What a MAD-araka Day!

Posted by on 2nd June 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

The number is 57. 57 years since Kenya attained self-rule but nothing on the ground reflects what our forefathers had envisioned for this country almost six decades ago. If you’re a reggae fan then the song Nothing to Smile about” by renowned Jamaican band, Morgan Heritage, aptly describes the current situation we are in. The chorus sings:

Look pon di gully side
Do you see anything fi smile bout
Look at that hungry child
Do you see anything fi smile bout
Look at the school weh deh youth dem go fi get dem education
Do you see anything fi smile bout
Look at the conditions of our police stations
Do you see anything fi smile bout

So do Kenyans see anything to smile about given our current state’s state? Majority would definitely respond to that question with a no. 57 years later Kenya is still fighting disease, poverty but more importantly inequality. The only difference between pre-independence and the post-colonial era is that there’s a different sheriff in charge but the truth is the oppressive colonial system is very much alive. While in the West it mostly manifests itself in the form of racism, here at home it’s the injustice borne out of a classist country that has many Kenyans angry.

Kenyans are mad. Mad at leadership that has time and again underperformed, even on a bare-minimum scale. This feeling of hopelessness is not one that’s just unique to the current regime. It is one that has been passed one from one generation to the other. Sins committed by a state against her people have continued to hurt their victims and their families for aeons. These sins that over time have exposed the discriminatory manner in which a country treats the haves and the have-nots. The poor Kenyan is currently dealing with joblessness, food insecurity, home evictions and demolitions, lack of education for their children and potential death by disease given the floods and Coronavirus pandemic we are fighting.

The existential angst among most Kenyans mirrored against the speech delivered by President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday reveals a big disconnect between Kenya’s leadership and her people.

Your dreams cannot flourish in a negative environment whose main currency is anger and animosity,” read part of President Kenyatta’s speech. The paradox in this statement didn’t escape the citizenry. We can’t have a discussion on people’s dreams when the said environment is one built on inequality. The anger and animosity that the President spoke of are well-founded. Between March 12th, when the first case of Covid19 and now, multiple lives have been lost in the hands of police in Kenya. The poorly executed curfew has seen Kenyans subjected to inhumane treatment, from being shot point-blank to others succumbing to the injuries sustained during their encounter with the police.

It should be remembered that on April 1st 2020, the President apologized to Kenyans over the brute force meted out on Kenyans by the police following the death of 13-year-old Yassin Moyo who was killed by a stray bullet and the footage of police mistreating Likoni residents at the ferry channel. Yet in recent days the internet has been awash with graphic images of a young man, Samuel Maina, who was an unfortunate victim of police brutality on 27th May for being 13 minutes late past curfew hour. Another gentleman, Charles Mwenda was put through a traumatic experience where he was forced to spend a cold, rainy night at a police station with the body of his late wife. This despite having all the required documents to make the trip to lay his wife to rest.

That we are witnessing cops treat other citizens as children of a lesser god in 2020 is just heartbreaking. One would expect that after the President’s apology there would be some change in police conduct. But the unjust justice system we have won’t let that come to be, simply because a good number of officers know that they can get away with it. The police’s conduct cannot be changed with one apology. There needs to be an overhaul of the whole system.

The Ministry of Interior gets a huge a chunk of the budget allocation yet it’s one that is clearly not held accountable. The abrasive nature we see with the cops every day is perhaps a direct reflection of the Interior Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiang’i who has in the past ignored summons by Parliament and who speaks down on Kenyans forgetting that he is in that position to serve the country. To have people mandated to “protect and serve” be the same perpetrators is downright evil.

Indeed it is not a ‘Happy’ Madaraka Day because there really is nothing to smile about. Kenya needs to watch the mood in America. The multiple protests currently happening in the US echo the voices of millions of black Americans who continue to be discriminated against a country they have built. The action by the police officers who took the life of yet another black man, George Floyd, on camera speaks volumes of how much America values them. Here in Kenya, the treatment of people like Samuel Maina, Charles Mwenda and the death of young Yassin Juma speaks volumes of how much the government values the majority of its citizens.

Unless inequality is addressed in this country, Kenyans are bound to reach their tipping point as black Americans have.

Reclamation of Public Spaces is Important but the Timing of These Evictions is not Right

Posted by on 20th May 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

The president announced the extension of the stay at home orders and dusk to dawn curfew for an additional 21 days as a way of containing the virus, last weekend. At the same time, he called on citizens to comply with the orders set. It is sad to note that in his address he did not mention the violation of human rights resulting from the ongoing demolitions and sewerage evictions right under his nose and the risk that it exposes citizens to. This being yet another national briefing by the president where the plea for inclusion of citizens for a coordinated response to Covid-19 seems to be falling on deaf ears. At the same time, the government seems to be demanding the impossible from a citizenry troubled by the uncertainties of the future.
On the 5th of May, 2020 a statement was sought from the chairperson Standing Committee on Lands and Environment by Nairobi Senator, Jonhson Sakaja who also chairs the Senate Ad hoc committee on Covid-19 situation in Kenya, regarding the demolition of houses by government agencies in Kariobangi North ward constituency that saw 5,000 families left homeless without notice. The committee was to give a report on all the land in Nairobi city county that is officially marked as public land and road reserves in case of future planned evictions. The Speaker of the Senate directed that the committee visits the residents and provide a report to the Senate on Tuesday last week. Even before the tabling of the report, another demolition occurred in Ruai at midnight displacing hundreds of families without notice. The families most of whom were squatters claim that they were relocated there 12 years ago after the post-election violence.
These evictions are happening in areas where there is unequal access to services and also a great community mistrust of the government due to historical injustices. The most affected are the urban poor, slum dwellers, persons living with disability, minorities and indigenous groups, women, children and the elderly. But our policy and regulations, crafted by the National Emergency Response Committee and National Security Council, do not address these realities mostly because the voice of Wanjiku is not welcomed in the affairs of the state. This widens the fault of inequality that was there before. For these families then, stay at home orders do not really apply and the extension of the same orders for 21 days remains ironical and very inconsiderate.
In as much as reclamation of public land is important the timing of these evictions is not right at all. The fact that we are living in tough times cannot be questioned. There has been tremendous human suffering, social lives, jobs and incomes have been disrupted. Scores of lives have been lost and continue to be lost to the virus, on the other hand floods are ravaging parts of the country displacing and killing people day in day out. These occurrences continue to create anxiety and worry among citizens especially the vulnerable.
Generally, there is still marginalization of the already marginalized in the fight against Covid-19. It is worrying to see that the government can contravene court orders and supervise as its people are left in the cold. The government seems to be taking two steps forward and two more backwards and this waters down all the efforts to keep the country’s health and social systems afloat. The result is that more lives will be lost to the virus and other diseases and there will be a disruption in the implementation of programs designed to cushion the vulnerable. Additionally, the amount of money disbursed for the vulnerable in the end becomes even less as compared to the needs and the people in need. In a homeless state, there is more to worry about other than the fact that social distancing and attainment of basic needs is unachievable in a homeless state.
Evictions, supervised by the government, affect the perception of Covid-19 risk among Kenyans. It shows that the government can contravene its own guidelines when it demands that people stay at home and destroys their houses at the same time. Therefore, what is the need for the guidelines anyway; or are the poor immune to this virus?
The government needs to put the trust back to the people it is leading. The sensitivity of the virus we are fighting is great and we should not leave anything to chance when consolidating efforts. Therefore, formulating inclusive regulations that answer the public outcry is important. This can be achieved by consulting end-users of these regulations either through their representatives such as civil society organizations, NGOs or local administrators. The focus is to ensure that the end-users benefit optimally from the policies in place.
It is the role of the government to protect its people at all times, even in evictions, this protection should be without discrimination. Within this crisis therefore lies an opportunity for the government through the legislature to dust the Resettlement and Eviction procedures Bill 2012 that sets out appropriate procedures applicable to forced evictions. The Bill seeks to provide protection, prevention and redress against forced eviction for all persons occupying land including squatters and unlawful occupiers advocates for humane evictions by the elimination of brutality during evictions. Since there is no guidance regarding evictions and resettlement the victims are left to suffer. Proper legislation will go a long way in cushioning these vulnerable members of society.

Quick and Practical Interventions Needed to Protect the Future of Our Children

Posted by on 15th May 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

Coronavirus is slowly proving to be the factory reset button that systems have needed for a while. There are two sides of this crisis’ coin; the apparent bleak reality and the potential awakening of people who now know to demand better. It has taken only 7 months since the confirmation of the first Covid-19 case in China for nations to realize that the systems they have had in place are not fully efficient and undoubtedly not capable of adapting to change.

Two months into the pandemic, Kenya is already dealing with a crumbling economy, a hunger crisis, a health crisis and now an education crisis. The latter especially risks being overlooked as the government struggles to ensure that her people do not die of COVID and non-COVID related illness or starve to death as they’re confined in their homes.

The problem with not addressing the challenges ailing the education system with urgency is that we might be looking at long-lasting effects of COVID19 on the education of Kenyan students. Press briefings by the Ministry of Health continue to share rising numbers of infected cases in the country proving that this crisis will be here for a while longer than we anticipated.

This uncertainty, therefore, means that the reopening of schools still hangs in the balance and therefore e-learning is the route to go in order for students to stay on track with the syllabus. The problem with this, as is with almost every other public system currently, is that the country was ill-prepared and is now playing catch up. The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Prof. George Magoha admitted that not every student is able to access virtual learning when he appeared before the National Assembly Committee on Education and Research.

“When schools open, the syllabus will start from where it stopped, therefore those who did not have the benefit of e-learning will catch up. The process will be all-inclusive,” he said.

This approach will only widen the gap between economically advantaged and economically disadvantaged students. In addition to this, CS Magoha has stated severally that the Ministry would not cancel the national examinations scheduled to happen at the end of the year. As it were, the KCPE and KCSE exams have been critiqued as being an inaccurate assessment of students since the nature of the exams do not factor in the various socio-economic challenges that students from different social backgrounds face. Throwing in the inaccessibility to e-learning into that mix simply makes education a luxury.

The government is placing undue pressure on economically disadvantaged students and their parents. It, therefore, calls on the Ministry to adapt to change that would benefit many if not all as opposed to only those with the privilege to thrive under the current circumstances.

With this in mind it might then be necessary to amend the Basic Education Act, 2013 as it was proposed by the Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) when they made their submissions to the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the COVID19 situation in the country.

Section 28 (1) of the Act states, “The Cabinet Secretary shall implement the right of every child to free and compulsory basic education.” The prevailing circumstances do not mean that this right is waived. The onus is on the government to develop inclusive and practical strategies to carry on with education even us the country fights coronavirus. It is high time to include virtual learning in the definition of schools under this law.

A quote by renowned Japanese Author, Kakuzo Okakaura reads, “the art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” Our surroundings are far from normal and being rigid to change will truly be an easy route to our downfall. The government should indeed put the best brains to good use to achieve a balance.

Kenyans on the other must now know the importance of holding leadership to account. It is remembered that one of the ambitious goals spelt out in the Jubilee manifesto when President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto ran for office the first time was the provision of laptops to all class one students in the country. This, of course, rubbed off the wrong way with a good section of Kenyans who termed it as misplaced priorities. In hindsight, this might have been a smart move that would protect the education system from any sudden changes like COVID19.

Had the government implemented this project we would have seen technological advancements across the nation. The ripple effect would have been the installation of masts for connectivity, private-public agreements and partnerships between the government and e-learning gadget manufacturers and internet service providers and ultimately the digitization of the syllabus for seamless remote-learning countrywide.

The problem with kicking the can down the road is that sometimes you do it so hard that it goes beyond your line of sight. This is the case for Kenya now as e-learning today remains a far-fetched dream. The government now must work to make true their promises to avoid compromising the futures of our children.

Create Room for Soundness in The Fight Against Covid-19 to Avoid Flip Side Effects

Posted by on 5th May 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

As the government seeks to mash up efforts to flatten the curve on the spread of the coronavirus, it is becoming unclear whether these efforts are working for or against this goal. The directives issued by the government to protect the health and lives of Kenyans appear to achieve less than intended in the grand spectrum of things. From the onset, the tone that the government has used while addressing and updating the country on the status of the virus in the country has birthed fear and fueled the stigma surrounding this virus.

In recent weeks, citizens have come to experience the flip side of the seemingly rash decisions made by the government. To this extent, the public has been reacting casually to the directives. Where an individual chooses to adhere to the directives issued by the Ministry of Health not to protect themselves but to avoid risking arrest and mandatory quarantine. Also witnessed is the reluctance by residents in hot spot areas to participate in the free testing of the virus. The poor coordination of efforts between the government and citizens given the unprecedented times the country is in are all a recipe for disaster. When we actualize the mass testing initiative, the reality of the figures might slap us in the face and the gravity of the situation might be too difficult to begin to process.

To successfully and efficiently walk the talk, the government needs to rethink their approach and start making sound directives that put the citizen’s interest at the core and regain public trust. Guidelines can’t yield much without a clear pipeline on how to implement them.

Meanwhile, as we race against the clock to contain the virus, positive cases are increasing significantly. The hope that we can flatten the curve is far from reality according to the health concerns highlighted in the third report of the Senate Ad-hoc committee on the Covid-19 situation in Kenya. The report paints a picture of a health system that was already overwhelmed even before the virus. Kenya currently has only 297 ventilators and only 90 of these are available at public health facilities. The report further notes that in addition to the lack of adequate ICU facilities and ventilators, a shortage of oxygen and basic oxygen equipment in the counties further threatens Kenya’s ability to care for and manage COVID-19 patients who may develop mild to moderate symptoms. Thus, from the report, our only way out is to intensify containment measures and at least delay the spread of the virus even before the curve is flattened.

The government, therefore, needs to swiftly seek alternative ways of responding to the pandemic in an effective manner, without costing lives and causing untold suffering in the process. An evaluation protocol would be essential in measuring the effectiveness of the directives issued so far before rolling out any new measures. That coupled with the government’s ability to be agile might, in fact, give the country a chance to combat this pandemic.

There has been a growing need for good governance and public accountability by the public. A lot of donations, in cash and kind, have been made to enrich the government’s effort in beating the pandemic. This, therefore, means that transparency needs to guide the distribution of these resources to ensure that they’re optimized to the benefit of the citizenry and economy. Indeed, it would be really unfortunate if a scandal was borne out of this crisis.

Beyond transparency and accountability, the government has to be very intentional in having open and two-way dialogue with citizens. The government having monopoly on information and the ability to communicate works to no one’s advantage. Citizen engagement is important to not only beat the virus but to avoid being blindsided by other emerging challenges such as flooding, drought, seasonal illnesses and crime. A top-down and bottom-up network of interactions between the government and citizens will reduce the instances of resistances because citizens like the government become more aware of the impacts of their decisions. Such communication will foster coordination and, in the end, reduce fear and stigma.

In addition to this, government directives need to be systematic and sound. Just like the reopening of restaurants at a time when mass testing has not been up to scale the government needs to take the lead in terms of responsibility and address the gaps in its directives to avoid any further resistance or flipside effects. Due to the complexity and dynamic nature of communities, there is no room for blanket decisions. Tailor-making directives make it easier to identify strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities in the national government and the 47 county governments to ensure that all bases are covered. Failure to do this would then make universal health coverage, cushioning the vulnerable and targeted mass testing a farfetched dream that can only be theorized but not actualized.

At the end of the day, there are many obstacles to a coordinated approach that need to be addressed in order to plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to the effects of this invisible enemy.

Kenya’s Youth Most Vulnerable to Covid-19 Shocks

Posted by on 27th April 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

(Guest Blog)

By Benjamin Sulle – Programs Officer, KYPA

As the global shocks of Covid-19 become apparent for nations, the most vulnerable sections of populations are succumbing to the virus. The implications of the virus have seen the closure of non-essential businesses, lockdowns, curfews, declarations of a state of emergency, among other calls for behaviour change in order to curb the spread of the virus. In the global west, the aged populations have borne the brunt of the novel Corona Virus, with thousands dying weekly. In fact, as the virus spread throughout Europe, there was an initial belief that the youth were immune. When young people, including infants caught the virus, experts and non-experts alike thought that perhaps the virus was spreading only in the temperate climate of the global west and that Africans within the tropics would be spared. However, the lack of clear responses by Governments to the pandemic exposed the soft underbelly of public health systems in Africa and soon cases appeared throughout the continent with relative ubiquity. Governments called for the closure of their borders and cessation of movement amongst other measures to curb the spread. These measures, although meant to ensure public health and safety, have resulted in job closures, loss of income, and disruption of livelihoods for many, who were already struggling to make ends meet.

In Kenya, this disruption has mostly affected the youth, whose work in the informal sector runs the economy. The demographic that was already struggling with the lack of employment opportunities is now compelled to stay at home with no alternative for income-generation. The agriculture and the service industries in Kenya, which employ the greatest number of young people, either directly or indirectly through their supply chains, are the most affected by the pandemic. Although the youth may not be the farmers in the fields due to other factors, such as land tenure systems, climate change, and the perception that farming is for those who have not been successful elsewhere, they are still the biggest players within the supply chain. Whereas farming and supply of food continue, given that they are regarded as one of the essential services, the various sectors within the supply chain that the youth play a part in are affected by the pandemic.

According to research by the Africa Development Bank, the service sector is the second highest employer of youth. And it is perhaps the hardest hit. From transport, which has since been limited to cargo, food, cleaning, and solid waste management, which employs urban youth in the informal sector, the losses and livelihood disruptions have been massive. The closure of hotels and bars means that young people who worked in the sector have to find alternative sources of income. Many employers in this sector have had to send their employees on unpaid leave or altogether terminate their contracts until such a time that normalcy shall resume.

One sector that is thought to be the elixir of youth unemployment is ICT. The President even moved the youth from the Ministry of Public Service and Gender Affairs to the Ministry of ICT and Innovation. The specific sectors within ICT that employ youth are Business Process Outsourcing; development of mobile applications and related software; and blogging and internet design. However, under Covid-19, the ICT sector has gotten mixed fortunes. On the one hand, opportunities have been created since most services have now moved online to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus such as education, banking services, as well as trade. On the other hand, demand for digital content, software solutions, and freelancing has been on the decline. Consumers have shifted focus to more essential goods and services such as food and reliable news.  There have been calls by the government for diversification of skills as well as upskilling during this time for young people in the sector. The Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs has even appointed a COVID-19 ICT Advisory Committee whose terms of reference include developing and implementing a framework for identifying, supporting and scaling local ICT solutions that can support the country in its efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic effects to establishing an enabling environment that will stimulate economic development through ICTs. Curiously, only one person in the advisory committee is a youth, in a sector that undeniably has many young people with exemplary expertise and knowledge.

The President also set up a raft of tax measures to cushion the youth from the effects of the pandemic. Notably was the 100% pay-as-you-earn tax relief for employees earning less than Ksh. 28,000 per month. While this is welcome, questions have been raised over the 100% tax relief as it targets only those in formal employment, leaving out majority of the youth who work in the informal sector. The Central Bank of Kenya also ordered the delisting of Kenyans, who have defaulted their loans with less than Sh1,000 from Credit Reference Bureau (CRB). This might provide many previously listed young Kenyans with the opportunity to borrow from moneylenders during this time when sources of income are limited.

Young Parliamentarians may also introduce pandemic-specific legislation to help cushion young Kenyans from Covid-19. At the moment, there is only one Bill by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Covid-19 which seeks to among other things, provide for the establishment of a Pandemic Fund whenever a declaration of a pandemic is made. The Fund would serve as a mechanism for ensuring that there are adequate resources geared towards containing the spread and mitigating against the impact of a pandemic. The Bill also introduces socio-economic protective measures such as tax incentives, revision of contractual obligations during a pandemic, as well as labour relations to ensure the protection of the employee. Although criticised as highly ambitious, this Bill, which seeks to respond to not only the Covid-19 pandemic but also other pandemics in the future, is a good start to the possible ways in which young parliamentarians may intervene so as to help young people.

Further, youth participation in the political and governance process has been consistently low, which increases feelings of disgruntlement. The youth should be given means to air their views on the Bill and provide real and meaningful solutions to the problems that they face. Exclusion of the youth voice in the creation of laws and policies to contain the spread and effects of the coronavirus will only lead to disproportionate measures that will ultimately disadvantage the youth.

Intolerance to Bad Governance: Our Only Way Out of this Pandemic

Posted by on 20th April 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

The Government of Kenya is gradually moving away from imposing new containment measures to implementing those already in place. These measures have been serving as circuit breakers to fight the virus spread among communities. The measures include quarantine, travel bans and restrictions, closure of schools, cancellation of public events, closure of public places and lastly the dusk to dawn curfew. Focus is shifting to offering support to citizens whose day to day lives have been interrupted by the impact of stay-at-home orders or social distancing measures, even as the government tries to contain the virus.

Exactly a month and a few days since the first case of Covid-19 was announced in the country the focus of the President has also begun to shift to stimulus policies to provide economic cushioning especially for the most vulnerable in the society. In his speech last week President Kenyatta stated plans by the national government to provide aid to needy Kenyans. This includes the identification of needy households in Nairobi that will be the first recipients of the weekly Covid-19 stipend. In addition, the government released Sh 8.5 billion to the elderly and vulnerable individuals under the Cash Transfer programme ran by the Ministry of Labour. The international community, on the other hand, has been generous in filling the financial gaps present by offering support to ensure that African countries like Kenya are able to respond effectively to the health crisis and address economic challenges.

Health, fiscal and monetary policies coupled with foreign donations have increasingly been seen as a key tool for combating the virus. As these policies expand and donations increase, a number of structural, implementation and oversight gaps have begun to dominate the policy debate, including the viability, measurability of the impact of the programs, the mechanism of delivering the cash transfers, accountability in foreign aid and expansion of the scope beyond Covid-19. These debates are fueled by the demand to ensure that affected citizens access the services offered and draw optimal benefits from the social protection programs.

Drawing from a history of mass looting of public resources Kenyans are displaying deep scepticism over the handling of this fund. Questions arising on the accountability of the fund and the fairness of the criteria to be used to distribute it among Kenyans need to be addressed quickly lest another scandal brews right under our nose.

Whereas when addressing emergencies post-haste, the need for ensuring compliance and oversight is often superseded, an important tool for accountability and transparency at this time is having a clear information management system or registry for aid flow from the government to the citizen. The data should also be available to the public for scrutiny, citizens can participate in governance and leaders become accountable for the resources at hand.

Equally important, is the coordination of resources and efforts. Collaboration with civil society groups, citizens, private/ international partners can consolidate efforts by the government when it comes to offering solutions and innovations to counter hurdles in implementation, delivery or supply chains during this pandemic. However, the willingness for private partners or corporates, individuals and CSO to work with the government is anchored on the government’s ability to demonstrate initiative for transparency and accountability.

There also exists a high demand for national and county coordination to enhance the capacity of both levels of government to deliver services. The local government can enhance the procurement and allocation of resources from the national government. Publication of calls for tenders and timely reports on spending through local media such as newspapers and radio will improve openness.

Opportunities for poor governance laid down by disasters and outbreaks such as these are founded on the exploitation of fear and a sense of urgency. But even in the wake of all these what should worry us is that our systems are really weak and any form of aid or support should not slip into individuals’ pockets but serve each one equally. Intolerance to such practices serves a vital role in initiating the fight for good governance especially with a lot of money and resources lying around for humanitarian purposes. It also determines the viability of programmes and policies initiated by the government, to face future pandemics.

Chasing Clout in This Crisis is Morally Wrong

Posted by on 15th April 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

Tenda wema nenda zako. A popular Swahili phrase that loosely translates to Do good and go your way, is one that is proving to be relevant during this Covid-19 crisis. The prevailing circumstances, that is the reality of the coronavirus in Kenya and consequently the harsh measures being put in place to fight it, have drastically shifted the mwananchi’s lifestyle. Many Kenyans have found themselves in a position where they lack basic needs for various reasons be it the loss of employment or loss of business revenue. This, therefore, puts the common mwananchi in an awkward position where they’re at the mercy of charity and government interventions to survive the day.
Of course humanity always surprises us. Individuals and corporates such as Pwani Oil have come forward to help the vulnerable with home supplies that will help the next couple of weeks bearable. There have been reports of apartment owners cutting down the rent costs for their tenants and others even sparing them tenants from rent expenses altogether. These acts of kindness have given many Kenyans a much needed sigh of relief in the face of uncertainty.
Elected leaders haven’t been left out of the wave of philanthropy. For instance, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo was reported to have donated maize worth Sh 1.1 million to all the 23 sub-counties in his constituency. Through his Twitter handle, he said the exercise was in conjunction with the local leadership. Efforts such as this where a leader goes beyond his position’s mandate are a very welcome move. A crisis calls for pulling of all efforts together to make sure that not a single person is left behind to die of either disease or hunger.
However, in classic Kenyan style some elected officials have taken this opportunity to pursue political mileage. The past few weeks have seen politicians plaster their names and even faces on the coronavirus-related donations; sanitizers, water tanks and handwash. This, of course, has drawn a lot of criticism from the public who termed such moves as vain and self-serving. Rightfully so because it isn’t rocket science to realize that politicians use charity as a means to an end. The end being that these actions will serve their future political ambitions.
There’s nothing legally wrong about this but to stroke one’s ego and hungrily seek applause in the middle of a crisis is just morally wrong. It speaks against the basis of humanity and kindness. To add insult to injury, some of these donations are actually funded by taxpayers’ money. It therefore makes no sense to have a permanent reminder of one’s incompetence in undertaking the roles of his/her position. Reason being that these interventions coming in the form of charity are actually some of the things their respective offices should have resolved even in their first year in power.
Some have been bold enough to support their decisions terming it necessary for citizens to acknowledge the source of these donations. Which then beats the whole point of giving. Religious books have numerous messages encouraging man to give without tying any credit, applause or expectations to the act. For a self-proclaimed religious nation, we are going against the very teachings of the Holy books. The Messiah whose resurrection was celebrated and observed this past weekend, was the embodiment of servant leadership. Despite the numerous miracles he performed Jesus always stood in the light of his humility. So if there’s someone that politicians need to emulate, it’s him. That in the spirit of Easter, folks may remember that there’s no room for their egos when helping out.
Perhaps instead of painting one’s name on a water tank, a politician could instead write a message that spreads positivity and educates his/her constituents. One message that has remained constant from the Health Cabinet Secretary is the need for teamwork. We, Kenyans, are in this fight against coronavirus together. Therefore, let us remember that there’s no ‘I’ in team and do what needs to be done to successfully pull the country out of this crisis.

It is COVID-19, Not Democracy, that is the Enemy

Posted by on 6th April 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

The world is currently going through what is being described as the worst and most crippling crisis since the Second World War. The COVID 19 crisis, hitherto a minuscule concern in the Chinese city of Wuhan in the larger Hubei province, has since morphed, and incredibly so fast, into a full-blown global crisis. Entrenched norms, traditions and ways of life, hitherto inconceivably uninterruptible, have since known the worst of their upended versions. Whether in the political sphere, economic or social, radical interruptions are lamentably crowding our spaces. Economically, for instance, economic activities, at least a good number, are literally grounded, with employees rudely shaken out of their comfort spaces through furloughs, lay-offs and pay-cuts. Save probably for sectors servicing frontline operations, especially in the medical sector, the rest are staring at existential threat. Transport, sporting, banking, just to mention a few, are literally struggling. Socially, ordinary ways of life are in reverse. Social distancing is perhaps the most quoted concept currently. Usual mass physical gatherings, an entrenched characteristic of human relations and interactions, has been suspended. The greatest reprieve is the advance in technology that has creatively ensured sustained interactions, albeit devoid of physical proximity. It is hard to think what would have otherwise obtained.

In a sense, the crisis has visited, as an uninvited and unwanted guest, the systems upon which our livelihoods are anchored. One such system id democracy. Globally acknowledged as the most sustainable system of governance in the long-term, democracy is now facing one of its most lethal threats. So it is because the traditions, norms and mechanisms that oil its wheels have been hollowed out. In a number of ways, cherished democracy is feeling the pain of the grinding, occasioned by the obtaining friction. All the arms of government; executives, legislatures and judiciaries are wandering in the unknown, with creativity being one of the main components constituting the compass upon which they are relying for direction.

Various jurisdictions are responding differently to the unfolding crisis, with some proving more effective and efficient than others. It is a crisis that serves to reveal the ‘real democrats’ and ‘autocrats gussied up in democracy’. Real democrats have sought to creatively manoeuvre their way, ensuring that the key foundations of democracy face minimal if any, interruption(s). In the United States, for instance, each of the three arms of government, and especially Executive and Congress, have shown no willingness to sacrifice their cherished turfs in the name of containing the crisis. Both arms were as involved, as it could conceivably be, in the development of the $2 trillion bail-out legislation to mitigate the damages of the pandemic. Not even the urgency of the situation stood in the way of a rather protracted negotiation process toward a compromise agreeable to all concerned parties and entities.

In Canada, the opposition Conservative Party in the House of Commons resisted the attempt by the ruling Liberal Party to use, or should I say misuse, the emergency to expand Executive powers. Conservative Party Leader, Andrew Scheer, was firm that he ‘would oppose any attempts by the Liberal government to expand its power.’ The case was no different in the United Kingdom where Coronavirus Bill was passed in the House of Commons, including guarantees on effective checks and balances. South Korea, in a rather exceptional and rare move given the circumstances, demonstrated their determination to uphold the democratic values and practices, upon which their success is anchored, by allowing their elections to proceed. Rather than citing the crisis as the reason to suspend elections, they are mining and subsequently leveraging all available opportunities, including technology, to ensure that elections proceed as planned. They are scheduled for 15th April 2020.

However, not all cases have demonstrated similar institutional determination to further the cause of democracy. In some cases, they have in fact misused the pandemic to exsanguinate the tenuous lifeline keeping democracy alive. Unlike in Europe and North America, where legislatures stamped their authority, Africa is thus far largely characterized by legislatures’ loud absence. Their voice has been so muted that executives have largely run the show almost unilaterally. In Kenya, cases of violations have been witnessed, including excessive use of violence by security agencies, in the name of enforcing the curfew. It is important to understand that the real enemy to be confronted is COVID-19 and not democracy. Effort should, therefore, be applied accordingly. Democracy must, therefore, be protected at all costs. It will play a crucial role, where it has been allowed to thrive, in containing the pandemic. Duty bearers must, therefore, rise to the occasion to play their role in safeguarding democracy. Now is the time to pave way for moral, legal and constitutional correctness to lead the way and not political correctness.

Can Parliament Make Up for Lost Time As They Reconvene?

Posted by on 31st March 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

It is exactly 14 days since Parliament adjourned sittings in the wake of Coronavirus in Kenya. In those 14 days, the number of positive cases has shot up from four persons to 50. An average of 3.5 new infections per day.

In those 14 days, Parliamentarians have been called out, deservedly, for abdicating their role when the country needed them most. There has never been a better time for Parliament to dispense its mandate like now when the country and the world threatens to come to a halt. The legislative, oversight and budgeting mandate as stated in Article 94 of the Constitution is what may be the saving grace for Kenya.

While it is evident that the virus is waging a war against the country, the commitment of our leaders to stand up to it is questionable. Parliament quickly resorted to adjourn sittings at a time when the country badly needs interventions in Kenya’s grim reality. Not to say that the MPs are immune to the virus but it was disheartening to see that the legislators failed to explore other options and instead chose to retreat to their homes and rant online like the rest of Kenyans.

Regardless of the prevailing conditions in the country and the guidelines relating to the control of the spread of the COVID-19 virus the public expectation from their members of parliament for representation and oversight is still on the rise. Kenyans are looking to Parliament to ensure accountability of public resources during this period through established systems like the parliamentary committees. These committees would be expected to play a pivotal role in resource allocation as a response to the virus at national and county level.

Parliament through its oversight role should be holding the Ministry of Health to account to ensure that proper adequate measures are being put in place at both national and county level. Additionally, Parliament should ensure that Wanjiku is fed with the truth and stops any attempts to downplay the actual situation in a bid to stop panic. Furthermore, it is at such times that Parliament stands in the gap and comes up with legislation that shields the citizen from the socio-economic implications of such a pandemic.

It is well known that power easily shifts into the wrong hands during panic and crises, and it becomes incredibly difficult to claim it back even when the dark cloud has lifted. A situation like the one imposed on us by the virus also exposes how much corruption has robbed from Kenyans. Without a robust oversight body, we are bound to lose more in the coming months.

Now 14 days since adjourning their sittings, Speaker Kenneth Lusaka will be reconvening the Senate to discuss the raft of measures proposed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in response to the public outcry on the recent changes that are negatively impacting Wanjiku. In true Kenyan fashion, we are playing catch up while other countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and Germany have expedited legislation that brings to life the aid packages that protect businesses and people in this crisis.

The loud silence by Parliament is worrying considering the drastic changes Kenyans have been subjected to. The reality is, we are faced with a pandemic when the country is running low on food and other resources. Another reality is, the medical resources we have (both equipment and personnel) will not be able to match the rate at which the virus threatens to spread. We could be looking at an economic shutdown if we choose not to respond to these issues fast enough. Kenyans are calling for preemptive legislation rather than reactions to a dire situation.

So the question will be, can Wanjiku count on Parliament as they reconvene today to make up for the lost time and come up with resolutions that will work for her good in the face of this virus?

Dear Kenyans, Ignorance is No Defense

Posted by on 23rd March 2020

Categories: Uncategorised

In a span of nine days, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has from one risen to 15. This makes the rate of infection in Kenya stand at an average of 1.67 people per day. The mood and tone of the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe during the press address on Sunday evening read of disappointment. Mr Kagwe was disappointed in Kenyans’ open defiance to follow simple instructions even as the killer coronavirus threatens to spread out in Kenya like a wildfire.

The Ministry has constantly and consistently shared precautionary measures with the hope that Kenyans would adhere to them to avoid spreading the virus even further. The message has been echoed by several government institutions such as the National Police Service and even private corporates who through mainstream and digital media are urging Kenyans to maintain high levels of hygiene, exercise social distancing and be on the lookout for any symptoms.

However, it appears that these warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Kenyans continue to be obstinate and toy around with their health and lives all the while operating as if everything is still normal. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s business unusual, the global death toll continues to rise at a worrying rate. Leaders in different jurisdictions have confirmed that they have tested positive. Entertainment and sporting idols have also shared the dreaded news with their fans concerning their state. The virus has proven that it is a respecter of no one. It is no joke!

Kenyans, regardless of their social standing should be worried and take extreme caution. Perhaps the lack of seriousness that we are handling this news with is because it hasn’t arrived at our doorstep. Italy reported 793 deaths in 24 hours. We haven’t processed the gravity of this news since they’re just statistics to us. Personal accounts by Italians and many people from the west who have been affected by the virus bear a lot of regrets. Most of them ignored the calls to take social distancing seriously. The consequence has hundreds of deaths being recorded on a daily basis. The irony is, some Kenyans have been quick to tweet #StandWithItaly while they violate the same instructions that contributed to Italy’s current situation. If we’re not careful, Kenya might go down the same road if not worse considering that our healthcare system is wanting.

It was extremely disheartening to see Kenyans mill in entertainment spots and places of worship despite warnings against unnecessary gatherings. It is even more disheartening to learn that the Kilifi Deputy Governor defied the self-quarantine condition for someone who’d flown back to the country, and even worse mingled with so many people since his arrival. It is heartbreaking to see that Kenyans do not value life.

Dear Kenyans now is not the time to play blind to the realities on the ground. Don’t be blind to the fact that our hospitals and personnel are not ready for a full-blown crisis, in fact, no country is prepared for what this virus can do. Don’t be blind to the fact that the country is on the edge of running broke. Don’t be blind to the fact that we’re struggling with meeting basic needs, thus throwing in the virus into the mix of these struggles is not something that we should wish on ourselves. Don’t be blind to the fact that we have a future to look forward to after the dark cloud has lifted. We, however, cannot talk about the future if we’re not being intentional about securing it through staying alive.

The Ministry has been very clear, stay at home! Callousness during this period should be rebuked and possibly prosecuted. The importance of social distancing cannot be overemphasized. Lives depend on this. Don’t go looking for the virus in the name of entertainment. Don’t get carried away by your seemingly good health and think that you’re invincible. It would be extremely selfish if your actions put your life and those of your loved ones at risk simply because you could not follow instructions.

Tukuwe Wazalendo. The war against corona-virus cannot be won by the government in isolation, it takes a collective effort. This might be the ultimate test on humanity, let us not fail.