Tag Archives: Kenya

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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To Serve and To Protect ALL Kenyans

Some of the comments in response to the article titled “Police siege on Kisumu and Kibera fuelling ethnic hate” written by Otieno Otieno in the April 20 issue of the Daily Nation reflect an ethnic chauvinism that is reminiscent of the racial animus and stereotyping common amongst conservative white Americans towards African-Americans and Latinos here in the US. Comments by bloggers such as Magu Wa Maitha, Mtadao, Frankyzilla, Njanemuiruri, Pikipiki, Zeki Timona and Oldframe that characterize fellow Kenyans as “stone-throwers” or as “having “genes…that invite rioting” or display “the phenomenon of overreacting emotional characteristic..” are similar to the stereotypes that describe others as “thieves” or “dumb”. It is the same bigotry that contends that Blacks are “lazy” and “like water melons and fried chicken”: The same stereotyping that characterizes whites as “serial killers” who like any one of the one hundred and fifty “stuff” listed in Christian Lander’s book Stuff White People Like! To put it bluntly, stereotyping is ugly and idiotic. The behavior should have no place in any discourse – public or private – and those promoting such views should be called out by those of us who want a society where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin nor the tribe from which they hail.

The bloggers making the argument that the heavy-handed approach to law enforcement by the police, General Service Unit (GSU) and other presidential security personnel is to be expected during “preparation for a presidential visit” or in response to the unlawful behavior of a small section of the population are part of the “law and order” crowd in the mold of William Bratton, Bernard Kerik, Benjamin Hinga, John Michuki, Darryl Gates, Patrick Shaw etc. The strong-arm approach to law enforcement by these law enforcement professionals may have garnered them short-term positive results in New York, Nairobi, or Los Angeles. The same tactics however alienated the very communities they were supposed to be ridding of the crime and illicit activities; the very communities whose inhabitants ended up bearing the brunt of said tactics. I abhor violence and do not condone the culture of “No Snitching” i.e. the unspoken rule amongst some communities to avoid giving law enforcement any information that may help them during investigation of a crime. On the other hand, I can see how police brutality, not to mention fear of retaliation by the perpetrators would foster such counter-productive behavior. It is my opinion that the onus is on those with the power, in this case the police, to break the cycle of brutality and abuse of power so that those they are sworn to serve and protect see them not as enemies, but as friends. The evidence in favor of community policing – systematic use of partnerships and policing techniques that proactively involve the community in addressing conditions that create crime/public safety issues – is overwhelmingly favorable.

I have been within a couple of feet of the “rope line” as former President Clinton “pressed the flesh” in Washington DC i.e. shook hands with the public just before boarding Marine One then Airforce One on his way to Morocco for the July 1999 funeral of King Hassan. In fact, my partner at the time, being from DC, was blasé about the presence of POTUS and inadvertently crossed the security line thereby “contaminating” the previously “sterile” security zone. The ever-present and alert Secret Service personnel hardly flinched or panicked when my friend entered the “sterile zone.” The agent closest to us lifted his left wrist to his mouth and said something into a microphone hidden under his sleeve. He continued to monitor the crowd paying extra attention on me, my partner and her five-year old nephew. I told my friend that she had crossed the security line just as the agent firmly but politely told her to “get back behind the rope ma’am” while simultaneously instructing all within earshot alternately to “keep both hands in front of you and visible please” and “let me see both your hands please.” The agent was calm, professional and efficient. He was also courteous. Needless to say, we all complied, quickly putting our hands in full view of the agent as instructed. I was also impressed with the cool and efficient manner in which the agent handled the breach. Granted not all security breaches go down as I observed on that day but the point is the manner in which this particular episode was handled by the Secret Service (law enforcement personnel) and the indelible and positive impression their professionalism left on me.

The history of acrimony between African-Americans and Latinos on one side and the predominantly white police/law enforcement establishment here in the US on the other side did not happen in a vacuum. The anti-police/anti-authority mind-set that Black American and Latino male have towards the “men in blue’ was caused by the well-documented history of racist behavior and racism within those institutions. Google “Rodney King,” Darryl Gates” and “LAPD” and see what pops up. These same institutions have also made great strides in improving relationships with the communities they serve, not by sweeping their sordid past under the rug, but by opening themselves up to criticism, objective and otherwise from those who were victimized by their brutality and resultant cover-ups. I would also argue that the animus that some communities in Kenya have towards law enforcement and the institutions therein did not happen in a vacuum. Kenya Police, GSU, CID/Special Branch, Nyayo House are law enforcement institutions in Kenya that have a long, sordid and terrifying history of botched and disproportionate responses to peaceful or boisterous and tense gatherings, shoddy and non-investigations of corruption, torture and assassinations not to mention the rampant acceptance of “kitu kidogo” or bribes that one would have to be wilfully naïve and ignorant to disregard said history in any analysis of law enforcement in Kenya.

And before I get mail accusing me of peddling racist, tribal or anti-police views, let me state categorically that the point of this piece is not whether or not Kenya’s law enforcement can do its work by investigating and arresting law-breakers or “stone-throwers” as Luos are derisively called by some commenters. The main point of this piece is to highlight the manner in which the police/authorities have discharged said responsibilities over the years and the consistency with which enforcement has been exacted from one group to the next. Evidence, while sketchy and not as well-documented as it is stateside points to a Kenyan law enforcement establishment that over the years, has been over-bearing, punitive, selective in enforcing the law, corrupt, and a “matundu-ya-uhuru” to be doled out to cronies and tribesmen/women of those in power. The resulting politicization of these institutions is evidenced in the afore-mentioned shoddy investigations of corruption, torture and assassinations not to mention the rampant acceptance of “kitu kidogo” or bribes and a recent addition – extra-judicial killings.

Until ALL Kenyans feel that law enforcement and those who oversee those institutions are impartial arbiters of law and order determined to serve and protect them without discrimination, the anti-police sentiment that is all too common among some communities in Kenya will continue unabated.

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