DENY,DENY DENY AT YOU OWN PERIL

No one knows this better than Anthony Weiner the Democratic Party congressman who was forced to resign after weeks of a scandal involving the inappropriate photos he had been sharing of himself on the social networks platform of Twitter  were leaked to the public.The 46 year old married Congressman who had been labelled as a rising star had been denying that he had sent the photos for weeks but finally caved in and admitted to his lack of judgement and resigned ,full details leading to hi resignation can be found here.

While Kenyan politicians have not been involved in such scintillating scandals such as those that seem to envelope US politicians whose most recent victim was Weiner,we do have scandals of our own that involve integrity and honesty of the men we elect to the August house and to other public offices.

The most recent scandal to hit the Kenyan press has been the misappropriation and blatant theft of billions of Kenya shillings meant for free primary education.It has been said senior officers in the Ministry of Education wired huge amounts of money that up to now run into 4.2 billion shillings into accounts of non existent schools.The scandals  have not elicited much public response which makes me wonder if Kenyans despite the new constitution and having a new CJ are not too tolerant of wrong doing among public officials.So far the Minister in charge of Education and his PS have so far denied any wrong doing and are staying put in their offices.

Last year in March,there was a scandal involving the same Ministry and the PS then one Professor Karega Mutahi who was transferred to the Ministry of Local government and we carried on with business as usual.Now just a few days ago the Minister of Finance Uhuru Kenyatta  released an audit report carried out by the government that confirmed what Professor Sam Ongeri had been denying since last year,that indeed  billions had been spirited away by people in his Ministry.Details of the scandal can be read here and here.

This makes we wonder whether our politicians and senior public servants ever care about their reputations and the character assassination that follows public scandals.Abraham Lincoln a man greatly honored by Americans for fighting for the emancipation of slaves once said “character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.The shadow is what we think of it;the tree is the real thing.”.

You will never hear a Kenyan politician or public servant resign for any scandal whatsoever and most wait to be hounded out of office through public outcry or by Presidential decree.These men and women would rather hung their characters and reputations out to dry than admit lapse of judgement or ignorance for any misdemeanours they may be  caught in.

It does not make sense however to have your name dragged into disrepute,be caught up in mudslinging and put your family through emotional suffering just because your pride does not allow you to admit you lapsed in your responsibilities and duties.Too often i have heard members of the Kenyan parliament lament how their families and children are being ostracized when they are mentioned in scandals and to me it sounds like they are just begging for sympathy.

Just a few days ago the new Kenyan Chief Justice was being disparaged by members of the clergy for his adornment of an earring,his sexuality and marital status and not for one moment did he blink.Our members of parliament never allow such kind of scrutiny on one of their own and are quick to amend or vote down  motions in parliament that would otherwise allow closer scrutiny of misconduct.

It is time Kenyans stopped being so accommodating and complacent when it comes to wrongdoing and being economical with the truth that public servants and elected members of parliament are so fond of.We should start demanding the same high standard of integrity,honesty and character that we have asked of the recently appointed members of the supreme court and the Chief Justice and his Deputy.If we do not do this we shall continue seeing the same theft and misuse of money meant to ensure this country’s children do not face bleak future.Hospitals,dispensaries and other public institutions that are in dire need of funding will continue to lack basic equipment to save lives or to function and the vision 2030 will continue being nothing other than a pipe dream.

We need to see more Ministers resigning not at the behest of the President but because their have a conscience and know  the wrong doing they have been party to or ignored in their Ministries .We do not have to see them being hounded out of office because of public outcry but because they know they failed at the responsibilities and functions the 40 million Kenyans have entrusted them with.

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Why the Catholic Church needs to face the abuse scandals from the pulpit.

In my life having gone through Catholic schools i met priests who were great people and lived by their vows but then there were also those who broke all the rules and gave priesthood a bad name.The Catholic church for a while now has been reeling under the accusations of sexual abuse of minors  by some of its priests in Europe and North America.The scandals began receiving public attention in the 1980’s but the church hierarchy as it is structured in the affected dioceses never reported the matter of these priests but just transferred them to other locations.Wikipedia provides a detailed article on the scandals here.

Kenya has got its own share of these scandals when we have had Father Kizito Sesana’s name dragged into the mud over his misconduct with boys and young men and reports of the battles he has been fighting here and here.
Both times there has been no concrete evidence found to charge him and he has fought of his accusers by saying that they are more interested in the millions involved in the projects he runs through Koinoinia Kenya.

The hierarchy of the Catholic church in Kenya has chosen to keep quiet over the scandals.Their stand is similar to the position taken by the Vatican when the sex scandal emerged,they were swept under the carpet with the fervent prayer sent to heaven that they would just disappear,but they did not.Over the years the allegations against some of its priests have increased and the young victims of these priests who are now grown men have chosen to speak up.

When Father Kizito used to write articles in the Sunday Nation and were serialized under the title Fr Kizito’s dairy,  i read them  voraciously and they were great and inspired my faith then in many ways.When the first scandal hit the press in 2009 i wanted to cry for this man who had inspired me not only with his writing but who i admired for the noble vocation he had taken.

It is very easy to hate on religious people who fall of the high pedestal we have placed them on and the reason for this is because a majority of people look up to them because they represent an institution that is meant to uphold morality in the society.That is why when Fr Kizito’s alleged scandals first hit the headlines,a lot of furore and debate ensued on whether his accusers were legitimate or they were after the millions in his projects.

After following the scandals the Vatican has been battling over alleged abuse by the men of the cloth i think it is time that the church in Kenya investigated itself.It is time the church hierarchy asked itself,what if there are priests abusing their high office here ,how do we handle it?

Reuters had an article on how the scandals have affected the church in Germany with thousands leaving the church and it can be read here. Much of this has been caused by the dismal handling of the matter by church which has not been stemmed by the apology offered by the Pope which elicited mixed reactions.An article by the New York Times on the apology to Irish Catholics can be read here .

Maybe it is time the church stopped the fire fighting approach it has taken to reports of abuse by its clergy.The systemic issuing of apologies that is directed at only the affected countries needs to stop,instead the church needs to make its stand on sexual abuse by men of the cloth known,it needs to publicly state that it will not be condoned or tolerated and that the abusers will face the full force of the law.

Sermons made  by priests from all the catholic church pulpits need to remind the faithful that the church does not and will not hide sex abuse scandals.The faithful who give of their time,money and energy in church activities need to hear that the church will not hide the crimes or wish them away but will make sure the perpetrators who break the law and their victims have their day in court.

Each of the one billion Catholic faithful who make up at least 50%of the global Christian population need to hear that the church will act and is protecting them from the wolves who come adorned in priestly robes.They need to hear that the church is listening to the voices and the cries of those who have been abused by these men .The church needs to shout from the pulpit that sexual misconduct of its priests cannot be condoned ,every catholic from the remotest village church in Turkana to the Basilicas in Rome needs to hear that.Only by doing so will the church get some of its credibility back.

WHY KENYANS ARE STILL DYING OF HUNGER

Kenya is an interesting country to live in,while some Kenyans  acquire the latest tech gizmo’s and fuel guzzlers,almost 2 million Kenyans in the arid and semi arid areas in Samburu are dying of hunger.All the signs were there last year but as usual we were to busy trying to make it big to notice the bumper harvest we had last year which if we had employed measures to store the extra bags of maize,wheat farmers harvested and the tonnes of milk that even had us experience a milk glut and which saw gallons go down the drain at the  state owned Kenya Co operative Creameries,we would not be seeing the national shame that drought and hunger have now become.

In September of last year,the meteorological department issued a warning that 2011 would be a hard year for us because we would have less rain therefore planning should have begun then.But as usual warnings here are never taken seriously till we see the scrawny Samburu residents on national TV with even reports of death now coming in.Just a few days into June there are already reports of five people in Samburu who have died of hunger,full details of the crisis can be read here.

On the 8th of June ,we had the budget read ,things like wheat ,maize and rice were zero rated and this is meant to cushion hungry Kenyans who are already paying through the nose for basic food commodities.In Kenya fuel determines what you are going to pay for your packet of milk or for a 2 kilo packet of cornflour.At the moment global prices have been on the rise and so the ordinary Kenyan has had to dig deeper into their pocket to feed themselves and their families.Maize(cornflour),wheat flour and rice are staples in most Kenyan households and the direction their prices take whether north or south determine whether a child will go to bed well fed or sleep hungry.

It puzzles me that in an era where we have all manner of warning systems,where information is at our finger tips we still have the same problem we had back in the 80’s when the internet,mobile phones and satellites that track global weather pattern were non existent.Why are we failing our people,when they all die of hunger who are our leaders going to be leading ?

Maybe a time will come   when no single Kenyan dies of hunger,where children,men and women will not have to boil wild berries to assuage the pangs of hunger,where planning for crisis will be a habit and not an afterthought  and where we will not watch food go to waste while the rest of the country starves.I pray for a time where every Kenyan child will go to bed with a full stomach and not with the sickening knowledge that when dawn comes the biting stabs of an empty tummy will have them staring into space with no hope for the future.

WHY AFRICA’S VOTE FOR HEAD OF IMF DOES NOT MATTER

Christine Lagarde and Agustin Carstens have been on a tour of some countries which by the sheer strength of their economies may just be the deal breakers in the search for the next Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.The position was left vacant after the previous holder Dominique Strauss Khan was charged with sexual assault and other charges  committed against a hotel maid in an upmarket New York Hotel.

When i hear  talk about the IMF all i seem to remember are the Structural Adjustment Programs(SAP’S) they gave as conditions for Aid to the Kenyan government back  in the 90’s which went on to cause a lot of grief among Kenyans.Now the tide has changed and Kenya and most other African countries  are no longer at the mercy of the  IMF.They   have a very willing partner in China who lends without too many questions or conditions.

Looking at the wooing that is going on for votes by the two candidate it is a no brainer to conclude that African countries do not carry that much weight in the vote.That is why they do not feature in the itinerary that has been mapped out by the two contestants.The countries that contribute a bulk of the money.This is mainly because funding for the body by member countries is based on quotas that are determined by that countrys’ strength on the world economy.The system used for funding the IMF can be read here.African countries do not have much economic clout on the global stage and that could be the reason that the two candidates have not paid much attention to them.Another factor that could be influencing the choice of countries the two are visiting to pitch their suitabilities for the job are that countries in much of Europe like Greece,Ireland,Portugal are in need of bail out from the IMF.

In voting for the next managing director for the IMF job,a candidate needs to garner votes from the members with the highest percentage of contributions because these are the ones who have the greatest say in decision making.African countries are largely borrowers in these financial arrangement and more often than not have been saddled with loans with so many conditions ,that African countries end up being forever mired in debt for generations to come.

According to an article by rainbow warrior on how voting is done it is literally a matter of how much your influence is worth in gold that will determine who gets the top job.Africa with its meager resources can in noway have a say in who heads the organization,the decision is in the hands of the US and much of the G8 and G20 countries.Africa and the rest of the developing countries who make up the IMF membership can only ever hope to have one of their own heading the financial body if they can garner financial clout that can stand up to the US and Europe and that is going to take years.

Meanwhile as we wait to hear who gets the job though i think it is a no brainer that it will be Lagarde with Carstens as deputy in order to appease the BRICS countries,it is time the next MD changed tact on the way the IMF views Africa.Much of the time it has received a lot of flak from African intellectuals for forcing conditions down the throats of begging countries and imposing plans that have done nothing but harm the recipients of the countries they have been channeled to.This is because some of the money is targeted at projects that hardly ever benefit citizens and the  conditions imposed for the loans end up wrecking the lives of the very same people they are meant to help.

Focus by the new head should now be on well thought out and researched policies that can benefit the people  in the developing countries while also making sure the funds are used for their intended purposes.With China now joining the list of options available for loans and grants IMF needs to drop the list of conditions it imposes for their loan,what should be focused on is monitoring of these funds to make sure they are being put to their intended purposes.

African countries also need to play a a part in ensuring that they reform their policies to include more transparency in the way they utilize their funds,elect leaders with integrity and knowledge to push their economies to compete in a world where bail outs have become the norm rather than the exception.Countries are facing tougher times on the world economic stage and previously countries we never thought would need bail outs are now in urgent need of financial help,it is now up to African countries which have so many resources are able to manage their resources in such a manner that they reap economic benefits for themselves and their citizens.

SAVING THE MAASAI MARA

Every year  the great migration in the Maasai Mara leads almost two million animals to cross the swelling Mara river in search of food and water.The majority of these are gnus but we also have zebras,impalas,gazelles,elephants and giraffes.You can read more about this seventh wonder of the world here,here and here.

Scientists and environmentalists have reported on a  weed threatening the the Mara ecosystem,the plant known has already gained notoriety in Australia,India and Ethiopia as it inhibits growth of other plants.With an ecosystem already facing human encroachment,pollution and disease action needs to be taken fast to weed it out before what is arguable Kenya’s biggest wildlife sanctuary becomes obsolete.The full report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature can be read here.

The UK guardian carried an article on the weed as early as March of this year and by then they were already efforts by the Kenya Wildlife Service which is the government body charged with the management of game reserves and national parks and CABI(Center for Agricultural Bioscience International) to control the weed.The news only hit local media channels this year when KTN carried a report on the weed in its prime time news this past week.

Seeing that devolved government stars functioning after we hold our election on the 14th of August next year,Narok county needs to look for ways in which the local community and all stake holders not just donors can weed the plant out.Whether it is by involving the local communities in physically pulling it out as suggested by some scientists let everything be done to ensure that the weed does not encroach on animals grazing ground.It is said to spread very fast and it is my hope the government is aware of this and doing all it can by providing support to the people of Narok to care for this park that plays  host to  the seventh wonder of the world every June.

BRINGING THE SANITY BACK ON KENYAN ROADS

If we went by the number of fatalities and causalities on Kenya roads we must be the worst country in the world in terms of road safety records.Mombasa road alone has robbed countless families of fathers,mothers,children,brothers,sisters and friends.Not a day goes by that you dont get to read or hear in the news of someone who has lost their life in what must be Kenya’s road with the highest number of black spots.Just his week there was the heart breaking tory of a lecturer who lost his entire family in addition to a friend who had offered to drive them to the Jomo Kenyatta airport ,the story can be read here.

According to the WHO 1.3 million people are killed on roads every year worldwide  while 50 million pole sustain injuries ,90% of these victims are in developing countries. The UN General assembly declared 2011-2020  as the Decade of Action for Road Safety.While road fatalities have largely been seen to decline or stabilize in developed countries they remain a major cause of death in developing countries and the WHO estimates that if left unchecked could see deaths rise to 2.3 million by the year 2030.An article written on the launch can be read here on the WHO site.

With  Kenya now focusing on improving its road network with better roads we can only expect things to get worse if not better.Most Kenyan drivers are always rushing off at break neck speeds from point A to point B.Even on roads where there is heavy pedestrian traffic or on major highways where there are designated livestock crossing areas or pedestrian crossings motorists  are still pressing on their gas pedals to get the most speed out of the automobiles that have probably been bought with a loan that has not even been fully paid.They do this with total disregard for other motorists,pedestrians or even cyclists who have a right to use the very same roads.

More Kenyans especially on Fridays and over the weekend stagger into their cars with in their inebriated states and hope and pray they get home without hitting anyone or anything,God forbid if they should slump over their steering wheels especially if they are speeding on the newly constructed highway that may have no markings because we all know where there are going to  end up-on the cold slab of a morgue.Their faces and bodies so disfigured by the impact of their crush that their relatives hardly recognize them and their precious vehicles reduced to mangled wrecks.

Over the holidays especially Christmas and Easter  all hell breaks loose because all Kneyans are headed to the country to spend time with their loved ones.However  some do not even get home as they meet their ends when some other deranged road user in a similar rush  hits them or they roll several times because they lost control of their vehicle.

Our laws which are meant to deter such behavior  do not seem to be doing  enough to deter people who break the rules.In my opinion a man or woman who causes the death of another while driving is no better than a person who commits premediated murder.We whould have these peole face the stiffest penalities under the law and be forced to do some form of commuity service in schools  and colleges to discourage  future motorists to be more careful on our roads by discouraging bad driving habits.

Without these tough meausre we will continue seeing the increaisng number of fatalities that do not seem to be abating any time soon.We also need the traffic department to be incorruptile in the issuance of driving permits,if you do not pass the test go and resit it till you get it..Constant appraisal should also be done for drivers maybe every 5 years and if one gets a clean pass 3 times then one can be excused from further  tests.It seems peole forget all the etiquette of driving the minute they get their licence and it is time we reminded peole of the tough consequences that will be meted out  incase one flouts the rules.

Drunk driving needs to attract a very stiff sentence too because these inebirated drivers have caused enough grief to Kenyan families.Too bad that the alcoblow that was meant to measure the inebriation of drivers became a cropper and nothing has replaced it.I really admire the tough stance taken by the US where a drunk driver spend time in the coolers till the next day when they are sober and they can drive home.Maybe we also need to name and shame high profile personalities who are caught driving under the influence,this would definitely discourage future offenders.

According to the action planned for the decade to improve on Road Safety by the UN are that member states with the help of the international community need to   commit to  developing and implemenitng legislation to reduce on risk factors such as limiting speed,reducing drunk driving and increasing use of seatbelts,child restraints and motorcycle helmets.

If the legislative arm of government  implemented and enforced the Michuki rules which were similar to the UN recommendations on improving raod safety we would Be on the way to reduicng the number of Kenyans losing their lives daily on our roads.The then Minister for Transport Honorable Jospeh Michuki was light years ahead of the UN declaration but since he was moved to the Minitry of Environment all his good intetions seem to have been forgotten by his predecessor and the Traffic department .

However for this to work drivers,pedestrians and the general public as a whole need to remember that road safety starts with each and every one of us.Any time one gets behind the wheel of a vehicle or is out walking on the roads,they need to remember being safe starts with an individual.We need to observe road signs,be mindful of other road users,avoid driving when inebriated and stay within safe speed limits such that one is able to control their vehicle incase anything happens that requires quick action.

Let us keep our roads safe!

THE SAD STORY OF THE KENYAN POLICEMAN

This past weekend i started writing an article on the life of the Kenyan policeman then quickly got rid of it because i thought it was not good enough.Since yesterday though i have changed my mind after seeing two episodes of a crime series being ran by the Kenya Television Network on the life of the Kenyan Policeman that is titled In the line of Fire.

The series started off on a very sad note yesterday when the crew of two decided to follow a patrol team on the streets of Nairobi at about 11 pm,it started off tragically.A few minutes into the patrol along Luthuli avenue they heard gun shots, a policeman had been felled by some thugs who bumped into him on his patrol and shot the father of three dead.He would be going home in a coffin and his children were robbed of a father,his wife was now a widow.

It is reported that at least 145 policemen die every year in the course of duty that is more than 10 every month,and translates to at least two if not three every week.A lot of the time a dead policeman is just a statistic and we hardly ever give much thought to the fact that he has left behind a family, a wife,parents or even siblings.The Kenya policeman has been so dehumanized that the citizens he protects and the state he works for hardly ever hold him in high regard less s when he is dead.

The basic pay of a Kenyan policeman includes a house allowance of 1600 Kenya shillings,health insurance of 495 shillings  and a basic pay of 18000 Kenya shillings.With the dollar exchange rate at an average of 82 Kenya shillings,the average Kenyan policeman earns just $219.51.

This is barely enough to cover basic needs in todays harsh economic times and may be one of the main reasons policemen engage in extra activities to supplement their meagre pay.The police force has been villified for so long for being a corrupt entity yet meausre such a improving their terms of employement would go a long way towards detering them from taking bribes and greatly improve our security.Measures such as allocating enough resources every fiscal year that would gotowards improving housing,ensuring each person in the force gets health insurance,providing bullet proof  vests and providing lighter fire arms,getting them trained on basic investigative kills,organizing team building activities would greatly improve the forces working conditions and boosting morale

It has not helped that the police have not done much to redeem the tainted image most Kenyans have of them by taking on serious reforms.Maybe it is time Mathew Iteere became more vocal in pleading,whether by shouting from the roof tops,banging the tables or plain lobbying  to demand for more money to be allocated to the force,something needs to be done and very fast.