Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A health commission?

It's been seven years, give or take, since we promulgated a constitution to replace the one that in the minds of many had encouraged the worst vices amongst members of the elected classes. In the Constitution you will find the National Land Commission, the Commission on Revenue Allocation, the National Police Service Commission, the Teachers Service Commission and others, better known as "Chapter Fifteen Commissions". 

Now be honest with me. Have these commissions made your life better?

This is a serious question. It is one of the reasons why the 100 days' strike by doctors was so difficult to resolve (according to the doctors anyway). Do you think Kenya can live with the establishment of a National Health Commission?

Politicise everything

Politics (n.) the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.
If someone tells you not to politicise anything the government or its opposition does, that person is an enemy of democracy. Anything to do with the national revenue and how it is spent is a political matter and politicising it is the right thing to do if only to inform the people of the motivations for a particular government policy.

For example, the Commander-in-Chief, in response to the situation in Laikipia, has ordered the deployment of the Kenya Defence Forces to the area in order to "stop the banditry." The President's supporters will argue that the security situation has deteriorated to such a state that ordinary and extraordinary policing tactics are insufficient and that only the army can restore peace and order. The President's opponents will argue that the timing of the deployment is suspicious because many of the alleged victims of banditry have not been offered any help; only those victims of British origin have.

Both may be right and it is to politics that the rightness or justness of a position will receive the implicit or explicit imprimatur of those being governed.

In Kenya our problem has never been the politicisation of issues but that those doing the politicising are frequently bad politicians. Their politicisation of issues are frequently not about ultimately achieving power but "destroying" their "enemies". Few of them have the true politicians' ambition of achieving presidential power; many of them are interested in the rent-seeking opportunities their political positions afford them especially when it comes to the tenders that the government floats for major works.

For this reason, much of the politicisation of issues that takes place is designed to paint individuals and ethnic communities in stereotypical colours: this community is full of thieves, that community is full of watchmen and cooks, that other community is full of terrorists, the other community if made up of bandits, and so on and so forth. In this way, there is no need to discuss issues of power-allocation or resource expenditure. It is then possible to hide ones true intent: a piece of the tender that the government is floating.

The victims of these machinations don't see themselves as double victims of the corruption that is engendered or the stereotyping they are subjected to. If "their man" prevails over one of "those people", they are persuaded that their community has won. If their man loses, so too does their community. And thus, whenever their man declares that a matter should be "politicised", they offer him their full-throated support.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Blood from a stone

This is the role of the Senate according to Article 96 of the Constitution:
96. (1) The Senate represents the counties, and serves to protect the interests of the counties and their governments.
(2) The Senate participates in the law-making function of Parliament by considering, debating and approving Bills concerning counties, as provided in Articles 109 to 113.
(3) The Senate determines the allocation of national revenue among counties, as provided in Article 217, and exercises oversight over national revenue allocated to the county governments.
(4) The Senate participates in the oversight of State officers by considering and determining any resolution to remove the President or Deputy President from office in accordance with Article 145.
The Senate has not been called to consider or determine any resolution to remove the President or Deputy President from office (though it has, unnecessarily so, injected itself in the impeachment of governors without much to show for it). As an institution of Parliament, the Senate's other roles includes the protection of the Constitution and promotion of the democratic governance of the Republic (Article 94(4)).

The Senate has not been useless; it has merely failed to live up to its true potential. This is in large part to the striking lack of imagination among its more youthful members who have fallen victim to the hubris that often assails Kenyan politicians when they are elected to office. The tool of the parliamentarian, in case you are wondering, is the parliamentarian's law-making power and the power to investigate the actions of the government. The Senate has done precious little law-writing or investigating; instead, under the leadership of the Leader of the Majority Party and his minions, the Senate has done the bare minimum it could get away with without being accused of malingering.

The 2013-2017 Senate is an embarrassment. It has done little to endear itself to its true constituents. It has done precious little to protect devolution; it has focussed its attentions on a battle to supremacy with the National Assembly where it has come up short again and again. It tried to bully the Judiciary and was laughed out of the building. It tried to pit the considerable legal skills of some of its finest members and was humiliated twice by uppity governors. And now its preeminent members are panicking because the lumpen proletariat in the National Assembly is threatening to mobilise the unwashed masses to demobilise the Senate. Truly, the Senate is an embarrassment.

If members of the Senate treated Governors and county assemblies as partners instead of stepping stones to political glory, legislation would be the swiftest way for senators to make their mark. It is time they made peace with the fact that the Senate will never, ever have the high public profile that the National Assembly does. Its role is limited, and so are its powers. Individual senate constituencies are too large for an "oversight" fund to make of a difference. And the fact that the budget is an exclusive National Assembly subject means that the Senate will never get the upper hand over the Executive, national or county.

I fear though, that the Senate, its members and its mandarins will never accept the logic of their diminutive stature, constitutionally speaking, even as they proclaim in long-winded fashion that "THE SENATE IS THE EQUAL OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY!" to yawns from one and all. After all, no Kenyan has ever seen power that he didn't want to usurp and to expect political sanity from the Senate, this Senate, is to expect blood from a stone.

Monday, March 20, 2017

On academic creds in politics

To tell you the truth, I am not sure what his name is. Is it Mike Sonko, or Mike Mbuvi, or Gideon Mike Mbuvi, or Gedion Mike Mbuvi, or Gidion Mbuvi, or a complicated combination of all the foregoing? Either way, Nairobi City County's senator has managed to be "cleared" by the Jubilee Party of Kenya to contest in the election of Nairobi's next governor. He faces off against Peter Kenneth, Miguna Miguna and the incumbent, Evans Kidero, among others.

What seems to have roused many to take note of Mr Sonko's candidature are his academic credentials because they highlight the other extreme end of the over-credentialing of public offices: the number of elected and aspiring representatives "pursuing" undergraduate and post-graduate credentials has exploded in recent years. Some, like lawyer Nelson Havi, ardently believe that the higher the academic credentials one obtains, the likelier one is intelligent and capable of performing adequately in the legislature.

But this is Kenya and we do our thing slightly differently.

There was a time when academic credentials in Kenya were held in high esteem. The chances of civil servants being university graduates or holders of A-levels certificates were high in the years after Independence. Civil servants, university graduates and students, and trained teachers were held in high esteem because it as presumed that they not only possessed excellent academic credentials, but that they were also highly educated and because of their education, they were better-placed to offer expert advice on a host of public questions.

Even in Parliament, in the early years, parliamentarians were expected to be well-read and familiar with the difficult and technical questions that the Executive intended to implement. Despite the fact that many parliamentarians did not hold academic credentials beyond basic education, the Hansard reveals that the contributions of many of them in the early years were well-thought out, well-structured, erudite and well-informed. 

One of the strange phenomenons with our Parliament was that the more authoritarian our government became, the more parliamentarians held academic credentials but the worse they performed their parliamentary duties. It didn't matter whether one held a PhD in mathematics or economic or whether one could barely string a coherent sentence together in Swahili. All that mattered was that a parliamentarian spoke the language of the Baba na Mama party, KANU, and suspended his thinking privileges for the duration of his elected life.

But, surely you argue, this is the twenty-first century and a first-rate academic bent is indispensable in public service. I couldn't agree more but is this what the largely barely-educated masses want? Mr Sonko's elections offers a clue. It is argued that he bought the Makadara by-election that first sent him to the National Assembly for one-hundred and fifty million shillings. But his decisive senatorial victory in 2013 did not elicit the same "Mr Moneybags" derision because he wasn't the only candidate who successfully outspent his rivals. Mr Sonko's academic credentials were irrelevant to his constituents in 2010 and in 2013; what they cared was that he spoke their language and, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, "felt their pain".

Higher educational credentials will not improve the quality of parliamentary debate or the performance of parliamentary functions if such a demand isn't accompanied by an overall improvement in the services offered to and by parliamentarians in general. Indeed, if parliamentarians do suffer a pay cut in the Twelfth Parliament, the savings should go towards building up the capacity of parliamentary support services, especially when it comes to policy assessment and law-writing. For sure, a well-facilitated parliamentary library that has more than bound volumes of the Laws of Kenya and the Hansard is necessary in the Knowledge Century.

Look at it from this perspective. The Governor of Nairobi holds a science degree while the Governor of Mombasa's degree remains shrouded in mystery as to its provenance, yet both preside over two of the most dysfunctional counties in the country that have been completely overwhelmed by solid waste and PSVs. Their academic credentials have been useless in the politics and policy-making snakepits of their county governments.

What we need are good political leaders with the capability of leading effective governments. What we have are grandstanding crybabies with super-sensitive thin skins incapable of effective governance. Academic credentials will not cure our problems.

Bent, twisted or broken?

There are no saints in politics, not even political saints. In politics, as in life, unsavoury characters are the principal actors in the acquisition and allocation of political power, including State power. Honest and idealistic individuals are the ones that often pay the price for their honesty and idealism. The few who have somehow managed to ascend to political sainthood are very rarely remembered for their effective political leadership; more often, they are remembered for "fighting the good fight" as opposed to winning it.

Boniface Mwangi, the acerbic-tongued, idealistic, PR genius, civil society knuckle-bruiser and a few of his fellow-travellers has launched a "new" political party, the Ukweli Party, as his vehicle of choice to persuade, among others, the good people of Starehe to elect him to the twelfth parliament on the 8th August. One of his more ardent supporters calls him the best candidate she knows. If she elevates him to political sainthood, she is likely to suffer the same heartburn as the rest of us who have been disappointed by the political heroes who turned out to have feet of clay.

Whether or not Mr Mwangi and the other aspiring parliamentarians of the Ukweli Party are successful at the hustings in August, we must remember that they are human beings, with human flaws and human impulses. Mr Mwangi is famous for highlighting the deep human flaws in Kenya's parliamentarians that have led these men and women to commit crimes, great and small. Mr Mwangi and his cohort must be prepared for the same degree of scrutiny and the harsh judgment of an ungrateful electorate, one that takes a perverse pleasure in sweeping out almost three-quarters of the elected classes at every election.

His fans and supporters must be prepared to be tarred with the same brush, if tarring is indeed done, should Mr Mwangi fail to live up to the hype. We are notorious for our short memories but we are also notorious for burning hot in our passionate hatred of the political class. Mr Mangi is now a politician and it is only a matter of time that political needs challenge his ideological impulses and thereafter the people will get the chance to witnesses which of Mr Mwangi's cherished principles will be bent, twisted or broken.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Do we need an army?

The Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, in combat greens and dessert-camouflage boots, paid a visit to the Dhobley Military Camp in Somalia where Kenyan troops, serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia  are stationed. The visit reminded us that there are Kenyan fighting men and women in harms way in the still-unstable Somalia, part of a fighting force assembled to pacify the country and destroy a terrorist organisation, al Shabaab. It also reminded me of a question I have pursued in the past: should Kenya have a standing army?

Kwame Owino of the Institute of Economic Affairs asks a more simpler question: is it easier to give military training to twenty million Kenyans than paying for a standing army? The question is based on an idea I have explored elsewhere: every eligible Kenyan should undergo military compulsory military training in lieu of Kenya having an actual standing army. In times of need, these Kenyans can be called up to active military service. As to national defense, Kenya could do with a more engaged border security force as opposed to a billetted military that can't intervene in all minor border skirmishes such as the ones in Kenya's north east with al Shabaab fighters.

So, I ask you: do we need an army or can we make do with a border security force and the compulsory military training of eligible Kenyans who act as a military reserve to be called into duty in times of need?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Let us put Le Kidero out of our misery

The "matatu menace" doesn't exist in a vacuum; Nairobi's, and Kenya's, motorists are notorious for how they comply with the provisions of the Traffic Act or show fidelity to the prescriptions of the Highway Code. In other words, the chaos on our roads are not simply because matatu crews are more interested in a fast shilling and the rest of the motoring public be damned but also because motorists, generally, look on the rules of the road as mere suggestions, the commands of the uniformed traffic police as the gesticulations of a monkey with a rifle, and the common courtesies expected to smooth out inconveniences as the last tics of losers who always get their butts kicked.

I have just spent three hours in a matatu. A journey that shouldn't have exceeded half an hour even in the worst of Nairobi's now notorious weekend traffic, this one was a record of sorts. My matatu driver was no doubt an idiot but his idiocy wasn't the only reason that I spent the better part of what would have been an extremely productive weekend hostage to a Nairobian whose relationship with deodorant was more of an internet acquaintance than an actual relationship. The less said about her halitosis the better.

Nairobi's traffic chaos are the result of many factors but the key one is that very, very few motorists actually follow the Highway Code. You would think that it was  because they were willfully being scofflaws but that isn't the case; the traffic environment makes it almost impossible to follow the Highway Code faithfully. 

Take something as simple as lane markings and traffic signs. Fewer and fewer roads have lane markings anymore. Traffic signs are notable by their infrequency, on many roads, or invisibility. It is impossible to describe what this does to lane discipline or other traffic maneuvers. Jogoo Road, for example, is supposed to be, for the most part, a two-lane dual-carriage road, that is, two lanes on opposing side. But ordinary motorists and matatu crews have turned it into four lanes simply because the lane markings are not there at all. Because of this, when a motorist gets either to the City Stadium roundabout connecting Jogoo Road to Bunyala Road and Landhies Road, one encounters a bottleneck of epic proportions that can't be resolved unless traffic police are posted there permanently to funnel vehicles from the three roads as best as they can.

The same situation is witnessed on many roads entering the business district and the same chaos is visited on motorists all over the city. Coupled with the failure of the police to police the traffic effectively, traffic lights that seem like they operate on a random schedule, the nduthi menace that is getting out of hand, the spillover of pedestrians from footpaths onto the roads and the conversion of many roads into makeshift markets with veggie vendors squatting in oncoming traffic, chaos is all but guaranteed.

I am not asking simply for discipline to be instilled in all road users, motorists and pedestrians alike, but that the key elements that make up a road must be available at all times. In Nairobi it is safe to say that Evans Kidero and his county government have failed in their responsibilities to Nairobi's road-users. If he tries to tell you that he doesn't have the resources or that he doesn't have the co-operation of other agencies or that it is matatu crews' exclusive fault or any other excuse, please remind him that we didn't elect him to pass the buck or blame the dog that ate his homework. He has failed to offer leadership. In the words of Donald J. Trump, Mr Kidero is sad. A loser. On the 8th August, let us put him out of our misery and find someone else.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Totally nduthi-fied

I hate nduthis.

OK, that sounds a bit excessive. Let's just say, then, that I think that nduthis are the two-wheeled equivalent of the motorised scum of the universe known as the Forward Travellers, Embasava, Utimo and Umoinner sacco.

Nduthis, especially the ones pretending to be potato-potato of the 45°, air-cooled, 88 cubic inch Harley-Davdison twin cam engine, are a menace. They are loud. They are slow. They are ridden with an aggression that beggars belief. And their riders, almost to a man, are splendidly filthy and shifty looking that it is a wonder that some of them have a clientele at all. But they do. And that, never mind everything I have written, is pretty neat.

A decade ago, when boda boda was the word in Western Kenya, who would have believed that nduthis would have conquered the streets of Nairobi so thoroughly? They are everywhere and they have a dedicated following. They are fast, safe-ish, reliable, and, the only reason that matters, cheap. If you're paying fifty shillings for point-to-point transport, the last thing you will quibble about is the general dishevelled, slightly sweaty, mostly reckless movement from "A" to "B" without even the acknowledgment of the High Code or the Traffic Act.

Of course the story is scarily different if the point-to-pointing is done on the highway. Major hospitals in all the towns in which nduthis dominate have wards set aside for the victims of road traffic accidents in which the nduthi riders' balls sucked away all the blood needed for rational decision-making. All those interns that are about to be released into the medical profession by Kenya's university pipelines can specialise in orthopaedic surgery and they can all retire by the time they are forty-five for all the business the nduthi-fied Evel Knievels are about bring to them.

In Kenya "hustle" doesn't have the same pejorative meaning that it has in the United States; in Kenya, "hustle" is the one quality everyone wishes they had, everyone admires and everyone thanks for making them their millions or billions. Heck, the Deputy President revels in his description as "Hustler"! Nduthis are the perfect hustle and if you avoid the more reckless aspects of nduthi-fication, one can make a decent enough income to escape the poverty trap.

Yeah, I hate nduthis, but I also think they are absolutely awesome.

Our Nyama Mama night out

Last Monday, kama kawaida, I sanitised my email inbox and found myself with a few minutes to spare before I endeavoured to sanitise media items on my WhatsApp account. So I clicked on the Nyama Mama link and, if it wasn't for the fact that in recent weeks I'd had reason to schlep the one hundred and fifty-six stairs to the eighth floor, I think I would have passed out in my office. Damn, those people know how to photograph meat!

As some of you know, I hate mobile phones. The only reason why I even bother to keep one is because sometimes I really do need to find the right provision in the right law of the right vintage in order to totally dominate an argument. So, I ignored Nyama Mama's handy mobile number and sent an email seeking a reservation for that Friday at seven in the evening. A nice lady called Joyce replied and confirmed my reservation.

The Nyama Mama at Delta Tower is a wonderful space; big enough to make money sense, small enough to not get crowded and super-loud like the annoying Buddha Bar upstairs full of scantily-clad twenty-one year old girls, muscle-y forty year old boy-racers and shady looking ex-Sov-Bloc biznismen. Save for the windy front room, it is wonderful. And the meat?! Lawdy! Those people can cook their meat!

When we were done with the mguu ya mbuzi, I can honestly say that She and I were well and truly done for the night, especially as their ice-cold beers were, indeed, ice-cold. I'd love to go back but even I am aware that you can't catch lightning in a bottle twice. Some awesome experiences are awesome once only. Which is a pity because the Delta Towers Nyama Mama is an awesome place, has awesome service and is relaxingly intimate and not loud. I loved every one of the two hours were there.

The statutorisation of our lives

The phrase, "The right thing to do" is both a statement of law and a statement of social etiquette, isn't it? At the heart of our interactions as individuals, as families, as communities and as societies, are prescriptions of what are the right things to do and the wrong things which shouldn't be done. The enforcement of these prescriptions is a mixture of written laws (written by legislatures and other rule-writing organisations such as Christian church institutions) and social conventions, such as fame or ostracism. I am pretty mulish when it comes to arguing that these prescriptions are all "laws"; after all, they permit us to do some things and punish us for doing other things.

Take the question of parental responsibility and the termination of pregnancies. Received wisdom (well, as received by the liberal wing of my community) has it that a woman's right to choose is or should be absolute. If she chooses to carry a pregnancy to term, that is a choice she can only make alone. It is exclusively her choice too whether or not she will terminate the pregnancy and her choice will not be subject to review or veto by anyone.

This is a simple enough proposal to champion. The law, for the most part, doesn't recognise most foetuses as "children". It is why "morning after" pills are permitted; after all, one of the effects of the morning after pill is that it might prevent a fertilised egg from attaching to the uterus. In most jurisdictions where the termination of pregnancies is not a hot-button social, cultural, religious or political hot potato, pregnancies can be terminated up to the end of the second trimester, six months, for any number of reasons, including to protect the health of the mother, to protect the life of the mother, that the pregnancy was as a result of rape or incest, or that the foetus has revealed serious defects that will affect the child's quality of life after it is born.

On these reasons alone, I would have absolutely support the declaration of a law, rule or social precept that a woman's right to choose is absolute and inviolable. However...

As the debate surrounding Article 26(4) showed, today, even issues that had been excluded from the ambit of constitutions, laws, regulations or by-laws, have now been hijacked by a societal desire to prescribe laws for everything. It's wording is a clue to the social, religious and political battles that were fought over "abortion",
Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law. 
The erstwhile presumption that a woman's right to choose was absolute has now been shattered by a presumption that her right to choose is now wrapped up in the opinions of third parties who had absolutely nothing to do with the conception and for reasons that have nothing to do with the conception. What was once a generally accepted social convention is now part of a burgeoning invasion of social spaces with the butcher's cleaver of the Constitution and the wrecking ball of the law-maker in parliament.

The same is true about whether or not a man could refuse to meet his obligations as the father of a child. In perfect patriarchy, men choose whom to acknowledge, and therefore support, as their children. Men have been permitted for millennia to abandon their children at the drop of a hat with relatively minor consequences. Often, when men refuse to meet their obligations to their children, let alone their families, fewer and fewer of their fellow men are interested in holding these men to account. It is why when you hear the expression "single parent" it almost always means "single mother" or "unmarried mother". However...

Before we decided that we would create statutes to cover every possible social sin, great store was placed in the ability of a man to tend to his family, whether or not those who constituted his family did so by way of marriage. But the situation is vastly different, from a lawyer's perspective, than it was even a decade ago. It began with the Children Act, 2001, which established firmly the legal principle of the "best interests of the child" and it has now been cemented by Article 53 of the Constitution on the rights of the child, among which is the right of a child to
parental care and protection, which includes equal responsibility of the mother and father to provide for the child, whether they are married to each other or not.
The "best interests of the child" principle wouldn't have taken root unless it were socially endorsed as one of those "right things to do." Man can still, and many do, abandon their children without a care in the world. However, social mores have also evolved, in some case they have evolved shockingly swiftly, and a man can no longer expect to hold his head high for being, in the patois of the day, a deadbeat dad. What was a social precept is now the foundation of the law on the rights of the child. A social rule is now a constitutional one.

What I hope to convey to you is that it isn't possible to pigeonhole social commentary as being completely divorced from cultural or statutory implications any more. It is not how knowledge evolves any more and it is certainly not how we organise ourselves these days. A public statement can expect reactions from different and differing planes. The bargain we have made for ourselves in the past decade alone as a people, a community and a society is one that insists on the statutorisation of almost every aspect of our life. If we carry on in this vein, someone will suggest a law on how to take a shit - and we will go along with it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On the plastic bag ban

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, claiming powers conferred on her by sections 3 and 86 of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (No. 8 of 1999), has banned the use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags used for commercial and domestic purposes. The Gazette Notice she published on the 28th February takes effect in 6 months.

I will leave my more experienced seniors in litigation to remind the Cabinet Secretary that the powers she is purporting to exercise in relation to the ban are non-existent. Instead, let us examine whether or not the ban is the most effective tool in the war against plastic waste as epitomised by the Kenyan penchant for littering the environment with plastic bags.

Plastics form an integral part of our lives these days. From furniture to utensils, shoes to clothing items, plastics are intimately intertwined with our lives in ways that their extrication will take effort and dedication. The most visible and annoying part of our lives with plastics are the plastic bags we receive every time we go shopping: supermarkets, bookshops, butchers, Mama Mbogas, pharmacists, produce distributors, cosmetologists and the men and women with whom we must have commercial dealings, use plastic bags to make our lives more convenient. As byproducts of the petrochemicals industries, plastics are one reason why less and less of petrochemical byproducts are wasted.

Our relationship with plastic bags is tied up intimately, also, with our relationship with our local, aka county, governments. Under paragraphs 2(g), 3 and 11 of Part 2 of the Fourth Schedule, county governments are responsible for refuse removal, refuse dumps and solid waste disposal, the [c]ontrol of air pollution, noise pollution, other public nuisances and outdoor advertising and water and sanitation services. With this broad mandate, the management of solid waste, including plastic bags discarded by a largely unthinking public, rests with the county government and in its failure shall the futility of the plastic bags ban lie. It is county governments' failure to effectively deal with solid waste that has roused the Cabinet Secretary to this fool's errand and its ineffectiveness can be blamed, in part, on county governments.

You, dear Kenyans, are not off the hook either. Any Kenyan whose basic education was completed in the 1980s and 1990s will remember that, in publicly-sponsored schools at least, children were exhorted, sometimes with a cane, to keep the environment clean. We never littered. We were conscientious about it. Some of us, I hope, internalised the benefits of a clean environment and are loath to litter with wild abandon. Many of you, however, are litterbugs of no mean repute. It doesn't seem to matter your academic credentials, economic accomplishment, station in life, age or relationship status: littering defines you. You litter on a colossal scale. Coupled with the lethargy and incompetence of your municipal authorities, you dump dozens of tonnes of plastic and other litter onto the environment without caring who will clean up after you.

The presumption that elimination of certain kinds of plastic waste will eliminate the plastic menace from the environment is naive. The substitution of plastic bags with more durable shopping bags, such as the ones promoted by supermarkets, or paper ones will not eliminate our plastic waste problem. We will simply replace one waste with another and the biodegradability of paper will not be the win/win aesthetic environmentalists will have you believe; the chemicals associated with the production of paper will, sooner or later, become a menace too. If you doubt this, visit Webuye, Rai-PanPaper mill's hometown and witness the aftereffects of the acid raid associated with paper production in Kenya.

If I had any confidence that the ban was part of a wider strategy to finally get a grip on its solid waste management problem. But I don't. The Cabinet Secretary doesn't seem to have gotten the buy-in of stakeholders including the vast majority of consumers ostensibly for whom the ban is being instituted. Manufacturers have been steam-rolled by this ban and it is almost certain that they will challenge the ban in the High Court. The National Treasury has not been consulted neither have the Foreign Affairs ministry nor the Industrialisation ministry, who must contend with the job losses and forex implications on the ban on manufacturing or importation. There is no strategy; that is a major reason why the ban will fail and the Cabinet Secretary will be left with egg on her face.