Category Archives: International Relations/Global Issues

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

The massive log in our collective eyes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twin Rorschach Tests: On Trayvon Martin et al.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sovereignty, Nationalism and Foreign Aid

So in the past 2-3 weeks, Kenyans have observed President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, toting the country’s well-travelled tin cup, meet with the dreaded “foreigners” America, represented by Microsoft and Japan to ask for assistance implementing the “free laptop” campaign promise and for modernizing the port of Mombasa respectively. The two principals are seeking help from the very entities (west/foreigners) they repeatedly railed against during the run-up to the 2012 elections for “trying to finish them off”. America and Japan represent the very “wazungu” Jubilee supporters rabidly and stridently accused of usurping Kenya’s “sovereignty” and “finishing off their sons” via confirmation of charges against them at The Hague; an institution that was accused by the revered and objective leadership of the African Union of, shudder the thought, being “racist”!

And while Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto were unabashedly soliciting aid from the west, their latest paramour and much-loved benefactor-of-the-month China is busy buying scrap metal from chronically unemployed and under-employed Kenyans, some who obtain said scrap metal by destroying their country’s own roads and bridges; infrastructure constructed by the same China using labor from; you guessed it: China! And as if the foregoing incestuous behavior and madness is not enough, Kenyans proceed to buy the sub-standard and disposable Haojin motorcycles, probably built using the (scrap?) metal they initially sold to China, at prices probably much higher than the sale price of said scrap metal in transactions between willing sellers and willing buyers!

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Uhuru-secures-Microsoft-support-for-computers/-/1056/1871904/-/7i517tz/-/index.html

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/1873230/-/w41ehaz/-/index.html

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Scrap-metal-exports-to-China-up-/-/1056/1872490/-/103b8lqz/-/index.html

While I am happy that Microsoft (USA) and Japan are both willing to assist the very “independent” and “proud” Kenya/Kenyans, that the very people – Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto – who were vilifying and casting aspersions at the hands they are now asking to feed them speaks to the unbelievable hypocrisy of the two men and should give Kenyans and the international community (ICC) pause about their honesty and integrity, especially with regards to the real and active fear of witness-tampering and intimidation.

Beyond pointing out the hypocrisy of President Kenyatta and his deputy, I would be remiss not to question how the two deals with Microsoft and Japan line up against the very real threats posed by foreign aid as depicted in the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins and World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability by Amy Chu; the former critiqued by Ms. Rasna Warah in her op-ed piece titled How American governments and corporations colonised oil-rich states.

Demonizing the west while accepting their aid sets the stage for the well-documented history of duplicitous relationships between donor- and recipient-nations not to mention the insidious and potentially corrosive progression of relationships predicated on double-speak. And for those who are tempted to argue that Microsoft is a private company that would not do the (American) government’s “dirty” work, I would point them to the on-going outrage over reports that Verizon Communications, an American company that provides communications, information and entertainment products and services to consumers, businesses and governmental agencies and ostensibly a private company, complied with a court order granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to give the National Security Agency (NSA) details on all telephone calls, both domestic and international.

China, a country with an economy second in size only to that of the USA but with a history of long-term planning and a long-range outlook on relationships appears to be reeling Kenya and Kenyans into its lair at an alarming rate with implications that, while not completely known, have some indicators that should prompt our “digital duo” to proceed with caution.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianweekly/story/0,,2007803,00.html

http://english.caixin.com/2011-11-10/100324752.html

The one difference between the whipping boy de jour and much-maligned west on the one side and China and to a lesser extent Russia on the other is the fact that the former have open/civic societies with mechanisms such as open and free media that would not hesitate to bring attention to any misdeeds and malfeasance by their government and corporations – think Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers – and for the record, it was a British newspaper, The Guardian, that broke the story about National Security Agency (NSA) data-mining phone numbers from Verizon! Conversely, the latter two – China and Russia – are countries with histories of keeping civic societies on very short and tight leashes. The Russians and Chinese would not hesitate to arrest those with prying eyes/lenses nor are they shy about detaining anyone perceived as “causing trouble” or “threatening national security”; something past Kenyan governments perfected!

Unlike the past when the likes of former president Arap Moi could manipulate the west and organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to release financial aid by making token reforms only to resort back to status ante of repression and corruption, the era of multi-party governance in Africa and easy access to the Internet has put in place mechanisms that mitigate abuse of aid. On the other hand and as evidenced by the periodic disruption of Internet services by the authorities, several high-profile failures of infrastructure and introduction of sub-standard and/or tainted product into the market, it is not unreasonable to argue that China has yet to demonstrate the level of tolerance to criticism, vigilance nor institution of effective mechanisms that check and balance its leaders. Finally, given Kenya’s past history of impunity and corruption, one can only speculate on how effective the two sides – Kenya and China – will manage the relationship between two countries with demonstrably intolerant leadership and centralized planning.

As previously mentioned, there is a long and ghastly history of imbalanced and extractive relationships between Kenya (Africa) and the west; that of extracting resources from Africa/Kenya only to return the raw and inexpensive material back to their country of origin in shiny packaged and expensive form! Sadly, the jubilant Kenyan consumers seem willing to pay the piper from the east AND from the west and move on now that “their” sons are in power!

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

The AU vs. The ICC: Racism vs. Impunity

The following explanation regarding the raison d’être of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is taken from the court’s home page:

 “The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC is based on a treaty, joined by 122 countries (effective as of 1 May 2013). The ICC is a court of last resort. It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility. In addition, the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes. In all of its activities, the ICC observes the highest standards of fairness and due process. The jurisdiction and functioning of the ICC are governed by the Rome Statute.”

http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/icc%20at%20a%20glance/Pages/icc%20at%20a%20glance.aspx

 The claim that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is “targeting Africans on a racial basis” as alleged by the presiding chairman of the African Union (AU) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn should prompt the same analysis and review as the proposal that the ICC relinquish adjudication of the crimes against humanity charges facing President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua Sang to Kenya’s judiciary. Africa and specifically Kenya should evaluate the two issues – a “racist” ICC and independent and competent local (Kenyan) adjudication of the country’s president and his deputy along with Mr. Sang for crimes against humanity – with the honesty and objectivity they both deserve.

A quick search on the internet rubbishes Mr. Desalgen’s claim that “99 per cent of those indicted by the ICC are Africans”. While the current active listing of suspects contains mostly Africans; from Congo, Sudan/Dafur, Libya and Kenya, there is also an extensive list of individuals, mostly from the former Yugoslavia who are non-Africans, who have been indicted and either convicted or acquitted by the ICC. Similarly, there is an extensive listing of non-Africans who were convicted and punished for war crimes at The Nuremberg Trials, the precursor to the ICC. Interestingly enough, the Africans facing charges at the ICC were referred to the court by their own people including Kenya’s own Uhuru and Ruto who ended up at The Hague because their colleagues in parliament did not want them to be
vague”!

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

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

One can make a compelling argument that in a fair world – and we know how fair and impartial life is – Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice would all be in front of a war crimes tribunal because they invaded a sovereign country (Iraq) on the basis of cherry-picked and wrong information. As a matter of fact, I would argue that it is the fear of being arrested, definitely of being embarrassed by protestors, that prevent the afore-mentioned individuals from traveling abroad as regularly and as freely as they would otherwise do. In his op-ed piece titled Many Africans are coming to believe that international justice is selective, Mr. Mutuma Mathiu argues that the International Criminal Court, indeed international organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and even the United Nations (UN) and its related branches are slanted towards the west, particularly the US, Gt. Britain, France and the EU. While I agree with the very general thrust of Mr. Mathiu’s argument, I would also point out that Africa’s history is littered with evidence of its leaders colluding with the same dastard western governments and international institutions against their very own subjects and political opponents not to mention using Swiss banks and similar off-shore accounts to hide their ill-gotten gains. Kenya’s “founding father” and the current president’s father Jomo Kenyatta perfected the art of using the likes of Mr. Patrick Shaw, a British policeman, to do his dirty (political) work of planting evidence, intimidating witnesses and worse!

http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/-/440808/1861062/-/ji9o2wz/-/index.html

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/ICC-targets-Africans-on-race-basis-African-Union-chair/-/1064/1864200/-/14tyb02z/-/index.html

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120528042454AAdbSmG

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/05/12/bush-convicted-of-war-crimes-in-absentia/

As amply demonstrated by Africa’s history over the last 50+ years, leaders from Idi Amin to Mobutu Seso Sekou via Jean Bidel Bokassa, Said Barre, Jomo Kenyatta, Arap Moi, Charles Taylor and Robert Mugabe have colluded with western countries and western institutions to abuse their subjects and plunder their country’s resources with an impunity that was near-total! Few objective and fair-minded observers can review Africa’s socio-political and economic past and conclude that its leadership has led Africans with the respect and fairness they deserve. One can even argue that most African leaders have failed, miserably, at improving the lives of their people while lining their own pockets and those of their friends, family and tribe, similarly fattening their bellies while behaving worse than the very colonial masters their forefathers fought so hard to defeat! To paraphrase Jaramogi Oginga Odinga from his book Not Yet Uhuru, the average African is still struggling to prevent fellow (black-skinned) African leaders with vested interests from ruling as successors to the administrators of the colonial days i.e. colonialists.

Idi Amin single-handedly destroyed Uganda, a country once referred to as the “pearl of Africa” first by expelling Asians who were the backbone of the country’s economy before embarking on a pogrom that decimated the country’s intelligentsia and brain trust further diminishing its ability to develop economically and socially. Republic of Congo’s Mobutu Seso Sekou, with help from Belgium and the CIA, overthrew the country’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Élias Okit’Asombo aka Patrice Lumumba who was then tortured and ultimately executed by a firing squad. Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga, as Mobutu was also known, went on to squander the wealth of the newly-renamed Zaire, a country that was equally blessed and cursed with an insane abundance of natural resources. The sordid doings of Kenyatta Pere and Moi, hitherto discussed in hushed tones, especially during their reigns have finally been made official and public by the recently-released Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TRJC) Report; an accounting of Kenya’s historical record of gross human rights violations perpetrated primarily by and at the behest of the country’s presidents.

I would thus argue that the key difference between the dreaded west – USA, Gt. Britain, France etc. – and say Kenya, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia is the fact that the former have institutions that are mature and comparatively independent enough to handle matters such as crimes against humanity/war crimes involving the rich and powerful without blatant interference and manipulation from said rich and powerful. Can folks at the AU honestly see Hutus and Tutsis dealing with the very genocide they were both victim of? Indeed  Kenyans were given the opportunity to set up local institutions and mechanisms to investigate and punish those convicted of fomenting the ethnic violence after the elections of 2007. Both principals – President Kibaki and PM Odinga – were in favor of setting up local institutions and mechanisms to deal with the issue but were shouted down by none other than the sycophants of the current president and his deputy. The country seems to have forgotten  the chant “Don’t be vague; go to The Hague”. Its members of parliament (MPs) opted to go to The Hague for a host of reasons including the incredulously self-serving belief that the ICC would take forever to bring charges against those accused or that it, ICC, was a toothless organization, especially when called upon to charge the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta. Finally and most saddening and as evidenced by revelations by the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), Kenyans were afraid that the accused high and mighty would manipulate and influence the proceedings and resultant outcome as they have done in past high profile cases!

Now that the proverbial chickens have come home to roost, the likes of Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN Mr. Macharia Kamau and the chair of the AU Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn are crying neo-colonialism and racism respectively! It is hypocritical, disingenuous and the height of arrogance. These individuals and the organizations they represent – AU and Kenya – would have some credibility if they had demonstrable track records of actions taken against crimes against humanity and impunity by the rich and powerful. As illustrated above and in a previous posting titled “Be a Sage; Push for The Hague”, neither Africa’s leaders nor Kenya’s have demonstrated an ability to do either – address impunity and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the rich and powerful within them.

It is why the ICC, its shortcomings notwithstanding, is a much-needed and powerful counterweight to the likes of Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milosevic, indeed to Uhuru Kenyatta. Similarly, it is the well-documented history of Africa’s “big men” acting with wanton impunity and the glaring impotence of institutions within their respective countries (including the African Union; the ultimate club for said ”big men”) to hold them in check and accountable that make Mr. Desalegn’s cry of “racism” laughable.

The shoes is finally on the other foot and Africa’s masters of impunity have finally met their Waterloo in the International Criminal Courts and they are now crying foul! I say it is about time they were held accountable.

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

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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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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