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 up-stream 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. 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.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

KENYA MUST DEAL WITH HER NARCOTICS MENACE

Kenya is kaleidoscopically contradictory yet still a third-world country in Eastern Africa. Our budget is financed predominantly by incessant and interminable borrowing because over the years we have had great problems breaking-even with regards to being able to find balance in creating more revenue compared to our expenditure. Things have gotten ‘elephants’ since 2013 as the ruling coalition consists of two rubes who run their kakistocracy with minimal regard for professionalism & meritocracy with the heft of their consideration guided by mundane attributes like tribe, political affiliation and propensity to pay fealty to personality cults in antipathy to sound principle. And the consequences would have been comical were I a casual onlooker, but they are actually as deleterious as empirical wisdom dictates the ramifications of misgovernance to be. But my sentiments in no dissimilitude to seeds could either fall on fertile ground and thrive or are merely meant as victuals for the birds. In the modern-day Kenyan political season, the culture of ostentatiousness is the order of the day. Picture this. Bugattis, Aston-Martins, Maybachs & Bentleys owned by our self-christened but purportedly unassuming ‘hustlers’ bankrolled by exchequer funds may or may not have their day in the sun! What will almost assuredly be flaunted are the varieties of personally-owned and chartered helicopters to access rural constituencies.

Flaunting of assets to the masses by Kenyan politicos

Let me cut to the chase. There are characters in this cash-strapped nation of ours living by the precepts of a 1996 track made popular by American rapper Jay-Z and his wingman Jermaine Dupri titled – ‘Money Ain’t A Thing.’ During campaign rallies, this special caste of humans move about in helicopters. As Vertical Take-Off & Landing contraptions of conveyance are able to hover above a particular spot, the so-called leaders open up briefcases (probably sacks) with actual legal tender and throw currency notes out of the chopper to the ground below. Needless to say, stampedes are occasioned as the hoi-polloi scramble for these trinkets. For these particular big-wigs, it heralds just another day in the office as for them money is low on their list of vexations. “What is wealth and opulence if it’s not to be flaunted?” They rhetorically ask in derision. However, a retrospective analysis of the entire situation prompts more questions than answers. Could you in good continence pilfer away money you painstakingly toiled for literally shedding your own blood, sweat and tears to acquiesce? As today I have no wiggle-room for digressions, this proscribed but often mysteriously shrouded source of wealth is my grouse for discussion.

The Kenyan National Assembly

On the Floor of the August House; the National Assembly, currently pending approval at the Committee Stage, is the Narcotics, Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Control Amendment Bill of 2020 sponsored by Hon. Mohamed Ali – MP for Nyali.  The original act has existed since 1994 but as most Laws are dynamic with Constitutions being ‘living documents’, well-meaning amendments were due. Of course lacunae & loopholes manifested in previous iterations of the law have seen men and women of egregious character walking free and becoming a liability not just to the national security of Law-abiding citizens but also post-1998, a terrorist threat. Many are the times we have heard tales of a kinsman jailed for a year or two for possession of marijuana of negligible amounts. More often than not, you are forced to listen to tear-jerking chronicles of how police orchestrated a sting-operation and arrested a bloke over only 2 rolls of bhang  – street value a measly 2000/- ! For those who have watched the ‘Bad boys’ sequel of movies, have picked up that such antics canvassing as ‘tactical’ police work could not fly in Captain Howard’s precinct, but in Kenya monkey business and smoke screens may be more important than actual work. In court the guy was given the option of a Kshs. 50,000/- fine or the one year jail term. The Capital punishment for the crime could be as much as 10 years which is incredibly severe especially for a first-time offender whose only predominant fault is ignorance. But since when did punishment act as a full deterrent for ventures where capital is low and revenues obscenely huge adjunct to being untaxed?

This new bill seeks to make the penalties for dabbling in the drug-industry more severe as pertains to possession, distribution, trading and being a user. The amendment additionally furnishes the law-enforcement agencies with additional impetus to identify, investigate and arrest drug-dealers and kingpins within and without the boundaries of our Republic. In conformity with our constitution, investigating officers will be required to obtain permission from our courts to be able to use surveillance technology on the suspects of this ignominious endeavour. Unbeknownst to few, drug-business is big business that flourishes in countries that have weak governance structures consequent to corruption and a dearth in political will from the uppermost echelons of state with regards to forestalling the menace. Kenya is actually one of the major transit points of a thriving SouthEast Asian and due to its central position acts as a nexus with the equally booming and extremely perilous trade in South America. Fans of the series ‘Narcos’ on Netflix may think some of the storylines are far-fetched in relation to the narcopreneurship here in Kenya but we are actually in the 2nd decile (Top 20) of the globally-ranked transit points. The bulk of the product that passes through is not constrained to but inclusive of Cocaine, Heroin, Mandrax, Rohypnol, Hashish, Opium – all under a broad group called ‘Opiates’, among a myriad other mind-altering substances. To understand the entire imbroglio discussed herein, we must exist in acquaintance of psychotropic substances effecting the alteration in mood, perception, consciousness, cognition and behavioural patterns.

And the issue with narcotics is no small matter. Anybody living near University campuses has chanced upon vagrants albeit troglodytes passing-off as students in those institutions of higher learning who by no stretch of the imagination look like or could contrivably be students. They just hang around the premises, exchanging darting glances with passers-by and from time to time have elaborately bizarre and suspicious handshakes with actual students which terminate as suddenly as they commenced with both parties going their own way as if they haven’t an iota of acquaintance with each other. Kenya’s dance with the ghosts of narco-preneurship is nothing new. In 2004, the Biggest Haul of Cocaine in Africa was nabbed off the Kenyan coast ostensibly belonging to a moneyed, powerful politico. What followed was musical chairs among apparatchiks in the Internal Security Ministry; a heinous execution of the assertive GSU Training College Adjutant, Erastus Chemorei – in my eyes a national hero who refused to play ball with regards to abandoning his safekeeping role for the haul; an incursion into our jurisdiction by Armenian mercenaries (Mamluki) who were quite bafflingly designated as ‘Deputy Police Commissioners’ for a whole biennial sojourn before the foggy encounter culminated in an incredulous disappearance of the entire shipment in no dissonance to ships in the Bermuda triangle! That’s Kenya for you, where the least likely outcome can become an actuality. The whole episode was akin to a horrendous horror movie with your guess as good as mine as to the destination of the narcotics. In the interest of full disclosure, I have no clue!

Lest we forget the name Erastus Chemorei & his steadfastness in safekeeping the biggest cocaine haul in Africa nabbed off the Kenyan Coast that cost him his life

Fast forward; a decade & regime on, August 2014 witnessed one of the most overt shows of might by the Kenyan government when then-President presided over the controlled-detonation of an explosives-rigged luxury yacht 16 nautical miles off Mombasa. Contained therein was Heroin worth 20 billion Kenya Shillings which was destined for our coastal city that has borne the brunt of the Kenyan drug problem. “Kenya will no longer be a home for international drug traffickers,” uttered a visibly nonplussed President Kenyatta after witnessing the entire sequence of events from the military helicopter overflying the scene of operation. He promised to be there the next day to destroy yet another cache of narcotics in similar fashion, which he did. For those not in the loop, this action was not merely an episode of happenstance. According to astoundingly reliable information, a close relative of the First Family was deep into narcotic addiction and one evening overindulged in their particular vice to within an inch of their life. The said character was wheeled into the ICU in critical condition. Our typically urbane nay unruffled First lady is said to have been in a disposition, which for lack of a better word will be characterized here as ‘batshit’ nuts! It was noisy & messy. If the President thought there would have been any of the ‘kuongelesha mama kidogo tulale’ that night he might as well have tried to tread water! Consequently, on the next day, the needful was done 16 NM off the Port of Mombasa occasioning a thawing of tensions and catabasis back to normal service on matters ‘midnight conversations’ or thus the tale was recounted by my source. The party in distress was nursed back to health and mercifully committed to a Rehabilitation Centre to ostensibly kick this vice to the proverbial Kibosh sempiternally.

Controlled-detonation of an explosives-rigged luxury yacht 16 nautical miles off Mombasa with Heroin worth 20 billion Kenya Shillings

The tragedy of drug abuse is in its glorification by popular culture and peer pressure to impressionable pubescent teens. A narrative is created that to be the ‘cool kids’ you have to use drugs. I would be remiss if I failed to opine that this paradigm is detrimental to not just the morality of society but also to the peace of the upright teenagers who may be vulnerable to inordinate violence from their ‘doped-up’ buddies. In related news; 2020 has seen the boom of the video-sharing platform, TikTok as a melting pot for sharing memes & dance videos. However, in recent times it has also become a favoured avenue for drug cartels in places like Mexico & Colombia to showcase the cornucopia to be made from the pursuit.

Cartel TikTok

Moreover, substance abuse is an exorbitant habit to maintain. Once you get addicted to these substances you are virtually caged. You will have to be put in an entire reconstructive routine and process to have any chance at reverting back to normalcy and becoming a sociable human being again. Over the last fortnight, the entire global community has been mourning one of the greatest global icons of football, Diego Maradona. He was a footballer of uncommon skill and exquisite ball control which few could even attempt, with a handful more left to marvel at his crural wizardry with the spherical bagatelle of the beautiful game. It is said that what Armando Maradona could do with an orange, few highly-storied ‘Ballon d’or’ winners would ably achieve with their very tool of trade, the soccer ball. At the height of his footballing career he was virtually a one-man infantry against any opposition. You ask the England team that played in the World Cup Quarter-finals against Argentina in 1986. 30 years of dry whisky imbibing has not in the slightest made muster with regards to numbing the piquant taste of treachery off Peter Shilton’s tongue for what he was dealt that fateful afternoon. For context; in diffidence to the sacrosanct Laws of Physics, a stocky’ 5’5ft Striker outleaped an athletic 6’5ft goalkeeper to score a goal characterized by the horse’s own mouth as one, “by the Head of Maradona but the Hand of God!” All this came crumbling down during Maradona’s time at Napoli where he won titles but quite calamitously also bedded-in with some bad crowd, the ‘Cossa-Nostra boys’ – the Napolitano Mafia. The footballing deity was introduced to the high-life and use of cocaine which portended the beginning of the end for him. His behaviour grew erratic. His productivity waned as his weight ballooned making him struggle with fitness. He could no longer do runs he could easily have undertaken in his soberer days. His later career went down the pipes fast with the rest of his life being an interminable struggle with drug addiction, a myriad resultant health problems, failed rehabilitation stints and eventually even family feuds. This is just a microcosm of the wrecking ball narcotic abuse can put through anybody’s life plans.

Diego Maradona scoring the infamous ‘Hand of God’ Goal (Getty Images)

Needless to say, not everybody has the war chest of Maradona to finance this punitively extravagant habit of drug use. The logical backdrop of this is the preponderance of young men and women getting into debt and selling even their own household goods additional to those they non-consensually ‘borrow’ from friends and relatives. Petty theft. The next step is violent crime. Some of the vilest acts of delinquency have been committed by psychotropic substance abusers. Recent times have heralded the proliferation of many youthful criminal gangs not just at the Coast but all over the country. And they wreak havoc of disconcerting proportions. CCTV footage was in circulation a few months back of an M-Pesa attendant murdered in gruesome circumstances when a robber appeared out of the shadows and attempted to forcefully grab her bag in broad daylight. She was naturally stunned, catatonic and of course quiescent in assenting to the will of the miscreant as suddenly as an AK-47 was brandished, shots rent the air with an innocent taxpayer slumping over into eternal tranquility under a pool of her own innocent blood.  The assailant made away with his loot without as much as a whimper from the befuddled onlookers! That footage was simply heart-rending to any conscientious member of our species. Under ordinary conditions, any sober soul would find the prospect of raping a damsel utterly unconscionable and repugnant. However, when your sense of perception and judgement is warped as a direct consequence of ‘being high’ people have been reported to have had forceful relations with geriatrics, livestock and even robbing the crèche. Trigger-fingers have been known to be hyper-excited by this vice. When the perpetrators come back to reality to take count of the heavy toll of their misadventures, many are aghast at their actions with a huge tranche quite repentant. But as is life, once the horse has bolted out of the stable, locking it is unavailing. Many young men today find themselves rotting in penitentiaries for acts they cannot account for but would have been easily avoidable if they would have had the presence of mind to kick that needle to the curb. Yes; before I forget to remember, one of the elected county Governors in Kenya; now dearly-impeached, made a career out of parading recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in the public domain, most of the time for exhibitionism. Though ceteris paribus noble, I personally detested this garishness for it seeks to apotheosize and render free publicity to misdemeanor. My gripes with ‘Babayao’ aside, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, it must be noted with concern that for every 1 person committed into a Rehabilitation Program, 4 others have been consumed by their habits and congruent with many superstars of yore have overdosed and died chocked in the watery comeuppance of their own bodily fluids (vomit). It boggles the mind when actual figures are crunched in to illuminate the reality of these ratios. For those with relatives gripped by the unrelenting clutches of this debauchery, you can attest to the beating the pocket of the financier takes in the effort to nurse the aggrieved kinsman back to health. The going rate for one Private Centre I know is about 60,000/- for a period of 3 months. Government Health facilities also exist for the impecunious but from what has reliably filtered through to my desk, the people going there are merely treated like cattle passing through an acaricide-infused cattle dip. Those with drug problems are lumped together with their counterparts with alcohol-addiction issues adjunct to the others with mental health challenges where a one-size-fits-all sedative course is administered indiscriminately! This is in addition to being a strain on our National Health apparatus.

A society that has a yawning gap between the rich and poor is oft vulnerable to social upheaval. Drug abuse is one of these social ills. It exists in homogeneity to the Egg vs. Chicken conundrum. By this I mean, drug abuse is both a cause and consequence of mounting poverty and inequity. For many, it is a coping mechanisms with their melancholy with life in response to loss of business, unemployment, poor governance, lack of a living wage, poverty, disease among many other challenges. It is disenchanting to see so many youth being reduced to drug-infused zombies who idle around our urban centres stalking prima-facie better-off residents for ‘Shilingi Kumi ya macho.’ Where did the rains start beating us as a society, that healthy and energetic young men are turned into beggars and delinquents for lack of economic prospects? A recourse for such an injurious state of affairs is why we need Shared Prosperity as a nation which to the unenlightened eye is abased to a mere ‘sweetener’ in a constitutional amendment initiative currently contemplated by state. Not just our national security but additionally our attainment of Vision 2030 adjunct to our part in the SDGs is imperiled when the most important resource, human beings lie in disrepair without gainful engagement yet so much lies pending.

Money that is the illicit proceeds of the narcotics trade is the easiest to fritter away to the masses during the silly season of political campaigns

Back to the raison d’etre of this piece, Drug Lords perverting our political scene. Ever since the former Minister for Internal Security, the late Prof. George Saitoti let the cat out of the bag, it is an open-secret that drug barons sponsor, bankroll and even actively participate in our national politics. This makes it an exercise in futility to attempt to deal with our national drug menace with kid-gloves. As well articulated in his article from the Saturday Standard of the 28th November 2020; Amnesty International Executive Director, Irungu Houghton outlined the dangers of the lucrative narcotics business to the state. He lamented about a trade which if left unchecked could easily develop a parallel economy and state, monetizing and actually purchasing our nascent democratic institutions in homogeneity with the situation in Panama, Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines. And he was not groping in the dark. Look at the state of the art helicopters, private jets and motorized contraptions of conveyance unfurled upon the throngs of adoring fanatics during the ‘silly season’ which loosely describes the period of our political campaigns. Men, women and children line the streets in anticipation of the goodies they are likely to receive from the contestants to curry favour with the polity. The certainty is that the impressionable, the naïve and gullible will have no time to judge ideology, agenda, policy and anything of the sort. They will fall prey to the wiles of populism and most importantly ‘dead Presidents’ a.k.a Cash. This is how Machiavellian political operators use philanthropy to buy state power which when acquired, they will abuse to corrupt and totally vitiate any institutions for oversight of their activities. Soon the legislature is replete with the purveyors and profiteers of the vice. The Judiciary will be gelded as quintessentially many legal practitioners are pecuniary-gain motivated so the best legal minds will follow the money and flock to the defense of a drug-fuelled disturbia. In due course, so many will become dunces and zombies who parrot nothingness after all voices of reason are violently suppressed, intimidated, blackmailed and victimized into silence. That ladies and gentlemen is how you create a narco-state. Empower incompetent rulers into office who will ultimately dilute albeit cheapen governance. The widely-read will recall the state of Panama under Gen. Manuel Noriega that converted his country into nothing more than a narcotic trading outpost. In Colombia, Pablo Escobar gained great global prominence in peddling ‘the Devil’s powder’ – Cocaine. At the height of his powers, he was going head to head with the most affluent in the world, one Forbes list putting him at 7th richest man in the world! In the interest of full disclosure, the Colombia team that made it to the 1994 World Cup consisted of players who came up through the soccer academies built & bankrolled by ‘El Patrón.’ All that can, recall with fondness the antics of fanciful sweeper-goalkeeper René Higuita, a product of those same academies in Medellin, Columbia. Mercifully, the Colombian government had the foresight to ‘liquidate’ Don Pablo in 1993 before he captured state with his enormous narcotic largesse.

Don Pablo Escobar

In our assault against the drug menace, we should take heed not to fall into the trap of too much militarization of the entire undertaking. Cataclysmic policy missteps in Latin America and South East Asia have resulted in an overreaction by the relevant federal authorities leading to actions injurious to public sensibilities. In the Philippines for instance, current President Duterte has issued shoot-to-kill edicts with suspects regularly denied access to court adjunct to the due process of the law. Though apparently backwater, I would personally call for the implementation of stricter laws against the drug enterprise as they do in nations like Singapore where practitioners of this trade are hanged. I feel this will enforce morality in society, however our already infiltrated & purportedly righteous leadership cadre together with the many religious caucuses are certain to find this move unpalatable. As a result we have no option but take the redacted measures that are not too ‘hardcore’ in concomitance with our squeamishness to confrontational justice. Allow religious leaders into the fray. Have the Police Service play a part in enforcing the edicts of civilian law and order but remunerate them too accordingly so that they don’t fall prey to bribery and perversion. Let this be a multi-agency assault on that vice.

As I have rumbled much on the problem statement, time is ripe to dole out a few solutions:

  1. The most poignant among all is frying the ‘big fish’ – It took a sting operation by the United States government and FBI that among other things violated our territorial sovereignty to arrest Ibrahim and his brother Bakhtash Akasha, spiriting them abroad for trial & subsequent incarceration. It needn’t be like this because it’s not as if these are any ‘sacred cows’ though our successive leadership regimes have made them to be such. They do not even pay tax on their business venture, so why did it take so long to arrest them? Instruments of State power should take the cue from this move and arrest all the remaining Kingpins, Drug Barons and Mules to rid society of them.

Whatever happened to the late Prof. George Saitoti’s dossier on these slovenly blackguards that preceded his doom?

Whatever happened to the late Prof. George Saitoti’s dossier on these slovenly blackguards that preceded his doom? (Courtesy: The Kenyan Standard Newspaper)

Indeed, we even have a guy nicknamed “The Boss” who we proffer laissez-faire to continue to run his narcotics empire among other legit businesses and even dabbling in politics. This is a deleterious prelude to state capture and in the words taken verbatim from the Series ‘Narcos’ Season 1 Episode 7– “You’ll Cry Tears of Blood” if this reality sees the light of day!

  1. Have punitive measures against Drug Lords, Traffickers, Accessories, Enablers & Errant Law enforcers – As recommended in the aforementioned amendment bill, a fine of not less than Kshs. 50 million or 3 times the market value of the substance, whichever is greater is to be imposed. A 50-year jail term has been prescribed for those found in possession of more than 100 grams of narcotic substances. If ever jailed on such grounds, you will be forbidden from holding public office for 30 years. Landlords, building and premises owners will also be dealt a heavy hand should they fail to exercise due diligence with regards to their tenants. The fine imposed on them is 20 Million, Prison term – 20 years. This should also apply to clandestine laboratories where these substances are enriched and cut. Law enforcers who collude with peddlers to pervert the course of justice will also be dealt with harshly.
  2. Curtail trade & movement of the precursor Compounds & Chemicals for narcotics – Kenyan law in previous iterations prohibited use of precursor compounds like Ephedrine (from cough syrups), Pseudoephedrine, Ergometrine, Lysergic acid, Ergotamine, phenyl-2 propanone, acetic anhydride, Anthranilic acid, Acetone, ethyl-ether, phenyl-acetic acid, Tramadol (opioid analgesic), Ketamine & Piperidine among a plethora of other chemical concoctions. Nevertheless, effective mechanisms for the law-enforcement have been lacking leading to offenders getting away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist for their transgressions.
  3. Secure our borders – Kenya has for an eon been touted as a harbinger of peace in a tumultuous neighbourhood. Week frontiers presage a situation where smuggling of all sorts of illicit goods could be possible across our borders which must stop. The Ministry of Internal Security in-concert with the Kenya Defence Forces are obliged to do the needful to remedy this state of affairs.
  4. Raise your children well so that they will never depart from those precepts – Parental and Societal responsibility is one that cannot be shirked in sounding the death knell to the drug culture. The much-touted ‘Nyumba Kumi’ initiative will be valuable in this aspiration. Parents must be well aware that they are the principal role-models if their children are to have any chance at becoming principled and law-abiding human beings.
Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

DEBUNKING THE MYTH THAT IS THE ‘HUSTLER NATION’

T here is a sermon doing rounds on social media by a Preacher from one of our neighbouring countries about a man who suffered a cardiovascular incident and tumbled to the ground with an irreverent thud. To all intents and purposes the gentleman was clinically dead as his pulse was a nonentity. For a few minutes, his essence was suspended in the ethereal realm as paramedics frantically tried to resuscitate him. While his body was mostly catatonic but within the throes of rigor-mortis, he took an unwarranted sojourn into the afterlife. In the horizon from a vantage-point of a hillock, he decried a drab-looking castle on the right side, dilapidated with pale, slovenly looking creatures manning its gates. On the diametrically opposite side, he espied a delectably glamorous palace with virtually no one guarding it. The path serving it was well-paved, more like a thoroughfare, beautiful streetlights adorning all the way to a magnificent drawbridge with wide gates. So many high-end, top of the range mechanisms of conveyance made a beeline for that bedazzled, marble abode that it was inconceivable a proposition not to go to curiously look at what was within the confines of that glimmering house on the hill. The man sauntered in and true to form was welcomed by a tall, lustrous & aesthetically-pleasing nobleman into his ‘humble’ abode. Needless to say the noble was dapper of dress, a dark, silk suit to boot. “Been expecting you! Welcome to Hell my son, Lucifer is the name if you may please,” bellowed a balanced, calming baritone from the host. After dispensing with the salutary courtesies he was ushered into the cavernous megastructure of domicile and blown out of his socks, the gentleman was by the opulence he witnessed. In his heart of hearts he told himself he could potentially live in that palace for an eternity. “Righteousness is overrated anyway.” Just when he had almost taken his seat at the table, the paramedics on terra-firma made a breakthrough. The man got his pulse back, was stabilized and carted into the ambulance. He lived to tell his tale, of course after making a full recovery from his medical misadventure. Based on this new evidence, the man lived a wanton, corrupt, decrepit, unscrupulous and deceitful life like never before. In between slurps of the beverages of Ruaraka extraction and surrounded by a bevy nay coven of females of questionable character, he told his story ebullient of voice to all and sundry. Of course, egged on by his inebriated contingent, his tongue rolled over integrity and temperance with ruthless abandon leaving a bloody carnage in the mind of the gullible and impressionable.

As with all mortals, this man had an encore performance of the dance with destiny, this time becoming an inadvertent victim of the most egregious of the certainties in life, Death. It was final this time and a heavy gloom descended everywhere. His spirit got to the bluff he knew only too well and he cast his gaze upon the horizon. Something looked sinister. The castle on the right side had more swaddling lights than he remembered but the path still straight, narrow and unassuming. The castle he had previously seen on the other side was nonexistent, in its place a lake issuing a pungent smell, ostensibly a whiff of Sulphur dioxide & Hydrogen Sulfide. Being neither too intelligent nor too intellectually bereft but still cunning, he attempted to get into the glorious, crystalline edifice on the right side. He was stopped by one of the guards, more diaphanous than he remembered. They asked for his name, took the precursory look down the book of life before revealing the absence of this unfortunate character’s name on the list. Dejected, he looked to the other side and saw his previous host, less than glamorous but with the same inviting smile beckoning him to the side. He begrudgingly went but with less of the enthusiasm from the earlier trip. “What happened to your majestic castle?” queried the forlorn bloke. In no time a retort shot back from Lucifer, “There was no castle! That was just an optical illusion to make my Political Campaign credulous & inviting.” The duplicitous hunter had been ensnared by his own trap! In antipathy to the straight & narrow cattle track to divine glory, the boulevard to hell is paved with nothing but good intentions and sweet nothings if I may add. But I digress.

Most Political Campaign messaging promises Heaven but delivers Hell on Election ~ Thomas Sowell, American Economist & Social Theorist

In paying homage to sentiments by Prof. Makau Mutua in his article in the Sunday Nation of the 18th day of October 2020, Political Campaigns are oft lofty on propaganda, innuendo, half-truths and pandering to populist sentiments but short on hard-core policy. And in years gone by we haven’t had a shortage of slogans to paint the lionized candidate as some sort of messianic character. Turns of phrase and puns with words albeit double-entendres have been used by Machiavellian campaign strategists to convey their message. From “Kibaki Tosha” to “Raila Tinga – Agwambo Nyundo”, “Akaranga atakaranga Musalia msalia KANU” to “Mimi Najib Balala, Sina Swali Nina Jibu”, the array is kaleidoscopic in its variety. Slogans are an opiate derivative to the disenfranchised masses not just here in Kenya but further afield. Indeed with the American elections a week away at the time of authoring this piece; one candidate – the incumbent, has been effusive in his promise to apparently “Make America Great Again (MAGA)”, Red-hats to boot as supporting memorabilia. I was not aware that the American dream had lost any of its allure, but we soldier forward. For his opponent; Joe Biden, the message is slightly more sedate but an almost poignant, “Restoring the Soul of America as our best days lie ahead & eternally we are 2nd to none. Anything is possible no Malarkey (BS)!  Build Back & Better Unity for a greater America.” Though the intent from both parties may be nothing more than clever use of catchphrases, at least the messaging gives hope of a better day.

In Kenya; slightly less than two years to the General Election, a sitting Deputy President who took an oath to execute his mandate until the end of his political term has woken up from 7 years of slumber & intransigence to coin a rallying call to his constituency who he has christened ‘The Hustler Nation.’ I must aver with unabashed certitude that this particular turn-of-phrase exists in the realm of the aforementioned ‘malakia’ from Biden’s narrative in lieu of the fact that it comes from a man charged with creating policy for poverty alleviation. ‘Malakia’ the stock from which the English word ‘malarkey’ was propagated is the ancient Greek word for the by-product of bovine metabolism. Former AC Milan veteran Midfield-enforcer, Gennaro Gattuso knows everything about ‘malakia’ & suffered few fools gladly during his time coaching the team OFI Crete in Greece.

The Infamous Malakia Rant – “Sometimes make good sometimes make shit but it’s mostly malakia! The football is total malakia” (bangs table) ~ Gennaro Gattuso.        The translator was tongue-tied for fear of becoming a news item! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sG1IH1vCvko)

It is pathologically perverse for a man who has been the principal assistant to our Head of State for 7 years to now stir up to the realization that there are poor people in Kenya. But this is nothing new as we are at the mercy of a bloke with an innate hero-complex but who unfortunately hasn’t the chops for altruism. This new found narrative sits at the heart and soul of this psychosis as it merely panders to public disaffection and popular despair with their poverty coupled unfortunately with the illiteracy, ignorance, naїvety and gullibility that is the inadvertent product of youth for the uninitiated. Gracing our podiums is a demagogue who merely panders to public opprobrium, prejudices & sympathies. Were this narrative concocted by the disgraced, lame-duck Nairobi Governor H.E. Mike Gideon Kioko Sonko, it would be partially plausible in my eyes for I have seen pictures of the governor as a dirt poor lad struggling through the streets, actually hustling till he made it. I will never be convinced that a man who left the University of Nairobi and was almost immediately incorporated as the Secretary-General of YK92 which was afforded a bottomless pit of exchequer funds to ensure the re-election of Daniel Moi in the 1992 polls will now turn around to become the voice of the “hustler.” And in the interest of full disclosure, I have an axe to grind with the disreputable and unscrupulous man that has bestowed this unsightly moniker upon conscientious, hardworking and enterprising men and women who are making their way through life primarily because of their humble beginnings. In this particular blog there are days where I have bemoaned the contagion of the ‘big-man syndrome’ and a posting and a half ago the conundrum of populist politicians as leaders. The problem with our politics as currently structured is the affliction of personality cults as opposed to authentic leadership based on principle & policy to the polity. To the eyes of the undiscerning, our Deputy President looks like a master-schemer and matter of factly, what better way to polish up your image than to create an illusion of piety around yourself, cordoning your persona with all sorts of religious personalities and a plethora of celebrants? Not to be lost on us was one who was not sure if it was David or Solomon who felled Goliath with a pebble to the temple but that is what you get when you allow charlatans and all sorts of snake-oil-salesmen into your bandwagon. Before I forget to remember, a particular politician in this country held court with a group of traditional elders of his ethnicity of extraction one chilly morning before the crack of dawn ostensibly to get “blessings” and be consecrated as the tribal kingpin. Surely, it takes all sorts to build a village. If the aforementioned leader is as pious as one pastor whose name ‘Pius’ Muiru is in assonance with the ‘pious’ of heart, why then didn’t he become a priest? Such deep religious conviction, faith and dexterity in quoting Christian religious text is wasted on the dastardly vexation that is politics and would be more at home spreading the good news of the gospel to the Gentiles and the nations of the earth, but here we are.

Why waste all this devoutness on the slovenly endeavour that is Politics whilst the Gospel of the Lord is pending proclamation to the Gentiles?

Charlatans who hypocritically quote scripture after heinously incinerating tribally-analogous Christians in a Church within their political jurisdiction in early 2008 notwithstanding, let’s delve into discussing the etymology of the object of my umbrage today, the word “Hustler.” From experiential and academic linguistic engagement, this word has blackguardly and nefarious connotations to it. In the description that is deemed sacrosanct in most of the Commonwealth who take great pride in proper use of the English language, this word is associated with drug peddlers, con-men, fraudsters, cheats, the disingenuous, pimps, hood-rats, swindlers, hooligans, hoodlums, rabble-rousers, sluts, gigolos, louts, grifters and other reprehensible iterations of infamy. If called upon to bestow this moniker upon myself, I will give the convener of that task a hard pass. But far be it from I being considered too backwater with regards to know-how in street lingo. That is why periodically I throw in one or two words from the digs to touch base with my pips from the hood! In the urban dictionary a hustler is a guy who in the industrial complex created by capitalism, has been shunned by the conventional sources to earn upkeep and so has been forced to deal in narcotics and other illicit substances for sustenance. This has become a byword in gangsta rap videos as young men and women in their own form of rebellion to the man try to showcase how they started from the bottom to mercurially rise to top. One of the popular Hip-hop artistes of the early 2000s called 50 Cent has a track called ‘Hustler’s Ambition’ from the aptly named multi-platinum selling album ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin.’ Indeed true hustlers out there are willing to do anything, and I reiterate anything for that next coin. Another rapper called Cassidy in 2004 released the song ‘I’m a Hustla’ where to quote one of the lines verbatim from among the lyrics, “I am a hustler, I could sell salt to a slug!” I am in conjecture whether the narrative of a man so duplicitous as to be able to peddle salt – a mollusc-vitiating agent to a slug should possibly be held up to a pedestal in my eyes, so ladies & gentlemen I struggle. The exalted but dearly deceased Nipsey Hustle did good for society despite having this deleterious tag associated with his name but that is just one outlier in the Gaussian curve of ‘Hustlers’ & Associated conduct. In lieu of the former description of the word, I have to exist in a state of epistemic ambivalence over this paradox in no dissimilitude to a spectator-ion for those well-versed with Chemistry in my quest to understand how the same man can ride in the same boat with hustlers all the while taking a bath with pastors in holy water, all in one go. But that is Politics 101 for you. The game where you leave your cerebral cortex on the kitchen counter and for the rest of the day reason with your heart and apparently other body parts not tooled for that purpose in simpleton fashion. Let’s be honest with each other.

‘Lord Hustler’ with adherents of the cult of mediocrity that is the ‘Hustler Nation’ chasing the Hustlermobile

It pricks my conscience when I see intellectuals shrouded in their professional garb as Legal Experts (learned friends) – Jurisprudence to boot, Communication Experts, Economists, Political Science Professors, the 4th Estate practitioners, Men of the Cloth, Social Media gurus debasing themselves in the unavailing endeavour of pandering to the Lowest Common Denominator in extolling the non-existent virtues of this ‘faux-hustler’ at par with how we Catholics venerate Mother Teresa.

The scourge of ‘Biased Professionals’ has become a worse contagion than the Covid-19 viral pandemic. On our TV screens are mostly ideologues, demagogues, paid mouthpieces & talking-heads espousing mediocrity these days!

At the current juncture, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pick out the sensible from among the dipsomaniac singing balderdash lying in the ditch after taking 10-for-the-road, the slurry-in-speech drug junky begging for 30/- for ‘chapo-dondo’ on the village path and the pseudo-professional innundating our TV screens perambulating the ‘intellectual-distinction’ of wheelbarrow-nomics pertinent to the 21st Century scene! Methinks somebody is trying to take Kenyans for a ride for minuscule pecuniary gain. In the backdrop of one of the most highly-erudite and skilled population in Africa, it is no doubt a hard slap on the face when presented with wheelbarrows, hoes, rakes, mutura-roasting grills, motorcycles, bicycle rims, sewing machines, hairdryers among other crude implements of trade when the rest of the world is engrossed in innovation, nanotechnology and software development. The same esteemed populace who immersed themselves in industry to invent & nurture M-PESA, the world mobile-money transfer frontrunner in the era of so-far our most progressive Head of State H.E. Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki, will now in sound comportment vote in a man whose vision is to retrogress them back to the mediocrity of making utility out of a one-wheeled jalopy in no variance to Adam and Eve!

What if Hon. Tom Mboya gifted Prof. Wangari Maathai and Barrack Obama Sr. with wheelbarrows in 1960 as opposed to scholarships, would Kenya have a Nobel-peace laureate today? Would we have bequeathed America their seminal Black President? In plaintive sentiments given voice by one of our most distinguished and enlightened legal scholars, Prof. PLO Lumumba, “I struggle!”

People need policy more than material implements! Those wheelbarrows “ni za kubeba watu ufala” (mostly for translocating idiocy & a dearth in ideology). Indeed Kenya has a shortage of fools ~ guy pushing the wheelbarrow once uttered!

The use of the dastardly word implies that someone lifted himself by his bootstraps from the doldrums of society to make something of himself. This paradigm is fallacious especially in the context of being vociferated by the master of double-speak who has suckled from the nurturing bosom of mother opulence, privilege, largesse, that old-wench ‘Dynasty’ from the first day he cut his political teeth and stepped onto the rostrum to ‘greet wananchi’ to this day when he stands a heartbeat away from the proverbial ‘house on the hill’. This glib operator tries to cipher a class division among Kenyans by trying to portray the suffering of the working-poor, the underprivileged and hoi-polloi as the fault of some ‘Dynasty’ or ‘System.’ The term Dynasty is the branding that DP Ruto’s campaign apparatchiks have bestowed upon the ostensibly exploitative and parasitic political, commercial and ruling elites who exist in great disdain to the hapless, oppressed serfs. In this scheme of things, Premier (emeritus) Rt. Hon. Raila A. Odinga and his father now resting in Eternal Glory Former Vice President Hon. Jaramogi Ajuma Oginga Odinga, despite their full immersion into the soul-sapping, perilous and torturous struggle that bore forth the 2nd Liberation and indeed multiparty democracy and many of the civil liberties we now enjoy (e.g. writing this piece without fear of reprisal) will now enter the ignominious annals of eternal notoriety as a ‘dynasty’ merely to massage the egos of narcissists and sadomasochists. That is simply atrocious, the sheer effrontery of this man! Who gave Mr. Ruto the authority to label our national paragons of nationalism and patriotism as the ‘dynasty’ whilst men and women who haven’t sacrificed jack-shit for the sake of our political progression now sit all hale and hearty in the pantheon of national heroes a.k.a hustlers? I call bullshit! Sacrifice is the essence of leadership and in my discerning eyes, anybody who shriveled when real men worth their salt & nut-sacks went out to battle against despotism, autocracy and kleptocratic rulers has lost the moral authority to be called a leader and should henceforth stop trifling with the collective conscience of Kenya! My characterization of this man as a glib operator stems from my appreciation of his gushing with linguistic flair and charisma but absolute reproach to his lying, chameleonistic and manipulative persona. For a man who is as articulate as he, it leaves a lot to be desired when his speech is light on not just anti-corruption initiative but also sound, ‘hustler-empowering’ policy. Distinction based on class and castes has the inevitable potential of setting off a conflagration in the form of a class war similar to what was witnessed between the Hutu & Tutsi in Rwanda circa 1994. Are we the harbinger of Peace as a precursor for progress in all of Africa going to turn back and emulate conduct unbecoming from the annals of historical infamy of our younger brother, Rwanda? We are better than riffling through our neighbour’s refuse for victuals!

In the Year of our Lord 2008 in the heat of the post-election conflagration, our ‘Hustler-In-Chief’ took the discretion to forcefully acquiesce and ‘hold in trust’ a 100-Acre farm belonging to one Mr. Adrian Muteshi in the greater Turbo area. He was dragged to our Courts of Law for this Transgression. Dude croaked at the time this piece was being authored. R.I.P Papa Muteshi.

It should not be lost on anybody that when the progeny of ‘Papa-Hustler’ graduate from institutions of tertiary education, none is bestowed with a wheelbarrow or hand-cart by their doting father to do ‘all that pertains’ to the use of that one-wheeled abomination. Instead diplomatic appointments to Poland beckon, high-grade tenders from the Kenya Meat Commission to the next & for the struggling, a posting as Rapporteur and Consultant in the August Office of the Deputy President – Kshs. 500,000 remuneration to boot for engaging in sinecure. Aren’t there better qualified Kenyans among the multitudes that take pride of place in the great ‘Hustler Nation’ for these postings? It is a case of ‘Kidneys for the King’ and Wheelbarrow gimmickry merely for the sake of ostentatiousness for the clowns and stooges nay stool-pigeons propping up this house of cards! That is exactly what was witnessed nearly a month ago in Murang’a when two young men quite tragically lost their lives in the course of needless political upheaval for the gratification of a bog-standard feudal lord. May their souls Rest in eternal Peace. I must take my responsibility as a patriotic and hard-boiled son-of-this-soil to state unequivocally, that no nation that ever became a world power was built on the substratum of implied-generosity, philanthropy, charity and donations of alms. It was all sound policy and sacrificial stewardship from men limpid and visionary enough to see deep into the future, a task too herculean for a retrograde politician whose crystal-ball of half-truths can only presage the next election!

It is Kidneys for the King & his loved ones but one-wheeled conveyance contraptions for the “Losers” & “Suckers” trailing him!

With current events, I am reminded of the Biblical story of King Saul & a shepherd boy called David. In the course of Saul’s regime, David was identified by Prophet Samuel and anointed by the Lord to be the next King. When King Saul learned that his beloved, firstborn son Jonathan was not in the line of succession he was indignant. Jonathan on the other hand struck a bond of strong familiarity with David and they became inseparable. Soon came David’s moment of glory when one particular day his father; Jesse, sent him to the battlefield with lunch for his older brothers, he chanced upon a Philistine behemoth; Goliath, who was calling for takers brave enough to challenge him in a duel. The entire Israelite brigade was catatonic with fright. To take the pressure off, his eldest brother chided David for his conceit in leaving the sheep untended in the hinterland. David was not ruffled and decided to take on the uncircumcised Philistine in front of them. In one fell swoop, David whacked the giant with a stone, slaying the champion in the eyes of all and sundry. His stock rose tremendously. It was then beyond a shadow of a doubt that David was blessed by the Supreme Deity and was now fit to sit at the table of Kings. He suffered great tribulations in the household of King Saul, indeed in one hairy incident, he eschewed death by the width of a mosquito’s proboscis when the violent King launched a spear at him in a fit of rage. Perhaps it was extra-curricular activities (will consult with theological scholars on that one)! In his odyssey as a fugitive running through the wilderness to avoid the ruthless hand of King Saul, David found favour with the Lord and one night he chanced upon the King’s camp in the dead of night, everybody reveling in REM sleep. David thought of killing the King but rescinded on the decision and cut off a piece of the king’s garment. The crisp morning continence was broken by David shouting from atop a hill about how he had the opportunity to end this diabolical monarch’s life and spared him but not his robe. When King Saul glanced at his robe he was bemused. However, in gratitude for his salvation, King Saul blessed David abundantly and abandoned this quixotic search for another man’s life. The rest as they say is history. So revered is King David among the Jews that even today the national insignia on the Flag of Israel is King David’s Star. In hindsight, were David our faux-piety merchant here, would he have spared the life of the King now that he’s already ‘castrating’ his brother from another mother in the public domain with his treacherous tongue?

I would be remiss if I failed to observe that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is Wisdom. If an ‘alleged’ Man of God hasn’t an inkling whether it was David or Solomon who fell Goliath, wachana nayo bwana! He’s a liability to your agenda.

The defining characteristic of a hustler in the authentic sense of the word is to steal from the public then beguile the same constituency that they are his brothers-in-hustling. Real hustlers successfully pull it off but in the sentiments of one of the most highly revered American Presidents; Abraham Lincoln, you can fool all the people some of the time, others all of the time but you cannot fool everybody all the time. For our scripture-meme-lord, another story that comes to mind is one of King David’s grandson, King Rehoboam. This was a pampered, porch prince who grew up in relative comfort, devoid of the turmoil his grandpa had to contend with. His father was the wisest man albeit King who ever walked the face of the earth but incidentally, his own genetic make-up had the recessive gene for this trait. This loosely translates to a daft king! He took over power quite young and had plenty of lackeys and hangers-on in his court. In antipathy to his sagacious father; King Solomon, so imprudent was this young man that when people moaned pitifully about their travails to him he was the least bothered. In fairly cavalier fashion he consulted with the old royal advisors and they counselled him to treat the people with kindness. He was less than impressed and sought a 2nd opinion, tragically that of his peers, surrogates and acolytes. “Tell them that though King Solomon chastised you with thorns, I will chastise you with scorpions. If he chastised you with whips I will use snakes!” The poor, witless lad vocalized that opinion to the suffering multitudes. A riot was fomented and in the aftermath the Kingdom with split with King Rehoboam keeping only 2 tribes and the palace in Jerusalem with his new kingdom called ‘Judah’ while the other 10 tribes kept the name Israel under a new King, Jeroboam with a spanking-new palace in Samaria. What a price to pay for listening to the injudicious advice of dastardly characters who do not know better! I see W. Ruto falling into this trap.

The father of the aforementioned monarch who lost a critical mass of his throne; the sagacious King Solomon postured in the Book of Ecclesiastes 1:9 – What has existed and been done will be repeated as there is nothing new under the sun! Our DP thinks he is the first to break bread with the fellahin but as per Kamau Ngotho’s article on the Sunday Nation of the 25th October 2020, there was a predecessor politician who took advantage of the struggles of the wretched to seduce them with material goods and earn favour. This was the flamboyant, articulate and equally charismatic politician Hon. Josiah Mwangi Kariuki. He unlike William here was the unfortunate guest of the colonial state during our fight for independence. At ‘Uhuru time’, he was enlisted as President Jomo Kenyatta’s private secretary. His journey to wealth accumulation started here. In no time, a classified security dossier landed at the President’s desk detailing how JM had used his name to illegally acquiesce largesse. Jomo was less than amused and in a passive-aggressive move reshuffled his deck of cards taking JM to head the National Youth Service (NYS). In stratagems that bear similar hallmarks to what has precipitated at NYS in the modern-day, JM profiteered greatly from that gold-mine! Another dossier was forthcoming and JM now got axed from NYS & deemed persona-non-grata in public service. He used his acquired wealth to join politics and was elected as MP for Nyandarua North. He was back in Mzee’s fold and was soon appointed Assistant Minister for Tourism and Mining. Because old habits die hard, JM used his posting to dabble in the illegal trade in ivory and gemstones. Soon he started casting aspersions on Jomo Kenyatta’s leadership, accusing him of creating a nation of “10 millionaires and 10-million beggars.” He had stirred a hornet’s nest! Soon he formed his own outfit, “Maskini Nation.” Talk was rife that he even founded and bankrolled a clandestine armed organization, Maskini Liberation Movement. He became a prime dispenser of cash donations, hoes, gumboots & mattocks to the hoi-polloi of Central Kenya. About 3 weeks to the man’s 46th Birthday, a chain of events occurred that were to throw the country into mourning. Kariuki who intended to travel to Mombasa, acting on a tip-off at the last minute cancelled his trip after booking a bus ticket. The bus he was to use was rigged with explosives and detonated at the OTC bus terminal, Nairobi killing 27 people. JM had cheated death but not for long! 48 hours later he was declared missing and soon enough a cadaver turned up in Ngong Forest, partly decomposed but still suited à la mode in his trademark green suit and polka-dot scarf. It was JM Kariuki. In typical fashion, the hyenas had gormandized one of their own! The more things change, the more they remain the same. Empirical wisdom dictates that those who fail to learn from history will repeat its foibles and unfortunately similar consequences may be their comeuppance.

The unfortunate incidents with the wheelbarrows notwithstanding, there are far more transformative alternatives our Deputy Presidents would have unfurled to the ‘sufferers’ and ‘mbogi’ of the Republic of Kenya as opposed to this farce with the one-legged conveyance and stop-gap measures:

  1. Sound Policy on Agribusiness – as opposed to doling out barrows willy-nilly, a smarter move would be to create air-tight policies to support agribusiness. By support, I mean both policy and political will. Rather than having farming as a port of last call when youthman fails to secure employment, let’s have agriculture as a career option for the youth with curricula from early childhood to the tertiary-level colleges. Fund the sector properly to make it lucrative and attractive to the youth. For those engaged in horticulture for export, you will back me on the fact that it’s lucrative.
  2. Policy on Industrialization – I have heard eerily nonsensical pronouncements that wheelbarrows are useful even to the ‘jamaa wa mjengo’ which begs the question, who ever sauntered with what the Swahili call ‘Likwama’ into a construction site to ask for employment? This is no forum for jesters, my Fren! As per the strictures of the newly-unveiled BBI Report, labour-intensive manufacturing astride automation and software development will rapidly increase job creation. An empowerment model that builds both systems and the human capacity to run it is much preferable. In the life-long mantra of Former President; H.E. Mwai Kibaki, dishing money to individuals on the streets merely to earn approbation is akin to sowing the seeds of dependency, beggar-mentality and inimically poverty. Give a man a fish & you feed him for a day but teach him how to fish then you feed him and his family for a lifetime.
  3. Accountability on acquired funds – the 1/3 of exchequer funds lost annually to fraudulent tendering, grossly inflated contract prices, pilferage and outright theft could do wonders for our nation were it instead to be channeled into a development budget. If only our ‘Mr. 10-percents’ would tame their libidos for kickbacks from diabolically-inflated tenders, Kenya would progress and hustlers would be to a bare minimum. The articulate Dr. William Ruto should make his speeches longer on counter-corruption initiatives and actual policy as opposed to monkey business!
  4. Support Existing Businesses to thrive not just survive – Keep the surviving businesses afloat in appreciation of the fact that 80% of start-ups don’t live to see their 3rd birthday. The more surviving enterprises we have, the more they can potentially absorb the highly-skilled but unemployed youth we have. Yes, some of you will tell me that the ‘Mkokoteni’ rickshaw thing greatly improves the quality of life of the man selling groceries on your street corner. There are people with Bachelor’s and Masters Degrees now engaged in this venture. This is just objectionable as the potential of our skilled manpower critical to the attaining vision 2030 adjunct to playing our part in the SDGs is being grossly under-utilized. However, as Ezekiel Mphahlele puts it in his short story, “Man must live.”
  5. Create & Promote Endowment funds to support business – Encourage the co-operative spirit and table banking (which your spouse H.E. Rachel Ruto launched somewhere) among the youth as a route to fund mobilization for business as opposed to handouts. Capital and business expansion loans are easy to acquire here as you will be advanced a proportionate share of your contribution as a loan. Give the ‘mbogi’ a choice and intellectual input rather than merely shoving wheelbarrows down their throats as a cheap publicity stunt!
  6. Push for Subsidies & tax holidays for fledgling enterprises – You are the Deputy President, you can verily do this!
  7. Push for Building Technical & Software Innovation hubs – Leave that wheelbarrow narrative alone, my friend. It is way too old! Graduates teem jobless with IT-based degrees who can be gainfully-engaged here. Push for what we have at Lakehub, Nailab, iHub, Akira-Chix to the ward level countrywide to enhance our quest for industrialization.
  8. Business Incubation Centres – Not everybody was born an entrepreneur; consequently, we need mechanisms to shoehorn them into it. Youth is a time of bustling with youthful exuberance, energy, enthusiasm, innocence, proactivity & the audacity of hope; surely the best time to mold a human being into a steward of industry to run their own enterprise to profitability. If not you will brook despair that cascades to the dependency culture now on show at the theatre of the absurd bankrolled by our Deputy President!
  9. Push Sports as Business & Complete Building the Stadiums – Sports business is a massive global venture. The aforementioned youth full of energy and enthusiasm are within their window of life to ably engage in sporting activity as a means to sustenance. In the backdrop of our world-beating athletes winning Grand Prix the world over, we have no reason not to promote sports as a path to wealth creation. It pains me that a whole decade after the first Kenyan footballer; Macdonald Mariga won the Champions League with Inter Milan, I still have to be encouraging a senior state functionary to have the promotion of sporting ventures among his repertoire of youth empowering activities. Even he, you tried to use as a pawn in your dirty political machinations in Kibra. Utterly opprobrious! Today we have Victor Wanyama, Dennis Oliech among a myriad others decking the Halls of Fame as sporting luminaries worthy of emulation by the current generation of young Kenyans who have made it in life through sport and should no doubt pique the collective conscience of the Kenyan state to avail this opportunity to more of our youth. Closely tied to this is the issue of stadiums. Those not shackled with selective amnesia heard it from the horses’ own mouth that we were supposed to have 9 stadiums by today but instead, 9 excuses are all we can show for our troubles. Oh Jubilee Government, how low your estimation has gone among throngs of your adoring supporters!
  10. Mentorship programs are pivotal to tie it all up – If a man became a billionaire by selling eggs & chicken then it behooves him in appreciation of his high calling to mentor the rest of us to replicate that feat. To whom so much is given, so much will be asked back. Avail stewards of industry, business leaders and all who have made it in life to mentor the youth if you are really interested in their best interests. And keep away the clowns who say they started their multi-million shilling poultry empire with a single feather! We’ve already had too many funerals this year & don’t need any more. Moreover, Civic Education is key on the availability of empowerment opportunities and eligibility ought to be universal and not just in a politician’s voting stronghold.

The only saving grace for our Deputy President, for which I tip my hat is in creating hubbub around the plight of the underprivileged in society and forcing the entire state machinery to now sit up & take notice of their existence as a major bargaining chip in the Presidential succession equation. State President Uhuru and The People’s President Rt. Hon. Odinga were forced to launch endowment funds to support practitioners in the boda-boda sector which is admirable. In Kenya apparently, if you are not at the table then you could well and truly be on the menu. However, “Hustler Nation” narrative or not, we cannot explicate Dr. Ruto from the failures of the 10-year Jubilee kakistocracy. You cannot eat your cake and still have it.

In closing submissions, I urge our DP to brush up his know-how on a book I am almost certain he has read, ’48 Laws of Power’ by Robert Green. The principal precept is to ‘Never attempt to outshine your boss during his day in the limelight.’ More grievously; our Supreme Deity is unlikely to hold anyone blameless more so a Sunday School tutor of yore, for as iniquitous a transgression as trifling with his mighty name in vain. Take heed.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

BREAKING THE MONOPOLY OF KENYA POWER WILL BE BENEFICIAL TO KENYA

A joke is told in minimal dearth of accuracy that when God said let there be light, some primordial Electrical Engineer had already laid all the cabling to effect the miracle of that nascent illumination.

Eons later, nobody captured the essence of society like the son of that same divine engineer, when he took up human personification as Jesus Christ. Not just a virtuoso of a carpenter, he also wore a kaleidoscopically-hueful and feathered cap which cast him in equally exquisite light as a master storyteller of his time. In characterizing human avarice & wantonness, he gave an anecdote of a rich man who owned a vineyard where he employed farmhands. But these were a special breed of humans who when described as dastardly sells them needlessly short! He fenced his priced vintage, put up a winepress and erected a watchtower to guard the premises. A time came when he had to go on an odyssey as all wealthy people are wont to. He gave incontrovertible instructions that during harvest time his servants had the discretion to collect profits in his stead and holding it in trust until he returns for remission. At harvest time, the first servant sauntered in customarily to collect due behoof as he had done over the years but at this particular juncture, he was met by mean-mugging characters who roughed him up to within an inch of paraplegia. The quest was abandoned for the day. A second one was sent who met a worse comeuppance. In mafia-lingo, he was ‘whacked’ (probably watched too many George Scorsese’s Movies)! A third came but was met by a barrage of projectiles, also barely getting away with his life. The owner was at the end of his tether! He in due course, probably on misguided nuances, threw his very own son into this simmering cauldron consoling himself in the false paradigm, “Verily, they will respect my son in paying homage to I, their beneficent employer!” But these were a queer breed of blood-thirsty blackguards. They saw him riding in from the proverbial ‘18!’ In their heart of hearts they averred, “If we killed this boy, we would have this vineyard all for ourselves” as they rubbed their hands in machiavellian glee!’ They seized the young man and disemboweled him without any salutary courtesies. “When the Viticulturist albeit Vintner arrived back from his voyage, do you think he kept the farmhands as employees?” Jesus asked his disciples pensively. “He’ll assuredly cast them off then put them out of their collective misery, a rotten bunch and good riddance,” shot back the response almost unanimously from the disciples. They added that he would have to reassign those duties to better-wired recruits who will only be interested in the red of grape wine as opposed to their compatriot’s life-blood and in the fullness of time give due recompense when it is asked of them by the owner. The Lord was unerring in his assessment. Of course, this entire tale was aimed at the Pharisees & Sadducees who made it their pastime to seek to imprison the ‘son of man’ for treason, heresy and blasphemy but as always public sentiment directed proceedings and they were intimidated by the prospect of fomenting a riot among the peace-loving Jews. They saved their bacons and went on their way for future scheming. Today in antipathy to tradition, I did not digress!

While reading the Business Daily newspaper for the week commencing Sunday, 13th September 2020, one story especially caught my attention. The Headline read – ‘KPLC’s Debt to KenGen hits 23.7 Bn.’ Here is the link for those without time to get the hard-copy paper – (https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/corporate/companies/Kenya-Powers-debt-to-KenGen/4003102-5622800-14nte8oz/index.html) I had to rub my eyes in shock while adjusting my subconscious for the prospect of this figure probably being in Zimbabwe dollars, Tanzanian Shillings or the currency of our neighbours to the Western frontier! By the second paragraph, I had gathered that the figure was in Kenya Shillings and was beside myself with indignance. How could this be? Even the figurative ‘traveller in Jerusalem’ did not require a Calculator to surmise that Kenyans suffer under the yoke of some of the heaviest power tariffs in Africa.

For some historical perspective, Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) was founded on a bright and audacious day on 6th January 1922 and existed as East African Power & Lighting Company (EAP&L) despite origins in Kenya when the Mombasa Electric Power & Lighting Company merged with Nairobi Power & Lighting Syndicate in that same year. Further back in 1875; the enlightened Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Barghash procured a diesel generator to light up his palace and adjacent streets. A similar contraption was acquired by Mombasa’s serial entrepreneur, Harrali Esmailjee Jeevanjee leading to the aforementioned Mombasa-based outfit in 1908. Copying from the same script, that same year Eng. Clement Hirtzel was granted exclusive rights to supply the Capital city with power. Here is the genesis of the also foreshadowed Nairobi Power & Lighting syndicate. In no time, loosely translating to 1932, the EAP&L grew wings and flapped them hard to expand outside our boundaries to acquire the Tanganyika Electricity Supply Company Limited (today called TANESCO) making it a subsidiary. A generation and distribution license was soon obtained for Uganda in 1936. A mere 12 years later, ground was ceded in Uganda when the need for autonomy occasioned the formation of the Uganda Electricity Board (UEB). On the First day of February 1954, a subsidiary of the greater unit called Kenya Power Company (KPC) was inaugurated and commissioned to construct the transmission line between Nairobi & Tororo, Uganda. Power was already generated at the Owen Falls Dam which needed to be evacuated to Kenya to create additional utility in that commodity. That same year, EAP&L became a listed company on The Nairobi Securities Exchange. It was a pioneer among its peers listed publicly on the bourse. EAP&L exited Tanzania in 1964 selling its stake to ‘Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania’ – the aggregated Tanzanian State.

As the entity only remained in Kenya, a rebranding was in order and was newly-christened Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) in 1983. Consistent with growth; 14 years later Kenya Power Company de-linked from the greater KPLC, later rebranding as Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KENGEN) handling not just Power Generation but both Primary and Secondary Transmission. Come 2008; and concomitant with the agenda of further stratification, the electricity transmission infrastructure function was carved out of KENGEN and given to yet another scion of the big tree, the pristine Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO). A further rebranding was done in June 2011 as KPLC became shortened to Kenya Power (KP) with the sole mandate to handle distribution, metering and retailing of electricity to consumers in Kenya. Needless to say, this is an instance of a Monopoly. Ideally, Monopoly is a form of market capitalism which exists where the elasticity of demand is low and significant barriers to entry become rampant which is relevant to our situation in Kenya presently. Further expansion birthed the Geothermal Development Corporation (GDC), Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC), the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) and the Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) all with distinct autonomy and authority for their respective functions.

Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant in Naivasha

This may prima-facie seem to be a lovely fairytale to regal young ones to sleep. However; in actual sense, the story of KPLC chronicles a great river which was strong and buoyant at its spring but got muddled at the confluence between mismanagement with the tributary of ineptitude, a rivulet called embezzlement, a stream called tribalism and the brook of political convenience before eutrophication into an insufferable and pungent swamp. Asked today, I can aver with unshrivelled conviction that tribalism is the overarching policy direction at the power utility. The marriage of convenience between the two parties that formed the Jubilee Government will go down in history as arguably the biggest impediment to Kenyan unity ever. Two characters that decided to split Cabinet, Government Department and State Corporation positions between themselves in absolute reticence to the existence of the other 42 tribal entities in our nation. This is actually a longstanding problem that was initiated during President Kibaki’s regime when head-honchos at the Ministry of Energy and its rank and file was from Central Kenya. The problem was inherited and got entrenched under Mwai Kibaki’s successor. Today, do not be surprised if you were to call the Kenya Power headquarters at Parklands and hear people conversing in their vernacular, a series of high-pitched, rapidly-disseminated syllables before answering you in pretty laissez-fare fashion, giving you no assistance whatsoever and without a modicum of courtesy in antipathy to not just the exorbitant rates we have to pay for power in Kenya but also debasing your diligence in initiating the call as a troubleshooting mechanism.

Adjunct to this bilge is the drawback of your political affiliation because in Kenya, politics and tribe are apparently interlinked qualities. It is an open secret that Kenya Power fundraised for the Jubilee Government re-election war chest in absolute disregard to not just professional ethics but also International Accounting Standards & natural justice. This level of iniquity would ostensibly seem like a fable I concocted were it not laid bare by the Former Auditor-General, Edward Ouko in his post-audit report on the financial position at KP that was rife with misrepresentation & ‘doctored’ books. How they stayed as a listed company at the bourse with all these financial anomalies only points to the impunity & state grip over the corporation. That means that as long as you are connected to the national grid and pay your power bill then it’s a certainty that you financially bankrolled the Jubilee Party machinery and paid through our nose we did then, lest we forget! A time was when success card-like chiming became the entertainment in my house when my prepaid meter was guzzling tokens in no dissimilitude to a stray piranha gormandizing tilapia in a fishpond! I am equally hard-pressed to explain why a career legal professional is at the helm of our Power retailer. Many will adduce the rationale that it is in a managerial capacity, all with the need to streamline the company’s activities with legal frameworks as pertains to the current constitution albeit the rules, regulations, presidential edicts, acts and by-laws governing our nation and attendant gobbledygook!

Ngong Hills Wind Power Station

I feel the time is ripe to inquire how many Law firms out here are run by either Engineering Graduates or Career Engineering Professionals?

How many Engineers represent clients in Court or even in arbitration tribunals with regards to resolving actual engineering conundrums?

Could Engineers be ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ who need to shepherded by other professions?

I neither feel the predilection to mention names here nor disparage anybody’s character but I must question how someone whose Academic and Experiential background does not entail courses in Material Science, Physical Electronics & Electrical Engineering Materials, Electrical Machines and even Power Electronics will hold court in discourse about the most efficient materials to use for Power Transmission cables (the eternal Copper vs Aluminium debate), how to prevent Transformer windings from being cannibalized by scrap-metal dealers or even why we use mineral as opposed to vegetable oil for transformer arc extinction & cooling; tantamount to that, why use of air-cooled transformers as opposed to their oil-cooled counterparts is gaining traction?

Step Potential Transmission Tower

My message is that our rulers must adjudge ethnicity, mediocrity and political correctness as subordinate to actual competence and have meritocracy as a yardstick for service. Additionally, professionals should stick to their lanes to eschew the current spate of incompetence.

I have belaboured the subject of Corruption and will not stop in my intransigence against this vice as long as there are still keys on my Laptop and a conscience ensconced within my cerebral cortex’s grey-matter! Corruption is no stranger at this State Corporation as the turn of the millennium beckoned criminal proceedings initiated by the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. Matter of factly, the case is still being prosecuted at a Jersey Court but paradoxically gathering dust at our very own Attorney General’s chambers where in 1986, then KPLC Managing director Samuel Gichuru in concert with Energy Cabinet Minister Chris Okemo were involved in a heist that entailed the building of a phantom hydroelectric power project on the nondescript Ewaso Ngiro river. The two diverted in excess of KShs. 520 million, the proceeds of kickbacks to the tax-haven of Jersey after receiving a flurry of bribes from interested companies. On June 21st 1990, the British Export Credit Guarantee Department (EGCD), an entity that bolsters British Companies to win tenders abroad oversaw the advancement of a £68.1 million loan by ANZ Grindlays Bank to the Moi Government for this endeavour. Under unclear circumstances, the money was diverted to some shadowy entities in the tax-haven jurisdiction of Jersey in the British Isles. Evidence of graft was clear but a series of questionable gaffes from our ‘Mr. Nolle Prosequi’ a.k.a then Attorney-General, Amos Shitswila Wako meant the extradition circus is still on show at the theatre of the absurd to this day! If you needed an indicator on how foreign companies astride our autochthonous entities are willing to pay a premium to access highly-prized tenders and contracts, then this is a smoking gun for you. About 520 Million shillings was seized and repatriated back to the Kenyan exchequer; nevertheless, we will still have to repay for the non-existent infrastructure project, making remittances from 1986 until the end of this year for a project that was supposed to have brought forth 3 new dams by 2007 but a dustbowl is all we can show for it! Let me not even push you to precipitous cliffs of nausea by a feasibility study that cost the taxpayer in excess of 3.8 billion in our legal tender. This is a clarion call for all that were demented that the Nyayo-era was the golden-age of sound stewardship in Kenya merely because they were naïvely lulled into a false sense of eternal gratitude by the Nyayo School Milk Program! I bet Nikola Tesla who did more for Power Transmission but died penniless must be turning in his grave seeing 2 undeserving iterations of scum profiteering from public funds.

Ewaso Ngiro River

Then there is the small matter of the single off-taker for all our Installed Generated Capacity that is solely Kenya Power (KP). For those not abreast with Electrical Engineering jargon, an off-taker is a buyer of generated electricity whether solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, thermal, nuclear or renewable energy who in civilized jurisdictions is a public company, private party, business, school, a cement manufacturer, municipality or a utility company. In our case; only KP, the utility supplier exists. Installed Generated Capacity is the nominal or the intended full-load sustained output of a power plant or all of them cumulatively in a country. The suicidally overenthusiastic, inexorably ambitious but pathologically ill-tooled Jubilee regime in 2013 hatched a plan to raise Kenya’s Installed Generation Capacity to over 6,700 Megawatts in just 40 months. Little regard was given to technocrat counsel on creating demand in terms of building more industries or if ultimately that generated power would be cheaper; subsequently, the fruits are clear for all to see. Moreover, extortionately large loans to develop network so as to add more mostly rural consumers roiled the mix further. In 2013 we had euphoria-fuelled, grandiose dreams of new industries, Electric trains on our SGR line, Resort cities and Special Economic Zones that were to be power guzzlers. Monumental projections coupled with our self-styled ‘hustlers’ who in real sense are nothing more than ravenous kleptomaniacs saw a deal-signing frenzy that brought on board independent power producers, breaking ground for mega-generation projects and portended doom for the distributor now firmly stuck in a loss-making rut. This is all in the backdrop of small-time, single-phase, domestic consumers having to pay exorbitant charges merely to light the house for only a few hours at night!

Rural Electrification in Kenya

Adjunct to this point is Kenya Power’s overenthusiastic diving headlong into Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) devoid of any Build-to-Own strategy or even feasibility on the expected demand before increasing capacity. We are now trapped in expensive, long-term PPAs with prohibitively-priced and foreign-owned thermal power producers some of whom do not commensurately pay corporate tax for their revenue, feel the compulsion to employ our annually churned-out graduates or even engage in Corporate Social Responsibility for the adjacent community. I could speak about the engagement of a Corporate Lawyer to look for loopholes for the engagement of a Force Majeure to terminate contracts that are detrimental to the best interests of ‘Wanjiku’ who has to spend astronomically for electricity. However, that is the main impetus of this stratum of society to continue driving Bentleys, go to the Maldives on holiday, charter chopper rides for their baby-mamas to Zanzibar to see the sunset & host private all-white parties. This is all the windfall of casting a blind eye to this injurious state of affairs.

Kenya Power Technicians installing a secondary distribution line

More often than not the easiest thing in the world is to castigate the next man for their failings not just with zero introspection on your own culpability for the misadventure but also failing to provide a suitable suggestion for a remedy that is more valuable than the censure anyway. Here is a raft of solutions I propose:

  • Devolve to smaller units at Counties/ Sub-counties – In years gone by, when KPLC was still amalgamated as one big, happy family with its progeny, their inefficiencies could be mitigated by those other appendages performing exceptionally. But these failings have progressively been ruthlessly exposed after the various composite units found autonomy. Devolution as has already happened with many of our water supply companies and authorities will work wonders for the electricity sector. In this model, the power distribution infrastructure should be managed by County or Sub-County Service Board while revenue by means of electricity bills and service charges be collected by the local branches of the Power utility company. Simple acts of secondary distribution, managing substations, last-mile connectivity and repairs will then be within the purview of local technicians within the jurisdiction as employees of that local utility service provider. Decentralization of revenue collection will pass muster with regards to accountability as each county will work to be self-sufficient in this new reality that is the devolved units. That well-worn adage about collective responsibility being nobody’s responsibility will be dealt the death knell.
Electrical Substation
  • Allow Competition as this is pivotal for sensible pricing – This one though impossible to execute presently due to price regulation for electrical units consumed being a function of EPRA, will also be a much welcome move. Today despite the existence of the Energy Act (2019), Kenya Power enjoys a monopoly which she abuses by running roughshod over her erstwhile clientele who have no recourse. Indeed, as the current PS. for Energy & Petroleum, Dr. (Eng.) Joseph Njoroge when serving as CEO of KPLC once opined in derision, “KPLC isn’t so much of a monopoly as many of you think, simply pay your bill or defect to our competitors, darkness!” Such high-handedness from the power utility is the modus operandi in the absence of any competition. Just a mere 10 – 15 years ago, Cement was retailed for an average of Kshs. 800 per bag when only Bamburi Cement and East African Portland Cement Company existed. The advent of competition from new players has drastically brought down the prices to an average of sh. 550 per bag. Why can’t this level of free-market economy be allowed to attract new entrants as utility service providers? As per the strictures of the Energy Act (2019), with sufficient financial muscle you can actually start a power distributorship in Kenya. However, how feasible is it? Unless you are Jeff Bezos, few actually even try as the Capital Expenditure to build a network, even for a small village is steep. So much so, you will not even recoup your investment and break-even in 10 years’ time of business. Such expenses can only be shouldered by a government-sponsored entity that can pitch abroad for infrastructural loans or mobilize funds from local tycoons via Treasury Bonds. This coupled with market inflexibility of the unit-cost controlled by EPRA means price is uniform hence, proffering nobody an advantage. This will hinder investment in the absence of an open-market dictated by market forces.
“KPLC isn’t so much of a monopoly as many of you think, simply pay your bill or defect to our competitors, darkness!” ~ Former CEO of KPLC Dr. (Eng.) Joseph Njoroge, Current PS for Energy.
  • Time is ripe to allow Private Contractors to assist Kenya Power in their operations. As a Telecommunications Engineering professional I can attest to the operability of this model. In our line of work we have Mobile Phone Service Providers like Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya. The economics of business dictate that they are not able to hire hundreds of thousands of employees into their labour force in spite of the Service Level Agreement to supply and maintain their signal countrywide. That is where Private Contractors come in. They set up shop, get equipment and manpower, be in good standing with the Service Provider and then bid for tenders & contracts. On a need basis, the contractor’s labour is sought to add to the capacity of these service providers as they work to promote the insignia of their contracting entity countrywide. This is a win-win model because additional masts and coverage means additional revenue for that service provider and the labour by the contractor is also richly rewarded in business acquisition as they are paid for executing their side of the contract. Consequently, the service provider will not have to hire the technicians directly but still get their business over the line. This will be a much-welcome model for our Power Utility Company as seldom is a small repair job executed in timely manner these days. In case of an outage, powerline cut or transformer fuse getting charred, repairs take an eternity. Woe unto you, if when they arrive, the wooden pole is found rotten. They don’t look at the job twice! More agony awaits if the Transporter lorry or Bucket crane has broken down. That may be a fortnight of darkness for the aggrieved party! I will not even speak about the backlog of new connections that lie pending for fear of getting apoplectic and failing to finish this post! The only feasible route to handle this is by sub-contracting such services to these many young men & women out here that sit jobless on qualifications in Electrical Grid Construction and maintenance. I feel the incorporation of contractors into this sector will ease managing distribution, new connections and maintenance shortfalls. “Hii pesa yote hamwezi maliza pekee yenu KP!”
For those who remember the day a monkey put Kenya back to the dark ages, the repair was done by chopper!
  • Cease Charging Consumers Capacity Cost – There is a disconcerting state of affairs that despite KP & KENGEN being in concord for the bulk of a century, the new upstart still insists on levying Capacity cost for their Generating Stations despite breaking even an eon ago. This is just ludicrous! How do I explain to my 3-year-old niece that we are still offsetting Capacity Cost for Kindaruma Dam Power Station that has been in operation for 52 years in this month’s power bill? This is just hyena-like behaviour that has to stop.
Aerial View of Masinga Dam and its Power Station
  • End the Incompetence & Impunity.
  • We need Serious Investors in Electrical Power & Industry – The problem with Kenya is that the ruling class, our deep-state, the grizzled old-rich with deep pockets are now more interested in monkey business nay musical chairs as opposed to trans-generational investment for the sake of the future of our motherland. I have heard in the grapevine, but from reliable sources that a few well-heeled ‘foxes’ only seek to enter the power distribution business by acquiring licenses only to then sell them to foreigners at a premium. Lack of serious investors is a weighty matter that can only be addressed by ordinary ‘wananchi’ taking the bull by the horns in co-operative movements whereby pooling resources together, they will be able to create new entities to rival the status-quo. Even well-known tycoons like my good friend and mentor Dr. (DJ.) CK are still running around selling shares of old companies, hedging in derivatives and futures market as opposed to giving back to society by funding local ventures. But it is their money, so who am I to disparage their actions? We need more industrialists and venture capitalists as opposed to antiquated serial entrepreneurs not just in the power industry investment but also for the creation of industrial capacity for the uptake of the already acquiesced Installed Generation Capacity. This is supposed to be a noblesse oblige of sorts by the privileged class to the hoi-polloi.
Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

CORRUPTION KILLING DEVOLUTION IN KENYA

Current Council of Governors of Kenya

Devolution was one of the finest products of the novel and progressive Constitution that was promulgated in 2010. Chapter 11 of this Popular Charter heralded a new dawn where hitherto underdeveloped regions finally saw recognition under law and those deemed commercially unviable by the previous regimes had their right to development finally enshrined in law. Kenya is currently in her 7th year of implementation of this new constitutional dispensation and by extension the facet of devolution. Today resources are centripetally distributed from the Centre – from the Executive cascading down unto the grassroots to finally be tasted by the hoi-polloi. Devolution is not a new discovery in Kenya. Indeed, it is a paradigm that was a point of contention pre and post-independence by the two major political parties of the day i.e. KANU that was the proponent of Centralization of power – a bastion of the Luo & Kikuyu vis-à-vis KADU due its hierarchy consisting of the minority tribal affiliations – the Luhya, Kalenjin & Mijikenda, who vouched for a system called ‘Majimbo.’ ‘Majimbo’ – The Kiswahili word for regions or regionalism, has been manifested in no great dissimilitude to devolution as we have it today. This was a counter-measure against the propensity for a stranglehold by the Kikuyu and Luo hegemony with regard to political power. Believe it or not, the proponents of regionalism had their way as the Legislative Council assented to regions based on the 7 Colonial Provinces, paving way for a bicameral legislative system of the Senate and National Assembly. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the Prime Minister, ably deputized by Ajuma Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Come the National unity accord of 1964 that folded KADU into KANU, the concord was used as an excuse to vitiate the existence of the Senate & Regional Governments citing the need for unity of Kenyans under a Central Government as a pivotal component of national cohesion. Consequently, even the purveyors of ideology deemed dissonant to the ‘National Philosophy’ were labelled persona-non-grata in Kenya when Section 2A was concocted in the constitution rendering our Republic a de-jure, one-party state. We lived through the epoch of an Imperial President running a unitary state. In due course, dissenting voices were ipso-facto adjudged as treasonous, seditious, subversive and even mutinous as many intellectuals of the day, politicians, political commentators, university dons, lecturers, authors, playwrights, thespians and journalists found themselves in hot water. The most popular tool available to the Government was the Detention Without Trial Act for dissidents on the grounds of preserving National Security. Tales I have heard & read from Nyayo House Torture Chamber victims are too chilling to be recounted here more so those relating to the diabolical operability of the mechanical implement called the Pliers as it articulated with a vice-like grip on the nether regions of the masculine anatomy by agents of state! The State operated like an unrestrained behemoth paying homage to sentiments given life by the indomitable Late Cabinet Minister John Njoroge Michuki about the impunity of Government overreaching to the extent of knocking out one’s Teeth and then seeking reparations not for but from the aggrieved victim!

Thanks to the Freedom of Expression afforded by the new Constitution, I will today stick my neck out and opine that it is in the backdrop of the resulting frustrations from this failed system of leadership, that the 1982 attempted Coup d’état was occasioned. The State has eternally blamed power-hungry barons and disgruntled military officers for the putsch but I stand with my assessment that the repressive and kleptocratic unitary state was the spark that lit that powder keg. Regional development, service delivery, access to government jobs by & large – state largesse and infrastructural development became a function of the whims of the Central Government. That is the predicament even the author of this very piece was born into in the late ’80s. The agitation for pluralism reached fever pitch in 1991 leading to the repeal of Section 2A culminating in the first Multiparty elections in 1992. The expansion of civil liberties has been a gradual exercise that led to birthing a wholesale constitutional review process. Of paramount importance was legal reforms for Free and Fair elections, Composition of the Electoral Commission and enhanced freedom of association and assembly. Invariably, when the opposition finally grasped Power in 2002 with the NARC coalition spearheaded by Mwai Kibaki, the main campaign promise yearning to be fulfilled was a new constitution within the first 100 days in office! That one certainly came a cropper. Those that came to fruition early on were the Free Primary School Education and the Creation of the Constituency Development Fund. 2.5% of government revenue was earmarked for grassroots development annually. This was informed by the priorities and needs of the local population in due course bringing development closer to the people. Progress became delinked from political affiliation of both party and personalities in power. The revolution was televised as efforts at achieving the NARC government’s pet peeve – the New Constitution took root. Emissaries were sent in the form of Delegates from all over Kenya to make submissions on behalf of their respective regions. The Form and structure that was eventually agreed on after months of bickering and battering was based on the Colonial districts that would forthwith be referred to as Counties. The New Constitution pegged the percentage of national revenue to the devolved units and wrote an algorithm for an equitable share formula for resource distribution based on population, land area & degree of hardship.

Representation of Equality vs Equity

In all honesty, sounding the death knell on Centralized Corruption by State was one of the prerogatives of implementing devolution in Kenya. Today as we canter 7 years into this devolution reality in the Counties; curbing Corruption, Tribalism, Nepotism and pilferage of public resources becomes critically crucial. With several sitting Governors and other County Officials under the microscope of our investigative agencies for putting their hands into the figurative Cookie jar, the verdict on corruption in the counties is a damning one. The spectre of public prosecution hangs ever so close for many of them. That notwithstanding, Devolution has been a game-changer that has taken decision-making down to the ordinary ‘mwananchi’.

Speaking at the 5th Devolution Conference in Kakamega in May 2018, the 2nd Prime Minister (Emeritus) of the Republic of Kenya; Rt. Hon. Raila A. Odinga, as an elder statesman pointed out that conflicts of interests were harming the percolation of national resource down to the people all the while county officials lined their pockets. He added that County Speakers, Majority Leaders, MCAs, County Executives and procurement officials had positioned themselves with the express intention of milking kickbacks from public works projects in the end becoming Contractors to the County and abdicating their oversight responsibilities. Another instance of malfeasance brought to light was the practice of Governors bribing MCAs to approve Cabinet appointees, inordinate expenditure on unnecessary benchmarking trips and to kill motions of no-confidence that would lead to impeachment. He pointed out the Governors were virtually being held hostage by avaricious, selfish and capricious ward representatives. ‘Baba’ as he has affably been christened by throngs of his adoring supporters, averred that the only way to eschew the victimization of innocent county officials is by conducting a lifestyle audit on all and sundry then publicize the findings. Moreover, fighting corruption has never and will never be a partisan affair as this monster is an existential threat to the rank and file of our nationhood. In closing submissions, he proposed a three-tier government entailing Counties, Regional and the National Government with a well-detailed revenue sharing formula in order to have viable economic units as was envisioned in the antecedently mutilated Bomas Draft of the Constitution in 2005. Even in the foregoing of that same conference, moral corruption was on display as a Deputy Governor from Central Kenya; a married man no less, was literally caught with his pants down with a woman who is most certainly not his significant other! I will leave that adjunct to the stammered remonstrations of innocence to our local tabloids at the time.

2nd Premier of the Republic of Kenya Rt. Hon. Raila. A Odinga

Today the letter and spirit of devolution seems to only be an academic exercise as impropriety is the only thing to report from more than half of the counties. Apparently, the number of County Governors who are above reproach with regards to wastage of county funds is countable with the fingers on one palm. Culpability is on various degrees, with those having lost a few million shillings being slightly righteous to bogeymen who are absolutely unable to account for several billion in county revenue. Let the muteness of their tongues not fool you when questions on financial probity arise as the real deafening roar of opulence is in their private residences and village abodes. Lavish castles are now coming up at a premium on the homes of these newly-minted Feudal Lords of Corruption as some of their erstwhile unspoken of mistresses and concubines now live in mansions, some almost palaces at the expense of the sweat of the brow of the plebeians of the county.

The 1st lady appears here solely for the sake of comparison and to all intents & purposes is Innocent.
However, the 2nd Girl is a pictorial representation of one of the Mistresses / Concubines we allude to here!
When you are a Lifestyle Vlogger who purports to travel on a ‘budget’ which in actual sense is a fully-catered trip to Dubai sponsored by a benefactor with a salacious streak in a Chartered Plane with high-level dignitaries and are not their Daughter, Sister, Wife, Female relative, Cabin Crew or member of their Press Team; Cry not when we cast aspersions on both your character & intent!
For the hollow spaces to the right of each picture, if you know you know!

I may not want to act sub judice on matters already before our courts of law but I feel it will be a dereliction of the duty of care to my brothers and sisters if I failed to at least mention some who have been caught up in this vice of corruption. First on the list is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s former ‘blue-eyed’ girl who a few years back came under intense fire over the NYS Scandal that saw Kenya lose a few billion shillings to scheming connivers, some of who were accorded the ignominious pleasure of forming shell-companies after winning tenders in contravention of procurement norms, ultimately not supplying jackshit after receiving hefty payments. The femme fatale of a Cabinet Secretary, in village gossip also accused by her detractors of ‘kizungu mingi’, sharp dressing and traipsing around in motions reserved for the catwalk ostensibly to curry favour with the Executive of the day, in due course was forced to resign after the neon lights of state approbation dimmed on her, citing precursory ‘doctor’s orders’ for lighter duties and minimal stress in her statement of valediction. In the ‘infinite wisdom’ of the people of Kirinyaga County, they elected this lady as their County Chief Executive in antipathy to logic. A few weeks ago, she came under scrutiny for gross mismanagement of her county coffers. Again her only salvation became the shield of political expedience with that drama still showing in a television near you.

NYS Scandal

Now showing in HD is the saga that has been the regime of 2nd term Governor, Zachary Okoth Obado. This man’s rap sheet stretches from Vanga on the Indian Ocean Coastal frontier between Kenya & Tanzania to Praia do Mussulo (Mussulo Beach) in downtown Luanda, Angola on the Atlantic Coast. This is the pioneer among his peers to be charged with a capital offence. From incontrovertible evidence adduced alluding to the double murder of his University Student mistress & their unborn child to now dragging his entire family into County procurement and tendering impropriety, the smoking gun could as well be a gassing fumarole with regards to the onslaught of charges against the county Chief Executive of Migori. To call this man’s tenure in office an unmitigated disaster is hitting the nail on the head.

Next on the chopping block is Governor Cyprian Achilaus Awiti. This hefty specimen of our species is archetypal of the whimsical nature of people better suited at being politicians than providing actual public stewardship. Awiti has been on record going as far as feigning blindness when queries of financial misadventure pop up and he’s summoned before the Senate but always miraculously regains 20/20 visual acuity during Ohangla nights often stealing the show at ‘Disco Matanga’ dances paradoxically held in the dead of night!

Together in the cauldron of inquest are Governor Ojaamong of Busia and Governor Moses Lenolkulal of Samburu who have actually been kept in remand prison for varying periods of time for injudiciously joining the gravy train of looting public coffers for personal gain. Among other charges, Kasaine Lenolkulal awarded high-value tenders for Fuel supply to an entity called Oryx Service Station, a company for which Lily Lenolkulal and he are directors. Ojaamong and company conspired to defraud the County Government of Busia of 8 million shillings in a foggy trip to Germany for benchmarking, engaging in extra-budgetary expenditure. Word on the grapevine from reliable sources is that were it not for the Covid-19 scourge that has ravaged the global economy, a high-ranking and ostensibly development-conscious Governor from Western Kenya was supposed to be next on the hot seat to explain how he acquired about 200 Million to build a hotel in Kisumu! The finer details are still diaphanous at the time of going to press but stay tuned as where there is smoke there is certainly a subterranean fire.

Retrogressive Narratives that we have internalized to normalize graft

The least said about the plight of the next two governors, the better. This is because both are the quintessence of how democracy fails in a jurisdiction where the populace lacks wisdom and the power of discernment to even decipher the difference between a hole in the terra-firma and the crack of their own very derrière! Both are creatures of populism as their speeches more often than not are seldom laced with ideology, creative paradigm, meaningful agenda and sentiment but are top-heavy on cheap rhetoric that panders to the primordial brain while atrophying the conscientious centres of the cerebral cortex! The easiest thing in the world is to blame some nebulous entity called ‘the system’ for popular disenfranchisement, poverty, personal failure and existential struggles without any need for self-interrogation nay introspection. None have proven themselves savants in this dark art more than Gov. Mike Mbuvi Sonko & Ferdinand Clifford ‘Babayao’ Waititu. They both got elected by an overwhelming mandate but have ended up immuring themselves in absolute infamy with regards to graft. To call either Waititu or Gideon Kioko an abomination will create unnecessary embarrassment even to the fraternity historically saddled with this vile moniker. From racketeering, nepotism, land grabbing, day-light thuggery – whatever happened with raw sewerage at Jacaranda grounds, Embakasi East before an Opposition rally in late 2017, breakdown in not just policy formulation but also comprehension and implementation, hawking political patronage to cronies among other forms of malfeasance; these two troglodytes have not coated themselves in any measurable glory. The former is now existing in the political purgatory while the latter has been hounded out of office via impeachment with his suitably subservient Deputy taking over the reins of County Management. Nairobi has now been thrust in the capable hands of Maj. Gen. Mohammed Badi commandeering an outfit called the Nairobi Metropolitan Services after incompetence evidenced by a comedy of blunders blamed on among other factors gubernatorial inebriation with not just unbridled political power but also the frothy beverages from Ruaraka, adjunct to his glaring failure to name a substantive Deputy Governor more than half a term after the previous one resigned in a huff had created a leadership vacuum for the County hosting our Commercial and Political Capital. I know apologists abound for both these scalawags and rabble-rousers but their names will go down the annals of eternal infamy and become the totem-pole for the polity to never again choose a leader out of a vendetta to hit back at their predecessor in antipathy to long-standing guidelines on commonsense that leave you to judge a leader on the yardstick of values upheld, ideology espoused and the integrity the newbie will bring to the institution to safeguard its glory and honour. However, old habits die hard.

Beware of the Scourge of the Populist Politician

 

Covid-19 pandemic alleviation funds have been disbursed and some of it misappropriated but that will be the subject of a future post after investigations have been taken to a logical conclusion. This Covid-19 period has also witnessed musical chairs of sorts in some County Referral Hospitals, that is the reprehensible translocation of beds from Private to Public hospitals with a view to cipher the impression of having sufficient ICU beds and as such giving the illusion of better preparedness of some counties to deal with a projected surge in infection and consequent hospitalizations in its wake. I would talk about the lightning to strike down the errant doing press-ups if I was well versed in its training regimen but I must warn that such callous and repugnant transgressions in the face of an existential quagmire will not be held blameless in the sight of the Almighty. Legal gymnastics are the curse of our Judicial system with injunctions and adjournments dished out willy-nilly but in God’s case there will be no appeal!

You may have realized that in contravention of laid down protocols; I have strategically left out the designation, ‘His / Her Excellency’ when alluding to these mischievous sitting Governors. It is not a misnomer but my sincere expression of disgust.

Corruption benefits a few to the detriment of the majority

After that unpalatable summon on corruption in our counties, many will no doubt ask me what recourse is available as pertains to ending corruption in our devolved units. My retort, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” What can help resolve the atrocities wrought upon the Republic by Corruption can also work in the microcosm of the nation – the Counties. We have Chapter 6 on Leadership and Integrity in the Current Constitution also getting a new gloss of paint that is Chapter 9 of the Building Bridges Initiative document that has been recommended for our perusal and either future approval or shelving. I invite all who haven’t read the document or wish to refresh themselves on it, you are free to imbibe of the posts I made earlier in the year in this particular Blog.

The Current Speaker of the Senate in a recent TV Interview, defended himself against the accusations of authorizing the procurement of wheelbarrows for an unholy sum of 100,000/- per Unit during his time as Governor of Bungoma, claiming that he was not involved in any way in that purchase. In his blood-curdling remarks, he pointed an accusatory finger at this being the brainchild of the procurement team and Chief Financial Officer. It exposed a serious lacuna in County procurement Laws that such colossal amounts of funds would depart County coffers without a paper trail requiring the Signature of approval from the Chief Executive, The Governor. This loophole needs to be plugged as a matter of urgency.

Corruption is pure Evil

Be that as it may, devolution has been a blessing to all the regions of our great nation. Nevertheless, our mechanisms to effect oversight and enforce financial probity such as the Senate, County Assemblies, The Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, Auditor General, Controller of Budget, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation, the Director of Public Prosecution and indeed the Judiciary must endeavour to work in concert with each other to ensure that those plundering funds meant for the empowerment of the masses and engaging in abuse of office are not only held accountable but also speedily prosecuted.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

ALL LIVES MATTER – A RALLYING CALL TO END ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AND MISTREATMENT

I have an admission to make. From the dawn of my consciousness well into the Year of our Lord 2018, I did not ideologically see eye to eye with many leaders from Central Kenya. For the most part, I viewed many of them as of questionable mien, blatantly dishonorable, chameleonistic, avaricious, morally-bereft, hypocritical, opportunistic vermin, pumped up on the flatulence of arrogance borne mostly out of ignorance, dishonest, grabbers, back-stabbers and mostly the weak link in our strife for national cohesion. For them the statement, “It is our time to eat” was the eternal flavour of the day. My sentiments of vehement opprobrium to these specimens of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens didn’t ring as ignominiously true as it did for the archetype of this malfeasance, one Hon. Moses Kuria – MP for Gatundu South; indeed the home constituency of the current President of Kenya. And he didn’t cover himself in glory either, each time trying to aver the tribal superiority of his ethnic orientation going as far as dishing epithets of tribal contempt about the former Prime Minister and his kinsmen even calling for the forceful circumcision of members of that Ethnic grouping, knowing full well it was against their cultural norms and inexorably coaxed their chagrin. Excrement figuratively hit the fan one day in 2015 when he called for a willing taker to literally ‘whack’ the former Premier as had happened to another high ranking Cabinet Minister affiliated to the Luo nation this same month in 1969, confident in the fact that there would only be a little mourning, some minuscule stone-throwing, disorganized riots and road blocking for a few days culminating in the total amnesia of the memory of the grand old man. In his heart of hearts, he posited that the uncircumcised poltroons from the lakeside were ill-equipped to mount any long-term civil war to avenge their tribal Kingpin’s assassination. Of course, the asininity of these said pronouncements can neither be gainsaid nor overstated here but we have surely come a long way from then as the aforementioned ‘Njamba ya Ruriri’ – an affectionate moniker bequeathed upon Kuria his tribal henchmen, has long lost national political relevance consequent to the handshake between the President and his longtime adversary, the Premier (Emeritus). I was recently streaming an episode of the ‘Bonga Na Jalas’ show on the YouTube Channel called Jalang’o TV where the invited guest was the majorly sequestered but still effervescent Hon. Kuria. He gave an interesting anecdote of a day in January 1995 when he was in attendance during the day of remembrance of the 1st anniversary of Kenya’s Nationalist and seminal Vice-President Hon. Jaramogi Ajuma Oginga Odinga melancholic demise live from ‘Kang’o ka Jaramogi’. Then the nation was under the clutches of a despotic regime that used every excuse contrivable to curtail the civil liberties of the ordinary citizens. At the time, the hackneyed edict was not to have loud, celebratory music no matter the festivities or time of day. The reality is that Jaramogi isn’t just anybody and that directive was not only greeted with flagrant contempt but was flouted wholesale. D.O Misiani in concert with his Shirati Jazz band had been enlisted to perform and was indubitably in full voice, strumming the tools of their trade, doling out the beats of ‘Ohangla’ & ‘Benga’ liberally to all with a functional auditory canal within earshot of that jurisdiction! Much as the winds of autocracy and authoritarianism had minimal sway in Luo-Nyanza, the Provincial authority was in full force. In the twinkle of an eye, the gathering was disrupted by riot police firing teargas canisters dispersing the crowd, but who are our lakeside brothers? They duly obliged to this duel of wills as projectiles of all shapes and sizes, not less some of the still issuing teargas canisters were hurled back in the opposite direction to the bemused and massively overpowered custodians of law and order. The then nimble-footed Moses Kuria and slightly-built Oburu Odinga had to escape the ensuing melee by exercising serpentine agility to crawl under a prickly Kay Apple fence. At least they lived to tell the tale and eschewed the inconvenience of being guests of the state for subversion of lawful authority!

The arena where the war for the 2nd Liberation of Kenya was fought

25 years later, such draconian laws are in our rear-view mirror but still more has to be done for further expansion of our bounds of emancipation as a people. Yesterday, as Kenyans we commemorated the 30th Saba Saba day (7th of July), an unofficial holiday where the Kenyan Second Liberation struggle and eventual attainment of multiparty democracy is celebrated. Of course being unofficial, the day is mostly uneventful & moribund to the Generation Z, many of who were yet to be born when the foregoing that necessitated its existence took place. We may have made great strides as a democratic nation, even bequeathing upon ourselves a progressive constitution in 2010 to safeguard our rights and remind us of our obligations and so would have expected yesterday to be all hale & hearty. But lo and alas; mirroring living memory, the day turned out to be one of running battles with the police, protests, hubbub, a ‘kamukunji’ here, a peppering of teargas there in antipathy to the Constitutional enshrinement in Chapter 4, Articles 33 to 37 that guarantee the Freedom to assemble, Peacefully demonstrate, Present petitions and memoranda to public authorities, have an opinion, Conscience and expression for all Kenyan citizens. Maybe it was just our way of reintegrating back to society after 3 months of lockdown due to the scourge of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. But on the flipside, who is to begrudge the Police their nostalgia about the many a clobbering, foot chases and all-round malevolence their predecessors had laissez-faire to mete upon the citizenry on many other iterations of this day over the three-decade period?

The zeitgeist of the time in the United States of America, spreading like a bushfire the world over is the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement. Indeed with the resumption of the English Premier League season, for the past few matches the players have been duking it out with that rallying call emblazoned on the back of their match-day shirts after taking the convivial knee. And why has this movement taken root so deeply at this unprecedented epoch when we are dealing with the existential quagmire that is the Covid-19 pandemic? Despite the decree of emancipation from slavery ostensibly to end the practice signed and proclaimed by the incomparable 16th American President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the practice seems alive and well even today in the form of systemic oppression against Black People. Prima facie, slavery is no longer in play in America; however, the spectre of inordinate police brutality against the mostly unarmed Negroid demographic has reared a very ugly head. Injustice has in the past been relegated to small items of teletext news running at the bottom of TV screens during the news broadcast mostly to the notice of very few. However, this nefarious practice was brought to the mainstream of international news headlines when a white police officer was captured by an amateur citizen journalist’s mobile phone camera kneeling on the neck of an unarmed black man George Perry Floyd Jr. for 9 minutes straight until the man gave up the ghost! In the intervening period, his professional colleagues nonchalantly stood by, as if such actions were all in a day’s work. The footage was uploaded on social media and sparked worldwide umbrage to all with functional grey matter within their crania. This piqued the collective consciousness of many and forced the hand of the traditionally standoffish American legal justice system on matters pertaining to Afro-American affairs to take action against the four police officers captured in the video playing the role of idle spectators albeit furniture in the face of the ongoing barbarism. For me the most disturbing aspect of the entire ordeal isn’t the unyielding bloodlust of the officer involved Derek Chauvin – aptly named by his parents as foreboding for his racial ‘chauvinism’ during the entire ordeal but the intransigence of his colleagues. This was an unarmed man who had peacefully yielded to his arrest ostensibly for attempting to use a fake 20 dollar bill to buy cigarettes in an endeavour to keep warm in the vagaries of winter that chattel slavery unfairly bestowed upon the genotypically discordant black man whose ancestors had invariably been plucked out of tropical bliss in West Africa. That a grown man had tapped out by Minute 3 and was audibly calling upon his dead mother for intercession by Minute 7:30 out of earshot of the zoned-out brutes in the Minneapolis Police Department on beat that day is savagery to the macabre. Incontrovertible preexisting bad-blood between Officer Chauvin and the late Floyd notwithstanding, a storm has been brewed of far greater virulence than any would have even remotely hypothesized. All symbols of White exceptionalism and the memory of the American Confederacy in the South are going up in flames. Statues as far as in the hallowed halls of the American House of Congress are being brought down as riots and looting are in full swing. The movement has now been picked up by a global audience as the human race opens its eyes to the innocuous but antiquated remnants of the narrative of white superiority that was ripe for debunking. This is in acceptance of empirical wisdom concocted by the black-rights activist of the American Civil Rights Movement Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opining, Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere as we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied to a single garment of destiny.” His recompense for these sentiments of egalitarianism was assassination by the ‘lead’ in 1968.

George Perry Floyd Jr. getting executed by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department

Much as we are all affected by this movement indirectly, it seems perverse and even hypocritical that within our climes, we have men and women vociferously equivocating the Black Lives Matter slogan even posting the picture of darkness in their social media handles. All this in mock solidarity with the winds of the time in antipathy to their own perpetration of injustice to their fellow men within this nation.

Why would the fare-gormandizing bevy purport to feign solicitude with this noble initiative when they show no mercy to the pecuniary welfare of their masculine compatriots?

How many are in government employ and are paid a salary but still have to get their palms greased just to do the very job that they were employed to do? Corruption is a donkey that I have flogged on the pages of my publication so much that I don’t think I can add any more substance but still will. As a people we condone bribe-taking as long as we win that tender, escape culpability when caught on the wrong side of the law and even to get our children favours from scholarly institutions that will boost their egos majorly to the exclusion of their contemporaries. The culture of intellectualism is running on fumes in this nation as men and women bribe institutions of tertiary and quaternary education to get degree classifications and even postgraduate qualifications they have not earned. I have in the past decried the murkiness that has roped in even religious leaders who for a pittance, that is the ‘donation’ of a few million Kenya shillings have their heads turned and collective consciences roiled into zombie broth to trumpet a particular political agenda even one detrimental to the rank and file of the Republic. When you hear celebrants parroting similar refrains to some politicians about “kuna Mungu juu” and other abominable rhetoric in dissonance to well-founded Christian religious doctrine that the Almighty is Omnipresent and Omnipotent when their blackguardly benefactor has been accused of corruption, we know we are in big trouble as a country. When righteousness is a quality to be auctioned to the highest bidder at the court of mass ignorance on matters religious dogma, you can ill-afford to stand up with moral authority and feign solidarity for the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag elsewhere! Faith & Foolishness is a perilous cocktail.

                                                      A Pregnant Teenager

There is a news headline that has been endemic on print and broadcast media in recent times about teenage lasses getting pregnant that definitely riles me to within a sliver of apoplexy. It pains to see minors, some not yet even fully schooled on the nuances of wiping their own noses having parental responsibilities laden onto their flimsy shoulders. Haven’t these little ones the right to protection against an affront on their own dignity inherent in every human being as per the strictures of Chapter 4, Article 28 of our Constitution? In some cases the pregnancies are as a result of biological experimentation gone awry between boys and girls trying to get an inkling on the functionality of the various structures of their anatomy particularly the nether regions! However, in a myriad other cases, it is the result of sexual abuse and coercion by older family members and even supposed familial acquaintances who are more often than not of the age of majority. Aren’t there statutes against Statutory Rape which is engagement of any form of sexual activity with a minor? Some try to atone for these egregious actions using traditional dispute resolution mechanisms like availing a goat to the father of the aggrieved, a handshake to boot and all is forgiven and forgotten. But what about the young lady whose life is ruined, who is now mentally tortured by a man who broke the bond of trust she had with them? If she gets pregnant, what becomes of her schooling and future at large after delivery and induction into motherhood? I feel now is the opportune time to take a stranglehold of affairs as we cannot afford to have so many young mothers whose future prospects of productivity are curtailed especially by sexual predators and paedophiles. Contrition for me is insufficient retribution for such far-reaching acts of aggression against another human being. Criminals need to cool their heels in the slammer! A call has been put out for the introduction of Sex Education, which for the most part is an argument that generates more heat than light. Also, I am forced to enquire about the operability of the Sexual offences bill antecedently tabled by Hon. Njoki Ndung’u and legislated into an Act of Law? In my considered opinion, this law has had the efficacy of a dead rodent on a squirrel cage with regards to deterring such depravity!

The bulge of my ire is reserved for those still engaged in human trafficking and dabbling in modern-day slavery. I read and hear otherworldly tales about men and women who were recruited to work in foreign missions, went through the prerequisites to travel abroad and were carted to foreign climes only for the entire landscape to undergo a tectonic shift. They then had their Passports confiscated at the airport as the nirvana promised turned into an insufferable hell as they were consigned to a life of drudgery and ceaseless suffering in unpaid servitude with neither channels for recourse nor the probability of escape. We hear horror tales from the Middle East and North Africa of our compatriots tortured, subjected to criminally inhumane conditions, some murdered with their memories fading into oblivion which is not something that should be condoned any longer.

Tied to the paragraph above are Economic freedoms that are subjugated in this country that result in the above situation. The nation lacks a proper policy direction on the remuneration of technical skilled labour. There is often a call to the youth for the uptake of marketable and usable skills ultimately with the goal of self-employment. Many heed to these calls but eventually come to the realization that not everybody can be self-employed or competently run a business. Moreover, capital in itself is more often than not a limiting factor. So the young men and women are forced to flock towards employment. Rubber hits the road when it becomes clear that for many jobs, the mismatch between competence and remuneration level is as wide as the Gulf of Aden! Without mentioning specific jobs, we have those that were traditionally associated with the top cadre of students and the cream of the crop. There are those like procurement and business management that were the preserve of the B students. The painful pill to take is that sometimes if you referred to the payment schedule of some many companies the auditors, business managers, HR professionals, procurement officials among a few others are rewarded for their competence at a level far above those actually engaged in the technical side of things inclusive of Engineers. I have seen a company schedule that pays Engineers as low as 20,000 Shillings, their training notwithstanding against a salary of nearly 150K for a position loosely referred to as the Business Development Personnel. I could harp on end about autochthonous skilled labour being the essential cog in the attainment of Vision 2030 and the part of human resource in the actualization of SDGs but apparently as per the observations of George Orwell in his masterpiece; ‘The Animal Farm’ – All Animals were created Equal but some are decidedly more equal than others with regards to remuneration. That may be the reason it is more economically rewarding in Africa to be a Pastor preaching demented doctrine or even a Traditional Healer than the much-vaunted careers of old.

Underremuneration of Skilled Labour is tantamount to an economic crime

Linked closely to the Black Lives Matter furore in the United States is our own homegrown struggle against Police Brutality. In my pragmatic retrospection, a causal link has emerged where apparently if you give a man power and authority, his default setting is usually to abuse that priviledge to oppress the others subject to him. Police brutality bears eerily similar hallmarks in Kenya as in the apparently more civilized occidental climes. When President Uhuru Kenyatta issued the edict on the curfew and regional lockdowns, the police took up the mantle with uncommon gusto. Within the first day of enforcing curfew rules, already scenes of police overzealousness were evident for all to see. A video is doing rounds on the local media of a truck driver who was simply trying to beat the curfew and get home to his family being stopped by the police and flogged like a ‘mburukenge’ as if he committed some heinous crime. Such actions stink of not just pent up aggression within our police force but also a vengeance albeit envy of some sections of the population who the police now take advantage to victimize in this season. Scenes of extrajudicial killings have also been rife with media reports of a homeless man who was felled by a police bullet for failing to get home on time! What home is available to a homeless man? As a sage once put it, “the measure of the civilization of a society is assayed by how she treats her most vulnerable citizens.”

Police Brutality in Kenya

The issue of body shaming is a mercurial glissando which I feel I have insufficient Emotional Quotient to deal with considerately but will soldier on nonetheless. My reason to say this is that it is the quintessence of a double-edged sword or as the overly theatrical aptly put it, “trifling whilst the sword of Damocles dangles over your head!” I would be remiss if I failed to enunciate that the critical mass of indignation over the body-shaming thing is mostly manufactured outrage interspersed with thin skins! Many are the episodes where a young lady has posted a photo of herself in a negligee or bikini on social media seeking approbation and ends up opening a Pandora’s Box of unsolicited opinions and rather acerbic invectives. Don’t get me wrong, I am neither a connoisseur of the dark-art nor do I in any way support body shaming. Indeed, I have been inadvertently forced to play the role of a knight in shining armour in a few social media fora, many a time protecting damsels who brought not just distress but oodles of dishonour upon their own being. The internet may appear interesting and colourful but in actuality its crevices are the preserve of the recluse, quite a few who were not hugged enough as babies, some too shy to approach an actual flesh & blood member of the opposite gender, some full of bitterness about a past rejection, the bulk were insufficiently suckled by their mothers, some just congenitally perverse, some suffering from all sorts of psychotic episodes, others retrenched, some more under the weather with hormonal imbalance among other predicaments.

Rarely is a fully-clothed lady under fire except for the few unsavoury comments disparaging strained hairlines by years of plaiting with foreheads equated to airstrips and the precursory comparison of a lass’s perky bust with the betting odds of ‘Liverpool Kichwa!’ Much as I call for an end to the practice entreating the practitioners of such debauchery to get a life I would also like to beseech young ladies to refrain from posting half-nude photos online merely to chase clout! There is nothing new under the sun my sisters as there are more cerebral ways to earn followership on Social Media!

Body Shaming is a Practice that should be dealt a death knell

In closing remarks, not to disparage the real struggles faced by my own Negroid race out there I would encourage a new rallying call, a hashtag #AllLivesMatter as a way to implore those in authority to put in place safeguards against all forms of discrimination and vile treatment of fellow men. Additionally, let’s be creatures of temperance, civility & tolerance with each other. In the meantime Strategize… Organize… Mobilize… Viva la revolución! Aluta Continua! Boom-aye the down-trodden! An end to the remaining purveyors of cruel oppression.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

THE IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 ON THE KENYAN LANDSCAPE

Kenya under the throes of Covid-19

It has been said that the true worth of a General is known on the day of war. As a country we have been beset by many challenges since independence. The first three that come to my mind are Poverty, Illiteracy & Disease. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom as there are days when we have enjoyed the glory and honour of being word-beaters. When Wilson Kiprugut Chumo won our country her First Medal at the Olympics; a Bronze Medal in the 880 yards race – a precursor to the 800m in 1964, I can assure you there was no dry eye in the house. The tears here being those of joy & triumph! Jubilation was complete 4 years later when Naphtali Temu & Kipchoge Keino beat star-studded casts including the defending Olympic champions to win us our First Gold Medals. When we qualified for our First African Cup of Nations Tournament in 1972, it was a spectacle to behold!

Kenya Afcon team 1972

However, many are the times we have turned our nation into an irreverent mess borne out of strife for resources, dishonesty, mediocrity and tribalism. We have found ourselves fighting our erstwhile brothers just because of elections. But what is the result? We are oft left to bury our kith and kin and work hard to rekindle the relationships we ruined, while the tribal Lords we fought for kiss, make-up, probably have newer relationships so amorous that they become the subject of newer scandals. All this is washed down with expensive whiskey, scotch, tea and ‘mandazi’ worth millions!

Then come 2020 we have been dealt a year so calamitous, there have been few to be replicated by this one in a long time. This is exactly what the Romans characterized as ‘annus horribilis’ – horrible year, one not worthy of recollection with undiluted pleasure in days to come as the current British monarch once postured of 1992! In Kenya, we lost a former Head of State (the longest-serving one) H.E. Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (CGH ) the day immediately after a tragedy that claimed almost two dozen pupils in one of our Kenyan primary schools.

H.E. Daniel Arap Moi – 2nd President of the Republic of Kenya

Almost in close succession the Chairman of the ruling coalition suffered a serious road crash, coming to within a pig’s whisker of sleeping with the fallen sovereign while rushing to the ceremony to inter the colossus. We have had ceaseless rains, which in their fury have only worked to expose our weak infrastructure and debride our fragile ecosystems. What with landslides, talus creep, rock falls, eroded roads and bridges, gulleys the size of the Great Rift Valley and deleterious soil erosion. Internationally, it’s been open-season for hunting by the grim-reaper. The most tragic of the losses I have had the unenthusiastic sorrow to commiserate was the loss of the great basketball superstar Kobe Bryant – a Hall of Fame shoo-in and former great for the Los Angeles Lakers, a standard-bearer of the impact of tenacity and grit in the attainment of greatness.

The Late Kobe Bryant

Back in Kenya, we lost a preeminent scholar, TV-anchor and proponent of not just the Kiswahili language but intellectualism as a lifestyle that is the great Prof. Kennedy Walibora Waliaula Wafula. This is a man that could have easily decided to live out the rest of his days in foreign climes where his skills, competence and scholarly pursuits have been appreciated by the academic turf in the United States where the rest of his family have set up permanent abode. He decided to come back to his motherland to develop it as any patriotic citizen would yearn to but what was his recompense? He died like a dog after sustaining a cracked jaw, two missing teeth, deep stab wounds and intracranial haemorrhage after an attack by unknown assailants! In his quest for self-preservation he ran onto a busy highway and was knocked almost into orbit by a speeding motor vehicle on Landhies road. That this distinguished and acclaimed personality lay for 14 hours at Kenyatta National hospital, treatment not forthcoming until he lost the battle for his life is macabre to the obscene. The unknown assailants are still at large at the time of me going live on my keyboard!

Ken Walibora Wafula

I’m provoked to muse about the infernal vanity of life while debating whether or not to yank out my own liver, feed it to the village hound and just join the ancestral pool myself! If this could happen to a TV personality we have all watched and revere, what of that anonymous drunk pulled out of the trench in the morning within a sliver of ‘rigour-mortis’ as a direct consequence of alcohol poisoning, what dignity is he to be accorded on the treatment table if his turn actually comes?

Just when the storm seemed to taper into a lull, it actually blew the roof off! This is my characterization of the Novel Corona Virus global pandemic making landfall on our jurisdiction. If our health infrastructure was indisposed then, it should actually go into ICU consequent to this heavy-weight pugilist’s thwack! When reports started doing rounds on social media that there was an unheralded virus, unlike any other known to man decimating the population of Wuhan city in Hubei Province; People’s Republic of China, many dismissed it as someone else’s problem. “That is what they get for eating unholy animals,” a few religious fanatics sneered. “Didn’t your mother tell you not to merely put anything you see in your mouth?” a few others cajoled. We made these biting allegations but did little to curtail travel out of that region to our own. Then it seemed that this was a woe merely reserved to a single nation. Subsequently, the entire thing went mainstream and exploded globally. Ineptitude didn’t manifest much worse than when in New year; the Leader of the Free World and Global Superpower – America, an honour that should never have, but is now bestowed upon the slightly capable hands of the  ‘stable-genius’ that’s Donald Trump received intelligence about this pernicious virus! Then totally distracted, he dismissed this entire thing as an external threat that would never reach ‘our soil.’ Pressed further he dismissed it as a ‘Flu’ that will come and go like many other iterations of the Corona-virus we have seen before. SARS-COV-2 was relegated to the back-burner! Then the more pressing issue was the display of the capabilities of the terminator-drone that was to deliver blood & iron albeit fire & fury upon designated terrorists in Iran. Better options abounded but none more appealing to the Commander-In-Chief than the tour-de-force to pass the message of military might. On the morning of 3rd January 2020, Baghdad International Airport woke up to a fireworks display as an MQ-9 predator drone delivered 4 laser-guided, hellfire missiles that pulverized the vehicle carrying two of Iranian military heavyweights; Maj. Gen. Quassem Soleimani & Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis ‘The Engineer’ into charred debris! ‘The Engineer’ had a long rap sheet but that’s a story for another day.

Quassem Soleimani & Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis

Classified CIA dossiers notwithstanding, the Covid-19 Pandemic has taken the hammer and tongs approach more against U.S.A than anyone would have envisaged. With more than 1.5 Million now infected, slightly more than 301,000 recovered and a gargantuan 93,806 crimped out of the daily-bread rations – as they lie dead, look at where ‘just a flu’ has taken our brothers in the occident! Western Europe and most of Asia; superior healthcare systems notwithstanding, are now bearing the brunt of this pandemic with the entire global economy now in shambles.

Kenya didn’t cover herself in glory either as far as pre-pandemic precautions were concerned when we rolled out the proverbial red carpet for several Chinese Jet-liners, some even from the very epicentre of Wuhan to land at our International airport with the paper-thin caveat to our guests, “just self-quarantine for 14 days” without any mechanism for enforcing this edict. For our indiscretion and erroneous judgement; we have reaped our doom with national infections at the time of authoring this piece topping 1029, exactly 366 have recovered and 50 as we say in Western Kenya, “wametolewa kwa share ya Obusuma!” – They are no longer with us! A culture shock has been the first consequence of the Covid-19 on our lifestyles as we can no longer even communally attend the burial ceremonies of village luminaries deserving of a ‘Shilemba (grandiose interment)!’ Funerals have become an intimate affair attended by close family, Ministry of Health aficionados and the local administration. Look at the low-key affair that was the occasion where former Minority Leader & his brother a legislator no less, had to suffer the ignominy of burying their younger sibling in a hurried ceremony, guys in Hazmat suits as pallbearers and casket draped in air-tight polythene material. Ideally, in Western Kenya this is the sort of funeral that brings minor earth tremors by its sheer attendance. But for this one, even the much-acclaimed ‘Disco-Matanga’ was now deader than the long antecedently extolled Dodo! What a price to pay for being alive in 2020.

The Funeral of Anthony Waswa Wetangula

As in times gone-by, masks were considered the hallmark of disdainful tourists when they visited our country and bandanas on the face associated with youthful revolt; however, today it has become a necessary item of apparel to prevent droplet transmission of the virus.

Everyone in Surgical Masks – The reality of our time

Presently, washing of hands with alcohol-based sanitizer or antiseptic soap is no longer a marker of courtesy but the ‘sine-qua-non’ of accessing any of the remaining public spaces regarded as essential services. Many of the establishments we took for granted are now locked and no longer accessible even by the business owners themselves. Today, social distancing is no longer the preserve of the introvert & hermit but the desideratum to avoiding those potentially carrying the virus. Needless to state, we are all potential carriers unless proven safe by medical tests. We now have a pathological agent that is nonresponsive to any medication we have used for its relatives and whose infestation doesn’t engender immunity after suffering from it as infections have been seen to recur perhaps with a greater vengeance which is quite disconcerting if not downright petrifying. The innocuous action shaking of hands is now confined to the annals of forgotten history, a crying shame. Prior to 2019, ‘Corona’ was a long-cherished Latin word denoting a ‘Crown’ but henceforth will eternally be tainted with nefarious connotations tangent to what we are being dealt presently.

I would be remiss, if I failed at this juncture to delve into the realm of conjecture and proffer my slightly-layman opinion on the origins of the SARS-COV-2 virus. In antipathy to the cross-species transmission theories out there; though some have jocularly been confirmed by our neighbouring country’s President Pombe Magufuli, methinks the virus was actually a synthetic creation either for biological warfare, medical research or a fool’s day prank created by a cohort of virologists and genetic engineers in the lab at the University of Wuhan that escaped their clutches. It has reliably been established that the virus has a spike protein that facilitates the fusion of viral and cellular membranes analogous to the glycoprotein41, indigenous to HIV-1 (The HIV you know from the Local Billboards in the 90’s). Additionally, this virus shares characteristics and virulence concomitant with H1N1 (Swine Flu), A/H1N1 (Spanish flu that wreaked havoc more than a century ago), H5N1 (Avian Influenza), Equine (horses), Bovine (cows), Feline (cats) and Canine (dogs) Corona Influenza. A thread is emerging to confirm my hypothesis. The other Coronaviruses are similar in form & shape but the SARS-CoV-2 appears to have a few features that are phenotypically and genetically dissimilar to the others in the general family of ‘Coronaviridae’. The spike protein seems to have been grafted from HIV and serendipitously took root on COVID-19! My theory, as my basic know-how of virology, ends here.

Blame-game galore has been the logical ramification of all these, as we live in a deeply adversarial society that is more adept at apportioning culpability than exalting excellence in the other man. From one nation sending a Bill of Reparations and invoice for damages wrought upon her national economy to China to others blaming industrial pollution for the mutation of the existing Coronaviruses, we have heard it all. Most ignominious and one that hits home for me has been some academically obtuse and professionally unconversant individuals trying to apportion the blame squarely on the revolutionary and futuristic 5G mobile technology for the pandemic which cannot be further from the truth. The new 5G technology is a game-changing improvement on the existing modes of telecommunication with radiowaves having no medical history of adversely altering the cells of living things or even detrimentally scorching them. If radiation could in itself damage living tissue, then all life on earth would have been extinguished long-ago from all the infrared, visible light and ultraviolet light we get bombarded with from the sun ceaselessly! Notice here, I have put visible light as that from your torch as having a higher frequency than the radiowaves used for telecommunication as far as the Electromagnetic Spectrum is concerned.

The Burning of a Telecommunication Mast ~ The only curse more egregious than the disingenuous proportions of the Instagram model is that of congenital asininity pontificated by the ignoramus as fact to the inerudite multitudes. Just as today he basks in the brilliant conflagration of costly infrastructure, tomorrow he will stew in the gloomy twilight of his obtuseness coaxing a fire in the cold of winter attempting to communicate via smoke signals in no dissimilitude to his neanderthal forebearers ~ Dennis Mukoya (B. Tech. Elec & Telcom Eng.)

In Ireland, some boorish characters have gone as far as razing 5G-Telecommunication masts. Perhaps, self-destructive irascibility is the curse of the Irish or so they say!

For many years Americans joked about a man incompetent enough to bring down a casino – where the house always wins and all, becoming their Head of State until they portentously made it a reality in 2016! Now that circus has become worldwide entertainment. From going off tangent and promoting the efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine as the panacea to the worldwide contagion contrary to the empirical wisdom that can only be delivered by his often red-faced Secretary for Health to a campaign for the ingestion of antiseptic liquid sanitizer and injection with ultra-violet rays, apparently ‘keeping the bull (D. Trump) off the China shop’ is becoming the real job at the Whitehouse!

H.E. Donald Trump – 45th President of the United States of America & a self-styled ‘Stable Genius’

Locally, we are most grateful all the cheap politicking has been reduced to just a murmur. From the unregulated fund-raisers aimed at narrow-gains for a few to the weekly dancing to the beat of the ‘Tsunami’, all this was ground to a halt by the pandemic of our time. It has become apparent that neither the politicians nor the religious leaders have any meaningful answers in the midst of a real crisis. Many are just charlatans, chatter-boxes and professional story-tellers without an iota of dexterity on how leadership should be executed. Just faux-hustlers & hangers-on! However; as the sage opined, “Every crisis is an opportunity.” Ranks have been closed by the rank and file of our political tapestry to engage in national prayer meetings & other meaningful engagements.

National Day of Prayer

Those previously chided as being unqualified even for the gubernatorial seats they hold are now the shining lights to the rest of the nation on the serious measures that are within their purview and which they can build themselves.

H.E. Governor. Ali Hassan Joho shows uncommon stewardship in the face of the novel Corona Virus Pandemic

A governor in Central Kenya has taken the cue and built an ICU facility for his local County Referral Hospital within a record 10 days! Where was all this initiative hiding? The President not to be left behind is taking this juncture to drain the swamp and relieve his regime of all who have been dragging him back for the last 7 years in power. This is a man, seeing the end in sight and nought by means of a legacy is now practically working the guillotine himself to ensure his Big 4 Agenda; by and large, most of his manifesto comes to fruition. Dead-wood is now going under the bus, which for now I must laud as it’s in the best interest of the Republic. Also I feel this pandemic is a great amalgamator as it has proven to be non-discriminative on who it infects. It seems to have a hankering for the more affluent and older demographic just as the hoi-polloi. The aforementioned moneyed Kenyans who had admission to San Tropez, the Maldives and the Cayman Islands at least once every year can no longer even access the ‘Medical-Mecca’ that is India and sometimes Israel as every nation is looking out for the safety of its nationals. You cannot justify the entry of some ‘outsider’ already suffering from the same condition you are actually putting containment measures against. I feel the real opportunity here is that the national Health infrastructure will benefit greatly from this pandemic as all of us are deemed equal in the eyes of Covid-19 and will all be hospitalized and nursed back to health here and nowhere else! The foreign countries have a right to exercise nationalism, even some covert racism against inept and dishonourable rulers who plunder their national healthcare systems because they make zero use of it themselves. Covid-19 is the great equalizer in this regard just as death which will be the dole of the ill-fated.

We have been crying for the funding of youth innovation for an eon but today home-grown talent has made us proud by using locally available materials to build ventilators, respirators, proximity-sensors for temperature and other medical equipment that is usually imported at a premium to the detriment of not just the balance of trade but our need for autochthonous solutions to our problems. Others in our Medical Science Research Laboratories are burning the candle at both ends to be on the leading-edge of inventing the vaccine for this armageddon decimating our current civilization. This is the kind of initiative that oft leaves me with tears of glee welling up in my eyes in full cognizance that innovation and industrialization are the only way that Kenya will ever claim its seat at the table of developing nations in the quest for 1st World Country Status. This works further as conclusive evidence to bolster the well-touted sentiments, “Brilliance is evenly distributed but Opportunity for expression only sparsely.”

Kenyan-built Ventilators

Able Leadership is something else we have gained from this crisis. Mutahi Kagwe has been thrown in at the deep end at the worst epoch in global medical history let alone the Kenyan scenario. Without any medical experience to pontificate, he nevertheless is doing a good job with regards to marshaling his troops; the medical professionals that are our front-line soldiers in this struggle against an unseen combatant. Unconfirmed reports of financial impropriety and weak accountability fly around, but in my considered opinion think that is the embodiment of cheap politicking we need less of during this time of crisis. Hopefully, the ‘Mandazi and tea’ never cost 10M!

It is at this time that I go down on my knees and thank the Almighty for the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta & Prime Minister (Emeritus) Rt. Hon. Raila A. Odinga that has brought the much-needed placidity for national development and introspection. I shudder to imagine the situation if in the midst of this pandemic, we would have been receiving information at dichotomy on the Covid-19 pandemic from the Ministry of Health Headquarters from Mutahi Kagwe only to be refuted by the Shadow Minister of Health ostensibly Hon. Dr. Simiyu Eseli Live from Orange House, Lavington – Nairobi!

Mutahi Kagwe – Who has acquired a new moniker ‘The Corona Guy’

There would be minimal clarity and it would be an absolute farce playing out in the public gallery. All the resultant protests, ‘mapambano’, ‘quasi-kamukunjis’ and stone-throwing at odds with the social distancing directive wouldn’t be to anyone’s benefit. I am certain our infection and death-tolls would be off the charts in this undesirable alternate universe. If you think such mediocrity and absolute disregard to magnanimity even in the face of crisis is other-worldly, look at the American situation at present. There is no love lost between the ruling Republicans and Opposition Democrats now taking cheap shots at each other. The national figure of lampoon, their President is busy telling all and sundry how he takes the ‘chloroquine thing’ daily as a precautionary measure while the counterstrike from the Democrat Speaker of the House of Representatives though conciliatory in opening remarks hits back tacitly that the President’s age and “morbid obesity” exist as risk factors that predispose him to sudden death consequent to use of self-prescribed medication for a condition whose cure is yet unknown; in no uncertain terms, even predisposition to the virus itself. We can do less with such absurdity in Kenya!

The environment has been the primary beneficiary from the slow-down of daily pollution by industries and air quality is now so good you can actually see the Pyramids of Giza from Roysambu if the memes are to be taken prima-facie! Maybe not them but Mt. Kenya.

Some instances of fauna that had been almost going extinct, consequent of being too shy to mate now go about doing the business devoid of distractions and nosey humans getting in their grill, so to say.

The Quandary occasioned by social distancing has meant ‘working from Home’ has become the new norm for many. Even learning activities in the ordinary sense have been disrupted and the normal school calendar involving some curricular activities, a dash of music festival here, a sprinkle of sporting there, sandwiching a sliver of the drama festival have all been pilfered to the four winds of the earth! But human ingenuity has meant that use of technology in not just learning but working has been incorporated. Zoom, Skype, Slack VC, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, YouTube Live, Facebook Live among a plethora of other platforms have become the new ‘lingua franca’ with regards to getting work done via Video Conferencing. However; as pertains to the Kenyan situation, these modes are only feasible for the middle-class and the affluent. The mass-market; as is used in corporate parlance to denote the hoi-polloi, has mostly children running about the neighbourhoods or helping their parents in some errand or other in absolute disregard to the continuation of learning elsewhere via the aforementioned futuristic modes. The President a few weeks ago received some flack for launching high-altitude, stratospheric balloons for enhancing wireless connectivity as many bemoaned a lack even of the most basic of devices for the uptake of that same resource. Priorities looked warped for a President that indubitably has displayed a streak of being out of touch with the realities on the ground, many opined plaintively. Though working from home is impractical for many Kenyans whose work is majorly labour-intensive and transportation-based; for those actually fortuitous to able to, it is an onerous opportunity to bond with their children and perhaps that long-suffering spouse who has been neglected for an eon! With bars closed for the foreseeable future, the discerning have taken to Online Courses to gain new skills or polish up on the soft skills they already have.

In this era of Social Distancing, Video Conferencing is the new way to transact most business & convene work-related meetings.

The take-home from this whole fiasco is the enduring resilience we possess as a people. So far, our response has been better than expected and death-tolls lower than what WHO had portended for Kenya and most of the 3rd World. There are no dead bodies on our streets which is admirable. Kudos to our medical practitioners! We are now markedly a cleaner people who though surviving in part by the mercy of God have had to dispense with this unhealthy infatuation with religious leaders laying their mostly decrepit hands on members of the congregation ostensibly to deliver divine healing! We all are aware what Pandora’s Box such actions have unfurled for a renowned evangelist in this nation at the time of my going to press. So rather than complain about bars being closed, missing out on English Football, the camaraderie of fellow drunkards and perhaps the congregation in our respective places of worship; let’s accept that the social distancing rule is all in our best interests and ensuring our survival. This may even be the new normal until a functional vaccine is developed. But for the time being let’s observe the 3S routine of Sanitize, Social Distance and Suit up on your mask. That one of coughing in the elbow is a 50-50 for me!

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Political & Social Empowerment

BUILDING BRIDGES INITIATIVE DOCUMENT SERIALIZATION: CHAPTER 10 & 11

CHAPTER 10: SAFETY AND SECURITY

Is there a situation worse in this world than feeling insecure in your own home? From victims of international terrorism, domestic terrorism, crime, the primitive art of cattle rustling, brutalization at the hands of security agents and extrajudicial killings as some of the malfeasance Kenyans still have to grapple with 56 years after independence. At a time when we try our hand at a constitutional democracy, our neighbours are busy beset by despotism, failed states, terrorism, mediocre inter-clan strife, open-sea piracy, needless civil strife for minerals stoked by greedy proxies, a volatile Arabian Gulf projecting their rivalries to the horn of Africa. Some of the nations proximal to us are hell-bent on an insatiable expansionist agenda with a view to impinge on our sovereignty and territorial integrity usurping it both on land and in the high seas. It becomes desperate to attempt to engender civil liberties in the face of hatred, division and subjugation. We therefore as a nation must be vigilant to deter any propaganda or physical attack perpetrated by militant organizations against our constitutional order.

Friday, 7th August 1998 Terrorist Attack on the U.S Embassy in Nairobi CBD

Fighting terrorism effectively entails safeguarding the constitutional order from a global enemy opposed to civil liberties, a secular government, religious pluralism and democracy. Corruption among sections of the security apparatus has ensured that our efforts at neutralizing security threats come to naught. Just as in the 1990’s when Organized Crime existing as bank robberies were the order of the day and the likes of Wanugu, Rasta & Wacucu played hide and seek against security dragnets, ably assisted by irredeemably corrupt and avaricious security personnel; today the threat is infinitely greater as security intelligence is peddled to the highest bidder to the detriment of the citizenry.

Kenya’s Most Wanted in the late 90’s Rasta, Wanugu & Wacucu

Entrenched cartels in security procurement have ensured our frontline security agents are denied proper equipment to mount a meaningful challenge against better-armed assailants. The consequence is burying our young men and women in the KDF and National Police Service, their nascent potential crushed under the weight of greed and the asininity of their bosses!

Ethnicity is a stick of dynamite thrown into this powder keg! Our political contests, primarily organized on the fickle tenets of a tribal census ensure that a disproportionate amount of national security effort has to be applied to mostly silence the aggrieved majority and cool down tension among the ranks of the losing side; sometimes even required to douse the exuberant celebrations of the ‘winning’ side, of course with the attendant brute force from people who are better at executing orders first then comprehending them later! Additionally, county boundary disputes should be settled to an amicable and impartial conclusion. Sometimes, adverse weather conditions have a deleterious effect on our water, pasture and food nexus. In the backdrop of lost pasture and livestock as a consequence of unpredictable droughts, communities devoid of climate resilience have been forced into violent restocking initiatives now part and parcel of organized crime.

Sometimes in my musings, I’m left to wonder if deaths as a result of floods on well-documented hotspots like Budalangi, Nyando flood basin, TanaRiver and other trouble spots should any longer be categorized as catastrophes a.k.a acts of God? This is because incidences here have become too predictable especially in this era of information-driven, computer modelling technology coupled with rapid information dissemination! However; tears, pain and regret have eternally become the portion of the ignorant, foolhardy, obstinate and doubting Thomases. Urbanization in Kenya is at a rate unprecedented and incomparable to any other time in history. Poor policy, greed and incompetence of successive governments has ensured urbanization is converse to industrialization. The youth bulge being a direct consequence, manifests in the social ills of joblessness, hunger, drug abuse, despair in the midst of intense energy and restlessness that is the requisite substrate for the proliferation of a militant agenda, terrorist recruitment, radicalization and all-round ‘Thug-life.’ Needless to say, this is at odds with development and prosperity. A secure Kenya is not just a responsibility of security personnel and institutions but every arm of government as well as the citizenry, private sector and civil society.

Mob Justice

The Major recommendations tabled with regard to Safety and Security include:

  1. Every life in Kenya should be deemed sacrosanct and valuable as articulated constitutionally in Chapter 4, Article 26 – The value of life is impacted by violence, insecurity and poor safety standards that are not universal across the country. We have a variance to the consequences of crime depending on your locality. A life lost to murder in the poverty-stricken domain of Loima and Mathare slums is adjudged less deserving of the prevention measures, investigation and prosecutorial attention accorded to a similar life in the affluent suburbs of Muthangari & Kitsuru! Such a revolution requires equal distribution of security and legal resources.
  2. Popular-driven National Security Strategy – Cognizance should be nurtured that security requires a multifaceted approach reflected as a National Security and Safety Strategy (revamped every 2 years & by every incoming president within the First 100 days in Office). This should be people-driven, proactive, preventive and predictive.
  3. Ameliorate vulnerability to resource conflicts, disasters, emergencies and food insecurity – This plan can be put to action by operationalizing a comprehensive National Emergency, Disaster and Crisis Management Strategy that is anchored in law and linked to the county, sub-county and Ward level disaster response plans reviewed periodically.

Link the National Disaster Risk System to the Contingencies Fund (Article 208) in its act of establishment.

Establish preemptive and rapid response strategies to common major disasters such as flooding and drought.

Stratify and develop a hierarchy of the various levels and types of emergencies whose response is to be led by National Government and Counties. These should be linked to the National and County Contingency funds.

Prevent Communal resource conflicts by ensuring that County boundaries are drawn to maximize sharing of water and pasture among other resources.

Protect consumers of Food and Medicine from shadily procured, grown or developed products that are harmful to their health and wellbeing. The Kenya Food and Drugs Administration in concert with the Kenya Bureau of Standards should be more active with regards to enforcement of standards.

  1. Counter-terrorism is a multisectoral initiative that requires multiple tools to address it not just the security apparatus – This will come to fruition only as a fruit of the political, social and cultural defenses against the precursors of terrorism. This will reduce the pool of recruits and ultimately delegitimize the aims of our national nemeses.

Coordinate and mainstream prevention of radicalization and violent extremism initiatives in the Ministries of Health, Education, Youth, Cultural Heritage and Sport.

Defending Kenya against terrorists should be a tactical endeavour, implemented by regulated protective security standards for all sectors and most cautiously among heavily-trafficked properties owned by the private sector.

Victims list of 7th August 1998 Terrorist Attack on the U.S Embassy in Nairobi CBD

Invest in innovation and coordination to strengthen every part of the counterterrorism terrain with a focus on making initiatives geared at defeating it world-class both with regards to equipment and policywise. We should borrow a leaf from the movie sequel ‘Bad Boys for Life’ where as opposed to the long-established and antiquated modus-operandi of policing involving chasing criminals on foot or shootouts in the streets while hanging from the doors of cars; let’s take advantage of modern technology methods like Predictive Analytics, use of Big data and High Performance Computing, Criminal Databases, Forensic Analysis, Ethical Hacking of suspicious sites and use of Drone Technology both for surveillance and neutralising of criminal targets. Terrorism and Crime are strange bedfellows whose evolution is as equally dynamic as global technology.

Our Cybersecurity dexterity ought to be elevated to the next level as our economy is gradually becoming digital and online. The next frontier for the ‘feloniously-inclined’ is ‘white-collar’ crime committed by well-educated, suave, urbane, suited-up technocrats in our offices. Even our much-vaunted IFMIS system has not been spared the vagaries of system vulnerabilities. Tactical nous and technology that has been mentioned in the paragraph above must be implemented not just to safeguard our systems but also create employment for the many graduates in Information Technology that have been painstakingly put through our institutions of higher learning. Otherwise, how are they going to repay their HELB loan? We need a consistent strengthening of national cybersecurity skills, processes, laws and infrastructure. Going forward, we need to see more computer gurus with their thick-framed spectacles strutting the precincts of the local police stations as much as the odd-ball, clueless characters exercising laissez-faire in manning the good, old Occurrence Book!

Cyber-offender

Operationalization of the Victim Protection Fund to protect those directly aggrieved by ignominious acts of terrorism.

Review diplomatic relations with state sponsors of terrorism, religious extremism, expansionism and irredentism. Diplomacy is often our first line of action as military action is often expensive and has negative implications. Resource the Ministry of Foreign affairs to the same tune as the Ministry of Internal security and The National Intelligence department.

Professionalization and better regulation of private security companies and their guards to deliver better services integrated with State security so that it adheres to the highest standards. The arming of private security personnel will be considered; as more often than not, they find themselves on the frontlines of criminal activity often fighting a lopsided battle which they oft-lose.

Armed Private Security Guards

What chance does a guy holding a wooden club have against gun-toting delinquents? Historical precedence should be considered as during the 1998 terrorist attack on the U.S Embassy in the Nairobi Central Business District, it’s the onerous and intuitive response of the un-armed Basement parking Security attendant that averted a greater disaster should the explosive-rigged trucks have been detonated at basement level!

Private Security Officers were integral in mitigating the impact of the U.S Embassy attack in 1998
  1. Strengthen Police Performance, mental health and wellness of the National Police Service by and large the entire National Security and Defence apparatus – Clarify Key Performance Indicators for Police Commanders from the Inspector General downwards to their charges and link this to national crime and security statistics (based on counties, gender and citizen perceptions). This should be the yardstick for promotion and performance-based incentives.

Henceforth, eliminate corruption in recruitment by instituting heavy penalties for perverting the course of meritocracy in the process. Create a transparent Human Resource system that is digital and with clearly outlined processes for promotion and transfer. This must entail measurable past performance, internal courses, exams and citizen feedback on abuse of office & corruption. Buttress integrity and effectiveness by recognizing and rewarding excellence, dedication and sacrifice by both officers and citizens.

Put in accessible and well-resourced mental health, wellness counselling and treatment for police officers. Take good care of those returning from frontline roles that expose them to extreme physical and psychological trauma. It’s instructive to be aware that Security Agents are human and will definitely be adversely affected by the human suffering and death they see on a daily basis.

  1. Secure Citizens from Personal Threats – First redress boundary conflicts that threaten national and societal security. Establish a commission to address current boundary conflicts.

Institute court proceedings that guarantee protection and safety of whistleblowers, witnesses and informants as they are pivotal in any war against not just crime and terror but ultimately effective prosecution. Crime and terror always fight back!

Every new road in an urban area should have legally enforceable, inbuilt provisions for a sidewalk for pedestrians and specified lanes for cyclists. Signage should be clear.

Cyclist lanes & pedestrian walkways in Gigiri, Nairobi

Improve Citizen Conflict resolution and mediation skills by inculcating these skills in the curriculum throughout the Kenyan Educational life. Add to these negotiation and counseling skills.

Prioritize combatting Gender-based and Sexual Violence.

CHAPTER 11: COMMISSIONS AND CROSS-CUTTING

ISSUES

Nairobi occupies a special place in the geopolitics of the modern world as it’s not only the commercial and administrative capital of Kenya but also the extra-territorial seat of the United Nations. Concomitantly, Nairobi is dissimilar to other Kenyan counties and cannot be relegated to existing as an equal with them. As such, the Commission for Revenue Allocation should consider this special status and accord it slightly more than the others as the resource demands of our national capital are infinitely greater.

On 26th March 1975 discourse between the United Nations & the Government of Kenya ended in an agreement entailing how UN Environment Programme will be located and how that location will affect service provision and amenities to it. The fallout of that decision is in Kenya becoming a diplomatic hub as many nations try to gain a foothold on United Nation Agencies for the benefit of their respective jurisdictions.

The New recommendations in the BBI taskforce report are that Nairobi should be accorded special recognition such that the national government be allowed the discretion to provide the services and facilitation that maintain the clout of Nairobi as both the National Seat of Power and diplomatic hub. While at this, the Rights of the residents to representation at the Ward and Parliamentary level should still be upheld.

A major problem with governance in Kenya is the overlapping of responsibilities between various agencies. This of course, results in inefficiency and exorbitant costs to run government. There are cases when the strictures of a particular Regularory Authority are challenged by a player in the field and their grouse forwarded to an appeal tribunal arbitrating conflicts for that particular authority. Quixotically, this anomaly is replicated for almost all Regulatory Authorities which is costly and creates an avenue for perversion of that system by frivolous claims and malicious players. Another problem is expensive Commissions of Inquiries that more often than not are a drain of national resources more than the panacea to the problem they are created to alleviate. So prestigious has it become to be named to a national commission in Kenya, that my compatriots virtually hold home-coming parties in their ancestral homes and with all the festivities that come with it! Afterwards, delegations are sent to Statehouse from the locality of extraction of the benefactor of this post, bearing gifts of livestock, grain and fruit to proffer unequivocal gratitude and approbation to the Head of State for bestowing this great honour upon their kinsman. Sometimes the circumstances occasioning the Commission of inquest are less than pleasant, as a Cabinet Secretary may have been assassinated in ghastly, macabre yet mysterious circumstances but as the sage opined, ‘One man’s loss is another’s treasure!’ From sitting allowances, out of town allowance, per diems, extraneous allowance, entertainment allowance, lunch allowance to add onto a hefty salary and other emoluments is more than a slap across the face of many citizens living the Third world life of less than a Dollar a day but getting taxed exorbitantly to support such disproportionate expenditure.

With regards to National Commissions, some of the Recommendations made include:

  1. Separating the Obligation to conduct criminal investigations from that to enforce Ethics in public service – Henceforth, the task of reporting on, promoting and enforcing ethical conduct will lie with the proposed Ethics Commission recommended in the Chapter on National Ethos.
  2. Each Independent commission will have internal accountability systems for separation of powers – Appointment and promotion will be out of the purview of the team for censure and interdictions.
  3. Rigorous Audits – This will ensure citizens get value for money as sound principles of public financial management will be upheld in every Arm of Government and Public Institution.
  4. Improve the link between investigation and prosecution – The bromance that has been brewed between the offices of Director of Criminal Investigation and The Director of Public Prosecution has been a breath of fresh air, as the political will to fight hard-core crime and high-profile corruption is now forthcoming. Going forward, more of this will be required as these two act well and in concert with the judiciary incorruptibly. Fund both offices proportionately so that money is not an object in fighting crimes like corruption that most definitely have the muscle to fight back.

    DPP – Noordin Hajj and DCI – George Kinoti
  5. Rationalise the mandates of regulatory bodies and eliminate duplication of duty – This is much needed to ensure transparency, value for money, prompt service for regulatory compliance.
  6. Strengthen the Government Chemist – To enhance their efficiency.
  7. Create a Unified and assertive Food & Drugs Administrative body- This will ensure all Foods and Drugs are tested and regulated before consumption.
  8. Senate & National Assembly review – The checks and balances system in the legislature is need for review to ascertain suitability and remove replication of responsibility.
  9. Harmonious running of Chapter 15 Commissions – This will redress the power struggles in these bodies. Forthwith, Chairpersons will also be Chief Executive officers to eschew the absurdity occasioned by two centres of power that in the past exposed deep-seated rifts. Kenyans are no doubt traumatized after being forced to watch the inadvertent ‘pissing contest’ in the IEBC as Wafula Chebukati and Ezra Chiloba tussled for relevance and authority! No additional allowances will be given for additional responsibilities.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati & former CEO Ezra Chiloba

I would additionally recommend at least one Commissioner with a qualification in Information Technology to the Independent Elections & Boundaries Commission (IEBC) if that’s the path we have decided to take with future electoral processes. We needn’t have absolute ignorance among the commissioners in case Servers are supposed to be opened to assay the actual results of an election!

  1. Part-time Commissioners – Half of the Commissioners in Chapter 15 Commissions except IEBC should serve on a part-time basis. As Article 249 subsection 3 of the current constitution has been virtually trampled underfoot such that independence of Chapter 15 commissions is compromised, it must be restituted to operation for the benefit of our Republic.

Consolidate Administrative tribunals – Relationships between Regulatory Authorities and their respective appeal tribunals must be harmonized to resolve the uncouth circumstance currently in play where impartial adjudication of disputes between industry players and regulators has become a by-word. The fact that every Regulatory Authority has its tribunal is becoming extortionate on the exchequer. A proposal has been mooted that one National Administrative Appeals tribunal encompassing the various thematic appeal tribunals will be set up. Additionally, even those regulatory bodies themselves will have to be reduced by having an initiative to simplify & harmonize their mandates. We need fewer and better-implemented regulations in efforts to defeat the contagion of corruption among these bodies.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

BUILDING BRIDGES INITIATIVE DOCUMENT SERIALIZATION: CHAPTER 8 & 9

CHAPTER 8: CORRUPTION

Corruption is the biggest impediment to the development of any nation. By its very definition, it bestows an undeserved advantage upon one individual to the detriment of many others. Nothing puts the scissors to the social fabric like the notion that no matter how hard you work there is a ceiling to just how lofty your ambitions are tailored to reach.

The perception of a rigged system is more limpid today than at any other time in history. Now picture this, at least in a way not to cast aspersions on any individuals’ characters. One man; a professional no doubt, secured employment almost immediately after graduation at Coca-Cola East Africa Limited. Shortly after, he resigns and the next day is tapped by Africa Online Group as a Marketing Manager. He soon becomes disenfranchised with the post and leaves in a huff but is promptly picked up by Kenya Breweries Limited as a Sales Operations Manager. Ay pronto, he throws in the towel only to be enlisted by Haco Industries as Managing Director, staying a while longer here before predictably leaping onto the next horse – Vivo Energy, as Country CEO. Gun drama with an errant distributor; notwithstanding, civic duty beckons as he leaves the post for the high calling of Deputy Governor of the County hosting the Capital City – an unequivocally high honour. He throws his toys out of the pram only five months later, when square ideological pegs are deemed impossible to fit into round slots, resigning only to land on the lap of Equity Bank as Chief Commercial Officer, getting promoted to Managing Director in 3 months’ time. This job denies him the intellectual stimulus he yearns for and he lurches back to Vivo Energy where the Executive VP for African sales position was being kept warm for him. So now after the agonizing throes of a seven-figure salary, he’s back at Equity Bank as Chief Commercial Officer again!

Ladies and gentlemen, this may sound like the legendary tale of Simon Makonde but is the true story of one well-heeled professional’s career in Kenya. Though all men were created equal, some are decidedly more equal than others! Within the same period, many a graduate from the same university, with similar credentials have walked their shoes worn without even finding an entry-level position in the first company the aforementioned individual worked in! How are you to convince anybody that the terrain of success is not tilted in favour of a select few to the despondency of many of their contemporaries? Cronyism and Corruption are highly regarded in modern-day Kenya as meritocracy is relegated to the annals of a dipsomaniac’s recollections. This in due course will prove an Achilles-heel in our attainment of cohesion and security.

So audacious is the abuse of public trust in Kenya today, that thieves are exalted and paraded on pedestals, called even at the tabernacles of our Centres for Spiritual Nourishment to share their wisdom with the faithful; all the while, the incorruptible that are in actual sense the prudent ones are lampooned for letting their chance to ‘eat’ pass them by! It’s a crying shame that many of our children now experience the virtue of honesty as an attenuated and diminishing principle of life so that with every succeeding generation smut, grime and mediocrity are raised as the standard-bearer while honour is virtually relegated to pig-swill! Abuse of office by leaders at every level is the prime-mover in the depreciation of the moral conduct of our society. Since the promulgation of our newly-minted constitution in 2010, attempts to enact legislation to the strictures that are enshrined in Chapter 6 of our constitution [Leadership & Integrity] against corruption have come a cropper. The main culprits being the political and business class that seek personal aggrandizement by fiddling with the procedure for public expenditure. The lure of unmerited financial gain through holding public office is so ingrained that it often results in negative ethnicization and militarization of political contests. Partaking in corruption panders to the Lowest Common denominator where the unethical, unscrupulous and unqualified are all adjudged suitable for the task. This ultimately kills any drive towards national prosperity, enterprise, morale and most deleterious; the continuity of our fledgling nation. This flaw is evinced in every sector of life be it political, executive, legislative or even cultural.

The most essential tool to combat corruption is political will. Indeed, H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta has been within an inch of performing histrionics while issuing firm directives aimed at deterrence and punishment of corruption but inevitably the vice fights back because it has the most potent weapon – Money. Throw lucre at any problem and most likely it disappears. Today for a small pecuniary contribution, even religious leaders have been enlisted as battering rams to defend the corrupt; indeed a great stain on the vestments of these ostensibly ‘men of the cloth.’

An Excerpt of an Unfortunate Tirade attributed to The Provost of All Saints Cathedral – Canon Sammy Wainaina

As per the strictures of Jeremiah 5:31 – “The prophets now prophesy falsely and the priests rule by their own authority. My people love it like this. But what will they do at the end of it all?”

But far be it from anybody rendering observance to my sermon! The corrupt ultimately form cartels that are merely cabals to safeguard their nefarious interests. Subsequently, a government that can be honest enough to win the trust of the citizens, investors and fair-minded stakeholders is roiled by such characters. The cartels block, distort, redirect service provision, influence policymaking, implementation, budgeting, procurement, regulation and oversight. Our systemic tolerance for gatekeepers and rent-seekers in public service is a major catalyst for corruption.

As opposed to the predictable nous of trailing perpetrators of corruption after the deed is done, we should prioritize measures aimed at prevention. Conscript managers with a sound record of effective and accountable management. We need to build systems that facilitate, promote ethical conduct and responsibility in resource utilization. Deterrence of corruption can be effected by spot-checks or sting operations. The incentive for promotion to higher office must forthwith entail adherence to the rules of professional conduct and ethics among the yardsticks for promotion.

Privatization of some government-owned entities engaged in business can reduce corruption, adding greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness to the enterprises. Kenya’s resources can for now be best protected by shrinking the footprint of government in appreciation of the sentiments captured proverbially as, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business” which is usually the case in civil service.

Major Recommendations in this regard include:

(a) Freeing Kenya from Cartel Capture – First in the raft of measures is to undertake an intelligence-based review of the hold on critical economic aspects.

Banking executives engaged in money laundering should be given hefty fines to pay or jailed for long periods. Withdrawal of operating licenses should be invoked for repeat-offender institutions or individuals. Additionally, we should punish the co-conspirators in tax-evasion and money laundering in the private sector. We can no longer condone a culture where ill-gotten wealth gets into banks and apparently nobody knows how it happened and who it belongs to in this area of dynamic use of Information Technology and Surveillance.

Sting operations should now be used for anti-corruption targets i.e. lawyers, judges and legislators in difficult to prosecute cases so as to actually get the evidence requisite for prosecution.

A putrid case is now active in our courts of law where the aura of judicial interference cannot be discounted. Here, a defendant accused of a heinous crime is being coached by a highly-ranked Officer of the Court on mechanisms of subverting the course of justice with intercepted correspondence painting a logical perception that the female defendant is paying for these ‘coaching’ services by licentious currency. To add to this quandary, the presiding judge and the defendant’s counsel have connubial ties which raises the spectre of the miscarriage of justice just a notch higher! Apparently Lady Justice as pertains to the Kenyan scene has too many functional neural pathways to her visual cortex to ever be reckoned as blind!

A thorough audit of the negative legal, policy & administrative incentives in public service is much needed. The findings should be crafted into policy initiatives and enforced. Adjunct to custodial sentences, the delinquents engaging in economic crimes should be fined punitively with the proceeds being used for reparation to the aggrieved Kenyans.

Corruption is now the standard-bearer in Kenyan public life

(b) Incentives for Whistleblowing – Material incentives shall henceforth be provided for information leading to the successful seizure and/or prosecution for corruption-related crimes. A 5% share of the recovered proceeds will be the spoils for whistleblowers. This should be done tactically in order not to compromise the safety and survival of our esteemed whistleblower.

Treatment of whistleblowers has been under the spotlight recently after an employee of our national carrier who covertly filmed and shared on Social Media the footage of a plane carrying 239 passengers of Chinese extraction, merely having a red carpet rolled out for them in antipathy to the fact that they evinced from the same country of origin as the novel COVID-19 virus that is ravaging the globe at the present moment. The young man had to all intents and purposes been accorded the distinction of a ‘summary dismissal’ for gross misconduct in appreciation of his act of patriotism and unparalleled valour! Security of safety installations was invoked in his unprocedural suspension, a position bolstered by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport but was mercifully saved when public hue and cry intervened and following litigation, the distinguished Kenyan kept his job. Such an unsightly conundrum is what this constitutional amendment seeks to annihilate.

(c) Prevention and deterrence by widespread ethics awareness and assessment of performance – From a young age we need students tutored on ethics.

Review Cabinet and principal Secretaries’ performance assessment framework to incorporate the anti-corruption initiative.

Contracts for senior appointees should have practical performance benchmarks with rules for layoffs on failure to perform, reviewed biannually. Lay-off all appointees implicated in corruption.

(d) Public Officers have no business engaging in commerce with Government – This will exorcise the phantom of conflict of interest that is rife in Civil service as currently constituted. This is extended to spouses, common-law partners, parents and close family members of the officer currying favour with the respective state office.

Abdication of duty during regular working hours will become antiquated as officers will be required to obtain prior permission from their upline in the Ministry, Department or State Agency.

An Officer will be obliged to submit written notification to their superior of interests external to his employment there, which could potentially constitute conflict of interest. This is extended to those representing the government on Boards of Private companies.

(e) Wealth Declaration Forms will be publicized – This will be done for leadership and senior management cadre including National & County Government Executives. A written narrative on how wealth of above Kshs. 50 million was obtained will be available to the multitudes. These will be filled and made available to the websites of the respective service commissions. This will not be limited to but inclusive of shareholding, remuneration, family & business trusts, real estate, state contracts, directorships, partnerships, liabilities, bonds, investments and savings.

The era of undocumented and nebulous stories of individuals in government ostensibly ‘selling chicken’ while becoming overnight billionaires with enough money to dole out at fundraisings and church gatherings perpetually without exhaustion; as coincidentally, the state loses a third of its revenue earnings to faceless myrmidons annually is drawing to a close.

(f) Resignation – This means taking responsibility for failures, negligence or bog-standard actions that precipitate calamitous consequences by vacating their positions amicably. This will infuse honour back to public service.

(g) Digitization – Kenya will become 100% e-services compliant by digitizing all Government services, processes, payments and record-keeping. Tamper-proof the systems keeping a keen eye on the IFMIS system that is now deemed too vulnerable to misuse and backdoor access to steal our national revenue.

(h) Reduce the moral jeopardy of those mismanaging government-owned entities in anticipation of state bailouts – Strengthen the hand of the Controller of Budget to detect and respond in timely fashion to misappropriation, wastage and malfeasance.

Enact the Parastatal Reform Bill to renew focus on core business.

Rationalize all state-owned enterprises and enact the bill to bring expenditure under control with common-user benchmarks, independent valuations of projects and value for money audits on completed projects.

(i) Increase Public Confidence in the Judiciary – Respect for the principle of separation of powers, independence and accountability to the sovereignty – The People of Kenya.

Special magistrates to deal with high-profile heinous crimes like corruption, narco-preneurship and terrorism.

Empower JSC to discipline judges appropriately concomitant with their errors.

Make the office of the Ombudsman (Commission on Administrative on Justice) more responsive to the public and create civic awareness on its existence.

CHAPTER 9: DEVOLUTION

The Orwellian Representation of Devolution in Kenya

At the heart and soul of devolution is the decentralization of power that results in the facilitation of service delivery across the country. The major devolved unit is the County that is headed by a Governor. The minor units within are called Wards each represented by a Member of the County Assembly. The scorecard from 2010 to now paints a rosy picture as previously underdeveloped regions are now getting opened up and almost each hamlet has an access road. However, devolution is still hampered by a few challenges that if left unaddressed threaten to derail it completely. It is now facing a critical political and economic sustainability conundrum that it must pass. Oversight to forestall the eventuality of revenue loss through corruption is a crucial tenet of these discussions. Transparency, accountability and an appeal system for projects that have been shoddily executed are just but a microcosm of the things Kenyans crave for. Duplication of roles is a major issue that hamstrings the devolved units as it creates confusion when similar roles are performed by both the County and National Government. On issues of planning, public participation and budgeting; many Kenyans want a front-row seat. But a worrying development is the county government falling prey to the same issues that made governance a nightmare when it was centralized. Corruption, Nepotism, favouritism, ethnic antagonism, bigotry, bloated workforces, delays in payment, marginalization of minorities, mismatched priorities, delays in decision making, inefficiency, ineffective modalities of service delivery and skewed resource allocation. The main thread of the public participation taskforce was the fact that County governments asked for their fiscal allocation of the national revenue to be raised from 35% to 50%.

Devolved Government (Courtesy of Daily Nation)

Among the thorny issues presented to the BBI Taskforce on devolution revolved around:

  • Revenue share between the two tiers of Government.
  • Resolving exclusivity and marginalization in the Counties.
  • Improving effectiveness in execution of their mandates.
  • Enhancing economic growth in Counties.

As it currently stands the aggregate minimum transfer of funds to counties is 15% of centrally collected revenues. The 35% figure will have to be increased over time to reach the required 50%.

A worrisome trend that has become a feature of the County government is the exclusion that was previously faced in the national government. Ethnic minorities bear the brunt of this, when those perceived as not part of the winning coalition are often excluded wholesale in antipathy to the strictures of Article 174(e) of the Constitution. Turning a blind eye to merit and inclusivity as opposed to favouritsm when hiring is a slow-puncture on the wheels of devolution. The counties are in need of an independent County Service Board.

There is no option other than enhancing economic growth in our Counties, otherwise the devolution experiment will flounder and even reverse. Counties are urged to be more competitive to attract more investment opportunities from merchants outside their counties. At the core of this is for County Government regulation and revenue collection to promote incentives for investment and innovation. Every county is enthused to develop an Entrepreneurship and Investment code that is predictable and effective. Red tape must be kept to a minimum for improved competitive edge. Procurement of goods must be done in factoring in well laid down procurement Laws and best practices. Local leaders are purveyors of outright impunity plagued by patronage, perpetual self-seeking & nepotism. Also noted was the inability of counties to mobilize their own domestic resources and properly account for those they receive.

Major Recommendations with regards to devolution include:

1.) Retain the 47 Counties and support the voluntary formation of regional economic blocs – This will create better value for money and will be effective in mobilizing funds for shared development and ultimately prosperity. In one way or another, this will enable more funds to be raised for a development kitty all the while leaving aside the little tranche retained for the recurrent expenditure and administrative budget.

2.) Increase the resources to counties from current levels to 35% and eventually 50% of last audited accounts – Money should be assigned respective to actual functions as opposed to just having a lump sum for the county. Costing of National and County functions will be vital in this regard. This should be done with a keen eye on the distances between the County centre and its extremities as opposed to the general size of the county. It should target key areas, some the major economic activity in the ambient like agriculture, healthcare and rapid urbanization. Counties in Kenya vary meteorically in physical size. For instance, Vihiga County is incomparable in land area terms with say Turkana or Isiolo counties. Population is a totally different issue.

State institutions carrying out County functions should be audited and if found wanting, wound up or restructured. This is to be done in synchrony with the completed Parastatal Reform policy.

The allocation of revenue should be simplified for the populace, guided by equality, equity and special needs concurrently.

Have Ward representatives oversight bursary funds only, ensuring their influence does not extend to the CDF.

Revenue bump-up will forthwith be guided by a revenue allocation formula informed by population, urgent needs (health, agriculture), education needs (ECD). Hitherto marginalized regions should be uplifted via an equalization fund for a period.

Commission for Revenue Allocation must assess county collections and factor them into the annual allocation. A County Integrated Development Plan should be linked to a transparent assessment of the development needs of each ward.

Cut taxes in relation to Auditor General Reports. Until at such a time accountability can be guaranteed it will be foolhardy to increase it for the hoi-polloi only to lose it in corruption scams.

3.) Improvements to the County Executive – A major one is to have a running mate of the opposite gender.

To forever seal the loopholes for the propensity of catabasis back to the madness witnessed in Nairobi under Governor Mike Sonko, if a vacancy for any given reason occurs in the Deputy Governor’s office, and the Governor fails to name a replacement within 90 days, one will be nominated by the County Speaker with approval of the Assembly without fail.

For Sonko It’s Nuthin’ but a Gangsta party a.k.a All About The ‘Thug-life’ (Daily Nation)

Merit and inclusivity should once again become the yardstick by which human resource is hired at the County offices. An independent County Public Service Board will be needed for recruitment, setting remuneration, ensuring inclusivity and continuous development of the human resource with regards to skills and capabilities.

4.) The Healthcare Function – Kenyans deserve better healthcare to be prosperous and productive.

A Health Service Commission should be created by the county to recruit medical staff.

Health remains a devolved function with funds following functions. Focus should be put on Preventive and primary care.

NHIF Administrative costs should be pegged at between 5-10% through use of technology to engender integrity. We must live in cognizance that the Hippocratic Oath is not an assurance of morality!

Create a Patients’ Bill of Rights Stating:

  • Patients will not be extorted by taking advantage of their vulnerability.
  • An end to forceful detention.
  • Consequences for a physician who commits misdiagnosis.
  • The obligation of health facilities to stabilize emergency cases.
  • Politeness and consideration from medical practitioners.

5.) County Expenditure – Supervision of spending, investment and recruitment is failing, leading to corruption compromising the benefits contemplated. Assign more funds to development.

Peg ratio of Development spending to Recurrent Expenditure at 70:30.

Insulate County budgetary processes from arbitrary or politically-motivated interference by County Executives.

Limit county employees by providing a nationwide ratio, as a ceiling between no. of employees and the County Population. Fix a maximum number to the Ministries a Governor can create.

Reduce functional duplications between National and County Government. The same goes for tax collection.

End the asininity of abandoning projects mid-stream merely as a result of regime change. A new governor will henceforth be obligated to provide a list of incomplete projects and a plan for completion. Legitimate cause will be demanded from an incoming governor in case he sees no feasibility in continuing an already commenced project.

Extra scrutiny for projects initiated in the final year of an electoral cycle from Controller of Budget, County Assembly, Senate and all bodies tasked with oversight.

Devolution of the Auditor General’s office.

Commission on Revenue Allocation should alter its formula with regards to allocating funds to marginalized regions targeting Wards.

Kenya Bureau of Statistics to provide an objective and localized well-being, human security & environmental sustainability indices to measure relative performances among the Counties, Wards and Nation.

6.) County must bake the economic pie – Focus on competitiveness to attract investment from outside the county and abroad.

Biashara Mashinani initiatives to support local groups to develop business through partnerships. Facilitate the initiation of small businesses so that they navigate regulations and bureaucracy to make eventually produced goods cheaper. An Entrepreneurship and Investment code needed too and it should be productive and efficient.

Reduce Red tape to a bare minimum to generate revenue.

7.) Enhance Cohesion in Counties – Strengthen dialogue and integration of communities within the counties, especially the multi-ethnic ones, creating a space at the table for the minorities.

Enhance transparency by public participation in consort with the Public Rapporteur’s office. One-day forums will be held periodically in this regard.

Make use of elders to strengthen cohesion and mediate conflicts.

Create cultural awareness and program the younger members of society to respect each other.

Integrate the learning process in hosted schools to the ways of the home county.

Engage in shared projects and create fora where dialogues on Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in communities that have had histories of conflict.