kenya and Rwanda while South Sudan’s turn will be in 2018. Sudan (Khartoum) had its elections in May while the elections in Burundi were rescheduled after mass protests from the citizens.

From the hindsight, all these countries with the exception of Tanzania, have at least experienced coup d’├ętats in their political history. In Kenya, however, the 1982 attempt to overthrow the government was unsuccessful unlike in the other nations where coups took place and as a result, democratic space has  hardly been realized. Since the late Premier of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi overthrew Mengitsu Haile Mariam’s government in 1991, Abyssinia has largely remained an authoritarian state with most political freedoms being curtailed. Also in Uganda, so many coups took place with the last one being orchestrated by the current president Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Movement troops against Tito Okello who had subsequently engineered a plot against Dr. Milton Obote.

To date, it can be seen that in the ‘Pearl of Africa’ the individuals who seem to oppose the government are normally victimized by the state security officers. Further across in Burundi, civil wars were the norm until 2005 when a peace agreement was signed in Arusha to bring to an end the civil strife. Rwanda experienced the worst of them all when the then president Habyarimana was assassinated and this culminated to a genocide that claimed the lives of 800,000 people. Sudan’s strongman, President Bashir also seized power through a coup. The new nation of South Sudan also experienced an attempt to overthrow Salvar Kiir’s-led government reportedly by former Vice-President Riek Machar. The pariah state of Somalia’s political misfortunes seemingly began when Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991 and since then, stability has been an elusive subject for its citizenry.

The Current Situation.
In Burundi, there is still political turmoil following the aftermath of the attempted coup by General Godefraid Niyombare against the incumbent, Pierre Nkurunzinza that took place in April this year. What occasioned the coup was the unpopular decision by Nkurunzinza to seek for another term against the constitutional provision of serving for only two terms. The situation was expected to be ephemeral but hordes of Burundians are crossing the border over to Tanzania raising fears of a possible return to the dark days that were marked by infighting among the citizens. Currently, the national elections have been postponed amid fears that the government side would rig immensely. The opposition members have also complained about harassment from the security personnel and this definitely sets a fertile ground for the mortification of the opposition to Nkurunzinza’s unlawful bid for the presidency.

In Tanzania, the campaigns to succeed President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete are going on peacefully. I admire Tanzanians for the democracy that they exhibit. To say the least, Tanzania is a democratic model that should be embraced by the other Eastern Africa states in terms of the tranquility that is displayed during the electioneering period despite being dominated by one party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). This can be attributed to socialism that was initiated by the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere where there was a common spirit of brotherhood that was bred among the residents of Tanzania. 

Uganda’s political situation is not democratic at all. Democracy in Uganda remains to be theoretical and not practical since those who oppose Museveni normally end up being victimized and stigmatized politically. If the current events are to go by, then next year’s election will be a bit tight for the sitting president bearing in mind that two of his former allies turned political foes have declared their candidature for the top seat. These two are namely Amama Mbabazi who was once a Prime Minister and General David Sejusa, a former intelligence chief of President Museveni. 

Amama Mbabazi was ostensibly sacked after Museveni got the information that he was planning to challenge him for the presidency on the National Resistance Movement (NRM) ticket. Mbabazi who hails from the Bakiga community has since galvanized support in the western region of Uganda prompting Museveni to appoint a large number of ministers from this region. What I understand and clearly know is that Museveni will not allow Mbabazi to seek for the presidency under the NRM ticket. Let’s face the hard fact; Museveni came to power through the NRM and by being its leader for several decades, he certainly won’t watch a political figure take control of his party. Hence, the reality is that Mbabazi is most likely to use a different political party in his attempt to wrestle the presidency from Kaguta Museveni.

Already, police around Uganda are pulling down Mbabazi’s posters and also detaining some of his supporters and this is just a confirmation that next year’s election is not likely to be free and fair. Another potential presidential contestant, General David Sejusa has also faced some bottlenecks in his quest to succeed Museveni. General Sejusa was once an insider in Museveni’s as he was the head of intelligence but was fired after he disclosed that Museveni was grooming his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba head of the Special Forces, to become the country’s leader. After being shown the door, Sejusa went on a self-imposed exile for one and a half years. When he returned, he was reprimanded for what the Ugandan authorities alleged was an illegal political gathering. 

All these political events in Uganda signify that Yoweri Museveni is ready to retain the presidency even by using unorthodox means. Analysts are predicting that next year’s polls are likely to be more intense compared to the previous election in which Museveni literally dealt with Dr. Kizza Besigye with an iron fist. However, the opposition, through The Democratic Alliance is exploring the possibility of  fronting one candidate to face the incumbent. Methinks that unity within the opposition and a well-oiled campaign machinery will ultimately give Museveni a run for his money.

In Rwanda, political temperatures have been on the rise recently due to the new developments that President Paul Kagame is expected to vie for another term subject to constitutional changes. Majority of his supporters including his advisors are pushing for a change in the constitutional term limits to allow him to seek the presidency in 2017. Kagame has been in office since 1994 at the end of the genocide but his official two terms would be elapsing in 2017 having started in 2003 when the constitution was changed. The current legal provision allows the president to vie for two terms of 7 years each. However, as usual, members of the opposition have expressed displeasure towards this event and the final word still rests with Kagame that is whether he will agree with the constitutional changes or step down. Kagame has been known to frustrate the opposition in recent times by often detaining them and disallowing them to participate in the electoral process. This suggests that Rwanda is still an authoritarian state.

Back home, 2017 will be a year in which we shall conduct general elections. In as much as Kenyan politics are largely tribal, democratically we have made tangible strides when compared to most of the neighboring states. Our political parties are known to be personal and they often times are short-lived. Currently, it is expected that the coming elections will be a showdown between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the opposition chief, Raila Odinga. I wish to commend the retired president Mwai Kibaki for not using uncouth means to silence his critics and this allowed open criticism to be established in the country. This was totally unheard of during the eras of Daniel Moi and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Kenya has at least matured democratically and I do not expect the constitution to be breached any time soon.

The situation in South Sudan is dreadful as the government forces continue to fight with the Machar-led rebels. It is now 18 months since fighting broke out in the world’s youngest state and the return to normalcy is still far-fetched. Several peace meetings have been organized to restore tranquility but it seems each side of the political divide tend to hold to hard-line positions. This has jeopardized the progress of this nation politically, socially and economically. Due to the current situation, elections that were due in July 2016 were postponed by two years to July 2018. However, if reconciliation will be a mirage then full-blown civil war will be imminent and a banana republic and/or a failed state will be in the offing.

The Possible Future Political Scenario:
All the Eastern Africa nations are characterized by extractive political institutions except Kenya and Tanzania that have inclusive political institutions. This implies that most states have authoritarian regimes that allow power to be concentrated on a small group of people. The result of having extractive political institutions is that in the long-run such governments tend to be overthrown especially if they act contrary to people’s expectations. There is evidence from the world history that however strong economically a state is, it is bound to collapse if political inclusiveness is not incorporated in the way it conducts its affairs. This can be seen from the earliest civilizations of the Aztec and Inca in South America, the Natufian civilization in the Middle East, the disintegration of the Roman Republic, the Glorious Revolution in England, the fall of the USSR, the recent Arab Spring that was witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and more recently the coup waged by the civilians against Blaise Campaore in Burkina Faso.

What I am driving at is that the success to stop Pierre Nkurunzinza from seeking another presidential term will have several implications especially around the Eastern Africa region. The ripple effects will definitely be seen in Uganda and also in Rwanda. Blocking Nkurunzinza will be an impetus and a voice of reason for the people of Uganda and Rwanda to revolt against their presidents. I am neither predicting doom nor gloom for these state but it is only a possibility since the spill-over effects of political revolutions are bound to happen and a good example of this is the Arab Spring. So, the leaders of Rwanda and Uganda ought to be circumspect in order to avoid such happenstances. The only way to avoid such scenarios would be to allow institutional shifts and drifts to take place whereby at the end inclusive political institutions will be established. Such institutions would allow democracy to be a true and real phenomenon in these states.

Ethiopia is also courting the same path due to its authoritarian regime. Much cannot be said of South Sudan which has completely lost direction. Sudan, is also a potential victim because of the nature of its political institutions. Kenya and Tanzania will progress in the long-run as their political institutions did shift to inclusiveness. Irrespective of the length of time it takes for these regimes to collapse, the fall is bound to happen if history is to go by. These elections should thus be eye-openers to these oligarchs who should read between the lines about the recent complains and actions from the people. Failure to accept people’s demands may spell doom for some of them. So, this three year period will be a defining moment in the Eastern Africa region in which, as I see, the “iron curtain” may come tumbling down.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Time For The African Union To Walk The Talk.

Since its inception in 2002 to replace the now defunct Organization of Africa Unity (OAU), the African Union has not really made the great strides that were expected. Looking at its objectives and analyzing them critically, this organization had one primary aim of transforming Africa from a continent that is plagued by so many problems and challenges to one that would be devoid of such. But talking of transformation is where we have certainly missed the mark and in any case this is the point where the AU needs to evaluate itself thoroughly. Transformation simply implies the tackling of problems once and such problems never recurring. However, this organization pretends to deal with the challenges but they do re-appear.
The AU’s role in governance is wanting. On African governance issues I will focus on three major aspects: ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic institutions’, security and stability and the economic institutions. One of the aims of the AU is to promote democratic principles and institutions so as to enhance good governance. Certainly, this goal is well stated but the reality is that this is only a mirage to most of the African states. Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes exist in plenty in Africa and to my clear understanding, the AU has never made tangible efforts to democratize such regimes. This is absolutely one of its failures.
It defeats logic that the African Union wants democracy to prosper in the continent while its leaders elect Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe as its chair. Who on Earth doesn’t know of the political miseries that Uncle Bob has inflicted on his antagonists in Zimbabwe? The reality is that you cannot rear a ram and have heavenly expectations that one day it will magically change to a bull. Reading a book, ‘Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty’ by Prof. Daron Acemoglu and Prof. James Robinson, a lot of emphasis is laid on the kind of institutions that lead to failure of some of the nations that have existed in human history. More specifically, they say that extractive political institutions characterized by dictatorships lead to failure while prosperity is realized under the inclusive political institutions that promote democracy.
In promotion of democracy in Africa, the AU needs to spearhead a clear-cut strategy to ensure that this is achieved. However, this strategy ought to be above board to avoid the familiar cases of the bloody coup d’├ętats. In orchestrating such a strategy, the most definite and simple event would be to ensure that the leaders show fidelity to the laid down constitutional term limits and also to prevent the unnecessary constitutional mutilations that have made some to rule for eternity. All these, however, would be mere rhetoric if ‘iron-fisted’ individuals like Robert Mugabe would continuously be elected to head the AU.
Another governance aspect that the African Union needs to look into with boldness in the issue of peace, security and stabilization across Africa. Insecurity and state destabilization has been occasioned by the extractive political institutions that have exploited the masses giving rise to revolutions and revolts and also by the global threat of terrorism. The fall of extractive regimes in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Mali and others has bred instability in these regions. Through the study of History, political disequilibrium of nations is bound to occur when certain governance fundamentals are not adhered to. My concern is not about the occurrence of such revolts in Africa but rather it is about the strategies put in place by the African Union to deal with such cases when they arise and how to prevent similar ones from taking place. If this organization was or is effectively and truly organized then majority of these political challenges could be averted. On terrorism, which is a global threat and concern, we’ve got to do more to deal with this rather seemingly pestilent issue. In West Africa, the terrorist attacks by Boko Haram are clearly evident and the situation is similar in East Africa where the Al Shabaab is thriving. To state that African nations have not been on the fore-front to deal with terrorism would be an insinuation and an allegation. Such countries need to be given credit but the AU has to do more to counter the threats advocated by these groups.
The anti-terrorism campaign is a ship that we definitely should not sail alone. In this, we need to incorporate the West and work with them very closely as they have experienced such threats. I understand that most African nations are facing East, China to be specific to resuscitate themselves economically but the Chinese would not help fight terrorism zealously the way the West would do; my opinion though. In obliterating terrorism in Africa the AU needs to pay unwarranted attention in carrying out massive counter-balance strategies by having its own permanent security forces that are trained solely to fight terrorism and such forces should be trained in accordance with the evolution that terrorism is undergoing.
The third facet of governance in Africa that I will look into is concerned with the economic institutions. Most countries in Africa are reeling from poverty and its related issues due to poor economic conditions that exist in the continent. It is an issue of great concern as to why majority of the African states are struggling to find their footing economically. This can be traced to the extractive economic institutions that exist. Extractive economic institutions do not promote tangible economic growth and development but inclusive economic institutions do so. Economic and political institutions are related and hence work in tandem with each other. Professors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue that extractive political institutions give rise to extractive economic institutions and seemingly, inclusive political institutions lead to inclusive economic institutions.
Africa has fallen victim to the extractive economic institutions that create a vicious cycle of poverty than a virtuous cycle of prosperity. In a nut shell, the African Union needs to champion an economic strategy and road map that will ensure the African countries experience a socio-economic quantum leap. But achieving economic prosperity would not be a walk in the park because of the nature of political institutions that are present in Africa. Of course not all is doom and gloom as we have those states that are prospering democratically for example Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria is also joining the bandwagon. In creation of inclusive political and economic institutions does not imply that the AU has to be impetuous but it is a rather long and gradual process. The bottom line however is that to achieve economic growth and development we must have effective, operative and efficient political systems in place. This must be championed by the AU.
The African Union needs to re-discover itself and its mandate by electing leaders who have the vision to transform Africa. We should not expect Africa to change and experience prosperity if the ‘leaders’ who have engineered economic and political failure in their respective countries are elected to head this organization.