Sunday, July 26, 2015

Obama Visit: Kenya Must Borrow a Leaf

Kenyans are more inclined to American politics more than any nation in the globe since Barack Obama, who derives his ancestral heritage in Kenya was elected President in 2008.

The lingering question we need to ask ourselves is this: have we learnt any lesson from the USA’s model of governance in order to improve our own or we are just proud to be associated with the most powerful country led by a President who shares our roots?

Last week, CNN branded Kenya a hot bed for terrorism while doing an analysis on President Obama’s visit which attracted a barrage of condemnations from Kenyans at home and abroad. For me, the report was a solid reality and not a fallacy.

Kenya is one of the biggest terror targets not because the terrorists hate us more but because we have faulty lines caused by a corrupt security system and the government’s incompetence to act upon available intelligence on impending attacks.

Remember, from Westgate Mall, Garissa, Mandera and Lamu; Kenya’s intelligence Service was aware but failed to mitigate the attacks.

Those who got offended by CNN’s use of “hot bed” to describe our vulnerabilities as a terror spot need to remember that, we are indeed a hot bed not only as a terrorism target, but also other vices like corruption, inequality, injustice and nepotism. Let us not whitewash the truth just because it was highlighted by a foreign media.

Remember, desperation mostly caused by corruption, unemployment and inequality, has made many young Kenyans to be radicalized by joining Al-Shabaab terrorist gang.

Back to Obama’s visit, we got excited that he landed in style and glamour in the land of his father. We felt more attached to the most powerful country and its leader in the globe. However, how can public and private citizens capture the utility of Obama’s visit to enhance the future of Kenya?

More importantly, if current leaders in government will ignore the speeches delivered by Obama in Gigiri and Kasarani, we may as well conclude that we are doomed as a nation. Remember, whoever fails to learn from his big brother with global feelers like Obama is either impervious or allergic to progressive leadership.

President Obama spoke eloquently about the impediments which bedevils the success of Kenya. He spoke about the-get-rich-quick methods by public servants which has stifled service delivery and ruined foreign investment. He stressed the need to address inequality which affects marginalized groups like women.

Shying from the truth on the state of our nation isn’t fair at all especially when we are in a quandary on many fronts for instance: the government’s unwillingness to nurture transparency and accountability in public affairs, lack seriousness to fight graft and inequality and a biased justice system which favours the rich at the expense of the poor.

President Obama urged Kenyans to change their attitudes if they expected to transform the country. I agreed with him that corruption can only be tackled if both leaders and citizens are ready to say enough is enough to stop the vice.  

I extend my accolades to President Uhuru Kenyatta for his great eloquence and confidence during a joint press conference with President Obama. He did great beyond our expectations.

However, the tragedy is: when you have a President who rocks in eloquence but is ambivalent to turn his words into action, you have a stagnated country. After all, oratorical prowess is a plus for a leader but cannot add value when it’s not translated into action.

If we can slowly adapt the American brand of politics since we borrowed heavily from their model constitution, it can help us to spur our governance- ensuring accountability, improving public service, safeguarding justice, democracy and the rule of law.

If you admire your neighbour’s manicured lawn, you need to learn how to manicure your own lawn… let us borrow a leaf from Obama’s visit and the USA’s governance systems to improve Kenya.

I urge Kenyans citizens irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds not to be shrouded in ethnic linens; often voting leaders with questionable integrity merely because of sharing an ethnic dialect. Remember, the Americans from all races voted for Obama in 2008 and honoured him for a second term in 2012 despite being black.

Finally, Obama didn’t just come to lecture us but to share his ideas and experiences. He was very candid on how the US keeps trying workable systems for improvement.  He challenged us to choose between improvement and changing our attitudes in order to float and swim as a nation or sink and drown.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Are Western Kenya leaders easy prey for the ruling elites?

The genesis of the current rebellion by Western Kenya leaders begun when Uhuru Kenyatta’s government bailed Mumias Sugar company with Shs1 billion. This is when leaders like the ODM Secretary General started to signal an exit from the opposition.

What our leaders fail to understand is this: it’s the responsibility of any government to bail out struggling companies to enable them regain fiscal soundness.  

What President Uhuru Kenyatta did to Mumias Sugar Company isn’t a favour but his responsibility as Kenya’s chief executive; charged with the responsibilities of ensuring that  public and private sector interests are safeguarded since they affect the livelihood of wananchi.

In the United States, Obama administration has spent a whopping $51 billion tax payers’ money to bail out General Motors. Legislators from his party do not use the bailout it as a stamping pad for political mileage.

In fact, the State of Michigan which is the headquarters of General Motors has a republican governor; Mr. Rick Snyder. I’m sure if Michigan was one of the Kenyan counties, this governor would have defected to the ruling Jubilee coalition.

Therefore, the Luyia leaders gyrating about the Mumias Sugar bailout by sanitizing Uhuru with praises should remember that the 1 billion extended to the company is a loan that the Mumias farmers must eventually pay.

I’m sure we have legislators from the Luyia community who understand economics and fiscal management in government.

Politics aside, the challenges of Mumias Sugar Company are multiple- corruption, mismanagement and importation of cheap sugar by cartels who are actually know by the Jubilee government. That is why it’s appalling to see leaders like Senator Bony Khalwale and MP Ababu Namwamba, who are key opposition figures shying away from these realities.

Truly, what does Khalwale expect the 3 Cord principals to do about Governor Evans Kidero who is suspected to have been involved in the financial meltdown of Mumias Sugar Company?

Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula do not work with the judiciary or the anti-corruption commission; which has so far been disbanded by Parliament. They have got no prosecutorial powers. Their role as opposition leaders is purely oversight and nothing else.

What Western leaders needs to do is to ask what President Uhuru’s plans are after bailing out the cash-strapped firm. Effective leaders always focuses on treating the symptoms as well as laying out contingency plans to prevent another negative occurrence.

By now, the President would have moved a notch higher to ask Khalwale to provide all the evidence he has so that Governor Evans Kidero can face justice in a court of law. Otherwise, as things stand, politics has taken centre stage.

At first I thought Khalwale’s move was noble when he took Kidero head-on. I now doubt how genuine he is in the whole saga which has taken a political dimension by many leaders in the Luyia community.

In the last election, Kenyans saw how Mudavadi used scapegoats to quit ODM during the nomination stage. Presently, the vibrant Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba does not sound like the Secretary General of the largest political Party in Kenya. His words speak volumes about his commitment to the Orange Democratic Movement.

Is it a common trend that elected leaders from Western Kenya are easily compromised through monetary enticements (Ugali) from the top echelons of political power?

After the 1992 general election, almost all the 7 MPs elected on the Ford Asili Party of Kenneth Matiba from Western Kenya defected back to Kanu purportedly due to monetary rewards from former President Moi.

In fact, the late Martin Shikuku was left standing like a skeleton when the likes of Benjamin Magwaga and the late Nichodemus Khaniri and others defected to Kanu. This pattern of defection characterized by the quest to be part of government is a barbaric gesture in a multiparty democracy.

Leaders are elected to serve through articulating issues that matter to their constituents. The current dispensation is even rosy since development can be realized in a constituency even when a legislator is in the opposition.

Many Kenyans are shocked to see Moi’s political trend of 20 years ago creeping into our system through elected leaders.

The ‘Ugali’ talk is denting the image of many elected leaders in the country. Even under the current dispensation where funds are devolved to the counties, majority of our leaders especially from the opposition are still manacled in the old Kanu days where leaders sung the Nyayo chorus to realize development in their regions.

When Ababu Namwamba employs double speak, Khalwale appears to capitalize on the Mumias scandal to score political points and former Speaker Kenneth Marende talks like he has undergone a complete metamorphosis, we have to conclude that something is extremely wrong with our leaders. Marende’s Solomonic wisdom as Speaker in the last Parliament earned him a lot of admirers.

It’s sad that even the former UDF Party leader Musalia Mudavadi cannot effectively define what he is up to as a political leader in Kenya. His pronouncement are wobbly.

It’s high time our political leaders cultivated solid principles if they expected Kenyans to take them seriously.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Uhuru and Ruto's lethal propaganda should worry Cord

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto’s competitors should tread carefully. The two are lethal propagandist who can sell lies to even the most intelligent Kenyans. The two can call a spade a big spoon and a dog a small lion and many Kenyans will shout yeah! They can concoct anything to kill the truth by brainwashing people.  

They know how to manipulate the Church, professionals, youth, their tribesmen, the rich and the poor. Ruto did it successfully in 1992 by sneaking Moi back to power and in 2013, he sandwiched Uhuru with the same tricks which catalyzed Jubilee to power to the chagrin of Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.
Besides, the self-proclaimed hustler has used extremely unorthodox maneuvers to become one of the wealthiest people in Kenya, if all the corruption spears thrown at him are real. Don’t forget, money and success in Kenya’s political scene are synonymous.

Ruto’s boss- Uhuru Kenyatta, is a beneficiary of the big name- Kenyatta dynasty, family wealth. He can be a big trickster. He has learnt to hold the ropes since his mentor; former President Moi brought him to the political limelight from nowhere to contest for the Presidency in the Kanu party in 2002.

Although he lost the big seat, he kept learning from both Moi and his ‘uncle’ Mwai Kibaki. He bounced to the Presidency in 2013; courtesy of the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favour. The Uhuru and Ruto combination can be lethal politically. They have the capacity to sell even the weirdest propaganda to achieve their ends. In 2013, they used adversity- ICC case to their advantage. Time will tell if The ICC saga will favour them in the 2017 contest if they decide to learn on the same ticket.

My free advice to Raila Odinga and Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka is this, even as you continue to give Uhuru and Ruto sleepless nights in the 2017 contest, when you attack the two in public, don’t let the attack decapitate; let your attack dogs continue pounding hard…Propaganda wins with propaganda and not with facts especially in our political system.

Remember, it’s the last propaganda which sells and ends up convincing many. Ruto successfully convinced his Kalenjin people that it’s Raila Odinga who took him to the ICC. This was the most powerful propaganda which kept Jubilee’s tempo surging in the Rift valley.

Cord needs to utilize its trusted lieutenants especially elected leaders from all parts of the Country to talk about the coalition. It doesn’t make sense when Kenyans only see Mps John Mbadi and Francis Nyenze at the limelight when Cord has many MCAs, MPs, Senators and governors throughout the country.
Kenyans want to hear what Northern Kenya, Rift Valley, Western Kenya and Coast leaders are saying about Cord’s transformative agenda for the country. In as much as Kenyans love former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice president Kalonzo Musyoka, they are more than happy to also see what key leaders both elected and non-elected are saying about the status of our nation and why Jubilee should be kicked out of power democratically.

Kenyans want to see new faces; new leaders talking about Cord. It’s worthy to note that familiar faces on news headlines from even the most popular leaders can be a monotony especially when you are out to sell a political agenda.

Seeing Raila on the screen as the only critic to the Jubilee government does not reflect well for the opposition. The former PM is not politically childless. Let his admirers play his game while he takes the back seat; controlling the gears. His hard hitting criticism on Jubilee should be ventilated from all men and women who believe in Cord as the alternative government.  

Cord needs to remember this, when Ruto takes the microphone, His propaganda flows like sweet honey. The guy can cry to attract the hoi polloi. When Uhuru speaks, his passion reflects him as a super statesman; natural patriot, incorruptible, focused, intelligent and sharp. He sounds like has all the solutions to the problems that bedevils the country. This must worry Cord. The same applies to Jubilee attack dog, Aden Duale, the loose talker in Jubilee is a great asset a great peddler of propaganda in Jubilee. Ever wondered why Jubilee MPs can’t replace him as majority leader even after misleading the country about the terrorism dossier?

The only consolation for many of us who believe in the possibility of Kenya’s transformations is this: the actions of the two jubilee rulers speaks the opposite. They condone graft, nepotism, disrespect of human life, steals from the poor, purveys injustice and can do anything for the sake of retaining power. A replacement will be a great hurrah for Kenya.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lupita Nyongo’s move on wildlife conservation is laudable but she will face hurdles

The elephant is an endangered species
The poaching of wildlife, proliferation of arms, abuse of illicit drugs and corruption are vices well known by many national governments. The Kenya government for instance has the capacity to deal with poaching and even corruption once and for all but, we all know that it’s elusive for a judge to sentence his own son for life imprisonment.

We need to laud Lupita Nyongo for joining global conservationists to try and save our elephants which are being killed at an alarming rate for its valuable ivory. However, any effort worthy its weight in salt for local and global conservation is for governments where poaching is rampant to cooperate with private actors like Lupita Nyongo for purposes of information sharing, capacity building, judicial interventions through heavy penalties on convicted poachers and activism to sever diplomatic links with nations which harbour poachers and open markets for wildlife products.

Lupita’s initiative is great. Her fresh passion to save our elephants depicts the validity of her dreams as envisaged in a speech she gave after winning the Oscar. She has joined the league of Dr Richard Leakey and Prince Philip; The Duke of Edinburg, who is also the patron of the Wild Wide Fund (WWF), amongst other world conservationists. The Oscar winner needs to be supported so that Kenya can realize the fruits of her efforts to combat poaching.

This is the time Lupita needs to dialogue with the Kenyan government and also work closely with the Kenya wildlife service to capture the loopholes which have made poaching a thriving illegal business for many decades despite the government efforts to combat it. If she is not supported, all her energies will be dry words; while our wild life will continue being killed by a few people who want shortcuts to riches.

Like drug cartels in South America, poaching is a get-quick-rich avenue often pursued by who-is-who in the society. Its economic benefits are huge. Many African governments are often aware who the direct beneficiaries of the wildlife trade are but often stays mum. For instance, it will be a big lie to say that the government of Kenya is not aware of those killing our elephants in the country’s national parks and game reserves.

Kenya has even embraced the Chinese when the demand for wildlife materials is so lucrative in China and other Asian markets. The Chinese are building our roads and bridges which often traverse through natural terrains inhabited by our wildlife…Can we trust that they are honest and cannot capitalize on their presence in the country to perpetuate illegal poaching since the market for wildlife products in China is sky high?

Kenya now boasts as being a true friend of China, I wonder if our country has initiated any measures to ensure that the Chinese government acts tough on wildlife trade which has a direct impact on the lives of our wildlife. Just like the way the people of Kisii conduct their stone carving at Tabaka soapstone grounds, ivory carving is a legal business in Guangzhou, one of the biggest cities in China.

According to Adam Welz, a South African writer, some African governments are trying their best to stamp out poaching through military empowerment to its rangers especially in South Africa. In the local scene, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is more equipped, coordinated and with better equipment than where it used to a decade ago but the rate of poaching is twice higher. Nothing has scaled down the poaching of elephants and rhinos. Not even setting ivory on fire which Kenya has done several times.

I’m not being pessimistic with the efforts Lupita Nyongo has initiated in the fight against poaching but I’m skeptical if her efforts will yield any results without government engagement and intervention. Engaging the government and the intelligence service is the best way to go because they know local cartels involved in the illegal trade.

Just like the Kenyan government knows those behind corruption and illegal drug business, they know 100% those behind poaching.

Keep up the good job Lupita, and welcome to a society where thieves, drug barons and poachers are revered and celebrated. They attract and control power, they shape national debate in anything as they continue to kill our elephants and rhinos whose money they use to buy political loyalty.