Sunday, July 28, 2013

Will Jubilee Coalition pass the test?

As time goes by, I am getting this feeling that the Jubilee government of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto will most likely be no different from that of the just retired grand coalition of Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, or from those regimes of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi, before it. I have this gathering sense because tell tale signs show an increasing civilian dissatisfaction with the actions that this government has taken since its election in March.

The Jubilee government was elected under gravely acrimonious circumstances. The reason is that the margin of victory was so small that close to half of Kenyans still believe the election was stolen from Raila's Coalition of Reforms and Democracy (CORD). Although I do not subscribe to that way of thinking, the fact that Jubilee was declared the winner means that it has the mandate of behaving responsibly in tandem with its manifesto and in response to the expectations of the people.

However, events during the last 100 days of Jubilee government appear to suggest that the regime is on the way to retrench not only an avaricious system but one that is intolerant of freedom of expression. The closure of the press center at Parliament is one example of the extent of intolerance we are seeing from our leaders. The Forth Estate - despite constant assurances and passing of legislations - has every reason to feel jittery and guarded. Some of the Jubilee stalwarts in and outside parliament have, in a very short period of time, inflated their chests to such an extent that they spit fire at every passing shadow.

But what is of utmost worry to Kenyans is the blatant extravagance in the use of public money. I have no problem with the refurbishment of the presidential mansion or the deputy president's residence, for this is normal whenever a new occupant moves to occupy an institutional residence. However, the monies that were quoted for that purpose were completely out of tune with the reality in a country where 60 percent of the people live below the poverty line. Recent reports that the government planned to spend 2.5b shillings on building monuments for retired presidents and on an entertainment programme to celebrate 50 years of independence cast a long shadow on the state's commitment to fiscal discipline. The whole idea is insane and immoral and should be discarded. Why not give Kenyans a day off to celebrate in their own private way?

Kenya is facing a potentially serious economic crisis. Both the foreign and domestic debts are weighing in heavily on the country. The wage bill has reached a dangerous level given past fiscal mismanagement and obnoxious salary demands by our elected leaders. Unemployment is at a record high among the youth who represent 65 percent of the people. Doctors and other hospital workers, as well as teachers and lecturers in our institutions of higher learning deserve pay increases to put them at par with other professional cadres. Thousands of dispossessed Kenyans, victims of the 2007 general elections, are still crying for re-settlement and justice. Many of our children continue to study under trees or under very undesirable conditions. And our hospitals and dispensaries are ill staffed and often do not have enough medicine. Yet we want to spend billions on a party?

Kenyans elected the Jubilee government because they wanted a new dispensation; a new "digital" leadership. They chose youthful leaders because they yearned for people with new ideas, energy and a moral commitment to deliver services to the people. They did not want a Jomo or a Moi or a Kibaki. They did not want an old school leadership style that saw and heard no evil. Harassment of opposition politicians is old politics that has no place in a "new" Kenya with a new constitution.

My gut feeling is that unless Uhuru enforces strict discipline in the manner in which his government is spending public money; unless he curbs unbridled corruption in the public sector; and unless he fully adheres to the principles of democracy, of tolerance and inclusivity, he is likely to be the first one-term president Kenya has ever had.

The youthful advisers he has employed to help him govern must advise him well to avoid the cardinal mistakes committed by previous regimes.

And that is my say.


Sunday, July 21, 2013


Raila Omolo Odinga is perhaps the most famous Kenyan today. He has been in the trenches fighting for democracy, human rights and good governance for most of his adult life. He has the unaltered record of being the longest political detainee, having been incarcerated by both Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi. He is the son of Oginga Odinga, described as the doyen of opposition politics in the country. He served as Minister in the governments of Moi and Kibaki, and then as Prime Minister in the Grand Coalition, cobbled together following the 2007/2008 post election violence. If there is one man who contributed more than anyone else in the realization of the new constitution it is Raila Omolo Odinga.

It is therefore easy to understand why the man is now on a warpath after losing the 2012 elections. He tried thrice before to be president but failed. He did not make it in 1997 against Moi; he ceded the job to Kibaki in 2002; he did not make it to the presidency in 2007 and again failed to ascend to power in 2012. Like his father, Raila, is looking at retirement without achieving his lifetime goal of ruling Kenya. At 68 years old, he is - like some of us - on his twilight years. But he is angry and frustrated. Unfortunately, he is directing his anger and frustration at the wrong people.

Lately, he has been opposing anything and everythingUhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto - clear election victors in the last general elections - say or do. He has gone back to where he was twenty years ago: a political activist. He has abandoned his statesmanlike posture to engage in petty and useless activism that is likely to yield anarchy and ethnic hatred than peace and stability. The days of boycotts, threats and chest-stamping are long gone. Those days went with the exit of the one-party system of government in 1992. Also gone are the days of coups. Kenya can never be Egypt because Kenyans are peaceful people and respect the rule of law.

As Kenyans we are no longer prepared to follow prophets of doom. We have just too many things to  occupy our minds. We have widespread poverty and hunger in the country; unemployment is suffocating the youth. There are too many struggles for daily survival. We are still to win the war on corruption; and rampant illiteracy is preventing many of our people from claiming their rightful place in society. We have serious problems of divisions based on ethnicity, gender and religion. On top of all that we have a new system of governance, devolution, to nurture. We are up to our neck with challenges. We cannot therefore allow either distraction or destruction.

The best thing Raila can do is to accept defeat with grace, take his place as an ordinary Kenyan and move on with life. Time and again human beings have to lower their ego for the good of society. That time has come for Raila. If the former Prime Minister wants to enter the race again, five years from now, Kenyans would welcome him and assess him along with others.

For now, let us all avoid drama. Let us not play with fire. Let us give the Jubilee government an opportunity to implement its manifesto. If it fails to do so, Kenyans would judge it harshly come 2017.

And that is my say.


The biggest complaint one hears from aspiring African writers is the difficulty they face in finding publishers for their works. Often, new writers say, publishers tend to concentrate on big literary names. In the case of Heinemann's Africa Writers Series, for example, names of Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Taban lo Liyong and Okot p'Bitek, have dominated the scene for the past half a decade. By concentrating on established writers, young, upcoming writers have been denied the chance of breaking into the literary market.
There have also been complaints that publishers do not even bother to read manuscripts submitted to them by unknown writers. And even if they do, the response is often a rejection slip. To this, publishers respond that they receive many manuscripts everyday and they cannot possibly read and respond to all. They say to do so would mean incurring extra costs of employing people to go through the manuscripts, something they are unwilling to do.
Publishers also complain about high costs of printing, warehousing and distributing books, saying this is one reason they have to choose and pick from thousands of manuscripts they receive every year since they can only print a few books.
What publishers need to understand is that writers spend a lot of time writing. They think, research and labour for many hours to turn out a manuscript. At least they deserve some consideration and respect from publishers.
My submission is that as long as they are in business, publishers cannot avoid the drudgery of sifting through whatever number of manuscripts they receive. It is also my view that even when a rejection slip is given, it must be accompanied by an explanation as to why the material has been deemed unsuitable for publishing.
This whole process of turning out books is a partnership, and at the end of the day, both writers and publishers must win.
Because of my knowledge of the problems in Kenya, I decided to self-publish The Politics of Betrayal abroad. This way I had full control of my manuscript from the beginning to the end. Of course it cost money to publish the Politics of Betrayal, but this was the only way I could get my book to the bookstore. The company I chose is a Publish-on-Demand (POD) publisher. POD is a system that is becoming very popular in developed nations because it allows the publisher to print as per orders. This system frees shelves in stores and cuts costs.
Please let me hear your views by filling the form and clicking SUBMIT in the CONTACT page. I also encourage you to order The Politics of Betrayal to know the inside story in Kenyan politics.
Joe Khamisi