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A joke is told in minimal dearth of accuracy that when God said let there be light, some primordial Electrical Engineer had already laid all the cabling to effect the miracle of that nascent illumination.
Eons later, nobody captured the essence of society like the son of that same divine engineer, when he took up human personification as Jesus Christ. Not just a virtuoso of a carpenter, he also wore a kaleidoscopically-hueful and feathered cap which cast him in equally exquisite light as a master storyteller of his time. In characterizing human avarice & wantonness, he gave an anecdote of a rich man who owned a vineyard where he employed farmhands. But these were a special breed of humans who when described as dastardly sells them needlessly short! He fenced his priced vintage, put up a winepress and erected a watchtower to guard the premises. A time came when he had to go on an odyssey as all wealthy people are wont to. He gave incontrovertible instructions that during harvest time his servants had the discretion to collect profits in his stead and holding it in trust until he returns for remission. At harvest time, the first servant sauntered in customarily to collect due behoof as he had done over the years but at this particular juncture, he was met by mean-mugging characters who roughed him up to within an inch of paraplegia. The quest was abandoned for the day. A second one was sent who met a worse comeuppance. In mafia-lingo, he was ‘whacked’ (probably watched too many George Scorsese’s Movies)! A third came but was met by a barrage of projectiles, also barely getting away with his life. The owner was at the end of his tether! He in due course, probably on misguided nuances, threw his very own son into this simmering cauldron consoling himself in the false paradigm, “Verily, they will respect my son in paying homage to I, their beneficent employer!” But these were a queer breed of blood-thirsty blackguards. They saw him riding in from the proverbial ‘18!’ In their heart of hearts they averred, “If we killed this boy, we would have this vineyard all for ourselves” as they rubbed their hands in machiavellian glee!’ They seized the young man and disemboweled him without any salutary courtesies. “When the Viticulturist albeit Vintner arrived back from his voyage, do you think he kept the farmhands as employees?” Jesus asked his disciples pensively. “He’ll assuredly cast them off then put them out of their collective misery, a rotten bunch and good riddance,” shot back the response almost unanimously from the disciples. They added that he would have to reassign those duties to better-wired recruits who will only be interested in the red of grape wine as opposed to their compatriot’s life-blood and in the fullness of time give due recompense when it is asked of them by the owner. The Lord was unerring in his assessment. Of course, this entire tale was aimed at the Pharisees & Sadducees who made it their pastime to seek to imprison the ‘son of man’ for treason, heresy and blasphemy but as always public sentiment directed proceedings and they were intimidated by the prospect of fomenting a riot among the peace-loving Jews. They saved their bacons and went on their way for future scheming. Today in antipathy to tradition, I did not digress!
While reading the Business Daily newspaper for the week commencing Sunday, 13th September 2020, one story especially caught my attention. The Headline read – ‘KPLC’s Debt to KenGen hits 23.7 Bn.’ Here is the link for those without time to get the hard-copy paper – (https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/corporate/companies/Kenya-Powers-debt-to-KenGen/4003102-5622800-14nte8oz/index.html) I had to rub my eyes in shock while adjusting my subconscious for the prospect of this figure probably being in Zimbabwe dollars, Tanzanian Shillings or the currency of our neighbours to the Western frontier! By the second paragraph, I had gathered that the figure was in Kenya Shillings and was beside myself with indignance. How could this be? Even the figurative ‘traveller in Jerusalem’ did not require a Calculator to surmise that Kenyans suffer under the yoke of some of the heaviest power tariffs in Africa.
For some historical perspective, Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) was founded on a bright and audacious day on 6th January 1922 and existed as East African Power & Lighting Company (EAP&L) despite origins in Kenya when the Mombasa Electric Power & Lighting Company merged with Nairobi Power & Lighting Syndicate in that same year. Further back in 1875; the enlightened Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Barghash procured a diesel generator to light up his palace and adjacent streets. A similar contraption was acquired by Mombasa’s serial entrepreneur, Harrali Esmailjee Jeevanjee leading to the aforementioned Mombasa-based outfit in 1908. Copying from the same script, that same year Eng. Clement Hirtzel was granted exclusive rights to supply the Capital city with power. Here is the genesis of the also foreshadowed Nairobi Power & Lighting syndicate. In no time, loosely translating to 1932, the EAP&L grew wings and flapped them hard to expand outside our boundaries to acquire the Tanganyika Electricity Supply Company Limited (today called TANESCO) making it a subsidiary. A generation and distribution license was soon obtained for Uganda in 1936. A mere 12 years later, ground was ceded in Uganda when the need for autonomy occasioned the formation of the Uganda Electricity Board (UEB). On the First day of February 1954, a subsidiary of the greater unit called Kenya Power Company (KPC) was inaugurated and commissioned to construct the transmission line between Nairobi & Tororo, Uganda. Power was already generated at the Owen Falls Dam which needed to be evacuated to Kenya to create additional utility in that commodity. That same year, EAP&L became a listed company on The Nairobi Securities Exchange. It was a pioneer among its peers listed publicly on the bourse. EAP&L exited Tanzania in 1964 selling its stake to ‘Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania’ – the aggregated Tanzanian State.
As the entity only remained in Kenya, a rebranding was in order and was newly-christened Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) in 1983. Consistent with growth; 14 years later Kenya Power Company de-linked from the greater KPLC, later rebranding as Kenya Electricity Generating Company(KENGEN) handling not just Power Generation but both Primary and Secondary Transmission. Come 2008; and concomitant with the agenda of further stratification, the electricity transmission infrastructure function was carved out of KENGEN and given to yet another scion of the big tree, the pristine Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO). A further rebranding was done in June 2011 as KPLC became shortened to Kenya Power(KP) with the sole mandate to handle distribution, metering and retailing of electricity to consumers in Kenya. Needless to say, this is an instance of a Monopoly. Ideally, Monopoly is a form of market capitalism which exists where the elasticity of demand is low and significant barriers to entry become rampant which is relevant to our situation in Kenya presently. Further expansion birthed the Geothermal Development Corporation (GDC), Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC), the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) and the Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) all with distinct autonomy and authority for their respective functions.
This may prima-facie seem to be a lovely fairytale to regal young ones to sleep. However; in actual sense, the story of KPLC chronicles a great river which was strong and buoyant at its spring but got muddled at the confluence between mismanagement with the tributary of ineptitude, a rivulet called embezzlement, a stream called tribalism and the brook of political convenience before eutrophication into an insufferable and pungent swamp. Asked today, I can aver with unshrivelled conviction that tribalism is the overarching policy direction at the power utility. The marriage of convenience between the two parties that formed the Jubilee Government will go down in history as arguably the biggest impediment to Kenyan unity ever. Two characters that decided to split Cabinet, Government Department and State Corporation positions between themselves in absolute reticence to the existence of the other 42 tribal entities in our nation. This is actually a longstanding problem that was initiated during President Kibaki’s regime when head-honchos at the Ministry of Energy and its rank and file was from Central Kenya. The problem was inherited and got entrenched under Mwai Kibaki’s successor. Today, do not be surprised if you were to call the Kenya Power headquarters at Parklands and hear people conversing in their vernacular, a series of high-pitched, rapidly-disseminated syllables before answering you in pretty laissez-fare fashion, giving you no assistance whatsoever and without a modicum of courtesy in antipathy to not just the exorbitant rates we have to pay for power in Kenya but also debasing your diligence in initiating the call as a troubleshooting mechanism.
Adjunct to this bilge is the drawback of your political affiliation because in Kenya, politics and tribe are apparently interlinked qualities. It is an open secret that Kenya Power fundraised for the Jubilee Government re-election war chest in absolute disregard to not just professional ethics but also International Accounting Standards & natural justice. This level of iniquity would ostensibly seem like a fable I concocted were it not laid bare by the Former Auditor-General, Edward Ouko in his post-audit report on the financial position at KP that was rife with misrepresentation & ‘doctored’ books. How they stayed as a listed company at the bourse with all these financial anomalies only points to the impunity & state grip over the corporation. That means that as long as you are connected to the national grid and pay your power bill then it’s a certainty that you financially bankrolled the Jubilee Party machinery and paid through our nose we did then, lest we forget! A time was when success card-like chiming became the entertainment in my house when my prepaid meter was guzzling tokens in no dissimilitude to a stray piranha gormandizing tilapia in a fishpond! I am equally hard-pressed to explain why a career legal professional is at the helm of our Power retailer. Many will adduce the rationale that it is in a managerial capacity, all with the need to streamline the company’s activities with legal frameworks as pertains to the current constitution albeit the rules, regulations, presidential edicts, acts and by-laws governing our nation and attendant gobbledygook!
I feel the time is ripe to inquire how many Law firms out here are run by either Engineering Graduates or Career Engineering Professionals?
How many Engineers represent clients in Court or even in arbitration tribunals with regards to resolving actual engineering conundrums?
Could Engineers be ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ who need to shepherded by other professions?
I neither feel the predilection to mention names here nor disparage anybody’s character but I must question how someone whose Academic and Experiential background does not entail courses in Material Science, Physical Electronics & Electrical Engineering Materials, Electrical Machines and even Power Electronics will hold court in discourse about the most efficient materials to use for Power Transmission cables (the eternal Copper vs Aluminium debate), how to prevent Transformer windings from being cannibalized by scrap-metal dealers or even why we use mineral as opposed to vegetable oil for transformer arc extinction & cooling; tantamount to that, why use of air-cooled transformers as opposed to their oil-cooled counterparts is gaining traction?
My message is that our rulers must adjudge ethnicity, mediocrity and political correctness as subordinate to actual competence and have meritocracy as a yardstick for service. Additionally, professionals should stick to their lanes to eschew the current spate of incompetence.
I have belaboured the subject of Corruption and will not stop in my intransigence against this vice as long as there are still keys on my Laptop and a conscience ensconced within my cerebral cortex’s grey-matter! Corruption is no stranger at this State Corporation as the turn of the millennium beckoned criminal proceedings initiated by the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. Matter of factly, the case is still being prosecuted at a Jersey Court but paradoxically gathering dust at our very own Attorney General’s chambers where in 1986, then KPLC Managing director Samuel Gichuru in concert with Energy Cabinet Minister Chris Okemo were involved in a heist that entailed the building of a phantom hydroelectric power project on the nondescript Ewaso Ngiro river. The two diverted in excess of KShs. 520 million, the proceeds of kickbacks to the tax-haven of Jersey after receiving a flurry of bribes from interested companies. On June 21st 1990, the British Export Credit Guarantee Department (EGCD), an entity that bolsters British Companies to win tenders abroad oversaw the advancement of a £68.1 million loan by ANZ Grindlays Bank to the Moi Government for this endeavour. Under unclear circumstances, the money was diverted to some shadowy entities in the tax-haven jurisdiction of Jersey in the British Isles. Evidence of graft was clear but a series of questionable gaffes from our ‘Mr. Nolle Prosequi’ a.k.a then Attorney-General, Amos Shitswila Wako meant the extradition circus is still on show at the theatre of the absurd to this day! If you needed an indicator on how foreign companies astride our autochthonous entities are willing to pay a premium to access highly-prized tenders and contracts, then this is a smoking gun for you. About 520 Million shillings was seized and repatriated back to the Kenyan exchequer; nevertheless, we will still have to repay for the non-existent infrastructure project, making remittances from 1986 until the end of this year for a project that was supposed to have brought forth 3 new dams by 2007 but a dustbowl is all we can show for it! Let me not even push you to precipitous cliffs of nausea by a feasibility study that cost the taxpayer in excess of 3.8 billion in our legal tender. This is a clarion call for all that were demented that the Nyayo-era was the golden-age of sound stewardship in Kenya merely because they were naïvely lulled into a false sense of eternal gratitude by the Nyayo School Milk Program! I bet Nikola Tesla who did more for Power Transmission but died penniless must be turning in his grave seeing 2 undeserving iterations of scum profiteering from public funds.
Then there is the small matter of the single off-taker for all our Installed Generated Capacity that is solely Kenya Power (KP). For those not abreast with Electrical Engineering jargon, an off-taker is a buyer of generated electricity whether solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, thermal, nuclear or renewable energy who in civilized jurisdictions is a public company, private party, business, school, a cement manufacturer, municipality or a utility company. In our case; only KP, the utility supplier exists. Installed Generated Capacity is the nominal or the intended full-load sustained output of a power plant or all of them cumulatively in a country. The suicidally overenthusiastic, inexorably ambitious but pathologically ill-tooled Jubilee regime in 2013 hatched a plan to raise Kenya’s Installed Generation Capacity to over 6,700 Megawatts in just 40 months. Little regard was given to technocrat counsel on creating demand in terms of building more industries or if ultimately that generated power would be cheaper; subsequently, the fruits are clear for all to see. Moreover, extortionately large loans to develop network so as to add more mostly rural consumers roiled the mix further. In 2013 we had euphoria-fuelled, grandiose dreams of new industries, Electric trains on our SGR line, Resort cities and Special Economic Zones that were to be power guzzlers. Monumental projections coupled with our self-styled ‘hustlers’ who in real sense are nothing more than ravenous kleptomaniacs saw a deal-signing frenzy that brought on board independent power producers, breaking ground for mega-generation projects and portended doom for the distributor now firmly stuck in a loss-making rut. This is all in the backdrop of small-time, single-phase, domestic consumers having to pay exorbitant charges merely to light the house for only a few hours at night!
Adjunct to this point is Kenya Power’s overenthusiastic diving headlong into Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) devoid of any Build-to-Own strategy or even feasibility on the expected demand before increasing capacity. We are now trapped in expensive, long-term PPAs with prohibitively-priced and foreign-owned thermal power producers some of whom do not commensurately pay corporate tax for their revenue, feel the compulsion to employ our annually churned-out graduates or even engage in Corporate Social Responsibility for the adjacent community. I could speak about the engagement of a Corporate Lawyer to look for loopholes for the engagement of a Force Majeure to terminate contracts that are detrimental to the best interests of ‘Wanjiku’ who has to spend astronomically for electricity. However, that is the main impetus of this stratum of society to continue driving Bentleys, go to the Maldives on holiday, charter chopper rides for their baby-mamas to Zanzibar to see the sunset & host private all-white parties. This is all the windfall of casting a blind eye to this injurious state of affairs.
More often than not the easiest thing in the world is to castigate the next man for their failings not just with zero introspection on your own culpability for the misadventure but also failing to provide a suitable suggestion for a remedy that is more valuable than the censure anyway. Here is a raft of solutions I propose:
Devolve to smaller units at Counties/ Sub-counties – In years gone by, when KPLC was still amalgamated as one big, happy family with its progeny, their inefficiencies could be mitigated by those other appendages performing exceptionally. But these failings have progressively been ruthlessly exposed after the various composite units found autonomy. Devolution as has already happened with many of our water supply companies and authorities will work wonders for the electricity sector. In this model, the power distribution infrastructure should be managed by County or Sub-County Service Board while revenue by means of electricity bills and service charges be collected by the local branches of the Power utility company. Simple acts of secondary distribution, managing substations, last-mile connectivity and repairs will then be within the purview of local technicians within the jurisdiction as employees of that local utility service provider. Decentralization of revenue collection will pass muster with regards to accountability as each county will work to be self-sufficient in this new reality that is the devolved units. That well-worn adage about collective responsibility being nobody’s responsibility will be dealt the death knell.
Allow Competition as this is pivotal for sensible pricing – This one though impossible to execute presently due to price regulation for electrical units consumed being a function of EPRA, will also be a much welcome move. Today despite the existence of the Energy Act (2019), Kenya Power enjoys a monopoly which she abuses by running roughshod over her erstwhile clientele who have no recourse. Indeed, as the current PS. for Energy & Petroleum, Dr. (Eng.) Joseph Njoroge when serving as CEO of KPLC once opined in derision, “KPLC isn’t so much of a monopoly as many of you think, simply pay your bill or defect to our competitors, darkness!” Such high-handedness from the power utility is the modus operandi in the absence of any competition. Just a mere 10 – 15 years ago, Cement was retailed for an average of Kshs. 800 per bag when only Bamburi Cement and East African Portland Cement Company existed. The advent of competition from new players has drastically brought down the prices to an average of sh. 550 per bag. Why can’t this level of free-market economy be allowed to attract new entrants as utility service providers? As per the strictures of the Energy Act (2019), with sufficient financial muscle you can actually start a power distributorship in Kenya. However, how feasible is it? Unless you are Jeff Bezos, few actually even try as the Capital Expenditure to build a network, even for a small village is steep. So much so, you will not even recoup your investment and break-even in 10 years’ time of business. Such expenses can only be shouldered by a government-sponsored entity that can pitch abroad for infrastructural loans or mobilize funds from local tycoons via Treasury Bonds. This coupled with market inflexibility of the unit-cost controlled by EPRA means price is uniform hence, proffering nobody an advantage. This will hinder investment in the absence of an open-market dictated by market forces.
Time is ripe to allow Private Contractors to assist Kenya Power in their operations. As a Telecommunications Engineering professional I can attest to the operability of this model. In our line of work we have Mobile Phone Service Providers like Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya. The economics of business dictate that they are not able to hire hundreds of thousands of employees into their labour force in spite of the Service Level Agreement to supply and maintain their signal countrywide. That is where Private Contractors come in. They set up shop, get equipment and manpower, be in good standing with the Service Provider and then bid for tenders & contracts. On a need basis, the contractor’s labour is sought to add to the capacity of these service providers as they work to promote the insignia of their contracting entity countrywide. This is a win-win model because additional masts and coverage means additional revenue for that service provider and the labour by the contractor is also richly rewarded in business acquisition as they are paid for executing their side of the contract. Consequently, the service provider will not have to hire the technicians directly but still get their business over the line. This will be a much-welcome model for our Power Utility Company as seldom is a small repair job executed in timely manner these days. In case of an outage, powerline cut or transformer fuse getting charred, repairs take an eternity. Woe unto you, if when they arrive, the wooden pole is found rotten. They don’t look at the job twice! More agony awaits if the Transporter lorry or Bucket crane has broken down. That may be a fortnight of darkness for the aggrieved party! I will not even speak about the backlog of new connections that lie pending for fear of getting apoplectic and failing to finish this post! The only feasible route to handle this is by sub-contracting such services to these many young men & women out here that sit jobless on qualifications in Electrical Grid Construction and maintenance. I feel the incorporation of contractors into this sector will ease managing distribution, new connections and maintenance shortfalls. “Hii pesa yote hamwezi maliza pekee yenu KP!”
Cease Charging Consumers Capacity Cost – There is a disconcerting state of affairs that despite KP & KENGEN being in concord for the bulk of a century, the new upstart still insists on levying Capacity cost for their Generating Stations despite breaking even an eon ago. This is just ludicrous! How do I explain to my 3-year-old niece that we are still offsetting Capacity Cost for Kindaruma Dam Power Station that has been in operation for 52 years in this month’s power bill? This is just hyena-like behaviour that has to stop.
We need Serious Investors in Electrical Power & Industry – The problem with Kenya is that the ruling class, our deep-state, the grizzled old-rich with deep pockets are now more interested in monkey business nay musical chairs as opposed to trans-generational investment for the sake of the future of our motherland. I have heard in the grapevine, but from reliable sources that a few well-heeled ‘foxes’ only seek to enter the power distribution business by acquiring licenses only to then sell them to foreigners at a premium. Lack of serious investors is a weighty matter that can only be addressed by ordinary ‘wananchi’ taking the bull by the horns in co-operative movements whereby pooling resources together, they will be able to create new entities to rival the status-quo. Even well-known tycoons like my good friend and mentor Dr. (DJ.) CK are still running around selling shares of old companies, hedging in derivatives and futures market as opposed to giving back to society by funding local ventures. But it is their money, so who am I to disparage their actions? We need more industrialists and venture capitalists as opposed to antiquated serial entrepreneurs not just in the power industry investment but also for the creation of industrial capacity for the uptake of the already acquiesced Installed Generation Capacity. This is supposed to be a noblesse oblige of sorts by the privileged class to the hoi-polloi.
My hope is that y’all my esteemed friends, fellow Bloggers, soldiers in the same struggle & Followers are in good spirits as we continue the existential dogfight against this pernicious global pandemic upon us currently.
I write this message to inform y’all that concomitant with growth & expansion, I have a New Version of the Blog available at https://dennismukoya.co.ke/wp/
now furnished with a “Follow Blog Button” for all whom we have travelled the hills and valleys of this WordPress platform together.
For all of you our much-vaunted audience, keep enjoying our posts as we continue maintaining the highest standards. Cheers .
Devolution was one of the finest products of the novel and progressive Constitution that was promulgated in 2010. Chapter 11 of this Popular Charter heralded a new dawn where hitherto underdeveloped regions finally saw recognition under law and those deemed commercially unviable by the previous regimes had their right to development finally enshrined in law. Kenya is currently in her 7th year of implementation of this new constitutional dispensation and by extension the facet of devolution. Today resources are centripetally distributed from the Centre – from the Executive down unto the grassroots to finally be tasted by the hoi-polloi. Devolution is not a new discovery in Kenya. Indeed, it is a paradigm that was a point of contention pre and post-independence by the two major political parties of the day i.e. KANU that was the proponent of Centralization of power – a bastion of the Luo & Kikuyu vis-à-vis KADU due its hierarchy consisting of the minority tribal affiliations – the Luhya, Kalenjin & Mijikenda, who vouched for a system called ‘Majimbo.’ ‘Majimbo’ – The Kiswahili word for regions or regionalism, has been manifested in no great dissimilitude to devolution as we have it today. This was a counter-measure against the propensity for a stranglehold by the Kikuyu and Luo hegemony with regard to political power. Believe it or not, the proponents of regionalism had their way as the Legislative Council assented to regions based on the 7 Colonial Provinces, paving way for a bicameral legislative system of the Senate and National Assembly. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the Prime Minister, ably deputized by Ajuma Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Come the National unity accord of 1964 that folded KADU into KANU, the concord was used as an excuse to vitiate the existence of the Senate & Regional Governments citing the need for unity of Kenyans under a Central Government as a pivotal component of national cohesion. Consequently, even the purveyors of ideology deemed dissonant to the ‘National Philosophy’ were labelled persona-non-grata in Kenya when Section 2A was concocted in the constitution rendering our Republic a de-jure, one-party state. We lived through the epoch of an Imperial President running a unitary state. In due course, dissenting voices were ipso-facto labelled as treasonous, seditious, subversive and even mutinous as many intellectuals of the day, politicians, political commentators, university dons, lecturers, authors, playwrights, thespians and journalists found themselves in hot water. The most popular tool available to the Government was the Detention Without Trial Act for dissidents on the grounds of preserving National Security. Tales I have heard & read from Nyayo House Torture Chamber victims are too chilling to be recounted here more so those relating to the diabolical operability of the mechanical implement called the Pliers as it articulated with a vice-like grip on the nether regions of the masculine anatomy by agents of state! The State operated like an unrestrained behemoth paying homage to sentiments given life by the indomitable Late Cabinet Minister John Njoroge Michuki about the impunity of Government arching to such an extent as to knock out one’s Teeth and then seek reparations not for but from the aggrieved victim!
Thanks to the Freedom of Expression afforded by the new Constitution, I will today stick my neck out and opine that it is in the backdrop of the resulting frustrations from this failed system of leadership, that the 1982 attempted Coup d’état was occasioned. The State has eternally blamed power-hungry barons and disgruntled military officers for the putsch but I stand with my assessment that the repressive and kleptocratic unitary state was the spark that lit that powder keg. Regional development, service delivery, access to government jobs by & large – state largesse and infrastructural development became a function of the whims of the Central Government. That is the predicament even the author of this very piece was born into in the late ’80s. The agitation for pluralism reached fever pitch in 1991 leading to the repeal of Section 2A culminating in the first Multiparty elections in 1992. The expansion of civil liberties has been a gradual exercise that led to birthing a wholesale constitutional review process. Of paramount importance was legal reforms for Free and Fair elections, Composition of the Electoral Commission and enhanced freedom of association and assembly. Invariably, when the opposition finally grasped Power in 2002 with the NARC coalition spearheaded by Mwai Kibaki, the main campaign promise yearning to be fulfilled was a new constitution within the first 100 days in office! That one certainly came a cropper. Those that came to fruition early on were the Free Primary School Education and the Creation of the Constituency Development Fund. 2.5% of government revenue was earmarked for grassroots development annually. This was informed by the priorities and needs of the local population in due course bringing development closer to the people. Progress became delinked from political affiliation of both party and personalities in power. The revolution was televised as efforts at achieving the NARC government’s pet peeve – the New Constitution took root. Emissaries were sent in the form of Delegates from all over Kenya to make submissions on behalf of their respective regions. The Form and structure that was eventually agreed on after months of bickering and battering was based on the Colonial districts that would forthwith be referred to as Counties. The New Constitution pegged the percentage of national revenue to the devolved units and wrote an algorithm for an equitable share formula for resource distribution based on population, land area & degree of hardship.
In all honesty, sounding the death knell on Centralized Corruption by State was one of the prerogatives of implementing Devolution in Kenya. Today as we canter 7 years into this devolution reality in the Counties; curbing Corruption, Tribalism, Nepotism and pilferage of public resources becomes critically crucial. With several sitting Governors and other County Officials under the microscope of our investigative agencies for putting their hands into the figurative Cookie jar, the verdict on corruption in the counties is a damning one. The spectre of public prosecution hangs ever so close for many of them. That notwithstanding, Devolution has been a game-changer that has taken decision-making down to the ordinary ‘mwananchi’.
Speaking at the 5th Devolution Conference in Kakamega in May 2018, the 2nd Prime Minister (Emeritus) of the Republic of Kenya; Rt. Hon. Raila A. Odinga, as an elder statesman pointed out that conflicts of interests were harming the percolation of national resource down to the people all the while county officials lined their pockets. He added that County Speakers, Majority Leaders, MCAs, County Executives and procurement officials had positioned themselves with the express intention of milking kickbacks from public works projects in the end becoming Contractors to the County and abdicating their oversight responsibilities. Another instance of malfeasance brought to light was the practice of Governors bribing MCAs to approve Cabinet appointees, inordinate expenditure on unnecessary benchmarking trips and to kill motions of no-confidence that would lead to impeachment. He pointed out the Governors were virtually being held hostage by avaricious, selfish and capricious ward representatives. ‘Baba’ as he has affably been christened by throngs of his adoring supporters, averred that the only way to eschew the victimization of innocent county officials is by conducting a lifestyle audit on all and sundry then publicize the findings. Moreover, fighting corruption has never and will never be a partisan affair as the monster of corruption is an existential threat to the rank and file of our nationhood. In closing submissions, he proposed a three-tier government entailing Counties, Regional and the National Government with a well-detailed revenue sharing formula in order to have viable economic units as was envisioned in the antecedently mutilated Bomas Draft of the Constitution in 2005. Even in the foregoing of that same conference, moral corruption was on display as a Deputy Governor from Central Kenya; a married man no less, was literally caught with his pants down with a woman who is most certainly not his significant other! I will leave that and the stammered remonstrations of innocence to our local tabloids at the time.
Today the letter and spirit of devolution seems to only be an academic exercise as impropriety is the only thing to report from more than half of the counties. Apparently, the number of County Governors who are above reproach with regards to wastage of county funds is countable with the fingers on one palm. Culpability is on various degrees, with those having lost a few millions being slightly righteous to bogeymen who are absolutely unable to account for several billions in county revenue. Let the muteness of their tongues not fool you when questions on financial probity arise as the real deafening roar of opulence is in their private residences and village abodes. Lavish castles are now coming up at a premium on the homes of these newly-minted Feudal Lords of Corruption as some of their erstwhile unspoken of mistresses and concubines now live in mansions, some almost palaces at the expense of the sweat of the brow of the plebeians of the county.
I may not want to act sub judice on matters already before our courts of law but I feel it will be a dereliction of the duty of care to my brothers and sisters if I failed to at least mention some who have been caught up in this vice of corruption. First on the list is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s former ‘blue-eyed’ girl who a few years back came under intense fire over the NYS Scandal that saw Kenya lose a few billion shillings to scheming connivers, some of who were accorded the ignominious pleasure of forming shell-companies after winning tenders, ultimately not supplying jack-shit after receiving hefty payments. The femme fatale of a Cabinet Secretary, in village gossip also accused by her detractors of ‘kizungu mingi’, sharp dressing and traipsing around in motions reserved for the catwalk ostensibly to curry favour with the Executive of the day, in due course was forced to resign after the neon lights of state approbation dimmed on her, citing precursory ‘doctor’s orders’ for lighter duties and minimal stress in her statement of valediction. In the ‘infinite wisdom’ of the people of Kirinyaga County, they elected this lady as their County Chief Executive in antipathy to logic. A few weeks ago, she came under scrutiny again for gross mismanagement of her county coffers. Again her only salvation became the shield of political expedience with that drama still showing in a television near you.
Now showing in HD is the saga that has been the regime of 2nd term Governor, Zachary Okoth Obado. This man’s rap sheet stretches from Vanga on the Indian Ocean Coastal frontier between Kenya & Tanzania to Praia do Mussulo (Mussulo Beach) in downtown Luanda, Angola on the Atlantic Coast. This is the pioneer among his peers to be charged with a capital offence. From incontrovertible evidence adduced alluding to the double murder of his University Student mistress & their unborn child to now dragging his entire family into County procurement and tendering impropriety, the smoking gun could as well be a gassing fumarole with regards to the onslaught of charges against the county Chief Executive of Migori. To call this man’s tenure in office an unmitigated disaster is hitting the nail on the head.
Next on the chopping block is Governor Cyprian Achilaus Awiti. This hefty specimen of our species is archetypal of the whimsical nature of people better suited at being politicians than providing actual public stewardship. Awiti has been on record going as far as feigning blindness when queries of financial misadventure pop up and he’s summoned before the Senate but always miraculously regains 20/20 visual acuity during Ohangla nights often stealing the show at ‘Disco Matanga’ dances paradoxically held in the dead of night!
Together in the cauldron of inquest are Governor Ojaamong of Busia and Governor Moses Lenolkulal of Samburu who have actually been kept in remand prison for varying periods of time for injudicially joining the gravy train of looting public coffers for personal gain. Among other charges, Kasaine Lenolkulal awarded high-value tenders for Fuel supply to an entity called Oryx Service Station, a company for which Lily Lenolkulal and he are directors. Ojaamong and company conspired to defraud the County Government of Busia of 8 million shillings in a foggy trip to Germany for benchmarking, engaging in extra-budgetary expenditure. Word on the grapevine from reliable sources is that were it not for the Covid-19 scourge that has ravaged the global economy, a high-ranking and ostensibly development-conscious Governor from Western Kenya was supposed to be next on the hot seat to explain how he acquired about 200 Million to build a hotel in Kisumu! The finer details are still diaphanous at the time of going to press but stay tuned as where there is smoke there is a subterranean fire.
The least said about the plight of the next two governors, the better. This is because both are the quintessence of how democracy fails in a jurisdiction where the populace lacks wisdom and the power of discernment to even decipher the difference between a hole in the terra-firma and the crack of their own very derrière! Both are creatures of populism as their speeches more often than not are seldom laced with ideology, creative paradigm, meaningful agenda and sentiment but are top-heavy on cheap rhetoric that panders to the primordial brain while atrophying the conscientious centres of the cerebral cortex! The easiest thing in the world is to blame some nebulous entity called ‘the system’ for popular disenfranchisement, poverty, personal failure and existential struggles without any need for self-interrogation nay introspection. None have proven themselves savants in this dark art more than Gov. Mike Mbuvi Sonko & Ferdinand Clifford ‘Babayao’ Waititu. They both got elected by an overwhelming mandate but have ended up immuring themselves in absolute infamy with regards to graft. To call either Waititu or Gideon Kioko an abomination will create unnecessary embarrassment even to the fraternity historically saddled with this vile moniker. From racketeering, nepotism, land grabbing, day-light thuggery – whatever happened with raw sewerage at Jacaranda grounds, Embakasi East before an Opposition rally in late 2017, breakdown in not just policy formulation but also comprehension and implementation, hawking political patronage to cronies among other forms of malfeasance; these two troglodytes have not coated themselves in any measurable glory. The former is now existing in the political purgatory while the latter has been hounded out of office via impeachment with his suitably subservient Deputy taking over the reins of County Management. Nairobi has now been thrust in the capable hands of Maj. Gen. Mohammed Badi commandeering an outfit called the Nairobi Metropolitan Services after incompetence evidenced by a comedy of blunders blamed on among other factors gubernatorial inebriation with not just unbridled political power but also the frothy beverages from Ruaraka, adjunct to his glaring failure to name a substantive Deputy Governor more than half a term after the previous one resigned in a huff had created a leadership vacuum for the County hosting our Commercial and Political Capital. I know apologists abound for both these scalawags and rabble-rousers but their names will go down the annals of eternal infamy and become the totem-pole for the polity to never again choose a leader out of a vendetta to hit back at their predecessor in antipathy to long-standing guidelines on commonsense that leave you to judge a leader on the yardstick of values upheld, ideology espoused and the integrity the newbie will bring to the institution to safeguard its glory and honour. However, old habits die hard.
Covid-19 pandemic alleviation funds have been disbursed and some lost but that will be the subject of a future post after investigations have been taken to a logical conclusion. This Covid-19 period has also witnessed musical chairs of sorts that is the reprehensible translocation of beds from private to public hospitals with a view to cipher the impression of having sufficient ICU beds and as such giving the illusion of better preparedness of some counties to deal with a projected surge in infection and consequent hospitalizations in its wake. I would talk about the lightning to strike down the errant doing press-ups if I was well versed in its training regimen but I must warn that such callous and repugnant transgressions in the face of an existential quagmire will not be held blameless in the sight of the Almighty. Legal gymnastics are the curse of our courtrooms with injunctions and adjournments dished out willy-nilly but in God’s case there will be no appeal!
You may have realized that in contravention of laid down protocols; I have strategically left out the designation, ‘His Excellency’ when alluding to these sitting Governors. It is not a misnomer but my sincere expression of disgust.
After that unpalatable summon on corruption in our counties, many will no doubt ask me what recourse is available as pertains to ending corruption in our devolved units. My retort, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” What can help resolve the atrocities wrought upon the Republic by Corruption can also work in the microcosm of the nation – the Counties. We have Chapter 6 on Leadership and Integrity in the Current Constitution also getting a new gloss of paint that is Chapter 9 of the Building Bridges Initiative document that has been recommended for our perusal and either future approval or shelving. I invite all to imbibe of it in the posts I made earlier in the year in this particular Blog.
The Current Speaker of the Senate in a recent TV Interview, defended himself against the accusations of authorizing the procurement of wheelbarrows for an unholy sum of 100,000/- per Unit during his time as Governor of Bungoma, claiming that he was not involved in any way in that purchase. In his blood-curdling remarks, he pointed an accusatory finger at this being the brainchild of the procurement team and Chief Financial Officer. It exposed a serious lacuna in County procurement Laws that such colossal amounts of funds would depart County coffers without a paper trail requiring the Signature of approval from the Chief Executive, The Governor. This loophole needs to be plugged as a matter of urgency.
Be that as it may, devolution has been a blessing to all the regions of our great nation. Nevertheless, our mechanisms to effect oversight and enforce financial probity such as the Senate, County Assemblies, The Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, Auditor General, Controller of Budget, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation, the Director of Public Prosecution and indeed the Judiciary must endeavour to work in concert with each other to ensure that those plundering funds meant for the empowerment of the masses and engaging in abuse of office are not only held accountable but also speedily prosecuted.
I have an admission to make. From the dawn of my consciousness well into the Year of our Lord 2018, I did not ideologically see eye to eye with many leaders from Central Kenya. For the most part, I viewed many of them as of questionable mien, blatantly dishonorable, chameleonistic, avaricious, morally-bereft, hypocritical, opportunistic vermin, pumped up on the flatulence of arrogance borne mostly out of ignorance, dishonest, grabbers, back-stabbers and mostly the weak link in our strife for national cohesion. For them the statement, “It is our time to eat” was the eternal flavour of the day. My sentiments of vehement opprobrium to these specimens of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens didn’t ring as ignominiously true as it did for the archetype of this malfeasance, one Hon. Moses Kuria – MP for Gatundu South; indeed the home constituency of the current President of Kenya. And he didn’t cover himself in glory either, each time trying to aver the tribal superiority of his ethnic orientation going as far as dishing epithets of tribal contempt about the former Prime Minister and his kinsmen even calling for the forceful circumcision of members of that Ethnic grouping, knowing full well it was against their cultural norms and inexorably coaxed their chagrin. Excrement figuratively hit the fan one day in 2015 when he called for a willing taker to literally ‘whack’ the former Premier as had happened to another high ranking Cabinet Minister affiliated to the Luo nation this same month in 1969, confident in the fact that there would only be a little mourning, some minuscule stone-throwing, disorganized riots and road blocking for a few days culminating in the total amnesia of the memory of the grand old man. In his heart of hearts, he posited that the uncircumcised poltroons from the lakeside were ill-equipped to mount any long-term civil war to avenge their tribal Kingpin’s assassination. Of course, the asininity of these said pronouncements can neither be gainsaid nor overstated here but we have surely come a long way from then as the aforementioned ‘Njamba ya Ruriri’ – an affectionate moniker bequeathed upon Kuria his tribal henchmen, has long lost national political relevance consequent to the handshake between the President and his longtime adversary, the Premier (Emeritus). I was recently streaming an episode of the ‘Bonga Na Jalas’ show on the YouTube Channel called Jalang’o TV where the invited guest was the majorly sequestered but still effervescent Hon. Kuria. He gave an interesting anecdote of a day in January 1995 when he was in attendance during the day of remembrance of the 1st anniversary of Kenya’s Nationalist and seminal Vice-President Hon. Jaramogi Ajuma Oginga Odinga melancholic demise live from ‘Kang’o ka Jaramogi’. Then the nation was under the clutches of a despotic regime that used every excuse contrivable to curtail the civil liberties of the ordinary citizens. At the time, the hackneyed edict was not to have loud, celebratory music no matter the festivities or time of day. The reality is that Jaramogi isn’t just anybody and that directive was not only greeted with flagrant contempt but was flouted wholesale. D.O Misiani in concert with his Shirati Jazz band had been enlisted to perform and was indubitably in full voice, strumming the tools of their trade, doling out the beats of ‘Ohangla’ & ‘Benga’ liberally to all with a functional auditory canal within earshot of that jurisdiction! Much as the winds of autocracy and authoritarianism had minimal sway in Luo-Nyanza, the Provincial authority was in full force. In the twinkle of an eye, the gathering was disrupted by riot police firing teargas canisters dispersing the crowd, but who are our lakeside brothers? They duly obliged to this duel of wills as projectiles of all shapes and sizes, not less some of the still issuing teargas canisters were hurled back in the opposite direction to the bemused and massively overpowered custodians of law and order. The then nimble-footed Moses Kuria and slightly-built Oburu Odinga had to escape the ensuing melee by exercising serpentine agility to crawl under a prickly Kay Apple fence. At least they lived to tell the tale and eschewed the inconvenience of being guests of the state for subversion of lawful authority!
25 years later, such draconian laws are in our rear-view mirror but still more has to be done for further expansion of our bounds of emancipation as a people. Yesterday, as Kenyans we commemorated the 30th Saba Saba day (7th of July), an unofficial holiday where the Kenyan Second Liberation struggle and eventual attainment of multiparty democracy is celebrated. Of course being unofficial, the day is mostly uneventful & moribund to the Generation Z, many of who were yet to be born when the foregoing that necessitated its existence took place. We may have made great strides as a democratic nation, even bequeathing upon ourselves a progressive constitution in 2010 to safeguard our rights and remind us of our obligations and so would have expected yesterday to be all hale & hearty. But lo and alas; mirroring living memory, the day turned out to be one of running battles with the police, protests, hubbub, a ‘kamukunji’ here, a peppering of teargas there in antipathy to the Constitutional enshrinement in Chapter 4, Articles 33 to 37 that guarantee the Freedom to assemble, Peacefully demonstrate, Present petitions and memoranda to public authorities, have an opinion, Conscience and expression for all Kenyan citizens. Maybe it was just our way of reintegrating back to society after 3 months of lockdown due to the scourge of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. But on the flipside, who is to begrudge the Police their nostalgia about the many a clobbering, foot chases and all-round malevolence their predecessors had laissez-faire to mete upon the citizenry on many other iterations of this day over the three-decade period?
The zeitgeist of the time in the United States of America, spreading like a bushfire the world over is the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement. Indeed with the resumption of the English Premier League season, for the past few matches the players have been duking it out with that rallying call emblazoned on the back of their match-day shirts after taking the convivial knee. And why has this movement taken root so deeply at this unprecedented epoch when we are dealing with the existential quagmire that is the Covid-19 pandemic? Despite the decree of emancipation from slavery ostensibly to end the practice signed and proclaimed by the incomparable 16th American President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the practice seems alive and well even today in the form of systemic oppression against Black People. Prima facie, slavery is no longer in play in America; however, the spectre of inordinate police brutality against the mostly unarmed Negroid demographic has reared a very ugly head. Injustice has in the past been relegated to small items of teletext news running at the bottom of TV screens during the news broadcast mostly to the notice of very few. However, this nefarious practice was brought to the mainstream of international news headlines when a white police officer was captured by an amateur citizen journalist’s mobile phone camera kneeling on the neck of an unarmed black man George Perry Floyd Jr. for 9 minutes straight until the man gave up the ghost! In the intervening period, his professional colleagues nonchalantly stood by, as if such actions were all in a day’s work. The footage was uploaded on social media and sparked worldwide umbrage to all with functional grey matter within their crania. This piqued the collective consciousness of many and forced the hand of the traditionally standoffish American legal justice system on matters pertaining to Afro-American affairs to take action against the four police officers captured in the video playing the role of idle spectators albeit furniture in the face of the ongoing barbarism. For me the most disturbing aspect of the entire ordeal isn’t the unyielding bloodlust of the officer involved Derek Chauvin – aptly named by his parents as foreboding for his racial ‘chauvinism’ during the entire ordeal but the intransigence of his colleagues. This was an unarmed man who had peacefully yielded to his arrest ostensibly for attempting to use a fake 20 dollar bill to buy cigarettes in an endeavour to keep warm in the vagaries of winter that chattel slavery unfairly bestowed upon the genotypically discordant black man whose ancestors had invariably been plucked out of tropical bliss in West Africa. That a grown man had tapped out by Minute 3 and was audibly calling upon his dead mother for intercession by Minute 7:30 out of earshot of the zoned-out brutes in the Minneapolis Police Department on beat that day is savagery to the macabre. Incontrovertible preexisting bad-blood between Officer Chauvin and the late Floyd notwithstanding, a storm has been brewed of far greater virulence than any would have even remotely hypothesized. All symbols of White exceptionalism and the memory of the American Confederacy in the South are going up in flames. Statues as far as in the hallowed halls of the American House of Congress are being brought down as riots and looting are in full swing. The movement has now been picked up by a global audience as the human race opens its eyes to the innocuous but antiquated remnants of the narrative of white superiority that was ripe for debunking. This is in acceptance of empirical wisdom concocted by the black-rights activist of the American Civil Rights Movement Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opining, “Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere as we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied to a single garment of destiny.” His recompense for these sentiments of egalitarianism was assassination by the ‘lead’ in 1968.
Much as we are all affected by this movement indirectly, it seems perverse and even hypocritical that within our climes, we have men and women vociferously equivocating the Black Lives Matter slogan even posting the picture of darkness in their social media handles. All this in mock solidarity with the winds of the time in antipathy to their own perpetration of injustice to their fellow men within this nation.
Why would the fare-gormandizing bevy purport to feign solicitude with this noble initiative when they show no mercy to the pecuniary welfare of their masculine compatriots?
How many are in government employ and are paid a salary but still have to get their palms greased just to do the very job that they were employed to do? Corruption is a donkey that I have flogged on the pages of my publication so much that I don’t think I can add any more substance but still will. As a people we condone bribe-taking as long as we win that tender, escape culpability when caught on the wrong side of the law and even to get our children favours from scholarly institutions that will boost their egos majorly to the exclusion of their contemporaries. The culture of intellectualism is running on fumes in this nation as men and women bribe institutions of tertiary and quaternary education to get degree classifications and even postgraduate qualifications they have not earned. I have in the past decried the murkiness that has roped in even religious leaders who for a pittance, that is the ‘donation’ of a few million Kenya shillings have their heads turned and collective consciences roiled into zombie broth to trumpet a particular political agenda even one detrimental to the rank and file of the Republic. When you hear celebrants parroting similar refrains to some politicians about “kuna Mungu juu” and other abominable rhetoric in dissonance to well-founded Christian religious doctrine that the Almighty is Omnipresent and Omnipotent when their blackguardly benefactor has been accused of corruption, we know we are in big trouble as a country. When righteousness is a quality to be auctioned to the highest bidder at the court of mass ignorance on matters religious dogma, you can ill-afford to stand up with moral authority and feign solidarity for the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag elsewhere! Faith & Foolishness is a perilous cocktail.
There is a news headline that has been endemic on print and broadcast media in recent times about teenage lasses getting pregnant that definitely riles me to within a sliver of apoplexy. It pains to see minors, some not yet even fully schooled on the nuances of wiping their own noses having parental responsibilities laden onto their flimsy shoulders. Haven’t these little ones the right to protection against an affront on their own dignity inherent in every human being as per the strictures of Chapter 4, Article 28 of our Constitution? In some cases the pregnancies are as a result of biological experimentation gone awry between boys and girls trying to get an inkling on the functionality of the various structures of their anatomy particularly the nether regions! However, in a myriad other cases, it is the result of sexual abuse and coercion by older family members and even supposed familial acquaintances who are more often than not of the age of majority. Aren’t there statutes against Statutory Rape which is engagement of any form of sexual activity with a minor? Some try to atone for these egregious actions using traditional dispute resolution mechanisms like availing a goat to the father of the aggrieved, a handshake to boot and all is forgiven and forgotten. But what about the young lady whose life is ruined, who is now mentally tortured by a man who broke the bond of trust she had with them? If she gets pregnant, what becomes of her schooling and future at large after delivery and induction into motherhood? I feel now is the opportune time to take a stranglehold of affairs as we cannot afford to have so many young mothers whose future prospects of productivity are curtailed especially by sexual predators and paedophiles. Contrition for me is insufficient retribution for such far-reaching acts of aggression against another human being. Criminals need to cool their heels in the slammer! A call has been put out for the introduction of Sex Education, which for the most part is an argument that generates more heat than light. Also, I am forced to enquire about the operability of the Sexual offences bill antecedently tabled by Hon. Njoki Ndung’u and legislated into an Act of Law? In my considered opinion this law has had the efficacy of a dead rodent on the squirrel cage with regards to deterring such depravity!
The bulge of my ire is reserved for those still engaged in human trafficking and dabbling in modern-day slavery. I read and hear otherworldly tales about men and women who were recruited to work in foreign missions, went through the prerequisites to travel abroad and were carted to foreign climes only for the entire landscape to undergo a tectonic shift. They then had their Passports confiscated at the airport as the nirvana promised turned into an insufferable hell as they were consigned to a life of drudgery and ceaseless suffering in unpaid servitude with neither channels for recourse nor the probability of escape. We hear horror tales from the Middle East and North Africa of our compatriots tortured, subjected to criminally inhumane conditions, some murdered with their memories fading into oblivion which is not something that should be condoned any longer.
Tied to the paragraph above are Economic freedoms that are subjugated in this country that result in the above situation. The nation lacks a proper policy direction on the remuneration of technical skilled labour. There is often a call to the youth for the uptake of marketable and usable skills ultimately with the goal of self-employment. Many heed to these calls but eventually come to the realization that not everybody can be self-employed or competently run a business. Moreover, capital in itself is more often than not a limiting factor. So the young men and women are forced to flock towards employment. Rubber hits the road when it becomes clear that for many jobs, the mismatch between competence and remuneration level is as wide as the Gulf of Aden! Without mentioning specific jobs, we have those that were traditionally associated with the top cadre of students and the cream of the crop. There are those like procurement and business management that were the preserve of the B students. The painful pill to take is that sometimes if you referred to the payment schedule of some many companies the auditors, business managers, HR professionals, procurement officials among a few others are rewarded for their competence at a level far above those actually engaged in the technical side of things inclusive of Engineers. I have seen a company schedule that pays Engineers as low as 20,000 Shillings, their training notwithstanding against a salary of nearly 150K for a position loosely referred to as the Business Development Personnel. I could harp on end about autochthonous skilled labour being the essential cog in the attainment of Vision 2030 and the part of human resource in the actualization of SDGs but apparently as per the observations of George Orwell in his masterpiece; ‘The Animal Farm’ – All Animals were created Equal but some are decidedly more equal than others with regards to remuneration. That may be the reason it is more economically rewarding in Africa to be a Pastor preaching demented doctrine or even a Traditional Healer than the much-vaunted careers of old.
Linked closely to the Black Lives Matter furore in the United States is our own homegrown struggle against Police Brutality. In my pragmatic retrospection, a causal link has emerged where apparently if you give a man power and authority, his default setting is usually to abuse that priviledge to oppress the others subject to him. Police brutality bears eerily similar hallmarks in Kenya as in the apparently more civilized occidental climes. When President Uhuru Kenyatta issued the edict on the curfew and regional lockdowns, the police took up the mantle with uncommon gusto. Within the first day of enforcing curfew rules, already scenes of police overzealousness were evident for all to see. A video is doing rounds on the local media of a truck driver who was simply trying to beat the curfew and get home to his family being stopped by the police and flogged like a ‘mburukenge’ as if he committed some heinous crime. Such actions stink of not just pent up aggression within our police force but also a vengeance albeit envy of some sections of the population who the police now take advantage to victimize in this season. Scenes of extrajudicial killings have also been rife with media reports of a homeless man who was felled by a police bullet for failing to get home on time! What home is available to a homeless man? As a sage once put it, “the measure of the civilization of a society is assayed by how she treats her most vulnerable citizens.”
The issue of body shaming is a mercurial glissando which I feel I have insufficient Emotional Quotient to deal with considerately but will soldier on nonetheless. My reason to say this is that it is the quintessence of a double-edged sword or as the overly theatrical aptly put it, “trifling whilst the sword of Damocles dangles over your head!” I would be remiss if I failed to enunciate that the critical mass of indignation over the body-shaming thing is mostly manufactured outrage interspersed with thin skins! Many are the episodes where a young lady has posted a photo of herself in a negligee or bikini on social media seeking approbation and ends up opening a Pandora’s Box of unsolicited opinions and rather acerbic invectives. Don’t get me wrong, I am neither a connoisseur of the dark-art nor do I in any way support body shaming. Indeed, I have been inadvertently forced to play the role of a knight in shining armour in a few social media fora, many a time protecting damsels who brought not just distress but oodles of dishonour upon their own being. The internet may appear interesting and colourful but in actuality its crevices are the preserve of the recluse, quite a few who were not hugged enough as babies, some too shy to approach an actual flesh & blood member of the opposite gender, some full of bitterness about a past rejection, the bulk were insufficiently suckled by their mothers, some just congenitally perverse, some suffering from all sorts of psychotic episodes, others retrenched, some more under the weather with hormonal imbalance among other predicaments.
Rarely is a fully-clothed lady under fire except for the few unsavoury comments disparaging strained hairlines by years of plaiting with foreheads equated to airstrips and the precursory comparison of a lass’s perky bust with the betting odds of ‘Liverpool Kichwa!’ Much as I call for an end to the practice entreating the practitioners of such debauchery to get a life I would also like to beseech young ladies to refrain from posting half-nude photos online merely to chase clout! There is nothing new under the sun my sisters as there are more cerebral ways to earn followership on Social Media!
In closing remarks, not to disparage the real struggles faced by my own Negroid race out there I would encourage a new rallying call, a hashtag #AllLivesMatter as a way to implore those in authority to put in place safeguards against all forms of discrimination and vile treatment of fellow men. Additionally, let’s be creatures of temperance, civility & tolerance with each other. In the meantime Strategize… Organize… Mobilize… Viva la revolución! Aluta Continua! Boom-aye the down-trodden! An end to the remaining purveyors of cruel oppression.
It has been said that the true worth of a General is known on the day of war. As a country we have been beset by many challenges since independence. The first three that come to my mind are Poverty, Illiteracy & Disease. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom as there are days when we have enjoyed the glory and honour of being word-beaters. When Wilson Kiprugut Chumo won our country her First Medal at the Olympics; a Bronze Medal in the 880 yards race – a precursor to the 800m in 1964, I can assure you there was no dry eye in the house. The tears here being those of joy & triumph! Jubilation was complete 4 years later when Naphtali Temu & Kipchoge Keino beat star-studded casts including the defending Olympic champions to win us our First Gold Medals. When we qualified for our First African Cup of Nations Tournament in 1972, it was a spectacle to behold!
However, many are the times we have turned our nation into an irreverent mess borne out of strife for resources, dishonesty, mediocrity and tribalism. We have found ourselves fighting our erstwhile brothers just because of elections. But what is the result? We are oft left to bury our kith and kin and work hard to rekindle the relationships we ruined, while the tribal Lords we fought for kiss, make-up, probably have newer relationships so amorous that they become the subject of newer scandals. All this is washed down with expensive whiskey, scotch, tea and ‘mandazi’ worth millions!
Then come 2020 we have been dealt a year so calamitous, there have been few to be replicated by this one in a long time. This is exactly what the Romans characterized as ‘annus horribilis’ – horrible year, one not worthy of recollection with undiluted pleasure in days to come as the current British monarch once postured of 1992! In Kenya, we lost a former Head of State (the longest-serving one) H.E. Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (CGH ) the day immediately after a tragedy that claimed almost two dozen pupils in one of our Kenyan primary schools.
Almost in close succession the Chairman of the ruling coalition suffered a serious road crash, coming to within a pig’s whisker of sleeping with the fallen sovereign while rushing to the ceremony to inter the colossus. We have had ceaseless rains, which in their fury have only worked to expose our weak infrastructure and debride our fragile ecosystems. What with landslides, talus creep, rock falls, eroded roads and bridges, gulleys the size of the Great Rift Valley and deleterious soil erosion. Internationally, it’s been open-season for hunting by the grim-reaper. The most tragic of the losses I have had the unenthusiastic sorrow to commiserate was the loss of the great basketball superstar Kobe Bryant – a Hall of Fame shoo-in and former great for the Los Angeles Lakers, a standard-bearer of the impact of tenacity and grit in the attainment of greatness.
Back in Kenya, we lost a preeminent scholar, TV-anchor and proponent of not just the Kiswahili language but intellectualism as a lifestyle that is the great Prof. Kennedy Walibora Waliaula Wafula. This is a man that could have easily decided to live out the rest of his days in foreign climes where his skills, competence and scholarly pursuits have been appreciated by the academic turf in the United States where the rest of his family have set up permanent abode. He decided to come back to his motherland to develop it as any patriotic citizen would yearn to but what was his recompense? He died like a dog after sustaining a cracked jaw, two missing teeth, deep stab wounds and intracranial haemorrhage after an attack by unknown assailants! In his quest for self-preservation he ran onto a busy highway and was knocked almost into orbit by a speeding motor vehicle on Landhies road. That this distinguished and acclaimed personality lay for 14 hours at Kenyatta National hospital, treatment not forthcoming until he lost the battle for his life is macabre to the obscene. The unknown assailants are still at large at the time of me going live on my keyboard!
I’m provoked to muse about the infernal vanity of life while debating whether or not to yank out my own liver, feed it to the village hound and just join the ancestral pool myself! If this could happen to a TV personality we have all watched and revere, what of that anonymous drunk pulled out of the trench in the morning within a sliver of ‘rigour-mortis’ as a direct consequence of alcohol poisoning, what dignity is he to be accorded on the treatment table if his turn actually comes?
Just when the storm seemed to taper into a lull, it actually blew the roof off! This is my characterization of the Novel Corona Virus global pandemic making landfall on our jurisdiction. If our health infrastructure was indisposed then, it should actually go into ICU consequent to this heavy-weight pugilist’s thwack! When reports started doing rounds on social media that there was an unheralded virus, unlike any other known to man decimating the population of Wuhan city in Hubei Province; People’s Republic of China, many dismissed it as someone else’s problem. “That is what they get for eating unholy animals,” a few religious fanatics sneered. “Didn’t your mother tell you not to merely put anything you see in your mouth?” a few others cajoled. We made these biting allegations but did little to curtail travel out of that region to our own. Then it seemed that this was a woe merely reserved to a single nation. Subsequently, the entire thing went mainstream and exploded globally. Ineptitude didn’t manifest much worse than when in New year; the Leader of the Free World and Global Superpower – America, an honour that should never have, but is now bestowed upon the slightly capable hands of the ‘stable-genius’ that’s Donald Trump received intelligence about this pernicious virus! Then totally distracted, he dismissed this entire thing as an external threat that would never reach ‘our soil.’ Pressed further he dismissed it as a ‘Flu’ that will come and go like many other iterations of the Corona-virus we have seen before. SARS-COV-2 was relegated to the back-burner! Then the more pressing issue was the display of the capabilities of the terminator-drone that was to deliver blood & iron albeit fire & fury upon designated terrorists in Iran. Better options abounded but none more appealing to the Commander-In-Chief than the tour-de-force to pass the message of military might. On the morning of 3rd January 2020, Baghdad International Airport woke up to a fireworks display as an MQ-9 predator drone delivered 4 hellfire laser-guided missiles that pulverized the vehicle carrying two of Iranian military heavyweights; Maj. Gen. Quassem Soleimani & Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis ‘The Engineer’ into charred debris! ‘The Engineer’ had a long rap sheet but that’s a story for another day.
Unclassified CIA dossiers notwithstanding, the Covid-19 Pandemic has taken the hammer and tongs approach more against U.S.A than anyone would have envisaged. With more than 1.5 Million now infected, slightly more than 301,000 recovered and a gargantuan 93,806 crimped out of the daily-bread rations – as they lie dead, look at where ‘just a flu’ has taken our brothers in the occident! Western Europe and most of Asia; superior healthcare systems notwithstanding, are now bearing the brunt of this pandemic with the entire global economy now in shambles.
Kenya didn’t cover herself in glory either as far as pre-pandemic precautions were concerned when we rolled out the proverbial red carpet for several Chinese Jet-liners, some even from the very epicentre of Wuhan to land at our International airport with the paper-thin caveat to our guests, “just self-quarantine for 14 days” without any mechanism for enforcing this edict. For our indiscretion and erroneous judgement; we have reaped our doom with national infections at the time of authoring this piece topping 1029, exactly 366 have recovered and 50 as we say in Western Kenya, “wametolewa kwa share ya Obusuma!” – They are no longer with us! A culture shock has been the first consequence of the Covid-19 on our lifestyles as we can no longer even communally attend the burial ceremonies of village luminaries deserving of a ‘Shilemba (grandiose interment)!’ Funerals have become an intimate affair attended by close family, Ministry of Health aficionados and the local administration. Look at the low-key affair that was the occasion where former Minority Leader & his brother a legislator no less, had to suffer the ignominy of burying their younger sibling in a hurried ceremony, guys in Hazmat suits as pallbearers and casket draped in air-tight polythene material. Ideally, in Western Kenya this is the sort of funeral that brings minor earth tremors by its sheer attendance. But for this one, even the much-acclaimed ‘Disco-Matanga’ was now deader than the long antecedently extolled Dodo! What a price to pay for being alive in 2020.
As in times gone-by, masks were considered the hallmark of disdainful tourists when they visited our country and bandanas on the face associated with youthful revolt; however, today it has become a necessary item of apparel to prevent droplet transmission of the virus.
Presently, washing of hands with alcohol-based sanitizer or antiseptic soap is no longer a marker of courtesy but the ‘sine-qua-non’ of accessing any of the remaining public spaces regarded as essential services. Many of the establishments we took for granted are now locked and no longer accessible even by the business owners themselves. Today, social distancing is no longer the preserve of the introvert & hermit but the desideratum to avoiding those potentially carrying the virus. Needless to state, we are all potential carriers unless proven safe by medical tests. We now have a pathological agent that is nonresponsive to any medication we have used for its relatives and whose infestation doesn’t engender immunity after suffering from it as infections have been seen to recur perhaps with a greater vengeance which is quite disconcerting if not downright petrifying. The innocuous action shaking of hands is now confined to the annals of forgotten history, a crying shame. Prior to 2019, ‘Corona’ was a long-cherished Latin word denoting a ‘Crown’ but henceforth will eternally be tainted with nefarious connotations tangent to what we are being dealt presently.
I would be remiss, if I failed at this juncture to delve into the realm of conjecture and proffer my slightly-layman opinion on the origins of the SARS-COV-2 virus. In antipathy to the cross-species transmission theories out there; though some have jocularly been confirmed by our neighbouring country’s President Pombe Magufuli, methinks the virus was actually a synthetic creation either for biological warfare, medical research or a fool’s day prank created by a cohort of virologists and genetic engineers in the lab at the University of Wuhan that escaped their clutches. It has reliably been established that the virus has a spike protein that facilitates the fusion of viral and cellular membranes analogous to the glycoprotein41, indigenous to HIV-1 (The HIV you know from the Local Billboards in the 90’s). Additionally, this virus shares characteristics and virulence concomitant with H1N1 (Swine Flu), A/H1N1 (Spanish flu that wreaked havoc more than a century ago), H5N1 (Avian Influenza), Equine (horses), Bovine (cows), Feline (cats) and Canine (dogs) Corona Influenza. A thread is emerging to confirm my hypothesis. The other Coronaviruses are similar in form & shape but the SARS-CoV-2 appears to have a few features that are phenotypically and genetically dissimilar to the others in the general family of ‘Coronaviridae’. The spike protein seems to have been grafted from HIV and serendipitously took root on COVID-19! My theory, as my basic know-how of virology, ends here.
Blame-game galore has been the logical ramification of all these, as we live in a deeply adversarial society that is more adept at apportioning culpability than exalting excellence in the other man. From one nation sending a Bill of Reparations and invoice for damages wrought upon her national economy to China to others blaming industrial pollution for the mutation of the existing Coronaviruses, we have heard it all. Most ignominious and one that hits home for me has been some academically obtuse and professionally unconversant individuals trying to apportion the blame squarely on the revolutionary and futuristic 5G mobile technology for the pandemic which cannot be further from the truth. The new 5G technology is a game-changing improvement on the existing modes of telecommunication with radiowaves having no medical history of adversely altering the cells of living things or even detrimentally scorching them. If radiation could in itself damage living tissue, then all life on earth would have been extinguished long-ago from all the infrared, visible light and ultraviolet light we get bombarded with from the sun ceaselessly! Notice here, I have put visible light as that from your torch as having a higher frequency than the radiowaves used for telecommunication as far as the Electromagnetic Spectrum is concerned.
In Ireland some boorish characters have gone as far as razing 5G-Telecommunication masts. Perhaps, self-destructive irascibility is the curse of the Irish or so they say!
For many years Americans joked about a man incompetent enough to bring down a casino – where the house always wins and all, becoming their Head of State until they portentously made it a reality in 2016! Now that circus has become worldwide entertainment. From going off tangent and promoting the efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine as the panacea to the worldwide contagion contrary to the empirical wisdom that can only be delivered by his often red-faced Secretary for Health to a campaign for the ingestion of antiseptic liquid sanitizer and injection with ultra-violet rays, apparently ‘keeping the bull (D. Trump) off the China shop’ is becoming the real job at the Whitehouse!
Locally, we are most grateful all the cheap politicking has been brought to just a murmur. From the unregulated fund-raisers aimed at narrow-gains for a few to the weakly dancing to the beat of the ‘Tsunami’, all this was ground to a halt by the pandemic of our time. It has become apparent that neither the politicians nor the religious leaders have any meaningful answers in the midst of a real crisis. Many are just charlatans, chatter-boxes and story-tellers without an iota of dexterity on how leadership is to be executed. Just faux-hustlers & hangers-on! However; as the sage opined, “Every crisis is an opportunity.” Ranks have been closed by the rank and file of our political tapestry to engage in national prayer meetings & other meaningful engagements.
Those previously chided as being unqualified even for the gubernatorial seats they hold are now the shining lights to the rest of the nation on the serious measures that are within their purview and which they can build themselves.
A governor in Central Kenya has taken the cue and built an ICU facility for his local County Referral Hospital within a record 10 days! Where was all this initiative hiding? The President not to be left behind is taking this juncture to drain the swamp and relieve his regime of all who have been dragging him back for the last 7 years in power. This is a man, seeing the end in sight and nought by means of a legacy is now working the guillotine to ensure his Big 4 Agenda; by and large, most of his manifesto comes to fruition. Dead-wood is now going under the bus, which for now I must laud as it’s in the best interest of the Republic. Also I feel this pandemic is a great amalgamator as it has proven to be non-discriminative on who it infects. It seems to have a hankering for the more affluent and older demographic just as the hoi-polloi. The aforementioned moneyed Kenyans who had admission to San Tropez, the Maldives and the Cayman Islands at least once every year can no longer even access the ‘Medical-Mecca’ that is India and sometimes Israel as every nation is looking out for the safety of its nationals. You cannot justify the entry of some ‘outsider’ already suffering from the same condition you are actually putting containment measures against. I feel the real opportunity here is that the national Health infrastructure will benefit greatly from this pandemic as all of us are deemed equal in the eyes of Covid-19 and will all be hospitalized and nursed back to health here and nowhere else! The foreign countries have a right to exercise nationalism, even some covert racism against inept and dishonourable rulers who plunder their national healthcare systems because they make zero use of it themselves. Covid-19 is the great equalizer in this regard just as death which will be the dole of the ill-fated.
We have been crying for the funding of youth innovation for an eon but today home-grown talent has made us proud by using locally available materials to build ventilators, respirators, proximity-sensors for temperature and other medical equipment that is usually imported at a premium to the detriment of not just the balance of trade but our need for autochthonous solutions to our problems. Others in our Medical Science Research Laboratories are burning the candle at both ends to be on the leading-edge of inventing the cure for this armageddon decimating our current civilization. This is the kind of initiative that oft leaves me with tears of glee welling up in my eyes in full cognizance that innovation and industrialization are the only way that Kenya will ever claim its seat at the table of developing nations in the quest for 1st World Country Status. This works further as conclusive evidence to bolster the well-touted sentiments, “Brilliance is evenly distributed but Opportunity for expression only sparsely.”
Able Leadership is something else we have gained from this crisis. Mutahi Kagwe has been thrown in at the deep end at the worst epoch in global medical history let alone the Kenyan scenario. Without any medical experience to pontificate, he nevertheless is doing a good job with regards to marshaling his troops; the medical professionals that are our front-line soldiers in this struggle against an unseen combatant. Unconfirmed reports of financial impropriety and weak accountability fly around, but in my considered opinion think that is the embodiment of cheap politicking we need less of during this time of crisis. Hopefully, the ‘Mandazi and tea’ never cost 10M!
It is at this time that I go down on my knees and thank the Almighty for the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta & Prime Minister (Emeritus) Rt. Hon. Raila A. Odinga that has brought the much-needed placidity for national development and introspection. I shudder to imagine the situation if in the midst of this pandemic, we would have been receiving information at dichotomy on the Covid-19 pandemic from the Ministry of Health Headquarters from Mutahi Kagwe only to be refuted by the Shadow Minister of Health ostensibly Hon. Dr. Simiyu Eseli Live from Orange House, Westlands – Nairobi.
There would be minimal clarity and it would be an absolute farce playing out in the public gallery. All the resultant protests, ‘mapambano’, ‘quasi-kamukunjis’ and stone-throwing at odds with the social distancing directive wouldn’t be to anyone’s benefit. I am certain our infection and death-tolls would be off the charts in this undesirable alternate universe. If you think such mediocrity and absolute disregard to magnanimity even in the face of crisis is other-worldly, look at the American situation at present. There is no love lost between the ruling Republicans and Opposition Democrats now taking cheap shots at each other. The national figure of lampoon, their President is busy telling all and sundry how he takes the ‘chloroquine thing’ daily as a precautionary measure while the counterstrike from the Democrat Speaker of the House of Representatives though conciliatory in opening remarks hits back tacitly that the President’s age and ‘morbid obesity’ exist as risk factors that predispose him to sudden death consequent to use of self-prescribed medication for a condition whose cure is yet unknown; in no uncertain terms, even predisposition to the virus itself. We can do less with such absurdity in Kenya!
The environment has been the primary beneficiary from the slow-down of daily pollution by industries and air quality is now so good you can actually see the Pyramids of Giza from Roysambu if the memes are to be taken prima-facie! Maybe not them but Mt. Kenya.
Some instances of fauna that had been almost going extinct consequent of being too shy to mate now go about the business devoid of distractions and nosey humans getting in their grill, so to say.
The Quandary occasioned by social distancing has meant ‘working from Home’ has become the new norm for many. Even learning activities in the ordinary sense have been disrupted and the normal school calendar involving some curricular activities, a dash of music festival here, a sprinkle of sporting there, sandwiching a sliver of the drama festival have all been pilfered to the four winds of the earth! But human ingenuity has meant that use of technology in not just learning but working has been incorporated. Zoom, Skype, Slack VC, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, YouTube Live, Facebook Live among a plethora of other platforms have become the new ‘lingua franca’ with regards to getting work done via Video Conferencing. However; as pertains to the Kenyan situation, these modes are only feasible for the middle-class and the affluent. The mass-market; as is used in corporate parlance to denote the hoi-polloi, has mostly children running about the neighbourhoods or helping their parents in some errand or other in absolute disregard to the continuation of learning elsewhere via the aforementioned futuristic modes. The President a few weeks ago received some flack for launching high-altitude, stratospheric balloons for enhancing wireless connectivity as many bemoaned a lack even of the most basic of devices for the uptake of that same resource. Priorities looked warped for a President that indubitably has displayed a streak of being out of touch with the realities on the ground, many opined plaintively. Though working from home is impractical for many Kenyans whose work is majorly labour-intensive and transportation-based; for those actually fortuitous to able to, it is an onerous opportunity to bond with their children and perhaps that long-suffering spouse who has been neglected for an eon! With bars closed for the foreseeable future, the discerning have taken to Online Courses to gain new skills or polish up on the soft skills they already have.
The take-home from this whole fiasco is the enduring resilience we possess as a people. So far, our response has been better than expected and death-tolls lower than what WHO had portended for Kenya and most of the 3rd World. There are no dead bodies on our streets which is admirable. Kudos to our medical practitioners! We are now markedly a cleaner people who though surviving in part by the mercy of God have had to dispense with this unhealthy infatuation with religious leaders laying their mostly decrepit hands-on members of the congregation ostensibly to deliver divine healing! We all are aware what Pandora’s Box such actions have unfurled for a renowned evangelist in this nation at the time of my going to press. So rather than complain about bars being closed, missing out on English Football, the camaraderie of fellow drunkards and perhaps the congregation in our respective places of worship; let’s accept that the social distancing rule is all in our best interests and ensuring our survival. This may even be the new normal until a functional vaccine is developed. But for the time being Sanitize, Social Distance and Suit up on your mask. That one of coughing in the elbow is a 50-50 for me!
Is there a situation worse in this world than feeling insecure in your own home? From victims of international terrorism, domestic terrorism, crime, the primitive art of cattle rustling, brutalization at the hands of security agents and extrajudicial killings as some of the malfeasance Kenyans still have to grapple with 56 years after independence. At a time when we try our hand at a constitutional democracy, our neighbours are busy beset by despotism, failed states, terrorism, mediocre inter-clan strife, open-sea piracy, needless civil strife for minerals stoked by greedy proxies, a volatile Arabian Gulf projecting their rivalries to the horn of Africa. Some of the nations proximal to us are hell-bent on an insatiable expansionist agenda with a view to impinge on our sovereignty and territorial integrity usurping it both on land and in the high seas. It becomes desperate to attempt to engender civil liberties in the face of hatred, division and subjugation. We therefore as a nation must be vigilant to deter any propaganda or physical attack perpetuated by militant organizations against our constitutional order.
Fighting terrorism effectively entails safeguarding the constitutional order from a global enemy opposed to civil liberties, a secular government, religious pluralism and democracy. Corruption among sections of the security apparatus has ensured that our efforts at neutralizing security threats come to naught. Just as in the 1990’s when Organized Crime existing as bank robberies were the order of the day and the likes of Wanugu, Rasta & Wacucu played hide and seek against security dragnets, ably assisted by irredeemably corrupt and avaricious security personnel; today the threat is infinitely greater as security intelligence is peddled to the highest bidder to the detriment of the citizenry.
Entrenched cartels in security procurement have ensured our frontline security agents are denied proper equipment to mount a meaningful challenge against better-armed assailants. The consequence is burying our young men and women in the KDF and National Police Service, their nascent potential crushed under the weight of greed and the asininity of their bosses!
Ethnicity is a stick of dynamite thrown into this powder keg! Our political contests, primarily organized on the fickle tenets of a tribal census ensure that a disproportionate amount of national security effort has to be applied to mostly silence the aggrieved majority and cool down tension among the ranks of the losing side; sometimes even required to douse the exuberant celebrations of the ‘winning’ side, of course with the attendant brute force from people who are better at executing orders first then comprehending them later! Additionally, county boundary disputes should be settled to an amicable and impartial conclusion. Sometimes, adverse weather conditions have a deleterious effect on our water, pasture and food nexus. In the backdrop of lost pasture and livestock as a consequence of unpredictable droughts, communities devoid of climate resilience have been forced into violent restocking initiatives now part and parcel of organized crime.
Sometimes in my musings, I’m left to wonder if deaths as a result of floods on well-documented hotspots like Budalangi, Nyando flood basin, TanaRiver and other trouble spots should any longer be categorized as catastrophes a.k.a acts of God? This is because incidences here have become too predictable especially in this era of information-driven, computer modelling technology coupled with rapid information dissemination! However; tears, pain and regret have eternally become the portion of the ignorant, foolhardy, obstinate and doubting Thomases. Urbanization in Kenya is at a rate unprecedented and incomparable to any other time in history. Poor policy, greed and incompetence of successive governments has ensured urbanization is converse to industrialization. The youth bulge being a direct consequence, manifests in the social ills of joblessness, hunger, drug abuse, despair in the midst of intense energy and restlessness that is the requisite substrate for the proliferation of a militant agenda, terrorist recruitment, radicalization and all-round ‘Thug-life.’ Needless to say, this is at odds with development and prosperity. A secure Kenya is not just a responsibility of security personnel and institutions but every arm of government as well as the citizenry, private sector and civil society.
The Major recommendations tabled with regard to Safety and Security include:
Every life in Kenya should be deemed sacrosanct and valuable as articulated constitutionally in Chapter 4, Article 26 – The value of life is impacted by violence, insecurity and poor safety standards that are not universal across the country. We have a variance to the consequences of crime depending on your locality. A life lost to murder in the poverty-stricken domain of Loima and Mathare slums is adjudged less deserving of the prevention measures, investigation and prosecutorial attention accorded to a similar life in the affluent suburbs of Muthangari & Kitsuru! Such a revolution requires equal distribution of security and legal resources.
Popular-driven National Security Strategy – Cognizance should be nurtured that security requires a multifaceted approach reflected as a National Security and Safety Strategy (revamped every 2 years & by every incoming president within the First 100 days in Office). This should be people-driven, proactive, preventive and predictive.
Ameliorate vulnerability to resource conflicts, disasters, emergencies and food insecurity – This plan can be put to action by operationalizing a comprehensive National Emergency, Disaster and Crisis Management Strategy that is anchored in law and linked to the county, sub-county and Ward level disaster response plans reviewed periodically.
Link the National Disaster Risk System to the Contingencies Fund (Article 208) in its act of establishment.
Establish preemptive and rapid response strategies to common major disasters such as flooding and drought.
Stratify and develop a hierarchy of the various levels and types of emergencies whose response is to be led by National Government and Counties. These should be linked to the National and County Contingency funds.
Prevent Communal resource conflicts by ensuring that County boundaries are drawn to maximize sharing of water and pasture among other resources.
Protect consumers of Food and Medicine from shadily procured, grown or developed products that are harmful to their health and wellbeing. The Kenya Food and Drugs Administration in concert with the Kenya Bureau of Standards should be more active with regards to enforcement of standards.
Counter-terrorism is a multisectoral initiative that requires multiple tools to address it not just the security apparatus – This will come to fruition only as a fruit of the political, social and cultural defenses against the precursors of terrorism. This will reduce the pool of recruits and ultimately delegitimize the aims of our national nemeses.
Coordinate and mainstream prevention of radicalization and violent extremism initiatives in the Ministries of Health, Education, Youth, Cultural Heritage and Sport.
Defending Kenya against terrorists should be a tactical endeavour, implemented by regulated protective security standards for all sectors and most cautiously among heavily-trafficked properties owned by the private sector.
Invest in innovation and coordination to strengthen every part of the counterterrorism terrain with a focus on making initiatives geared at defeating it world-class both with regards to equipment and policywise. We should borrow a leaf from the movie sequel ‘Bad Boys for Life’ where as opposed to the long-established and antiquated modus-operandi of policing involving chasing criminals on foot or shootouts in the streets while hanging from the doors of cars; let’s take advantage of modern technology methods like Predictive Analytics, use of Big data and High Performance Computing, Criminal Databases, Forensic Analysis, Ethical Hacking of suspicious sites and use of Drone Technology both for surveillance and neutralising of criminal targets. Terrorism and Crime are strange bedfellows whose evolution is as equally dynamic as global technology.
Our Cybersecurity dexterity ought to be elevated to the next level as our economy is gradually becoming digital and online. The next frontier for the ‘feloniously-inclined’ is ‘white-collar’ crime committed by well-educated, suave, urbane, suited-up technocrats in our offices. Even our much-vaunted IFMIS system has not been spared the vagaries of system vulnerabilities. Tactical nous and technology that has been mentioned in the paragraph above must be implemented not just to safeguard our systems but also create employment for the many graduates in Information Technology that have been painstakingly put through our institutions of higher learning. Otherwise, how are they going to repay their HELB loan? We need a consistent strengthening of national cybersecurity skills, processes, laws and infrastructure. Going forward, we need to see more computer gurus with their thick-framed spectacles strutting the precincts of the local police stations as much as the odd-ball, clueless characters exercising laissez-faire in manning the good, old Occurrence Book!
Operationalize a Victim Protection Fund to protect those directly aggrieved by ignominious acts of terrorism.
Review diplomatic relations with state sponsors of terrorism, religious extremism, expansionism and irredentism. Diplomacy is often our first line of action as military action is often expensive and has negative implications. Resource the Ministry of Foreign affairs to the same tune as the Ministry of Internal security and The National Intelligence department.
Professionalize and better regulate private security companies and their guards to deliver better services integrated with State security so that it adheres to the highest standards. The arming of private security personnel should be considered; as more often than not, they find themselves in the frontlines of criminal activity often fighting a lopsided fight which they lose.
What chance does a guy holding a wooden club have against gun-toting delinquents?Historical precedence should be considered as during the 1998 terrorist attack on theU.S Embassy in the Nairobi Central Business District, it’s the onerous and intuitive response of the un-armed Basement parking Security attendant that averted a greater disaster should the explosive-rigged trucks have been detonated at basement level!
Strengthen Police Performance, mental health and wellness of the National Police Service by and large the entire National Security and Defence apparatus – Clarify Key Performance Indicators for Police Commanders from the Inspector General downwards to their charges and link this to national crime and security statistics (based on counties, gender and citizen perceptions). This should be the yardstick for promotion and performance-based incentives.
Henceforth, eliminate corruption in recruitment by instituting heavy penalties for perverting the course of meritocracy in the process. Create a transparent Human Resource system that is digital and with clearly outlined processes for promotion and transfer. This must entail measurable past performance, internal courses, exams and citizen feedback on abuse of office & corruption. Buttress integrity and effectiveness by recognizing and rewarding excellence, dedication and sacrifice by both officers and citizens.
Put in accessible and well-resourced mental health, wellness counselling and treatment for police officers. Take good care of those returning from frontline roles that expose them to extreme physical and psychological trauma. It’s instructive to be aware that Security Agents are human and will definitely be adversely affected by the human suffering and death they see on a daily basis.
Secure Citizens from Personal Threats – First redress boundary conflicts that threaten national and societal security. Establish a commission to address current boundary conflicts.
Institute court proceedings that guarantee protection and safety of whistleblowers, witnesses and informants as they are pivotal in any war against not just crime and terror but ultimately effective prosecution. Crime and terror always fight back!
Every new road in an urban area should have legally enforceable, inbuilt provisions for a sidewalk for pedestrians and specified lanes for cyclists. Signage should be clear.
Improve Citizen Conflict resolution and mediation skills by inculcating these skills in the curriculum throughout the Kenyan Educational life. Add to these negotiation and counseling skills.
Prioritize combatting Gender-based and Sexual Violence.
CHAPTER 11: COMMISSIONS AND CROSS-CUTTING
Nairobi occupies a special place in the geopolitics of the modern world as it’s not only the commercial and administrative capital of Kenya but also the extra-territorial seat of the United Nations. Concomitantly, Nairobi is dissimilar to other Kenyan counties and cannot be relegated to existing as an equal with them. As such, the Commission for Revenue Allocation should consider this special status and accord it slightly more than the others as the resource demands of our national capital are infinitely greater.
On 26th March 1975 discourse between the United Nations & the Government of Kenya ended in an agreement entailing how UN Environment Programme will be located and how that location will affect service provision and amenities to it. The fallout of that decision is in Kenya becoming a diplomatic hub as many nations try to gain a foothold on United Nation Agencies for the benefit of their respective jurisdictions.
The New recommendations in the BBI taskforce report are that Nairobi should be accorded special recognition such that the national government be allowed the discretion to provide the services and facilitation that maintain the clout of Nairobi as both the National Seat of Power and diplomatic hub. While at this, the Rights of the residents to representation at the Ward and Parliamentary level should still be upheld.
A major problem with governance in Kenya is the overlapping of responsibilities between various agencies. This of course, results in inefficiency and exorbitant costs to run government. There are cases when the strictures of a particular Regularory Authority are challenged by a player in the field and their grouse forwarded to an appeal tribunal arbitrating conflicts for that particular authority. Quixotically, this anomaly is replicated for almost all Regulatory Authorities which is costly and creates an avenue for perversion of that system by frivolous claims and malicious players. Another problem is expensive Commissions of Inquiries that more often than not are a drain of national resources more than the panacea to the problem they are created to alleviate. So prestigious has it become to be named to a national commission in Kenya, that my compatriots virtually hold home-coming parties in their ancestral homes and with all the festivities that come with it! Afterwards, delegations are sent to Statehouse from the locality of extraction of the benefactor of this post, bearing gifts of livestock, grain and fruit to proffer unequivocal gratitude and approbation to the Head of State for bestowing this great honour upon their kinsman. Sometimes the circumstances occasioning the Commission of inquest are less than pleasant, as a Cabinet Secretary may have been assassinated in ghastly, macabre yet mysterious circumstances but as the sage opined, ‘One man’s loss is another’s treasure!’ From sitting allowances, out of town allowance, per diems, extraneous allowance, entertainment allowance, lunch allowance to add onto a hefty salary and other emoluments is more than a slap across the face of many citizens living the Third world life of less than a Dollar a day but getting taxed exorbitantly to support such disproportionate expenditure.
With regards to National Commissions, some of the Recommendations made include:
Separating the Obligation to conduct criminal investigations from that to enforce Ethics in public service – Henceforth, the task of reporting on, promoting and enforcing ethical conduct will lie with the proposed Ethics Commission recommended in the Chapter on National Ethos.
Each Independent commission will have internal accountability systems for separation of powers – Appointment and promotion will be out of the purview of the team for censure and interdictions.
Rigorous Audits – This will ensure citizens get value for money as sound principles of public financial management will be upheld in every Arm of Government and Public Institution.
Improve the link between investigation and prosecution – The bromance that has been brewed between the offices of Director of Criminal Investigation and The Director of Public Prosecution has been a breath of fresh air, as the political will to fight hard-core crime and high-profile corruption is now forthcoming. Going forward, more of this will be required as these two act well and in concert with the judiciary incorruptibly. Fund both offices proportionately so that money is not an object in fighting crimes like corruption that most definitely have the muscle to fight back.
Rationalise the mandates of regulatory bodies and eliminate duplication of duty – This is much needed to ensure transparency, value for money, prompt service for regulatory compliance.
Strengthen the Government Chemist – To enhance their efficiency.
Create a Unified and assertive Food & Drugs Administrative body- This will ensure all Foods and Drugs are tested and regulated before consumption.
Senate & National Assembly review – The checks and balances system in the legislature is need for review to ascertain suitability and remove replication of responsibility.
Harmonious running of Chapter 15 Commissions – This will redress the power struggles in these bodies. Forthwith, Chairpersons will also be Chief Executive officers to eschew the absurdity occasioned by two centres of power that in the past exposed deep-seated rifts. Kenyans are no doubt traumatized after being forced to watch the inadvertent ‘pissing contest’ in the IEBC as Wafula Chebukati and Ezra Chiloba tussled for relevance and authority! No additional allowances will be given for additional responsibilities.
I would additionally recommend at least one Commissioner with a qualification in Information Technology to the Independent Elections & Boundaries Commission (IEBC) if that’s the path we have decided to take with future electoral processes. We needn’t have absolute ignorance among the commissioners in case Servers are supposed to be opened to assay the actual results of an election!
Part-time Commissioners – Half of the Commissioners in Chapter 15 Commissions except IEBC should serve on a part-time basis. As Article 249 subsection 3 of the current constitution has been virtually trampled underfoot such that independence of Chapter 15 commissions is compromised, it must be restituted to operation for the benefit of our Republic.
Consolidate Administrative tribunals – Relationships between Regulatory Authorities and their respective appeal tribunal must be harmonized to resolve the uncouth circumstance currently in play where impartial adjudication of disputes between industry players and regulators has become a by-word. The fact that every Regulatory Authority has its tribunal is becoming extortionate on the exchequer. A proposal has been mooted that one National Administrative Appeals tribunal encompassing the various thematic appeal tribunals will be set up. Additionally, even those regulatory bodies themselves will have to be reduced by having an initiative to simplify & harmonize their mandates. We need fewer and better-implemented regulations in efforts to defeat the contagion of corruption among these bodies.
Corruption is the biggest impediment to the development of any nation. By its very definition, it bestows an undeserved advantage upon one individual to the detriment of many others. Nothing puts the scissors to the social fabric like the notion that no matter how hard you work there is a ceiling to just how lofty your ambitions are tailored to reach.
The perception of a rigged system is more limpid today than at any other time in history. Now picture this, at least in a way not to cast aspersions on any individuals’ characters. One man; a professional no doubt, secured employment almost immediately after graduation at Coca-Cola East Africa Limited. Shortly after, he resigns and the next day is tapped by Africa Online Group as a Marketing Manager. He soon becomes disenfranchised with the post and leaves in a huff but is promptly picked up by Kenya Breweries Limited as a Sales Operations Manager. Ay pronto, he throws in the towel only to be enlisted by Haco Industries as Managing Director, staying a while longer here before predictably leaping onto the next horse – Vivo Energy, as Country CEO. Gun drama with an errant distributor; notwithstanding, civic duty beckons as he leaves the post for the high calling of Deputy Governor of the County hosting the Capital City – an unequivocally high honour. He throws his toys out of the pram only five months later, when square ideological pegs are deemed impossible to fit into round slots, resigning only to land on the lap of Equity Bank as Chief Commercial Officer, getting promoted to Managing Director in 3 months’ time. This job denies him the intellectual stimulus he yearns for and he lurches back to Vivo Energy where the Executive VP for African sales position was being kept warm for him. So now after the agonizing throes of a seven-figure salary, he’s back at Equity Bank as Chief Commercial Officer again!
Ladies and gentlemen, this may sound like the legendary tale of Simon Makonde but is the true story of one well-heeled professional’s career in Kenya. Though all men were created equal, some are decidedly more equal than others! Within the same period, many a graduate from the same university, with similar credentials have walked their shoes worn without even finding an entry-level position in the first company the aforementioned individual worked in! How are you to convince anybody that the terrain of success is not tilted in favour of a select few to the despondency of many of their contemporaries? Cronyism and Corruption are highly regarded in modern-day Kenya as meritocracy is relegated to the annals of a dipsomaniac’s recollections. This in due course will prove an Achilles-heel in our attainment of cohesion and security.
So audacious is the abuse of public trust in Kenya today, that thieves are exalted and paraded on pedestals, called even at the tabernacles of our Centres for Spiritual Nourishment to share their wisdom with the faithful; all the while, the incorruptible that are in actual sense the prudent ones are lampooned for letting their chance to ‘eat’ pass them by! It’s a crying shame that many of our children now experience the virtue of honesty as an attenuated and diminishing principle of life so that with every succeeding generation smut, grime and mediocrity are raised as the standard-bearer while honour is virtually relegated to pig-swill! Abuse of office by leaders at every level is the prime-mover in the depreciation of the moral conduct of our society. Since the promulgation of our newly-minted constitution in 2010, attempts to enact legislation to the strictures that are enshrined in Chapter 6 of our constitution [Leadership & Integrity] against corruption have come a cropper. The main culprits being the political and business class that seek personal aggrandizement by fiddling with the procedure for public expenditure. The lure of unmerited financial gain through holding public office is so ingrained that it often results in negative ethnicization and militarization of political contests. Partaking in corruption panders to the Lowest Common denominator where the unethical, unscrupulous and unqualified are all adjudged suitable for the task. This ultimately kills any drive towards national prosperity, enterprise, morale and most deleterious; the continuity of our fledgling nation. This flaw is evinced in every sector of life be it political, executive, legislative or even cultural.
The most essential tool to combat corruption is political will. Indeed, H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta has been within an inch of performing histrionics while issuing firm directives aimed at deterrence and punishment of corruption but inevitably the vice fights back because it has the most potent weapon – Money. Throw lucre at any problem and most likely it disappears. Today for a small pecuniary contribution, even religious leaders have been enlisted as battering rams to defend the corrupt; indeed a great stain on the vestments of these ostensibly ‘men of the cloth.’
As per the strictures of Jeremiah 5:31 – “The prophets now prophesy falsely and the priests rule by their own authority. My people love it like this. But what will they do at the end of it all?”
But far be it from anybody rendering observance to my sermon! The corrupt ultimately form cartels that are merely cabals to safeguard their nefarious interests. Subsequently, a government that can be honest enough to win the trust of the citizens, investors and fair-minded stakeholders is roiled by such characters. The cartels block, distort, redirect service provision, influence policymaking, implementation, budgeting, procurement, regulation and oversight. Our systemic tolerance for gatekeepers and rent-seekers in public service is a major catalyst for corruption.
As opposed to the predictable nous of trailing perpetrators of corruption after the deed is done, we should prioritize measures aimed at prevention. Conscript managers with a sound record of effective and accountable management. We need to build systems that facilitate, promote ethical conduct and responsibility in resource utilization. Deterrence of corruption can be effected by spot-checks or sting operations. The incentive for promotion to higher office must forthwith entail adherence to the rules of professional conduct and ethics among the yardsticks for promotion.
Privatization of some government-owned entities engaged in business can reduce corruption, adding greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness to the enterprises. Kenya’s resources can for now be best protected by shrinking the footprint of government in appreciation of the sentiments captured proverbially as, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business” which is usually the case in civil service.
Major Recommendations in this regard include:
(a) Freeing Kenya from Cartel Capture – First in the raft of measures is to undertake an intelligence-based review of the hold on critical economic aspects.
Banking executives engaged in money laundering should be given hefty fines to pay or jailed for long periods. Withdrawal of operating licenses should be invoked for repeat-offender institutions or individuals. Additionally, we should punish the co-conspirators in tax-evasion and money laundering in the private sector. We can no longer condone a culture where ill-gotten wealth gets into banks and apparently nobody knows how it happened and who it belongs to in this area of dynamic use of Information Technology and Surveillance.
Sting operations should now be used for anti-corruption targets i.e. lawyers, judges and legislators in difficult to prosecute cases so as to actually get the evidence requisite for prosecution.
A putrid case is now active in our courts of law where the aura of judicial interference cannot be discounted. Here, a defendant accused of a heinous crime is being coached by a highly-ranked Officer of the Court on mechanisms of subverting the course of justice with intercepted correspondence painting a logical perception that the female defendant is paying for these ‘coaching’ services by licentious currency. To add to this quandary, the presiding judge and the defendant’s counsel have connubial ties which raises the spectre of the miscarriage of justice just a notch higher! Apparently Lady Justice as pertains to the Kenyan scene has too many functional neural pathways to her visual cortex to ever be reckoned as blind!
A thorough audit of the negative legal, policy & administrative incentives in public service is much needed. The findings should be crafted into policy initiatives and enforced. Adjunct to custodial sentences, the delinquents engaging in economic crimes should be fined punitively with the proceeds being used for reparation to the aggrieved Kenyans.
(b) Incentives for Whistleblowing – Material incentives shall henceforth be provided for information leading to the successful seizure and/or prosecution for corruption-related crimes. A 5% share of the recovered proceeds will be the spoils for whistleblowers. This should be done tactically in order not to compromise the safety and survival of our esteemed whistleblower.
Treatment of whistleblowers has been under the spotlight recently after an employee of our national carrier who covertly filmed and shared on Social Media the footage of a plane carrying 239 passengers of Chinese extraction, merely having a red carpet rolled out for them in antipathy to the fact that they evinced from the same country of origin as the novel COVID-19 virus that is ravaging the globe at the present moment. The young man had to all intents and purposes been accorded the distinction of a ‘summary dismissal’ for gross misconduct in appreciation of his act of patriotism and unparalleled valour! Security of safety installations was invoked in his unprocedural suspension, a position bolstered by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport but was mercifully saved when public hue and cry intervened and following litigation, the distinguished Kenyan kept his job. Such an unsightly conundrum is what this constitutional amendment seeks to annihilate.
(c) Prevention and deterrence by widespread ethics awareness and assessment of performance – From a young age we need students tutored on ethics.
Review Cabinet and principal Secretaries’ performance assessment framework to incorporate the anti-corruption initiative.
Contracts for senior appointees should have practical performance benchmarks with rules for layoffs on failure to perform, reviewed biannually. Lay-off all appointees implicated in corruption.
(d) Public Officers have no business engaging in commerce with Government – This will exorcise the phantom of conflict of interest that is rife in Civil service as currently constituted. This is extended to spouses, common-law partners, parents and close family members of the officer currying favour with the respective state office.
Abdication of duty during regular working hours will become antiquated as officers will be required to obtain prior permission from their upline in the Ministry, Department or State Agency.
An Officer will be obliged to submit written notification to their superior of interests external to his employment there, which could potentially constitute conflict of interest. This is extended to those representing the government on Boards of Private companies.
(e) Wealth Declaration Forms will be publicized – This will be done for leadership and senior management cadre including National & County Government Executives. A written narrative on how wealth of above Kshs. 50 million was obtained will be available to the multitudes. These will be filled and made available to the websites of the respective service commissions. This will not be limited to but inclusive of shareholding, remuneration, family & business trusts, real estate, state contracts, directorships, partnerships, liabilities, bonds, investments and savings.
The era of undocumented and nebulous stories of individuals in government ostensibly ‘selling chicken’ while becoming overnight billionaires with enough money to dole out at fundraisings and church gatherings perpetually without exhaustion; as coincidentally, the state loses a third of its revenue earnings to faceless myrmidons annually is drawing to a close.
(f) Resignation – This means taking responsibility for failures, negligence or bog-standard actions that precipitate calamitous consequences by vacating their positions amicably. This will infuse honour back to public service.
(g) Digitization – Kenya will become 100% e-services compliant by digitizing all Government services, processes, payments and record-keeping. Tamper-proof the systems keeping a keen eye on the IFMIS system that is now deemed too vulnerable to misuse and backdoor access to steal our national revenue.
(h) Reduce the moral jeopardy of those mismanaging government-owned entities in anticipation of state bailouts – Strengthen the hand of the Controller of Budget to detect and respond in timely fashion to misappropriation, wastage and malfeasance.
Enact the Parastatal Reform Bill to renew focus on core business.
Rationalize all state-owned enterprises and enact the bill to bring expenditure under control with common-user benchmarks, independent valuations of projects and value for money audits on completed projects.
(i) Increase Public Confidence in the Judiciary – Respect for the principle of separation of powers, independence and accountability to the sovereignty – The People of Kenya.
Special magistrates to deal with high-profile heinous crimes like corruption, narcopreneurship and terrorism.
Empower JSC to discipline judges appropriately concomitant with their errors.
Make the office of the Ombudsman (Commission on Administrative on Justice) more responsive to the public and create civic awareness on its existence.
CHAPTER 9: DEVOLUTION
At the heart and soul of devolution is the decentralization of power that results in the facilitation of service delivery across the country. The major devolved unit is the County that is headed by a Governor. The minor units within are called Wards each represented by a Member of the County Assembly. The scorecard from 2010 to now paints a rosy picture as previously underdeveloped regions are now getting opened up and almost each hamlet has an access road. However, devolution is still hampered by a few challenges that if left unaddressed threaten to derail it completely. It is now facing a critical political and economic sustainability conundrum that it must pass. Oversight to forestall the eventuality of revenue loss through corruption is a crucial tenet of these discussions. Transparency, accountability and an appeal system for projects that have been shoddily executed are just but a microcosm of the things Kenyans crave for. Duplication of roles is a major issue that hamstrings the devolved units as it creates confusion when similar roles are performed by both the County and National Government. On issues of planning, public participation and budgeting; many Kenyans want a front-row seat. But a worrying development is the county government falling prey to the same issues that made governance a nightmare when it was centralized. Corruption, Nepotism, favouritism, ethnic antagonism, bigotry, bloated workforces, delays in payment, marginalization of minorities, mismatched priorities, delays in decision making, inefficiency, ineffective modalities of service delivery and skewed resource allocation. The main thread of the public participation taskforce was the fact that County governments asked for their fiscal allocation of the national revenue to be raised from 35% to 50%.
Among the thorny issues presented to the BBI Taskforce on devolution revolved around:
Revenue share between the two tiers of Government.
Resolving exclusivity and marginalization in the Counties.
Improving effectiveness in execution of their mandates.
Enhancing economic growth in Counties.
As it currently stands the aggregate minimum transfer of funds to counties is 15% of centrally collected revenues. The 35% figure will have to be increased over time to reach the required 50%.
A worrisome trend that has become a feature of the County government is the exclusion that was previously faced in the national government. Ethnic minorities bear the brunt of this, when those perceived as not part of the winning coalition are often excluded wholesale in antipathy to the strictures of Article 174(e) of the Constitution. Turning a blind eye to merit and inclusivity as opposed to favouritsm when hiring is a slow-puncture on the wheels of devolution. The counties are in need of an independent County Service Board.
There is no option other than enhancing economic growth in our Counties; otherwise, the devolution experiment will flounder and even reverse. Counties are urged to be more competitive to attract more investment opportunities from merchants outside their counties. At the core of this is for County Government regulation and revenue collection to promote incentives for investment and innovation. Every county is enthused to develop an Entrepreneurship and Investment code that is predictable and effective. Red tape must be kept to a minimum for improved competitive edge. Procurement of goods must be done in factoring in well laid down procurement Laws and best practices. Local leaders are purveyors of outright impunity plagued by patronage, perpetual self-seeking & nepotism. Also noted was the inability of counties to mobilize their own domestic resources and properly account for those they receive.
Major Recommendations with regards to devolution include:
1.) Retain the 47 Counties and support the voluntary formation of regional economic blocs – This will create better value for money and will be effective in mobilizing funds for shared development and ultimately prosperity. In one way or another, this will enable more funds to be raised for a development kitty all the while leaving aside the little tranche retained for the recurrent expenditure and administrative budget.
2.) Increase the resources to counties from current levels to 35% and eventually 50% of last audited accounts – Money should be assigned respective to actual functions as opposed to just having a lump sum for the county. Costing of National and County functions will be vital in this regard. This should be done with a keen eye on the distances between the County centre and its extremities as opposed to the general size of the county. It should target key areas, some the major economic activity in the ambient like agriculture, healthcare and rapid urbanization. Counties in Kenya vary meteorically in physical size. For instance, Vihiga County is incomparable in land area terms with say Turkana or Isiolo counties. Population is a totally different issue.
State institutions carrying out County functions should be audited and if found wanting, wound up or restructured. This is to be done in synchrony with the completed Parastatal Reform policy.
The allocation of revenue should be simplified for the populace, guided by equality, equity and special needs concurrently.
Have Ward representatives oversight bursary funds only, ensuring their influence does not extend to the CDF.
Revenue bump-up will forthwith be guided by a revenue allocation formula informed by population, urgent needs (health, agriculture), education needs (ECD). Hitherto marginalized regions should be uplifted via an equalization fund for a period.
Commission for Revenue Allocation must assess county collections and factor them into the annual allocation. A County Integrated Development Plan should be linked to a transparent assessment of the development needs of each ward.
Cut taxes in relation to Auditor General Reports. Until at such a time accountability can be guaranteed it will be foolhardy to increase it for the hoi-polloi only to lose it in corruption scams.
3.) Improvements to the County Executive – Major one is to have a running mate of the opposite gender.
To forever seal the loopholes for the propensity of catabasis back to the madness witnessed in Nairobi under Governor Mike Sonko, if a vacancy for any given reason occurs in the Deputy Governor’s office, and the Governor fails to name a replacement within 90 days, one will be nominated by the County Speaker with approval of the Assembly.
Merit and inclusivity should once again become the yardstick by which human resource is hired at the County offices. An independent County Public Service Board will be needed for recruitment, setting remuneration, ensuring inclusivity and continuous development of the human resource with regards to skills and capabilities.
4.) The Healthcare Function – Kenyans deserve better healthcare to be prosperous and productive.
A Health Service Commission should be created by the county to recruit medical staff.
Health remains a devolved function with funds following functions. Focus should be put on Preventive and primary care.
NHIF Administrative costs should be pegged at between 5-10% through use of technology to engender integrity. We must live in cognizance that the Hippocratic Oath is not an assurance of morality!
Create a Patients’ Bill of Rights Stating:
Patients will not be extorted by taking advantage of their vulnerability.
An end to forceful detention.
Consequences for a physician who commits misdiagnosis.
The obligation of health facilities to stabilize emergency cases.
Politeness and consideration from medical practitioners.
5.) County Expenditure – Supervision of spending, investment and recruitment is failing leading to corruption compromising the benefits contemplated. Assign more funds to development.
Peg ratio of Development spending to Recurrent Expenditure at 70:30.
Insulate County budgetary processes from arbitrary or politically-motivated interference by County Executives.
Limit county employees by providing a nationwide ratio, as a ceiling between no. of employees and the County Population. Fix a maximum number to the Ministries a Governor can create.
Reduce functional duplications between National and County Government. The same goes for tax collection.
End the asininity of abandoning projects mid-stream merely as a result of regime change. A new governor will henceforth be obligated to provide a list of incomplete projects and a plan for completion. Legitimate cause will be demanded from an incoming governor in case he sees no feasibility in continuing an already commenced project.
Extra scrutiny for projects initiated in the final year of an electoral cycle from Controller of Budget, County Assembly, Senate and all bodies tasked with oversight.
Devolution of the Auditor General’s office.
Commission on Revenue Allocation should alter its formula with regards to allocating funds to marginalized regions targeting Wards.
Kenya Bureau of Statistics to provide an objective and localized well-being, human security & environmental sustainability indices to measure relative performances among the Counties, Wards and Nation.
6.) County must bake the economic pie – Focus on competitiveness to attract investment from outside the county and abroad.
Biashara Mashinani initiatives to support local groups to develop business through partnerships. Facilitate the initiation of small businesses so that they navigate regulations and bureaucracy to make eventually produced goods cheaper. An Entrepreneurship and Investment code needed too and it should be productive and efficient.
Reduce Red tape to a bare minimum to generate revenue.
7.) Enhance Cohesion in Counties – Strengthen dialogue and integration of communities within the counties, especially the multi-ethnic ones, creating a space at the table for the minorities.
Enhance transparency by public participation in consort with the Public Rapporteur’s office. One-day forums will be held periodically in this regard.
Make use of elders to strengthen cohesion and mediate conflicts.
Create cultural awareness and program the younger members of society to respect each other.
Integrate the learning process in hosted schools to the ways of the home county.
Engage in shared projects and create fora where dialogues on Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in communities that have had histories of conflict.
Diversity; as discussed in the Kenyan perspective, is a wide raft that entails ethnicity, race, culture, religion, gender, age, disability status and socio-economic circumstance in life. Concomitantly, the citizen’s interests, priorities, capabilities and experiences become highly complex. Democracy has the strength of empowering different Kenyans of diverse backgrounds to inject their zeal, passion, skill and intellectual acumen to contribute to progress in Kenya. But to cater for this myriad of interests it has become paramount to now make a call for inclusivity in appreciation of the fact that despite our diversity, none of these parameters marks one Kenyan as superior to the other. The lack of political inclusivity is rifer within the Executive Arm of government. It’s an open secret that there is a cabal of elite professionals and profiteers who believe with religious conviction that only by having a con-tribal kinsman in the executive will they have ease of access to resources, jobs, state largesse and government procurement. The much-reviled system of patronage has worked to pay credence to that aforementioned sentiment. Ethnic mobilization merely for the sake of attaining political power as the prime rallying call in the Kenyan political life though primitive and reprehensible is unfortunately the reality of the day. Even the current process of change to the constitutional structure still has to jump by this very hurdle. Needless to say, the current effort for reform is geared at dissipating executive authority both as a way of curtailing the propensity for executive overreach and also broadening political leadership for optimum accommodation of diverse interests. A home truth that has to be disseminated to the rank and file of our Republic is that not every ethnic identity can find space at the pinnacle of government either national or county at the same time.
From the many submissions made to the BBI task force, these are the essential qualities of inclusivity:
Government appointments must forthwith manifestly represent the face of Kenya.
Equality in the ability to vote for all Kenyans of majority age.
Decision-making becomes a product of deliberations, debates and participation by all the foremost political players in Kenya.
Gender parity in leadership. Measures to comply with the two-thirds gender rule that seeks to level the playing field must not merely be a PR exercise but a reality on the ground.
Government should henceforth respond positively and visibly to the concerns of the rank and file of Kenya.
Protect the foremost Principle of Democracy where the majority have their way but the minority too have their say.
A keen eye on the needs of the most vulnerable groups in society inclusive of the youth, women and people with disabilities. Additionally, the economically vulnerable should also be accorded equal say in the mechanics of government as the prosperous and privileged.
Death to this ambiguous entity dubbed the ‘deep-state’ simply explained as individuals or cabals of people wielding heavy economic power, abusing their grandeur to substitute the will of the electorate for their own.
Government should respect cultural and religious diversity of all the citizens of our country.
Inclusivity will for the purposes of this process, be deemed the highest degree of responsiveness by decision-makers in Government to the interests of all encompassed within our boundaries. Cognizance must be taken to the fact that historically Kenya has formulated marvelous policies and laws but the crux of the matter is implementation, operationalization and enforcement of these strictures. Public trepidation is at an all-time high and this could adversely affect belief of these current recommendations being operationalized based on the fate of the many action reports that lie fallow in the Office of the President gathering dust and mold not to speak of the many articles of our pristinely promulgated constitution in 2010 that remain unenforced. State Institutions, Departments & Corporations too have failed Kenyans in not ensuring Article 21 (2) detailing the Bill of Rights elements covered under Article 43 are fully implemented i.e Rights to health, adequate food of acceptable quality, clean water, social security and education.
Citizen awareness too will go a long way in ensuring public officers actually execute their mandates.
Major Recommendations with this regard include:
Political, Economic, Social, Religious, Cultural, age and Gender-based Inclusivity – Political by means of equal power of vote at the ballot box.
Economic by equality and equity in undertaking development countrywide. Religious by safeguarding freedom of religious association and protection from fraudsters masquerading as authentic clergy to their unsuspecting congregants. A Public Register of all churches, mosques and temples must exist and subject their finances to an annual independent audit and publicize the results.
An appellate court within the Kadhi court system was requested.
Cultural inclusion by promoting indigenous knowledge, technologies, foods and natural remedies.
The Marginalized must refrain from reciprocating the same gesture – Those bellyaching about marginalization by the national government must not do the same to ethnic minorities within their counties.
Office of the Public Participation Rapporteur – This will enhance transparency, quality and inclusion in public participation processes required by our constitution. The Office will work on behalf of state and non-state entities undertaking policy and operational initiatives calling for Public participation. Their operations must be above board, accurately chronicling their work and be responsive to their relevant partners. Also Public Interest Litigation should be within their purview in a manner free of influence from those litigated against in a model emulated from India.
Transparency in public procurement and business lobbying – An end to the culture of trawling the offices of State Functionaries with express aim of empowering disproportionately, unelected parties to abuse their economic advantage albeit corruption to parochially influence governance & policymaking. The envisaged Office of the Public Participation Rapporteur will be furnished with legal authority to record all activities of business lobbyists (tenderpreneurs) who seek to interact with officers with the sole aim of influencing legislation, policy, regulation and public procurement favourably to their businesses.
Echoes of the hocus-pocus at the corridors of Harambee House Annex in February 2020 where an unelected official (a disgraced former Cabinet Secretary) engaged in fraudulent business unsanctioned by the national government that ultimately was to deprive the exchequer of revenue still ring ever so loud! Mister Deputy President; the Principal occupant of the office complex, has denied any awareness of such a caper at the moment of my authoring this piece. Henceforth, occupants of his office and all government installations will be ridded of these unscrupulous characters wielding power usurped from the ordinary citizen.
Employment in Public Service should reflect the Face of Kenya and be rendered corruption-free at recruitment – The worst kept secret about employment in public service is the existence of ‘Godfathers’ who seek bribes to proffer this advantage to the highest bidder and ensuring that the appointee curries favour with them in depriving the citizenry of the requisite social services. Many careers in civil service are initiated by corruption and so it has been difficult for the holders of the office to uphold any quantifiable integrity. In appreciation of the onerous task of restituting professionalism to public service recruitment:
Disciplined forces both Specialists and servicemen will be recruited by a consortium of Private Sector recruitment companies that are internationally reputable to ensure impartiality and be able to reflect both merit & diversity.
Affirmative action will be enlisted in situations where no candidate meets the criteria for qualification and diversity so that minority candidates are facilitated to enhance their chances for the positions.
The Public Service Commission will be required to make public the annual diversity report in the Public Service.
CHAPTER 7: SHARED PROSPERITY
Our very own National Anthem envisaged the dream of prosperity post-independence, in the first stanza last verse in Swahili, “Raha tupate na ustawi” in addition to “tuungane mikono, pamoja kazini” the second last line of the third stanza. Unfortunately, 56 years after independence we find ourselves a discordant lot who have ended up among the Least Developed Countries of the world. I could go on and on about how South Korea and Singapore that were at par with us in terms of development in 1963 are now far over the horizon, but that would be an exercise in futility. We have shot ourselves in the foot with myopic leadership, ethnic balkanization and partisanship just for parochial gain. The same rallying call of fighting against poverty, illiteracy and disease that our forefathers had at independence is tragically now repackaged as a campaign promise by individuals who know only too well they won’t do diddly-squat to improve our lot. Unemployment albeit underemployment is now rife among the youth of this nation. The yawning gap between the have and have-nots notwithstanding, economic prosperity is now only the preserve of the Big-business owners and no trickle down to the man on the ground. Irrational barriers to entry are erected against innovation and growth hence curtailing job creation for the highly-skilled manpower churned out of our tertiary institutions ceaselessly. I have at one time been advised by one of my principal mentors to endeavour never to antagonize but look for areas of cooperation while partnering with huge corporations when working on innovation to eschew the prospect of being crushed by the larger entity or worse still being bogged-down under a myriad of frivolous litigation, not to mention the manifold rough-hand, arm-twisting and mafia-style hostile takeover tactics available to the dastardly of heart, mercilessly grabbing concepts from the architects of original, unpatented ideas.
Gatekeeping and rent-seeking castigated in the above Chapter is actually a crippling malfeasance in the corridors of power. Brokers have become a national pestilence. No less the President himself is on record putting up his hands in dismay and admitted there is little he can do about these shadowy characters in his very office; but today by political will, he’s weeding them out gradually but not without their deleterious impact on the perception of state as currently exists in the eye of ‘Wanjiku.’
The dream of entrepreneurship in Kenya pitched to millions of the unemployed is nothing short of an invitation to tread water, in dissonance to the case in developed countries where business owners and employers are facilitated, subsidized and even given tax rebates. I invite those who can, to read through Fred Trump and his son Donald Trump’s exemplum chronicling their ascent to the top of corporate America and the enabling factors. In the USA; coincidentally the same year Kenya courted liberty, Martin Luther King Jr. articulated a dream whence his four little children would grow to live and work in a nation where they would be assayed not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. Our founding fathers, no doubt followed that epochal speech closely due to our long-standing links with not just the Negritude movement but also solidarity with the Black American Civil-Rights Movement. However, in modern-day Kenya the key determinant of success has become your ethnic extraction, parentage, who you know and where you live. This makes it an exercise in futility trying to make a clean break with your current circumstance without external help. It’s indeed circumvention of Newton’s First Law of Motion! Incoherent and non-existent policy direction puts us in a deeper quandary. No successful nation has ever been built on the substratum of such disparities where exclusion, corruption, poverty, mounting hunger, unemployment and lack of a common national ethos are the flavour of the day. The logical sequel to such a state of affairs is societal ills, criminal activity & ultimately civil unrest. When the poor have nothing to eat they will ultimately gourmandize the rich, an eventuality so macabre it’s gut-wrenching!
I do not even for a second envy the guy working at the state department in charge of national planning. He has to provide a policy direction to the conundrum of how to generate more jobs for all who are old enough to work. New thoroughfares are appreciable, a standard-gauge railway is fabulous. But all these pale into oblivion when looked at from the prism of a man burdened by debt, seeing little economic prospect, hunger gnawing at his innards yet he’s merely given nebulous figures about our burgeoning economic output and present rates of investment. A complete economic revolution & work-around is required to deal with the monster called unemployment linked to underemployment and the arch-nemesis ‘the working poor.’ An enlightened diagnosis is the first step for any treatment regimen to be undertaken. It’s no longer enough to discuss the sharing of the minuscule national cake we presently have but rather how to bake a bigger one that can satisfactorily be shared by all of our 47.6 million-strong population. Individually, I have had the great privilege to live and work in Luanda, Angola and can avow to the fact that Kenyans are regarded as more skilled, aggressive and conceptual thinkers compared to many other Africans. In fact anybody who displays guile, counter-intuitive thinking & is enterprising in Angola is more often than not panegyrized as working like a Kenyan. Just like in the 90’s when everybody wanted to be like Michael Jordan (Mike) in Angola today everybody wants to be like a Kenyan! But looking at GDP Per Capita figures it becomes galling that Kenya is only a small percentage better off than their Southwesterly African counterparts. Despite all our education and enlightenment at a level more than any of our progenitors, we languish in the nadirs of the global prosperity index concurrently being celebrated for advancement in technology, having a vibrant, mixed economy, newly exporting oil but being bedeviled by many of the same ills that weigh down our African contemporaries.
We need the same level of transformation that occurred in South East Asia where Singapore roared from the same starting point as Kenya to become a First-world economy. The rallying call was a famous maxim by their former Prime Minister, the venerable Lee Kuan Yew who uttered, “No country can become a major economy without becoming an industrial power.” There is no option but delving headlong into manufacturing to become an economically veritable world power. In the late 1980’s and 90’s we tried Liberalization. This returned a mixed bag, as well run firms reached the mythical ‘el Dorado’ – The Land of Gold, while those criminally mismanaged have been relegated to the backburners of antiquated asininity in the same league as the saline statue of Lot’s wife! The point I try to pass is that as a nation we have failed to gather sufficient thrust and flight to achieve the escape velocity requisite for full-blown transcendence to the next level. Our efforts have been reduced to the realm of necessary yet insufficient to meet the transformative agenda. With exponentially greater access to all the information of how the Asian Tigers gained their status and closed the gap with high per capita income nations of the developed world, it behooves us to copy from best practice. Pick what has worked while discarding the drawbacks.
Critically crucial is the need for a new economic paradigm for job creation and prosperity. Development should not be adjudged as extremely disproportionate in its distribution as this impacts on our unity and peace as a nation. Every section of Kenya contributes its share to the national kitty. For standardization sake it will be quixotic to convince anybody that for instance Runda Estate deserves more social amenities than the adjacent Githogoro slum merely because more tax revenue is gleaned from the earnings of company supremos, embassy staff, political aficionados and senior state functionaries that reside in the former. It becomes a responsibility of state to equalize development and assure equal routes to prosperity for both the privileged and economically disadvantaged. A task of such a magnitude can only be executed through a well-orchestrated, multi-sectoral engagement between the government and the private sector. Fiscally, our economy must be set on a trajectory of continuous growth while the state offers economic relief to those hit by financial shocks. We must depart from the path of peppering over the gaps in our revenue collection and expectation merely by external borrowing. A culture of increasing the domestic national savings must be inculcated, at a rate of at least 25% of our GDP. We have no option but to grow and incentivize labour-intensive manufacturing with our core market being our neighbours as we prepare for political federation. In the circumstance that Kenya aggressively pursues this agenda, we could potentially position ourselves as an important link for trade, investment and manufacturing between East Africa and the Indian Ocean rim benefiting from the ensuing market and capital for more investments. Economic coordination between state and the private sector must be the new mantra as opposed to strait-jacket State Ownership. As the government will never have capacity to employ everyone, we need to exponentially grow the number of entrepreneurs by facilitating ease of doing business for start-ups and small business debunking the withering calamity of many closing shop before their 3rd birthdays! Logic dictates that greater profitability for SMEs will equate to maximized returns for our national Revenue Authority. This will in turn ensure better service delivery and amelioration of the welfare of the citizenry.
It is by now empirical wisdom that the majority revenue earner in Kenya and indeed many of the Least Developed Nations is Agriculture. In Kenya, regrettably it has been infiltrated by cartels that abuse political patronage to rig processes thereby disenfranchising the main producer, the farmer. Before I forget to remember, in 2018 Kenya was rocked by a maize scandal where 66 fictitious corn-growers ostensibly pocketed a cool sum of 2.1 billion Kenya shillings among themselves! Invariably, the consumer is equally frustrated as he is forced to pay a heavy price despite copious seasonal availability of the product in question. This leads to poverty for both the farmer and consumer as the products are laden with so many mark-ups as to raise their prices to exorbitant levels leading to consumers who have a fixed income having to pay over-the-odds for food. The middleman simply has to go! The epoch of roadside declarations by Agriculture Cabinet Secretaries that are as hollow as their medium of conveyance is over. A National Intelligence Service-led audit is required on the activities of these creepy-crawlers leading to state sanctions under the anti-corruption and Government reform Agenda.
Major Recommendations for shared prosperity include:
An Economic Revolution – A 50-year plan is paramount. We need to think Big and long-term to build an economy that can cater for the now and tomorrow.
The plan must be more technocrat driven and milestone-based than political to survive election cycles and regime change.
Promotion of local investments by the Kenyan Diaspora will go a long way in tapping into both the foreign currency and the acquiesced know-how brought in from the more developed nations.
Embracing of Economic coordination as opposed to state ownership will be key in achieving labour-intensive manufacturing for export. This will also multiply the existing entrepreneurs when ease of doing business is achieved.
A Government driven initiative to provide legal and regulatory guidelines to financial organizations to lend part of their portfolio to key market drivers such as the MSMEs, renewable energy, export credit, agriculture (livestock & fishing), manufacturing, health, housing, education, sanitation and waste management. Banks lacking specialization will be empowered to shift the float to a specially designated development bank with relevant capabilities.
Government must forthwith be the prime mover of industrialization as its narrative. Active incentives like subsidies, waived import duty and tax rebates will be required to foster lower-technology, labour –intensive and entrepreneurship-led cadres of industrialization.
Intellectual Property protection policy and law to be strengthened for Kenyan inventions, genetic resources, folk knowledge and cultural expressions.
Increase Government savings to 25% of G.D.P to drive a diversified economic agenda without inordinate borrowing.
Offer incentives and economic protection to the Kenyan Diaspora so that they can plough back more of their earnings to Kenya.
Employment conferences held in every county to get more views on job creation.
Spend on more on development than bureaucracy. Write into law a target ratio of 70:30 for development versus recurrent expenditure.
National Expenditure should be fair and proportionately distributed. Planning should be guided by a published and updated index from county to county.
Broaden the tax base, simplify the taxation regime and bring fairness in its application to reduce tax fraud. Criminalize tax evasion and punish all its agents.
Regulate online & mobile loan applications that are aggravating indebtedness of poor Kenyans.
Build the economy from the grassroots. Expand extension services for livestock and agricultural sectors to effectively advise and set clear standards and market linkages.
Empower farmers with retail price information to make a profitable sustenance out of their toil. Strengthen their various cooperative movements to have a heightened bargaining power in price determination. Curtail corruption in the agriculture and livestock sectors.
Promote Research and Development as this is the cornerstone of technological development. Trends are transient and dynamic, so to avoid being trapped in a rut you need to move with the times.
Entrench Article 43 on Economic and Social Rights – This should be a pet project of both the national and county governments. The electorate should be vigilant to hold the politicians that come to ask for their votes during the crazy campaign season to account by ensuring the Party Manifestos laid before them consist of this agenda item.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics is entrusted to ensure a National Human Development Index domiciling the UN developed version is enforced within our soil. The report must be published annually and put online.
Beware of the predilection of corruption to fight back undermining efforts to attain shared prosperity – Unimpeded, the tentacles of corruption spread far and wide resulting in abuse of economic power by import substitution schemes that will adversely affect quality such that substandard products will be found on the shelves of our shops.
Safeguard future generations from mounting debt and unsustainable environmental degradation – Every generation must endeavor to live within their means and not mortgage our progeny’s future by overloading ourselves with irresponsible borrowing merely for prestige and devoid of value.
Dispense with Private betting firms instead setting up a national lottery whose proceeds will work to uplift youth activities, sports, culture and social good. The proliferation of unregulated and private betting firms is killing the drive for enterprise in our youth leading to hopelessness and desperation. The proceeds accrued are often carted offshore with little left for developing the host nation. The adage that in gambling, the house (company owners) always wins has never rung ever so true.
Use scarce public resources more for development than bureaucracy – Also to address is the large discrepancy in income by professionals ostensibly in the same Job Group. Eliminate wasteful expenditure on refurbishments and new cars when the old ones are still functional. Important is to note, the need to optimize on the forgotten conference facilities lying idle before enlisting some swanky hotel. Scrap sitting allowance for government aficionados on salaries.
Nurture opportunities for personal initiative, innovation and entrepreneurship from a young age – Aggressively hone entrepreneurship from an early age while minimizing taxation for fledgling enterprises, a tax-holiday if I may opine. Not nurturing the business sense of our children from a young age is akin to condemning them to a death sentence knowing full well that there are minimal opportunities for employment out here.
Support creativity and sports where young Kenyans show enthusiasm, potential and interest. The careers of Macdonald Mariga, Dennis Oliech and Victor Wanyama should be sound validation that there is money to be made in sports.
Identify & invest in special talents and needs at the Early Childhood Development Stage.
Formulate a mentoring, training and support centre chaired by the president and coordinated by the Private sector that engages budding entrepreneurs to mentorship, training and support. Youth Entrepreneurs will be matched with respective Business Development Advisors and a national network of volunteer mentors. Work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy classes are urged from the age of 12 until graduation.
Facilitate the youth to start business by having an open advice desk at every local Huduma Centre manned by a Business Development Expert.
Technical and Vocational training should be freely accessed by all to effect self-employment. Of colossal importance is to dispense with the outmoded mentality that technical work is for the academically challenged. Two parallel but equal paths are needed between academic and technical training with the assurance that both will potentially lead to rewarding careers and meaningful sustenance.
Government Development Action plans should be undertaken in every county – No region should be shortchanged of their own development in the name of project implementation elsewhere. Remedial policies must be implemented for regions that lag behind. An equalization fund must be set up as an affirmative action measure in an initiative dubbed the ‘Kubadili Plan.’ This has at its heart providing all Kenyans with quality services, foundational to the theme of shared prosperity. Build social amenities and security apparatus in marginalized areas to give them a chance of reaching the levels of the better-developed regions within three years of inception of this action plan.
As opposed to the run-of-the-mill, worn-out paradigm about seeing business plans, we entreat the government tiers both national and county to focus on product development – Each county should henceforth be facilitated to establish Product Development Parks and Innovation Hubs that allow young, entrepreneurial Kenyans to have the benefit of expert know-how on transitioning from having a promising idea to a marketable product.
hen our colonial overlords ruled over us, they amalgamated our different ethnic nation-states to become one big entity dubbed Kenya. They drew boundaries arbitrarily which cut across families, clan spheres of influence and even bisecting tribal identities in absolute disregard to these sensibilities. Of course, initially when colonization came it never portrayed these Caucasian seafarers as the run-of-the-mill cackle of hyenas keen to dominate of our lands, waterways, cattle & other factors of production; far from it. The seminal manifestation was when the missionaries and explorers came here; quixotically discovering and naming physical features, that have no doubt been in our purview since the dawn of time, dishing out the names of their monarchs to these newfound edifices. They found us gullible and unrefined taking advantage to purchase our ignorance with silk and paper all the while easing themselves into our spaces and reviling our cultural identities as devil-smut! Then came the industrialists under the Imperial British East African Company. These ones had an actual pecuniary interest in the amalgamation of population tufts as these would come in handy as sources of labour for their ventures and a market for their manufactured goods. What was initially portrayed as an ‘iron snake’ no doubt snaked its way upcountry opening up our hinterlands to the fairer globetrotters.
Kenya is one country that has the propensity to soar to much greater heights but eternally contrives to relegate albeit stifle her ascent to the pantheon of the most successful African Nations. This is partly due to the fact that we are governed by individuals shackled by mediocrity, greed, tribalism and bloated egos. In actual sense many of these are men and women sentenced by the gods to die a thousand deaths as the consequence of choosing the coward’s avenue by lying low when authentic ‘sons of the soil’ espousing solid credentials came out in full force and gave up their lives for the liberation of their country in both the independence struggle and the 2nd liberation strife for multiparty democracy. They have unfortunately survived to enjoy the heritage reserved for the noble & valiant which to me is tear-jerking.
What is now clear to all after 56 years of self-governance is that despite congregation into a country, there was never envisaged any congenial universal ideals to bond us together. Our shared struggle for independence, the future endeavour to upstage poverty, illiteracy and disease has proven of minuscule value as a cohesive bond, leaving the tribal extraction as the only unifying factor for many of our compatriots.
Herein stands the crux on which Kenya has had to be crucified henceforth; a lack of a national ethos. From the etymology of the word ‘ethos’, it appears to be a much-vaunted Greek ideal that was bequeathed unto Western civilization and cherished as to be propagated into the succeeding Roman Empire’s Latin language to mean the overarching “character” or “aspirations” existing as the guiding beliefs, attitudes or philosophies that characterize a community or entire nation. It is the characteristic spirit that drives any group which every member is expected to subscribe to for continual existence and maintenance of any semblance of unity vital for development. Post-independence, the fledgling union has had to grapple with this lack of shared identity that has for most part been our greatest undoing. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has arisen to define, develop & subscribe to an unyielding collective vision that ultimately leads to a united Kenya that can overcome not just our historical challenges but the many more we will encounter in future. In repurposing the lyrics of a track by the great rapper and social icon Shawn Carter a.k.a Jay-Z called 99-problems, “I have 99 problems but a b***** ain’t one”, as Kenyans we have a myriad of hurdles to jump over but let us never allow absence of the unity of purpose to be one. This national ethos will beholden to appreciate and honour excellence in our civic responsibilities of leadership and not forgetting our consideration of each other. Respect for the divergence in cultural heritage, beliefs and autochthonous religions will be the cornerstone of this new-found ideal. Like any pathological condition, its remedy begins with accepting that you have a problem and desperately require an amelioration for this offending circumstance.
As a result of a lack of shared identity our nation is poised in some sort of quasi-purgatory state between our traditional heritage and the undeniable worldview touted superior to the former called globalization. Many still have a sensation of disconnect from our pre-colonial societies, the broken historical narratives infused upon us that our way of life is inferior to those of other jurisdictions. Kenyans are a resilient people that have adapted to change each time acquitting ourselves better. A National ethos will further act to expand our circles of brotherhood so that every Kenyan will view his continued membership in this sovereignty, as a thing of pride worthy of commitment and ownership. We will need initiatives to innovatively marry the young, dynamic and urbanizing culture with the enduring folk-wisdom of our diverse cultures. This will ultimately be a bottom-up initiative commencing in the family unit and local community up to local leadership, culminating in the Institutions of State and Executive Authority. Along the way the support from the civil society, private sector, academia, the media among others will be much appreciated. It will most certainly not be a single note from one composer but a multifaceted song; an acapella of sorts, where every note and voice will be sampled individually and weaved in unison to create a melodious harmony. We need a country where virtue is not reviled and ridiculed rather emphasized as a path to prosperity. Hard work, integrity, respectfulness, justice and an unerring predilection to peaceful co-existence should not just be noted and nodded to in appreciation instead promoted and even feted. We need a logical system where he who exerts the most effort is expected to reap maximum return. In building an enduring national ethos let us also be cognizant of previous efforts that resulted in what now corroborates a mixed bag of success. Previously concocted slogans include: Uhuru na Kazi, Harambee & the Nyayo Philosophy of Peace, Love & Unity. In hindsight, the state was more often than not thoroughly at odds with the philosophy it preached with its functionaries sempiternally contradicting sentiments they themselves loudly mouthed off at public rendezvous. The absorption of this national ethos ought not just be a top-down endeavour but also a bottom-up policy interspersed by diverse approaches in respect of our cultural origins but with a keen eye on globalization so that we don’t sacrifice solidarity with the rest of the world; probably a greater ideal, at the altar of nationalism. A balance should be sought.
The Recommendations touted to encapsulate a national ethos among our people include:
Think Big and Long term – Needless to say Elections will oft come and go but Kenya will endure! We need a unique vision that will produce the archetypal Kenyan civilization that must be a product of the meaningful, inclusive and multisectoral ideas. We need ideals not slogans that will outlast election cycles and even the party manifestos of the rulers of the day.
Need for an Official and Inclusive History – Rename the Kenya National Archives as the Official Historian & National Archival Service and broaden its mandate to work in consort with Libraries, Universities, Museums and individual historians to research, analyze and present a thorough and definitive Kenyan history. The Institution should be led by an acclaimed scholar of African history or world-class expert on Library science/curating having participation from private curators, artists and elders. Our history should accurately be traced as far as 1000 years back, providing a definitive account of settlement in Kenya. Not to be denigrated in this initiative should be the roles of philosophers, anthropologists, theologians and political scientists. Presentation should be in a form understood by Kenyans from all walks of life.
Finding Comfort in our own African skin – Harmonize the modern Kenyan identity with our diverse cultural heritage to eschew the prospect of living in disparate worlds. Strengthen the Ministry of Culture and promote its initiatives. Devolution of traditional Knowledge and cultural identity as per Schedule 4 of the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act of 2016. Replace Boxing Day on 26th December with National Culture Day. Public participation and expert knowledge will be vital in codifying an official pantheon of Kenyan heroes. Officially recognize and enshrine into law the provision of state support to recognized living paragons of national heroism if deemed vulnerable and destitute. Heroes are to be henceforth defined as men & women that selflessly gave themselves up as a fragrant sacrifice in our crusade against colonization, the modern-day strife for democracy & civil liberty and outstanding achievement in human endeavor. These heroes should forthwith, be pictorially displayed in museums and academic curricula.
Development of a sense of responsibility – It behooves us to have the senior ranks of leadership being the prime-movers of this national moment. At every twist and turn they should preach this gospel but also espouse it in the way they live and interact. Lessons on morality & the sacrosanctity of truth from the domestic level will be valuable. Civic Education must forthwith be an integral part of cultural initiation into adulthood. The 4th Estate should play their keynote role in education, promotion of national identity, lionizing the distinctiveness of every soul and keeping the powerful to account. The virtue of service to humanity should be inculcated from an early age and formalized through the National Volunteer Service. Structured volunteer activities will be enhanced to reflect compassion, cooperation, empathy and responsibility among the youth. Religious leaders should adjunctive to the tenets of their faiths, also preach the inalienable role of a national ethos. This rooted in morality, ethics and integrity must become part of the academic curriculum.
Round the clock focus on ethics – The EACC should not only be tooled to impede economic crimes but also accorded the requisite constitutional protection. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission should be subsumed in the Ethics Commission and have a specified mandate inclusive of monitoring, reporting, advising state, surveying all government entities with regards to adherence to ethics and publicizing the results, conducting civic education on morality and lastly enhance the link between cultural systems of ethics and Kenya’s Constitutional strictures.
Link Cultural values & current norms of Kenyans – Formalize cultural rites of passage and benchmark them with the newly acquired national ethos.
Enforcement of our National Ethos – This is to be reactivated or modelled if non-existent along the lines of Chapter 6 capturing National values and have functional mechanisms for enforcement. Bullying, misinformation, demeaning public office & discrimination should be deemed breaches of our constitutional order and be severely reprimanded if not prosecuted.
We must no doubt understand and be ready to defend the ideal of Kenya being bigger than any of our individual parts and be promoted as even greater than those singular entities that constitute it living in appreciation of a common national ethos.
CHAPTER 3: RESPONSIBILITIES AND RIGHTS
As has been demonstrated by both empirical and experiential wisdom, democracy is the best system of government though the most expensive as such never delivered to the polity on a silver platter. This is because politics and by extension democracy is run by politicians. Contrary to popular belief, being a Politician and leadership are mutually exclusive entities. James Freeman Clarke, an American Theologian once sagaciously opined, “A politician is subsumed by the worries of the next election while the Statesman mulls about the next generation, as a Statesman seeks to steer the vessel keenly a politician is at home drifting in the current!” Many here in Kenya go into politics uninitiated, seeing this as a rapid conduit to amass riches, personal aggrandizement, create business for their personal enterprises & associates, a clear representation of their selfishness, egoism and vanity as human beings. Historical evidence is clear that even a great leader of the mettle of Julius Caesar continually had creases of worry on his forehead during his period as an elected consul in 59 B.C which vanished when he became Emperor and Dictator for Life. With this in hindsight, a politician may more often than not be forced to even trample on the rights of his electorate for self-preservation. Consequently, vigilance is urged on the part of the plebeians with regards to their Rights, Obligation & Responsibilities because no one else will act on their behalf, not even those constitutionally mandated to do so. Kenyan soldiers brave enemy troops defending our territorial integrity, many making the ultimate sacrifice to protect our liberty. Who is blind to the numerous IED attacks on the policemen patrolling our porous frontier with Somalia in recent times? I have suffered personal loss of good friends but this is definitely no arena for my tears! Many of these sacrifices have not and can never be captured by TV cameras or lauded in the dailies as patriots rise to encourage, heal, rescue and sacrifice it all for the sake of their compatriots.
Despite all these, it’s an appalling statistic how few people are actually aware of their responsibilities as enshrined by law. As a break with tradition, it’s incumbent upon us all to dispense with this outmoded system where we take a back seat and have politicians read important documents of national concern for instance, our own Constitution and now this BBI document on our behalf then dictate to us the position to take. This is dereliction of our hard-earned liberty to exercise our volition at junctures that may never be available to us again. We have deprecated ourselves to those who ask, “What will Kenya do for me?” instead of taking matters into our more than capable hands as our progenitors did and more importantly our future progeny expect us to. We think of there being a caste of ‘wenye nchi’ (Owners of the country) while relegating ourselves to mere spectators – ‘wananchi.’ Consequently, the siren call of corruption and dishonesty compromises public service as the ravenous try to bridge the gap to whence the grass is greener! This has left us vulnerable to insecurity and even disasters.
A walk down memory lane clarifies the fact that in pre-colonial times our individual nation states used to be egalitarian in nature built on the enlightenment that ‘I am because you are.’ Brotherhood and good neighbourliness was our raison d’etre. Sharing of responsibilities created a system where human rights were inherent and everyone was reliable of the other man such that one provides security against external aggressors while his neighbour works on the farm to grow the food that will feed them all. And for centuries this ensured the continuity of our communities. Taking up these responsibilities was concomitant with adulthood in many jurisdictions. After colonialism, we were westernized and our longstanding socio-economic traditions were lost in the interest of preserving white hegemony upon us. Our indigenous knowledge-base petered out. Post-colonialism we were left in a chasm as we retained a superfluity of our traditional system but felt the predilection to formal legal rights that were promulgated as our Independence Constitution in 1963. This new supreme law failed in its entirety to capture eons of folklore and conventions choosing to majorly ape the systems of our former oppressors. Consequently, today we have a rights-heavy and responsibility-light dispensation with civil society replacing the use of our personal consciences. These missteps have seen us almost stumble into the cauldron of chaos albeit National Armageddon in 2007 and in 2010 a new constitutional order was formulated.
What recommendations does this chapter have on our continued nationhood?
Cognition that Responsibilities and Rights of Kenyans are inherent and promote knowledge & attitudes that enhance responsible citizenship – The spirit of interdependence must become our observance again! Rights exist side by side with responsibilities and prudence dictates that where my fist ends is where your nose begins! This should be knowledge infused as a life-long odyssey as opposed to one or two course units in the curriculum. New systems to fight malfeasance in government will be promoted i.e. a whistleblowing culture or reporting malevolent elements of society to the security apparatus and such efforts forthwith be rewarded. Communication channels for this will be open and manned by personnel espousing integrity. Civic (Citizenship) Education will be prioritized in government policy and initiatives in both the County and National government. The culture of taking responsibility must never again be deemed intuitive but be deliberately inculcated in the Kenyan upbringing. Initiation ceremonies will be integral in edifying the newly-minted adults into a world where responsibility is the key marker of their succeeding stage in life.
The Culture of ‘Skin in the Game’ and ownership in leadership – ‘Skin in the game’ mirrors the age-old adage stating “What is good for the goose is also good for the gander!” There has been a superiority complex in the leadership cadre where national hospitals and schools cater for the proletarians while for our rulers only treatment or tutelage outside our borders in the western world will make muster. If you deem the handiwork of your regime sufficiently good for the ordinary Kenyans then the same must be estimated as functionally effective by you Mr. Politician, your wife and children. Double standards have bred discord as chalk-circles demarcate the respective castes in society. A Ministerial Code and policy statement must have included within an enforceable clause that Ministers are compelled to use the social services under their purview without fail. These principles must also percolate to the Counties.
Teach Effective Parenting – This will be pivotal in raising healthy and enlightened children in the dynamic Kenya of today. Just like marriage counselling in many churches pre-nuptial, efforts should be made to strengthen parenting by means of a generic & simple curriculum.
Entrench ethics awareness, training and accountability in civil service – Integrity and Ethics Charters should be the tapestry of every office.
Life-long Service – This is the best way to inculcate responsibility into all of us. Kenyans should be encouraged to voluntarily give 6 months of service to the republic in early adulthood (18-26 years).
Operationalization of the African Charter on Popular rights to develop civic awareness on responsibilities – Unbeknownst to many, Kenya is actually party to the African Charter on Human & Popular Rights.
As per Article 27: Duty of care must be exercised by every individual towards his family, society, the state, the international community and other legally mandated communities. Rights and Freedoms of each individual will be exercised with due regard to those of others.
Article 28: Mutual Respect and tolerance devoid of discrimination is our way of life.
Article 29: Preservation of the harmonious development of the family, respect for parents and maintenance in time of need.
Have yourself at the disposal of state for service.
Never compromise the security of your state.
Strengthen and preserve national solidarity.
Protect territorial integrity and preserve national independence in accordance with existing law.
Work to the best of your abilities and remit taxes religiously for state benefit.
Help preserve positive African culture emphasizing on dialogue, tolerance and consultation for the moral health of society.