Saturday, 30 November 2013

We are over represented!

If Machakos County is anything to go by then we surely don’t need Members of the County Assembly. Governor Alfred Mutua is certainly on the right track and has devoted much time and energy in reviving the County with several significant gains, despite the MCAs adjourning their sittings indefinitely in September to push for a higher pay. If he achieved all that while they absconded duty, imagine how much more he can achieve if we relieved him of the burden of dealing with them?

The MCAs have followed the same script perpetrated by the National Assembly and that is to demand a higher pay immediately they were sworn in. The deal they have currently arm twisted the Salaries and Remuneration Commission into giving them now stands at an increment of 56.3%.

Just imagine working for only 5 months and getting a pay rise of 56.3%. MCAs will now have a minimum take home pay of 293,078 kshs per month. It is noteworthy that this increment is still yet to satisfy the MCAs who are still opposed to a return to work formula.

I am really curious as to why we feel the need to over pay or even pay politicians who refuse to work. Yes, over pay. Thus far, the MCAs have very little to show for their input in the devolution process altogether. Earlier this year, the same Sarah Serem team agreed to hike the pay for Members of Parliament; 8 months down the road and they have passed several questionable bills with only a minority quorum. Some MPs have been living in The Hague since September, a fact that is underscored by reports that they have even taken over a bar where they spend their evenings feasting, drinking and singing!

The biggest failing of our society is the belief that equal representation means more representatives. We imagine that without a political class we cannot even have devolution of resources. But it is clear that these politicians are keen to subvert the devolution process in order to personally benefit. 

In a country of 42 million people and a GDP of only 34.6 billion$ we have decided to be represented by 47 governors, 47 senators, 349 MPs and 1450 county representatives. That’s 1893 politicians, all of whom demand nearly 100 times the wages of the average Kenyans at the very least. 

What really is the point of such a bloated government? Already they have proven themselves quite useless because many of them have not been attending assembly sessions anyway! The irony of the MPs to then turn around and claim that we indeed have a high wage bill after they managed to hike their own pay is just laughable. 

Meanwhile, the people who actually deliver services remain harassed and dejected as these same government officials refuse to honor the various Collective Bargaining Agreements struck by the National government prior to devolution. The most disheartening claims continue to spew forth against health care workers in particular, of whom the County officials insist that they do not wish to be supervised.

Why should a politician who favors absenteeism as a work ethic supervise a health practitioner? Do these MCAs know ANYTHING about providing health care? How exactly are they going to supervise the hospitals and clinics when they have not a single clue on public health management?
In fact, why should politicians who refuse to work themselves, turn around and claim supervision on healthcare workers who diligently turn up at work despite the difficult conditions and dire lack of resources. It is quite ridiculous!

This is testament to how misplaced our priorities are as a nation. Instead of increasing the number of doctors in the country we increased the number of politicians. I am yet to see a politician work a normal 9-5 shift, let alone the hectic 80 hour work week that our doctors endure under the most stressful conditions.

2300 doctors serve 42 million Kenyans and are paid less than half of what the MCAs have been offered. They do their best to keep a nearly dead health sector running, and the situation is so serious that should a poor person who relies on government facilities be diagnosed with cancer today, he will have to wait 9 months for his first radiation session because the waiting list is so long. On average, simple surgeries that can easily be conducted have waiting periods of a minimum of 6 months. The sum total of this is that the average Kenyan is dying from simple, treatable and preventable disease.

I don’t see any politician having a waiting list of people whose lives he can save! We certainly don’t need to pay people for doing absolutely nothing all day at The Hague and just drinking and singing in the evenings. One recent photo of an MP trying to catch a pigeon at The ICC tells it all – we are spending our hard earned taxes on the kookiest characters whose value is to hunt birds in foreign countries. If he was trying to catch a turkey I might have understood, but nobody eats pigeons!

We are over taxed and completely burdened by this lot. Just a handful of people who really have no work ethic are costing this country much of its revenue and it is a terrible situation. As a nation, we need to seriously consider curbing the number of political representatives to a bare minimum. I dare say it’s obvious that the Counties are running without them anyway!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

“Neo-colonialism verses African Elitism” – the challenge of African perceptions of the ICC

Whereas the founding tenets of the Rome Treaty clearly indicate the global intent of ratifying nations to curb, to deter and to seek justice for the victims of crimes against humanity, the fact that such a court was considered necessary by the African nations that willingly ratified the treaty speaks volumes of the post –colonial state of Africa. They KNEW that they had a problem in their countries.

Perhaps it was the manner in which a “civilizing” force occupied and colonized the continent.  Or perhaps it was the manner in which the African people were deemed psychologically immature and incapable of adequately achieving self-rule until the missives and mindset of the colonizers became fully entrenched. That certainly seemed to have been the central focus of the pre-independence colonial government in the selection of leaders and representatives that they deemed capable of running the soon to be sovereign state.

With the systematic erosion of firstly the African societal structure via forcing hut tax and making fathers work away from their families through forced labor, then the subsequent laws that firstly placed limits on legal marital unions, and then determined that the African female is of the same mindset as a juvenile thus she cannot own property; the colonial government was very successful in undermining the myriad African cultures as pertains the family and the society. 

What is tragic is that most of these laws still exist in most parts of the continent. Not only that, but much of the African history prior to colonialism is not taught in schools, nor is the political structures of African ethnic government mentioned. In other words, where as the white colonial masters have departed from leadership and government, their legacy remains and is enhanced by the now black leaders and “African” governments.

In light of such an unbroken consistency of colonial mentality and national governance, it is absolutely ironic for the same governments to scream neo-colonialism in the face of the ICC.
Lest we forget the nature of the colonial government was that the African native would not be able to receive any sort of justice – a brief look at the records of the Judicial system of the time will reveal that Africans in their thousands were detained without trial and subsequently tortured and enslaved, some unto death. 

The changes to the judicial systems on the continent as a whole are so miniscule that an elite class will enjoy absolutely no recourse for their actions while the masses of “natives” will lounge in jail. Kenya is no exception to this sort of judicial failure, a stinging fact despite the rather superficial reforms initiated by the Chief Justice. 

It is not neo-colonialism that is bothering Kenya or Africa – it is civilization. To be a civilized, democratic and stable continent is something that African political leaders simply refuse to allow to happen. To be civilized would mean to ensure that a system of laws is created that take into consideration each and every culture and that seek to normalize and bring equality and equity to the entire nation. That cannot be allowed to happen because that would mean that those whose immense wealth, influence and power has been acquired due to the absence of those laws would also be subject to the laws.

This abhorrent “neo-colonial” concept of equality in Justice is quite unpalatable to the African Elites. So much so that even though they knew what they were doing when they ratified the Rome Treaty they certainly did not imagine that the ICC would specifically be dealing with their CLASS. 

This is the problem that the ICC has when it comes to its image as far as the African countries are concerned. Apparently, the ICC was meant to deal with the perpetrators of crimes against humanity but not those from a particular class of leadership because to do so is “neo-colonialism.” It is quite a twisted logic, one that clearly only serves the elites interests.

We don’t know why this is coming up at this point in time, nearly 10 years since the inception of the court. Perhaps the African elites don’t understand themselves to be military, political or economic leaders, thus subject specifically to the statutes of the Rome Treaty. Perhaps they don’t understand that the death of thousands of “natives” is actually an atrocity, especially if they caused those deaths by inciting, intimidating, funding, orchestrating or planning the violence. Perhaps it’s the refusal to acknowledge that there is power in one’s utterances, especially if that person is a prominent politician, featured in mass media and that person deliberately incites, provokes, and encourages violence against perceived rival groups.

In any case, when Elites, especially African elites end up in International Courts they do seem so surprised;  surprised that they can actually be subjected to a course of justice, that they are party to law even though in their own countries that never happened.

That’s why they call it neo-colonialism, because for the first time since the “wabeberu” left, they are facing the law and it reminds them of that time. But the fact that they do not face the law locally such that the International Criminal Court is invoked is testament to their dangerous elitism that subjugates the rest of Africa. Most importantly, lost in this perverted narrative against the ICC is the fact that African victims are the ones represented at the court, and that it is Africans themselves who have referred 5 out of the 8 cases at the ICC. It’s a matter of fact, as Desmond Tutu once said, “the ICC could not be more African if it tried”. Rather it is clear, that according to these “neo-panAfricans” that it is only African to be in line with their own selfish interests, it is "un-African" to stand up to their oppression and murderous tendencies.

Friday, 15 November 2013

County Governments are incapable of managing healthcare

A couple of months ago the Nairobi County Council workers went on strike after the County government failed to uphold their end of the collective bargaining agreement struck between the workers union and the Ministry of local government. 

The most devastating result of the strike was the babies who died after being transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital. At the time, well wishers had organized a rescue baby service to step in and assist the vulnerable mothers and babies stuck without assistance at Pumwani Maternity hospital. It took about 2 weeks of negotiations for the crisis to come to an end but by that time, the damage was done. It was clear from the seriousness of the situation that devolution of certain services was being done in a haphazard manner with absolutely no consideration for both the workers and consumers of the services.

No other situation is more susceptible to the danger in unsystematic devolution of services than the healthcare sector. So far, there has been little to no consultation with the doctors and health care workers, and instead the practitioners have been subjected to bullying, intimidation and harassment. It’s become the propaganda piece to claim that doctors are selfish and only wish to retain their private practices rather than be part of the devolution process. 

It’s no secret that the Ministry of health has not upheld its end of the bargain as far as the Collective Bargaining Agreement struck between them and Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union. This lack of commitment to an already agreed upon service contract has led to several doctors’ strikes and this chaotic devolution will certainly lead to yet another nationwide doctors’ strike.

Let’s not believe the propaganda against the medics – there is no group more willing and keen to see healthcare and services reach the most marginalized parts of this country as several previous strikes have proven. The doctors have repeatedly stated the hazardous, unmanageable and difficult conditions under which they are forced to work, the lack of resources and the devastating effect this has on the welfare of the public. As both consumers and providers of the health services in this country, it is the medics who are most keen to see that these services are improved significantly and managed better.

The key phrase being better management of health care services through devolution and not what is actually happening. Instead of the hoped for strengthening of current services what is happening is county governments are drastically cutting down the required funds allocated for these services. Already this system is poor, under-resourced and under-funded. The impact this poor system has had on healthcare practitioners is emotionally, physically and mentally draining to say the least.

Kenya only has about 2300 doctors for about 40 million people. That means that each doctor is expected to see to the overall needs of about 17,000 people, but unfortunately is not able to reach all of them. There are not enough medics, not enough facilities or resources and very poor management of the system that has severally been described as on its death bed.

The Abuja declaration states that health funding should constitute 15% of the total government budget in a financial year. You can tell how little thought has been put into devolution of healthcare funding when a county government allocates 50 – 80 million out of a total 3 bn in the budgets which adds up to only 2.7%.  That means that in a county with an estimated 1 million people the county government intends to spend only 50-80 kshs the entire year per person. Meanwhile they will spend lavish amounts on their governor’s residences, vehicles and salaries.

It’s even more revealing when you consider the pay roll of health care workers in a county. Each county is estimated to have at least 2 district hospitals and maybe 6 sub district hospitals. Each district hospital will then have 4-8 doctors and a specialist in each of these specialties - pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery. If you thus pay each specialist about 300,000kshs for his services that amounts to about 3.6 million per specialist per year and 5 specialists come to 18 million. Therefore allocating 50 million to an ENTIRE county is plain idiocy. 

But our crafty county assemblies have come up with a solution to this. While they have managed to strong arm Sarah Serem of the SRC into giving them more mileage, mortgage and living allowances, they in turn have determined that healthcare salaries can indeed be illegally slashed. What is being kept from the public is the fact that the Collective Bargaining Agreement they signed with the Doctors’ union is legally binding and was to be effected as from July 1st of 2013. The SRC in cahoots with the government have since trashed the CBA and have passed on figures with a significant reduction in salaries to the County governments. In some cases salaries have been slashed by as much as 50%. This makes the impending industrial strike justified for the sake of the CBA if nothing else.

This is the source of the doctors’ strike; we have a collection of arrogant, insensitive and oppressive county officials who seek to even break labor laws with the intention to wield power and control over the healthcare sector.

 This attitude and approach has nothing to do with any REAL desire to ensure that healthcare is a social amenity available to all within the counties, but it has everything to do with gaining dominance over some of Kenya’s best educated professionals. The devolution of healthcare needs to come to a stop until and unless these grave issues are resolved systematically.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

ICC trials -Police obstruct justice for victims - featured on link:

There is no one who epitomizes the utter refusal of the Kenya government and the Kenya police to investigate and prosecute the more than 6000 post election violence cases than Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo. His recent response to public outcry over the miscarriage of justice done in the case of a teenage girl who was gang raped and then thrown into a pit latrine just says it all. Kimaiyo implied that the girl was lying.
Never mind the fact that she is now confined to a wheel chair. Never mind the fact that the rapists were made to slash grass rather than jailed. Never mind the 1 million signatures collected in a petition or the protests. Never mind the facts that even the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has directed that the case be sent to the National Council for the Administration of Justice. According to Kimaiyo, the girl was lying about her ordeal and the matter was settled between the parents of the rapists and her own parents so there really is no case.
To accuse a defenseless teenage victim of gang rape of lying underscores the shameful rape culture that is so pervasive in Kenya. For a chief of police to even utter such an accusation sheds light on exactly how unwilling the police are to investigate and prosecute cases of rape, and it also gives insight to how much injustice is delivered by the very same law enforcement agency we turn to.
5 years down the line and the thousands of victims of the 2008 post election violence have not seen their tormentors prosecuted. Of the more than 6000 cases reported thus far, only 24 have reached trial. This is not a matter of lack of evidence, because there is evidence, but it is a matter of an obstinate refusal to allow the course of justice to be followed. By Inspector General Kimaiyo’s example, our police force not only refuses to pursue the criminals, but in turn harass the victims.
This is more than a case of putting one’s foot in the mouth. Kimaiyo expresses the deeply entrenched misogyny and abuse of power by the police force. The police are not the ones to judge a reported incident, but to investigate, collect evidence and proceed to trial. Instead, in the case of Liz from Busia, the police refused to arrest the rapists, refused to investigate the incident, refused to collect evidence and let the perpetrators of an attempted murder go!
It is the same obstruction of justice that has led victims of the PEV to reach out to the ICC in the hope that somehow they will receive justice. The situation surrounding the crimes committed after the 2007 general elections and the reaction of the police to those reported crimes is telling of a systematic collusion to prevent justice for the victims of those crimes.
To deny justice on such a wide scale makes one as culpable of the crimes committed as the perpetrator. It is being an accessory to the rapes, murders, forcible circumcision and forcible evictions. It is completely impossible to believe that while 1500 people were killed and 600,000 victims were displaced there was absolutely no evidence collected!
This is more than about reforming the police service. This is about the police, led by Inspector General Kimaiyo understanding that they are indeed in service to the people of Kenya and not to the criminals. Even as the cases against 3 suspects progress at the ICC, the fact that so many other suspected criminals have gone Scott free because of the police means that not only are the criminals aided by inaction, they are encouraged to commit the crimes again.
We want to believe that our country can rebuild itself after such terrible events. But this is impossible if we are oppressed by both the criminals and their friends the police. Yes, I say friends, because what else can you call this?
There is nothing more abhorrent than a person blaming the victim of a crime. It is not only adding insult to injury but also imprinting the lack of value that Kimaiyo has for the poor girl’s life. It is no wonder that her attackers were only told to slash grass. Right from the beginning the girl was unlikely to ever be treated like a human being!
We need to remind the likes of David Kimaiyo that citizens in this country not only deserve to be protected from criminals, they deserve to be respected as well.  We certainly cannot accept that only 3 suspects will be prosecuted over the post election violence, when there are thousands more roaming freely. In the case of Liz from Busia, Kimaiyo should be compelled indeed he may even need to be forced to do his job and ensure that justice is delivered.
It is an outrage that victims can be so dehumanized by the very people sworn to protect them. There is only one thing worse than a police state, and that is a criminal state. The refusal to prosecute is criminal negligence on the part of the police and it should not be tolerated at all.