Saturday, 17 September 2016

After the Grand Merger; What Are the Stakes & Possibilities?

The dissolution of the affiliate parties that made up the Jubilee coalition to form a single entity in the name of Jubilee Party of Kenya is undoubtedly a critical juncture in the country’s political history. What remains to be seen largely is if and how the newly formed party will be able to survive and thrive in the long-term. The survival of the new kid on the block is pegged on a number of factors and of course its formation might also politically emasculate the other parties which have positioned themselves as outright competitors for political power.

One of the pitfalls that the Jubilee Party needs to strategically circumvent is the sharing of the party positions. The sharing of the party positions on interim basis, as initially perceived, would be done in such a manner so as to accommodate at least all the parties that were dissolved en route to the grand merger. But word has it that the then officials of the now defunct Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) are touted to take over the administration of the party secretariat on an interim basis. The probability that the Jubilee Party will conduct party elections before the forthcoming general election is very minimal and may not even happen because of the likelihood of the emergence of political faults and rifts within the party.

This implies that a well crafted road map is needed so as to accommodate the possible dissenting voices. But a point to ponder is if the former members of the smaller parties should be able to get an almost equal share of the party positions with the likes of the defunct United Republican Party (URP) and The National Alliance (TNA). This certainly cannot happen. So what is the probable leverage to counter this? My hunch is that the former members of the dissolved smaller parties will be promised lucrative positions in government in the event that President Kenyatta is re-elected. Therefore, as at now, the issue of sharing the party positions isn’t a Herculean task as such.

Another hurdle that lays ahead of Jubilee Party’s path to seamless political operations is the aspect of party primaries. Nominations have always been a thorn in the flesh of political parties in Kenya and how the President’s new party will deal with this particular challenge will largely determine its existence in the medium-term to the long-term. The foremost strategy that has been hatched to ward off this challenge is the intention of having the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) conduct the party nominations.

The perception that is shared among the party’s stalwarts and political faithful is that the conduction of the party’s primaries by the state’s electoral body guarantees transparency in the nomination process. But will this move be able to counter the machine politics within the party? Seeking for political favors from the party’s honchos will aggressively take place considering the fact that the nomination process is expected to be a battle of its own kind. The reality that certain candidates might be favored by the party’s ‘who and who’ cannot be dispensed whatsoever and hence how this weighty political matter will be handled is an absolute fundamental question.

The level of aggressiveness in terms of the machine politics will determine the rate of the pre-nominations turnover. In this case, the stakes are generally high for the party’s primaries and those who might not be in good terms with the high and mighty risk a bleak political future because this is a black and white matter that even the IEBC by overseeing the party’s nominations cannot control.
So, what is the possibility in view of this scenario? Defections might take place long before the end of the window stipulated by the respective piece of legislation. This may be a tricky affair for the Jubilee Party especially if the defectors appear to be very popular on the ground. In the event that such defectors win political seats, it would as well have worked against the party’s wish to have an unmatched majority in Parliament.

Heading towards the 2017 general election, the strategists of the Jubilee Party cannot ignore the fact that the presence of the Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) and the Kenya African National Union (KANU) especially in the Rift Valley region portend a treacherous political path for the party. The possibility that KANU will collaborate with Isaac Ruto’s CCM is relatively high as the two seek to position themselves strategically as alternative political havens for the Rift Valley residents bearing in mind that URP has been dissolved. That whether KANU and CCM will give the Jubilee Party a run for its money or if the latter will totally enfeeble the two remains to be witnessed but from my perspective, it is still early to make definite conclusions on this issue.

What makes the political drift in the Rift region to be interesting is the Moi-Ruto (Deputy President) factor of just who owes who and what? On one hand DP Ruto claims that Gideon Moi should support him because he religiously supported Toroitich Moi. But a disclaimer on this political hot potato is the bitterness within the elderly Moi on how the Deputy President wrestled the kingpin status away from him as he had strategically groomed his son, Gideon Moi, to take over. Therefore, the Baringo Senator is charged with the mandate of re-claiming the status of the region’s kingpin from DP Ruto and this moment being the sunset years of the former second president, then the political battle might as well intensify.

The possibility that the Jubilee Party is on course to being Kenya’s largest political party is relatively high, basing though on the primary vagueness of the current state of affairs. However, to ensure that it delivers a political sucker punch to its competitors, the Jubilee Party has created a window for forming pre-election and post-election pacts and coalitions with other willing political parties. This really maximizes its chances of securing a majority in both Houses.

Ultimately, the vibrancy of the Jubilee Party is furtherly pegged on the organization of the political parties on the other side of the political divide. The organization of the opposition political parties will irrefutably determine and affect the modus operandi of the Jubilee party; a disjointed opposition will guarantee a not-so-difficult sail through for the Jubilee party whereas a properly oiled opposition will certainly create a vicious electoral battle.

Presciently, the Jubilee strategists are well prepared to counter Raila Odinga and largely CORD. Whether Odinga will vie for the presidency or not, his political moves cannot be ignored whatsoever.  So what if the much rumored ‘Super Alliance’ the possible coalition of the Orange party, Wiper, Ford Kenya, Amani National Congress and KANU takes shape? This would highly counter Jubilee’s moves especially when a partnership involving Gideon Moi plus either Kalonzo or Mudavadi is fronted for the presidency. However, at the moment, this is largely an expected scenario and perhaps a political illusion.

At the end of it all, the bottom line is whether the Jubilee Party will stand against the test of time and usher in a new political era as it has been envisaged, different from the other past junctures. Only time will tell.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Of the Current Scramble for Africa: Is the Continent’s Future Mortgaged?

What were the imaginations and visions of the African leaders about the continent’s outlook and progress during the dawn of independence? Of course they envisaged a continent that is highly prosperous and absolutely independent from the neo-colonial tendencies of their former colonial masters and free from the hegemonic socio-economic and political practices of the foreign states.

It is unfortunate and disappointing at the same time that such aspirations of a truly independent Africa have been dealt a huge blow forthrightly by a cocktail of factors; both internal and external factors. Internally, it is well known that majority of the African leaders are the real enemies of the continent’s progress as they have perfected and sharpened the act and art of siphoning the resources that are meant to be tapped for the benefit of the African citizens. Externally, the imperialistic tendencies of some of the well-known Western states, the advances by some of the Asian economies and other emerging economies of the world continue to hinder the progress of Africa.

Unlike the first scramble for Africa which largely involved coercion, the current scramble for the continent entails the application of non-coercive practices. The first scramble for Africa involved the signing of treaties and agreements which is still the case with the current scramble. Some of these treaties are in good faith and for the common good but systemically, they are somewhat skewed in favour of the foreign nations so that at the end of the day Africa suffers from the haemorrhage of her economic resources and this isn’t different from the treaties signed in the pre-colonial and colonial period.

Most critically, the first scramble for the continent was informed by the need to fuel the economic well-being of the imperialist states of the time and hence, the desire to cheaply obtain economic resources from Africa. Similarly, the on-going scramble for Africa is anchored on the aspirations of the advanced and advancing economies to position themselves strategically in the world’s geo-political flux of gaining the status of a superpower state. And so this necessitates the sapping of economic resources from Africa.

One fundamental question that Africans need to keep asking is why the world’s leading economies are running to Africa to sign the so called “development partnerships” and “development agreements”. I presume that forward-thinking and patriotic Africans are constantly asking this pertinent question.

A few days ago, the sixth Tokyo International Conference of Africa’s Development (TICAD) took place in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. A number of deals concerning and related to development were signed by the African heads of states as well as the heads of governments and the Japanese government. This is just one of the many events that are used by the leading economies to lure the African leadership into signing agreements that are largely in favour of the former.

Objectively, some of the agreements as noted before, play a big role in propelling the continent’s economic engine and it is a fact that cannot be disputed. But it is high time that Africa’s leadership carries out an evaluation of these agreements from those ones signed or entered to from the 1960s up to now to clearly establish their costs and the benefits. This is a basic exercise that the African Union (AU) needs to be regularly doing. We ought to know by way of comparison, qualitatively and quantitatively, the ultimate benefits realized by the African countries against those ones by the foreign states.

TICAD is similar to other existing development initiatives by the world’s leading economies to shop for economic resources in Africa. Other development initiatives include: the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the USA-Africa Partnership, the Africa-European Union Partnership, the Africa-India Cooperation Agreement, the Korea-Africa Forum, and the Africa-Turkey Partnership among others.

In taking stock of these agreements and partnerships which in general are supposed to enhance the economic well-being of the concerned parties and entities, focus should be directed towards the ratio, rate and level of the exports and imports to and from the foreign states. It is common knowledge that the amount of Africa’s exports to other continents and countries of the world is seriously dwarfed by the level of imports from these units to Africa.

One may argue that the exports from Africa are largely primary products that are highly deficient of value addition which is an undisputable fact. But is it not economically freakish that a significant proportion of Africa’s imports leave the continent as exports in their primary form?

As much as we appreciate the efforts by the foreign nations through their multi-national corporations to promote value addition, a lot still needs to be done. This includes the following: Firstly, there is urgent need to assess the operations of the multi-national corporations especially on matters relating to capital flight from the continent through sinister and covetous economic activities such as tax evasion. Secondly, the so-called trading partners and the multi-lateral institutions should show strong commitment to curb the drain of economic resources from Africa.

In dissecting the current scramble for Africa, it is vitally important that we gain a thorough and clear understanding of the strands of dynamism that underpin this matter of continental and international interest and concern as well. After the dawn of independence, the Bretton Woods institutions saw it ideologically fit to build and develop the economic capacity of African countries by funneling financial resources in form of financial aid to them. Practically and realistically, foreign aid has remarkably failed to catapult the continent’s economic potential contrary to the initial expectations.

A closer look at the decision by these institutions to advance financial assistance to Africa needs to be made. The Bretton Woods institutions are controlled by the Western nations and so by them giving the financial assistance to Africa implies that they must get something in return. In short, they operate on a quid pro quo basis… there are no free things in this world that is highly enmeshed in capitalism. To an extent, the Bretton Woods institution could have been providing financial assistance to Africa with hidden intentions; to find a way to exploit the continent’s economic resources.

The emergence of China and other economies has necessitated a paradigm shift in terms of financial assistance and foreign aid to the African countries. The current foreign aid dispensation especially from the East doesn’t front for conditionalities, which is diametric from the old order championed by the Western nations. As a matter of fact, this policy of non-interference has also been fantastically dangerous for Africa as it has promoted the siphoning of economic resources from the continent.

The change in dynamics with respect to financial assistance in terms of embracing the mantra of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is fundamental for the economic growth and development of Africa. But unless there is a degree of near-proportionality and equality in the trade partnerships then our resources will be forever subjected to the predatory nature of the leading economies of the world. It is thus a great responsibility of Africa’s leadership to seize the moment and exercise bold leadership other than mortgaging the future of the world’s resource-rich continent through the talk shops.