Monday, August 31, 2015

Whose strings are they?

Are they marionettes?

I don't know what it is about Boniface Mwangi that rubs the cheering squad the wrong way. Perhaps it is the unapologetic and forthright manner (that is, rude and abrasive) that he puts forth his ideas. Perhaps it is that he refuses to be seduced by Kenya's seemingly rapid upward movement in socioeconomic indices of some repute. Perhaps it is that when he speaks, there is a sizable chunk of interests that heed his words, hew to his calls and spend goodly amounts of their money to help him spread his message. So, are Mr Mwangi and the civil society circus he is a part of, marionettes?

I don't know. I don't think so. But even if he was, so what?

Marionetteers come in all forms. In the 1980s and early 1990s, we had the strings called the Structural Adjustment Programmes being pulled by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These programmes laid to waste the Kenyan economy. Now we can argue about the degree of contribution that corruption made in the destruction of the economy, but only the naive still live under the delusion that the SAPs were a boon to the Kenyan economy. These strings were tied to Baba Moi and his Cabinet; no one still dares to suggest that the old man was a puppet even though, by accepting the SAPs, he most certainly was.

In 2003, Mwai Kibaki was staring at an empty treasury. He was an ailing, old ex-KANU warhorse. He needed a win. He corralled the geniuses in his party to come up with a plan, any plan. They gave him Kenya Vision 2013. Soon came Free Primary Education. Then he switched off and let his Cabinet lead the way. Soon enough, again, came strings attached to "superhighways" and "defence modernisation." The treasury remained empty; we were, after all, paying for our economic future. You wouldn't know it from the plaudits the taxman was winning for hitting his targets. The treasury remained empty. It remains empty today. The strings get ever tighter. No one called Mwai Kibaki China's marionette. None will. Even though he was. What? You though China gave us a "grant" like those car grants MPs keep fighting over?

Mr Mwangi has his flaws. He is not shy about them. He is not St Boniface of Ngara. But he is not wrong to harp on and on about the scabby, leprous bits of our Republic. That is no his job description. He hasn't arrogated unto himself the role of Whinger-in-Chief, but the ones who listen to him and the ones who agree with him must surely see what he sees. That is something worth wondering about. If Kenya is so perfect, if its leadership is so good, why are there scabby, leprous bits then?

How about Mr Mwangi's accusers? Do they have strings attached?

Take this odious suggestion that the malign policy of "cost-sharing" irrupted into Kenya by the SAPs should be embraced in the name of "national security." Read Article 239 of the Constitution clearly. Find the part that implies that "security begins with you and me." Mr Mwangi has highlighted this particular oddity. He is not the only one; he is certainly one of the loudest and most strident. But he is not wrong. Could the cheerleaders of the "security begins with you and me" choir be the marionettes of the authors of a Stalinist philosophy that stood Kenya's first two presidents in such good stead? Your guess is as good as mine.

Quit whining. Cheer instead!

We are not cheerleaders, most of us. We are mostly grinders, toiling in abject circumstances to make ends meet, though they very frequently do not. Many of us carry crosses of differing weights. We do so with stoicism, without quarrel or complaint. We are not national heroes; quite frequently, actually, we are figures of pity, scorn and ridicule. But we don't notice that either; we are too busy toiling. Every now and then our toil pans out and we are freed from drudgery. Every now and then. Not always. But we are not cheerleaders.

You may not know this to be true, but few Kenyans give two shits about the image of the Republic among the comity of nations. The population of adult Kenyans who will ever own a passport and use it to visit the great United States, the former colonial mistress the United Kingdom, the snooty France, the laissez faire Italy, the Teutonic Germany, the hedonistic Brazil, the xenophobic South Africa, biblical Israel or the sandy beaches of the Caribbean. These Kenyans will never experience the "humiliation" of another Kenyan badmouthing the Republic in Washington, DC, San Fransisco, London or Rome.

The Kenyans who experience this "humiliation" are entitled to their chagrin, but they should not imagine that their is the only proper emotion to be expressed or experienced when a Kenyan with a specific experience of the Republic describes that experience as anything but sun, sand and "warmth." I had a friend when I was in Standard 8 called Eliud. He joined my class after we had registered for the KCPE. He joined my school from Molo. He joined us after his father had been butchered right in front of his eyes, after he, his brother and mother had been forced to watch their home being set alight, after they fled Molo for Nairobi. No matter how many stories of "Kenya Rising" are published in world magazines and journals, Eliud will never sing the songs of praise being sang by Kenya's cheerleaders.

For ten years Mwai Kibaki tried to rebuild Kenya. He has many successes to his name. But no matter how forgiving Kenyan are, no one will forget that he watched as Kenyans butchered each other over a botched election - and he did nothing. It took the intervention of foreign powers to stanch the flow of blood in the streets. There aren't enough cheerleaders in the world to erase the images or the stories. It should prick the consciences of the cheerleaders that thousands of Kenyans lost their homes and they are never getting them back.

Kenyans will also never forget that Mwai Kibaki saw what forty years of KANU had done to Kenya, and the great corruption it had fostered and nurtured, and when he had a chance to sever the Gordian Knot of grand graft, he instead gave us Anglo Leasing, Triton, Kazi Kwa Vijana, Maize Scandal. We can hide behind his defence that it was not him, but his ministers. We can try, anyway. The truth is, as Harry S Truman was wont to remind Douglas MacAurthur, the Buck Stops With The President.

Now we are called to cheerlead our observations into an amnesiac forgetfulness. There is no grand corruption in Kenya. There is no ethnic corruption in Kenya. There have been no disappearances of young Kenyans in Kenya. All the youth of Kenya will get jobs. Every Kenyan is happy. Kenya is a happy land. Barack Obama said so. So it must be so! The cheerleaders are proof. 

Why don't you malcontent Kenyans become cheerleaders too? Stop raining on the parade. You don't have jobs? Go to school and learn something that will get you a job! You don't have money? Get a job, work hard, be lucky, pray. Anything is possible. Quit whining, and join the cheer squad!

Monday, August 24, 2015

That barrel!

Henry Okullu. I disagreed with him on the sex education stance that he took. But I had absolutely no doubt he was a man of great conviction, probity and a depth of honesty that inspired one to public service. Alexander Muge. If you doubted the depth of his feelings for the marginalised, then yours is a heart made up of cold carara marble. David Gitari and Timothy Njoya remain consciences of the nation, reminding you that the Church once stood for something.

These days, and I challenge you to use a more apposite metaphor, the Church - specifically, the modern Kenyan church leadership - has its pants around its ankles, it's bent over a barrel and it is shamelessly enjoying the ardent and unlubricated carnal attentions of Kenya's leadership classes. Allow me to be a bit more profane.

When a businessman-preacher was accused of causing the death of a motorist, he did not do the normal pastor thing. He did not present himself to the police. He did not offer free and unfettered access to his property, including his motor vehicles. He did not offer prayer for the soul of the departed. He ran. He hid. He obstructed the course of justice. He prayed for death and destruction for those who even countenanced that he could be responsible for the traffic offence. He hired a famous criminal defence lawyer. And he lied, and lied, and lied.

In this case he called on the assistance of the Inspector-General of Police who, in their parlance, swung into action, offering explanations and rationalisations for what might have happened. Then the ungrateful cockroaches that are Kenyans took to the internet, uncovering witnesses from the dark places they had crawled into to hide and they shamelessly exposed the lies of the pastor and his friends. The Inspector-General was forced by an uncharacteristically overzealous TV reporter and a rabble-rousing online horde to, Pilate-like, wash his hands of the whole affair. He threw the pastor under the Director of Public Prosecutions' bus and let his own police officers to stew in their own juices for getting him mixed up with the shady man of the cloth.

What I found rather curious is that the businessman-pastor's friends in the political trenches seemed to have developed a bit of amnesia everytime cameras and microphones neared them; sugar barons, sugar cartels, sugar imports...all things sugary seemed to animate them more. Their businessman-pastor friend had become a nettle and they didn't want to catch an unsightly itch.

They needn't have worried. They will never be the politician dog being wagged by the businessman-pastor tail. When it comes to delivering strokes, the politician dog will never find itself over a barrel, no matter what self-righteous and uncharacteristically overzealous TV show hosts think. For example, parliamentarians, who in December were throwing punches and panties at each other in Parliament over a "draconian piece of legislation," have just ganged up in the spirit of bi-partisan comity, to enact a "piece of legislation" that grants them immunity for anything done in good faith while in the course of their parliamentary duties. Then they went to church and got a businessman-pastor to lay his hands on them in prayer. Who has who over a barrel?

Someone asks where the Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge, Timothy Njoya and David Gitari of today are? Look no further than the recesses of your memory. And weep in shame.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Free to think, Free to be free.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. ~ Exodus 20:17


It is a sin to covet. The hierarchy of things one should not covet is set; his house is greater than his wife, and all of them are his possessions. This is why it is very difficult to take religious rules seriously, to rely on them to make laws for the regulation of humans. The godly - and the godmen - among us will insist that what their god has laid down for them to observe, we must legislate into being. So thinking of taking my neighbour's house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, ass or anything of his would be a crime.

This is a thought crime. Similar to the one that Charles Njonjo wrote: It is a criminal offence for any person to encompass, imagine, devise, or intend the death or deposition of the President. How would Mr Njonjo - or my pastor - know what is in my mind, unless I express it. Which leads us to the second pernicious aspect of thought crimes -  they are corollaries of speech crimes, once called sedition. (A certain Lt Wadi has just been sprung for gaol, jailed for saying something that displeased our modern day Nero.)

Patrick Gathara was on the receiving of an acerbic keyboard recently. Peter Mwaura, writing in the Daily Nation, gives six reasons why journalists should not name innocent third parties in news stories. He meant, I believe, that the cartoonist Patrick Gathara should not have named the President, Uhuru Kenyatta, in a cartoon of Moses Kuria, the Gatundu South MP, because "dragging the name of an innocent friend or acquaintance in an act or charge of crime is, in journalistic practice, unacceptable."

One of the ways of policing thought/speech crimes is through censorship, and what Mr Mwaura is suggesting is the most insidious type of censorship - self-censorship. Self-censorship requires someone - a cartoonist, say - to not only know what some other party is thinking, but also to know what will injure them and then to draw a cartoon that will not injure them. It is ridiculous line to walk because a sedition rule always works against the party being accused. In Kenya it used to be that to e accused is to be guilty. Therefore, it did not matter to Mr Mwaura what Mr Kuria is recorded to have said, including name-dropping the President with aplomb, Mr Gathara should have known that the President is innocent and, therefore, he should have drawn the cartoon without alluding to the President.

However, the endgame of a thought/speech crime environment is being told what to think. Now that we have established that we can have wrong thoughts, that those wrong thoughts, once verbalised are seditious and punishable, the next step is to tell us what to think - and how to think it. That is thought-control. And that is what the gods demand.
"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." ~ Matthew 5:28.
Thought control, the ultimate goal of the gods, is visited upon us mere mortals when we dare to think independently. It is why those with a tendency for the Stalinist prefer the automaton-like obedience of the ones "who follow orders" and thus are always creating quasi-military "youth" organisations that emphasise "discipline" as a means to "empower" the youth. Young people who are drilled to respond without question have little to offer in the field of innovation, especially innovation about how far the envelope can be pushed in the name of liberty. If you cannot think freely, then you cannot be free.

"Your mother" and the Two-thirds Gender Rule

Mutahi Ngunyi tweeted "The Luo Nation MUST liberate itself from the BONDAGE and poverty-producing SPELL of Odingaism. PERIOD. Is there a MOSES amongst the Luo?" The Star reported that Gladys Wanga responded with "'Poverty stricken' Luos do not belong to your mother." Are you still confused about why the Two-thirds Gender Rule is yet to take effect in Parliament? I'm not.

Article 27(6) states, "To give full effect to the realisation of the rights guaranteed under this Article, the State shall take legislative and other measures, including affirmative action programmes and policies designed to redress any disadvantage suffered by individuals or groups because of past discrimination." 

Article 27(8) continues, "In addition to the measures contemplated in clause (6), the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender." This is the Two-thirds Gender Rule.

The Rule is restated in Article 81(b) on the general principles of the electoral system thus, "not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender."

Paragraph 79 of the Advisory Opinion of the Supreme Court in the Gender-Rule Application in 2014 states, "Bearing in mind the terms of Article 100 [on promotion of representation of marginalised groups] and of the Fifth Schedule [prescribing time-frames for the enactment of required legislation], we are of the majority opinion that legislative measures for giving effect to the one-third-to-two-thirds gender principle, under Article 81(b) of the Constitution and in relation to the National Assembly and Senate, should be taken by  27 August, 2015."

When Aden Duale insulted the then leader of the Pesa Mashinani movement, Isaac Ruto, with the epithet, "Hii pesa si ya mamako," no amount of explaining or walking back the statement could hide the fact that it was an incredibly misogynistic statement to be uttered by the Leader of the Majority Party in the National Assembly. Many argued that it reinforced the fact that male parliamentarians were not ready to see their female colleagues as equals. Patriarchy, they argued, had proven resilient in the face of the constitutional guarantees of equality. They hoped that female parliamentarians would lead from the front, and make strong statements against the casual misogyny represented by the Majority Leader. In Ms Wanga, it seems, they might be barking up the wrong tree.

Ms Wanga reminds us of the casual misogyny that prevails in Kenya. The worst insult, it seems, is that some is really badly wrong if it is doe by one's mother. Mr Ngunyi is wrong about "poverty stricken Luos" because "they do not belong to his mother." If this statement was made by a man, we would have carried on in the belief that it is men who are solely responsible for the casual misogyny and the slow pace of implementing the Two-thirds Gender Rule. But Ms Wanga disabuses us of this notion; she not only participates in that misogyny, she sees nothing amiss in hurling such a dangerous epithet.

Some of us have been fortunate; even though our fathers came from a generation that was casually misogynistic, many of them escaped that cultural trap. Though gendered roles defined their relationships with their mothers, their wives and their daughters, many of them celebrated the small steps of gender liberation taken by their female relatives, if not their mothers, but most certainly their wives and their daughters. It is in my father's generation that many women became leaders in their fields, taking on roles that had traditionally been reserved for men, such as Wangari Maathai becoming the first woman university professor, Grace Onyango becoming Kenya's firs elected woman Member of Parliament, and so on.

But Ms Wanga still lives in a world where if someone does something wrong, the wrongness of the thing done can only be demonstrated if it could be done by someone's mother. This goes beyond the casual misogyny of "You mama" jokes so beloved of the United States teenager. It reminds young boys and girls that no matter how high a woman might rise in society, how good a life a probity she might lead, how pure of spirit she might be, a woman is always less than a man, and that a mother is the one person who can do the worst thing. I do not see Ms Wanga leading a fullthroated fight to realise the Two-thirds Gender Rule. She does not see herself as an equal of her male colleagues.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Trainwreck?

Do you think that you are better at being me than me?

Let's see. You have a penchant for "German machines." That is neither here nor there, but when I suggest, whether in jest or not, that if I could shoe-horn the innards of the E320 Estate into a Probox, I don't see why you should roll your eyes and harangue me about the "purity of design" or some similar schlock. I like the idea of a Probox Trojan Horse. If you don't find that funny, kind sir, move along and don't look back. You and I have very different ways of looking at things - which makes me think that we also have a very different way of looking at people.

You like a certain degree of order and predictability. I have had the good fortune to trace my lineage to two great peoples. My love for the written word does not extend to classical literature like it is on one side of my dual gene pools; politics and political thought fascinate me more and the more varied the ideas, the better. The other side has introduced me to vibrant colours and rigorous work ethics. If you're still going to "tsk, tsk" me because I chose to wear my garbadine suit with my Texas check and scuffed Safari Boots to work, dear lady, take your D&G stuffiness somewhere else. You might just rain on my technicolour parade.

I will not hate the same people you hate simply because I am your friend - or we are acquainted. I have no reason to hate anyone, just so you know. Hate just creates bile and leads to ulcers. I don't like ulcers. Yet you demand it as of right.You demand it as the price of your friendship. That is a price too high. If you will hate for it, so be it. Just so you know, too, I have no reason to love the people you love. I get to choose. Not you.

Why does it seem to you that you can live my life better than I can? Have I created the impression that you have carte blanche to make decisions about what I want, what I need, what I like, what I dislike? If I have, I apologise. It is not your life. It is mine. My mistakes are mine to make, yours to judge if that is what flats your boat. But you don't have a veto, friend. No one does. Not even the gods. When the boom comes down, as it may yet, you can "I told you so" till the cows come home, but remember this, it will only be important to you. But you will still not get a veto, a vote, a say. Never, ever.

Don't you think it was time you lived your life and left the trainwreck that is mine alone?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Maybe we should boycott stupidity instead

The Orange Democratic Party, ODM, is one of the stupidest political outfits. It isn't the stupidest; pride of place is occupied by the ne'er do well political parties with middling parliamentary presence and leaderships with the charisma of camels with gingivitis which they will not jettison because...my people! But ODM is in contention to be the stupidest party in Kenya.

It's latest inane suggestion is for the good people of Kenya to boycott Brookside's milk because Uhuru Kenyatta...who cares?! This kind of stupidity is something you expect of the petty and the small-minded. It has no place in public administration, public discourse or political combat. The last thing a hard-suffering Kenyan wants to engage in is an exercise in futility. How do I know that it will be futile? Oh, allow me to demonstrate.

First, the Tyranny of Numbers. The ODM presumes to speak for many Kenyans aggrieved by the trade deals allegedly struck by Uhuru Kenyatta during his state visit to Uganda. Therefore, so the theory goes, if ODM exhorts the aggrieved Kenyans to boycott Uhuru Kenyatta's milk, they will do so, and they will strike a financial blow against Uhuru Kenyatta and bring him to the negotiating table to sue for peace. What the ODM does not consider, or ignores, is that if Uhuru Kenyatta were to call on his supporters to buy Brookside milk, and they being more in number, couple with the Kenyans who traditionally don't give two shits about the political winds, ODM's plan comes a cropper. As it should, by the by.

Second, is the admission by the ODM that it is at the end of any meaningful ideas on public policy. Who will take seriously a party leadership that makes threats it cannot see through? Kenyans are not playthings, no matter what the ODM high command thinks. In the halcyon days of the NARC regime, Kenyans were hopeful because public intellectuals like Peter Anyang' Nyong'o contributed greatly to public policy-making; one of their flagship policies is the Vision 2030 and another is the Performance Appraisal System for the public service, policies that have greatly improved public service delivery. 

For them to be reduced to making asinine suggestions like these is a testament to the decrepit thinking pervading the upper echelons of the party. This is not the stuff that garners popular public support except among the lunatic fringes of the party.

Third, luminaries of the party forget that they were in the heart of the government when many ill-thought decisions were made regarding commodities' production, including in the dairy industry. They were either members of the Cabinet or they were involved at the highest level in making decisions that affected dairy farming that allowed, to some extent, the rapid expansion of Brookside. They themselves, whether they will admit it now or down the road, took advantage of their offices to build up their business empires, some more successfully than others. Some might see this boycott call as sour grapes at being spectacularly bad at converting political power into economic power.

It should be obvious by now that Kenyans are not interested in economic boycotts. Too many of them have more pressing matters on their minds. If the ODM is too lazy to come up with a coherent political plan, credible trade policy alternatives and a believable narrative that is not all sour grape-y, maybe, just maybe, we may not think of it as the party of stupid. I fear, though, that we may have passed that point already.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Darling R...

My Darling R.,

You aren't born yet, but the world is already too hard for you. You have no idea what it took for your mother to carry you to term, what she had to give up in order that you would be here with us today. You are our promise of immortality, because in you we see the future clearer than we can see the past.

In many ways you are lucky. There won't be a shags for you to go to. (I wonder if your generation will call it shags.) So your mum and I won't be keeping cows or goats for you to milk and tend to. Maybe chickens, but not even your mum thinks I am cut out for the rustic life. Your grandpa has a farm, but don't tell him I said this, but his farm is more an idea than a real farm. As soon as he is done making the farm what it is, he will happily spend time with you at the Village Market or the Two Rivers Mall. 

Your grandma is definitely not a farmer and she will spend all her time with you on the beach reading Virginia Wolfe and filling your pretty head with terrible ideas about romance of a bygone age.

You will go to school - all the way to the end. You will play sports, if you want, or a play music, if your heart's in it. You will travel farther than your mother and I could ever manage. You will meet more people and speak more languages than you can shake a stick at. And in all this, your mother and I will not stand in your way or doubt that you can't do what you set you mind to do. They say, If you build it, they will come. You will build a mighty empire, my child, and the world will be your subject.

But yours will also be a hard life. We won't leave you much of a legacy. (The government will have grabbed most of it in the name of "inheritance taxes.") You will read a great deal about women empowerment, but all that is bullshit. They won't let you win like a man, which is a rather stupid thing when you think about it. They will demand that you must be graceful when you triumph, meek when you succeed, silent when you're proven right. Stuff all that. I want you to YouTube Serena Williams. When you conquer them all, I want you to do so while dominating the way she does, do you hear me my child? Nothing good will come from your acting weak. Nothing good at all.

But where they will surely never forgive you is in your sexual agency. Don't freak out that your father is writing to you about sex; no one else, bar maybe your mum, will. Your teachers are afraid that I might bight their heads off if they talk to you about it. You pastor is an idiot and he will mumble some rubbish about the bible and morality. Your friends are morons. Playboy, Hustler, Penthouse, whatever are not proper places to learn about sex. And I bought this shotgun so that your boyfriend learns that there are consequences to making wrong decisions.

Anyway, never be ashamed of who you are and what you want. Always protect yourself from hurt - both physical and emotional. If you doubt anything, ask your mum or I. If you fear for your life or your safety - run. Run home if you must. But run. No man - not even me - has a right to tell you what you can and cannot do with your body. It's your temple. Your mum and I will offer you the best advise we can. We will give you access to the best counsellors and advisors we can. But we will not dictate what you can and cannot do. And we will always stand by you, no matter what. You are our child. We will never abandon you.

I know that you will be many things to many people, but you will always be my child. You will have many hopes, and you will fear many outcomes. You will surpass your hopes and you will overcome your fears. You will build something truly great. Even if I don't get to see it - just as I can't see you now - doesn't mean that it isn't true.

All my love,

Dad.

The Doctor's Legacy.

She thinks the world is one dark cloud; I think it has a silver lining, too. We can't both be wrong. But we can both be right, can't we?

Did you see the Chief Justice of Kenya busting cartels in the judiciary yesterday? I did. My heart sank. Why does it take for the Chief Justice of Kenya - the President of the Supreme Court - to walk along the corridors of his courts so that he can "unearth corruption in the administration of justice" as if management by walking around ever worked elsewhere? And then I felt like quite the heel for my uncharitable thought about my Chief Justice.

I don't know whether Dr Willy Mutunga is an honest man. I believe he is. He has tried every tactic in his considerable repertoire of tactics to tackle the endemic graft in his Judiciary and has faced resistance at every turn. Some of the resistance has come from the most unexpected quarters. He has had to adapt. He has had to form unpalatable, odious partnerships. He has had to carry more water than any other Chief Justice before him. He has had to do it all while overseeing the largest overhaul of a hidebound, conservative, pro-establishment institution in a half-century. And has had to do it while keeping his customary half-smile on his face.

I don't know if he will agree with me, but he owes Evan Gicheru, his predecessor, gratitude for setting the stage for the reforms that are taking place today. If Chief Justice Gicheru had not been so universally reviled by the newsmedia and the Kenyans who egged them on, there is no way that Chief Justice Mutunga would have been appointed to his office. Without the dark, you will never appreciate the light. Without Evan Gicheru, there would have not been a Willy Mutunga.

Mr Mutunga's term is drawing to a close. He is, in effect, a lame duck Chief Justice. I hope he takes his position seriously. The Traffic Court walkabout is a sign that he is about to dump the Chief Justice's Manual and revert back to the Willy Mutunga Playbook of Reforms. He's already warned his Judges and magistrates that he will have them vetted again if they keep on with their corrupt ways. I say, vet them afresh! The phoenix always rises from its ashes. Burn it to the ground, Mr Mutunga. Burn it all down.

He is right. How can a man look himself in the mirror after selling his soul for a handful of silver? There is nothing that deadens the spirit than compromising one's once deeply-held values of honesty, integrity, professionalism and trust just so that one can drive in a fancier Mercedes-Benz or live in a leafier leafy suburb. Mr Mutunga must drive all these salesmen from the temples of justice with a bullwhip and blowtorch. If he can do that in the two years he still has left, he will not need a great Supreme Court judgment as his legacy.

She may see the dark cloud; I will always see the silver lining.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Politicise everything.

Politicise the hell out of everything!
Politics (from Greek: πολιτικός politikos, definition "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a usually hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities. ~ Wikipedia.
You've heard the exhortation, "Don't politicise..." and no doubt nodded in agreement. You may also agree with the National Assembly's Majority Leader's proposal to "ban politics at funerals." But what does it mean to "politicise" things? Is it, in the peculiar way of Kenyans, when one politician speaks ill of one politician? Is it when a politician uses an ostensibly non-political platform to criticise the government? I can't wait to see the intepretation clause on the Bill to ban politics at funerals. I really can't.

You have what politics means, but what is it? I believe it is the only viable alternative to violent conflict. It is a tool for not just organising government, but also mediating conflicting priorities. Take a famous Obama observation during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit about the state of paediatric primary healthcare in Nyanza and Central Kenya. As a stark number, without context, it is easy to claim that healthcare budgeting favoured one over the other. But what if the cost of providing it in one part is greater than in the other? It is politics that we would use to prioritise the least well-developed region. The alternatives would be violence or corruption, neither of which are viable long-term strategies.

Kenya's politicians are spectacularly bad at their jobs. That seems to be the public impression they have made for themselves. We very rarely get to peek behind the curtains at their deliberations and horse-trading in private, away from the camera lenses. But we don't need to. Look at appointments to Boards of parastatals and state corporations and you will see politics thriving, and mediating disagreements on a national scale. It is not perfect. It is not pretty. But it works.

Eugene Wamalwa is a middling politician with little to commend him. He is an intelligent man. He is popular in his own constituency. He is, for a former Minister, without blemish of the corruption kind. He is also the brother of a dead and mourned Vice-President of Kenya. He has political value. In some parts of Kenya, he is a symbol of the greatness of those parts and it would be irresponsible for any government to treat him shabbily. It makes perfect sense that the President has carved out a ministry for Mr Wamalwa and expended political capital to see him successfully vetted by Parliament.

The appointments of Kalembe Ndile, Charles Njagua Kanyi, and Vimal Shah to various public bodies is smart politics. The West will pooh-pooh the whiff of patronage politics; but in order to ensure that the wheels of government don't get stuck because of sand, these appointments are the grease that keeps everything smooth. So I don't agree with the no-politics-at-funerals scheme. It is one of the institutions where the president can be informed that he is doing something wrong without seeking an appointment that will never be made. This is the political equivalent of Twitter.

Because everything that my government does is laced with politics, I have no problem politicising everything, even the appointment of nursery school teachers in Kilome. They will be paid from my taxes. My taxes fund other areas of government. The decision to fund something and not another is a political decision. Therefore, everything should be politicised. Including funerals.

Secret law-making.

Stick to what you know.

Here goes. Law-making is not the easiest walk in the park. I am not talking about the simple laws like the Public Service (Values and Principles) Act, 2015, or the Statutory Instruments Act, 2013. I am talking about complex statutes that have multiple moving parts, that affect our rights and fundamental freedoms in subtle and insidious ways, and which require the most delicate political touch to see them through. Like the Security Laws (Amendments) Act, 2014. It amended a whole bunch of security-related and quasi-security-related laws. And it was total mess.

From a technical perspective, it was an excellent piece of legislation. It was not overly wordy. It stuck faithfully to the linguistic styles of the statutes that were getting amended. It covered all the bases that the securocracy wanted covered. And, vitally, it had the complete and total support of the President and his party. It was still a mess, and it took the High Court to point out that some of its moving parts had moved too far from the norm.

Law-making is like trying to herd cats in a hurricane at midnight. Well-laid plans are laid to waste because this, that or the other vested interest feels shortchanged.And when all the pipers have been paid, the thing that you wanted to solve using the law metastasizes and becomes an unwieldy monster, incapable of being corralled into obedience. Then it gets messy.

The Security Laws (Amendments) Act was the proper response to the incessant barrage of bad news from the anti-Shabaab front. Somalia, by all accounts, was going swimmingly well for the Kenya Defence Forces. The African Union Mission in Somalia, bar one or two fatal errors, was propping up the Federal Government, Mogadishu was not getting bombed every day, Kismayu was making money hand over fist from sugar imports and charcoal exports, and the USA was integrating its Predators and Reapers into the anti-Shabaab campaign, visiting hellfire from the skies on the Shabaab's high command, decimating it with ruthless precision. Somalia, so far as we know, was going to be just fine.

In the homeland, however, things were getting out of hand. The straw that broke the camel's back were the ten-days-apart twin massacres in Mandera. It were no longer the indigenous residents of Lamu or Mandera who were getting butchered; expats from Murang'a and Busia were getting murdered under the noses of the forces of law and order. An ill-timed and ill-advised victory lap by the Deputy President about a pursuit deep into Somalia that took out a hundred militants and their "technicals" did nothing to restore confidence that the securocracy had things in hand. Hence the Security Laws (Amendments) Act.

It was a careful assessment of the security statutory environment. It was a well-thought analysis of the various moving parts, the overlapping mandates and the wide gaps in surveillance, interdiction, intelligence-gathering, threat assessment and inter-agency co-operation. In many ways it made sense to keep its development secret from the people it was meant to protect. After all, for decades, the people hadn't wanted to know how they were being protected, only that they were. It turns out, the past is a very different country and that overweening secrecy so beloved by the securocracy proved to be the Security Laws (Amendments) Act's Achilles Heel.

Back in the day, when information was not on a superhighway, securocratic secrecy was no big deal. No more. If it is on a computer somewhere, if it is written down somewhere, if it is spoken of in hushed tones to anyone, we will find out about it. In the digital age, after John Githongo led the charge, there is nothing sacred any more. If you have a securocratic secret, one way or the other it is going to come out. The minds behind the Security Laws (Amendments) Act should have built legitimacy for their project by getting all heir influences, dodgy and not, to sing its praises on all platforms. In this way they could have painted the leaden-footed Minority Party into a corner when the Bill crash-landed in the National Assembly. The Speaker wouldn't have had to resort to the tactics it did; the Minority Party would have looked like the small-minded elitists they are; and the Third Sector may have had a role in softening the blunt edges that the High Court threw out.

As it is now, secrecy and law-making are pulling apart. There are those who will make the transition with little fuss. There are those prepared to dig in their heels, and come hell or high water, no one is prying their precious secrets out of them. These are the people behind there's-a-sugar-deal-there-isn't-a-sugar-deal fiasco currently empowering the Minority Party and causing rifts in the ruling alliance.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A special place in hell.

There's a special place in hell for those who think that The Law is the be all and end all, and that if only their pet project was legislated into life, all would be right with the world. I say this knowing full well that I have contributed massively to the over-legislating taking place in my backyard. Every minister and his PS is busily turning every last shred of their humanity into an Act of Parliament. It will not end well.

Mostly because Parliament is not the best place to make laws. Trust me. It might seem like the "representatives of the people" should know what is best for the people and make it so through law-making. It would, I grant you. That view is utter nonsense. The best place to make law, bar one or two autocratic instincts, is the executive branch, especially when that law is being made by the bureaucrats who just want to coast to retirement and a fat pension. Minister and PSs are not the bureaucrats I have in mind; those would be directors of this, that or the other.

Take the Director of Medical Services. He is the embodiment of public health. By he time he has ju-jitsu-ed himself into office, he has seen the best and the worst when it comes to public health crises. Cholera, measles, whooping cough, polio, malaria, marasmus, HIV/AIDS...he has seen it all. He knows what works and what does not. He would love a bigger budget, but he knows that when it comes to intervening to halt a pandemic, what he wants is absolute power to command the institutions of the State to do his bidding.

His minister and PS, however, live in a world where money is the only thing they can see and the things it can buy. They love thirty eight billion shilling boondoggles. They like them even more when they can hide their uselessness behind the President; let him take the flak because, after all, he wants to spend money on healthcare.

If there is a person to listen to when drafting the perfect Health Bill, it is the Director of Medical Services. Not the chairman of the parliamentary departmental committee on health. He may have a casual connection with the health industry; he almost certainly knows nothing about public health policy. He too, like the minister and the PS, lies for billion shilling boondoggles so long as he can dictate where part of those billions will be spent: preferably in his constituency, preferably without too great an auditing eye.

Which is why the people who declaim loudest about The Law know absolutely nothing of how it works, what it is supposed to do, and how it is supposed to do it or to whom. A Health Bill is not just an administrative organogram with a list of offences and penalties tacked on for good measure. It is a statement by the State about powers that will be exercised by civil servants to protect the people from cholera, measles, whooping cough, polio, malaria, marasmus, HIV/AIDS and whatever other health risks are out there. But you wouldn't know it listening to the "stakeholders" of whom, too, special reservations have been made in hell.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A good job.

Do you think your parents did a good job with you?

Mine did. So it might have been the '80s and Eastlands back then was not the slum it is today, but my parents - my mother, especially - did not with a permanent anxiety that my brothers and I were going to be hurt in some way or worse. As soon as we could spell our names in a straight enough line, she got us off to school - pre-school, but school still. On our own. No handholding on the way there. Where other kids might have been bigger and meaner. We didn't die. Or anything.

I don't remember them coddling us either. If your bad, your ass would smart for a couple of days. If you were having a conversation, there were none of those ridiculous infantilising sounds that seem to animate young parents these days. By the time we were being exiled from pre-school, we might not have been Shakespearian in our grasp of syntax or the finer points of grammar, but my brothers and I could spell shit - and use it contextually. If were bullied, so what? If he pushes you, push back just as hard, she would say, with our father nodding sagely in his seat with his nose buried deep in the Weekly Review.

They both taught us how to cook. I still don't know what magic she uses for her chapatis to come out that round, that soft and that sweet. How our father makes omelets that thick remains one of those mysteries that we hope he has had the good sense to commit to film for our future benefit.

The '90s were not a bad time, not in boarding schools anyway, and when I was banished to the rather comfortable Machakos School it was not some sort of Darwinian social experiment. It was what we all wanted. And Nairobi was forty-five minutes away anyway, should the need for a quick getaway ever arise. Which it did only once and only because some assholes decided they wanted to set the principal's 504 on fire. Idiots! That stupidity cost us two weeks - and a mid-term holiday. I came out fine - the only vice being a penchant for smoking BAT products near the water reservoir.

Off to university and back again. Yes, they did a relatively good job with me, us. Ambition tempered with humility. Greed tempered with reason. Curiosity that might one day lead us astray - but I don't see how. Work ethic - there are no free lunches, son. Honesty - when needed. There is no fear of failure; even geniuses get it wrong every now and then. Patience - with the right plan at the right time and the proper effort, everyone's ship eventually comes in. You just have to know when.

Do you think your parents did a good job with you? Mine did.

Trade secrecy. Sigh.

If you don't enjoy the secrecy surrounding the Kenya-Uganda agreements signed during our President's visit across the border, then you are not having much fun in your life. How empty it must be that the only thing that gets you up in the morning is another gripe at Uhuru Kenyatta's "unconstitutional" behaviour. Or some such shit. Pole sana. Hankie?

Jokes aside, this obsession with secrecy by our government is counterproductive. In a one party, pre-digital age, information control is de riguer. In the twenty first century, it is proof of a 1960s mindset unsuited to a professed digital government. Stalinist DPRK can get away with it; it has a massive digital army dedicated to keeping all information out of the reach of its benighted people. 

Kenya does not, not that we would know given the secrecy surrounding Kenya's defence forces. But if it did have such a digital army, its deployment among the civilian population would be difficult because of the relatively low cost of digital communications tools and a growing population of the very curious.

Leaks have characterised the digital government. So even if it manages to shove a tight lid over its Uganda dealings, it is almost certain that information about them will leak, making the digital government look foolish in the bargain. The one that is guaranteed to raise political temperatures is the sugar agreement. The President says that he would rather we imported "cheaper" sugar from Uganda rather than from Brazil. In the spirit of EAC bonhomie, no one can argue with that. But given the opacity regarding the terms of the sweet deal, what do you want to bet that the Western Kenya political classes are about to argue that "their" industry is being sabotaged by the President and his anti-democratic crony across the border?

There is no problem with secrecy if it is for strategic purposes. But when a trade deal is being concluded, the ostensible reason is a win/win scenario for traders in both countries. The affected traders are or should be given an opportunity to see the broad contours of the deal and offer their input to make it effective. Months'-long stakeholders' consultations are vital; after all a trading partner is looking out - or should be, anyway - to making sure that his industrial base is thriving, producing more at the lowest cost and selling for the highest price to earn the highest profits, employ the largest number of people and, crucially, pay ever more to the taxman. This is a matter of policy as much as domestic and regional politics.

Where is the policy paper on the sugar deal? Where is the agreement between the governments of Kenya and Uganda and what are its key terms? Why was it concluded between heads of state and not between ministers of trade? Why is it secret?

Sadly, in the past decade, Kenya has proven quite adept at forgetting its strategic interests. In its obsession with whether or not one man will ever become president, Kenya has simply allowed its political classes to run things - frequently, into the ground. One thing the Global Entrepreneurship Summit exposed was that Kenya was quite unready to hold a conversation on entrepreneurship because two and a half weeks after it closed, analysis of the Summit itself remains patchy, understanding of its objectives remains shallow and only the politically well-connected seem to be making anything out of it. How then do you expect a sober examination of the trade agreements entered into between the Government of Kenya and that of Uganda?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

We remember the strutting.

No one gives two shits about history. One way or the other we all die. If we are rich enough for long enough we can buy the opinions that we want and flip the rest of you sad sacks the bird while we are it. That, at least, is the simple calculus of the simple-minded about the risk/reward of being a total ass. Or the I-won't-leave-my-people-still-need-me kind of president. That means you, man with many cows. That means you too, man with football pitch at his official residence.

Before we could store memories in ones-and-zeroes, we had journals, diaries and the newspaper morgue, where microfiches of the more modern-minded, reminded us mere mortals of what had come to pass in the annals of our history, the microfiche being the annals of our history. The Professor's twenty four years and his predecessors fifteen can be relieved in microfiche and, on that rare occasion, in long-player vinyl and scratchy 8mm film. The Professor's successors came around just when memory-making and memory-storage were becoming more and more affordable and everything we didn't need Right Now could be kept in the cloud.

Perfidy is more difficult to hide. So too are autocratic tendencies, iniquity, inequity. What one says shall live on forever in the digital ether; nothing is ever truly erased. We don't need newspaper morgues; with enough bits we can create a morgue of our own to serve our own purposes. Whatever the reason, the amount of fluff we pump out into the universe is going to be preserved, in ones-and-zeroes, for all eternity. Which means it can be retrieved at lightning speed too.

And that is why the ones with the need for us to forget their greatest hits, so to speak, are going out of their way to create new, immediate positive images of themselves that they then incessantly replay on all platforms. This is an attempt to makes us concentrate, pigeon-like, on the immediate and ignore the long-forgotten. None of them wants us to scour the preceding decade in search of the One Clue that can explain their sudden ingratiating ass-licking. And there is a generation of young people, coddled by one and all, that will indulge all this avid brownnosing - their noses are buried in their smartphones and tablets, their minds have been imprisoned in "social" media and their intellect has been captured by the I-am-a-socialite creed.

We may not wield burning torches and pitchforks, but let there be no doubt that those of us with long memories have not forgotten that which would wish to remain long-forgotten. We remember the shame of it all. We remember the humiliation. We remember how they strutted. We remember how they found a friendly Frenchman to sanitise their reputations. So their current efforts to rewrite the past will remain unsuccessful. No one lives forever; their words will hunt their descendants for all eternity.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A sense of outrage.


There will be no citations; this is my opinion of the thing.

Do you get a sense of the outrage?
Sex tapes and the sexualisation of everything are all the rage these days. Two events last week should have pricked our consciences; instead, we are left to wonder whether Kenyans truly understand what consent is or what a sexual offense looks like.

I have not listened to the “Mollis” audio recording; the moment I had that it had something to do with rape, I was not putting myself through that. That is not what many of its listeners felt. Twitter timelines were filled with the titillated and the voyeuristic.  There was very little outrage.

I have not looked at the photographs of the schoolgirl accused of hiding wed in her underwear. I see no reason to look under a schoolgirl’s skirt. No right thinking adult should be okay with the thought of a schoolgirl being exposed to the public in such a manner, even if the one doing the exposing is a policewoman.

Both events, I believe, are linked.

Mass media play an oversized role in our lives today. Television, FM radio, the internet, mobile telephony – these loom large in our lives. Of the material that is published or broadcast, especially to young people, a vast number contains sexually suggestive or explicit material. The sexulisation of many things was accepted a long time ago as part of marketing strategies; sex, after all, sells. But this sexualisation was usually confined to things that were often targeted at adults: cigarettes, alcohol, cars. That is no longer the case.

More and more teenagers are being exposed to sexual content on an unprecedented scale. Many television programmes that are popular with children are chock-full of sexual innuendo. Young people are expected to discern the nuances of sexual relations from these programmes. Few are guided by their parents or other caregivers in these matters. Few, then, have skills to cope with peer pressure, as I believe was the case of the schoolgirl and her schoolmates, and the boys who were with them.

It is these boys and girls who grow up to become Mollis and his victim. Sex is no longer an intimate act between consenting adults; it is a transactional act to fame or glory. It is probably why Mollis recorded the rape. It is also probably why his victim, even though, as reported, she said that he was raping her did not report the offense to the police. I believe that neither the schoolgirl nor Mollis saw the risks or the danger of what they were engaged in; after all, from what they have been exposed to, sex is no big deal and if anything goes wrong, someone else can sort it out or you can say the right words and all will be forgiven.

When it comes to sex for Mollis’s generation, there are no bad consequences. There is the possibility of fame and wealth. Sex tapes, after all, have become currency. Sexualisation of one’s image is a passport to the high life and the trappings of wealth. Being sexually active, whether or not one has attained the age of consent, is part of being a member of one’s social group. No doubt Mollis is now a hero among his peers; his sexual offence has been fudged, rationalised and lionized. His victim will remain a conquest, never a victim. In their minds she should be grateful Mollis made her famous.

Mollis’s victim likely started out as a victim of sexual violence when she was in high school, like the schoolgirl cruelly exposed by the policewoman. This is not the first time schoolchildren have hired a party wagon in which they had sex and used drugs. This is not the first time that adults have witnessed these goings on without intervening. If they do not know that it is wrong, if they do not understand the risks, there is no way they will appreciate that “No” actually means “No” and they will never know how to say “No.”

Mollis’s victim kept repeating that she had surrendered. You and I are sophisticated enough to know that she wanted him to stop. You and I are also sophisticated enough to know that inebriation is no defense; whether Mollis was drunk or not, when she said that she had surrendered, he should have stopped. But, I do not believe Mollis knew what he was doing was wrong; and I do not believe that his victim sees herself as victim. How many young people live the lives of Mollis and his victim? I fear that the number is large. I fear that it is getting out of hand.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Mollis and our education.

My parents had great faith in the public school system once. Rabai Road Primary School gave me decent enough grades that my transition to the Machakos Boys' School was uneventful. The former was a day school; the latter was residential. When I attended both Kenya was just about to hit the nadir with the cost-sharing lunacy that had been part of the Bretton-Woods' structural adjustment programmes of the '80s and '90s. But despite this, I had a wholesome time and, though some may have a different take on it, I came out rather well-adjusted.

I have no doubt that it is much riskier to commit your child to a residential school in Kenya today. The "Mollis" trending topic on Twitter convinced me this to be true. Allow me to explain.

But I begin with another headline news story: 45 boys and girls, from different boys' and girls' boarding schools, on their way home from school for the August holidays, were detained by the police because they had converted the bus they were riding in into a den of licentious behaviour and debauched abandonment. These boys and girls are who become the dramatis personae a la "Mollis" and the unnamed woman in that audio file.

In the relatively good old days, public schools were not overwhelmed by inmates - sorry, students. When I attended the Machakos School, the facilities were strained but at no point did my class ever exceed forty students. I believe this is the reason that Mrs Mutie could keep an eye on whether I truly understood the conjugation of verbs and Mrs Olang could determine whether or not I was able to differentiate between isotherms and isobars on a topographical map of the lower Lambwe Valley.

Mr Muthengi's stern visage was a part of my maturing process; he understood that my adolescent hormones were likely to lead to much grief so he took a rather hands-on view of my whys and wherefores but not so hands-on that I wasn't able to romance Ms S, she of Precious Blood, or spend a brief second-base moment with Ms H, she of Mbooni Girls'. And though he will deny it till the cows com home, I believe Mr Muthengi and his colleagues knew that we were hot-blooded and determined to "get some" so they saw to it that sex-ed came to us in unconventional ways and that condoms were affordably available at the School Nurse's centre. In my four years there, I do not believe a schoolboy became a teenaged father nor got an itch that required massive doses of antibiotics and the stigma of being a careless swordsman.

These are not the good old days. Boarding schools more and more resemble lunatic asylums than institutions of learning. My classmates and I had alcohol - both manufactured and traditional -  cigarettes and the occasional weed. We had "funkies" - heavily chaperoned - at the aforementioned Precious Blood and Mbooni Girls', among others, where, somehow, we were introduced to the opposite sex, how to talk to them, how to dance with them (awkwardly, by the by), how to argue with them, how to cope with a broken heart, how to break hearts, and how to treat them with decency and respect. I believe mine was almost likely the last generation that took penmanship seriously and love-letter-writing to an art form.

Many boys and girls today are under a tremendous amount of pressure while at the same time feeling abandoned by their parents, teachers, preachers, friends, elder siblings, uncles and aunts. Many grandparents are dead or otherwise unavailable. You principle priority as a child in the twenty-first century is to "pass" your exams. That is, you must score an A at the KCPE and be called to the "right" national school at which place you will score another A at the KCSE and be called to the University of Nairobi, Moi University or, if your father can hack it, pass the entrance exam to Strathmore, and join its business school or its super-fancy law school. If you don't, no matter what everyone tells you, you feel like an absolute failure.

This pressure to pass exams has come at a high price. School schedules revolve around exam timetables. Many of the social skills that parents and schools are supposed to impart on these boys and girls are never imparted. Many of them now grow up knowing that sex is what is depicted on TV; that the consequences of drug abuse can be elided because their favourite movie or hip hop star has elided these consequences. Many of them are socialised by social media, a terrible echo chamber where one can hear only the views that reinforce their already distorted world view. Mollis and the woman in the audio file are the cautionary tale of the modern education infrastructure that insists on good grades, good schools and the right professional courses. The symptoms of this Mollis behaviour are the boys and girls who conspire to hire a bus so that they can use it as a drug-and-sex moving party palace. Or who set school property on fire, never mind if schoolmates are asleep inside or not.

The solutions, as always are easy to propose and mightily difficult to effect. Mwai Kibaki will forever be remembers for "free" primary education. Uhuru Kenyatta should have built on this. The tremendous numbers of children being brought into the education system required a massive expansion: in school facilities, in teaching personnel, in teacher training facilities and recruits. Instead, it is lunacies like laptops for babies and railways that hold sway. Second, it is time Kenyans discussed whether the current boarding schools' model is working. The events of the past decade are an indicator that is all but obsolete today. Perhaps it is time we considered day schools as the norm and boarding schools for those who can pay the true price for them. Finally, Kenya must stop being schizophrenic about sex and sexuality. Honest discussions about the thirteen year olds giving blowjobs to the fifteen year olds, or the sixteen year olds terminating pregnanies because they can't remember how many boys on the bus had their way with her must be had if we are to socialise our children better about male-female relationships, sex and consent.

It's a hard world.

Way back when, the '90s' actually, I had a classmate whose father was a tyrant. Like all hormonal teenagers, he did not take his father's tyranny well. He rebelled. His rebellion took many forms, but the most satisfying must have been when his father would hand over hard cash for school fees and he treated us to chips, chicken, vodka, smokes and weed. So his father did the only hing that seemed to sensible at the time: he dumped the poor boy at the nearest police station and, after explaining his dilemma, asked the kindly officers to straighten out his son. Three days later, he was well and truly straightened out. I think the swelling and the bruising went down after three weeks.

I have glanced once or twice at #DeleteSchoolGirlPhoto and I have only one question to ask: what have you guys been smoking? The Kenya Police and the Administration Police are not the National Police Service Nzamba Kitonga and his cohorts conjured up in the draft Harmonised Constitution or the one we promulgated five years ago. Far from it. They are hidebound, reform-resistant, male-dominated, male-oriented, colonial weapons of mass destruction.

You and I have an appreciation for the phrase, "A child in conflict with the law." They don't. To them, if you can chew gum and walk at the same time, you are a threat and a threat to be neutralised. Harshly and quickly. So it comes as not surprise that a woman police officer lifted up the skirt of a schoolgirl in conflict with the law, yanked down her panties and allowed a police photographer to photograph the girl and violated her modesty. You see, she is not a woman police officer; she is simply a police officer. You can be sure that unless we make a big enough fuss about this, she will remain unpunished and the Kenya Police will carry on as they have since 1906.

Do you remember the phrase "police reforms?" Me neither. These revolved around the integration of the Kenya Police Force and the Administration Police as well as eradicating corruption in the police. Laudable goals. Completely worth the wait when they come through. Totally miss the point of reforms in the first place.

We have been policed, more or less, in the same way since 1906. Even with nods to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, policing has not undergone significant changes other than the re-designation of the Special Branch as the National Intelligence Service. The police in Kenya exists solely to keep the President and his loyal satraps safe from us, the people. Not even children are to be treated with kid gloves; after all, mtoto wa nyoka ni nyoka, na Wakenya wote ni nyoka.

It seems that police training requires suspects and detained persons to be brutalised. There was absolutely no requirement to search the child in the presence of male police officers. There was absolutely no reason to record the search in film. There was categorically absolutely no reason to circulate the photos of the child among the officers present. Now those photos are out in cyberspace, being forwarded from one paeophiliac to another, permanently making the most cruel act against a child available to the most depraved people in the world. All because our police does  not give two shits about the safety of the people but the security of the state.

The capacity of the Kenya Police to shock is no longer shocking. If you are shocked, perhaps it is because you live in Utopia, where the State loves you, the police protect you, the government pretty lets you do whatever you want, and your children are being educated and mentored by the best in the world. I live in the real Kenya. It is a hostile place where a misstep means that my daughter's nude photos will be shared by the police with the world.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Red Ink, Hot Air.

Buy for a dollar, sell for two. Don't pour good money after bad. Always pay your debts.

There is no science to it, no magic 8-ball to predict the future. If you buy something for sale, sell it for more than you bought it. If a venture is losing money, and the light at the end of the tunnel has been snuffed out by a gale-force wind, shutter the venture and move on. If you owe money, pay it back. Quick.

At this level, everyone can read a basic balance sheet. Kenya Airways is awash with red ink. KLM, the Royal Dutch airline, holds 23% of Kenya Airways stock and the Government of Kenya holds 30%, but the value of those shares has been sliding since the airline's Board published its end-year results and declared a massive 25.7 billion shilling hole. So where did that money go?

Project: Mawingu, its ambitious, decade-long expansion programme, required debt to make it workable. When the going was good - those months after the lunacy of 2007/2008 when tourists started coming back to Kenya - passenger numbers kept up with the purchase of new planes. But, apparently, Project: Mawingu was not supposed to cover short-haul, single-aisle planes, the Embraers that form the backbone of the KQ fleet in Kenya and the East African Community. So when did the Embraers enter the picture and at what price?

Then there is the fuel hedging business. As far as I understand it, KQ entered into a hedging agreement with its fuel suppliers because the price of crude was headed towards $100 a barrel. We don't yet know whether the hedging agreement was short term, medium term or long term. We do know that the price of crude made a remarkable turnaround, settling at one point for $48 a barrel. This turn around meant KQ was paying too high a price for its fuel for an ever larger fleet of aircraft in an industry in which passenger numbers had plateaued and foreign competitors were undercutting it on price and beating it on customer satisfaction.

KQ management attempted to stanch the red ink on its books. It shelved its bold - or foolhardy - aeroplane purchase programme for a "sale-and-leaseback" arrangement. Someone else would purchase the planes KQ had ordered. KQ would lease those planes from that someone. The "someone" seems to be a moving target; some days it is one company, but on other days it is more than one, sometimes even three. It got a "soft" loan from the National Treasury of 4 billion shillings to help it meet its payroll obligations, while at the same time attempting to "rationalise" its staff complement by laying off cabin crews and pilots. The rationalisation programme ran into headwinds and the judiciary didn't help matters much by siding with the employees' unions.

In the run up to the big reveal about its losses, KQ obtained yet another loan - this time $200 million. I wonder where KQ management imagines the money to service these loans and retire them on time will come from. That being so, KQ is at the centre of an elaborate economic ecosystem. It is a direct employer of pilots, cabin crews, ground crews, engineers. It is an indirect employer of ticketing agents, tour agents, insurance agents, catering suppliers, fabric manufacturers, airframe manufacturers, tyre manufacturers, fuel suppliers. Its collapse will reverberate throughout the economy.

Its collapse, though, will not be the be all and end all. It will not spell doom for the country. Other venerable companies with the name "Kenya" attached were looted and liquidated too, Kenya National Assurance being only the most obvious. Why should taxpayers be asked to pump in at least 60 billion shillings for the spectacular ineptitude of managers and shareholders simply because KQ has the Government as a major shareholder? Perhaps it is time we privatised the airline fully and let the shareholders decide its fate. We can't give a bankrupt company any more tax shillings. We shouldn't.