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Political & Social Empowerment

WHAT A MEANINGFUL REFERENDUM PROCESS IN KENYA MUST ENTAIL

kenya flag mapAt one time the Roman Empire stood regal and sturdy. It was obvious to all and sundry that nobody else had the mettle to challenge their military might and splendour. By the time Rome wreaked Armageddon on the great Greek and Macedonian realm at around 197 B.C, their reign had been consolidated as insurmountable. Their over-arching tentacles extended from Modern-day Western Europe to the region half-conquered by Alexander the Great in Hydaspes currently known as Jhelum in the Punjab region, modern-day Pakistan. It was not always like this. Right at the most critical period of this consolidation there existed a smaller power yet so organized as to come within an inch of crumbling the mighty Rome to rubble. That mini-juggernaut was the much-vaunted military tactical ingenuity of Hannibal Barça of Carthage. For African-pride junkies, Carthage was an ancient Kingdom headquartered in modern-day Tunisia. At the height of its power, Carthage had dominion over an overseas territory of the whole Iberian Peninsula that domiciles modern-day Spain and Portugal. Hannibal was Commander-in-Chief of the entire royal army. From childhood he had sworn to curtail the destiny of Rome by ‘Fire and Steel.’ When he came of age his plans started to crystalize into strategy. When his brother in law; Hasdrubal the fair – Ruler of Hispania was assassinated, he set off on a land odyssey with an end-game to conquer Roman troops and triumphantly stomp into the auspicious seat of the Roman Empire in Rome. He did well in this regard; marching from Hispania, into Gaul (France) and ultimately the Pyrenees. Impressively, he not only had a standing army of patriotic Carthaginians but also cobbled an alliance of the conquered nay friendly tribes, mercenaries – dogs of war and used guerrilla warfare effectively. More pristine was his use of battle elephants that were virtually a battering ram against any opposition on land. They trampled opponents in the battlefield but could also be used as a means of transport where horses could only have done so much. The greatest of his conquests was in the Battle of Cannae where he used the previously unheralded military strategy of envelopment to obliterate a massive force of the Roman army. For context, Cannae was a major food supply depot to the Roman military at the time also, by and large, most of Rome. Despite having only a mish-mash army of no more than 40,000 men he took to the field against a combined infantry and cavalry, the Roman war machine totaling to slightly over 100,000 men. Daunting as this challenge seemed, it was fickle to Hannibal who rather than having a block of soldiers in open warfare found a way to narrow the battling spaces by spacing out his echelons, creating a pseudo-corridor between their ranks then encirclement to massacre the ensnared enemy forces. This may go down as the costliest battle the Roman-empire ever had the misfortune to preside. A quarter of the then Roman ruling class was lost in a single day of carnage! A noble-rich contingent not confined to but inclusive of then-incumbent Consul (Prime-Minister), his two predecessors, 80 of the existing 300 Senators of Rome, 500 Centurions their regiments notwithstanding and an elite fighting force of the numerical strength aforementioned lay slain by dusk! Most fortuitous was the escape of wounded Roman officer dubbed ‘Scipio Africanus’ by the skin of his teeth at the twilight to fight another day. His father; Publius Cornelius Scipio, the commander of the elite squad of Centurions in battle that day was not so lucky. Consequent to this battle alone, Hannibal immured himself into the pantheon of legendary war-lords for all time. Being one to fancy a souvenir, he cut off the Roman officials’ corpses fingers, removing their Golden cygnet rings of authority and took them by the crate on the voyage back to Carthage. He sought to use these as a bargaining chip to coax the King of the time to send reinforcements for his initiative to lead the final putsch to utterly extinguish Rome from the face of the earth. Meanwhile, Rome was marooned within the confines of her own city gates starving and waiting without any hope for their imminent fate. To the bewilderment of the entire civilized world at the time, Carthage now had Rome on its knees begging for mercy! If the Carthaginian brigade was to dig in for much longer, starvation would certainly have killed off all of Rome obviating any need for battle in any case. Then the unthinkable happened. Out of what can vaguely be categorized as apprehension – fear of the unknown, maybe very poor counsel from the royal court or much more subtly as spite the King of Carthage denied him the requisite reinforcements! He argued that should this wounded behemoth ever rise again; in typical vulpine fashion, she would deal Carthage an iron upper-cut from which there would be no salvation. In one fell swoop Hannibal’s achievements were undermined and consequently, his gains reversed. Hannibal had brought his forces to camp at the gates of Rome, to within an inch of the conquest of this world superpower only to be failed by his own king with glory at hand.

In the epilogue of this story Hannibal’s gains were severely regressed. He lost men to the harsh winters of temperate Europe in the Alps without replacement, the elephants out of hunger turned into a rogue and cruel liability trampling their erstwhile trusty masters, he was forced to disembowel his own men trying to force back reverence only to inspire revulsion instead, morale went flaccid, a startling retreat without defeat commenced and as should be expected the mercenaries mutinied for monetary reasons. This tactless withdrawal was met with ceaseless onslaughts from hostile if not vendetta-spiked tribes they passed by on their perilous catabasis back home. Most ominous, a better-equipped Roman naval fleet took advantage of this lacuna to open the city gates and sailed out commandeered by the single-mindedly determined ‘Scipio-Africanus’ to Carthage to deliver fire and fury into the heart of Carthaginian authority and avenge his father. The ensuing counter-strike at Zama was nothing to write home about for the ‘Scourge of Roma.’ It was his first, most crushing and decisive defeat by a young man who copied Hannibal’s own military style. Scipio instead of mindless slaughter had the presence of heart to be cerebrally gracious in victory and offer Carthage the proverbial olive branch albeit, with a punitive peace treaty that included payment of annual tributes and a war indemnity to Rome. Also in the package was an honourable retirement for his inadvertent mentor and worthy adversary Hannibal. Both men died 20 years after that final battle. Pending the full decomposition of these titans’ remains; just 40 years after their deaths, the Third Punic War was contested between these two nations ending in the absolute decimation of Carthage, its burning to the ground and salting of its fields by the young, uncompromising yet equally capable son of Africanus – Scipio Aemilianus. In the backdrop of this cataclysm, it begs the question: When in Hannibal’s hour of glory, his own King denied him troops to finish the job, how was the ultimate legacy of Carthage salvaged by this selfish move? [Feel free to label me subjective and emotional here!]

In spite of well-founded skepticism, I find myself compelled to exercise concomitance to well-worn sentiments doing rounds in the Kenyan political discourse, compliments of one of the well-heeled front runners in the presidential succession that, “Kenya suffers from an acridly acute shortage of ignoramuses.” In appreciation of that, I must reiterate a statement of empirical wisdom mentioned in a previous blog that, ‘no army in this world is strong enough to suppress an idea whose time has come an invasion of armies can be resisted but an invasion of ideas cannot.’  This statement gained credence about 200 years ago when it was quipped by the famous playwright and poet Victor Marie Hugo but rings ever so true even today. I’m plunging headlong into the referendum that Kenya needs to hold before the next election. When we bequeathed upon ourselves this new, progressive constitution nearly 9 years ago, it was beyond a shadow of doubt that changes would have to be effected in due course to address the pitfalls left in the implementation of the same. Just like all man-made edifices, this was not meant to be a perfect document but one in need of constant refinement to serve the best interest of those upon whom sovereignty rests, which is the populace of the Republic of Kenya. Contiguous to this, many loopholes have been noted, grey areas are teeming and toothless provisions find themselves an unfortunate tapestry of this pre-contemplated as noble document. I am not here to criticize instead just prescribe areas that may require a little polishing just as any diamond that ever found its glimmer.

Yes, we need a reform of the constitution but how do we go about the entire process? Before March 9th 2018, Kenya has been through a perilous wormhole where an unpopularly-elected executive sought to lord its will upon the majority of Kenya. It did not help matters that due to calculated strategy and the power of incumbency, the ruling coalition found itself with a healthy majority in both the national assembly and Senate that muddled the entire equation further. Complements of this majority, plans were hatched to among other things dilute the ‘National Bible’ through uncalled-for legislative nay political amendments. The Judiciary had been threatened with ‘re-visitation’ after their ruthless feat flexing their independence by annulling the Presidential win consequent to an incorrigibly-flawed process. Why would one arm attempt to arm-twist the other in spite of the expected doctrine of separation of powers? Devolution too has been put on trial through under-funding so that the desperate Governors would run back to the national coffers seeking patronage and a favourable work-around in return for their support. The Handshake between the People’s President Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga & Principal Statehouse Tenant, HE. Uhuru Kenyatta opened a portal through which good-will now flows universally but the window may be short-lived. This is the opportune time for beneficent constitutional reforms to bode well for our collective future destiny as a state.

So what Changes do we envisage to have?

  • Electoral Reform To the best of my knowledge going forward Kenya has determined to use an ICT-based polling, election monitoring and management system. Hard-coded and constitutionally enshrined provisions should be made to ensure nobody fiddles with this delicate process. In the past regulations and statutes have existed. But these are weak and unable to stand the test of both our overly litigious contestations and inherent need for mischief. Also we need to style up the election watchdog body, the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission. We have heard in the past horror stories regarding the use of exercise book pages as a tallying tool and admissible as Form 32! That is not just quixotic but panders to the asinine. Liberalization should be exercised in the award of tenders by the IEBC to guarantee Kenyans even a sliver of perception of transparency. Then we have the fiasco with the Election Result’s Server. Up to now, nearly 2 years after our bitterly contested elections we are yet to determine either where that Server is located or who has the authority to open it and analyze its logs for certainty on the matter! In a parallel universe this would have either saved us frivolous litigation, strengthened the case of the petitioners or eschew the cost of the second election. But as fellow Blogger @Owaahh summarizes it, “Of importance is aliveness, owada?” Does IEBC even have the authority to utterly ban the purveyors of hate speech, intimidation and violent posturing from marring the polls? We needn’t have an arbiter who is also an active player judging the contest. Lastly, integrity can only be enforced with constitutional torts. This saves us inconsistency and the cacophony of arbitrary pronouncement after midnight meetings merely to execute basic operational nuances.

 

  • Strengthen Political PartiesThe only day Tribalism will be killed in Kenya is the day when political ideology, manifestos, principles, values and agenda will rule political discourse. For many years elections in Kenya have been watered down to nothing more than an Ethnic Census. People organize on the strength of tribal connivance and that has been rendered archaic and a primitive way of doing business in dissonance to the reverence apportioned to Kenya by her peers in Africa on many other facets. In fact in a recent televised interview, long-time Presidential press Secretary Lee Njiru intimated that former President Daniel Moi confided to him that, “In Kenyan Politics, The Stomach is the Manifesto of any Political grouping.” Disconcerting, isn’t it? We need to replicate South Africa’s way and build strong Political Parties where the party leader automatically becomes President and can be replaced mid-stream if he loses the support of his party mates or popular appeal.  Elections will thus not be to promote personality cults but shared ideals, principles and strategy for the good of the whole nation. Entombing this into our constitution is not the worst idea in the World.

 

  • Executive structureThe Presidency in Kenya has been made to be quite an attractive proposition. This same guy is the Head of State, Government, C-I-C of the Armed forces fully with the attractive ceremonial regalia. He has the authority to influence policy, spending and has veto powers over even the National Assembly on many issues. He controls our destiny figuratively in the words of Chinua Achebe holding both ‘the knife and the yam.’ He is basically a demigod among us. So, why wouldn’t there be a blood bath when one senses he is losing all this largesse more so to the results of a tainted process? Ugly scenes have been our staple over the years just merely to have the derrière of our kinsman kiss the hallowed seat of power! In this regard, is it in good conscience to continue having all these transcendental powers resting with one man or should we have a Prime Minister to share the authority? People will argue about the lack of a Centralized figure-head of authority and all the additional offices and expenses to the exchequer but would you rather be a sitting duck vulnerable to slaughter, consistently chocked by tear-gas every Monday just because of an electoral process of which you are not even a key player? Who needs disrupted business schedules, mini-civil wars and nomadic migrations to perceived safe-zones just to escape civil strife? We are tired of bleeding for no solemn reason other than simply having our tribal elites lead! A Nation must consistently be deemed more important than an individual as the good Professor, the late George Saitoti once quipped. Indeed, time is ripe to consider William Kamket’s proposal of having a ceremonial president serving a single 7 year term and concerning himself purely with the matters of state and its progress. The Premier’s office will entail the day to day running of the business that is government and the holder is ably assisted by two deputies. Pretty much like a corporate entity with a Chairman and a capable CEO! Another tough ask I judge as timely is: Should we continue with the presidential system or break with tradition and now try the parliamentary system? With our cultural diversity, a parliamentary system will go a long way to pander to the need for inclusivity in this tribally concocted jurisdiction.
  • Separate Elections The age old quandary strikes again. Isn’t it cheaper to hold all these elections in a single day? We must emancipate ourselves from the mental slavery that gives us the impression that cost is much more important than an informed, unrushed decision on governance. We need to give room to sincere popular participation in elections and make it less disruptive to our lives as embedded in our constitution.
  • Balancing Devolution vis-à-vis Over-representationDevolution of government resource is good but how much representation is too much? Do we need all this tiers of leadership? What with MCAs we see traipsing around engaging in needless fist-fights and self-effacing scandals without getting the true value for their exaggerated numbers? Time has come to have fewer elected officials with constituencies being converted to the most basic unit of representation and having two representatives of opposite genders just for affirmative action. This lessens the burden on the already overtaxed polity.
  • Enhancing Devolution – County funds should forthwith be constitutionally provided for at 40% of the National budget and not fiddled with for political expedience.
  • Security Apparatus – We have all borne witness to the situation where members of the National Police Service act merely as a private militia for the executive. They also throw professionalism out of the window to become cooks, drivers and farm-hands for the elite. We have also seen a worrying trend where graduate officers have had their salaries reduced and dignity trampled. Also we find ourselves saddled with a service that is more inclined to brutality and bribery instead of service to the republic. We need a paradigm shift in their mindset not an evolution to the grotesque in the colours of their uniform! We need these aberrations addressed constitutionally.
  • Recall Clause – We have a moribund clause in our constitution that furnishes us with the authority to recall our elected officials after two years if their performance is unsatisfactory. The threshold to effect this endeavour is so high that nobody could really find the time to fulfill all the obligations to make this a reality and still maintain their own sanity. Either we improve this provision or accept our fates as we have many a time and strike this one out.
  • Article 10 – This is the one that behooves all state Officers to act in sympathy to our National Values and strictly adhere to the sound principles of governance. We need stern, constitutionally ratified guidelines on the punitive measures to take on anyone who contravenes these provisions. Corruption should forever cease being the Kenyan way. Love for thy neighbor is the way to go.
  • Cap on Reckless Borrowing – In our current dispensation we are stuck with a government keen to live beyond her means. Because attempts at reaching out to their conscientious soul have failed, we as a nation need to constitutionally tame this unnatural, insatiable, unrestrained and unsustainable appetite for high cost infrastructure projects with miniscule returns before we start auctioning our eyelashes and kidneys to the Chinese!
  • Health care – the greatest joy of any professional is the prospect of one day being able to specialize and hence have a shot at self-determination of among other things his earnings, schedule and general destiny of his life. This is one of the rare instances I speak in antipathy to devolution but Healthcare should revert to the national government. In public discourse many friends who are medical practitioners complain of being nipped in the bud in terms of their Career advancement. When posted to the devolved units they now find themselves adorned in a crown of thorns, becoming tied-down to the county and are grafted at the county’s hip for all eternity. They cannot take a break, sabbatical or study-leave for fear of victimization or reprehension by their bosses. This is callous, as how can any workman get better in his trade devoid of consistent career improvement, training and specialization? Forthwith, it should be cast in stone that doctors are a national resource and should henceforth be answerable to the national not county government.

The raft of potential changes is so wide it could potentially turn this blog into the New Supreme Law of the land! Jokes aside, time is ripe for a review of our constitution as there will never be a better time than today when the simmering tensions are out, hard-lines have been blurred and the juice of goodwill flows ever so free.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

OVER-COMMERCIALIZATION OF HEALTH CARE THE SCOURGE OF OUR TIME

HospitalFrom the advent of the 8-4-4 education system, each and every year Kenya has developed a tradition of lionizing and proffering a copious outpouring of publicity upon the best performers in the K.C.P.E and K.C.S.E examinations. For the former prepubescent teenagers and for the latter young men and women are hauled shoulder-high by their definitely well- fed progenitors in pomp and pageantry for exemplary performance. Drum-beats and ululations rend the air in a manner likely to dissuade any inebriated villager who is not in the loop of the foregoing from the impression that celebrations are not in any doubt a foot. If you are one of these unfortunate characters sleeping in the culvert, you could be forgiven for thinking in the polemics of the great African linguistic legionary and wordsmith; Chinua Achebe, “a great titan and wrestling champion of all the seven villages has crossed the seven rivers, hills and the evil forest, gone to the land of the gods, conquered them including his personal Chi and returned unscathed with a tooth of one of deities; his spirit intact.” Back to the celebrations, of course members of the fourth estate and bloggers like yours truly are in attendance with high powered cameras, notepads, pens, outside broadcast equipment and all the requisite paraphernalia of the trade to cover this seemingly inimitable fete. For the primary school graduands, each and every one of the omnipotent students has more or less similar ambition. They seem cut from the same cloth. “I aspire to be a Doctor.” Another, “I feel the predilection to be a Neurosurgeon.” Why we still have only 8 neurosurgeons countrywide after nearly 30 years of the 8-4-4 is a matter I will leave to conjecture! But why is it so attractive to be a medic in Kenya? That is the question I am going to tackle in the subsequent paragraphs of this post.

Many will accuse me of being green with envy for the practitioners of the noble profession. Far from it! All the same, I must aver with unquestionable conviction and unerring contrition that I have never had any aspirations to be a doctor and as such I habour nothing but awe, appreciation and adoration for the practitioners of this trade. For me a spattering of blooded cotton wool is sufficient cause for institutionalization for trauma let alone witnessing a squirting of the life-sustaining body fluid from a severed limb! You may have realized I used the word ‘trade’ instead of ‘calling’ as it should be. It is not a misnomer but a pointer to the great value that should be accorded to the medical profession but is not. As a player in this field, you are no less second to only the Almighty in the words of the saying, ‘Doctors treat but God heals.’ You carry our lives in your hands at the moment we are most vulnerable and have the propensity to either nurse us back to health or at the drop of the surgical cap consign us to the morgue and ultimately the 6 Sq. Ft confines of the nether real-estate! This is vital more so in a developing nation where human capital is the principal factor of production and progression of enterprise. We need men and women in good health to drive the often poorly-lubricated cogs of our economic gear. However in Kenya, mostly in private hospitals this is treated as more of a trade than a calling which is objectionable.

Let me go through the chronology of qualifying as a doctor in Kenya. As stated before you have to be one of the bright intellectual outliers of your generation able to score an ‘A’ in Mathematics, the two national Languages, the three sciences and almost any other course you will take to hold up your aggregate mean. Then you are admitted to a registered and chartered University to slug it out for 6 years through courses like Physiology, Anatomy, Pathology and Parasitology. (There are others intentionally omitted with a view to provide you an abridged insight instead of an encyclopaedia for a blog!) In short you have to be adroit at internal medicine and what the French call ‘Chirurgie’ – Surgery to make it through.  Afterwards, you graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery Degree (MB. ChB). During your graduation ceremony, there is a session specifically to recite and promise to ascribe to the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ for the preservation of Human life no matter the myriad distractions that may attempt to lay an incursion on your path. This is just the preliminary stage!  You then must serve a compulsory residency as an Intern under consultants for a period not less than a year. Following that, one works as a General Practitioner (GP) for some time, gauging their strengths, weaknesses, passion, opportunities and threats before deciding to master and specialize in one of the fields he best desires or is apt in performing. Then, one may decide to go for a sub-specialization on the field. Afterwards, you take an exam to ascertain your suitability to serve under the ambit of your professional licensing body, the Kenya Medical Practitioners & Dentists Board. This entire process may take as long as 12-14 years from the time one is admitted to University to when you are finally licensed to do all that pertains to nursing humanity back to health.

Noble as it may seem, there are others who will look at the period they spent in school as one of lost opportunity for the age-old ‘primitive accumulation of wealth’. They will cast their eyes far and wide and espy the jet-set lawyers, the Engineering braggadocios, the architectural aficionados, pilots and commerce practitioners seemingly reveling in corpulence and vain symbols of status. Riding in Toyota V8s or Range rovers, they will suffer the ignominy of seeing beside their contemporaries a beautiful bride; two healthy and rambunctious children admitted to the local versions of Ivy-league schools, pilots traversing the world enjoying life while getting paid by the truck-load. Their age-mates own land, real-estate, businesses and property almost to the moon! They find themselves muttering under their own breath, the quintessential Jomo-Kenyatta query, “woe is me, what have I done for myself by the ripe old age of 33?” Apprehension sets in as Medical Practitioners are caught scrambling to catch-up with their peers. They rent a backstreet alley; lo and behold, the Private practice has been set up. To remove any untoward elements from this narration for any aspiring doctor, it is never always like this; however, This is Kenya! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lug6cupwmIw ) and (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7uzheM1nGk ) Warning: I pay credence to the gifted owners of all copyright to the material ensconced within the two URLs above.

Men and women; supposedly the custodians of our public health care systems, find themselves juggling the conundrum that is their calling in Public hospitals vis-à-vis commercial interests. Some even go the extra mile of burning the midnight oil as lecturers. Sooner rather than later also due to economic pressure, commerce triumphs over calling as one realizes that he will mint more money apportioning extra time to his Private clinic as opposed to the well documented and predictably meagre pickings that is the government salary. The hustle is real out here and many are oft vulnerable to break-down under its weight and find themselves in the hallowed waiting room of these private facilities. For salaried and unionizable employees the allure of the fully-catered for medical insurance package is too coercive for a private medical practitioner to resist. Cases of men who bumped their head on the low-lying canopy of a ‘ma-three’, got a gargantuan bruise which had them worried sick so they ran to their ‘family-doctor’ to have a check, had CT and MRI scans recommended to them on top of the consultancy fees, were misdiagnosed with brain damage and had to be wheeled into surgery have not been few and far between. Besides, how callous can one get to recommend unnecessary treatment merely for pecuniary gain! Who does that?

Costs for all medical consumables like bandages, scalpels, splints, band-aids and the requisite medicine are hiked ostensibly to take advantage of that much touted item of good fortune, the NHIF. A de-worming tablet sold over the counter at 20-30/- is now extrapolated to the irreverent figure of 150/- . All this in an effort to make hay while the sun-shines! In the week starting Monday 26th November 2018, the social media platform – Twitter was awash with a trending hash tag #JusticeForBentaOpande . This as told in the grapevine is the harrowing tale of a lady who had incessant back pain that was rife on her to the extent of seeking medical redress. She casually drove herself to hospital, had the requisite tests and scans performed on her including the precursory X-ray just to determine where the problem was. Things were not looking good. She had slipped albeit weakened lumbar vertebrae that required firming and strengthening. After a studious look of the results a neurosurgeon ostensibly recommended the only course of treatment as surgery. To the untrained eye this may or may not be an over-kill. I chose to believe it was all for the best. In an episode as tear-jerking as any, on the appointed day the Civil servant drove herself and her two young daughters to hospital. As they held vigil for her praying and hoping, she was wheeled into surgery. In the ensuing macabre occurrence that has blurred the frontier between surgery and the handiwork of a butcher man the procedure was botched. Screws, washers, nuts and bolts were all fastened on her spine callously disdaining her animate state. The aftermath is all too gruesome to relate but I will try. The pain was amplified and as if this was not enough she started losing sensation on her right-side. Her right leg absolutely paralyzed if not utterly atrophied. Her distraught daughters could not stomach their grief when they were finally allowed to see their mother. Tears streamed down their faces as they surveyed the current convalescent state of dear mum. For the daughters it was familial concern and empathy while for Mama Opande it was mortal pain and infernal agony. To add insult to injury this exclusive private hospital also withheld her title deed as collateral if she failed to clear the bill! She had to be flown to India for more specialized care. The question I must now pose is this: Was this surgery really required any more than advise on posture, back pillows, proper comportment and popping of calcium tablets that can be opined by an ordinary chiropractor? In the backdrop of the new X-ray footage obtained, was the screw-up job performed by experienced orthopaedic surgeons, interns or a run-of-the-mill wielder of the proverbial meat cleaver? Could this be categorized as a case of medical negligence? Let the professionals at Kenya Medical Alliance in concert with Dr. Oluga and the Dr. Orokos of this world at KMPDU determine the case instead of opinionated albeit ardent Viu-Sasa medical-drama junkies like yours truly on the court of mere hearsay!

I would wish this case was an isolated one but not in the least I have one that hit close to home. In late 2009 my father was involved in a road accident that wrote off his vehicle and saw him fracturing a right humerus. He was more fortuitous than most escaping the ordeal with a slap-on-the-wrist style bruised thigh, clavicle and the aforementioned vertebral tid-bit. Grinning and singing the token, “Hakuna Mungu kama wewe…” number he was wheeled into theatre to fix the crocked appendage. He stirred up in some agony but this was to be expected of any surgery. After one and a half weeks he was discharged back to his solicitous kinsmen for some tender loving care. Then after a week instead of the pain abating it ingrained itself. Sleep became a luxury and analgesics became anything more than candy. He was compelled to return to the same private hospital. Prima-facie; the joint looked to be healing, but on close quarters it was clear the titanium plate had not been well secured. Screws had been drilled into the bone but the plate was still mobile and as such a second instance of surgery was required. After surgery #2, problems persisted and a secondary opinion was sought. Incidentally, after the third surgery dad was fixed although he had to suffer the ignominy of learning how to write with the left-hand in middle-age. On aesthetics; post third surgery, the clean-cut incisions of the first surgery were blurred such that his arm looked like tapestry out of a dog’s mouth! This raises another red-flag. Can a GP or let’s say gynaecologist perform orthopaedic surgery with the finesse of an experienced specialist? My Dad is living proof they should not, though he regained functional use of the limb in 9 months’ time. Heavy lifting is proscribed though we proffer orison to the Lord daily for that act of divine providence. But how many Kenyans can count on such in the absence of financial muscle and the uncanny happenstance of finding the right remedy? A drunk and bluntly honest sage once quipped, “The missteps of an engineer are fortified but those of a doctor are buried!” (https://twitter.com/dennis_mukoya/status/1067365514526277632 ) It’s that stark.

In a latter post, I will divulge the 1001 demerits of allowing Health care in Kenya to be a devolved function! That was an ill-advised policy step, megalomaniacal at worst and pandering to popular benightedness at best. Yes, I said it! But today I will delve into characters of the ilk of Mugo wa Wairimu who has gained notoriety by tapping into the gravy train that is Private Medical practice in Kenya. With absolute disregard to any form of licensing, respect for neither the sacrosanctity of human life nor limb, answering to no higher call of the Hippocratic Oath and with stereotypical love for the lucre; he set up shop in Githurai 44, Nairobi. No one would have realized the aberration in this circumstance if the monster within had remained bottled up. Operating a gynaecological practice is not for the faint-hearted and when I say this I mean it with all the fallibility and perversion that may come with it for the sons of Adam. As men we are physiologically predisposed to be attracted and display manic affection for the most favoured mate. Years of scholarly pursuit logged in the pedagogical development of Medical learning, eon of wisdom thereby inculcated and a new-found appreciation for professionalism are supposed to tame the animal instinct in a man! A Doctor is duty-bound to abide by a higher sense of ideal and morality than the ordinary man but not the aforementioned -wa Wairimu. On the 1st of November 2014, a young woman sauntered into his clinic coaxing within him a fire of the manner he was ill-accustomed to resist. Like a hyena; the faux-medic sized up his prey, the unsuspecting victim eloquently describing her symptoms in abeyance. In the back of his mind he already had a prognosis. A dose of ‘sugarcane’ would do! He sedated the damsel, had her half-dead, licked his lips, pulled down his trousers exposing an appendage that looked like a half-consumed piece of firewood and in typical sociopath-narcissistic fashion proceeded to hit pile-drivers into the woman if you get my drift. The ensuing fiasco is all too graphic for the church-boy in me to countenance! When the lady came back to her senses she had not been treated of her ailment, reeked of the pungent odour of ‘human-seed’ and was absolutely slovenly in dress. What she did not know was that a heinous crime had been perpetrated against her person and she carried within her an impromptu zygote. You all know how it went when the lady discovered this and pressed charges. Lady Justice was hot on his trail. From Makuyu, to Thika and finally to Gachie where the long arm of the law caught up with Mugo. He was nevertheless, in stupefying fashion let go with nothing more than a whimper as retribution and continued his illicit medical practice. In late 2018, the same character has hit the headlines yet again for similar shenanigans! Apparently, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board does not have anyone fitting his profile in their records and as such have no jurisdiction to take any action on him, the allegations and his illegitimate economic venture notwithstanding. What??? Also the limitations of statutes may have lapsed and the legal arm has been decapitated against this predator. Double what?? A case of moving rivers to escape the riparian reserve!

What makes private medical facilities so attractive to everyone? The crucial stricture here is having a doctor who takes seriously to the professional code of ethics, viewing his gift as a calling and not merely a trade. The well-oiled establishments they man have a 24-hr fully functional medical team, an in-patient and out-patient unit, fully furnished medical supplies repositories, well remunerated and fervent staff, a sufficient number of  well-spaced beds, no linen reeking of urea, private suites for the contagious, presidential suites for VVIPs, clean hospital wards, a well-articulated and thought out strategy for the assimilation of health insurance, fully-furnished & serviceable ambulances, an onsite morgue and milky-white walls with attractive signage. Accountability is the common denominator. The most important thing is client referrals from those who have enjoyed the ambience of the same and have lived to tell the tale after visiting the facility. Keeping mortality rate low is an added advantage. I reiterate and urge the current Health cabinet secretary to implement a framework that will have Health reclaiming its lustre as a calling and not a cash-cow for the uninitiated yet moneyed investor.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

RAISING TAXATION FOR ESSENTIAL GOODS WILL BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE FOR A DEVELOPING COUNTRY


From the Bible, there is recounted the tale of some hostile inquisitors who sought to box in Jesus, the much-heralded ‘King of the Jews’ into an explicitly perilous position. Their grouse was on whether his compatriots should continue to pay taxes to the Roman Government or simply withhold it till they have their own dominion. They anticipated a scenario where Jesus would take an adversarial stand against the norm and therein find a suitable excuse to hand him over to the Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate for treason. Thinking of him an ordinary man, they attempted to massage his ego by praising his integrity, altruism, sense of justice and unwavering adherence to virtue. Having tenderized their prey, the Pharisees and Sadducees took their chance to drop the gauntlet and pounce. He preceded his defense by dubbing them “hypocrites” and “sons of the serpent.” Then with the greatly-vaunted slipperiness of an eel he asked to be shown a Roman coin. He asked whose head and inscription featured prominently on it and the answer immediately rang back, “Caesar!” In a sagacious response he told them to render onto Caesar his due and onto the Lord what is God’s. He left them with the double whammy of being both in awe and satisfaction as they went on their way.

But the real question they forgot to ask is how much should we pay to Caesar?

A few weeks ago there were acrimonious scenes in the National Assembly of Kenya as the President in typical African strongman style buttressed the passing of the Supplementary budget and appropriation bill in consort with the majority and minority leaders, afterwards rushing to assent the act into law. This was in spite of the rare scenes of parliamentarians united in a gesture transcending party lines, proffering copious outpouring of hue and cry against the expropriationate measure to levy 8% taxation on fuel. They had in one voice cried “Nay!” when the motion of intent to levy the percentage of tax was tabled before the house. Despite that deafening roar, the “ayes” had their way. As the Social Media generation would put it, “Handshake Things ™!” Naturally, with politicians and their chameleonistic nature it is rather difficult to sift among the wheat and chaff for their true intentions. As they say, Politics is a game where loyalties are transient while interests remain supreme albeit common! My brief here today is not to wade the murky waters if not the clandestine interstices of what is fact or fiction but to rather scientifically and inextricably extrapolate the graphical hanging lines that are the potential fall-out from the raising of taxation on essential goods in the backdrop of a financial downturn.

Kenya is regionally renowned as the land that has fiercely embraced capitalism to such an extent that we have mangled up whatever would have been made of its human face! The repercussions are clear for all to see. For instance, the same brand of vehicle is to be imported by our landlocked neighbours, Uganda through our Kenyan Port in Mombasa. After going through the requisite statutory licensing it is conveyed onwards to the Malaba border, carted 1000 Kilometres into Kampala. The shock does not lie in this long drawn out transportation modalities but in the price differences with the same brand in a Kenyan Motor vehicle showroom. Many a plastic surgeon have had to thank their good fortune from the burgeoning number of reconstructive surgeries performed on Kenyans collecting their jaws from the floor after information on prices filters through! This is of course in jest. The Kenyan price is markedly higher. But not quite, as the cost of doing business is impossibly high in Kenya compared to our regional neighbours and even some continental superpowers. However, let us revert to microeconomics. A few years ago, as the Professor teaching us Engineering economics harped on about taxation we were merely being lulled into slumber not paying much credence to his ‘voice crying out in the wilderness’ brand of teaching. He started by terming Taxation as a ‘Pecuniary’ imposition by the government on its citizenry. Then he added terms like ‘ad-valorem’ when many of us had been left still grappling with the meaning of the P-word! Today, we wish we were more attentive. Nevertheless, what did not pass us was the Principle of Taxation stating, “High Income taxes rather than bolstering enterprise only work to discourage production while killing the morale of employees. A good tax system should be at a rate concomitant with promoting economic activity.” In the same token, it is no wonder that our Litigator-in-Chief, Okiya Omtata went to court asking for a reinstatement of the moribund ‘Moi-Day’ and in appreciation of public sentiment the High Court Judge assented. This was irrevocably supposed to be an antiquated relic of a time simply worth forgetting, but if the people want a holiday who was he to refuse? Even he may have felt the exertion of working so hard merely to raise more taxes for the government. Shouldn’t there be dignity in doing work and appreciation of the role of taxes in nation building? How is industrialization to be achieved when people celebrate imposed holidays more than economic development?

Widening of the tax-base has variously been opined as one of the ways to raise more taxes. What I mean is being more innovative with our tax regime. Some have even opined that in view of the widely popular yet covert use of marijuana it should be legalized and join the tax-generating bracket. For this one the jury is still out. However in keeping with the letter and spirit of this post, we must not tax so much as to drown enterprises under the mire of double taxation. It is a well-understood fact that agriculture and the Small & Middle Holdings are the essential pillars holding up our economy. As such rather than over-taxing the Government aficionados at the treasury should look at means to subsidize instead of exacerbating what is already being levied on these two facets of society. Many SMEs and Start-ups exist poised on the periphery of survival. A minuscule shove and they are off the cliff of actuality. Many are the heart-rending stories of the proverbial young man running his ‘kibandaski’ being on the verge of recompense of his capital investment loan and finally breaking even. He is just one installment repayment from completing the loan when the 8% VAT starts getting levied on fuel inflating the cost of all his factors of production, some of which he previously got for free. The situation becomes so untenable that he is unable to meet his standing–order obligations and his business is repossessed by the affected financial institution and auctioneers. I cannot fathom a situation more soul-sapping than someone being on the path to financial independence in a thriving enterprise being suddenly robbed of all the fruits of his toil, thrown back into the simmering cauldron that is the millions of job-seekers scavenging for mere sustenance. From prosperity one is knocked back into the rat-race for survival. Reminds me of the high school Short Story by Ezekiel Mphalele, ‘Man must live.’ Men will accuse, castigate, deride and even ridicule you. They will accuse you of insubordination and a lack of respect for them in your confidence, they will accuse you of dishonest dealing in business. They could deny all they want but in the fullness of time one is compelled to wake up sooner rather than later to the hard, cold and indisputable reality that man must live!

Our tax regime is simply too complicated! Among the Cardinal Principles of Taxation is one of being explicit and simple. Many people are just ordinary folk, law-abiding citizens, with simple ambitions to raise their children, build a small house and basically enjoy life. For them a simple tax regime is exactly what the doctor ordered. Not only will it be easier to comprehend and hence comply with their liability, it will also reduce administrative costs of revenue collection. This cannot be made any easier by double taxation. When the same enterprise pays for business permits but is still charged KShs. 50 daily by county officials as operating fee something will have to give. Costs of doing business in terms of Capital and Operating expenditure being what they are it is acridly immoral to add to the same and still preach the gospel of economic emancipation for those affected. Some evade tax by default not by design. This is merely because they do not know what is to be taxed and what isn’t. But instead of enlightenment they are usually harshly admonished, condescendingly being reminded that their ignorance is no defence and charged huge penalties in fines for non-compliance. Civic education on tax implications is lacking despite politicians eternally preaching to us the self-serving gospel of an acute shortage of nincompoops in Kenya, majorly buttressing home the fact that any education will not only be appreciated but rapidly internalized and put into proper use. There are cases of systems failure on the i-tax portal where you register for a specific tax obligation, the ostensibly automated system gives you an acknowledgement, even printing a registration certificate, contented you go home. Come the appointed time to file returns you in great horror and consternation realize the obligation you enlisted for isn’t in the list of those to honour! Optimistically, in your considered opinion decide that in filing the others, the spirit will be deemed willing concerning the hidden obligation and the gesture appreciated by the Kenya Revenue Authority. Days later, you receive a spine-tingling notification. You owe the government a fine of 20,000/- for failing to file returns in good time and the system has conveniently rather miraculously activated the V.A.T obligation such that it is now visible possibly from Pluto! I am at liberty to confirm neither the occurrence nor nullity of this story. If true, isn’t this the quintessential manifestation of State robbery against its tax-paying cadre?

Retrogressive Tax regime. A progressive tax regime is one developed in the understanding that taxation is meant to enhance social welfare. Indeed, no one could have put it better than the most venerable of British Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill. In one of his campaigns in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester in 1904, he pontificated, “To think you can make a nation more prosperous by putting on Tax is tantamount to a man standing in a bucket and thinking he can lift himself by the handle!” amid rapturous cheer. He was right albeit with a touch of jest. It is only prudent to live by the Principle of Proportionate application. To this end, it is expected to logically levy more upon people who can remit more. The Rich are expected to have a higher proportion of their earnings taxed compared to the poor. However, is that the case in Kenya? Much income is forgone simply because the government doesn’t have an inkling of cognizance how to tax it. The informal and the real-estate sectors are two that are minting new millionaires with every passing day. But are they included in the taxation net? We find ourselves with a government that was elected majorly on the promise of their Big 4 agenda. They vowed to provide Food Security, affordable housing, Revive Manufacturing and universally affordable Healthcare. Let’s not forget our strife for the attainment of SDG’s and Vision 2030. How will these be met in the backdrop of unmet fiscal expectations? Even the free primary education, among the keystone projects of the previous regime will be pilfered into ashes when taxation is not channeled back into it commensurately. Health care will no doubt be left to mortification if inputs and supplies are disproportionately taxed.

What do we stand to lose by taxation of the most essential factors of production?

We will no longer be able to produce globally competitive goods by the parameter of price which will be to our detriment as a nation. Who will want to buy commodities at a higher price point when they can get cheaper varieties serving the same purpose elsewhere?

We will suffer brain drain. The most skilled and commercially adroit sectors of our population will either move to other countries themselves or take their enterprises with them. There are already many innovative and useful former countrymen manning the Silicon Valley in California in the United States and elsewhere. Can we risk to lose any more? If we do how will that bode for our future prospects of development? But the usual policy response in Kenya today is that there are enough Chinese to address that! Or perhaps Kenyans are born every day so we are unlikely to ever lack intuitive manpower. I rest my case.

Killing foreign investment. Economics 101 course furnishes each student with the Cardinal Principle, ‘reduce Expenses to boost Profit margins.’ If the cost of electricity, licensing, legal fees, overheads and raw materials is lower in Malawi compared to say Kenya; what moral authority and personal obligation do I have as a foreign investor to have my potential revenues swallowed by the behemoth that is that nation without a policy convivial for investment? An efficient tax system will score a nation competitive edge against her competitors and win more investment to her side. Needless to say, more investment equals more employment that ultimately translates to a bigger tax base.

Increased dependency ratios. I have earlier in this post spoken about the fragile state of many fledgling enterprises. Any one is more vulnerable at infancy as compared to any other time of their development. So much has already been gushed about many start-up firms not living long enough to celebrate their 3rd birthday. When these firms collapse many youth will ultimately rush back to their ageing parents’ households, go into alcohol and drug abuse and there-in re-introduce dependency on the same parents who had thought would be free of them after providing sound education and even some start-up capital for their commercial ventures when they moved out of home. How is a tax-paying cadre to be widened when so many who would erstwhile have been gainfully engaged find themselves mired in unemployment and consequent poverty brooked merely by an unyielding taxation regime?

The very existence of taxation is supposed to be overall wealth redistribution and provision of a safety-net to cushion low income earners while building them up to the required stable level of financial health. This will not be possible when you tax even the very food they eat and basic factors of production like fuel, stationery, airtime and even internet bundles.

What became of the sin tax? I see no difficulty in taxing specific luxury goods for instance alcoholic drinks like Johnny Walker, VAT65 and the Jameson affordable only by the most affluent groups in society. Heavy duty is to be imposed on fuel guzzlers as compared to the eco-friendly variants of conveyance. Also tax betting and gambling firms. Some will accuse me of enforcing punishment for success but far from it. This besides influencing behavioural change will also be a sure bet in raising revenue that is much needed so that we are not forced to revert to taxing kerosene and maize flour. Also with proper collection we could finance sectors like Research and Development which is a precursor to any expansionist eventuality.

Many will argue that taxation uptake for meaningful use could be a panacea to all the over-taxation we see. How is this possible? Cut out that one-third lost to corruption every financial year. Additionally shed off inefficient government bureaucracy, complex taxation regulations and poorly structured policy directions; innovate more, provide populace financial education, resurrect our work ethic, cap inflation, stabilize our politics and finally have foreign currency controls. Overtaxing obligatory factors of production will extinguish any remaining embers that currently survive to steam-roll economic emancipation of our people from crippling poverty.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

YOUTH EMPOWERMENT CRITICAL TO ATTAINMENT OF SDGs

SDG

F

or those not in the loop, the acronym SDG stands for Sustainable Development Goals. This is a raft of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly as part of a resolution of achieving global transformation and the amelioration of the fortunes of the Least Developed Countries by 2030. Without a doubt, these initiatives have to be tailored pragmatically to both the strengths and growth potentials of the member countries involved as that is the only way to make the goals either achievable or sustainable as is nominally suggested. This multi-partisan process fronted by the UN and its 193 member states at the time was meant to replace the Millennium Development Goals whose time frame lapsed in 2015 as a development mantra. As consummate realists they set out a roster of goals, time-frames and estimated cost of implementation.

To my rapt, ardent and longtime audience this topic may look familiar. This is because in the run-up to the 2017 Kenyan Election I made a short yet incisive post espousing most of the merits of electing younger leaders while still maintaining respect for the more experienced brigade. But that was the portion for leaders and perhaps I have to commend Kenyans for electing more of that youthful breed of leaders into both the County and national government leadership space. Impressive was the ascension of the chronologically greenwood, Stephen Sang into the governorship of Nandi county. This was in the backdrop of battle-hardened and more heavily resourced perennial campaigners in the race not less the incumbent who were roundly routed. Kudos Nandi County, aptly named the county of champions for basically being the provenance of the primordial soup that has birthed many of our world beating middle to long distance athletics champions. Enough of the exaltation! May be not as many as I envisaged have been either elected or nominated but at running the risk of being labelled a grumpy, perpetually insatiable grouch let’s just work with what we have. I still will stand immutable in my castigation of the winning coalition, Jubilee Government’s move to appoint fewer than expected of the youthful cadre into the Cabinet, as Principal Secretaries or State Department heads. But that is merely at the discretion albeit whims of the Head of Government, payment of fealty to him by loyalists notwithstanding. But empowerment is not merely to get younger leaders into the political space. The ordinary youth at the grassroots also has to be supported to be gainfully engaged. Many young men and women remain unemployed as the current positions in both the Government and Private sectors can never be enough to satiate the burgeoning number of youth that are ready to take up employment annually. Important to note is that Kenya is a youthful country with almost 70% of the demographic below the age of 35 according to data from our highly vaunted Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. I am proffering such high praise to them in aversion of lampooning them because I am yet to understand why they wrote on our gates and white walls with marker pens soiling them, yet it is clear enumeration is slated to be done next year. Besides, anywhere there is a gate in a residential area there is likely to be a household or several so there is no need to waste ink and puissance fruitlessly. Maybe it is a product of youthful exuberance consequent to their high energy levels and gratefulness for finally getting state engagement or just a poorly thought out strategy but that is neither here nor there! Enough of my pettiness.

Today more than at any other time the youth face a steeper climb in an attempt to attaining a brighter and more audacious future for themselves. The derogatory statement about ‘Kazi kwa vijana pesa kwa wazee’ rings ever so true. The hurdles to self-actualization teem and have an added difficulty level in absolute disregard to the myriads of mushrooming financial organizations and mobile phone apps that provide ‘soft’ loans with limited strings attached. If the International Labour Organization is to be believed, our position in the labour market more often than not is constrained to that of the sporadic, poorly paid and encumbered by non-protection of law due to alleged naivety to the same on our part. For those who try a hand at entrepreneurship, rebukes of “we fund prototypes not ideas and potential” blasted at them on visiting financial service providers have not been few and far between. Disenfranchisement and poverty is cause for an early debut for job-seekers some barely out of their toddler stage. According to the UN Sustainable Development Summit resolutions, the young men and women are the cornerstone and prime movers of any development envisaged. Provided with the requisite skills, competence and opportunity needed to attain their full potential they are a vital cog to attainment of real development, by extension contributing to peace and global security. One way of doing this is by fostering of the concept of Economic Citizenship by national policy makers and leading youth-serving organizations. Just like ordinary national citizenship it is the program geared at pecuniary and civic engagement to promote sustainable livelihoods, financial well-being and respect of human rights both social and cultural. The system has four pillars as its mainstay. The Financial Inclusion Pillar entails the capacity to afford financial services. The Financial Education pillar entails improvement of financial knowledge and skill. Social Education pillar has within it the bettering of one’s awareness to their rights and obligations as per law. It also has embedded within the development of life skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and cross-personal interaction skills. The last and arguably most important is the Livelihood Education pillar which furnishes the citizen with the ability to secure sustainable livelihood through a skill assessment to strike a balance between entrepreneurial and employability skills. These pillars if enforced provide the building blocks for economic and social well-being, increase inter-group engagement, build understanding albeit respect for basic rights eventually leading to perpetual and mutually supported livelihoods for the most vibrant rung in society; the youth.

The Sustainable Development Goals may seem as foreign if not idealistic policy document items but they are merely simple steps understandable and conceivable for any nation in spite of scale. They include:

  1. Dealing a Death-knell to Poverty in all its forms everywhere

A sage once stated that the most pervasive and crippling form of poverty that can be inflicted upon society is intellectual bankruptcy. However, a close second ranks economic disenfranchisement. Access to quality, accessible, affordable and convenient financial services can majorly contribute to extreme poverty alleviation. This is empowerment of the proportion living on below a dollar a day. Financial inclusion is only important if integrated with financial, social and livelihood education for continued accumulation of savings and responsible fiscal habits which are useful qualities in absorbing the impact of economic shocks.

In the words of the UN Secretary-General; Mr. Antonio Guterres, “In exclusion of the private sector, we will neither be able to create sufficient jobs nor build synergy that brings dynamism and stability to the societies that need to be assuaged with the implementation of the SDGs.”

  1. Greater Food Security (Zero Hunger)

No nation can claim to be truly developed if its lacks the ability to feed herself. We have all heard of countries; tongue in cheek, proclaiming middle income status where famine exists all year round due to one instance or another of poor planning! In that particular country both drought and floods can easily strike the same segment of the populace in consecutive seasons despite still paying credence to having a policy and a ministry of Special programs to boot! That said, the youth can be an essential boon in efforts to end hunger. They are the people who possess the most verve, energy and enthusiasm to without shackles throw themselves into the throes of agricultural production if accorded the chance. They also possess the innovativeness and enterprise evidenced by the young men who have developed mobile phone apps that work as early warning systems at the onset of drought, give a flood warning, find markets and even determine if the conditions are optimum for army worms or locusts that can adversely infest existing crop in the farm, if not weevils to raid the silos. The youth; in the backdrop of not being shackled by ghosts from the past, are more willing to experiment with novel solutions that could potentially be the remedy to surmount whatever challenges they face.

  1. Access to Health Services and well-being for all

To fully harness the potential ensconced within a nation there is no option but to guarantee the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being of all segments of that society. That can only be made possible through ensuring societies are raised to the economic situation, income level, working position and level of education that can ensure wholesome and adequate enjoyment of health services. A healthy culture of concern for both our own and the other man’s well-being is a distal determinant of a healthy society. Social education bestows upon its receiver a fully functional cognizance of the rights, empathy and respect for the next person. For this particular item of the SDG to be achieved nations will have to set aside funds for Universal Health Care covering essential health services and sheltering the most vulnerable in society. An all-inclusive Health Insurance fund is vital in this regard. Also there is need for fully stocked and furnished hospitals that can only be brought about as a product of public-private partnership among the various players in the sector. Universal access to information more so pertaining to sexual health for the youth is critically crucial. Prevention is oft better than cure.

  1. Equitable and all-encompassing Quality Education

“The only weapon against poverty is a good and wholesome education.” This was a statement once quipped by Nelson Mandela. Attaining literacy and numeracy for all cadres of society is not a luxury but a cardinal concern of modern life. There is no greater equalizer or tool to achieve the full harnessing of raw human potential that only education can provide. Financial and livelihood education can increase the number of youth and adults with the relevant skill, competence including of the technical genre and soft skills for either employment or business. The link between a decent sustenance and a proper education cannot be gainsaid.

  1. Gender Equality and Empowerment for Women and Girls

There is an overworked statement of empirical wisdom that if you educate a woman you have educated the rank and file of society. In the past women and girls were relegated to the lower echelons of toil in the kitchen, garden work, home-making and child-bearing. Essentially, in the days of yore women were considered the property of a man and so if one was asked to declare their lucre it was not uncommon to hear cattle, cereals in the store and wives lumped in the same sentence. They were merely meant to be seen and look beautiful but never to be heard in the ambient of real men. However times have changed. Today, give a woman a chance and they excel far beyond the capabilities even of the menfolk of society. Looking at the University Graduation lists of many universities, who can miss the observation that most of the First Class Honours Degrees are scored by wait for it… ladies! Universal education irrespective of gender can be the only way to attain the development goals we all aim for. The story of what Kennedy Odede has done in the Kibera slums basically with constrained resources and logistical support with regards to women empowerment is not only inspirational but worthy of replication. Their male counterparts are not to be completely ignored in this regard as only a cross-sectional look around of the entire system can be beneficial to society.

  1. Clean Water and Sanitation

Clean and adequate water is an important aspect in the attainment of SDGs. I shall not be drawn on the uses of water which I could take a whole day to itemize but still not exhaust! We need to be creative in both looking for newer sources and also preserving the ones we have as posterity will depend on it for progress. Water harvesting and storage must rank high in our priorities. Environmental conservation, equally so if our water tables are to be maintained at the current level. Also new tech in desalination of sea water; a massively abundant resource, could be an important way to secure that basal reservoir. Good hygiene practice is the cheapest way to avoid the vagaries of water-borne and communicable illness.

  1. Affordable and Clean Energy

The youth are a salient part in developing renewable energy resources that will be essential for our future prospects going forward. Solar, wind, tidal and geothermal power resources must be looked at as a means to revamp if not supplant the current energy sources. Oil and gas is a finite resource which will ultimately run out in due course. So will hydroelectric power be petered in the succeeding generations. The inculcation of renewable energy into our energy generation stream could enable the injection of more skilled and focused manpower into the workforce to handle our energy needs for the future ensuring we kill two birds with one stone which is nip labour-market redundancy and despondency in the bud while supplying clean energy. A multi-sectoral set up of new and independent power producers is the way to go to achieve affordable energy. The trend of having power utility companies existing as monopolies is an outdated way of doing business that has proven unsustainable and has no place in the future. Electric cars and trains are irrevocably the conveyance of the hereafter!

  1. Decent Work for Sustainable Economic Growth

Isn’t it sad that you wake up early every morning, worried out of your wits about getting late for work just to lend your skill to an enterprise that will not even provide ample roll to pay your rent? That is the phenomenon many youths joining the workforce have to grapple with today. The prospect of being among the working poor. Doesn’t it kill initiative and engender a feeling of helplessness to toil but see no tangible returns? But some will argue this is better than unemployment. The youth are the most affected by this malady in society. A lack of relevant skills coupled with minimal financial resource for an upgrade has left many frustrated. Add to that the less than tantalizing prospect of constrained access to appropriate and sufficient financial services to start business and you will drink a ghastly cocktail. Training in livelihood education can enhance youth employability and stimulate their entrepreneurial nous.

  1. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The much revered 3 Is of sustainable development. Kenya has taken a quantum leap in ensuring innovation and industry is achieved through the subsidizing of youth polytechnics for the uptake of technical skills training that is will be a boon to youth enterprise. Tech-parks and innovation hubs are the way to go to enable youth to condense and distill their creativity into workable frameworks, prototypes and in a safe and resource rich space to foster their ingenuity. Infrastructure development projects will provide the youth with the perfect platform to showcase their newly-acquired skills at work. Block chain technology has to be learnt and milked dry of its benefits.

  1. Reduced Inequalities

All humans given equal opportunity have the propensity for the equi-proportionate attainment of their potential. Let us not draw chalk circles of discrimination against each other. Let’s live in a harmonious, non-hierachical and a synergistic understanding of the fact that brilliance is evenly distributed yet opportunity only sparsely.

  1. Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Cities

We need to make better use of space in our cities. In Nairobi, the best case-study of sustainable use of space is the Two Rivers Mall on the frontier between Nairobi and Ruaka. Here you will find roof-top parking, energy saving solar powered street lights and not to forget a solar farm as a roof canopy. What can be better than that? Additionally residential quarters have to be built upwards to make better use of metropolitan vertical space. Roof-top and gunny bag kitchen gardens are the way to go. On safety I will vouch for the use of IT enabled security systems.

  1. Responsible Consumption and Production

Let’s produce and only use what we need. We should never import what we produce locally also in the words of perennial Kenyan presidential contender Mohammed Abduba Dida, we should be minimalists in our consumerism. Automation in industry will foster scalability and optimization.

  1. Climate Action

Climate change is a reality of our time. It is already in the public purview that the actions of the developed nations as far as industrialization is concerned have a negative correlation in the less developed tropical regions. We entreat the superpowers to do more as we all will suffer the consequences of wantonness. Reduction in the release of greenhouse gases that are actually trapping heat in converting the earth to an oven is our doomsday reality. Shun CFCs to protect our ozone layer.

  1. Preservation of Marine Life

We need marine habitats more than they need us!

  1. Terrestrial Symbiosis

As the most intellectually adroit creatures, humans have a duty of care to protect the delicate balance that is the circle of life on land.

  1. Peace & Justice for Stronger Institutions

The only way to maintain real Peace is by Truth and Justice. Institutions do not exist in isolation and can only be strengthened by a value system and an adherence to principles. Social education is essential in steering the younger members of society judiciously for posterities’ sake.

  1. Partnership for Goals

A common destiny can only be charted when we work in synergy with each other and to one another’s strengths. Any system can only be as strong as its weakest link. Partnership is essential in creating consensus as these are universal goals anyway.

As a prologue attaining the SDGs relies not just on setting of goals but also a responsive action plan harkening to the unmistakable and boisterous cries and needs of the youth. Empowerment by skill, knowledge and self-esteem will be imperative if this lofty ambition is to be attained over the next decade and a half. Synergistic action and long term strategies will be necessary as the youth will inevitably inherit the earth long after their progenitors are gone.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

THE IMPLICATIONS OF ELECTING MORALLY TAINTED INDIVIDUALS TO STATEHOUSE

State House KenyaIn the Bible the story is recounted of the first King of Israel. His name was Saul, son of Kish from Gibeah. In every sense of the word he looked regal. Tall, charismatic, handsome and noble no other man bestrode the landscape like he did at the time. Despite the fact that in his early days he was merely a herdsman looking after his father’s herd of livestock he still oozed leadership potential. A day came when a few of his father’s donkeys strayed away and he and a servant were forced to look for them. Their search took them to Ramah where was domiciled the prophet of the most high, Samuel. They had now walked for miles and were on the verge of abandoning search because let’s face it, what are 7-10 donkeys anyway compared to the herd of probably 500 left home? The servant he travels with knows a thing or two about prophets and suggests that the search would be made all the more easier by consulting Samuel. The two men resolve to make a bee-line for Samuel’s home. They find the old man outside, probably just chilling and recounting past glories. Immediately Samuel catches a glimpse of the lanky and stately Saul from among the crowd something is stirred in him. He hears the immutable and unmistakable voice of Jehovah saying a leader may be within Wi-Fi range. This is at the height of the clamour by Israel to have a King like the surrounding nations. They opine about being in need of a tactical leader and reference frame to always give them the rallying cry that will imbue them in battle against their neighbours, who they have to surmount to inherit in peace and prosperity the ‘Promised Land’. The yammering had become unbearable and Samuel ran the matter by God who dismissively okayed their wishes. So when Samuel saw Saul something gladdened his heart. Saul warmly welcomes the party of two, wines and dines with them and helps them find the donkeys. They depart grateful for everything. In due course Samuel assembles the people at Mizpah in Benjamin and organizes them by tribe and clan and draws lots. After a short but interesting process involving walking sticks Saul’s staff comes up and he is king-elect. Of course some people are riled by both the process and its product. Samuel secretly calls Saul and anoints him king. A few weeks later the Ammonites prepare to lay siege on Jabesh-Gilead. They have a huge force and are renowned for their brutality after victory. Surrender to them is not favourable either as the vanquished will be forced into servitude after having their eyes gauged out! An SOS message is sent to Israel and a battalion rallies behind Saul. By now Saul has psychic powers consecrated by the Lord and fighting with a sword personally delivered by the Supreme Deity. He delivers a stunning victory and in euphoria laced with jubilation men and women congregate in Gilgal crowning Saul as their King. He is magnanimous enough to refuse retribution against those who opposed his election as King initially. Here henceforth, things take a downward spiral as the dark side of Saul is revealed. He becomes quick to anger. He turns disobedient against the same Lord who no less delivers the sword with which he roundly smote the Moabites, Edomites, Aramites and arch-rivals the Philistines. He goes soft on the Amalekites preserving their King and choicest livestock for himself. However among his vices, none is more pre-eminent in ignominy as the choice to become fiercely jealous of one of his priced upstart sensations, future King David. In an instance of bad timing, he infuriates Yahweh who deserts him just when the Philistines have assembled their most valiant army yet. Saul panics and decides to consult a witchdoctor who has no good tidings either. In an impulsive nay head-strong onslaught decides to go into battle sans-Dei. He is roundly defeated and the rest is history. As sages put it, “power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Why would I recount this story in such depth, in my current capacity as one with neither grounding on theology or divinity but also no intentions of becoming a preacher? It is just that the same missteps that were the bane of the Israelites approximately 3500 years ago are the same bedeviling the Kenyan society in 2018. We just don’t have any tool to sift through the wheat so as to take out the chaff. As far as selecting a suitable leader is concerned we are easily beguiled by outward beauty, charisma, wealth, subtlety, height, linguistic flair, the suave mannerism and booming voice ignoring all the other more important characteristics requisite for the most suitable leader. Instead integrity is merely a by-word as we prefer to elect overtly corrupt leaders simply because in our ambiguous comportment and misreading of the scriptures quote the verse, “He without sin should cast the first stone.” The wise will tell you that the most distinct form of irrationality and imprudence is seeing an obstacle on your path and instead of avoiding it, believing that some unknown force will make its hand seen and save you from that injudicious manifestation. Famous Science juggernaut and innovator Prof. Albert Einstein is credited with the quote about insanity being the act of replicating past actions expecting a dissimilitude in results.

Many are the times when we lay preference to cursing the darkness instead of lighting the candle. How many times do we delude ourselves with statements like these?

  • He will change.
  • My kinsman, my shortcut to riches.
  • He has our best interest at heart.
  • She is ‘Bae wa Nairobi.’ She stared at me during campaigns. She likes me!
  • His peers are definitely more morally bereft.
  • He finishes his speeches with ‘God bless Kenya’ thus he is a righteous leader.

Just like many others I would have the same problem identifying the more morally upright leader on face value. This is a delicate art sometimes even requiring a trade-off. By this I mean accepting some minor misdemeanours for the greater good. In the United States in recent times we have had George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as former Presidents. George W. Bush was considered a morally upright character and polished individual who sought to enforce such a moral high ground upon society. Unfortunately his performance as a president and in lieu of the economy and unnecessary battles leaves much to be rued. William Jefferson Clinton may not have covered himself in lights if the moral compass should be the prism through which you compare him with other former American Presidents. Incessant slip-ups with female interns and White-house staffers yet during his time USA enjoyed an economic boom thanks to good fiscal policy, the executive and economic decisions he undertook. This is the severe dichotomy among the choices we have to make but is a conundrum we need not have. Call it the opportunity cost of one over the other.

Notwithstanding, history is replete with examples of popular and charismatic characters who eventually became despotic leaders. None fits this mould more than Adolf Hitler. Wikipedia describes him as an astute politician, demagogue and Pan-German revolutionary. This was not always the case. Born in Linz in the former Austria-Hungary he was merely a young man inspired by Fine Art which he studied and practiced. He eventually moved to Munich to eke a sustenance. Come August 1914 at the start of the first World-War he was enlisted into the Bavarian ranks; an administrative error as he still held Austrian not Prussian citizenship, consequent to panicky and the erratic way of war. Nonetheless, he distinguished himself in battle as a brave and reliable dispatcher. In October 1916 in the heat of the battle of the Somme he was wounded in his right thigh and blinded in a mustard gas attack. All the same he soldiered on and even played dead to avoid capture when his entire contingent was massacred. He subsequently was awarded the Iron Class, 2nd Class honour and eventually the Black wound Badge notwithstanding his low rank. As Germany made reparations, he subsisted in the Headquarters drawing cartoons and illustrations for the Army publication.

His conscription into politics just like the army was incidental as he had been on assignment as an Intelligence Agent to infiltrate the then serious opposition contender, the German Workers Party (DAP). Thinking of him an ordinary devoted party-affiliate, he was given the podium by Chairman; Anton Drexler, to try and drum up the audience on party policy. His oratorical gift shone ever so bright on the day and the topic dear to the audience was anti-Semitism. Both his political career and abhorrence for the Jews was basically born on the same day. At every twist and turn he capitalized on populist sentiment, the then Party member #555 gave vitriolic bar-room speeches that captivated his audiences. He kept to his most popular scape-goats whom he blamed on the populaces’ financial hardships. He is said to have been so gifted that he virtually hypnotized men in large gatherings with his voice and had a sort of flame in his eyes for smaller audiences. Giving vitriolic sermons on national pride he evinced the kind of possessed hysteria that left many writhing on the ground and some experiencing bizarre feacal incontinence as has variously been reported.

Come 1923, in feigned rage he guilefully resigned from the party to force a take-over bid as Chairman of the newly renamed NSDAP- National Socialist German Workers Party colloquially dubbed the “Nazi party.” Impressive to note is that he even dipped into his Fine Art mastery to design the Nazi-party standard bearer, the ‘Swastika.’ In November 1923 he led an attempted coup on the German leadership and was arrested, charged with high-treason and incarcerated. He served 5 years in jail. In 1932 despite fiery rhetoric and support of many of the country’s renowned industrialists, he lost a two round presidential election to Paul von Hindenburg, then incumbent.  Come 1933 fortune smiled his way again thanks to the Great depression. An ineffectual minority Government saw influential politicians Franz von Papen and Alfred Hugenberg along with other industrialists and entrepreneurs prevail on Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor to give the Government a veneer of legislative majority which he reluctantly agreed to. This was a non-party affiliated position as a leader of Government. On 2nd August 1934, just a day after legislation was enacted to abolish the post of President after the ageing Hindenburg left office, the veteran ‘conveniently’ died. Having roped in the executive and legislative arms of government, the Führer now became Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. He used the legislature to pass the ‘enabling-act’ to deviate from the constitution on specific matters and enact some laws on his own volition without parliamentary approval. He with laissez-faire sentiment now in earnest commenced his purification (creation of the Aryan race) by de-Semitization, de-capitalization and de-Marxization of the German nation. Hitler got his wish and began the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust. Hubris permitting, he invaded Poland in 1939 over frivolity. This is how Germany triggered World-War 2 and effectively began her own downfall. They were decisively defeated and he eventually committed suicide. The tale of Hitler is the classic tale of how populism can be abused to create despotic and utterly diabolical machinations just to satisfy the parochial interest of a few to the detriment of a planet in general.

So that begs the question, what kind of leaders should we elect to Statehouse? We must accept that this man or woman will be a subset of society and needless to say none is perfect, without sin, blot or blemish. All the same, the Presidency is such a vital and far-reaching office that only the best suited minds in any country deserves a place therein. A president can influence the political will to get any agenda pushed through and he is also expected to exist as a symbol of a nation’s unity. Thus it behoves us to ensure that we do a considered selection process for whomever occupies that seat controls our destiny for today and deep into the future for our progeny. Important to note, the major problem with electing reprehensible characters as Presidents is accountability. Who will have authority to oversight them? So there can be no two ways about it. For my compatriots in Kenya, we can no longer have tribal patronage as the key consideration if at all we are interested in realizing an all-inclusive, development-oriented destiny as a nation. We must take cognizance of our nation as an agglomeration of nation-states and so we have to deliberately accommodate all our ethnic identities in the awareness of brilliance as evenly distributed but opportunity only sparsely. Also in the year 2010, Kenya promulgated an audacious and progressive pristine constitution as a multi-sectoral process, a befitting tribute to our maturing as a democracy. Moreover, it was a product borne out of the great expense of the blood, sweat, tears and sacrificial leadership from our forebears. So I would implore my dear countrymen to perform a critical analysis in future. To kick off the probe, who were in the side that opposed the referendum process which birthed this dispensation? We must remember that Kenya is currently treading a path of positive reform after suffering too many wasted years in the past to condone any more that will be the consequence of choosing the wrong man for the Presidency. In concomitance with that, once we have a name or a list; the answer to the question above, we must then scour our conscience about the prudence of expecting such a man or woman to preserve and live vicarious to the letter, spirit and tenets of this same constitution!

The Questionnaire which I would implore each and every one to carry in that conscientious patch of mind that will be primal to surveying the leadership style we envisage has these keystone concerns:

  1. Does this leader really care about me or could he leave me to harm as collateral damage?
  2. Is this a man of integrity or will he trade me for a bowl of lentils (Or 10,000 Shillings)? [Or Both]
  3. Is he sufficiently noble to possess loyalty to both I, national ideals and his political partners or are they prone to betrayal, as only a traitor can?
  4. Is there any principle whose sanctity he respects or he simply enjoys the life of depravity and disorder trusting only divine providence for a salvation?
  5. Is he a man who can exercise authority in decision making or will he flatter like a flag pandering to the whims of the side that his bread is best buttered?
  6. Does he preach water and drink wine or he exemplifies his ranting?
  7. Are they effective role models or merely as Texans say, “All hat but no cattle?”
  8. Does he practice fidelity or simply collects women and children like round stones from the riverbed?
  9. What is their stance on impunity vis-a vis liability?
  10. Would you rather have one who tells you sweet nothings or a realist to provide the SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Time-bound) analysis to manifesto items?
  11. Do you delude yourself that your preferred leader has to steal public funds for future campaign purposes?
  12. Does your leader give hefty contributions to Harambees during the day only to return demanding a reimbursement at night?
  13. Should your leader really give you that 50/- or 100/- to boost electability?
  14. Should I continue having a war mongers for a leader or do I deserve better?
  15. Should I be comfortable with a supposedly ‘reformed’ narcopreneur cavorting as a leader or would I rather that long-suffering ‘squadi-guy’ who has now morphed into the chairman of a Matatu Sacco?

In his considered opinion, Nicolo Machiavelli argued in his best seller; The Prince, about the need for laws & structures to enforce morality. In respecting the rule of law we are always implored to respect our institutions but I dare aver with unrestrained contrition that it presents a challenge respecting institutions that have themselves lost the moral authority to demand the same. We are under obligation to elect people with the autonomous drive towards self-regulation and an uncompromising obeisance to the strictures of the law and if not we are under no obligation to elect them. To him who much is given so much more is expected.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BURNING OF OUR SCHOOLS

Burn2

In Biblical times, there was the torrid feud between Absalom and Joab. Joab was a nephew of King David and thanks to his acts of onerous gallantry, loyalty and unheralded leadership was appointed a commander of the King’s Army. Absalom was product of the concord between the King and one of his wives Princess Maacah of Geshur. No man in this world has ever been greatly revered for his inimitable good looks and charisma as this man Absalom. That goes against popular hip-hop artiste; Big Sean’s track – “Man’s Not Hot” but that is neither here nor there.  But in the same token few could replicate his quirks- a proclivity for rage, vengeance, pride and mere petulance. Some of it could have been borne of the fact that he was the King’s third-born son who after killing his eldest brother and taking some time in sojourn afterwards, now saw himself as all but the straight-up inheritor of the throne, no questions asked. As aforementioned his worst foible was petulance. Patience may have been an idiosyncrasy he most despised and so had problems bidding his time. While trying to lead a coup against his father he attempted to incorporate Joab into his reprehensible machinations. Loyal to the King from way back he had an easy choice, No! That choice greatly irked this upstart who had trouble with the ‘accept and move on’ tag-line common in the Kenyan political scene. Tapping on the putrid mannerisms mentioned above he decided to set ablaze Joab’s field of barley and wheat in full-bloom. The seeds of hatred were now sown. Charisma permitting he led a successful coup and usurped his father’s throne and sent him in full flight for his life and that of his family. When David learnt that an army had been dispatched with Absalom as the spear-head to obliterate him once and for all he went down on his knees in orison to the Lord. The Lord gave the green-light for a counterstrike. Fearing a potential encounter between Absalom and his enraged kin, David urged Joab to be gentle with his son. Burning rage was the only thing in Joab’s psyche but he grievingly agreed. The battle was unrelenting, Team Absalom were routed and the new ‘King’ in headlong flight from Joab and his men got his hair all tangled up in the vines, his horse choosing to continue the flight without the payload. Absalom was found dangling, none of his much vaunted charm apparent then. Joab had no time for niceties. With an axe to grind with the young man; target practice was the only game on the cards, three spears to the chest and the job was done. Whoever coined the phrase, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold had this scene firmly in mind. There were tears from the loving father and a monument built in respect of the young man, but as always I digress.

In a previous blog I have expressed sentiments about Kenya being a land riddled with peculiarities and experiences of uncommon prevalence elsewhere. Indeed, borrowing an excerpt from that blog: ( https://dennismukoya.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/betrayed-memoranda-of-understanding-in-the-bestial-realm/ ) – { No wonder one Michael Joseph, former CEO of Safaricom; the super-capitalized Kenyan mobile telecommunication troika (voice, data, money transfer) after enjoying abundant returns as a result of this virtue or ilk (depending on where you stand) once quipped, “Kenya is a land of queer habits”.} However, our obsequious deference to this phenomenon has recently taken a turn for the utterly bizarre with the actions of our ‘heirs-apparent’- the leaders of tomorrow currently reveling in the most brutish and retrogressive obsession. This is the bush-fire like spread of conflagration and anarchist-like arson in our institutions of secondary school education. This is no doubt a disconcerting state of affairs which deserves discussion as a matter of grave national importance as it has reached endemic proportions. Parents spend exorbitantly and have to sacrifice a lot simply for the well-being of their progeny. They strive to afford their fledgling clan some of the benefits missed out by themselves in their heyday. So needless to say this turn of events is like a hot knife through butter, the butter colloquially referring to the heavily burdened hearts and consciences of that demographic. Even to me, it is sadness beyond grief. Education up in flames!

But how did we get here? Sermons have been preached time on end about education being the great equalizer. Even dubbed, the only weapon against poverty, destitution and pestilence by the Father of equality in South Africa, the most venerable African Statesman Nelson Mandela. In our time we enjoyed learning and acquiescence of knowledge not just for its own sake but to gain insight into the inner workings of the world. This was no skullduggery but a task we reveled in and greatly enjoyed. As a matter of fact there are men like our current Deputy President William S. Ruto who is currently poised a heart-beat away from the presidency. Many rancid and questionable aspersions have been cast on his character either rightly or maliciously but you cannot besmirch him of the fact that education is the main reason he rose from humble extraction hawking chicken and their products in the streets to his contemporary disposition. And so why would anyone want to destroy an institution with such potential for transformation and harnessing of raw-human potential in such an egregious albeit iniquitous fashion?

In the backdrop of all this, what can be more painful than the prima-facie informed yet intellectually emaciated knee-jerk reactions from Education Ministry aficionados, threats and evasive opinions from the real causative agents of the problem – arm-chair technocrats, men and women who comment on affairs devoid of information, tact, moral authority, wisdom or even the import of basic commonsense? What academic & professional grounding have such ‘luminaries’ on matters of child psychology and pedagogical development as it relates to the changing comportment of the teenager? Some peddle hog-wash about the previous outlawing of corporal punishment being the cause. Then, a finger is pointed to this age-old un-diagnosable syndrome ‘Examination Fever or fervour.’ Few lay culpability on drug-abuse and devil-worship. From throwing liability on boarding schools the spectrum extends to the bizarre nadirs of lack of unified school uniform. Worse still, the superstitious censure the edict by the previous Cabinet Secretary for Education banning Prayer days, opining that the devil has found a path of least resistance into our children. But to whose profit? When you say that the fruit of your loins, the most intelligent creation of the Almighty can only be guided by the doctrine of the cane like some circus animal, doesn’t that speak volumes of the importance you apportion to your own flesh and blood?

These incidences have proved both statistically predictable in terms of date and time, even seeming orchestrated in some sort of choreography such that like the falling of dominoes when one starts, the rest follow inevitably. They flash a sarcastic smile to all government efforts at investigation and future prevention. Talk of Monkey see monkey do. I definitely hold the views in the above paragraph in absolute derision, preferring instead to pay sound credence to the considered opinion I will coruscate below as the real cause of the problem:

  1. Denial of Extra-curricular and Physical exertion. We may not see it but the teenage years are a period of great physical, psychological & social tumult in the life of a human-being. Changes in muscular strength due to puberty gifts upon them physicality of the magnitude they have never witnessed before. As a period when they are most malleable and amenable to peer-pressure and strife to conform to ideals set out by their friends and others around them. Growth also transects to their mindsets and that need to have social relationship with members of the opposite sex becomes ever so palpable. Concomitant with all these, this would be the best time to let the young men and women exploit all avenues of personal expression through both co-curricular and extra-curricular. This would be the prime-time to get into sports, drama, music, debating and all sorts of clubs which will shape up their characters for the future. This forms of expression ultimately prepares these candidates for their future in the working life building traits like tenacity, team-work, planning, resilience against adversity, innovation in strategy, recovery from downturn, how to win and lose in decorum and many other learning opportunities not easily replicated simply by chalk touching the blackboard. So when school policy fails to recognize the need to support this all-round character development, choosing only to gear scholarly efforts towards solely academics there is likely to be a collision course. Academics is definitely not the sole mode of manifestation and path towards success and people like Kylian Mbappe who were not academic powerhouses but have excelled to reach the pinnacle of sporting success are an apt example. As they say all work but no play makes Jack a dull boy. Studies have proved that people learn the most when they disconnect from their daily routine and it cannot be any different with school life.
  1. Lack of Leadership from school heads and Delocalization. This is closely linked with the point above. Inspirational book author Steven Covey puts it in his book, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ that the leadership-management continuum is like an iceberg. Scientifically, ice has a specific density of 0.92. So putting it contextually management is like that 8% that peeks above the water surface while leadership is that 92% that though unseen lurks under the surface and could potentially sink any ship unbeknown to the captain. Management involves strict adherence to the rules, giving edicts and providing a plan for implementation to scale to the highest point of the ladder of success while Leadership involves wisdom, discussion, consensus building and basically positioning your ladder against the right wall. The Kenyan system of education is unfortunately academically-based. Success in scholarly pursuit is often equated to success in life. Many are the times where under the strain of this fact, school principals deny students even time to unwind simply to maximize on time for syllabus coverage and revision. As a previous principal may have accorded the students sufficient time for school and rest, the incessant changes in school administration may wrought upon us a situation where a new Principal under the pressure to strive to out-do his predecessor cuts out all fun from learning. Stories of schools going up in flames this year simply because the head teacher lacked the foresight to allow the students to watch a World cup final match have not been unheard of. As a quadrennial event how many will any student experience in high school anyway? For that, hard-earned academic infrastructure is lost. How sad! Delocalization of school administration though a noble venture has brought about the biennial instability a right substrate to foment unrest in many schools and is a policy that should be keenly investigated for future viability.

 

  1. Collapse of the societal value and reward system. Among the greatest pitfalls of the Jubilee administration is the continuation of the archaic patronage system of governance. Hard work, sacrifice, experience, academic qualifications and other anachronistic yardsticks to determine the right person to appoint for government jobs have become outmoded in their ‘digital’ dispensation. Instead political patronage, tribalism, nepotism, clannism and reward of beer-buddies to state corporations have become the order of the day. In a country where ‘slay-queens’ are paid 50 Million to supply warmth to state functionaries and septuagenarians pulled out of retirement to ostensibly help out in the ‘heavy’ matters of state. Loyalty is no longer reserved for principle but to personalities some of whom could be people tainted by abhorrent and abominable adherence to no particular credentials of achievement, principle, merit and justice. This does not go unnoticed by the ‘leaders of tomorrow’ intelligent enough to emulate the monkey see monkey do axiom. When you see a clearly illiterate character, struggling with expression in English during vetting being named cabinet secretary in a country teeming with highly erudite yet jobless older siblings, what incentive does this youth have to continue schooling any further? This creates a loss of faith that education will ultimately be rewarded with success. When drug lords and cartel-minted tycoons are stationed in the core of the administration how is this to augur well with avoidance of depravity and creation of upright citizens? Simple answer: burn down the schools, put on some make-up, play harlot to the leading political lights and hope to receive state largesse when they eventually ascend to power.

 

  1. Overcrowding Due to Free Primary Education Success. One of the greatest items of legacy that the Kibaki administration bequeathed upon Kenya is the uptake of the Free Primary Education. Enrollment soared ten-fold and primary education became universal and accessible to all. Fast forward a decade and a half later and the same infrastructure is expected to house all this cohort of students and afford them shoulder room to manoeuvre in the same way it did for much fewer students. Construction of new structures did not keep pace with enrollment and has now been greatly outstripped. When a student comes to school only to sleep on the floor; something of an oddity where he hails from, impetus to continue schooling is greatly diminished. Add to that the attendant malnourishment due to inadequate food rations created by this situation for their rapidly growing bodies and a reduction in visiting days and you get a ghastly mix.
  1. Change in Parenting Roles. Societal norms are now in reversal. Unlike any other time in our history children are raised by single parents who still have to toil to cater for their needs and those of their families. In due course they hire house helps, referred to as domestic assistants or executives in politically correct terms. The role of raising children becomes transferred majorly to these individuals. Many of them are children themselves and the older ones are not sufficiently tooled to instill a measure of discipline, sound moral grounding, a value system and even a measure of control upon the children. These young men and women grow in absolute freedom and impunity like trees that have never been pruned. The result of this is that the prism through which these boys and girls are expected to view the kaleidoscope that is right distinguished from wrong is severely impaired. “After all people commit crimes in movies and go scot-free, what is burning of a mere school anyway?” becomes their mentality.

 

  1. Loss of Appreciation and Gratitude for anything. The British imperialists may have colonized Kenya for nearly 70 years but left us with impeccable academic and government institutions. We can consider ourselves fortunate. Most of the countries occupied by the French and Belgians were not so lucky. Let us take an example of DRC. Under Belgian occupation, exploitation of their rich natural resource is the only activity that flourished. Little effort was made to build infrastructure, local capacity and educational institutions. Come independence time the ill-effects of these acts of omission reared an ugly head. The landscape was replete with illiterate men and women not knowing what to do with themselves. War broke out soon after and has been continuous ever since. Stability is a mirage. The similarities with Kenya is that whereas in the former Belgian Congo it is rebel forces who institute a scorched-earth policy in Kenya it is the greatly fortunate descendants of highly refined parentage who put their academies to conflagration. How uncivilized? This can only point to a lack of gratitude for what we have, and as the greatly revered Kenyan lawyer PLO Lumumba puts it, “when we don’t make use of the good cards that have been dealt to us they will be taken away – by the Chinese. It is then and only then that the iridescent value of that commodity will become apparent.”

 

  1. Social Media fueling negative peer pressure. The advent of social media has brought about transmission of information at speeds never witnessed before. While love missives would take weeks to reach their destinations social media is instant. Add to that Peer pressure prevalent in the youth at that incongruous juncture and the promotion of instant gratification and moral decadence and you get an insurmountable monster. One minute a school is on fire, two hours later another. Not to be left behind yet another 500 Km away is now in flames.

 

  1. Failure in conflict resolution mechanisms. As a nation we have to take the biscuit as being quite poor in resolving disputes. One moment someone’s father is smartly dressed in a suit. The next moment the seemingly polished gentleman is rolling on the ground singing, “Haki yetu! Solidarity forever!” Someone’s mother leaves the labour union offices as a polished lady bleach, lipstick, weaves and all. The next moment her hips are gyrating in a very macabre manner in protest of some injustice on national television. I would call this act the greater injustice but I’m simply one man with one vote. We just have to air our dirty linen in public, a characteristic that has escaped neither the attentions nor fancies of these young, highly impressionable minds. Upright citizens of tomorrow, please.

 

  1. Bad Genetics. The fruit rarely falls far from the tree. For instance we have a man given to impunity, greed, injustice and sexual immorality. He meets up with a woman who by her very nature is only attracted to flashy life-styles, shopping trips to Dubai, Range rover vogues, gold digging with eventual plans of existence as a black-widow. You tell me with such an untoward cock-tail of chromosomes; notwithstanding, how is the fruit of this union supposed to be a God-fearing, value-driven individual? You can never draw blood out of a guava.

A drowning man will eternally clutch at straws. Security measures like CCTV and Access Control systems have been variously opined as solutions to this uncouth menace; and despite owning a company that installs and by extension making a living from the same, I dare proffer, submitting with unmitigated contrition that that is an inadequate remedy to the malaise. The true panacea is the inculcation of good values in our children who we should treat as our most highly valued possession. Allow for free extra-curricular expression. Let us endeavour for leadership over management. If not we should determinately brace ourselves for the next round of school fires in second term 2019!

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

CALL FOR PRUDENCE IN THE LIBERALIZATION OF OUR LOCAL ECONOMY TO SAFEGUARD INDUSTRIALIZATION

Sugar ContrabandThis scene has been replayed times on end. There is the story of the responsible and hardworking husband. He is the head of the family, the breadwinner and the doting father of a young family. He gets up early every morning to go to work to cater for all his families’ needs and wants. He toils each day with nothing else but the best interests of his fledgling clan at heart. Later in the day he departs work making a beeline for the local where he takes two-for-the-road. Returning home at the tail-end of each day infernally exhausted he is in need of nothing else other than his bath, dinner and sleep. Even the day’s news has lost consequence to him as everything has just mashed-up to a bland and predictable offering of tragedies on corruption, mercury-copper compounds passed off as sugar, land grabbing by the usual masters of impunity, ineptitude by pseudo-technocrats, unnecessary deaths, ‘kutanga-tanga’ by apprehensive political players smack in the middle of another’s presidential term and all-round resignation and obeisance to the gods of mediocrity. This antipathy is exacerbated by that bevy of insecure, socialite-wannabe, busy-body news anchors trying too hard to impress and sell ‘goods’ other than what they are handsomely paid to convey. The family lives well. Existing in a spacious multi-roomed house, they own a 62” HD-IP TV and each bedroom is en-suite such that everyone subsists in their own bubble of comfort and relative privacy. They have a fully operational kitchen furnished with many amenities some even surplus to requirements. Each of the children has the latest PlayStation with all the almost 7D graphics that come with it. As for the wife she is a portly, beautiful, content-looking, modern yet suitably subservient home-maker in her mid-thirties who seems to have all the comfort she can imagine and by the flash of the credit card can buy all that gladdens her heart. In the middle of all this opulence the mother of the family is nonchalant and ill at ease. Can anyone hazard a guess why? None!!! You are not alone. Not even the husband can understand what is wrong with this ‘woman.’ Spoiler Alert to all the single ladies reading this post: woman is the technical term used to describe you. Niceties like sweetie and honey stop being used as soon as when a man puts a ring-on-it and a carbon-copy of both your chromosomes have been issued if you get my drift. To him she now seems an insatiable ogre and the epitome of owning your own bottomless pit. Questions like: “Can’t this woman understand how much effort I exert to afford her all the luxury she now enjoys?” become the staple. But I personally feel a tinge of dismay for this lady. Not because she forgot to ask her battle-hardened mother for both the Hard copy and PDF of the ‘Husband’s Manual’ before delving into marriage. Hell No! Also not because I am naturally inclined to both compassion and comprehension but because as marriage counsellors will tell you, there is more to the marriage than the basic providence and all the scheduled vacations to Dubai and Zanzibar. It moreover requires one to be acutely aware of and eternally strive to cater to each other’s needs and simply be emotionally available for the other partner. The lady simply hangs on to whatever she has in appreciation of the fact that she now enjoys the prestige and luxury of a perpetually-catered for fuel guzzler of a Range Rover sport more than she could ever persevere the squalor and indignity that comes with riding a matatu! Like many roads in this country currently, I have taken a course diversion but a worthy one.

The Lords of the economy in this country have contrived to have a Free-market ‘Laissez-faire’ Economy. To them capitalism is the way to go and nothing tastes sweeter than acquiescence of the full dividends of your investments. After all, who wouldn’t want to get value for money, to expend less and earn more, to make super-profits out of any business endeavour he puts his mind and hands to? In 2003 when the NARC administration took over we all know the situation many industries and factories were in. Many years of open malevolence in the form of kleptocracy, tribalism, favouritism, nepotism and the appointment of cronies as company directors for political expediency executed in the previous regime had bred ineptitude and impunity which ran most Government corporations and state-run entities to ruin if not insolvency. With accountability the tapestry of our sewerage system, the economy was in a rut and devoid of the leader with not just the know-how, but the required gravitas to get it out. A paradigm shift was required as a matter of grave national urgency. Then wheeled-in the Kibaki-led government and because he was an economics virtuoso, everyone was imbued by the audacity of hope that would all but radiate from his regime. And a good job he did. Other than the tribalism and selective forgetfulness on the idiosyncrasies of implementing the Memorandum of Understanding with his political partners he still fared admirably. That opinion is of course subjective. The Government of Kenya has had many missteps in its running and use of its executive authority. Few have been as ignominiously grievous as the allowing for the capitulation of our local industries. In the developed world; Creators, Builders, Manufacturers, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, Investors, Solution-architects and free-thinkers have been given the freedom to be all they can be and build all they can as these nations understand the importance of free enterprise. With industrialization you will keep most of the polity gainfully engaged and reduce the proclivity for political instability. Besides, the world is ready to pay a premium to the man or woman that creates utility in a commodity or service with an aim to satisfy human needs and wants and solve the many puzzles of life. There will always be a market for manufactured goods. The mechanics of starting an industry or any business dictate that after all the preliminaries, the business will have to take some time to hire staff who will work their socks off marketing to help attract new customers, build market-share and eventually break-even. Then afterwards, the import of many years of sound and relevant management will have to be imparted to grow and aggressively expand the enterprise so as to make more profit and develop a worthwhile venture. An important consideration about business is that you have no option but to grow and scale-up the distribution channels. If not mounting recurrent expenditure, taxation and legal costs will eventually gobble up your profit margins and ultimately run you out of business no matter how noble a person you are, your level of integrity notwithstanding.

Unfortunately, Kenyan firms are often not accorded the same privilege and financial support to go through the entire process of development. Their products are subjected to unfair competition from goods originating in other nations in absolute disregard to our costs of production among other considerations. Due to industrial costs being higher in Kenya thanks to our cartel-like culture of business and man-eat man economics, our goods are not as competitively priced as those from other climes more so the developed world. The Kenyan economy is majorly supported by agriculture and the Small and Medium Enterprises that dot the landscape. These are for the most part not as greatly capitalized as the bigger state-run organizations and as such any small market shock will hit to the core of their being and crumble them like a house of cards. A time existed when there was a clothing manufacturing industry, the Kicomi Cotton factory. They used to produce reasonable quality items of clothing. I hear that very few people had qualms with the quality of vestments produced locally and we even exported to our neighbours. Then thanks to some ill-advised policy change, in came the second-hand clothing industry. These are used garments from North America and Western Europe which made an influx into our local market. Because of their lower price point and the slightly more advanced technology used to produce the same, our locally produced fabrics could no longer pass muster against the new competitors. The durability and wider range of fashion options effectively dealt our clothing industry a killer blow and revival became an exercise in futility. By the way who would even have been concerned with trying to revive this industry when most likely kickbacks had been paid to our rulers to push through this expropriationary policy?

The story is the same all over for Coffee, Tea, Paper, Pyrethrum, Sugar and even the Cashew nuts industry. A legacy of bringing down local investment just to satisfy the interests of a few foreign investors and cheaper goods from our regional economic competitors. In the mid to late 70’s Western Kenya and Nyanza regions were the hot-bed of sugar production. This incursion was brought about by the hot and humid climate that was deemed suitable for cane growing. Though most companies were run by the departing settlers, sound market practice still prevailed. Then came the transition such that local hands took reign of these industries and all hell broke loose. Each and every one of the new Managing Directors and CEO to all intents and purposes got into the seat and virtually saw dollar signs. Out of nowhere had appeared an onerous opportunity for personal aggrandizement and changing of their personal circumstances. Palatial rural and urban homes came up at a premium all over and the dream to marry that ever-elusive next wife was the principal motivation in these administrators’ minds. Personal growth and not the best interests of the organization became their primal aim. They started underpaying, coercing and even threatening the producers of raw materials thinking in their demented comportment that the more they squeezed out of the smallholder farmers, the more benefit they accrue for themselves. This injurious course of events has resulted in the disenfranchisement of farmers, some of whom had to sacrifice arable land that would have supported subsistence farming and so have to beg for foodstuffs just to gain that extra yard of earth to grow cane. As for all levels of perversion the situation was roiled further by political wheeler-dealers who found a new opium to intoxicate their impoverished and disillusioned electorate with. Elect them and they will virtually deliver heaven and earth and deal a death-knell to the managerial malfeasance affecting these factories. Some even went to these sugar miller’s administrators and very callously ‘pitched’ for facilitation fees claiming that they had the ability to pull strings to avail government bail-out funds for the struggling millers.

As with many politicians fact is more greatly constrained in comparison to fiction. When they get elected they immure themselves in the anonymity of life in some posh suburb in the capital never to be heard of again for the next five years. For them the dish called truth has to be over seasoned with fables and propaganda. They may not be so austere in spending but are ruthlessly economical with is the truth. But one economist who was not known to suffer fools was our very own former President Mwai Kibaki. Once as he addressed a rally in the greater Mumias area a horde appeared shouting for the revival of MOCO (Mumias Outgrowers Company). The bemused head of state who had no doubt cared little for the organization in a witty retort told the hecklers to go and grow cassava and arrow-roots if they are causing all this raucous because of sugarcane. He mistook MOCO for the Kiswahili word for Cassava ‘Mihogo.’ Hearsay aside, the aforementioned rascals have worked in concert for eons to bring down many a local factory. The narrative is the same all over. In the end a limitless torrent of recurrent expenditure, salaries, dissatisfied producers, unpaid suppliers and the consequent litigation has crumbled many an industry. In an effort to appear altruistic and charismatic, the government avails bail-out funds but without the right framework for the uptake of the same it is all in vain. Smoke billows from these industries for two weeks then, Shutdown! Yes, again? The usual excuse is routine maintenance. But how many times will the same factory be in routine maintenance in a 3-month period? Then the popularly elected government decides that it is no longer feasible to run local industry in a manner likely to produce competitive goods and decides to pander to the whims of regional integration and allows for the importation of duty-free sugar. Wow!

Shifting to the remedial lane. Just like corruption, narrow-minded policy has the impact of benefitting just a few people at the expense of greater good. Imagine all the jobs that would have been available to highly skilled professionals continually being churned out by our universities. Engineers, accountants, procurement officials, store-keepers, lawyers would have found a worthwhile sustenance if all these collapsed firms had stayed open. I am not roundly condemning foreign investment. Unfettered flow of capital investment into the nation can only be good for us in the long term building economies of scale and strengthening efficiencies of erstwhile unproductive ventures.

However those efforts should be tempered with other measures to have a favourable mix:

  • Affirmative action / Protectionism: In other nations, there are incentives and an all-out closing of ranks to protect local industries and their respective market segments. This has been effectively employed by nations like Brazil. Yes, our sugar-producing competitors whose legacy we may never match. And it works like a charm, if recent stories of our own local sugar-barons importing the same to be further processed are to be believed. Our efforts should not be constrained to but inclusive of Fair tariffs, equitable taxation, subsidies for local producers and our goods, heavy import duty imposition on similar goods procured externally and setting up of a quota-system for local produce vis-à-vis foreign imports. In my time in business I have been forced to ponder this conundrum while steaming in a Kenya Revenue Authority inquiries queue. What is this obsession with double taxation? Is our revenue authority so intellectually constrained to think they can ameliorate the national coffers by taxing producers twice? This is the kind of balderdash that we as a citizenry have to stand up to in force and ruthlessly castigate as it is drowning many industries in a mire of unnecessary expense.

 

  • Revive local Manufacturing: With the situation we have precipitated currently, we have even occasioned an imbalance where we import more than the value we reciprocate to our trading partners. That Balance of Trade can only be restituted by a renaissance in local manufacturing. Many years in the doldrums have billed us as nothing more than labourers for the sake of consumption while regenerating nothing. As mentioned previously none of our foreign partners will find the imperative to take us seriously when there is nothing of value they can get from us all the while we import as much as bottled drinking water!

 

  • Export compensation should not be viewed as a favour to a few well-heeled operators but be proportionately paid out to our local exporters and as promptly as has in the past been paid to some scummy connivers who exported air in a mega-scandal! Due diligence is advised.

 

  • Forthright Leadership & Policy Change: My message to the current Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization; Adan Mohammed, beware of the entity known as the ‘deep-state’. In their attempt to influence government policy they will not draw it towards a direction that favours the sweet-spot between protection of our local economy and in the same vein fostering external investment. Theirs is the same tired incantation – “it is our time to eat.” It is only a multilevel approach that will be deemed satisfactory to all the players in the field and bode well for our future prospects. Why on earth do we bang our chests proclaiming sovereignty when given relevant and progressive advise by the donor community but cannot exercise the same to protect our own enterprises? Magnanimity in the pursuit of a broad-based approach will consequently be a better bet for us all, but who am I to say?

 

  • Solidarity in the same struggle: Where is our unity and solidarity when we need it the most? For instance, when a gentleman growing tea in Kericho sees unfair practices collapsing a coffee cooperative in Murang’a he relaxes often deluding himself that the same problem cannot befall him. After all he is miles away and his respective organization is thriving and cannot meet the same fate. What he doesn’t understand is that if one hole is drilled on one side of a raft the entire contraption will be vulnerable to sinking. Matter of factly, merchants of malice never rest and like a hydra will extend their tentacles with intent to strangle all institutions where they scent the blood of profitability.

 

  • Innovate to Reduce Costs: Blame should not just be apportioned to the government. Even the entrepreneur community have the responsibility to innovate to increase the efficiency of their conveyor belts of production so as to produce cheaper goods that will be more competitive in the free market which we cannot wish away. If not, forever being held in derision by other nations will become our portion. Consumerism has never been and will never be rewarded but quite highly frowned upon and held to ridicule.

As the great leader and proponent for minimalist living Mahatma Gandhi once quipped, “There is enough in this world for everyone’s need but not enough for one man’s greed.” We should stop allowing ourselves the misfortune of suffering the unsubstantiated circus that is the regime of inadequate, insular and utterly abominable leaders who collapse our industries for parochial gain. We no doubt deserve better.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

THE COST OF CORRUPTION ON OUR ATTAINMENT OF ECONOMIC GOALS AS A NATION

Itend to feel our forefathers had a hyperactive imagination, sense of self-awareness and an acutely wicked sense of humour. One perceptive sage of yore had this interesting tale about a hyena and a man. In times gone by where our landscape was replete with verdant and pristine land, it was quite easy for man and woman to walk tall, nose in the air enjoying the fresh breeze. I bet this could be one of the contributory factors to longevity and wellness among many other benefits lost to us presently. So the man was taking a walk at the edge of the forest, indeed some sort of colossus strutting across the landscape in a leisurely saunter after a long hard day. Before the ‘civilization’ that the white man supposedly brought upon us, we used to live mostly side by side and in a delicately-balanced symbiotic relationship with our bestial companions, wildlife. Soon he was joined by a hyena. As one of those eternally cunning and avaricious animals, Mr. Hyena bid his time and moved in stealth so as not to attract any unwarranted attention. The hyena’s main intention to exercise persistence was not noble in the least. Just that in his mind’s heart, he truly hoped that as the man’s forearm pivoted back and forth, it would fortuitously detach and fall off. The hyena would instinctively jump into action, pick up the arm and canter into the thicket and chew that arm into smithereens. Unbeknownst to the hyena he was dealing with a master of concealed intentions. That plan was not entirely fool-proof as the hyena would soon discover. Without any notice, the man pirouetted and with an awkward stick unleashed a fierce onslaught of what the Americans call ‘whooping the ass’ of the hyena. Mesmerized the hyena wheeled–off for dear life howling and baying in his characteristic mournfully mirthless laughter. But I digress or did I really?

One of the greatest ills that bedevil the nation of Kenya is corruption. Guess y’all knew that by now. Recently; veteran historian and politician who only ascended to political power in the Kibaki era, Mr. Joe Khamisi released an interesting book on this topic. In his book he without fear of contrition and unmitigated conviction named and shamed the men and women that not only started but have eternally kept running the conveyor belt that is graft in Kenya. These now exist as the high and mighty in our society with the propensity to ride roughshod upon anyone without any sort of concern about the consequences. As the contents of the book are no doubt injurious to their sensibilities they would fight tooth and nail and actually claw your eyes out; if not for any other reason, to ensure the putrid genesis of their family fortune is interred with the bones of their progenitors to the fullness of time. So explosive are the contents of the book that no bookshop in Kenya can dare risk their reputation and by extension survival marketing the text captured in this mighty tome. Thanks to modern technology that has made it possible to have e-readers and books in the Portable Digital Format, the equivalent of the encyclopedia on Corruption in Kenya is availed to many who would hitherto never have had the chance to read about the rot in our ‘heritage of splendor.’ Word around town is that a new scandal will soon come to light of how some of us got the book, “Kenya: Looters and Grabbers – 54 Years of Corruption & Plunder by the Elite” at prices so low if it were trousers it would basically be belted around our knees!

URL to the book: (https://kenyatalk.s3.amazonaws.com/2018/05/233048_158582a7703acb3c8c21b970f23aaee4.pdf)

Disclaimer: As a proponent of Intellectual Property Rights I would like to urge all who received this book as PDF or e-reader to spare a thought to the mind that toiled night and day to produce this masterpiece. In that regard try to ascertain a Payment Platform through which it can be made possible to ensure this onerous harbinger of truth and honourable whistle-blower is afforded the enjoyment of the fruits of his sweat.

I will not attempt in any way to summarize or infringe on the copyright of the works of this eminent personality. I will only seek to give a chronology of our malfeasance and try to propose a solution to it. Corruption is not exactly a newly-minted phenomenon in Kenya but the worst of it only began manifesting when the missionaries, explorers and colonialists began their forays into Kenya. The African traditional way of life was such that emphasis was laid on the love and mutual respect for the neighbor, barter trade, innocuous crop farming for subsistence purposes and pastoralism just for the sake of prestige and keeping men occupied. Then came the explorer and merchant community after the scramble and partition for Africa who decided to build the railway from Mombasa at the coast to Western Uganda. And just like that, with the proverbial ‘iron-snake’ also was introduced the ills of greed and need for primitive wealth accumulation into the natives’ psyche.

Enough with the background. We have two kinds of corruption. Petty corruption and Grand corruption. An example of Petty corruption is bribery to get that government job you now enjoy. Grand corruption is the hacking of the IFMIS system or simply factoring in an ‘Eating Co-efficient (β)’ into an equation to calculate the annual budget at Ministry headquarters and voila! Indulge me:

A = Ψ [n (γ) + β]

Legend: A – Annual Expenditure

                   Ψ – Inflation markup

               γ – Monthly expenditure

               n – Number of months in a financial year (12???)

               β – Eating Co-efficient

 

Just like the mythical Dragon’s egg it will hatch into an adorable little devil. We will tend and feed this creature because we are fond of it. As it grows its appetite will proportionately increase and we will now trick our nemeses, then feed them to this little ‘pet.’ Eventually the pet will grow into an uncontrollable monster with an insatiable appetite which not even you can control and will ultimately devour you. The grouse of this piece is not to discuss corruption as a theme but rather to quantify the ill effects to us as a nation, to any prospect of development and how it curtails our efforts in fighting against the other evils that have been our Achilles’ heel since time immemorial like Poverty, Illiteracy and disease. Any discerning citizen of this country may no doubt have asked himself this question at one point or another. Why do we tolerate corrupt and weak-willed leaders to continue robbing us without raising any qualms? The more pressing question is: Why do you accept that an illiterate, pot-bellied, effeminate, incompetent and entirely unremarkable character who lacks moral grounding can be better than you the guy who leaves his house very early every morning and with great verve and optimism to engage in menial labour just for a trifle? Have we such low self-esteem that we relegate ourselves down the caste rungs to feel that only a particular class of people deserve the best in life and not us?

In recent times our televisions, radios and social media outlets have been inundated with news of corruption scandals that have pilfered money from the taxpayer’s purse. From the new season of the musical-chairs, that is the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal to Kenya Power and Lighting scandal with all the shell companies owned by employees of this grand monopoly of Electrical generation in Kenya to the Maize scandal where twenty-one maize suppliers received a grand sum of 1.4 billion. The latter is more puzzling as mathematically 1,400,000,000 divided by 21 people comes to a rough figure of 66 million per head. Where in Kenya can we find a parcel of land so expansive and so prolifically productive as to be able to reap such gain, give or take the prices of agricultural produce in just one season?

According to a 2016 report by the Kenya Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission we lose about 608 billion to corruption annually. This is roughly a third of our national budget. (I’m not sure whether to believe this report as some of its authors have been hounded out of office on; you guessed it, real or perceived misappropriation allegations but let us just live with the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer). Did I just hear a sigh of dismay and exasperation somewhere? Let me give you the computation of what 608 billion can do. Let us just say it can finance the bulk of the Government recurrent expenditure for the entire year. Putting it succinctly, salaries for all government ministries, departments and state corporations. Apparently, our constitution contemplated that a Technocrat Cabinet Secretary would be less amenable to such low-class depravity but we under-estimated the jarred monstrosity that is the ‘jiggered mind!’ A local media station hired experts to calculate the cost of what even a microcosm of that 600 billion that is 12 Billion Kenya shillings can do. Divided into our highest currency denomination; the 1000 shilling note, 12B will weigh about 12 tonnes. This is paper that even if all the rappers in America and Kenya ‘make-it-rain’ in their music videos for a whole month continuously they will still not empty those ‘paper-clouds!’ If you have ever seen an 18-tonne truck you definitely appreciate how massive a 12-tonne load of paper can be. If it falls on you it crushes you to what my aviation teacher at Mang’u High used to call ‘Marundiko ya Nyama.’ (sic) I will discuss in a future post why I am a writer and do not fly planes! Similarly, 12 billion is enough to comfortably run the biggest county by land area in Kenya, Turkana for a whole year. They run on about 10 billion. On our domestic front this figure could buy two packets of Maize flour and two bundles of spinach each for our entire approximately 45 million-strong population. I am working with a budget of 250 Kenya shillings per head.

I do not need to enumerate the many negative effects of corruption but as the title choice dictates I may just have to do it: Creativity, zeal, drive, passion and the joy of life is drained out of the citizenry that toils for hours on end every day and almost 7 days a week. These are the lucky few. Unemployment is exacerbated when adequate resource cannot be availed to be equitably injected into the economy for development and creation of new jobs. Funds are denied even to youths with feasible and workable business plans that would otherwise yield self-employment for themselves and create jobs for their peers and even plug our shortfall in revenue. Stolen money will no doubt be missed from the national budget. Crucial services like education, health, defence, internal security will grind to a stand-still. The recent reduction of National Police Service remuneration is not by default but just one catastrophic consequence of corruption. When bucket-loads of cash are scooped from our common economic pool and diverted elsewhere they are no longer available to go around and finance economic activity. Consequently, real suppliers are not paid, merchants cannot make sales, Principals have no working budget to run their school affairs making them only stick to the critical path and offer the most basic of amenities to their students, doctors cannot be paid and are forced to watch crest-fallen that patient they have nobly endeavoured to save pass-on in their arms from a treatable condition – a direct result of unavailability of medical supplies. Simply put service delivery is non-existent and consequently a dearth in any attempt at attainment of wide-ranging development agenda and implementation of manifesto items.

But can we really stand up and purport not to be complicit in misdemeanors that see us regularly getting robbed for five years-a-time by electing incompetent and majorly repugnant characters as leaders? Our problem is that we are like the unskilled saber-juggler who in great naivety fails to realize that this is an art honed by eons of practice and by extension fails to expect that the saber will ultimately injure him or an innocent member of their audience. We are steeped in the mental slavery that affords us the notoriety in proffering praise, honour and even feel jealous of persons who own top of the range mechanisms of conveyance, monumental-flats with infinity pools and have children attending local versions of the ivy-league schools. We strip ourselves of the cloak of basic common sense and forget to ask critical questions like:

What does he do to make so much in such a short time?

What productivity does his wealth bequeath upon society?

Is his pecuniary tax load in the same regime as ours?

What measures has he/she put in place to ensure that they redistribute their wealth and build a replicable system, influence for good and build capacity, which can ultimately raise the living standards of the local community to his?

We are creatures of routine. We always slide back into the same pitfall of trying to outdo the other guy and accumulate as much material wealth as possible. This is not a new phenomenon. In the 16th Century famous politician, commentator on social affairs and author Niccolo Machiavelli observed in his book; bestseller – The Prince that, “Human beings are fickle, lazy and envious of gain. They are untrustworthy, unscrupulous, unreliable and braver in times of peace than when it counts the most.” Such a manifestation of mediocrity was not lost on the great writer. We fuel corruption when we elect reprehensible individuals to represent our interests forgetting that when two groups of horses pull at cross-purposes, the carriage can never be drawn forward.

Phew! I am tired of going on end about the problem statement. I will now attempt to prescribe medicament to whoever is interested in getting cured of this vice:

  • We need a revolution. Like Dr. Miguna, let us ‘refuse to idly board the plane’ to Neverland! We need a revolution in both our mindsets and value sets. Let us call for accountability from our leaders and learn to burn in a bright, unmistakable, righteous rage. We must realize we are the bosses that employ the decrepit employees (leaders) who in an annual pilgrimage enrich themselves at our expense and cart away billions of our funds to foreign climes. We must say enough is enough and never again allow the exchequer to be an ATM for elites. We must unite against corruption and misgovernance and demonstrate against it in a loud, immutable voice. Taxes should no longer be crimped from our income solely for the benefit of a hallowed few and to the detriment of the Development agenda (Big 4).
  • We need political goodwill from our Leadership class to prosecute and jail anyone who is culpable in corruption. There should be no sacred cows! We elected our President to represent our national interest, an overriding majority. Let not political or financial support from corruption cartels who may have supported your presidential campaign out-weigh your responsibility to your electorate. In the same book Mr. Machiavelli enthused the premium a prince should attach to the love and respect of his polity vis-à-vis the partisan and hypocritical interests of nobles and knights. As a creature of our constitution you are obligated to encourage and safeguard adherence to the rule of law. Our president must also know he occupies a very important and quite powerful seat. Though reduced, he yields massive power to influence political will for any cause of his choice. He should get creative. Shrugging your shoulders in diffidence and asking others what they expect you to do about corruption leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Either style up or forget any legacy Your Excellency!
  • Enforce proportionate punishment- more often than not perpetrators of this vice get –off easy with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. A guy steals 50 million and then is mock-arrested, wheeled to court and fined 2.5 Million! Is that the right level of punishment as retribution for such crimes? Levy a fine of four times the stolen amount and the universally accepted 15 years and above with no probability of ever holding public office again on release.
  • Righteous Upbringing – A section of the Holy Bible, I think the Book of Proverbs Chapter 22 admonishes us to raise our children in the ways they should follow so that even in their old age they will not depart from it. Ground your progeny on the firm substratum of virtue, discipline and reverence for the dignity of work. Let them understand that even the Lord as a manager takes no pride in wealth devoid of productivity. Let them not just glorify the Range-rover but be aware of the process and system that is available to them to legitimately drive the same in their adulthood.
  • Isolate perpetrators of corruption and avoid them at all costs. In breaking with the tradition of deification of copiously loaded characters and welcoming them to fund-raisers, ‘ruracios’, wedding committees, funerals and other social gatherings let’s all in force ostracize them! I will admit I only heard of this measure on TV yester-night but that does not devalue its prudence. In Uganda, it is said the Policemen who beat-up to a pulp long-time opposition politician Kizza Besigye were well documented and covered in all iterations of the media and everything concerning them was ted out in the public domain. As a consequence, they and their families became an odium to society such that no one wanted any part of association with them any longer. This is not any less than the perpetrators of corruption here deserve.
  • Elect Noble characters as leaders – At Election time, we need those nondescript yet fearless, strong, honest and magnanimous personalities who toil in their salt-mines everyday eking out an honest living to come out in exercise of their constitutional rights, confidence and honourable self-esteem to offer themselves for election. I urge us to extol Integrity above all else. Money isn’t a thing. Come out and we will fund-raise for you in the age-old ‘Harambee’ spirit started by our founding father because you are the leader that we need. And when you get in, exercise vigilance so as not to fall into the same traps that now have strangle-hold on your predecessors.
  • We need to bring back our nationalist psyche. Let us no longer ask what the nation can do for us but instead what we can do for our nation. First answer to that question is rid ourselves of crooked leaders we do not need.

If followed to the later this remedy is adequate in the short term to eliminate all variants of corruption and set us on the requisite orbit to accountable nationhood.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

WHAT THE HANDSHAKE BETWEEN UHURU AND RAILA MUST PORTEND

There is an interesting story by some writer of yore in the Arabian Gulf in the ambient of the current nation of Iran. The storyteller for whom I have long taken a great admiration concocted the kaleidoscopically colourful character known as Abu Nuwas. One day Abu Nuwas was cutting a tree branch for personal use. The peculiar thing is that he was sitting on the same branch. After sometime hacking on that branch with a hatchet a man passed nearby. Perceiving immediately with great concern the great peril a fellow citizen was exposing himself to by that very action he spoke out to Abu Nuwas. He enlightened him that similar action will no doubt result in a cataclysmic fall and horrible injury. Abu Nuwas ignored these ramblings as those of some busy-body over the chip of his axe as he kept chopping away. In one fell swoop the branch gave way and he came tumbling down unceremoniously with it. Rather fortuitously, he was cushioned by the thick foliage below. That same moment thoughts of gratitude crossed his mind. He suddenly had an elevated opinion of the gentleman that had warned him of impending danger and thought of him as some clairvoyant or even a prophet. He immediately went after the guy. He found him in a saunter going about his errands for the day. Fast as lightning while possessing the verve of a child with a new toy, Abu Nuwas enquired from the man how he knew that his posture would certainly have led to a tumble with the branch. Without even waiting for the answer, he further enthused the man to predict when Abu Nuwas was going to die. This was a tough ask leaving the composed character absolutely speechless and catatonic for three whole seconds. He was also starting to feel pestered. However, he composed himself though thinking of Abu Nuwas quite a stubborn and irrepressible character and told him that the day he rides his donkey and stumbles three times will be his last. That took care of Abu Nuwas giving him something to worry about and freed the paragon of concern to go about his business in bustling Baghdad. But I digress.

In most of 2017 Kenya mirrored the behavior exemplified by Abunuwas on the tree branch in the above anecdote. After the January 30th 2018 swearing-in ceremony for the People’s President of The Republic of Kenya, Raila Odinga there seemed to be no way back. The fission looked complete. With two ‘Presidents’ installed in the same country, only fire and brimstone clouded the horizon. The fall-out from eons of neglected historical injustices, the bitterly yet closely contested election in August and consequent brutality meted by state players on the opposition, the nullification of that entire process and the farcical fresh election seemed to have pushed us to the edge of the precipice. Battle lines had been drawn and positions entrenched so deeply the tension arising was virtually palpitating. In most households in the opposition strongholds, murmurs of secession were evident and poignant for all to see. And these sentiments were no doubt justified. Hateful rhetoric was spewed from all quarters and the same leaders who we elected as our symbols of unity morphed to become the very wedge that was splitting the gargantuan woody tree representing what we have learnt to call our motherland asunder. Dubious and quite shady characters; some purporting to be members of some ‘business community’, were co-opted on an inexplicable basis to militantly protect the interests of the majorly unpopular but imposed majority. Polarization was the order of the day and like a living cell that is in the Telophase stage, a seismic split was definitely on the cards. Then the seemingly unexpected happened, an anticlimax of sorts. On the 9th of March 2018, a meeting was secretly concocted at the President’s Office between him and his bitter rival catching both ally and foe speechless. The aftermath of the meeting was an unexpected handshake between the bitter antagonists and a cessation of hostilities.

Bewildered and having lost any modicum of relevance some politicians retreated to their cocoons while others simply did what politicians do best and hypocritically postured as if they never had any enmity in the first place and were just in some small sibling tiff. The handshake was no doubt good for the country. As evidenced by the crumbling economy due to the loss of investor confidence due to political uncertainty. Popular misery was exacerbated by the fact that there was no generation of revenue due to incessant demonstrations, strife and damage to enterprises that had decided to be brave as to open their doors in this turbulent period. A dearth in tourism due to travel advisories in many a foreign mission had resulted in such massive lay-offs, hotels and lodges were virtually operating on skeleton staff. Lecturers, teachers and for the first time in a while doctors went on strike totally paralyzing important aspects of human capital development and health. There was virtually no one to address these conundrums as the nation was too deep into the murk of ascertaining who was the real victor of the popular vote and whose result was a computer-generated fallacy! To add insult to injury, the NASA coalition poisoned the minds of their massive support base against products and services that were deemed to be owned by senior operatives and functionaries in the Jubilee government. This drastically cut the financial output from these companies and attendant taxation that is usually a foregone conclusion when business is booming. Our nation had definitely been jolted to the core.

Now in the aftermath of the handshake I dare take on the elephant in the room and ask, “What is the relevance of this handshake?” Yes a cooling of simmering tensions has been occasioned but what’s next for the man at the bottom of the pyramid who bears the greatest brunt of any conflict? All of us can agree the newly minted concord between Odinga and Kenyatta gives us the best opportunity to iron out long-standing challenges to our nationhood. This in my mind should be a conduit through which an all-inclusive agenda has to be set out for our national dialogue. Remember, only a few weeks ago sections of this country felt so disenfranchised that they wanted by hook or crook to be de-linked from this nation. A bill and framework was all ready to be tabled and it was looking awry. Plenty of water both the red and clear has gone under the bridge but to avoid any further these are the measures I propose for the two titans of the Kenyan political landscape:

  • Kill ethnic contempt & antagonism – For years on end ethnic contempt and competition has been a thorn in our flesh. We seem to think that national progression and respect for each other are virtues that exist in mutual exclusion. Some have a demented view that if you build up your tribal enclave and homestead to surpass another ethnic group that will in some way lead to national development. Such a tokenistic mentality drives me to almost salute one with the middle digit. It is flawed and impracticable to say that one county or tribal subscription, favoured by the application of an inordinate abundance of national resource will actually drive our GDP as a country upwards. This will be counterproductive, raise eyebrows and even infuse unnecessary bad-blood that will be to the benefit of none in particular. Of course, the deprived will ask why their tax-payers kitty which they no doubt contributed to by the uptake of their blood, sweat and tears is not of any benefit to them.
  • National ideology and mindset – As a nation there is unanimous admission that we lack a national ideology and mantra to guide us in true unity much needed for continuation as one. More than any other time we need to focus more on what unites us than what actually creates rifts. Building of bridges is a skill each one of us has the onerous responsibility of undertaking at the moment. We should know that we are sailors in the same boat and that if it tips over not just the guys on one side but the entire craft will capsize. Invariably, a hole on one section of the same boat will ultimately flood and sink the entirety of the contraption. By the way tectonic forces in the Rift valley have forced the chasm to grow to the point that it split the road at Mai-Mahiu. That is to demonstrate that we don’t need any more fissures in our national politics as these mere chalk circles as a suffix to what we have already been dealt by nature will only serve to hurt rather than be of service to us. In the absence of a road all of us will be cut off, suffer lack of travel, will not conduct commerce, require expensive air travel and starve together. We no doubt have common challenges like illiteracy, poverty, disease, flooding immediately after drought & famine which we have to address irrespective of any affiliation. Our ethos should gravitate towards collective good as a nation.
  • Inclusivity is not even a word in existence anymore in the collective vocabularies of our supposed leaders onto light and future fortune. What shared prosperity are we to aspire to as a nation if some are not treated as a vital and integral part of the whole. The rumble of secession was not a passing cloud and we should begin engendering in each other a sense of belonging to this unit or we go burst with all the demerits that come with it. Not to intimidate anyone but we lose out on the synergy that would have pushed us further forward if we worked in respect and seamless articulation to each other, but who am I to say?
  • Devolution– The new constitution opened the chapter on devolution and an assessment on how the new devolved units are doing so far is necessary. It has already been made evident that this is the best way of sharing out national resources and I am one to doubt we are ever going back on it. The percolation of state largesse to the man at the grassroots so far looks good but there still remains rooms for improvement. The allocation of 15 % needs to be bumped-up to about 30% of the national budget. The Lake-basin counties initiative that seeks to pool together funds for development of these units in Western and Nyanza is a welcomed move that will create utility in our county structures and help develop more future infrastructure. In unity we will attain whatever dream we look up to.
  • Divisive Elections – The issue of divisive elections based on some tribal arithmetic and the exclusion of huge majorities by our winner take all system has to be addressed. One of our lionized second liberation leaders has spoken of a three-tier government that has the executive, 14 regional blocs as an addition to the existing national government. The Executive also needs a way of accommodating in the proposed governance structure the leader of the party with the highest number of elected Members and Senators in the position of Prime Minister. Those opposed to this are no doubt beneficiaries of the vicious cycle of pre-election and post-election violence that has held this country captive ever since the advent of multiparty elections. As Kenyans of goodwill we have to stand up in force and say we have outgrown the loss of our kith and kin just so that some nebulous entity we have little knowledge of and miniscule affections for becomes a president. Our lives should be deemed too sacrosanct as to be made the pawn of some useless sport and anyone opposed to that should no doubt be relegated to the same level of importance we apportion to carpets and grass on the ground. This is no leader but a character to be tossed into ignominy with the contempt he or she deserves!
  • Peace and Security of every citizen must be guaranteed as a human right enshrined in our constitution and not as an act of mercy by the Lords of the time. These are essential components for prosperity for any nation that has ever approached the acme of the sophistication we all seek. The Peace spoken of here should not just be the calm before a storm rather an authentic product of truth and justice to be enjoyed by all bounded by our national borders. True Peace and Justice no doubt procreates the kind of stability that is much needed to progress any country to the next level and is what our leaders should aim to embrace for the well-being of our republic.
  • Corruption – The leviathan-sized monster called corruption has to be tamed to some degree. Egotistical and kleptocratic leaders should be made redundant as to only serve as a relic of our primitive past. Rampant corruption has proven an impediment to any development that we may have as a leakage of resources will no doubt hamper implementation. Also among the things castigated by former Prime Minister at the 5th Devolution Conference in Kakamega include the moral corruption which he mentioned in jest, had seen some leaders choosing to engage in shady activities in the dark as a means to save on the electricity bills while operating in a 24-hour economy! Public office should neither be seen as an opportunity to fill-up your political war-chest for future political engagements nor a way to earn yourself the ever-elusive title of libido-in-chief by trying to give warmth to as many members of the opposite gender as possible under your jurisdiction! I have had conversations with many friends who give a dull assessment on the possibility of totally eradicating corruption but I personally hold that there is no need of tolerating any longer a vice that benefits only a few people to the detriment of the collective good. Integrity will be of greater value to us far beyond illegitimately earned riches.
  • Shared Natural Resources – We need to responsibly use our national resources not just among ourselves but with respect to others. What do I mean? When we decide to engage in illegal logging in say the Mau or Cherangany forests, the result is the drying of the Feeder Rivers that flow into Lake Victoria. A recession of the waters of that grand lake will put us at loggerheads not just among ourselves but with our neighbours Uganda and Tanzania if they are prudent in resource management on their part and they see Kenya as the weak link. Also we recently discovered oil & gas in the Lake Turkana basin and for many that was a source of great glee and jubilation. We would finally be able to fuel our motor vehicles using cheaper fuel obtained within our boundaries! But for me it only brought heart palpitations. This is because all over Africa and the third world, conflict has arisen not as a result of any other reason other than a feeling of skewed resource allocation. Immediately one group feels slighted for instance the traditional occupants of the land a mineral resource has been discovered there is bound to be the genesis of ceaseless friction. Only targeted and genuine dialogue will avert a resource–based conflict that has seen abundantly blessed nations like DRC failing to attain any level of the great potential they hold within.
  • Constitutional Implementation – Checklist on the attainment of our Constitutional timelines is now due for marking. Nearly 10 years since the promulgation how much benefit has accrued from this creature of many years struggle and many days of fine-tuning and accommodation of diverse interest? Also a strengthening of capacity for national institutions like the IEBC should be made an important agenda item for discussion as no progress can ever flow from flawed polls or an unpopular leader elected with disregard to integrity. Civic education on the same is also required so that as a polity we are also better able to critique any failures evident. As the document stipulates, “Sovereignty is vested upon the Citizens of the Republic and nowhere else.”

In humble submission I must add that we must not just blindly give in to the request for blanket amnesty to Uhuru Kenyatta and the Government machinery just because he asked for it. No! That apology will only pass the true test of sincerity and be worth anything if it is backed up by sound and deliberate action. He will only deserve our forgiveness if and only if he puts in motion the execution of a clear strategy ensuring that never again will Kenyan lives be lost as a consequence of political contestation for the presidency. He should midwife a referendum to foster a more inclusive governance structure and lobby for its approval by the majority of the nation, apparently the same that voted him in for the second term. For President Kenyatta to secure any measure of legacy he will have to deal with these long-standing issues conclusively and without regard to any impediment because the future will judge his tenure harshly if he does not.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

LAUDABLE MOVE TO CONSERVE KENYAN FOREST COVER AND START REFORESTATION

Forest

A forest has many definitions. Some define it as an ecological landscape dominated by trees and woody vegetation. From some enlightened folk has been issued the explanation about a complex interaction of wood, herbaceous flora, fauna, soil and other factors. The simplest one is a tree-dominated area, verdant land. I remember back in the day when I was still in primary school honing the writing skill that I proudly display today, we wrote many essays on the topic ‘The Importance of Forests’ and ‘Faida ya Miti.’ We yapped on end about forests being water catchment areas, sources of food and medicine, the habitat of many common and rare flora and fauna, they are our carbon sinks to reduce air pollution and the source of the oxygen we breathe. They also hold our Terra-firma so as not to be eroded into the rivers and seas which we have no contract to supply with our fertile agriculturally potent soil, they have economic value as source of timber for construction and furniture, also a source of fuel. They are additionally a tourist attraction as it is not all countries that are endowed with tropical rain forests, mangrove forests, bamboo forests, heath and moorlands and what not. They invariably provide us with revenue that will be vital to run our economy. Forests form a natural barrier between the domestic and the jungle habitats. All these essential oils like chamomile, mint, sage and olive oil required for cosmetic, medicinal and culinary value are reaped from these same forests. Not to forget tannin that turns skin into leather. For the coastal communities, who does not appreciate the potency of the local brew ‘mnazi.’

Despite all these great uses to humanity and all terrestrial life, the agents tasked with the protection of our natural resources apparently missed out on writing such essays due to some omission or commission on their part! So do their actions which seem to betray such a systemic chasm in their understanding of the same. When I was in Primary School forest cover in Kenya stood at a measly 8.3%. Initiatives were being pontificated to aggressively build on this level. Political leaders traversed this country preaching about the same to every rapt audience in attendance. Unfortunately, they did more talking than acting as consequent to all their efforts by the year 2011 we were down to 7.75%, a damning indictment on their efforts. On such a trajectory we may have burnt through our entire forest cover by the next generation. This is no doubt a cause for alarm.

We all remember the monumental task that our very own Nobel-Peace Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai made her life’s work and passion. Most of us appreciate the noble efforts she made to stop the monument to nihilism and vanity that was to be built at Uhuru Park which would have invalidated the existence of the only green space that we have as the splendour of our capital city. She in great conviction also stood her ground to prevent the wanton and inordinate grabbing and distribution of our great heritage to the Mau-Mau revolution, the Karura forest. I am not just speaking from an emotional standpoint though as I have personally visited the woodland that is home to the caves and bunkers where our independence heroes hid while in bits and pieces hewing down the colonial juggernaut out of our nation. Imagine if all this would have been pilfered to the concrete jungle that is the construction of high-end rental apartments and real-estate for a few people’s narrow economic gain. All the fresh air, meditation zones (for the peace of mind), biking tracks and camping grounds for family and friend’s bonding lost and for what? The long and short of it is that our dear matriarch of jungle conservation was clobbered but her spirit remain unbowed and she inspired the local and international community to ensure not an inch of that prime natural air freshener was lost. She eventually got her Nobel Prize but which pays credence to these efforts she launched all over our nation. She once uttered sentiments to the effect, “nature can be quite unforgiving, if we allow greedy and corrupt individuals to destroy our forests then nature will hit back with an unmitigated vengeance and we deserve whatever misfortune that will ever befall us.” The Veterinary doctor had to literally protect Karura forest and Uhuru Park from annihilation against formidable opposition from State actors. She also put in motion a consciousness in many Kenyans for environmental conservation. Now we have environment and tree planting clubs in almost every school, youth groups and many companies have in place Corporate Social Responsibility policies that emphasize the same. For every tree that is cut down we should always aspire to plant two.

There are already journals to suggest the link between forest cover and availability of rainfall so it is no longer a myth that forests draw rainfall.  One such can be found here: https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/59/4/341/346941 In Geography we were taught that forested land has a higher evapo-transpiration rate than the sea. When the water heats up and converts into vapour wafting upwards, the cool air comes from the sea to replenish it filling the vacuum occasioned by that process. In the absence of forests, dry land has less moisture which inverts the hydrological cycle so that the sea has a higher evaporation than land. A pseudo-vacuum is formed over the sea and air has to move from land to take up that space. This movement no doubt pushes clouds away from land reducing the proclivity of dry lands to getting rainfall. I rest my case there.

The recent pronouncement by our Deputy President, William S. Ruto issuing a moratorium on logging in our nationally gazetted forests was no doubt a step in the right direction. But as we all know this same character resisted such efforts when once-upon-a-time (loosely translating to the year 2009), his then superior the Right Honourable Prime Minister Raila Odinga spearheaded efforts to evict squatters from Mau forest and other forest areas in an effort save our water catchment areas. Ruto proffered profuse yet pedestrian lamentations about protecting the livelihoods of the inhabitants of that forest who were mainly from his core political base. He played the politics of impunity at a crucial epoch in history and nature has proven unforgiving. When today, he is in the seat of power and a heart-beat away from the presidency he faces a more profound quandary of dry river beds even in hitherto apparent paradises of greenery like Kericho. This begs the question, what would Mr. Ruto have lost had he supported Mr. Odinga’s efforts in 2009? Wasn’t it better for those vaunted and much needed efforts to have been commenced earlier rather than later? But I digress. That is now water under the proverbial bridge. What I try to reiterate is the importance of Government’s Political will in the face of such an egregious threat.

The wheels of any national undertaking can only turn consequent to lubrication with the grease of Political will and sound policy by the Government of the day.

Despite Constitutional obligations enshrined in the Bill of Rights Chapter 4 Article 42 and Chapter 5 Article 70 bequeathing upon us the Right to a reasonably clean and enforcement of sustainable practices to protect our environment, only Political Will by State players will make that notion a reality. In her memoir, ‘Unbowed’ Prof. Wangari Maathai quipped about Liberties not being things that are set on some table in a silver platter for all and sundry to enjoy but are hard-fought and afterwards contingency has to be made to jealously and with great vigilance safeguard them. The sagacity in her conviction is now on show for all to see and no one can dare doubt its authenticity. Climate change is the reality of our time. Dry seasons are more severe and the wet even more pronounced and miserable. We are now experiencing near temperate conditions where Hot Seasons are torrid escalating into heat waves while Cold Seasons become frigid and frosty as to make us question whether we also passed the chill within the constitution without reading the referendum’s fine print! A few weeks ago most of Nairobi, previously dubbed the city in the sun was covered in murk and knee-deep water much to the consternation of all much worse the people who constructed multi-million shilling homes on wetlands. Much as Civil Engineers have taken much of the flak for constructing roads with poor drainage, as per empirical wisdom the heavy dumping of precipitation can no doubt overwhelm even our best designed infrastructure. Some bridges were rendered impassable and even Our World famous bridge at the View point of the Western Rift Valley in Maai-Mahiu was cracked by a combination of tectonic-plate movements and the heavy rainfall effect that inundated the adjacent substratum. All this would have been forestalled or at least its impact abated with a larger herbal mat but as the wise man put it pride comes before a fall, if you fail to plan you plan to fail.

As I have put it in a previous blog what is happening in Kenya is not unique. I will take excerpts from the same: Let me present an anecdotal example. Our minds float across the oceans and we land on Easter Island in the South Eastern Pacific Ocean. This is the tragic tale of how people who took great pride on the illusion of grandeur over all else built monumental statues each to his honour. The landscape dotted with statues which are now a sight to behold but some lie prostrate and without their former lustre. These used to be called Rapa-annui. Men and women cut down the dense forests they were endowed with just to gain more land for the statue building and the accompanying colossal structures of domicile. In fact the principle objective was surreal as to boggle your mind – To create pathways for the Statues’ conveyance by means of rollers. Environmental degradation consequent to these activities led to them losing their agriculturally potent and verdant land. They also lost the trees that would have been valuable to make canoes for their escape from that wasteland. Cornered they turned on each other, engaging in out-of this world macabre competitions and rituals just to survive. They were to a man exterminated. Before the inevitable extinction they equally turned on the same idyllic statues they carved out for themselves. Today that land is unsuitable for habitation and UNESCO named it a World heritage site, to chronicle what havoc the unfettered love for primitive accumulation and infantile destruction of resource can wreak on a nation.

What are we to do to replenish our tree cover? First and foremost this is a task too heavy to saddle onto the already overburdened shoulders of the government, even with their capacity to mobilize resources and what not. Our nationwide pastime of sticking our heads in the sand cannot gain any traction here. But still I will throw onto the government’s court the ball to provide subsidized renewable energy sources to prevent all this rampant burning of charcoal and logging for firewood. I also call for a Private-Public Partnership on both the eco-friendly alternative energy side and the tree planting initiative. For now we are all residents of this Earth. If we render it hostile and uninhabitable we have nowhere else to take sojourn. What destiny will we bequeath to our progeny in generations to come? Economic empowerment is also key in this regard.

In the Saturday Standard of the 10th March 2018; my role-model and exceptional former high school-mate, an inimitably intellectually endowed one-man think tank who professionally serves as an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, Washington D.C, Kennedy Opalo had interesting insight on an opinion column he authors. Sharing an alma-mater, the guy was two classes ahead of myself so I call to mind his absolute aversion to academic mediocrity, second to none every time the Prize giving ceremony was around the corner. He offered optimism that reforestation is possible but only if a tactical, scientifically viable approach is used. In his recollection he gave the example of South Korea that had lost almost all its forest cover to logging during periods of Japanese colonization and the Korean war. At the inception of a visionary leader millions of acreage of trees were planted with the Government keen to stem any dissent from ‘cartels’ and industrialists who use excuses to engage in illegal logging. Government Policy on replenishment of forest cover was not a matter to be put to debate. Today 63.4 % of South Korea is under forest cover. The strategy was to have a 10 year plan with planting trees of value to the local populations. Nut bearing trees were grown for nutritional value while Chestnuts grown for fuel. Fast growing tree varieties were the catalytic precocity of the entire program. Rainy Seasons were not let to go to waste as this was the prime tree planting period. The first Saturday of November was designated the National forest tending day. What did they achieve? A forest cover slightly smaller than the size of our second-biggest county, Marsabit most of it privately-owned. To achieve this in Kenya, we need a tailored strategy that ensures less of our land is put under food production and real estate. A statement that we have a problem that transcends all our political and ethnic affiliation will be a good precursor. A radical reorganization of how we use land will be required. No complaints touching on our racial pride being Africans who often feel the need to divide all available land till there is not even a path to traverse each piece, No! Just an objective look at the sustainable ways to gain more from what little we have. Economic empowerment of the populace is important so as no one feels the need to encroach into forests to produce charcoal then like a windmill wave logging licenses at whoever questions his actions. Research and extension services will come in handy to disseminate newer and better ways to commercialize trees.

PS: I feel a tinge of dismay for all the entrepreneurs who lost their trucks to arson and vandalism for venturing and engaging in tree cutting and haulage in a neighbouring county but even more do I extol the Governor who stood firm not allowing the already degraded forest cover under her jurisdiction to be petered any further to the detriment of the local economy. It all boils down to magnanimity and objectivity instead of careless fluttering of fraudulently acquired or in solidarity with the plight of the guys whose lorries were set ablaze, misappropriated ‘tree-murdering’ licences. Environmental Conservation is a task for us all too significant to be devolved to anyone else or merely a singular entity. Let’s all hug trees not hang them!