Tag Archives: Uhuru Kenyatta

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

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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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

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.

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Kenya’s War on Extremism: A Slippery Slope

That was an interesting photo-op of President Uhuru Kenyatta and diplomats from the much-maligned “western imperialist powers” United Kingdom, US, Australia and Canada on April 5, 2014. The respective diplomats Dr. Christian Turner, Robert Godec, Geoff Tooth and David Angell all paid a courtesy visit to Mr. Kenyatta at State House Nairobi, a visit whose timing could not have been spot-on given the country’s apparent inability to deal with the violence perpetrated by extremisms in their midst; home-grown extremism if you will.

Visibly absent and I will add silent thus far as Kenya faces the scourge that is violence driven by radicalism is its new BFF China. I would imagine that the Chinese, who also have their own problem of (Uygar) extremism, are on board with Kenya’s fight: A public pronouncement of that support would be nice unless I missed one.

The challenge for Kenya and Mr. Kenyatta remains adherence to its constitution and all that is enshrined therein: civil/human and religious rights while protecting ALL its citizens.

Based on the government’s recent utterances and actions, I would argue that Kenya’s leaders are desperately trying to thread the needle between these oftentimes conflicting ideals. It is a task made even more daunting by a country whose past is littered with isms of many permutations and has potential fault lines along said isms which can and have easily been exploited thus making its stability tenuous at best. It also does not help that Kenya finally has a constitution-based/driven democracy that is still struggling to find its land legs.

ALL communities in Kenya form the mosaic, the fabric that is Kenya. ALL these communities also have a solemn responsibility to flush out any extremism in their midst be it Al-Shahaab sympathizers or adherents to the Mungiki or any other indigenous and tribal-based extremist groups within the country.

Beyond focusing on the “clear and present danger” posed by the visible and tragic actions of a few, Kenya and Kenyans have an equally solemn responsibility to avoid sweeping bigotry and stereotyping that puts the onus on members of any one group to prove that they are “good people” as one blogger put it. The foregoing brings to mind the silliness of “real Americans” vs. “un-real or fake Americans” birthed and peddled by GOP extremists here in the US. Such a mindset is akin to asking all Luos to prove that they are not “stone-throwers” or asking all Kikuyus to prove that they are not sympathizers of the Mungiki. The notion that there is something wrong with Mr. Aden Duale’s protestations against the actions of the government he serves for making sweeping indictments against a community/region he represents puts Dr. Martin L. King’s caution about the silence of the majority giving tacit approval to the hatred of a minority on its head.

Few would doubt that the country of my birth Kenya and most of her citizens have been steadfastly unequivocal against intolerance and hatred. However, Kenyans have also been party to evil and hatred predicated on perceived differences as recent as the post-election violence of 2007/8.

I have always believed that the anonymity of the internet provides a window through which one can get an unvarnished view into the soul of any society albeit a narrow one: To wit, the notion that there are some who have zero compunction about referring to entire groups as “cold blooded idiots…and…evil comrades who don’t even respect house of worship…are filled with irrational hatred and rage…” further telling another that “…your kind are not capable of human feelings…your evil parasites who hide underground like ravenous rodents” maybe the opinion of some misguided and angry individual(s) whose identity is “protected” by the internet – Edward Snowden anyone?

The problem occurs when a watered down variant of the foregoing hate-speech is echoed by the authorities.

Mr. Kenyatta and his ruling Jubilee Party are at a cross-road regarding Kenya’s fight against radicalism and extremism. Far from being the election-cycle driven ethnic violence most Kenyans expect and are macabrely immune to, the current spate of bombings and wanton violence against civilians including a one-and-a-half year old baby is well outside the election cycle. The violence has a religious dimension to it. And in a near-perfect storm, the violence is playing out in a polity whose citizenry has allowed its politicians to play up and prey on their differences (tribal/ethnic) to hold on to power and “eat”!

I do not have any answers on how Mr. Kenyatta should deal with the religious-fueled violence facing his struggling administration. I do know that playing the “religious card” as some in my adopted home tried doing shortly after 9/11 is a slippery slope that the president and Kenyans would be well-advised to steer clear of.

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