Tag Archives: African Union

Keeping Up With The Kenyans

I was reading the online version of the Daily Nation (one of Kenya’s major newspapers) earlier today. On the home page was the headline “Kenya Foreign Minister praises AU role on Hague cases.” What, you said? Yeah, that’s the same reaction I had. We are still patting the good old AU on the back for their involvement in the Kenya (read Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto) – ICC cases. It turns out that during a summit last year, the AU “resolved that serving Heads of State and their deputies should not be tried at the ICC…” According to the Foreign Minister, “AU decided President Uhuru Kenyatta should not attend trial in The Hague and he has not while Deputy President William Ruto has been granted partial excusal and does not have to attend all the court sessions.” Oh okay. Uhmm…good for you AU. Here is an imaginary standing ovation for achieving something that is neither here nor there in terms of Africa’s development. It’s better than nothing, I guess. Also, here’s an invisible round of applause for making what we, Kenyans, had been told is a personal challenge an AU priority. So much for your shift of focus to “an organization spearheading Africa’s development and integration.”

Speaking of the president acting on other people’s decisions, turns out it’s not just with the AU, it happens in Kenya too. A few weeks ago, the deputy president claimed that the president had been “misadvised in making some appointments that contravened the law.” The appointments in question were those of parastatal heads. One of the controversial appointments was that of Abduba Dida, a 2013 presidential candidate whose leadership capabilities are questionable at best. The other one was that of a certain well-known Kenyan, who shall remain unnamed and who has been in the country’s political landscape since the dinosaur days. Pray tell, how exactly is the president “misadvised” on such matters!? Isn’t he supposed to be well-versed in the lawful procedure of appointing public heads!? When his advisers hand him a list of names, shouldn’t he at least read up on those people to find out if they can deliver!? If they can effectively do the job!? So many questions which will probably go unanswered because…accept and move on…

Meanwhile, this is another headline, “Public schools unprepared for laptops as launch date approaches this term.” The government promised free laptops to all standard one pupils. It’s a great idea. Let’s promote technology and innovation in our country. However, steps need to be taken to ensure that the program is a success. If schools lack basic infrastructure, then what are laptops going to do for them? There are some schools where students learn under a tree. Shouldn’t the focus be on ensuring that they have furnished classrooms!? If you have tried working on your laptop for extended periods while it is on your lap you know how uncomfortable it gets. Do we really want our  children to be subjected to that!? Leap frogging is well and good and very welcome around this parts. However, there are some basic amenities that just have to be in place. Don’t we want to create a conducive environment for the children’s learning and to promote the effective use of their laptops!?

When oh when will we stop putting the cart before the horse!? When oh when will we stop with the band aid solutions!? When oh when will we start putting urgent issues on the priority list!? When oh when will our politicians stop pointing the finger and just take the blame for things they have done!? When oh when!?


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.



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.