Monday, 15 July 2013

Jubilee Government 100 Days in Office: a Less Than Impressive Scorecard

The Jubilee Government will be clocking 100 days in office on July 19th, 2013, and as has become the norm in Kenya, many analysts and observers are looking back at the period to gauge early successes and failures.
The first 100 days is a measure of a president’s achievements that originated in the United States of America, after president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) achieved much success in this time when he came into office in 1933. FDR came into office in March 4th 1933 at a time of great economic suffering and political upheaval. With record levels of unemployment, poverty, bank failures and civil unrest among the population, the country was looking for leadership.
President Franklin Roosevelt provided this leadership. Working with the American congress, he passed no less than FIFTEEN major bills in his first 100 days in office, commissioning major public works to build dams, bridges, schools and hospitals, thus providing employment to thousands of unemployed. He passed wide ranging legislation for the stock markets, the financial sector, and welfare provision to the poorest people, pumping money into circulation and offering reassurance and leadership through regular state broadcasts and speeches.
When the Jubilee Government’s first 100 days is compared to FDR, it wilts in the great man’s achievements. This is because of many factors, not least of all the circumstances are vastly different. This is not to offer an excuse to Uhuruto’s perceived failures, but rather to explain their performance in the proper political, economic and social context.
According to William Hasser, Roosevelt’s success worked because the Americans were undergoing the worst economic times in their history. There was no time for cheap politicking, when the military was actually prepared for a civic unrest of epic proportions, and belief in the American economic and political system was at an all-time low. When the Jubilee Government and President Uhuru Kenyatta came into office, it was after a bruising political battle that split Kenya into two, exposing ethnic and social fault lines, and requiring Supreme Court arbitration to decide the winner of a hotly contested presidential election.
The new administration had a new constitution, new presidential system of government and new institutions such as the county system to contend with. There were new hurdles to be negotiated; not least the strict constitutional and parliamentary checks that stipulated that gender, regional and tribal balances have to be met in any new administration. President Kenyatta, on the campaign trail promised “to take measures to make Kenya a fairer, healthier and better educated country.” Yet, looking at the ethnic composition of his cabinet, many Kenyans feel shortchanged. The ethnic composition of the cabinet looks skewed towards rift valley and central regions. The TJRC report is out, and there are rumors that some chapters were erased after pressure from government. How is this fair? The Kenyan taxpayer spent KES nine Billion on this commission. Will we see the fruits of this, with land reforms, a strong national land commission and apologies to the most affected by government massacres and assassinations in the past? It does not look good.
The Jubilee government promised to abolish fees charged when Kenyans go to public health care facilities. They also vowed to abolish all maternal fees in public hospitals, as well as giving all kids joining standard one, free solar-powered laptops. The free maternal care has been implemented. For this, kudos must be given to the government. Attainment of the MDG goal of improving maternal health is crucial to our country’s economic and social development. It remains to be seen, however, how more strain on the public hospitals’ resources as a result will be dealt with.
  The government would also “pass legislation to ensure that no child is out of school or a training institution until they reach the age of 18.” I am yet to see or hear of this legislation. Indeed, 100 days down the line, the promise to make Kenya a better educated country is looking like a sick joke. Public school teachers are spending their fourth week at home having taken strike action and the government is looking unwilling, unable and disinterested in solving this crises. Instead, the Attorney General is busy taking court action, which is threatening teachers with fines, jail time and unpaid salaries for “contempt of court.” How does this make Kenya a more educated country? Laptops are all well and good, but who will teach the kids to use them if the teachers are not on board? What of the kids with no food in their stomach, or roof above their heads in class, are laptops the biggest need they have at the moment?
Deputy President William Ruto promised to ensure that the country is secured, so that investors, tourists, farmers, businessmen feeling safe. This was meant to be the Jubilee Government’s first priority. Yet, within a few days of being sworn in, Kenyan citizens were being slaughtered in Bungoma County, with many receiving advance warnings via SMS of attacks. The Jubilee Government was caught flat footed. Murders between warring clans in the northern county of Mandera have ended lives of tens of innocent Kenyans. How many people have been arrested and charged? How many Kenyans can honestly say they feel safer after the Jubilee Government took over? The turf wars between the inspector general of police and the national police service commission can’t have made work easier. The jubilee government needs to do more in security, and the deportation of foreign nationals is not the way to do this. Let these people have their day in court, I am sure many people in public service, government and police service will be tainted. Could this be why the Nigerians, Ethiopians and others are being deported?
100 days since the jubilee coalition took over government, and the youth funds as well as 30% procurement reserved to be for the youth is yet to be launched. Dennis Itumbi posted on facebook that this will begin to be implemented this month. I will be looking critically at this in the future, but it is good that the government has not forgotten the youth, despite not appointing any young person (under 30 years) to cabinet. Let us wait and see how that goes.
The Jubilee Government has had to deal with the harshest of divisions, legitimacy tests, criminal proceedings as well as new laws governing their conduct, making the implementation of policies that much more difficult. Basically, the first 100 days are not so important to its legacy, as what it does in the next five years to make life better for many Kenyans who vumilia to be citizens.
What is important is providing leadership to Kenyans in times of institutional crisis, security concerns and emergencies such as the teachers’ strike. Instituting policies and measures that will ensure that five years down the line, the government will have delivered on its policies and promises to make Kenya a fairer, more educated and healthier nation should be the priority. Dealing with historical injustices, ethnic and social class hatred and differences, as well as promoting the constitutional implementation and security and economic development is important too. I hope the government improves on all these areas, because, so far it is not looking good.

Monday, 8 July 2013

An Accidental Blog Post; My Experiences Studying in Maseno University

I was applying for a freelance writing job online, and they needed a 200 word essay on my experiences studying in University. As I was typing the Essay, one thing led to another, and I ended up with a six hundred word essay... enjoy.

I studied Political Science in Kenya’s Maseno University from 2009. Right now, I am waiting to graduate in December. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the university, where I learnt much about political theory, public policy and political culture. The biggest impact that my university education has had on my life so far is opening my eyes on the political system and culture in Kenya.
As many may be aware, Kenya is a highly fragmented society, divided along tribal or ethnic lines. Kenya did not exist as a polity before the British made it a colony in the early years of the 20th century, as a result there is little to unite the 43 ethnic communities into one, especially when it comes to politics and general elections that determine who gets to share the “national cake” among the citizenry.
My Political Science degree gave me insight as to why Kenya’s voters are so passionate about voting for their own tribesman into the presidency, since they firmly believe that it is only through doing so that they can guarantee jobs in the public sector, enhanced businesses with the government through tenders, and even government services such as physical infrastructure, hospitals and schools will come to their home areas.
In addition, studying in Maseno University was also a life changing experience for me as a kikuyu. Virtually all of my family and tribe were in the jubilee coalition, headed by the current president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto. During my time at Maseno, which is located in the Luo country that was and remains an opposition stronghold, I got to understand why many Luos and Luhyas were against another kikuyu president taking over the reins of government.
 The biggest irony about my experiences in school was that when I went to visit my family in my grandparents’ home in Limuru, is that I was castigated as an ODM/CORD supporter. When I went back to school, I would become a TNA/jubilee supporter by default. At the end of the day, I ended up renouncing my hatred and disregard for Kenyans who support a political party or coalition simply because it belongs to their tribe.
I am more nuanced in how I view tribalism and ethnicity in my country as a result, although I am still appalled by ethnic violence and hate speech caused by politics. Thanks to my studies in Maseno university, I now think that ethnicity cannot be solved by uraia, Kenya Ni Mimi Na wewe sort of campaigns. Neither should it be embraced, since more often than not it leads to violence, demonization and hatred of fellow countrymen, as well as a weaker political system as a whole.
 The solution lies in a stronger civil society that can fight for economic and political rights that will benefit all Kenyans regardless of tribe, stronger political parties, understanding of tribalism and the Kenyan history, and possibly closer cultural and social ties between Kenyans of all tribes and races. Even then, it will probably not be enough. Tribalism is rife in every part of the world, from the united kingdom, the Balkan regions, the Middle East and even North America.
 It is more realistic to start by ensuring no one will ever die as a result of politics or belonging to the wrong tribe, as this happens in 2008 after the disputed presidential elections. A Kenya where majority of people feel more Kenyan than kikuyu, meru or taita is probably decades in the future and a pipe dream at the moment.