Monday, 23 November 2015

The Referendum: A Boondoggle Or A Fundamental Rehabilitation?

It seems that the coming year, 2016, will be full of political activities because of the calls for a national referendum by both the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy(Cord) and the Jubilee coalition. With a clear sense of certainty, the changes to the constitution that was promulgated in August 2010 are imminent. 

Amendments to the constitution are needed and there is no doubt whatsoever on this. However, we need to ask ourselves certain pertinent questions before we deliberate if indeed a referendum should be given a go-ahead or not. In exploring the possibility of having a national referendum, two relevant and significant factors come into play. Firstly, the law itself will play a primary role by laying out the conditions that are supposed to be fulfilled before amendments to the constitution are made. Secondly, the financial costs need to be factored in the drive for making changes to the constitution; the opportunity cost of having and not having the referendum.

The Cord coalition has been pushing for constitutional changes since last year by drafting the Constitution Amendment Bill 2015 famously known as Okoa Kenya and they have won the first round of the battle by acquiring 1.4 million signatures and presenting the same bill to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC). The next task for the Cord team will be to take the battle to the county assemblies seeking to gain the support of twenty four of them. From the county assemblies, the bill will proceed to the National Assembly whereby if the amendments are adopted, the idea of a staging a referendum will be scuttled but if it won’t adopt the proposals, the matter will be directed to the electorate to decide on the changes.

The Jubilee coalition is also pushing for changes to be made to the constitution through its Boresha Katiba Initiative a move that is widely viewed as a counter-strategy on the calls by the Cord brigade. The proposals by the two coalitions seem to focus heavily on strengthening devolution, instituting a high sense of efficacy on economic governance as well as economic management and promoting ethnic equality. Cord’s proposals that are aimed towards sound economic governance, devolution and ethnic balance include the following: increasing the revenue allocation for the county governments by the national government from the current 15% to 45%, counties should be guaranteed 20% of the revenue from national resources within their jurisdiction, no single community should take more than 15% of the appointments of any state organ and devolution of some security functions. Its other proposal is the creation of the Ward Development Fund to be managed by the Members of the County Assemblies(MCAs)

The Boresha Katiba Initiative has the following proposals: increasing the revenue allocation to 46%, Cabinet Secretaries should be appointed by Parliament, devolution of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, no community should enjoy more than 20% of appointments in any government organ and that Constituency Development Fund(CDF) should be increased from 2.5% to 5%. 

The major hurdle is that the push for constitutional amendments will be used as a platform for political revival for Cord and an event for political survival by the Jubilee coalition. The proposals for the changes in the constitution will have two battlefronts, the county assemblies and the national assembly. The reason as to why I am classifying the 48 legislatures as battlefronts is because of the enticements and packages that they have proposed for the occupants of these legislative bodies.

Cord has promised the MCAs of instituting a Ward Development Fund should the amendments be made and being who they are, they will seize this opportunity without any further thinking. The Jubilee coalition on its side, has promised to increase the CDF allocation from 2.5% to 5% of the national revenue. What political arithmetic exactly led to such baits? It is the philosophical ‘tyranny of numbers’. Jubilee has the majority in the National Assembly and the proposal for an increment in the CDF seeks to galvanize the support among its members. Cord coalition knows that by having 24 governors on its side, marshalling support among the MCAs is necessary and to make things easier they had to include the proposal on the establishment of the Ward Development Fund. Approval by the county assemblies will be a plus for Cord while a successful making of amendments at the National Assembly will be a bonus for the Jubilee coalition.

In my opinion, the amendments need to focus on strengthening some of the institutions and the principles that govern their operations. One of the institutions that has to be looked at is the legislative body, at the national level and county level. The National Assembly should be properly down-sized to around 200 members from the current 390. The number of the wards represented by the MCAs should also be reduced but this ought to be done according to the population density of the given areas so as to avert cases where it takes quite a long time for people to access their services.

The Senate should not be scrapped off. Instead, it should be strengthened and made superior than the National Assembly. In fact, the Senate should be entrusted with the powers of approving presidential appointments, approving bills that have been passed by the National Assembly before their assent among other key functions. Reducing the number of counties is not going to be easier than it is imagined putting into consideration that Senators also have intentions of pushing for a referendum and that also the Governors can marshal the MCAs to thwart such efforts.

Most importantly, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission needs to be made very powerful so that the looters of public funds can feel its cutting edge. The move to devolve its operations is timely in order to curb the rising cases of corruption in the county governments. The proposals to tame ethnic dominance in appointments to various state organs is welcome. This will ensure we have a situation of near-equal-representation among all the ethnic groups.

The proposals to increase the amount of national revenue allocated to counties is a wise move. However, for devolution to work effectively, there is need to have a lean, mean and clean staff in place. This implies that with the increment in the allocation, very tough measures on graft need to be designed and implemented and also reduction of employees who carry out similar duties has to be checked due to the high incidences of job duplication.

My take is that we should not have a referendum because of several reasons. One, the referendum will cost Kshs.8 billion and this will divert resources that are meant to spur economic growth and because the national debt is ever rising, the government will have to borrow funds to finance the referendum and this will further slow the economic progress. Secondly, a referendum will most likely intensify ethnic hatred between some communities given that the current administration has totally failed to steer inclusivity among the ethnic groups. Thirdly, heightened political activity is likely to hamper investment especially by foreigners. 

Constitutional amendments can be made within the confines of Parliament to avoid a slowly-paced economic growth but since it is driven by political forces a referendum can’t be whisked away. Our economy is held at ransom by the politicians who are opportunists and will of course use the referendum issue to gain political mileage.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Gluttonous Leviathans and ‘Lootocracy’ Aficionados

Has Kenya become a hotbed of corruption? This year has turned out to be a perdition for the Jubilee Alliance coalition especially the Executive arm because of the rampant looting of public funds. It is a culture that the mandarins have fully embraced and they deserve to be awarded a medal on this but they are an unlucky lot since we do not have Olympic games that award the outstanding looters. However, they can choose to award themselves by intensely propagating this societal vice. 

In recent weeks, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the Devolution and Planning docket has been in the news for wrong reasons. This said portfolio has witnessed massive looting ranging from the shs.791 million National Youth Service scam and the more recent shs.11 billion scandal occasioned by skewed procurement and purchasing of several items by the ministry.

CS Anne Waiguru has been indelible in the wake of calls for her to step aside and pave way for investigations to take place. One thing that surprises me is the rate at which the embattled cabinet secretary is being defended by several entities. There is no doubt that Ms. Anne Waiguru is being shielded by the presidency. The recent dismissal of a motion meant to impeach her for the third time by the Speaker of the National Assembly , Justin Muturi, is a clear indicator that the Speaker acted on orders from ‘above’. As I have written before, Mr. Muturi epitomizes the real definition of incompetence; being partisan in matters of national importance by inclining towards his political nest. If a motion has met the threshold demanded for it to proceed to the next stage of being debated, I see no need to stifle it. The National Assembly Speaker has turned out to be a demagogue that endangers Kenya’s posterity.

Other individuals who are defending Waiguru are the so-called ‘feminists’. Let’s face it. It seems the fad right now is to be a feminist. I have interacted with some of these self-proclaimed ‘feminists’ and clearly they ooze a lot of ignorance on what feminism pertains. Most of them claim that feminism is about equality. This is good but the current cadre of ‘feminists’ tends to push for women power even in situations where women leaders are committing economic crimes such as looting of public finances. Let’s take a moment to meditate and be realistic. 

Through my undergraduate studies at the university, I was a faithful intellectual of two social science disciplines, Economics and Sociology. Through Sociology, feminism is all about according women equal rights and opportunities in the society by denouncing the societal bottleneck in the name of male chauvinism that is very repressive. I strongly believe in the philosophy of women empowerment and I have never tolerated any non-sense that is occasioned by chauvinistic tendencies displayed and exhibited by the male gender.

However, we should develop a clear understanding when it comes to the upholding of the values of honesty and integrity especially in a state office. I have heard of several proclamations on how women in high profile positions have been ejected out of office because of their gender. The following individuals have been cited as examples of this vilification: Nancy Baraza the former Deputy Chief Justice, Gladys Boss Shollei the former Chief Registrar of the Judiciary and Charity Ngilu aka Mama Rainbow. The commonality among the aforementioned individuals is their involvement in societal vices. Except for Charity Ngilu who is suspended as the cabinet secretary for Lands, the other two were replaced by women. Anne Atieno Amadi took over as Shollei’s position while Kalpana Rawal replaced Nancy Baraza. So before we come out guns blazing on the purported victimization of women in public service, it will be a big honour if we get the details and facts right.

So why does Waiguru and other CSs whose ministries are irredeemably corrupt deserve to be shown the door? In December 2nd 2014, after a Cabinet Meeting, the following statement was issued and I quote: “the roles of Cabinet Secretaries have been widened. They now have greater oversight in sanctioning procurement in MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) and SAGAs (Semi-Autonomous Government Agencies), formerly a preserve of Principal Secretaries. They will now also approve work, procurement and cash flow plans”. No addition on this, CSs should take responsibility of their dockets. A chief executive has the duty to ensure that his entity has a vibrant and financially healthy system.

Corruption is embedded in the whole government from the Judiciary, the Executive and Parliament. Comments recently made by the Chief Justice, Dr. Willy Mutunga, only seek to cement this reality. Parliament itself has been embroiled in a scam in which shs.500 million was swindled and the National Assembly Speaker acknowledged it. The leader of majority in the National Assembly, Aden Duale, also confessed that corruption is the norm in the three arms of the government. There is also a time that President Kenyatta talked about corruption in the Office of the President and how the individuals promoting the avarice were going to be met by the full force of the law.

One of the major weaknesses of the ruling Jubilee coalition is the perfection of the art of double-speak and double-standards and supposedly kusema na kutotenda as well as kusema na kutender. If the president acknowledged the fact that his office is bedeviled with corruption, then went ahead to say that the country is fine a couple of days ago what does this imply? And mark you on Friday this week a special committee has been formed by the president to come up with plans and strategies to weed out corruption. It doesn’t sound good for our beloved president to appear to be a political dilettante.

Parliament also needs to be effective in its role in exercising oversight on the usage of public funds. The problem with our parliamentarians is that they politicize issues that deal with corruption. This depicts a clear lack of leadership. Parliament should be focusing on strengthening the Economic Crimes Act by passing laws that make the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to be a powerful anti-corruption body, creating a special court that deals with corruption so that cases dealing with graft are not delayed and hence derailed, and also enacting laws that any individual deemed corrupt in the past should NEVER be allowed to hold a state position in the present as well as in the future. 

If Aden Duale admits that corruption is alive and kicking in the government, then as the majority leader he should marshal his colleagues and ensure that tough laws that call for zero-tolerance on graft are enacted as fast as possible. The ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ needs to be taken advantage of by the ruling Jubilee coalition.
The creation of a ‘lootocracy’ state  has really tainted and dented our country’s image regionally and internationally. Apparently, the New York Times had this as its headline a few days ago; An Anti-corruption Plea in Kenya: Please Just Steal a Little. In addition, several countries namely United Kingdom, United States, France, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and Canada have threatened to ban Kenyan leaders mentioned in cases of corruption from travelling to these countries. May be corruption is becoming a new tourist attraction. This is a laughable tragedy. It is high time for the Jubilee honchos to rise up and sweep off the mess of resource plundering and squandering that has become the second name of the current regime; the shs.100 million Hustler’s jet saga, the shs.13 billion NSSF and Tasia financial scandal, the shs.1.3 trillion Standard Gauge Railway scam, the shs.22 billion laptops procurement impropriety, the shs.791 million NYS scandal, the misappropriation of the shs.250 billion Eurobond, the shs.11 billion skewed procurement by the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, the shs.3.8 billion spending on a single day by the Interior and Coordination of National Government ministry, the shs.3 billion Anglo-Leasing pay out, the shs.8 billion Karen land saga, the Weston Hotel and Lang’ata Road Primary School land grabbing among others.

Enough has been said and more needs to be done as far as corruption is concerned. The buck stops with the president. If he doesn’t act with an iron fist on this matter, then the rot will spread deeply and widely. A strong political goodwill will make the fight on graft stronger and more stronger. But if state officials like the CS for Interior Major Gen. (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery are going to intimidate the media for reporting cases on corruption, then the evil is with us to stay.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The Atavism of Hate Speech and Tribalism

As a law abiding citizen, I am skeptical about the future of this nation if the current happenings are to go by; the escalating levels of tribalism and/or negative ethnicity and the hate speech mongering. The direction taken by some of the ‘leaders’ in making these hegemonic acts of historical anachronism seem fashionable is worrying and if strong action is not going to be taken against them, then the plane is gonna crash any time soon; sad but true.

I look at some of these leaders and wonder if at all we have a problem with our constitution and the entire justice system. Indeed, there is a huge problem. If the law is being applied selectively so as to tame the common citizenry often referred to as Wanjiku and let the ‘big fish’ off the hook, then we have a systemic malaise. Is it that the law enforcement officers fear the political elite? Or is that the societal malady that we have fashioned and perfected that is corruption, is so deeply embedded in the system that the political elite can be able to acquire justice on hire purchase terms?

Utterances that highly qualify to be classified as hate speech seem to be the ideal remarks of some ‘leaders’. Recently, it seems as if members of the ruling coalition and the opposition are on a competition seeking some medals and trophies of who utters the deadliest remarks and may be even contending to be enlisted in the hate speech ‘Hall of Fame’. This is silly and stupid. I am referring to George Aladwa the Orange Democratic Movement Nairobi Branch chairman, Moses Kuria the legendary chief of controversies and Gatundu South Member of National Assembly, Johnston Muthama the manner-less Senator of Machakos County and William Kabogo the blue-eyed boy of Kiambu County and the Governor of the same county.

Recording of statements with the law enforcement agencies has been the norm. We are yet to see any of these public figures languishing in jail due to their irresponsible utterances. Such remarks may easily incite the masses and instigate political clashes which is a situation we shouldn’t plunge into as a state. We were there in 2007/08 after the disputed elections and we know as the common folk what it means to live in a society devoid of peace, stability and tranquility. We should learn and draw lessons from the past as well as invoke some wisdom from Karl Marx when he said, “History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”  

The guarantee of avoiding possible chaos lies with the wananchi. If at all we are going to engage in physical confrontations just because of some sociopathic remarks of some political demagogues then we are the ones to lose. When we shall be engaging in the confrontations, the power holders will be on holiday in a magical and fanciful isle somewhere with their families. 

I also wish to castigate the leaders of the two major coalitions, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Hon. Raila Odinga, for not harshly criticizing such foot soldiers of their political brigades. Does it mean that they are condoning such non-sense? If the two do not come out clean on the issue, then we’ll assume that the bigots act on their orders and that they are not true patriots. Please, Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga do not let such political ‘leaders’ who cherish and relish the ideals and ideologies of backslapping hold the future of this country at ransom. Denounce them and reprimand them all together to avert this time bomb.

The Judiciary and the National Police Service have their work clearly cut out. Why don’t they use one of these hate mongering hawks as an example to the rest? The laws need to applied fully and to the latter irrespective of one’s status. But I doubt if this will happen any time soon because these two organs out rightly bear the woeful stink of corruption as they have perfected the art and act of selective administration of justice. This depicts Kenya as the quintessential ‘Animal Farm’ where some people are more equal than others. Food for thought.

The vice of tribalism, on the other hand, is more real than imagined. This is a problem that has bedeviled our country since we attained our independence. We view each other through the lens of ethnic realm. Worst of all, this vice is propagated mainly by the elites, the political class and the educated individuals. Look at the political parties in Kenya and how they are firmly anchored on the tribal grounds and roots. Make the observations of college students especially during their annual electioneering period and you’ll realize how negative ethnicity is prevalent in Kenya.

I have recently come to the conclusion that most of the Kenyans have politically polluted and warped minds. Why? Because most of the people tend to cushion their leaders when they do wrong things as they feel their tribe is being targeted. You know this “mtu wetu” syndrome. This is a situation of despair. We get a lot of satisfaction by demonizing individuals simply because they belong to a particular ethnic group. Nobody chooses to belong to any ethnic community. Some even go to an extent that they cannot marry from certain tribes. This is being simplistic and myopic. One funny thing that happens in Kenya is that if you happen to marry a foreigner, you will be a hero but dare you get or even imagine to have a sexual partner from a given tribe and see the way you’ll be vilified. 

This negative perception about members of various ethnic communities doesn’t belong in the 21st century. However, it is REAL and I don’t know which kind of salvation and redemption we need to undergo for us as Kenyans to embrace our ethnic diversity. Can we for once learn from our Tanzanian neighbors? The motherland of the great Mwalimu Julius Nyerere has over 100 ethnic communities and you’ll never witness these hopeless ethnic divisions and animosity.

The future of Kenya solely lies with the Kenyans. Each time of the day and each day of the week we must devote our energies in ensuring that we impact some form of change in the Kenyan society. The change we want and the change we yearn for, dream and think about starts with YOU and ME. I am glad I’m playing my part as a change agent. What about you? Let’s take the challenge and preach about the dangers of negative ethnicity for us to have in place the true spirit of nationhood that defines Kenya. Shall we?