sarkozy’s visit to africa

French president Nicolas Sarkozy with new wife Carla Bruni have been on a tour of Africa with stops in Chad and South Africa. In Chad, Sarkozy held talks with beleaguered president Idriss Deby over the country’s security following a recent rebel offensive and the possible pardoning of French aid workers who last year were found guilty of kidnapping after they tried to smuggle a few dozen Chadian kids out of the country.

while in chad, president Sarkozy gave hints that he is going to change France’s defence arrangements with Francophone Africa. Over the years France has been notorious for propping up murderous and corrupt dictators like Deby himself with military and financial aid – a recent case being the French air force’s help in quelling a rebel offensive that nearly toppled the Djamena government.

This is a most welcome move. African states, and especially the unusually volative Francophone Africa, should be left to manage their own affairs and hold their leaders accountable to themselves and not Paris. Perhaps with reduced military aid the Debys of Francophone Africa will start listening to the voices of their sick, hungry and illiterate constituencies.

Sarkozy’s stop in South Africa was all about energy. According to the IHT, French engineering company Alstom on Friday signed a deal worth €1.36 billion (about US$2 billion) to equip a new coal power station for South Africa. Rumours also abound about another billion dollar deal involving French nuclear giant Areva and US group Westinghouse Electric to build a nuclear power plant in the country. South Africa has been going through an energy crisis that many experst fear will slow much needed economic growth.

Mang’u is back, but do i say?

Ok, some vanity once in a while is good for the soul ………..

My former High School, Mang’u, emerged top of the nation in the just announced results of last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams. It took nearly two decades for Mang’u to retain the number one slot which has in the recent past been the reserve of fellow academic powerhouses Starehe, Alliance and Precious Blood-Riruta. The last time Mang’u led the nation was in 1989.

Created in 1925 by the Holy Ghost Fathers missionaries, the school has always maintained a history of academic and athletic excellence. Notable sons of Mang’u include the late Arch-bishop of Nairobi Cardinal Maurice Otunga, the current president of Kenya, Hon. Mwai Kibaki, cabinet ministers John Michuki and George Saitoti, among others in various professions and walks of life.

Congratulations class of 2007, you have done us proud.


kibaki and raila sign deal

Emerging from a five hour meeting between president Mwai Kibaki and Hon. Raila Odinga, Kofi Annan said that the two had managed to reach an agreement that will effectively end the post-election standoff that has so far led to the death of more than 1500 and displacement of hundreds of thousands.

Details of the deal between Kibaki and Raila include the creation of the post of a prime minister which will be occupied by the leader of the party with a majority in government – in this case the ODM led by Raila – and two deputies that will come from both ODM and PNU. The Premier will supervise ministers and will be part of the cabinet. His security of tenure will be guaranteed unless he loses a motion of no confidence in parliament.

The deal also guaranteed representation in government relative to parliamentary strength. This will see many ODM parliamentarians appointed as ministers since ODM has a slight majority in parliament relative to the PNU and its affiliate parties.

President Kibaki announced that parliament will resume next Thursday to enact the details of the agreement into law.

Kudos to Kofi Annan, Presidents Kikwete and Mkapa of Tanzania and former South African first lady Graca Machel for making sure that a deal was reached sooner than later.

Kenya is not out of the deep end yet. ODM and PNU do not like each other. I am just wondering how they are going to form a joint cabinet and follow through a joint agenda in parliament and elsewhere once this grand coalition takes shape. But for now lets all celebrate sanity and rationality. Congratulations to Raila and Kibaki for minding the welfare of Kenyans.

really president biya, really?

Paul Biya, a man who has been president of Cameroon since the 6th of November 1982, keeps giving hints that he plans to amend the constitution of Cameroon to remove a clause limiting the president’s term in office. Although the next elections are not due till 2011, Biya has been dropping hints that he wants the law changed in order to guarantee himself another SEVEN YEAR term in 2011.

Cameroon currently faces violent protests over a recent increase in fuel prices – forget that Cameroon is a petroleum producer, albeit a modest one. Although the prices were lowered after the first wave of protests, the protesters have now extended their demand to include a reduction in the price of not just fuel but food and other items as well. The opposition has promised to keep up with the mass protests if Biya goes ahead with the constitutional amendment.

The 75 year old has had over 25 years to make the lives of Cameroonians better but failed miserably. Over 40% of his country people still live below the poverty line. Official unemployment figures show that about 30% of the labor force is unemployed. Real figures are much higher than this (knowing how incompetent African statistics bureaus are). One wonders what more this old man has to offer to his country after he gives himself another seven years in office in 2011.

Whatever happened to basic decency? Why is it that our leaders feel that they can do whatever they want and get away with it? Do these people have any shame?

If anyone close to Biya reads this please tell him that third term amendments are kind of last-century. Obasanjo ought to have been the last shameful attempt at this. Africa will not claim the 21st century and indeed not even the fourth millennium if we keep up with this third term amendment nonsense. So get real President Biya. Competition breeds excellence, so let competition thrive.

odm calls off protests, kibaki reiterates his commitment to PM post

The Orange Democratic Movement leader Hon. Raila Odinga on Wednesday called off street protests scheduled for Thursday in an effort to give a conciliatory cue to the Party of National Unity. Hon. Raila said that in order to express their commitment to the talks which appear headed for the doldrums his party had called off mass protests in major cities until further notice. The ODM is in talks with the ruling PNU to try and hammer out a power sharing agreement after an election that many believe was too flawed to determine a winner and which ODM maintains it won.

Over 1500 people have since died in election-related violence since the electoral commission chairman, one Samuel Kivuitu, announced the results amid protests of foul play by the opposition and international observers. Hundreds of thousands remain displaced both within Kenya and in neighbouring countries like Uganda and Tanzania.

Meanwhile, President Mwai Kibaki has reiterated his commitment to the creation of a Prime Minister’s post and two deputy slots in an attempt to accommodate the ODM in a power-sharing arrangement. Kibaki also reminded Kenyans that he is committed to the speedy resolution of the talks in order to give Kenyans a chance to return to normalcy. The president’s statement gave signs that may be the PNU is willing to bend backwards and concede some ground to the ODM with regard to demands for an executive premier with some clout.

Kibaki however remained adamant that the creation of a premier must be done withing the current constitution but promised to deliver comprehensive constitutional amendments in the next one year. ODM wants the premier’s post to be entrenched in the constitution to guarantee it security of tenure and insulate it against possible challenges in court.

Mr. Annan, the leader of the talks between the two feuding parties, met with both Hon. Raila and President Kibaki to try and talk them into agreeing to cede more ground to allow the talks to move forward. The talks are a make or break for Kenya, a country that for forty years had the image of a peaceful oasis in a desert of conflicts but which now hangs on the edge of the cliff and is threatened with total collapse.

If the talks do not succeed, many analysts predict a return to violence and chaos throughout the Rift Valley province and in major cities and towns, especially in the west of the country which is an opposition stronghold.

our leaders embarrass us

Before Kenya erupted in flames, I always thought that the ugly realities of most other Africans from Sierra Leone to Darfur to Uganda and all the others were distant. They all seemed to be things that happen to other people in other countries. Many a time I argued fervently with my friends how different Kenya was and how much we were past the pettiness of tribal-related civil war. I made sure to make my friends pay attention to the run-up to the Kenyan elections in December. The opinion polls had predicted a close race and therefore I was expecting a competitive outcome to prove to the world that Kenya was a liberal democracy.

But the Kenyan political class had other things in mind. I saw irregularities take place in front of the international media. Signs of foul play appeared from BOTH SIDES. I blogged away furiously while waiting for news of who won. In the end everything fell apart. The final tally was suspect. Kibaki was sketchily sworn in and the world could do nothing but conclude that something had gone wrong. And then all hell broke loose. Kenyans started killing fellow Kenyans. I watched CNN in my dorm room with dismay and embarrassment. I saw scenes that I thought only belonged in Mogadishu or Djamena or Freetown play out in the streets of Nairobi. Kenyans had suddenly become tribalist murderers.

All of a sudden my friends started asking me what tribe I belonged to, after which they automatically assumed what position I held with regard to what was going on. Most of the time they were wrong. I felt insulted that I had been reduced to a tribe, with all the group-think that comes with it.

The continuing collapse of Kenya is a very real and painful lesson to me about what goes on in places like Darfur and Somalia and all the other hot spots. People die. People lose hope. People become apathetic.

The political class has failed Africa. The political class has failed Kenya. The political class has failed me, personally. Why haven’t we produced more Mandelas and less Mobutus? Why do we keep churning out leaders who do not have any sense of what true leadership is about? Leaders who are willing to do whatever they can to improve the situation of Africans? When will they know that politics should never be an end in itself? That political competition is a means to an end and that politics should be used to serve the interest of the African people and not to enrich a few people?

As Achebe put it in the early 1980s, [replacing Nigeria with Africa] The trouble with Africa is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the African character. There is nothing wrong with the African land or climate or water or air or anything else. The African problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.

kenyan talks suspended

A statement from Kofi Annan, the mediator in Kenya’s post election negotiations, has said that the talks have been suspended for the moment so that he can meet with the two principals – President Kibaki and Hon. Raila Odinga – to try and find a quicker way to arrive at a solution to the main contentious issue of duties and powers of the proposed Premier.

The two sides have agreed, in principle, to share power through the creation of the post of Prime Minister that will be occupied by the opposition leader Raila Odinga. However, both sides have bitterly disagreed as to what powers the proposed Premier would have. The opposition group, ODM, that claims it won last December’s election insist that the Premier should have executive authority and some autonomy from the president while the ruling PNU want the creation of a ceremonial Premier position with no more power than the secretary to the cabinet and who is directly answerable to the president.

Meanwhile, it emerged, as expected, that majority of those killed in the post election clashes in Western and Nyanza provinces of Kenya died of gun shot wounds. Throughout the violence the opposition had maintained that the police was using live rounds to quell violence and in the process was killing innocent civilians – including young school children. While I am averse to speculations, it is interesting to note that these two regions are perceived to be opposition strongholds. In the Rift Valley however, where most of the killings occurred, most of the dead died of machete and arrow wounds. It is puzzling why firearm force that was widely used in Western Kenya to stop mere looters was not used in the Rift Valley to stop real  murderers from both sides of the “tribal” divide.

I will not blame this on tribalism. I blame it purely on gross incompetence on the part of Gen. Hussein Ali and his men. He and his police force owe Kenya more than their erratic, uncoordinated and extremely amateur response to the violence that nearly tore the country apart.

So the talks remain suspended. Kenyans continue to live with heightened tension. Economic progress both in the country and in the region continues to be stalled. And all because of a few wealthy individuals who cannot decide which group among them will have the power, over the next five years, to steal from the Kenyan people. God have mercy on Kenyans.

annan threatens to leave Kenyan talks

Kofi Annan has threatened to leave the Kenyan talks if no progress is made soon. Mr. Annan has been leading talks aimed at finding a lasting solution to some of the problems that caused and/or were results of the flawed elections held in the country last December. According to an aide to Mr. Annan, the former UN boss lamented that he had put a lot of important things on hold to be a part of the talks and that if it emerged that the negotiating parties were not willing to reach a compromise soon he would leave.

The talks, according to recent media briefings, have reached a critical stage. Both the government and the opposition have agreed on the creation of a prime minister’s post that will be occupied by the opposition leader Raila Odinga. However, the problem has been whether the prime minister should have some executive powers or not. The government insists that the current constitution allows for the creation of a non-executive premier while the opposition wants an amendment to create the position of an executive premier and also for an equal share of cabinet positions and other appointments.

I hate to be pessimistic but things look really bad for this East African country. With the imminent collapse of the talks, the government will probably get marginalised by the international community, a situation that will make it even more autocratic and impervious to the wishes of ordinary Kenyans. Inevitably there will be more tribal bloodshed because the opposition remains adamant in its insistence that it won the elections held last December. Plus the post-election violence has divided the country on tribal lines so much that any national reconciliation will necessarily need ODM and PNU to come up with a political solution and possible a broad-based transitional government.

Kenya is steadily turning into the Ivory Coast. The latter, a former third biggest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, descended into civil strife soon after fraudulent elections were held following the death of long time strongman Houphouet Boigny. Kenya, like Boigny-Ivory Coast, was relatively stable during the iron fisted reign of Daniel Arap Moi for nearly a quarter of a century. However, after last year’s fraudulent elections that saw the return of the incumbent Mwai Kibaki, violence erupted that resulted in the death of more than 1000 people and destruction of property worth billions of shillings.

Both sides of the political divide seem not to have the interest of ordinary Kenyans at heart. The business community and the rest of the civil society seem to have taken a wait-and-see stance. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Kenyans remain displaced in IDP camps without enough food or medication.

Three months ago no one would have predicted that Kenya would become yet another African statistic to be mentioned in the same light with the likes of Ivory Coast, Somalia, Zimbabwe …….. and all the others.

There may still be time to save the situation. But as things stand, I think the country is still in the eye of the storm – with more trouble to come before sanity returns. I just hope that Kenya and Kenyans are strong enough to endure through all this and emerge as an even stronger country.

who is this person?

The law is an ass. If you disagree then what can you make of a Kenyan, in this time of deep crisis, filing a case in court to stop the ongoing Kofi Annan led negotiations on the grounds that they are unconstitutional and in gross violation of his rights – with regard to whom he voted for in Kenya’s December 27th elections?

A gentleman by the name Anthony Ndung’u Kirori wants the courts to stop the talks and instead ask the ODM to seek redress over last year’s flawed elections throught the courts. The case will be heard on Monday. My guess is that reason will prevail at the high courts and this case will be thrown out, or in typical Kenyan fashion, will be allowed to drag on without any ruling until the talks are concluded.

But Anthony Ndung’u Kirori is not crazy at all. Although his intentions may be suspect given Kenya’s unique situation, he is right when he says that election petitions should be handled by courts and not a former UN secretary general. However, this gentleman also ought to know that as much as Kenyans should remain subordinate to the law, the law was made to serve Kenyans and not the other way round. The law is not an end in itself.

The law was designed to grant Kenyans a safe environment to live and pursue their dreams. So going by this argument, if the implementation of a given law would result in the collapse of society; mayhem, killings and general disorder (like the cessation of the Annan talks would), then the particular law would be going against the overall objective of all laws and should therefore be suppressed.

A good sign, perhaps, is the fact that Martha Karua – the justice minister – did climb down from her obduracy about the need to follow the law to the letter. Her climb down means that the executive knows that right now the most important thing is to find a way out of Kenya’s mess and the law should be used to serve that purpose. The judiciary should take cue and throw this case out as soon as possible.

That said, you’ve got to wonder what exactly Mr. Anthony Ndung’u Kirori wants for his country. You know that Kenya is still divided when people like Anthony go to court to stop talks aimed at stopping killings, rape, looting and destruction of property.

ODM threat of more protests in bad taste

The latest threat by ODM that it will stage street protests if parliament does not meet in a week to enact into law proposals made at the Annan-led mediation talks could not have come at a worse time. The country still hangs on the edge following flawed elections last December that resulted in the killing of over 1000 innocent Kenyans and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Taking hard-line positions like this is not good for the talks. ODM should find a better way of coercing PNU into an agreement than risking the lives of more Kenyans.

I think ODM and PNU should give the talks a chance and stop issuing ultimatums. The hard-line brinkmanship exhibited by the voluble foot soldiers on both sides of the aisle is bad for the country. The ODM leadership and PNU operatives like Hon. Martha Karua, Moses Wetangula and Amos Kimunya should realise that Kenya is bigger than any one individual. The country needs reconciliation and humility more than the chest thumping that we continue to see from these politicians.

The fact of the matter is that as things stand, neither PNU nor ODM can govern the country effectively on its own. That the December elections were seriously flawed is no longer a bone of contention. Juja, Maragua (PNU) and parts of Nyanza (ODM) are proof of the fact.

Right now what the country needs is a negotiated settlement with some power sharing, constitutional changes and then an election in a few years. This is the least that the Martha Karuas and Peter Nyong’os of Kenya can do for their country. We can’t afford to stall the process of economic growth and modernization because of tribal squabbles. Kenyans should not be denied a chance to realise their dreams and ambitions because of a few greedy, power hungry politicians.

So to ODM and PNU: Share power. Build roads. Make the markets more efficient. Provide education and healthcare. And while you are at it show some basic decency – less kleptocracy, tribalism and corruption. You owe this to Kenyans and to Africans. Kenyans cannot afford another dark decade like we did in the 80s under Moi obduracy and thievery.

The world is watching. Kenyans are watching too, some dying, some displaced and some apathetic.