Friday, February 29, 2008

GIVEN A CHANCE, MARTHA KARUA WOULD HAVE DERAILED MEDIATION TALKS

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By Jerry Okungu
Arusha, Tanzania

My good friend Prof Mkenya tells me that human beings do not change because they have seen the light. They change when they are faced with extreme heat. He has a compelling analogy to illustrate his theory.

The other day he gave me an example when only the threat of burning hell made human beings see the light. He had this folklore about 19th century missionaries coming to Africa to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good men of the cloth armed themselves with the Bible and the cross as symbols of the scripture and salvation. In their minds, they had assumed that native Africans would listen to the word, see the cross and believe that truly Jesus the son of God had suffered for them and that they would repent their sins and follow his teachings. Unfortunately for them, things became harder as days turned into weeks and months turned into years with nothing to show for their efforts.

This setback called for a return to the drawing board in search of another strategy that would break the impasse. Like the Eureka law of gravity, one missionary developed an interesting theory. It had dawned on him that it was not enough to promise the natives life after death since many of them already believed they would automatically join their ancestors in the underworld upon death any way. They had to be promised something more drastic and painful for those who refused to accept Jesus!

He came up with the idea of a burning hell! And he didn’t stop at hell. He explained that the heat in hell was many times hotter than normal earthly fires and that those incorrigible sinners who did not believe in Jesus Christ would burn for a thousand years as they gnashed their teeth! Meanwhile the believers in Jesus Christ would have endless bliss in heavenly eternity!

Professor Mkenya tells me that soon after the natives heard of hell, they trooped to mission centers in droves and went down on their knees asking for forgiveness of their sins! Hell had finally made them see the light!

Martha Karua is a renowned hardliner of a negative type. She is the kind of person who cannot see anything any other way except her way. Another thing, she comes across as a person who was traumatized in her childhood; persecuted perhaps. The more reason she is permanently on the attack mode, angry with the world and tends to be a control freak. To observers, she comes across as one woman who has a grudge with society; more so the men competing with her for power.

Martha Karua participated actively in derailing the Bomas Draft Constitution after parting ways with Raila Odinga in early 2003. Kenyans may recall that prior to 2002 she was a bosom friend of the Odinga family and almost lost her life in an air crash in her rush to go to Bondo.

The moment Martha Karua realized that Raila Odinga and Kibaki had disagreed over the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding; she changed colours and switched allegiance to her party boss. And, give it to her; she has been the most steadfast defender of President Kibaki since then.

When Kibaki reshuffled his cabinet in 2005 after losing the referendum, Martha Karua was elevated to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs whose docket included constitutional reforms. At first Karua misled Kenyans to believe she was tough enough to midwife the process through. Instead she ensured the demise of the Bomas Draft!

As I wrote this article in a hotel room in Arusha Tanzania, a news flash from a Kenyan television network made me sit up. Martha had done it again! This time she had had the temerity to insult the characters of Kofi Annan and Benjamin Mkapa in public! I felt like going under the table in the presence of my Cameroonian friends! We watched in dismay as Karua ranted about Annan and Mkapa’s alleged past international criminal activities!

For the first time in my life I felt ashamed to be a Kenyan. I felt pity for my country and sorry for President Kibaki. Under Moi and Kenyatta’s watch, no cabinet minister would dare go this far to embarrass the entire nation and retain that office for one extra day. However, this is the new Kenya where the likes of Martha Karua are able to get away with murder.

Had the international community not promised PNU mediators real hell, Karua would have derailed the talks!

jerryokungu@gmail.com
February 29, 2008.

Monday, February 25, 2008

TWO GOVERNMENTS NOT THE ANSWER IN KENYA!

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The PNU vs ODM debate. The verdict is yours.
Read on.

Ochwangi!
You and the entire PNU you support are "RIGHT". You can never be wrong, and the international community cannot dictate terms for you, that is according to your illusion. Gues what; you can rant as much you want, and fool many people who do not know the truth, but let me tell you something; that the international community has got very good machinery to know where the truth is. Further more, when Kenya claims to be a soveriegn state, she still rules herself by a constitution given to her, or in other words a constitution which was approved by the same international community. The same international community are the ones who put pressure on Great Britain to let go of the colony because it was becoming an embarrasment to the World that Britain was constantly using extra judicial measures to suppress the natives who were agitating for freedom.

It is the same international community that urged Britain to modify and accept the Majimbo Constitution that our native forefathers had come up with. Had we got our wishes, the Majimbo (FEDERAL) system of government would have been entrenched in Kenya at Independence. But what happenned? HMS (Her Majesty's Service) had to protect the white settlers in the colony so the Shikuku's, Odingas, Ngalas, Gichurus, Mboyas, and others present at Lancaster House, were told to approve a unitary System which really did not favor the African people. This Unitary System has subsequently been extremely abused by the three presidents who have ruled this country. It has led to the widening of the gap between the poor and the super rich.

ODM succeeded in changing the mindset of the people to realize that it is them who decide who should lead them and not the other way round. It is this change that is bringing fear in the supporters of the Unitary system of Governance. This is what has made them to plan murder and atrocities.

They then have gone on a propaganda spin to make it appear as if PNU and the hijacker of the Presidency are the Victims. The more reason why some of the PNU hardliners look at us with eyes that are about to pop out of their sockets and tell us that "The International community cannot dictate to us." My question is; if that is so, then why do they continue using the same Constitution approved by the international Community? Why can't they accept to enact a Kenyan Constitution written by Kenyans at the Bomas of Kenya so that everyone can get equal opportunity to share the national cake? What are they afraid of? Or are they afraid that the murders they commited against the people while in power will rear its ugly head agaist them?

Yes Ochwangi, according to you PNU is right and ODM is wrong. PNU never planned any violence. This might be so, but I keep asking myself this: After two days of running battles where a large group of thugs in Uniform, chased citizens (Wazalendo) all over town and Wazalendo had to furiously fight back to ward them off, who then declared curfew in Naivasha? Was it not the Officer in charge of Police Division? After that, they brought police reiforcement, and some two lorries full of dreadlocked snuff sniffing men to surround some houses where a particular ethnic group were holed up. The officers who were in Kenyan paramilitary Uniforms proceeded to break the doors by gunfire. Anybody who tried to fight back from those houses was gunned down. The dreadlocked men then went into the houses and hacked those who could not escape to death. The uniformed officers then ordered for the house to be burned down with the bodies inside. The result; 19 charred bodies remained. Were the people who committed this act ODM members? The Answer is no because ODM was not even in charge of "Retired Administration Police" let alone uniformed paramilitary officers.
In the City of Kisumu, believed to be an ODM stronghold, nearly all those 500+ who were killed, died from injuries inflicted by bullets fired from G3 and AK47 rifles that are commonly found within the Kenya armed forces, particularly the Police and the paramilitary UNits

Who then planned and executed the violence? Were thyey ODM members? If someone wants to make people believe that they were ODM members, how then did they get possesion of military uniforms and equipment?

I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that this violence was pre-planned by people who had full control of the paramilitary unit, Administration Police and Regular Police. ODM had no such cotrol. The answer thus leaves us with one group;....The PNU! Do you think the international community does not know this?

K'Onyiego


David ochwangi wrote:

Call it what you may but that is exactly what we are facing if the external “experts” on Kenya and ODM had their way. In ODM’s clamor for power, the constitution that has helped preserve peace since independence is absolutely meaningless to them nor do they care to lay the proper procedural framework in a civilized manner to make the necessary changes except of course through threats of violence.

The violence we have witnessed as perpetrated by ODM and threats of more unless they have their way is obviously their Modus Operandi but certainly will not be the way to bring change in Kenya .

We have to give ODM credit for co-opting the international community to support its pursuit of the top office and showing open bias in judging the Kenyan crisis. Some have said the results of the last elections do not reflect the wishes of the majority of Kenyans and one can’t help but wonder, which majority?Is it the ODM majority or the people's majority? Majority is defined by demography and ODM is not the majority in Kenya and neither are the Nilote ethnic groups which they represent and which dominate the core leadership of the movement. The minority in ODM is responsible for the violence and ethnic cleansing of ethnic groups belonging to the Bantu majority. This is fact and even though many would rather define this crisis as the country against Kikuyus, the truth is, Kalenjins and Luos attacked all Bantus indiscriminately and thereby helped drive the political demarcation lines very distinctly.

The kind of a quick fix being espoused by ODM and the international community is exactly what Kenya must avoid at all costs because it will be a dangerous precedent that will ensure perpetual polarity in the country’s governing institutions from top down as well as give clearance for future contestants that any disputed elections can easily be resolved through violence and co-opting international involvement. We must not go down this path. It only shifts the problem from one end of the pendulum to the other and defers similar crises to future elections.

We need sobriety in resolving the issues facing Kenya , solutions must not be driven by emotion and anarchy and certainly not by international dictation or give unabated priority to the views of a few at the expense of our national heritage. The threshold to apply in determining the relevance of international pressure must be whether or not these nations would apply their recommendations in their own countries. For instance, what if in the disputed presidential election in the US in 2000 Al Gore resorted to inciting his supporters to violence against Republicans, would the US constitution and procedure have allowed “power sharing” between President Bush and Al Gore?

What about in 2004 when John Kerry was leading in both opinion polls and exit polls leading to the election and Senator Kerry decided he was robbed of victory by president Bush, would US policy allow “power sharing”?

Does anyone remember the Queen of England ever running for election? What about prime minister Brown Gordon? The point being my friends, these democracies are independent and unique to their own heritages and customs and must be respected accordingly. Kenya is no different and our sovereignty is no less than that of any other in the community of nations and must be respected!

The international community must decide whether or not their involvement in Kenya ’s crisis would be in support of the violent method the change is being brought about and in whose best interests their support is. The international community, including the US don’t always get it right and there are plenty of examples around the world to show this fact. Are we willing to take another hasty chance on Kenya?

The Annan effort is certainly commendable and hopefully, so would be the outcome. However, if the pronouncements from the team are any indication, let’s brace for two sets of government in Kenya; an unfortunate outcome that would embroil the nation into eternal wrangling. We might as well agree that the current divisions and polarity would be permanently entrenched in government. There is a reason why constitutions all over the world structure governments in three co-equal branches; the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. That is what we have in Kenya, but in the direction and demands of ODM in the Annan effort, a new executive prime minister created for Hon. Odinga with equal powers as the president would be the result and we will in effect have two executives of opposing view points running the country! I would rather Hon. Odinga run the whole thing if it really mattered that much to the country and save us from long term headache. We are only deluding ourselves to think an executive premiership established for ODM will solve our divisions, it won’t!

Not to diminish the role of prime minister but let’s really think this thing through. We need a strong, united and effective government, not a divided government. The prime minister position must be constitutionally mandated, a prime minister’s role must be designed to support the government agenda and not undermine it as we saw Hon. Odinga do after the fall-out with the Kibaki administration in 2003. A prime minister cannot run parallel agenda or designed to further personal ambition. The prime minister must be answerable to a higher authority, i.e. the president or Parliament and must be motivated to keep his job. He must be on his toes and push the nation’s agenda. In this instance, in all likelihood, Hon. Odinga would be Kenya ’s next prime minister if the Annan team agreement becomes a reality.

Hon. Odinga must be extremely careful about his company and that is a test he must pass. Sending people such as Hon. Ruto who has historically since 1992 supported, overseen and funded violence against other ethnic communities in Rift Valley and who has a volley of corruption and embezzlement of Kenyans employee pension funds in NSSF charges pending against him in Kenya’s courts to the Annan team as an agent of positive change was a major credibility failure. Here I don’t by any means suggest that Hon. Odinga has bad intentions, in fact I think the man is a gentleman but just like any leader, we must judge the results of his leadership and so far, frankly, they are dismal at best and I am not sure of how much to look forward to either.

Finally, any constitutional changes suggested and made must truly reflect the will of the majority of Kenyans. We do not currently have a true representation of Kenya’s demography in parliament and the claim that ODM has majority in parliament is actually an untenable illusion. Here is how: the Kalenjin group, for example, which makes up 11% of the population in Kenya has about 30 MPs in a 210 member house or about 14.3% or 7 MPs over-representation. This invariably means that some demographic groups are underrepresented and this anomaly must be fixed as part of constitutional revisions to truly and equitably represent the will of all Kenyans.

The formula of representation must be corrected and parliamentary seats reapportioned accordingly. If truth be told, Kenya needs all the Luos, Kalenjins, Kisiis, Maasais, Kikuyus, Kambas and everyone of us to make it work. Any changes in the country must be our changes and cannot be through violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King, who is credited with the most positive change in America, did so through non-violence. We rarely hear of Malcolm X whose ideals might have been right but were lost in his approach and execution.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

THE SOLUTION TO KENYA’S POST ELECTION CRISIS IN SIGHT

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By Jerry Okungu
On January 26, 2007, I wrote about Professor Mkenya, a humble academic who has spent most of his life at the University of Nairobi since I met him there three decades ago.

This professor has taught Engineering Sciences all his life yet his clinical analysis of government structures and histories of political parties in mature democracies of Europe and the United States would leave fast talking political scientists reeling with envy.

Professor Mkenya, like all right thinking Kenyans has been concerned about the current Kenyan political crisis. Because of this concern, he invited me for a cup of tea at the Serena Hotel,now known as the House of Peace, something that he had not done for years. To tell you the truth, it was the best meeting I had had in recent times. It was as rewarding as it was enriching intellectually.

Mkenya believed then as now, that we are in this crisis because we have a wrong political system, weak institutions without checks and balances and an Executive that plays multiple and at times incongruent roles that don’t add up. He believes that for Kenya to get out of the present quagmire, a new political arrangement would have to be negotiated and built into the current constitution to avert future crises of this nature.

In our meeting at Serena Hotel, we saw two ways the mediation process could deal with the crisis in the search for a solution. We suggested that the team should divide its approach into two components. The first component would deal with immediate short term solutions while the second component would zero in on long term solutions.

First, the short term solution that would be put on the table for discussion between President Kibaki and Raila Odinga:
On this front, our own situation analysis recognized the following: that President Kibaki had been sworn in as the President of Kenya for a second term even if the process was flawed. Having occupied the seat, he might not be in a position to vacate the seat for now that easily. The reasons why President Kibaki might not want to vacate the presidency we saw to be many. They included a sense of loss and embarrassment that he, his family and political supporters would have to live with for a long time to come. Then there was the possibility that having fraudulently occupied the office for weeks, the incoming regime might want to punish him and his current staff for real and imagined crimes he might have committed. For these two compelling reasons, he might want to sit it out as long as it took.

Therefore the best option would not lie in a re-run or his vacating the office as ODM had earlier suggested. Kofi Annan team would have to find a formula that would provide room for a win-win situation for him and Raila Odinga.

To safeguard the interests of both protagonists, it would have to be a negotiated and binding settlement along the lines of the Mandela-De Clark Accord and later the CPA between El Bashir of Sudan and John Garang of the SPLM. In both examples, De Clark and El Bashir held the instruments of power just as Kibaki currently does.

When we made these suggestions a month ago before Kofi Annan set the ball rolling, we shared it with Professor Anyang Nyong’o of ODM on the advice of Professor Mkenya who co-authored the document with me. At that time, it was risky to suggest to the ODM Pentagon anything less than Kibaki vacating the seat because they strongly believed he had stolen victory from them. And for Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o to have accepted this outrageous document and share it with the Annan team and Pentagon members was in itself progress of some sorts. The PNU side did not have access to the same document since we had no contacts there.

For those who never had access to it, our logic was simple. We needed to put a stop to death and destruction on our land. Kenya badly needed peace and a return to normalcy after one month of mayhem. Everybody had lost something in the aftermath of the chaotic election results. There was no need to continue vilifying Kivuitu, Kibaki or Raila for this or that reason. Blame game had to stop.

In our own humble opinion, we saw the solution to lie in one direction only; sharing of power between the two main contenders; ODM and PNU in the immediate future while longer term solutions were sought.

In this power sharing arrangement, we suggested that Mwai Kibaki would remain the President and Head of State while the post of Executive Prime Minister would be created through a constitutional amendment. That post would go to the party with the majority in Parliament. We also suggested that the Prime Minister’s office would need to be protected in the current constitution and that the occupier would be the Head of Government just like the President was the Head of State. Our further recommendations were that all cabinet posts, civil service jobs, military, public corporation and diplomatic appointments would be shared equitably based on party strengths in the house. All this arrangement would constitute a transition government that would last five years as Parliament embarked on far reaching constitutional reforms that would safeguard the country against future conflicts such as the one we suffered in 2008.

We further suggested that to avoid conflicts in the transition government, the Prime Minister would be answerable to Parliament while at the same time consulting, briefing and reporting to both Parliament and the President on all major decisions affecting the state.

We further suggested that the appointment of cabinet ministers and all public office chiefs would be done in consultation with the President and Parliament to encourage public trust, transparency, fairness and accountability.

As things have developed so far over the last thirty days, we see this early suggestion as the only way out to return Kenya to the path of peace and progress.

jerryokungu@gmail.com
February 24, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

WAS MURDER ARREST A PLOT TO GRAB DALEMERE'S LAND?

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By Adrian Blomfield

A Kenyan aristocrat on trial for his life has accused powerful political forces of fabricating a murder case against him to seize the estate that his great-grandfather crafted from the bush a century ago.

For nearly two years, Thomas Cholmondeley, the scion of Kenya’s most famous white settler family, has languished in a maximum security prison outside Nairobi waiting for his chance to defend himself.

Cholmondeley, who will become the sixth Baron Delamere when his father dies, accepts that his aristocratic roots, colonial British background and Eton education may have already convicted him in the eyes of the public.

Speaking at the notorious Kamiti prison, Cholmondeley said racial prejudice masked the real issues that led to him being charged with the murder of a black “poacher” in 2006. "Racism, land and politics are the three things that link this case," he said. “Kenya has never been the bucolic wonderland that it seemed. There have always been political forces jockeying underneath it. Respect for property rights has almost disappeared."

He said the first act of the police after the shooting was to ask him to hand over the title deeds to his estate! Confined in a cell infested with rats and cockroaches measuring six by nine feet, he hopes that later this year he can begin his defence in a trial that has already dragged on for 18 months.

How keen certain government officials will be to allow him to take the witness stand remains to be seen.

Last month, Kenya’s divisions brought a wave of violence after a flawed presidential election in December. The same issues lie at the heart of Cholmondeley's case, and his claims could prove embarrassing for the government.

From the outset, the case has had a political dimension. On May 10, 2006, Cholmondeley and a friend, Carl Tundo, stumbled on a group of poachers on the Delamere estate, Soysambu. His lawyers say he and Mr Tundo, following Kenya Wildlife Services regulations, opened fire on the poachers’ dogs. In the late afternoon, a bullet struck Robert Njoya, one of the poachers, in the buttock - an accident that Cholmondeley insists it was, while the prosecution maintains it was murder.

Defense and prosecution agree that Cholmondeley immediately applied a tourniquet to the wound, arranged for Mr Njoya to be taken to hospital, where he eventually died, possibly as a result of lack of medical attention. He called the police and took them to the scene of the shooting.

"If I had really been planning murder, I could have got Carl, who is one of the best rally drivers in Kenya, to drive me across the border to Tanzania or easily taken the police to the wrong place," he said.

In a country riddled with violent crime, intruders and poachers are regularly killed on private land and rarely, if ever, do prosecutions follow. When a white expatriate shot dead two thieves at the Nairobi racecourse, he was hailed as a hero in the Kenyan media, not so with Cholmondeley.

Four cabinet ministers and another senior member of President Mwai Kibaki's government attended Njoya’s funeral and called on Kenyans to "take the law into their own hands" if he was not given the mandatory death sentence.

The outrage partly stemmed from the fact that in 2005 Cholmondeley shot dead a black undercover game warden. He had been involved in an exchange of fire after mistaking the warden for a robber. The case was dropped for lack of evidence. At the same time anti-settler emotions were deliberately stirred up among the Maasai herdsmen who lived on the periphery of Soysambu.

Wild claims followed from the government as officials alleged that whites owned half of the country's arable land and were therefore responsible for the ghastly social conditions in Kenya, not withstanding the fact that the Delameres surrendered 90 per cent of their land after independence in 1963, keeping only Soysambu Estate.
"It’s old fashioned prejudice," said Cholmondeley. "I know that if I had been called anything but Delamere things wouldn't have turned out like this.”

IS THE OBAMA PHENOMENON THE REINCARNATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, J K KENNEDY AND ROSA PARKS COMBINED

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By Jerry Okungu

The great land of opportunities has seen it all. If the African continent bled and wailed as its sons and daughters were chained to the slave ships across the Atlantic, the American continent has had its share of sorrow in social injustices, an uprising against the British and the great civil war that finally created what has now become the most powerful nation on earth. However, the civil war was not be America’s last tragic past. It had to deal with Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that pitted Blacks against White supremacists at home while the great nation was embroiled in another war in Vietnam

The Barack Hussein Obama phenomenon, fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement, a man whose roots are so different from descendants of slaves, is something that can only happen once in the lifetime of a generation.

Like prophets of old, true leaders usually emerge from unsuspecting quarters. When they emerge, they generate more questions than answers.

When Jesus Christ emerged from Nazareth to preach the gospel of the new order, his message was lost to the status quo. The Pharisees and scribes of the old order resisted his change message. They were more comfortable with the old order. They were quick to dismiss him as an impostor and a son of a carpenter. Two thousand years later, the passion of Christ’s message persists.

Barack Obama is not the first African American to aspire to the highest office on the land. Many more went before him. Perhaps the one most powerful African American who had a message of hope for one America in which every body would be judged not on the color of his skin but rather on the content of his character was Martin Luther King in the mid 1960s. But, powerful as Martin’s message was, he was way ahead of his time. The time was not ripe for white America to listen to a black man; a descendant of a former slave.

Nearly two decades after Luther was assassinated, Rev Jesse Jackson made an attempt to take over Luther’s mantle. Twice he tried to become an American president and twice he failed to impact on White voters who have always s been the majority.

What Barack Obama is doing to the American politics is mind boggling. Given that he may not win the presidency for different reasons other than popularity; what Obama has set out to do is to revolutionize American society like nobody has done since Abraham Lincoln and JF Kennedy before him. It is instructive to note that those two great American visionaries died in office at the hands of their assassins.

If Rosa Parks stood up to white supremacists, Martin Luther King told them in no uncertain terms to change their attitude towards Black Americans. Luther asked for justice and equality for all Americans and mankind worldwide. He emulated Mahatma Gandhi before him by practicing passive resistance to an oppressive system. He likened the Indian uprising against British rule to the Black Civil Rights Movement against America’s unjust system. For his efforts, he was awarded the rare Nobel Peace Prize and an assassin’s bullet.

It was not lost on observers that Martin Luther King’s activism reached its peak when JF Kennedy was the President of the United States between 1960 and 1963. During that time, the rapport between King and the Kennedy family was positively accommodating. This relationship indicated that the two great Americans shared common ideals. Is it any wonder that the Kennedy clan today see in Obama the JFK reincarnation?

Back here in East Africa, it was not surprising that our own Kenyan political icon, TJ Mboya, got along very well with both the Kennedy brothers and King, based on those shared ideals. Ironically, Like the Kennedy brothers and King, Mboya too was felled by an assassin’s bullet!

In the ongoing presidential primaries, Obama is causing havoc in American politics. He is achieving rare feats on the political front. He is winning the souls of unlikely supporters. He is breaking the barriers that have boxed races into their own cocoons. If predominantly white communities are saying yes we can with Obama, doubting Black skeptics are beginning to give him another look. Traditional Clinton voters are beginning to say Hilary is good but Hussein is better!

However, the shock came this week when American media reported that two unusual constituencies had endorsed Barack Obama. Here were the 1.5 million teachers in Texas and Ohio, two predominantly white states endorsing a black man for America’s highest office. But the biggest shock came when the Klu Klux Klan, the dreaded white supremacist group that has for centuries relished in lynching Black Americans were reported to have also endorsed Obama!

Is Martin Luther King’s dream being fulfilled through Barack Obama when King reaffirmed that even though Americans faced difficulties of then and in the future, he still had a dream deeply rooted in the American dream, that one day, America would rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed that all men are created equal? That one day, on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves would be able to sit together with the sons of former slave owners at the table of brotherhood? That his four little children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character?

Barack Hussein Obama has put Americans on the edge of Martin Luther King’s prophecy. Will they let the dream come true through Barack Obama then together stand up and say: Free at last! Free at last!?

jerryokungu@gmail.com
February 23, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

WHO WILL SELL THE POLITICAL FEDERATION TO EAST AFRICANS?

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By Jerry Okungu

Tanzania and Uganda have been going about sensitizing their nationals about the benefits and fears of a political federation for the better part of the last four months while Kenya still tinkered with the process.

Four months later, Kenya finally hit the road running and within a week, the team had covered seven provinces with messages of hopes and challenges embedded in the political arrangement.

Reports filtering in from Kenyan provinces indicate that most Kenyans are light years ahead of the committee that was appointed to sensitize them. The majority of them are more interested in how it will impact their lives rather than whether it will be realized. They have been expecting it all along. As I write this article the thirty-three member committee is this week holding court in Kenya’s capital city to receive verbal and written presentations on the views of the city residents and the urban elite.

The case of Tanzania is rather dicey. News filtering in indicates that some parts of the Union, especially in mainland have out-rightly rejected the idea of a political federation let alone fast-tracking it. Even more worrying is the fact that the political leadership of the Union tends to be lukewarm to the debate if not outright hostile.

In Uganda, the Baganda seem to be pushing their own forty- year-old parochial agenda of a federal government in Uganda before they endorse an East African arrangement. This is more or less the same position Zanzibaris would love to take. Having been forced into a union by the founding fathers of the Islands and Tanganyika without consulting the islanders, they are seeing a golden opportunity to break away from a forced marriage into a voluntary one. What the islanders are saying is that they would rather join the East African federation as an entity rather than as an appendage of Tanganyika.

Although July 2007 is just three months away when the findings will be presented to the Summit of Heads of States, indications are that it may be a tall order securing a unanimous endorsement for fast-tracking it; at least not now. The biggest skepticism is naturally coming from Tanzanians who are worried stiff about the security of their jobs, fragile businesses and the threat of uncontrolled invasion of their sovereignty by the better educated and streetwise Kenyans and Ugandans. More importantly, having led a relatively quieter life, the threat of being faced with internal conflicts, ethnic animosities, violent robberies and exchange of gunfire between the police and armed bandits from across their borders doesn’t seem quite attractive.

Interestingly, a number of Kenyans who took part in debates across the country seemed to concur with fears expressed by Tanzanians.

They confessed that if the community breaks this time, it will be by the same Kenyans who derailed it in 1977 that will do it again. Kenyans confess that they possess a number of negative traits that are dangerous for the region. Ordinary Kenyans blame uncontrolled greed of the ruling class who want everything for themselves ranging from their insatiable appetite to grab tracks of land, wealth from public institutions and generally want to accumulate and dominate the business sector.

Then there is this perception that Kenyans are too politically and ethnically polarized to fit comfortable into a regional political arrangement. That chances of exporting these negative traits into the region are very high. Kenya’s high political awareness has transformed an otherwise polished competition for ideas into tribal ideologies. We are Kikuyus, Kambas, Luos and Luhyas first before we become Kenyans. This scenario makes transforming us into East Africans rather an uphill task though not impossible.

But they also expressed their own fears about Tanzanians and Ugandans. What worries Kenyans most is how the disparity in economic strengths will be harmonized. They fear losing out once the three economies are merged. Another concern for Kenyans is the land issue. Whereas Tanzanians fear that the influx of Kenyans across their borders will accelerate land grabbing Kenyan style, Kenyans are worried that a federated East Africa will render their title deeds worthless since the two sister states nave never traded in land as personal property.

These fears aside, there are a number of benefits which the civic education has expounded to groups met in the respective partner states. The benefits of an expanded market base, a common market and a customs union have been obvious to many. The idea of a common currency to guard against foreign exchange losses across our borders has been attractive to many. The benefits of having a common electricity grid, a common telephone network, a common air, rail and road transport that will make calls, fares and electricity bills cheaper were also received well.

Whereas the majority of Kenyans found the federation message appealing, they asked committee members to provide them with guarantees that once the federation was realized, it would be cushioned against political interference should a regime change take place in any of the partner states.

Another area of concern was the low number of women and youth in the National Consultative Committee. Of the thirty- three members only three were women.
That meant that when they went to the field there was only one woman amongst eight men in three groups with no woman at all in the fourth group. In the same committee there was only one youth representation making their presence negligible if not absent in five of the seven provinces visited in the first week of sensitization.

The fact of the matter is that East Africa has a very young population, most of who were born after the collapse of the first Community. Therefore selling the federation should be left to the very people whose future has a stake in it.
Filling committees with old guards who are past sell-by-date may send a wrong signal to the majority of our populations. The youth may see it as the old guards’ project and reject it on that note alone. True, it cannot be left to the youth alone but let the majority be young people whose future depends on it rather than retirees whose only motive is what they can rip off the project.

Another interesting argument has emerged from Kenya. A number of participants suggested that National Consultative Committees should have been merged into one East African Consultative Committee comprising of 9 Kenyans, 9 Tanzanians and 9 Ugandans so that each partner state would have 3 Kenyans, 3 Tanzanians and 3 Ugandans visiting and talking to them. That way they would have had a chance to listen to nationals of the three partner states discussing fears and advantages of the federation. Such an arrangement would have built more confidence among participants that the project was a truly regional concern rather partner states just talking to themselves.

More importantly, the campaign should have been centrally coordinated from Arusha to create some harmony and consistency rather than leaving it to the whims of individual states.

Having said that, it is my considered opinion that selling the federation to East Africans is too important a project to be left to a group of handpicked men and women, whose backgrounds and beliefs about East Africa have never been tested. This is perhaps one of the most important projects to test Africa’s if not the Black race’s ability to determine its future. The future and success of this campaign depends on strong political, business and social leadership. Politicians, Business leaders and Civil Society leaders cannot take a backseat and hope that things will be alright. Leading political parties must embrace the federation and make the issue a campaign agendum just like the business community has taken the lead in networking the region. Celtel One Network and Safaricom Kama Kawaida initiatives are examples of what strong leadership; whether business or political can do.

We have learnt our lessons in the first wave. We have an opportunity to correct our mistakes in the following waves because the campaign has just started.

jerry@nepadkenya.org

WHO WILL TELL THE WORLD THAT BURUNDI IS NOW A PEACEFUL COUNTRY?

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By Jerry Okungu

This was the plea of the Burundian Minister for Planning in her closing remarks at the end of a four day UN ECA Regional Consultative Conference on trade, food security, regional integration and infrastructure development.

Her plea echoed the cry of a 19 year old girl, a tour guide who at first glance looked timid and uninformed, until I and another Kenyan invited her to have tea with us.

In her faltering but perfect English, interspersed with Kiswahili, the young girl told us her story of the Burundi conflict in a most passionate but brutal manner. Her story was the tale of a tragic conflict that lasted more than a decade, claiming more lives than the now famous Rwanda Genocide, yet the world totally ignored it.

As much as she is now grateful that the civil war is over, her concern is that the present political leadership may not last long as people always lose interest in new leaders as soon as they elect them. This loss of following is always occasioned by unfulfilled promises and greed for power and wealth by Africa’s elected leaders.

Our girl told us that even though the conflict lasted a long time, most of the wars were fought in the rural areas. The more reason buildings in Bujumbura were never affected the way Kigali and Kampala were. In her opinion, the reason both the Buyoya government and the rebels went to negotiate was because they realized neither side was capable of winning the war. It reached a time when government troops could not fight the bush war at several fronts yet the rebels too were unable to get to the capital and occupy vital installations like broadcast stations and government buildings.

Although life is still rough for the young tour guide, she cherishes existing peace prevailing in most parts of Burundi even though there are still some rebel groups in the bush. The country’s economy is yet to recover with inflation pretty high. The cost of consumable goods is pretty high yet most Burundian families must contend with survival on a $ 2.00 a day.

Genocide in neighbouring Rwanda affected Burundi in more ways than one. First, the international community focussed its attention on the tragedy. Secondly, when the world recovered from the shock, they forgot the prevailing war next door and channelled most of the resources to Kigali at the expense of its neighbour.

On reflection, I remembered what I had always known of Burundi when I was growing up. Being a French or Belgian colony, our early years’ Geography lessons were rather scanty. Our East African perspective was restricted to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt in the North. This was because the Horn of Africa was dominated by Great Britain while the war between Ethiopia and Italy in the early 1930s made the Emperor of Ethiopia a 20th century African icon.

Whenever we learnt of the Geography of Central Africa, we were always told of Rwanda-Urundi like the two countries were twin sisters tied together by some umbilical chord. It was therefore difficult for our young minds to decipher the difference between the two. We always thought of them as one country. More interestingly we were never taught about their administrative capitals- not at least to my knowledge.

Even though the two tiny Central African countries are now enjoying relative peace, there are little signs that they intend to come together soon to harness their resources for collective economic reconstruction. Never mind that the two states are occupied by the same two ethnic communities speaking mainly French, Kirundi, Kiswahili and Kinya-rwanda on both sides of the border.

However, on another level, both countries have applied to be admitted into the East African Community with the likelihood of signing the final protocols by the end of 2006.

Talking to two Burundians on two separate occasions, one of them was emphatic that if they have to join the Community, one condition they will demand will be to come with their French and that the rest of East Africa must be prepared to learn French as they too will be prepared to learn English as they perfect their Kiswahili. However, our tour girl’s worry was that this federation thing would wipe out Burundi and Rwanda from the world map! When told that Burundi would still remain Burundi as a state in the federation, she relaxed abit.

For Kenyans and the rest of the East Africans planning their first trips to Kigali and Bujumbura in the near future for whatever reason, there is something to smile about; every Burundian and Rwandese you come across in a cyber café, a hotel lobby or a shopping mall is likely to speak your national Kiswahili language. The arrangement of words may be different but you will understand one another in a most hilarious manner.
When a Burundian talks of makumi tatu na moja, he means salasini na moja!
Isn’t this sheer poetry?

Jerry Okungu
Bujumbura
Burundi
May 6, 2007

WHY ARE AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS SO SCARED OF FOREIGN JOURNALISTS?

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By Jerry Okungu

Buried in the fourth page of the East African Standard of November 9, 2006, there was a story headline saying: Foreign Journalists held at airport.

The story talked of eight international journalists who had come to Nairobi to cover the ongoing United Nations Conference on Climate Change and had spent four days at the airport. These science reporters from Iraq, Jordan and Cameroon had been detained at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport all that time.

According to the airport authorities, the affected journalists had travel documents that were either incomplete or not in order. Kenyan authorities equally denied that the affected journalists had been detained. They maintained that the said journalists were free to leave the country at any time but had chosen to remain at the airport’s transit lounge in the hope that they would be allowed into the country to attend the Gigiri conference

The journalists affected were Prof. Gervais of the University of Yaounde in Cameroon, Mr. Louse Ngo Pom, Cameroon’s radio reporter, Mr. Hanine Aframahi, Mr. Mahmoud Aldwiri and Mr. Janfar Alomary of ATV and Radio Jordan. Others were Mr. Kawthar Abdelamir, Mr. Haddi Hassan Hadi and Mr. Haydar Nigin all of Iraq newspapers.

In all this drama of foreign journalists being barred from entering Kenyan soil on grounds of incomplete or improper documents, a science journalist from Senegal had strong things to say about the attitude of African governments towards journalists. Obviously speaking as a journalist in sympathy with his foreign comrades he went on to say that what the Kenyan immigration officials did was scandalous to say the least.

Let me first empathize with our visitors who were delayed at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport for 96 hours without being allowed into the country. That is a long time by any standards especially when there may be no facilities to have a shower and change clothes.

Having said that, I have to say that those who will be just too happy to blame the Kenya government are missing one detail. That international travel has become expensive, risky and inconvenient worldwide. No country I know in this world ever takes entry into its borders by foreign nationals lightly especially if these nationals are originating from regions that are permanently on the spotlight for terrorist activities.

I may be wrong and stand corrected, but if we had journalists coming from all over the world including Iraq, Jordan and Cameroon, why didn’t they make sure that their papers were in order before they left their countries of origin?

Is it our responsibility as a country to let in any Tom, Dick and Harry under the pretext of attending an international forum even if they don’t have proper documents? Why would Kenyan authorities bend rules for foreign nationals who are careless enough to travel without proper documents? Don’t we all know just too well that some of the most attractive targets for terrorist attacks are major international forums like our ongoing Climate Change, that terrorist cells would know in advance would include Americans, Israelis and other soft targets for their attacks? Being a journalist does not give anybody a license to enter a foreign country without proper papers and then stage a sit in at the airport.

To drive my point home, there is no Kenyan I know who can leave this country to travel to Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo or any African country for that matter without a valid international passport and a valid visa issued by the embassy of that country or its appointed agent. Kenya Airways or any other carrier would not allow them to board the aircraft without proof of a valid passport and a valid visa. The only exceptions for Kenyan nationals are Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda that have reciprocal arrangements with Kenya.

For countries like Ivory Coast, Togo, Senegal, Mali and Cameroon, even having a visa is not good enough. A Kenyan would still have to go through the rigors of embarrassing inaudible questions in French; never mind that Kenyans are not French speakers. I’m talking from personal experience in the countries I have been to in the recent past.

Let me tell you what I must have as a Kenyan before I leave my country to travel to West Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and America. If my trip takes me to Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali or Togo, I will have to fill my passport with five different visas. Having accomplished that at my cost, I will need my health certificate, my return ticket, proof of cash to sustain me in each country and letters of invitation from each of those countries. Any omission on my side can cost me dearly at any of my ports of entry.

Two weeks ago, I organized for three Kenyan journalists to accompany me to Nigeria to cover an AU meeting which was to take place in Abuja from October 30 to October 31last month. Despite fulfilling all the conditions of travel, applying for visas and paying the mandatory Ks 3950, two of them, both from the Nation Media Group were denied visas simply because they were journalists! The third journalist from KBC only managed to get her visa only hours to the deadline- the day of travel on intervention of Kenya’s Attorney General.

Mr. Armand Faye, a Senegalese journalist may be right to be angry with Kenya and embarrassed on behalf of the continent, but I will advise him to go and tell that to Presidents Wade and Obassanjo and fellow Heads of State of the ECOWAS, the region that allows free movement of their nationals without visas yet puts stringent conditions for nationals outside their region.

As much as I share in the sentiments expressed by Faye over the incident, I will support the Kenyan authorities to the hilt in keeping our borders safe. We have suffered untold terrorist attacks that Islamic countries in West Africa have never suffered. It is this 1980 Norfolk bomb blast, 1998 August terrorist attack in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, 9/11 thing in New York and terrorist bombings in Iraq, Gaza, Tel Aviv, Beirut, London, Spain, Italy and Egypt that have scared us and put the whole world on edge.

Can we blame a poor immigration official at Jomo Kenyatta Airport who is simply barring foreigners without valid travel documents from entering our borders?
I don’t think so.

jerryokungu@gmail.com

AFRICAN MEDIA DEMAND FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT IN THE CONTINENT

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By Jerry Okungu
Dakar, Senegal

My friend Hamadou Tidiane from Senegal complained about it the other time I invited him to Nairobi five months ago. He had just discovered that for him to travel to Kenya, he would not board the plane without a Kenyan visa issued in Dakar his home town! Yet Kenya is an African country and a member of the African Union just like his native country Senegal! And that was not all; Hamadou had a few surprises coming his way.

On trying to find out the location of the Kenyan Embassy in Dakar, he discovered that Kenya actually had no Embassy in his city and had no intention of having one in the foreseeable future!

So where was he to get the cherished visa in order to travel to Nairobi? A Good Samaritan at the Senegalese Foreign Office directed him to, of all the embassies, the British Embassy, Kenya’s former colonial masters to issue him with a Kenyan visa! And even when he went there, he had to cough his precious sixty Euros (Ks 6000) and wait for three days to get a three day visa.

The most annoying bit of the whole affair for him was the list of requirements that a Senegalese national needed to fulfill before his visa could be approved. These included a passport that must be valid for at least three months, a letter from the employer indicating that he was gainfully employed, three months of bank statements, a bank statement indicating he had enough money in the bank, a fully paid return air ticket as proof that he would return to Senegal, an invitation letter from the organization in Kenya that had invited him, two passport photographs and where he would stay in Kenya together with the full address and telephone numbers. All these for just a three day workshop in a fellow African country!

Despite his protests to me over the phone, I persuaded my friend to just go through the motions and come to Nairobi because his presence was crucial to my meeting. As an incentive, I promised to reimburse his visa and miscellaneous expenses and make his stay in Nairobi as comfortable as possible.

That was five months ago. This time around, it was my turn to go through the same annoying if not irritating experience at the French Embassy in Nairobi. Like Kenya, Senegal has for over forty years of our independence never seen the need to open an embassy in Nairobi despite Nairobi hosting a number of UN Agencies in Sub-Sahara Africa.

It is interesting to note that many African countries that became independent many years after the OAU had been founded readily opened embassies in Nairobi but not founder members like Senegal. The same can be said of English speaking East African countries not bothering to open their embassies in countries like Senegal.

The harrowing and humiliating experience I received at the French Embassy in Nairobi just to travel to Senegal for an African meeting left a very bad taste in my mouth. I was issued with a visa that the French normally issue to travelers going to the European Union yet I was traveling in Africa to a fellow African country. It took me nine days to get this visa out of the French Embassy!

And even when I did, it took me five hours of sitting on a hard plastic chair watching a French woman twitching her fingers at the counter, endlessly talking on the phone and munching French sandwiches as we miserable Africans twisted and turned in our seats. For those five hours, we were not allowed to receive or make phone calls because that was against the Embassy rules and regulations!

I would have not minded if Kenya and Senegal asked another African country to handle their visa requirements as part of the recognition that they both belong to the African Union, a body that is contemplating an African federal state in our life time. I think it is morally wrong for African governments to allow former colonial masters to continue exploiting and humiliating their citizens half a century since attaining our independence, some of which were pretty bloody if one remembers the Algerian, Kenyan, Zimbabwean, Namibian and South African freedom struggles. This very painful memory should be reason enough to have our leaders rethink their relationships with one another.

Since 1963 Kenya has had cordial relations with seven African countries where nationals of these countries have had no visas requirements when traveling to Kenya and likewise Kenyans traveling to the same countries. When we travel to South Africa, we get free visa in Nairobi. A trip to Mozambique will require no prior visa in Nairobi. Both countries have agreed to issue it at an affordable fee of US$ 20 on arrival. These good examples can be emulated by the rest of Africa if there is political will among our current rulers.

In my opinion, this nonsense about cross border travel in Africa has been going on for too long because the African journalist has been too busy fighting for press freedom at home while forgetting an equally important freedom of movement across our African borders. The right for ordinary Africans to move freely across our borders on our continent should not be seen as a privilege that must be left at the mercy of our rulers who, for diplomatic reasons do not suffer the humiliations we ordinary Africans go through.

It is time the media, the private sector and the civil society made plenty of noise and forced African governments to see the logic of granting citizens of this continent this last freedom that they were denied by colonialists and perpetuated by our new black rulers.

jerryokungu@hotmail.com

WHY I MUST SHARE IN MOODY AWORI’S SINS AND DISGRACE!

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By Jerry Okungu
ARUSHA, Tanzania

I have a special stake in Uncle Moody Awori’s present political quagmire. I do so because I am partly responsible for his being where he is to day by default. I never knew it would come to this when it all started innocently one afternoon in October 2002.

At that time, I was one of those ardent believers in the Rainbow Alliance that was hell bent on getting Kanu out of power. Like the rest of my colleagues that streamed to Kasarani Basketball Stadium to witness the merger between Kanu and my former party LDP, I was a furious man. I was livid because President Moi had misled us into burying our party then dumped us by the roadside a few weeks later. Like all my colleagues, I was determined to contribute to his final humiliation.

As the Uhuru Project gained currency with Moi becoming bolder by the day in asserting that Uhuru Kenyatta would be the sole Kanu flag bearer without the benefit of competitive nomination against other aspirants, we started plotting for a fall back strategy. Luckily for us, there were many Kanu big wigs that had for too long suffered Moi’s endless humiliations and all they were waiting for was a fearless messiah to lead them into a rebellion and they would all troop out of Kanu to give Moi his first internal party revolt.

In this group were George Saitoti, Moi’s former vice president for fourteen years, Musalia Mudavadi, Noah Katana Ngala, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ole Nti Mama, Moody Awori, Fred Gumo and Joseph Kamotho

Saitoti and Kamotho had just been humiliated at the merger delegate’s conference when both of them lost their former positions as party Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the new Kanu on the floor while all along they had been made to believe that they had a fighting chance to defend their positions. In the process, Kanu elected four Vice Chairmen and one Secretary General in the persons of Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, Katana Ngala and Musalia Mudavadi while Raila Odinga became the new Kanu Secretary General.

At that Kasarani meeting, George Saitoti experienced his worst nightmare when he realized on the floor, sitting next to President Moi that his name had been deleted from among the list of vice chairmen positions. It is rumoured that the shock became too much to bear because just an hour earlier he had had breakfast with Dan the Professor of politics where they went through the line-up with his name intact. Little did he know that the list the professor was discussing with him was a fake one. When he rose to consult Dan why his name was not in the list, all Moi could say was, “ kama haiko basi haiko!” If it is not there then it isn’t there!

Thereafter, Saitoti made his now famous speech of “there comes a time in the life of an individual when the interests of the nation must be greater than the interests of an individual”. With those wise words, he formally withdrew from the race and was quickly followed by his bosom friend JJ Kamotho.

The love affair between Moi and his new friends didn’t last long. In a matter of weeks, the union was in tatters, thanks to Uhuru Kenyatta who was hell-bent on jumping the queue despite the fact that he had never won an election in his life. The rest of the vice chairmen together with Raila Odinga who had variously been promised the Moi succession saw mischief and betrayal. Raila decided that something had to be done. On that score former bitter rivals found a common enemy that they all needed to deal with.

The meeting between Raila, Kamotho and Saitoti at the Norfolk Hotel one lunch time was as earth shaking as it was unbelievable. It was the one meeting that sealed Moi’s fate and finally tore the myth of Moi’s invincibility as the professor of Kenyan politics.

Sooner, rather than later, Katana Ngala, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi joined the anti Moi crusade. However, for Musalia Mudavadi, it was more of Moody Awori’s urging to go for the presidency because Awori felt it was time the Luhyas produced Kenya’s third president and having supported Moi all those years it was only fair that Moi reciprocated. Moi refused to be moved by Awori’s sentiments.

Knowing Moi’s antics of playing the carrot and stick game, he sacked Saitoti overnight and dangled the VP slot in front of Musalia Mudavadi. Mudavadi swallowed the bait and became the first Luhya Vice President and Uhuru Kenyatta’s running mate.
Soon after, Katana Ngala also chickened out and returned to Kanu.

This about turn shook Awori to the bone. He was devastated. Gumo threatened to lynch Mudavadi. For three days the Luhyas were shaken. They even contemplated going back to Kanu now that they had no presidential candidate. Gumo and Awori were not even thinking of supporting Raila Odinga for the presidency. It was either one of their own or nothing.

Within the first day of Mudavadi’s defection, I and professors Humphrey Ojwang, Irene Othieno and another Luhya professor I cannot remember decided to call on Gumo first them Moody Awori to convince them to stay on cause. Gumo showed no interest in replacing Mudavadi although we liked him because of his combative nature. He was also a good rubble-rouser- just the type that the politics of the time needed. Having failed to convince Gumo, we headed straight for Awori’s office in Jogoo House where he was an assistant minister. Awori warmly welcomed us and was pretty relaxed. We found he had packed all his belongings and was sitting on a clean table receiving numerous calls. He was expecting to be sacked any time since joining the Raila bandwagon.

We didn’t waste time. We told him that we were sad that Mudavadi had chickened out but at the same time we could not do without Luhyas in the struggle. We needed their numbers. He was visibly flattered but wondered aloud who would replace Mudavadi.

After awhile I looked into his eyes and told him that since he was the kingmaker who had failed to convince the prince to be king, he should consider seriously being king now that the throne was vacant. He laughed and quickly told us that he was too old for politics and that he was in fact considering not even defending his Funyula seat!

We refused to take no for an answer and asked him to go and think about it. Two days later, Awori had firmly settled in Mudavadi’s place with strong support from Fred Gumo. The Luhyas were back with Awori as their torch bearer!

Three years later, the Awori we persuaded to be king actually became deputy king with a big scandal hanging over his head.

A few weeks ago, Awori called a press conference in his office to refute allegations of grand corruption involving some faceless racketeers going by the name Anglo Leasing Ltd. In that well attended conference Awori refused to resign asking two rhetorical questions: Who is my accuser? What crime have I committed?

Six weeks later, Uncle Moody has received answers to his questions. His accuser is now the National Assembly that has probed his involvement and recommended his being charged in court. The same Public Accounts Committee has accused him of lying to the nation, misleading the House on Anglo Leasing Group and trying to cover up economic crime apart from being negligent and incompetent at the same time.

Now Awori can step aside like David Mwiraria and Kiraitu Murungi to await the due process of the law if he still cares for his dignity, integrity and conscience.

In a way I feel guilty because somehow I and my colleagues put him into this mess. Had we not pressurised him to join the Rainbow Alliance, Uncle Moody would probably still be a clean man enjoying his twilight years in blissful retirement.

Jerry@hotmail.com

ARUSHA, Tanzania

WHY IS IT SO PAINFUL FOR POLITICAL LEADERS TO BE MEN OF HONOR?

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By Jerry Okungu
Khartoum, Sudan

A few decades ago, my professor of Literature, Francis Imbugah wrote a play called Betrayal in the City. I was privileged to act in the premier show before it was published.

What I remember many years later about this play was the powerful message of betrayal it captured at the time. One may want to recall the circumstances under which Imbugah wrote this play. It was barely ten years after Kenya’s independence during Jomo Kenyatta’s reign.

Imbugah’s Betrayal in the city captured the tribulations of ordinary Kenyans whose dreams of a better Kenya; a free and just society had been dashed by the new rulers.
The death of a university student at the campus at the hands of a brutal policeman captured it all. The new rulers were ready to kill if necessary to stem any challenge to their authority.

Betrayal in the City depicted the strained relationship between the new African rulers and the citizenry. At that time this flawed state of affairs was more visible in between the elected leadership and the electorate. It was easy to see how politicians time and time again solicited votes from peasants then abandoned them to their fate for five years before coming back to solicit votes from the same poor fellows, telling the same lies and leaving them to their fate at the hands of a brutal regime.

Many years later, this betrayal has taken new meanings and dimensions. It would appear like it is no longer fashionable for political leaders to merely dishonor pledges they make to their electorate from time to time. Now it has become cuter to not only lie to their people but to cheat and defraud among themselves! The old belief that a national leader was a man of honour worth his word has been thrown through the window. Now even the top political leaderships find it fashionable to make promises they know they will not keep tomorrow morning. And they do this in style in elaborate ceremonies with international and local press in toe.

Citing a few classic cases is in order to illustrate the point I’m trying to make.
Way back in 1998, when Daniel Moi faced a hang parliament; he courted Raila Odinga’s NDP to form some kind of political cooperation. The cooperation lasted four years while they negotiated a more long lasting relationship. After years of intense negotiations and lobbying; Moi’s KANU finally merged with Raila Odinga’s NDP in March 2002 at the now famous Kichinjio Kasarani Sports Complex. Three months later, Moi and Raila parted ways because Moi reneged on the very articles of the merger he had penned his name and signature to.

The same year that Daniel arap Moi betrayed Raila after entering into a written pact with him, Raila Odinga broke away from KANU to form an alliance with like minded elements that had for a quarter century suffered Moi’s insults, abuses and misuse.

Now that Raila Odinga had stood up to Moi, Kalonzo Musyoka, George Saitoti, JJ Kamotho, Moody Awori, William Ole Ntimama, Musalia Mudavadi, Fred Gumo and even Katana Ngala found the courage to walk out on the Baba na Mama of KANU. However, just a few days later, the thought of abandoning Moi after so many years of political tutelage became too much to bear for Musalia Mudavadi and Katana Ngala. They trooped back to KANU.

For the likes of George Saitoti, Kalonzo Musyoka, JJ Kamotho and Moody Awori who had suffered Moi’s abuses for more than two decades, the new freedom and breath of fresh air under Raila Odinga was too sweet to abandon just yet. Despite their personal ambitions for the presidency, they tolerated Raila’s brinkmanship to dictate the circumstances of the political direction at the time.

Raila’ political maneuvers steered them to a new party; the Liberal Democratic Party that was popularly referred to as the Rainbow Alliance. This was the party that finally formed the grand alliance with Charity Ngilu’s National Alliance Party of Kenya whose coalition partners were Kijana Wamalwa’s Ford Kenya and Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party of Kenya.

With Moody Awori, George Saitoti and Kalonzo Musyoka in toe, Raila Odinga entered into a pact with Kijana Wamalwa, Kipruto Kirwa, Charity Ngilu and Mwai Kibaki to form the grand rainbow alliance Summit of the National Rainbow Coalition Party (NARC). This was the political outfit that finally floored Moi’s KANU in the 2002 General Elections.

However, soon after the poll victory, too many betrayals and backstabbing took place.

The articles of the MoU signed between NAK and LDP were discarded by the incoming President despite the fact that this MoU was signed under oath in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths! Sooner rather than later, the beneficiaries of this sudden and unexpected victory decided to take refuge in the discredited existing constitution rather than honour the power sharing arrangement they had pledged to prior to the elections.

As if that was not enough, two key beneficiaries of the Raila rebellion; George Saitoti and Moody Awori soon changed sides immediately they settled in new positions in the new regime.

They joined the regime that had reneged on power sharing arrangement.

Four years down the line, Kalonzo Musyoka and JJ Kamotho have equally abandoned LDP citing intimidation, discrimination and undemocratic practices in the LDP camp. They have joined the camps of the very people they have spent the better part of four years maligning.

Across our borders to the North in Sudan, the late John Garang signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement with President El Bashir to end the 21 year old Civil War in South Sudan in May 2005. Two years later, there is every sign that President El Bashir does not intend to keep his word. The CPA is threatened with collapse. If the President of South Sudan, General Salva Kiir and peace broker Daniel arap Moi can voice their concerns publicly on the issue, then we have reason to fear for the worst.

Back in Kenya, it s interesting to learn that just weeks since Kalonzo Musyoka defected from LDP to join Julia Ojiambo’s Labour Party of Kenya; and after praising her to the skies for allowing him to win a mock nomination process; now Kalonzo is at it scheming to short-change Julia Ojiambo on the running mate position! But even more interestingly; as Kalonzo Musyoka schemes to defraud Julia Ojiambo of her rights as the number two person in the party, the good lawyer is busy scheming to cause divisions in ODM! Now he is targeting William Ruto after failing to convince Uhuru Kenyatta to join him.

Did I hear something like Raila Odinga extending an olive branch to Kalonzo Musyoka to come back to ODM? If he did then it is true real politicians are their worst enemies. It is true they never see the most obvious pitfalls in their lives. If Raila Odinga brings back Kalonzo Musyoka to ODM then he must say goodbye to his victory at the next polls. He will surely lose Anyang’ Nyong’o, Najib Balala, Musalia Mudavadi and possibly Joseph Nyagah to the other parties.
If Raila Odinga makes that blunder, a combination of Kalonzo Musyoka and other anti- Raila forces in the Rift Valley will take him to the cleaners.

Right now, ODM’s guarantee for survival hinges on strengthening the Pentagon in its present form. Those who left ODM recently must be kept away until after the elections. There are no vacancies for them anymore in the next five years. The five Pentagon members must form a lasting alliance for the next 20 years to stabilize democratic principles and practices in Kenya.

If they allow political charlatans back for purposes of a dangerous inclusivity; they will lose. Right now Kenyans are ready to vote an individual of their choice; not one of their tribes as they demonstrated at Kasarani a week ago. They would like to keep it that way.

Anything other than that will be considered another betrayal.

jerryokungu@hotmail.com

THE PAIN OF HAVING A LUO PRESIDENCY IN KENYA!

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By Jerry Okungu
Maputo, Mozambique

Jim Hayo has been my good friend for many years. He is fun to be with particularly when one feels a bit under the weather. In his moments of excitement Jim Hayo can be extremely funny and entertaining.

A few years ago, soon after the 2002 elections, I met Hayo and a few of my friends at a night spot. True to his character, he took the center stage to give us a few sideshows besides what took us there. He started talking about life after death. He also intimated to us that he was a firm believer in reincarnation. Fortunately, the four of us around his table were all Luos therefore we easily followed the sequence of his jokes.

Hayo confessed to us that he was a very happy man. He was happy because he had come to terms with the reality of his condition! We got a little concerned and uneasy! What condition was he talking about? Did he have the big one? Two ladies sitting next to us were even more agitated. We held our breath. The usual Jim wasn’t bothered by our changed mood. He was laughing his head off. Then he looked at us. He didn’t understand why we wore gloomy faces.

Undeterred, he continued with his story. He told us that, he had only one wish to ask God the day he would die. He would tell God that should he be given a second chance to come back to life after death, and by mistake, God wanted him to come back as a Kikuyu, Luhya, Mkamba, Kalenjin, Indian or Muzungu, he would look God in the eye and say, “ Sir, thank you for the offer but I cannot accept your generosity. I would rather remain here dead than go back to earth in any form except as a Luo!”

Why was Jim Hayo so happy that night to tell us he was proud to be a Luo? In his analysis, being a Luo allowed him to enjoy his freedom of thought and expression as an individual. He was a free spirit. He liked living his life to the full without worrying about primitive accumulation of wealth which he would die leaving behind anyway. Being a Luo had made him love his parents, siblings, wife and children unconditionally.

As a Luo, he had suffered so much vilification by other tribes and successive regimes in Kenya such that he had accepted his condition. He had lost so many good jobs and opportunities on the basis of his tribe that he no longer cared being one.

In his working career, he had helped and even employed so many non- Luos in an attempt to be more Kenyan only later to be undermined by the same ungrateful charlatans.

He had grown up following Luo politics and witnessed so many tragedies befalling Luo politicians that he no longer felt sorry being a Luo.
This series of stigmatization, being branded negative, oppositionist, rebel and anti- system had hardened his feelings and given him rare freedom only a Luo could enjoy!
He had accepted and learnt how to cope with his condition.

Jim Hayo is a very happy man. He is a proud and happy Luo. He is not rich but owns a car and a roof over his head. He has a beautiful professional for a wife. His children adore him. These are the little things that make Jim a happy man.

Of late I have been reading so much about Luo vilification in the local press so far away from home. As I read these articles from the likes of Makau Mutua and other commentators, I feel sad for Kenya. I feel sad that as other nations jostle for positions at international forums, our intellectuals and egocentric politicians preoccupy us with village politics that have no sense or direction.

As I sat down to write this article, I came across some exchanges between Gordon Teti of Winnipeg and Makau Mutua of Boston. The exchanges was about Raila Odinga, the enigma of Kenyan politics. Then I wondered why! Then it dawned on me that being in Mozambique was no reason to forget that I would soon go back to ethnic Kenya; where our tribe meant everything to us. Then I remembered something else; an old adage that says that ‘you can get the man out of the village but you can never get the village out of the man!’

What I am saying is this: The people on the front line against Raila’s election to the presidency are no peasants nor are they fools. These are the same people who shared in the struggle with the man, saw him vilified and tortured by past regimes and shared platforms with him during the heady days of the second liberation. On the other hand many of the so called liberators like Makau were merely masqueraders. They took off at the slightest opportunity. If anything they are economic exiles seeking fortunes in greener pastures, running away from their past and poverty back home.

Looked at another way, opposition to Raila presidency is a grand scheme to disenfranchise the entire Luo community in national politics. I have yet to hear any one of the Raila oppositionists say “I will support any other Luo except Raila”. To this brand of politicians, a Luo presidency is bad for them because they know they will be unmasked and their true colors will be exposed to the public. They are in no hurry to have the presidency occupied by principle, character and resolve.

If today Ruto, Uhuru, Kalonzo and Mudavadi can come together just four years later to unblinkingly declare Raila Odinga unelectable on account of his tribe, then it is possible that we haven’t seen the last of Judases in our own life time. If it is true Odinga lost his cool and shed tears for being branded an unelectable Luo politician, who can blame him for that especially if those utterances came from the same people he has rehabilitated and built up in the last four years? Why is it so difficult for any of the so called electable politicians from the good tribes to back Raila up for a change?
Who among these politicians can to day be elected without Raila Odinga’s backing?
Is it Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto or Musalia Mudavadi? May be any one of the can or cannot. That will be for the Kenyan voters to decide. But in my opinion, it is the height of hypocrisy and base morality wrong to use public forums like the media to denigrate and demonize a whole community on account of one family.
What right do these Raila haters have to decide for Kenyans who to elect president of Kenya or not? Aren’t these types of labeling and stereotyping the cause of the Darfur conflicts? Didn’t Rwanda bleed because of these ethnic biases? What of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq? Can we afford to have short memories of yesterday’s tragedies?

Those who are vilifying Raila Odinga for being a Luo have really failed Kenyans and the second liberation. They have no moral authority to question Kibaki’s or Moi’s leadership. They have truly come out in their true colors for what they are; wolves in sheep’s clothes.
They are leaders who left their villages but the village in them remained intact in their souls.

At another level, it is about time ODM aspirants faced the reality that the coming elections are theirs to lose if they don’t stop playing cheap politics now. The reality is that none of the aspirants has ever mounted a presidential campaign except Raila and Uhuru. Uhuru by all accounts is already out of the race. He had no choice but to back out for obvious reasons. This race needs a candidate with some semblance of primary constituency. Uhuru with Kibaki around does not have that primary constituency. He has to bid his time in 2012 assuming there will be no stronger Mt. Kenya candidate to challenge him.

As things stand, ODM’s best bet is Raila because he has the capacity to mount an election campaign single handedly. He is also capable of forging fresh alliances in almost every province without depending on his detractors who pretend to be his comrades in ODM K. You cannot say so for any of the presidential aspirants. That is the bitter truth.

Finally, if you are an eye that once ailed and needed treatment, never frown at the eye of he, who cleaned you up, dressed you up and removed residue from you! If you do so, it may come back to haunt you one day.

jerry@nepadkenya.org

WHY IS NOAH WEKESA SO INTERESTED IN CHARITY NGILU’S NARC?

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By Jerry Okungu

Politicians cannot give up entertaining Kenyans in this era of multiparty politics.
Perhaps Moi was right after all that multi-politics would bring confusion and hatred among Kenyans. Perhaps Kenyans deserved Moi’s 24 years of authoritarianism.

We have pulled and soiled the ideals of multi-party politics. We have not learnt to form parties based on our beliefs and ideologies. We see parties as vehicle to be used and dumped at our convenience.

For this reason, Wekesa’s motivation for rattling Charity Ngilu is because he feels that the President is desperate for a political party; which obviously is not the case because Wekesa does not think or decide for President Kibaki. In any case Wekesa is not even a confidante or political adviser of President Kibaki was we know it. Kibaki has his own qualified strategists. Unless of course Wekesa knows something we Kenyans don’t know.

The behaviour of Noah Wekesa in relation to Charity Ngilu’s party reminds me of Johann Goethe, a 19th Century German poet who once said that in politics as on the sick bed, people toss from one side to the other thinking they will be more comfortable.

There is a fundamental truth in Kenyan politics that Noah Wekesa is pretending not to appreciate. It would appear that at his age, he has not been listening to Moi all these years. Just before Moi vacated the big house in 2002, he told all those other candidates that thought they were qualified to succeed him to forget their extravagant dreams.
He reminded them that KANU had its owners! And like KANU, every party has its owners in Kenya.

To be blunt to the honorable minister, he has a stake in Ford Kenya; the party that joined the Narc Coalition. It is in that party that he has unsuccessfully vied for the chairmanship twice since Kijana Wamalwa’s death and twice he has lost to the amiable Musikari Kombo. If Wekesa now claims a stake in Charity Ngilu’s Narc, how does this sit with his presence in the constituent party Ford Kenya? Why, at the time Kibaki pronounced all Narc affiliate parties dead, didn’t he follow Dr. Kulundu’s example by disengaging himself from Ford Kenya?

As KANU belongs to its owners, every political party in this country has its owners. Some are paper owners; busy body opportunists who append their names to registration certificates in order to defraud their sponsors at an opportune time for cash.

If you look at Ford Kenya; it belongs to Musikari Kombo and his close associates.
Those who differed with Kombo like Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi have had to find accommodation in other platforms. If this is what Wekesa is trying to do after trying so many times to own Ford Kenya then he is not doing it the right way.

As Ford People belongs to Simeon Nyachae and his clique; so do ODM-K, Shirikisho, Safina, National Labour, Mazingira and even New KANU have their owners.

In Kenya, ownership of a political party has nothing to do with position in government.
It has nothing to do with self-aggrandizement or the feeling of self importance. All it needs for one to own a party is to carry papers in a briefcase, do a search in the Registrar of Societies offices and chance on a name that resonates well with the political mood of the time.

If you look at the parties that have performed well in recent times; they were registered by busy bodies and lay-abouts but they came in handy for charismatic politicians that catapulted them on to the national scene.

Such parties in include SDP of Charity Ngilu and Prof. Nyongo in 1997, NDP of one Mr. Oludhe that Raila Odinga transformed into an election machine the same year, LDP of one Mr. Kodhe that the KANU break away group used in 2002 and now ODM-K that is the sensation of Kenyan politics today.

In the last four years, Narc has never really existed as a party. It has remained a coalition after President Kibaki’s pronouncement that all affiliate parties were dead was vigorously resisted by LDP and Ford Kenya.

When Kibaki failed to kill the affiliate parties, there was a stalemate for awhile, with only his DP willing to dissolve. However, as days and months passed by, some of the President’s men thought they would reorganize Narc without the participation of Ford Kenya and LDP. In order to do that, they thought they would hold party elections for Narc, ease Ngilu out and entrench themselves in the party. That attempt was also thwarted by Mama Rainbow.

At that time Noah Wekesa was too entrenched in Ford Kenya to think of Narc, with the illusion that he would become the next Ford Kenya chairman after Wamalwa’s death.

It is true Noah Wekesa played some role in bringing about the 2002 coalition; unfortunately he was not the only or main player. He was Kijana Wamalwa’s errand boy taking care of Wamalwa’s interests. Without Wamalwa behind him, he would be nobody.

This was the reason Noah Wekesa was left out of the Summit line up when the MoU was signed. This was the reason Noah Wekesa was left out of the Kibaki government in 2003 and 2004. And had it not been for the magnanimous Musikari Kombo, Wekesa would today be still languishing as a back bencher in Parliament. The President never thought highly of him then; not now either.

Which brings me to my next point; why is Wekesa so obsessed with finding a party for President Kibaki? Why this obsession with Charity Ngilu’s Narc? One would have thought that if this man loved Kibaki so much, he would work hard to strengthen his Ford Kenya and offer it for the President in readiness for elections five months away.
He is not doing this. Instead he is busy meddling in other people’s parties. Or is it because he knows Ford Kenya is a no go area with Musikari Kombo as a possible presidential candidate? If so, why be busy with another presidential candidate of another party other than his own? Who has told him that Kibaki is interested in Narc anyway; a party that has endorsed Charity Ngilu for the presidential race? Or is this the case of an outsider crying more than the bereaved?

If you compare Noah Wekesa and Charity Ngilu as politicians, the latter is more charismatic, more pleasant and more strategic. Ngilu has run for the presidency in the past and did extremely well for a first timer. She has experience in organizing and running political parties. Narc is her third party to take care of. She has been in the Cabinet longer than Noah Wekesa. And lastly, she has a formidable constituency in Ukambani and elsewhere in the country. Finally, even President Kibaki and other leading politicians admire and respect her. Wekesa has none of these qualities and chances of acquiring them in the near future do not appear bright.

If Kenyans were given an opportunity to choose between Charity Ngilu and Noah Wekesa, they would take Mama Rainbow any day. The more reason he can continue giving the lady ultimatums every week and Mama Rainbow will simply continue calling them empty threats.

If he has forgotten, let him ask John Michuki what happened to John when he rattled the girl from Mbooni.

jerryokungu@hotmail.com

WHY IS THERE SO MUCH PRESSURE ON NEPAD TO DELIVER?

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By Jerry Okungu

The mere fact that I was setting foot on Burundian soil for the first time last Wednesday told the obvious story; that we in Africa have a disconnect with our immediate environment. That as a Kenyan I would rather travel North or South but never East or West.

Because of our historical colonial and cultural background, we find it easier to flock to the British and American embassies begging for the elusive visas rather than travel to Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC to help develop these young democracies that are emerging from long years of civil strife.

Never mind that there have and continue to be numerous regional and international conferences and workshops whose tired themes have continued to deal with intra- Africa trade, intra Africa regional cooperation, integration, free movement of goods and services, common border posts, infrastructure networks and a common trading currency.

Listening to speakers from diverse parts of the Eastern African region talk at the latest Economic Commission for Africa’s Experts meeting on Trade, Infrastructure, Statistics and Gender – Mainstreaming, I was amazed at the amount of knowledge that this continent has accumulated over the years but left to rot for lack of what a Djibouti delegate termed the political will to implement obvious and easy programmes.

I was particularly impressed by the Kenyan women delegates, who despite having been accompanied by their male counterparts from different ministries, dominated the talks with clinical analysis of the continents weaknesses at international economic forums.
Thanks to their frank and honest contributions, they confirmed my long standing misgivings about the kind of delegations Africa has sent to international negotiation platforms in the last several decades.

You and I have always suspected that this continent has had a raw deal in every economic forum, whether it was at the G8 meeting, the World Trade Organization, the ITU conventions or at the World Bank and IMF Debt Relief and Restructuring meetings.

Our weakness has been in the composition of our negotiating teams. We have always religiously attended these forums in the most unprepared manner. In more cases than one, our delegations have been composed of politicians, career civil servants, their personal assistants, hair dressers and where possible, they would throw in their body-guards, girl friends, mistresses, friends and relatives. For lack of a better word, these delegations have been shopping trips at the tax payer’s money; a drain that this continent has continued to shoulder with rare passivism.

The Bujumbura meeting threw some light in this African accountability problem. One Ghanaian presenter painted the picture in an even more shameful way; whereas his Kenyan counterparts were content to talk of lack of negotiating skills, he gave statistics of the imbalances at the WTO, ITU and other forums. That when American delegations to such forums consisted of up to 300 delegates with experts in every imaginable sector, an African delegation would consist of a minister, a permanent secretary and a junior officer at the very best. Half of the time, the minister and his PS would not necessarily be qualified, having been appointed to such positions on the basis of political, regional, ethnic and friendship considerations.

It was obvious from the contributions of African experts gathered in Bujumbura that there was need for African countries to change tact. It was important that African countries started treating such crucial international forums with the seriousness they deserved. It was time Africa sent its experts schooled in the art of negotiating and bargaining to put its case on the table with the candidness required at such forums.

It was during this meeting that many voices were heard raising concerns about NEPAD’s achievements since its inception nearly five years down the line. Having been to nearly six such forums in the last five months since the beginning of this year, I understood their anxiety and concerns, most of which were based on misconceptions and misinterpretations of NEPAD goals, mission and objectives.

For some reasons, a lot more people in this continent, even the most educated, believe that NEPAD was created to work miracles and get the continent out of the abyss of poverty, civil strife and move the continent into the first world in a record five years!

A lot more people think NEPAD as an African initiative has been around for longer than five years. They believe that NEPAD was created to provide every imaginable solution to every African problem. And curiously some of the loudest critics seem to come from old guards who have sat on the Regional Economic Blocks and Commissions for donkey years with nothing to show for it.

There are two ways of explaining this misconception or outright undercurrent discomfort with NEPAD and APRM initiatives. It may stem from too much attention the African Union leadership has given it. It has been so hyped that NEPAD and the APRM today eclipse other African initiatives at every international forum despite their low level of awareness within the continent.

Part of this problem has to do with the way African leaders and NEPAD secretariat staff have gone about selling the initiative internationally. There has been too much emphasis on getting the EU, the G8, the donor community, the Americans and international investors to buy into the initiative before selling it to its own people in the continent.

But perhaps the starting point should be to state why NEPAD was created by Heads of State of the African Union five years ago despite the fact that the knew there already existed several Regional Economic Blocks and a number of Economic Commissions to deal with Africa’s economic and development agenda..

On its launch, so much was expected of NEPAD to deliver in the shortest time possible. African Heads of State, tired of endless criticism from their traditional partners, wanted to break away from the norm of complacency and waiting to be threatened, warned and ridiculed from time to time by the rich donor nations of the North

They came out to redefine a new relationship with the rest of the world, more so with the rich nations of the West. This redefinition implied renegotiated partnerships with dignity where the recipient and giver felt equal, in place of the beggar- giver scenario.

The starting point was to be Africa’s weakest point. Governments in Africa had forever been accused of corruption, mismanagement of their economies, authoritarianism and general abuse of human rights. In this regard, far reaching social reforms were at the heart of the NEPAD initiative.

To get reforms under way, there was need for African governments to institute a peer review mechanism where fellow African states would have a chance to examine the records of neighbour governments with a view to evaluating, monitoring and encouraging positive social, political and economic reforms.

To realize this goal, member states of the African Union introduced the African Peer Review Mechanism as a programme of NEPAD to help states with self assessment and Peer Review processes as a way of making African governments more accountable and listen more to their citizens as well as to fellow African leaders with a view to correcting mistakes in governance processes.

To date 26 African governments have signed up for the APRM process since it was launched in 2003. Of the four states that volunteered Peer Review, Ghana has completed the process with Rwanda, Kenya and Mauritius in their final stages.

As it is, the whole NEPAD agenda is still undergoing institutional and capacity building processes while at the same time trying to find its niche among a myriad of other competing institutions. It has to find a formula for working with other REC blocks and national governments without appearing to duplicate the same. It has to be seen as an energizer playing a complimentary role rather than a parallel initiatitive.
The more reason NEPAD programmes must be embedded into the RECs, ECA and National Programmes of Action.

As a regional initiative, NEPAD has become attractive to investors for the simple reason that investors can today negotiate development projects at a regional level without having to open multiple channels of negotiations with individual countries.

Investors also see economic sense in getting involved in infrastructure programmes for expanded markets in anticipation of regional integrations through intra- country infrastructure networks like railway lines, water ways, roads, oil pipelines, open skies, free airwaves, common electricity grids, ICT networks and rural water networks.

More importantly, the APRM arm of NEPAD acts as a buffer against government excesses in corrupt deals. Investors see a fresh breath of air breezing across the continent. In a nutshell, reforms being championed by NEPAD through APRM will mean cheaper and faster pace of doing business in the continent.

It is these reforms that will tackle poverty, information gaps, infrastructure problems, peace and security, food security and better and more accountable governance for the people of this continent. The day we will realize that good governance starts with us, we will realize the folly of playing blame game and passing the buck at the expense of taking responsibility for our part in contributing to the continent’s miseries.

Despite pressure to deliver, NEPAD as a young initiative needs time to mature and realize its full potential. As things stand, the future is bright for the new kid on the block.

Jerry Okungu
Bujumbura
Burundi
May 5, 2006.

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