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Political & Social Empowerment

LESSONS GLEANED FROM MY JOURNEY AS A POLITICAL CANDIDATE

 

If the Swahili sages are to be believed then, “Maji ukiyavulia nguo huna budi ila kuyaoga (If you strip down in front of a bath of water then there is little option other than taking a bath).” After many years of shooting off the lip on political affairs, civil liberties and active citizenship, I recently took the bold step of throwing my hat into the ring for the 2022 political contest in Lurambi Constituency, Kakamega County. It was ten arduous months of excruciating and sometimes back-breaking campaigns. I can reliably inform all who care, that I fought the good fight to the bitter end and finished the race. Headwinds seemed hellbent at derailing that political journey at myriad locations but ultimately, we reached the finishing line. Indeed, for the last leg of the race, I had to put the kibosh even on penning this humble piece but now I am ready to unfurl the wisdom I unearthed from this very odyssey. As the sage put it succinctly, “the taste of the pudding is in the eating.”

First and foremost, voter enlightenment and sensitization are at their nadir in most parts of Kenya. The 10 years of UhuRuto were wasted years with regards to the progression of ideals like democracy, civil liberties and political awareness. Many, for lack of better adjectives are naïve, gullible and primitive. This is exacerbated by other vices like illiteracy, poverty, disease, corruption and voter apathy among the uninitiated. Some refuse to vote thinking they will punish some unseen adversary. They fail to realize that their negligence to voting is also a choice which will adversely affect your circumstances. If for instance, you are hungry due to poor governance and as a result refuse to vote for the leader with good policies, then you will suffer the ignominy of continuing the interminable cycle of poverty after denying the proper leader sufficient votes to win. If 14,466,779 Kenyan adults voted, what is your excuse for being left out? A sizeable tranche is less than cognizant of the existence of a 2-tier system of government in Kenya. The National and County Government. Tragically, they will run around trying to convince all and sundry to vote for a particular Gubernatorial candidate on the promise of ‘kuwa ndani ya serikali’ (being part and parcel of government) if the Presidential candidate for such an outfit also wins their corresponding seat. There is actual anecdotal evidence in Kenya of counties like Nairobi and Kiambu whose governors originated from a political coalition in government but who chose fellows that I can only refer to as louts and touts who in due course justifiably got impeached for their innumerable acts of omission and commission. In diffidence, a county like Kakamega whose Governor was to all intents and purposes, opposition leaning, put in an exemplary shift development-wise compared to the clowns in Nairobi and Kiambu who only traded patronage, populism and idle-chatter.

A critical learning curve I encountered was in the fact that expenditure in the political campaign seldom guarantees success. There are many who used fuel guzzlers of various shapes and sizes for their campaigns. There are contestants who hired multi-wheeled trucks daily for their campaigns, paying huge battalions of campaign teams but still didn’t get diddly-squat pertaining to victory in the elections. In my deliberations with some of the candidates for various seats in the recently concluded elections draws a worrisome picture of people who spent as much as 5 million shillings for MCA seats but still came up short in the final vote tally. There are individuals who sold much-vaunted assets inclusive of pieces of land and vehicles in the assurance that proceeds accrued from the ventures would have put them over the line regarding to campaign funds but they were wrong. I equally expended a small fortune but with miniscule returns proportional to my investment, but that is neither here nor there. I must add that a few shillings in the bank will not in any way hurt your aspirations, so you have a better chance with a heavy war chest than without.

Returning to the point I commenced with, is the vexatious situation of our youths being apathetic albeit recalcitrant in exercising their constitutionally-enshrined right to vote. It is exasperating that the brave and honourable heroes of our independence struggle and later those of the 2nd liberation expended blood, sweat and tears for our people to have not just the right to vote but also to have a choice of the political party they seek to have forming government, yet the subsequent generation are indifferent to the more facile activity of voting. On my part, it is asininity galore to see young men in drinking dens, shebeens and brothels on the day they are supposed to be voting in their elected representatives for the next 5 years. If somebody decides to abdicate their right to the vote, then who do they think will vote for them? More disconcerting is that we witnessed some social activist charlatans appearing on our TV screens with their polo-neck overshirts, tailored suits and suave-urbane looks also pontificating that half-witted rhubarb on the ‘right not to vote.’ Their excuse: Taxation entitles them to question the tangent their nation is taking. To me this is foolishness exemplified! I state this unequivocally in the understanding that our aggregated tax payers’ kitty is expended in the much-needed endeavour of financing the general election. A National holiday was declared whence employers gave a free day for our people to come out in force to exercise their democratic entitlement. But lo and behold, voter turn-outs are simply atrocious. If hungry, not voting will still leave you with your hunger and so methinks the audacity of hope lies with just going out there and casting your vote. Hanging onto the double-barreled excuse of penury and disenfranchisement, many of our youths will organize themselves into crowds-for-hire to fill up political rallies. The crowds are huge but vote returns from our youths are dastardly. Many earnestly style themselves as potential voters by dint of ownership of National Identification Cards and fake gargantuan smiles. The disconnect is that ownership of IDs does not always signify registration for voting. A cursory use of the portal made public by the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with the HTML – https://verify.iebc.or.ke was actually pivotal in separating the wheat from the chaff regarding actual voters vis-à-vis pranksters with ID cards purporting to be voters! Feeding in your ID number and Birth Year would invariably regurgitate the rank and file of your voting details inclusive of registration status.

Courtesy of Citizen TV

Politics in many outposts of Kenya is still largely tribal with elections merely an ethnic census. I unearthed to little surprise that it is still an uphill task to be elected in Lurambi Constituency as Member of the National Assembly (MNA) without actually being a member of the Luhya ethnicity. Chapter 4, Article 38 may be shouted from the rooftops but discordant ethnicity in most of our provincial constituencies and counties would most certainly rule you out of an elective position in those parts of Kenya if you are not at par with the majority tribe in that particular jurisdiction. Heritage outside Luhyaland would definitely be a limiting factor; hence, you indubitably have to be Luhya. Then under the Luhya ethnicity, a member of the Batsotso subtribe stands a better chance of election as sub-tribal and clan allegiances still hold sway around here. Historically, Lurambi Constituency was a large amalgam that in the past had present-day Navakholo that domiciles members of the Banyala subtribe, the wards Butsotso East, Butsotso Central and Butsotso South that are the stomping yard of the Batsotso subtribe, Mahiakalo and Shirere wards that have sizeable populations from the Isukha subtribe interspersed with a clowder of others due to proximity to town and Shieywe ward, hosting Kakamega town as a cosmopolitan melting pot. In times bygone, the Banyala of modern-day Navakholo held great sway due to their sheer numbers with the Batsotso feeling aggrieved. Today with Navakholo hived off and having a constituency of their own, a candidate who appeals to the whims and wishes of the Batsotso subtribe invariably has an upper hand on all the other candidates in Lurambi Constituency. A critically crucial jurisdiction is Shieywe Ward which is sizeable due to its hosting rights to the town where the multitude works. With the Batsotso congealing towards their candidate, an oratorically-gifted, theatrical, comical, slightly development-conscious, well-funded candidate and who had the backing of the popular political outfit, I can aver here that the contest was not even close. We lost to the aforementioned candidate by a landslide. Imperative to note is that he was the incumbent.

Courtesy of Nyota FM and Nyota TV.

Politics is a game of personal interests. These are many a time rather selfish, egotistical and conceited but in rare circumstances are actually in the best interest of the bourgeoisie. I established that marriages of convenience as special purpose vehicles are a typical feature in the course of the political journey. An incumbency and opposition usually exists as a fluid and transient continuum such that things are never all black or white most especially in our rugged political terrain in Kenya. There are times when elected leaders in opposition-leaning areas have had to close ranks with the incumbency with the interest of getting projects done for their constituencies. Going to bed with the adversary is not so much frowned upon if the ultimate aim is achieved. There is evidence of particular roads, bridges, electrical transformers and a plethora of special favours having been achieved by subliminal concord which only comes out to the public during the story time that is the campaign trail and radio interviews. I used to think the term ‘mole’ was only used derogatorily to slander the character of another by an envious opponent till I was introduced to the rigamarole of realpolitik. Here, I got practical experience on such characters as actual living, breathing beings with embedded networks for fructifying reconnaissance albeit espionage in one camp despite having 4-wheel-drive vehicles procured and palatial homes built by the principal of the opposing political camp. Indeed, those that have in the past averred of politics being a ‘dirty game’ have seldom been blown too far off from the course of reality.

Courtesy of Citizen TV

The convenience of being in a political party cannot be gainsaid. I learnt this the hard way when after my favoured political vehicle, the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) decided to dish out a direct ticket to the incumbent. I trooped out in a huff to contest as an Independent Candidate. It was full skullduggery that involved originating symbols, then making the trip to the nearest regional office to cross-check with the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) on the availability for use of said symbols. The regional office in Kisumu ultimately dragged their feet in sending my paperwork to Nairobi to such an extent that by the time I was summoned to Nairobi, the deadline was as close as the width of a nose hair. I ultimately failed to make the May 2nd deadline, provisionally got locked out of contesting the election and had to seek legal recourse as a multitude of holidays including a state funeral fell within the period when I was supposed to present my accredited symbol and credentials to IEBC. Armed with these mitigating factors among many other contestants camped in solidarity outside Anniversary Towers hosting the IEBC, we won the case and had our papers accepted. Next was the more laborious undertaking of collecting a thousand Photocopies of National ID Cards from duly registered voters in Lurambi Constituency. Sleepless nights were the order of the day as I had to toil ceaselessly during the day asking people for their important Identification documents, cross checking with the portal aforementioned then taking a photocopy of the same. It was doubtlessly also an exorbitant affair as ‘elbow grease’ was parted with for my constituents to temporarily part with their IDs. It was indubitably a perilous activity as beforehand; I personally had been at the forefront of a relentless campaign forbidding the populace of Lurambi from selling their ID Cards at whatever price. I erstwhile, was also at the spearhead of registering individuals as members of the ODM Party’s in their digital portal. Hence, it would come to no shortage of bewilderment and apprehension to many that I was back to them seeking their ID Cards a second time for the fulfilment of the basic requirement to be allowed to contest as an Independent Candidate. My own rallying call came back to haunt me. My agents were at various locales spirited away like common criminals, some escaping by the skin of their teeth as those within the loop are aware of cybercrime, identity theft and sim-swapping fiascos in Kenya that have involved people’s personal credentials obtained through social engineering. Coupled with little sensitization from IEBC left the public jittery. Nighttime was reserved for entering the details from these ID copies into special forms both manually and typing digitally into an Excel spreadsheet. By the will of the Almighty and sweat of the brow, this endeavour was completed successfully and on 31st May 2022, I handed in my credentials and promptly received my Certificate from the Returning Officer for Lurambi Constituency as a duly registered Independent Candidate to contest as a Member of National Assembly (MNA/MP). The take home here is that I would have earned an extra month of campaigns if I had contested as a member of a political party.

By the will of the Almighty and sweat of the brow, this endeavour was completed successfully and on 31st May 2022, I handed in my credentials and promptly received my Certificate from the Returning Officer for Lurambi Constituency as a duly registered Independent Candidate to contest as a Member of National Assembly (MNA/MP) at Hill School Academy, Kakamega.

A cardinal teachable experience I earned was that in the political landscape of today, social media is an invaluable asset in bridging the gap between Candidates and their Constituents. This is more so, for the underfunded candidates like myself. Vibrant WhatsApp Groups, FaceBook Pages, Twitter Handles, YouTube Channels, Instagram, Zoom and Skype were indispensable in disseminating my agenda and manifesto unto the polity from whom I expected votes. Platforms like StreamYard were equally compelling as tools to reach out directly to our techno savvy young men and women all the while fielding questions directly from them. This leveraged on internet and social media penetration in Kenya where according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) report for 2021, Kenya had 67.9% penetration of Feature phones as 53.4% of our people have smartphones. Traditional media like Radio and TV also played a peripheral role in advertising my candidature to the electorate of Lurambi; however, for most stations, their price-point was deemed beyond the reach of my meagre resources.

Social Media ( Most used social media platforms in Kenya. We Are Social (2020)

In most parts of Kenya, the 2022 elections have brought an inadvertent generational transition with many of the old guard getting upstaged by the young Turks. There was equally a mindset shift whence in many areas the populace staged a rebellion against the established, monied linchpins of yore, putting into office young, relatively impecunious individuals, some fresh-faced characters newly-minted out of their tertiary institutions of learning. Tales like those of political newbie of humble extraction, 24-year-old, Linet Chepkorir (Toto) who triumphed over a bevy of old heads to bag the Bomet Women Representative seat are no doubt heartwarming. We also have George Nene, a 22-year-old who borrowed a neighbour’s donkey and cart to campaign and successfully bagged the Elementaita Member of County Assembly (MCA) seat dove-tailed with the legend of construction site worker; Timothy Mutwiri, Kenya’s youngest elected representative who at age 21 has clinched the Kiegoi/Antubochiu Ward MCA seat. Lurambi Constituency equally had the unheralded honour of welcoming a young woman, Modesta Lung’atso Auka, my comrade at Masinde Muliro University (MMUST) as MCA for Mahiakalo Ward and another acquaintance, 34-year-old Gildon Opati Shioso who clinched the Butsotso South Ward representative gong. However, the distinction between Western Kenya and other regions of Kenya is that the public here prefer their leaders mature and accomplished. For seats higher than that of the Member of County Assembly (MCA) you must have proven experience in running a family, success in your career/business, amassing wealth, ownership of property among other experiential provisos out of the reach of youthful members of the population demographic. This is occasioned by the fact that you need seemingly interminable wads of banknotes to be able to effectively campaign among members of the Mulembe Nation. Leaders here are expected to dole out hand-outs adjunct to nearly daily contributions to funerals before you can be allowed to dispense your commiserations with the mourners. Every Tom, Dick and Harry you meet in the streets will expect you to donate to them money for transport despite finding you on foot or going about your campaigns on a motorcycle taxi (boda-boda). This will most certainly extinguish the ambitions of many who seek political office, with the best interest of the hoi-polloi in their hearts but unfortunately with shallow pockets. Not electing young leaders will more often than not result in missing out on the energy, new ideas, vision and idealism, a quintessential feature of youthful leadership but I may have flogged this horse ad-nauseum in past writeups and so will not do that for this particular piece.

The political field is replete with chasms of hypocrisy, a notable pitfall for the unwary political aspirant. Though, I had pored through many a political treatise, for instance The Prince by Nicollò Machiavelli and 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene), I still was in for a dose of character development during my 10-month sojourn in the political battlefield. The ground abounds with two-faced, subtle brokers and profiteers with their only motivation being avarice. They organize themselves into groups and will sing your praises, labelling you with all sorts of monikers like “Mheshimiwa” (Honourable), “Kiongozi (Leader)” and whatnot. Little will you realize that after a chit-chat with them, dishing out the precursory 50/- and inevitably exiting, they will be doing the same with yet another contestant. Ideology to many of them may as well be the plaintive appeals of a heedless pullet to a deaf eagle. There are those who will designate themselves as Chairmen of all sorts of groups and motorcycle boda-boda stages with the sole objective of pretentiously obtaining money from these countless “waheshimiwa.” An important precept I learnt the hard way is that crowds do not vote. Additionally, human beings have the predilection for being pretentious and manipulative. I cannot exhaust the number of instances I had to play adjudicator to crocodile tears as incontrovertible instances of manufactured opprobrium among those I failed to pick to be members of my campaign team. I had specific personalities whom I had entrusted with my campaign banners and messaging all over the wards of Lurambi Constituency. I equally had to play smart to eschew getting my head bitten clean off by fellows claiming to have been assigned some nebulous subordinate responsibility of unhanging the said banners for safekeeping when my principal assignees were not around! Thanks to not having dust between my ears, such characters were oft dismissed with a sleigh of the hand. “Kwani, hao wa banner ndio watakupigia kura pekee? (do you think your charges will be your only voters?)” they would ventilate. I ignored this line of questioning as I surmised that most of these uninitiated chatterboxes were not even registered voters and would most certainly not vote anyway. I was vindicated ultimately by the fact that the crowd of 89, 770 registered voters in Lurambi Constituency, yielded only 51,073 valid votes. 764 votes were spoilt despite all the ruckus all around. Another letdown I encountered was that we have too many ingrates around suffering bouts of selective amnesia. In the locale of one polling station, I actually rehabilitated a community watering point at colossal personal cost in November last year with the marginal expectation that I would ostensibly fish several votes in that particular neighbourhood. I had to pick up my jaw from the floor when vote tallies streamed through from that area. In little dissimilitude to the Biblical parable of the 10 Lepers, I received a grand total of a singular vote in that particular stream. All the same, I harbour little regret and ill-feelings as seeing my people access drinking water from a project I personally rehabilitated is sufficient reward even if political leadership is today miles away from my grasp. Nevertheless, to quote English poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have had at all.”

The dynamics of politics are often fluid marked by rapid shifts in loyalty. Some of these shifts could be so dichotomous as to degenerate into violence. You may inquire what may be the fuel for this conflagration. Money. I have witnessed incidents where erstwhile peaceful rallies have boiled over into diabolical cauldrons where brother roasts another over fickle political affiliations. A worthy adversary for the same seat suffered the mortification of having three vehicles vandalized to right-off status over allegations that he had pocketed money slated to be distributed to a crowd from some gubernatorial candidate. He himself fled from the horde by the skin of his teeth. An MCA candidate also embroiled in this particular quandary had to sermon the police as an irate gang stoned his house silly, nefariously closing in hellbent on burning it down.

Next tidbit is in the localization of politics. It is vital to meet people at their place of need to engender support from them. Speaking to them in a language they understand will not hurt your aspirations in the slightest. This is nothing new as it tallies with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Humans are social animals. According to Abraham Maslow, a Jewish-Russian intellectual, the most basic need is physiological. This entails food, water, warmth and rest. Next is Personal safety. Third is the sense of belonging to a particular congenial grouping and forming relationships. Fourth is Esteem built up by respect. At the apex of the triangle of needs is Self-actualization. Great South African statesman and former president, Nelson Mandela once pontificated, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, the sentiments go to his head. However, if you talk to him in his own local dialect, that goes to his heart.” This is self-explanatory.

More often than not, the ordinary man finds great consolation in yielding to propaganda and sideshows as opposed to the hard-cold thrust of ideological truth. Most of my campaign speeches were methodical and structured like a university master giving a lecture. I often invited my listeners to a question – answer session post-sermon, answering most with as much candour and accuracy as I can summon. The most nonchalant crowd-pleaser is to claim that you will increase the current NG-CDF bursary allocation from the current 3,000/- per head to 20,000 or even 50,000/-.

Question: Though noble, from where will these additional funds for that particular venture be mobilized from?

I always stuck to the path of pragmatism, telling my people what can be attainable as opposed to hiding behind the shadow of political fantasy. Stood my ground as one of the few who was ready to take political flak invoking the touchy subject of Funeral Insurance and Benevolent funds when the easier option would be to just hold your peace and continue with the faulty culture of African socialism, black tax and expecting philanthropy from elected apparatchiks in case of a bereavement. I was neither always the most dramatic nor best at skirting issues; nevertheless, I tried my best to keep my audience rapt and as engaged as possible. However, as Machiavelli puts it in the text aforementioned, “The ordinary man prefers a hearty meal with an inviting aroma forgetting that it could be easily laced with poison.” In concurrence with American popular artistes of the early 2000s; Ja Rule and Ashanti, in the course of the campaign period, ‘I was not always there for incessant phone calls but was always on time’ for rendezvous organized.

With alarming resignation, I surmised that victory in the war on corruption is a far-flung mirage. Men are willing to break laws as long as that course of action favours them. This is in view of the fact that many candidates with less than stellar records on integrity and criminal prosecution were still allowed to contest political seats using funds that they all but assuredly acquiesced from sinister undertakings. The proletariat has little time to investigate impropriety preferring to proffer song and dance upon the candidate that gives them the most money. Veritably, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Men are willing to condone corruption and pilferage of public resources when they sense the winds of personal profiteering blowing their direction. Many are the candidates that find great difficulty in explaining the source of their fabulous wealth but far be it from me criticizing them, as I risk getting saddled the double-barreled yet contrasting labels of salty and bitter for ad-hominem attacks. Mumias Sugar Company has been eviscerated such that only its chassis persists yet notable managers who worked there today are still cleared to contest political seats in Western Kenya. I may be rather embittered in my assessment but none can put my patriotism on the dock. Kenyans forget that corruption may be enjoyable today as a fraudster buys you free tipple with embezzled funds but will ultimately turn egregious once your kith and kin die from easily treatable causes when the hospital lacks medicine.

Ostensibly, all is fair in love and war. In politics as many other facets of life, the end justifies the means. The electoral process is often terminated with plentiful grievances and losers crying foul about all sorts of misgivings. Those who view the current ongoings with the result of the Presidential Election can see how both sides of the major horses are handling themselves. The side named victor are apprehensive and cannot understand why their candidate should not be sworn-in as soon as yesterday. The ones named loser by the IEBC are currently screaming bloody murder as they feel their victory was all but secure but has unfortunately been usurped from under their grasp. These remonstrations are met by naysayers who query in great revulsion why those who complain about vote rigging could not have done it themselves? This is patently symptomatic of an ignominious glitch in our collective moral compass and sense of natural justice, trying to justify the unjustifiable. Though puzzling, that is the polarized atmosphere in Kenya today. I will neither seek to cast aspersions on anyone’s character nor seek to point any fingers. I will only observe that we are in a spot of bother today as a consequence of allowing dishonesty to thrive in the higher echelons of state, even extending to our electoral watchdog body and are now reaping the attendant skepticism and doubt in our systems.

A typical feature of men of low intellectual aptitude is never taking responsibility for their failures and missteps. As such, it is not uncommon to find groupings of people drowning in blame game and revisionist history. Selfsame people start using conditionals like “if only you had… instead of…” Apparently, the gift of prescience and intuition has now come down like the Holy Spirit upon even stool pigeons who comprehend not the difference between a hole in the ground and the crevice of their derrière! But I digress. They forget that there is an opportunity cost for everything you do in life. “If only you had cast your lot with UDA or ANC who are now in government!” This is unfortunately talk from inebriated village louts canvassing as commentators on political affairs but unfortunately too in-erudite to even be students in any tertiary institution teaching political science, let alone instructors. Have they not heard about democracy and the right to choose? Are they blind to the fact that the coalition they denigrate actually snagged 10 members of Parliament of a possible 12, 48 MCAs out of 60, a woman representative and potentially a Governor in Kakamega?

Like Machiavelli, I have been brought to painful awareness of the ordinary Joe as unreliable. In Kenya, there are those who have unfortunately been hoodwinked that a change of ruler to another who is not a part of the existing dynastic hegemony will improve their lot in life. They think some dynasty is their problem! The actuality of matters as we’ll soon find out is that no dynasty will be uprooted but instead two new ones will be added. These are individuals who have finessed the art of leveraging popular disenfranchisement as a vehicle for political gain. There is no way we can address unemployment without voting in a political grouping with cogent ideology on industrialization, modernization of agricultural value chains and entrepreneurship. Populist sentiments and slogans just will not cut it. However, that is democracy for you where hatred and bigotry obscure a logical interrogation of not just the mien but also the innumerable transgressions of a particular political ticket. Furthermore, the unreliability of so-called pals and chums is that despite being egged-on by many to take the plunge into the shark infested water that is politics in Kenya, only a handful contributed to my campaign kitty even those who crowed loudest for me to go independent. I am grateful for those who added to my war-chest both financially and in kind all the while harbouring little vendetta for those who did not.

In closing sentiments, despite trying to shoehorn escalation of medical supply misdemeanours in our public health systems into my campaign agenda, some uninformed fellows who I am trying hard not to use an uncharitable word to describe, attempted to remind me about ‘Health Care being a devolved function.’ Forthwith, I am left baffled as to why our nation elected to devolve both health care and the attendant refusal to stock dispensaries nearest to ‘wananchi’ resulting in the sludge-fest that is ineffectual clinics? Hope they also devolved the mercy of God as that will be the only recourse to our helpless indigenes should they be failed by these ramshackle funnels unto the afterlife.

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Political & Social Empowerment

SHELVING THE ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN FINANCING (AMENDMENT) BILL OF 2021 WILL MAKE A TRAVESTY OF THE 2022 POLLS

Helicopters that are set to be a premium fixture of Campaigns in Kenya

According to scripture in the Book of Ecclesiastes 5:8 “If you visit a jurisdiction and find the oppression of the poor, the violation of justice and righteousness, let your heart not be perplexed for the overseer is being watched by not just a higher power but yet a supreme one over them all, the Almighty.” Eternally, the inordinate love for unearned money is the root of all evil. Many are besieged with all sorts of vexations that make them stray away from what is needful by craving wealth. When I was young and toddling my way through matters, I chanced upon a jingle that aptly captures the human condition and his/her association with money.

God made Man, Man made Money, Money made Man Mad. But I digress.

Pertinent to the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013, The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sort to put the kibosh on untamed election expenditure that was inordinately tilting the field in favour of those with massive wealth. Indeed, many are the times when monied individuals have been heard boasting about having so much wealth that even if the currency notes representing the value they possess were laid back-to-back from Turkana to Mombasa in Sh.100 denominations, they would still have some more in reserve. Others who are haughtier go as far as to state that if they were to set up the 3-stone cooking stove and endeavoured to cook succotash (mahenjera) primarily by incinerating currency notes representing their worth, invariably they would cook the entire mixture until it was ready for consumption yet still be left with so much more in their bank accounts to continue being wealthy. In this regard and paying homage to public participation, an amendment dubbed the Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (CFAB 2021) was envisaged in the run-up to the 2022 polls. A cursory glance at the provisions yields the following:

  1. a) All Political Parties and Candidates contesting the 2022 Polls are to establish Expenditure Committees comprising of persons nominated by the Political party Governing / Executive Council or by Independent Candidates.
  2. b) All entities to be involved in the elections to submit names of persons authorized to manage their accounts being either the candidate, candidate’s agent or member of the party expenditure committee.
  3. c) Authorized personnel shall be required at registration to open financing bank accounts where contributions by a candidate, political party, or lawful source will be received and to submit the account details to the Commission at least 2 months before elections.
  4. d) The Commission shall keenly monitor and investigate all information relating to party nomination and election campaign expenses of candidates and political parties.
  5. e) Expenditure reports to be submitted to the Commission within 21 days of the Party Nomination and within 3 months after elections.

For the 2017 Elections, IEBC attempted to cap spending for campaigns to Sh. 15 billion, in an effort to stem runaway expenditure during the elections. Presidential Candidates were to deploy a maximum of 5.2 billion Kenya shillings into campaigns. Contravention of these strictures would have resulted in a Sh. 2 million fine or a term of incarceration not exceeding 5 years or both.

The elephant in the room is who was to quantify the expenditure for the elections?

How many people have so far been imprisoned for contravention of this act with clear evidence that the rule was obviously flouted?

Kenyan politicians being exactly what we know them to be, most certainly had an ace up their sleeve. They furtively plotted to amend the laid down law to keep campaign donors and election spending a secret. This most certainly sounds the death knell on any efforts at accountability and oversight of election financing. As Kenya is the land governed by money-grabbing committees whose tomes of findings often end up collecting dust in attics, one was formed themed the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC). Unsurprisingly, its first order of business was to scrap the spending caps for the myriad elective seats, keep sources of funds and expenditure by contestants confidential additional to rendering the identities of patrons and backers an item of conjecture. Pretty much exactly what happened with the publicizing of politicos’ Wealth Declaration Forms, there is no scintilla of doubt that such a scheme only worked to sabotage the letter and spirit of the noble law that was to be put in place. Our sleazy, invertebrate politicians knew full well the stratagem they had mooted.

However, cognizant of the impending storm of opprobrium from the public, under the glare of the 4th Estate, legislators who were caught on camera cheekily disowned the Bill to have matters of election expenditure a secret. In typical disingenuous fashion, they waxed lyrical about the evils of this bill and their unwithering quest to ensure that money from nebulous origins does not find its way to their respective campaign kitties. Of course, they performed all their usual histrionics vowing to shoot down the Bill when it came to the floor of the house.  There are those who voiced support for the Campaign Financing Bill like National Assembly Minority leader and ODM Party Chairman, Hon. John Ngongo Mbadi who rightly observed that aspirants with deep pockets would smoke out the competition if safeguards were not put on expenditure. He added that the laissez-faire nature of the law as currently exists would hamper anti-corruption efforts while promoting the looting of public funds by state functionaries who would then hurriedly resign into elective politics to protect their ill-acquiesced wealth. Quoting him verbatim, “It is total commercialization of elective positions when one has to spend Sh. 100 million to access an office where in 5 years, their emoluments would only total to slightly over 40 million Kenya shillings! How would the deficit of 60 million be recouped? Looting and monetizing procurement rigamarole.” Let it be remembered that these are the same characters who accused each other of accepting kickbacks in the restrooms of the National Assembly! Honourable Indeed.

I probably will be accused by some of speaking with unnecessary bile and the green eye of envy. However, what sort of leaders will we be electing when we turn a blind eye to this noble bill. It should be noted with concern that Kenya is the land where the demographic for billionaires increases in inverse proportionality to the number of industries the said individuals create to justify their billions. In jurisdictions with a more tenable link with logicality like the United States of America, you find wealthy individuals for example Jeff Bezos who you can directly link with Amazon.Com, a global E-marketing, Logistics, Digital streaming & Cloud computing Enterprise. We have Elon Musk who is a technopreneur, innovator, Chief Engineer at SpaceX and impresario of the Tesla group who has become a household name in his own right. There is Lori Greiner associated with QVC (mega-mercantile Television Network); Daymond John – CEO & Founder of the FUBU fashion label, Robert Herjevac – Runs an Integrator Firm for Internet Security Software; Sean J. Combs – Artiste, Record Label Executive, fashion mogul and all-round entrepreneur. Recently, LeBron James – NBA sporting icon, and greatest basketballer of the current crop joined the list of billionaires. Many of these are household names that have built worldwide brands and as such are justifiably rich having built not just entire businesses but industries around themselves. In Kenya too, we have veritable entrepreneurs like Nelson Muguku who built an empire in the poultry business, Njenga Karume who rose from a charcoal vendor to a tycoon of repute, Ibrahim Ambwere who owns nearly a half of all commercial real estate in the Western Kenya counties of Vihiga, Kakamega, Bungoma and Kitale. On the flip side, the Kenyan billionaire list primarily consists of characters who become rich essentially by monetizing fealty and political support. In fact, it is a statement of empirical wisdom that you can never be a dollar millionaire or even billionaire in Kenya devoid of being politically-correct and having a battery of gun-for-hire politicians and lawyers in your coat pockets.

Politics is arguably the best paying career in Kenya (Courtesy of www.sokodirectory.com)

It is a statement of empirical wisdom that in Kenya, the highest paying exploit is politics. Kenyans have been treated to the theatre of the absurd by certain political players that loquaciously claim not to be of any royal extraction and have indeed never paid homage to any political godfathers. That has of course been debunked as we all know of what campaign team introduced them into politics, their role in the YK92 Fiasco that forced the reelection of the despotic, faux-piety merchant and clueless kleptocrat, the late President Daniel T. Arap Moi. Selfsame ‘hustler’ claims to have made bank from selling poultry products to the level of becoming a billionaire in antipathy to never existing as a household name. The fellow has never supplied Kenchic, KFC, Chicken-Inn, K’osewe – Ronalo or any major renowned eatery establishment that vends poultry products or even supplied eggs to any multiplicity of public institutions to justify their fabulous wealth. The same character takes advantage of Kenyans blinded and harrowed down by the vagaries of a tough and poverty-ridden existence to style himself as a modern-day Robinhood with philanthropy for days. Today, they sing odes to his name and have indeed set him up to be a frontrunner in the 2022 Kenyan Presidential Election. Indeed, this beneficiary of the bureaucracy has today run afoul of the regime that economically built him and established a political outfit that has been styled by enlightened political commentators as resembling a well-oiled law firm. The implication of the above epithet is that the joint is chockful of unprosecuted miscreants and Lawyers who have used lucre to jump through the loopholes & lacunae that exist in our weak legal frameworks. The truth of the matter is that they have used their public offices to loot state funds. Computations will indubitably bring up the status code ‘Error 404’ (unable to locate resource) as understood by computer experts when a man makes donations into churches worth 200 million in a month yet he’s a public officer whose total monthly remuneration package amounts to slightly over 2 million shillings!

Crime is not a Career. The message on this cap is self-evident.

Yet another looted the sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company to the ground and as he grew in stature into the bracket of Kenyan billionaires, the revered Sugar conglomerate of times bygone tapered into ruin and insolvency. The one complicit in this mess left under a cloud of ignominy and confusion to contest the Governorship of Nairobi having bamboozled members of the community where Mumias Sugar Company is domiciled with corporate sponsorship of the Local tribal soccer outfit, AFC Leopards for a period of 3 years. Euphoria notwithstanding, the ‘gentleman’ got elected by a narrow majority against his competitor and further looted the coffers of the Nairobi City County. At the time of penning this piece, the same shameless character is causing ripples by attempting to become the Governor of Homabay County.

My query: why do Kenyans continue electing this calibre of blackguards into public office and expect the amelioration of their social welfare?       

Hot on the heels of allowing condemned public officials to bribe their way into elective office with stolen funds is the absurdity currently at play with regards to the Gubernatorial seats in two Kenyan counties. Pursuant to the progressive 2010 Kenyan Constitution Chapter 6 (Leadership & Integrity), Article 75, Clause 3A state Officer who has been impeached, dismissed or otherwise removed from office for the contravention of the strictures on the same is disqualified from holding any other state office. This is corroborated by Chapter 11 (Devolved Governments), Article 181 which allows for the removal of a County Governor in case of financial impropriety, gross misconduct, abuse of office and violation of Chapter 6. It is in the public domain that Mr. Mike Mbuvi Sonko (Nairobi) and Mr. Ferdinand ‘Babayao’ Waititu (Kiambu) were impeached from their respective gubernatorial seats in processes that were well-documented, publicized and upheld by both the Courts of Appeal and the High Court. However, in a move that confounds both friend and foe, both are free to contest the same seats in the Tuesday, August 9th 2022 Elections pending their appeals at the Supreme Court in keeping with Article 193, Clause 3. The Law has been renowned for being an ass elsewhere but in Kenya it may additionally be a jigsaw too. There are just too many lacunae that exist for the exploitation of the same by monied individuals. What steps were taken to freeze the assets of those who were impeached for tendering malfeasance and theft of public funds to prevent them from using the same money to pervert the course of justice? Things are so weird in Kenya that first a bloke who eventually got adjudged for being a Canadian citizen was cleared to contest the Governorship of Nairobi County in 2017!

Courtesy of Daily Nation

The eventual victor of that electoral contest is a man who in times bygone freed himself of his stint from the Shimo La Tewa Prison for the reason of being deceased! Yes, you heard that right. A Death Certificate and burial permit exist to corroborate this fact. An erstwhile ‘dead man’ served as Governor for Nairobi over a tumultuous 40-month period. Today, selfsame character is shifting his stomping yard to Mombasa County; which hosts the infamous Shimo La Tewa facility from whence he escaped, to contest the same seat he vacated in Nairobi under a miasma of infamy. It may sound stranger than fiction, but that is par for the course in Kenya.

According to Twitterati, Ochieng’ Ogodo, In Kenya a person can die (Mike Mbuvi ‘Sonko’ died in 2005) then rise from the dead to become the ‘saviour’ of Nairobi City as its Governor! Jesus Christ!!! Folks, Kenyan politics is truly redeeming!!! Soon we will outdo the Son of Man. (Courtesy of Postamate .com)

The brazen Ferdinand Waititu will attempt to make his return to the Kiambu County Governor’s Office from where he had been impeached in 2020. A raft of Elected officials with matters pending in court ranging from inter-alia murder, attempted rape, defilement, ethnic contempt, hate speech to affray and public disorder are free to contest their currently held seats or seek higher authority in the forthcoming elections.

In 2020, the World was inundated and brought to a standstill by a global pandemic like few before it. Initially, it was downplayed, disregarded and wholly ignored as a foreign problem until our very own people fell victim. When celebrities started getting hospitalized and dropping like flies, then it was clear that ordure had hit the fan. This was the advent of the Covid-19 Global Viral plague that ground the entire global economy to a halt. It had seemed like a transient problem that in little dissimilitude to a flash in the pan would go away in no time but lo and behold, slightly over 2 years later and we are still facing its brunt. An opportunity that never existed before came to the fore. The need for face masks to forestall viral transmission through oral, buccal and nasal droplets. The Chinese Billionaire philanthropist Jack Ma, out of pity for our plight sent a consignment of facemasks the direction of Kenya to be freely distributed by the government with the aim of stemming the tide of this viral infestation. Long story short, well-heeled merchants accessed these medical supplies from the Kenya Medical Supply Agency (KEMSA) warehouses. Furthermore, acting on a Presidential order for more masks, some enterprising wheeler-dealers found themselves either by default or design with tender documents, single-sourced to supply a groaning nation with facemasks. The aftermath of all this is the public disgrace that has been unfurled as the Covid Millionaire Scandal. Public funds were disbursed to shadowy entities that claimed to manufacture and supply masks yet ended up supplying jack shit! A few sacred cows were sacrificed, musical chairs played as the beleaguered Chairman of KEMSA was surreptitiously transferred to the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) in a similar capacity. All things constant, we expect our airspace to be buzzing with branded helicopters and an assortment of aerial conveyance mechanisms compliments of the silent beneficiaries of the aforementioned episode of sleaze. In Kenya, keeping true to the sentiments of revered political author; George Benard Shaw, Politics is the first resort of the scoundrel apparently.

Courtesy of Reuters.

Since the terrorist attack in August 1998 at the Nairobi CBD, Kenya has found herself with a long-standing dalliance with terrorism. In fact, matters came to a head in the year 2011 when our gentlemanly President; the incomparable, now dearly departed H.E. Mwai Kibaki tired of all the cross-border kidnapping of our tourists and Kenyan nationals made the decision to send our defence forces into Somalia. Ostensibly, this only emboldened the resolve of the terrorists who now found air-tight justification for their incursion and further attacks into Kenya. Piracy that was thought of as an outmoded medieval venture soon found its way into the Kenyan Marine waters as vessels were attacked and commandeered into Somali waters for ransom. My brief is not to speak on the well-documented blight of terrorism and piracy but to outline how proceeds of the same find their way not just into the mercantile and real estate space but has in recent times been the grease that has lubricated the gears for the ascension of politicians sympathetic to the proponents of terrorism and associated smut into public office in Kenya. And it stinks. Legend is rife that the orchestrators of the August 1998 bomb blast at the heart of Nairobi, first leased a residential apartment in RUNDA Estate shrouded as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Today, religious fundamentalism, indoctrination and extremism is bankrolled by nebulous organizations that purport to work for the public good. The same organizations are using their deep pockets to tilt the political landscape in Kenya leveraging on the Kenyan public’s fetish for freebies and donations.

Few blows have been more debilitating to Kenyan Tourism than piracy off our shores and terrorism. Unfortunately, its benefactors & sympathizers are gradually filling the floor of the august house.

Politics in Kenya is slowly but surely degenerating into a conduit for money laundering in the absence of the legal guardrails that the CFAB 2021 was meant to provide. In a Daily Nation Article on May 7th, 2022, Kenya Bankers Association CEO, Dr. Habil Olaka lamented how mixed signals from our leadership cadre are hampering the Anti-Money Laundering/ Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) efforts. Despite the enactment of the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act (POCAMLA) of 2009, which among other things duty-binds banks to report all suspicious cash transactions of value above a million shillings, the country still falls short policywise in comparison to global best practice. Some will invoke the confidentiality clauses of the Central Bank of Kenya Prudential Guidelines but a nation worth her salt should never yield to arm-twisting knowing the pitfalls that will arise with weaknesses in our legislation. In this regard, I also feel the predilection to comment on the injurious status quo that has unscrupulous recruitment firms run by fellow Kenyans taking advantage of the constrained employment opportunities by airlifting our nationals to the Arabian Gulf States. After making landfall; the unfortunate victims have their passports confiscated, stripped of their humanity and worked like slaves, with an occasional dose of chastising. Organ trafficking cannot be ruled out. The result are the myriad news items of our people returning home in body bags and coffins which is merely swept under the carpet. These agents of human trafficking emboldened by the illicit wealth they make under a dust cloud of impunity, soon decide to take their talents to the National Assembly with the clear aim of protecting their diabolical enterprise. A Nation that buries its head in the sand when its most vulnerable citizens are taken advantage of by another has minuscule locus standi to be mentioned in the ranks of liberated countries.

Human Greed is the assurance that the fraudster will never lack a victim (Courtesy of Daily Nation)

Financiers and beneficiaries of cattle rustling and banditry in the pastoral and frontier counties are next on my crosshairs. It is perplexing that smack in the middle of the 21st Century with all the progress we have made as a people, our country still has to grapple with people stealing livestock from their neighbours invoking some primitive, outdated traditions. Evidence both physical and circumstantial exists to prove the fact that local politicians are fully complicit in this vice as a way of regional zoning and disenfranchisement of the minorities from the political process. There are those that purport to be kingpins and holding exalted titles who have never joined the Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security or the various Regional Commissioners in both castigating or putting an end to such a blighted way of life.

It is a bloody disgrace that cattle rustling is still a norm in Kenya in the 21st Century and only getting deadlier. It is a primitive cultural practice that should forcibly be eradicated from our midst.

We have the case of substantiated and known criminal entities adjunct to highway robbers using bribes to play hide and seek with both the criminal justice system and law enforcement authorities to such an extent that they seem to be law-abiding citizens. They soon cultivate a heavily embellished visage as ‘wazee wa kanisa’ (church elders) and in no time find their way onto the ballot paper. This entire episode reminds me of a time exactly three years ago when the erstwhile rustic Matungu Location in Kakamega County all of a sudden found herself thrust in the news for all the wrong reasons. A spate of violent crime and haphazard bloodletting had visited the area seemingly materializing out of thin air. An unknown gang wreaked havoc in the territory dispatching between 20 – 30 taxpayers to their creator. A loud chasm of silence followed these incidences until at such a time when the CS for Internal Security himself was brought to cognizance of the ongoings. A team of DCI investigators together with officers of the dreaded GSU were soon roped into matters. Investigations brought to light the fact that this imbroglio had been fanned by four incumbent area politicians, among them one who was contemporaneously serving as a Cabinet Secretary in the UhuRuto Government. None of the four has ever been brought to book but barring the demise of one, the surviving three politicians are set to reprise their seats or seek greater authority from the public some of them being the people who lost relatives in the aforementioned episode of unwarranted whacking. Talk about wolves in sheep’s clothing. In Central Kenya, we have notorious individuals already identified as members of the dreaded Mungiki gang running free and without a care in the world. In 2009, former dutiful and uncompromising President Kibaki’s Ministerial hatchetman, the late Hon. John Njoroge Michuki justifiably issued a shoot-to-kill edict on members of this pernicious sect. A few survived by claiming to have turned over a new leaf while one proved himself an unflappable and immortal ‘cockroach’ that escaped every dragnet. Today, this character is offering himself for election in antipathy to any palpable remorse for all the gruesome acts committed by his underlings, most especially during both the 2007/8 post-election violence and in the contestation period posterior to the 2013 polls. One or two recommendations were made by the Kriegler commission after the 2007 post-poll fiasco touching on the same group but may never be implemented due to feeble systemic frameworks.

Courtesy of Daily Nation

It is that time of year again whence men and women fall before the Lord renting their clothes, putting on sackcloth and sprinkling ash upon their heads in an attempt to pray for the spirit of Peace, Unity and Tolerance in the run-up to the elections. It is certainly hunting season for mercenary men of the cloth who my linguistic mentor Prof. PLO Lumumba characterizes as the ‘wearers of the clerical dog collar of faith.’ Not only will they come out with all sorts of concoctions, salves and anointing oils to poor upon the political contestants but also to offer intercessory prayers albeit at a cost. Things are currently coming to a head as characters who in days bygone have been operating as prophets for profit, today have enough money to launch campaigns for political seats of all sorts of shapes and dimensions. Many will rebuke me not to point my fingers upon the “anointed of the Lord” for fear of divine retribution but I will go ahead and ignore the directive with the contempt that the undignified existence that these pseudo-Levites deserve. I may not be a Biblical scholar of any description myself but alarm bells fill my psyche when I hear a modern-day man of God refer to himself as a “Levite” who is entitled to the returns of the Offering and Tithe for his own personal consumption. Christianity is run by the precepts of the New Testament where we are urged to live in love for our neighbours as ourselves in addition to reverence unto the Lord. Calling oneself a ‘Levite’ ignores the obvious fact that even the apostles of Jesus Christ themselves had day jobs while preaching at night. The disciples Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen during the night while working as fishers of men’s souls during the day, long after the ascension of Christ into heaven. Apostle Paul worked as an itinerant tent maker to make ends meet while preaching during the evening, in his words, “to avoid being a burden unto his hosts.” Hence, it pours cold water upon these ‘pulpit mercenaries’ who eternally seem to be enriching their own personal coffers while taking advantage of those who are weak in faith. As local musical great, Nyashinski puts in in the track ‘Tujiangalie’, “Waumini kwa mathree na Passie kwa Bimmer” (The congregants use public transport to finance the acquisition of a BMW vehicle for the Pastor). Some start getting referred to as Spiritual Mums and Dads all the while assembling huge delegations behind them. Soon power gets into their heads and they start thinking that in no dissimilitude to King David, they are the Lord’s chosen one which is far from reality. By now it may be clear to all and sundry that the most potent weapon in the arsenal of the oppressor and incompetent leader is the shroud of religion and faux-piety. Faith is nothing without its accompanying good works.

Cult figure of the rot at the pulpit in Kenya.

In this penultimate paragraph, I seek to warn our people against allowing shebeen owners, pimps and the patrons of brothels to ascend to public office. It is in the public domain that a Cabinet Secretary of the ill-fated UhuRuto Jubilee regime was shown the door for among other egregious transgressions importing prostitutes (massage therapists/dancers) from Pakistan as undocumented labourers as if the same cannot be procured locally. I could go on but what would be the use. Counsel is oft wasted on the sagacious.

Noordin Haji and Twalib Mubarak (Courtesy of The Star)

We are on our own as a citizenry. Even the DPP, Noordin Hajj, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands off prosecuting corrupt individuals during the election season. He will not be drawn on the use of anti-corruption initiatives to settle political scores. Equally, the CEO of EACC, Major (Rtd.) Twalib Mubarak put the task of rejecting overtures from corrupt and unscrupulous politicians on the doorstep of the polity. If you condone money from nebulous sources, then you deserve whatever comeuppance that will be purchased by those funds for the next 5 years and into the future. Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

THE TIME IS NOW TO RETHINK OUR BONDAGE TO FOSSIL FUELS

In my sporadic perusing of the Bible and musings, I chanced upon a rather nifty passage of scripture. It was in the Book of Prophet Jeremiah 17: 5 – 8. The Lord says, “Cursed is the one who puts his trust in a fellow mortal and makes flesh his armour, turning away from the word of the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert that will only face hardship. His habitation will only be the scorched earth of the wilderness in an uninhabited saltpan. Blessed is he who puts his trust in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by freshwater, sending out its roots by the brook standing defiant in the face of the sun for its leaves remain green devoid of anxiety in the season of droughts, ceaselessly bearing fruit.” Then there is the Book of Psalms 146: 3 which cautions us against putting our trust in princes, mere mortals in whom there can be no salvation. The Lord would have additionally done well to also put a moratorium on trust in fossil fuels.

As I pen this piece, Kenya is mired in one of the worst fuel shortages for years as a result of our overreliance on imported petroleum to power our economy. The tragedy is that the bottleneck arising is artificial, albeit a manufactured crisis. Apparently, that has been the only thing manufactured in Kenya over the last decade! In the fortnight prior, mile-long queues have been the order of the day snaking around fuel service stations. It has not been entirely surreal to find whole thoroughfares looking like parking lots evoking visions of horror movies in a future where ghost towns are governed by heavy-handed yet benign overlords from whom all petroleum flows forth. To say that Kenyans have been rendered beholden to fuel barons would be an understatement of the century. Needless to say, the entire urban economy dependent upon motorized conveyance has ground to a halt in the ensuing gridlock. Circadian cycles too have been disrupted as nights exist in little dissimilitude to days with people seeking an advantage over their compatriots who will run out of patience, park their jalopies by the roadside and seek alternative means to retire home for the night. In a week replete with artificial crises, Kenyans find themselves queuing to register their mobile phone lines at the risk of getting switched off, queuing for Adam’s ale at water dispensing points in the face of an unrelenting drought only to exacerbate the long queues at the fuel pump. Later in the year, we will form cavalcades to vote for the same clueless or self-serving politicians who put us in this same quandary in the first place. Entrepreneurs indubitably spring up in the face of a crisis and as such, enterprising Kenyans have taken advantage of this loophole in the country’s supply chain system by joining these queues with several 20-litre jerricans which they now sell at double the market rate to stranded motorists. It isn’t bizarre to find Toyota Proboxes parked on the street operating as make-shift fuel service stations retailing super petrol at double the normal price. We treat the election of incompetent leaders normally but now we are set to be treated abnormally by their incompetence. Apparently, this may be the coming to pass of what visiting American diplomat, Amb. Johnnie Carson once presaged of the UhuRuto Presidency, “Choices have Consequences.”

It isn’t bizarre to find Toyota Proboxes parked on the street operating as make-shift fuel service stations retailing super petrol at double the normal price.

The origin of this fiasco has all the hallmarks of leadership failure. The State in 2018 proposed the Finance Bill Amendment that in the spirit of solidarity with the taxpayer sought to lower the Value Added Tax (VAT) more so that levied on fuel from 16% to 8% while making painful clawbacks on other crucial items of expenditure for Kenyans in a bid to save 50 billion that financial year in austerity measures. Unfortunately, the VAT rate for many other important items for ordinary Kenyans was to rise from 14% to 16%. In such a move Super Petrol was to have a price drop to Sh. 118 from nearly Sh. 130. Diesel was to drop from Sh. 115 to Sh. 107. Kerosene used by the hoi-polloi for cooking and lighting would decrease its price from Sh. 97 to Sh. 90. However, in the eyes of the Head of State who was looking for means to finance national expenditure, this most certainly fell short of the acceptable threshold as it pandered to the whims of the status quo while sacrificing the greater national vision. It was good political optics but bad leadership. The country had a foreign debt obligation to honour as defaulting on commercial loans often comes at a heavy price (compounded interest rate) and subsequent donor fatigue. The apparatchiks at treasury had dug the nation into a fiscal hole that we would have to climb out of one way or another.  The next year, the 16% rate was restituted sparking public umbrage added to litigation at the High Court. The Court gave the Senate the prerogative to either uphold or quash the new VAT rate that would adversely affect the pockets of Kenyans. The economics behind a fuel price increase is in the proportionate increment in transportation cost of both raw materials and finished goods, hike in the cost of power hence more expensive manufactured goods, a disincentive for Foreign Direct Investment as the Kenyan business climate becomes cost-disadvantaged. This when compounded with multiple & exorbitant taxation, scatterbrained policy direction, the prohibitive cost of labour and a scarcity of the pertinent technical skills set for some sectors, then it would by a wide margin adversely affect many sectors of the economy. There is an adage that Politics is too important to be merely left to politicians. This axiom proved poignant when the Senate was induced to uphold the injurious taxation rates in closing of ranks across the board among politicians allied to both the government and her newly-found ally, the official opposition NASA Coalition.

Matters appeared to be getting rosy again until the Russia – Ukraine conflict reared its ugly head into affairs in February 2022. Russia invaded Ukraine leading to monumental sanctions on the former from the European Union economic bloc. Imperative to note, Russia is the 3rd Largest Producer of Crude Petroleum in the global marketplace. This doubtlessly resulted in an upsurge in international prices as supply constricted. The government sought to cushion the proletariat from a deleterious price hike by introducing a subsidy paid to Oil Marketing Companies. This was on the agreement that Oil marketing corporations would keep their margins at naught all the while getting covered by the government-backed fuel subsidy. In a move that is difficult to comprehend, the President during the March review, partially withdrew that subsidy. Books of accounts could no longer balance as vexed Fuel Suppliers in turn furnished the government thumped upon the government’s nose, a bill of Sh. 13 billion without which it would become ‘business unusual.’ Furthermore, in a bid to profiteer from the crisis, oil marketers began hoarding their supplies leading to the current pain at the pump witnessed in the last few weeks. An additional quandary is that our regional neighbours do not have any of the subsidy programs which may inform the apportionment of more fuel for export to the detriment of that reserved for the local market. This has seen Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and even the Democratic Republic of Congo eat our lunch as we wallow in a seemingly interminable supply crunch. Uncertainty as the state plays Russian roulette with the stabilizing subsidy is forcing wholesale fuel marketers to hesitate in buying the pricey fuel from the international market with an escalation in the smaller outlets unable to plug the attendant supply shortfall for their loyal customers. It started as a problem in the hinterlands but is gradually making a beeline for our very own capital city and its suburbs. To protect their bottom-line, the majority-share fuel suppliers have been apprehensive of increasing their supply, a fear that draws from the fact that fuel not used to compute the monthly adjustment may not be compensated to their pecuniary disadvantage. Consequent to the arm-twisting, the President was in a huff last week as he assented to a payout of Sh. 34 billion to the franchised Fuel Dispensing Conglomerates. On the sidelines of this charade, the Kenya Pipeline Corporation has issued absurd statements about their reservoirs of fuel almost bursting with ‘product’ but that may only be music for the birds. It is left to conjecture how much product will be dispensed to the local market and how much will ultimately be carted to our neighbours in East Africa. In the April review, we’re in for an unprecedented rise in fuel prices as the already oppressive price points are set to rise even further. An increase of Sh.10 on the current prices is an absolute atrocity. The fallout from all these shenanigans has been the unconditional deportation of Rubis Energy Kenya Chief Executive Officer, Jean-Christian Bergeron in a crackdown against oil firms ostensibly hoarding fuel and by extension engaging in economic sabotage. Scapegoating at its finest.

(Courtesy of NTV)

As per the title of this piece, the time is now ripe to rethink petroleum as we can no longer allow our economies to be held hostage by oil barons. It is an open secret that many nations in the Arabian Gulf used to be barren wastelands only frequented by itinerant merchants until the day when crude oil was discovered within their individual national barriers. That is when their individual national units began their paths to super wealth. Nations like Saudi Arabia; this year’s Soccer World Cup hosts, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates hosting Dubai have no resources to speak of apart from mineral oil. That has not stopped them from lording it upon other countries of the world knowing that any untoward voice counter to theirs will result in zilch oil barrels coming your way. We now even have needlessly haughty, arrogant and even garrulous nations that see no need for outdated norms like democracy, human rights and gender parity, keeping their patriarchy as they know the power they possess. No wonder, it was biblically averred by the son of man to be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven!

One way in which the current crisis can be addressed is to rejig and reorient our transportation systems to dispense with the need for fossil fuel-powered engines. Disruption is no doubt an arduous and even perilous task, nevertheless, there must come a time when a group of nations stand up to be counted for a particular ideal and unflinchingly move forward with it. Historians contend that the South-East Asian Tiger Nations like Malaysia and Singapore used to be at the same level as Kenya around the time when she gained her independence and right to self-determination from Britain. The change only came when both went on an aggressive campaign of industrialization leveraged upon visionary leadership. I dare posture that Kenya can equally dissociate herself from the surly bonds of her petroleum overlords by joining the sustainability brigade and going fully electrical with her motor vehicles. The least said about the Kenyan petroleum reserves underground in Turkana, the better. An alternative to the antiquated fossil fuel-powered engine would be much welcome or in the best-case scenario, a hybrid of both. It has recently come within the purview of this particular writer that there are even motor vehicles run on Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), previously associated with the kitchen. What do we have to lose anyway? In a related story further afield, a giant passenger jetliner, Airbus A380 Superjumbo jet completed a flight from Paris, France to Montreal, Canada primarily on recycled cooking oil much to the exhilaration of environmental sustainability junkies.

Giant passenger jetliner, Airbus A380 Superjumbo jet completed a flight from Paris, France to Montreal, Canada primarily on recycled cooking oil much to the exhilaration of environmental sustainability junkies.(Courtesy of e-radio.us)

In his inaugural address to the American Public in the throes of the Great Depression, newly sworn-in 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt postured, “the only thing we need to fear is fear itself.” Fear of change should be consigned to the rear-view mirror. It may now be cliché to most that one of the few constants in life is change. Concerning an innovative disruption of the current modus operandi, only Fuel Cartels have cause for jitters over the popular adoption of Electric Vehicles. The benefits of electrical conveyance to the much-touted ‘Wanjiku’ far outweigh the drawbacks. They will manifest as reduced fueling & maintenance costs adjunct to abated environmental pollution that has been a quintessential feature of the mineral oil-based engine systems. Kenya would be a perfect destination for not just investors who seek to open factories for manufacturing Electric vehicular units or even hybrid ones. There is also an opportunity in the conversion of fuel-based engines to electrical-drive systems.

NOPEA Taxi (Courtesy of NopeaRide.com and Kenya County Development)
(Courtesy of Electric Bee)

Technically, electric drive trains are less complicated than petrol or diesel-based engines and therefore are much less likely to break down than some second-hand internal combustion engine contraption of conveyance. Nordic countries like Norway are ahead of the curve and have had their time trying out this vehicle type so concerns of low temperature affecting driving are unfounded. These vehicles are run by rechargeable batteries which could be charged using a home charger in 5 – 8 hours. They are run by an automated Integrated Circuit (IC) system and Motherboard that caters for multi-target optimization, better efficiency, heightened power density. This is also coupled to a multiprocessor that runs software that is tooled with Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning for continuous improvement of vehicular efficiency. Electric motors are used to generate the torque (turning force) geared to run the propulsion mechanisms. A fully-charged unit could cover as much as 120 – 180 kilometres which to most intents and purposes is sufficient for daily errands within small towns or even a city. Marquee companies like Tesla (brainchild of eccentric billionaire Elon Musk) and Mercedes today have units that can cover between 250 to 600 Miles (400 – 960 Km) in one charge. Opibus Systems has already pioneered electrical vehicles in Kenya in conjunction with Innovation hubs like GEARBOX and BRCS, for good measure even running the NOPEA Taxi service in Nairobi which are fully electrical-powered vehicles. Recently, even a bus company BASIGO unfurled trips around the city and in my considered, that’s the way to go.

BasiGo Buses Making their presence felt in the Nairobi CBD

This post may seem like a pitch for Electric Vehicles, which it is as from whom are we hiding? As we live in the most interesting era of existence that is the 4th Industrial Revolution – The Information Age, we can no longer be held to ransom by antiquated systems merely to maintain some archaic social order for the benefit of a select few, well-heeled individuals. Among the merits of Electrically-powered units over the current Petrol- or Diesel-powered vehicles include:

  1. Environmental sustainability – We have only one earth that needs to be protected and cherished. The emission of harmful greenhouse gases is injurious to the prospects of life existing on earth which is resulting in the globe baking like an oven, melting polar ice caps and by association raising sea levels that will deny us land for living and growing our food. This meshes well with many items of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for our planet.
  2. Cumulatively, Electricity is less costly compared to Gasoline – It should be noted that a flagship program of the Jubilee Government was aggressively investing in electrical generation, even going as far as co-opting costly thermal plants under Independent Power Producers (IPP) some of which we have leases as long as 25 years. Rural electrification initiatives ensured that Electrical power, especially in industrial quantities was not an issue. Today, we have mud-walled structures connected to the National grid. In fact, the only critique is that industrialization did not catch up sufficiently to cater to that enormously massive supply. Installation of charging units that use either single-phase or 3-phase power is a fickle challenge to our Engineering ingenuity. I do not need to blow the trumpet for Opibus Systems but they are here for that. Additional investment will be needed in training and building the capacity of manpower in this particular regard.
  3. Lower Maintenance needs – Unless in the rare cases where the motor vehicle blows out its motherboard or Integrated Circuit (IC) you will not need to be having weekly service at your mechanic, at enormous personal cost to you. The system is self-regulating regarding temperature with sensors to signal any dangerous rises in heat levels.
  4. Quiet Operation – This decreases the level of noise pollution. Motor vehicle owners have no doubt experienced the need to idle the current internal combustion engine and carburetor units as you orchestrate the noisiest inconvenience upon your neighbours.
  5. Convenient operation – On depletion of battery, recharging can be done at home. Depending on the type of vehicle and distance you want to cover, charging times can vary between 30 minutes to a full charge of 6 hours on a charging bay that you could get Opibus systems to construct for you in your garage. Better still, property developers and landlords will have them constructed in the car parks of their multi-dweller units.
  1. Job Creation – The conversion of the current internal combustion engine-powered vehicles to either hybrids or fully electrical varieties is an opportunity we cannot allow to pass us by. We doubtlessly need factories and industries to create decent employment opportunities for our well-educated, skillful yet jobless youth. This may just be when the penny drops for us. Even in the United States of America, a formerly rustic outpost like Detroit in Michigan grew its wings when it opened up manufacturing plants for FORD, General Motors (GM) and Chrysler. We need to incorporate these industries into our Technical Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones to see a tangible shift in our economic outlook.  

Among the demerits include:

  1. New Technology – Electric vehicles are now taking traction worldwide. With all new systems, it takes time to not only get used to it but also put in place systems, structures, legal and legislative frameworks to deal with the same. There are no doubt few to no charging stations in many places but this is a deficit that can be redressed in no time.
  1. Steep Initial Cost – I will be making no fibs about this. Electric Vehicles are currently expensive to purchase as the system is still new in the market. The lowest cost from my shopping around is nearly 3 million Kenya shillings. However, this is the price we have to pay to end our bondage to petroleum until at such a time when there is saturation and market forces as a result of new carmakers and suppliers start cropping up. Then prices will decrease, commensurately.
  1. Limited Driving Range – The range covered by the vehicle will be determined by road conditions and the power-saving capability of your battery unit or bank.
  2. Disruption of Global Economic Systems – Since the advent of the era of innovation and continuous improvements in the internal combustion motor vehicle engine fronted by the likes of Gottlieb Daimler, Nicolaus Otto, Étienne Lenoir, George Brayton, Samuel Brown, Karl Benz and Rudolf Karl Diesel among others, the motor vehicle industry has eternally been in flux. The revolution in many aspects of motoring had plateaued and so going electrical could be the next frontier. That indubitably comes at great risk as many economic systems, national heritage and indeed personal fortunes are built upon the substratum that is liquid gold. Changing the well-worn social structure will lead to treading on a few very powerful toes who may not take it kindly. However, there must come a time when the will of the majority supersedes the whims of the monied elites. Viva the innovator!
  3. Inadvertent Total Battery Discharge – Few things are more gut-wrenching than the prospect of having your motor vehicle crunch to a halt, stalling in the middle of nowhere. In antipathy to fuel that can be carried in a jerrican from a nearby service station, you cannot carry electricity in any portable form. However, a work around may be to keep a spare battery in reserve or have a battery bank so that the entire system is not depleted concurrently.

Apart from going electrical with our vehicles, we could also consider the use of the age-old bicycles. This may not be an attractive prospect especially to the suave and urbane city dweller, those advanced in age or hamstrung by physical infirmity but for those who can, you are welcome to use this conveyance mechanism. In the last few weeks, I have come across videos of a young man on Adams Arcade, Nairobi who imports and repairs electro-mechanical versions of the bicycle. This particular model has the combination of the quotidian pedal & chain coupled with a Motor & Battery system. The bicycle could be powered when going uphill or on difficult terrain all the while its operation gradually charges the battery as you go on your way.

The sage once pontificated, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The necessity generated by a crunch in our fuel supply system must most certainly wrack the brain that will generate the next disruption in transportation technology to end all disruptions. The only constant in life is change and those who are not keen to adapt risk being swept away by the rapid disruptions of modern life. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

TIME IS RIPE TO TAME THE MADNESS IN THE BODA-BODA INDUSTRY

(Image Courtesy of standardmedia.co.ke)

In the Biblical book of Genesis is recounted the story of Dinah the daughter of long-suffering Jacob and his begrudgingly-acquiesced first wife, Leah. In adulthood, Dinah grew to become an impressively attractive woman who one day decided to visit with the Canaanite women. While there she was espied by Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite who was the region’s Chief. He was immediately entranced by the young woman’s pulchritude and almost spontaneously started wooing her. As she was a lady who valued her dignity, she could not just say “Yes”, the first time and rebuffed his advances. Unfortunately for her, Shechem was not of the school of thought that cherished virtues like patience and chivalry and at the capitulation of his ‘game’, he violently grabbed the woman and had his way with her without any more frivolity. As he was still enamoured of the young woman, he asked his father to intervene in the proceedings to get Dinah for him as a wife. Immediately, Hamor made the trip to Jacob’s homestead and with profuse penitence over his son’s petulance, recounted what had happened. His timing was as horrendous as can be because at just the moment he had opened out on the fiasco that has been occasioned by his son, Jacob’s progeny were also returning home with the livestock. They were flummoxed to learn about this slight against the nation of Israel and their beloved sister. Hamor however, had come with a conciliatory and contrite spirit seeking not just the hand of Dinah but future intermarriage among the indigenes of Canaan and the Israelites. He also offered the olive branch of joint settlement with the Israelites, liberal trade and even property ownership. “Set the bride price for Dinah as high as you want and we will verily pay it,” chimed in the smitten Shechem. The greatly incensed sons of Jacob had already purposed to get their pound of flesh from the Hivites and going forward engaged them deceitfully. “We shall never allow our sister to marry an uncircumcised man,” they posited. “Furthermore, circumcise all your males then we can agree on intermarriage. Otherwise, we will take Dinah and leave.” Love and Insanity are similar in many ways as under the spell of both intellectual faculties go out of the window! Shechem lost little time in executing his part of the bargain. The next day; through the pain barrier, Shechem and Hamor trudged to a rendezvous by the city gate and spoke to their fellow Hivites explaining the covenant they had entered into with the Israelites. The circumcision bit was no sticking point to their compatriots as they were assured that the co-operation would be adversely in their favour with the Canaanites having priority over the jointly-owned livestock and other assets of their cohabitation. Little did they know that this was a ruse. Three days after the agreement and with the Canaanites thoroughly sore, two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi took their swords and went stealthily into the city, killing all the men and sacking the locale. Neither Hamor nor his errant son, Shechem was spared with their sister also repossessed. On their return, Jacob immediately knew of the young men’s escapades and had a sombre tête-à-tête with his sons. “What kind of quandary is this you two hot-heads have gotten me into? Now the Canaanites, Perizzites and all the other occupants of this land will abhor me,” vociferated Jacob in anguish. “Should they band together, we will all be done for as I have but a handful of men.” However, the aggrieved lads retorted with nary a scintilla of remorse, “We could not countenance our sister being disgraced so.” How sad that the entire community had to pay for the transgressions of their lustful chief.

The situation above is mirrored by the disconcerting news currently doing rounds in myriad news outlets around the nation. A disturbing clip has shown up on social media causing an acrimonious and immutable public uproar. It is of the physical and indecent assault of a female motorist, who has been unfurled as a Zimbabwean diplomat on Prof. Wangari Maathai Road (Formerly Forest Road). This is egregious coming hot on the heels of the week when we commemorate our womenfolk for their invaluable contributions and achievements in society including the aforementioned revered, Kenyan Nobel peace laureate, Hon. Maathai after whom the aforementioned thoroughfare is christened. Even Okonkwo’s unheralded battering of his youngest wife, Ojiugo during the Week of Peace in Chinua Achebe’s literary treatise, ‘Things Fall Apart’ only pales in comparison to this absurdity! The distinguished lady had ostensibly knocked down a pedestrian by accident, braked suddenly being a conscientious individual, descended from her Nissan X-trail to check on the crocked victim who suffered a leg fracture according to Nairobi Traffic Commandant, Joshua Omukata. That is when all hell broke loose as a mob of motorcycle taxi (boda-boda) operators mobbed the foreign emissary lobbing all sorts of insults upon her person, slapping the woman silly, groping her and rending her clothes to ribbons. Her miffed cries were of minuscule concern to the miscreant mob that was hellbent on teaching this apparently ‘disrespectful wench’ a lesson. Indeed, an acquaintance of mine who happened to be in the vicinity at the material instance claims to be still personally paralyzed by trauma recalling the banshee-like hue and cry for help from the woman facing a mortal onslaught by the blood-thirsty troglodytes who partook of this barbarity. I will not even try to contrive the woman’s emotional state. Rattled is the only word that comes to mind. This is an unfortunately disgraceful episode. Currently, a crackdown and man-hunt has been launched for the culprits who engaged in this uncouth imbroglio with the Police putting up the photos of the ring-leader who is said to be at large according to the national dailies. A sizeable number of motorbikes, their riders in tow have been impounded with the fellows currently detained to assist with investigations.

Gory Incident of the female diplomat physically and sexually assaulted on Wangari Maathai Road (www.kenyans.co.ke)

But when did things come to this? What is the casus belli that sparked the fury witnessed at Professor Wangari Maathai Road?

Due to the sluggish pace of industrialization in Kenya added to constrained opportunities for commerce, many are the highly-skilled, well-learned, industrious young men and women that find themselves unemployed and destitute by no fault of their own. They had done all that was required of them by social convention expecting that at the end of their academic toil, they would be rewarded with a good job, swanky apartment and glitzy ride. The reality is far from rosy. Rural to urban migration is still rife generating a caste of the urban-poor who all contend for the limited resources afforded by the urban centres. In little dissimilitude to the renowned South African anthologist, Mr. Eskia Mphahlele in his treatise, many usually reconcile themselves to the incontrovertible actuality that ‘Man Must Live.’ This is the origin story of the many boda-boda operators that dot our urban and rural landscapes. The bicycle/motorcycle conveyance industry has grown in leaps and bounds to take its right of place as a massive contributor to not just employment but also our economy and indeed the GDP adjunct to being a complementary mode of carriage. It is an open secret that the boda-boda industry currently rakes in revenue in the region of 360 billion Kenya shillings. This can be approximated to 11% of our national budget. A myriad honest and energetic young men are accorded means of livelihood by this trade. We have in recent times been regaled with glorious tales of former motorcycle transport industry professionals who started off being conscripted by the owners of the motorbikes working for basic sustenance as long as the owner gets his share of proceeds for the day with the rest being the daily bread for the rider. A diligent professional in this industry saved enough to ultimately buy his own motorcycle additional to other investments making their incursion into self-employment and eventually entrepreneurship. We today have inspirational chronicles of guys who have bought plots of land, developed the properties, built rental apartments, taken their children through school up to universities abroad and massively improved their standards of living through this crucial trade, personal initiative and the sweat of their brow. Many of the practitioners of this trade are level-headed people with exemplary academic qualifications but only a lack of dignified, lucrative employment pushed them to this sector. Indeed, my own colleagues from Engineering school have variously been involved in the sector while raising hard-to-get capital for their commercial ventures.

Boda Boda Rider with Masters Degree (wakenyamajuu.com)

For some context on the history of boda-boda in Kenya, this is a Ugandan import. These came to the fore in the late 1960s and 70s during the coffee smuggling boom across Chepkube and Lwakhakha shopping centres on the liberal Kenya – Ugandan ‘border.’ Bicycle transport operatives from across each frontier would shout out “boda-boda” which is the abbreviated version of border-to-border to potential customers who sought to be whisked across the borders at whirlwind speeds devoid of travel credentials. The name soon caught on, with bicycle and motorcycle taxis taking up the moniker ‘boda-bodas.’ At the advent of the NARC era in 2003, many of those with bicycles traded them in for motorcycles due to the facilitation of capital injection for the small-scale entrepreneur, a brain-child of our economics-savant of a 3rd President, H.E. Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki. Furthermore, he reduced taxes levied on the motorcycle units which was a boon to the sector.

Kenyans are equally to blame as in the interest of saving costs they will lump themselves on one motorbike taxi like sardines (Boniface Mwangi Facebook)

As a low-lying fruit, the demand for bikes in Kenya has been sky-high. This is also a convenient means of transportation for the many pillion-carried customers that seek to weave through the traffic jams typical of our major urban centres. The boda-boda riders also fructify the last-mile delivery for many traders in the formal and informal sectors inclusive of textile and food vendors. Many carriage services exist like Glovo, Bolt, SafeBoda and Uber who have recently launched their own service Uber-eats to leverage on the gravy-train that is the great need for convenient delivery of foodstuffs and meals promptly. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Kenya imported more than 230,000 motorcycles valued at slightly over 13 billion shillings with a price range between Sh.60,000 to Sh. 150,000. In a sit-down with the Boda Boda Safety Association of Kenya circa 2020, President Uhuru M. Kenyatta enthused riders to flip the narrative of victimhood ciphered about this industry being merely a ‘low-earning’ venture where economic dreams come to be dashed. “If you collect nearly a billion shillings daily, cry why does every boda-boda rider eternally remonstrate over lack of something in their pockets?” The Head of State wondered aloud. The KNBS figures mapped out the reality that 5.2 million Kenyans are direct or inadvertent beneficiaries of this sector. This works out to 1 in every 10 Kenyans making utility of motorbike-based conveyance to run their mercantile endeavours.

The gist of the matter is that a few rotten apples are threatening to mar the good name of the entire enterprise for the ones who keep to the straight and narrow. There are those for whom entitlement is the modus operandi. Some arrogate upon themselves the right of way and zigzag on the road willy-nilly without a care in the world. Speed demons is what others have become reminiscent of the incandescent skeletal character played by acting great, Nicholas Cage in the movie ‘Ghost Rider.’ They are in a hurry not knowing they could potentially be on the highway to hell. This is added to a stubborn intransigence to reform. A few more openly contravene road traffic conventions and etiquette with the potential to imperil not just themselves and their pillion passengers but also other road users. If you live on the outer echelons of urban centres, you have most certainly come across a sturdy boda-boda operator with up to 4 passengers on his carrier with a smaller/younger one sitting on the fuel tank in front of him. How the vehicle is manoeuvred is a marvel of ergonomic ingenuity to me.

How the bike is manoeuvred is a marvel of ergonomic ingenuity to me (https://www.independent.co.ug)

Do not even get me started on the ones who transport abnormal loads without any hazard markers or the Wide-load signage and without an iota of regard for other road users! I have myself recently come to within an inch of losing my own derrière after a brush with protruding freightage while minding my own business on the pedestrian walkway.

“The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?” Psalms 27:1 I would suggest fearing the Lord’s wrath for impunity & recklessness!

Others see no need for an important vestment of personal protection (PPE), the Helmet. They will hide behind the fact that they are still trying to break even and also feed themselves from their meagre earnings and as such cannot afford the profligacy of buying a helmet. Such recklessness is always disproved in no time as motorcycle crashes have joined the list of the biggest threat to life and limb termed 1000 ways to die in Kenya. Boda-bodas have progressively become the biggest cause of crashes on our thoroughfares with County Referral, Level IV & V Hospitals being forced to set up wards specifically for the casualties of boda-boda accidents. Limited know-how exists on the causality of the relationship between jets of cold air flowing between a rider’s nasal / laryngeal-thoracic cavities and catching pneumonia. Many are our brethren who have suddenly been taken ill and pass on without even knowing what hit them!

Ipso facto, riding on the wrong side of the dual carriageway is incredibly conceited, however rife among motorcycle taxi operators in Kenya with terrifying glares adjunct to acerbic invective the portion of any motorist who dares to remedially point out this anomaly. Counsel is oft wasted on the prudent. I have in the recent past been compelled to bail out from police custody at least one or two acquaintances who engaged in this misdeed much to my personal chagrin. For some, the turn signal is a vestigial functionality they choose not to use arrogating themselves the right of way at every twist, turn and corner. Most ignominious is the practice by the motorcycle carriage operators to lump nearly half a ton of luggage on the motorbike carrier with the owner of the luggage choosing to take up a vantage location atop clumps of his payload! This thoroughly messes up with the position of the contraption’s Centre of Gravity, but who gives a hoot? ‘Mboka ni Mboka,’ (business as usual) is the popular refrain!

Passenger perilously sitting atop his luggage oblivious of personal safety (The Standard)
Girl on risky ride (Courtesy of https://www.standardmedia.co.ke)
Ang’o marach?

Moreover, there is also the disturbing practice of young men who tap onto youthful exuberance and after one or two training sessions auto-coronate themselves motorcyclist virtuosos ready to do a ride around the gaffe in street lingo known as ‘squad.’ Many have been seen around our estates trying the Almighty’s patience by performing daredevil stunts like riding with legs dangling from the handlebars, wheelies (riding with the front wheel in the air), drifting until tyres are laid threadbare by friction. This is patently irresponsible and in antipathy to the 10,000-hour rule to master any functional skill. Maybe the 10,000 hours is an overkill but probably 168 hours would be somewhat adequate. Use of unlicensed motorbikes for such forays also sticks out like a sore thumb.

Daredevils (Courtesy of News Vision)

Another quirk that casts the ‘bodas’ in negative light is the practice of taping upon their sheer numbers to become a law upon themselves. In this guise, they will hide behind vigilantism to harass innocent victims. Many are the times when a slight scratch compliments to a coming together between a motor vehicle and a motorcyclist will result in the latter baying for the blood of the motorist. All civility will be cast by the wayside as one calls on the solidarity of his brothers in arms. Woe on you if the warmth of your heart supersedes the brightness of your intellect and you commit the unpardonable indiscretion of disembarking from your vehicle and trying to reason things out with the motorcyclists. Such behaviour is anthemic of the deep frustrations among the practitioners of this trade who suffer from low self-esteem and feel as if other owners of motorized transportation look down upon them which is seldom the case. Everyone is busy trying to make it in a difficult economy.

A bad situation is contemporaneously being exacerbated by capricious political opportunists who have taken advantage of the destitution of majority hoi-polloi to craft the fallacious narrative of victimhood that is the ‘Hustler Nation.’ The convener of this movement will have you believe that our nation’s biggest problem is the disenfranchisement of the proletariat class who live from hand to mouth by some cadre of monied elites who live large on patronage as opposed to corruption and financial pilferage by state apparatchiks. This is an unfortunate conundrum as the sanctimonious, populist politician is keen to rope in vegetable vendors (mama mboga), maize roasters, street hawkers and you guessed it, professionals in the boda-boda sector. This cantankerous warmonger is poisoning the minds of boda-boda operatives to within an inch of a class war with the eternal crybaby sentiments accusing the well-off of the amorphous mongrel of an attitude they christen as ‘madharau’ (disrespect). We’ve had incidences of flimsy roadside tiffs escalating into the burning of people’s vehicles by the boda-boda operators who gang up like bullies against innocent motor vehicle owners. The voice of reason is apparently not their cup of tea. They have coined the incantation ‘dynasty’ to describe the driving class and the invocation of this term always coincides with one’s goose being cooked. We are not merely telling fibs here as the week anterior to this, a Matatu belonging to the Latema Sacco was set ablaze and charred to ashes after it killed a motorcyclist in Kinoo, Kiambu County. Much as I commiserate with friends and family of the fallen rider, I equally empathize with the matatu owner who lost his money-minting asset, probably acquired on an expensive commercial loan from an unforgiving banking institution, the star-crossed a victim of their station in life. The Boda-boda operators are slowly taking on an ominous hue evocative of the dark days of the Mungiki Movement that was mercifully kicked to the curb by the dutiful, no-nonsense President Kibaki-era enforcer, Hon. John N. Michuki.

Photo Courtesy of Joseph Kibachia, Kenya Ministry of Health & TEPHINET

Imperative to note is that the motorcycle transport industry is slowly mutating into a trojan horse for criminals, playing the role of an easy getaway vehicle after a mugging, robbery, stabbing or drive-by shooting by criminal elements. I have in the past written in this very forum, capturing in heart-rending detail the sad, swansong of the M-Pesa service agent in Mombasa who was caught on CCTV Camera being shot severally in cold blood with her handbag being callously snatched from her lifeless grasp. Self-regulation may be a bridge too far but it behooves every conscientious, reasonable and law-abiding citizen to report suspicious nay veritably delinquent characters to the lawful authorities. Remember that a perpetrator of crime albeit injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The blackguard you see grabbing a woman’s purse in the street corner and you allow to flee scot-free despite cognizance of them, all the while invoking some hogwash about ‘hustle’ is the same one who will in due cause maim, kill and deprive you of your motorbike potentially in that very same street corner!

Human dignity is inherent in every person and the right to have that dignity respected and protected is indeed a cornerstone stricture of our current constitutional bill of rights. We should no longer stand idly by as we embolden goons masquerading as boda-boda operatives to continue with the dishonour and sexual harassment of our womenfolk. The fiasco that went down at Wangari Maathai Road should be a clarion call to the national executive authority to put the kibosh on the impunity running amok in the boda-boda sector. This roguish conduct can no longer be allowed as it mars the esteemed standing of this dignified profession. Even the President and his Cabinet Secretary for Interior have been sufficiently disgusted to pronounce themselves on the ongoings last week. Regulation would be the earnest endeavour for even fire is as good a servant as it is a bad master. Lawlessness in this sector has to be nipped in the bud. Indeed, I’ve even been compelled by rhyme and reason to close ranks with my chum turned archnemesis from the civil society, Mr. Boniface Mwangi who last week opined, “Boda Bodas are the biggest threat to national security, worse than terror. Some are gangs that rob, maim and kill. Regulation is needed before it’s too late.”

Boniface Mwangi’s Comment From Facebook

What are the steps to take to rein in the runaway licentiousness pertaining to moral restraint in the boda-boda sector?

  1. Formalization is required. In a similar token to what Hon. John Michuki did for the Matatu sector, it would be imperative to organize the motorcycle transport sector under SACCOs as bodies of accountability and auto-regulation. These SACCOs will act as a deterrent to errant members as the power of the majority will forestall misconduct by those who may aspire to smite the goose that lays the golden egg. Criminal elements will thus be weeded out. Insurance is also a crucial part of formalization as a boda-boda operator will need to indemnify the other party in case of an accident due to erratum on their part. A product called Oye developed by Oye Platform Solutions has been mooted to the Boda Boda Safety Association of Kenya as a zero-cost insurance cover. Taxation would be crucial as the grey area of conjecture needs to be removed from the boda-boda sector.
  1. Retooling, reskilling and upskilling – A renaissance mindset is in order for the boda-boda interest that is geared at no longer looking at this as just another run-of-mill pastime but as an important cog of the Small, Micro and Middle-Income Enterprise (MSME) continuum. The membership of the motor vehicle carriage sector should start looking at themselves as small business owners who are duty-bound to reflect the values to aspire to see in society. Certificate of Good Conduct (Police Clearance Certificate) should become a prerequisite for every boda-boda operative to uproot incorrigible criminal elements from the sector. Refresher training and testing should be scheduled by NTSA before members can resume imbibing of the benefits of this trade.
  1. Digitization and Automation will salvage this industry – As a pronounced spate of digitization and automation sweeps many other industries, the boda-boda sector cannot stand with hands akimbo and allow themselves get left behind by this revolution. A system is currently being developed to coruscate the established online and mobile taxi-hailing services and applications where mobile phones will be used to request and afterwards rate the service received. Additionally, a GPS / Mobile Network-based trackable smart meter will be used for tracking and monitoring purposes. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain algorithm features will be used in future opening up the market to new players who will leverage past trends and data collected by the system. This will optimize coverage added for integration with a GSM (Mobile)-based cashless system of payment together with live features to monitor traffic conditions. A nationwide database of all practitioners in this sector is to be cached to streamline the industry. The GPS-based smart meter has already been adopted by Rwanda and as such is not merely a fairy tale.
  1. Customer sensitization – Customers should by now be conversant with the existence of rogue elements in the motorcycle conveyance industry. Quoting Narok North Sub County Police Commandant, Joseph Kisombe verbatim, “Anyone hiring a motorbike in Narok should ask the operator for his registration number prior to the journey. This will come in handy in case of anything.”
  1. Hitch your wagons with leaders and not loafers canvasing as political operators devoid of an all-encompassing ideology and policy – The Boda-boda sector should divorce itself from the grime of populist politicians that seek to exploit the economic station of the young men /women that engage in this business to push their parochial, narrow-minded agenda. This sector is a subset of society and as such will benefit greatly from cogent policy on entrepreneurship and industrialization as opposed to baseless pronouncement from hollow conduits for innuendo and mindless rhetoric.

In closing remarks, the boda-boda sector is here to stay but will have to toe the line of regulation if it is to achieve its ultimate goals of being a cheap, effective, ergo a safe mode of transportation. Lest we forget the ode of Dinah about how the besmirching of one woman led to the downfall of an entire nation.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

DENNIS MUKOYA MANIFESTO FOR LURAMBI CONSTITUENCY

DENNIS MUKOYA MANIFESTO FOR LURAMBI CONSTITUENCY

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

CIRCUS AT MUMIAS SUGAR COMPANY IS DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD TO THE ECONOMY OF WESTERN KENYA

MUMIAS SUGAR COMPANY – A PALE SHADOW OF ITS FORMER SELF (PICTURES BY ISAAC WALE)

In my attempts to touch base with my Christianity while poring through the canonical compass of my religious faith, I chanced upon the Book of Matthews 25: 13 – 30. While studying the course of Christian Religious Education over a decade of study, we referred to this tale as the Parable of the Talents. The account starts with an exhortation to stay alert for none knows the day nor the hour of the Lord’s return. A wealthy entrepreneur who was setting off on a journey summoned his slaves and entrusted part of his estate to them. To the first he dished out 5 Talents of Silver, the next he gave 2 and the third he bequeathed 1 Talent each according to their capabilities. After the customary farewell with each, he departed. The one entrusted with five talents right away put his mercantile acumen into action and in no time doubled his talents to 10. The one who was given two in similar fashion worked his entrepreneurial bone to double his capital investment. However, there was a divergence in strategy from the last one entrusted with a solitary talent. He took one long look at it, dug a hole in the ground and put his talent out of sight of any potential grabbers of the same. As with all journeys, they always end with the traveler’s predictable return to his point of origin. The Master was back and in no time took the initiative to settle accounts with each of his employees. The one entrusted with five came to his master, ebullient of voice and indeed chomping at the bit over his Boss’ return. He could not gird his enthusiasm over the fact that he was entrusted with five talents and had worked his magic to double the investment. The equally joyous master offered a glowing panegyric of this investment virtuoso and his fidelity to whatever little he was given to oversee. He was in the future to be entrusted with more and was welcomed by his master into his reveling. Hot on the trail of the first, the second soon sauntered in with equal excitement about his piece of business that had also enabled him to double his investment. “Good job, you good and loyal servant. You have been faithful with a few and have earned the right to be set in charge of much more. Enter the joy of my palace,” averred the Master. After a long wait, the one who received a singularity of talent made the beeline for the palace on getting wind of his master’s return. He wore a pervasive scowl and soon enough went into defensive mode. “I’ve always been aware of your character as a hard man, reaping where you sowed not, raking harvest where you scattered no seed. Consequently, I was apprehensive of your well-worn fiery comportment and so went forth to hide your talent in a bunker I dug under my floor,” posited the slave. You would be deemed economical with the truth to say that the impresario was in any sort of perceptible glee. “You diabolical and slothful blackguard! If you were such an excellent judge of the human condition, non-existent qualifications in psychology notwithstanding, at the very least you should have deposited your talent with the bankers. Then at the very minimum, you would have received some interest with little need for any handiwork on your part,” roared the bemused master. He ordered his muscled henchmen to henceforth seize the talent from him and add it to the stock of the one with ten. “For empirical evidence dictates that for the one with much some more will be added. However, the one with little, even that will be crimped from his grasp. Throw this numskull into the abyss where the only preoccupation will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” added the master with little semblance of pity. In astronomical chronicles is equally recounted the eerie tale of how the minuscule Planet Mercury was stripped of its atmosphere due to its proximity to the sun whose gravitational pull is comparatively insurmountable, additional the tragic tale of how Planet Pluto lost its status atop the table of solar system planets consequent to its inability to clear its orbital path of asteroids, dust, random ice particles and all kinds of intergalactic debris as a result of its negligible gravitational puissance, but I digress.

Mumias Sugar Company’s woes are a tragi-comical subversion of the tale above where the man with much squandered his chance to gain more and is now the one tidally-locked onto the travails of the abyss. The gradual slide of Mumias Sugar Company into mediocrity and disrepair reads like the script of a terrifying horror movie.

In halcyon times, the pride of East and Central African Sugar millers, Mumias Sugar Company (MSC) stood head and shoulders above many others with only Illovo Sugar Africa – Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and Kenana Sugar in Khartoum, Sudan as its peers. At some point, it was one of the distinguished few together with its peers aforementioned that boasted a Diffuser, a highly utilitarian piece of equipment in the sugar extraction continuum. I carry the emotional burden of having been being among some of the last students who took their University Student Attachment at the esteemed establishment in better times before mismanagement among a myriad other egregious misdemeanours sounded the figurative death knell on the firm. Back to the Diffuser, many of the other sugar firms that dot the landscape still use the outmoded Milling process that is flagrantly inefficient with regards to the sugar content that is extracted from the cane pulp before its egress from the equipment as bagasse. For some context, a Diffuser makes use of jets of hot water that are run incessantly through the crushed cane with a collector trough at the bottom to enhance the amount of sugar extraction from the crushed sugarcane pulp. Theoretically, Diffuser extraction is said to extract up to 98.5% of the sugar content from prepared cane as opposed to a ceiling of 95% for the old-school grinding miller. This mechanism is a rather sturdy piece of equipment meaning that with little maintenance, downtime is minimal in comparison to the conventional mill whose gears and clutches are similar to a manual vehicle pertaining to maintenance. It assures of better product sanitation compared to the mill as a result of the entire system being maintained at a temperature of 75°C which inhibits microbial growth of yeasts and bacteria that would erstwhile partially metabolize the mixture leading to sugar inversion and loss of saccharine content. Additionally, the bagacillo (small fragments of bagasse) will not find their way to the sugar hence increasing the amount of bagasse that is recycled to fire up the sugar boiler for subsequent evaporation & crystallization of the cane juice. Moreover, the diffuser has a greater capacity for cane than the run-of-the-mill grinding mill. It is said that when Mumias was running at full throttle, all the cane in its nucleus, satellite and privately-owned estates would only reach 40% of full capacity of the machinery’s demand meaning that much more cane was still needed even then. This is the system Mumias Sugar had in better days.

Chainless Sugar Diffuser (Bosch Rexroth)

Things started going south as a result of poor governance, heavy commercial borrowing for investment in projects with indeterminate returns adjunct to procurement aberrations that unprocedurally pilfered money out of the firm into personal pockets. According to a taskforce report of the former Kenyan sugar titan but now in the throes of rigor-mortis, abysmal management resulted in the loss of the cash that would hitherto have been regularly paid to cane farmers for their deliveries and which had made them some of the wealthiest people in the locale. Stories are still retold by those who witnessed the brighter days from 1971 up to the early 90’s of men who vamoosed from their home addresses, setting up shop in market centres or better still making a beeline for Mombasa after a heavy injection of returns for their supply. Mumias Sugar was then expertly run by the Booker Tate Limited of England and with unequivocal proficiency. Mumias town thrived when white smoke billowed and machines roared at this particular factory. My very own old man recounts tales of how he put his younger siblings through school with proceeds from the family’s cane holdings promptly availed to Mumias in its glory days. Returns were healthy. However, governance malfeasance resulted in a cavalcade of monkey business with sometimes the company instructing loaders to undercut the producer (farmer) at the weighbridge so that the company would receive extortionately more cane than it paid for. Proceeds to the farmer also declined steeply leading to the demoralization of many farmers who were forced by the economic considerations to even uproot the cane in difference to other endeavours. The taskforce report also cast a pall on the commercial department that diverted the Ethanol (used for production of power alcohol) for industrial use supposed to be exported to Tanzania for some pocket change additional to importing ‘fictitious’ molasses tankers that never touched base on our shores. Coupled with many other malpractices by company staff that cost the industrial edifice millions, the menacing flashes of monetary turmoil could certainly be visible over the horizon. The phantom of multiple-procurement, single-sourced tendering, cooking (manipulation) of books of accounts to cipher the visage of wellbeing, inflated commercial activities when reality portended a bear run, engagements with known unscrupulous operators compounded the woes at Mumias.

MUMIAS SUGAR COMPANY ETHANOL DISTILLERY

The writing was on the wall by the year 2006 when the appointment of Dr. Evans Odhiambo Kidero coincided with the liquidation of the Mumias Sugar Company Soccer team that was flying high with the Kenya Premier League theirs to lose. Like a bolt out of clear skies, Dr. Kidero announced that sponsorship to the Soccer team had been terminated forthwith. In his program notes, he made it exceedingly clear that the core function of Mumias Sugar was not football tomfoolery but to mill albeit refine crystallized treacle. I remember poignantly and in lugubrious continence, the disbandment of Mumias Sugar Company Soccer team in 2006 and accompanying public sentiment. High-flying Kenyan national team-capped lynchpins like Nick Yakhama, Mark Sirengo, Ramadhan Balala among a raft of others were cut adrift and left to their own devices. As the season had no clear front-runners, it was yet another sugar-belt side, SONY that emerged as the best of the rest clinching a rare league title at a canter with little competition in sight. It should not be lost on anyone that the company hierarchy relented on their stance albeit strategically in 2011 for the ephemeral, token sponsorship of AFC Leopards ostensibly for political expediency accorded to the devious, then-departing C.E.O, Dr. Odhiambo Kidero who sought to contest the Gubernatorial Seat in Nairobi. The Abaluhya vote, tied to this particular soccer team was critical to his election.

Nick Yakhama during his playing days as a striker at Mumias Sugar Company FC
The Short-lived sponsorship of AFC Leopards by Mumias Sugar Company From 2011 saw an upturn in the team’s fortunes

Another glaring anomaly that crippled Mumias was their unsustainable remuneration structure. The Company built staff quarters for their workers which they inhabited in pageantry paying little if any rent for the quasi-palatial dwellings replete with lush backyards and validated parking. There are confirmed rumours that the employees of the company were entitled to a couple of 20 Kg cylinders of cooking gas a month, free of charge from management. It was no oddity to see men and women strutting their stuff all over supermarkets of this rustic, rural outpost with money virtually streaming out of their ears. Top-of-the-range fuel guzzlers were bought at a premium with little regards to fuel expenditure. Fuel cards were available compliments of the company. Many of the employees took their children to the high-cost, private Booker Academy within the premises at greatly subsidized fees. Even the Nabongo (King of the Wanga) who resided a stone’s throw away from the establishment must have been green with envy at such a display of opulence.

Back to the stark revelations of the report by the Taskforce chaired by Kassim Were on the teetering to collapse of Mumias Sugar, Officers in the Agricultural Department bore heavy culpability for the erroneous acquisition of Satellite farms, payment to ghost farmers abetted by rogue IT staff with an overstatement of the budget for inputs done in collusion with the Survey Section with diversion of the input-quota that was meant for the itinerant nucleus and long-standing cane farmers. Fraud cannot be ruled out wholesale as manufactured sugar was inexplicably diverted to other sugar distributors, inflated prices, discounts way beyond the acceptable norm and the export of sugar despite a national deficit that was orchestrated between the years 2006 – 2012.

Cane collection for Transportation

The company also suffered the ignominy of white-elephant projects that lacked feasibility and were abandoned midstream. Among these were the CCTV Installation project, the Access Control – Identification Management System (IDMS), a biometric HT Clocking system & a System Server for its Database, the aforementioned power alcohol fiasco and the new bagging machine added to the still-operational Form-Fill & Seal Machine bringing up the list of projects that were ill-conceived. It was the grazing season of collusion between a conceited Board of Directors keen to profiteer from a self-serving, thieving CEO, Insider trading at the bourse and Overseas Corruption that saw board members setting up a proxy account in Dubai to siphon customer funds. There was also the poorly-disguised, cheap Brazilian sugar importation syndicate that saw the bagging and exportation of this illicit sugar with the funds diverted to the invoked offshore account. It should be noted with concern that the repeal of the Sugar Act 2001 and in its stead the operationalization of the Crops Act 2013 left the Sugar Industry shorn of the firm regulations to safeguard it leading to a lacuna that was ruthlessly exploited by the piranhas that ominously swim circles around the sector. The Kenyan lack of protectionism, high cost of Electricity and by extension local manufacturing, unregulated laissez-faire conduct in the Sugar sector that saw the light of day with the loosening of the COMESA inhibitions has adversely contributed to the flooding of the local market with imported sugar stifling our own. Litigation against the company by unpaid suppliers that resulted in colossal out-of-court settlements and reparations dug the company into deeper fiscal woes. At the time of authoring this piece, Mumias Sugar as currently constituted is technically insolvent with its independently audited accounts unfurling current liabilities of Ksh. 30 billion against an asset base of Ksh. 15 billion. Needless to add is the rapidly deteriorating value of prized assets like the diffuser that will certainly fall into disrepair with longtime underutilization. 15 names had been recommended for further investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. For reasons defying logic, this taskforce report has failed to be adopted by our bicameral parliament. Today, state bailout money is being pumped into the firm with minimal prospects of resurrection.

Mumias Sugar Packets packaging at the Form-Fill & Seal Machine (Alamy Stock Footage)

The consequence of these prevailing conditions is the depreciation in value of the surrounding real estate that is no longer affordable to the underemployed/unemployed. The formerly bustling locale of Shibale that is in the vicinity of the sugar factory has virtually become a ghost town. Rental houses sit unoccupied, some already reverting back to nature much to the consternation of the investors who injected millions to build the same. However, the real casualty has been the economy of a sizable tranche of the Western Kenya region. It lies in ruins. The loss of the PanPaper manufacturing factory was horrendous enough. To be compounded by the crumbling of Mumias Sugar is simply diabolical. The populace who had relied on cane farming for nearly two generations have been left orphaned and destitute knowing of Kenya’s economy as heavily reliant on agriculture more so cash crops. I know of families that have uprooted cane without an alternative cash crop to stand in the gap occasioned. In equal token, I am conversant with families who have decided to stick with their long-worn heritage and decided to make private arrangements to deliver cane to the nearby, better run and surviving millers. Of course, this has to come with the additional personal cost of transportation adjunct to having to pay bribes to ‘somebody who knows somebody’ in the higher echelons of management simply to have cane external to the catchment area of those factories in any kind of consideration for purchase. It has also taken a heavy toll on the nearby infrastructure as the extra-county roads were certainly not built for the elephantine load haulage of the sugarcane trucks.

The formerly bustling Shibale shopping centre is today a pale shadow of its former self (The Standard)

In recent times, a competitive procurement process for the acquisition of the lease to run Mumias Sugar for 20 years has been completed with a Ugandan conglomerate, the Sarrai Group coming up tops. Sarrai passed all the thresholds pertaining to the technical evaluation criteria, proof of financial capability, lack of conflict of interest, a bid bond of Ksh. 500 million to boot and indeed a proven track record of experience running a miller of similar magnitude. Sarrai group had initially been preceded in the bidding contest by Devki Group – under the auspices of Narendra Raval who were the early frontrunners but pulled out shortly due to their fatigue all the shenanigans and political nuisance going on behind the scenes. The also runs include Tumaz & Tumaz Group, West Kenya (Kabras) Sugar Group, Transmara Sugar and Kruman Finances. The three that reached the final evaluation stage were Pandhal Industries, Kibos Sugar and the triumphant Sarrai Group which eerily enough is owned by Sarbi Singh Rai, a brother of Jaswant Rai – the owner of Kabras Sugar with both being scions of the dukawallah patriarch, Tarlochan Singh Rai (deceased since December 28, 2010). Sarrai group has been proficiently running 3 sugar firms in Uganda each with a crushing capacity of slightly under 20,000 tonnes per day while employing 22,000, so adding their Kenyan holding onto that stable would only be the most logical status quo as our Kenyan overseers have been proven wanting. Moreover, they run a power co-generation station additional to an Ethanol plant. In the security of a winning bid, Sarrai had already purposed to restart tilling the nucleus estate, rehabilitating the factory roads, acquiesce spare parts for the staled equipment in sore need of maintenance and engage the utilities to reconnect power on-site among other preliminary activities for the revival. This has proven to be a casus belli. Almost immediately, four cases have been filled at our high courts challenging the award of the lease with as much as the kitchen sink being thrown ab initio by the vexed litigants who lost out on that cherry. A case of sour grapes! One of the cases that duly fell within the realm of frivolous litigation has already been adjudicated and ruled null and void as the miller was not subject to Chapter 12 of our Constitution, Article 227 also falling afoul of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act. This was due to Mumias Sugar not being a state-owned entity despite the treasury still holding a 20% stake in the enterprise.

For the other three litigants looking for a pound of flesh from the Mumias Sugar gravy train, we have the Tumaz & Tumaz Enterprises associated with mogul Julius Mwale of the futuristic Mwale Medical and Technology City fame together with the Hamptons Hospital domiciled in Butere, Kakamega County. Crucial to note is that the entity inferred above did not even make it to the final stage of the bidding process despite issuing the highest, a verbal bid of 27.6 billion shillings. Not to cast any aspersions on the financial strength, by and large the character of Julius but issuing from dealings with other suppliers for his projects have been a torrent of hue and cry over unfulfilled pledges and just all-out hanky-panky. This is already flagged down as a disreputable and unscrupulous mercantile operator. Reliable sources inform the author of this post that the man behind this outfit had defaulted on goods and services worth 5 million Kenya Shillings acquired from the firm Davis & Shirtliff Plumbing and Reticulation Services Company in refurbishing a personal swimming pool for virtual pledges and a song. Services were rendered but when payment time rolled by, only 1 million Shillings was settled. The rest that had been agreed to be payable by banker’s cheques fell through whence the cheques ‘bounced.’ The character has been shifty when reached for assurances on when the bills would be settled. Consequently, I am compelled to label it a wild goose chase expecting such a fellow who is unable to foot a mere 5 million shillings bill to raise 27 billion shillings let alone the bare minimum bid-bond of 500 million!

West Kenya Sugar group have a chip on their shoulder which is the fact that by the rules of competition and dominance by one player, legally existing as Section 23 of the Competition Act would be gravely contravened by the addition of Mumias Sugar to Kabras Sugar’s holdings. The ghosts of Mumias Sugar’s 60% market share in its heyday still haunt the industry to this date, a situation that seeks never to be replicated.

Kruman Company bid 19.7 billion shillings while seeking a 25-year lease period despite the fact that they have little experience in running any sugar factory. This is a similar fate to Pandhal Industries which came in third in the competitive process. Kibos have marginally justifiable cause to feel slighted as they just fell short of the winning entity. The final tally gave Sarrai Group (58.4%) against their bid of 6.1 billion, Kibos Sugar (52%) against their 5.9 billion bid with 2nd runner up – Pandhal Industries (34.4%) against their bid of 7.7 billion. Contemporaneously, the desired position is of a player that can have rapid turnaround times pursuant to revival of operations, immediate employment and indeed breaking even against insurmountable debt.

But when did the rains start beating the denizens who depend on Mumias Sugar Company?

The oracle points to ineffectual, incompetent and uncoordinated political leaders from Western Kenya who watched Mumias sink to its nadirs while falling over each other jostling for kickbacks so as to engage in the perennial theatre of the absurd that is a divergent glut of them contesting the Presidency! What has any of them done to ameliorate the unemployment crisis that can be resolved by industrialization in Western Kenya? Veritable ‘tumbocrats’ is a phrase profusely used in Kenyan social parlance to lampoon such basket cases.

The absence of similar salvatory action from more of the leaders from Western Kenya in antipathy to seeking kickbacks proved to be the Waterloo for Mumias Sugar Company (Courtesy of Daily Nation)

One of the elected leaders from Kakamega County set the record straight recently on a TV show that the only factory in operation within a 20 KM radius of Kakamega town is the Super loaf bakery! Being a comical man, I felt he only restrained himself from mentioning the maize-flour milling establishments (Visiagi) that dot the landscape but he probably did not want to venture into the realm of derision on such a touchy subject of the economy of the ambient region. Do not even get me started on yet another well-known, blackguardly political apparatchik who also doubles up as a scrap metal dealer that has set up his yard right in the annals of Shibale, a stone-throw away from the ailing sugar factory. Your guess is as good as mine where the metal pieces ostensibly collected for recycling are obtained from! Stealing another’s thunder is the name of the game around here.

In an effort to ring-fence the cane requisite for the revival of Mumias Sugar, my good friend Peter Salasya, a hot-headed but well-meaning youthful politician (has thrown his hat into the ring for election as Mumias East MP) was a fortnight ago thrown into the gaol for allegedly creating a disturbance likely to cause a breach of public peace along the Kakamega- Mumias thoroughfare. Among other allegations, he is said to have led demonstrations that barricaded the roads stopping the trucks ferrying the valuable raw material for sugar production to Kakamega town and onwards to West Kenya and Butali Sugar. He’s currently out on bond, ergo these are the heights some who are passionate about Mumias Sugar’s revival are willing to scale to ensure a resuscitation of this behemoth of sugar milling in Kenya.

Mr. Salasya at his vocal best (Courtesy of KTN News)

But what Solutions exist pertaining to a speedy revival of Mumias Sugar?

The report authored by Kassim Were recommends a retinue of measures to ostensibly turn around the fortunes of the once resplendent miller:

  1. Safeguard the land – A caveat on community land hosting company assets to prevent grabbing and irregular disposal.
  2. Shareholding – A quest to have the exchequer forego its current 20% holding in the enterprise transferring the stake to the county government to give the county unquestionable anchoring in decision-making geared at a resurgence for the giant miller.
  3. Interim Management – There is need for 5 years of emergency management to forestall the crisis currently precipitated by a hatful of one-upmanship litigation proceedings against the Sarrai Group who had erstwhile been awarded the reins to attempt to revive Mumias. We can no longer be wasting valuable recuperation time while assets are continuing in dilapidation with the residual distillation of Ethanol tanking tangent to ceaseless engagements in the Courts of Law. Time is of the essence as the period typically expended in litigation more so in a nation that has weak structural laws on reasonable length for court process as ours may result in a pyrrhic victory to whoever garners the ruling with the company by then beyond salvation. As per the stipulates of the report, a year should be reserved for emergency management, two years for stewardship restructuring and professionalization and two extra years for recovery. Cost-cutting measures are of the essence as runaway pilferage is the reason Mumias got into this jam in the first place. We also need to seal the loopholes that were used by those who looted Mumias of its glory in days bygone.
  4. Financial – Mumias is in need of aggressive investment in cane development, if possible prioritization of the rapidly maturing varieties to aid in the rapid turnaround. Debt restructuring is also of the essence as Mumias Sugar is presently mired in inscrutable debt that if required back in a ‘flash in the pan’ manner would eviscerate the mill to cripple irretrievably any prospects of a revival. Intensive capital injection for salient operational milestones is also paramount to the renaissance of the staggering miller.
  5. Recalibration of our societal moral compass – A cultural shift around how we view institutions in our ambient community just has to change. Corruption is a key factor in the collapse of Mumias Sugar. I am sure there are community elders who clearly saw Mumias Sugar sink into the red yet they were quiescent of any sort of remedial action, preferring to be silenced with a small bribe in ‘Busaa’ shebeens lingo known as ‘chai ya wazee.’ Assassin-hits have been at a premium over matters relating to the finances lost at Mumias with the guilty attempting to hide their tracks. We gloss these over merely as ordinary acts of crime forgetting the fact that we have more to lose with the loss of any industry or factory for the community. I have gone on at length in a previous blogpost that was even deemed valuable enough for publishing in the national dailies last year about the perils to our local economies specifically and national tax revenues at large if we allow mega-industries like Mumias that employ millions of people directly and indirectly to collapse.
The human being is fatally flawed with greed being insurance for the conman who will never miss out on the next victim.

In terminal remarks, I would like to wish the Sarrai Group or whoever else is tasked with the revival of this elephantine miller to its past glories all the luck in the world as they undertake this gargantuan task. Beware of the wiles of the unscrupulous and feckless political operator that will always lurk in the shadows while purportedly acting in public interest all the while having the silencing of their tummy’s rumblings as sacrosanct in all undertakings. In repurposing the articles of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by American founding fathers: These are the truths to be held self-evident that morally-invertebrate politicians will always be on the lookout for that unearned buck that will be channeled back to the impoverished and unenlightened masses as handouts. For the avaricious is endowed with certain inalienable fallibilities that make it difficult to miss out on a victim ready to be conned with little by way of material means to ever satiate the conman’s greed.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

PITFALLS FOR OUR YOUTH IN ACCESSING THE LEADERSHIP & POLITICAL SPACE

Hon. Charles Kanyi (Jaguar) Njagua mend fences with Hon. Paul Ongili A.K.A Babu Owino (Courtesy of The Star Newspaper)

In the treatise that directs the footsteps of the Christian faith is captured one powerful passage of text that recently fell upon my gaze. It was in the Book of Joel 2:28, so enthralling that it was reiterated in the Book of Acts 2:17. To lay it all down here verbatim, “And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh and your progeny shall prophesy as the older folk dream dreams of glories past, your children shall see visions of the future.”  Thence, the scales fell off my eyes and I realized that destiny is beckoning me and I am duty-bound to answer to its clarion call.

In the immediately previous post, where in the doldrums of melancholy, I read the eulogy to activism in Kenya, I equally intimated that I was heavily involved in the voter registration process. This is not by default but by design because I have taken the brave stance of moving away from hollow sentiments in this platform to the actual political agora to articulate my sentiments with an interest to represent, legislate and execute public interest oversight on behalf of my people. I am taking cognizance of the need to move away from the space of sympathy and empathy to that of influence in solving the quandaries that assuage our people. I am currently in a headlong dive into the murky, duplicitous and perilous world of elective politics in Kenya. It has come within my purview that approximately 75% of the current population demographic is made up of youth but a glaring anomaly is that we have only 6.5% of Youth in the contemporary sense in both chambers of our bicameral parliament. Indubitably, the raison d’être of my incursion into national elective politics has been the dearth in leadership I clearly witness today. Public interest has become a by-word as every man for himself becomes the prevailing modus operandi of our legislative politics. This of course, denies any prospects of meaningful development being unfurled unto our people which to me is a crying shame. Corruption, tendering malfeasance, abuse of office and the culture of having our leaders as ‘Mr. 10-Percents’ has no doubt been a sticking point that has pushed me to the current verdict. Those who have been reading my pieces for a sufficient time have surmised that my concept of stewardship is that it must be sacrificial, truthful, transformative, development-oriented and indeed appreciative of the principle of the SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Reasonable & Time-bound) analysis. I wholesale abhor the culture of merely pandering to whim and letting ourselves to be flags that flap about the vicissitudes of the winds of destiny but instead be the creators of the change we yearn to see in our communities. Solving of real-world challenges that bedevil the hoi-polloi is my earnest endeavour, the biggest currently being Unemployment. Today, popular despondency and destitution that has been the aftermath occasioned by the cataclysmic policies of the UhuRuto Jubilee regime has seen our people driven further into the depths of penury, deprivation and despair. The novelty of the worldwide audacity of hope that was the quintessence of the period after the First Black man was duly elected as the 44th President of the United States of America is soon wearing off. A year earlier, when against the tide of expectations, a newly-cobbled together superstar trio at NBA outfit, Boston Celtics dragged the team kicking and screaming to a triumph in the finals, the overarching sentiment was that everything was possible. In antipathy to the Pharisees of the modern-day who promise to move heaven and earth to deliver impractical promises and white-collar jobs for our people, I have purposed to pursue a more pragmatic approach to matters. I am alive to the fact that we need to think outside the box which loosely translates to funding inborn skills, talents, innovation and most especially industrialization as a path to break the surly grips of the vicious cycle of poverty on my people. In reading the wholesome story of the call of Moses, a stammerer as leader of the children of Israel in their sojourn in the wilderness, I have realized that the Lord of Hosts seldom calls only the qualified but exercises the discretion to qualify those he calls no matter how inadequate they appear, prima-facie.

Barrack Obama, 44th POTUS (Courtesy of Flickr)

My rationale for taking the delve with the rabble aside, I authored this piece to outline the reasons why many youth find it an exercise in futility to break into the closed-shop that is the Elective political space in Kenya. There are the select few, well-heeled for whom politics is a family heirloom passed down to them to continue a longstanding family tradition of preserving the family recognition, privilege, wealth and hegemony. However, for many non-bluebloods who may be the first members of their families making a stab at elective office, it is certainly no walk in the park. In the paragraphs below, I will try to unpack the drawbacks and obstacles many young men and women have to surmount to get to any iteration of public office:

  1. Lack of Financial Muscle – The most obvious and glaring one for non-legacy or those devoid of a family dynasty or past political head honchos is doubtlessly lack of sound financial grounding for many of the young people who are probably trying to settle into careers, enterprise, tertiary education or worse still unemployed. Though Chapter 4, Article 38, Clause 3 (C) of our pristine and progressive Constitution furnishes every bona fide, duly registered Kenyan citizen with the Right to Contest as a Candidate for public office anywhere in Kenya and if elected to hold office, finances are no doubt a limiting factor. Costs abound everywhere from putting to ground an effective well-oiled campaign team, schedulers / personal assistants, advertising, political merchandise, memorabilia & whatnot. Today more than any other time in history, Digital Communications Experts pejoratively referred to as ‘Bloggers’ are an invaluable arrow in the quiver of any political player. They may make or break a political contestant with either oodles of adulation or hard-hitting exposes of scandal and murk for the opponent. This quandary is exacerbated by the conceited incumbent Members of the National Assembly and Senate who in an effort to ringfence their currently acquiesced political fortune have done little to create water-tight laws rules, strictures, statutes bare minimums to regulate campaign financing. Currently, a laissez-faire, jungle-like environment exists out here with survival only assured for the most pecuniary fit. The door is ajar for all sorts of unscrupulous and dastardly characters to buy political influence by financing campaigns for those who seek office. Clandestine rings of drug peddlers, human traffickers, owners of brothels, pimps & their charges – the purveyors of the oldest profession, cattle rustlers, illegal arms dealers, corrupt state apparatchiks, tenderpreneurs, brokers of political patronage and gate-keepers of the corridors of power today find free reign to finance election campaign vehicles and even offer themselves for election in Kenya with limited shackles upon their activities. Let me not forget those state operands implicated in corruption scandals like the recently orchestrated heist at KEMSA, the ‘Covid Millionaires Scandal.’ We have incontrovertible experience of the perpetrators of NYS I & II go scott-free and win public office in 2017. In this free market economy, a candidate without a strong financial base could as well be dead on arrival as brisk trade becomes the norm in the lunatic season of elections in Kenya. You will be relegated to a laughing stock when you are campaigning on a motorcycle, bicycle or donkey cart while your opponents are using private jets and helicopters on the same errand. Worse still, with rampant poverty in Kenya as a result of dampened financial prospects, youth unemployment and constrained industrialization, the lure of easy money is almost irresistible for many Kenyans out here. Patriotism and austerity are virtues sacrificed with exuberant ease at the altar of the expectation of gratis lunch (hand-outs) from “Mheshimiwa Mtatajiwa.” In current street parlance, a contestant is spoken of in the grapevine as ‘serious’ or “on the ground” only based on the level of financial outlay he has set out to expend on the entire endeavour of seeking votes. Ideology is only an afterthought as money changes hands. From what I have surmised from my brief dalliance with seasoned and grizzled, old commentators on political affairs, in urban Kenya, today seeking the seat of Member of County Assembly (MCA) will set you back to the tune of 3 million Kenya shillings according to modest estimates. Horror tales are recounted of those who spent as much as 20 million and still scored in the triple digits during the elections, indubitably losing the contest. For the Members of Parliament (MP) who have a new designation of Member of the National Assembly (MNA), the costs could rise to the dizzying heights of 7 million shillings minimum and as much as 50 million and above just to bring up the ceiling. Mind-boggling figures are mentioned pertaining to the cross-county positions of Women Representative, Senators and Governors with as high as a cool 1 billion Kenya shillings being mentioned alongside the Presidential seat in this republic. These are costs too steep for any Tom, Dick and Harry and so many may just opt for the easier option of standing by the wayside and muttering about their shortcomings under their breath with the faint hope that probably one day their plaintive prayer will move the Almighty to act on their vexations and worries.
Cash Money (Courtesy of https://www.varsityscope.com)
  1. Brokers and profiteers attempting to make a quick buck off naive candidates – Closely linked to the first one albeit more ignominious. It is said that experience is the best teacher which are sentiments I corroborate. Perils of false brethren exist everywhere you turn. An announcement of running for public office is almost always greeted with glee with some scummy layabouts who view anyone contesting any seat as having money coming out of their ears. Facebook requests will increase nearly 300% as your DM is set ablaze by all sorts of characters who purport to be able to mobilize their entire villages’ votes to your side if only you just pay them 300/- every day.
2 Corinthians 11:25

Then there is the team ‘wash-wash’ who take advantage of the fact that money is much revered in the Kenyan political space to concoct all sorts of ploys to get the contestants to fork out real cash to be enabled to get ‘non-sanctioned’ tender. I will not name names here, but a character who will henceforth remain unnamed unless in the unlikely event of a commission of inquiry, has made claims that if given 1 million Kenya shillings he could easily transform it into 100 million! A nailed-on snake-oil salesman. Tears are being shed in a toilet near you with the moral of this cursory tale being prudence in the face of fabulous stories with little locus standi in the realm of logic pertaining to cash. The sages put it best that a fool and their money will soon be parted.

Beware of Papa le Wash-Wash (Courtesy of Terrence Creative)
  1. Mistrust of the young turks by the old guard – In fractured societies there are insipid misgivings by the older members of society about giving leadership roles to relative saplings. It is a product of the great ignominy some of the young people who were accorded political office in the past brought upon the esteemed establishment. Puerile conduct is certainly not appreciated by grizzled troopers who know they deserve better. This is in spite of the fact that youth is a time of great energy albeit salubrious verve. This is the time a man or woman will be healthiest in their lives unencumbered by the vagaries of natural attrition and decay. Invariably, this is the most productive phase of human existence. Idealism is still at a premium as youthful exuberance may sometimes be valuable in undertaking an endeavour devoid of apprehension and hindsight. Youths most often than not have fresh ideas and insights that may add impetus to leadership as the old guard with time deplete the mother lode of good ideas they may have had in times bygone adjunct to the predictable loss of mental faculties with the progression with time. Yes, they possess acquiesced experience which is a valuable attribute but the puissance of youth cannot be gainsaid. The young have a wealth of time to make mistakes, be corrected and learn valuable lessons from the transgressions of their youth which may not be available to those in the twilight of their lives.
  2. Cultural and Traditional Norms – In the halcyon days when our ancestors lived, the youth and women were there to be seen but not heard. Social conventions dictated that leadership was the preserve of those who were graduating from the warrior class of society and now making the transition into junior elders. These were mostly the privileged masculine denizens with these rudimentary precepts more often than not resulting in the systematic ostracism of young people and women from decision-making and public interest discourse. Once in a while, there arose a spectacular paragon of exemption who wowed his ambient community to the extent of being given the reigns of power. Some of the metrics on which this would be assayed would include uncommon valour in battle or cross-border cattle raids with rare instances where charisma was also lionized. There are also tales similar to Joseph the son of Jacob who found himself the Vizier (Premier) in a foreign land as a direct consequence of his prescience and precocious intuition that saw him advice the Pharaoh to build great silos in the period of abundant food reserves because he sensed leaner times ahead. Sure as death, it came to pass and the Egyptian state acquired strategic importance like never before. However, in many societies leadership was hereditary but would not merely be given to any tot immediately their regal progenitor croaked. Age would be an important concern with a regent ruling in the stead of some toddler entitled to office until they were old enough to exercise statecraft. Even today, the precepts that rule society expect young people to be looking for jobs, engaging in courtship and starting families, probably establishing commercial engagements to secure their futures. Things become horrendous manifold if you are a woman. If you try to dip your feet into the hot bath that is politics, your will in no time be contending with a public exposition on your sexuality or at least some far-fetched episode of the lascivious which I feel is injudicious because their male counterparts rarely have to deal with such a tilted playing ground. Gender-based violence is just the worst.
In our patrilineal societies, any attempt for feminine leadership is often met with brutal resistance and persecution as what happened to Diane Rwigara in Rwanda (Courtesy of https://www.economist.com/)
  1. Culture of handouts and ‘Kujipanga’ brand of Politics – A dearth in national philosophy has hit our society really hard. There were days when sacrifice, altruism, patriotism, conscientiousness, erudition and eloquence were highly-cherished attributes in our leadership space. Then the age of materialism set in and things simply went haywire. The culture of victimhood, populism and populism has been reinforced even further in the kakistocratic Jubilee government regime with an irreverent love to lucre being a feature of society. When did we all develop a fetish for unearned wealth? Currently, quid-pro-quo politicians are having their day in the sun as a huge tranche of the youthful populace is unable to countenance a past when ‘donations’ from political players was not in vogue. This damages our collective moral fibre as all sorts of charlatans and scoundrels will become the darlings of the public merely because they possess deep pockets. Once upon a time, the United States of America’s much-beloved 35th President uttered, “Ask not what your country (politicians) can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Entitlement has taken such a grip on society that clumps of the electorate are likely to be found hanging around polling stations on election day like fruitflies near ripe bananas devoid, of an iota of surreptity, waiting for whichever candidate is ready to meet their asking price to vote for them in contravention to our ineffectual Election Laws and Acts. I urge the youth to borrow a leaf from our heroes of yore like Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi. How much was Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s ‘Matigari ma Njiirungi’ paid to abandon the creature comforts of his familial abode and warmth of his conjugal bed to venture into the frigid climes of the Aberdare Forest, braving colonial bullets additional to gnawing hunger, carnivorous beasts of the earth, slithering serpentine monsters, pneumonia in the arboraceous mountainous wilderness among myriad other perils to fight for the independence we celebrate today? We need to interrogate the sources of wealth before accepting any so-called ‘donations.’

  1. Discouragement from family and friends – It takes a brave man to forego the safety of an assured salary at the end of the month and just make the sortie into the political quagmire. Discouragement will be your constant companion if you choose to tread the lonesome journey into politics. From Parents and other close family members, friends, the clan, council of elders, your spouse who doesn’t want to be widowed at a young age; you are unlikely to find peace before you succeed in this odyssey. It takes the fortitude of spirit to stick to your guns until the end which with some luck and prayers might be successful. Those who are worried sick about you have justifiable cause knowing full well they will have to pick the pieces in case you are not successful or the vagaries that come with the territory of politics catch up with you. Preference is to play it safe with some business or other, gripping tight unto your job like a brassiere onto a bosom or better still taking some marketable degree course instead of this kamikaze foray into the domain of conjecture. However, the naysayers need to take cognizance of the fact that the collective destinies of us all are inextricably linked to the decision of whichever politicians we elect. So why not elect capable ones?
(Courtesy of Yourquotein.com)
  1. Lack of veritable Mentors & Role Models – Today, we have the onerous distinction of putting on display Hon. John Paul Mwirigi (Born on 7th January 1994) of Igembe South as the youngest elected member of the 12th parliamentary session who was elected to inexcusable glee in 2017. In the previous house of representatives, we had Hon. Boniface Kinoti Gatobu (Born in 1987) of Buuri Constituency. These two have in recent times held the candle as the youngest elected Members of the National Assembly. Both were of humble extraction and had to surmount great odds just to be on the ballot paper. In recent times we have got the likes of Hon. Babu Owino, revered Kenyan artiste Hon. Charles Kanyi Njagua (Jaguar), TV journalist Hon. Naisula Lesuuda, Hon. Caleb Amisi, Hon. Nixon (Jenerali) Korir, Hon. Johnstone Sakaja, Hon. Alexander Kosgey Kigen among a galaxy of others. However, this is a drop in the ocean compared to the geriatric brigade we have both in the front and backbenches. If indulged on the matter, I will opine that public office needn’t be a retirement home for anyone as the responsibility of leadership is too precious to be left to men/women past their heyday.
Aspiring Samburu Women Representative Hezena Lemaletian in Full Voice (Courtesy of Citizen TV)
  1. Politics is a dirty game – Were politics a game, it would be played by cunning yet confident thugs and spectated on by equally thuggish fellows only more unenlightened as to be oblivious of their future being pilfered away. This is certainly a daunting prospect for many young people who are put off by its rough and tumble. Of course, you will have to hobnob with the repugnant of character, the riffraff, louts, touts, rabble-rousers, profiteers and actual professional criminals of the ilk that are conscripted to cause chaos and even burn sections of Gikomba market from time to time. Violence is often not far from the horizon with a political candidate expected to keep a minimun of two bodyguards just in case things go south. With the monetization of our politics and ambient poverty, people will crowd any politician trying to give a speech. Things get thick as soon as he/she tries to leave the venue without dishing out wads of cash. Then and only then, will the contestant be inundated with the equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition on why he could keep all these people in the sun without any refreshments/lunch? In the absence of sound judgement to deescalate matters, soon invective will start getting launched and not before long projectiles. I am left to wonder why the same youth who need a fellow young man in the august house to articulate their memoranda should be caught up in such shenanigans in full comprehension of the fact that an unelected citizen like them has no state funds to give handouts.
Courtesy of Eye Gambia
  1. Dearth in knowledge on electoral processes or even basic constitutionalism – Many young adults, even graduates often grapple with the comprehension of the rigmarole of formal political mechanisms. Naivety unfortunately confers upon them a feeble understanding on the impact of political activities on their ordinary lives. That is why you may at times walk into a heated social media chatroom where one or another lass or lad is trying to avow his/her ‘right not to vote’ thinking they are being sensible! This is rather bizarre, but is unfortunately where we are at as a nation without politically conscious youth. Voter sensitization and education probably exist only in the hyperactive imaginations of the most idealistic and deluded if not optimistic. Look at what the likes of Hon. Martin Shikuku, Tom Mboya, Masinde Muliro, Justice (Rtd) Willy Mutunga and even Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga did with their youthful years. Indifference to democratic principles casts a pall on our youth who fail to connect the dots on elections being the conduit through which meaningful reform nay leadership can come to their doorsteps. Many are heedless that a failed system or leader needs to be replaced at the end of an electoral cycle. This ignorance is indubitably costly as tendering malfeasance will forestall any prospects of those with businesses from gaining lucrative tenders and scaling up. Ineptitude in bursary allocation will result in the continuation of illiteracy, by and large the vicious cycle of poverty.
Courtesy of The Captain
  1. Youthful voter apathy – A carry-over from my previous post is the galling realization that many youths just too disenchanted with affairs to want to vote. At the pit of my tummy, I reserve the midpoint emotion between disgust and sympathy as I actually understand where they come from. Some may have been toddlers during the 2007 – 2008 post-election conflagration that saw them needlessly lose family members, property and the even the security that comes with having a home. The trauma of seeing erstwhile neighbours and former schoolmates-turned-monsters may just be too poignant in the minds of many out there. The situation is exacerbated when they saw the perpetrators merely have a handshake and cup of tea as the status-quo was restored. They most certainly witnessed the verdict of the ICC process that saw the core-indictees of the crux of the violence go scot-free, hitherto protected witnesses located and left swimming with the fish in nondescript rivers, deliberate lack of co-operation by the state with the investigative arm of the ICC for obvious reasons, cases dragging on before fizzling without as much as a whimper, blatant discrimination in the reparations paid to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and most egregious the two who bore the greatest culpability against each other’s tribes actually teaming up into a formidable force that buttressed themselves into Statehouse. It is just disheartening. Many youths have been left drifting in the doldrums of distrust for the political process, utter disdain for institutions as we have scoured the nadirs of leadership failure in the last decade all apparently attributable to the electoral process. The musical chairs at IEBC has seen some who dropped the ball for the botched and annulled 2017 Elections virtually rewarded with similar roles at other state corporations rather than get reprimanded. However, on matters of elections, I always urge people to live by the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer. Also, as a large sector of those in their early thirties are people who may have listened to the inspirational music of a rabble-rouser social activist who jolted the establishment in the USA; the incomparable Tupac Shakur, you may just be that mind that is kindled by his now dearly-departed spark to bring the change you wish to see in the world.
Tupac Shakur (Courtesy of AZ Quotes)
  1. Ignorance to empirical wisdom that fortune favours the brave – It is surely a precarious leap of faith for anybody devoid of established legacy connections to just drop everything and exercise their constitutional right to offer themselves for election. The economic and social ramifications of leaving a well-paying job for the wormhole that is politics are difficult to argue against. Many will think you have certainly lost your marbles with such a move. This obfuscates the fact that this world has been revolutionized by mavericks. In times bygone, a small band of Judaic Maccabee Jews orchestrated a revolt against the mighty Seleucid Empire, an unimpressive remnant of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon interspersed with the final vestiges of Emperor Alexander the Great’s Greco-Macedonian realm but still mighty in its own right. This was as a result of the Seleucid monarch’s draconian embargo on Jewish religious practices. The odds were stacked firmly against the Jewish dissidents led by Mattathias and later his son Judah Maccabee as King Epiphanes Antiochus IV boasted an impressive army of nearly 100,000 strong. However, the Jews decided to launch an offensive all the same in Jewish mythology guided by the flaming sword of Angel Michael. It seemed to be prima facie, an endeavour doomed for failure at first but guerilla warfare by the gallant bunch yielded spectacular results with the Jews making a triumphant return back into Jerusalem. This goes to show that nothing in this world is assured as the linguists of medieval times coined the axiom, “Faint heart never won fair lady.”

So in terminal remarks, I feel my fellow youth do themselves a great disservice by avoiding the call to engage in the political and leadership space. Generational transition calls for them to stand up to be counted as the old guard are slowly being phased out by natural attrition and the nation needs new blood to replenish the systems and institutions we need to see working better. As hallowed, 32nd American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt put it excoriating his charges to have hope during the great depression, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

HEART OF ACTIVISM IN KENYA HAS GONE TO THE DOGS

{Courtesy of www.alarmy.com}

By many definitions, I am considered a millennial having been born in the epoch between 1981 and 1996. In halcyon times when guys like myself were busy imbibing of nourishing milk off our mothers’ bosoms, Kenya was a throbbing ganglion of activism for the reintroduction of multiparty politics. The start of the Nyayo-era presided over by the eponymously-labeled ‘Professor of Politics’ President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi coincided with a crackdown on dissidents that opposed his kakistocratic, despotic and corrupt regime. Indeed, the regime had started on what can only be described as a discombobulated footing when like a bolt of lightning out of the clear skies, the Head of State had banned all tribal-based political groupings. He eventually added lighter fluid to the conflagration by declaring Kenya a de-jure (by law) unitary state in June 1982. The fallout from the botched coup in August 1982 saw Pres. Moi go out of his way to curtail all iterations of civil liberty, freedom of thought and conscience adjunct to the reintroduction of detention without trial for anyone adjudicated by the state to be injurious to national peace and cohesion. This loosely translates to anybody that opposed the whims of the state. His regime went out of their way to borrow whole pages from then notorious, blood-thirsty Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu with a whole network that started from national security apparatchiks, intelligence department officers, informers and even a coterie of well-trained Special Branch torture ‘experts.’ The Senator, Hon. James Orengo SC has in recent times recounted the legend of a hefty lady from Central Kenya who manned the giant Pliers, the size of bolt cutters at Nyayo House with a menacing grin. Needless to say, the intention of using that implement was less than pious! This saw an irreverent helping of University Professors, Playwrights, Politically-active students, Innovators, Journalists, Authors, Religious Leaders et.al who did not toe the state line being detained and tortured relentlessly and on the most frivolous of charges. Hence, in no-holds-barred fashion, the golden age of activism had been heralded like never before. Men of solid credentials guided by authentic patriotic zest, enlightenment and the strength of character stood up to be counted even at the expense of life and limb. Heartwarming were the battles our incomparable Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Prof. Wangari Maathai fought to safeguard the existence of Uhuru Park and Karura Forests that were hanging by the width of a mosquito’s gonads as the final vestiges of green on what was formerly regarded as the ‘Green City in the Sun’ – Nairobi. Rev. Timothy Njoya wrote his name in the lights by delivering a fiery sermon against an unfair and thieving regime in the Sunday anterior to the 7th of July 1990. He was now a marked man who on the material day was accosted by several General Service Unit (GSU) officers who clobbered the bejesus out of him. There were others like Rev. Gitari and Rev. Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki who closed denominational ranks to castigate the collapse of the national economy under the clueless Nyayo regime. Others like Rev. Alexander Muge paid the ultimate price for speaking out against the regime of his tribal kinsman in antipathy to the delusion that is ethnic solidarity. It was certainly a simmering cauldron.

Kenyan Iron-lady, Charity Kaluki Ngilu in full flight from Riot police at the height of Kenya’s Fight for the 2nd Liberation (Courtesy of Daily Nation)

Many of the turncoat political oppressors of today cut their teeth in this seminal period of strife for the 2nd Liberation in Kenya. Names like Martin Shikuku, Masinde Muliro, George Anyona, James Aggrey Orengo, Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Koigi wa Wamwere, Willy Mutunga, Kiraitu Murungi, Mirugi Kariuki, Katama Mkangi (author of Walenisi), Wanyiri Kihoro, Hon. Ochola Mak’Anyengo among others are synonymous with our fight for multiparty democracy in Kenya. While the likes of Dr. Julia Ojiambo and Hon. Zipporah Kittony were busy forming women leagues (Maendeleo Ya Wanawake) and traditional dance troupes to praise the extractive regime, in addition to the aquiline vision of then Senior Bachelor-In-Chief – Moi, iron-ladies like Hon. Charity K. Ngilu and Hon. Martha Karua were at the forefront of putting the kibosh on any asinine propaganda from Nyayo. There is a tale of Charity Ngilu going ape on a local government official who tried to snatch the microphone from her as she was giving her sentiments during a Presidential rally in Kitui Central Constituency. Those alive then surely bore witness to the indomitable Hon. Martha Karua as she sauntered out of yet another Presidential speech in Kirinyaga on 16th June 2001, the clenched fist gesticulation of the Democratic Party in the air, for good measure. Who then did not squirm with pride when a bloodied yet defiant Prof. Wangari Maathai emerged out of the teargas smoke at Karura Forest to demand that Moi refrains from calling her a ‘deranged woman’ but to instead exercise the discretion to engage with her on the ‘anatomy above the neck’? Eishh, If Thug-Life was a person!

Eishh, If Thug-Life was a person! Prof. Wangari Maathai emerges out of the teargas smoke at Karura Forest battered & bruised yet defiant.

Proud were the times when John Githongo – current CEO of Inuka Trust on active citizenship and former anti-graft Czar in concert with Maina Kiai of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) reigned supreme in lashing out against the excessive and wanton expenditure that was pilfering national revenue out of the Nyayo Government coffers. University Students Leaders were not to be left behind as one Mr. Titus ‘Tito’ Adungosi, the fiery, radical and outspoken Students of Nairobi University (SONU) Chairman would bellow words of patriotism, rebellion and solidarity with the Coup plotters of 1982. He paid a very steep price for his adjudged petulance as he was charged with sedition and slapped with a 10-year jail sentence from which he never emerged. He died incarcerated in 1988 with intestinal blockage blamed but with unconcealable evidence of testicular trauma! Oh, the travails that the activists of years bygone suffered in Kenya.

Things did not get any better after the advent of multiparty politics in Kenya. David Munyakei, played a critical role as the whistleblower that blew the lid on the Goldenberg Scandal. For his act of patriotism in the exposé, the newly-employed clerk at Central Bank was victimized and punished with a dismissal letter, he was rendered unemployable, branded a criminal by the Moi government, anti-corruption agencies soon shunned him, he was abandoned by friends and later died a heinous death from pneumonia in 2006, too broke to afford even basic antibiotics (sic). We also had Father John Anthony Kaiser, the Kenyan- American, Catholic Diocesan Priest of the Lolgorian Parish in Kilgoris, Narok County who did plenty of good work in providing a sanctuary for escapees from forced, child marriages in the locale. Kaiser touched a live wire when he testified in a custody battle whence powerful Kenyan Cabinet Minister from the inner sanctums of state, Julius Sunkuli was proved to have fathered a child with a 14-year-old minor, Florence Mpaayei additional to defiling yet another. For his forthrightness, Father John Kaiser found himself at the business end of a hired assassin’s bullet one fateful day in August at the turn of the Century.

Activism by its letter and spirit is a positive thing. Invariably, it has its etymological roots in the Latin word “actus” meaning a driving force or impulse. An Activist by his/her Job Description is someone who works to achieve and is doubtlessly an advocate for social or political amelioration of a particular majority’s lot. They fight for causes inclusive of media freedom, human rights, equitable societies, accountable governments, natural justice, environmental conservation, social empowerment, differently-abled people’s rights just to name a few. Many meaningful social causes are fructified by activism. Itemized below are the benefits of noble activism:

  • Certainly, a well-meaning alternative to a bloody revolution which ultimately spells more harm than good to the oppressed. Oppressive governments and politicians naturally have no intentions to bring agenda meaningful to the populace under their charge which activism could successfully force through. Many self-styled ‘Presidents For Life’ devoid of the progressive wherewithal to corroborate them continuing on their national thrones have had such dastardly ambitions nipped in the bud by positive activism. “When Injustice becomes Law ultimately Resistance will become a Duty,” uttered loquacious yet incredibly prudent Thomas Jefferson, U.S. A’s 3rd  President.
  • Discriminative norms are often corrected by targeted activism. We were all treated to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ rallies in America after George Floyd was murdered by racist police officers in America. Some of you have certainly listened to the ferocious and withering colloquium delivered by Miss. Tamika D. Mallory – a black rights activist during one of the rallies.
  • Civic Education and sensitization is usually the product of well-executed activism. Repressive regimes totally abhor the edification of the majority as it usually closes all avenues to their mind-numbing propaganda. It’s a statement of empirical wisdom that knowledge is potential power.
  • Inequalities in the wealth-distribution matrix are usually to a small extent redressed by constant badgering of the pernicious system by an enlightened yet noble-hearted cadre of the citizenry.
  • The voice of the downtrodden will often gain an audience when amplified by activists who articulate and escalate their memoranda to the right corridors.
  • Whistleblowers who open the lid on scandals albeit skeletons in certain important national ‘closets’ are activists in my book. That is why I mentioned the incomparable David Sadera Munyakei above.
  • Most importantly, fundraising for community goals, projects and amenities can be done with the help of social campaigners, some from foreign philanthropic missions. Many third world countries certainly lag the developed world in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that should have been attained by the year 2030, a quandary that can only be addressed with some supplementary assistance from without. Governments can only do so much with their constrained budgetary allocations that are only exacerbated by pilferage, theft and rampant corruption.

That brings me to the raison d’etre of authoring this post which is the gradual slide into disrepute of activism as it is executed in Kenya today. The aforementioned forerunners to today’s activists went into the endeavour with a spirit of sacrifice. Personal gain was the least of their concerns as life and limb was expended for the common good. Even our pre-independence freedom fighters were implicit in this in their own way as they fought for an ideal that no man deserves to be subjugated by another merely premised on the variance in the colours of their skins. They also wanted restitution of their ancestral heritage as it was universally agreed that land is an important factor of production and indeed enterprise. The tragedy of this tale is that successive generations of activists are hell-bent on allowing the good work of their progenitors to go down the drain. The enterprise that is activism is today slowly but surely degenerating into a cesspool of cognitive dissonance slathered with the ketchup of entitlement, while perpetrated by emotionally naïve albeit immature characters who preach more victimhood in antipathy to expected empowerment through the sweat of a man’s brow. I have bemoaned in another platform, the fact that Education is supposed to confer not just sophistry to its owners but the ability to critically yet objectively analyze situations to come to a reasoned, learned solution for a problem. Many of today’s spurious charlatans attempting to lay claim to activism engage in all sorts of shadowboxing and chatter-boxing, any scintilla of rationality falling by the wayside.

Some activists of the new school of thought are nothing but vectors for misinformation nay what POTUS #45 invoked as disgusting, fake news! Yes, I went there. For reasons I shall not disclose until a future post, I was part of the current Voter Registration effort by the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC). I surmised like many commentators on political affairs that a huge number of youths were shunning the important responsibility of registering as voters for the whole gamut of valid reasons with pedestrian excuses interspersed within. From invoking successive electoral processes as riddled with inaccuracies and violence to allegations that the deep state had already settled on the entire leadership hierarchy for 2022 beforehand, to the Covid-19 crisis and its vagaries, broken promises by the successive regimes to eternally voting for a candidate who ‘allows his votes to be stolen’; I heard it all to muted chagrin and disgust. My ire was especially piqued by two characters who shall remain anonymous for reason that I feel neither predilection to broadcast their asinine existence nor would I ever want to convert this platform into some sort of gutter press arena for launching invective albeit expletives. After asking them a raft of questions pertaining to Registration and Voting in Elections, they proceeded to engage me in all sorts of gaslighting mishigas for the aversion of their constitutional rights as envisaged in Chapter 4 of our current Constitution, Article 38. They tried to convince me that all politicians are the same while taking me down the garden path quoting books like Aminata & Man of Kafira to try to cipher some sort of intellectual verve. Things took a turn for the bizarre when one attempted to create a false equivalence between the travails of Prime Minister (Emeritus) Rt. Hon. Raila for the civil liberties currently enjoyed in Kenya & Deputy President, H.E. William Ruto’s political journey. Come On! He queried, “Why did Raila abandon the opposition after the handshake?” I was not only aghast with disbelief but at the same time boiling with revulsion at such an overt display of ignorance at its rawest by these two pseudo-intellectual harlequins! Of course, we would have come to blows if I were not a level-headed citizen of the Republic. “Lord Forgive them for they know not what they speak of,” I muttered inwardly. Another posited, “If Raila always has his votes stolen, why doesn’t he reciprocate & also try to steal next time?” So, victim-blaming is now à la mode? In closing submissions, after one unfurled to me that both of them work as “activists”, there and then, the scales immediately fell off my eyes. What kind of activists are these that spread only despondency and ignorance? Congenital buffoonery cannot be ruled out here when one blatantly refuses to draw parallels between history and the current reality. How could such ignoramuses ever conduct Voter Education or Sensitization on their own? Who will ever engender respect for institutions if those who have taken on that task are ill-tooled for the activity? Probably, that may not be within the purview of their activist trade! Or maybe their line of work is divorced from reality, I shudder to imagine. Activism should spread hope not despair and destitution.

Photo Credits: imgflip.com & Pastor Patience Ozonkwor

Let me swiftly move to cast a pall on the most egregious behaviour by activists of the contemporary day. In antipathy to exposés to name and shame wantonness, many have made the transition from sacrificial individuals who work for the best interests of society pro-bono to quid pro quo rascals even worse than the operands of the politically-correct system they oppose. Some have become an absolute nuisance as they now pander only to the side of their bread which is buttered and nothing else from corporations whose excesses they should oppose. Cases of blackmail, harassment and even booking acres of space on our national dailies to engage in brown-envelope journalism geared at unnecessary character assassination. None has honed his skill in such bilge better than the photographer-turned-activist, Boniface Mwangi. A warrior for social causes, human rights and active citizenship in years bygone, I feel this fellow is slowly but most assuredly taking the slide to the dark side. Ever since his attempt to become Starehe MP in 2017 came a cropper, there is an incontrovertible body of occurrences to corroborate his cranial circuits being short-circuited and now he is no longer a fighter for public good but for parochial gain. Post-handshake from March 2018 to the current date, ‘Bonny’ as he’s affably referred to by the denizens of Kenya has been on a rampage to scupper any initiative meaningful to the majority of Kenyans adjunct to seeking relevance to sell his merchandise.

Photo Credits: Photographer and Activist – ‘Bonny’ Mwangi

For some context, after that altruistic handshake for the sake of the nation, Kenya lost a recognized Official Opposition. For many years, Rt. Hon. Odinga had held the torch in this regard, toiling a labour of love trying to right the excesses of the state. From being an unbowed campaigner for Electoral Justice to his unwithering struggle against graft and social upheaval among the hoi-polloi of our country. In little dissimilitude to Apostle Paul on his turbulent odyssey to preach to the Corinthians, he was once whipped at a public rally in Kwale by an opportunistic attacker! He has suffered the perils of robbers and a heavy helping of disappointment albeit betrayal from false brethren. He has in the past been accused of being complicit in a terrorist attack to destabilize the Jubilee Government in its infancy which charitably enough, the Al-Shabaab ultimately took full responsibility for. They are doubtlessly averse to external forces stealing their thunder! He has inhaled a copious miasma of teargas for several social causes he needn’t have fought for, but did. His Presidential ambitions have been shipwrecked and poleaxed several times tantamount to the aforementioned electoral injustice. Marauders have severally set him without oars in a leaky raft to political oblivion, spending days and nights at a time in the open seas headed for Bondo with an unseen hand always guiding him back ashore. Needless to state, he has actually been a ‘Legio-Maria’ priestly garb-adorned passenger in some ramshackle boat in stormy Lake Victoria en route to Uganda when he was escaping certain execution by the repressive Special Branch Officers of the Nyayo regime in the early ’90s. Worse of all, he has recently been accused of betrayal, post-handshake by the same people who voted for kleptocrats thrice adjunct to others like Waiguru and Waititu all the while avowing, “Mkisema hao ni wezi ndio tunawapenda zaidi!” (We love us our thieves).

Photo Credits: Rt. Hon. Odinga in Legio Maria Regalia which has come in handy in the past – Courtesy of Justus Ochieng’ at NMG

Back to Boniface, he attempted to scuttle the BBI Initiative quoting some cockamamie grounds that cannot hold water even in the fickle court of public discourse. He seemed to be insinuating some sinister motive at one time claiming that the 2022 poll would be a referendum on the goodies received by the youth; who currently constitute a majority of the country’s population, from all sorts of pseudo-philanthropists with minimal recollections on some storied historical sacrifices by the noble of heart from which they have not benefited. He forgets the enduring sentiments of America’s 35th President, John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what service you owe your country.” Also, those who fail to learn from the foibles of history risk repeating them. Recently, he dredged the nadirs of the barrel of nuisance by orchestrating the razing and vandalism of the route marker for the newly-renamed Francis Atwoli Road in Kileleshwa, Nairobi. This is not only uncalled for but stinks of the acrid stench of malice and ill-will. He questioned, “What has Atwoli done for Nairobi specifically and Kenya in general?” If I didn’t know any better, I would have reckoned he is a tourist in Kenya! Truth be told, Boniface Mwangi and many others ideologues, demagogues, battering rams, guns for hire, talking-heads, pretenders and paid-mouthpieces were merely hiding behind the grand, old enigma of Kenyan Democracy under the pretext of fighting for social justice, so today find their charade ruthlessly exposed when their erstwhile human shield is working in concord with the state.

Tribe Kenya is a Functional and Noble Activist Movement unlike the ideologues, demagogues, battering rams, guns for hire, talking-heads, pretenders & paid-mouthpieces that have become the bane of the activism space today.

One of our better-known campaigners for social justice has in the past adduced the fact that Jesus died for us all and so henceforth, none other should die for anyone else. They added that the best one can do is to live for their families. Apparently, many of the new civil rights campaigners are taking that rallying call way too seriously, even going rogue to pander to the abated load. It is to my greatest consternation that some of these so-called activists and philanthropists are funded by International Aid associations and even well-known billionaires out to give back to society. However, the acquiesced aid does not reach the projects it was purposed to fund as it is diverted to buy or build swanky apartment blocks and mansions in the leafy-green upmarket haunts of this nation. ‘Go-Fund Me’ pages clog social media but unfortunately the destination of the pecuniary wherewithal collected is the stuff of conjecture. There are constrained avenues for accountability because any calls for the same will be met with demonstrations by the accused who hire all sorts of louts and touts that hang about our city centres jobless to remonstrate about being unfairly victimized. There are people even within my private purview who today reside in posh homes in Karen Estate, south-west Nairobi that hitherto are earmarked to host Orphans and the Destitute but today are the summer homes of some slay queens/ boy toys who purport to be running NGOs. Some of the Children Homes exist but only as a façade for the diversion of foreign funds into unscrupulous individuals’ pockets. Conditions are squalid with the occupants dastardly of wear yet billions may have been channeled from abroad in that regard. I don’t seek to act ad hominem, but yet another was in the news recently for building an apartment block in the sprawling Ruaka Estate on the Nairobi-Kiambu boundary that encroaches on the already narrow cattle track connecting Limuru Road to the hinterlands of Ruaka, Ndenderu and Muchatha. Apparently, I am not supposed to police human morality but would be remiss if I failed to invoke terms like “profiteers”, “traitors” and “charlatans” to describe such individuals. Others have gone a step further to call themselves Pastors, Evangelists and even ‘Bishops sans ordinare’ (without ordination) while partaking of such abysmal conduct. These stories are the staple of the mass media where they can be freely obtained.

The world is quite a dangerous place and life rather unfair. It is full of fickle, selfish and malicious people more subtle than serpents. I give such a dire indictment of humanity in full cognizance of the misuse of philanthropic associations as a backdoor mechanism to bring regime change in several countries. As a student and commentator on historical affairs, I have even on this very platform gone on a tangent about the undue influence of former colonial powers, mostly France over its overseas territories and outposts. The harrowing tales of the assassination of President Thomas Sankara by ex-French Legionnaires in Burkina Faso, propping up of the regime of Pres. Joseph-Désiré Mobutu Sese Seko in DRC and complicity in the Rwandan genocide reads like the script of a horror flick. However, the broth is murkier when erstwhile international aid societies join the mélange. Heavily implicit in such shenanigans has been the Open Society Foundation, a charitable organization run by Hungarian-born, American hedge-fund plutocrat, George Soros. Mr. Soros is a firm believer in the ideal that in any noble endeavour, one should do the right thing whether it succeeds or flounders. However, his name has come up time and again whether factually or fictitiously as a backer of extra-democratic means for regime changes worldwide. No smoking guns have been found yet but as the sages succinctly put it, “Where there is smoke, there must be subterranean fire.”

Closely linked to state destabilization aforementioned is Religious fundamentalism, radicalization and extremism that usually exists behind the shroud of activism. We have in the past seen people holding demonstrations because of events overseas like the ostensible occupation of Afghanistan by the United States Marines or the incursion by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) into Somalia. Others are groups like the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) that preaches for the cessation of the coastal strip from mainland Kenya. Such movements start with reasonable calls for land rights but usually degenerate into anti-unity slogans like ‘Pwani si Kenya!’ (The Coast is an autonomous realm). That mixed with sectarian radicalization of the neighbourhood youths with an extremist ideology of the fundamentalist agenda often results in the defection of many of our ‘Shabab’ (young men/women) across the border to fight in some nebulous Jihad (Holy War) against infidels. It is in the public domain that the proponents of the 1998 terrorist attack orchestrated by Mohammed Fazul and his co-conspirators first made landfall in Kenya and were domiciled in Runda, Nairobi as some sort of Islamist NGO. We have in the past seen and heard of extremist religious clerics in the coastal strip being whisked away out of the streets or their homes in dark vehicles without registration plates and by unknown individuals to eventually turn up either extrajudicially executed or simply disappear into the annals of oblivion. Though we may have a diverse range of ideas as the most intelligent species in existence, none put it better than antiquated Italian-American mafia don; Al Capone when he averred, “A bullet changes a lot in your head even if it merely grazes your haunches.” Fundamental freedoms of association, conscience and expression exist nevertheless they must be delimited by responsibility. Contravention of the laws that engender harmony is antithetic to the unity which we aspire for as a nation. Granted we have many problems as a disparate mishmash of ancient nation-states, violence against each other can never be the answer. Those who engage in fundamentalism should take heed not to overstep the boundaries stipulated by laid-down strictures and statutes otherwise as senior security operatives put it, “Forgiving human transgressions is God’s work, all the same, arranging the meeting between terrorists/murderers and their deity is our calling!” Sounds harsh, but the peaceful existence of the tranquil majority should supersede the calls of entitlement, victimhood, cognitive dissonance (bigotry) and the dredges of narrow-mindedness by the errant citizenry.

Today more than any other time in history, Judges and Magistrates of the Kenyan High Court are taking charge on national affairs. The tragedy here is that their incursion coincides with the proliferation of incidences of Judicial activism invoked aptly by others as the “Tyranny of the Bench.” We have a devastating vicissitude of circumstances that sees former heroes of the 2nd Liberation in Kenya from both the Bench and the Bar overreaching their ambits. In cahoots with the President of the Law Society in Kenya, today they are hellbent on opposing everything that comes out of the mouth of our Head of State on the fickle grounds of enforcing respect for ‘Court Orders’ by and large, the Judiciary. A glaring anomaly is that one of the conveners of this ‘caucus of the absurd’ is himself a Chief Justice (emeritus) and ex-President of the Supreme Court, Justice Willy Mutunga who exercised not a modicum of the zeal he purports to have today in bringing recourse for these same instances of erratum. Contemporaneously, it has become a veritable publicity stunt to push for the return of the self-appointed ‘Major General of the National Revolutionary Movement, Joshua Miguna Miguna from the algid climes of Toronto, Canada. Our often haughty and garrulous Barrister, Solicitor and Commissioner of Oaths but today a national figure of lampoon & meme by his own choosing is by the strictures of Constitutional Chapter 3, Article 16 – Still a bona fide Kenyan citizen as those rights are inalienable and cannot be lost simply by the acquisition of another nation’s additional citizenship. Nevertheless, Kenya has moved on from the post-poll malaise of 2017 – early 2018 so the return of the Barrister will be counterproductive as it will only roil calm waters unnecessarily. In borrowing a leaf from our former VP, Prof. George Saitoti’s sentiments vociferated at the National Delegates Conference of March 2002, “There comes a time when the nation is more important than an individual.” We needn’t go back to bloody carnage just to pander to the outsize ego of one clown with delusions of grandeur. My message to all who feel strongly inclined to start a revolution is that if you must be a rebel, never let conceit and vendetta be your only causes.

Photo Credits: Barrister Joshua Miguna Miguna and ex-CJ, Willy Mutunga  {taarifanews.co.ke}

Kenya boasts a special cadre of unheralded nay unsung activists who are the artistes that have eternally stayed true to the message of alleviation of the plights of the downtrodden. Those that exist at the top of my head include Kalamashaka, Ukoo Flani – Mau Mau, Kitu Sewer (K-Swiss), the Late G-Wiji, Juliani among a pantheon of others. Further afield, the late, great poet, rapper, actor and black rights activist, Tupac Shakur performed that task deftly and with distinction.

Photo Credits: Kalamashaka

Artistes play a crucial role as mirrors coruscating the norms of society and calling the polity to action at the opportune time. In 2007, former gospel singer & CEO of Trublaq Entertainment, dearly departed Big Kev (Kevin Ombajo) was at the forefront of the ‘Vijana Tugutuke’ movement that encouraged heightened political awareness and engagement by the youths of Kenya as a means to have a say on the destiny of their nation. Voter registration for the 2007 polls was driven skywards by the concerts organized countrywide whose only ‘entry ticket’ was either an Elector’s card or National Identification Card.

Photo Credits: IEBC – Vijana Tugutuke.

Equally, captivating to the national psyche was the anti-jigger campaigns in Central Kenya that were marshaled by former beauty queen Cecilia Mwangi, an unequivocally noble venture that has been a quantum leap to the lifestyles of rural Kenyans. Goes to show that feminine elegance can be wonderfully dovetailed with a purpose and not merely ‘kukula fare’ (reaping where you sowed not) which is becoming endemic! We also have the anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) warriors like former marathon queen, Tegla Loroupe who are still moving boulders long after the extinction of their athletics prowess.

Photo Credits: Cecilia Mwangi of Ahadi Kenya Trust

In terminal remarks, I call for some deeply introspective soul-searching from each of the practitioners of the activist trade on noble reasons for joining the movement. If your rationale is less than virtuous, just quit lest you be jettisoned out of the venture in great sacrilege.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

GOVERNMENT SHOULD MOVE EXPEDITIOUSLY TO SAFEGUARD PROFESSIONALISM IN KENYA

A microcosm of careers available to Kenyans

On this topic, I seek to rehash an anecdote from the post immediately anterior to this one to try to create some context. That’s why I cast my gaze back to the Israelite sojourn in the Deserts of Negev between Egypt & the Promised Land. Circling back to the book of Exodus 31:1 – 6. The Lord spoke unto Moses & pointed him to “Bezalel” whose name means protection of Yahweh. This young man was one of sublime intellect, an uncommon virtuoso in handiwork. Bezalel is described in the many genealogical lists of family trees domiciled in the book of Chronicles as the son of Hur of the Tribe of Judah among the Israelites. The Lord was not only impressed by the lad’s work ethic but also his skill and originality in engraving precious metals and stones. This multi-talented artist was also a wood sculptor, so vaunted that even at a young age he was already able to attract apprentices who made a beaten path to his workshop to imbibe tutelage on artistic prowess from his capable hands and keen eye for detail. This is the man who was head-hunted by the Lord of Hosts and called into the cloud together with Moses to receive the distinct blueprints, building plans, bill of quantities and iron-clad instructions on building the Tent of Worship its sacred furniture in tow, mold the Arc of the Covenant, design & prepare the Priestly vestments and assay the right alchemical formulae for the incense that would issue a fragrant offering unto the Lord. He was capably assisted by Oholiab son of Ahisamakh from the tribe of Dan. This is reminiscent of the word of scripture that the diligent and skilled shall ultimately stand up and perform before Kings, hence shall never be slaves.

Let me be stark in my assessment of matters. Professionalism is slowly but surely dying a painful death in Kenya. This is occasioned by a cynical proliferation of the culture of patronage that is taking root in our society. Apparently, you could be the best student during your time in school. Your academic prowess and intellectual acuity could be revered far and wide. However, in antipathy to the enduring sentiments of Afro-American civil-rights activist and a leader of the negritude movement; Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, men are no longer judged by the content of their character but by their cognizance of a career ‘Godfather’ or ‘Godmother!’ The Saturday Nation of the 25th September 2021 had a post by one of the regular columnists, Dr. Njoki Chege who also doubles up as the Director of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications. She recounted tales to bemoan the plight of Ph.D. holders who were still working as run-of-the-mill Primary School teachers. Prima facie, this is actually wonderful as what better role model and paragon of intellectualism exist than a professional at the zenith of academic attainment. Traditionally, teaching was a noble profession so much so that my father in regaling me with stories of his upbringing in the heartlands of rural Western Kenya, retold of the halcyon days when newspaper vendors would only sell the quotidian to teachers. After dispensing with salutary courtesies, you would crane your currency filled fist to the vendor as you expect the daily in reciprocation. But not so fast! He would put you through a rigorous grilling session to ascertain your suitability to read the journal before sale. Then Money wasn’t a thing! If you were proven unworthy, you were shooed away forthwith, your cash in tow. ‘Kwani iko nini?’ Deserving readers dotted the landscape. Even the simple newspaper vendor was trying to pass a message about respect for his profession. He did not want the products of his trade to be accessible to village hillbillies who only a few hours later would make utility of the leaves of the newspaper for ablution purposes after answering to the call of nature or worse still wrap up some cattle tripe to gift to those in the vicinity as a symbol of good neighbourliness. My point from this long-winded anecdote is that teaching was a noble profession. The newspaper vendor was no slouch either. It shows then teachers too had the money to back the credibility of their occupation.

Dr. Njoki ChegeDirector of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications.

Those who have watched the Afro-American Cartoon series, ‘Boondocks’ that is laden with themes on the allegory of the black condition in the United States of America have most certainly encountered a rather flamboyant, obviously misogynistic, eccentric and exuberant character who prefers to go by the self-promoting moniker, “A Pimp Named Slickback.” Any attempts to refer to him by the abridged, ‘Slickback’ more often than not will attract paroxysms of chagrin from the aforementioned, a resting bitch face for good measure. Woe on you, if you are one of the streetwalkers under his charge and in beginners’ exuberance dare call him by the shortened version, then almost immediately the undersigned would break into a mildly-blasphemous supplication for strength unto his pimp hand. The Amen part of that ‘prayer’ is the infamous ‘pimp-slap’ against the ingénue! In the interest of full disclosure, I am not here on any errand as a proponent of the illicit, carnal trade perpetrated by the ‘Grandes horizontales’ and their financiers/slave-drivers, far from it. I only seek to cipher the agenda of respect for professions and the respective professionals who dabble in them.

A Pimp named SlickBack (Courtesy of the TV show ‘Boondocks’ by Aaron McGruder under Adelaide Productions)

A few days before authoring this piece, I chanced upon the remarks of Kenya’s self-proclaimed ‘People’s President’ whose feathered cap also features a posting as the current African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development and indubitably a front-runner in the Kenyan Presidential succession race, the Premier (emeritus) Rt. Hon. ENG. Raila A. Odinga. The ENG title before his name is not in the least an honorary designation as this is a self-made man with actual Academic training followed by a Professional profile as a Practicing Engineer. His name currently features among the distinguished as a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya. During an event dubbed as ‘Hiking Mt. Kenya’ where he met the business dignitaries & opinion leaders from Central Kenya at the Safari Park Hotel, he recounted in poignant detail the story of his return to Kenya from a storied academic sojourn in Germany. While at the Technical School, Magdeburg (today’s Otto-von-Guericke University) & Leipzig University he earned a Diploma in Welding supplementary to Bachelors & Masters of Science Degrees in Mechanical Engineering.

On the Right is Raila A. Odinga as a student at the Technical School, Magdeburg (today’s Otto-von-Guericke University), East Germany.

After a short stint lecturing at the newly-chartered University of Nairobi, he decided to dabble in business and established himself a metalwork fabrication workshop off Kampala Road in the Nairobi Industrial Area. He majored in the manufacture of metal casements, window frames & steel doors. He acquiesced a series of loans from the newly-founded Kenya Industrial Estates (KIE) adjunct to selling his then priced-possession, a left-hand drive, 1970 Opel Kadett which he had returned with from Germany. Moreover, as a friend of Indian extraction was caught in the throes of escaping the barbarically kakistocratic regime of Field Marshal. Idi Amin in Uganda en route to England, he purchased more metalworking equipment inclusive of a Guillotine machine for cutting sheet metal; a Lathe machine; Milling machines; Welding torches, transformers and sheds. Instructive to note, his financiers at the KIE that was created under the auspices of bilateral-technical assistance from Germany were impressed by his nous as an industrialist who was conversant with what he was doing pursuant to his training in Mechanical Engineering in antipathy to many others who were merely laymen trying their hand at manufacturing. He eventually acquired a tender to manufacture gas cylinders from the multinational, AGIP Petroleum Company which he duly executed. That is the origin story of his East Africa Spectre Limited that supplies gas cylinders to the girth of East & Central Africa to this day. In 1974 when Kenya needed an oversight body over matters of quality and maintenance of the highest standards for consumer protection, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KeBS) was founded with Rt. Hon. Odinga as founding Group Standards Manager. He was eventually promoted to the post of Deputy Director, a position he held until his unceremonious axing in the aftermath of the botched, August 1982 putsch.

Founder Director of the EA Standards Processing Equipment Construction and Erection LimitedRt. Hon. ENG. Raila A. Odinga.

At the advent of our independence in 1963, there was already a burgeoning population of erudite African professionals that were prepared to take up the bureaucracy after the departure of our colonial overbearers. This critical mass constituted the bourgeoisie (Middle Class) who worked in the many offices of State agencies and corporations countrywide as Civil Servants. A decade into autonomous rule, deleterious and utterly misguided policies started derailing the dream of full economic empowerment for the denizens of African Republics. Liberalization of the economy was the first that jolted a myriad fledgling local-owned enterprises that were still on the foundational shaky ground. During the Nyayo-era, further policies were wrought to promote foreign trade mostly to the disenfranchisement of autochthonous domestic investment. The result was the creation of the Comprador class of brokers and tenderpreneurs who mostly ran briefcase entities purporting to play the intermediate role to liaise between the indigenous producers of raw materials and either the well-heeled owners of domestic capital or foreign investors. The consequence of this status-quo is that today we have so many people offering all sorts of professional and consultancy services who are charlatans. The tragedy of the situation is that this cadre of non-professionals is so richly rewarded that you will see them whizzing around in their fuel guzzlers talking all sorts of drivel about hard-boiled professionals. The situation is oft exacerbated when this moneyed class are afforded the chance to join politics with the slovenly aim of ring-fencing their ill-acquiesced largesse. A few weeks ago, the nation was treated to the theatre of the absurd when one Hon. Kimani Ichung’wa stood up before a gathering and proceeded to pejoratively chide teachers as “Watu ya ka-Chokaa” (People of blackboard chalk). If you thought his superiors and not less the steward of his political outfit, our often garrulous and pseudo-philanthropic Deputy President would rebuke such utterances, you were in for the shock of a lifetime. The newly-minted Doctorate holder, Dr (con). William Ruto added fuel to this roaring inferno by invoking, “hii watu ya A-E-I-O-U!” The use of the designation Dr (con), in full – Doctor in Conjecture is not meant to impute any improper motives on the character of the Deputy President. It is only meant to convey the implausibility of someone achieving the acclaimed qualification of Doctor while battling an Indictment for Crimes against humanity, starting and fructifying several billion-shilling businesses, executing two consecutive Ministerial portfolios, running a vigorous campaign and subsequent triumph in the 2013 elections, joining the Executive Branch of Government as a Co-Principal, all of these done in the shadows of a ceaseless and vibrant political campaign for his own personal Presidential ambitions. Ipso-facto, the Conferee ought to have undertaken 6 years of arduous academic research and publication, taking into cognizance that we have only slightly over 10,000 Doctorate holders for a population of 53 million highly-skilled individuals. Come On! The demerit of rewarding full-blown mediocrity is that many a time, virtue will get derided, logic trampled underfoot, and truth controverted as the unenlightened majority become an unwitting audience to the shenanigans that is the worship of wealth. With such contempt, it is no wonder that Governors with merely a Bachelor’s Degree feel the predilection to look down upon more literate Medical Doctors within their jurisdictions, going as far as threatening to fire & replace them in case of industrial action (strike). What reason does one have to revile the same Teachers, Tutors and Lecturers through whose labour of love, he went through to attain his academic and professional qualifications? That is conduct perverse, ad-nauseam.

(Courtesy of DAILY NATION)

But where did the rains start to beat us? The real cause of this as for all problems of this world is leadership. Who did we choose as our revered, elected public officials? Today, the Executive of the Kenyan state is run by a duopoly with no discernible professional profile outside Politics. That to me is a glaring mishap! Why should two men with no record working as interns to rise to the entry-level positions then subsequent rises to mid-level then expert-level be allowed to join the managerial and executive cadre of an entire state? Such a quantum leap as we see with these evenly-yoked oxen tilling the Kenyan state today has denied them the chance to grow and get paid in the currency of experience which is unlikely to be obtained in any other way but by work. Today our economy is flagging. But who will reinvigorate it if we lack people with the economic tactical-nous, conceptual thinking and even leadership acumen to do so? Today Kenya has become an open shop where the state apparatchiks that are supposed to provide policy direction and actual expertise have been converted to opportunistic fraudsters with no one to hold them in check. No one detects the boat sinking with those in authority often reverting to fire-fighting and knee-jerk reactions after the horse inevitably bolts out of the stable!

The culture of patronage and favouritism is to blame for the dearth in professionalism in our nation. Apparently, in contemporary times, it matters not what you know but who you know. That is tragic as it flies in the face of well-worn counsel by dearly-departed American social-entrepreneur & Harvard scholar; Laila Janah, “Talent is evenly distributed but the opportunity for its expression, only sparsely.” Such bilge has actually begotten more claptrap as presently for some agencies, ‘Sex-For-Jobs’ is already de rigueur. It has become the cost of getting a job. Elsewhere, you need to know some clerk who works for another boss somewhere else to even have a minuscule fighting chance of accessing opportunities as foundational to a career as internships. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the fact that if you apply for a Public Service Job today, you will be forced to disclose to which ethnic affiliation you subscribe. The suits at Human Resources will give you all sorts of gibberish about diversity in the workplace and whatnot. The important factor here is that behind all that smokescreen and Public Relations hullabaloo, you will be denied a job for merely being ethnically discordant. We are also devolving that absurdity to our counties. I will not name and shame today but will point out accusatorily that in some County Job Application Portals, indeed kaleidoscopically-colourful and with well-populated user interfaces, you are unlikely to make any headway if you are a non-resident of that particular county. The first tier of the application will give you the entire list of 47 counties, good enough. The second tier will ask for sub-counties. Here is where rubber meets the road. No sub-county outside that County will find a right of place in that list. It gets more muddled moving to the Ward level. This flies in the face of National Integration and the Constitutional entitlement to Live, work, conduct business and even present candidature for election anywhere in this heritage of splendour but who am I to correct experienced aficionados who have even wined & dined, then collected briefcases of cash from H.E. Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi in days bygone!

In the present day, more than any other time in our nation’s existence, we have too many Charlatans in public office. The synonym for these is ‘political appointees.’ These are men and women who may not be able to differentiate between the cleavages of their derrière and a crack on terra firma subsequent to rill erosion! They have no documented experience in the position that by good fortune falls upon their lap. However, you will find them occupying high-level postings in Public Service as Cabinet Secretaries, the mongrel position of Cabinet Administrative Secretary (CAS), State Department Chairmen and Public Service Board directorships. These positions have merely been dished out in repayment of political fealty by the ruling political outfits for these individuals’ efforts in marketing a political outfit to ultimate victory. The most high-profile beneficiary of such malfeasance was Hon. Rashid Echessa who rode his luck and Standard 7 education into Cabinet. However, in no dissimilitude to truculent NBA big man, DaMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, he got himself ejected soon enough. Dignifying the function of the unconstitutional position of CAS is akin to mentioning the ‘g’ in Lasagna. Purely as perfunctory as the human caecum and appendix. The unfortunate drawback from this quid-pro-quo culture of repaying political favours is that accountability becomes the casualty. State resources will be diverted and shared with the political godfathers who gave the jobs. We will have the horrendous feature of political life termed, ‘Mr. 10%’ who will engage in all sorts of uncontrolled tendering impropriety but nobody will hold them to account. Only after they have taken what Chinua Achebe characterized in his political treatise, ‘A Man of the People’ as “Enough for the owner to notice” will they be reshuffled, assigned lighter duties or gently prodded to step aside from the posting.

Tied closely to the paragraph above is the conundrum of skills mismatch that is a logical consequence of political appointees. Many years ago, in an effort to get a firm foothold in his then-tumultuous political boat, the Late President, H.E. Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi plucked Prof. George Kinuthia Musengi Saitoti out of the lecture room and bloodied him into the murky world of elective politics. To understand the reason for this masterstroke chess move, you need to comprehend the Kenyan political terrain. Kenya consists of 43 – 45 disparate nation-states that were cobbled into a colonial state for economic reasons by our former colonial masters. From the beginning, it was clear for the perceptive mind to surmise that the Kikuyu was and still is the biggest tribe pertinent to the demographic statistics. President Moi, the eponymously-declared ‘Professor of Politics’ originated from the minute Tugen subtribe that was a subset of the mighty Kalenjin-speaking nation. His was the underdog story of that man nobody gave a chance, a passing cloud and even derisively given the position of Vice President, merely to keep warm while the substantive titan was being prepared to take over. As occurs more often than not, life intervened and the sitting President, H.E. Jomo Kenyatta died in cathedra with Moi as his principal assistant. This was a vicissitude of fortunes. Constitutional stipulates allowing, he took over provisionally as a Presidential election was being organized which he contested and unsurprisingly won. All the same, as a semi-literate bloke from a numerically minuscule sub-tribe, his grip on power was always going to be tenuous at best. He was justified to live in insecurity, even amending the Constitution to now convert the troubling status of the Country as a ‘de-facto’ mono-party state to ‘de-jure’ (legally) one-party state. Imperative to note is that he preferred a coterie of the ‘not so learned’ in his inner sanctums of authority. His apprehension was validated on the 1st of August 1982 when a few platoons of the Kenyan Airforce attempted a coup-d’état. The ill-fated endeavor was crushed soon enough with President Moi now taking a vice-like grip on affairs of state. He purged his government of all non-loyalists and of course hanged those found culpable in the botched putsch. Similar to an inebriated & fidgety mafia don, he figuratively cocked his Beretta M9 and took out so many of his own ‘Capos’ that the landscape was left bare for new ‘made-men’ to sprout. Such actions alienated him further and reduced his sphere of influence so much that going into the 1988 Mlolongo Poll, he was running on fumes and was in need of allies. With a keen eye to the inevitable day whence he would have been forced to restore multiparty democracy and taking cognizance of tribal arithmetic, he got himself a new VP. It was the aforementioned, Prof. Saitoti. Another portfolio that fell into Saitoti’s grasp was the Ministry of Finance. This was as a result of the former appointee to the position growing a tough exoskeleton of assertiveness so much so, he could not countenance pinning the famed KANU brooch of allegiance with another man’s face on his coat lapel. Like Michael Jordan of the famed Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, President Moi ‘took it personally’ and demoted the headstrong Hon. Mwai Kibaki to the less-glitzy Ministry of Health. The entire tale above is a build-up to this point. The man who would become the future President, Mwai Kibaki in no uncertain terms distinguished both academically and professionally as an Economics virtuoso. It was thus an egregious miscalculation to axe him in favour of a Mathematics professor because the appointing authority misconstrued the mandate of the Finance Minister as merely “Kuhesabu pesa” (counting revenue) courtesy of sublime mathematical computation dexterity. The consequence was the floundering of the previously semi-vibrant economy for the rest of President Moi’s regime that terminated in 2002. Let’s not even discuss H.E. Kibaki’s role at the Ministry of Health that mostly involved biding his time while waiting for Christmas day, 1991 to bolt out after the repeal of Section 2A that made Kenya a plural democracy again. Today that script is being replayed to mishigas as Prof. Magoha, an acclaimed medical professional of long-standing runs amok as a bull in a china shop executing his mandate as Cabinet Secretary for Education.

Prof. George Kinuthia Musengi Saitoti in rosier times before being bitten by the political bug.

In recent days, I have been moved to the conviction that concerted efforts are being made to ruin the standing of the Engineering profession in Kenya. The fraternity at the Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK), of which I take the right of place as a member is currently caught in the throes of a life and death battle for the soul of our profession at the National Assembly. We are to file a Petition with the Clerk of the National Assembly pursuant to The Kenya Roads (Amendment) Bill No. 13 of 2021. Shadowy characters who for the want of better vocabulary, I shall refer to as quacks and hyenas, promoted a Bill through the Transport Committee of the National Assembly that opened up the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) & Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KERRA) to be managed by non-Engineers in antipathy to the well-worn formula that has worked well for an eon. This is anathema to the core mandate of the authorities as it will water down the gains that have been made in the Kenyan Road Sector over the course of the previous decade. I may not exactly know the reason why a non-Engineer who in good continence chose to study another course would want to now delve into the perilous and soul-sapping vexation that is the design, construction and maintenance of thoroughfares in Kenya but I will hazard a guess, The Gravy Train that is the Road Construction Enterprise in Kenya. Our umbrage is especially stocked by the fact that the progressive Constitution we bequeathed ourselves in 2010 adjunct to its subsidiary legislations envisaged a competency-based governance structure as erring on the side of best practice for the sake of quality improvement of every nook and cranny of the highway construction landscape. This, pursuant to the Kenya Roads Act of 2007 entailed the creation of a board that drew delegates from Industry, Highway Engineering, Transport Economists, Surveyors, Accountancy and Law. As per the stipulates of the Engineer’s Act 2011, any professional responsible for Engineering designs should be a man/woman who is either in the process of being or is already a Licenced Professional Engineer. International best practice has embraced skill-specific job prerequisites for the Chief Executives/ Managing Directors and Director Generals for respective institutions on substantive core business. This mantra is shared by our neighbours Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria.

ENG. Nathaniel Omwolo MatalangaPresident of IEK (Courtesy of KBC)

The sages put it best when they posited, “Where there is smoke there is fire.” The portents were clear to see when news reports filtered through that an actual ‘mama mboga’ (vegetable vendor) whose mates have found plenty of prominence in current political discourse actually won a Lot of a Road Construction project somewhere in Kenya! Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) notwithstanding, this to me is in the realm of the surreal. Who is to be held accountable in case of low-quality standards? Engineers may be blamed when a building collapses ignoring the roles of the client & contractors in acquiescing retrograde or poor mixture of constituent materials.

The Leaning Tower of Kinoo built on marshy ground (Courtesy of swalanyeti.co.ke)

Elsewhere, a coiffeuse carted a 60 Kg sack of money to an unspecified quarry in Ongata Rongai in what has now been unearthed to be the NYS Scandal I. Retired Military Officials and disgraced Police Commissioners have in the recent past found themselves the spanking new appointees to State Corporation boards. I am on record in a previous post bemoaning the rationale of having most of the Electrical Engineering related firms in Kenya overseen by non-electrical Engineers. I do not need to reiterate the situation at KETRACO which is run by an Accountant, KENGEN which has a Lawyer as Managing Director, Kenya Power was until a few weeks ago shepherded by a Procurement aficionado who quit in a huff to be replaced by an experienced Electrical Engineer. Universal karma is now slightly restored.

How are our power-related agencies to be run efficiently and with professionalism albeit accountability if the substantive officials for whom the buck stops are not sufficiently tooled for the task?

Certainly, arguments will be adduced to the effect that the Jobs of the CEOs and Chairmen are simply about managing Policy and Human Resources but I feel this is too simplistic and invariably where the plot is actually lost. Hot on the heels of this debacle is the fiasco at the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) that has seen a new Director General (DG) and his Chairman appointed despite both being not only non-Engineers but men who left their previous postings of similar magnitude under a pungent miasma of impropriety. I feel little predilection to mention names here for those can be found in the Authority’s website and the dailies, nonetheless we all bore witness to the scandal at KEMSA last year that yielded a new class of ‘fat cats’ in town who were christened the ‘COVID-Millionaires!’ For the new DG, we all remember him for previously being the photogenic heartthrob ‘Chilo-bae’ but subsequently forced to issue half-hearted & quite ludicrous rationalizations over the failures that resulted in the botching of electoral returns’ transmission from the Polling stations to the national tallying centre which unsurprisingly led to the Supreme Court annulling of the results for the 2017 Elections. The content of the Electoral Servers is still the stuff of conjecture to date! We can now visualize the trend that is some sort of musical chairs meant to protect a few sacred cows that were clearly political appointees.

In my musings, I usually find my mind wandering as to question why we have to cast our eyes so far & wide it hurts, merely to get Electricians and Plumbers in spite of all these new, imposing structural edifices coming up at a premium certainly requiring the services of both? Isn’t this the same country that laments high levels of youth unemployment? Methinks, it has something to do with remuneration accorded to the operatives of both careers. The gospel truth and in pandering to the laws of natural justice, professionals will always go to where the cash beckons them.

Today more than any other time in our nation’s history, jobs are awarded to any Tom, Dick & Harry on the basis of bribery albeit corruption to the exclusion of any tactical nous. As a result, we find a few skilled employees who are fragrantly overworked as their colleagues ‘diversity employees’ (pejorative for the ones who could afford the bribe) fritter their time away on Facebook, Pokemon go and Spider Solitaire! The sale of Charcoal and Sugar in Somalia by errant servicemen of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) pays little homage to their entrepreneurial acumen & ingenuity but only highlights the rot that currently afflicts the various institutions of State. Today, I will give a pass to the Policemen who take bribes on our roads in the guise of enforcing not just the Covid-19 mask mandate but road safety. For the business class to access government tenders, then some sort of fee has to be paid to some highly-placed officials which is the culture of facilitation fees. Out here some hare-brained political sloganeering will have you believe that “Kazi Ni Kazi” (Every Job has dignity).

If this is the case, why is there no equality of pay?

Why are some taxpayers forced to exist as the working poor who have to cross county lines for decent accommodation at their rent scale if every job has dignity?

Why do we have slums with sheet-iron hovels devoid of ablution blocks housing well-trained professionals who are unable to afford anything more concomitant with their professions? 

Unless your thought process is in little dissonance to the famous childhood-cartoon show penguin named Pingu while high on cocaine, then you are unlikely to fall prey to the wiles of the duplicitous and aptly-named ‘Man-Willy’!

Beware of anyone who attempts to hoodwink you with the infamous “Kazi Ni Kazi” slogan especially when they haven’t been executing their mandate for the last decade!

We need a jolt of realism from our national leaders to snap us all out of this collective state of stupor. It will take resolute and indeed revolutionary action that will involve a reduction in the politician’s pay while raising that of actually-working and taxpaying professionals. I am calling for a benevolent dictatorship. We need to put a kibosh on the culture of politics for money’s sake in difference to raising the standing of professions to be lucrative. Pay scales need to not only be adjusted upwards but also harmonized so that no professional will be adjudged less valuable compared to another. Hopefully, we will get some respect back to the name of the professional from the incoming regime in Kenya.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

Seeking Nomination For The BAKE Awards 2021

Few adages are as enduring as the one that featured in acclaimed Nigerian author – Chinua Achebe’s literary treatise, ‘THINGS FALL APART’ (1958) whence he posited, “Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something after its life!”

That time of year to honour excellence in the blogosphere is nigh! 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗡𝗼𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗣𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗹𝗼𝗴𝗴𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗔𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗞𝗲𝗻𝘆𝗮 (BAKE) 𝗔𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟭 is open at https://submit.bakeawards.co.ke/.

Y’all my people know I run a Blog, the eponymously named 𝐃𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐬 𝐌𝐮𝐤𝐨𝐲𝐚 ‘𝐍𝐨 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐬’ 𝐁𝐥𝐨𝐠 at URL: https://dennismukoya.co.ke/wp which calls for your nomination in 𝗖𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗴𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝟮𝟮 – 𝗦𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝗜𝘀𝘀𝘂𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗔𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗖𝗶𝘁𝗶𝘇𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽 𝗕𝗹𝗼𝗴. In your own way, you know what feeling you get when reading our blog. Maybe entertainment, indignation, indifference, mirth, sadness, apprehension, enlightenment, blessedness, sleep and/or confusion! Through it all, your best interest is at the heart of our craft. As a brother, friend, soldier in the same struggle & compatriot, I would request your nomination as it would be pivotal in ensuring meritocracy pervades as linguistic flair, social awareness, altruism, human-centrism, conscientious living & true patriotism are celebrated.

To Nominate us head over to https://submit.bakeawards.co.ke/. It is a simple, half a minute process whence the 𝗦𝘂𝗯𝗺𝗶𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗽𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗿𝘂𝗻𝘀 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝟭𝟰𝘁𝗵 𝗦𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 – 𝟮𝟬𝘁𝗵 𝗢𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟭, hence I would appreciate your timely consideration.

𝒀𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒏𝒐𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒊𝒔 𝑽𝒂𝒍𝒖𝒂𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒖𝒔 & 𝑻𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒗𝒂𝒍𝒖𝒂𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒆𝒓 𝒊𝒏 𝒂𝒅𝒗𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒆.