zimbabwe’s kenya-esque election

It all sounds too familiar. Elections are held, but the government fears that the wrong people might be winning. The election officials know the results but are not releasing them for some mysterious reason. All things then break loose, with disastrous consequences.

The credibility of the election process is tarnished and everyone is left guessing who really won the election.

I am not saying that this is how Zimbabwe will pan out but I am worried at how eerily familiar the situation there seems.

Right now, with 52 constituencies counted, the government has half the seats and the opposition the other half. Tsvangirai’s party has 25 and Mutambara’s 1. A couple of Mugabe’s ministers have lost their parliamentary seats. Other results are being delayed for some mysterious reason even as Tsvangirai’s party, the MDC, continues to claim that it has won 60% of the votes cast to Mugabe’s 30%. The MDC also claims that it has won 99 seats in parliament against ZANU-PF’s 96 while 15 went to other opposition groups.

The real results have been delayed by the electoral commission …….. no prizes for guessing why. The weird part about this is that even after uncle Bob showed the world what he is capable of over the last two decades, I was still kind of optimistic that he was going to hold a relatively acceptable election (please prove me right Mugabe, please…)

To future would be African “riggers of elections” : if you have to rig, please be tactful. Do it without delaying results simply because this creates suspicion. Do it without having voter turnout being higher than voter registration. And do it in a way that half the government ministers do not lose their parliamentary seats because if they do and you still win, even the dumbest among us will smell a rat.

Kenya sees HIV prevalence rate drop, more needs to be done

The government has announced a drop in the HIV prevalence rate in Kenya from a high 14% to a relatively low 5%. These figures were announced by Prof. Were, the chairperson of the National Aids Control Council. Prof. Were also added that the number of people on ARVs had increased from a paltry 2000 five years ago to 150,000 in 2007.

This is good news. However, a lot more needs to be done. West African countries like Senegal have showed that with government commitment and cultural changes the scourge of AIDS can be kept at bay.

Among things that ought to change are traditional practices that belong in the pre-AIDS era. I am talking about wife inheritance in my home province of Nyanza and sharing of material during communal circumcisions across the country. Other areas to be looked at are religious practices and teachings that may encourage the spread of the disease. Being a Catholic, I am embarrassed by my church’s insistence that people should not use condoms even as they die like flies from this terrible malady. The government should talk straight with the church on this issue and require them not to preach from the pulpits anything that might jeopardize the success of the national anti-AIDS campaign.

Kenyans also need to change certain social practices. A friend of mine told me that when she visited Africa – South Africa and Swaziland – she was struck by the utter lack of faithfulness among couples. This might explain the high AIDS prevalence rates in Southern Africa and is also true in East Africa. Kenyans need to be more responsible with their sexuality by planning well with regards to matters sexual. The government and interested groups ought to be more aggressive in their family planning and sexual education initiatives in order to ensure that the gains that have been made in the last six years are improved upon.

I believe that with a concerted effort from the government, churches and cultural icons – like the Ker in Luo Nyanza for instance – Kenya can achieve a prevalence rate of less than 1% in the not so distant future. The majority Muslim countries of West Africa have managed to have low infection rates with little resources and so can we in the East, and possibly lend our ideas to the Southerners who are the worst affected by this scourge.

Anjouan attack a real test for the AU

The African Union is finally flexing some muscles. It is now certain that an AU backed force is set to attack the renegade Comoros island of Anjouan in an attempt to bring it back to the fold of the islands that form the Comoros. So far, South Africa and some reports say France are against the move but the rest of the continent, very wary of secessionists, seem to be OK with the idea of invading the island and doing all that is necessary, including killing the renegade leader of Anjouan – Mohamed Bacar – to restore Moroni’s rule on the island.

As I have written many times before, I have no love for secessionists. I believe that it is partly because of African dissenters’ (most of whom were opportunist egg heads) love for the gun that most of the continent remains in pre-modern times due to the ravages of civil wars and their aftermath. African maps were drawn arbitrarily by some old Europeans, but so what? In any case the Berlin conference saved the continent from going through bloody wars of nation creation like Europe did through most of the middle ages until and in some cases beyond the 1648 treaty of Westphalia that established the nation-state as we know it. That said, I think the problem of rival “nations” being forced into one state is a legitimate problem. However, current global trends can take care of this. As the salience of national boundaries continue to diminish, Africa should take advantage of this and open up its borders to allow free flow of people and capital. This will reduce the continent’s persistent internal feuds and will also be good for the continental economy. Intra-continental should more than the paltry 11% that it is right now.

Going back to Anjouan and the AU. I think it is commendable that this talk shop that we call the AU is finally doing something meaningful. I wish they could do more, especially in cases like Darfur, Somalia and the DRC. A lot of African armies sit in their barracks doing absolutely nothing. Why can’t they form a force and then solicit international funding and go ahead and restore order in Somalia and the DRC? Sudan is a more complex issue, but if there is a will I think it’s case can be resolved too. The proxy US involvement in Somalia through Ethiopia could have been more successful if many other African countries were involved and not just Ethiopia, given the two countries’ bad history over the Ogaden.

So as we wait to see how Mr. Bacar goes down, let’s hope that the AU casualty count will not be high enough to discourage such involvements in the future and that a success in Anjouan will make Addis even more bold in the future and possibly give it the will to have a firmer hand in reigning in on wayward African leaders like Mugabe, Al-Bashir, Biya, Obiang……. .. (I can easily reach the high forties with this).

do not forget about Kenyan IDPs

Right now Kenyan seems to be holding its breath eagerly waiting to find out whether politicians from their “ethnic homelands” will be appointed to the cabinet. Lost to most Kenyans, and sadly this includes even the mainstream media, is the case of the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who still haven’t been able to go back home after marauding gangs of murders killed their kin and drove them out of their homes simply because they spoke a different language.

Frankly speaking I did not expect the politicians to remember the plight of those who fought and even lost relatives and property in their names. Kibaki and his cronies got the violence to stop and calm return. Raila now eagerly awaits the plum post of Premier and his colleagues in the ODM can expect cabinet positions. All well and good.

The average Wanjiku, Atieno and Nafula can go to hell for all these people care. They got their rewards and that is all that matters to them. After causing the mess that killed more than 1500 Kenyans, the best this group of leeches can do is be seen on pool sides in Mombasa’s South Beach where most of them are spending their Easter Holidays. Forget about the little Muriukis and Omondis in IDP camps who are yet to return to school and who will have a very miserable and hunger-filled Easter. Or the old lady from the Rift Valley who after having spent her entire adult life in Nakuru had to flee to a strange land called Murang’a simply because she does not speak the language of the supposed “ancestral owners” of the land in the Rift Valley.

The same politicians are talking about having 34 expensive ministries. Can you believe this??!! 34 ministries!!! And this in a third world country where most people live in conditions that are utterly dehumanising.  Conditions very close to stuff that should only be experienced in anthropology text books about human evolution. These politicians act like they have never been outside our failing continent to other parts of the world where government is based on rational-legal processes and not myopic ethnic balancing acts that only serve to cement ethnic divisions.

I do not care if the MP for Alego, one Mr. Yinda,  gets a cabinet post or not. What I care about is whether the people of Alego, Nyeri and Mandera will have to continue living in embarrassing conditions or whether the political class will finally get its act together and come up with a development agenda to develop the entire country equitably and de-ethnicise it in the process. That is all I will ask for from Kibaki and Raila and their associates.

Why aren’t we seeing the faces or reading the stories of Kenyans suffering in refugee camps and contrasting these with those of politicians in expensive cars or on beaches? The lack of attention to the current suffering of Kenyans in IDP camps will only cement the idea in politicians’ heads that Kenyan lives are expendables that they can use any time to get what they want. Our continued silence will just prove true the adage that societies get the leaders they deserve, for our leaders are, in most cases, a true reflection of who we really are as a country.

kenyan parliament passes bill creating the post of prime minister

In an extraordinary session of parliament attended by the president himself in his capacity as member for Othaya, parliament unanimously passed the bill to create the post of prime minister, expected to be occupied by Hon. Raila Odinga. For the first time in Kenya’s history a sitting president attended parliament to contribute to a debate on the floor of the House. The president sat in the spot reserved for the official leader of government business in the House.

Members from both ODM and PNU expressed their support for the bill, the most notable contribution being from Hon. Martha Karua, who had previously been adamant that Kenya’s crisis be solved within the existing constitutional order. Hon. Karua, while contributing to the debate, said that “The law is made to serve man, not the other way round.” The thawing of relations even on the floor of the House is further sign that the political leadership in Kenya might be genuinely committed to reform in order to herald a new post-tribal Republic. I would, however, not hold my breath. The real test still lies ahead in cabinet appointments. Ethnic balancing vs. rationality will be the big fight and it will be interesting to see how Kibaki and Raila choose to juggle the two.

For now Kenyans can afford to be hopeful that things might actually change. This hope for change should not be just about power sharing at the top but be accompanied with genuine reforms in the public service and government policy. The culture of mediocrity has to stop. Leaders must openly and courageously face the task of modernizing the Kenyan Republic. No more Kenyans should ever die of hunger. No more Kenyans should ever have to live in dehumanizing conditions as exist in slums and in vast swathes of the countryside. May rationality and decency prevail from now on, however hard it may be.

the truth will not be pretty

When the truth finally emerges about Kenya’s very bloody post election violence, it will not be pretty. If Human Rights Watch has it right (and I highly suspect they do), it will be established that the violence in the Rift Valley and parts of Nairobi were meticulously planned by local leaders, big name politicians and business people. More than 1500 died people in the two-month nightmare.

It perplexes me how we shall be able, as a nation, to trust our leaders after they get mentioned to have planned the killings of fellow Kenyans. How can we trust people who organized the burning of 50 people, most of them women and children, in a church? How can we trust the other leaders who in turn organized an arson attack of their own that killed 19 in Naivasha?

The other question will be, where does the investigation stop. Does it stop will the local elders in the Rift Valley or should it go all the way to the national stage where big name politicians might be implicated? Does it stop with the Mungiki leaders in the wider central Kenya or does it go all the way to those who participated in the supposed meeting at State House to plan the reprisal attacks in Nakuru and Naivasha?

Kenya’s near collapse at the beginning of the year is yet again another confirmation of Africa’s lack of serious and dedicated leadership – both within governments and the civil society groups. Why do we always settle for such inept egg heads to lead us? And where is the media on this? Where is their investigative journalism? The media should expose the killers who killed innocent Kenyans for who they are. And our civil society should stop shouting from the roof tops and actually get their hands soiled for a worthy cause. Please give names, dates, numbers, hard facts. EXPOSE THESE KILLERS.

Kenya owes the 1500-plus victims justice. For too long we’ve hid behind a culture of mediocrity and complicity with killers, thugs and rapists. 1992, 1997 and 2007 need to be cleansed from our national conscience. One way to do this would be to bring to book the real perpetrators of the violence that gave us all, as Kenyans, a bad name. The bigger their names the better.

is this love-fest for real?

The ODM leader and Premier-designate Raila Odinga has lately been on a charm offensive. Raila has met with former opponents Karua, Kiraitu, Kimunya and on Friday was hanging out with Jimmy Kibaki and Fidel Odinga. The thawing of relations which was at first just between Raila and Kibaki seems to have spread to the surrogates of the president.

That said, I am still not convinced that things are going to be fine. One Francis Muthaura has already thrown some spanners into the works by his “clarification” the other day and I am sure the naming of the new cabinet will further reveal the differences that these two sides seem eager to hide. I am also not convinced because the love seems to be directed at only Raila and not the other top members of the ODM. For this thing to work it should not be just about Raila. The whole of ODM was aggrieved by the results of the elections and therefore all of ODM should be part of the ODM-PNU alliance.

Increasingly it seems like Raila is hogging all the attention as the rest of ODM hold their breath waiting for the cabinet appointments. I suspect that after the cabinet has been named cracks will start appearing in ODM if Raila is not seen to be fully inclusive of his pentagon colleagues in his engagement with PNU. ODM, although still very rough on the edges, is a promising political party with a national reach. If the party bosses want to be around for some time, they should use this time to cement institutionalism within the party and avoid the culture of personality politics that continues to render our political parties mere vehicles to power, devoid of any ideology or values.

david mwenje has passed away

Former Embakasi MP David K. Mwenje passed away on Thursday evening at Nariobi’s Aga Khan Hospital. Mwenje was admitted to the hospital on January 16 before passing into a coma shortly thereafter.

Mwenje was a fiery and sometimes abrasive politician who knew how to mobilise the crowds at the grassroots. The long time Embakasi MP, though not a particularly clean character, had over the years cultivated the image of being a man of the people which lent him an almost cult like following in his Embakasi constituency. He held the same seat since the eighties before losing out to the late Melitus Were in the 2007 general election.

The late MP will be remembered by his Embakasi supporters for having passionately fought for equitable land allocation in the area against well connected Moi cronies. Unfortunately, he will also be remembered for having been involved with the much feared, murderous gang by the name of Kamjesh that terrorised Nairobi residents for some time in the past and for his infamous fight in parliament with Mbita MP Otieno Kajwang’ that resulted in Kajwang’ biting him in the back.

Mwenje was buried at his home in Murang’a district in a ceremony attended by among others, Martha Karua, the minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs. He was 55.

grave looting in liberia, madness on steroids

The BBC has a story that got me wondering what kind of hole Liberians have dug themselves into. You’d think that this West African country had reached its lowest point when mindless lunatics like Master Sergeant Samuel Doe and Gen. Butt Naked called the shots. But it turns out things could get lower, much much lower. The BBC reports that residents of Monrovia are complaining about a ring of grave robbers that are believed to have desecrated over 2000 graves. Yes 2000!

I am no expert on grave robbery but in my humble estimate I think it takes quite some time to dig up a grave, take out the casket and then leave the cemetary. It beats me how people can do this more than 2000 times without being caught. How hard can it be to catch people who repeatedly dig up graves in a known cemetary? Come on Liberians.

This story is yet another sad reminder of what war does to the human psyche. I have been to a few African countries and in all of them I noticed a deep respect for the dead – demonstrated in elaborate funeral rituals. It is unimaginable that Africans could routinely do what a section of Liberians are doing to their dead. It is apparent that, over the years, the war has demystified human life to these thugs and so for them anything goes, including emptying graves for their contents. This is a new nadir.

18 killed in Laikipia skirmishes

18 people have been killed after being attacked by gangs in Laikipia West in Kenya. The gangs also torched houses and made away with an unknown number of cattle. Members of the murderous gang that committed this heinous crime had guns and are believed to be part of a ring of cattle rustlers that have terrorised the area in recent days in the cover of the post-election violence that rocked parts of the country following the disputed December 27th elections. Just last week 9 people were killed and 100 houses burnt in Soilo and Muhotetu villages in the same area.

The Police Spokesperson, Mr. Kiraithe, said that 12 people have already been arrested in relation to the killings and will be charged in court for the murder of the 18 and arson. This incident further reminds us of just how non-existent the Kenyan government is outside of the major towns and cities. How can such armed gangs roam around committing the kinds of crimes the country has witnessed in Laikipia and Mt. Elgon without state agents knowing about it? And how can this happen even at the height of police presence throughout the country in the aftermath of the chaos of the last two months?

Surely Mr. Ali and his men can do better than this. And the Kenyan intelligence agencies should be roasted for not knowing anything about such operations by these gangs.