Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

President Mwai Kibaki this Sunday officially announced his candidature in the upcoming general elections in characteristic style – matter of fact, simple announcement that he is running and that he is running in the new consensus based vehicle, Party of National Unity.

The announcement was to start at three and ten minutes before three, the president arrived at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in a black Mercedes limousine, with private license plates, the significance of which was appropriate. He should not attend private matters – such as the candidature of the next presidency, with the officialdom of the current presidency.

For some time, the president and his team disappeared into an ante-room at the refurbished plenary hall, where the team was arranged in order to be paraded. At 3.10 or thereabouts, the president walked to the plenary hall, with Moody Awori and Musikari Kombo at his right and left respectively, and the rest of the team, which included incidentally KANU Chairman, Uhuru Kenyatta.

The president then went straight to the podium where in a short speech – barely 800 words, I surmise – he announced that in the spirit of the pursuit of unity, he would run for the next general elections under the ticket of the newly founded Party of National Unity, which he said, comprised of several parties that were thinking alike – KANU, Ford Kenya, Ford People, Shirikisho, Narc Kenya and others. He listed them in that order.
Once he had finished the speech that was interrupted many times by hearty applause and shouts of “Kibaki tena,” a number of the leaders in his team – the significant ones that is, were allowed to say “one or two words.”
In order, Ford People’s Simeon Nyachae, Kanu’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Ford Kenya’s Musikari Kombo, Shirikisho’s Shakombo and Narc Kenya’s Raphael Tuju, stood to reaffirm openly that their parties had agreed to support Kibaki for the next presidency. Minister for Agriculture, Kipruto arap Kirwa also spoke in this line-up, ostensibly to represent the Rift Valley people (regional balancing).

By Four Fifteen, the event rounded up to a close.

And with that, Kibaki has strategically placed himself in the position of winner. It is no secret that the overwhelming majority of Kenyans want him to come back to “finish the job”. It is also no secret that at this point, none of the other candidates has strategically positioned himself (invariably they are all men now), to get the support of all Kenyans, in Kibaki’s stead.

The main problem that was hampering Kibaki all through was the style of elections traditionally held previously. Before, the president was the head of a party or coalition and everyone that followed that coalition had to be issued a ticket – by the party or coalition, certainly not their party of choice, which was swallowed in the process.
What Kibaki and his strategists did, is that they ensured that he is the only individual candidate to run under the coalition vehicle, PNU, and everyone else was free to run under the auspices of their own party. This means that people will vote KANU, ODM, Ford Kenya etc and still vote for the president.

Essentially, this means that the 10th parliament will be an interesting one, to be sure. While Kibaki will have the presidency again, parliament will be a much more independent thinking one, than all nine preceding it, because even while the parties support the president, they are doing so on the understanding that he will represent their interest in the implementation of his duty – such as in Shirikisho’s case, Majimbo (Devolution of government resources).

For the first time, in Kenya’s four and a half decade history, the sitting president will have little control of parliament and he will have to work hard to retain its (parliament’s) support of his initiatives. To take credit for this and to ensure that we shall live in interesting times over the next five year term, I suppose, we have the president and the next leader of the official opposition, The Hon. Raila “Agwambo” Odinga, MP.

You heard it here, first. I’m so excited.

Kenya is contemplating having affirmative action for 50 women to join parliament and Martha Karua has even suggested that this be constitutionalised.

This is a developing thought but I now know I am against it totally. This is why in a nutshell:

  • It is demeaning. It makes nonesense of the achievements women like Caroline Mutoko (Kiss FM), Ruth Wilcock (a Kenyan who owns a Hotel in SA), Charity Ngilu (self made politician), Benazir Bhutto, Margaret Thatcher (who by the way was against this business) and the many other women who are successful by merit. They worked hard and people will ridicule and lower their achievement to being “given”.
  • It may lower quality standards of MPs even lower. The fact is, just because a person is a woman, they are not necessarily above board or qualified to be MP. No discussion is being had about the quality of woman is nominated for the MP positions and again, Just because you are a woman doesn’t make you suitable.
  • There’s more. Tomorrow.

Prepare your claws.

If it was up to me to set the agenda for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Campaign and it was up to me to write a speech about it, this is it. Interestingly, as far as she is concerned, I atually believe it.

This is certainly going to be an exciting ride, not only for the American People, but also for people around the world, who are affected in very direct ways by American Foreign Policy.

Hillary’s coming in heralds a great new era for America in many ways. First, as a leader, as a Democrat, she has distinguished herself as a sober, thorough thinker, a doer, and a person who has the American people’s welfare at heart.

As the first woman President, Hillary’s administration, will begin America’s true strides towards the empowerment of women and girls – not only in the world’s greatest democracy, where shockingly the glass ceiling still exists, but also in the rest of the free world, where that glass ceiling is in many cases, much lower.

It is time, now that George Bush had led America and indeed the free world, into a greedy mistake, that has caused the lives of many American, British and Middle Eastern mothers to suffer in anguished caused by losing their sons and daughters; that in the name of democracy has caused many livelihoods not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in America to be ruined and at the very least made difficult; indeed a war that has had America’s financial surplus turn to dust and blood, it is time that America stopped and made a change.

It is time, that America and the world had a conversation and paid closer attention to the domestic situation, to the basics that have been plundered in America: Jobs, Health, Housing, Poverty and perhaps most of all, America’s spirit.

It is time that America and the world had a conversation about the livelihood of millions of people in the middle east that America can rebuild in the spirit of mutual respect, and with America fostering true partnership and friendship.

It is time that America had a conversation about the environment that has been long ignored and that is long over due. It is time that America fostered conversation between the industries and the activists and found concrete, actionable and measurable solutions to America’s worsening environmental situation.

It is time that America stood up again as the world’s greatest democracy, in humility and pride and takes back the position of honor that it has lost through arrogance and lack of dialogue.

It is time that the Democrats again showed what democracy means. It is time that Americans started speaking to one another and to Africa, Asia, Europe, The Middle East and South America.

It is time that America reached out and healed its wounds with America’s hurting mothers uniting to bring healing to America’s spirit and well being as only a mother’s loving touch will.

It is time that Hillary Rodham Clinton led America to a life of friendship, respect, prosperity and strength.

It is time.

Al Kags
Nairobi, Kenya

The argument of compensation is a misguided farce
August 28, 2006                      By Al Kags

As I do every Sunday, I read Prof. Ali Mazrui’s column in the Sunday Standard but having read this Sunday’s edition, I realise that he has brought to the fore my consternation with Africa on the basis of it progression from a subservient state to a successful one.

In his very well written article, the Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture says, I’m sure correctly that the west has benefited immensely from both Africa’s labour and natural resources throughout the Agricultural revolution and the Industrial revolution. Quite correctly, he cites the conflicts waged in Africa and around the world by Africans that have propelled western countries like France and Portugal to the modern successes today.

He wonders, “Should reparations to Africa be based only on the benefits that the west derived from the imperatives of labour, territory and extraction across generations?”

Maybe.

But the reality of the situation is that it will not happen and Africa (and African Americans) must get off their laurels and move on. For how long will Africa look back at its past and complain, making great political arguments and great cases for compensation while the West moves on and makes a success of itself? For how long will Africa trudge into the future looking back at what was?

And by the way, speaking of compensation, I remember just the other day when the emotive story was told of the people in northern Kenya who were maimed and hurt by mines that had carelessly been left behind by the British army. Many lost their limbs and kin and a case was made in a british court for them to be compensated. This was done. They won millions of pounds and we all saw a victory against the old colonialist and patted each other in the back.

Today, those people are wallowing back in poverty, having drunk themselves silly, bought TVs and other sophisticated electronic gadgets that they could not use.  Their children are yet again, struggling to go to school and in the last famine, they suffered hunger and malnutrition and lack of water. Yet again, they have their hands outstretched for the government, someone, to help.

I wonder if compensation in that light makes sense. Money without knowledge is a waste, wouldn’t you agree?

The story of compensation is a tired one, I fear and Africa simply must remove its face from upon its hand and start competing.

We missed out on the best of Agricultural revolution (even though we are still in it to a large extent) and we definitely missed out on the industrial revolution. That ship has sailed and that we must accept. Incoming is the information revolution and therein lies our opportunity to win.

Strategy is about winning and Africa needs to become strategic.  Now.

My suggestion is that Africa takes stock of its capacity as at now and use it to its advantage to win.  As a minor example, I choose to take Kenya’s northern frontier and the treatment of its people and territory by Kenya.

Fact: Northern Kenya is unlikely to become lush green farmlands in our generation

Fact: The reason that not much investment has been made in northern Kenya since independence is a simple return on investment argument. For as long as Kenya defines its opportunities mainly along the lines of agriculture and tourism, Northern Kenya cannot be a major investment because it has comparatively little to offer in terms of Return on investment.

Fact: the territory in northern Kenya has not been efficiently used at any level. Nomadism and pastoralism are not now, nor will they be viable propellants to Kenya’s success.

So what to do? I suggest that we use the northern territory of Kenya to win along the lines of trade and technology. If we make that strategic decision, it will immediately make sense to invest in roads to the north, fibre optic cable network grids in the north and an airport.  It will make sense for Kenya to make Wajir, for example a Free Trade zone and Garissa, Hola and Lamu EPZ zones.

This will in turn give me and many other young professionals the impetus to move up north and decongest the city and surrounding towns as well as open up the rest of the country.

A bold action such as this one, well executed has the potential of making Kenya (remember, it is an example that can be replicated in many other ways in other countries of the continent), a real player on the world scene. Can it be done? Yes.

By the way, Professor Mazrui, frankly, I believe the reason that Algeria is still in the doldrums while the Fifth Republic of France prospers is not France’s problem. It is Algeria’s. They and other African countries struggle with instability not because of the West, but because of their own greed. Look at Zimbabwe and recognize. The west is just an easy excuse.