Thursday, 29 November 2012


A federation, according to wordweb, is the act of constituting a political unity out of a number of separate states or colonies or provinces so that each member retains the management of its internal affairs. The ultimate aim of the east African community is to become a political federation by 2013. Of course this will not happen by that time, but let us avoid that line of debate for now.
The main thrust of this blog is whether the east African community will be better off forming a political federation. I have been one of the greatest proponents of a political federation in recent times, because of the following reasons;
  • 1.      None of the five east African states is viable at the moment as a single entity. Problems of tribalism in Kenya and Uganda, religious differences in Tanzania, history of conflict in Uganda and Rwanda/Burundi, and dependence on foreign aid in all the five partner states means that all five are in some state of failure, as a quick consult on the fund for peace failed states index will doubtless tell you. A political federation might have stronger institutions and power to solve these problems.
  • 2.      All five states are constructs of colonial times, and they were not designed by looking at the ethnic, historic and political realities. A supra state formed by the citizens of east Africa might be more successful in forging patriotism and attacking negative ethnicity since it will have been formed by the citizens themselves.
  • 3.      The economic potential of a state of east Africa is profound. The natural resources, tourism potential, human resources and potential for increased trade and economic development means it’s makes too much sense economically not to be given serious thought.
  • 4.      It will strike a blow for pan-Africanism and silence doubters, who have always noted that even though the current states are colonial constructs, they have more or less remained strong and never threatened by the pan Africanist ideologues, both of the Monrovia and Casablanca schools of thought.
  • 5.      It will change the dynamics of politics forever in the east African region. Ethnic mobilization in Kenya especially, will be reduced since the power will have moved to a greater place. Hence maybe, just maybe the fight for political power will be based on more salient issues and ideologies.
  • 6.      It may reduce the inter and intra state conflicts in the region such as the LRA movement, secessionist calls in Zanzibar and Kenya’s coastal regions.
The arguments for an east African political federation are quite strong. Why then, arethere so much pessimism and dragging of feet towards implementing the fourthand most radical pillar of the EAC, after the customs union, common market and monetary union? Why am I starting to have second thoughts about the political federation of the east African states?
There is much understandable angst among the “middle” powers of EAC such as Tanzania and Uganda that they will be dominated by Kenya.
However, that is not the real concern. The biggest issue, according to me is how the battle for the “hearts and minds” of east African minds was lost at the very inception of the east African community in mid-2000. The argument for the EAC has always been fought on the economic side, while the ideological side of it has been neglected.
The pertinent question here is, why would a Kenyan be better off in an east African political federation, rather than being a Kenyan? The arguments I articulated above show what a political federation might achieve, but clearly they require abolition of the states as they are at present. Having a political federation at the same time as having the states maintained just doesn’t seem too useful to me. It should be either, or.
East Africa is not like Europe, where there are centuries old ties to the state. All EAC countries are barely 50 years old. Why all this pussyfooting around the political federation issue?? Lack of political will, and downgrading the political unity question from a potential supra-state to a EU like union where power lays everywhere and nowhere at once!! This will not solve the political problems facing all five partner states, in fact it might just exercabate them.
In my opinion, if the political federation chosen by the partner states is a loose one where power is held by both states and the east African community, then there might be problems ahead we might not be ready for.
It is better an economic union where fundamentalist ideals are at the heart of the union, than a political federation that is created with no political will, no input from the citizens and civil society, and that is characterised by much infighting and pessimism between and among the partner states.
Such a union cant last.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Global civics is an idea that posits that civics in a global sense as a social contract between the world citizens in the age of interdependence and interaction. According to proponents of global civics, we all have rights and responsibilities to each other by virtue of being human beings. What happens in china can influence happens all the way in Ghana. Hence as citizens of the world, we have responsibility to mind our actions or inactions lest they cause more harm than good.
In a globalized world where economic and social interactions between people, companies and groups are increasing due to advances in telecommunication, transport networks and modernity, global civics makes certainly makes sense. The “imagined community” known as the state is increasingly powerless to deal with phenomena taking place outside its borders, but affecting its citizens.
A good example is the volatile oil market in the world currently. The slightest increase in the price of a barrel of oil will mean the commuter from OngataRongai will have to pay more to go to work in Nairobi’s central business district. How much power does the government of Kenya have to protect the commuter?
But if global civics implies having rights and responsibilities as human beings, it is silent on who should step in when my rights are infringed by someone clearing forests in the amazon, or when I neglect my responsibilities as a world citizen to protect my environment or put my government in check.
We live in a world of anarchy as Kenneth waltz put it. This means we do not have a central government to ensure order and stability in the international system. In my view, global civics cannot work in a world of anarchy, where might is right.
And that is the reason why the proponents of global civics are content to promote only the most diluted version of rights and responsibilities on all of us, especially the most powerful who, due to the lack of world government, do what they want with impunity. A powerful state such as America can go to war with virtually anyone it wants, kill anyone with unmanned drones wherever or whenever, and have its companies destroy the environment from Swaziland to the Gulf of Mexico, without any repercussions whatsoever.
As a minute part of humanity in Kenya, it doesn’t matter if I forfeit my rights and responsibilities, if someone in government halfway around the world can, due to greed, bring about a world recession that might affect millions like me in terms of future employment prospects!
The minimalist approach that is advocated in the booklet “dialogues on global civics” is not going to solve the immense challenges we face in the world today. It is the industrialized countries doing all the environmental damage, it is they with all the nuclear weapons, it is them destroying the global finance system, and it is they with the most to lose if a real protocol on greenhouse emissions is enacted!!
Most of us, in the developing world, and especially in sub Saharan Africa, we just want to live!! Let those with the most rights and responsibilities, by virtue of their immense wealth, power and military resources, practice global civics!
This takes me back to my point on anarchy. We do not have a world government to ensure global civics is kept. Ideas of a volunteer United Nations army are laughable at best. Let the global south rise, following the example set by the BRICS, and then we can talk on global civics. As equals!
There can be no global civics in the current system, and there shouldn’t be. Let Africa, Asia, and Latin America rise to the level of other countries. Then we can discuss on what our responsibilities and rights are, as “world citizens”who view each other with respect and the relationship is one based on more equality than now.

Monday, 27 August 2012


Over 200 people have died in this year alone as a result of violence between different ethnic communities in Kenya.
This includes in Tana River delta, Mandera, Borabu, Moyale counties, etc. some of the reasons given by those in the know are the fight over scarce resources, politics and spillage from neighbouring countries. (Ethiopia). As usual, this has led to well-choreographed responses from Kenyans and their government.
Shock. Anger. Sackings. And then the usual promises of investigations. And then we move our shock to the next disaster. And everything is forgotten.
But don’t we have a national cohesion and integration commission (NCIC) meant to ensure that this very violence doesn’t occur? I asked myself. Some little research afterwards, I have discovered that the NCIC actually has even a well-researched and well written forty page policy on this very issue. It is aptly named the Kenya Ethnic and Race Relations Policy, and it can be found on their website.
So why are Kenyans still killing themselves, despite all the peace meetings, government policies, education by NGOs, and experiences Kenya has suffered since 1992, and most recently in 2008? It turns out, we are not learning from the past, we are not implementing the Kenya ethnic and relations policy, and we are not changing the same conditions that led to the bloodletting of 2008. In short, we are being very stupid in how we are handling this ethnic relations business.
The Kenya ethnic and race relations policy, is set on the principle of ethnic and racial inclusion, that is, the idea and practice of deliberately ensuring that people from all ethnic and racial groups resident in the nation are represented in
  •     employment,
  •     governance structures,
  •   planning,
  •   development initiatives, 
  •   public deliberations, 
  •      democratic arrangements,
  •       and national educational institutions
I will leave you interpret how successful ethnic and racial inclusion has been carried out in your county, and country.
The country remains deeply divided among ethnic lines. As the respected British historian, Professor Niall Ferguson put it in his popular BBC 2012 Reith lectures; there are two types of countries: the inclusive, and extractive. An extractive society is one in which, the government is used by the ruling elite to grab the economic produce from the country and proportionate it amongst themselves. Indeed, in an extractive society, the government is a tick that feeds on the labour of the people. The society cannot develop to its full potential unless people stop seeing control of the government as essential for their employment prospects, economic wellbeing, security and happiness.
There is little doubt in my mind that Kenya is an extractive society. Many kikuyus believe that losing the control of the government and its coercive arms such as police and military will be the beginning of their end, economically and politically. Other tribes also believe that unless they can ascend to the highest pinnacles of power in this country,the perceived poverty, unemployment and insecurity they suffer in comparison to the tribes in power will not be eased.
What does this have to do with tribally instigated violence in Tana delta, I hear you ask. In my opinion, the new constitution has created 47 bastions that will be under the thumb of the majority tribe after the general elections of 2013. 15% of government revenues will be distributed to all counties, and this money will be under the control of whichever county governments will be in place at the time.
It is this control of the county resources, and the contracts, tenders, jobs and influence that is being fought over. Whichever local elites control counties with the resources such as the richly endowed Tana delta, Lake Victoria, oil resources in northern Kenya etc., will be in a prime position to benefit economically beyond their wildest dreams.
Hence they are prepared to shed blood in their quest for power and riches. In my humble opinion, devolved corruption, impunity, balkanization of the country and power is part and parcel of the new dispensation, although no one wants to talk about it.
Not much can be done to stop this, but the national government has a responsibility to ensure that no Kenyan’s life is lost as collateral damage of these power games. It is this wanton destruction of property, and loss of life that must be stopped. Idealistic peace meetings and other policies such as intermarriage, social contact between tribes and national dress etc. will take time to make a dent and promote cohesion and integration, if not complemented by other “realistic policies.” Power sharing arrangements are another potential solution to violence in the counties. The NCIC has advocated for power sharing in no less than 27 counties in next year’s elections. Some of these counties include Nakuru and Lamu.
In the meantime, the national government should be prepared to put out all stops to enforce security and peace by arresting all local militias, those guilty of hate speech and murder and other crimes, and forcing people to be peaceful in this election period. Unfortunately, one suspects that the central government mandarins are more concerned in securing their immediate and midterm political and economic futures to do much.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

peeling back the mask: a quest for justice in kenya- my belated review

The book Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest For Justice In Kenya was written by Mr.Miguna Miguna and published by Gilgamesh Africa in 2012. The book is a political memoir meant to tell the world of Miguna Miguna's experiences from his return from Canada in 2007 to take part in the election campaign of prime minister Raila Odinga, to his acrimonious suspension as advisor on coalition affairs and falling out with the prime minister.
Miguna Miguna is a lawyer by profession who was, from 2008 until 2012 the prime minister’s senior adviser on coalition, legal and constitutional affairs, when he was indefinitely suspended. He had been a practicing lawyer in Canada where he had fled from Kenya after being arrested and tortured as a student leader in the late 1980s.

The book is written chronologically from Miguna's childhood in Magina village, in Nyando to his experiences in high school at Onjiku and Njiiri's high school. From there it tells of his coming of age as a young adult in NYS and university of Nairobi as a student leader. Finally, it details his subsequent arrest, torture in Nyayo house, exile to Tanzania, Swaziland and eventual asylum in Canada. In Canada, he eventually studied law and settled down, establishing a legal practice and engaging in political activism in university on issues affecting the black community in Canada. The book then proceeds to tell of his eventual return to Kenya to a political career in 2007 up to his suspension as advisor on coalition affairs in 2011.
By reading the book, the impression one gets is that MigunaMiguna was always a young man who was focused, extremely confident, well aware of his rights and not afraid to stand up to authority when he felt hisrights had been infringed upon. This insight goes a long way in understanding why Miguna raised so much hell when he was suspended by the right honorable prime minister as his special advisor.
The book’s main thesis is that RailaOdinga is not a reformer as many believe and that he is a nepotistic, incoherent and does nothing to investigate the alleged corruption by some of his aides. Says Miguna: “As this book will, I hope, show, I came to believe that Raila wasn’t honest or ready for the complete overhaul and transformation of the Kenyan society, starting with its leadership and politics. His rhetoric was intended to woo votes so as to ascend to power. Beyond that, he lacked genuine vision and commitment.” He goes further to state that Raila does not value loyalty. Miguna does this by quoting all the experiences he had with the PM in Canada, as an advisor and member of the ODM strategy team prior to the 2007 general elections, the ODM parliamentary nominations, post-election violence and subsequent mediation and setting up of the grand coalition government.
Miguna'sstyle is one of methodically quoting the dates, meetings and events so as to back up his arguments and theories.
Peeling Back The Mask: A Quest For Justice In Kenya comes across as a deeply personal book. It does provide a very thorough insight into the man MigunaMiguna, by detailing the experiences that Miguna went through from childhood till he was indefinitely suspended as the advisor to the prime minister on coalition affairs.
However, reading the “revelations” on the manner of sourcing for campaign funds and pre-election pacts, one gets the feeling that, “I know all this stuff, and sowhat’s your point exactly?”The point on ODM being made up of “KANU orphans” and Raila Odinga being more concerned with achieving power rather than the fighting for democracy, rule of law and natural justice cannot be lost on any casual observer of Kenyan politics since 2002 or even back to the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1992.
That Miguna blames his lack of knowledge of Raila's true character and how ODM was to behave in the most trying times prior to and after joining the grand coalition government on “naivety and belief that the good was more than the bad.” To me this is just incredible. Miguna must have known what Kenyan politics stood for when he returned from Canada in mid-2007. Kenyan politics is governed by tribalism, backroom deals, opportunism and singular lack of ideological commitment to issues.
My evaluation of Miguna is that once he made his triumphant return to Kenya, despite the many financial, personal and mental sacrifices he made to the cause of Raila Odinga, he could never really fit in. his repeated criticisms of the lack of intellectual depth, planning and debating of issues in the presidential campaign amongst  all candidates and parties, the shoddy way in which the mediation efforts were carried out and the complete dysfunction of the grand coalition government are bemusing. I fail to see what is so surprising to him in all this.
Peeling back the mask: a quest for Kenyan justice is an OK book. The bitterness, the anger and the frustration so palpable while reading chapter after chapter do not dim the intellectual fire, legal sharpness and force of logic that Miguna Miguna brings to the table. Raila Odinga is not the reformer that many in the political class, media and general public purport him to be.
This argument is presented to the final conclusion with admirable intensity of logic and presentation of well-presented facts and evidence. Reading the book, I got the feeling that it needn’t have taken over 600 pages to get many political analysts to get round to that point of view. It is a book that is well written in parts, although many pages are gobbled up by unnecessary information that gets too detailed. However, I would still recommend anyone to read the chapters on the ICC, and how the ODM side of government eventually got to bargain itself into government following the chaos of early 2008.
Anyone hoping to read the book to get a feel of how the “two sides” of government have interacted since 2008, as well as how they came to being will not be disappointed. For those who have little knowledge of how Kenyan politics is carried out prior to elections, and what drives many of the political class to spend so much of their money and resources to get into government, this book is an invaluable resource. But few will change their mind on how they view Kenyan politics and their preferences. At the end of the day, peeling back the mask reveals open secrets on the Kenyan politics. It is all about the eating, and politicians are guided by their own material interests rather than deeper convictions and ideologies. Tribe is the key factor on how Kenyans vote and will vote. No side is better than the other.
And to me, how and if this can ever be changed is the real mask that we should be trying to peel.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

communication as panacea to world problems

i was supposed to type this article and send it for an essay competition...but due to laziness and lack of focus i didnt. enjoy...

The more things change, the more they remain the same. When I think of the challenges facing the world right now, this is what comes to mind. Despite the major technological, medical and scientific advances that have been made over the decades, issues of poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and strife remain as pertinent as ever.
How can so much sadness and strife exist in a world of so much plenty? And how can we ensure that we live a future where our kids have longer, happier and more peaceful lives?
There seems to be little consensus, or dialogue among people on how to solve the problems afflicting the world. Ideology, culture and lifestyle choices that greatly differ among people within and among countries have meant that people cannot sit down and talk to one another on how to solve problems facing them.
The first small step that we should take to beginning to make a better world is to try listening to those who hold different religious, political, social and ideological viewpoints. As Friedriche Nietszche famously said, “convictions are worse enemies of the truth than lies.” People must practice acceptance of those who think in vastly different worldviews, and accept that beliefs, while they are important, can promote anger and negative emotions when people try to force others to renounce “weird” lifestyles and ideologies.
People must rise above societal and political prejudices, and be confident in the protection of the rights of the most marginalized, exploited and neglected of the society even if it makes them unpopular and shunned by their peers. The most revolutionary of people in the world, such as Galileo Galilei and Karl Marx stood up against “conventional wisdom” and changed the world forever.
Secondly, the governments, populations of the world and non-state actors must start cooperating with each other on solving challenges that straddle many boundaries and continents. Issues such as global warming, economic shocks and terrorism, as well as disease outbreaks have overwhelmed governments the world over.
It is obvious that people and their governments have to start assisting each other, and cooperating with each other to solve such problems. Humanitarian intervention is just but one example of tough choices that citizens of the world must make to make sure that when people face major challenges that may be natural and man-made disasters, people can be assisted.
Technology is a major engine for growth and change in the world. Through technological advancements, citizens can keep their governments on their toes, interact with others across continents and be exposed to many economic opportunities and markets.
However, technological gap has been growing between those who have access to the internet and facilities mostly found in major cities and those who are illiterate, old and cut off from the rest of the world by geographical, economic and social barriers. Thus, even the major breakthroughs such as the internet, medical advances and infrastructure have not benefitted those who need it most.
We need to ensure more people can benefit from the scientific and technological advances of the world through education, generosity and massive investment in the scientific and technological sectors of the world.
In conclusion, I think we need to talk more to each other, respect and cooperate with each other irrespective on cultural, ideological and religious differences. This should happen across all economic and social strata in the world, because the problems facing our earth are big, complicated and they will require all the cooperation we can get.