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Political & Social Empowerment

THIS FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION MAY JUST SECURE UHURU KENYATTA’S LEGACY

Uhuru legacy 2 Few of those who have cast even a passing glance upon the Bible have missed the fabulous story of Samson son of Manoah; the Nazirite, from the small tribe of Dan. He was presaged as a great hope to the people even before his conception. He was consequently dedicated to the Lord from the day he was born. As a chosen one he took the vow of abstinence from alcoholic drink, touching the dead and trimming his hair. Consequently, he grew to be physically very strong and of salubrious disposition. His anointment meant that when he came of age he took his position as one of the nascent Judges of the nation of Israel. But somewhere along the line he lost his way. Human beings mingle and naturally friendships develop out of acquaintances. Samson’s youthful exuberance took him past the gates of Gaza and therein he invariably was acquainted with Israel’s sworn nemesis, the Philistines. In my estimation this may have been borne out of contempt as he felt even if the Philistines were such odious people, no weapon formed against ‘God’s anointed’ was ever going to prosper! Familiarity breeds contempt. That is where his downfall began. He was forced into gambling on the bizarre and consequently on losing the bets he had to pay so great a price. His Achilles’ heel that burnt his credentials into a fine cinder was his amorous engagement with the lasses of Philistine extraction. Just as many of the ones we have around even today, they had little loyalty to authentic affection and could have easily been swayed by material possessions and tribal inclination in antipathy to any warmth of attraction they may ever have felt at first. That is how despite being the stalwart who tore apart a lion with his bare hands and even ate honey from the titan’s innards; he was fickle pickings as far as the wiles of feminine carnality are concerned. When he posed the trope “Out of something strong comes something sweet to eat…” who even with the most ingenious of crania could ever have guessed even remotely the general solution to this equation, ‘Runge-Kutta’ formula savoir-faire notwithstanding? The answer was willfully coaxed out of this ace and soon the grapevine around town became the solution to his seemingly insuperable puzzle. As a loser of this infernal frolic he was obliged to provide 42 festive gauntlets, but where was he to obtain them in such short notice? He was forced to become a robber with a tyrant’s violence who tricked a group of men into a scuffle with him that ended in a bloody carnage for the unfortunate victims of Samson’s brutality! 42 men lay dead in cold blood and our Nazirite was forced to play the role of a mortician stripping off the festive garments from the previously benighted but currently deceased lads. He had broken one of the strictures of the Nazirite vow, “Never in your life boy should you ever touch a dead body!” But the Lord was still with him. He also greatly ignited the fury of the Philistine overlords against Israel and he became a harbinger of Israel’s insolence. It was now more than a game and restitution became necessary! He once again found himself in trouble in Gaza when he was seduced into a harlot’s den and given a strong drink that lulled him to sleep. He committed the unpardonable iniquity of placing his trust on a consummate practitioner of the oldest profession devoid of even a shred of concern for her own very body. Wow! A plan was hatched to arrest him at an ungodly hour when his reflexes would have been thought of non-existent. Fortunately, being a light sleeper he was awakened by the commotion outside and went into survival mode. He crept up to the gates and performed the unheralded feat of not just extracting and lifting the entire structure of wood, bars, hinges and foundation but carting it 61 Kilometres up the hill opposite Mt. Hebron. I hear this loss was so crippling that even to this day funds are yet to be availed for the rebuilding of that important piece of protective infrastructure and an unmistakable gape remains where an impregnable hardwood gate once stood! Long story short, the cat was out of the bag. An irresistible woman of the name Delilah was procured to make Samson so passionately in love that even the stranglehold on the secret of his invincibility was loosened and he was ultimately captured and his eyes gauged out for good measure! But in captivity Samson made reparations with his creator, renewed his abhorrence for the barber and it paid dividends. He regained his old strength back. As an irreverent guest during the feast for one of the philistine gods; Dagon, Samson made sure he played to greatest effect the role of party-pooper by literally ‘bringing down the house’ on all that attended. The King, the nobles, generals and the lovely Delilah all perished in one fell swoop. The misfortune of the story is that Samson, a man of potential to be the greatest leader Israel ever had; indeed Dan’s pride & joy, was lost to the world because of falling prey to hubris and personal foibles. This is the situation Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s incumbent President finds himself mired in today. Allow me to indulge y’all.

God rarely calls the qualified, more often than not choosing to qualify those called but the question I must pose at this juncture is this: Was U. Kenyatta really called or much less even slightly qualified when he ascended to the apex of Kenya’s political power? What of his Deputy William Ruto? Truth be told, Uhuru Kenyatta acceded to the presidency on the back of a bi-tribal quest to stave off their sons’ potential arrest by the International Criminal Court in case of being found with a heavy of burden of culpability in their crimes against humanity case for meting out inordinate barbarism during the 2007 post-election violence. An indictment in this court for any society that adheres to the rule of law, logic, civility and sensibility must surely be the threshold for non-eligibility for any public office, but not Kenya! The tyranny of tribal arithmetic did not help his cause in the slightest with regards to being a symbol of unity as viewed in the backdrop of the innumerable, unrepresented, numerically disadvantaged tribal entities in Kenya. Moreover, this is exacerbated by the implicit feeling among many Kenyans that he is merely a porch-prince, ill-tooled and utterly uninitiated to the struggles of the ordinary man. Being too care-free, laissez-faire and a guy boasting a suicidally happy-go-lucky attitude to life, much worse to Kenyan unity led to serious questions arising on his credentials for this highly crucial venture of leading a nation’s destiny for not just today but into the future. But the good fortune of the wealth afforded to him by the Kenyatta heritage, not less the recognizable family name ensured that our prince was galloping headlong towards the pinnacle of Kenya’s political power, perhaps unfairly against more deserving candidates. Allegations of a serious lack of sobriety also cast aspersions on the character of the man, Uhuru. Moreover, a perception of leaning more heavily towards the tribe than national well-being weighed heavily on his visage. A feeling that ‘extra-electoral’ mechanisms were involved in this duo’s election cannot be ruled out despite the Supreme Court upholding their victory in 2013. To add insult to injury, on getting elected in a highly contentious election he went on a campaign of protecting only himself against any injury to his personal interests at the expense of state business. Shuttle diplomacy it was called. This in turn hurt the Kenyan economy greatly.

Not in the least, he also distinguished himself as a standard-bearer of incompetence by endeavoring to appoint ill-fitting individuals to important national positions; worse still gave a smooth landing to political losers who contested the elections on the Jubilee party ticket. Appointments to state corporations became a matter of tribal affiliation with the consideration heavily favouring only two tribes to the disenfranchisement of the rest of the nation. This did not bother Mr. Kenyatta in the least. The culmination of these appointments was manifested in the fiasco that was personified as the Garissa and Westgate terrorist attacks that were a direct consequence of laxity, corruption and incompetence at worst. A Cabinet secretary who attributes smoke during a terrorist attack to burning of a mattress is not just a liability but a great embarrassment to their appointing authority, in this case the President. The cataclysm that was the Westgate terrorist attack came at a great expense to no less the President himself as he lost kith and kin. Empirical evidence has concluded that both attacks could have been forestalled before they happened and the rescue effort better coordinated a fact the President alluded to in retiring the then Inspector General of Police and totally relieving the sitting Cabinet Secretary of all executive powers and relegating the guy back to kitchen duty when making consequent cabinet appointments.

Additionally, the president became moody and apprehensive if not emotional and mushy when he mentioned that he and his government will continue to figuratively ‘eat the meat’ while the apparent naysayers from the opposition masticate on their own saliva. Uhuru Kenyatta did himself no favours when he chose to dabble in more semantics and theatrics as opposed to deliberate action as a means to curb corruption. He portrayed himself as a week character unable to deal with some ‘cartel’ that had dismally been allowed to take root as far as the Office of The President. Both public sentiment and austerity attached to the august office of the President of Kenya slipped consistently even among the most ardent of his supporters. In the absence of good counsel, Parliament itself became an actual battleground when the prevailing sentiment was that the Speakers in both houses were behaving as if they were merely figureheads and marionettes for statehouse. A seeming lack of autonomy saw debate in both houses degenerating to either partisanship at best and fist fights at worst. A day came when a government anti-terrorism bill that covertly gagged the media was forcefully passed in the national assembly amid throwing of missiles and the deputy speaker getting her expensively procured crowning glory of ‘natural hair’ drenched by a fellow woman legislator. In the aftermath of this fiasco, no less another female member of the national assembly brought forward allegations of sexual battery and torn knickers in the course of the foregoing casting a terrible stain on the president’s ability to whip his side into any measure of a disciplined side. This was only in his first term.

If you thought his first term was stormy and acrimonious then you were in for a shocker come the subsequent re-election and commencement of the second term. At re-election time it was threats and intimidation galore to any state officers who did not dance to the Jubilee Party tune. As a highly divisive character, he made it clear that he was going to govern Kenya even if he would forego votes from some regions of the republic. He poured out incendiary vitriol in the direction of the leader of the opposition making it known he thought of him as a perennial loser, perpetual cry-baby and anything but a ‘Mugoroki’ (Madman). This split the nation in half as anyone with an inkling on the on-goings of the previous election was beyond aware of the illusion that Mr. Kenyatta won the election by exactly 50% + 8,000 odd votes and Raila a respectable second at 43%. Hate him or Love him; Former Prime Minister, Mr. Odinga prima-facie commanded the love and appreciation of nearly half the country and was an important factor in any national debate on the destiny of Kenya. Public sentiment and goodwill was heavily in his favour, a fact that can never be disputed or wished away! Derision to the rule of law became his modus operandi as court orders were treated with contempt and synergy between the three arms of government came a cropper in deference to the Executive.

Indisguisable opprobrium was shown to the 4th Estate and Media Freedom became only an Academic enshrinement of the constitution far removed from reality. We were going to the dogs. The election came under a cloud of the referee body heavily leaning towards the incumbent. The winner was a foregone conclusion early in the contest despite national goodwill being with the opposition side. The election had been so riddled with injustice and illegalities that it had to be petitioned at the Supreme Court. So heavy was the burden of proof against the IEBC that the Supreme Court by a great majority nullified the result of the Presidential Election and called for a new one. They were spared neither the paroxysms of the President nor his indifference to their role. Revisiting was the least they were promised should the sitting President get elected in the second poll. This Poll ended up a non-contest as the illegalities and impartiality, a hallmark of IEBC from the First Poll persisted and the opposition party pulled out of the contest. Consequently, governance became a theatre of the absurd as cat and mouse games between protestors and police, disproportionate violence by security agencies towards the populace and indifference by the president-reelect became the order of the day. The Presidential legitimacy of this figurehead became a matter of conjecture and the economy consequently took another dip. When the Opposition leader ordered for Mass action and economic sabotage as a way to tame this high-handed regime the nation seemed to be at the throes of civil war. So serious was the situation that a bill was being mooted for the secession of a large tranche of Kenya from the whole. Then came January 30th 2018 and the Opposition Leader took the perilous step to be sworn-in as the People’s President of the Republic of Kenya. We now had 2 presidents and a potentially catastrophic showdown was imminent. Then much like lightening out of azure skies came the 4th of March handshake that cooled down tensions and gave the President the much needed legitimacy as full leader of Kenya.

Prior to the handshake it had been fashionable to curry favour with state by simply insulting the Opposition leader in the presence of the president. Many ills were partaken under the very auspices of state but with a lame-duck president, little if no condemnation would be forthcoming. Impunity and corruption reigned supreme under this regime but all this changed after the famous handshake. It is as if new impetus was injected into the president, legitimacy permitting and he soared above partisanship with an unheralded gust of wind under his wings. As if algid water had been splashed upon him, he suddenly woke up to the realities of a rotten legacy he was leaving behind as the worst head of state to ever have had the misfortune to pillage Kenya! As he had already secured the commencement of the constitutionally stipulated two terms he no longer saw the need to split the country merely for political expedience. His new allies became common sense and the rule of law, a move welcomed by a wide spectrum of the country. His vision became clearer. He now discovered the teeth he has always had to take corruption head on throwing both friend and foe literally under the bus. Appointing the youthful and uncompromising George Kinoti as the Director of Criminal Investigations and Noordin Hajj as the Director of Public Prosecution was a masterstroke in sensibly dealing corruption a death knell. Dispensing with the old system for the pristine is to the benefit of all who have the interest of the country at heart.

Men like Rashid Echessa who had done little to embellish his image as an unschooled and boorish character were mercifully ushered out of the cabinet to fanfare even in his native Mumias! Let Ministerial portfolios now be assigned to more competent and enlightened professionals not village louts being rewarded for paying fealty to a lost cause. Sentiments of tribal animosity like ‘Kumira-Kumira, Thuraku –Thuraku’ have been dispensed with for the more conciliatory message of Unity, Love & Peace to portend an all-inclusive development agenda. The President has now put forward the Big 4 Agenda to foster Manufacturing, provide affordable Housing, Improve healthCare and Food security. All of a sudden, it’s become kaleidoscopically clear that Kisumu is located on the shores of the biggest Fresh water lake in Africa and so locating a Beer Manufacturing plant there would bode well with this aim of job creation and increasing manufacturing where water availability is no conundrum. This is in antipathy to what we have witnessed for years where disenfranchisement of the region was hallowed as ‘uncircumcised barons of poverty would be left to roast in their own well-documented obstinacy and unwavering opposition to the government of the day. That change of tact is heart-warming just the same way the President is now viewed as a welcome visitor in Luo-Nyanza, by and large anywhere in Kenya. A few months ago many were wondering if the right driver had been assigned to our collective bus but now he looks too young to retire!

And sure enough the chickens are coming home to roost as the age of sacred cows draws to a close. With the political salve against perversion in the name of protecting the Presidency exhausted, heads are now rolling. The blue-eyed boy of the Jubilee administration, Mr. Henry Rotich was finally caught with his fingers firmly stuck in the cookie jar and duly fired from his portfolio at treasury and arraigned in court over his transgressions. A sitting Governor from the President’s own backyard is also in hot soup for allotting tenders worth over a Billion bob to an entity with familial links to himself and no other prequalification of either expedience or track record of service delivery. The wheels of the juggernaut called the anti-corruption initiative now appear well greased by political will and are milling them big and small. Not in the least, this could be Mr. Kenyatta’s saving grace as he attempts to salvage his legacy from the fires of mediocrity that has plagued his stint. Win this fight and we will eternally hail him as the greatest leader we have ever had. He will also have set a precedent any of his successors will ill afford to eschew and so in a refrain made famous by our former president H.E. Daniel Moi, “na hiyo ni Maendeleo.”

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Political & Social Empowerment

MY LETTER TO THE DESPOT: GROOM AN ABLE SUCCESSOR

David and Solomon
King David and his son Crown Prince Solomon

The tragedy of this world is that history always conveniently chooses to overlook the contributions of the precursor. My reverence for Alexander the Great stands undisguised! He achieved so much in such a little time and displayed such incredible wit in doing so that you cannot help but marvel at the splendour of it all. An ignored fact of history is that he would never have achieved any of that were it not for Phillip II; his father, who no doubt figuratively set the canvas and provided most of the hue his son used to paint the masterpiece the great Greco-Macedonian dominion became. The great scholar and tutor; Aristotle, was also in part responsible for both the philosophical and pedagogical formation of Alexander III. Unbeknown to many, in his youth Phillip II was the archetypal ambitious if not just rambunctious child who would not let anyone hold him back from attaining what he wanted. He was born and brought up as one of the heirs to the Argead dynasty of Macedonian Kings. He was the youngest son of King Amynas III and Queen Eurydice I and so had to throw his weight around to improve his lot in the royal succession mix. The men of his day earned respect not by scholarly pursuit but by valour in the battlefield. For his headstrong nature he once got himself captured in an infantile excursion, trespassing into the Greek nation state of Illyria at the impressionably tender age of 14. He was held for ransom there and later in Thebes. His insight and unyielding mien even under captivity reigned supreme ensuring he was soon taken under the wing of renowned Theban commanders Epaminondas and Pelopidas, enlightened souls who bequeathed him with a copious amount of tutelage on military organization and diplomacy. He was repatriated on a prisoner-exchange deal back to Macedon 3 yrs later having grown in both physique and psyche. In due course, the cruel hand of war took its toll on his two older brothers weaving a clear path for his ascension to the Macedon throne on his father’s death 6 years after his return. As one of the more capable rulers; he instituted the Macedonian Phalanx – involving longer spears than the opponents for the infantry, an unheralded tactical formation in battle that laid waste to all of his opponents. On conquering the city-states of Athens and Thebes mostly thanks to his expansionist vision, Phillip II consolidated his authority over his massive see. His conquest over the two vanquished titans ultimately saw him elected; albeit under duress, the paramount Hegemon for the federation of Greek states dubbed ‘The League of Corinth’ additionally serving as Commander-In-Chief of the entire sovereignty. Not a creature to eschew the rolling of the proverbial sleeves, 3 years into his reign he got his right eye wounded by an enemy archer in the heat of the battle of Methone, a sphere of influence of Athens but soldiered on to win that battle. He lost his eye but won the war over a territory with massive reserves of gold and silver, a pyrrhic victory of sorts. It is this indomitable spirit that laid the foundation which Alexander the Great inherited to build upon. Alex III began getting blooded in battle from his teens and by the age of 16 reigned partially as regent and heir-apparent when his father; the Macedonian warlord, was engrossed in yet another military campaign. Alexander fully took over authority at the age of 20 following the assassination of his old man, incidentally being blindsided on the left-side by his son as his very own trusted bodyguard lurched upon a lapse in security to stab him fatally. On that fateful day, incidentally the wedding day of his daughter Cleopatra and Alexander I of Epirus; he let his guard down ceremonially and rather nonchalantly riding in his chariot, brother of the bride – the Crown Prince Alexander III in tow. Long but hopefully instructive digression I suppose.

In the previous blog I entreated the antiquated yet obstinate strongman to take the dignified step and call time on his decorated political career. This in itself is a simplistic outlook that ignores the obvious shortcomings of leadership in the third-world, in token by and large of the people being governed. It is an entire complex equation full of variables, functions of state, combinations, permutations, matrices and some other aspects of happenstance which are mutually exclusive and cannot all be replicated for two different sets of circumstances. There are well worn sentiments that the leadership cadre is just a microcosm of the masses being governed. In most cases the polity is not any different from the politicians they elect. Even the hallowed commentator on matters governance Niccolò Machiavelli in his masterpiece; The Prince, observed that there is never a real change in leadership even when power changes hands from one individual to the next. It is just a game of musical chairs by the same monkeys but in different forests. We as humans share similar traits that become even more indistinguishable and primal the less enlightened the individual is. Human nature is so complex that either hatred or adoration can be kindled by performing similar acts of good or evil for a homologous audience on different days. The factor here is time while logic is cast out of the window. The uninitiated will judge more by the eye than by the hand as everyone can see but few can feel or less still perceive. If a different person is given power he is vulnerable to commit the same acts of corruption for personal aggrandizement, sexual perversion to buttress their social status, tax evasion merely to dishonour Caesar, hypocrisy while hoodwinking the blind albeit foolhardy and witless of their none-existent love for the Almighty.

After 20 – 40 years in power, a head of state is usually too full of himself to even countenance advice from the men and women in his payroll expressly for that purpose. He oft views himself as a god – ‘Father of the Nation’ and even a Professor of Politics despite open defiance and betrayal of the trust of the electorate who put him in power the first time. His morning starts with the infernal massaging of his ego, “mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the most beneficent of them all?” In his considered opinion it’s obviously he. He deludes himself that he’s the best thing since buttered bread and goes ahead to abolish presidential term limits. Some use the most flimsy of excuses to move the tentative start date of their presidential term forwards basing it on the day a certain minor constitutional amendment was made. Election dates are affected, postponed to such an extent that they become fuzzy and someone ends up serving a 5 year term in may be 6, 7 up to 8 years. This is in absolute contravention of the same constitutional ambit they disregard with ruthless abandon in their refusal to retire. They fiddle with term limits until they ultimately drop dead and their game is mercifully over. There is no postponing the visit of the grim reaper! The more callous will just announce that they have decided to become ‘President for Life’ and whoever has a problem can go create his own country and become its leader. These are men and women way past the confines of basic decency with some displaying not just the onset of dementia but senility, both of which are crippling handicaps not worthy of my derision in token of my upbringing as the son of a medical practitioner. You have no doubt heard a few quoting the hard to locate Biblical verse about leadership coming from God. I have often mumbled under my breath; no doubt miffed half to death, why God would hate us so much as to saddle upon our collective backs an incompetent, conniving and quixotic ignoramus to lead us when there are so many worthy candidates in our midst? Instructive to note, the sagacious grey-head will look at the sunset and decide it is now time to groom if not anoint a fitting successor.

This begs the question – What constitutes a competent successor?

I will beseech any retiring supremos boasting grey-matter to take time and sift through the wheat and chaff to get a man or woman who best displays leadership qualities, a predilection for effective stewardship. This includes courage in adversity, resilience, integrity, a belief in hard work, analytical thinking and most importantly an effective communicator. Get a guy with charisma and gravitas to always rise to the occasion on a need basis. Get one who is aggressive in the pursuit of results but still affable as to keep the team under him happy to be his subordinates.

Make haste to identify the right protégé early when public goodwill is still on your side. Timing is of the essence as the patience of even your most ardent supporter is neither infinite nor eternally assured. It will get frayed and before you can blink evaporate in the heat of your tardiness in bidding farewell. Even a good idea at first instance loses its traction as soon as a better one comes into the picture. To illustrate this I will regal y’all with yet another anecdote. King David son of Jesse is the most celebrated of Jewish Kings. Even today the Israeli standard bearer has the Star of David, the royal insignia in its drapery. He wrote the Book of Psalms to give praise and adulation the Lord. His piety and gratitude for divine providence was such that he personally wanted to build a temple for the Lord. When he put this by his creator he was turned down but with a caveat. “The resplendent domicile for my habitation will be built by your son Solomon, the fruit of Bathsheba’s womb.” He was slightly pained but you don’t argue with divine precepts. He consequently spared no effort in ensuring Solomon was up to the task. He even fended off on his young son’s behalf the individual claims to the throne by his older half-brothers Absalom sired from Maacah and later Adonijah son of Haggith. Ultimately Solomon succeeded his father as King, prayed for wisdom and was granted, eventually building and consecrating a fitting sanctuary for his Lord. Furthermore, he authored the Books of Proverbs & Ecclesiastes as a fitting tribute to the seeds of discernment his father planted in him. He would almost assuredly never have attained all this were it not for the proper whetting of his leadership scythe by his father just in the nick of time.

Mentor your preferred successor to ensure he works in a manner more similar if not better than what you delivered. Mentorship is an important factor of success. It enables one to take a shorter time to reach the rhetorical ‘cruising-altitude’ for success while cutting out the unnecessary teething problems they would have experienced in the absence of a seasoned predecessor. There is nothing better than learning from a titan who has been there and done that. As a retiring statesman do not be selfish with counsel in clear obeisance of folk wisdom that though one candle lights the other, it will lose none of its current luminous intensity in the aftermath. Be the epitome of altruism. Veteran ruler, worry not about the overshadowing of your legacy by your apprentice as I am of the school of thought that the mentorship of a suitable successor will hold you in good stead with your assayers when legacies are ultimately compared. There is no better way in ensuring your successor follows through on your development agenda than this.

Tutelage is never enough as actions speak louder than words. Guide your successor on all the facets of the system that is government. How do you achieve this? Have your protégé in leadership positions for small committees, boards, office parties and the like. Elect him as your representative on a fund-raising initiative so that he sees how it is done. You cannot train a grown-up on morality but be sure to make it clear to them that IFMIS is a system to facilitate accountability in government expenditure and procurement not to rob the financier of its all, the tax-payer! In the sentiments well parlayed by the good book in Proverbs 22:6, “Teach your child in the ways they should follow and even in their old age they will not depart from it.” Stewardship delegation ensures that your successor not only earns invaluable experience in the art of governance but it heightens the prospect that when the time is opportune he will do the same with his potential successor. It’s a wholesome tradition to initiate. In Kenya we had this man, Professor George Saitoti. He had a well-calculated political career paying credence to his academic and professional expression as a Professor of Mathematics. He was the Kenyan Vice-President for 13 years; later in his tenure, additional to the portfolio of VP he grasped steadfast the critical docket of Planning and National Development for 7 years; Minister for Education, Science and Technology for 4 years; Minister for Finance for 4 years – without any of the mortifying ‘Computer errors’ in computation of the national budget one his successors had to explain away and lastly held the Ministry of Internal Security for 4 years until his untimely demise. I am left to rue what such a character oozing oodles as far as experience in high-level governance is concerned would have done for Kenya if he were to become President. If Moi would have considered either he or Raila Odinga instead of political green-horn Uhuru Kenyatta, wouldn’t the cockerel of KANU have continued to crow well past the half a century mark? Likely yes!

After retirement I would enthuse the long-standing ‘Father of the Nation’ to take an advisory role of the elder statesman. You could decide to have a quiet retirement but any decision is at your sole discretion or that of your successor. Attend national events from time to time making your presence felt. Also take time to tend to your livestock and spare some more to tell tales of yore to your grand-children and their children as they also need you for their dose of folklore. Make reparations with all you have wronged and set your affairs straight with both the Deity and fellow man. Catch up with some surviving village mates for a jig or two. They need it.

As Africans we are tired of seeing once venerable shining lights of their generation retiring as grizzled old men; our grand-fathers, being chiseled off the Presidential throne for the graveyard. We are equally tired of the instability that inevitably results from regime change in some of our banana republics. Imagine if Muammar Gadaffi of Libya had groomed a successor in advance, what a flourishing tale the continuation of his legacy would have been? Instead of forebears beating their chests and informing us condescendingly, “I told you so” when a handover leads to chaos, it is only proper that one grooms an able successor as an expression of not just maturity as a leader but also authentic patriotism.

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Political & Social Empowerment

THE DAYS OF THE AFRICAN STRONGMAN ARE NUMBERED

Mugabe TumbleAlexander III, King of Macedonia was a man of inimitable achievement. That he ultimately earned himself the eternal moniker of ‘Alexander the Great’ is not a matter of conjecture but something borne out of solid achievement. As stated in an earlier blog he conquered the entire known ancient world from Western Europe to Northern Africa stretching all the way to Asia at the bank of the Jhelum River in the Hydaspes Valley in Modern day Pakistan. Before that he was already regaled as not just one of royal upbringing and the heir-apparent to the Argead dynasty which then rested on the lap of his father Emperor Phillip II but also as a great intellectual and military tactical savant of his time. He once quipped in passing, “I would rather live a short life of glory than a long one of obscurity.” He was ultimately proved right but rather fatefully. He was of such exquisite military poise that he never tasted defeat in battle in his prime. However, despite his acquisitions and holding steadfast to the path of the sublime and personal fulfillment, his life came to that anticipated end at the tender age of 32 ostensibly from a bout of Malaria!  Who said the anatomically insignificant mosquito is not dreadful? Like Hip-hop great Tupac Shakur, this icon personally presaged the small vial that was to be the confines of the days numbered for his life (Sic)!  But I digress.

A sage of his time once uttered that if a hero lives long enough he will inevitably suffer the transformation into an unrecognizable villain, abhorrent and an utter anathema even to the principal beneficiaries of his reign of beneficence. The World over, most especially in Africa this statement has rung ever so true. Venerable orators, intellectually gifted political minds of the day and military strategists fought and attained the independence of their nations. Later they were hailed as heroes when they presided the downing of the colonial standard-bearers and hoisting of the new and audacious flags of the fledgling, pristinely-minted African states. Many basked in the brilliance of the great inferno that burnt to ashes the final vestiges of colonialism and ushered in self-determination. The aforementioned heroes almost automatically became Heads of State and Government. They reveled in all the euphoria, good-will and legitimacy as leaders of the masses. Then came the Coup-d’état craze of the 70’s as a means to regime change by either those who became disenchanted by native rule or the expected horde of know-it-alls and the perennially dissatisfied. In a critical mass of African states the coups were successful after both the blood of patriots and tyrants was shed to forcefully effect change of power. All the same, a few of the independence leaders successfully maintained their grip onto state largesse. Then came the 90’s and the new fad was democracy which was force-fed down the throats of many African ‘strongmen’ by Western Powers fuelled by Bretton-Woods institutions as a pre-condition for the acquisition of  donor funds after the primordial leaders and their acolytes had already plundered their areas of jurisdiction to bankruptcy.

Fast-forward and the year is 2001. What moral authority does a man who took over power in the 1960’s still have to still be called ‘Mr. President’ sir? Many still bark like rabid mongrels about being Independence heroes, revolutionaries, Fathers of the Nation, Last King of Scotland and Great Conquistador of the British Empire, Professors of Politics, ‘Kuku Ngbendu wa Zabanga’ loosely translating to Libido-In-Chief; Chancellor of all Universities on Land, water and Air; great hunter who ensnared & expropriated the white man back to Europe, Economic Moses leading his People to the promised land of fiscal stability, the Commander of the Praetorian guard and many other bizarre titles these now rickety old men have now conferred upon themselves. What new ideas can they possibly add to their nations 30 yrs after coming to power? What additional stratagems on national progression can a man who has had 4 decades to sit on the Presidential throne still have in reserve to pull his ailing nation out of a rut of his own creation?

Of course these owls have been fermented to a fine blend of cunning and sagacious by the winds of time so they hire Ivy-league university trained political advisors, who will infuse into them the fables they regurgitate to the masses about external powers with vested interest to re-colonize them when the story of the passing of the baton to the younger generation of leaders comes up. Prevarication of the age factor becomes a way of life as hair-lines are replenished and dyed a darker hue. They forget the well-touted sentiments that even the dancing virtuoso must live in cognizance of the most opportune time to exit the dance floor! Democracy though implemented on paper becomes an exercise in musical chairs where the votes of the victorious opposition candidates are shunted to another room outside the national tallying centre and burnt to a cinder by the incumbency and that particular man or woman beaten to a pulp for merely being the inadvertent manifestation of meritocracy! Ultimately the ‘Strongman’ succumbs to the vagaries of age; he is taken to a London, Lisbon, Singapore or Paris hospital for a ‘routine’ medical check-up which could as well be the motions of final rites before passing on! News of the colossus’ demise is kept a national secret for a fortnight before irrefutable footage is streamed by the Diaspora community of bloggers confirming that the ‘Elephant’ is no more. The Vice-President; now acting as President, hurriedly convenes a press conference to confirm these reports and save his team blushes. Both legitimate and the usual crocodile tears are shed while the nation plunges into mourning all the while breathing a sigh of relief. But I dare query why a man should grip the helm of power so hard that it must take the icy scythe of the grim reaper to dissociate his fingers from it?

A few weeks ago there were reports from Sudan that long-time President Hassan Omar Al-Bashir, ICC-resistance emeritus had been gently nudged by the military from office and now they held power in his stead at the behest of the People of the Republic of Sudan in reaction to popular protests. While I was going to paper, reports from news outlets both verified and otherwise seem to indicate that Sudan is to be kicked out of the African Union if they don’t move with haste to put authority back to the hands of a Civilian leader soonest possible. This is a clear case of hypocrisy as many of these other African countries in the same token have pot-bellied, Amherst College alumni rulers who are only proxies of their National Armies & the deep state! But what do I know? I am just but a mere ‘Inferus cum-Laude’ Graduate of Engineering and not even Political Science!

Many a long time leader has been forced to vacate office in pretty much the same fashion lard is melted off a knife by fire this being equated to the irresistible heat of change. Like a bush-fire; the Arab spring of 2011 fronted coincidentally by the self-immolation of the Paladin & Martyr of the Fight for Economic Emancipation – the youthful & most venerable; Mohammed Bouazizi proliferated as a new consciousness disabusing the norm among the sons and daughters of Africa. In his honour followed the crumbling to dust of the reigns of hither-to untouchable Kings of Kings of the names Muammar Abu-Minyar Gaddafi of Libya, the Neo-Pharaoh Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and titan Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia portending that the iron curtain had finally come down on the age of titans and demi-god rulers in Africa.

Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire followed hot on their heels after election defeat and insistence to cling to office. A blueprint on how to deal with errant leaders was made out of him, being the irreverent recipient of a donkey-kick where the good Lord split him from his own armed forces and for good measure an unsolicited indictment and successful prosecution at the International Criminal Court at The Hague for Crimes against Humanity for fomenting needless post-election violence. Later also tumbled Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, answering to the ethereal clarion call pertinent to long-term illness ending a hide and seek game on his presence here or in the after-life with the media in August 2012. Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso also found himself in headlong flight from his long-cherished throne after holding power ever since yours truly was ‘in the oven’ to October 31 2014. Yahya Jammeh of Gambia was soon forced into a free and fair election contest he was ill-prepared to rig and fell to the will of the majority to Adama Barrow at 6 in the morning come 2016. Angolan longtime supremo; Jose Eduardo Dos Santos too had to call time on his tenacious grip on power in September 2017 that saw citizens of the oil-rich nation figuratively let-their –hair-down for the first time since 1979.  A week before the penning of our article; long-time nemesis of this very former president so much as to be christened a rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi had been granted his long-awaited, dignified nay heroic funeral in Lopitanga village, Bie Province!

When things could not get any bizarre and they did; the military that had long propped the 37-year former bread-basket turned basket-case, pariah-state regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe did the unthinkable and simply let go. Casualties included his ex-secretary now prima-donna spouse Grace Mugabe who was accused of trying to engineer a sexually-transmitted acquisition of the leadership in ZANU-PF party!  A resignation speech was read to Parliament, but you can tell that to his former right-hand man Emmerson Mnangagwa as comic relief! After lengthy dithering and growing of the ‘Prophetic’ snow-white beard, Joseph Kabila was forced to call for elections in DRC and finally retire from office. Penultimate out of the door was the previously thought of messiah in Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. After ending a bloody civil war in the earlier years of his regime in 2002, he governed in so much apprehension that he eternally reserved the Ministry of Defence for none other than himself! That is how skeptical despots are forced to become. Though elected in 1999 and thought of as an outsider due to his origins in the Oudja protectorate of Morocco, he only knew peace when he took personal control of the national defence in 2003 in the dual role of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces and Defence Minister. He ended emergency rule in 2011 but had recently come into focus due to ineffective governance, high-handedness and you guessed it overstaying his tenancy in the Presidential palace. His announcement to contest for a fifth term in April 2019 was the last straw that broke the Algerian camel’s back and violent protests forced him out. Last but slightly more benign, the revolving door that is the ANC democracy down south caught ‘Jay-Z’ more wildly famous as Jacob Zuma by the coat tails and he was thrown out in favour of Cyril Ramaphosa. There is more of a feeling of Karma about this as many fingers were pointed at J-Zee over the manner in which the gentleman President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki was forced out of his tenure. Let’s see how that one pans out!

A Theatre of the Absurd played out in Guinea-Bissau in 2009 when a sitting president spuriously and unprovoked assassinated his own headstrong Chief of General Staff and the following day revenge was swift when he was ushered into the ethereal realm himself in one of the most unheralded occurrences in Africa. On and off President João Bernado Vieira thought he had finally been ridded of his scourge only to be cleaned off the floors himself in a bloody mess the following day by his own previously loyal and patriotic national guard. Many of these tyrants have presided over kleptocratic regimes that have impoverished, brutalized and killed the enterprises of their own unassuming populace. Authoritarianism and dictatorship have become the staple in our resource-rich yet dust-bowl poor continent as her wealth is carted away by the truck and cargo-plane loads to be invested in Europe and South-East Asia. After that, protests are put down by use of internet and broadcast media shutdown orchestrated with the sole intent to brook division, anarchy and ultimately blindness among the revolting faithful. Press freedom is an unknown concept in most countries in Africa. It’s merely a return to the age-old divide and rule paradigm that our colonial masters and now perfected by the newly independent darker colonizers. Also masses in the presidential home turf are hoodwinked that they are in power and consequently will fight tooth and nail in one’s corner at real and perceived threats to their man’s authority. Fueled by narcotic intoxicants and a few tots of the local brew, every political rally of the opposition will be interspersed by heckling and havoc caused by no other than these partisan hoodlums. Elections have become merely a ritual to burnish our image in the eyes of our Western trading partners and benefactors that we are progressing as mature democracies when in the actual sense that is an aberration of reality. Opposition has been cast to the periphery and even banned resulting in the execution of the veracity in flesh and bone of the sentiments averred by Thomas Jefferson nearly two and a Quarter centuries ago, “when injustice becomes law resistance becomes a duty.”

Over to you Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Paul Biya, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Idriss Deby, Isaias Aferwaki, Museveni, Nkurunzinza and Kagame. The axe awaits you if you delay your decisions. No matter how good you are sooner or later popular fatigue catches up with your people and you need not suffer the ignominy of being kicked out. Pack now and leave! Take a cue from African statesmen like Nelson Mandela, Paul Kaunda and even Daniel Moi. Despotism and the era of Methuselahs have no place in modern day Africa.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

REIGN IN VIOLENT POSTURING TO SAFEGUARD DEMOCRACY IN KENYA

Violent PosturingAt the dawn of his reign, King Solomon prayed for wisdom to lead God’s own people and that he was granted. He ultimately became so wise he could have advised the sages and clairvoyants in his own royal court if he so wished! Unfortunately later in life though blessed with divine sagacity he ultimately found himself irretrievably consumed in the throes of sexual perversion albeit ‘primitive accumulation’ of heathen women into his homestead. To the discerning eye 700 wives & 300 concubines cannot pass for simple run-of-the-mill affection and favour for the daughters of Eve but lascivious derangement if not an obsession! Despite this ignominy, he still kept his counsel on a myriad other matters regarding all we pine and toil for in this world as vanity! Indeed it is his perceptive eye that gave us the verse in Proverbs 12: 18-19, “The Words of the reckless pierce like swords but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever but lying lips are transient.” Also sampled from his proverbs is one about gossip fanning a quarrel the same way wood fuels a fire but contiguous with my professional development as neither a Theology Professor nor a Biblical savant let me cap the preaching here.

After the handshake between the two main protagonists of the crisis that almost tore Kenya asunder; the presumptive President H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta and the most venerable former Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, a huge tranche of the simmering tensions in Kenya cooled off. However, the present chumminess between these erstwhile arch-nemeses and a steely resolve to fight corruption is putting a few people ill-at ease. The perception that they have toiled in vain against some adversary only for that force to curry more favour with their Principal than they the loyal servants has no doubt bred apprehension among the faithful in Jubilee majorly from the Rift Valley. Add to that mix a referendum that looks clearly predesigned at diluting the Presidency, reducing a certain group’s untamed future access to all state largesse enjoyed by their predecessors by creation of an alternative centre of power and you find yourself with a powder-keg. The judicious must have cast more than a passing glance when the President told off his trusty Deputy about ‘kutangatanga’ aimlessly traipsing the nation when the Big 4 agenda is still pending implementation. It did not help matters when the President named Cabinet Secretary extraordinaire Dr. Fred Matiang’i as the first among equals to the position of Chief Minister to co-ordinate and virtually ‘prefect’ the other CSs; prima-facie, undermining his very own Deputy!

As the Wiseman puts it, “when you see a dog needlessly & unreasonably bark at you harken not to its din but instead pick up a stone and strike it!” What?!! “Sooner rather than later its master will show up and he will be evident to all.” As such retributory statements have been hot and heavy, threatening dire if not unspecified consequences if the previous Memorandum of Understanding between the President and his Deputy is not honoured. As they have helped Uhuru Kenyatta secure 2 tenures, each a 5-year term already they expect a reciprocation of the same gesture when the time is ripe for the Deputy. Men and women have danced themselves lame blaming the former Prime Minister for threatening to wreak havoc that will ultimately break apart their party! Bizarre statements like, “This man has torn apart FORD-KENYA, then he ravaged KANU, he pillaged NARC and now he wants to export suicide-vest politics to our dear Jubilee.” I dare posture, what good did KANU ever do in the Republic of Kenya to warrant anyone standing tall, shedding crocodile-tears purporting to defend its honour? If one dealt an abrupt demise to the single-party depravity nay kleptocracy that was the rich substrate that nourished the mongrel called KANU that ended many an illustrious political career, he must never be reviled but instead hailed as a hero worthy of a marble statue and name in the lights so to speak. KANU was the party that lit the fuse of tribal clashes in Kenya and is worthy of interment in a forgotten grave for all time! If you can get an audience with Kenneth Matiba from the after-life he probably shares similar sentiment. Phew! Let me not desecrate the grave of a lionized General worth his weight in gold!

But my questions on this issue more often than not seem to balloon rather than get answered. For one, where does that bi-partisan deal between Uhuru & Ruto leave the rest of Kenya that has been insufficiently represented in the period Jubilee (a bi-ethnic caucus) has held the helm of power in Kenya? Secondly; what became of the democratic ideals and the norms of political competition that are currently enjoyed as the mainstay of democratic politics in Kenya, of which much blood, sweat & tears of exemplary compatriots both heroes and tyrants has been shed to attain? Why should well-heeled procedure be sacrificed at the altar of parochial political patronage and monarchy-like succession? I don’t lie when I aver that these queries keep me awake at night! In full sight of what I can only describe as political grime, this politician an elected legislator from the greater Uasin Gishu county has been heavily vocal looking for some measure of ill-acquired publicity, deprecating the rest of Kenya external to Central Kenya and the Highland Nilotes of the Rift Valley region as ‘small-kids’ not fearsome enough to worry about incase of War! This is the poster-boy and a quintessential representative of primitivism, malevolence and intellectual putrefaction that hasn’t a place not just in the 21st Century but in anyone’s political camp if you really want to unite Kenyans while harboring presidential ambitions.

Social Media is also awash with statements by arm-chair commentators & purveyors of idle-chatter on subjects casting an umbra to the knowledgeable echelons of their respective crania. No doubt paid mouth-pieces, they exist primarily as enemies of both commonsense and development regaling us with pseudo-prophesies about characters who will ‘Never be Presidents in Kenya.’ They even erroneously elucidate Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga as one of those, in clear anti-pathy to verifiable information in the public purview that Raila served as co-President to Mwai Kibaki in the unfortunately resuscitated Office of 2nd Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya as per the stipulations of the National accord of 2008. He enjoys universal good-will in Kenya to such an extent that he had to be forcefully sworn-in as the People’s President in exercise of direct Sovereignty by the people themselves, constitutionally enshrined in Chapter 1, Article 1 Clause 2 of our Constitution which had to be wrested back to where it belongs back in January 2018. Surreal but true! Africa also took note and feted him for his struggles in enhancement of democracy naming him Africa Union’s Special envoy for Infrastructure and all the trappings that come with the position. Enough of the trumpet blowing for a candidate miles ahead of the rest!

The planned Referendum in Kenya is threatening to become mired in ad-hominem strife for leadership positions by the Kenyan elites in future instead of addressing the lacunae in our current constitution that hamper meaningful governance and devolution. This is not supposed to be the case. As a populace we must yearn towards the reduction of both our taxation burden and repayment of the giant debt owed to the Chinese. We must look to constitutionally strengthen oversight and our role in decisions made with regard to infrastructural loans, more so asking for feasibility studies and a clear road-map of Return-on-Investment before expropriationate decisions on our finances are taken ostensibly for our own good!

The ordinary man is more often than not meek, submissive and law abiding. He has already been irrevocably humbled by his modest circumstances in life to sheer subservience. He just wants the best for his family. The ordinary Kenyan man is of simple ambitions stated in an earlier blog: To own a 5-acre plot, 4-wheel Drive vehicle, live in a 3-bedroomed house, raising 2 children and bound in matrimony to 1 wife! He is yoked to his neighbour by their struggles against poverty regardless of their regional affiliations. He needn’t be vexed to worry further about who becomes President or not. Why continue to hammer down upon him using intimidation and threats to inordinate violence? Desperation birthed of threats must surely yield animus, fear, great anger, civil-disobedience and ultimately social upheaval when his loved ones are threatened. When a cat is pushed to the wall you can be sure of a counter-strike whose magnitude of cataclysm you may ill desire to witness. You surely cannot preach democratic gains during the day yet practice exclusionism at night where Kenyans are forced to retreat to safe zones every election cycle. Things are getting worse as the moral of the story sinking in is when you stay put and predictably get butchered by some proscribed tribal militia bankrolled by the incumbency there will be no ICC to avenge you! You could fight in someone’s corner but in case you are killed, there won’t even be someone to contest for your retribution as unity governments are quickly formed and life goes on. This is thoroughly disconcerting and is slowly killing our hard-earned democratic gains. Being civil and slow to your quiver should never be construed as a sign of weakness but must instead be decorated. Why allow an advanced economy and democracy, indeed an esteemed footstool for the beacon of enlightenment to the rest of Africa to be governed by the fear of repression?

Good-will from the peace-fomenting handshake is what we critically need to be wielded in opprobrium against the agents of violent posturing. As a former student of engineering cavorting as a political commentator allow me to indulge you with this analogy. A gradual cool-down of tensions is similar to what we learnt in Metallurgy and Material Science about rapidly cooled metallic formations as brittle & fickle no matter the elements involved while ponderously annealed edifices are the strongest structures money can buy. Let’s be wise to learn from our errors in 2007, the Rwandan Genocide and the German Holocaust. Rulers who fail to learn from history risk repeating it to the detriment of us all. Instead of fanning tribally-inflamed animosity via incendiary statements we should be advised to go for conciliatory sentiments like newly-minted convert into statesmanship, Gov. Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu. We should understand that political contests are only for a while and afterwards comes service delivery. We did not choose to be born in Kenya. However as a conglomeration of disparate nation states we should work more towards engaging areas of similarity and shun division.

Forcing tainted candidates upon the citizenry. Fire and brimstone is threatening to rain down if one particular candidate will not be elected Kenyan President in 2022 if some highly-vociferous sources are to be believed. However, there is little credential to support that gentleman’s bid to be Commander-In-Chief. This is a man who has never seriously spoken against corruption instead always working under the table to marshal a cabal of tribal chiefs and other riff-raff to rubbish anti-corruption initiatives as a regional witch-hunt. He is a good student of parochialism and the ‘God-father’ brand of political patronage. He is one man who believes that the only unity that is of beneficence to Kenya is the one fostered between the aforementioned Central Highland Bantus and their counterparts the Highland Nilotes of the Kenyan Rift. Indeed as one-half of the duo that rode on popular dissent from their two tribes against the International Criminal Court (ICC) process christened ‘neocolonialism’ into Statehouse not much can be expected of the guy. As ICC-indictee emeritus, he still cleaves to the same paradigm that took him there in the first place – Sing hymnals during the day but pay war-mongers when the sun goes down. When in 2010 a majority of Kenyans voted for a promulgation of an improved Supreme law of the land he chose the path of the conservative deciding to cling for just a bit longer to the old constitution that had disenfranchised a majority of Kenyans for eons. Moreover, it had even brought us to the brink of civil strife when an unpopular president was rigged in by simple majority in 2007. As a master-spinner of public sympathy to his favour; a firm commitment to environmental conservation that must surely start with the removal of human populations from our water towers has been stammered at best and incoherent at worst from a guy with much vaunted eloquence. This is an expert propagandist if not a callous schemer who has invented some nebulous contest between ‘Dynasties’ and ‘Hustlers’ to enhance his lot further despite clear evidence he has never been a ‘hustler’ in the street sense of the word. Need I mention his murky acolytes, hangers-on, lackeys, ideologues and sycophants who find themselves embroiled in one mega-corruption scandal after the other that drain not just our generated but loan-powered national reserves! Yet someone is still ready to risk life & limb for such a decrepit character to be a Head of State in Kenya. Are we so keen to auction our soul to the devil as a nation? Please!

Anti-corruption Commitment. It has been in our folklore for centuries that when light appears darkness dissipates. When the ‘Kumira-kumira’ madness was at its most fervent agents of corruption and autocracy were insulated against prosecution by the innocuous act of spewing bilge against Raila Odinga and the entire NASA brigade. All you needed to do was speak ill of some obscure witch-doctor who is adept at dishing out tropes despite his status as an ‘uncircumcised cur’ to curry favour with the incumbency! However, post-handshake and someone stirring up to the realities of securing a legacy for himself has seen a new resolve in countering friend and foe who engage in corruption. Important to note nevertheless, is that the newly invigorated fight against corruption by our President fronted by DPP and DCI is not a witch hunt but an exercise in anthemic patriotism. Haji and Kinoti must continue to wear their efforts as a badge of honour not just to themselves but as a proud heritage to future generations of their progeny, a high calling bestowed upon them by Kenyans. This is the acme of civic responsibility and a stipulation of the oath of office for the presidency.

My message to the President is to be presidential! Don’t give in to forces that will drain your authority while your Presidential term is still valid. Divorce friendship from business as familiarity breeds contempt. As a national symbol of unity, wield your power like a sceptre of dominion. You now have universal validation and legitimacy as leader of Kenya. Rein in on war mongers and hit them with the hammer of justice in state purview and exercise the tools of the monopoly to state violence against such people without Fear, Favour and with minimal Mercy. Freedom of expression permitting, no regard is to be paid to belligerent sabre-rattlers who risk unraveling of our hard-earned civil liberties for merely a pot of soup and a song.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

SOCIOPOLITICAL COMPARISONS BETWEEN LUANDA, ANGOLA & NAIROBI, KENYA

Luanda1
Luanda, Angola (Bird´s Eye View)

No one could have put it better than the sages when they stated, “There is always a first time for everything, even the journey of a thousand miles starts with but a single step.” It has taken eons but I finally had a reunion with the inner echelons of an airplane. The last time was in 2003 when as an esteemed member of the Aviation Club at my Alma mater Mang’u High School, we went to Juja Preparatory Academy for the Aviation Symposium.

Mang`u High School Plane

After presentations of projects and the public infamy of my ‘co-pilot’ and I presenting an incorrigibly impractical prototype of a flying vehicle much to the amusement of the multitude, it was time to be indulged. Our recompense was to fly in Hon. William Gitau Kabogo’s Chopper from Juja Prep to Thika and back in a 5-minute round trip.

Hon. William Kabogo, the owner of the Chopper

The aforementioned character was then the MP for the expansive Juja Constituency. A decade and a half later we have a new constitution, new boundaries meaning no giant Juja but in its stead we have a smaller Juja, Ruiru and Thika Constituencies. A less touted development is the aforementioned reunion between airborne conveyance and I. It’s been long coming and as such it was my first International flight out of Kenya, quite an enthralling experience nonetheless. It was to be an airborne odyssey from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Aeroporto International Quatro de Fevereiro in Luanda, Angola.

Let me move on to the subject matter of my piece today.

Language

Luanda is in many ways similar to Nairobi. The divergence however comes in the medium of communication. Kenya is a member of the auspicious commonwealth a region referred to as Anglophone in respect not just of our colonial master the British Crown but also our predilection to use of the English language as lingua franca. Ironically; despite homophonal similarities with the prefix Anglo-, Angola is a Lusophone country paying homage to their colonial heritage in Portugal. It is a special privilege in Africa shared with only Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome e Principe and starting 2011 Equatorial Guinea. While in Nairobi we have Kiswahili as the National language and English as the Official tongue, Luanda is akin to ‘Lisboa-Preta’ (Black Lisbon). Colonially, the City was named São Paulo da Assunção de Loanda but this mouthful had to be dispensed with on attainment of self-determination. Portuguese is both the National and Official medium for communication. For the most part, this has been a cohesive factor among the divergent Bantu tribes spread over the length and breadth of Angola. They have an expansive coastline straddling the entire Western border where Luanda is located to the North. Consequently, we are oft bombarded by the famous, cool Benguela current breeze from the Southern Atlantic Ocean that we previously only read about in Geography books but now we experience it first hand, the coastal heat notwithstanding. Use of Portuguese has forestalled any contests of ethnic superiority in Angola that still plague my motherland Kenya and as such the spotlight is on infrastructural development and national unity for shared prosperity.

Culture Shock

For those not in the loop, the Portuguese culture as has been inculcated into Angola and their directly opposite, transatlantic, homo-lingual neighbour Brazil is quite permissive. People intermingle freely as a sea of humanity. Here you find globalization at its best. While in Nairobi palaver is an intimate matter between 2 people or a specific close-knit group, in Luanda you can enter a hotel or bar in Quifica in the suburbs and just join in a conversation unprompted. That was quite a culture shock for me and my Kenyan contingent who in the first place do not know a single word of Portuguese (PS: We are having to catch up fast in token of all the good girls we are missing). Then for their greetings, they have adopted the Europeanized, liberal culture where instead of shaking hands with a member of the opposite gender, you gently rub cheeks with a light kiss. You can imagine my dilemma when I was introduced to an elegant, portly, young lady and extending my hand to her she rejected instead pushing her rosy cheeks towards me and I had no option but reciprocate the gesture while holding the small of her back. I will discuss in a future post the inner warmth and sense of fulfillment within that can only be the trigger of a civil suit for indecent assault by ladies of less pulchritude for similar salutation in Nairobi. Luanda a vida é louca! Phew, Thank God I am single! Men too hug depending on the level of familiarity more often than can be permissible in the streets of Nairobi even under that convivial smile of the statue of Tom Mboya.

Public Transport

Blue Taxi

The Public transport culture in Luanda is equally as vibrant as in Nairobi. With almost similar Chinese sponsored infrastructural development much transport across the city has been facilitated. There are traffic jams but less rampant than Nairobi. However, with fewer vehicles the worst traffic jam could only be like what you see between Runda & Muthaiga at 9 a.m. Slow but moving. And I am talking about their busiest street of Morro Bento in the industrial area of the city. The roads in Luanda have long stretches before you can find a turn as opposed to the many roundabouts on Uhuru Highway in Nairobi. Back to public transport in Luanda, their version of Matatu is more decorous and organized than what we have in Kenya. We have the 14 seaters that carry 13 passengers, the conductor and driver. They have organized pick up and drop off points not the double packing and the Too-Fast Too-Furious u-turns you see with matatus on Ronald Ngala street or in Railways stage heading to Rongai. The Kenyan innovation ‘Sambaza’ a piece of wood that is used to leverage on sitting space in a Kenyan matatu that oft leaves you questioning why you pay fare merely to end up with an injured backside has no place in Luanda public transport. The ‘Blue taxi’ the Luanda equivalent of the matatu carries to its responsible capacity and that is that.

Macon Bus

They also have many more of the 60-seater buses that are even more popular and spacious not to forget ruthlessly efficient with minimal fuss. For Personal vehicles the most popular brands are Datsun, Mazda, Mahindra and Hyundai considered backwater rickshaws as far as eclectic Nairobian sensibilities are concerned.

Traffic police here are dignified men and women who strictly facilitate order on the thoroughfares as opposed to their Kenyan counterparts who get into shenanigans with motorists over seat belts, driving with sandals and barbarically grab the back of people’s trouser merely for pecuniary benefit (bribes)!

Architecture

The Luanda CBD is similar in architecture to the Nairobi City Centre. As a matter of fact, there is a street I have passed and thought I was on Kenyatta Avenue with similar infrastructure, an old post office and constrained parking space that saw our chauffeur drive around in circles as we executed our brief for the day. In pretty much the same way we have Times Towers in Haile Selasie Avenue and UAP Towers in Upper Hill as the tallest buildings in Nairobi, here in Luanda we have the Ocean Towers a sort of twin-tower complex; an architectural masterpiece no less, hosting office space, a shopping complex and residential apartments.

Ocean Towers

Both wings soar to 25 floors apiece and are a resplendent feature visible from the airplane when you are hovering over the Atlantic trying to find the best landing angle. They also have the Sonangol Building complex on Largo Rainha Ginga street, a combination of rectangular and cylindrical facades whose zenith looks similar to the KICC in Nairobi.

Sonangol Building

Talatona is similar to Westlands, Nairobi in-lieu of the lofty and idyllic sky-scrapers hosting business parks & high-end office space.

Talatona

The most prepossessing aspect of Luanda construction is the interior design. Exquisite may be an understatement when used as an adjective to describe the finishing, furnishings and structural integrity of most buildings. Architecture may have greater value in Luanda comparable with Nairobi. For many homesteads, an outside patio sitting area or a veranda for bungalows and a balcony for flats and duplexes are an archetypal feature of Luanda residential real estate. Even in the mass market habitation, the same lofty standards prevail.

Nova Vida vs Runda

Estado Nova Vida

While in Angola I enjoy the great pleasure of being hosted within the confines of a leafy, green suburb. This is the equivalent of Runda in Nairobi, La Estado Nova Vida. Just like the aforementioned estate, Nyari and Kitsuru in Nairobi this one hosts the newly rich and mostly young but affluent family units, expatriates (like myself) & the local white community. It is quite a homely neighbourhood that domiciles high-end schools, a gym, a shopping complex and residential units. The chirping of birds and the lulling gush of the air conditioning unit is the most noise I ever get to experience. Needless to say, I pen this article from the tranquility of Nova Vida, in hand a tall glass of chilled coke away from the hustle and bustle of the commercially vibrant Luanda CBD which is of great solace to my literary muse.

Kilamba vs Buruburu

Kilamba

Middle-class habitation is also top-notch in Luanda. An alluring variant of middle-class habitation I have had the great fortune to visit is Estado Kilamba in downtown Luanda. It is a block of flats, each unit standing between 12–14 floors, one of the best organized multi-familial abodes I have seen anywhere in Africa. These are served by spacious and top of the range lifts. Even Buruburu estate in Nairobi does not scratch the surface of the pageantry of Kilamba. Unfortunately, the genesis of Kilamba is of a stalled mega-project by Chinese contractors to house their staff while exploiting business opportunities and the construction boom in Luanda. Abysmally for them, due to a downturn in the Angolan general economy precipitated by a crash in oil prices and a crunch on infrastructural growth the habitation was abandoned.

Cidade de Kilamba

The Chinese built an entire estate of comely and well-organized flats, served by tarmacked driveways, walkways manned by in-situ traffic lights right in a compound with several flats even having dedicated rooftop BTS towers for telecommunication. Kilamba is the estate to live. A basketball court beside every few blocks of flats is the pick of this picturesque estate. Haphazardly scattered refuse is definitely not a by-word here, with well-manicured lawns the standard-bearer in this esteemed estate. Talk about a decent and dignified middle-class habitation.

Olympia, Luanda

Incidentally, the slums are just as miserable as in Kenya if not worse. I have actually seen a mother and daughter foraging in the dustbins of Kilamba before making the long, de-humanizing journey back to the slum area. In a township called Olympia, life is just as unbearable, valueless, short and brutish as any slum in Kenya with narrow streets, rhino-charge themed paths for driveways (unmotorable by small vehicles), emasculating tin shacks, sewage on the street and poor infrastructure. The homologous address in Nairobi is the world-famous Olympic area in Kibera.

Visit to the Local

As home to the effervescent Latino culture in Africa, the most popular music listened to is Kizomba. We have the local Kuduro and other styles but the preeminent clubbing scene is serenaded by Kizomba music, a creole mélange between local African and Portuguese music. Cuca is to Luanda what Tusker is to Nairobi if you have to imbibe in the tipple. Another item copied from Portuguese culture is the festival called the Carnival. This is an exhibit of cultural freedom and diversity where humanity mingles and enjoys each other’s company, the sun, culture, music, dance and many other blessings bestowed upon us by the creator.

Carnival, Luanda Style

Politics

MPLA – Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola

In Luanda and most of Northern Angola, the predominant political party is MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola). The southern part is majorly anti-MPLA but for the most part the atmosphere is not as heavily politicized as in Kenya. People are more concerned about their unity and progress as a nation.

Jonas Savimbi

It was not always this way and growing up I remember hearing about the rebel insurgency spearheaded by Jonas Savimbi under the UNITA banner. When Savimbi met his doom in 2002, the remaining rebel leaders were coerced by circumstances to sign a pact for the cessation of hostilities with long-time President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Then aggressive reconstruction and industrialization ensued to the extent that Angola is one of the top 10 biggest economies in Africa.

Angolan Kwanza

The National Currency is the Angolan Kwanza. Just like the ones we are phasing out in Kenya, they have the most venerable Presidents Agostinho Neto and his successor on currency notes in ‘Kufuata Nyayo’ fashion while the 10 and 20 Kwanza coins have the legendary Queen Nzinga of the Mbundu people of Angola.

Economy

The Economy of Angola is propped up majorly on the export of Petroleum and Diamonds. Timber is also one export but not on a large scale. On the Import column is almost any item of foodstuff, electronics, stationery, upholstery and ignominiously water! All but the massive, burrowing, amphibious rodent — the Vlei rat roasted on the streets and cassava have to be imported. Through no fault of their own, it is too dangerous to till the land to grow their own food. This is mostly thanks to the landmines set during the previously discussed civil war. This discomfiture in the balance of trade is a major factor in making life expensive in Luanda. Tap water is deemed unsafe for drinking so water has to be imported from adjacent South Africa or far away diametric opposite Brazil or much further, half-a-globe away in Portugal. There is a saying here that Water is more valuable than Petroleum which is not a misnomer but a statement of reality! A Litre of water is at a going rate of 600 Kwanza (approximately 150 Kenya Shillings) per litre while Super Petrol in the most expensive Gas station is priced at 160 Kwanza (~ 40 KES).

In Angola, Water is more valuable than Petroleum

I have thus practically seen a clerical employee arrive at work, forget to switch off his car engine such that it ran the entire day and come evening he came to his car, was slightly bemused, got in, reversed and went home without as much as a whimper. In Nairobi, if you had such an unfortunate episode of inadvertence; the cost of fuel alone can make your blood pressure rise, making you hurl insults at unseen opponents in at least four local languages while sweating the big stuff!

Dignity of Work

A technocrat leads a dignified existence in Luanda as he is commensurately remunerated to the level of professional output he exerts in his field and enterprise. Despite the costs of living you could make do and have a healthy saving of earned revenue. Crime is low as integrity is still a way of life in most of Angola a polar opposite of Nairobi. If the key-in-vehicle-ignition-for-whole-day anecdote in the previous paragraph was recounted in Kenya, no doubt it would involve a police case concomitant our culture of `pinching´ things! People in Luanda pay a great premium to exercise and fitness and are thus quite strong and healthy. It is not strange to find an alluring lady with well-toned arm and leg muscles rocking her shorts and or mini-dress going about her life nonchalantly.

Of 2-Pin Plugs & Unitel vis-à-vis Safaricom

The standard in Angola as probably is in Portugal is 2-way power sockets. I found this disconcerting as I had to get an adapter converter for my normal three-way charger plug to fulfill the basic requirement to charge my phone and laptop. An important feature to note is that almost every building has several Air conditioner units due to the sweltering coastal temperatures.

Unitel vs Movicel

Our local preeminent mobile phone service is Unitel. The much smaller competitor is Movicel offering slightly more than a snivel for competition put in the stark context of Safaricom and Airtel in Kenya.

Street Vendors

A strange phenomenon in Luanda is that almost everything is sold on the street by hawkers, anything!

My amigo João getting the Meat vending business going

Meat is sold by João on one corner of the street from his bag, surgically dissected proportionately with experiential precision yet on the other side a herbal concoction to heal marital problems sold by Emilia; on the next street is Sousa selling you an electrical shaver. Barbershops are predominantly an open-air affair where you have your business taken care of in the ambient of the coastal sun. An interesting phenomenon is that for most items street vendors are more expensive than the supermarkets, even the high-end international brands like Shoprite.

Hawking in Luanda

For instance, last weekend we met a lady with a good 3 Kg bag of potatoes on the street. They looked attractive so my colleague and I had made a decision to buy. However, a language barrier prevented us from concluding the transaction.

Almost anything can be bought outside the Supermarket in Luanda

Piecing a few Portuguese words together coupled with my trustworthy eyes, I convinced the lady that we would be coming back for the potatoes after returning from the Supermarket. The lady’s 3 kg bag went for 2500 Kz while the supermarket rate was 1995 Kz. Your guess is as good as mine whose goods the penny-pincher Kenyan in us eventually settled for! Mercifully for the lady, she found a buyer and closed for the day before our return.

In conclusion, visiting Luanda is an eye-opener for me and I feel if possible Angola should look for overlapping spheres of interest with Kenya on import and export business and cooperate as we could have an excellent, symbiotic cross-pollination with each other’s culture. Kenya stands to benefit by lopping off the vestigial appendage of tribalism from its national psyche while Angolans will benefit by becoming more enterprising and diversifying their national economic ventures.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

GAPS THAT THE NEW KENYAN COMPETENCE-BASED CURRICULUM MUST ENDEAVOUR TO ADDRESS

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W

ith the turn of the year always comes the opportunity for a fresh, new perspective, a period of solemn oaths to eschew the errors of the previous year. More often than not it is a time not just to get new calendars but to formulate audacious, fresh resolutions with a clear goal to achieve them this time round. But apparently someone was caught flip-flopping and flailing trying to grope at the by-gone. It is none other than the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Education, Amb. Amina Chawahir Mohamed. In Roman mythology there existed the god; Janus, a two-faced deity of beginnings and duality. January was ostensibly named after this god as it holds the special position of not just being a time to reminisce about the previous year but also to yearn of the promise of the impending one. But my comparisons of Amb. Mohamed with Janus have nothing to do with promise but unfortunately with an egregious immersion into the mire of ambivalence albeit indecision. The lady was caught in two minds between flagging off the implementation of the new, progressive curriculum vis-à-vis pandering to the inertia of the status-quo and cleave to the old, predictable one just for a little longer. She was even called to task by a Parliamentary Committee on Education to explain this insipidly awkward turn of events, to which with a sleigh of the hand she just shooed away waxing lyrical about her right to change her mind even if it were “a thousand times a day.” Philosophical as she was, I do not in any way envy her in this dilemma but it’s one any incumbent CS would have had to have. But I personally would have desired to see a more resolute commitment to a predetermined and solidified policy position if not for any other docket on matters education. In public discourse, opinion was tectonically split down the middle. Thanks to the aforementioned conjecture, there was a school of thought by the conspiracy theorists that money had changed hands and as such forced the CS’s hand to revert to a position she had previously deferred for at least a year. In aversion of conflict, I chose to believe in her inalienable right to exercise her volition consequent to authority that stems from her auspicious office.  But that is neither here nor there.
No one could ever put it better than the sages of yore who postured that the only constant in life is change a hyperbolic contradiction no less. In the fullness of time we had to get to a juncture where we streamlined our systems with not just best practice but with globally acceptable standards. Due to rapid technological advancements and a transition from the archaic way of life to the modern, chalk circles are gradually getting blurred expanding the planet to merely a global village. Business Process Outsourcing, shared infrastructure, cloud-hosting, co-location, pitch decks and cross-border collaborations are the new buzz words everyone now utters at every twist and turn. With the liberalization of markets and opportunities for career manifestation, Kenya has no option but to tailor itself to global trends on the same. The dictates of the anthropic principle are that a day would come when someone intelligent enough would arise to pop the question, why do we need to make a transition from the old to the new, competence-based curriculum? Each of the aims are noble and as such I will itemize them:

  • Tooling of the future generation to become productive and conscientious citizens able to take their right of place in the world with pride, professionalism and confidence.
  • To build a set of future leaders as all-rounded personalities that cherish co-operation, independence, inspiration, proactivity, focus able to apply their know-how if not in employment then in their own self-initiated businesses.
  • Promotion of the contradictory aims of both patriotism & globalization equipped with skill, competence, attitudes, puissance and a value-set to thrive anywhere in the World-wide-web that their odyssey of life will spin for them in their pursuit of sustenance but keeping the dignity and esteem of their rich cultural heritage.
  • Enable Peer-to-Peer co-operation globally, an excellent result of digitization and technology advancement that has fomented digital literacy.
  • A new consciousness that promotes appreciation of extra-curricular means to sustenance like art, sports, music and film that are a very lucrative employer in the developed world.

There is an oft-touted adage that, ‘learn a skill today so that you earn from it tomorrow’. This is a universally accepted norm that education furnishes upon humanity. Personally, I am not so well versed on what the new curriculum will entail in view of the fact that I may not have been personally engaged in whatever multi-sectoral forum the education stakeholders in this country have had. However, as one nursing ambitions of one day being a father, I have a dream that my expectations of a progressive education system will come to fruition. If not for any other reason, merely to furnish my progeny with all the opportunities for the attainment of their full potential I may have missed on. The 8-4-4 Education System had its moments for effectively tooling human capital but glaring lacunae existed that going forward will have to be addressed.

To set the ball rolling youth unemployment, underemployment, depravity and misery have been the unfortunate destiny many of my compatriots have had to grapple with. What is learnt in school and the realities of the Job market and industry exist in mutual exclusion to each other. Employers complain about their apprehension about hiring fresh graduates due to a mismatch between their pedagogical development and the requirements of Industry. Indeed, there is an episode of jest going round that in school you will spend so much time learning about calculating the mass of the sun only to leave school and realize no-one cares about the mass of a source of light that has existed for eon instead there is a greater need for solar panels to harness the same sunlight! So much theoretical knowledge is gained that you question not just if you will ever have sufficient days in your life to expend it all for your benefit but wherein? From the job market stem a torrent of complaints about employers having to spend at least two-years re-tooling fresh graduates to the needs of the workplace some of whom may have spent as much as 6 years to earn that under-graduate degree in University. This is a clarion call to the KICD, NITA, Individual Universities, Professional Bodies, Industry and the Ministry of Education to work in tandem while developing policy frameworks for human capital development. Plenty of good men and women find themselves feeling frustrated, disenfranchised if not down-right robbed when after many years in school, graduate only to find out they cannot secure a job because employers say they did not get the requisite skill from a course that ostensibly was supposed to offer the same. A few were given banal tasks not concomitant with their aspired competency outcome during industrial attachment and internships. Others still because they studied a course not recognized by the respective professional licensing and regulation bodies of their fields. Many more studied using a curriculum not approved by KICD for Kenya. Let’s not even talk about tribalism, gender discrimination, nepotism, sex-for-jobs scandals and other impediments to getting a job in Kenya that no doubt leave a myriad of professionals ill at ease. We need tales of hope.

A crucial stricture I hold is to make Entrepreneurship a compulsory subject / course throughout one’s learning process. Many a time I see great business moguls who created empires beyond even their own wildest imaginations with little or no education and I am cerebrally cajoled to query if only they had the slightest shred of formal training on business and best practice coupled with their innate aptitude where would they be? As such going forward I postulate the above mentioned solution. Ironical as it is the fact that incidentally many are the graduates that haven’t an inkling how or where to monetize their long-polished areas of expertise from university. You see many tarmacking into disillusionment and oblivion looking for jobs yet the truth is that within them is ensconced that boss they seek to employ them. From a young age teach children to become creators, free-thinkers, producers, solutions-architects not dependent on anybody but themselves to drive the cogs of the gear that is their future prospects. Competence is built from consistent practice and if from a young age when the mind is still nimble, one is mentored to develop an appreciation for the value of a skill by the time he becomes an adult he would be a virtuoso and would never depart from the well-beaten mental tracks of routine for all time. I urge Academic Policy makers to re-evaluate the existing structure and have Entrepreneurship as Plan A not something to do after wasting the idealist phase of your life looking for that office job that we all know you won’t find. If available it is not in a critical mass sufficient to cater for all the new entrants into the job market annually. In the backdrop of constrained employment places & many Graduates who can’t monetize their skill, failing to nurture a business psyche from a young age is tantamount to breeding poverty. Poverty will in turn wrought inequality, the working poor, sorrow, destitution, social upheaval, drug abuse and ultimately the double whammy of terrorism & violent crime. A responsible Government must never allow its future to be sucked into this unsightly and soul-sapping wormhole in their full-knowledge.

Modern trends have birthed the concept that Mentorship is just as important as learning and know-how acquiescence. Many entrepreneurs, business leaders and seasoned professionals are a precious repository of knowledge that can potentially help future generations reach their presumptive destinations faster. Learning from the masters who have been there and done that can never be gainsaid for all who aspire to fill the shoes of these titans in years to come. Mentorship by an expert baker who had to change various ingredients, whole recipes, ovens, even burn many cakes before finally hitting the sweet-spot of near-perfection is the most valuable and irreplaceable gift you can give to a budding baker. Going forward all schools should have career days where those who have made it in life cross-pollinate with potential scions to the empires they intend to replicate and be advised accordingly. As the saying goes iron sharpens iron. An honest learning experience from one who has been there and done that by far supersedes theoretical information gained in the classroom majorly parlayed by a tutor who may themselves never have been part any of the hands-on process in the attendant fields and as such has no real-life experiences to offer. There are excellent coaches who have never themselves played the game. However, let’s live with the nuances of the proverb, ‘experience is the best teacher.’

I submit that any meaningful process for Education system review in Kenya must cater for the holistic individualized talents of the students it seeks to address. An abridged look into past experiences with Education systems in Kenya paints a picture of a concerted preoccupation with nurturing albeit elevating one form of intelligence above all others, the academic and cognitive erudition (book-smarts). Those who excelled in school were deemed the intrepid manifestation of humanity that virtually had the world at their feet. But introspection and insight from books like ‘Frames of Mind (1983)’ by Howard Gardner paints the picture of many differently-abled variants of genius. There are those in possession of:

  1. Linguistic flair.
  2. Spatial (Visual) artists.
  3. Logical-Mathematical Thinkers.
  4. Kinesthetically gifted.
  5. Musical virtuosos.
  6. Interpersonally intelligent.
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence.

Hindering one from aggressively pursuing their niche from a young age is equivalent to caging your child’s potential and dooming him to a future of subservience to others. You curtail their joy of life and cap their future earning potential when you think that book-smarts are the only way to go. As a matter of fact, from Sir. Alex Fergusson’s autobiography we learn that he doesn’t regard his former superstar Wayne Rooney as the ‘Sharpest tool in the shed.’ Academically this guy was out of his depth but ultimately we have all been regaled with his football playing capabilities and a coterie of exquisite goal-scoring skills. Talk about kinesthetic genius at play. Everyone has his special artistry which if whetted they will virtually never work a day in their lives as a consequence of enjoying what they do and perpetuating their passion which is basically living the best versions of themselves. They will perform in front of kings and queens and earn acclaim. We have all borne witness to how exorbitantly the western world pays their musicians, movie stars, sportsmen, architects, sculptors, photographers, career coaches as compared to what used to be the traditional careers that every kid was pushed towards by their parents. With globalization these opportunities are available even to Kenyans, and more than any other time we have role models like Victor Wanyama, Macdonald Mariga (Football), Lupita Nyong’o (Film), Daniel Adongo (NFL) among many others to hold up to future generations. The competence-based curriculum must identify one’s strength and sharpen it early in life so that by the time you become a young adult you can easily have the confidence to take on the world and its challenges and do all that pertains to the attainment of your long-cherished dexterities.

With the new system I pray for an end to this vexation that is the preoccupation with coaching students for examinations as opposed to actual broad-based learning. In our time, acing the examination was the Holy Grail and all stops were pulled to ensure a student gets good grades, constrained learning notwithstanding. Rote-learning as opposed to actual mastery of subject matter was the order of the day which is actually reprehensible because many are the high performing students who lack even the basics of critical and analytical thinking not to say any form of mastery of the coursework they were supposedly studying. Many forget all they learnt after the exam as for most part their minds were forced to play the role of a sponge that absorbs so much fluid rapidly but with slight pressure releases it all with little or almost nothing retained going forward. In Kenya this system had brought forth an intricate web of examination cheats and was a thriving business. My worry then was if integrity was not enforced in the academic process, how the hell are you going to produce upright citizens who uphold professional ethics and thus have virtue inculcated within the structure of their being? When Dr. Fred Matiang’i was made the Education Cabinet Secretary many cartels for this perversion were smashed and as such meritocracy found its way back to society. As variously stated corruption fights back, court injunctions were flashed around but ultimately sleaze was dealt a death-knell and the much-vaunted ‘fruits of one’s labour’ found precedence as a way of life.

In penultimate remarks I would urge the formulators of the new curriculum to never forget the importance of our historical figures who made great contributions to our nationhood. Pre-independence freedom fighters, the Mau Mau, heroes of the second liberation & multi-partism in Kenya and environmental champions should not just be a footnote but have whole chapters of history dedicated to them. Also heroes of the global negritude movement and black emancipation from slavery like Toussaint Breda and François Mackandal should never be forgotten. These are the real men and women worth their weight in gold and as such we must hold them up to our children as examples of what we expect of them in future. The veracity of the statement that those who fail to learn from history risk repeating its errors and missteps must ring ever so true. A dearth of eminent personalities worthy of emulation exposes our children to the vagaries of the TV culture that in the current state portrays the leading lights of the day as nothing more than delinquent leaders who go as low as hiding marijuana in their socks to smoke it in the sanctums of parliament. Is this the future we envisage for our sons and daughters? If not, then equip them to idolize sanctified epitomes of virtue. Failure to include tutelage on our own history exposes our future generations to mental slavery and doctrines to the effect that other people are superior human beings to them when in actual sense that is a whole sack of poppycock. We could wheel our children unknowingly back into servitude at the altar nothingness and all because of devaluing their own national heroes which is just imbecile grease.

In Conclusion as the great figure of African emancipation; Nelson Mandela, once put it Education is the most potent weapon that can be used to change the world. We must also live in the cognizance that after surmounting the hill of education there are many more to climb. Let’s not allow poorly-formulated strategy on Education to widen further the divide between the haves and have-nots and break the limbs of our own children. Instead empower them with education that like wings will enable their flight soaring far above anything they have ever dreamt of. As empirical wisdom mandates there is not a cap to human potential but only shackles of the mind and as such we should aspire to lose any that exists.

Categories
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.