Monthly Archives: August 2013

Finally!

It has been a long and painful five-year journey with twists and turns that would make for a great who-done-it caper worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’ penmanship. Unfortunately for the family and friends of the 1200+ Kenyans who died, some in the most horrific of circumstances including being locked then set alight inside a place usually reserved for those seeking the calming grace of their deity, the horrors of their beloved country’s darkest moment live in infamy to this very day.

Starting off as the “Ocampo Six” charged, by then-Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Argentinean Luis Gabriel Moreno Ocampo, with crimes against humanity related to the post-election violence that engulfed Kenya in the wake of the disputed presidential elections of 2007, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Francis Muthaura, Mohammed Ali, Henry Kosgey and Joshua Arap Sang became the “Ocampo Four” as the prosecution was unable to confirm charges against former police commissioner Mohammed Ali and former Industrialization Minister Henry Kosgey. The four soon became three as the ICC prosecution dropped charges against the former Cabinet Secretary Mr. Muthaura following the discrediting of a key witness.

Gambian Ms. Fatou Bensouda who took over from Mr. Moreno Ocampo has diligently worked through the legal labyrinth of obstacles – some valid and others deliberate – including allegations of bribery and intimidation of witnesses not to mention the election of two of the remaining three suspects to the presidency and deputy presidency of Kenya. It is the possible and eventual election of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as President and Deputy President that drew the much-derided and in equal parts applauded “choices have consequences” comment by then-US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

http://elections.nation.co.ke/news/-/1631868/1687566/-/p86h8fz/-/index.html

I have a different take on the consequences Mr. Carson was alluding to.

That the 3 suspects are being tried at The Hague instead of Kenya or Arusha is the consequence of  an elite and ruling class that has repeatedly acted with impunity including detaining, torturing and murdering their opponents, perceived and otherwise. Mr. Kenyatta, Mr. Ruto and Mr. Sang have been tripped by a (Kenyan) legal system that has the reputation of being susceptible to manipulation and influence by the rich and powerful. As a consequence, they are now facing a legal system that is comparatively unforgiving and unyielding and very expensive!

Methinks that the accused, especially the president and his deputy, shot themselves in the foot with their intense lobbying to get the proceedings delayed and re-located locally; certainly away from The Hague. Said maneuvers played into the hands of those who believe that given Kenya’s past, it would be very difficult, almost impossible to try the two principals, Uhuru Kenyatta in particular, locally without interference and manipulation by the country’s political elites. All one has to do is pick up recent copies of local newspapers such as Daily Nation and they will see how incompetent and untrustworthy Kenya’s judiciary has been when faced with politically-charged cases:

Those responsible for the assassinations of JM Kariuki, Tom Mboya and Robert Ouko, allegedly at the behest of Presidents Kenyatta Pere and Moi respectively, have never been brought to justice, including the “big man” who was identified by the convicted assassin Nahashon Isaac Njenga Njoroge as the force behind the murder of Tom Mboya.

I also believe that the delaying tactics were designed to whittle down the number of victims willing to testify against the 3 suspects, sway public opinion against the proceedings and eventually compel the ICC to try the cases locally. Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto were indeed able to sway public opinion in their favor and ride the anti-ICC wave to the presidency and deputy presidency respectively. They were also successful in whittling down the number of those willing to testify against them, allegedly through bribery and intimidation. Fortunately, their efforts did not sway the required 2/3rds majority of judges to vote in favor of moving the cases from The Hague.

The guilty are afraid, so goes the title of one of Mr. René Lodge Brabazon Raymond aka James Hadley Chase’s books.

If the suspects have nothing to hide and enough evidence to sustain said claim of innocence, they should not worry about the venue of the trials. The president and his deputy also have services of the best legal teams money can buy. Mr. Kenyatta in particular has access to the Kenyatta fortune and given the coalition (with Mr. Ruto) of the suspects; a union of two person facing charges at The Hague, the two should have no problem funding their legal team(s) to fight Ms. Bensouda at The Hague

Consequences indeed!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

Liaisons Dangereuse: Kenya’s new BFFs

In the article titled “Kirubi joins Uhuru’s business entourage in China” in the August 17, 2013 issue of Capital News, the publication’s owner Mr. Chris Kirubi contends that “…it was time for Africa to look for new development partners who will strive to ensure that all parties get a fair share of the cake”.

http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2013/08/kirubi-joins-uhurus-business-entourage-in-china/

This is a very interesting perspective from a man whose business empire was built courtesy of a system that restricted enjoyment of “matundu ya uhuru” to a handful of those connected to Kenya’s presidencies: the very antithesis of what the article is advocating! The distribution of Kenya’s national cake has historically been unfair and slanted in favor of specific tribes and regions – those in power or proximal to the center of power. Additionally, Mr. Kirubi’s call for “partners” that “ensure that all parties get a fair share…” reeks of contrivance given some of the business deals that built his wealth. Regarding privatization of Kenya’s telecommunication sector in, Charles Hornsby writes in his book Kenya: A history since Independence that “(T)he resulting dirty tricks and bribery allegation….led to a single preferred bidder, the Mount Kenya Consortium including wealthy…insider Chris Kirubi”; a “favoured son” who made his money in the 1980s and 1990s because of his association with then-president Moi. (pges. 642, 655). So much for giving all parties a fair share!

The tycoon then goes on to say that the west “focus(es) more on problem solving rather than helping ‘us’ develop” which begs the question: Whose responsibility is it to develop “us”? Added to this question is the raison d’etre of the current presidential junket to China and Russia. Why is Mr. Kenyatta, Mr. Kirubi and the other “tycoons” visiting these two emerging markets if not to seek their help in “helping us (Kenya) develop”?

It is disturbingly disingenuous for Mr. Kirubi to claim that western companies “pitched camp in Kenya…but there was still little to show for it” when the very core of his business empire is an off-shoot of western companies. DJ CK, as the budding media mogul is also known, acquired Haco Industries from a western country – Holland – in 1998 and built it into the powerhouse that it is by expanding its product line, hitherto predominated by American and British brands, to include indigenous consumer brands such as TCB and Palmers. The trajectory of Mr. Kirubi’s crown jewel belies the claim that there is “little to show for...” the long history of western involvement in Kenya’s economy. It is also a claim that seeks to minimize the main reasons why Kenya’s economy has lagged despite the history of western involvement: Corruption, tribalism and impunity.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mfonobongnsehe/2011/11/16/meet-chris-kirubi-mr-kenya/

While I support the expansion of Kenya’s business relationships beyond the usual suspects i.e. western conglomerates, I think Mr. Kirubi is doing the country a disservice by pretending that the new relationships (with the Chinese and the Russians) are going to be different from the business relationships of yesteryears; deals between Kenya’s political elite and politically-connected and the west, especially Gt. Britain. The perspective that these new eastward looking unions are altruistic and will lead to fairer distribution of wealth and opportunities throughout Kenya is yet to be seen. These are liaisons dangereuse being pushed primarily by those trying to blunt the tough stance adopted by the west, USA and Gt. Britain in particular, with respect to the charges facing the president Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto at The Hague.

Mr. Kirubi’s conclusion that the new relationship with China is beneficial, presumably to Kenya, “(A)s long as it is equitable and Africa itself gains to the maximum…” is a perspective he should have applied in his stewardship of Uchumi, the supermarket chain he allegedly ran to the ground. It is a perspective belied by the analysis of Mr. Kirubi’s time as chairman of the board at the supermarket chain offered by Prof. Atieno Ndede Amadi in her book CHALLENGES OF THE DIGITAL AGE: An MIS Analysis Framework: The Case Study of a Retail Store Chain. Ms. Ndede Amadi writes that “Kirubi is pointed as the key to all the mess that led to the collapse of Uchumi.” (Pge. 34).

Finally and Mr. Kirubi’s personal ruminations notwithstanding, the call for an “equitable” relationship with China, not to mention one that allows “Africa itself to gain to the maximum” is a perspective that I hope will be reflected in the actual actions and policies of Mr. Kirubi and the country’s leadership as it fumbles and bumbles its way towards a second century of independence. 

Leave a comment

Filed under BRICs, China, Corruption, Democracy, Disparity - Income Distribution, Governance, Governance - Kenya, India, International Relations/Global Issues, Kenya, Politics, Russia, The Hague

Consequences re-visted

The Wednesday August 7 inferno that destroyed the arrival terminal at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), the country’s main airport, could have been prevented if not contained had some very basic mitigants been in place and (periodically) enforced. It is a very sad commentary on a country whose nationals, especially those who support the ruling elite, have so much pride, not to mention hubris, that its “international” airport has non-functioning fire hydrants and fire-fighting equipment, untrained or poorly trained and motivated personnel not to mention fire-suppression systems that would have detected the smoke…and fire…and at least mitigated the damage…if not doused the flames once the fire started.

I will say it again:

Consequences:

Of the continued embrace of a system of governance that rewards plum positions, including directorship/leadership positions in critical organizations such as the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) without holding said leaders fully accountable for the performance of the organizations in their charge. That the fire hydrants were reportedly not working is a direct result of lack of maintenance – the director’s job – Yes, it is the director’s job to ensure that the organization in his/her charge adheres to all applicable international and national standards including maintenance of critical systems/equipment such as fire hydrants. It is also the job of the director to ensure that the organization has adequate resources – trained manpower and well-maintained and functioning equipment to perform the assigned tasks.

Of the continued culture of “kitu kidogo”; “something small” or bribery/bribes and impunity that Kenya and her leaders are known for all over the world; a culture that has allowed the construction of infrastructure/buildings such as the airport now reduced to rubbles, roads and bridges etc. that do not meet applicable local and international standards such as installation of fire-suppression systems, availability of functioning hydrants within the premises not mention use of sub-standard building material or material whose design-intent is mitigation of common occurrences such as fires, water leaks, wear-and-tear etc. The applicable standards would have been enforced during the building inspections prior to approval and final commission of said building. Subsequent follow-up audits and inspection would have ensured that the applicable standards had been met and if not, corrective action with due-dates and responsible person(s) would have been enacted. Unfortunately, the fore-going scenarios makes two deadly assumptions: that the building inspections and follow-up audits would actually occur and that they would be executed by incorruptible officials!

Of the very culture of “kitu kidogo” and impunity that has allowed a tipping point of employees who are hired, not because they have the requisite qualifications and experience, but because they are the relative of the hiring manager (or someone above the hiring manager) or as has always been the case in Kenya, because they are from the tribe of the hiring manager and those in power! While there is nothing wrong with hiring a qualified and competent relative or even a tribesman/woman, there is something absolutely unethical if said relative or tribesman is incompetent and unethical. This situation is compounded by the hubris and arrogance reflected in expressions such as “KANU itatawala milele na milele” or “KANU will rule for ever and ever” popularized during the reign of President Moi or that “the (Kenyan) presidency will never cross the Chania River” popularized after independence during the reign of President Jomo Kenyatta.

Consequences indeed!

Leave a comment

Filed under Corruption, Failed State, Governance, Governance - Kenya, Kenya, Law & Order, Life, Tribalism, Tribe

The massive log in our collective eyes!

I am a Kenyan living in the United States and find the article by Ms. Muthoni Thangwa in the July 29th edition of Daily Nation to be laughable at worst and misleading, not to mention a case of deflection at best.

 http://www.nation.co.ke/blogs/-/634/1929974/-/view/asBlogPost/-/gepjjkz/-/index.html

God knows that America has its faults. This country has a very painful and sordid history; one that it continues to deal with to this very day as evidenced by the events at the center of Ms. Thangwa’s piece. It is a past AND present whose details I delve into in my book Wuodha: My journey from Kenya to these United States. However, the one thing America; the country I have called home for the past thirty-plus years has which the likes of Muthoni and her compatriots can only intellectualize and fantasize about is a system of governance that holds people, including the president of the country, not to mention their friends and family wholly accountable for their actions. And on a slight but pertinent digression, United States of America has institutions – judiciary, legislative, police and infrastructures – roads, railways, and buildings etc. that while far from perfect, make those in Kenya the very embodiment of a banana republic!

I do not agree with the verdict on the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. My disagreement with the verdict is however based on emotional considerations than on legal ones.

The fact is: a young man needlessly lost their life and his killer essentially walked away scot-free! I feel more for Trayvon’s parents and friends. I don’t feel for Zimmerman’s parents or friends. At least they still get to see him – he is alive even though he will forever be haunted by the fact that he took the life of another human – Thou shalt not kill. Finally, and adding insult to injury is the afore-mentioned history of racism and Jim Crowism in America, the south (Florida) in particular that African Americans have endured over the years. I therefore get the perception this verdict has created, not only throughout the world, but even here in America. I also get how the acquittal of Mr. Zimmerman for the murder of Mr. Martin has added to the narrative the Ms. Thangwa is working with. However bone-headed, the verdict was made within the confines of the existing law(s).

Having stated the fore-going, let me also state without any equivocation that Kenyans are as hypocritical a people as I have seen and I am Kenyan! I also know that I am generalizing, the very crime Ms. Thangwa commits in her piece! I also know that two wrongs don’t make a right! To which I say “oh well!”

The same yahoos screaming about racism and bigotry in America will shamelessly hack one another to death because they are “uncircumcised” and/or from the wrong tribe! The very folks shaking their fists at America about “due process” for Trayvon are the same ones who will turn right round and tell those who disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict during the 2013 presidential elections to “accept and move on“. The very Kenyans who bloviate about “human rights for Trayvon…and the hypocrisy of America..blah, blah, blah” are the same ones who will turn right round and throw stones at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “going after their sons”, sons who are accused of organizing over 1200 Trayvon Martins for the very reason Ms. Thangwa is accusing America of – violating the human rights of the less powerful! Maybe Muthoni can tell her readers whether the human rights of the internally-displaced people (IDPs) were violated by “our sons” as charged by the ICC. What of the rights of Robert Ouko, Tom Mboya, Pio G. Pinto, JM Kariuki?

In the 2012 US elections, there was a report of Kenyans, now naturalized American citizens who could not countenance voting for America’s first non-white president because he “…had Luo blood in him” courtesy of his father Barack Obama Sr.; the very definition of “judging someone by the color of their skin, not the content of their character!” These are the very people who will turn right round and tell those who accuse Uhuru of being the recipient of ill-gotten gains courtesy of his father Jomo “not to blame the son for the sins of the father.”

http://www.kenyan-post.com/2012/11/kikuyus-here-in-us-did-not-vote-for.html  

The very Kenyans who have no compunction about “toaring kitu kidogo” i.e. offering a small bribe or conversely asking someone seeking service to “ongea vizuru” i.e. give a bribe for said service will take to the streets to complain about “MPigs” or castigate the International Criminal Courts for “finishing off their sons and daughters”. It is this hypocrisy and double-standard that has resulted in a country and a people as synonymous with winning the Boston Marathon as it is/they are with corruption and impunity!

I challenge Kenyans, who are notoriously religious, are prone to being “born again Christian” and are religious (no pun intended) attendants of “prayer rallies” to follow the very teachings of their holy book The Bible and look at the log in their eyes before pointing out the sliver in the eyes of others!

Leave a comment

Filed under Corruption, Democracy, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Life, Politics, Race, Racial Discrimination, Racism, The Hague, Trayvon Martin, Tribalism, Tribe

Twin Rorschach Tests: On Trayvon Martin et al.

I have just listened to son of K’Ogelo and American President Barack Obama address the dichotomous reaction of Americans to the verdict by the jury in Sanford Florida on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17year old African-American boy. Trayvon was shot by George Zimmerman a bi-racial volunteer neighborhood watchman. Mr. Zimmerman, against orders from the police dispatcher who was handling his “report of suspicious activities”, followed Mr. Martin, got out of his car and in the ensuing tussle, shot him dead.

The verdict by the jury of six women; five white and one Hispanic – acquitted Zimmerman of all charges, basically ruling the death of the unarmed 17year old “justifiable.” America’s reaction to the jury verdict, much like Kenya’s reaction to the ruling by the Supreme Court on the results of the 2013 presidential elections and increasingly to the charges of crimes against humanity facing President Kenyatta and William Ruto has been a Rorschach Test on the two countries’ view on social issues such as race, racism, tribe, tribalism and impunity.

The Sanford jury verdict pitted Americans who supported the verdict against those who did not. On one side were Americans who believed that Trayvon Martin deserved what he got i.e. death at the hands of an overzealous neighborhood volunteer watchman who was just “standing his ground” against those “punks who always got away.” On the other side were Americans who believed that once again, the American justice system had let down an innocent black man (not to mention his friends and family) whose only fault was “being black in a neighborhood pre-dominated by non-blacks” and dared to challenge Mr. Zimmerman, who was just protecting those represented by their peers in the jury from his ilk; a young black man!

The April 2013 ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court to disallow forensic auditing of the much-maligned and sub-standard information technology (IT) infrastructure used by the equally maligned and incompetent IEBC and award the presidency and deputy presidency to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto pitted Kenyans who supported the verdict against those who did not support the court’s ruling: on one side were Kenyans who believed that the ruling by their Supreme Court was valid, rejection of the forensic audit of the failed IT infrastructure notwithstanding. On the other side were Kenyans who believed that once again, Kenya’s justice system had been manipulated by the rich, powerful and well-connected to maintain they hold on power.

And just as Kenyans who protested the Supreme Court’s decision awarding the 2013 presidency to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were told to “get over it and move on”, so were Americans who rallied in protest against the verdict acquitting George Zimmerman of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin.

To paraphrase a line from the July 20th New York Times editorial piece on President Obama’s surprise appearance at the White House press briefing http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/20/opinion/president-obamas-anguish.html, just as the verdict crystallized the dissonance regarding race and racism in America, so has the dynamics of presidential politics in Kenya done on matters of tribe and tribalism. Americans idealize their society and mythologize the role the founding fathers played in the creation of said society just like Kenyans idealize Kenya and the role its founding father played in its creation.

Once again, paraphrasing the editorial piece from the NY Times: Viewed within the narrow confines of matters regarding racial justice and harmony, there is no doubt that America has done a yeoman’s job given its sordid history. The tangible/physical remnants of racism and racial discrimination are few and far between, definitely a rarity and an exception in the daily lives of Americans. Similarly, long gone is the overt and blatant tribal chauvinism originated by one Jomo Kenyatta after Kenya’s independence in the early 60s; chauvinism that included oath-taking by those around him after the 1969 assassination of Tom Mboya to ensure that “the (Kenyan) presidency does not cross the Chania River”. http://kumekucha.blogspot.com/2007/08/kenyan-presidency-was-not-supposed-to.html

http://diasporamessenger.com/this-woman-mary-wambui-kibaki/

Given the Rorschach-esque reactions to the twin evils of racism and tribalism in America and Kenya respectively, Republican Andy Harris may as well have been addressing the groups that reacted negatively to the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the hastily convened swearing-in (and prelude to the horrors of post-election violence) of President Kibaki in 2007, not to mention the ruling of Kenya’s Supreme Court to reject forensic auditing of the information technology (IT) system used by the electoral board commission with his flippant “get over it” remark!

Leave a comment

Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Democracy, George Zimmerman, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Life, Race, Racial Discrimination, Racism, The Hague, Tribalism