Where Do We Want To Take This Country

Where do we want to take this country? This is a question that Kenya must consciously ask and answer. For even if the question is neither asked nor answered, the present generation will take the country somewhere – only that it might be down the cliff.

From Moi to Uhuru, Government has recently made the enquiry. They have told that Vision 2030 is the answer. They say that we need to make Kenya a middle income industrializing second world economy by that year. Accordingly,  development plans, policy and programmes are often articulated around the notion of Kenya’s Vision 2030.

But are we preoccupied with Vision 2030 to the extent that our sight is blurred? Do we need to see a different reference frame beyond Vision 2030? Retaining the cardinal social, economic and political pillars, it might be time we began talking of something else, lest we begin sounding ridiculous and our plans nonsensical. Consider that the year 2030 is now only 14 years away. Consider next that we have for sometime now been talking about reforming our education within the social pillar. Education reform is supposed to help us to realize our Vision 2030. Because of this, we are undertaking a review of the school curriculum.

If we assume that the implementation of the new curriculum is piloted in 2018, the visionary year (2030) would be only 12 years away. The Class One child of 2018 would graduate from university in 2032. Clearly this would not be the person to drive the country to Vision 2030. Nor would it work even if the implementation were phased in at Primary School.  We could for example introduce the new curriculum in Class One and Four followed by Two and Five and finally Three and Six – as we have previously introduced curriculum changes in school. We would still need to take one year at a time in High School, beginning in 2021. This person would graduate from university in 2029. S/he would therefore only have one year to make us realize Vision 2030.

Does Kenya need to begin thinking of a Vision 2060 or even Vision 2100? Clearly, we have good dreams but the focus is wrong. In institutional planning and management, they teach you that the vision is itself not something that you reach or realize. Its horizon keeps on shifting, making it something you continually strive towards. When the vision seems to be too close – both in time and in actualization – then it is time to get back to the drawing boards. It is time to fashion a new dream, a new vision. Could this be where Kenya is? Indeed, Government reported last year that we had already realized Vision 2030. It cannot, therefore, continue to be our point or frame of reference for planning purposes.

That said, there is need to laud the efforts to look at the curriculum afresh. Every so often, a people must look at their education and ask where it is going. That is what the Ministry of Education is presently doing. For education is the roadmap to the future. Perhaps we need not burden ourselves with questions of form and structure. Whether we eventually retain the present 8 – 4 – 4 structure or not is not very important. What is critical is the software in the education reform. The recently ended Kenya Heads of Secondary Schools Association (KESSHA) meeting in Mombasa brought out this rather well, among other critical concerns for education and learning in Kenya.

The need for education review and reform is urgent. The social condition in the country can be very frightening. Yet is a reflection of the education that we have had. We see chaos everywhere. There is chaos on our roads. There is discourtesy, blatant rudeness and murderous driving. The roads are themselves horrific potholed patchworks, mostly done with an eye on stealing public funds. Elsewhere, we comfortably live within garbage and sewage. Even in exclusive suburbs in places like Nairobi and Mombasa, raw sewage is in free flow. And this is quite acceptable. The rats of Eldoret are alive and well in the town centre as are those of Kisumu. Kakamega, Bungoma, Kisii and Nakuru are massive slums gravitating out of proportion.

Chaos accompany you everywhere you go. In the best public hospitals patients share beds on the floor. There are no medicines, leave alone modern medical equipment. Health workers lost morale ages ago. In building and construction, high-rise structures come tumbling down of their own free will. They don’t need an earthquake or even a tremor to bring them down. The court system is an empire of graft. In the church Mpesa has taken over. Project tendering both in the public and private sectors is about sharing institutional money with the project only as the excuse and conduit. We steal anything and everything, including examinations. When you have excelled in being chaotic everywhere else, you graduate into politics, the home of Honourable Chaos.

The question of where we are taking our country should therefore trouble our collective national conscience. What country will we give future generations? As we plan and act, we ought to do so with focus on those who are not yet born. When they get here thirty, forty or fifty years from now, what kind of country will they find – created by you and me? Education is about finding order out of disorder; moving from disorganization to organization. To do this, you need benchmarks of values in every sphere of life. These benchmarks must begin with our education, right from the family level.

Perhaps what Kenya needs is not just a curriculum review and reform? We need an education reform that recognizes the need to take change to everybody. If the child we teach is being socially maladjusted at home, we labour in vain at school. Maybe time has come for a moral and ethical rearmament beyond Vision 2030. We need a social revolution, or a rebirth at the very minimum.

Kenya Has Reached A Most Delicate Crossroads

Kenya is reaching a most delicate crossroads. How she carries her sacrifice beyond this crossroads is anybody’s guess. The pot of ethnic hostility was catapulted into the population with reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1991. We failed to grasp the essence of democracy. This cauldron of death is accordingly coming to a dangerous boil. The country will have to choose between walking in the light and chasing after darkness and perdition.

Opposition leaders are eternally unhappy because of what they say is “serial stealing of (their) elections.” More obviously, they are unhappy that they are not in power. The truth about the last election is a point of detail. The issue is that they are not in power and therefore they are unhappy. In recent times, they seem to have vowed to make life living hell for President Uhuru Kenyatta. They possibly think that they could run the President out of town. They have discovered that the most worrisome thing for this government is the very thought of violent demonstrations. For every grievance they have – real or imagined – therefore, there is only one solution, “We will hold demonstrations.”

The magic wand of demos is, however, rattling not just the government. It is also upsetting ordinary citizens. Their life and activities must be put on hold while the demos last. This does not seem to concern the owners of the demos. But even if the wider economic implications don’t bother them, they have possibly not assessed the eventual political implications for their careers. History has taught us that a demo as an expression of displeasure must be civil and peaceful. A violent demo, on the other hand, must be enduring, swift and revolutionary. This is the experience everywhere from France, Mexico, the Philippines, Czechoslovakia and Romania – among many other places.

Occasional violent demos do more harm than good for the owners of the demo. CORD’s current demos fall into this category. They are erratic and without clear focus. One day they seem to be focused on removal of IEBC commissioners. The next day they are targeting undefined legislative reforms generally. On the third day they are about the structure of government, dragging in things like whether the country should have a Parliamentary political system with a Prime Minister or carry on with the current “winner takes it all” Presidential system. Before the citizens have even had the time to understand the difference between the two, they hear about protests over how many people should be involved in any dialogue to iron out these things.

It is not surprising that the spinoff has been ethnic hate speech. The political formations in the country take ethnic patterns. Political disagreement therefore naturally morphs into disagreement among tribes. The political elite likes it that way. Tribes are political tools. They can be whimsically mobilized against outsiders. Against this background, the demos have so far targeted and destroyed property and investment that belongs to people from certain tribes. In Kisumu two supermarkets were set on fire. The owners belong to a tribe that is seen as “offending” the rioters. It is instructive that CORD leaders – who are self-proclaimed votaries of justice and fairness – have not condemned this destruction of private citizens’ property. The owners of these shops had no quarrel with CORD leaders, whatever their private political preferences might be. Neither did the owners of the minibuses and kiosks that have been burnt in various parts of Nairobi.

Predictably, firebrands from the tribes that appear to be targeted are incensed about this “targeting of their people.” They have come out rattling the sabre and issuing terrifying ethnic war cries.  These have only attracted further war cries from the other side. At the time of this writing, therefore, some six individuals – three each from CORD and Jubilee – are in the coolers because of instigating ethnic hate. The government says they must face the law. The opposition sees this as another opportunity for violent street demos. And so we are at the crossroads. Kenya must choose between the rule of the law and the law of the jungle.

If this government accepts to be blackmailed with sound bytes like “You are taking the country back to the dark days” it must concurrently accept to surrender the space for CORD “to take the country forward to dark days.” Civilized societies have laws that everybody must obey. The done thing is that the six must be taken to court. They must face fair trial and either suffer retribution or be acquitted. CORD leaders cannot claim to be reformist while at the same time displaying vile disrespect for law enforcement institutions and seeking to subvert, or short circuit, legal processes.

But it is not just the country that is at a crossroads. CORD leader Raila Odinga is at a crossroads, too. Once hailed in this column as a man on the right side of history, Raila is steadily sliding to the wrong side of history. His present methods are hard to justify. Each time the government concedes to him, he shifts the goal posts with new demands. This betrays bad faith. What does this gentleman really want? Would he appear to be keen on keeping the country in perpetual anxiety ahead of the next election, for whatever good he thinks this will bring his way? Does he probably dream of a Kenyan Arab Spring?  This would be an impossible dream in a country so tribally divided and variegated economically, socially and politically. The best you could get out of such an effort is a terrible ethnic bloodbath.

Raila Odinga might want to reflect on what his demos mean for his own political future. If he has not noticed, the demos are only taking traction in parts of Nairobi, Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay. Besides, there were ripples in Kakamega, Kisii and Mombasa. This should tell him something. There might be need for change of tack. For now the Arab Spring option does not seem viable. A more probable option is to mobilize voters in his strongholds. A second option is to endorse one of his colleagues for the presidency. A final one is to carry on as he is doing and sink into political odium and oblivion.

First Woman To Serve In US Congress In 1917

Jeannette Rankin of Montana was the first woman to serve in the United States Congress in 1916. This was well over one hundred-forty years after independence in July 1776. As Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton focuses on her appointment with history, it is daunting to reflect on the political path the American woman has walked. She had to wait for nearly one and a half centuries before serving in the legislature. Yet, it only gets worse. Consider that American women only began voting after the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Rebecca Felton of Georgia was the first woman in the U.S. Senate in 1922. Other historic triumphs came in quick order. Alice Robertson of Oklahoma became the first woman to preside over the House of Representatives, that same year. Mae Ella Nolan of California became chair of a congressional committee in 1923, while Hattie Caraway was elected to the Senate in 1932. The rest is history, as the saying goes.

In the patriarchal world we live in, it has not been easy history, however. Women remain an insignificant minority in the legislature the world over. Here in Kenya, the Constitution provides for women’s inclusion. In practice, men will do everything to ensure women are excluded. Parliament has recently lost the chance to legislate for the Two-thirds Gender Principle. Legislators are hugely challenged to bring the legislature issues of import to women and girls.

It was the same in the U.S. The pioneer female legislators were considered junior to their male counterparts. They faced the usual chauvinisms that are born out of traditional gender-based orthodoxy. It is an orthodoxy that has constructed a social environment that marginalizes and brutalizes women – at home and away. Tragically, the propaganda that fuels this orthodoxy makes men and women alike slaves to it.

Breaking through this belief system is no mean task. In many parts of the world, today, gender based violence against women is safe and well. Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains one of the worst forms of gender based violence (GBV). According to WHO sources more than 200 million women and girls around the world today live with violently mutilated genitalia. Two hundred million! Most are from Africa and Asia. Here, this anachronistic tradition is revered, even worshipped.

But the practice is also found in Europe, the United States and Canada. Immigrant populations fly their daughters home for mutilation. Ironically these will usually be learned individuals. Even back home, highly educated people medically sneak their daughters through the practice. There is a surfeit of myths driving the anachronism. Suffice it to say that the myths undermine the woman’s self esteem, even making her buy into them.

People like Hillary Clinton fill us up with fresh hope. But it is not just Hillary. It is the entire world around her and the inherent support nets and mechanisms. Hillary has spoken of the support she has enjoyed from her family, from childhood. First Lady Michelle Obama has her own kindred narratives. Her autobiography, Living History, talks of a conservative father who nonetheless believed that his daughter should not be limited because of gender. Then there were two supportive younger brothers and a mother who believed in her. Her teachers, too, recognized her outstanding qualities. They lent the necessary support to nurture them to maturity.

Long before she met her future husband and future 42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton at Yale, Hilary had a rich catalogue of leadership achievements, in school and in her community. She grew up as a Republican. In her high school years, she mobilized support for the presidential campaigns of such leading personalities as Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and even Eugene McCarthy, a Democrat. Her proactive and self-driven outstanding leadership roles in this phase of her life are simply mind-boggling.

To attempt to list Hillary’s accomplishments is to do her great injustice. I commend to you Living History instead. In the long run, we see Hillary guiding herself to dump the Republicans, following Nixon’s appalling presentation of Nelson Rockefeller in the Republican primaries of 1968. Put together with concerns about veiled racism in the Republican Party, the war in Vietnam and a whale of other social incongruities, she quit the Grand Old Party for good. With or without getting married to a politician who would later become President, Hillary was made for greatness.

President Obama has endorsed his former Secretary of State in his succession race, after she became the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for the November election. Going forward, it is going to be a bristling battle against the grumpy, blustery and polarizing Donald Trump. You can count on the Republican candidate to mount a free-knuckled battle He has already demonstrated propensity for assaulting her personality and her femininity. Indeed womanhood will broadly be brought into focus and under assault in this campaign. While women have campaigned for and won high office elsewhere in the world, the Clinton and Trump duel is going to be the mother of them all. Regardless of all the assets and liabilities that the candidates bring to this campaign, questions of gender as a matter of social construction will feature, both overtly and covertly.

The foremost global democracy has twice elected a Black president in our times. It stands on the edge of history once again. Is it about to elect its first woman president? The race for the White House could get even more electrifying, should Hillary opt for an all female ticket with the magnetic Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren, as her running mate. My dream is to see such a ticket take history to Washington. It would be a monumental achievement for humankind, a milestone in the gender discourse and the global search for gender equity. It would be the ultimate fulfillment for every father who loves his daughters and every conscientious husband. I begin to understand why outsiders have often wept louder than the bereaved. I am excited about this American election.

Unending Bilious By Cord

I do not know about the validity of the unending bilious claims by the Forum for Reform and Democracy (CORD) that the Independent Boundaries and Elections Commission (IEBC) has a sinister agenda against them. Maybe it has. The pronouncements by some of the commissioners, as I have previously said, confirm bad blood between the commission and CORD leaders. Whether this boils down to a collective anti CORD agenda is a moot question. This alone, however, is valid ground to consider reconstituting the commission. All this, however, remains in the territory of conjecture.

But I know something else about IEBC and the politicians that everybody should know. The facts paint a picture of conflict of interest between the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly and the IEBC. In November 2012, IEBC ordered for something they called “universal polling kit (UPK).” They wanted 34,000 packages of this “item.” Part of the package read, “reflective jackets.”

When the tender was advertised in December 2012, they replaced “reflective jackets” with “hand held metal detectors.” The number remained the same as the replaced jackets. The supply of the UPK was however not made even as Kenya went to the polls in March 2013. IEBC went on to pursue delivery, nonetheless! In their letter NPS/IG/SEC/2/6/5 VOL. 1/116 of 15 March 2013 to the Ministry of Public works – which was procuring for them – they explained that the metal detectors would now be used for public security at the presidential inauguration. Never mind that the presidential inauguration and public security are not items in the IEBC docket.

The IEBC worked with the Inspector General of Police and the Public Works ministry to vary “all the items ordered in the UPK tender to “metal detectors” – this despite the fact that the tender was “not variable or transferable.” The tender was now changed from “supply of 34, 000 UPKs” to “102, 000 hand held metal detectors.” The figure 102,000 is way beyond the number in the entire police force! The objective was clearly – and only – to ensure that all the money in the original order is “spent.” In the end, however, only a paltry 5, 000 metal detectors were supplied, according to delivery note 6379 of 7 and 8 April 2013. At the time I am writing this piece, the balance of these “detectors” has not been delivered.

The total cost of the tender was KShs. 1.5 billion. The amount remains unpaid because of non-performance. Some people within the commission, however, wanted the payment to be made. And the PAC also wants this money to be paid, in spite of all the discrepancies. The PAC report recommends action against the CEO for refusing to make this payment. What is the interest of the PAC and those within the commission who want this money to be paid? Such are the questions that both CORD and Jubilee should be asking. Can we trust the people who want to give away our money this way?

In a different scenario, another supplier, Face Technologies, was awarded a contract in November 2012 “to supply, deliver, install, configure, train, test, and commission 30,000 hand held electronic voter identification devices (EVIDs)” at USD. 555.38. Following lengthy delays, complications and gerrymandering, the supplier brought 30,000 laptops and 4,600 EVIDS. He invoiced at nearly twice the original price, USD 1,006. In the end, the IEBC’s Secretariat paid the original figure, leaving some people within the commission – and subsequently in the PAC – to be unhappy. Once again, why would anybody in the IEBC and in the PAC be unhappy that someone saved the taxpayer a whooping USD 2 million? What is their interest in the amount not paid?

There are serious integrity questions here, on the part of both some commissioners and the PAC. Why does the PAC want to reward those seeking to make the country lose money, while rewarding those responsible for the loss? Why would PAC recommend payment for what was never delivered? It should not surprise us that some individual MPs have been flowing up the matter. They are actually privately pressing that the “supplier” of the metal detectors that were never supplied should be paid. It is saddening that the PAC was reconstituted slightly over one year ago, because of integrity questions. Good grief! What have we come to?

Is it possible that there could be more dirt in the IEBC wash than meets the eye?  Reliable sources within IEBC indicate that when Opposition leaders meet – or stumble – into the commissioners away from the public rubble, they urge them not to quit. “Kaeni ngumu, stay put,” they tell them, “Don’t cave in.” What, exactly, do we want? Is the citizen a pawn in a high stakes game that he does not understand? Why are procurement integrity questions never mentioned on public podiums? Why is pressure to pay dubious suppliers heaped in private? Why would the same people asking for the commissioners to go home whisper to them in private, “Kaeni ngumu; don’t cave in. Stay put.”?

Going forward, there is need to probe deeper into procurement matters within the IEBC to ensure that they do not distort the ongoing angry public debates on reconstitution of the commission. The reputation of the commission has hit an all time low and reform is inevitable. Still, a methodical approach is necessary. The procurement tussle suggests that there could be some good people in there. Should they ignominiously sink with their culpable colleagues through street protests? What about the compromised politicians in the protesting class? How do we deal with their conflict of interest?