Category Archives: Governance – Kenya

Fueling Extremism: Poor Governance, Corruption, Lack Of Accountability and Hubris.

In a piece titled “Hot Spots: The Intersection of Corruption, Poor Governance and Ebola” I argued that as the epidemic ravaged the people that elected them into office, African leaders avoided discussing the impact of corruption and poor governance on their ability to effectively manage such crisis. I wrote that it was not surprising that all the countries in the “hot zone” of the disease: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were demonstrably ill-prepared to deal with its occurrence or contain its progression: That crisis such as the Ebola pandemic are exacerbated by poor leadership, incompetent, corrupt and unaccountable governance.

Within six months of the pandemic, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta and others in the African Union (AU) went on to offer a stunning display of split personality; going from blaming the west for “failing to do enough to fight” Ebola only to turn around and bloviate about “forgetting foreign intervention because Africans are better placed to solve their own problems.”

The same hubris  was again on display a few days before the tragic events in Garissa when “Mutongoria Jamba” derisively responded to a travel advisory issued by Great Britain by saying that “We (Kenya) want to send a clear message (to Great Britain) that they will not intimidate us (Kenyans) with these threats (travel advisories).”

So how does Kenya’s Commander-In-Chief explain the repeated attacks under his watch seemingly perpetrated by the same group – al-Shabaab – using the same modus operandi – taking advantages of failures in the system primarily introduced by the human component of said system? What are some of the lessons that seem to be escaping Kenya’s leaders in their war against extremism?

Frankly I sympathize with Mr. Kenyatta because he’ll be criticized regardless of what he does. On the other hand, he has demonstrated an inability to keep the country safe and secure in spite of repeated warnings of impending attacks and repeated opportunities to change tactics. Having said that, I would offer the following, at a minimum, since the buck stops with him:

That the President:

– Should hold accountable whoever advised him to minimize or diminish the travel advisory from Gt. Britain only to have an attack occur less than one week of the warning. Frankly given the number of terrorist attacks Kenya has experienced since the “digital duo” assumed office, it is my hope that Kenyans hold the two accountable come Election Day.

– Should put ego aside and listen to those who have experienced such tragedies and have developed better bulwarks against them. To quote Rasna Warah in her article “Garissa Could Have Been Avoided”, “(W)hen foreign governments with better intelligence than Kenya issue warnings about imminent threats, it should take them seriously.”

– Should note that tribalism and other socio-political divides are real and portends grave danger: Groups such as al-Shabaab along with politicians exploit said fissures – tribal, religious, economic – for selfish reasons – ideological and personal. Alluding to his country’s success in mitigating attacks by extremists, former Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya Shamsudin Ahmed pointed out that “…good cooperation between the people and security forces is the secret that his country has used to successfully ward off attacks from the Al Shabaab militant group.”

– Should realize that corruption is an existential problem, is destroying Kenya and has demonstrably made its citizens vulnerable to attacks by extremists. As evidenced by the allegations of looting by those sent to rescue the victims of the Westgate attacks and the many scandals that have engulfed his administration, corruption has seeped into the very fiber of Kenya and her various institutions. The president makes matters worse when he offers fiats that contravene the very systems designed to address corruption like he did when he ordered reinstatement of 10,000 police recruits whose selection was annulled by the courts. For an institution that is the perennial poster child for corruption in Kenya, allowing introduction of police trainees recruited under an odious cloud of mass corruption, irregularities and blatant violations of the Constitution is both irresponsible and dangerous.

Beyond freezing the assets of those suspected of funding extremism, his government should also freeze the assets of those suspected of corruption because there is a demonstrable link between corruption and terrorism.

– Has to stop politicizing the institutions responsible for keeping the country safe. Since independence, Kenya’s presidents including the one now facing blowback because of an ineffective, undermanned and ill-equipped security apparatus – police, military, paramilitary (GSU), CID – have used said institutions to cement their grips on power rather than keep the country safe and secure. They have accomplished this by installing incompetent and/or unqualified sycophants AND siphoning off funds meant to fund the agencies and pay their salaries. Instead, these critical organs have been used to harass, torture and assassinate political opponents. It is this politicization that has now come home to roost in an era of globalization and asymmetrical warfare by non-nation/state actors such as al-Shabaab.

– And his supporters need to understand that they do not have a monopoly on patriotism. The modified expression “dissent rooted in genuine policy and philosophical differences is patriotic” comes to mind. Just because I hold opposing views, oftentimes as passionate as Jubilants hold theirs, does not make me a “sympathizers” of the enemy. This demonization of honest disagreements reminds me of George W. Bush’s use of 9/11 as a bludgeon with which to stifle open and honest debate – in the run-up to America’s invasion of Iraq.

Asking for the withdrawal of KDF from Somalia does not make one an al-Shabaab “appeaser”. It gives the president an opportunity to re/state his case for keeping them there. It also allows his military commanders to refine and re-strategize their war plans given the developments since the initial invasion. Think the “surge” strategy America deployed in Iraq after the original “shock and awe” went awry.

Criticizing incompetence, corruption and tribalism is not unpatriotic especially given the spectacular failures since Jubilee took office. The fact is Kenyans have witness Westgate, Mpeketoni, Lamu, and now Garissa – all in the last two years.

To paraphrase Chinua Achebe: The trouble with Kenya is simply and squarely a failure of leadership; a failure that now defines the national character and ethos of Kenyans and reflected in the people they elect into office. Until Kenyans stop electing leaders on the basis of the “tyranny of numbers” and more on their stated and demonstrated ability to competently discharge their sworn responsibilities, the country will continue to lurch from one crisis to the next while its elected leaders “step aside” only to return – 60 days later – unscathed.

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Filed under Boko Haram, Corruption, Failed State, Governance - Kenya

The Circus Is Coming to Town: Mr. Kenyatta Goes to The Hague Along with “Big Men” and Their Toadies

It now appears that President Uhuru Kenyatta will eschew the trappings of his office, even if it’s just for a few hours and appear before Ms. Fatou Bensouda and the presiding judges at The Hague not as the Commander-in-Chief of Kenya’s Armed Forces, but as a crimes-against-humanity suspect.

The symbolism of this moment is not lost on Kenyans and in keeping with the partisan divide this case has taken since it was first announced, there are those who will look at this moment as the day the one time high, mighty and untouchable of Kenyan society stood before a judge they could not cower or court system they could not manipulate to answer criminal charges against them. Conversely, there are others such as Moi University Lecturer of Media Studies Dr. Omanga who will see Mr. Kenyatta’s summons and appearance before the International Criminal Court (ICC) as classic Kabuki theater i.e. political and legal posturing by the courts ‘ere the inevitable triumph of “us” over “them”. In his article in the Daily Nation, the lecturer compares Mr. Kenyatta’s summons to The Hague as a mere show of valiancy by the world court in the face of pre-ordained defeat i.e. dismissal or indefinite suspension of the case against POK.

In keeping with the African tradition of story-telling to illustrate a point, Dr. Omanga “tanda wilis” the story about a leopard (Mr. Kenyatta) cornering a squirrel (ICC) for dinner; a showdown whose outcome is inevitable (death to the squirrel) or in this case dismissal or indefinite suspension of the case against POK.

True to the hubris and triumphalism reflected in the lecturer’s parable, Mr. Kenyatta is reportedly going to The Hague with a posse of over one hundred and twenty distinguished supporters and toadies. Included in the entourage are four heads of state, at least at last count and an assortment of hanger-ons and sycophants. There are also reports that Mr. Kenyatta will address the court. It is this combination of events that I want to see play out: Frankly I would pay top dollars (or shillings) to bear witness to the optics of (reluctant?) “big man” and budding Pan-Africanist Uhuru Kenyatta, urged on by the quintessential “big men” Presidents Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame of Rwanda and their sycophants, going mano-a-mano with the hitherto unflappable daughter of Mali and Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

I would advise Mr. Kenyatta to harness the collective jingoism of his supporters and caution them against making a public spectacle of themselves and by extension, of him, on the international stage no less. President Kenyatta has seemingly stabilized his presidency and has comported himself with a modicum of competence after a rather rough start. He should continue along that path and take a page from his deputy Mr. William Ruto who has conducted himself with aplomb worthy of a true Moran (tho’ mewonders whether he is actually Masai). The junior half of the digital duo his appeared before the chamber on schedule/as scheduled and for all the bluster and fury at the beginning of the trials, his supporters and their antics have avoided becoming THE news.

Mr. Kenyatta would also be ill-advised to use his chance to “address the court” as an opportunity to lay out his road-to-Jerusalem Pan-Africanist credentials. It is a message that is passé in this era of globalization not to mention information at the stroke of keys. The president should avoid getting on his soapbox and haranguing that the “ICC is a vestige of colonialism” and the other anti-western rant that are frankly hypocritical given his very western-leaning personal and business proclivities.

Indeed this Wednesday October 8th 2014 hearing may be Ms. Bensouda’s last hurrah in the case against Mr. Kenyatta. If that is the case, I would argue that the fact the process played out to its conclusion, the accusations and counter-accusations notwithstanding is something both sides can take “credit” for; as Pyrrhic a victory as it is for those who lost loved ones in the post-election violence of 2007/8.

I am glad that Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, heir to a share of $600M fortune was compelled to use some of that money to defend himself against the “personal challenge” that somehow morphed into a national issue that brought Kenya on the verge of pulling out of the world courts, the backroom machinations and use of government resources aside.

Finally, it is my hope that these trials were collective shots across the bow of Africa’s “big men” that the era of wanton impunity especially against their people is over.

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Filed under Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, Justice, Kenya

The Hague imefika!

D-Day in the form of H-Day came calling for the junior half of the digital duo on September 11, 2013. Kenya’s Deputy President Mr. William Kipchirchir Samoei arap Ruto, stripped of his eagle-eyed Recce security guards and the trappings and reverence that comes with the second most powerful office in Kenya was paraded in front of a panel of stone-faced judges at The Hague (hence H-Day). Juxtaposed with this comeuppance of an occupant of a hitherto “untouchable” office was the futile and frankly simpletonic vote by the country’s legislature to pull the country out of the Rome Statute that formalized the International Criminal Court (ICC). A basic reading and understanding of the pull-out process by the Jubilee-controlled parliament would have informed this band, presumably of lawyers, that the process to pull out from the ICC takes at least one year from the time the UN SecGen receives the letter formalizing Kenya’s exit from the body. But even more pertinent to the raison d’etre for parliament’s desire to pull Kenya from the ICC is the rule that cases already being heard by the court are not affected by a country’s decision to pull out of the treaty! The charges facing Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto are already being heard by the ICC

For the 1300+ Kenyans who lost their loved ones and the close to one-half million who bore the brunt of the post-election violence of 2007, seeing Mr. Ruto (and Mr. Sang) being held accountable for the pain and suffering they are accused of fomenting and causing must be cathartic. It is something Kenyans have not witnessed since independence: the high and mighty, stripped of their self-importance and protection, being called to account for the crimes they are accused of.

I will forever say this: The impunity and wanton disregard for the human and civil rights of Kenyans that the country’s elite has acted with over the years finally landed them in trouble; with a force that has more power and deeper pockets than all of them combined; and I am glad!

I have to say that the cases against Mr. Ruto and Mr. Sang could have started out much smoother than they did. Ms. Bensouda appeared unprepared and in a moment that harkens back to the petition filed by Mr. Odinga’s CORD Party, as not helped by a tardy witness and an aggressive and bombastic all-foreign defense team headed by Mr. Karim Ahmed Khan. http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Why+Karim+Khan+stands+tall+among+his+peers+in+battle+/-/1056/1988990/-/143p2cgz/-/index.html Evidence from CORD, for those who care, was famously declared “time-barred” by Kenya’s highest court. And while the ruling was deemed within the guidelines established by the Constitution, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of supporters of CORD who felt let down, AGAIN, by a judiciary geared towards serving the rich and powerful and maintaining the status quo!

Fortunately for the victims of the post-election violence and in a sharp departure from the decision made by Chief Justice William Mutunga’s court re: CORD’s petition, the presiding judge at The Hague Nigerian Mr. Eboe Osuji, while admonishing the chief prosecutor Fatou Besouda for her lack of preparedness, decided to adjourn the proceedings and give Ms. Bensouda time to present her first witness rather than use their tardiness as an excuse to completely disallow their testimony. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000093331&story_title=court-adjourns-in-ruto-sang-icc-case I would imagine that the decision by Mr. Osuji, who was the principal prosecution appeals counsel at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the case of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia was based on the import of the case; something most CORDians would have wanted during the presidential petition, a case most, including myself, saw in similar light.

At the risk of sounding glib, given the argument hatched by Mr. Katwa Kigen that the case against his client KASS Radio DJ Julius Sang is an assault on the Kalenjin way of life, I am glad that the case is being tried by an African in a courtroom presided by yet another African! http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Kalenjin+way+of+life+on+trial+says+lawyer+Katwa+Kigen/-/1056/1989102/-/7rd3hcz/-/index.html. The infamous “they” say that justice is blind and that “one’s perception is their reality”. I would pay top dollars to hear the Gambian/Nigerian members of the team prosecuting the case against Mr. Sang call out the race-baiting bull&%@t of a fellow African Katwa Kigen! To quote my ten-year old son, that would be “sweet!”

For all the blustery, confrontational and inflammatory utterances by the two principal lawyers – Mr. Khan and Mr. Kigen – the cases against their clients Mr. Ruto and Mr. Sang will respectively run through their course unimpeded and unadulterated: In the case of the deputy president and his boss the president, the cases will be heard by a judicial body that is so far removed from the sphere of their (executive) influence that ordinary Kenyans could never have imagined.

As written in previous articles, the high-priced lawyers, especially the ones representing the two principals, paid for by the fortunes of the country’s richest family, may successfully argue dismissal or acquittal for both the president and his deputy. If that were to happen, I would not be happy. I would be disappointed because to date, no one would have been held accountable for the death and destruction wrought upon the weak and innocent in Kiambaa, Kibera, Kisumu, Nakuru, Naivasha etc. On the other hand and in a uniquely Kenyan meme, if no one was to be brought to account for the hate crimes that shocked the entire world in 2007/2008, I would most likely join fellow Kenyans who have this strange ability to “accept and move on” from one unpopular and grossly unjust decision to the next so long as their “sons and daughters” remain in power.

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

Stop Politicizing the (fill in the blank)

President Uhuru Kenyatta has told his nemesis Raila Odinga to “stop politicizing” the land issue. http://www.news24.co.ke/National/News/Uhuru-tells-off-Raila-on-land-issue-20130902 The senior half of the digital duo also lambasted the vanquished head of CORD to stop politicizing the value-added Tax (VAT) recently implemented by Jubilee government. http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/business/2013/09/stop-politicizing-vat-law-uhuru-tells-raila/. And if that was not enough, The Hague-bound Son of Jomo may as well accuse Son of Jaramogi, his father’s chief rival, of engineering his summons, along with his deputy’s, to The Hague! http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/How+ICC+and+Raila+created+coalition+of+the+accused/-/1064/1634576/-/2r1hjxz/-/index.html Frankly I am waiting for Mr. Kenyatta and his sycophants to call on Mr. Odinga to “stop politicizing” the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against the rebels!

The glaring irony is that the same man accusing his chief political enemy of politicizing land ownership, bread-and-butter/economic issues and the on-going trials at The Hague is in point of fact doing the very same thing: Talk about huevos or chutzpah!

Mr. Kenyatta recently “handed” out title deeds to folks in the voter-rich and CORD-leaning region of the Coast. http://standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000093358&story_title=disputes-stalk-president-uhuru-kenyatta-coast-title-deeds&pageNo=2 I am sure he did this out of the kindness of his heart and not because he was looking ahead to the 2018 elections. That Son of Jomo is incredibly altruistic!

The national budget delivered by Mr. Henry K. Rotich, President Kenyatta’s Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury on June 13, 2013 outlined the broad development policies of the Jubilee coalition including its commitment to seal “…leakages in our revenue collection…and extending the tax base while ensuring efficiency in public expenditure.”http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/The+full+Kenya+Budget+speech+2013/-/539546/1881852/-/view/printVersion/-/535sgq/-/index.html. I am neither an economist nor an expert on budgetary matters but I interpreted the line about “extending the tax base” to mean implementation of a policy along the lines of a value added tax (VAT) the two scions of Kenya’s political titans are wrangling over.

Finally, the one issue that I would bet my Man U jersey keeps Kenyatta Fils awake at night is the one issue he, Mr. Kenyatta, used as a vehicle to Kenya’s presidency! Upon being accused of crimes against humanity by the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC Mr. Ocampo, Mr. Kenyatta and co-suspect Mr. Ruto formed a “coalition of the accused” and with his mother, Kenya’s former first lady Ms. Ngina Kenyatta leading the various “prayer rallies” across the populous regions of Central and Rift Valley, the two accused transformed the summons to The Hague into a tyranny of numbers all the way to Kenya’s presidency; the ultimate politicization of the charges facing the digital duo. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000032591&pageNo=1

UK is beginning to sound like George W. Bush and the Republicans, especially in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy when Son of Bush famously told those who decried his gun slinging response to the event and pursuant foreign policy that “they are with us or against us.”http://edition.cnn.com/2001/US/11/06/gen.attack.on.terror/

 Anyone who questions Mr. Kenyatta’s policies or positions on issues of national import is either “a tool of the west,” “anti-development,” “un-patriotric,” “politicizing the issue” or engaging in some yet-to-be-named nefarious behavior.

Memo to Mr. Kenyatta:

As much as you and your supporters would love for him to go away, Raila Odinga is the face and voice of Kenya’s opposition. Like you, he is a politician and looks at most issues through a political lens. Mr. Odinga is as much a “patriot” and “development-minded” as you are. And incase y’all had forgotten, Mr. Odinga is also Kenyan!

Remind Kenyans again how you and William Ruto ended up winning the presidency, CJ Mutunga’s ruling notwithstanding?

What’s that?

You and Mr. Ruto had a “better vision for Kenya?”

Sure you did…and you were able to wrap that vision in an anti-ICC/anti-The Hague/Xenophobic shuka at the various “prayer rallies” held “throughout” the country all the way to the presidency. By running for the presidency despite the charges facing you and your running mate, you dared the criminal court to try (and convict) the president and deputy president of a member state. And while presidential campaigns are by “political”, you Mr. President have continued to wrap your presidency using the same shuka you used during the (political) campaign. You have continued to draw on the energy generated at the “prayer rallies” during the campaigns by continuing to politicize the issue.

“Jamba”, who recently took a position on charges facing him at The Hague…not as a “personal challenge”, but as the “duly elected president of the sovereign Republic of Kenya”? I will help you out: It is you. Mr. President, you famously said that the charges facing you at The Hague were “personal challenges” that will not spill over into your role if elected to the presidency. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/feb/11/kenya-elections-presidential-debate

Well sir you are now the president of Kenya.

That Kenya, ‘ere the decision by The Hague not to run your trial and that of your digital twin Mr. Ruto simultaneously, run the risk of being rudderless were you and Mr. Ruto to face the “foreigners” at the ICC at the same time is the direct result of your politicization of your (collective) charges.

Bw. Rais, it is disingenuous and blatantly hypocritical to accuse Mr. Odinga of “politicizing” issues that matter to Kenya and Kenyans even as you and your sycophants do the same.

Fool me once, shame on you

Fool me twice, shame on me

Fool me thrice; I must be Kenyan!

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Democracy, Elections, Failed State, Governance, Governance - Kenya, International Criminal Court - ICC, Justice, Kenya, Land, Land Ownership, Politics, The Hague

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!

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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. 

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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!

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