Currently browsing posts by mzalendo

I am a first time voter; I don’t wanna mess it up!

Posted by on 22nd June 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

By Kodalo Tombo (Guest Blog)

At family time when everyone else is watching TV, usually the news, I stick out at the dining table meters from the living room glued to my Tecno. I could well go to my room and shut the door but my mom hates when I do that.

Occasionally a story on the news catches my eye, like graphic images of people actually shriveled by hunger, and maybe feel sad.  But then seconds later people are arguing on the group chat and I disappear back to my little reality.

At 21 years old it would be unimaginable-in my parents time to still share shelter with their parents – I guess.

They provide for me, all I do is go to college for three months and go back to their home. They send money monthly.

So when everyone was complaining of the rise in the price of unga I hardly felt it. What’s weirder is that, I came to know of the rise in cost on social media-Twitter, despite buying unga every start of the month. I couldn’t tell whether corruption played any part in the drama like many people alleged, because for every next allegation made by the opposition side there seemed for me, a sensible response by the Jubilee commentators. I barely eat ugali anyway.

On eighth August, I will vote for the first time ever. If I had my way, I’m not sure I would have registered to vote, only that in Kisumu they were threatening to beat people with no voters card. Crazy!

I don’t want to blindly follow what dad wants because honestly I have always known that his political opinions are because of his tribe. I am hoping I can curve my own path; make objective decisions. But it’s hard getting the right information in the age of fake news.

Awhile back, Devolution CS, Anne Waiguru was accused of stealing NYS money by Nasa leader Raila. At the time people associated with President Uhuru defended her. And she’s so smart when she talks, it’s hard to imagine her corrupt. But then later when I saw her on TV appearing before a Parliamentary Watchdog Committee; a definite suspect, and the Deputy President-who had earlier defended her against Raila, now calling for her prosecution, going as far as telling her to stop “cat-walking” and return the alleged stolen cash I was a little confused. But you learn in politics enmity is so temporary because she is now running for Kirinyaga Governor race under a Jubilee party ticket. I’ll never know if she really stole money or Raila just doesn’t like her. These are some of the things that bother me as a first-time voter.

As for my dad, Waiguru should have been crucified a long time ago, alongside Jesus. My mom isn’t really political; but possibly follows in my dad’s political footsteps. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t force things on us but you will just find yourself doing what he’d normally approve.

Again, as a first time voter, I don’t want to blindly follow family or people without proper, credible and verifiable information.

In two years, I will be done with college and my dad will just about be retiring – all the privilege I have always had thanks to the hard work of my parents will sadly be gone. I will very possibly not be able to hold down a good job; yet I was shocked to learn that HELB needs that I begin repayment immediately or face a fine of 5000 monthly. How’s that even supposed to work, knowing the employment situation in this country?

Of all the financial or is it economic scandals that have ever happened in this country, real or made up, I have not been enraged by any. But now that I can see responsibility slowly showing itself – frankly I am kind of scared but hope that I can start to make my future more livable starting on 8th August.

Maybe responsibility is good, at least it has led me to do some soul searching. What if all these years all the money that has gone missing could have helped me with bursaries for all those times when my parents have had a hard time raising school fees. And it’s not just me – millennials are often accused of having an unreasonable sense of entitlement. But that’s not always the case, especially if you consider that odd case where interns seeking internship have to pay for placement and then end up doing the donkey work. Shouldn’t one be paid for their work?

On 8th I want to get out of my comfort zone, and begin to take responsibility. I need to ask hard questions about the taxes I pay. I just filed my tax returns.

For me to make these informed choices I need credible sources of information. But politicians haven’t always made this job easy. It feels like we are stuck with leaders shouting over each other’s voices; often resembling noisy crowds in a park or stadium and thus disorganizing information. I am therefore left at the mercy of Radio or TV sound bites to make sense of whatever they’re saying.

They (Politicians) don’t look to be doing a good job of speaking to my problems and convincing me they have solutions. I am watching these campaigns closely. As a first-time voter, I can’t afford to mess it up. I need my voice heard; it starts at the ballot this August 8th.

This article is courtesy of Project Mchujo, running with the hashtag #ChujaSiasa

Project Mchujo Goes Live

Posted by on 21st June 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

This week Mzalendo Trust launches Project Mchujo, a project that hopes to spark a peer-peer conversation among the youth with regards to the upcoming general elections. Mzalendo recruited youth from all over the country who are now tasked to generate articles, videos and podcasts about issues that matter to them and deliver it in a voice that they understand and on platforms that they meet in. Project Mchujo has been developed in conjunction with Livity Africa of South Africa which ran similar youth project in the lead up to their last election.

The August polls are only a few weeks and the youth constituency which forms slightly over 50% of the voter base have a chance to reshape Kenya’s governance through their choice of leaders. Sadly these constituency appears to have a weak voice. In most youth led forums by those who seek to engage them politically, it has emerged that the political class see them mainly as a group that can be used to threaten opponents violently or mobilized to demonstrate support, yet issues that matter to them are sidelined.

Candidates at different levels have not been clear on their agenda for the youth other than their usual rhetoric on job creation. The media too hasn’t been able to properly capture what exactly this large constituency is looking for in politicians and particularly the sort of leader they need in an election year. Project Mchujo therefore hopes to meet this gap by having youthful content creators get election related stories from their peers and generate them in formats that are both accessible and easily consumed by this demographic. Mzalendo and Livity Africa on the other hand will amplify their messages on every available platforms in the hope that indeed all the youths can get involved and begin discussing earnestly their issues in the lead up to the general elections in August 8th.

The project is a mirror of Livity Africa’s project Demo, popular in South Africa where young people were recruited and became content creators amplifying the voice of the youth ahead of the 2014 elections in South Africa. Here in Kenya, the aim is to spur authentic youth conversations and make their issues important to those running for office as well as demystify some of the myths associated with the youth during the electioneering period. This project is funded by the Indigo Trust.

IEBC might also need a silver bullet to give us credible elections

Posted by on 19th June 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Kinjekitile Ngwale the man who led a rebellion against the colonial Germans in Tanzania had convinced his soldiers that the German bullets would not kill them if they sprinkled water-which he provided, hence the Maji Maji rebellion. Of course they died, by their hundreds! If Kinjekitile’s efforts remind us anything today, it’s that having good intentions alone is not enough. We need to have a plan. A good plan.

IEBC can’t go about the 2017 poll the way the leader of the Maji Maji rebellion approached his challenge. Mark-you, the Tanzanian freedom fighter had the entire people behind him.

Elections in sub-Saharan Africa is very much like pre-colonial battles in the sense that people are preparing to remove one government and replace it with another. IEBC is the institution that’s supposed to ensure that the transition-effected by voting does not get bloody by overseeing the whole process to ensure those leaving feel it was the will of the people and vice versa.

That explains why the three-day conference on elections preparedness by IEBC was so important. The electoral agency broke the conference into thematic areas: one, inclusive participation of youth, women, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and marginalized communities. Thematic area two: electing leaders of integrity; three: Impact of elections on security, peace and business. Thematic area four: electoral operations and technology, and finally, voter education and stakeholder engagement.

IEBC was hoping to demonstrate to the country that they are in control of the process and not the politicians and that Kenyans should have every reason to trust them to manage credible elections. However, it left glaring gaps that probably make the commission appear more ill-prepared than before. Concerning the first thematic area, IEBC gave a very short time for verification of voter details. Women who are not only the majority, work odd hours in addition to managing households. Did IEBC consider that when offering time? Additionally, were the equipment accessible to PWDs?

On the matter of electing leaders of integrity, the electoral agency has been blowing cold and hot throughout. This despite the support offered by both the civil society’s redcard20 team and the EACC list of 106 politicians with dubious records. Everyone with a disturbing record was cleared. The chairman only mumbled that their hands were tied pointing fingers to the courts as the weakest link.

IEBC also failed to come out strongly as the institution that can ensure elections does not impact negatively on peace, security and business. The overall stability and instability is based on the players going into the ballot without any doubts that it’s free and fair. Already opposition has cried foul over the tendering process of the ballot papers. The court had also warned IEBC on flouting the Procurement Act and ordered fresh tendering only for IEBC to invoke their ability to single source-again. Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC clinched the lucrative Sh2.5 billion.

The opposition leader Raila Odinga baffled those present at the same conference when he revealed that the company has insider dealings with the president who is also a player in the coming august poll. Jubilee has however countered through majority leader Duale that Raila was bitter his friends [South African Printing firm Paarl Media (Pty) Ltd] were denied the tender by IEBC. Whether Raila or Dwale says the truth is really not important but the perception the information the two are dishing the media is having on the country’s overall perception of IEBC. While the country may be sympathetic to Chebukati’s team as much of what is playing out begun way before they took office, if they don’t nip this in the bud it might just provide the right fodder for those spoiling for war.

The three day conference was a step in the right direction. Rather than showing the preparedness it revealed the much work IEBC has to do in less than two months to the country’s high stakes general elections yet. The difference between the Maji Maji rebellion and the Mau Mau was that Kenyan freedom fighters were thoroughly prepared due to many factors including World War II and effectively used the guerilla tactics to hold their ground longer than the colonial government expected. What IEBC needs to do, and first is to learn from this conference and assert itself and stop letting politicians in government or otherwise present their case for them.

 

 

Be vigilant or MPs will pass bad laws this last few days!

Posted by on 12th June 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Activist Okiya Omtatah can be quite the gadfly considering his frequent court cases that often provokes criticism. Indeed, his petition seeking the High Court to declare Section 29 of the Prevention of Torture Act 2017 unconstitutional was not just important but also revealed a dangerous trend that calls for vigilance as the life of the 11th Parliament draws to an end.

The world over, the government of the day takes advantage of an election year to pass bills they don’t want scrutinized towards the end of the life of Parliament because of the possible lack of attention by MPs due to campaigns. Also the fact that the citizens are engrossed in the campaign promises and intrigues to pay close attention to bills before the House.

Last month the British Parliament passed 13 bills on the last sitting day of Parliament. In actual fact throughout the life of Parliament only 24 bills were successfully passed including the thirteen. Meaning nearly half of all the successful bills were passed on one day-the last day! Back in Kenya, Parliament appears to be doing the same thing. Rushing bills with controversial amendments at this last stage to avoid scrutiny.

That explains why this case filed by Okiya Omtata asking the Court to determine the constitutional validity of amendments brought to Section 129 of the Environmental Management and Co-Ordination Act 1999 through the Prevention of Torture Act 2017 was so important. The amendment was brought at a very late stage in the Bill- way past the public participation stage by none other than the National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale.

The controversial amendment changes the law that prevented abuse of the environment by way of stop orders that maintained status quo provided there was an appeal lodged at the National Environment Tribunal against any project which the aggrieved party normally would file under Section 129 of the EMCA. What critics find most disturbing about this amendment is that it applies retrospectively-meaning previous stop orders become null and void upon enactment of the law, which by-the-way was assented to by the President on 13th April.

Natural Justice who were also keen on the petition filed at the High Court by virtue of their work around environmental law, wondered why that particular amendment was not included in the original form of the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2016. Also the fact that this particular amendment has no relationship to the objectives of the Act yet it waltzed through made the whole thing stink with suspicion.

It turns out the bill was very strategic and the government used the Prevention of Torture Act to circumvent the stop order issued by NEMA against Amu Power with regard to the construction of the 1050 Mega Watts Lamu Coal Plant that’s been a national debate for some time now. And just like that nothing stops this firm from going ahead to begin constructions of the Coal plant unless those aggrieved apply for the issue of fresh orders.

The allegation we’re implying here is not idle chatter. Activist Omtatah submitted to the Court that it was not a coincidence that the amendment was brought on 6th April, exactly one day after the National Environment Tribunal had issued him with stop orders suspending the construction of the Nairobi-Naivasha Section (Phase 2A) of the Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park.

The ramifications of this move is enough to sound alarm to all conscious citizens to be wary of the bills coming before Parliament between now and its dissolution. Of interest is the Omnibus bills that make several changes to existing laws that don’t warrant drafting of a new Bill. The attempts to reward MPs with hefty pay in 2009 through Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill serves as a reminder that we need to be extra vigilant.

As we rush to the campaign grounds to listen to campaign promises from politicians, let’s think deeply about the implications of bad laws that might be passed because we’re too excited by the political climate to call out the MPs for failing to represent us adequately including blocking suspicious laws.

 

Until we understand the cost of corruption we’ll blame everyone but ourselves

Posted by on 5th June 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Last year, former EACC boss admitted to Reuters that Kenya was losing approximately Sh.608 billion to corruption. With over 70 percent of children living in rural areas Sh. 608 billion can build more than 200 ultramodern schools in at least six counties every year. Meaning no government-national or devolved should give an excuse why children are studying under trees or make-shift classes.

The saddest thing is that corruption hurts poor people the most. Given majority of Kenyans are poor one would expect they would be inclined to vote in leaders with clean track records and avoid those associated or alleged to have committed economic crimes, but no. The politicians have choreographed the political show that Kenyans are now propping “their own thieves.” The party primaries saw many politicians with dubious track records or questionable histories get party nominations.

This week has therefore been a sad one for champions of integrity after a number of politicians with corruption cases got the green light from IEBC to vie in the coming August polls. Not to sound too optimistic but the general feeling was the civil society’s redcard20 list coupled with EACC’s list would give IEBC the confidence to realize there was a solid force behind them to bar those who didn’t meet requirements of the integrity threshold but that was not to be. We therefore need to question the criteria used by the IEBC to vet leaders seeing as the evidence was quite overwhelming. Sad to say, the real problem lies with the political parties and the electorate who nominated these individuals in the first place.

Think about it. IEBC will consider themselves having done a successful job if they run a credible election -meaning votes are cast, counted and relayed with as minimal challenges as possible and results announced in a transparent manner. To get to that point, the two main political parties that have a big say on the outcome have to be appeased. Is this why those adversely mentioned in cases involving fraud got cleared, across the political divide?

The other logic is the IEBC may have figured if people cared anything about Chapter Six the politicians with dubious pasts wouldn’t have been nominated. Since IEBC’s key interest is to be perceived as a fair referee ahead of elections; they didn’t want to be overzealous in barring corrupt politicians especially those close to the incumbent and the opposition leader because as this could trigger tensions way ahead of the elections.

In a manner of speaking, this means the IEBC has thrown the ball back to the electorate’s court. And knowing only too well how our politicians work the public up with useless propaganda about the other camp, Kenyans are likely to embrace “our thieves” and hope they bring home the cake. The real tragedy is Kenyans uncaring attitude about corruption in general and how corrupt leadership is affecting us directly or indirectly.

We shall confirm this tragedy in the aftermath of the August polls. Will we stand on the right side of history? Meanwhile it would be worth remembering the cost of corruption. We remain vulnerable to terrorists with porous borders because of corrupt security officers. A report by PWC last year showed economic crimes in our country is 25% above the global average.

When you vote on August 8th, think about the impact of corruption on your daily life – food, water, education, health, housing and security. What these billions could do for the unemployed youth who have turned to crime or the disabled and women who remain poor or the children whose future has been auctioned on account of “your thief”. For once think selfishly in August 8th and stop passing the blame to toothless institutions. The power is in your hands.

Let’s criminalize and ostracize the corrupt, for a better Kenya

Posted by on 27th May 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

A family that prays together stays together so the adage goes, but in Kenya only those who prey together stay together. Really, consider the political dynamics in this country and foes in a previous election year end up friends in the next elections regardless of how their decisions affected negatively the common Mwananchi. It’s never that serious for them. Perhaps that’s why the ongoing debate on integrity is so important. In the end an election is a very serious thing for the rest of us.

It’s not clear when we started taking important things so casually. For a country that congregates dutifully each year to have leaders from across political divide come together in prayer for the nation, you’d think integrity is a very clear matter but no, we need the courts to tell us the difference between good and bad. The truth is relative.

And while we’re on integrity. There’s no time in our independent political life that the phrase, “innocent until proven guilty,” has ever been so misused. More interesting is the fact that police gun down kids in broad day light and others go missing only for their bodies to resurface in some dumpsite or river. Meanwhile those stealing millions from us can keep coming back through elections to continue stealing because? They’re innocent until the court proves otherwise.

And if you’re familiar with criminal law; the rule of thumb is to make sure the case is delayed by filing different motions depending on the circumstance. Delays makes it easy to tamper with evidence or witnesses and by the time the matter is before court it falls like a broken twig.

This week the media has had Chapter Six of the Constitution dissected by experts following the release of the 20 aspirants that the civil society recommended be barred from running in the August polls. A section of the group of 20 dubbed #RedCard20 on social media have come out to rubbish the campaign. But there’s nothing surprising there. What’s disturbing are those Kenyans whose life has become unbearable directly or indirectly through corruption but have the audacity to attack the National Integrity Alliance (NIA) for ‘compiling a list that was not all inclusive.’

Let’s understand these people’s logic. They don’t disagree that these people are crooks-because the evidence is overwhelming. No, their issue is, there are others missing. Picture this: You come home one day and you find some of your household goods stolen. After sometime a group of people come to you with names of those who stole from you and exactly what they stole. However, there’s still a lot of your stuff still missing. Under ordinary circumstances, shouldn’t you be thanking these people? Would you tell them to shut up because there are some of your prized items not yet recovered? But that’s the message we’re sending when we attack champions of integrity.

Our political biases have made us so blind that if truth walked up to us and introduced itself we would still ask for proof beyond reasonable doubt. And even religious leaders who are supposed to be at the fore front on integrity are themselves unsure. Forget the Bishops who called a conference to ask politicians to stop politicizing the maize scandal. The prayer breakfasts have been something of a ritual with little or no bearing in the country’s moral compass. Last year a Kenyan remarked about the prayer breakfasts on Daily Nation that “Too much time is consumed eating and also on political bickering.” He advised that the venue should be moved to a national stadium, to make it more inclusive to all Kenyans and more about prayer than the delicious food served every year.

This year’s National Prayer Breakfast is the 15th since the practice was begun. Interestingly, despite over a decade and a half of joint national prayers, the citizens only seem to get more intolerant of each other as cases of online hate speech become unbearable even for the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). Not to mention that every year, a number of politicians will repetitively be in court over an utterance that did not befit their stature in the society. Would the situation be any different if we used these national prayer days to name and shame corrupt people in the society even as we pray for them?

The civil society have gone beyond mere complaining about the corrupt leaders and took a bold step to name and shame these individuals regardless of their political parties or positions in these parties. IEBC has indicated they will have no sacred cows as have the EACC who are set to release their list sometime next week. The rest of us should take cue and make sure only those who pass the integrity test get elected.

Do we as people and institutions honestly care about integrity?

Posted by on 20th May 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Awhile back one of the dailies ran a headline to the effect that Kenya was a gambling nation. There was a mixed reaction with strong opponents and proponents regarding the headline. A few days ago SportPesa betting firm unveiled Kenya’s newest millionaire. A 28-year-old who had won the Sh.221million jackpot. Since then previous staunch opponents of betting have reconsidered their earlier stand. But that’s not the shocker. The real shocker is the perennial losers who’ve gambled their future; lost families but refuse to quit and try the old time-tested investment opportunities.

More interesting is how this gambling craze resembles our political life. The just concluded primaries have seen some of the candidates with the most troubling background given a strong vote of confidence by their electorate in their constituencies. It’s not like corruption in this country doesn’t have a face. We know these people; we’ve read the collosal amounts they’ve helped stolen. We know the lives destroyed by corruption. But no, we have to gamble our future to these wanting leaders because better the devil you know right?

A gambler is a person who likes to engage in silly optimism that’s neither here nor there; someone who doesn’t believe in going the long haul-because what’s the point right? He wants instant gratification and hopes his problems can go away with one single win. Gamblers are intense people-they sell prized property and can gamble their children’s fees or their own school fees and justify it. The idea is to find optimism in luck. How pathetic!

Truth is this are the exact characteristic of your average Kenyan voter. It’s funny we complain about how the youth are wasting time and money in activities whose outcomes can’t be guaranteed but consider our voting pattern the past few elections. Otherwise how do you think people elect known thugs; drug lords and tribal chieftains and still afford to sleep soundly at night? Like the gambler who keeps repeating his mistakes hoping for luck we bring back these corrupt people in the name of tribe, better thief, devil you know-so on and so forth simply because we are afraid to roll our sleeves look at these candidates keenly against the qualities of a leader as espoused in Chapter Six of the Constitution. People who don’t take time to think through activities and make sober choices, end up gambling their future.

The 2010 Constitution is probably the best thing that should have ever happened to Kenyan political history. The insatiable appetite for corruption by elected leaders since the first government dimmed the country’s development light so much that there was no light at the end of any tunnel until the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2010. Until then we had no way of stopping people with questionable character from taking office.

Sadly, it’s not just the electorate that appears to like gambling their future. Institutions that are supposed to defend the country too appear to be more interested in short term approaches rather than long term sustainable means. Disturbingly, whenever cases around integrity are before court there seems to be a pattern where the interpretation is based on the letter only and not the spirit of the constitution. Mitigating short term political crises that only serve the interest of a corrupt group and leaving the majority disappointed.

A report on leadership and Integrity: Towards Hazy Horizons; Implementation of Chapter Six of the 2010 Constitution by a joint initiative of Parliamentary Initiative Network (PIN) gives a background on the impetus that led to the creation of Chapter Six. The report explains that State officers are the nerve Centre of the Republic and carry the highest level of responsibility in the management of state affairs and, therefore, their conduct should be beyond reproach. Further elaborating unequivocally that those whose conduct does not bring honor, public confidence and integrity have no place in the management of public affairs. Indeed this was the spirit of Chapter Six of the constitution. Which by-the-way is the only new Chapter in the entire Constitution; the rest of the Chapters have been tweaked from the old Constitution.

This week Members of Parliament have asked that the NYS report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) be implemented. This is a good move, but it shouldn’t be focused only on one individual like they’re making it to be. Former CS Waiguru was not the only one adversely mentioned. Other elected leaders mentioned in the NYS saga must also be targeted for fairness sake. For now the ball is in the vetting institution’s court. We can only hope they will respect the Spirit of the Constitution and allow Kenyans a chance to pick leaders of integrity.

Private Sector or the Government; Who is Running the Show?

Posted by on 13th May 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

With less than three months to the August polls everything looks as though we had no idea elections will be taking place this year. It’s not just IEBC that’s struggling to meet the tight election laws deadlines; National Assembly’s is stuck with the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2017 in the second reading. This Bill among other things proposes to deal with political party nomination challenges which is already a done deal. IEBC should be receiving party list of nominated candidates on Sunday 14th May. Meaning though on the order paper this Bill if signed into law will be useful five years from now.

Meanwhile as the National Assembly resumes business after the Party Primaries, the country faces a serious food crisis and MPs have to figure out a way. The President’s Labor Day speech was dotted with shouts of Unga! Unga! from an agitated crowd unable to bear the weight of the increasingly high cost of living. Among the raft of measures expected is lowering of the subsidies to allow for easy importation of food stuff like maize; possibly sugar too.

Unfortunately this school of thinking takes a short-term approach and rewards those in the private sector with deep connections to high ranking government officials. Actually the Kenya Trade and Remedies Bill, 2017 also in the second reading is keen on protecting domestic industries from unfair competition from foreign companies. This Bill that hopes to set up an investigative body-The Kenya Trades Agency “to determine the existence of dumping and subsidization of imported products” is likely to be in jeopardy. The real crisis is that even in the face of real problems there are people in government who are still thinking of cashing on the crisis.

To begin with the government released the strategic food reserve without monitoring the exercise properly. One of the guests on KTN’s round table hosted by Asha Mwilu revealed that  a lot of that maize found its way to Arusha. The reserve having been depleted the government resorted to waive duty to allow the private sector import maize free. Again, this approach only serves those individuals in the private sector with the means.

Never mind that this is happening at a time when the Ministry of Health has been embroiled in a scandal that has seen the Global Fund Auditors pitch camp at Afya House to probe the alleged corruption after USAID freezed their funding. The Ministry had flouted procurement by irregularly awarding tenders to private sector individuals close to the government in what later was known as the AfyaGate scandal. Nobody  has been jailed yet and now a few people are about to make a lot of money from this food crisis.

And still on the high cost of living, the 11th Parliament’s life ends in June 15th to pave way for the General Elections and slightly over 15 Bills haven’t even gone past the second reading. The Finance Bill, 2017 has already got tongues wagging. The Bill proposes to raise the Withholding Tax on Management and professional services and on royalties If the Bill becomes law, the changes take effect on 1st of January 2018.

The government’s decision to increase the Tax bands by 10% thereby cushioning the low income employee may temporarily offer reprieve but this is simply a knee-jerk reaction and in a sense shifts the burden to the middle income earners whose challenges are not as far off as those of the low income earners. If anything, majority Kenyans in the middle income bracket are a salary a way from poverty, should an unexpected disease hit them they’ll be rendered poor.

For every Kenyan earning in excess of KES 42,781 30% of this figure will be deducted as PAYE. Not to mention the burden associated with the sky-rocketing cost of living hasn’t been dealt with. The long term solution is to bring together the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) and  millers to identify the weaknesses in the chain. Meanwhile the lack of political will to streamline the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) only adds to the woes.

The confusion in government and indeed Parliament in resolving the challenges Kenyans are facing can be seen in the Bills that are currently being rushed to the floor of the House. On the one hand is the Kenya Trade and Remedies Bill, 2017 discussed earlier. On the other hand, is the Nairobi International Finance Center Bill which is feared might kill local firms as foreign companies that are in good standing with the cabinet secretary could be exempted from paying taxes unduly. Besides the  Bill undermines other laws around transparency and accountability as it shall over-ride all related laws. .

Admittedly some of the challenges we are experiencing with cost of living are as a result of natural calamities but the culture of greed that takes advantage of the plight of the majority to whooping sums must be stopped at all cost. Indeed we’re a free market economy but the government should work in public interest and not the private sector.

 

Party Primaries Showcase the Systemic inefficiencies in our Democracy

Posted by on 5th May 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

We can now add the word shambolic to the Kenyan dictionary as a peculiar Kenyan lingo after the just concluded primaries. The parties so called independent tribunals working to solve disputes over nominations have mediated on the issues in a manner that leaves a lot to be desired. From the look of things, the mediation had nothing to do with getting the right candidate but negotiating to have what the party believes is a stronger candidate to take office. Kenyans have witnessed many legitimately nominated candidates surrendering their certificates and pledging support for the party’s favorite.

This form of negotiated democracy is dangerous because it robs the people the ability to have people of their choice. In an interview on Citizen TV with Jeff Koinange, Senator Mike Sonko who clinched Jubilee’s gubernatorial position openly admitted that it was not up to him to pick his running mate but the party. If it boils down to what the party wants then why hold nominations in the first place? Why not just wait to vote in August rather than pretend to allow for democratic space. It’s not just Jubilee, the same is being witnessed in ODM with the tribunal saying the deadline set by IEBC means they have to uphold nominations in contested places like Kisumu.

This nominations also revealed the patriarchy that is our politics. It was surprising to see Kenyans turn up in thousands to elect aspirants for party flag bearer in various positions but only a fraction of the people elected women reps. The contempt for women in politics is encouraged by these party tribunals. Consider the odd case where Elizabeth Ongoro, former ODM aspirant for Ruaraka got a harsh punishment over election violence that involved her supporters and that of incumbent T.J Kajwang’. How the party decided to fine her Sh. 1 million and bar her from competing in the primaries while allowing Kajwang’ to run unopposed was another low for political parties considering women are often the victims in political violence cases.

Jubilee and ODM being the biggest parties in the country the chaos witnessed during the primaries was so palpable.  A woman from Alego Usonga lamented to Mzalendo using our short code SMS 21516 about the disorderly nominations in his constituency. Florence* painfully narrated the gimmicks used by the rich candidates dishing out monies and the political party delaying voting to a point that the women, old and sick couldn’t linger long enough to vote. Her view was Kenyans need a new way to identify leaders to represent us at the ballot because party nominations don’t work.

Indeed in regions where the big parties enjoy loyalty there’s need to strengthen party democracy to give hope to women like the one who communicated to us her frustrations. The better option for women like Florence is to identify those independent candidates they believe have vision and real interest in developing their constituency.

Despite the underwhelming dispute resolution offered by the political parties, these primaries have nonetheless offered a glimpse of hope in areas where the people’s will carried the day. We can draw inspiration from nominations held in Umoja estate, Nairobi where a vegetable vendor clinched the ODM MCA ticket against all odds. The people were able to isolate the noise from richer aspirants and see clearly. If we can replicate these patterns on August 8th we’ll be a step closer to ensuring we give National and County governments a breath of fresh air.

Generally, the political parties’ commitment to Constitutionalism and Rule of Law is wanting. Most flouted the Election laws. They also cleared individuals with questionable characters to carry the party’s flag in different elective positions. We hope the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) among other key vetting institutions will prevent these questionable candidates from being on the ballot. However, the last bullet remains with the electorate who can vote them out otherwise the political order that glorifies thieves will remain firm.

Good Move: Kenyans Red Card Aspirants during Party Nominations

Posted by on 28th April 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The Swahili have a saying that when foolish men become wise, the wise fall into trouble. In Kenya we can safely admit that the electorate has become wise and our politicians are in trouble. The coming August poll will be a shocker for many pundits and ordinary folks alike if these nominations are anything to go by.

Firstly, the narrative that Kenyans, particularly from Central Kenya were apathetic has been quashed after voters turned up in their thousands to nominate their party representatives. Secondly aspirants close to party owners have been floored. In some counties like Nandi, Kericho and Kiambu nearly all incumbents have been replaced from the governor to the Members of County Assemblies (MCAs).

While the primaries have been largely shambolic and chaotic, it is important to note and commend the vigilance demonstrated by the electorate. Voters refused to be deterred or submit to the mind games by those attempting to discourage them from electing the leaders they wanted to represent them.

That key allies of opposition leader Raila Odinga, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto were rejected resoundingly in ODM and Jubilee primaries is a signal of Kenyans increasing democratic maturity. Moreover, that a Luo clinched the Jubilee party ticket in Kiambu – a Jubilee zone – a primarily Kikuyu region, is a statement that Kenyans are seeing beyond the divisive tribal politics we’ve been fed every electioneering year.

Nonetheless, the job is far from over. Surprisingly individuals who previously occupied public office and have been adversely mentioned in corruption cases made a comeback through these nominations. Kenyans need to embrace a new value system, public office is a trust so why nominate or elect corrupt leaders yet expect different results. Isn’t it time, we the electorate supported the work done by frontline vetting institutions like the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)?

Sadly, the courts have in the past made some disturbing rulings on matters relating to integrity which have only served to either dilute or create confusion of the standards set in Chapter 6 of the Constitution. Mzalendo lauds the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights (KNCHR) move to seek an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court on the application of chapter 6 on all public officers – elected and appointed.

Political party leaders too are failing the democracy test when they attempt to rig in their preferred candidates thereby undermining their members. The disorganized primaries across the country are likely to result in very high number of independent candidates. In the same spirit that has been demonstrated in these nominations we hope the electorate will continue red-carding candidates rigged in by their parties.

Meanwhile, the National Commission and Integration Commission (NCIC) should step up as we draw nearer to the August polls. Politicians are openly engaging in dangerous speech that could destabilize our country. Again, the judiciary is once again at fault having cleared those arraigned in court over hate speech despite overwhelming evidence. It’s time the Chief Justice whipped his team to stand on the right side of history. We can’t have politicians captured on camera inciting people to violence or openly bribing voters only to be acquitted on flimsy grounds. The Judiciary should stand shoulder to shoulder with other key institutions to defend the Constitution in its spirit and letter.