Kenyan MPs and their salaries

kenya_parliament_03Kenyan MPs are some of the highest paid parliamentarians in the world ($ 136, 160 p.a.) – and this in a third world country with per capita income of $ 1800. The MPs have forever refused to pay taxes on their hefty pay, and for no good reason. Over the years their main defense has been that since they are forever helping their constituents with school fees, medical bills, funeral expenses and what not, they should be exempt from taxes because such help is an implicit tax. I say this is a load of horse manure.

If these people really cared about helping their constituents they should formalize such means of assistance and then pay taxes to fund such programs. The faux welfare system that they claim to be running as it is only serves as a tool for patronage and corruption. Their ‘help’ is essentially a money-for-votes racket and therefore should be declared illegal by the electoral commission (oops, wait a second, we do not have an electoral commission – how is any Kenyan politician in their right mind able to go to bed knowing that the country has  a  president who ‘has eaten a lot of salt’ (not to mention old military helicopters) but no polls body?????).

I agree with Kenya’s chief taxman (KRA Commissioner General Michael Waweru) and the secretary to the cabinet (Ambassador Francis Muthaura) in their calls for a pay freeze and taxation for our under-performing parliamentarians. They don’t deserve the very high salaries to begin with and so the least they could do for the millions of poor Kenyans whose money they continue to steal is pay taxes.

It is my hope that the Akiwumi Tribunal will let common sense prevail and write a sane report that will recommend the abolition of the Parliamentary Service Commission (these clowns should not be allowed to give themselves raises whenever they want) and its replacement with a general salaries body for all civil servants  as has been suggested by ambassador Muthaura.

PS: If only we had this level of transparency. This is why America still rules the world. They have very honest leaders.

South African Elections

On the 22nd of April South Africans will go to the polls to elect their new president. There are no prizes for guessing who the winner will be. Everyone expects Jacob Zuma, a man facing corruption charges, to win easily. Despite the much hyped challenge from Cope, a party of ANC dissidents, the ANC with its immense ‘struggle movement capital’ will still win a healthy majority in the South African parliament.

zumaAs I have indicated before, I am not particularly enthusiastic about Zuma’s forthcoming presidency. The much-married man has a predilection for buffoonery. He is a known populist who may mishandle South Africa’s sluggish transition from the insanity of apartheid. Perhaps most worrying is his corruption record. The last thing South Africa needs in these hard economic times is a president who sends the message that it’s OK to be corrupt, as long as you have the right political connections.

That said, it is almost ineluctable that the Continent will have its leader in Jacob Zuma after the April elections. And because of that we are left with no alternative but to search for any positives that might come out of it. For starters, Zuma’s lack of formal education and the accompanying intellectual arrogance may make him more predisposed to alternative views – especially when it comes to the AIDS situation in South Africa (Mbeki strangely refused to admit the link between HIV and AIDS).

Secondly, given that he is coming in with little international legitimacy, he may feel compelled to do the right thing about Africa’s dictators and their many human rights abuses. Lastly, even his populism might be a plus. No sane person would disagree that South Africa NEEDS land reforms. Zuma may just be the one to do it, unlike the Mbeki-ist moderates who instead have chosen to focus on empowering middle class Black South Africans while forgetting the landless masses.

Let’s wait and see……..

Continuing the Darfur Campaign

The Washington Post has a piece on Darfur that I liked. check it out.

The Times too has a piece on Darfur. Also interesting about the piece is the fact that Bashir seems to be betting on the idea that since Sudan is an Islamic country (and a member of the Arab league) the international community will be hesistant to intervene even as he continues in his plans to punish Darfuris by denying them aid. The Arab league and the African Union should be most ashamed for not having come out to condemn Bashir’s actions when he expelled aid workers from most of Darfur.

The AIDS-TB killer monster

March 24th, is world TB Day. But this year’s commemoration was tainted by the bad news about the drug resistance strains of TB whose incidence seems to be on the rise. IRIN News (an excellenet news source on matters third world) is reporting that the incidence of the drug resistance varieties of TB are on the rise. The WHO, according to the IRIN report, blames this on “non-existent labs, lack of inspection control and diagnostics, and poor treatment adherence.” African countries are the worst affected (surprise??). Healthcare expenditure still remains low in most of these countries and the very high incidence of HIV/AIDS on the Continent only serves to complicate matters. TB fatality rate (for those with drug resistance strains) is as high as 90% for people with HIV/AIDS.

Disease treatment/control is still last-century in most of Africa. For most Africans, the choice is sometimes between putting a meal on the table or getting treatment. The other contributing factor to the many epidemics that continue to rock the continent is ignorance. Indeed drug resistant varieties of TB are oftentimes a result of people not taking their daily doses as required.

Matters are not all gloomy though. Former US president Bush’s gift of PEPFAR continues to save lives in Africa and other places. But money from foreigners is not the answer but mere band aid. The strong correlation between ignorance and poverty and disease burden suggests that education and economic growth could go a long way in terms of disease control on the Continent.I only wish that African governments took disease control, education and the economic well-being of their populations more seriously.

the two Kenyas

I just read that Kenyan MPs are demanding for a pay increase before they can pay taxes. Already these clowns are earning upwards of Shs. 800, 000 ($ 10,126) a month. This in a country in which the average income per year is $ 1800 and where almost half the population lives below the poverty line (According to both the UNDP and CIA factbook). The same ruling class is currently obsessed with succession politics and distribution of government jobs across ethnic (read ‘ethnic aristocracies’) groups instead of focusing on ending corruption and feeding millions of Kenyans facing starvation.

Meanwhile in the other Kenya, the UN has announced that it will double food aid to Kenyans hit by food scarcity and rising food prices. According to the Daily Nation, 10 million Kenyans will be severely hit as a result of the current famine either in terms of increasing food prices or severe food shortage as a result of crop failure.

One cannot help but wonder whether Kenyan politicians ever think before saying the things they say. Who in their right mind can demand for more money from the already over-taxed and severely under-served Kenyan tax payers? And at a time when the government is facing a huge deficit and is unable to feed its own people ???!!???

on this one I disagree with the church

The Catholic church continues to forbid the use of condoms and all other contraceptives among its faithful. Such teaching is mostly emphasized in the third world – Africa, Latin America and Asia – where the populations continue to remain oblivious to the virtues of family planning and disease prevention through the use of contraceptives. This at a time when the Church’s home continent – Europe – is experiencing a demographic decline. People are able to better plan their lives if they can control the number of children they have. Period. The Vatican has failed to enforce its have-as-many-children-as-you-can and don’t-use-condoms policies at home and so it trumpets them abroad – and in places with serious problems of over-population. I say this is hypocritical.

Millions around the world have died of AIDS, causing untold suffering to tens of millions of orphans. The use of condoms, although not 100% efficient, has been known to substantially reduce chances of infection. So it does not make any sense that the Church would continue to ban its use. Does the Almighty really want parents dying, leaving behind orphans who can’t fend for themselves? Does He really want families having 12 children that they can’t feed or educate? Abortion might be another issue (and genuinely so) but preventing pregnancies – without having to kill any embryos or fetuses – or avoiding diseases through the use of condoms should never even be debated. It is common sense. I don’t understand how the Church can endorse the veracity of Darwin’s theories (of course as GUIDED by God) and refuse to acknowledge this simple fact.

And about abstinence. It is great, but most people never practice it. It is time the Church stopped pretending that this is a viable way of coping with the spread of AIDS. More than two decades of the disease have proven otherwise. Government health officials throughout the third world should be honest with the Church and inform them to change this weird policy or face penalties. It is lives we are talking about, not some theologian’s ideas of the ideal Christian society.

And don’t even get me started on how these weird church policies disproportionately burden women – through both risky and costly child bearing and diseases.

Just for the record, I am Catholic.

al-Bashir is crazy, like seriously

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has announced that he wants all foreign aid groups out of the country in one year, adding that the aid agencies can drop off their aid at airports and let the Sudanese distribute it on their own – yeah right.

If we ever doubted the sanity of this man here is the confirmation that he is certifiably insane. It may have been political posturing on his part but he is president and should not be saying such crazy things. Nearly 3 million Sudanese have been displaced thanks to this man’s genocidal rule since he took over power in a coup in 1989. There is no way on earth that he can be trusted with relief food, or any other supplies. His airforce continues to bomb villages, killing innocent civilians. His bands of militia in Darfur, Abyei and other areas continue to run around raping women and terrorizing villages in a sick and twisted genocidal mission to “Arabize” certain regions of the country.

There has to be a way of forcing him to allow aid to reach civilians. The international community ought to invoke the ‘right to protect’ clause and intervene (force him to allow aid in) before this man’s madness leads to even more deaths.

madagascar coup: when will this end?

The BBC is reporting that the army in Madagascar seems to have heeded the opposition leader’s calls to arrest president Marc Ravalomanana. The former mayor of Antananrivo, Andry Rajoelina, has since the end of January declared his opposition to the presidency of Mr. Ravalomanana and vowed to oust him before the latter’s second term expires in 2011. The former mayor accuses the president of misspending tax payers’ money. It looks like Mr. Ravalomanana’s days as president are numbered, especially after the self-declared head of the army, one colonel Andre Ndriarijaona, declared his support for the former mayor.

The events in Madagascar are yet another remainder that may be we should not take it for granted that democracy is the best form of government – especially for young, impoverished nations like Madagascar. Since the Rajoelina-led protests began in late January the capital Antananarivo has seen looting and running battles between police and protesters. A few dozen people have died. This has obviously impacted the economy negatively. And for a country where 70% of the people live on less than $ 2 a day that is very bad news.

If this coup succeeds it will be the fourth successful coup on the Continent in the last one year. The other three have been in Mauritania, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. It’s like we are reliving the late 60s or early 90s all over again. When will people realise that this moving around in circles will not take the Continent, and its people, anywhere?

Meanwhile, the African Union on Monday issued a statement supporting the incumbent Mr. Ravalomanana, without any mention of the president’s ineffectual leadership or the grievances of the opposition. For the AU, the incumbent is always right. No surprises there. The head of the AU, if you may recall, is one Muamar Gaddafi. It is essentially a club of kleptocratic little men who parade as gods.

we continue to miss the big picture at our own peril

When Oscar Foundation founder, Oscar King’ara, was killed ten days ago I expected that the government would be embarrassed enough to do something about the seemingly premeditated killings that have rocked the country in the last few months. There seems to be an elaborate plan by the security forces in Kenya to sidestep the judicial system and neutralize suspected criminals. This is wrong. This wrong precisely because as citizens of Kenya we are all entitled to a just trial in court before being punished if found guilty. If we let the politicians decide who is guilty or not what will stop them from using the security apparatus to eliminate political opponents? Commissioner Ali, WE ARE NOT A POLICE STATE. AND IF WE ARE, COME OUT CLEAN AND LET THE WORLD KNOW.

That not a single individual has been arrested and tried for the killing of Mr. Kang’aru or the hundreds of other young Kenyans killed by the mysterious death squad is a shame. It is a shame on the government of president Kibaki and premier Odinga. It is a shame on the Kenyan media who now are fixated on 2012 succession politics and have completely forgotten about the deteriorating condition of security in Kenya. It is a shame on the Kenyan civil society who seem to be willing to stop at issuing statements condemning the killings. Don’t we have investigative journalists who can expose exactly what is going on?

Who is behind these killings? The police commissioner must know. Can’t parliament summon him and have him testify under oath? And why is the attorney general still in office? Mr. Wako, please go home. Your EIGHTEEN years as our attorney general has brought nothing but shame to the Kenyan judiciary. Go home.

is it worth it?

Omar al-Bashir is a war criminal, no doutbt about that. Because of his genocidal tendencies hundreds of thousands of Sudanese in the East, West and South of the vast African country have lost their lives. Almost two million have been displaced from their homes and live lives not worth living. He deserves nothing but to be locked up in a tiny cell for the rest of his life.

Omar al-Bashir is also still the president of Sudan. He still has access to the security apparatus of Sudan. He can revoke aid licenses. He can bomb villages. He can jail aid workers. He has been doing a few of these things since his arrest warrant was issued by Moreno-Ocampo. He expelled aid workers in Darfur whom he accused of colluding with the ICC in gathering evidence against him. As the aid workers leave or downsize their involvement in Darfur hundreds of thousands of IDPs will be left without hope – the same people that institutions like the ICC are supposed to protect.

Justice is political. It is not some abstraction. It depends on realities on the ground. And for now the situation in Darfur is not conducive to the idea of arresting the commander in chief of the Sudanese Army. Omar al-Bashir is as guilty as charged. But it might do the Sudanese more good to engage him constructively than to demand for his immediate arrest.