The role of elites in development (Danish Edition)

Kenya’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, often reminded Kenyan elites of their roles as living examples of material “development” to the peasantry. Contra Oginga Odinga — who wanted to empower the masses through land redistribution, Kenyatta believed that an elite-driven developmental agenda was the quickest way to end the scourges of poverty, illiteracy, and disease in Kenya (yes, he had very selfish reasons for holding this belief. But that is beside the point).

Turns out he was onto something.

This is from a paper by Jensen et al. on the dairy industry in Denmark:

We explore the role of elites for development and in particular for the spread of cooperative creameries in Denmark in the 1880s, which was a major factor behind that country’s rapid economic catch-up. We demonstrate empirically that the location of early proto-modern dairies, so-called hollænderier, introduced onto traditional landed estates as part of the Holstein System of agriculture by landowning elites from the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein in the eighteenth century, can explain the location of cooperative creameries in 1890, more than a century later, after controlling for other relevant determinants. We interpret this as evidence that areas close to estates which adopted the Holstein System witnessed a gradual spread of modern ideas from the estates to the peasantry. Moreover, we identify a causal relationship by utilizing the nature of the spread of the Holstein System around Denmark, and the distance to the first estate to introduce it, Sofiendal. These results are supported by evidence from a wealth of contemporary sources and are robust to a variety of alternative specifications.

We thus demonstrate econometrically that the pattern of adoption of cooperative creameries in Denmark followed the introduction of proto-modern dairies by agricultural elites on estate farms. In the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, ruled by the King of Denmark in personal union until 1864 when they were lost to Prussia, an intensified crop rotation system with an important dairy component was developed on the large manorial estates known as Koppelwirtschaft in German, or kobbelbrug in Danish. It became the dominant field system in the Duchies in the 1700s, and included unprecedentedly large herds of milch cows and the invention of an innovative new centralized system of butter production, the hollænderi, with unparalleled standards of hygiene and equipment (Porskrog Rasmussen 2010a). These innovations – collectively known as the above mentioned ‘Holstein System’ when the crop-rotation was combined with the dairy unit – came relatively late to Denmark, but when they did they gradually transformed Danish agriculture.

Denmark’s current status as an ‘agricultural superpower’ , dominated by massive firms such as Arla (a dairy cooperative) and Danish Crown (a food, especially meat, processing firm previously also a cooperative until 2010), is usually traced back to the aforementioned developments in the 1880s. As we will discuss in more detail below, at this point a new technology, the steam-powered automatic cream separator made it possible to use milk which had been transported over long distances to be processed in a central production facility, and the voluntary associations of Danish peasants, the cooperatives, sprang up to take advantage of this possibility. Thus, modern Denmark emerged based on a democratic, cooperative countryside, providing something of a role model to other agricultural countries around the world.

The whole paper is worth reading, as it provides a rather interesting rebuttal (if I may call it that) to the core ideas about the long-run effects of inequalities in initial endowments in Engerman and Sokoloff (on Latin America) as well as Banerjee and Iyer (on India):

By contrast, we stress that agricultural elites may spread knowledge, which then subsequently aids development in the agricultural sector. In other words, our work suggests that agricultural elites may also be knowledge elites, who facilitate later development. Recent work by Squicciarini and Voigtländer (2016) demonstrates that knowledge elites played a significant role in the industrialization of France by e.g. running businesses themselves or exchanging knowledge with entrepreneurs. Our work emphasizes the importance of knowledge spill-overs and agricultural enlightenment (Mokyr 2009, ch. 9), and shares some similarities with Hornung’s (2014) work on high-skilled immigration of Huguenots into Prussia. He shows that this led to higher productivity in the textile sector and interprets this as evidence of an effect of diffusion of technology. We focus on agricultural elites and their impact on the part of the agricultural sector that led to an economy-wide take-off.

The key difference in Denmark, of course, was that the social conditions permitted easy diffusion of ideas and practices from the knowledge elites to the masses, despite the inequalities in initial endowments. The situation might be different, for ex when race, ethnicity, or caste gets in the way.

On the Odingas and Kenyattas of Kenya

This is from Jina Moore (who is doing a great job as East Africa bureau chief).

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the father of Raila Odinga, negotiated independence with the British. The colonial rulers wanted Mr. Odinga to lead the new Kenya, but Mr. Odinga had other ideas: He demanded Mr. Kenyatta’s freedom — and his appointment as Kenya’s first head of state.

“Kenyatta would not have been released, and he wouldn’t have been made prime minister, if it hadn’t been for Odinga’s backing,” said Daniel Branch, a professor of history at the University of Warwick and an expert on post-colonial Kenyan politics. “The two men always admired each other.”

Willy Mutunga, who was chief justice of the Supreme Court from 2011 to 2016, believes Mr. Odinga was motivated by more than mere admiration. “I think he genuinely believed that the country was going to be better off with somebody who had become a legend,” he said.

And so, in 1964, when Kenya became a republic, Jomo Kenyatta became its president, and Jaramogi Odinga vice-president.

The piece is worth reading. I liked the bits about the Odinga/Kenyatta conflict over land redistribution.

It would be interesting to think of the counterfactual: What if Odinga/Kaggia had won over Kenyatta/Mboya and redistributed all the land? What kind of Kenya would have emerged? Would it have been more stable and prosperous than present day Kenya? Was this a feasible option given the preferences of Whitehall? What would have been the political and human costs?

My (positivist) take is that most people under-estimate the important role that the “willing buyer willing seller” mantra played in facilitating elite-level buy-in into the Kenya Project (state-building and elite-level stability). It’s not just Kenyatta and his co-ethnics that got land. Lots of elites from other communities in the districts got land, too, and a chance to earn rents. For example, as part of his coup-proofing strategy, Kenyatta bought off the officer class in the armed forces (mostly composed of non-co-ethnics) with land. Kenyatta’s cabinets reflected this political economy reality, too. All the major districts had a representative.

How Eastern Africa can avoid the resource curse

This post originally appeared on the African Development Bank’s Integrating Africa Blog, where yours truly is a regular contributor. 

Eastern Africa is the new fossil fuel frontier (for more check out this (pdf) Deloitte report). In the last few years Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique have discovered large quantities of commercially viable oil and gas deposits, with the potential for even more discoveries as more aggressive prospecting continues. There is reason to be upbeat about the region’s economic prospects over the next three decades, or at least before the oil runs out. But the optimism must be tempered by an acknowledgement of the dangers that come with the newfound resource wealth. Of particular concern are issues of governance and sound economic management.

We are all too aware of the dangers of the resource curse. This is when the discovery and exploitation of natural resources leads to a deterioration of governance, descent into autocracy and a fall in living standards. Associated with the resource curse is the problem of the Dutch disease, which occurs when natural resource exports (e.g. oil and gas) lead to an appreciation of the exchange rate, thereby hurting other export sectors and destroying the ability of a country to diversify its export basket. The new resource-rich Eastern African states face the risk of having both problems, and to avoid them they must cooperate.

In many ways Eastern African states are lucky to be late arrivals at the oil and gas game. Unlike their counterparts in Western and Central Africa, nearly all of them are now nominal electoral democracies with varying degrees of institutionalized systems to ensure transparency in the management of public resources. Across the region, the Big Man syndrome is on the decline. But challenges remain. Recent accusations of secrecy, corruption and bribery surrounding government deals with mining companies suggest that there is a lot of room for improvement as far as the strengthening of institutions that enforce transparency (such as parliaments) is concerned. It is on this front that there is opportunity for regional cooperation to improve transparency and resource management.

While it is easy for governments to ignore weak domestic oversight institutions and civil society organizations, it is much harder to renege on international agreements and treaties. A regional approach to setting standards of transparency and accountability could therefore help ensure that the ongoing oil and gas bonanza does not give way to sorrow and regret three decades down the road. In addition, such an approach would facilitate easier cross-border operations for the oil majors that are currently operational in multiple countries, not to mention drastically reduce the political risk of entering the region’s energy sector. It would also leave individual countries in a stronger bargaining position by limiting opportunities for multinational firms to engage in cross-border regulatory arbitrage.

The way to implement regional cooperation and oversight would be something akin to the African Peer Review Mechanism, but with a permanent regional body and secretariat (perhaps under the East African Community, EAC). Such a body would be mandated to ensure the harmonization of laws to meet global standards of transparency and protection of private property rights. The body would also be mandated to conduct audits of national governments’ use of revenue from resources. The aim of the effort would be to normalize best practices among states and to institute a global standard for states to aspire more – more like the way aspirations for membership in the European Union has been a catalyst for domestic reforms in the former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe.

Regional cooperation would also provide political cover to politicians with regard to economically questionable fuel subsidies. The realities of democratic government are such that politicians often find themselves forced to concede to demands for fuel subsidies from voters. But history shows that more often that not subsidies come at an enormous cost to the economy and instead of benefitting the poor only benefit middlemen. In addition, as the case of Nigeria shows, once implemented such policies are never easy to roll back both due to politics and the power of entrenched interests. Regional agreements capping any fuel subsidies at reasonable levels would be an excellent way to tie politicians’ hands in a credible manner, while at the same time providing them with political cover against domestic criticism.

Beyond issues of governance, there is need for cooperation on regional infrastructure development in order to reap maximum value for investment and avoid unnecessary wastes and redundancies. Landlocked Uganda and South Sudan will require massive investments in infrastructure to be able to access global energy markets. The two countries’ oil fields are 1,300 km and 1,720 km from the sea through Kenya, respectively. One would hope that as these projects are being studied and implemented, there will be consideration for how to leverage the oil and gas inspired projects to cater to other exports sectors – such as agriculture, tourism and light manufacturing – as well. KPMG, the professional services firm, recently reported that transportation costs eat up as much as 20 per cent of Africa’s foreign exchange earnings.  There is clearly a need to ensure that the planned new roads and railways serve to reduce the cost of exports for all outward oriented sectors in the region. Embedding other exports sectors (such as agriculture, timber, domestic transport, etc.) in the process of developing new transportation infrastructure will minimize the likelihood of their being completely crowded out by the energy sector.

In isolation, each country’s resource sector policy is currently informed by domestic political economy considerations and regional geo-politics. There is an emerging sense of securitization of resources, with each country trying to ensure that the exploitation of its resources does not depend too much on its neighbours. Because of the relatively small size of the different countries’ economies, the risk of ending up with economically inefficient but expensive pipelines, roads and railways is real. South Sudan is currently deciding whether to build a pipeline through Kenya (most likely), through Ethiopia, or stick with the current export route for its oil through Sudan (least preferred due to testy relations). For national security and sovereignty reasons, Uganda is planning on a 30,000-barrel per day refinery in Hoima, despite warnings from industry players that the refinery may not be viable in the long run. Some have argued for the expansion of East Africa’s sole refinery in Mombasa to capture gains from economies of scale, an option that Uganda feels puts its energy security too much in Kenya’s hands.

In the meantime, Kenya and Tanzania are locked in competition over who will emerge as the “gateway to Eastern Africa,” with plans to construct mega-ports in Lamu and Tanga (Mwambani), respectively. While competition is healthy and therefore welcome, this is an area where there is more need for coordination than there is for competition among Eastern African governments. The costs involved are enormous, hence the need for cooperation to avoid any unnecessary redundancies and ensure that the ports realize sufficient returns to justify the investment. Kenya’s planned Lamu Port South Susan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project will cost US $24.7 billion. Tanzania’s Mwambani Port and Railway Corridor (Mwaporc) project will cost US $32 billion.

Chapter 15 of the EAC treaty has specific mandates for cooperation in infrastructure development. As far as transport infrastructure goes, so far cooperation has mostly been around Articles 90 (Roads), 91 (Railways) and 92 (Civil Aviation and Air Transport). There is a need to deepen cooperation in the implementation of Article 93 (Maritime Transport and Ports) that, among other things, mandates the establishment of a common regional maritime transport policy and a “harmonious traffic organization system for the optimal use of maritime transport services.”

The contribution of inefficient ports to transportation costs in the regional cannot be ignored. Presently, the EAC’s surface transportation costs, associated with logistics, are the highest of any region in the world. According to the African Development Bank’s State of Infrastructure in East Africa report, these costs are mainly due to administrative and customs delays at ports and delays at borders and on roads. Regional cooperation can help accelerate the process of reforming EAC’s ports, a process that so far has been stifled (at least in Kenya) by domestic political constituencies opposed to the liberalization of the management of ports. The move by the East African Legislative Assembly to pass bills establishing one-stop border posts (OSBPs) and harmonized maximum vehicle loads regulations is therefore a step in the right direction.

Going back to the issue of governance, more integrated regional cooperation in the planning and implementation of infrastructure development projects has the potential to insulate the projects from domestic politics and patronage networks that often limit transparency in the tendering process. Presently, Uganda is in the middle of a row with four different Chinese construction firms over confusion in the tendering process for a new rail link to South Sudan and port on Lake Victoria. The four firms signed different memoranda with different government departments in what appears to be at best a massive lapse in coordination of government activities or at worst a case of competition for rents by over-ambitious tenderpreneurs.  This does not inspire confidence in the future of the project. A possible remedy to these kinds of problems is to have a permanent and independent committee for regional infrastructure to oversee all projects that involve cross-border infrastructure development.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that Eastern Africa is lucky to have discovered oil and gas in the age of democracy, transparency and good governance. This will serve to ensure that the different states do not descend into the outright kleptocracy that defined Africa’s resource sector under the likes of Abacha and Mobutu in an earlier time. That said, a lot remains to be done to ensure that the region’s resources will be exploited to the benefit of its people. In this regard there is a lot to be gained from binding regional agreements and treaties to ensure transparency and sound economic management of public resources. Solely relying on weak domestic institutions and civil society organizations will not work.

Kenyan election update

Results painfully slowly coming in. About 5.54m votes have been counted so far with 43% of centres reporting. 333k of thesey have been rejected.

Interestingly, the IEBC this evening announced that the rejected votes will also go into the final tally since the law requires that the winner get 50%+1 of all votes cast.

That means that Kenyatta’s effective vote share at 11PM on Tuesday is 50.3% and Odinga’s is 39.6%.

The difference in raw votes between the two candidates has stagnated at aroung 600k all evening.

It appears that IEBC will simply incorporate the votes rejected without an audit. As I said below this move will likely force a runoff.

6% of ballots cast, so far, were rejected – a massive civic education FAIL, both on the part of IEBC and political parties.

countdown to wednesday begins

On Wednesday a few Kenyan cabinet ministers, wealthy businessmen and security chiefs – mostly from central Kenya and the Rift Valley – will be exposed as suspects behing the post election violence in 2007-08 that killed 1333 Kenyans and displaced hundreds of thousands. Needless to say, this will have significant political consequences.

The expected political realignments following the initiation of this phase of the ICC process will shed some light on what Kenyans should expect come 2012. It will also be a litmus test on how much the Kenyan political elite is committed to reforms and fighting impunity. Kibaki and Odinga will either have to defend or cut loose some of their most trusted lieutenants.

In other news Laurent Gbagbo is still refusing to relinquish power in the Ivory Coast. Moreno Ocampo should warn him that if any more people die as a result of his refusal to obey the electoral outcome he will be held responsible.

Elections have consequences.

 

it was never going to be an easy ride

The two decade-old clamour for a new constitution in Kenya has not been an easy ride. One is reminded of the saba saba rallies from the early 1990s. Most vivid of all was the shocking image of Rev. Timothy Njoya being clobbered by armed police men. Then came the Bomas constitutional conference under the NARC Administration that produced the document that was rejected at the 2005 referendum. The current constitutional review process also seems to have acquired a lot of enemies. On the surface – and this is what the mainstream Kenyan media seems to trumpet – it appears that those who are politically opposed to the draft are wary of the massive head-start that a YES victory would grant Premier Odinga in the 2012 presidential election. I beg to differ.

Me thinks that most of the political opposition to the document are founded on distributional concerns. The new set up will take a lot of power from the centre and redistribute it to the people. This will significantly alter resource allocation processes, including the management of land. It will also render obsolete the patronage networks that we call the provincial administration. It is not a coincidence that the biggest opponents to the draft also happen to be the biggest landowners, including former President Moi, among others. Imagine this for a second: President Kibaki is on the YES team, but the treasure continues to dilly and dally with the allocation of money for civic education… how can this be?

Mutahi Ngunyi has a different, but interesting take on things. Kwendo Opanga, shares his thoughts on the same, while Mutua tackles the rather risible decision of the courts to declare the current constitution unconstitutional!

Kadhi’s courts and abortion revisited

It appears that after more than 20 years of waiting Kenyans will finally have a new constitution after August 6th. The Attorney General Amos Wako (I can’t believe this man is still in office) published the document today. The electoral commission will formulate the referendum question and announce the campaign period for the August 6th referendum. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the document will be passed by a majority of Kenyans. The latest poll indicated that 64% of Kenyans support the document compared to 17% who oppose it.

The Church and a section of politicians are opposed to the document because of its wording in relation to abortion and Kadhi’s courts (see below) and on matters of resource allocation.  With regard to abortion, my stand is that the constitution does nothing against Kenya’s conservative bend. If anything it still needs some doses of liberalism on family law and social justice in order to protect our mothers and sisters and other marginalized peoples from the rather dated views of the Kenyan patriarchy.Our mothers and sisters are not crazy child-killers. They too are very conservative when it comes to abortion. In this case the law will only serve to bring out of the shadows the thousands of illegal abortions that result in the death of many women in our towns and cities. Also, if the church is so concerned with abortion, how about doing so by promoting birth control? I still don’t get the church’s justification for its consignment of millions to an early grave (thanks to HIV/AIDS) and orphanhood because of its bizarre policies on the use of contraceptives.

And on the Kadhi’s courts: the wording speaks for itself. It only applies to Muslims’ personal issues and even then only with their consent. No Christian will ever have to face a Kadhi. Plus as I have pointed out before, the church’s attempt to impose Christian morality on Kenyans through the constitution is not consistent with their opposition to Kadhi’s courts.

On Abortion:

Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.

On Kadhis’ Courts

(1) There shall be a Chief Kadhi and such number, being not fewer than three, of other Kadhis as may be prescribed under an        Act  of Parliament.
(2) A person shall not be qualified to be appointed to hold or act in the
office of Kadhi unless the person—
(a) professes the Muslim religion; and
(b) possesses such knowledge of the Muslim law applicable to any  sects of Muslims as qualifies the person, in the opinion of the
Judicial Service Commission, to hold a Kadhi’s court.
(3) Parliament shall establish Kadhis’ courts, each of which shall have the jurisdiction and powers conferred on it by legislation,   subject to clause (5).
(4) The Chief Kadhi and the other Kadhis, or the Chief Kadhi and such of the other Kadhis (not being fewer than three in number) as may be prescribed under an Act of Parliament, shall each be empowered to hold a Kadhi’s court having jurisdiction within Kenya.
(5) The jurisdiction of a Kadhis’ court shall be limited to the determination of questions of Muslim law relating to personal status, marriage, divorce or inheritance in proceedings in which all the parties profess the Muslim religion and submit to the jurisdiction of the Kadhi’s courts.

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.

we may be on a sinking boat

A friend of mine keeps telling me how deranged I am whenever I wax lyrical about Kenya’s preeminent position in East Africa. Being a perennial optimist on most matters Kenyan, I have somehow managed to convince myself that the current political troubles rocking the country are but transient – a necessary step on Kenya’s path to being the region’s top dog. But even I am beginning to get worried.

The recent fallout between Premier Odinga and President Kibaki is not a good sign. My worries have been further compounded by reports of the existence of militias being trained and armed by politicians. And forget about being the region’s top dog. Uganda seems to have successfully annexed Migingo Island. And without even having to fight for it. Just when did the rain begin to beat us so bad???

Things seem to be getting worse by the day. Corruption is off the charts. Nepotism and tribalism seem to be the norm in the public service. Kenyans continue to die of hunger like it is 20,000 BC (the Kenyan food jokes are not so funny anymore).  The President and his Prime Minister are reading from different scripts. The country remains as divided as ever. And worst of all, the vast majority of Kenyans still live in a pre-industrial world where an obscene number of children die before they are five and those that survive have very little to hope for.

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga are failing Kenya. They have it in their power to sack corrupt ministers. They have it in their power to impose civility on the civil service. They have it in their power to use the current crisis as a chance to craft social policies that will finally catapult Kenya into the 21st century. I am disappointed that instead of doing any of these things the two men have chosen to run the country like a village kiosk.

do we really need this circus?

The back and forth tussle that has become of the negotiations between Kibaki and Raila over a coalition cabinet is very unseemly. More than twice, the two men have met and agreed on a deal only to have their mouthpieces issue statements on the contrary.

What surprises me is how PNU is acting like they did not know what they were getting into by signing the Feb. 28th agreement. By agreeing to share power with ODM, they essentially admitted guilt to the shady mess that was the previous December’s general election and thereby allowed ODM to put one foot into government. If PNU thought that ODM would be contented with the ministry of fisheries and such then they were way off the mark. Like any political party these people want power and they will not settle for less.

What Kibaki ought to do now is just give them what they want and then control them via the Finance Ministry. The two most contentious posts seem to be Foreign and Local Government Ministries. Kenya’s foreign ministry is not that big of a deal. Who cares about summits and talk shops around the world? Plus it’s not like the country has any coherent foreign policy that would be severely changed by an ODM apparatchik in the post. And with the ministry of Local Government, I say give it to ODM. It’s not like the major towns and cities – outside of the wider Central region – are not pro-ODM already. Having to fight councils and city residents selling tomatoes in the streets might even make them unpopular come 2012.

My two cents on this is that the tussle is about nothing really. The president can continue to run the entire cabinet through control of the treasury and concentrate power in the hands of the Finance minister. Kenyan ministers are not an ambitious lot so I don’t think any of them will want to do anything revolutionary simply because they are now in charge of local councils or the ministry of heavy industry (I can’t believe they are actually creating these superfluous ministries).

So save us the drama Mr. President and name a cabinet already. Your government will be a joke anyway, with its 40 cabinet posts. Kenyans will pay over 500 million Shillings every year paying for the bloated cabinet and expect and get absolutely nothing in return. Shame shame shame.

I put it to you that what really matters to Kenyans is not what post some fat cat gets in your government but the stuff that increases the number of sufurias of ugali in their homes : equitable economic development.

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.

kenyan talks collapse, more violence expected

Kenya seems to be headed for more chaos as talks between the government and the main opposition party over disputed elections collapsed on Thursday. The opposition then reacted to this by announcing three days of street protests throughout the country in an attempt to force the government to resign.

The government is yet to react to the call for fresh protests. Last time the opposition tried to go to the streets they were met by paramilitary officers with clubs and water canons. A few were shot dead in the Western cities of Kisumu and Eldoret, the hot beds of opposition support.

By refusing to allow mediation to work, the two leaders in the midst of the current chaos, Kibaki and Raila, risk plunging this former oasis of peace on the continent of Africa into yet another failed African state. The economy has lost more than a billion dollars since December 27th and the stock market continues to record losses – five percent of its value has already been wiped off thanks to the violence.

True to a Swahili proverb, when two elephants fight its the grass that suffers – as Kibaki and Raila lock horns in their struggle for power it is the ordinary poor Kenyans that are feeling the pinch, more than anyone else. Prices have shot up since violence erupted in late December and more than 500 people have died already. A panel of mediators led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan is expected into the country to try and mediate a settlement between Raila and Kibaki. The government has already shown its unwillingness to cooperate by insisting that the country needs no mediators as it is not in a state of war.

big losers in Kenya’s elections

Results streaming into various Kenyan news stations show that the main opposition leader Hon. Odinga is leading the incumbent President Kibaki by hundreds of thousands of votes. But these results are just preliminary since many poll centres have not finished the tallying exercise. As it stands Hon. Odinga has big leads in Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley and Coast provinces, while President Kibaki leads in Central and Nairobi provinces. The third candidate, Hon. Musyoka is leading in his native Eastern province.

The big losers in this election include the vice president and several cabinet ministers who have lost their parliamentary seats. The vice president Hon. Awori lost his seat to Dr. Otuoma, an ODM candidate. Fork Kenya chairman Hon. Kombo has also lost his seat to an ODM candidate. Other big losers include Messrs Raphael Tuju, Mutahi Kagwe, Njenga Karume, Nicholas Biwott, Gideon Moi, Paul Sang, Kabogo, Moses Wetangula, Moses Akaranga, Billow Kerrow, Mukhisa Kituyi, among others.

Meanwhile veteran Ugenya politician James Orengo is set to return to parliament after winning the Ugenya seat on an ODM ticket. News just in indicate that Raila Odinga has recaptured his Lang’ata seat. There were worries that the ODM presidential candidate might lose this seat and hence lose the chance to be president even if he won the presidential race due to constitutional provisions that demand that the president must be a seating MP.

There are no results yet out of North Eastern province. The ECK has not said anything about this anomaly.