Can Credibility be Sacrificed at the Altar of Peace?

MLK. Power. Love. Justice

One of the most revered 20th Century proponent of non-violent resistance -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in his submissions on peace opined that “True Peace is not merely the absence of tension, rather, it is the presence of Justice”

Six Months ago, in this very column, I wrote about the 2017 elections and the cost of sustainable peace. -Outlining the difference between positive peace and negative peace, while expressing my fears on how Kenya has heavily invested on the latter.

Just to recap, negative peace is the art of avoiding large scale physical violence. Irrespective of whether the issues that would otherwise bring about this violence are addressed or not. All you need to do is simply engage in cosmetics just before and during an election. Then immediately after, fold up and take a nap. But with positive peace, you delve into the issues bringing about conflict, uproot them and plant conditions necessary for sustainable peace.

It is now 47 days to Kenya’s 2017 elections. And here we are at it again -talking about peace.

But just to set the record straight before going any further -Everybody wants peace. Actually, everybody NEEDS peace. Any normal functioning society must have it. But at what cost? It doesn’t come cheap you know – well, unless it is negative peace!

Interior CS General Nkaiseri yesterday would state that 20 out of the 47 Counties have been marked as hot-spots this elections. What are the conflicts in these Counties? Are they similar or is each County unique?

One aspect of this elections is of particular interest. It is a Presidential contest -where allegations after the next have been raised about its credibility. And at the center stage is the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. From whether the elections processes would be tamper proof, to cleaning of the voter register, to ballot paper tendering process, to allegations of particular individuals within the secretariat leaning towards a particular player -among many others.

Kenyans, on their part, are pretty much decided on how they will be casting their vote come August. Or at least, they seem so.  But still they have to confront the devil that visits every five years. The fear of violence…………………………….This same fear that has now led the Catholic Bishops to try and appeal to the IEBC to revisit the ballot paper tendering process with no avail.

This begging the question, should Kenyans focus on having a credible election, or should they just focus on a peaceful one?

Article 38(2) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 states in verbatim “Every citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections based on universal suffrage and the free expression of the will of the electors……………….” So it is my submission that the IEBC must move with speed to guarantee Kenyans that their rights to a free, fair and credible elections are more than intact. This will in essence help to cool down the rising political temperatures. That’s first. Secondly, with a free, fair and credible elections, PEACE is an assured result irrespective of who wins or losses. Actually, it is peace that wins.

Thus, to all patriotic citizens, peace builders and peace preachers, irrespective of political inclination, to start -in truth- cultivating sustainable peace in Kenya, we have a duty to ensure that the IEBC carries a free, fair, tamper proof and credible elections. It even builds more confidence in one as a leader when they win in a fair and transparent manner.

It will not be honest therefore, to preach peace while at the same time burying our heads under the sand on the credibility of the processes.

Positive peace that leads to sustainability is not only about ensuring that there are no tensions, but about uprooting vulnerabilities that cause conflict. Vulnerabilities such as mistrust in processes.

In conclusion, credibility has never been sacrificed at the altar of peace, rather, it is at the altar of credibility that peace has been granted bountifully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Politician……or should we just cut each other some slack and have a Dear fellow Citizen?

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Looking at the just concluded snap elections, it is still difficult to figure out the terrain in which UK will be riding along. PM Theresa May in her wisdom felt that she needed a stronger mandate to negotiate a hard BREXIT (leaving everything behind including single market and customs). While Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, believed in negotiating a soft BREXIT (maintaining some agreements like single market, custom union and border agreements). Among other issues such as austerity, immigration, welfare et cetera. Now that Theresa May, and the larger Conservative establishment, have been unable to attain the needed overall majority threshold in Parliament -even though still having simple majority- the UK Politics enters a very interesting stage for pundits.

That aside, 75% of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 did vote in the just concluded UK snap elections. A clear indication that globally, more and more young people have started to engage in Political discourses on a serious note. All for obvious reasons, the 21st Century challenges globally, are faced by the young people more than any other group.

Locally -here in Kenya- earlier in the week, two trends on Social media would catch attention. The first, #DearPolitician on twitter , where young Kenyans were reminding their Politicians on the need to factor in youth issues in their manifesto and keep their promises after being elected. While at the same time the hashtag sought to tell the politician that the citizenry is awake and well aware of what is happening. #DearPlitician                                                                 photo courtesy.

On a different platform I came across an interesting series – Perception vs Reality where graduates would share their experiences and challenges faced in employment, search for employment and some, accepting unemployment as a reality in Kenya.

This coupled with other realities of, rising poverty levels (both urban and rural with almost half of Kenya living in Poverty), Increasing foreign debt, Increased crime rates (Today, with cases of young teenagers, both male and female joining crime gangs especially within the urban informal settlements -who most of the times are used by politicians as their militias during elections), increasing levels of negative ethnicity that today is threatening to tear the social fabric of Kenya apart -among a myriad of other challenges. All these, unfortunately, if not checked, will see the youth of Kenya suffer during their adulthood and regret during their old age.

As much as the challenges facing the youth tend to be global, such as unemployment, others are local and have to be addressed -Fortunately, or unfortunately, by the youth themselves. Here is a little secret, Politicians will not provide the solution, actually, they are the problem. And the only way to bring sanity back, is for more and more sober youth, to pull together and themselves craft solutions. Yes, Politics will still be at the center stage, political players will still be present, but the game needs to change. The citizenry need to literary call the shots. But this can only happen when the Citizenry is moving in the same direction.

Several years back, in Canada, a group of young change makers, wishing to change the nature of their Politics and to get more youth engaged, started a movement, Apathy is boring to sensitize young people on how to bring change in the Governance and Political arena. You will agree with me that Canada has one of the most admirable leadership in the globe today. Also, with a much likeable leader, Justin Trudeu.

Many a times pundits have opined that Kenyan Politics is not issue based. Listen, a Politician is never interested in issues, the only interest is their election and re-election, period! And if a divided Nation will guarantee that, so be it! So it is not wise to wait for a Politician to bring issues to you. But this is what can happen, the citizens can actually take issues to them. Be it on Poverty levels, youth unemployment, urban redevelopment among others.

And just like it happened in Canada and other advanced democracies, it can happen in Kenya. When we finally decide not to be hypocritical and face each other as Citizens and decide which path to follow.

So, Dear Fellow Citizen, are we in agreement?

 

It is 59 days to the elections folks.

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Are today’s youth leaders effecting any real change in the World – or are they just engaging in cosmetics?

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A few weeks back I got a chance to engage with teenagers who were just preparing to join the University. Having passed their high school exams, some were still undecided on which courses to pursue in Campus. Well, I didn’t have answers to all of their questions, but at least I was able to align some courses that might fit into their passions and skills -without necessarily attaching the promise of a “BRIGHTER FUTURE” to any course. But one question I received was particularly interesting – this young man asking which course is best fit for someone who wants to become a student leader?!

Since at the back of my mind I was sure that there is no such course in particular for student leaders -although a few might come in handy- , I was still curious to know why this young man wanted to become one. His answer was short and to the point……”I want to travel” Now, this answer was relatively similar to yet another request I had previously received in my whatsapp from an old school mate. His was that he wanted me to tag him along to any youth conference I will be attending since after finishing campus he hasn’t been able to secure a job – and so he needs those “allowances given in such youth conferences to keep him going”

These two would represent a fraction of the entire youth population, across the globe, who either have misconceptions about youth leadership or are just not aware of what it entails. Looking at recent revelations across the globe, more than half of individuals falling within the youth bracket don’t know of any existence of a youth organization, or programme (including Government programmes) in their immediate environment. The uncountable organizations and programmes across the globe notwithstanding.

In this 21st Century when the youth are up in arms advocating for inclusion in various spheres, they, especially the youth leaders, should really be in a position to articulate what leadership is. And above all, demonstrate what it is, and what it is not.

This piece will not seek to answer whether youth leadership today is effecting any REAL change or whether it is just cosmetics. Rather, this piece will try to address what some youth leaders are doing wrong that the entire youth leadership is mired by misconceptions – while also trying to shed light on the real task ahead.

The first error, is elevating Conferences to an ultimate end, rather than a means to an end.

Many a times, especially in this social media age, it is normal to come across photos of young leaders attending conferences -This coupled with selfies of them with prominent personalities. As much as there is nothing wrong with this, the perception created is that one becomes a youth leader just to attend conferences and take selfies. Focus is rarely given to specific contributions by the attendees, and what happens on the ground after the conference. Truth be told, after the conclusion of most conferences, today’s leaders immediately fold the deliverables and put them in the lowest files possible.

But this is not a challenge to young leaders alone, actually, they are just borrowing it from technocrats from various spheres. Be it from Governments or other high ranking non- governmental agencies. And that is why critics today have gone ahead to brand Conferences as just “talk shops”

Having said that, as an insider in this youth leadership space, I believe conferences remain important – but focus should shift to what happens on the ground. And youth leaders should be seen on the forefront getting their hands dirty and doing the actual work. So that in the near future when one googles youth leadership, the images that pop up are not just for those attending conferences, but a blend of what leadership is about.

The second aspect, which I believe is very critical., is that Youth leadership is not about what you find on the table, rather, what you bring to the table.

Now, the request from my old school mate got me thinking. Did he really think that he was just to show up from space, attend a conference in earth and an allowance to fall from the moon into his pockets? Really? Does it work that way? Absolutely not. Actually, some youth leaders even dig into their own pockets to organize an event for the sake of the very many others they seek to influence. It is about sacrifice. And one can only sacrifice when they have already identified their PURPOSE and the route they intend to pursue.

Youth leadership is 100% what you bring to the table, every other thing like travels is just but by products. By the way, it is never promised that your travels will be paid for, sometimes you will dig into your own pockets. If you are lucky to be representing an organization that selects you to represent them at their cost -then lucky for you. Or if you have individuals or mentors who believe in you, and are able to support your travels, then lucky for you too. But no pressure, your skills, talents and commitments should be able to see you travel anyway.

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Not to digress from the core business of this piece, but it is so disheartening on this day and age, to wake up in the morning with the reality that the more things change, the more they remain the same. The world being faced with so many challenges -while the entire humanity seems to be losing hope – or at least accepting defeat from the status quo. As the entire weight being rested on the shoulders of her young men and women. Be it climate change, terrorism, unemployment, poverty, exclusion and other form of prejudices. And the youth leaders being looked upon for answers by fellow youth, the older generation and the next generation.

It is imperative for youth leaders, across the globe, to change tact in addressing some of these challenges -lest they remain just part of statistics. One doesn’t remain youth forever, and those influencing change today on behalf of youth will definitely not be there tomorrow. We shouldn’t accept the simplicity of leadership just being a generational change – one generation after the other – rather, an opportunity to make a difference.

I agree that the terrain is not that easy, but remembering the words of Martin Luther King Jnr on the urgency of now, we definitely cannot afford to wait. And we surely have to keep the faith, and finish the race.

 

“The most important advice on leadership I can give young leaders; It’s not about you!” Rick Warren. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Re-look into the Party Primaries 2017.

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In developed democracies, one popular strategy of rigging an election is vote suppression. Especially in areas populated by minorities – some of whom might not be well educated or well informed to understand what is going on. In vote suppression, popular tactics include delays in starting the elections, machine failures, confusion on the exact polling stations to be used, confusion on the exact polling end time et cetera.  This will result into long queues -the elderly and pregnant women giving up and going home and the disenfranchisement of everyone else who is still in the queues at poll end time.  But the good thing is that today, most of these democracies have federal courts on standby to take care of such inconsistencies in real time.

When it comes to Party primaries, one great confusion is whether the primary is open, closed or semi-closed. In open primary, every voter in that constituency, as long as they are registered as voters with the electoral body, are allowed to vote in whichever primary. In closed primary, only those registered with the party and are registered voters are allowed to participate. In semi-closed, those registered as voters and might not have necessarily registered as party members -but by default appear to be aligned to that party, are allowed to participate.

Now, in Kenya -by law, only one type of Party primary is allowed – closed primary. Strictly for party members.

A look back at how the primaries by both Jubilee and NASA affiliate parties were conducted, we can safely conclude that by design, they were never free nor fair nor credible. Its only after complains that they tried to save face by reversing some of the ‘results’.

That aside for now, we have to appreciate that our political parties have come a long way – and some of the challenges they experienced at the primaries were genuine – for instance, Political Party funds not being released to them for adequate preparation. But that cannot in anyway be used to justify the bribery, rigging and to some extent intimidation experienced.

What Kenyans need to celebrate as an outcome of the primaries, is how Wanjiku is evolving. A number of theories that have remained true for quite sometime were debunked by Wanjiku at the Primaries.

  • That for you to win a Primary you MUST have money.

Quite a number of examples -across the divide- are evident. From sukuma wiki vendors who trounced big business men in MCA position, to night guards and young jobless but brilliant youth who won with a landslide. The ground is steadily shifting and we are getting to that point where it won’t always be about the big money and the power to bribe – but the ability to connect and inspire Wanjiku.

  • That one always votes along tribal lines.

We witnessed instances of individuals from minority tribes within a Constituency being voted in by the majority tribe. Point in case is a Luhya being voted largely by the Kalenjin in Uasin Gishu County among many other cases.

  • That Wanjiku at the grassroots is not well informed.

Participants at the party primaries were largely Wanjiku at the grassroots. And believe me, some of them know how the CDF fund operates more than that urban middle class person that the society has branded as ‘informed’. In Politics, the level of education, or social status doesn’t necessarily translate into information. You can have both but still remain the most ignorant human species politically on planet earth. (How else can you explain a sophisticated, well educated middle class who doesn’t see the need to participate in an election?) So it is a lie to always equate Wanjiku and the less educated academically as the ignorant ones. And they proved that in the primaries. They are well aware of what is happening and are ready and confident to play their part. Although we have to agree that in terms of information, the entire public needs to up their game, not just wanjiku at the village.

  • That elites don’t participate in Politics.

The elites have investment in major cities. They invest in stocks and other spaces. They know too well how politics will ultimately influence their businesses. And therefore, they will actively participate in Political processes – or even try to influence the processes to their advantage. The problem is that they behave more or less like the politicians themselves -since they are doing it all for profit. The only difference is that they might not be in the limelight.

PS- Let’s not confuse socialites with elites. Elites are elites, and socialites are socialites.

These are just but a few lessons one could pick from the party primaries. But ultimately, one could point out that Wanjiku is looking out for that leader who has been consistent. That even before presenting themselves as political aspirants, they had already been tried and tested at community level. And that is why some of those who only showed up for the very first time (even before introducing themselves) with nice posters and a pretext to be well moneyed were thoroughly beaten at the ballot.

The tried and tested community leader also explains why in August, so many independent candidates might find themselves in Parliament – those who were rigged out at party primaries of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting South Sudan.

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US President Donald Trump this 2017 started by signing Executive orders and repealing some of Obama’s laws. And one such law was sections of the Dodd- Frank Act signed by Obama in 2010. This law -supported by both Democrats and Republicans alike back then- was meant to regulate US companies that get their minerals from the DRC. These companies -like Apple for instance – had to get certification to substantiate that the supply chain of their minerals are “conflict free”. This in an attempt to reduce cases of armed conflict, child miners, child soldiers, rape and illicit smuggling in Eastern Congo. A trend that spread to Europe and East Asia stretching out to companies such as Samsung.

It is no secret that the only incentive that makes the 21st Century conflict ‘sustainable’ is the presence of Profits – Huge profits. As companies get their raw materials at very cheap prices, armed groups make their illicit profits – or in some instances receive ammunition supplies in exchange. And the need for this profits fuel the conflict even further. Although the Dodd- Frank Act would later receive it’s fair share of praise and criticism, we might not fully appreciate the extent to which it would have brought peace now that it has been repealed. But it might give a foundation in trying to revisit the conflict in South Sudan.

Previously in this column I gave a brief background to understanding the conflict situation in South Sudan. But it is so unfortunate that the situation has deteriorated so direly as the World watches. The youngest Nation in the World is today hanging on a thread – facing a possible genocide on one hand and a famine on the other. A situation that spills over to neighboring Countries in the form of refugee crisis and arms proliferation.

For a long time now we have limited the approach to solving this conflict to a Salva Kiir – Riek Machar equation. And by extension, a Dinka – Nuer equation. But it is high time that the South Sudan arithmetic be looked at holistically. Factoring in the aspect of ‘Profits’ and the ‘war profiteers’ involved. Africa needs to move beyond the comfort of believing that a Country only attains peace when two or more Political heads sign ‘peace deals’ – and actually admit that she needs to dissect the causes of conflict and address them. It goes beyond saying that both Salvar Kiir and Riek Machar are not interested in a prosperous South Sudan, rather, their only interest is in the ‘profits’ – ‘war profits’. And who else is involved? According to Enough! Project that has done research on the same, the network is comprised of government officials, generals, businessmen, foreign investors, banks, oil and mining companies, money transfer entities, and individuals connected to the international financial systems. Thus, it is very normal to see family and friends related to the two Political antagonists from South Sudan living lavishly and spending heavily on parties, big cars, buildings and travels oversees thanks to their accomplices in this ‘supply chain’

The best – and only – way of dealing with the South Sudan crisis at the moment is to chock the illicit financial flows.

If the African Union was functioning, by now neighboring Countries facilitating the illicit financial flows, trade and investments, and also movement of these warlords – would have been put on the radar. And the AU should have gone a step further, at the UN to demand answers on how some of the banks and foreign investors involved actually come from the same Countries that have permanent membership at the UN Security Council.

In bringing humanity and sanity back to South Sudan, there has to be financial accountability by all parties involved, legal accountability, and political accountability. And in the process of sustainable peacemaking and peacekeeping, ‘war profits’ MUST be chocked off the ‘war profiteers’ that the leaders of South Sudan and their accomplices have become.

Referring back to the Dodd- Frank Act, it is best for international diplomats and other political players to consider policies that put in check banks, international financial institutions, international investors, money transfer entities, and connected individuals to only facilitate transactions that are ‘conflict- free’ and that don’t in any way, fuel wars.

In conclusion, the East African Community (EAC) and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have a very big task ahead of them. Having South Sudan, Burundi and Somalia in the same region is not a walk in the park. This coupled with the relatively peaceful and stable Countries such as Kenya moving into election periods.

 

 

 

The Dadaab Question.

An aerial view shows makeshift shelters at the Dagahaley camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border

Last week, High Court Judge John Mativo overturned Kenyan Government decision to close Daadab refugee camp -citing the Governments move as “excessive, arbitrary and disproportionate” And that it was an act of group persecution since it targeted Somali refugees. It is the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights -and lobby group Kituo cha Sheria that had challenged the Governments decision in court.

For starters, Daadab serves as the World’s largest refugee camp today. Located in Kenya since early 90’s, it started off by accommodating about 90,000 refugees from Somalia escaping the civil war, drought and famine at the time. It has steadily outgrown its capacity accommodating more than 300,000 refugees in its  five (5) camps -most of whom are still from Somalia. Trouble between the Kenyan Government and Somali refugees began immediately after the Westgate mall attack in 2013, and the subsequent Garrisa University attack in 2015 -which the Government would insist that these attacks were planned within Daadab refugee camp and that the camp is still highly infiltrated with the Al-shabaab militants. Although the high court would rule that there was no evidence to substantiate the same, the Kenyan Government is already setting an appeal as Government’s spokesperson insisted “The camp had lost its humanitarian nature and had become a haven for terrorism and other illegal activities”

The Kenyan scenario is not a case in isolation. The globe today is witnessing increasing protectionist arguments revolving around terrorism, refugees and politics. And to some extent -religion. From across Europe to the USA, with recent Court rule overturning President Trump’s Executive orders to bar individuals traveling from seven (7) Countries into the US. Namely Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. But again, Trump’s executive order is not the first in US history. Jimmy Carter during his time barred Iranians -Franklin D. Roosevelt barred German Jews with an infamous incidence of the St. Louis ocean liner ship being forced to return to Europe and some of its passengers believed to have been victims of the holocaust. There exists many other examples throughout history -including examples of barring those whom certain Countries didn’t share in their political ideologies. But the Kenyan case is a bit different -in the sense that, it is not that the Somalis are being barred from entering Kenya, but it is the Daadab refugee camp that is being closed, refugees repatriated, and a border fence erected to prevent terrorists from accessing Kenya. The only similarity is that all the above are protectionist moves, and as the Kenya Government spokesperson would state, “The lives of Kenyans matter. Our interest in this case, and in the closure of Dadaab refugee camp, remains to protect the lives of Kenyans”

Now, the intention of this piece is not to argue for or against the closure of Daadab refugee camp, but to try and dissect some underlying issues. First, we are all in agreement that any refugee camp is a temporary habitat, and that no level of permanence should be attached to Dadaab. Secondly, that refugees are human beings and ought to be treated as such. Thirdly, if there is any security threat as a result of conditions in a camp, the various stakeholders need to find sustainable solutions placing into account the welfare of the refugees. It is now more than 20 years of Dadaab’s existence, it has outgrown its capacity -and it is no secret that the conditions that our brothers and sisters are living in are not quite humane. This has been pointed out to the International partners by various African nations. And to some extent even questioning the International Community’s commitment to refugees. Sometimes comparing the refugee conditions in Africa vis a vis the conditions in developed Nations.

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Refugee conditions should relatively be a 20th century argument -since the 21st century should be more of how to stop the production of refugees rather than how to take care of refugees. But the global dynamics is not giving us any room to focus on the 21st century commitment -and it is also proving very difficult to understand how today’s refugee crisis is worse than the World War 2 one. Back to Dadaab -Majority of refugees are from Somalia, a Country in her infancy when it comes to a stable State while at the same time al-shabaab posing as a great threat to both her Government and Civilians. Therefore, the Kenyan Government needs to rope in more stakeholders in engaging matters Somali refugees. Are the refugees themselves safe to go back home? Is the Kenyan government engaging Somalia in figuring out how to deal with refugees born in Dadaab but lack adequate information about their homes in Somalia? Or is it just a matter of packing human beings into tracks and dropping them on new lands? Can the regional bodies be roped in? Are there neighboring Countries willing to take the excess refugees from Dadaab in the meantime? Has the newly elected Somalia President Mohamed Famarjo any strategies on his people? and is he ready to start engaging his Kenyan counterparts?

As much as Kenya would want to solve al-shabaab menace by closing Dadaab refugee camp, she needs to critically asses how huge numbers of young people moving to Somalia all at once to meet joblessness might end up impacting on the region. While at the same time, it’s closure won’t necessarily mean that the region will now stop producing refugees. Look at South Sudan for instance, that young State is slowly going into a point of no return -Dadaab might just find itself replacing Somalis with South Sudanese.

Looking at Daadab holistically therefore, its forced closure by the Kenyan government might not solve much of the regions problems. But this does not mean that the current refugee conditions shouldn’t be challenged. Actually, various stakeholders need to asses the situation and solve what can be solved in the short-term. And if indeed Dadaab has become a breeding ground for terrorist, then the international community needs to move with speed.

There are also  other refugee related discourses yet to be fully dissected, such as possibilities of the international community buying refugee food from host Countries -improving local farmers livelihood instead of airlifting packed food from oversees -among other issues. It is my believe that the ongoing Dadaab debacle will help to provide better refugee standards -not just in Kenya- but across the globe.But more fundamentally, will assist in shaping the discourse of ending the production of refugees in totality.

In conclusion, the African Union with their Agenda 2063 that is ambitious to stop wars in Africa by 2020,should by now have in place structures and memorandum for both refugee repatriation and refugee naturalization. It is in bad taste for the Continent to get into conflict with international organizations on matters refugees -yet it keeps on producing refugees itself.

 

 

 

The AU Commission vote cannot serve as a measure of an individuals level of patriotism -rather, it should serve as an opportunity for Kenyans to reflect on their influence on matters Africa.

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As the curtains closed yesterday on the 28th AU Summit, new leaders -both at the Assembly and Commission, were chosen. With the Kingdom of Morocco being readmitted back into the Union. Even though Morocco’s fate and the election of the Assembly’s chair -H.E Alpha Conde of the Republic of Guinea were already preset -it is the election of the new AU Commission that was of utmost interest. And with all the campaigning and lobbying by interested parties, Africa settled on Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad as AUC chairperson, being deputized by Ghana’s  Ambassador Thomas Kwesi Quartey.  

With the AU Commission as the single most important organ of the African Union, it attracts election processes that are both intense and bruising -and to some extent, threatening to the very unity that the Union seeks to achieve. It also attracts betrayals from the so called allies.

In 2012, when Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma was seeking to be elected -challenging the incumbent Jean Ping, very many factors were at play. With two unwritten and unspoken rules being broken. First, that a big five member Country should not field a candidate for the AUC position. (South Africa breaking this rule). And secondly, that if the chairperson comes from an Anglophone country, the deputy should come from a Francophone one and vice versa -Both South Africa and Kenya having been Anglophone Nations.

It is very important for any Kenyan to remember that in the 2012 contest, even though Dlamini Zuma was seen as a game changer, by being a woman, a top diplomat with great political acumen, And who seemed passionate about bringing reforms to the commission -Kenya still did not vote for her. Reason, Kenya was pursuing her own interest, focusing on the Anglophone- Francophone unwritten rules. Since Kenya was having a candidate for the deputy chair, they saw it prudent to support Gabon’s candidature to fulfill this rule while at the same time trading  her support for Francophone’s support. Even though Dlamini Zuma still worn, Kenya remained lucky to have secured many votes from across the divide. This example alone should demonstrate that individual nations whether neighboours or not will always seek to pursue individual interests.

Fast forward to 2017 when Kenya fielded their own Ambassador Amina Mohamed for the position of AUC chairperson – In an election where Francophone Africa had their guns blazing in an attempt of capturing not only chairperson’s position, but also strategic political and technical offices of the commission. And with SADC Nations feeling that Africa needed to give her a second term to continue with Dlamini Zuma’s legacy, this race would have automatically ended up with bruises.

Insiders, albeit in whispers,would point out that Amina’s candidacy this 2017 was both ambitious and a hard sale -even though not ruling out chances of a win. And yes, she was so close to winning. But before the said elections, some reasons given about what could ultimately prevent her from winning were among others; 1) that even though she has a rich diplomatic and bureaucratic background, she lacked the needed Political acumen in African matters. And operatives would try to dissect where she would turn to for guidance in African Political matters. Will it be the Government of Kenya? This scenario is not new, in 2012, even when Dlamini Zuma displayed the needed Political Acumen, she was still put to task to shed light whether or not South Africa will try to influence the Commision’s policies. It even made President Zuma to come out in public and declare that South Africa will not in any way attempt to influence the Commission and will leave Dlamini Zuma serve the African Continent as a technocrat. And because Africa’s affairs at the moment need more Political approach in solving, Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat ended up appealing on that front. With some quotas even branding him the black horse.

2) Pundits would argue that the timing was never strategic. After having a candidate in the position of deputy chairperson for the last eight (8) years, ascending to chairperson wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Adding to this, other members especially from the Southern block would view this attempt as an act of selfishness. First, Kenya never supported their own in 2012 yet they supported Kenya’s deputy. And again at a time when Southern block would bank on Anglophone Countries to support a second term bid, Kenya is actively playing a spoiler role. When you look at the 7th round results, most abstentions came from the SADC region -not in solidarity with Kenya’s Amina, but as a protest for the entire Africa not granting them a second term. This abstention purpose was meant to create a deadlock again were it not for some Eastern African Countries deciding to grant Chad the two thirds required. And that leads to another question, Did Kenya fail to have a firm grip with her diplomacy in the region? Is her diplomacy weakening?

But that’s a question for another day. The biggest challenge for Kenya right now, is that this vote has ended up sparking antagonism on who was a patriot during this moment and who was not.

First, for the purposes of clarity, patriotism is not a duty to one’s government, but a duty to one’s Country. And therefore, support for Amina’s candidature, or lack of by a Kenyan, cannot be a measure of patriotism- simply because Amina was a government’s decision. Just the same way when a majority in parliament approve a Government’s decision and a minority disapprove -or vice versa, it cannot mean that one group was never patriotic. Each had their own legitimate reasons. If Kenya had substituted Amina Mohamed with person, let’s say X, who is more qualified than her, does it mean that this new person X would have attracted 100% support from all Kenyans? Definitely NOT. Does it mean that this new person -under the same circumstances, would have provided a better solution for Ugandans, Burundians, Tanzanians and Djibouti not to jump ship? That is the question real patriots should be bothering themselves with. Why would border neighbours and regional ones abandon Kenya at the hour of need? Are Kenyans becoming too selfish a people? Have Kenyans become too untrustworthy?  Or are they now too corrupt that even a corrupt Africa cannot trust?

Now, instead of wasting any more time, let’s get back to business and provide solutions to our brothers and sisters detained in foreign lands. Let’s get back to business and dissect our regional diplomacy status. Let’s engage and contribute in Continental affairs selflessly -peace and security topping the agenda. Let’s demonstrate that indeed we believe in the spirit of Pan-Africanism by destroying these animals by the name of negative ethnicity, exclusion and discrimination -and let’s behead their father by the name of corruption!

We live to fight another day……….but only if we learn from our mistakes will we triumph. 

As ECOWAS receives standing ovation, the African Union needs to reflect on her assertiveness in regard to Elections.

ecowas

One fundamental component of democracy world over has been -and still is- a free, fair, credible and verifiable elections with an accompaniment of a peaceful transfer of power. Africa, for the longest time now has been touted as a region that still lags behind in integrating this component into her ‘democracy’. One of the reasons being that, unlike the so called mature democracies where predictable processes can lead to unpredictable results -such as a Trump presidency- most of Africa’s ‘democracies’ are deep-seated in unpredictable processes that yield predictable results. Not until just recently when the paradigm seems to be shifting -with the most recent instance being elections in The Gambia.

Predictable results in this context being synonymous with incumbents retaining power whether they win or not -whether they manipulate election processes or not -whether there is conflict/ ethnic cleansing or not -whether the regional bodies, African Union and International community intervene or not.

Yahya Jammeh in his own wisdom or lack of, thought that even if he reversed his earlier concession, he still had the instruments of violence to at least allow him remain president. The worst that could have happened in case of conflict was a power sharing deal presided over by the regional body, African Union and the International Community. But ECOWAS would tolerate none of that.

At this particular period when Yahya Jammeh was illegally clinging onto power, the AU Peace and Security Council was also meeting. Issuing mild threats. That, among other measures, the AU will cease to recorgnize Jammeh as the President of the Gambia -and also warned him of ‘serious consequences’ should the situation degenerate into a crisis. .  Although the AU pledged its support for ECOWAS,  it’s  highly debatable that it is this position taken that made Jammeh leave The Gambia. This is simply because the AU is becoming (in)famous today for issuing hot air as threats. Take Burundi for instance -or South Sudan.

After the 2011 elections in The Gambia where Yahya Jammeh allegedly ‘won’ the elections with 72% of votes, the West African region was keenly following the build up to the 2016 elections- main reason being that the region, especially Senegal, was already tired with the person of Jammeh with his illegal activities in the region. And ECOWAS was determined to right the wrongs in the 2016 contest.  However, pre election interference was still evident. For instance, 18 months to the election, Jammeh had already made the Supreme Court obsolete. Meaning, in case the opposition wished to dispute the elections, they wouldn’t have an audience. This is against the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.  And pre-election interference is where trouble begins, and sadly also, where the AU absence seems to be so loud.

Thus, the AU needs to assert her presence in the Pre-election processes.

Pierre Nkurunzinza in 2015 manipulated the justice system to allow him secure a third term in office, clearly contravening the AU charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Yet both the AU and EAC never seemed to be keen to do what is RIGHT and watched as he conducted ethnic cleansing pre-elections. Other argument indicate that actually at this time when the AU’s focus is pulling out of the Rome Statute, they need more of the likes of Pierre Nkurunzinza in office -since they support this mission- and that’s why the AU seems reluctant to act on such.

Now, this does not mean that an African Country cannot or should not extend or give an additional term to a sitting President -But agreed upon procedures in the statutes should be followed. For instance, holding of a referendum like it happened in Rwanda.

Pre elections, many Member States, including relatively democratic ones like Kenya will still contravene articles 12(3), 19, 28 of the AU charter on Democracy in relations to civil societies, media and expression which the AU should be seen to be vocal about. This in an attempt to prevent tensions moving into an election. It is still hard to believe that the AU in this 21st century will declare polls ‘free and fair’ amid media blackout, opposition intimidation and even ethnic cleansing that prevents perceived opponents from voting.

In the spirit of Pan-Africanism. The spirit of Kwame Nkrumah and Haile Selassie, the African Union in the spirit of the charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, should shift focus and act on behalf of ‘We the People’ as opposed to acting on behalf of elite leaders. One recent example of the importance of working on behalf of the people, is the example of Gabon’s Jean Ping. He ‘dutifully’ served as the Chair of the AU Commission in the periods 2008 to 2012. He was however viewed to side with African dictators and did little to build capacities in relations to elections. When he returned home to vie for Presidency in Gabon in 2016 elections, he could only wonder how Ali Bongo retained power in an election that ballots are burned immediately after elections -not giving room for any type of vote recount. With cases of 99.99% voter turnout.

In conclusion therefore, as much as Africa today is celebrating the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for their intervention in upholding Democracy in The Gambia, the African Union should reflect on asserting her presence on behalf of ‘we the people’ when it comes to Electoral Processes.

 

It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African Unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the World.    Kwame Nkrumah.

 

 

 

2017 Elections; Will Your Vote COUNT, or will it just be a COUNTED one!

iebc2

Of course -a vote that counts, first has to be counted- but many a times, votes are counted that end up not counting at all. What am I saying? Pundits today are advancing an argument that in a number of regions, Africa being one of them, elections are never held, rather, what only takes place, is mere ethnic census. That, instead of people coming together to address pertinent issues at the ballot, they join their ethnic cocoons to prove that they have more numbers.

Today the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission continue to conduct the very last mass voter registration exercise pre elections -and Kenyans are keenly calculating the numbers, 201 days into the ethnic census -‘sorry’, into the elections. Whilst it is good practice for more and more individuals to air their voice through the ballot in a Democracy, Kenyans need to pause for a minute and reflect on this VOICE they intend to air at the August polls.

In her slightly more than 50 years of independence, Kenya has demonstrated only 4 times that people can come together to crystallize pertinent issues. These moments being; 1) During the 1963 elections, 2) During the struggle to return to multi-party system, 3) During the 2002 elections to dismember the status quo, 4) During the struggle for a new Constitution which was subjected to a referendum in 2010. In these instances, we have had 3 generations actively or passively involved. The first generation that fought for independence and later formed the independence government. The second generation that joined part of the first to fight for the return to multi-party system at the same time fighting for Constitutional reforms. And the third generation who, very few joined the struggle as students, a few who were able to vote in 2002 to dismember the status quo, and a sizeable number that voted in the 2010 Constitution. It is in this third generation that today we have the so called youth. Unfortunately, majority of whom who have never been involved in any serious mission to shape the destiny of Kenya -both in the past and present. It is this group -the youth- who today have the capacity to use the POWER of the VOTE to shape the destiny of Kenya. But are they planning to do so?

shape-tommorow-by-voting-today

It is no secret that majority of those being affected by the mismanagement and misappropriation of public resources in the Kenya of today are the youth and women. As they, and future generations keep being pushed back into poverty. Many of whom are denied opportunities in sustainable employment, training, investment, saving and health. Unfortunately, at present, the same youth and women seem to have accepted the cult of incompetence to be the norm in Political leadership – always electing leadership (from top to bottom) that is not sensitive to their wishes and suffering.

Looking at vote patterns among the youth globally in the last few years, a mix of the patterns seem inevitable in Kenya this 2017. First, there is the usual ethnic vote, where politicians maximize by creating external enemies from other ethnic communities to convince their own to vote for them -not because they are the best qualified, but simply because the other from a different ethnicity should be disqualified.

Secondly, there is the protest vote. Where the masses are simply tired of lies, political mischief and incompetence among the elites. And so they vote them out of office as protest. The most famous example and recent one was when after the Democratic Party primaries in the US, the feeling that Bernie Sanders had been rigged out, made some of his supporters to vote for other party presidential candidates -including Trump! In Africa, a wave of one term presidents has started sweeping across the Continent due to protest votes.

Then definitely there will be cases of voter apathy. This will be due to lack of a motivational factors, both for or against. When the ‘what is at stake’ is not quite clear. A  perfect instance is with the youth in the UK during their famous BREXIT referendum. Even though the two Kingdoms of England and Wales were for BREXIT as the other two, Scotland and Northern Ireland against, majority of youth across the board seemed to be against BREXIT. But with the very high levels of voter apathy among the youth, they were only left with the option of unsuccessfully starting an online petition to have a chance with a second referendum.

So which way Kenya?

2017 presents a very a unique case, especially for youth and women -both at the National level, and at the County level. More and more people, both in town centers and in the villages are in agreement that political stratification is not by ethnicity, rather, the real stratification is between those who have, and those who don’t. Between the so called those who COUNT and those to be COUNTED. This coupled with the very high levels of unemployment and underemployment, corruption, exclusion, high cost of doing business due to kick-backs at tendering processes, high unexplained national debt among others.

But in order to put things straight, one must vote. Not voting is never an option, since in case of an unfair election, ballots can be stuffed and your name stricken off on the register (in case of a manual process) , and you end up voting ‘in absentia’.

Therefore, if this generation wants to go down  history as the generation that rejected corruption at the ballot, rejected ethnic prejudices at the ballot, rejected inequality and marginalization at the ballot, then the best opportunity presents itself at the August 2017 ballot.

Therefore, fellow youth, if you are eligible to register as a voter, kindly register, and make sure you participate in shaping the destiny of the Nation Kenya by voting in August 2017.

 

“To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” Louis L’Amour. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standoff on Election Laws (Amendment), and Why Reverting to Street Demonstration might serve more of Jubilee’s interest than the Opposition’s.

Kenya's Supreme Court judges file into the chamber during the opening of the 11th Parliament in Nairobi

In a period of less than one Month, when Parliament is still on recess, four special sittings were gazetted- and conducted in both the two houses. This, accompanied by a one week public participation. Bone of contention, The Election Law (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill, 2015 -coming just seven months before the general elections.

With the main issue revolving around three processes of voter registration, voter identification during elections and vote transmission – the average Kenyan has ended up being ping-ponged between two vocabularies – MANUAL and ELECTRONIC. And a third one, COMPLIMENTARY.

Looking at this discourse through an objective prism, it is my submission that both Jubilee’s concerns, and the oppositions concerns, are legitimate. But it is only the lack of TRUST between them, and among other players, that’s causing the standoff. While Jubilee submits that a system can fail thus the need to compliment it, opposition views the ambiguity of the word compliment as a direct reference to manual identification of voters and manual transmission of votes -having learned from the 2013 elections, when the systems, instead of identifying voters, only served as election decorations at polling stations, with no explanation whatsoever -even though taxpayers money was heavily invested in them. The fact that opposition has also viewed the IEBC as an appendage of Jubilee, doesn’t make matters any simpler. This is why the President ought not to append his signature to this controversy, instead, refer it back to negotiations to iron out concerns and build the needed TRUST going into the elections.

However, as things stand today, the opposition this week will be mobilizing her troops at Bomas of Kenya to craft their way forward. Among the options at their disposal are 1) mobilizing their tyranny of brains (as crafted by opposition) to nullify the amendments in Court, 2) Lobby for the President to refer the amendments back to negotiations, 3) Call for mass demonstrations –among others. At this point in time, the option of mass demonstration MIGHT fail to work in favor of opposition and work in favor of Jubilee. And this is why?

  1. It is a period of mass voter registration.

Even though voter registration is an ongoing process, Politicians and Political parties can optimize this period to excite their followers by rallying those who would have otherwise not register into registering. Scheduled for mid January to mid February, if opposition decides to be on the streets at this time, they might lose on the very last chance before the set election dates to mobilize their supporters to register. And this will clearly work to the advantage of Jubilee.

  1. De-legitimize opposition’s quest for credible elections.

This you can take to the bank. That in case of demonstrations, Jubilee will use all available opportunity to sell the notion that Opposition has never been interested in elections -whether credible or not. And that their only interest is chaos. Jubilee has cited instances of alleged interference of elections from both within and without. Although they are yet to present a strong case to substantiate the same.

  1. Serve as an avenue for ethnic mobilization.

When the National Assembly passed this amendment, the opposition, led by co-principle Kalonzo Musyoka scheduled 4th January 2017 as the date for embarking back to street demonstration. Although the call was to be called off again, it is worth remembering that GEMA also gave terms of engagement. That they would also rally their troops to defend their businesses. This is with respect to Nairobi. But if it was purely a function of businesses, wouldn’t it therefore be prudent to mobilize the entire Business Community that includes the Luhya and the Kamba business men? If let’s say the demonstrations happened, and GEMA mobilized her people to protect businesses, would it have therefore devolved into “them against us” kind of arrangement? The kind of arrangement that would eventually throw reason out of the window?

It is therefore worth noting that at this time, calls for demonstrations have very high probabilities of introducing ethnic mobilizations, and everyone can easily forget what’s at stake, filled with emotions and continue making mistakes at the ballot.

Ethnic mobilization as a result of demonstrations will make Jubilee’s campaign in their own strongholds very easy. As easy as Sunday morning. This is because they will simply get narratives for blaming the opposition on all the misfortunes during their term.

Whether in August 2017 Kenya will be heading for a general election, or simply just another ethnic census exercise, the opposition should be aware of the free points that they risk throwing Jubilee’s way when they call for street demonstrations at this time.

However, having said this, the opposition is at liberty and within the constitution mandate to invoke article 37 of the Constitution of Kenya in pursuit of a middle ground in this standoff.

But more fundamentally, for the sake of the Nation Kenya, the President of this Republic ought to rise to the occasion and refer this bill back to negotiation. The President has no option but to be at the forefront of building TRUST in this election year.