Friday, February 27, 2015

Fat fees and alms.

 Will you give or will they take it from you?

Why do I have an obligation to offer my skills for free? Why must the Law Society, which is a cartel I joined to ensure my fees stayed fat and newcomers were discouraged from entering, insist that I must offer several hours of my services for free? I did not come by the appellation "advocate" without working my ass off, spending my father's money with caution, and saving every penny I could to spend on more books, more lessons, more workshops. Through hard work, a bit of luck, and networking-cum-bribing, I am now where I am. We call it "experience" and it does not come free.

I can offer my skills to those whom I believe are in need of them for free, or at subsidised prices, the subsidy being paid by a wealthy benefactor. When I do offer pro bono services, the end might be publicity for my practice, more clients against who the full freight will be levied. That is the market economy we are encouraged to enter by one and all, from parents to teachers, politicians to godmen. So where do we get off calling hungry market-oriented buccaneers selfish and cold when all they did is follow the advice of their parents, teachers, political leaders and preachers?

It is instilled in us that there are no free lunches; someone always pays the tab. This is true whether I am a billionaire private developer or a pauper on his last legs. A service or  good has to be paid for by someone. It is also instilled in us that "the less fortunate" are in need of our charity. The challenge has always been finding the balance, to paraphrase an adage, between feeding someone some fish or teaching them to fish so that they can feed themselves for life. That balance is defined by the rhetoric of market forces and religious faith.

In the Twenty-first Century, when many institutions are in shambles, the individualisation of ambition and moral values seems to be tipping the balance away from charity and more towards egotistical greed. "The less fortunate" are increasingly bombarded with messages of how their less fortunate statuses are their fault for not being ambitious enough or educated enough or willing to sacrifice enough. It does not occur to those who would abjure charity that matters are not as simple as that, not as black-and-white as that. There are situations and circumstances over which individual will, strength of character, ambition or opportunity offer no advantage, when the overwhelming forces of both and nature stand against you. In these cases, and in millions more lesser ones, charity...alms...make for a vital part of the capitalist, market-driven model.

Yes, the Law Society is right to demand a portion of the hours I labour for which it will not compensate me. Even if it insists that I pay my own way while offering pro bono legal advice, I shall not mumble under my breath about the inconvenience of it all. It is the price I pay for being the success that I am in a society in which opportunity is not available in equal measure to all and all too frequently my successes come at the expense of the opportunities for others. It is the reminder that humility is not a handicap, and that hubris is the road to utter ruination. Market-driven models risk Icarus-like disaster when they ignore Daedalus's wise words of caution. If the Great Recession did not do anything to temper our greed, nothing ever will.

Promises, promises.

We don't want honesty in our public officials; that would shatter the illusion under which we labour every day promises are not kept. If they told us the truth, we would never leave our homes. The nominee for Inspector-General of Police promises to fight graft. I wish he hadn't. The institution to which he has been nominated to lead is not swimming in the most honest of public officers. Indeed, never mind that aberrant ranking in 2009 on performance, it's legitimacy in the eyes of the people consistently plumbs the depths of despair. Its corruption is as certain as the celestial qualities of the Sun.


His predecessor promised to fight graft too. He lost that fight. Every police boss promises to fight graft when they come to office. They all lose the fight. It can be argued that the fight is lost when the appointing authorities have no interest in tackling graft; but I think that the fight is already lost when the people themselves have no interest in seeing victory. We deplore graft only because the majority of us are the givers of bribes, not the recipients. Ours is jealousy, not civic-mindedness. Our fantasies are about tenders and short-cuts to great wealth. When it is our turn to eat we eat with gusto and give our promises of probity the go-bye.

I wish the nominee had promised something more prosaic, like better housing for the men and women he would command. There is not much else he can provide them. He cannot promise them better terms and conditions of service; the monies Parliament is willing to appropriate for the police will remain paltry for a long time to come. He cannot promise them non-interference in the performance of their duties; every elected official, every civil servant and every private developer with an in with the powers-that-be will always demand special favours, with the police at the enforcement end of those favours. The only thing he can promise them, if he has the balls, is good housing, and all the graft that goes into big-ticket public infrastructure tenders.

The nominee comes to the National Police Service from the National Intelligence Service. Maybe he has the moxie to get one or two things right. However, if he thinks that the National Police is an extension of the counter-security arm of National Intelligence, then there are a few outcomes that will come as no surprise. For one, violent crime will not abate an graft will flourish. If he, however, sees policing for what it truly is, there may yet be salvation for the suffering peoples of Kenya. If he sees policing as a means for assuring the safety of the people by working in concert with all stakeholders including National Intelligence, county government and civil society, he may yet find that his fight against graft succeeding.

Successive police bosses have been unsuccessful in their duties because they have had the wrong kind of political cover from their appointing authority. So long as they have kept the political opposition in check, their jobs have been secure. That is a bygone era. With violent crime and terrorism rearing their ugly heads more and more, policing cannot be obsessed with politics to the exclusion of all else. If the appointing authority misses his second chance to properly support his Inspector-General, it is almost certain that an ignominious exit awaits his nominee and the cycle will have come full circle.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

History is never kind.

It took a child who didn't know any better to ask, "But why is the emperor buck naked?" He never got an answer. His mother, horrified, mortified and petrified in equal measure, more or less, smacked the snot out that boy. Down the road he knew to keep his mouth shut every time he saw something he thought everyone else should have seen. Needless to say that regardless of the child's innocent question, the emperor, his acolytes, mandarins, factotums and hangers-on all agreed that he was not buck naked and that he never, ever was, and that everything would carry on as before. The people pretended to believe that he was not buck naked, the preachers preached that he was not buck naked, the court criers broadcast for all to hear that he was not buck naked. 

The emperor was never naked. That is the consensus. Nothing is amiss. That is the received wisdom. Things are under control. That is faith. Though, there are peculiar aspects to the emperor's nudity. He did tell some of the tailors in his chambers to shape up or be shipped out. Many shipped out. One refused. He was made to ship out. He did not go quietly. We remained faithful that the tailors were enemies of the emperor and that their removal from his court was but what fate prescribed.

Then again, an empress far, far away proved to the world that she wasn't naked. In proving herself clad in the finest regalia, she informed the emperor that some of his most trusted courtiers were a risk, that they would expose everything about his non-wardrobe. He ignored her. His courtiers ignored her. She let it go. After all she prefers to deal with naked men; it makes it very easy to lead them by their...well, you get my drift.

The emperor's nudity makes us a laughingstock. If only he admitted his nudity things would be much more simpler. For one, innocent children would not have their mouths washed out by soap for pointing out that his pointer was out. Then he could make the decrees he wanted, either decreeing that everyone went about buck naked like him or everyone was under a duty to point out all nudity regardless of the stature of the nudist.

But he won't. He will pretend to, but he won't. In his pretend-decrees will be hidden the seeds of his humiliation in the pages of history. For the squander of so much promise, he will be portrayed by the dispassionate historian in the dimmest light, so dim it is practically dark. All his beautiful achievements will pale in comparison to how many nude pictures of him circulated in secret among the people, all of them laughing in derision every time he came out in public and made his periodic pretend-decrees. History and historians will not be kind. They never are.

Don't let stupidity prevail.


I don't love animals. I don't love watching them. I don't love playing with them. I don't love talking about them. Don't even get me started about "nature", a place where snakes and poisonous fruits abound, designed to kill me in divinely inventively cruelly painful ways. But just because I am not nature's greatest fan doesn't mean I want it paved over and those hideous chicken-coops we call apartments put up.

It is because of nature that I have drinking water, the occasional thunderstorm to cleanse the city's palate and wonderful pictures of sunsets that I can put on my laptop/tablet/smartphone as a screensaver, making Her go, "Awww..."

Therefore, I don't just not not love "private developers" paving over portions of Nairobi National Park, I hate them. I hope that the lions and elephants they are displacing in service to their avarice eventually make their way to their gated communities and either (a) maul them, the lions, that is, or (b) sit on them, the elephants, that is. Everyone and his mother knows that the kind of urban sprawl these construction heathens are engaging in alienates people from each other, makes enemies where none existed and deadens the soul of the nation. Nairobi - nay, Kenya - doesn't need to become a caricature of Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

The synergy between the private developer and the poacher is disturbing. I may revile rhinos and have nothing but contempt for elephants, but their value to the culture of my peoples cannot be gainsaid. My peoples have a history with the wildlife, a rich cultural history that has given us a vocabulary and a literature that the pale faces from the industrialised north or the slant-eyed Johhny-come-latelys from the industrialising east can only salivate over. That culture, that history has value to us as a nation, both monetary and non-monetary and it is time its destruction by the concrete-minded among us ceased.

Culture. We have it in spades.
We need the wildlife. We need it more than we need a golf resort accessible only to the moneyed elite. We need it more than we need a gated community for faith-challenged swindling men of the cloth and their clandestine lovers. We may not realise it today, but the future of our peoples' health lies in the wildlife being decimated at a rate that will boggle the mind. The days of accidental penicillin are almost over but those of bio-engineering are just beginning and in our wildlife are the molecules we will need to engineer our species' survival. Destruction of our biomes in order to build apartments has to be one of the stupidest policy decisions in a generation. Stupidity is not in short supply but hopefully it shall not be allowed to prevail.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Democracy for Idiots.

Even Winston Churchill, that paragon of tolerance (God, I wish there was a sarcasm font) hated democracy, but couldn't think of anything better to replace it with. A theory that formed the bedrock of the neoconservative takeover of the United States Congress in the wake of 9/11 was that rights and freedoms had to be curtailed in order for the people to be kept safe and the security of the nation to be assured. What became the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) was enacted and US citizens have been paying for it ever since.

Democracy is now the reason why terrorists are free to blow up Kenyans and murder them in their dozens. Our democratic space is a gateway to the radicalisation of the youth, especially in places of worship and institutions of learning. Refugee camps have become breeding grounds for extremists and refugees have only two choices: become suicide bombers or go on living in straitened circumstances. That, at least, is the ridiculous theory.

Kenya is not the United States and the freedoms and rights guaranteed by our constitution may be similar to those guaranteed by the US constitution, but they are not the same. For one we don't have a ridiculous right to bear arms. Anyone who truly believes that Kenyans have ever enjoyed the freedoms and rights that US citizens do has surely not been paying attention. It is, therefore, fallacious to suggest that it is our democratic space that has encouraged extremism, radicalisation and terrorism on our homeland.

We know what promotes radicalisation, extremism and terrorism on our homeland, and democracy or the democratic space are not it. They never have been. First, obviously, is graft, petty and grand. Homeland security, that is, border and customs control, intelligence operations, defense strategy and policing have been hollowed out for decades by a perniciously pervasive corruption that has survived three Presidencies - and seems likely to survive a fourth. Whether it is the acquisition of documents of identity, travel documents, work permits, visas, certificates of company registration, land titles - all documents with security-related implications - graft seems to have smoothened the way for extremists, radicals and terrorists to walk among us with impunity.

Second, poverty, inequity and marginalisation reinforce the ill effects of graft. Among those charged with keeping us safe are to be found Kenyans living in extreme poverty for all the risks they take, but with the officer class living like princes of the city. But among the people, the situation is dire. Fifty one years after independence, there are towns where paved roads are a figment of the imagination, as are piped water, affordable electricity, effective basic healthcare or quality basic education. Poverty, disease and illiteracy stalk their lives, and make them that much easier to seduce with promises of divine glory and material wealth for the price of obeisance to an unknown force for change, which is what the extremists and radicals promise.

Without the graft, tackling poverty, inequity and marginalisation would be easier to do though no walk in the park. But the entire security edifice is built on graft, the whitened bones of honour and duty lying in the scorching desert of public safety and national security. For every ten traffic policemen taking fifty shillings to look the other way as a matatu carries on like a bat out of hell, there is the "boss" playing fast and loose with the tender to supply Third-Generation "digital" identity cards, passports, forensics labs, "research" ships for the navy, Phantom F5 fighter jets, digital communications networks and the like all because the lure of a "cut" of the billions at stake is too strong to resist. Anyone who says that graft flourishes because of the freedoms and rights enshrined in Chapter Four is an idiot and should be treated as such.

We know what we must do to keep the people safe and the nation secure. "Tightening" the legal framework is not it; properly enforcing the law we have is. How an incompetent Inspector-General is fired and then appointed as the chairperson of an agency that plays a frontline role in the safety of our borders borders on the sacrilegious. How alleged recipients of foreign bribes continue to hold high office is rubbing the peoples' noses in it. How someone can suggest that a militarised police state will keep us safe and the nation secure when the forces of law and order are in cahoots with the agents of destruction remains a peculiarly Kenyan insult for which we have no retort.

The road to Schiphol.


Politics can be set aside to provide a world class institution, run on world class business principles and delivering a world class experience. ~ The Nitpicker, Like Schiphol Airport, JKIA too can be key driver of our economic growth (Business Daily, 23 February)
The Kenya Airports Authority, KAA, has a board chaired by the former Inspector-General of Police. Ponder on that a little. The man who oversaw the swiftest decline in public confidence in an institution after a change of guard, who was flatfooted when at least seventy Kenyans were murdered in cold blood at a popular mall, who didn't see a constitutional freedom he didn't want to override, and who, by all accounts, can't run a lemonade stand, is the chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Authority that runs our airports.

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure was the Managing Director of the Kenya Railways Corporation when the corporation was concessioned to a South African company that did not have a record of running a railway company and, it eventually emerged, did not have the capital or the management team to run the concessioned railways. He sits on the Board of the KAA.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, JKIA, is not Schiphol Airport and the Kenya Airports Authority is most definitely not the Schiphol Group, the operating company that runs Schiphol. The Board of Directors of the KAA, as with many boards of directors in which the national Executive has an interest, is the soft landing for public servants such as the former Inspector-General of Police. It is not the place you would go looking for sound management, investment strategy or light-bulb-moment ideas about converting JKIA's earnings into Schiphol-like billion-shilling profits.

That can only be done in the private sector, where the Nitpicker thrives. Her ideas are sound, bold and have a sense of style about them. They are completely wasted on David Kimaiyo and Nduva Muli, who serve political masters with a penchant for patronage. Esther Koimett, the Investment Secretray at the National Treasury, would be in sync with the Nitpicker - if only politics didn't prevent her from successfully divesting the national Executive out of the JKIA.

It is true that "politics can be set aside to provide a world class institution" but the fact that by any global standards none of our public universities is ranked in the top ten, none of our parastatals is ranked in the top 100, and the only thing we are famous for - our world-beating long distance runners - the national Executive cannot create by tenderpreneurship, politics or tribalism, should be a Very Big Clue that the road to Schiphol-like glory will be long, arduous and littered with the detritus of fifty one years of received political wisdom. Even the Nitpicker will have to admit that not even she can identify the politician who is willing to give up the lucrative political opportunities ownership of the KAA entails - and the tender opportunities control of the JKIA brings.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Terrible burdens.


They say I should care about football. As a man, I should have a favourite team to bury all my hidden emotions in without shame. I should feel free to get mad, excited, happy, sad, whatever, because of the fortunes of this team. And because I am a man, my fidelity to that team should depend entirely on whether it has the capacity to hold my attention for more than three minutes; if not, a small bevy of other teams should command some of my attentions and affections. That should be me, shouldn't it?

If it isn't football, it should be tennis, Formula 1, rugby (the fifteens, not that rubbish that is the sevens), NBA basketball or pro-football as epitomised by the National Football league of the United States. I should find a sport, and I should find a sportsman, who or which will command my attention when I am not busy being busy, making money, seducing girlfriends, taking a shit, sleeping, sleeping around or thinking of being busy. It is, I am told, what all men do. It is what is expected of all men, they say. It is the natural order of things.


What fatuous shit! I am not a child, held in thrall by the anodyne bloodless combat on a field filled with highly athletic, highly trained, highly remunerated men. I can allocate my attention and affection far more efficiently than the mob can, and I have. I have no need to follow the careers of men of sport, for sport holds little interest for the one who played, played well but never well enough to make it a career. I do not need to live vicariously by the victories and losses of proxies; I do that every day I go up against the world, in my world, and either conquer it or live to conquer it tomorrow. My victories and losses are mine to celebrate or mourn in private - Like A Man!

Of course I take an interest in the fortunes of the teams in the various leagues and the successes of the various sportsmen in the sports of their careers. After all, I am not an island, completely impervious to the winds of change. But my interest is arms-length, dispassionate, cold-blooded, calculating. It is an interest that is intertwined in my ambitions, my career. It is a distraction, every now and then, when distractions are needed, and it plays the same role as cigarettes once did or ice-cold Heinekens sometimes do. I wouldn't miss the games and the sports if they were suddenly to follow the dodo into the annals of history.

My grandfather did not have the spectacle of the English Premier League or the FIA Formula 1 Championship to occupy his mind; he was variously a husband, a father, a soldier, a teacher and a farmer and he came out the best man I have ever known. His lexicon was vast, unsullied by words like "hooligan" or "pit-stop." In him I had a true hero to emulate, not a jacked up man-boy with problems keeping a girlfriend and difficulty managing his affairs. If pushed to the wall and a gun held to my temple, it is to my grandfather, repository of wisdom, that I shall retreat, not the ego-driven vacuous narcissism of the elite athlete.

In time all men come to the same conclusion I have; but in that time, some men will weep tears over teams and athletes and live in the fantasy world where they are just as elite as the athletes they adore. They will have wasted the valuable time their families demand in their adoration of, usually, foreigners who would go on to live full lives without ever knowing that these men were weeping buckets over them at every loss or setback. These are the sad men whose empty lives need stimuli to remain livable. What a terrible burden these men must bear.

Unruly-mob reform.

Look, anyone who thought "flagship project" were magic words that would somehow streamline public procurement in Kenya needs a refresher course in cowboy contracting and the tenderpreneur moment. The children may yet get their laptops - all that remains are the right signatures on the right forms and the right political constituencies mollified when the tender goes to one of their own without their participation. That's it. And if you think the situation is any better in the United Kingdom or the United States, look at the way BAE Systems skidded past the law when dealing with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Reforming public procurement in Kenya must be done in the full glare of the hypocrisy that defines public procurement all over the world. No nation has a completely graft-free tender process. Not the vaunted Singapore, the draconian China, the lily-white United Kingdom or the nannying United States. To expect angelic fidelity to the law from Kenyans is raising the bar to a height no nation has ever attained.

This is not to say that we should wring our hands in despair and mumble piteously about how everyone is doing it. far from it. It means taking a pragmatic approach to reducing graft and the wastage that accompanies it. Imprisonment and hefty fines have not reduced it; clearly, pain is not a disincentive in Kenya. We need an alternative means of promoting higher levels of honesty in the system. It could be as simple as a national black list of offending firms and instant dismissal from service for public officers on the take.

A pragmatic approach will acknowledge that regardless of the sanctions that a breach of the procurement law will attract, there must be consequences for such breaches. The consequences must threaten not just the freedom or property of the offending parties, but it must also jeopardise future opportunities to benefit from the system in more substantive ways. Such jeopardy should also include the possibility of foreign opportunities for these parties; it is only when an established way of doing business is jeopardised that the incentive to be cleaner becomes more attractive.

Lists of shame are a cost-effective way of starting the reform process. In Kenya, our habit of doing everything in our power to avoid embarassing the high and mighty should be ditched; it has contributed significantly to the re-emergence of shady cowboy contractors as private developers in scandal after scandal. Publish the list of every tender ever given by the State, publish the list of all those that won the tender, publish the list of all those who won the tender using dubious connections or brown envelopes - publish and let the people know. Knowledge is power and that power is best exercised by an unruly mob when it comes to reforms in the public sector.

Unruly mobs, if one cares to think about it, gave us the French Revolution, the Quit India Movement and the slinking out of Bechtel from Bolivia over its intent to privatise water. We have been too obsequious of the public personalities for our own good. It is time we pitch-forked and burning-torched them in loud and humiliating ways for their graft tendencies. It is the only way that we can get the system we want - and deserve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Change the tune.

The Jubilee alliance is not an alliance of two ethnic communities, not if the strict letter of the law is to be observed. After all, in accordance with the law, again, the constituent members of the alliance are "national" parties, aren't they? Therefore, why is it still being promoted on the national airwaves, across all media platforms, that Jubilee is an alliance between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin, and why is an argument being advanced that CORD's machinations are, (a) meant to destroy the alliance between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin and, (b) therefore, bring Kenya to the brink of civil war, or tip it into civil war after all?

There are those promoting the hypothesis that the Kikuyu and Kalenjn have lived in hostility "for decades" and that peace between them must be given a chance, even when it goes against the "natural instincts" of the Kikuyu and Kalenjin. The priniple limb of this hypothesis is that CORD is an obstacle to the "national reconciliation processes", thereby conflating the Kikuyu-Kalenjin comity with national peace and reconciliation. This line of thinking contributed considerably to the post-2007 general election violence and consequent political stalemate. It cannot be permitted to rise again like the noxious political weed it is.

Political violence in the Rift Valley is a recent phenomenon, coming to life during the post-section 2A repeal in 1991. The period between 1991 and 2007 may indeed be longer than a decade, but the hostility that erupted in 1992 was not decades in its festering. The spark was certainly the repeal of section 2A and the KANU fear of loss, KANU being personified in Baba Moi himself. The clashes might be painted as ethnic clashes then but the language of 1992 was "land clashes" with the ethnic identity of the "grabbers" being the convenient backdrop to the massive electoral fraud that took place that year.

While the violence of 2007/2008 may have brought the nation to a halt, it was not violence between Kikuyu and Kalenjin, even if the ones who were eventually charged before the International Criminal Court as being responsible for it were largely Kikuyu and Kalenjin (with apologies to Amb Muthaura and Gen Ali). Therefore, it follows that comity between Kikuyu and Kalenjin, in the wake of violence that touched Luo, Luhya, Kisii, Miji Kenda, Maasai, Samburu, Pokot, is not national peace and reconciliation because of the Kikuyu-Kalenjin rapprochement, but because all other ethnic communities in Kenya agreed to live in relative political peace. Though t is the stalwarts of the Kikuyu and Kalenjn communities who take the lion's share of the praise for the peace that prevails, their two communities in Kenya cannot hold the entire nation at ransom over their comity or lack of it, and if CORD really does manage to bring down the Jubilee house of cards, unless the other ethnic communities pick violent political sides, that will not be the spark for a repeat of 2007/2008.

Jubilee wishes to convert its coalition into a unified political party, a vehicle to solidify its political gains in 2017. It is time it dumped the rhetoric of Kikuyu-Kalenjin comity and the fragility of the peace that comity engenders. That is the myopia of the pygmy. Jubilee is the ruling alliance; it is not the victim of an anti-Kikuyu-Kalenjin conspiracy. Those peddling the incredibly incendiary view that it is weak because of CORD's machinations are the true enemies of national peace, reconciliation and integration.

The Gospel of YouTube.

What do you know of the Illuminati?
 
I know absolutely nothing about the Illuminati, very little about the Freemasons, and a great deal of rumour and innuendo about the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission. I am not a conspiracy theorist, you see, and so for the most part do not care that much about the nefariousness of the aforementioned Illuminati, Freemasons, Bilderberg Group or Trilateral Commission. I may be wrong, but I do not believe that the world is in the secret grip of a tiny, organised, well-connected elite that manipulates world events with decades'-long foresight. (I do not believe that Barack Obama's presidency was planned in the year of his birth when his father struck a deal with a secret cabal that would plant newspaper stories about his birth in American newspapers, et cetera, et cetera.)

I do not see silent black helicopters in the nigh sky every time there is a terrorist attack on our fair land. I do not go to bed wondering whether the regulatory cold shoulder given to KTN, NTV, QTV and Citizen TV by the Communications Authority is a plot by the Kenyan chapter of the Bilderberg Group to control the four main media houses in order to sell more telenovelas, and the ads that go with them, to unsuspecting housemaids, stay-at-home wives and the Lotharios who hang around.

I am a student in all that I attempt, even when I have done something for years. I remain a student, because it is in questioning received wisdom that I hope to gain wisdom. It is not in my nature to blindly follow the pack simply because the pack believe in the Gospel according to YouTube. It is my duty as a student to ask tough questions and to question the accuracy or veracity of the answers I get. It is therefore very difficult to believe that a well-connected, highly intelligent, truly wealthy cartel will sit down in a room to co-ordinate the election of a half-black/half-white man from a broken home fifty years before the man goes to school and becomes an accomplished community organiser in a state known for political corruption of a truly frightening scale.

How can I accept that a woman who was completely unknown a decade ago would be groomed for world domination by being steered into a girl band, leave the girl band for a solo career, take up with a ,man whose ego needs no introduction, marry that man, bear a child with him only so that she can become the Queen Bee of a Hive that will obey her every command, even if those commands are subliminally transmitted to her Bee Hive without thinking that the peddler of that particular morsel of conspiracy theorising must ask for his school fees back?

It is known as the scientific method, my friend, a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. If you haven't sussed it out yet, if, in your disquisition on why Beyoncé is Illuminati and why I should be afraid of this development, you fail to demonstrate how this tidbit will help me acquire new knowledge, or correct and integrate my previous knowledge, I don't think you and I should be in the same room together. You are unlikely to take my reaction to your declarations kindly.

Simply because you assert something with a tone of confidence does not mean that I will accept it as true or accurate. I will test your assertion. I will subject it reason and if it falls short of my measurements, based on my knowledge, I will discard it as intellectual dross. Should you wish to challenge my choice, please marshal all the empirical and technical information at your command, and leave out the University of Google or the Gospel of YouTube, please. If you cannot do that, please join the rest of the Luddites in the ash heap of history, where the Sun revolves around the Earth, the Earth is flat and an object cannot displace its own mass in a body of water.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

All the trimmings.

Can you honestly swear that, other than CORD (where ODM is the sun) and Jubilee constellations (where TNA is the sun), you know who the parties in the by-elections in Homa Bay (today), Kajiado Central (do you even remember when it is scheduled for) and Kabete (his body is not even cold in the ground yet) are? I don't know the other parties, but certain faces are familiar, like Philip Nyakundi, though why they are familiar remains a mystery. Before he was nominated by ODM to stand for the Homa Bay Senate seat left vacant by his brother's untimely death, Moses Kajwang' was not known for anything special, or political like his elder siblings, the late Otieno and TJ Kajwang', representing Ruaraka in Nairobi County.

The faces are familiar, but what the men and women behind the faces have achieved for the people they wish to represent in Parliament remains shrouded in mystery. What is certain, what has always been certain, is that promises will be made by the candidates. These promises, in keeping with the changing digital times, will be calibrated and micro-calibrated for every possible demographic, interest and pressure group: youth, women, the aged, the disabled, artisans, boda boda operators, fisherwomen, and so on. 

You will not hear promises being made to Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Tenderpreneur, yet these are the true constituencies that will find representation in Parliament. It is why so many faces look so familiar that it doesn't really matter what party they ride to Parliament, so long as they arrive.

Every now and then the people get a sop. Sometimes it is big, frequently it is not. When it starts out big, it is frequently hijacked and the people find themselves on the outside of their thing with the windows closed and the curtain drawn tight, noses pressed to the window, snot smeared everywhere. The Constituency Development Fund Act was a brilliant sop and it would have worked too if...we don't need to tread over the ground again, do we? So the new Senator or Member of the National Assembly will be sworn in before his fellow-parliamentarians and in his maiden Speech he will make promises. Those promises were jotted down last night as he celebrated with his new found constituents at places where the umber of zeroes on the bill of fare grow longer but not intimidating to the new parliamentarian with his new close friends to help him in his noble task.

In six months memories of any promises made will have faded. In a year memories of dedicated service to the people, a duty to the truth, and vigilance in public affairs will all be figments of the misguided media's memories. The no-longer-new parliamentarian will have replaced his cut-rate Prado with an upgrade - maybe an X5. He will take advantage of that nifty 3% mortgage scheme for parliamentarians. He will have schooled himself on how to choose foie gras, escargot and an accompanying Chablis without looking like the ass he definitely is. 

His Maiden Speech is likely his last speech on the floor of the National Assembly; as a member of at least two-dozen sitting-allowances-paying committees, the business of the House, or the Senate, can take a back-seat as he lines his pockets. Tell me you are not so naive as to believe that this time it will be different. Tell me that you remember this movie, you've watched it before and you know how the story ends. Tell me you are simply going through the motions because, deep down, you know that after the singing, the shouting, the pushing and shoving, the stone-throwing, the queueing, the waiting and the jubilating and ululating, he will forget you, he will refuse to answer phone calls and he will take a mistress for whom he will spend a pretty penny putting her up in a flat with all the trimmings.

Terrified Panic.

I am not the prayerful type, except when my hide is on the line and panic has gripped my innards in its icy cold grip. In those moments of sheer terror, what little brain function that is not dedicated to calculating the odds of either a flight or fight response is usually dedicated to, "O, Please God!" over and over. When the terror passes I usually make light of it all. But there is usually a bad aftertaste that lingers for hours, sometimes days.


We panic over many things. Over some we have control; over many more circumstances are such that control is limited to how we control our reactions, hence fight or flight...and prayer. I get the feeling that the Government of Kenya is like us: panicky and terrified of most things that it has brought on itself and when terror strikes, and panic sets in, the Government of Kenya is likely to be found responding with varying degrees of flight responses or fight responses - and lots of prayer. We even have a National Prayer Breakfast these days, at which the Executive, Judiciary and Parliament pray for the soul of the nation.

George Muchai's killing is an example of the panicky fight-or-flight-and-prayer mode that the national Executive adopted since his remains and those of his bodyguards and driver were retrieved on Saturday morning. The National Police Service doesn't know whether to blame the late Mr Muchai's also-dead bodyguards for dereliction of duty, or to conclude that the people responsible for the killings are professional assassins who were tasked to assassinate Mr Muchai, the other also-deads being collateral damage. The Ministry of Interior is unable to conclusively state that the much-ballyhooed single-sourced security cameras system  works and if it does how it did not record the killing of the four men. Evans Kidero's City Hall can't explain on what the half-a-billion for traffic cameras was spent because the traffic cameras do not seem to record anything.

All of them are in panic fight-or-flight mode and they are praying hard that Kenyans' notoriously pigeon-like memory will kick in perhaps on the back of Dennis Ole Itumbi's love life, or why Bob Collymore's Safaricom suffered an outtage, or whether Mumo Matemu's commission will take a stab at following up on the Ouzman & Smith convictions in the United Kingdom, or whether children in school (who are very, very randy) should be given free - someone will have to pay for them - condoms by the Government of Kenya. (Just so you know, I think they should; abstinence is a hoax going by the number of babies fathered by teachers with their students these days.)

You can see the panic and terror every time Asman Kamama appears on TV demanding answers, by how suddenly invisible Maina Kamanda and Kanini Kega have become since they made their demands on Sunday, by how silent Evans Kidero is over his half-billio shilling traffic camera system. This panic, this terror is built into the system; it is what makes the system function in such a schizophrenic fashion; sometimes generous, others swinging batons wildly striking at everything in its path without thought. That is no way to govern, but when it is lesser men who govern there is little we can expect of them except panicky terror every time something happens, whether good or not.

Something special.

There's something special about a custom job, isn't there? No, I am not talking about a Pamela Anderson or Dolly Parton level of customisation, I'm talking about something like this...






See how the black-white-black-white contrast is done, especially with the wheels? Brilliant, isn't it? Special. When it is done right, as with that Chevy, you start wondering what the owner felt like the first time he bought it? Did he hate it? Or did he want to make it his own by taking what General Motors had done and then taking it to his own personal level of special?

It's difficult to do that with supercars. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston-Martins and their ilk are already engineered to their designers' conception of perfection that the only thing one can do is to go the other way as thousands of Emirati sheikhs have done with their snake-skin covered Bugattis or abominations of similar tastelessness have demonstrated over the past decade.

Run-of-the-mill rides are the ones that demand a touch of magic, to elevate them from ordinary to special, to imbue them with a character and a name, and to remove them from the conveyances of convenience that they are to works of art many would consider parts of their families. Tell me that you aren't moved by something like this...





...or these...


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I want one.

Yes. I want one. What? you ask. This!


Or this.


Please note the following, though. I can't drive. I can  get a car from point A to B, but beyond that I am a motorist, not a driver. Much to many of my friends' amusement, I don't seem to care one way or the other that I am not the spiritual successor to Juan Manuel Fangio, Richard Burns and Colin McRae all rolled into one. Instead I seem to be channelling Takuma Sato, and his sad stay with the Honda F1 Team.

That being so, I still love me  nice motor. What comes almost as close to being properly nice as the Rangey or the 911? Rollers just arouse the envy of your neighbours and invite Probox assassins to come after your ass. Benzes just have a whiff of Me-Too-ness about them. Beemers? Jeremy Clarkson and the worldwide community of TopGear-heads have a less than charitable image of their owners. Ferraris, Jags, Bugattis, Lambos, Astons...all over-the-top Jesus-Christ-Expensive.

But Rangeys, despite that Hazina Estate asshole, are to be admired, wheels to aspire to once your bid for the uji tender comes through. 911s, on the other hand, are the epitome of German Engineering, aren't they. The Benz-Beemer-Audi triumvirate may have cornered the market on plutocrat's rides, but not even their AMGs, Ms or RSs can conjure up the image of speed-and-handling that the 911 has been conjuring up since 1964.

So I want one. I can't help myself. You wouldn't if you knew what was good - and bad - for you. You really wouldn't.

How would she look in a suit?

Every now and then you must wonder, "How does she look in in a suit?" I don't mean one of those manly suits that certain women who play for a certain team wear; I mean, "How does she look in a suit?"


See? @UberFacts tells us that men wore heels before women cottoned onto them - because heels made men feel, and look, more masculine. Until I saw her in a suit, this fact was just a factoid of no import. And then came Sigourney Weaver.


Now that factoid constantly blows my mind. Men wore heels to feel and look more masculine. It blows out of the water all your comfy ideas about what men and women can and cannot do, doesn't it? If it were men who brought heels to the world, why should they believe that gender-switching when it came to heels can't happen with other things.

Did you know until around fifteen years ago that it was a disciplinary matter if women working for the government wore trousers, never mind pant-suits. But if they wore this number...


...I could see how some Director of Admnistration who'd spent the better part of his career as a District Officer in Kapropita would not be willing to live that vision of beauty in that eye-catching number. So, every now and then, I wonder, "How would she look in a suit?"

We are shameless.

When Samuel Kivuitu announced that Mwai Kibaki had been re-elected as President of Kenya, it set of a chain of events that led to the deaths of at least a thousand Kenyans, the rape and grievous assault of tens of thousands of Kenyans, and the displacement of at least six hundred thousand Kenyans from their homes. For seven years, the International Criminal Court, its Office of the prosecutor and the Government of Kenya have danced around investigating the violence that ensued and the prosecution of those suspected to be most responsible. Those who were murdered, raped, maimed or displaced have largely been forgotten; even their representative at the ICC seems not to pay them much mind these days.

Lone voices have attempted to keep the plight of the survivors of the violence in the public's mind with little success.The Government of Kenya and a large proportion of the post-election violence civil society industry has focussed almost entirely on the displaced. The national Executive and many of its supporters have repeatedly stated that, as proof of its concern for the "victims" of the violence, it has resettled all the displaced. The survivors would beg to differ. So would I.

The national Executive controls the key institutions necessary for action to demonstrate that the plight of all the survivors is being addressed effectively: the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions. When the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed "over three hundred" files related to the violence, it concluded that none of them could form the foundation of successful prosecutions because the police had done "a shoddy job" in investigating the crimes that were committed. Seven years after those dark days, murderers, rapists, knee-cappers, arm-breakers, skull-fructurers, child-defilers, arsonists, robbers and thieves walk free while the survivors try as best they can to rebuild their shattered lives.

What must gall them to the core, what must intensify their grief, is the national obsession that places two individuals and the large political constituencies they represent at the centre of the violence, and their subsequent political rapprochement as proof that both the survivors and perpetrators of the violence have moved on. Collectivisation of the crimes has destroyed any national desire to investigate individual crimes even where perpetrators were clearly identified. Conflation of the fate of the two men with the post-2013 peace has erased the survivors from the mind of the people.

The survivors, especially the survivors who were not displaced, are on their own. Those who were sexually assaulted, defiled, maimed or injured have no one to turn to. They have been erased from public discourse. They are witness to callousness on a colossal scale. They are called to survive injustice twice over: the national Executive will not properly investigate the crimes committed against them and, therefore, there will be no prosecution, and the national Executive will not - NOT - compensate them for their losses. Ever. We should be ashamed to even think of ourselves as civilised.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A familiar ring to it.

If you kill a person without lawful reason, the punishment, if you are convicted of the killing, is death. The State, in the guise of the National Police Service shall investigate the killing and arrest you if you are their best suspect, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions shall prosecute you before a magistrate. If you are convicted, the only sentence that can be imposed is death.

That is the theory, at least. If you are poor and unremarkable, only rich and remarkable in the eyes of those nearest and dearest to you, it is unlikely that your killing will receive the serious attention of the police, the DPP or the Judiciary. Without being crass about it, if you are not a mover or a shaker, you might as well die of rinderpest infestation for all they care. But if you are a member of a class to which the rank and file in the national Police, the DPP' s office or the subordinate courts are not invited, levers will be pulled, and public promises will be made regarding your killing, but only if you are the right kind of mover or shaker, that is, you and the government of the day and the senior echelons of that government's civil service are on the  same page and of the same mind.

Mr Muchai was a Member of Parliament. he was murdered on Saturday 7 February. He had two police bodyguards and a driver with him when he was murdered. They were murdered too. Their deaths have received the kind of coverage that feels like an afterthought. Mr Muchai's murder, on the other hand, has prompted the President, the Deputy President, the senate Majority Leader, the Chairman of the Council of Governors, the National Assembly Majority Leader, the Secretary-general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, the acting Inspector-General of Police, the Director of Criminal Investigations, the leadership of obscure churches in Kiambu and Dagoretti, and the slain politician's young wife to speak out about the need for a swift investigation. Indeed the chairman of the parliamentary security committee wants the investigation conducted and concluded in three days or, he promises, there will be hell to pay.

Presumably the unravelling of Mr Muchai's murder will also unravel the murder of his "associates" if indeed it was Mr Muchai who was the target. His bodyguards were policemen, with young families. They were obviously not rich policemen: they didn't have cars of their own so Mr Muchai was dropping them off at their police station in town. So too, it seems, about Mr Muchai's driver. For their poverty they will forever remain in the realms of innocent bystanders unless, by some evil turn of events, it is one or all three who were the targets and not Mr Muchai.

The next steps are familiar. Big Men will visit Mr Muchai's widow, television crews in attendance, and offer their very public condolences. A very public autopsy, for which results will not be released, will be ordered. A funeral programme will be swiftly organised. His burial will be a showcase of political posturing and crocodile tears. The burial of the policemen and driver will be accomplished without fanfare or publicity. Within two weeks, when the trail runs cold and the perpetrator or perpetrators of the heinous crime get further and further from the long arm of the law, some celebrity will expose themselves in public or some other scandal will erupt, our attention will wander and Mr Muchai, his bodyguards and his drivers will slip from our minds, never to return. Like I said, very familiar.

Bullying won't work.

"What do you mean negotiate? I'll put a gun to his head. He'll either go back to work...or he won't!" Or words to that effect. That's how it feels with the Mandera walimu impasse. "Serikali lazima iheshimike na kila mtu!" That's the attitude that seems to be prevailing. It is not the Teachers' Service Commission or the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology that the recalcitrant teachers are defying, but Government itself.

That defiance must be snuffed out, if it means using the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and tame journalists to intimidate and browbeat teachers' unions' officials, using the machinery of the sector's bureaucracy to order teachers back to work or using the political machinery at both the national and county levels to paint the teachers in the worst possible light. This is a tactic that has worked in other situations and it must work in this one. If it fails, then what use is all that power that Presidents, Cabinet Secretaries, constitutional commission' chairmen, principal secretaries and chief executive officers acquire upon assuming office?

Lest you miss my allusion, the relation between the national Executive and its agencies with the teachers is essentially of one of master and slave. The slave cannot dictate terms to the master. It is un-biblical and wrong. When  the master demands supplication, the slave must lie lower than envelope. When teachers are ordered back to work, whether their fears have been addressed or not, they must pack their bags, pay up their life insurance premiums and board the first bus to Mandera.

One small fly in this cozy ointment has been the rather foolish decision to arrest quarry workers who seem not to understand that there is an al Shabaab cell operating in Mandera and would sooner than later set upon the quarry workers in a most brutal fashion. It isn't the arrest of these men eking their living in the abject conditions that is the fly in the ointment, rather that the National Police Service admits that there is risk in working in Mandera if one is not a native of Mandera. It begs the question, then, if the place is still unsafe for lowly quarry diggers, why should it be safe for teachers who are not known to keep mattock handles at hand for safety?

This is a pattern that repeats itself every time the national Executive is challenged, whether the challenge is legitimate or not. It overreacts. It makes bone-headed demands. Then it is made to look foolish when its demands are not only ignored, but laughed at in derision. The Mandera quagmire is an opportunity to address broadly the inequities of the past, especially in resource allocation in the education sector. The national Executive is blowing its chance by behaving like a colonial master dealing with a restless, incorrigible native population. 

Bullying will not work when Kenyans have seen the benefits of hard stances when it comes to industrial disputes. Failure to recognise this cognitive fact is fast becoming the reason why the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Teachers Service Commission and the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Service are the Achilles' Heel in an otherwise well-oiled juggernaut.Joseph ole Lenku is gone. It is time detritus like Jacob Kaimenyi were politely asked to parlay their skills elsewhere far away.

Busy Signal & RC - Dreams Of Brighter Days (Official Video) - Prod. by S...





Same riddim..

Romain Virgo - Soul Provider (Brighter Days Riddim) - prod. by Silly Wal...





There is a way to keep dental surgical pain at bay...

Monday, February 09, 2015

Fig-leaf Rules.

Theoretically, I think, we (Africans, that is) don't traditionally exterminate those we disagree with politically or on any other ground. We allow them to come up with counter-arguments that try to persuade us they they are right, or that a particular road should be traveled for the well-being of all. This is an admirable quality that was exported to Africa (previously known as the Dark Continent, where the Enlightenment brought civilised illumination) by European missionaries out to bring God, King and Country to the savages wondering the savannas, jungles and deserts of the continent in their loin clothes, wielding their spears, and engaging in casual bestial savagery for sport. Theoretically.

I have no idea if it is true. I don't care. The Twentieth and, so far the first two decades of the Twenty-first, Century have witnessed a degree of casual western barbarism that, if it was not for the constant distraction of New Media and Hollywood, we would quite literally be up in arms. The hypocrisy of the western system is such that it can speak out of both sides of its mouth without suffering a psychotic break. On the one hand you have the cabal of western governments, the military-industrial complexes and their giant multinational corporations conniving to wage war. On the other hand you have their do-gooding civil society organisations bringing solace, and some brand of justice, to shell-shocked populations bombed by the aforementioned cabal. One bombs you to smithereens; the other offers succour, solace and an ersatz justice as compensation.

This has a familiar feel to it. When European powers met in Berlin to "partition" Africa among themselves, words like "justice" and "government" were not meant to be terms of general application in relation to the subject peoples of the Dark Continent. We are still coming to terms with the casual barbarism and brutality of the Belgian sovereigns in the Congo  and the German settlers in Namibia, in which Africans were a sub-human species for whom extermination made perfect sense, in the same way a family at home will exterminate rats and cockroaches without a second thought.

So why can't Africans apply the same Anglo-Saxon, Judeo-Christian hypocrisy in relation to international crimes and crimes against humanity? Why should we frown mightily in despair when the African Union seriously considers the establishment of an African Court along the same lines of the International Criminal Court? Look at the ICC and tell me what is so strange about Africa looking for the same elegant solution that the United States and its permanent pals on the Security Council have found for their barbaric warring, murdering and exterminating in the name of "international law."

In the wake of the bloodshed of the Second World War, and the establishment of the United Nations Organisation, the hypocritical words were that the world would not witness another world war because the UN was there to keep the peace. What it did instead was to privatise war among the P5, excluding the wayward savages of the world. And so the French attempted, and failed, to exterminate the Indo-Chinese, leaving that job to the United States, which duly called it quits when its own death toll claimed above 500,000 servicemen. (The true number of Indo-Chinese killed remains unknown to date.) 

The British had their adventures in Arabia while the Russians, their tight grip on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics unwavering, had the whole Eastern portion of Europe to try their hand at it, culminating in the wanton technology-driven slaughter in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan, before they too admitted defeat and slunk out of there. The International Criminal Court is the fig leaf that the West uses to hide its shame at what its true nature is. It shouldn't feel shy about admitting Africa to the Dark Side; the lessons Africa has learned from the West have been learned well by Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, the Ali Bongos of Gabon,  Faure GnassingbĂ© of Togo and Teodero Nguema Obiang Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. We shall apply the same fig-leaf rules that the USA, the Russian Federation and, lately, the People's Republic of China have applied at the international Criminal Court, we promise.

Pissing in the wind.

I'll admit it. I was a bit smug that my law degree is not tainted by doubt, even though it was obtained in a little-known bit of the world's largest democracy. Employers, and some demanding clients, may not like that it was obtained over there, but they are confident that it was not obtained using less than academic means. I am a bit smug that though my alma mater does not have the same kind of sheen, it is not viewed with something bordering contempt as the University of Nairobi and its fellow public universities are viewed. More importantly, my alma mater seems not to be part of the conversation about the risks to the economy that the doubtful degrees and diplomas being offered by our high education system engender.

Now that I am through gloating, what are we to do about the state of high education in Kenya? A lot, it turns out, though the most difficult step will prove to be the most difficult to take. Many will extol the virtues of better policing of the high education system by the Ministry, its agencies and the Commission of University Education, the CUE, but these will forever remain mere salves for the sores festering in the cold, bracing winds of global academic competition. Some will extol further the virtues of better terms and conditions for those in charge of the education and training of our future manpower, but this too will remain a band-aid used to stanch a gushing amputation.

The most important reform would have to be the removal of the dead hand of the Cabinet Secretary from the levers of power in the public high education system, and the proper empowerment of the CUE to perform its proper role without interference. The Cabinet Secretary has revealed the foundations for the formation of the first post-2013 Cabinet to be a great fraud on the public: he is a politician first and a technocrat next, and in his latter role he has proven woefully inept. It seems that the Cabinet Secretary and his mandarins have allowed their worries over laptops-for-tots and similar totemic big-ticket tender projects to distract them from their proper roles: policy and fiscal discipline for the public education sector, including the high education sector.

The Ministry's and CUE's over-involvement in the administration of public universities almost always guarantees that Vice-Chancellors and their administrative teams work with an eye out for politicians and political operatives with axes to grind. To keep the barbarians at the gate off their turf, university administrations have become adept at currying political favour with ministerially-favourable big-ticket projects such as has been witnessed by the recent real estate expansion of almost all public universities that have little utility in quality education improvement, but are beautiful for placating rent-seeking politicians and political operatives.

So long as Cabinet Secretaries and their minders live in the antediluvian world in which the politicians "owned" the public enterprises for which they made policy, high education in Kenya will continue to be subject to these kinds of doubt. The public education sector, which has the potential to answer the Big Questions that the private sector would not touch unless they were heavily and publicly subsidised to do so, will eventually be supplanted by the private sector if it continues to be run as a political piggy bank by the national Executive. For example, there was a time when, after the collapse of the East African Community, the University of Nairobi was the premier law university after the University of Dar es Salaam. Today we doubt very seriously the calibre of law graduates from Kenya's allegedly leading university and thinking seriously of considering the new graduates from the Strathmore University School of Law or, horror of horrors, Indian universities!

How the Government of Kenya will manage to wean itself from politicking with everything remains the mystery of the ages, but a break with that culture is necessary to improve public high education and, in turn, the entire high education sector. The first step is the hardest to take, yet without it we are all pissing in the wind.

They will always be targets.

I don't know if George Muchai was murdered or assassinated. I probably never will. I am curious, though, about the strange reaction to his killing. Mr Muchai was killed together with his two armed bodyguards and his driver. Of that there is little that is disputed. How he was killed has been the subject of speculation by politicians, trade unionists and clergy men, with us none the wiser as to whether there was one assailant or more, whether the Kidero CCTVs around the Central Business District work or not, and whether Mr Muchai's killing is the beginning of the killing of other elected representatives or "an isolated incident."

As is their wont when one of their colleagues is in straitened circumstances, or has been murdered/assassinated, the elected classes rally round the flag and speculate furiously about the incident. Mr Muchai's killing has given some members of his party the opportunity to speak their mind about their fears for their safety and to demand from "government" a swift investigation, a robust prosecution of the perpetrators of the heinous deed and, "kama ni kuwanyonga, wanyongwe!" by the indefatigable Ferdinand Waititu. They are all worried that some unknown assassin is coming after them.

I know very little about Mr Muchai's political and pre-political careers, save that he was a senior official of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, and that he had made allegations about a missing 120 million shillings from the Union. He did not seem to make public appearances, or if he did he wasn't notable. His murder/assassination, therefore, raises questions about who Mr Muchai really was, and what he really did when he wasn't being Member of Parliament for Kabete.

The reactions by members of his party are telling. The classic posture of we-are-special-so-protect-us remains alive, and their demands are the proof that we needed, if ever there was one. Their safety, and security, remains prioritised over ours because they are more important than us because of their elected status. It follows, therefore, that if one is not an elected representative, even a lowly member of a county assembly, one has no status, one is sot important and one's death can come to pass at the hands of a murderer without undue national worry. (Exceptions to this rule no doubt exist; I bet if Dr (Hon) Chris Kirubi were murdered/assassinated, there would be great government angst over it.)

Until Uhuru Kenyatta and Joseph ole Nkaissery accept that the principle purpose of policing is not the safety, or security, of the million-shillings-per-month elected classes, or that of the flag-bearing ministerial cohort, or the pay-us-or-else constitutional commissions bandwagon, but the safety and security of the general public, the likes of Mr Muchai will forever remain targets of those who would wish to do them harm. When policing's priorities place the safety of the public at the top of the list, a logical outcome is that more Kenyans will have confidence in the national Police, more Kenyans will be willing to accept higher taxes for better working conditions for policemen and the general atmosphere in our cities, towns and villages will be more optimistic.

But because policing still operates in the classic colonial pattern, the general public is a threat to national security and political stability, therefore, it is to be policed in a hostile and aggressive manner.  The logical outcome of that system is that the entire public safety system is untrustworthy, and the people it is meant to keep safe from the people are only mourned by their fellow plutocrats when things go tragically wrong, as in the case of the lat Mr Muchai. Worse still we will forget his death soon enough, just as we forgot that of Mugabe Were, George Saitoti, Orwa Ojode, Mutula Kilonzo, Otieno Kajwang' and Fidel Odinga. Unless we have true police reforms, the cosmetology being attempted by Uhuru Kenyatta and Joseph Nkaissery will do nothing to stem the hostility that "government" faces, nor engender empathy when "government's" agents are felled by murderers'/assassins' bullets.

The return of the Iron Lady

She is the smartest, most exasperating, stubborn and committed politician I have ever met. She pushes buttons without fear or favour. She has a knack for rubbing her detractors' buttons, usually driving them to apoplectic rage with her I-don't-care certainty backed with facts, figures and steel. I have a feeling that she is going to make the next two years mightily uncomfortable for many men. That's why despite my better judgment I think Martha Karua is easily the conscience of the nation, a field that has been abandoned by one and all in the mad rush to the winning of tenders, the grabbing of school playgrounds, the murder f devolution fighters and the greedy grasp for political and material power.

Ms Karua was going to lose the presidential election in 2013. Of that only the die-hard fanatics would have doubt. In her heart of hearts she knows this to be true. But she would not bend, she would not compromise, she would not hunt with the hounds while running with the hares if it meant that she would have to give up on principles that had stood her in good stead through both good times and bad. Her robust defence of Mwai Kibaki's victory in 2007 rubbed the opposition the wrong way, but it was entirely in character. I was wrong to ascribe her defence to her being a member of the Mt Kenya set around the president; Ms Karua believed that the letter and the spirit of the law had been upheld and she defended Mr Kibaki's re-election on principle. It is principle too that led her to resign from Mr Kibaki's Cabinet, with some of her former Cabinet colleagues accusing her of betraying the president.

She has been out of the limelight since the general elections of 2013, though not so far outside that she did not contribute to public discourse from time to time through social media and some media appearances. It is on principle again that she persuaded her party leadership not to be co-opted into the Jubilee government, and it is on principle that she re-enters active politics today. I cannot wait to see what she brings to the arena this time around. For sure she will stand for the presidency again and I hope that the political field will be fertile enough for some of her ideas, if not all of them, to germinate and, perhaps, blossom.

Before her loss in 2013, Ms Karua had been an elected Member of Parliament for twenty years. In that period she had stood up to not one but two presidents, had served in two Cabinet positions with distinction, headed a political party and helped negotiate a settlement that papered over the political problems Kenya had faced. Her principles made her, sometimes, inflexible, but I believe that she has the capacity to bend when bending is the only rational, lawful option left. Ms Karua and, to some extent, Mrs Ngilu and the late Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Maathai, are the leading lights of the woman rights movement in Kenya, not for the woman-centric stances they took but for the successes they achieved simply by being better than their competitors in many respects. They are the proof that intellect, hard work, networks and luck are not the preserve of the menfolk, but that women too have the capacity to engage in matters of national importance at the highest levels without their femininity being used as a weapon to defeat them.

The Iron Lady from Gichugu faces a daunting task in rebuilding her party, Narc-Kenya. The Jubilee parties seem to be going from strength to strength and the CORD does not seem to be falling apart as many commentators seem to have predicted. Her party has lost some of its lustre and it will take considerable resources to reawaken the network she had built for her presidential bid. Many have underestimated her in the past; they do so again to their regret. I hope that she manages to offer the Third Way that Ekuru Aukot and John Githongo have been preaching about, and that principled politicians will coalesce around her agenda rather than the big-party corruption of both the Jubilee and CORD outfits. Ms Karua's return is a welcome development in pre-2017 electioneering. I hope she shakes things up sufficiently that current orthodoxies undermining the Constitution are shelved for good.

Friday, February 06, 2015

The Ndirangu Option.

A year ago on this blog I surveyed the shambles that we shall agree is, and will forever be known, as my love life, and the scene was desolate. I may have overstated things. I may have implied that the interventions of Jennifer, Liz, Marion and Lilian were required in order to set things in motion that would end with my mother not looking so downcast. I may have overstated things.

It has been a cracker of a year, all twelve months. I made several discoveries. For instance, there are more people with their knives out for you than you could possible imagine. The only that pisses them off than knowing you may be going places is that you may not know, or realise, that they hate you or why. I always knew I had enemies; I am a lawyer and lawyers make enemies. I never thought I'd met them, or deal with them. In the year since I extolled the virtues of a Nairobi landmark, I have had poison mixed in my food, and poison poured in my work record, both intended to destroy me, physically and professionally. I don't know what I did to them, but I am keeping well clear of them this year.

Did I tell you that I made the biggest ass of myself on New Year's Day? I didn't? Strange. Anyway, he asked me to pretend to be a DJ. I was flattered. That should have been the first sign that it would turn into a fiasco. My taste in music goes something like this: Bob Marley, reggae, then everything else. Joseph was so offended he actually yelled at me. Everyone else, including him thank God, was determined to usher in the New Year in a state of perfect harmony with nature so they didn't pay my DJ'ing any mind. He seemed to have enjoyed it; I am now the resident Samsung Galaxy S4 DJ of choice around the Three Barrels.

In a week's time a million rose bushes will feel the sharp steel of secateurs, a million litres of Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, 12, 16 or 18 year old Scotch, a hundred million litres of Ruaraka's finest, and a million tonnes of Ghana's exported chief product will be consumed in the name of, I believe, a fictitious Roman Catholic saint. Promises will be made, some on bended knee. Promises will be broken, bended knees will connect with exposed scrotal sacs. Some will be forced to arrange more than one assignation, and pay the price for it. Eventually. I intend to wash-rinse-repeat my tried-and-battle-tested routine. I hope She will not interfere. I fear she will.

In preparation then, I have made contact with a one-name, one-man operation with offices along River Road, who promises, I kid you not, "we can kidnap you on Valentine's Day for a small fee". I am yet to enter the ranks of the seriously well-connected, well-walletted members of Nairobi nobility: I have not become a kidnap victim yet. In conjunction with Mr Ndirangu, the provider of this singular service, I intend to test Her affections for me. That, by the good offices of Mr Ndirangu, is the plan. But She is sneaky, and clever, and a bit scary, and she finds out stuff, so she may yet put the kaibosh on my plans with Ndirangu and Co. But should she not, the Three Barrels will be witness to my determinedly un-coiffed mane, a Bosire-like goatee, a full pack of red-boxed Master Blend and a steady supply of Ruaraka's libations at the proper temperature. That, my friends, is my plan. Keep her away from me.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Jesus Christ Smackdown.

This is an evangelical smackdown the likes I have never seen. The comments section was so much verbal jujitsu I almost visualised it in my head. But I didn't. I don't roll like that. And I'm blind. Sort of. What makes a good Christian? Will all good Christians end up in heaven, on Our Father's right hand? Will their goodness be the ticket to heaven? Or will it be their faith? I don't know, and it is entirely possible that in my current slightly sozzled state that I don't care.

I have had the ill-fortune of wasting my youth on many things that at the time were completely fun but of absolutely no academic or financial value. They most certainly robbed my parents of choices and opportunities that they will never, ever recover. But they taught me valuable lessons about the insularity of geographical isolation and its pernicious effects on ones understanding of the world, and our place in it.

The questions that Jestidwell's Blog raise are not so strange when one considers how faith and religion blind us to the world as it is, and we are always shocked when we truly open our eyes for the first time and are confused that what we know and what we see are so painfully different. Many of the United States' citizens I have met are woefully ignorant about my country, spending their youth in a cocoon made up of the exceptional nature of the United States, the supremacy of its military and its infallible faith in God Almighty.

In a nation of such a great wealth of choice, what they know of the world is reduced to snippets of video about starving, godless Africans who murder each other in grotesque rituals. Many Christian missionaries in Kenya from the United State live in complete ignorance that missionary work in Kenya, whether Christian or Islamic, is older than than the United States of America, and that these missionaries are plowing in an already plowed field. There are more denominations, sects and cults than Kenyans know what to do with; there isn't a part of this febrile land to which the Gospel has not been taken.

It is the arrogance of the youthful United States' nationals and their mentors that they believe that the Gospel abroad in our land is the wrong one, and that they come bearing the one true Gospel for us misguided souls. It is why they are shocked when they are confronted with the snooty The Junction Mall. It is why when that happens, they are paralysed and incapable of driving the three kilometres to Kawangware where they will find the poor, possibly starving, Kenyans they are so desperate to minister the Gospel to.

The righteousness of the backlash to Jestidwell's Blog post is a phenomenon that is not unique to Christian evangelism; like any big club, the purity of the mission is always policed by those who have no authority to pronounce on the principles of the club. So it is with Christian evangelism, as with religious evangelism of all kinds as the Islamic State is demonstrating every day these days. Jestidwell's Blog post is an innocent exploration of her faith in the disappointment of her misconceptions of Nairobi. Some of the commentators to her post are viciously judgmental, countenancing no other vision of the world and Christian faith other than their own. The only difference between them and the fundamentalists beheading people in the name of God is that Christianity has already gone through this phase, and in the United States it was in waves; Salem, and then the whole South with the questions of slavery and civil rights.

So, from Jestidwell's Blog post and the backlash from the puritans who read it, I don't know if the road to heaven requires my goodness, my faith or both.Do you?

I don't understand.

In a war, with bombs falling, massed groups of combatants firing at each other, fighters dog-fighting in the sky, tanks rolling over towns and villages, commanders and generals intent on destroying the armies of the enemy, with even lawyers, doctors and nurses taking up arms, how do you prevent atrocities, whatever those are, or war crimes from being committed? Since 1945 the United States of America has a fought a war in every decade to date.

In the sixty years of United States' wars, ignoble acts have been committed by United States military personnel and the government for which they have fought. The effects of US military interventions have sometimes lingered for decades; for example, the use of the defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam between 1961 and 1971 is still causing misery today. Many children continue to be born with debilitating health problems because of the persistence of the chemical in the environment.

The United States is not the only country that has been at war over those sixty years. The Union of Soviet Socialists Republics, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Chechnya, Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Greece, Cyprus, Argentina, Great Britain...all have been at war and in those wars, it is alleged, atrocities have been committed, war crimes have been committed.

The central question remains: how do you prevent atrocities and war crimes from being committed? Until the beginning of the Nuclear Age, in which large stock-piles of nuclear warheads and the missiles for their delivery were amassed, "war crimes" were punished using some form of victor's justice. The Nuremberg Trials were show trials used to punish the Axis Powers after the Second World War, but even if the Axis Power had had foreknowledge of the trials, it is doubtful that they would have stayed their hands from doing what they did during the war. The hypocrisy of the trials is demonstrated by the fact that the Allied Powers were never held to account for the bombing of Dresden in 1945 in which almost 25,000 people were killed in two nights of aerial bombing.

I have followed the debate as closely as I can of the question of preventing sexual violence and sexual exploitation during periods of armed conflict. I am afraid I do not see how men and women in combat will be prevented from committing acts of sexual violence when they are in combat; it goes against their instincts to commit violence as they have been trained to do and are urged to do when at war. War or armed conflict are not clinical events in which violent emotions are not  de riguer; they are violent contests in which atavism and savagery are weapons too for the destruction of the enemy or, at least, for his capitulation. In that atmosphere, in that environment, it is strange that sexual violence will be absent.

The second strange thing about the debate is that this rule seems not to apply to nations like the United States or the Israel, Great Britain or France, but applies to every one else, depending on whether the United States and its allies like them or not. If the prosecution of those accused of those accused of atrocities or war crimes can only be guaranteed because they are not backed by a world power, what is the point of even considering rules to police it to begin with? I am afraid I do not understand. Perhaps one day I will, though I fear I won't.