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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 not a 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 & unreliable 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 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 merely 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 is 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 erratum 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 KEMRI 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 addiction, 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.

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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.

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Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

INHUMANE TO SET-UP WHITE ELEPHANT UNIVERSITY DEGREE COURSES

(Courtesy of Citizen TV)

As per the canon espoused by 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study with diligence and do your utmost to present yourself approved unto the Lord as a distinguished workman that needn’t be ashamed as you have been tested by adversity and proven worthy to accurately and skillfully teach the word of truth to the multitudes.” From the scripture above, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord, though keen to imbue his children with wisdom, is also passionate about learning with the endgame of skills acquisition for the full task of bringing the world under their dominion and improve it for all that live therein. Instructive to note is that the Almighty seldom calls only the qualified but takes heed to qualify those he calls. 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 the engraving of precious metals and stones. This multi-gifted artist was also a wood sculptor, so trusted 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 a 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 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 ably assisted by Oholiab son of Ahisamakh from the tribe of Dan. This is anthemic of the word of scripture that the diligent and skilled shall ultimately stand up and perform before Kings, hence shall never be slaves.

The Lord could as well have willed the Sanctuary of the Covenant into being. However, he elected to manifest through the handiwork of Bezalel & Oholiab

Fast forward to the current epoch of existence, in the locale that is the Kenyan Public University. In halcyon times, these were ostensibly the heart and soul of not just enlightenment but the acme of learning. These institutions of higher intellectual acquiescence were so revered that they were christened, the ‘Ivory Towers of Intellect.’ Then comprehension was sharpened and consciences honed yielding forth well-balanced men and women. Education being the most important investment that a progenitor can make for their child was greatly revered. Impecunious parents many a time are forced to make sacrifices like selling assets and even long-held family souvenirs in the hope that the beneficiaries would ultimately get good jobs to shore them up in days yonder with a glimmer of hope that surplus cash would be used to recoup the lost assets. Adjunct punts are made with regards to prayers and goodwill. I pen this piece not as a love letter to the ‘Mecca of tutelage’ but as a plaintive mourn over the desecration of its sacrosanct tabernacles! What is my grouse? The libidinous love for money by University apparatchiks with actual edification lying disemboweled at the altar of mediocrity & avarice. Universities in Kenya are slowly turning into an anorexic Bastille where meaningful skill acquisition comes to die while ‘Paper Degrees’ flood our job markets with little acumen to be manifested by the owners of erstwhile stated qualifications. Indeed, if the Lord of the days of Bezalel was to visit terra firma today, he would come as a ball of fire and in his ethereal wrath uproot the sepulchres where most of these establishments were forged. Poignant as a casus belli for the aforementioned ire is the existence of so many ‘White Elephant’ college degree courses ill-tailored to the requirements of the Kenyan job market, only existing as a fundraising venture for many institutions. Research & Innovation could as well have fallen into a cesspit with little chance of recovery.

On Wednesday, July 28th 2021, the Kenyan High Court awarded Ksh. 15 million worth of reparations to some 75 graduates who instituted a civil suit against their own very alma mater, Technical University of Kenya (TUK) over the efficacy of their Degree Certificates as a tool for job acquisition. The plaintiffs lamented in little want of melancholy that their Engineering Degrees were not recognized by the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) rendering them unemployable in the public sector. The theme of this litigation is becoming embarrassingly recurrent with every passing day among the Kenyan Public Universities with even the author of this piece, not too long ago being caught up in a no-holds-barred civil litigation of this nature. It is appalling that after navigating impossible to manoeuvre course units, sleepless nights and all the vagaries that come with the territory that is the study of Engineering, a graduate still has to jump over hurdles just to attain validation to get into practice. In similar token, members of my fraternity and sorority too were triumphant in our case against the selfsame EBK with a compensation package to be paid out in due course.

However, poignant questions need to be asked in such an ignominious conundrum:

Who is going to compensate the lost time that is expended substantiating the obvious through judicial edicts all the while missing out on career-boosting albeit life-altering opportunities?

As life is a journey bound by finite ambits, how long are these young men and women going to wait to make their transitions from Graduate Engineer status to the Professional and ultimately Consultant Status? Important to remember is that the IEK transitions also await further afield pecuniary ramifications, notwithstanding!

The Principal one I should have started with is which Government Authority gave accreditation for the existence of these courses that the Professional Licensing Bodies; indubitably also State Agencies like EBK, turn around to refuse to recognize?            

Context on the matters at play here was provided by one doubtlessly in the loop, Professor. Alfred Omenya. In a blast of meaningful tweets, he shed some light on the intrigues of how tertiary training institutions invent controversial degrees that in the long run are not market-driven and do not guarantee the graduand a job after the convocations. Prof. Omenya, an architect of no mean repute is not a spring chicken on these issues as a former lecturer at both the University of Nairobi (UON) & the beleaguered TUK in addition to being the CEO of ECO-BUILD, an architectural firm. Unbeknownst to many, he rose through the ranks to become the founding Dean, School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the esteemed UON and later TUK when it was founded as a constituent college of UON. The distinguished scholar delved deeply into how the relative pristinely-minted Universities pulled strange Degree Course names out of a hat, exotic to the cognizance of employers. He cited that he was once at dissonance with management at TUK over this. He stuck to his guns which bore similar hallmarks to the globally-recognized norms. Quintessentially, in Architecture there are 3 degrees as a global norm i.e: BSc Architecture – a 6-year course; Bachelor of Architectural Studies – a 4-year course with two more years which furnishes the student with the “M. Arch” – a professional degree and a third permutation that gets you a universally acknowledged degree. He divulged how he vetoed plans to institute the Architectural Programmes in: Bachelor of Infrastructural Planning and also Bachelor of Tropical Architecture and Environmental Design.

Prof. Alfred Omenya, former lecturer at both the University of Nairobi (UON) & the Technical University of Kenya (TUK) in addition to being the CEO of ECO-BUILD, an architectural firm.

He bemoaned an appalling proliferation of Engineering Degree names in Kenya like Bachelor of Technology in Engineering, Bachelor of Engineering Science (Engineering Art?!), Bachelor of Philosophy in Engineering, Bachelor of Engineering in Structure and Construction. These are unheard of in the market! “Hiving off constitutive courses to have them as Degree Programs in their own right is akin to one becoming a Paediatric Cardiologist without getting a substantive Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery Degree, taking the Hippocratic Oath and becoming a General Practitioner first,” pontificated the visibly disgusted don during a meeting with the University Council. Moreover, he fired off that Courses in Environmental, Infrastructural, Regional, Rural & Urban Planning are specializations which one can ideally get into in the Post-graduate years but not in the formative phase. “While innovation is of the essence, new universities should logically build from the known to the unknown. Everting this process may result in the subsequent shunning of your products by employers, putting graduands at a severe disadvantage,” cautioned Prof. Omenya pensively. In valedictory remarks, he reminded all in attendance that this is just how the world operated. He is not alone in this regard as he received backing from his professional peer, our bull-in-the-china-shop, uncompromising Cabinet Secretary for Education, Prof. George Magoha. As one with power over educational policy currently, the no-nonsense Magoha urged students to exercise an abundance of caution against enrolling for nearly a hundred courses at risk of being shelved. Later, in June 2020, the CS ordered for an audit into 10 degree courses he wanted to fold up tangent to attracting a grand total of an ostrich’s egg with regard to placement numbers (0)! Among them is BSc in Entrepreneurship, Theology, BSc in Energy Technology, BSc in Automotive Technology, B. Tech in Building Construction Engineering, B. Tech in Renewable Energy Engineering and B. Tech in Mechanical (Production) Engineering.

All this speaks to a quagmire that could have been avoidable yet the Management cadre of these aforementioned institutions saw fit to walk into the eye of the storm while using Kenyan students as a human shield nay cash cow. A salient inquiry to be made is why a pedagogue who appreciates the essence of a university degree as a bridge to employment would willfully take advantage of the naïve and powerless to curtail their job prospects after him/herself teaching them. Is it not already bad enough that contemporaneously, the job market is caught in a titanic battle that is the Employable skills vs. Academic papers debate? The heft of this quagmire is exacerbated by the fact that Kenya’s glut in Degree holders is not concomitant with market demands as certain rapid growth segments of the economy suffer from a dearth of skilled manpower. The Daily Nation Newspaper of 3rd July 2020 outlined the jarring situation where many Kenyan employers were opting for lower qualifications than the University Degree. The article began with having a Ms. Sarah Otieno, the impresario of a medium-sized IT services outsourcing firm targeting equally small businesses (that can ill-afford to pay IBM or Oracle to manage their Data Centres) for a tête-à-tête. She was withering in her sentiments about how she goes about recruitment for her firm. After excusing herself for a minute, pulling out an iPad and going through emails of at least 10 hopefuls with formidable technology degrees from some of Kenya’s titans of University Education applying for a posting at her modest firm, she discarded all of them with a sleigh of the hand. She was stark in her aversion of “entitled degree-holders” working for her company as she would eternally have to look over their shoulder while trying to stop them from eying greener pastures elsewhere. She was more at home with hiring diploma-holders or even high-school drop-outs as long as they could demonstrate skill and passion. This is not merely a flash in the pan as even blue-chip, fortune-500 companies listed in the bourse are erring towards similar hiring tendencies. Safaricom, the wooly mammoth of them all has been hell-bent on a deliberate policy to expand the recruitment net for entrants into its customer care department that constitutes 40 – 50% of the telecom behemoth’s workforce. This fact was stated in no uncertain terms by the now dearly-deceased former CEO, Bob Collymore. “I don’t have a degree myself yet I’m running a pretty sizable company ably which makes it contradictory to tell diploma-holders that they can’t work in my Call Centre,” uttered Mr. Collymore in a phone interview. Pay packages were being harmonized to bridge the gap between diploma-holders and their ‘ivory-tower’ counterparts at the time of the interview. He nevertheless observed that for technical and engineering positions, the bar was unlikely to be lowered with the highest demonstrable academic qualification always the default setting. If you thought CEOs were brutally frank, with a hint of diabolical causticness, then you have not encountered Human Resource practitioners yet. Their retort was as unabashed and exasperating as a head butt from a Tyrannosaurus rex! “Degree holders in Kenya are expensive, restless, not always qualified to perform the job they seek, rely too heavily on the curricular qualifications with no soft skills to show, have an all-round poor attitude towards work and life.” This is despite the fact that the same HR professional is a Degree Holder, but here is where we digress!

Before the cataclysmic capitulation covered in one of my posts, East Africa’s retail conglomerate, Nakumatt Supermarket had the post-secondary school certificate as the minimum requirement. The firm invested heavily (in excess of 100 million) for an in-house managerial training complex in appreciation of the fact that educational institutions may not always cater to specific needs as stated by Managing Director, Atul Shah. The gist on lower qualification levels for companies is indeed corroborated by Deloitte, a global giant in Professional Service provision by Market Capitalization. “This is a trend even in the developed economies. In South Africa today, large retail chains and cellphone companies are lowering academic requirements. The name of the game in the private sector is profits which entails curtailing costs & keeping wage bills low, nothing personal,” confided Deloitte’s Consulting Director, Robbie Quercia. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), university enrolment grew from 118,239 in 2007 to 198, 260 in 2019. Accordingly, Universities and Degree-offering institutions ballooned from 41 in 2007 to nearly triple the number in 2011. Today there are certainly many more. However, the Economic Survey of 2012 showed that 70% of Kenyans between 15 to 64 years old were unemployed. How is it so with all the graduates churned out annually?

The tragedy of the Kenyan institutions of higher learning is that the bulk of the newly-churned out graduates lack the problem-solving knack, creativity and independence to thrive in today’s era of the post-industrial age, the 4th Industrial revolution (Information era). They are not to blame. These qualities have been progressively conditioned out of ICT-driven economies through curricula. Students are conditioned to study hard in school so that afterwards they would score good grades thereby increasing their bargaining power for a lucrative job. The discipline inculcated in school turns them into conformist robots unable to muster the voice to critically digress from a tried and tested thoroughfare. ‘Kulinda Unga’ (jealously safeguarding your job) becomes de rigueur. After all, mavericks throng the ‘jobless corner’ bemoaning their slim pickings in life. Few today would summon the gumption to pitch for a promotion even if they felt sufficiently proficient for a more senior role. According to Prof. Omenya, the Kenyan education curriculum was historically designed and geared at birthing forth bureaucrats. They would earn a particular University Degree then after going through the paces, acquire posting at the respective public enterprise where actual hands-on skills would be imparted. Today these public sector jobs are the preserve of the well-heeled, ‘connected’ and those whose parents bequeath the position downstream as family heritage on retirement. A burgeoning private sector has to take on the bulk of the many that fall through the cracks, mismatched educational system to job-placement requirements notwithstanding. With a re-tooling required, you can bet your haunches that no self-respecting private enterprise would want to expend exorbitantly infusing competencies that ought to have been whetted when one was going through the school system. With this, the die is already cast against many Kenyan graduates. Such is what keeps the interminable loop of poverty revolving on for many lineages out here.

The phenomenon that is the ‘hustler economy’ is occasioned by a formal sector that does not grow fast enough to absorb the nearly a million youth joining the labour force annually. Consequently, the youth are forced to take on jobs woefully beneath the ambit of their qualifications. I see a smattering of our graduates feigning beaming smiles while being interviewed on TV as those that prevailed against the tide of fate, selling second-hand apparel, shoes and whatnot. The incontrovertible truth is that deep within they are disappointed that after going through the system all they have to show for their scholarly pursuits is this mundane drudgery they would have surmounted anyways even without the newfound academic certificate. However, reminiscent of the short story by illustrious South African wordsmith; Ezekiel Mphahlehle, ‘Man Must Live!’

On the matter of the ‘White Elephant’ degrees, the finger of criminal culpability has to be pointed at the Commission for University Education (CUE) in conjunction with the Kenya University & Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS). Any opprobrium against these institutions or a combination of both would be merited because I would assume that intellectually-sound men and women are hired into these state agencies and corporations. So it boggles the mind, how these learned professionals who are expected to be the soberest albeit diligent people in Kenya would in good continence contrive to allow programs that fall far below the threshold of logicality to accept students into our National Universities and Colleges. I would suppose these are the same fellows who give the green light to not just the teaching curricula used in public universities but also after assiduous in-situ inspection recommend those ready for the award of Charters to function as Universities, Colleges, TVET institutions and Youth Polytechnics. Here is where Leadership failure from the National Executive is poignant whence positions on these Boards and Commissions are dished out not meritoriously but on the fickle basis of favouritism, tribalism, nepotism and mere reciprocation of fealty.

At the time of authoring this piece, the ignominious stench of scandal hung ever so heavy, roiling academia if recent reports on print & electronic media are to be believed. A bloke at the zenith of management of a Public University in Kenya has been arraigned before a court of law on the dreary charges of executing his mandate with sham certification. It must be beyond the domain of conjecture that the aforementioned steward has been going about the crucial executive role over not just the human resource but also the degree programs offered by that institution. Such men give academia a repugnant and utterly reprehensible taint as in due course, aspersions will be cast on the quality of graduates and degrees from the said institutions.

Fake degrees are an utter disgrace!

Further afield, there are those that most certainly recall the awkward episode of Mr. Francis Kumba Ndulane, an erstwhile Master’s Degree holder who was at pains to deftly swear-in as an Assistant Minister in Tanzanian President H.E. John Pombe Magufuli’s cabinet. It must have been entirely mortifying knowing what a cynically derisive attitude the Late President reserved for quacks and charlatans. All that were in position bore witness to the kind of inimical dress-down the poor fellow received from his Commander-In-Chief. Unrecognizable degree courses expose the holder to similar derision in the job market.

President H.E. John Pombe Magufuli who styled himself as no tabula rasa was unlikely to continence inability to take the oath of allegiance & service by his cabinet.

In paying homage to the sentiments attributable to lionized former war-time British Premier; Sir. Winston Churchill, “To every man, there will come a day when you will be figuratively tapped upon the shoulder and offered the chance to do the thing unique to you. What a tragedy if that moment finds you unprepared or unqualified for what would have been your finest hour!”

All is not lost. An injustice may have been committed but we needn’t wallow in such despondency as to consider figuratively discarding the baby with the bathwater! The truth of the matter is that life as a continuum is a special thing of idiosyncrasy replete with surreal dips and precipitous bluffs. Any presumed fait accompli could be mitigated if we opt to tread the path of optimism.

  • Even with a Degree Certificate labeled as a sham, you could realistically land a well-remunerating posting after graduation. There is not a substitute for the inexplicable happenstance that is kismet. So in sentiments quintessential of the rich Igbo culture transmitted to the world by the vivid pen of acclaimed Nigerian littérateur Chinua Achebe, “Let the kite perch and the eagle too. Whoever tries to shoo-off his counterpart, may his wing break!” Attend interviews with confidence and proactive positivity as this may rope in the interview panel even more than the contents of your titular credentials.
  • Some of the courses that are ideally mismatched to our climes could be highly-marketable in the developed world. As the world has become a global village, none is stopped from daring abroad to do all that pertains to their University Degree as exhorted by the bona fide University Chancellor on the graduation day.
  • For those that read this post while in preparation for the new sojourn that is University Education, exercise due diligence on the type of Degree course you aspire to pursue. Also as a sage and one who has been once bitten and twice shy, join a reputable university that has an unsullied track record as pertains to litigation over the viability of their programs. I feel a visit to the requisite Professional Licensing board for a list of accredited courses would be prudent.
  • Short courses would be pivotal in bridging the gaps in one’s qualifications. Even the tailored degree programs will still have lacunae that are eventually papered over by professionally-tailored short courses, symposiums and even conferences. You may pursue a Business or even Engineering Degree, but it doesn’t hurt to add to your qualifications that CPA or CCNA certification to boost your marketability.
  • Internships are earnest endeavour pursuant to the acquisition of relevant hands-on and soft skills. Pursue them with verve and in as many organizations as humanly possible if the employer does not confirm you in the next one you attend. As the proof of the pudding is in the eating so is the proof in skill in its utilization and not idle possession.
  • Remember, young men and women that your network is your net worth. Keep a congenial network of friends who will be your safety net and support system in the travail that is the job search. Many are the times that you will prosper together as brothers, failure to which you will be picked apart by the perils of life as ignoramuses.
  • Imperative to note is that success is neither a destination nor are a few bumps on the road fatal. It is the courage to soldier on that counts. Concomitantly, if the first degree went awry, pursue a postgraduate program elsewhere that may realistically fuse up all the unsightly gaps in one’s credentials.
  • The most difficult thing that one can ever aspire to with regards to picking yourself when you fall down is to punish your adversaries with success. Employing yourself as an entrepreneur at inception may be the most arduous venture you will ever undertake. However in due course, if you grab hold of your niche and cater to the needs of your market segment, fewer things are more rewarding in life. When life deals you lemons, it wouldn’t in the slightest hurt to make lemonade.
Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

LET’S BE OUR BROTHERS’ KEEPERS PERTAINING TO MENTAL HEALTH

None put it better than the sagacious King Solomon when in the book of Proverbs 4:23, he made the enduring pronouncements, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it’s the wellspring of life.” Further downstream in the locus classicus of the Christian faith, among the gospels is recounted the tale of Jesus’ rendezvous with the madmen of Gerasa. It was certainly not a fate of their own authoring as they were inadvertently possessed by a full score of demons and evil spirits. So Jesus lands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee antipodal to his quotidian abode and instead of a distinguished welcoming party, he is greeted by these ‘untouchables.’ I label them with this moniker as they had rendered a previously popular thoroughfare impassable with everyone not part of their group bearing the status of ‘persona non grata’! Blokes were so fierce that you could decidedly use that path only at your own risk & peril. Those in the know are certainly conversant with the puissance of the deranged. The son of man took a gander on this lot and they immediately made a beeline for him. The startled disciples played it safe and stayed by their boat, weapons on the ready if push were to come to shove. The ferocious musclemen with the build of pugilists threw up all sorts of gesticulation while grunting menacingly at the Lord, “What do you want with us, Son of the Almighty? Have you come to put us out of our misery before due time?” To the untrained eye, this was a perplexing inquiry but Jesus was certainly street-smart on these matters. At least, game recognized better game! The ghouls knew they had met their match and settled for appeasement to continue their sojourn in the land of the living. A stone’s throw away there was a large herd of pigs browsing on whatever victuals would indulge their omnivorous fancy. This bevy of Lucifer’s groupies had the nous to take cognizance that their eviction notice was being served and agreed albeit with grumbling hearts to take new residence inside the swine. Indeed, Jesus had little time for these fiends and with the sleigh of the hand uttered, “Off you go.” In the blink of an eye, the previously tranquil swill-feeders were transformed into fire-brand speedsters. Cold shivers were sent down the shepherds’ spines as they were alive to the proximity of the cliff overlooking the seafront. Their efforts to stop their investment from racing off the precipice to their doom were futile. That entire panoply to the last pig, performed the terminal dive into the ocean to the disconsolate mortification of the shepherds. Conversely, wheels were turning positively on the other side as the previously violent men now were more sedate and welcomed Jesus warmly and with unshrouded gratitude to their idyllic coastal town. Those tending to their porcine beasts on the other hand were less than thrilled at the unsolicited synchronized diving horror show they had just witnessed from the objects of their occupation. They hurried off in a huff to the town’s authorities to report the occurrence. Bad news spreads fast and soon the mobs of the town were mobilized in an uproar swearing never to allow any upstart wizards and enchanters into their town. Their head of delegation went ahead of them and without any pleasantries asked the Son of Man to leave the locale unconditionally. Oh, poor Jesus! Never caught any breaks with humanity despite even bequeathing upon them avant-garde grape wine to imbibe at Cana, but I digress.

The collective Kenyan psyche is at the time of authoring this piece doubtlessly frayed at the edges. What with perpetual political noise by ill-at-ease politicos & their acolytes, The Covid-19 global pandemic & attendant job cuts, daily news reports of rape & murder, pyramid schemes fleecing intellectually-quiescent Kenyans, flooding Rift Valley lakes, locusts that have dug in their heels, predictable corruption, money laundering, pilferage of national revenue by state apparatchiks, arbitrary hiking of fees by cash-strapped University Senates, land grabbing, aflatoxin-laden maize, mounting taxation, impropriety by errant men of the cloth and many other afflictions that assail Kenyans from every conceivable direction? The Kenyan people have no doubt been brutalized out of shape. Everywhere you look there is no solace and the only shoulder that remains to cry on is your own. Nearly two decades ago, at the onset of the NARC regime spearheaded by President Mwai Kibaki, Kenyans were the most optimistic people in Africa. And yes, they had justified cause because here was a leader that knew how to stimulate the spurs of the economy to enable rapid growth using the Pareto (80:20) principle. We had dispensed with a personality-cultist that literally gave people briefcases of money fetched from the Central bank for merely lambasting him with platitudes. As a fiscal noob, he was not above printing new currency because the implication of such actions on national inflation were alien to him. During the Kibaki era, Kenya became the technological, research & innovation capital of East and Central Africa. In his time, intellectualism was revered as fruits of our national universities invented products like M-PESA, our autochthonous mobile-money transfer service that has gained global prominence as a pioneer. Many other products came to the fore like the myriad attendant services that branched off M-PESA, M-TIBA, Kytabu Inc, Zeraki, agricultural & Veterinary data delivered by USSD codes, android-powered systems, hackathons, drone-executed pesticide spraying, automated irrigation and a host of other technological advances that saw the light of day under our economics-virtuoso of a President.

President Mwai Kibaki reserved little leeway for personality cults preferring to judge fellows on the strength of the ‘substance between their ears.’

The truth of the matter is that today things have gone awry with destitution, despondency and desperation as the default state for many Kenyans. You find men trudging along, their eyes staring into oblivion at an uncertain future. At the time of independence, our leaders waxed lyrical, vowing to have an invincible onslaught against Poverty, Illiteracy & Disease. That was before they discovered the sweetness of the trappings of power and assassinations became a byword! Today, such is the dearth of leadership in Kenya that selfsame ills might as well be the national philosophy albeit ethos. Needless to say, this societal construct has spilled unto the greater populace leading to the egregious headlines that our media outlets have regaled us with for weeks. The tragic tale of Constable Caroline Kangogo leads the way. This is a Police Officer who seemed dutiful like many others until the pressures that come with the territory got the better of her & she went berserk. This is not purely the run-of-the-mill, going A.W.O.L tale but entailed a homicidal spree that left blood, iron, gun powder and tears strewn all over our landscape. Elsewhere, people got quite apprehensive with one taking advantage of the quandary to shoot a crush that rebuffed his advances claiming he thought the lady in question was the aforementioned berserker! The unfortunate episode terminated with the female law-enforcer ostensibly taking her life, as even this version of events is still under review. Concurrently, another chilling act of gross criminal malfeasance hit our screens. Lauded by his parents & neighbours as a once-upon-a-time precocious soccer talent with an audacious future, one Mr. Masten Milimu Wanjala was arraigned before the criminal justice system on the heinous accusation of abduction, molestation and murder of 13 children. Even before the blood of these unwitting juvenile victims had leached to the beds of their shallow graves, information hit the airwaves again that sensational, self-confessed serial killer, Mr. Phillip Onyancha had been acquitted of one of his 18 murders by a Justice of the High Court citing shoddy investigations. It must be committed to memory that Onyancha was thrust into the limelight in 2009 when he admitted to having joined some sardonic cult, whose spiritual presence had extolled him to murder 100 women. The long arm of the law caught up with him at victim #18! This is a man who was thought of as so far gone at the time of his apprehension that he was actually caught gormandizing the remains of one of his victims, even adjudged not fit to stand trial before a mental evaluation. Today, apparently he has turned over a new leaf & is a ‘Pastor’ but in the sentiments of West Pokot Governor; Prof. Lonyangapuo, “Hiyo yote ni Kiingereza Tupu!” (All semantics & jibber-jabber). Lest we forget; 22-year old, Mt. Kenya University Student, Mr. Simon Warunge who last year confessed to stabbing to death 4 of his family members & a farmhand. Bone-chilling stuff my people!

(Courtesy of NTV)

A picture-perfect fresco of the mental health travails that torment my compatriots is painted by the sharp rise in the number of suicides. Depression is greatly misunderstood by many, so much so that countless are the times when it is glossed over as merely having a rough day with an exhortation that tomorrow, all will be hunky-dory. After all, at least you have a job which countless members of the demographic with better qualifications than you do not, you have a roof over your head, enjoy 3 meals a day! We often forget that psychological well-being is just as indispensable as those taut pectoral muscles and firm glutes. According to the Economic Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Kenya had a reported suicide rate of 196 people in 2020. Shock on you if you thought that this figure would be decreasing this year. In just the quarter preceding the authoring of this piece, already 483 more bodies have joined that statistic which to me is blood-curdling! None typifies this scenario clearer than the brilliant and vivacious, budding Paediatrician, Dr. Lydia Wahura who 2 months ago was a post-graduate student pursuing her Master of Medicine Degree at University of Nairobi, School of Health Sciences. Today she’s dearly departed, by her own hand, with two vials of intravenous anaesthesic drugs, a syringe and a printed suicide note chronicling the reasons for taking such drastic measures found on the scene of her last breath. It is jarring when the physicians who should be nursing the rest of us back to salubrious verve, especially those at the peak of their productive powers are so pushed to the wall as to end up “Scared of dying but terrified of living!” Heart-rending.

The Late Dr. Lydia Wahura

Today I ask in no want of plaintiveness, how did we normalize the inordinate shedding of human blood in such an abhorrent manner? Such incidents have brought to the fore Kenyans’ mental health struggles. This is a misunderstood conundrum that comes shrouded in such variants, it could as well be the multi-serpentine head of mythological Medusa! Mental health problems are not merely those that manifest clinically as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis or walking in the street slovenly of dress with a gargantuan bundle. You are dead wrong! For most of these problems, one’s psyche could be chipped at consistently without any phenotypical symptoms, with victims often buckling devoid of a strong support system. Many men grow up being told that man-like conduct is non-concomitant with the overt display of emotions. This is a perception that sees people either douse their feelings in the tipple or merely goes about in autopilot mode while affirming how much they have got everything under control. However, a day usually comes when one slight trigger will result in a total breakdown, with the fallout more ominous than the pyroclastic flow from the eruption of a super-volcano. We gloss over small stressful episodes until they fester into the behemoth called depression. For the layman, who more often than not may find it difficult to differentiate between the crack of their derrière and a hole in the ground, diagnosing a problem as indistinct as depression may prove a bridge too far. Invariably, that is what is killing our people. Girl child empowerment in Kenya, though noble is gradually but assuredly turning into a cassus belli for doom in many modern-day families nay societies. We have empowered the womenfolk of our society so much that they are tidally-locked into the miasma of toxic feminism. For a small anecdote, girl meets boy. They fall in love, court, eventually marry. In due course, they have two children before all hell breaks loose. The girl-child who lives her life admiring the disingenuously greener grass on Instagram is coaxed by her ‘chama’ girlfriends to start gushing over Kiki whose man showered her with a Range Rover Vogue to commemorate her 28th Birthday. They fill their chum to the brim, drinking from the poisoned chalice of intrigue & clap-trap with the baby girl now prompted to start looking for an exit strategy from her doting husband. Before long, she’s convinced that she would rather shed tears while jet-set as opposed to laughter as a co-driver in her husband’s modest Honda Civic! Like a lightning bolt out of the blues, the damsel becomes the talk of town after hoodwinking her husband that she’s going to Dubai on a business trip but is photographed in a compromising position at some glamping escapade in an expensive beach resort alongside some Kenyan magnate! Such dishonour will most certainly not be welcomed with a mere storm in a teacup on return but a full-scale homicidal paroxysm. When the hurricane finally tapers to a lull, a melancholic & repentant husband will be in the dock after rendering his children motherless! Regrets galore is the name of the game but the deed will have been done.

It is currently a running gag trumpeted ad nauseum in the public spheres that in politics there are no permanent allies and foes, only interests. Pursuant to the adage above, I would like to submit here that bigotry (cognitive dissonance), political or otherwise is a form of mental illness. Indubitably, political formations here in Kenya are transient with standard-bearers swapped at a greater frequency than the motor running the village jaggery. Never has greater bigotry & closed-mindedness played in the court of public opinion than after the handshake between arch-nemeses, H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta & Former Premier, Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga. I feel little predilection to mention names here but hitherto this détente, the Kenyatta camp was keen to gloat, insult, denigrate and manifest ethnic contempt against the Odinga camp in antipathy to any considerations of national cohesion. Hence, today those whose political clout rested firmly on the roiling of hate against good, old ‘Baba’ have been ruthlessly exposed as their cheap source of political mileage is curtailed. Many have been shown up as nothing more than ignominious propagandists, populist and ideologically-bereft fascists. Today, a formerly united voting bloc that took President Kenyatta to Statehouse twice has been fractured. The region that for the sake of this discourse will be referred to as ‘Mt. Kenya West’ is doubtlessly restless! This translates to a restive country. In astronomical imagery, due to their sizable population, the Central Kenya region has a similar impact to the moon’s gravity on our terrestrial orb pertaining to tidal waves. So critical is the numerical significance of ‘Mt. Kenya West’ that when they sneeze, the rest of Kenya catches the sniffles, their kinsmen in Nakuru & Laikipia are in the throes of a cold while the rest of GEMA almost dies from influenza! If you live in Kenya, then you know what I mean. A fortnight ago, a by-election was held in Kiambaa Constituency to fill the seat vacated by the untimely demise of Hon. Paul Koinange. Though a rural outpost in the backwaters of Kiambu County, the battle for the heart and soul of this jurisdiction was as titanic as to have ramifications on the real-politick of the rest of the nation. After all the huffing and puffing by a faction that fallaciously lays claim to the interest of the hoi-polloi, the margins of victory were ultimately razor-thin! By the time the dust had settled, that clique had won but by only 510 votes, with the dichotomous split running straight down the middle. Any analysis executed by pragmatic pundits will unfurl that this is a pyrrhic victory by forces today in antipodes to the Jubilee Party Government in spite of being elected under the banner of the same outfit. That brings me to my point that a ramshackle political cabal cobbled together on shared hatred, crippling fear of repercussions, ignorance, hullabaloo, appeasement of warmongers, impunity and ethnic antagonism devoid of any transformative agenda, ideological standpoint or even a modicum of temperance a mere decade & a half after our post-election flare-up in 2008 is only a manifestation of a mental block – indeed a mental health issue. This is a ship headed for an iceberg unbeknownst to its captain and crew! It is all reminiscent of a bully bullying others to avoid getting bullied himself.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is certainly a provocative man. This is a deduction I have surmised from deliberations I had with some level-headed pals of mine. The current Head of Government can be a pig-headed & infuriating fellow when he wills. Be it his way of testing people’s psychology or training in political science, I know not. He’s unrelenting as a gift that keeps on giving when you are in his negative graces. A handful of erstwhile bosom buddies have been treated to the torture chamber of his feigned ignorance, dopey glances, wry smiles, child-like rambunctiousness, butter-knife juggling, ignored calls, threats of draining the swamp, spontaneous nocturnal visits to their hide-outs leaving them at their wit’s ends.

H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta at his provocative best.

All censorship and pretentious social graces now lie dead in a canal somewhere. They are in the grips of insanity with their true character on public display! When you blow up in ostensibly righteous rage, then your double standards are advertised. Those that the gods have slated for destruction, first they make mad! But let us take a step back for some introspection:

  • Weren’t you together with him when he instituted the pernicious laws to muzzle free speech?
  • Weren’t you firmly in his corner when he used the monopoly to state violence to break up opposition rallies?
  • Didn’t you nod in approval when he disregarded court orders?
  • Didn’t you dance raucously over the graves of dead opposition supporters when he mowed them down as mere troglodytes who were injurious to the status quo?
  • Didn’t you applaud ‘Muthamaki’ as a progressive steward when broadcast signals were switched off during the mock swearing-in of the ‘People’s President’?
  • Weren’t you in reverie when the thorn-in-your-side, Dr. Miguna Miguna was spirited out in crocks and a tattered coat unto the frigid climes of Canada despite holding dual citizenship & having little zeal to board the plane?
Such sentiments today lie in a gutter abandoned with the authors preferring the cloak of victimhood, populism & selective amnesia. As the Swahili sages put it best, “Mkuki kwa nguruwe kwa binadamu mchungu!” (The harpoon that smites the hog is equally painful to the hunter).

However, today the shoe is the other foot as the ‘People’s President’ has not only made peace but struck rapport with the Constitutionally-mandated one. Paying homage to the folk wisdom of the Swahili people, “Mkuki kwa nguruwe, kwa binadamu mchungu!” (The harpoon that smites the hog is equally painful to the hunter). I will not bastardize this post by reiterating the obnoxious, duplicitous, newly-minted anti-dynasty balderdash idly vociferated by miscreant sociopaths of the ilk of Rigathi, N. Nyoro, Moses Kuria, bushman Ichungwa, geriatric virago – A. Wahome et.al that virtually pinned the rest of Kenya to the ground during Pres. Uhuru Kenyatta’s rapine phase of impunity. Most insidious is the flip-out by our Deputy President who was discombobulated when he found out the days of bashing ‘Jamaa wa Vitendawili’ together with his ostensible ‘brother from another mother’ were firmly in the rearview mirror. Today, despite President Kenyatta’s admission of the judgement errors in his Jubilee administration, his Deputy is still adamant on being the best thing since sliced bread while pandering to its buttered side, blameless of any iniquities committed under Jubilee. He asseverates his innocence as a mere ‘trailer’ that was hauled by the truck called the Jubilee regime. He is in the throes of a messianic complex avowing wheelbarrows, bottom-up economics and power to the masses as a panacea to economic failure that he co-presided in Kenya. One-upmanship is now the guy’s life mantra. Needless to say, obstinacy to self-awareness is the worst form of mental illness in my book. Medically, the professionals refer to it as delusions of grandeur, megalomania and narcissistic personality disorder.

Come On! I seek not to go ad-hominem here. However, we should learn to call a spade a spade & not a big spoon. When a distinguished medical doctor abandons the decorum expected of his stature to become a hoodlum for cheap political expedience, then that must be viewed as nothing else but a psychosis requiring a remedy.

It is an indictment on Kenya’s mental faculties that a kleptocrat par excellence, megalomaniac, purveyor of idle chatter and International Criminal Court (ICC) indictee, incidentally let off the hook from serious legal proceedings by the collapse of his crimes against humanity case occasioned by sudden & unexplained deaths of witnesses against him adjunct to state reluctance on investigation into his case is now the frontrunner in the Presidential succession race. This is a clear affront on our collective national sensibility. What the hell is wrong with us? A power-hungry crook who would gladly sell off his children to the shadowy creatures of the hades if it would assure of the ascendancy to ultimate political power is here wooing us with sweet nothings. Meanwhile, we are busy drawing schematics in the sand with our big toe at such vacuous advances. Disgraceful! As per Chinua Achebe in his politically–savvy treatise; ‘A Man Of The People (1966)’, castigating the actions of the abominable market trader; Josiah, who tried to steal blind Azoge’s cane to make customer-attracting ‘Juju’ for his shop, a villager opined, “what money will do in this land, wears a hat & trousers!” Clowning around by the public for short-term pecuniary gain when sound decisions are required is emblematic of a mental disorder that should be expeditiously remedied in my considered opinion.

My friends, let’s have a tête-à-tête on hero-cult worship popularly known as the Big Man Syndrome. I have certainly touched on this topic in a previous post but will nonetheless reiterate my sentiments but with greater brevity. In my research, I have found out with little in the form of discernible mirth that there is a condition known as Dependent Personality Disorder. Primarily, persons ensconced in this predicament exhibit and maintain an infantile perspective with limited insight into themselves and the world around them. Invariably, this will entrench dependency leaving the subject vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Can I let you in on a secret of who has a fetish for such people? The populist politician with an outsize ego. Such a condition will leave one so gullible that anybody with the gift of the gab, compelling stories, charisma, poise, self-esteem and indeed linguistic flair will virtually be a demigod in their eyes. I am at pains trying to explain to myself how a fellow in the personification of Migori Governor, Zachary Okoth Obado would still possess the effrontery to traverse far and wide touting himself as the alternative voice of his tribesmen against a mono-familial hegemony yet he stands accused of the callous execution of his mistress and their unborn son! I don’t wish to divulge any more, as the matter is still sub judice. Hopefully, Sharon Otieno gets justice for her ghastly murder. This fierce character has such sway that any attempt to impeach him will result in decidedly dire consequences. It’s in the public purview that the latest attempt to impeach him on verifiable allegations of corruption and abuse of office over well-documented graft under his tenure as the County Chief Executive was scuttled when lily-livered Members of the County Assembly scurried across the Isebania border post into Tanzania, defeating the motion due to a quorum hitch. Assuredly, the men and women who prop up this man in office must be the problem. Of course, the go-to excuse by his handlers would be that his tribulations are politically motivated. However, in good continence, I feel the need to echo the memorable observations of Football Manager José Mourinho – in his obiter dictum against threats by Ole Gunnar Solskjær (his successor at Manchester United) to deny his children food to punish vermicular stability on the turf, “a man steals in his responsibility to cater to his family bedeviled by real-life hunger.” If apprehended, the heist will nonetheless be needlessly labeled as the consequence of sloth and avarice, the perpetrator beaten to a pulp as he’s frog-marched to a police precinct. Meanwhile, when a scoundrel politician is caught with his hand in the public cookie jar, we dismissively christen his tribulations as ‘politically motivated.’ Where is the Justice in that? Are all thieves not breaking the same commandment under God?

A few weeks ago, information filtered through that Dik-Dik Road in Kileleshwa had been renamed to Francis Atwoli Road. No sooner had this been effected by the County of Nairobi than some hoodlums decided they were not willing to accept the new appellative. Egged on by some riffraff canvassing as activists that currently suffer a lull in business pertinent to the prevailing ‘era of good feelings’ between President Uhuru & long-time opposition supremo Rt. Hon. Odinga, they have now decided to dabble in inerudite mischief. The night after the erection of the road signage they decided to deface it. It was restituted but later in the day, the same scalawags were at it again, this time around setting the edifice ablaze while clad in balaclava masks. Excuses were given for the action, mostly along the lines of, “If the people don’t want a renaming, you can’t ram it down their throats” which when put in context is arrant nonsense. First and foremost, the characters engaged in such skullduggery are either jobless louts being engaged for malevolence or low-level employees who in the near future will invariably seek the services of the aforementioned Mr. Atwoli to improve their lot. Unbeknownst to dingbats, Mr. Francis Atwoli is a trade unionist of world renown who has not only been reelected countless times as the Secretary-General of the Central Organization Of Trade Unionists (COTU) since 2001 but also serves in the governing body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Another feather in his hat is that recently he has been elevated from an ordinary member to the Vice President of the august body. This is in addition to serving in distinction in other regional trade union bodies all across Africa and worldwide. Hate him or love him, his service as a trade unionist is not only indispensable but has put Kenya on the map and as such, it is only natural when we grant the small favour of naming a minor road after the guy. This is in the backdrop of the dearth in naming conventions in Nairobi that has seen us having roads like Muratina Road (after traditional brew) and Githeri lane (edible mixture of maize & beans) in South B, Nairobi. This begs the question:

  • Is Francis Atwoli less valuable than some bog-standard, traditional alcoholic concoction or common succotash?
  • Is there any dik-dik still left in the locale to justify somebody getting their panties in a twist over their disenfranchisement by way of a name change?
  • Are the allegedly aggrieved even residents of Kileleshwa estate?

But the answer here is simple. There is a condition referred to as Borderline Personality Disorder which boils down basically to a combination of herd mentality and congenital asininity. It takes root among people who lack a sense of self, consequently experiencing feelings of emptiness & fear of abandonment that can only be remedied in part by having the sufferer anonymous in some psychotic mob, crowd or gang. This is exacerbated by minuscule enlightenment, a whiff of jealousy, a dash of constrained achievement, a hint of frustration, a jot of ignorance, an iota of malice, a scintilla of entitlement, a smidgen of low self-esteem, a little bit of blood to the head, some victimhood stirred in and you get a dastardly mélange. Totally manufactured umbrage that is anthemic of repressed personal demons. Yes, we understand that there is a heavy helping of single mothers in Nairobi, whose grown children hide behind aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior which is merely repressed ‘Daddy-issues!’ So my take home from all this is to enthuse young men and women to be patient & endeavor to excel in their various fields of expertise so that one day some alleyway or other will be named in your honour. Envy is an ugly emotion, indeed one of the seven deadliest sins according to the Catholic catalogue. Moreover, it is understandable that Kenya is still working on the quest to shared prosperity. Additionally, as in myriad other developing countries, we still grapple with urbanization ills pertaining to the working poor, whose disappointment with life is a veritable trigger-point to mental health problems. Nevertheless, that is no reason for animus towards an innocent person. Finally, try to get some help.

So after my discussions that have turned acerbic in parts and a downright reprimand in others, how do we help our brethren afflicted by variegated challenges with their mental health?

  • The most important step is to lend a listening ear. It is surprising how therapeutic it is to have someone show genuine, even feigned empathy with your problems. Let’s be each other’s support system to combat any possible lurch into depression and other monsters that chip at our respective psyches. Men should learn to be vulnerable with their confidants and not just to let emotions continue being pent-up. We should offer each other a shoulder to cry on.
  • This one falls firmly within the purview of government. Declare our mental health crisis a national disaster of endemic proportion with affirmative action that will ensure a speedy resolution. External to Covid-19, to preside over the loss of nearly 500 taxpayers in 3 months is simply unacceptable. We are not in any battle here, so it is unconscionable to allow such human casualties anymore. Decriminalize suicide by repealing Section 226 of our outmoded, colonial Penal Code (Chapter 63, Laws of Kenya) which currently renders suicide as a misdemeanor that attracts a jail term. Prison will never deter suicides any more than police bullets deterred bank robberies in the days of Wanugu, Wacucu & Rasta in the ’90s. No need to victimize nay kick a man when he is down.
  • Get help for those in psychological distress. Our community help assistants should be schooled on giving psychological first aid to the distressed. Psychiatric treatment and even medicine to ameliorate the problem would be critically crucial.

In closing remarks, the community of empathetic humans is the most important resource in ensuring that we have a healthy nation physically, emotionally, morally, culturally and most importantly psychologically. For how can we claim to be human if we lack affection for our fellow men?

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

MOVE TO HAVE ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS AS UNIVERSITY DEGREE HOLDERS MUCH WELCOME

Kenya’s National Assembly

Venerable African statesman and revered world leader, South African President (emeritus) Nelson Mandela once postured, “Education is the greatest equalizer, the legitimate bridge between penury and privilege.” He was most certainly accurate in this assessment. He may be long deceased but his sentiments ring ever so true & are more piquant today than at any other time. Over the course of history, these feelings have been corroborated by many more sapient commentators not less Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia who once posited in a 1956 speech, “The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth.”

Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia

At the time of authoring this piece; Chairman of the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Mr. Wafula Chebukati had quite promptly pulled out a slightly-aged skeleton from the closet that is currently the subject of great consternation & brouhaha! To paraphrase, he may have pulled the rug from under a few feet. Reminiscent of the contents of phantom pirate Davy Jones’ treasure trove in the movie: Pirates of the Caribbean & the Dead Man’s Chest, Mr. Chebukati had unfurled a forgotten scroll of legislation that had been kept in an oven hidden from sight and was baking prime just for this exact epoch in our nation’s history. The timer has slowly been tapering to nought! It may not be entirely the fault of the current crop of legislators, because we lose nearly 70% of our political leaders every polling cycle but contemporarily, strictures of Section 22 (1) (b) of the 2011 Election Act are ripe for implementation. Reading that Article Verbatim, “A person may be nominated as a candidate for an election under this act only if that person is qualified for election to that office under the constitution and this act and holds, in the case of a Member of the National Assembly & Senate – A Degree from a University recognized in Kenya or incase of a Member of the County Assembly – also A Degree from a University recognized in Kenya.” The law was to be applied post-factum (after the foregoing) to the Elections of 2017, giving ample time for compliance. The impact of this law is that once enacted, any current and future aspirants to elective office in Kenya are duty-bound to be the holders of veritable Degrees from recognized universities pursuant to clearance to contest an election. Along the way, everybody got rather busy and we were caught up in the razzle-dazzle of life that we forgot all about it. The dredging of this gem of history has been the cause of untold misery to those unconversant with its existence. If ill-at-ease could exist as a setting on the Richter scale, then that would be the reading of the political landscape (ground) in vogue. Sections of the afflicted are most assuredly out of the blocks swinging, putting on philosophical hats and inundating our print and visual media with voluble remonstrations to this law aimed at saving their derrières! On the floor of the august house, all of a sudden legislators who are renowned to nocturnally patronize brothels, shebeens and all sorts of dastardly establishments are today accurately quoting the Biblical Books of 1st and 2nd Samuel whence King David was the most effective and lionized of Israelite Kings yet he never set foot inside any university!

Forget about the aforementioned statistic on Parliamentary decimation. This provision as currently worded has the ramification of instantly wiping off nearly 50% of Kenya’s Members of both the National and County assemblies in the impending elections. In the ‘Avenger’ franchise box-office imagery, Thanos will soon snap his fingers! Though previously, only the Head of State – President and his Deputy, additional to the County Chief Executive – the Governor and their Deputies who were the first victims of this Law, today its impact is all-encompassing as per the Elections Act No.24 of 2011. Talk about a casus belli with some hell-bent on rolling back this law.

IEBC Chair, Wafula Chebukati pursuant to Election act no.24 of 2011 pronouncing himself on the matter of Academic Qualifications for Contest Elective Office (Courtesy of NTV)

The proponents of the stricture including nominated MP on an ANC ticket, Hon. Godfrey Osotsi were effusive in support for the piece of legislation. He vociferated to The Standard newspaper, “This time around the law should be implemented without any more impediments as the aspirants were accorded sufficient time to comply with the law and acquire degrees. Additionally, it is unsustainable to have inerudite legislators if we need to improve the quality of debates and legislation.” Fairly reasonable arguments in my book. On the leeward side of the divide is where we segue with the malarkey. Some argue that we need ‘integrity’ more than inane academic papers in Kenya. Whilst the rest idly yammer ad nauseam about ‘experience’, loyalty, faithfulness and probably every virtue under the sun. Coincidental is that many either intentionally leave out or completely forget about wisdom. For them, cunning and conniving is ultimately a more valuable currency for their trade than any nous to get tangible work done for the polity but that is the politician for you. Always thinking about the next election and personal gain, with the best interest of the hoi-polloi only an afterthought. Of course, the usual pretentiously ultra-pious but realistically hypocritical and charlatan-infused brigade is never far from sight.

Contrary to what peddlers of empty rhetoric will have you believe, according to figures within my purview from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics which are bolstered by UNESCO, Kenya had a literacy rate of slightly over 81.5% in 2018. The figure is most certainly projected to rise exponentially especially with our bullish Cabinet Secretary for Education, Prof. George Magoha bulldozing policy for almost perfect transition rates among the various tiers of education. Moreover, our Universities churn out approximately 50,000 Graduates annually with some institutions today having biannual convocations. This begs the question, how can we in good continence justify having the future prospects of these many graduates tidally-locked to policy generated by men and women who have significantly lower levels of education than they? Why should we continue having partially-competent geriatrics undertaking the crucial task of leadership while one of the most highly-skilled labour force is left underemployed or worse still unemployed, regaled with ceaseless fables about being ‘the leaders of tomorrow’ while selling roasted maize and drumhead cabbage on our thoroughfares? If I am to be queried on the subject matter, I would unequivocally declare this as the lifetime opportunity for the much-touted inter-generational succession and injection of new vibrant blood into the leadership elite. It is about time for the nimble and lettered to imbue our political spaces with the audacity of hope while making a break with the sordid past of half-baked legislation that is conservative and reeks from the quiescence of overindulgence with fellows who should by now be relics from a time bygone! Lest anyone get their knickers in a twist, I value the invaluable input of experience from our seniors but if that should be misconstrued to become experience in pilfering public coffers then it is about time to put the kibosh on the practice.

The loudest chorus against the products of the ‘ivory tower’ of scholastic pursuit is by those that invoke ‘integrity’ and righteousness as more poignant qualifications for public office in antipathy to the vacuous degree certificate. Indeed, volumes have been reserved in our national dailies to purveyors of what I can only revile as brown-envelope journalism canvassing as members of the 4th Estate who try to hammer this point home. The rest cite Article 38(3) of the Constitution that furnishes without unreasonable restrictions, every adult, duly-registered citizen with the right to be registered as a voter, to vote by secret ballot in any election/plebiscite and unabashedly be a candidate for public office. Today, I seek to nullify that benighted and intellectually bereft narrative. How do you ascribe integrity most likely encapsulated in a national mantra adjunct to many other such lofty ideals to characters whose lack of enlightenment denies them the insight to even appreciate what that is? Reminiscent of the Lord Jesus Christ’s parable of the sower, can you reasonably sow seeds onto parched land, rocky outcrops or a field of tares and thorns while expecting a bumper harvest? Enlightenment in this anecdote is equated to fertile, well-tilled, cultivated and watered ground. Those waxing lyrical about virtues they can never muster should be prevailed upon to substantiate if any lawmaker can possibly legislate integrity any more than the strength of character & dutifulness resplendent in onerous men like the violently-slain, former IEBC ICT Manager Mr. Christopher Msando in 2017. I certainly do not expect this from men who in times of crisis have the effrontery to go gallivanting in the Maldives on ostensible agricultural benchmarking workshops. Heeding to the lifelong philosophy of esteemed plutocrat, Warren Buffet that has certainly held him in good stead in the pecuniary sense, “Honesty is too expensive a gift to expect from cheap people!” Where Chris Msando treaded with bare feet, many of the lily-livered poltroons we have as political apparatchiks would never dare set foot even in safety boots and hazmat suits! The great medieval, Italian commentator on governance, Niccolò Machiavelli in his treatise, ‘The Prince’ lampooned men who pronounced their valour from the rooftops in peacetime whose knees would invariably quiver like jelly in the trenches of battle! That is a sound assessment of the chatterboxes that try to roll back the educational requirements for the crucial responsibility of legislation and oversight.

Lest we forget the Martyr of Kenya’s Fight For Electoral Justice: Christopher Msando. “Honesty is too expensive a gift to expect from cheap people!”

To continue whipping this donkey deceased or not, the argument about leaders of integrity being sacrosanct to literate ones falls flat on its face. This is because for an eon we have tried all sorts of machinations to enforce integrity including paying our legislators exorbitantly so that they do not sleepwalk into the temptation to raid the public cookie jar purporting to eschew the surly bonds of poverty. We have tried electing moneyed individuals into positions of authority but it has all come a cropper, where the rich will always try to feather their nests further. Moreover, the current conundrum reminds me of the deductions of a particular African sage. In his observation of all phenomena in toto, he had surmised a few things regarding academic qualifications pertinent to Africa.

Ultimately A students will end up working for C students.

B students will find themselves working for Government.

Suffice to say that the C students are deemed unemployable and will try all sorts of endeavours pertaining to business where they will eventually succeed.

D students will work in the Police and the Armed forces.

E students who are considered the backwater of society will become Magicians, Diviners, Clairvoyants, Sorcerers, Preachers & most poignantly Politicians.

The fallout from this hierarchy is that though the A, B and C students eventually create the policies to govern a nation, ultimately if push comes to shove and some megalomaniac becomes power-hungry, it invariably falls to the armed forces to either prop up that character or dispatch of them. At the end of the day, each of the above people will come for either prayers or charms/amulets to protect themselves from the evil eye of the other man, coincidentally from the E students and at a premium. The seekers of protection include our politicos, their acolytes & surrogates albeit layabouts. Ultimately, the fate of the entire society is controlled by the D and E students, which never ends in any discernible mirth for the undersigned.

Getting people with the highest academic and professional qualifications is not merely a matter of prestige but one of imperative. If for many other professions, a relevant University Degree is a prerequisite for the job, why would we leave legislation, oversight and stewardship of the entire nation and its future prospects to men & women devoid of the same? Education more so at the tertiary level is not primarily domiciled in hammering home basic skills but is more about soft skills and honing philosophical reasoning. That is where the formative courses like Development Concepts and Application 101 with regards to development of the State and Society find utility. This is one facet that will certainly be missing in one with only basic numeracy, literacy & debating skills external to ever setting foot in the hallowed halls of a University Lecture hall imbibing from the omniscient Professor. The political class is often a mirror of society. Here, the citizenry becomes the weak link as we idolize and indulge the so-called ‘hustlers’ that came from the gutter, riding on money and populist rhetoric to public office.

Pandering to self-preservation, claims will always be made that the entitled leaders feel qualified! However, does their development record echo similar sentiments?

A startling inquiry: How are we ever going to convince future generations that education is valuable enough to be deemed ‘the key to success’ when we are led on autopilot by the unscholarly that frown upon the acquiescence of know-how? This caliber of mediocrity is certainly costly. It becomes an exercise in futility trying to inculcate meritocracy when men and women feel whim, genius, bravery and charisma as political operators is more important than actual skill, competence and qualifications. In times gone by, thoughtful philosophers like Plato & Socrates found a few ignominious loopholes with democracy. Not that they opposed wholesale the system instead only that they both preferred a version of it christened ‘epistocracy.’ Epistocracy is described as a form of democracy that is of, for and by the enlightened. This is the belief that only the rational belong anywhere near a ballot box! In his musings, Plato remonstrated against a system that allowed anarchy to be shrouded as freedom. Socrates was deeper in his opprobrium equating democracy to a ship. He gave the anecdote of a merchant who had acquired a ship at exorbitant cost. He questioned, rather figuratively that if this ship was to be safely involved in a voyage to any particular destination, who was the right man to captain it? Would it be judicious to select any Tom, Dick & Harry on the seafront who claims to possess folklore of the ocean hitherto recounted by his grandfather or wouldn’t it be preferable to hire a person with verifiable experience in maritime and nautical rigmarole with a few voyages under his belt? Socrates ultimately got into hot water over his conscience. Eventually sentenced to death by imbibing hemlock by a small jury of only 500 people, today the rationale in his exemplar tales are clear for the conscientious to see. Chinua Achebe in his book, ‘A Man of The People’ cast an indictment on society evidenced in how his protagonist politician and Minister for Culture, Chief The Honourable Micah A. Nanga pulled the strings to attempt securing a scholarship abroad for his would-be challenger, Odili Samalu. Prima facie, his intentions appeared noble but the truth burst forth that he did all this as he preferred Mr. Samalu engrossing himself in “chewing books like yam” all the while leaving the murky arena of realpolitik to seasoned spinners of yarn like himself!

Socrates analogy on unenlightened Democracy as a ‘Ship of Clowns’

Today, the entire global community is in the throes of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Information Age. In building upon the foundations of the generations that came before us, knowledge and data are key drivers of our jalopy into the future. Globalization means that Kenya is part of a newly-founded global village. Can Kenya that has in the past primed herself as a pioneer in technology and innovation in not just Sub-Saharan Africa but the continent at large afford to today be relegated to the trailing edge of the same due to retrogressive leadership? How do we tool our communities to effectively confront the pristinely-minted global challenges whereas we haven’t the stewards possessing the nous on these new frontiers? It is no longer feasible to avow that we can aptly solve today’s challenges with the tools pried from yesteryears. Indeed, a growth mindset cannot be indoctrinated into the unenlightened any more than you can coach a diminutive kinsman to be 7-foot for a successful basketball career!

Our nation intently needs to revert back to the factory default-setting of ideological politics. Long lost are the halcyon days when political debate in Kenya was conducted on the basis of ideals, principles and dogma! We read and watch documentaries on the likes of Arwings Kodhek, Charles Njonjo, Tom Mboya, Mbiyu Koinange, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Ronald Ngala among a plethora of post-independence political luminaries differing on matters of principle and nothing personal. Indeed in 1966 when some MPs closed ranks with Vice President, Hon. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in ditching KANU for the opposition outfit KPU and doubtlessly falling afoul of the Kenyatta government, among their ranks included heavy political hitters from Luo-Nyanza joined in solidarity by former Kapenguria 6 member Hon. Bildad Kaggia of Kandara Constituency, Hon. George Fredrick Oduya (Mt. Elgon West), Hon. Joseph Nthula (Iveti South) and a full panoply from the rank and file of Kenya much to the chagrin of Kenyatta. Today that would be as unprecedented as dodo eggs when looked at in the prism of Kenyan politics degenerating to primarily be organized not on political party ideology but on the fickle chalk circles of ethnic balkanization. But how did we get here? It was all the product of a catabasis from having the well-educated and intellectually sound getting elected to having other irreverent considerations like fealty, tribe, monetary inducements and violence. Conscientious leaders got ganged up against and even assassinated in cold blood. The ramification of all these is in the degradation of the quality of debate, the type of legislation in the house and interests of the members. Important functions of the legislature like deliberations on important bills, parliamentary oversight and critique of legislation is sabotaged when we lack well-trained men and women to crunch the numbers and connect rhyme to reason. Today even debate on taxation becomes party to populism when those who support an item on the floor of the house disingenuously disown their pronouncements when in the public gallery. Consequently, the newfangled Leader of the Majority Party in the National Assembly; Hon. Amos Kimunya was forced to quip that we can no longer afford to slow down the horses just to have donkeys catch up! As mentioned in the paragraph above, our match into a bright and alluring future powered by information will only be hampered by having too many hackneyed individuals not possessing the requisite wherewithal in the higher echelons of political power.

Instructive to note, is that despite the best-laid plans, we always end up with a myriad of lacunae and loopholes in policy albeit legislation which curtails any hopes of the popular agenda fructifying. This is majorly attributable to decision-makers who lack the import of foresight or even the basic capacity to make projections into future trends from data, logic and even empirical wisdom. Invariably, many a time you can only see what your mind’s eye has been trained to see! But why is this the case? Your guess is as good as mine! A popular Kenyan standup comedian, who at the point to authoring this piece is in the throes of overt real-life marital strife once during the good times performed a skit about the disconnect between up-to-date information on the disbursement of government funds and an inkling on the same by the ‘mwananchi.’ He bemoaned the times that government had slated money for a project yet both the President and the proletariat are none the wiser on the disbursement. This is absolute bliss for the run-of-the-mill politician who will gormandize the funds and end up not being accountable to anybody on the pilferage accrued. No project would be forthcoming! The Citizenry have definitely dampened their expectations with regards to holding their leaders to account. In a time such as this where the national government has been found wanting, Civic Education would be within the remit of an altruistic leader who would revel in growing with his polity. An empowered populace is critical in holding political operatives to account.

Gladiatorial jousts will be our portion if we continue putting other considerations superior to intellectual competence in electing our leaders.

It should be deemed an indictment on our collective intellectual aptitude as a nation that despite the existence of Laws governing leadership and qualifications for it, we still prefer to pander to nebulous sensibilities like gut instinct, charisma and idiosyncrasy in picking our leaders. It is true that leadership ability is innate and divinely-bequeathed. However, the aforementioned qualities are naturally supposed to be peripheral and contingent to where the law is judged short-handed with other remedial measures lacking.

Shifting gears to one of the core pillars of our current regime’s manifesto among the Big 4 agenda, Enhanced manufacturing (Industrialization). At advanced levels, industrialization is actually a complex activity that can best be comprehended by the experts, technocrats and professionals on the same. I have pondered over things pursuant to our current lagging behind as an economy and have come to an incontrovertible conclusion. We have over the years suffered a dearth in professionals among our political and national executive elites to drive the agenda of industrialization. A cursory look at the professional profiles of the last three Chinese Leaders shows a conspicuous trend. It should not be lost on anyone that China is growing to a behemoth of World Economic puissance as a direct consequence of being an industrial power and is currently a predominant Kenyan bilateral albeit financial partner.

PRESIDENT/SUPREME LEADER QUALIFICATION  PRIOR TO POLITICAL OFFICE
Xi Jingping (2013 – Future) Chemical Engineer (Quinghua University)
Hu Jintao (2002 – 2012) Hydroelectric Engineer (Quinghua University)
Jiang Zemin (1992 – 2002) Electrical Engineer (Shanghai University)
If China had decided to exercise laissez-faire on matters of governance thereby voting in Enchanters, Buddhist monks, Circus Clowns and all varieties of oafs based only on their charisma, would half of the glory we witness today be manifest?

Invariably, it is not a matter of conjecture why China is on the fast lane to large-scale industrial proliferation. Not to split hairs here but I am left to wonder, If China had decided to exercise laissez-faire on matters governance thereby voting in Enchanters, Buddhist monks, Circus Clowns and all varieties of oafs we see in their movies, based only on their charisma, would half of what we witness today be manifest? This brings me to the point that people without tertiary-level qualifications are unlikely to value industrialization as they just won’t comprehend it. Preferably, they would revert to what they know best which is partisan adherence to traditional lore! Decisions will become a function of emotions when sound rationale is not possessed by the responsible. It also becomes an exercise in the buffoon arts to expect people with inferior qualifications and by extension competence to be able to oversight effectively the Head of State, their Deputy, The Governor and his Principal Assistant. Today, we have budgets that range into trillions. I feel it is unfair to expect people who may never have encountered that figure academically before to dexterously compute and discuss such cartoonishly large sums. They will start thinking they are counting confetti! Then and only then will somebody start imagining a ceaseless stream where they can draw without the owner noticing.

At the end of the day, no matter how many times your local politician fallaciously invokes ‘Wanjiku’, ‘jamaa wa boda-boda’, ‘mama mboga’, ‘mbogi wa kuchoma mahindi’ among others, Politics will eternally be a game of personal interest. Conversely, Leadership entails solving societal problems decisively & conclusively leaving your jurisdiction empowered. When we have characters without the best interest of the populace in their hearts, then dishonesty will be the lowest common denominator. We often hear in the media that public interest litigation has been filed in the high courts by some obscure ‘Nairobi businessman’. Far be it from anybody imagining that it is just some sacrificial initiative by any common-Joe. At the end of the day, whatever civil initiative that is afoot will always be marshaled by the intellectual elite from the civil society, the bar (for advocates) or some makeweight acting on behalf of a parliamentarian. It may be de rigueur for the common man to be hoodwinked into electing all sorts of scandalous dingbats into public office citing their predilection to ‘kukula na sisi’ (sharing whatever he has with us) but when all is said and done such characters will end up immuring us in sacrilege adjunct to being anathema to any prospects of progress in our society. As the old axiom goes, “Knowledge is potential power”, most poignantly in the prevailing information age.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

JUDICIAL ACTIVISM THE IMPEDIMENT TO TANGIBLE CIVIC REFORM IN KENYA: THE TYRANNY OF THE BENCH

Sagacity is a very rare quality among members of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Yes, for fear of conjecture, I must affirm that man is the most intelligent of God’s creation doubtlessly bequeathed with the freedom of choice. It is for this very reason that Biblical King Solomon is regarded as the wisest and most insightful king to ever have treaded terra firma. Consequently, most iterations of the Bible almost certainly have 3 books that pay homage to his wisest quotes, sayings, idioms and fables. Two others chronicle his regime, but I digress. In invoking the fabled King Solomon into this discussion, I seek to regale you all with one of the instances of his regime that paid homage to his rarefied IQ. A story is told of an arbitration quandary that involved two women that had recently been party to the issue of newborn sons. The two were certainly friends who lived together at the juncture of partum. One night they both slept with their babies most assuredly after satiating their bundles of joy with much-valuable breastmilk for the night. The proceedings during the ungodly hours are hazy but what is clear is that when one woman woke up in the morning, she was in bed with a dead child. Justifiably mortified, the woman was ill at ease with the occurrence but raised little by way of alarm. As she sat aghast mourning her dead progeny in muted melancholy a cynical idea crossed her mind. Thinking that newborns are almost indistinguishable a few hours after birth, the cynical woman crept stealthily to her mate’s bedside, gently prised her ‘prize’ from her lethargic grasp replacing the dead baby beside the unassuming mother. I have never claimed to be a scholar on incendiary matters, but can inform you reliably that that house woke up to the smell of fire & brimstone! Unbeknownst to the uninitiated, a mother has tacit communication with her baby. When the chemistry suddenly disappears adjunct to visages that all of a sudden do not match what was there the previous night, sparks are almost certainly going to fly. I will pick up the tale as the two former chums make a beeline for the King’s palace in undisguisable conflict. The conundrum was recounted before the King as he stood up pacing pensively as he sought the best remedy to the situation. He suddenly pirouetted and took his seat while ordering that the baby be put in front of him. The edict was complied with. He asked one of the praetorian guards to bring him his sword and it was brought. He uttered that in the interest of justice, he felt it judicious to split the baby into two so that each woman would get her pound of flesh and the crisis would be diffused. He raised the sword skywards amid gasps of exasperation from the royal court who had hitherto thought of Solomon as a mild-mannered character. The real mother of that infant prostrated before the King in travail and supplication for the sparing of her baby’s life. Meanwhile, the instigator of the infantile rapine was quite satisfied with the horror show that would have ensured both parents got equal spoils from that court. It was then that the truth came to the fore as the King re-sheathed his sword and gingerly picked up the infant handing him over to the tearful and distraught entity who had been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt as the authentic mother. The malicious wench was ordered thrown out of the precincts of the palace with the full score of ignominy as the real mother glorified the Lord for the restitution of her rights to her child. As was then with royal pronouncements, there was no room for appeal.

Today Kenya finds herself in the unenviable position where we as a citizenry can no longer call unto the judiciousness of the great King of halcyon times but instead are shackled to the dysfunctional devices of artless arbiters. Since the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta & his core adversary; the former Premier, Rt. Hon. Raila A. Odinga, Kenya has had a dousing of political tensions with a clear roadmap to repair laid out. This Roadmap that is set out to be a charter for constitutional review is a 3-yr-old process termed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). Before moving too deep into our subject matter, we can all agree unanimously that a National Constitution is a living document that is amenable to reform and tightening of lacunae albeit with loopholes for potential abuse. For those who are new to my writing on the BBI, I have in the past waxed lyrical about the original aims of the process that inter alia entail:

  1. Putting an end to the menace of Corruption.
  2. Formulating and living by a National Ethos.
  3. Enhancing Devolution.
  4. Kicking Divisive Elections to the kibosh. We needn’t bleed for politicos to lead.
  5. Mainstreaming the delivery of Safety & Security by the national apparatus charged with the same.
  6. Popular Understanding that the dish of Rights must be eaten with the garnish of Responsibility.
  7. Promoting Inclusivity.
  8. Shared Prosperity.
  9. An end to primitive Ethnic antagonism & barbaric competitions.
The High Court Bench that sat on Thursday, 13th May 2021 to render the crippling verdict on the Building Bridges Initiative

Pursuant to the initiative that was to ensure the aforementioned objectives become the tapestry of Kenyan political organization & governance, the day Thursday 13th May 2021 may live in eternal infamy in the Kenyan sociopolitical psyche. This is the day when a hurriedly convened bench at the High Court division dealing with Constitution & Human Rights with the nefarious intention of not only indulging in what from the onset should have been deemed as frivolous litigation and a nihilistic fishing expedition merely to assuage the dastardly egos of some overenthusiastic legalistic junkies & busybodies but also the subjugation of the will of the majority of the people of Kenya. Ostensibly reading verbatim and robotically from a premeditated script, that bench went on to deliver a ruling that rendered the entire rigmarole of constitutional review as has currently been perambulated to be null and void! This was a 4-hour televised event that served more to cast a pall of darkness over the current situation more than remedy it. Among other things, the rendering of the full judgement as is currently within my purview stipulates:

  1. The President has no Constitutional authority to initiate a process for the amendment of the constitution. Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta acted in contravention of Chapter 6, Article 73(1)(a)(i). Civil Court proceedings could potentially be undertaken against him in a personal capacity if he tries to execute this.
  2. Though gazetted, the Steering Committee to a United Kenya Taskforce for the implementation of the Building Bridges Initiative is an illegal entity without the power to execute constitutional review in any form and shape.
  3. The entire process of Constitutional review as performed by the Steering Committee on the Implementation of the Building Bridges to a United Kenya Taskforce is rendered Unconstitutional, Null and Void.
  4. The Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill (CKAB), 2020 cannot be subjected to a National Plebiscite before a voter registration exercise by the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Supplementary stipulates but equally valuable include Civic Education, Public participation, Collation of the views acquiesced, County Assembly debate & deliberations culminating in a referendum process.
  5. IEBC hasn’t the requisite quorum under Chapter 5 as read with Chapter 8 of the 2nd Schedule of the IEBC Act to engage in the activities that constitute its day-to-day tasks inclusive of verifying collected signatures in the CKAB, 2020 recommended under Article 257(4) of our Constitution in the process of review.
  6. In the entire period of the CKAB, 2020 process, collection of endorsement signatures, there wasn’t legislation that supported the collection, presentation and verification of the same adjunct to a non-existent legal framework to govern the conduct of referenda.
  7. County assemblies and Parliament cannot amend in any way or as part of their Constitutional entitlement consider the CKAB, 2020 launched through a popular initiative under Article 257 of the Constitution to change the contents of the Bill.
  8. Predetermination of allotment and delimitation of the 70 proposed constituencies is declared unconstitutional for lack of public participation and a well-explained rationale.
  9. Dereliction of setting distinct referendum questions for each article under review renders the process illegitimate.
  10. A permanent injunction against the IEBC as currently constituted from initiating the use of Article 257, Subsection (4) & (5) in the bringing to fruition CKAB, 2020.

Prima facie, all these may sound and look logical as merely well-meaning words and phrases in run-of-the-mill legal parlance; however, the motive is nothing but sinister. My lack of jurisprudence notwithstanding, I term this ruling to be a bare-knuckled and unabashed grinding of the axe of political vendetta in an ongoing tempest between the two arms of Government, i.e. the Judiciary and Executive. The enlightened do not need binoculars to be privy to this scenario as tantamount to judicial abracadabra sprinkled with some gas-lighting of facts with half-truths, gossip, backbiting, slander, hearsay, innuendo unfortunately indulged by the Courts of Law. A clear conduit for the promotion of prejudice is clear for all to see today painted as judicial independence. Indeed in the Sunday Nation newspaper of the 16th May 2021, The Governor of the County of Laikipia and a level-headed contributor to national discourse, H.E. Ndiritu Muriithi labeled whatever farce that found viewership on our national media on the evening of 13th May as “A Season of High-Octane Politics draped in legal garb!” I do not fault him whatsoever in his assessment. There was plenty of song, dance and pageantry among the population demographic that were hitherto bitterly opposed to this initiative. Here legal practitioners, pseudo-intellectuals, conspiracy theorists, faux-hustlers, rabble-rousers, louts and touts found concord in dancing over the grave of an initiative that was meant to foment national unity and the improvement of the relations between our people in this heritage of splendour. Many members of the conscientious, level-headed and patriotic side of the divide, indeed even the author of this piece found themselves bemused by the shenanigans at play. I will admit that this report had one or two blemishes injurious to our sensibilities as a people. Nevertheless, I would be remiss in failing to admit to ignorance on why anybody would want to throw to the wood chipper an initiative that promises Shared Prosperity that has nary been a topic of discussion in our 58 years of nationhood. It sounds absolutely absurd to throw both the baby with the bathwater!

A visual allegory of slander based on Psalms 11:2, “For the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the righteous.”

This Judgement’s most egregious foundational weakness of all is in its failure to respect Chapter 1, Article 1 of the same Constitution these judicial officers purport to defend that bequeaths Sovereignty upon the People of the Republic of Kenya. Worse of all is their want in comprehension over the basic requirements for Contesting the Presidency within our Jurisdiction as well articulated in Chapter 9, Article 137 of our pristine Civil Governance Charter. A man/woman eligible for the Presidency of Kenya should be a Citizen by Birth, not less a holder of a Kenyan National Identification Card also deemed apt for election as a Member of the National Assembly. It is this very stricture that predisposed and indeed qualified him for election as Head of our State in the first place. He is to all intents and purposes a national symbol of unity and an entity to whom sovereignty is sometimes delegated with regards to making important decisions on behalf of the rest of the nation. That is clearly why he’s our Head of State, Government and Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. If the President were to be sued and he also decides to indulge in the claptrap of judicial dodgems currently at play, invoking Presidential immunity from prosecution, would we fault him? Moreover, back to my point of the President being an autochthonous son of this soil. Why shouldn’t he also be allowed to initiate the process of Constitutional review as an ordinary Kenyan in similar token to all Citizens of Kenya by birth? External to the garment of the Presidency, isn’t the man that the court haughtily referred to as one Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, a Kenyan Citizen? He also has vested interests as a Kenyan of goodwill who will continue to live, work and do business here long after retirement from public office. Methinks that if he’s acting in good faith which is in not fiddling with term limits or creating a political position for himself after he dispenses with his mandate as President, then there is no problem in him too playing a pivotal role in leading the renaissance of our progressive 2010 Constitution which is indeed a living document. In the same vein, this ruling expects that somebody else other than the President should take the wheel with regards to Constitutional review. My question is: How many people have the academic development, intellectual wherewithal and enlightenment of a President for them to be allowed to initiate this Initiative? What capacity does the man on the street have to initiate Constitutional review? Needless to say, the last thing on any apolitical ordinary Joe’s itinerary is to go around the country collecting people’s views, organize the views into a report and ably hold public rallies with the aim of validating the same. Our highly educated and enlightened populace notwithstanding, ‘Wanjiku’ has no financial muscle to initiate and run the aforementioned processes. Secondly, people have other jobs to undertake with Kenya being an economy primarily driven by a labour force that lives from hand to mouth and hence cannot afford to trifle with the prospect of their families sleeping hungry while playing around during working hours! Kenyans are subsumed with basic survival. Thirdly, how many ordinary members of the citizenry have actually read and indeed do understand the strictures of this current constitution? I have met many people, some very good friends and ostensibly enlightened individuals who have never read a single chapter of our current constitution. Matter of factly, in 2010 they only voted for the referendum to consecrate the new constitution because their trusted political leaders and tribal kingpins convinced them that it is a meaningful document. So today more than a decade later how would you expect these same people to be the ones initiating a constitutional review process of a document they haven’t as much as perused through? It would be unrealistic. To all intents and purposes, those most consumed with the Constitution are mostly judicial appointees, state officers, political operators & legal scholars who directly earn a living in enforcing, interpreting and vociferating on the same and not the hoi-polloi.

The Tug of war between the Judiciary and Legislature on one side & the Executive on another side is unlikely to benefit Kenya. (Image Courtesy: AYES & NAYS BLOG)

I must also add that this current miscarriage of judicial discretion & impunity smirks of a similarly unconstitutional power grab, a bloodless putsch if I may against the duly-elected leader of our Republic. We all know the casus belli of all this was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s utterances over ‘revisitation’ of the judiciary after the ruling that nullified his electoral triumph in September 2017. Those sentiments have most certainly been overtaken by events like the Handshake and retirement of Chief Justice Maraga so I am flummoxed as to why these thin-skinned judicial functionaries still want to engage in monkey business over those diffused threats. Instructive to note is that this current quagmire is orchestrated by men/women who have never been and who perhaps will never be elected by anybody to any public seat hiding behind the shroud of judicial independence to give legal backing to the disenfranchisement of the views of the majority of Kenyan by terming the BBI report an unpopular initiative. This is impunity of the highest order that will indubitably put Kenya in trouble. A sensible society is one where human beings learn from the mistakes of the past and are indeed guided by the most enlightened never to repeat the same faux pas again. Allow me to indulge y’all with a short anecdote. In the year of our Lord 1857, a landmark ruling was made by the US Supreme Court that nearly jolted the fledgling independent nation to the core of its being. This was in the Dred Scott vs. Sandford case. For some context 4 years prior, litigation had been instituted where an enslaved man of negroid extraction, Mr. Dred Scott sued his then owner Mr. John Sandford for continuance to hold him in servitude despite the fact that he had been sold from the holdings of one Dr. John Emerson, A U.S Military surgeon whose estate was domiciled in the State of Missouri – a slaveholding domain to Mr. John Sanford residing formerly in the State of Illinois before moving to Wisconsin where slavery was outlawed and everyone lived free. When his owners got so fed up with his insubordination & freedom of conscience that they tried to sell him back to Missouri, Mr. Scott sought legal recourse to affirm his independence from servitude. His premise was that when taken into the “Free” U.S territory, he automatically stood liberated with the yoke of slavery eternally dispelled and was legally no longer in bondage. He first tried the Missouri state court which ruled he was still a slave under her jurisdiction. He doubtlessly appealed this farcical ruling to the US Federal Court which also ruled against him taking precedence from the Missouri State Law in the case. As a man that drew resilience in buckets, the onerous Mr. Dred Scott appealed to the US Supreme Court. After grueling arguments from the “learned friends”, indeed good men on both sides, the Supreme Court pronounced themselves on the matter. A decision was rendered on a 7 vs. 2 basis against Dred Scott. In an opinion written by then Chief Justice; Roger Taney, “Black folk are not included & were not intended to be included under the term ‘Citizen’ in the Constitution and can henceforth claim none of the Rights, Reliefs & Privileges the instrument ideally provides for and secures to the citizens of the United States of America.” An extended survey of the American state was given, anchored in local laws and ordinances that intended to erect a perpetually insurmountable barrier between the white race and those that sailed across the oceans into involuntary servitude. Whether Free or Enslaved, the court additionally argued that Mr. Scott, by the very colour of his skin, was neither considered a citizen of the United States nor any state accordingly, argue as much he may he could not establish the ‘diversity of citizenship’ under Article 3 of the U.S Constitution! The CJ additionally overruled the Missouri Compromise and even the Constitutionally-enshrined Power of the U.S Congress as limitations to slavery. The judgement was utterly outrageous and dehumanizing but no recourse was left for remedy. Today, historians have uncovered the murky truth about this entire fiasco which among other things involved a letter by newly-elected President James Buchanan; a white supremacist no less, who antecedent to the ruling wrote to his ‘good friend’ the US Supreme Court Associate Justice John Catron to speed up the ruling on the case. He was looking forward to a favourable verdict issued before his March 1857 inauguration date that would put the future of slavery beyond the realm of political debate. The Justice system’s willingness to dabble in the political whims of the day orchestrated by partisan forces is the spark that kindled the powder keg of the American Civil war. Even here in Kenya we have witnessed politically incensed conflict, most recently in 2008 that killed more than 1300 Kenyans in addition to displacing more than half-a-million people, some permanently disenfranchised from previously owned land. This was in part a consequence of apprehension that the incumbent-appointed Chief Justice of the day would have been an impartial adjudicator in the event of an election petition. Why is there judicial quiescence nay selective amnesia among members of the judiciary that seek to extinguish efforts to forestall Kenya’s regression back to its unsightly past? This verdict is in bad faith.

Pictorial rendering of the Honourable Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the United States and the Litigant Mr. Dred Scott. The Dred Scott vs. John Sandford landmark ruling is a case study on how the carpe diem concoction of Judicial independence mixed with political interference could boomerang to burn everybody’s fingers!

As members of a fraternity & sorority who take great pride in being referred to as ‘learned friends’, I would a priori expect them to be conversant with the fact that the pristine and progressive 2010 constitution was the product of a horse-trading process that was most assuredly not perfect. It is in the public domain that even those who had sentiments antithetic to the 2010-promulgated constitution only disagreed with less than 1/5 of the document. 80% was deemed a massive improvement on what we had inherited from the independence 1963 Constitution and the kerfuffle that introduced Section 2A of the Constitution that curtailed political freedom making Kenya a de jure one-party state in 1982 and a repeal of the same in 1991. The esteemed members of that 5-person bench, in paying homage to the similes of days bygone about being ‘Sober as a Judge’ must surely have within their purview insight that for items of the basic structure of the supreme law of our land inter alia Sovereignty of the People, Functions of the bicameral Parliament, Structure of devolution, Presidential term limits, independence of the Judiciary are facets that can only be amended via referendum. Not rocket science, I would presume! This brings us to a thoroughly distasteful attribute of the public umpire today termed as judicial activism. This is a situation where as in the anecdote above, some judges believe in making decisions external to the confines of law to satisfy their own whims and fancy, sometimes usurping functions that are the obligation of the Legislature and Executive, thereby enforcing whatever they want. In the words of Mr. Paul Mwangi who is a Joint Secretary of the BBI taskforce to a United Kenya, judicial activism is a word of courtesy for activities that amount to judges pursuing a political agenda in contravention to the provisions of their tenure, the solemn affirmation of impartiality, professional ethics and adherence to the rule of law. These judges are helped in no small part by congenial lawyers who help in achieving objectives tailored in partisanship to their impulses albeit caprice. The verdict of the 13th May is a clear indication that the bench is hell-bent on creating the sort of jurisprudence that curtails the powers of all other stakeholders in the Constitutional review process to the point that judicial interpretation has to be sort for any minuscule changes to be made. Talk about a tin-pot dictatorship by a junta consisting members of the bench! It is anaemic of the court to additionally argue that the Steering Committee established on January 10th 2020 and whose mandate was to run until 30th June became unconstitutional in its working after its expiry date. This is the kind of inflexibility that exposes the mechanisms of the bench to scrutiny while showing them out as persons who pander to technicalities even in pivotal scenarios like the much-needed review of the supreme law of our republic. Where is the much-vaunted conceptual thinking? Reminiscent of the debate that the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of man had with the Pharisees about the day of the Sabbath. If on that day you took your flock of livestock out to pasture and drink in appreciation of the fact that they need food and water to survive, will you be acting in contravention to the rules of the Sabbath?

Similarly, who can ever lay claim to functional intellectual faculties and fail to appreciate the vagaries and complexities that were wrought by the Covid-19 global viral pandemic that ravaged our nation in the year 2020 and continues to date?

Do these judicial officers exist in some ivory tower outside Kenya where they are immune to the ignominious consequences that are a direct result of loopholes in our current constitutional dispensation? We cannot have a judiciary that plays the role of prefect in the Constitutional reevaluation in antipathy to the document’s entitlement to the sovereignty of the people of Kenya.

Unbeknownst to gatekeepers of impunity, the BBI is a popular initiative that did well to garner more than 3.4 million signatures against the high watermark of 1 million necessary for ascent that were delivered to the Anniversary Towers – which houses the IEBC by BBI Secretariat co-chair Hon. Dennis Waweru & Hon. Junet Mohamed. This is contrary to the honourable bench’s jaundiced supposition that President Kenyatta was the main initiator and catalyst of the current spate of Constitutional review. In fact, most of the validation rallies were shepherded by Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga flanked by local leaders of goodwill in a bipartisan caucus. This brings me to pry why the High Court bench that rendered this ruling refuses to accept an initiative that is well within the requisite number of signatures for its validation. Let’s not forget the symposiums for public participation. Conceptual thinking albeit creativity is definitely lacking among those Judges! Most iniquitous, they lack patriotism because while dabbling in this sort of activism, they forget a very important facet which is the best interest of the ‘mwananchi.’ They act as if they are aliens that are not part and parcel of the Kenyan society that have just landed here from Mars! I am at great pains to explain why these venerated Lord and Lady Justices seldom get involved when Kenya requires of them to push for people-centric initiatives like Civic Education or quite poignantly the feasibility study to show that it was a good idea to build the SGR Railway using Commercial loans from China. Local litigant-in-chief, Okiya Omtatah cannot always do it all by himself!

Contrary to the assertions of the High Court Bench that sat in the Human Rights & Constitutional division to pronounce themselves on the BBI Case, President Uhuru Kenyatta is not the main promoter of the Building Bridges Initiative.

It is indeed in the public purview that some of these judges are not above reproach. The Benches at the High Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal have in the past had to defend their ranks against many accusations of impropriety most commonly corruption. Some had eaten their client’s payment settlements while working as advocates. Yet some more are accused of plagiarism while writing academic dissertations for their advanced University Degrees. Another was paid handsomely by a defendant to rule favourably in an election petition. A stone’s throw away is another accused of being a deadbeat dad with many more having a special retinue of bribe charges to get the culpable off the hook over criminal offences with others quite fond of issuing injunctions willy-nilly against the prosecution of the affluent. Do not even get me started on the Moi-era Chief Justice who was a pathological gambler, perpetually broke and ready to hawk favourable rulings for a pittance. The spores to propagate such malfeasance live on unencumbered. Yet these are the men and women who are expected to be altruistic enough to render an untainted adjudication on issues pertaining to Kenyans without their palms getting greased. Come on!

One part of this verdict that certainly got my goat is the one that rendered the President ‘sine immunitate’ loosely translating to without immunity hence amenable to prosecution, which even in my observance of basic empirical wisdom amounts to a hazardous path down the garden road. The legal nuisance that could potentially be occasioned by this status quo is quite clear for all to see. Our so-called ‘learned friends’ may ceaselessly be conscripted by those opposed to a President to not just maliciously sabotage his agenda but also unsettle his regime on the flimsiest of grounds. Such a perilous precedent exposes the occupant of the Presidential throne to interminable litigation on the pretext of public good but quintessentially as mischief that will impede service delivery by a Head of State. It gets murkier whence a President, pursuant to losing immunity will no longer be able to call upon his Chief Legal Advisor, the Attorney General forcing him to hire lawyers at exorbitant cost and being forced to sit through mostly frivolous civil litigation which is untoward.

Many are times when you will hear jurists and judicial officers rhapsodizing about judicial independence. Nevertheless, even a cursory reading of the Bill of Rights shows that whatever freedom is offered must most certainly be delimited by responsibility. Judges may expect deity-grade obeisance to their verdicts but this may prove a bridge too far when the quality of their rulings attenuates and seems to issue from an external source. Typically in court, plebeians respectfully address judges as ‘Your Honour’ while the Lawyers invoke ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lady.’ Consequently, it appears bizarre when a judge latches onto some sort of tangent all the while referring to the President as Mr. So & So as if they are in some Lover’s tiff! The erudite are conversant with respect being reciprocal and so as you give so shall it be requited unto you. As well articulated by Jubilee Party Chairman; Hon. Raphael Tuju, “We should aim at interdependence as opposed to the ad nauseum exhortation of independence. We all exist interlinked to one another and just as the Judges execute their mandate, they also expect their police drivers & bodyguards attached to them to drive them home!” In closing sentiments, I feel it would be proper for Judges and magistrates to refrain from judicial activism. Creativity & common sense in the application of the Law is much welcome but starting to legislate from the bench is thoroughly frowned upon. You cannot be the Lawgiver, investigator, judge, jury and executioner all in one fell swoop. Leave politics to politicians.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

FOLDING OF THE FAMILY-OWNED SUPERMARKET CHAINS NAKUMATT & TUSKYS POINTS TO A DEEPER MALAISE

Picture the scene 10 years ago pertinent to the Kenyan retail market sector. Small corner shops dotted the landscape each serving their itinerant customer base. A new boutique just opened shop down the street. However, the most prepossessing aspect of all was the megalithic supermarket chain that was aggressively setting up shop all around the country. The proliferation was such that even some small towns got the irrevocably high honour of having two branches of the same. The intended goal was to blot out all spectre of competition from any other retail entity that would endeavour to rival their customer base. This was a greatly market-capitalized establishment that beat all with regards to brand recognition as they had their very own mascot, some sort of bronze elephant as a totem for their store. The name is Nakumatt. Nakumatt Supermarket. The same scene was teeming with peers like then government-bailout revamped Uchumi Supermarket. Others were Tuskys, Chandarana Food Plus, Gilani’s, Eastmatt, Naivas and even then new kid on the block, Ukwala supermarket. Life was good for the entrepreneurs and shareholders of these megastores as business was booming and the flaunting of their insignia was the order of the day with each man tooting his own horn and trying to outdo the other with regards to customer acquisition and retention. All forms of media were inundated with advertisement promotions as they all clawed for a share of the market. Loyalty Cards were dished out like confetti to the most steadfast of customers with the aim of future redemption of a shiny gift after collection of sufficient points on the plastic gizmos. However, this was also a time of tumultuous change and come 2013, a regime change was effected in Kenya. Kenya’s economics savant who had the great honour of serving as President for two, 5-year terms, H.E. Emilio Mwai Kibaki was retiring from the helm of an economy he found in the doldrums but rebooted it to vibrancy. In his stead came in the bright-eyed, flashy and resplendent son of the First President of our Republic, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta who like a seasoned windsurfer, rode the waves of a burgeoning business community all backing him to continue the economic resurgence agenda of his predecessor. It is here that the ordure probably hit the fan leaving us all with an unsightly stench. Today, the Kenyan retail market has hit turbulent waters with Uchumi, Ukwala and even foreign-owned Shoprite and Choppies falling on hard times. But their drop has not been as precipitous as it has happened for the giants of the aforementioned halcyon days a decade ago, Nakumatt and Tuskys Supermarkets. But when did the rain start beating these esteemed and gargantuan firms of business?

For some perspective, you have to be regaled with the narrative of radix for both firms. Surprisingly, the birth stories of the two are as intricately intertwined as their destinies. Nakumatt Supermarket that was hitherto a retail juggernaut in East Africa owes its existence to its founder, one Punjabi-born Maganlal Shah who just like many fellow dukawallahs fled economic hardship in his autochthonous India at the advent of their independence in 1947 to come to the region formerly known as British East Africa to join his compatriots in enterprise. He started with a small shop in Embakasi serving both quarry labourers and those building the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in that locale. Business was only a trickle, so he soon clambered onto his wagon and hitched onwards to Kisumu town in search of better tidings. Things were not working and he later moved to Elburgon, Nakuru and then to Nandi Hills in 1961. Here, one of his two sons, Atul Shah was born. 4 years later, this nomadic capitalist was on the move again setting up shop in Nakuru town, opposite its iconic open-air market. This was a clothing store named Vimal Fancy Store after Maganlal’s firstborn son, Vimal. So successful was this venture that Maganlal opened a 2nd store in Nakuru’s Kenyatta Avenue that was named Tiku Fancy store after his youngest daughter. So much effort was concentrated on the second store that the first one had to close shop in 1973. That was the heyday for locally made items of apparel for Kenyans then, who appreciated the high-quality products and the national policy was one of protectionism for the local producers of Cotton and Wool. Kenya had major cloth manufacturers like Rivatex and Raymonds with 100 other local entities on their coattails. The Modern-day C.E.O of Nakumatt before its collapse, Atul Shah was so overawed with the booming business that he elected to drop out of high school to also throw his hands on deck. The plea was assented to without as much as a whimper from his dad in spite of the outlandish nature of the request. 9 months later, sanity reigned as other family members prevailed upon young Atul to go back to school and leave the money-making shenanigans to the grown-ups. By 1975, the thirst for diversification hit Maganlal. He commenced the importation of ready-made garments and sheet cloth from Uganda. He was soon quite popular among fellow traders but for reasons external to his well-honed business nous that had served him well for an eon. He started selling goods on credit, premised on the promise of future payment ‘when the funds become available.’ This was not fiscally sound as many of the benefactors merely vanished into thin air after receiving the goods! He attempted to ride lightning but was met with the surly grips of eventual bankruptcy which soon forced a heavily-dejected Maganlal to close shop with debts in the region of 1.2 million shillings. Desperate to fend for his family, he approached his brother, Hasmukh for a job as a casual labourer. Unbeknownst to all not conversant with this tale, Hasmukh was running a thriving shop that selling bed linen called Nakuru Mattresses. His enterprising sons too were not left behind as they joined forces to open their own bed sheet stitching shop, Furmatts. 1978 was an exhilarating period for many Kenyan tycoons and capitalists of the time. Those who could, made their hay while the sun shone; if the stories from one Dr. Chris Kirubi, a preeminent Kenyan business mogul are to be believed. There was a boom in coffee prices in the world market necessitated by a deficit of the much-vaunted Brazilian Coffee. Kenya and neighbouring Uganda really ‘stood in the gap’ if I may use the expression. The backdrop was heavy pockets for coffee producers, middlemen and traders who virtually made like bandits in the ensuing epoch of history. This was the shot in the arm Maganlal needed with plenty of disposable income at play. Prices were hiked, but to fickle effect among the buyers as goods soon flew off the shelves. Why sacrifice style and grace if you can afford it? At around the same time, the two brothers, also touched by the hand of good fortune mobilized 300,000/- to foot a quarter of their father’s debt. Moreover, a new development was at play that would alter the entire narrative. Hasmukh was looking for a change of scenery. He had planned to move to the United Kingdom and was looking to dispose of his assets before the departure. In concert, the two sons and their father bought off the Nakuru Mattresses Holdings from their uncle and made it work. By 1979, so much profit had been made that the remaining 900,000 of Maganlal’s yoke of debt had been cleared and so the only way was up. With the business firmly in their hands, the 3 men diversified their commercial range and product offering. Soon Cooking pots, Basins, cooking sticks, frying pans and basically as many household items as were needed were stocked under a one-stop-shop. The first store outside Nakuru was opened in 1984 in Eldoret. In 1986, they broke into the Capital city with their seminal store at Ukwala Road behind the renowned ‘Bus Station.’ The marauding elephant rebranded to Nakumatt in 1987. It had now captured the market and in the intervening years, opened 32 stores in the major economic arteries of Kenya and further afield. Prior to the sudden closure, Nakumatt had a presence in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Creditors formally voted to liquidate the enterprise on 7th January 2020.

Nakumatt Village Market Branch

Tuskys Supermarket had a similar genesis to the former. So similar that at one time, their founder Joram Kamau worked as a driver at Nakuru Mattresses. By the time he branched off into entrepreneurship in 1983, he had built such a convivial bond with his employers at Nakumatt that they agreed to advance him some nearly-expired Fast Moving Consumer Goods to start his own small self-service store that was the Gitwe General Store in Rongai, a rural hamlet in Nakuru County. He stocked mattresses, many of which he had acquired from Nakuru Mattresses in town with the promise of selling at a discounted price. His gradual variegation of business saw him also establish Jolly Grocers and Magic Superstores in no time. He soon expanded into Pundit Nehru Street in downtown Nakuru town. In May 1990, he amalgamated the business holdings which were incorporated as a Private Limited Company. A rebranding was in order and the business name morphed into Tusker Mattresses. He soon hit the concrete jungle with a spanking new branch on Mfangano Street, Nairobi. Come 2007 the mouthful was shelved with the company rebranding to Tuskys Supermarket.

There is actually an inescapable thread that runs through both these stories. For some reason, many thriving megastores in Kenya pay credence to Nakuru town as their birthplace. Allow me to indulge you all. There must be something special about Nakuru. Nakumatt, Tuskys, Naivas. There must be something in the water! Indeed, before Tuskys ran aground themselves, they had committed to trying to repay some old-time gratitude to try to resuscitate Nakumatt. This was set to be a heartwarming gesture that was unfortunately not meant to be. So you may be forced to ask what contributed to the downfall of both megastores. I have attempted to pore through this conundrum and have come up with a few reasons.

  1. The King David Conundrum. For those who have chanced upon the Old Testament in the Bible, you may have met the name of a formerly unassuming shepherd boy who greatly pleased the Lord and was exalted. His name was David. King David was officially the 2nd but the greatest of all Kings of Israel. So much importance is attached to King David that even today; his royal insignia, the Star of David adorns the flag of the modern-day nation of Israel. So much is said about his valour and strategic brilliance in battle that helped Israel eternally conquer bigger armies & the seasoned foes that they met in confrontation. Some of the tales about King David and his most formidable allies are the stuff of legend chronicled in the Books of 1st and 2nd Samuel and the aptly named 1st Chronicles. Who can forget the tales of how he ruled for the first 8 years of his reign from the small town of Hebron before the Lord revealed that the Ark of the Covenant and indeed the King of God’s chosen people shouldn’t live in some idyllic, backwater outpost. He made the step to capture the City on a Hill that would be easy to fortify and be a crowning jewel of the Jewish nations’ conquest of the Promised Land. I will not get into details but King David led the Israelite army to the fortified Canaanite city of Jebus, found an underground tunnel route into it, crept stealthily in, caught its dwellers flat-footed, easily captured it and drove out its inhabitants renaming it to the great City of Jerusalem. King David excelled in many walks of life but he failed in an important role that ultimately brought him great misery in his later years. He totally flunked in his role as a Father. His eldest son, Amnon begotten from Ahinoam was a spoilt brat who in exercising his whims as an ostensible crown prince willfully raped his younger half-sister, Tamar – daughter of Princess Macaah from Geshur. Absalom who was King David’s 3rd born son also born of Maacah was predictably enraged when he got wind of the desecration of his sister’s honour under Amnon’s hand and decided to take vengeance upon his brother. He organized a feast for Amnon, got his brother drunk, fomented a riot and in the ensuing kerfuffle, he slit Amnon’s throat. Absalom eschewed his father’s wrath for 3 years but was admitted back as a prodigal son to the throne. Nevertheless, how did Absalom repay his father’s forgiveness? He abused his irresistible charm, gift of the gab and exquisite good looks to usurp his father from the throne in a bloodless putsch. He felt his time had come. King David was now forced to run into the wilderness and sleep in the bushes to escape his son’s iron fist. To add insult to injury, the ill-bred Absalom also burnt down his uncle Joab’s wheat plantation for refusal to help him in the coup against King David. Joab, the loyal Commander of King David’s army was severely displeased with his upstart of a nephew. In two shakes of a ram’s tail, King David recaptured Jerusalem, his handsome son with a diadem on his head was put into headlong flight ahead of none other than his uncle Joab on horseback, his long flowing locks of hair suddenly getting tangled up in previously unaccounted for shrubs leaving him in pendulous misery; the horse cantering into the horizon devoid of payload. He begged for his life but Joab had enough of the boy and eviscerated him. Later, his 4th son; Adonijah, begotten of Haggith also threw his hat into the matter of royal succession and decided to proclaim himself King. This time, King David was preemptive and on the other side of town declared that the crown prince-elect was the sagacious; Solomon – the youngest son of the royal consort, Bathsheba. That debacle had been kicked to the kibosh much to the public ignominy of Prince Adonijah. Eventually, after King David’s demise young Solomon had to suffer the agony of putting out of his misery, his malcontent and grumbling elder sibling, Adonijah to counter dissent. What is the moral of this long-winded anecdote as it relates to our subject matter? Tuskys demise is poignant of this tale. For both Nakumatt and Tuskys, they saw it fit to keep the leadership structure as a family affair with minuscule regard to professionalism through a faulty corporate structure in its managerial echelons which proved their Achilles heel. In a space rife with stiff competition only to yield slim profit margins as is wont of the retail sector, the importance of a cost-efficient stratagem cannot be gainsaid. For Tuskys, the founder was a visionary and probably a workaholic who spared little time to cultivate the value of unity in the family unit as sacrosanct in maintaining the profitability of a thriving enterprise. Now in death, his 6 children are squabbling like village mongrels who may end up pilfering their inheritance in frivolous litigation challenging the legitimacy of their father’s will and testament among other vexations. Mzee Joram Kamau must be furiously turning in his grave!
Sons of Mzee Joram Kamau now squabbling like village mongrels who may end up pilfering their inheritance in frivolous litigation challenging the legitimacy of their father’s will and testament among other vexations.

2. Lack of Government Support For Local Enterprise – In the Pre-NARC then eventually the ODM – PNU coalition government, Kenya was ruled by a hierarchy of clueless apparatchiks more adept at grabbing & primitive accumulation of wealth than actual entrepreneurial acumen to create it. Indeed a cartoonist who is now an elected MP, once made a post satirizing the former President; the Late H.E. Daniel Moi, as having merely shrugged off the collapse of another Kenyan household megastore, Uchumi Supermarket. In his characteristic gruff voice he uttered, “Kama Uchumi naanguka basi tutagwenda Nakumatt!”(If Uchumi collapses we will always have Nakumatt) to raucous applause & high-fives from his lackeys. You can wager that even he, the long-necked giraffe of Kenyan politics did not anticipate the current status quo. As one not privy to statecraft during the earlier periods off the Nyayo-era due to chronological constraints (I was a kid), I have been forced to make my own deductions of Baba-Moi’s rule. My thesis, a State run gung-ho by men and women who only curried favour with the powers that be due to paying fealty, political correctness and tribal considerations. Meritocracy fell by the wayside in the foregoing with both public & private enterprises suffering for it. Those in the loop witnessed the ravenous pilferage of State Corporations and Agencies to their knees by the uninitiated. Uchumi Supermarket, which was partly state-owned did not survive the onslaught of these economic predators adjunct to incompetent management.

Satirizing the Political situation under the Moi Government

3. Rapid & Misconceived albeit Overambitious Expansion – Both Nakumatt and Tuskys became the unwitting victims of this strategic waterloo. They were tidally-locked in a rapid expansion spree that at some point manifested as a head-to-head battle for prime commercial space in the newly-built malls and pristine residential real-estate projects. As aforementioned, both grew from slightly over a dozen shopping outlets in Kenya’s major commercial centres in the early 2000s to nearly quadruple the number all over Kenya. Nakumatt even took the plunge to unchartered territory outside our frontiers in Rwanda and Uganda. There was a time when Nakumatt supermarket even listed in our national bourse, the Nairobi Securities Exchange, often featuring as a leader with regards to market capitalization butting heads with blue-chip companies like Safaricom, Kenya Commercial Bank and Equity Bank. Nakumatt even ventured further into the establishment of the Nakumatt FC football team that took its right of place in the Kenya Premier League. The intent behind this all must have been noble, but what about meeting the bottom-line of any commercial outfit that is turning a profit? Nakumatt, for a period existed in some sort of utopian bubble perhaps fueled by the audacity of hope sprinkled upon the entire globe by a First Black POTUS, Barack Obama where the clarion call “Yes we can” pervaded every stratum of society. To say they scalded their fingers is an understatement as the collapse that was shrouded in conjecture by suited & wry-smiling PR gurus was so precipitous, it could no longer be hidden from all and sundry. The implicit demerit in the strategy of ferocious expansion is in losing sight of the big picture. More often than not, this precipitates in companies overextending their pecuniary muscle all the while reaping minimal returns thanks in part to the very slim profit margins to be made in the retail sector.

Nakumatt Kigali Tower

4. Lack of a Company Mantra, Ethos & Disengagement of Employees From the well-being of the Establishment – Failure is seldom an event but a sequence of small dips in performance until a whole entity is beyond salvation. Methinks, Nakumatt and Tuskys blundered in not having employees as partial shareholders in their holding from its inception. I personally am torn on this one cognizant of the issue of the profit margins vis-à-vis democratizing ownership, but hear me out. If the origin story I have penned above is plausible, then the owners have all the right to enjoy the best things in life bought out of the profit from their incessant and ceaseless toil. However, it would have served the best interest of all involved to give each new employee a personal stake of the company in joining the company. Maybe a few shares. This would engender accountability as each man/woman would take the success or failure of the enterprise as a personal responsibility. In the final embers before the eventual collapse, evidence has filtered through of systematic & dry-eyed theft of both cash and products not by ill-borne shoplifters but disillusioned employees, junior-level management & the Directorial Cadre of this very enterprise. For the ordinary staff, the spectre of under-remuneration could not be discounted. For the junior-management staff, most especially the Procurement Department, the stench was utterly ignominious to all with a moral compass. Blatant conflict of interest was no byword as highly-placed figures in management also elected to be leading suppliers to the retail chain, of course paying themselves before others. The Accounts department was the archetypal manifestation of fake, disgusting financial reporting by misrepresentation through a process in accounting jargon referred to as ‘massaging the books.’ This is definitely emblematic of persons who have lost faith in their establishment and are virtually grabbing their piece of the pie in utter disregard to the fate of their employer.

5. Economic turmoil as the whirlwind expansion has not been mirrored by the Kenyan prevailing Economic situation – Nakumatt and Tuskys took the worst time possible to engage in their expansion drive all over East Africa. This is because their main market in Kenya was in shambles in similar token to the country’s current economic outlook. This was further exacerbated by a punitive taxation regime that has seen instances of double taxation for factors of production crucial for business survival. And the results have been clear for all to see. After the regime of the business-savvy President Mwai Kibaki, his successor has been latching from one clanger to the next. All this while his very own Deputy has been on a ceaseless political campaign for his own future Presidency instead off lending a hand to our economic ship in choppy waters, an absolutely entitled git.

6. Nakumatt Suffered from involvement with a Minority Shareholder linked to the Narcotics trade adjunct to other Money Laundering activities – This is a cursory tale of the old axiom, “Don’t get your meat where you get your bread and butter” or in mafia-movie parlance, “You don’t excrete where you eat!” Well-known personalities have been bandied around pertaining to the Kenyan narcotics trade for an eon. However, some myopic aficionados at Nakumatt Headquarters decided in what can be referred to tongue in cheek as ‘infinite wisdom’ to have such characters as shareholders in legitimate business. The said luminary has at one time served as the Kenya anti-corruption czar in the inaugural Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority. All this is reminiscent of the Daedalus & Icarus Greek mythology where the dexterous Daedalus fashioned the feathers of birds into a pair of wings that he and his son were to use to escape incarceration in the Island of Crete. These were to be fastened onto their arms and backs with wax and the scheme surprisingly worked as both flapped hard and attained lift off. Nevertheless, the younger man grew hubristic and soared so high that the sun melted the wax and the young man came tumbling down with no recourse. Despondent Daedalus flew to safety but had a pyrrhic victory as he lost his beloved son! Nakumatt too flew too close to the sun. According to some recently declassified United States Diplomatic cables that were unfurled in the much-maligned WikiLeaks, Nakumatt found themselves at the crux of some shadowy consortium which used to bank at the defunct Charterhouse Bank that had been founded in 1996. Nakumatt found itself as part of a syndicate that enjoyed directorship in Kingsway Tyres, Village Market among some other heavy hitters in the Kenyan corporate scene who had a holding company domiciled in Liechtenstein, no less a tax haven. Long story short, an auditor of these affairs made the startling discovery that as early as 2001, money was already being siphoned from Nakumatt’s accounts and diverted to personal bank accounts. Underreporting of returns was also rife with the aim of avoiding various tiers of corporate taxes. Needless to say, this put Nakumatt on a downward spiral that was craftily hidden by some smart accounting entailing the creation of a real book of accounts and the ‘glossier’ version! The company’s woes are as a result of the double-pronged swords of illicit money and tax evasion. Money laundering may seem devoid of victims to the uninformed but has detrimental consequences. Taking stock of affairs today shows a company that is so much into the red that, no investor is willing any longer to burn their fingers with it. Of course, efforts at getting a government bailout came a cropper as the current government may be in deeper malarkey than even Nakumatt themselves.

During its existence, Charterhouse Bank was the conduit through which proceeds of money laundering passed, a preferred destination for illicit trade (Courtesy of Citizen TV).

7. The 2009 Nakumatt Supermarket Fire – Nairobi has had its fair share of disasters since the incursion of the ‘iron snake’ (Kenya–Uganda Railway) in the locale in 1899. A few have doubtlessly involved fires. However, I aver with unbridled conviction that few fire disasters have had the enduring mental scars of the one that razed Nakumatt Downtown on 28th January 2009. It was an innocuous Wednesday afternoon and a handful of shoppers had taken the time out to buy a few household essentials from a nearby Nakumatt branch that was then thriving and a premier shopping destination for the affluent Nairobi’s middle-class. The entire incident is mired in all sorts of controversy but what is indisputable is that a Power Transformer explosion occurred a stone-throw away, ominously astride a warehouse for gas cylinders that were primed for sale. Adjoining this building was a hardware shop that sold inflammable chemicals. The conflagration that left a fireball resulted in a helter-skelter dash for salvation among all in that store towards the exit. In an attempt to eschew the prospect of looting, the dutiful security guards in callous disregard for human life locked the exit doors. When stock was taken of the rubble and plumes of sooty smoke, they found not only the unrecognizably charred remains of those that had been trapped within but also the tattered vestiges of public affection for Nakumatt Supermarket. I would be remiss not to rue the loss of the vivacious and disarmingly easy on the eye; Angel Wainaina, then a blossoming actress in the indigenous TV series; Cobra Squad, adjunct to being a mellow-voiced radio presenter. Another was then-axed technical director and former player for the Kenya National Football team, Harambee Stars, Peter Serry. The fallout from the indifferent reaction from those at the helm in Nakumatt in the face of this tragedy may not have helped in emptying the cauldron of karma that soon befell this once-thriving supermarket chain in future.   

Nakumatt Downtown hosted on Woolworths Building before it was razed down in January 2009.

8. The Westgate Mall Attack in September 2013 – Ever since President Mwai Kibaki declared war on the Al-Shabaab in Somalia in ‘Operation Linda Nchi’ it opened Pandora’s Box with regards to the vulnerability of Kenya becoming a terrorist target. A bull’s eye on our backs added to a lax and corruptible security apparatus put our country in the fine mess that was exploited on that fateful Saturday, 21st September 2013. It all went down at the Westgate Mall in upmarket Nairobi where 4 masked gunmen drove into the establishment before opening fire indiscriminately. On that particular day, Nakumatt Supermarket which boasted a cornerstone store in the mall suffered the double jeopardy of bloodshed in their premises and additional insult to injury as alleged security operatives looted the store during the siege to flash out the terrorists. The bungling Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security in concert with his counterpart in Defence came out exonerating the Security agents from any allegations of carting booty from the scene of crime but surveillance cameras were of a divergent opinion. Still billowing smoke was blamed on burning mattresses but by then nobody was paying any attention. When full stock was taken of the fallout from the incursion on this flagship store that according to in-house records accounted for nearly 10% of Nakumatt’s total turnover, then you realize the strain exerted on this retailer that was already treading water by that time. Let’s not even mention the eternally traumatized customers that still have flashes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when they pass near the establishment to date and prefer to shun the locale like a plague.

Lest we forget the Siege at the Westgate Shopping Mall in September 2013

All the factors mentioned above resulted in enterprises entrapped between the devil and the deep, blue sea. By this I make reference to the mounting debts, unpaid suppliers, loans without a repayment schedule hence heavily peeved creditors unwilling to offer any more leeway for a potential revival. Needless to say, the closing of the two colossal employers resulted in massive job losses. Millions in tax revenue that was previously assured to the exchequer also went down the drain. An ineludible fate was that of an alteration of the retail sector ecosystem as other players like QuickMart, Chandarana, familiar Naivas, with foreign-owned Shoprite & Choppies joining the fray to fill the lacunae left by the exit of these two Kenyan retail titans.

The moral of this tale is that most of the ostensibly successful enterprises we see out here are anchored on quicksand and are definitely not immune to the ravages of incompetence and deleterious business practices.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

SUGGESTION TO CONVERT ALL BOARDING SCHOOLS TO DAY SCHOOLS IS UNMITIGATED BALDERDASH

Boarding Facilities at Mt. Kenya Academy

None put it better than the Great African Statesman & World Leader; Nelson Rolihlahla Madiba Mandela when he posited, “Education is the greatest equalizer, the only bridge between poverty & privilege.” Indeed, he was not far off the mark. The notion of Boarding Schools in the ideal sense was supposed to enable the creation of centres where young men and women are enabled the freedom to learn unencumbered by external influences hence provide them with a conducive environment for the endeavor. In the period prior to the advent of colonialism, missionaries first came to soften the ground as the forerunners. When Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann landed on our shores they found a people already with an inquisitive attitude and a proactive appetite for learning. Though apprehensive of their new Caucasian guests, they still welcomed them with great warmth. Unbeknownst to most, the two unearthed the reality that the indigenes of Kenya had some primordial access to Western education as far back as before 1730, evidenced by a Swahili manuscript of ‘Utendi wa Tambuka’ a translation of Book of Heraclius – a treatise to the strife-riddled reign of medieval Byzantine Emperor; Heraclius, a contemporary of Prophet Muhammad. Stats for nerds aside, the two Church Missionary Service (CMS) charges interacted favourably with the people of Mombasa & were granted land by the local community to build the earliest mission school in the jurisdiction at Rabai in 1846. Consequent to a buoyant critique from explorers and missionaries, the Imperial British East African Company built a railway from the Coast to Western Kenya that facilitated travel greatly. This was a precursor to the influx of more missionaries, who set up a school in Kaimosi come 1902. In the same year the Prince of Wales school (modern-day Nairobi School) was established. This was the first of many that catered to the interests of the progeny of the burgeoning settler community that took hold of the lands of the British East Africa Protectorate. In due course, such schools mushroomed all over the landscape evidenced by European Girls High School (Kenya High) – founded 1908, Maseno school – 1906, Duke of Gloucester (Jamhuri High) – 1906, Mang’u High School – 1925, Alliance High School – 1926 among others. These in due course started attracting students both black and white from all around the country and that necessitated the construction of boarding facilities. Brand recognition took root as the alumni of these institutions went on to make a name for their alma maters in academia, their respective professions and politics. That is the short and unabridged origin story of boarding schools in Kenya.

Come 2020 – 21, the bureaucrats at Jogoo House that domiciles the Ministry Education in Kenya find themselves at a cul-de-sac. Kenya is gradually making a transition from the 8-4-4 to the Competency-Based-Curriculum (CBC). At the same time, everybody is alarmed by the frequent and utterly egregious incidents of school fires gutting down dormitories and leaving students destitute and shaken. This raises the conundrum as to whether to eradicate boarding schools wholesale with all schools being converted to day schools. Of course, this suggestion is already garnering support from various quarters, the spearhead being the newly-appointed Principal Secretary for Basic Education, Dr. Julius Jwan. To quote the early arriving shots from the newbie apparatchik verbatim, “Being away from home at an early age means being unable to imbibe a myriad of cultural values, beliefs, lore, practices and traditions that children need to function effectively in society. Besides, the institutions foment a sense of alienation. Children in Boarding Schools feel unloved, unappreciated, unwanted or uncared for.” This is a view corroborated by the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association Chairman; Kahi Indimuli who reiterates, “In such a case you find a child grappling with things like homesickness when they are unable to acclimatize to the environment leading to a dip in the learners’ academic performance. They just are not able to reconcile themselves to the idea of being far from home.” Running the gamut of most utterances paints a picture of a dichotomous schism. A few think it is a novel and worthy idea to be trialed while others, not restrained to but inclusive of the author of this piece relegates such presumptions to the backwaters of shallow thinking albeit ignorance. Most certainly, I will indulge you and hopefully at the end of this piece many will have been brought on board to my particular school of thought.

At the World Conference on Education For All (EFA) that culminated in the Jomtien Declaration on EFA held between March 5th – 9th 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand; developing countries reaffirmed their commitment to furnish their children of scholarly-age with universal access to foundational education. This was to be a new basis to surmounting inequality and generating new opportunities for poverty alleviation. Emphasis heavily slanted towards access, quality of education and actual learning outcomes. However, many delegates who attended the conference bemoaned the expansion of enrolment leading to a strain on resources to run the respective schools. Since the epoch of the Philosophers of yore like Plato, Aristotle and Socrates; Education has always been a sacrosanct and fundamental human right and a catalyst for development adjunct to economic empowerment. Today in Kenya, this scruple is constitutionally-enshrined. As stated in other previous posts, Education with regards to future generations should be safeguarded from all turmoil and conjecture pertaining to its shape and morphology. So join me in the odyssey to make a case for the continual existence of Boarding Schools that have served us well for an eon.

Here henceforth, I will itemize while expounding on the benefits of Boarding Schools that far outweigh any drawbacks witnessed.

Pulling the plug on boarding schools will deny learners the benefits of the Best Education. It goes without saying that each year a role of honour is released from the Ministry of Education after the National Examinations where the best students are often feted for their exemplary performance. A cursory look will lay bare the incontrovertible fact that among the best performing schools, a sizable tranche are Boarding Schools. Instructive to note is that in Kenya, Academic performance is inextricably tidally-locked to job acquisition & prosperity. And on this track record alone, students from all over the country travel far and wide to be able to gain access to ostensibly the best tutors and facilities. So it boggles the mind that a Professor of Surgery, Technocrat, Administrator par-excellence and man of the intellectual sophistry of our current Cabinet Secretary for Education, Prof. George A. Omore Magoha who never spares the opportunity to wax lyrical ad nauseam about his time at Starehe Boys Centre, still has the effrontery to cast a pall over schools that offer full-board accommodation to their students. For some context, before Prof. Magoha was the burly man-mountain he is today adorned in a heavily-feathered professional & academic cap, he was merely an ebullient yet studious lad from rural Gem in Siaya County. The distance from Gem, Siaya to Starehe Boys Centre, Nairobi is nearly 410 Kilometres. Starehe Boys Centre was started in 1959 and during the time it was shepherded by the Late Geoffrey Griffin, it styled itself as not just a home for needy yet bright students but also a premiere Kenyan academic Centre of Excellence. And I feel this consideration weighed heavily on the family of the colossus when they decided to take him there for his studies. Plenty of water may have gone under the bridge and road networks enhanced, but a poignant question is if Prof. Magoha would have been able to make the 410km commute to Gem daily were Starehe not a boarding school? Such an edict to abolish all boarding schools smirks of aloofness, high-handedness, ivory-towerism and arrogance of the variety absolutely discordant with intellectualism. Were Queen Marie Antoinette of the pre-revolutionary France still alive, even she would have baulked at such misanthropy!

Professor George Albert Omore Magoha – Kenyan Cabinet Secretary For Education

Closely linked to the former, Boarding Schools Provide a stable & conducive learning environment. You need no specialized learning in child psychology to make such a deduction. Only a tenuous grasp on logic. Affording students fewer distractions is surely an invaluable shot in the arm tantamount to their scholastic pursuits. The reality of this world is that nobody chooses where they are born. Economic situations are at a variance while family stability may be in conjecture for some units. There are families that suffer such eternal bickering that you are left to wonder what attracted the couple that are now parents together in the first place. Beyond a shadow of doubt, this is unlikely to be the best situation for any student. Moreover, we have the pressures of suburban life where both parents and their children are forced to wake up even before the crack of dawn to beat the traffic jams that are an unfortunate fixture of city life. Added to the existential tussle of the day that culminates in the children more often than not getting home before their parents and then immerse themselves into chores adjunct to the mountain of assignments they are expected to finish before showing up at school the next day to continue the interminable cycle. Woe on you if you do not have a house help to organize the small things like washing and ironing uniforms! Don’t even get me started on the conflict-prone areas of this Republic where primitive men still wreak wanton destruction and dereliction of peace while trying to steal each other’s livestock. The insecurity is oft so bad that whole villages are put into full flight into havens of tranquility until conflict subsides when they make a catabasis back to the status quo. With livestock also comes the burden of Nomadic Pastoralism in Arid and Semi-arid Lands where families have to move to where the resources are after depleting the current regions’ quota of water and pasture. More often than not, this means uprooting the entire family, inclusive of school-going children and wandering all over the landscape like the children of Israel during their sojourn in the desert led by Moses. This is no environment for scholarly undertakings that often require stability for effective learning. Perhaps, more Prep time is available to the students in Boarding schools which is irrefutably the difference between excellent academic outcomes and merely passing through the school system.

Children forced to walk to the bus stop even before the crack of dawn. Education is now torture!

Vagaries of unpredictable & adverse weather conditions are an impediment to day schools. Needless to say, this situation is exacerbated by Climate change that makes weather conditions touch & go. I recently encountered a post somewhere of a guy who was shipwrecked 3 times. He spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. His life was imperiled by both rivers & robbers. He suffered the precariousness of a life with dishonest & mendacious brethren both Jews and Gentiles. His life was one of ceaseless hazards in cities, deserts, seas and violent storms. The keen Biblical analysts here immediately recognise this passage of text from Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians. However, a similar fate is the day-to-day life of many students across our nation. Even the scenic and enthralling beauty of the Great Rift Valley is now turning against our people as the breathtaking Lakes of the halcyon days are now expanding beyond their realm submerging all and sundry. This includes infrastructure and social amenities like schools making a bad situation absolutely ghastly. The description of the same as an ecological catastrophe does not merely pay homage to the impact of the same on water pH levels, ambient flora and fauna but also the students that are now cut-off from their schools. Hitherto paths to schools now end up in a pool of bracken water as regions formerly easily accessible by road on foot are now only reachable using the make-shift rafts, the only conveyance that parents can afford to bequeath to their education-thirsty children. This leads to daily existential duels between these tots and ferocious wild animals like hippos and crocodiles in places like Baringo! Even the sage who envisioned the roots of education being bitter while the fruits are sweeter surely did not presage such difficulty. Then there are parts of Kenya with an all-round rainy season like Kericho and Kakamega. I offer my sincerest of commiserations to those who make daily voyages from home to school under such conditions, braving the muddy terrain with the need to keep their uniforms and shoes clean for an audacious new day tomorrow. Granted life will be one of toil, struggles, ups and downs but I posture that lads and lasses needn’t be subjected to such hardship while still being expected to overcome our rigorous Kenyan Education system.

Expanding Rift Valley Lakes have wreaked havoc on the region’s infrastructure.

Boarding schools are an excellent springboard to inculcate independence and autonomy from parents. A much-touted critique of day schools is that they makes children too dependent on their parents, resting on their laurels and denying them the tactical nous to independently face their own life challenges without a rock to lean on. Many parents, more so the responsible ones are often quite doting and protective of their young always viewing them as that little fruit of their loins that once upon a time lay in the crèche vulnerable and entitled yet still a bundle of joy. Pertinent to such parents, every bruised knee and calloused elbow was treated as a medical emergency for the day scholars. In boarding schools there is neither daddy nor mummy in sight to tide you up when you are down. This gives the individual the chance to stand up on their own merits and test their resolve and ability to live and work free from parental influence. There comes a time when even academic responsibility is vested on the capable shoulders of the student. This is excellent preparation for their future endeavours where as a leader, sharp and spontaneous decision-making is a much-vaunted skill in both employment and enterprise. Important too is the fact that self-discipline is honed by having a daily routine which is a common feature in institutions with boarding facilities. Time-keeping is a skill that is whetted by the boarding school system as the consequences of tardiness may include missed meals and risking adrenaline-fueled extreme sporting escapades against a draconian and indisputably garrulous discipline/boarding master or Teacher on duty. Athletics prowess notwithstanding, as per the stipulates of Biblical Proverbs 22:15, sparing the rod is also rather low on the agenda.

The chance to engage in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities is among the lures of boarding schools. With the new-found sense of identity and solidarity with your mates, also arises the need to protect certain inalienable bragging rights against aggressors. The superfluous activities additional to the academic calendar are especially vital as they offer the opportunity for social, cultural and personal development. These activities may include sports, drama, music festivals, debating, science contest and career-specific clubs. Also because the children are growing, they will eventually hit puberty and start experiencing physical changes. As most human development experts pontificate, teenage is a tumultuous period of great physical, emotional, psychological and moral growth & development. And these activities serve the budding young men & women well as they are inundated with bursts of energy they previously never possessed beforehand. Activities performed together are essential in building fraternity among people. Additionally, they are indispensable in teaching young people how to deal with failure, inculcates fortitude of heart, resilience, fosters team spirit, conflict resolution, fairness, magnanimity in victory and also the solidarity to stand up for your teammates. I remember an incident in high school where we were watching a UEFA Champions League match when the buzz-kill discipline master showed up with the express intention to switch off the Television citing noise-making for the rest of the school as his principal grouse. After some remonstrations from a thoroughly aggrieved member of the audience, which mostly fell on the deaf ears of the concerned. The Entertainment Prefect begrudgingly took charge of the situation and switched off the TV for the night and the Television Cabinet was locked. All appeared to be going according to script but subliminally the murmurs of discontent were turning into a nefarious stratagem. Two of my colleagues decided not to take this slight on their fandom to their esteemed football team lying down. In the twinkle of an eye, somebody switched off the lights and there was helter-skelter scampering in all directions. By the time the Discipline Master found the switch to take stock of the situation, it was clear to all what had just happened. He had taken ounces of ‘Ugali’ to the head and his tidy, clothes were now sordid! As they say, boys will be boys. The guy decided to be a good sport about the shenanigans and let it go but it speaks to a brotherhood, the fact that to this day none has snitched on the perpetrator of the incident. You start off as disparate men and women of distinct geneses and character types but time and shared experiences anneal the bond of familiarity between y’all.

Immortalized in meme is my high school discipline master who once took Ugali to the head in the line of duty. Immortalized in secrecy shall remain his assailant…

Boarding schools build character. New people and new experiences have the reaction of evoking unforeseen emotions in people. For the new-comers in boarding schools, there is the age-old tradition of bullying. This practice varies greatly depending on the type of school and breed of fellows found there. However, in most institutions this norm is merely a light-hearted practice where the Senior Students try to assert some modicum of dominance of the younger folk. For instance, my own situation as a freshman entailed being woken up at 2 a.m. by Form 2’s (Grade 10 for my IGCSE crowd) to mount a guard of honour for them. We stood in two straight files where a lanky, wiry fellow lectured us on some rather naughty, popularly used words & phrases by the indigenes of the institutions which I don’t feel the predilection to share here due to their graphic nature. In the foregoing, the leader of the miscreant gang of torturous sophomores suddenly turned to me and asked for my name. I replied.

Gang Leader: Did you pass your exams to get into this institution?

Me: (With a near whisper) Yes.

Gang Leader: Then would you care to give us a slight demo of how you passed the exam?

Me: For sure.

Not aware this was a trick question and taking the bait, I proceeded to strut my stuff in the presence of all. I did not anticipate to be the subject of some light mirth so much so that the quasi-parade was soon dismissed. The point of this story is that such incidences of slight bullying are a character-building experience. A few end up having all their confidence and self-esteem shattered and falling through the cracks but most will be held in good stead by the experience. Boarding schools also offer an opportunity for Mentorship. Sooner rather than later everyone’s talents and academic capabilities come to the fore. You will ultimately bear witness to some schoolmates receiving awards for being in the top 3 of their class. Others for scoring the title-winning basket, yet another gains acclaim for their flawless theatrical portrayal of the lady in ‘Juliet & Romeo’ despite being a pubescent boy. Here is now a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get insight from that classmate who beats everyone hands-down in both the mathematical examination and the regional contest. And there is nothing better than being mentored by your own peer. Iron sharpens iron.

Culture of Collaboration. Boarding schools induct their students into the pristine way of life where you learn to work in articulation with other minds to solve all sorts of problems. Cleaning your living space is your responsibility. In the nick of time, the House Prefect will come up with a duty-rota such that each day perhaps a team of two will clean a particular cubicle. This is a chance to work in synergy to enable you to finish the task in good time and effectively lest you be forced to do the repeat task. Collaboration goes further than that. Nothing earns a geek more stripes than dabbling in and fruitful participation in the Science contest. For most presentations, two or more characters will be required to develop a concept, brainstorm about it, research, build a prototype and ultimately present it before the multitudes taking cognizance of yourselves as ambassadors for your institution. This is an excellent chance for learning how to make best use of the shared pool of skills, talents, competencies and even idiosyncrasies among yourselves to build a viable product. It is also a chance for peer-to-peer learning.

Effective care for Learners with Special Needs. An often-overlooked sector of the population are the people with disabilities. As able-bodied men and women, we take for granted the fact that some of the hypothetically simple tasks may be extremely difficult nay impossible to others, by no fault of their own. None has a say on the arrangement of their genetic makeup and how they are born. None possesses the prescience to predict calamity or an accident that could maim them leading to loss of their anatomical faculties. Caring for differently-abled people is quite challenging and the run-of-the-mill parent with many other competing responsibilities is vulnerable to getting overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. To mitigate this eventuality, we have special schools that cater to the needs of this cadre of learners. In appreciation of the challenges involved, very few of these schools accept day scholars. Assuming you have no personal vehicle, it is a painfully-arduous task to share public transport with people not accountable for their actions. All these adjunct to the impolite stare of a cold, indifferent public bereft of concern, understanding or even a scintilla of empathy for your situation. Others haven’t an inkling on how to mind their own business albeit etiquette. So to avoid all these sideshows, it becomes a more convenient bet to drop off your child in a special school and only visit periodically while the experts deal with them.

Imbuing Social Maturity, Leadership & appreciation of cultural diversity. When a group of people live together, sooner rather than later, their true character filters through. Indeed a wise man once uttered that the true test of a man’s character is how he tackles adversity. It is at this juncture that true leaders and stewards are forged and step forth. Also social maturity is attained by the process of separating a child from their family and having them learn to have a new fraternity or sorority away from home. Those with leadership acumen eventually come to the fore and exercise jurisdiction over their fellow students. The House Prefect takes responsibility over the living quarters and general welfare of all the dormitory residents. The Sports Prefect ensures that all sporting equipment, appliances and infrastructure is maintained all the while liaising with school administration to ensure nothing falls into disrepair. The Dining Hall Prefect is the Principal’s eye in the School’s Cafeteria ensuring quality control of the victuals, sufficient quantities, crowd control, preserving a quota for the late-arriving sporting teams & the requisite nutritional value for the rapidly growing teenagers with an appetite that is expanding proportionately. The School Captain and his Deputy are the overall Leaders of the School Governing Council additional to creating a liaison level between the students and school administration. All these are portfolios that are non-existent in day schools which yields a situation where we have entitled intellectuals but who lack the backbone to take responsibility and be effective stewards of industry in years to come. Kenyans from all walks of life countrywide most assuredly have a kaleidoscopic range of cultural traditions and norms whose appreciation is taught by encountering a multiplicity of humanity. This is seldom possible in day schools as these commonly admit students from the vicinity of the institution with a similar culture. This limitation may create closed-minds devoid of appreciation for other cultures which is abominable.

Student Leadership roles inspire confidence & responsibility which are valuable components for future success.

Enforcing Equality. This particular point is a substantiation of the aforementioned one on conducive learning environments. Students hail from families that enjoy differing strata of financial stability. In paying homage to the human palm, fingers are of variegated shapes, sizes and lengths. Equality is brought on board by having all students have the same uniform, learn in the same classes, eat the same food in the Dining Hall and ultimately sleep in the same dormitories. A rule that varies from school to school sometimes forbids students from arriving with cooked food or having it brought on visiting days. The spirit behind such a rule is to curtail a smidge of resentment, envy and even self-loathing that the students from the not so well-endowed families are wont to have towards their housemates that came from money. Equality is pivotal in entrenching respect for each other’s humanity irrespective of all else.

Change of Scenery. Scientific studies by psychologists have brought to the fore empirical wisdom that a change in scenery could improve academic outcomes. A change from normal routine is as good as a rest. Such a variance may result in a change of perspectives, coaxing the fire for new ideas and in some cases even unlocking of new sectors of the brain that were previously untapped. “It is an interesting psychological phenomenon” is all I can surmise from this.

In closing submissions, I feel the benefit to be acquiesced from boarding schools far supersedes the drawbacks. Acts of arson notwithstanding, I call for placid heads in dealing with this situation. I may not be too conversant with the strictures of the newly-minted CBC curriculum but feel its full value will be tapped by keeping existing structures in place while gradually building on them as you phase out the outmoded components of the old system. We should not trifle with the education of the succeeding generations and make it subject to the whims of egotistical blackguards.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

PROLIFERATION OF SHOPPING MALLS IN OUR SUBURBS IS SYMPTOMATIC OF ECONOMIC REGRESSION

The incomparable author of the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, the sagacious King Solomon opined, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be repeated as there is nothing new under the sun.” According to a copy of the Financial Times I chanced upon; at the ebb of the Cold War era, the Mall was once-upon-a-time the heart & soul of suburban American Life. Here family units shopped, teenagers hung-out with their friends and even a few low-budget films were set. These malls existed in the mold of the Victorian gallerias & passages, quite famously, La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in downtown Milan. The shapes were elegant and replete with breathtaking apses that portrayed a utopian ideal. The spirit behind a strategically labyrinthine layout wrought enclosed spaces that though masquerading as public, were a welcome relief from the decaying suburban brick and mortar gaols that were the manifestation of the retail stores of the time. Both the scarcity & novelty of the products to be found in these malls made fickle customers abandon the small retail outlets in their street corners for the splendor of these newly-molted outfits. Their golden-era was in the 1990s when a steady increase in population brought about bustling business. Even then cracks were already festering. The malls of the halcyon days were anchored on the logic of ‘cornerstone stores’ attracting business to the less prestigious and prominent business entities. This business model that leaned heavily on the department store model of ‘anchor tenants’ drawing in the heft of the customers was eternally on shaky ground. Come the early 2000’s, disruption of the business models of yore was brought about by e-commerce, where companies like Amazon & Alibaba took full advantage of antiquated norms to blow unprepared and unadapting competitors out of the water. The Mall bubble had burst. Many are the firms that filed what in American Corporate legal parlance is described as ‘Chapter 11 bankruptcy.’ The shot-clock on the magnetism of the mall of days bygone has nonchalantly tapered to nought in the unfortunate epoch of the pandemic of our time – COVID-19. The mall in the style and shade that existed then was steeped in grandeur but painfully anaemic & cadaverous with regards to draw and corporate logic. Another publication, The New York Times in 2015 ran a piece – An Ode to shopping Malls. The prelude to this melancholic piece read, “Farewell to pleasure palaces of days past. In no dissonance to how a filmmaker’s series chronicles a lifestyle as it approaches its nadir.”  That was the situation in America and Western Europe.

Reminiscent of monkey see monkey do; Kenya is firmly on the downhill slalom on the slippery slope that is the ‘mallification’ of every space for enterprise. In our heritage of splendor, the investment mantra at play today by many SACCOS, ‘Chamas’ and Investment vehicles is that if you have mobilized some sizeable heft of disposable revenue, all you have to do is acquire a huge chunk of unproductive land in the middle of nowhere, fence it, put up gargantuan water tanks before bankrolling a ceaseless media advertisement campaign to signal your intent to create a gated-community. In the essence of decongesting the City of Nairobi, a myriad such outfits bestride the landscape within the metropolitan area. After attracting a sizeable number of investors, aggressive construction of residential apartments will ensue with almost certain immediate occupation. In the foregoing, a pragmatic entrepreneur will realize that all these people will sooner rather than later yearn for a shopping centre, public services, infrastructure, amenities, recreational facilities, amusement parks & other creature comforts within proximal range. That is when an idea will burn bright inside one’s cerebral cortex. Let’s open a Shopping Mall to cater for this burgeoning community of urbanites. In the advent of the property boom attributed to the fiscal prudence of the regime of Kenya’s 3rd President, H.E. Mwai Kibaki that put money in the middle class’s pockets, we today see many such developments coming up. People have even gone as far as to uproot former lucrative foreign exchange-earners like coffee & tea in difference to real estate. This modus operandi has not merely been restrained to the residential real estate but also office space and business premises coming up at a premium. Matter of factly, concerns have been raised about an ominously gaping chasm that still sit undeveloped in Upper Hill, Nairobi as a foundation and basement where there is expected to be built Africa’s tallest edifice, The Pinnacle towers. The expectation is of a 70-story, 300-meter twin tower complex built at the cost of 20 billion Kenya Shillings comprising of a 5-Star hotel, leisure facilities, residential & office spaces as well as you guessed it, a shopping mall. Currently, the record for the tallest building in Africa is held by Carlton Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. I personally question the logicality of this development yet many commercial skyscrapers most especially in that very locale of Upper Hill remain unoccupied many years after completion. But when foreign capital is available and is being invested to build my Capital city, who am I to complain?

A Computer Graphic Imagery (CGI) rendering of the proposed Pinnacle Towers in Upper Hill, Nairobi.

In another forum; ICT Champion, Socio-economic Commentator, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship in the University of Nairobi and an acquaintance of mine, Prof. Elijah Bitange Ndemo wondered out loud why if you were to find 50 Nairobians & give each of them a million shillings to invest, unsurprisingly 10 will buy matatus, another 10 will buy plots, 10 more will import merchandise from China to sell while the remaining 20 will ‘turn up’ at the clubs and bray to their entire estate about some nebulous mongrel called ‘kuomoka’ – getting rich (sic)! In his assessment, the good don adjudged the problem to be lack of creativity in thinking out of the box. He lamented about a dearth of nous to go into manufacturing while all concept papers elucidate the need for that as a prerequisite for industrialization. He was way off the mark on this one. Many are the Industrialists, Enterprising entrepreneurs and Engineers that are churned out of our tertiary institutions annually, many brimming with the audacity of hope that their naked ambition, skill, competence, passion, talents, knowledge and even idiosyncrasies will be invaluable in the attainment of industrialization. Reiterating sentiments from Irungu Thattiah’s treatise – The Failed Presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya is a country run by ice-cold financial mercenaries and sordid profiteers. That clearly explains why the Konza Technopolis project inaugurated auspiciously during the Former President H.E. Mwai Kibaki & Premier Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga’s time in office had been put on ice during the 1st Term of his successor’s regime. In the less than enlightened view of his successor, minuscule by means of quid pro quo could be personally gleaned for the dynamic duo; Uhuruto, in the course of the project. Conceitedness aside, this could have been an excellent launch pad for the industrialization agenda that can most definitely maximize the number of jobs for the conveyor belt of youth churned out every year by our tertiary institutions of tutelage. Credence to the Almighty that at the dawn of the 2nd Term, the Handshake between H.E. Kenyatta & Rt. Hon. Odinga, the voice of reason prevailed and that show was put back on the road. Returning to the woes of the Kenyan local Industrialist, let’s say you want to start your humble cottage industry bottling & refilling potable (drinkworthy) water for sale locally. Before earning your first shilling from the endeavour you will have to have factored in the KEBS standardization mark levy (Sh. 102,000), County Business permit fees (Sh. 18,500), Public Health Department Permit fees (Sh. 13,000), Mandatory Lab Testing (Sh. 15,000), NEMA fees (Sh. 33,000) & Excise duty (License, Bond & Stamp – Sh. 400,000), among a plethora of other taxation costs I can think of from the top of my pate. From deliberations with some of my friends, up to 55 disparate statutory corporations and regulatory agencies must get what William Shakespeare characterized in his play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ as “their pound of flesh” before an enterprise can even attain lift-off. That is some steep capital expenditure which only a few can muster. For some context, Excise duty is a tax ostensibly levied on goods and services manufactured or imported into a country as specified in the First Schedule of the Excise Duty Act of Kenya (2015). Why bottled water is deemed excisable yet it is a natural resource not ‘manufactured’ absolutely goes over my head! Woe on you if you are exporting, as a sales tax will still be levied by the KRA on your consignment. Cess will also be levied on cross-county transfer of your merchandise, non-farm-produced notwithstanding. You may find yourself coughing out a million shillings only to run a business whose earnings will be in the region of 20,000 to 40,000 shillings which is an absolute farce but as plaintively stated by Ezekiel Mphahlele in his short story, “Man Must Live!” In the backdrop of all this, anyone with disposable income for investment will ultimately find it a safer bet to invest in low-risk options like a Block of Flats in the suburbs or low-income housing estates, a Shopping Mall or Government Bonds / Treasury Bills.

We must live in cognizance of the fact that a mall is not and can never be a substitute for a factory or industry. In the interest of full disclosure, a mall built for a rough estimation of US $50,000,000 can only host like 500 individual business units due to space considerations. A factory worth the same amount can directly employ up to 10 times that number and indirectly keep suppliers who are farmers, fuel companies among other cadres of attendant business interests and professionals whose enterprises are tidally-locked to the fate of that factory in the green. That multitude will ultimately have money in their pockets to be able to expend buying groceries; paying for healthcare; school fees; paying for transportation on motorcycles, Tuk-Tuk or taxis; keep afloat the owner of the local pub; eat in the small joint run by ‘mama pima’ & even the perfunctory 10/- for the ‘Mutura’ guy!  All this cash flow will directly lead to more money in the pocket of the man at the bottom of the financial pyramid and by extension a vibrant economy. Let’s now look at the business model of a hypothetical mall. A typical mall is a capital-intensive project launched on the substratum of massive, high-interest loans acquiesced from various financial institutions. On completion, more often than not exorbitant amounts of rent are charged on the individual stalls or stores located there-in. Due to this extractive business model, not just any Tom, Dick and Harry will be accorded the chance to trade in these units. Vetting to ensure only photogenic occupants are allowed will be done by merciless Public Relation gurus in the guise of protecting the image albeit brand name of the entire establishment. Profiling will be the order of the day as the not-so-attractive stalls will be located in the blind-spot of the mall while the more swaddling ventures will act as the totem pole for that particular shopping mall. Needless to say, your ethnic looking ‘mama mboga’ (vegetable vendor), ‘dera’ to boot, will not make the cut in lieu of having a face akin to that only a mother could love, battered by the vagaries of natural attrition and a lifetime of ceaseless toil and disappointment. Most malls have a disdain for wenches sitting cross-legged in their hallowed corridors and esteemed passageways selling agricultural produce. They would prefer having this sort of merchandise in the shelves of an anchor premium Supermarket brand that is the lifeblood of that mall in the first place. Instructive is that many of the stores in the malls around Nairobi are foreign-backed, with the bulge of their sales revenue either wired to some tax haven somewhere or exported outside our frontiers. I will give an example of the newly-minted and aptly-named Two-Rivers Mall, built on the bank of two rivulets that bestride Nairobi and Kiambu counties or in phraseology attributed to one geriatric despot from a neighbouring state, “The Water is in Nairobi but the Mall is in Kiambu!” When the emporium in question was launched around this same time in 2017 taking advantage of the tingle of Valentine’s Day, a company where I have vested interests was tapped to conduct a site survey geared at an ICT installation for one of the stores therein. I was lucky to be the personnel chosen to conduct the survey but between you and me, yours truly had input on that decision. In the foregoing and after long deliberations and executive rendezvous, I surmised that the particular investor for whom we were to work was actually from the land of Beşiktaş and Galatasaray.

Long story short, our local capital may be insufficient to run a business liquid enough to generate revenue to cover rent of up to Sh. 100,000 monthly. The tragedy of all this is the discernment of the fact that unfiltered inflow of foreign investment more often than not undercuts the local investors thereby hampering emerging economies. Today in Kenya both large and small Civil Engineering works most poignantly related to building of the mushrooming shopping malls all over are conducted by the China State Construction Engineering Company.

It is no surprise that Kenyan Civil Engineers now work as foremen, artisans, technologists while others have even abandoned the field completely. Could the attainment of Vision 2030 for Kenya driven by its autochthonous professionals merely be a pipe-dream nay political haberdashery? But I digress. Let’s now cast our gaze far and wide to the South-Eastern Asian Economic Tigers, one being Singapore. An often overstated anecdote is one of Singapore being at the same economic level as Kenya at the time of independence in 1963. Indeed, Kenya & Singapore have a shared heritage as for thousands of years even before the advent of Graeco-Roman civilization, evidence is rife that East Africa was in commerce with South-East Asia. Singapore has suffered many years of dominion first under China, then Japan when it attained military superiority over most of the orient and eventually in 1946 after the levelling of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, to Britain. Singapore as part of Malaysia was under the royal crown of the British from 1946 until when they broke from Malaysia and declared independence in 1965. There was of course the natural jostling for leadership until up stepped Lee Kuan Yew who was a capable and visionary leader whose enlightenment enabled him draw greatly from the lessons of history. His most famous and utilitarian maxim was, “No Country can ever become a major economy without first becoming an Industrial power.” The Graduate of the London School of Economics and later a First–Class Honours’ Degree Holder in Law & Political Science then went about instituting sound policy and meaningful ideology on creating and supporting all sorts of industry in that improved the standing of Singapore greatly on the World stage. He put forward egalitarian strategies that leaned heavily on meritocracy and multiculturalism to aggressively coruscate the image of Singapore as a manufacturing and industrial powerhouse to the entire globe. Today the economic prospects of Kenya & Singapore are as distinct as night is from day. People today travel from all over the world as medical tourists to access the best Medicare in Singapore. Many are the goods bearing the ‘Made in Singapore’ label even in our very own kitchen cabinets.

The proliferation of malls has taken on epidemic proportions as now we even find malls competing for the same population demographic which is farcical to put it generously. Within the Nairobi – Kiambu nexus is an area served by the divergent and nearly parallel Limuru and Kiambu Roads sliced by a transversal thoroughfare, the Northern By-pass. A small area of about 25km2 (5 x 5 Km) – which I am in no conjecture about as I have personally taken the time to walk the distance, is served by nearly 6 adjacent malls scarcely abut of each other. In Ridgeways, we have the old Nakumatt Ridgeways Mall on one side of Kiambu Road meanwhile within Wi-Fi range, across the road another investor found it prudent to open the pristine Ciata City Mall. About 2 km down the same road is Quickmart Mall, Thindigua. Reverting back to the junction and taking the Northern By-pass, you will soon find yourself marveling at the megalithic Two-Rivers Mall (Touted as the Largest Mall in East Africa by floor space). Traversing through the Two-Rivers will take you to Limuru Road and within a slug’s crawling distance (a mere 400 Metres up the road) is the Rosslyn Riviera Mall. 3 Kilometres further upstream and you are face to face with the vintage Village Market Mall. The melodrama of this scenario is in the stiff competition between the Malls all serving the same market segment meaning any new entrant will only act to cut into the competitive advantage of the next store. The Law of Diminishing Returns will sooner rather than later set in. In the situation described above where one venture is encumbered by the misfortune of being a mere half-a-kilometre from the biggest mall in the region, then there will certainly be premium tears for its prospects! A spot check of the Rosslyn Riviera mall shows 1/3 occupancy among the stores and a parking lot so empty that it virtually entreats an adjacent church to take up its space to create a façade of vibrancy. All these malls were most assuredly opened to ride the wave of the Diplomatic Corps, Foreign missions and UN staff from Gigiri, Nyari, Kasarini and Runda Estates adjunct to the rapidly growing middle-income areas of Ridgeways and Ruaka. Truth of the matter is that the probability of meeting the same families and perhaps individuals in these establishments at different times of the same weekend is high.

6 major Shopping Malls in the same locale is an overkill, don’t you think?

The convenience of malls is in finding a multiplicity of establishments under a one-stop-shop. A single mall may be home to several Supermarkets, Banking facilities & Branches, Boutiques, Beauty & cosmetic stores, Barbershops, Hair salons, Photo Studios, Art Galleries, movie theatres, shoe shops, Forex Bureaus, Tile & Carpet Centres, Furniture stores, Curio shops, Multicultural Restaurants & Trattorias, Bakeries, Confectionary stores, Cafes, Delicatessens, Food Courts, Juice parlors, Amusement parks, Gaming arcades, Pet-food store, Telecommunications & ICT service and accessory vendors, Hardware stores, a Gym & Fitness Centre, Spa, Tour & Travel operators, Real Estate & Property Development firms, Carwashes et.al. The drawback is that the other individual stores outside the mall will encounter constrained business yet they have the propensity to each employ more people cumulatively compared to just a single mall.

Another peril of mall culture is in promoting Consumerism. Shopping Malls and the culture of not just Social Media Influencers but also egotistical slay queens are a match made in heaven. The mass market will be enthused to buy something merely because it has been endorsed by some so-called Social Media personality. The walls of a few prominent malls in Nairobi are decked with celebrities of all form, shapes and sizes promoting some item of apparel, some merchandise or other. The infatuation with a mercantile mindset ultimately kills our own will to innovate. In borrowing a leaf from successful business moguls, you needn’t be preoccupied with the price point or value of your goods/business but instead the problem-solving aspect of the entire endeavour. Impressionable teenagers and young adults are prone to fritter their time hanging out in shopping malls, taking snaps for flaunting on the ‘Insta’ while building castles in the sky about getting their 15 seconds of fame and being the next online influencer which is abhorrent. Kenya is cutting itself a negative niche of becoming a dumping ground for foreign products, many retrograde as a result of emphasizing consumption and laissez-faire economic structures at the expense of production. We should be agog in the consciousness that the wallowing of Africa in the morass of poverty has actually directly yielded the glory of some foreign civilizations. Calamitously, we are losing the next generation of thinkers, creatives, innovators, solution-architects and industrialists by failing to create policy, ideology and even a deliberate campaign to promote Kenya’s industrialization. Apparatchiks at the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and Industrialization wax lyrical about slogans like ‘Buy Kenyan Build Kenya.’ However, they exert not a whimper of effort to bring to fruition this agenda. In fact, a few bureaucrats after receiving kickbacks from some foreign entity will meekly look the other way as local enterprise is petered out of existence. A myriad of foreign-backed entities that adorn our shopping malls for instance LC Waikiki apparel store, Shoprite, Carrefour inter-alia market goods from their parent nations which Kenyans can actually produce to cater to local demand. Poignant Question: Where is the market for Kenyan goods? That said, recent developments have portended that every economic situation that was not anchored on sound economic footing had its lot exacerbated by the Covid-19 viral pandemic. Malls were not spared as the lockdowns and social distancing measures meant that fewer customers walked through their doors which tapered to a trickle the direr the situation became. With the constrained revenues, I can only commiserate with those who still have to fork out these exorbitant rates for rent.

Kenya has the special distinction of having had an Economics virtuoso as a President emeritus who served between 2003 – 2013. Today to find the solution to most quandaries that rollick us economically as a nation, an important question to ask ourselves is: How would Mwai Kibaki have handled this situation?

  1. State Censure of new shopping malls in areas already experiencing a glut of the same – As one given to paroxysms of insight, I would ask the government to put a moratorium on the creation of new malls all the while creating a conducive environment for local investment in Industry. I’m not calling for the shutting down of existing ones or stopping the ones that will certainly be needed on new developments like the Tatu City Project & the Konza Technopolis.
  2. Additionally, the regime of multiple taxation on products & vital inputs just has to stop adjunct to streamlining federal taxes with the new reality that is the need of the nascent devolved units also to tax to generate revenue.
  3. The exorbitant licensing fees to our statutory corporations have to be abated with a keen eye on the small cottage industries being set up by budding entrepreneurs. Instructive to note, financial institutions should take the cue from what Irungu Thattiah describes in Volume 1 of his book, The Failed Presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta’ of the Mwai Kibaki regime that worked primarily with lenders who prioritized the Small, Medium Enterprises and startups as cashflow among these establishments is what drives economic growth in a country like ours. The truth of the matter is that only indigenous Kenyans can ever have vested interests in building Kenya. In this regard; incentives, subsidies & an all-out regimen of protectionism should be put in to safeguard our dreams of industrialization.
  4. Creation of both Government-funded and Privately-backed Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Industrialization is a capital-guzzling & long-time investment. Lamentably, many banks in Kenya are so risk-averse as to deny the much-needed capital investment that is definitely the life-blood of enterprises in their infancy. Commercial banks will require serious prodding from State with regards to both policy and edicts. The archetypal characteristics of Special Economic Zones is that the enterprises started here do enjoy rebates, inter alia:
    -Low Corporate Tax.
    -Duty & VAT Exemption.
    -Stamp Duty Exemption
    -Withholding Tax Exemption.
    Indeed for the Naivasha SEZ, a kilometre from the newly-minted dry port, the state has already gazetted a subsidized power tariff of as low as US 5 ¢ per Kilowatt-hour consumed according to what I surmised from the CEO of the SEZA – The Special Economic Zones Authority, Mr. Meshack Kimeu. As I deduced from the Business News on Citizen TV on the 18th February 2021, the economic regulations of SEZs tend to be conducive so as to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from outside our boundaries.
    And this is not an alien concept as the same is already at play in Rwanda & Ethiopia.
    Some of the earmarked premises for new shopping malls in areas already having a high density should be converted into SEZs, Industrial parks and value-addition units as these invariably employ infinitely more people than malls anyways.

Kenya today finds herself at a cul-de-sac. Do we continue allowing for the unregulated mushrooming of malls or do we engage in protectionism for retail stores and individual businesses to widen our taxation revenue base? Do we place our lot with mallification or do we go all out into Industrialization? I may not be a thoroughbred Economist but pragmatism dictates that barriers to entry should now be erected pertinent to curbing the over-enthusiastic slide into the mall culture. We need to build the resilience of multiple ventures to enhance the diversification of the offerings not just on the commercial front but also at the Kenyan marketplace and stem the tide of consumerism.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

THE CHURCH HAS LOST ITS MORAL HIGH GROUND IN THE KENYAN SOCIOPOLITICAL SPACE

In Scriptures deemed sacrosanct by the Christian faith is chronicled a story of the 7th King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel called Ahab. He would never by any stretch of the imagination make the ‘roll of honour’ on any parameter as a distinguished ruler. Cynicism and idolatry were his only forte. In due course, he espied a neighbouring vineyard in the vicinity of his palace in Jezreel. The petrichor that wafted from the soil to the corpulent harvest that issued from therein, all seemed to arouse covetousness from the supremo of the day. The vineyard belonged to a man of modest means named Naboth. The king wanted the prime piece of real estate for himself to grow herbs ostensibly for his table. The proximity to the palace made the land irresistible, the King even being forced to summon the owner to a tête-à-tête where he was willing to bend over backwards for the sake of his subject. Naboth respectfully declined the request giving reasonable justification for his stance. This was the family heritage that he had received from his forebearers who preceded him in ownership. The Lord also forbade the transfer of the land outside Naboth’s family. King Ahab favoured asking for the land instead of forceful acquisition and was willing to pay a premium for the place adjunct to giving land elsewhere to Naboth if it would please him. The man could not budge. Eventually, the two parties went their separate ways with the King heavy of heart. When he arrived home; his wife, Queen Jezebel almost instantly picked up on his trepidation. She knew of the foregoing and suspected all had not gone as planned. This literal ‘femme fatale’ almost immediately schemed to have Naboth’s existence vitiated in a conspiracy that had the King’s name. When Ahab heard the plan he voiced little by way of opprobrium. Soon trumped-up legal proceedings were brought up against Naboth on treasonous sedition at odds with the crown and blasphemy against God. The sons of Belial who had been well coached and remunerated by Jezebel, came up as witnesses to corroborate the egregious charges brought up against the person of Naboth. Who was the arbiter for the case you may ask? If vested interests was ever dressed up in royal garb & a diadem, then it was on full display that day. It was King Ahab! Naboth had good opening and valedictory arguments but what justice can a mouse ever get in a courtroom presided over by cats? He was convicted on both charges and sentenced to death by stoning. In no dissimilitude to what the great Nigerian author Chinua Achebe once opined of God’s case, there was no appeal! The execution was to be carried out immediately & before dark, lest the spectacle be roiled by bad light. Naboth was frog-marched to the edge of some cliff and subjected to lapidation pursuant to the judgment pronounced until he was bereft of life. Soon the adjacent land became part of the regal holding. God was severely displeased with this abomination against an innocent man and sent Prophet Elijah to chide the king for his transgression. Elijah suffered fools to a minimum on that material day and lambasted the king with an immeasurable torrent of scorn and castigation for his iniquity. Palaver was most certainly taboo as words were not spared with Elijah the mouthpiece for the Almighty’s polemic against this blackguard of a king. Among the sanctions put against the King was a three-year embargo on rainfall in that jurisdiction. Elijah averred in no uncertain terms that in the fullness of time, as hounds licked Naboth’s blood they too will lap up Ahab’s in equal measure at the same venue. Additionally, his lineage was condemned and would be cut off like his forefathers Jeroboam and Baasha before him. Ahab had some residual reverence for the Lord of hosts and in harking to the thrust of these sentiments almost immediately fell to his knees, rent his clothes & wailed a plaintive cry of lamentation. He put on sackcloth, fasted and lay sobbing in supplication for his forgiveness. His cry of repentance was judged authentic by Yahweh and he was given a reprieve. Most of what was promised would come to pass in his son’s reign but not the section on ‘licking of the blood.’ He probably offered the Queen’s menses as recompense but Jehovah is not the deity for stand-up comedy! Gruesomeness aside, is there still left a true man of God willing to speak the truth to power in Kenya today? This is the riddle our post seeks to decode.

Quintessentially, the disparate nation-states occupying the jurisdiction currently known as Kenya each believed in their own version of a Higher Power. Each community had its own name for this manifestation which ensured the cohesiveness of society as gave it a sense of identity. Belief that divine punishment would result from contravention of communal lores held many a community in good stead. The audacity of hope then was that in life after death, those who lived in harmony with their kinsmen and eschewed perversion would forever exist in glory and their essence would be reincarnated as a thing of beauty for future generations to marvel upon. In post-colonial Kenya, the Church became the moral compass directing the steps of the fledgling republic to its due North. In the turbulent albeit restive epoch after the botched putsch of 1982 and the declaration of Kenya as a ‘de-jure’ singular-party state, the Church became the voice of reason that put checks and balances to the excesses of the state. From their pulpits, true Men of God had the fortitude of heart to castigate rampant corruption, detentions without trial, Nyayo Torture Gulags, attempts at grabbing Uhuru Park & Karura Forest merely for vanity projects, the mortification of building Hydroelectric dams on seasonal rivers merely to ‘set carts before horses’ in sentiments reminiscent of ‘The Bull of Auckland’ talking up the Turkwel Hydropower project, the sham ‘Mlolongo elections’ (1988), the assassination of Cabinet Minister Hon. Robert Ouko among many other acts of ignominy with the requisite impartiality. The reasons for why the aforementioned ‘Bull of Auckland’ whose passport bore the name Nicholas K. Biwott acquiesced this unsightly moniker were among the litany of quandaries that kept the church awake at night. Indeed Rev. Henry Okullu while serving as a provost of the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, a congregation of the Anglican Church of Kenya once chided a section of the clergy permitting carte-blanche to be misused as a conduit for ethnic balkanization and profiteering in the guise of paying obeisance to Caesar! “The Church need not be transformed to an ethnic ghetto merely because its leaders try to be politically correct,” Rev. Okullu thundered in one of his homilies.

Push back from state was hot and heavy (Courtesy of Kenya News Agency)

This cohort of religious leaders was well-versed on the foregoing in Eastern Europe that at the end of the Cold War reformed as unitary states which collapsed under totalitarian regimes majorly because of silencing divergent, progressive voices while charging that the Ruler of the time, unsurprisingly too the Chairman of the ruling party was anointed into that position by God. Then folk of the cloth in Kenya existed in the sagacity of the Serenity Prayer where they sought the serenity to accept what they could not change, the courage and strength to fight for reform and the wisdom to decipher scrupulously the existence of the two scenarios. Needless to say, the names of great paragons of righteousness like Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’ Nzeki (Catholic), David Gitari (Anglican) and Timothy Njoya (PCEA) became synonymous among the iterations of the 4th Estate then as warriors for Social Justice, Civil Liberties and Multiparty Democracy. The latter was once clobbered in Kenyan parlance ‘like a mburukenge’ by our repressive security apparatus, for being part of the Saba Saba rally to exert pressure on the government to open up the political space for multiparty democracy. He not only lost his spectacles but also a perfectly good pair of trousers over & above sustaining fractured limbs in the heinous onslaught against free speech.

Rev. Timothy Njoya clobbered soundly by plainclothes police. Democracy In Kenya was purchased by the Blood of Brave & Honourable Clergymen who unlike their counterparts of today prized Kenyan Civil Liberty above personal comfort [Credit: Photo by Sayyid Azim / AP / Shutterstock (7224027a)]
Heartwarming tales are today regaled of how Catholic Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth adjunct to giving the Moi government hell, was also instrumental in sneaking one of the preeminent heroes of the 2nd Revolution in Kenya; Rt. Hon. Raila A. Odinga, out of the country via the Ukweli Pastoral Centre in Kisumu dressed as a Catholic Priest through Lake Victoria into Uganda and onwards onto exile in Norway when the instruments of state were hell-bent on clamping down against all political dissidents resisting the kleptocracy, incompetence, tyranny and hypocrisy of H.E. Daniel Moi. Tragically, some paid the ultimate price like Bishop Alexander Muge of the Anglican Church in Eldoret who had also styled himself as an absolute thorn in the flesh of his tribal henchman. Threats were soon forthcoming, none more menacing than from Hon. Peter Habenga Okondo, then Minister of Labour and an MP in Busia. He was so wound up by the member of the clergy that he warned him bluntly never to dare set foot in Busia or he would ‘see fire’ and depart in a hearse! Muge being forthright in countenance, retorted that were he to meet his demise by the hand of Okondo, then his blood would forever haunt the politician. Muge then proceeded to visit Busia but as presaged, the return trip ended in tears and great melancholy as he was killed in a highly suspicious road accident! That was Kenya then when the Church was run by true vanguards of the interests of the mwananchi.

Pantheon of sandpaper – Clergy who kept the state on tenterhooks rubbing them the wrong way from the pulpit. From Left: Reverends Ndingi, Gitari, Muge, Okullu & Okoth

Christianity by its very definition is a religion that emphasizes obedience to the Christ-like virtues of Holiness, Repentance, Truth, Love and Justice. It is a monotheistic religion. The premises for congregation of the faithful to conduct praise and worship is called a Church.

Today the Church has been inundated by literal louts, rabble-rousers and touts devoid of an inkling on Divinity, Theology, Doctrinal knowhow or even actual grounding on Christian Religious Dogma. I had purposed not to go down the rabbit hole of castigating the Church but at a juncture when asininity is being mixed in and passed off as religion to the naïve & gullible; in the sentiments given life by the 1994 Hip-hop track by Warren G & Nate Dogg, I will have to speak out to ‘Regulate’ this absurdity. Religion is often an emotive issue as it is the opium and only recourse of the downtrodden masses. You have no doubt seen guys who were previously roasting maize on the street corner decide to have a career change one morning and taking up a Bible and going to the street. They will claim to have slept and had a dream where the Holy Spirit told them to start ministry unto the gentiles and preach the gospel to the nations of the world. Without missing a beat, you will decry them on your streets starting to minister the word unto you. You will also see them boarding buses and giving thinly-veiled threats to the travelers of some unspecified consequence should this contraption that is a ‘creation of the quirky hands of man’ start moving before being committed to orison by Mr. Preacher-man here. The simpleton will start trembling and get rapt as a short sermon is delivered. Predictably, there will be the session of giving where an offering will be asked ‘kuendeleza huduma’ with the service terminating almost as soon as no more money can be cajoled out of the partakers of this odyssey. Almost like clockwork, they move to the next bus and the sequence is replayed.

A Forced congregation for bus pastors who peddle terror among passengers if the conveyance dares move without their ‘prayers’ (End goal: Offering)

The tragedy of this entire fiasco is that the service of the Lord has been converted into a cash cow to be milked by this erstwhile revivalist. Soon they will buy iron sheets and nails to build a ‘permanent’ sanctuary unto the Lord. In half a decade’s time, TV cameras would have been bought to televise the church proceedings to all and sundry. Social media channels will be opened with YouTube Live, Facebook Live among other streaming services acquiring utility. What ensues is a fanatic following to the word of the preacher. The cult of personality & ludicrousness has now been instituted. The next stage in this metamorphosis is the celebrant publically abandoning the strictures of the ‘Holy Book’ and engaging in unchristian-like activities. Adherents are now slapped and insulted ostensibly to drive out evil spirits! Men & women who ordinarily can’t tell the difference between the crack of their derrière and a hole in the ground, now purport to see ‘visions’ and boast a healing touch. My sincere commiseration with all the ‘daughters of Eve’ who have suffered the ignominy of getting fondled & desecrated in front of multitudes by a supposed clergyman purely out of desperation because of interminable struggles with getting a child! Some may have inborn ailments that have defied all medical science and can only be committed unto the capable hands of the Lord for divine intercession. That’s the dastardly pastor’s avenue for profiteering, but I digress. I would be remiss if I failed to observe that documentary evidence has come out clearly in social media pages showing renowned spiritual guides reveling at local ‘watering joints’ and brothels on Fridays with the same bloke avowing the most austere of piety presiding over Holy Mass on Sunday! When the frontier between ethereal and terrestrial matters gets blurred, that is a clarion call for serious reform.

Jesters for Pastors all over & No Voice of Reason in sight!

Instructive to note is that from my 10 years’ experience learning the Christian Religious Education (CRE) subject in school supplementary to attending Pastoral Instruction and Catechism classes, I surmised that if a man has the Holy Spirit, then most assuredly that will come with its gifts and fruits. A few of the gifts I can itemize are Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Reverence for the Lord. Most salient among these gifts is Wisdom and the ability to discern good from evil. Wisdom as the experts will chime in, is the ability to exercise proper discretion for the effective utilization of acquiesced knowledge and natural intelligence. The season of the Covid-19 viral contagion has unfurled to all and sundry the fickleness of most enterprises putting up a façade of success, most especially the Church. A decrease in revenue streams has brought untold apprehension among many congregations and even exposed some merely as scams and temples of mediocrity. Some have even brought their own very tabernacles into disrepute by their actions after lockdown. Many were the spiritual fathers and mothers that reportedly offered divine healing but in the sight of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, it has been left unto conjecture whether they were actually Christian celebrants or probably motorcycle spare part dealers! I am on record avowing in no uncertain terms in my earlier posts that Medical Doctors are the vessels through which ‘Divine Healing’ is propagated unto the multitudes. This is an instance of empirical wisdom. The resourceful among the Ministers have adapted to the demands of the day by taking advantage of advancements in information technology and use of M-Pesa.

I would be remiss if I failed to opine that Wisdom & good judgement are preeminent Gifts of the Holy Spirit. That entails a Primate exercising the discretion to accurately pick the right attire and in what state to step onto the pulpit of the Lord. My question is if Ministry would have ceased had this Lady-pastor stayed out of the game till post-partum? (Courtesy of @paungata)

Today in Kenya, more than ever before has been witnessed a proliferation of churches in numbers greater than the responsible authority’s ability to oversight the actual ideology they preach to their faithful. According to the Book, ‘The Failed Presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta’ by Irungu Thatiah – In Mlolongo (a new sprawling peri-urban region of the Nairobi Metropolis), there are 40 times more Churches than Schools & Hospitals! Allow that to seep through. Churches are built firmly on top of bars and hovels in red-light districts, but who cares? The same population demographic is served by both these amenities. This is a horrendous state of affairs that portends absolute desperation, so we trudge on. Blind religious devotion is a form of psychosis and indeed a plague that only death can dissociate from its victims. In many of these divergent ‘Christianoid’ sects, little remains of the morphology of teaching by Christ which is what is regurgitated to the adherents. Yes, the name of Jesus will be invoked, but the archetypal reason for the existence of these establishments is as a cash-cow for the convener of the enterprise. A distant second is to pay rent for the use of the real estate where the congregants meet. This downhill slalom into depravity started in earnest in 2012 when the two ICC-indictees united to contest the Presidency in Kenya. In stratagems reminiscent of how Judas betrayed ‘the son of man’ to Pontius Pilate, crisp banknotes were used to grease the palms and throats of owners of pulpits all over the nation. Many were the Sundays when the ‘two brothers from other mothers’ kneeled and prostrated before Bishops, Provosts, Overseers and Vicars to be symbolically anointed for the battle ahead all the while their virtues extolled to the none-the-wiser attendants of Church service. For those not in the loop, one of the two characters here was indicted at the International Criminal Court for among other charges orchestrating the rounding up of ethnically dissonant members of the Church in his vicinity, locking them up and setting the entire edifice alight with human beings therein. The cries of agony of fellow Christians meant nothing to the ice-cold perpetrators of these demonstrably preposterous acts against compatriots. This is of course a script reminiscent of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994; where to quote the distinguished legal mind and gifted orator, PLO Lumumba in one of his fiery speeches to a Church congregation before the 2017 Kenyan General Election, “In the Churches of God, Priests Killed. The Blood of Ethnicity is Thicker than the Blood of Christ.” Crimes contiguous to both include Rape, Murder and Forceful Transfer of Populations from their habitations. This is the grime that was to be sanitized from the public image of the two ethnic figureheads specifically and ostensibly from the memories of the undiscerning public at large who also suffer selective amnesia and are ill-tooled to contravene the words of the Spiritual overseer.

This downhill slalom into depravity started in earnest in 2012 when the two ICC-indictees united to contest the Presidency in Kenya.

The irreverent alliance between Politics and Pulpits is the raison d’etre of my piece today. There are supposed men of God who use their platform merely as a stepping stone to greater things which in Kenya loosely translates to the incursion into ‘Politics’. Alleged ‘pilots into heaven’ find themselves with oodles of cash after hosting political leaders which in all certainty is expended in the nearest car dealership to buy the sleekest SUV on offer for the errant ecclesiastical. There is no want of Christian sanctuaries that sprawled out for the sole reason of making hay from this new-found gravy train. These new creeds are the hotbed of open favouritism to specific political players and of course the melting pot, an agora of sorts for ethnically resonant artistry. Here tribal henchmen to the predicant are venerated as the best thing since buttered bread all for a small pecuniary reward. A practice of profiteering and gate-keeping is emerging among pulpiteers where politicos who pander to the putrid dance of contributing to these ‘cults of the bizarre’ after their escapades selling narcotics, raiding public coffers, embezzlement of exchequer funds, highway robbery, human trafficking, ‘black-widow tingz’ and tenderpreneurship are exhorted greatly during sermons no matter how slovenly of character they are. Here Virgin Mary may be adjudged more sordid than the aforementioned Queen Jezebel. Political players who have actually sacrificed their creature comforts, life and limb for the sake of social amelioration but whose purse strings are not loosened to the shenanigans of any Tom, Dick & Harry are oftentimes labelled negatively with the utmost of venom and cynicism. Tags of ‘Devil Worshipper’, ‘Mganga’, ‘Vampire’, ‘Mshirikina’ among many others have been watermarked upon actual heroes of the 2nd liberation in Kenya which is utterly unconscionable of any true Christian evangelical. Canon Sammy Wainaina, provost of the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi has recently joined this dastardly bandwagon. As a hard-boiled Catholic myself, I must state here unequivocally that the outgoing Head of the Catholic Church in Kenya, John Cardinal Njue immured himself in too much infamy for comfort during his see. This is due to his imposed blindness to the transgressions of ex-President Mwai Kibaki and outright ignominy of the Kenyatta 2 Presidency. Unconcealed ethnic contempt, malevolence and intolerance especially towards our Premier (Emeritus) Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga is not a good look for anybody that pays homage to religious piety. Idiomatically, if you want to kill a dog, give it a bad name. Nefarious connotations of the other man are especially effortless to peddle to the uninitiated as I was reminded reliably a few days ago watching a CNN Interview on TV. The outgoing American President choreographed albeit clumsily a ‘troglodyte’s insurrection’ against Democracy. Here I learnt that deceit travel 6 times faster than facts due to the greater allure of convenience by eschewing any fool-proof and incontrovertible fact-checks to convince the ordinary man of something or other. What essentially works can easily be supplanted by what sounds good at the click of a button. Social media and its creation of needy clout chasers exacerbates this quandary infinitely. This has become a conduit for what American Economist & Social Theorist, Thomas Sowell bemoaned when he asked plaintively, “How long do politicians have to keep on promising Heaven and delivering Hell before people catch on and stop getting swept off their feet by their vacuous rhetoric?” It becomes easy to believe when it is said in your itinerant Temple of Worship alongside your Spiritual Dad or Mum!

In sunnier days for one Dr. Miguna Miguna, the Nairobi Gubernatorial contest would have been an ideological joust of great funfest and pageantry. He actually suffered few fools gladly. This is in lieu of his abhorrence for intellectual charlatans and political bandits canvassing as men/women of God infiltrating the race invoking self-imposed titular designation of ‘Doctor’ all the while they cannot even state the title of the Dissertation that they authored in partial fulfillment of the award of their Doctorate Degree. Today we have a supposed rector of her own denomination who is adept at dishing curses instead of beneficence upon those who stand in her path to conceited goals. This lady, Anne Kananu has the inalienable right to seek to be vetted by the Nairobi County Assembly for the posting of Deputy Governor. However, a power-hungry bumpkin canvassing as a Theology savant pronounced divine judgment upon this law-abiding citizen, sugarcoating it as the power of “maombi ya watu wa Narobi.” What balderdash?

In the prelude to Dr. Miguna Miguna being adjudged ‘Canadian’, the Nairobi Gubernatorial contest was an ideological joust of great funfest and pageantry. He actually suffered few fools gladly, especially those with fake academic titles! (Courtesy of KTN News)

In similar token, we have rabble-rousers and extortionists who were run out of the proscribed criminal sect ‘Mungiki’ by Former Internal Security Minister, Hon. John Njoroge Michuki’s shoot to kill edict in 2009. Today Mungiki turncoats are the pristinely-rebranded clerics in town which is a bait no right-thinking Kenyan should ever take hook, line or sinker. Moreover, an architect of the financial impropriety so grand that it bankrupted our national coffers, regressed our economy & single-handedly devalued Kenyan currency in the multi-billion dollar Goldenberg scandal; one Kamlesh Pattni, today claims to have turned over a new leaf and is presiding a sanctuary of prayer. Why should the Church allow such off-shoots of malfeasance to rear the ugly head of Baal into the inner sanctums of our religion? Next on my hit list are daylight fraudsters like Kanyari & his mother the faux-prophetess Lucy Nduta who take advantage of human struggles with physical infirmities & disease to present fake miracle cures. The wench Nduta was a guest of the state, cooling her heels for two years consequent to propagating fallacious paradigms on curing HIV with a rascals touch! To bolster this thesis, she also set up fake ‘HIV-Testing facilities’ to hoodwink the anguished souls of being cured. Consultation fee was 1000/- additional to the fortune the forlorn subject paid excited at the fake ‘prognosis’ before discovering they had been ‘Hustled.’  Her son Kanyari’s rapsheet is as long as the mighty Zambezi River paying credence to the saying that the fruit seldom falls far from the tree! We all were treated to the theatre of the absurd by the Potassium Permanganate party, ‘Panda Mbegu 310’ and the ‘Majengo’ courtesan he pile-drove then enlisted as a prop for his simulated miracles.

For all those who invested in the ‘Panda Mbegu 310’ scam, on the table lies your investment.

My sincere commiseration with all who were duped, most especially the distressed damsel; the gospel songstress, Betty Bayo for falling prey and now tidally-locked to this ‘brood of vipers’ who are now Father and Grandmother to her progeny. Adjunct to myriad others, in the crosshairs of my remonstration today is one Paul Kuria alias Man Kush. There is a time for everything so comedy has to be distinguished from the matters of the spirit. Few transgressions are more iniquitous unto the Lord than charlatans who run enterprises elsewhere deciding to trifle with & add to their entrepreneurial portfolios, shepherding the Lord’s flock. Christ once uttered, “I will not allow my father’s house to be converted into a den of thieves” before fashioning a whip of reeds and whipping traders soundly, chasing them in full flight out of the temple. My chagrin with this scoundrel avowing faux-piety is in his mischief & indeed predilection to play to the public gallery of the ignorant, gullible and naïve in antipathy to correcting their misconceptions. This is archetypal of men/women who are actually bloated on baloney looking competent merely because they are populist chatterboxes whose hogwash resonates with the sentiments of the uncultured.

The Church is no place for stand-up Comedians & Clowns! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etWGZGGUfUc)

Last on my chopping block are Parsons who fall prey to carnal sin. The human flesh is fallible and amenable to err. However, we expect that a shepherd of the flock should subscribe to a higher moral code than the average Joe. Expectation is rife that a Vicar of the faith is girded with the belt of truth albeit chastity/faithfulness and the breastplate of righteousness as per the precepts of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 6. Even the Vatican today is seriously inundated by accusations of sexual impropriety among its clerics. Kenyan media has in the past been awash with stories of lecherous shepherds who gormandize members of the flock without any qualms. When you run your religious enterprise adjacent to bars and brothels then actual misdemeanours relating to illicit & utterly irresponsible sexual conduct by the erstwhile shining lights to the faithful will follow suit. Excuses and witch-hunts will be adduced all of which will fail the simple test of plausibility.

Spiritual PPE as per Ephesians 6 (Courtesy of truthunedited.com)

Now that I have attained notoriety as some sort of know-it-all blabbermouth, a few will ask me how a true church of Christ should be run. Let me take this chance to tip my hat to those who have remained strong in maintaining ministry as a calling as opposed to being some run-off-the-mill trade. Approbation be with Yee, all that have kept to the straight and narrow by maintaining the virtues of Holiness, Repentance, Truth, Love and Justice as the lynchpins of how their establishments are run.

  1. A Church should be built as a centre of the spiritual, mental, emotional, moral, social, physical all in all holistic development of not just the human being who is an adherent of the church but also the surrounding community in general. The prerequisites include a sanctuary for the congregation of the faithful to hold service and communion with one another.
  2. Existence of affinity groups cannot be gainsaid. In the Kenyan Catholic Church they are called ‘Jumuiya.’ This is a communal unit where men and women who live in proximity to each other and are members of the same congregation periodically meet to pray, worship, read the bible and try to make sense of scripture together. Elsewhere, it is regarded as Bible Study. This could entail even their children who imbibe spirituality from their parents and other adults because they are the seeds for the future. Having these groups ensures that spirituality is not merely a garb you don on Sunday and cleave from at the Church’s exit at the end of service but is something you carry with you home and into the marketplace.
  3. A Sunday School unit is pivotal. This is the place where the moral foundation of faith is laid down unto the fledgling Christians. This is in appreciation of the sagaciousness outlined by King Solomon in Proverbs 22:6 – “Teach children in the way they should walk and even in their old age they will not depart from it.”
  4. Compassionate and Social Justice Ministry. A church does not exist in a vacuum. There is the ambient community around it who is behooved by the Ordainer of the Faith to be the ‘Salt’ & ‘Light’ of the world and revel in service. This is Kenya and there is most certainly suffering all-around any small church unit. There are people with all sorts of medical conditions without any means to get medical treatment. There are the geriatrics abandoned by both their offspring and state after years of ceaseless toil and natural attrition. There are babies who find themselves abandoned by parents who sired them but lack a means for their sustenance. There are victims of domestic abuse and the rank and file of human problems. Most egregious is the rampant case of students who lack access to education pertinent to their parents/guardians lacking the means to pay for the same. Then there are orphans and widows who find themselves destitute after the loss of the family’s breadwinner. A good church is one that is compartmentalized into several ministries to cater to these societal obligations.
  5. The Enterprise facet. Why is it that in most of the ramshackle cults avowing the name of Christ out here, adherents are brainwashed to fundraise generously to a spiritual father trying to buy the latest SUV purportedly to accentuate the brand of the church but a young man trying to buy a simple bicycle to enable him to start his small courier business is instead told to ‘humble himself & wait upon the Lord for his blessings’? Rather than dabbling in this vain hypocrisy, wouldn’t it be a better prospect to use strength in numbers and mobilize funds to build each other financially? It is a perilous path to take because Faith and Lucre are not the best of brothers but if the guiding principle at inception is one of integrity, honesty and forthrightness in dealing with each other, it is possible and the prudent already have this model to their benefit. If Politicians use your multitudes for their parochial agenda why don’t you also ride on your numerical strength for shared financial prosperity?
Karura Community Chapel

In this regard I want to apportion adulation upon Karura Community Chapel located along Limuru Road, just before the Two-Rivers Mall on the boundary between Nairobi & Kiambu counties as one of the congregations that has taken the responsibility and stood in the gap where others have been found wanting. They are actually an edifice of modest means but have done so much with the little dealt to them by the hands of fortune. During the 2007/2008 Post Election violence in Kenya, this congregation wholeheartedly gave their sanctuary and grounds surrounding it to host many families of Internally Displaced Persons additional to catering for their basic needs. In the face of adversity, they did not shrink but went out to embrace their brothers and sisters in the edict given by the Lord Jesus to love not just our supreme deity with all our hearts but also our neighbours as ourselves. Kindness is indeed one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This in my enlightened & conscientious eyes is exemplar of how an authentic Christian denomination should be run.

As per the strictures of Jeremiah 6: 16 – We should return to the old paths which were good so that we can find repose for our souls.