Sunday, September 29, 2013

KENYA SHOULD GUARD AGAINST NEPOTISM

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.