Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Political capital from bashing Kenya?

Imagine yourself as a presidential candidate in the Kenyan general elections. You are invited as a keynote speaker in a meeting comprising of university students -drawn from all Tanzanian universities- at the University of Dar es Salaam. What will you tell these students? Will you use the forum to campaign for presidency?

During Barrack Obama’s tour in Africa, we saw him market the USA as a beacon of hope. He called on African government to develop a close relationship with the USA for the benefit of citizens of both continents. He also took a HIV test in Kenya to motivate Kenyans to participate in testing and prevention of AIDs. Please note that at the time, Mr. Obama had shown interest in running for office.

Back in Kenya, the countries interests take the back burner as personal ambitions are put on overdrive. This was clearly evident when Raila Odinga took his campaign overseas with claims that the Kenyan economy and the NSE thrives on drug money. Some may argue that he had every right to make such ridiculous claims because he was addressing a crowd comprising mainly of Kenyan citizens. But what do you make of his keynote speech to over 10,000 East African Community university students in Kampala? In the speech Raila lampooned president Mwai Kibaki telling him that he must meet all ODM-K demands for “minimum reforms” or else… He read ODM’s demands to these students even when it is clear that they cannot vote in Kenyan elections.

I think there are many issues affecting the three East African Community members that Raila could have talked about instead of using the inter-university forum to advance his campaign for presidency. Chief among these are the issues of the EAC economy and the political integration of these three countries.

In the realization that these students will be shaping up future policies that affect the EAC, Raila should have raised the issue of cross border trade, work permits, and development of infrastructure to ease movement within the region. As of today, Tanzania remains the only country in the region where Kenyans have to go through red-tape regulations to get work permits.

In march last year, Kenyan journalist were arrested in Tanzania and deported. Kenyan businesses in Tanzania have also had their employees deported as Tanzanians claim that Kenyans are too aggressive in business. Raila should have used this forum to reassure Tanzanians of our commitment to make the EAC a success by encouraging cross border employment and investment. Instead, Mr. Odinga chose to embrace party activism as he threw statesmanship out of the window.

The inter-university forum would have been the best venue to challenge students to think about how best the region can utilize resources from this lake. In the past we have seen Ugandan forces crossing into Kenyan waters to arrest fishermen. This issue touches the interests of Mfangano Islands residents who depend on fishing.

It is a shame that our leaders are behaving akin to the woman who requested King Solomon to split up the baby so that each can have a share. These leaders want to be president but they use foreign countries as platforms ridicule their motherland and spread bold lies. Will they have an intact country to govern if their preoccupation is selling Kenya as a dead horse?

Monday, March 05, 2007

MPs with For Sell sticker

I cannot help it but share yet another petty observation elicited by a story in the Standard (March 5th, 07). I promise that this will be the pettiest of them all.

The Standard tells us that MPs allied to ODM will visit London on a bonding mission. Their bonding session will be presided over by 10 UK MPs. While in London, Kenyan MPs will hold a dinner event for ‘investors’ with an entry fee ranging between 100 and 1,000 sterling pounds.

“What you pay will determine how close you sit to the aspirants,” the Standard quotes ODM Publicity Secretary in London who goes by the names, George Muruli.

It all sounds innocent unless you are one of the petty Kenyans like me. To a petty Kenyan, this marks the official auction of your MPs. The auction is a charitable act that will raise money to set up a theocracy in Kenya after Kibaki is kicked out. So it is all in the name of Wanjiku!

Skeptical me smells a fish! Why would British MPs be involved in a matter that is 100% Kenyan? And why would Kenyan MPs invite British MPs into an affair that is 100% Kenyan? This sounds odd unless you are a Kenyan who doesn’t indulge on petty issues. From what I understand, we elect officials to serve our interests as Wanjiku. By inviting foreigners into Kenyan affairs, our MPs are submitting themselves to be used as puppets by foreign nations as they (these nations) seek to serve their interests. Direct interference into our political system by foreign interests is one thing that Kenyans need to worry about because it amounts to colonialism by proxy.

And then there is the issue of the dinner where the highest bidder gets the seat closest to our MPs. Those of us who thrive on petty issues don’t see this as an activity where an investor will pay more than £1,000 for a piece of chicken and call it a night. Small-minded Kenyans like me see this as a dangerous precursor to a new mega corruption scandal. ‘Investors’ –especially those from the UK- don’t dish out money to Kenyan politicians without expectations from the politicians. Ask John Githongo and he will tell you that these infesters don’t live of chicken wings alone. Githongo will tell you that the so-called dinner is a vector for very infectious deals that can turn reformists into devils.

These pay-to-play games must be discouraged at all costs. Those bidding for our MPs ears might be the same people harming Kenya’s interests in the UK. Our MPs should ask themselves: What if the highest bidder happens to be the firm calling its self ‘The Kikoy Company UK Limited’? What if New Anglo Leasing and Fleecing Co. outbid everybody else for the seat at the high table? What if ...?

As Kiraitu said about Anglo Fleecing, campaign funding is the mother of all corruption in Kenya. Kiraitu said that future scandals can be mitigated by instituting campaign funding laws. Hate him or love him but he was right. It is only human that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

The London bonding meeting will not only bond ODM Luminaries but also conceive the future Anglo Goldenberg. The so-called investors are the good old infesters who have infested our country infesting it with various strains of corruption.

The sad part of this petty story is that educated Kenyans that are cheerleading for our Luminaries welcome pay-to-pay as long as it serves their Luminary’s interests. They have prepared a well-thought defense on how noble it is to have UK MPs and investors join hands with ODM and Wanjiku in kicking Kibaki out. Their upcoming defense reminds me of the fable, The Hunter and the Horse. I am looking forward to hear their side of the story.