Monthly Archives: April 2013

Where there is smoke…..

For a man who was once an esteemed and invaluable member of Kenya’s now-ostracized civic society, Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga is beginning to sound like the very sycophants he valiantly fought against back in the days as a student activist and founding member of the University Staff Union (USU) at the University of Nairobi. The Chief Justice’s tendency to respond, publicly and near-instinctively, to nearly every social media commentary by every Otieno, Kamau, Ole Mpaso, Makau, Mbela and Omwami – my Kenyan equivalent of every Tom, Dick and Harry – is not only beneath his office (of Chief Justice), it is also very telling.

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/CJ-Mutunga-denies-bribery-claims-during-Railas-petition/-/1056/1761342/-/7h5e2g/-/index.html

I am surprised that Mr. Mutunga does not have a “thicker” skin or that he did not see this onslaught of criticism coming in the wake of the ruling on the just-concluded petition filed by Coalition on Reform and Democracy (CORD). Add to the ruling which effectively dismayed and alienated if not out rightly angered approximately 50% of the voters, the manner in which the ruling was arrived at and delivered to the eager public and the apparent tone-deafness of the Chief Justice of Kenya’s Supreme Court is actually very disturbing! In a previous article titled Be Sage; Push for The Hague, that argued for keeping the proceedings for the charges facing Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto at The Hague instead of moving them to Kenya, I wrote that “I do not put it past the richest man in the country indeed one of the richest in Africa, Mr. Kenyatta, to use his family’s considerable wealth to buy the acquiescence of the Kenyan Supreme Court ergo his outright freedom or considerable reduction in repercussions stemming from the charges.”

https://thetwoninetyonetracker.com/2013/04/14/be-a-sage-push-for-the-hague/

In light of the allegations the CJ is pining about; it is not far-fetched to amend the foregoing quote to read thus: I do not put it past Mr. Kenyatta to use his family’s considerable wealth to pay the justices of the Supreme Court, including Mr. Mutunga, to rule in his favor in the petition filed by CORD! Frankly it was a thought I had while writing the preceding article on the proceedings at The Hague but did not want to come across as a conspiracy theorist extraordinaire!

Why would the allegation that the CJ was bribed by a yet-to-be-named source cause someone who presumably defended a doctoral thesis and is described by Wikipedia as an “intellectual, reform activist” cause him, Mr. Mutunga, “anguish?”
Regarding the CJ’s hand-wringing, the saying “where there is smoke, there is fire” comes to mind. So does Ogbuefi Idigo’s line “a toad does not run in the daytime for nothing” from author Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece Things Fall Apart (Page 20).

Frankly the CJ’s behavior over the past four weeks do not square up with the behavior of someone who famously told the Judicial Service Commission that he wears an ear ring not because of his sexuality but because of his spirituality. The then-candidate for the position of Chief Justice added that there is no way he can remove the ear ring even if he becomes the Chief Justice: He then concluded by saying that if he was told to remove said ring as a condition for getting the job of Chief Justice, he would tell the panel to “keep the job.”

http://mobile.nation.co.ke/Why-former-detainee-won-race-for-CJ/-/1292/1162218/-/format/xhtml/item/3/-/9xwjqk/-/index.html

This may sound a tad harsh, but Mr. Mutunga is acting like a man whose conscience is troubled! The CJ’s claim that he was “most hurt” by the allegation that he had been bribed during the Presidential Petition is, for lack of a better word, lame; definitely not commensurate with the weight of his position! For a man who heads the third co-equal branch of government; to wit access to the investigative muscle of said institution – the Judiciary – the claim that he “did not know where to turn”, presumably when the allegations that he was bribed surfaced, is equally unbecoming of a man who stared down the Head of Public Service Mr. Francis Kimemia when he was barred from boarding a flight and travelling to Dar-es-Salaam until he got a clearance letter from his (Mr. Kimemia’s) office!

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000077802

Memo to Mr. CJ:

Life is not fair; just ask Raila Odinga! The vitriol and criticism, indeed the hate spewed by all sides of Kenya’s political divide, especially in the CJ’s favorite medium – cyberspace – comes with the office. It is also part of the vibrant and open (democratic) society you and the likes of Maina Kiai and Makau Mutua fought for; suffered for!

The churlish reaction of the York University’s Osgood Hall Law School Doctorate of Law grad to the allegations of bribery – that his office has “been the target of attacks, slander, libel and outright indecent, vulgar and unacceptable abuses,” especially in the social media belies the CJ’s constant, repeated and I would argue, savvy use of the same (social) media to make proclamations, including announcing the single most important ruling of his court – the decision on the Presidential Petition! Can you say TOUCHE?

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Elections, Governance - Kenya, International Criminal Court - ICC, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Politics, The Hague

Kusema Na Kutenda – To Say and To Do!

The post-election/campaign tone and messaging of President Uhuru Kenyatta is markedly different than the tone and messaging during the just-concluded presidential campaign, especially immediately after the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed charges against him and his deputy Mr. Ruto. The president’s tone sounds more inclusive and atribal. It sound magnanimous and humble and indicative of someone who is coming to terms with the gravity of the office he now holds. In a recent visit to Mombasa, a region that voted overwhelmingly (76% vs. 20%) for his opponent Raila Odinga, The Daily Nation issue of April 26 quotes Mr. Kenyatta as saying that he wants to be “president of all (Kenyans) and work with all for (the) benefit of this nation.” 1 It is a sound bite that sounds great but is markedly different than the subtle and seemingly negative messages delivered at his campaign rallies where he spoke in a dialect spoken/understood by less than 20% of the very populace he claims he wants to work for! 2.

While it is normal for politicians to “reset” their messaging from the campaign and move towards the moderate center once the elections are over, they (politicians) come across as disingenuous when they go from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other on an issue. In the charged and divided polity that is post-2007 Kenya, an environment he helped create by running the type of campaign that his Jubilee Coalition run, Mr. Kenyatta has his work cut out out for him.

1 – http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Ill-serve-without-discrimination-Uhuru/-/1064/1758884/-/cpou6w/-/index.html
2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=F1rneGyRCcw

For starters, Mr. Kenyatta needs to beat the charges of crimes against humanity he is facing at The Hague, not by trying to circumvent the process, but by letting his high-priced and “foreign” legal team go face-to-face with Ms. Bensouda’s team. I want an objective hearing of the available evidence surrounding the post-election violence of 2007 by a judicial body (ICC) that is not prone to the manipulation Kenya’s judiciary is known for. I want the people who were victimized to have their day in court without fearing for their safety before and after the proceedings. If Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto are as innocent as they claim to be, then the evidence will bear that out. I doubt that the ICC/West wants to be embroiled in another Omar Bashir-like situation given the verdict of the Kenyan voters; one that was confirmed by their Supreme Court. However, I hope that they (west) continue to hold Mr. Kenyatta’s feet to the fire until the (ICC) process runs its course fulfillment of the prophesy of the felled Mugumo Tree notwithstanding.

It is unfortunate that the nationalism and jingoism reflected by some comments in cyberspace prevents some Kenyans from facing the fact that the country’s institutions, the judiciary in particular, have not been free from manipulation by the rich, powerful and well-connected. It is that reality that birthed the cry “Don’t be vague, go to The Hague” and gave the country the Ocampo Six; now reduced to the Bensouda Three! And while I feel that the jingoism and tribal chauvinism will reach a crescendo if Mr. Kenyatta (and his deputy Mr. Ruto) is eventually cleared of charges at The Hague, I also believe that clearing his name AT The Hague is THE one sure way of inoculating the first government coming after the carnage of 2007 elections and the country’s supposedly “independent” institutions from charges of excessive manipulation by the hitherto “untouchable” rich and powerful personalities.

https://thetwoninetyonetracker.com/2013/04/14/be-a-sage-push-for-the-hague/

Mr. Kenyatta also needs to deal with the internally-displaced persons (IDPs) AND the land issue without the platitudinous and perfunctory “land is a means of production but not something to always fight for. Let us work together in finding a permanent solution to this problem” line from his stump speeches. To quote him: The campaigns are over, it is time to bring the country together. Let me add to that presidential appeal a special plea, a shout-out if you may, on behalf of the IDPs: It has been 5+years already; the IDPs should be re-settled!

https://thetwoninetyonetracker.com/2013/04/11/the-things-he-did-not-say/

With over 500,000 acres of prime and arable land under his family’s name, not to mention a net worth of one half BILLION dollars ($500,000,000 – Kshs. 41Billion), Mr. Kenyatta can transform said wealth into an asset, no pan intended! With most Kenyans accepting the evidence and coming to terms with the fact that the president’s father Kenyatta Pere was the “land-grabber-in-chief,” can you imagine if the president’s mother and Jomo’s 4th wife, Mama Ngina, had taken the opportunity to reach out to the internally-displaced persons she met during this photo-op by offering to re-settle them on a section of the half-a-million acres of land her late husband “acquired” instead of literally running away from the question?

The glow and honeymoon over Mr. Kenyatta’s election is fast-coming to an end to be replaced by the Sisyphean’s work of governing a divided polity. As presumptuous as this may sound, I would advise “my brother Uhuru” to dispense with the platitudes and let his actions do the talking:

STOP SEMARING AND START TENDARING!

STOP WITH THE PROCLAMATIONS AND LET YOUR ACTIONS SPEAK!!

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To Serve and To Protect ALL Kenyans

Some of the comments in response to the article titled “Police siege on Kisumu and Kibera fuelling ethnic hate” written by Otieno Otieno in the April 20 issue of the Daily Nation reflect an ethnic chauvinism that is reminiscent of the racial animus and stereotyping common amongst conservative white Americans towards African-Americans and Latinos here in the US. Comments by bloggers such as Magu Wa Maitha, Mtadao, Frankyzilla, Njanemuiruri, Pikipiki, Zeki Timona and Oldframe that characterize fellow Kenyans as “stone-throwers” or as “having “genes…that invite rioting” or display “the phenomenon of overreacting emotional characteristic..” are similar to the stereotypes that describe others as “thieves” or “dumb”. It is the same bigotry that contends that Blacks are “lazy” and “like water melons and fried chicken”: The same stereotyping that characterizes whites as “serial killers” who like any one of the one hundred and fifty “stuff” listed in Christian Lander’s book Stuff White People Like! To put it bluntly, stereotyping is ugly and idiotic. The behavior should have no place in any discourse – public or private – and those promoting such views should be called out by those of us who want a society where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin nor the tribe from which they hail.

The bloggers making the argument that the heavy-handed approach to law enforcement by the police, General Service Unit (GSU) and other presidential security personnel is to be expected during “preparation for a presidential visit” or in response to the unlawful behavior of a small section of the population are part of the “law and order” crowd in the mold of William Bratton, Bernard Kerik, Benjamin Hinga, John Michuki, Darryl Gates, Patrick Shaw etc. The strong-arm approach to law enforcement by these law enforcement professionals may have garnered them short-term positive results in New York, Nairobi, or Los Angeles. The same tactics however alienated the very communities they were supposed to be ridding of the crime and illicit activities; the very communities whose inhabitants ended up bearing the brunt of said tactics. I abhor violence and do not condone the culture of “No Snitching” i.e. the unspoken rule amongst some communities to avoid giving law enforcement any information that may help them during investigation of a crime. On the other hand, I can see how police brutality, not to mention fear of retaliation by the perpetrators would foster such counter-productive behavior. It is my opinion that the onus is on those with the power, in this case the police, to break the cycle of brutality and abuse of power so that those they are sworn to serve and protect see them not as enemies, but as friends. The evidence in favor of community policing – systematic use of partnerships and policing techniques that proactively involve the community in addressing conditions that create crime/public safety issues – is overwhelmingly favorable.

I have been within a couple of feet of the “rope line” as former President Clinton “pressed the flesh” in Washington DC i.e. shook hands with the public just before boarding Marine One then Airforce One on his way to Morocco for the July 1999 funeral of King Hassan. In fact, my partner at the time, being from DC, was blasé about the presence of POTUS and inadvertently crossed the security line thereby “contaminating” the previously “sterile” security zone. The ever-present and alert Secret Service personnel hardly flinched or panicked when my friend entered the “sterile zone.” The agent closest to us lifted his left wrist to his mouth and said something into a microphone hidden under his sleeve. He continued to monitor the crowd paying extra attention on me, my partner and her five-year old nephew. I told my friend that she had crossed the security line just as the agent firmly but politely told her to “get back behind the rope ma’am” while simultaneously instructing all within earshot alternately to “keep both hands in front of you and visible please” and “let me see both your hands please.” The agent was calm, professional and efficient. He was also courteous. Needless to say, we all complied, quickly putting our hands in full view of the agent as instructed. I was also impressed with the cool and efficient manner in which the agent handled the breach. Granted not all security breaches go down as I observed on that day but the point is the manner in which this particular episode was handled by the Secret Service (law enforcement personnel) and the indelible and positive impression their professionalism left on me.

The history of acrimony between African-Americans and Latinos on one side and the predominantly white police/law enforcement establishment here in the US on the other side did not happen in a vacuum. The anti-police/anti-authority mind-set that Black American and Latino male have towards the “men in blue’ was caused by the well-documented history of racist behavior and racism within those institutions. Google “Rodney King,” Darryl Gates” and “LAPD” and see what pops up. These same institutions have also made great strides in improving relationships with the communities they serve, not by sweeping their sordid past under the rug, but by opening themselves up to criticism, objective and otherwise from those who were victimized by their brutality and resultant cover-ups. I would also argue that the animus that some communities in Kenya have towards law enforcement and the institutions therein did not happen in a vacuum. Kenya Police, GSU, CID/Special Branch, Nyayo House are law enforcement institutions in Kenya that have a long, sordid and terrifying history of botched and disproportionate responses to peaceful or boisterous and tense gatherings, shoddy and non-investigations of corruption, torture and assassinations not to mention the rampant acceptance of “kitu kidogo” or bribes that one would have to be wilfully naïve and ignorant to disregard said history in any analysis of law enforcement in Kenya.

And before I get mail accusing me of peddling racist, tribal or anti-police views, let me state categorically that the point of this piece is not whether or not Kenya’s law enforcement can do its work by investigating and arresting law-breakers or “stone-throwers” as Luos are derisively called by some commenters. The main point of this piece is to highlight the manner in which the police/authorities have discharged said responsibilities over the years and the consistency with which enforcement has been exacted from one group to the next. Evidence, while sketchy and not as well-documented as it is stateside points to a Kenyan law enforcement establishment that over the years, has been over-bearing, punitive, selective in enforcing the law, corrupt, and a “matundu-ya-uhuru” to be doled out to cronies and tribesmen/women of those in power. The resulting politicization of these institutions is evidenced in the afore-mentioned shoddy investigations of corruption, torture and assassinations not to mention the rampant acceptance of “kitu kidogo” or bribes and a recent addition – extra-judicial killings.

Until ALL Kenyans feel that law enforcement and those who oversee those institutions are impartial arbiters of law and order determined to serve and protect them without discrimination, the anti-police sentiment that is all too common among some communities in Kenya will continue unabated.

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Getting His Groove?

I know it is a bit premature, but it looks like President Uhuru Kenyatta is finding his groove as president of a perilously divided Kenya. The meeting held at the State House on April 13, 2013 between the president, his deputy William Ruto and CORD leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka gave this Kenyan a reason to be optimistic about the tone of leadership and types of leaders the country of his birth elected into office. The picture on the front page of the Daily Nation dated April 13, 2013 of the four men sharing a hearty laugh is, to use a cliché, priceless! That picture is one of intense political rivals who appear able to put aside their deep oftentimes acrimonious political rivalry for the greater good (of a country divided). Indeed this is one picture that is worth more than a thousand words. Hopefully the increasingly rabid supporters of the two sides can take their cue from said picture and cool down the tension, especially online.

Add to the State House meeting between the two top candidates of the just-concluded presidential contest and their deputies the fact that on Friday, April 19, the two men – Uhuru and Raila – both attended the burial of the late Secretary-General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) David Okuta Osiany in Nyando, near Kisumu. Reports of the two principals walking hand-in-hand towards the grave of the late leader of the teachers’ union is a powerful image that will go a long way in endearing Mr. Kenyatta towards a Luo community that overwhelmingly voted for Raila Odinga. The visuals of the president and his erstwhile challenger reportedly walking hand-in-hand towards the grave of Mr. Osiany is one that should be played and re-played over and over again until it is seared in the collective minds of all Kenyans, especially the two communities represented by the president and his “older brother.”

I will argue that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s overtures towards Mr. Okuta, and by extension the Luo community from which the dearly-departed hailed, has been the polar opposite of his father’s behavior towards said community. Kenyatta Pere’s conduct towards his chief political rival Oginga Odinga, indeed towards the Luo community during his presidency, came across as condescending, disrespectful and full of disdain. One can make a compelling argument that his government’s policies towards the region (Nyanza) were consistent with the fore-going characterization. Additionally, the July 1969 murder of Tom Mboya, supposedly on the orders of the “Big Man” (rumored to be Jomo Kenyatta or someone very close to him) started the alienation of the Luo community from the country’s leaders. Add to the anguish and fury over Mboya’s death, the war of words that erupted between Kenyatta Pere and Odinga Pere during the opening of the New Nyanza General Hospital in Kisumu in October 1969. The acerbic verbal exchange between the two doyens of Kenya’s post-independence politics and the ensuing violent and disproportionate response by Kenyatta’s security towards the predominantly Luo crowd in that charged atmosphere that resulted in the death of hundreds (of Luos) only firmed alienation of the community from a government they all believed was unfair and responsible for the death of one of their own (Tom Mboya)!

Granted the president and his deputy were inaugurated less than two weeks ago on April 9, 2013 for a two hundred and sixty week-term in office i.e. 5yrs x 52weeks/year. Additionally, Mr. Kenyatta is yet to name his cabinet which he claims will “reflect the true face of Kenya.” Finally, it is important to note that the parliament and the public has yet to begin the vetting process on the selected members of Kenyatta’s cabinet; a process that can be very messy and has been described stateside as “making sausage.” The latter – making sausage – is an expression that alludes to the ugliness of the sausage-making process that includes blending animal parts that most people do not normally eat by themselves with spices and other additives to produce sausage, a product most people gladly devour without hesitation! It will be interesting to see how Mr. Kenyatta deals with the process previously seen by his predecessors including his father Jomo Kenyatta and those around them as their opportunity to “eat matundu ya uhuru.” In a clear illustration of the adage “elections have consequences,” the deal-making and backroom power-sharing agreements between the winners collectively have the potential to further widen the gulf between the various communities represented by Uhuru’s Jubilee Coalition and Raila’s CORD.

It is my hope that Mr. Kenyatta’s actions since the Supreme Court ruled in his favor are beyond symbolic and definitely not photo-ops – photo opportunities i.e. carefully planned and recorded events often masked as news(worthy) and intended to present those in the photograph, in this case Mr. Kenyatta, in a positive light. I hope Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto make decisions that support the positive start and statements they have made and have been making early in their administration. I will take it a step further and opine that the president and his deputy should worry more about the advise offered by those around them than about what Raila and Kalonza will do next. Kenya’s history is littered with presidential aides and others with access to the corridors of power who acted selfishly by lining their pockets and fattening their bank accounts while claiming to act on “behalf of Bwana Mkubwa” or “The Big Man.” It is the actions of these selfish individuals that tend to erect a bubble/filter around the president thereby alienating him from the plight of everyday citizens.

Uhuru can put an end to this cycle by ensuring that his administration does not join the pantheon of corrupt and tribalistic administrations of yesteryears nor reflect the tyranny of the majority as embodied by the jingoism and hubris reflected in the comments made in cyberspace by his supporters.

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Elections, Governance - Kenya, Kenya, Politics, Tribalism, Tribe, Uncategorized

Be a Sage; Push for The Hague!

And all it took was three days after their inauguration on April 9, 2013 for two of the three ICC suspects, through their surrogate deputy UN ambassador Ms. Koki Muli Grignon, to begin a concerted effort to have their trials moved from The Hague to the “the jurisdiction of the nation’s (Kenya’s) judicial institutions” as reported in the article “Newly-appointed envoy leads bid to bring Hague cases back home” that appeared on the April 12 issue of the Daily Nation.

I will remind Ms. Grignon that the sole reason her boss Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto are being tried at the comparatively independent and definitely “unbwogable” International Criminal Court (ICC) is because a majority of parliamentarians including the president himself came up with the catchy phrase “Don’t be vague, let’s go to The Hague” in response to efforts by some local politicians who wanted those suspected of fomenting the post-election violence (PEV) in 2007/2008 to be tried in Kenya; a suggestion considered a non-starter by many because Kenya’s judiciary had/has NEVER been free of manipulation by the high and mighty. I am sure Ms. Grignon remembers the cute hook that was all the rage after Justice Philip Waki’s team had completed its investigation of the post-election violence of 2007/2008 and handed its report to President Kibaki in October 2008; the team hand the names of the suspects to former UN Sec-Gen Ghanaian Dr. Kofi Annan. That the current president and his deputy ended up at The Hague instead of the Supreme Court of Kenya is no one’s fault other than that of the Kibaki government; the very government Mr. Kenyatta was a member of as a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance! I will take it a step further and argue that the “axis of impunity” that Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta saluted and paid tribute to during Tuesday’s inauguration – Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki – set in motion then entrenched the system of governance that weakened the supposedly independent institutions including the judiciary making it very easy for those who were calling for the PEV suspects to be tried at The Hague to carry the day.

Ms. Grignon is either naïve or believes that the majority of Kenyans who initially sought to have the crimes against humanity cases brought before the ICC are not cognizant of how prone to manipulation Kenya’s supposedly “independent” institutions are! On the other hand, the just–concluded election of two of the three principals facing those very charges may have given said individuals – Uhuru and Ruto – and their surrogate Ms. Koki Grignon the impetus, indeed the gumption or like they say stateside, “huevos” or chutzpah to redouble the efforts to bring the proceedings in front of a judiciary they have more sway over.

I strongly urge Ms. Bensouda and the ICC, indeed the UN Security Council to reject any attempts by the Kenyatta administration to bring adjudication of the PEV charges to the still-suspect Kenyan judiciary and I say this with all due respect to CJ Mutunga and his band of merry men and women. I do not put it past the richest man in the country indeed one of the richest in Africa, Mr. Kenyatta, to use his family’s considerable wealth to buy the acquiescence of the Kenyan Supreme Court ergo his outright freedom or considerable reduction in repercussions steming from the charges. I am not sure who said this but “every man and woman has a price.” With a net worth of close to half a billion dollars or approximately kshs. 41,000,000,000 (forty-one BILLION shillings at the current exchange rate of $1 = kshs. 82/=), no one should doubt the willingness of Mr. Kenyatta and his family to use that formidable wealth to fight, tooth and nail, the ICC.

We have already seen the ICC lose some witnesses who have either recanted their testimony or flatly refused to testify. Some of the recantations happened before the two suspects were elected to the presidency and vice-presidency respectively. Kenyans and their Supreme Court elected and finally arbitrated the duo into office with the April 9th inauguration. I only expect the pressure on the remaining witnesses to intensify as July 9, the day the trials are scheduled to begin, draws nearer. Jonah Anguka’s book Absolute Power: The Ouko Murder Mystery details the brutal 1990 murder of Kenya’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation. In a chapter titled “Convenient Deaths,” (pgs. 219-229), the author writes that following Dr. Ouko’s death, so many material witnesses and people connected to the case died in a manner and at rate that Kenyans were left wondering whether the deaths were by happenstance or “deliberate” targeted killings.(pg. 219) Mr. Anguka adds that the deaths could have been convenient for anyone bent on covering their involvement in the minister’s murder. He then suggests that the deaths of these people may also have been used to instill fear in the minds of potential witnesses. For the record, I counted a total of fourteen (14) people connected to Dr. Ouko’s death who either died or went missing before being questioned by the authorities or shortly thereafter.

Another book – The Risks of Knowledge – co-written by David William Cohen and E. S. Atieno Odhiambo describes the investigation into the death of Mr. Ouko. No one can read Chapter 3 titled “Ouko’s Pain” (pge. 73-89) and not feel how terrified the Foreign Minister was about his personal safety after his return from a visit to the United States as a member of a delegation headed by then-president Moi. Mr. Ouko is described as pleading with Mr. Hezekiah Oyugi, the Permanent Secretary in-charge of internal security in the Office of the President to talk with President Moi and intercede “with the powers on his behalf.” (pge. 77) to which the late PS offers the incredulously callous response: “If you have collided with Nyayo (Moi), shauri yako (tough luck). I give you only two days!” It is a chilling and disturbing read, indeed a sad and painful imploration of a man who knows he is about to die; which indeed did happen shortly after the pleas fell on deaf ears. It also captures the ruthlessness of (our) leaders, including those who profess their religiosity at every opportunity. In a classic tale of “what goes around comes around,” Mr. Oyugi himself later died under extremely mysterious and suspicious circumstances; one of the fourteen people connected with Ouko’s death who either died or disappeared before they could be questioned on the matter.

I have to admit that the Ouko assassination remains very personal for me: He was from Nyahera, Kisumu – the same area as my mother. Uncle Bob as we called him also taught my mom at Ogada Intermediate Primary School, also in Nyahera. Robert’s mother and my maternal grandmother were both from Kano-Kolwa and were very close friends. The point of the fore-going digression on to the death of Robert Ouko is to illustrate the malleability of the Kenyan judicial system the new Constitution notwithstanding. The sad fact is that I could have chosen any one of several national tragedies the country has experienced in the last generation – the assassinations of Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki or the multi-billion shillings scandals such as Goldenberg, Anglo-Leasing, Sololo, Grand Regency – to illustrate the incompetence of its judiciary. If the PEV trials of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy are brought under the jurisdiction of Kenya’s judicial institutions, it is not inconceivable that the two suspects or those around them may choose to play fast and loose and eventually hardball with the local institutions, not to mention the persons tasked with “investigating” the charges currently sitting on Ms. Fatou Bensouda’s docket at the ICC.

Kenyans seem to have a very short and selective memory of events that should be hard-coded in the country’s collective memory. The significant emotional memory of the brutal murder of the country’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Robert Ouko and the ensuing joke of an investigation should still be seared in the consciousness and psyche of the country. Mr. Anguka quotes the late Justice Fidahussein Abdullah, a judge on the Ouko Commission who also died in the midst of the “investigations” as saying “(Kenya) is a country where guilty go scot-free, but the innocent (are) incarcerated, where Goldenbergs and Sololo flaunt their wealth and live lavishly but children of the streets arm themselves with faeces to beg, where inciters of violence are condoned but preachers of peace are condemned…Let us stop this rot..now or tomorrow it will be too late.” (pge. 227)

Both Mr. Anguka and the late Justice Abdullah contend that the rich and powerful in Kenya act with impunity that is near-total because they have the money and the connection: Mr. Kenyatta’s mentor is none other than former President Moi, originator of the “Uhuru Project” and the very person Dr. Ouko was begging Mr. Hezekiah Oyugi to have intercede on his behalf.

If the history of Kenya is anything to go by re: dealing with high-profile politically charged legal matters, Ms. Grignon, the country, indeed all who want justice for the victims of the post-election violence should not be naive, they should be sagacious and stay with The Hague – the one entity along with the seemingly indefatigable Ms. Bensouda, that may just be beyond manipulation, at least by Kenya’s rich and powerful.

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Elections, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Politics, The Hague

The things he did NOT say

In a three thousand two hundred and forty-four worded (3,244) inauguration speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta devoted only one hundred and seventeen (117) to the issue of land. And of the 117 words addressing the land issue, one can argue that just forty-two – approximately 1.3% of the total number of words in the speech – dealt with the issue from the perspective that has been at the heart of disputes between the various communities in the country. The president said this:

My government will strive to work with all actors to ensure that the issue of land will never again be a contentious or a divisive subject but rather that land will be seen as what it truly is, a factor of production.”

Nowhere in the speech did the president touch on nor propose any solutions to the plight of the internally-displaced people (IDPs). Nowhere in the speech that has been praised and panned alike did Mr. Kenyatta talk about the impact of corruption or the many other isms that have and continue to sap the nation of its will and drive to excel.

What I heard from the in-coming president were lofty platitudinous themes and lines. While these lofty and grandiose alliterations are to be expected in an inauguration speech, that they seemingly came at the expense of what in my opinion were more pressing issues – addressing the issue of land ownership with the seriousness it deserves and not in passing, the still-unresolved suffering of thousands of Kenyans who were uprooted from their homes by the post-election violence of 2007 and the widespread and rampant (official) corruption – is alarming and portends the (misplaced) priorities of the in-coming administration.

I understand that there is a time and place for everything. I also realize that one should never miss an opportunity to make an impact. That the person being inaugurated as president was also the son of the country’s first president added to the momentous nature of the occasion. Additionally, the inauguration of Kenya’s 4th President in the wake of the colossal failure of the election and “inauguration” of 2007 was, in my opinion, an occasion tailor-made for making an impact; illustrating the stark contrast between the transition of power now and then; not to mention that the person being inaugurated was one of three persons accused, along with his deputy, of funding and instigating the crimes against humanity after the same failed elections of 2007! The fore-going three reasons set the stage for Mr. Kenyatta to use the occasion to convey to the country that his administration was serious about the country’s long term progress and stability.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration speech should have addressed the tri-headed monsters of land ownership, resettlement of the IDPs and the rampant (official) corruption.

It did not.

Maybe the fact that the three people most responsible for creating, perpetuating and exacerbating the culture of land-grabbing, corruption, nepotism and tribalism were sitting right behind President Kenyatta on the VIP dais dissuaded him from pointedly addressing them.

  • The inauguree and in-coming president, Kenyatta Fils was representing his father Kenyatta Pere, who as Kenya’s founding father has been lionized and immortalized in the annals of the country’s history. I would add to this near-deification of the country’s first president an asterisk and the qualifier that Kenyatta Pere single-handedly created the country’s land problems, not to mention its tribal divisions and the culture of patronage shortly after it gained independence from the British. In a cruel twist of irony reflected in a narrative germinated by the principals of the victorious Jubilee Coalition during the run-up to the just-concluded elections, Kenyatta Son is facing judgment by the same “foreigners” who imprisoned Kenyatta Father in Kapenguria during Kenya’s fight for independence! The more things change, the more they stay the same!
  • Mr. Moi – need I say more?
  • Mr. Kibaki came into the presidency in 2002 with as much goodwill and support as any president of a diverse country would want. Both the goodwill and support was broad and deep. The country was unified AGAINST the one person most Kenyans blamed for the downturn in its economy, social cohesiveness and international standings – Daniel Arap Moi. Fast forward five years later to 2007 and like they say, the rest is history. No amount of revisionism can change the fact that Mr. Kibaki’s “re-election” in 2007 and the surreptitious “swearing-in” under cover of dark amidst wide-spread charges of ballot-stuffing and an assortment of shenanigans combined to convulse Kenya into Rwanda Part Deux.

Like I said in previous posts, I am willing to cut Mr. Kenyatta some slack as he steadies himself into the presidency; a combined Herculean and Sisyphean task if ever there was one. On the other hand, I would be remiss if I failed to listen to and analyze his inauguration speech without pointing out the blatant and glaring omissions i.e. what the in-coming president did not say.

It is my opinion that what Mr. Kenyatta did not say in his inauguration speech does not augur well for his ability, indeed willingness to address and give the issues of land ownership, re-settlement of the IDPs and official corruption the import they deserve.

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Elections, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, Justice, Kenya, Politics, The Hague, Tribalism

Becoming THE Solution

This weekend I spoke with someone I had not spoken with for over twenty years. We met when I lived in Southern California in the 80s and had been Facebook friends since 2010 but had yet to talk. Juliana (not her real name) is also from Kenya. Her mother is from Nyeri and her father is from Kiambu – someone definitely crossed the Chania River! We caught up on what has happened in our lives since we last talked almost two decades ago. She waxed maternally about her two beautiful children – Julianna (with two “Ns” instead of one – there is a big difference I was told – forcefully) and Julian (Juliana sans the “A” at the end). I listened and concurred with her description of her offsprings knowing that I expected her to do the same when I started babbling about my equally beautiful son. As presciently as I had imagined, Juliana and I both agreed that fortunately, Malo, my adorable ten-year old had inherited his mom’s looks! I shamelessly plugged my upcoming book Wuodha: My journey from Kenya to these United States. I also told her about my blog, thetwoninetyonetracker.com once again with little shame! It was at this point that our conversation took a sharp turn and focused on the just-concluded presidential elections and the postings on my blog.

Juliana and I blamed everyone and everything for the dysfunctional nature of present-day Kenyan politics. She decried the gloating of “her” people from Central Province (over the election results), “their domination” of Kenya’s socio-political and economic life since independence and their perceived sense of entitlement. I lamented over the “herd” and “victim” mentality of “my” people from Nyanza; wondering about the wisdom of their near-permanent status as the mainstay of Kenya’s political “opposition”. We both blamed the politicians from Kenyatta Pere to Kenyatta Fils, Odinga Pere and Odinga Fils, not to mention the sycophants around them, for the country’s halting socio-political and economic development since independence; economic development whose trajectory, especially in the late 70s, was on par with that of the Four Tigers – South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong – or so I argued in my senior thesis in 1989 in a paper well-recieved by my advisor Professor Chalmers Johnson, a noted political economist and expert on Asia. We did not forget the role M1, as Daniel Moi was called back in the days, played in exacerbating the tribalism, corruption and human rights abuses set in motion by Kenyatta Pere. We mused over the third crossing of the Chania River by one Emilio Mwai Kibaki. A development I described as Kenya’s Camelot Era that started with so much promise only to fizzle in an orgy of post-election violence in 2007: His “re-election” birthed the post-election violence that forever tarnished Kenya’s image as an “oasis of peace” surrounded by the Idi Amins and Siad Barres of this world; the same PEV that Messer’s Kenyatta and Ruto are answering for at The Hague. Our pride was unmistakable as we marveled at how the half-Kenyan Luo Barack Obama rose to become the first black (and bi-racial) president in America no less – a country whose past is similarly marred with deadly violence between its citizens – blacks and whites. We then laughed uncontrollably as we wondered how he would fare were he to vie for Kenya’s presidency. All told, it was a heartwarming conversation. It felt great to reconnect with a long-lost and dear friend.

The one thing Juliana and I started to discuss albeit not as vociferously as we did when assigning blame for what ails Kenya was OUR role in contributing to the dysfunction. The two of us spent more time casting aspersions at all save us for Kenya’s problems.

I have to admit that I have offered more criticism than solutions to the problems facing the country of my birth; an admission and realization that brought me to the quote below from a YouTube clip titled “Bull’s Eye: Life after the elections.”

wallace Gathungu 2 days ago

It is my prayer UK/Ruto reach out to Luo Nyanza no matter how many times they may be rebuffed. UNITE KENYA.

I did not support Uhuru Kenyatta’s candidacy because I believe that he is the poster child for all that has been at the heart of Kenya’s socio-political problems: Corruption, nepotism, entitlement, privilege, patronage, impunity etc. and because he is facing charges at the International Criminal Court for crimes against fellow Kenyans. Maybe it is just my quirkiness or maybe I have been away from Kenya for too long but there is something morally wrong when a presidential candidate and his deputy are both facing charges as heinous as the charges facing Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto.

Having said that, I recognize and respect the fact that Mr. Kenyatta was duly elected by the majority of Kenyans, Supreme Court-confirmed and finally inaugurated as President of Kenya. I will give him the honeymoon period he deserves even as I continue my critique of his presidency. However, I also want the criminal proceedings at The Hague to continue to their conclusion, if for no other reason than to provide some semblance of justice for the thousands of Kenyans brutally murdered and hundreds of thousands more displaced from their homes because of actions allegedly fomented by Mr. Kenyatta and his VP.

Though I am not familiar with the series “Bull’s Eye,” I think of it as political satire addressing current events in Kenya. It is, I believe, the equivalent of two shows that air stateside on the TV channel Comedy Central featuring Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert. The comedic respite of the YouTube clip aside, the comment from Mr. Gathungu was timely and extremely instructive. I would, however, replace the words “Luo Nyanza” with “their opponents” thus the comment would read: It is my prayer that UK/Ruto reaches out to their opponents no matter how many times they may rebuff their efforts (to unite Kenya).

It is my sincere hope that President Uhuru Kenyatta takes Mr. Gathungu’s advice to heart. It is also my hope that as Kenyans, we take Mr. Gathungu’s words to heart and become the change we want in Kenya to wit: Anyone interested in adopting an IDP?

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Democracy, Governance - Kenya, Justice, Kenya, Life, Politics, Tribalism, Tribe