Saturday, January 13th, 2018
South Africa needs a successful Kenya and Kenya needs a successful South Africa for these two countries and their people to thrive.
This was the essence of part of a keynote address on Saturday by Cyril Ramaphosa, newly-elected leader of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), to tens of thousands of his party’s supporters — and to the nation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta attended the nationally televised and much-anticipated address to mark the ANC’s 106th birthday, held at a stadium in the port-city of East London.
President Kenyatta was seated between South African President Jacob Zuma and Mr Ramaphosa, both of whom have held intensive talks in the last few days with him.
Mr Ramaphosa made a number of remarks regarding President Kenyatta’s three-day working visit to South Africa, which began on Thursday, as well as to the parallels between Kenya and South Africa.
He spoke of how the two countries — and their governing parties — could work together for the mutual benefit of the citizens.
On his dealings with President Kenyatta, whom he met on Saturday, Mr Ramaphosa said these had “revolved around sharing best practices and knowledge” as well as bilateral investment in Kenya and South Africa.
“Our economy can’t succeed if Kenya’s economy fails, and Kenya’s economy can’t succeed fully if South Africa’s economy fails,” said Ramaphosa.
“We will work towards mutual investment,” he added.
In order to achieve the necessary growth to create jobs, South Africa needed to enhance internal economic coherence and co-operation with external partners.
“We can learn a lot from Kenya and that is why we applaud the presence of President Kenyatta and his delegation,” said Mr Ramaphosa, to loud cheers from the crowd.
Mr Ramaphosa began his “January 8th” address, now an annual institution marking the day in 1912 when the ANC was created, right on time — an indicator, he said, that already “things are changing” in his much-troubled ruling party.
That remark was a dig at Zuma as former head of the party during which time hardly anything to do with party functioning started on time.
Ramaphosa was declaring, in his diplomatic but crystal clear fashion, that there was a “new sheriff in town” and that things were henceforth going to work properly in the ANC — and, by extension, in South Africa.
As the man who is now technically in charge of President Zuma, Mr Ramaphosa laid down the law before a packed stadium, warning members of his party bringing the continent’s oldest liberation movement into disrepute through divisive conduct and corrupt practices that they would be brought to book.
The remark was an indirect but obvious attack on those behind the factionalism which has nearly riven the ANC apart and which has triggered its newly-elected leadership to make 2018 not only a year of remembrance for Nelson Mandela, thereby invoking Madiba’s incorruptible reputation, but also to dedicate this year to “organisational renewal”.
Mr Ramaphosa promised to strengthen the country’s much-weakened policing, prosecutorial and security structures, and to “get to the bottom” of the system of patronage, corruption and influence-peddling known as “state capture”.
No longer presented as “something to be looked into”, as previously by ANC apologists, “state capture” was dealt with by Ramaphosa as a real problem that needed urgent attention — and he promised the cheering crowd he would ensure that happened.
That, too, was a dire warning to Mr Zuma who sat, mostly stone-faced, behind Ramaphosa during the speech, as well as to an unhappy-looking Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was narrowly beaten by Ramaphosa for the ANC’s top job last month.
Mr Ramaphosa, like those who spoke before him from the ANC’s alliance partners, the SA Communist Party and the Congress of SA Trade Unions, repeatedly emphasised that party (and national) unity had to be strengthened through a programme of renewal.
That entailed a return to its grassroots support and its founding principles, as embodied by various leaders of the past but especially so by Mandela.
Appearing calm and self-assured, Mr Ramaphosa ticked all the boxes in terms of covering the ground laid out by the ruling party’s delegates at last month’s fiercely-fought elective and policy conference.
These included increased black involvement in the economy, opening the economy up to a wider spectrum of players, specific focus on the financial sector for increased black ownership and management, ending elites’ control of economic sectors, agricultural redevelopment, land redistribution and restoration without destabilisation of the economy or threatening food security, free tertiary education for poor students, and the eradication of divisive and corrupt practices in government and civil society.
He admitted his party faced many challenges but vowed he would oversee its renewal — a word mentioned many times — by the end of 2018, and in time for next year’s national elections.
He promised action on getting the economy growing and thereby the creation of jobs — a vital difference of emphasis as compared to the programme of “radical economic transformation” favoured by Dlamini-Zuma and the pro-Zuma camp — and that, within three years, up to a million of the country’s unemployed youth would have jobs.
Mr Ramaphosa praised an agreement on the minimum wage — while it was not yet a “living wage”, it nonetheless represented a significant immediate improvement for over six million South Africans.
As much as he was enthusiastic about prospects of achieving the goals he laid out, he was also tough.
Mr Ramaphosa promised that all government corruption, including in state-owned enterprises which have been among prime targets of those involved in “state capture”, would be rooted out, and that those implicated would face prosecution.
That remark was not only clearly directed towards Zuma and his “state capture” allies, but to the international diplomatic and investor community who have been waiting to hear, in his own words, precisely what Ramaphosa intended doing about the problems that have afflicted South Africa under Zuma’s administration.
Mr Ramaphosa attacked all forms of racism, discrimination and xenophobia, as well as other destructive aspects of social behaviour, invoking instead a spirit of community and humanity as embodied by former ANC leaders such as Nelson Mandela.
The new ANC leader trod a careful line between the populists’ call for the nationalisation of key resources and maintaining a positive prospect for the country’s economic stability and growth in the minds of current and potential future investors.
Using the vernacular in at least four of the country’s 11 official languages, Ramaphosa’s delivery was smooth and convincing, drawing frequent outbursts of ululation and enthusiastic cheers form the evidently satisfied ANC supporters at the event.
It was difficult to see Mike Sonko’s and Polycarp Igathe’s abusive relationship at City Hall ending so soon.
Granted, media reports had thrown up enough hints of an unfolding falling-out sparked by perceived micromanagement by State House – to which Governor Sonko reacted in a rather strange way.
Circulating embarrassing personal WhatsApp conversations with your partner on social media and trying to pass them off as love letters; who does that!
But as late as last Friday morning, Mr Igathe was on NTV articulating the duo’s grand plans for Nairobi County in an interview heavily punctuated with adoring references to Mr Sonko as “my boss”.
Whatever it is that the governor did or said – or didn’t – afterwards to make his deputy quit only hours later must have been quite heartbreaking.
Students of leadership and management will no doubt look at the break-up at City Hall from all angles, including personal chemistry and social class differences, to try to explain it.
The matchmakers of the Sonko-Igathe Jubilee ticket in the August 8, 2017 elections never concealed the fact that they saw Mr Igathe’s corporate management skills compensating for Mr Sonko’s deficiencies.
Mr Igathe’s resignation after only five months in office, citing failure to earn the trust of his boss, suggests that the matchmakers were too naïve to imagine that a populist politician elected governor with close to one million votes was going to just sit there and watch a surrogate CEO-type deputy run the show.
Did anyone expect the governor, an aggressive personality who, as Makadara MP, punched walls and performed somersaults in street protests against public land grab, to take attempts to dismantle the Sonko Rescue Team charity on which he has anchored his grassroots political mobilisation kindly? Did anyone expect the governor to hit back with an open palm in the same week his hands were freed from an election petition?
Suffice it to say whoever thought Nairobi’s “Iron Mike” would pull punches in these circumstances is the only stranger in Jerusalem.
By getting Mr Igathe out of City Hall, Mr Sonko has also delivered a surprise knock-out blow on surrogate politics that is likely to send its merchants at the national level back to the drawing board.
The emerging debate in the Mt Kenya region around the Uhuru Kenyatta succession, for instance, has featured suggestions of some strong running mate for William Ruto, the Deputy President, in 2022, who will somehow control him and ensure the community retains power by proxy.
The debate has echoes of the factional scheming for Jomo Kenyatta succession in the late 1970s, during which the group backing Daniel arap Moi saw him as a passing cloud. We all know how that one went for 24 years.
But if anyone still entertains the notion of a surrogate presidency in 2022, he or she just needs to have a chat with Mr Igathe.
We have argued in this column before, and others have argued similarly elsewhere, that one of the biggest barriers to sustained development in Kenya is our culture of prescribing private solutions to public problems.
This past week, this was spectacularly exemplified by the Nairobi County Deputy Governor, Polycarp Igathe, who has since resigned from the post, in his misguided attempt to justify the involvement of the Governor’s private militia in public works across the city.
In the fateful tweet, Mr Igathe wondered why we are not all appreciative of the fact that the militia has managed to clean up and improve the image of the city in the face of county workers who “had already shown you that they cannot handle the task”.
Despite a robust engagement on social media from many quarters, the man remained adamant that Kenyans were being too critical and that the private militia was doing a great job transforming the city.
For the umpteenth time, I insist that the people elect a government for purposes of levying taxes in order to provide a set of social services. These services include security, infrastructure, health, and education. Provision of these services ensures that the populace is sufficiently enabled to pursue other economic activities that can then boost productivity in the country.
A government that fails to guarantee these services has absolutely no business governing.
Historically, our governments have institutionalised the “Igathe phenomenon” by allowing leaders and senior public servants to access private services at public expense.
When they fall ill, they spend public money on private hospitals, even going to the extent of flying out of the country at public expense to get treatment at “the best hospitals” in the world. In fact, several senior government officials are currently out of the country receiving treatment for conditions that are managed daily at our big public facilities.
Many of them are actually responsible for development and management of health systems, but have elected to seek healthcare elsewhere. This clearly demonstrates what they think of the health care common citizens deserve, and their low opinion of public health systems in this country.
When our security system became less than trustworthy, many public servants, including those responsible for security, have used public resources to procure private security.
In fact, it is not uncommon to find senior security officers being paid an allowance to purchase private security. The upshot of this is that the government cannot guarantee the security of its own officers, let alone that of common citizens.
The same scenario is played out in the education sector, in which every Kenyan is working hard to make enough money to be able to afford private schools for their children.
Indeed, in the recent past, the ministry of education has decided to implement a new education system that has mostly been shrouded in secrecy and mystery.
The only information we have about it is that it is competency-based and is good for our children.
Its philosophical underpinnings (why do we take our children to school?) remain vague and unexamined critically. Importantly, senior public officers with the ability to afford “better” are not lining up to take their children to public schools in order to benefit from this wonderful education system.
Those who can afford it are sending their children out of the country to places such as Australia, the US, South Africa, and the UK.
Across all sectors improvisation has become the lot of the common mwananchi, while the rich avoid public services like the plague.
As a result, the quality of essential services has deteriorated so much so that even the poor are finding them repugnant. We are therefore paying taxes but not availing ourselves of the services we are paying for, giving the tax-collecting government the incentive to steal or waste public funds. After all, nobody is going to ask where the money went if they are not using the facilities it was meant to pay for!
We cannot complain of corruption and wastage of public funds on the one hand while fashioning private solutions to public problems on the other!
Atwoli is Associate Professor and Dean, Moi University School of Medicine [email protected]
Patience should be President Kenyatta’s compass as he painstakingly constructs his government with an eye on assembling a competent, committed and efficient Cabinet to help him carefully and successfully steer MV Kenya home on his final five-year voyage.
But he rushed an announcement about Cabinet-making a week ago on Friday. It exposed discord between President and Deputy President William Ruto over nominees and a President keen to use the Cabinet to build a legacy and a Deputy assembling a team to ensure his rise to power.
It is understandable when President and Deputy disagree over the composition of their Cabinet. But it is worrisome when their fight escalates and turns a marquee government event into a political and public relations fiasco, and invites pressure and ridicule on themselves.
By custom established in 2013, Mr Ruto flanks the President at every important function at State House. He was absent not because Cabinet-making is a minor distraction in Jubilee’s organisation of government, but because he was kept out of the loop or opted out in pique.
However, it is gratifying that he bravely and publicly sanitised his discomfiture. This pressure will be a recurring feature of the Kenyatta II succession. As I wrote on October 29, 2016, apart from the much-hyped 2013 pact with the President, Mr Ruto needs a Plan B for his 2022 presidential run.
Indeed, by stating publicly that Cabinet-making is the President’s prerogative and that he needs space to fashion it, Mr Ruto sent the message that he will bide his time and abide by his boss’ decision on the Cabinet to ensure his destiny is in his hands and not the President’s.
The DP understood that President Kenyatta would have his way. W. Craig Blesdoe and Leslie Rigby report that when Lincoln was unanimously outvoted by members of his Cabinet, he closed the meeting by saying: “Seven nays and one aye, the ayes have it.”
So President Kenyatta sacked, then claimed he had not fired, an astonishing 13 out of 19 cabinet secretaries (CSs). Then he nominated three out of a possible 15. But, curiously, he did not assign them dockets. And, he announced retention of six, thereby assigning the sextet special status.
The endorsement served as public humiliation of the 13. The import was clear: The six excelled while the baker’s dozen failed the President. Still almost all are sending emissaries to him seeking audience, a second chance or soft landing. They go to offices, but none has his heart in service.
Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohammed must have felt especially hard done by. She lay down her life for President and Deputy and helped deliver them from heinous crimes-against-humanity charges at The Hague.
They cannot have fronted and campaigned far and wide for a deadwood to become the African Union’s chief executive officer last year. Yet the President lay down the minister for his legacy.
Agitated, Kenya’s women are watching and waiting. Per the constitution, women should make up one-third of the Cabinet. With none of the sitting five retained and none nominated, the President must deliver to this hugely important constituency.
So what prompted this brutal political butchery? When President Kibaki fired his Cabinet of 28 in 2005, he was preparing Kenyans for the ejection of seven ministers who rebelled, and ran against him in a plebiscite on a draft constitution.
In 1962, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan sacked seven out of 21 ministers because he needed to bring in younger talent and fresh ideas to rejuvenate government. Alarmed by a by-election loss, he wanted to regenerate the Conservative Party and kick-start an ailing economy.
There were consequences. While most Kenyans understood that President Kibaki could not share government with rebels and backed their sacking, the action contributed to the explosion of post-election violence two years later.
The scale of brutality, which ran counter to Macmillan’s gentlemanly ways, turned Westminster and public opinion against the PM. From being fondly called Super Mac, he became Mac the Knife. Ailing, Macmillan resigned 18 months later, the damage undone. Mr Kenyatta wants CSs who will work to give him an enviable legacy. Mr Ruto wants CSs who will herald his march to State House. Both have debts to settle, but the fault line is the 2022-related dues the President or the Kenyattas owe Baringo Senator Gideon Moi or the Mois. Mr Moi wants to be president in 2022. There is Mr Ruto’s casus belli.
The biggest politically significant event in the run-up to the Kitutu Chache South election in November last year happened on the first Friday of that month when Raila Odinga endorsed Richard Onyonka.
Like much else in the life of the opposition chief, he did not even need to be physically present for it to happen. He was reported to have spoken on phone to opposition supporters at Ruga Primary School.
As his rivals for the seat, all of them from Nasa protested saying they had made similar calls to their party leaders and been told there was no such agreed position amongst the coalition’s principals, Mr Onyonka was home and dry.
He had decamped to Ford-Kenya an angry man, saying he had been robbed of the opportunity to get the ODM ticket through botched nominations.
With the suggestion that the Opposition field joint candidates scuttled, Amani National Congress, Wiper, ODM and Ford-K all had candidates. Samuel Omwando was perhaps the one with the all the right to be angry as his Party Leader had effectively thrust the knife in his back.
Mr Onyonka won easily, getting double what his closest competitor, Jubilee Party’s Anthony Kibagendi, got and sweeping into Parliament for his third consecutive term.
The former Foreign Affairs assistant minister was wearing a smile when he led MPs from Kisii and Nyamira in thanking President Kenyatta for retaining their indefatigable son Fred Matiang’i in the Cabinet. Dr Matiang’i being from Nyamira, they said, it would not be too much to ask President Kenyatta to find another hardworking son of the community from Kisii county.
When the main statement was done with and the questions from the journalists came, Mr Onyonka responded with gusto to the question of what they made of the plan to swear in Mr Odinga as “the people’s president.”
“Kwanza, rais wa Kenya ni Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta (First, the president of Kenya is Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta),” he started.
When a Kenyan politician refers to another with their three or more names, it is not only for stylistic effect. There is an element of respect, reverence, in that kind of usage.
The former Foreign Affairs assistant minister would know all about that, as he spent a good part of 2008 to 2013 mingling with diplomats and hobnobbing with high commissioners and special envoys.
He went on: “If you look at it from a legal point of view, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta was sworn in, he was given the instruments of power, he is the commander-in-chief of the police, the army, he is in charge of Kenya’s money, he is the President of the Republic of Kenya.”
“As an MP in Ford-Kenya and Nasa, I have doubts about the manner in which the elections were conducted but I can’t say that Uhuru is not the President of Kenya. I don’t have a problem with Uhuru being the President of Kenya because he was sworn in and the Constitution recognizes that,” he continued.
He was well aware of the effect of his statement and how far it was from the repeated assertion by his boss in the National Assembly, National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi, that Nasa does not recognise Uhuru Kenyatta as a President.
Mr Onyonka’s turnaround is not the latest.
On October 31, 2016, Mr Onyonka faced Mr Odinga and senior members of ODM at the Bomas of Kenya and after pulling on an ODM cap and donning blue scarf, pleaded with him to be allowed back in the party.
“What happened is that we have realised that nothing is going to be done. We have realised that the country is taking the wrong direction,” he said at the time.
At the height of his coziness with Jubilee, Mr Onyonka was amongst MPs who shut down Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi at a July 2015 joint meeting of the Finance and Labour committees with then Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru. He would take on Dr Oburu Oginga, then a nominated MP, repeatedly referring to him pejoratively as the former Prime Minister’s brother.
Mr Onyonka would change tune by November that year, joining MPs in calling for the removal of Ms Waiguru from the Devolution Ministry because of the scandal at the National Youth Service. He remained in ODM until the nominations, when he sprinted into Ford-K.
While it is true that it is only a fool that does not change his mind, Mr Onyonka’s latest statements could fuel the fear within the Opposition that Jubilee could accomplish its stated aim and destroy Nasa before the next elections.
Keeping the Opposition together is not easy, its leaders know, and when a direct beneficiary of the generosity of its head starts talking like Mr Onyonka did, the enormity of the personal and regional interests that might destroy it from within are clear.
Once again, al-Shabaab militants laid an ambush and unleashed terror on a police vehicle along Malindi- Lamu road, killing one civilian and injuring at least five police officers. Details are still scant but the continued horrifying terror attacks on Kenyan soil are worrying. It demonstrates that the Shabaab militants and networks remain intact and lethal despite concerted government efforts to exterminate them.
In the past few weeks, the militants have attacked various places especially in northern Kenya and the Coast. Only last week, they demolished a Safaricom communications mast in Wajir.
A few days before, they raided El Wak in Mandera County and killed security officers.
The increasing frequency is a pointer that the gangs are up to a target and, unless drastic steps are taken, we may be in for more brutal and widespread al-Shabaab killings.
The notoriety of the acts becomes manifest considering what happened in El Adde in Somalia exactly two years ago. Then the militants raided a Kenyan camp and killed dozens of soldiers operating under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). At this time when Kenyans remember that brutal attack, the security agencies must keep vigil and forestall recurrence of such acts.
On a much broader perspective, Kenya should rethink the wisdom of continued stay of its forces in Somalia. After nearly seven years of the operation, the country needs an honest discussion about its viability and implication on our national security. We must also review internal operations like those at the Coast that were set up to provide rapid response and contain the militants.
Friday’s announcement by Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe that he was resigning was the culmination of multi-billion shillings tender wars and the battle for control of the country’s richest county.
While the announcement caught many by surprise, investigations revealed serious differences between Governor Mike Sonko and Mr Igathe over the manner the county’s affairs were being run. Sources in both camps confided in the Nation that the fallout had been long coming due to a clash of egos and rifts over the payment of pending bills.
Efforts to contact both men on Saturday bore no fruits as Mr Sonko could not be reached on his cell phone while Mr Igathe did not return our calls.
But Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja expressed regrets at Mr Igathe’s decision, saying he could have explored other avenues of resolving his differences with Mr Sonko instead of throwing in the towel.
“What happened is regrettable and should have been the last resort after different avenues including consulting were explored,” Mr Sakaja told the Nation.
He said plans were under way to bring Mr Sonko and Mr Igathe and other Nairobi leaders together next week to deliberate on the matter.
At the centre of what one source described as “irreconcilable” differences between Mr Sonko and Mr Igathe is the feeling among the former’s allies that the latter was imposed on them by powerful forces.
The sources traced the differences to President Kenyatta’s initial endorsement of former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth on April 15, last year, to run for the gubernatorial seat in Nairobi at a time their man was struggling to secure a certificate of good conduct from the Police.
The endorsement came only days after Mr Sonko had bitterly complained that powerful forces in government were determined to frustrate his gubernatorial bid.
Mr Sonko eventually clinched the Jubilee ticket, beating Mr Kenneth hands down.
According to Mr Sonko’s allies, Mr Igathe was never his choice of running mate but that of State House to specifically take charge of policy implementation in the county.
Sources close to Mr Igathe state that the “gentleman’s” agreement was that his boss sticks to politics while he runs policies and handles administrative duties.
But as early as after the swearing in ceremony in August, both the governor and his deputy hosted friends and guests in separate places, an early sign that the “forced marriage” was on the rocks.
In December last year, a story was highlighted in one of the local dailies about the rift that had been simmering between the two.
It was reported that Sonko was uneasy with his deputy after “learning” that State House was hell-bent on having Mr Igathe run the affairs of the capital city.
After the story, Governor Sonko came out guns blazing, refuting the claims and even attaching screenshots of the alleged WhatsApp and text conversation with his deputy as a proof of their “strong” working relations.
Mr Sonko’s allies also protested that some of the nominees to his cabinet and top county positions were shoved down his throat, citing Mr Peter Kariuki – a former Presidential Delivery Unit staff who was seconded to the county as County Secretary last year but is yet to be vetted.
The straw which broke the camel’s back, according to sources in both camps are differences over the payment of pending bills running into billions of shillings.
Mr Igathe, according to sources, took offence with Mr Sonko’s decision to block the payment due to a contractor for road works done. Mr Sonko is said to have insisted that all pending bills be audited before any payments could be made, a decision that did not go down well with his deputy who wanted to expedite the process.
After opening an induction workshop for the executive members of the county on Monday in Mombasa, Mr Igathe returned to Nairobi to attend to some pressing matters and even appearing on NTV on Friday defending the administration and putting up a brave face.
Then came the bombshell, via a short text message to the same station later in the evening informing them of his decision to resign. The resignation message posted on his Twitter account finally revealed all the frustrations, “…I regret I have failed to earn the trust of the Governor to enable me drive Admin and Management of the county….,” read the tweet.
A close aide of the deputy governor admitted that he was shocked by the abrupt decision but said that Mr Igathe had shown signs of frustrations in the nascent union pointing at constant interference from his boss in his efforts to deliver the vision they had for Nairobi people as the cause of his unhappiness.
Additional reporting by Ruth Mbula and Nyaboga Kiage.
A long-running Sh2 billion licence dispute with mobile operator Airtel Kenya, in which the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and Treasury suffered a huge blow after a lengthy court battle, could have contributed to the early exit of embattled Director-General Francis Wangusi, the Nation has learnt.
Mr Wangusi, a long-serving executive of the telecoms regulator, was shown the door by the Authority’s board of directors on Friday. His tenure at the helm of the agency has been marked by controversy.
Mr Wangusi had been re-appointed the director-general of the Authority for a four-year term effective August 22, 2015.
He had been the boss since 2012, after serving in an acting capacity for a year.
Details now show the CA board’s chairman Ngene Kariuki met other members on Friday evening before issuing the matching orders, citing human resource concerns at the agency.
HUMAN RESOURCE CONCERNS
The board said investigations would be conducted to establish if there were “malpractices” in staff training and promotions at the Authority.
Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru confirmed to the Sunday Nation that the Airtel issue was discussed by the board before the decision to kick out Mr Wangusi was arrived at.
“The board is investigating and so they are the ones with the full information on what they are doing. For me they just give a brief. They had their meeting and are yet to come and tell me how it went. But I know that in the board meeting, they were discussing the Airtel ruling so whether it forms part of the investigation is something they have to tell me. We are likely to meet (with the board) on Monday,” said Mr Mucheru.
In the case of the Airtel Kenya, it has emerged the CA did not seek counsel from the Office of the Attorney-General, as should have been the case, before delving into the complex legal tangle that it consequently lost to the telecoms company at the High Court.
In the case, sources told the Nation, the government was poorly represented in court and CA’s arguments were not as water tight and thus the State’s interests were compromised.
The High Court in December last year dismissed the case in which the Treasury was demanding licence fees through the communications regulator following the 2014 exit of Essar’s yuMobile from the Kenyan market.
The deal was valued at about $100 million (Sh10.3 billion) and saw Airtel acquire the 2.7-million yuMobile subscribers at a cost of $6.9 million (Sh710 million) while Safaricom took up the frequency and phone masts.
According to Airtel, CA had promised to merge its operating licence with that of yuMobile, with the deal granting Airtel a lease to operate in the country until January 2025.
A few months later, however, CA wrote to Airtel demanding that the telco pay up Sh2 billion to renew its operating spectrum licence. CA said the National Treasury had insisted the Sh2 billion payment be made since licence fees were a matter of public revenue and only Treasury could grant waivers.
The High Court upheld Airtel’s view, saying the Treasury erred in demanding the fees despite an existing agreement between the telco and CA.
“The Treasury has no power to direct the respondent on how to carry out its mandate,” said Justice George Odunga in that ruling.
“By permitting the Treasury to do so, I find that the respondent did abdicate its duty,” the Judge said.
The court further said the need to raise revenue was no justification for CA and Treasury to flout an agreement made with Airtel.
“The respondent’s decision to demand the applicant pay $20 million, though attractive in terms of enhanced public revenue and perhaps for the zeal of meeting annual tax targets, I find is not such an overriding interest for the reasons set out in this judgment,” said Justice Odunga.
Consequently, the government was denied much needed funds at a time the National Treasury was struggling to raise money for expenditure.
In another controversial case marking his tenure, the CA denied claims it had awarded Jamii Telecoms, a tier 2 telecommunications firm, a licence and coveted spectrum to operate another mobile phone service at a throw- away fee.
The award was seen by some speculators as a “gift”, and other companies operating in Kenya protested. saying the fee, alleged to be Sh100,000, was meagre, compared to more than Sh5 billion they had to pay before being allowed to roll out their services.
The CA would, however, take a defensive stance against the allegations.
The regulator at the time claimed the deal was above board, denying that it could potentially cost taxpayers billions of shillings in unpaid licence fees.
CA further faced criticism that it failed in mobile number portability programme which. if successful, would have made it easy for users to migrate from one provider to another while retaining their unique cell phone numbers.
The authority was also at a crossroads with service providers over installation of the Device Management System (DMS).
The system required providers to install a gadget on their networks but opponents claimed it would have allowed authorities unlimited access to users’ private conversations.
Mobile companies saw it as a means to listen in, read and track down activities of the tens of millions of Kenyans who have access to mobile devices.
On its part, the CA argued that the system was meant to crack down on illegal mobile devices operating in the market and would not infringe on consumers’ privacy.
The CA hoped to make it work by incorporating a third party to handle the system.
Broadband Communications was awarded the contract to install the system and was said to have been working with a Lebanese company – Invigo Off-Shore Sal.
A court ordered CA to suspend the system.
The contentious digital migration saw him clash with media houses who protested the move.
In court battles, Mr Wangusi was accused of denying Kenyans their right to information by shutting down three leading television stations – NTV, KTN and Citizen TV – which were fighting for more time to acquire and distribute their digital broadcasting equipment.
And prior to the August 8 General Election, Mr Wangusi warned media houses against relaying parallel transmission of results.
He maintained that only the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was mandated to announce election results.
“Some media houses have threatened to transmit parallel results, but let them have this message clear that we are the watchdogs and we shall not allow it. There is only one body that can transmit election results, and that is the IEBC,” he warned at the time.
In another controversial move, Mr wangusi also warned broadcasters in November last year not to show live the violent confrontations between supporters of Mr Raila Odinga, who was returning from the US, and the police. The directive was largely disregarded.
It is astounding see the speed at which big companies are closing shop. It is no news that Nakumatt, the biggest retailer in the region is on its deathbed. Uchumi supermarket has been on life-support for the most part of last decade, and seems to have finally given up the fight. Kenya Airways is unable to soar as it should due to a dark cloud of debt, perennial losses and ineptitude.
Sadly, these companies started to limp after years of successful performance and ambitious expansion. They must have reviewed their bottom line and bank balances, and were convinced that they had the financial muscle to grow. Unfortunately, there are many more companies following this template — quick growth and then head south.
The questions is, why are hitherto successful businesses now crumbling at a time when technology has provided some of the best tools for business? Has it got something to do with quality of leadership? Has disruptive technology swept these organisations off their rails?
I surmise that these organisations are captained by leaders who are so comfortable in their bubble that they do nothing or too little to prepare for the future. They don’t invest in innovative strategies. They passively wait for technology, instead of preparing for it. They are so mesmerised by the successes of today that they forget to telescope into the future.
To them, the needs of the future are so distant. These leaders are comfortable implementing business models that are proven; that are well understood and yielding results which serve today’s needs. Unfortunately in the age of disruptive technology this comfort is short-lived.
Technology kills some businesses and creates new ones. It directs consumer behaviour. It can bring in new competition and new rules of the game. In other words, technology disrupts.
Here are some case studies to learn from. Mobile money services changed the face of banking in Kenya. Uber technology is turning the taxi business on its head. Computer training colleges that thrived on teaching basic software packages are now writing their obituaries, unless they worked their way to address niches that consumers are willing to pay for.
Traditional TV and print media has had to embrace social media as a new and nimble tools for connecting and sharing information. Retailing — even for small scale outfits — is pitching tent on the internet-based platforms. Every sector is changing so quickly and leaders who failure to see or dream the impending sea-change is short-changing his organisation.
Leaders and managers must spend time new thinking, build new skills and break ranks with old mind-sets that do not align with changing social, economic and political dynamics.
It calls for leaders to spend significant resources and energy in collecting data that would give them a hint about dynamics such as coming competition, shifting consumer behaviour and changes in regulations. Of course they must keep the current business operations humming.
Current operations underwrite efforts to prepare for the future, but they are not blind organisations seeing and investing in the right technology, tools and training.
They should keep experimenting and adapting new technologies and making necessary changes in incremental doses. Importantly, they must equip their staff with the right skills without expecting immediate returns on investment. They must spend resources in upgrading their electronic systems to improve operations and seal loopholes that could be exploited by the digital bad boys and expose the organisation.
Innovative organisations need to inculcate a culture of learning. Learning new skills and learning to shake off practices and processes that hold back organisations from embracing and enjoying the boom of new technologies. Importantly, organisations and institutions need to have forward-looking leaders; leaders who invest in the future today because they believe in it.
There is no question that Kenya and Somalia are two countries that are deeply linked economically, socially and culturally.
Both countries would stand to benefit immensely from enduring peace and stability in Somalia due to the long-standing ties between the two countries which stretch back hundreds of years.
Yet all is not well at present in Somalia. A number of forces, both from Somalia and outside the region, are working very hard to sow chaos there and prolong the suffering of the people of Somalia and the region.
Kenyan authorities can play a role in curtailing these players who are destabilising Somalia simply by ousting them and denying them the right to operate from Nairobi, because a significant number of them are based in the Kenyan capital.
In February 2017, there was great hope that the election of Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as president – a rare case in Somalia elections where the man who was popular with Somalis across the region prevailed over the choice of shadowy power brokers – would be a turning point for Somalia. There were celebrations across East Africa following the election.
However, there are forces including many wealthy Somali politicians and businessmen – a good number based in Nairobi – who benefit from war and chaos in Somalia and are not interested in the pursuit of a lasting peace.
These shadowy figures are suspected to be funding al- Shabaab attacks on Somali soil and credible investigations have linked them to the financing of bombings not just in Somalia but also in Kenya.
Matters have been worsened by the dispute between Gulf nations whose impact is being felt in many regions, none more so than in the Horn of Africa. That conflict has seen powerful Gulf countries emerge to actively encourage divisions in Somalia which have been a gift to the al- Shabaab at a time when many were turning against the group.
In June, the young and erratic Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman and his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suddenly announced a blockade of their rival Gulf power Qatar.
They demanded that all countries with a large Muslim population should follow their lead. Many were forced by the fact that they rely on millions of dollars in aid from the oil-rich Gulf countries to do so. However, to their great credit, the leadership in Somalia decided to take a neutral posture and refused to take sides between the UAE and Qatar.
That decision – despite tens of millions of dollars being offered to sway the leadership in Mogadishu – has inflamed the Gulf countries and unleashed a full-blown war to try and bring down the government in Somalia. The activities being undertaken to achieve this should alarm all members of the international community including the African Union, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, major embassies including the Americans and the European Union and other players that have a major stake in peace in Somalia including Kenya.
The efforts to sow instability in Somalia in pursuit of narrow geopolitical goals will result in disaster and should not be encouraged.
Taking advantage of the fragmented nature of governance in Somalia, for example, the UAE has exploited instability in some regions of the country to secure long-term concessions to key installations. These include a concession from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland for Dubai-based DP World to develop the port of Bosaso. In Somaliland, DP World has a 30-year concession to develop a port at Berbera and plans to develop an economic free zone.
In the meantime, significant amounts of cash have gone to groups that control the ports of Kismayu, Berbera and Bosaso, virtually arming three clans out of 50 others, a recipe for conflict in such an environment.
Kenyan authorities should take a keener interest in the level of these activities which are being carried out by Somali politicians and businessmen who own big businesses in Nairobi.
Some of these businessmen have been suspected to fund al-Shabaab through taxes paid due to their involvement in charcoal business and other activities.
Also, some journalists from Somalia in the diaspora are sympathisers or apologists of the propaganda being generated by the destabilising forces and they post toxic write-ups in their blogs, all aimed at destabilising Somalia.
The big question is: who is protecting these politicians in Kenya? Have these people corrupted State security institutions that are aware of their existence and activities?
It is an open secret that some non-governmental organisations based in Nairobi have been channelling funds to groups destabilising the Somalia government by claiming to fund projects that don’t exist.
Are Kenyan authorities aware of the activities of these groups and what are they doing to curtail them? What are others who are spending significant sums of money to fund security operations in Somalia, including the American embassy, doing about all this?
The fact is that these rogue Somalia politicians, driven by allegiance to narrow clan interests and their patronage by powerful wealthy Gulf states, are a threat not only to Somalia but the entire region.
They change their identity and loyalty according to interests and a number were previously openly affiliated to al-Shabaab.
The unfolding situation has created tension between ethnic Somalis and Gulf players such as the UAE and the danger is that Kenya – which appears to be an unwitting player in this game – could end up being a theatre for clashes between the various parties if it does not act to expel these bad actors from Nairobi.
It would be unfortunate if internal wars from Somalia, including between clan elites and feuding businessmen and meddling by Gulf players, ended up playing out in Nairobi. Also, as a friendly nation to Somalia, Kenya should be the last nation to encourage activities such as these to unfold on its soil.
For too long, some Somalia politicians have lived comfortably in Kenya while sowing chaos and instability in Somalia. There can be no reason why such politicians should be allowed to thrive – or worse, enjoy protection – while undermining regional security interests.
Kenyan authorities should investigate such players and expel them. It is true that the Somalia government is weak but the more powerful Kenya government should probe and act against these people.
The whole world has seen how the war in Yemen, which is an offshoot of these unnecessary power games in the Gulf, has resulted in the death of tens of thousands of civilians and one of the worst famines and cholera outbreaks recorded in history.
Somalia is suffering from the same irresponsible geopolitical adventures by these players who seek to bring down the government to advance their narrow interests which are served by perpetual chaos and war.
By contrast, Kenya and the region would benefit from a peaceful and stable Somalia. It is time for the country to take a stand and stop the activities of those that seek to destabilise Somalia.
The writer is the Member of Parliament for Suna East