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.