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Saturday, July 14th, 2018

 

Impact of conflict on adolescent girls in South Sudan

Utz Pape
Verena Phipps

Abstract

Violent conflict and instability affect men and women in heterogeneous ways, including differentiated impacts on economic, social, physical, and mental well-being. This study assesses the impact of the post-2013 conflict in South Sudan on adolescent girls and young women. The analysis uses data from the Adolescent Girls Initiative endline survey and the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data to measure conflict exposure using constructed cluster-level, self-reported, and external conflict exposure variables. The impact of conflict exposure is then estimated on a set of socioeconomic outcomes of adolescent girls by comparing exposed and non-exposed clusters before and after the conflict. The results suggest that girls from clusters more affected by the conflict had statistically different outcomes compared with girls from less affected clusters. Specifically, there is strong evidence that the conflict negatively affected outcomes related to income opportunities, aspirations, marriage, and household characteristics, but increased self-reported empowerment and entrepreneurial potential scores. The results indicate that impacts on labor supply, personal motivation, household conditions, and other forms of victimization are important channels through which conflict negatively impacts adolescent girls.


Quarrel with chief forced Obama family to move; now village wants 'son' to visit

By BARACK ODUOR
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A village in Homa Bay County is demanding that former US President Barack Obama pays them a visit if only to trace his ancestral roots.

Although the tentative programme already released shows he will not, residents of the sleepy Kanyadhiang village in Karachuonyo, Homa Bay County – which lays claim to the former US President’s ancestral roots – are asking him to spare time in his tight schedule and visit them.

When the “Sunday Nation” visited the village, Obama’s relatives were hopeful that “their son” would find it in his heart to visit them.

Mzee Elly Yonga Adhiambo, 68, said they hoped the former US President would honour his promise to visit them. Mr Obama made the promise when he visited Kenya during his presidency.

“He hosted us in Nairobi during his last visit. He told us he could not visit us at our rural home then because he was a Head of State. He promised to do it when he comes back,” said Mr Yonga.

Holding photos he took with Mr Obama and other family members when the former US President hosted the family in his last visit to Nairobi, Mr Yonga urged Mr Obama not to forget his roots.

KANYADHIANG VILLAGE

Calls for Obama to visit the village have received the backing of Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti. “The Obama family first settled in Kanyadhiang village in Kendu Bay before moving to Alego K’ogelo in Siaya. He is a true son of Homa Bay County,” he said.

Mr Awiti further said the county identifies with Mr Obama because the late Tom Mboya – who facilitated the airlifting of Obama Senior to study in the US – came from Rusinga Island.

“The late Tom Mboya, the man who helped Barack Obama Senior (the former President’s father) to secure a scholarship to the US, hailed from Homa Bay County. Just think about it,” said Governor Awiti.

In tracing the roots of the Obamas in Kanyadhiang Village and why some of the family members moved to K’ogelo Village in Siaya County, the “Sunday Nation” learnt that Obama’s ancestors had settled in Kanyadhiang in the 19th Century.

Obama’s relations in the village seem not to agree on the dates they migrated and settled at Kanyadhiang. The late Obama Snr is the fourth generation within the Obama family tree line, said to have lived at Kanyadhiang before moving to Siaya. Mzee Yonga says that the first elders from the Obama clan to settle at Kanyadhiang were two brothers – Opiyo and Nyagwala. The time of their arrival in the village is considered to be around 1886.

GREAT GRANDFATHER

“Opiyo Obama is the father of the great grandfather of the Obamas who became the father of Hussein Onyango Obama, and it was Hussein Onyango, a former British colonial cook, who fathered Barack Obama Snr in 1936,” said Mzee Yonga.

It is narrated that the first descendant of the Obamas, who is believed to have moved out of Kanyadhiang and travelled to Alego K’ogelo in the late 1930s, was called Ndalo. Hussein Onyango Obama remained in Kanyadhiang with his family until disagreements with community members occasioned his migration, according to relatives.

Two incidents are believed to have occurred. First, Hussein Onyango Obama divorced his first wife Akumu, the daughter of Njoga, from the neighbouring Karabondi village.

Akumu left him with three children: Barack Obama Snr, and two daughters. Akumu got married to another man following claims of excessive cruelty on the part of Hussein, who had just returned after serving the British colonial masters as a cook in the coastal port town of Mombasa and the neighbouring Zanzibar Island.

After the two (Hussein and Akumu) parted ways, Hussein got married to the [now] 87-year-old Sarah, who is the step-grandmother of the former US president and in whose homestead Barack Obama Senior’s remains are buried.

FOOTBALL MATCH

According to the late historian Leo Odera Omollo, between 1936 and 1940, Hussein Obama was the captain of Kanyadhiang Football Team, which did well in local football tournaments.

Mr Omollo, in his work on the Obamas lineage, says that the dispute started from a football match about the time when the late Mzee Paul Mboya was the colonial chief of the entire Karachuonyo region.

The team headed by Hussein Obama had defeated another team from the neighbouring Kogweno sub-clan in the final match. Kogweno was the sub-clan of the colonial Chief Mboya, who ruled the area with an iron fist, and was the darling of the British colonialists.

The chief defiantly refused to hand over the trophy after his clan’s team lost 4-1 to the Kanyadhiang team. “The chief was known to be authoritative. Nobody questioned his rulings. But Hussein Onyango Obama, the father of Barack Obama Snr, forced his way to the chief’s house and forcibly seized the trophy,” says historian Leo Odera Omollo.

In retaliation, the Chief ordered some youths to invade Hussein Onyango Obama’s house, which had a “makuti” roof, the only one of its kind in the area at the time.

It is said the invasion of the house angered Hussein Onyango Obama who decided to move out of Kanyadhiang village with his entire family. He followed his cousin Ndolo to Alego K’ogelo, where he settled and where his son, Barack Obama Snr, and his other siblings grew up.


All set for Obama’s visit but residents, leaders take issue with ‘strict’ plans

By JUSTUS OCHIENG’
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It’s all systems go in Kogelo, Siaya County, as it prepares to welcome its most famous son, former US President Barack Obama.

Mr Obama last visited Kogelo as Illinois senator in 2006 and addressed the public at Senator Obama Primary School before visiting meeting his family. The village is now a beehive of activity 12 years later.

On Saturday, Nyanza Regional Commissioner Moffat Kangi said security authorities in the region were coordinating with other forces to ensure safety of the high-powered delegation that will accompany Mr Obama to Kogelo.

Under the 2012 Former Presidents Protection Act all former US heads of state and their spouses get lifetime protection from the Secret Service, which is expected to work with local security authorities during the visit.

“Tomorrow (Sunday) we shall have a briefing on the security plans ahead of the Monday visit. So far, all is well,” said Mr Kangi.

GIANT SCREENS

Today, giant screens are expected to be mounted at the Jomo Kenyatta grounds and Kogelo village for those who will not access the venue for the launch of Sauti Kuu Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre.

Huge billboards have already been mounted on Kisumu-Busia and Kisumu-Bondo highways.

In Kogelo, a huge tent has been put up at the Sauti Kuu Resource Centre, where the invited guests will converge for the big occasion. A modern basketball facility has already been completed and by yesterday, early guests were having a taste of it.

A meeting of community members, professionals, church leaders and elders on Friday came up with a memorandum they said they would wish presented to Mr Obama.

The meeting was attended by among others Siaya Church Leaders Forum Chairman Archbishop James Onyango, Nyanza Council of Church Leaders Forum Chairman Bishop Washington Ogonyo-Ngede, Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo, Mr Nicholas Rajula and Luo Council of Elders Chairman Willis Otondi.

UNIVERSITY

“The community has already provided 24 acres of land for the construction of the university including an additional 100 acres for the establishment of a research centre by the Centre for Disease Control,” said Mr Rajula.

He said Mama Sarah Obama’s Safeguard Orphans and Widows Organisation has also been incorporated in the programme. In their memorandum, said Mr Rajula, they have requested the change of the names of Senator Barack Obama secondary and primary schools to President Barack Obama.

Mr Otondi said “it is our desire to be allowed to crown Mr Obama as a community elder”.

Despite the booming hospitality business in Kogelo and its environs, some small-scale traders and boda boda riders as well as villagers said they were not happy with the arrangements.

“We shall not be allowed to operate near the venue, so we doubt whether we will even get customers because invited guests are dignitaries who will use planes and vehicles,” said Mr Martin Ochieng’, a boda boda rider.

Mama Alice Arujo, a trader, faulted security officers for ordering them to move from the venue for security reasons. “The visit is a blessing for some people and a curse for some of us and those who will not access the venue of the meeting to see our son Obama,” she said.

Ms Rajula, however, said they were trying to impress upon the organisers to see whether Mr Obama will have time to “even say hi to the public at the centre as the case in 2006”.

“We want to welcome him the African way. This can only be done when there is a crowd,” she said.

Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo said: “It is our leader Raila Odinga’s desire to have Mr Obama say hi to our people. We hope that despite the strict programme, this will happen for the sake of the people who have been yearning to see him.”

South East Alego MCA Joseph Mboha said it was wrong for Mr Obama to visit Kogelo and not to address the residents.

“For what reason is he coming home? To meet dignitaries he is travelling with at the expense of his own people? If he cannot meet his brothers and sisters while they are also being asked to part with a membership fee for the project that is supposed to help them, then we feel it is being unfair to them,” Mr Mboha said.

VOCATIONAL CENTRE

Sunday Nation learnt that there is a Sh200 annual membership fee for adults and Sh50 for children paid to Sauti Kuu to use its facilities.

Mr Obama will tomorrow preside over the official opening of the sport facility, which is the first of its kind in the region.

World-class athletes are set to attend its launch.

Sauti Kuu founder Dr Auma Obama earlier said the centre includes an international standard size football pitch sponsored by the German Ministry for Development Cooperation, a basketball court sponsored by the Giants of Africa Foundation, and volleyball and netball courts.

Other facilities include a library, ICT laboratory and vocational centre “sponsored by multiple Sauti Kuu supporters, who will be in attendance”.


Out of  White House, Obama is a busy bee earning top dollar

By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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He knows he has grass in his hands, and all former US President Barack Obama has been doing is making as much hay as possible while the sun shines.

For the sun does not shine forever even for someone who was once the most powerful man on earth. Mr Obama has been making a number of key moves in the 500-odd days he has been out of the White House.

A book deal with Penguin Random House, a TV show contract with Netflix and several paid speeches are among the top-dollar engagements the former president has engaged in, and the returns are tidy.

Former American presidents are entitled to a lifelong salary equivalent to what their cabinet secretaries earn — which, according to Time magazine, is set at $205,700 (Sh20.7 million) a year.

THOUGHTFUL

They also get allowances for paying their office staff, a maximum of $150,000 a year for the first 30 months after leaving office and later a maximum of Sh9.6 million a year.

They also get reimbursed for official trips and are entitled to Secret Service protection for life, same as treatment in military hospitals.

With such perks one might rest easy, but not Mr Obama whom observers describe as a thoughtful man who always acts with the future in mind.

Memoirs are a chance at a windfall for any former US president and the New York Times(NYT) reports that leaders of many publishing houses met Mr Obama and his wife on various occasions to discuss how much they would pay for rights to their books — an auction of sorts.

PAST PRESIDENTS

“Some publishing executives who followed the bidding process said the opening offers for Mr Obama’s book alone were in the $18 million to $20 million range,” reported NYT in February.

Eventually, the Obamas struck a deal with Penguin Random House. They granted the publishing firm worldwide publishing rights, meaning it stands to reap huge returns.

NYT says the Obamas’ deal will likely dwarf those signed by past presidents.

It adds that Mr Bill Clinton, who was president between 1993 and 2001, sold his memoir My Life for more than $10 million while his successor George Bush saw his memoir Decision Points become a huge success, bringing in at least $10 million in sales.

UNUSUALLY POPULAR

Two top media houses place the figure bagged by the Obamas at between $60 and $65 million. So, why all the interest in a Mr Obama book that is still being developed?

Some observers say it is because he left office with high ratings. The Obamas are still young and unusually popular for a post-White House couple,” wrote the Independent in March.

“He may have been the 44th US commander-in-chief, but he will always be the first African- American president,” the Guardian reported last year.

That appeal has also seen him deliver speeches and paid top dollar for it.

September 2017 was among his busiest months, where NYT counted three speeches to business people. “His speaking fees have gone as high as $400,000 per speech,” the publication reported. “That is all in addition to a spate of unpaid speeches, including one to at-risk youths in Chicago.”

CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES

Asked about his paid speeches, whose fees had raised eyebrows in some quarters, Mr Kevin Lewis, the former spokesman of Mr Obama, said they were out of his work ethic and that they enabled him to get money to fund charitable activities.

“Since leaving office, President Obama has spent his time doing public and private events, both paid and unpaid, that are true to his values and his record,” he told NYT.

The speech he will be delivering at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on Tuesday will add to that list. South Africa’s “News 24 says about 4,000 people are expected to attend. Those who have delivered a speech on the same occasion in previous years are Mr Clinton, Mr Thabo Mbeki, Ms Ellen Johnson Sirleaf among others.

NETFLIX CONTRACT

Another lucrative engagement for the Obamas is a contract he entered two months ago with TV streaming service provider Netflix.

“President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have entered into a multiyear agreement to produce films and series for Netflix, potentially including scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features,” Netflix USA tweeted on May 21.

The Obamas, it then emerged, had created a company called Higher Ground Productions that will be churning out multimedia content.

But he is not the Jack who is all work and no play. He has had time to trade the steely, knuckle-faced image that is the currency of those in power with the body-soothing, refreshing waters and sceneries in Europe and beyond.

ADVENTURE SPIRIT

In February 2017, a month after he left office, he went to the British Virgin Islands at a private island owned by billionaire Richard Branson.

Among his activities there was kiteboarding, and from photos, one could tell Mr Obama was having the time of his life.

He has also visited Tetiaroa Island, where he first started to pen his memoirs before being joined by his wife Michelle, as reported by NBC News.

Mr Obama’s spirit of adventure also took him to Indonesia in June 2017, taking along his wife and their daughters Malia and Sasha.

A photo shared from the outing showed the whole family in a raft, oars in hand, floating on River Bali.

COGENT INSIGHTS

Amid his holidaying and million-dollar deals, he has also been reading books, a habit he has nurtured for decades.

In a Facebook post in June, he shared a list of the books he was reading and summaries of each.

“I’m often asked what I’m reading, watching, and listening to, so I thought I might share a short list from time to time,” he started. For example, in his short critique of Patrick Deneen’s book Why Liberalism Failed, he shared its pros and cons.

“I don’t agree with most of the author’s conclusions, but the book offers cogent insights into the loss of meaning and community that many in the West feel, issues that liberal democracies ignore at their own peril,” he wrote.

CRITICISE TRUMP

With all the books to read and write, all the songs to savour, one might readily excuse Mr Obama when he keeps off the ramblings of his predecessor Donald Trump.

But being the politician who has won almost every seat he has vied for, Mr Obama has a couple of times raised his voice on issues of the day.

His most recent is a May 8 Facebook post where he argued for the retention of the Iran nuclear deal, which Mr Trump has since ditched.

Eight months earlier, he had taken to the same platform to criticise Mr Trump’s discarding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), an action that later saw immigrants separated from their young children.

NEXT LEADERS

Bonded firmly in his retinue of daily activities is his participation in charity and nurturing of young leaders. In May 2017, Mr Obama and his wife released the blueprints for the Obama Presidential Centre, which will be located in Chicago.

Like any other president’s centre, it will have a library; but there will be more. They said it will contribute to the training of the next generation of leadership.

Along that is the Obama Foundation, through which he aims to nurture the spirit of leadership.


Low-key arrival won't dampen Kenyans' welcome of Barack Obama

By WANJOHI GITHAE
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When former US President Barack Obama lands at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Sunday afternoon, it will be a stark contrast to the last visit he made to Nairobi in July 2015.

Then he was a sitting President and the leader of the world’s only super power and the position came with perks accorded to the office holder.

When he arrived on Friday, July 24, 2015, Nairobi was in complete shutdown from air and land but, tonight, those who do not follow news keenly will not notice that he is around.

This time round his visit is mainly being co-ordinated by the Obama Foundation, an organisation he set up after he left office.

“Former President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Kenya is a private visit by a former President. He will be in Kenya as a private citizen. Any questions regarding his visit should be directed to the Obama Foundation or its representatives. The US Embassy in Nairobi is supporting US agencies providing security for the former President,” read a message from Public Affairs Section, US Embassy, Nairobi, when the Nation contacted them on Mr Obama’s visit.

SOUTH AFRICA

Mr Obama will be in the country until Monday and he is expected to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House on Sunday evening before he leaves for his ancestral village in K’Ogelo, Siaya, on Monday morning.

Later in the day, he will travel to South Africa where he will give the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture and also meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa.

This is the first visit the former president is making to Africa since leaving office on January 20, 2017 after serving two terms.

But it is not the first visit by a former president of America. Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Clinton visited Kenya after they left office.

Despite having left office, the former president still enjoys Secret Service protection albeit low-key, compared to when he was the president.

Mr Obama has refrained from discussing US political affairs but it is unlikely he will keep off commenting on Kenya’s political landscape.

Enjoying a near universal approval in Kenya, Mr Obama’s message at State House will be keenly analysed as the country gears up for presidential transition amid an accelerated war against corruption.
When he visited Nairobi in 2015, Americans literally took over our capital.

Kenyan journalists covering Mr Obama during the visit, including this one, had a feel of what it is like to cover the highly secured President of the United States of America.

Journalists were expected to be at the airport at least six hours before his arrival. Air Force One touched down at JKIA shortly before 8 pm, which means journalists were at the airport by 2 pm.
What followed were three rounds of checks that bordered on intrusion. There was first a reading of names which media houses had sent earlier and if one’s name was missing, they had to leave immediately.
Thereafter, US security officials accompanied by sniffer dogs meticulously checked the journalists’ bags and tools of trade.

There were metal detectors and physical checks before the journalists were ushered into the holding area about two hours before President Obama arrived.

MEDICAL ATTENTION
It was at the holding area that journalists discovered that the US had set up a full-fledged hospital complete with a theatre manned by nurses and doctors from the US military.

This was to be the first point of call if the US President was to need medical attention of whatever nature.

Guests at any event that Obama attended had to arrive at least six hours earlier for security checks which explains why no event that President Obama attended started before noon.

Obama’s visit was also an opportunity for Americans to showcase their military prowess.

Apart from Air Force One and Marine One — the President’s official planes —there were about five V-22 Osprey and several Blackhawk helicopters.

But today, the former President will arrive in a chartered aircraft but that won’t deter Kenyans from savouring the moment for their most famous son.


Big irrigation project flop a shame

By EDITORIAL
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Long before he came up with his ‘Big Four’ agenda for his second and final five-year term that ends in 2022, President Uhuru Kenyatta had food security way up on his list of priorities.

Of course, the other three he hopes will, alongside boosting agriculture, help cement his legacy, are promoting manufacturing to create more jobs, expanding health coverage and increasing housing.

Early in his first term, the President moved with haste to lay the foundation of a comprehensive effort to boost agriculture.

And he was pretty sure that with rain-fed agriculture becoming very tricky and unreliable, irrigation held the key to ensuring sufficient food stocks for all Kenyans.

Ironically, it is this what now presents a major setback to President Kenyatta’s leadership.

The potential for irrigation in the Tana River delta has never been in doubt.

CROP PRODUCTION

Indeed, when the Jubilee government sought to boost food crop production, there was no better place than in this region and the leadership was only too willing to make available resources to have another go at irrigation, the failure of the Hola Irrigation Scheme several decades earlier, notwithstanding.

A 10,000-acre model farm at the Galana Kulalu irrigation project was envisaged as the showcase of the new venture and President Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, officiated at the launch to affirm their commitment to the project.

But several years down the line, and with billions of shillings sank into the project, there has not been any return to speak about.

In fact, the project has been a monumental flop and the mounting threat of food insecurity is a mockery of the very top leadership.

CORRUPTION

To make matters worse, the Auditor-General is now questioning the Sh7 billion loan for the project that was signed on terms he is convinced were not in the best interest of the Kenyan taxpayer.

In other words, there is an echo of the scourge of corruption that has be ubiquitous in the public sector.

The blame game between the National Irrigation Scheme and the National Treasury over the deal cannot mask the fact that there is something untoward here.

Also appalling is the resulting wanton wastage of public resources. It all, however, boils down to a letdown of the President and the people by officials, who should have used their expertise to give proper advice instead of forging ahead with a lousy project.

The time has come to take drastic action against officials who fail in their duties leading to such huge public losses.


Obama story a great inspiration for Kenya

By EDITORIAL
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Former President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya on Sunday, the first since he left office, is replete with symbolism. Kenyans are full of hope for the return of the man who defied all odds to ascend to the highest office on earth. In and out of office, Obama is an inspiring leader. He is a living proof that with determination, everything is possible.

Whereas chronologically he is the 44th President of the US, Obama takes precedence as the first US President of African descent and his tenure stands out as one that elevated America to higher levels.

He promoted intercultural dialogue as he reached out to enemies and friends alike with the goal of promoting global peace and cooperation.

The visit is a journey to reconnect with his past. In him is a living symbol that greatness has no boundaries.

When he last came to Kenya in 2015, he was the President of United States and was bound by strict State protocol, so his interactions were limited.

Now, he is coming as a civilian and, therefore, has the liberty to visit the land of his father, Kogelo Village, Alego, Siaya County, where he will open a community resource centre set up by his step-sister, Auma Obama.

Indeed, the public mood is palpable with Siaya residents planning a memorable welcome for a son who changed the course of history. Even if it is symbolic, the fact is that he is the son of one of their own, Barrack Obama senior, and that he conquered adversity and made an indelible imprint at the global stage.

At the political level, the former President will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, the two erstwhile bitter rivals but who have since made peace and agreed to work together to foster unity in a country that has suffered deep ethnic and regional division precipitated by adversarial politics.

Engagement of international figures with Kenya’s top leadership is generally aimed at encouraging them to work together for the betterment of the populace.

It is instructive that since the March 9 handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila, the country has recorded relative calm that in itself has inspired the people to conduct their businesses without worries.

Obama like other world leaders are keen to see the declarations of the handshake come to pass to secure Kenya’s position as a peaceful nation with capacity to exploit its potentials to achieve greatness.

President Obama’s visit is an opportunity for expanding cooperation with the US and at the same time, an inspiration for us to remain united, deepen democracy, grow the economy and fight vices like corruption and ethnicity that pull us back.


‘Debt debate’ is a war cry, it can ignite electoral violence

By PETER KAGWANJA
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The idea of ‘political debt’ is as old as the hills. In 64 BC, the great Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for consul, the highest office in the ancient Roman Republic.

At 42, Marcus was a brilliant and successful politician. But there was one odd against him: He was not a member of the nobility or “Patricians”, the all-powerful original aristocratic families who determined victory and defeat in the elections of Ancient Rome. Ordinarily, this factor would have eliminated him from consideration.

But Quintus, his brother, gave Marcus timeless tips now re-published as the little book on How to Win an Election (2012). One of these tips was on ‘political debt’ as the kernel of the art of politics.

“Now is the time to call in all favours”, he wrote. “Don’t miss an opportunity to remind everyone in your debt that they should repay you with their support.”

But the wise also use election time as the time to incur new debt and win elections. “For those who owe you nothing, let them know that their timely help will put you in their debt”, Quintus advised.

Calling in political debts to win elections has become a noble and indelible feature of democracies. What is new — and obnoxious and utterly undemocratic — is the ubiquity in African politics of the idea that a whole ethnic population can owe a “political debt” to a single politician or his ethnic kith-and-kin.

FIVE DECADES

The rise of this malignant and combustive thought in Kenyan politics over the last five decades has become synonymous with a war cry. In the past, it has triggered politically-inspired violence that has marred elections.

Ahead of Kenya’s 2022 elections, the strategists of Deputy President William Ruto seem to have taken to heart Quintus’ advice to Marcus to call in debts, real and perceived.

However, the context, timing and tactics used by a section of Jubilee mandarins to call in Ruto’s political debts ahead of the 2022 polls is cutting as messily as the proverbial surgery with an axe. The polarising public debate can inadvertently turn the “Uhuru Kenyatta succession” into yet another electoral nightmare and costly political affair in 2022.

The debate on “Ruto’s political debt” has a familiar cause and context. It is linked to the extra-constitutional initiative known as Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), famously known as “the handshake” between President Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga in March this year.

Blissfully, the handshake calmed down political temperatures and brought closure to the 2017 double election, the country’s most protracted and costly electoral crisis in recent memory.

However, overnight, the pact turned into a toss-up what looked liked a sealed deal within the ruling Jubilee Party to elect Deputy President Ruto as an automatic successor to President Kenyatta.

To hardline Ruto allies, the handshake gave Odinga a new lease of life and squandered Jubilee’s chance to vanquish him ahead of 2022. But the hard lesson from the 2013 and 2017 elections is that exclusionary politics based on winner-takes-all scenarios can never guarantee lasting peace to underpin sustainable development.

The “tyranny of numbers” formula was hardly enough to guarantee peace and stability. The August 2017 results were nullified by the Supreme Court, and the fresh presidential election on October 26 was actively boycotted by the petitioner, precipitating a serious political impasse. In 2013 and 2017, the tyranny of numbers may have won elections, but it left behind a deeply polarised nation.

But equally polarising is the debate on political debts. In the wake of the handshake, Jubilee politicians argued that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s kinsmen owed his Deputy a double “political debt” accruing from his unwavering support in the 2013 and 2017 General Election.

DOMESTIC TENETS

Some, including the maverick Jubilee legislator from Nyeri Town Wambugu Ngunjiri, did not agree. Wambugu based his argument squarely on democratic tenets. Nobody, he said, is or has ever been elected for the presidency of any country “unconditionally”. We should only vote for a leader because of his part in nation building, not because of alleged debts.

Be that as it may, what has given legs to this polarising debate on political debts is a controversial vernacular song released in early July “Hatuna Deni (We owe nobody).

The song caused ripples in Jubilee’s Rift Valley leaders, with some demanding the arrest of the artist, Kimani wa Turacco, who opines that voters from Central Kenya do not owe Ruto anything given that he has also enjoyed an equal share of privileges during Uhuru’s presidency.

Ruto weighed in to dispel the debt claims. Neither President Kenyatta nor his Mount Kenya support base owe him any debt in the 2022 polls, he said.

POLITICAL DEBT

His support for his boss in the 2013 and 2017 elections was not a political debt, and he does not expect voters in Central Kenya to repay any debt when he runs for the top seat in 2022.

Ruto’s biblical message: “Owe no man nothing except the debt of love for one another” is laudable.

Hopefully, Ruto’s message will calm his support base in the Rift Valley. But we must decolonise our minds: The constitutional right to vote is individual, not collective or ethnic.

Prof Kagwanja is Chief Executive Officer of the Africa Policy Institute and a former government adviser.


Debt debate’ is a war cry, it can ignite electoral violence

By PETER KAGWANJA
More by this Author

The idea of ‘political debt’ is as old as the hills. In 64 BC, the great Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for consul, the highest office in the ancient Roman Republic.

At 42, Marcus was a brilliant and successful politician. But there was one odd against him: He was not a member of the nobility or “Patricians”, the all-powerful original aristocratic families who determined victory and defeat in the elections of Ancient Rome. Ordinarily, this factor would have eliminated him from consideration.

But Quintus, his brother, gave Marcus timeless tips now re-published as the little book on How to Win an Election (2012). One of these tips was on ‘political debt’ as the kernel of the art of politics.

“Now is the time to call in all favours”, he wrote. “Don’t miss an opportunity to remind everyone in your debt that they should repay you with their support.”

But the wise also use election time as the time to incur new debt and win elections. “For those who owe you nothing, let them know that their timely help will put you in their debt”, Quintus advised.

POLITICAL DEBT

Calling in political debts to win elections has become a noble and indelible feature of democracies. What is new — and obnoxious and utterly undemocratic — is the ubiquity in African politics of the idea that a whole ethnic population can owe a “political debt” to a single politician or his ethnic kith-and-kin.

The rise of this malignant and combustive thought in Kenyan politics over the last five decades has become synonymous with a war cry.

In the past, it has triggered politically-inspired violence that has marred elections.

Ahead of Kenya’s 2022 elections, the strategists of Deputy President William Ruto seem to have taken to heart Quintus’ advice to Marcus to call in debts, real and perceived.

However, the context, timing and tactics used by a section of Jubilee mandarins to call in Ruto’s political debts ahead of the 2022 polls is cutting as messily as the proverbial surgery with an axe. The polarising public debate can inadvertently turn the “Uhuru Kenyatta succession” into yet another electoral nightmare and costly political affair in 2022.

BUILDING BRIDGES

The debate on “Ruto’s political debt” has a familiar cause and context. It is linked to the extra-constitutional initiative known as Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), famously known as “the handshake” between President Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga in March this year.

Blissfully, the handshake calmed down political temperatures and brought closure to the 2017 double election, the country’s most protracted and costly electoral crisis in recent memory.

However, overnight, the pact turned into a toss-up what looked like a sealed deal within the ruling Jubilee Party to elect Deputy President Ruto as an automatic successor to President Kenyatta.

To hardline Ruto allies, the handshake gave Odinga a new lease of life and squandered Jubilee’s chance to vanquish him ahead of 2022.

But the hard lesson from the 2013 and 2017 elections is that exclusionary politics based on winner-takes-all scenarios can never guarantee lasting peace to underpin sustainable development.

TYRANNY OF NUMBERS

The “tyranny of numbers” formula was hardly enough to guarantee peace and stability. The August 2017 results were nullified by the Supreme Court, and the fresh presidential election on October 26 was actively boycotted by the petitioner, precipitating a serious political impasse. In 2013 and 2017, the tyranny of numbers may have won elections, but it left behind a deeply polarised nation.

But equally polarising is the debate on political debts. In the wake of the handshake, Jubilee politicians argued that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s kinsmen owed his Deputy a double “political debt” accruing from his unwavering support in the 2013 and 2017 General Election.

Some, including the maverick Jubilee legislator from Nyeri Town Wambugu Ngunjiri, did not agree. Wambugu based his argument squarely on democratic tenets.

Nobody, he said, is or has ever been elected for the presidency of any country “unconditionally”. We should only vote for a leader because of his part in nation building, not because of alleged debts.

CAUSED RIPPLES

Be that as it may, what has given legs to this polarising debate on political debts is a controversial vernacular song released in early July “Hatuna Deni (We owe nobody).

The song caused ripples in Jubilee’s Rift Valley leaders, with some demanding the arrest of the artist, Kimani wa Turacco, who opines that voters from Central Kenya do not owe Ruto anything given that he has also enjoyed an equal share of privileges during Uhuru’s presidency.

Ruto weighed in to dispel the debt claims. Neither President Kenyatta nor his Mount Kenya support base owe him any debt in the 2022 polls, he said.

His support for his boss in the 2013 and 2017 elections was not a political debt, and he does not expect voters in Central Kenya to repay any debt when he runs for the top seat in 2022.

Ruto’s biblical message: “Owe no man nothing except the debt of love for one another” is laudable.

Hopefully, Ruto’s message will calm his support base in the Rift Valley. But we must decolonise our minds: The constitutional right to vote is individual, not collective or ethnic.

Prof Kagwanja is Chief Executive Officer of the Africa Policy Institute and a former government adviser.


When innovation and a clean economy meet

By SILVANA KAPARO
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The Global Innovation Index, a respected international ranking of countries by their capacity for and success in innovation, this week published its 2018 report.

The index, published jointly by leading business schools and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, is widely regarded as the highest international measure of the innovativeness and ingenuity of a society, basing the ranking on 80 different indicators. And so, when the GII speaks, sensible observers listen.

This year, Kenya was ranked the third most innovative country in sub-Saharan Africa, behind South Africa and Mauritius. Kenya’s particular strengths include access to credit, innovation linkages and exports of creative services, workforce efficiency, printing and other media, with the GII commending the country for its “high levels of innovation relative to its level of development”.

Sometimes we are naturally quick to criticise when things are going badly, but we are somewhat slower to give credit when it is due. And here, credit is due.

In the modern global economy, the information age, innovation is a key contributing factor to economic growth.

INNOVATION

Innovation creates jobs, brings in foreign currency, attracts investment and builds infrastructure. It is no surprise that the top countries in the GII – Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, UK and Singapore – are also among the world’s leading per capita economies.

These are countries that generally lack natural resources, and it is their innovation that causes them to thrive.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta came to office in 2013, Kenya was seventh in the region, lagging behind countries such as Uganda, Senegal, Ghana and Botswana.

Globally it was 99th. Today we have overtaken these countries, while leapfrogging 21 others and rising to 78th.

This is part of a concerted effort by the government to advance Kenyan innovation and creativity.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING

The administration has made teaching innovation promotion a key part of the national education system, expanding technical training institutes and vocational training facilities and supporting innovation hubs across institutions of learning.

One important move was the establishment of Enterprise Kenya, a State-run start-up accelerator, to support young entrepreneurs and has promoted and backed initiatives such as Nairobi Innovation Week.

In 2015, it also brought the prestigious Global Entrepreneur Summit to Nairobi to open the eyes of young Kenyans to the possibilities out there.

Recently, at the opening of the Young Scientists Kenya National Science and Technology Exhibition in Nairobi, President Kenyatta stated that “the solution (to our challenges) lies in scientific innovation and the harnessing of new ideas that create the ability for Kenya to leapfrog directly into new technologies.”

But promoting innovation alone is not sufficient to grow our economy and build a better future.

CORRUPTION

As long as corruption is prevalent, the gains in our small and medium enterprises and creative sectors will only take us so far.

Young innovators, the job creators of tomorrow, will simply leave the country if they see that the only way to succeed here is through graft.

That is perhaps why the second Kenyatta government has made stamping out corruption a key strategic goal, with the President describing corruption as “a vice that denies us our ability to develop our country and to protect the next generation”.

And in the past few months, there has been some significant signs that we are on the right track.

Tens of public officials have been arrested and charged in court on suspicion of corruption by a new and uncompromising Director of Public Prosecutions.

And new anti-graft measures have been announced by the President — including lifestyle audits for all public servants and fresh vetting for heads of procurement bodies.

Ms Kaparo is a banker.