Tag Archives: USA

Liaisons Dangereuse: Kenya’s new BFFs

In the article titled “Kirubi joins Uhuru’s business entourage in China” in the August 17, 2013 issue of Capital News, the 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”.

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

This is a very interesting perspective from a man whose business empire was built courtesy of a system that restricted enjoyment of “matundu ya uhuru” to a handful of those connected to Kenya’s presidencies: the very antithesis of what the article is advocating! 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. Additionally, Mr. Kirubi’s call for “partners” that “ensure that all parties get a fair share…” reeks of contrivance given some of the business deals that built his wealth. Regarding privatization of Kenya’s telecommunication sector in, Charles Hornsby writes in his 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). So much for giving all parties a fair share!

The tycoon then goes on to say that the west “focus(es) more on problem solving rather than helping ‘us’ develop” which begs the question: Whose responsibility is it to develop “us”? Added to this question is the raison d’etre of the current presidential junket to China and Russia. Why is Mr. Kenyatta, Mr. Kirubi and the other “tycoons” visiting these two emerging markets if not to seek their help in “helping us (Kenya) develop”?

It is disturbingly disingenuous for Mr. Kirubi to claim that western companies “pitched camp in Kenya…but there was still little to show for it” when the very core of his business empire is an off-shoot of western companies. DJ CK, as the budding media mogul is also known, acquired Haco Industries from a western country – Holland – in 1998 and built it into the powerhouse that it is by expanding its product line, hitherto predominated by American and British brands, to include indigenous consumer brands such as TCB and Palmers. The trajectory of Mr. Kirubi’s crown jewel belies the claim that there is “little to show for...” the long history of western involvement in Kenya’s economy. It is also a claim that seeks to minimize the main reasons why Kenya’s economy has lagged despite the history of western involvement: Corruption, tribalism and impunity.

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

While I support the expansion of Kenya’s business relationships beyond the usual suspects i.e. western conglomerates, I think Mr. Kirubi is doing the country a disservice by pretending that the new relationships (with the Chinese and the Russians) are going to be different from the business relationships of yesteryears; deals between Kenya’s political elite and politically-connected and the west, especially Gt. Britain. The perspective that these new eastward looking unions are altruistic and will lead to fairer distribution of wealth and opportunities throughout Kenya is yet to be seen. These are liaisons dangereuse being pushed primarily by those trying to blunt the tough stance adopted by the west, USA and Gt. Britain in particular, with respect to the charges facing the president Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto at The Hague.

Mr. Kirubi’s conclusion that the new relationship with China is beneficial, presumably to Kenya, “(A)s long as it is equitable and Africa itself gains to the maximum…” is a perspective he should have applied in his stewardship of Uchumi, the supermarket chain he allegedly ran to the ground. It is a perspective belied by the analysis of Mr. Kirubi’s time as chairman of the board at the supermarket chain offered by Prof. Atieno Ndede Amadi in her book CHALLENGES OF THE DIGITAL AGE: An MIS Analysis Framework: The Case Study of a Retail Store Chain. Ms. Ndede Amadi writes that “Kirubi is pointed as the key to all the mess that led to the collapse of Uchumi.” (Pge. 34).

Finally and Mr. Kirubi’s personal ruminations notwithstanding, the call for an “equitable” relationship with China, not to mention one that allows “Africa itself to gain to the maximum” is a perspective that I hope will be reflected in the actual actions and policies of Mr. Kirubi and the country’s leadership as it fumbles and bumbles its way towards a second century of independence. 

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Filed under BRICs, China, Corruption, Democracy, Disparity - Income Distribution, Governance, Governance - Kenya, India, International Relations/Global Issues, Kenya, Politics, Russia, The Hague

Twin Rorschach Tests: On Trayvon Martin et al.

I have just listened to son of K’Ogelo and American President Barack Obama address the dichotomous reaction of Americans to the verdict by the jury in Sanford Florida on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17year old African-American boy. Trayvon was shot by George Zimmerman a bi-racial volunteer neighborhood watchman. Mr. Zimmerman, against orders from the police dispatcher who was handling his “report of suspicious activities”, followed Mr. Martin, got out of his car and in the ensuing tussle, shot him dead.

The verdict by the jury of six women; five white and one Hispanic – acquitted Zimmerman of all charges, basically ruling the death of the unarmed 17year old “justifiable.” America’s reaction to the jury verdict, much like Kenya’s reaction to the ruling by the Supreme Court on the results of the 2013 presidential elections and increasingly to the charges of crimes against humanity facing President Kenyatta and William Ruto has been a Rorschach Test on the two countries’ view on social issues such as race, racism, tribe, tribalism and impunity.

The Sanford jury verdict pitted Americans who supported the verdict against those who did not. On one side were Americans who believed that Trayvon Martin deserved what he got i.e. death at the hands of an overzealous neighborhood volunteer watchman who was just “standing his ground” against those “punks who always got away.” On the other side were Americans who believed that once again, the American justice system had let down an innocent black man (not to mention his friends and family) whose only fault was “being black in a neighborhood pre-dominated by non-blacks” and dared to challenge Mr. Zimmerman, who was just protecting those represented by their peers in the jury from his ilk; a young black man!

The April 2013 ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court to disallow forensic auditing of the much-maligned and sub-standard information technology (IT) infrastructure used by the equally maligned and incompetent IEBC and award the presidency and deputy presidency to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto pitted Kenyans who supported the verdict against those who did not support the court’s ruling: on one side were Kenyans who believed that the ruling by their Supreme Court was valid, rejection of the forensic audit of the failed IT infrastructure notwithstanding. On the other side were Kenyans who believed that once again, Kenya’s justice system had been manipulated by the rich, powerful and well-connected to maintain they hold on power.

And just as Kenyans who protested the Supreme Court’s decision awarding the 2013 presidency to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were told to “get over it and move on”, so were Americans who rallied in protest against the verdict acquitting George Zimmerman of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin.

To paraphrase a line from the July 20th New York Times editorial piece on President Obama’s surprise appearance at the White House press briefing http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/20/opinion/president-obamas-anguish.html, just as the verdict crystallized the dissonance regarding race and racism in America, so has the dynamics of presidential politics in Kenya done on matters of tribe and tribalism. Americans idealize their society and mythologize the role the founding fathers played in the creation of said society just like Kenyans idealize Kenya and the role its founding father played in its creation.

Once again, paraphrasing the editorial piece from the NY Times: Viewed within the narrow confines of matters regarding racial justice and harmony, there is no doubt that America has done a yeoman’s job given its sordid history. The tangible/physical remnants of racism and racial discrimination are few and far between, definitely a rarity and an exception in the daily lives of Americans. Similarly, long gone is the overt and blatant tribal chauvinism originated by one Jomo Kenyatta after Kenya’s independence in the early 60s; chauvinism that included oath-taking by those around him after the 1969 assassination of Tom Mboya to ensure that “the (Kenyan) presidency does not cross the Chania River”. http://kumekucha.blogspot.com/2007/08/kenyan-presidency-was-not-supposed-to.html

http://diasporamessenger.com/this-woman-mary-wambui-kibaki/

Given the Rorschach-esque reactions to the twin evils of racism and tribalism in America and Kenya respectively, Republican Andy Harris may as well have been addressing the groups that reacted negatively to the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the hastily convened swearing-in (and prelude to the horrors of post-election violence) of President Kibaki in 2007, not to mention the ruling of Kenya’s Supreme Court to reject forensic auditing of the information technology (IT) system used by the electoral board commission with his flippant “get over it” remark!

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Democracy, George Zimmerman, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Life, Race, Racial Discrimination, Racism, The Hague, Tribalism