Archive for May 2007

Tribalism: Only generational change can save Kenya

Kenyans are worried and rightly so; that something must be done in order to stop the increasing polarization in the society. The senseless Mungiki killings; tribal clashes; increasing inequality; a breakdown of law and order and lately open tribal bias in public appointments are among the challenges facing the country. The older generation does not appear to understand the kind of country they are just about to pass on to the next generation. They have been around in political leadership rather long and do not appreciate the concern of Kenyans.

Kenyans are known to be resilient. They can withstand a lot of injustice to forget quickly and get on with their daily occupation including idling. A case in point is the Mau Mau struggle to get independence. The fighters were quickly forgotten as the home guards and colonial collaborators took over the country and business went on as usual. It has taken over forty years and for a momument to be erected in honour of Dedan Kimathi His widows and children have had to gatecrash in national events such as Kenyatta day to call attention to the authorities about the need to honour the gallant fighter.

Kenyans have been subjected to insecurity for long. Issues of tribal clashes are almost a common occurrence in our society. In fact deaths caused by the clashes are so common that recently when ten people died in Kitale the government did nothing to help the affected families. On the contrary the Kenya Airways crash got attention of the government so quickly upto to the top leadership. It would have been nice to show Kenyans that the government cares for all.

The latest problem that appears to be reaching unprecedented levels is the tribal appointments in public service. It is so glaring; that one could easily get the feeling that it has reached shameless points.

Recently seven lawyers were hired by the government to represent it at the East African legislative assembly nomination case at Arusha. All the seven who were paid handsomely for doing a shoddy job, were all from one ethnic community. The legal fraternity could not believe. It is not possible that the seven were the most qualified to do the job which was otherwise done below expectation.

Key ministries in government like defense, finance, internal security, education, energy, information and telecommunication are all held by members of a particular ethnic community. Assistant ministers and permanent secretaries of most of the ministries are also from the same ethic group. There are so many qualified Kenyans who can do almost anything that the government wants done in any ministry. Yet no one seems to take the diversity of this country into consideration.

In this day and age, even a small sub-tribe like the Pokot have enough qualified people to fill all the top public jobs in the republic; yet it would not be prudent for one to allow it because they are qualified. We live in one country with a common boundary and fairness is what can make us stay together in harmony.

If a particular tribe feel that they are being discriminated and victimized because a different ethnic group is in power, it is sad for the youth of this country. The youth do not subscribe to tribal sentiments. They are proud to belong to their tribes but are not happy when their friends are suffering without jobs and being denied equal opportunities because they do not belong to the tribe in power.

It is important that anybody who wants to take Kenyans to the dark ages of tribal appointments in public offices should be exposed and ashamed so that we save our nation,

It is sad to read the findings of Society International Developments (SID) that has given down the breakdown of public appointments and how the tribal factor has been perfected by the present government. It is a shame that a government which was elected on a platform of fairness has turned its back on the very people that put it in power. It refuses to work with leaders from the areas that voted for it overwhelmingly, and discriminates them when it comes to public appointments.

Joe Donde

Public Finance Consultant

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The Robin Hood complex in Kenya’s presidential race

It seems that, contrary to popular opinion, Kenya’s politics is not devoid of ideology and we must than the current season of political visions for this revelation. The irony on this revelation is that with the unveiling of each vision Kenyans have to contend with the apparent poverty of ideas because they all seem to be pages of the same book of ideology namely a plebeian kind of Robin Hood socialism.

The key words in all the visions are sharing, equitable distribution, fair taxation of the unidentified class of the super rich and equality in sharing public jobs and state resources. Certainly there will be no medals for the individual districts, communities that will produce more wealth or bake a larger portion of the national cake. The unstated consensus amongst the vision writers is that some people have a duty to produce wealth as much as “all of us” have a right to equitable sharing of the national cake. In other words the refrain, as the old Marxists used to say, “each shall give to the extent of the ability and each shall receive to the satisfaction of their need”.

I have a soft for socialism and if a critical mass of Kenyans says this can work, then let us give it a good shot. What I can’t come to terms with is scenario where presidential candidates preach capitalism in order to look good in the eyes of the IMF and New York whilst promising to rob rich Kenyans to give to poor Kenyans. No presidential candidate should try to implement primitive socialism based on Robin Hood economics without summoning the courage and decency to order for nationalization of private property and state ownership of the means of production.

In a capitalist society politicians lack and cannot obtain a political mandate to promise freebies in the manner that presidential candidates have assumed in their visions. The tragic flaws in the visions of sharing and equal opportunities are three.

First is the grave assumption that people are poor or miserable because of someone else’s fault. The trouble with this assumption is that the poor are cast as victims of whoever your favourite presidential candidates might elect to label as the villain. This could be the incumbent president, government, super-rich, IMF, the weather and most probably the Kikuyu.

A fortnight ago, one of the TV stations featured the comments of a gentleman from Vihiga on factors that influence how he will vote later in the year. This man said he is jobless since he completed his secondary school education in 1989. Yet in his condition our man said he is the father of eight (yes eight!) children who he readily confessed he lacks the means to provide for as he would wish.

Any Kenya presidential candidate and his vision writer watching such lamentations would quickly jump to the conclusion that our man is a victim of social inequality and so he needs free primary and secondary education in addition to “social security”. You can bet your monthly income that none of them has the integrity to tell our man that at bottom he is the victim of his own making. To my mind, it is rather dumb to marry without a job or income but it is outright dim to sire eight children in addition.

The second flaw of Robin Hood socialism is the inherent immorality it accepts as natural in the sense that it assumes that misery and poverty is the lot of some people. Thus some people are presumed to be permanent burdens to society and so the state should provide for them and their families as opposed to enabling them to do so themselves.

Last Monday, the Daily Nation featured a story in which Gordon Brown, Britain’s leader-in-waiting-, told about his vision of a “home-owning, asset-owning, wealth-owning democracy is what would be in the interests of our country because everybody would have a stake in the country”. On the same day The Standard featured a commentary by ODM-K presidential aspirant Kalonzo Musyoka in which he pledged to tax the super rich and protect the very poor basically by giving virtually every populous social group a free-ride when it comes to taxation.

Kalonzo rightly argues that “every citizen is entitled to equitable distribution of social benefits and burdens” but the thrust of his vision places no burden or responsibility on the so called under-privileged who, he says, the state has a duty to favour.

Ironically, the entire ODM-K brigade conspired to defeat the reintroduction of capital gains tax which largely targets the very super rich Kalonzo promises will foot his bill for the comfort of the underprivileged. Of course now that we are Kenyans-given to dreaming of wealth through pyramid schemes-Kalonzo has no burden to explain exactly how his vision will work. This brings us to the final point.

The economic ABCD of any presidential aspirant is the boring lamentation about how Kenya’s GDP was the same as South Korea in 1963 and now we are seas apart economically. Of course that was bound to occur. In Sothe Korea independence was a responsibility to work and produce wealth whilst for us it was an opportunity to nyakua matunda ya uhuru, the same thing those given to recall the South Korea example were doing this week.

In South Korea bearing eight children among the jobless was not fashionable same as loitering in rural trading centres in the middle ofthousand acres of uncultivated land. I can even bet that the home village of their permanent secretaries was not personal and communal tragedy for ordinary Koreans when their country was overtaking us. In short those who cannot take responsibility of achieving greatness should not even dream about it even in a vision they are reading for the first time before a bemused audience more interested in kitu kidogo than superhighways and free ports!

Lawyer Kibe Mungai

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The significance of impending Raila Vs. Kibaki duel

Raila Odinga did not disappoint on the august occasion to launch his vision last Sunday. To his credit Raila spared no effort to ensure the event would project a nationalistic image. As widely expected Raila was likely to come out strong in pomp, colour and flamboyance. Yet at the end of Raila’s long speech it was not easy to tell what his ascendancy to power would offer at a lesser political cost than now. Everything that Kenyans have in their wish list found some space in Raila’s vision which conspicuously did not tell where the billions to build us heaven on earth will come from.

Unlike the previous launches by his ODM-K rivals, Raila’s occasion was not a provincial affair which goes on to fortify the fact that he is the first among alleged equals in ODM-Kenya. Listening to Raila left me with the distinct impression that far from bringing any single issue to closure, he is bound to reopen virtually everything including motives of the things Jomo Kenyatta did to build us a nation of few millionaires in a sea of destitution. In other words Raila’s vision does not unravel the mystery around him but covers him with new layers of enigma, paradoxes, fears, suspicions and contradictions.

Raila’s historical take of the country’s political developments depicts himself as a man who ahs been grossly wronged by the system. It is a history of deprivation and injustice against the Luo and anyone else who had the misfortune of not being born from the regions of Kenya’s successive presidents. Given the complexity of the issues that informed specific particular events and assassinations – including the alleged one of Crispin Mbai in 2003 – it is crass opportunism to make the simplistic conclusions made by his speech.

Consider the constitution making process as a case in point. Raila is obviously proud that he led the Orange campaign to reject the proposed new constitution during the November, 2005 referendum. The natural outcome of the referendum was that the review law under which both the Bomas and Wako draft were made expired. This is why the government has table two bills in Parliament to help in restarting the review process.

Viewed this way it was intriguing for Raila to promise that, if elected president, he will give Kenyans a new constitution in six months. Which draft? According to Raila the Bomas draft requires only minor amendments then it will be proclaimed as the new constitution. Besides the fact that in a democracy a president is not elected to give people a new constitution, Raila’s position is cause for grave concern on Kenyans despite the deep-seated concerns about its implications.

Further in a democracy leaders are elected to rule in accordance with the existing laws. It follows therefore that something is amiss when Raila is seeking office under a presidential system in order that he may replace it with a parliamentary one. Once again we must pause and ask: Why is Raila obsessed with the parliamentary system. There are two reasons why. First, a parliamentary system removes competition for power from the people to parliament where experience shows that a man with the kind of skills Raila possesses is the guaranteed winner.

Secondly, under a parliamentary system there is no such thing as term limits as prime minister can rule as long as his party or coalition has a majority ion parliament. Today Raila’s friend, Olusegon Obasanjo, is the outgoing president of Nigeria because his bid to remove the term limits aborted. To his credit Raila knows that save for how one gets to power, it matters precious little in Africa whether the chief executive wears the title of president or prime minister. And to be prime minister is to become chief executive on the cheap!

Finally, there was a ring of arrogance in Raila’s speech that made it sound more of an inauguration than a vision statement. The level of confidence among Raila’s political supporters makes one wonder whether they know something the rest of us don’t. it is increasingly being taken for granted by ODM-K particularly Raila’s loyalists, that Kibaki’s tenure must end in December 2007. This self confidence is all the more amazing considering that Raila is yet to secure ODM-K nomination and the implication of his seemingly imminent triumph over Kalonzo Musyoka and William Ruto is not yet known.

The way I see it, Kalonzo is more easily dispensable in ODM-K than Kibaki’s supporters would rather have it. Under the current dispensation it is highly unlikely that Kalonzo would defect with more than a quarter of ODM-K current political power. Regarding Ruto, all indications so far are that neither he nor his supporters truly dream of a presidential inauguration in the near future. Theirs seem to be a case of strategic positioning in post-Kibaki era as opposed to a serious bid to have Ruto succeed him. Moreover, it seems that amongst the Kalenjin and the Abaluhya, Raila is bound to trounce any candidate from the Kikuyu community.

In sum, in launching his vision Raila has simultaneously managed to dwarf his ODM-K rivals and also announced his arrival on the big stage for a Herculean contest against Kibaki around December. There could be no drastic political contest as this one promises.

Lawyer Kibe Mungai

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Quick reads with Kiruri Kamau

Finally Unyatto to become a tourist attraction

Jomo, the project’s dad, was a dictator when he was president and wise Kenyans used to keep their mouths shut. Some people used to call him The Burning Spear, possibly because it sounded rather nice but the youth corrupted his name to Unyatto simply to avoid always referring to him as plain old Jomo Kenyatta.

The unkind ones called him Kamaliza for some reason I never quite figured out but there is no reason good enough to warrant calling a poor old man ‘the exterminator’, never mind that it was done in whispers. When he was on his last legs in the late 1970s some jokers started jostling over his job as if he was already dead. Sir Charles Mugane Njonjo who was the Attorney General advised them to stop it because it was high treason to even imagine that the old man might one day hop the twig.

They stopped jostling but of course Jomo was a mortal like you and I and one day in 1978 he finally answered the trumpet call. When he died they did not take him to Gatundu to bury him among his ancestors but took him to Parliament Buildings and put his mausoleum under a 24-hour armed surveillance. Now I have never quite figured out the reason for that either but we could hazard a few guesses.

One possible reason could be that those who used to call him Kamaliza genuinely believed that old Jomo was only pretending to be dead and would, when they least expected it, spring back to life and exterminate them. Possibility number two could be that a resurrectionist cult led by Sir Charles believed Kamaliza, I mean Jomo, would certainly rise form the dead which is why they mounted a round the clock vigil, which unfortunately has lasted thirty long years.

Well, it is official now; Jomo will not rise again. According to Heritage Minister, Suleiman Shakombo, the government has now decided it will make Jomo’s body a public spectacle soon. What a shame.

Unrest over Moodys’ mix-up of flowers and cockerels

After the death of the rainbow dream, Agwambo and Emilio parted ways, as anybody should know by now. Agwambo made himself an orange orchard which has been husbanding quite well with a few other farmhands he managed to poach from Emilio. Emilio on his part went into banana farming. Agwambo has faithfully stuck to oranges and I suspect it is because oranges do no not make too much of a mess even after squashing (and one can make tasty orange juice) but Emilio abandoned fruit farming soon after all his bananas got squashed under an avalanche of Agwambo’s oranges during the famous war of fruits a year and half ago.

Instead he went into fruit farming and his roses have been doing quite well too. The only mistake Emilio appears to have made is that he appointed Moody, an old man who appears to have gone woolgathering, as his chief steward. Now Emilio’s flowers are in danger of withering because old Moody sometimes forgets he is a flower and not a chicken farmer as he used to be during his long sojourn in the baba na mama household. There are rumblings in Emilio’s rose farm which sound like a simmering industrial unrest because Moody insists there is no difference between flower farming and cockerel farming and farmhands actively disagree.

A billion bucks to be the Orange of Oranges

Chairman Fred Gumo’s council of wise men has finally decided on a 13 point criteria to be used to decide the Chief Orange. The first condition for one to qualify to be considered for the position of the Ornage of Oranges is he or she has to donate one million shillings to the wise men.

Now if I was an aspirant paramount Orange I wouldn’t give my money to Gumo, not on the pain of being turned into a banana head. Most of the aspirants will of course pay because a million is peanuts to them but I believe Bro. Steve will not. It is not because he can’t afford it (although it would leave a gaping hole very difficult to fill) but why should he throw good money away?

For starters Fred cannot tell the difference between an Orange and a Tractor which is why he follows Tinga all over the place. Now can you trust a man who can’t tell an Orange form a Tractor? Secondly a million might be a lot of dosh for Bro. Steve but it is small change for Fred (he made three hundred times that from flogging a parking lot Mtukufu Rais gave him for telling him a nice joke).

Another condition is that an aspiring Chief Orange should be stinking rich without ever had sticky fingers, as if that were ever possible. Once Bill Ruto went to the Big House on the Hill and came out of the place with goodies weighing him down but his fingers were not sticky, were they? It is not the same thing.

A third condition is that if you aspire to be a Big Orange you must have been a good governance democrat for a long stretch of time. Well, all of them qualify on that, except perhaps Agwambo who only managed to sit at the feet of Mtukufu, the professor of politics, for a measly two years, but still the wise men’s rules sound like custom-made Tractor for Agwambo, if you asked me.

Some orange or banana juice, Mr JJ?

The people of Kangema abandoned JJ Kamotho, one of their eminent sons, when he joined the Nyayo Ensemble (the group that belted the hit single Tawala Kenya Tawala, Rais Moi) as the lead singer. They told him they would only take him back when and if he had a change of heart. In those days JJ loved Mtukufu Rais, the band leader, with a perfect love and a mere change of heart would not do without a blood transfusion as well, but that was something he would not even consider because he was certified Kanu damu.

“A dog would win in Kangema if it stood on a Ford Asili ticket” JJ said mysteriously. Now, that was really weird for a parting shot but then we are talking about JJ here.

Ten years on in 2002, Kangema had mutated into Kangema and Mathioya, Mtukufu Rais had been evicted from the Hill by Emilio and JJ had changed but most importantly, JJ had made peace with Mathioyans. They made him their spokesman again but it wasn’t long before Agwambo, the pied piper, started peddling oranges telling people that oranges are better than bananas, a lie he told to discredit Emilio’s bananas.

JJ believed him but the people of Mathioya were not amused since Emilio, a neighbour, had already supplied them with bunches of good bananas. They threatened to ostracize him again but still JJ would not hear of it. Some wags said he had been bewitched. The truth however is that JJ had always wanted to be a lakesider. Agwambo had promised to give him the Rarieda seat (Raphael Tuju has already relocated to to Mt. Kenya) only to discover that Tinga has already given Rarieda to Aida as a birthday gift.

Anyway JJ appears to have been choking from drinking too much orange juice. A rose (a flower party, actually) by any other name, JJ, that’s what I say.

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An imminent 3-way split in ODM?

After months of papering over their differences and living in denial that the possibility of a break up of the Orange democratic Movement (ODM) was very real, the events of the last one week appear to suggest the hour of reckoning may as well be nigh.

Whereas ODM top leadership has in the past strenuously tried to avoid public utterances that may have betrayed the deep rivalry and suspicion between them, this week they found themselves breaking the unwritten rule of see, hear or talk no evil. In effect, they appeared to confirm what many had feared and others secretly hoped for; that the question of ODM’s disintegration might no longer be one of if but when.

The situation was not helped much by the Magarini by-election where the ODM candidate, Amason Kingi was shaven clean by the government backed candidate, Harrison Kombe. The later scooped over 5,000 votes, more than twice the figure garnered by the ODM rival. ODM insiders were quick to blame the Magarini debacle on the rivalry amongst the party’s presidential hopefuls.

As for the fireworks that exposed the ODM soft under-belly, Raila Odinga was the first on the shooting range.

Quickly on the heels of the mega show that was the launch of his presidential campaign, he hopped to Kisii mid last week form where he categorically stated that this year’s contest will be a two-horse race between himself and President Kibaki. In characteristic, dismissive style, he categorized other presidential aspirants in ODM as just “mere passengers”.

Kalonzo Musyoka hit back with a s much undisguised venom two days later. While collecting forms for the ODM nomination, The Mwingi North MP did not name Raila publicly but he left no doubt whom he had in mind when he lampooned presidential aspirants who have “been bragging they already have scooped ODM nomination when the same is yet to be held.” His caution to voters: “Just ignore such fellows.” There was no mistaking to whom the jab was aimed.

William Ruto was equally assertive. In a show of strength over the weekend, he herded at least 14 MPs from his native Rift Valley province for a meeting in Kuresoi. There they “exposed” a plot by an unnamed ODM presidential hopeful to isolate some aspirants and “hoodwink a few soft ones into endorsing him as the ODM flag bearer.” Speakers at the meeting dubbed Kuresoi Declaration described the unnamed ODM apirants as the “cunning Fox of Kenya politics.”

And although they did not name the “cunning fox” and the so called “soft” candidates he intended to hoodwink into backing his sole candidacy in ODM, they made it clear Ruto was not one of them.

They described Ruto as “our hero in Rift Valley” and they vowed to back his candidacy to the last man to ensure he takes over from president Kibaki come next year.

But the most telling sign that all is not well in the Orange party was when, early in the week, straight shooting J.J. Kamotho, a hitherto diehard ODM supporter, dismissed ODM as a “tribal party that is headed nowhere.”

In one of those surprises you only hear in politics, Kamotho asked his Mathioya constituents to vote for president Kibaki come the election as “there was no light at the end of the ODM tunnel.”

So what could have gone wrong in ODM hardly 18 months after the party handed the government a decisive defeat in the November 2005 referendum vote?

Many political analysts attribute the sudden change of ODM fortunes to the fact that all along the party’s unity has been anchored on issues which normally have no bearing on a presidential contest where candidates and how the electorate perceives them, and not issues, are crucial in influencing the pattern of voting.

The first unifying factor in ODM – indeed the event that gave birth to the name ODM in the first place-was the 2005 referendum vote. The vote was a simple matter of saying Yes or No to the draft constitution.

When the government threw its lot behind the draft constitution, the referendum easy choice of Yes or No gave all those who had an axe to grind a golden opportunity to gang up and humiliate the government.

Thus the ODM vote against the draft constitution was not necessarily a vote against the draft per se but one against the government. The different partners in ODM-Kanu and LDP and a sizeable section of the civil society-had different reasons to want to humiliate the government. The LDP brigade’s beef was the disputed pre-2002 election MoU with its Narc partner and the wing in power, NAK.

For Kanu, which had been routed from power in the 2002 election after an uninterrupted 40-year rule, the referendum vote was payback time.

After the referendum, ODM’s lifeline came via one-off issues, often handed to it by the government’s public relations bungling that would from time to time give the party a reason for a unity of purpose to humiliate the government.

First came the Githongo dossier on ubiquitous Anglo Leasing scam which early last year somehow gave ODM a reason to regroup. But after some excitement, the issue quietly faded to leave ODM with nothing tangible to coalesce around.

Then came the Artur bothers saga and ODM once again found some relevance and a unity of purpose to harangue the government. That too, did not last long enough.

Yet another issue for ODM to show its teeth referendum-style came in July last year when five by-elections were simultaneously held after a plane crash killed five MPs in Marsabit. ODM squandered the opportunity, however, when partners LDP and Kanu decided to go separate ways allowing rival Narc-Kenya to scoop three out of five seats up for grabs.

All along the real test has been dependent on whether ODM would remain united long enough to offer a single candidate to face the incumbent Mwai Kibaki.

And this really where the point of departure lies vis a vis the 2005 referendum. Whereas the latter was a simple question of Yes or No to a document, the issue of a presidential contest touches on personal ambition, bloc-vote interests and a host of other vested interests. These are certainly difficult issues to reconcile, more so in a polarized nation as Kenya today.

Going by the events of the past one week, and though the die has not been cast yet, it appears certain there will be a three-way split in ODM.

The kind of resources, time and energy Raila is putting to his presidential campaign is such that it is difficult to imagine that he intends to step down for anybody else in ODM. To put it bluntly, it is not likely that Raila will agree to any nomination formula in ODM that will favour any other candidate but himself. Already, there are bitter murmurs that the ODM secretariat is packed with Raila cronies whose mandate is to make sure he goes through, by hook or crook.

Neither are there indications that Kalonzo Musyoka intends to cede ground. He intimated by the condition he gave last week that he won’t hand back his nomination application forms until he is convinced ODM has a neutral election board that he is spoiling for a nasty encounter.

So is William Ruto if the weekend Kuresoi Declaration is an indicator of the direction he will be taking his campaign for ODM nomination.

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Sally Kosgei: A woman to watch

She was once the most powerful albeit reserved civil servant under President Moi. Now Dr. Sally Kosgei has made a headlong plunge into politics, and there she is making very many confusing moves. At times she appears to be backing ODM presidential candidate Kalonzo Musyoka, while at others she backs William Ruto. Recently she appeared at Raila Odinga’s side amid profuse praise from ODM’s de facto leader. So what is she up to? And what impact will her presence have in ODM and her native Rift Valley province.

She was the only person outside his immediate family whom presidential hopeful Raila Odinga referred to in a most affectionate manner during his vision launch last Sunday. Several weeks earlier, she had been at the separate launches of William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka’s presidential vision. There, too, too she was prominently displayed like a prized trophy.

Welcome to the new and brave world of the formerly reticent head of public service Dr Sally Kosgei. Judging from the company she keeps and her rather confrontational utterances nowadays, it is evident that the 58-year old former diplomat has decided to shed off the veneer of discretion and embraced the rough world of high stakes politics.

The big question, however, is; precisely which wing of ODM is Kosgei in, exactly what is she up to politically and just what in her political and economic background makes her tick?

Knowledgeable people in ODM say that Kosgei developed a close rapport with Raila during the brief period he served as a cabinet minister in the Moi regime. The relationship suffered a setback when Raila ditched Kanu and quit the cabinet towards the end of 2002 after former President Moi forced Uhuru Kenyatta on Kanu as his chosen successor at a time when Raila (and other Kanu stalwarts) were covetously eyeing the presidency.

Raila and other like-minded politicians such as former vice president Prof George Saitoti, former foreign affairs minister Kalonzo Musyoka and former office of the president minister William ole Ntimama quit Kanu and became the moving force that created the Rainbow Coalition that ultimately handed Kanu its first election defeat since independence.

Quite naturally Kosgei could not have continued relating closely with a politician who had rebelled against her boss, President Moi, in his hour of greatest need. She maintained her distance from Raila and Co until after Narc swept Kanu out of power and Moi handed over to Mwai Kibaki at the end of December 2002.

Although Raila was not the only senior politician in Narc who had served with Sally Kosgei in the Moi cabinet, he was one of the few, besides Saitoti, who got on well with her. Thus it was not surprising when the two quickly renewed their acquaintance and it was back to business as usual.

Indeed sources that were very close to the centre of power in those early days of Kibaki’s presidency intimate that Raila had tried to convince the newly inaugurated president to retain Dr Sally Kosgei as head of public service until 2005 when her contract was due to expire.

“It took the concerted efforts of Dr Chris Murungaru, Kiraitu Murungi and a few others who formed part of president Kibaki’s kitchen cabinet to thwart Raila’s attempt to have Sally stay on as head of Public Service,” recalls a source who was privy to the behind-the-scenes dealings of the time.

The argument put forward by members of Kibaki’s inner circle at the time was that it would have been impossible for the Kibaki administration to fully trust someone who had been so close to the previous regime to suddenly change, embrace and wholeheartedly implement policies of an administration she had been opposed to.

But perhaps even the bigger problem for Kosgei was the political orientation of her key sponsor in the Narc government; Raila Odinga. That Raila was viewed with distrust in the Kibaki administration even as he was being named to the high-profile Public Works ministry was one of the worst kept political secrets of the time. For Raila to try and push a situation where he would play godfather to the head of public service was something that many members of Kibaki’s inner core found politically unpalatable and made no secret about it.

It was thus not much of a surprise when Kosgei was shown the door after hardly three months in office in the new administration. What may have perhaps surprised many discerning observers of Kenya’s political scene is the bitterness with which Dr Kosgei appears to have taken her removal from office, considering her prominence in the ousted regime.

Joining the monied club …

In rather candid interview with a local newspaper a few weeks ago, Dr. Kosgei groused that after working so diligently for the government for some 20 years she was made to “leave with nothing”, never mind the fact that during her relatively short stint as head of public service Kosgei was able to join the exclusive club of monied and most influential Kenyans during the Moi regime. Talking to some of the former and current senior civil servants who worked closely with Kosgei, it emerges that she ruled with an iron fist and was vindictive almost to a point of pettiness.

Indeed, say those who worked under her, she is not quite the victim she paints herself to be.

“She is the kind of person who would be fed with a lie about you having said something nasty about her and from that day she carries a vendetta against you and starts looking for ways and means of kicking you out,” says a former PS who blames his removal from public service on Dr. Kosgei.

The former PS adds: “Most of the time Sally never even bothered to check whether what she had been told was true or not. She would simply start fighting you and may not even talk to you when you meet during official meetings. Once she had blacked you out, if you made calls to her office she would bluntly tell you that she did not wish to discuss anything with you no matter how important an official matter you wanted to discuss with her. She did not seem to know how to separate official and personal matters…”

Indeed, one person who did not beat about the bush about what he felt about Kosgei is former Kenyan ambassador to the United States Samson Chemai. When he was removed from the plum posting in Washington DC, Chemai went to court and not only sued the Government of Kenya but also Dr Sally Kosgei whom he accused of having influenced his removal on order to create room for her estranged husband Dr Yusuf Nzibo.

In his affidavit, Chemai made several serious claims against Kosgei accusing her of being high-handed and vindictive. In her response and defense, Kosgei naturally denied the charges. The case is pending in the Court of Appeal. Although she is credited to have been a foremost diplomat, some in the diplomatic community did not have much time for her especially when she was foreign affairs permanent secretary. The much celebrated former US ambassador to Kenya, the late Smith Hempstone, described her in his memoirs as…”an unpleasant woman with a big scar on her face.” He says he had vowed never to deal with her and assigned his deputy, Michael Southwick, a former fellow Stanford alumni of Sally, to handle her.

Kosgei and multimillion NSSF deal

In 2003, Kosgei moved to court seeking to have a Sh181 million suit filed against her by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in connection with alleged fraudulent sale of prime property within the city struck out.

NSSF had earlier on sued Dr Kosgei to recover the money after the worker’s body had been unable to take possession of the property in Parklands. The property that Kosgei had sold to NSSF ostensibly passing it off as her own had been gazetted by the government as a national monument.

In the deal clinched when Dr Kosgei held the highest public office in the land, the former public service boss, through her company, Guardian International, had acquired the property from the Kenya Railways Corporation. Kenya Railaways was selling the property at KShs 80 million.

According to documents filed in court at the time, by the time Kosgei sold the plot to NSSF at Kshs170 million in May 1995, she had only paid KShs 19.2 million of the purchase price. It is not clear whether she has since paid the balance. Nevertheless, the bottom line remains that in this one deal alone the former head of civil service made a cool Kshs 100 million (or more if she never got to pay the balance).

NSSF has claimed that the former head of public service had fraudulently acquired the property through abuse of her position in the government and applied the same unfair influence when she sold it to them.

Kosgei through her lawyers Okwach & Co Advocates argued that the complaint disclosed no reasonable cause of action against her and Guardian International adding that even if there was any cause of action, it was timebarred since the suit was filed six years after the transaction. In her sworn affidavit, Kosgei said that she bought the property from Kenya Railways after she “learnt of its sale through an advertisement in a daily newspaper.”

She however confirmed one rather interesting issue in the whole saga: that the sale of the property, its transfer and registration of the transfer in the name of NSSF was done at a breakneck speed. Everything was completed in a single day, which raised eyebrows given the bureaucratic nature of land transactions. The matter is still pending in court.

A woman with an impressive CV and history…

There is no doubt, though, that the court cases hanging over her head notwithstanding Dr Sally Kosgei has been an achiever with an impressive CV and equally rich history.

Before her last public appointment in March 2001 when president Moi made her the first woman to hold the powerful post of head of public service and secretary to the cabinet, Dr Kosgei had held various other prominent positions in the government.

She is perhaps most famous for the period she served as permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs, a post she was appointed to after having served as Kenya’s high commissioner at the prestigious court of St James, London.

Dr Kosgei’s appointment as foreign affairs PS made her the second woman to be appointed a PS in independent Kenya. The first to hold such a position was Mrs Margaret Githinji who served as PS in the Ministry of trade and industry in the late 80s and early 90s.

Incidentally, the relationship between the two women pioneers in public service was never cordial. They engaged in constant turf wars with Githinji accusing Kosgei of meddling in her docket especially when it came to foreign trade matters. Ultimately, Githinji lost her job under circumstances which she thought Kosgei had a hand in.

However, those who know Dr Kosgei closely say that she appeared more suited for the foreign affairs docket than any other public posting she has had save perhaps that of Kenya’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

“She knew her stuff well and aggressively pushed Kenya’s agenda in international circles both as high commissioner and foreign affairs PS,” says and official who served with her at the Old Treasury Building, the present headquarters of the ministry of Foreign Affairs.

However when she was appointed PS to the treasury after the 1997 general elections to work with the then finance minister Simeon Nyachae, Kosgei appears to have been out of her depth. The suspicious relationship between her and her new boss-an equally strong headed personality just like her-did not help things and soon President Moi found himself having to choose between Nyachae and Kosgei. He chose to move Kosgei from the treasury in order to placate Nyachae and his political constituency.

As she revs to join politics in earnest, Kosgei will find the going a little disconcerting compared to what she was used in the hierarchical world of civil service. In Aldai constituency she will be struggling to unseat an incumbent-lawyer Jim Choge- who comes from a family with a long political history.

This promises to be one bruising battle but it is dependent on how the ODM presidential nominations pan out. Should Raila clinch the ODM presidential nomination, as everyone seems to predict, and possibly fall out with William Ruto, Kosgei will have to choose whether to stick with Raila and risk Ruto’s wrath-depending on whether he consolidates his position as the Rift Valley political kingpin-supporting her opponent. The other option will be to break ranks with Raila and stick with Ruto in the hope of smoothing her win the Aldai seat.

It is most unlikely that Kosgei will have much to do with Kalonzo Musyoka unlike-in the most unlikely event- he becomes the official ODM torchbearer backed by all the big boys especially Raila and Ruto.

It will also be interesting to see how Sally tackles the Moi factor in Rift Valley province should she become an important ODM point person in the province as she is positioning herself to be. Retired president Moi has vowed time and again that he will have nothing to do with ODM and that he will hold a high voltage campaign against the party candidates come election time.

Like Ruto, Sally is a creation of the former president; much as she may wish to help her friends in ODM, it is unlikely that she will go full throttle against her mentor. Besides angling herself as the ODM point-person in North Rift, Sally has been positioning herself as the ‘womens’ candidate’, a move seen as a smart way to bargain for the vice presidency in an ODM government.

For Raila, Sally is certainly a big catch in the North Rift now that Ruto appears to be drifting away, wallowing in ambition and “big-headedness”. While Sally may have deep pockets to finance a serious campaign, however, her political skills, if any, are still untested.

Ultimately, for one used to the command-chain world of civil service, the unpredictability of politics may prove a step climb.

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Magarini - Another win for the goverment

Shirikisho Party Harrison Kombe - 5,138 votes
ODM - Jafwe Kingi - 2,418 votes
Kenda - Franco Esposito -2,288 votes
Narc - Samuel Nzai - 1,914 votes

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Magarini Constituency by-election update:

As at 3pm (15th May 2007) Kenyan time a total of 69 polling stations out of the 90 stations in Magarini had forwarded their poll results.

Harrison Kombe of Shirikisho party was leading by a total of 3,700 votes. This is the immediate former MP who is backed by the Kibaki government in the spirit of Government of National Unity (GNU).

He is followed by Jefwa Kingi of ODM with 2,000 votes with Franco Esposito of the Kamlesh Pattni KENDA party in third place with 1,700 votes.

A total of 21 polling stations are yet to forward their results. These are the ones affected by delay of voting materials following heavy rains that made the stations inaccessible. The voter turnout was very low. Magarini constituency has 42,000 registered voters. The Electoral commission of Kenya used KShs 90 million to conduct the by-elections.

Meanwhile Samuel Kivuitu has announced one month voter registration exercise scheduled for June/July.

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Is all well in Orange Democratic Party?

  • Rift valley ODM MPs led by presidential aspirant William Ruto have spoken openly that ODM is facing problems and accused Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka of rocking the ODM boat.
  • Central Kenya ODM loyalist and former Kanu/LDP secretary general Joseph Kamotho has hinted that he could be abandoning the party for what he termed as ‘tribal politics’. Though deemed inconsequential this may represent the feelings of many ODM MPs that are being sidelined, something that was sparked by presidential aspirant Nazir Umar earlier in the year.
  • Musalia Mudavadi, one of the ODM aspirant recently warned Kenyans to be aware of a dictator worse than Idi Amin among the ODM aspirants, a reference many believe to have been targeted at Raila Odinga.
  • A number of presidential aspirants including Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto have spoken of defying the deadline set for returning nomination papers unless a proper national election board is constituted. The same voiced concerns over the Kshs 2 million fee slumped on presidential aspirants which was later reduced to Kshs 1 million.
  • Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, key ODM presidential aspirants missed the grand vision launch of Raila Odinga. Raila graced the launch of Ruto and Kalonzo’s visions.
  • Kalonzo hurriedly launched his tax vision in the week to Raila’s launch, something that was seen as a move to pre-empt Raila’s proposals. Good competition but the competition strategies are telling of underground undercutting of the aspirants A number of aspirants have expressed concern that ODM organs are not neutral and are skewed towards favouring Raila Odinga’s candidacy.
  • Separate campaigns for the Magarini ODM contestant and individual aspirants’ countrywide campaigns against a promise for united ODM campaigns
  • A group calling itself ‘ODM Kenya aspirants’ in a manner similar to the one that caused panic in Narc-Kenya has come up claiming discriminative tendencies in ODM. This has made the now ‘iron-handed’ secretary general Prof. Anyang’ Nyongo to buy space in the print media disowning this group. A meeting has subsequently been called for all ODM interested persons on 24th May whose entrance will be Ksh.5,000. ODM membership cards will be given out to attendees.

The major questions in everyone’s mind are:

  • Will ODM hold, will they remain united?
  • Will ODM hold democratic elections?
  • Is ODM all that democratic?
  • Will Kalonzo and Raila ambitions support each other if either loses?
  • Will ODM hand over a win to Kibaki in a silver platter?

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Raila's best campaign for Kibaki

Story by PAUL MWANGI Publication Date: 2007/05/09

President Kibaki’s team of campaigners must have been holding their collective breath with trepidation when Lang’ata MP Raila Odinga’s team assembled to launch his vision last Sunday. The greatest worry must have been that Mr Odinga would launch a vision that would make everyone look like they never went to school.

When the function started, it looked like he might do just that. The pomp was unrivalled. The speeches were equally impressive. The Rev Timothy Njoya set the mood of what was literally an enthronement.

Many of Mr Odinga’s competitors in ODM must have regretted their presence at the ceremony as they had to stand and chant after the Rev Njoya “So be it” as he prayed for Raila’s presidency.

But when the climax came, it aborted because Mr Odinga ended up putting the best case so far why President Kibaki should be voted for a second term.

Firstly, we watched something we have not seen in a long time sycophancy. It was unsettling to see a man drowned in so much praise before the entire nation, and incessantly told how good he has been for us.

For a man applying for a job to be our servant, the ceremony lacked the humility that should go with such a noble intention. I did not see a servant applying for a job, but an emperor in the making.

When Mr Odinga opened his speech, he begun by recounting where we are coming from. That was fine, but that is not the next step for Kenya.

Yes, we have suffered, lost opportunities, and been repressed, but we can’t undo the nation and start it anew. No regime will bring back Pio Gama Pinto, T J Mboya or JM from the dead. They are now good lessons of what we must avoid. They are not our starting point.

He then read a list of things-to-do that sounded like it had been authored by Dr Alfred Mutua.
In a majority of respects, his vision did sound like President Kibaki’s achievements.

IT WAS RIGHT OFF THAT SMALL book Dr Mutua has been distributing. It was roads, hospitals, health, education, expansion of airports, etc. There was nothing so radically different as would have justified him to say that he can deliver Vision 2030 some 10 years earlier.
I compared the suggestions to those of Mr Kalonzo Musyoka’s, and I thought the latter had been more daring.

It was when Mr Odinga departed from the well-written speech that his political character came out. In an off-the-cuff remark, he expressed his admiration for the revered German Chancellor, Otto von Bismark. In short, he told us that Bismark’s is the model he would use to usher us into the Second World.

Now, Bismark achieved an almost impossible feat. He created Germany from several independent empires and developed it into one of Europe’s most powerful countries. But the road was not that rosy, and it was done at a very high cost to Germans and other Europeans.
From the very beginning, Bismark made it very clear that he had no time for democracy. “The great question of the day will not be decided by speeches and resolutions of the majorities but by blood and iron,” he had declared. He waged three wars in eight years, oppressed Catholics, socialists and liberals, and eventually became so unpopular that Kaiser Wilhelm II fired him in 1890.

It is believed that Bismark’s dictatorial domestic policies laid the foundation for the Nazi regime five decades later. He was aptly nicknamed the “Iron Chancellor” for his autocratic method of ruling.

If that is the way Mr Odinga will usher us into the Second World 10 years earlier than when Mr Kibaki has promised, I elect to take my time getting there.

Bismark was possibly good for Germany in the 19th century. But his example cannot be the guiding light of a president wanting to lead us as a democratic nation in the 21st century.
And to crown it all, the ceremony was closed by Raila’s supporters singing that despicable anthem of Kenya’s years of tyranny, “Tawala Kenya Tawala”.

Mr Mwangi is a Nairobi lawyer

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How come all these grand visions sound the same?

Story by JAINDI KISERO Publication Date: 2007/05/09

THE SEASON FOR VISIONS and mission statements is here. As a regular commentator on economic issues, I find the policy statements the presidential candidates have put out to be too predictable and boring.

I am yet to hear anything radical. These people are all from the same school and ideological orientation: it is all about tax-and-spend trickle-down economics of the free market.
You will not hear of ideas that can stir the heart and inspire citizens to move in one direction.
I have read the vision statements by Mr William Ruto, Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and President Kibaki’s Vision 2030, and my conclusion is this: In terms of new ideas and radical policies, our politicians are people of modest ambition.

Kenyan politics has become a narrow contest for the middle ground, with all presidential candidates struggling to occupy the centre and to look moderate.

And, it is not modesty in ambition alone. Our society suffers from a culture of low expectations.
That is why we will fall over one another celebrating a 6 per cent growth rate despite the fact that the growth being celebrated is taking place in the context of rising crime, dilapidated roads, mushrooming slums and unreliable and expensive electricity supply.

Our leaders do not want to be radical because we have set our standards so low that even a modest policy intervention such as Mr John Michuki’s seat-belts is celebrated as a major achievement even when we know very well that what the minister did amounted to no more than tinkering with a deeply entrenched problem, and that the police have neither the capacity nor the orientation to enforce it.

I have even heard somebody say that we should give City Mayor Dick Wathika a medal for planting flowers in the major roundabouts! Our political values have got so debased that while no courage is required to do the wrong thing, a great deal of courage is needed to do the right thing.

Have we forgotten that this is an economy that used to grow by an average of 6.6 per cent between 1970 and 1969? And this, before Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o and company came around town and changed the formula for calculating growth statistics in this economy.
If you calculated the growth that took place in this period using Nyong’o’s formula, you will realise that the citizens of this country should not be falling over one another celebrating the 6 per cent growth rate projected for this year.

This country has what it takes to grow at a much higher rate. It is something we have done before.

IN ALL HONESTY, THE KIBAKI administration has given the country a kick-start towards a new growth path. But it is also clear that the model the government has followed, and which all the aspiring presidential candidates are promising to maintain and pursue, has proved incapable of radically addressing the social problems that continue bedevil the country.

These include severe unemployment, rising urban crime and an explosion of disorganised and unregulated businesses matatus, hawkers, and even Mungiki.

Simply stated, the message coming through from the vision statements by the candidates is this: I will collect as much tax as possible and then throw the money at all your problems - free secondary school education, roads, health insurance and higher.

In the contemporary parlance of macro-economists, the new catchphrase is “fiscal space” the politically-correct term for describing affordability.

The pertinent question to ask these people who are promising us heaven is, therefore, this: where will the fiscal space to accommodate what they are promising come from?
It is all to do with a mindset among the political elite that the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has all the money and that the authority is collecting more billions than ever before that need to be spent. Haven’t we heard our ministers bragging that KRA is now collecting so much that we don’t even need money from donors?

Tax collection in this country has increased exponentially. But this is only one side of the coin. What the politicians don’t tell you is that the success in tax collection has not stopped the Government borrowing massively in the domestic market where it continues to crowd out the private sector from credit.

This hyperbolic talk about inexhaustible tax revenues has done a great deal of harm. Is it a good or bad thing that the aspiring presidential aspirants seem to be reading from the same script in terms of policy and programmes?

That may be debatable. But what can you say of a society where there are no differences on how a country should be run? Isn’t it amazing that the contest for the presidency has ceased to be about the direction society should go?

With all the candidates preaching constitutional reform, low inflation, low budget deficits and higher budgetary allocations for roads, health, free secondary school education and medical insurance for informal sector workers, there will be no choice between the political programmes on offer.

Mr Kisero is the managing editor, The EastAfrican

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As patented political product Raila has hardly any equal

General Motors Kenya chief executive officer Bill Lay knows something or two about marketing and branded products. He could not help lifting his arms skywards as if to thank the Almighty on learning that Lang’ata MP Raila Odinga had bought a Hummer.

The publicity the otherwise ordinary purchase was given was more than any company would have asked for. According to a newspaper report, Mr Lay received a call from Mr Odinga when the new limousine developed a mechanical problem. The CEO arranged for the spares to be flown from abroad in two or so days. The vehicle is manufactured in US by General Motors, the country’s leading vehicle maker.

Mr Odinga is the most powerful political brand in this country. His association with a commercial product should, on the face of it, translate into good business. Yet even the most potent brands come with a downside. Mr Lay’s clincher was his follow-up observation that for those who subscribed to the Raila brand, there were as many who were repelled by it.

Either way, therefore, the Hummer getting branded Raila could go right or boomerang. So for Mr Lay it was a question of wait and see.

By a stroke of bad luck, the crash of Kenya Airways flight 507 has taken the spotlight away from one of the most important political events of the year — Mr Odinga’s launch of his presidential campaign at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi. By the time this article was being written, there were no signs that the event would be cancelled or if, indeed, there were compelling reasons to do so. The preparation expenses which certainly are high had to be considered, not to mention the fact that there are said to be delegations from abroad who were already on the way.

What could change is if it turns out that the plane had more than a fair number of Kenyan passengers (as distinct from those in transit) and the communal mood demanded as a show of national mourning. Even without that, the accident has effectively dislodged every other event from the media headlines, which is what the Raila machine runs on and knows how to exploit.

As a patented political product, the Raila brand has no equal. Within ODM Kenya people who imagine they are his competitors will soon realise, if they have not done so already, that this was never the game plan from the very beginning. Apart from one or two presidential hopefuls who can cause some irritation to Mr Odinga’s momentum, they are, to use a notorious put-down he favours, inconsequential. But it is precisely this irresistible inevitability in a contest with minnows that has generated extremely powerful counter-reactions which, to Mr Odinga’s discredit, he often dismisses casually or otherwise fails to grasp.

It is not only former President Moi’s antipathy towards the prospective candidate, which I suspect has very little to do with the popular notion about settling scores of 2002. Former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi’s reference to Ugandan strongman Idi Amin’s dictatorial tendencies could have been out of pique when he realised that somebody he might have banked on to anoint him the “compromise” candidate had other ideas. But the most curious thing is that just about the same view as Mr Mudavadi blurted out is shared by a disconcerting number of other Orange hopefuls who will, of course, swear that this is not the case.

The paradigm of victimisation has always been the compelling motor of the Odinga family’s political dominance in Nyanza.

The stories of “betrayal” under Kenyatta in the 1960s, under Moi (the unfulfilled Kanu-NDP promise) and now Kibaki (the memorandum of understanding), which runs as a thread through the Odinga family campaigns, has also had the effect of tightly welding the family to its regional constituency.

But this time it will be different. Mr Odinga is going for the presidency with nothing pulling him down on account that he is supporting, or must support, somebody else like he did in 2002. If he wins it will be his own accomplishment and nobody else’s. And if he loses it will be by his own missteps.

Anybody who thinks Mr Odinga is not a national, as opposed to regional, candidate is not living in this country. The tag of “unelectability” has always been an ethnicised construct which is neither here nor there.

With him, the brand complication is not about where he comes from but who he is.


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Where do Kalonzo’s taxation proposals leave us?

One of the lessons I learnt from my father was the philosophy of wealth — naturally — and, more specifically, how, in his view, to get rich. Wealth, I was tutored, is not necessarily having a lot of money in the bank. Being wealthy is having many little sources of money and few costs. It is like a big sufuria with many pipes pouring water in and many holes draining it out. You get rich by multiplying the little pipes and reducing the holes.

It follows, therefore, that I should resent having to spend money on taxes. If the government cuts taxes tomorrow, therefore plugging a few of those holes, I’d go out and have a beer in celebration.

IT IS FOR THIS REASON THAT I THINK Mwingi North MP Kalonzo Musyoka deserves a warm round of applause not necessarily because he has made useful proposals — I shall turn to that shortly — but because he has turned the spotlight on an issue which is of absolute importance to us all: Taxation. I am willing to bet a substantial amount of money that all presidential hopefuls will announce their own tax measures, too, borrowing good ideas from each other liberally.

I feel that there is no radical, visionary thinking about the economy coming out of the Treasury. The people in charge there are content to fix what Mr Daniel Moi had undone and create a few efficiencies, but they exist in the vague, misty Kibakian world where kila kitu iko sawa (everything is fine). By drawing up concrete proposals, the Opposition is forcing economic managers to take a closer look at their own policies and this can only be good for those of us who would be happy to seal a few holes in that sufuria.

Having said that, let me turn to the specifics of Mr Musyoka’s proposals. Now, heaven knows I am not an economist. I am just a peasant, on loan from the village, whence I shall return at the expiry of my tour of duty.

I have read Mr Musyoka’s proposals and, whereas I have an ideological problem with them, I must confess that many of them on housing and agriculture are quite good.

But it is the attitude of his proposals in dealing with poverty that I disagree with, especially to the extent that they seek to create a welfare state, a mistake that has been committed all over Africa by misguided socialists. I believe that giving Mwafrika free things is a bad thing; he will not work. There is also no such thing as “free” where government is concerned: It takes from you to give to me and when it does that, you’d like to hear a very good explanation for it.

WHY AM I POOR? IS IT BECAUSE I PREFER to sit in the house, drink busaa and make babies for you to educate?

I think it is bad politics to glorify poverty and excuse laziness by creating non-existent “victims”. Every man is called to work with his hands and care for the issue of his loins. If he has no hands, then every man is called to help him. That is why the man who pulls a mkokoteni to feed himself is my brother. The one who defecates in his own house — and blames it on poverty — just because he does not wish to pick up a shovel and call a few of his buddies to help him dig a latrine has no claim to my taxes or pity. He has made a lifestyle choice and I am happy to respect his wishes. Number one, Mr Musyoka is proposing to shrink the tax net by raising the minimum taxable income from Sh10,000 to Sh30,000 and the earnings at which the maximum rate of taxation is applied from Sh38,000 to Sh150,000.

I AM TOLD BY THE BUSINESS JOURNALists that this will cut government revenue by Sh96 billion. You can comfortably do this if you wish to cut expenditure as well, but if you are proposing a welfare state, complete with welfare cheques — Family Support Coupons — where is the money going to come from? Probably from more taxes from the few who are left in the tax net.

It is like a man who writes to his employer instructing him to cut his salary by half, then goes out and marries an extra three wives. It is a recipe for a heavier tax burden on a smaller group, to let the mass off the hook of paying their own way.

“It is common knowledge that the rate of compliance with our taxes is extremely low,” said Mr Musyoka. Spoken like a true MP, who pays no tax.

True, tax compliance in Kenya is low. I have seen a study which puts the rate of VAT compliance at 50 per cent and income tax compliance at 30 per cent. I think the attitude should be to enforce compliance with the ultimate aim of bringing the rate of taxation down, to encourage investment and production, rather than maintaining the current high rates to give free cheques.

THE FOCUS ON INCOME TAXES IS PERhaps overemphasised, the bulk of our taxes are the so-called consumption taxes. I have seen a study which says that consumption taxes are the equivalent of 10 per cent of GDP, income taxes 7 per cent. It is therefore possible to give income tax breaks to low earners, who are still clobbered by indirect taxes.

“It is my conviction that it is possible to double the current level of tax collections without introducing new taxes or raising existing ones,” Mr Musyoka said. Yes, but is it desirable? As a proportion of GDP, Kenya has one of the highest tax yields in Africa. I think the current thinking is to target a tax-to-GDP ratio of 22 per cent. If you double collections, you will have a tax ratio of 40 per cent, higher than the average for developed countries.

Probably the way to proceed is not for the government to suck up more money but to cap taxes at 22 per cent of GDP and leave enough money in our pockets for capitalism to do its job of creating jobs and wealth.

Mutuma Mathiu is managing editor, Sunday Nation.

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The Grand March: Raila Odinga hits the road

This Sunday Raila Odinga launches what promises to be the most electrifying campaign since 1992 Kenneth Matiba’s “Earthquake”.

Sunday is Raila Odinga’s big day. It is the day he formally launches his 2007 presidential campaign.

And typical of Raila, the launch will be in style – with pomp and colour characteristic of the man. Two media organizations have already been contacted to beam the launch live on television!

Invitations to the ceremony to be at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre have been sent out to everybody who is somebody in Nairobi. Even President Kibaki and First lady Lucy have been sent an invitation! So is retired President Moi.

One message coming from Raila’s grand launch is that he has his mind set on the presidency and nothing is about to stop. Not even the much anticipated ODM presidential nominations. For starters, Raila has made it clear that Sunday function is not a launch for his ODM nomination bid but one for the national presidential contest scheduled for December. Indeed, the invitations to president Kibaki and his predecessor Moi tell as much. That as far as Raila is concerned; he is playing the big league.

Analysts are reading three things in Raila’s grand launch. One, that as far as he is concerned, ODM nominations count for nothing. It is either that ODM pick him as its candidate or he will go it alone all the same. Going by the kind of resources he is investing in his campaign, it is a foregone conclusion that the man is going for it one way or the other.

So why would Raila take such an unilateral move knowing very well that should ODM fail to pick a single candidate to face the incumbent, the party may well have handed victory to Kibaki without him having to drop a sweat?

One explanation is that Raila is putting all his bets on the proposed 50% plus one rule. In that case, a free-for-all contest would serve him right since it would deny the incumbent the required threshold and force a re-run.

In such an eventuality, a strong bid by Raila would serve to place him at a vantage point and most likely emerge as the runner up to the incumbent and hence the man to face in a re-run. That way, Raila would be the single opposition presidential contender without going through the hassles of a party nomination process.

If that is the thinking in the Raila campaign, then there is a triple down-side to it. One, there is no guarantee that the minimum reform package will include the 50% plus one rule. As of now, proponents of the rule have not demonstrated that they have enough numbers to force it through parliament or have enough muscle to arm twist the government to pass it in the style of 1997 IPPG package.

Secondly, in the event of a run-off with the incumbent, there is no guarantee that all ODM presidential hopefuls would rally behind Raila. Should they perceive that he deliberately sabotaged ODM presidential nominations with such a plot in mind, they may as well decide to punish him by throwing their lot with the incumbent. Indeed, it only requires just one of the ODM top contenders to back the incumbent in a run-off and the latter would smile all the way to State House.

The third risk to it is that in the event ODM fails to pick a single presidential candidate and the December contest ends up a free-for-all, angry opposition supporters may decide to avenge the let-down by ODM and vent their wrath by voting for the incumbent or staying home altogether to give the incumbent a walk-over.

If Raila is not putting too much hope on enactment of the 50% plus one rule, the second explanation, analysts believe, is that in hitting the road with pomp, he is aiming at eclipsing everyone else in ODM, a factor that would give him a head start when it ocmes to the nominations.

In the event Raila would either be the man to beat within ODM. Alternatively, it would give him great leverage with whoever the party picks as its candidate.

Already, the thinking in Raila camp is that except for Kalonzo Musyoka, the rest of the ODM lot have no scruples about leaving it to Raila as long as they are adequately rewarded for the gesture.

Indeed, opinion on the ground is still strong that besides Kalonzo and Uhuru Kenyatta, the rest of the ODM presidential candidates are actually Raila’s ‘projects” and would play ball on the day of reckoning.

That also tallies well with thinking in Raila circles that Kalonzo can be ignored because all he can bring on the table is the Kamba.

In the same vein, Raila strategists view Uhuru’s candidacy as of no consequence as long as president Kibaki is in the race, what he once characterized as mere ‘sentimental value in the ODM calculus.

The down side to that kind of strategy is that so far there are no constitutional offices that Raila can dish out to the rest of the ODM key luminaries as an inducement to have them in his camp. And going by Narc’s flopped experiment on pre-election power sharing. Perhaps no ODM presidential hopeful will be too enthusiastic to hedge his bet on a promise which is for now just wishful thinking.

Granted that constitutional offices like the office of a prime minister and more than one vice president may require a majority vote in parliament, the government side would certainly sabotage their creation just to frustrate the ODM.

But being the pragmatic politician he is , analysts have a their explanation and believe Raila could be thinking outside the ODM toolbox altogether.

Could there be a possibility that he is positioning himself as the single biggest (threat to president Kibaki bid for a second term to goad the latter to negotiate as an accommodation.

As of now, one thing is clear. Raila is set to electrify this year’s campaign scene in manner last seen in a manner last seen in 1992 when Kenneth Matiba took the country by storm. Certainly, none of the other presidential contestants, including the incumbent, can beat Raila in election campaign planning. Whether that translates into votes is another matter altogether.

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ODM-K Rivalry - Impact of Raila vision launch

We have no intention of raining on Lang’ata MP Raila Odinga’s parade on Sunday as he rolls out presidential election blueprint at the KICC, Nairobi. We will not even attempt to drizzle on one of the greatest days of his eventful life. Instead, we will reflect on a number of dynamics of the forthcoming General Election. In other words, the day of Raila’s launch will provide a rare occasion for political meditation.

First, we hope that Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi will all be present in the KICC’s Plenary Hall as Raila launches his bid to capture both the ODM-Kenya presidential ticket and the national presidency itself.

It was Kalonzo who detonated the culture of the spectacular launch when he unveiled his Kalonzo Musyoka Foundation. To Raila’s and Uhuru’s explicit surprise and that of the Narc administration, more than 30 Western diplomats, including the American, British and EU envoys, attended the launch at the Hotel Inter-Continental in Nairobi. It was at this event that both Kalonzo and Raila spoke enigmatically about being able to “die” for each other — meaning to strategically opt out of the race in order to boost the chances of one of them.

But the main reason the large diplomatic corps presence, quite apart from his then commanding lead in the presidential election opinion polls, was the fact that, as Foreign minister, he had mediated the Sudanese and Somali crises and was now establishing a foundation to foster conflict resolution and democratic ideals in Africa.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, not to mention the fact that quite a few bridges have been burnt, too. This was the period soon after the Government’s defeat in the referendum on the Draft Constitution. Two years later, President Kibaki’s economic reform programme has borne fruit. He, not Kalonzo, now has a commanding lead in the presidential opinion polls, followed by Raila.

Raila is the fifth ODM-Kenya presidential aspirant to launch his vision. Besides Kalonzo, Julia Ojiambo, Ruto and Najib Balala have unveiled theirs.

RAILA’S CHOICE OF VENUE, THE KICC Plenary Hall, was governed in large part by the security and comfort, not to mention the focus, of a large contingent from overseas drawn from the Kenyan Diaspora and the Odinga family’s wide network of contacts in foreign regimes and international non-governmental organisations.

Of the big-time political players, only President Kibaki had a key public function in the week leading up to the Raila launch: the Labour Day address to the nation from Uhuru Park, Nairobi, where he waived tuition fees in secondary schools and left the Opposition reeling with the timing and the largeness of his gesture. Raila has commented twice on the President’s May 1 move, both times trying to find fault, but coverage of his reactive remarks has been surprisingly patchy.

The first real jitters of the anxiety about the scale and scope of the Raila launch were perhaps voiced by former Vice-President Mudavadi last week when he suddenly blurted out a warning about a latter-day Idi Amin. And then, speaking in Meru, Kalonzo, now dethroned as king of the polls, finally went into fatalistic mode and actually uttered words to the effect that President Kibaki could well win a second term.

One of the greatest lessons to be drawn from a Raila presidential bid is that the minimum reforms process is not the only thing that stands between ODM-K internal cohesiveness and State House. The most petty and petulant individual jealousies, hates, betrayals, fears and loathing also loom large.

The next General Election is not Yes-No territory. The President is not an overbearing, authoritarian hate figure. He is an economist of the old school who says what he means as well as means what he says. There is no equivalent of the Kanu bogey.

Mr Kariuki is a PR consultant in Nairobi

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