Friday, November 30, 2007

In the matter of Emilio versus Amolo

On 27th December 2007, Kenyans go to the polls to elect a new President. New in this case means recently elected rather than elected for the first time. Yet, according to recent opinion polls, it could very well be that the word new may refer to both definitions.

There are two front runners for the post of President. The incumbent Mwai Kibaki is running on a party named the Party of National Unity whilst the main challenger Raila Odinga is running on a party known as the Orange Democratic Movement.

It is an enigmatic race featuring two enigmatic men. For the first time in several attempts at its multi-party democracy, Kenyans are braced for a choice between two very strong candidates. It is an election whose results will be eagerly awaited.

Mwai Kibaki versus Raila Odinga. If this was a sport, it would be featuring the Defending Champion versus a Talented Challenger. Yet, politics is no sport, but here they are slugging it out, sputtering and slopping their way into a neck-to-neck battle if the latest Steadman Group opinion poll is anything to go by. If you wanted a titanic battle between arguably the Best Two Politicians in the Country, you lucky sod, you got it.

At a glance the two politicians seem to have a lot in common. They both do not use Western names but are known by their African names. According to their respective official campaign websites, they both have four children. Their wives are trained as teachers. They have both had stints as University lecturers. They both served as Cabinet Ministers of President Moi. They both finished third in their first stab at the Presidency of our Republic.

However, they also have very distinct attributes and therein lay the choices that Kenyans are faced with at the forthcoming elections.

In the latest edition of Adam Magazine, Mutahi Ngunyi argues that Kibaki appeals to our heads whilst Raila appeals to our hearts. “That is the fundamental difference,’ he states. For one, Raila seems to have a down to earth approach and is easily recognized amongst thousands of fans who gather at local stadia to watch football matches. Kibaki on the other hand, is a renowned fan of the somewhat elitist sport of golf. It is no wonder that Raila describes himself as ‘The People’s President’ contrasting himself with ‘The Official President’ in much the same way as Princess Diana found favour as ‘The People’s Princess’ when she lost her official title.

Told as it is, some voters think that the main difference is that one of them is a Kikuyu, whilst the other is a Luo, the two most politically active ethnic groups in Kenya, who have held each other with great political suspicion since the days of independence.

Kibaki has represented a fairly rural constituency whilst Raila’s constituency is urban. It may be necessary to point out that Kibaki first made an entry into Parliament through an urban constituency, Bahati but shifted his base to Othaya in 1974 and has represented the area since then. If he wins the constituency seat, as he is widely expected, the people of Othaya will have handed one person the mantle of Member of Parliament for thirty eight years. Raila on the other hand, expects a nod as Lang’ata Member of Parliament for twenty years.

Any race that pits an incumbent against another challenger usually develops into a race between continuity and change. This was self evident with the Kibaki camp coining the Kazi Iendelee (Let The Work Continue) slogan whilst the Raila camp was quick to coin the Vote For Real Change slogan to evince the contrast between the candidates.

This ought to have been a fine distinction between the candidates. But with the passage of time, the Kibaki camp has tried to steal the thunder from Raila by adding on to its slogans the rider Vote For Change You Can See to combine the change and continuity aspects of the elections. But is that an oxymoron or is it possible to have continuity and change at the same time? By Change, the Kibaki team has referred to the previous rule of President Moi who ironically is in the Kibaki camp during these elections. The slogan amounts to bashing Moi who seemingly can’t quite see it that way.

This election also brings differences between the two candidates. With the ‘I Have Experience As President tag’ Kibaki is strong on the competence angle whilst Raila without the baggage of the same but having the ‘Give Me The Chance To Be Your President And See What I Will Accomplish tag’ is strong on the character angle. It’s a bright contrast.

Their assigned Ministries in the Moi Government were very different and after Kibaki’s ascension to power, the Ministries given to Raila were not Ministries that Kibaki had served in before. It is therefore difficult to assess performance in these Ministries and grade the two on a similar rating. It would be much like comparing long jumper and a high jumper athlete.

Kibaki comes across as a slow-reaction person to issues, a habit that has long earned him the derisory tag of Fence Sitter whilst Raila is quick with the word at every given opportunity.

Whilst Raila has in the past been placed under detention by President Moi, Kibaki was at some of these detention moments the Vice President and Minister of Home Affairs technically being in charge of the prisons in which Raila was detained.

The two protagonists present a fascinating choice for Kenyans. The Conservative and The Populist. The Capitalist and The Social Democrat. Mr. Fence Sitter versus Mr. Take It On. The Nice Guy versus The Bad Boy. The Economist versus The Engineer.

Even the way they have fashioned their political parties stands them apart. Kibaki’s Party of national Unity is only called that because the law requires that a candidate belong to a political party. In truth, it is the Parties of National Unity since it is a conglomeration of almost ten political parties. It is a party of corporate membership, with the corporate members being political parties. On the other hand, Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement is one party with individual membership.

Such differences still do not make the voter at a loss since each politician is at pains to take the positive attributes of the other. If Raila was perceived as a personality, Kibaki has also managed to achieve that status by the conglomeration of parties around him. Aspirants are falling all over in areas considered his strongholds by affixing his images on the respective candidates campaign posters. If Kibaki was perceived as a man with an agenda, Raila has managed to show that he is also agenda-driven. He has promised free secondary education just like Kibaki has done, he has promised free medical care for children under the age of five as Kibaki has done.

The question that Kenyans wanted to ask whether they would want to elect a personality or to go for an agenda is now an idle question.

But on 27th December 2007, Kenyans will troop to the polling stations and make their decisions for varied reasons. Some will vote for continuity, some will vote for change, some will vote for tribe, some will vote for age, some will vote for lack of any better candidate on the ballot papers, some will vote for likeability, some will vote as a protest measure and some will simply not vote. And if the results show Raila as the winner, we shall add another statistic to the Kibaki-Raila similarity: that they both won elections ten years after their first stab at the Presidency. The choice is for Kenyans.

Football, Religion and Politics

Strategies do not win elections. Votes do. Issues do not determine the outcome of the balloting. Votes do. These are truths that politicians would choose to ignore to their own peril.

It has been often held that there are just three things that can gather a crowd and drive the whole crowd wild in inexplicable excitement: football, religion and politics. For whilst football is a feast for the eyes and religion is a feast for the soul, politics is a feast of the ears.

No one knows this better than Raila Odinga.

Whilst some cynical highbrow politicians think that association with the game of football does not suit their status, Raila is there to utilize the opportunities that football presents in moving crowds. During the World Cup Finals held in Germany in 2006, Kenyans who had access to the South African DSTV pay channel, were not surprised to hear a familiar voice during half-time breaks in the televised matches. Clad in an orange-coloured outfit, Raila announced to the whole continent that he was going to vie for the Presidency of Kenya in 2007. Raila went ahead to wish all African teams success at the Finals. From where I sat in the pub, the second halves of the matches were spent discussing Raila.

Apart from advertising, Raila has also been involved in various aspects of the game of football. His brother Oburu Odinga is on record as stating that even at early age, Raila loved to watch the game of football. He has also been seen at major continental matches involving Harambee Stars and his entry into the stadium always elicits cheers from the gathered crowds. The only other politician who made efforts to bond with multitudes of fans at stadia during football matches was retired President Moi. Raila has also been involved in fundraising activities for self supporting teams like Gor Mahia which has, with AFC Leopards, the largest following in the country and still attract a bigger crowd at their matches than any of the so called institutional clubs.

During political rallies, Raila has been known to give commentaries of football featuring political sides with an analogy on the ‘State House Finals’. Ordinarily, one player slips the ball to him and he scores the goal to gripping roars from the crowd.

Aside from the advertising, the watching and the giving commentaries to football matches, Raila also plays the game! During a football tournament in Busia a few years back, Raila turned out in a Real Madrid kit complete with his name at the back. In August this year, he also graced a football match in which he scored.

This association with football has led to an organization being born to support his candidature. The Soccer Veterans for Raila (Sovera) were received at Orange House and included Kenyan soccer legends like Mahmoud Abbas, Dan Shikanda, Peter Dawo, Henry Motego, Bobby Ogolla, Aggrey Evayo, Paul Onyiera amongst others. During the ‘Thunder’ rally at Uhuru Park recently, Dan Shikanda (who lost subsequent ODM nominations for the Makadara seat and has since moved to the NARC party that still supports Raila) made an entry kicking a football.

Raila’s rivals have had no such keen interest in the world’s most watched sport. Kalonzo Musyoka came within passive association with football with a kit donation to AFC Leopards with the Kalonzo Musyoka Foundation inscription prominent on the shirts. President Kibaki recently attended a cash reward event for athletes in Eldoret. The irony of course is that whilst Kenya has been successful at many world events in Athletics, no enthusiasm is shown by crowds in attending events. A recent example was the ‘Tusker Night of Champions’ at Nyayo Stadium that was given a wide berth by the populace the night before Kibaki launched his campaign at the same Stadium.

Kibaki is an avid golfer with ‘the holy walk’ still seen by many as an elitist game. A report by the People newspaper in 2006 showed that half the cabinet including ministers Martha Karua, Njeru Ndwiga, Amos Kimunya, Mukhisa Kituyi amongst others enjoyed playing golf.

On the religion front, the country is awash with crusades and other similar religious functions that are usually well attended. Parliamentary aspirants all over the country are well known to attend church functions and conduct fund raising activities before elections are called. With the growth of the Muslim faithful, it has been known that to get a religious following is crucial to win any votes.

Again Raila was quick to woo some of the Muslim leaders that were disillusioned with the government whilst the Government side played ignorant. By the time the pronouncements came that Raila had met the Muslims and sealed some form of a deal, a panic-stricken Government started playing catch-up on this front. The Memorandum of Understanding with the Muslims has been the talk of political circles for the past few months and has elicited a lot of controversy.

On the other hand, church leaders like Pastor Brawan of Nakuru and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru of Jesus Is Alive Ministries have both been prominent in the rallies of Raila and are nominated to vie for parliamentary seats on the party’s ticket. During the Thunder Rally, Pastor Brawan had a band that entertained the gathered crowd contrasting with the P-Unit and DNA team that had been assembled to play at the Nyayo Stadium rally of President Kibaki a week earlier.

That said, both sides have made religion a strong force during the campaigns opening the rallies with prayers. Kibaki’s rally at Nyayo Stadium featured Muslim, Hindu, Christian and traditional African prayers.

Presidential Candidates Mwai Kibaki hasn’t used his Christian names prominently. In fact, if one was to call the Roman Catholic Kibaki using the names Emilio Stanley, few people will acknowledge him. Raila Odinga has had to fight off claims that he is not a Christian by people who believe that not having a Western name, he is an atheist. Kalonzo Musyoka has made the name Stephen more prominent and trumpeted the fact that he is a born again Christian. His rally at Uhuru Park was reportedly preceded with a Church Service. He has insisted that he speaks prophetically. He has promised us a miracle. Kalonzo has chaired the Prayer Group of the national Assembly and was involved in the first National Prayer Breakfast.

When TD Jakes visited the country in October 2005, Raila was amongst the leaders who attended the crusade at Uhuru Park.

Finally, on the political front, whereas some pundits have tried to sanitize the election platform and make it about issues, the truth of the matter is that crowds get bored when they go to a rally and listen to politicians talk about policy. It would amaze some of these armchair pundits who never attend these rallies and mix with the masses what will make them remember a politician’s speech. It will not be about the GDP or the facts. Politics is not about sense, it’s about perception! I recall attending a rally presided over by Mukhisa Kituyi a few years back in which he brought the house down when he mentioned that there was no need to fear the then President Moi as he was just a human being like the rest of us and just farted like the rest of us. The crowd was ecstatic! A few people I spoke with were quick to point out that Kituyi was bold and told it as it is.

Whatever people say about insults at a political rally, that is what most people remember. When Kibaki uses the ‘pumbavu’ word, it scores him more points than when he is all polite and reading a written speech. In fact, most people who attend political rallies are already the converted. You need not convince them why they should vote for you. You simply need to give the ‘pub talk’ which is the sort of talk you would have with them when a bit inebriated. Most of the people even want to be entertained! They want politicians to sing at rallies! Who can forget when Mukhisa Kituyi was belting his tunes about how former President Moi had messed the economy. The song ‘Kweli ndugu sikilizeni niwa-ambie…’ was humorous but it passed a message during the NARC campaigns.

This is the ease with which Raila is able to say his ‘Vitendawili’ (riddles) to the crowd and tell them ‘Hadithi’ (fables).

Is it any wonder then that Raila using the ‘football, religion and politics’ formula is seen as the leading contender of the pack. This could also explain his large following.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Holi-Days Of Our Lives

October comes to a close and with it, the plethora of holidays that have wormed themselves into our calendars and made us have three public holidays in the same month. If you ask me, these holidays are an unholy dalliance between state, religion and the public!

Need a for instance? Take Moi Day. The French say ‘moi’ means ‘me’ but this day is not supposed to be about ‘me’. In fact, it’s supposed to be about ‘someone, except me, who is less fortunate’. Thus Kenyans practiced the intended ‘be mindful of other people’s welfare’ mantra by being mindful of pub owners and emptying the pub stocks on this day.

Next up was Kenyatta Day in which pomp and pageantry was evident and with the country in an election mood, the President elected to use the solemn occasion of celebrating our Freedom Fighters by lambasting the people fighting him for his job.

Typically, a client in trouble called me on the eve of the holiday and asked that I meet him the next evening. “I can’t,” I wailed. “Tomorrow is Kenyatta Day!”

“Well, I did NOT say I want to meet you during the day,” he retorted. “I want to see you on Kenyatta Night, and that is not a holiday.”

The Muslims had a holiday Idd Ul Fitr and the scramble for Muslim attention was evident as every politician donned Islamic attire faster than you can say: Please vote for this here hypocrite who doesn’t give a damn about your religion but still needs your votes. So much for this Holy Day. Holy Moses. Did you notice how when our Muslim brothers and sisters were breaking the fast, hotcakes were selling like, you know, hotcakes!

But three holidays in the month is ridiculous! At this rate, we may as well go ahead and get lost in the humdrum of ridiculous holidays.

Apparently, we now even have ‘World Best Friend Day.’ Frankly, the best thing a friend can do for you is to forget that such a day exists. For a real friend knows each day is a best friend day.

A few weeks ago, we had ‘Talk Like A Pirate Day.’ Ahoy mateys!

I get it, I get it! Next, I will be visiting some girls and they open the door fully clad in only their birthday suit. “Hey, it’s Walk Around Naked Day! What are you doing clothed?”

Or 'Smile Like a Pig Day' or 'Smack My Bottom Day' or 'Eat Dry Maize Day' or 'International Drink A Cocktail Day'. Bah.

Oh, Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Wanna Text You Up

Smtyms I dnt rily unstnd da msgs pple snt 2 me thru da 4ne so I thot t wld b a gd idea 2 pas da msg dat brevty is, in txt msgs, not da sol of wit.

So hia I am str8 up, telng u dat dnt b tripn: write the words in full, please!

Ur msg may b kul but sup wit da abbreviations? Credo? Tym? Wat? Ur in a hurry whn txting pples? Wat is hapng is terrbl! Tis a WOMBAT! Waste of money brains n tym!

Dring my bday, I got sevrl H Bday’ msgs! Imagine dat! I cnt w8 4 X-mas coz t wl b sun hia n u cn bet ur ass dat pple wl txt u to ask: Wea u @? Mry X-mas n hppy nu yr!

Grrrrrr! Tll b gr8 2 ctch up. But dnt do it thru sms. Plz! Plz! Plz! I rlly wnt 2 knw hw ur festiv cson is bt not n dat manner.

Nxt al hia anaa guy telng me hw he saw sm chik readn my blog n burstg out laughg. Wat am I mnt 2 do? Bottle ma blog n sel it in spmkts?

Dat wnt sel 4 ril! Ppl cn say, ‘U r da bomb’ bt wnt buy da blog. All I cn prms is da nxt blog ll b kul.

Or my bddy who txts me n sez: Mt me @ Ambsdr Hotl.

Let hm thnk abt tht! Why dint I sho up? How cm? Well, I dint undstnd! So he txts me again: I snt mny msgs en no rply fro u!

So hia is da rules! If you mis me, don snt me dos txts dat say: Gawd! Bn mssng u. Cnt blve u dnt no tht! Spendg lotsa tym frm u is no gd 4 mi. I lyk u so much! U mek mi proud 2 b ya frnd!

I wnt undstd! And u cn bet I wont rply wit a txt dat sez: U r not juz ma pal bt ma pearl! Cant blv u lyk me so mch yet am juz a 1ST class guy wearng 2ND class clad in dis 3RD wld city of Nrb.

No. Dis gotta stop! Or sun, I cn picture my boss snding a txt memo to da staff: WHEN @ WAK, DNT RID A MAG! DNT CHT ONLYN!

Undstd? Aaaaah. Tis getg beta! N thn 1 of us will rply: UGTBK :---)

You’ve got to be kidding? To da boss? Dat wld b crzy! Cm on! L8rs!



Friday, October 19, 2007

Un-Lucky Dube

I guess we are all ever caught up in ironies in our lives even if it emanates from our names. As Earl Spencer said during Princess Diana’s funeral, the irony was that a girl named after the Goddess of hunting became the most hunted person of our times. Lucky, the boy named after surviving a terrible illness - and proving that he was indeed the lucky one - ended up as another unLucky statistic of violent crime in Johannesburg.

It’s truly a sad incident, and even I, the guy who makes fun of every situation was lost for words when I heard the news. ‘That’s life,’ a distraught colleague at Workland comforted me. ‘More like death’, I replied.

For sometime ago, believe it or not, I used to wear dreads and for that period of one whole year, I became quite the reggae fanatic to the point that even my language bordered on the fake-Jamaikenya unknown to most of my folks.

And I would teasingly parody Lucky Dube’s lyrics like those in the song ‘Together As One’ by stating that ‘Catherine and Joseph Are Giving Each Other, Why Not Us’ rather than the standard ‘The Cats And The Dogs Have Forgiven Each Other, Why Not Us?’

Yet, such lyrics more than anything else, made Dube a very appealing person and made him the first foreign artiste whose concert I ever attended. He enthralled and will still do so even in his death, since we shall still play his music and learn from it.

'Hey you Kenyan, hey you Ugandan, Namibian man, you've got to come together as one...' And as that song used to say: Not Forgetting The Japanese.

It is only fair that I end this post with a Japanese word to Lucky Dube: Sayonara!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Talk Of The Town

We live in a small village called Nairobi. At least that is how it feels when you travel to some of the far away cities and make a comparison with our own. If this was truly a City, how come it has a Town Clerk and not a City Clerk?

It doesn’t thus surprise me that when something happens at an end of Nairobi the whole village or town knows!

Some years back, those KTN lab guys had come up with the talk show, ‘Talk of the Town’, that had Fred Obachi Machokaa and Jacque Thom. One flaw though. The chemistry was evidently in short supply and against Safari Parks backdrop they amused by insisting to each other: Let ME ask the next the next question!

The recent talk of the town has been a tragic accident that took place last weekend as four young people lost their lives. At first, only 3 had died but journalists reported all 4 dead. The fourth succumbed days later. He had, in the true James Bond lingo, lived to die another day.

Parents agonized over this loss. One insisted that the youth had gone to attend a birthday party and not a farewell party. Based on what happened afterwards, it may have been the latter. We share in his loss. Pole sana.

You may recall the times that a parent has tried to warn us not to do something and we, in our usual ignorance, have thought the parent is being anti-fun!

So how many times do you hear kids say: My parents don’t care!

Reason for this? The parent has just said to ‘em that it isn’t the right time to buy ice-cream. It’s a cue for tantrums.

Or if a boy is told not to go out with a neighbour’s girl - even if she looks like Halle Berry - he’ll sulk to high heavens. I did that!

My Dad warned me against the girl we called ‘Raw’ whom I had intentions of going out with on a certain Tuesday. ‘WTF?’ I said and the old man, a teacher who had heard a lot of this asked me: What did you just say, boy?

“I said WTF which was short for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday?” I lied. In a few days time, Raw was busted with drugs by cops! It was the talk of the village.

Dad was right. In fact, I think if Dad were to rise from the dead and walk into any classroom in today’s No-Cane-Please Kenya, he would just glue misbehaving pupils together. After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

As parents, we owe it to kids to mould them into good towners.

For in the end, if your child is a ‘talk of the town’ for all those wrong reasons, it is failure you will regret. As that Classic FM’s comedic Mwalimu King’ang’i is on record as saying in Kikamba: Mbui nzau yaa yenekee. Or ‘the white goat disappears whilst you are just watching’. Touché!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Precedent for 'The President'

Since the return of multi-party party politics in Kenya, the competition to occupy the office of the President has been tough with candidates digging in to ensure that they are declared the next President of the Republic of Kenya after every General Election. During the campaign times, there has been a plethora of campaign posters that have been produced and descriptions made of what the particular party expects its candidate to be known as after the General Election.

In December 1992, the Daily Nation ran a front page bottom-right advertisement announcement with the poster of the then opposition leader Mwai Kibaki which had the tagline ‘President Kibaki’ and not the expected Kibaki For President. The newspaper was quick to add the words ‘Advertiser’s Announcement’ above the advert to allay any fears that it was supporting that candidate. After the elections, President Daniel Arap Moi made some comments in passing on how some people had referred to themselves with the title President and he had restrained himself from taking action.

It appears that President Moi was referring to the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act, Chapter 99 of the Laws of Kenya which is an Act created to prevent improper use of certain emblems, names, words and likeness for professional and commercial purposes. However under this Act, Part II of the First Schedule lists the names and words protected to include the name of the President amongst other words like Harambee, Jamhuri, Madaraka and Nyayo. Under Part III the office and dignity protected is ‘The President’.

In 2002, Mwai Kibaki who had been the Leader of the Official Opposition in the eighth Parliament used in his official campaign posters the words ‘Rais Kibaki’ which translates to ‘President Kibaki.’ However, one could again argue that this was a summarized form of telling people that if it came to the election of the President, vote for Kibaki just as much as one would have the words ‘Mbunge Livondo’ in a parliamentary battle.

This year has seen Raila Odinga refer to himself in his campaign posters and his website as ‘The People’s President’ which can again be interpreted as putting forth an argument rather than misinforming Kenyans on who their current elected President is. But who can make judgments if the Office of the President has been improperly used?

In matters of law, it therefore helps when one is aware of who are the makers, the enforcers, the advisers and interpreters of the law. The makers of the law should be Members of Parliament,

Recently, the Police Commissioner warned politicians against using the National Anthem and the words ‘His Excellency’ in reference to someone who is not an elected President of Kenya. Major General Ali may have been referring to the aforesaid Cap 99 but in such matters, it is always proper for someone warning someone of breaching the law to quote the law being breached for clarity.

For it cannot be that to sing the National Anthem is prohibited. Patriots will be livid to be told this. The National Anthem is sang at School Assemblies, at graduation ceremonies, cinema halls, football matches, at medal presentations at the Olympics yet no one raises a finger if this happens. If the complaint of Major General Ali is on the decorum of persons assembled, I wish he had seen recent Rugby World Cup Semi Final when the French players belted La Marseillaise with arms on shoulders of their teammates whilst President Nicolas Zarkozy was also singing all dignified in the royal box. Were the French players abusing the National Anthem? Of course, not! So is it wrong to whistle at the end of our Anthem? I doubt. The intention of the legislators was to prevent incidences of use of our Anthem in commercial matters for instance in commercial parodies. Our National Anthem is in fact, a prayer that even appears in some hymn books. ‘O God of all creation, bless this Land and our Nation…’ it begs the Deity. President Kibaki even quoted it when he was unveiling his new party the Party of National Unity at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre. He said

The foundation of my leadership is guided by the words of our National Anthem: Justice be our shield and defender. May we dwell in Unity, Peace and Liberty…’

In an age when the FM Radio Stations interview persons and find that they do not know the words to our National Anthem and where the Government Spokesman has been on the forefront of promoting the slogan ‘Najivunia Kuwa Mkenya’ what better way for persons to do so that belt out the National Anthem and seek God’s blessings to our country.

On Major Ali’s interpretation of the use of the honorific ‘His Excellency,’ this is a style of address that derives its origin from diplomacy and protocol. The honorific can be used to refer to the Vice President, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Permanent Representatives to International Organizations and even the First Gentleman if we ever get to that stage. Lucy Kibaki is often addressed as ‘Her Excellency’ even though she is not a holder of an elected office.

Members of Parliament have the style ‘Honourable’. Courts have honorifics like ‘HisYour Lordship’ or ‘Your Honour’ whilst Local Authorities have the ‘His Worship’ honorific for the Mayor. Religious leaders also have honorifics. In the United States, Bishops may be referred to as ‘His Excellency’ though the practice in Kenya has been to style them as ‘His Eminence’ or ‘His Grace’ whilst the Pope gets the honorific ‘His Holiness’ and the Aga Khan is styled ‘His Highness.’

One of the questions pondered is whether persons who no longer hold such offices should be referred to by that form of address. Is retired President Moi still ‘His Excellency’? No less a person than the current President Kibaki has addressed Moi using this style of address. The first time this happened was at the funeral ceremony of the wife of Njenga Karume.

There is constant reference to Ambassador (Retired) Jack Tumwa of the Electoral Commission of Kenya and yet no reference to President (Retired) Daniel arap Moi. Better still, the Police Commissioner is still Major General Ali when he is not in the Army. However, retired Generals and Majors from the Army have had such designations even in their private lives just as much as retired Judges have still been referred to as ‘Justice’. Do such titles confer some professional achievement much like ‘Engineer’ or ‘Doctor’ or is it a case of persons holding on to titles. If former Members of Parliament are still addressed as ‘Honourable’ why not a retired President.

The Late Vice President Michael Kijana Wamalwa caused a stir when during the 2003 Madaraka Day invitation to the President to address the nation, he constantly referred to the President as ‘Mr. President’ rather than ‘Your Excellency.’ It was a cue taken from the United States that failed to pick up with other politicians. Once, retired President Moi asked politicians to stop referring to him as ‘Mtukufu Rais’ but politicians failed to pick that one up too. My suggestion is that the use of the word ‘President’ should be liberalized and the narrow interpretations such as those that Maj-Gen Ali wants us to adopt, should be rejected. It appears that we lost that opportunity when the then ruling party KANU had the post of President of the party and seemingly abolished it for the post of Chairman.

President comes from the word ‘preside’ which is to exercise control or authority. When Parliamentarians debated the restriction of the title ‘President’ in the 1960s, one of the arguments put forth was that Kenyans were illiterate and reference to more than one person as President would confuse people. I think to continue to have such limitations is to insult the intelligence of Kenyans. If you called a Class Prefect in Secondary, the Class President, no one will confuse him with the President of the Republic of Kenya! So I sympathize with those heads of Societies who in the 1970s were demoted from President to Chairmen in one fell swoop.

Already some organizations like Rotary Club have the post of President. It was very amusing when President Kibaki and retired President Moi were hosted to a luncheon on 22nd February 2007 by the President Diamond Lalji of the Rotary Club and the local media were confused on how to address the three Presidents. In its report, KBC chose to refer to Lalji as Chairman whilst in the front page captions to the photographs of the three Presidents, the Daily Nation also chose to refer to Lalji as Chairman. The Standard however, worded its caption as follows: Former President Daniel arap Moi (left) accompanies President Mwai Kibaki and President Diamond Lalji of the Rotary Club of Nairobi...

Other bodies like the East African Law Society also refer to their head as President. This time, KBC had no problem referring to Tom Ojienda as President.

During the inauguration of President Bush, he had no trouble referring to the former Presidents of that country with the title President. I doubt that there would be Kenyans confused when you refer to Moi as President Moi. In fact, sometimes, when they call him Mr. Moi, you might think they are referring to his son Gideon Moi. If, no, when President Kibaki finally leaves office, we should have no problems addressing him as President Kibaki. If one thinks they can be confusion, the title ‘Retired President’ already has legal backing in the Presidential Retirement benefits Act (Act 11 of 2003) which defines the phrase under Section 2.

Former Vice Presidents like George Saitoti and Musalia Mudavadi should retain the dignity of their offices. In fact, during the unveiling of his vision, the master of ceremony referred to Musalia as ‘Your Excellency’. Similarly, when Kibaki presented his nomination papers during the 2002 elections, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Samuel Kivuitu addressed him as ‘Your Excellency’. I believe that was in recognition of his previous office rather than his future office.

As for Cabinet Minister John Koech recently addressing Raila as ‘Your Excellency’ during his defection to the Orange Democratic Movement or the Amagoro Parliamentary aspirant Fred Papa addressing Kalonzo as ‘Your Excellency’ during the launch of Musyoka’s presidential campaign, it appears that Under Part III of Cap 99 the style of address of ‘Your Excellency’ is not protected. For calling someone ‘Rais Mtarajiwa’ or ‘President-In-Waiting’ when he is not the ‘President Elect’ may be mere show of confidence that they will win the elections. Some may disagree on the need for the police commissioner to enforce such laws. But I would rather the police were more concerned about maintaining more order than law at public meetings since the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act is clear under Section 6 that no charge can in any way be brought for misuse of the Anthem or name unless consent is written obtained from the Attorney General.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Promised Lad

You may have seen the quote that says: “My father taught me that nothing is more important than keeping your promise.” It is attributed to Nando and it is thus found at Nando’s eateries.

It sort of brings some good old memories of that advert run by Telkom that showed a devoted father leaving for a trip to what is seemingly a foreign state and telling his family that he would keep in touch. The next scene cuts to the phone ringing and the child picking up the phone and recognizing the dad’s Hello. ‘Daddy!’ the kid exclaims. What is the dad’s response? From the initial five letter word Hello, he goes to five words: A promise is a promise.

Yes that is the best way to ever describe ‘promise’. A guy else is quoted as saying a promise is a debt though in Swahili ahadi ni deni sounds like a forceful ‘dare you not keep a promise’ threat.

A defeatist attitude is one that thinks that the best way to not break a promise is not to make one in the first place.

Promise.

It is a strong word. Perhaps it’s even stronger than any bond. It makes one know deep down: I will rely on you.

“You have my word,” some learned friends will say when they tell you that they shall not oppose your intended motion to adjourn a matter. It’s a promise and not some undertaking to be enforced. If they don’t keep it, then please induct them to the new circle of m’learned fiends.

So last year I made a promise in October to my friend that I shall take her son to the next Nairobi Trade Fair. I figured it was a year away and part of me was silently hoping she would forget.

She did.

But her son didn’t!

And so it came to pass on the 5th day of this month, I had just left surgery, when I found the missed call and dial back was a confirmation of a promise duly remembered.

Perhaps a promise is a net. You are truly trapped in it and only get freed when you fulfill it.

This lad kept that promise. And at the end of that hot Friday, I felt the happiest boy in the whole town knowing that I had been reliant and made a certain boy the second happiest boy in the whole town.



Is Uhuru The New Professor of Politics?

“The opposition must challenge the government, it must keep the government on its toes. I expect the KANU opposition to live up to this responsibility...” Daniel Arap Moi on 30th December 2002 during the inauguration of President Mwai Kibaki

When history is written about the role of Uhuru Kenyatta as the Leader of the Official Opposition during the Ninth Parliament, in my mind, there is unanimity that he fought the good fight and wavered only as the breasting of the tape neared. The words spoken by retired President Daniel Arap Moi on the day of the inauguration of President Kibaki on 30th December 2002 were equally from someone whom history will judge as a true Professor of Politics who also wavered as the breasting of the tape of his tenure neared. Subsequent weeks after this advise from Moi, Uhuru assumed the mantle of Leader of the Official Opposition after the KANU Parliamentary Group meeting on 9th January 2003 put forth his name as that of the Party Leader of the Party that had the highest seats in Parliament after the Ruling Party NARC.

As expected of a Leader of Official Opposition, Mr. Kenyatta named his Shadow Cabinet or the ‘Alternative Government’ as it has been described on the website of the Official Opposition Party KANU. This was communicated to the Speaker of the National Assembly on 11th June 2003. This Shadow Cabinet included the ‘Honourables’ Billow Kerrow (Finance), Joseph Nkaissery (Defence), Maoka Maore (Roads and Public Works), Chris Okemo (Economic Planning), Marsden Madoka (Foreign Affairs), Musa Sirma (Local Government), Mutula Kilonzo (Attorney General), Samuel Poghisio (Labour and Human Resource Development) to name but eight.

The naming of the Shadow Cabinet seemingly came late as it was named five months after the Government side, vide the President, had named its Cabinet.

By naming a Shadow Cabinet, Uhuru was following the Parliamentary Practice that had been alive since Sir John Cam Hobhouse coined the phrase ‘His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’ in 1826 and Sir Robert Peel’s ‘alternative government’ took power in 1841. With there being more than one Opposition party at times, it became necessary to draw up the term ‘Official Opposition’ which is a term of legal effect rather than grammatical exactness. In 1937, the Ministers of the Crown Act in the United Kingdom formally granted a salary to the Leader of the Opposition.

Kenya has followed this British tradition which since the National Assembly Remuneration Act has made provisions for the Leader of Official Opposition to draw perks such as a salary. Uhuru as the Leader of Official Opposition has thus been drawing (or is expected to have drawn) a house allowance, extraneous duty allowance and entertainment allowance of a higher value than an assistant minister and which matches that of a Cabinet Minister.

It is my belief that all Shadow Ministers should have similar allowances to those of the serving Government Cabinet Ministers as they are expected to have an output of a simulacrum nature to that of the Government Cabinet Ministers in keeping them on their toes. The Shadow Cabinet has traditionally the privilege of sitting on the front bench of the opposition side in Parliament.

In Kenya, the title ‘Leader of Official Opposition’ is not necessarily a constitutional office but it is contemplated in the Constitution and is recognized in the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.

Under the Constitution, Section 45B that constitutes the Parliamentary Service Commission makes provision for it to have in its membership, the Leader of the Official Opposition.

On the other hand, the Standing Orders also give the Leader of the Official Opposition certain added privileges. For instance, under Standing Order 81, during debates in the House, such Leader has additional time than other members and congruent to the time allocation for the Leader of Government Business.

The Standing Orders incidentally have the following definition:-

“Official Opposition Party” means the opposition party consisting of not less than thirty (30) members provided that where there are two or more parties with more than 30 members, the Party - with the highest number of seats in the House shall be deemed to be the official opposition party.

In Kenya, there was confusion after the 1992 elections in which the parties of Ford Asili and Ford Kenya tied with thirty one seats and both lay a claim on the Official Opposition Party tag. Subsequent defections from the Ford Asili party weakened its hold on the seat. It is not hard to understand why former President Moi tried to lure defectors into KANU to technically have no Official Opposition Party. Incidentally, with twenty three seats, the Democratic Party of Mwai Kibaki didn’t have a look in during this confusion as they were seven seats short of the threshold.

After the 1997 elections, the Democratic Party was the undisputed Official Opposition Party with forty one seats (including the two nomination slots gained through the IPPG reforms that did away with the travesty of KANU getting all the twelve nomination slots in 1992).

Thus KANU’s sixty eight seats after 2002 elections (including the four nomination slots) continued the pattern of increased seats for an Official Opposition Party. With no dispute as to which was the Official Opposition Party, the only time a dispute arose was when Nicholas Biwott staged a party coup and tried to assume the role of Leader of the Official Opposition.

On November 30, 2006 the Speaker ruled that Uhuru remained the Leader of the Official Opposition. According to the book Parliamentary Practice, Erskine May confirms that the Speaker’s decision on the identity of the Leader of the Opposition is final.

As Leader of the Official Opposition, Uhuru went about his business of keeping the Government of the day in check. He chaired the Parliamentary Accounts Committee that looked at several issues raised of the Government. In fact, the so called Anglo Leasing scandal was brought to fore by one of his Shadow Cabinet Ministers. Later, on September 28 2006, Uhuru went on to state that:

It is our (PAC) considered opinion that the executive has shown a lack of leadership on the corruption agenda and it is therefore no wonder that the situation now seems so convoluted and confused.

During the (then) monthly luncheons hosted by the Law Society of Kenya, Uhuru was invited as a guest speaker and gave a speech that signified his commitment to keep the Government in check. An excerpt from his speech went as follows:-

From the onset, I would like to categorically state that the present electoral status quo is grossly skewed in favour of the incumbent, a fact that has generated much debate in recent months. The fact that the Government has unilaterally appointed commissioners to the Electoral Commission of Kenya and disenfranchised young Kenyans by refusing to give them identity cards to enable them register as voters, amongst other things, is in itself a form of rigging.

It is unfortunate that those behind the IPPG gains and beneficiaries of it are today the same ones who seek to reverse the gains in order to cling to power.

Prior to this, Uhuru had also decried that the President had adopted a hands off, ears off, everything off leadership which he found wanting.

On 20th June 2006 at the height of the Artur Brothers soap opera, Uhuru stated in his Parliament Buildings offices that he has evidence to back his allegations that the Brothers had visited State House where the President lives and works. ‘Did they meet him?’ he posed.

Uhuru had allied himself with the rebels in the Government and teamed up with the said rebels to campaign against the new Constitution during the November 2005 referendum that ended in a resounding defeat for the Government. When the Orange Democratic Movement was mooted with the rebels in Government, Uhuru was steadfast in defending this position to ally KANU with the persons opposing the Government. On November 27 2006, Uhuru stated that the Orange Democratic Movement was ‘our sitting room and KANU is our bedroom.’

Uhuru had also complained bitterly about the Government’s decision (termed Executive Order) to evict his party KANU from its headquarters. A court case was filed in this regard.

Another court case was filed by Uhuru when the Government appointed members of his party to the Cabinet without consent of the KANU Parliamentary Caucus as required by Section 17(5) of the National Assembly and Presidential Elections Act which states that no person who is elected or nominated as a member of the National Assembly with the support of or as a supporter of a political party (other than the party whose candidate has been elected President at an election) shall be appointed a Minister of the Government of Kenya under Section 16 of the Constitution without the concurrence of the party which supported him for election or nominated him for appointment as a member of the National Assembly.

On December 5, 2006, Uhuru was reported to have crafted a Motion of No Confidence in the Government though it seems this was never tabled. However, he was the one who moved the Motion to discuss the lapse of security at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport during the Artur saga.

Thus, to his credit, Uhuru’s tenure as Leader of the Official Opposition has been about keeping the Government on its toes and speaking his mind about the wrongs he felt the Government had done. Any suggestions that he was receiving money by false pretenses during his tenure are not credible as has been demonstrated.

With elections approaching, Uhuru decided to transform himself into the new Professor of Politics and risk undoing all that he had worked for above by getting into an alliance with Government and withdrawing from the presidential race. Most Kenyans being very selective in their amnesia even forgot about all the achievements of Uhuru as the titular leader of the Opposition. Yet Uhuru’s gesture was typically following that great Bulgarian proverb that states that ‘it is allowed in times of great danger, to walk with the Devil until you have crossed the bridge’.

Uhuru had found himself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The danger KANU faced was annihilation at the polls with two main sets of political alliances emerging. The choice for KANU as indeed has been for many was to either choose to be in one camp (or party) or the other. The eight members of his Shadow Cabinet mentioned hereinabove have made decisions to jump ship and abandon KANU altogether.

By backing the Government, Uhuru has not done anything unusual in terms of Kenyan politics. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga raised eyebrows when he co-operated with President Moi and acknowledged that Moi was a giraffe who could see far. Similarly, on June 30, 1999 members of the then Official Opposition Party which was the Democratic Party had voted with the Government to defeat a motion of no confidence in the then Vice President George Saitoti. The motion had been brought by National Development Party (NDP) and led to NDP moving to close ranks with the Government after feeling the betrayal by the then Official Opposition Party.

Having mooted the Government of National Unity by incorporating NDP in its ranks, KANU had new found strength at the time. The then Opposition parties considered forming an Opposition of National Unity with a Shadow Cabinet drawn from all opposition parties.

Perhaps this is a step that Uhuru may have considered during his tenure as Leader of the Official Opposition to reinforce the status that his title befits. However, on matters of principle, this would have dealt his case against the Government accused of poaching its members some sort of a blow. How would he have incorporated members of NARC like Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka into his Opposition of National Unity Shadow Cabinet without seeking the approval of the disintegrated NARC that was seemingly long dead except for its hold on parliamentary seats? In the end, the rebels from the Government upstaged Uhuru and came out, to paraphrase Raila Odinga’s campaign slogan, as the ‘Peoples Opposition’ whilst Uhuru and KANU held on to the ‘Official Opposition’ title.

In basketball, they sometimes say that offense is the best defense. I would want to imagine that sometimes, defense will also be the best offense. By defending the Government at its hour of need, Uhuru’s game plan is to make an offense and bounce back in 2012 after emerging with some clout with a Government position after the General Elections later this year if the incumbent wins the elections. If the incumbent loses, he still has his party and the ‘I supported our man’ carrot to dangle at Central Kenya in the battle for the next undisputed Leader of Central. It’s a win - win situation for him.

Already Uhuru has shown his upper hand by insisting that KANU is a partner in the Party of National Unity (PNU) with the other group of parties of Ford People, Ford Kenya, Narc Kenya, DP, Safina, Shirikisho and others much as the scenario in 2002 when the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was a partner in NARC with the National Alliance of Kenya (NAK), a situation where one party partners a group of parties. If this strategy works, it will elevate Uhuru to that ‘Professor of Politics’ mantle.

The trouble is that in Kenya, twenty four hours of politics is a long time, leave alone five years. Not everyone will be resting on their laurels come 2012 and the competition will be as stiff as it is now.

To predict whether Uhuru by joining the incumbent has undone all the gains made as Leader of Official Opposition will be to seek to be a clairvoyant. And for him to presume that he would be at the helm of KANU in five years time and its automatic presidential candidate would be like the proverbial counting of votes before they are cast. There will be competition in KANU as there will be out of KANU when the auditions for the motion picture ‘Elections 2012’ are being held in town.

Friday, October 12, 2007

You Are A Nice Catch

Well, well, well. This here is about the sweet love song that I wrote for a wedding and had everybody coming to me and asking me: 'Please, please write a song for my wedding'. When I asked one of the girls who made this request, 'When is your wedding?' she replied 'When do you want it to be?'. Anyway, enjoy. I think the hardest bit was getting those mid-sentence and end of sentence rhymes for the chorus. Look out Diane Warren!




Seconds before I first managed to catch sight of you

I still believed that a perfect romance was so untrue

To imagine being in one was like trying to catch a falling star

Yet when we met, I’m the star that fell deep but there you were

I remember I was surprised and you even had to catch your breath

I woulda never guessed you’ll be the reference in my catchy vows





Looking into your eyes, I know what’s over is my search

Though it began with surprise, it wows how our hearts got to touch

So now every moment I realise, you’re the one I love so much

Followed my hearts wise advice… that baby you are a nice catch

You are a nice catch





Friends is all you wanted us to be, putting me in a catch 22 situation

As flashes of your smile spread all over me like a catching disease

This heart of mine quickly caught fire ignited by some love potion

Yours did too as we shared moments of utmost satisfaction

We whispered those three words that proved we’d made it to the base

Since then ‘I love you’ has become more than another catch-phrase


While others search for love like for a needle in the haystack

We already found it so instead we’ll just roll in the hay

Knowing it’s so great we feel like we can catch the moon

And loving each other always especially the right way

So as our feelings catch on we’ll let nobody catch up with us

Since we are a perfect match, Oh baby let us play catch!!!


Yes you are a nice catch !!!


© e-LEGAL

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What If The August House Was Like The Big Brother House?

I picture the day that the founder of Endemol came up with the idea of the Big Brother television series. I reckon that he was seated round a table with other gurus of the creative department when discussing the new pitch for new television series. “How about we just put twelve people in a room and watch them?” he asked and everybody burst out laughing. “Why are you laughing?” he continued.

“Are you serious?” someone must have asked. “Twelve people, with no script! Who would watch that?” As it turns out, people are very intrigued with and addicted to mass voyeurism and the television show is as popular as anything else. Spin offs like Big Brother Africa have captured the imagination of a whole continent.

Which got me thinking. What if the principles of the Big Brother House were applied to the August House or the National Assembly of Kenya as we also know it. The Housemates shall be drawn from two hundred and ten constituencies around the country. The Housemates are to be in the House for a long period of 1,825 days rather than the standard 98 days.

Big Brother shall be none other than the Speaker of the House, Francis Ole Kaparo. It will be border on hilarity when he replaces his normal ‘Order! Order! Order!’ rantings with ‘This is Big Brother…’

Each Housemate has qualities that are different from the other. The Housemate from Garsen loves to engage in debate. He was perhaps the Chairman of the Debating Society in his High School. The Housemate from Rarieda has been involved in film making ventures and his company won an Emmy for arranging a song about Saying Yes to The Children. The Housemate from Kitui Central is a typical Bertha. One moment she is currying favour with the Housemate from Othaya and the next minute she is getting closer to the Housemate from Lang’ata. The Housemate from Gem reportedly loves to guzzle. According to the Big Brother website, he was involved in an accident along Mbagathi Road after one of these ventures.

On the first day, the Housemates heard the booming announcement: ‘This is Big Brother, will all Housemates gather in the Lounge.’ The Housemates were divided into two groups, one calling themselves ‘Serikali’ and the other calling themselves ‘Upinzani’. The teams each elected their Leader though technically the Head of House was the Housemate from Othaya. According to the Rules, the Head of House can only be changed after five years.

The Head of House has some privileges and he sleeps in the Pent House. This has made people refer to the five-year change of the Head of House as ‘The Road to the Pent House’. The Head of House also has immunity from some tasks in the House including the debating task. After the Housemates gathered in the Lounge, the Housemates were addressed by the Head of House before going into the Garden where they found that Big Brother had laid a small tea party for the Housemates.

Some Housemates have suffered some setbacks during their stay in the House. The Housemate from Magarini was evicted after it was found out by the Big Brother Panel that he had been unfairly selected during the auditions. However, when the auditions were done afresh, he still emerged as the Housemate from that region.

Other Housemates were excused by leaving the House through factors beyond their control. They were seen off by the other Housemates and we last saw them as they entered the diary room on their way out.

The Big Brother House has its fair share of surprises and twists. It has emerged that the former head of the group calling themselves ‘Upinzani’ had evicted from the House, this may have been a fake eviction as he is now back into the fray and though not in the Big Brother House, his son replaced him and has made overtures to the Head of House.

It was also shocking when the Housemate from Kiambaa who has was married to Kanu four months before entering the House started cuddling on the couch with other Housemates in the ‘Serikali’ camp. He claims that it is all just a game and was part of his strategy when he entered the House.

The viewers are preparing to vote for the Housemates they would like to evict and concurrently, if they evict a Housemate, they are obliged to replace that Housemate with another Housemate.

The Housemates who had allied themselves into the ‘Serikali’ group are worried that they may not be the Untouchables after all. One of the mystery guests called Waititu who had been invited to the House let out the secret that some viewers were not impressed with the antics of the ‘Serikali’ group. The group has gone into the overdrive turning the secret around and proclaiming that ‘viewers were very shocked hear what Waititu said.’

There is still bad blood between the Housemates. During one of the Diary Sessions, the Housemate from Nyaribari Chache nominated the Housemate from Lang’ata and gave the following reason: I would like him to be evicted because I don’t get along with him so well.

In the meantime, the Housemates have wagered 100% on most of the tasks that they have been given though some of the tasks are incomplete. This includes the task of the Miscellaneous Amendments Bill that has been pending since the Housemate from Kipipiri prepared the Shopping List in June.

Viewers have enjoyed the tenth season of the Big Brother Show and are gearing to vote for their favourites when the Season Finale show comes up at the end of the year. And to all the Housemates ans aspiring Housemates, remeber Big Brother is always watching you... oh wait, or is it you who has to catch Big Brother's eye?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sometimes, Anytime, Everytime

Sometimes the world feels like it weighs down on my shoulder

Sometimes I think that I am the luckiest guy on the planet

Sometimes I go to work even when my mind is still on leave

Sometimes my sense of time is a few minutes behind

Sometimes I wish I could make time move faster

Sometimes I enjoy the thought that I can now look forward



Anytime I feel low, I anxiously await the vibrate of my phone

Anytime it’s cold, I wish you could just hold me and burn me

Anytime you want to see me, I will be available in a jiffy

Anytime my mind wanders, it finds its way to your world

Anytime I imagine you never seeing me again, I cry inside

‘Anytime’ to me has a similar meaning with ‘anytime for you’



Every time I am with you, I now wish time would crawl

Every time you laugh at my silly jokes, I get overwhelmed

Every time my eyes close, I dream of your World; the universe!

Every time I hang up the phone, I resist pressing re-dial

Every time, every time, every time, every time - I miss you.

Every time you read this poem, I hope you will smile, for me!