Sunday, January 26, 2014


Only nine months after the last general elections in March 2013, campaigns for the next polls in 2017 have seemingly begun, overshadowing the development agenda and shaking Kenya's political stability.

This is not entirely unusual in Kenya. A common joke is, in Kenya politics don't go on vacation. Kenyans play politics from morning to evening, from the beginning to the end of the year, from one election to the other.

This time around, however, the political mood stands poisoned by lingering grudges and unending claims by the opposition CORD (the Coalition for Reforms and Development), that Raila Odinga was robbed of the last elections and that certain arms of government including the military, the judiciary and the electoral body, abetted his defeat. This lie has been doing the rounds since the elections and continues to be peddled in public meetings, funerals and even at parleys with foreign visitors.

Hitler's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, once said that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually believe it to be the truth. This is what is happening in Kenya. This lie has been repeated so many times that even those in CORD who had doubts now believe the 2013 presidential elections were stolen. This situation is polarising the population and distracting the government from its agenda. Some Kenyans think the opposition is deliberately sabotaging the State through careless statements and surreptitious blackmail.

But the political temperatures are also on the rise as a result of the tumult in ODM, the Orange Democratic Movement, over the forthcoming party national elections. The succession battles for the party leadership has kicked off aggressive, no-holds barred jostling for positions, and exposed the ODM as a tribal organisation not a national party.

Some senior officials in ODM believe - and they have said this openly - that some crucial positions, including that of secretary general, should be reserved for Nyanza - Raila's home turf - arguing that surrendering them to "outsiders" would weaken the party. What this means is that  Nyanza is either unwilling or is not ready to be led by leaders from outside the region.

Surprisingly, with all the talk in ODM of generational change, not a single "youthful" leader has come out to oppose the 69-year old Raila Odinga for the party leadership. Those, like James Orengo, Dalmas Otieno and Evens Kidero, who are a "little younger" than Raila are being fought left, right and centre by elements interested in preserving the fast fading Odinga dynasty. These are the same elements who are trying to coax Raila's rather disinterested son Fidel into joining politics.

And then, there are the problems in CORD of which ODM is a principal partner. Raila's closest allies are not amused that Kalonzo Musyoka of the Wiper Democratic Party and Moses Wetangula of Ford Kenya, who are part of CORD and much younger than Raila, want to challenge him for the presidency in 2017.

Supporters have already told Kalonzo and Wetangula not to cede ground to Raila. In the 2007 elections, Kalonzo failed to win the presidency and agreed instead to serve as number two to Mwai Kibaki. In 2013, he joined Raila as his deputy and both flopped. This time around his Kamba people have threatened to abandon him if he agrees to play second fiddle.

As for Wetangula, running for the presidency is the only way to rekindle his national image which, though boosted by his recent overwhelming win in the Bungoma Senatorial by-election, faces hurdles in his wider Luhialand home ground. In the meantime, he is telling his fragmented community to "come together" and to register as voters in large numbers in apparent preparation for his bid.

With the two vowing to proceed all the way, it is difficult to see how Raila will have a smooth ride four years from now. I am inclined to believe Kalonzo and Wetangula will decamp from the coalition at some stage and launch their own presidential campaigns. Left alone and depending almost exclusively on Nyanza votes, Raila will have no chance. The party has already lost in its top hierarchy some of its most dependable officials including the former chairman, Henry Kosgey and the former secretary general, Anyang Nyong'o, who have opted out.

I therefore believe Raila has tough times ahead partly because support even in his estwhile strongholds of Coast, Western and North-Eastern regions, is evaporating like steam from a boiling pot. Without numbers coming out of these areas, the chances of the former Prime Minister toppling Uhuru - assuming the President continues to maintain support of the Rift Valley - amount to zero.

But first things first. To get anywhere, Raila must first navigate through the mud of next month's National Delegates Conference. If his favoured candidate for the secretary general position, Dr. Agnes Zani prevails; if his chief trouble-shooter Otieno Kajwang wins the vice chairmanship; if money-man Ali Hassan Joho captures the deputy leader's position; and, on the other hand, if Evans Kidero and his group are vanquished, then Raila's road to 2017 will be much easier.

In the meantime, the political temperature continues to rise. It's time that we deflate it to allow us concentrate in nation building.

And that is my say.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Every so often, for as long as I can remember, a section of Kenya Coast leaders wakes up to announce plans for a Coast-based political party they believe might articulate more vigorously - and perhaps more exclusively - the aspirations and hopes of Coastarians.

I was one of such leader. There was a time when I believed in a Coast-managed political party. That is why, when I hear, as I am hearing now, that some Coast legislators want to form their own party away from the main organisations, I understand though I no longer hold that view. What I don't understand is why as Coast leaders we refuse to learn from past failures.

If there is a region which has had more political parties than any other since independence, it is the Coast. As proof just look at this long list of political organisations that have existed since the end of single party rule at the end of 1991 (not in any particular order):-

1. The Islamic Party of Kenya
2. Chama cha Majimbo na Mwangaza
3. Shirikisho Party of Kenya
4. Republican Congress
5. Uzalendo Party of Kenya
6. National Labour Party of Kenya
7. Kenya National Congress
8. Federal Party of Kenya
7. Kadu-Asili
(Political Pressure Groups)
1.Coast Leaders' Forum
2.Coast Peoples' Forum, and several others.

So, the issue is not whether Coast should have a political party. We already have several. The issue is why all these parties have failed to resonate with the people, and have either collapsed or are limping to their death.

Unlike the other regions in the country, Coast is not a homogeneous entity. It harbours many tribes that speak diverse languages and adhere to disparate cultures and norms. The Mijikenda may be the biggest unit but within it are nine distinct tribes whose languages and cultures have some variations, minuscule as they may be. Then we have theTaita and Taveta, Pokomo, Orma, Bajuni, Waswahili, the Arabs and several others.

To bring all these people together one needs more than a flimsy declaration or a hasty political decision. We have had similar declarations before but they have yielded nothing that can be said to be close to a regional party.

Before independence, the Coast had several satellite parties such as the Mombasa African Democratic Party (MADU), Kwale African Democratic Party (Kwadu), Kilifi African Peoples Union (KAPU) and similar others in Pokomoland and Taita/Taveta. They flourished and made immense contributions to our independence struggle.

When Ronald Ngala, Daniel Arap Moi and others formed the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) in 1963, it became easy to bring all those entities on board because there was a common thread of understanding of what unity was all about.

With the disbandment of KADU in 1964 came a scramble for positions in KANU's government that caused divisions within the Coastal leadership ranks. Those divisions have not been mended. The formation of the Coast Parliamentary Group in the 1980s intended to bring elected leaders closer failed to work because of petty jealousies and power struggles. Even today the CPG is a divided house. If elected leaders cannot sit down for a meaningful discussion, how can we expect people in all corners of the region to coalesce around one organisation?

That is why I now believe it was wishful thinking on my part to think forming Shirikisho with others in 1997 would unite Coastarians. It was also wishful thinking when I came up with the idea of the Coast Leaders' Forum in 2005. With this history behind me, I have every reason to predict that the efforts now in the works will bear no fruit and are therefore a waste of time.

Forming and maintaining a political party is not a walk in the park. They require huge amounts of money (which Coastarians do not have) and a great deal of sacrifice (which Coastarians lack). A short-cut will be to get a tycoon to bank-roll such an organisation. Whether that tycoon is an Italian investor who wants protection, an Arab businessman with a secret agenda, or a major political party angling for votes, the fact is that something will have to give. We have seen leaders and parties being pocketed by interested parties before. When that happens the party loses goodwill and it collapses.

There is another underlying malaise which must be sorted out for coastal unity to emerge. And this is a subject we Coastarians do not wish to discuss. It has to do with ethnic and even racial bias. Why, for example, do we think it is only a Mijikenda (and not a Taita or a Pokomo) who can lead the Coast? When we talk of anointing a Coastal leader we think of a Mijikenda. There has never been a "mgogo" from any other community other than Mijikenda. Don't the others have leaders who can lead?

No wonder Sharif Nassir - with all his influence during the Moi era - never  made it as a Coastal leader the way Ngala and Karisa Maitha did; and that is why Najib Balala and his Republican Party will go nowhere as long as he is the leader, all because of their Arab background. When Balala was made a Mijikenda elder a few years ago he was denounced and the ceremony cursed yet the same honour had been given earlier to a foreigner.

This tells me that we Coastarians must clean our own house first before talking about Coastal unity. The tendency of ethnic and racial bias, of jealousy, of intolerance and of selfishness must end. Once we establish that equilibrium, Coastal unity will thrive.

In the meantime, our elected leaders must concentrate on delivering promises they made to the electorate.

A year is almost gone. I am yet to hear from our leaders a collective effort in Parliament on issues that most concern our people. The silence from Coast leaders on the floor of Parliament is deafening.

We can have the biggest political party in the country, but if our people go to sleep hungry, if they cannot send their children to school, if they cannot access affordable health care, if they cannot get jobs, then it's all useless. Each one of us has a contribution to make. As an elected leader, I made mine. Now, it's your turn.

Instead of making noises in barazas, you must do what you were elected to do; stand up in Parliament and argue the peoples' case.

And that is my say.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Reading newspapers nowadays, one would think there is a new tribe in Kenya on top of the 42 official ethnic groups.

During the past month or so, President Uhuru Kenyatta's appointments to parastatal boards have yielded a new tribe in Kenya called "losers." Currently, the six-letter word has become one of the most over-used item in the Kenyan political dictionary. Sample these headlines:-

1. President Uhuru Kenyatta gives poll losers, allies, lifeline. (the italics are mine)
2. Uhuru appoints election losers to head parastatals
3. Election losers make a comeback in appointments
4. Poll losers appointed by Uhuru to head boards.
5. Protests as Jubilee election losers and cronies picked.
6. New Year gift for poll losers.
7. More poll losers get State appointments, (and so on and so on).

(a)Who are these losers? (b)What did they lose? (c)Are they citizens of Kenya? (d) Do they pay taxes? (e) Are they qualified for the jobs offered to them? (f) Are they loyal to their country? (g) Are they criminals and shouldn't hold public offices? (h) Is President Kenyatta violating the constitution by appointing them?

If the answers to questions (c) to (g) are yes and (g) and (h) are no, then Chief Justice Mutunga would slam the gavel and shout: case dismissed!.

Now let us turn to (a) and (b). The so-called losers are full-blooded Kenyans who chose to try their luck in elections. Unluckily, they lost. But they are Kenyans; most likely, they are not criminals; and most likely they pay taxes regularly.

Now, apart from fighting losers, critics have also taken issue with graying old men who are given positions which, they say, should go to younger people. The appointment of former Civil Service boss, Francis Muthaura, as Chairman of the multi-trillion shilling Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor, Lapsset, has been the most controversial.

Such critics appear not to appreciate the level of knowledge, skills and expertise Muthaura brings to the project. He is undoubtedly the most qualified candidate for the job. He has had an exemplary stint in government. Moi depended on him; Kibaki cherished him. The fact that Uhuru Kenyatta is entrusting him with a project of such monumental importance to our economy says a lot about his professional and individual qualities.

It needs to be said that the Kenya Constitution bars all forms of discrimination. Singling out a part of our citizenry on the basis of age and political performance is as myopic as discriminating people on the basis of religion, gender, race and tribe.

Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta both lost elections, but they came back and we elected them. Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, Abduba Dida, Paul Muite and Prof. Ole Kiyapi, should not be written off just because they have previously failed to win the presidency.

The bottom line is: we should let President appoint the people he thinks will help him govern effectively in accordance with the Constitution and in line with the objectives he has set for his government. This does not mean he should be blind to public opinion. We gave him the mandate to rule. We should not restrain him from executing this mandate by dictating to him who to hire and fire.

And that is my say.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


There is a whiff of the 1990's in the air in Kenya today.

Twenty three years ago as the country entered into a multi-party system of government and was getting ready to implement IMF economic reforms, a major financial scandal broke out. Mandarins in the government had schemed up an arrangement in which a local company, Goldenberg International, was to be paid a 35 percent compensation for all gold it exported, even though Kenya did not produce gold. By the time it came to a halt in 1993, the scheme, now known as the Goldenberg scandal, had robbed Kenya of an estimated 60 billion shillings or a fifth of its gross domestic product.

In 1997, another mega scandal - the Anglo Leasing - exploded. What started as a project to acquire a passport printing system somersaulted into a big conspiracy involving some big wigs and a loss of billions of shillings through various illegal transactions.

Now, less than a year into the Jubilee government, two more scandals, seemingly of astronomical proportions have erupted, playing out at a time when the IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, was visiting to discuss possible financial assistance to Kenya.

One of those scandals involves the standard gauge railway line from Mombasa to Malaba in Uganda. If the reports are true, this could turn out to be one big embarrassment for the Jubilee government. The project was initiated during President Mwai Kibaki's government, but it was after Uhuru visited China last August and signed on the dotted line, that the race to implement it began.

President Kenyatta inaugurated the project and everything was going on as planned until it came to light that the cost of its construction had jumped from 220 billion to 1.3 billion shilling. If implemented, critics say, Kenya stands to lose 400 billion shillings. Government officials have disputed the 1.3 billion figure insisting the cost of infrastructure and of trains and locomotives would only cost 327 billion shillings.

Now, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has jumped into the controversy with a commitment for a thorough investigation. Hopefully, the truth will eventually come out.

As the railway deal was brewing, another one, described by COTU Secretary General as the "scandal of the year' is in the kettle boiling. Francis Atwoli alleges that the Treasury could lose up to 5 billion shillings through inflated bills related to the construction of roads and a sewerage system at Tassia estate in Nairobi's Eastlands area. According to him, the cost of the project - again to be undertaken by a Chinese company - has been inflated by greedy individuals from 3.36 billion to 5.05 billion without the approval of the administering Board at the National Social Security Fund, NSSF.

The Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi has denied the allegations saying the whole amount was approved. The question is: who between the two is telling the truth? That question can only be answered through investigations.

The NSSF  - a workers' retirement fund - has been at the centre of corruption scandals for years. Some pundits say it is at the top of the ten most corrupt State Corporations in the country. Only in June, the anti-corruption body reportedly froze its assets worth 15 billion shillings following revelations of imprudent investments.

What does all this mean to Kenya? It means we have allowed greed to infiltrate and take residence in our moral conscience. It proves once again that people go for high public positions not for the good of the country but for personal interests. It means we don't care about embarrassing ourselves to the rest of the  country and the world. And more importantly, it means some of us do not love our country as much as we say.

On the railway deal, three Parliamentary Committees - the Public Accounts Committee, the Transport Committee and the Public Investment Committee - are jostling for an opportunity to investigate. Given past history, I am not convinced this work should be left to Parliament alone. Also, why jostle unless there is someting to "eat"? The Committees can jostle and fight for the stakes, but let us leave the job of investigations to the anti-corruption organisation.

And that is my say.