Monday, 18 February 2013

The Politics of Land Reform

It is highly regrettable that we Kenyans simply cannot have an intelligent conversation on land reform. It was deeply troubling for the Inspector-General of police to purport to warn us against having a national discourse on the issue yet land reform is one of the foundations in which the Vision 2030 pillars are anchored on. Ours is an agrarian economy in which land is the primary source of wealth and the most productive resource. Our land-tenure system however is faulty and has been identified as an impediment to economic development.

To be sure, the driving force for undertaking land reform is usually political, not economic. Don’t be fooled by the irony; whereas the driving force for undertaking land reform is political, the purpose for undertaking land reform is underpinned by sound economics. The irony only serves to prove that in every true democracy there is more politics than economics in economic policy formulation.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Politics Most Foul

For all of its denials, it was an open secret that State House was secretly propping up Musalia Mudavadi to succeed President Kibaki. The word on the street was that Musalia was as a ‘compromise candidate’ for the Gema community. Despite Uhuru Kenyatta having what seemed like good prospects of succeeding President Kibaki, his indictment at the ICC with crimes against humanity was for all intents and purposes an insuperable millstone around Uhuru neck. Apparently, the level headed State House operatives had long since come to grips with Uhuru’s predicament at The Hague and they were intent on handing over the reins of power to an acquiescent moderate that is Musalia and the Gema community understood it thus.

Everything seemed to have fallen in place when Musalia, who had earlier been cajoled to ditch Raila’s ODM party, signed a pact with Uhuru and William Ruto in which Uhuru agreed to step down for him as their coalition’s presidential candidate. And then, out of the blue, Uhuru pulled a fast one on Mudavadi and backtracked on his promise citing manipulation by ‘dark forces.’ Poor Mudavadi was short-changed and in effect consigned to the political junkyard where he fittingly belongs depending of course on which side of the political divide you look at it from. The operatives behind project Mudavadi were none the wiser even though they were left with egg on their faces. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a total escapade.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

We Must Learn to Concede Defeat

A truly historic and highly publicized presidential debated in which all the presidential candidates will take part is slated for the day after tomorrow, 11th February 2013, and I have to say that I have both good and bad feelings about it. Good feelings because not only is the presidential debate merely a first in our fledgling democracy, but primarily because political debates of this nature are an essential part of the electoral process. The debate is expected to greatly help voters in their evaluations of the candidates and hopefully the voter decision come 4th of March 2013, will be more informed. Bad feelings because it is a debate that will be ruinously cluttered, defeating the very purpose of the presidential debate.

There are eight candidates in the race to State House but as we all know, Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta are the only two serious contenders in the race; the other six: Musalia Mudavadi, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, James ole Kiyapi, Paul Muite and Mohammed Duba are all peripheral candidates who for all intents and purposes do not stand a cat in hell’s chance of winning the election. Be that as it may, these peripheral candidates are expected to take part in the debate simply because it is politically incorrect to not have them take part in the debate. Well, I beg to differ!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Courting Ambivalence in Politics and the Elections

There is simmering ambivalence among many Kenyans over the monkey business that was party nominations, the mayhem it sparked in various parts of the country evoking bitter memories of the 2007/08 post election violence, and the predictable political fallout that followed. Party nominations have always been a passage of great danger for politicians and political parties alike but with all the electoral reforms that have been enacted, Kenyans somehow expected party nominations to be conducted with utmost care and decorum; but that was not to be. The nominations were in words of one syllable shambolic. Certainly, logistical challenges were partly to blame and that is easy to fix but what was also clear and which is a matter of grave concern, was that politicians and their supporters flatly refused to give the nominations exercise the respect it deserves leading to the fracas that were witnessed in several parts of the country.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Why Sonko Could Win ...at Least in Theory

The film ‘Rebel Without a Cause' released in 1955 was a rude awakening to many American parents because it vividly brought them to terms with the reality of their disaffected urban youth who were resisting parental authority for no apparent reason despite coming from what were otherwise considered good well-to-do families. Today, the disaffected urban youth phenomenon is global thanks to globalization and that all too familiar rural-urban migration. It is said that music is a universal language and the language of disaffected urban youth is gangsta rap. Gangsta rap is a type of rap music, typically with words about violence, guns, drugs and sex. The lovers of gangsta rap who are mostly urban youth consider gangsters, hardened criminals, drug dealers, and their ilk as heroes. Heck! Many outside the U.S. even considered Osama bin Laden, the world’s most infamous terrorist, a hero.

According to official statistics the youth constitute 70 per cent of the Kenyan population and the overwhelming majority of them live in urban areas throughout the country. The Kenyan urban youth, just like their contemporaries around the world, are also a disenfranchised lot. They are disaffected by the debilitating lack of opportunities and they are disenchanted with the Establishment which they figure somehow is the greatest impediment to their upward mobility. This is why change and reforms have remained the foremost election issues in every election cycle since 1992 after the successful struggle for multiparty democracy in Kenya. Uncannily though, change and reforms have remained frustratingly elusive and it feels as though the democratic process simply isn’t working or if it is, it is rigged and this, my friends, is the source of Mike Sonko’s popularity.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Some Missed Opportunities for Progress in History

History contains a record of infinite potentials discovered and countless opportunities missed due to a lack of perception, tradition-bound attitudes and insistence on anachronistic behaviours. Here are some of them:

In the 15th Century, a great number of Portuguese vessels were dispatched in search of a route around Africa, but all of them were repelled by an impenetrable barrier when they reached the tiny Cape Bojador midway down the Western coast of the continent. The barrier was the widespread belief that Bojador represented the edge of the world and that to sail beyond it was certain death. It took persistent efforts by Prince Henry, 12 expeditions, and a very large purse to persuade one bold captain to skirt the cape and break the perceptual wall. Once done, Portugal soon discovered the Southern route to India and became a leading mercantile power.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Interrogating Travel Advisories

The government’s opposition to the latest travel advisory issued against Kenya by the U.S. government is not absurd as some people think. Kenya’s protestation that travel advisories are sabotaging our economy by undermining the fragile yet crucial tourism industry is valid. Sure, it is common practise these days for developed countries to issue travel advisories but just how they go about issuing travel advisories is a matter that requires interrogation.

The troublesome fact about travel advisories is that they have the net effect of instituting an unintended 'trade embargo' and we all know the stigma associated with an embargo. Our tourism sector produces high quality products and services that are renowned worldwide and when a travel advisory is put in place, our foreign clients are scared into staying away or visiting alternative destinations despite the fact that we have spent enormous sums of money marketing our tourist products in the diaspora. Whereas they do not expressly ban trade, they do however discourage trade by scaring clients away.