Category Archives: Elections

Kenya’s Red Line Train Ride

Hmmm…after the events of this week, I am now convinced the Kenyan government is taking us on a tumultuous train ride to Nowhere Land. They are playing us like the ukulele while at it too. We currently have a digital government whose key security (and everything else really) strategies are speculation and the blame game. I am not sure how they figure they can propel a country forward based on such. How are we expected to continue entrusting them with our lives when they have repeatedly shown they cannot be asked to ensure the safety of Kenyans?

This past Sunday, al Shabaab linked militants attacked Mpeketoni, a Kenyan coastal town, killing at least 49  people and injuring several others. They also set buildings and other property on fire. That attack lasted for hours. On Monday, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Mail & Guardian, in a statement sent to Reuters, al Shabaab said, “Commandos last night carried out a successful raid on the town of Mpeketoni.” They added, “Kenya is now officially a war zone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril.” The reasons they gave for the attack are the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and the extrajudicial killings of Muslim leaders.

Joseph Ole Lenku, the cabinet secretary in charge of interior security, came out with the full force of a circus act, describing the attack as “heinous”, calling the attackers “bandits” and stating that they had crossed a “red line.” Which red line, you ask? Well, guess we might never know since Ole Lenku didn’t display any of Netanyahu’s illustration skills, but I digress. He then claimed that security had been beefed up across the country after the attack, and the attackers had been chased northwards by security forces. Basically, rest easy Kenyans, the government has your back NOT.

The militants called bullshit on this security facade by returning a day later. They must have known what we now know…the government stayed asleep. This time they attacked Poromoko, a village close to Mpeketoni. They killed at least 15 people and set houses on fire. Residents told the BBC that at least 12 women were abducted in the latest attack. They also said that the government did not send in enough forces to protect them after the first attack. Evidence that Ole Lenku was putting on a show. Only he knows who it was for.  Al Shabaab also claimed responsibility for this attack.

This is where the circus plot gets lost.

In an address to the nation, President Uhuru decided that this was an opportunity to gain political mileage. He went in on “reckless” and “divisive” leaders hell-bent on creating hate and intolerance. He also said that such leaders make it easy for terrorists to operate in our country. He then stated, “The attack in Lamu was well planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons. This therefore, was not an Al Shabaab terrorist attack.”  Eh…say what!? Wait just one minute Mr. President. Didn’t al Shabaab claim responsibility for both attacks!? Or are they lying to us? If so, to what end? We have had several unclaimed attacks, why would they pick this one out of all of them to claim!? Something does not add up here. Who is fooling who, sir? And while we are on the subject of profiling and evicting people for political reasons…isn’t that the same thing your government is doing to ethnic Somalis?

President Uhuru further added, “Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous attacks.” Ok…you have evidence but yet no arrests have been made? What is being done to ensure that those involved in the planning and execution will face justice? What about the abducted women? Do the local political networks have them? Are security forces looking for them?

Perhaps one of the most disturbing statements that President Uhuru made is. “It is now clear that intelligence on this attack was availed to the security officers in Mpeketoni.” What!? In short, the attacks could have been prevented but they weren’t. Why, Mr. President, why? Why was there no action taken? What were security officers doing? Sitting on the intelligence and hoping nothing would happen? Or do they lack the resources required to act on such intelligence? Just what exactly is going on Mr. President? Or intelligence isn’t acted upon until the “red line” has been crossed? I would assume that the possibility of Kenyans losing their lives would result in action but apparently the government would rather cling to inaction.

Of course the President had to throw in this usual statement, “I am satisfied that for the most part, our security agencies have performed well and thwarted innumerable terrorist and other criminal conspiracies and attempts.” Every time there is an attack, the President makes a similar statement. He makes it seem like the security agencies are on top of their game. So how come they missed all the attacks that have happened!? Why weren’t they able to thwart those particular attacks? If security agencies are performing well, why aren’t some of them acting on the intelligence they are provided with!?

At the end of the day, President Uhuru and the rest of the government, all we want is to be safe. We want to be able to move around the country without fear. Security in our country has gone to the dogs…that is undeniable. Whether the attacks are orchestrated by local political networks or terrorist groups, the bottom line is insecurity is on the rise. It is your responsibility to protect the inhabitants of the country that you lead. We can be each other’s keepers, as you suggested in your address Mr. President, all day every day. But if we have security forces that fail to act on intelligence and a government that couldn’t care less about its citizenry, then how is that useful to us?

When a handful of countries in the West issued travel advisories, our government was up in arms. “We will find tourists elsewhere,” they said. When it became obvious that more countries were unwilling to remain silent as their citizens travelled to our attack-prone nation, the rhetoric changed to “Tembea Kenya.” Domestic tourism is great and should in fact always be encouraged and promoted.  However, it does to not deter attacks.

Now that you have realized that Kenyans are after all not bulletproof, what are you going to do about these attacks, dear government? How many lives have to be lost before you cut the BS and actually come up with an effective plan to put an end to these attacks!?

 

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Are You Patriotic?

Patriotic –
i) Having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country
ii) Having or showing great love and support for your country

I have noticed a very disturbing interesting trend on social media as pertains to the Jubilee Kenyan government. Anyone who dares to question or expect anything progressive from the government is instantly labelled unpatriotic and anti-government. With all the things that are going wrong right under the government’s nose, it baffles me that its superfans are willing to unquestioningly take it all in. Moreover, they expect the rest of society to follow in their footsteps. It is clear that some Kenyans have fallen hook, line and sinker for this accept and move on gospel. But why!? For what reason!? Only they can tell us.

When the current government took office, they promised us the moon on a diamond-encrusted silver platter. A year and some change later what have we received!? A charcoal drawing of the moon sans diamond-encrusted silver platter. And we are expected to just accept this!? And move on!? Move on to what when it seems like the government is dragging its feet on pertinent issues!? We can’t ask questions!? Or expect anything better!? Why!? Because patriotism…ha…okay.

Let’s just look at what is happening in Kenya as of today. There is rising insecurity. The government doesn’t appear to be doing much about it given the almost-every-other-day-attacks. We have had malls, markets, places of worship and public service vehicles (PSVs), among others, attacked. There are no safe spaces anymore.  What these attacks keep reemphasizing to Kenyans is the lack of intelligence and strategy as far as security is concerned.

What worsens the insecurity situation is these knee-jerk reactions from the government. We have had a public facade operation security swoop that resulted in the harassment, arrest and detainment of many Somalis for the simple fact that they are Somalis. The government claims that it is part of their terrorist-finding-and-fighting strategy. Yeah…ok…as callous and haphazard as the operation has been…please…you expect us to believe that!? Some of the people that were arrested were released on the spot as long as they had enough money to boost the arresting officers’ bank accounts. Clearly there was a money-making scheme at play. Those who didn’t have money ended up in #kasaraniconcentrationcamp. This is how our government fights terrorism – through mass arrests and detainment of innocent individuals just because they happen to be of Somali origin.

The government’s other terrorist-fighting strategy!? Banning tinted windows on PSVs. Because obviously these attacks and the attackers rely heavily on tinted windows. We all know what is going to happen. A police officer will stop a PSV with tinted windows, ask the driver for a bribe and then let them go on their merry way. Why!? Because there is no way to monitor the enforcement of grasping-at-straws directives.  We have seen this picture before…it has just come in a different frame this time. So much for fighting corruption and protecting the nation.

According to the Daily Nation,  the government is angered because the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and France have all issued travel advisories to their citizens.  Britain has stepped it up and evacuated its citizens who were touring Kenya. The government protested, of course, terming the decision unfair and harmful. First of all, I thought we didn’t need the West!? Well, at least that is what the dynamic duo at the helm of the government has been saying since their campaign days. So why are you so bothered, government people!? Why the anger? Is it because the aforementioned countries care about their citizens and don’t want them to be gallivanting around a place were security is not an obvious priority!? Is it because you just realized that the unneeded West forms a large chunk of the tourists that come to Kenya!? You recently discovered the importance of tourist markets huh!? Or is it because they have dared to take action against your subpar response to insecurity!? You know, you could actually redirect all that energy you are wasting on anger to promoting domestic tourism. You have to deal with insecurity first though, and it doesn’t look like you care to do so, government people.

Dear all the people who are quick to label others unpatriotic and/or anti-government,

Of course we are going to question the government for their nonperformance. Are we supposed to accept mediocrity when we know for a fact that Kenya can and should be better!? What has accept and move on done for us so far!? That’s right…nothing! Do you really want to live in a country where the government does not fulfill its mandate? Where some citizens are discriminated against because of their origin? Where the government does not listen to the people? Where government officials come up with roadside directives that make no sense!?

We ask questions and have high expectations of the government because we believe in the greatness of our country. We can’t just turn a blind eye  to failures because of some misguided notion of patriotism. We love the country and that’s why we question and demand better. We are devoted to our collective success not just that of a select few. The government needs to step up to the plate. Massaging the government’s ego and eternally appeasing these leaders isn’t going to result in the Kenya that either you or I want to live in, and bequeath to future generations.

So, as you jump hoops and cheerlead for the government 24/7/365 while spreading the gospel of accept and move on, I ask, are you patriotic?

 

Along came a personal challenge + the ICC + the UNSC

Kenya’s president and his deputy both have cases at the ICC. While they were on the campaign trail earlier this year, they  both stated repeatedly that the cases were personal challenges. They also said many a times that they would be able to lead the country and honor their individual commitments to attend their trials at the Hague. This was easier said than done. It didn’t seem practical given the demands of leading the country and having a trial. But hey, they are the leaders now…clearly they managed to convince a significant number of the voters.

It is now evident that their collective personal challenge has become Kenya’s MAIN problem. Let’s just ignore the more pressing issues that need to be addressed as a matter of national urgency. Every other day there is a Kenyan leader sounding off on how the ICC is trying to undermine Africa and its leaders. They are constantly campaigning for the president and his deputy’s ICC cases to be deferred. At this rate some of these Kenyan leaders should just appoint themselves to the ICC Deferral Department or rather ICC Deferral Committee since they have a love affair with those. Some of them have even gone so far as to urge the president to skip the trails. If this is not an obvious indicator of the types of “leaders” we have then I don’t know what it is.

These ICC cases have spilled over the borders and become Africa’s challenge. The African Union has now taken up Mission Defer President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto’s ICC Cases as one of its key agendas. The AU recently requested the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to pass a resolution to defer the Kenyan ICC cases for 12 months. According to the AU, the president and his deputy need the 12 months in order to be able to deal with the threat posed by terrorism in Kenyan and in the Horn of Africa. Now, the threat of terrorism did not just recently pop up. It is something that has been there particularly since the Kenyan military was deployed into Somalia to handle Al Shabaab. Even before the elections the threat was there. Surely the president and his deputy must have known about this as they were campaigning and mapping out their leadership strategy. Yet they kept saying they would be able to fulfill all their responsibilities as leaders of the country while attending their trials. Why the backpedaling now? What changed? Thought they could do it all…well at least that’s what they told us. Or was that just an empty campaign talking point? In which case should we really expect the rest of the campaign promises to be fulfilled?

The UNSC rejected the AU’s request and our leaders will not let us forget it. God forbid that we should shift our focus back to actual and more important national challenges. While speaking about the rejection, Kenyan’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary said that, “This means the Council does not take seriously what Africa takes seriously.” Oh OK…is this really what Africa takes seriously or what some of the leaders take seriously? Why is their view being presented as Africa’s collective view? Why can’t African leaders take the personal challenges faced by their citizenry as seriously as they take President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto’s personal challenges? Hallo…unemployment, poverty, lack of education, poor access to health care…those are some personal challenges faced by many Africans. How about we take those seriously and address them effectively?

An MP said, “The US, UK and France had shown disrespect and scorn to Kenya’s well-being by ensuring its leaders spent time in The Hague attending trials instead of serving Kenyans.”  Ala! Didn’t the leaders say they would be able to do it all? What happened? Another MP said that, “Kenya had realized who her international enemies were as they did not help the country in the hour of need.” Oh OK…alright…no comment. Actually, there is a comment…why don’t we try and help ourselves first? Just a thought. A group of leaders took the cake with their view of the UNSC’s rejection, “…unfortunate, irrational and ignorant of the country’s mood where resilient Kenyans had forgotten the past and were now in the spirit of forging ahead.” Ha…wow…Kenyans have forgotten the past? Really? So that’s what our leaders want us to do? Accept and move on huh? So that they can continue carrying out injustices and relying on our collective “amnesia” to keep them in political power for life?

When oh when will we get back to issues that matter to every Kenyan? Mr. President and Mr. Deputy, the ICC cases are, in your own words, personal challenges. You said you would deal with them personally. So do that. Thanks. Kenyan leaders, how about you make your positions count developmentally? How about you address the challenges faced by your constituents? Is that too much to ask? Didn’t think so. Thanks.

 

On leadership + African (read Kenyan) leaders

I came across this tweet by The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights, that got me thinking: “How can we encourage leaders who put common human values above their own interests?”

Their question is not specific to a particular region but I immediately thought of African leaders because a good number of them are driven by their own interests. Why is it that we continuously end up with such leaders? We, the voters, are partly to blame. We vote along ethnic lines instead of qualifications and a person’s past records. In our myopic vision, we sell our votes for quick short-term returns, and sweep the long-term repercussions of such actions under the proverbial rug. The other share of the blame belongs to these life-long leaders who take draconian measures to ensure that they, and theirs, remain in power. Such leaders are puzzling. They want to remain in power but are not even moderately interested in fulfilling the responsibilities that come with holding those positions. Doesn’t it bother them at all that their presence doesn’t enhance their constituents’ lives…that it in fact makes them worse? But I digress…

Back to the question, how can we encourage leaders who put common human values above their own interests? A change of attitude is needed. For a long time, political positions have been seen as money making machines. Sadly, this is an attitude that has been passed on from one generation to the next, particularly with the “it’s our turn to eat” concept. This has largely been due to the precedent set by previous leaders. People get into office, redirect public funds into their personal accounts, enrich their relatives and sometimes their communities, and then sit back and buff their nails. It became clear that the only way a community would progress is if one of their own was in a position of power. This issue can also be tackled by enacting laws that ensure leaders cannot personally benefit from public funds and their positions. This will deter the I-am-posing-as-a-leader-just-so-I-can-get-rich-quick-and-live-la-vida-loca individuals lurking out there.

With attitude change comes a shift in behavior. If we move away from “it’s our turn to eat” then we are more likely to vote based on successful leadership potential and past performance records. This will enable us to hold leaders accountable, me thinks. We won’t tolerate their nonsense, until the end of time, just because they are from our community and they occasionally throw money at us. If they fail to deliver, then in the next election cycle, we use our vote to replace them with people who are ready to get the work done.

Maybe we should try pegging reelection to performance. If a leader is a non-performer during their time in office then they don’t qualify to run for office again. Their performance could be evaluated based on their impact on socio-economic  and political development within their constituency. For example, if your constituency doesn’t have functioning infrastructure when you get into office and it still does not have functioning infrastructure at the end of your term, then you don’t qualify to run for reelection.

Lastly, shouldn’t there be a limit to the number of times a person can run for reelection? Some of our leaders have turned their positions into lifelong careers. The problem with this is that they get to a point where they become complacent and take the position for granted. Limiting them also allows fresh blood to be injected into the system every now and then. Additionally, a time limit will prevent leaders from sleeping on the job term after term, and baiting their constituents with “I will pull up my socks just give me one more chance” promises.

Thoughts!?

 

African Proverbs, Irony and Leaders

Every day BBC Africa tweets an African proverb. Today’s proverb, sent from Uganda, is “You do not punish a fish by throwing it in water.” Deep stuff – when you really think about it – as most proverbs tend to be.

Isn’t it ironic that it is an African proverb? Considering the fact that we, Africans, seem to have a knack for punishing fish by throwing it in water. What am I on about?

Well, let’s take our “leaders” for example. Every election year, they make these grand promises about how they will transform our countries and improve our lives. We gladly vote for them. Once in office, they swiftly switch to the corruption lane and take the exit to personal wealth accumulation. We spend the rest of their term waiting for them to reassure us that they still have our best interests at heart. We hope that they will make an effort to fulfill just one promise or at the very least feign interest in fulfilling even half of that promise. But nothing. They continue to busy themselves with themselves until the next election when they pound the campaign trail with reworded promises. We vote for them again and the cycle continues. We fail to hold our leaders accountable. Instead we reward them for their inaction by putting them back in to the very positions that they use for their own benefit and our detriment.

Wouldn’t we be better served by using our vote  to ensure the progress of our communities? By voting back in only those leaders who are efficient and doing a great job? By denying leaders who are enemies of progress any audience come election time? By voting in terms of performance and legitimate sustainable plans instead of ethnic relations? By realizing that the culture of accept and move on will not get us anywhere? By asking ourselves what kind of a society we would like to live in and then working to build it?