Category Archives: Democracy

Our turn to get MPaid!

Kenya’s Members of Parliament (MPs), having rejected the Kshs. 532,000 monthly salary PLUS allowances offered them by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, are now locked in a battle of will and attrition with the erstwhile “tool of the wazungu”, the country’s civil societies in a confrontation that is both entertaining and instructive. The visual of pink pigs and piglets gorging blood in front of the supposedly august and hallowed grounds of the country’s parliament is side-splitting. It also symbolizes the greed that is par for Kenya’s political leaders. The live tragi-comedy played out in front of Kenya’s parliament that was organized by Kenya’s Civil Society Organisations also resulted in the filing of a lawsuit by the Leader of Majority Hon. Aden Duale, a devout Muslim whose religion forbids its adherent from associating with anything remotely connected to pigs; creatures considered unholy. President Uhuru Kenyatta, to his credit, has already come out against the protestation by the MPs for a salary increase that would see their pay jump from the current kshs. 532,000/month to 850,000/= – a 60% increase! By contrast, the average Kenyan voter takes home approximately Kshs.6,600/month; a figure based on an annual per capita income of $976 – Wikipedia. It must be particularly irking for said “average Kenyan voter” whose euphoria after the Supreme Court ruled the presidential election in favor of the “majority” Jubilee Coalition is slowly turning into a nightmare to wit; it is going to be a very interesting five years for Mr. Kenyatta, his deputy Mr. Ruto and their jubilant supporters!

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000083679&story_title=mp-to-sue-for-being-likened-to-a-pig-during-protest

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000083610&story_title=drama-as-civil-society-protest-mps-greed

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/-/1064/1852332/-/bky1wx/-/index.html

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Uhuru-dashes-hopes-for-higher-MPs-salaries/-/1064/1750434/-/mx3s3v/-/index.html

Equally edifying is the hand-wringing, self-flagellation, and Schadenfreude, all in equal parts, taking place in the blogosphere. Bloggers are either livid, resigned or gloating at the “greed” and sense of entitlement on display by those they elected to represent their interests.

Below are comments from cyberspace that capture the essence of the country’s moods:

slycat – May 15 2013 11:00 AM: kenyans ! kenyans! . we never seize to amaze.we voted them in right?.. bend over and take it….the mpigs got this horse by the neck. This is what we get for voting in the greedy. apparently we are not tired of the same old stories..wacha wakule kabisa… eat mpigs. kula kabisa. kula yote..and guess what ?next general election, we will vote them in.

George Manyali – May 15 2013 5:06 AM: What MPs are asking is what is basically enshrined in our tradition and practice. Voters are truly the proponents of this culture. It’s time to break the norms.

Jose Muga – May 15 2013 1:52 AM: Hehehe let us laugh! We are now united finally there is no TNA or CORD. Kenyans are just about timing!

omusoreriOmusawa – May 14 2013 11:31 AM: Kenyans these are the fruits of voting for a party and not individuals…ignorance has brought us here: the reward of greedy MPs.

From afar, I have to say that I am experiencing feelings, albeit reluctant ones, akin to those expressed by omusoreriOmusawa and slycat: Moments of “pleasure derived from the misfortune” of those who are now faced with having to live with the consequences of their choice or vote followed by tinges of sadness about the dysfunction of the country’s politics not to mention the voracity of its political leaders! Former US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Mr. John Carson was indeed erudite when he offered his now (in)famous clarion call that “elections have consequences!” I would argue that the majority of Kenyans voted these people into office fully aware of the history of the country’s politics and that of its politicians. In a piece titled “Kenya’s Rorschach Test” – https://thetwoninetyonetracker.com/2013/03/15/kenyas-rorschach-test/ – written in late March/early April of this year; I opined that the 50%+1 Kenyans who voted the Uhuru/Ruto ticket into office during the just-concluded elections clearly evidenced their take on Kenya’s culture of impunity and entitlement. With the current hullaballoo over the salaries of their chosen representatives in full effect and the vanquished “cordants” opting to “move on”, I can now announce that the chickens of the aptly-named “jubilants” have started coming home to roost!

I am not sure which candidate/party the two bloggers – Langat and Arufeni – quoted below voted for but their comments are particularly enlightening:

Langat – 15 May 2013 10:56AM: Actually the pigs ni sisi. Tuliwachagua knowing full well what types we were electing – like-minded. The dysfunction is pretending to be outraged yet secretly we admire them & wish/know if we were in their shoes we would do exactly the same thing or worse. The buck stops with us.

Arufeni – 14 May 2013 11:44AM: US legislators earn 4 times the national average. UK legislators earn twice the national average. Both countries have schools that look like schools, not the crumbling hovels many of us voted in. They also have significant social safety nets for the poor. Kenyan legislators earn 45 times the national average. A first time MP whose name I unfortunately forget is on record saying that what people are failing to consider is that the pay is subject to 30% tax – this is in response to today’s protest. We all know the state of service provision.

To further expound on Arufeni’s analysis, I used gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita figures obtained from the (Wikipedia) links provided below and came up with the following:

  • American legislatures – Congresspersons and Senators – earn a base salary that is approximately 3.5x the per capita income of the American electorate who elected them into office i.e. $174,000/$49,922.
  • Kenyan MPs currently earn Kshs. 535,000 or $79,259/year; 81x the per capita income of their supporters. They are seeking the equivalent of $125,926/year – Kshs. 850,000/month x 12/81 ($1 = kshs. 81) or 129x the per capita income of the “jubilants” who elected the majority into office – $125,926/$976! The hapless “cordants” who voted for the opposition have no choice but to “move on” to the pigsty! Ah the tyranny of the majority…not to mention that of Mr. Ngunyi’s numbers!
  • Mr. John Boehner, the Speaker of the House and the 3rd person in line to succeed Son of K’Ogelo and his VP Joe Biden as the “leader of the free world”, receives $223,500/year. The respective GOP and Democratic Party leaders – majority and minority – of the US Congress earn $193,400/year.
  • America, a country with a GDP of $15,685trillion ($15,685,000,000,000) or three hundred and eighty-one times (381x) that of Kenya’s $41,117billion pays its rank-and-file members of Congress $174,000/year.
  • Kenyan MPs, legislating over an economy that is a fraction of the American economy (.00262 – $41,117b/$15,685t) want to be paid 72% ($125,926/$174,000) of what their (American) counterparts are earning!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenya

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/congresspay.htm

Maybe those dreaded foreigners/wazungu are on to something and are not nearly as bad as they are made out to be! Humor aside, the fore-going comparison between the salaries of Kenyan and American legislatures, while simplistic and a near-apples-to-oranges exercise, is very instructive. The basic analysis provides a useful perspective for Kenyans and their leaders on the subject of remunerations for public servants and the services they supposedly render (to the public). The analysis also provides a window into the raison d’etre for Kenya’s “public servants”.

In my book Wuodha: My Journey from Kenya to these United States published by Friesen Press, I argue that most Kenyan politicians get into public office, not for altruistic reasons, but because it is a proven way to self-enrichment; and not in the abstract or spiritual sense, but monetarily! Perusal of a listing of Kenya’s rich demonstrates the strong co-relation between financial wealth and political power. And far from being a “hater” or jealous of the rich, I applaud those who have been able to “build it” or make money. On the other hand, there is nothing impressive about attaining said wealth illegally or because of who you are and/or who you know! I further argue a point now being proven by the on-going saga in front of Kenya’s parliament and the MPs clamor for more money: That most Kenyans with money/wealth worth writing about most likely used public service as a conduit for acquiring and amassing said wealth.  

I would have to say that Kenyans have finally met their enemy – and it is them! They formed a winning coalition with the votes/numbers to elect those tyrannical MPigs into office. Oh the duplicity, the treachery and capricious tyranny of numbers! It is indeed about time for these MPs to “move on” to other professions unless they believe that “wako pamoja na” a numerically-superior number of protestors who heaven forbid, support their quest for more money i.e. their greed. I hope not! On the other hand, I never thought I would live to see the day when the president and vice-president of the country of my birth faced charges at The Hague for crimes against humanity.

The way I see it is that unless the average mwanainchi or citizen holds her/himself to the highest ethical standards, it is very difficult, indeed highly hypocritical for them to expect their elected leaders to exemplify those high (ethical) standards!

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Disparity - Income Distribution, Elections, Governance - Kenya, Justice, Kenya, Life, Members of Parliament, MPs, Politics

People In Glass Houses…

I have just finished reading Ms. Rasna Warah’s piece titled How American governments and corporations colonised oil-rich stateshttp://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/How-American-governments-colonised-oil-rich-states/-/440808/1850318/-/eo9yfxz/-/index.html – and could not resist creating an anagram as follows:

I replaced the words “American governments and corporations” from Ms. Warah’s article with the words “Kenya’s leaders and politically-connected elites”. I then replaced her term “oil-rich states” with my term “country’s wealth and resources” to formulate the title of my piece: How Kenya’s leaders and politically-connected elites colonized the country’s wealth and resources.

The similarities between how America and Kenya co-opted, bullied and in some cases eliminated opposition in their unrelenting quest for economic resources is uncanny and very eerie! The former (America) executed its “economic hits” in faraway locales; mostly 2nd and 3rd world countries against the Arabs, Latin Americans, Indonesians and Africans. The latter (Kenya) executed its ruthless plunder within its borders, primarily against Kenyans!  Exposing the looting and accumulation of Kenya’s resources by its politically-connected elites should be the unyielding focus of Ms. Warah and her peers (journalists and opinion-makers). That Kenyan taxpayers are just about to shell out over kshs. 4billion to one Kamlesh Pattni of the Goldenberg scandal fame is confirmation that the country and its leaders are yet to effectively deal with the tri-problems of corruption, political patronage and impunity.

The good book, also known as The Holy Bible writes, and I paraphrase: “Let s/he without sin cast the first stone.” A different version of the fore-going verse states: “Why look at the sliver in your brother’s eyes when there is a log in yours?” As a country, we have lulled ourselves into complacency and the belief that “we may be corrupt, but we are not as corrupt as Nigeria!” Kenyans have bought into the analysis that their country is “an oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of failed states and dictatorial regimes.” I would argue that Ms. Warah’s article, continuing the fore-going meme, is a red herring: A disingenuous diversion from the evils perpetrated by Kenyan leaders against the very people they are sworn to serve and protect. In my opinion, the focus should be on how Kenya’s leaders and its populace have failed to put “their house in order” by learning from (a) their history and (b) the trajectory of other countries, including America, before casting aspersions (on others)! If the intent of Ms. Warah’s piece is to caution Kenya and her leaders against embarking on the path charted by America and her leaders in their never-ending search for resources, then it is not as clearly stated as I believe it should have been; coming at the very end of the piece albeit shrouded in cautions, not against the corruption and impunity of Kenyan leaders, but against the “imperial ambitions” of the “powerful Chinese government.”

Let me insert a line that has become a standard repartee in my postings given some of the responses I have received: I am neither an apologist for, nor do I blindly sing the praises of the “great satan” America. I am not a “runaway Kenyan” as someone recently called me! My history of calling out America’s sordid past and her hypocrisy is well-documented not only in previous postings, but in my self-published memoir Wuodha: My journey from Kenya to these United Stateshttp://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore – self-published because I can already see comments alluding to my works as being “funded by wazungu” as has befallen the likes of Maina Kiai, Prof. Makau, J. Githongo and others who have chosen not to “move on!” As for being a “runaway Kenyan,” I don’t even know what means and efforts to get clarification from the purveyor of that characterization are yet to bear any results – the originator having gone silent – inexplicably – after beginning the exchange with gusto!

I have a copy of Mr. Perkins’s book and I do agree with Ms. Warah: It is indeed a riveting read and does capture the insidious nature and treachery of the US government. A great accompanying read for Mr. Perkins’ book would be Ms. Amy Chua’s World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. I also have a copy of Michela Wrong’s It Is Our Turn To Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-blower co-written with former head of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) Mr. John Githongo. Additionally, I have copies of the following must-read books documenting the insidiousness and treachery of Kenya’s leaders: The Risk Of Knowledge: Investigation into the death of Robert Ouko by William Cohen and E.S. Atieno Odhiambo, Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011 by Daniel Branch and Kenya: A History since Independence by Charles Hornsby  Finally, let me also direct those interested in preventing Kenya’s leaders from emulating the American leaders whose policies are described in Mr. Perkin’s book to the Kroll Report on Corruption in Kenya (http://wikileaks.org/wiki/KTM_report.pdf, the report by Waki Commission (http://humansecuritygateway.com/documents/WAKI_Kenya_Post-ElectionViolenceReport.pdf) and finally, the Akiwumi Report (http://www.hrw.org/news/2002/10/31/kenya-report-politicians-fueled-ethnic-violence)

The very evil Ms. Warah (and Mr. Perkin) accuse American leaders of perpetrating in pursuit of the country’s interests are the very evil perpetrated by Kenya’s leaders since independence, some would argue in pursuit of selfish/personal interests. I would also argue that the one difference between illegal activities by past American leaders and illegal activities by Kenyan leaders is that the latter conduct their nefarious acts with impunity that is near-total, in broad day light AND with the acquiescence of the very institutions designed to check and balance one another! Mr. Kamlesh Pattni, a friend of Kenya’s rich and powerful has just been cleared of any wrong-doing by the High Court even though the evidence that he master-minded the Goldenberg scheme that cost the country over kshs. 5billion and almost brought down its economy is overwhelming! And as mentioned above, in an act akin to rubbing pepper onto an open wound, said Mr. Pattni is set to pocket Sh4.2 billion if the ruling of Ghanaian judge Edward Torgbor on the matter of Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) vs. Kenya Duty Free (KDA) stands! Like they say stateside: The guy Pattni has huevos!

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Not-again-Pattnis-new-Sh4bn-scandal/-/1056/1849756/-/14axo7az/-/index.html

Using information from the books and reports referenced above, one can offer a point-by-point listing of actions by Kenya’s leaders that mirror the actions of American policy makers that are described in Mr. Perkins’ book. From the grabbing of land; an issue at the center of the post-election violence referenced in Mr. Waki’s report to the assassination of J.M. Kariuki and R. Ouko, allegedly because the two were privy to corruption at the highest level of the Kenyan government – ivory poaching and kickbacks related to revitalization of the molasses plant (in Kisumu) respectively – not to mention the practise of inflating, then skimming off monies from government contracts and World Bank/IMF loans, Kenya’s post-independent leaders have plundered the resources of the country since they took over from another plunderer – the British – with the same impunity that Ms. Warah accuses US policymakers of! Kenya’s leaders have lied to and manipulated international donor organizations who then gave them loans/financial aid, ostensibly for the country, that were then skimmed into personal accounts and the balance used to buy political support thereby prolonging their stay in power! The foregoing behavior of Kenya’s leadership compares point-for-point with that of the “evil” USA in their relationship with the leaders and countries of Latin/South America or Asia!

The same conclusion arrived at by Ms. Warah applies in either situation. To paraphrase Ms. Rasna Warah: American/Kenyan leaders not only got the contracts/loans for the projects, they also ensured that these proceeds from the (host) countries and lending institutions were used to serve their selfish economic and political interests.

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Filed under Corruption, Democracy, Governance - Kenya, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Politics

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

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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Filed under Corruption, Democracy, Governance - Kenya, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Tribalism, Tribe

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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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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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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On Hubris and Jingoism

Hubris (pron.: /ˈhjuːbrɪs/), also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις, means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Jingoism (pron.: jingo-ism), extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy.[1] In practice, it is a country’s advocation of the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests. Colloquially, it refers to excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others—an extreme type of nationalism. The term originated in Britain, expressing a pugnacious attitude toward Russia in the 1870s, and appeared in the American press by 1893.

Both definitions are from the following website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.

Unfortunately, I am not on the ground back in Kenya to get a true sense of what the “Kenyan street” is saying or feeling about the just adjudicated elections. What I do have is unfettered and dare I say reliable access to the internet and some of the best research facilities in the world – Stanford and Cal Berkeley’s libraries and book stores. I also have the freedom to articulate and publish my perspectives as I see fit – obviously without slandering or libeling others. I make it a point to religiously read the online versions of the Daily Nation and Standard newspapers not to mention the various publications about Kenya, the region and the continent. Beyond reading the articles, I also read the blogs and the comments other readers make in response to the various articles. I have to say that the hubris and jingoism, especially among supporters of the victorious Jubilee Coalition who seem to dominate the Daily Nation comment section is comparable to the hubris and jingoism I saw among supporters of the victorious Republican Party shortly after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of George W. Bush during the disputed 2000 elections versus Democrat Al Gore. I also think that the chest-thumping is not limited to the general readership of the paper(s). One can discern the political bias or inclination of opinion makers such as Professor Makau, Macharia Gathaio, Philip Ochieng, Jaindi Kisero; at least I can just like one can tell the political bias of some American opinion makes such as George Will, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, E.J Dionne, Cynthia Tucker etc.

Below are samples of the comments made in response to the article Obama urges Uhuru, Ruto to build on gains of new constitution that appeared in the April 5 issue of Daily Nation and the April 5 issue of The Standard in the article titled Obama congratulates President-elect Uhuru

moses •3 hours ago
“This so called “humans” should first deal with countries which are a threat to them and the world like Iran and North Korea then come and tell us your humain ideas coz you think others are less “Human” than you.”

Langat 5 April 2013 3:22 PM
“I expected the americans to be told to ‘o jump into a lake with their unwanted message. We ARE a sovereign state & dont need them. Heck we should be sidelining them so they know ‘choices have consequences.”

Musema kweli•a day ago
“Better late than never. Or do we say they swallowed their pride?”

ngigien•a day ago
“Wonderful! twin elect looks inseparable. UhuRuto please go ahead and don’t look back, these westerners are late comers but they will join the train one by one as we head to promised land”

As evidenced by a previous post titled “Where is the outrage over “their” hypocrisy?” I don’t necessarily disagree with some of the sentiments expressed by the comments posted in Kenya’s local dailies. In fact, some of the comments are very instructive, indeed prescient. What I find troubling is the hubristic and jingoistic tone of most of them. And in keeping with the similarities I see between Kenya’s Jubilee Coalition and America’s Republican Party, there is an arrogance reflected in most of the comments in the blogosphere that belies the reality of the global village we all live in, not to mention the realpolitik nature of relationships between nations. The reality is that relationships between most nations are based on power (economic, cultural, military etc.) and other practical factors even though the ideal situation would be for nations to minimize use of power, particularly military power in their dealings with one another and base their relationship on mutual respect and shared interests. All told, nations act in their (selfish) best interests and most have no qualms imposing their will on other nations if they have to and can!

As embodied by the Republican administrations of former B-actor Ronald Reagan and a son of privilege Bush Fils (George W. Bush), there is the “God is on our side, we are right and you are wrong” take on their approach to governing that I see reflected in the afterglow of Jubilee’s victory. Langat’s post best captures the hubris and jingoism I allude to and is akin to George W. Bush’s “you are with us or against us” mantra in the weeks after the tragedy of 9/11. A mantra dripping with such haughtiness, self-righteousness and jingoism that the majority of the country, including the American press failed to fully verify the claims that Iraq had WMDs or that its leader, Saddam Hussein was complicit in 9/11. Mehopes the world, including Jubilee and its supporters have learnt from the hubris of George W. Bush and the Neo-cons.

We all agree that President-elect Kenyatta was democratically elected and Supreme Court-approved as the fourth president of Kenya and that notwithstanding, I hope that I am misinterpreting his contention that diplomatic contacts between the two countries (Kenya and US) would be between the democratically elected leaders i.e. between him Mr. Kenyatta, a crimes-against-humanity suspect and Mr. Obama the “the leader of the free world” otherwise this would be the height of hubris and inflated self-importance – on Mr. Kenyatta’s part.

Memo to Mr. Kenyatta:
The President of the United States does not meet with suspects, definitely not knowingly, certainly not those facing charges at The Hague! That he, Mr. Obama, sent the Ambassador with a seemingly reconciliatory message was itself unusual and indicative of the delicate balance the US (and the West) has to strike in its relationship with Kenya given the charges facing Mr. Kenyatta and his VP Mr. Ruto. The world has become very inter-dependent and Kenya and America have mutual interests that make it imperative for the two countries to work together. Methinks that it behoves all, especially the seemingly jingoistic supporters of Jubilee to remember that the US is the sole superpower left in the wake of the Cold War even though one can argue that the world is fast-becoming multi-polar with various power centres – US, EU, Russia, China, Brasil, India etc. Be that as it may, I would say that unlike the other global centres of power, America is most likely the only one that has both hard and soft power whose impact and reach is truly global. While American military might has its limitations as evidenced in Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter, soft power, is very nuanced, potentially limitless and possibly more debilitating to the aggressively capitalist Kenya.

I would caution Jubilee and its leadership and supporters to pay close attention to the trajectory of the Republican Party here in America, its supporters and the presidency of Bush Fils after the Supreme Court ruling got him into the White House in the 2000 election. I would argue that the “victory” got to their head and the rest, as they say, is history. Pride indeed comes before a fall.

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Where is the outrage over “their” hypocrisy?

Hypocrisy – hy•poc•ri•sy: The state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have; from the Greek word ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which means “jealous”, “play-acting”, “acting out”, “coward” or “dissembling”. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy – hy•poc•ri•sy: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially: the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hypocrisy

From afar, I find the hand-wringing by Kenyans over the hypocrisy of the US position that it “cannot ignore ICC indictment” amusing to say the least. The ululation virtually devolves into self-flagellation in the blogosphere! I have lived in the US for over thirty years, seventeen of them in the famed Silicon Valley and I can say that the time spent stateside has given me the vantage point and experience to speak with some authority on America’s hypocrisy on a host of issues. The American position re: holding to account president-elect and vice-president Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto on the charges of crimes against humanity is hypocritical given its history. And before I get any hate mail from those who think I am an apologist or spy for the US, let me point out as clearly and succinctly as I possibly can that I am neither a spy nor an apologist for America. I am certainly not oblivious to the evil that the US has perpetrated throughout its history – past and present. From slavery to the invasion of Iraq and now the drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, the US has acted with near-absolute impunity that has raised hackles throughout the world, certainly in the affected regions, the Middle East in particular. The shouts of American (and British) hypocrisy are therefore spot on and very valid. However, coming from Kenyans, given the country’s history since independence and as recently as 2012 (violence in Tana River), I would have to say that said cries of hypocrisy are disingenuous.

Commenting on the article in the April,2 issue of the newspaper Daily Nation that prompted this piece; a blogger named KingMenes writes that:

“Americans and the so called West are hypocrites. Kenya and Kenyans have to be careful when dealing with these countries. Wherever the west sticks its finger, there are ruins and sufferings for generations. Think of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Korea. The US is a dishonest nuclear armed superpower that is solely bent on retaining it world domination at any cost. Kenyans have to be careful because even though these guys have been our friends, they have NEVER wished Africans well and they don’t care. When you see them around, always know at the back of your mind that they are PROTECTING THEIR INTERESTS ONLY. They don’t give a damn about our country. If US really believed in ANY justice let alone international justice, they would be signatories to the ICC. What about US paying for slavery and the Western Europe Countries paying for slavery and colonialism. How can the US and the West shout about justice when their countries are built and founded on crimes against humanity like slavery and colonialism?”

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/US-cannot-ignore-ICC-indictment/-/1064/1736826/-/10g43hxz/-/index.html

KingMenes’ comments is one of almost four hundred comments, all invariably complaining about US hypocrisy. I find it interesting that while complaining about US hypocrisy, these same bloggers near-unanimously turn a blind eye or treat with kid gloves the blatant hypocrisy of Kenya’s leaders. As previously mentioned, the complaints of US hypocrisy are not invalid at all. Indeed one can forcefully argue, with ample supporting evidence that the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan wrought death and suffering to hundreds of thousands; human suffering on scale indubitably grander than the suffering perpetrated by Kenya’s leaders and endured by Kenyans. That aside and in keeping with the rather disrespectful, jingoistic and partisan tone struck by Mr. Macharia Gaithao in his hit piece on the out-going Prime Minister titled “As Raila licks his wounds, Kenyans will be watching Uhuru’s next move” that appeared in the April 1 issue of Daily Nation, I say to all those pro-Uhuru/Ruto partisans ululating over America’s insistence on holding to account the president-elect and his VP, quit the whining already!

If those Kenyans screaming about American hypocrisy were to look at their own leaders through the same lenses that they trained on America and her leaders, they would immediately see the hypocrisy of people like Kenyatta Pere and Fils, Moi, Kibaka, Raila, Oyugi, Ruto, Michuki “if-you-rattle-a-snake” etc. The hypocrisy of these revered Kenyan leaders match, point for point, the hypocrisy of the dreaded Americans. From corrupt deals and pilfering of (national) resources to political assassinations, torture, muzzling, threatening and intimidating dissent by using hired thugs, you name it, American leaders have either done it or been accused of doing it and so have Kenyan leaders. Somehow all those Kenyans accusing the US of hypocrisy have forgotten Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, Ronald Ngala, JM Kariuki, Robert Ouko, Goldenberg, Triton, Anglo-Leasing, the maize scandal, the $120million “typing error or whatever” (the latter being the president-elect’s response when asked about a mysterious amount that appeared on the supplemental budget during his tenure as Minister for Finance – http://www.kenyaforum.net/?p=422). In an upcoming piece tentatively titled Kenya’s GOP – Jubilee Coalition that compares the 2007 presidential campaign run by the Republican candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin to the one run by Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto in 2012/2013, I offer the following perspective specific to the crimes against humanity facing Messer’s Kenyatta and Ruto:

“Unfortunately for Kenya’s Republican Party, Jubilee’s leading candidates and eventual winners of the presidential elections as determined by Kenya’s Supreme Court are not as fortunate as another pair of Republican candidates swept into office by a narrow Supreme Court verdict. Republicans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who were also “elected” into office after the Supreme Court (US) voted 5-to-4 against charges of electioneering fraud brought on by former VP Al Gore in the infamous 2000 “Hanging Chad” US Presidential Elections, seem to have escaped a date with the ICC because of their 2003 decision to invade Iraq; an invasion predicated on lies, lies and more lies.”

The one ill America and her leaders had committed or been accused of committing hitherto 2007 that Kenyan leaders could claim they had not committed was crimes against humanity. Now thanks to the president-elect and his VP, we can check that off the Kenyan bucket of things to do i.e. commit crimes against humanity! I would argue that at least the Americans did not commit the crimes against humanity AGAINST American citizens like our leaders are accused of doing, most certainly not in the scale Uhuru and Ruto are accused of. Now one can make a compelling argument that the drone strike that took out Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old American born in Denver, on President Obama’s orders, was a crime against an American citizen ergo a crime against humanity and equivalent to what Kenyan leaders did in 2007 – http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/u-s-drone-strike-kills-16-year-old-American-citizen. However, that would be a stretch!

So to paraphrase Bw. Gaithao’s characterization of Raila’s post-Supreme Court behavior, Kenyans should quit being so churlish. They should stop with the fake indignation and haranguing and face up to the fact that their masters of impunity – Uhuru and Ruto – have finally come face-to-face with an entity with deeper pockets and gravitas to match in The International Criminal Court.

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Filed under Democracy, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Kenya, Politics, The Hague

Proceed With Caution!

Finally, those arrogant “foreigners” and their “tools” have recognized the “will of the Kenyan people!” The international community (read the West – UK, USA, EU and UN) has rightfully congratulated Uhuru Kenyatta’s Supreme Court-validated victory in the 2013 Election. It is also instructive that United Kingdom, United States and the United Nation commended soon-to-former Prime Minister Raila Odinga for his acceptance of the Court’s ruling. As expected, the public outpouring of jingoism and protestations manifested itself almost immediately around the country albeit with less fervor, certainly not with the violence and vehemence witnessed in 2007! For those patting themselves on the back because their “side won” or that the country elected a president sans violence, let me point out the intensity, rawness and very tribal tone of the passions emoted in the blogosphere as I expected. The “security” offered by the “anonymity” of cyberspace provides a cautionary view, small and blurry as it may be, into the overall mood – of the Kenyan electorate.

To reiterate two points I made in earlier posts, Kenya is a nation divided along lines that pit the two most populous tribes and “providers” of all three of the country’s past presidents on one side and the rest of the country on the other side. I will also reiterate that far from seeking to stoke an “Us vs. Them” narrative or inter-tribal animus as I have been accused of doing in the past, the fact is this election was won because the GEMA (Gikuyu, Embu and Meru) and the Kalenjin communities aligned with one another basically against the rest of the country. A look at the voting pattern of the attached electoral map fully illustrates the tribal divide: http://geocurrents.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Kenya-2013-Election-Map.png. The Kalenjin, according to the website SoftKenya.com is a term for a collection of at least ten sub-groups that used to be referred to as the “Nandi-speaking tribes”. These sub-groups, of which the Kipisigis is the most populous, created a singular tribal identity for themselves in the 1950s to gain more political power from their numbers1. I would argue that they have succeeded albeit in the true sense of the term “marriage of convenience!”

The “sons” of the Gikuyu and Kalenjin communities Messer’s Kenyatta and Ruto convinced said communities that collectively, they were all under attack by “foreigners” and their “agents”, the latter a dark allusion to CORD’s Raila Odinga.5 The irony of this claim by Jubilee’s William Ruto is that his ally and namesake Mr. Isaac Ruto was a founding member of the group of Members of Parliament (MPs) who coined the expression “Don’t be vague, go to The Hague” in the wake of the post-election violence of 2007! 3, 4 Politics is indeed the art of the possible. It also makes the strangest of bedfellows! Suffice to say, Jubilee’s argument won the day and now the “sons” of the these two communities (tribes) are the leaders of Kenya, a country of over forty (40) different tribes, a majority who voted for their opponents (Odinga and Kalonzo) based on an analysis of the vote tallies from the IEBC website (please don’t laugh!)

The 833,000 vote or ~7% margin of victory the Jubilee coalition had over CORD would be a mandate if it were spread throughout (larger parts of) the country and representative of a broader cross-section of the country. This was a regional and tribal victory, the latter necessitated by the shared misery the two – Uhuru and Ruto – share courtesy of their date with the International Criminal Court (ICC) ergo the message delivered by the US along with the congratulatory message: The White House pointed out “the importance of Kenya’s commitment to uphold its international obligations, including those with respect to international justice”, characterized by the Daily Nation as “an indirect reference to the charges that Mr. Kenyatta and Deputy President-elect William Ruto are facing at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.”2

That a larger (geographical) swath of the country representing a larger cross-section of Kenyans voted against the president and vice-president-elect should give the two and their exceedingly vociferous and jingoistic constituents pause. That Jubilee’s victory was fueled by a narrow but populous group within the country should temper their exuberance, especially now that the omni-present and love-to-hate “international community” has sent congratulatory messages to their “sons.

1 – http://softkenya.com/tribe/kalenjin-tribe/
2 – http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Obama-UN-boss-praise-Uhurus-win/-/1064/1735738/-/783xmq/-/index.html
3 – http://elections.nation.co.ke/Blogs/-/1632026/1695348/-/10tq9hf/-/index.html
4 – http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Letters/Politicians-failed-Kenyans/-/440806/1690078/-/r56otj/-/index.html
5 – http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/30/ozatp-icc-kenya-idAFJOE78T01P20110930

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Democracy, Elections, Kenya, Politics, Tribalism, Tribe