Sunday, October 12, 2014


Until now, William Samoei Ruto has performed remarkably well as Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya.

His presence in government has injected energy, zealotry and personal charisma into a job often viewed as colourless and thankless - a job once described by an American vice president as "not worth a bucket of spit." He put his presidential ambition on hold, deflected his ego, and dedicated himself fully to the administration of the Jubilee government. He has shown loyalty and patriotism and has carried himself in a debonair manner.

Moreover, Ruto relates well with President Uhuru Kenyatta whom he calls "my brother, my boss, my president," The chemistry between them is more than chivalrous and congenial, a marked difference from the turbulent ties between President Mwai Kibaki and his Prime Minister Raila Odinga, in the previous government.

The recent gesture by Uhuru to entrust him with the acting presidency while he attended his case at the Hague showed the level of trust and high esteem he has in his deputy. Ruto did not disappoint.

However, Uhuru has said he intends to rule for ten years, which means, Ruto must wait for another eight years to stand as the Jubilee's presidential candidate; that is, if everything goes according to plan.

The bigger question however remains: Will Central Kenya support Ruto for the presidency the way Ruto's Rift Valley supported Uhuru in 2013?

To answer that question we need to refer to history. In 1992, Paul Muite, then a key lieutenant of Ford-Kenya presidential candidate Oginga Odinga contested the Kikuyu parliamentary seat in Central Kenya. Muite garnered over 30,000 votes while Oginga got a paltry 3000 presidential votes. Voters in that part of the country rejected Oginga who hailed from the Nyanza region, and instead, chose to split their votes between Kenneth Matiba and Mwai Kibaki - both from Central Kenya.

An almost similar scenario happened in 1997 when George Nyanja of Kiambu in Central Kenya stood on Raila Odinga's Nyanza-dominated NDP ticket. He won the Limuru seat but voters there dismissed Raila's presidential candidature.

Another example is that of 2002. Raila endorsed Mwai Kibaki for the presidency against Uhuru Kenyatta. Raila's Nyanza region voted almost to a man for Kibaki. Soon after winning, Kibaki turned against Raila. He was president for ten years while Raila benefitted from a peace agreement and became Prime Minister after the 2007 elections.

Come 2013, Raila expected Central Kenya to back him as a payback for supporting Kibaki in 2002. He was disappointed. The region voted for Uhuru.

So, the question still remains. Will Central Kenya support William Samoei Ruto to take over from Uhuru when the time comes?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The only advice I can give my party boss is that he should continue to do what he is doing now: combing the country, making new friends and cultivating relations for the future. Expecting endorsement from Central Kenya could prove disastrous.

And that is my say.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


So, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy  (CORD) of Raila Odinga wants to "save" Kenya? Save it from what?

The rallying call, that is "Okoa Kenya," which the opposition in Kenya is using to push its agenda for a referendum on ambiguously-defined issues has the same connotation as that of a popular Kiswahili phrase "Okoa Jahazi" which literally means "rescue the sinking dhow."

The question then is: Is Kenya sinking? If so, does the referendum provide the right equipment to save it from doom?

The answer to both questions is No. Kenya is not sinking, but even if it were a plebiscite is not the right prescription.

All countries - including the richest and most powerful America - have problems. If Raila thinks poverty and unemployment are the preserve of Kenya, then he needs to spend more time in the United States to see how millions of unemployed Americans live, some in communal shelters. He also needs to watch a regular television series "American Greed" to see how the rich exploit the poor and how corruption thrives. The only difference is the degree, but the problems are the same.

I have not heard Americans asking for a referendum to address issues.

That is why I believe Okoa Kenya is not about finding solutions to Kenya's problems. It is about power and excessive greed. Everyone knows how much Raila has yearned for the presidency. He has failed three times to ascend to State House. With his advanced age, he knows time is running out. He knows the Jubilee Government is youthful, innovative and difficult to beat. He knows it enjoys popular support and has majorities in the National Assembly and in the County Governments. He knows winning in 2017 will not be easy.

My view is that Okoa Kenya is only a tool to stir the masses against the Jubilee Government. It is a stratagem that will fail just like Pesa Mashinani, a parallel referendum campaign spearheaded by Governors to force the Government to increase allocations to County Governments.

Kenya has a Constitution that provides avenues for addressing national issues. And although referendum is one of them, the country is not in a dire situation for a plebiscite. Kenyans should be called to decide only on the most critical matters, like what happened in 2005 and 2010 when the country was desperate for a new constitution.

The Constitution provides provisions for dealing with security issues.  It has mechanisms to handle integrity matters. It has guidelines to chaperon the Government on issues of rights and equitable distribution of resources; and it has provided legislative bodies whose job is to make laws.

The CORD initiative - like the Governors' - is misguided, misplaced and prosaic. It scares investors, puts the country in an unnecessary election mode, and creates inter-party tensions. It serves no purpose at this time.

And that is my say.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


As expected, the campaign for a national referendum spearheaded by the Kenya opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), is generating a lot of political heat.

According to the constitution, one-million eligible voters must acquiesce to the plebiscite before any parliamentary debate can commence. Thus, in the past two weeks, the opposition group has pitched camp in various parts of the country to get Kenyans to append their signatures to a petition that will form the basis for amendments to the constitution, passed overwhelmingly by Kenyans in 2010.

CORD wants Kenyans to agree to go to the polls and decide on crucial matters that appear to directly question the performance of the Jubilee government of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. These matters include the state of insecurity, corruption, the rising cost of living, nepotism, and poverty. Unfortunately, the two sides are locked in a debilitating rivalry and seem to disagree on everything.

The proposed vote is the biggest opposition activity since its defeat in 2013, and CORD leader, Raila Odinga, is pulling all punches to ensure the group not only attains the signature threshold but that the referendum takes place.

However, this activity is turning out to be divisive on both sides of the political divide. It has polarised CORD between those of its elected leaders and members who want the referendum to take place, and those who oppose it; and has punched holes in the unity of the Jubilee fraternity.

The situation is so convoluted that both Raila and Uhuru have warned rebel elected members in their parties to resign and seek fresh mandate if they refuse to toe their party lines. Although resignations are unlikely, the exercise will undoubtedly change the political matrix come the next elections in 2017.

But what worries me most is how the referendum calls are stoking embers of ethnic and political divisions, and attempting to create another front in the fragmentation of the country, already suffering from a chronic bout of tribalism and clanism. There are dangers the plebiscite will balkanise the country into quarelling fiefdoms and trigger a new convulsion of violence

With the political fever heating up, the tensions we saw prior to the 2007 elections are fermenting once again. My fear is that at some point they will explode plunging Kenya into a quagmire of destruction, This is sad considering the high hopes Kenyans had for their future.

This means too that plans by the Jubilee government to propel the country from a bottom-rated position into a middle-level industrialised nation in the next few years now appear in danger of evaporating.

Unfortunately to some, the prevailing political uncertainties are a boon to their personal ego; and an opportunity to chest-thump and plant seeds of what they like to call a "peoples' revolution."

But when bullets, arrows and machetes start to fly, the sufferers will not be the leaders who have the resources to make a quick escape aboard private choppers, but the majority of Kenyans who have neither the means nor an alternative place to go - apart from occupying refugee camps across the borders.

CORD must keep this in mind.

And that is my say.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Travelling through the Southern States of the United States this past week, I came across a tabloid publication called The Jail Report. In it were dozens of mug shots of suspects arrested over the previous two weeks and booked in jails on diverse charges - ranging from shop-lifting to drinking under the influence of alcohol, to battery, burglary and murder.

It was a photo gallery of first and repeat offenders of different nationalities and colour - Blacks, Whites, and Latinos; young and old
well-groomed and unkempt - many facing the grim prospects of long time in the country's already crowded prison system.

What drew my attention while perusing the inside of the pint-sized, privately-run publication was the editorial headlined: Crooks Don't Deserve an Extra Break Because They Got Old in Prison.

The write-up took me back to a television clip I saw in Kenya recently in which prisoners were asking President Uhuru Kenyatta to release old and invalid prisoners on humanitarian grounds. I had expected that after that story, a vibrant discussion would follow, but all was quiet. The usually blustering human rights advocates and criminologists just ignored it.

The question still remains: Should the Kenya government or any other government for that matter, release aged and sick prisoners on humanitarian grounds?

Let me put it another way: Are we spending tax-payers' money unnecessarily on people who are no longer a danger to society?

According to The Jail Report, crooks who commit serious crimes should rot in prison. Publisher Greg Rickabaugh says although it costs about twice as much in America to house a prisoner over 50 (years of age) as it does the average prisoner, "we will be shooting ourselves in the foot if we weaken an already weak justice system even further to save a buck."

I still believe prisoners can be rehabilitated through training; and if taken through a well-structured social system of support; thereafter they can be released safely to society.

However, I doubt Kenya even knows the number of prisoners aged over 65 years in its system. True, there have been prisoner releases in the past, but these were done on presidential orders and intended to de-congest the system; and not on account of age, mental or physical impairments of the detainees. The result is that Kenya still holds hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hopelessly sick and aged prisoners waiting to die behind bars.

A research done in America a few years ago by Jamie Fellner, author of Old Behind Bars: The Aging Population in the United States, found there were prisoners in America "who were dying and could not breathe; prisoners so old and frail they needed help getting up from their beds and into their wheel-chairs; prisoners who lacked the mental and physical ability to bathe or eat or go to the bathroom by themselves."

Yes, we too have similar people in our prisons in Kenya today.

My view is that we need a public debate on whether prisoners who have serious mental and physical problems; those too old to fend for themselves; and those who are bed-ridden; can be pardoned to go back to their villages and die in dignity. It should not be a matter of saving taxpayers' money but a decision based on common sense.

And that is my say.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


China is one of Africa's most significant investment partners, and pumps billions of US dollars every year to fund development projects there, as it explores African mines for minerals for its industries, but the populous country is also the biggest contributor to the annihilation of the continent's big game.

With a population of 1.3 billion people, the Asian giant consumes the largest amount of illegal elephant tusks and rhino horns poached from Africa's game reserves. In South East Asia, these products are in great demand as aphrodisiacs, and as medicines for strokes, nosebleeds, convulsions and fever.

It is estimated that last year alone, 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa and their 40,000 tusks transported illegally to China, Thailand, Japan and Hong-Kong, among other countries.

Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa, and Botswana and South Africa in Southern Africa, have been identified by international conservationists as some of the countries hardest hit by poaching. According to a recent study conducted by George Wittemyer of the Colorado State University in the US, in collaboration with others, Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania alone has seen a drop of its elephant population from 40,000 to 13,000 in the past three years. The situation in the neighboring Kenya is not any better.

In many of the afflicted countries, corruption is blamed for the poaching menace. Poachers and dealers collude with wildlife management officials, security agents and customs officials to smuggle out large consignments of animal products. When caught and taken to court, they use bribes to manipulate judiciary officials in exchange for light bail conditions and lenient sentences.

In recent years, a number of Chinese nationals have being caught with wildlife products in Kenya. The sad thing is that most of those caught ended up paying small fines and getting away without much sweat. Only one Chinese national is so far known to be doing prison time - two and half years, for attempting to smuggle elephant products out of the country.

Poaching and smuggling of ivory are a billion-dollar industry believed to be run and controlled by international crime syndicates. It has been established that these cartels provide the advanced technology equipment in use by poachers, including helicopters, darting equipment, night vision scopes, and weapons with silencers. It is these syndicates too that are suspected to be funding terrorist activities in Africa and beyond.

It is my view that other than drug trafficking, the ivory trade poses the biggest challenge to the survival of humanity in Africa. It destroys a country's national resources and interferes with economic growth since many African countries depend on wildlife and tourism for survival.

Recently, the Chinese government made a token donation of anti-poaching equipment to Kenya to demonstrate its seriousness in dealing with poaching; but what the Chinese government must do is to shut down its internal market for these products and destroy all stock-piles of ivory that exist in the country. It must also be willing to collaborate fully with African countries in identifying and arresting those Chinese nationals responsible for involvement in this trade.

Short of this, Beijing authorities will only be paying lip-service to Africa on conservation matters, as it continues to exploit the continent's raw materials for its economic growth.

And that is my say.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I am now convinced. It doesn't matter who President Uhuru Kenyatta appoints to top positions in his Government the reaction from his critics would be the same.

This week, the Kenyan leader announced the much-awaited changes in the Diplomatic Service. Within minutes, social media platforms were awash with criticisms of the appointments. Some dubbed them tribal while others insinuated that they were meant to dilute the raging referendum debate. Yet more lampooned the President for including on the list political "losers" and "retirees," as if those individuals are not Kenyans.

Such criticisms are expected considering the seniority of the positions and the high stakes involved. My feeling however is that the President did much better this time around in terms of spreading the appointments across geographical lines than he did when he chose his Cabinet and appointed Principal Secretaries last year.

He must have taken into account criticisms widely expressed in the media that the Jubilee leadership was insensitive to the feelings of Kenyans on matters of government selections, and that the country was heading backwards towards the days of his predecessors when nepotism and ethnicity were rampant.

The fact that he listened to Kenyans' wishes is commendable.

We must appreciate, however, that Kenya is a nation of forty-two tribes. We cannot expect each one of these and their many sub-tribes to be represented every time senior government appointments are made. That is impossible. What the government should be expected to do is to embrace the spirit of inclusivity, adhere to the Constitution and give as many communities as possible a chance to serve.

Although the battle now shifts to Parliament where each one of the appointees will undergo vetting as per the requirements of the Constitution, I am convinced that all will pass. My only request is for Parliament to expedite the clearance process  - and not drag it unnecessarily - so that the nominees can report to their stations as soon as possible. Some of the positions have been vacant for a fairly long period of time and require immediate occupation.

Kenya's foreign policy has been evolving since the early days of independence when the primary focus was on politics: non-alignment and non-interference in other countries' affairs. Now, Kenya's presence in the international arena is more than political diplomacy. It is on tangible economic results brought about by hard-nosed diplomacy.

The people selected this past week to represent us abroad are qualified individuals with knowledge of their country and its needs; and skills to make things happen for Kenya.

We can only wish them well.

And that is my say.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


President Uhuru Kenyatta ends his five-day visit to the United States this weekend and returns home with a bag full of goodies, plenty of goodwill and lots of lessons learnt from a series of consultative meetings with American leaders over a number of critical issues bearing on Kenya.

Only days ago, relations between Kenya and the United States seemed frosty, thanks to a conflation of highly contentious issues ranging from America's perceived reluctance to appreciate Uhuru's win, to ICC indictments, to what many saw as Kenya cold-shouldering the US in favour of China.

All this explained President Kenyatta's initial procrastination over his participation in the US-Africa Forum in Washington DC. He can now look back and smile that his decision to join other African leaders in the American capital was one of the most important moves in his presidency.

While in the United States, Kenyatta was able to rekindle interest in Kenya not only amongst investors but also amongst Americans in general. After all, not many Americans had heard or seen the new Kenyan leader before the visit. Through this short stay and very successful media appearances, the American people are in a better position now to appreciate Kenya. The good news is that, every time Kenyatta got an opportunity to speak, he advanced the country's position eloquently, and effectively.

The visit also gave the President and his officials an opportunity to review and assess issues of security, health, trade, and investment, among others, with policy makers of the world's most powerful nation; and also hear hard truths on such sensitive subjects in Africa as corruption, human rights, the rule of law and women empowerment. The Americans did not mince words and called for sweeping reforms by governments.

Meanwhile, as the meetings were ongoing in Washington DC, a vicious propaganda war was raging in the social media between supporters of Jubilee and those of the opposition CORD. While government publicists tried to paint Kenyatta's every move as positive, opposition spin doctors went full throttle to rubbish everything.  Ridiculous photo shops were added for effect. It was a hilarious interchange but one that took Kenyans away from positive matters of nation building.

In conclusion, I hope the President is returning home with fresh ideas on how to tackle insecurity, corruption, international money-laundering, food security and drug trafficking, matters were adequately discussed during the various meetings at the Summit.

And that is my say.