Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ultimate Power Lies with the Electorate

By Michael E. Ranneberger: US Ambassador to Kenya. Addressing members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya at a Nairobi hotel 20.11.2006.

Bringing corrupt officials and businesspeople to justice isn’t just about changing the law. It’s about changing behaviour. The 2007 elections are a major opportunity for Kenyans to do just that by insisting that candidates delineate clear proposed courses of action to deal with corruption, tribalism, and the other challenges facing the country. I believe the electoral process in Kenya — under the watchful oversight of an independent Electoral Commission of Kenya — can be conducted in a constructive, transparent manner. Achieving consensus on electoral reforms will make the electoral process more inclusive and participatory.

During the 2007 electoral process, Kenyans will in effect be setting the agenda for the next five years. This can credibly be done only through an inclusive, candid, national dialogue that leads to development of a substantive agenda to move Kenya forward. A credible, fully participatory national electoral process is the key step forward in the fight against corruption and tribalism, and to maintain the positive momentum in Kenya.

In a democracy, the ultimate power lies not with politicians, nor with the international community, nor with the rich and powerful, but with the ordinary people. They get to decide if they are going to allow a leader to remain in office, or to send him into retirement; they get to reward good governance by extending the tenure in office of those who have lived up to their expectations; or they can — quite literally — hand over power to new leaders who have most effectively articulated a vision to which they subscribe.

Read entire speech here

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Country Divided Cannot Win A War

Abraham Lincoln said a country cannot win a war if divided. Our problem is that our country is divided. There is lack of bipartisanism among our politicians while the issues facing us (insecurity, poverty, constitution making and corruption) call for a united resolve. These are national issues that cannot be defeated if our politicians (government and opposition politicians) are pulling in different directions. Politicians should stop playing hide and seek game with these issues. Unless they stand united we all are going to drown as the country sinks to irredeemable levels.

At least I admire Americans and leaders of other developed countries. They know when to stop partisan politics and stand united to face national threats and issues. I live in Norway and we have gang crimes and security concerns, as well as corruption here too. But what I admire about the politicians here is that they do not play politics with these issues. Both government and opposition stand united, support and pass the necessary policies and laws to fight the menace.

When we look at the Kenya scene what do we see. A government and opposition that cannot agree on anything except their salaries. Recent constitutional negotiations failed because the government wanted a comprehensive constitutional reform and the opposition wanted minimum reforms. There lacked give and take. Couldn't we have both if the parties were committed to success? Similarly, on insecurity the government maintains that it is the work of criminals and the opposition says it is politically motivated without offering proof. The government bans political gatherings until the security is restored and opposition politicians defy this with Kamukunji "prayers". On corruption both parties are living in their own worlds. Both do not see the logs in their own eyes but are busy pointing at each other’s faults. While the country is recovering from economic morass of the last decades, the opposition trashes this by saying that it is a result of drug money and money laundering. After the referendum last year instead of healing both parties recoiled to their political cocoons. The winning party was full of egoism and started issuing ultimatums to the government. You cannot call for dialogue through threats and ultimatums. On the other hand, the government turned inwards to lick its wounds and had no time for dialogue.

The lack of bipartisanism is our own Achilles heel. Until our politicians learn this, politics will remain acutely competitive and destructive. They need to stop and re-examine the direction they are headed and take a different course. All that is need from our politicians (both in the government and the opposition) is to play responsible and accountable politics. They are all on watch from different positions and they should be held accountable for any destruction they occasion the country. Our duty as citizens is not to take sides in the destructive politics of our politicians but to examine and hold them responsible for their actions and omissions. Let us not be deceived by them that one party is guilty than the other. In this case, I think both have failed us.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Which Political Party Can Effectively Fight Corruption?

As the time curtains fall for the Narc government, the fight against corruption is not won yet. The next government after 2007 general election will need to fight corruption effectively if the war is to be won. It is imperative to ask therefore among the foremost political parties in Kenya, which one can effectively do the job when it forms the next government?

Since the duel for the next government is most likely to be between Narc-Kenya and ODM-Kenya, which between them can effectively fight corruption when it forms the government? ODM-Kenya, which is a coalition of some of the current opposition parties, says that it will fiercely fight corruption when it gets into power. They accuse the current Narc government and by extension Narc-Kenya (government de facto) for failing to fight corruption effectively. On the other hand, Narc-Kenya though not the party in power de jure shares in the current Narc government efforts on the fight of corruption especially the creation of anti-corruption institutions and laws. It also shares in the Narc government's claim that war against corruption is in progress and on course.

To answer the question, criteria for effective fight against corruption are needed. Before that, it is important to establish why the current government may have failed in the fight although it has declared zero tolerance on corruption. When Narc government came into power it started on the right course. It sacked 23 high court and court of appeal judges as well as numerous magistrate suspected of corruption in what the then Minister for justice and constitutional affairs Mr. Kiraitu Murungi had nicknamed 'judicial radical surgical operation against corruption'. Although the action was supported by the public, within the Narc coalition partners there were mummers of dissent. The coalition had started manifesting signs of disintegration and was not united on the war against corruption. Ministers and members of parliament associated with Liberal Democratic Party, one of the coalitions partners, defaulted the judicial surgical operation as a political witch hunt of judicial officials belonging to ethnic communities not in favour with the government. The government on the other hand maintained that the fight was not directed to any particular ethnic group but was against the corrupt elements in the judiciary. Later when the former President Mr. Daniel Moi and the former Kanu government officials were put on notice and targeted for corruption investigation, LDP joined hands with Kanu to claim that the government's actions were a political witch hunt. They resolved to defend Moi against any corruption claims. As such Narc government was divided on the war against corruption and could not henceforth effectively wage the war.

As the cracks within the Narc coalition widened and the government became weak and less effective, President Mr. Mwai Kibaki could not effectively rule and was compelled to form a government of national unity to neutralise the opposition within the government and the parliament. He incorporated former Kanu government and other opposition members of parliament into the government. This had the effect of weakening the government's resolve to fight corruption because it could not afford to antagonise its new allies especially those in Kanu. The government had to learn to walk on the tight rope between the Narc coalition and the government of national unity and this meant diluting its resolve to fight corruption. It is during this period that the rapport between Kibaki and Moi improved. The former had to accommodate the latter for the government of national unity to function. At the same time the government had to tone down allegation of corruption against Moi and his former officials.

The lesson from the Narc government informs that the war against corruption requires a united government and political will to effectively investigate and prosecute corruption among other factors such as institutions and laws. A divided government has no chance. Using the united government and political will criteria it is appropriate to ask which between Narc-Kenya and ODM-Kenya stands a better chance of effectively fighting corruption after 2007?

Taking Narc-K first, the party is an offshoot of the Narc coalition. It is formed of members of parliament from the Narc political party partners who have remained faithful to the Kibaki government and leadership. The failure by Narc constituent parties to dissolve themselves and transform into a united political party, is one of the factors that led to the distengration of the coalition as the parties retreated to their former party identities. The Memorandum of Understanding the parties’ leadership had signed at the eve of 2002 general election could not hold them together after the defeat of Kanu and assumption of political power. The MoU instead became Narc's Achilles heel. It lacked flexibility to carry the coalition into the government era after election. Even after the withdrawal of LPD from the Narc coalition, refusal by the Narc Chairperson Mrs. Charity Ngilu to midwife the transformation of the remaining parties to a unitied Narc led to MPs allied to Kibaki to look for a an alternative political outfit in anticipation of 2007 general election.

In the new political realignment in the government, Narc-K is the de facto ruling party while Narc is the de jure government. Narc-K therefore cannot escape the accusation levelled against Narc government failure to combat corruption. But can it fight corruption effectively if it becomes the next government de jure?
As regards the unity factor, I think that Narc-K has good chances of remaining united after the election. After the constitutional referendum 2005 where the government lost to the opposition, the Kibaki government, which is composed mainly of Narc-K MPs, has demonstrated unity not seen there before. The fact that it does not intended to form any pre-election coalition with other political parties may mean also that it has better chances of remaining united after the election. Even if it was to enter into a coalition with other parties in post-election government, it will do so as the stronger party. Any party that it may negotiate coalition with will be a minor party or parties. Narc-K has a further advantage that it has already purged some of its members accused of corruption. This implies that it may not hesitate to deal with corruption within its ranks. Although there are still some ministers with corruption labels hanging on their necks, it is not likely that these will be included in the future Narc-K government. Narc-K has also tried to distance itself from the corrupt members of the current government and the former government. It seems therefore that Narc-K might not carry along the corruption baggages from Narc and Kanu.

Although Narc-K is being labelled a tribal party, this does not hold much water. This also applies to ODM-K. It is true that the parties enjoys huge support from a specific province but it cannot be denied that they have support from other provinces. The referendum vote indicates that there were more than 1 million votes from other provinces voting Yes and therefore supporting the government position. The fact that the parties will also need to form coalitions with other parties outside their province and ethnic sphere punctures the tribal label myth.

Narc-Kenya will on the other hand need to demonstrate the "political will" to fight corruption. The political will is not evident in the current Narc regime and could become the main obstacle in Narc-K. The unity factor, however, could work to its advantage and the political will may not be a big issue after all.

ODM-K origin is the No Vote alliance between the Narc government dissenters in LDP and Kanu the official opposition party during the constitutional referendum 2005. The alliance easily defeated the government on the referendum vote and the current ODM-K is trying to build on that success to challenge the government in the general election. ODM-K is also looking back to the Narc coalition success in 2002 election and hopes it can pull a surprise against the government. But conditions and circumstances have changed from the 2002 election and 2005 referendum. The hatred the electorate had against the Moi Kanu regime may not be there against the Kibaki Narc regime. The poor state of the economy, the Narc government inherited from Kanu, has also shown clear signs of improvement, which is an advantage to the Kibaki government. The referendum vote and election are different and the unity that was there during the referendum may not exist during the general election. Kanu united support was decisive in the referendum but such unity is not expected during the election.

In case ODM-K forms the next government after the general election 2007, can it effectively fight corruption? The unity factor is going to be crucial for ODM-K than it is for Narc-K. ODM-K is a coalition of three parties Kanu, LDP and the little known Labour Party of Kenya. The parties are signing a Memorandum of Understanding among themselves on political power sharing once in the government. The leaders are telling Kenyans that they learnt the lesson in 2002 and this time the MoU is well crafted. That notwithstanding, the MoU could still end up being ODM-K Achilles heel also. The MoU would only work effectively if the parties dissolved themselves into ODM-K. The idea of individual members being supported by LDP and a section of Kanu is aimed at dissolution of the parties into a single party, ODM-K. A section of Kanu and LPK are opposed to individual membership and instead would like corporate membership where the parties retained their identities. A compromise, which allows for both individual and corporate membership is being seen as the way out of the dilemma. This is, however, a postponement of the problem. The same problem that drove Narc to disintegration would plague ODM-K. Unity would be always at risk.

A number of ODM-K top leaders are among the politicians named in corruption scandals. Kanu as a party is also associated with the corruption during Moi reign. As such, Kanu will be liability as fighting corruption is concerned. ODM-K government unity will be put to great test when the issue of fighting corruption arises. The war against corruption by ODM-K would have to start with the coalition's top leaders and number of members of Kanu. ODM-K may end up being really a corruption baggage which would be difficult to off-load without threating the unity of the government.

ODM-K is exuding massive political will to fight corruption as long as it is not in the government. Whether the same enthusiasm will be there, once they form the government, is difficult to say. Narc government portrayed the same political zeal when it got into power but as the political party coalition reality dawned down the enthusiasm waned. ODM-K political will, unlike Narc-K's, has yet to be tested on this line.

Of the two, I think Narc-K stands a better chance of effectively fighting corruption if they form the next government than ODM-K. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 the best mark, on unity of the government factor, I would give Nark-K 7 and ODM-K 3. As regards political will I would give Narc-K 6 and ODM-K 4.

But as I have maintained in this blog the war against corruption can be decisively won if those allegedly involved in corruption are locked-out of public and elective offices. The time to fight corruption is not after general elections. It is during the general election. It is during the election that the corrupt elements should be stopped from ascending to elective and public office. After the election the government, which is not weighed down by corruption baggages, can effectively investigate and prosecute the corrupt without endangering the government's unity. This is the lesson learnt from the Narc government efforts to fight corruption.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Let Us Think and Talk About Kenya

In the fight against corruption it is important also to take some time out to think and talk about the nation of Kenya. Sometimes our talk and discussion are focused much on personalities. I am not saying that it is bad and useless to discuss personalities. But when the discussion concentrates on individuals it loses the big perspective of the country. What I would like us to do is to take a mental and conversational switch. Let us change the frame of our thought and talk from personalities to Kenya - the nation of Kenya.

We can start by asking and answering two simple questions.

1) What symbol do you associate with Kenya (Country)?

2) What does this symbol tell you about Kenya? What qualities and emotions does it evoke in you?

I think I will need to define what a symbol is to help others focus on the issue.

A symbol is something that represents something else, esp. a material sign or object that stands for a complex or abstract concept.

For example a rose is a symbol of love.

So what symbol do you associate with Kenya? Is it the Kenyan flag, the national anthem, Kenyan long distant runners, the wild life, the beuatiful landscape etc. Once you choose your symbol you may associate it with qualities and emotion it evoke in you.

For me the symbol that represents Kenya is the Kenyan flag. When I see it, it evokes emotions of respect and pride to be a Kenyan. The flag represents the nation of Kenya, its many different peoples, a country which fought for its independence, the positive culture of Kenya and bastion of peace in Africa. It evokes the emotions expressed in the national anthem, of peace, security, posperity, cultural richness, justice, unity and the strength in unity, liberty and freedom, thanksgiving, nation building, heritage, wealth etc.

Just to remind ourselves the national Anthem here it is,

O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders.

Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavour
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendour
Firm may we stand to defend.

Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving.

I think we need to revist the message in the national anthem and dedicate ourselves to the values envisaged therein. It encapulses the Kenyan DREAM and perhaps this is what as a nation we have forgotten. The dream of Kenya and the founding fathers. We have drifted away from this dream and that all we now see, hear and feel is negativity, evil, corruption, immorality, hatred, tribalism, betrayal, poverty and so on.

I think it is necessary now as a nation to refocus to the positive values in the national anthem and build a new Kenya based on these values. Kenyans need to DREAM again. We have forgotten how to dream. We need much bigger, more challenging and more inspiring dreams. I think the Kenya Vision 2030 is a good dream and we should visualize and work towards it. But we need also political dreams of unity, security, peace etc. The values inscripted in the national anthem should give us the desire, strength and commitmentto fulfil vision 2030.

I know that currently there is a lot of hopelessness and despair among the people and in the nation because of the difficulties the people are facing but we cannot overcome hopelessness and despair by losing hope and despairing. We need to regenerate hope and courage. Just as we cannot fight poverty by focusing on poverty. Instead we must focus on prosperity, wealth and abundance.

Wallace D Wattles says that "if you want to become rich, you must not make a study of poverty. Things are not brought into being by thinking about their opposities. What tends to do away with poverty is not getting of picture of poverty in your mind, but getting pictures of wealth, abundance and possibility into the minds of the poor."

Our leader, writers, artists, media, schools, singers and everybody should endeavour to paint positive pictures of wealth, peace, unity, prosperity, freedom, liberty etc. Not the negativity that has enslaved us for the last decades.

We need a positive thinking.