Monday, December 23, 2013


If Kenya has not achieved anything else in its 50 years of independence, it can boast of having gained a reasonable level of tolerance in the fields of politics and governance.

Decades ago no civil servant would have dared to release the kind of statement Eric Ng'eno issued this past week without facing serious repercussions. The Director of Speech Writing and Messaging at State House tore into unnamed senior colleagues accusing them of running a "parallel State" within a State.

The official also hinted at corruption in the system when he talked of "public sector thieves who are not even looking behind their shoulders before dipping their hands into the till." He claimed President Uhuru and his Deputy William Ruto were being sabotaged by a "coterie of senior civil servants opposed to their new way of doing things in government."

This stance is quite unusual and raises a question: why did Ng'eno go public when he could have raised the issue directly with his seniors at State House?

So far, there has been no serious reaction from the higher echelons of government other than a casual remark by the Government Spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, that Ng'eno's views were personal.

This could mean three things: either consultations were ongoing between the various feuding parties within the inner circles of government,  or that the matter was so sensitive as to require official comment. There is also a possibility that Ng'eno's statement had the blessing of one or both of the two principals in the ruling coalition. Either way, the public needs to know whether or not what Ng'eno said resonates with the truth. And if so, what the government plans to do about it.

Coming at a time of rising internal dissent in the Jubilee Coalition over the distribution of appointments between Uhuru's TNA and Ruto's URP, and allegations of shady procurement deals pertaining to the recently commissioned standard gauge railway line, this latest development adds to the growing teething problems in the nine-month old Coalition government.

One thing is clear however. The kind of intolerance we saw during the era of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi when civil servants were expected to act apolitical and politicians were exhorted to toe the government line without question must be on its sunset years. Before, violators were sacked, ostracised, banned from holding public office or, worse still, jailed.

The most notable victim of forbearance during Jomo's administration, for example, was none other than Barack Obama Sr, the late father of the US President. Fresh from university in America and working as a senior economists in government, Barack took the courage of rubbishing what was then considered a revolutionary blueprint: the African Socialism and its Applicability to Planning in Kenya, popularly known as the Sessional Paper No. 10. The document, which provided the road map for Kenya's economic development, was crafted by none other than the celebrated Tom Mboya.

"One need not be a Kenyan," Obama Sr. shot up in an article published in the East African Journal in 1965, "to note that nearly all commercial enterprises from small shops in River Road to big shops in Government Road, (now Kenyatta Avenue), and industries in the industrial area were mostly owned by Asians and Europeans.

"One need not be a Kenyan to note that most hotels and entertainment places are owned by Asians and Europeans."

He continued: "One need not need to be a Kenyan to note that when one goes to a good restaurant, he mostly finds Asians and Europeans; nor has he to be a Kenyan to see that the majority of cars are run by Asians and Europeans...We have to give the African his place in his own country, and we have to give him his economic power if he is going to develop."

That was a loaded statement that rattled government insiders. The moment the magazine hit the streets, Obama Sr. was sacked never to be gainfully employed again.

Since then dozens of public workers and politicians have suffered for making political statements seen to be critical of government. At least three ministers were fired for criticising Kenyatta over the death of politician J.M Kariuki; and five were given the boot for opposing the constitutional draft during the 2005 referendum. These are just a few of many.

When Prof. Ouma Muga, an Assistant Minister in Moi's government reportedly boasted that he was the one who wrote the speech Moi delivered at the Ozone Layer Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1989, he was immediately dismissed. He was accused of taking credit that should have gone to the President. The speech called for the signing of an international treaty on hazardous waste disposal and a ban on dumping of waste in Africa. It was hailed as one of the most brilliant speeches ever delivered by a Kenyan Head of State at any international meeting.

As for civil servants, involvement in politics has never been allowed. If Ngeno had been working under any of the previous Presidents he would probably be cooling his heels at a village somewhere. But this is the Jubilee era. Even with our many challenges, we seem to tolerate individual views - whether they are from a civil servant at the top ranks of government or a mwananchi posting comments in the social media.

This is a small democratic gain but we must preserve it.

And that is my say.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


How times have changed for Raila Amolo Odinga.

Not too long ago, the son of the legendary Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was the second most powerful man in Kenya. He occupied an imposing office block, opposite the Office of the President, that cost one billion shillings and featured the latest high-tech gadgets, including a computerised shower cubicle.

A designer water fountain in front of the building and a huge pompous sign: Office of the Prime Minister, left no doubt who occupied the seven-storey building.

He enjoyed the most elaborate personal security rivalling only that of President Mwai Kibaki - with chase cars and motorcycle-riders. His homes were guarded 24 hours a day and members of his family were on around-the-clock watch by armed security.

He carried the aristocratic title: the Right Honourable, a honorific prefix bestowed on members of the British Privy Council. Never before had such a title been used in the country.

Yes, he was the Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya.

Thanks to the National Accord reached after protracted negotiations following the violence-prone 2007 elections, Raila was approaching the pinnacle of his career - a breathe away from State House yet so, so far away.

Even after agreeing to share power with the celebrated former democracy champion, Kibaki was not prepared to give Raila space to perform his duties, one of which was to coordinate government ministries. Kibaki often made critical decisions involving ministries without consulting his partner. On many occasions, Raila complained about the (mis) treatment from Kibaki's side of the coalition but no one in government really cared.

When the situation threatened to bring down the Grand Coalition, the two leaders and their entourages went on a retreat deep in the Tsavo National Park to try to find solutions. However, the meeting collapsed following disagreements over the agenda. Raila also complained that his room was not as lavish as the President's and it was located far away from that of the Head of State.He was not being treated right, he lamented.

On the ground, provincial officers got the cue on how the government treated Raila and refused to spread out red carpets whenever he visited their areas. Once in Mombasa, top officers disappeared altogether leaving juniors to bring along a tattered carpet to one of his meetings. In the process of mounting the "nusu mkeka," as Raila himself called it, they forgot to provide a "Johnnie" at the back of the podium for short-call use by the Prime Minister. Raila was livid and accused the government of disrespecting him.

Raila had to work for months without a salary because of disagreements over his salary scale. There was also a protocol wrangle over who between him and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka was senior. Government functionaries tended to side with the latter.

And all that was happening when Raila was the Right Honourable Prime Minister.

In his book, the Flame of Freedom, he described his period in the Grand Coalition as "five years of torment."

After losing out to Uhuru in 2012, Raila's political life took an even more miserable turn. Some of the first things the government did was to trim down his security; confiscate most of his official cars, and evict him from his posh offices along Harambee Avenue. He has also been denied his pension, unless he fulfills certain conditions.

As if that is not enough, he was denied use of VIP lounges at airports through a simple directive from the Office of the President that invoked "security and strategic" reasons. Seeing a pattern of embarrassing events trailing him, Raila climbed down and used common arrival and departure areas at airports.

Reports said Raila yearned for an opportunity to serve as a presidential advisor of some sort. When President Uhuru Kenyatta ignored his interest, the former political detainee travelled to Uganda and sought the intervention of President Yoweri Museveni. For a while, Kenyans believed the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) would be  assigned to arbitrate over troubling issues affecting the East African Community. However, when the government denied there was a problem that needed fixing, Raila's hopes were dashed.

Today, Raila would be lucky to be acknowledged at official functions. Last week at the @50 celebrations at Kasarani it was the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who recognised him and talked of his contributions to Kenya. Government officials were not willing to do that.

Raila is now left to beg for chores to do. Recently after he was excluded from the commissioning of the standard-gauge railway line in Mombasa he talked about it publicly. As a gesture of appeasement, the government gave him the  "honour" of opening a railway station in Nairobi, a job normally reserved for the transportation cabinet secretary.

In recent days, we have seen the humiliation of Raila Odinga coming, not from the government side, but from his own party. Reports that he was not properly recognised during an ODM Governor's function, prompting him to "walk" out, is further evidence that power lasts only when one is in power.

To make matters worse, his once close allies are deserting him in droves and quietly throwing their support behind Uhuru and Ruto. One ODM Senator even told him not to expect an automatic party presidential nomination in 2017.

What all this tells me is that Raila is no longer the "enigma" of the liberation struggle nor the "unbwogable agwambo" of the Orange Movement who for years sent shivers in the spine of former President Daniel Arap Moi. True, he still commands support in certain areas of the country, but the man who has failed thrice to become president is certainly humbled.

In the next five years, as he tries to remain politically relevant, the 69-year old leader should expect many more torments at the hands of both his friends and foes.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Not too long ago, many Kenyans did not know who Amina Mohamed was. Her various positions in the bureaucracy did not give her an opportunity to shine. However, in recent months, her name has appeared everywhere, thanks to the International Criminal Court and her aggressive campaign to clear the names of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, currently facing international charges against humanity.

It was only in May when she was plucked from the corridors of quiet diplomacy at the United Nations where she served as an Assistant Secretary General and thrust into the murky global political arena and a blazing media spotlight. Amina is perhaps the most recognisable Kenya government official besides Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. Because of her steadfast defence of the government, she appears to have earned a place as one of Uhuru's most dependable advisers.

Amina is the 20th person to hold the Foreign Affairs portfolio since Kenya became independent, the first one being Jomo Kenyatta in 1963 when he was Prime Minister. Four of the them - Joseph Murumbi, Mbiyu Koinange, Kalonzo Musyoka and Robert Ouko - each served two stints.

As we celebrate the Jubilee Anniversary this year, it is only fitting to look at some of the people who have left the biggest foot-print in our relations with the rest of the world.

Out of the 20 Ministers, I have chosen four - Dr. Njoroge Mungai, Dr. Munyua Waiyaki, Musyoka and Ouko, as the top diplomats who will go into history books as the most dynamic. You can now add Amina to that coveted list. She happens to be the only career diplomat, a non-politician and a female to be appointed to the docket.

Both Mungai and Waiyaki served during the turbulent era of apartheid in South Africa and stood at the very front of the diplomatic fight against the deplorable policies of the Boer regime.

When Britain wanted to sell arms to the Pretoria regime it was Mungai who vigorously campaigned against the sale. South Africa asked for the arms ostensibly to defend the Indian Ocean sea corridor, but Mungai and other African leaders feared the armaments could be used against South African freedom fighters. The Kenya Foreign Minister made that position with vigour and commitment at all international fora.

In Singapore in 1971, at a meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of State Summit, some countries led by Britain - the intended supplier of the wares - distanced themselves from the Kenya position even though Mungai made a compelling case.  By the time the matter reached the Summit the following day, the hard line position taken by Mungai had been sabotaged by some elements in the Kenya delegation who managed to convince the Vice President and leader of delegation, Daniel Arap Moi, to back down and support the sale. The opposition was defeated.

However, Mungai's career got a major boost when he successfully convinced the world to set up the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi. The Gigiri complex is considered the biggest trophy of our global diplomacy and kudos will forever go to Jomo Kenyatta's one-time physician.

When Mungai was moved to Defence, Waiyaki took up the apartheid regime with a vengeance. While some Kenyan leaders pushed for the normalisation of relations with South Africa, Waiyaki made it clear that would "not happen during my lifetime, not when I am in charge of foreign affairs." He said it would only happen over his dead body.

Waiyaki was unflinching when it came to fighting for Kenya's interests - whether it was at the OAU opposing the Boers; at the Habitat Conference in Vancouver when he called for a comprehensive approach to human settlements; or, in New York when he engaged the US Assistant Secretary of State Nathaniel Davis over the supply of fighter jets to Kenya. During Waiyaki's five year tenure, Kenya's voice was heard loud and clear; and when Kenyatta died in Mombasa in 1978, it was Waiyaki who managed Kenya's diplomatic transition from Kenyatta to Moi.

As for Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, he was particularly effective when it came to regional peace initiatives. He shepherded both the Sudan and Somalia peace efforts and was part of the team that re-engineered IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Initially the organisation was called IGADD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development. He is the only Foreign Minister to serve under two Presidents, Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki. In both cases his performance was above average. He was relieved of the chairmanship of the peace efforts in 2004 only when he persisted on criticising Kibaki for reneging on the power-sharing arrangement with Raila Odinga's Liberal Democratic Party.

The most recent high achiever in the Foreign Affairs docket was Robert Ouko. Although he did not serve long before he was mysteriously killed, Ouko worked tirelessly during the short time he spent at the Foreign Office to repair Kenya's image abroad, heavily dented by Moi's sweeping disregard for democratic ideals and human rights. He was brilliant, suave and persuasive. One of the best dressed of the Cabinet Ministers then, he cut an image of a statesman, and at times he was seen to be overshadowing his boss. Many think that probably led to his assassination.

Now, Amina. Although some have called her a sycophant, "defending the indefensible" on the issue of the ICC trials, no one has accused her of being dumb or unqualified. The former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Permanent Secretary has impeccable educational and work credentials, a strong, pleasant personality; and is one person who fears nothing once she has made up her mind on an issue.

She spent weeks shuttling between Nairobi, the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Hague where ICC sits, and the UN Secretariat in New York trying to ensure the ICC trials do not see the light of day; and when she finally emerged at the Hague to say that "we have achieved everything we wanted to achieve," there was a big sigh of relief from many Kenyans.

The victory was not total but in the eyes of those who were indignant about the whole idea of our President sitting in the dock at the ICC, the Foreign Minister had brought home the bacon.

So hate her or love her, Amina Mohamed "rocks."

And that is my say.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Kenyans who have been following the salary saga involving the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and Members of County Assembly (MCAs)  must feel disappointed by the decision of the SRC Chairperson Sarah Serem to almost double the emoluments of county  officials.

They must be disappointed because Serem has failed to put her foot down and has continued to cajole and soft-soap elected officials, and buckle down to political pressure even as she pretends to talk tough about how Kenya is "overburdened by huge, unaffordable and unsustainable remunerations."

Kenyans must also feel betrayed because Serem's announcement came only a few days after the government froze recruitments and stopped adjustments of salaries and allowance for civil servants as a way of reducing the ballooning wage bill, a subject she is passionate about, at least on paper. The message coming out of State House, therefore, is that SRC has failed to stop the hemorrhaging of State coffers.

The SRC was established in 2010 with the mandate of, among other things, ensuring that the total public compensation bill is fiscally sustainable."

Early this year, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto took over a government that had a lot of pending issues that are now threatening to derail the ambitious Jubilee manifesto.

The SRC Chair must be aware of the following: a public debt of 2.1 trillion shillings; an external loan of 889.31 billion; a budget deficit of 356 billion; and a wage bill of 450 billion. These are obligations that must be sorted out. Right now Kenya is spending 74 percent of its budget on recurrent expenditure leaving very little for development. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know, given these figures, that the country is in a fiscal jam and cannot withstand any additional expenditure.

But in negotiations with the Senate Devolution Committee a few days ago, Serem succumbed to pressure and agreed to hike MCA salaries from 79,000 to 123,750 shillings. She also allowed an additional 124,800 shillings per month for allowances and 39,528 for mileage, and increased the sitting allowance.

My view is that the increases are a waste of public funds and detrimental to the country's economic well being. Whether the representatives are Public officers or State officers does not matter. Their salaries come from the tax payers.

Serem's performance has not been impressive. Outwardly, she appears to be made of steel but her actions do not support that. When Members of Parliament took her to task over their salary demands, the long-time expert on human resources management talked tough until the legislators threatened to disband the SRC and send her and all commissioners home. It was then that she climbed down and negotiated perks that turned out to be much higher that what the legislators had asked for in the first place. This time around she has been arm-twisted to agree to a deal she knows would further burden the Exchequer.

What all this tells me is that Serem has lost control of SRC. She has allowed political mandarins to overrun her jurisdiction, making the Commission a virtual toothless bull-dog. In my opinion, she cannot be expected to help the government tackle the wage bill woes.

On the other hand, the county representatives are a thankless lot. By turning down the original salary - and rubbishing the latest offer - they have demonstrated a boorish attitude towards the people who elected them and shown disrespect to their country. There are many qualified Kenyans who would be willing to serve for half the 79,000 shillings.

To add salt to injury, the county leaders have been boycotting work, only showing up at the cashier's office at the end of the month to collect salaries.

The fact that Kenyans continue to tolerate this kind of behaviour shows how much we have lost the fighting spirit.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I am not a prophet of doom but even as an ordinary Kenyan with no interest in the occult, I can predict with near certainty that the hurriedly-conceived Nyumba kumi concept in which the country is to be divided into clusters of ten households will fail, unless we come up with a more pragmatic way of involving the people.

We all know this is not an original idea. It was tried in the neighbouring Tanzania for almost twenty years starting from the late 1960s. During its prime, it was successful in managing security at the grassroots level. Balozis or cell leaders, drawn from the faithfuls in the ruling TANU, were carefully selected to ensure strangers were identified and reported to authorities. It was the same leaders who were responsible for "whipping" people into complying with the ujamaa system, a form of communism copied from socialist China. The leaders were also used to distribute food during the country's long period of food shortages; and to handle births and deaths within their blocks.

Thus, the nyumba kumi idea was conceived as a political solution to deal with challenges of a political dispensation set out in the Arusha Declaration of 1967. It was not intended primarily to deal with insecurity. It was a tool of survival for the socialist government.

After Nyerere's death and the introduction of capitalism, the system took a dosedive. It was no longer effective, as tens of thousands of people abandoned ujamaa villages and flocked into urban areas to look for jobs. Today, foregners returning to Dar es Salaam are able to move freely, something they could not do three decades ago when nyumba kumi was in full blast and government agents were everywhere.

In Kenya, on the other hand, the idea did not spring out of any political ideology. It emerged from the ashes of the Westgate mall attack.

A lot of confusion reigned during that fateful week. The government had no answers to a myriad questions following the terrorist attack. There were queries about alleged intelligence failures; shoddy performance by security forces and total mishandling of information. For days the number of attackers were unknown with official estimates putting the figure between five to fifteen. Neither the Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Ole Lenku, nor the Security Chiefs, could tell us whether the Al Shabaab fanatics were killed on site or had managed to escape. Most of those questions still linger on.

With Kenyans in a panic mode, the government conjured the nyumba kumi initiative to reassure people it had a plan. To many in this generation the plan made no sense. Even the way it was announced left Kenyans unconvinced about its effectiveness as a crime deterrent.

Ideally, an issue as important as this should have been subjected to public discussion. This was not done, hence the lacklustre reception it has received from the public.

Weeks down the line Kenyans still do not understand how this concept will work. How will the cell leaders be elected? What powers will they have?; What are the rules?; Are there any penalties for residents who refuse to participate? If so, under what law? There are far too many gray areas. How are we going to handle urban areas where people have a poor record of good neighbourliness? At least in rural areas the spirit of community living is alive.

Also, with all the people flocking into towns daily to stay with extended family members, and with all the routine, unannounced visits we Africans regularly make to homes of friends and relatives, it may not be that easy to differentiate strangers from genuine denizens.

That the security situation in Kenya has deteriorated significantly over the past few months is not a secret. It's no longer safe to drive on roads because of escalating carjackings. Burglaries and murders have become routine. Rapes and physical abuses are common everywhere. Threats of terrorist attacks are looming high and shopping in malls is no longer an enjoyable experience.

Insecurity has brought with it economic pitfalls. Travel advisories by tourist-generating countries have become a permanent feature and have driven away tourists. Many hotels along the Kenyan beaches have closed down because of lack of business, bringing suffering to hundreds of people who earn their living from serving tables, selling fish and peddling handcrafts.

Promises made by the government and the many stop-gap measures taken so far to deal with criminal activities have failed to bear fruit. Now, we are being introduced to what Lenku tells us is a 100 days Rapid Results Initiative to deal with insecurity during the holiday season. What will happen after the 100 days, the Secretary is not telling us.

I know the government wants the nyumba kumi idea to work. I do too, but it wouldn't, if the people do not get answers to some of the questions I have raised above.

Some say that the nyumba kumi concept violates Article 36 (a) of the constitution which basically says that "a person shall not be compelled to join an association of any kind." Will nyumba kumi committees be considered associations in the eyes of the law? Lenku says the concept is fully compliant with the constitution and quotes Article 244 (e), which only says that the National Police Service "will foster and promote relationship with the broader society."

It looks there are legal issues too to be confronted.

The bottom line is, unless we are willing to engage the public and completely rope them in, the nyumba kumi idea - as good as it may sound - will go the same way as the community policing which has largely failed to make a difference in crime prevention in our neighbourhoods.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


More than one year ago, the media and online bloggers were throwing all manner of adjectives - and expletives - at the Kenya Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua.  Some called him a "sycophant." Others a "verbal acrobat." One  even called him "Comical Ali" after the Iraq Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who vigorously defended the brutal actions of dictator Saddam Hussein. Many thought Mutua was too verbose, sometimes brutally arrogant, in his defence of the government of Mwai Kibaki. Others dismissed him as a spin doctor deployed to protect the ruling class.

Dr. Mutua, a former journalism professor and film maker, was vilified by the opposition but exalted by government functionaries. He spent eight years defending Kibaki. At one time he denied there was hunger even as thousands of Kenyans were dying. When, at the height of the post-election violence of 2008, Mutua announced that "Kenya is not burning"; and when he dismissed Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu, as a "tourist" after the South African cleric had arrived to help resolve the political crisis between Kibaki and Raila Odinga; and when he remarked that the Ghanaian leader John Kufuor was only coming to Kenya to have tea with Kibaki and not to mediate, many Kenyans felt the Government Spokesman had crossed the line.

But that was then.

Today, Dr. Mutua is the Governor of Machakos, and virtually all critics - except perhaps Senator Johnstone Muthama - have vanished. And they have not just vanished. They are now his biggest supporters and well-wishers urging him to go for the presidency in 2017.

Why? Because Mutua has soared beyond expectations. He has raised the bar. He has shocked the doubting "Thomases." He has emerged as the most active, the most scintillating, and the most focused of all the 47 county governors.

While his colleagues were squabbling over salary increases, Mutua was busy forming his county government, drawing his development plan, reaching out to investors and visualising the Machakos city - one of the most ambitious projects ever dreamt. He didn't wait for the law to fly the national flag. He didn't wait for a nod to construct his own lantern complete with the words "Governor of Machakos." boldly embossed on it. He just went ahead and did what he thought represented his office..

When he resigned from his position in Government to contest the governorship in September 2012, most Kenyans sighed: good riddance, but Mutua had already set his agenda. He told journalists that Machakos was the county of the future "because we are going to build an Internet city, a global communication centre in that county which will serve the whole of Africa." He said Machakos needed a leader who was corruption free, a visionary, young and energetic.

And finally when he unveiled what he dreams will be the city of Machakos recently, Kenya gasped. The artist's impression given in a promotional video clip gave an impression of a "First World" city with shiny, glassy sky scrappers, plenty of recreational facilities, clean residential estates and no slums. It was more than Nairobi,  more than Johannesburg and more than anywhere else. It was Utopian.

It must be noted, however, that so far, almost all of Mutua's plans of action remain a dream: an entertainment centre for films, music and the arts he calls Machawood (after Hollywood) is miles away. He says there are 40 ambulances on the high seas. He talks of buying 150 police cars. And he says his county government will plough for free land belonging to 1,000 poor farmers in each ward, subsidise seeds and fertilisers and even provide a market for their produce. All these are promises yet to be fulfilled. Kenyans are waiting with bated breath to see if they will be actualised.

Having lived in this country for most of my life, (and a politician myself) I have learnt to take political promises with a pinch of salt. Kenyans have built castles in the air far too many times and for too long to convince me - at this early stage - that what Mutua is talking about will come to fruition. Already, we are seeing a deliberate opposition from some quarters on the city he wants to build. This is just the beginning. There will be saboteurs, schemers and even criminals who will do everything to torpedo the good work Mutua is trying to do for his people. The government should be there to protect the common good.

In the meantime, Kenyans continue to be amazed by the dramatic transformation of the small man with a sharp tongue who has moved from the round corridors of power at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre to the Governor's mansion with all the trappings of power: a large high-end- furnished office, armed security in tow and a large staff component to supervise.

How the public will view Mutua in the long run - whether or not he is presidential material - will be seen in the next four years when Kenyans will know from his actions: whether he is a doer or just an empty calabash; a saviour or a political charlatan.

And that is my say

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Years ago I had the opportunity of visiting Israel. It was a visit that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I was energised by the Biblical landmarks and impressed by the humility and resilience of the Israeli people. I found the Israelis hospitable, amiable and ardently religious. Through hard work and modern technology, they had managed to transform deserts into Gardens of Eden where greenery thrives and fields produce food in abundance. I saw no sign of bigotry during my visit to the Zionist state.

But when I saw a video this week exposing Israelis as anti-African and anti-immigration I was shocked. I could not compromise my positive experiences of the Jewish state of many years ago with the belligerent, abusive and deprecating attitude of the Israelis against Africans today.

Produced by David Sheen and Max Blumenthal, the ten-minute video is as expressive in its folly as it is odious and baneful in its content. A nation raised by the sweat of immigrants appears to have metamorphosed into a hateful and bigoted country of people who see no shame in treating immigrants in a cavalier and contemptuous manner.

The Israeli nation was born in 1948. For more than two decades thereafter, immigrants flocked in from Europe, the U.S.S.R. and from other Middle Eastern countries: anxious to be at the heart of the Zionist ideology, happy to escape persecution in their own countries, and looking forward to better lives. Beginning 2006 - as the economies of most Africans countries dipped and democracy floundered - Israel began to attract a new breed of immigrants: Africans. In Israel, the newcomers - mainly from Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea  began a process of integrating into the Jewish lifestyles. They did not bother anyone and did not engage in anti-Israel activities. They only wanted a quiet life away from the economic tribulations and political instability in their countries of birth.

Instead of enjoying the peace they yearned for in Israel, the African immigrants were met with hostility. The government denied them work permits and landlords refused to rent them accommodation. Soon, their presence became a matter of political discussion in the country's Parliament, the Knesset, and at public meetings. Anti-African demonstrations became a common feature in Tel Aviv and in other towns. They were called niggers, thieves and spit, and accused of spreading diseases. They were described as a "cancer" and told to return to where they came from.

All this is captured in the video circulating via YouTube called Israel's New Racism: The Persecution of African Immigrants in the Holy Land. In one scene, a big mob of Israelis is seen noisily taunting a terrified African woman carrying a baby on her back. There are also scenes showing top Israeli government officials such as the Interior Minister Eli Yishai, deputy defence minister Danny Danon and a host of Members of Parliament calling for the expulsion of African immigrants.

Comments such as: "If you bring a million Africans, it (Israel) will no longer be Jewish," and "If you want to help Africans go to Africa" directed at those who support immigration, are common declarations by Israelis who, ironically, insist they are not racists. They say Africans are a threat to the Jewish character of Israel.

To deal with immigrants, the Israel government has built a huge camp in the Negev desert called Saharonim Prison especially to accommodate non-Jews. The jail has been described by human rights advocates as the biggest concentration camp in the civilised world, offering some of the harshest living conditions. At least two thousand Africans are believed to be detained there.

The government has also built a fence along the Sinai border to thwart any immigrants who may wish to cross into Israel. Officials say since the fence was completed in 2012, only a handful of African immigrants have entered Israel and those were arrested. The Prevention of Infiltration law was also amended to give Tel Aviv powers to detain non-Jewish immigrants for three years before they are deported to their countries of origin. Although Israel's security concerns are understandable, what is seen in the video goes beyond the desire to keep the country safe from infiltrators. It is a dramatic show of racism against Africans.

The condition of African detainees in the Saharonim Prison is reported to be dire and the matter requires urgent intervention by the African Union and the international community at large. Sadly, the African Union has kept completely mum about the mistreatment of its people by the Israeli government.

On its own, Kenya - as an African country - has stood by the Israeli government in the worst of situations. It has suffered three terrorist bombings: the Norfolk hotel bombing in 1980; the Paradise Hotel attack in 2002 and the Westgate attack recently - the common thread being that all the three establishments are owned by Israeli investors. Our relations with Israel have been good and continues to be so. In all the three terrorist attacks Kenya turned to Israeli for help. Furthermore, Kenyan security officials have trained in Israel, and our country has benefited from various assistance packages from Tel Aviv. In return, we continue to work with the Jewish state by sharing intelligence information on terrorist movements in our region.

Many other African countries also maintain good relations with Israel. If Israel thinks there is a problem with African immigrants - as it seems there is - it should raise the matter with the African Union. The way the Jewish state is treating African immigrants is unacceptable and should be condemned.

Finally, we in Kenya are Africans, but we are not niggers, not spit, not cancer and certainly not psychopaths as described by Israeli demonstrators.

And that is my say.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


There is no doubt that Raila Omolo Odinga will be on the Kenya presidential ballot in the 2017. What is in doubt is whether or not his political vehicle - the ODM - will survive its prevailing internal squabbles and emerge strong enough to take up the Jubilee Coalition of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto four years from now. This doubt is informed by historical facts that have characterised Raila's political career over the years.

Since he left the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD-KENYA) in a huff after a leadership squabble with the late Kijana Wamalwa in 1994, Raila has commanded three political parties of his own -  the National Development Party (NDP), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) - and not one succeeded in propelling him to the presidency.

In 2001 he disbanded the NDP to team up with President Daniel Arap Moi's KANU in a deal that temporarily torpedoed his political ambitions. In 2002 he aligned LDP with the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) in an arrangement that allowed Mwai Kibaki to win. In 2007, he failed to win the presidency altogether. He faced a similar fate in 2012 when he linked ODM to the Coalition of Reforms and Democracy (CORD) in a contest against the Jubilee coalition.

Now, as he prepares to take his fourth stab at the highest office in the land, Raila faces multiple problems that would most likely, once again, derail his plans to be commander-in-chief. Firstly, CORD exists only on paper. Its main partner, the Wiper Democratic Movement of Kalonzo Musyoka, is so battered that it cannot even win a parliamentary seat in its own backyard of Ukambani. This was demonstrated recently when Kalembe Ndile failed to win the Makueni seat in a by-election. Kalembe's main opponent was not even a member of a political party: he was an independent candidate.

With the party leader Musyoka now politically vanquished, the WIPER cannot, and should not, be expected to bring any significant number of elective seats to the CORD in the next elections. On the other hand, FORD-KENYA of Moses Wetangula, another principal partner in CORD, has completely failed to make an impact in western Kenya. In fact, the coming senatorial by-election could as well see him washed out of the political landscape altogether.

Secondly, ODM, the flagship of CORD is hopelessly disjointed. Nyanza, which Raila has used for years as his fort is no longer a homogeneous constituency. People who once followed Raila blindly are today independent-thinking voters who disagree, digress and openly rebel against Odingaism. There are no more block votes in Nyanza for Raila to wish for.

When Raila's father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga fell out with President Jomo Kenyatta in the 1960s, Nyanza suffered isolation for almost three decades until Kibaki came to its rescue in 2002. With Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto likely to be in power for the next ten years, Nyanza people have only two options: stay in the cold for another decade, or do everything possible to avoid another round of insulation. That is why pragmatic Nyanza leaders are choosing the second option and warming up to the Jubilee leadership.

And it' not just Nyanza where ODM is in trouble. There is a dizzying decline of popularity in all its other strongholds. The party has suffered major setbacks in the Rift Valley where its point men, Henry Kosgei and Franklin Bett, have reportedly resigned from their party positions. Western Kenya big guns like Musalia Mudavadi, Eugene Wamalwa and Cyrus Jirongo are no longer endeared to Raila and are teetering towards the government side. Jubilee has overran the region and both Uhuru and Ruto are frequent visitors there. At the Coast, the party's once broad support is shaky. Almost all the elected leaders there have publicly pledged support to the Jubilee government.

The other perceived ODM vote basket has been Nairobi. It is no longer a secret that Governor Evans Kidero who was elected on an ODM ticket is dancing with the enemy. He has built a strong bond with Uhuru and avoided Raila's company on two very important trips to the United States. Independent-minded and with a groundswell of popularity among city denizens, Kidero is perhaps the only person now who can either save Raila in the city or wipe out his support.

ODM's failure to make a mark in Parliament and in the Senate is another factor that is ruining the game for Raila's party. With all the three of its national leaders - Raila, Musyoka and Wetangula - out in the cold, the party's parliamentary leadership is weak, rudderless and confused. Its performance has been dismal, bordering on negligence. This charade of confusion is likely to get worse as ODM MPs "cross" the floor in anticipation of appointments for their kins-people to key government and parastatal positions. That is why I believe it is a matter of time before ODM becomes completely dysfunctional in the legislature.

In the meantime, party legislators cannot even agree on whether or not to support or oppose the deferral proposal relating to the ICC trials; or even how to vote on legislations in the August House.

And then there is the important matter of succession. Younger members of the party have not shied away from declaring their intention to oust the old guard ahead of the 2017 elections. This group of restless, eager and rebellious politicians is spoiling for a fight although the old guard is fighting back. So a battle of wits and ideas is looming.

It is expected that the National Governing Council - the second top-most body - will meet next February to deliberate on the matter. To me, that will be the defining moment. I expect a vacuum-cleaner approach in which the entire leadership - with the exception of Raila who is the de facto owner of the party - will be swept out. Mangled and thunderstruck, ODM would splinter into factions and self-destruct.

At that time, the national icon will be 73 years old and undoubtedly taking his last chance at the presidency. If he fails again, the scion of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga would have to exit. In the absence of a successor with a national appeal, ODM would fizzle away, leaving the field open for Ruto to take over from Uhuru in 2022. This is the gruesome reality.

And that is my say.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


When the Daily Nation began serialising Raila Odinga's autobiography, The Flame of Freedom, I received the following post on my Facebook Timeline from a Moses Musamali, (and I re-produce it here verbatim without any changes:

"So Kenyan politicians should write a book in their retirement? These books they write are just propaganda, they write to tell us nothing but insult their enemies more. These books have no impacts like books mandela wrote. Miguna miguna, Joe Khamisi, Simeon Nyachae. And Many others wrote but non of them has any impact. They are just giving us their autobiography how they got their wealth."

I was tempted to respond immediately to thank Musamali for his comment and to inform him that my biography, Dash Before Dusk, would be out early in 2014 and that he should get a copy when it comes out, his views notwithstanding. After a brief thought I decided not to reply directly but to use this space to address the whole issue of books and why more Kenyans should put their thoughts on paper.

I am glad I didn't reply then because a few days ago I saw another posting from a Kenyan resident in the United States complaining about how Kenyans were denied entry into a venue in Minnesota, USA, where Raila was scheduled to launch his book. What caught my attention was what followed: the writer informed the world that the book was selling at 40 US dollars and already 100 books had been sold, meaning according to him, that Raila had pocketed 4,000 US dollars, an equivalent of 348,000 Kenya shillings at that one venue alone.

Firstly, I want to inform both complainants that writing a book, any book, is a time-consuming, tedious affair that requires many working days and many research hours that would be difficult to quantify in monetary terms. Secondly, there are expenses involved. There is an assistant and an editor to be paid. In the case of self-published works, the publisher must be paid; a budget must be set aside for the launch, promotion and marketing; and finally distributors and retailers have to get their commissions. At the end of the day, a writer ends up with a royalty of not more than 20 percent, if he is lucky. If the books fails to meet the basic threshold of sales, the writer loses out. So, it is wrong to assume that writers make a lot of money; just as it is misguided to think books don't have an impact. Books educate, enlighten and preserve history. Researchers use books for reference purposes; books also entertain. I am glad to say my own book, The Politics of Betrayal, is being quoted by scholars and is useful to students.

I want to tell Musamali that books such as The Flame of Freedom contribute greatly to the country's history. Raila is a very important personality whose role in the shaping of the Kenyan nation cannot be underestimated. People have said a lot about him, Now we want him to tell us with his own voice about his background, his political experiences, his tribulations and his struggles. I hope this will not be his last book because we are already looking forward to his memoir at the end of his journey.

I have not yet read the book because it has not reached where I am, but when it finally gets here, I will buy it just like I bought Nyachae's Miguna's, Babafemi's, Njenga Karume's and others.

Whether we like or not, books must be written for the benefit of future generations. Listen to what Raila told Linus Kaikai of NTV during a one-to-one interview: "The truth must come out...People should speak openly and frankly to chronicle what has happened so that it remains for prosperity."

It is just unfortunate that many Kenyans with a lot to say go to their graves with valuable knowledge and information instead of sharing them with others. That is why I am a consummate proponent of the written word and that is why I want Musamali and others who think like him to read, and if possible, to put to pen their worldly experiences for all of us to read.

And that is my say.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Some people say politics and sex are inseparable bedfellows. I agree. If there are two passions that have rocked governments, dispatched politicians into oblivion, and ruined marital relationships, they are politics and sex; in other words, it is raw power and what occurs under the sheets that collude to destroy careers.

Sex has seen the downfall of many politicians all over the world for as long as I have lived. From the very first political sex scandal I can remember, that of the British War Minister John Profumo way back in 1963, to the latest escapades of former US Representative Anthony Weiner, sex continues to play havoc to humanity.

It was sex that almost brought down US President Bill Clinton; it was sex that vanquished Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; it was sex that rattled South African Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwean Morgan Tsvangirai; and it is sex that will most likely destroy the careers of some Kenyan politicians. The list of sex offenders in the political world gets longer every year as politicians get exceedingly careless and as young, beautiful women make themselves available for the good time.

Blending politics with sex is like sprinkling fuel on embers. The mixture bursts into a full-blown fire: attracts attention, raises moral questions; triggers public scrutiny and, when it graduates into a scandal, collapses careers and destroys families.

What Kenyans have been treated to in the past week - unsavoury images of two people we all may be knowing - has already passed the stage of raising moral questions and triggering public scrutiny. What Kenyans are waiting for now is to see how far careers and family lives would be destroyed. But before we get there some questions have to be answered: Are those pictures real? Or, were they "photo-shopped" as some people say? If they are real, who took them, and who posted them on the social media? And most importantly, did the two individuals know they were being photographed? And did they give consent? Only those affected can answer such questions. So far, we haven't heard much.

It appears our country's moral fibre is in grave danger of erosion. A video clip I saw recently of young people - some looking as young as 15 - dancing publicly in broad day light and in the most erotic manner, shocked me to the bone, more so because all those youngsters have parents or guardians somewhere who could stumble on the video the way I did.

But that is only a tip of the iceberg. How about the quick-spreading craze of swingers' clubs in our towns where lovers swap partners for liberal sex sessions? How about the so-called fashion trends where women walk on the streets half-naked without care? Or, the growing pornographic video industry - bestiality and all - in Nairobi and in the tourist towns of Mombasa and Malindi?

Traditional norms are being replaced by free lifestyles copied from Hollywood movies and Mexican soap operas.

Unfortunately, the people who are supposed to mentor the youth and show them the good way are themselves openly deviant and immorally corrupt. And it is not just politicians I am talking about. How about men and women of cloth? How about other religious clerics?These are the people who stand in churches every Sunday and in Mosques every Friday preaching the virtues of righteousness.These people are supposed to be role models.

I am not saying that leaders are not human and should not behave humanly. I am only saying that public display of immorality has no place in the Kenyan way of life.

Everyone agrees that the social media is the best thing that has happened to this world this century. It permits on-time delivery of information and pictures; opens up communication to a much wider audience and shrinks the world into a village. But as convenient and as innovative as they may be, the social media are also empowering users to be able to copy, re-work, share and re-tweet messages many times over, circulating them indiscriminately without regard to age or sensibilities of the bigger audience out there.

The proliferation of Internet powered laptops and hand-held devices means even minors can gain access to pornographic material without the knowledge of their parents. I am convinced  tens of thousands of under-aged children saw the distasteful pictures of their leaders splashed all over the social media these past few days.

We expect leaders to take the moral high ground and provide not only good leadership but moral uprightness.

Perhaps we should tighten our ethics laws further so that our leaders can be held to account at a higher threshold than currently provided. Electing leaders who are debauched, indecorous and dramatically showy is dangerous for the well-being of our society.

And that is my say.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


One of the challenges facing African governments - Kenya included - continues to be the incapacity of leaders to resist the temptation of dishing out favours to relatives and friends. All across the continent, leaders have given away public resources, in many cases, to undeserving and unqualified cronies to the great disadvantage of more creditable and suitable individuals. In the popular parlance this practice is called nepotism. Let me illustrate here some chronic cases of this rot in our continent:

In neighbouring Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has appointed not only his wife as Minister in government, but has hired his daughter as his personal secretary at State House.  His brother, General Caleb Akandwanaho, popularly known as Salim Saleh is his senior advisor on military affairs while his son, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, is commander of special forces, an elite unit whose job is to guard the presidency. Museveni's family tree in government is long enough to start a whole new department.

In Zimbabwe, a large number of people from Robert Mugabe's extended Gushungo clan have benefited in many ways from public resources through Gushungo Investment Company, Gushungo Security Company and Gushungo Construction. Ministries and the diplomatic service are crowded with sons and daughters of senior government officials, some of them still attending universities in countries of their posting.

In Angola, President dos Santos' eldest daughter, Isabele, was named by Forbes as one of the richest African women. In an investigation published in the magazine recently, it was confirmed that she amassed her wealth through the help of her father. She holds extensive investments in mining, oil, diamond and cement manufacturing.

In Equatorial Guinea, the President's son, Teodoro, not too long time ago, owned eleven super-cars worth millions of dollars in France. These were later impounded by the French government as part of a foreign aid money laundering investigation. Teodoro, who is officially a Minister in his country, also owned a luxury mansion in the exotic Malibu area of California and a jet. He also counted as part of his possessions, the famous jewel-encrusted glove that Michael Jackson wore during his "Bad" tour valued at 275,000 US dollars. These too were confiscated reportedly by the US government.

It is obvious that all these people got to where they got, and became rich as a result of nepotism.

Although in Kenya favouritism does not appear to have reached the levels of the countries mentioned above, it has been part of our life since independence. In 1974, for example, President Jomo Kenyatta, in a gazette notice No. 3750, appointed twenty Permanent Secretaries. Out of them eleven came from one tribe. The notice was signed by G. K. Kariithi as Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Cabinet. Interestingly, his own name also appeared on the same appointment notice. There were so many other examples of malpractices.

The situation did not get any better during President Moi's 24-year rule. Cronies, like the late Mulu Mutisya, landed important positions in the public sector without the education and qualification required for those positions. It is also common knowledge that politically-connected individuals were given huge tracks of land in the most fertile areas of the Rift Valley.

During President Mwai Kibaki's government, it was widely known that ministries and departments such as the treasury, the central bank and parastatals were manned by civil servants and officials who spoke one language.

With the new constitution we expect this trend, where a selected clique of people benefit from public resources, would not take root in Uhuru Kenyatta's administration. Given recent appointments, however,  there is cause for alarm; that the Uhuru administration may be heading towards the same direction as the previous three regimes. It will be sad if that happens. Kenya has 42 tribes each one endowed with qualified and competent individuals capable of filling all key positions in government. Everyone must get a fair chance.

I know Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto want to leave a lasting legacy of good deeds - whether they rule for five years or for twenty years as has been predicted. To achieve this, they must fight off any pressure from kinsmen, and move away from past practices.

And that is my say.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


This week is one of the darkest in Kenya's history.

If there is any country in Eastern and Southern African that has suffered the most from international terrorism, and continues to be a key target of modern-day bandits, it is Kenya. We have shed innocent blood, suffered eonomic melt-down as a result of the many travel advisories issued by Western nations; and, consequently, we have been put on a permanent state of alert.

Before the American Embassy attack in 1998, 20 people were killed at the Norfolk Hotel bombing. Thirteen perished at the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala in 2002. Minor attacks have also taken place in local bars, a small shopping complex on Moi Avenue and several other points in northern Kenya where casualties were recorded. These attacks have taken place despite government measures to deal with terrorism.

I was saddened though that some Kenyans took to the social media to lash out at the government for what they said was a failure by authorities to prevent the attack. They did this at a time when ambulances were still shuttling people to hospitals and the thugs still holed up with our hostages at the Mall. I feel the hasty blame-game was premature and insensitive. I am happy, however, that most Kenyans have contined to support out security forces.

I am sure many wish the government could have done more to stop the attackers who, we now know, are members of the Al Shabaab. But no country, not even the most vigilant nation in the world, has been able to prevent attacks from modern-day terrorists. International bandits have become more adept at plotting more secretly, and are far more cordinated today than they were a few years ago.

The speed in which our security forces moved in to take charge of the situation was commendable. Also coming up for praise are the dozens of volunteers who worked hard to shepherd people out of danger zones, carried helpless children to safety and collaborated with the Kenya Red Cross to save lives. We must also thank those who continue to come out in their thousands all over the country to donate blood, and those who continue to offer food. This type of unity, devoid of political, racial or religious consideration has never been seen before in Kenya. It is a good start towards unifying our people in the wake of the many challenges facing our country.

But people expect the government will do much more in future in terms of securing our country. Going forward, the government must review its security manuals and re-train its forces. It must go for the terrorists where they are instead of waiting for them in Kenya. I agree with our leaders that the terror group must be pursued at all cost and punished appropriately. That effort must start immediately. We have too much work to do and cannot afford to be distracted by cowardly attacks by destructive forces.

However, the first line of defence is Kenyans themselves. Intelligence must start with us: in our own homes, in our work places and in entertainment joints. We must report suspicious activities to authorities without fear.

The weapons used at Westgate must have been transported into Kenya by public transport and stockpiled in our own localities. Someone must have noticed something. Our motto should be: report something when you notice something. The government cannot succeed in wiping out this menace without our help.

Finally, we have gone through similar difficulties before, and we rebounded. We are a resilient people, and we will overcome this one too. Our enemies must know that we will not be cowed by any such acts of violence.

And that is my say.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


From what we saw at the International Criminal Court at the Hague this past week, it's quite clear Fatou Bensouda has a herculean task ahead of her in prosecuting the Kenyans accused of crimes against humanity. The Deputy President, William Ruto is accused of orchestrating the 2007 post-election violence while his co-accused, former radio broadcaster, Joshua Sang, has to answer allegations that he used broadcasts to fan violence against certain tribes in the Rift Valley.

While the defence led by Karim Khan for Ruto and Katwa Kigen for Sang came out smelling like roses on the first day of the trial on September 10, the prosecution team was left splashed with rotten eggs all over its face after it forced the adjournment of the case prematurely for lack of witnesses. Even the Bench, president over by Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, appeared disappointed by the unpreparedness of the prosecution.

The case which was filed by the former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo before he retired in 2012, has had a very bumpy ride since the charges were confirmed in 2011. From the original six who were initially indicted, it is only the two now appearing in court, and Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta whose trial begins in a few weeks, who remain to face charges. The pre-trial release of former head of civil service, Francis Muthaura and former minister Henry Kosgei for lack of evidence signalled the beginning of troubles for the prosecution. Then followed the pull-out of at least two judges; numerous unexplained postponements; legal arguments over witness testimonies; and finally allegations of witness tampering.

For the moment, Bensouda needs to concentrate on how she can turn the shortcomings of last week into an opportunity this week to make a formidable case before the court. She must be able to pick herself up and make an impression by presenting a strong case through the first set of witnesses. The first testimonies must have the capacity to disorient the defence and get the attention of the judges. If she fails to do that, the cases may be as dead as a dodo.

Already both defence lawyers have called for the acquittal of their clients claiming the cases lacked merit. With at least a half a point ahead of the prosecution, the defence is coming into court this week more invigorated, more confident and ready to charge at the prosecution.

While some witnesses reportedly arrived at the Hague these past few days ready for the start of proceedings on Tuesday, other reports said more witnesses had withdrawn from the case. And that brings me to my next point. It is emerging now that more people may have been involved in matters surrounding the Hague cases than originally thought. Names and faces are now cropping up in the public domain to suggest that the whole saga of witnesses could have been exploited by certain non-governmental organisations and individuals. That the ICC cases were heavily infiltrated by human rights activists and political opportunists is not a secret.

The matter becomes even more intriguing when I hear some of those NGOs may have had more than local connections. If this is true, then those elements who covertly interfered with the witnesses must face the full force of the law. Similarly, if there is anyone who gave false information - either for or against the accused persons - to the ICC investigators must be investigated and if found culpable, prosecuted.

The charges facing Uhuru, Ruto and Sang are extremely serious and could, if confirmed, lead to long prison sentences. We already know about the 50-year jail term given to the former Liberian President Charles Taylor. We also know about the conviction, not too long ago, of Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, who was sentenced to 14 years by the ICC court for a myriad charges connected to atrocities in his home country, the DRC. Consequently, any kind of interference in an attempt to subvert justice must not be tolerated.

This case is about the thousands of people who were murdered, raped, tortured and rendered homeless as a result of the heinous events of 2007. These people are crying for justice: justice of not only getting their farms back - or be compensated as the case may be - but justice that would ensure those who committed acts of violence are punished according to the law; and that never again will Kenya be subjected to such despicable acts of civil chaos.

And that is my say.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


In 2010, Jerry Rawlings's residence in Accra was destroyed by fire leaving the former president of Ghana homeless. Because he did not have another house in the city, he moved to his village, while his wife Nana Konadu, hunkered down with her mother in the capital. Desperate and dependent only on his meager military pension, Rawlings made a public appeal to the government for a place to stay. It took almost a year before he was allocated a house.

We do not want to see our leaders in Kenya live like tramps, or, be subjected to humiliation like what Rawlings went through once they leave office, but the pension figures suggested by some MPs to reward our former leaders are ridiculous. A proposal being readied for debate in Parliament wants the exchequer to pay 485 million shillings every year to our ex-leaders as pension. The ex-prime minister and former vice president will, for example, get 87 million shillings each year, equivalent to one million US dollars. The amount does not include additional perks such as vehicles and security.

Kenya is a poor country with a gross domestic product (GDP) of only 37 billion US dollars.The United States, the richest country in the world with a GDP of 15,700 billion US dollars, pays its former presidents only 190,000 dollars per year. Britain, whose GDP is sixty times that of Kenya at 2,440 US dollars, pays its former prime ministers a mere 125,000 US dollars per year. Now, isn't it surprising that a country that perennially begs for money and food from the US and Britain should be the one to spend taxpayers' money so lavishly?

I want to submit that our leaders are not poor. They are very wealthy even by international standards. Both Raila and Kalonzo have luxurious villas in Nairobi and in their rural villages. Both have incomes coming in from businesses and farms,. They are not like the majority of Kenyans who survive on a hands-to-mouth circle of poverty. It is most unlikely our leaders would ever be homeless.

That is the reason why I say they do not deserve - and should not be paid - the millions being proposed by a fanatical member of ODM. And this should apply to all our leaders, past and present.

Already presidents Moi and Kibaki are enjoying perks that will make many countries quiver in astonishment. Recently, someone even suggested that we spend a cool 50 million shillings to build a monument for Kibaki and another 700 million for an office complex. A government corporation in the energy sector offered to build a petrol station for Kibaki as a going away present, while another wanted to give him four fish ponds. I don't want to believe we Kenyans are nuts, but when carried by euphoria of the day, we seem to go bananas.

Members of parliament who support the proposal for exorbitant rewards for our leaders must look at their own constituencies first. Do they have decent schools? Do pupils have enough desks and books? How about their hospitals and dispensaries: are they adequate and do they have qualified personnel to man them? How about the conditions of their roads? Do they have piped water and electricity supplies? I dont even want to talk about libraries and recreational centres that are so important for our young people.

I do not want to under-estimate the sacrifices our leaders have made to our country. They served with commitment and dedication but they did not work for free. They were collecting fat salaries every month, enjoyed free security, free transport and free junkets. If there is anything we can do, it is to give them a one-time - not yearly disbursements - token payment, and that token should be based on the ability of the country to pay.

With domestic and foreign debts running into trillions of shillings, with a wage bill now almost 13 percent of the GDP, with teachers, doctors, nurses and other public workers clamouring for salary increases, and with 40 million people to feed, treat and and educate, we cannot afford this kind of wastefulness.

When in 2009, legislators in Ghana proposed a 650,000 US dollars gratuity for Rawlings, two mansions, six chauffeur-driven cars and a 65-day overseas vacation, he turned the package down and told the MPs to "get lost." His view was that such huge payments would impoverish the country.

That is why I salute deputy president William Ruto for coming out openly to reject the proposed pension scheme. I want other leaders to come out and take a similar stand. At the same time, I urge parliament to reject the proposed bill in its present form.

And that is my say.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Six months after they took over the leadership of counties in the devolved system of government in Kenya, most of our governors and county representatives are still groping in the dark, confused about how they will navigate the mucky terrain of politics and governance to deliver goods to their people.

Many of those leaders have no clue at all about the art of governance; many are still struggling to understand the constitution; and many others think flying a flag and being flanked by a bevy of body- guards is all there is in leadership. Don't get me wrong. Not all governors and county representatives are in this category. We have a few who have already shown promise and we should encourage them. But majority of our county leaders may end up needing some kind of reality awakening.

When I read that the governor of Nyeri county plans to construct an airstrip to provide a faster corridor for their key products of tea and coffee, I say hooray! When I hear the governor of Nairobi talk about concrete steps to rid the city of traffic jams so that business can run smoothly, I applaud. But when I hear governors talk about spending millions of shillings on entertainment, I boo. Equally, when I hear the governor of Uasin Gishu say that his budget would not be able to accomodate education and clean water, I shudder in disbelief.

What we are seeing in most counties - budgets that dont balance, unrealistic demands for perks; excessive expenditure on luxury cars and gyms and manifestos that are over-rated in terms of goals and timelines - is symptomatic of a serious management problem that could derail the whole concept of devolution and toperdo the high expectations of the people.

The confusion we are witnessing in some counties confirms the suspicion of many that our representatives did not take time to know their job descriptions before they went to ask for votes, and even now, do not understand their responsibilities as elected representatives. They jumped into the train without knowing where they were going and what they were going to do when they got where they were going. So, after winning they went into a state of delirium.

We all agree that there is no university in Kenya - or anywhere else  - that gives hands-on training to incoming politicians on how to handle people and their problems on a day-to-day basis. Those who aspire to lead must therefore be people with inherent qualities of leadership: intelligence, selflessness, humility, charisma and honesty. Equally important, they must be people who are prepared to learn fast and willingly without incessant grumbling over trivialities.

Boycotting sessions to press for more money; throwing tantrums over flags and number plates, and bodyguards, and office space, will not bring development to the people. I can see the next five years zooming past without any yields coming from counties. If that happens, our people wil be demoralised, will lose confidence in the system and may see no need to vote in future polls.

And then there are those counties that are starting off with huge fiscal hurdles. Mombasa county, for example, has an outstanding debt of 4 billion shillings carried forward from the previous council. It can neither pay salaries nor remit statutory contributions to government agencies. Three of its accounts were recently frozen by the Kenya Revenue Authority because it cannot pay outstanding taxes amounting to more than 400 million shillings, Yet it has proposed a budget bigger than that of Nairobi. If the council implements that budget, it will face a huge budget deficit.

The chairman of the commission on revenue allocation, Micar Cheserem, summed it up recently when he said, perhaps the governors do not know the difference between a million and a billion. And it's possible.

My view is that if wananchi are to benefit from the devolved system, the central government must step in with pragmatic solutions to help the counties manage the 210 billion shillings it has allocated them.

And that is my say.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The proposed Kenya referendum: Is it well-intentioned or a political ploy?

If Raila Amolo Odinga gets his way, Kenyans could go to another referendum within the next few years for the third time in the country's history - this time not to enact a new constitution, but to decide on amendments that could significantly change the way this country is governed.

Raila, the undisputed leader of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), has adopted a revolutionary pet project which, if Kenyans approve, could see the dismantlement of the present republican system of government and the introduction of a parliamentary system.

Separately, the Senate has made it known that it would push a series of amendments through a referendum to give devolved governments more fiscal and operating powers. These may look like two different initiatives but they are actually driven by the same man.

The presidential system which we have used for 50 years is not perfect and a change to a parliamentary system is not bad. But the timing and motive of this proposal is suspect. It appears to me that the CORD leader is only trying to find a back-door route to the presidency by claiming that the current system shuts out smaller tribes from reaching the high office.

Is Raila just realising that?  How come he did not advance that argument before the 2007 polls, or even before the 2012 elections. Why did he choose to play along, when he didn't believe in the presidential system? Was it because he thought he would win and enjoy the powers normally vested in the executive?

Raila's current campaign is a political ploy meant to benefit him as a presidential candidate in the next elections and not a genuine initiative to reform our governance structure. He knows well that under the present constitution, the president does not enjoy the kind of powers the last three presidencies enjoyed. That is why he is rooting for the executive premiership.

The truth is, both systems have cons and pros. In a parliamentary system, people elect MPs who then elect the Prime Minister. MPs can also pass a vote of no-confidence on their leader at any time during the parliamentary term. The down-side, however, is that people don't get a chance to pick their chief executive, an option some say is not democratic.

On the other hand, the presidential system rests all powers on the president. Under this system chances of a leader becoming authoritarian are high. We saw it here with President Moi. On the positive side, however, people get a chance to elect their leader directly. Where institutions work, like in the United States, the presidential system is undoubtedly more democratic.

Finally, I want to submit that both Raila's proposal and the Senate's move are dangerous for this country. We have just come out of a very complex electoral exercise. For the rest of this year, the country will go through dozens of by-elections as a result of successful petitions filed by candidates in various elective offices. If the referendum takes place in the next two years, the country will be thrown into an active campaign mood, only two years before the next general election in 2017. Can we really afford almost four years of continuos campaigns? The answer is no.

We have a government that is busy trying to implement promises it made to the people of Kenya, and we cannot afford the kind of distractions accompanying a referendum. The bottom line is that our country is just  too fragile and too divided to take the weight of a politically-motivated plebiscite.
And that is my say.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Unless the Kenya government takes bold and immediate action to stop the ongoing elephant killing spree, the next generation of Kenyans will have to go to zoos to see an animal that has roamed freely in the East African savannas for generations, attracting thousands of visitors to our country and bringing to our economy millions of shillings every year. From the record population of 275,000 in the 1970s, the number of jumbos has shrunk to 38,500 as I write, thanks to the worst devastation of elephants ever.

The governments of Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki must all take the blame for the decimation of the jumbo, one of the five most prominent animals - along with rhinoceros, lion, leopard and buffalo - that collectively we have come to refer to as the Big Five. By allowing unbridled corruption, greed and impunity to thrive, the three leaders failed to protect the long-time interests of our country, and in the process, ruined the economy and sabotaged the interests of future generations. In authoritarian regimes, such activities would be considered economic crimes.

The trend began in the sixties, but it was in the 1970's after some of Jomo Kenyatta's relatives entered  the lucrative trade, that the extermination of elephants took a frightening turn. Officials hired private planes to transport tons after tons of ivory to the Middle East and Asia, completely ignoring a ban on the exportation of the products forced on Kenya by international conservation organisations. When Kenyatta died in 1978, the trade continued under Moi, resulting in 8,300 elephant killings in the 1980's alone.

The situation has now reached such dangerous proportions that unless President Uhuru Kenyatta takes immediate and bold measures to reverse the situation, the growth projections contained in Vision 2030 and in the Jubilee coalition manifesto would not be met. But there is something else that a failure to rein the prevailing massacre of elephants would trigger.

A few months ago, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) singled out Kenya as part of a gang of eight most notorious countries involved in the trading of elephant products. It has therefore warned Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania as generating countries, and China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand as receiving nations that unless they produce "hard action plans" in the next 12 months indicating how they intend to end their involvement in killing and trading in ivory, they could face stiff trade sanctions.

The Uhuru government must take this ultimatum seriously and move quickly to bring the situation under control. My view is that the starting point for any action must be at the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS). While many KWS workers are industrious and committed, a few elements must definitely be colluding with poachers to have the animals killed and transported out of the reserves. An audit must be conducted to identify and prosecute such people.

Two, speculation has been rife that characters in the police service might be aiding and abetting the killing cartel. With all the road blocks we have from up-country to Mombasa, it beats logic that trucks full of illegal goods could travel along that road undetected. We must root them out. And finally, while I commend the government for the work done to catch the smugglers at Mombasa Port, a lot needs to be done, with particular focus on the Ports Authority and the Kenya Revenue Authority. These two are the usual suspects when it comes to corrupt activities. Everything must be done to clean them up.

Only the other day, Uhuru was at the Masai Mara national park to watch the great wildlife migration. He must have been overwhelmed by the unique resources this country possesses.  Thus, he should not allow a repeat of past mistakes. It is only by taking drastic action against poaching that Uhuru will be able to leave behind a lasting legacy.

And that is my say.


Monday, August 5, 2013


This is what I said about the Nobel Prize laureate Wangari Maathai in my book, The Politics of Betrayal: Diary of a Kenyan Legislator, on page 283: "When laureates in other countries were being treated as national icons and sought after for advice on a myriad of international and regional matters, Maathai was being treated shabbily at home. Travelling abroad, she is honoured with red carpet treatment and feted by Presidents and Kings, but at home she is treated as an ordinary mwananchi, perhaps in response to the years she spent taunting the authorities in power."

That was early in 2011. In September that year, the celebrated human rights crusader and environmentalist died of natural causes at the age of 71. Other than the trees she planted in Karura forest and in many other parts of the world - that will remain her lasting legacy -  in an international campaign to green our mother planet, I am not aware of any permanent monument that has been built in Maathai's honour in her home nation of Kenya. In the United States and in many other foreign lands, her memory still lives on.

This past week, I had the opportunity - which I didn't  get when I lived in America more than 30 years ago - to visit five American states on a 1,800 miles road journey stretching over two days - from Indianapolis through Illinois, the country of Abraham Lincoln; Arkansas, the land of Bill Clinton; Texas, the cowboy territory of the Bush family; Tennessee, the home state of the rock n roll king, Elvis Presley; and Kentucky, the domain of the famous finger-licking fried chicken creator. Everywhere I went, there was some form of landmark to remember their great sons.

But it was in Memphis, Tennessee, that I came face to face with one part of history that touched me profoundly. The visit to the National Civil Rights Museum filled me with emotions, anger and hope in equal measure. The museum traces the civil rights struggle from the 17th century when Africans arrived in the US as slaves, to now when black Americans are enjoying greater freedom and equality.

The star of the struggle was, and is, definitely the late Dr. Martin Luther King. The museum dedicates considerable space to Dr. King's journey as a peaceful agitator, pastor and civil rights leader over a period of 13 years. The main display at the museum is the hotel room where he spent the night before he was killed. He had travelled to Memphis from his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, to lead a march in support of garbage collectors who were demanding better working conditions.

He had stepped out to the first floor Lorraine Hotel balcony to consult with his aides when shots rang out from across the building where the confessed killer, James Earl Ray, had taken a room. Dr. King's modest hotel accommodation appears the same way as it was on the day of his assassination on April 4th 1968: one double bed, one single bed, two half-consumed cups of coffee, and a television set.

However, the anger boiling in me about Dr. King's murder eased when I saw a large picture of our hero Maathai on a wall in one of the display rooms at the museum.  I jumped in joy. It was one of about 50 portraits of great human rights leaders. Next to hers was one of Bill Clinton, the man who made significant contributions to improving the lives of African Americans. As president, Clinton employed more people of colour in high government positions than any other president in the history of the country. It dawned on me at that moment that Maathai was a much larger-than-life figure than many Kenyans assumed.

What struck me most as I toured the buildings was the solemnity  and absorption of visitors - black and white - who quietly took pictures, their faces showing obvious signs of agony and reflection. They came to honour Dr. King, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, at the age of 35. His valiant contributions helped to change the destiny of African Americans tremendously.

Now, back to Kenya. Recently, a proposal was made to spend millions of shillings to build statues for past presidents. The money was to come from the exchequer, milked from poor Kenyans. In the United States, such edifices are financed from donations of individuals, corporations and foundations. The National Civil Rights Museum, for example, is a privately run project and not a single state penny was used to put it up. The idea of using state funds to build memorials is absurd, but that does not mean that well wishers cannot get together and contribute money to honour Maathai. If there is anyone who deserves a monument anywhere in the country, it is the former Tetu Member of Parliament from the scrubby Ihithe village in Central Kenya.

And that is my say.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Diaspora Kenyans and serious crimes

Kenyans are some of the most travelled, most enterprising, most adventurous and most vulnerable to societal afflictions. They travel overseas for higher education, to look for employment, to do business and to commit crimes. They are gamblers who take major life risks. As a friend once told me, there isn't a single country in the world that Kenyans have not set foot in. And I dare say too, that there isn't a single prison in this universe that has not offered free accommodation to at least one Kenyan.

We have Kenyans serving prison terms in Asia, the Middle East, North America and Europe. Some of them, convicted of murder and drug trafficking have been hanged or awaiting the firing squad, while others are serving long prison terms that could see them spend their entire lives incarcerated in foreign lands. Those who are sentenced for minor infractions such as shop-lifting and assault are usually imprisoned for short periods of time and then released to continue with their venturous lives. Since most court cases overseas are not publicized, folks at home have no idea what has befallen their loved ones, other than the fact that they are abroad and supposedly doing well.

In the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in reported criminal activities involving Kenyans in North America, and significantly, in the United States. Thanks to the New Media, Kenyans at home are now able to follow the travails of their countrymen almost on real time, bringing to their doors a disturbing trend that is engulfing the dignity of good natured diaspora Kenyan citizens and ruining the country's reputation.

Unfortunately, most murders committed by Kenyans in America are against their own close relatives - children, wives or in-laws. A good example is this week's tragic murder of a mother-in-law allegedly by a one 33-year old Ian Muriu. The body of the woman was discovered in a house with multiple gunshot wounds. Muriu then allegedly committed suicide as his screaming wife related to the police the events that led to the gruesome deaths. Muriu was said to be a successful restaurateur and was apparently living well. What got him to kill and then eliminate himself is a question that needs answers.

That double debacle in Georgia is no different from what happened in 2010, in Santa Ana, Orange County, when a Kenyan father killed his young son following a marital dispute with his wife. Gideon Omondi, a 36-year old former engineering student was convicted of first degree murder for that killing, and is now serving a life sentence, plus another 25 years for trying to roast himself with gasoline.

However, of all the crimes I have been able to gather, nothing beats what a 43-year old Kenyan did in Minnesota three years ago. Justus Kebabe cold-bloodedly murdered his wife and three children then attempted to escape with his 4-year old son, who apparently survived. He was sentenced to 76 years in prison. He will be 94 year old before he can expect to be released on parole.

Another Kenyan rotting in an American jail is 34-year old William Karanja who is serving 66 years for raping two under-aged girls and knowingly attempting to infect them with HIV. In sentencing him, the judge called him a sexual predator. A relative of his confirmed that Karanja had a long history of sexual offences dating back from Kenya where similar incidents had been hushed.

But it is not just tom, dick and harry who are succumbing to American justice. An increasing number of church leaders, including priests and pastors, have also been convicted largely on molestation charges. Kenyan churches of different denominations are scattered all over America, and several Catholic churches are headed by Kenyan missionary priests. But not all of the clergy are upright and righteous as per the Bible.

Statistics as to how many Kenyans are languishing in American jails are difficult to get, but a Kenyan who has lived in the country for the past two decades put the number at about 200. Incarcerated are fraudsters, schemers, drug traffickers, physical abusers as well as alleged bizarre killers like the 21-year old former university student who killed his roommate, cut up his body and ate parts of his brain.

The increase in criminality among Kenyans in the diaspora is a matter of grave concern to many, including the "good" Kenyans who want to be left to live a fruitful and productive life. Yet it is difficult to fathom the reasons why people who leave their so-called poor country for a better life in America could turn out to be such anti-social monsters.

I would like to see the Kenya government, through the Embassy in Washington DC and the Consulate in Los Angeles putting more efforts in finding the cause of this serious decline in morals among Kenyans, instead of officials waiting to show up at funeral services when damage had already been done.

And that is my say.