Entries from February 19th, 2019

Law should be justly exercised by courts and security forces in equal measure

Posted by on 19th February 2019

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Almost two years later of living in anguish and pain, baby Pendo’s family finally had something to smile about after an inquest found five officers culpable for her untimely death during the August 2017 post-election chaos that rocked parts of the country. The saddening bit about her death wasn’t the fact that she was denied a chance to realize her potential but that it was totally preventable. Had the officers in charge that night exercised restraint and proper execution of duties, the baby would’ve stayed unharmed in her mother’s safe arms.

Having this in mind, the parliament’s resumption of sittings wouldn’t have been timelier as the replacement of the Inspector General is top in the agenda of the MPs’ sessions. Current IG will be retiring in March 2019 marking four years since he took office. That said MPs are expected to start considering nominees for placement at the National Police Service Commission to take on the challenging task.

With Kenya’s security system being still at refinement infancy, it is important that whoever replaces Boinett has the charisma and ability to spearhead much needed reforms in the sector. And that brings to light the process of recruitment of his position. The law requires that the President appoints the IG then parliament approves the appointment.

The greater hopes of the country shall thereby lie in parliament. Since the approval will be subject to vetting and debate, it will allow the public to be privy to the process. Comparatively, the president’s nomination process is clouded in secrecy with few if any being in the know of how the nominee was settled at.

Parliament will have to come together and show maturity during vetting since the security of the state lies in the competence of the nominee. It will have to put aside its political differences for the betterment of the state. It will have to dissociate itself with political bias.

It will have to scrutinize the integrity of the nominee. Several reports have named the police sector as the most corrupt in the country and whoever heads the institution must have the virtuousness of Caesar’s wife. He/she must be able to bring change from within and have themselves as a pedestal of virtue.

They must also have a proper human rights record. Various human rights’ violations have been perpetuated by the police in this country as in the case of baby Pendo and the late Martin Koome who was tortured to death in a cell in 2013. We cannot afford to have a sympathizer of such atrocities.

Parliament must ensure that the nominee is sober and firm on his principles. An individual who exercises independence of thought and isn’t susceptible to executive pressure. We need to see a police boss who is neutral and firm, and only biased towards the law.

Parliament must refrain from being a rubber-stamp of the executive and scrutinize the nominee’s record on all these factors with soberness, fairness, adherence to the constitution and most importantly, loyalty to the good of the people.

And while at it, it would be great to have the President nominate a woman for a change.

 

Do the calls for a referendum have the goodwill of people?

Posted by on 11th February 2019

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Calls for a referendum have built up momentum this past week with ODM party, Women leaders, Deputy President William Ruto and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka weighing in on the matter with suggestions of their own.

It is clear however that a lot of focus is being placed on the Executive arm with the ODM leadership and the Women’s Building Bridges movement pushing for its expansion and inclusion of the Prime Minister position. Wiper leader, Kalonzo seemed to be on the same wavelength with the two groups on the matter until he added a twist to it with calls for the removal of the presidential term limit, reminiscent of former President Moi Days.

The Deputy President on the other hand dismissed the clamour for the PM arrangement and instead proposed that the runner-up in the election becomes leader of the opposition. Which addresses a valid concern with the current lack of opposition in place to play watchdog.

But while we’re on the subject of a referendum, how many of the leaders have actually consulted the public to get their perspective on the implementation of the 2010 constitution so far? Do they acknowledge if the National government arms adhered to the constitution there would be no need for new positions?

While processing this, it’s good to applaud the efforts by Third Way Alliance Party Leader, Ekuru Aukot who through his Punguza Mzigo Campaign has openly addressed the matter of over-representation that MPs seem to conveniently shy away from. He has proposed that the current 290 constituencies be scraped off and the 47 counties be considered as single constituency units. If the proposal is implemented, the number of MPs would be a mere 147 [47 senators, 94 MPs – a man and woman from each county and 6 special interest seats] instead of the 416 we have presently. Not only will this lessen the burden on the taxpayer but it will also create a good avenue for thorough scrutiny of each member’s record and allow the public to hold them to account. The two-thirds rule would also be automatically realized.

On the other hand, it is becoming evident that leaders do not have the interests of the people at heart, since the new positions being proposed are just a safety net for them in the case of an unfavorable outcome during an election. Notwithstanding, the fact the elected Members of National Assembly and  Women Representatives entrench a conflict of interest in allocating themselves Constituency Development Funds (NG-CDF) and the Affirmative Action Funds (NG-AAF) respectively. MPs implementation tasks undertaken using the two funds are often a duplication of National and County Government functions.

It is about time that any constitutional amendments proposed come from the taxpayers and made their way to the top and not the other way around. For the longest time we’ve been accustomed to boardroom decisions that are presumed to represent Wanjiku’s voice.

However, we must give credit where it’s due. Third Way Alliance and ODM’s one 7-year non-renewable term for the presidency will challenge the seat-holders to achieve as much as possible during their tenure, as opposed to banking on a second term to “leave a legacy” and make up for the first term they didn’t maximize on. Women leaders have also made a good step towards inclusivity, with calls for equal representation in non-elective positions such as the cabinet and all arms of government that will replicate Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While we expect more leaders to join in on the referendum calls, they should always remember that they serve at the pleasure of their constituents. They should therefore appropriately represent them and involve them in decision making before calling on them to go to the ballot.

Kenyans must also stay vigilant and resist the temptation to be roped into the political theatrics that our leaders may resort to while drumming support for whatever agenda they may be pushing. At the end of the day, there is power in our vote and we should find the devil in the details as leaders continue presenting draft proposals to the Building Bridges Initiative rather than falling for their bait.

Cancer and other Diseases can be dealt with if we had a Proactive Parliament

Posted by on 5th February 2019

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When Kibra MP Okoth Kenneth begun his crusade about legalizing marijuana it looked too random and rather out of place for a man who had cut out an image of a gentleman; never shouting himself hoarse in public rallies. A man the country had come to associate with performance. A doer more than a talker if his Mbagathi CDF School is anything to go by. Fewer people outside his family knew he was battling cancer.

In an interview that shocked his constituents, the MP who had turned forty not too long ago revealed he had stage four cancer and that it couldn’t be cured as such he will manage it by a tablet a day. Since then a number of people have begun piecing together his push for legalizing of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although he had made his stand clear it was for responsible use; the message hadn’t really hit home until the media published his cancer story.

Although Hon. Okoth has been one of the most performing legislators and pretty much all rounded in so far as oversight, lawmaking and representation is concerned, it’s not lost on us that majority MPs tend to think about dealing with issues only when it has affected them personally.

Not too long ago when MPs begun the debate on the Data Privacy Bill, rather than delve into the serious breaches that leave the country under threat. They ended up amusing each other with stories of a conman who was swindling them money, completely oblivious of the weighty issues that Bill was expected to address and the fact that Kenyans are conned by convicts from remand every other day but don’t make a fuss about it.

The past year MPs treated the country to a lot of unnecessary drama promising to vote against the President’s memorandum on the Finance Bill, 2018. In hindsight, it appears as though they were playing to the gallery, taking us through the motions yet they knew they weren’t going to veto anything.

Already there are plans by MPs to increase their pension while their constituents work in places where they get paltry or no pension schemes. This is the kind of self-gratifying behavior that irks the general public.

As Parliament’s next session begins this February, we appeal to their senses that as the year begins we shall have productive, people centered debates. Already there is a possibility that this year’s Finance Bill will get the tax payers to tighten their belts even further. We have about four months before the budget is read, our hope is this time round MPs will actually concern themselves with the budgeting process and scrutinize that document accordingly before passing any Bill related to the budget.

In the meantime, they should also demand at the very least that the committee on health challenge the Ministry of Health to help the country understand why cancer is suddenly a common a disease as flu. What has changed? How can the public be informed about the possible dangers or the alternative lifestyle that could help prevent these diseases? Considering its treatment – if one is lucky to identify it early – costs an arm and a leg, wouldn’t prevention be a necessary approach?

As an organization that monitors the work of lawmakers on the floor of the House we know only too well how it is easy to blame and hard to appreciate those MPs who against the negative energy, strive to deliver. The Kibra MP is one such Legislator who has strived to give his constituents the best. We are saddened by his story yet encouraged by his resilience to fight cancer. That notwithstanding, it’s time MPs sponsored Bills in Parliament and fight for the right of every Kenyan to get universal healthcare or affordable healthcare at the very least.

Kenya needs stronger ideological parties for a healthy democracy

Posted by on 30th January 2019

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Since the March 9th handshake the country has experienced relative peace and unity. However, questions still linger nearly one year later about what that gesture between the President and his Opposition counterpart really meant for the ordinary Wananchi beyond a peaceful environment to go about their business.

More importantly, what does this mean for political parties and their role in shaping democracy? While the meeting sealed by a handshake was between two individuals, their followers and political parties they lead fell in line albeit shakily trumpeting the same message of building bridges.

For nearly a year, the opposition coalition NASA has failed to actualize its mandate as the opposition. Despite numerous economic scandals involving high ranking government officials, the opposition parties have remained ineffective. In fact, the better part of the year was treated to infighting among the coalition partners who felt “left out” whatever that means. Which in itself reveals a rather ugly underbelly of the opposition coalition. Were they really in it for the change or for the ‘spoils’?

And if a leading opposition party like ODM chose to “work with the government” what does this mean for other political parties in the opposition like Ford Kenya, ANC and Wiper? Outside of the coalition that brought them together to challenge Jubilee, what is their ideology? Are they able to pronounce themselves on the ills in the society allegedly perpetuated by the government?

Interestingly, all these three parties now appear to have joined ODM in supporting the handshake’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force that’s going round seeking views of Kenyans on the way forward for the country. They’ve all submitted their proposals with the exception of Wiper Party – which is also likely to give its views going by the mood of its party leader, Kalonzo Musyoka.

Also worth mulling over is that at the top of the agenda of the handshake appears to be a referendum that’s apparently necessary to help change the Constitution to make it more inclusive. Something those opposed to it like the Deputy President, think is about creating jobs (Prime Minister and two assistant positions) for a few leaders at the expense of Kenyans. Indeed ODM, Ford Kenya and ANC have expressed themselves on this matter claiming the winner takes all system is what is causing so much anxiety and making some communities feel left out.

While this blog is not taking any stand on the referendum – because there’s no question that’s been put across yet, it is worth questioning the sincerity of those making these proposals. Firstly, pre-2010 Constitution we had a recognized position of the leader of Opposition; so we can argue it wasn’t a winner take all situation, yet there was glaring inequality and unbalanced regional development. Would creation of positions for key leaders of communities therefore solve this? We remain skeptical about that.

However, if we had robust political parties where members meet often and not for purposes of dealing with crises or plotting power games but revisiting their manifesto and looking for ways of pulling together to deliver on the promises made, the country would be better for it.

Right now, Jubilee is failing terribly at this with the ongoing implosion that they’re not willing admit. The opposition parties on the other hand are not showing any alternatives – if anything, it appears we have no opposition since the handshake.

Sadly, this also brings to the fore another important debate about the number of political parties in the country. Does it make sense to have the registrar of political parties listing on their website 78 political parties when only three to four political parties are actually engaging on national matters and attempting to deal with the common man’s problems, although unsatisfactorily?

More importantly, what’s the rationale in disbursing funds to these political parties when their effect can’t be felt at the grassroots level?

Until we get serious with the political parties and ensure the party leaders are worth their salt and that the party mechanisms are devoid of mischief and corruption there’s little we shall be building across any bridge, simply because the Executive and the Legislature that play the biggest role in how a country is run are products of political parties.

Security Begins with the Government not the People; but a cohesive country is the antidote to terrorism

Posted by on 24th January 2019

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Last week terrorists attempted to break the spirit of the country when they attacked DusitD2 hotel and office complex in Nairobi. In a first for the country the security officers acted swiftly preventing more lives from being lost. More than 700 people were rescued while 21 others perished.

The President while addressing the country praised the elite forces involved in the rescue and reminded the public security begins with them. Many critics find that last part of the statement problematic because it looks as though the government is always running away from taking responsibility and looking to blame the public. In this case, the blame is that the people are not being vigilant enough.

To nobody’s surprise the security guards manning institutions, malls and supermarkets have suddenly become very thorough; begging the question, how long, until they relax? Another terror attack? Already the talk about Nyumba kumi initiative that was mooted following the Westgate terror attack in 2013 has become the new talk of town.

Perhaps what we need to ask ourselves is, why are we seemingly disinterested in our neighbors until terrorists attack? Why isn’t it a normal instinct to be friendly? But a more necessary debate is, why should the people be told security begins with them every time an attack happens when they pay taxes to the government to protect them? Kenyans are the most heavily taxed people in the region that it’s arrogant of the government to attempt to throw the blame around. But first things first.

Terrorists thrive on division to succeed: their tactics include creating rivalry between Muslims and Christians (Westgate and Garissa University attacks) and ethnic animosity (Mpeketoni and the matatu explosions in Eastleigh). In all these examples the terrorists wanted either the Christians to retaliate and thus have ready recruits from Muslims or attack on the Somali ethnic community hence achieve the same recruitment. At the center of their activities is the exploitation of weaknesses a country possesses to their advantage and this is why the government needs to come out clearly on its strategy and take full responsibility before telling the public that security begins with them.

Take the Garissa University attack for instance. We needlessly lost 147 students in part because the area has little government presence. The security apparatus took forever to respond which in turn has made so many non-locals move (which by-the-way part of the reason TSC is having challenges posting teachers in North Eastern). What the terrorist did was to exploit the inequitable distribution of resources for maximum damage.

Instead of displaying security forces with their new gear during electioneering period to scare opposition supporters into submission; send these forces to every corner of the country that all Kenyans can feel safe living and working in any part of the country. It’s already a difficult task working to pay taxes, to add the burden of security on the people.

Thankfully, our security officers were very swift in the Dusit2 Hotel attack. Can we guarantee the same response in Isiolo? What of Marsabit? So security begins with the government and then the people follow; not the other way round.

More importantly, terrorist are rendered powerless where there is cohesion. Indeed not too long ago, a Muslim bus driver refused to identify Christian passengers and lost his life but in the process foiled the terrorist’s attempt. These kind of brotherliness and unity ought to be encouraged.

That kind of unity where every part of the country stands together can be better realized if the government did its bit to fill every gap these wicked men exploit. And these gaps include balanced economic development, to prevent increased poverty that leaves the youth vulnerable to terror groups. Depoliticizing government policies to bring down political tension helps address any ethnic hatred that could be exploited.

A country where people don’t feel a President must come from their tribe is a country that is unsafe for terrorists to operate in. A country where education is not about getting jobs but actually learning to integrate with society and offer meaningful solutions to life’s challenges is a country that’s unsafe for terror activities. A country where majority are happy and have some form of satisfaction is capable of having citizens who are their brother’s keeper not because it’s a government directive but because of the values instilled over the years.

MPs should watch out not to entrench “our turn to eat” mentality even as they demand better

Posted by on 14th January 2019

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The New Year has begun on a rather dramatic note. From Jubilee and ODM internal wars that has seen the resignation of Jubilee Vice Chair, and a relentless call for freedom of speech by ODM ‘rebel’ MPs from the Coast.

Interestingly, the implosion in Jubilee and the wrangles in ODM are allegedly linked to the Deputy President William Ruto. It is public knowledge that the DP intends to take over from President Uhuru when his term ends in 2022 and that has been the genesis of all the quarrels in both parties.

Jubilee Vice Chairperson, David Murathe for instance, has been against DP Ruto’s ascendance to Presidency; something that he cited as the reason for his resignation from the party, although critics see it as DP faction pushing him out of the party.

ODM on the other hand has been trying to tame Coast MPs who have been associating with the deputy president on grounds that as a party they will field a candidate and their members had no business therefore supporting a candidate from another party. The ‘rebel’ MPs appear undaunted arguing their association with the DP is in the spirit of the handshake; taking issue with the party officials whom they accuse of trying to gag them.

But what we should be wary of is the utterances Mt. Kenya MPs are making against their party leader and President of the Republic, Uhuru Kenyatta. After a video of Gatundu South MP, Moses Kuria went viral on New Year’s Eve; a number of MPs from the region came out accusing the President of ignoring his backyard and focusing on opposition regions.

Although Hon. Moses Kuria has since come out to clarify the contents of that video, saying he was accusing the Kiambu leadership and not the president; it appears that clarification didn’t do much considering the different shape the conversation has taken with Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri forming a “Washenzi movement” after the President told them off.

In his response the President told the MPs who were complaining that, the days when the President solely focused on a region he was hailing from were over and that development would reach every corner of the country. The slur on Washenzi notwithstanding, this was a very good response coming on the backdrop of a country where citizens kill each other to elect their own.

About a year ago, sections of citizens in this country wanted to secede and to show how serious they were, they never voted in the fresh October 26th Presidential Elections. This is because they didn’t feel as part of the country; particularly because the fruits of development, allegedly didn’t trickle down to their areas because they’re a strong opposition base.

In fact the cyclic violence every electioneering period has always been about “our turn to eat” mentality where smaller tribes coalesce around a candidate they believe is likely to bring the cake home. It’s therefore sad to see MPs who should know better trumpeting the same thinking thereby entrenching tribalism in an office that is supposed to be a unifying one like the Presidency.

Besides, it’s rather ludicrous that an MP with a Sh. 100 million annual NGCDF kitty would ask what development the President had brought in their region; even in the era of Devolution where we have Ward Representatives and a Governor.

The MPs around Washenzi movement are therefore engaging in backward politics that has no place in the present Kenya. Considering none of them explained to their constituents how they used their NGCDF funds or get specific on the issues they felt the national government had neglected; it appears the attacks are merely political.

2018 was marred with a lot of useless political rhetoric that only got ordinary Kenyans mark-timing. In 2019 we ask the politicians to spare Wanjiku these useless stunts meant only to impress a few politicians.

In the same breath, we challenge the media to play their agenda setting role effectively. We can’t be talking about 2022 politics day in day out when our children are getting the short end of the stick in matters education or when ordinary citizens are being robbed in broad day light as a result of the challenges that have dogged the health sector; including the scandal ridden NHIF funds. This is not too much to ask.