This Saturday on the 27th of August,how many Kenyans will be popping bottles of champagne and celebrating one year since we passed the new Constitution?Few if any and you know why,because nothing much has changed.
Frederick Douglass was an African American abolitionist leader who was known for his anti slavery stand as well as for his great oratory and writing skills. Separated from his mother at the age of one so that she could go back to working in the plantation as a slave and forced to work as a slave himself at the age of 10,he rose to become one of the leading lights of the civil rights movement in America long before it became popular to do so.
Former slaves who had escaped like Douglas and were well read,joined a minority white population who decrying the evils of slavery.To Douglas literacy as he was so often quoted was the path to freedom
This great man came to mind because i realized that in Kenya today though we lack the chains of slavery ,poverty,ethnic bigotry have taken up where slavery left off.With a population of 40,862,900 as of August 2010 the world Bank report on Kenya shows that our national poverty levels were at 45.9% in 2010,this was a marked improvement from 1997 when it stood at 52.3%.The literacy levels in our country are also very high with the report showing that of our population above the age of 15 years,at least 87% are literate.This of course can be nothing but good news.
But why our high literacy levels are not translating into change in our political sphere is another matter altogether
Am sure we cannot forget the clips we have seen of hungry children in Turkana,a region that has been largely marginalized since independence and that is only in the news for the wrong reasons-hunger and drought.
I often find myself wondering what the residents of Turkana would do if they knew the power to change their circumstances lay in their hands.That they do not have to wait for the government and non governmental institutions to provide relief food when drought strikes.
With one of the lowest literacy levels in all of the 47 counties and a poverty level that is said to be at 95%,i the solution to Turkana lies in its people.With the right government support this county which is home to the largest fresh water lake in a desert,can be a case study of the proverbial phoenix and rise from the ashes of poverty,disease and illiteracy.
Much of Northern Kenya is faced with the same problems Turkana is battling with and the issues the counties in this region face will be waged in the classroom.
A correlation and a causal effect has been shown between illiteracy and poverty levels,disease and high infant mortality rates.Much of the cause for disease especially among infants can be attributed to lack of rudimentary knowledge on good hygiene .
Other factors such as lack of safe drinking water,good sanitation,poor nutritional knowledge and lack of economic power all contribute to under development in the region.Government however does not escape blame for forgetting the region exits when it does its planning and allocation of resources.
With the mapping out and setting out of boundaries soon commencing let us hope that the funds these counties in the region receive will be prioritized especially towards fighting illiteracy,because that’s where change for Northern Kenya will begin.
To paraphrase a quote by the former Secretary General of the UN,Kofi Annan,literacy lies at the heart of development of any region and it is only this that can guarantee and active democratic participation of the members of any society, country in active development.
I have been waiting for the government ,civil society and the Ministry of Justice,National Cohesion and Constitutional affairs to start civic education to no avail.Even the church which hither to has always been active in civic education seems not to be very keen on the matter.So being the philanthropic sort of person especially when it comes to matters of sharing knowledge i have decided to start my own civic education classes here…sort of.In this way we can decide if the candidates we are seeing dialy on our tv screens and reading about in the dailies measure up to what the constituion has defined.
My main focus will be on the post of President ,seeing that we are going to have at least 10 maybe even more candidates gunning for chief executive of the 582,650 Sq Km that make up the country called Kenya and its its 40 million inhabitants.
Now i took time to go through the constitution to see what the qualities for the next President should be and i am going to share the information here.Hopefully this is going to make it very easy for Kenyans reading this to determine whether the men and women seeking their precious votes meet even the minimum criteria for heading this country.
If you have ever looked for a job in any field we know the rigorous vetting one goes through before they are called for an interview.Once your application letter lands on the desk of the Human resource officer ,whoever is reading it is going to go through it with a fine tooth comb and even a spelling mistake is going to see your resume end up in the shredder.Now Kenyans need to see themselves as employers and the presidential candidates as job seekers,they need to throw away the rose colored glasses they have been using to view politicians before and get glasses that will ensure we all have 20/20 vision so that we do not slip and end up where we were in 2007.
Here is what the constitution says about the requirements for the next President simple terms.
1.The President shall respect,uphold and safeguard the constitution.
How many aspirants are talking about this?In August of last year we ate,drank and made merry when the draft constitution was signed into law.We all know of the rocky road and the billions of tax payers money that has been spent in the search for a new constitution.How many of the aspirants are willing to protect,defend and uphold this document that has cost the lives of many,seen many Kenyans suffer in the infamous chambers at Nyayo house.Some like Kenneth Matiba have lost their fortunes and been rendered immobile all because they fought to make Kenya a more democratic place for every citizen of this country.
2.The President shall safeguard the sovereignty of the Republic.
If i may quote Wikipedia whose definition i found most apt on sovereignty “a sovereign state is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither dependent on nor subject to any other power or state.”
Now is the presidential candidate seeking your vote telling you how they are going to ensure that Kenyans no longer have to beg for food to feed its people?is s/he telling you how they are going to ensure we are able to transition into a middle income economy without seeking for more loans from donors which more often than not over the past has disappeared into private accounts or been misused?
3.The President shall promote and enhance the unity of the Nation
Is the man or woman standing before you a symbol of national unity or are they a divisive factor.Do these men and women know that Kenya has more than 42 tribes and we have citizens from all the corners of the world who have chosen to make Kenya home.Are they cognisant of the fact that the country needs Kenyans of every color,tribe,faith and race to work together in order for us to move forward.
It amazes me that in a country that is like a mini united nation because of its diversity our political leaders never seem to remember that it will take the efforts of every Kenyan regardless of the ethnicity and the prejudices we have had about each other in the past to make vision 2030 a dream and not some task force’s paper dream.
Is your preferred candidate doing enough to ensure each and every Kenyan feels part and parcel of the whole work in progress we are calling Kenya.Or do they make you feel marginalized,forgotten and ignored.
5.The President shall promote respect for the diversity of the people and communities of Kenya
Please refer to (c) above
6.The President shall ensure the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of the law.
The bill of rights in the constitution we passed is already very clear about this and the President needs to ensure that all Kenyans enjoy the freedoms and rights enshrined in the constitution.
These being the basic requirement the constitution defines,what else do you think the next president of this great republic needs to have?
Okay i may have strethced the truth but just indulge me a little….
If Kenya was a girl looking for a boy to get married to i wonder what she would be looking for?The world over marriage is approached with a sober head and with hope that when one finally settles on a partner that they are going to spend most of their adult life with ,then reason and clarity of mind are key towards in making this very important decision.
It is a no -brainer that one needs to have a standard by which they have set the minimum requirements for a partner.One does not just settle for any Tom,Dick and Harry who comes along.But looking at the varied array of individuals who have thrown their hats into the ring that is the presidential race,i am amazed we have given some even the light of day.It is time as Kenyans we came up with standards by which we measure our leaders,only in this way will we ensure that only the most worthy make the cut.So far there are almost 20 people who are garnering for the top seat and if things go as they are going on right now, we will waste precious time in a run -off ,yet we would have weeded out the unworthy candidates and saved a couple of millions.
We do not need a vetting board like the JSC to weed out those who are unsuitable ,a little digging into the colorful or not so colorful pasts of these aspirants is very easy.Every Kenyan household has a radio or TV or they at least get to read the papers.And with our propensity for political intrigues we are not short of stories on what our leaders have been up to.We should not be giving the time of day to people who in the past have been known to preach water and drink wine,peole who have reneged on promises,people with a past to hide or who have had brushes with the law.
In choosing the next Chief Executive of this beautiful country we need to approach this very important decision with the same soberness and reasonableness with which we choose whom we marry.In choosing a partner one does not make a decision over kilos of succulent nyama choma and crates of Kenya’s finest barley products.One sits and mulls over the options available and then settles on one.It is said that one should ensure they date a couple of people before they settle on THE ONE.Only in this way will you know what you are looking for,it does no good to settle for the first man or woman who shows an inclination to spend the rest of their lives with you.Neither does it do any good to propose marriage or even accept a proposal when inebriated .
If we look at the way Kenyans make decisions for their President , it is always a case of herd mentality.The one who attracts the largest crowds at rallies and uses the most colorful language gets the votes.It does not matter that this man or woman has no economic agenda or has a closet full of skeletons.All that matters is that he or she is able to draw crowds that are forever singing his praises.And if he throws in the fact that there are people out to finish him then the more sympathy votes he or she gets.
It is also very interesting that though Kenyans do not know it ,their votes have always been used to settle political scores.That is why politicians use the platforms we give them to fix their opponents.Before you know it public opinion is being swayed by allegations and innuendos which have been taken for the gospel truth and we trash a possible presidential candidate.
We never seem to make up our minds independently we always have to listen to what they(politicians) tell us instead of asking ourselves what these people who want to lead us are going to do for us.We forget that first and foremost these people are our servants,they should be begging us for votes,laying out the blue print of taking this country to the middle income economy it should have been two decades back.The next presidential candidate should swear to be a servant of the people and a servant of the constitution the same way Dr Mutunga did when he was being interviewed for the post of Chief Justice.In this day and age does a woman listen to the promises of heaven a man swears he will provide or does character,ideals and moral standing bear much more weight?
The presidential candidates who are getting the most media attention are only talking about how their tribal numbers can be used to their advantage.My question to Kenyans is this?are we living as one country,united under one flag or should we change our name to the united tribes of Kenya?Every tribe is claiming that it is its time to get the presidency and if we go along this lines then we will be in the same predicament we were in 2007.This is similar to the man who walks up to a woman and says he had a vison that they would get married,that God has spoken to him and they are the perfect match.I always run away from such prophets and visionaries.
Dear Kenyans it is time to make sober decisions and get rid of the herd mentality we have had for so long,we need to grasp the future in our hands and make it happen today .It is never going to be vision 2030 unless we make it happen now.You can only dream and see visions for so long,and you are only young for so long.How many generations of Kenyans have to listen to the same old story of my tribe your tribe deserves this more than the other?
As the Chinese say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and it is time Kenya got a spouse who will look after her and her children,respect her ,honor her and protect her.
“There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as “moral indignation,” which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue”-Erich Fromm
Update:The Prime Minister and President just apporved the nominations,let us see what Parliament does now.
Out of all the candidates who were interviewed for the CJ position in Kenya by the Judicial Service Commission Willy Mutunga and Nancy Barasa were found most fit for the position of CJ and Deputy CJ respectively.Both of them have been activists in the past with Dr Willy Mutunga having been an active participant in the fight for democracy and Ms Nancy Baraza being one of the founders of FIDA a non governmental organization that provides legal assistance to indigent women.The two have been labeled as “outsiders” having come from outside the judicial circle but are a sign of the new order of doing things as envisioned y the new constitution.
The interview process by the newly formed Judicial Service commission was carried out over two weeks and when they announced the nominations of the two for appointment by the Prime Minister and the President ,the chair of the interviewing body Professor Christine Mango herself was all smiles.You could clearly see the pride they had in their choice of the two and it was hoped this would be a chance to whip the judicial system into shape as well as to give it a new lease of life with the overhauling of the system that was expected when the new CJ took over.
The names were forwarded to the President and Prime Minister for appointment together with the names of other candidates who qualified for other judicial offices.However it seems as Kenyans we love squabbling over non issues and already these two appointments have generated heated debated over the way they have been appointed , none has bemused me than the one that some individuals,politicians and part of the church have objected to Willy Mutungas appointment because he wears an earring.
The good professor who was once a political detainee,taught law at the University of Nairobi,chaired the Law Society of Kenya and is regional head of the Ford Foundation as well as being a Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission scored very highly during the interview process.His credentials though showing stellar performance in all his previous posts and having been a pro democracy activist too pale in comparison to his fashion sense-the fact that he wears an earring is what is dominating debate over his nomination !
A very prominent politician was captured on national TV saying that if we had a CJ with an earring ,it spelled doom for this country and the only thing that could save us was prayers.For a country that boasts of being 70% Christian we sure arent showing any love for Dr Mutunga,his character is being crucified left,right ,center because of some jewelery he has chosen to adorn his left ear with.The Bible has the story of the woman caught in adultery(John8;7) and when the crowds brought her to Jesus hoping he would pass judgment on her he told them”let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”The crowd which had gathered baying for the woman’s blood walked away in shame because Jesus had caught them out in their hypocrisy.In my reading of the Gospels,i never recall Jesus condemning anyone,in fact his band of disciples was made up of people from all walks of life.The church in joining this debate has already taken sides against Dr Mutunga,this institution that is meant to be the standard bearer of Christ’s message of love has joined in the debate over non -issues when o many Kenyans are suffering as a result of a skewed and corrupt judicial system.
Time and again Professor Mutunga has said his earring is not a symbol of his sexuality but goes deeper than that.On his earring he was quoted in the Daily Nation here as saying “I wear my ear ring not because of my sexuality but spirituality. There is no way I can remove this ear ring even if I become the Chief Justice. If am told I must remove it to get the job of Chief Justice I will say keep your job”.The moralizing that is going on because he wears jewelery is shameful for a society such as ours living in the 21st century.The country has seen worse evils than this taking place and none of these politicians or clergy have come up in defense of the victims.
Recently CNN through its special feature program Inside Africa had a story of the beading practice in Samburu,where with just a beaded necklace young girls barley in their teens are forced to have sex with men.The story is a shame to say the least from a country that hopes to achieve its vision 2030 and you can read it here
Kenya in the past recent months has been receiving a lot of coverage from CNN on issues from mental health,to the Nubian search for identity and i have never heard either the politicians or the church that is objecting to Willy Mutunga’s nomination speak out.
In casting aspersions on Willy Mutunga’s character and not his credentials the people objecting to his nomination have shown they are more concerned with appearances rather than substance.What we should be concerned about are whether we can trust Professor Mutunga and Nancy Barasa to deliver on judicial reforms,whether they are persons of integrity and if they can deliver in ensuring that Kenyans who have their day in court are heard without any brown envelopes exchanging hands.The objections to their appointments should be on facts and not the fiction that has been dreamed up by imaginative minds.
It is time Kenyans moved away from the endless squabbles that characterize nominations to high office.The new constitution that we passed into law last year with so much promise will prove to be nothing if we are still hanging on to the old way of doing things.What research has been done to prove that wearing an earring clouds your sense of judgment or renders you an idiot?Or how does wearing an earring influence the sexual orientation of those around you?Come on Kenyans let us get serious and get on with the program of change that is set to sweep this country.