According to the Biblical book of Revelations Chapter 21:8 – The fearful, faithless, abominable, murderers, whore-mongers (pimps), sorcerers, adulterers, idolaters and liars will meritoriously have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Adding From Luke 13:28-29 – People will appear from all directions to recline at the table in the Kingdom of God. Many that enjoyed themselves during their short sojourn on earth reveling in their perversion but will find themselves weeping and gnashing their teeth, when they will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets in heavenly glory and comfort but themselves cast out! But I digress. Many Kenyans, even those apparently strong in faith will read these passages in the Bible and ask themselves if there is really any other hell worse than their current predicament!
But this suffering all seems well deserved. Allow me to indulge you. None put it better than the American Ben Carson, the World-renowned neurosurgeon and author turned politician during his visit to Kenya when he uttered, “Choices have consequences.” This was an indirect jibe in relation to the wildly unpopular election victory, more like state capture by then ICC-indicted duo of Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto; this undisguisable millstone around their necks, notwithstanding. Quick on his feet, the new national supremo; Uhuru Kenyatta, fired back opining that the challenges facing his partner-in-government and himself were personal and wouldn’t in any way affect their service delivery or mandate to the adoring throngs that ‘elected’ them overwhelmingly. Those who didn’t elect this duo knew better but as democratic tenets dictate, ‘the majority have their way, the minority their say.’ Then, among the supporters of this duopoly was great dancing and cheer. However, I enthuse you to now show me but one honest person celebrating their good fortune consequent to tragedy that has been the Jubilee Party in government.
Allow me to paint a little background. In early 2008, Kenya was engulfed in the throes of post-election violence sparked off by a bungled election where a clear leader in the early poll results had surprisingly and narrowly lost the election by a flurry of ‘late’ albeit disproportionately favourable entries from strongholds of the early trailer that apparently had more voters than the total population of those regions! A hurried swearing-in ceremony was set-up at dusk and the incumbent H.E. Mwai Kibaki was sworn-in, in retrospect comically holding the Bible upside down! Feeling a clear sense of injustice and with a blocked avenue to legal recourse, the opposition strongholds erupted into a spontaneous frenzy of mass action by setting up fiery roadblocks in the middle of highways and creating all sorts of pandemonium. State machinery hit back to quell the riots but used inordinate force by opening fire on unarmed civilians in the opposition leaning areas. The situation was tense countrywide. In the defunct Rift valley province things went, for lack of a better word ‘ape!’ One tribe that had eternally arrogated themselves the title of natives of the region took up their bows, machetes, arrows and spears, going on a spree of evicting all other communities from their spheres of interest more so, the one of Mr. Mwai Kibaki’s ethnic stock. We all know of Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion – For Every Action is an equal and opposite reaction. Retaliatory attacks were forthcoming and in the aftermath of this all, a suspected figure of more than 1200 people lay lifeless while 500,000 more were internally displaced. Later a unity Government was formed between Kibaki and his begrudged foe Raila Odinga and from a collapsing economy Kenya picked itself up and back onto the horse of an economic surge akin to that it had enjoyed for most of the former’s first term. Wrangles abounded in the coalition government but for most part these always ended up getting smoothed over by the principals to the best interests of the Republic.
There was no audacity of hope that wafted from the two characters that contested the Presidency under the Jubilee coalition come 2013. These erstwhile foes who had worked together before found themselves in the same boat again buoyed by similar existential interests. Consequently, they had no other endearing quality to their populace other than remonstration against the International Criminal Courts by their respective ethnic groupings and creating a narrative of being singled out for needless persecution, coercion out of politics and possible neo-colonialization of their masses. Two tribes ganged behind their sons and willed them on to high office merely to pervert the course of justice for the internally displaced, tortured, murdered and raped. A bromance was brewed between two guys previously at opposite sides of the spectrum that had a rapt following of their kinsmen willing them on. The World seemed to be going crazy and all strictures of logic were ostensibly thrown out of the window. But behind the scenes another group with sinister motives was forming. This was a group of schemers and connivers who knew what nobody else had an inkling of! They were sure that despite the massive following enjoyed by the then Prime Minister, these two upstarts would upstage him and take office by whatever means possible. So they worried themselves not. They simply went through the motions tirelessly behind the shadows paying fealty, fund-raising and creating a massive-propaganda campaign to get the aptly named ‘team-fresh’ elected. They knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that their pay-day was coming by cashing in on the green-horns of statecraft that was to be the incoming sprightly leadership. Against the will of the majority and to the great chagrin of many Kenyans, this seemingly wide-eyed duo usurped national leadership at the First Round of Voting with a suspicious 50%+8000. The winner took it all!
After this twosome had taken their respective Oaths of Office as the 4th President and First Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, it was time to literally divide the spoils of war among those who had been loyal to the cause of TNA and URP. This was done in absolute disregard to the ethnic composition of Kenya and majorly favoured the two tribes where the President and his Deputy hailed. The remaining offal was distributed disproportionately among what for the lack of a better phrase will describe as the ‘scum of Kenya’ from among the opposition-leaning tribes that had elected to betray their kinsmen in support of Jubilee. The discord this created in the national psyche in addition to the ‘twins’ at statehouse choosing to honour their respective dates at the ICC at great inconvenience to the nation resulted in an economy in turmoil. But if there is something that I can pay adulation to the Jubilee government is being adroit at the use of the Public Relation machine at their disposal. They eternally worked in concord with state aficionados to create a rosy outlook of the initiatives of the government of the day in absolute variance to the reality on the ground.
The wheeler-dealers aforementioned who now worked as Principal Secretaries and Chairmen of State departments took advantage of the naivety and incompetence at the top to virtually loot the statutory bodies they were mandated to oversee. A dearth in accountability occasioned first, by State officials neither being answerable to anybody in particular nor filling-in wealth declaration forms prior to taking up office and secondly making a norm out of invoking the name of the opposition leader for blame and possible ‘circumcision’ each time they were caught in the throes of anguish pertaining to fingers firmly stuck in the cookie jar! Flexing of their newly-acquired muscle of state became the new sport as mismanagement gained prominence as the by-word in most institutions where embezzlement and mismatching of skills due to favouritism, were the temple at which they all worshipped. Tribalism was exalted, all the while veiled to create an impression of a leader only innocently keen to hire those he could trust but malevolently punishing the tribes that didn’t vote for him. Corruption and weak payroll management systems yielded ghost-workers giving rise to a new financial elite of civil servants who benefited from double payment cashing in on unaccounted dead colleagues in the payroll. Irreverence knows no limits. The injudicious culture of expending borrowed money based on expected future earnings to supplant it, has become engrained among the government elite. When government spends more than it earns through taxation it is only emblematic of an attitude of minimal prudence in financial management. The state was regressing from the gains made in the two decades of multiparty politics in Kenya, but who could possibly dare tell that to two autocrats who rode roughshod into statehouse on the back of injustice and coercion of state machinery?
Ultimately all that is done in darkness must come to light, all that is hidden must in due course become manifest to multitudes. After Uhuru Kenyatta secured his 2nd Term and sought to grab the opportunity to build a legacy he had lost in his first term he took a hardline stance against graft. After making peace with the People’s President; Raila Odinga, thereby earning back the legitimacy to run state, there was nowhere to hide for the guilty and ploys to distract popular attention away from their misdeeds were all foiled. It has now come to light that Kenya is in dire straits economically. Taking loans for infrastructural development devoid of a Kenyan-led feasibility study and plans for consequent Return on Investment are now biting hard on our economy. In the early days of the Jubilee regime, Kenya floated a facility in the temperate climes known as Eurobond that on maturity was supposed to be used as a supplementary tool for bolstering our economic prospects and government spending. Evidence is clear that on maturity, the impact of that sovereign bond acquired on behalf of the sovereignty; which is the People of Kenya, has been stolen and deposited in the private bank accounts of the well-to-do in the higher echelons of state. It has also become poignant that the erstwhile blue-eyed boy of the Jubilee Government that had for six years survived as Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mr. Henry Rotich was in concert with his Principal secretary and in a small way the entirely vestigial Cabinet Administrative Secretary engaging in the practice of ‘Creative Accounting’ derogatorily referred to as ‘cooking the books’. This is creation of parallel books of accounts for budgeting purposes. One bears the authentic picture of the state of the economy while the other one is used merely to hoodwink the public, a vacuous PR entry! As this was done, behind the scenes was a vermin-like frenzy of eating by those state officers that has worked to eviscerate the state of whatever was left of the Kenyan economic prospects. The public may be ignorant enough to be fooled by sideshows but how do you explain the state not being able to pay its suppliers for goods and services for months on end? How do you explain the forced austerity measures by none other than the Head of State himself in contravention to the previously panegyrized healthy run of the national economy? Can you really wish away late salaries for civil servants with just an excuse of minor aberrations in the computer systems used in the disbursement of funds at treasury? How do you substantiate on the presidential directive to freeze all state projects despite our new economic boon borne out of the revenue from the SGR railway?
Even blind Bartimeus can perceive the economy is no longer liquid! You cannot gloss away cash-flow in a state of ebb. It is not lost on anyone, the closure of many businesses that have previously been thriving in Kenya partly or wholly dependent on doing business with government. Small and Medium Enterprises that were propping up the economy are now closing by the droves. Foreign investment is almost drying up as those that were initially attracted by the investment-friendly economic climate this side of the Sahara now find themselves without prompting being edged out of the market and are now in a life-death battle to stay afloat. They invariably are taking their businesses to fiscally friendlier African nations at our expense. Our economic prospects are abysmal to put it mildly. Don’t even mention companies retrenching and offering redundancy statements to their employees. Now it’s becoming apparent you cannot expect beans from an orchard! Lack of fiscal discipline symptomized by unrestrained borrowing and minimal frugality on expenditure once the funds have been obtained is now Kenya’s achilles heel. The monumental national friction created by UhuRuto’s ascent to power against the ‘vox-populi’ meant that they had to hire more politicians to the executive for fire-fighting purposes as opposed to prudent practice of head-hunting the requisite technocrat economists or professionals from other cadres to steady their ship. Immoral as it is, failed politicians now ask ordinary citizens to pick up the tab for their malfeasance, no doubt a case study in kakistocracy. Not to forget the interest rate caps on financial institutions like banks that has seen these creditors become risk averse, denying entrepreneurs the much needed lucre to remain afloat. Even before these new pressures, it was already hard enough to own a start-up business in Kenya as statistics clearly show that 90% of them fold before their 3rd birthday!
Uhuru Kenyatta has now adopted an anachronistic policy of hiring antiquated men and women, veterans of eons past, most of them the actual home guards who were the principal beneficiaries of our strife for independence. This in my view is pedantic at best but escapist and diversionary at worst. It is just a refusal to admit the obvious that anybody who had any concern for the best interest of Kenya and is anthemically patriotic could never in a million years think of supporting the Jubilee party. This directly means that if the President had a sagacious team around him, they would have enlightened him on the virtues of magnanimity. This loosely translates to against all odds, extending an olive-branch to the section of the populace which bitterly opposed his candidature and eventual ascent into office. I mean the youth in the informal settlements that were on-call to engage in running battles with the police day and night merely for the noble ideal that is democracy. Many of them as is with the rank and file of the Kenyan population are highly-skilled, educated and intelligent and so would easily have run these state departments in the way that glorifies our heritage of splendour. The result of his peccadillo is evident for all to see. Young men and women equally highly educated and edified on their respective areas of expertise but severely lacking in integrity, professional ethics, patriotism, nobility, temperance, any scintilla of self-control and pay homage to the god of privilege. This is clear from a former governor, now graduated to a well-connected state functionary that goes around boasting smug satisfaction of being, “ the perceptive fly that drowns in a glass of milk while the other daft ones die entombed in a mound of feacal matter invoking the bally-hoo of patriotism.” The thieving brigade of young-turks have ended up greatly embarrassing the President to such an extent that his pandering to the youth agenda appears to be dead in the water. Look at an institution like N.H.I.F where the youth got a chance to serve as C.E.O at the dawn of the Jubilee government. But these cretins have mucked it up for the rest by allowing funds that are painfully truncated every month from the meagre salaries of the hoi-polloi to end up being pilfered to building castles for junior officials some up to 200 million shillings in value! I will not engage in the activity of underscoring the importance of health insurance to the human resource that builds Kenya, for I may end up in a hissy fit and to no one’s benefit! The conflux of our political leadership are professional con-artists cavorting as pastors, drug-mules, snake-oil salesmen, pathological gamblers, ‘reformed criminals’, louts, touts, the aforementioned whore-mongers in paragraph 1, concubines of major party leaders and the tapestry that consists the grime of this world. Kenya’s pointer to being a nation in economic recession is the fact that you can call a rally in midweek which is decently attended pointing to crunching unemployment, economic disenfranchisement, deleterious hopelessness and the reality of the working poor.
But you would ask me what options remain for the down-trodden who have suffered the brunt of Kenya’s economic downturn:
- For those who can afford it, time is ripe to start exploring opportunities outside our borders. Many youth find themselves bound by the shackles of unemployment, lack the tools for self-actualization and capital deficiency that make their dire fortunes increasingly miserable. For those who can, get the much vaunted ‘Green Card’ to the United States, alternatively move to Australia or England as either expatriates or even execute tasks the natives of those countries refuse to perform because someone has to do it, where your skill-set and competence will be rewarded at a premium as opposed to Kenya where your youthfulness is only misused as canon-fodder for inordinate violence that only adds peril to your survival.
- Hope that the newly launched BBI will entail an economic stimulus package for the vulnerable in society. Investment in sports, culture and basically just entry-level job creation for the youth will do wonders to ameliorate our economic prospects.
- Historically, during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office in the midst of a crippling recession in the United States of America, his administration passed legislation that aimed to stabilize industrial and agricultural production, create jobs and stimulate recovery. That is self-explanatory. As Kenyans we should be keen to support our President’s Big 4 Agenda for Kenyan prosperity.
- Going forward, elect leaders not out of personal vendetta, youthful appearance or will to teach some nebulous dynasty somewhere a lesson! Instead take your time to read someone’s party manifesto and be keen to what ideology they espouse. Most importantly check-out your potential leader’s track record. You cannot re-elect men who escaped from prison and were fugitives until they bought freedom, have made wealth on the fringes of darkness or have stood on the docks on corruption charges and expect integrity and effective governance will be imbued unto them merely by your prayers. Let’s embrace the wisdom of learning from history so that we are not doomed to repeat it. The empirical definition of madness that also applies to foolishness is quixotically doing the same thing twice in similar fashion and expecting different results.
- In the advent of the Great Depression, USA was the only industrialized country in the globe that did not boast some form of unemployment insurance or social security. Come 1935, Congress played its hand and passed the Social Security Act, which provided Americans with unemployment and disability security not forgetting pension for the aged. This could work for Kenya as African lives matter too!
- There has never been a better time to abandon tribal-based politics and personality cults for ideological based stewardship. When Kibaki was elected in 2002, Kenyans were ranked among the most hopeful people in the world. This is because of the intrepidity of the future promised by a man who excelled in both academia and as a Finance minister winning the presidency. How is it that these same Kenyans turned to clueless individuals only selling the face of youth, new money and nothing else?
- Wealth declaration and accountability in government is needed back.
In concluding remarks, all is not lost. Where there is a will there is a way. Just as long as you can find it and use it.
The day was Tuesday, 27th July 2010. The African Union had convened for the 13th AU summit in Kampala, Uganda. The rotational Chairman for the year was longtime brother leader of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the supremo Col. Muammar Abu Minyar Gaddafi (معمر محمد أبو منيار القذافي). When he stood up to speak of course there were murmurs but his charisma that has eternally enamoured him to a great section of that audience ensured they lent him an ear. He spoke about the need for a United States of Africa. Some thought that it was just a digression from his topic for the day but on he rumbled. As a political theorist, he had run the scenario through his mind several times and was convinced of its practicability. Not just that. He had personally commissioned a study of the government structures, the needs of the populace there and basically a feasibility study on the practicalities of a United African State. He spoke passionately as only he could on an ideal so dear to his heart. Listening to that speech almost a decade later prompts the question: Is a United African State practicable or was Muammar Gaddafi still the nice but terribly naïve boy as described in 1969 by his political hero and mentor – Gamal Abdel Nasser, Former President of Egypt? Were these just the rantings and ravings of a madman whose credibility as a statesman was slowly being eroded? Maybe! Naïveté was excusable in the autumn of 1969 as he was only a 27 year old Bedouin lad of humble extraction, newly graduated from the Libyan Royal Military Academy in Benghazi with hardly a few years’ experience under his belt when he usurped power. Achievability is in conjecture but the need for United African state is without a shadow of a doubt.
Besides, he was merely echoing the sentiments of great leaders of the negritude movement in years gone by Léopold Sédar Senghor, Marcus Garvey and Kwame Nkrumah. Though humble and unassuming men, these men only sought to search for some appreciation for the black man whose boundless energy and unbridled wit had been the cornerstone of many a civilization. Looking at the Pyramids of Egypt, the temple at Aksum, the University at Timbuktu and no doubt the enlistment of our slave labour at the peak of the industrial revolution, you can never doubt the Blackman’s contribution to global civilization. But the question here is: where does the black race rank among the shareholders for this great initiative? The black race was enlisted as labour when the white men ‘discovered’ new lands and conquered the natives, of course after weakening them with previously unheralded infections like yellow fever and bubonic plague they were ill accustomed to recuperate from. The point Gaddafi was hammering home was that as Africans, we could form mutually associative states headed by one president. This is because we all share a common heritage of strife against soul-sapping slavery, bone-crushing colonization and the expropriationate regime of political and pecuniary uncertainty birthed by the post-colonial epoch. This all stems from the need to right all wrongs and make up for the lost time, natural resources and basically stand toe to toe with the rest of humanity with regards to what we have been taught to be civilization. Precolonial Africa had no boundaries, where travel, intermarriage, trade and pilgrimage was conducted across open borders. The incursion of European powers playing their divide and rule game muddled up our equation for unity and for their benefit. Not only were artificial frontiers drawn up to demarcate the particular European power’s spheres of influence as nation-states, ethnic divisions were also made rife by the introduction of capitalism as opposed to our traditional way of life.
Though already resisted by many of the so-called African ‘strongmen’ who cite issues of sovereignty as their major remonstration to a united African front. However, most of these are the same characters who run to European and Southern Asian powers with begging bowls to fund projects without feasibility studies, after which they are left with white elephants having been ‘blessed’ with kickbacks from the same. That an African president has the audacity to wear crocodile-skin shoes worth $100,000 when his populace majorly consists of starving women and children, people using logs as bridges across rivers, unemployment is rife and men are drowning in the flash-floods immediately after a famine-inducing drought speaks volume about a leader that has lost not just credibility but the commonsensical nous to still be taken seriously when they voice any reservations. Some had been the principal benefactors of the instability in their countries and as expected will want that situation to continue ad-infinitum. What is sovereignty, when that only means allowing grown men to kill each other over livestock in the 21st Century?
But to see the benefits of an intercontinental concord you only need to cast your eyes across the ocean to the United States of America. Needless to say, the U.S.A achieved modern day superpower status on the back of its states unity. This status was not achieved by happenstance, hell no! It is a consequence of concerted and deliberate action towards unanimity of purpose that is now bearing fruit. Before the unilateral declaration of independence in 1776; USA was just an ordinary conglomeration of colonies, an inadvertent victim of white greed and their supremacist agenda. Britain, Spain, France and to a small extent the Netherlands had taken up spheres of interest in the region. The settlers who had made the long trip from Western Europe no doubt spoke different languages. But the descendants of these initial settlers gradually began feeling disenfranchised by the selfish agenda birthed in Europe that not only failed to resonate with their best interests but also sucked the rhetorical udders of ‘Mother North America’ dry with nothing in return. They decided to wage a war of independence against their kinsmen from across the big pond. After successfully driving out European powers, they found themselves a group of 50 odd, disparate regions straddling their continental landmass. The Northern states were the first to see the need for unity and formed a confederation. The Southern states that were previously viewed as backward, conservative and rural were initially reluctant. But ultimately the need for unity was backed by the merits of it and ultimately it was attained. Other states were actually coerced into the union as a consequence of defeat in the American civil war and purchases other territories from Spain and France but that may be a story for another day.
Additionally the States of America united as they tapped into their collective identities. Harsh winters are definitely at a premium and the annual hurricanes are now an annual fixture too wreaked havoc intermittently onto the continental North America even then in the 19th Century. Woe on you if you are a coastal community! Assuming that those states devastated by hurricanes annually stood as independent nations, it is beyond a shadow of doubt they would inimically have suffered financial ruin to add to the crippling loss of human life and morale. In the absence of the cushion that is the unified federal government, they would each individually have had to face the vicissitudes of their circumstances.
Looking at G.D.P figures of the individual states, some fare worse than many African countries! Collect your jaws from the floor as I am also equally stupefied. Some of these states are large rural communities that depend entirely on agriculture for revenue and hewing lumber for building material and fuel. It is no doubt whole houses are usually uprooted by the vagaries of foul weather. The State of California has arguably the biggest G.D.P of the United States that is 14.5% of the national total. This is incomparable with the trailing states like Wyoming, Mississippi and Vermont. In 2018 these less capitalized states had an annual contribution to the US economy according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis of 39 billion, 115 billion and 34 billion US dollars respectively. These compare almost favourably with middle income African countries like Kenya who according to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics had just under 75 Billion USD. This means that if for instance lowly Kenya was part of the confederation as an individual state we would have ranked at a slightly impressive position 45 out of the 55 States considered as territories of USA. Not to be underestimated in the absence of their concinnity, would have been the potential shortfall in revenue generation required to fund an individual American state and probably its attendant burgeoning numbers of state officers. The overarching lesson from this is that America has benefited from the divergent contribution of its individual states to enjoy a total G.D.P of 21 Trillion USD. This is a valuable pointer as to the great value Africa would glean from unity.
This stratification according to states has enabled the USA to have states that specialize in the various facets of life i.e there are those with the best institution of Higher learning like Massachusetts that hosts both M.I.T & Harvard. Others have the best Medical institutions, the biggest oilfields, gold mines and resource specific zoning. Consequently, U.S.A has primed itself to become the most advanced individual nation on earth to the extent of even playing the prefect role over others. Their strength in numbers not only afford the U.S a greater purchasing power but the propensity for influence over other nations. The United States currently boasts arguably the strongest army of any nation ever on earth. Diabolically, this power has been used to disproportionately hold countries to ransom, arm-twisting them and even enforcing embargoes that have proven crushing to regimes that are majorly dependent on the might of the Stars and Stripes.
But the question here remains, what benefits could Africa actually glean from a United Confederation of African States:
- Perhaps the greatest benefit of an African Federation would be dealing a death knell to the culture of dependence on hand-outs and conditional grants that has consistently impoverished Africa. Despite bringing Christianity, cloth and rum to us, the European is not by any measure of the word a ‘good man’. It is a tragedy that the continent of the proud and the strong is held in so much subservience and derision in foreign missions as merely one of experts in holding the beggar’s bowl then fritter the collections in vain shows of ostentatiousness. We have also laid ourselves vulnerable to acts of malicious sabotage. It should not be lost on anyone, the retribution that France inflicted upon Haiti consequent to Toussaint Louverture’s & J.J. Desalline’s embarrassing victory over the French and slavery leading to subsequent emancipation of the black population on that Island. Emperor Napoleon in a murderous rage swore vengeance upon Haiti and cut off commercial ties with the nation. He also broadcasted his malevolent propaganda against everyone else so that the whole world virtually shunned the small island nation. As a direct consequence, what was once the epicentre of the world sugar trade crumbled into nothingness such that Haiti is now more renowned as a dust-pan than a once-upon-a-time theatre of the biggest triumph that any slave community in the world has won against their master! This story is poignant to Africa as Haiti is more or less an African nation in the diaspora wholly consisted of populations that were extracted from the plains of Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Congo and Niger into a life of hardship and servitude in the cane plantations of a region formerly referred to as San Domingue. The fear of similar treatment has for eon coerced former colonial territories of European powers into MOUs and trade deals that only benefit our neocolonialist Caucasian overlords.
- For many years our relationship with our trading partners abroad has been majorly exploitative. They avail us some financial bail-out funds but in return cart away our pristine and valuable natural resources including precious minerals namely gold, diamonds, iron, rubies, copper, oil and coltan among others. We also lose our natural forests, marine life, fresh water lakes and ancestral land for virtually a song! In recent years the old colonial masters are slowly being replaced by the Chinese who glean our fields bare after availing loans ostensibly for infrastructural development. The loans are quite stringent and the uninitiated and greedy leaders often find themselves in a deer-in-headlights situation where they end up defaulting on loan repayments and ultimately have to handover their national resources like ports, train tracks and other important infrastructure. What if we did not take exploitative loans from the Chinese but instead mobilized funds from our respective appendages? Gaddafi had the idea of abandoning the strictures of international trade using dollars and pounds and instead trade in Gold! Yes, Gold. How about that to cripple capitalism that is dealt to the vulnerable without a human face? Such a closing of ranks will help secure our sister the Democratic Republic of Congo from the utter farce that has been her lopsided relationship with Belgium and France cavorting as international cooperation. DRC on its own merits has the potential to be by far the richest nation on Earth and even generate energy that can sustain all of Africa were its resources harnessed by a congenial consortium of African nations who understand the practicalities of being here. All that Coltan that is irregularly spirited out of Congo by scummy connivers to Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Sony, Ideos and other phone manufacturers is enough to be a massive boon to our collective economy, if only the revenue acquired was repatriated back to our coffers. I will not belabor how much is made in mobile telephony and its penetration worldwide in spite of my professional expression as a Telecom personnel. An African Federation will fix the DRC crisis once and for all. DRC has a resource potential to power and enrich all of Africa if only its compatriot states helped shield it from external exploitative interference. We must open our eyes to the possibilities of what a bright future awaits us if only we could throw down the age-old shackles on our wrists and ankles and instead take up intercontinental trade on a massive scale. Imagine what we can do!
- A Pan-African System for Justice and constitutional affairs will ultimately be one of the fruits of this union. In the words of current Kenyan President; Uhuru Kenyatta, “never again must a son of our soil be taken to foreign climes for trial by agents of neocolonialism and malice.” This was an overkill on his part but a Pan-African Centre for Judicial adjudication that takes into account our cultural heritage and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms will actually be a panacea to many of the ills that bedevil Africa. Africans have over the years not covered themselves in any sort of glory, portraying themselves to the world albeit incongruously as barbaric and blood-thirsty brutes. Methinks African unity will clean up this image as united we will have the power to push an agenda that casts us in positive light. Truth, Justice and Reconciliation commissions make reports on systemic abuse in many an African country but the results of these processes usually come a cropper, sacrificed at the altar of preserving the status-quo with national legal systems inexplicably explicating themselves from having the jurisdiction to deal with matters within the purview of their territorial boundaries.
- In the backdrop of colonialism many of the disparate African nation States began viewing each other with unwarranted suspicion. A melting of national boundaries will surely sort out this conundrum. Also the primitive culture in many nations that promotes nepotism, clannism and tribalism will be buried and in its place sown the seeds of meritocracy, ethical practice and progressive singularity of thought.
- An African Confederation will safeguard homegrown investments and industries. Moreover it will enhance effective use of shared resources, infrastructure and technology. It is deemed more feasible to engage a greater entity for trade rather than the small outfits that many of the current individual African republics are. For the risk of denigration, I will mention no names instead reiterating that as a bigger body we will effectively harness our lines of supply and also have that market to make trade a worthwhile venture for us all. Also discrimination will be a thing of the past as the youth will no longer have to travel abroad for the American dream as within the borders of our tropical climes will be availed our very own African nirvana. We have witnessed incidences of companies with majority foreign ownership like SportPesa just on a whim deciding to pack up and leave in absolute disregard to the quagmire they leave behind. How is homegrown enterprise to ever take root if eternally we will be treated to imported goods and services?
- Unity will realize a stronger GDP per Capita and enhance the cost of living for the citizens of Africa. Nigeria and South Africa individually enjoy much better GDPs of 444 Billion and 371 billion respectively but with South Africa enjoying a better GDP per Capita ratio. As aforementioned, many of the individual states of the United States are economically feeble. In echoing the derogatory parlance of greatly revered American comedian Eddie Griffins, “Many of those singular states are on their own merits broker than a mother-fxxxxx! People don’t live in Woodstock houses for nothing.” And it is true. This will unfortunately continue to be our individual fates as African nation states if we fail to forge this joint front.
This initiative will no doubt run into headwinds. One of those is goodwill to allow for a unified currency. Also we must eternally strive to avoid a ‘Tower of Babel’ situation where lack of a common language prevents us from a noble endeavour. The leader of the federation will need a judicious mind to be fair and altruistic which is a foreign concepts to many of our longtime strongmen. However, this is one concept that if properly handled will improve African bargaining power at the table of the big boys of the world power structure. Unity is strength. And Americans will none be the wiser as they already think Africa is a Country anyway!
Apparently the cost of disobedience at the Garden of Eden was steeper that anything Adam and Eve could ever have envisaged. Initially, man was created to be immortal and infallible just like the angels of the heavens but only better. He was created in God’s own image and was ostensibly meant to possess most of his limitless longevity, intelligence and basically drank straight from the fountain of youth. But the turning point was the provision for the freedom of choice. The caveat here was that any choices would ultimately precipitate consequences. The misfortune in all this is that humanity was created naïve to the wiles of the universe and ultimately fell prey to them. Retribution was heavy! This loosely translates to his stripping of divine health, free habitation in a sumptuous nirvana, know-how and worse of all that propensity to exist in perpetuity. While at the beginning everything was provided for by the supreme deity in the aftermath of our primordial parent’s transgressions life became a matter of struggle just as in the bestial realm, the survival of the fittest. So much for the much-touted freedom of conscience.
Many years ago the city lifestyle had not caught up with us. Food generated as a product of our arable activities was plentiful and sufficient to feed us all. The landscape was verdant and bucolic in appreciation of the splendor bestowed upon our land. Fruits and vegetables were in copious supply and the welfare of everyone was a communal affair. As populations were still small and urbanization had not spread far and wide, we still had the grace to enjoy the fresh air and pristinely sprung water straight from nature’s fountains untainted. Playgrounds were vast expanses of land where a young mind was accorded the freedom to run around, play and weave their imagination as far as the eye could perceive. Our ancient way of life was convivial and wholesome leading to strong and healthy individuals ready to take the bull called life by the horns when they came of age.
Then came the missionaries and European settlers who gave way to colonialism. This brought upon our indigenous communities the white man’s outlook of industrialization that got everyone in a damn hurry. Rural to urban migration became the modern reality. The Whiteman’s education destroyed the harmony of society as it promised corpulent rewards and blinding lights only to those willing to abandon the rural setting for the hustle and bustle of city life. But still our colonial masters maintained a semblance of organization and civility on how they went about planning of urban areas mainly with regards to reticulation, zoning regulations, utility supply and most importantly sewage disposal. The rustic and self-sufficient way of provincial life now gave way to the fast-paced and seemingly glistening yet subservient albeit tick-like dependent way of life in the city. After independence from our Caucasian overlords, was left upon us residual a legacy of capitalism and basically everyone for himself – God for us all! All open space was taken up by real estate. Haphazard cropping-up of infrastructure became the norm as city planning and zoning committees existed only on paper. Worse still, civil service was now seen as a way to personal aggrandizement and no oversight was performed by government aficionados in antipathy to the strictures of any portion of their mandate. Moreover, all that had been afforded to us by nature in years gone by has virtually been destroyed and is now lost to future generations.
Modernization is not all bad as it has solved a few of yesterday’s conundrums and led to the invention of cures to the maladies that afflicted society previously. In the 80’s and 90’s the HIV menace ravaged humanity in a way few cataclysms have. Men and women who were hitherto energetic, virile and luscious as a consequence of their youth soon started to waste away and suffer incessant and gradual pilfering of their salubrious comportments. As no medication offered a lasting remedy to this situation, many people in the developing world thought of this as a curse wrought upon humanity as a result of grievously angering the guy upstairs. Those not so perceptive started accusing their next-door neighbours and friends-turned-foes of witchcraft, if not giving them the ‘evil-eye’. Governments sat up and took notice after seeing so much of its youthful and productive populations succumb to the vagaries of this syndrome. Concerted efforts in modern medicine have birthed forth the ‘anti-retroviral therapy’ that has ensured that HIV-AIDS is no longer a death sentence but merely a medical condition to be managed like many humanity have had to grapple with for eons anyway. The scourges of the past like malaria, bubonic plague, smallpox, dysentery and polio among others have all been sufficiently contained to the glee of humanity. However, a new threat has arisen that has sent many medical practitioners scampering back to the literal drawing board, Cancer. The grouse with cancer is that its exact causative agents and vectors are neither well understood nor documented. It could as well originate from a myriad of sources. It not only baffles but with each passing day continues to defy all preventive and remedial measures thrown in its path. Apart from conclusive proof that overexposure to high-energy electromagnetic radiation is one of the causes of cancer from the tragic epilogue to the lives of Nobel-prize winning scientific forbearer; Marie Curie, her daughter Irene and son in law Joliot not so much can be conclusively explained with relation to the true origins of what is now with great trepidation referred to as the Big C. Cancer has afflicted both man and beast for eon; however, it is only today that this infestation has taken on epidemic proportions as to threaten the entire human existence.
To understand what Cancer really is you have to delve into a topic that I am ill-equipped to comment on but in all due gratitude to the input of friends and relatives in the medical profession and since circa 1998; Dr. Google, I will attempt to do justice to the topic of Human Anatomy. Anyone who studied Biology in High School may have heard of the word ‘Cell’. This is the basic building block of any organism. You may also have deciphered your teacher yapping on end about anaphase, prophase and telophase. Cells naturally undergo division in the ongoing process of repair and / or replacement of their worn-out counterparts, growth, reproduction and basically all the processes that are parceled as life-sustaining. Cancer in layman’s language is the propensity for rapid and uncontrolled cell division of hitherto normal cells to the extent of encroaching into and eventually destroying normal body tissue and in most cases proliferating as unsightly nay painful tumors. Tumors are to most intents and purposes a normal medical phenomenon. Most tumors usually end up being an unforeseen accumulation of fluid or tissue on an inconvenient location of the body that is seldom too harmful and can be removed with minimal fuss. These are the benign tumors. The problem is with the malignant tumors. These are quite aggressive, invasive and for lack of a better word – diabolical as they gradually break down the nascent structure of a body tissue, irreparably damaging its functionality. This is life-threatening!
Often when the discussion comes up, people mention something or other, usually death as the great equalizer but apparently the formbook has been torn to shreds by the emergence of this medical monstrosity. It has proven to possess no discrimination whatsoever with regards to demographics. It attacks the rich, the poor, young and old all with equally menacing impact. Those that are publicly venerated in their passing are the newsmakers of the day like our lionized Nobel-prize laureate Wangari Maathai, Former Cabinet Ministers John Michuki and Njenga Karume, Governor. Nderitu Gachagua among a host of other dignitaries. It did not escape my attentions that close to two months ago we had to bid farewell in quick succession to Safaricom CEO – Robert Collymore; the joint pioneer Female County Executive in Kenya, Former Bomet Governor – Her Excellency Joyce Laboso and lastly the most impactful, visionary and altruistic of our current crop of legislators, Former Kibra MP – Hon. Kenneth Okoth. I am sure any of you reading this post is afflicted by this scourge in one way or another by the loss of a close relation or friend that needless to say did not receive nearly as much publicity as the aforementioned sages. Not to alarm anyone but we are all firmly in the firing range as potential sufferers. I am on record in a previous post decrying our predicament as a nation of being unwittingly forced into consuming lead and mercury compounds passed off as sugar, plastic cavorting as rice, meat full of hitherto banned Sodium Metabisulphite, chicken injected with steroids not the least being anti-retroviral therapy medicament for rapid fattening, milk preserved with just a hint of chloroform and cheap liquor laced with methanol expecting no serious health consequences, come on! The Government under the auspices of the Kenya Bureau of Standards is expected to play the role of quality control. How well they do that is a matter of conjecture.
As famous 1970’s pop musician John Lennon once quipped, “Life is what happens when we are busy making plans.” Should we merely be sitting ducks waiting for whatever fate will befall us? In our desperation to reduce the probability of being the next victim many have taken radical steps to avoid almost any food that has a hint of not being organic-based. Conspiracy theorists have laid blame squarely at the door of genetically modified organism and foods which I think is escapist thinking. This is in lieu of the fact that Genetic Modification in itself is a naturally occurring process. In many cases Genetic modification results in a bigger, fleshier fruit that will be misconstrued as the same enlargement of human tissue that often results in cancerous tumours. This in my view is an aberration of reason. For instance, when two neighbouring farms grow two different varieties of the same grain crop and due to pollination, gametes from one crop are transmitted to the next, that inherently results in the alteration of the resultant genome of the next produce. Both the fruits and subsequent seeds will have encoded within new genetic information. Genetic Modification guarantees food security thanks to the additional properties added to a crop by the same process, but could our strife for food security be the portal through which we are letting in our doom? I may harp on and on but to avoid digression and getting labeled as a blind campaigner for GM, I will reserve that topic for another day’s discussion.
What measures are to be put in place to safeguard our lives against the potential havoc being wreaked by this unspeakable infestation?
- As a taxpayer, I would urge the government to declare Cancer a national disaster and just like HIV-AIDS in 1999, subsidize life-saving medical procedure and medication to give the afflicted a fighting chance against this scourge. The most important resource on earth is humanity. It has become an epithet of empirical wisdom that most families are poised just one medical emergency away from financial ruin. It behoves the government of the day to soften the blow for the millions who find themselves in this quagmire. As a matter of fact, I needn’t be seen to be begging when I urge that each County Referral hospital should take on the role of a Cancer Treatment & Research Centre. We needn’t any longer be partakers of medical tourism in India and Israel when the requisite medical procedures could be found within our borders. With affordable medi-care, even routine check-ups will become a way of life. At inception, Cancer patients will not have any anomalous marks on their foreheads meaning that only these check-ups exist as a means for early diagnosis. Just like any other medical condition, the earlier the diagnosis the faster the path back to good health.
- Additional to proper medical care, palliative care should be made universal and dignified for all cadres of society regardless of the depth of your pockets. Many nations beat their chest about how civilized they are but as 38thS Vice President; a highly enlightened human-being Humphrey Hubert once put it, “the moral test of a civilization is how well it threats the vulnerable: those at the dawn of life – children, those poised at the twilight of life – the elderly and those at the shadows of life – the sick & handicapped.” No one deserves to suffer the loss of human dignity enshrined constitutionally merely as a misadventure precipitated by the lightness of their pockets. Emergency Cancer treatment should no longer be viewed as a luxury service for the but as a basic need for all.
- We need a revolution with regards to our lifestyles. Modern life is more sedentary as convenience is availed at our doorsteps obviating the need for physical exercise. Even agricultural activity is mechanized so we no longer have to till the land, weed crops, personally spray insecticides and harvest. Our children no longer have space to play and run around and therein lies the malady. Lifestyle diseases that in times gone by used to afflict middle aged men and women like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and deep-vein thrombosis are now affecting people as young as those in primary school and that is sufficient cause for alarm. Additionally due to our hectic way of life we have no time to exercise let alone eat healthy. Longevity has been proven to have a direct correlation with consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. When fried meat/potatoes, processed foods and industrially synthesized fruit juices become our only cheaply available source of nutrition, then we cannot say we are doing well. Who is to say that the changes the modern man is undergoing does not make him a suitable substrate for the processes that are a recipe for cancer?
- The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) is a crucial statutory body in ensuring quality of all products consumed by the citizenry of this country. It is therefore imperative that the personnel is empowered so as to perform this critical role as effectively as envisaged. This includes the hiring of men and women with high-level expertise and integrity to effectively execute their mandate. Enforcement of standards should be a crucial stricture paramount to all. It is tear-jerking that it had to take the initiative of private investigators to unearth the malevolence that has been systematically fed to willing buyers and citizens of the republic in antipathy to our constitutional right to consumer protection. Why are we paying people to sleep on the job? A few heads have rolled and been taken to court at KEBS not forgetting the game of musical chairs at the Ministry of Industrialization. But I dare pry, who could possibly put a numerical value to the deleterious impact of the villainous concord between fiendish entrepreneurs and rogue KEBS aficionados? Our man-eat-man way to capitalism will in due cause cost us our greatest wealth, which is our own collective health.
- It’s not be lost on the wise, the dictates of the Ministry of Health warnings on Cigarettes and Alcoholic beverages. Overindulgence is harmful to your health. Also the wise man once postured that prevention is better than cure. As per World Medical Organization reports, a critical mass of Lung and Liver Cancers occur for no other reason than our failure to exercise temperance to our vices.
- There are segments of our population that through no fault of their own find themselves with insufficient melanin to protect their skins against the debilitating effects of Ultra-Violet radiation consequent to our direct equatorial insolation. The black man has long been reviled and discriminated, sometimes turned the butt of unfair jokes for his skin pigmentation but currently as per the dictum of empirical medical knowledge, cases of melanoma and carcinoma have proven to have a lower incidence among the darker population. My message to the skin-lightening brigade is to stop lest your quest for presumption of beauty be turned into an avenue to the unwanted early grave! Hope my message is sufficiently lucid.
- Environmental degradation and pollution plays an unequivocally crucial role in the occurrence of many medical anomalies. The World owes us nothing but will ultimately require duty of care from the most intelligent of God’s creation. Cutting down forest cover diminishes our natural sponge to absorb not just green-house gases but also compounds that will deplete the ozone layer that is vital in protecting earth from the deprecating effects of cosmic radiation. When waste is let lose into our water supply and air, without a doubt negative consequences will manifest onto humanity. I charge anyone with access to Google Earth to have a look at the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria and compare the water colour with our Ugandan and Tanzanian neighbours and not feel a tinge of dismay if not embarrassment!
- Last but not least, pray as there is little else that can be done about genetic predisposition to some forms of cancer.
The overarching message here is that even in the midst of so much despondency, there is so much we can do to even if temporarily forestall the surge of the Big C. Resilience and adaptability have been the hallmark of all forms of life that have ever stood the test of time. Uncertainty notwithstanding, let’s put our faith on medical researchers and believe that ultimately as surely as the scope of the human mind eternally grows, we will find a way to tame the unspeakable beast.
Few of those who have cast even a passing glance upon the Bible have missed the fabulous story of Samson son of Manoah; the Nazirite, from the small tribe of Dan. He was presaged as a great hope to the people even before his conception. He was consequently dedicated to the Lord from the day he was born. As a chosen one he took the vow of abstinence from alcoholic drink, touching the dead and trimming his hair. Consequently, he grew to be physically very strong and of salubrious disposition. His anointment meant that when he came of age he took his position as one of the nascent Judges of the nation of Israel. But somewhere along the line he lost his way. Human beings mingle and naturally friendships develop out of acquaintances. Samson’s youthful exuberance took him past the gates of Gaza and therein he invariably was acquainted with Israel’s sworn nemesis, the Philistines. In my estimation this may have been borne out of contempt as he felt even if the Philistines were such odious people, no weapon formed against ‘God’s anointed’ was ever going to prosper! Familiarity breeds contempt. That is where his downfall began. He was forced into gambling on the bizarre and consequently on losing the bets he had to pay so great a price. His Achilles’ heel that burnt his credentials into a fine cinder was his amorous engagement with the lasses of Philistine extraction. Just as many of the ones we have around even today, they had little loyalty to authentic affection and could have easily been swayed by material possessions and tribal inclination in antipathy to any warmth of attraction they may ever have felt at first. That is how despite being the stalwart who tore apart a lion with his bare hands and even ate honey from the titan’s innards; he was fickle pickings as far as the wiles of feminine carnality are concerned. When he posed the trope “Out of something strong comes something sweet to eat…” who even with the most ingenious of crania could ever have guessed even remotely the general solution to this equation, ‘Runge-Kutta’ formula savoir-faire notwithstanding? The answer was willfully coaxed out of this ace and soon the grapevine around town became the solution to his seemingly insuperable puzzle. As a loser of this infernal frolic he was obliged to provide 42 festive gauntlets, but where was he to obtain them in such short notice? He was forced to become a robber with a tyrant’s violence who tricked a group of men into a scuffle with him that ended in a bloody carnage for the unfortunate victims of Samson’s brutality! 42 men lay dead in cold blood and our Nazirite was forced to play the role of a mortician stripping off the festive garments from the previously benighted but currently deceased lads. He had broken one of the strictures of the Nazirite vow, “Never in your life boy should you ever touch a dead body!” But the Lord was still with him. He also greatly ignited the fury of the Philistine overlords against Israel and he became a harbinger of Israel’s insolence. It was now more than a game and restitution became necessary! He once again found himself in trouble in Gaza when he was seduced into a harlot’s den and given a strong drink that lulled him to sleep. He committed the unpardonable iniquity of placing his trust on a consummate practitioner of the oldest profession devoid of even a shred of concern for her own very body. Wow! A plan was hatched to arrest him at an ungodly hour when his reflexes would have been thought of non-existent. Fortunately, being a light sleeper he was awakened by the commotion outside and went into survival mode. He crept up to the gates and performed the unheralded feat of not just extracting and lifting the entire structure of wood, bars, hinges and foundation but carting it 61 Kilometres up the hill opposite Mt. Hebron. I hear this loss was so crippling that even to this day funds are yet to be availed for the rebuilding of that important piece of protective infrastructure and an unmistakable gape remains where an impregnable hardwood gate once stood! Long story short, the cat was out of the bag. An irresistible woman of the name Delilah was procured to make Samson so passionately in love that even the stranglehold on the secret of his invincibility was loosened and he was ultimately captured and his eyes gauged out for good measure! But in captivity Samson made reparations with his creator, renewed his abhorrence for the barber and it paid dividends. He regained his old strength back. As an irreverent guest during the feast for one of the philistine gods; Dagon, Samson made sure he played to greatest effect the role of party-pooper by literally ‘bringing down the house’ on all that attended. The King, the nobles, generals and the lovely Delilah all perished in one fell swoop. The misfortune of the story is that Samson, a man of potential to be the greatest leader Israel ever had; indeed Dan’s pride & joy, was lost to the world because of falling prey to hubris and personal foibles. This is the situation Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s incumbent President finds himself mired in today. Allow me to indulge y’all.
God rarely calls the qualified, more often than not choosing to qualify those called but the question I must pose at this juncture is this: Was U. Kenyatta really called or much less even slightly qualified when he ascended to the apex of Kenya’s political power? What of his Deputy William Ruto? Truth be told, Uhuru Kenyatta acceded to the presidency on the back of a bi-tribal quest to stave off their sons’ potential arrest by the International Criminal Court in case of being found with a heavy of burden of culpability in their crimes against humanity case for meting out inordinate barbarism during the 2007 post-election violence. An indictment in this court for any society that adheres to the rule of law, logic, civility and sensibility must surely be the threshold for non-eligibility for any public office, but not Kenya! The tyranny of tribal arithmetic did not help his cause in the slightest with regards to being a symbol of unity as viewed in the backdrop of the innumerable, unrepresented, numerically disadvantaged tribal entities in Kenya. Moreover, this is exacerbated by the implicit feeling among many Kenyans that he is merely a porch-prince, ill-tooled and utterly uninitiated to the struggles of the ordinary man. Being too care-free, laissez-faire and a guy boasting a suicidally happy-go-lucky attitude to life, much worse to Kenyan unity led to serious questions arising on his credentials for this highly crucial venture of leading a nation’s destiny for not just today but into the future. But the good fortune of the wealth afforded to him by the Kenyatta heritage, not less the recognizable family name ensured that our prince was galloping headlong towards the pinnacle of Kenya’s political power, perhaps unfairly against more deserving candidates. Allegations of a serious lack of sobriety also cast aspersions on the character of the man, Uhuru. Moreover, a perception of leaning more heavily towards the tribe than national well-being weighed heavily on his visage. A feeling that ‘extra-electoral’ mechanisms were involved in this duo’s election cannot be ruled out despite the Supreme Court upholding their victory in 2013. To add insult to injury, on getting elected in a highly contentious election he went on a campaign of protecting only himself against any injury to his personal interests at the expense of state business. Shuttle diplomacy it was called. This in turn hurt the Kenyan economy greatly.
Not in the least, he also distinguished himself as a standard-bearer of incompetence by endeavoring to appoint ill-fitting individuals to important national positions; worse still gave a smooth landing to political losers who contested the elections on the Jubilee party ticket. Appointments to state corporations became a matter of tribal affiliation with the consideration heavily favouring only two tribes to the disenfranchisement of the rest of the nation. This did not bother Mr. Kenyatta in the least. The culmination of these appointments was manifested in the fiasco that was personified as the Garissa and Westgate terrorist attacks that were a direct consequence of laxity, corruption and incompetence at worst. A Cabinet secretary who attributes smoke during a terrorist attack to burning of a mattress is not just a liability but a great embarrassment to their appointing authority, in this case the President. The cataclysm that was the Westgate terrorist attack came at a great expense to no less the President himself as he lost kith and kin. Empirical evidence has concluded that both attacks could have been forestalled before they happened and the rescue effort better coordinated a fact the President alluded to in retiring the then Inspector General of Police and totally relieving the sitting Cabinet Secretary of all executive powers and relegating the guy back to kitchen duty when making consequent cabinet appointments.
Additionally, the president became moody and apprehensive if not emotional and mushy when he mentioned that he and his government will continue to figuratively ‘eat the meat’ while the apparent naysayers from the opposition masticate on their own saliva. Uhuru Kenyatta did himself no favours when he chose to dabble in more semantics and theatrics as opposed to deliberate action as a means to curb corruption. He portrayed himself as a week character unable to deal with some ‘cartel’ that had dismally been allowed to take root as far as the Office of The President. Both public sentiment and austerity attached to the august office of the President of Kenya slipped consistently even among the most ardent of his supporters. In the absence of good counsel, Parliament itself became an actual battleground when the prevailing sentiment was that the Speakers in both houses were behaving as if they were merely figureheads and marionettes for statehouse. A seeming lack of autonomy saw debate in both houses degenerating to either partisanship at best and fist fights at worst. A day came when a government anti-terrorism bill that covertly gagged the media was forcefully passed in the national assembly amid throwing of missiles and the deputy speaker getting her expensively procured crowning glory of ‘natural hair’ drenched by a fellow woman legislator. In the aftermath of this fiasco, no less another female member of the national assembly brought forward allegations of sexual battery and torn knickers in the course of the foregoing casting a terrible stain on the president’s ability to whip his side into any measure of a disciplined side. This was only in his first term.
If you thought his first term was stormy and acrimonious then you were in for a shocker come the subsequent re-election and commencement of the second term. At re-election time it was threats and intimidation galore to any state officers who did not dance to the Jubilee Party tune. As a highly divisive character, he made it clear that he was going to govern Kenya even if he would forego votes from some regions of the republic. He poured out incendiary vitriol in the direction of the leader of the opposition making it known he thought of him as a perennial loser, perpetual cry-baby and anything but a ‘Mugoroki’ (Madman). This split the nation in half as anyone with an inkling on the on-goings of the previous election was beyond aware of the illusion that Mr. Kenyatta won the election by exactly 50% + 8,000 odd votes and Raila a respectable second at 43%. Hate him or Love him; Former Prime Minister, Mr. Odinga prima-facie commanded the love and appreciation of nearly half the country and was an important factor in any national debate on the destiny of Kenya. Public sentiment and goodwill was heavily in his favour, a fact that can never be disputed or wished away! Derision to the rule of law became his modus operandi as court orders were treated with contempt and synergy between the three arms of government came a cropper in deference to the Executive.
Indisguisable opprobrium was shown to the 4th Estate and Media Freedom became only an Academic enshrinement of the constitution far removed from reality. We were going to the dogs. The election came under a cloud of the referee body heavily leaning towards the incumbent. The winner was a foregone conclusion early in the contest despite national goodwill being with the opposition side. The election had been so riddled with injustice and illegalities that it had to be petitioned at the Supreme Court. So heavy was the burden of proof against the IEBC that the Supreme Court by a great majority nullified the result of the Presidential Election and called for a new one. They were spared neither the paroxysms of the President nor his indifference to their role. Revisiting was the least they were promised should the sitting President get elected in the second poll. This Poll ended up a non-contest as the illegalities and impartiality, a hallmark of IEBC from the First Poll persisted and the opposition party pulled out of the contest. Consequently, governance became a theatre of the absurd as cat and mouse games between protestors and police, disproportionate violence by security agencies towards the populace and indifference by the president-reelect became the order of the day. The Presidential legitimacy of this figurehead became a matter of conjecture and the economy consequently took another dip. When the Opposition leader ordered for Mass action and economic sabotage as a way to tame this high-handed regime the nation seemed to be at the throes of civil war. So serious was the situation that a bill was being mooted for the secession of a large tranche of Kenya from the whole. Then came January 30th 2018 and the Opposition Leader took the perilous step to be sworn-in as the People’s President of the Republic of Kenya. We now had 2 presidents and a potentially catastrophic showdown was imminent. Then much like lightening out of azure skies came the 4th of March handshake that cooled down tensions and gave the President the much needed legitimacy as full leader of Kenya.
Prior to the handshake it had been fashionable to curry favour with state by simply insulting the Opposition leader in the presence of the president. Many ills were partaken under the very auspices of state but with a lame-duck president, little if no condemnation would be forthcoming. Impunity and corruption reigned supreme under this regime but all this changed after the famous handshake. It is as if new impetus was injected into the president, legitimacy permitting and he soared above partisanship with an unheralded gust of wind under his wings. As if algid water had been splashed upon him, he suddenly woke up to the realities of a rotten legacy he was leaving behind as the worst head of state to ever have had the misfortune to pillage Kenya! As he had already secured the commencement of the constitutionally stipulated two terms he no longer saw the need to split the country merely for political expedience. His new allies became common sense and the rule of law, a move welcomed by a wide spectrum of the country. His vision became clearer. He now discovered the teeth he has always had to take corruption head on throwing both friend and foe literally under the bus. Appointing the youthful and uncompromising George Kinoti as the Director of Criminal Investigations and Noordin Hajj as the Director of Public Prosecution was a masterstroke in sensibly dealing corruption a death knell. Dispensing with the old system for the pristine is to the benefit of all who have the interest of the country at heart.
Men like Rashid Echessa who had done little to embellish his image as an unschooled and boorish character were mercifully ushered out of the cabinet to fanfare even in his native Mumias! Let Ministerial portfolios now be assigned to more competent and enlightened professionals not village louts being rewarded for paying fealty to a lost cause. Sentiments of tribal animosity like ‘Kumira-Kumira, Thuraku –Thuraku’ have been dispensed with for the more conciliatory message of Unity, Love & Peace to portend an all-inclusive development agenda. The President has now put forward the Big 4 Agenda to foster Manufacturing, provide affordable Housing, Improve healthCare and Food security. All of a sudden, it’s become kaleidoscopically clear that Kisumu is located on the shores of the biggest Fresh water lake in Africa and so locating a Beer Manufacturing plant there would bode well with this aim of job creation and increasing manufacturing where water availability is no conundrum. This is in antipathy to what we have witnessed for years where disenfranchisement of the region was hallowed as ‘uncircumcised barons of poverty would be left to roast in their own well-documented obstinacy and unwavering opposition to the government of the day. That change of tact is heart-warming just the same way the President is now viewed as a welcome visitor in Luo-Nyanza, by and large anywhere in Kenya. A few months ago many were wondering if the right driver had been assigned to our collective bus but now he looks too young to retire!
And sure enough the chickens are coming home to roost as the age of sacred cows draws to a close. With the political salve against perversion in the name of protecting the Presidency exhausted, heads are now rolling. The blue-eyed boy of the Jubilee administration, Mr. Henry Rotich was finally caught with his fingers firmly stuck in the cookie jar and duly fired from his portfolio at treasury and arraigned in court over his transgressions. A sitting Governor from the President’s own backyard is also in hot soup for allotting tenders worth over a Billion bob to an entity with familial links to himself and no other prequalification of either expedience or track record of service delivery. The wheels of the juggernaut called the anti-corruption initiative now appear well greased by political will and are milling them big and small. Not in the least, this could be Mr. Kenyatta’s saving grace as he attempts to salvage his legacy from the fires of mediocrity that has plagued his stint. Win this fight and we will eternally hail him as the greatest leader we have ever had. He will also have set a precedent any of his successors will ill afford to eschew and so in a refrain made famous by our former president H.E. Daniel Moi, “na hiyo ni Maendeleo.”
The tragedy of this world is that history always conveniently chooses to overlook the contributions of the precursor. My reverence for Alexander the Great stands undisguised! He achieved so much in such a little time and displayed such incredible wit in doing so that you cannot help but marvel at the splendour of it all. An ignored fact of history is that he would never have achieved any of that were it not for Phillip II; his father, who no doubt figuratively set the canvas and provided most of the hue his son used to paint the masterpiece the great Greco-Macedonian dominion became. The great scholar and tutor; Aristotle, was also in part responsible for both the philosophical and pedagogical formation of Alexander III. Unbeknown to many, in his youth Phillip II was the archetypal ambitious if not just rambunctious child who would not let anyone hold him back from attaining what he wanted. He was born and brought up as one of the heirs to the Argead dynasty of Macedonian Kings. He was the youngest son of King Amynas III and Queen Eurydice I and so had to throw his weight around to improve his lot in the royal succession mix. The men of his day earned respect not by scholarly pursuit but by valour in the battlefield. For his headstrong nature he once got himself captured in an infantile excursion, trespassing into the Greek nation state of Illyria at the impressionably tender age of 14. He was held for ransom there and later in Thebes. His insight and unyielding mien even under captivity reigned supreme ensuring he was soon taken under the wing of renowned Theban commanders Epaminondas and Pelopidas, enlightened souls who bequeathed him with a copious amount of tutelage on military organization and diplomacy. He was repatriated on a prisoner-exchange deal back to Macedon 3 yrs later having grown in both physique and psyche. In due course, the cruel hand of war took its toll on his two older brothers weaving a clear path for his ascension to the Macedon throne on his father’s death 6 years after his return. As one of the more capable rulers; he instituted the Macedonian Phalanx – involving longer spears than the opponents for the infantry, an unheralded tactical formation in battle that laid waste to all of his opponents. On conquering the city-states of Athens and Thebes mostly thanks to his expansionist vision, Phillip II consolidated his authority over his massive see. His conquest over the two vanquished titans ultimately saw him elected; albeit under duress, the paramount Hegemon for the federation of Greek states dubbed ‘The League of Corinth’ additionally serving as Commander-In-Chief of the entire sovereignty. Not a creature to eschew the rolling of the proverbial sleeves, 3 years into his reign he got his right eye wounded by an enemy archer in the heat of the battle of Methone, a sphere of influence of Athens but soldiered on to win that battle. He lost his eye but won the war over a territory with massive reserves of gold and silver, a pyrrhic victory of sorts. It is this indomitable spirit that laid the foundation which Alexander the Great inherited to build upon. Alex III began getting blooded in battle from his teens and by the age of 16 reigned partially as regent and heir-apparent when his father; the Macedonian warlord, was engrossed in yet another military campaign. Alexander fully took over authority at the age of 20 following the assassination of his old man, incidentally being blindsided on the left-side by his son as his very own trusted bodyguard lurched upon a lapse in security to stab him fatally. On that fateful day, incidentally the wedding day of his daughter Cleopatra and Alexander I of Epirus; he let his guard down ceremonially and rather nonchalantly riding in his chariot, brother of the bride – the Crown Prince Alexander III in tow. Long but hopefully instructive digression I suppose.
In the previous blog I entreated the antiquated yet obstinate strongman to take the dignified step and call time on his decorated political career. This in itself is a simplistic outlook that ignores the obvious shortcomings of leadership in the third-world, in token by and large of the people being governed. It is an entire complex equation full of variables, functions of state, combinations, permutations, matrices and some other aspects of happenstance which are mutually exclusive and cannot all be replicated for two different sets of circumstances. There are well worn sentiments that the leadership cadre is just a microcosm of the masses being governed. In most cases the polity is not any different from the politicians they elect. Even the hallowed commentator on matters governance Niccolò Machiavelli in his masterpiece; The Prince, observed that there is never a real change in leadership even when power changes hands from one individual to the next. It is just a game of musical chairs by the same monkeys but in different forests. We as humans share similar traits that become even more indistinguishable and primal the less enlightened the individual is. Human nature is so complex that either hatred or adoration can be kindled by performing similar acts of good or evil for a homologous audience on different days. The factor here is time while logic is cast out of the window. The uninitiated will judge more by the eye than by the hand as everyone can see but few can feel or less still perceive. If a different person is given power he is vulnerable to commit the same acts of corruption for personal aggrandizement, sexual perversion to buttress their social status, tax evasion merely to dishonour Caesar, hypocrisy while hoodwinking the blind albeit foolhardy and witless of their none-existent love for the Almighty.
After 20 – 40 years in power, a head of state is usually too full of himself to even countenance advice from the men and women in his payroll expressly for that purpose. He oft views himself as a god – ‘Father of the Nation’ and even a Professor of Politics despite open defiance and betrayal of the trust of the electorate who put him in power the first time. His morning starts with the infernal massaging of his ego, “mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the most beneficent of them all?” In his considered opinion it’s obviously he. He deludes himself that he’s the best thing since buttered bread and goes ahead to abolish presidential term limits. Some use the most flimsy of excuses to move the tentative start date of their presidential term forwards basing it on the day a certain minor constitutional amendment was made. Election dates are affected, postponed to such an extent that they become fuzzy and someone ends up serving a 5 year term in may be 6, 7 up to 8 years. This is in absolute contravention of the same constitutional ambit they disregard with ruthless abandon in their refusal to retire. They fiddle with term limits until they ultimately drop dead and their game is mercifully over. There is no postponing the visit of the grim reaper! The more callous will just announce that they have decided to become ‘President for Life’ and whoever has a problem can go create his own country and become its leader. These are men and women way past the confines of basic decency with some displaying not just the onset of dementia but senility, both of which are crippling handicaps not worthy of my derision in token of my upbringing as the son of a medical practitioner. You have no doubt heard a few quoting the hard to locate Biblical verse about leadership coming from God. I have often mumbled under my breath; no doubt miffed half to death, why God would hate us so much as to saddle upon our collective backs an incompetent, conniving and quixotic ignoramus to lead us when there are so many worthy candidates in our midst? Instructive to note, the sagacious grey-head will look at the sunset and decide it is now time to groom if not anoint a fitting successor.
This begs the question – What constitutes a competent successor?
I will beseech any retiring supremos boasting grey-matter to take time and sift through the wheat and chaff to get a man or woman who best displays leadership qualities, a predilection for effective stewardship. This includes courage in adversity, resilience, integrity, a belief in hard work, analytical thinking and most importantly an effective communicator. Get a guy with charisma and gravitas to always rise to the occasion on a need basis. Get one who is aggressive in the pursuit of results but still affable as to keep the team under him happy to be his subordinates.
Make haste to identify the right protégé early when public goodwill is still on your side. Timing is of the essence as the patience of even your most ardent supporter is neither infinite nor eternally assured. It will get frayed and before you can blink evaporate in the heat of your tardiness in bidding farewell. Even a good idea at first instance loses its traction as soon as a better one comes into the picture. To illustrate this I will regal y’all with yet another anecdote. King David son of Jesse is the most celebrated of Jewish Kings. Even today the Israeli standard bearer has the Star of David, the royal insignia in its drapery. He wrote the Book of Psalms to give praise and adulation the Lord. His piety and gratitude for divine providence was such that he personally wanted to build a temple for the Lord. When he put this by his creator he was turned down but with a caveat. “The resplendent domicile for my habitation will be built by your son Solomon, the fruit of Bathsheba’s womb.” He was slightly pained but you don’t argue with divine precepts. He consequently spared no effort in ensuring Solomon was up to the task. He even fended off on his young son’s behalf the individual claims to the throne by his older half-brothers Absalom sired from Maacah and later Adonijah son of Haggith. Ultimately Solomon succeeded his father as King, prayed for wisdom and was granted, eventually building and consecrating a fitting sanctuary for his Lord. Furthermore, he authored the Books of Proverbs & Ecclesiastes as a fitting tribute to the seeds of discernment his father planted in him. He would almost assuredly never have attained all this were it not for the proper whetting of his leadership scythe by his father just in the nick of time.
Mentor your preferred successor to ensure he works in a manner more similar if not better than what you delivered. Mentorship is an important factor of success. It enables one to take a shorter time to reach the rhetorical ‘cruising-altitude’ for success while cutting out the unnecessary teething problems they would have experienced in the absence of a seasoned predecessor. There is nothing better than learning from a titan who has been there and done that. As a retiring statesman do not be selfish with counsel in clear obeisance of folk wisdom that though one candle lights the other, it will lose none of its current luminous intensity in the aftermath. Be the epitome of altruism. Veteran ruler, worry not about the overshadowing of your legacy by your apprentice as I am of the school of thought that the mentorship of a suitable successor will hold you in good stead with your assayers when legacies are ultimately compared. There is no better way in ensuring your successor follows through on your development agenda than this.
Tutelage is never enough as actions speak louder than words. Guide your successor on all the facets of the system that is government. How do you achieve this? Have your protégé in leadership positions for small committees, boards, office parties and the like. Elect him as your representative on a fund-raising initiative so that he sees how it is done. You cannot train a grown-up on morality but be sure to make it clear to them that IFMIS is a system to facilitate accountability in government expenditure and procurement not to rob the financier of its all, the tax-payer! In the sentiments well parlayed by the good book in Proverbs 22:6, “Teach your child in the ways they should follow and even in their old age they will not depart from it.” Stewardship delegation ensures that your successor not only earns invaluable experience in the art of governance but it heightens the prospect that when the time is opportune he will do the same with his potential successor. It’s a wholesome tradition to initiate. In Kenya we had this man, Professor George Saitoti. He had a well-calculated political career paying credence to his academic and professional expression as a Professor of Mathematics. He was the Kenyan Vice-President for 13 years; later in his tenure, additional to the portfolio of VP he grasped steadfast the critical docket of Planning and National Development for 7 years; Minister for Education, Science and Technology for 4 years; Minister for Finance for 4 years – without any of the mortifying ‘Computer errors’ in computation of the national budget one his successors had to explain away and lastly held the Ministry of Internal Security for 4 years until his untimely demise. I am left to rue what such a character oozing oodles as far as experience in high-level governance is concerned would have done for Kenya if he were to become President. If Moi would have considered either he or Raila Odinga instead of political green-horn Uhuru Kenyatta, wouldn’t the cockerel of KANU have continued to crow well past the half a century mark? Likely yes!
After retirement I would enthuse the long-standing ‘Father of the Nation’ to take an advisory role of the elder statesman. You could decide to have a quiet retirement but any decision is at your sole discretion or that of your successor. Attend national events from time to time making your presence felt. Also take time to tend to your livestock and spare some more to tell tales of yore to your grand-children and their children as they also need you for their dose of folklore. Make reparations with all you have wronged and set your affairs straight with both the Deity and fellow man. Catch up with some surviving village mates for a jig or two. They need it.
As Africans we are tired of seeing once venerable shining lights of their generation retiring as grizzled old men; our grand-fathers, being chiseled off the Presidential throne for the graveyard. We are equally tired of the instability that inevitably results from regime change in some of our banana republics. Imagine if Muammar Gadaffi of Libya had groomed a successor in advance, what a flourishing tale the continuation of his legacy would have been? Instead of forebears beating their chests and informing us condescendingly, “I told you so” when a handover leads to chaos, it is only proper that one grooms an able successor as an expression of not just maturity as a leader but also authentic patriotism.
Alexander III, King of Macedonia was a man of inimitable achievement. That he ultimately earned himself the eternal moniker of ‘Alexander the Great’ is not a matter of conjecture but something borne out of solid achievement. As stated in an earlier blog he conquered the entire known ancient world from Western Europe to Northern Africa stretching all the way to Asia at the bank of the Jhelum River in the Hydaspes Valley in Modern day Pakistan. Before that he was already regaled as not just one of royal upbringing and the heir-apparent to the Argead dynasty which then rested on the lap of his father Emperor Phillip II but also as a great intellectual and military tactical savant of his time. He once quipped in passing, “I would rather live a short life of glory than a long one of obscurity.” He was ultimately proved right but rather fatefully. He was of such exquisite military poise that he never tasted defeat in battle in his prime. However, despite his acquisitions and holding steadfast to the path of the sublime and personal fulfillment, his life came to that anticipated end at the tender age of 32 ostensibly from a bout of Malaria! Who said the anatomically insignificant mosquito is not dreadful? Like Hip-hop great Tupac Shakur, this icon personally presaged the small vial that was to be the confines of the days numbered for his life (Sic)! But I digress.
A sage of his time once uttered that if a hero lives long enough he will inevitably suffer the transformation into an unrecognizable villain, abhorrent and an utter anathema even to the principal beneficiaries of his reign of beneficence. The World over, most especially in Africa this statement has rung ever so true. Venerable orators, intellectually gifted political minds of the day and military strategists fought and attained the independence of their nations. Later they were hailed as heroes when they presided the downing of the colonial standard-bearers and hoisting of the new and audacious flags of the fledgling, pristinely-minted African states. Many basked in the brilliance of the great inferno that burnt to ashes the final vestiges of colonialism and ushered in self-determination. The aforementioned heroes almost automatically became Heads of State and Government. They reveled in all the euphoria, good-will and legitimacy as leaders of the masses. Then came the Coup-d’état craze of the 70’s as a means to regime change by either those who became disenchanted by native rule or the expected horde of know-it-alls and the perennially dissatisfied. In a critical mass of African states the coups were successful after both the blood of patriots and tyrants was shed to forcefully effect change of power. All the same, a few of the independence leaders successfully maintained their grip onto state largesse. Then came the 90’s and the new fad was democracy which was force-fed down the throats of many African ‘strongmen’ by Western Powers fuelled by Bretton-Woods institutions as a pre-condition for the acquisition of donor funds after the primordial leaders and their acolytes had already plundered their areas of jurisdiction to bankruptcy.
Fast-forward and the year is 2001. What moral authority does a man who took over power in the 1960’s still have to still be called ‘Mr. President’ sir? Many still bark like rabid mongrels about being Independence heroes, revolutionaries, Fathers of the Nation, Last King of Scotland and Great Conquistador of the British Empire, Professors of Politics, ‘Kuku Ngbendu wa Zabanga’ loosely translating to Libido-In-Chief; Chancellor of all Universities on Land, water and Air; great hunter who ensnared & expropriated the white man back to Europe, Economic Moses leading his People to the promised land of fiscal stability, the Commander of the Praetorian guard and many other bizarre titles these now rickety old men have now conferred upon themselves. What new ideas can they possibly add to their nations 30 yrs after coming to power? What additional stratagems on national progression can a man who has had 4 decades to sit on the Presidential throne still have in reserve to pull his ailing nation out of a rut of his own creation?
Of course these owls have been fermented to a fine blend of cunning and sagacious by the winds of time so they hire Ivy-league university trained political advisors, who will infuse into them the fables they regurgitate to the masses about external powers with vested interest to re-colonize them when the story of the passing of the baton to the younger generation of leaders comes up. Prevarication of the age factor becomes a way of life as hair-lines are replenished and dyed a darker hue. They forget the well-touted sentiments that even the dancing virtuoso must live in cognizance of the most opportune time to exit the dance floor! Democracy though implemented on paper becomes an exercise in musical chairs where the votes of the victorious opposition candidates are shunted to another room outside the national tallying centre and burnt to a cinder by the incumbency and that particular man or woman beaten to a pulp for merely being the inadvertent manifestation of meritocracy! Ultimately the ‘Strongman’ succumbs to the vagaries of age; he is taken to a London, Lisbon, Singapore or Paris hospital for a ‘routine’ medical check-up which could as well be the motions of final rites before passing on! News of the colossus’ demise is kept a national secret for a fortnight before irrefutable footage is streamed by the Diaspora community of bloggers confirming that the ‘Elephant’ is no more. The Vice-President; now acting as President, hurriedly convenes a press conference to confirm these reports and save his team blushes. Both legitimate and the usual crocodile tears are shed while the nation plunges into mourning all the while breathing a sigh of relief. But I dare query why a man should grip the helm of power so hard that it must take the icy scythe of the grim reaper to dissociate his fingers from it?
A few weeks ago there were reports from Sudan that long-time President Hassan Omar Al-Bashir, ICC-resistance emeritus had been gently nudged by the military from office and now they held power in his stead at the behest of the People of the Republic of Sudan in reaction to popular protests. While I was going to paper, reports from news outlets both verified and otherwise seem to indicate that Sudan is to be kicked out of the African Union if they don’t move with haste to put authority back to the hands of a Civilian leader soonest possible. This is a clear case of hypocrisy as many of these other African countries in the same token have pot-bellied, Amherst College alumni rulers who are only proxies of their National Armies & the deep state! But what do I know? I am just but a mere ‘Inferus cum-Laude’ Graduate of Engineering and not even Political Science!
Many a long time leader has been forced to vacate office in pretty much the same fashion lard is melted off a knife by fire this being equated to the irresistible heat of change. Like a bush-fire; the Arab spring of 2011 fronted coincidentally by the self-immolation of the Paladin & Martyr of the Fight for Economic Emancipation – the youthful & most venerable; Mohammed Bouazizi proliferated as a new consciousness disabusing the norm among the sons and daughters of Africa. In his honour followed the crumbling to dust of the reigns of hither-to untouchable Kings of Kings of the names Muammar Abu-Minyar Gaddafi of Libya, the Neo-Pharaoh Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and titan Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia portending that the iron curtain had finally come down on the age of titans and demi-god rulers in Africa.
Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire followed hot on their heels after election defeat and insistence to cling to office. A blueprint on how to deal with errant leaders was made out of him, being the irreverent recipient of a donkey-kick where the good Lord split him from his own armed forces and for good measure an unsolicited indictment and successful prosecution at the International Criminal Court at The Hague for Crimes against Humanity for fomenting needless post-election violence. Later also tumbled Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, answering to the ethereal clarion call pertinent to long-term illness ending a hide and seek game on his presence here or in the after-life with the media in August 2012. Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso also found himself in headlong flight from his long-cherished throne after holding power ever since yours truly was ‘in the oven’ to October 31 2014. Yahya Jammeh of Gambia was soon forced into a free and fair election contest he was ill-prepared to rig and fell to the will of the majority to Adama Barrow at 6 in the morning come 2016. Angolan longtime supremo; Jose Eduardo Dos Santos too had to call time on his tenacious grip on power in September 2017 that saw citizens of the oil-rich nation figuratively let-their –hair-down for the first time since 1979. A week before the penning of our article; long-time nemesis of this very former president so much as to be christened a rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi had been granted his long-awaited, dignified nay heroic funeral in Lopitanga village, Bie Province!
When things could not get any bizarre and they did; the military that had long propped the 37-year former bread-basket turned basket-case, pariah-state regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe did the unthinkable and simply let go. Casualties included his ex-secretary now prima-donna spouse Grace Mugabe who was accused of trying to engineer a sexually-transmitted acquisition of the leadership in ZANU-PF party! A resignation speech was read to Parliament, but you can tell that to his former right-hand man Emmerson Mnangagwa as comic relief! After lengthy dithering and growing of the ‘Prophetic’ snow-white beard, Joseph Kabila was forced to call for elections in DRC and finally retire from office. Penultimate out of the door was the previously thought of messiah in Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. After ending a bloody civil war in the earlier years of his regime in 2002, he governed in so much apprehension that he eternally reserved the Ministry of Defence for none other than himself! That is how skeptical despots are forced to become. Though elected in 1999 and thought of as an outsider due to his origins in the Oudja protectorate of Morocco, he only knew peace when he took personal control of the national defence in 2003 in the dual role of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces and Defence Minister. He ended emergency rule in 2011 but had recently come into focus due to ineffective governance, high-handedness and you guessed it overstaying his tenancy in the Presidential palace. His announcement to contest for a fifth term in April 2019 was the last straw that broke the Algerian camel’s back and violent protests forced him out. Last but slightly more benign, the revolving door that is the ANC democracy down south caught ‘Jay-Z’ more wildly famous as Jacob Zuma by the coat tails and he was thrown out in favour of Cyril Ramaphosa. There is more of a feeling of Karma about this as many fingers were pointed at J-Zee over the manner in which the gentleman President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki was forced out of his tenure. Let’s see how that one pans out!
A Theatre of the Absurd played out in Guinea-Bissau in 2009 when a sitting president spuriously and unprovoked assassinated his own headstrong Chief of General Staff and the following day revenge was swift when he was ushered into the ethereal realm himself in one of the most unheralded occurrences in Africa. On and off President João Bernado Vieira thought he had finally been ridded of his scourge only to be cleaned off the floors himself in a bloody mess the following day by his own previously loyal and patriotic national guard. Many of these tyrants have presided over kleptocratic regimes that have impoverished, brutalized and killed the enterprises of their own unassuming populace. Authoritarianism and dictatorship have become the staple in our resource-rich yet dust-bowl poor continent as her wealth is carted away by the truck and cargo-plane loads to be invested in Europe and South-East Asia. After that, protests are put down by use of internet and broadcast media shutdown orchestrated with the sole intent to brook division, anarchy and ultimately blindness among the revolting faithful. Press freedom is an unknown concept in most countries in Africa. It’s merely a return to the age-old divide and rule paradigm that our colonial masters and now perfected by the newly independent darker colonizers. Also masses in the presidential home turf are hoodwinked that they are in power and consequently will fight tooth and nail in one’s corner at real and perceived threats to their man’s authority. Fueled by narcotic intoxicants and a few tots of the local brew, every political rally of the opposition will be interspersed by heckling and havoc caused by no other than these partisan hoodlums. Elections have become merely a ritual to burnish our image in the eyes of our Western trading partners and benefactors that we are progressing as mature democracies when in the actual sense that is an aberration of reality. Opposition has been cast to the periphery and even banned resulting in the execution of the veracity in flesh and bone of the sentiments averred by Thomas Jefferson nearly two and a Quarter centuries ago, “when injustice becomes law resistance becomes a duty.”
Over to you Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Paul Biya, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Idriss Deby, Isaias Aferwaki, Museveni, Nkurunzinza and Kagame. The axe awaits you if you delay your decisions. No matter how good you are sooner or later popular fatigue catches up with your people and you need not suffer the ignominy of being kicked out. Pack now and leave! Take a cue from African statesmen like Nelson Mandela, Paul Kaunda and even Daniel Moi. Despotism and the era of Methuselahs have no place in modern day Africa.
At the dawn of his reign, King Solomon prayed for wisdom to lead God’s own people and that he was granted. He ultimately became so wise he could have advised the sages and clairvoyants in his own royal court if he so wished! Unfortunately later in life though blessed with divine sagacity he ultimately found himself irretrievably consumed in the throes of sexual perversion albeit ‘primitive accumulation’ of heathen women into his homestead. To the discerning eye 700 wives & 300 concubines cannot pass for simple run-of-the-mill affection and favour for the daughters of Eve but lascivious derangement if not an obsession! Despite this ignominy, he still kept his counsel on a myriad other matters regarding all we pine and toil for in this world as vanity! Indeed it is his perceptive eye that gave us the verse in Proverbs 12: 18-19, “The Words of the reckless pierce like swords but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever but lying lips are transient.” Also sampled from his proverbs is one about gossip fanning a quarrel the same way wood fuels a fire but contiguous with my professional development as neither a Theology Professor nor a Biblical savant let me cap the preaching here.
After the handshake between the two main protagonists of the crisis that almost tore Kenya asunder; the presumptive President H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta and the most venerable former Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, a huge tranche of the simmering tensions in Kenya cooled off. However, the present chumminess between these erstwhile arch-nemeses and a steely resolve to fight corruption is putting a few people ill-at ease. The perception that they have toiled in vain against some adversary only for that force to curry more favour with their Principal than they the loyal servants has no doubt bred apprehension among the faithful in Jubilee majorly from the Rift Valley. Add to that mix a referendum that looks clearly predesigned at diluting the Presidency, reducing a certain group’s untamed future access to all state largesse enjoyed by their predecessors by creation of an alternative centre of power and you find yourself with a powder-keg. The judicious must have cast more than a passing glance when the President told off his trusty Deputy about ‘kutangatanga’ aimlessly traipsing the nation when the Big 4 agenda is still pending implementation. It did not help matters when the President named Cabinet Secretary extraordinaire Dr. Fred Matiang’i as the first among equals to the position of Chief Minister to co-ordinate and virtually ‘prefect’ the other CSs; prima-facie, undermining his very own Deputy!
As the Wiseman puts it, “when you see a dog needlessly & unreasonably bark at you harken not to its din but instead pick up a stone and strike it!” What?!! “Sooner rather than later its master will show up and he will be evident to all.” As such retributory statements have been hot and heavy, threatening dire if not unspecified consequences if the previous Memorandum of Understanding between the President and his Deputy is not honoured. As they have helped Uhuru Kenyatta secure 2 tenures, each a 5-year term already they expect a reciprocation of the same gesture when the time is ripe for the Deputy. Men and women have danced themselves lame blaming the former Prime Minister for threatening to wreak havoc that will ultimately break apart their party! Bizarre statements like, “This man has torn apart FORD-KENYA, then he ravaged KANU, he pillaged NARC and now he wants to export suicide-vest politics to our dear Jubilee.” I dare posture, what good did KANU ever do in the Republic of Kenya to warrant anyone standing tall, shedding crocodile-tears purporting to defend its honour? If one dealt an abrupt demise to the single-party depravity nay kleptocracy that was the rich substrate that nourished the mongrel called KANU that ended many an illustrious political career, he must never be reviled but instead hailed as a hero worthy of a marble statue and name in the lights so to speak. KANU was the party that lit the fuse of tribal clashes in Kenya and is worthy of interment in a forgotten grave for all time! If you can get an audience with Kenneth Matiba from the after-life he probably shares similar sentiment. Phew! Let me not desecrate the grave of a lionized General worth his weight in gold!
But my questions on this issue more often than not seem to balloon rather than get answered. For one, where does that bi-partisan deal between Uhuru & Ruto leave the rest of Kenya that has been insufficiently represented in the period Jubilee (a bi-ethnic caucus) has held the helm of power in Kenya? Secondly; what became of the democratic ideals and the norms of political competition that are currently enjoyed as the mainstay of democratic politics in Kenya, of which much blood, sweat & tears of exemplary compatriots both heroes and tyrants has been shed to attain? Why should well-heeled procedure be sacrificed at the altar of parochial political patronage and monarchy-like succession? I don’t lie when I aver that these queries keep me awake at night! In full sight of what I can only describe as political grime, this politician an elected legislator from the greater Uasin Gishu county has been heavily vocal looking for some measure of ill-acquired publicity, deprecating the rest of Kenya external to Central Kenya and the Highland Nilotes of the Rift Valley region as ‘small-kids’ not fearsome enough to worry about incase of War! This is the poster-boy and a quintessential representative of primitivism, malevolence and intellectual putrefaction that hasn’t a place not just in the 21st Century but in anyone’s political camp if you really want to unite Kenyans while harboring presidential ambitions.
Social Media is also awash with statements by arm-chair commentators & purveyors of idle-chatter on subjects casting an umbra to the knowledgeable echelons of their respective crania. No doubt paid mouth-pieces, they exist primarily as enemies of both commonsense and development regaling us with pseudo-prophesies about characters who will ‘Never be Presidents in Kenya.’ They even erroneously elucidate Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga as one of those, in clear anti-pathy to verifiable information in the public purview that Raila served as co-President to Mwai Kibaki in the unfortunately resuscitated Office of 2nd Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya as per the stipulations of the National accord of 2008. He enjoys universal good-will in Kenya to such an extent that he had to be forcefully sworn-in as the People’s President in exercise of direct Sovereignty by the people themselves, constitutionally enshrined in Chapter 1, Article 1 Clause 2 of our Constitution which had to be wrested back to where it belongs back in January 2018. Surreal but true! Africa also took note and feted him for his struggles in enhancement of democracy naming him Africa Union’s Special envoy for Infrastructure and all the trappings that come with the position. Enough of the trumpet blowing for a candidate miles ahead of the rest!
The planned Referendum in Kenya is threatening to become mired in ad-hominem strife for leadership positions by the Kenyan elites in future instead of addressing the lacunae in our current constitution that hamper meaningful governance and devolution. This is not supposed to be the case. As a populace we must yearn towards the reduction of both our taxation burden and repayment of the giant debt owed to the Chinese. We must look to constitutionally strengthen oversight and our role in decisions made with regard to infrastructural loans, more so asking for feasibility studies and a clear road-map of Return-on-Investment before expropriationate decisions on our finances are taken ostensibly for our own good!
The ordinary man is more often than not meek, submissive and law abiding. He has already been irrevocably humbled by his modest circumstances in life to sheer subservience. He just wants the best for his family. The ordinary Kenyan man is of simple ambitions stated in an earlier blog: To own a 5-acre plot, 4-wheel Drive vehicle, live in a 3-bedroomed house, raising 2 children and bound in matrimony to 1 wife! He is yoked to his neighbour by their struggles against poverty regardless of their regional affiliations. He needn’t be vexed to worry further about who becomes President or not. Why continue to hammer down upon him using intimidation and threats to inordinate violence? Desperation birthed of threats must surely yield animus, fear, great anger, civil-disobedience and ultimately social upheaval when his loved ones are threatened. When a cat is pushed to the wall you can be sure of a counter-strike whose magnitude of cataclysm you may ill desire to witness. You surely cannot preach democratic gains during the day yet practice exclusionism at night where Kenyans are forced to retreat to safe zones every election cycle. Things are getting worse as the moral of the story sinking in is when you stay put and predictably get butchered by some proscribed tribal militia bankrolled by the incumbency there will be no ICC to avenge you! You could fight in someone’s corner but in case you are killed, there won’t even be someone to contest for your retribution as unity governments are quickly formed and life goes on. This is thoroughly disconcerting and is slowly killing our hard-earned democratic gains. Being civil and slow to your quiver should never be construed as a sign of weakness but must instead be decorated. Why allow an advanced economy and democracy, indeed an esteemed footstool for the beacon of enlightenment to the rest of Africa to be governed by the fear of repression?
Good-will from the peace-fomenting handshake is what we critically need to be wielded in opprobrium against the agents of violent posturing. As a former student of engineering cavorting as a political commentator allow me to indulge you with this analogy. A gradual cool-down of tensions is similar to what we learnt in Metallurgy and Material Science about rapidly cooled metallic formations as brittle & fickle no matter the elements involved while ponderously annealed edifices are the strongest structures money can buy. Let’s be wise to learn from our errors in 2007, the Rwandan Genocide and the German Holocaust. Rulers who fail to learn from history risk repeating it to the detriment of us all. Instead of fanning tribally-inflamed animosity via incendiary statements we should be advised to go for conciliatory sentiments like newly-minted convert into statesmanship, Gov. Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu. We should understand that political contests are only for a while and afterwards comes service delivery. We did not choose to be born in Kenya. However as a conglomeration of disparate nation states we should work more towards engaging areas of similarity and shun division.
Forcing tainted candidates upon the citizenry. Fire and brimstone is threatening to rain down if one particular candidate will not be elected Kenyan President in 2022 if some highly-vociferous sources are to be believed. However, there is little credential to support that gentleman’s bid to be Commander-In-Chief. This is a man who has never seriously spoken against corruption instead always working under the table to marshal a cabal of tribal chiefs and other riff-raff to rubbish anti-corruption initiatives as a regional witch-hunt. He is a good student of parochialism and the ‘God-father’ brand of political patronage. He is one man who believes that the only unity that is of beneficence to Kenya is the one fostered between the aforementioned Central Highland Bantus and their counterparts the Highland Nilotes of the Kenyan Rift. Indeed as one-half of the duo that rode on popular dissent from their two tribes against the International Criminal Court (ICC) process christened ‘neocolonialism’ into Statehouse not much can be expected of the guy. As ICC-indictee emeritus, he still cleaves to the same paradigm that took him there in the first place – Sing hymnals during the day but pay war-mongers when the sun goes down. When in 2010 a majority of Kenyans voted for a promulgation of an improved Supreme law of the land he chose the path of the conservative deciding to cling for just a bit longer to the old constitution that had disenfranchised a majority of Kenyans for eons. Moreover, it had even brought us to the brink of civil strife when an unpopular president was rigged in by simple majority in 2007. As a master-spinner of public sympathy to his favour; a firm commitment to environmental conservation that must surely start with the removal of human populations from our water towers has been stammered at best and incoherent at worst from a guy with much vaunted eloquence. This is an expert propagandist if not a callous schemer who has invented some nebulous contest between ‘Dynasties’ and ‘Hustlers’ to enhance his lot further despite clear evidence he has never been a ‘hustler’ in the street sense of the word. Need I mention his murky acolytes, hangers-on, lackeys, ideologues and sycophants who find themselves embroiled in one mega-corruption scandal after the other that drain not just our generated but loan-powered national reserves! Yet someone is still ready to risk life & limb for such a decrepit character to be a Head of State in Kenya. Are we so keen to auction our soul to the devil as a nation? Please!
Anti-corruption Commitment. It has been in our folklore for centuries that when light appears darkness dissipates. When the ‘Kumira-kumira’ madness was at its most fervent agents of corruption and autocracy were insulated against prosecution by the innocuous act of spewing bilge against Raila Odinga and the entire NASA brigade. All you needed to do was speak ill of some obscure witch-doctor who is adept at dishing out tropes despite his status as an ‘uncircumcised cur’ to curry favour with the incumbency! However, post-handshake and someone stirring up to the realities of securing a legacy for himself has seen a new resolve in countering friend and foe who engage in corruption. Important to note nevertheless, is that the newly invigorated fight against corruption by our President fronted by DPP and DCI is not a witch hunt but an exercise in anthemic patriotism. Haji and Kinoti must continue to wear their efforts as a badge of honour not just to themselves but as a proud heritage to future generations of their progeny, a high calling bestowed upon them by Kenyans. This is the acme of civic responsibility and a stipulation of the oath of office for the presidency.
My message to the President is to be presidential! Don’t give in to forces that will drain your authority while your Presidential term is still valid. Divorce friendship from business as familiarity breeds contempt. As a national symbol of unity, wield your power like a sceptre of dominion. You now have universal validation and legitimacy as leader of Kenya. Rein in on war mongers and hit them with the hammer of justice in state purview and exercise the tools of the monopoly to state violence against such people without Fear, Favour and with minimal Mercy. Freedom of expression permitting, no regard is to be paid to belligerent sabre-rattlers who risk unraveling of our hard-earned civil liberties for merely a pot of soup and a song.
No one could have put it better than the sages when they stated, “There is always a first time for everything, even the journey of a thousand miles starts with but a single step.” It has taken eons but I finally had a reunion with the inner echelons of an airplane. The last time was in 2003 when as an esteemed member of the Aviation Club at my Alma mater Mang’u High School, we went to Juja Preparatory Academy for the Aviation Symposium.
After presentations of projects and the public infamy of my ‘co-pilot’ and I presenting an incorrigibly impractical prototype of a flying vehicle much to the amusement of the multitude, it was time to be indulged. Our recompense was to fly in Hon. William Gitau Kabogo’s Chopper from Juja Prep to Thika and back in a 5-minute round trip.
The aforementioned character was then the MP for the expansive Juja Constituency. A decade and a half later we have a new constitution, new boundaries meaning no giant Juja but in its stead we have a smaller Juja, Ruiru and Thika Constituencies. A less touted development is the aforementioned reunion between airborne conveyance and I. It’s been long coming and as such it was my first International flight out of Kenya, quite an enthralling experience nonetheless. It was to be an airborne odyssey from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Aeroporto International Quatro de Fevereiro in Luanda, Angola.
Let me move on to the subject matter of my piece today.
Luanda is in many ways similar to Nairobi. The divergence however comes in the medium of communication. Kenya is a member of the auspicious commonwealth a region referred to as Anglophone in respect not just of our colonial master the British Crown but also our predilection to use of the English language as lingua franca. Ironically; despite homophonal similarities with the prefix Anglo-, Angola is a Lusophone country paying homage to their colonial heritage in Portugal. It is a special privilege in Africa shared with only Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome e Principe and starting 2011 Equatorial Guinea. While in Nairobi we have Kiswahili as the National language and English as the Official tongue, Luanda is akin to ‘Lisboa-Preta’ (Black Lisbon). Colonially, the City was named São Paulo da Assunção de Loanda but this mouthful had to be dispensed with on attainment of self-determination. Portuguese is both the National and Official medium for communication. For the most part, this has been a cohesive factor among the divergent Bantu tribes spread over the length and breadth of Angola. They have an expansive coastline straddling the entire Western border where Luanda is located to the North. Consequently, we are oft bombarded by the famous, cool Benguela current breeze from the Southern Atlantic Ocean that we previously only read about in Geography books but now we experience it first hand, the coastal heat notwithstanding. Use of Portuguese has forestalled any contests of ethnic superiority in Angola that still plague my motherland Kenya and as such the spotlight is on infrastructural development and national unity for shared prosperity.
For those not in the loop, the Portuguese culture as has been inculcated into Angola and their directly opposite, transatlantic, homo-lingual neighbour Brazil is quite permissive. People intermingle freely as a sea of humanity. Here you find globalization at its best. While in Nairobi palaver is an intimate matter between 2 people or a specific close-knit group, in Luanda you can enter a hotel or bar in Quifica in the suburbs and just join in a conversation unprompted. That was quite a culture shock for me and my Kenyan contingent who in the first place do not know a single word of Portuguese (PS: We are having to catch up fast in token of all the good girls we are missing). Then for their greetings, they have adopted the Europeanized, liberal culture where instead of shaking hands with a member of the opposite gender, you gently rub cheeks with a light kiss. You can imagine my dilemma when I was introduced to an elegant, portly, young lady and extending my hand to her she rejected instead pushing her rosy cheeks towards me and I had no option but reciprocate the gesture while holding the small of her back. I will discuss in a future post the inner warmth and sense of fulfillment within that can only be the trigger of a civil suit for indecent assault by ladies of less pulchritude for similar salutation in Nairobi. Luanda a vida é louca! Phew, Thank God I am single! Men too hug depending on the level of familiarity more often than can be permissible in the streets of Nairobi even under that convivial smile of the statue of Tom Mboya.
The Public transport culture in Luanda is equally as vibrant as in Nairobi. With almost similar Chinese sponsored infrastructural development much transport across the city has been facilitated. There are traffic jams but less rampant than Nairobi. However, with fewer vehicles the worst traffic jam could only be like what you see between Runda & Muthaiga at 9 a.m. Slow but moving. And I am talking about their busiest street of Morro Bento in the industrial area of the city. The roads in Luanda have long stretches before you can find a turn as opposed to the many roundabouts on Uhuru Highway in Nairobi. Back to public transport in Luanda, their version of Matatu is more decorous and organized than what we have in Kenya. We have the 14 seaters that carry 13 passengers, the conductor and driver. They have organized pick up and drop off points not the double packing and the Too-Fast Too-Furious u-turns you see with matatus on Ronald Ngala street or in Railways stage heading to Rongai. The Kenyan innovation ‘Sambaza’ a piece of wood that is used to leverage on sitting space in a Kenyan matatu that oft leaves you questioning why you pay fare merely to end up with an injured backside has no place in Luanda public transport. The ‘Blue taxi’ the Luanda equivalent of the matatu carries to its responsible capacity and that is that.
They also have many more of the 60-seater buses that are even more popular and spacious not to forget ruthlessly efficient with minimal fuss. For Personal vehicles the most popular brands are Datsun, Mazda, Mahindra and Hyundai considered backwater rickshaws as far as eclectic Nairobian sensibilities are concerned.
Traffic police here are dignified men and women who strictly facilitate order on the thoroughfares as opposed to their Kenyan counterparts who get into shenanigans with motorists over seat belts, driving with sandals and barbarically grab the back of people’s trouser merely for pecuniary benefit (bribes)!
The Luanda CBD is similar in architecture to the Nairobi City Centre. As a matter of fact, there is a street I have passed and thought I was on Kenyatta Avenue with similar infrastructure, an old post office and constrained parking space that saw our chauffeur drive around in circles as we executed our brief for the day. In pretty much the same way we have Times Towers in Haile Selasie Avenue and UAP Towers in Upper Hill as the tallest buildings in Nairobi, here in Luanda we have the Ocean Towers a sort of twin-tower complex; an architectural masterpiece no less, hosting office space, a shopping complex and residential apartments.
Both wings soar to 25 floors apiece and are a resplendent feature visible from the airplane when you are hovering over the Atlantic trying to find the best landing angle. They also have the Sonangol Building complex on Largo Rainha Ginga street, a combination of rectangular and cylindrical facades whose zenith looks similar to the KICC in Nairobi.
Talatona is similar to Westlands, Nairobi in-lieu of the lofty and idyllic sky-scrapers hosting business parks & high-end office space.
The most prepossessing aspect of Luanda construction is the interior design. Exquisite may be an understatement when used as an adjective to describe the finishing, furnishings and structural integrity of most buildings. Architecture may have greater value in Luanda comparable with Nairobi. For many homesteads, an outside patio sitting area or a veranda for bungalows and a balcony for flats and duplexes are an archetypal feature of Luanda residential real estate. Even in the mass market habitation, the same lofty standards prevail.
Nova Vida vs Runda
While in Angola I enjoy the great pleasure of being hosted within the confines of a leafy, green suburb. This is the equivalent of Runda in Nairobi, La Estado Nova Vida. Just like the aforementioned estate, Nyari and Kitsuru in Nairobi this one hosts the newly rich and mostly young but affluent family units, expatriates (like myself) & the local white community. It is quite a homely neighbourhood that domiciles high-end schools, a gym, a shopping complex and residential units. The chirping of birds and the lulling gush of the air conditioning unit is the most noise I ever get to experience. Needless to say, I pen this article from the tranquility of Nova Vida, in hand a tall glass of chilled coke away from the hustle and bustle of the commercially vibrant Luanda CBD which is of great solace to my literary muse.
Kilamba vs Buruburu
Middle-class habitation is also top-notch in Luanda. An alluring variant of middle-class habitation I have had the great fortune to visit is Estado Kilamba in downtown Luanda. It is a block of flats, each unit standing between 12–14 floors, one of the best organized multi-familial abodes I have seen anywhere in Africa. These are served by spacious and top of the range lifts. Even Buruburu estate in Nairobi does not scratch the surface of the pageantry of Kilamba. Unfortunately, the genesis of Kilamba is of a stalled mega-project by Chinese contractors to house their staff while exploiting business opportunities and the construction boom in Luanda. Abysmally for them, due to a downturn in the Angolan general economy precipitated by a crash in oil prices and a crunch on infrastructural growth the habitation was abandoned.
The Chinese built an entire estate of comely and well-organized flats, served by tarmacked driveways, walkways manned by in-situ traffic lights right in a compound with several flats even having dedicated rooftop BTS towers for telecommunication. Kilamba is the estate to live. A basketball court beside every few blocks of flats is the pick of this picturesque estate. Haphazardly scattered refuse is definitely not a by-word here, with well-manicured lawns the standard-bearer in this esteemed estate. Talk about a decent and dignified middle-class habitation.
Incidentally, the slums are just as miserable as in Kenya if not worse. I have actually seen a mother and daughter foraging in the dustbins of Kilamba before making the long, de-humanizing journey back to the slum area. In a township called Olympia, life is just as unbearable, valueless, short and brutish as any slum in Kenya with narrow streets, rhino-charge themed paths for driveways (unmotorable by small vehicles), emasculating tin shacks, sewage on the street and poor infrastructure. The homologous address in Nairobi is the world-famous Olympic area in Kibera.
Visit to the Local
As home to the effervescent Latino culture in Africa, the most popular music listened to is Kizomba. We have the local Kuduro and other styles but the preeminent clubbing scene is serenaded by Kizomba music, a creole mélange between local African and Portuguese music. Cuca is to Luanda what Tusker is to Nairobi if you have to imbibe in the tipple. Another item copied from Portuguese culture is the festival called the Carnival. This is an exhibit of cultural freedom and diversity where humanity mingles and enjoys each other’s company, the sun, culture, music, dance and many other blessings bestowed upon us by the creator.
In Luanda and most of Northern Angola, the predominant political party is MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola). The southern part is majorly anti-MPLA but for the most part the atmosphere is not as heavily politicized as in Kenya. People are more concerned about their unity and progress as a nation.
It was not always this way and growing up I remember hearing about the rebel insurgency spearheaded by Jonas Savimbi under the UNITA banner. When Savimbi met his doom in 2002, the remaining rebel leaders were coerced by circumstances to sign a pact for the cessation of hostilities with long-time President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Then aggressive reconstruction and industrialization ensued to the extent that Angola is one of the top 10 biggest economies in Africa.
The National Currency is the Angolan Kwanza. Just like the ones we are phasing out in Kenya, they have the most venerable Presidents Agostinho Neto and his successor on currency notes in ‘Kufuata Nyayo’ fashion while the 10 and 20 Kwanza coins have the legendary Queen Nzinga of the Mbundu people of Angola.
The Economy of Angola is propped up majorly on the export of Petroleum and Diamonds. Timber is also one export but not on a large scale. On the Import column is almost any item of foodstuff, electronics, stationery, upholstery and ignominiously water! All but the massive, burrowing, amphibious rodent — the Vlei rat roasted on the streets and cassava have to be imported. Through no fault of their own, it is too dangerous to till the land to grow their own food. This is mostly thanks to the landmines set during the previously discussed civil war. This discomfiture in the balance of trade is a major factor in making life expensive in Luanda. Tap water is deemed unsafe for drinking so water has to be imported from adjacent South Africa or far away diametric opposite Brazil or much further, half-a-globe away in Portugal. There is a saying here that Water is more valuable than Petroleum which is not a misnomer but a statement of reality! A Litre of water is at a going rate of 600 Kwanza (approximately 150 Kenya Shillings) per litre while Super Petrol in the most expensive Gas station is priced at 160 Kwanza (~ 40 KES).
I have thus practically seen a clerical employee arrive at work, forget to switch off his car engine such that it ran the entire day and come evening he came to his car, was slightly bemused, got in, reversed and went home without as much as a whimper. In Nairobi, if you had such an unfortunate episode of inadvertence; the cost of fuel alone can make your blood pressure rise, making you hurl insults at unseen opponents in at least four local languages while sweating the big stuff!
Dignity of Work
A technocrat leads a dignified existence in Luanda as he is commensurately remunerated to the level of professional output he exerts in his field and enterprise. Despite the costs of living you could make do and have a healthy saving of earned revenue. Crime is low as integrity is still a way of life in most of Angola a polar opposite of Nairobi. If the key-in-vehicle-ignition-for-whole-day anecdote in the previous paragraph was recounted in Kenya, no doubt it would involve a police case concomitant our culture of `pinching´ things! People in Luanda pay a great premium to exercise and fitness and are thus quite strong and healthy. It is not strange to find an alluring lady with well-toned arm and leg muscles rocking her shorts and or mini-dress going about her life nonchalantly.
Of 2-Pin Plugs & Unitel vis-à-vis Safaricom
The standard in Angola as probably is in Portugal is 2-way power sockets. I found this disconcerting as I had to get an adapter converter for my normal three-way charger plug to fulfill the basic requirement to charge my phone and laptop. An important feature to note is that almost every building has several Air conditioner units due to the sweltering coastal temperatures.
Our local preeminent mobile phone service is Unitel. The much smaller competitor is Movicel offering slightly more than a snivel for competition put in the stark context of Safaricom and Airtel in Kenya.
A strange phenomenon in Luanda is that almost everything is sold on the street by hawkers, anything!
Meat is sold by João on one corner of the street from his bag, surgically dissected proportionately with experiential precision yet on the other side a herbal concoction to heal marital problems sold by Emilia; on the next street is Sousa selling you an electrical shaver. Barbershops are predominantly an open-air affair where you have your business taken care of in the ambient of the coastal sun. An interesting phenomenon is that for most items street vendors are more expensive than the supermarkets, even the high-end international brands like Shoprite.
For instance, last weekend we met a lady with a good 3 Kg bag of potatoes on the street. They looked attractive so my colleague and I had made a decision to buy. However, a language barrier prevented us from concluding the transaction.
Piecing a few Portuguese words together coupled with my trustworthy eyes, I convinced the lady that we would be coming back for the potatoes after returning from the Supermarket. The lady’s 3 kg bag went for 2500 Kz while the supermarket rate was 1995 Kz. Your guess is as good as mine whose goods the penny-pincher Kenyan in us eventually settled for! Mercifully for the lady, she found a buyer and closed for the day before our return.
In conclusion, visiting Luanda is an eye-opener for me and I feel if possible Angola should look for overlapping spheres of interest with Kenya on import and export business and cooperate as we could have an excellent, symbiotic cross-pollination with each other’s culture. Kenya stands to benefit by lopping off the vestigial appendage of tribalism from its national psyche while Angolans will benefit by becoming more enterprising and diversifying their national economic ventures.
ith the turn of the year always comes the opportunity for a fresh, new perspective, a period of solemn oaths to eschew the errors of the previous year. More often than not it is a time not just to get new calendars but to formulate audacious, fresh resolutions with a clear goal to achieve them this time round. But apparently someone was caught flip-flopping and flailing trying to grope at the by-gone. It is none other than the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Education, Amb. Amina Chawahir Mohamed. In Roman mythology there existed the god; Janus, a two-faced deity of beginnings and duality. January was ostensibly named after this god as it holds the special position of not just being a time to reminisce about the previous year but also to yearn of the promise of the impending one. But my comparisons of Amb. Mohamed with Janus have nothing to do with promise but unfortunately with an egregious immersion into the mire of ambivalence albeit indecision. The lady was caught in two minds between flagging off the implementation of the new, progressive curriculum vis-à-vis pandering to the inertia of the status-quo and cleave to the old, predictable one just for a little longer. She was even called to task by a Parliamentary Committee on Education to explain this insipidly awkward turn of events, to which with a sleigh of the hand she just shooed away waxing lyrical about her right to change her mind even if it were “a thousand times a day.” Philosophical as she was, I do not in any way envy her in this dilemma but it’s one any incumbent CS would have had to have. But I personally would have desired to see a more resolute commitment to a predetermined and solidified policy position if not for any other docket on matters education. In public discourse, opinion was tectonically split down the middle. Thanks to the aforementioned conjecture, there was a school of thought by the conspiracy theorists that money had changed hands and as such forced the CS’s hand to revert to a position she had previously deferred for at least a year. In aversion of conflict, I chose to believe in her inalienable right to exercise her volition consequent to authority that stems from her auspicious office. But that is neither here nor there.
No one could ever put it better than the sages of yore who postured that the only constant in life is change a hyperbolic contradiction no less. In the fullness of time we had to get to a juncture where we streamlined our systems with not just best practice but with globally acceptable standards. Due to rapid technological advancements and a transition from the archaic way of life to the modern, chalk circles are gradually getting blurred expanding the planet to merely a global village. Business Process Outsourcing, shared infrastructure, cloud-hosting, co-location, pitch decks and cross-border collaborations are the new buzz words everyone now utters at every twist and turn. With the liberalization of markets and opportunities for career manifestation, Kenya has no option but to tailor itself to global trends on the same. The dictates of the anthropic principle are that a day would come when someone intelligent enough would arise to pop the question, why do we need to make a transition from the old to the new, competence-based curriculum? Each of the aims are noble and as such I will itemize them:
- Tooling of the future generation to become productive and conscientious citizens able to take their right of place in the world with pride, professionalism and confidence.
- To build a set of future leaders as all-rounded personalities that cherish co-operation, independence, inspiration, proactivity, focus able to apply their know-how if not in employment then in their own self-initiated businesses.
- Promotion of the contradictory aims of both patriotism & globalization equipped with skill, competence, attitudes, puissance and a value-set to thrive anywhere in the World-wide-web that their odyssey of life will spin for them in their pursuit of sustenance but keeping the dignity and esteem of their rich cultural heritage.
- Enable Peer-to-Peer co-operation globally, an excellent result of digitization and technology advancement that has fomented digital literacy.
- A new consciousness that promotes appreciation of extra-curricular means to sustenance like art, sports, music and film that are a very lucrative employer in the developed world.
There is an oft-touted adage that, ‘learn a skill today so that you earn from it tomorrow’. This is a universally accepted norm that education furnishes upon humanity. Personally, I am not so well versed on what the new curriculum will entail in view of the fact that I may not have been personally engaged in whatever multi-sectoral forum the education stakeholders in this country have had. However, as one nursing ambitions of one day being a father, I have a dream that my expectations of a progressive education system will come to fruition. If not for any other reason, merely to furnish my progeny with all the opportunities for the attainment of their full potential I may have missed on. The 8-4-4 Education System had its moments for effectively tooling human capital but glaring lacunae existed that going forward will have to be addressed.
To set the ball rolling youth unemployment, underemployment, depravity and misery have been the unfortunate destiny many of my compatriots have had to grapple with. What is learnt in school and the realities of the Job market and industry exist in mutual exclusion to each other. Employers complain about their apprehension about hiring fresh graduates due to a mismatch between their pedagogical development and the requirements of Industry. Indeed, there is an episode of jest going round that in school you will spend so much time learning about calculating the mass of the sun only to leave school and realize no-one cares about the mass of a source of light that has existed for eon instead there is a greater need for solar panels to harness the same sunlight! So much theoretical knowledge is gained that you question not just if you will ever have sufficient days in your life to expend it all for your benefit but wherein? From the job market stem a torrent of complaints about employers having to spend at least two-years re-tooling fresh graduates to the needs of the workplace some of whom may have spent as much as 6 years to earn that under-graduate degree in University. This is a clarion call to the KICD, NITA, Individual Universities, Professional Bodies, Industry and the Ministry of Education to work in tandem while developing policy frameworks for human capital development. Plenty of good men and women find themselves feeling frustrated, disenfranchised if not down-right robbed when after many years in school, graduate only to find out they cannot secure a job because employers say they did not get the requisite skill from a course that ostensibly was supposed to offer the same. A few were given banal tasks not concomitant with their aspired competency outcome during industrial attachment and internships. Others still because they studied a course not recognized by the respective professional licensing and regulation bodies of their fields. Many more studied using a curriculum not approved by KICD for Kenya. Let’s not even talk about tribalism, gender discrimination, nepotism, sex-for-jobs scandals and other impediments to getting a job in Kenya that no doubt leave a myriad of professionals ill at ease. We need tales of hope.
A crucial stricture I hold is to make Entrepreneurship a compulsory subject / course throughout one’s learning process. Many a time I see great business moguls who created empires beyond even their own wildest imaginations with little or no education and I am cerebrally cajoled to query if only they had the slightest shred of formal training on business and best practice coupled with their innate aptitude where would they be? As such going forward I postulate the above mentioned solution. Ironical as it is the fact that incidentally many are the graduates that haven’t an inkling how or where to monetize their long-polished areas of expertise from university. You see many tarmacking into disillusionment and oblivion looking for jobs yet the truth is that within them is ensconced that boss they seek to employ them. From a young age teach children to become creators, free-thinkers, producers, solutions-architects not dependent on anybody but themselves to drive the cogs of the gear that is their future prospects. Competence is built from consistent practice and if from a young age when the mind is still nimble, one is mentored to develop an appreciation for the value of a skill by the time he becomes an adult he would be a virtuoso and would never depart from the well-beaten mental tracks of routine for all time. I urge Academic Policy makers to re-evaluate the existing structure and have Entrepreneurship as Plan A not something to do after wasting the idealist phase of your life looking for that office job that we all know you won’t find. If available it is not in a critical mass sufficient to cater for all the new entrants into the job market annually. In the backdrop of constrained employment places & many Graduates who can’t monetize their skill, failing to nurture a business psyche from a young age is tantamount to breeding poverty. Poverty will in turn wrought inequality, the working poor, sorrow, destitution, social upheaval, drug abuse and ultimately the double whammy of terrorism & violent crime. A responsible Government must never allow its future to be sucked into this unsightly and soul-sapping wormhole in their full-knowledge.
Modern trends have birthed the concept that Mentorship is just as important as learning and know-how acquiescence. Many entrepreneurs, business leaders and seasoned professionals are a precious repository of knowledge that can potentially help future generations reach their presumptive destinations faster. Learning from the masters who have been there and done that can never be gainsaid for all who aspire to fill the shoes of these titans in years to come. Mentorship by an expert baker who had to change various ingredients, whole recipes, ovens, even burn many cakes before finally hitting the sweet-spot of near-perfection is the most valuable and irreplaceable gift you can give to a budding baker. Going forward all schools should have career days where those who have made it in life cross-pollinate with potential scions to the empires they intend to replicate and be advised accordingly. As the saying goes iron sharpens iron. An honest learning experience from one who has been there and done that by far supersedes theoretical information gained in the classroom majorly parlayed by a tutor who may themselves never have been part any of the hands-on process in the attendant fields and as such has no real-life experiences to offer. There are excellent coaches who have never themselves played the game. However, let’s live with the nuances of the proverb, ‘experience is the best teacher.’
I submit that any meaningful process for Education system review in Kenya must cater for the holistic individualized talents of the students it seeks to address. An abridged look into past experiences with Education systems in Kenya paints a picture of a concerted preoccupation with nurturing albeit elevating one form of intelligence above all others, the academic and cognitive erudition (book-smarts). Those who excelled in school were deemed the intrepid manifestation of humanity that virtually had the world at their feet. But introspection and insight from books like ‘Frames of Mind (1983)’ by Howard Gardner paints the picture of many differently-abled variants of genius. There are those in possession of:
- Linguistic flair.
- Spatial (Visual) artists.
- Logical-Mathematical Thinkers.
- Kinesthetically gifted.
- Musical virtuosos.
- Interpersonally intelligent.
- Intrapersonal Intelligence.
Hindering one from aggressively pursuing their niche from a young age is equivalent to caging your child’s potential and dooming him to a future of subservience to others. You curtail their joy of life and cap their future earning potential when you think that book-smarts are the only way to go. As a matter of fact, from Sir. Alex Fergusson’s autobiography we learn that he doesn’t regard his former superstar Wayne Rooney as the ‘Sharpest tool in the shed.’ Academically this guy was out of his depth but ultimately we have all been regaled with his football playing capabilities and a coterie of exquisite goal-scoring skills. Talk about kinesthetic genius at play. Everyone has his special artistry which if whetted they will virtually never work a day in their lives as a consequence of enjoying what they do and perpetuating their passion which is basically living the best versions of themselves. They will perform in front of kings and queens and earn acclaim. We have all borne witness to how exorbitantly the western world pays their musicians, movie stars, sportsmen, architects, sculptors, photographers, career coaches as compared to what used to be the traditional careers that every kid was pushed towards by their parents. With globalization these opportunities are available even to Kenyans, and more than any other time we have role models like Victor Wanyama, Macdonald Mariga (Football), Lupita Nyong’o (Film), Daniel Adongo (NFL) among many others to hold up to future generations. The competence-based curriculum must identify one’s strength and sharpen it early in life so that by the time you become a young adult you can easily have the confidence to take on the world and its challenges and do all that pertains to the attainment of your long-cherished dexterities.
With the new system I pray for an end to this vexation that is the preoccupation with coaching students for examinations as opposed to actual broad-based learning. In our time, acing the examination was the Holy Grail and all stops were pulled to ensure a student gets good grades, constrained learning notwithstanding. Rote-learning as opposed to actual mastery of subject matter was the order of the day which is actually reprehensible because many are the high performing students who lack even the basics of critical and analytical thinking not to say any form of mastery of the coursework they were supposedly studying. Many forget all they learnt after the exam as for most part their minds were forced to play the role of a sponge that absorbs so much fluid rapidly but with slight pressure releases it all with little or almost nothing retained going forward. In Kenya this system had brought forth an intricate web of examination cheats and was a thriving business. My worry then was if integrity was not enforced in the academic process, how the hell are you going to produce upright citizens who uphold professional ethics and thus have virtue inculcated within the structure of their being? When Dr. Fred Matiang’i was made the Education Cabinet Secretary many cartels for this perversion were smashed and as such meritocracy found its way back to society. As variously stated corruption fights back, court injunctions were flashed around but ultimately sleaze was dealt a death-knell and the much-vaunted ‘fruits of one’s labour’ found precedence as a way of life.
In penultimate remarks I would urge the formulators of the new curriculum to never forget the importance of our historical figures who made great contributions to our nationhood. Pre-independence freedom fighters, the Mau Mau, heroes of the second liberation & multi-partism in Kenya and environmental champions should not just be a footnote but have whole chapters of history dedicated to them. Also heroes of the global negritude movement and black emancipation from slavery like Toussaint Breda and François Mackandal should never be forgotten. These are the real men and women worth their weight in gold and as such we must hold them up to our children as examples of what we expect of them in future. The veracity of the statement that those who fail to learn from history risk repeating its errors and missteps must ring ever so true. A dearth of eminent personalities worthy of emulation exposes our children to the vagaries of the TV culture that in the current state portrays the leading lights of the day as nothing more than delinquent leaders who go as low as hiding marijuana in their socks to smoke it in the sanctums of parliament. Is this the future we envisage for our sons and daughters? If not, then equip them to idolize sanctified epitomes of virtue. Failure to include tutelage on our own history exposes our future generations to mental slavery and doctrines to the effect that other people are superior human beings to them when in actual sense that is a whole sack of poppycock. We could wheel our children unknowingly back into servitude at the altar nothingness and all because of devaluing their own national heroes which is just imbecile grease.
In Conclusion as the great figure of African emancipation; Nelson Mandela, once put it Education is the most potent weapon that can be used to change the world. We must also live in the cognizance that after surmounting the hill of education there are many more to climb. Let’s not allow poorly-formulated strategy on Education to widen further the divide between the haves and have-nots and break the limbs of our own children. Instead empower them with education that like wings will enable their flight soaring far above anything they have ever dreamt of. As empirical wisdom mandates there is not a cap to human potential but only shackles of the mind and as such we should aspire to lose any that exists.