Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Denoument

My year is ending on a bad note. The general elections are around the corner. My exams are in 2 weeks and I am quite sure that I shall suck in them The fact is, 6 months of constant class-work and assignments have given me no time to cram for the exams. Thank God you only need a pass to move on. Can't say the same for Kalonzo and his brethren in the opposition. A pass for them will not be sufficient. They need to kill the establishment to become the establishment. Simply making it back into the House will not be enough. They must ensure that many of their competitors are sent packing by the huddled masses. It is on days like these that you discover that the system doesn't really give you what you want so much as what you deserve. And Kalonzo, Raila, et al deserve a serious hiding for taking the piss out of the common mwananchi.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

THE COWS HAVE COME HOME

When Kalonzo and Raila had their spectacular falling out, the consensus was that the people of Ukambani had effectively locked themselves out of power for the next twenty years, and by the time the Raila tractor had run its course, the Kambas would have been reduced to political irrelevance much like the Luhya. However, all these analyses miss the point: democracy is not about giving people "a chance to rule" as the Luo are so fond of saying of Raila. Politics is all about taking risks and seeing whether they pan out or not. My reasons for thinking that Kalonzo is irrelevant have nothing to do with his electability; rather, when it comes to the 2nd liberatioin movement, he was Moi's hatchet man right up to the end. The only reason he joined the LDP rebels was that it had finally dawned on him that Moi did not consider him his natural successeor, a position he had reserved for Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenyans must allow people to make their choice as they see fit. Intimidating people who "worship at a different church" will not be of any benefit, save to ghettoise minority communities at the expense of national cohesion and development. The ghettoisation of the Somalis was accompanied by harrowing tales of their savagery, which, as is often the case, happened to be false. I am yet to meet a people who are as loyal and generous as the Somalis. But the period in which they have been denied participation in the national development programme has resulted in them becoming more insular and isolationist and breeding extremists from among them. That is a danger that may well befall the people of Ukambani if the much anticipated Raila victory does not address their concerns.

One of the most troubling developments though, has been the union of Kibaki, Uhuru and Moi on one platform. The acrimony of the referendum seems to have been forgotten. Kibaki and his surrogates are on record that they will not prosecute Moi. Kiraitu and Karua have been silenced in their desire to see Moi behind bars. More painful is the fact that Raila is also reading from the same script: leave Moi alone! In politics, as they say, there are no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests. Is it that Raila realises that his presidency, if it comes to pass, shall depend on the goodwill that Moi enjoys among different stakeholders? Perhaps Raila is making the same promises he made when he merged the NDP with Kanu prior to the 2002 general elections. After he is elected president, he may decide that his promises are not legally binding and arrest Moi anyway. I hope the latter is true. Allowing the looters of yesterday to go scot free in the name of forgiving and forgetting is a betrayal that we may not forgive Raila, or indeed Kibaki, for.

On a lighter note, have Kibaki and Raila destroyed their Kanu life membership cards? Remember how much it used to cost to become a life member of Kanu. Can they still be considered life memebrs? Moi is the only one who has never defected in his entire political career.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

TOLD YOU SO, DIDN'T I?

How many of you thought the Orange would still taste as sweet as it did in November of '06? Come on, raise your hands. Don't be shy, it's o.k. You weren't the only one they fooled. However, didn't I warn you that Kalonzo and Raila could not sit in the sme canoe without one of them grabbing the oars and heading for shore? This is the reality of realpolitik in Kenya. It has nothing to do with whether the perpetrators of so many political crimes are any good at what they do. All that matters is that they are in power and everyone's kissing their ass. And now, they want me to go into a small two-by-two booth and give them another 60 million over five years once more.

Are these fellows possessed? How can they squander all the goodwill they had garnered with the demise of the Moi regime and ask me to return them to the House on the hill? This is insensiitvity of the higjedst order. They should remember that I am not going to forgive them for returning Moi to the public limelight. By the fact that they are so disorganised, they have given Moi the opportuntiy to rehabilitate his blood-soaked reputation and burnish his image as the father who will save the nation. What arrant nonesnese!

There was so much promise in the beginning of '02. We had a new government (sort of), we had a new president (whom someone, and I'm not saying who, tried to assassinate) and we had hope in our hearts and spring in our step. Four years on, the only thing we are greatful for is that the current regime does not seem to to want to stuff people into overcrowded detention facilities with the same lackadaisical haste as the previous ones.

Which leads me to my main point: Kalonzo cannot go around pontificating on democracy as if he had anything to do with the 2nd Liberation. He was and shall continue to be Moi's yes man. Never mind that "his brother Raila" suffered under the jackboot of Moi's fascisicm and came out with a forgiving hand. Never mind that Kalonzo and the likes of Petkay Miriti (whom Prof. Anyang' Nyong'o is most familiar with) served Moi with unswerving, unstinting blind loyalty until that particular ship of state capsized. The ills of the Moi rule cannot be wished away nor swept under the carpet. At least baba Jimmy walked away when it mattered. No, not Kalonzo. He was still in it for the gaddi. Like Prof. Makau Mutua says, Kalonzo was in it for the presidency and when Moi tried to give it to Uhuru "UK" Kenyatta, it finally dawned on him: poor people never become president. Yes men never become president. Sycophants are useful for one thing and one thing only: kissing ass and kicking butt for the man.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Death Knell of Kalonzo's Career

Did he really think that guys would simply say that because he is the least tainted of the presidential aspirants, that the Luminaries of the ODM would allow him to 'don the mantle' of leadership and take them to their New Zion? man, he must have a king-sized lump of bile in his throat now. Why did he believe that Raila would step aside for him? Even, Musalia, who was fired by his own constituents, is still deluding himself that the Goldenberg Scam does not affect him in any way. What a load of horse-shit.

When Parliament passed the Media Bill without proper quorum, that spoke volumes of the motives of these politicians. Paying lip-service to the concept of media freedom, they did absolutely nothing to forestall the outcome. Whether we like it or not, Mr. Kibaki's troops have done what they have always said they would do. They are not spending valuable Parliamentary time campaigning for posts that may or may not be theirs. They have already decided that he will make the best possible candidate for the presidency come the next general elections. Meanwhile, Kalonzo and his cronies are walking in and out of political liaisons as if the presidency is theirs as of right. Let us remind them that when they were part of the Kanu machinery, and Raila and Anyang' Nyong'o was being tortured by the likes of Mr Miriti, Kalonzo and his boys did nothing. In Ukambani, they are even saying that all those who supported Mama Rainbow ended up with something, but those who ran with Kalonzo are still awaiting their just or unjust rewards. That percoeption that he is arrogant and aloof will not go away, not now or in the near future.

Kalembe Ndile, semi-literate he may be, hit the nail on the head: Kalonzo hana nyundo! Kalonzo does not have a hammer or a hummer for that matter. In politics, the slogan is sometimes crucial. Raila invented the Kibaki tosha line. Now he owns ODM nyundo. What does Kalonzo bring to the table by way of populism? Nothing! He is not mtu wa watu, but some ivory-tower living type with the common touch of a leper.

I hope we get a leader who will truly have our interests at heart. For the moment, I don't see anyone but Raila or Kibaki being that person. Everyone else should just admit, they are not presidential material and never will be.

The way to the Bar

Perserverence is not a word many of us associate with lawyers, is it? You all think that all we do is sit around and cook up these nefarious schemes to part you from your hard-earned paycheques. Well, the truth is rather more complicated than that. While we will part you from your pay-cheque, we don't sit around cooking up schemes to do it. Instead, we all go to university, sometimes for as long as eight years, get our degrees, then suffer the vagaries of the over-crowded, under-equipped, ego-central that is the Kenya School of Law, where if you piss off the wrong person, you may spend more time cooling your heels before you can legally part anyone from their wallets.

It has taken me a long time to get here and I must say that apart from the eye-candy floating around, the place leaves me very underwhelmed. You'd expect that for the 90k I parted with for the privilege of being here, this place would be kicking it like no one's business. But, the truth is, I am about as excited as a monastic monk at a rock concert. We got this old guy for one of the more challenging units whose been there since the late seventies and the guy goes out of his way to demonstrate what an utter moron I am; indeed, we are all morons in his eyes who do not deserve to practice law in this fair nation of ours. If he has anything to do with it, 65% of my classmates will be detained by that fellow till he deems them ready. Which may take a very very long time indeed!

Now, if it was just the matter of passing exams, I would have no problem with some my instructors. But the fact that their egos are in charge, having them as our examiners is just plain unfair-it's akin to deciding the venue of the match and the referees and then deciding what a win may be by the other side. The deck is stacked against us. We will never be able to beat 'em with their superiority.

But, I am not despairing yet. Things have a habit of changing in Kenya, and I can see a tidal wave washing away some of the detritus at the School, including old foggies past their teaching prime. I mean, the moment you start getting confused by cellular telephones, it is time for you to call it a day.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Ship of State

The way Baba Jimmy is running his regime, you might be mistaken for thinking that the man was asleep at the wheel. But nothing could be further from the truth. The truth of the matter is, the ship if state is still afloat and it is steaming ahead without any icebergs in its future. It is the hapless ODM canoe that is amusing me greatly. Never mind that the architects of that particular boat are all consummate politicians. Never mind that they command sizable constituencies of their own. And never mind that they also command great financial resources.

Despite all this, it is still a toss-up whether the ODM machinery will survive till the general elections. Kalonzo and Raila, the self-confessed front-runners in the ODM camp, are busily establishing separate secretariats of their own. They are both so convinced of their saviour-of-the-nation status, they are becoming more and more hubristic as the general elections approach. And now, Uncle Moody wants to cheat them of the time needed to convince their fellow-travellers of their good prospects, if not of their good intentions.

If the current Bill is passed, they may break up well before the February voting day. I don't know that I would be disappointed in a second Kibaki term; after all, all politicians are thieves. He, however, has ensured a period of relative calm. I am indeed grateful that his face does not adorn every newspaper page and he is not afforded three-quarters of TV airtime as was the case with Nyayo.

So he has his Anglo-Leasing. So what? Unlike Goldenberg, no one is accusing Baba Jimmy of being the mastermind behind that particular scam. The Goldenberg fiasco tainted everyone from the Head of State on down. Which is why, I am confident that even if no new programmes are announced in the next five years, we will be alright. That sentiment cannot be associated with the clowns in the ODM. The sooner they put their affairs in order, the better their prospects will be. If they are unable to, the only fair thing would be for them to allow UK to stand on his own.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Are we seeing the death knell of romance?

Maina Kageni in the morning, for most mornings, is a disappointment. I am sure he has legions of female listeners who imagine themselves being the new Mrs. Kageni. However, on this particular morning, while his show had the usual mix of inanity and morning intoxication, it did raise one glaring fact: romance is dead. It has been dead for a long time.

I am not talking about the mzungu concept of romance involving flowers and champagne. I am talking about chivalry and graciousness. Men are no longer chivalrous and women are very rarely gracious. It all has to do with how far we have come on this road to male/female equality. This equality is killing off the last vestiges of romance in this country. After all, if we can all do it all, why should we allow someone else to do it for us? I am aware that the legions of women's rights activists are not (all) divorced harridans with axes to grind. I am also aware that they have very valid concerns on the inequity and iniquity of the current state of affairs. But I just wish that things could have been done with a lot more sensitivity to the kinds of families we would end up with.

Nairobi is no longer a hospitable city. I suspect that neither are our larger towns. This, in my opinion, has to do with the fact that with the collapse of the village and the extended family, and the attendant bonds they fostered, and the failure of the nuclear family to take up the slack, there has been no inculcation of any values for the young men and women of today. So we end up with motivated over-achievers who do not appreciate the simple joy of doing something for someone without pay or reward or, more crucially, having someone doing something for you without any ulterior motive.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Media Freedom is a sham

That the Kenyan media is crying foul without a debate over the media bill is the greatest sham in this entire drama. For years, it has been an open secret that if your were on the receiving end of negative public opinion, all you had to do was pay your friendly neighbourhood reporter kitu kidogo before you saw your stock rise in the press. They cannot have it both ways: if they are going to regulate themselves, then the allegations of corruption leveled against them must be addressed properly and fully. Otherwise, it would be better for the State to take over that function from their less than clean hands. Accusing the state of the same level of corruption that is prevalent in their industry is counter-productive and hypocritical to say the least.

What I resent is the holier-than-thou attitude that the Minister for Information has adopted. When Mr. Kagwe failed to act after the Gestapo-style invasion of the premises of the Standard Group, it was clear which side of his slice of bread was buttered. His reluctance to take a stance on the matter has now only been surpassed by the publishing and introduction of the Media Bill in Parliament. The intention is clear - he and his cronies in the Government of National Unity wish to manage the press before, during and after the national elections; this management is not meant to be a benign hands-off affair but a full-time, hands-on matter of 'national security'.

But, is the press as influential as their shrieks of panic suggest? Perhaps the main-stream media are as professional as they were once in the mid-eighties. I am not persuaded that the rest of the players rise to the level that can be described as an honest press. Their over-dependence on sensationalism and sex to sell media space is deplorable. Their standards, especially in language and editorial content is truly abysmal. But what really gets my goat is the fact the they do not subscribe to any form of control, whether self- of government-control. They make up stories as they go along; they lie and misrepresent facts; and, worst of all, they mislead their consumers. It is just a matter of time before all the institutions that are meant to protect the citizenry are tarred with the same brush, the brush of corruption.

What is needed at this crucial time is an honest debate about democracy and how to democratise all our public institutions. With the political parties, perhaps, there is need for the old-school, KANU-style membership drives of the past. If you own the party, then you can never complain that it does not listen to you. A democratisation of the electoral process would involve making provisions for ballots to be cast for none of the candidates on the ballot as an expression of ones disagreement with the party nominees. With the media, the establishment of offices of public ombudsmen would go a long way in addressing the complaints of their customers. Otherwise, I will not be persuaded that when all these essentially undemocratic bodies go too war, that I should be called upon to defend them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Having Children

When you think that you are having children, it must come as a shock to realise that it is the children that are having you. You are no longer master, or mistress, of all that you survey. Everything is held hostage to the whims and wherewithals of that fragile being that is the fruit of your loins. You are unable to plan without considering its needs. And those that that do not consider its needs are held in very low regard by their peers, society and, in certain extreme cases, the state.
I watched a film last night about the abuse children suffer at the hands of parents, friends of parents and other beastly beings. Then I was shocked out of my seat when NTV televised this broadcast about child abuse in a specific school in central Kenya. I do not know where we are heading, but it is definitely not heaven. When parents, grandparents and other relatives resort to the kind of violence and abuse as was portrayed against innocent children, this world dies a little. How do you explain a father impregnating his daughter; when the child from that unnatural act is of age, he impregnates it too? Why would that family be forgiven by the Almighty? Why would He forgive our land? We are truly doomed!
Sexual abuse is not the only curse befalling our families today. Recently, the papers ran a series of pictures of children who had been brutally assaulted physically by those meant to protect them from harm. There were heart-rending images of children with burnt bodies, broken limbs and mutilated bodies. Many of their attackers were women, leading me to belive that the image we tend to portray of women as the natural care-givers for these innocent lives is quickly losing its sheen.
All this tells me that Kenyan society is dying. Institutions like the Nairobi Women's Hopsital are all laudable efforts, but we need to treat the root causes of this collapse in moral and social values. Simply throwing money towards alleviating the pain that is being caused, will no longer suffice. We need to approach God and beg His mercy, for if we don't, the bad old days of active village participation in child-sacrifices will be upon us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

WHOSE RIGHTS ARE WE DEFENDING?

The idea that we should give divorcees more rights in that event is gaining currency in Kenya with the claims that married women, whether employed or stay-at-home, contribute significantly to the acquisition of the family wealth. This may or may not be the truth; however, the application of the law should be done so in honesty, based on fact and not emotion or sentiment. Unless a credible argument can be made that the system as it is today is unconstitutional with regards to divorce settlements, then there is nothing that can be done in the way the courts interpret the Marriage Acts and other family laws.
The laws that we apply today in the deciding of family cases admittedly are archaic given the changed nature of the society. But, women and other interest groups have not done much to advance the cause of law reform in the last few years to address the inequalities inherent in the present system. I am not persuaded that the best way to proceed is the Indian or American way where 'activist' judges literally take the law into their own hands. The best way forward, the way that would avoid anarchy and confusion in the courts, would be to reform the relevant laws. Women and the youth form at least seventy per cent of the population of this country. Is it too much to ask that they combine their forces to thwart the retrograde policies of the old guard and the powers-that-be in Parliament today? Of course, there could always be violent demonstrations to indicate the level of displeasure inherent in the patriarchal systems of family being applied today!!!

Monday, April 23, 2007

KENYAN WOMEN ARE CORRUPT

Recently, the Sunday Nation had a caption in one of its stories claiming that Kenyan women politicians are or would be less corrupt than their male copunter-parts. I am astounded at this level of naivette in what is presumably a well-run, well-staffed major newspaper. It is canards like these that perpetrate the sexual divide in Kenyan public life as in all other aspects of social life in this country. It has been proven time and again that women are just as corrupt as men: remember Nyiva Mwendwa and her 'hairdresser' to Beijing? Wasn't there some HIV/AIDs money that went missing during the tenure of that famous woman who got Kibaki's pardon? What about that woman who was in charge of the Pyrethrum Board? The Rent Tribunal? These cases are legion.

Now, we should be championing the inclusion of women in public life, not because they are better than men but because they are just as competent as men as well as the fact they will bring new perspectives to national debates on important national subjects. Perhaps becaus of their needs, national focus may be shifted to social programmes of which the lack thereof affects women more than men. I sincerely hope they will act just as corruptly as the men; it is high time women got paid for all the lapses of the men in charge of national affairs. And if we get a women-led Goldenberg or Anglo-Leasing, I will consider it progress.

GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE

Now, I am sure all those folks in Virginia Tech must be going out of their minds with the all the 'concern' being expressed by politicians of all persuasions at the tragedies that have befallen them in recent days. But, I am hoping that they will step back and reflect on the fact that their politicians are not treally concerned about their welfare but of looking good in front of potential voters so that they can score points in 2008. The presidential race has well and truly began.

The issue of gun-control will always be on the minds of Americans, but when politicians equate the US Constitution with the avalue of human life, it defeats the purpose for which the United States were created in the first place. The 2nd Amendment was enacted for a different time and when morons like those in the NRA and like-minded travellers state that amending the 2nd Amendment would be an attack on 'American civil liberties', I wonder whose civil liberties they are protecting? Is it all those armed felons out there or is it really the gun-manufacturing industry. Canada has proven that gun possession can be controlled and gun use can be regulated as shown by the remarkably low rate of gun-crime in North America.

George W. Bush and his cabinet have done woefully little to address the issue of guns and crime. The rate of gun crime in America is not going down, never mind that the rate of violent crime might be reducing. But the proportion of gun-crime within violent crime has remained steady for years. With 240 million guns in American hands ( and those are the licensed, lawfully-owned ones) America is still one of the most gun-happy nations in the world.

From a geo-political point of view, this is not reassuring. The permanent members of the UN Security Council are the highest exporters of small arms in the world. Where do you think these arms end up? Think of all those insurgent movements and little wars going on world-wide. From the Darfur to Iraq, the P5 are all guilty of perpetrating this cycle of violence.

So when I see members of the US Congress decrying the increasing use of guns to commit crimes in schools and colleges across the country, I am convinced that they are speaking with forked tongues. Apart from a lone Congress-woman who introduces gun-control legislation every year on Capitol Hill, the rest of that bunch will keep looking the other way when the youth of the nation are cut down before the prime of their lives.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Your Family or Your Job?

Last Sunday in the Sunday Nation, they went on and on about the fact that parents were taking their pre-teen children to pubs in the excuse of family days while in actual fact they shunt them off into laxly supervised play-pens and proceed to get druink with their cronies. Never mind that these joints do not have separate sanitary facilities for the young 'uns; never mind that these children are being socialised in very un-socialble places; never mind that the law is clear about access by children to dens of iniquity and vice; what we are witnessing is a generational shift from family values to hedonism. Young parents, and some of the elder ones, no longer want to spend time with their loved ones; they want to spend time with their friends and work-mates. Look at how much time we devote to making and spending money, and how much time we do not devote to keeping our children on the straight an narrow. The result: ten-year old alcoholics undergoing rehabilitation. And we wonder why this country's families are going to the dogs, don't we?
I see a paradigm shift in the role the community and government played in socialising families. Never would your village have allowed you to drag your children to a makuti jam rescue as a form of family entertainment. Never would the village have allowed you to transform your children into your friends. Society would have reminded you that your children need to behave and play fair; that a rod a day kept alcoholism at bay. Society would have punished you harshly for destroying your family's future by indulging yourself. Today, the government is busy self-destructing and community no longer exists. We are all busy struggling to survive life to bother with your life. If you screw up, that is your own damn fault. Will your siblings pick-up the slack? Hell no! Your brother or sister is busy scheming on how to cheat you out of your inheritance to really have your welfare in mind. Your pastor is busy scheming to defraud the church and deflower your daughter (or son, if he is a Roman Catholic). The local cops are busy colluding with their kindred spirits in the Mungiki to rob you blind-literally.
Where do you turn? Whom do you turn to? The answer, unsurprisingly, is yourself. As parents you have no choice but to grab the bull by the horns and address this crisis. Else, you will not have children living under your benign direction, but revoltionaries on the warpath of change. Teenage hormones simply complicate matters. Remember how difficult you were at that age. Now just alcohol and whetever drug of choice is available to the mix, and stare in awe at the results!
Recently a family was shocked to discover that their innocent-looking daughter was not only promiscous but on her way to full-blown alcoholism. That they didn't know is no surprise. It is time parents remembered that money is not everything; its pursuit can ruin you in other more devastating ways. Look after your real investments and enjoy retirement at the right age. Ignore them, and your will suffer whirlwinds such as have never been suffered in family histories.

The Education of Climate Change

The world is currently seized of the topic of climaTe change, but Kenya is living with its head buried in the sand. The Government is not doing anything to create a national discussion of the issues. They should borrow a leaf from the Old Man as in his soil erosion campaigns and the construction of gabions kuzuia mmonyoko wa udongo, as the slogan went. The world is spending goodly amounts of dollars to make the problem of climate change go away. You have your CDMs, your carbon-trading and such-like programmes. When a less sophisticated country like Uganda is getting the lion's share of funding for climate change mitigation/adaptation programes, it is time for the Kenya government to wake up to the realisation that the global cake is being divided and we are not even at the dining table, let alone in the room. For this country to benefit from the resultant allocation of international resources and the attendant technologies and knowledge thereof, we must evolve a strategy that involves all Kenyans-from kindergarten upwards. This top-down strategy that is currently being pursued is not going to yield sustainable fruits.
Which brings me to the role that NEMA is playing in the matter of environmental management today. It is completely missing its point by a mile. What NEMA should be actively engaged in at present is co-ordinating government departments in the arena of environmental management. They should be taking their lead from NEMA, not the other way around. When you have Perment Secretaries refusing to meet with the Director General, you have serious problems in emphasising your mandate. Dr. Mwinzi is a personable enough man, but he should now put his foot down and tell them that the show is his to run. NEMA has a unique opportunity of reversing the trend towrds environmental irrelevance that this nation has been following since Rio in '92. Whenever the Western powers come up with a strategy to move the UNEP HQ to some western capital, the lead in countering this should be taken by NEMA, not Tuju's MFA which has proven itself inept and crippled by cronyism and scandal.
NEMA occupies a unique statutory position in that it can dictate to any government department on environmental policy without the fear of political interference. That it is not happening just shows how much we need to move in empowering parastatals and other public instsutuions to ignore ill-judged and ill-implemented political machinations. When it starts playing its role in the full, the matter of environmental policy and all the attendaant subjects will become national topics that are addressed by all Kenyans, just like in the bad old days.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Child Abuse

What happens when a child who was molested grows up? There are those whose traumatic experiences ruin their lives from the get go; then there are those who are on a slow burn until it all boils over and they act out. For boys who become men, their mistrust of all others is all pervasive. They are unable to sustain relationships for long, they cannot move beyond the horror of the beastly or perverted acts they were compelled to do. Especially when the acts were perpetrated by the ones who were supposed to care for them. They never recover; no one does. They grow up, become lawyers or doctors, but beyond their careers, they have nothing. They are closed off from the rest of the world, from their families. They don't have any friends, just acquaintances. They TRUST NO ONE, THEY BLAME EVERYONE!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Why there will never be Democracy in Kenya

Last Thursday on KTN's Public Opinion programme, they asked whether Kenyan political parties practiced democracy, whether internal or otherwise. The received opinion was that, yes, Kenyan political parties practiced some form of democracy and that they had structures in place to address this crucial element of participatory governance. I beg to differ with the professors of academia and politics and point out that the last democratic political party in Kenya was, ironically, the one that formed the least democratic government in the history of my young nation: KANU.

It is the only party which had actual citizens as members. Can anyone, who is not a politician or an aspiring politician, claim to be a member of any political party in Kenya today? Where are the party membership cards? Where are the grassroots party offices? Where are the structures that assure a party member shall climb to the top of that particular greasy pole? Sadly, these structers are missing from all political parties in Kenya today. These are bodies that are owned and opearted by the politicians that populate them.

During the referendum on the draft constitution, Kenyans were exhorted by members of the Orange Democratic Movement to reject the draft. At that moment, the ODM was a pessure group and as such it worked very well. It is in their haste to convert it into a political party that the politicians erred significantly. Pressure groups by their very nature are short-lived. Parties on the other hand are meant to last very long periods, held together by philosophies or principles or more importantly, ideologies. Todays political parties in Kenya have neither. They only have the politicians' interests at heart. To suggest that the citizenry can contribute to the party is anathema to these politicians. I suspect this is the reason why when they are elected to Parliament, they forget about the people who elected them. If they never had dealings with them before (at party-level), how will they listen to them when they are elected?

These are the reforms that politician will not address. And this lack of dialogue will inform on all aspects of governance. The fight against graft will not be won. Reforms in public service will not work. They economic growth will not benefit the poor. Our nation will continue to languish at the bottom of all comparative lists on governance and development. Consequently, real democracy will never be experienced in Kenya.

Friday, March 09, 2007

THE GLOBAL WAR AGAINST GRAFT

Recently the UK government was fighting a rear guard action with regards to certain contracts with certain Middle East nations for sales of defence equipment. Teflon Tony has gone on record that Africa needs to do more to fight corruption in all its forms, including not interfering in investigations into allegations of corruption. But when it came right down to it, Mr Blair was willing to sacrifice his high moral ground for profits camouflaged as 'national security interests'. In the West, national security is the catch-all phrase that justifies all manner of perfidy. Us poor folk in the 3rd World don't have the same privileges, and whenever we raise our voice regarding such double-standards, high-sounding statements are issued which indicate that for the most part we are either ignornt of the situation or just plain crazy!

But what really pisses me off is the fact that they will go to all lengths to sell out-dated, sub-standard equipment to 3rd World Countries for twice what they are worth and claiming that it is in the 'national interest'. They steal from us; they use corrupt means to conceal their theft; when they are caught they use a phrase that is an insult to the starving masses they profess to care for. We should all admit that a war on graft is against human nature and agree to disagree on what constitutes corruption within our own sovereign boundaries.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Will the real axis of evil please stand up!!!

Now that Dubya has agreed to sit down with the Axis of Evil over Iraq, what happens to all that huffing and puffing in his gfirst inauguration speech? We know that Iran is still keen to get their bomb; a sit down over Iraq will not change this fact. Syria is still dreaming of the day when it will be a respected member of the Commity of Nations; however, their rigid, unchanging autocratic and terrorist-supporting government will not be wished away with a sit-down with the Great Satan.

However, if certain realpolitik decisions are made now, perhaps all can have their cake and eat it too. The key here is money and oil-Iraq has the oil, everybody else hopes it will make them happy. Bush and his cronies will need to negotiatea settlement with all the former members of the Axis of Evil: Iran, Syria, Libya and North Korea. Iran and Syria have the power to end the insurgency. Libya and North Korea have already joined the road to redemption, but NK need energy to sustain that journey. That can only come from Iraq. So, a pacified Iraq has a ripple effect on another of the US' diplomatic moves.

The only dark cloud over this rosy future is Israel. Fighing on the Syrian, Iranian and Palestinian fronts is not easy; doing it without Ameriac's undivided attention is down right dangerous. They have to decide how far they will be willing to accomodate a Hezbollah-led Palestinian Authority. If they can live in an un-easy peace with each other, the US may be convinced to move their attention to more imprtant matters such as the search (once again) for secure energy supplies. A safe Iraq is the key to the unravelling of the unravelling in the Middle East.