MR. PRESIDENT: SLOW PACE AND INDOLENCE IS THE DNA OF GOVERNMENT

Sometimes you get an impression that this is deliberate, perhaps there is secret profiteering that occurs when crises in this country peak. But sometimes, inaction stems from the unholy interests that are at center of these controversies. Monday’s display of police power points to a powerful figure at control. What is surprising, is that the police can be deployed at such scale without the inspector general being aware. One wonders whether he is in full command, or whether the police enjoy a different command structure.image

In the wake of the embarrassing teargas of school pupils and international condemnation, the President came out yesterday stating how he was outraged at the incident. While that is encouraging, what struck me were his words, “the most disappointing thin, is that we ever had to get there in the first place.” Here was a president surprised that a conflict that started a month ago could degenerate this far without his officers intervening.

If the President was surprised, he would have to be surprised even further, because such snail pace inaction and indolence is so characteristic of government and precisely the reason for multiple conflicts experienced in the country.

I served the better part of 2014 as President of Kenyatta University Students’ Council, and the most frustrating of all aspects of that responsibility was securing a response from government machineries. An attempt to engage government is painfully disappointing, most of its senior officials amazingly detached and their responses surprisingly shallow.

Around May in 2014, a journalist on Business Daily carried a story to the effect that university school fees would be reviewed upwards. Concerned I tabled the agenda at the National level in the student leadership forum and we crafted a path of response. I called the journalist to seek clarity of the story, and he directed me to Professor Some, the CEO of the Commission on University Education. Prof. Some noted that the story did not reflect his opinion. When I spoke with Prof. Some we reviewed the University Education Act, and noted that the body with the legal mandate to review university fee was nonexistent, and that the mandate still lay with respective universities.

So, to the extent that individual universities were not reviewing school fees, there was no need for the panic. I asked Prof. Some to come out and release a press statement to that effect, he never did it.
Frustrated, I reached out to the Principal Secretary Education, and gave him a brief, then called the cabinet secretary. No response was coming forth and tension was building. We released a press conference urging the cabinet secretary to publicly confirm that these discussions were not going on. We reached out to the chairperson of the Vice Chancellors committee and all confirmations were that the article was a strange creation.

At this point, a strike notice had been issued. Frustrated, I reached out to the chairperson of the Education committee Hon. Sabina Chege, the TNA chairperson Hon. Sakaja and finally the Presidents spokesperson.
No response was coming forth, and in a very disgusting turn, the cabinet secretary left for Botswana the day he was to release a public statement to the effect that no university fee was being increased.

At this point, the chairperson of the Education committee spoke with the president I believe, who gave his assurance that such had not happened. The very last day to the strike, is when we engaged the head of civil service then, Joseph Kinyua, was a call made to the cabinet secretary and a call was made to the Cabinet Secretary and he released a memo stating that the fee was not being reviewed at 6:45 PM barely 12 hours to the strike, and several universities had already mobilized and demonstrations that could have been averted happened.

My second experience with this indolence would then come to happen when HELB was delayed. Two months before resumption of school, an officer of the Board informed me that the Board had no funds, and was hoping to depend on recoveries to meet disbursement needs. Certainly, this was not going to work.

I raised the matter with a senior manager at the board who confirmed the fears. It became very clear to me that HELB did not have money, and could not raise the funds. So our energies for engagement were to refocus elsewhere.
As the first port of call, it was the ministry of Education, no response was coming forth. So we had a joint meeting with Hon. Johnson Sakaja, the PS Finance and the PS Education who guaranteed that funds will be released.
The week we were assured the funds would be disbursed approached. Reaching out to the Board, I was informed there was no indication that this would be honored. I got a few friends to call the cabinet secretary for Education to pressure him; as always, the response was a detached near dismissal.

One sector that gets disrupted with student demonstrations was the private sector. So I called the chairperson of the Private Sector Alliance Vimal Shah and asked for his intervention. He called the cabinet secretary, and the PS Finance who gave a reassurance again that the money would be released.

But as it approached Wednesday, I got alarmed again and reached the President through his spokesperson, this was the second time. It was a surprise to them because at that incident he believed the matter had been resolved.
It was not till Thursday evening, again 12 hours to the demonstration, that Charles Ringera the CEO HELB called me saying he is at central Bank and the matter had been released to City Bank before instructions could be released to other banks.

We had to call respective banks and ask them to call in their staff early morning Friday to start crediting the funds in a desperate attempt to avert another strike.

These examples, where a government awaits, ignores and simply does not care until a real conflict is in the view is so ingrained a culture in government that you really wonder why.

Sometimes you get an impression that this is deliberate, perhaps there is secret profiteering that occurs when crises in this country peak. But sometimes, inaction stems from the unholy interests that are at center of these controversies. Monday’s display of police power points to a powerful figure at control. What is surprising, is that the police can be deployed at such scale without the inspector general being aware. One wonders whether he is in full command, or whether the police enjoy a different command structure.

While the matter on the Langata piece of land has been in the public domain for over one month, as late as the day when Fidel Odinga was buried, the cabinet secretary for lands was overheard stating that she was not aware about that particular piece of land.

This leaves one wondering, what is the role of the digital communication unit in the presidency. Instead of concerning itself with which blogger has abused the president, this is an exciting space where real issues can be gathered and transmitted to government departments for quick action and such communicated back to the public real time.

The government’s response mechanism is slow and painful. Outright indolence if you ask me. And it will take way bolder a policy or action, than just an expression of disappointment.

On a purely political front, Jubilee for certain is becoming a master at crafting is own path to being unpopular. It is surprising.

MANY BEFORE WADI HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN BY THE STATE IS ALL WE SAY

WadiMost often we are so first to point a finger, to judge and say how evil another person is. Myself I know, each day I get second chances and I refuse the cheap path of condemnation. Even the worst in us, is still human.
I just chose a path that saw my role in what my peer did. My own societies love for sensationalism, my country’s intolerant culture.

Yesterday, I wrote an article on the case of Allan Wadi, which can be summarized as follows:

That What Allan Wadi did was extreme and against the law of Kenya and should not be condoned if we have to secure our nation.

That his prosecution however was not entirely procedural and is manifestly selective
That many high profile Kenyans, both in opposition and government have not been prosecuted
That the handlers of the Presidency were in part to blame for the disrespectful utterances against the President on Social Media

That to secure Kenya’s social media, we must rise beyond traditional retribution and build a value system that fosters restraint and respects divergent opinion.

And that Government is called to greater prudence and should handle official Presidential communication and Political communication distinctly to allow all Kenyan’s political affiliation notwithstanding, to relate to their President.

And finally, that it was my view that the President should consider pardoning Allan Wadi.

I have received overwhelming feedback o all my social media and personal platforms that warrant my response.
1. That the President is incapable of Pardoning Wadi as the law shifted the power (Government official): Lie, Article 113 of the Constitution allows the President power to grant a free or conditional pardon to a person convicted of an offence, postpone the carrying out of a punishment, either for specified or indefinite period substitute a less severe form of punishment; or remit all or part of a punishment.

The subsequent Power of Mercy Act provides for the Establishment of an Advisory Committee pursuant to Article 113 (2) of the constitution through which the President is petitioned. The office of the President provides the secretariat for the committee making this directly under the President.

2. Wadi was not imprisoned for insulting the President: The mandatory 1 year Jail term is in respect for undermining the Authority of the a Public officer. In the posts made by Wadi, two Public officers are mentioned, CS Waiguru and the President. In my view, his reference to CS Waiguru is sheer derogatory and defamation, what constitutes undermining is his reference to the President. So the state directly prosecuted Wadi because he insulted the President.

3. Wadi’s actions are extreme and two years is proportionate: Ferdinant Waititu, then an MP called for deportation of Maasai’s from Embakasi, saying they were Tanzanians and do not belong to Kenya, later he apologized and the charges were dropped. 2 People of the Maasai origin died allegedly on account of these utterances
Ali Chirau Makwere on July 1st 2010, Mwakwere said that the indigenous people in Coast have been oppressed by Arabs, when Mwakere offered an apology, the charges were dismissed.

Around August 2011, the commission on Cohesion and National Integration after it had charged MPs Fred Kapondi, Wilfred Machage and a business person Miller applied to withdraw the charges to seek alternative means of dealing with the three. The three would later be acquitted on account that the video recording showing them did not have a certificate of ownership.

Before Wadi’s irrational posts, he would pass as one reasonable Kenyan. The young man a Starehe Alumnus has a chance of contributing to a good nation. If you saw Wadi in court, he was apologetic and defeated and even claimed insanity.

Most often we are so first to point a finger, to judge and say how evil another person is. Myself I know, each day I get second chances and I refuse the cheap path of condemnation. Even the worst in us, is still human.
I just chose a path that saw my role in what my peer did. My own societies love for sensationalism, my country’s intolerant culture.

I will never advocate for disrespect to the President, I still stand by the last conclusion of my Article: LIEUTENANT WADI SHOULD BE PARDONED BY HE UHURU KENYATTA

LOCKING UP LIEUTENANT WADI IS NOT A DETERRENT TO SOCIAL MEDIA ABUSE:

You have seen hash tags like #StoptheDrunkPresident, extremely disrespectful to the Presidency, but how would a hurting republic respond if the handlers of the Presidency are willing to equate it to a stripping hash tag with #Mypresidentmychoice. If the handlers of the Presidency are willing to equate the Presidency to a campaign against marauding perverts, they surely cannot cry if that will be the spirit with which people start seeing the President.Wadi

The second day of the year saw Kenya record a mix of fortunes on its quest to secure basic freedoms. On one front a high court suspended several controversial articles in the recently enacted Security laws Amendment Act (2014) that touched on human rights. On the same day, a magistrate sentenced a University Student to two years in Prison on account of hate speech and undermining the President.

An Amin Dada coined phrase seemed certainly applicable; to paraphrase it, in Kenya you have freedom of expression, but freedom after expression is not guaranteed.

A look at what Wadi posted clearly suggests he went overboard. And such is undesirable. My intention though is not to question the legality or lack of it of what he did; my view is to demonstrate that the deterrence sought by the state cannot be achieved by this selective prosecution of a few.

It will interest Kenyans to know that Wadi is not at all an irrational or extreme person in entirety. In fact, in many instances the young man is strikingly reasonable even opining against the political outfits he vehemently defends.

After the election 2015, when Kenya was politically charged and ethnic rhetoric on social media at peak, Wadi, having been a sworn supporter of Raila noted in a post, that in any democratic contest, you either win or lose, and in this, his preferred candidate had lost. He wished the new President well.

Even Raila Odinga was not as magnanimous.

But what actually is fueling this mode of writing: In my opinion many things, these range from the government’s own mod of communication, general liking by Kenya of sensationalized talk and the inherent nature of Social media communication.

Wadi’s trend of posting changes towards extreme hate as the first year of Jubilee government wears off. And this trend can be observed with many other bloggers who have a leaning with CORD in what appears to be heightening rhetoric since the coalition feels helpless.

In part, what is so common in the way Wadi posts is his view of the fact that Raila is much hated by what he calls ‘mumbilee’ folks. In my own judgment, the extreme posts Wadi then starts to post is a natural response to attacks on what he considers as his political association.

There has been in the last two years extreme hate perpetuated by government leaning bloggers and sometimes even sacred state instruments which has attracted corresponding hate from opposition sympathizers.

And it would appear that the government is okay with hate if it is not directed to it. Kenya has experienced a unique trend where demonstrating extreme hate for a tribe gets one elected unopposed. The only incidence I recall when the President strongly came out against his own supporters was when Otieno Kajwang’ died.

It also appears that the Kenyatta Presidency is the architect of how opposition bloggers address the President. The overly loaded political rhetoric on social media, mostly unsubstantiated by key government installations like the PSCU invite hate from those who do not directly associate with the President.

An official government website for instance carries a statement but calling Raila Odinga a terrorist; why would an Odinga fanatic resort to calling the President a criminal.

The sympathizer is wrong, and his statement is disrespectful to the Presidency, but a state agency equally has no business in being politically insensitive and expecting respect.

As a society if we choose to be intolerant to social media or media abuse, let us do so completely and not selectively. I will be interested to see Kalonzo Musyoka in court for saying your name betrays you, Moses Kuria in court for the multiple insults he hurls. If not, this is a system where the poor are the ones being subjugated, it’s not about the dignity of the presidency or otherwise, it is about a poor man should not speak what a rich man can say.

Politics is an art of mediating largely different interests. It’s an institution that is meant to create a relative harmony in societies with competing identities, views and associations, and political communication, if it has to serve its purpose, must always be true to these principles.

The handlers of the Presidency invite extremism not just from opposition, but even from very key supporters of the President.

You have seen hash tags like #StoptheDrunkPresident, extremely disrespectful to the Presidency, but how would a hurting republic respond if the handlers of the Presidency are willing to equate it to a stripping hash tag with #Mypresidentmychoice. If the handlers of the Presidency are willing to equate the Presidency to a campaign against marauding perverts, they surely cannot cry if that will be the spirit with which people start seeing the President.

The structure of any society calls government to greater prudence than the opposition. It cannot be the business of a government to compete with the opposition on who can release the hardest hitting of statements. In this case, recklessness of talk can be a luxury minimally enjoyed by the opposition, but it cannot define a government’s communication.

On another level though, this throw-people-into-cells attitudes is another typical response of a government oblivious of the issues it is dealing with.

Monitoring and control of social media has to go beyond traditional retributive mechanisms. Even extraordinarily closed societies like china face great problems in controlling social media.

Face Book is its own culture, regulated by the uniqueness it brings to communication. It gives audience that would naturally be hard to get, a support base of people that traditional models would not offer. And this cause an excitement that lowers self control.

In a research by Columbia University published by the wall street journal browsing Facebook lowers our self control. The effect is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks were made up of close friends, the researchers say.

Most of us present an enhanced image of ourselves on Facebook. This positive image—and the encouragement we get, in the form of “likes”—boosts our self-esteem. And when we have an inflated sense of self, we tend to exhibit poor self-control.

As a result, people will tend to be always rude on social media. The only sure way of curtailing excesses on Social Media is a strong value system that furthers self restraint and accommodates divergent opinion.

This culture has to be built by the first citizen; the President. The drafters of our constitution had a particular goal in mind when they stated that the Presidency is a symbol of national unity.

What amazes me is the irreconcilable difference between Uhuru Kenyatta, an exceptionally warm and simple person at a personal level and a very arrogant presidency that the institution is becoming.
The molders of an Uhuru Narrative are losing the script. Our country is becoming way more divisive that it should be. We are letting go a chance of the second republic, which in my opinion the President would have secured an enduring legacy.

The Wadi incident has rekindled claims of selective justice; when a crime is committed by anti-government fellow, the machinery swings into action. When it’s done by the pro-system fellow, the system does not condemn it.

A government cannot be glad to enjoy support of legislators who call for mass murder or abuse all communities, then hope to secure prudent use of social media by jailing a university student whose only influence is to get likes of 70 other people.

If we want to deter negative use of social media, we must be sincere to condemn everyone in equal measure and forge a government where the minority feels that their voice can at least be hard.

Finally, to secure respect for the Presidency, a clear distinction needs to be made between political communication and government communication. Uhuru Kenyatta is the President of Kenya, not of Jubilee or TNA. It would be prudent to have state communication fashioned in a deserving all accommodating tone.

I would be happier is the PSCU can shift to be a communication frontier for TNA. Kenyans should be given a chance to dissociate the Presidency from the routinely acerbic communications characteristic of this entity. Or at least it remodels its communication, after all, its Directors are civil servants who are required by law not to be partisan.

All said and done, the Presidency deserves respect. It is the first institution in our Republic, and with or without the law; no one should be able to hurl insults at the President. But for us to create this society, we must be ready all of us to work for it. And respct to the President can exist even with criticism.

Allan Wadi committed an offence under the law; he up dated his status with the rage but from a humble hostel. He apologizes, of all things, this is an offence against the head of state, and THE PRESIDENT SHOULD PARDON WADI