Category Archives: Kenya

All Throughout His Presidency Same Song

Okay so I “plagiarized”; make that paraphrased a line from Digital Underground’s song “Same Song” but the relevance of its hook given President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2016 State of the Nation (SOTN) address is spot on.

In the 1991 hit, Shock-G nee Gregory Jacobs offers that life as a rapper — with the “jennies” or ladies — is the same all over the world. Shock-G, along with the late Tupac Shakur, goes on to sing that they’ve “Been all around the world” and nothing has changed i.e. “same song” regarding life on the road as a successful rap group.

Lost in the non-partisan self-flagellation over the childish and disruptive conduct of some elected officials during President Kenyatta’s address was a SOTN speech which may as well have been recycled from SOTNs of 2014 and 2015.

To be perfectly clear and to temper the ethnic vitriol and outright lies (libelous) directed at me, the conduct of the five members of the opposition was unacceptable and only enhanced the narrative that they hail “from a community of ‘stone-throwers’” or to quote a tweet by columnist and consultant Ngunjiri Wambugu; one that portends a dark and slippery slope of ethnic stereotyping:

“These Luo MPs! Shaking my head” — instead of “These 5 MPs!….”

When news of the disruption in parliament first broke, I wrote that it is one thing to express displeasure when one disagrees with a comment AFTER the comment is made just as it is to cheer a comment AFTER it — comment — is made. Either behavior is commonplace during the State of the Union (SOTU) here in the US as it is in the British Parliament — two institutions whose structure Kenya’s is modeled after — at least in part.

I then went on to write that it is an entirely different thing to disrupt or deny anyone the right to make the remark; that the MPs were wrong to disrupt the president’s SOTN address — plain and simple.

Having called out the offensive behavior of the five legislatures, let me now point out the elephant in the room:

– That regarding the existential threat that corruption and theft of public funds has become during Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency, there was nothing new in the 7,267-worded sermonizing that voters did not hear in 2015 and 2014 or to quote Shock-G, it was the “same song”.

– To wit, a consistent omission from this and other flowery, lofty and lengthy presidential bloviations are specific AND immediate presidential actions, well within the purview of his office, against those implicated in corruption and other economic crimes. This sense of urgency is fashioned by the dangerous reality that corruption has reached dizzying and untenable heights during the last 3 years; think the saying “desperate times call for desperate measures”.

A former high school mate pointed out that President Kenyatta “gets a high five for his coolness” in the face of vocal and disrespectful protestation; a point I agree with — to some extent. My friend, who shall remain unnamed, went on to write that “what the opposition did (during the SOTN speech)…lack(ed) finesse.” Gerald (not his name) also professed doubt whether “finesse and style in the delivery of their message” was a major consideration for the unruly parliamentarians. The former Old Cambrian alum argued, albeit tangentially, that the disruption in “bunge” was fashioned by the patently selective and erratic execution of the president’s “war on corruption and other ‘monstrous’ economic crimes”.

Simply put, President Kenyatta has demonstrated utter impotence confronting corruption inside HIS very office and government; a fact fully evidenced by his handling of the saga involving his appointee Anne Waiguru. The litany of statistics cataloguing Jubilee’s “success” in the fight (against corruption) are immediately rubbished by the president’s appointment and re-appointment of individuals, some in their seventies, to the very institutions whose resources and funds they are accused of plundering and mismanaging:

So much for the campaign promise to create “employment opportunities for the youth” and “hold those implicated in ‘monstrous economic crimes’ accountable”!

The puerile behavior of the few members of the opposition is also tame compared to the prescription put forth by Daily Nation’s David Ndii in his piece “Kenya is a cruel marriage, it’s time we talk divorce”.

In social phenomena it often takes varying levels of disruption to jolt society into action against an untenable status quo and God knows Kenya needs to be jolted out of its apathy towards corruption given the presidential acquiescence (tacit) on said subject, through his repeated dithering.

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Where Do I Count Myself?: An Open Letter

In response to a comment I made re: the article “Okemo, Gichuru Cost Taxpayers Billions in Loan Repayments”, someone in Mwaklishi accused me of “making it about myself” and being “a huge man with a big empty head”.

Another commenter asked me where I was when my “Godfather Raila Odinga” was “freecing (sic) Kenyans, with SCANDAL AFTER SCANDAL.” This same person then asked me to tell readers what I knew about a litany of scandals implicating the CORD Principal and/or those close to him.

The invectives and childish personal attacks aside, the one comment that drew my attention was the poignant “where do you (I) count myself?” presumably in the fight against the issues I repeatedly write about. The same commenter posed the question:

Why can’t you (I) lead these Kenyans crying foul to action?

Being in the public domain, I avoid exchanges that portend confrontation or abusive language. I will occasionally engage folks who seem to have genuine concerns/differences of opinion about something I have written but my rule of thumb is to avoid engaging angry, obnoxious and impolite folks.

I do agree with the sentiment that there is a certain level of repetition re: what I write about, a “cut-and-paste” hum-drum drone on the subjects of corruption and impunity in the (current) Government of Kenya. These topics CAN be dry and tedious unless you are wonkish.

Confession: I am a public policy/political science wonk my profession in biotech engineering and passion as an author notwithstanding.

It is with this knowledge that my mother’s caution continues to be my North Star whenever I put pen to paper:

Wuoda, ka iwacho adiera; kendo kiwache gi heshima gi dwond ma oluoro ji, kik iluor kendo kik ng’ato bwogi.

Loosely translated, my madhe was saying thus:

My son, if you are saying the truth using respectful language, don’t be afraid and don’t let anyone scare you.

So let me be as clear as possible:

  1. I am NOT interested in political office.
  2. I am NOT an investigative journalist i.e. “jicho pevu”.
  3. I WILL NOT repeat my position vis-à-vis Raila Odinga (or Gov. Kidero for that matter) because that is old news and available in the public domain for anyone interested.
  4. Finally, I won’t even deign to respond to the baseless and bovine charges that my writing peddles “tribal politics”, “tribal hate” or “tribalism”.

Now about “leading” individuals who share a common goal, in this case a Kenya free of wanton corruption, there are many ways one can do that.

I choose to “lead” using my writing (posted) on platforms the internet affords ANYONE. If and when I “cut and paste” any material, I almost always credit the source. I certainly don’t want to be accused of plagiarism especially being a contributor to a leading global aggregator of news. In writing about the proverbial “issues of the day”, I oftentimes give my readers some historical context re: the articles hence the sometimes pedantic nature of the pieces.

There are Kenyans in the diaspora who make significant contributions — monetary and non-monetary — to the country. They are also non-Kenyans with significant (vested) interests therein. Finally, thanks to the internet AND jet travel, the world has become a global marketplace of ideas and best practices. This being the case, I think of myself as a purveyor of perspectives on issues affecting a country — Kenya — the global audience including the “ignorant jungus” seem to care about.

The tinge of Schadenfreude some may detect in my writing is a function of the portmanteau “Kensanity” — “the country’s tendency of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” i.e. electing known kleptocrats and criminals into office then wringing their collective hands when these same people are implicated in one scandal after another.

I will end by paraphrasing Barack Obama and Mohandas Gandhi:

Don’t Complain: Publish YOUR riposte to my “cut-and-past” monotony and YOUR “interesting reading” re: the many scandals implicating Raila and those close to him – including Evans Kidero.

And finally, Yes You Can Be the Change You Want to See in Kenya.

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Foreign Intervention: A Necessary Evil To Prevent African Leaders From Being Successors to European Colonialists

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently told Africans and the world to “(F)orget foreign intervention, Africans are better placed to solve their own problems.” In a piece of the same heading in the Daily Nation, Mr. Kenyatta offered the assessment that the work the “founding fathers” of Africa begun is “…far from over…”

Using the tried but tired “blame-the-mzungu” meme that some in the diaspora accuse African-Americans of, the son of Kenya’s first president gave as a reason for Africa’s mediocre and erratic development, the “stiff resistance by those who benefit from a divided Africa.”

That there are those who benefit from a divided Africa is and has been a fait accompli for quite some time. However, seen within the context of the article’s heading, the president’s assertion is misleading. Penning a piece that announces that the continent’s problems are best “solved within rather than through….self-serving foreign intervention” without mentioning the many reasons why the dreams of the continent’s founding fathers lay in ruins is the height of irony and hypocrisy. Nowhere in the rather self-serving article does Mr. Kenyatta mention the many self-inflicted injuries the continent’s leaders have afflicted on the people they lead including corruption, impunity, abuse of humans, and the many isms and evils that continue to wreak havoc on Africans half a century after independence.

Mr. Kenyatta’s government recently unleashed its police force on school children who were demonstrating against a favorite Kenyan past-time originated by his own father – land-grabbing. Setting the police on schoolchildren protesting against the endemic corruption has very little to do with “foreign intervention” in the lives of Kenyans unless the foreigners being alluded to are the Singh brothers who allegedly serve as fronts for the mostly African land-grabbers.

Alfred Keter’s foul-mouthed rant heard and seen all around the world captured in no uncertain terms, the impunity with African leaders comport themselves away from prying eyes and alert ears.

Perpetration of the post-election violence of 2007 which Mr. Kenyatta was recently “acquitted” of was fomented, not by wabeberu or wakaburu:

The violence pitted Kenyans against one another – Luo against Kikuyu against Kalenjin against (fill in the blank). Civil wars pitting Africans against one another, of which the genocide in Rwanda was the worst, has been repeated with amazing regularity since independence. Indeed most of the continent’s killings (over natural resources and political power) have been instigated, indeed funded by foreigners. However, the inconvenient and uncomfortable reality is that the British, Belgians, Americans, French, Portuguese, Russians etc. would not have done so without the help of native Africans.

On a side but cautionary note, the continent’s current love-affair with China, while seemingly benign and a marriage of equals, is even more insidious and dangerous than the wars yore. Out-sourcing the continent’s economic development to a country whose record on freedom, open government and human rights is suspect and is only too willing to indulge the continent’s “big men” so long as they allow extraction of the continent’s natural resources and inflated contracts to build standard gauge railways (SGR) portends an extremely worrying development.

President Kenyatta does no one any favor when he makes lofty pronouncements such as the need for Africa to “jealously guard its sovereignty and assiduously work to secure its freedom” while his own administration moves to curtail the freedoms of those it disagrees with. The president is being disingenuous when he harps about “the exploitation by institutions” (such as the ICC) while institutions in his own government exploit and abuse citizens of Kenya as evidenced by the various unresolved extra-judicial killings and the corruption that has even seeped into his own Office of the President!

Until the continent’s leaders demonstrate a consistent ability to solve crisis in their own backyard, the calls by President Kenyatta will fall on deaf ears and provide ammo for those who decry the self-preservation decisions of the continent’s club for its “big men” – African Union (AU).

In an era of the global village where jet travel can transport the outcome of poor governance by a despot across the oceans in less time than it takes to navigate a rain-soaked Thika Highway, there is little doubt that foreign intervention will be needed in Africa for quite some time. The international community, of which the much-maligned International Criminal Court (ICC) serves as judiciary, would be remiss were it to take Mr. Kenyatta and his fellow “big men” at their word re: eliminating foreign intervention in Africa.

From confronting the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa, Ebola and other pandemics, and the mostly West African refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, Africa has yielded several crises that have morphed into full-fledged global security concerns. A leader in Europe or America would be deemed irresponsible were they to remain passive with such threats developing from afar. Stateside, President Obama has been repeatedly excoriated for his administration’s decisions to intervene in and/or withdraw from various global hotspots. The US President has been taken to task because he allowed the lack of “good” governance in faraway lands to morph into crisis at home in America.

Let me offer a different take on the very quote Mr. Kenyatta uses in his article. A founding Pan-Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah wrote that Africans needed the strength of their combined numbers and resources to protect themselves “from the very positive dangers of returning colonialism in disguised forms.”

“Colonialism” has many variants of which the one perpetrated by the Europeans and Americans is but one. The basic mechanics of “the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colony in one territory by a political power from another territory” i.e. colonialism has not changed since the “wazungu” left Africa in the 60s. In 1967, Kenyatta Pere’s nemesis Jaramogi Oginga Odinga offered the rather prescient analysis regarding the mutation of colonialism in his book “Not Yet Uhuru”.

Kenya’s first bona fide opposition leader offered the view that “Kenyans (were) still struggling to prevent (fellow) Kenyans in black skin…..from ruling as successors to the administrators of the colonial era.”

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Filed under Africa, African Union, AU, Big Men, Boko Haram, Corruption, Failed State, Foreign Intervention in Africa, Impunity, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya

Yet Another Round of Unresolved Political Deaths In Kenya – RIP George Muchai & Philip Godana.

The list of Kenyans who have disappeared, died under mysterious circumstances or assassinated is endless. It also contains some of the country’s most prominent and promising names and spans the country’s post-independence existence:

Pio Gama Pinto (1965), Argwings Kodhek (1969), Tom Mboya (1969), Ronald Ngala (1972), JM Kariuki (1975), Kungu Karumba (1975?), Jean-Marie Seroney (1982), Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge (1990), Robert Ouko (1990), Mugabe Were (2008), George Saitoi and Orwa Ojode (2012), Mutula Kalonzo (2013), George Thuo (2013), Albert Muriuki (2013), Dickson Bogonko Bosire (2013).

We can now add Mr. George Muchai, the MP for Kabete cut down by a hail of bullets, to that macabre list. And like they did in the past, the country’s leaders, this time President Uhuru Kenyatta, vowed “to leave no stone unturned” in bringing the perpetrators “of this heinous crime to justice”. Mr. Kenyatta went on to claim even before any arrests were made, that George Muchai was killed because of his war against corruption:

“(W)e cannot allow a few people to continue with corruption and impunity. Even if we will leave all to God to do his will, there are times when anger overwhelms you.”

Taking their cue from their party boss, Mr. Kazungu Kambi, the Cabinet Secretary of Labor, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and his Thika Town counterpart Alice Ng’ang’a all echoed the president’s very sentiment that they know “…the people who plotted the killing of.…George Muchai….” even as investigations were still on-going!

Less than one week after the professional hit on Mr. Muchai, “robbers” broke into the Syokimau resident of former Moyale MP Philip Godana and shot him dead as well. In a more measured and less speculative reaction to Mr. Godana’s death, Tuka Jirmo, the late MP’s cousin cautioned that the family “will not speculate the reason for the killing but ask the police to be thorough with the investigations.”

It was a reaction more measured and reflective than the one that followed Mr. Muchai’s death: reactions from Mr. Kenyatta, his CS for Labor and other politicians in the ruling coalition that prompted the leader of the National Assembly Justin Muturi to ask “leaders to use caution” when making statements on Mr. Muchai’s untimely death.

Line up the presidential, ministerial and lawmakers’ claims, all unsubstantiated, alongside the reality on the ground: That of the rather speedy and seemingly convenient arrest of “all the suspects…in the killing of Kabete MP George Muchai and his three aides…” including “recovery of the weapons used in the incident…” and I hope readers can forgive my cynicism and skepticism, my well-documented incessant criticism of the Kenyatta government notwithstanding.

What is happening in Kenya as illustrated by the rampant violence and unresolved killings not to mention corruption at the highest level of the government is downright scary. The fact that government officials and prominent personalities continue to die under mysterious circumstances or through assassination on a regular basis is extremely disturbing.

Equally terrifying is the impunity with which the country’s leaders have used the very organs of national security and law enforcement as tools against their political opponents!  That the subsequent investigations on these deaths and murders are led by the same institutions and people – CID’s Ndegwa Muhoro in the case of Mr. Muchai – controlled by those with a near-diabolical desire to stay in power should send chills through the collective spines of all Kenyans.

Maybe it is my “shallow and naïve diasporan lens” or sadness at the lack of justice for the families of the afflicted, myself included, but doesn’t it bother WanaKenya Halisi that it now appears that the country has embraced murder as the one sure way of (a) settling differences and (b) maintaining their preferred candidate’s hold on power?

In a narrative that has become as Kenyan as “eating chicken”, the country has continued to rationalize, indeed accept the inept investigations, abrupt and summarily disbanding of blue, red, white or other hued ribbonned commissions and/or the subsequent mothballing of their finding apres presentation of the reports to the president(s). Kenyans routinely point out that “all is well because the country has not fallen into a state of anarchy just as the US did not devolve into chaos after the assassinations of JFK, MLK or the attempt on Ronald Reagan’s life!” They are equally hasty in urging one another to “accept (fill in the blank) and move on” after every national tragedy.

Given the rash of unresolved deaths and extra-judicial killings laying siege on the country, could Kenya, a country that wears its many religions on its collective sleeves be bearing witness to the (religious) teachings that “those who live by the sword also perish by the sword?”

Finally, is the country inching closer to a failed state where the regular killings of people — big and small — is greeted with the ho-hum of a society that has multiple centers of power – hence multiple proprietors of the basic instruments of power – weapons of death?

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Filed under Daniel Arap Moi, Disappearances in Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya, Political Assassinations in Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta

Poetic Justice: Coming Home To Roost During His Son’s Regime: Jomo Kenyatta’s “Policies” of Land-grabbing.

Juxtaposed alongside the lengthy piece on Jomo Kenyatta’s formative years by Daily Nation’s Murithi Mutiga titled “Jomo Kenyatta’s troubled years in London that drove him to greatness” is a piece in the Standard titled “Trail of Blood, Big Money in Land Scandals in Kenya”. Taken together, these two articles underscore the negative impact the “policies” of Kenya’s founding father has had on the country’s long-term stability much like Jim Crowism has had on matters of race here in America. I put the term policies in parenthesis because one can argue that Mzee Jomo Kenyatta DID NOT have any policies for the accounting and the allocation of land after Kenya’s independence. In fact once they assumed power, Mr. Kenyatta and those around him ruled Kenya much like the “dreaded” Brits did. That opiate of the masses religion/Christianity, supposedly used by the missionaries to usurp land from Africans, was effectively replaced first by nationalism then by tribalism as Kenyans imbibed the euphoria of independence and of being in power respectively.

As much as Kenyans have sought to canonize Kenyatta Pere (and now Kenyatta Son), the inconvenient truth is that the country’s founding father bequeathed them a society of “ten billionaires and forty million beggars” as presciently opined by the late JM Kariuki. For Kenyans who have a notoriously short and selective memory, let me remind them that Josiah Mwangi Kariuki famously uttered the revised quote regarding Jomo Kenyatta’s Kenya shortly before he was assassinated in 1975. I will leave it up to those interested to research and conclude on whose order the MP for Nyandarua was murdered. Similarly poignant are the comments of one KimPP who wrote in reaction to the picture accompanying Mr. Mutiga’s piece that “jumping higher than Jomo” celebrating his (Jomo’s) release was Tom Mboya whose life came to a tragic and violent end much like JM’s. Not surprising, implicated in the assassination was the “big man” whose release from detention Mboya was celebrating!

There is no escaping the fact that the (land) policies of Jomo’s Kenya are coming home to roost in Kenya@50. The idea of blaming “the British policy of divide and rule…for what is ailing Kenya today and all its former colonies” as put forth by one Arsenal2014 is curious at best if not ridiculous and outright hypocritical. Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta himself has seemingly taken to blaming the west for what ails Kenya and Africa. Fully illustrating the hypocrisy of Kenya and her leaders is a piece titled “Home guards’ ghosts still haunting Kenya” where Mr. Maina Kiai argues that the president’s rhetoric may be anti-west but his Peponi schools are as British as they come, run by British educators and providing a British education; his public relations advisers are British, whispering propaganda against those wishing for a different Kenya; his business advisers are British; his lead lawyers at The Hague are British; and his K24 station has been funded by the British, among others.

Kenya will not have an honest discussion with the resultant real/permanent solutions to this most explosive of issues – land ownership – until it faces up to and ACTS on the reality that its leaders, including the revered Jomo Kenyatta and his son are up to their eyeballs in the corruption and greed that pervades the issue. The hypocrisy of Mr. Kenyatta’s handling of land-induced violence is underscored by the fact that the same president now warning “leaders to do their homework well before making reckless statements and naming people, linking them to (the Karen land) scandal” was the same person who accused unnamed “local political networks” and opposition politicians of being “reckless and hatemongers engaged in ‘ethnic-profiling’ of one community” during the violence in Mpeketoni and Lamu back in June 2014; violence also related to land. I am still waiting for Mr. Kenyatta to retract the rather impetuous and incorrect allegations he made back in June now that an investigation has revealed that the efforts of one of the individuals he accused of dereliction of duty were in fact stifled by his bosses and the individual relieved of duty during an on-going and active investigation.

To paraphrase a comment made by one Chiriku in response to Mr. Mutiga’s piece, Kenyans seem willing to revise the country’s history; in the process praising and absolving those implicated in the (historic) plunder of national resources. Instead, WaKenya Halisi take to blaming the colonialists who have been gone for over 50 years.

Daily Nation columnist Ms. Rasna Warah offers that Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta would have made a good president had he not relied on a coterie of advisers who are more interested in amassing personal wealth even if it means taking the country back to the days of the all-powerful presidency when the rule of law was considered a mere inconvenience. It does not bode well for Mr. Kenyatta’s fight against corruption at the highest level of his government when he chooses to transfer individuals adversely mentioned in scandals rather than suspending them pending the outcome of investigations.

One would grudgingly accept the angling for presidential plausible deniability offered by Ms. Warah’s article were it not for the high stakes involved: The columnist writes that the 2007 election showed that when historical grievances are not addressed and when issues of marginalization, equity and justice are left on the back-burner, aggrieved communities can rise up against the state and against each other. All it takes is manipulative and self-serving politicians (which Kenya@50 has by the boatload) to ignite the flame.

The chickens of land-grabbing are indeed coming home to roost and charged with confronting them less than half-way through his term in office is the son of the man who created the problem.

Poetic justice?

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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

Insecurity in Kenya and Patriotism

Criticizing an obviously over-whelmed President Uhuru Kenyatta does not make one a “self-hating” “unpatriotic” Kenyan who is “gleeful” about the plight of the country including the on-going attacks on innocent civilians.  Likewise, questioning his administration’s inept and haphazard stewardship of the country including its endemic corruption does not make one a “Raila sycophant”.

Taken together, the fore-going reactions are cynical ploys at deflection by people who willfully overlook the elementary relationship between the leaders they elect into office and the evolution/viability of the country. Such people seem unable to sustain a substantive response to the reality that Emperor Uhuru really has no clothes!

Irish poet Oscar Wilde wrote that “patriotism is the virtue of the vicious” while Englishman Samuel Jackson argued that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Anyone interested in the meanings of the foregoing quotes can google them because I won’t delve into a protracted discussion about their meaning but suffice to say, I find the quotes very instructive given the on-going discourse on the darkness and uncertainty Kenya and Kenyans are going through.

The recent terrorist attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa have confused and divided Kenyans and like clockwork, one of the fault lines has been along tribal lines. The divide has also pitted rabid flag-wavers and self-proclaimed “patriots” who hold steadfast to the dictum “Kenya: Love it or leave it!” on one side and “unpatriotic” folks who display the bumper sticker “Don’t blame me, I voted for CORD!” between moments of Schadenfreude and acceptance, on the other.

I would add a third category of people who love Kenya but want to see its leadership and people come together and do better. I would then lump the full spectrum of perspectives under the heading “Democracy At Work”; the making of sausage allusion notwithstanding.

In a piece titled “How Kenya lost billions since independence,” Dr. David Ndii of Africa Economics writes that “Uhuru is Kenyatta’s biological son. He is Moi’s political son. It is said he is Kibaki’s godson. Apples don’t fall far trees.” Much like the Anglo Leasing scheme that just cost the country KSh. 1.4Billion for security goods and services yet-to-be-delivered, it is not implausible, irresponsible or “un-patriotic” to posit that the ease and frequency with which the extremist attacks are currently occurring in Kenya has been in the making for some time.

It is disingenuous and naïve to separate Kenya’s history of corruption, nepotism, impunity and tribalism from its on-going flailing fight against extremism, corruption, tribalism and nepotism. The fore-going is the very point Alex Ndegwa makes in the piece “Anglo Leasing follows President Uhuru Kenyatta to State House”. Mr. Ndegwa writes that “…Anglo leasing deals were conceived in 2001 under similar pressure for cash and runaway insecurity, as the spate of terror attacks gripping the country today.”

At the risk of repeating myself and stating the obvious, Kenya is a society where anyone with money or connections can get anything – legally AND illegally – and in the latter scenario, without suffering any consequences in a court of law or in the court of public opinion. This perspective dovetails with Mr. John Githongo’s assertion that “corrupt individuals resort to security matters when other avenues for looting (are) tightened.” The former head of the country’s anti-corruption commission further noted that “one of the major contracts in the Anglo Leasing scam was to have tamper-proof passports as a security matter that was vital for the country”; arguably for its security.

The fact is corruption, nepotism and impunity are not unique to Kenya but to paraphrase Senator Obama during his visit to Kenya in 2006, the three isms have attained crisis-levels in Kenya, the American president’s father’s country of birth.

The world has changed since Kenya’s war with the Shiftas shortly after independence. As romantic as some would like it to be, it is highly unlikely that the tactics used by Kenyatta Pere to deal with the secessionist movement in Kenya’s Northern Frontier DIstrict would work in an era where the internet and jet travel have made possible asymmetrical warfare and attacks by one or two “lone wolves” with extremist views and/or an axe to grind against countries.

Shortly after 9/11, the US put in place systems – Department of Homeland Security – aimed at closing the loopholes that were exploited by the 19 extremists who perpetrated the dastardly acts. Even more important, the bureaucracy was staffed with competent professionals who owed their allegiance to the country, not a person or group. The story of Bernard Kerik offers a glimpse into the seriousness with which the US took the scourge of extremism. It also offers a template that Uhuru can use in structuring and staffing Kenya’s security bureaucracy. The simple version is that Mr. Kerik, a politically-connected former commissioner of NY Police Department withdrew his name from consideration as secretary of DHS because of past indiscretions – “personal challenges” if you may. That he lost out on the cabinet position was the least of his worries because the confirmation process shone a light on his unsavory and criminal past. “Bernie” was discharged from federal custody on October 15, 2013, after serving 5 months of home confinement for a past that begun to unravel during the confirmation hearings.

My point?

Fighting extremism is extremely difficult under the “best” of circumstances.  It is made almost impossible when security systems/measures are staffed/overseen by incompetent and unethical individuals who are seemingly “protected” thanks to their relationship with or proximity to the center of power.

While the foregoing Monday morning quarterbacking is made from the safety and comfort of a café using a laptop, a fact some have used to ridicule my opinions, it dovetails with my larger point on tribalism, nepotism, corruption and their impact on Kenya’s on-going tribulations. With that said, let me offer Kenyatta Son’s own assessment back in 2006. Said the man now leading the country:

“…Anglo-leasing related projects represented three of the most prominent characteristics of corruption in our country. They represent impunity, negligence and recklessness in the management of public resources. They also represent the regrettable feature of lack of responsibility and unaccountable conscience on the part of those charged with the management of national resources that are put under them.”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Kensanity indeed!

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May 29, 2014 · 5:18 AM