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.