We Can’t fight Corruption With Cosmetic Rage; a Trip Down Memory Lane Confirms Our Folly

Posted by on 30th May 2018

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John Githongo once remarked that the Moi administration handed President Kibaki a skunk and he took it home as a pet. He was referring to the Anglo-leasing scandal. Interestingly, that skunk found its way in Uhuru’s administration and thrived much to everybody’s surprise.

The President in May 2014 ordered that Anglo-leasing be paid with immediate effect “…to minimise further loss as the outstanding awards continue to accrue interest.” The President also ordered fresh investigations which looked more like a decision to deflect the growing dissatisfied voices.

Perhaps what’s curious about the ‘pet’ that Kibaki handed Uhuru is that President Uhuru had himself investigated this scandal while chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and had submitted a report to the House on the matter. The sudden about turn and claims of interest accruing were a jaw-dropping moment and remains mysterious to date.

That same year (2014), the government paid for the Anglo-leasing, it floated the infamous Sh.215 billion Eurobond that Office of the Auditor General (OAG) said could not be accounted for-two years after the government insisted it had allocated the monies to the ministries. In his report the OAG noted that the ministry of Water and Irrigation which was alleged to have received Sh11.2 billion could not give any evidence of projects or receipts of any expenditure to that effect.

This year the government floated yet again Sh.202billion Eurobond despite the lingering questions over how the first Eurobond was used. In fact on the same day the government secured the Eurobond, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned the public debt may become unsustainable yet the government insisted we were within the acceptable limits. Again, the public had something to say online and reverted back to the mundane.

It could be that as a country we suffer selective amnesia or our problems are just too many or perhaps these scandals are popping up faster than we can digest and deal. In a span of less than a year since the Eurobond saga, the NYS scandal hit us so hard we were so angry for days on end. Though initial official reports indicated at least Sh 1.8 billion had been lost, the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee found the figures could be way higher than that.

Closely following that NYS heist, the ‘Mafya House’ scandal broke out but the officials fought the media reports so hard until the OAG confirmed that indeed there was a scandal at the Ministry of Health. The Deputy President was among those who spoke sternly saying it was the government who did the internal audit (which was leaked to the media) and it was to prevent corruption. He said they will take a firm decisive step and have those involved step down and face the law.

Interestingly, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s sister and cousin were among those reported to have irregularly pocketed Sh. 41million through a company they registered in 2013-five months after President Uhuru took office. While the registration of the company and the president’s taking office may be completely unrelated, critics saw the timing as suspicious and a possible conflict of interest on the part of the president. As usual, Kenyans were enraged, throwing tantrums on social media and eventually moved on.

Today we have another NYS heist, which appears to be the continuation of the first one. Bearing in mind the key suspects walked free and the recommendations of the PAC report remained just that-a recommendation.

Indeed, the NYS part two scandal shows the joke that is our institutions from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Parliament among others. Parliament particularly because it is the arm of government that Wanjiku falls back to as a last resort.

When the NYS scandal part one exploded, dragging the head of EACC at the time, Parliament spoke out and dismissed their investigations (EACC) and PAC took over. We were treated to a lot of political drama and in the end, the report did not have anything tangible or actionable. Nobody was mentioned, despite overwhelming evidence. It is no wonder critics are now questioning whether MPs should draw any allowances on these committees that promise so much and deliver little or nothing.

Perhaps the EACC CEO’s observation of NYS scandal one should serve to remind us that temporary rage won’t do it for us. He said, “…I can assure you that nearly all people from all walks of life whether in the government or outside of government have been mentioned in the NYS probe, including MPs, Principals Secretaries, Cabinet Secretaries, and people who hold other offices. You can also confirm that my own chairman was a casualty of the same.” Little wonder then that the PAC report was almost vague.

As the NYS scandal two and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) investigations continue, as a country we need to stop with cosmetic anger and begin demanding a return on investment on our institutions. So far the new leadership at the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) is showing results but a larger conversation on the other institutions and MPs partiality or lack thereof in Parliamentary Committees is something we need to start talking about with much seriousness.

We’ve got to stop getting angry on Twitter and Facebook and take it to the streets-making it clear it can’t be business as usual. A beginning point is attending the protest on Thursday, 31st May, 2018 starting from the Freedom corner, Uhuru Park at 8:00am. Let’s pour into the streets in numbers for the leaders to know we’re genuinely disturbed and won’t accept this anymore.

A Three Tier System of Government Won’t Strengthen Devolution

Posted by on 23rd May 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Gitungo Wamere

(Guest Blog)

Kenyans have barely recovered from a long and gruelling election that threatened to tear the country apart and now some politicians are talking about changing the Constitution through a referendum. Yet, a referendum may end up pulling the country apart despite the handshake between bitter rivals, Mr. Kenyatta and Odinga which has brought about a semblance of peace and cohesion.

Some of the changes that are being flown left, right and centre are meant to change Kenya’s system of governance. A number of the proposals are just fancy and may not necessarily solve Kenya’s governance structural problems.

Take for instance, a referendum to have a Parliamentary system with a powerful Prime Minister and a ceremonial President. This is a debate that has a potential to divide the country into two. Numbers are at the centre of politics and there is a flimsy possibility in Kenya that a person elected by a group of 300 people would legitimately govern Kenya.

The proposal of an executive Prime Minister has always been suffocated by communities that have many votes but less representatives in Parliament. To date, there is no evidence showing that leaders especially from the Gikuyu community are willing to take this lying down.

On the other hand, there is a fancier proposal that wants to pursue a three tier system of government in Kenya. This debate was re-introduced by Raila Odinga recently when addressing Governors in Kakamega at the devolution conference.

Let us interrogate the ‘three tier’ system. Firstly, in a three tier system a country will have a national government on top. A regional government at the centre and local governments at the bottom. The National government may mean the government in Nairobi, regional governments may take the shape of the former eight provinces and finally county governments as they are, may remain at the bottom as local governments.

On the regional governments, we need to pause and ask, do we need another tier of government in between the national and county governments? Why restructure devolution now? Will regional governments solve the current problem we have with devolution?

Furthermore, devolution has come with a huge financial price for Kenyans to pay. This could partly explain why the budget’s expands year-in-year out. County governments have become consumers of the budget with little or nothing to bring on the table.

There is immense potential in some of the counties to raise funds and support development in their counties but Governors have refused to think outside the box. Unfortunately so, counties are yet to put mechanisms that will help in having effective tax collection. The result is that Kenya has now 47 children who are living lavishly but they don’t want to meet some of their costs.

Well, if we were to introduce a three tier government would this problem be solved? Don’t forget that the regions that are being proposed will come with their numerous political positions that will demand from Kenyans, posh offices, cars, humongous salaries and the like. Interestingly, so many political positions in a small country like Kenya may only bring confusion rather than clarity in leadership in governance.

The voluminous political bureaucracy will only create another class of regional bourgeois but with little or no development to show to the poor. It would have always been better, if we had a strong central government that effectively distributes resources to the poor, but now that it failed us, the result was giving ourselves smaller governments in the name of counties – we just can’t create ourselves something bigger than the county. The two tier system can work for us, if we resolve to strengthen it.

The proposers of the three tier system are not always clear on what role will regional governments play. Their answer is always short and vague, the claim has been that regions will strengthen devolution and ensure devolution of resources from the National government.

If devolution was to be restructured, condensing it in order to make it lean would be the best proposal. For instance, having 47 counties is extravagant, 18 counties can serve Kenya better and this would save the country a lot of money. The best we can make out of the regional governments is by deciding to reduce the number of counties.

If introduced, the regional governments would be taking away the independence of county governments as we know it. Wouldn’t the regional government’s also be usurping the Senate’s role? In any case, we would rather keep the Senate and forget about the regional governments. Just because they have worked elsewhere it doesn’t mean they can be a panacea to our problems.

Notice to the Press and the Public

Posted by on 21st May 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

RE: Headline story on People Daily

Our attention is drawn to a headline story on the People Daily newspaper titled: Mute honourables [sic]. The story published today, May 21st is misleading as it attempts to link us with a survey claiming 14% of MPs have not uttered a word since the inauguration of the 12th Parliament.

We wish to clarify that we have not yet done any survey or reports on the 12th Parliament. We also wish to clarify that no journalist has reached out to Mzalendo to comment on any issue concerning the 12th Parliament. The information published is therefore misleading and injures our reputation.

This is the second time in a span of one month we are issuing out a notice to the public warning of a published story claiming we have done a survey on MPs. We therefore strongly advise Journalists and Media Houses to adhere to Media Council of Kenya’s code of conduct for the practice of journalism in Kenya. It’s irresponsible for a reputable national paper like The People Dialy to publish a story without proper verification of sources that could lead to bias reporting or misrepresentation of facts.

We therefore request in accordance with the second schedule of the Media Council Act, 2013 that the paper correct this promptly to reflect the facts and offer an apology. Lastly, any surveys and reports we do on Parliament are thoroughly researched and released annually. Additionally, where such a report is done, we always release to all Media Houses for action.

Yours sincerely

Jessica Musila

Executive Director

The devil is in the details: Why We Need to Review Omnibus Bills Thoroughly

Posted by on 16th May 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Derrick Makhandia

(Guest Blog)

Last week, parliament called for submission of memoranda for two Bills proposing to amend a staggering 83 laws, and the public had only one week to give their views. Never mind some of these amendments touch serious fields; from land, to fisheries to energy to advocate practice, etcetera.

Forget that we might have needed possibly a month to review all the amendments proposed in the Statute Laws (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill No 12 of 2018 and Statute Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill no 13 of 2018. The real problem, is that the bills are fundamentally flawed, and in legal terms, should fail ab initio.

First, let us address the historical roots of the concept. Omnibus bills also known as “Statue Law Amendment Bills” is a concept born in the United Kingdom and heavily adopted world over as a practical and efficient way to amend, repeal or enact several Acts. If there are two or more Acts all of which need to be amended to respond to a certain legal or environmental change, then it makes sense to have one Bill amending all of them.

Ideally, omnibus Bills were meant to be interrelated, like the land Laws Amendment Act of 2016 that amended 3 land statutes. The idea is, rather than amend each statute, one Bill is tabled to amend all the Acts within the same field. That way, if public participation is called for, the participant submits on the singular issue.

On the other hand, sometimes government would need to make slight amendments on unrelated statutes which would thereby require a new type of concept – Miscellaneous amendments.

Miscellaneous amendments in legal terms means a change of several, different things but “confined only to minor non-controversial and generally house-keeping amendments.”

For instance, Parliament may pass a Bill that replaces the word “District” with the word “County” to reflect the new constitutional dispensation. This is a minor amendment that does not raise pertinent issues in the functionality of the government or any impact on the parent statute. It can amend several bills which necessarily need not be related but in very minor ways.

A Statue Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill in simpler terms, it is an omnibus bill whose purpose is to make small amendments to various statutes. The challenge however is that, omnibus bills are a two edged sword. On one hand, they save time and shorten the legislative process by doing away with numerous repetitive bills that have the same end game while on the other hand, they can be abused by the executive by “sneaking” controversial amendments with the intention of passing them without sufficient scrutiny.

The two Bills put up last week for public participation had nothing miscellaneous about them despite being presented as such. One was proposing to amend 68 statutes, the other 15 statues. All with far reaching proposals.

One provision, for instance, proposed to amend the Lands Act to require licenses and leases for private land to be issued by the Lands Cabinet Secretary. Ideally, if you want to lease out your land, the CS has to approve of it. Another proposal on the NHIF Act proposes removal of Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) representatives from sitting in the NHIF board. Further, the Bill makes over 20 amendments each on several statues. It even goes further to introduce a clause on the Advocates Act. And these are but examples.

What is horrifying about these type of omnibus bills is that it’s not just the public who are unable to efficiently critic it such a voluminous bill, but even our MPs are unable to make sober contributions because of time constraints as well as the rigidity of the voting process.

In short, an MP has only one option-to vote for or against the bill. Often, if an MP considers 99% of the bill to be good and only 1% is contentious; he or she often votes in favor of the bill despite the 1% having far reaching consequences.

Worse still is that, there’s no law in Kenya regulating and guiding the use of omnibus bills. The practice was merely adopted from our colonial masters and mutated into the ugly nature it is today.

Since no legal constraints exists, the only hurdle is finding sufficient political will to ensure such a bill goes through the floor. And since after the “handshake” we have all become government, we cannot confidently assume that there is an opposition that will jump up and make noise. We must therefore remain vigilant. Kaa chonjo!

State of the Nation Address missed the point, here’s why apologies amount to nothing

Posted by on 7th May 2018

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In his 2015 State of the Nation Address, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave one of his best speeches yet. But what was striking was his apology to all Kenyans over the wrongs his government and all the previous governments had committed. This was in-part, a fulfillment of the TJRC recommendations that demanded the President give a public apology.

In that speech the president having stated what he was apologizing for said, “I seek your forgiveness and may God give us the grace to draw on the lessons of this history to unite as a people and, together, to embrace our future as one people and one nation.”

First-forward to post 2017 polls and the police were back at it again, just like in the past using extreme force on otherwise harmless Kenyans in the slums whose only mistake was being poor and living in the ‘wrong part of the country’ and of course supporting the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA). Clearly, God didn’t grant us the grace and we didn’t learn anything from the past.

If apologies alone could change a country, Kenya would’ve been way ahead of her peers. Forget that 2015 State of the Nation Address; just before elections the president apologized to residents of Rongai during a meet-the-president tour where he appeared genuinely disturbed by the state of the roads, telling residents he didn’t know it was that bad otherwise he would have done something about it.

In short, there is no president in the Kenyan history who has been more apologetic than President Uhuru Kenyatta. And this year’s State of the Nation Address was another dose of apology. While this time round the session appeared livelier to watch compared to the previous ones, it still missed the public mood by a mile.

President Uhuru Kenyatta urged leaders to realize the role they’ve played in promoting the huge rift in the country and once again proceeded to ask for an apology, if we thought he played any part in that rift. And that’s what was wrong with that speech.

Firstly, as many commentators have already pointed out, whenever apologizing it is imperative that you don’t use ‘if’ anywhere in your statement as it denotes lack of appreciation of one’s blunders that warranted forgiveness in the first place. When apologizing, one assumes you realize the role you played in making the other party offended; in this case the increased inequality gap, corruption, tribalism, nepotism and cronyism among other ills that have bedeviled Kenyans.

Since the President took over in 2013 and the continuation of his regime through Jubilee following the October 26th polls we have witnessed corruption scandals from the much publicized NYS saga, to the Afya House scandal that has robbed the public coffers millions of shillings. We have seen patriots who people and institutions counted on for a free and fair elections die in unclear circumstances like the IEBC Commissioner, Chris Msando. To date, the family of the IEBC ICT Director has not found closure. The case is as good as cold since the police have not made any headway on the criminals.

In the immediate post August 8th elections, majority NASA supporters who were pro-opposition suffered greatly, losing lives, some barely a year old like baby Pendo of Kondele, Kisumu City. These families too have not received any retribution. It’s the reason that preposition ‘if’ in the president’s speech is problematic.

The president should have asked for forgiveness without the conditional ‘if’ same for his deputy and other MPs who jovially shifted from their seats greeting one another as they offered meaningless apologies to one another.

His (President Uhuru) family was implicated in the Sh. 5billion Afya House scandal. His Deputy has been allegedly linked to high profile corruption scandals from land grabbing of Lang’ata Primary School and the land belonging to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) land among others. These matters have not been satisfactorily closed.

As the two, top most civil servants in the country, one expected that their apologies would be very candid and direct. You can’t offer an apology that’s not specific and aimless unless it’s another political rhetoric much like the previous apologies.

Additionally, mentioning the handshake without clear and detailed information on what the president and the opposition leader, Raila Odinga discussed that goes to the heart of the people is nothing short of balderdash! And so is the appointment of the 14-member committee under the auspices of building bridges initiative. Needless to mention that there was no face of the youth in that committee. Another contempt card on the majority youth.

Someone once mentioned that the best form of apology is change of behavior. What we require from President Uhuru Kenyatta is to see corrupt people behind bars. What we want to see is a reformed police force, where those who use extreme force killing students or roughing them up are presented before a court of law and charged. What we want to see is a government that respects the rule of law and the separation of powers between the three arms of government. Honestly, however well intended, Kenyans are tired of apologies that are hollow.

Future Devolution Conferences should find Wanjiku’s voice or it risks becoming irrelevant

Posted by on 2nd May 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Devolution Conferences are starting to sound much like the annual Davos Conferences where the rich and powerful come together and spend millions discussing the fate of the millions who are poor yet things remain the same for this majority, if not worse.

Someone suggested these World Economic Forum (WEF) conferences will achieve nothing for the majority poor until they have a key role in these forums. It is therefore not surprising that the gap between the rich and the poor has increased considerably despite these annual meetings to prevent the same.

The 5th Annual Devolution Conference held in Kakamega came to an end but there’s little to differentiate this conference from the previous ones, except for the fact that the opposition leader Raila Odinga gave a Keynote speech at the invitation of the government.

These conferences are supposed to be about stock-taking; where are we going wrong? Which holes can we plug? Instead what we see is great speeches year after year with nothing tangible. We only circle around the real issues like devolved corruption and warning faceless and nameless individuals of dire repercussions when we know and can arrest them.

It’s not like the corruption happens through black magic! The Auditor General Reports doesn’t just name random counties but affected dockets and the people running them.  Parliamentarians call them for questioning and retreat to write reports that are inconsequential. It appears talking about corruption is a pastime activity for politicians.

The circa 6000 delegates who attended the Devolution Conference in Kakamega were mainly the ‘who is who’ in the political and government circles. The real people that made devolution necessary weren’t there. The mama mbogas, hawkers and boda boda riders among other Kenyans in the informal sector who expected devolution to change their lives were not part of the meeting. Just like Davos, the people living in posh areas met to discuss the plight of those in slums without a representative from them.

So you have governors giving themselves a report card of how hard they have worked or how the National government is undermining devolution and Senators antagonizing them; not on the basis of their performance but on whether they respond to Senate summons. To complete the picture we have MCAs who need motivation to attend these conferences that discuss county matters. In fact majority threatened to sabotage the conference if there were signs the bill by Senator Irungu Kang’ata giving them money was not getting support. Quite pathetic!

Here’s our quick observation on how to improve future devolution conferences: firstly, let it be about the people-real people. Let every county invite an agreed upon number of locals in different sectors to give their opinion on what they think ails devolution and their proposed countermeasure.

Secondly, let’s stop with the worthless threats. Devolved corruption will end the day we take the Auditor General’s reports seriously. At these conferences we should name and shame counties that have abetted corruption and get the governor to explain the steps he’s taking to recover this monies.

Thirdly, the National government should allocate funds in good time to avoid what might look like sabotage. MPs in the National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity Committee have expressed their worry over poor counties losing out on the equalization funds as a result of procurement delays by Treasury. If relevant ministries and institutions are getting their money in good time or at least in a way that allows them to carry out their activities with minimal challenges why not counties?

While the President’s promise to give 50billion performance based grant is commendable; this should be done with caution seeing as the problem may not necessarily be lack of funds but late disbursement coupled with graft. What the counties need more than anything therefore is how to prevent this financial hemorrhage and the political will to enforce Chapter Six when hiring at the county level.

Lastly but not least, the government and key institutions like the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) need to begin careful analysis of the wealth declaration by civil servants at the county level and begin comparing if the declarations match their lifestyles. Unless wealth declaration is another tool for subterfuge, it should be sufficient to winnow out the corrupt officials if the responsible institutions and people are doing their job.

Ward Bill Upsets Separation of Powers by Side-lining County Assemblies

Posted by on 20th April 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Gitungo Wamere

(Guest Blog)

Five years later after the debut of the Senate, thanks to Kenya’s constitution 2010, the role of the Senate in the Legislative arm of the government seems not to have crystallized. The upper house has persistently been struggling to find it space and relevance, sometimes to the extent of creating friction with other institutions.

In the 11th Parliament, the debate on whether Kenya needed a Senate arose. Irungu Kang’ata, the current senator of Murang’a, had vowed to introduced a bill that would abolish the Senate, because in his opinion the house was useless and didn’t have a role in law making. Mr. Kang’ata thought that National Assembly and the County Assemblies could sufficiently legislate on counties, guard and strengthen devolution.

Fast forward to 2018,  Senator Kang’ata seats in the House he termed useless and the jovial guy has started on a high note; drafting a bill on ward fund. The bill whose central objective is to decentralise resources has good intentions but upsets separation of powers by side-lining county assemblies and making the Senate poke its nose on county issues that can be dealt with by the county assemblies.

Certainly, our Senate struggles because the legal architecture makes it weak. When the drafters of the constitution inserted the Senate in our constitution, they gave it minimum roles, and this where the problem emanates. Article 96 on the role of the Senate is so brief, and the only pure and substantive role assigned to the Senate is highlighted on Article 96 (3) & (4). That is to determine the allocation of money to the county governments and the resolution to remove the President and the Deputy President. Any other thing they set themselves to do, must be done with caution to avoid usurping roles of other institutions.

Back to this county wards development & equalisation fund bill, 2018; despite the lofty title, the bill is a replica of the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF) Act, 2015. In some sections, the bill tries to dictate how county assemblies run their business. The drafter of the bill eclipses county assemblies and puts the senate to run some county assembly business.

For instance section 12 (1) & (2) of the bill gives the Senate powers to consider the audit reports of the fund. Why is this so, while county assembles can consider audit reports of their respective counties and act on them accordingly? Critics may be tempted to think that the Senate is trying to add more roles on their job descriptions. Sadly, as they usurp they are weakening county assemblies.

To date, instead of counties finding ways to strengthen county assemblies by building capacity of its members, for instance those in the Public Accounts Committee.  Senators are still fighting to summon governors to Nairobi for grilling on audit queries. Why decentralise with one hand and try to recentralise power using the other hand?

If you go to section 46 (1) of the bill, the Senate through the drafter of the bill, dictates to the county assemblies on their standing orders. The bill gives an order to members of the county assembly on how many members should be in the select committee on the County Wards Development & Equalisation Committees.

I think this is too much micromanaging. It is in standing orders where assemblies should be given liberty to formulate their rules according to their situation. The bill should not dictate to county assemblies how many members should be in a committee or even what committees they should have. County assemblies are wise enough to know how to manage themselves.

When the constitution created the position of an MCA it created it with a purpose, and since this sounds like a bill that has been drafted on behalf of them, I think it will be incumbent that the MCAs be given an opportunity to ratify it in their respective counties.

Senator Kang’ata proposes an old model of decentralisation but may be some counties could be having a newer model of decentralising resources. Kenyans have had problems with NGCDF and the same problems ought not to be replicated at the ward level.

How to Stand out as a Woman MP; a Few Lessons from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Posted by on 16th April 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

“When the public opinion decides it wants to hate a woman, it’s always much, much worse than when they decide to hate a man,” remarked Canadian diplomat Gary Bedell on a BBC interview while talking about his friendship with Winnie Mandela.

That statement couldn’t be truer in Kenya than it is anywhere else in the world. Especially if the said woman is in politics. To paint a quick picture; this is a country where majority male politicians mentioned in scandals where Kenyans have lost billions of money are given podiums in church and celebrated even by newspaper columnists as ‘shrewd business men’ or dismissed by critics as ‘someone building a war-chest’ for the next elections or any other word that can be ignored casually.

Yet a woman with similar allegations of public theft can’t dare appear on a women’s magazine. Never mind the matter was not competently concluded by a male dominated Parliamentary Committee. It’s like we’re saying: “How dare she, a woman, steal money that only male politicians are entitled to steal?”

Don’t get it twisted, this blog doesn’t in anyway advocate for sanitization of people who steal money in the name of being women. However, we need to go ballistic when the media attempts to sanitize known, notorious thieves who steal our public funds with impunity regardless of gender.

The Canadian diplomat was right in the end and it’s the reason most women who were elected to Parliament had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts. It’s therefore befitting that the Kenyan women MPs take time and study the late political icon, Winnie Mandela’s political life. Here are a few tips.

Now that we’ve established that Kenya, like South Africa and indeed the rest of the world is a man’s world, as a woman MP you must make cognizant of this fact and develop a thick skin. For starters, refuse to be drawn into controversial debates. Winnie Mandela made the fight for the people in Soweto bigger and the media eventually had to gravitate more to her political work than personal.

Those MPs being linked to the conman who had a ‘special relationship’ with them would do well to learn from this and realize commenting on this is pointless and only serves to undermine your position. Let the law take its course. Focus on your promises to your constituents. Repeat the stuff you’re doing for your people at every opportunity and hope that that’s what people will dwell on.

Secondly, understand that though Kenyan politics is deeply patriarchal, it does not mean you become a man. Attempting to be a man in mannerism, talk and character will only serve to spoil your brand and make it difficult to reconcile who you are with what you’re about. S. Africa’s mother of the nation fought fiercely against apartheid without attempting to be Mandela. Her voice, her convictions and her constituency remained clear to death.

Another important thing tied to gender is the need to take your position as the care givers of this country to your advantage. Nearly every family in Kenya owe it to the wife, mother or sister for much of its success in the simplest of things that make their daily lives bearable and functional. Avoid therefore the temptation to appear too fixated on what women lobby groups and sections of the civil society tell you is ‘sexy’ for women to champion.

Winnie Mandela was clear about the economic emancipation of black S. Africans and refused to be drawn in useless debates of specific pro-women only issues and it’s the reason she earned the title mother of the nation and not mother of women.

Having said that, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with drafting laws targeting critical issues about women, especially discriminatory practices. A beginning point on this matter should be the two-thirds gender rule. If you’re not making enough noise about this, then as an MP you have no moral authority to lecture anybody on women issues. Whether in NASA or Jubilee if the will is there, as a woman MP you can make enough problems for those in authority to live up to the spirit and letter of the constitution.

Another very important trait of the late Madikizela that our women MPs could borrow is that beyond her obvious drive she was knowledgeable and mingled and lived among her people in Soweto. Women MPs often appear aloof and distracted except for a few. You must change this. Inform yourself about your constituents’ needs; interact with the poor in your constituency, hold town hall meetings often to gauge the type of people you’re representing.

Additionally, utilize the media. Too many political talk shows are male dominated and the reasons sometimes is not the media but women MPs who refuse these offers because they conflict with their personal family lives. As a political leader, you must reconcile with the fact that you’re married to two groups of people, your nuclear family and the people who elected you. If you fail in your communication to either, you will suffer, therefore one must learn to balance home and political affairs.

Lastly, but not least, Winnie Madikizela was never afraid to speak truth to power. Not her ex-husband Mandela or the popular party ANC kept her from speaking her truth and telling off party leaders that were no longer truthful to their course. This quality is more important now that both Jubilee and NASA MPs appear to be rubberstamps for the party leadership. Our women MPs should like Winnie speak against party control and allow for healthy debate to thrive even if it means expulsion from the party, because in the end, just like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s light shone bright, yours too will shine when we remember you chose to stand on the right side of history.

 

 

 

 

MPs should join hands with Environment ministry to crack down senior government officers abetting illegal logging

Posted by on 10th April 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Our first Nobel laureate, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai once said that we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. That shift in thinking needs to begin with those charged with the duty of making our laws, if we’re to protect our life-support system.

Over 3 million Kenyans faced starvation last year as a result of a prolonged drought which greatly messed up with normal food production in the country. The pinch was felt in the economy as government struggled to subsidize the cost of food prices.

Perhaps we need to take time and study why we’re never able to deal with cyclic events like drought more than 50years after independence. Thankfully the rains came early in the year but like the drought, the floods also caught us flat footed and at the same time exposed how poorly designed our roads are but I digress.

According to Action Against Hunger statistics, an estimated one in every four children in Kenya suffers from stunted growth from chronic under nutrition. Not to mention that a great part of this country is semi-Arid and Arid meaning if we continue with our illegal cutting down of trees, Kenya, in a few years will become a desert. This is not hyperbole.

Our forest cover is diminishing at an alarming rate and it’s sad to see the people tasked with protecting the environment are the ones destroying it. A task force commissioned by the Environment CS, Keriako Tobiko to look into the forest management and investigate the logging menace found that corruption encouraged by the Kenya Forest Services (KFS) staff was the main reason behind the depletion of the forest cover. Prior to this report the new Environment CS had fired at least 10 KFS staff in connection to the illegal cutting down of trees.

Unfortunately, some MPs were raising hell over Environment CS Tobiko’s decision to fire these staff at the KFS. The MPs in the Environment Committee  were quick to blame the CS over intimidating and harassing the KFS staff only for them to change tune later demanding an overhaul of the entire board after it became clear they (KFS staff) were indeed corrupt. This does not reflect well on the legislators. They must be on the fore front on this war and by no means appear opportunistic only acting out of what looks like fear of public out-lash.

And as the MPs in the Environment committee give the CS that much needed support, we expect their counter-part in the National Administration and Security Committee get answers from the Ministry of Interior over the outright breaking of the law by the police who are supposed to nub the offenders.

Reports are rife in the local media of senior police officers misusing their public positions to order ferrying of charcoal and timber using police tracks that bypass the usual inspections. That officers who should nub the illegal goods are transporting the same are signs of a broken society and shows just how deep the rot goes. The timber/charcoal business is booming so much that nearly all police units are complicit; from traffic to anti-stock theft unit.

As the body that oversights Executive and helps in government accountability, Parliament must flex its muscles now and help bring to end the illegal cutting down of trees that’s making prolonged droughts a common occurrence and thereby creating other problems in the agricultural sector. It’s also Parliament that should reign in on contractors designing and building houses and structures that do not consider environmental concerns.

Meanwhile as citizens we must be mindful of our environment lest Mother Nature shows us the worst yet. We should perform citizen arrests where possible but avoid extreme measures like torching vehicles found transporting charcoal. Meanwhile, the Parliament as the custodian of the people’s interest should propose and enact a tree-planting day where all Kenyans are tasked to plant at least one tree per household. This could go a long way in helping restore the forest cover.

 

Bill to Amend NHIF Act Timely

Posted by on 4th April 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Health is one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s big four agenda. As part of his legacy the President appears keen on making healthcare affordable for all Kenyans. Pundits nonetheless are divided over the meaning of affordable but for purposes of this blog we’re interpreting it to mean ability to get quality healthcare without diminishing one’s savings.

However that legacy is likely to stall so long as people who matter in the country are not using public hospitals and therefore remain unconcerned. That is why the request for a Bill to amend the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) Act by Kwale Woman Rep Zulekha Hassan is very important.

With the increase in lifestyle diseases health has become even more expensive. It’s no longer strange to see people seeking this or that help to offset a medical bill that’s too big for the family to sustain. And in most cases they have to travel abroad because our hospitals are either not well equipped or don’t have the specialists for complex procedures.

It’s as though the health sector is collapsing on its own weight. Evidence of negligence with catastrophic results have plagued the biggest referral hospital in the country. Unfortunately the poor don’t have the luxury to fly abroad for treatment or seek private healthcare; they must contend with the poor standards. On the other hand, our legislators who can and should ask difficult questions are unable to because they have insurance cover that saves them the agony, paid for by the taxpayers.

In fact only last week the Star newspaper reported that at least 13 Members of Parliament are in India for specialized treatment.

The four Senators and nine MPs who sought treatment abroad are lucky they are not worried about affordability when it comes to health issues. Meanwhile, every day in Nairobi, let alone the whole country, there’s someone fundraising for Cancer or some other fatal disease. For them it is the emotional trauma close family members go through but for the rest of majority poor, there’s the emotional distress and the poverty the disease brings with it as people deplete their savings.

As long as public officials have a cover that keeps them from Public hospitals and at the expense of the tax payer, the health cartels sabotaging public health will continue thriving.

It is therefore a welcome thought that Hon. Zulekha Hassan is requesting the amendment of the NHIF Act to introduce a mandatory requirement that all public officers be entitled to the payment of benefits for medical expenses only in public hospitals. This will mean if MPs are to attend private hospital, it will not be at the expense of the taxpayers.

If that Bill sees the light of day there will be increased funding as Hon. Zulekha. Contribution from all public officers means more staff and better equipment as a result of the increase in funding. Needless to mention that MPs will be more vigilant and crack the whip on individuals or groups of people hell-bent on sabotaging the public hospitals for their own private practice.

Affordable Healthcare is a legacy the President can only realize if he has the entire Members of Parliament behind him to help deal with laws that are an obstacle or drafting of new ones that can make it a success.

If the President is truly serious about transforming the state of public health in the country he should as a sign of good faith support this request by the Kwale County Women Rep and convince MPs from Jubilee to make the amendment. Without proper motivation from the lawmaking body, there’s very little the Executive can do by itself to achieve affordable healthcare.

This is a Bill Kenyans from all walks of life should rally behind and push it through. Also, once tabled we must remain vigilant and participate when it comes to public hearing and ensure it is not watered down like most good Bills are done. It’s time we took interest in public participation especially on such crucial laws.