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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- d) The Commission shall keenly monitor and investigate all information relating to party nomination and election campaign expenses of candidates and political parties.
- 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.
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!
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 3 – A 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.