Archive for July 2012

George Kimani: Enact the Leadership and Integrity Bill Urgently

Parliament should urgently the Leadership and Intergrity Bill to operationalize Chapter six of the constitution.

Such a law shall vividly define the ethical standards and qualification of aspirants to political office. It will also safeguard the candidates from miscarriage of justice.

The recent interviews for potential seekers of public offices have witnessed panelists requiring the applicants to avail clearance certificate from various public organizations. Documents such Credit Reference Bereau, Income Tax Compliance and HELB certificates have been sought.  These types of demands are oppressive and discriminative.

Financial ability or statues should never be used as a barrier to public service. A clear legal frame work would outline who should run for various political offices.

There is no justification to bar a person who has been unable to discharge a contractual obligation with a bank or a financing body.

Similarly citizens who genuinely have been unable to settle financial liabilities with other departments courtesy of financial challenges should not be restricted from seeking political offices. 

Financial transactions that have contractual obligations binding parties should be subject of the civil law. Indeed some HELB loanees have never had productive financial engagements.

Majority have had difficulty sourjourn in the informal sector barely surviving. This is attributable to poor government policies, corruption and nepotism. Kenyans continue to experience hard economic realities and political office holders have not been spared.  

Unequitable elimination criteria end up as a class profiling. It criminalizes victims of poor financial standing.

However individuals with a history of criminal liability, documented aspects of abuse of public offices and undesirable moral attributes must never occupy political offices. 

This should be the threshold. Enactment of the Law on leadership and intergrity shall remove any opaqueness in so far as vetting of candidates shall be concerned. 

This will avoid stifling democracy and rule of law.

George N. Kimani, Nairobi 

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Koki Muli: Let’s be prepared to die defending the right to freedom of expression

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democratic rights and freedoms. It is extremely sad and outrageous that I have to defend this right. We won our right to freedom of expression and enshrined it in our hard won Constitution. 

However, eternal vigilance is necessary; nothing exemplifies this fact as the Miguna Miguna situation. He wrote his memoirs and exercised his freedom of expression, which he and many others fought and suffered for. Yet, some Kenyans will not allow him the right to hold a different opinion from theirs or to criticise.

Since I have not finished reading the memoires, I shall not venture to comment on their substance for now. I will comment on what we can learn from peoples’ reactions, after its release. It is normal for those who feel aggrieved by the contents of the book to seek legal redress. It is, however, illegal and untenable for anyone to issue death threats against Miguna by burning his effigy or a coffin with his photograph – it is against the constitution and the law. The police should take action against such people. 

We fought for our new Constitution so that we can live in safety and security and not in fear. No Kenyan is above the law or below it. Human rights activists understand, the price many have had to pay to win all of us the freedom of expression and hold opinions even if they differ from ours.

The level of intolerance and indignation in Kenya is shocking. I am still awaiting action from the Police and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission. There are clearly “hate speech” and death threats being expressed against Miguna Miguna; why has no one done anything to protect the “messenger,” even if they don’t like the message?

We may not agree with what Miguna says but we must be prepared to die defending his right to say it. This is what freedom of expression and opinion are all about and those who claim to be human rights defenders should know and practice this. We should also know that, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere as Martin Luther King Junior said. 

Also, when one of us suffers insecurity, all of us potentially suffer; if a group of people can threaten the security of Miguna and get away with it; then we should be afraid that our Constitution and the institutions it establishes cannot protect us.

We learn also that we are far from being a mature democracy. The right to freedom of expression upholds the rights of all to express their views and opinions freely. It is essentially a right, which should be promoted to the maximum extent possible given its critical role in democracy and public participation in political life. 

True democrats must allow this right to thrive; this is the measure of greatness.

Sometimes, it is painful to be the recipient of severe criticism but leaders must open themselves to this kind of scrutiny, that is why in “Invictus”, the character playing Mandela questions his own capacity to meet the expectations of the people – that is called “servant leadership” – when you genuinely serve others and put others before yourself, even when they don’t think you are a god.

The amount of hate and resentment directed towards Miguna is also unhealthy for those who direct it – as one Hollywood writer put it: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”.

Curtailing some extreme forms of expression, in order to guarantee protection of other human rights is always a necessary and fine balancing act. Extreme forms of expression include “hate speech”, incitement to violence, intimidation, and threats. As we are witnessing them, I still can’t believe how far we have regressed!

The writer is an elections and constitutional law expert and lecturer, South Eastern University College

Courtesy of the Standard on Saturday

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Unfair War against Second Hand Clothes - Second Hand Clothes Traders Association

Unfair War against Second Hand Clothes
Statement by Second Hand Clothes Traders Association

The second hand clothes association is a body that brings together all players within the second hand clothes business in the country. These range from but are not limited to, retailers, small distributors, wholesalers, transporters and importers of second hand clothing. The association further attracts thousands of other auxiliary small scale businesses in various parts of the country where second hand clothes markets exist and which support the sub sector.

Second hand clothes trade dates a couple of decades back when it was introduced mainly by missionaries concerned about the plight of many not able to afford decent clothing. The sub sector has continued to date to offer quality and affordable clothing to millions who may not afford the pricier alternatives in the market.

This is especially so in a country where more than 50% are self employed and minimum wage levels are at around Ksh. 7,000 per month.

The industry has over the years grown to employ directly and indirectly over 5 million Kenyans, as witnessed by many second hands markets in all parts of the country. Second hand clothes businesses have also not only absorbed many hitherto jobless Kenyans, but have particularly improved the lot of women and youth due to the low capital nature especially for retail level entry.

As an association, we are apprehensive of some politicians who have sought to paint the sub sector in negative light, as one that is illegitimate, that benefits a few and finally as one solely responsible for the plummeting fortunes of the cotton industry in the country.

We hold that nothing could be further from the truth and particularly find the allegations malicious and a distortion of widely known and documented facts regarding the overall clothing industry in the country.

We would further wish to state the following,

I. We greatly commend the government’s pledge to slash latest duty increases in second hand clothing as outlined in the 2012/2013 budget speech and hope that the matter will be expedited.

This indeed shows sensitivity to thousands of small scale traders who had been driven out of business by the high taxes and more importantly millions of Wananchi who found the second hand clothes no longer affordable soon after the duty hikes

II. The second hand clothes sub sector is among key employers in the informal sector, supporting millions of Kenyans, mainly the youth and women, who would otherwise be jobless and would possibly turn to criminal activities to earn their living. It’s frightening to imagine all these thousands kicked out of their livelihoods and desperate in our streets and villages. The sub-sector has also absorbed many jobless graduates, retirees among other sections of our population.

III. The second hand clothes sub sector continues to provide decent, affordable and quality clothing to millions in our population, who cannot afford new clothing. With monthly minimum wage levels of around Ksh. 7,000 in the country, it is easy to appreciate the tough balancing act, many Kenyans have to daily endure as they struggle to put a meal, clothing and a roof over the heads of their loved ones. It’s extremely cruel to make the burden heavier for these citizens. It would also be wrong to deny our people ‘the right of choice’ which is a key characteristic of a free market. We must ask ourselves, why is it that so many people prefer second hand clothes when we have many new clothing outlets in the country?

IV. The second hand clothes industry is not responsible for the tumbling fortunes of cotton. Well documented mismanagement of the industry, outright diversion of farmers’ payments and incoherent policy are mainly to blame for this. Further, importing second hand clothes doest necessarily mean we can’t have a flourishing cotton industry. Countries like India import second hand clothes but are also able to produce and export new clothes as well.

V. The association fully supports the government agenda of reviving the cotton industry. We however believe this shall not succeed if not based on a well thought out plan that incorporates fair return for cotton farmers in the country, professionally ran ginneries that produce high quality cotton and coordinated support for designers, tailors, marketers and generally all players of clothes made from locally produced cotton. As traders, our main interest in business is a fair return for our investment, be it in new or second hand clothes.

VI. It is our considered opinion that revival of cotton industry will not happen miraculously by a simple ban of second hand clothes. It’s a widely known fact that currently the majority of the new clothes trading in Kenya are principally cheap imports from Asia and other parts of the world and not from locally grown cotton. What sense does it make to replace second hand clothes with poor quality imports from other parts of the world, while killing the livelihood of millions of our small scale entrepreneurs?

VII. The second hand clothes sub sector is a legitimate business and not a ‘cartel’ as espoused by certain partisan politicians who represent other conflicting interests. The sub sector contributes an upward of Ksh. 7 billion shillings in custom duty, business licenses and business tax to the national kitty. We further note that second hand trade is widely spread within various sectors of our economy and not only in clothes. Why haven’t the insensitive politicians taken issue with the widespread second hand importation of motor vehicles in the country for instance?

VIII. There is a widely held misconception by some that the country is producing excess cotton. It’s an open secret that local textile manufacturers such as those in the Export Processing Zones are already struggling to meet their current cotton demand following decades of cotton neglect. An article in the Business Daily on July 4th titled ‘Rivatex Upgrades Machines’ reports that the revived textile maker Rivatex has resorted to importing cotton due to lack of adequate locally grown cotton.

The envisioned transition from second hand clothes to new clothes for the majority must be gradual and wisely navigated, otherwise simply kicking out second hand clothes before the cotton sub sector is fully re-organized can only create a market vacuum.

Finally the association supports and greatly believes in the promise of Kenya’s economic growth print, the Vision 2030 that aims at lifting millions out of poverty and expanding the middle class. This will enable the majority of our people to easily afford new clothing while millions of our small scale traders will access affordable credit to upgrade their businesses to accommodate new and emerging fashion trends and tastes.

To suggest we can hastily command millions to buy what they may not afford is naive and insensitive at best and pitiless and cold hearted at worst. It brings to mind the words of Queen Marie Antoinette during the French revolution who upon learning the peasant were rioting for lack of bread retorted, ‘Let them eat cake instead’

Second Hand Clothes Traders Association
‘Affordable, decent and quality clothing for all’

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Unlock Police Reforms Quagmire - NCCK Press Statement

Unlock Police Reforms Quagmire
The National Council of Churches of Kenya met for two days between 2nd-4th July 2012, at Jumuia Conference and Country Home, Limuru, to reflect the progress made so far with regard to the Police Reforms. 

We were guided in our reflections by the words recorded in 1 Peter 2: 13 – 15 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”
We recognize that for the Kenya Police Service to adequately and efficiently serve Kenyans, a facilitative framework must be provided to them. For this reason, it is of great importance that Kenyans support the Police Reforms for the betterment of our nation.
At the outset, we express our sorrow and pass condolences to the families of all police officers who have died in the line of duty. We especially condole all Kenyans who lost their loved ones during the terrorist attacks at churches in Garissa last Sunday, including two police officers. May God grant you peace beyond measure in your grief.
Progress In Police Reforms
We commend the passage of the National Police Service Act 2011, the National Police Service Commission Act 2011, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority Act 2011, and subsequent appointment of the members of the Oversight Board.
We are however concerned that the delay in the appointment of the members of the National Police Service Commission, the Inspector General and the two Deputies has blocked further implementation of the reforms.
We recognize that the challenges within the Police Services cannot be resolved by institutional, legislative and policy reforms alone. More needs to be done to improve service delivery as well as the welfare of the Police Officers themselves.
Our Recommendations
It is important that the National Police Service adopts the highest standards of professionalism, improves public trust and confidence, embraces ethical values, and is facilitated to do its work. We therefore make the following recommendations:
Recommendations to the Government
1. That the Coalition government urgently appoints a substantive Minister and Assistant Minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration in view of the security risks facing the country.
2. That the government urgently recruits 30,000 additional Police Officers to improve service delivery.
3. That the coalition government and parliament unlock the deadlock surrounding the appointment of the members of the National Police Service Commission.
4. That the appointment of the Inspector General and his two deputies and the Director for the Criminal Investigations Department be fast tracked.
5. That the government increases budgetary allocation to the National Police Service to facilitate acquisition of appropriate operational equipment, motor vehicles and to finance routine services at the Police Stations around the country.
6. That the government improves transparency and accountability in utilization of resources allocated to the National Police Service.
7. That the government channels resources directly to the Police Stations where they are most needed.
8. That the government develops operational plans to implement the Disaster and Conflict Management Policies.
9. That the Government implements the final phase of the salary increase and improve the housing for Police Officers.
Recommendations to the police officers
1. That all Police Officers embrace Reforms as a way of improving service delivery and regaining public trust.
2. That all Police Officers embrace Community Policing and work with the public as partners in peace and security issues.
3. That the National Police Service develop a common strategy to cope with the ever increasing security challenges, moreso as we face the next general elections.
4. That security agencies develop a joint strategy to deal with the security challenges posed by the terror attacks directed at Kenyans.
Recommendations to Kenyans
1. That all Kenyans support the Police Reform process.
2. That all Kenyans engage in community policing in cooperation with the Police
3. That all Kenyans embrace values that will enhance security and peace at the community level.
Our Commitment
Recognizing the importance of a trusted and effective police service in Kenya, the Church commits to:
1. Cooperate with the police in enhancing security in our neighborhoods.
2. Partner with police stations near our churches in the spirit of community policing.
3. Lobby the government and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that police reforms are realized.
We pray that the Police officers will deliver quality services to Kenyans and that they will be facilitated with
sufficient resources. We urge that the government and all Kenyans will support and cooperate with the police
in their work.
We pray that God will protect all police officers as they work to ensure the safety of all Kenyans.

Signed on this 4th day of July 2012 at Jumuia Conference and Country Home, Limuru.
Oliver Kisaka
Deputy General Secretary

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