Invalid, Null And Void; Words Many Didn’t Expect – More So, The International Community.

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“The greatness of any Nation lies in it’s fidelity to the Constitution, and adherence to the rule of law – and above all, respect to God”  Chief Justice David Maraga.

These very words preceded the annulment of one of the most expensive -if not the most expensive- elections in Africa last Friday. A decision that many have hailed, across the globe, as a watershed moment for institutions in Africa. Although majority of Kenyans from across the political divide applauded this decision, it still did receive, and continues to receive, its fair share of criticism especially from Kenya’s President Uhuru and his Jubilee party.

This election process has brought a number of items to the fore, but two remain of particular interest. The first being the role of religion in politics, and the second being the role of international community in Africa’s democracy.

Religion and Politics.

When Jubilee party and its supporters were on the campaign trail, they will insinuate a couple of times how it is God who will deliver victory for them. That it is God who chooses, and that they already have a memo of who has been chosen. When Chief Justice David Maraga started the Supreme Court hearing on August 26th, the hearing had to commence from 7pm – since during the day, as a staunch Seventh Day Adventist, he had to observe Sabbath. When the Supreme Court decision was finally made, with Justice Maraga stressing on respect to God, Opposition’s NASA would celebrate and equally hail the decision as God’s doing. Now, I’m not knowledgeable in theology, but this clearly should raise concern among the Christian folk – who happen to be the majority in Kenya, and also the culprits in this web.

Christianity in Kenya seems to be a total failure. The need to follow the footsteps of Christ, to love humanity, to be just and truthful, and to respect fellow humans has already gone down the drain. The only relevance Christianity seems to have today, is the ability to make one rich. Anything goes, including peddling corrupt politicians at the altar.

But one rational constant – in this relationship between Politics and Religion – remains the ability of Politics to use Religion to its advantage. In the 16th Century, Niccolo Machiavelli would advice rulers on how to use, and if need be, manipulate naive religious folk in order to secure their rule. Citing instances on how the ancient Roman religion was instrumental in securing and advancing the Roman Empire. In his letter to the Prince of Florence, Machiavelli would emphasize on how religious coercion can be a great tool of maintaining political power.

Politics and Religion in Kenya needs to be re-looked at again – much cannot be dissected in this column. But Christians have to REDEEM themselves in this – they don’t have any option. Everything else remains food for thought.

The International Community and Africa’s Democracy.  

If there is one individual so far who has received his fair share of criticism – and counting- in Kenya’s ongoing 2017 elections, is one John Kerry. Former US Secretary of State. After the voting had concluded, and tallying began, the opposition NASA led by candidate Raila Odinga would raise concern about the streaming in of results. But Kerry will proceed to make his worst statement in Kenya so far -under the Carter Center banner. That, “The people who voted were alive. I didn’t see any dead people walking around” And that the “the opposition should get over it and move on” since according to him the election was free, fair and credible. Never mind the Electoral Body hadn’t even declared the final results.

For starters, allow me to take you down recent historical path. Ten years ago, Kenya went through it’s worst election, marred by malpractices and bloodshed. Myself I was relatively young, still in high school. But nevertheless, I was Politically awake. Citizens queued. Long queues. Some in straight, others in curved or even zigzag. And they voted PEACEFULLY. “Without dead people walking or trying to get in the lines” But the problem arose during the tallying, transmission and announcement of results.

It is this problem of tallying, transmitting and announcing of results – together with the identification of persons – that heavily influenced Kenya’s high costs of conducting elections. While a Country such as Tanzania will spend an average of five dollars ($5) per voter in an election, or Uganda four dollars ($4) per voter, Kenya will spend an upward of twenty five dollars ($25) per voter during an election. Why? because of vote tallying and transmission. So, an international observer observing elections in Uganda, should be alive to the fact that Uganda and Kenya are not homogeneous – even though they share a border. And that an election process should be looked at in its entirety.

The Product is as Good as the Process.

Looking at the scrutiny report ordered by the Supreme Court during the petition, one will not fail to observe two items that would cast doubt on 2017 elections – which the supreme Court ruled to be marred by irregularities and illegalities. That, as the Court ordered the electoral body to allow READ ONLY access to its servers, so as to ascertain that the logs provided actually originated from the said servers, the electoral body was unable to comply. That, as the Court ordered for the GPRS location of KIEMS kits be provided at the time of sending scanned form 34A’s to ascertain the locations at sending, the electoral body was unable to comply. The same form 34A’s that the electoral body was trying to figure out where they were – way after declaring the results. The same forms the lawyers ended up battling in Courts which were legal, and which should ‘pass as legal’

From the onset of the petition, the petitioners didn’t focus on trying to demonstrate that Uhuru was rigged in, or that Raila was rigged out – the focus was trying to get the Court to answer the question, “Was the electoral process legal or not?” To which the Court answered that electoral body ‘failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Constitution and inter alia the Elections Act….” A change of tact to traditional petitions which rarely see the light of day.

Back to The International Community.

Immediately the lead European Observer Mission arrived in Kenya, the first statement made was in relation to prospects of violence. So, throughout the election process, it seemed, that they would focus most of their efforts in trying to persuade the opposition not to react to anything. They were ready to let anything go  – as long as the opposition didn’t react. This, to an extent in which they didn’t observe the actual violence taking place. The obsession was on citizen versus citizen form of violence – which never took place. Instead, only poor citizens were meted with police brute violence to the extent of infant ones, as little as six (6) Month old baby losing its life.

This begging the question, was the exercise meant to observe a democratic process, or just influence – through their posture – whatever outcome? This bearing in mind interest that lead observers and their Countries of origin also have with respect to the African Country being observed.

Having been actively engaged in civic engagement and education, especially to young people of my age during this election period, I can confirm that young people in Kenya were and still are, not ready to fight each other irrespective of their political divide. They claim that they are too hungry to do so, and they would really want to be done with this election process as fast. Majority are not much obsessed with who wins the presidency (apart from a few sycophants here and there) – but the obsession with a sizeable majority is that the election be free, fair and credible regardless of who wins.

Kenyans are very assertive politically, and one of the reasons young people from both political divides are interested in a credible process, is because they know too well that it is only a credible process that will one day make a son or daughter of a peasant farmer -who doesn’t come from the current crop of moneyed elites – President.

And that credible process begins now – thanks to Chief Justice David Maraga. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tribal Hate; The Surest Path to Kenya’s Degeneration.

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In the last couple of days, quite a lot has happened across the globe. From Grace Mugabe being granted diplomatic immunity in South Africa where she is alleged to have assaulted a young model, to the cowardly incidence of terror in Barcelona. But the most unfortunate one that has captured the attention of the global media, igniting the ongoing conversations, is the Charlottesville tragedyHeather Heyer lost her life while 19 other individuals got injured as they were counter protesting a white supremacist protest. Out of hate, a car driven by a white supremacist rammed into the counter protesters resulting to the killing and injuries.

The question of tribal hate is being revisited. Not just in America, but across the globe. Kenya being no exception. Yet at the same time, institutionalized hate and prejudice being exposed.

Kenya’s August Presidential polls this 2017 has brought to the surface quite a number of deep seated issues that the Country needs to address. Tribal hate and ethnic prejudice topping the list – as is now the norm pre, during and post polls. This in turn tends to threaten the fabric of the Society in form of fear, unrest, and conflict (including online conflict). Already, in an unfortunate twist of events, the August polls has led to a couple deaths. From major players in the electoral process like the late Chris Musando, (IEBC’s ICT Manger who was killed a week to the elections), to very innocent little souls baby Samantha (6 months) and Moraa (9 years) -one alleged to have been clobbered and the other shot by the police in Kisumu and Mathare respectively. Loss of property as a result of unrest in pockets of areas after the announcement of the Presidential results was also recorded. This, after dozens of peace conferences, peace marches, and peace adverts across both mainstream media and social media.

It is important to note that during this period, there was a clear divide between those advocating for peace, and those advocating for justice -through a credible electoral process. Each, suspicious of the other. Unfortunately again, most would choose to advocate for either peace or justice depending on their side of the political divide. While those advocating for peace – majority of whom tend to be Jubilee leaning – equated justice to call for violence, those advocating for justice – majority of whom tend to be NASA leaning – equated peace to call for ‘everyone to close their eyes and shut their ears’ in case of a rigged election. A debate that is still ongoing.

Peace Vs Justice.

Before dissecting any further  the issue of tribal hate, allow me to address this issue of peace and justice in the simplest terms possible – without being academic. I had previously described the different types of peace, at the same time, I had submitted why credibiltiy cannot be sacrificed at the altar of peace. So what then is the relation between Peace and Justice?

Allow me to use my simple formulated analogies……When you meet a religious person, they usually say that for them to practice at optimum level, their mind, body and soul/spirit, ought to function in harmony. When the three are in sync, they achieve peace and therefore practice their religion at optimum level. Likewise, when you meet a philosopher, they will say that for them to function at optimum, their mind, courage and appetite/character ought to be in harmony. When the three are in sync, they achieve peace and are at optimum. In the event that one of the three aspect is out of sync, peace is lost and the body becomes dysfunctional – and cannot achieve its optimum level. Say for instance one becomes sick, the body is out of place slowing down the mind and spirit. What do you do next? You simply check the symptoms and get the correct medication. The process of checking the symptoms and administering medication to the body is what is referred to as JUSTICE. Correcting that which is wrong to bring the system back to PEACE in order to function optimally. Justice can be administered before the system fails – e.g taking preventive measures to block harmful bacteria from getting into your body- or after the system is already failing i.e taking medication to cure a disease. In both cases, JUSTICE and PEACE have to co-exist in order for a system to function at its optimum.

So moving forward, the peace diehards on the one hand, and the justice diehards on the other need to understand that peace and justice are two sides of the same coin, and that they need to pull together in order to correct the system. At the same time, everyone needs to stop the prejudice that justice means violence. It doesn’t.

Back to tribal hate. 

This electoral cycle has really exposed the Kenyan Citizenry. From the so called ‘leaders of tomorrow’ to even religious leaders – forget about the Politicians. From the surface, one can safely conclude that majority of Kenyans fall in one of the first two categories. The first are the outright hate mongers. Stirring ethnic hatred has become their cup of tea – and majority were well used by politicians to consolidate their tribal/ clan blocks for purposes of voting. Some of whom found themselves in Court for going over-board. The second category are simply individuals with ethnic prejudices. By just observing the voting pattern, you need not go any further. In this category, some might not talk much, but they hold dearly to their misconceptions and are willing to pretend that they are not seeing any reason however much the sun shines. When hate-mongers from the side of their divide are destroying the social fabric of the Nation, they adopt a see no evil, hear no evil mantra. Then we have the minority. True patriots who see wrong as wrong, and right as right irrespective of who does what – whether they support them or not. They speak out, but most importantly, act for the sake of the Nation.

The path of tribal hate is a dangerous terrain to maneuver. It slowly but surely leads to self destruction.

It is not only discouraging to note that over the decades, Kenya’s leadership has, either by omission or commission, failed to administer a cure to the diseases of tribal hate and ethnic prejudices, but it is even more disheartening to realize that even the so called leaders of tomorrow are willing – and most of the times-  ready to inherit the status quo.

What we need right now is individuals with a clear conscience, and courageous enough to stand against tribal hate and ethnic prejudice so as to channel a new course for this Country. Enough with your tribal hate silly!

In the wake of the happenings in America, Rev. Al Sharpton is mobilizing Ministers of God, Imams, Rabbis and civil rights activists to Minsiters March for Justice in Washington. In the next one week, they will not only demonstrate that they are tired of tribal hate in America’s leadership, but also demonstrate their displeasure by the silence of the majority.

If Zulaikha Patel, a 13 year old South African from Pretoria Girls High School was able to lead students to stand against institutionalized racism and abuse by teachers – making global headlines, then no Kenyan has an excuse not to stand against and correct the growing tribal hate and ethnic prejudices – whether institutionalized or otherwise.

 

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of their skin, or their background, or religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”             Nelson Mandela. 

 

 

 

 

 

Identity Politics; That Which Rubber-stamps State Capture In Kenya.

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The shooting to death of Trayvon Martin in Florida (2013) -and the following acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, saw the rise of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter into a movement. And with the subsequent events in 2014, in various states in the US, this movement even grew far and wide. Police brutality and killings, racial profiling and a biased criminal justice system against African Americans -led to dozens of protests. The main aim, to protect the black identity – ‘which was under threat.’ This kind of arrangement was not new to America. About fifty years back, the Black Panther Movement was advocating and protesting against relatively the same kind of issues – vowing to police the Police. A movement that expanded to as far as United Kingdom and Algeria.

A decade before the emergence of the Black Panther Movement in America, freedom fighters in Africa such as Dedan Kimathi were fighting for the independence and respect of the African identity. A revolution that hastened the independence of African Nations.

Throughout history, the politics of identity was not confined to race alone. In the beginning of the 20th Century England, a movement advocating for women’s right to vote emerged. Women will write letters and petitions to the House of Commons -they will deliver speeches, and sometimes, they will engage in civil disobedience. These women came from respected families, and some were very educated. But still, the police will use force on them, arrest them and the magistrates will look at them with stern eyes while sentencing them. This never killed their resolve, as one woman would be on record stating, “I shall never obey any law in the making of which I have no hand; I will not accept the authority of the Court executing those laws; if you send me to jail, I will go, but I shall in no account pay a fine. I will not furnish any security either”  

Identity…………attracts Politics.

Today, the World over, various identities are competing within the Political World. Feminists here, LGBTI there, Youth here and there. Race and Ethnicity still ever present in this matrix -to the extent that individuals from the Arab race will question why some Hollywood production only portray them as terrorists -and would demand to know the intentions of those behind the sponsorship of such productions. Yes, some productions have been linked to America’s CIA, complicating further the politics between America and the Arab World.

Although identity in the past would revolve around oppressed groups challenging the status quo, today’s identities don’t seem to be as solid. Take for instance a youth advocacy group -being financed by powers that keep majority of other youth in poverty and hopelessness -then this advocacy group, will definitely not achieve much -and will collapse as fast.

Worse still, take the ethnic identity in Africa’s Politics.

In 22 days time, Kenya will be heading to the Presidential Election Polls. A number of issues at stake. Very high levels of youth unemployment, high cost of living, less representation of women, youth and PWDs in decision making, Increased inequality between the rich and the poor, Increased corruption practices by Government officials (Both at National and County Government levels) -chocking the environment for self-employment and other opportunities. But still, the identities -such as youth- which are most affected, have already been scattered like sheep without a shepherd. Reason has been switched off, and emotions switched on!

This can be evidenced by the levels of intolerance witnessed few days ago.  Youth -who share an identity (youthfulness, unemployment, poverty, hopelessness) but come from different ethnicity, would disrupt Political rallies organized by opponents of their tribal chiefs.  The good thing is that both President Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga have already come out to condemn such intolerance.

But such scenarios are not unique to Kenya alone. Kenya is only a mirror image of most of African Countries more than fifty years after independence. A closer look at the Political identities in Africa, one will find out that Captors of the State have fashioned a Political religion out of ethnic identity – pitting the poor against the poor, and entrapping them in ignorance.

State Capture in Kenya.  

Towards the end of 2016 in South Africa, the damning State Capture report served as an example in the recent history on the relationship between Constitutional Governments – and shadow governments Where Jacob Zuma, the President, led a Constitutional Government highly influenced by a shadow government run by the Gupta Family. To the extent in which -allegations suggest- the Gupta’s selected cronies for Cabinet positions as well as strategic boards in State enterprises. This, to feed off multi-billion State deals irrespective of whether or not the deals will chock the economy. Take for instance allegation by former ANC MP, Vytjie Mentor who had rejected an offer to Cabinet from the Gupta’s – which, in return, she was to organize for South African airways to cancel it’s India route, to give room for Gupta linked Jet Airways to take the same route.

This best explains how State Capture works. And in Kenya, use of words such as CARTELS- is way to common. Cartels are faceless, but lethal. And they remain the real Captors of the State.

The general populace know this too well. They know that big moneyed politicians are funded by the same, and after assuming office, they bleed the economy dry. But since they are deep inside this political religion fashioned along ethnic identity – they have by choice decided to remain blind and deaf. See no evil, hear no evil. And they are ready to elect, and re-elect, into office their tribal chiefs -who together with the State Captors, will oversee more unemployment, more hopelessness and more poverty. As they and their cronies continue to cut multi-billion deals.

Yes, State Capture is real, and it’s rubber-stamp is ethnic identity politics.

The question remains, will other forms of progressive identities rise above ethnic identity for the sake of Kenya’s development? If yes, when?

 

“A Nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people”  Mahatma Gandhi. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IEBC has no option but to win the trust of Kenyans -as early as yesterday.

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Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their book Why Nations Fail; The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty – start by giving an example of one Society divided by a border. Each side, a contrast of the other. The City of Nogales has Arizona to the North of the border (in the US), while to the South of the Border is Nogales, Sonora (in Mexico). Even though both Arizona and Sonora are composed of high Latino populations -with the same culture, language, traditions, geography and climate,  life across the border is totally different. For instance, the average income of those in Sonora is only a third of those in Arizona.

In trying to explain this difference. That irrespective of geography, climate or culture, they submit that Nations will always rise -or fall- depending on the nature of their Institutions………Institutions……….Institutions.

Kenya, in 2016, experienced demonstrations majorly from the opposition parties to demand the exit of Commissioners at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission IEBC. Questioning the independence -and impartiality, of this electoral body. At one point, Suna East Member of Parliament -Junet Mohamed- would joke that they were not only going to send home 9 commissioners, but 11. The 10th and 11th Commissioners being Adan Duale and Johnson Sakaja of Jubilee party.

Juxtapose then to now!

Even though new Commissioners would later be appointed, they are doing pretty dismally in debunking the perception that they are not that…………well……….independent. From electoral amendment bill passed in parliament, to court appeals, to tendering processes (Still in the Courts)  -and now, to the KPMG report that has started to shape the next political discourse.

Just the other day, IEBC would release platforms for registered voters to confirm their vote details. Stating that it has the most updated and advanced database of persons in the Country. But what happens thereafter; Individuals check their statuses. Some who had registered to transfer their details to a different station of their choice, have not been transferred. Those who tried details of their deceased loved ones, find their details still intact in the register. And the icing on this cake, random numbers giving back names of registered persons. Random numbers such as 0, 20 among others.

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This, after IEBC has indicated that it has the most updated and advanced database of persons in the Country. IEBC would go ahead to term this as just misinformation on social media.

It would be very sad if this is reduced to a mere ping pong between NASA and Jubilee diehards. Why -because majority of Kenyans tested this, whether they subscribe to these two big Political formations or not. So IEBC, in the next coming days, should address this issue as succinctly as possible -because it cannot merely wish it away. Whether by making public the full KPMG audit report, publishing the full list of registered voters details -per polling station et cetera.

Look at these scenarios for instance, according to the Media Release Report on Audit of the Register of Voters dated June 9th, 2017 –  the areas covered by the audit would include among others;

  •  Review the process of identifying and and removing deceased voters from the register of voters.
  • Access the accuracy of the register of voters in terms of completeness of the details of voters data, missing of voter details (Biometrics) to the voter.

To add to this, among the recommendations and feedback from stakeholder engagement was the need to communicate the result of the audit to the public and for the commission to be accountable to the public to all the changes made to the register arising from the audit.

Still on this  11 page media release on the audit, the audit recommended that IEBC ensures that it has the systems, capacity, and CHARACTER that will enable it assert its independence.

Going forward therefore, IEBC has to put its act together and assume the needed CHARACTER. Burying its head in the sand on the high levels of mistrust in Politics is simply nearsightedness. And should seek, to a great extent, to appear to uphold sacredly it’s Vision; “A credible electoral management body committed to strengthen democracy in Kenya”. and it’s Mission; “To conduct free and fair elections and to institutionalize a sustainable electoral process.” 

IEBC has to win the TRUST of Kenyans, asap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Credibility be Sacrificed at the Altar of Peace?

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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.