Uhuru in no-holds-barred war with Ruto; dares Ruto to walk the talk

Uhuru in no-holds-barred war with Ruto; dares Ruto to walk the talk

President Uhuru Kenyatta has dared his deputy William Ruto to implement his grand promises to Kenyans now, saying he is in government and not held back by anyone.

Uhuru made the remarks after attending an ordination function at the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) at the Tumutumu presbytery, in what is likely to be seen as a sign of further deterioration of the relationship between the two top Jubilee leaders.

The President avoided politics at the church function, but in his address to residents at the Tumutumu junction on the Nairobi-Nyeri highway, he criticized early 2022 campaigns and promises to transform the lives of Kenyans by those opposed to the BBI report.

The President hit out at Ruto for his objection to the BBI report and the promise by him and his allies that they will make things better once they win in 2022.

Uhuru referred to Ruto and his allies as “Mbaari ya Ngeeka”, which in Gikuyu translates to the “Clan of Promises”, meaning a clique that is all bark and no bite.

“Why are they saying they will do things then and not now? Why can’t they do it now and rest that matter? Why can’t we solve our problems now through the BBI,” posed Uhuru?

President Kenyatta said much of the challenges faced by Kenyans politically and economically would be addressed if the proposed BBI constitutional amendments become law.

“Let’s accept the BBI and amend the Constitution now. Those who want to go back to the political arena will do so when there is stability. It is the people who will decide who they will elect,” said Uhuru.

The seven-year tax holiday for new businesses and the creation of new employment opportunities to young people are among the proposals in the BBI report, which the President said will uplift people’s lives.

He drummed up support for the BBI, saying it will address the concerns on sharing of revenue, with those in populous regions gaining more.

“The recommendations seek to ensure that revenue sharing will be rightfully done in regard to where one lives. Parliamentary positions will also be distributed as per population represented in Parliament,” he said.

Earlier, the Head of State pledged to give Sh100 million to the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Nyeri. Speaking during the Centennial Celebration of the first Kirk- Session and the ordination of elders at Tumutumu PCEA, Uhuru said the contribution will be used to complete the hospital project.

The hospital recently kicked off plans to construct an Intensive Care Unit to serve thousands of locals who travel long distances seeking the services.

“It is the PCEA church that helped my father acquire formal education. Most of my family members have done great things in this county in collaboration with the church,” said Uhuru.

The celebration worship service was hosted by Julius Mwamba, the moderator of the 22nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa.

Leaders who accompanied the President were Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, Senate Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata, and Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina.

Also in attendance were MPs Kanini Kega (Kieni), Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri town), Nyeri Woman Rep Rahab Mukami, Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Gichuki Mugambi (Othaya), James Gichuhi (Tetu), Anthony Kiai (Mukurwe-ini), Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) and Catherine Waruguru (Laikipia Woman Rep), among others.

War on Terror: Al-Shabaab’s Top Leader Transfers Power Amid Factional fall out

War on Terror: Al-Shabaab’s Top Leader Transfers Power Amid Factional fall out

Al-Shabaab—the Somali al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa—has reportedly experienced a change in its top leadership in order to better organize its terrorist activities amid an increasing onslaught by African Union troops and the continued loss of key leaders to U.S airstrikes.

Shaykh Ahmed Diriye, a.k.a Abu Ubaidah, allegedly transferred power to his deputy Shaykh Abukar Ali Aden, a move that has further widened internal disagreements within the deadly terrorist group.

It is not clear when the actual transfer occurred, but the change had been widely anticipated following earlier reports that the militant organization’s supreme leader was ailing and unable to discharge his duties efficiently.

According to Somalia’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Security Agency (NISA), Aden is currently supervising the activities of the group. Like Ubaidah, he is on the U.S list of wanted terrorists (GaroweOnline, August 28).

Aden became one of the new faces at the apex of al-Shabaab leadership in 2018 when the emir appointed him as a deputy leader and one of his principal advisors. He had spent several years as al-Shabaab’s military chief, after previously heading the Jabhat, al-Shabaab’s army. In 2018, his jihadist credentials increased after the U.S. State Department listed him as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (State Department, January 4, 2018).

Ubaidah’s worsening health condition had been the subject of news for some time. Reports that he was ailing first emerged in 2018 when speculation spread that the organization had begun to re-organize its top leadership ahead of the emir’s possible demise.

The emir had reportedly been bedridden for six months. Although it was speculated that the leader may have been injured on the battlefield, a source in Mogadishu told the Terrorism Monitor that Ubaidah was suffering from a serious ailment affecting both of his kidneys, confining him to bed for treatment (Terrorism Monitor, May 18, 2018).

Ubaidah has been the emir since 2014 when he took over from the late Shaykh Ahmed Godane, a.k.a. Mukhtar Abu Zubeir, who was killed in a U.S airstrike. Like Aden, he was part of his predecessor’s inner circle and was a brutal hardliner who ordered the assassination of dissidents and rivals. Ubaidah appeared to follow in Godane’s footsteps, maintaining the group’s allegiance to al-Qaeda. In 2015, some members of the group pushed for a shift of allegiance to Islamic State (IS), but he rejected the proposal and launched a crackdown against the alleged IS supporters.

With his illness becoming a liability to al-Shabaab’s operations at a time when it faced more pressure from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops and increased U.S. airstrikes, the shura, the al-Shabaab executive council, began discussing who would succeed Ubaidah. At the time, they could not agree on who would replace him as the emir (Tuko, April 23, 2018).

The shura—which makes the group’s policy decisions on issues including ideological direction, finances, and operations—had been concerned that the prolonged absence of the leader was creating a vacuum, reducing its operational capacity as an organization. Al-Shabaab’s shura is composed of an unspecified number of people appointed by the emir. Ubaidah’s council size has ranged from eight to ten members. It has included prominent leaders such as Abdirahaman Mohammed Warsame, a.k.a. Mahad Karate, the head of al-Shabaab’s financials, and its intelligence wing, Amniyat, Maalim Osman, the infantry commander, and Ali Mohammed Rage, a.k.a. Ali Dheere, the group’s spokesman.

Under the current emir, the terrorist group has lost key territory and strategic towns crucial to its revenue collection, recruitment, and arms shipments (The Star, July 1, 2017). Al-Shabaab has traditionally funded its activities through Zakat—a form of alms-giving treated as obligatory in Islam. Reports also indicate that some foreigners who share the group’s ideology also send funds to support its activities.

When he appointed Aden, Ubaidah could have bolstered the 14-year-old organization, but his actions appeared to worsen the disputes between Ubaidah’s supporters and those of Karate, who is also on the U.S. list of wanted terrorists. With the powerful departments of intelligence and finance under his control, Karate felt he had the clout to take over the militant group’s leadership. The feud peaked early this year, with reports detailing attempts by the intelligence chief to wrestle power from the emir (The Standard, August 31).

For some time, Karate had allegedly refused to provide the emir access to the group’s finances, crippling Ubaidah’s ability to pay his fighters. In retaliation, the emir started to purge Karate’s supporters, the majority of whom are from his Habagedir-ayr clan.

In retaliation, Karate began targeting Ubaidah’s stronghold, striking his kinsmen from the Rahawein clan, where most of the emir’s support came from. Attempts by Ubaidah to expel Karate from al-Shabaab early this year failed after his clan threatened to launch a parallel-group. The clan elders accused Ubaidah of arrogance and demanded he cedes power to the younger generation (Garowe Online, August 29).

Apart from disagreements over leadership, the militant group is split on which international terrorist group to pledge allegiance. Some leaders within the group insist it should keep its allegiance to al-Qaeda, while others suggest it’s the time to shift to IS (The Standard, August 31).

With the number of internal disputes growing and the group operating on a reduced income, al-Shabaab fighters had reportedly intensified extortion and illegal taxation inside Somalia and northeastern Kenya to meet their needs (Daily Nation, April 26).

The disputes are evidently affecting the militant group’s activities and its income. While this could be good news for the militaries countering the insurgents, new leadership could eventually lead to a strengthened and re-energized fighting force. Meanwhile, with his extensive military experience as an insurgent, Aden cannot be underestimated.

Expanded executive will relieve post-election woes

Expanded executive will relieve post-election woes

Democracy is an experiment, a project that at its best seeks a higher and ethical human intelligence.

No one who for decades has been a keen student of human societies, including Kenya, can claim to have a glimpse of eternity, a final resting place on the summit of history.

All we can do is to think and argue together in good faith if we hope to give our people the best chance of realizing their human potential. It is in this regard that I opine on the BBI report – Building Bridges to a united Kenya: From a nation of blood ties to a nation of ideals. I want you to think with me about Kenya as an idea, not just as a geographic location on the planet, or a ramshackle collection of disparate peoples.

No constitution is perfect. Even the national charters of the most advanced democracies are deeply flawed. The American constitution, arguably one of the world’s most enduring constitutions, has been amended 27 times. The United States is 244 years old and we can all plainly see the serious problems convulsing it even with one of the longest histories with constitutional political democracy.

In contrast, Kenya is only 56 years old. Unfortunately for Kenya, our elites selfishly and maliciously amended the country’s 1963 independence constitution to aggrandize their power and oppress citizens. I cannot think of a single justifiable amendment, except the one in 1964 to make Kenya a republic.

Healthy skepticism

That is why Kenyans have a healthy skepticism about constitutional revisions. It is why Kenyans fought so hard to get that mutilated constitution and replace it with the 2010 constitution.

It is a fact that the 2010 constitution is one of the most progressive national charters in the world. However, it was a political compromise. Making constitutions is akin to making sausage – the process is messy and unappetizing. The outcome may look good on the outside, but the devil is what is inside.

We should be honest that the 2010 constitution has many lacunae and flaws. These constitutional defects and “silences” continue to bedevil us. That is why implementing it has been so elusive and challenging. That is not the only problem. The far greater catastrophe is the inability of our elites to intellectually and culturally submit themselves to the values and tenets of liberalism on which political democracy and modern constitutionalism are built.

Constitutions are living documents into which the elites and the people must breathe life. For that to happen, constitutions must have basic cultural and normative legitimacy in the society in which they are planted, or they will be stillborn. That is what happened to the 1963 Constitution.

An elite that did not own it, or believe in it, killed it. Nor did the people rise up and fight to protect it. Which brings me to the 2010 constitution. It is clear to me there are parts of the 2010 Constitution that both the elite and the people do not fully own.

That is why the elite has flouted parts of it with the acquiescence of the public. We have not domiciled the 2010 constitution. We are all – every single one of us – to blame for this failure. If we must rise, we must do so together as a nation.

As they say, we must hang together, or we shall surely hang separately. We need an honest conversation about our failure to fully accept the constitution and the idea of constitutionalism, and what we can, and must, do about it as a country.

Enter BBI

I do not want to reprise here the history of BBI and how the initiative came about. That story has been told. Suffice it to note that we are here now. The rest is water under the bridge. What I know is that the so-called Handshake gave the country a reprieve and an opportunity to take stock. There are as many of our compatriots who welcomed it as have spurned it.

The schism threatens to tear the country apart because of the competing ambitions of politicians and their supporters. Let us not pour gasoline on the embers of hatred and greed for power. We must avoid this at all costs.

My plea is that no matter what side of the ledger we fall we have a civil conversation about the BBI report and either adopt or reject, it. Life must go on whatever the outcome. Let the democratic will of the majority prevail. Not a single Kenyan life should be lost because of a politician’s ambition on whichever side.

There are many sober proposals in the BBI report and its accompanying draft bills. The proposals hew largely towards the draft of the Committee of Experts that was chopped up at Naivasha by MPs. In my view, most of the proposals are uncontroversial.

They clean up existing kinks or fill in missing links. On this part, it is a cleanup job leftover from Bomas and Naivasha. Elsewhere, some of the proposals are informed by the experience of the last decade. I focus here only on big issues. Here below is what I like.

The wisdom of the provisions to use the mixed-member proportional representation to get to the two-thirds gender rule before 2022 is unarguable. I found the proposal for a 50-50 percent gender split at the Senate very welcome. The proposal to increase budgetary allocations to counties from 15 percent to 35 percent deepens devolution and should be implemented forthwith.

I am OK with the expanded executive to include a PM and two DPMs. I know this proposal has been demagogued, but my belief is that it will relieve post-election contestations among elites and communities. It is disingenuous to dismiss it because in all elections since independence Kenyans have voted along ethnic lines, or as directed by their ethnic kingpins.

We know the disastrous consequences of this pattern of voting. We cannot by mere words wish away reality in the zeitgeist of our people. However, I would provide for checks and balances on the president’s powers to appoint and dismiss the PM.

The president should only be able to dismiss the PM upon the approval of a simple majority of both Houses. I like the strengthening of anti-corruption laws. However, wealth declaration by all public officials, including the president, must occur every two years and be publicly available on a website. All unexplained wealth must be seized subject to only one challenge – without appeal – in the High Court. I like the economic breaks given to the youth.

Conclusion

Constitutional design is always a challenge even with everything we know about constitution-making. The design of 2010 was fundamentally sound but these new proposals will make it more acceptable to the elites and the people.

More importantly, the proposals may give the elite and the people more reasons to submit to it. This can only increase the legitimacy of the constitution and more firmly plant it in the Kenyan soil. It is for these reasons that I endorse the BBI report and its accompanying bills subject to the changes I have indicated.

DP Ruto dealt a blow as ACK bans politicians on pulpits

DP Ruto dealt a blow as ACK bans politicians on pulpits

Politicians should not be allowed to use the pulpit to advance their own agenda, the Anglican Church of Kenya has said.

ACK Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit said although the church cannot close doors on anyone who wants to worship, there are places that must be jealously guarded.

“We must guard the pulpit in the church so that even if somebody comes to worship, then their space is in that pew,” said Ole Sapit.

This way, he noted, it is the message of the Gospel that will be projected and not that of the politician or any other individual who has selfish interests.

He spoke at the Mombasa ACK Church during the start of the week-long celebration of the church’s golden jubilee in Kenya, where he was accompanied by Mombasa Archbishop Alphonse Mwaro and his Malindi counterpart Archbishop Lawrence Dena.

He said the time has come for the Church to weigh what they promote and what is received by the congregation.

“Where we need to test is which space are we creating? Are we giving politicians and other people an opportunity to come and promote that which is not Christian? That is why we say as the Anglican Church, we don’t have that space available,” said Ole Sapit.

He, however, said there will be false prophets hired to advance the agenda of certain politicians and other people and not the gospel.

“It is in the scriptures,” he said, adding that this cannot be ruled out.

On the BBI initiative, the church said there is a need to interrogate the report before accepting or rejecting it.

Archbishop Ole Sapit said there are proposals in the BBI that are good for the country and others that need amendment.

“When I saw the analysis in the media that there will be more resources to the counties, from 15 percent to 35 percent, I think that is something that will be good the people,” said Ole Sapit.

He urged those who would be handling county resources, should the BBI proposals pass, to put them into the right use.

“We hope it will not be another opportunity to steal and take them out of the people for whom it is intended,” said Ole Sapit.

He urged Kenyans to read the document and make informed choices.

He said the church will also read the report and point out areas that need changes, those that need to be passed, and those that are unacceptable.

The BBI will be launched on Monday at the Bomas of Kenya.

ACK Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit at the Mombasa ACK Church on Sunday.
PLANTING THE RIGHT SEED ACK Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit at the Mombasa ACK Church on Sunday.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO
Ole Sapit said leaders in the country should strive to develop the mindset of individual Kenyans by empowering them to have Jesus in the heart, the right knowledge in the mind, food on the table and money in the pockets.

“Let us focus on the individual, empowering them not just by giving handouts but empowering them by doing something to their knowledge and change mindset at the heart level,” said Ole Sapit.

He said this is because change can only happen at the heart level and mind level before being able to manipulate what they can physically produce in a more sustainable way.

The archbishop said Kenyans desperately needs hope that the leaders today will make the right decisions that will secure their futures and that of their children.

He said leaders should be able to involve Kenyans and make the right decisions for the benefit of all Kenyans.

“Let us engage in the process of making the right decisions for posterity, not decisions around my interest, my needs or myself,” said the ACK Archbishop.

He said religious leaders are called to serve the society and not individuals.

Macron Comments Provoke Mideast Ire, Boycotts Of French Goods

Macron Comments Provoke Mideast Ire, Boycotts Of French Goods

Calls to boycott French goods are growing in the Arab world and beyond, after President Emmanuel Macron criticized Islamists and vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Macron’s comments, on Wednesday, came in response to the beheading of a teacher, Samuel Paty, outside his school in a suburb outside Paris earlier this month, after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a class he was leading on free speech.

The teacher became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material — the same images that unleashed a bloody assault by Islamist gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the original publisher, in January 2015.

Caricatures of Mohammed are forbidden by Islam.

On Saturday, Jordan’s foreign ministry said it condemns the “continued publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed under the pretext of freedom of expression” and any “discriminatory and misleading attempts that seek to link Islam with terrorism.”

It did not directly criticize Macron, although the French president had on Wednesday also contended that Paty was “killed because Islamists want our future”.

But Jordan’s opposition Islamic Action Front party called on the French president to apologize for his comments and urged citizens in the kingdom to boycott French goods.

Such boycotts are already underway in Kuwait and Qatar.

Dozens of Kuwaiti stores are boycotting French products, with images on social media showing workers removing French Kiri and Babybel processed cheese from shelves.

In Doha, an AFP correspondent saw workers stripping shelves of French-made St. Dalfour jams and Saf-Instant yeast in a branch of the Al Meera supermarket chain on Saturday.

Al Meera competes with French supermarket chains Monoprix and Carrefour for market share in the lucrative Qatari grocery sector.

Al Meera and another grocery operator, Souq Al Baladi, released statements late Friday saying they would pull French products from stores until further notice.

They stopped short of explicitly naming Macron or citing his comments, but the Al Meera statement said customer “comments guided our actions”.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan — the president of Turkey and a major ally of Qatar — on Saturday slammed Macron over his policies toward Muslims, saying that the French president needed “mental checks.”

“What can one say about a head of state who treats millions of members from different faith groups this way: first of all, have mental checks,” Erdogan said in a televised address.

Before Macron’s comments on Wednesday, he had already sparked a backlash in early October when he said “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world”.

Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council called Macron’s words “irresponsible” on Friday, and said they would “increase the spread of a culture of hatred”.

The same day, Qatar University wrote on Twitter that following “the deliberate abuse of Islam and its symbols”, French Cultural Week would be postponed indefinitely, in a context where 2020 is the France-Qatar year of culture.

Many Jordanians have changed their profiles on Facebook to add the message “Respect Mohammad the Prophet of Allah (God)”.