new lows for Kenyan politics

The battle lines have been drawn for a showdown in the Kenyan parliament tomorrow. Most reasonable Kenyans, including the current Chief Justice, the Attorney General (Mr. Kibaki’s government legal adviser) and Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs oppose the move by a faction allied to Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto to censure the speaker and shove president Kibaki’s questionable nominations to constitutional offices down Kenyans’ throats.

The media owners association, the Law Society of Kenya, and most of the Kenyan civil society have also rejected the unconstitutional nominations.

I have defended President Kibaki numerous times. I believe that it is because of his leadership style that Kenyans have experienced a resurgence of self-confidence that had long been lost after the fiasco that was 1966.

That said, I find his present actions deplorable. President Kibaki has chosen to risk plunging Kenya back into the abyss because of two of his lieutenants who masterminded the chaos that killed 1300 Kenyans and displaced hundreds of thousands. President Kibaki has chosen to spend public money and resources in defending this same duo. President Kibaki may also have been aware that state resources were used by his second wife and daughter to facilitate drug-trafficking. I stand disillusioned. For far too long I saw in the son of Othaya a Mang’u Man above petty the politics and mediocrity that characterizes Kenya’s political class. I may have been wrong.

The Kenyan presidency has been hijacked by Messrs Francis Muthaura and Uhuru Kenyatta. My only hope is that as they begin their descent for their sins from 2007-8 they do not take the rest of Kenya with them. I also hope that Mr. Kibaki will listen to the rest of Kenya, including the many bright legal minds allied to him, and rescind his wapende wasipende nominations.

His co-principal Mr. Odinga should also show some restraint and engage in grown-up politics. Engaging in a food fight with Mr. Kanyatta will not do Kenya any good.

Macharia Gaitho of the Daily Nation writes:

The crude personalised attacks both are displaying illustrate the depths to which Kenyan politics has sunk. Prime Minister Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta are demonstrating that they are truly the sons of their fathers.

They are privileged scions of the political and mercantile elite who got the best education money could buy and the richest heirlooms that could come out of public service, but when cornered, they abandon all pretence at cosmopolitan sheen and retreat to atavistic and crude ethnic demagoguery.

The saddest thing is that it might not just be a fight between two spoilt and overgrown brats, but a much wider one that carries their respective communities along.

The ordinary Luo or Kikuyu stands to gain absolutely nothing by hoisting Mr Odinga or Mr Kenyatta to reach the fruit. That fruit will not be shared, but kept within the family, as amply demonstrated by Kenyatta and Odinga Mark 1.

Yet you can bet that when it comes to reactions to the current Odinga-Kenyatta brickbats, it is the ordinary and downtrodden Kikuyu and Luo who will be incited to come out most rabidly in support of their man.

kenya’s new constitution, who will pay for it?

The document is here...

290 members of parliament. 100 Senators. Several regions and more than 70 counties. These are among the new burdens that will be added onto the load currently weighing down the Kenyan taxpayer. The draft constitution released today also proposes an executive Premier and dual citizenship.

390 elected legislators is a bit too much, if you ask me. Kenya is a country of 40 million in which only a small fraction engages in taxable economic activities. The rest are rural subsistence farmers who don’t earn taxable income and engage in the formal economy only through sales taxes. Because of this I find it too much of a burden to ask the average Kenyan worker to foot the bill for an unnecessarily bloated legislature. Kenyan MPs are among the highest paid in the world. Indeed they earn more in a year than US senators. And they don’t pay any tax!

I still haven’t read the document yet, after which I look forward to commenting on the devolution structure and the hybrid system of government it supposedly proposes.

Despite its weaknesses, I think this is a step in the right direction. Better this than being stuck with the “home guard” constitution that we currently have.

on the new constitution: wanjiku doesn’t care

The committee of experts charged with steering the process of giving Kenya a new constitution has come up with two contentious issues that they think should be ironed out before Kenyans can finally have  a new constitution – after over 20 years of waiting. The issues are:

1) whether to have a presidential, parliamentary or hybrid system  of government

2) whether the term of the current parliament should expire with the adoption of the new constitution.

To resolve these issues, the Attorney General, Amos Wako, wants Kenyans to submit their suggestions to his office. I say this is nonsense. The original idea to involve Wananchi in the writing of a new constitution was a mistake (I agreed with Moi, even back then as a high school kid) and any further involvement of “wanjiku” will remain an exercise in futility. Some of the best constitutions of the world – like the American one, for instance – were drafted by experts. Villagers in Siaya or Maragua do not care whether we have a presidential or parliamentary system. These are issues only in the heads of Kenya’s power-hungry ruling elite. All Wanjiku cares about is the number of sufurias in her kitchen. Period. Whatever system promises more sufurias she’ll be for it.

For full disclosure, I am not a fan of either PNU or ODM. President Kibaki is a living example of the excesses of an all powerful presidential system and a form of government lacking any separation of powers – the president and all members of his cabinet are also members of parliament. PNU wants to perpetuate such a system judging by what its talking heads are voicing.

That said, I think ODM’s call for a parliamentary system of government is also misguided. Kenya is a young democracy that needs stable government. Parliamentary systems, especially in fractious states like ours, are highly unstable. Look at Italy, Israel and Lebanon. They hold elections almost every few months and take forever to form governments. We need a stable and functional executive if we are going to accelerate Kenya’s economic development.

My two cents on this is that the solution lies in having a presidential system strengthened by a complete separation of powers. The president should be head of the executive and not a member of parliament. His cabinet ministers should also not be sitting members of parliament. Parliament should be independent. To acknowledge the ethnic realities of the country we need to have a two-tier legislature. The lower house should be composed of representatives from constituencies. The upper house should represent Kenya’s ethnic mix, with equal representatives from the major ethnic groups and regions.  The judiciary should be independent of the executive without any compromise whatsoever. Judges should have life tenure and have their pay regulated by an independent public servants remuneration commission.

And on the second point. 2012 is close enough. Let President Kibaki serve the rest of his term and go in peace.

if just for today, Martha Karua is my hero

The resignation of Martha Karua from the cabinet is a most timely event. The coalition government has been teteering on the edge, dogged by one corruption scandal after another. The culture of impunity that has permeated the Kenyan ruling class in the last several months can be partly blamed on the corrupt judiciary. Indeed the law society of Kenya has petitioned the president to ask the chief justice to quit. If Amos Wako were a sane man he too would have already left the Attorney General’s docket by now.

Two cheers to former justice minister Martha Karua for having the courage to quit cabinet. I hope that this will challenge other ministers in the grand coalition to start pressuring both president Kibaki and Premier Odinga to implement much needed reforms in the judiciary and the wider civil service.I hope that she will keep true to her word and “totally disagree with anything that is anti-reform.”

ps: the conspiracy theorist in me is very curious to know why president Kibaki chose to throw Ms. Karua under the bus. After all, she was one of his most vociferous supporters after the 2007 election fiasco. What don’t we know???

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.

how do we force them to resign?

Tomorrow’s Sunday Nation opinion pieces are full of complaints against the ever growing culture of impunity among the ruling class in Kenya. We have become a nation in which cabinet ministers remain in office even when suspected of having ordered the killing of Kenyans a year ago, or turning a blind eye when public corporations were being looted by their cronies. The police chief, the Attorney General and the justice minister still remain in office even after a UN-sanctioned report blamed them for allowing extra-judicial killings to take place in Kenya. The entire judiciary is one giant sty filled with corrupt judges and officials. Everybody knows this but no one wants to do anything.

This may seem naive, but I am kind of surprised that Hussein Ali and Amos Wako are still in office. Especially Amos Wako. He is the man who is responsible for most of the rot in the judiciary. Under Moi he did nothing as the former president and his friends bastardized the judiciary. Kibaki probably kept him on on the request of Moi so as to protect himself and his friends against potential law suits. I say it is time Amos Wako went. He has been Attorney General for far too long with very little to show for it. During his tenure corruption has ballooned like no one’s business but with very few people ever being brought to court.

And about our corrupt cabinet ministers…. Where is the supposedly vibrant Kenyan civil society? I think it is time they took Philip Ochieng’s advice and started agitating for the sacking of certain people implicated in the many scandals that have rocked the country in the last several months.