Tag Archives: Leaders

April 2015 – Always Remember.

Terrorists walked in to Garissa University College and massacred students who were only there to get an education. Students who were the beacon of hope for their families. Students who, like most Kenyans, were determined to get an education regardless of their school’s location or proximity to their loved ones. You see, the thing is, unless you are well-connected or you come from old money, education is typically the main way through which you can uplift your family and change your circumstances.

Parents and guardians do everything within their power to make sure their children get an education. Sacrifices are made, loans are taken out, fundraisers are held and furniture sold so that children get an education and a chance at a better life. The families that sent their children to Garissa University College are no different from the rest of us. They did what they had to do, with the resources that they have, in order to ensure their children where educated and had the opportunity to get ahead in life.

For these families to go through this…sigh…there are no words. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror they are experiencing as they try to trace their loved ones. The numerous questions that they are asking themselves. The what-ifs and whys. The uncertainty about the whereabouts of their loved ones.

I read the names of the students who were killed out loud. It reminded me of graduation ceremonies and the fact the students won’t get to graduate. They won’t experience that feeling that you get when your name is called on graduation day. That singular moment that reminds you of the challenges and triumphs that got you to that point. Their loved ones won’t get to sit in the audience and cheer them on on that day. They won’t experience the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of the sacrifices they made for the student.

How could this happen? How? All the promise and potential that each of the students killed carried within them…gone. Why would this be allowed to happen? Why weren’t the students protected? Why wasn’t the university adequately secured? This was a preventable situation, so why wasn’t it prevented?

I hope our leaders are awake and alert now. This cannot keep happening. We need an effective security strategy. We need well-trained and adequately equipped security forces. A system needs to be put in place for security personnel to be able to act on intelligence. Paying lip service to insecurity will not keep any of us safe.

#147notjustanumber is a hashtag that was started on Twitter to memorialize the students who were killed. Please check it out. Behind the statistics are human beings who had hopes, aspirations and dreams.

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On Kenya and Digital Gone Awry

The president and his deputy branded themselves as the dynamic digital duo during the election campaign period. They promised us many a digital revolutions in the country. Digital government, digital classrooms, digital government offices and digital public services to name but a few. Turns out that digital government simply meant they (or their social media handlers) would tweet links to their speeches and retweet praises from their superfans. Any questions or criticisms directed to them on their social media channels are either ignored or dismissed.

The digital classrooms are yet to become a reality. The dynamic digital duo had promised that all students in class one throughout the country would get laptops. Last month, the tender for the supply of laptops was awarded to Olive Telecommunications Limited, an Indian company. According to the Daily Nation, the Education Cabinet Secretary said that the company quoted the lowest and most advantageous amount which saved the taxpayers Kshs 8 billion. The cabinet secretary said that they were confident that Olive Telecommunications would deliver. They had after all sent a team of government officials to assess where the laptops would be assembled. They had also seen a list of companies that Olive Telecommunications supplied laptops with. The cabinet secretary led us to believe that everything was perfect and the laptop project was finally ready to roll out.

But this is the Kenyan government after all a.k.a scandal central. Just this month, the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board ruled that Olive Telecommunications Pvt Limited did not win the tender fairly. As a result the board cancelled the tender and asked the Ministry of Education to undertake a fresh tender process. The tender required that the company that got it would be an Original Equipment Manufacturer. Turns out that Olive Telecommunications is not. How exactly did the cabinet secretary and his people miss this? They assessed the company supposedly right!? How did this fact escape them!? Also, Olive Telecommunications did not have the financial resources required in order to qualify. Guess the cabinet secretary and his folks were just going to find a way to sweep that fact under the rug. In December, Olive Telecommunications had offered to supply the tender at Kshs 23.2 billion. By the time they got the tender last month it was at Kshs 24.6 billion. A difference of Kshs 1.4 billion. Pray tell Mr. Cabinet Secretary, why the Kshs 1.4 billion increase!? Is it a hidden transaction fee!? A signing bonus!? A good-job-on-duping-the-Kenyans-again golden handshake!?

We can only hope that the next process will not be as flawed as this one. Although, last I checked, the cabinet secretary has said he is not resigning over this. So if it’s the same people handling the process again, we can only wait and see what antics they will pull…sigh.

Seems like digital government offices are also a rumor as shown by the gem below.

tender

Really Lands Ministry!? A tender for TYPEWRITERS!? It’s 2014 and you are looking for typewriters!? Because why!? What can typewriters do that…I don’t know…say computers and tablets can’t!? I suppose they are the ideal portable device huh!? Are you just looking to collect antiques or what!? Are you planning to use them as decorative elements!? Oh wait…I got it…you are trying to create jobs for the youth…manufacturing typewriters right!?

Digital means different things to different people I guess.

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!?