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Political & Social Empowerment

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE IEBC

Many of us who are keen followers of the English Premier League are aware of the name Mike Dean. In times gone by he was the envy of his peers. Viewed as the paragon of integrity and fairness coupled with athletic flair and some degree of theatrics from time to time was his trade mark. A top-level professional, he was given most of the high profile matches to play the crucial role of arbiter. He has also been feted by no less the same peers as the referee of the season for many a campaign, an equivocally great honour. Then it all unraveled before his eyes in ways even he could not ever have fathomed. In recent times his standards have been gradually slipping. But things came to a head when West Ham hosted Manchester United in January. Dean sent off Sofiane Feghouli for a challenge on Phil Jones which was later rescinded. This culminated in the official attracting an immeasurable quantum of criticism for his shocking performance. Dean awarded more penalties than any other league referee this season with ten. Remarkably, five of the last six red cards he has shown have been rescinded. EPL could no longer stomach such a horror movie actor. Ultimately, his credibility was sempiternally tainted by that fiasco. Punitively, he has been demoted to the lower tier known as the English Championship with less glamour and more ‘windy nights in Staffordshire’ and cattle track playing surfaces. This may be purgatory for him or in pessimistic Russian speak, “he may have let the Pierogi Burn.” How great the mighty tumble. Key word ‘credibility.’ Sorry, digression things!

I would like to take this chance to congratulate and cordially welcome the newly appointed IEBC Chairman Mr. Wafula Chebukati and his team to the hot seat! The above statement is not a misnomer but a candid assessment of the challenges ahead of this team. It will be an interesting chance and great honour for them to offer their skill, competence even eccentricities to the progression and success of this vital national institution. The task ahead of them is by no means a walk in the park. Ensuring a just, free, fair, accurate, verifiable, credible, accountable; hence, peaceful 2017 General Election is the first item on their in-tray.
From low voter turnout (apathy), inadequate voter education to understaffing in the institution, these tribulations continue to gnaw at the fabric of the organization like a very hungry louse. The apathy could two-pronged. Famine related as people have moved elsewhere in such of survival and general disillusionment of the populace with the current thieving, chameleonistic & ‘dead-beat dad’ current crop. Greater challenges include the failure of the biometric voter registration kit, instances of multiple identities registered under one identity card number already witnessed for two high-level dignitaries, mix up of details in these kits as seen for one opposition leader, irregular distribution of the kits, incorporation of foreigners into the voter register. Reports of the conscription of National Intelligence Service Agents into the voter registration process has reared a very ugly head into an already ghastly mix. To add insult to injury, an open attack on the independence of the institution by the edict issued by the Interior Cabinet Secretary to all county administrators that they jeopardize their tenure if they assist in the voter registration in the opposition strong holds has sullied the process further. A member of the ruling coalition recently by the skin-of-the-teeth escaped arrest in a neighbouring country leaving behind what may prima facie appear to be voter registration materials. What the hell were they even doing with these? Even the once noble National Youth Service registration of bio-metrics has been integrated into the voter register. These would no doubt present an arduous cogency challenge even for veterans in the job let alone one still in the internship phase of his / her posting.

The former Kenyan Prime Minister and irrevocably venerable citizen of this country has in recent time made some disparaging accusations against this institution. What steps are being made to disabuse his fears and render them moot? According to the empirical, logical and internationally acclaimed scientific norm in testing a hypothesis, one is usually adduced. Then you get a sample size for testing, collect data on the basis of this hypothesis, compare results obtained on the import of the hypothesis then you finally declare the null hypothesis a truth or fallacy. Have steps been taken with regard to this?

I have personally experienced an anomaly in the verification process. When I took the responsibility of going to confirm if my biometrics had been captured; the wide-eyed beauty (whose father must be very proud of) on call for that day gave me the obligatory precursory salutation. She then proceeded to ask a visibly animated ‘yours truly’ for my Identity Card. She keyed in the number and out spewed forth my name and polling centre from the last elections among other details. When I casually asked why none of my biometric features had been used to identify me, I was casually dismissed with a smile. All the while getting chided by the queue behind me who thought I was unnecessarily holding up progress with this apparently infernal flirting. Forgive me for expressing sentiments of concern. Is the technology being insulated from failure?

The failures of the recently disbanded Ahmed Issack Hassan-led commission and the now-defunct Kivuitu-led  Electoral Commission of Kenya were mainly due to a glaring lack of independence. Among other obstacles this can only be a recipe for disaster when in the eyes of the electorate credibility is not apparent. The Kenyan populace is sufficiently high-tech to know when they are being taken for the beat about the bush. In the logical back drop of all this, will Kenyans believe and accept the outcome of this year’s presidential elections? Let us put to the death knell this ethnic colonialism/dictatorship that is glossed over as the much-vaunted ‘Tyranny of numbers’ by our current ruling class. Why does one want bloodshed in this great land of ours? No amount of intimidation will bludgeon Kenyans to accept the result of a tainted process and just move on. Frustration like a raw wound will continue to fester on the collective body of the citizenry. What conscience will the victor of such a flawed process have to celebrate a pre-doctored outcome? Will such a person ever have any legitimacy as a national leader?

Not one to complain, I will attempt to concoct a few remedies:

  1. Revolutionary as it may seem, it will be a wonderful idea to scrap the entire voter register and create a new list from scratch. It may seem a time consuming and soul-sapping venture but will ultimately be worthwhile in mending the torn credibility fabric. Kenyan peace is also on the line if this is not addressed.
  2. Visionary leadership from the current president. Call to order your Interior Cabinet secretary and inform him that voter registration and poking elbows on the ribs of the referee body is severely frowned and has no room in your administration. NIS should also be read the riot act and be made to know better and stick to their lane. Otherwise, we will view him as just another African despot complicit in this and keen to profit from the attendant lapse in autonomy, all the while abusing state resources.
  3. The IEBC secretariat and field staff should be reorganized as a matter of urgency. A renaissance is required in the human resource in the registration and Technical departments. The kits cannot be maintained by amateurs if the cataclysmic failure envisaged by our Attorney general is to be eschewed. Logistical support in technical and infrastructure is mandatory. They are many knowledgeable but unemployed youths. Gainfully engage them.
  4. Have an independent IEBC system server not breached by outside influence or co-hosting other things. This is too important a function to be co-hosted with some other cock-and-bull organization under the guise of cost-cutting. We all remember the events of last elections that one Dennis Itumbi had to labouriously yet unconvincingly justify. Also edify the polling clerks on the requisite passwords and PINs for the software to work the system. Also remember to carry to the polling stations spare batteries, chargers, solar charging systems, UPS and all that pertains.
  5. Rein in on politicians engaging in voter bribery, hate speech and violent posturing. You have the mechanisms to deem these unfortunate characters ineligible for the polls. Wield that axe now. This country is for us all and not just for somebody’s mum.
  6. No more ‘Chicken-gate’ type scandals in IEBC procurement.
  7. Voter Education is key. This should be your obligation and not a public service gimmick. Enlighten the citizenry both on the need to vote and facilitate the process.
  8. Take action on genuine complaints from all parties. Some may seem like perennial cry-babies but are raising reasonable qualms. Prevention is better than cure. This will be good for the non-partisan image.

Why should Kenya; previously viewed as a harbinger of democracy, be left to slip down to such a level as to have the likes of Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Malawi, Tanzania and even backwater Gambia in front of us as more mature democracies where an incumbent can lose the elections and make no attempt to influence the poll? All of us must jealously guard our position as a constitution abiding democracy and one of the better students of good governance.

My parting shot to Mr. Chebukati, do not fall victim to compromise and blackmail. Jealously guard your independence and fiercely enforce it. The elephant in the room. A few attribute your rise to prominence to an attempt by the ruling coalition to eat into a major part of the constituency regarded as an opposition stronghold in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia by selecting you to hoodwink your community of government ‘favour’ together with Wabukhala and Chiloba. My advice; even if you got this position through patronage, I dare aver without fear of contrition and an unmatched conviction that Kenya is greater than the progenitor of your being in this position. As such even if favoured, show yourself as your own man and exercise an unbridled streak of independence in the execution of your mandate. You could have been set up to fail but shame the Devil. The ball is now in your court.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

VOTE! IT IS YOUR RIGHT AND OBLIGATION

In the Saturday Standard of 7th January 2017, veteran politician Koigi wa Wamwere had this interesting anecdote. A story is told of this mythical farm where there lived a farmer with his panoply of livestock. The serene and bucolic setting only belied the surreptitious mannerisms of each. The petrichor emanating from the fertile earth after the rains could not be surpassed by any other. All was not well in paradise as there was Mr. Mouse who wrecked havoc on the farmer’s produce. Piqued by the incessant loss of produce he set a trap to catch the mouse. The mouse got wind of this and tried to engage the cockerel for a solution to this problem. He hit a brick wall. He did not lose hope. He tried to touch base with the goat but with similar result. All was not lost, he thought. As the cow was seemingly closer to the farmer; the mouse tried some camaraderie with him in the hope that he may have some ideas but was flatly turned down and advised to look elsewhere as mouse’s troubles were none of his concern. The mouse could not risk it and had to sleep on an empty tummy. Come midnight there was a commotion in the silo which the farmer responded rapidly to. His haste tapered to a whimper when he was inadvertently confronted by a terribly aggravated snake that had been the unfortunate victim of the trap. It dug its fangs deep injecting copious amounts of venom into the farmer’s circulation. The farmer collapsed into sempiternal tranquility. The next day gloom and melancholy hung heavy as the cockerel was slaughtered to feed the bereaved. As numbers surged, the goat soon joined in as a protein source for the mourners. At the Funeral of the elder; no other animal could suffice for the collective appetites of the esteemed mourners but the cow. Eventually, it was woe unto the rest and bliss for the mouse who was virtually acquitted. The moral of the story is anyone’s problem can eventually balloon to everyone’s problem. But I seriously digress.

With the complexities in life, running a business, employment, farming, raising children and all the hullabaloo involved it is easy to get tangled up in a maze. One is vulnerable to losing sight of the most important things. Of vital importance are constitutional obligations, one being registration and making your voice heard through the ballot. The simple requirements to be registered as a voter in Kenya include:

  • You must be eighteen years of age and above.
  • You must be of sound mind which is facile enough if you are reading this post.
  • You must have an original National Identification card or valid Kenyan passport.
  • You must physically present yourself at the registration centre of your choice and fill in a requisition form to be a registered voter.

During his presidency; one of the most beloved and most greatly revered of American presidents and world statesmen, Abraham Lincoln preached the importance of the government being of, for, and by the people. He argued that voters played the most important role in making sure the government reflected their wishes and functioned according to the guidelines of the Constitution.

Despite Lincoln’s appeal to the public, it can be argued that many people today fail to appreciate or acknowledge their role in shaping the government. Equally, our forebearers fought viciously against colonialism with this as one of their aims in mind. The Right to Self rule and determination. As citizens, we should maintain our responsibilities as eligible voters. This statement aptly and succinctly applies to Kenya.

Registering to vote. Notably, people’s most important responsibility as citizens involves registering to vote. If you are legal citizens of the nation born or naturalized who are of legal age then you are eligible to vote in elections. The process of becoming a registered voter is simple and can be taken care of in a matter of minutes.

Voting in Elections. Once you are registered to vote, you should then make every effort to do so. Many people dismiss this responsibility by saying that they do not care about the issues on the ballot or that they are unfamiliar with the candidates up for election, voting won’t end their troubles or worse still the queue is too long and they may catch an airborne infection associating with so many people. Balderdash!

Additionally; here in our great land with its historical issues and with our electoral system a work in progress, there is always the fear of vote tally manipulation which disenfranchises many voters. If voting is amenable to manipulation, many see no need to engage in such a fruitless venture which appears to them as a predetermined bet. However, by failing to use their privilege to vote, people essentially allow other voters to make decisions for them, to let deviant voices be heard over them who make no effort go to the polls. With elections especially in Sub-Saharan Africa you only have to go with the wisdom espoused in the Serenity prayer by American Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. Have the serenity to accept things you cannot change while having the courage to change those you can all the while having the wisdom to know the difference. Come Elections day forget everything and only remember that this is your one and only chance to hold your leader by the scruff of the neck to account for how much he has achieved in 5 years. Any other time, their self declared ‘soldiers’ & ‘bouncers’ will make mincemeat out of you. If not, this is the opportune moment to throw out the obstinate child with the bathwater and bring in the person you want.

People outside their home counties. Will Kenya ever evolve electorally to the level where we can vote electronically? For now if you pose this query, the answer is an emphatic NO! So it is imperative for one to just bite the bullet, get off his couch and go out and brave it out on the ‘foleni.’ Some people will claim that because they work far away from where they were born, they will be inconvenienced by the hustle of travelling ‘upcountry’ to vote. Besides, most people save so as to only appear on the other side only in the Christmas season before hurrying back. Let no one downplay your significance as seeming unimportance. One ant may not seem much but in unity many can bring down a colossal mansion. In the newly enacted Kenyan constitution  Chapter 7, Article 81 furnishes every citizen with the right to live, work, register as a voter and have his voice heard electorally anywhere in this august nation. Your vote is vital. Your side needs it. By ‘side’ I mean people who are congenial, sharing similar needs, ideals, principles, beliefs and visions. In Kenya it has an ethnic connotation to it. We hear of the phrase ‘Tyranny of numbers.’ This is one awkward term which has no manifestation whatsoever with regards to the population census. By and large a consequence of members of what would have been one huge ‘vote-bloc’ shunning their obligation to vote. The very essence of democracy is for the minority to have their say while the majority has their way. By not voting you even lose the moral authority to complain about morally inept and inadequate leadership of the person who sailed through as a result of you failing to cast your vote for the most preferred leader. This is one of the primary reasons why you need to vote!

The outcomes of elections can impact voters’ personal freedoms, taxes, general destiny and fate of the nation even with regards to her neighbours and other aspects of daily life that they take for granted. Because of the far-reaching impact that an election can have, people have the duty to cast their vote if they want a say in how their futures play out.

You should also stay up-to-date about the location of your respective polling station. The locations of polling stations change regularly. A school, church, or business that was utilized as a polling place during the last election may not be used again for the next. Voters can find out their polling places online by visiting the IEBC website or your nearest regional offices. Even Huduma Centre I suppose. What are they for anyway?

Remember that your Vote is the only weapon you have against that corrupt, inept, failed, ‘60-million shillings in sack clueless’, perverted, bigot, ego-maniac, selfish and all-round moribund politician. Voters play a major role in shaping the government and their very own futures. They can satisfy their duty as voters by observing this noble responsibility.

Any government of the day worth their salt has the responsibility of developing an electoral system that is simple, credible and efficient with minimal margin for error. As with all systems, there is none that is perfect. It is always in a constant need for improvement. Invariably, the election being a matter of grave national importance and especially bitterly contested in Kenya, it needs to be safeguarded from all shock. As one wise albeit subtle man once put it, ‘any election worth contesting is worth rigging.’ Systems should be developed with the hindsight of this axiom in mind.

‘Kenyans on Twitter’ and the lovers of the tipple. For the ‘Justin-Bieber generation’ and newly-minted middle-class Kenyans who spend 90% of their time on social media, my advice will be to carry your phone, tablet, iPad and whatnot to the polling station. While at the queue waiting your turn you can enjoy the serendipity to tweet, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and take ‘selfie’ to your heart’s fill! You will kill two birds with one stone; exercising your God-provided constitutional obligation while still keeping up with the “Joneses, Bobos and Shishes” on social media. I must also take this opportunity to lampoon those adults who discuss in ebullient seemingly passionate voices of their afflictions in public discourses yet on elections day inexplicably become too drunk to even stand on the line let alone walk a straight line! Refrain from alcohol or other drugs one day before the polls. Even if free, keep the drinks in a fridge as you will have 5 years of having one for the road any day after the polls. Your side will desperately need every vote it can get. So stay sober.

Have no fear of retribution. This is a secret ballot vote. Come out to vote for the leader of your conscience not just for your own sake but for the sake of that seventeen-year-old who cannot wait to be old enough to take the onus, for the unborn child who needs a reasonable leader with the presence of mind to safeguard their interests for the future though they are not there yet. Choose the one who shies away from both opportunistic and chameleon-like tendencies. We are ON come Tuesday, the 8th day of August 2017. Cast a vote for posterity and national prosperity. The future will judge you harshly if you do not!

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

DUMBFOUNDED? WE HAVE A KENYAN DREAM

    hat on earth is this nebulous notion? Edgar Cayce; an American Christian mystic cum author even thought of as a troubled man who nevertheless answered many questions on varied subjects once quipped from the top of his head that, “Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions.” This assertion was made almost a century ago but still rings ever so true with unquestionable veracity even today. On this train of thought, tomorrow’s questions have already been asked by the dreams we have today. That is why I pose this question. –  What constitutes the Kenyan dream? What destiny do we aspire to as a people? I hear someone say a six-figure salary, a 5-acre plot, 4-wheel drive vehicle, 3 bed-roomed house, 2 children and one wife. We all know Kenya as a land wrapped up in great potential. As a matter of fact our very own national anthem names our country as a ‘heritage of splendour.’ Why then is it that according to some Gaussian curve I once chanced upon, forty years later for every 100 people who get into employment five still work but are broke, 36 are dead, 54 are dead broke, 4 are surviving and only one is actually wealthy?

But I digress. Once upon a time our forebearers fought hard to guarantee we had Peace, Love and Unity. Back then they only had to eschew the jaws of illiteracy, poverty and disease to deem themselves to have made it in life. We voted for an auspicious, glossy-looking, seemingly progressive and beautifully crafted document of a constitution more than 6 years ago but how much do we gain from it? We enshrined in it freedoms and tried to address oversights from the previous editions that had been greatly injurious to our collective causes while elevating our former presidents and their sycophants to demigod status. Who remembers the Act 7 section 2A (1982) that our second president almost clobbered the entire assembly while being forced to repeal back in 91’ that had this great land as a ‘de Jure’ one-party state, him as head honcho almost an emperor who was head of state, government, commander in chief of the armed forces, chancellor of all public universities, farmer #1 et al… He menacingly warned of dire consequences if we were to allow multiparty democracy while admonishing all and sundry that the aforementioned move will not add to the saucepans of ‘ugali’ in the citizenry’s collective pantries.

Maybe he was right. It is clear that the enabling environment for the attainment of such lofty ambitions is not available. I dare ask this question. What is the use of catalysts in the ambit of a myriad of limiting factors? I have a few reasons attainment these lofty reverie is proving a pipe dream. Encouragement of mediocrity by our leadership cadre, run away corruption, believing in the illusion of riches without trade and innovation, peace without truth and justice, preaching unity while practicing tribalism & parochialism, economic disenfranchisement of regions perceived to be in the opposition, environmental degradation in the guise of industrialization & enterprise, general ineptitude, impunity & high-handedness by the three arms of government, insufficient support for the county government among many other ills.

Let me delve into these issues. Our leadership has ignored our collective intellect and endeavours to make us worship at the altar of mediocrity. They expect us to give them great credit for executing the very mandate we elected them to perform. For building hospitals, schools, rural electrification, water projects, roads, airstrips they now want us to kiss the ground they tread.

Corruption has been widely accepted as a norm in this country. You will be castigated and heavily riled in your home county if you ever walked the corridors of public office but did not take the opportunity to engage in self-aggrandizement and dip your fingers in the cookie jar. The people will ask why you did not in Chinua Achebe’s words, ‘take down all the wood you could when you had the chance to climb the great Iroko tree.’ You will be reminded that you were not born alone and if you do not care about yourself at least do it for your kith and kin. Stories of engagement in corruption have become like the standard-bearer at exclusive ‘big boy’ clubs and parlours. Working in procurement once frowned upon by many of the intellectually apt candidates after school has become even more lucrative than engineering, medicine and law. Guys are literally going back to school to do post-graduate courses on the same after initially pre determining to trace other career paths. Why? To take advantage of the largesse and good fortune that may meet them in this new career preferably in government service.

A new culture is arising among the populace propagated by companies owned by people high up in the chain of power. It is also brooked from our despondency and despair of a fair chance to ever make something of ourselves from hard work and enterprise. It is the belief that you can make money from literally nothing with minimal work. You only have to buy a ticket or play a third rate clairvoyant and predict a set of numbers, some event or other and voila! If it comes to pass then you make a windfall! This totally goes against the grain of the basic law of economics, ‘no money for nothing’ but who am I to talk about that?

Real Peace can only brook from Truth and Justice. Empirical wisdom has always found a way to show that there is a lull before a great storm. You cannot just tell people to accept their predicament, move on and expect that such is enough to make them live as brothers and sisters. As proven by science you cannot have two immiscible liquids being forced to mix with each other without having one as a colloid. The same can be stated of human interaction. When one party is perceived to have propagated an injustice against the other there should be no need to make them live together before reconciliation and redress.

Preaching unity while practicing tribalism and parochialism. There is this old age adage about preaching water and drinking wine. A perilous trend is emerging. We thought it had died with the past but apparently is being propagated by the scions of the previous regimes. It has become a prevalent rallying call especially in this time prior to the election. Senior members of government are on record making it known as clear as day that if you do not vote for them, then when they win they will make certain your region is totally omitted from government and suffers all the disadvantages that come with that. They literally promise a doomsday event if you do not unite with them to apparently ‘form the government.’ In a democratic culture where the winners are to have their way and losers their say this is not meant to happen. As they say, choices have consequences. That is what we get for voting in men not worth their salt. Men not even fit to herd a flock of sheep. Such threats to disenfranchisement against the opposition have no place in today’s democratic society guided by the rule of law. Some of these fellows even purport to be Christians, please!

Environmental degradation in the guise of industrialization and enterprise should be discouraged at every twist and turn. Any complainants are accused of jealousy and sabotaging the country’s development agenda. There is cause for alarm when infrastructural development projects are built at the expense of the environment and the circle of life. This is the only Kenya we have. Destroying it by defying nature will ultimately cause grief much worse than the devil can ever wreck. And this time round he will not be to blame for our asinine and repugnant ineptitude. Remember the words of our very own homegrown heroine Wangari Maathai.kenya-flag-hd-wallpaper

Insufficient support for the regional governments is also a cause for concern. However, this is a double-edged sword like the one hanging over Damocles.  The counties also shoot themselves on the foot. This is by disoriented financial spending and in a way least beneficial to the interests of the people.

All is not lost. We can still recapture the Kenyan dream which has a close correlation with vision 2030. Here are the steps to take:

  • Always exercise your right to vote. It is your prerogative anyway. If you do not take that chance, you will lose the moral authority to complain about any leader that will be chosen. This is the only way to get the leader you need.
  • Focus more on factors that unite us more than what creates rifts among us. We should share stories of virtue with all who care.
  • The Government must expeditiously address social inequalities and historical injustices.
  • Our Government should go on a campaign of ensuring social cohesion by economic empowerment of the youth. It should also promote the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Proportionate distribution of national resources.
  • Electoral reform to improve credibility of the ‘referee’ body.
  • As Kenyans we have an onerous task to define the parameters of this dream and with vitality pursue it in earnest.
  • Civic education to create a critical mass of individuals with a deeper insight on the destiny they want for their nation.
  • Environmental protection by tree planting and other measures.
  • Hold our leaders to greater scrutiny of their role, manifestos and if they hold any vision for their jurisdiction.
  • Ensure the newly enacted constitution is implemented in both letter and spirit to make us a nation that adheres to the rule of law we in great zeal voted for.
  • Put an end to impunity for all arms of government. Nobody should ever be deemed above the law.

If we do this we will keep the national fabric of our great nation intact and have a country we can truly be proud and happy to be citizens of. This will ultimately yield a prosperous nation.

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

A Tribute To All Road Carnage Victims– A Call To Action

In the Friday Nation of 23rd September 2016 there was an article by a similar title authored by the deputy managing editor, Mr. Ng’ang’a Mbugua about road safety. In his article he gave an anecdote about his uncle Joseph who at the ripe age of 27 decided to marry. Having identified the love of his life; he went to see his father-in-law, a staunch mukorino from Naivasha. When he came out from the meeting he was a little unsettled. For dowry the gentleman had asked for a lorry load of stuff, inclusive of a saucepan big enough to cook a whole goat in. Joseph, a barber realized for him to ever afford the dowry he had to diversify his revenue portfolio. So he started a small business venture purchasing clippers with a view to sell to other barbers in Nakuru. He certainly would have raised enough money to make dowry in due course. Painfully, on his third trip; the matatu he was travelling in crashed at Mirera, not far from Naivasha. All the passengers died, the police retrieving over a million shillings strewn among the decapitated victims. Coldest story ever told.IMG-20160926-WA0001

But why would I recount such a tale this late in the night in such gory detail? On Monday 19th September 2016 Ugandan media was inundated with news reports of a cataclysmic road accident that had claimed the lives of two ‘foreigners’ and left three others in critical condition {href= http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Burnt-death-Wobulenzi-Luwero/688334-3387246-kng2ksz/index.html}. This may have been just ordinary melancholic accident news but the shock waves generated by this tragedy were felt far and wide. The epicentre was the Masinde Muliro University Engineering fraternity, sorority and his fledgling family. We had just lost one of the most brilliant, enterprising, altruistic, energetic and a staunch adherent of the Catholic faith; a devout young soul, Eng. John Obonyo. During our student days, Obonyo was a vital cog of the MMUST Engineering Students Association. Not just that. The altruistic nature aforementioned ensured that John drew on his raw academic genius and both the gift of wit and gab to try to explain to some of us the more complex and intricate mathematical, electronic and telecommunication engineering concepts. While the mention of the name ‘JAVA’ only evoked images of expensive coffee whose refusal to buy has seen some of us dumped by our erstwhile non-gold digging lasses, to him this was a tool of the trade to program robotic equipment for industrial work. Among other programming languages which he fluently ‘spoke’ to breathe life to electronic systems included C & Python. To us he was a virtuoso and a wizard at work who literally spoke Greek. How many of us can multiply three-digit numbers off head, the digits being non-zero integral values all the while keenly following the lecture? Try ‘Ja-mbita wuod suba’.  Despite operating at the equivalent of the academic stratosphere he still found time to inquisitively and incisively probe lecturers for responses even after the lecture. He even severally spotted and elected to correct an oversight in quantum physics equations by one hubrical character of a lecturer who took it in jest.

His prowess did not stop there. He was a classroom striker always boning up academically and never winging it. However, on the extra-curricular front; more so during the annual Inter-department Tamasha cup, he was a goalkeeper of no mean repute. He produced save after save, some of Gigi Buffon proportion to help Engineering win many iterations of that cup.

To others, he is just a statistic, one of more than 3000 people who die in road crashes each year in Kenya. But to us he is an inspiration, a friend, confidant, brother, husband, son and a true technocrat of this land.

According to Mbugua; accidents sadly claim the most enterprising people in our economy. Many perish on the path to success and culmination of their toil. All the while chasing their dreams.  Reading about dearly departed souls on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, Salgaa or Ntulele; these places sound like far off lands let alone Uganda. According to NTSA, the number of people who have died between January 1 and September 20 has reached 2180. This is 55 more than those who died within the same period last year. Yet, in retrospect NTSA have carried out more crackdowns this year than it did the whole of last year. Prima facie about 3000 people die on the road each year, but according to World Health Organization the toll could be as high as 8000. Traffic police only enumerate those who die on the spot or declared ‘dead on arrival’ at the hospital. The others who die a week, month or year after an accident are hardly ever accounted for as part of the growing number of road accident victims.

Isn’t it ironic that despite the high number of road accident victims, Kenyans have not been outraged enough to demand a ‘roll of the heads.’ Doesn’t Chapter 4, Article 26, Clause 1 of the newly enacted Kenyan Constitution on the right to life which we overwhelmingly voted for mean anything? With many a world-class business college in this supposed heritage of splendour, Kiganjo Police Training College still produces the highest number of millionaires per capita! News reports about Police vetting read like a fiction novel. Landlords in the force paying their tenants? What balderdash!  In jest, a story has emerged that a young farmer took the initiative to enroll at Kiganjo to brush-up on his entrepreneurship skills. On a serious note, this is blood money. When motorists and drivers of PSVs routinely bribe police officers, are they not only auctioning their collective but also others’ souls?

Authorities definitely know how to stem this tide. True, we do not have enough officers to enforce sanity on all our roads. But as one Mr. Eric Kiniti, a road safety campaigner and member of the Safe Way Right Way board once stated, “if we changed the design of the road in a place like Salgaa we would significantly reduce the number of fatalities occurring there. So why are we not appropriating money on the budget to achieve this end? Additionally, we know that if we increased the number of safe crossing points on Airport North Road and the Thika Superhighway in Nairobi, the number of pedestrians who die crossing the road would be drastically reduced. Why do we have unmarked speed bumps on highways? We could go on and on. Driver fatigue especially for the vehicles charting long courses is also to blame. There is no system in place to ensure drivers work in monitored and regulated shifts. In Britain such a system has been implemented not by the government but by employers. Talk of forward-thinking and not our pecuniary gain motivated business clique.

Shunning over speeding has been overstated. Repairing access roads to hospitals can save lives not just of road accident survivors. Yet, roads like the one leading to Kijabe Mission hospital have remained in disrepair for years; notwithstanding, the institution receiving an inordinately high number of road crash survivors.

Over to you our president, declare road carnage a national disaster and name it a crime against humanity just like one that until recently bedeviled you. Consoling young widows and attending funerals is way too heart-rending and should not be our only preoccupation!  For how long will we sit back and wallow in inactivity, despondency and self pity condoning this asinine & repugnant ineptitude? We must stand up in force to be counted for our friends and brothers. We will not achieve vision 2030 if such amazing and compelling characters are lost from the face of this Earth. Till we meet again Engineer and all others who have fallen by the same sword. We need another John Njoroge Michuki to enforce sanity on our thoroughfares.

 

 

Categories
Political & Social Empowerment

The year of the Underdog spices up football

As the sage once put it, the only constants in life are change and taxes.leicester1 The spectre of the upset by the underdog has never hang ever so close as to spook out the big guns as it has this year. Indeed, bigger teams have been forced to constantly look over their shoulders more this year than any other year. Still, upset galores have been the order of the day. It is as if both the god of football and goddess of luck have contrived to team up to embarrass the bigger sides. The ball has been having a more awkward bounce than the famed ‘Jabulani’ used to play the world cup in South Africa in the year 2010. It is rumoured that the Jabulani was not the creation of traditional sports ball makers Adidas, Nike or Puma but the handiwork of a famed South African ‘Sangoma’ to facilitate their cause. As such the apparent metaphysical impact of its bounce left many goal keepers in a fix trying to explain how the ball went in. The opening goal scored for that tournament by one Siphiwe Tshabalala occasioning one of the most passionate celebratory dances in football history was revered as work of art by African media but in foreign tabloids particularly Mexican castigated as the product of a dark art. Many a goal keeper received an equivalent of the famed ‘hairdryer’ treatment popularized by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United during the half time pause or post-match for acts that were beyond their control according to them, or so they said.

Fast forward 2016 and similar bounces are creating casualties left right and centre. The slip by Captain Fantastic Stevie G and eventual capitulation by Liverpool in 2014 had been put down as one of the most cataclysmic occurrences by a team on course to a title. However, horror shows requiring the intervention of ICC may have been enacted on the football pitch this year; albeit, for the big teams compared to their less illustrious and more shoe-string funded rivals. Fairytales have been interspersed by horror tales but this depends on which side of the pool you stand. Much as a gentleman in Usenge may celebrate catching a giant Nile perch but on the flipside, the relatives of that colossus of a fish at the bottom of the lake will be in great mourning, shock and consternation ruing their loss.

The first in this sequence is Leicester City. A team that seemed more at home fighting relegation produced the ultimate ‘Cinderella clinches prince charming’ headline after winning the English Premier League. Regarded as the backwater of the EPL, a team that had never lifted the title and whose closest dance with fortune was when they finished 2nd in the Old First Division way back in 1929. The victory was in no small part to the tinker-man; Claudio Ranieri whose best performance was with Chelsea in 2004 when he led them to second behind ‘Les Invincibles’ of Arsene Wenger. This was a man who had seemingly been consigned to the garbage bin of football folklore after an ill-fated Euro 16 qualification campaign with Greece that brought performances not limited to but inclusive of a defeat by Faroe Islands a team composed mainly of College boys and recreational footballers. When he left that post and Leicester seemed to be clasping to him many may have felt this was just going to be the usual below-par season under the tutelage of a failure. His first victories seemed to be flukes but when big guns begun failing in his wake many sat up to take notice. When the first round of 19 matches ended with only one defeat many began dreaming. Not just Ranieri but most of the team was composed of journey men from the more illustrious sides, lower division hustlers and a few novices. In this era of Petro dollars, super-rich club owners bank rolling incredibly loaded teams that are run as conglomerates, lubricated by lucrative TV deals, a story like impecunious Leicester’s seemed most unlikely. It was like the biblical story of the Maccabee Israelites who against all odds and guided by an unseen commander defeated the powerful King Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria and his colossal army. Who would have said that by mid-April Leicester city and Tottenham Hotspurs would’ve confirmed their positions in next season’s Champions League with matches in hand? Tottenham’s equal meteoric rise is cruelly only marred by the fact that they missed out on the league title thanks to the brilliance of the aforementioned opponents. Encomia trickled in from far and wide. Installed at 5000/1 by the bookies to win the league at the start of last season, guess who the joke is on now?

Atletico Madrid making the Finals of Uefa Champions League for the 2nd time in 3 years is an equally heartwarming tale. Giants were slayed enroute to the Holy grail. The only heart-rending anticlimax is the loss to the Great Real Madrid, by far the richest football club and individual sporting entity on earth. Uni-decima achieved. Ideally, the Derby of Madrid is expected to be a lopsided affair. In no uncertain terms Real boasts a squad depth that even superpower armies in the world would be proud of if they had similar fire power. A team assembled at the prize of 560 million pounds plus add-ons, has in the same squad two of the most expensive footballers in the world on the pitch at the same time, one has arguably been either the best or second-best player in the world for the last eight seasons. This Titan comes up against a local rival whose entire squad has been assembled at a cost no less than that of the second most expensive player at Real. Much as they say derbies are most hard-fought, in recent years this one has been the most closely contested. It is a notable surprise that despite the gulf in financial fortunes between the clubs, only a hair line difference has been the margin in contests between these two. It is not to say that Real were ripped off in the purchase of their stars, No! What Zinedine Zidane, a former World Cup & Ballon d’or winner himself has in squad quality is matched by tactical acumen, defensive grit and all-round fighting spirit from the Diego Simeone coached side of town. Nothing like being coached by a former player who encompasses your team’s philosophy mirrored by personal ethos and work ethic. Despite one side being 7 times more expensive than the other, they were tightly poised at 1-1 at the end of both normal time and extra time. Only the lottery of penalties produced the sucker punch that decided the contest. Pretty much like the big bully almost being defeated in a brawl but capitalizing on the slip of the smaller boy to throw sand into his eyes and then land the deciding blow.

Portugal winning Euro 16 has baffled not just many a soccer pundit but also the big guns that expected to win the tournament outright. Not less are Belgium, Germany and the hosts who were the losing finalists France. You tell that to Cristiano Ronaldo. Irreparably injured 25 minutes into the contest and seemingly inconsolable, he went to the touch line to play the role of assistant coach to great effect. At the end of 120 minutes of football you would have been forgiven for thinking Cristiano was a Kindergarten boy who had been mugged off his lunch at the bus station. The unmistakable yell and tears of joy was clear for all to see. Unfortunately, for the opposite No.7 Antoine Griezemann, the lightning of a finals’ loss has struck twice in a month and a half but this time round with the more illustrious side. All the same pat on the back for a veritable performance. For the analysis, how do you reach the Semi finals of a major tournament by drawing all your matches in normal time? Then still have enough in the tank to pip the tournament favourites to the trophy. Defensive strength, excellent counter-attack, tactical acumen, team spirit and Fernando Santos. But after many years of toil, heart break, pain and loss your karma has to turn sooner rather than later. However, the ‘Belo Guttman’ curse for Benfica may take longer to exorcise.

When Iceland stunned world football super power and the progenitors of total football, Netherlands to qualify for Euro 2016 nobody thought much of it at the time. Coming to this tournament as underdogs many thought them the whipping boys of their group. However, the smallest of the countries there by population drew two matches to within an inch of a win before finally putting Austria, a favourite in their group to the sword to against all odds finish 2nd in their group. If you had thought that was a gargantuan feat then your jaws had to be collected from the floor in the last 16 where they stunned perennial contenders – also-rans, England. Unfortunately, their run was brought to a screeching halt in the Quarter finals by a mauling by tournament hosts France. Wales stunned many others but not themselves when they qualified for their first tournament ever since Saint George I was slaying dragons with unfathomable moxie. Unfancied but still gave a good account of themselves qualifying ahead of tournament favourites, the old rival England and Russia. They tore apart surprise package Hungary before putting pre-tournament favourites Belgium to the same sword. Their charge was curtailed only by the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo and the good fortune for Luis Nani. They put up a veritable run nonetheless.

The Qualification of Guinea Bissau for Afcon 2017. This occurred majorly to the same effect as a lightning bolt out of clear skies. Prequalification expectation of being the whipping boys rang all around when the draw was made. African giants Zambia, improving Congo and deluded giants Kenya were the other opponents. When they held Zambia to a draw in Ndola, nobody thought much of that. They were next whipped by Congo Brazzaville and everyone thought the writing was on the wall. They then made capital against a disoriented Kenya in March in similar solitary margin home and away wins and a few sat up to take notice. Thanks to a favourable mix of results; when they whipped Zambia 3-2 in Bissau, a miniature tremor was occasioned by the ensuing celebrations. They had against all odds been among the first teams to qualify for African Cup of Nations to be held in 2017 causing a ‘rumble in the jungle’ only similar in magnitude to Mohammed Ali and George Foreman’s gig in DRC back in ‘74.

The name is Jamie. Jamie Vardy. This is not the quintessential line many of you are used to from watching super hero British spy agent movies for many a year. Fast forward, August 2015 and this unassuming 29-year-old was given a similar introduction into our living rooms starring for Leicester City. For 11 straight matches running he scored, many being winning goals. Of course it was not always like this while immured in non-league obscurity at Stockbridge Park Steels, FC Halifax and Fleetwood Town. Here among other pre-match rituals included milking cows, chasing livestock and the ceremonial stray cat/dog off the pitch, the Shirts Vs Skins toss, collecting the referee from the local, convincing Paddy Sluttery, the in-house jester who is also your holding mid that another Gordon Brown tenure is unlikely, posting bail for Jamie Gill, the undefeated brawling champion and weekend jail-bird who despite an electronic tag on the ankle doubles up as your striker, boozing up the community college lasses to convince them to come to watch your match and last but not least the last minute pee in the bush. At 29 and seemingly in the twilight of his nondescript career found himself the spear head at the tip of the Leicester juggernaut that rode roughshod on all and sundry to the league title. Get the job done he did, so much so that he received a maiden call up to the English fold where he continued his stellar form. On the other side of the spectrum but similarly remarkable is Marcus Rashford who was virtually unknown until errors in judgement and preseason departures left Louis van Gaal strikerless after injury to Wayne Rooney. With only Antony Martial around, Rashford was called up to the plate and seize the chance he did. Goals against no less Arsenal, Man City and a few other scalps in FA Cup established Rashford as indispensible upfront. His purple patch in front of goal, poise and speed earned him a call up to the final squad for Euro 16 ahead of seasoned Jermaine Defoe.

The Re-emergence of mother Italia and USA reaching the semis of Copa America Centenario make up the rest of the seemingly improbable footballing feats. USA reaching this point was not exactly a major achievement but when put in the perspective of giants like Brazil and Uruguay going home first round it stands out.

In this era of fairy tales making a re-emergence, nobody is immune to capitulation. The stellar players could tumble at any time. The guys closer to the acme should be prepared to capitalize on such events. I write this as incentive for guys like ‘super Mario’ Ballotelli who aspires to win Balon d’or one day. Pull up your socks son and all the best. Also hoping the chest-thumping ‘ze god of football’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic wins the gong to crown his stellar career.

 

Dennis Mukoya is a soccer enthusiast and consummate thinker of new solutions