NAIROBI/JOHANNESBURG/Addis Ababa, 1 January 2018: Approximately 48,000 babies will be born in the Eastern and Southern Africa region on New Year’s Day, UNICEF said today, as the UN Children’s Fund asked nations around the region to make sure more newborns survive their first days of life.
In 2016, an estimated 2,600 children around the world died within the first 24 hours, every day of the year. Across that same year, 136,000 newborns died in Ethiopia and The United Republic of Tanzania combined, placing them in fifth and ninth position, respectively, among the ten countries with the highest neonatal deaths in the world. Among those children, more than 80 per cent of all newborn deaths are due to preventable and treatable causes such as premature birth, complications during delivery, and infections like sepsis and pneumonia.
“This New Year, UNICEF’s resolution is to help give every child more than an hour, more than a day, more than a month – more than survival,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa. “We call on governments and partners to maintain and expand their efforts to save millions of children’s lives by providing proven, low-cost solutions.”
UNICEF says that babies born in Eastern and Southern Africa will account for 12 per cent of the estimated 386,000 babies to be born globally on New Year’s Day. Almost 58 per cent of these births will take place in five countries within the region, with the largest number of births on New Year’s Day projected for Ethiopia:
Over the past two decades, the world has seen unprecedented progress in child survival, halving the number of children worldwide who die before their fifth birthday to 5.6 million in 2016. But despite these advances, there has been slower progress for newborns. Babies dying in the first month account for 46 per cent of all deaths among children under five.
In 2016, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 38 per cent of all newborn deaths. Despite stark improvements in child survival within the continent, child mortality remains high and important challenges need to be met to accommodate the projected increase in births and prevent African countries with high fertility rates from falling further below international benchmarks for maternal, newborn and child care.
Chief among them is to vastly expand systems and interventions for maternal, newborn and child health. The scale of this challenge should not be underestimated. From 2015 to 2050, some 1.8 billion babies are projected to be born in Africa – 700 million more than were born in the preceding 35-year period (1980-2014). Ensuring that these births are attended by skilled professionals and that new mothers have adequate care and attention before, during and after childbirth represents an immense and unprecedented challenge.
Next month, UNICEF will launch Every Child Alive, a global campaign to demand and deliver affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and newborn. These include a steady supply of clean water and electricity at health facilities, the presence of a skilled health attendant during birth, disinfecting the umbilical cord, breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child.
“We are now entering the era when all the world’s newborns should have the opportunity to see the 22nd Century,” Leila Pakkala. “Unfortunately, nearly half of the children born this year likely won’t. We can all do more.”
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Notes to Editors
For complete non-rounded estimates on births and life expectancy by countries, click here. For the data, UNICEF worked with the World Data Lab.
The estimates for the number of babies born draws on the period indicators and the life tables of the UN’s World Population Prospects (2017). Building on these datasets, World Data Lab’s (WDL) algorithm projects the number of births for each day by country and gender, and their corresponding life expectancy.
To download photos to accompany this story, visit here.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.
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Priscilla Ofori-Amanfo, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Eastern & Southern Africa: +254 740 027 066, firstname.lastname@example.org Wossen Mulatu, Communication Officer, UNICEF Ethiopia: +251 911308483, email@example.com
The Health ministry has insisted that the ban on smoking of water-pipe tobacco, popularly known as shisha, is still in force.
“This is to bring to the public knowledge that legal notice No. 188 of 28th December, 2017, Shisha Ban in Kenya, is still on and should be complied with in total as was intended from 28th December,” said the director of public health, Dr Kepha Ombacho.
The ministry’s notice comes after 15 people believed to be among importers, manufacturers, sellers, promoters and users of shisha in the country moved to court in response to Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu’s ban.
Justice John Mativo declined to temporarily lift the ban. He, however, directed the 15 applicants, who had sought orders to lift the ban, to file the main case and serve the CS and the Attorney-General with court papers before the hearing on January 4.
“Lies that the ban was lifted by our courts are mischievous, unfounded and are not based on facts,” added Dr Ombacho.
He called on officers enforcing the ban to “enhance surveillance to ensure total compliance”.
“Anybody or persons found not complying should be subjected to necessary actions as provided for,” said the director.
Shisha smoking has been legal until the notice issued on Thursday by the Health CS.
The Tobacco Act of 2007 allows use of tobacco products in secluded or specified places. It does not ban the use of the product.
Through a gazette notice on last week, the government imposed a ban on the importation, manufacture, advertising and sale of shisha in the country.
“No person shall import, manufacture, sell, offer for sale, use, advertise, promote, facilitate or encourage shisha smoking in Kenya,” says the legal notice.
Dr Mailu warned that anyone found contravening the control of shisha smoking rules will be “liable to a fine not exceeding Sh50,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both”.
Although some people have opposed the ban, others, including the Kenya Network of Cancer Organisations (Kenco), welcomed it.
“Though long overdue, this is a bold and commendable action in safeguarding the health of Kenyans,” said Kenco chairman David Makumi.
At the end of the first Jubilee parliamentary group meeting at State House in Nairobi on August 30, three weeks after the general election, one thing stood out.
Mr John Paul Mwirigi, 23, who had just been elected MP for Igembe South, walked from State House to the city centre to board a matatu home because he did not own a car.
This is not a common occurrence with elected leaders in the country. His was that of humility and courage.
The newly elected MP had also boarded a matatu to Nairobi for his swearing-in.
President Kenyatta had convened the meeting on the eve of the MPs’ swearing-in to chart the Jubilee agenda in Parliament.
This happened just a day before the Supreme Court nullified his victory on account of massive irregularities and illegalities in the August 8 presidential election.
Mr Mwirigi was new in Nairobi and despite his changed status, the youngest MP in the calendar of Kenyan Parliament, wanted to board a matatu to Eastland’s Pipeline estate, where he was staying with his elder sister in a one-roomed house when he came for the swearing-in.
“I did not want to be a nuisance to my colleagues even though many of them were willing to give me a ride,” said Mr Mwirigi, who was elected as an independent candidate said.
He beat candidates with well-oiled and elaborate campaign machinery to inherit the seat previously held by current Meru Senator Mithika Linturi.
The young legislator had been driven to State House by Tharaka MP George Murugara and did not want to bother him or his colleagues anymore after the function and so he decided to walk.
“Immediately the meeting was over, I remember getting out not like an MP but like a worker, who was done for the day at State House. I walked past the gate towards town in the hope of meeting a friend, Mr Kobia,” he said.
His friend had volunteered to drive him around the city as he prepared to get his own car.
Four months down the line, his situation has changed.
“I can say that I now own the car that I was given by President Uhuru Kenyatta. It is the only car that I have and I am not planning to buy another one before accomplishing the things that I had planned to do,” Mr Mwirigi said.
He, however, said what has not changed is how he relates with the people who elected him.
“They are my bosses. They gave me a job and I will continue to relate with them in the same manner I did as I was seeking their support. Unlike many politicians who turn away from their voters once they get elected, my people will always come first,” he said.
From a sand mixer at a construction site in Meru to a firewood hawker earning between Sh200 and Sh350 a day, Mr Mwirigi now earns a six-figure salary.
At the disposal of the sixth born in the family of eight are committee and travelling allowances, among other perks and privileges that go with the office of an MP.
“My father who died in 2014 was a security company driver. My mother is a peasant farmer in Meru. Whatever she grows caters for our family but I will now supplement her efforts,” he said.
The National Transport and Safety Authority was on the spot again on Sunday after 36 people perished in yet another dawn road accident at Migaa along the Nakuru–Eldoret highway.
The beleaguered state agency has been on the spot for making knee-jerk reactions every time a major accident is reported on Kenyan roads, and it didn’t disappoint, this time banning passenger bus night travel with immediate effect.
Thousands of travellers, majority of whom had travelled upcountry for holiday festivities, will be left stranded by this directive, and it could take a while before the chaos in the public transport sector die down.
Sunday’s horror crash brought to nearly 200 the number of people killed on Kenyan roads in the month of December alone. More than 150 people died in road crashes within the first three weeks of the month, figures from the NTSA show, with nearly half of them perishing on the killer stretch between Nakuru and Sachang’wan.
And, to illustrate the danger on Kenyan roads this festive season, Sunday’s accident brought to at least 76 the number of people killed on this stretch in the last week of the month alone.
Senior police officers at the scene said the ill-fated bus, on the way to Nairobi from Busia, had worn out tyres and was driven recklessly as it hurtled down the dangerous stretch towards Nakuru.
These claims were corroborated by some of the passengers who survived the tragic accident. One of them told this newspaper that the bus had “wobbled” down the steep descent moments before the crash. It had been flagged down by traffic officers a few minutes earlier but waved on, another passenger said.
Among the dead were the driver of the truck and his loader, who were heading towards Eldoret. Thirty passengers from the bus were confirmed dead at the scene, while another four succumbed to injuries while receiving treatment at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital. Among the four were three children aged two months, two years and 10 years, and one adult aged 35.
Rift Valley traffic enforcement officer Zero Arome said the bus sped on the wrong lane of the road when it collided with the truck head-on. It was carrying 46 passengers at the time, he added.
The injured were rushed to Molo Sub-County Hospital and the Nakuru Level Five Hospital.
A few hours after the crash, NTSA director-general Francis Meja directed all passenger service vehicles to cease night travel with immediate effect, and to only be on the road, between 6am and 7pm.
“Over the recent past, our records indicate that majority of crashes occur during the night,” Mr Meja explained. “In order to review the effectiveness of current measures (and) to improve road safety, the authority, in consultation with other relevant government agencies, hereby suspends night travel.”
Earlier, on December 16, the agency had launched a major crackdown on rogue drivers along the Nairobi-Eldoret highway following the deaths of 17 people on the dangerous stretch. More than 30 vehicles were impounded after NTSA officials erected a road block at Gilgil, where they conducted random checks.
The agency’s deputy director and head of enforcement, Mr Harred Adan, told our team at Gilgil that this was part of Operation Safiri Salama, launched a few days earlier.
Before that, the agency had announced the erection of more speed bumps on the Sachang’wan stretch following a horror accident on the dawn of December 12. Infrastructure principal secretary John Mosonik said the bumps were a short-term measure before construction of a dual carriageway from Sobea to Kamara at a cost of Sh500 million.
He also said the government was considering opening up the diversion at Njoro junction to be used by the commercial trucks.
A few meters from the scene of the accident at Migaa on Sunday, police officers nabbed a 14-seater van packed with passengers almost double its legal capacity. The van, heading to Kakamega, had 25 passengers and two crew, including the driver.
The driver, however, ran away after the van, operating under Sunrise Sacco, was stopped by the police.
Reporting by Reitz Mureithi, Joseph Openda and Francis Mureithi.
It has, generally, been a good year for Kenyan youth. Winning at least one county governorship position, a couple of Senate seats and a good number of MPs and dozens of MCAs, 2017 was one of the most rewarding years for this category of Kenyans in the leadership sector.
This year’s General Election was one of the most competitive in recent times and for youths to be picked out from among more senior and experienced politicians, it shows that a good number of voters believe in giving them an opportunity to lead.
The Under-35s — as identified by the laws of the land — are normally associated with vigour, creativity and progression. That’s why an increased number of them was entrusted with important leadership positions nationally and regionally in the elections.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, 32, was trailing in the race for the top county seat just months to the August 8 poll. Facing seasoned, more established politicians, he gained an unbeatable momentum in the later stages of the campaign to clinch the seat by a desirable margin.
He thus became the youngest governor ever elected in Kenya.
Governor Sang picked youths to occupy almost half of the County Executive Committee and Chief Officer positions.
Nandi also has the youngest Speaker in the region, Joshua Kiptoo, 28, and the youngest senator, Samson Cherargei, 29.
And the county was not the only one that gave youths influential seats as others also entrusted this age group with various leadership posts.
Governors seem to appreciate the youth by giving them senior county posts, an indication that they are keen to involve them in decision-making on matters affecting them.
However, some counties seem not to have seen the need to have youths in the top echelons, leaving them, once more, at the periphery of leadership. It is not particularly impressive to see some governors pick people as old as 50 and above for dockets directly in charge of the youth.
NO YOUNG CS
With a country teeming with millions of youths, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has often associated himself with them, would do the group a big favour if he filled at least a quarter of his Cabinet with youths.
The constitution of the last Cabinet was a huge disappointment to the youth — who form a large bloc of the population — as the President failed to appoint a single young person as a Cabinet Secretary while only one was, unsatisfactory, named a Principal Secretary.
For youths in leadership positions, the celebrations ought to be over. It is time they showed what makes them different from their older colleagues and did some work.
It hurts to see that some youth, especially those in Parliament, are already struggling to settle yet they promised dozens of things to the voters during campaigns.
It might be too early for them to give a true picture of their capabilities. However, somebody who is yet to outline their development agenda four months into a five-year term could be considered incapable or lacking leadership qualities.
It’s unfortunate that most of the youths in leadership are yet to hit the ground running, choosing instead to occupy themselves with posting selfies and other non-issues on social media. Adorning the platforms with photos is alright but, when that is not accompanied by the work they were elected to do, then there is a problem.
It would make a big difference if they came up with a development structure covering their terms. Not only that. They should also identify short-, mid- and long-term targets and make them as achievable as possible.
Consultative forums with residents should not be a once-in-a-blue moon affair. The young leaders should use their innate vigour and energy to hold regular meetings with the led, so as to know their needs.
Some elected leaders have been accused of disappearing in Nairobi upon their election, only to reappear in the constituency a few months to the next polls. It would be a painful indictment of the quest to have the younger generation take over leadership if those in office followed this path.
For those directly in charge of managing resources, the biggest gift they can give residents is utmost transparency and consultative leadership.
Putting youths in senior positions should not be just a song that is sung every election cycle but, when that partly happens, those lucky to be elected or appointed should demonstrate why they deserve to be entrusted with the posts.
Mr Kiplang’at is the Nation Media Group (NMG) Regional Editor, North Rift. [email protected]
Judges have in the past one year endured harsh words and, in some instances, threats for carrying out their work.
From threats of “we shall revisit” to being labelled “korti bandia” (kangaroo court) and “wakora”, the judges have been on the receiving end from both sides of the political divide.
The attacks have increased as the Judiciary moved to assert its independence in handling disputes before it.
They peaked after the Supreme Court nullified the August 8 presidential election and ordered the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to conduct fresh election with 60 days.
At some point, Chief Justice David Maraga, as the chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was forced to come out and defend the Judiciary from these attacks.
Mr Maraga pointed out that individual judges, particularly those at the Supreme Court, as well as other judicial officers and staff, have been attacked, threatened and negatively profiled on social media. He said senior political leaders have also threatened the Judiciary promising ‘‘to cut it down to size’’ and ‘’teach us a lesson’’.
“These attacks are denigrating, demeaning and degrading and are meant to intimidate, threaten and cow the institution and individual judges. Such acts are not only unlawful but also savage in nature,” he said.
Other than Chief Justice Maraga, other judges who were targets of verbal and online attacks were Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, Justices Isaac Lenaola, Njoki Ndung’u, several Court of Appeal judges as well as High Court Judge George Odunga.
Justice Lenaola at one time threatened to sue the Digital director at State House Denis Itumbi after the latter made allegations about him in connection to the nullification of the August 8 presidential election.
The Supreme Court judge was among the majority which nullified the presidential poll result. He demanded that Mr Itumbi deletes all the tweets and apologises to him.
Mr Justice Odunga was subjected of harsh criticisms especially for ruling against the government in several cases.
Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale accused Justice Odunga of playing tribal politics and being partisan. This was in regard to an application by the opposition on proposed amendments before Parliament. Politicians also complained about the judge for his handling of the ballot printing case against Dubai based firm Al Ghurair.
In the statement issued by JSC, Justice Maraga said that whereas they recognise and respect the rights of citizens to speak their minds, some attacks were clearly intended to intimidate the Judiciary and individual judges.
“In view of these unfortunate developments, the JSC would like to state that we unreservedly condemn these mindless acts of aggression against the Judiciary and reiterate that if anything happens to the individual judges, staff or their families, those making inciting statements will be personally held responsible,” he said.
Despite coming out boldly to defend judges, an attack was carried against Justice Mwilu’s aide, a few hours before the Supreme Court judges held a sitting to hear an application in connection to the repeat poll. The shooting made the Deputy CJ to miss the sitting and eventually, the court failed to convene over lack of quorum.
Before that, Justice Maraga had complained that the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinett, who is expected to provide security to all government facilities, had repeatedly ignored calls to act, exposing judicial officers, property and litigants to danger. Mr Boinett dismissed the claims.
Angered by the actions Mr Maraga stated that the Judiciary is an arm of government equal to the Executive and the Legislature. And if leaders are tired of having a strong and independent Judiciary, they should call a referendum and abolish it altogether.
“Before that happens, the Judiciary will continue to discharge its mandate in accordance with the Constitution and individual oaths of office,” he said.
He said the Judiciary has not and will never seek to direct the other arms about how to perform their functions.
Expectant mothers seeking to benefit from the free maternity programme will have to register with the National Hospital Insurance Fund.
According to a directive by the NHIF, those who fail to register will be required to pay cash should they show up for the free delivery services.
The fund’s chief executive officer, Mr Geoffrey Mwangi, said it is important for them to register to ensure they have an easy time when they seek the services. “Since we are handling the programme, it is appropriate for expectant mothers to register with the fund,” he added.
Mr Mwangi said being a contributor and registering for the free maternity programme were two different things. “When you are a contributor, you stand to benefit from many other packages and that includes the mother’s dependant. But with the Linda Mama programme, it’s only the mother and the child who benefit for six months,” said Mr Mwangi.
He said registering does not mean that one remits the monthly Sh500.
“After registration, you can either decide to be a member or not,” he said
Kenyatta National Hospital, which takes care of over thousands of pregnant women in a month, released a circular on the matter.
According to the circular, dated December 22, expectant mothers who need to benefit from the Linda Mama programme should be registered with NHIF.
Pregnant women who are currently not members have to be referred to NHIF offices for instant registration through a mobile phone platform provided by the fund.
“I think making it mandatory for expectant mothers to be registered with NHIF before they benefit will see many locked out of the free maternity programme,” said Dr Aggrey Akula, a gynaecologist based in western Kenya. “The services should be free regardless of whether you are registered or not.”
He said even with the mobile registration, many women in rural areas who have no idea about the listing will only turn up at hospitals when they are pregnant.
“The fund officials need to create more awareness if they really need to sustain the programme,” he said.
At the same time, Mr Mwangi exuded confidence that the fund will roll out the insurance scheme for three million secondary school students.
“We are ready and as soon as we are given the go-ahead, we shall issue the special cards to students so that they can access healthcare at all the accredited hospitals,” he told the Nation yesterday.
He said the cover will relieve parents of the burden of footing the cost of treatment for their children while in school.
President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke out for the first time about his new Cabinet, saying he would unveil the team soon to deliver his administration’s agenda for his second and final term in office.
Speaking at State House while delivering his New Year’s message to the nation, the president said that those to be appointed must prove themselves worthy of the trust Kenyans will have bestowed on them.
“In the next few weeks, I will unveil the men and women to whom I will entrust delivery of the ‘Big Four’, and other programmes that will transform this country. I will expect these men and women to serve Kenyans without partiality and with the very highest standard of integrity and efficiency,” President Kenyatta said in his message delivered live on TV.
The President also reached out to Kenyans, calling for unity in the New Year, while describing 2017 as having been an “extra-ordinary year.’’
He listed his achievements for the last five years, noting that his government had constructed a world-class railway line on time and within budget. He announced that tomorrow the railway will begin carrying commercial cargo, cutting costs and delays in trade for Kenyan business people and neighbouring countries.
He said he had delivered on this promises because he knew that to attract world-class manufacturing and value-addition investments, which are critical to creating jobs, a world-class infrastructure is needed.
“We did the same with roads, by undertaking the most aggressive expansion and upgrading effort in our nation’s history,” he said.
“Within this period, there has been rapid growth of connections to electricity, millions of Kenyan homes and public schools are now lit up,” he said.
“We promised digital learning devices. We delivered. In the last two years, they have brought new knowledge to hundreds of thousands of our children. They will do even better academically now that we have reformed our exam system and raised standards in our institutions of higher learning.”
The President said his administration had delivered new and upgraded technical training institutes throughout the country and reformed the National Health Insurance Fund and the free maternal care programme has become a great success.
“We also delivered modern diagnostic equipment to every county and the long and expensive bus journeys to Nairobi to access the most modern care have become a burden of the past,” he said.
He also acknowledged security challenges, but noted that his administration has in the last five years strengthened responses towards the threats.
Terrorist now find it harder in succeeding in their evil plans, he said, because of the brave, empowered and supported security officers.
“The impact of crime in the daily lives of Kenyans has dropped in response to the sharp increase in the number of police officers whose equipment is enhanced. There is further to go in securing Kenya and every Kenyan, but we are on an upward climb that will make our country more secure month by month,” he said.
President Kenyatta promised that his administration will continue working each and every day to ease the life of every Kenyan. “We laid a foundation, as we promised; we will build on it to bring prosperity and dignity to every Kenyan,” he said.
He added: “We worked hard in the last five years to deliver better services, security, and in building a foundation for a more prosperous Kenya. We have made remarkable progress; the journey continues, for there are Kenyans who worry about low incomes, the cost of food and shelter.”
In his message, Deputy President William Ruto asked Kenyans to re-dedicate their efforts in the service of the nation and be mindful of well-being of others so as to build this nation together.
The DP hailed the public for its patience and perseverance as the country navigated uncharted waters which has left the country more experienced and stronger.
“We have negotiated 2017 through God’s enabling power, boundless mercy and love. His divine presence has meant we are a blessed nation,” he said in his new year’s message.
Mr Ruto particularly singled out the church saying that its untiring efforts and ministry to preach peace, unity, harmony which have been instrumental in holding the country together.
He also paid tribute to the country’s sportsmen and women for their exemplary performance which has helped raise the Kenyan flag higher and other patriots for their selfless acts and each other citizen for playing their part in making Kenya great.
Calls for national dialogue, tolerance and respect for the rule of law were the dominant themes in the new year’s messages delivered by church leaders on Sunday.
The clergy called on Kenyans to hold their political leaders to account and demand that in their mobilisation promises, genuine interests are not at stake and whether methods being promised are rational, viable and productive.
At the All Saints Cathedral, Provost Cannon Sammy Wainaina opposed calls for swearing in of Mr Raila Odinga and instead called on the Jubilee government to open up national dialogue with the National Super Alliance (Nasa) leadership for the sake of uniting the country.
“We discourage those people calling for the swearing in of Mr Odinga and those objecting to national dialogue,” he said.
He said it is only through dialogue that people can agree on the issues affecting the country.
“It is not a must when they dialogue to agree on everything, but this will calm the political temperatures and help the country transit smoothly into 2018.
He said 2017 was a year that the country was politically divided which consequently affected the economy.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) urged Kenyans to refuse to be chained in endless fracases that are characterised by sloganeering and mirages that are hollow in real substance.
General Secretary Peter Karanja, NCCK urged Kenyan communities to re-examine themselves and establish whether their political leaders are genuinely representing their interest in their political grandstanding or were merely massaging their own egos.
“We will not succeed by telling politicians to subordinate their parochial interest to the national good. It is important that the political elites temper competition with cooperation,” the Council said in a statement signed by General Secretary, Peter Karanja.
“Politicians must realise that their self-interest would be better advanced by cooperating – even with former foes – rather than grandstanding.”
He reminded Kenyans that political transformation does not require self-sacrifice from leaders and citizens but enlightened self-interest.
Cannon Karanja asked the political leadership to put the country’s dark past behind and instead commit to build a greater, peaceful and democratic nation.
He said such a country should be the one that espouses the rule of law and respects the mandate of established institutions; a country devoid of negative ethnicity and whose people are unified by the spirit and vision shared across all its generations.
“These are aspirations that can be achieved through serious commitments of each and every one of us. We cannot afford to derail these enormous and willful investments in peace and national cohesion.”
God must be favourably looking at Kenya. We somehow manage to hold together amid political storms of our own making. We are a little bit like spoilt children. How is this?
We lack political conscience. On political processes, most of us have killed individual and collective conscience. We make questionable decisions and take morally unsound actions on matters that affect our lives.
Quick examples: People who die on our roads every year without sustainable mitigation initiatives, elected leaders with questionable backgrounds and the rate at which we destroy our environment without worrying about our children’s future.
Human beings are moral beings. We make decisions based on the choices we make in our everyday life. No one makes decisions that are self-destructing. Even the person who commits suicide mistakenly chooses that self-extermination is for self-good.
In other words, every being wants the best for personal fulfilment. But what and who determines what is best for self fulfilment? It is the conscience, which determines what is best for self and for others.
In the recent past, we have read and heard in the media how the international community is supporting mediation between Jubilee (the government) and Nasa (aiming to be the government). That is great. The good neighbours have gathered around a family that is not conscious of its self-exterminating actions.
This is shameful, given how we pander into our sovereignty when its serves our interests.
Our primary interest at this point is to demonstrate that we are capable of solving our political differences with a great degree of sincerity, integrity and respect to human life.
While one may argue that politicians are representatives of the poor, the deadly political party primaries, chaotic election campaigns, brutal attacks on demonstrators and hardline positions taken by political antagonists point to the absence of anyone fronting the interests of the poor.
The continuous soothing of the poor that all is well without meaningful engagement at the national level to ease political tension is a deception that will hurt future generations.
Another example of how we have killed our individual and collective conscience is, every election — perhaps with the exception of 2002 — we lose lives. A life lost to political campaigns is one too many. Interestingly, one would expect a national uproar over deaths to innocent people but we are often too afraid, too timid, to stand out and condemn the perpetrators.
Moreover, following the 2017 elections, there is a wind of hatred between tribes that is slowly creeping into the national psych. We only talk about it in hushed voices. We are divided, and denial of that is a disservice to ourselves.
On one hand is a group that wants to enjoy their presidency. They are pained that they cannot be left to celebrate their victory.
They look at themselves as victims of misplaced anger. On the other are angry voters who, justifiably or not, feel they were denied victory. They feel they are victims of a manipulated electoral system. Between these two groups, the common factor is victimisation.
It is not possible that a process can be responsible for producing extreme emotions of deadly hate. We have to be true to ourselves, tap into our conscience and point out — not just legally for God’s sake — the truth deep within us on why we want to destroy the future of our children by living in denial of our unconscientious ways of self-governance.
We owe the future generation a united nation. We must be a nation with a conscience.
Many would agree that 2017 was not a very good year for most people around the world.
The year started on a rather inauspicious note with the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States. This unleashed uncertainty globally, mainly because the leader of the most powerful nation on earth is known to be narcissistic and unpredictable, qualities that have the potential to seriously (some would say, negatively) impact US domestic and foreign policies.
Trump promised to reverse all legislation passed under his predecessor Barack Obama — including his health policy, known as Obamacare. His anti-Muslim and anti-immigration stance emboldened White supremacists in America and generated an atmosphere of paranoia.
With a looming nuclear threat from North Korea, and a potential trade war between the US and China, it is it difficult to predict how Trump will react in the coming year.
Will 2018 see the unleashing of a nuclear war for the first time? How will a US trade war with China impact the global economy?
In 2017, another kind of war showed the first signs of coming to an end. In Iraq and Syria, the murderous Islamic State (IS) lost significant portions of its territory, though the jury is still out on whether this was due to the efforts of US-backed insurgents or the Iraqi military and Russia-backed Syrian forces.
Unfortunately, this did not reduce the threat of terrorism in other parts of the world. There were more IS-inspired ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks involving unconventional weapons, such as vans and trucks, in major cities.
In Somalia, attacks by the Al-Shabaab militants became more frequent and brutal. The October terrorist attack in Mogadishu that left more than 400 people dead and hundreds of others injured was the worst tragedy to befall the city in recent years.
Although this attack did not receive the global attention that others of its kind receive, its impact is likely to be felt in Somalia, particularly among the residents of Mogadishu, for a very long time.
Meanwhile, the refugee and migrant crises showed no signs of abating. Hundreds of people continued to drown in the Mediterranean Sea while, in Libya, human trafficking rings re-introduced another type of slavery in Africa by auctioning migrants and refugees in open markets.
Another refugee crisis loomed in Myanmar, where thousands of Rohingyas have been forced to flee brutal attacks by government and other forces.
The world watched in shock as this largely Buddhist country committed unspeakable atrocities under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, who, ironically, is a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace.
On a more positive note, 2017 saw Kenya make history when the Supreme Court nullified the August 8 presidential election — a first for an African country.
The court decision was lauded worldwide for being courageous. However, the repeat election in October did not live up to expectation.
With the main opposition candidate boycotting the election and at least half the electorate not showing up at polling stations, the predictable results failed to inspire or impress but raised serious questions regarding the legitimacy of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.
The question of legitimacy is likely to haunt the Jubilee government for the remainder of its tenure; which means Kenya’s political stability is likely to face more challenges in the coming months.
A transition of another kind took place in Zimbabwe, where 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe was quietly ousted by his own military without a single shot being fired.
This ‘coup that was not a coup’ stunned the world, particularly African dictators who have ambitions to rule indefinitely.
It is hard to tell whether his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa will bring about political and economic reforms that were eroded during Mugabe’s 37-year reign but the world — African presidents in particular — will be keenly watching.
In 2017, women’s rights got a boost from an unlikely source — Hollywood. Revelations that movie producer Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed several women led to an avalanche of #MeToo exposés on social media, with women from all walks of life admitting to being sexually molested by their bosses or colleagues. Even the United Nations — that bastion of impunity — instituted a sexual harassment policy in response to the furore. Whether it will be effective or not is anyone’s guess.
May 2018 be less tumultuous and may wisdom and sanity prevail. Happy New Year!