A long, misery road ahead for Kenya

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NLM Writer

I will paraphrase the words of Martin Luther King: all we say to Kenya is “be true to what it set on paper”. If we lived in China, Rwanda, Ethiopia or any other totalitarian country, maybe we would understand some of the events that are taking place. Maybe then we would properly contextualise the curtailing of the principles of basic human rights, because those countries have committed themselves to that. There is provided for, freedom of the press, the right to (dual) citizenship, the right to association/assembly… and so on. Right now, nobody knows what government is planning now but it is clear that we have some difficult days ahead.

In September 2017, Uhuru Kenyatta’s confidant and Jubilee Party vice chair David Murathe said on national television, “Kenya needs a benevolent dictator.” He gave the example of the stability of Rwanda and Uganda where the presidents are de facto above the law. Nobody in Jubilee called out Murathe on his claim. Around the same time, the Supreme Court had nullified the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as president and NASA put forward demands before they participate in the repeat polls. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto then called the Supreme Court judges crooks, who they would “deal with” once they won the repeat polls.

When Uhuru Kenyatta announced part of his Cabinet in January 2018, he threw the country on a rabbit trail while doing something that was very important to him. Several security chiefs, including Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Ndegwa Muhoro was replaced by George Kinoti while Edward Njoroge and Samuel Arachi were dropped as Deputy Inspectors-General. He left the country to guess why he had only named nine cabinet secretaries while he restructured the disciplined forces, something that should be done by the Police Service Commission.

Lest you forget, in December 2015, Section 13 of the National Police Service Act 2011, was repealed by removing the role of parliament in the appointment of deputy inspectors-general of police, giving the president control over those, including that of the DCI. The new law states, the President shall, on recommendation of the National Police Service Commission (NPSC), appoint the Deputy Inspector-General of Police within 14 days of the office falling vacant. The implication here is, it does not matter if the NPSC appoints a competent IG, if his deputies are political appointees with loyalty to the president; he simply will not perform.

Article 157 of our Constitution states the Director of Public Prosecutions will be an independent autonomous constitutional office with security of tenure. The attorney-general has no security of tenure because he is a member of cabinet. The two holders of top positions at the State Law Office in DPP Keriako Tobiko and AG Githu Muigai resigned within a month. Tobiko has been appointed Cabinet Secretary for Environment, a clear demotion, while Githu is waiting to hand over to the next AG before we know his destination. History has taught us that nothing just happens at this level.

Media freedom

On Friday 26th January 2018, a few days before Raila Odinga was sworn in as “the peoples’ president” at the end of January, Uhuru Kenyatta is reported to have met leading media editors at State House. He was clear in his orders: “air Raila’s swearing in the following Tuesday and your media house will go off air.” Nation Media Group, KTN and CITIZEN TV disobeyed the order and sent their outside broadcasting teams to Uhuru Park. By midmorning, they had been switched off and they remained off air for the next ten days. Several NTV employees slept in the office to avoid arrest before getting pre-emptive bail orders from the courts.

In a choice between democracy and free press, free press wins every time. A draconian regime cannot survive a free progressive media. Our media, which has been christened “githeri media” for lacking progressive professionalism, needs to improve but that is no reason to gag it. In Uhuru’s first term, media had gone to bed with Jubilee regime so when the government turned against them many people did not have kind words for the Fourth Estate. Nation Media group sacked Denis Galava in January 2016 for a New Year editorial attack on Jubilee government. That aside, democracy can only flourish in an open society and a free media is the heartbeat that nourishes that growth.

It is reported that around 1999 Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was a worried man. There was a new phenomenon in town that was eating the lunch off the plate of traditional media. Internet was pushing print media off the perch and the control freak in Yew wanted to manage its effect on Singapore. When he came to power he told one of his aides he wanted to control the media, army and treasury to govern effectively. The Jubilee regime has been on a reading and benchmarking spree. I hope the government has heard that Singapore is paying all tax paying citizens $228 dollars (about Sh23,000) each in bonuses out of its budget surplus.

The Jubilee government has realised that the media is not ready to give out a blank cheque, now that Jubilee aligned MPs have been warned not to speak to the press. The MPs, some of whom enjoy swimming in the popular political analysis shows on TV, must now get clearance from Majority Leaders in the bicameral house to appear on TV. If you cannot control what the media reports then you manipulate how they get what they report. This is a self-defeating move. The “no news is good news” phenomenon works well for private entities; for government, no news is bad news because in politics, publicity is publicity. The best is to have a media strategy, because the public will fill in the gaps and make their own conclusions. I wonder how politicians who live off publicity are going to survive. It’s sad that what we will get mostly now is “…said an MP who spoke on condition of anonymity…”

This is a case out of Paul Kagame’s book. Kagame is another example of a leader who is obsessed with controlling the source of news and the press. In Rwanda, nobody talks to the press freely, whether a government employee or a private citizen. In Rwanda, even foreign correspondents know they cannot survive in Rwanda if they do not push the RPF agenda in foreign media. Several journalists have paid for it with their lives while some are living in exile. If Jubilee pushes their move to the next level, then we must be ready with strong spotlights, for we have some truly dark days ahead.

Rule of law

Self-declared NASA General Miguna Miguna was arrested on February 1, two days after the swearing in of Raila Odinga. He was held incommunicado in several police stations around Kiambu County. The design was keep him in Jubilee Party strongholds to keep off NASA leaders or demonstrators from storming the station. The following day, the court gave Miguna a Sh50,000 bail but he was not released. Miguna’s lawyers were in court the following Monday where Judge Luka Kimaru again gave orders to the DPP, IG and DCI to produce Miguna.

The following day Miguna, who is also a Canadian citizen was taken to a Kajiado magistrate’s court where he refused to take a plea, insisting instead that he be heard in Nairobi. He was whisked away in a convoy of cars to an unknown location. Kenyans woke up the following day to news that Miguna had been deported and was on his way to Netherlands where he would connect to Canada. The High Court later ruled that the deportation was illegal but the government stood its ground.

This was in total violation of court orders and the spirit of the dual citizenship law in the Constitution. This clause was included in law so that people like Miguna – whether forced to take dual citizenship or whether voluntary – can come back home at any time to do their bit in building the nation. Again, nothing just happens at certain level of government.

Cabinet Secretary for Interior Fred Matiang’i is the poster boy of these new draconian tendencies. He recently asserted there is lawlessness in this country which must end. He said that the government would respect the courts as long as the orders are served. When activist Okiya Omtata obtained a court order compelling Communications Authority to switch on TV stations, he was prevented from accessing their offices by security men. Double speak is another characteristics of a regime bent on achieving ends that justify the means used.

According to Fred Matiang’i, the 30th January swearing in was illegal and the crackdown he is leading will “get” everyone involved. The attorney-general also called it high treason, “whose repercussion is death”. We are seeing a government that leaves the man who was sworn in as the peoples’ president but going for his lieutenants. Raila Odinga was allowed to fly to Zimbabwe to attend MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai’s funeral while James Orengo and Jimmi Wanjigi were prevented at JKIA in violation of a court order – although they were allowed to join him a day later. The Director of Immigration allowed them to travel giving a lame excuse that initially he had not seen the court order. We are living in very funny times.

Can Uhuru be a dictator?

Those who wish for a dictator in Uhuru are dreaming. Uhuru Kenyatta is the beneficiary of his father’s corrupt reign after independence. Benevolent dictators – like Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Paul Kagame of Rwanda – are driven by personal discipline and set ideals. Uhuru just wants to leave a legacy better than his father’s, and that is not a very high ideal.

Lee Kuan Yew was initially a communist who became a ruthless capitalist with the devotion of a communist. Paul Kagame has Thomas Sankara as one of the leaders who inspire him. That is why he is not known to be an extravagant leader. Most of the wealth his government creates is held by the investment arm of the ruling RPF. The two strong men had a clear vision for their countries and consolidated power within months of heading their governments.

Earlier this year, Uhuru unveiled a four-point agenda of food security, universal healthcare, affordable housing and industrialisation.

Visions must be cast in a compelling manner to rally the masses behind it. Nobody even knows how he came up with the four point agenda when he did not involve the county Governments, which are in charge of health and local agriculture. We all know how long it takes to draft government policy, convert the policy into relevant bills which are then tabled in Parliament. These steps take time and before the policies can be rolled out, Uhuru Kenyatta will be in the second half of his second term. Five years is a very short time. If these four pillars are the price we have to pay for some of our liberties, then we are probably late.

Laissez-faire Kenyatta is spent his first term in office enjoying the trappings of power while his cronies siphoned cash out of government coffers. The likes of David Murathe cannot hope to turn him into a dictator overnight. Some people want to capture the Kenyan state for their own selfish interests because they know the Uhuru is waiting to hand over power in 2022.

Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Uhuru was born into greatness but failed to achieve greatness until Moi thrust greatness upon him. Now some people want to thrust dictatorship upon him, and those will be the source of our difficult days ahead. Our misery will not be from Uhuru Kenyatta, but the hounds about him. ^

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