These are absurd times with Deputy President William Ruto as the Opposition Leader!

These are absurd times with Deputy President William Ruto as the Opposition Leader!

The ‘Handshake’ did a great disservice to civil society. Oh my, didn’t it! During the heady days of ‘Machozi Mondays’ (so-called because of the heavy tear gas the police would bring to bear), thousands of demonstrators would pour into Nairobi streets at the command of Raila Odinga and his Opposition colleagues.

The business would be paralyzed. Sirens would scream the whole day as truckloads of riot-control police officers were brought in to counter the protesters.

Violent clashes between the two sides were the norm.

It was the practice of civil society groups to piggyback on these demos to advance their agenda of the moment.

It was a scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours situation. A symbiosis. Raila would guarantee the availability of the troops and the artillery.

ODM’s civil society allies would craft the battle plan, the strategic demands if you like. Neither side, of course, wanted the connection to be too obvious. Yet it was there.

Even when the authorities feigned indifference, you knew the turmoil happening on the capital city’s streets had their highest attention.

Indeed, the Government eventually had to relent on reforming the IEBC, which was the focus of the ‘Machozi Mondays’ demos.

In retrospect, civil society was more like the parasite living off a host. But it worked great while it lasted.

After the ‘Handshake’ abruptly ended the relationship, the parasite has since fallen on hard times.

It has become almost inconsequential. Very voluble on Twitter, but impotent on the ground.

A week ago we saw a Law Society of Kenya platoon, led by that drama queen Nelson Havi, walk to Parliament Buildings to effect a “takeover” they had threatened following Chief Justice David Maraga’s unimplemented advisory to dissolve Parliament.

In the days past, the Opposition would have been expected, as a matter of course, to join in with their shock troops. Parliament Road would have been a sea of shouting demonstrators, many wielding rocks.

As it were, only a handful of LSK officials turned up. On hand were a couple or so policemen. They were not even armed.

The Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Michael Sialai, had no problem inviting the group to his office where he airily restated that Parliament was a constitutional body with its own procedures.

The team then went over to the lounge for a cup of tea, before being sent on their way. What an anti-climax!

If the Clerk had not been wearing his Covid face mask, I bet we would have seen a cheeky smirk on his face. National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi was not bothered to interrupt his schedule to meet the visitors.

One early afternoon some months back, I was driving on Kenyatta Avenue when I noticed a small, straggly group of youngish fellas gathered around the edge of Central Park. They couldn’t have been more than two dozen. They looked like protesters; they had some placards they were holding, rather listlessly.

I couldn’t quite make out which civil society group they belonged to, or what cause they were on about. People busy with other things were passing them by without giving them a second glance.

There was not a single baton-wielding policeman in sight. It is the presence of these law-and-order enforcers that affirms that a demonstration has gained the status of seriousness.

Their absence means you are of zero consequence. That’s a serious assault to the ego. The great bitterness towards Raila and the ‘Handshake’’ exhibited by the militant wing of civil society should be understood in this context.

His withdrawal from the barricades has been like the denial of oxygen to the lungs. Or the fuel civil society needs to make an impact. In an instant, the ‘Handshake’ messed up careers. Peeved activists now hiss that the ‘Handshake’ was a ‘Handcheque’.

Enter Tangatanga

We have yet to see them display their street credentials in Nairobi. Your guess is as good as mine whether they can marshal the kind of demonstrations the Opposition used to organize. Sure, Deputy President William Ruto has been attracting disgruntled civil society activists to his corner like moths to a bulb.

Maybe they have fallen in love with wheelbarrows. Still, these journeymen know what it means to have the street chops of Raila. The DP certainly won’t be leading any street protests any time soon. The demographics of Nairobi don’t favor him. This contrasts with Raila who, through a single word, will bring out Kibra and fill Uhuru Park to capacity.

Imagine a foreign dignitary dropping by to gauge the prevailing mood in the country. Say, a guy like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It is customary after they meet with government honchos they schedule a session with leaders of the Opposition.

Who would Pompeo meet as the alternative voice to the Governments? Raila? Nah, unless he meets him as the backup voice to that of officialdom.

Ruto? That’s more plausible if the visiting bigwig wants to hear the current opposition vibe. Do you begin to see the absurdity of our situation?

A State where the DP has morphed into being the active opposition to the Government he sits in? Well, well, well.

The Clergy Must Go Easy on Political Money

The Clergy Must Go Easy on Political Money

As Kenyans gear up for a long and bitterly contentious 2022 presidential election, their message to religious leaders and institutions couldn’t be clearer: Keep out.

Politicians have simply taken away the pulpit from the clergy that seems just very happy with the status quo. Turn to the TV news each Sunday evening and the script is the same, only different cast and different stages.

Politicians use the hallowed pulpits to hurl insults at each other and our pastors are doing nothing to stop the rot.

If our pastors were careful to read their bibles, they might have stumbled on the story of Moses and the burning bush, where God told Moses to remove his sandals for where he was standing was holy.

Deputy President William Ruto is among leaders who have perfected the art of using pulpits to take his messages directly to the people

The common entry point is through fundraisers. The purpose is to conduct political campaigns. These are no longer done covertly. They are carried out quite brazenly.

Sure, we’ve seen Catholic parishes fall prey to the same seductive lure of moneyed politicos who don’t even pretend they are coming to church to pray.

Still, there are ground rules the Catholics lay down to ensure they are in control of the proceedings. To start with, no political speeches until Mass is concluded. Local bishops must also approve invitations to politicians for high-profile church functions. This curbs any tendency by a parish priest to hobnob with any Mike Sonko or Oscar Sudi he fancies.

By and large, the Catholic Church’s mainstream brethren in Kenya – denominations like the Anglicans, the Presbyterians, and certain others – have defined ground rules, too. Their clergy must remain non-partisan and show it by word, especially when at the pulpit. Whether the clergy adhere to these rules is another matter. In many cases, they don’t. Hence the relative ease with which political figures entwine themselves around the churches to gain mileage.

In all these cases, the clergy’s motivation is money. They have a healthier appetite for banknotes than for the Gospel they preach.

This problem is far worse in the Evangelical (or is it Pentecostal?) outfits. Not all of them, to be sure. There are many that are strait-laced and keep the politicians seeking to use them at arm’s length. But there are other less respectable ones whose leaders are just a bunch of greedy charlatans.

They will even allow the politician guest-of-honor, and his entourage, to make their political pitch from the pulpit.

The pastors will go as far as tailoring the sermon of the day to the politician’s taste. These are not churches any more but marketplaces. The Gospel of Matthew 21:13 says it all.

I’ll give it to the Muslims: they don’t allow these kinds of shenanigans by politicians in mosques.

As in many things, the churches have discretion on who to invite to grace their functions. This discretion is important because politicians, when left to themselves, have a very poor sense of distinguishing which events would be inappropriate for them to attend or where their presence would cause tension. They would just be gate-crashing every house-warming event insight.

It is, therefore, up to the church leaders to exercise prudence when extending invitations for their fundraisers. Let’s not forget that the politicians don’t just invite themselves to these functions. They get invited by the church leaders.

Here is an example all churches should emulate. Sometime in October last year, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops drew up new rules to govern fundraisers organized by Catholic churches. They were responding to a national outcry that some sleazy political leaders were using church fundraisers to sanitize money acquired through corruption.

Henceforth, the bishops decreed, contributions would be channeled through mobile money transfers, or by cheque. This would avoid the handling of large amounts of cash. But more importantly, it would leave a clear trail of the donors.

The second requirement was that any gift to a religious leader of the church should be accompanied by an acknowledgment letter from the donor. Records would also be kept of all gifts exceeding Sh.50,000. The gifts would be acknowledged by a replying letter.

Next, lists and accounts of all fundraising initiatives and projects being undertaken by the Church would be kept open for public scrutiny.

One particularly relevant directive was the banning of political speeches inside churches and at Catholic Church-officiated funerals. No addresses of a non-liturgical nature were to be allowed within the church confines. Such speeches would be made only outside the church sanctuary.

Finally, a corruption complaints desk would be opened at the diocesan offices where the public is welcome to report such complaints.

The measures were to run for six months initially. I don’t know whether that period was extended. If not, they should. What I do remember was the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, who were in the thick of investigating major corruption cases, profusely thanking the Catholic Church for this initiative.

The other churches should clean up their act. They can leave the politicians to do their roadshows. Just don’t allow them to pollute your sacred spaces!

Trust issues: Reconciliation won’t serve Uhuru well

Trust issues: Reconciliation won’t serve Uhuru well

The differences between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto run deep. One is undermining the other. Obviously, the DP is undermining the President with his remarks. The remarks he makes, especially in his mother-tongue, are usually derogatory.

Do you think one will trust the other even if they sit at a table and agree? No. When the DP goes on the campaign trail, it portrays the President as doing nothing. There is no way the President can accept this. This clearly shows that the problem is deep-seated.

The efforts to reconcile the two are appreciated. However, an arrangement where Uhuru is reconciled with his deputy does not serve him well. Suppose they get back together and restore the UhuRuto pact, the DP is likely to hit back. Together with his allies, they have already shown their fangs and what they can do. I don’t think President Kenyatta will sit easily with such a deal.

The two sides – Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga – are already on the warpath and rapprochement would mean some will lose their political careers. They do not want that. Remember that this war is a career opportunity for some people.

People like Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kichumba Murkomen have made a career out of conflict and love such kind of situations. In a scenario where that conflict goes, then you are also messing their careers. These are career war men.

Look at how they fought ODM leader Raila Odinga after his handshake with President Kenyatta. They fought because they were losing out after building a career out of fighting the former Prime Minister.

Their careers will be messed with if the fight between Uhuru and Ruto ends and the two go back to working together as they did before the 2013 and 2017 general elections.

Senator Murkomen is what he is because he is fighting and abusing the Uhuru and Raila side. The same applies to Sudi. If you remove Raila and Uhuru, who will they abuse?

Make State Corporations And Enterprises Growth Enablers

Make State Corporations And Enterprises Growth Enablers

In Kenya, as in many other countries, State corporations and enterprises are known to be the critical engine of productive economic activities.

Globally, it is estimated that at least one-third of the world’s gross product and one-half of the world’s profitable public investments are accounted for by governmental enterprises or corporations. These State firms perform crucial functions and are found in almost all sectors.

According to the Inspectorate of State Corporations, there are about 220 State corporations and enterprises. They are the engine for driving the Kenyan economy and the achievement of Vision 2030, Kenya one, Kenya first, Kenya the best.

They run electric utilities, broadcasting and postal services, national irrigation projects, railroads, airline and airports, sea ports, pension funds, hospitals, public highways, water boards, wildlife, universities, housing schemes, agriculture, livestock trade and micro- and small-enterprises among others. These State organisations are valuable means to ‘rebuild the ship of State’, plank by plank, while it remains steady and afloat.”

The proliferation of State corporations are driven by the fact that they have been recognised as mechanisms, which allows for more autonomy, business like effectiveness, efficiency and agile strategic management than is thought to be available from government bureaucrats.

Public authorities or enterprises represent a kind of managerial capitalism approach, where managers of State enterprises vigorously pursue the interests of the stakeholders, the Kenyan public, in a manner which is effective, revenue- producing and self-sustaining.

The national goals to which State enterprises, and corporations or even commissions are expected to play critical roles are, full employment, economic productivity growth, security and stability. Yet, careful reviews of the past performance of Kenya’s State corporations and enterprises show that whereas some often perform very well, majority of them have crisis with their finances, key stakeholders and effective, sustainable delivery of their mandates, thereby making them a burden on the National Treasury.

For instance, what has happened to Kenya Meat Commission (KMC)? KMC was and still is a State enterprise with great potential, but never gained its foothold. The equivalent of KMC in Zambia is Zambeef.

Zambeef makes annual profit of about Sh300 million. In 1996, Kenya National Transport Company (Kenatco), unable to repay a loan of Sh17 million from National Bank of Kenya, was put under receivership. The loan has grown to Sh1.2 billion. People ask why? Apparently, for the past 24 years, it had hopes of rescue based on a post-dated cheque drawn on a bank above the clouds.

Government Employees and the State Officers Pension Fund have been described as “a time bomb”. The pension bill is expected to rise to more than Sh100 billion annually. This is not sustainable. Buildings cannot be held together by the weight of their roofs rather than by the strength of the foundations.

We could borrow a leaf from South Africa where the value of Government Employees Pension Fund is more than $180billion. Despite all these challenges, the State corporations and enterprises can be engineered to become the pride of the nation, super achievers.

There are two sides to the progressive improvements of organisations, the external and the internal. Reinventing a new strategic vision for State corporations or enterprises is no different. The logic of nature and the reality power of wisdom complement one another.

Leaders of State corporations and enterprises are expected to be high class, agile professionals, knowledge workers, who can manage well complexity, change, and the political environment and service delivery systems.

They are expected to be good in empowering their staff, clarifying and balancing among goals and conducting strategic planning. Only can the country overcome the challenges of what Prof Ali Mazrui described as ‘the pathology of mal-administration, technical backwardness and poverty of ideas.’

In short, the country’s corporations and enterprises have no choice, but to deliver their assigned mandates, results effectively for the nation to achieve its goals, Vision 2030 and the President’s Big Four Agenda.

The Ministry of Public Service and Gender should lead the way in this regard. It should organise a summit for all State corporations, enterprises, authorities and commissions to map out the best ways forward to make them super achievers of their mandates. The country’s promise and goals deserve nothing less.

Ruto should keep his political mischief out of worship places

Ruto should keep his political mischief out of worship places

Recent events in which political antagonism, without shame whatsoever, caused disruption in places of worship in parts of the country are worrisome.

It appears the line between political and spiritual space is narrowing by day, something that those of us who believe in God should seriously reflect upon. These spaces ought to be mutually exclusive.

What are the grave concerns over disruptions in places of worship?

Let us start by ruling out the erroneous belief that politicians do not know places of worship are sacrosanct. We know that they, like anyone else who believes in God, actually worship. Many of them are active in their places of worship.

However, the new trend in which political rustlers walk into a place of worship and get away with acts that are disrespectful to the practice of worship says a lot about the unmet needs in places of worship.

Of course, political motives in causing the disruptions are at play. We also know some places of worship are commercial enterprises. But the focus here is on well-founded and religious institutions.

Learning from the COVID-19 experience during which worship places were closed and therefore no tithes were offered, we know that worship is incomplete without financial support. Prayer is not as simple as kneeling to speak to God.

It involves a whole community as well as the persons responsible for ensuring the environment of worship is conducive. On their part, many religious leaders struggled to meet their upkeep.

Moreover, the role of worshippers in sustaining the activities around worship became quite apparent. In fact, some of the places of worship are yet to recover from the negative effects of closing.

Over time, the needs in many places of worship have become either increasingly higher than the worshippers can afford, or the worshippers are not forthcoming enough. This is where the political actors come in as good Samaritans.

They know financial support is indeed an important component of sustaining a conducive place and practice of worship. With ready funds that are neither loans nor complicated to apply for, politicians walk in to needy grounds and generously provide the much needed support.

But this is where there is a catch 22. On the one hand, the political ‘good Samaritans’ know places of worship are sacrosanct and so make themselves appear like people of good will. Probably they are actually people of goodwill.

On the other hand, nothing much is given for free in this Kenya of ours. They donate but in return expect political support. This differentiates them from financially well-endowed people who support religious activities without seeking some form of returns. The latter group is very important in sustaining worship practices and the needs therein.

The first concern arising from worship disruptions is that it reduces the meaning and sanctity of places of worship. The last place anyone should show disrespect is a place of worship because that is where worshippers meet with God.

The second concern is that those giving financial support for religious purposes will begin to believe their money is so important that without it, worshipping will limp. Further, it will make religious leaders appear like beggars. Yet, financial support should never dictate the pace and practice of worship.

It should never make the faithful shift their attention from God to their fellow human beings. So long as the faithful own their place of worship, the little they are able to raise should suffice for the needs of their prayer practice in a broad sense.

The third concern is that the faithful will begin to think their little contributions cannot make a difference in their development plans. Big money by big ‘men and women’ is the only way of sustaining religious development.

Big Four agenda is the antidote to ‘hustler’ nation

Big Four agenda is the antidote to ‘hustler’ nation

Last Friday the World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, a strong affirmation of the critical link between peace, politics, and socio-economics.

The award has a strong bearing on the current volatile situation in Kenya – a polarised political environment, economic hardships, and a looming food security crisis amid a pandemic.

WFP’s Nobel award demonstrates how far we are from achieving the goals the founders of our nation set out to eradicate at independence after a protracted struggle for freedom from colonialism – poverty, illiteracy, and disease.

Goals that remain elusive to date as we contend with the “hustler nation versus dynasty” parody making a mockery of our conscience and constitutional principles as the gravity of hunger and disease continues to haunt citizens.

Hunger is the clearest manifestation of the high poverty levels in our nation and the irony of an atrocious gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Yet the political class unashamedly continues to flaunt half-baked attempts to address poverty and inequities.

As Kenyans await the unveiling of the final report of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), its initiators have vital lessons to learn from the award given to WFP to guide them in driving an integrated national/county government socio-economic growth program.

Since inception in 1901 named in the will of Swedish industrialist, inventor, and arms manufacturer Alfred Nobel, the prize has been the subject of controversies, due to its political nature.

The prize is awarded to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition of or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

Notable winners include Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, and Kenya’s very own Wangari Maathai recognized for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.

WFP won for its efforts to combat a surge in global hunger as the Coronavirus pandemic causes devastation across the world.

A recognition of the untiring efforts of generations of humanitarian workers worldwide to defeat hunger.

Kenya is among many countries facing the threat of food insecurity, COVID-19, adding to this threat as the United Nations reports that there will likely be 265 million “starving people within a year”.

The impending global hunger pandemic, partly a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, should sound alarm bells for the authorities as Kenyans await the final BBI report.

Eradication of hunger should be one of the BBI’s priorities to achieve national peace and political and economic stability.

President Uhuru Kenyatta can counter the “hustler nation” narrative gaining traction within the hungry, poverty-stricken population, mostly the youth who easily fall prey to the allure of simplistic politically-laden “development gifts”.

Increased funding for his legacy ‘Big Four’ agenda, County governments, and the National Youth Service (NYS) provide a viable, achievable platform for inclusive growth and transformation to alleviate hunger, extreme poverty, and youth unemployment.

Food security is the most realistically attainable of the Big Four pillars through adequate funding for protection and inclusion in agriculture and the blue economy.

With the economy in the intensive care unit (ICU), uncertainty over COVID-19, the leadership must urgently address the political contestations that have exacerbated the social justice and human rights drama currently playing out in the public gallery.