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Monthly Archives: May 2011

An Open Letter to H.E. Hon. Emilio Mwai Kibaki, E.G.H., M.P., President of the Republic of Kenya

H.E. Hon. Emilio Mwai Kibaki, C.G.H., M.P.

President of the Republic of Kenya

State House

Nairobi, Kenya

                                    Re: Implementation of the New Constitution

 Dear President Kibaki:

I have previously written to you regarding what at that time appeared to be a looming crisis involving the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s pursuit of six suspects its Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, found in his investigation to be the most responsible for the post-election violence (PEV) that befell our country in early 2008. Fortunately, the then looming crisis appears to have dissipated and I must thank you in behalf of all Kenyans for having at least diffused the issue with your continued cooperation with ICC.

Like most Kenyans, however, it is our wish and prayer that ICC does not rise up again as a volatile issue but instead let the process go on to an acceptable conclusion of one way or the other, when it does or otherwise let there be as a resolution of PEV with finality much in the same manner and spirit which underscored the ending of the violence in the first place with your agreement with Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Raila to form a coalition government.

That being the case, Your Excellency, you will agree the coalition government has not worked or delivered as envisioned prior to its formation. Indeed, the question is not whether or not the coalition government has worked or delivered as envisioned before its formation, clearly it has not; rather, the question is why it has not done so.

Your Excellency, a number of reasons can be cited why the coalition government has not optimized its potential for the benefit of our country but almost all of them evolve around the question of politics and specifically, succession politics.

Your Excellency, if I may, it was once suggested by one Charles Mugane Njonjo, then Attorney General, that it was a criminal offence to discuss the succession of a president while he was in office. Although the context and circumstances in which Mr. Njonjo drew his dagger is different from the current succession politics as you well know since you were in the Cabinet at that time, the current obsession with your succession by some politicians is in the final analysis equally counterproductive, polemic and potentially explosive to our country’s detriment.

Your Excellency, while it is okay and normal for politicians to position themselves in whatever manner they deem necessary for their political welfare and survival upon your retirement, it cannot be their sole obsession at the expense of the country which needs them to do what they have been elected to do, including passing laws to make sure the new Constitution is implemented promptly and on schedule.

For this reason, Your Excellency, I in behalf of all Kenyans urge you to whip to action Members of Parliament allied to you and your party so that they stop stalling implementation of the Constitution which clearly a number of them are bent on doing.

I would make the same appeal to the Rt. Honorable Prime Minister Raila but it does not appear any of the Members of Parliament allied to him or his party have shown any desire to stall implementation of the Constitution.

A good way, Your Excellency, to do this, namely, to ensure that the Constitution is implemented according to schedule and without delay, is to immediately direct your Vice President, Kalonzo Musyoka, to stop his antics in Parliament, including his efforts to have a duly elected Chairman of a key committee on implementation ousted by politically motivated but illegal and unconstitutional means.

Most Kenyans believe, Your Excellency, that your Vice President campaigned during the day in support of the draft constitution during the referendum but was opposed to it at night and thus the coining of the term “Watermelon” to refer to those who like him were openly and publicly in support of passage of the draft but quietly and privately rooting for its failure.

Your Excellency, while it was okay for Kenyans with good intentions to oppose passage of the new Constitution for one reason or another, and others not being too excited with its passage, it is wrong and unacceptable for any of them to now use Parliamentary tactics to stall or defeat implementation of the Constitution.

Neither this writer nor any Kenyan he knows believe Your Excellency could stand for that kind of an affront on Kenyans, namely, impeding implementation of the Constitution which was overwhelmingly approved by a jubilant nation leading to all the fanfare of promulgation on August 27, 2010, a date firmly set in the history books as one of our best if not the best.

You have made wise and even politically difficult decisions for the sake of the country before, including most recently your decision to withdraw the nominees to the constitutional offices which paved way to the ongoing appointment process.

Your wisdom and leadership, Your Excellency, is once again called upon to stop those plotting to frustrate or impede implementation of the constitution from carrying forth their plans at the expense of the nation.

These are incidentally the same people who are also doubly engaged in succession politics that are of no use or benefit to the country as a whole.

Regarding succession politics, Your Excellency, one can assume that you have an interest in who succeeds you as president upon your retirement. This is, indeed, a natural thing to do that is as normal as breathing for anyone in your position therefore nobody is making any issue of what desires Your Excellency might have, if any, respecting this issue.

However, what this writer and all Kenyans ask is that whatever your desire or preference is with respect to succession, Your Excellency, you must above all put country first and make sure we have a peaceful and orderly transition of the presidency preceded by a period of campaigning and elections that is equally peaceful and orderly.

This, namely, putting the country first in the succession politics and peaceful and orderly transition of the presidency would be the single most important gift you will give the country besides the new Constitution that you and the Rt. Honorable Prime Minister Raila so tirelessly and commendably worked together to ensure its passage and your otherwise significant contributions to the country as a Cabinet Minister, Vice President and now President.

This is our prayer and may God give you the wisdom and tenacity to deliver it for us.

Sincerely,

/s

Samuel N. Omwenga, Esq.

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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in Siasa

 

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Prof. Kiyiapi Is An Excellent Technocrat But More Is Needed and Necessary to Be President

A fellow Kenyan posted in another forum regarding Prof. Kiyiapi and those questioning whether the professor has what it takes to run and be elected president of Kenya. The writer noted, “I am uncomfortable people asking newcomers ‘what have you done’ to be president. The question applies to people who have been in office/public office most of their life.”

My response:

While comfort is a subjective value, I cannot see why asking any presidential candidate the question what has he done presidential, is not the right thing to do. A person must demonstrate they are capable of handling the peculiar demands of being a leader of a country and noting past experiences to inform in that regard is, in fact, a must for anyone who wishes to be so elected.

Put another way, the Professor is one of many equally intelligent and competent Kenyans who, if that were the only criteria to run for president, we’ll have a field of candidates so large it will not be necessary to hold presidential elections. There is a reason we have a limited number of candidates running for the high office and not the least of that is the absence of candidates with the requisite experience and skill to handle both politics and policy among the would be contenders.

Note I am not questioning the Professor’s competency or his work as P.S. as others have; from all I can tell the man is like any other P.S. who by definition are not average in competence and ability. Indeed, the list of our country’s ills is long but you cannot include in that list the lack of skilled technocrats who each president from Kenyatta on knows are essential if the cash-flow to their pockets from the public till is to be maintained.

BTW, have you ever stopped to wonder how after decades of pillaging our country still has a relatively respectable GDP? If so, look no further than the PS office and the men and women who head it. But for them, the country would have been in total economic collapse a long time ago. I can also tell you even in the worst of times, countries, businesses, and individuals continually enter into contractual obligations with counterparts in Kenya regardless of who is president and the state of the economy because of one little known fact: these contracts endure in Kenya no matter the economic or political climate, which also partially explains our economic survival despite all of what we have gone through.

Imagine what it would be like if we did not have the impediments we have had chief among them corruption.

But I digress. My point is, our country is blessed with many a talented Kenyan, including technocrats like Prof. Kiyiapi’s who have helped keep the country functioning even in the face of all forms of maladies.

This does not mean, however, that if you pluck any one of these individuals and plant him or her at State House he or she will do an equally superb job there; far from it as that’s a totally different animal altogether.

Having said all that, let me say I wish the good professor nothing but good luck as he embarks on his sojourn. Given the empty rhetoric we have heard and had from all the other candidates challenging Raila, it will be healthy to have him in the mix as long as he does not succumb to the politics of ukabila and deceit which afflicts and guides the rest of the pack other than Raila.

Peace, Love and Unity.

Samuel N. Omwenga, Esq.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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My Response to Concerns, False Claims and Accusations Against Raila II

The following is my response to someone who posted a number of accusations against Raila and from those accusations the writer attempts to create the impression Raila is not electable as president. I have previously responded to similar but somewhat different accusations elsewhere on my blog but have done so here again as they seem to be in a continuum.

My response to the accuser:

First, allow me the pleasure of quoting you about something you have said in response to someone else on this forum that is apt as applied to your own posting below and that is, as you said, “Now brother, did you ever hear of a fellow who was asked to provide evidence for the Resurrection of Christ and he tabled thirteen pieces of serious evidence, only to be told: Apart from these thirteen, do you have any other?”

I like what your point out in this quote, namely, some people you just can’t convince no matter what evidence you put before them on an issue and this is precisely my point in my blog Some People You Just Can’t Satisfy No Matter How Good A Leader You Are. For example, in the US, where “birthers,” more recently led by their chief birther, Donald the Dump Trump have been demanding for a long time that President Barrack Obama produce his “long form” birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States. When he finally did so recently before ending the life of Osama Bin Laden, a survey conducted after he produced the legal document proving he was born in Hawaii, the 50th state of the United States, shows that 14% still believe he was not born in the US!

So, let me not try to put forth the evidence here as to Raila’s accomplishments as a student, engineer, lecturer, businessman, party leader, nationalist, reformer, uniter, MP for Kibera, Minister, Prime Minister, and Peace Maker for there are those who may still want me to table some more in order to accept the fact he is presidential material but I don’t have the time to and neither is it necessary.

I am nonetheless sure most of those reading this here now know what that evidence is but as in all campaigns, I am also sure Raila will serve himself well by informing those who don’t know what that evidence is is, while reminding those who have forgotten what it is and otherwise making the case why his record clearly shows he is the more qualified and prepared candidate to be elected president among all those who seek that office last time and this time around.

Having said that, let me try and respond to some of your concerns, accusations and charges:

You say, “He [Raila] has failed in all his terms of being in government to bring any visible or meaningful change in the lives of the people he claims to represent, viz, the Kibera people. The development in Kibera and the efforts to bring change there are largely the work of NGOs.

I will not insult your intelligence to say Raila is not an MP for Kibera but an MP for Langata, of which Kibera is a part of. Both the rich and poor of Langata Constituency have elected and re-elected him ever since he first sought to represent them.

As to tabling evidence of this, please note what I have said above. You may also want to read a blog I have posted about An Online Comment By A Kenyan Regarding Raila and Kibera which is a comment from a fellow Kenyan addressing a similar accusation against Raila.

You say, “Raila seriously failed to unite the country at the most difficult time in our history when he had the power to[sic]. We are looking at the P.E.V of 2007-2008. Instead he was calling for mass action.” 

I have to believe you say this in all sincerity and not just lobbing a baseless charge against Raila. I am also surprised you have either fallen victim of lies, distortions, misinformation and propaganda or you have refused to accept truth as reality. Just so this is absolutely clear for those who have been equally confused and led to believe otherwise, ODM’s call for mass action in the face of flagrantly stolen elections in early January 2008 was not a call for violence; never was and never would it have been.

Rather, Raila and ODM initially planned but ultimately did not call for peaceful demonstrations across the country intended to jolt Kibaki and company to reality akin to what we have seen recently in Tunisia and Morocco where the citizenry said enough is enough for being exploited and abused by a government that had no respect or regard for them.

As an aside note, I have often told my friends the story how on one of the days a peaceful demonstration was to take place in early January 08 in Nairobi, a Maasai friend of mine and I went downtown ready to demonstrate, parked our car at Serena, walked across to a sea of GSU along Uhuru Highway and I remember my friend confronting a number of them and questioning why they were even there; I mean one by one down a line but none would say a thing.

My friend and I concluded two things from this brief peaceful encounter: One, having looked at them close face as we did–fearless I may add; I less than my Maasai friend:-)–we noticed even in their riot gear these were young boys and girls, not the hardened soldiers we had expected. Two, you could sense many of them did not want to be there to begin with, something that gave us heart.

But I digress. My point is, Raila only intended to call for mass action for peace. The violence that ensued had nothing to do with his desire to have the nation tell Kibaki he could not deny the will of the people at will.

You say, “I have a letter I wrote pleading that the two of them, he and Kibaki, tour the country and hold peace rallies, but it did not happen when it was most needed. Thus, I was convinced he did not have the will nor the ability to do so.”

I commend you for writing a letter asking the two leaders to hold peace rallies during that difficult time. Although it is not clear whether that letter was sent or that it ever reached either of them, Raila was already calling for peaceful demonstrations from day 1 so it is not true that “he did not have the will nor the ability to do so.”

The sum of this tragic stain in our history is this my brother, but for Raila’s quest for peaceful resolution of the crisis and ultimately his willingness to compromise far more than Kibaki ever did, we would not be talking about the same Kenya today; we probably still be at war that’s why we ought to be ever so grateful for how things turned out and let’s not be foolish again as we head into the next elections for history does have the uncanny ability to repeat itself.

Let’s hope and pray not; above all, let’s just be smart about this and conduct our affairs in a peaceful, orderly manner and may the best candidate be elected and sworn as president this time and for all future elections.

You say “We have been testing several leaders on the aspect of nepotism/tribalism. Raila is literally worshiped by his community and we need evidence that he has been free from nepotism in his government departments.

Two things I can say about this: (1) I think you meant to say Raila is greatly admired and liked in his community; this is, in fact, a good thing and one indicator the person is likeable as a leader (2) if your criteria for electing our next president is one free of nepotism, I am afraid we may have to amend our Constitution to allow foreigners to run for president for there is not a single Kenyan holding any office with responsibility to hire can be free of this charge or prove otherwise in the case he or she has hired someone simply because of merit and the person happens to be from his or her village.

This is not to say we should not strife to end nepotism as a vice; we should and must do so. As in many of the problems we need to fix, including corruption, Raila is the better qualified candidate to fix these problems.

You say, [Raila’s] comments on the Ngilu scandles [sic] have left many of us appalled. I wish he came out strongly on the issues of graaft as to demonstrate he is against them [totally].

Raila’s record for fighting against corruption and graft is clear and most Kenyans know and support him on his efforts and that’s all I really need to say about this.

You say, “[the] way he approached a serious document of our nation such as the Constitution was wanting. He did not operate within a democratic position. His remarks during that period were extremely partisan.

I actually need to post a full blog on this but let me not and just say this: you are wrong. Both Raila and Kibaki get major kudos for working beautifully and effectively together to pass the new Constitution and so does the resiliency of our people.

I remember attending one of the rallies held at Afraha Stadium just before the big vote and being simply happy to see the two principals there like old friends notwithstanding what happened in 07/08 and since. It was to me a refreshing reminder even in dire straits, there is hope.

After the Constitution passed and I returned to Nairobi on August 27, 2010 for its promulgation, a bit of the same sense of nationalism and euphoria we experienced in 2002 returned with me as well.

Unlike you, I am grateful for Raila and Kibaki having prevailed in getting the new constitution passed into law and I am confident we can surpass the euphoria of 2002 and the 2010 promulgation in the coming elections but only if people can pause and reflect what a beautiful and desirable occasion that is than its alternative.

You say, “No wonder the document remains difficult to implement.

Difficulties in implementing the Constitution have nothing to do with Raila but everything to do with those who never wanted the new constitution passed to begin with but the news for them is this: they had better wake up and smell the coffee. The train left the station a long time ago and is headed to its destination nothing will stop it; not them not anything else for the resolve and will of the people is monumental and unbreakable to overcome now and for generations to come.

You say, “[Raila] does not operate on principles but power games. His track record in moving from one party to another when his way did not go, is worrying.

Please worry no more; Raila’s party affiliations like any politician is to advance his political objectives but unlike most if not all of these politicians, his party affiliation or affiliations has always been and continues to be national in scope and nature which is just fine and acceptable by all.

You say, “I could go on, but I need to go back to my books.”

I hope one of those books is, Raila: An Enigma In Kenyan Politics by Oseloka Obaze. You might learn one or two new things about the man in the book.

Peace, Love and Unity.

Samuel N. Omwenga, Esq.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Siasa

 

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The Ongoing Scrutiny of CJ Candidates In Kenya Is Long Overdue and Good for the Country.

The ongoing public scrutiny of shortlisted candidates for Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice is an exercise which is long overdue and good for the country. It is a  testament of how far we have come in recognizing the fact that transparency and accountability are not just words to be spat around without meaning. It is also one practical example of how gone are the days when the president handpicked and appointed people to these important offices without regard to qualification leading to the decay of institutions we must now revitalize and clean-up.

I must, however, say I was quite surprised the ghost of JM Kariuki came back to haunt one Justice Lee Muthoga who equally surprisingly had detailed recollection of names and information of this case he handled 40+ years ago. I think it was inappropriate to dig that far but having answered the questions, Justice Muthoga must have expected and deemed them not be other than the small grenades they are aimed at dashing his hopes of becoming the Chief Justice.

Be as it may be, we should nonetheless screen and appoint someone as Chief Justice who has the judicial temperament, vision and certainly positive reformist attributes to reform the judiciary, not a purist.

Justice Muthoga has not been the only victim of Judicial Service Commission (JSC)’s Abdulahi Ahmednasir, who has irritably albeit interestingly become a thorn in the flesh for these men and women who suddenly have found themselves forced to publicly explain the impossible: rulings without basis in law or fact.

Fending off sharp accusations from commissioner Ahmednasir that he was the “common denominator” in key cases Ahmednasir alleged were “fixed to serve State interests under the Moi regime” and the Court of Appeal and that the Court of Appeals where the justice now sits “dispenses justice on the basis of whims and bribery,” Justice Omollo struggled to maintain his calm but sought to inform the commission he was no man’s lap poodle: “I have earned my promotion not as a poodle of any individual,” the justice declared, “ I have never attached myself to any particular politician. My mind is not tunnelled.” The Justice lectured.

How is a mind “tunnelled,” you ask? Good question; my answer given the good justice’s response would be when a judge’s mind is either not working at all or if working doing so under the influence of cash and/or threat without regard to the law one is supposed to apply to reach an outcome desired by the one supplying the cash and/or threats or if applying the law, then doing so in a tortured manner so as to reach the outcome so desired by the one supplying the cash and/or threats.

Did Justice Omollo acquit himself well? I would say cautiously so. You will be hard put to find a single senior judge who served in the Moi era that was not forced one time or another to render a decision he or she otherwise would not have but for the connection of the case in some way with the Big Man.

Justice Samuel Bosire too, found himself invoking the same poodle defense in countering questions about handling the family law case involving the late lawyer S.M. Otieno in which he ruled in favor of Otieno’s family and against his widow, citing customary law which he still defended as having been the correct decision. Given this is the highlight of his grilling, one can conclude he has thus far had the better of the poodle defense therefore he may be that much closer to getting the nod.

The Reality TV saga goes but the final pick for the top post may be between these two justices, with Justice Kalpana Rawal looming above them in case neither is selected for reasons that surely would have to do with tribal considerations in which case Justice Rawal stands the next most plausible pick, if anything as a tribal compromise.

This is not to say the rest of the finalists are not fit to serve. They are but they cannot be selected for any number of reasons, not the least of which is my favorite and that is, they have not earned their stripes yet. I say this is my favorite because I truly believe in it and it is the same reason I maintain none of the presidential vying pack deserve to be elected other than Raila because they have not earned their stripes yet but Raila has has. I know a few of my friends this really annoys every time I say it but it is true and sometimes truth can be irritating or annoying. Ask any of the justices who are being grilled by JSC.

But that’s for another blog. Back to this one:

Notwithstanding my conclusion that either Justice Omollo or Justice Bosire is ahead of the pack and one of them will finish first, a viewer of Justice Omollo’s interview nonetheless posted the following opposite view to which I respond after the quote:”

“I got a chance to see the interview of Court of Appeal Judge Riaga Omollo on Citizen TV…This was a rare opportunity to see a man who was fronted by the ODM wing of Government, in particular PM Raila OdingaJustice Riaga Omollo was everything that i did not expected such a person to be. He appeared to me a very tired Judge, who has spent all his life in the at the bar. He did not have the vigor, the energy, the right kind of mindset that is needed during this crucial reform period. His demeanor was pathetic. This man disappointed me. This is a person who belongs to the old generation of people who are wasted. He does not deserve that position.

My response:

I have not seen the interview with Justice Omollo you saw on Citizen TV but I am fairly confident there is someone else who has seen it and has the exact opposite view of Justice Omollo than the one you portray, namely, that Justice Omollo is energetic, sharp, articulate and has full command of the English language and the language of law.

These are the qualities that led to his quiet rise to the top at the Judiciary where he remains today and ditto for being the preferred natural successor to Gicheru as head of the Supreme Court and judiciary other than Justice Bosire, by those analyzing the existing pool of candidates objectively.

He was certainly not “fronted” by Raila in the sense you use that word here to suggest something sinister about Raila and others  otherwise preferring Justice Omollo for the top seat at Judiciary. He was and still is one of the best candidates for the job.

The fact is, if it was strictly a question of merit, Justice Omolo would be an easy meritorious appointment to be our country’s Chief Justice. Ditto for Justice Bosire.

Unfortunately, however, tribal and slanted political considerations may sadly deny these fine jurists this opportunity to be our Chief Justice which they’re unquestionably  qualified to be so appointed.

Let’s hope not and certainly let’s hope the new Chief Justice appointed is a true reformist, intellectual force and visionary to take our judiciary to the next and best level of reliability, accountability and competence much the same as any of the best in Africa and the rest of the world for that matter.

Peace, Love and Unity.

Samuel N. Omwenga, Esq.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2011 in Law

 

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Prof. Kiyiapi Should Have Faced the Men and Women of Existing Parties Instead of Registering A New One.

Prof. James Ole Kiyiapi who is the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education is planning to run for president on a party he apparently recently registered by proxy. Upon learning this, I posted the following blog in another forum:

I was once a very strong proponent of a one party state; I did not think it was necessarily a bad thing, if you had transparency and accountability. When the country was clamoring for multi-partysm, I was not all that gang-ho precisely for what happened in 1992, namely, having a fragmented opposition that failed to defeat Moi who remained in office having only garnered 36.4%, or 26% if you exclude the stuffed boxes with fake votes.

Thanks to improved vote fixing techniques and an opposition that was adamant in refusing to learn from its mistakes from 1992, Moi improved his margin of victory in 1997 from 36.4% to 40% of the vote, or 30% if you exclude the stuffed boxes with fake votes.

Ten per cent (10%) is the vote fixing percentage required of the Commission on Vote Fixing (CVF) each president apparently has operating under the table.

I am still of the same view that we do not need more parties registered in the country; what we need are leaders who can strengthen and work within the existing party structures.

My reasons for opposing multi parties are (1) multi parties do perpetuate tribalism and division and (2) there are only two sides to an issue: right or wrong, depending on what side you are on. If you are in neither, you’ll fall somewhere in the middle therefore we only need 3 parties in Kenya.

By my formula, we should ODM, PNU and everyone else in a one party in opposition to either.

Very healthy for our still growing democracy.

In response to my posting, a reader had the following response:

Ndugu Omwenga:

You have good grounds for your position. I hope that very soon we will be able to parties with clear cut ideologies and probably reduced to 3 strong parties instead of hundreds of parties we now have. Most of the parties are briefcase outfits, many selling tickets to rejects and political prostitutes. 

Another reader was equally supportive of the idea:

Samuel:

ONE PARTY CONCEPT IN KENYA?
I think we need to vote you as the head of Government administration.
YOU ARE ON POINT.

I support you totally. Although i did not understand at the beginning
you started with one party then you ended wtih three. Could you elaborate a little more. And whichever one to me is still worthy exploration. … Why i support that concept is because we are so much inclined to be
entrenched in tribal sectionalism so much so that it is Impossible to
think beyond our tribal boarders. When parties were registered in
Kenya in 92 we had over three hundred parties. Three hundred parties.

Some parties were led by people who could not read and who have never left their home section geographically. Such personalities even for good will sake would not be in a position to advocate more universal and inclusive issues. Hence instead of Kenya promoting progressive ideologies we just preached saga of limited thinking which undermined sense of harmonious outcome.

Therefore I would support you totally. I would think and I have come to believe that we might not have been politically mature enough to articulate our Ideals on national democratic philosophies due to our tribal nonproductive believes.  I have always suggested that we should just have two parties that carries diverse approach in political issues.

Another contributor on this debate chose to differ:

Mr. Omwenga, sir!

I can’t buy what you have said in a million years! Not in Kenya not in ODM not in PNU et al!!

Nominations in kenyan political parties are known to be the most undemocratic what with what happenned with ODM nominations in makandara a few months ago? Wasnt Ndolo given a direct nomination? was that democratic? with the kind of hero worshipping in ODM PNU and other parties, I can bet Kingame/ Kiyiapi did the right thing.I know somebody is getting scared somewhere but this is a new Kenya . Hecko bro kingame- educate them.

My response,

I agree with you the nomination process for all parties often leaves a lot to be desired but that’s not a reason for one to bolt and form his or her own party. If you want to nominate yourself for a presidential run, the Constitution allows you to do so; you don’t need to register a party just so you can so nominate yourself. This is one of the reasons I do not like the idea of multi-parties and intend to push for a 1 or 2 party state, a move which I think will go a long way to end tribal and other divisive politics.

The new party Pro. Kiyapi plans to use to run for president has now published its manifesto. I have not had time to review the manifesto but I doubt there is anything in there new or that has otherwise not been addressed by the existing parties: ODM, PNU and the Rest.

I, however, do not ascribe to the proposition espoused by others that the new party has been formed at the instigation and sponsorship of PNU to muddy the waters in RV.

The party could be formed with all the legitimacy and good intentions to provide a platform for Prof. Kiyiapi to run for president but I still maintain it was not necessary to register the party. Professor Kiyiapi should have worked within existing party structures to pursue his wish to be president and, as I have stated before, if he cannot  secure the nomination from whichever party he chooses, there is always another time. There is no short-cut to the presidency; one must earn their stripes, so to speak and if that includes slogging out with the ladies and gentlemen of the leading parties to get there, then that’s what the Professor has to do to prove he is ready for the big time.

P.S. I will soon post a blog more fully making the case why Kenya should be a 1 or 2 party state and urge my readers to support a move to make it a reality through enactment of a new law to that effect.

Peace, Love and Unity.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in Siasa

 

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Two Opposite Encounters with Kenya Police and Coming Home Conmanship: Lessons Learned

Someone recently made a comment about positive experience they had with Kenya Police in Upper Hill which after reading it, reminded me of an experience my friends and I had in Nairobi a few years ago in 1996 when I was interning at UNEP Gigiri that summer. Nairobi annually hosts study-abroad law students from the US through a program at the Widener School of Law and that year, one of the students happened to be a friend and since I was in Nairobi for the summer myself, we arranged that I pick my friend and her two friends to bring them to my sister’s house where I was staying for a taste of obokima nechingeni (ugali and traditional Kisii vegetables).

On the agreed date and time, I picked my friends from the hostel where they were staying and headed to my sister’s home. Unbeknownst to me, however, my sister’s car I was driving, although fairly new, had a problem where it would stall and not move or start unless, as I found out later, it was manipulated a certain way which I was not familiar with at all.  As we stood there stranded  while I tried to figure what to do, a Police car pulled up with three policemen inside. By this time, it was starting to get dark so we were glad to see the police.  One of the officers came out of the car, approached me and wanted to know what the problem was, to which I told him the car just stalled and would not start.

“No problem!” The policeman assured me, “we’ll call our mechanic and he will find out what’s wrong with it” he added and without a brake in pace inquired, while checking out the obviously non-Kenyan looking ladies in the car, “Where are you from?” I told him I was from Kisii.” He did not believe me one bit as he shenged something to the other 2 cops that I nonetheless could not understand even though born and raised Kenyan from Kisii.

The cops then went on to be very nice to us, especially to the ladies who now were out of the car answering all kinds of questions about their experience in Kenya, etc while we were waiting for the mechanic who soon arrived. As the mechanic opened the hood to do his thing, I remember my friend telling the cops how impressed they were with the service the police were providing and I added to this saying to them in Swahili how this was much needed PR for the force, having heard horror stories about them.

I particularly made the point how impressed we all were that the police will take the time to make sure we were alright and that our car needs were met. The mechanic had the car literally started as I was giving praise to the cops and as I extended my hand say thank you to the one I was talking to, he led me by hand to the side away from the rest and I am sure you have already figured what he quietly asked for: yes, TKK!

The relatively young policeman was very apologetic, though, “Sasa ndugu, hii si kitu yetu, Boss ndiye anataka tusipomupatia, itakua shida.” Needless to say, I coughed up something for what my friends and I initially thought was an act of kindness or at least a service in the true spirit of “Utumishi Kwa Wote.”

Once inside the car and heading to my sister’s, my friends could not stop gushing how nice that was for the cops to stay with us until our car was fixed and even followed us in the direction we were going to make sure we were okay. “This could not happen even back home,” I remember one of them saying.

Which created a dilemma for me: Should I let these American friends leave Nairobi so impressed with the safety and security in our nation’s capital or should I crush their sentiments and tell them we had just become the latest victim of a police shake-down? What would you have done?

My children might read this so I’ll let them answer before I say what I did.

We all have TKK stories but this one tops them for me rivaled only with another one I had at JKIA the first time I returned home a few years after coming to the US. Upon arrival, I was greeted by an airport employee by the luggage collection area who called and greeted me by may last name! I was expecting my sister I mention above and her husband so I assumed they had sent him to get me. No; he just happened to identify me by facial appearance. Yes, from boyhood, the Omwenga offspring will have total strangers in the street, stopping us and saying, “aye tori omwana bw’Omwenga?” (Are you not a child of Omwenga?) We all have a striking resemblance with each other and in common with of course our late Mzee. Sometimes a good thing but other times definitely not a good thing especially those high school days when sneaking to the city for fun while supposed to be in school miles away from home only to have someone recognize you just for being your father’s child and not because they know you. My friends did not have this problem and I even used to think the communities they came from were anti-social: you mean you don’t have people from your village who would id you in the streets as so and so’s child?

Anyway, back to this dude calling me by my last name at JKIA and by now speaking to me in full blown Kisii which I was tantanaring (haltingly speaking), having been away that long, he nonetheless tells me he will be able to help me clear customs with my bags (2 huge ones I carried like a fool: my mistake #1) and that, he told me, all I needed to do was to give him “egento gekeigo” (something small) to facilitate this. How small? I inquired, “100 pounds.” Having been out of the country that long, I had no I idea what “100 pounds” was equivalent to in Shillings which I in turn had no idea what their value was relative to the US dollars I had in my wallet that I planned to change but had not done so as I had just arrived.

As we stood there awaiting arrival of my luggage to come through the conveyer, I told this man that my sister was supposed to meet me at the airport but I was not seeing her in the crowd across the hall; she could be there but I was not seeing her. “Don’t worry,” he assured me (much as the cop had assured me years later; somethings just never change do they?), “aye noonde naye” (I am with you/I will take care of you).  I then committed my second foolish mistake (1st one carrying two heavy suitcases on my first trip back home after a very long time) which was, I told this man I had no pounds (whatever that was; I left home for America before I saw or knew the value of one, I think it in hindsight it used to be 1:20) anyway, I can still remember the man’s big grin; he thought I was landing from poor Britain, now voila, I am landing from America! The land where money grows on trees! He just could not contain his excitement so he told me the plan:

By this time, the bags were arriving…the Plan: he will go talk to the customs duty inspector, clear my bags and we’ll just walk out without inspection. I meanwhile should give him him $100. I may have had two heavy bags but all of it except for two cameras were a mix of used and new clothes I was bringing for my relatives so doing quick foolish math, I reckoned $100 was not too bad, given the value of the two cameras I stood to lose, I feared, if I did not handle this properly.

Thus, I was on to my foolish mistake number 3: getting my wallet to remove one $100 bill from it in full view of this man that did not lose a moment to observe I had other dollar bills he would like to tax.

And tax, he did. The man told me to follow him and true to his word, we matched past the customs area without as much any of the officers bothering to glance our way. Whatever he told the customs people, they were happy and in it. Next, we are looking for my sister by in the throng of faces by the exit but she was nowhere. Next, let’s call her at home, so my new happy assistant takes me to one of the service desks by the exit area and asks one of them to allow me to use their phone, which they do.

I dial my sister’s house number, phone rings and is picked up to my relief: “Can I talk to Jane?” I ask. “Wrong number, click,” phone is hung up. Confused, I double-check the number and redial, same thing. Tried two more times, phone rings no answer both times. (Incidentally, this reminds me of a different experience years later I may blog another time about: I am going to San Francisco for business and for the first time. Knowing the reputation of the city (gay) I inquire from my buddies if they have any female friends or relatives in the area to keep my company–platonically speaking– just so it’s known to all this is one straight man in the city (taking my wife with me was not an option) so one of my friends suggested I call someone he knew in the area, gave me her number and name. I get to my destination, do the necessary and call this person; perhaps they can suggest a straight restaurant I can go to for dinner, etc. Phone rings, I ask for the name I was given, response: “hello,” then I say hi and go on to say was given the number by X and … before I even say another word and in the whole of approximately 1.2 seconds, I mean faster than I can end the call, I am told “you mother%*&$, don’t ever call this number again, ever!” Click. I ran into my friend some time after my return to Washington at a local joint we just laughed about this and ever since. Turns out this was my friend’s ex who apparently had not quite forgiven him for leaving her years before for another woman! But that’s a blog for another day, now onwards with my current one:

Panicked (after the phone at my sister’s being hung-up and no answer third time), I told my new assistant or aide, I could not reach my sister. “N’gai amenyete?” (where does she live?), he inquired. I had no idea! Before I left for the US several years before, she used to live in an estate she had since long moved to a home I only knew to be in Kileleshwa but never been there, had no idea where it was.

I did know the location of their place of business by general area and name so my new aide once again swang into action to implement phase II of his plan (to milk me). He suggested that I change my dollars to shillings and then he will get someone to take us to the business, a restaurant which would be open at that time anyway. “Where do I change the money?” I wish to know. “Inchuo” (come), he beckons so I follow him to someone he knows right there at the airport who he tells me will exchange the money at a higher rate than the bureau inside the airport. Before we meet this person, however, he parks the trolley with my two heavy bags on it and asks me to give him the US dollars to change while I wait there, which I give him a crisp new $100 bill.

Foolish mistakes number 4, 5, 6 & 7 (repeat of foolish mistake #3; believing I can get my money changed at a higher rate by some strange person I did not even get to see; giving the man $100 to change for me instead of at least telling him to change the $100 I had already given him and pay the taxi and standing there with my whole vulnerable self with two heavy suitcases instead of at least retreating inside).

After a few minutes which seemed an eternity, the man fortunately returns with a wad of cash. He gives me the money which looks very strange to me. The last time I left the country, the money bills did not look anything like this; they were smaller and clearly registered as Kenyan currency in the mind. What I was looking at were pieces of paper that looked like currency alright but I had no idea what their value was. Should I count? To what end? So I put the cash in my pocket without counting and tell the man to get the person who is take us so we can leave. Mistake # 8. The man definitely confirmed I was loaded with cash and could not be bothered to know how much he changed. I am sure Phase III of his plan (to milk me–or clean me this time) was in the works.

Then suddenly I realized why the phone was hanged-up on me or was not being answered at my sister’s when I called the third and fourth times, so I asked the aide to take me back so I can use the phone one more time before we leave. He does, they dial the number for me, phone rings (good thing), phone is picked up (even better): “Can I speak to Mama Junior?” I calmly inquired, “hold on,” musical words, then on comes my sister on the phone and to say hearing her voice was a huge relief is to greatly understate the relief I felt. Why was I being told wrong number when I asked for my sister? Because nobody in the house including her own children knew that my sister’s name is “June;” they all knew her to this day only as Mom, Untie or Mama Junior! Why were they not at the airport when I arrived? Because due to a miscalculation of time, they were expecting me the next day!.

Meanwhile, having noticed that I had located my relatives, my aide/conman excused himself saying he will be right back but I never saw him again.

My sister and her husband finally came and picked me up from the airport and had quite a musing with my welcome back home experience, especially in parting company with the cash I did simply because I didn’t know the value of a pound or even our own shilling.

Lessons learned: In the experience about the cops and my friends, the cops came to our aide, arranged for their mechanic to help us get our car started and stayed with us throughout to make sure all was okay and even followed us briefly to make sure the car was okay after restarting. This is service consistent with the true meaning and spirit of the “Utumishi Kwa Wote” motto for our Kenya police.

That my American friends and I were so impressed and I went on my part went on and on thanking the officers for their excellent assistance that made me proud that, despite its reputation, we at least had these good officers doing their work, is more so the reason the officer’s in the end asking for TKK was such a sad and extremely disappointing experience, this is a habit we must do whatever necessary to eradicate.

It is a few years since that experience but, from what I gather, even in this fora, TKK for police is alive and well. What a shame. We must find a way to end it and that starts with implementing the judicial reforms envisioned in our new Constitution. Next, impose a strict Police Code of Conduct that is enforceable through the courts, either by DPP or the citizens themselves.

Ditto for the airport conman albeit with a twist: I had a lot to do with being conned at the airport; I should have known better to avoid the mistakes I made as described above. For those of you in the diaspora and returning home for the first time, learn from this because just as TKK is alive and well with the police, navigating through JKIA with valuables is something you must carefully plan ahead, otherwise you could lose it all. If you do not believe me, ask UK.

Besides being careful, at least know the value of currencies in the countries you travel; certainly know where your relatives live before you land!

Fortunately, one traveling home these days need not encounter the kind of communication problems I did back the day when only land lines were in use, not unlike these days where almost everyone including house help has a cell phone which in by itself is a testament of how far we have come as a country.

Yes, we have come through tough times and in many ways are still in it, but the country has at the same time made some progress in a number of fronts, especially in technology and communications but we need to and must obviously do more, starting with increased efforts to end tribalism and corruption which are our twin most worst enemies.

The election of 2012 will be Test No. 1 as to whether we are ready to deal this this twin evils.

Peace, Love and Unity.

[Unedited]

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in Siasa

 

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