Saturday, 27 April 2013

Political appointments perpetuate disservice in the Health Sector

For 50 long years Kenya’s health sector has been struggling along nearing death. For 50 years Kenya’s Ministry of Health has had all sorts of political appointees as Ministers all of whom save Prof. Sam Ongeri were lacking the necessary background in the health service. 

Barely one month into the new dispensation and the Jubilee government makes a political appointment that is simply a throwback to the 1980s when Ministers barely needed ANY qualifications to head a particular ministry. Some were not even educated.

I am sure James Macharia is an excellent banker and his qualifications in the finance sector leave you wondering why the horse trading that goes on politically could not find a better appointment for someone with such great qualifications for Finance. Here is what really happened – Jubilee had to come to an agreement on which party gets the finance docket, qualifications of the appointee notwithstanding. Poor James Macharia, having been promised an appointment nonetheless gets the health docket as a compromise.

There is nothing more evil then the ridiculous way in which our lives are compromised by politicians. Lest we forget the promises made only 3 months ago as concerns cabinet secretaries and the provisions of the constitution that those appointees should indeed be adequately suited to that particular post.
It was part of their political campaign pledge to Kenyans that the Jubilee government would take such appointments seriously enough to nominate the appropriately qualified persons to the right dockets. It’s also a part of the constitutional requirements that these people are aptly suited to the ministries they head.

So when a political compromise is reached, to the detriment of an entire sector it is the rankest and vilest propaganda to then have minions declare that doctors are not the only ones capable of running the health ministry when those doctors rightly raised alarm.

To claim that administration of the health sector is something anyone can do is utter gibberish. 50 years of letting anyone run the health sector has resulted in deplorable conditions and only a miserable 2300 government doctors available for 40 million people!

Look at the madness of an argument that in one instance declares that anyone can do the job not necessarily a doctor and in the same vein acknowledges that there would indeed be great need for consultancy with doctors! Its utter nonsense to justify putting a person as head of a ministry when he is so incapable of functioning that he would automatically require a host of the very doctors you refuse to head the ministry.

It’s a common fallacy by the way, that made the rounds on social media this week that Michuki was not a transporter but was able to fix the transport industry. Firstly Michuki was indeed a transporter having vast interests in the transport industry; secondly and more importantly health sector deals with people and not vehicles. Thirdly, what was fixed?

Even the notion of comparing Kenya with a first world nation like Germany to justify not appointing an appropriately qualified doctor displays the level of ridiculous excuses. Kenya is in no way anything like Germany, Kenya’s health sector is not only grossly mismanaged it is ridiculously underfunded. If we are to compare how Kenya’s health sector is run verses Germany’s then we would at the very least pay our medics a comparable salary and give them comparable resources and working conditions.

It is an international practice not to appoint as head the very medic that would be appropriate for such a job and the increasing reality is that those heads are not as competent in handling the sector as a medic would be resulting in a nation like the US having failures in its healthcare sector despite having the resources available. This is true in the reality that unless you have the right kind of insurance you will not receive medical attention in the US. Indeed the US is way behind even Cuba in terms of public health service.

A reasonable mind would instead compare Kenya’s failing health sector with a successful one like Singapore’s. Incidentally, the health minister is a doctor! Why Singapore? 50 years ago, Singapore and Kenya were at the same level in independence, political transition and development. Isn’t it just common sense to look at what they have been able to achieve and how they achieved it?

Of all the myriad excuses made this week, the most ridiculous has to be that doctors are not managers and running a ministry is not about treating patients. Firstly, doctors are indeed managers; they are managers of healthcare, of systems and of policies. Senior professionals have more than an MD they also have MBAs and further education tailor-made to suit the management of a healthcare organization. It is very insulting to insinuate that of all the brilliant minds in this country there was not one that was found suitable for the job.

Our healthcare sector needs a radical and drastic change immediately and there is nothing radical in appointing a non medic and yet for 50 years that is what has been going on with the results that we have today. There is no real justification for the Jubilee government to usurp their own pledges and the foundations of the constitution in making clearly inappropriate appointments.

As for those who argue that management of an entire health sector can be done by anybody so long as the person has the doctors to help him run the show – this circular reasoning is why stupid had a head start in Kenya and is winning the race.

The Love Blunder of the Supreme Court

Marriage, in my view, is one of those traditions that can best be described as a truly awful charade based on skewed horse-trading. Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep respect for married couples and their union; one that is borne out of real fear for their mental health, yes, but a respect nonetheless.  I even find the commercial wedding shows on television mildly entertaining, even if it’s from a sadistic view point. But really, the bottom line is that marriages is one of those decisions people make, and then later find justification for it.

What could possibly be wrong with such a formula you ask? Well it’s simple.  A rational, logical and sensible decision is part of a THINKING process; one that involves weighing and discarding the merits and demerits of the situation presented, comparing all possible outcomes and naturally discarding fallacious reasoning. A rational decision is based on factual evidence, and precedents that are applicable. A rational decision applies logical and established processes to come to a final conclusion. 

A decision to get married is rarely based on logic. In fact, if people were rational about marriage, no one would get married. When people decide to get married they make an emotional decision first, stick to their decision, and then later find justification for their emotional decisions. Even years later, when the emotions have run dry or changed, the justification is the sole comforting factor that married couples can always lean on.

Making a decision, an unanimous one, and then seeking justification for it, is an indication that a lack of rationale was behind that decision making.  When the Supreme Court came back with a 6-0 bench decision on the presidential petition filed by Raila Odinga in late March, and with no further statement on how they came to such a ruling, it was a chilling indicator that a jurical rationale may actually be missing from their ruling.

So when their ruling was released to the public this week, filled with logical fallacies I was not really surprised. After all, what happened in late March was an announcement of an engagement – you ever see a couple together and think what does HE see in HER? Or vice versa?  The announcement in March had that same dumbfounding effect on all of us.

I personally was stunned. Well, not so much stunned as shocked at the unanimity of the decision. Of course I could see the early trend and tendency in the Chief Justice to be a judicial toddler unaware of his responsibilities to the nation and incapable of comprehending the law remotely well enough to even be considered a jurist. That has always been the case since Dr. Willy Mutunga announced cheerily that his earring helps him communicate with his gods during the vetting by the CIOC.

What shocked me is that somehow, we actually appointed 5 other judges with the same infantile approach to judicial matters!

This explains the blank stares and absent smiles on their faces during the hearing of the petitions. I thought they were as bored as I was listening to the redundant overtures of false humility rent by Kethi Kilonzo; “My lords, I humbly this, I humbly that.”

But no, it was not sweet Kethi’s court room mannerisms that were getting to the bench. They had blank stares on their faces because there is a blank space behind those eyes.
This click of 6 judicial tots, not a single jurist between them, went into a boardroom and made a decision to uphold the results of the election, having applied neither rationale nor legal basis and then 2 weeks later, having taken the time to dig up some storyline, present what can only be described as a “justificatory assent.” 

A legal acquaintance, Emmanuel Essaidah, put it best – “My favorite legal scholar, Ronald Dworkin, in his book, ‘Justice in Robes’ describes the problem of “justificatory assent”  as the realization that a principle we are relying on is ‘inconsistent with…some other principle that we must rely on to justify some other and larger part of the law’. You can see this particular problem loom large all over the Supreme Court judgment. The Judges claim to recognize that an election case isn’t a criminal case, yet they realize they must rely on a criminal standard of proof (proof beyond reasonable doubt) to achieve a pre-conceived result. They claim that transparency is crucial, yet they rely on the principle of discretion to afford the IEBC the right to do things behind closed doors. Go figure.”

Are you as baffled as I am at this? Where did we go wrong, pray tell, as a nation such that we can churn out such skewed minds and put them in such seats of power as the Supreme Court?

What an awful charade this Supreme Court has become, a place where justice is swept neatly under reasonably good English yet ridiculous references to totally irrelevant cases from the Nigerian Supreme Court.

I guess some 6 people are in love or something, there is no other way to explain the lack of judicial rationale in their ruling. It’s obvious that the unanimous decision in March was a pre-conceived outcome, that had little basis on the law, and then 2 weeks later the ruling is forced to express itself in the most fallacious manner, causing even the least developed legal mind to be completely irritated. 

Just like the awful marriage idea that some people get in their youth, 10 years of wedded hell and 3 children later at their anniversary, the couple smiles banally at their guests and behind those blank faces is a blank mind that repeatedly screams “I hate this person!”; we as a republic will surely find ourselves regretting, in fact deeply regretting this Supreme Court ruling for the precedent it has set.

How NOT To Govern A State

A struggling business recently underwent a strategic make over. First, the badly needed funds were pumped into the business so that structural investments were made. Then the recruitment of employees began; a head hunting exercise that saw a mass exodus into the firm. Then finally the grand launch of the new and improved business happened. Everything was going to be so good and so successful.

But the business owners made one fundamental mistake. When hiring the new employees they agreed to pay ridiculously high salaries based on yet to be created output! Needless to say, the wage bill was running in the millions, and yet none of the new employees had generated a single million. Soon it became clear: the employees were the core reason the business could not operate successfully because a handful of people were being paid the bulk of the companies dwindling resources. What should the C.E.O of that company do?

Its simple. He needs to slash their salaries and cap it firmly until the business gets back up and healthy. The CEO also needs to fire the unproductive people on his pay roll.
This is the same SIMPLE formula we need to apply to governing our country. Kenya is just like that business, failing, lagging behind, bottom feeding and barely developing as fast as Rwanda. Kenya, despite her potential has had the wrong sort of employees for too long. Whenever we go to an election we hire what we imagine to be the best representatives and leaders only for these employees to drain our resources in their salaries and allowances while they produce absolutely nothing that can help sustain their nation in terms of legislature or governing policy.

So what the president and CEO of Kenya needs to do is pass a law that dramatically slashes the salaries of these elected representatives and caps it finally in law and policy so that they can never adjust the law again to suit their own interests.
Its only because we had a lack of political will from the previous Presidency and executive arm of government that these legislators can even dream of passing new laws which will increase their salaries even BEFORE beginning their tenure! Only a thieving and robbing employee does such a thing, to reward himself before he has even begun to work, and such employees rightly should be sent packing.

I’d love to give these newly elected officials a chance. I’d love to let them show their leadership skills. But alas they have no such potential talent. It’s clear why they even ran for office, they had the intention of reaping nay RAPING our treasury.
It’s an evolution that has somehow become acceptable in Kenya. That one will run for political office in order to reward himself heftily at the expense of taxpayers. Clearly it is the only driving factor for some; there is even the suggestion that some MPs could step down for Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka in exchange for a huge sum comparable to the salaries they would have gotten for their tenure.

As lewd and as utterly hypocritical as that may be, the shocking part is how the constituents have reacted to such a proposal. They agree! Make no mistake, to sell off your elective post to ANYONE is sheer prostitution, unconstitutional and undemocratic, whether the electorate that voted you in agrees with you or not.

Surely we do indeed have the leaders that are an exact reflection of ourselves. No wonder this nation cannot grow nor move forward and no wonder our elected leaders will raid and plunder the national coffers because each one of us would do the exact same in that position.

Our Mps, Senators, Governors and County representatives are as devoid of scruples, principles or fundamental character as we are; they are as psychopathic as the person right next to you.
While it has been clear that we do indeed need more psychiatrists in this country, it would be a daunting task to try and treat over 12 million voters for whatever ails their miniscule minds. It’s far easier for the President to simply slash the salaries of these elected officials and cap it off by law such that the money hungry potential prostitutes can forever be deterred from seeking elective office because it would no longer be lucrative.

Maybe then, just maybe, we would have sifted out the myriad psychopaths and find one or two true and genuine employees of the republic and servants of the people. I can only dream of such.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Truth About Our Ethnicity

Around 1902 or thereabouts, a colonial researcher wrote a thesis on the Ogiek people of Mount Elgon. He noted that linguistically, the Ogiek shared words with the Kalenjin people. But he was quite stumped as to where certain words came from as he could not identify them. It was only until recently when archaeologist Dr. Freda Nkirote M’mbogori took a look at the research that she observed that the unidentified words were actually Meru words.

The real meaning behind this finding is twofold. Firstly, that the Ogiek people at one point lived among the Meru people on the slopes of Mount Kenya and since then had migrated eastwards to Mount Elgon. The second crucial factor is this: that the Ogiek people most certainly acquired the words and integrated them into their language because of a consistent interaction between the Ogiek and Meru people. 

Why is this significant? The point is this. There is no single Kenyan ethnic group that can honestly call themselves a pure bloodline. Our forefathers consistently interacted and intermarried with other groups of people, they also migrated all the time such that we also cannot declare that certain parts of this country only belong to certain communities.

You know this, and so do I. It’s time to grow up. The only distinguishing factor in Kenya is our LANGUAGES. As I have demonstrated, even the languages are so intermixed that one cannot use that to segregate himself from other Kenyans.

Another interesting fact. Nearly 80% percent of the Kenyan communities circumcise as part of their cultural practices. All circumcision is inherently a Cushitic practice. That means all ethnic communities that circumcise either male or both male and females had at one point deeply interacted with Cushitic people. 

We share language, we share words, we share cultural practices and we even share societal structures. The age set system for example is shared by ethnic communities, all communities using the exact same name or variants of that name. So that is why you will find Maina among the kikuyu, and Maina among the Kalenjin and Maina among the Maasai.

There is no way to tell the difference between us. We actually have much more in common than we have differences. So when we latch onto ONE thing, just ONE simple thing called language and use that to polarize the entire country that just tells us how primitive our society has become.

100 years ago in the place now called Kenya, if you told your great, great grandfather that one day we would have peaceful elections but hatred that is this intense, he would have been amazed. Kenya is a land of bigots and ignorant racists.

The hatred that we are spewing all over the internet, all over the country in our homes, workplaces and schools is such intense poison it will surely disintegrate our social fabric. The saddest part is how we were raised to look at our fellow citizens through hateful eyes and are now raising a new generation that will hate each other even more than ever.

When a school play is banned from the nationals for alleged hate speech, and yet it passed the district and provincial levels, then the education officials behind the ban are entrenching their own bigotry and affecting our children directly. 

The ban was a throwback to the 1980s when Moi banned just about everything worth watching or reading in Kenya. We surely cannot have become such fascists overnight. If this trend keeps up even free speakers like me will soon be banned. Soon after that, free thinking will be banned and after that thinking at all will be a crime.

I keep saying there is no such word like “Tribalism” in the English language. This is politician speak for “everyone else”. What we have in Kenya is open racism and bigotry. Just like the race struggle between black and whites in the US; in Kenya our own tribal struggle is venomous and an offence to all our civil and human rights. 

We all are multi-lingual, capable of speaking our vernacular as well as the two national languages, English and Kiswahili. We have so much in common; a common ancestry, a common history and even common cultural practices and words. But that one small thing that we are using to separate us, our languages and ethnicity, which we are rather ignorant about, is the one thing that will suffer the most if we keep up this hatred.

I am saying that, if we continue separating ourselves ethnically, our own ethnicities will suffer greatly. This is because we need each other in order to survive and in order to thrive. Why did our forefathers intermarry and interact so intensively? It is because they needed to survive and to thrive. No ethnic community can grow on its own even in such “modern” times. We need each other to sustain and enhance our economy, to protect our heritage and environment and to provide for our nation. It’s very obvious, even to a child, but we teach our children to hate the butcher because he is kikuyu but to love the meat. To hate the pastoralist who is Somali but to love the meat. To eat the fish because it’s good for you but to hate the fisherman who is Luo.

We teach our children absurdities, because we choose to be absurd bigots. That is the truth about our ethnicity.