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.