Ringera: Too much noise over small issues

The furore over Justice Aaron Ringer’a reappointment to the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission is an unfortunate piece of drama that has induced a frenzy of euphoria among legislators and the general public.

Justice Aaron Ringera

Justice Aaron Ringera

When the euphoria wears off, most will realize that nothing really changed despite what is billed as an iconic step by Kenya’s Parliament to reject the re appointment done by President Mwai Kibaki.

If anything, the ongoing cheap drama is working out perfectly as a tactic by Kenya’s ruling classes to engage in political bargaining, or horse trading, while hoodwinking the people that democratic space is growing.

Now, legislators are on a blood frenzy as they vow to re-examine previous executive appointments and subject them to a similar fate. If Members of Parliament go through with their threat, there will be total chaos in State Corporations and government departments as it will be difficult to tell who is in charge.

Despite all the hullaballoo about the legality or otherwise of the reappointment, the core of the saga was that the ODM wing of government was not consulted over the appointment. Prime Minister Raila Odinga tried to play down the issue so as not to appear as opposing the President but his allies, James Orengo and Prof Anyang Nyongo, could not have opposed Ringera’s reappointment without Raila’s tacit approval and encouragement.

The Ringera saga is reminiscent of previous tussles over the powers of the two main principles in the Giant Coalition Government, namely President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The Prime Minister has numerously said that he is an equal to the President and therefore should be consulted in every government decision. The result of the impasse over powers has resulted in a divided government.

Confusion in government was evident in parliament during the week as Cabinet Ministers harshly attacked their own government. When challenged to resign for disagreeing with their boss – the President – the ministers argued that they were debating as ordinary legislators and not as Cabinet Ministers.

The principle of an independent prosecution agency to tackle grand corruption was proposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) back in 1997. It was then known as the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority (KACA) and was meant to be an independent body that could prosecute top government officials. However, the very concept of a parallel prosecution body was not acceptable to Kenyan authorities and efforts were made to ensure its downfall.

On December 22, 2000, the High Court in the case of Gachiengo Versus Republic (2000) ruled that the existence of KACA undermined the powers conferred on both the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police by the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya. In addition, the High Court further held that the statutory provisions establishing KACA were in conflict with the Constitution. That spelt the death of KACA.

The present KACC was established in 2003 by enactment of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act. Justice Aaron Ringera as Director and three Assistant Directors formally took office on 10th September, 2004.

KACC has been accused of not prosecuting top personalities who have been implicated in corruption and instead going after “small fish.” In its defence, KACC says that it lacks powers to prosecute and it can only investigate and forward the files to the Attorney General. This situation is likely to persist as there are many in government who are uncomfortable with the idea of multiple prosecuting agencies in the country.

Budget mess ruins Uhuru presidential bid

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential dream has hit the rocks following his approval of a Ministry of Finance budget despite massive discrepancies estimated at Kshs9 billion (US$114 million).

Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta

In a country where few people understand the government financial system, Uhuru is already being accused of having stolen the Kshs9 billion. His appearance before the Parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee has provided ample speculation among the public that he is guilty of looting the Treasury.

The affair is reinforcing a belief that the Kikuyu elite surrounding President Mwai Kibaki is intent on grabbing the country’s resources clean and dry. Both the president and Uhuru are from the Kikuyu tribe.

As a matter of fact, the President is Uhuru’s baptismal godfather. It is Kibaki who proposed the name “Uhuru” when the Deputy Prime Minister was born to Kenya’s founding President, Jomo Kenyatta in the years leading to independence from British colonialism.

Uhuru has resisted calls for his resignation, saying that the Kshs9 billion discrepancy was a “typing error.” Uhuru is reading political motives behind the affair and believes that his political opponents for Kenya’s presidency stand to gain from the budget scandal. Uhuru’s allies say that the Deputy Prime Minister was misled by officers in the Ministry of Finance. Some in the pro-Uhuru crowd have even stated that the budgetary discrepancy is a plot to tarnish Uhuru with corruption allegations.

Uhuru’s likely challengers in the quest to succeed President Mwai Kibaki include Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Agriculture Minister William Ruto and Martha Karua, who recently resigned from her position as Justice Minister. Karua is especially bitter with Uhuru for getting President Kibaki’s silent endorsement merely because of his family background. Karua had stuck with Kibaki for over a decade and is convinced she is a far worthy candidate than Uhuru.

Though it is possible that Uhuru’s problems could be political, concerns are rising with regards to Uhuru’s suitability as a cabinet minister let alone President. It is unthinkable that such a huge error could have gone unnoticed. If true, then Uhuru is careless and he merely appended his signature without bothering to check the details. This bodes ill for a man who wants to be entrusted with the instruments of state.

Uhuru has never quite captured the popular imagination of Kenyan voters. He is seen as a child of priviledge whose actions and demeanor are symptomatic of Kenya’s cruel and corrupt leaders. Uhuru is hoping to exploit the Kikuyu vote to ascend to the presidency but this alone will not be enough. Uhuru is already forging alliances with Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Agriculture Minister William Ruto in order to gain ethnic votes from the Kamba and Kalenjin tribes.

As the budgetary scandal unfolds, Uhuru’s personal characteristics are once again in the spotlight. Ever since Uhuru was plucked from obscurity in 1997 by former President Daniel arap Moi, questions have been raised regarding his college years in the United States. Details remain scanty but it is just a matter of time before Uhuru’s opponents get hold of the damning information and unveil it to the world.

It is being alleged that Uhuru is a heavy drinker of potent wines and spirits, making him an unreliable leader similar to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Alcoholism made Yeltsin’s government a case study in chaos.

Yeltsin would get so drunk that he could not walk out of the Presidential jet on arrival at foreign cities. Russia suffered economic and social decline as majority of people followed the President’s footsteps by drowning their sorrows in cheap brews. Those who could not afford the bottle drank perfume to get high. Russia got out of the mess only after Vladimir Putin took over in the year 2000.

Uhuru is believed to have spent hundreds of millions of the Kenyatta family fortune to pursue his presidential bid. By the year 2012, Uhuru’s total spending since 2002 is expected to exceed Kshs 1 billion (US$12.6 million).

The Kenyattas are hoping that they are not simply throwing money down the drains. Or in Uhuru’s case, down the throat.

Kenya to lose US aid as leaders fight for posts

by Scott A Morgan

Since the 20th of January of this year, there have been plenty of articles highlighting how the Obama Administration has been reviewing US policy towards several nations.

Kenya Army soldier with US Army instructor. US military aid could dry up following wrangles in the Giant Coalition.

Kenya Army soldiers with US military instructor. US military aid could dry up following wrangles in the Giant Coalition.

In the media, Zimbabwe and Somalia are still popular topics of discussion. But there is one country that has not garnered a lot of interest in a little more than a year but is now re-emerging as a hot topic.

During the historic campaign by President Barack Obama, Kenya was a keen observer of the electoral process in the United States. After all, President Obama’s father was from Kenya and Obama still happens to have family in Kenya. And there are several reasons for the United States to have a keen interest in what goes on in the country.

One of the reasons is the current infighting in Parliament. The Obama Administration is not pleased with the current pace of reforms. There has been an impasse between the Vice-President and the Prime Minister that has caused debate to come to a gridlock. This has effectively halted any activity by the Government.

Another problem that needs to be addressed is impunity. During the violence that permeated Kenya in the aftermath of the December 2007 elections, hundreds of people perished. There was also a report released by a human rights NGO that was critical of the actions by the security forces in the Great Rift Valley. To this date there has been no word regarding whether or not any member of the security forces will face justice for these acts.

Another reason for the increased focus in Kenya is the Somalia situation. Most of the pirates that have been captured by international naval elements in the Gulf of Aden have been taken to Mombasa and handed over to Kenyan authorities. In the past, a Somali insurgent group has threatened to attack Kenya for assisting the international community in the struggle to rein in the acts of piracy. Since Kenya has a direct border with Somalia, this is a threat that cannot be taken lightly.

The United States has always had good relations with Kenya. Now that the President is of Kenyan heritage it is perceived that US-Kenyan Relations will be in the spotlight on a larger than normal scale.

Early last year more than one pundit lamented that Kenya has slid from being “A Model for Democracy in East Africa”. The concern that the US has for the current political impasse could cause Washington to tighten the purse strings when it comes to foreign aid to Nairobi.

The Administration has been showing that it is not business as usual as it has placed sanctions on individuals that have been linked to corruption. One of the sanctions that has been enacted is to prevent them from travelling to the United States under any capacity. However, the US Ambassador has announced that the US will still support programmes that are administered by non governmental organizations (NGOs). The US Ambassador told a Kenyan newspaper that 85-90% of US aid is channeled through NGOs anyway.

When Obama was elected President of the US, ordinary Kenyans were hopeful that the US would not forget Kenya. In that aspect he has remembered them.

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The Author publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet. It can be found at morganrights.tripod.com

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ODM – PNU political circus continues

The tragic political circus of Kenya’s giant coalition continues while hundreds of people die from famine, criminal gangs, road accidents and a rogue police force.

The country’s politics are so polarized that decisions cannot be made without a rabble-rousing furore that only worsens the moribund governance in the country.

Take for example the events of this week. A simple act of opening Parliament in order to discuss matters of crucial importance to Kenyans, ended in chaos. Why? The Vice President and Prime Minister could not agree who among them should be the leader of government business. The week ended with total paralysis in Parliament as House Speaker Kenneth Marende attempted to save face by promising to work with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in getting a solution to the impasse.

Outside Parliament, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka was vowing to stick to the fight. Kalonzo said that President Kibaki, who backs him as Leader of Government Business, was the country’s chief executive by election and agreement and deserved respect. “We are going to move on and there are no two ways about it,” chest-thumped Kalonzo.

For his part, Raila has stated that his ODM party will not allow another leader “with a party of 12 MPs” to assume the position while the Constitution was clear on the holder. “The Constitution says the leader of the party with majority MPs in the House becomes the Leader of Government Business. How can a leader of a party with 12 MPs lead the majority? Where on earth has this happened? This seat belongs to ODM and we cannot allow another mistake to occur,” Raila said at a burial in Eldoret East constituency.

The prolonged ODM – PNU rivalry is not doing much to enhance inter ethnic relations among Kenya’s 42 tribes. Issues are still interpreted along ethnic lines, using arguments like, “why can’t tribe X be satisfied with what they have,” or “Kenya would be better if tribe Y was not here …”

Politicians have absolutely managed to convince Kenyans that their rivalry is about ethnic competition, that the fight over power is about one ethnic group fighting it out with another. The reality is different though, for what we see in Kenya is a power struggle among the ruling elite. A younger political elite from the 1980s and 1990s seeks to overthrow the post colonial establishment that has ruled Kenya since 1963.

All the drama around power sharing, government posts, respect and carpets is a side show meant to hoodwink the gullible Kenyan public to the real struggle behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, Kenyans have bought the “ethnic struggle” lie almost completely and it is just a matter of time before a large conflagration drowns this beautiful East African state in the blood of innocents.

Brutal cop assaults lady rights activist

Human rights activist, Philo Ikonya, has accused a senior police officer of brutalizing her when she and and others were arrested outside Parliament last Wednesday.

Philo Ikonya

Philo Ikonya

Writing in the website, Kenya Imagine, Philo describes the ordeal that resulted in her clothes being torn to shreds. She was beaten and subjected to verbal assault by a force whose motto is, Utumishi kwa Wote” (Service to All).

However, as she soon discovered, her tribulations were nothing compared to what the majority of struggling Kenyans are experiencing everyday. Read on:

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For some reason, I was released on Wednesday night on a bond signed by Florence Jaoko of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission. Activists Ann Njogu, Wangui Mbatia and others told her to act because I needed medical attention.

It is dark in Kenya… very dark… our freedoms are not ours anymore and all Kenyans are suffering. I do not want a seat in a bunge (Parliament) like that, never. But in the darkness the voice of a man in the cells cried out …

“Madam, they are trying to break your voice.. but it is powerful and unbreakable.. that is your spirit. I saw it here in the cells … we were wondering who will speak since we lost voices to politics…. I will never be the same again … just watching how you deal with things here…”

I refused to leave my fellow activists in the cells but once a bond is signed one cannot stay inside as it is illegal.

Needless to say, I feel much compassion for Fwamba and Kamotho who were also beaten up especially Fwamba. Tears flood my eyes when I remember how a merciless cop would hit him in the ribs every time he spoke up after I was boxed under the chin. He spoke gently but the cop yelled at us.

The cop had said he knew me and that I should have kept quiet not to be arrested. I had told him I did not know him and could not abandon Fwamba. Thank God Dipesh had mobilized the Press during our arrest but now here we were in the car being told there was no camera, and we would see …

In those hours at Central Police – we were transported at about 6:50pm – I managed to alert Mwalimu Mati whom I saw through the grills of the back of a van. The police hit the car on all sides so that he could not hear me.

Every few minutes they called us (over 50 men and 5 women) out of their cells for a roll call. The Officer In-charge asks what are our problems and we come forward fearfully and mutter something.

“I need to see a doctor, my chest hurts.”

“Rudi ndani….. utamwona.”

Another: “I need to go home, I am now here in the cells for three days, my eight-month old baby is in hospital admitted and I have nobody to help me take care of him.”

I need… I need and I need…..But really all the officer is doing is intimidating fear.

For many others, including the woman with the sick baby, the 24 hours in which they are supposed to be held in police custody before they are produced in court, long expired. But they are still here. And there is crawling lice, the toilet for women is a little hole as the so called ‘proper toilet’ is inside the gate of the men’s cells. The place stinks.

Every time we are called for roll call, I remind the police officer that I have no clothes on my back, since his boss, the Deputy OCPD tore them up on the street. I complain bitterly about having a bare back and being in the same room for the roll call with men arrested for different purposes… one of them told me he was definitely going to be hanged for robbery with violence. But the officer in charge …every time says, “You will get them Madam,” and finishes his roll call and throws us back in there as if we had not said anything.

The policeman who beat us up this afternoon in town and in the car hit us where no obvious bruises can come up, like under the chin. I remember asking him if he was going to break my jaw. He is the Deputy OCPD at Nairobi Central Police and when Fwamba and I get to the police station and activists flock in, they tell me that it is the same man who molested Ann Njogu on the streets as he arrested her.

I am horrified for indeed each time he hit me I told him to look into my eyes and see God and his eyes looked opaque and distant… he hit me again saying he would take us where we could never talk again. I suppose he meant the grave. But I continued to tell him, ‘ My father had never hit me, nor any man on the streets nor any male in my life… no one… and that he was oppressing me in the car.

At the Inter Continental Roundabout I had yelled to motorists saying, ” they are killing us…” and he hit us more turning the front seat of his vehicle low and leaning back and shouting at the cop on our back seat for letting us talk … No one heard us in this torture chamber. The journey between Parliament and Nairobi Police Station down City Hall Way, past Kimathi’s statue and through Moi Avenue was just blows and our voices since we are convinced that being threatened with being silenced is the last thing that will cow us.

Read more of Philo Ikonya’s story on Kenya Imagine.

Jamhuri Day mass action updates

Dozens of protesters were arrested at Nairobi’s Nyayo Stadium for expressing disgust at Kenyan legislators for receiving large allowances amidst inflation and food shortages that have worsened life for the poor.

Kiss FM’s Caroline Mutoko, Classic 105′s Mwalimu King’ang’i and radio personality Nyambane were whisked away from Nyayo Stadium, where President Mwai Kibaki was due to address the nation.

The organizer of the protest, Mwalimu Mati of Mars Group, was surrounded by a police contingent and driven to the Langata police divisional offices.

People dressed in black T-shirts as a mark of protest were turned away by police officers at the stadium grounds.

Meanwhile, Jamhuri Day celebrations in the port city of Mombasa were drowned by heckling from the crowd. From the North Eastern Provincial headquarters at Garissa, Citizen Radio reports that four youths were arrested for expressing dissatisfaction with Kenyan legislators.

Hours before the national celebrations, the government issued a warning against demonstrations and other forms of political expression during Jamhuri (Independence Day) celebrations.

The journalists and Mwalimu Mati were leading a show of disgust against members of parliament for refusing to pay taxes on their allowances. Kenyan politicians are among the best paid in the world.

The journalists are also angered by a new media law that allows the Kenyan government to raid media outlets and disable broadcast equipment at will. It is beleived that Parliament passed the bill to intimidate the media from speaking out against their hefty perks.

Kenya set to get truth commission

Kenya’s parliament has approved a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) to probe human rights violations and historical injustices.

Those found guilty of genocide and other human rights violations will not be eligible for amnesty. The move comes amidst debate on how to deal with those implicated in the violence that broke out after the disputed elections of December 2007.

More on this story from the BBC >>

Political Party law under threat from politicians

After passing a law regulating the conduct of political parties, Kenyan politicians are now condemning the same law as ‘unconstitutional.’

In the soap opera of Kenya’s leadership, legislators eagerly passed the Political Parties Act in expectation of massive state funding for their parties. To their utter surprise, the Act came with tough new measures designed to instill democratic discipline in an ethnically-charged and violent political environment.

The Act, which came into force on July 1st, makes it illegal to form parties on ethnic, regional, gender or religious lines. Under the new Act, a political party that engages in violence and other electoral offences will be deregistered.

The Political Parties Act states that a member of parliament (MP) who changes allegiance to another party other than that which got him/her elected to parliament is deemed to have resigned. The seat will be declared vacant and fresh elections held with or without a resignation letter from such person.

According to African Press, major political parties are plotting an overthrow of the Political Parties Act which they fear will spell their doom. In a rare show of unity, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Party of National Unity (PNU) and ODM-K have enlisted the support of 78 political parties to subvert implementation of the Act.

The parties are to team up with the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya (CMD) to move to court and file a constitutional reference with the aim of declaring the new law unconstitutional.

The requirement that parties be national has been interpreted to mean that the Act is limiting freedom of association by denying those who want to come together as a region to do so.

Medical Services assistant minister Danson Mungatana, who is also the Garsen MP and Narc Kenya organising secretary, took issue with a clause on gender representation in political parties. “We cannot predict and decide for the voters … achieving the quota would amount to influencing elections.”

The Act directs that a party whose officials do not include one-third of either gender, be barred from accessing funds from the exchequer.

With all political parties expected to comply by January 2009, implementing the Act is proving impossible for majority of Kenya’s politicians. Most parties are mere election tools which attract very little loyalty from MPs.

In the last parliament, virtually all MPs elected on NARC, KANU, FORD-People, FORD-Kenya and others began campaigning for alternative parties soon after the 2002 polls. By 2007, President Mwai Kibaki was campaigning for NARC-Kenya even though he did not publicly announce his defection. Prime Minister Raila Odinga, elected through NARC in 2002 had by early 2007 stated his presidential ambitions on an ODM ticket.

None of these people lost their seats even though the laws at the time clearly demanded for fresh elections whenever a legislator changed political parties midway through his/her term. Eventually, Kibaki’s allies formed  the PNU party that he used to vie for the 2007 elections.

At the moment, realignments for the 2012 General Elections are underway. Informal coalitions such as the Grand Opposition, incorporate MPs from PNU, ODM, ODM-Kenya and fringe parties. Martha Karua, elected on the PNU party, has declared her presidential ambitions through NARC-Kenya.

Laikipia East legislator Mwangi Kiunjuri has formed the Grand National Union (GNU) party. MPs from the Meru tribe have expressed the intention to form a political party to represent their ethnic group.

In last week’s by-elections in Sotik and Bomet, ODM’s Isaac Ruto openly campaigned for UDM and KANU candidates. Despite the law, its highly unlikely that anybody will be asking for Ruto’s resignation. If anything, any such punitive step will be labeled as ‘interference’ with Ruto’s ‘democratic rights.’

According to the Act, money allocated to a registered political party from the government shall not be used for paying remuneration, fees, rewards, or any other benefit to a member or supporter of the political party.

Not more than 25% of the money will be used for administrative purposes. Instead, the money will go towards election expenses, civic awareness and in enabling the party shape public opinion.

The Registrar of Political Parties can cancel the registration of a political party found to have engaged in ethnic incitement and acts of violence. Misuse of public funds is another valid ground for deregistration.

Section 34 of the new law states that accounts of every political party shall be audited by the Auditor-General annually and shall be forwarded to Parliament and the Registrar. The reports must be made public at the political parties’ offices.

Each political party must keep a register of its members and a copy of the register be made available to the public at the party’s legally registered offices.

Clearly, the politicians have a lot to fear from a law of their own making.

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With reports from Property Kenya
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Giant Opposition for Giant Cabinet

Raging debate over the formation of a giant opposition in Kenya’s parliament to check the giant cabinet is likely to boil over in coming months.

A group of Members of Parliament (MPs) from President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU party, Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-K want to form a giant opposition. They say that since every major party is in the giant coalition, an opposition force is necessary to, “put checks and balances and to guard against mega scandals of the Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing types.”

The MPs are those that were not appointed to the cabinet, leaving many to doubt the sincerity of their stance.

Prime Minister Odinga is against the formation of a giant opposition. He has urged those intending to form an opposition to join other political parties. Under Kenyan electoral law, an MP who leaves the party that got him elected to parliament must face an election in his/her constituency. This law is likely to discourage many of those calling for an opposition. With only six months after the General Elections, there is little appetite for fresh polls.

President Kibaki has said little either for or against a giant opposition.

The group of MPs is led by Abwabu Namwamba and Isaac Ruto both of ODM. Other leading proponents of a giant opposition include Kiema Kilonzo (ODM-K) and Cyrus Jirongo (KADDU). Mr Jirongo has expressed interest in being leader of the official opposition since, unlike Namwamba, his party is not part of the giant coalition. However, he is the sole MP on the KADDU party!

Many of the MPs fronting for the giant opposition wanted to be appointed as cabinet ministers. They felt they had spent a lot of time and money campaigning for their parties and a cabinet would have been the highest reward. However, with a giant cabinet of 40, there was no more room for them.

The giant cabinet also consists of old-timers in Kenyan politics, many of whom have solid power bases and connections to the wealthy corporate class. In contrast, the group of MPs calling for an opposition is made up of mostly youthful MPs who owe their success to the old-timers.

There are rumors that the proponents of a giant opposition are acting at the behest of political figures within the giant cabinet. This, it is said, is to create a fall back position in case the giant cabinet crumbles. Such rumors are credible since many of those calling for a giant opposition owe their prominence to political godfathers.

Besides, someone like Isaac Ruto, who served ex-President Daniel arap Moi until the very end, can hardly boast of any opposition credentials.

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