May 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

For the vast majority of African communities, the currency of exchange is trust. People come first! A key word here is ubuntu. The word is very difficult to render into a Western language. Desmond Tutu explained it this way: “When you want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu, u nobuntu”; he or she has ubuntu. This means that they are generous, hospitable, friendly, caring and compassionate. They share what they have.

It also means that my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in theirs. We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “a person is a person through other people. […] I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.” Ubuntu is best understood through the sayings that “I am because we are”; and “I participate, therefore I am.” Our humanity is intrinsically (and inextricably) linked to the humanity of others. We are ultimately humanized through our interaction and relationship to other people.

Mugendi M’Rithaa

Dr. M’Rithaa is a professor at one of Africa’s most interesting universities, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), and is a co-founder with Byron Qually of Design With Africa.

Who do we look up to?

May 4, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

About 10 years ago, I found myself sharing a table with a reserved Egyptian lady in her late 40′s named Amal and her husband during a company potluck. Amal and I had been working at the same facility for over a year, yet we hardly ever exchanged words.On this day however, I had managed to start up a conversation with the pair on African affairs and in particular, about leadership. Though guarded at first, her husband who had been a Civil engineer in Egypt and now worked some odd jobs to make ends meet in minneapolis,  began to share a few of his experiences.

President Anwar Al Sadat

Having graduated from college during the days of Sadat’s presidency with much hope for his country, he explained that it didn’t take too long for him to land a civil engineering job with a government agency.
What he had not anticipated, was that he was being ushered into a fraternity of a corrupt good old boy system ran by the military elite. A world where contracts were given not by merit, but only via the intervention of military officials who received kick backs. Failure to do so, spelled the death knell of any local company or multi-national.

Who is in-charge

He quickly came to learn the that the military was in charge and that it was often very incompetent and corrupt.

In the eyes of the common Egyptian however, an Army Officer was more valuable as a friend than an Engineer or even a Doctor. The people respected and revered the officers and the profession had become among the most sought after.

Amil was quick to add that they were not just respected, but beloved. She found it disturbing that they were ‘loved’ simply because they were the power brokers of the society.
She remembered as a youth, that she too had been a great fan of the officers – despite the known fact of their corruption and heavy handedness toward the commoner. In Egypt’s class structure, they were at the very top and took great advantage of this structure.

At that time, what was frustrating to the couple, was the fact that nothing had changed and she could not understand why the people were so blind. She wondered why they were soo ‘stuck’.

Morbid fascination

Today, we see an Egyptian people who have finally snapped! We all know that story.But what still pains me today, is that in Kenya we have been in the same situation since the birth of our Republic.

What frustrates me, is seeing how much we love our politicians. They are our celebrities who dominate our conversations in our homes, airwaves and the print media. We are obsessed with them.. and not just the relevant Kenyan politician, but also the second rate politicians and so called activists.

And even when we can master to dislike or even hate them, we are still fixated on them. A morbid fascination.

The Kenyan political class has now become a safe haven for the corrupt. Our government has shifted from an Autocracy, to a unholy union of tribal  Kleptocracy that is intent on protecting each other. Yet we look up to them. We crown them as tribal chiefs and donate to their campaigns. We fight over them and kill at their command, all while they are stealing from us and sell drugs to our youth.

This is nothing new to us. There is not a single Kenyan who believes that the Ocampo six are innocent.

It is not a secret in Nairobi that the likes of Harun Mwau, Mike Sonko, William Kabogo and others are known drug barons. And then there are the whispers that the President’s concubine, who styles herself as a PNU Activist is also a drug baron.

That is not far fetched, seeing as her daughter was betrothed to one of the Artur brothers, who were dubbed Ukrainian Mercenaries and were no doubt hired thugs.

They are crooks

My favorite photo journalist and friend, Boniface Mwangi once tweeted, ‘Its the truth “Thief number one is President Kibaki & his cabinet of drug dealers,murderer’s” we know the crooks!’ and I tend to agree. So, are these the folks you look up to?

Big Stories of 2011 in Africa

January 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Happy New Year 2011

There is much for Africa to look forward to this year. Of significance to me are the following 6 issues that are soon to headline and dominate the news.

1. Southern Sudan referendum. In a few short days, Juba will be the capital of a brand new African State.

2. Ivory Coast will witness the swearing in of their new President Alassane Ouattara, as Hon. Gbagbo bows to AU, ECOWAS, EU and US pressure to step aside. Really?

3. Hosni Mubarak may finally step down as Egypt’s President after 30 years in Power.

4. Currently on his 25th year in power, President Yoweri Museveni’s 4th Term should be in the offing. Perhaps inspired by the likes of Mubarak, he will be seeking to have served Ugandans for 30 years.

5. The Kenyan economy soars High in the backdrop of newly implemented Constitution and anti-corruption fight.

6. Ailing Madeeba’s. Our Hero and former S.African President Nelson Mandela’s health sure to be a headlining issue.

Of the ICC and Our Sovereignty

December 14, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

President Mwai Kibaki, Kalonzo Musyoka & Raila Odinga at the announcement of the new cabinet on April 14 2008

There is much glee in Kenya over the anticipated revelation of the five P.E.V chief suspects by ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. At exactly 2pm Nairobi time, Kenyans will be glued to their TV and Radios, eager to be among the first to learn who the ICC believes to have been the Architects of the Violence that followed the 2007 Presidential Elections.

Happy as we may be that the Day of the Hague draws nigh for these warlords, I must register a sense of melancholy at the demise of our sovereignty.
Every time our good friends Ocampo and Kofi Annan step foot into Kenya for a ‘follow up’ of one accord or the other and to demand more action from the government, I cringe; well aware that the sovereignty of our people, as guaranteed by our Constitution is being violated.

I can not help but wonder what our fore fathers would think of the state of things today. What would Jomo Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga think of this? What would the brave men and women who fought and lost their lives for the sake of self rule and freedom think of our current crop of leaders, who due to greed for power and short sightedness have cost us our Republic’s pride?

I mourn for my country’s pride as it goes up in smoke, under the embers of the high profile foreign visitors who troop to it, and hotter still the embers stoked by the very leaders that we have elected.

Still I can not help but to lay the blame squarely on myself and on You, for it is we that have let this happen. After all, our politicians are just but a reflection of ourselves.

I can therefor only hope that come 2PM, as Ocampo reads to us a list of six of our citizens that will be facing the international corridors of justice, we shall realize that we have robbed ourselves of an opportunity to heal our nation, and that we have failed to take it upon ourselves to bring Justice and Peace in our own realm and once again aired our dirty laundry to our neighbours, as it were. That we have failed to value our sovereignty enough, to warrant protecting it. Perhaps we are still drunk from London’s Gin of colonization, perhaps after 47 years we still do not understand what self rule means.

So read on Mr. Ocampo, and do your Job as you see fit. We shall take to humility and swallow whatever bitter pill you prescribe.

Kenya’s neo-Politicus

December 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

In Kenya, the era of political chiefs that are elected due to their enigmatic statue or boisterous presence in their tribal enclaves is soon coming to an end. This is thanks to a more informed electorate that is starting to ask hard questions.. such as, “does my MP attend parliamentary sessions regularly?”,  ”Did my MP fulfill his election promises?” OR ” What development has my MP brought to this area?”  Questions that were seldom asked in our political history.

Furthermore, in a post-referendum Kenya, it is not difficult to imagine an electorate that will be philosophically sophisticated as well. One can envision a voter who would have questions like, What is my M.P.’s position on abortion? Or, what is his / her stand on Kadhi Courts, Gay Rights, separation of Church and State, polygamy, etc… So, I have no doubt in my mind that a segment of the electorate is evolving, and i cant help but to wonder whether the politician is behind or ahead of that curve? Are there leaders out there who are spoiling for an ideological divide?

Looking at the likes of Kalembe Ndile, Jakoyo Midiwo and Ferdinand Waititu, one would like to argue NOT. In-fact, one would argue that they are still students of pre-modern politics, that they are too entrenched in the Big Man politics of yester-decade to even know that the basic nature of a Politician is to at the very least seem concerned with the wishes of the people. They appear to be perfecting the tactics of their predecessors and doing a pretty good job of imitating. They seek to impress their constituents by driving the most luxurious cars on those dusty roads and take great pride in their chiefly statures, while their people languish. But to be honest, we can not expect much else from these honorable members, for we have seen them in action in the lower chambers of City and Municipal councils and are familiar with their political suaveness.

However, a closer look at William Ruto, Peter Kenneth, Kalonzo Musyoka and the like paints a very different picture. All very different in their approach to politics, but command the respect of their followers and peers alike. They have gone to great lengths in forging their respective images; Bold & Effective Ruto, Sober & Eloquent Kenneth and Reasonable & Saintly Musyoka. Further more, they are calculated strategists with a seeming uncanny ability to see into the political future.

Now, I am not saying go out and support these individuals, neither am I saying that I would support either one of them. I am merely venturing to state, that I believe it is this crop of politician that will shape our country. Whatever their brand of politics is, they do not forget to put in a honest days work for their constituents and the Nation at large.

Row over Bashir Visit to Kenya

August 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir (R) arrives escorted by Kenya's Tourism minister Najib Balala for the promulgation of Kenya's New Constitution at the Uhuru Park grounds on August 27, 2010 in Nairobi.

As Kenyans came together to celebrate the promulgation of a new Constitution that would mark the birth of our 2nd Republic, few would have guessed that among the invited guests would be a man capable of stealing the spotlight from the Nation.

But one such guest, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is a wanted man Internationally for War crimes and the alleged role of genocide in Dafur, did just that..

Having signed both the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declaration and International Criminal Court (ICC) Rome Statutes, the member states are mandated to arrest Mr. Bashir, should he happen to visit any these Countries. Kenya is certainly one of those countries, having ratified the ICJ treaty in 1965 and Ratified the Rome Statute in 2005. As one of the veteran members of the Court, Kenya is expected to be among it’s staunchest supporters.

It is with this in mind that many have found the Governments decision to have invited Bashir, un-called for. So much so, that Pres Obama saw it fitting to condemn the act in the same breath as his Congratulatory message in Kenya’s most significant day since Independence. Voices of disapproval did not only come from Diplomats around the world, as more were to be found at home. Among them was Medical Services Minister Prof. Anyang Nyong’o, who sought to distance ODM from this decision and later the PM himself, who cried foul – stating that he was not informed of the invite.

However well placed the tongue lashing over Bashir’s visit is, there are a few voices that simply ought to have been mull over the matter. I am of the opinion that POTUS (Pres Of The U.S.) shoud have held his tongue on the matter. Given the at the US has shied away from ratifying the Rome statute, it has no business advising any Nation on how to be an effective member of the same. The other vexing voice, was that of the good Minister for Medical Services, who never seems to appreciate that he is part of the Government of Kenya. He should have spared us the press conferences and save some of these debates for closed cabinet meetings.

But that is water under the bridge.

However, one can not help to wonder why Pres. Kibaki would find it fitting to invite Mr. Bashir. What does his government stand to gain by openly defying the ICC? Additionally, why would ODM not tow the Govt line on this issue? After all, last time we all checked it was ODM that had more individuals under ICC’s radar who would be sent to the Hague in the event that ICC Prosecutor Mr. Ocampo, made his rounds in Kenya.

My bet is that it was meant to send a very strong Signal to the Hague, not to dig too deep into the events of the P.E.V, especially if those efforts would lead to implicating the State House occupant. What the Government was saying, is that they could very well opt not to cooperate and instead seek the now ‘expert’ Counsel of Pres. Bashir on how to ‘make it’ as an International fugitive.

New King Maker in Town

July 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Agriculture Minister William Ruto (centre) after he was installed as a Sabaot elder during the launch of the Mt Elgon

If you have a keen interest in Kenyan Politics, you are likely to know that none of our past Presidents have really made themselves. We can trace one individual to whom they owe their good fortune to – A King Maker. A trip down memory lane should quickly underscore this assertion.

After the 1961 General Elections, Jaramogi O. Odinga, whose party – KANU, managed to clinch a convincing majority in Parliament, negotiated for the release of Jomo Kenyatta, and in 1963 catapulted him into power as Kenya’s first President. Barely 5 years into the Kenyatta presidency, succession politics were at play and this time it was A.G. Charles Njonjo who suggested to Kenyatta, that Daniel Moi would be an acceptable Vice-President. Njonjo would later also help Moi consolidate power upon succeeding Kenyatta, following his Death on August 22, 1978.

Of the King makers, however, none had managed to read the people’s mood and capture their attention as Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga did, with the ‘Kibaki Tosha’ declaration in 2002. Raila led a KANU break-away faction (LDP) to merge with Kibaki’s NAK, forming the unstoppable NARC that went on to form the government, in what was hailed as the second liberation. (sigh*)

Now, in the run up to the 2012 elections, the incumbent President Kibaki is set to be vacating the seat after his two constitutional terms and the battle is starting to heat up. The August 4th Referendum has thrown a spanner into the gears of the political realm and has left many disoriented and unable to discern who would emerge as a clear favorite to clinch the presidency.

There are many who have declared their interest. Among the front runners are PM Raila Odinga, and VP Kalonzo Musyoka. Other promising candidates are Gichugu MP Hon. Martha Karua, Minister for Internal Security Hon. George Saitoti, Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa and Higher Learning Minister Hon. William Ruto. Though unlikely to be the next President, it is the later that I think will end up as the most influential person in the coming election cycle.

Hon. Ruto; hate him or love him, is fast emerging as a candidate for the hall-of-fame of Kenyan politics. He has stayed relevant, despite having quite a rap sheet that includes; KANU era skeletons, a never ending court case – in which he stands accused of defrauding the NSSF of millions, the maize scandal and ultimately is widely perceived to be one of the masterminds behind the Post Election Violence, that saw almost 1600 Kenyans lose their lives and about 300,000 displaced internally. It is a wonder to many that he still flies high, a Ministerial flag and even more baffling to me that he still breathes. This defies all logic; the man simply has too many political lives.

In 2007, leading up to the Elections, I recall erroneously referring to him as the most overrated politician in Kenya, it made no sense to me that he would be expected to deliver the Rift Valley vote to ODM. I humbly eat that pie.

Ruto is now the defacto leader of the Kalenjin Community, and the main face of the ‘NO’ campaign against the draft Constitution, that is now aligned with various church leaders. Yup, Church Leaders! Quite the unholy Union if you ask me.

Strange? I guess not, it is politics and as Mzee Moi once summed it up, “there are no permanent friends or Enemies in politics.” *And as if to underscore this, Moi has been hitting the campaign trail with the likes of former Mungiki sect leader Maina Njenga and even with Koigi Wa Wamwere, a man he had detained 4 times and forced into self exile twice. You can’t make this stuff up; the Kenyan Political realm is truly a jungle.

But I digress.

Ruto, who cut his teeth in the YK 92 days, is an apt student of Mr. Moi and is now back in his good graces after defying and dislodging him to become the Kalenjin kingpin. He has managed to stay relevant by putting on a brave face, speaking soberly in public and projecting an aura of invincibility. He seems to have understood, and rightly so, that Africans respect the powerful and the more power he appears to posses, the more respect/fear he inspires. Even in the face of the oncoming Tsunami that is the ICC prosecutor Ocampo, that promises to wash Kenya’s politics as ‘white’ as snow; Ruto hatishiki (is unmoved).

The man is a political professor in the making and in this political dispensation, I think he has seen very far and holds a few cards up his sleeve. With the impending ‘NO Camp’ Loss at the referendum, one may be forgiven for thinking that this will mean that his clout will come to a resounding halt. But that would be far from the truth, should the ‘NO Camp’ manage a modest 30% vote in the August 4th vote in a crushing loss, the man would still have plenty to smile about.

For one, he has already established himself as the leader of the Moi Orphans; soon the man will find himself as the leader of an even larger group, the Red ‘No Camp’ Orphans. And he is likely to stay relevant within this group by pressing for Constitutional reforms and promising to deliver on the much wanted changes. With the churches and other ‘NO Camp’ groups needing representation in Parliament, they may very well build around Ruto, a right-wing Conservative base, resembling Western style politics. Under this banner they will continue to agitate for changes in the Constitution, first to do away with the Kadhi Courts and Abortion clauses and in future other causes that they may wish to influence. Ruto could very well find himself leading the Country into the next Era of the ‘Politics of Ideology.’

As for Ocampo and the toothless ICC, they will come and go. My hunch is that they will discover that they never had adequate jurisdiction to try these Citizens of Kenya, or that the evidence was inconclusive and life will go on.

In as far as 2012 politics is concerned; Ruto will be the man to woo if you want to be President. Not only can he deliver a whole tribe to vote for you, but he would bring with him the well funded Moi Orphans who can no doubt contribute to your Campaign’s War chest, and though it remains to be seen – I would like to think that he could deliver a size-able chunk of the NO Vote if he plays his cards right as earlier underscored.

Among the three leading candidates for the 2012 Elections will no doubt be Raila and Kalonzo, with the third horse yet to emerge. Whereas Uhuru and  Martha Karua appear to have lost their fervor, it is likely that Karua will make good her threat to run for the presidency and manage a paltry 4th finish at best, while Kenyatta happily settles for a running mate position within the PNU circles, with the hopes of running for the top job in 2017.

But with over 70% of the Population being under 30 years old, Kenya is no Country for Old men. A Young sprightly candidate could easily emerge to lead this Nation. And in such an event, the isolated Ruto could very well find himself in a position of making the new King.

It is with this in mind, that I make the prediction that one William Samoei Arap Ruto, will emerge as the new King Maker.

East Africa, the Great?

July 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Flags of East African States

Flags of East African States

East Africa, The Great?

Have you ever wondered what the future holds for the East African Corporation? Current trends would have us dream that a Super State is in the offing; the Great Federation of East Africa (FEA), or is it the East African Federation (EAF)? Hmm… Whatever the name, if realized, it would mark the beginning of a new Era in the region and in the long run, perhaps even a ‘super’ state.

With its current membership, the would be Federation would unite 5 countries; Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania & Uganda and with that Union, create a Country sprawling 1,817 Sq KM and bring together 132 million East Africans with a purchasing power of $73 B. This would make the EAF the 4th Largest Country in Africa and the 2nd most populated.

We also have Congo, DRC which has an observer status in the Community. If admitted, it would add a 2,344 Sq KM land mass, inject 68 million residents and a piddling $ 11.6 B purchasing power. Thus, Making the EAF the largest, most populated Nation in Africa and 4th in size at the worlds stage.

Taking a sober look, one would  see that these are not numbers that would warrant excessive excitement. They do not fair well in comparison with some of Sub-Saharan Africa’s giants like S. Africa with 49 million people that realizes a GDP of $276 B or Nigeria’s 150 million who have managed a $207 B purchasing power. To be impressive, EAC needs to ‘show me the Money!!!’

The union would nonetheless, thrust East Africa into a grand stage as a regional power for a myriad of reasons.

Chief among those reasons would be the market that it would open up to investors, both local and international. They would have access to 5 countries for the price of one - Yaani, a company seeking to  penetrate the market would only need to be registered in one of the five countries, NICE!

For local companies, the deal would make expansion even more attractive – whereby, a company based in Kampala would find it almost as convenient to open a branch in Mombasa, Kenya as it would opening it in Jinja, Uganda. It is therefore easy to see that this would spur great competition in the region, with the the benefactors being the consumers and the Tax collectors – and with that, economic growth and hopefully shrink the number of our dollar-a-day residents.

There would also be an increase in trade, and in particular regional trade which in recent months has already started reaping the benefits of the EAC’s move to remove all border tariffs in the Bloc. The tariffs have vanished and revenue collection is in the process of being normalized within the community. The EAC has also in it’s sights for 2012 a fully integrated common market, complete with a single currency and stock market that are expected to elevate the EA Stock exchange to be among the most traded on the continent.

Kaunda, Nyerere, Kenyatta & Obote

There are also other benefits of this corporation, such us a unified foreign policy and even cost cutting by having only one High Commission per country, instead of Five. As a Block, we could certainly wield more bargaining power at the UN and other Bodies. There would also be the advantages that come with an integrated Defense program, as the armed forces merge to form one formidable Army. Over time, we would not be vulnerable to threats by nations such as Egypt, who have in the past postured in a manner suggesting the use of force, should the EAC countries dare utilize the Nile Basin waters for development. Dialog would be the only acceptable way to deal with the Block.

This is why today’s official launch of the Common Market Protocol is much cause for celebration. I congratulate our leaders for moving us closer to this dream.

Btw~ Way to go Kenyan Parliament for pissing all over our EAC Parade, your hefty pay increase is yet another reason why we optimistically await a People’s Parliament in Arusha. I wonder if it’s possible to register a briefcase Political Party in the mean time, perhaps East African National Union, EANU Juu!

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