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.