Monthly Archives: January 2014

Selective flexing of continental muscle?

The African Union (AU) has said it will impose “targeted sanctions” in response to the violence in war-torn South Sudan where two weeks of fighting between the mostly Dinka forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and the mostly Nuer forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar is feared to have left thousands dead and several thousand others displaced. The AU made this western-like pronouncement even as the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), another member state, was reporting that “forty people who took part in an uprising Monday in Kinshasa, taking hostages and firing at the airport and a military headquarters were killed…” in a conflict that has been raging since 1996!
http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2013/12/40-attackers-killed-in-uprising-in-dr-congo-capital/
That the preeminent political body in Africa has yet to stake such a “muscular” position on the continent’s other conflicts in the DRC, Mali, Nigeria or Central African Republic (CAR) begs the following:
– Why is the AU threatening military action in South Sudan and while remaining mute, certainly passive, on the other three conflicts in Africa all which pre-date the conflict in Southern Sudan?
– Why is Mr. Museveni ready to go to war against the mostly-Nuer rebels loyal to Riek Machar even as the country’s beleaguered president Salva Kiir of the majority Dinka tribe seemingly makes decisions that alienate the other tribes in a trend consistent across most African countries since independence?
Of the afore-mentioned conflicts, the one in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been raging since 1996 and recently saw government forces repulse an attack by several youths aligned with Christian leader Paul Joseph Mukungubila who had attacked the airport, military barracks and the state radio and television stations. Regarding the civil strife in Central African Republic, one can make a compelling case that the country has been at war since Jean Bedel Bokassa overthrew the presidency of a distant cousin David Dacko who had appointed him to head the armed forces back in 1966! The CAR is the definition of a “failed state” and as recent as late December 2013, a spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission in the country reported the discovery of a mass grave in the capital Bangui. Mali’s civil war begun in the country’s northern region when in early 2012, insurgents began fighting for independence and greater autonomy from the central government in Bamako. Finally, Nigeria has been dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency since 2001; an insurgency that has caused an estimated 10,000 deaths since 2001.
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/congo.htm
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/world/africa/quelling-attacks-in-the-capital-congolese-troops-kill-dozens.html?_r=0
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_in_Mali
http://news.yahoo.com/mass-grave-found-central-african-republic-192648310.html;_ylt=A0SO8oYL0cRSulsAhXBXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0aG01cW5wBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDMxOV8x
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boko_Haram
On the conflict in South Sudan, Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has already thrown down the gauntlet warning Mr. Machar that if he did not “report to the negotiating table…’we’ shall have to go for him, all of us.” This indeed is tough talk from someone who has consistently lambasted the west for flexing its muscle in conflicts around the world. I have to say that Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar need to heed the tough talk given the toll their “personal challenges” is taking on the people of South Sudan. The tough talk aside, the African Union’s unity and resoluteness faces an uphill battle given what is usually the main cause of the continent’s conflicts.
http://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Machar-sends-peace-envoys-but-still-fighting/-/1066/2130604/-/kl9skl/-/index.html
Mr. Kiir’s decision to fire his vice president Mr. Machar AND imprison some of Machar’s mostly Nuer supporters is one that has been duplicated, in some way, shape or form in country after country in Africa since the 60s. As an example, once in office, Kenya’s first three presidents all consolidated their hold on power by surrounding themselves with Kenyans from their tribe AT the expense of equally-qualified Kenyans from other tribes. According to Charles Hornsby in his book Kenya: A History Since Independence, “(J)ust as Kenyatta had done, Moi…(developed) an inner circle or kitchen cabinet of loyalists….(A)mongst these Kalenjin insiders were Biwott…Stanley Metto…Isaac Salat…” (p373). Kenyatta Pere was thus surrounded by the “Kiambu Mafia” and Arap Moi relied on the “Tugen Mafia” (p582). Regarding Mr. Mwai Kibaki’s presidency, Mr. Hornsby writes that “…as Kalenjin executives and (former president) Moi’s…partners were evicted, a high proportion were replaced with people from the GEMA (Gikuyu Embu Meru Association) communities….described now as the ‘Mount Kenya’ people.” (p711). This same sentiment is expressed by Dr. Francis K. Sang the former Director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in his book A Noble But Onerous Duty. The former sleuth writes that a complete overhaul of the top hierarchy of the Kenya Police and its military followed Mr. Kibaki’s ascension to power in 2002 as powerbrokers allied to the incoming president worked “tirelessly in search of public positions for their kith and kin.” (p62-63)
Mr. Pete Ondeng, in an article in the January 2, 2014 Daily Nation titled South Sudan bleeds, and the nation’s leaders must now staunch the wound writes that “it was only a matter of time before the war between the largely Islamic and predominantly Arabic north and the south would morph into a post-independence power struggle for the soul of the new nation.” Maybe Mr. Ondeng is using the phrase “soul of the new nation” to mean “matunda ya uhuru” or “fruits of independence” because I believe that given Africa’s post-independence trajectory, most if not all the conflicts have been about control of resources by the ethnic majority and those it can co-opt into their sphere of influence. Some, including Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, have made the argument that the conflict between Kiir and Machar is a “political conflict”. That may be so but Mr. Kiir changed that calculus in mid-2013 when he neutered internal Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) decision-making bodies such as the political bureau after it appeared that Mr. Machar’s predominantly Nuer caucus had the votes to overturn Mr. Kiir’s decision to fire his VP and dismiss the VP’s supporters. It is this abuse of power (by Mr. Kiir), after the people of South Sudan united against Khartoum during the fight for independence in the 2000s, that has opened and deepened the various fissures including ethnic fault lines that were papered over during the lead-up to independence.
http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/South-Sudan-Conflict-Salva-Kiir-Riek-Machar/-/440808/2132610/-/43i5m7/-/index.html
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140617/alex-de-waal-and-abdul-mohammed/breakdown-in-south-sudan
Moving forward, I would argue that the challenge for the African Union’s new-found muscles and unity is consistency in confronting civil strife within ALL its member states. Rightfully so, African leaders have already staked the position that the west (and foreigners in general) cannot prescribe solutions for what ails the continent’s fifty-plus nations. At the very basic level of analysis, I do agree with AU’s position: For solutions to some of the continent’s challenges to be effective, not only do they have to be crafted by local key stakeholders; said stakeholders have to be front-and-center in their implementation.
The unfortunate thing though, is that Africa’s history is rife with “homegrown” solutions that barely, if at all, represent the interest of minority groups. The continent is also chockfull of local solutions under the guise of so-called memorandums-of-understanding (MoU) that are not honored or are unilaterally modified by the party or parties involved. Finally, the clamor for “African solutions for Africa’s problems” has oftentimes had foreign components to them. Foreign interference in (indigenous) African conflicts has had so many deleterious effects on the very people the “solutions” were intended to help that it boggles the mind how these very African leaders who preach “national pride” and “pan-Africanism”, knowing the continent’s history with foreign powers could countenance fully embracing or “off-shoring” implementation of the solutions to those very foreigners.

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RECONCILE, I command thee!!

If you ever wondered why some Kenyans were baying “don’t be vague….” in the wake of the post-election violence of 2007 or why the country is considered a “failed state”, then the Evans Kidero-Rachel Shebesh saga is Exhibit A. The 3-month saga is symbolic of a judicial institution that appears completely malleable when confronted with cases involving powerful and well-connected personalities.

The governor of Nairobi Mr. Evans Kidero is caught on a September 6, 2013 video assaulting the Nairobi women’s representative Ms. Rachel Shebesh. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mr. Keriako Tobiko, supposedly investigates, make that “peruses” the case files and eventually orders both the governor and the representative to be charged with assault and creating disturbance respectively. Fast-forward 2-3days after the DPP’s “order” and we have an entirely different “order”. This latest one has High Court Justice Isaac Lenaola blocking the public prosecutor from pursuing the charges against the two even as he (Mr. Lenaola) orders the warring parties to report back to him within 13 days!

Come again?
http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Kidero-Shebesh-charges-dpp-keriako-tobiko-court/-/1056/2133132/-/skm63n/-/index.html
http://www.nation.co.ke/news/DPP-Keriako-Tobiko-Evans-Kidero-Rachel-Shebesh/-/1056/2131064/-/2rlcikz/-/index.html
I am hoping that Mr. Lenaoloa’s ruling on the matter is within the purview of his docket which would then beg the larger question: Why did the DPP proceed with filing the case if he knew that a high court judge could block the case and offer a completely different remedy? For the record, I will come out and say that I will not be surprised if the judge acted outside the scope of his office.

The fact is Mr. Kidero and Ms. Shebesh both comported themselves in a manner unbecoming of persons in the public eye. It is one thing to protest against a ruling or policy one disagrees with as the latter was supposedly doing when she led aggrieved Nairobi City County workers to Dr. Kidero’s office where they proceeded to demand better pay. It is another thing to violate someone’s personal space, let alone assault them as Ms. Shebesh allegedly did when she “hit” the governor in the groin; an alleged assault that earned Mme. Rachel the “slap seen around the world” courtesy of Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim.
http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Kidero-you-slapped-me-cries-Shebesh/-/1056/1982610/-/4a1m39/-/index.html
So after a 3month investigation, the DPP orders Mr. Ndegwa Muhoro, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss, to proceed with charges against the 2 and in approximately seventy-two hours, the DPP’s investigation and order is trashed; reduced to a judge’s command that Ms. Shebesh and Dr. Kidero basically “kiss and make up”! It is this flippancy and pliability of Kenya’s legal system when it comes to dealing with cases involving powerful and well-connected personalities that prompted the country’s legislatures (MPs) and a majority of the public (at the time) to call for the current president and his deputy to be tried at The Hague instead of at Milimani for allegedly organizing and financing the PEV-2007. It is also this bipolar characteristic of Kenya’s judicial process that makes some of us, me included, push for external oversight in high profile cases even as we/I acknowledge that the country does indeed have the legal brains to try said cases. Sadly though, Kenya, indeed Kenyans do not appear to have the political will/courage to compel their institutions to hold accountable the likes of Kidero and Shebesh and if necessary, the president and his deputy.

I would argue that had the altercation between the governor and the representative not made it to the DPP’s office for further investigation, then maybe the judge’s order for the two to reconcile would have been appropriate. The problem for all involved was the pesky YouTube video that captured the incident; a video that has already been viewed over 330,000 times on the Nation TV (NTV) website while the closest rival video titled “Married women turn to Prostitution” has under 198,000 views! Put another way, Mr. Kidero was seen (?), definitely heard slapping Ms. Shebesh; who for her part was heard (?) exclaiming “Kidero you slapped me?” Compounding the video evidence of the “personal challenge” facing the two combatants, the governor in particular, was the location of the pam (Luo for slap). Mr. Kidero is seen slapping Ms. Shebesh outside his office in City Hall! Talk about workplace violence!

With Mr. Isaac Lenaola’s decision ordering Mr. Kidero and Ms. Shebesh to reconcile, the comedy of error that is the Kenyan judicial process against the high and mighty takes yet another hit even though the ruling may be within the prerogative of a high court judge.
Oy Vei!!

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