Things that I don’t understand

In the last 2 weeks we have had demonstrations in Kenya. The reasons for these protests include but are not limited to cost of living, disputed polls, nepotism in government among others. And if you have watched any of the reporting, you will have seen the violence meted on the protesters by police. And this is what I don’t understand.

Our police are among the least paid government workers. Every year when reports on corruption are released, they are either at the top or second runners up. You bribe them for everything and anything. They are not immune from high cost of living. It’s not like they buy goods and services tax free. One therefore wonders why they have to be so violent? They would be beneficiaries were the state of affairs to improve. I am not saying protests will make it improve. Far from it. It is the violence I don’t understand.

I don’t know whether it is the training or they choose the worst among us to be cops. People who would otherwise be sociopaths find refuge in the police force. For how do you explain lobbing a teargas into an occupied car? If that’s not sociopathy, I don’t know what is.

I am not saying the demonstrators have clean hands. No far from it.

I have seen videos of the same police action in France over the proposed changes to the retirement age. Do the police have separate employment terms? If not, can they maintain law and order by arresting only those breaking the law.

Why do governments fear protests? Can protests, sit ins be peaceful?

On the happenings at home

For those of you who still watch news or listen to newspapers, there have been four demonstrations in Africa today that are worthy of note. There is the shutdown in South Africa led by Malema. Ark should tell us more on this. A protest in Tunisia, Nigeria and Kenya. In Nigeria, the opposition believe the ruling party engaged in electoral malpractices and are not legitimately in office. In Tunisia, the economy is going south and with it, people’s livelihoods. In Kenya it is a mixed bag.

It is the mixed bag in Kenya that I want to speak to. I should declare on the outset that since I don’t read news and watch the newspapers, I may be the least informed on such matters. With that behind us, what’s in this mixed bag

  • The composition of the electoral commission
  • The high cost of living
  • The weakening shilling against major currencies
  • State appointments
  • Unresolved issues around the election

I could have left some issues out, but these are the main ones. The protestors I heard wanted to go to statehouse to remove the sitting president. You and I know this would be insane. The state would do everything in its power to stop this from happening. It has the police and military to defend it against external and internal aggressors. Anyone stupid enough to attempt to do this would be looking for a quick send off to the maker and they would have themselves to blame.

What is to be done? I would fall back to some feminist writing and Frere’s pedagogy of the oppressed. Educate. Agitate. Organize. On educate,it is important that we all share a common vision of the future we want. To risk people’s lives in demonstrations that would bring no lasting solutions to the serious crises of our time is irresponsible. As others more eloquent than I have said

The aims and objects of the Democratic Federation are before you. Success can only be achieved by organised effort:

Educate. We shall need all our intelligence.
Agitate. We shall need all our enthusiasm.
Organise. We shall need all our force.”

SSF

Lenin in conceiving the same idea, put it thus

In speaking of the necessity to concentrate all Party forces—all literary forces, all organisational abilities, all material resources, etc.—on the foundation and correct conduct of the organ of the whole Party, we do not for a moment think of pushing other forms of activity into the background—e.g., local agitation, demonstrations, boycott, the persecution of spies, the bitter campaigns against individual representatives of the bourgeoisie and the government, protest strikes, etc., etc. On the contrary, we are convinced that all these forms of activity constitute the basis of the Party’s activity, but, without their unification through an organ of the whole Party, these forms of revolutionary struggle lose nine-tenths of their significance; they do not lead to the creation of common Party experience, to the creation of Party traditions and continuity. The Party organ, far from competing with such activity, will exercise tremendous influence on its extension, consolidation, and systematisation.

Lenin

My point being that Raila’s party to have a long lasting impact on how we see and relate to the state must go back to the drawing board or canvas and restrategise. It must educate its people on the why of change. Then agitate and finally organize. Until then, it will appear that the movement is a Raila problem not a mass problem. And finally, for a peaceful demonstration or mass movement, i am reminded of the conditions to be met as set out by Dr. MLK.

Just in case you are wondering. Yes, me and mine are safe and well.

Trump 2024

Barring some very great misfortune like jail time or declaration of bankruptcy, herr Trump is basically assured of the republican ticket for president. Nickey H has nothing on him. Ron Desantis has nothing on him and the Bushes too will not do so well against him. No, I am not a Trump fun neither do I have a dog or is it a leg in this fight. What has brought us here today is an article I read where extracts of the speech he gave at the TPAC or is it CPAC were shared.

I don’t know how he would pull some of the proposals off. Such as getting America off foreign wars when it seems to me war is one of the biggest American pastimes. It is probably the largest public investment anywhere in the world. If Trump is elected ans someone had been dreaming up a ww3, forget it. He will not allow it.

He also said if the war in Ukraine goes on till 2024, he will end it in one day. The guns will go silent and everyone will be happy forever after. One would hope, that as a former president, he could use this magic bullet now to bring an end to the meatgrind that this conflict has become. Why wait a full year to end a war you can end in a day?

His best line though was they will take over the party from fools and freaks who had engaged in endless foreign wars. I had to laugh out loud at this. Some of his supporters are, without being mean, freaks. So how this one will be achieved is anyone’s guess.

And he didn’t leave the trans debate alone either.

In local news, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the govt had acted wrongfully by refusing registration to an LGBTQ organisation. But if you listen to the politicians and church leaders, you would think you live in a parallel universe to the one they inhabit.

War

Or rumours of a war. War on the east, War in the west. War everywhere.

It does seem to me that for some regimes facing issues of legitimacy at home, external conflict or War is their War to rally the nation together or divert attention from the real issues. This seems to be the case between Tehran and Tel Aviv. Bibi is intent on destroying nuclear plants in Iran regardless or the cost and in the recent past, there has been escalations that if not checked may lead to a bloodbath in the east.

Lockheed Martin and other defense suppliers seems to have run out of money as well. Maybe the war in Ukraine is not bringing in as huge profits as they would prefer and they may as well help in festering the ground for War in the east.

China is toying with the idea of annexing Taiwan. This too would be a bloody battle and shortly, it will be rockets dying, children flying. And all of us caught in between.

The possibility of nuclear holocaust continues to rise. The war between Ukraine and Russia is unwinnable. Which reminds me of the remarks Denzel made in the movie Crimson Tide, in a nuclear holocaust, there are no winners, only the dead and those who are left.

For a world in crisis, not recovered from the effects of the pandemic, war is the last thing anyone should be dreaming of. But it seems inevitable that unless something drastic happens, someone is going to make a mistake and it will be a shithole after that.

Maybe I am wrong and war is great.

Death announcement

12 years ago, after several years of agitation, civil society action and hotly contested election among others, we promulgated a new constitution that in some ways expressed the aspirations of the people- sort of. For the most part, it was a national effort. And when it was taken to the polls, it was supported by a majority of Kenyans and it became the supreme law of the land. So we can say that was a rebirth of the nation.

But it was infected immediately with terminal illness. Immediately after, other opportunistic diseases took hold and the rest as they say is history. The nation is hurtling down a fast lane to death. Maybe it is already dead and walking among us as the living dead.

You see, the new law had a whole chapter dedicated to integrity. It had minimum ethical or should I say moral requirements for would be office holders. It was hoped by the framers of this law and the people, that this requirement would with time see the public service cleaned up of people of questionable characters but this wasn’t to be.

Kibaki infected the new law with impunity- the terminal illness- by making appointments outside the law. The judiciary did not and still doesn’t seem to know what to do. But the disease got a boost when Kenyans against all common sense decided that the best thing to do is to elect, among others, the two people who were at the time answering charges of instigating a sort of ethnic cleansing. Unless you are slow, you know where this ends.

Impunity has reigned supreme in the last 12 years. The gender rule, parliament failed in its mandate to actualize it. Even the Chief Justice failed when it mattered. So in effect, the supreme law was infected with a deadly disease from which it would not recover. And my friends, when the law dies, the nation dies it.

We recently had elections and in his first act, the president has appointed a cabinet that says in no uncertain terms that death to chapter 6 is the intended goal. How does he defend appointing to his cabinet a person who is in court answering to charges of murder, discharging a fire arm in public and all.

So, it is the supreme law and with effect the nation that I today I announce its death. It leaves behind impunity, lawlessness and sleaze as its orphaned children. We hope they will not suffer greatly.

simplifying the electoral process in Kenya

Last night when i couldn’t sleep and reading wasn’t helping, it occurred to me we have a problem with the conduct of elections and the type of people employed to do the work. First I admit here that the process has improved but it can be better.

To address the efficiency of the voting process, we must first look at the political players who benefit from an inefficient system.

Next we look at the people who manage this process. The voting process is controlled by a team of commissioners appointed by the president. They have a secretariat with a CEO and other staff I guess who are involved in the elections. The commissioners enjoy security of tenure, are paid huge salaries and it does seem to me, do very little in terms of simplifying the voting process. Our elections get more expensive every election cycle instead of cheaper, smoother and more transparent. So what to do?

First, make the commissioner position a volunteer position. They shouldn’t expect any pay. Add a condition that should they botch the elections, they will forfeit their freedom and property. But if they should improve the voting process, they will be rewarded handsomely or beautifully whichever you identify with.

Do away with the lawyers. Damn it. They have demonstrated they can’t do arithmetic. They have been at the centre of the election disputes, over numbers, we have had in the last three cycles and it seems the country hasn’t learnt from it.

It should be a requirement that whoever wants to be nominated as a volunteer in the election body must demonstrate how they intend to ensure the vote counting and tallying is both efficient and open to scrutiny. I have ideas on this but that’s for later. The voting process should be treated as a project with a start and end date. The risks identified and classed. Mitigation measures agreed, roles allocated, budgets agreed on and whatever processes required to execute the project made available. A move to a paperless system should be considered.

I had said I would deal with the political players first but look at us. I don’t know about other countries, but I think there is a general luck of trust that each of us will follow the maxim of one man one vote and to cure this, political parties and candidates employ vast numbers of observers to ensure there is no shady dealings going on. The question is how do we address the conflict between private and public morality?

The other question that presents itself is how to reduce the stakes in the political game. As it is, the high stakes means winning by any means has become the mantra. I am not naive to the fact that being a legislator offers many goods that so many would die for. All around, politicians seems to outlive everyone else. They don’t ever die. They have access to government contracts- and in a world where the richest people or organizations are those that do business with the government, then the stakes can not be any lower. A time must come when this madness will get to its apex and the only way out is down, but we don’t have much time so interventions are needed now.

It occurred to me quite recently that the requirements for political office are so low compared to any other office. You apply for a job in almost any field and they want millions of years in experience, your achievements, bonafides and all. But when it comes to politics, the bare minimum which shockingly, this class of clowns don’t have. Take the case of the current governor for Nairobi. When asked to produce his certificates, he went to court as if the courts can cure such a deficiency!

But all this is wishful thinking. A man can dream.

Kenya decides:2022

7 days ago, my fellow citizens turned up to vote for the next government. While turnout was low, with only 64% voting the process was smooth. Tallying of the results however took a good 6 days. I think we need help here.

If the presidential results are not contested, then William Ruto will be the 5th president of the Republic. I am not very enthusiastic about it but I think there could be silver lining. For one, the attempt to mutilate the constitution might die a slow death with uhuru and raila. I am not confident that he will do any better in terms of bring faithful to the law.

The choice for Nairobi governor I like. With the election of Sakaja all the functions of the county government will return to the county. Some of these had been taken over by the national government in a move that appeared to me to be a power grab.

With his 5th loss, I hope Raila goes home and exits the political scene. Should this happen, there is room for others to grow in stature and possibly expand the democratic space.

I hope we will have a functioning opposition party in parliament to check the excesses of the government and to provide alternative policy direction. If this doesn’t happen, we will effectively be a one party state- though with different political players/parties.

And finally, to make a note that this process has been quite peaceful. And transparent. I believe there will be very few petitions going forward and the process can only get better.

Bye for now.

In one of our dailies

A Dr. Chacha wrote an article where he seems to lament the absence of god in Kenya during elections. One would think there are jurisdictions where god has a voters card since he tells us that god doesn’t vote in Kenya which should be obvious.

He takes umbrage on a politician calling himself a son of mau mau instead of a son of god and interprets this as choosing violence as a means of resolving political dispute instead of peaceful alternatives. I don’t think this interpretation is correct nor justified.

In the same article, he writes evil always triumphs over good evidenced by the bad leaders we end up with. These leaders are voted by the masses. I hope the good lecturer is willing to agree that the voters prefer evil to good, otherwise I don’t see how his argument can be sustained.

It is parsons who have always insisted leaders are anointed by god regardless of how dubious their character is.

His conclusion that religion doesn’t affect how we vote should not be mourned but actually celebrated. We are not electing the bishop but representatives who shall legislate on our behalf. And religion shouldn’t determine how people vote.That ethnicity affects how people vote is an area for study for social scientists.

And with that, have a great weekend everyone.