Friday, September 22, 2017

Bend it will

So the date of the fresh presidential election has been pushed back by nine days and the world of KCPE and KCSE candidates has not coming crashing down. That the national executive -- in the guise of the hard-charging education cabinet secretary -- believed that it would not bend to Mr Odinga's will shows foolhardiness taken to perversely extreme ends. It also demonstrates the folly of believing ones own press. The 17th October was too close to the date of the detailed ruling of the Supreme Court for the IEBC to make meaningful changes to how it would conduct the fresh presidential election without inviting another petition in the Supreme Court. The examination-timetable excuse was only persuasive if you didn't remember that national examinations have been rescheduled on previous occasions. Mr Matiang'i, to paraphrase the former police spokesman, intended to measure his strength against Mr Odinga's and has now had to bow down to the inevitability of Tinga's demand's. He should never have attempted it in the first place. Now we can focus our attention on the contest between Mr Odinga and the IEBC which still labours under the delusion that it is the maligned party in the fresh-elections saga. How soon it too bends is speculative at best, but bend it will.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Long-winded and mean-spirited

Five judges of the Supreme Court sat from around 10:00 a.m. till 9:45 p.m. on the 20th September to deliver a Majority Judgment and two Minority Opinions on the petition to end all petitions of 2017. The Majority Judgment invalidated the election of Uhuru Kenyatta. The Minority Opinions disagreed in excruciating detail with the findings of the Majority. If there was any doubt as to why J.B. Ojwang' and Njoki Ndung'u were unsuited to be Chief Justice or Deputy Chief Justice, it was removed not by their temperamental rebuttal of every single point relied on by the Majority, but their mulish and stubborn insistence in reading every single word of their Minority Opinions, though they skipped some parts and skimmed through others. Especially for the Professor, he used his extensive scholarship to cudgel the Majority in some of the most incendiary terms, relentlessly reminding them -- and us -- that he is well-read, learned and wiser. Judge Ndung'u, on the other hand, in effect called her colleagues in the Majority lazy for not verifying -- in person -- the allegations made by the Petitioner. Their ill-will was palpable. I hope nobody is ever foolhardy enough to make them Chief Justice or Deputy Chief Justice.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wishes don't make policy

Trams and underground rail may be no more than just pipe dreams for a cash strapped Nairobi City County, but a public bus system is not only within reach, it can be made possible even in a few short months. -- #Frontrow
There is a fundamental assumption made by all who claim that a state-funded, a state-owned or a state-managed public transport system is the answer to the traffic problems of Nairobi: that the genie of a liberalised public transport sector can be put back in the bottle of a nationalised public transport system. Evidently they have great faith in the powers of national and local governments to see through the nationalisation of public transport. They have not reckoned with the power of the liberalised sector not only to resist the gambit but also to revise it extensively or, more likely, to defeat it decisively.

For a brief period, before the City Council of Nairobi lost its mind, municipal services were the envy of many. Streets were swept, rubbish was regularly collected, drains were unblocked and public transport was efficient, affordable and reliable. But between the appointment of a series of commission to run the City and the liberalisation of the public transport sector, city fathers lost their minds, corruption became a defining feature of municipal administration and the national government engaged in active sabotage of its own programmes, such as the establishment of the Nyayo Bus Corporation to compete against the Kenya Bus Service, the company that offered bus services in the City of Nairobi with the blessings and support of the City Council with the approval of the Ministry of Local Government.

The aftermath of liberalisation policies saw the introduction of thousands of buses, minibuses and vans offering public transport services in cut-throat competitive conditions. Both the Nyayo Bus Corporation and the Kenya Bus Service went out of business, the former being looted for all it was worth and the latter unable to offer cut-rate fares in competition with the surging matatu sector. An entire economic ecosystem is built around matatus and the blithe assumption that "a few short months" are all that are needed to re-nationalise public transport simply ignores the facts on the ground.

First, no matter what we think of matatu crews, they are in employment in one form or the other. Drivers, conductors and touts form the bulk of the employees of the matatu sector. Re-nationalisation of the sector almost certainly means that the vast majority must find alternative employment. Second, some form of compensation must be paid to all those whose buses, minibuses or vans will be pulled off the road on one pretext or another. If not, many individuals will face bankruptcy or insolvency and many financial institutions will have to manage bad debts for years on end. Third, the ecosystem supported by and reliant on the matatu system will have to reorganise. Importers of both chassis and used or second-hand vehicles, importers of new and used spare parts, mechanics, car-park yards, body fabricators, vehicle interior designers, insurance agents and brokers and finance institutions will have to find other recipients of their services. These "stakeholders" are important components of the economy and their needs must be addressed in any campaign to re-nationalise the public transport sector.

We already have a public transport system. What we don't have is a state-funded or state-managed one. We should keep it that way. What we need is a well-managed system. If there are standards, they must be applied, implemented and enforced fairly and firmly. If there are laws, they must be enforced without fer or favour. If there are offenders operating in the system, they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We already have the experience of what happens when a corrupt government runs a bus company. There is no guarantee that the county government of Nairobi City is corrupt-free enough to be trusted with a monopoly in the public transport sector in Nairobi. Its recent pronouncements and clarifications don't imbue one with confidence either. Until someone puyblishes a comprehensive paper on what it means to have "a public bus system", let us treat #Frontrow's proposals like the wishes children make while blowing out candles on cakes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What ails the Jubilation?

The Chief Justice has been accused of treason by a consultant who is closely connected with an online college that recalls a more colonial era in its name. The reason is simple enough to detect: in the wake of the truly earth-shattering ruling issued by the Supreme Court -- by majority decision -- the Chief Justice, as the President of the Supreme Court and head of the Judiciary, has become the target of the misguided ire of the members of the Jubilation who were caught flat-footed on the 1st September. In invalidating the election of Uhuru Kenyatta, announced by the Chairman of the IEBC in the dead of night on the 11th August, the Supreme Court's judges attracted a level of political scrutiny that not even the much-reviled 2013 ruling could have elicited and none more than the Chief Justice has become the target of the Jubilation's intensely baleful focus.

The President and the Deputy President have not been shy of bandying words about regarding the invalidation of their election. "Civilian coup" and 'judicial coup", uttered with vehemence at many public events, set the stage for ne'er-do-wells to loudly question the "loyalties" of the Chief Justice and his colleagues and to insinuate that there was something un-Kenyan, underhanded and malign in the manner that the Supreme Court "refused to give reasons" for the invalidation of the election of the president and his running mate.

The "we respect the judgment of the supreme court but disagree with it" facade was jettisoned when the member for Nyeri Town in the National Assembly, a freshman elected representative, availed himself of the rights contained in Article 168 and filed a petitioned the Judicial Service Commission for the removal of the Chief Justice on the grounds of gross misconduct. It isn't that the Jubilation hadn't intended to do so but that it had intended to so as soon as the detailed judgment of the Supreme Court was read out, on or before the 21st September. With the cat out of the bag, all pretense was set aside: unfavourable and inflammatory stories about the Chief Justice and some of his colleagues have been planted in the press and more petitions are being filed for the removal of judges of the Supreme Court on grounds of, you guessed it, gross misconduct. These are now being buttressed by picketting crowds outside courts, including outside the Supreme Court building, over the past two days.

Distractions like the aforementioned consultant and his online screeds passing off as reasoned political commentary will continue to build the case that the 1st September ruling amounted to treason, the unlawful removal from power of the president -- though, of course, the president is still in power. Allegations of gross incompetence will continue to be made by malcontents unhappy with the manner in which the Supreme Court interpreted the laws passed by the bullies of "Tyranny of Numbers" fame. The people -- you and I -- are being primed for the removal of the Chief Justice and some of his colleagues. This unsubtle campaign of intimidation is well-choreographed but it is not so difficult to discern the outlines of the marionetteers in the background.

The Supreme Court, the moment it was given original jurisdiction in presidential petitions, became a political institution no matter how reasoned, reasonable and detailed its rulings would be. This may be one of the more asinine decisions of the Committee of Experts and we have little choice but to live with it. But we must acknowledge that the neutrality of the Supreme Court, after the events of the past three weeks, is shot to hell and we can thank the Jubilation and their jackbooted red-shirts for this. All the Jubilation had to do was let the IEBC cock it up again in October so that it could join NaSA in finding friendlier election officials for the third presidential election of the year. Instead, it is increasingly resembling the more unhinged parts of the former Soviet Bloc.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A disappointment

I am listening to Senator Susan Kihika (Jubilee, Nakuru) as she appeared on Check Point with Yvonne Okwara and contrasting her reasoning against that of Hon Otiende Amollo, MP. I fear that if she is among the bright sparks in the Jubilation, then the Jubilation has much to worry about. I take into account that logical fallacies are not things that the hoi polloi, in the height of political activity, will take into account when weighing whether or not to vote for this candidate or the other. Nevertheless, it is vital that those purported to be the leaders of the people to be able to engage in argumentation informed by logic, linking the proper causes to the known outcomes. Ms Kihika has demonstrated that she has a deft political touch. If she wants to be of immeasurable use to the Jubilation, she must arm herself with greater reasoning power if she is to go out before the masses to refute well-crafted arguments.

They came for the matatu and I did nothing...

The national values and principles of governance include patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and the participation of the people. -- Article 10 (2) (a)
This is quite easily one of the constitutional principles or values that the executive, both at national and county levels, has found very difficult to apply. The more uncharitable among us would allege that the executive has actively resisted applying this principle, especially when it comes to the making or implementation of public policy as required in Article 232 (1) (d). 

This difficulty or resistance was plain to see in two events with profound impacts on Kenyans: the "ban" imposed by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources on the use of plastic bags and the proposed "ban" by the Governor of Nairobi City County on the entry of PSVs into the Nairobi Central Business District from the 20th September. Neither "ban" was democratic or involved the participation of the people before they were imposed but they have received the buy-in of many Kenyans because of the projected perceived benefits of the "bans".

The plastic bags "ban" is covered extensively in other posts on this blog but only tangentially has the proposed "ban" by the Governor. No one has accused Mike Sonko or his deputy of experience in running a complex institution such as a county government. Mr Igathe, the Governor's deputy, has run big companies and understands, to some extent, how complex systems operate. It is yet to be seen whether his acclaimed corporate credentials will translate into success in a political institution as the county government. Mr Sonko's credentials do not bear repeating -- mostly because, despite his political intelligence, they are non-existent, never mind his recent graduation from university.

Mr Sonko proposes to "solve" Nairobi City's traffic problems by "banning" the entry of PSVs into the CBD. He does so without having consulted the people the "ban" will affect most: those who have to walk longer distances to get to their places of work. Just like the plastic "ban", a group of men who have not used public transport for a decade are purporting to make policy decisions that affect more than three-quarters of the residents of a city they administer without having spoken to the commuters who would be affected. Worse, they have not published their plans for how the "ban" will be effected, whether or not new classes of offences are created by their "ban", what the penalties for contravening the "ban" are, what forms of PSV are exempted from the "ban", what happens to what were once PSV termini, or what steps the county government is taking to ensure that facilities are provided for those who choose to walk or cycle into the CBD.
Mr Sonko must have heard the cries of the oppressed private motorist and shop-owner, mercilessly abused by the PSV driver and his crew. He heard their cries and, unlike Pharaoh who hardened his heart, he has bowed to their wishes and banished the hateful matatu out of the CBD for the sake of the peace, safety and sanity of the private motorist and his boon friend, the shop-owner. The fate of the commuter is none of his problem. The fate of the pedestrian and cyclist is none of his problem. A city that has done so much for the private motorist is prepared to bend over backwards for him just one more time.

There is something to be said for "public participation", the nomenclature of "participation of the people". It will not solve all policy challenges but it will offer more options than the pet projects of the Governor or his cronies. It will highlight the difficulties a particular policy s likely to encounter. It will put a face to the humans likely to suffer if their needs are given short shrift. Few of us have any love lost for the Matatu Owners' or Matatu Welfare associations -- Messrs. Kimutai and Mbugua are spectacularly unpleasant men -- but both are legitimate stakeholders in the public transport sector and their decisions affect millions of Nairobians, for good and for ill. Ignoring their input is foolish and refusing to talk to them is asinine. The only people who will suffer will be commuters -- and quips about "keeping fit" are not funny at all.

Kenya's constitution faces probing attacks all the times with many malign actors attempting to weaken or subvert its provisions, especially the Bill of Rights. The film censorship board's chief executive was a particularly egregious actor. His unsophisticated overreaches were refined by the environment minister. The Nairobi governor is just the latest member of the executive to probe how far he an violate the principles of the constitution before he is stopped. Sooner or later, someone serious will go after something more dangerous. If we let Mr Sonko get away with it, we only pave the way for the day the Bill of Rights, nay the Constitution, shall not be worth the paper it is printed on.

How politically powerful is the Chief Justice?

The grounds on which the Chief Justice may be removed from office are: the inability to perform the functions of office arising from mental or physical incapacity; a breach of a code of conduct prescribed for judges of the superior courts by an Act of Parliament; bankruptcy; incompetence; or gross misconduct or behaviour. 

The Chief Justice's removal my be initiated by the Judicial Service Commission (acting on its own motion) or by a petition by any person to the JSC. A petition shall be in writing. If the JSC is satisfied that there are sufficient grounds for the removal of the Chief Justice, it shall recommend to the President the appointment of a tribunal to investigate the conduct of the Chief Justice. (Article 168). The procedure by which the Chief Justice may be removed from office is set out in the Second Schedule to the Judicial Service Act, 2011.

It is curious, though, that the provisions of Article 168 and the Judicial Service Act are silent about what happens to a petition if the the petitioner wishes to withdraw the petition. It is presumed that he who alleges is also free to retract his allegations. But what if the allegations are true and the retraction is because of undue influence or pressure from third parties? 

For instance, what we have seen of Ngunjiri Wambugu's petition for the removal of the Chief Justice, which he has since "withdrawn", made many incredible-sounding allegations such as the manner in which the Chief Justice has allowed and facilitated the infiltration of the Judiciary my members of civil society organisations who may or may not be acting at the behest of hostile powers. Just because Mr Wambugu's allegations fit in with the heightened hyperbole of the Jubilation doesn't necessarily make them untrue. What happens to the allegations? Does the JSC ignore the allegations simply because Mr Wambugu has "withdrawn" them? Given the very public pressure Mr Wambugu has faced to withdraw -- no less than from the President and the majority Leader of Mr Wambugu's parliamentary party group -- shouldn't the JSC take into account that Mr Wambugu has been forced to withdraw his petition?

We don't pay much attention to the things we do for political mileage. Mr Wambugu is no different from us; looking at the content of his political ruminations between 2012/2013 and 2017, there are glaring differences in the personas he has adopted. These personas, though, share something in common: he has never had to consider that there are legal and constitutional implications of his many utterances and simply because he has never been challenged about them doesn't minimise the legal risks he has taken on in the past. 

Now that he is an elected representative, Mr Wambugu also takes on unknown and unquantifiable political risks. His petition, whether the JSC considers it or not, is now part of the public record and it must be put to rest regardless of Mr Wambugu's withdrawal, if only to settle once and for all the health of the Judiciary and its place and status in Government as well as its place in the political firmament. Between the decisions of the Supreme Court in presidential petitions in 2013 and 2017, a lot has been alleged about the Court and its members, especially both the Chief Justice and his predecessor. Much of what is claimed about the men is political. Mr Wambugu reminded us that the Supreme Court and its Judges are also political actors. It is time we settled the extent of their political power.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Look beyond the petition

If it is true that the member for Nyeri Town intends to petition the Judicial Service Commission to remove the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court from office, this will be the culmination of a campaign against the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court since it nullified the results of the presidential election on the 1st September. It is also a reminder that in Kenya retrogressive forces have always relied on institutions of Government, including laws made by Parliament, to achieve malign ends.

The Committee of Experts and before it, the Ghai Commission, reviewed the constitutional amendments that led to the establishment of an "imperial presidency" and wrote elaborate provisions to corral and control the presidency. "Independent" institutions established under the Constitution such as the Judiciary and the Judicial Service Commission were designed by constitutional provisions to be independent from the national Executive, especially the president. Kenya's constitutional reformers missed a glaring point: institutional independence was never Kenya's greatest weakness but the law-making powers of Government. The manner in which the presidency had become imperial -- from the constitutional amendment that allowed the president to pardon election offenders to the one that stripped the Attorney-General of security of tenure -- were laws passed by parliaments that the president controlled, either as the leader of the largest number of MPs or as the benefactor of many MPs in parliament.

In the aftermath of the 2017 general election, the president's party enjoys a considerable majority in both chambers as well as control of most county governments. This majority is useful when it comes to law-making, including constitutional amendments even to the Bill of Rights, provisions on commissions and independent offices and the powers of constitutional institutions such as the judiciary or the office of the Chief Justice.

It is the exercise of this power by a parliamentary majority that should worry us all. Harry Houdini was famous for getting out of straitjackets and other forms of confinement. He was also famous for elaborate illusions. While the audience was mesmerised with events taking place in one part of the arena, he was engaging in acts that allowed him to, for example, disappear an elephant in a room full of people. The petition that has been filed with the Judicial Service Commission may or may not amount to much; if the press conference given by the petitioner after his filing was done is anything to go by, it is founded on the semi-coherent ramblings of a novice law student relying on hearsay, innuendo and a shocking misinterpretation of the phrase "rule of law".

It is an illusion that is meant to distract us from parliamentary business which commenced immediately after the president's address on the opening of this parliamentary session. In the debate that followed -- a debate that was supposed to be on the president's address -- the majority party focussed their parliamentary wrath on the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court decision to nullify the results of the presidential election. The majority leader in the Senate is absolutely sure that parliament will be amending laws to protect the "will of the people" in presidential elections. This will be in keeping with the president's promise to "fix" the Judiciary after the fresh election ordered by the Supreme Court has been held.

On any question relating to the interpretation and application of the Constitution, the loudest and most gung-ho politician is almost always a distraction. The petitioner against the Chief Justice is now the loudest and most gung-ho voice in the anti-Chief-Justice campaign by the majority party. You must ask yourself, "From what is he distracting us?"

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The hagiography of the "ban"

Plastic bags used for primary industrial packaging are, however, exempted so long as they are used for industrial primary packaging at the source of the product and are not available for sale at the counter or given freely outside the industrial setting. The exemption also includes disposal bags for biomedical and hazardous waste and garbage bin liners. Furthermore, these bags must be labeled with the name of the industry manufacturing the product and the end-user. Plastic sheets used for construction, greenhouses, covering as well as cling films/stretch films used for wrappings and bopp self-adhesive tapes are also excluded from the ban. Bags issued at duty free shops are also exempted due to ICAO and IATA rules. (Gathara and Cherono, Business Daily)
Gazette Notice No. 2356 of 2017 does not say anything of the sort. It makes no exemptions for "primary industrial packaging", "disposal bags for biomedical and hazardous waste and garbage bin liners", "plastic sheets" or "bags issued at duty free shops". It does not require that "disposal bags for biomedical and hazardous waste and garbage bin liners" be "labelled with the industry manufacturing the product and the end-user".

Gazette Notice No. 2356 of 2017 merely and explicitly bans all "all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging defined as follows: (a) Carrier bag—bag constructed with handles, and with or without gussets; (b) Flat bag—bag constructed without handles, and with or without gussets." That's it. Save for the business of the Notice taking effect after six months from the date of its publication, there are no exemptions granted by or under the Notice and no indication that they will be granted by or under the Notice or who will grant those exemptions, under what circumstances or for what duration.

Gathara and Cherono, if they read the plain text of the Notice, will most certainly have seen this. This begs the question: where did they find the provisions on the exemptions to the application of the provisions of the Notice? Lawyers are advised against speculating as to the kinds of proofs that prove or disprove a proposition but having visited the National Environment Management Authority, we know where Gathara and Cherono have discovered the "exemptions" to the application of Gazette Notice 2356 of 2017. As professionals they must know that the NEMA website is not the Kenya Gazette and that the documents published by NEMA purporting to grant exemptions to the application of the provisions of the Gazette Notice are about as robust as puffs of smoke.

The constitutional and statutory infirmities of Gazette Notice No. 2356 of 2017will not dissipate with the hagiography perpetrated in favour of the "ban". The Cabinet Secretary continues to lack the mandate to ban plastic bags; sections 3 and 86 of the Environmental Management and Conservation Act, 1999 continues not to grant the powers that the Cabinet Secretary purports to exercise. We are now in the coverup stage of the "means-justifies-the-end" gambit. A patently unconstitutional act has been committed. Interested parties are now rallying to obfuscate the constitutional, statutory and regulatory environment to provide cover for the unconstitutional act.

We all want the benefits of a clean and healthy environment but if it takes statutory power-grabs to achieve these ends, sooner or later, the clean and healthy environment may not be ours to enjoy after our rights and fundamental freedoms are given equally short administrative shrift by similarly iron-fisted Cabinet Secretaries in the future.

Caring is the only way to rescue our children

My parents are doctors of philosophy. I am not and, bar some quick-minded academic nimbleness, I am unlikely to ever be. My brother, G, is an engineering genius with a Masters to prove his chops. My brother, R, can speak Russian, Spanish and French, in addition to the English/Swahili/Sheng combo we are all fluent in. I mention all this to illustrate a point. Those of us who grew up in the 1980s in stable and happy homes, and attended nurturing state-funded schools (yes, they existed), were expected to pass our exams with one crucial difference: the pressure we faced was not informed by the chronic joblessness and high cost of living we have experienced over the past fifteen years of post-KANU "economic growth".

My parents were the among the first generation of post-Independent couples who both held down professional careers while raising families of their own. My brothers and I were lucky enough that we saw both of them before we left for school (at 7:15am) and before we went to bed (at 9:00pm), having come home from school at 3:45pm, played, had evening "tea" and had our supper. Even when my younger brother was sitting for his KCPE, children were not carrying ten kilograms of books to school; at most, it was about a kilo. I don't remember any of us being saddled by holiday-buzz-killing "homework" when we in secondary school or suffering through sweltering holiday "coaching" sessions. Holidays were sacred, intended to decompress -- and empty the fridge with frightening (for our parents) efficiency.

My brothers and I were the first generation to successfully complete the 8-4-4 but as we were exiting the system, things had already gone terribly wrong for the generations of pupils and students that came after us. While school fees had progressively gone up during our tenures, they rose sharply after 1997 in keeping with the precipitously ruinous rise in the cost of living. This had two consequences whose reverberations are being felt today: the expansion and improvement of educational facilities suffered deep cuts, and parents spent more and more time away from their children in order to earn more to send them to the reducing number of "good" schools for which competition was sharp. Many of these parents were beneficiaries of a combination of their hard work and the relatively wide availability of good education facilities and the prevalence of relatively well-paying clerical and middle-management jobs for even those with modest basic academic credentials such as the KCSE certificate. The mantra of "hard work = a good life" took root but it applies only in a very limited way today.

With the massive cuts in the wide provision of acceptable and adequate education facilities, fewer and fewer children have access to good education facilities, with access being determined by how well they do in examinations, such as the KCPE or KCSE. Parents, who are spending longer and longer hours away from their children in order to provide for their every need, insist that the children must show their determination by scoring the highest marks in their exams. This insistence is not of the benignly autocratic style but one that is relentless and almost sadistic. In many parents' minds, an "A" is the only ticket to a better life. Children are being forged into adults in furnaces devoid of joy, care, peace of mind, love or honour.

In this environment, eleven-years-old children are becoming suicides because of slight falls in their academic results, even where they are in the top quartile. Still others, in fear of testing their academic mettle in end-of-year examinations, are setting school properties on fire, sometimes with tragic outcomes. Others engage in dangerous activities such bingeing on narcotic drugs or alcohol or sexual relations with strangers. Many parents and school authorities, caught up in their vicarious pursuit of "A" grades, learn about these children's crises only after it is too late, often after tragic events. We have been unable to see the signs of the risks engendered by the current system because we are all complicit in its creation and perpetuation. Our children are paying the price in mental health problems, gross acts of indiscipline, the destruction of public property and the deaths of our children.

If we wish to rescue our children from these tragic fates, we must make changes in how we raise and educate them, foremost being committing more public resources to state-funded schools to ensure that our children receive the care and attention they need in order to thrive, both as children and as students. If we are unable to improve the economic conditions sufficiently to improve how parents raise their children, then we must ensure that the surrogate homes these children enter -- schools -- are safe, secure, humane, caring, nurturing and educational. We cannot treat our children as if they have deliberately decided to "act out" or commit unspeakable acts of destruction; we must treat them as suffering from a combination of neglect and pressure at ages when they can handle neither. In other words, regardless of what the Penal Code says, we must treat them as children in need of care first. If we don't, no matter how many disciplinary codes of conduct Mr Matiang'i and his ministry's sadists draw up, our children will continue to suffer and their suffering will continue to have tragic outcomes.

Political naivete and stupidity

Are you naive or stupid? In some quarters, if you didn't vote for a candidate such as Boniface Mwangi who stood in Starehe, or Martha Karua who stood in Kirinyaga, you will be thought of as naive and stupid. If you rejected Miguna Miguna and Peter Kenneth for Mike Sonko in Nairobi, you will be called naive and stupid. If you stayed with Ali Hassan Joho in Mombasa? Yes, you are naive and stupid. That is the elitist short hand for those who have all the answers abut the political leaders we need in order to change Kenya for the better.

Each Kenyan voter is responsible for the political leaders he or she voted for. No voter can recant their decision once the elected representatives or leaders pursue goals and objectives that are inconsistent with the promises they made during the election campaigns. Each voter made a conscious decision to vote for one candidate over another; they were not deceived or tricked. Each voter -- an adult, as required under law -- knew whom they were voting for, what they stood for, what they have done in the past and what they have promised to do once in office. No one cast ballots on their behalf. Each voter went into the polling booth as an individual and cast their ballot for their candidate. In short, each voter had agency and exercised his of her decision to vote for their preferred candidate alone.

Take the example of Miguna Miguna and Mike Sonko in Nairobi. On the surface, Mr Miguna is the better educated of the two, the more sophisticated thinker, the more articulate orator. On paper, Mr Miguna -- and not Mr Sonko -- should be the governor of Nairobi City. The majority of the voters of Nairobi City overwhelmingly chose Mr Sonko over Mr Miguna. By some standards, these voters will be called both naive and stupid because of their choice of Mr Sonko who was once jailed, escaped from prison, and fingered by the United States government as a drug kingpin, and who has elevated political antics to never-seen heights such as punching walls, "leaking" salacious photos of him with other elected representatives, taking sartorial liberties that have had him named in the Senate, and engaged in physical altercations with other elected representatives.

If you consider the voters who elected Mike Sonko as naive and stupid, you will have missed a important thing about their choice. Despite Mr Sonko's colourful, shall we say, personality and the troubling questions raised about his business affairs, he has always had a direct connection with the voters who elected him and their families. It is called "tokenism" in certain political platforms, but Mr Sonko's provision out of his pocket -- as he claimed -- of funeral, breakdown, limousine and public sanitation services for the City's lower classes was welcomed even by those who call his voters naive and stupid. 

Of course we should ask where he raises the funds for the "Sonko Rescue Team" and whether or not his various businesses contribute to the destruction of the lives of our young. If we must do that then we must do so for every one of those who asked for our vote. On the other hand, given that we did not seriously demand an accounting of the wealth of Mr Sonko' rivals in the general election, bar the innuendo and insinuations that accompany our elections, we must also ask what his rivals have done for the residents of Nairobi City. How many of them have established grassroots networks to provide the social services denied by their own government? How many have made multiple donations and contributions to families facing hunger and homelessness after fires have gutted their "informal settlements"? How many have publicly pledged to adopt a family beset by tragedy or done it at all? 

Tokenism it may very well be but politics is not the arena of the purist wishing for a political utopia. Mr Sonko knows this. His rivals have forgotten the lesson. His voters know this too. It is why they preferred him to his rivals. It is neither naive nor foolish to elect a man who has committed himself to solving some of your problems the best way that he knows. It would be, in my estimation, madness to vote for the man whose connection with you is limited to diatribes and harangues about the perfidy, stupidity and insincerity of his rivals. It is madness to vote for the incumbent whose tenure has been marked by higher City charges and fees, greater mounds of garbage, longer hours spent in traffic jams and the persistent stench of graft. It is foolhardy to cast your ballot for a carpetbagger who has been rejected in his own constituency and whose ego will not countenance a defeat at the nominations stage by the clown of Nairobi politics. For those who successfully elected Mike Sonko, their naivete and stupidity have resulted in a better outcome than could have been imagined by "smart" and "informed" choices.

It is an arrogance bordering on the insulting to presume that political leadership should be reserved only for "deserving" candidates with the right academic and business pedigree. The people have a funny way of disregarding the elites' received wisdom. They will make choices on what candidates do for them. Mr Sonko may not be Nairobi City's dream governor but, in his own inimitable way, he has done more for them than all the other candidates put together. There is nothing naive or stupid about that.