Main Menu

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

 

ANC forum: Is it the end of the Jacob Zuma era?

By CHRIS ERASMUS

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party leader Cyril Ramaphosa is heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week with a message that his country is open to business and is fighting corruption.

Ramaphosa said those were his two key messages, set against a much better picture of political stability.

But, almost as if to undermine his new boss, South African President and former ANC leader Jacob Zuma, announced he would challenge a court ruling last month that he was too conflicted by “state capture” to appoint a new head of the National Prosecuting Authority.

State capture is the acknowledged — even by Zuma, who has appointed a commission of inquiry into it, as ordered by the courts — system of corruption, patronage and influence-peddling which has bedevilled the Zuma administration and led to losses of billions of dollars, mostly in state-owned enterprises.

That ruling left the appointment of the head of the country’s prosecuting authority to Ramaphosa in his capacity as South Africa’s deputy president.

Ramaphosa made his pre-Davos comments ahead a crucial ANC “lekgotla” – a Sotho and Tswana word for a village assembly or an assembly of leaders – taking place this weekend.

Such retreats have been used by ANC as a traditionally-framed context within which to discuss matters of high importance.

They are held in seclusion to work out positions on difficult matters.

It was considered highly probable by senior ANC figures ahead of the “lekgotla” that Zuma’s obdurate refusal to bend to the will of the courts and party might sooner than later see him removed from the presidency.

This was considered especially so as his refusal to accept the court finding on how conflicted he was with respect to the NPA appointment that the view from abroad, and particularly Davos, would likely be that Zuma still clings to power and is doing all he can to impede Ramaphosa and his clean-up drive.

CLINGS TO POWER

The Zuma move has dramatically increased tension within ANC caused by having twin centres of power.

Making matters trickier for Ramaphosa in “telling the good story” of what has happened, not only with his ANC election win last month but what is also now to come in terms of political stability and economic recovery and growth, is that the national power-producer, Eskom, is almost bankrupt.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Friday that there was a window of only three to four days in which to solve the problem.

If not, and Eskom — one of the key state-owned enterprises worst-hit by state capture’s effect — failed, it could lead to the collapse of the country’s economy.

He added that, unlike South African  Airways, another state-owned enterprise recently bailed out yet again , the government was in no position to do the same for Eskom.

Instead, efforts were being made to prevail upon entities such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa and private firms which lent Eskom money, not to call in their debts.

ROSIER PICTURE

None of that story is likely to go down well in Davos while Ramaphosa attempts to paint a much rosier picture of an essentially stable — if not rapidly growing — economy that is on an recovery path.

Counting in Ramaphosa’s favour are indications that, under his clear and decisive leadership, there have been developments in bringing to book those behind state capture.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit, a special enforcement arm of the security cluster of government, obtained a preservation order against international consultants McKinsey and Trillian, the latter a corporation with ties to the Gupta family considered to be at the heart of state capture, for an amount of $133 million based on illegal transactions these entities had with Eskom.

The transactions and other questionable deals have combined to contribute to Eskom’s liquidity problems through misspending of funds. McKinsey said it had already set aside money received to be repaid, though it denied any wrongdoing.

Ramaphosa indirectly praised the effective seizure of ill-gotten assets, saying there was at last some long-overdue movement on state capture, but that more action was needed urgently. He urged NPA to move without fear or favour where state capture was involved.

THREATEN ECONOMY

Those comments were a direct reference to Zuma, who still retains the power to determine the terms of reference for the pending state capture inquiry he was made to order.

On Thursday, the NPA said three of 17 state capture-related cases were at an advanced stage.

It was the first public indication that investigators had done anything about a problem which is so advanced that its knock-on impacts threaten the country’s economy.

Ramaphosa emphasised the need to show Davos that South Africa was getting to the bottom of state capture, a move that would attract investors.

Thursday and Friday’s developments meant not only was the ANC “bush conference” likely to be seized by issues of state capture and related matters, but would be focused on Zuma and his continuation as head of state.

“Don’t be surprised to hear on Monday that Jacob is being recalled,” said an ANC insider ahead of the “lekgotla”.

Exactly how Ramaphosa could possibly spin latest developments in Davos without Zuma’s immediately removal from office was unclear to some of those going to the ANC gathering and to seasoned observers and diplomats.


Happy path to sainthood for Sister Lionella Sgorbati

By WANJOHI GITHAE
More by this Author

An Italian Catholic church nun who worked in Kenya as a midwife is set to be made a saint by Pope Francis in May.

Sister Lionella Sgorbati, who worked in Kenya, was killed in Somalia in 2006 and is considered a martyr by the church.

She is the second Consolata nun with Kenyan roots on the course to sainthood after Sister Irene Stefani (Nyaatha), whose process of canonisation is on-going. Born in 1940 in Italy, she came to Kenya in 1970.

“For 13 years she worked in Consolata Hospital at Mathari and Nazareth Hospital in Kiambu, mainly as a midwife. She was also the head of Consolata Nursing School, Nkubu, until 1993 when she was elected the regional superior of Consolata Sisters in Kenya, a task she undertook until 1999.  Under her care, about 4,000 babies were born,” says Father Joseph Mwaniki, a lecturer at Tangaza University College and an expert in the “Processes of Beatification and Canonisation”. While working at Mathari Consolata Hospital in Nyeri, her slogan was “tender loving care for pregnant women and lactating mothers”.

She would repeatedly remind nurses to give TLC (tender loving care) to mothers so that a new-born brings happiness to the mother and her family.

SPECIAL CARE

Sr Lucy Karweru recalls how the former principal tutor at Nkubu Hospital would give special care to first-time mothers and ensure they went through labour with ease.

“First-time mothers are usually very scared, especially because they have heard all sorts of things that happen during labour. But Sr Sgorbati worked to reduce the tension by showing them care,” she said in an interview at the hospital.

For those that experienced severe pain, she would massage their back to ease the pressure while uttering reassuring and comforting words.

She ensured that mothers-to-be didn’t go through discouraging or traumatic delivery in her bid to make childbirth memorable to them.

This was anchored on offering emotional support and physical comfort during labour and after delivery, advising mothers on how to breastfeed and hold the baby.

Since there were not many qualified nurses in Nyeri, the sister would respond to midnight calls without complaining.

MATERNITY WING

“It did not matter to her that she had spent the entire day working. If woken up in the middle of the night, she would rush to the maternity wing,” Sr Lucy recalled.

As the principal tutor at Consolata Mission Hospital, Nkubu Nursing School, between 1985 and 1993, she is remembered for the high standards she set at the institution.

The Meru-based mission hospital administrator, Father Silas Mwiti, said Sister Leonella was keen on high standards of training, valued skills and knowledge and emphasised on integrity and moral uprightness. 

“She was very hard working and laid a strong foundation for the nursing school,” Fr Mwiti said.

Sister Catherine Joan, the current principal tutor and a student of Sister Leonella, has fond memories of her.

“She taught us midwifery and was very social and intelligent. Sister Leonella was very keen on imparting skills on students and was very careful not to release half-baked nurses,” Sister Catherine said.

She said the students were very fond of Sister Leonella, who treated them as her daughters.

“Any time she came from leave, the students would abandon whatever they were doing to welcome her. I have never seen a teacher so close to her students,” the principal said.

In November 1993, she was elected as the regional superior of Consolata Missionary Sisters in Kenya and retained the position until 1999. She then went on sabbatical in 2000 and in

2001 she spent several months in Mogadishu, Somalia, looking at the potential for a new nursing school.

The Hermann Gmeiner School of Registered Community Nursing opened in 2002 with Sr Sgorbati in charge. The first 34 nurses graduated from the school in 2002, with the World Health Organisation awarding them certificates and diplomas since Somalia has had no substantive government since 1991. Sr Sgorbati was a fluent Somali-speaker.

According to Fr Mwaniki, on Sunday, September 17, 2006, barely four days after her arrival back in Somalia where she had gone to give classes in the medical school, two men hiding between vehicles shot her seven times. Her guard, Mohamed Mahmud, a Muslim father of four children, tried to fire back but he was shot dead, too.

LOST BLOOD

“She was taken to hospital and helped by her own students; she had already lost a lot of blood and even breathing was difficult. Sr Marzia Feurra, a fellow sister, clearly heard Sr Lionella utter her last words in Italian before she died: “perdono, perdono, perdono” (I forgive, I forgive, I forgive). And this way, she offered her life for the sake of poor Somalis,” says Fr Mwaniki.

“At the imitation of Christ, Sr Lionella’s last words were forgiveness for those who killed her. This is the most authentic Christian testimony that a real martyr can give, showing the victory of love over hatred and evil.”

Her body was airlifted to Kenya where she was buried on September 21, 2006, in the cemetery of Nazareth Hospital.

Fr Mwaniki, who is in Rome to conclude his PhD in the History of the Church, says that at her death and later at her funeral, there was a widespread opinion, both in Kenya and Somalia, that she was killed because she was a Christian.

Her process of beatification officially started in 2013, and everything concluded in 2017, with the decree of Pope Francis of November 2017.

Before the Pope’s decree is promulgated, the Church requires that the servant of God be exhumed. This was done on September 30, 2017, under Bishop David Kamau of Nairobi at Nazareth Hospital cemetery. Her remains are now in the Chapel of Flora Hostels which, after the beatification, will become another centre for devotion by the faithful.

CONSOLATA SISTERS

Sister Joan Agnes Matimu, the regional superior for Consolata Sisters, says it is an honour for Consolata Sisters to have two saints from their congregation in Kenya.

“We may not have been there when Sister Stefani was here, but Sister Lionella was one of us. When I joined Consolata Nursing School in Nkubu, she welcomed me. And when I took my first vows as sister, she received me. We ate and cried together, we agreed and disagreed. But in the end, she taught us to work for humanity and spread the word of Jesus Christ. We are proud of this achievement,” she said.

The beatification comes after that of Sister Irene “Nyaatha” who was declared “Blessed” in May 2015 at a big ceremony in Nyeri. Nyaatha took her vows on January 12, 1912, where she became Sr Irene Stefani.

After completing her novitiate on January 29, 1914, she became a full Consolata missionary. With three other young sisters, she left for Kenya on December 28, 1914, arriving in January during the First World War. She was posted to Gikondi, Nyeri.

Later, she joined other missionaries as a Red Cross volunteer in Voi. Inevitably, she succumbed to plague at 39 years on August 31, 1930.

 Additional reporting by Grace Gitau and David Muchui


The push and pull in Nasa that could derail Raila’s swearing-in

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
More by this Author

The tussle between perceived hardliners and moderates in the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) is threatening the planned January 30 swearing-in of Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka.

Behind the scenes, the two sides are locked in a quiet war that could derail the much publicised oath, which the government has warned against.

But whichever side carries the day could eventually win the fight to shape Nasa’s future.

The source of this silent, but vicious, war is the whole question of the swearing-in and whether it can achieve the overall objective of delivering electoral justice after the coalition’s October 26 election boycott and the eventual victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta for his second term in office.

In private, the four principals are also said to be divided over the swearing-in even though they put up a united front in Machakos on Friday and are expected in Mombasa today for the launch of the People’s Assembly.

ELECTORAL JUSTICE

The perceived hardliners in the coalition argue that the only way to get electoral justice, the truth of what happened on August 8 – an election nullified by the Supreme Court – and ensure elections are not rigged in future is by ensuring that Mr Odinga is sworn in to put pressure on Jubilee.

They are also against dialogue or any power-sharing deal, something US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec and some religious leaders have been pushing for.

“Those holding this position also believe it will anger our core supporters who have been disappointed after the promised swearing-in was put off twice,” said an MP from the Nyanza region, who spoke in confidence, for fear of antagonising his colleagues. 

On the other hand, the perceived moderates argue the clamour for the swearing-in is too much ado about nothing as it will not have a bearing on Mr Kenyatta’s legitimacy as President. Besides, they reportedly say, it could trigger a brutal police reaction which will result in more deaths. The group prefers national dialogue instead, even though some are not opposed to the formation of the People’s Assemblies.  

Nasa insists Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka won the august poll but it accuses the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of having conspired with the Jubilee Party to tamper with the tallying of presidential votes which ultimately denied Mr Odinga victory.

Though a late entrant into Nasa, Mr Miguna Miguna has emerged as the face of the perceived hardliners. In public, the tough-talking lawyer often makes his position clear on TV talk shows and social media.

It is a stance he is said to hold behind closed doors – that Mr Odinga must be sworn in on January 30 and those opposed to the event are traitors. Dr David Ndii, the coalition’s top strategist who also chairs the People’s Assembly Organising Committee, is also said to be pushing hard for the oath with no room for compromise.

The entire committee is said to be fully behind the swearing-in and is doing everything to ensure the event comes to pass.

Other senior politicians said to back the swearing-in without room for dialogue are Siaya senator James Orengo, businessman Jimi Wanjigi, former Machakos senator Johnson Muthama, Kakamega senator Cleopha Malala, and ODM treasurer Ogla Karani.

Some of the key perceived moderates are leaders mainly in Ford Kenya, Wiper and ANC. They include Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Mr Musalia Mudavadi’s legal adviser Dan Ameyo, former deputy speaker Farah Maalim, MPs Ayub Savula (Lugari, ANC), Titus Khamala (Lurambi, ANC) and Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South, Ford Kenya) – who has since endorsed President Kenyatta.

“My position is that dialogue is better than the swearing-in option. And remember the Jubilee administration has not said ‘no’ to dialogue but rather there are those among us (Nasa) who are saying they do not want dialogue,” Dr Boni Khalwale told the Nation

In a previous interview, Mr Maalim said he will not take part in any swearing-in ceremony.

Mr Malala, the Kakamega Senator, says the swearing-in was the only way to show Mr Odinga won the August 8 election. However, Jubilee’s President Kenyatta was declared winner before the Supreme Court nullified the results and ordered a repeat election on October 26 that the Nasa candidate boycotted.  

Mr Malala, who is behind the affidavit that seeks to bind Nasa MPs in openly supporting the swearing-in, argues that proper national dialogue will only happen after Mr Odinga has been declared the “People’s President”. 

“We get the motivation to swear in Mr Odinga because data in the IEBC servers shows he won on August 8. We want to swear him in because Kenyans elected him,” he said. The Senator did not, however, show evidence of such results, only indicating they will be revealed on January 30.

DECLARED WINNER

The coalition may have boxed itself in when it threatened to swear in Mr Odinga in the event that Mr Kenyatta was declared the winner of the repeat October 26 poll, which Nasa boycotted. The call has developed its own life and the coalition leadership finds itself in a difficult spot unable to go back out of fear of isolating its core support base.

“We have reached a point where we have no option but swear in the two leaders because that is what our supporters are demanding. The matter is totally out of our hands. You can see this in our supporters,” Mr John Mbadi, the Leader of Minority in the National Assembly, said.

He argues that the leaders would have had a different strategy had the demand for the swearing-in been so intense as it is today.

“One way of losing your support is by not doing what your supporters want. Sanctions are palpable. Our supporters are tired of postponements and they are not receptive to calls for dialogue. We have to swear in Mr Odinga.”

SUPPORT BASE

As it is, Nasa has no option but push on with the demand of its support base, which wants the swearing-in as a continuation of the message of defiance against Jubilee Party.

According to Dr Ndii, the swearing-in will give Nasa the opportunity to reclaim its “stolen victory on August 8, 2017 besides giving the people an opportunity to reclaim their sovereign power by having their elected leaders assume authority, entrench democracy and ensure that every vote counts.

He further argues that electoral justice is key for a stable, fair, prosperous nation in which every vote counts.

“We are not interested in boardroom deals or the so-called nusu mkate. In 2007 we had a boardroom deal but that did not solve our problem as a country. We are back where we were 10 years ago,” Dr Ndii says on why the swearing-in must go ahead.

PEOPLE’S VERDICT

Ms Karani, the ODM Treasurer, argues that the oath will be an affirmation of the people’s overwhelming verdict.

“We want Mr Odinga to be sworn in because that is God’s will as the people of Kenya elected him president,” she said.

So what after the swearing-in? Mr Mbadi argues that there will be confusion.

“Mr Kenyatta is an illegitimate president as far as we are concerned. We are sure that when sworn in, his supporters can regard Mr Odinga as an illegitimate president as we regard Mr Kenyatta. But Mr Odinga will also be legitimate in some areas the same way Mr Kenyatta will be in some.”

The position, the Nasa plan explains, will be bolstered by the People’s Assemblies in counties controlled by Nasa.


Keep low profile? Not Mike Sonko’s style

By ELVIS ONDIEKI
More by this Author

His eyebrows level, his tone unapologetic, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko wished he had killed someone on the night of January 13.

Kwanza wako na bahati. Ningekuwa na bunduki na mtu amenipiga na panga, ningeua mmoja (First of all, they are lucky. If I had a gun and someone has struck me with a machete, I would have killed one),” he said during a live KTN News interview in his office on Friday morning.

Before uttering those words, a steely Mr Sonko had shown the interviewer the back of his right hand where he had allegedly been struck with a machete that night when a scuffle occurred on a disputed parcel of land in Kilifi County. Mr Sonko had visited the area a day after his deputy resigned.

The county boss alleged that the assailants had descended on a neighbour’s property armed with machetes, bows and arrows.

Reports indicated that Mr Sonko’s guards shot at a group of people in the exchange.

“Someone armed with a machete, and I am a governor, and he strikes me on the hand. Should I wait for my death because of Chapter Six? Should I wait for the death of my neighbours or my relatives? That can’t happen. We will deal with such cases,” he said during the interview.

The Chapter Six he was referring to was the section of the Constitution that deals with leadership and integrity.

“If it is Chapter Six, let it be Chapter Six. I will give you Chapter 1,000,” a mirthless Mr Sonko said shortly afterwards.

On the Kenyatta National rape claims, the governor said he wanted anyone proved to have perpetrated acts to be taken to “jela (jail) straight”.

It appears Chapter Six matters little to the flamboyant governor who has lately upped his “bad boy” attitude that catapulted him to fame.

One might even say the governor is more into the sixth law of power — as stated in 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers — than the sixth chapter of the Constitution.

The sixth law says: “Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colourful, more mysterious, than the bland and timid masses.”

LEGENDARY STATUS

When it comes to “what is unseen counts for nothing”, Mr Sonko holds a legendary status.

Several leaked audio recordings and screenshots regarding his conversations with people around him are all over the Internet.

Although he has never admitted having released any recording, it is anybody’s guess how they leave his custody.

Few days after his deputy resigned on January 12, a recording emerged of Mr Sonko’s conversation with Mr Igathe that Friday morning, where they were discussing a number of county matters.

The message around the leaked audio was to show that the two were on talking terms until the very day Mr Igathe quit.

And on December 14, Mr Sonko had also released screenshots of his SMS and WhatsApp conversations with Mr Igathe when a local daily revealed the icy relationship between the two county bosses. “Does it look like we are falling apart?” read part of the caption.

ESOTERIC MESSAGES

The screenshots, published on Mr Sonko’s Twitter account, were unfiltered and bore some uncomfortably esoteric messages that Mr Igathe could not have wished to be released.

They also exposed Mr Igathe’s contact and even that of Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, much to the displeasure of some social media users.

“Why are you framing your deputy on the public domain? Bad manners and lack of leadership etiquette,” said one user.

Searching online, one also finds recordings of Mr Sonko’s phone calls in different circumstances.

There is one where he was bashing a senior official of the Nairobi County government in his days as a senator, calling him a thief on various occasions.

There is another clip full of blunt remarks and curt responses as he took on a man who had allegedly grabbed land.

You will also land on another audio where he played clips on live radio where he accused people of extorting him.

But the World Wide Web being what it is, there are also unflattering videos of him, like one where he lashed out at a female politician over home wrecking claims and one where he used an unflattering language against Embakasi East MP Babu Owino.

As the episodes of Mr Sonko’s dramatic life keep piling up, somewhere in the Constitution, Chapter Six still clings to every inch of the paper it is printed on. “The guiding principles of leadership and integrity include objectivity and impartiality in decision making, and in ensuring that decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism, other improper motives or corrupt practices,” part of it says.

But in the meantime, it looks like it will be more gunshots, drama, bling, audios, Mike, Mbuvi, Sonko.


House committees to discuss, remove rebellious chairmen

By DAVID MWERE
More by this Author

The four National Assembly committees whose leaders are facing removal have been asked to meet on Tuesday to discuss their no-confidence motions and possibly eject the rebellious Jubilee Party MPs.

With a court order blocking the Jubilee Party leaders from removing the four MPs from the committees, the ruling party has gone for the sure-fire option of having its members express a lack of confidence in them.

 “When they took me to court and the court stopped us pending its decision, we said well and good. The court has spoken. When we spoke to members and they understood the masterplan of the party, which they will also benefit from, they understood,” said Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali.

The court cannot have a say on whether members of a committee have confidence in their elected chairmen or not.

“That is now the democracy Keter is talking about. Let the members who elected him democratically also reject him democratically, and it is provided for in the Standing Orders,” said Mr Washiali.

That appears to have sealed the fates of Mr Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Mr Silas Tiren (Moiben), Mr Kangogo Bowen (Marakwet East) and Mr James Gakuya (Embakasi North), who went against the party’s decision and worked their way to leadership seats.

Mr Keter is chairman of the Labour and Social Welfare Committee, Mr Tiren chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Mr Gakuya the Broadcasting and Library Committee and Mr Bowen vice chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Also set to be removed along with Mr Keter is Bungoma Woman Representative Catherine Wambylianga, who was elected vice chairman of the Labour committee after Mr Keter struck a deal with unionists in the committee.

Mr Washiali said the sharing of positions was part of a larger plan and suggested that the full Cabinet would eventually have individuals from strongholds of the National Super Alliance.

He said Jubilee is avoiding the situation Nasa has found itself in with MPs from the Coast region complaining that they were left out in the sharing of leadership positions in Parliament.

In letters to members of the committees, National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai has asked them to meet in various locations in Parliament at 10 am Tuesday, the main agenda being to deliberate on the motions of no-confidence.

The Environment and Natural Resources Committee will meet at County Hall, the Agriculture Committee in Room Nine, Broadcasting Committee at Continental House and Labour and Social Welfare at Room Seven.

EJECT LEADERS

If members of the committees manage to eject the leaders, the Director of Committees will convene another meeting in seven days for the election of new leaders.

 “We must be able to share whatever we have in this country otherwise I think there is no business in us being leaders,” said Mr Washiali.

Mr Keter has become the face of the rebellious MPs.

The youthful MP has grown in confidence after his re-election despite the fact that he had been a rebel within Jubilee for the better part of the last term.

He has said that those keen to remove him are working at the behest of cartels that don’t want him to oversee well-funded institutions like the National Social Security Fund.

“The country is facing many problems that the President should focus on. We respect him as our party leader but he should not meddle into affairs of parliamentary committees,” Mr Keter added.

He accused majority leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale and Mr Washiali of misleading the President on parliamentary affairs due to their selfish interest.

“The two are just part of the cartels that are against my leadership. They know I will do the right things and therefore feel uncomfortable,” Mr Keter said.

Mr Tiren said that he is being targeted because he wants to stop illegal dealings in the Agriculture sector.

Among the issues he listed as key areas of probe include the recent importation of brown sugar after the subsidy had been closed, the end of the maize subsidy programme and the smuggling of cheap powdered milk and rice in the country.

“Generally the farmers in the country are suffering because of the cartels who have taken over the markets. For instance, farmers in North Rift are waiting for their dues amounting to about Sh1.6 billion. If they are removing me because I mean well for the farmers, then so be it,” Mr Tiren said.

He also noted that cartels are fighting him because of the stand he has taken against the excess importation of white maize at a time the farmers have just harvested their produce but can’t sell because of poor prices.

Off the record, some of the four MPs have expressed their readiness to resign if their party succeeds in removing them. But that is  unlikely as the MPs are aware that having angered their party bosses, the party would be highly motivated to campaign against them in a by-election.


Uhuru, Raila would be stronger together

“The moral universe is long, but it curves toward justice,” so said rights activist Martin Luther King, when he quoted American reformist Theodore Parker. But what is just and fair has always been subject to interpretation.

The human species, wired to compete and dominate, and perhaps equally to collaborate and co-operate, has a hard rub indeed. In our chromosomal tyranny, we are locked into dual conflicts and there are always two sides to the quest for material resources — the rich and the poor, the Republicans and the Democrats, this tribe and that tribe, and so on.

So where is political justice to be found in this bipolar duel? Is it like the myth of Sisyphus, where a rock is pushed to the top of the mountain, only to roll down each time till crushing those of the lower economic strata?

So how would Martin Luther King contend with the current issue of justice in Kenya? To be sure, he would not be silent.

Even as the US continues with its problems of inequality, racism, and a morally incompetent President, so Kenya is faced with divisions where brotherhood is often only possible in the tribal family.

In his time, Martin Luther King faced off one of the most determined racists of Birmingham, Alabama, named Bull Connor, who repeatedly allowed non-violent protesters to be beaten with lead bars, blasted with water hoses, and assaulted by attack dogs.

Kenya is not America and issues of inequality are different. But if Martin were alive today, half a century after his assassination, he might suggest, as he once did in regard to Bull Connor, that one must look for the strengths of our opponents and build on them.

By focusing on other’s weaknesses there can only be greater separation of brotherhood. President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga are strong, but they can become even stronger if they work together.

Richard Godfrey, via email


Structured dialogue crucial for unifying the country

By GEORGE KEGORO
More by this Author

With the approaching swearing-in of Raila Odinga as “the people’s president”, it is unclear what is going to follow that, beyond a commonly-held view that things are not likely to be good.

Both the Jubilee Government and the international community do not like the idea of Odinga being sworn in, and have discouraged it, managing to delay it to this point. Whether or not the swearing-in happens, the fact that elections have become such a destabilising force in Kenya is an important problem that needs addressing.

The opposition has indicated that it can abandon the plan to swear in Odinga as president if Jubilee accedes to its demand for dialogue. The call for dialogue is not new and has been on the table since the 2013 elections.

Having lost a challenge in the Supreme Court against the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the 2013 elections, the opposition then demanded dialogue with Jubilee, mainly to address grievances around electoral justice.

With Jubilee unyielding, the opposition then escalated the matter, establishing the Okoa Kenya platform, which was supposed to lead to a referendum on constitutional reforms that would promote electoral justice.

REFERENDUM

However, the planned referendum ultimately floundered because, according to the IEBC, the opposition failed to raise enough signatures to meet the constitutional threshold for invoking a referendum.

As the 2017 elections approached, amid calls for reforms at the IEBC, new opposition demands for a dialogue emerged, and with weekly street protests provoking a political crisis in the country, Jubilee eventually acceded to a parliamentary committee, rather than a dialogue process, to address demanded reforms.

The greatly deteriorated political situation in the country, after the annulment of the first presidential election last year, led to fresh calls for dialogue as an alternative to going into a repeat election which, it had since become evident, would be conducted in a greatly challenging political atmosphere.

However, the opposition having withdrawn its candidate, and with significant security problems around parts of the country which affected voting, the second election somehow went ahead, recording a much lower turnout than the first one.

With signs that the repeat election could trigger horrific violence around the country Jubilee, for the first time since coming to power, indicated that they would be open to dialogue but only after the repeat election.

UNITE THE COUNTRY

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s central promise to the country, during his inauguration speech for the second term, was that he would work to unite the country, a position which would reasonably seem to be in support of the longstanding demands for dialogue.

In the days since the start of Kenyatta’s second term, the opposition NASA has maintained that it does not recognise him as the president, and has alternated between the old demand for dialogue and a promise that it would organise alternative leadership for the country, one that would implicitly supplant Kenyatta’s leadership.

In effect, the country is now hostage to two unilateral pursuits, the first by Jubilee and the second by the opposition, NASA.

While Kenyatta has only recently promised that unifying the country would be his priority henceforth, there is so far no indication of how he proposes to do so.

It is unlikely that the President can succeed in this promise without involving the opposition.

It is reasonable to think that involving the opposition would have to be deliberate, public and structured, as this is the only way in which the President can communicate resolve and purpose for such a programme, as well as making the point that Jubilee respects the place of the opposition in the public affairs of the country.

OLD POLITICS

One of the many rumours emerging, as the country endures delay in the appointment of a Cabinet, is that the President is considering appointing key leaders in the opposition into his government, and that he would do so in a manner that replicates the old politics of denuding the opposition of its numbers by inducing defections to the governing party.

While during previous times, when the country did not face the kind of crisis that has emerged from the 2017 elections, it might have been a tolerable strategy to raid the opposition in this manner, such an approach will simply not work at this time, and will only add to the existing resentment.

If Kenyatta wants to do business with the opposition, he must approach them respectfully, and through the front door. This suggests that the President must call for a structured dialogue if his plans for unifying the country are to work.

By doing nothing on his own promise to unite the country, the President is pursuing a default position, one based on the unilateral view that everything is fine in Kenya and there is no need for extraordinary measures as would stabilise the country.

SWEARING IN

On their part, NASA is also pursuing a unilateral position which seeks to swear in Odinga as president. The only bridge between these two unilateral positions is a structured dialogue.

In the absence of official leadership, there are offers from others to help by setting up an alternative dialogue process.

However, those offers suffer the weakness that, for a number of reasons, they may be unable to bring to the table both Jubilee and NASA.

As we move closer to Odinga’s planned swearing-in, with the likelihood that voices in opposition to his plan will also increase, there should also be voices asking what Kenyatta is doing to move the country into a more responsible position. While others can help, only Kenyatta can lead, because only he is the President.

Rather than offering alternative dialogue platforms, the energy would better be spent in putting pressure on Kenyatta to establish an official dialogue platform.

What Kenyatta needs to do is to free himself from the intransigence of his party, for the sake of the country.

It can be argued that to do so would be taking a political risk in the party, but there can be no parties if there is no country.


It’s flattering when Western media are supportive of us, but are they sincere?

By GITAU WARIGI
More by this Author

CNN correspondent in Nairobi got it right, I thought, when he reported with some surprise that Africans had reacted calmly when their countries were called “sh**holes”.

There were no angry demonstrations in Lagos, or Lusaka, or Johannesburg – or Nairobi. Any public anger was channelled officially through our political leaders who summoned resident American ambassadors for furious dressing downs, or wrote fierce protest letters to Washington DC.

Later, I was amused when I watched another CNN journalist, the anchor Anderson Cooper, go into histrionics about Donald Trump’s insult. He was hosting a discussion panel and, by way of introduction, he went into a high-minded dissection of Trump’s racism that would have earned him a standing ovation at the African Union. I felt good, too, for the moment.

Listening to Cooper, his American panellists and their sanctimonious homilies, the hypocrisy of it all did not fail to cross my mind. Who else other than the Coopers and their influential TV channels have aided in the portrayal of African countries as “sh**holes” through their zealous coverage of war, disease, famine, coups and, well, our “sh**wholeness”?

THIRD WORLD

I don’t want to get into the tedious argument about the Western media’s slant toward the Third World. My interest is the motivation which drove commentators like Cooper to turn almost into African revolutionaries.

Cooper’s political orientation is liberal, as is that of a good number of other CNN journalists. Trump’s favourite parlour game is to ridicule CNN and other liberal US media such as the New York Times and the Washington Post as “fake media” who spread “fake news.” The natural instinct of the herd is to hit back when Trump goofs like he did on “sh**holes”. I suspect it is not all about Africa. What is going on is a vicious ideological war between the White House and the liberal media.

Curiously, this position is at odds with a clique in Africa that has a huge axe to grind with sitting governments.

This clique encompasses Opposition activists and assorted critics who believe they are ruled by rogues who rigged themselves into office so as to loot.

They were ecstatic to hit upon what they thought, wrongly, was a kindred spirit in Trump. They have been blowing hot kisses to the man on social media ever since. The motivation is purely political. There is no improbable paradox than to see a well-educated African singing the same song as that of an American right-wing bigot who finds Trump a thrill.

For the rest, our calm did not mean lack of sentiment. We have become resigned to these things. Trump is not the first Western racist we are seeing.

The only novelty is of somebody who tweets his vulgar mind so openly from the White House. We know the liberals well, too. Their anger is manufactured. I am not sure which side is better: The one which thinks we deserve pity, or the other which won’t give a damn either way. All said, none of them cares to be entangled in an African “sh**hole”. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, straight from her star reporting of the Bosnia war, did not want anything to do with the subsequent Congo civil war.

I had always wanted to meet Ken Wafula. Whenever I was in Eldoret, I would be told he was out of town. Possibly hiding from the police, or his many dangerous political enemies. He had his eccentricities, yet he remained the epitome of courage, knocking heads with some very nasty political characters and persevering as a human rights crusader in that cesspit of politically-fanned ethnic hatreds called Uasin Gishu. While his breed preferred squatting in Nairobi writing ineffectual and often fictional reports, he stayed where the trouble was.

Last week, he gave in to what was said to be complications from diabetes. The family awaits an autopsy. Fare thee well, brave fighter for justice.


Humanity is slowly moving away from prejudices, brutalities

By PHILIP OCHIENG
More by this Author

Many Kenyans and other human beings the whole world over believe that, over the years, official Kenya has committed terrible political injustices against Raila Odinga, a son of independent Kenya’s first vice-president. Equally terribly unfortunate, however, is the fact that even such a belief is almost wholly tribe-based.

Yet, in the very first place, completely negative tribalism remains topmost among the factors that terribly fetter Kenya’s development not only in material terms but also, equally importantly, even in terms of intellectual thought and personal camaraderie. That fact, it seems to me, should be clear for all and sundry to see.

Whenever the elites of two of a country’s most numerous and most highly educated ethnic groups remain at daggers-drawn against each other – as Kenya’s Kikuyu and Luo have been since before independence — there, you have created an effective recipe against development in all such other crucial areas as the economy and the national intellectual unity needed to spur material development.

In the political arena, nevertheless, two wrongs do not always make a right.

NATIONAL RESPECT

If Mr Odinga allows himself to be “crowned as the president of Kenya” in any manner that thwarts the very same laws that are supposed to govern our republic, the veteran oppositionist will have committed such a wrong number two and lost all national respect and support.

For instance, it might plunge the whole country into what a European philosopher once called a “war of all against all” from which no single ethnic group can emerge unscathed.

Mr Odinga will have disappointed many of his own supporters among non-Luo communities countrywide – namely, all of the very Kenyans who respect the law.

Even among the Luo – one of Kenya’s ethnic communities most numerous, most highly educated, most sharply skilled and most outspoken in political terms – it will have dug a rift valley as profound and as divisive as the one by which mother nature has long ago separated the Kalenjin from other ethnic communities in our country.

THIRD WORLD SOCIETIES

That statement objectively describes the terribly contradictory situation in which Kenya and other Third World societies have lived for so many decades since those societies snatched independence for themselves from centuries of terrible race-based injustices perpetrated by a terribly benighted class of  Western Europeans over non-Caucasian human beings the whole world over.

That is a terrible comment to make about the most educated and most sharply skilled race of the earth’s most highly developed mammal species.

If Europe had never been held so terribly backwards by its own surprisingly primitive assumptions about its own racial “specialness” and racial “superiority”, the European elite would at once have seen its duty to put its own techno-scientific lead to use to help unite the human species against all of nature’s negative forces all over our planet.

BRUTALITIES

Imagine what horrible inter-racial and inter-national tragedies it would have spared the human world if the European elite had not assumed, so embarrassingly falsely, that Europe’s brilliant lead recently in such fields as science and technology had been due only to the Caucasian’s stringy hair, thin lip and allegedly “white” skin.

Quite clearly, however, if such a lead had been taken by a black African society, our own ancestors, even here in Kenya, might have been tempted to assert that black skin and kinky hair were the acme of animal evolution, brilliance and beauty.

And we might have been tempted to perpetrate the same animal brutalities as Europe has perpetrated against humanity in such degrading activities as the slave trade and colonialism.

Even if appallingly slowly, humanity appears to be systematically rejecting and dropping some of the most degrading intra-specific prejudices and brutalities that have recently characterised the human world.


School for Stammerers – how therapy changed the lives of the tongue-tied

By GERRY LOUGHRAN
More by this Author

Appearing together on television were a lorry driver, a teacher, a pharmacist, a photographer and two schoolboys. Four males and two females. What on earth could they have in common?

The answer: they were stammerers and what they shared was the evident agony of striving desperately to speak when the words would not come.

They appeared on a one-off ITV programme, School for Stammerers, one of the most agonising yet uplifting you would ever see. It followed the emotional journey of the six sufferers as they underwent a four-day speech therapy course, known as the McGuire programme.

Founded in 1994 by David McGuire, himself a former stammerer, it uses physical and psychological techniques which can lead to life-changing results.

Each of the TV six was allotted a personal coach who was a former stammerer; from seven in the morning to ten at night, the students were allowed to talk to no-one but their coaches, and within 48 hours they were required to go out in public and speak to 100 people, asking the time, the way to the shops etc.

PAINFUL STORIES

Their back stories were painful. Emily, the teacher, said she could speak happily to a class of small children but when it came to job interviews, she was tongue-tied and helpless.

Jessica, who was bullied at school, became a professional photographer but needed a friend to talk to her clients; she was engaged but would not marry until she could say her wedding vows without stammering.

The pharmacist, a British Asian, refused to use the telephone because he could never get out the words, “Good morning.” The lorry driver said he chose that particular job because it meant he did not have to speak to anyone.

Many experiences were held in common: being bullied at school, laughed at, finding people walking away impatiently, having the phone put down on them. Often this led to isolation and withdrawal.

A former student of the McGuire programme, David Conley, told a local newspaper that he developed his stammer around the age of five. At Leeds University, he dropped out of studying chemistry because he could not face doing presentations in front of his peers.

TRANSFORMATION

For years he gave the wrong name to his hairdresser. He said he was Steve because it was easier to say than David. “For years, I was Steve to the people there.” He added, “I never used the telephone. I would walk past ringing phones.”

What changed everything was the McGuire programme, which he attended in Dundee, Scotland. “The transformation was unbelievable,” he said. “I found I could do things I could never do before.”

He later graduated from Northumberland University and got a job as an analytical chemist. That was also the result for all six of the TV stammerers. Each one delivered a short, flawless speech to camera at the end of the course, often near tears. One said getting rid of the stammer was a “euphoric moment, like being released from a dark cave I had been locked up in all my life.”

Jessica set a date for her wedding, now that she can say her vows, and the lorry driver has embarked on a new avocation, as a stand-up comedian.

A butcher who became trapped in his walk-in freezer owes his life to a frozen sausage.

When Chris McCabe, 70, entered the freezer in his shop in Totnes, Devon, the door blew shut behind him. He wasn’t too worried because there was a safety button inside. But then he found that it was frozen solid.

FROZEN MEAT

The temperature in the freezer was minus 20 degrees Celsius, which could kill a human in about an hour.

Frantically, the butcher banged on the door, but nobody could hear him so he looked round for a tool to batter the button. Frozen meat was all there was. Beef was too slippery to hold and lamb was too big, so he reached for a frozen roll of blood sausage, known here as black pudding.

“It was the right shape, solid, pointed and I could get plenty weight behind it,” Chris said. “I used it as a battering ram.” It did its job and the mechanism responded.

“Black pudding saved my life,” said Chris.

A lawyer’s dog, off its lead and running free, seizes a leg of lamb from a butcher’s shop and runs off. The butcher goes to the lawyer’s office and innocently asks, “If a dog running unleashed steals a piece of meat, does the owner have the right to demand payment for the meat from the dog’s owner?”

The lawyer smiles and replies, “Absolutely!”  “Then you owe me £5,” the butcher says. “Your dog stole the meat from my shop.” Without a word, the lawyer writes a cheque for £5 and the butcher leaves, smiling happily. Two days later, the butcher receives a bill from the lawyer: £100 for legal consultation.