read more on the maize scandal

I just read this interesting post by Ory on Kenyanpundit.com. According to the post, there seems to be evidence that people high up in ODM may be implicated in the maize scandal that has rocked the country, even as millions of Kenyans continue to live on wild fruits and dug up roots (are we in 200,000 BC????).

It makes you wonder whether we really need the coalition government. As things stand, it seems like these clowns running the country know that they can get away with everything because no one wants to break up the coalition government. Martha Karua (the Justice Minister) herself admitted that ODM and PNU politicians would rather remain in the coalition than seek a fresh mandate from wananchi. Raila and Kibaki should be bolder than they are being and face those stealing from Kenyans, be they big men or not. The two of them can garner enough support from their bases (I don’t mean just central and Nyanza but rather their supporters from across the country) to run the country without having to compromise on issues of corruption and incompetence. Kibaki can make a name for himself as the man who saved Kenya and put it on the right path. And Raila can earn some political capital that he will need for the 2012 election. I am not a die hard fan of either man, but I think right now they are Kenya’s best hope.

there is someone out there plagiarizing me

A hawk-eyed reader just alerted me that there is someone out there who is running around the web copying other people’s blogs – word for word! How shameful! I mean I understand that we bloggers don’t really have original material and we mostly do spin-offs of other stories but to copy something word for word and not give credit? That is just lame.

the AU summit

I just found out that the AU’s annual summit is underway in Addis. I blame it on the African media. But it says a lot about the activities of this organization when mainstream media does not think of its summit as important, given the many troubles afflicting the African continent.

I suspect that it will be business as usual. There will be talk on the coup in Guinea, the everlasting crisis in Zimbabwe, may be a mention of the food crises all over the continent and some side-talk on the conflicts in the DRC, Darfur, Northern Uganda, among other places. A few representatives – go Botswana! – will be forthright and say some bad things about bad African leaders. Most of the speakers, however, being tyrants themselves, will not say anything about leadership and democracy and respect for human rights. Not to be forgotten will be the pipe dream of a United States of Africa.  Nobody seriously thinks this is possible but it will be discussed anyway, perhaps to pass time because there is absolutely nothing better to talk about.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the donor community. They will be present, as monitors and guest speakers. They will be begged for money and they will talk about their plans to save Africa. A few of them will say some politically incorrect things. Most of them will act like they are among rational grown ups – and then call their wives to vent about how crazy some of the leaders they deal with are. I bet I would do the same if I had to discuss the global financial crisis with Gideon Gono.

At the end of the summit on February 3rd everyone will go back home, having wasted their tax-payers’ money on plane tickets and hotel fees (highly inflated of course). Somalia, the DRC, Zimbabwe and the rest will remain unchanged. …………..When will this madness stop?

somalia: may be we should give the Islamists a try?

Before the US decided to use Ethiopia to invade Somalia, the southern portion of the failed state – including the capital Mogadishu – was largely run by a group calling itself the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU was into strict Sharia Law, something that did not go well with most of the secular warlords (who were simply out to make a profit from the chaos that is Somalia) and most of the West (read the US). Financed to some extent by Eritrea, (to Ethiopia’s chagrin) the ICU called for a Jihad against the Ethiopian government for colluding with the infidel Americans. Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia was partly motivated by the Islamist group’s support of the cause for the liberation of the Ogaden, a region of Ethiopia inhabited by ethnic Somalis and which has been the poster-child for irredentist dreams of Somali governments and warlords alike.

And so when the ICU seemed to be gaining too much power than the Ethiopians and Americans would have liked, a decision was made to take them out. It also emerged that the ICU was sympathetic to terrorist elements – inluding the plotters of the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya (more than 200 Kenyans were killed in the attack in Nairobi) and Tanzania. Beginning in July of 2006 Ethiopian troops started moving into Somalia to take out the Islamists – and for some time they succeeded, even enabling the installation of the Somali transitional government in the sleepy town of Baidoa.

But now the Ethiopians have decided to pull out and the Islamists are back. As soon as Ethiopia withdrew, the ICU overran Baidoa and vowed to reinstate Sharia Law. This latest turn of events proves that the ICU is not a mere rag-tag group of bandits. They seem to mean serious business and perhaps it is time the international community took them seriously. Yes they have supported terrorists, but that can be changed by a stroke of a pen on a cheque book. They support the terrorists because the terrorists fund them. I am sure they can be co-opted into the global force for good in exchange for their restoration of order in Somalia.

And about Sharia Law, why should the US and the rest of the international community complain so much while it is the norm in Arabia and the gulf? What makes it different when the Somalis do it? I am all for respect for human rights and all, but I think it is imperative that global do-gooders (and all of us who believe in sensible liberalism) realize that justice is political and therefore should be pursued with regard to the particularities of the societies involved. A realistic approach to Somalia ought to allow the Islamic Courts to be if they can guarantee order and some semblance of  a state in exchange for some cash and a promise not to fund or harbour terrorists. America and Ethiopia must accept the fact that the ICU has some street credibility among Somalis. This is no time for ideological struggles. Somalis have suffered enough.

Zimbabwe: a deal at last?

The BBC is reporting that the government of Robert Mugabe and the opposition MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, have agreed to a tentative deal that may see the formation of a coalition government by MDC and ZANU-PF. I am cautiously optimistic because the last time such an agreement was made Mugabe failed to hold his end of the bargain.

The tussle still remains around who should control powerful ministries in charge of the treasury and the security forces. Mugabe, and his henchmen in the security forces, are afraid of possible prosecution and loss of control if they give up ministries running the security forces. The opposition MDC on the other hand, tired of years of intimidation and police brutality, want to have control over the police forces and perhaps to reform the departments and bring some of the offenders who tortured and killed innocent Zimbabweans under Mugabe to book.

chadian ban on charcoal ludicrous

charcoal1

On January 16th the government of Chad banned the use of charcoal in the country – without providing any sensible alternatives. Worried about desertification in the arid Central African state, the government announced that it was banning all charcoal making from freshly cut trees. Chadians can still make charcoal from dead wood.

While I appreciate the need to stop the southward spread of the Sahara, I think the government went too far on this one. It is ridiculous that the governmnet of Chad (of all countries) can suddenly wake up and decide that it is time to stop using charcoal fuel and switch to propane – or whatever other alternative for that matter. Banning charcoal use will not stem desertification. Planting trees, having a decent irrigation plan and being serious about population control and smart ways of using scarce water resources will. Merely banning people from using charcoal or firewood will not cut it. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of Africans still depend on woodfuel for their daily energy needs. Switching to more environment-friendly fuel sources will take time.

I know that the Chadians and the other countries in the Sahel are especially on heightened alert with regard to desertification but this was surely not the way to go. How many Chadians can afford propane? How many Chadians have gas burners? How many Chadians have viable alternatives to charcoal? These are the questions the men in N’djamena should have asked before unilaterally banning the use of charcoal in the country.

hongera justice Joyce Aluoch

Justice Joyce Aluoch, a Kenyan appellate judge was voted in by the UN general assembly to be judge of the International Criminal Court. Although I am not the biggest fan of the UN court (its toothlessness serious hampers the administration of justice) I am delighted that a daughter of Kenya has been given this honor to serve the global community. I wish her all the best in her work and hope that the court will continue its relentless pursuit, arrest and prosecution of war criminals from Africa’s many flash-points.

Hongera Justice Aluoch!!

the sunday editorials

The Sunday Nation has some interesting opinion pieces this week. The rage is all about the recent scandals and president Kibaki’s lucklustre attempts at containing them. Makau Mutua, the head of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, has a piece on the current scandals rocking the country. I only wish the Kenyan middle class would read such pieces more closely and realize just how much horse manure our leaders keep piling on us – and do something about it. Mutahi Ngunyi offers a clever conspiracy theory on the Kibaki succession saga. I don’t buy it though – I think PNU will lose in 2012 because none of its current leaders match the president’s national popularity. Phillip Ochieng’ offers a comment on the election of Barack Obama as president of the US and racial politics. Although I do not agree with the way he phrases his argument, I concur with him that the fact that  “even the most junior white diplomat in African capitals feels free to comment licentiously about the erratic ways of governments” is disrespectful and reeks of 19th century bigotry.

the arrest of Nkunda welcome news

DRCONGO-UNREST-BUKAVU-NKUNDALaurent Nkunda, the leader of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD), a rebel group in eastern DRC, was arrested Thursday as he tried to flee into Rwanda. Recently Rwanda sent in a few thousand troops into eastern DRC to disarm members of the Forces démocratique pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel group that still entertains dreams of invading Rwanda to topple the Kagame regime. Nkunda, sensing that the dragnet might have been wide enough to catch him, decided to flee into Rwanda to avoid confrontation with the Rwandan troops.

Although Nkunda’s arrest may not significantly change the situation in eastern DRC – there are several distinct rebel groups in this part of the country – it sends a message that the leaders of murderous groups like Nkunda’s will not go unpunished. Nkunda should be tried for war crimes and general thuggery and put in prison for the rest of his life.

And the DRC needs to get its act together. The failure of Kinshasa to control the eastern parts of the country is a sign of gross incompetence. If Kinshasa cannot effectively control the region it should be bold enough to let it go. Otherwise the war of attrition it is fighting in that part of the country will continue to generate more and more splinter rebel groups and get even more complicated. In the mean time more people continue to lose their lives – on top of the 4 million already dead since the mid-90s.

I also think that it is time the international community stopped treating the Congo war as yet another irrational African tribal conflict. IT IS NOT. Indeed, no war in Africa deserves to be labeled as such. The war in the Congo, like most conflicts in Africa and elsewhere in the world,  is a resource war. Ethnicity is just a rallying call. If real peace is to be achieved in the wider great lakes region of Africa the real issues of resource allocation will have to be addressed honestly.

a misdirected cabinet…

So the president just announced a cabinet reshuffle in which he appointed Uhuru Kenyatta to be Minister of Finance. Many in the Kenyan media think that the president made this decision with his succession in mind. Hon. Kenyatta has now occupied the pole position among the wider PNU hopefuls in the ever intensifying Kibaki succession saga.

Me thinks that all this is a bucket of horse manure. Firstly, Uhuru Kenyatta will not be elected president in 2012. Martha Karua or George Saitoti have a better chance. Secondly, why appoint Uhuru to be Finance Minister? What credentials does he have to enable him serve in such a vital ministry? Thirdly, are all government actions forever going to be informed by 2012 political calculations?

As I have indicated before, I think that Amos Kimunya should have remained as Finance Minister. Among the current members of the cabinet he was the most qualified for that position. I like his business mentality and he seemed to be doing a pretty good job before the taint of corruption dragged him down. He may have been corrupt (which one of our leaders isn’t?) but he was the best man we could ever have, under the circumstances, at treasury. Kibaki should have restored him at treasury instead of politicizing the economic management of the country by appointing a hopelessly unqualiffied presidential hopeful.

food shortage in Kenya

Food shortage continues to plague several parts of rural Kenya. This inspite of the Kenyan government’s public promises  to contain the crisis. The whole affair has been a sham. Firstly, the government officials charged with distributing cheap maize the rural and urban poor have been involved in corrupt scandals intended to defraud the government and the Kenyan people of millions of shillings. Secondly, the government does not seem to have a coherent long term plan to tackle the problem. Why is it that we are having a food shortage? Is it because people did not farm last year or is there some other reasons? And why didn’t anyone in government see this coming and plan for it in advance?

It is sad that so far no head has rolled yet. None of those suspected to have been involved in the scandals have been brought to justice – despite promises from several members of parliament. It is likely that people high up in the coalition government may have been involved hence the need to shield them for the sake of the coalition. I say this is a bucket of horse manure. This is total dung because we cannot continue to sacrifice the lives of innocent Kenyans just to keep a bunch of kleptocrats in high office. For too long Kenyan politics have lacked accountability. Justice should never be compromised for the sake of political expediency.

And where is the Kenyan media while all this is going on? What are their names? The names do not have to appear on the front pages of the Nation or the Standard. Just leak them online. Wikileaks is a good place to start. If our politicians do not want to willingly be transparent we should force them to do just that. That’s the least they could do for us for the obscene amounts of money we pay them every month.

America the great

obamachampion

Today the world got yet another glimpse of the greatness of the greatest nation on earth. The United States of America, a nation founded in part by slave owners, witnessed the swearing in as president the son of a Kenyan and a Kansan woman. Just like in the 18th century, when (together with France) America laid the foundations for the belief in the rights and equality of all peoples, today America reminded the world that it ought to be the case that any human being, regardless of race, creed or gender can be anything that they choose to be.

This is no place for jingoism. I am aware of America’s flaws. It is a country of contrasts in many respects. There still are millions who are yet to live the American dream. Ethnic suspicions and racial bigotry still persist. And its international agenda still has hints of arrogance and a false sense of entitlement. But at the same time America continues to be the shining example of what can become of a union of free men based on the ideals of inalienability of the rights of man. No other nation tries so hard to stick to these ideals. No other nation has shown this much vitality and ability to renew itself and maintain its greatness at the same time.

So as Barack Obama begins his journey in the White House it is my hope that the world will take a moment and think about what it is that makes America great. If they are honest with themselves they will come up with answers that condemn tyranny, arbitrary government, and many other ills that perpetuate poverty and general socio-cultural stuntedness in most of the poor regions of the world.

mugabe and tsvangirai failing Zimbabwe

There comes a time when convention and ideology needs to be brushed aside for the sake of the well being of a nation. Now is such a time for Zimbabwe, once Southern Africa’s bread basket but now a basket case in its own right. The truth be said, Robert Mugabe’s land policies had some merit. It is inconceivable in any democracy that a tiny percentage of the population (most of foreign origin whose grandparents and parents stole land from native Zimbabweans) should own huge tracts of land while the vast majority subsist on tiny parcels. This system was simply unsustainable and was bound to explode with or without uncle Rob (next watch South Africa under Zuma…..). That said, it is indisputable that Mugabe bungled the entire process. Forceful evictions, cronyism and outright thuggery made the whole process seem like it was being run by a bunch of kids.

So now the water has been spilled. As they say where I come from, maji yakimwagika hayazoleki (once water has been spilled you can’t put it back into a container). The Zimbabwean economy is paying dearly for Rob’s misadventures. The political process has also been a major casualty of the land mess. And millions of Zimbabweans have been forced to flee their own country. A few questionable elections have been held. Many have been jailed for political reasons.

With all the above in mind, I can’t help but wonder why the hell Robert Mugabe and Robert Tsvangirai are continuing in their dillying and dallying instead of reaching an agreement to start fixing the country. Perhaps Tsvangirai does not want to cede any ground on principle. But this is no time for principles or unncessary fights. People – with only one life to live like all of us – are dying daily because of the intransigence of these two men and their aides. Someone needs to lock them up in a room without food or bathroom break until they come up with a plan to save Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, South Africa continues to be a big disappointment in this affair. They are the last country one would expect to tolerate arbitrary tyranny – regardless of the color of the skin of the tyran.

what an obama presidency could do for african leadership

There is excitement in the air. All around the world and here in the US in particular everyone seems thrilled by the idea that tomorrow Barrack Obama, the son of a Kenyan man and a Kansan woman, will be sworn in to become the 44th president of the United States. I am excited too, partly because of my own political persuasion and partly because being a Kenyan this is a special moment when the son of a Kenyan becomes the most powerful man in the world. I am not big on identity politics but I simply could not let this one go.

Back to the topic of this post. As we await the arrival of the Obamas in the White House I cannot help but wonder how an Obama presidency will affect leadership on the continent of his father – Africa. Already in Europe and Israel we have seen candidates mimic Obama as they attempt to woo voters. I hope that the same enthusiasm for this man’s brand of politics and political organization spreads to Africa. I hope that an Obama presidency will plant the seeds for African leadership based on lasting ideals and ideologies and not myopic ethno-economic calculations.

So let us all make merry and be happy as the world begins a new chapter with a renewed America. And let us strive to imitate what is best about America – it’s resiliency and unique ability of self-regeneration and most of all its peoples belief in themselves, even when the odds seem longer than they can overcome.

a few stories that highlight just how bad things are for some people

The BBC reports that women in Niger have a 1 in 7 chance of dying during childbirth. The report also mentioned that more than half of maternal deaths in poor countries occur in Africa. I have talked about this in the past but it still is saddening to see such statistics and know that there are real people, real human beings behind them. IRIN also has a slightly positive story on maternal mortality in Somalia.

Turning to the bizzare, The Economist reports that albinos in East Africa are facing constant threat of death in the hands of crazies out to harvest their body parts – to be used by witches. This is the 21st century? How do people still believe in things like this? The Economist may have hyped it a bit, but the mere fact that such crazy things are still happening in communities in East Africa is shocking, and quite frankly embarrassing for Africa. I think it is time governments stopped pretending that people don’t do such weird things and go ahead and outlaw certain practices – like witchcraft and the like. Of course this may be a problem if some law-makers believe in that stuff too. And I would not be surprised if it turned out that some do because we are led by a brood of half-baked adults without a scintilla of statesmanship but full of superstitious and anachronistic nonesense that they present as “traditions.”

And lastly, a positive story from Malawi. The authorities tthere have adopted the use of mobile phones to assist in data collection. This discovery might help improve the standards of data collection across Africa, a continent where planning has been seriously hampered because of unreliable data collection and record-keeping.