Saturday, November 3rd, 2018
As they prepared to lay their beloved family matriarch to rest, Faith Koli was awash with heart-warming memories of her great grandmother, Jemima M’Mukindia — JuuJu — as they fondly called her.
She passed on in September at a golden age of 112 years. She had lived to see Faith’s daughter, Kezia-Rose, the fifth generation of her lineage.
It was in this nostalgic moment that Faith shared a photo of Juuju holding Kezia on her Twitter account with a short tribute that read in part … “This picture with my daughter has an age gap of 109 years and five generations apart …”
The picture spread like bushfire as people from all over the world re-tweeted the photo. Soon enough, hash tags were coined such as #greatgrannys and #5generations.
Her viral tweet became a platform where people shared memories of their own grandparents, photos with the elderly members of their families as well as testimonies of cherished moments and lessons learnt from grandparents.
“Then there were those who saw the tweet and became inspired to celebrate their grandparents, visit them more and not take their existence for granted. The whole thing was a befitting tribute to a woman whose very existence had been a treasured gift for the entire family,” narrates Faith.
Until a few years ago, Faith had not quite grasped the unique gift that was her family: five generations strong. One day when having a chat with one of her mother’s friends, Faith pointed out that her great grandmother was still very much alive and healthy.
“My mother’s friend was perplexed and I recall her asking, your great grandmother or your grandmother? Her next question was whether we had taken family photos because if my great grandmother was still alive and my younger sister had just got a baby, then we were a five generations kind of family. A rare gift, she added.”
That conversation made Faith see things from a whole new angle and resolved to have those photos taken to capture the preciousness of being a five generation family.
And three years ago, she got Felix Okaka and dragged him all the way to Tharaka Nithi where they shot, among others, the photo that broke the Internet.
Faith spent most of her childhood with her maternal great grandmother in Tharaka-Nithi County.
They fostered a deep bond with Juuju whom she describes as an ever-smiling, hardworking and extremely clean woman.
Like most rural homes, Juuju and her now grown children shared the same compound. However Juuju, even in her old age, insisted on living in her earthen matrimonial house, built by her husband, the late Alfonso M’Mukindia — a businessman who came from a family of traditional judges and doctors.
She did not meddle in anyone’s affairs but instead brought the family together with her generous spirit and love. To her very last breath, she did not burden any member of her family and always advocated unity of the family.
“When you visited her in that warm clean house, she would begin by offering you something to eat. There was always a fire lit in her house and she would have you cackling with stories in no time. Until her ailment in July, she used to do all her chores from cleaning her house, cooking her meals and of course tilling the farm.
She had a life and in fact most of the time if you wanted to visit her, it was advisable to call in advance and book an appointment because she had plenty of things to do with her time,” says Faith humorously.
CASH FOR ELDERLY
In March, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection rolled out the senior citizens cash transfer programme that gives a Sh2,000 stipend to citizens aged 70 years and above. For many families, this programme has been a great relief in easing the economic burden of taking care of the aged for example when it comes to catering for medical expenses.
“The cash disbursements programme is a brilliant idea. For Juuju, she did not have medical expenses so to speak. I think her staple diet of traditional food such as beans and bananas from her own farm kept ailments at bay. Oh and she was also quite the dancer back in the day, remained active to the last days of her life.
When her daughter-in-law brought her the first stipend, Juuju walked all the way to the market and bought a pair of shoes and some clothes. That programme is helping to restore the dignity of the elderly and it makes them feel less of a burden to their families,” says Faith.
She further emphasises on the need for people, and especially young people, to connect with the older people in society. She says that they are deep wells of wisdom who give counsel freely and take great pleasure in seeing their offspring flourish.
“Let us not give excuses for not visiting with the elderly. Most of them are very content with their way of life. Juuju, for instance, prohibited us from building her a stone-walled house which she said would be too cold for her liking.
“The most we could do was get her a strong mattress and bedding. She was content with that. Juuju never asked me for anything. She was just happy to see me there, elated to hold my baby.”
Last Wednesday, residents of Kimuchu village were treated to a rare spectacle of a machete-wielding man fighting armed detectives who ambushed him at his single-room rental house after being trailed for weeks over the abduction of five-year-old Alvin Ngari Kwerra.
The suspect, 33-year-old Gregory Wafula, was shot dead by the police during the attack in which he slashed an officer’s firearm.
Wafula is alleged to have kidnapped the boy on October 7 outside World Temple Church in Munene estate, Thika, where he was playing with another child.
Kwerra’s friend was, however, released a few hours after the incident but she was found bearing a note with a stranger’s contact and Sh526,000 was scribbled on it.
Kwerra’s mother, Ms Grace Wanjiru and her husband, took the writing as the only clue in getting hold of their son, who they had at the time searched for all over Thika in vain and later reported the matter to the police station.
The first call the family made to the anonymous contact confirmed their fears after they were asked to send the money through M-Pesa or risk having their child killed.
“We were threatened that if we do not send the money, a box bearing our son’s head shall be sent to us in a box,” Kwerra’s mother.
As the search for the boy intensified, Kwerra’s family kept sending ransom in portions to the kidnappers hoping to derail the murder of their son as they would not afford the amount demanded upfront. By Wednesday this week, the family had sent over Sh100,000.
On the same day at around noon, detectives who were tracking the kidnapper’s phone signals managed to zero in on their exact location, laid an ambush and rescued the young boy alive and in good health.
They also arrested the suspect’s partner, a 24-year-old woman and a mother of one who has been identified as Jane Muthoni.
The couple had been living with the abducted child hardly interacting with their neighbours.
An identity card used to register the line that the slain suspect was using to solicit for ransom from the family was recovered at the suspect’s house alongside several other SIM cards.
Neighbours told the Nation that the family had a peculiar lifestyle, as they barely interacted with neighbours.
“The woman was particularly proud. She would only get her hair done from the house, never at the salon. She conducted almost all her activities indoors. We thought the child who was brought in a few days later after they moved into the building belonged to a relative because he was referring to them as auntie and uncle,” a neighbour explained.
Thika police commander Paul Kiriki said detectives were holding the woman to establish if she was directly involved in the abduction before preferring appropriate charges against her.
The incident was the second prominent abduction involving a child in Kiambu in just few months. Last year, four-year-old Kelson Kimani was abducted at his parents’ home in section nine by armed robbers.
In the incident, the family was robbed at gunpoint and their child abducted and his images used to solicit Sh2.2 million from the family.
A few days after the incident, officers from the flying squad rescued the boy in good health and arrested five suspects, among them a college student.
The five pleaded not guilty to robbery with violence charges at the Thika Magistrates Court in a case whose hearing is yet to commence almost two years after the boy was rescued.
Kelson’s father, Kimani Wambugu, told the Sunday Nation he believes that despite the delays, justice shall eventually be served.
Mr Kiriki who was recently transferred to Thika has so far handled three cases of children disappearing from their parents watch.
Not all families have, however, been lucky in finding their children after they are kidnapped.
Elizabeth Mwahu’s unending search for her now 11-year-old twins started on October 28, 2012, and to date, it is still on.
Police say most of the abduction cases happening in Kiambu are aimed at soliciting funds from parents regardless of their economic status. The abductions show a trend in which desperate criminals take advantage of parents to get money.
According to the police, Kwerra’s kidnapper has been linked to two previous incidents and had even been jailed before.
Some weeks to the April 1985 by-election that saw Kalonzo Musyoka elected to Parliament, his family was sharply divided over his candidacy.
Mr Musyoka desperately needed his parents’ blessings to run for the Kitui North parliamentary seat, but his mother Malia Musyoka (now late) would hear none of it.
His mother thought that their only son, aged 31 years at the time, who was still a bachelor and struggling to start life after university was deviating into a risky venture.
Malia’s reason for worrying was valid — the immediate former MP Philip Manandu, who happened to be her cousin, had been shot dead by a policeman and she feared a similar fate could befall his son.
The mother was also sceptical about the chances of her son winning the election because two years earlier, Mr Musyoka had been beaten hands down by Mr Manandu during the 1983 general elections, where he came a poor distant fourth.
“Philip has been killed in this thing you are calling politics. I don’t think I’ll allow you to go there and die,” she flatly told her son during an evening family meeting while dismissing his political ambitions.
According to Mr Musyoka’s memoirs, Against All Odds, it took his father Musyoka Mairu, who died at Nairobi Hospital on Sunday morning aged 94, an entire night to convince his wife Malia to allow her son to run for the vacant seat.
“We argued with her late into the night. The following morning she agreed to bless me saying, even if you die at it you have my blessings and support. I have withdrawn all the harsh words uttered against your decision,” Mr Musyoka writes.
The book aptly captures the big role Mr Musyoka’s father played in endorsing his son to contest that first election, which launched a colourful political career that saw him rise to become Kenya’s vice-president.
The old man hoped that his ambitious son — who had graduated from law school — had the potential to rise to become a national leader who could liberate his people from poverty and earn global fame.
The Wiper party leader narrates that before entering the 1985 race, he had to obtain his parents’ nod and though his father agreed, he still could not run without his mother’s consent.
“My mother had enough reasons to worry because Mr Manandu was considered a strong politician and a close family relative. She felt politics had become too risky after his death and that I should put off my ambition,” reads the book.
Mr Musyoka narrates that were it not for his father, who believed in his ambition, perhaps he might not have run in an election that ushered a career in politics spanning more than three decades — 28 years of them as MP.
“My father was always solidly behind my political career but my mom’s initial concerns were also very legitimate. He convinced her to bless me and allow me to run,” Mr Musyoka told the Nation last week.
In the subsequent years, Mzee Mairu was to remain steadfast in his support for his son as he rose in Kenya’s murky politics, witnessing him serve in various Cabinet positions, culminating in his being sworn in as the country’s 10th vice-president.
Mzee Mairu’s first grandchild, Kennedy Musyoka, who is named after him, is now serving as a nominated member of the East African Legislative Assembly.
In October 2007, the old man stood in the Kasarani gymnasium to deliver the family’s endorsement during the ODM delegates’ conference that nominated Mr Musyoka to run for president.
In his Tseikuru village, which Mzee Mairu set alight when he brought in the first lantern from Kilindini, as the port of Mombasa was known then, he established one of the first dukas (shops) in the area, using the profits he earned to educate his children.
He stood for honesty, integrity, respect and hard work, virtues he inculcated in his son Kalonzo, whose daily routine at the shop became a key learning point in his formative years.
“He learnt not only bookkeeping and other financial matters, but how to treat and work with clients. Father and son became so close,” recalls Caleb Atemi, Mr Musyoka’s biographer, that whenever they visited Nairobi together to buy goods to restock his duka, his MP son would refuse to sleep in his own bed and join his father.”
Meanwhile, leaders from across the political divide on Saturday condoled with the Wiper party leader following the death of his father.
Mr Musyoka confirmed that his father had been ailing for a while and died while receiving treatment at Nairobi Hospital.
I reported to work at the offices of the Kenya Times newspaper one morning to find Features Editor Mugambi Karanja waiting for me.
That was rare because you hardly saw Mugambi in office. He belonged to the old school when good journalists were handicapped by eccentricity of one kind or the other. In his case it was obsession with privacy.
Hardly anybody knew anything personal about him except his name. He would sneak in to the office just in time for the editors’ meeting then disappear just as fast.
He would reappear past eight in the night when almost everybody had gone home, lock himself in the Features office at the far corner and get cracking.
When done with his pages, he would place the edited copy on the Production Desk and slither away, snake-style, to God knows where.
Come afternoon he would call from a public telephone booth to be told about progress on his pages then again go missing until his “reporting” time in the night.
To see him early in the morning that day was a story in itself. “Young man we have an assignment for you,” he said without greetings.
The previous day, the newspaper correspondent in Nyandarua had filed a story about a religious cult in some place called Geita where members reportedly engaged in free-for-all sex orgies during nightlong vigils called kesha.
Coincidentally, the place is not much far from the notorious Happy Valley where early white settlers in colonial Kenya engaged in sins that included wife-swapping and animal sex.
The editors’ meeting chaired by my most senior, (now retired) editor Philip Ochieng, had ruled the story had deeper legal and social angles which warranted verification by an in-house reporter. Features Editor Mugambi was instructed to dispatch me to Nyandarua for the job. I was to go there on camouflage, register as a member of the “church” and hang around for about two weeks to attend one of the keshas to establish whether the reported free-for-all sex sessions happened.
I listened as my boss gave me the brief, then asked: “What am I to do should it turn out to be true that the sex orgies took place and I happened to be in the session?”
“At that point you will excuse yourself to go to the toilet, then disappear in thin air”, my boss said without batting an eye-lid.
“Suppose they do like “Rev” Jim Jones and force me to join in the orgy or harm me for refusing to obey the “Lord” and Saint Paul’s command that man and woman should not deny “goods” to the other?
“Rev” Jim Jones’ story is worth telling here. It took place in Guyana, Central America, in November 40 years ago. The fast-talking, demon-possessed “evangelist” had a cult called the People’s Temple. During a kesha on the night of November 9, 1978, he said that he had instructions from “God” that everybody take a soft drink laced with highly poisonous cyanide. Anybody who refused to do so was instantly shot dead.
The sermon was that “God” wanted in “heaven” that very night all the 909 members congregating and they all had to die either by taking poison or biting the bullet. In less than half an hour everybody, including Jim Jones, lay dead! I doubt they went to heaven, wherever it is.
The same lunacy came closer home in March 2000 when a self-appointed “high priestess” in south-western Uganda by the name Credonia, herded her 500 followers into a church hall called the Ark in reference to the biblical Noah’s Ark, and set it ablaze turning everybody inside into ashes.
Earlier, she had told members of the cult called the Movement for Restoration of the Ten Commandments that Jesus Christ was returning to the world to pick them and take them to heaven on the eve of the year of our Lord 2000. When the said Christ didn’t show up — he must have forgotten where to board a bus to come back to a world he left so many years ago — the “high priestess” decided to take herself and her followers to where “Christ” lived!
Sorry for the digression. In response to the question what was to happen if I was forced to join in the group sex when the time came, my editor Mugambi told me that I must not open my zip and that if forced I could lie that I was HIV-positive.
“Suppose they say they didn’t mind my status and say something like that I was covered by the blood of the “saviour Jesus” and pronounced “healing” on me?”
“Then you must carry protection should the worst come to the worst,” my boss said again without batting an eyelid. You’d have thought he was sending me out on a picnic.
“Suppose they say they don’t allow use of condoms?” I asked. “At that point you use common sense!” my boss said with a tone of finality, signalling that it was either I get going or start looking for a job elsewhere.
Getting to Geita in Nyandarua County was a story by itself. In those days the place was literally the heart of darkness. All over the place was a thick canopy of trees 10 times the height of an average adult. The heavy thicket appeared to touch the dark cumulus clouds and you hardly saw the sun even at midday.
It was a Saturday and I found our correspondent waiting for me at the local shopping centre. The good thing is that he was a schoolteacher and the locals didn’t know he used to moonlight for the Kenya Times newspaper using a different name.
The following day we attended service at the mabati-walled building where the cult held its services. When those not “saved” were called forward to be prayed for, him and I stepped forward and were proclaimed “born-again” after a prayer half said in strange tongues.
Now “born-again” we were welcome at a kesha session that Friday where “brothers” and “sisters” allegedly exchanged “goods” generously and without borders.
I spent Monday and Tuesday seeing the place and looking for something I could write about but strictly without letting anybody know I was a journalist.
Come Wednesday, we attended a rally at the shopping centre addressed by Nyandarua District Commissioner Ezekiel Machogu. Today he is MP for Nyaribari Masaba in Kisii County.
He was a tough talking man in those days when DCs were a law unto themselves. He said he was aware of existence of some strange cult in the area and warned that its members would be arrested and prosecuted as the cult wasn’t even registered besides encouraging “weird habits not allowed in our traditions.” He also banned night keshas by all religious groups in the area.
With that, my mission was abruptly cut short. At night I dumped in a pit latrine the “protection” I had carried and returned to Nairobi the following day.
Postscript: Years later I learnt editors weren’t much different from spymasters when I read the story of a Russian agent of the defunct dreaded Soviet KGB.
While serving in the Italian capital Rome, the officer by name Leonid Kolosov decided to take a beautiful lass for a weekend excursion at the beach and have some fun. He says as Bill Clinton did in the case of Monica Lewinsky that he only “touched but didn’t do it” whatever that means.
Come Monday, the officer got a long-distance call from home to be hauled over the coals and warned that he must not compromise his status and that of the organisation he worked for by engaging in blind dating. Not long after, he received instructions from his bosses to spy on a lady of interest to the KGB.
He was to do anything possible to get the job done, even if it meant taking the woman to bed! So it was bad if he’d illicit sex on his own will but could do so as long as KGB got what it wanted! In my case chances are that if I was in habit of going to brothels and strip shows, my editors would be alarmed and warn me against it in the name of keeping a good image of my employer. But here were the same editors sending me to an assignment with a high risk of compromising on my morals as long as I got a story for the newspaper!
Reader response: Responding to last week instalment of this column, a reader emailed regarding assassination of US President John F. Kennedy: “The killer of the killed has never been known. Neither has the killer of the killer of the alleged killer of the killed.” My reply: For now we just say they were all killed by death.
Jasper, a gentleman with a diploma in Institutional Management from a renowned university in Nairobi, recently sent me his resume for a job placement.
Upon asking Jasper what kind of job he was looking for, his response of “I am open to anything” took me by surprise such that, to date, I still do not know how I can assist him since I am unclear on the specific competencies that his diploma accorded him.
More than ever before, Kenyans from all walks of life are attending tertiary institutions and obtaining diplomas, higher diplomas and degrees, among other advanced qualifications with a sole dream of securing formal jobs or basic employment.
However, even after “intensive skilling” from these academic institutions, most of these students leave school to the stark reality of scant employment prospects in the job market.
Therefore, we need to probe whether the training Kenyans are seeking or receiving is congruent with the needs of the overall job market.
Are people obtaining qualifications simply because they are fancy, trendy or supposedly “marketable”? Given that of all jobs created only 16.9 per cent are in the formal sector, could it be that people are focusing on formal employment driven skills yet opportunities predominantly exist in the informal sector?
On the other hand, how many technical, vocational, and practical occupations remain understaffed because of a lack of specially, specifically trained personnel needed to man them?
Doesn’t an emerging economy such as Kenya need more mechanics, plumbers, electricians, agronomists, machinists and medical technicians than it does political scientists? Juxtapose Jasper’s dilemma with a conversation I recently held with a senior director at Tullow Oil, a major oil exploratory company in Turkana.
According to him, there is a plethora of employment opportunities in energy, oil & gas, and mineral extraction industry.
The Kenya oil sector alone is projected to create 6,000-15,000 new jobs and support between 43,000 and 101,000 jobs locally over the next 10 years.
East Africa, for example, needs more than 5,000 precision welders for the new oil pipeline that will traverse it and transport its petroleum products from source to ship.
If these precision welders are not found or trained locally, they would have to be “imported” from far flung countries such as China or the Philippines, leading to inevitable outrage from locals, including Jasper.
It therefore behoves the government and other stakeholders, even as they seek to expand vocational and technical education opportunities for the youth, to ensure a comprehensive, demand-driven training approach.
Recently, the Ministry of Education announced that it would increase the number of TVETs in the country from 3,780 to 5,780 this financial year, and ultimately to 10,000 in 5 years. This is a praiseworthy development that I laud wholeheartedly. However, there are questions to be asked.
Which needs will these institutions serve and how have they been arrived at? What key sectors will the students be trained in? And has sufficient research been undertaken to understand the country’s current and future vocational needs?
Strengthening the currently weak linkages between training institutions and real-world industry labour demands will ensure that the ensuing job seekers, like Jasper, enter the labour force ready to contribute immediately not just to the current Big 4 Agenda, but to the attainment of the nation’s Holy Grail: Vision 2030.
The writer is the former Principal Secretary, Planning & Statistics
What is the more urgent challenge? Youth unemployment of 26.21 percent or lack of a prime minister’s office?
Listen. Kenya does not need a referendum on changing the constitution to introduce a premier’s office or to expand the Executive ostensibly to stem perennial post-poll discontent.
It needs a national conference; a marketplace of ideas, to discuss its regeneration at 55. Even a corporation, when it celebrates its Golden Jubilee, plans its regeneration as it starts the journey to a century of existence.
Kenya needs a national conversation because politicians want to stampede the country into a referendum about power and for power in a new power-play which, like its numerous predecessors, will stitch up the very people, in whose name the power is sought.
Kenya needs a new approach and to do things differently as it resets the development button.
This is so because for 55 years we have elected and sworn in presidents and MPs; formed cabinets; and proclaimed policies.
But regional, economic, infrastructural and developmental disparities persist and grow.
Tribalism thrives and graft grows; the economy shrinks and unemployment expands; debt skyrockets and poverty pervades the land.
This time round Kenyans should hold an indaba and collectively figure out what’s amiss, why it’s remiss, and how it should be redressed politically, legally and ethically in terms of equity, inclusivity, fraternity and, above all, leadership (power) with responsibility.
Let Kenyans truly tell themselves this is who we want to be and this the Kenya we want.
Thereafter let them task politicians with effecting the Kenya the people want. That is, proceed from a national conversation to a General Election to choose the people to implement agreed agenda.
This way the people will truly have spoken and hired and fired based on objectives defined by them. They will not have been manipulated and sold slogans, but will have set out the stalls from which the politicians must buy their service charter.
This way, the politicians will be servants to fulfil the people’s agenda. Kenyans will, then, rejuvenate their politics.
As things stand, the politicians, especially those who until March 9 were the opposition, have not generated new ideas to kick-start Kenya’s political reinvention or economic resurgence.
And Parliament, now conveniently united by the March 9 cop out of Mr Raila Odinga, cannot vouch, or vote, for a people’s cause.
Bereft of opposition and in the clutches of vested interests, Parliament is captive to the secret presidential succession game play of President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
When Parliament does not stand up for the people, the people must stick up for themselves.
When Kenya’s political leadership makes the presidential succession and a feverish attempt to craft a presidential legacy in the final term the be-all and end-all of Kenyan life, Kenyans must find a way to be seen and heard.
By holding a national conversation, Kenyans will redefine the popular phrase heeding the call of the people.
The first rule of politics is self-interest but this is often dressed up as service to the public.
Therefore the public will be best served when they have spelt out the service and services they want. Then, politicians will serve the people by delivering on what the public want of them.
When Kenyans make known what they want in a national conversation, then, politicians will complete the picture by competing to spell out how they will achieve the people’s wants. Their manifestos will have their foundations in what the people want and not in what they (politicians) prescribe for the people.
This way Kenyans will take the responsibility for, and indeed own, the political process.
They will be able to hold MCAs to account instead of them holding their electors to ransom and ripping the public purse. And they will also hold the president’s, MPs’ and governors’ feet to the fire because the electorate, and not their representatives, will have set the mandate for representation.
Last, which could well be first, it is at the national conversation that Kenyans will discuss their eight-year-old constitution and decide which parts of it need fine-tuning and which discarding altogether.
And they will zero in on strengthening devolution while taming profligate spending and wanton wastage by the national and county governments.
Ideas, especially on inclusivity, not an expanded Executive, will reinvigorate Kenya. A Bomas-style people’s dialogue should be preferred to a politicians’ mistruths-fuelled plebiscite.
The dialogue should be themed Power With Responsibility: How to Change and Energise Kenya.
Proper social and cultural education is critical to the growth of any society. We — particularly the younger ones among us in the Church — may of course not quite understand how to deal with this reality until it is explained to us.
The problem is that when we get to the top we do not think we need to listen to anyone else, particularly if they seem to be thinking differently from what we know to be the institutional mindset as well as what we have always known and what we feel safe in holding on to.
Whichever way we look at it, education is a major social and cultural reality through which society develops.
Even our traditional societies that shaped our grandparents and parents had an education system which we of course do not talk much about.
Then the missionaries came. Their main aim was to “win souls” for Christ. Their mode of operation was what we would now call “evangelisation”.
In spite of their “misunderstanding” those original evangelisers did their work through one avenue.
They set up schools in which they passed on secular education to Kenyans and gave those Kenyans ability to develop their society.
While they were passing on that secular education they also passed on the faith.
After the Education Act of 1968, all that changed. The religious communities that had set up the schools all the way from primary to high school largely divorced themselves from developing the education sector.
At that point the local church establishments had obviously not trained enough personnel that would have effectively taken over from where the missionaries had left.
The model of evangelisation that they adopted did not seem to see education as part of the pastoral ministry.
Now I hear one of our bishops has brought up a suggestion that we should make all education coeducation. Interesting thought but how do we control that?
What will happen when they get to university? There are a few questions that must go through the mind of anyone who is involved in educational operations and they are thoughts that must come to the minds of those who care about education and the future of our faith.
Christianity cannot be separated from education in spite of the education Act of 1968.
In my humble view, the question of education is a much broader and multidimensional reality than just what kind of schools boys or girls go to.
It is also a reality that calls for the participation of many stakeholders such as the family, the church and government. All this and others must get into the debate.
Fr Wamugunda is the dean of students and a lecturer of sociology at the University of Nairobi. [email protected]
Small political parties have intensified their activities as they seek to reinvent themselves to remain relevant.
Caught between towing the line of the bigger players they supported in the last election and charting their own course, some say they are merely complying with the law while others have started aggressive recruitment programmes with a possible referendum in mind and the 2022 elections.
Last week, the Democratic Party (DP) held a national delegates conference in Nairobi, which officials say was aimed at “complying with the law and party constitution” to hold such meetings every five years.
Their last such meeting was in mid last year to endorse President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, but last week’s event had another agenda: to change top party leadership and fill vacant offices.
“Time has come for DP to resume its most enduring legacy since its formation, to give hope and direction to the Mt Kenya region in times of crisis,” said newly installed deputy secretary-general, Wambugu Nyamu.
When asked why DP opted to hold a delegates meeting four years ahead of the next general election, chairman Isaya Kioni said: “DP is reorganising and repositioning itself in order to field a presidential candidate in the 2022. DP is not part of Jubilee.”
The event was broadcast live on two TV stations, an expensive venture that party insiders told the Nation points to “serious financial backing”.
Former ruling party Kanu has also rolled out an online recruitment drive using a mobile application that requires one’s national identity card number to verify details held by the national civil registration bureau and voter status with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission before entry into the party’s membership register.
“Leaders in Mt Kenya are still hurting from last year’s nominations fiasco. They don’t want to be duped again. No party is able to conduct clean primaries in Kenya because none has a proper and verifiable members register. Ghost voters and ballots were a big problem. The new Kanu app is the first one to set up a digital membership register accessible and verifiable from mobile phone handsets,” said Mr George Wainaina, who is coordinating the party’s recruitment.
Kanu, whose party leader Gideon Moi is involved in a supremacy battle with Deputy President William Ruto in the Rift Valley, has not disguised it’s 2022 ambitions.
“As it stands now, we are fully behind President Kenyatta’s government. However, Kanu will field a presidential candidate in the next general election,” said secretary-general Nick Salat.
DP leader Joseph Munyao accused President Kenyatta of taking it for granted in spite of its unwavering support for Jubilee in the last three presidential elections. He vowed to ensure the party fields its own presidential candidate in the next general election.
While each party seems to be doing what officials call “housekeeping”, some see the renewed activity as preparation for any falling-out in the dominant Jubilee Party, especially in the Mt Kenya and Rift Valley regions. “Activation of small parties has become a nightmare for some Jubilee elected leaders.
Those who thought they had captured the Jubilee Party, especially in Mt Kenya, and could hold the President captive or consign him into his lame-duck phase are in shock. The President can ignore them and choose to work with smaller parties.”
Kikuyu Council of Elders head Wachira Kiago said recent events after meetings in Naivasha and Nyeri showed that those who have been holding meetings to endorse Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 campaigns were on their own and had “left the people behind”.
Among other dramatic events, former President Mwai Kibaki was reinstated as leader of the Party of National Unity (PNU) in an ongoing leadership struggle between officials allied to Jubilee, and another linked to Industry, Trade and Co-operatives Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya.
Though Mr Munya can no longer directly be involved in party politics, his perceived allies have been fighting to take control of the party.
Acting Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu reinstated Mr Kibaki as the PNU leader following a judgment from the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal on June 20, 2017, a decision upheld by the High Court on September 11 this year.
While some parties were persuaded to dissolve and join the Jubilee Party in 2016, a raft of new ones were set up for candidates and regions that supported President Kenyatta’s re-election, but resented or feared the influence Mr Ruto, including in the primaries.
The President supported these independent outfits and backed their candidates.
The parties that came together to form the Jubilee Party are Jubilee Alliance Party, The National Alliance, United Republican Party (URP), Alliance Party of Kenya, Grand National Alliance Party, New Ford Kenya, Ford People, United Democratic Forum, Chama Cha Uzalendo, Republican Congress, and The Independent Party.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny recently told the Nation that the idea of collapsing parties under one umbrella was not good for democracy.
“From the onset, I was opposed to the folding up of URP to form Jubilee as I felt that we should come together but retain our distinct identities.”
Meanwhile, Mr Ekuru Aukot of the Thirdway Alliance has been collecting signatures to push for a referendum.
Other key players like Martha Karua (Narc Kenya) and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu (Narc) are yet to show their hand on the direction their parties intend to take but have retained a tight grip.
It is now official: The world is in the thick of a Great Democratic Recession. Tellingly, the influential Foreign Affairs Journal carried on the cover of its June 2018 issue the forlorn title: “Is Democracy Dying?” Ronald Inglehart has argued that the world is experiencing the most severe democratic setback since the rise of fascism in the 1930s.
Against this melancholic backdrop, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation released its 2018 Index on Africa Governance report on October 29.
In a rare blip of optimism, this tool used to measure and monitor performance in governance in African countries, applauded Africa’s “upward trend” in governance.
In a nutshell, the report observed that the overall governance in Africa has been on the rise in the last 10 years (2008-2017).
Kenya topped the list of 5 most improved countries at 59.8 per cent followed by Morocco and Cote d’Ivoire with 58.4 and 54.5, respectively.
However, the question remains whether tools of measuring liberal democracy like the Ibrahim Index have outlived their usefulness in the age of “dying democracy”, and whether they reflect the overall picture of the reality in Africa.
The pessimists fear that in its current state, democracy and capitalism have reached their dead end, and its dominance is over for good.
But optimists remind us that democracies have proven remarkably resilient over the years. Its recent decline has unfolded in three phases since 1989.
The first phase, 1989-2005, was marked by a ‘democratic surge’ during what Samuel Huntington popularised as the “third wave” of democratisation.
As western ideals of democracy, free markets and capitalism appeared to sweep across the world, the number of “electoral democracies” grew from 76 to 119 in the 1990-2005 hiatus, the vast majority of them in Africa and Eastern Europe.
It is in this context that Francis Fukuyama, published his tome, The End of History, which became emblematic of the age of audacious liberal optimism that the era of traditional power politics was over and humanity was on a new path towards a more peaceful world.
Rarely captured by reports like the Ibrahim Index is the contradictory context within which the democratic surge unfolded in Africa.
Here, two pro-democracy forces were bound to collide. From below were the soil-and-blood social movements struggling for freedom, economic progress and security.
From above were the white knights of Western civilisation set on remaking post-Cold War Africa on the basis of the liberal values of democracy, free markets and capitalism.
Ideologically propelled by the “democratic peace” theory that ‘democracies seldom go to war’ with each other, the West actively bankrolled “democracy promotion” programmes as a panacea for poverty and the violent conflicts that engulfed Africa from 1990s.
This signalled the forceful ‘return of history’ to haunt Fukuyama’s audaciously optimistic idea of history’s ‘progress’ towards what the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, enchanted as ‘perpetual peace’.
This ushered in the second phase democracy’s spread from the mid-2000s when the democratic surge ended and democracy lost its shine. Emerging democracies failed to meet their citizens’ hopes for economic prosperity, freedom and security.
Notably, democracy promotion in Africa as elsewhere was hoisted on the myth that capitalism, free markets and democracy are a happy trio going hand in hand. But the rise of China to economic prosperity burst the myth that a state needs to liberalise in order to generate economic growth.
But the real shock and most unexpected development is onset of democratic regression in the United States.
Here, the marriage between democracy and capitalism, ill-suited partners brought together in the shadow of World War II, began to unravel.
As the US went to elections in 2016, an inherent tension that has always existed between capitalism and democratic politics become palpable and public. Simply put, the tension is rooted in the contradictory processes that capitalism allocates resources through markets while democracy allocates power through votes.
In the 1945-1970 interlude, democracy called the shots, and set rules. It established protective labour laws, restrictive financial regulations, and expanded welfare systems to tame the markets and shield people from extreme poverty.
After the 1970s, the roles were reversed. A globalised and deregulated capitalism, unrestrained by national borders, began to push back. Capital began to set the rules, and governments follow them.
But the hegemony of the market was short-lived. As the inequality gap widened, real wages stagnated, and the job opportunities shrunk, those who felt most victimised by the markets began to resist the so-called costs of adjustment and to reclaim the powers of the state to protect them.
This gave rise to populism, and propelled Donald Trump to White House, ushering in the third phase of democracy’s decline marked by a surge of authoritarianism. Today, three shades of ‘authoritarianism’ are challenging liberal democracy.
One, and most covered in the literature, is the resurgence of Russia, China and Iran in a multipolar world.
Two, is the surge of xenophobic populist movements and populist parties in established democracies across Europe and North America. Three are new ‘authoritarian undertows’ in marginally democratic countries.
In Africa’s ethnically divided societies, innovative ways are needed to build socially cohesive civic polities based on a carefully blended universal ideal of the American and French Revolutions and the local realities of Africa’s identity politics.
One of these realities that the Ibrahim Index of governance report identifies is the need for Africa to generate economic opportunities for its booming youth population, which has increased by 26 per cent in the 2008-2018 decade to comprise 60 per cent of Africa’s total population.
Only this can prevent the youth bulge from becoming a curse.
Prof Kagwanja is former Government adviser and currently Chief Executive of Africa Policy Institute.