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.

Leave a comment

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

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.”

Leave a comment

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?

Leave a comment

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under 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.

Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

May 29, 2014 · 5:18 AM

Insecurity in Kenya: The “New Normal”.

Unfortunately, the twin bomb blasts in Gikomba, coming less than a month after the attacks in Thika is the “new normal” in Kenya.

Kenya “stirred a hornets’ nest” when its forces invaded Somalia in October 2011. While folks can debate the wisdom of the invasion, I can say that it, the invasion, has combined with the endemic corruption, hubris and jingoism of the ruling Jubilee party and its supporters and the utter incompetence of the Kenyatta government to exacerbated Kenya’s insecurity and instability.

With bomb blasts occurring throughout the country with alarming frequency, a look into the country’s internal security operations recently revealed that the government allocated twenty-eight million shillings to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) which is tasked with fighting Kenya’s “war on terror”. The Sh.28Million is in contrast to the Sh.150Million allocated to funding the retirement of some of the country’s wealthiest persons – former presidents Moi and Kibaki. The amount allocated to the ATPU is 43% less than the KSh.40Million allocated for the First Lady’s “hospitality supplies and services”. And in a near-corollary to Kenya’s insecurity nightmare, Mr. Kenyatta just authorized payment of Sh.1.4Billion to yet-to-be named persons for yet-to-be-delivered national security goods and services!

In the midst of the last attacks about three weeks ago, Mr. Kenyatta made an “official trip” to Nigeria where he inked business deals with a Nigerian government also fighting its own battle with the extremist outfit Boko Haram. The symbolism of the Kenyan president hob-knobbing with his Nigerian counterpart even as their two countries face relentless attacks should have sent their respective PR departments running for cover out of embarrassment.

Equally curious were the pronouncements by Mr. Karanja Kibicho less than twenty-four hours before the Gikomba attacks. Speaking in response to the travel advisories issued by the US and UK, the Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary asserted that “issuance of…travel advisories only play to the whims of bad elements in the society whose aim is to spread fear and panic among otherwise peaceful people.” Mr. Kibicho went on to say that “visitors are assured to (sic) utmost security and safety when in Kenya.”

Finally, I wrote in a previous piece that corruption will continue to be a major contributing factor in the on-going spate of violence in Kenya. As an example, I cited issuance of national IDs and passports to non-Kenyans by corrupt bureaucrats. Like others have also written, I pointed out the tendency of Kenya’s police of entering vehicles that have been stopped ostensibly for traffic infractions. The officers do this to hide the exchange of “kitu kidogo” away from the public; an act that was partly responsible for the blast in Pangani that took four lives – two policemen and the two persons in the car that had been stopped.

The fight against extremism requires a big stick AND a carrot; lots of carrots!

Having executed the former with limited success, the Kenyan government needs to bring out the carrots. Included in the carrot category would be the symbolic actions of Mr. Kenyatta’s and members of his government.

To wit: leaving the country shortly after an attack may project an image of “business-as-usual”. It can also create the impression that he, the president, does not care about the afflicted or the insecurity wreaking havoc in the country he swore to serve and to protect. If I were advising the president, I would tell him to act “engaged” and “concerned” especially after any tragedy. As much as I think former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has over-milked his stewardship of New York after 9/11, Mr. Kenyatta should borrow a page from the former mayor’s performance after the attacks on the Twin Towers. Mr. Giuliani basically wrote the book on the conduct of elected officials after tragedies. A visit to the sight of the attack AND with the injured shortly after the attacks would convey both engagement and empathy – a “today we are all Kenyan” image.

Official pronouncements should be coherent, coordinated and rooted in reality. Talking tough and thumping one’s chest while getting your head literally handed to you is embarrassing. Announcing that “all is under control” only to have an attack happen within 24 hours of said assurance would be grounds for immediate termination of the “announcee” in most countries.

Incoherent and disjointed public pronouncements by Jubilee appointees Kibicho, Ole Lenku, Kimaiyo and the president himself continue to diminish his government’s already non-existent credibility.

Additionally, there is nothing wrong with asking for help from those who have experienced what one is going through. Mr. Kenyatta should ask Mr. Goodluck Jonathan. Had his Nigerian government swallowed its pride and asked the international community for help immediately after the 200+ schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, who knows what the outcome to the tragedy would have been? As it currently stands 30+ days after the attack, any evidence and traces of the girls’ whereabouts have pretty much dissipated.

Budgetary breakdowns illustrate a country’s priorities and have consequences. Allocating almost 500% more money to fund the retirements of the ridiculously wealthy ex-presidents Moi and Kibaki than to the outfit at “the tip of the spear” in the country’s fight against extremism sends the wrong message to all including the terrorists. The fight against extremism and the perpetrators of death and destruction should be funded with a budget commensurate with the problem. I would be curious to see how much money the travel advisories issued by America and Gt. Britain among others cost Kenya’s tourism industry.

Mr. Kenyatta has said that those carrying out the attacks want to divide Kenyans along religious lines. In the wake of the attacks in Thika, allegedly perpetrated by Luo and Kamba attackers, some have also argued that said attackers want to divide Kenya along tribal lines. I won’t deign to understand what motivates some to cause wanton death and destruction on unsuspecting fellow humans. What I do know is that the aim of terrorism is to spread fear among the public.

Mr. Kenyatta and his government need to reassure the increasingly jittery Kenyan public that they can deal effectively with the scourge that is terrorism and extremism before it is too late.

Leave a comment

Filed under Kenya