Saturday, 30 June 2012

Why We Need Direct Democracy

Why We Need Direct Democracy
The problem with liberation movements is also the reason they must occur, namely a singular common enemy of a democratic government founded by the people and for the people. Kenya’s liberation movements found a common enemy in Moi and his regime which stifled the principles of democratic choice and governance. When Moi repealed section 2 (a) of the previous constitution to allow for multi-party democracy it was seen as the second liberation. Liberty to freely form associations and political parties, liberty to run for public office in opposition to state officials and the state party, liberty to segment and sectionalize the electorate who now were spoilt for choice.
But alas, the second liberation did not result in institutional democracy founded on ideologies and principles of good governance. And so, in 1992, and 1997, the state party repeatedly emerged victorious in the elections. Granted, the electoral process itself was heavily flawed with rigging. Not to mention a judiciary that failed to deliver justice on election petitions. Still, the matter of not having a sound ideology in governance and leadership and having only one objective i.e. remove a stifling dictatorial regime from power can be said to have been the real curtailing factor that led to the failings of opposition politics of the time.
By 2002, the liberation movement and its proponents had somehow found a way to work together, united in their quest to rid Kenya of their common enemy Moi. “Yote Yawezekana bila Moi” was the rallying call, giving hope to the masses that without this single person, democracy and good governance would reign in Kenya. Alas, that was not to be proven true. Almost immediately after winning the elections, the new regime split apart politically due to dishonored MOUs, and power wrangles over ministries. One cannot truly trace where the fault lay, as the government was opposed from within and supported from without; Uhuru Kenyatta became the leader of the official opposition that in fact supported President Mwai Kibaki’s reforms!

The third liberation was to arrive via a new constitution, a document that had been promised to be delivered within the first 100 days of the new government, but sadly arrived nearly 8 years later. Once again, in 2007, the rallying factor for the opposition was to remove their common enemy from power. There really was no other solid ideology stemming from the political campaigns other than to demonize and to paint the regime of the day in a dark manner. The result was excessiveness in negatives extending to even the communities that leaders came from; Tribalism took on new dimensions. The post election violence of 2007/08 was the metamorphic ogre of criminal democracy.
Criminal democracy is the state in which people have the liberty to even rob, rape, maim and kill because they have democratic freedom, in the name of exercising that freedom over and above the freedom and rights of others. It is the result of a continued and sustained ideology of liberation movements, and liberation movements and the culture of exiting a common enemy are directly converse to constitutional and institutional democracy.
Despite the 3 or is it 4 liberation movements Kenya has undergone, at the level of policy and governance, nothing has changed. Liberation movements do not institute reforms, they do not create policy to curb and put an end to corruption, they do not create a national state of security where democracy can thrive.
What liberation movements do, is just remove people from power, they do not give power to the people. Constitutional democracy is what gives power to the people, real power, to determine how they are to be governed and served by their elected representatives.
It’s clear what the end result is, of a liberation movement that does not transform into constitutional democracy. No matter how many times we change our leaders, the same ills of corruption and impunity hamper our progress as a nation.
The politics in Kenya are so stagnant in ideology, that despite us having multi-party democracy for almost 20 years, we still have no institutional democracy; we still grapple with a lack of concise policy as regards governance. But because we have the democratic space to do so, we resort to demonstrations and industrial protests in order to be heard.
The only way to make the much needed transition, from liberation movements to constitutional democracy, is by direct democracy acted by citizens. Direct democracy, demands that citizens themselves, take responsibility for how things are run in government, actively participating in policy creation and making sure that the ideology of the day is not politics of personality and ousting a common enemy, but is rooted in sound principles of good governance.
Direct democracy is about ignoring the noise generated by politics of personality, and demanding ideologies that are practical and focused on the running of the state. Direct democracy is about taking individual initiative to self-educate on civic matters, and to go a step further and educate others as well. Direct democracy is about taking into consideration the concerns of all members of the state, even as you agitate for your own interests. Direct democracy is inclusive politics, where the opinions, needs and values of others are as important to discourse and leadership as your own. Direct democracy, creates a state, that is stable, that has equity in distribution of resources, and whose economy is not destabilized by an election.
The real losers in Kenya’s elections thus far have been the citizens because of a lack of direct democracy. I can only say that for things to really change in Kenya from poor governance to good governance, from a failed state to a performing state, from a state of insecurity to a robust and stable economy, the people must endeavor to participate in the running of their country. The new Kenyan constitution has provided several opportunities to do. Isn’t it time, Kenyans took its tenets and implementation to heart?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Rogue MPs strike again!

Rogue MPs strike again!
On Wednesday 20th June, with a slim quorum no less, parliament passed several amendments to The Statute Law (amendment) Bill 2012, set to be turned into law in Kenya. The most outrageous and notorious of these amendments included an amendment to section 22 of the Elections Act 2011, which allowed for the academic qualifications of aspirants to elective posts to be basic education and not a university or college degree. Thankfully, this particular amendment was deleted the next day during the session of the Committee of The Whole House. Kenyans are still outraged, but like placated natives, full of “primitive energy”, we are satisfied that with the miracle of college education, impunity will die.

Still, a more concerning amendment was passed by parliament on that night. This particular amendment affected the Political Parties Act, a law that is meant to govern the conduct of political parties in Kenya and their members. The amendment in turn allowed for sitting members of parliament who for various political reasons have abandoned the party vehicle that elected them into parliament, to retain their current seats until after the first general elections held after commencement of the Act.

Let’s not rant and rage at parliament for making the amendment; as the Attorney General generously stated on Friday 22nd June – Parliament was doing what it was meant to do and that is pass legislation. I will be even more generous and say that I admire the swift and egregious manner in which obviously self-serving amendments are passed in parliament. The only amendments passed faster this year involved increased remunerations to Members of Parliament, backdated to 2006. Notably, both amendments were not only unconstitutional but clearly went against the express interests of Kenyans.

Let’s face it, when it comes to self-serving legislators, Kenya is blessed with the best of the lot. The crème de la crème of the most selfish, shortsighted, and ultimately greedy sort the world has to offer. We know they are this way, and we love them as such, which is why repeatedly and routinely, every 5 years, we elect them.

Perhaps it would serve me a sense of civic duty to curtly inform Kenyans that such amendments that directly serve the interests of sitting members of parliament are unconstitutional for the very fact that the essential role of parliament as stipulated in article 94 is to legislate in the interests of the people of Kenya from whom the legislative authority of the republic is derived. That means that when they pass amendments they should rightly act in the interests of the people of Kenya and not their own. Is the amendment to enact the strict guidelines of party membership vis a vis party-hopping after the next general elections in the interest of the people? Certainly not.

Let’s pray the President reacts in favor of public outcry and declines to assent to this amendment. Let’s pray the Attorney-General in his capacity as an ex-officio member of parliament, can come back and present the unconstitutionality of the amendment to the MPs in a language that they can understand and respond to lawfully. Let’s pray that they speedily recollect the supremacy of the constitution and delete the amendment forthwith. Come on, let’s pray for a miracle!

Naturally, I am a pessimist when it comes to leadership in Kenya. I have come to be convinced that unless the general public and the civil society in Kenya sit with the charged and electrified cattle prong of threatened protests, litigation and demonstrations, Kenya’s legislators will undoubtedly whittle away at the laws of this country mainly for their own benefit until there is nothing left.

Could it be that the constitutional mandate of Parliament is so vastly complex that it is utterly incomprehensible to the MPs? Is the idea of being elected to Parliament in order to serve the interests of Kenyans so ethereal, so other worldly weird that it simply cannot register as logical to these leaders? Could it be that in reality, despite Parliament boasting many lawyers, professors, engineers and all sorts of elite members of the Kenyan upper class, none of them can read and understand the constitution of Kenya?

As they continue fiddling, diddling and snipping away at laws in the dead of night in the August House, primarily to suit their own interests, we Kenyans slumber away, dreaming of all the miracles that will happen because we have a new constitution. It’s because we think that one vote, once every 5 years, will bring the much desired change to Kenya. In amending the political parties Act 2011, to give a somewhat grace period to party-hopping sitting MPs until after the next general elections, parliament put the whole country into a legal time warp where “poof!” The events of August 27th 2010 did not happen and MPs are still allowed to jump from one political party to another and another and another, as often as they change their shirts.

Kenyans, we say we want change, well here is the change. MPs change the law, change bills, and make amendments; all of that is change. Not for your benefit of course. Maybe next time you choose to vote and do nothing else, in your prayer for a miraculous change, you could be more specific and tell your personal deity, that you want “Change in the best interests of Kenyans”.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Doctors Turn Activists for better Healthcare

Doctors Turn Activists for better Healthcare

It’s become the sort of thing you’d expect in a third world nation  in any other part of the world, and it’s found right here in Kenya. Doctors; the very elite of our society, having to resort to industrial action in order to get the minimum respect and wages that they deserve.
It took an uphill effort to get Kenya Medical Practitioners’ Pharmacists and Dentists trade Union (KMPDU) registered and recognized by the Kenya Government, in particular the Ministry of Medical Services. KMPDU sensationally came into the media limelight after the Nation’s first countrywide doctor’s strike, an industrial action that brought to attention the dire state of the health-care system in Kenya.  Dubbed “Linda Afya” the Doctor’s strike revealed the sheer arrogance and lax attitude of not just the Minister for Medical services, but the government and hospital administrations in general. It took the biting strike nearly 3 weeks for any sort of workable agreement with the government to happen.
During that time, Doctors were blamed for the deaths that occurred in hospitals across the country, they were also blamed for a lack of medical services.  Some even went as far as to label them greedy and only interested in their own pay. No one, during this time, recognized that our doctors were overworked when expected to do over 40 hour shifts and could not possibly be held responsible for deaths occurring due to an abject lack of resources.
KMPDU is once again in the headlines, with a strike threat at Gertrude’s Childrens hospital looming. KMPDU allege that Gertrude’s management  had refused to allow its doctors to join the union, and in addition had changed the contract and terms of agreement of a pregnant doctor such that the doctor’s contract would end when she was due to deliver.
It seems that we have reached a place where the world’s most respected profession is forced to become picketers in order to receive the least amount of consideration. KMPDU was formed in recognition of the rights and freedoms of Doctors as a profession as enshrined in the Kenya constitution, and it seems just in time to bring revolution to the medical industry.
We’ve reached a point in our nation’s history, where we treat doctors as little more than orderlies. There really is no respect, no acknowledgment and no consideration for doctors in Kenya, and this utter disregard for Doctors in turn results in a health-care system that can only be said to be on its death bed.
Not a single institution in Kenya has shown regard for the doctors of this nation. Not only are they over worked, they are also underpaid, and they are forced to practice medicine in abysmal conditions with almost no resources. Any other pregnant professional would receive a 3 month paid maternity leave and be able to return to her work without losing her job.
Doctors spend 7 years in basic education, another 3 years in masters’ courses, and innumerable years in practice only to be forced to hit the streets whenever they need to be heard because Kenya’s hospitals and government choose to stubbornly ignore the pressing issues that concern doctors. We subject the smartest, most intelligent members of our society, in whom we put the obligation of saving and maintaining our very lives to wretched humiliation.  It’s as arrogant and as stupid as insulting the chef just before ordering your food.
Malawi’s late President is the best caricature for how such arrogance ultimately is fated. Bingu wa Mutharika’s government not only spent almost nothing on the health-care system of Malawi, the hospitals of Malawi were ridiculously understaffed and under resourced. It’s no secret that a large majority of Malawi’s doctors had become exiles abroad, leaving in droves in order to seek better places for practice and livelihood.
When Bingu Wa Mutharika suddenly had a Myocardial Infarction or rather a cardiac arrest he was rushed to the nearest hospital, which happened to be a government run facility. Never mind the unnecessary and rather comical drama his presidential guard created in the ICU by shoving aside patients and pointing guns at the comatose. The poor doctors at the time knew that his Excellency was clinically dead, but made one last attempt to save his life, and resuscitate him and sent for Adrenaline from a facility one hour away. Note, they had to send for it, as the hospital itself had no such resources. Bingu Wa Mutharika, a whole president, thus died, helplessly, haplessly and ridiculously of his own undoing because his attitude and his government’s attitude towards healthcare was one of utter arrogance and negligence.
The moral of that story is this: in the case of a Myocardial Infarction you only have about 3 minutes to get medical attention before brain damage occurs. At that point, it does not matter how rich you are, or how high up in government or business you are. All that will matter is how quickly you can get to a hospital that has the doctors and resources you need to save your life. Isn’t it time we made sure that these highly equipped hospitals and their well trained and well resourced doctors are everywhere? Doctors’ strikes ultimately are not just about their needs but our own.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

War on Terrorism: Romantic Fantasy meets Gruesome Reality in Kenya’s shopping malls.

It’s been almost 9 months since Operation Linda Nchi began, when Kenya Defense Forces began an incursion into Somalia with the aim of defeating and depleting Al-Shabaab, a terror group that had repeatedly infringed on Kenya’s territorial integrity.
“Linda Nchi” a Swahili term for ‘protect the country’, apparently was coined and strategized months prior to its execution, according to the government spokesperson, Dr. Alfred Mutua.  What was planned months earlier, was activated on the pretext, or rather reason, that two foreign aid workers were abducted by Al-Shabaab in Northern Kenya.
Never mind that for months prior to the kidnappings of foreigners within Kenyan territory, our borders were being flagrantly and arrogantly crossed by the same militia, killing Kenyan citizens and stealing livestock. Indeed, prior to the kidnappings that set off an international military response led by Kenya, the Transitional Somali Government, Ethiopia and as The Guardian reported, “several sources agreed, with input from western partners, including the US and to a lesser extent France"; several Kenyans had already died at the hands of Al-Shabaab.
For some reason, Kenya seems to have a national security policy that does not involve the national security or personal and human security of its Citizens. Perhaps the problem is bureaucratic; it takes forever for the wheels of Kenyan government office to record, register and react to terrorist acts on citizens, where as the response time for tourist deaths is fuelled by the diplomatic quagmire created when a foreign citizen from a western partner state is kidnapped. Being a foreigner in Kenya, from a European or Northern American state, is like lighting a fire under each government official’s bottom, wherever you go, you will get a response.
That certainly seems to be the attitude displayed by the National Security Forces. Since KDF’s incursion into Somalia, and their reported successes in different towns within Somalia, there has been a concurrent lack of success in protecting the lives of Kenyans at home. Indeed, the death toll from grenade and bomb launches, some so crude that the perpetrator apparently strolled away, is just alarming. We are not safe, as last week’s bomb explosion in the Central Business District of Nairobi showed us.
Here is the painful reality for the ordinary Kenyan. After witnessing the debacle of information dissemination from top leaders of the Ministry for Internal Security, that includes the Minister for Internal Security being reluctant to state what is going on, his police commissioner hazarding a ridiculous guess at electrical faulting and his police spokesperson finally, and hours later giving a more coherent statement, we can only conclude one thing: They were caught unawares. Like a deer in the headlights of a speeding 2 ton truck, their wide eyes and bureaucratic stammers left us all assured that soon and very soon, we shall have to face being attacked by grenade in yet another bar, shopping mall or bus. This was proven barely 48 hours later, by a bombing at a business in northern Kenya.
Now, how can a government, so strategic, so forewarned, so prepared as to launch “Linda Nchi”; a government so capable as to consistently gain ground, to consistently send home reports of valiant glories and of how the Somali people openly embrace them for their liberation, kindness and consideration; how can such a government so utterly fail to protect a miserable 264 square miles that consists of the Capital City, the Seat of Government, and the main economic hub for Kenya and possibly East Africa?
I can only postulate this hypotheses:  that the Kenyans whose lives are currently at stake are not prominent enough to elicit an outraged and sustained response from the Civil Society, the Business Community and certainly have received no consideration whatsoever from their elected representatives, other than help with hospital and funeral expenses. The life of the Kenyan who goes shopping in Nairobi’s CBD, is THAT valueless.
Lest we get caught up in the political furor created by opportunistic leaders who are quick to issue emotional and non-factual statements that dare the “terrorists” to face Kenyans, whose  ”spirits will not die.” Reality is, our spirits will die, alongside our blown up and burnt bodies and our destroyed livelihoods.
It’s our constitutional right to be protected. It’s our right to be safe, to count on the National Security Forces to protect vigilantly our lives and property.  It is a complete disregard for the tenets of our constitution that causes this nations leaders, and security apparatus to take so lightly such a serious matter as the physical safety of its citizens. It is no excuse to point at a lack of resources, if money was found to enter Somalia, and money has been found to pay Members of parliament exorbitant salaries and remunerations then money can be found to purchase enough resources for the Internal security forces. It is an insult to our very identity as Kenyans for foreigners kidnapped (Just two of them, mark you) to be pursued so vigorously by KDF to the point of their release, only for our businesses in the heart of our nation’s capital to be blown to smithereens alongside ourselves. The explosion on Moi Avenue was reality, meeting the romanticized in Kenya’s National security policy.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Pwani Si Kenya?! Where is it then?

MRC’s calls of secession completely illegal

“Pwani Si Kenya” is a call that first made its debut during the violent clashes at the coast in 1997. At the time, people perceived to be from “bara” or upcountry were targeted, attacked, raped and looted by criminals under the pretext that the “wabara” were responsible for the underdevelopment and socio-economic challenges faced by people at the coast.

The repeat attacks on Kenyans from upcountry in the 2007/08 post election violence saw a resurgence of a more vocal and certainly more violent call to secede by certain members of the coast community. It is from this violent background that the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) emerged, with its now famous slogan, “Pwani Si Kenya.”

The MRC’s basis for secession is claims to historical injustices, land rights issues, and matters of control of the port at Mombasa. Much as those claims may have a legitimate founding in the need to address the concerns of the people of the coast, MRC has chosen a path that is in no way acceptable to the Nation of Kenya.

Firstly, the desire to secede contravenes the Supreme law of Kenya and is an assault on the integrity of the Nation as a whole. Article 2 emphasizes the supremacy of the constitution, “2 (1) – This Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic and binds all persons and all State organs at both levels of government.”

The claim, “Pwani Si Kenya” further assaults the tenets of the Kenya Constitution as regards the Territory of Kenya, which states – “Kenya consists of the territory and territorial waters comprising Kenya on the effective date, and any additional territory and territorial waters as defined by an Act of Parliament.”

MRC’s claims over the land and territory of the coast are not just an assault on the Constitution of Kenya but also an assault on the rights of every Kenyan citizen. Article 61 (1) is clear – “All land in Kenya belongs to the people of Kenya collectively as a nation, as communities and as individuals.”

Secondly, no claim to historical injustices is unique in Kenya. Were all groups claiming historical injustices to turn to secession as an option, Kenya would disintegrate into a lawless land of clan warlords, much like Somalia. The Constitution again provides mechanisms to address such claims of historical land injustices in the National Land Commission. Article 67 (e) confirms this function of the National Land Commission – “to initiate investigations, on its own initiative or on a complaint, into present or historical land injustices and recommend appropriate redress.”

Thirdly, the claims of historical injustices among others by the MRC already have a platform where they can be addressed in the form of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. Have the MRC and its supporters made any effort to approach these already available platforms for their concerns to be addressed? I propose that the TJRC has its term extended even further to ensure that such claims can be truly presented.

Members of MRC and their supporters in essence do not cease to be Kenyan Citizens by breaking the law or making declarations of secession. Indeed, it is a rather ridiculous stand to take, when only 2 years ago; Kenyan citizens across the country went to referendum to vote in the Constitution. By that one democratic act, those members of the coast community claiming “Pwani Si Kenya” endorsed the Supremacy of the Constitution to govern them as part of the Territory of Kenya whether they voted or not. Subsequent acts of violence intended to disrupt the activities of the IEBC in the electoral process at the coast, is not only disingenuous, it’s criminal and should be dealt with as such. Certainly we cannot have people in this country attacking fellow citizens because of “historical injustices”, that is utter lunacy.

President Mwai Kibaki was astutely correct in proscribing the MRC. Neither should he or any other political aspirant attempt to engage MRC in any sort of discussions concerning their claims, such overtures in themselves are a treacherous act towards the nation of Kenya. We cannot, in any way, entertain any individual or group that attempts to subvert the supremacy of the constitution of Kenya, or the integrity of our national territory for any reason whatsoever, legitimate claims or not. Indeed, in Kenya, such traitors should be incarcerated without question. In other countries, traitors are shot.

If the MRC were genuine in their cause to seek a correction of historical injustices meted upon them, as well as their claim to secession, they should begin their litigation process by going to the International Court of Justice and suing the British Government, just as the Mau Mau Veterans Association have gone to the Royal Courts of Justice and sued the British Government. I believe the MRC would lose such a case anyway, as the Mau Mau Veterans are suing the British government for war crimes sanctioned under the various Geneva Conventions, while MRC has no actionable cause.

As it stands, in the interest of National Security, MRC is an outlawed group, whose activities should not only be closely monitored, but they should face the law, and be made accountable for crimes they have committed.