Category Archives: Ethnic Divide

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!?



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?


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.



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?

African Union – On Turning 50

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of African Unity now known as the African Union. A few days ago, Africa’s leaders met in Addis Ababa to commemorate this auspicious occasion.

What difference has 50 years made? The hope of continent-wide peace and prosperity that our leaders had when the OAU was formed remains just that – hope. The real difference the five decades have made – well, the irony of Africa’s Main Problems meeting to talk about how to solve Africa’s problems. As usual their discussions ignore the pink elephant in the room – their poor leadership or lack thereof – from which a majority of our problems stem from.

In his opening remarks, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister said, “This historic day marks not only a great leap forward in the Pan-Africanist quest for freedom, independence and unity but also the beginning of our collective endeavor for the realization of Africa’s socio-economic emancipation.” (The complete speech is available here)

Freedom and independence – yes, I agree with that. Unity – not so much so –  that remains elusive. Look at Nigeria with Boko Haram and the tensions between Muslims and Christians. Take Kenya, as another example, where every election cycle brings with it renewed ethnic hatred and irrational fear of “the other.” There’s Somalia – do people even know or remember what the root of the conflict there is? Let’s not forget Darfur which has been in a state of humanitarian emergency for close to a decade. South Sudan’s independence carried with it hopes for peace in the region. However, there is still tension and disputes between South Sudan and Sudan with many a threats flying across the border. Then there’s the Congo whose conflict has birthed several rebellions and infighting. Unity – we are still on the struggle train with that one.

Africa’s socio-economic emancipation – yessir- high five for that! It’s about time. One of the reasons why Africa  needs emancipation is because we have been under the West’s economic yoke for such a long time. It hasn’t helped that we constantly receive the foreign assistance excitedly without analyzing the conditionalities attached and  their consequences. Much as African countries are independent, we have  consistently simply aligned with other people’s agendas for us. Sometimes it seems like every country from East to West and in between has an agenda for Africa.  It’s 2013 – a good enough time for Africa to grab the agenda bull by the horns. In this regard, Africa’s leaders could start by ensuring that all the doors and windows to intra-African trade and investment are open. Africans stand to benefit a whole lot from doing business with each other. It is important that communication channels are open and policies are enacted to ease transactions across the board. Africa’s leaders should remember that socio-economic emancipation and continental integration cannot be achieved without the active participation of their citizenry.

While we are on the subject of an active citizenry, why is it that the African Union doesn’t particularly engage the youth? We do after all form a majority of Africa’s population. Instead of having these talk fests among Africa’s leaders why not have conferences that connect Africa’s youth – you know, the social entrepreneurs, the idea generators, the journalists, the writers, the poets and the activists, among others? Shouldn’t the African Union direct its focus to mentoring and funding youth-led initiatives while promoting partnerships among African youth? If we were supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow, then shouldn’t the African Union, in its efforts to promote unity and prosperity, provide such nurturing environments that enable us to realize that potential?

The African Union’s relevance is slipping from its grip. It has come to be viewed by some as a leaders club that meets at a $200 million building that African countries could not even afford to build. The leaders aren’t helping the cause either. The recent meeting they had turned into a campaign to get the ICC to refer both Uhuru Kenyatta’s and William Ruto’s cases to Kenya. When Uhuru Kenyatta was on the campaign trail he repeatedly said that he would cooperate with the ICC. Both men did in fact say that. At a presidential debate, Uhuru Kenyatta said that the ICC case was a personal challenge and now it’s suddenly Africa’s problem? How did this even come to be?

The African Union declared 2013 the year of PanAfricanism and African Renaissance. Only time will tell how committed Africa’s leaders are to this.