Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roles of pressure groups in changing Kenyan politics in Mwai Kibaki’s regime

Muslim demonstrators in Kenya
A pressure group is a collection of individuals who share common beliefs, attitudes, values and concerns and who come together to interact as a group to try to change government policies. In changing Kenyan’s political landscape in Mwai Kibaki’s regime, the pressure groups have been involved in demonstrations, lobbying, directly supporting candidates with the same views in elections, moving to court to contest against policies and direct advertisements in the media.

In Kenya, and especially during the Kibaki’s regime of 2002-2012 the following pressure groups have played a pivotal roles like Kenya National commission on Human Rights, KNCHR; Law Society of Kenya, LSK; Association  of Media Women in Kenya, AMWIK; UASU, FIDA and SUPKEM.

In my discussion in this this blog post I will look at roles of pressure groups in changing Kenyan politics in Mwai Kibaki’s regime with examples. Finally I will conclude with an overview of risk of pressure groups in the country political system.

Roles of Pressure groups
Pressure groups have enhanced participation, pluralism and diversity in shaping opinion in Kibaki’s regime by being a voice for the citizens on government policy. Their constant press release, counter policy and expert opinion has formed a discourse of argument in formulating of policies in aid of wanainchi.  During the illegal appointment of public prosecutor, attorney general and budget controller by Mwai Kibaki, the LSK and other pressure tipped the balance into rescinding of the appointments which was unlawful.

Secondly, since they are lawfully registered bodies with well established office carrying out well stated agendas they don’t risk jailing and victimization by the government unlike ordinary citizens. Pressure groups too offer a legal way to its members to channel their issues. Labour unions like the UASU and KNUT have been responsible in putting the government in toes in providing for their promise with the latter currently pressurizing the government to hire the 10,000 teachers currently on contract in permanent basis.

For minorities who risk being locked out in majority rule democracy or minor tribes being locked out by major tribes in Kenyan tribal politics, pressure groups are a major channel for their grievances. Minority also mean slum dwellers, small scale traders and laborers without adequate voice in government policy. The association of Kenyan taxpayers and Marsgroup are instrumental in keeping the government responsible in managing CDF and LATF funds by providing their own ranking of poorly managed funds and foster transparency.

Additionally, the roles of pressure groups in giving out important facts and information hidden by the government to citizens, journalist and other opinion makers during Kibaki’s regime has made the government to quickly revert their original poor policies, carry out their own official results or give out the information albeit grudgingly. KNCHR former commissioner Maina Kiai efforts in alerting the world of the governments extra judicial killings in fighting Mungiki, crimes and the mount Elgon operation against Sabaot Land Defense Forces has been a key in Kenya having their own research and has culminated into the most needed police reform which tarnished the regime of Kibaki.

Lastly and most important is that pressure groups in Kibaki’s regime through the above mentioned roles and relevant examples has acted as checks and balances in government policy. By offering counter policies, lobbying, demonstrations and going to courts the Kibaki regime has contracted in their policies. When the Nairobi City Council sought to increase the parking fee at the CBD, Matatu owners, citizens and traders protested and moved to courts where they successfully squashed the move.

A thorn in Kenyan democracy?
Sadly, pressure groups still suffer the same repression, killing and discrimination meted to them during the dictatorial KANU rule of Moi. Adesina Badejo in writing Raila Odinga’s biography notes the protracted tribal politics that derailed the constitution making while former Tetu  MP Wangari Maathai sadly note that during the 2008 post election violence when they met at Uhuru gardens to pray as members of Green Belt Movement were dispersed away  with police brutality.  Professor Maathai and PM Raila note in their books that tribalism in Kenya is a curse that pressure groups have to fight with to survive.

On the other hand, pressure groups have been a detrimental to democracy in Kenyan politics in Kibaki’s regime by having few powerful groups easily shifting opinion in a single way against the wider citizens.  Taking the example of parliament as pressure group in Kibaki’s regime, they have successfully increased their salary at the expense of taxpaying Kenyans.

Lastly, the revenue used by pressure groups like cigarette firms is wastage and cripples democracy by shifting intention from major issues of affecting citizens.

Prof Wangari Maathai; Nobel Peace Price laureate Challenge for Africa

Title: The Challenge for Africa
Author: Prof Wangari Maathai
Publisher: Arrow Books, 2009
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 319
Reviewer: Manuel Odeny

“Africans must make a deliberate choice to move forward together toward more cohesive macro-nations, where all can feel free, and at peace with themselves and others, where there is no need for any group to organize violence against their neighbors, then everyone would begin to reap the benefits of unity in diversity” Prof Maathai summarizes the book.

Born in Nyeri, Kenya in 1940 Prof Wangari became among first African elites who, alongside Barack Obama Snr benefited from airlift to study abroad before their hope for a better Africa against colonial governance was swept away to disappointments by the old guards guided by greed and otiose tribalism.

As an elite and a university lecturer the author could have easily joined or turned her face away from poor governance, massive land grabbing and environmental abuse by the political elites in Kenya, but she didn’t.

Through the establishment of Green Belt movement in 1977 she worked in trenches at grass root to plant over 30 million trees to bring peace, justice, and end poverty and ignorance against violation of human rights, corruption and save the environment. It is in this period that the author observed some colleagues leaving the trench to follow their own dreams while other ended up in jail, exile or as refugees.

Although she became the MP for Tetu in 2002, environment assistant minister, a Nobel peace prize winner in 2004 who have dined and wined with presidents, celebrities and powerful people Prof Wangari is still humbled to work with common wanainchi.

It is this aspect that makes the book special in a reader’s bookshelf from connecting ordinary African lives, policy of government and their effects to the world.

Sadly, Africa in the foreign press has been described in the nth world; poverty, war, disease, ignorance and poor leadership. The image carried across is that of absurdity and paradoxical of extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

Celebrities, NGOs and foreign correspondents calling themselves experts writing about the continent ignorantly like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, pessimistic like Blaine Harden’s Africa: Dispatches from a fragile continent, with atavistic awe like Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa or slightly balanced like Martin Meredith’s State of Africa: A history of fifty years of African independence.

But when an African 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai’s writes The Challenge for Africa  it offers a new breathe of life into viewing the continent from an indigenous eyes who have spent her life making it a better place, and not a detached foreigner with patronizing air.

The facet taken by the author is optimistic on the enduring spirit of Africans, using culture, environment, self belief and positive leadership to bring light to the beleaguered continent.

Former Britain Prime Minister Gordon Brown, UN former Sec Gen Koffi Annan and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela writing on the book’s review sees Prof. Wangari’s book as an inspiration to the world by championing for humanity whose message of hope need to be supported by the world.

“I have written for The Challenge for Africa for all those with an interest in the fate of the African continent” the author writes in the introduction “I hope to explain, elucidate, engage, and, perhaps most important encourage all concerned to grapple with the challenges facing Africa today”

Divided tightly into 14 chapters, the book offers insight into the state of Africa as affected by international affairs like colonialism, Aid dependency syndrome and the unfair trade balance which has, though partly, negatively affected the beleaguered continent.

From the African perspective, the author shed a light in leadership skills, democratic space, sustainable and accountable management of natural resources, peace and justice. Additionally, the author links culture, African family, tribalism and environmental conversation by craftily intertwining them to the hope for Africa.

The Challenge for Africa is dedicated to all people of Africa by the author is a beautiful read that shapes the readers perception about the continent. Prof Wangari Maathai is also the author of Unbowed: A Memoir, The Green Belt Movement: sharing the approach and experience and Replenishing The Earth: Spiritual values for healing ourselves and the world.

An observation though is that Meredith’s book State of Africa: A history of fifty years of African independence is wrongly quoted as The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair by the same author and the indexing is shallow although these do not add a major flaw to the book.

Africa: Insecurity may hamper benefits of carbon trading

The recent opening of a police post at the Kinale forest by Kenyan vice president Kalonzo Musyoka to help curb insecurity on the Naivasha – Nairobi highway at Kiambaa region is a clear indication of negative effects afforestation as a means of carbon trading.

The World Bank sees carbon trading as a major revenue benefit for Africa which only produces 1% of world’s CO2 against major countries like USA which produces 25%. This has seen many African countries like Kenyan president and PM encouraging their citizens to start the lucrative trade.

According to experts currently there are 48,000 Kenyans already on the carbon trade in already three approved projects with 17 projects still in the pipeline. Stephen Ndibo an expert at KPMG on an interview with KTN observes that when the major water towers are restored Kenya can gain up to 10 billion yearly with Mau tower able to gain 4 billion.

This will be a welcome if you consider that the west capitalistic tendency is leading to carbon race where the negative climate change effect like famine, floods and poor weather patterns affecting Africa more.

Though lucrative the poor side of insecurity can be a thorn in the flesh like the recent killing and dumping of corpse in Kinale forest is just a tip of an iceberg.

On my frequent travel on Maseno-Nairobi I pass the expense Mau forest and laud the conservation effort but can’t cease to wonder how the inhabited area can be a haven of bandits and carjackers with impunity. Like other hotspots with the same trend in Mayi Mahiu Narok, Ahero rice plains or Awendo sugarcane plantations!

This is if you consider it being inaccessible and uncontrollable crime hotspots like dumpsites, cemeteries, industrial areas, parks and plantation but with a more deep cover for hiding.

Try to see this trend in the light of Sabaot Lands Defense Forces which gave the government a headache using the forest of Mount Elgon, Uganda’s LRA in Virunga forest or the Mau Mau fight against colonial government in safe haven of Aberdare forest!  

As UN envisions a 10% forest cover for each country I see it as a 10% increase of more Kinale type insecurity making environmental policy makers to factor this ignored fact.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Journalist Philip Ochieng is accusing the African press

Title: I Accuse the Press: An insider’s View of the Media and Politics in Africa
Author: Philip Ochieng
Publisher: Initiatives Publisher, 1992
Genre: Non-fiction (Academic)
Pages: 210
Reviewer: Manuel Odeny

the slightly truculent and bellicose tone of Philip Ochieng’s I Accuse the Press is attributed to the muse during the 1979 course for New International Information Order by UNESCO to try an rectify the one sided flow f information from the West to Africa and other developing countries. The former counties have been reported negatively with most media content coming from the West.

By then Ochieng was a sub-editor at Daily Nation.

In the book’s introduction the author notes his anger at his colleagues who took side with the western world.

It’s this basis that among my university shelves I found the book standing out in western media books as an insider’s view of the African press.

During my undergraduate media and communication course work I found the book appealing in the state of African press, freedom on press, editorial control by owners and government, light into government/party newspapers and most importantly the dearth journalism skills on practioners.

As a start up reporter in 1966 for Nation the Kenyan author ended up working in major papers in three East African countries of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda as columnist, reporter and editor. Interestingly, his work made Ochieng to end up in acronymous situations with colleagues and a guest of the state in Kenya and Uganda.

In Uganda he was arrested within weeks of editing a government paper while the Kenyan government could not comprehend him linking it with the Entebbe raid by Israelis in Target magazine in 1976.

This stints and his studies made him be viewed as a communist during the height of the West and East –ism schism and saw him prevented from writing in local dailies in 1975.

Though banned his writing skills saw him co-author with Joseph Karimi a successful book Kenyatta Succession.

This author’s expense knowledge, experience and life as an African journalist while still writing two columns for Nation that makes him an authority in African press, but not a saint (as I have pointed at the end of this review).

I Accuse the Press is divided into six chapters, the first ‘Enemies of the press’ is a talk on new international information order and place of press in Africa as either an ally r enemy of the people or the government. In this chapter the author is aided by historical account of African press and philosophical views from communication researchers like Wilbur Schramm.

He next two chapters written from the author’s own experience shows how even when a small freedom of expression exists there is a constant risk of clump-don by governments afraid of nay criticism, and censorship by proxy on the editorial content by media owners. Ochieng notes the thin skin of political leaders on criticism and their poor briefing to local press at the expense of foreign press curtails media growth in Africa.

The following chapter and most scathing in accusing the African press is the dearth of journalistic ability to manipulate their tools of trade like language, style, knowledge and intellectual implement. As a book worm, the author chides journalists who never read and research, and instead opt for shallow reporting.

In this chapter too, Ochieng decries tribalism and stinginess in the Kenyan press that makes journalistic training to be poor for fear of poaching between the media houses and shifting of poorly paid reporters to public relations. He observes:

“You can teach a potential hunter how to wield his spear and aim it unmistakably at an animal. But if you do not at the same time teach him what kind of animal to aim his spear at with the greatest benefit to his tribe (Africa), he may as well jolly aim at a member of his clan” he writes n even western educated African journalists.

On the other hand the second last chapter looks at government ownership of press like the now defunct Kenya Times which the author was the Editor in chief in 1988-91. Though humanely conceived by governments to the citizens notes the failure of the government paper as in other African is due to social, economic, political, technological and intellectual problems.

The last chapter checks the rise and fall of indigenous media empire Stellascope publishing company owned by Hillary Ngweno making the author conclude the working of an African journalist should never be constrained by indigenous, foreign state or commercial ownership in advocating for the continent’s total strategic interests.

Good for Africa, but….

Though written before 1922 which my lock out readers not well versed with the region’s history plus the author’s writing style of using ‘heavy’ vocabulary I would recommend it if one needs an insight in regional press since Ochieng is a walking encyclopedia in this. This was evident during the 50 years celebration of Daily Nation by the author’s insightful articles.

The experience f the author as a journalist and the angle he takes in media is relevant especially with press freedom in Africa as a mirage with factors like technology and illiteracy keeping major populace in dark. I found such lines helpful since I personally think (though dissent) that the fourth estate mantra never exists in Africa.

I also like how ‘smooth faced’ journalist in the acknowledgement and within the book became today media geezers with a mark in the industry like Lucy Oriang’, Tom Mshindi, Austin Bukenya, Henry Chakava, Wangethi Mwangi, Salim Lone, Joseph Odindo, Benjamin Mkapa (Former Tanzanian president) to name just a few.

The book with the major changes in the media scene needs to be revised to capture tics like ICT change, entry of new players and how media situation in Africa is since the 1980s UNESCO  push is still a staus quo.

My only reservation with the book is the forward by Dr. Calestous Juma which places the author on a pedestal as a ‘saint’ in the media. I find these offhand since the book is based n the author’s personal experience which since are based n controversies some personalities like Goerge Githii are portrayed negatively.
Though the forward states that ‘the book invokes an Olympian image that is worth recounting’ it doesn’t make the author a saint pointing out at the African press in any way. This thought is in the light of Philip Ochieng’s column Fifth columnist after the Mr. Bosire’s commission on Goldenberg scandal by the KANU government implicated him of getting Ksh. 250,000. He writes:

“Hypocrisy is a sin more deadly than Goldenberg. I would be a hypocrite to say I have never committed it. But it is agonizing to be wrongly accused of it….the Bosire commission affirms that Goldenberg paid me (K)sh.250,000. Let me not deny it. Indeed, Mr. Bosire’s figure may be conservative. When I worked for president Moi as editor of The Kenyan Times, he sometimes shoved a few thousand quid into my pocket.”

With a light touch: 36 reasons why I love to be a man (And am not a chauvinist)

In the constant barrage of men by gender activists and feminists which is constantly making men to seem to apologize for being men, I come to think about being a man. I have come to realize that we men (without necessarily appearing as chauvinists or sexist) are very simple and uncluttered creatures which makes us a happy lot.
The following 36 reasons has made me realize why male readers of The Burning Splint need to be happy;
1.       Your last name will stay put even in marriage
2.       The garage is all yours and you’re the king there without interruptions
3.       Wedding plans often take care of themselves
4.       Chocolates is just another snack
5.       You can be the president
6.       You can never be pregnant
7.       You can wear a T-shit to a party and a swimming pool
8.       You can also wear  no T-shirt to a swimming pool
9.       Car mechanics tell you the truth
10.   The all world is your urinal
11.   You don’t have to drive all the way to another petrol station toilet because this ones are just too dirty
12.   Same work, more pay
13.   Wrinkles add character
14.   People never stare at your chest when you talk to them
15.   Occasional well rendered belch is practically expected
16.   New shoes don’t cut, blister, or mangle your feet
17.   You have one mood all the time
18.   Phone conversations are over in 30 sec flat
19.   A 5 day vocation requires only one suitcase
20.   You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness
21.   If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend
22.   Your underwear is Ksh 200 and they come in 5 pack
23.   Three pairs of shoes are more than enough
24.   You have strap problems in public
25.   You just never see wrinkles in your clothes
26.   Everything on your face stays in its original color
27.   The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades and cost only Ksh 20.
28.   You only have to shave your face and neck, and still have freedom of choice concerning growing a moustache
29.   You can play with toys all your life
30.   Your belly usually hide and never pronounce your big thighs
31.   You only need one wallet and a pair of shoes
32.   You want only one color for all seasons
33.   You can wear shorts no matter why your legs look like
34.   A pocket knife is enough to ‘do’ your nails
35.   You can do Christmas shopping for 25 members of the family on December 24 in 25 m,inutes flat
36.   Lastly, you don’t freak out when you go to the party and see another man wearing the same shirt, instead you become buddies

Monday, March 14, 2011

The 2009 Kenyan Census Results; the High number of Illegal Somali Immigrants in the Country Serious

The 2009 population and house census released at the end of August last year by hon. Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya showed the extent to which Kenya is at risk from over decade unrest in Somalia.

During the official release of the results the Ministry for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 nullified about 2.4 million results of Kenyan of Somali descend due to massive inconsistency.

The 2,385, 572 figure of Kenyan Somalis which placed them as the sixth largest tribe in the country against the country’s 38,610,097 is nullified and awaits a further update after a recount.

“the ratio of increase in eight most affected districts was higher that the population dynamics like birth and death rates, age and sex too deviated from the norm while the household size was without significance to the number of household” the official release explained.

The affected districts included Lagdera, Wajir East, Mandera Central, Mandera East, Mandera West, Turkana Central, Turkana North and Turkana South.

The most affected are Lagdera and Wajir East with a total of 469,541.

This shows only a tip of the iceberg since the effect was not reflected in illegal immigrants inland.

The recount after the 24-25th August 2009 census on the affected areas is expected to take longer. According to the official release, complexity of logistics like transport, insecurity concern and competition of other national interests like drought were the major challenges and will surely affect the count.

Additionally, the Ksh 8.4 billion budget allocation to the exercise has been allocated and new money will require a budgetary allocation before bureaucracy bottle neck starts.

The inconsistency is mostly caused by influx of Somali immigrants escaping the war in their country have had its effect not only in region, but all the way to Nairobi and Kampala.  

According to unpublished UN reports and leaked diplomatic cables in Wiki leaks, Kenyan government is heavily involved in the Somali crisis by pitting the weak transitional government against rebels Al-shabaab.

“Kenyan government have aided in training of police, armed forces and Kenyan Somali youths illegally for the Somali government” Michael Rennebeger is quoted in the latest Wiki leaks cables.

The leak goes further into blaming two Kenyan youths for carrying out suicide bombing in Mogadishu claiming 21 lives: 17 soldiers, 11 of which were Burundian, 4 civilians and injuring over 15 people.

The precursor to the effect portrayed by the census was the Somalia and Ethiopian forces fighting the Al-shabaab spilling over into Kenya at Mandera town, which was affected by the inconsistency, in the border region few weeks ago.

Kenyan government in Nairobi was caught flat footed as over 20 people were killed and other injured. It took a serious of denial before TV footage forced Kenya to act during the heavy shelling and gun fight.

Although Kenyan forces helped subdue the uprising and increased border patrol and crack down of Somali immigrants traveling inland, the mood with Al-shabaab is frosty.
The terrorist has vowed a suicide attack in Kenya akin to the one they carried out during the final of world cup in Kampala Uganda which claimed more than 70 lives and injured over 100.

Sadly, the attack was planned by Kenyan Somalis and planned in Kenya showing how vulnerable the country is.

Prof. George Saitoti Kenyan security minister is adamant that Kenya is not involved in Somalia crisis and wont sent its troop in volatile country although Kenyan security is suffering from the war.

“Kenya will sent security forces along its border with Somalia to beef up the security” the minster is quoted telling the parliament and Kenyans.

This has interception of illegal immigrants from North Eastern and Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate with high number of immigrants.

These antics may go down the drain with corruption in immigration ministry, sense of victimization of Somalis and Muslims curtailing the processes.

Police commissioner Mathews Iteere reacting to Al-shabaab threat in Kenya recently released 9 suspects wanted for aiding Al-shabaab in planning an attack. The police too aided in fouling a Kampala bomber in Nairobi trying to reach Uganda by bus.

A recount of the census in the affected regions should be speeded up and the reasons of inconsistency brought out and immigrants in the region known and registered as refugees.

Why is the recount important?

“Collecting demographic and socio-economic data is essential for decision making process in government and stake holders in policy formulation” Edward Sambili, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 is quoted talking to journalist in a workshop.

On the other hand, the citizens of these districts and other stakeholders like trader and NGOs have the right to the results as all other Kenyans.

The 2009 population and housing census have shown Kenya’s soft under belly, the sustainable recount should show the way forward.