THE SECURITY LAWS AMENDMENT ACT (2014): A RETURN TO KANU DAYS OR OPPOSITION SENSATION?

It is instructive to note here, that in the US Senate for example, only 1 senator voted against the bill. That is how United the US was. Whether that Act was repugnant to modern rights, there was the legitimacy of collective acquiescence which government in Kenya can only in our current state, claim to if naïve.

By comparison too, the US Act took about, 30 days to put together and pass, it affected about 6 Acts. In Kenya, the putting together of the Bill was done in 7 days, quoting the President, and affected a total of 21 Acts of Parliament. The Kenyan Parliament has an impressive record of passing sub-standard bills, for whatever purpose, this time was not adequate for such extensive amendments and in my opinion, the hurry was certainly not justified.

President Kenyatta Signs into Law the Security Amendment Bill

President Kenyatta Signs into Law the Security Amendment Bill

The Country was treated to unprecedented chaotic scenes in Parliament, when the controversial Security Amendment Bill 2014 was being discussed. The opposition, having resigned to the fate that they will lose on the floor of the house, opted to disrupt the sitting unsuccessfully. The Bill was debated on and later passed and assented into law by the President.

Today Monday, the opposition is largely expected in Court to question the constitutionality of certain provisions in the Act, and is on record stating that if the court does not give a favorable ruling, they will engage the public directly through mass protests. (I am awaiting someone to criticize this statement by the way, the President is unable because he himself has disobeyed a court order before, a precedent that my hurt him soon) Human Right groups, the media, and several foreign nations, notably the US have expressed dissatisfaction with the process. The Kenyan public is divided, largely along partisan lines on the matter.

Before opining on the merit or otherwise of the law, it is imperative that I note the following:

That even if the law was one hundred and ten percent good, the very fact that it has attracted such visible division within Kenya itself, is the first sure step to failure. My personal disappointment, which I shared with the leader of majority and anyone who bothered to care, was our inability to pull together on this as a country.

For example, this law has been largely equated to the USA Patriotic Act, even by the Presidency in a statement. The circumstances of the two laws are largely similar, the USA Patriotic Act was a response to the September 2011 Attacks, just as the Kenyan Amendment was a response to the Mandera Massacre. The USA Act first draft appeared first on 19th September, 2001, 8 days after the attack. It underwent reviews by 8 congressional committees, then was passed on the house of the Representatives on 24th October, 2001, The Senate on 25th October, 2001 and signed into law by President Bush on 26th October 2001.

It is instructive to note here, that in the US Senate for example, only 1 senator voted against the bill. That is how United the US was. Whether that Act was repugnant to modern rights, there was the legitimacy of collective acquiescence which government in Kenya can only in our current state, claim to if naïve.

By comparison too, the US Act took about, 30 days to put together and pass, it affected about 6 Acts. In Kenya, the putting together of the Bill was done in 7 days, quoting the President, and affected a total of 21 Acts of Parliament. The Kenyan Parliament has an impressive record of passing sub-standard bills, for whatever purpose, this time was not adequate for such extensive amendments and in my opinion, the hurry was certainly not justified.

However, these are procedural concerns which can be excused if the substance validates its worth. So, in analyzing the Bill, I have taken time to read the initial Bill as proposed, the subsequent Amendments, and the Bill as passed and assented to by the President. I have also taken a general view of concerns raised against the bill, and also reasons advanced by the proponents.

In the Presidents words, the only intention for passing the bill was to secure Kenya. So how far is this intention advanced by this Act?

In determining this, I restricted myself to two things, Proactive Measures Proposed by the Bill which was not in existence before, and provisions that seal loopholes that led to insecurity before.

Several propositions stand out. The Bill provides in Part VI the establishment of a Counter-Terrorism centre. The structure and command of the centre is well delineated and in my opinion if effectively organized has the ability to realize the mandate of effective tracking of terrorist activities.

The Firearms Act is also amended to establish a Firearms Licensing Board whose composition radically departs from the current status. The centralizing of licensing to this properly constituted board takes away chances, if adequately Operationalize, of illegal arms licensing or criminals obtaining weapons.

The Act also amends the Prisons Act providing for a comprehensive profiling of all persons by way of their biometrics, personal data, physical address and what have you. This is in attempt to ensure adequate follow up, and will certainly, if implemented go a long way in determining recurrent offenders and flagging potential threats and also enhancing police surveillance.

This provision also however brings out the inherent inadequacy in this Act, while the Patriotic Act for instance increased the budget for counter-terrorism initiatives, this bill does not allocate resources for its operationalization. The Biometric database for instance is an expensive venture, which unless the government suggests supplementary budgeting, may have to wait till June during the routine budget cycle.

If there was such urgency for its passage, there should been a commensurate urgency in its implementation I believe if the state believes this is the key to fixing insecurity.

The Labour Act was also amended and an inter-ministerial committee to advise the minister in charge of labor on matters involving work permits and vetting applications of registration of employment bureaus and Agencies.

This is a welcome amendment in view of the many sufferings many Kenyans have undergone in countries especially in the Middle East.

However, while work permits may be issued by the ministry of labor, the loophole in my opinion lies with Immigration. Ministers Gideon Konchella and Otieno Kajwang’ have been blamed for allowing an influx of immigrants in the guise of work permits. This forced, then President Kibaki, to move the final stage of application from the ministry to the office of the President.

With the restructure, I was unable to establish where this function lies; assuming that it lies with the ministry of labor, this inter-ministerial committee then will certainly work.

The other provisions, as regards the National Intelligence Service we will discuss them later on.

At this point, let us address ourselves to the issue of Appointment of the Inspector General of Police. The National Police Service Act was amended to give the President Powers to Appoint the Inspector General of Police and essentially remove the National Police Service Commission from the Equation.

The President will therefore appoint a person and submit their name to the National Assembly for vetting and approval.

The justification for this was that since the buck stops with the Presidency, he should have a certain level of control on the IG.

The level of control here can only mean two things, that the President can either fire you or direct you.

Section 15 of the Police Service Act provided for the procedure of removing the Inspector General of Police which included a petition to the commission, formation or tribunal, review of the petition, submission to parliament then President. The deletion of the section effectively enables the President, when he satisfies himself that the threshold of Article 245 (7) of the Constitution has been reached, to fire the IG and appoint another person.

Whoever, the President still lacks power to give directions to the Inspector General of Police. This is since, Article 245 (2) of The Constitution provides that The Inspector General of Police shall exercise an Independent Command over the National Police Service.

In fact, the constitution only envisages only one instance when the Inspector General can receive instructions; that is from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Is there a need to have an inspector General who is directly appointed by the President and fired at will, no. When the constitution and attending Acts were being enacted, the drafters had our history, and particularly the Kenya post election violence in mind. The Police were blamed for being partisan and undertaking partisan commands. There was therefore need to have an Inspector General who owes their loyalty to the constitution and not a mere political appointee.

The very nature of security operations of a country does not afford anyone the luxury of firing the Inspector General of Police at will. That in itself is a risk. Whether the President can do a better job singly than an entire commission in identifying a suitable person is another question. And will the President televise the vetting as Kenyan’s have come to be accustomed to.

One may argue that anyway, that public vetting still gave us Kimaiyo, but I certainly believe, it is a far much better process that ceding the appointment to the President and his advisers.

The other Amendment worth our consideration is to the Refugees Act. Interestingly, the bill seeks to restrict the Number of Refugees who can be in Kenya at any time to one hundred and fifty thousands only.

I do not understand the motivation of this provision, but either way, Kenya has approximately 534, 938 Refugees, 52, 285 Asylum Seekers and about 20,000 Stateless Persons. This gives us an approximate Number of 607,000.

Immediately the President Assented the Bill into law, the state, or however should be responsible for that aspect of the law started committing an illegality. Another glaring question is, if a war breaks out in Uganda, and over 150,000 people cross our border, will we close our border and say well, our laws can only take 150,000. What if our neighbors had such laws and a fight started in Kenya, would we all die here just because already 150,000 of us have already gone out.

Another crime which certainly is fascinating is the prohibiting of publication of information which undermine investigations and also images of victims of terrorism. Both offences are punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years or a fine of Ksh. 5,000,000. With the extensive use of Social media, I doubt this law can be enforced when a photo posted gets shared by 1000 other people. But say for instance, a journalist in the United Kingdom publishes the photo; will Kenya seek their extradition to come and face trial here? Or is it just a law to ensure when terrorists hit, Kenyans have no opportunity of seeing what actually happened.

So if a bomb hits Nairobi, God forbid, what is KTN expected to broadcast? According to the act you cannot broadcast images of the injured or the dead. But on the other hand, this serves as a good warning shot at the Press which in my opinion has established a compromising relationship with the state.

Finally, I will address myself to the issue of Immigration and Citizenship reforms. Amendments to the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act was amended to among other things establish a Border Control and Operations Coordination Committee charged with the development of Policy on entry and exit points a welcome idea in my view.

The Registration of Persons Act was amended by inserting Section 18 (A) which sought to give the Director Powers to give cancel any Identity Card issued under the Act. An Amendment to the Original Bill saw an introduction of a safeguard that the cancellation will only take effect after 15 days to give the person an opportunity to appeal in court.

The New law only requires the Director to give you a notice of intention for cancellation of your Identity Card and you will have 15 Days to show cause why the cancellation should not be effected.

Now this is where the problem lies. There is no one in Kenya capable in my opinion, of proving that their identity card is genuine. No one takes a photo of themselves when being finger-printed and there are no copies of application papers you retain.
It is unfair in my view for the law to expect a citizen to prove that their identity card is not genuine. In my opinion, the law may have perhaps required the Director, when expressing intention for cancellation to show reason for the cancellation.

What the government was hoping to achieve here in my opinion, was how best to deal with Identity cards fraudulently obtained. In my opinion, this can be dealt with in two ways.

The first is to seal the loopholes through which such fraud occur; this law does not address that. It does not expressly place a burden on its officials to ensure they issue genuine cards. It does not address the corruption embedded within our registration process.

Then secondly it would create a law with a sunset, that is to expire after a certain period, say 2 years, within which period it would audit all Identity Cards issued and subject those questionable to further scrutiny or even provisions of Section 18(A).
The danger in this provision is that it can be abused. Someone can wake up one day and their identity card is cancelled and they become stateless.

I am unable to address myself to all provisions, but my opinion is this: Whereas this law largely is good, it has parts that were conceived with sinister motives and several questions must be asked.

For example, even though some of these provisions were dropped, why did the government under any circumstance think that by requiring the Cabinet Secretary to designate areas of picketing, security would be improved? What is the relationship of demonstration and insecurity?

The only incident that comes to mind was the Mombasa riots which resulted in deaths after certain clerics were shot. It is impossible to see any connection to security, perhaps the government was reacting to‪#‎OccupyHarambeeAvenue‬.
It will certainly be a disservice to this opinion, if I do not comment on what happened in Parliament. The Chaos are inexcusable and an outright shame and should not be celebrated, encouraged or tolerated. And I want to support the ethics and anti- corruption commission to investigate this incident, and many such that have occurred in County Assemblies.

As we do this however, I have to note one thing, at no point should anyone in this country feel that their opinion does not matter. The members of opposition I am certain are aware that they are the minority, and that they may not have their way, but certainly they must have their say.

An outcome of a democratic election cannot be autocracy. The opposition should never accept to feel helpless, that their say does not matter because the government can whip its membership.

I am concerned that Parliament has failed to understand that ours is a Presidential System and they owe to Kenyans and the constitution to check Executive Excesses. The Speaker of the National Assembly is an impressive joke and I can’t describe it in a better way than Gitobu Imanyara writer who said, Jubilee Mps love him, CORD hate him, but they all are united in their disrespect of him.

I wrote a while back, that President Uhuru’s chance to leave a legacy lies in two things, either taking a bipartisan approach and healing the divide or deeply supporting devolution, he is not doing well on both, and Kenya gets divided some more again.

UHURU IS NOW FREE: WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND WILL JUBILEE HOLD?

There is already talk of an imminent split of Jubilee because the ICC is the cord that bound the two entities together. While I agree that indeed the ICC question played a great role in the unity of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, I think the excitement that the fall of Uhuru’s case spells doom for jubilee is naïve. This is for several reasons.

The dynamics of Uhuru and Ruto cases are very different. The two cases share one indisputable thing; they were at the ICC as a result of either omission or commission of the Kibaki side of coalition government. I have held this opinion for long, and I am certain it will be validated.

Last week ended with a win for one Uhuru Kenyatta. I mean, after the lashing when he came back from his Formula One escapades, he finally facilitated the retiring of Inspector General of Police, and managed to hide Lenku. By the way, was Lenku fired, retired, reassigned or whatever? I do not know, the only accurate answer I have received so far, he was a victim of the Mandera Massacre, quite literally and figuratively.

So, the President’s week could not have ended any better. The International Criminal Court finally withdrew the charges against him. And with that, the man was excited, driving himself home. But as always, the politics of the day dawned on him pretty first.

So what does the withdrawal of the case mean?uhuruto110214

I would like to go back to that clip, when the cabinet secretary for ministry of Foreign affairs was announcing the decision. She noted, to paraphrase her, that with the same vigor and commitment, they will work on the remaining two cases.

The statement reveals something: Work has gone into the Presidents’ case. Whereas the Prosecutor noted that the only reason why she dropped the case was the inadequacy of the evidence, the reality of the political nature of both the court and the cases, suggest that many extra-legal considerations were taken into account.

As Adam Taylor insinuated in his article on Washington Post, the fall of this case has many implications on international justice. One it sets into motion a possibility that even on international platforms, there are people who will always be bigger than the law. Well, Kenya has not hidden its interest in pursuing this agenda, since one of the issues for discussion at the Assembly of State parties is a proposal for immunity of sitting head of states.

Secondly, it brings to the fore the fragility of international mechanisms, and gives us one clear thing that we must always pursue: Our best bet with justice, lies in strengthening local mechanisms. At the international level, it is politics, and one can always negotiate their way out of any situation.
Thirdly, it is a diplomatic score for the African Union; whether the pressure from AU had actual bearing on the outcome of the case or not, the union will be keen to appropriate unto itself a certain level of might. And since politic is just as much impression as it is reality, well the union has definitely scored.

And finally, the withdrawal may just as well have a good impact on the court itself. Since the evidence was inadequate, and the case was withdrawn, the court can claim to be judicially and operationally independent, because, in an ideal situation, cases in courts with inadequate evidence are withdrawn. If it were an entirely political case, Uhuru would have been fixed either way; with or without evidence.
On the domestic front, the collapse of this case will be extremely politically significant.

There is already talk of an imminent split of Jubilee because the ICC is the cord that bound the two entities together. While I agree that indeed the ICC question played a great role in the unity of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, I think the excitement that the fall of Uhuru’s case spells doom for jubilee is naïve. This is for several reasons.

The dynamics of Uhuru and Ruto cases are very different. The two cases share one indisputable thing; they were at the ICC as a result of either omission or commission of the Kibaki side of coalition government. I have held this opinion for long, and I am certain it will be validated.

William Ruto’s advocates have mentioned senior government officials as having been behind his indictment at the ICC. These include a PS and a senior political advisor to the President.

These two people have faced extreme hostility from the URP arm of jubilee, but my guess, is that they are in government because they created the Uhuru Presidency.

So, while the case of the President has collapsed, the Ruto case can also collapse, but will it? I bet it can only be after 2017.

In politics, people bargain with many things, including the dirt I have on you. In my opinion, it will be in the interest of the TNA arm of jubilee to have the ICC case flickering past 2017 as a checkmate to the Deputy President.
Many people share an opinion that Ruto’s chance at the Presidency lies if he were to go against Uhuru in 2017. I partly agree, because after 2017, the dynamics will be very difficult for the Deputy President. Certainly he will no longer be young and cool, a notion jubilee has planted as a key ingredient to qualify as president.

So yes, the impatiently ambitious Deputy President, can actually bolt out of jubilee, and it is in the interest of politics, that TNA maintains a good bargaining chip against him.

So my own projection will be, Jubilee will survive beyond 2017, and Ruto’s case may last beyond 2017.

The second political implication is the disadvantage the death of this case gives to jubilee narrative. It was easy for the duo to cast themselves as victims or a wider scheme to deny them power. They whipped emotions around this, and made their supporters to believe a vote against them, was agreeing that they should head to the ICC.

So, politically, the duo has to find a narrative as powerful as that to replace this. They will in 2017, no longer be victims, or at least the President will not be a victim or a wider plot.

This can easily therefore change the 2017 general elections to be a vote on how well they have performed. If the 2017 election becomes a scorecard, it cedes a relative advantage to their opponents who would like to start objective evaluation of their politics.

In 2013, advancing a rational argument against the duo was very hard since their candidacy was pegged on emotions. You cannot be rational where emotions reign.

Uhuru Kenyatta may therefore easily be the villain of the 2017 elections, a position he has never been politically. In 2002, the villain was Moi, in 2007, it was Kibaki, and in 2013 it was Raila. In 2017, it may be about the person Uhuru Kenyatta.

My own estimation is that this can be exciting, especially because the President seems to be unable to manage criticism well.

The opposition has a good chance at taking this to their advantage; I know they will not anyway.

The only way Uhuru will not be the villain of the 2017 election is if Raila vies for President. If he does, a simple narrative like, let Raila lose fairly for once will carry the day and Uhuru will be smiling back to statehouse. The baggage of incumbency will only rest on Uhuru, if there is no other emotional option in the election.

If therefore Raila fails to run, and the opposition identifies a single candidate whose profile by way of charisma and stature can match Uhuru’s, 2017 elections have a chance of being very competitive.

There has been a debate whether this collapse means the triumph of impunity, to say so, would mean we are presuming Uhuru guilty, which is not fair and is not a notion of the rule of law. As to whether he is innocent or not, the process aborted, there is no objective way of determining that.
There is the certainty of uncertainty as we move ahead. Interesting times that must be watched carefully.

Lone Felix

CITIZENS DO THEIR ROLES MR. PRESIDENT: MAYBE TAKE YOURS A BIT MORE SERIOUSLY TOO

I for one, I do not expect the government to do everything. And this government is anywhere close to saying what can even be remotely close to everything. Kenyans are a conscious people who go on with their daily struggles and whose greatest wish to their government for now is to assure them the basics. Now, I wish not to assume knowledge of the many priorities a government has to grapple with. And many tough decisions holders of power have to make, but certainly a decision between heading back home to a grieving nation and watching a fascinating formula one race cannot be so hard to make. 

During my primary school days’ I pledged my loyalty to the President of Kenya every Monday and Friday morning. It was a ritual which my teachers inducted me into with such admirable commitment. Of course, in the excitement of my childhood, I enjoyed knowing I could recite those words.

Today, I go back to the vaults of my past, where in my childhood, the state lied to me to be loyal to the president first before my nation. It is a vault I despise, for today I realize the state wanted me to conform but the only place I can find a reason to be respectful today. So, inspired by the countless pledges I made to the presidency, and understanding that in so doing, I am abdicating my duty of vehemently rejecting bad leadership, I choose to be restrained. I hope to be restrained.

I have taken a deep reflection before deciding to write. And from the onset, I’d rather state the underpinnings of my rather strong opinion today.

I am aware, that presidents are human, and I have a feeble imagination of what the presidency could look like. I can imagine the burden of carrying a country on ones back; the impatience that each morning brings to a President’s plate. Security and other briefings that may disorient one, yet in all this, the person president is required to hold both their person and the country together.

Being human, I understand that criticism can weigh you down, especially when you know from your own eyes that perhaps you have done your best. You can wonder why other people are not able to see it. And it is very natural to want to shift or at least home that someone else should share in the blame.

And finally, I understand one thing, that rarely will a leader meet people’s expectations. The expectations are diverse and wide, and most of the times, leadership is about priority and sacrifice. It is again human, that even if you never achieve everything, people appreciate the little you do.
With these underpinnings, I have to express disgust at what is increasingly becoming a weird Presidency.

When responding to a Journalist’s question on why there seemed to be no improvement of security despite numerous re-assurances, the Deputy President responded: From where you sit, you may not be able to appreciate what has already been done. And that whatever we see, the deaths and a couple of explosions, was but a fraction of what was possible.

The good, Deputy President did not ask the country to clap for the security apparatus. But he seemed to be suggesting that may be, we should appreciate and not just offer blanket condemnation.

This equals a call for me to understand that there is something being done when 28 hardworking Kenyans are massacred by a ruthless gang. As a citizen, I have my duties and obligations. To pay tax, obey the law and build my country. I do not however have an obligation to understand the failings of the state. It is impressive to learn that our security forces have preempted many planned attacks, but if at best, still these large scale massacres will be witnessed, I am sorry, your explanations do not just make sense.
Now, there is this narrative the jubilee government has been choreographing, passing the buck. It started with a funny ad, on TV. It is funny in many ways, in particular, that part where the President says: Thugs, run and hide, because there will be a million camera’s watching. At best, this was theatrical. And of course, the signature, “usalama unaanza na wewe.”

This translated to the inspector General of Police asking Kenyan’s what their role was in maintaining security. And yes, the President reiterating that indeed, Kenyan’s bore a part of blame in the existing insecurity.

I am certain the anger in Kenyan’s at the thought of a government keen on sharing the blame arises from a very genuine confusion. Confusion because, Kenyan’s build fences around their homes and those who are able constructs gates without a call from government. Kenyans certainly lock their doors every night without the President asking them to. A majority pay taxes to the state on an understanding that the basics that a government should ensure will be guaranteed. And security is a basic.
It beats logic what a government means when it asks a mother whose child was raped why she left the child with a pest uncle. Of course that mother did not expect a police man to sit on the front couch with a gun cocked to protect the child. But how does such an unfortunate incident anyway justify Kapedo or Mandera?

To be honest, even if the mother knew that the Uncle is likely to be a pest, it does not make any big difference whether she carried the baby on the back or left her home, because even if she carried the baby, anyway, and used a public bus, she is likely to be stripped and sexually assaulted before the eyes of her child.

And so should all Kenyan women stay at home to take care of their three year olds in an economy where this very government has decided to drive up the cost of living.

Kenyans are forgetful people. May be our leadership has been so characteristically mediocre that we can excuse many things. uhuruto110214

But there are some of these questions that do not just make sense in this country. Will we ever have each person with a policeman, of course not? And we do not want it anyway. But we see some elected leaders walking in town with six guards, armed with AK 47 Rifles. In Nairobi, people who are not senior government officials or foreign diplomats have roads cleared for them with police sirens anyway. In fact, people, who if this country was one properly managed by structures, they would be either running away from the police or in prison.

I for one, I do not expect the government to do everything. And this government is anywhere close to saying what can even be remotely close to everything. Kenyans are a conscious people who go on with their daily struggles and whose greatest wish to their government for now is to assure them the basics. Now, I wish not to assume knowledge of the many priorities a government has to grapple with. And many tough decisions holders of power have to make, but certainly a decision between heading back home to a grieving nation and watching a fascinating formula one race cannot be so hard to make.

Other global leaders have been faced with way less grievous scenarios and responded with much more zeal. When Wright Foley, a British Journalist was allegedly executed by ISIL, the United Kingdom Prime Minister not only cut short his vacation, he headed back to the United Kingdom and a legislative review to secure the UK border through tough requirements on suspected Jihadists was born.

While, the watching of formula one may be excused, certainly coming back and asking citizens what their role is, is just not a response one would expect from their leader. I hope this is too much a naïve expectation.

And yes organizations are flying their personnel out of Mandera, and Kenyan’s who cannot guarantee themselves security want to be flown out of Mandera. This situation shall certainly not be cured by amplifying the role an unarmed citizen should play.

Tough decisions have to be taken, certainly. From a complete restructure of our security system to dealing with soft human issues around relations and specific community grievances. The government cannot afford the luxury of becoming a cry baby. It must be bold, consistent and persistent.
And the best way the government should get me to play my role, is to inspire us into a unity, not self justification.

And indeed, there seems to be a malaise in the government, an obsession with how good they believe they are doing. Like we noted before, quoting numbers mean nothing, unless this can be translated to actual impact on people.

I hope the presidency can understand that criticism, and even abuse characterizes public duty. And that the weight of a fearful nation rests on its shoulders. There will certainly be no one, except Uhuru Kenyatta, whom we will be expecting to both assure us security and actually provide that security. And certainly, I am sure the government feels the anger and frustrations all Kenyans have.

On another note, the luxury of irresponsibility depicted by government can only be afforded in a situation where the opposition is also impressively bankrupt.

WHAT IS UHURU KENYATTA’S: “PR” or PRESIDENCY?

Uhuru-Kenyatta-selfie“Either way you look it, the person Uhuru has definitely shaped what the Kenya’s presidency looks like today. Not just by the fact of his being the occupant of the office, but his very personal nature.

A powerful narrative equally arises against this conclusion. I mean, all the communication around the presidency could be strategic; to borrow a word from what now is the “PSCU” Presidential strategic communication unit. Each photo, each post perhaps calculated to manipulate your thinking.”

The Singing Senator, Gerald, Otieno “Nyakwar Nyakwamba” Kajwang’ breathed his last; may the good Lord rest his soul. There are numerous occasions when he humorously communicated sad realities. While reporting, to Baba on the state of security, Kajwang’ captured what Kenya was then as a nation, of “mbomu, hapa, mbomu kule.” And at a rally recently again, he was at it, just failing short to call Kenya a failed state. He shot at the President, telling him police cannot die fo-fo-fo, a scathing political attack by all measure.

When he passed on, President Kenyatta eulogized him. He saying he found Kajwang a pleasant person to deal with. Yes, a truth that those who have never walked the trails of politics fail to understand, it is never personal. But even in death, many whose political egos were bruised by the senator lashed out at his breathless self. Such a vanity I must say.

It is uncharacteristic of a President to comment on the feedback he gets on his post, but Uhuru Kenyatta did the unexpected, he came to the defense of the dead; urging respect for the grief the Senators’ family was facing, a good thing. And Uhuru is increasingly becoming known for good things.

He visits Kibra with very little security detail and talks to common folks. He greets little children who do poems, and hosts Otonglo when he gives a good narrative. The man just is not stopping. He congratulates Gor Mahia and yes, gives Jaro Soldier immediate work.

To his critics, these are PR stunts that do not reflect the actual score card of his governance. To his followers, that is the president they elected; a man of the people, humble and down to earth. Whichever way you look at it, the charm offensive continues, and seems to be achieving its intended results, and so is the narrative that the stunts are just that, stunts, with no reflection of actual work.

Where does the truth lie? Is the Jubilee government working or are they just out to manipulate perception?

The answer is certainly not as clear as one would aspire. There is a remarkable difference between the Kibaki and Uhuru Presidencies. One looks like it did a lot, but communicated little; Uhuru’s is keen on communicating everything. Well, to play a devil’s advocate, “uwazi” transparency lies at the heart of jubilee promises, a key pillar. So perhaps, the good president is just but living his promise of ensuring you know what happens each day.

My interest was however to try and determine how the person Uhuru, has influenced what the Presidency now looks like. We all agree, the traditional aura of near-holy nature of the presidency has remarkably disintegrated. While Kibaki left the office without an official Facebook page, Uhuru’s page offers the platform where he interacts with people. Communicates messages and of course, shares those photos that make us see the cool president.

Generally, social media is never a true reflection of a person’s real nature. There are virulent bloggers online who when you meet, are impressively meek that you would be surprised at the contrast. But the man Uhuru, how different is the all smiling president from the “jamaa” UK.

His friends agree largely that the man has carried his nature to the presidency; a firm handshake, a good word for everyone and yes, those ten seconds that make you feel like he has known you for a lifetime.

Earlier this week, I met a gentleman who definitely has a soft Spot for Uhuru. And this started way back at the heart of post election violence. After the displacements, Uhuru so often visited the victims. On this particular day, he visited Mawingu Camp in Nakuru, a cold rainy day. He was the minister of Finance.

As it Rained, Uhuru stood with the IDP’s in the rain, and took porridge with them. Now this cemented a cord that you just cannot untie. Let me dwell slightly more on this IDP issue. Uhuru is among the accused at the ICC on account of 2007 Kenya’s post election violence. The case has had an impressive circus characterizing it, but the greatest paradox, is that the victims of those violence are the ones most vehemently opposed against the continuation of the case. To a majority of them, Uhuru was the sole intervener who rescued the situation.

This sort of draws a parallel to India’s Narendra Modi. All the men share an international loathing at some point, especially by the west, but a sharply contrasting fanatical support from their core home lovers.  And just for the sake of it, they all share a love for selfies. We will do a comparison later on.

Uhuru was born in royalty, no doubt. Born to a father who would become Kenya’s first President, he knew and lived power all through. In part, as I noted way earlier, he has a way with power. And the presidency and its trappings would rarely surprise him, may be the reason for the ease with the Presidency.

But even so, though born to the first President, that image of Uhuru with a truck ferrying cabbage from Nairobi to Kiambu, and later on working as a bank teller, perhaps point to a person who is not a typical “Africa’s big man’s son.”

Either way you look it, the person Uhuru has definitely shaped what the Kenya’s presidency looks like today. Not just by the fact of his being the occupant of the office, but his very personal nature.

A powerful narrative equally arises against this conclusion. I mean, all the communication around the presidency could be strategic; to borrow a word from what now is the “PSCU” Presidential strategic communication unit. Each photo, each post perhaps calculated to manipulate your thinking.

Is there an actual difference from Uhuru’s use of mainstream and Social Media and what other world leaders do?

Among global leaders who frequently use Social media is USA’s Barrack Obama. Obama has over 44.6 Million Followers on his official Page. A quick scan through the page points to it as largely impersonal. While it has glimpses that portray Obama as a cool guy, or perhaps who has a great working relationship with his Deputy, the bulk of posts point to a usage of social media as a mobilizing platform.

Obama therefore routinely posts petitions or messages aiming to seek support for a policy initiative he is undertaken. For a while now, the page has been dominated by messages relating to Obamacare, his pet healthcare reforms policy.

On the other hand, Narendra Modi of India has a strong 25.1 Million likes on Facebook. He, like Uhuru Kenyatta communicates activities on his platform, like which world leader he met and brief snippets of what the meeting was about. And yes, he too shares selfies.

The two leaders share a lot in common that could go into understanding the similarity in their messaging. We noted the disapproval they all shared at some point especially from foreign nations because of their association with violence, yet an inexplicable deep love from their core supporters. I do think that such messaging that seeks to point out the good personal attributes of the leader can be safely construed as a pursuit for acceptance.

In the Kenyan context, Kenyatta’s Presidency was founded on a fear that its mandate was not absolute. The thought of a persistently nagging opposition in my opinion is at the heart of this messaging. So the stunts and the carving of the stories seek to endear the president to people, especially those who did not support him.

There is definitely nothing wrong on this.

What would be wrong is if real work suffered at the altar of this impressionism. And indeed, there have been instances when government communication just failed to make sense and in part bordered over communicating or unnecessary PR.

Uwezo Fund for example, was launched on Sunday, September 7th 2013 in an impressively engineered event. At the time of the launch, largely Uwezo Fund was just but an idea. After the launch, it became apparent that even the regulatory framework of the fund was non-existent. Parliament had to consider the framework, pass it before Uwezo Fund, became a real policy.

More than a year on, after the launch, as late as last week, there was no single person who had received funding from the Uwezo Kitty. I am told the funds started being disbursed sometimes last week.

Now, I am unable to understand why at a very basic level, a government would launch a project that has no regulatory framework. The haste points to an urgent need of being seen to be working. And definitely, the first ad on “Usalama unaanza na mimi na wewe” was quite something.

The problem with “PR” is that it can reduce public criticism and drive a government to a comfort zone where they actually end up believing their own spinning. And this obsession with self approval can be seen starting to crop up in Jubilee. Considerably, agents of government are keen on passing the message that we are working, than listening to what the public say should be done. The natural consequence of this will be a disconnect between the masses and the leadership. A disconnect that will negate the very reason for PR.

As such, quoting numbers and vehement justification of a tenure will definitely do no long term good to the government; but that communication will certainly do magic if it resonates with the public’s reality. Unfortunately, individual reality cannot be manipulated.

Either way you see it, I walked through Kibra, and its way clean, thank God for the NYS seconded there, and am told the geothermal power is now working right? On a Radio show, one of the state spinners, Dennis Itumbi offered to pay electricity bills of anyone if the cost of electricity fails to come down next month. Still, police men were butchered in Kapedo; many Kenyan’s can barely afford a decent life and public health facilities are dens of death.

Whether PR or not, a lot more needs to be done.

THE RAILA NATIONS: THE UNCERTAINTY OF POST BABA ERA

For those who revere the man they nurse a hope of reinvention; at least for the last time perhaps. Well signs point to an ending season; bold internal rebellion and an ODM that is a pale shadow of its former self. Of course, a resurgent Jubilee that is so keen on allowing no chance at reinvention. And the man, Raila, his vigor and energy stolen each day by the advance of age

Kenyan politics has pivoted around this enigmatic figure for more than a decade. The man, Raila, has been a novice and a master, the hero and the villain. He has morphed from Tinga, to Agwambo to hammer and then baba; a master at reinvention.

His name has made careers and his person destroyed some. A characteristic Machiavellian prince in many ways who did not hesitate at some instances to burn the very bridges he used. To say Raila has been the Kenyan politics and the Kenyan politics has been Raila is not an unholy exaggeration.

But now the sunset looms; a statement that his believers would not bear. But which is a guarantee of nature, for every man must bow down at some point, and Baba, is just a man. Raila has been a controversy, a puzzle that history will try to unravel. And in his characteristic self, no one can predict just the perfect time when he should call it a day. And he knows the art, he keeps people guessing. Raila.

Raila built around himself an aura that is puzzling, his name sometimes overshadowing institutions. Not the best characteristic of a good leader, but I think a show of politics per excellence. And with this, he built two nations; one that believes the man and the other that loathes the man. Sometimes the latter has been reduced to be called the Luo nation, but that is a lie. For Raila commands followership albeit fading that goes well beyond the boundaries of Nyanza.

While the former, the nation that loathes the man anticipates his end, there is an unknown danger that it equally faces. Anytime Raila is in the politics, he becomes a common enemy, when he leaves; certainly, a unity of purpose for an impressively large constituency in Kenya disintegrates. So, in my own estimation, the two Raila nations must share in the anxiety of the post baba uncertainty.

So the most fundamental question is what lies ahead, after Baba?
For those who revere the man they nurse a hope of reinvention; at least for the last time perhaps. Well signs point to an ending season; bold internal rebellion and an ODM that is a pale shadow of its former self. Of course, a resurgent Jubilee that is so keen on allowing no chance at reinvention. And the man, Raila, his vigor and energy stolen each day by the advance of age.Raila Odinga

OKOA Kenya which in my interpretation would have provided a real chance has barely taken off. And while Raila in the last decade always set the pace, he finds himself playing reactionary. Trying to catch up, trying to mend what is disintegrating. Signs point to a looming sunset. And in part, I believe those around Baba instead of helping him craft a narrative that resonates with time, they each day are a luggage, being carried on his very back that knows both the joys and pains of time. Signs point to a looming sunset.

It will be foolhardy to conclude, whether there is nothing up his sleeves. Whether there is no other person after Baba.

To the ambitious, who hope they can inherit his faithful, this is the best time to start. And some in naivety believe this nation is up for auction.

While admittedly Kenyan politics his tribal, what has galvanized Luos around Raila is not necessarily his Luoness. It is his charisma, his person. He earned his place through stripes and whacks. Born of royalty, to a vice president to be, he crafted and cemented his own image. Told his own story and fought his battles. To imagine that after he leaves the scene, there shall remain a coherent Nation of faithful is to be naïve.

Well, certainly a huge number of people will now be up for grabs, but the ambitious who hope to take the loot home, in my estimation must be ready to craft a powerful narrative. In fact, a hope that anyone can replace Raila, in form and stature is impossible for much known reasons; no one can be Raila. So everyone should try being their own person. If there is a conclusion I am prepared to make, is that the Raila faithful cannot be inherited without considerable disruption. The going of the man, shall leave a nation that will certainly scatter, even if it will recollect itself later on.

The nation that loathes Raila must be prepared to find a new unity of purpose. And whatever narrative that will replace Raila, must certainly be powerful. It was so easy to whip emotions against the man and get followers. You could galvanize a narrative by just stating that is you are not supported, and then Raila will win. This narrative won 2007 and 2013. Certainly, post Baba shall call for a thorough reinvention.

The hope of his calling it a day will be disruptive, but certainly not unwelcome. He has given his time and life for country. Many see him as a hero, many as a villain. Many see him as though he championed a course; many think his was a raw pursuit of ambition. And many will struggle to have an opinion about him. Whichever Nation you belong, one thing we all agree, Raila Odinga existed, and an exciting time is ahead as we face a politics without him.

IN MEMORY OF THE DEAD: FATHER I AM NOW 24

So many times, in my own quest to be a man, I miss you. Those small voids that a young man experiences; the questions that a father would be suited to answer. The small successes that would make more sense if I felt your pat on the back. And that one thing that I would pay with my life to hear you say: Well done son.

In two short days, it will be sixth of November, 14 years since you died. It was on sixth, November, 2000. It was a Monday. I recall that day, though I was tiny, in stature and age, I still recall that day. I had been swimming in River Sio, you know that rock filled trench that taught my heart its rhythm. Water used to flow swiftly dad, and here the measure of a man was how swift you could swim against the current. A lifelong lesson I carry today.

Now, I know you are not aware, but three years earlier, I almost drowned here. You see, I was tiny, but always wanted to be a man. So I always took a dive, and when my brother Odhis, was not watching, I would go to the deeper ends. So on this day, I went into the silent waters, where current could not save me. So I swam, and swam till when my feeble arms could no longer hold me. I gasped for breath, and swallowed water.

These deep ends were so silent; no one seemed to notice as I gasped. Until this one guy, I just remember him as Moni. I should look for him, noticed me as I sank one more time. He did not rush to save me. The art of rescue meant that he had to wait, until when I had just swallowed enough water, before he could come.

But however designed that rescue thing, has never drowned. With every gasp and every gulp swallowed, is a step closer to death. The problem with drowning is that you are so aware that you are dying. So you keep reaching out to something, something that is not there. So you keeping gasping, amidst hopes that you may find something to hold onto to.

Well, that close shave with water never deterred my spirit. In childhood bravery, I still stood on the rugged rock naked, and took that bold plunge into the very depths that almost drowned me.

So on this Monday, after the ritual, I started walking him. You see, this plunge had so many things; you would leave the river with a buzz in your ear. And you had to jump up and down with the ear facing downwards for the water to come out. As the water came out, it was warm, close to being hot, and then you would hear well again.

So as water came out of my ears, I heard that unmistakable shriek. In Western Kenya, it could only mean one thing, a person was dead. People were crying, and from a far, I picked out Granny’s cry. You see, Granny had such a distinctive way of mourning; a rhythmic pulse that described loss and grief; a fusion of artistic cords with genuine cry. She could mourn, Granny mourned you Dad.

I wondered who would have died. I do not recall hearing anyone say you were sick. Even so, your death would have been the last thing on my mind. You were the last thing on my mind then.

But as I got home, I sensed danger. Mom was sobbing uncontrollably. She sat looking west, saying her friend had gone. Saying he had gone without a bye. Saying she missed those small things that were eaten up by years of separation. You see Dad, mom mourned you.

At first, it never struck me as anything. The gazes I received from people, those deeply warming sympathies that would make a young person believe that the loss only meant more concern. It is strange, but as I try to recall exactly what I felt, I think it was pride.

I felt proud of the loss, strange that sounds. But yes, I was ten, I had lost a father, and I had gazes of concern all around me. I was surrounded by love, and pats on the head. I was a son who had lost a father. All people go through this; just few people do so in the innocence of their childhood.

The memories of your funeral, cars; it is magical how in a village the number of cars that come for a funeral matter.

My last glimpse of you, you were stretched in that mahogany casket; peaceful in death. And I think I saw this dust on your shoe which I wanted to wipe before Auntie Pamela whisked me away.

Now, I never shed a tear, all through the days of the funeral; until by your graveside. When I saw your casket being lowered into the eternity something snapped.

I remembered that was the only time when it was just you and me. It had been in November, 1999. You were bringing me back home after a long stay in hospital. So you drove, I still remember the bottly- clings as your car, a jungle green KAC something passed over bumps. I still remember that sharp swerve on some corner when you almost hit a Matatu. You smiled with that guilt on your face.

Perhaps you may not recall, but I cried by your graveside. I just don’t know why. But you see, it is not good for a son to grow up never knowing how a pat on the back from a Dad would be.

I recount the hate I felt, and in my adolescent escapades the rebellion I waged against your grave. I never experienced your strict reign. But I enjoy the tales when my sister and bro tells me the fear your presence wielded. I am told anytime the hum of your car would pass by, they would run to their books. Yet, you had an eye for the one who was pretending. Bro, Tito tells me one day you found him looking at the book upside down. I think that was cool.

So many times, in my own quest to be a man, I miss you. Those small voids that a young man experiences; the questions that a father would be suited to answer. The small successes that would make more sense if I felt your pat on the back. And that one thing that I would pay with my life to hear you say: Well done son.

Now the last time you saw me, I was nine. The last place you saw me, was Granny’s gate. That was the happiest day ever Dad. You gave nine shillings; shiny silvery new shillings. It was such a boost. I added seven to my savings. You know I had a small hole on the Eastern wall of the house where I saved. I only emptied it on Christmas Eve. Because that was the only time mom would allow us to go and walk. And I would indulge in spending; I enjoyed outdoing my brother Odhis. Then I would some back home, a poor little fellow.

So that nine shillings went to my Christmas. And that smile is what the last thing I remember of you is.

Dad, I am now 24. And I no longer save for Christmas. I rarely celebrate Christmas. Mom, your friend has been awesome. I have stopped rebelling; I now live your aspirations. You know, it has not been easy. I do not have your photo, and I have to listen to stories about you and guess what you would have wanted of me. Granny thinks I really look like you, so secretly, I look forward to being old, then I will take two photos, one, I will write Lone Felix, and the other, Lone Felix-he who resembles Charles. That sounds cool.

Dad, I am now 24. And I no longer save for Christmas. And I would laugh at you if you gave me nine shillings. Your going gifted us an invaluable chance, to grow in uncertainty and lack. And so we have become tenacious and well rounded. But somehow, mom always reminded us that you would want us to succeed. She has been awesome.

Fourteen years can be a long time. I think they have taken a toll on her. But she has been awesome. Happy 14th Anniversary of your Rest.

THE THIRD PERSUASION: JUST NOT JUBILEE OR CORD

“These two formations though, are morphing into entities that will pose the greatest challenge to Kenya; Jubilee; a ruthless machinery, keen on preserving its hold onto power, but dangerously unconscious to the need of nationhood; CORD, a scheme of frustrated ambition able to give a shot at their dreams at any expense”

With the high court ruling that only three political parties will benefit from the 205 Million Political Parties Kitty, smaller parties must be wondering how they will survive. Indeed, some have already started moving from expensive offices in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi to way humbler locations. With funds obtained from party nominations exhausted, pilfered or mismanaged, a familiar circle of party deaths is coming full circle. Such has been the predictability of our politics, a certain gifting of each electoral cycle.
The elections of 2013 managed to realize another goal though, a resurgence of the Oginga-Kenyatta rift that seems to defy each political cycle. These two cleavages have then gone forth to cement cliques around themselves and Jubilee and Cord were born. Each drawing their depth from shared distrust, and fueled by a burning pursuit of political power.
Any political contest is founded on a desire for power. A people centered political contest will add a hope; that with power one can influence a society to better ends, to that desire. Jubilee and Cord are formations that have shown that they ascribe to the former, a raw pursuit of political power with the real issues affecting people playing an impressively peripheral role.
As I write this, I have just concluded reading the National Development Party (NDP) 1997 manifesto. NDP then was a Tinga affair, and I must admit I am impressed. That manifesto, unlike anything glossy today had a real touch of what truly affected people. And indeed, many items it bore today have been anchored in the constitution. In comparison, ODM as a party is miles away in thought to be close to what NDP espoused. How time can kill real leadership.
Raila’s inability however to hold onto the spark that once characterized him is not a surprise. The man has criticized and dined with the system. He has sought it, grasped it before it was snatched away. He has been in the system, betrayed it, and destroyed it, before he was again ejected out. This mix would create a natural confusion I must admit.
But with this confusion, as the chief protagonist, his brigade finds itself frustrated by an evasive quest for power that they have started following the very paths they castigated. Indeed, if there is a fear I nurture today, is the impatience of Kenya’s opposition. Their acts, strategies and initiatives point to a nearing of desperation. Probably, an acceptance that belief in the idealism is not paying off, and that perhaps it is time for raw politics; value-less, just politicking.
So Kenya is at interesting times; a government that is struggling to find the heart of its people; consumed by raw pursuit of individual advancement, and an opposition that is impressively blank, unable to offer any credible alternative.
Yet, we have been lumped into these two formations politically. Our taxes only recognize them, as the sole representatives and bearers of the Kenyan dream.
It would be hypocritical to paint a picture that nothing is working. I mean we have seen quite some progress. Recently, we reviewed our data and pushed ourselves into lower middle level income nations; beautiful statistics. Even though it has no correlation with my daily bread, it attracts a certain pride to be told we are among ‘top-ten’ economies in Africa. This ‘top-ten’ business was such an issue in my primary school days. We at least have very high literacy levels, a president who takes selfies, so yes, a few things are working.
Both the current and past regimes have invested in real pieces of development. The road network is set to be upgraded and funds set aside for the youth. Whether the fanfare around this translates to real results is another question; likely, in my opinion to be answered in the negative.
But a country’s leadership must always know the season of its people. There will always emerge a single problem in the development of a country where if overcome, a trajectory of sustained growth becomes irreversible. Kenya’s at the moment is our inability to pull together as a people.
I have held an opinion that Kenya’s best moments occur when we pull together. In my own view, the independence government before rifts emerged, the initial stages of the NARC government and the grand coalition government offered real hope that Kenya would take off. Their collapse also necessarily meant a halt to the real progress towards a sustainably stable country.
A fundamental question therefore that we need to ask ourselves is whether the current two formations have the ability to rally Kenya together.
The faces leading the two formations are unable to unite us for many reasons. The fact of Kenyattaism and Odingaism is just as dividing to the opponents as is unifying to the supporters. The two graves excite love and hate in equal measure, and so whether their sons desire a united country or not, they just can’t be the vessel towards that unity.
This is not an entirely new notion. Even Biblically, even though David desired to build God a temple, the fact of him was too controversial for God to allow it.
But whether Raila or Uhuru truly wills a united Kenya is equally a fact in this. The two and their immediate brigade draw their support from their ethnic enclaves. If politics transcends ethnicity in Kenya, the very existence of the two dynasties becomes threatened. And so, it is in their interest to have a nation polarized, and that informs the political rhetoric that has characterized the two fronts.
Admittedly, CORD and Jubilee have several people who will be willing to commit to national unity. But the shadows of the dynasties will always overshadow any of this initiative.
These two formations though, are morphing into entities that will pose the greatest challenge to Kenya; Jubilee; a ruthless machinery, keen on preserving its hold onto power, but dangerously unconscious to the need of nationhood; CORD, a scheme of frustrated ambition able to give a shot at their dreams at any expense. And sadly, all of them are recruiting youthful vigor into the callousness and desperation they are.
A normal Kenyan, who would like to belong, and have their struggles and prosperity found in a stable nation may not find their aspirations expressed here. A Kenyan who dreams of unity, shared challenges and shared dreams will rarely see the expression of this hope in the two formations. A Kenyan, who hopes that public good can characterize the pursuit and exercise of power, knows that Jubilee and Cord does not represent their hope.
So certainly, there must be a third persuasion. There must be a politics that truly deserves the honor of our taxes. There must be a leader not tarnished by the baggage of yesterday, or so deep a prisoner of interest who can inspire us to nationhood.
When Uhuru Kenyatta became president, I thought his stature would have overcome the confines of the system. History has a few examples of leaders who are nurtured by the system, but ended up disobeying them to the good of the people. Beyond the charm Uhuru has brought to the presidency, is certainly still chained to unfortunate interests.
Further, the interest that jubilee is rekindling in the presidency, casting it as central to everything revives the very ghosts that Kenya hoped to run away from by decentralizing power. Why, the presidency would re-emerge in this new dispensation as a powerful player to everything points to two things. A mindset that is deeply rooted in the past unable to transition to Kenya’s aspired spirit and secondly a deliberate dismissal of the intentions of the drafters of Kenya’s new order.
And while the opposition should have taken this chance and demonstrated what true belief in institutionalized reforms would look like, it has started a new clamor for change of system of government; a politically expedient quest. Merit notwithstanding, no society can afford the luxury of such frequent transitions.
And so Kenya is yet again with a politics that is not in sync with her aspirations. And I as a young Kenyan fail again to see a leadership that expresses my aspirations. I think it is time to for a Third Persuasion.

CONTEXTUALIZING HEROISM: WE JUST CANT RELIVE HISTORY

So a real modern hero, will have to understand that the oppression we suffer is our inability to invest in institutions and even more to have confidence in the once we create. A modern hero in my opinion is the one who will be bold to lead our people through real pain, banking on our resilience as we break our chaining to inefficiency. One who will say we bear the responsibility for our own growth without excusing our failure by blaming endless conspiracies. My real Kenyan hero, will be the one who learns from the values that founded our struggles, without attempting to live those times.

Today, Kenya celebrates Mashujaa day. A national holiday set forth to honor men and women who contribute to the collective growth of our nation. The people whose personal achievements bring honor and repute to our country, people who sacrifice their own comfort to see that others’ plights alleviated.

Hero has an indo-European provenance with its root ‘ser which essentially means protect. Indeed, notions of heroism seem to find their validation in acts of bravery when adversity befalls a section of humanity. A hero therefore, from both an etymological and contemporary perspective, is a person who steps forth when there is a gap to give a profound contribution that benefit more than their person.

Our country Kenya has distinguished names. Jomo Kenyatta, Jaramogi Odinga, Tom Mboya, Wangari Maathai, Tecla Loroupe, Humphrey Khayange. Political or other preferences notwithstanding, these are names that evoke a certain feeling of admirable achievement. Jomo Kenyatta, the fact of him being the founding father of this nation or Maathai, the fact of her fighting for the environment.  Our sportspersons give us an insatiable desire to associate with them. The fact of their winning brings honor to us. They become our heroines and heroes.

A society therefore will choose to see an act as heroic depending on many reasons. Whether it draws pride, confers benefits or even absurdly if it satiates sometimes mundane desires.

One permanent feature though, is that these persons become some benchmarks of sorts. They offer an achievement or guidance that secures both today and tomorrow. So the future generations or even the current are referred to their exploits as sample-paths to take. Some of heroic stories inspire current exploits. So a young politician may decide to strive for Kenyatta’s charisma or a young athlete wish to exceed Kipchoge’s fame. In a way, the values, standing and choices of those we regard as heroes become spirits that breathe life into our own fights.

This got me thinking. Most of the time history has a sense of beauty. Humanity has always been hesitant to document its failures. So it exalts the niceties that exist at any instance. Of course, the very fact of human documentation means, history is fraught of subjective perceptions and individual judgments.

So when it is suggested that the versions of history we are taught was heavily revised to favor my nation’s own agenda, hiding its crime and in doing so fostering an unrealistic sense of false patriotism to corporate entity government, I silently agree with it. It is just human.

So anytime a character from the past has been mentioned with a glowing value around them, I have chosen to give cautious admiration. Because the picture will just never be complete. But that admiration in itself is complete. For even with the revision and hiding, any documentation is justified to the extent that it serves a certain purpose. So if my history is doctored to create supermen, if the fact of that creation motivates the existence of supermen in years to come, so be it.

I suppose this may be construed as complacency, no. I have chosen to question history many times. But as a young African, I choose to have trust in the history I was taught. The tales of Anako afote who fought for the independence of my country. I choose the beauty in the names of Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Mandela. I think I love the bravery of Dedan Kimathi that if it were a lie, I would rather it, than a different truth.

Well, I needed to dissuade myself from trying to question history, before I could move to the substance of my writing.

What made Kimathi a hero? What made Loroupe a heroine?

Their acts revolved around a context. When a people’s freedom and wealth were taken away from them and a free people forced to become subjects to foreign masters, it was necessary to revolt. And anyone who led this revolt served to gift their generation and states a service that was extra-ordinarily valuable. They became heroes and heroines.

And so in this, the names of Kenyatta, Amilcar Cabral, Kenneth Kaunda or Nelson Mandela will forever stand exalted on the African shelf.

These people shouted away invasion. They sought freedom for their people. A pursuit which in many ways is the only inherent desire of any human being. The oppression they fought against was the actual presence of foreigners who loaded it over them. And this was a genuine pursuit. For this was a struggle across Africa, a feeling of solidarity was conceived. I have been never able to place the real reason of this birth. Was it a mutual craving for freedom or shared hate for whites.

Elite-led struggles can be full of deception. But the dwindling of Pan Africanism suggests, perhaps it was a shared hate. For a yearning for freedom is essential, it is an ideal that would have bound us together forever.

Voices of Pan Africanism have started to emerge. But the solidarity we seek today, in my view is not creating any value for posterity. From Kenya, to Uganda through West Africa, there are calls to get African problems solved by Africans. This is indeed extra ordinarily true. We have as Africans to solve our own issues.

But as we seek to assert ourselves, I believe we must contextualize our struggles. Kenyatta snr was justified to say Kenya should be left for Kenyans. Season and time allowed it. Environment allowed it. Then, internet was but an idea, today, America could be hacked by a Nairobi educated youth from the comfort of their village.

The reality of today is that shouting away other state’s interest is an unrealistic endeavor; in fact a hypocritical one.

A true modern African Political hero is the one who shall be honest enough to tell our people, that we shall not succeed unless we truly assert our greatness in the context; the context of globalization. That modern Pan Africanism should never be crafted around shouting away other nations, but by asserting the spirit of African excellence on the global stage.

In my own opinion, we are a resilient continent. Africa has faced the worst that humanity can face. Yet we retain an admirable optimism. We walk kilometers to school, yet we give the world amongst the best of the brains. And Kenya as a country, exemplifies these values even more pronouncedly.

So a real modern hero, will have to understand that the oppression we suffer is our inability to invest in institutions and even more to have confidence in the once we create. A modern hero in my opinion is the one who will be bold to lead our people through real pain, banking on our resilience as we break our chaining to inefficiency. One who will say we bear the responsibility for our own growth without excusing our failure by blaming endless conspiracies. My real Kenyan hero, will be the one who learns from the values that founded our struggles, without attempting to live those times.

A modern hero, to my truly African heart, must tell me the truth; that I am just as responsible for the failure of my society as my government. And that the success of a nation is a reflection largely of individual effort complimented minimally by the workings of state. And so that I have a responsibility, in all little bits, to be the hero, that my time calls me to be.

.Lone Felix OnwardHappy Mashujaa Day, to those who live the spirit of honest struggle

LETTER TO LIFE: THE SEVENTH CONVERSATION; A BEGINNING END

“But then, this would mean, that perhaps the truest measure of ourselves is ourselves. For how will men, who are susceptible, no, who do not have a choice most of the time but to believe what they see or hear, know your heart.
So then, if we need a better of ourselves, we have to daily struggle to question our hearts. To implore our conscience and judgment to life. To live others. To forget self. To believe in the discomfort of our own judgment”

The last six times we have spoken, I have always been motivated by many things. Sometimes hate, sometimes disappointment, sometimes threads of disillusionment. Today, as I sit down to start writing, I do not have any particular emotion. From a far, there are tingles of gratefulness, fatigue, acceptance, disappointment; there are threads of self satisfaction, an anxiety but in a big way; a feeling of learning.
As you know, in the history of our twofold life, I have never ended a conversation without a conclusion. Recall those times when I retreat to talk to self, or to question my ideas? I have always endeavored to conclude our talk. Because whenever I confide in you, without ever finishing it, it sets endless emptiness.
I have published four of our conversations; three remain in the secrecy of our twofold. I know at the right time, they will be released. To a people who, as I stated when we started, will interpret them through their own scales. I have always found extreme relief in the candor we share. And so today, I intend to share with you again; a pursuit of that same relief, seeking the strength of renewal. Perhaps, like I am coming to believe, a confirmation that one face of my journey is done, and I have to start again.
The sixth conversation was lessons. I wrote then, having been taught by you to know the emptiness that follows a raw pursuit of ambition. Then you taught me life, that trueness of life lives in value of people. I feel like this chat will have an uncharacteristic detachment. For here, I want to talk to you about the intricacies of opportunity, the confusions that chance brings when it happens. Actually, my feeling was wrong, there won’t be a detachment, it’s a realization that the idealism I once nurtured has been molded by experience, to be stronger.
So what is this end that I anticipate? Of course, I have had one invaluable year of service to my peers. Of course, I have had four years of schooling. Of course, I have had a season of making decisions. That comes to an end with unexpected transition to more challenge, to further schooling. Such is a moment of self evaluation.
I must stop the free flow of my thoughts and look back. Well, it has been a fascinating year. Two very important things happened to me since we last spoke; I understood my values as a person better. And I found love. So idealistic again. What, the encounter with extreme realities have failed to make me a realist. This gives me a sense of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Satisfaction in knowing that I still have a root to what formed the root of struggles, but also a dissatisfaction in knowing that I was unable to transition to what my raw mind believes is a better life.
Life, a year ago, I took an oath of office. It was the second time I was swearing to take a responsibility. I will not dwell here on my encounters at office, for that very oath bounds me to secrecy. I will not dwell here on my own view of the year or the view of others. I have countless fond memories of that year and countless sad memories. I am unimaginably enthralled by multiple bits of joy, but unimaginably tied to countless bits of disappointment.
For a year, I have had a chance to see someone walk to me with their hopes pegged to the very words I would say. In my inexperience, I got confused countless moments. It is always the desire of each leader to solve each issue that comes your way. But what an unfortunate desire it is.
At first, I recall the times I would go home in a thousand pieces. Each concern would take a bit of me. Then I got shaken in knowing that I each day I may have to disappoint. Thank God for Gabriel, he made me know one thing.
Human beings, no matter the problem they face, always have a solution with themselves. And in the business of leading, the best and most sacred thing to do is to inspire that solution.
So where is my friend Erick; the person who embodied this lesson. I think I passed him on stairs in the haste that now is my life.
I have come to learn, that perhaps the greatest duty of a leader is to listen. How paradoxical, the illusion could be that as a leader you speak, and get listened to. But whenever one does that, all you get is an echo of your talk as it bounces against the many issues that will always be with the people.
Indeed, listening is an art that plays magic. In most instances, when you listen to people, what they want they confess themselves. So I had to conquer the fear of being unable to listen because I may not help. I had to believe that well, I would listen and hope that solutions would curve themselves. I do not know whether it is too early to conclude, but maybe the greatest lesson I have today is that the greatest leader is he who can be led easily. Again; Ideal. He who will be listened to is he who listens. Again; ideal. But I also learnt, that listening is the boldest step anyone would take, for men are so wired to listen to what they like, but, mostly what you listen to will never be what you like.
I need to go back to the streams of my thoughts.
About the revelation of myself to me, and about the defiance to become a realist. You see, chance is one crazy thing. You seek it, so hard, then it happens, often with curtailing realities. But I guess it is nature’s way of ensuring we keep being at it. That we will never be satisfied. For again as I said, satisfaction breeds stagnation.
Life, I would like to really wonder as to what men should do in living with others. You see, when I say am just a man, it means my confidence gets pumped up when a brother walks with me. It means It shrinks when a brother walks me. Yet, in life, so many times you are walked.
Indeed I know why. Men are burden by their own struggles to have time to think of what they see or hear. So they buy what they are told. It is not an entirely bad thing. Industries have been born out of this void; industries of people whose work is to create perception. How sorry, I wish we all bothered to question, a lot more would be different.
But such will always be impossible. For the world must also be founded on a certain level of trust. And that, perhaps means a certain level of not questioning. Such is a paradox of what is right in life.
As I question myself more, I realize the complexity of what is universally right is so simple. The paradox has two different ends. Competing, conflicting, all right in differing context. I guess, the easiest revelation that man should know then, is that right is in the balancing. In the knowing the time, the season and the reason. That right is in being of pure intent and facing reality as that, reality. That principle and value is not exemplified in absolute rigidity, but being rigid as to know that each season has its call.
Perfect principle of a leader, life your reveal to me, is knowing that the next second is a fluid as he has never seen, and that it has to be construed with its own uniqueness and peculiarity, but that this has to be done with a consistency of heart. Such is the simplicity of the paradox of what is right.
But then, this would mean, that perhaps the truest measure of ourselves is ourselves. For how will men, who are susceptible, no, who do not have a choice most of the time but to believe what they see or hear, know your heart.
So then, if we need a better of ourselves, we have to daily struggle to question our hearts. To implore our conscience and judgment to life. To live others. To forget self. To believe in the discomfort of our own judgment.
I feel that I should not proceed, indeed, the 8th conversation is just by. So I Stop. Just like I feared, for the first time without a conclusion. May be, it is time for another pursuit of lessons

TO DIALOGUE OR NOT

These Folks seem to talk sometimes

These Folks seem to talk sometimes

To the President- Your Usalama Advert may have intended to reassure me- But Mpeketoni Happened sir. May be after all, these thugs do not run to hide, they do not fear the promise of Camera’s. May be we need to do more. So I just don’t know what I will think of you when I see that ad today evening.

On July 24th last year, I wrote a piece noting that Uhuru’s presidency would be secure and admired if he chose either of two paths; Bipartisanship or wholehearted support for Devolution.

In my view then, this was an easy way of ensuring that the script of ethnic exclusion does not come to be a factor in Kenyan politics. I noted then, that by reaching out to opposition, Uhuru would not be in anyway undermining his presidency; he would be providing the much needed leadership.

Well, none of the paths were considered. And here we are, a year later, that script that I feared has become a novel, with each paragraph spelling doom to an Uhuru Presidency. In my opinion though, there is a bigger fear we have to embrace as a Country- This is just but another dot in the continuing series of missed opportunities to create a Nation Kenya.

At the centre of this quest for National Dialogue, is the fact that increasingly it’s being seen that public appointments are shared between two political outfits or even two communities. Of course ethnicity is a deep factor in Kenya, and we can only deny that if we are being hypocritical. Even the opposition itself cannot claim to be clean when this matter will be placed on the table, if it ever.

I had a conversation with a Jubilee MP over the weekend, and he contends, and perhaps rightly so, that this is but a story being created by CORD. That TNA and URP are national parties and therefore appointments by those entities do not necessarily mean they are entirely Kikuyu and Kalenjin.

This may be true, but is it important, certainly not.

In the very first place, where in law or who legitimized government positions to be properties of the political parties that form a government? I thought the Kenyan Constitution envisions a Public Service that is apolitical, committed to serving every Kenyan, and capable of employing any Kenyan irrespective of my political affiliation.

So well, URP may nominate a Luo, what about a competent Luo who subscribes to no political party.

The failure of this government to delink public service from our deeply ethnicized politics will continue to be a fodder for negative ethnicity. If there is a valid agenda that needs to be pursued if we ever get to Dialogue, or even in our monologues, is this.

The talk of 50-50 between URP and TNA needs to extend to positions of leadership within the political structure; restricted to Speakers of National Assemblies and Leaders of Majorities and whips ejusdem generis.

This could appear naïve. Maybe it’s a given fact that the President of the day has to control key appointments, but the foundations of our public service as visualized in the constitution are keen delinking politics from it.

States are founded on the realities they face, ours is one which is deeply conscious about ethnicity and that we draw our political support from our ethnic bases. As long as this linkage of ethnicity to politics continues, the only way out of avoiding perceptions of exclusion is delinking the public service from this 50-50 notion.

I am persuaded to actually believe that if political parties extend their negotiations of power sharing to public service jobs, that are illegal, a usurpation of the constitution and an outright illegality.
Either way, we cannot now run away from the reality that perception of ethnic exclusion is here and that it is a perfect ingredient in the opposition agenda.

First and foremost, we cannot demonize CORD for talking about negative ethnicity, unless it’s their creation and a distortion of the facts. The reality seems to suggest otherwise, and as such, we may as a country need to sift through the noises and establish whether a section of Kenyans have a reason to be discontent.

Can this sifting be undertaken in parliament, certainly not. Our National assembly is an embodiment of partisan politics; a house of partisan interests at the expense of sense in most cases. Even very genuine discussions, as long as they will hurt their master’s interests, cannot be objectively discussed. Taking this discussion to Parliament is imagining that only politicians need to take part in it, or only political parties with representation in parliament have a say.

On this front, I believe in CORD’s call for a joint committee that will establish the agenda.

I do not understand why Jubilee would oppose this. If the only reasons are ego issues, that it’s a directive coming from the opposition and they are the government, they have lost it. Whether, CORD shouts a proposal or sends it as pdf to the Presidents’ personal email, it does not change the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta is the President.

In any case, what is more important, declining the proposal just because one is president, or being humble enough and creating a country?

In fact, if there something deeply worrying already, is the fact of having too many centres of power in this government; a President cannot tell the nation, we can talk to each other, and then be arm twisted by his lieutenants to rescind it a day later. That is what a President should not do.

The Presidency is a symbol of national unity. It has to exceed being Jubilee or CORD, it always has to struggle to provide the ultimate direction and avoid appearing that second thoughts are but its nature. This suggests indecisiveness.

I was surprised to learn that the government decided not to go on with a National Dialogue Conference because it has been politicized. Why would they not use that chance to secure the participation of the opposition and any other interested parties.

Uhuru’s handlers must know they are handling a President of 40 Million Kenyans. Some voted for him, some voted for the other candidates. They cannot continue to with miniature struggles of who is the boss, Uhuru is the boss, he has a nation to build now. And in this quest, he must listen to every story. They have to know that leading any political institution like a state needs a mix of humility and firmness in equal measure.

I must tell CORD and any other willing Kenyan to continue pushing for the Nation to come together and ask itself the hard questions.

But as we do this, we must always put in my mind that no single politician can speak for the whole country. It would be best and in everyone’s interest to get into this process without bruising ourselves. After all, if CORD’s quest is to salvage the country, then they have to always be aware that they cannot destroy that country in the first place.
Saba Saba needs not to happen. We all agree we need to talk, I hope all of us can be prudent enough to avoid excessive polarization, because we can avoid it.

And well, is Uhuru Raila’s President. I feel that the obligation to avoid polarization more lies with the Presidency than the opposition.

And for anyone who has been in Kenyan politics, they should know that demonizing Raila never works; or even shouting back when he speaks.

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To the President- Your Usalama Advert may have intended to reassure me- But Mpeketoni Happened sir. May be after all, these thugs do not run to hide, they do not fear the promise of Camera’s. May be we need to do more. So I just don’t know what I will think of you when I see that ad today evening.