Sunday, October 12, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your guess is as good as mine.

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

And that is my say.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is my say.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CORD must keep this in mind.

And that is my say.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is my say.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is my say.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can only wish them well.

And that is my say.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is my say.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Many years ago as a young journalist I was sponsored - together with three other fellow scribes - to spend a year at the Times of India newspaper in Bombay, India. By the end of our tour, one of us had "married" an Indian girl. I have enclosed the word "married" in quotation marks because none of us three witnessed the wedding, or, any exchange of vows between the two.

Although the petite Christian girl did not travel to Kenya with her spouse - who incidentally was already married at home - I know for sure their love flourished for sometime until the real wife found out about the secret liaison. As I write this, at least one child from that encounter exists in India.

Since those days, I have known a number of Kenyan men married to Indian women. The only difference between the cases I know and the love story of Timothy Khamala and Sarika Patel is that the men in the former instances were educated urbanites already endowed with careers, and even perhaps, worldly wealth.

In contrast, the scenario now trending in our media is of an ordinary man with a nondescript, rural background, who has fallen in love with an educated, polished woman, of a middle class Asian business pedigree. Had Khamala been a man of professional status and residing in one of the posh Nairobi estates - instead of the rustic village environment he is in - this story would not have taken the kind of frenzied dimension it has taken, and the "paparazzi" media would not be camping at Webuye to monitor every minute of this couple's humble life.

It is a fact though that the Khamala/Sarika's is a human interest story. The world thrives on such juicy episodes, and that is why, the mainstream media - here and afar - as well as the social platforms, took the story and ran with it.

For us in Kenya, this story has magically provided a dynamic diversion from the daily menu of politics and crime. It has, albeit temporarily, got Kenyans focused on a news-cum-entertainment story that is likely to rekindle the old debate about race relations.

Had there been a fully, meaningful integration of races in our country, the Khamala/Sarika saga would perhaps have attracted only a sentence in the major dailies. Instead, the whole event assumed the life of a circus. To me, that is "Much Ado About Nothing."

The important thing here are the lessons we must learn from this rare event: that there is still hope for our nation to bring not only races but tribes together; that our cultures, as rich as they are, should not - even with the best intentions - get in the way of personal relationships.

As the Kenyan Indian Member of Parliament for Kisumu East, Shakeel Shabbir - himself married to a Luhya - said, the Asian community remains a closed community in a global village. Kenya Indians, just like all other ethnic communities in the country, must open up their doors and allow marriages across racial lines.

Having said all that, we should leave the two love birds alone to enjoy their blissful relationship. Neither the elders nor the media should come in between. This way, we will be acting "normally," and we will show the world that after fifty years of independence, race is no longer a big issue in Kenya.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


In the next few days, President Uhuru Kenyatta will travel to the United States to join President Barack Obama and other Heads of State for a crucial meeting dubbed the Africa Summit.

Apart from the issues that will be discussed, including economic development, security and conflicts in the African continent, the Kenyan leader will also, hopefully, have a chance to meet one-on-one with the leader of the most powerful nation on earth to exchange views on sensitive matters that appear to hinder the smooth growth of relations between the two countries.

First, there is the issue of the country's vulnerability as a target for terrorist attacks. Kenyans may have stopped counting, but more than one-hundred fifty people have been killed through terror attacks perpetrated by the Al Queda-linked Somali terror group Al Shabaab. This group continues to issue threats of more attacks against our people.

Kenya and the United States have been working closely on  intelligence matters in recent years to stem the tide of international criminal activity including terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking. These efforts have yielded some results, but the results have not been enough to calm the nerves of terror-scared Kenyans.

Linked together with terrorism has been the question of travel advisories that have slowed down the tourism industry and inflicted untold injuries to the country's economy. America, more than any other country, has been active in issuing advisories to its citizens to avoid Kenya. My feeling is that this whole issue must be put on the table for discussion so that a more benign solution can be found to take the place of debilitating travel warnings.

Recently, Washington made it known it was in the process of withdrawing its Peace Corps personnel and reducing staff in some of its crucial developmental agencies, again because of increased insecurity. Unfortunately, when America coughs the rest of Europe catches a cold. Some European countries appear geared to follow America's path, a situation which could lead to immense economic loss and human suffering.

While in the American capital, Kenyans expect Uhuru to extend an invitation to President Obama to visit Kenya before the end of his second tour in office. Kenyans were disappointed when a few years ago, the American leader skipped Nairobi during his visits to Africa. It will be a big public relations and psychological boost if Obama was to tour his motherland while in office. The visit will instill renewed confidence and signal a complete recovery of relations which have suffered since Uhuru took over government in 2003.

Kenya needs America more than America needs Kenya. We need American investments in all fields including in the emerging oil industry; we need its continued assistance in funding health programmes and youth empowerment schemes; and we need America's shield in security and defence. Let Kenya make no mistake. While we need China for loans to upgrade our infrastructure, we need America more to fuel real growth and to power our human capacity.

And that is my say.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


If I had not been a politician and an MP, I probably would not be able to understand the mentality and thoughts now in the minds of Coast MPs as they rattle and battle over the trivial matter of the sacking of the deputy chief whip of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) in Kenya.

As seen during these past few days, a section of legislators from my region has been throwing tantrums, shouting itself hoarse and making a fool of itself on an issue that is of no benefit at all to the residents of the Coast. Gideon Mung'aro has been CORD's deputy chief whip for more than a year. Has this position benefitted the people of the region? Has it improved the failing educational standards? Has it ameliorated poverty? Has it......?

I would have been impressed if the legislators had been agitating for something that directly benefitted the people. But fighting for a position that offers nothing but prestige and perks for the title holder is glorified absurdity.

Annoyingly, most of these noisy MPs are soundless when in the House, (some of them have not even made their maiden speeches a year and half after Parliament opened) and are only occasionally heard in the villages making all manner of blustering speeches. They do this because they know our people are ill-informed about what goes on in Nairobi.

Chest thumping at funerals, weddings and trading centres may temporarily transform these legislators into heroes - and perhaps boost their egos - but it does not make Coast people any more advantaged.

Also, if these legislators think CORD belongs to the Coast then they need to re-evaluate their thinking. We Coast people must agree that we are only guests in major political parties. We are not masters, and moving to Jubilee or to any other political grouping because some are dissatisfied with an administrative decision of another party will not make us masters.

In any case, the post of whip is an honorary title offered as a gift. Any member of the party qualifies to hold this or any other party position in Parliament. Furthermore, those chosen to hold these positions are not expected to represent their regions but the entire party membership.

In Kenya, one does not require special qualities to become a whip. We have had extremely competent whips over the past fifty years, one of them being Norman Nyagah of the Ninth Parliament; but we have also had many dunderheads. If CORD now feels that Mung'aro has not met its expectations, then it should be permitted to make changes without drama.

Finally, a whip must be a zealous, conscientious, loyal, and competent person who commands the respect of his colleagues. He must be influential and charismatic enough to reach out, not only to his party colleagues, but to others across the isle for support (and votes) on legislative matters that are of interest to the party. A whip is not a flower girl who sits and cheekily smiles at passersby, but one who is constantly on the move, in isles and in parliamentary offices.

Therefore, the juvenile outbursts we are seeing coming from the Indian Ocean shores are demeaning and embarrassing especially to residents who yearn for mature and responsible leadership. That is why I say with conviction that the mentality of some of our leaders is way off the mark.

If these legislators love CORD so much, why don't they stick to it and stop sleeping with the "enemy?" And if they hate it so much as is evident, then why don't they resign and seek fresh mandate? They don't have to wait for sacking letters.

And that is my say

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Four years after Kenya's last referendum in which people voted for the country's constitution, and months after a failed push by county governors for a plebiscite to decide on issues to do with devolution, the referendum talk is with us again.

This time, calls for a vote are being driven by the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) which believes the government of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto has taken a wrong turn in dealing with critical national issues.

CORD hurriedly crafted the referendum proposal after failing to arm-twist the Jubilee government into accepting a structured discussion over such issues as the growing insecurity, the future of the electoral commission, corruption, nepotism, and the high cost of living, among others. This week, CORD nominated a team of four experts to craft and formulate key referendum issues and to ensure the agenda will be consultative.

Let me say without batting an eyelid that, like the governors' attempt almost a year ago, CORD's initiative for a public vote will fail flat on its face, and this is why:-

First, Kenyans are unwilling to enter into a campaign mode a year and half after the hectic and acrimonious general elections of 2013. What the population wants is to be left alone to concentrate on making the best of its living environment. Given this obvious fact, few Kenyans will pay attention to the politics of referendum, making it an impossible task for the opposition to collect the one million signatures of genuinely registered voters as required by the constitution.

Second, Parliament will be the final decider on whether the country  goes to a referendum or not. At some point it will have to vote to accept or reject any referendum Bill brought before it. With the composition of the House, CORD cannot win a vote such as this in the National Assembly.

Third, the current budget does not have any fiscal provision for a plebiscite, which means, Parliament will only be able to allocate money for the exercise in the 2015/2016 budget, a herculean task given that the ruling coalition holds a majority in both houses.

Forth, it will take not less than two years to put together structures for a referendum, meaning that such an exercise - if everything else works - can only be held in 2016 at the earliest, a year before the general elections. It will be impossible for the electoral body to conduct the two polls so close together. Logistical, technical and administrative tasks necessary for such an exercise - as we saw in 2005 and 2010 - are complex and taxing, involving national mobilization, voter education, staff training and field preparations.

Finally, the referendum Bill will have to be approved by twenty-four assemblies in the fourty-seven counties. CORD is counting on twenty-four counties it theoretically controls to meet that requirement, but support in those areas cannot be guaranteed in view of the overall fragmentation in the opposition.

Therefore, it is my opinion that the four-person committee appointed by CORD to look into the matter has its work cut out. The proposed referendum is untenable. Instead of wasting time and putting Kenyans on a waiting mood for a decision, the committee should simply recommend that, given the above hurdles, the idea of a plebiscite is dead in the water.

And that is my say.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


The way things look, this year's Christmas will be a nightmare for thousands of civil servants unfortunate enough to fall victim of the Kenya government's overbearing job evaluation exercise expected to be effected as early as November this year.

In a move to cut the national wage bill said to be hovering around 500 billion shillings annually, the Jubilee government has announced sweeping measures to reduce the bloated civil service budget now gobbling over 70 percent of government revenue. The restructuring programme of the public sector will reportedly involve re-deployment, transfers and elimination of "ghost workers."

What the government is not saying is that as part of this process, thousands of workers will be rendered jobless - thrown into the deep end of the unemployment market that is already saturated with millions of unskilled, highly educated and professionally qualified Kenyans. The entry of additional people - estimated at close to 100,000 - into this cesspit of idlers will further destabilise Kenya, a country where 42 percent of its people already live below the poverty line.

During the first year of its existence, the government of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto announced the creation of over 700,000 new jobs - even though it had promised one million jobs per year during the campaign. Now, with the expected new staff reductions in the public sector, it will be impossible for the government to fulfil its promise of effectively re-vitalizing the labour market and boosting the economy.

But what baffles me most is why we allow reckless spending in the form of questionable allowances; useless official overseas travels; and fiscal wastage of all manner if we really want to reduce the wage bill.

What Kenya needs to do is to: eliminate all the allowances in the public sector; reduce duplication of duties in the two tier government; eliminate budget wastage; clean up our procurement procedures, end corruption and reduce the number of elected leaders and nominated commissioners. We also must get rid of all the Government of Kenya guzzlers from our roads and enforce regulations that bar the use of official cars beyond six in the evening; disallow Cabinet Secretaries from using expensive choppers for transport and enforce work discipline in the civil service.

Anything short of these measures will not do.

Finally, let this so-called evaluation exercise be conducted fairly and justly devoid of tribal, gender or religious considerations. Any form of discrimination will expose the government to criticism and condemnation.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


One does not need to be a political analyst to conclude that this week's visit to the Coast by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto has everything to do with politics and very little to do with development.

If presidential visits to the Coast were equated with development then the region would be the most developed in the country, for each of the three previous Presidents spent record time visiting it. Uhuru is not any different.

The general elections are three years away and the scramble of votes has begun in earnest. The main target? - the Coast, Western and North-Eastern regions of the country.

Both the Jubilee Coalition of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, and the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) of Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, are in a race to woo the areas, and for two main reasons: one, because they lack strong political leadership, and two, because they are viewed as swing vote regions especially in relation to the 2017 elections.

Since the death of Karisa Maitha, the flamboyant Mijikenda kingpin, the Coast has remained rudderless and directionless. It has been difficult to find a worthy heir to the coveted position once held by firebrand Gideon Ronald Ngala. Moreover, the people there have failed to agree on a single political party that could propel the region to the front row of national leadership. The result? Petty fragmentation based on race, religion, party affiliation and ethnicity.

The Western region has not done any better. The demise of Masinde Muliro in 1992 and Kijana Wamalwa in 2003 unearthed rudimentary schisms that have been difficult to heal. If there is one region with the highest number of presidential wannabes it is the country of Mulembe: Musalia Mudavadi, Cyrus Jirongo, Moses Wetangula, Eugene Wamalwa, and others of a lesser breed. Despite its huge voter register, the Western region continues to lag behind in almost everything political and economical.

Another region with a leadership vacuum and attracting the attention of national political bigwigs is the North-Eastern region. One man who could have made a difference, Godana Bonaya, was killed in a 2006 plane crash as he travelled to Marsabit on the Ethiopian border to reconcile warring clan factions. With an infestation of militia and terrorist groups from across the Somali and Ethiopian borders and with prevailing political inadequacies, this region is destined to remain behind in development for a long period to come.

It is these regions that both Jubilee and CORD are interested in for vote harvesting. Recently, both Uhuru and Raila were in Western. Now, Uhuru plans to spend several days at the Coast, following immediately after Raila's high-profile visit there a few days ago. Two weeks ago, Ruto spent several days in the region in what many consider a successful wooing mission in what was previously a CORD stronghold. From the Coast, Uhuru will head to Garisa, in North-Eastern.

Therefore, while Kenyans are told the President's visit is to inspect infrastructure development and commission projects, the actual reason lies in the potentiality of those regions as vote baskets for 2017.

So, the race is on.

And that is my say.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


DALLAS - Monday, June 14, 2014. Yesterday, a Catholic Church outside the American city of Dallas welcomed a Kenyan priest to its parish by treating him to a sugary ice cream and chocolate chip party.

The ice cream bash was appropriate because the outside temperature was hovering at a record 100 Celsius, and spewing out the kind of biting heat found only in some parts of northern and eastern Kenya.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Plano is a big Church compared to the size of the structure and number of services we are used to in Catholic Churches in Kenya. It is predominantly white but has a sprinkling of Latinos and Africans including Kenyans, and offers an amiable and felicitous Christian atmosphere for its community.

A week earlier, Father Martin Mwangi, fresh from a five year stint at a seminary in another part of Texas, had presided over his first Mass before a curious congregation, amused by his strange accent. Immediately noticing that, he said in jest: "Let this accent not distract you from our journey to Christ." They applauded.

The youthful priest moved his listeners when he recalled his birth at a small village in Central Kenya; his baptism at the age of seven; his days as a herds-boy; and how he took the family Bible along with him to the bush for company because, he said,  tending cows and goats was "sometimes boring." He described his "journey" to priesthood and the challenges he encountered on the way and asked for prayers as he sought to strengthen his faith.

I mention this episode because I teared a little as I listened to Father Mwangi. I was proud to be a Kenyan after all listening to a fellow countryman who had crossed oceans to save the souls of strangers thousands of miles away.

Father Mwangi is just one of the many uncelebrated Kenyans flying our flag overseas. Very few people back home know about them, but they are there.

Many years ago while living in America, I watched star athletes Kipchoge Keino, Ben Jipcho,Naftali Temu and others break world records. They have since been followed on that path by many others.

Now we also have Lupita Nyong'o making waves in Hollywood; Daniel Odongo pioneering in American football; dozens of elite footballers playing soccer with top teams abroad; and artists, entrepreneur and scholars; all making a name for Kenya in faraway lands.

That is why sometimes I feel we are too harsh on ourselves while in Kenya, but those in the Diaspora understand what it means to be a Kenyan away from home. They know Kenya is not a dead-beat, delinquent state weighed down in malfeasance, but a country of hope driven in all spheres by a committed and patriotic people. It is an African phoenix that only needs good governance, a safe environment and committed leaders.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


The much talked about Saba Saba rally in Nairobi came and went. There was no tsunami, no mass action and no dreams fulfilled. And thank God, no violence.

The thousands of people who arrived at the Uhuru Park grounds as early as six o'clock in the morning for the afternoon rally of the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) sang, danced and listened to a cacophony of repetitious and colourless speeches. At the end of the day, they left the city, hungry and disappointed, while their leaders went home to dig into fillet steaks, washed down with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Like the May 31 rally that was promoted as the genesis of the Third Liberation but fell far short of expectations, the latest gathering flopped miserably in content and action and exposed CORD leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula as political acrobats capable of attracting crowds but unable to juggle.

The rally was the climax of a string of meetings throughout the country called to protest the government's refusal to convene a national dialogue to discuss some issues affecting the country. However, it turned out to be a storm in a tea cup. Even the resolutions adopted at the rally were, to use the word of Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, common.

The rally failed to produce the anticipated sting. Instead, it disrupted businesses in Nairobi and caused a security scare country-wide.

The huge amounts of money spent to fund security operations could have been used to improve the lives of Kenyans including those at Uhuru Park.

One person I feel sorry for in these opposition theatrics is Kalonzo Musyoka, the self-proclaimed born again adherent, peace ambassador and a designated co-leader of CORD. We all know about Raila's radical background and his obsession for extremism but to see Kalonzo at the centre of runaway opposition politics tells me there is something seriously wrong with our politicians. They move from the extreme left to the extreme right at the flip of a button and without care.

There is no reason why the former Vice President - a two-time presidential candidate - cannot chart his own independent political direction instead of shadowing Raila. His involvement in radical politics will surely haunt him if he decides to go for a third presidential attempt in 2017. My appeal to my former party leader is: Instead of wasting time in CORD, go back and rebuild your own WIPER party.

Finally, now that CORD has chosen to change tact, my hope is that it will stick to constitutional provisions to advance its agenda for change, instead of making a joke of itself in the public domain.

And that is my say

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Let me state that I am a card-carrying member of the United Republican Party (URP), partner of The National Alliance party (TNA) in the Jubilee Government of President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.

I stood as its candidate for the Kilifi North parliamentary seat in the corruption-ridden 2013 general elections. Though I bowed out of active politics a year ago to pursue my passion in writing, I am still a political animal who is attracted to political events, and therefore follow them closely.

For months, I have been resisting the temptation to crucify the Uhuru/Ruto Administration on matters of insecurity because I felt the government needed more time to consolidate its hold on governance and to muster the skills and gather the resources to fight crimes of all kinds.

But after more than a year of incessant and blatant failures on the part of the government to rein in terrorist activities that have led to hundreds of innocent people losing their lives, I have no reason to believe - after the latest attack in Hindi, Lamu, where more than 20 people perished this week  - that this regime has the wherewithal or the political clout to end terror attacks against its people.

It doesn't matter whether the attacks are perpetrated by the dreaded Al Shabaab, the audicious Mungiki or by the baneful Mombasa Republican Party elements who are agitating for secession of the Coast region.

The bottom line is that the Jubilee Government has failed its people on security. The country is no longer safe, whether in the capital city of Nairobi or in far flung regions. Policy makers who are supposed to protect people have either run out of ideas or have given up because they can't cope. Departmental transfers of officers within security agencies have not worked to improve the situation; official assurances of safety have become a cliché, and all anti-terror efforts have come a cropper. Westgate, Mpeketoni, Hindi and dozens of other sites of horrors tell me enough is enough.

Consequently, it is now my view that time has come for the Jubilee Government to call it quits. Three and half years until the next elections is too long for Kenyans to live under constant threats of annihilation.

In any case, we have seen governments elsewhere give way for more or less similar reasons.

In February, for example, the Egyptian government of Hazem Beblawi resigned following a protracted strike by public sector workers. In South Korea in April, Prime Minister, Chung Hong, left following a ferry disaster in which 300 people died. In Ukraine, Prime Minister Mykota Azarov, saw no reason to continue ruling after two months of demonstrations that threatened the country's economic and social development. I can cite many other such cases.

There are enough reasons in Kenya - and this has nothing to do with the Opposition push for a national dialogue (which I strongly oppose) - for Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto to voluntarily disband government, allow an interim administration, and prepare people for fresh elections. Let us give a chance to leaders out there with more gusto and fresh ideas to secure the lives of Kenyans.

Finally, allow me to borrow a quote from George Saitoti as he involuntarily abandoned his quest for the presidency during the Kanu delegates conference at Kasarani Sports Complex in 2002. "There comes a time when the nation is more important than an individual," he said.

That time is now.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Next Monday - July 7 - is Kenya's "D" Day:  D for Decision; D for Destiny, and D for  Doomsday.

It is the day the increasingly restless opposition group, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), under Raila Odinga, has set as the country's equivalent of Armageddon.

It will be the day when oppositionists will decide how to handle the Administration of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto; whether to proceed in peace or to embrace unconventional means to bring the System to its knees.

It is also assumed that that day of Saba Saba (the seventh day of the seventh month) will be when CORD will officially begin its journey for the country's so-called Third Liberation.

Given that CORD had given Uhuru enough time to convene a national dialogue over matters of security, devolution and the disbandment of the electoral commission - which Uhuru has tactically ignored - much should be anticipated before, during and after that much-touted rally in Nairobi.

In May when Raila returned from a three month sabbatical in the United States, he gravely disappointed his supporters by failing to issue orders for a grand march to State House. A huge mass of people left his welcoming rally at Uhuru Park dejected and annoyed.

This time around Raila is under pressure to announce a Decision for a grand plan aimed at making the country ungovernable. If he fails to do that, his political career could be as good as dead. On the other hand, if he succumbs to populist pressure, Raila's action could lead to Destruction of lives and property. It would be the beginning of Doomsday; and none other than Raila Amolo Odinga will be held responsible. In brief, the Kenya's Destiny is partly in his hands.

So, the former political detainee is damned if he calls people to action and damned if he doesn't.

There is no doubt that the decision to hold country-wide rallies has polarised the nation. The issue has rocked the Jubilee Government and divided even CORD itself. It has caused a split of opinion in religious denominations and elicited divergent positions within the world community of nations.

What will happen on Monday - and the Government has pledged full security support - will determine whether Kenya moves forward as one nation or splinters into a tribal, partisan grouping.

And it only needs a spark from a hateful tongue, or a stone from a deranged element, to plunge the country into a state of anarchy.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


So the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) - the main Opposition entity in Kenya - is determined to go ahead with its highly divisive and controversial country-wide rallies against all Government security warnings?

It was not without reason that the Uhuru Administration announced it had cancelled the opposition rallies in Eldoret and Narok this weekend called by Raila Odinga to protest the Government's refusal for a national dialogue over crucial matters affecting the country.

However, one does not need to be a political or security strategist to understand why the Jubilee Coalition is opposed to these and other CORD mass gatherings.

Everyone knows these are not normal times. The country is under attack from terror groups domiciled in Somalia and from sleeper cells within the country. Many people have lost their lives during the past year from brutal gang attacks perpetrated by our enemies, the last one being the Mpeketoni massacre in which more than 60 people were murdered.

In addition, clan clashes and cattle rustling in some parts of northern and western Kenya have heightened insecurity, and continue to cause deaths and displacements and hardships to innocent men, women and children.

All this while politicians go around the country spreading vitriol and inciting people to violence. A number of leaders from both sides of the political divide now face criminal charges resulting from their use of hateful language.

It is my view that these rallies will further polarise the population on partisan and tribal lines and subsequently invite anarchy. That is why I feel CORD should heed Government calls and abandon these meetings for the sake of the country. If the Opposition fails to accede, then it must be prepared to take responsibility for any loss of life and destruction of property that may follow.

Even some of CORD's most ardent members in and outside Parliament are worried about these rallies and have urged restraint. But hardliners in the opposition, led by Raila himself, want to hear nothing of it. No wonder CORD is a divided house over this issue.

The kind of chest-thumping displayed by CORD - and its "wapende wasipende" (whether they like it or not) rhetoric - is not only a show of reckless defiance but a recipe for chaos in a country that is already facing many other challenges that require the urgent attention of authorities.

True, every Kenyan has a constitutional right to free speech. But hiding behind the Constitution to engage in activities that are clearly a danger to peace is unpatriotic and myopic.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


The single-party era is gone perhaps never to return; Daniel Arap Moi, who is usually blamed for having plunged Kenya into a dictatorship is no longer the President; and detention laws that saw many people sent to prison for long periods of time no longer exist.

That is why I was astounded by the absurd rumours circulating in the social media speculating on the possible arrest and detention of CORD leader Raila Odinga soon after President Uhuru Kenyatta had appeared on television to explain the Mpeketoni massacre.

The politically-savvy Kenyans had interpreted the reported deployment of additional security personnel to some parts of Nairobi such as Kibera and Mathare; and to parts of Western Kenya such as Bungoma and Kakamega, as evidence that an arrest was indeed imminent.

The rumours had some semblance of credibility because the areas chosen for the reported deployment are generally perceived to be CORD strongholds. The chorus therefore was that security personnel were deployed there to contain possible demonstrations expected to follow the arrest.

There is no provision under the constitution for arbitrary political arrests and detention without trial. A definite charge under the Penal Code has to be preferred. So unless, Raila and other opposition leaders commit an offence of a criminal nature, no one can touch them.

The only thing the CORD brigade has to do is to be careful in their utterances because charges such as incitement have broad interpretations and could be used to lock them up.

But having said that, I am at a loss - like many Kenyans - over where our country is headed to. For close to a year, our biggest concern has been terrorism and how to deal with it. Indeed, more than one hundred people have been killed through terror acts.

However, we now seem to be crossing over to a sensitive territory in which some of us are talking about "ethnic profiling" and "ethnic cleansing" in relation to the Mpeketoni killings, the kind of language used during the 2007/2008 post election violence and during other tribal clashes before that.

Those were also the same phrases that took Rwanda through a protracted civil war. I don't think we Kenyans want to go there.

After dozens of attacks blamed on terrorism in various parts of the country and a huge loss of lives and destruction of property let Mpeketoni be the last. But to achieve that we all need to pull together as a nation and not be distracted by political, tribal or religious differences.

That is why I feel strongly that Raila should - despite his determination to continue - cancel all the remaining political rallies and find other less confrontational avenues of airing his views.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


If there are people out there who thought Raila Odinga had changed - because of age - from a revolutionary agitator and tormentor of President Daniel Arap Moi in the 1980s, to a softy too exhausted to return punches, let them think again, because current political events do not support that line of thought.

If anything, Raila, a one-time political fugitive and detainee, and currently leader of the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), has mellowed with time; and in the process acquired a sting that is more potent; a determination that is more resolute; and a following that is exceedingly more fanatical, almost cultist. 

Even at his advanced age of 70 years, Raila seems far from hanging up his boots. His recent three month-long sabbatical in the United States appears to have injected some kind of magical energy into a man who, not too long ago, was boring us with incessant complaints about a stolen election.

Instead of whining about a lost opportunity, Raila has now decided to wage an all-out war against the Jubilee Government of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, perhaps with the intention of making life as difficult as possible for the two to enjoy restful nights and spare time to implement their development agenda.

What Uhuru and Ruto initially thought was a political gimmick on the part of Raila intended to win public sympathy following the controversial Supreme Court ruling that favoured Jubilee, has now turned out to be a nagging headache threatening our stability. 

With a growing list of "to do" items on its in-tray, the Government appears to be under siege both in and outside Parliament. It is obvious too that the political and psychological damage likely to arise from the upcoming country-wide CORD rallies, is more than what the Jubilee Government - or any African government for that matter - is capable of absorbing.

The threat of increased insecurity both from within and from without the country cannot be ruled out because nothing will stop elements of evil from riding on the rallies and causing deaths and damage. And that is the reason why I am opposed to the planned gatherings.

The Jubilee Government may have been slow in implementing its core policies since taking over more than a year ago, but it deserves a chance. The prevailing toxic political landscape will not help to make things better.

Nevertheless, I hope security agencies will ensure maximum security for people attending the rallies as well as those, like me, who want to be left in peace.

What Uhuru and Ruto must do now - as a matter of urgency - is to put on their thinking hats and come up with a broad-based solution before this circus turns ugly.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


If what Mithika Linturi is telling Kenyans has traction, then Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru is as good as roasted.

The Igembe South Member of Parliament is telling us that he has in his pocket enough parliamentary votes to send Waiguru home in what could be the first successful case of impeachment involving a Government Minister since independence.

In a rare show of bravado never seen in Kenya's political circus, the flamboyant legislator has snubbed all attempts by his seniors in the Jubilee Government led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, to persuade him to drop the Motion that seeks to punish Waiguru for allegedly violating the law. A meeting called by the President at State House this week failed to nudge the fiery politician into toeing the Jubilee line. He made it clear he would not be cowed.

From what we gather, Waiguru's biggest sin was her decision to send packing the National Youth Service Director Kiplimo Rugut, a Kalenjin, and replacing him with Dr. Nelson Githinji, a Kikuyu. In Kenya's divisive lingo, Waiguru, who is a Kikuyu, is guilty of tribalism.

Since then, the Rugut matter has dominated political discourse in the corridors of Parliament and in public fora, and is threatening unity in the Rift Valley, a vote-rich region that contributed immensely to the victory of the Jubilee Coalition in 2013.

It is not that Rugut was sacked altogether. No, he was only transferred to another department where he continues to serve albeit in a different role. Since the days of the colonial civil service, staff transfers in government have been viewed as routine carried out for a variety of reasons. As the official in charge of the National Youth Service, Waiguru was within her mandate to make the changes, even though Linturi and others think otherwise, citing the principle of regional distribution.

The Waiguru case is a litmus test for President Kenyatta. My worry is, if Waiguru is removed what will prevent other overzealous legislators from doing the same to other Cabinet Ministers? In my view, impeachment is not the answer to mismanagement problems. In any case, all Cabinet Secretaries were thoroughly vetted by Parliament and found suitable to serve.

This is not to say the National Assembly should be a sitting lame duck that ignores violations of the law by senior officials. However, as they carry out their constitutional oversight duties, legislators must not be seen to be attempting to destabilise the government, and cause more suffering to wananchi.

The time and energy spent over this matter could be put to better use in service delivery to Kenyans,

And that is my say.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


If I was a teacher and I was asked to grade CORD's rally last Saturday, I would give the opposition coalition an A plus in crowd pull, C in substance, A in noise-making and D in protocol

There is no doubt that the Uhuru Park rally held to celebrate Raila Odinga's return from a two month sabbatical in the United States was humongous, comparable - in my opinion - only to the congregation that ushered in the opposition National Rainbow Coalition at the same venue on 14 October 2002.

The human mass at the historic grounds was befitting "Baba" and was definitely what the doctor had ordered for a coalition which, only a few weeks ago, was on the brink of oblivion. But the chaos seen at the meeting; from poor crowd control, to protocol bungles, to repetitive content, and most importantly to the absence of a clear change message - played havoc to wananchi's high expectations for a substantive political shift.

It was obvious then that the cacophonous chants of "Uhuru must go" and "bado mapambano" (aluta continua) were not purposeless. They were well choreographed to embarrass the President.

What the people - some coming as far away as Busia on the border with Uganda and Mombasa on the Indian Ocean - wanted to hear was a message about "revolution"; of "taking over State House"; of the "Arab-like Spring". They certainly were not interested in the beat-up talk about corruption, insecurity and high cost of living, issues the opposition itself has failed to provide alternatives. That's why the crowd was restless and unquiet, unwilling to listen without clamour to anyone including, at some point, Raila himself.

More than once the meeting appeared to be out of control. Even the most significant piece of news of the day; the request to President Uhuru Kenyatta to convene a national dialogue came out jumbled. Co-leader Kalonzo Musyoka talked of a July seven parlour while Raila spoke of a sixty-day ultimatum. Nor did it come out clearly from the speeches whether CORD wanted  a meeting to discuss the prevailing challenges only or the opposition's inclusion in government as well.

That is why as he responded to the request during Madaraka Day celebrations the following day, Uhuru appeared not to know exactly what CORD wanted. It was refreshing that before the end of the day, Raila had fired a statement to the media clarifying that he was not interested in negotiating a place in government but in discussing matters of national concern.

In the past we have seen at opposition rallies fairly efficient arrangements on matters protocol with a well-defined line-up of speakers from the lowest to the highest. But the Saturday meeting was devoid of such finesse and the result was close to chaos as multiple leaders congregated near the microphone each wanting to speak.

To me the rally was an anti-climax and fell far short of what we had been told to expect. It was a victory for democracy though and a confirmation that political meetings can be held peacefully without cause for alarm.

However, with the euphoria of Raila's return now fast drifting into history, it remains to be seen what CORD's next strategy will be. Holding public rallies across the country without a clear message of tangible change will only drive opposition supporters further into a state of restlessness and give the Jubilee coalition a head start as we approach the 2017 elections.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Two events - both of a political nature but with a different cast of characters - will most likely dictate the medium and long term political direction Kenya will take as it tries to define its democratic route.

No. I am not talking about the ideological discourse that has been going on for weeks relating to Kenya's perceived close relations with the East as opposed to the West; nor am I alluding to the fights over whether or not to impeach Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru.

I am talking about the unfolding events in the Rift Valley in which the leading player is the Deputy President, William Ruto; and the issues surrounding the return home of CORD leader Raila Odinga, whose two months sojourn in the United States has fanned a lot of speculation in the social media.

Signs are already there that some parts of the expansive Rift Valley, which voted almost to a man and a woman in the 2013 presidential elections for Ruto's United Republican Party, are re-evaluating their support for the Jubilee Coalition. Already, rebel MPs there have warned President Kenyatta and Ruto not to underrate "the boiling political heat" in the region.

It is said that penye moshi hapakosi moto (where there is smoke there is fire). The noise emanating from that vote-rich region is something the ruling coalition must not ignore. I say this because that noise could be the genesis of a profound political game changer.

If the rebels manage to convince their kins to move away from the Coalition because they are dissatisfied with the way the Government is treating them, then it will certainly derail President Kenyatta's development agenda and upset his declared desire to retain power for the next twenty years. Uhuru knows that and hence his tour of Eldoret - the political nerve centre of the region - this week.

But more importantly the shift away from Jubilee will put Ruto - the person responsible for getting the Kalenjin from ODM to Jubilee - in a politically delicate position. He will then have to make a critical decision: to go along with his people or stay put in Jubilee and risk isolation. Either way, the Coalition will suffer. In the meantime, the big question is: will the forces now fighting Ruto gain enough traction to render the Jubilee Government unworkable? Time will tell.

Now to ODM and CORD. In the absence of Raila, the opposition has been virtually dormant. It was only very recently, buoyed by the impending return of their party leader, that functionaries woke up from their slumber. It is now clear, more than ever that Raila is CORD and CORD is Raila.

What Kenyans should be asking is what new things Raila is bringing back to his party after a long sabbatical steeped in controversy? If he is coming back with fresh, innovative ideas to re-energise his Coalition in order to bring peaceful change in the way the country is governed, then his credentials as a democrat will have another feather.

However, if he decides to subscribe to the kind of chest-thumping and baneful rhetoric we have been hearing lately from his juniors, then the next three-and half years to the polls would be very bumpy for Kenya.

I hope he embraces the former.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Everyday, it seems, brings with it new challenges to the Government of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.

During the first year of its existence, the Jubilee Government's main challenges were how to deal with labour strikes in the public sector and how to mitigate the complex issues surrounding the International Criminal Court cases at the Hague. There were also the emerging wage bill concerns and questions pertaining to the school laptop project.

Even then, many Kenyans felt Uhuru's Administration was overwhelmed by the demands of governance considering that it also faced integrity questions touching on the multi-million shilling standard railway gauge project and queries about high levels of corruption within its ranks. But looking at the events of the past few months, it is clear this Government has more on its plate than it can chew.

Name it: increased terrorism activities that have led to general panic among the populace, deaths and near collapse of the tourism industry; the never-endingAnglo Leasing debacle; the controversy surrounding the restructuring of the provincial administration; famine in some parts of the country; claims of nepotism in government appointments; and power struggles and issues of trust in devolved governments. All these and more are certainly matters that keep Uhuru (in his own admission) awake at night.

Also on its plate is the conundrum of how to wriggle itself out of a diplomatic quagmire resulting from the perceived fall-out with the West as a result of our bosom association with the East, specifically China. The tough talk directed at Europe and the United States has created a diplomatic stalemate that needs to be untangled sooner rather than later since Kenya's foreign policy calls for cordial relations with all nations.

I cannot remember anytime during either Moi's or Kibaki's government when we had such a multiplication of crises that required immediate and personal presidential attention as now.

The arrival next week of Raila Odinga, the opposition CORD leader, from a sabbatical in the United States, will present yet another nightmare for security agencies who must be alert to control the large crowds that will come out to meet him.

We saw what happened on Tuesday when university students took to the streets. What we were told would be a peaceful demonstration turned out to be a major security challenge. Motorists were harassed and robbed and a few people injured.

Security forces must be commended for taking action that saved lives and minimised damage to property in the city centre and elsewhere. The same must be done on 31 May when Raila arrives to ensure that crowds remain peaceful and unconcerned Kenyans are shielded from those bent on ill intentions.

It need not be emphasised also that the government must do everything in its power to protect the life of Raila given recent allegations of a plot to eliminate him. Any threat to a citizen of this country must be taken seriously.

However, the person who made the allegations - Raila's elder brother Oburu - must present himself to the Bondo police station to record a statement as advised by security officials. The authorities must be furnished with all the information regarding this matter to enable them execute their work efficiently as per the law.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Wisdom tells me if a giant falls the hills tremble.

That is what happened when Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero tumbled. News of his fall came late in the afternoon on Tuesday, and most Nairobians - his subjects - did not get the astonishing news until they got home and saw the Breaking News on their television stations. The lucky ones picked it up from their car radios.

As the news spread, one could literally feel the rolling Ngong hills tremble. As Governor of the richest, most populous cosmopolitan county, Kidero is no ordinary Nairobian. He is the most powerful citizen after President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. As a former corporate whizz-kid, Kidero is as urbane as they come; sophisticated, dignified and articulate.

What Kidero lacks is political savvy. In the short time he has held the position of Chief Executive of Nairobi Inc, he has gathered more enemies than seasoned politicians have done in a lifetime. And the reasons are many.

Kidero, it seems, has failed to excite folks at the grassroots, folks he needs on his side during difficult times like now. He is said to choose his friends selectively, and in doing so, has alienated himself from the powerful lobbies that are so crucial for his political survival in the city.

Also, as a member of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Kidero is seen to be blowing cold and hot. His close association with the ruling clique is not a secret. As a result, he has lost the backing of his fellow ODM adherents.

And since he doesn't come out as a strong supporter of the party leader, Raila Odinga, hard-core party supporters tend to treat him with suspicion.

Then there is the all-important matter of performance. Nairobians had high expectations that with Kidero at the helm, the city and its environs would be propelled to a higher level of modernity: the county would be safer; trash would be collected on time; traffic congestion would ease; efficiency at City Hall would be enhanced and corruption would be a thing of the past. Nairobians are still waiting for results.

The High Court decision that his election as Governor did not meet constitutional threshold has now left him exposed to all manner of verbal attacks and mirth in the social media. Few are saddened by the dramatic turn of events.

For the Kidero, the Supreme Court remains his only lifeline. On Wednesday, the Court gave him a temporary relief by permitting him to continue in office pending hearing and determination of his appeal.

If the Supreme Court overturns the High Court decision, Kidero will get a chance to continue serving. However, if he loses the petition at the country's highest Court, he may have to kiss politics good bye.

The good news is that the High Court did not cite him for any electoral offence, which means, he can plunge back into the Governor's race - or any other - in 2017. He is still young enough to serve; and to serve for many years to come.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


They say when it rains it pours.

This idiom has nothing to do with the sudden atmospheric changes in Kenya in which some parts of the country are enjoying sporadic to heavy precipitation even as other parts are staring at imminent famine due to a creeping drought.

It refers to the events of the past few days. Not since the Westgate terrorist attack last September have Kenyans found themselves in a quagmire of deaths, pain and anxiety. Just when they were trying to come to terms with increased insecurity following terrorist attacks in Mombasa and Nairobi last week, an unexpected calamity of a social nature made breaking news. Within hours dozens of people had died after imbibing a killer brew; and since Monday the number has been rising.

In the next few weeks, many families will bury their loved ones and just as many will be lamenting the bodily and psychological devastation visited on their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters following the weekend spate of reckless drinking binges.

The deaths occasioned by kasufuria, also known as kosovo, the lethal brew that killed scores of people across five counties, has once again sent the country into a sudden state of mourning. Apart from those who died, the number of those unable to see has also gone up exponentially as a result of drinking what is suspected to be methanol.

This is not the first time people have died after voluntarily consuming a deadly substance, but this is the first time that so many people have perished within a short period of time and across a large area of the country. Many of the victims were young and middle aged men and women in the prime of their lives. The only common denominator among them was their level of poverty and hopelessness.

The sorrowful events in Embu, Makueni, Kitui, Muranga and Naivasha, have once again exposed the nauseating greed of some Kenyans. Without regard to life, one or more rapacious money-makers have killed more people than Westgate, Likoni, Mwembe Tayari and Thika Road terrorist attacks combined. It is feared the number of fatalities could go beyond 100 as more people succumb to the deadly poison. If there is one thing that confirms the common adage that greed kills, then it is this sad event.

As the bereaved collect their dead from mortuaries and as medical personnel struggle to stabilise those in critical condition in hospital wards, the focus should now be on government officials responsible for regulating and licencing of alcoholic drinks. Of course, the main culprits - the manufacturers - must be on top of the list of those who must be arrested and prosecuted. Then you have the chain of distributors and retailers. The good news is that a number of government officials on the ground have been sent home pending completion of investigations.

To avoid cover-ups, independent investigators from outside those counties must be brought in to steer the probes. Anti-corruption officials must also be involved since there is already suspicion that corruption may have played a part, and allowed illegal dealers of the killer brews to thrive with impunity.

However, it will be up to Nacada, the government body responsible for drug and alcoholic abuse, to come up with effective measures that will ensure no such senseless deaths occur in future.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


A lot of rumble was generated by Kalonzo Musyoka's gaffe last week when he dismissed a reporter's question allegedly on account of his tribal name.

Immediately after the Nairobi event, the entire Fourth Estate and critics in social media platforms went on an offensive. Some called him a tribalist unfit to lead Kenya while others claimed his remarks amounted to ethnic profiling. At least one labelled him a bigot.

Kalonzo, who is the co-leader of the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, CORD, comes from Eastern region while the snubbed journalist is from Central Kenya. Kalonzo was incensed because the scribe asked a question that hinged on the opposition's perceived inability to police the government.

"That betrays it all," is what Kalonzo responded once told of the journalist's name, common in Central Kenya. The perception created was that since the journalist hailed from the Mt. Kenya area he was automatically a supporter of the ruling Jubilee Coalition of Uhuru Kenyatta, who also happens to be from there. And as an arch enemy of the government, Kalonzo's answer was seen to be an assault on the journalist's ethnic background, and indirectly on the government.

As far as I am concerned, Kalonzo was guilty only of denying the journalist his constitutional and professional right while performing his work, not of tribalism or bigotry. And this is why.

Whether we want to admit it or not tribalism is real and is embedded in the blood of the majority of us. What Kalonzo said cannot therefore be earth-shaking. I still have to meet a Kenyan who is free of this social iniquity.

And it's fueled by ourselves; by the way we talk to each other; how and where we live; and even what we eat. Comedians make fodder out of ethnic issues and have no shame in making jokes about customs and behaviours of communities; and when they engage in what is clearly ethnic profiling, we laugh hilariously and enjoyably.

Also, look at the ethnic segregation we have imposed on ourselves. How many Kisumu ndogos are there in this country, localities that are deliberately made to be dominated by members of one community. We have areas in the fringes of Nairobi where only people of certain tribes reside. In Mombasa, one location on the airport road is a domain of one community. There are many Mogadishus where people from one community reside. Eastleigh, once a multi-ethnic neighbourhood, is today the home of largely one community.

Even religion is ethnicised. There are faiths in this country that worship and sing in their own mother tongues, shutting out everyone else.

So, before condemning others, we must first admit that tribalism exists in its most foul manner and then collectively work to eliminate it. Tanzania did it, We can. Let us de-ethnicise our neighbourhoods. Let us fight stereotypical tendencies that tend to label some communities as inherently criminal and others as lazy or immoral.

Since many of us agree that ethnicity is not all evil, let us find a common ground from where we can launch a concerted effort to fight what my friend Koigi wa Wamwere calls negative ethnicity. HAPPY LABOUR DAY EVERYONE.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


The ghost of the 2013 elections debacle is back on our newspaper front pages and trending on our television screens. It seems Kenya is back to where it was during most of last year when the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) escalated its protests against the presidential election results and the Supreme Court ruling that gave victory to Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto of the Jubilee Coalition.

As predicted in this space not too long ago, the "explosive" expose` by KTN investigative journalists, John Alan Namu and Mohamed Ali, detailing what went on behind the scenes during the critical moments following the March 4 polls, is causing disquiet in the corridors of power and generating heated debates among wananchi.

For a while we should expect matters of national interest to be consigned to the back burner and give way to gossips and speculations surrounding the critical and recurring question of who actually won the polls. ODM continues to maintain that Raila Odinga was the winner while Jubilee says Uhuru and Ruto won "squarely and fairly," dismissing any complaints of foul play.

To add fuel to fire is the expected release of a report by the ODM leadership, which it says, will confirm ODM's position. Speculation is that the report will cause a political tsunami. It will shame the Interim Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which it accuses of conniving with its opponents to rig the elections and question the legitimacy of the Uhuru government.

Already ODM has called for the disbandment of the IEBC and has vowed not to participate in the next polls if a new body was not appointed. Under the constitution, the removal of any commission must go through a process which includes the setting up of a tribunal by the President. The wishes of ODM may, therefore, be far-fetched.

Already, ODM is making hay out of a tape recording alleged to contain the voices of a top IEBC official and an ODM leader that seems to suggest that some people within the electoral body suspected foul play well before polling stations opened.

The Jubilee government has a challenge that requires the attention of more than just a one-man army of Adan Duale, the Majority leader in Parliament. It requires a full-fledged propaganda unit with highly qualified spin doctors to fight off the escalating assault from the opposition which is unlikely to abate in the next three and half years.

Currently, the government is losing the war abroad. The damage Raila Odinga is causing to the image of the Jubilee government through quiet diplomacy as he moves around America delivering lectures is incalculable. Nairobi seems confused as to how to respond to the ODM leader's undefined mission. Although he is only a guest of Boston University, the manner in which he is treated by the some people there amounts to some sort of recognition that he is the legitimate Kenyan leader who is out of State House only because his votes were stolen.

If a well-coordinated propaganda unit was in place such perception would be easy to deal with.

President Daniel Arap Moi had one and it made quite a difference even with all the swirling accusations of human rights abuses against him. President Uhuru needs one and needs one NOW.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Once in a while a man or a woman from unlikely quarters storms into Kenya's political scene and causes ripples that upset the status quo.

Barely two years ago, the name Evans Kidero was unknown to a majority of Kenyans. This is a man who spent his life in corporate boardrooms making serious business decisions on behalf of some of the country's topmost companies. He was a straight-jacket, dark-suited technocrat with no obvious political inclinations.

Born in the run-down Majengo neighbouhood of Nairobi, Kidero had an opportunity of a good education most of his contemporaries did not have. He went to the University of Nairobi and excelled. Then he joined the corporate world and became successful both professionally and financially as a senior officer in the highly competitive SmithKline Beecham Healthcare International and as chief executive officer of the giant Mumias Sugar Company and the quick-paced Nation Media Group. Everywhere he went he left an indelible mark of high achievement.

Then he found he had no farther to go in the private sector, and decided, for good measure, to join politics. He emerged at a time when a new constitution offered something no corporate organisation could offer: the flashy position of chief executive of more than three million Nairobians. His entry into the public service was dramatic. Never before had a distinguished business outsider successfully managed to break into the mucky waters of Kenyan politics.

Jimnah Mbaru, the celebrated former chairman of the Kenya Stock Exchange tried more than once but failed. With his academic and professional CV that is said to run into 37 pages, and with all his money, Mbaru could not break into Nairobi politics. He left the scene humiliated and dejected.

Not so Kidero. He fought hard against such street fighters as Ferdinand Waititu and emerged a winner. Many however attribute his victory not to his political prowess and support from the popular ODM party but to Waititu's cantankerous ways and damaged image.

It's been more than a year since Kidero entered City Hall. The question that needs an answer is whether this whiz kid has made any mark in changing the way the city functions. Corruption is still the capital's number one enemy. Crime has not abated and takes place within the eye-shot of his own office in the central business district. Garbage collection remains a challenge. Slums continue to choke the city, and the stench of garbage and human waste is overbearing in most highly populated sections of Nairobi.

So, does it mean Kidero has failed? Perhaps not. But the magic that worked for him in the corporate world seems impotent in city hall. Kidero has grand plans to transform the city and make it work. But his plans have remained just that. I am excited about his plans to de-congest the city. I am overwhelmed by his plans to introduce a city transport system, and to make the city safer and more livable. But until I see results, Kidero's performance remains average.

Another thing. We must give our Governor space to perform. The Shebeshes and Sonkos of this world must give way. On the other hand, Kidero himself must stop stirring trouble in far flung counties. He was elected by Nairobians and must concentrate on matters of the Nairobi county. He has no business poking his nose in Nyanza politics even though that is where he originally came from?

Governor Kidero must remember he has less than four years to deliver goods to the city residents. Otherwise, he will join the long list of one-term Governors we expect to see come 2017.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The reverberations triggered by the brutal murder of the fiery Muslim cleric, Abubakar Shariff, popularly known as Makaburi, are still echoing across the country and beyond, as the Government and the rest of Kenyans continue to ponder on the best ways of dealing with the senseless terrorist killings that have rocked the country in recent weeks.

For the first time since the Westgate Mall bombing last September, Kenyans are seeing a more aggressive Government response to the terror menace. The ongoing massive screening exercise to flush out unregistered aliens and suspected terrorists in Eastleigh, Nairobi, underscores the Jubilee Government's determination to deal more harshly with those bent on destabilising the country.

The exercise may not, in itself, be enough to end terror within our borders, but it goes a long way to show a genuine desire on the government's part to guarantee safety of its citizens.

From what I see in the media, the majority of Kenyans fully supports this exercise even though human rights groups have raised serious integrity issues against members of the Kenya security forces. The groups are accusing police personnel of not only extorting money from hapless Eastleigh inhabitants but of raping and sodomising some of them. If these allegations are true, urgent measures must be taken against the perpetrators regardless of their status in the Force.

Kenya is a signatory to all global human rights conventions and has a comprehensive Bill of Rights entrenched in its own constitution. Thus, it must exercise restraint even as it tries to rid itself of undesirable elements. The operation is good but it must be carried out with dignity.

In the meanwhile, the piece I wrote last week on the role of Muslim leaders on matters of terrorism drew an incredibly high number of hits and responses. Some, mainly Muslims, felt offended that I had questioned the integrity of their leaders. I want to make it clear that the article was not meant to insult anyone, not least the Islamic religion of which I have great respect; or, to belittle the leadership of the community.

It was only meant to underscore a trend that is so common in Kenya where people become overly sensitive whenever certain matters dearest to them are debated while least bothered about everything else. We see this in politics all the time. People tend to go back to their tribes and communities whenever their interests are threatened without minding the bigger picture. This may be the reason why Aden Duale, the Jubilee Majority Leader in Parliament, is in trouble from some of his colleagues for the comments he made on terrorism.

President Uhuru has made it clear that the Government intends to rid the country of terror elements regardless of their religious, tribal or racial affiliations. And this is how we should look at the ongoing war against terrorism and terror elements; not from a religious prism but from a national perspective. We will be making a big mistake if we were to mix religion, any religion, with terrorism. I say this because I am yet to see a mainstream faith that professes terror and killing of innocent people.

If we are to live harmoniously in Kenya, Christians must be prepared to defend Muslims in times of need just as Muslims must be prepared to do the same when Christians are under threat. To go any other way is to court religious disharmony.

And that is my say.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


I have been listening to speeches and watching body languages of some Muslim leaders and I am perplexed and ruffled.

A few Sundays ago six people were killed in a hail of bullets as they prayed in a Church at Likoni, South of Mombasa. Several others including baby Satrine Osinya who took a bullet in his brain were seriously injured. I have no doubt that the perpetrators were Muslim fanatics linked to the killer Al Shabaab terror group domiciled in Somalia with cell links in Kenya.

On the first day of April, six other people were killed and 20 injured when another terrorist bomb exploded in a cafe at Eastleigh, Nairobi. Again, Muslim Somali jihadists are believed to have been involved.

I am perplexed and ruffled because Muslim leaders did not condemn those attacks as ferociously as they did when a well-known Muslim jihadist cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Shariff aka as Makaburi, was felled by bullets outside Shanzu Courts on the Mombasa/Malindi road on Tuesday.

All over a sudden, Muslim leaders, whose voices were not heard during the Likoni raid, came out of the wood works spitting fire and issuing all manner of ultimatums to the Government.

After the bloody Likoni raid, I did not hear one voice call for the formation of a task force  to investigate the killings, nor did I hear any one of them claim Christians were being targeted by terrorists.

But with the killing of Makaburi, some Muslim political leaders have even gone to the extent of alleging the Government was involved in the roadside murder. They claim Muslims are being targeted, and they talk of "systematic profiling of members of the Muslim community."

I see this as double standard.

My question is: Is the life of one Muslim cleric more precious than the life of six Churchgoers and six innocent customers in a cafe?

If our Muslim leaders are serious about fighting terrorism they should not mix religion with evil acts. We are always told that Islam is a religion of peace. I agree, because I lived with Muslims at Majengo King'orani in Mombasa, for a good part of my growing up and never once did I experience any form of religious animosity between Muslims and Christians.

We shared the joys of Chrismas together as much as we shared the merriment of Idd il Fitr. We rejoiced together at weddings just as much as we banded together during times of bereavement and sorrow. We played and ate together. We joined hands during Maulid celebrations and celebrated Christian festivities as one.

That is why I am convinced Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. But I am perplexed and ruffled because Muslim leaders only see evil when a Muslim is killed but see NO evil when a Christian is murdered.

Christian youths have never engaged in street rampages even when their own have been mauled down by killer bullets. But when the same happens to a Muslim, Mombasa becomes a no-go zone; shops are closed in fear of looting and destruction; and the whole security apparatus goes on full alert to handle rowdy youths.

As I have said here before, Muslim leaders bear the biggest responsibility of calming and controlling their vociferous youths. They also bear the highest responsibility in stopping their youths from joining terror groups of any kind. By merely condemning the Government and issuing ultimatums, Muslim leaders are only being impetuous, hypocritical and unreasonable.

We cherish the cordial co-existence between Christians and Muslims but this can only be sustained if Muslim leaders take the kind of taciturn and responsible posture that Church leaders display during crises.

And that is my say.