Tag Archives: Nepotism

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

Whose turn is it to eat?

NOTE: This piece first appeared as “Liaisons Dangereuse: Kenya’s new BFFs” on August 20, 2013, It has since been revised and modified to reflect recent developments.

In the article titled Kirubi joins Uhuru’s business entourage in China first published in the August 17, 2013 issue of Capital News, the online publication’s owner Mr. Chris Kirubi contends that “…it was time for Africa to look for new development partners who will strive to ensure that all parties get a fair share of the cake”. A result of this presidential junket was the procurement of Chinese funding for the Standard Gauge Railway Project – a kshs. 1.1trillion-plus undertaking that to paraphrase Mr. Kirubi, was supposed to ensure that all parties, presumably involved in the project, got a fair share of the ~$13.7billion project.

http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2013/08/kirubi-joins-uhurus-business-entourage-in-china/

It is “ensuring that all parties got a fair share” of the massive infrastructure project that in part prompted bomb-thrower de jour Nandi Hills MP Alfred Kiptoo Keter to allegedly “look at” President Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto and tell them to “…get rid of the thieves in their midst” even as he accused the “digital” duo of “….sidelining of Kalenjin professionals in government appointments…”. And in an apparent warning to the increasingly-wobbly Jubilee regime, Mr. Keter’s comments “received adulation from the audience, but stung the president and his deputy to respond at length and in uncharacteristically strong language.” Other opinion leaders and legislatures alike have since lent their voices to Mr. Keter with Mr. Billow Kerrow of sister publication Standard cautioning the president that the sentiments expressed by Nandi MP seems to be resonating “….well with the rank and file URP (United Republican Party) supporters in Rift Valley and elsewhere.

http://www.nation.co.ke/news/34-year-old-MP-giving-Jubilee-sleepless-nights/-/1056/2120718/-/biks8v/-/index.html

http://standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000100758&story_title=mr-president-don-t-sweep-concerns-under-the-carpet

Mr. Kirubi’s take on the nascent relationship between Kenya and China AND Mr. Keter’s recent onslaught against Jubilee are two seemingly disparate events with a common theme aptly captured by the main title of the book by Michela Wrong and Mr. John Githongo It’s our turn to eat. The back cover of the book describes it as an account of how as whistle-blower, Mr. Githongo became “…simultaneously one of the most hated and admired men in Kenya…exploring the factors that continue to blight Africa – ethnic favoritism, government corruption and the smug complacency of….donor nation.” The foregoing summary, in a nutshell, says it all.  

I would argue that Mr. Kirubi’s assessment of the trip to China and Mr. Keter’s reaction at the rally in Eldoret speak to the corruption, ethnic favoritism, nepotism and patronage that has been and continues to be the hallmark of Kenya since it attained independence in 1963. Mr. Keter may have been soliciting “matunda ya uhuru” or “fruits of independence” for “his people” in the ethnically-charged polity that is today’s Kenya. At least he was being open about it and was doing what his constituents elected him to do.

Mr. Kirubi is a businessman with a track record that was built, some would argue, courtesy of a system that restricted enjoyment of “matunda ya uhuru” to a handful of those connected to Kenya’s presidencies; the very point Mr. Keter and Nandi County Assembly Chief Whip Wilson Sang are arguing against even as they advocate it for “their” people! The distribution of Kenya’s national cake has historically been unfair and slanted in favor of specific tribes and regions – those in power or proximal to the center of power. Mr. Kirubi’s call for “partners” that “ensure that all parties get a fair share…” is thus disingenuous given some of the business deals that built his wealth. Regarding privatization of Kenya’s telecommunication sector in the late 90s and early 2000s, Charles Hornsby writes in the book Kenya: A history since Independence that “(T)he resulting dirty tricks and bribery allegation….led to a single preferred bidder, the Mount Kenya Consortium including wealthy…insider Chris Kirubi”; a “favoured son” who made his money in the 1980s and 1990s because of his association with then-president Moi. (pges. 642, 655).

http://www.ghafla.co.ke/news/music/item/9765-allegations-of-capital-fm-s-chris-kirubi-s-corruption-scandals-surface-read-the-shocking-story-here

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mfonobongnsehe/2011/11/16/meet-chris-kirubi-mr-kenya/

In a previous piece titled Liaison Dangereuse: Kenya’s new BFFs, I argue that one of the main reasons Kenya’s economy has lagged behind those of countries it was literally tied with back in the 80s despite heavy involvement of and support from western countries is the toxic cocktail of corruption, tribalism and impunity. The foregoing have all combined to create the exceedingly inefficient and wasteful culture of patronage that is at the centre of the verbal and very public circular firing squad between members of the current ruling coalition. Former president and Finance Minister Mr. Kibaki knowingly or unknowingly made the same argument in a recent speech titled Kenya @50: Of hindsight, Insight and Foresight, Reflections on the State of the Nation

The adage “to the victors go the spoils” is a common and accepted fact of electoral politics. The adage aptly describes distribution of cabinet positions by the winning Jubilee coalition after the 2012 election. It is the same here in the US where the winning party – Democrat or Republican – forms the government; staffing it with party stalwarts and loyalists, ideally from ALL subgroups within the winning coalition. In a slight digression, I will point out that most victorious US presidents make it a point to appoint one or two widely-respected individuals from the losing party to the cabinet. To this end, Democrat Barack Obama appointed former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be America’s Raychelle Omamo as Secretary of Defense. The foregoing digression notwithstanding and as was the case during the pre-Civil Rights era in the US, allocation of funds and resources in a fractured society with Kenya’s history should be done with an awareness befitting said history. It is this awareness that prompted the United States to develop quantitative methods such as Affirmative Action and the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA), a precursor to the 2000 Core-based Statistical Area (CBSA) to delineate the demographic breakdown of defined metropolitan areas and ensure that allocation of federal resources was equally distributed to ALL groups including those whose candidates lose elections and those previously shut out by the “tyranny of the majority” who always believe that it is “their turn to eat”! It is this same CBSA metric that is also used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate employment discrimination against women and minorities.

http://www.census.gov/population/metro/about/

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

While I support the expansion of Kenya’s business relationships beyond the usual western countries and corporations, it is disingenuous to offer that these new business partnerships are going to be any different than those of yesteryears: From the on-going audio-visuals of the internal machinations within Jubilee, the Chinese have simply replaced the British and Americans as the cash cow that the likes of Mr. Kirubi and other well-connected Kenyans will fatten and eat! It is this reality that Mr. Keter is calling attention to albeit in a narrow and ethnocentric way. To paraphrase Mr. Kisero in his December 22, 2013 piece titled There is more to railway contract row than Keter, the fight to inherit the patronage of yet another Kenyan presidency is intense as are the battles to supplant foreign contractors politically linked to the outgoing regime!

http://www.nation.co.ke/news/There-is-more-to-railway-contract-row-than-Keter/-/1056/2121792/-/15l20otz/-/index.html

Almost a year into their administration, the “digital” duo of Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto has offered little more than tired platitudes towards addressing the quad-evils of corruption, nepotism, favoritism and patronage; a sentiment vociferously shared by Mr. Alfred Keter.

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