Archive for the ‘Kenya’ Category

Uganda decides

Presidential Candidates hols hands before the beginning of a live Presidential Debate held at Kampala’s Serena Hotel on Saturday. PHOTO: monitor.co.ug

In under a week from today (Monday) Uganda goes to the polls to decide whether incumbent president Yoweri Kagutta Museveni who has been in power for over three decades will continue ruling the “pearl of Africa” for another five years or that he will hand over power in a new dawn that will see the country’s leadership shift to the opposition.

No doubt that this is a defining moment for Uganda whichever way ‘the dice rolls.’

These elections are however not just significant for Ugandans, across the border in Kenya people are closely following the developments. Kenyan media outlets have sent correspondents to Uganda who give live updates during news bulletins.

Kenyans are also regularly commenting about developments in Uganda on social media.

Why is this election important to Kenyans?

Uganda is a key partner in the East African Community with very strong ties to Kenya. A lot of Kenyans are working in Uganda and likewise there are so many Ugandans working in Kenya due to several agreements between the two countries.

John Okello sells car spare parts at Kisumu’s industrial area, he regularly travels to Uganda to source second hand car parts and he explains why Kenyan’s care so much about Uganda.

“Unlike Tanzania, Uganda has been very welcoming to Kenyans and a lot of us do business there or go there to get supplies. Look at Kisumu streets today, how many vehicles do you see bearing Ugandan registration?”

Esther Waliaula works with an NGO in Jinja providing bicycles to volunteer health workers and students in remote areas of Uganda to improve access to healthcare and basic education. She is from Western Kenya and is currently back in the country because of the uncertainties that could come with the hotly contested elections.

“I have only been in Uganda for a month and I largely hope that the elections will be peaceful so that we can soon go back to work. I however came back because I know how African elections sometimes go and you do not want to be caught up when violence erupts in a foreign country.”

Dr. Cyprine Oduogo an International Relations lecturer and dean at the School of Development and Strategic studies at Maseno University agrees that a stable Uganda is very key for Kenyans’ economic interests.

“Uganda being a landlocked country relies a lot on Kenya for the movement of its goods and a lot of Kenyans do business in Uganda or with Ugandans. A stable Uganda is most definitely in the entire region’s best interest.”

The Connection between Kenyan and Ugandan politics

These elections are not only significant to people who work in Uganda or travel there for business. There are domestic political reasons as well.

Kenya will be going to elections too in about a year from now. Kenya’s opposition politicians and their supporters have had very frosty relationships with Museveni’s regime. At the height of the violence that occurred in Kenya after the disputed 2007 elections, Museveni is alleged to have provided police officers that backed up the Kenyan forces in Kisumu and other opposition strongholds and helped Kibaki hold on to power. To many Kenyans he helped rob them of their victory.

“Museveni was party to our stolen victory in 2007. He was a close confidant of President Kibaki and now it’s time for him to go home too,” adds Dick Okech, a resident of Kisumu and supporter of opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Dr. Odugo (quoted earlier) thinks that Museveni has immersed himself into Kenya’s ethnic divisions and sections of Kenyans would welcome a politically neutral leader of their western neighbor.

“Kenyans would most definitely want to see a more neutral leader in Uganda who does not align themselves to the various tribal factions of Kenya.”

Even though President Kenyatta has remained silent on his stand regarding the elections across the border, his deputy who is a close ally openly campaigned for Museveni in Eastern Uganda where a huge population from his Kalenjin tribe reside. That was probably the biggest indication of President Kenyatta’s support for a Museveni win and more reason why Kenyan’s allied to the opposition are against a Museveni win.

While it’s impossible to ascertain whether Kenyans in support of Kenyatta’s administration also support a Museveni win, a lot of Kenyans think he has led the East African nation for too long and it’s now time to change guard.

Museveni is attempting to hold on to power like his counterparts from Rwanda and Burundi, a move Kenyans on social media openly showed their displeasure with.

As far as over staying in power is concerned, your guess on where Kenyans stand is as good as mine.

The politics around the disputed Migingo island in Lake Victoria have also not helped the relationship between Museveni and opposition supporters who mostly hail from Western Kenya. In 2008, Museveni’s claim to the small island led residents of Kibera in Nairobi to uproot sections of the railway connecting the Kenyan coast to Uganda thereby disrupting delivery of goods to the landlocked nation.

“Museveni is widely seen to exhibit irresponsible leadership when it comes to his frequent claims to Kenyan territory. These are things that the average Kenyan does not take lightly even if the disputed land is just a small island,” says Dr. Oduogo.

To others though a win for opposition candidate Dr. Kiza Besigye is symbolic of things to come in the greater East Africa region including Kenya. In Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete peacefully handed over power to John Pombe Magufuli (a close confidant of Raila Odinga) and an opposition win in Uganda would be a much needed morale boost in the Kenyan opposition rings.

Linda Okado ia a member of the ODM Women’s league and supports a Besigye win in the Thursday elections. To her an opposition win in Uganda  will be an affirmation that it’s possible to defeat an incumbent in Africa.

“The challenges the opposition is facing in Uganda are similar to ours. A win there would mean that it is possible for transition in free and fair elections.”

A view shared by Dr. Oduogo who thinks that the opposition in Uganda is facing an impossible challenge and ” a miraculous win” for the opposition in Uganda where “democracy is in a bad state” coming hot on the heels of a change of guard in Tanzania will be a sign of hope for the opposition politicians in Kenya and their supporters.

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SANTA CRUZ, BOLIVIA - JULY 09: Pope Francis greets the attendees of a conference as part of the II Meeting of People's Movements on July 09, 2015 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Photo by Amanecer Tedesqui/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Pope Francis greets the attendees of a conference as part of the II Meeting of People’s Movements on July 09, 2015 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Photo by Amanecer Tedesqui/LatinContent/Getty Images)

In less than two weeks, Pope Francis will kick off his maiden tour of the African continent when his plane lands at Jommo Kenyatta International Airport on 27th November.

This visit is not only significant to the 12 million Kenyan Catholics but to the entire population of Kenya (The Pope will also be visiting Uganda and the Central African Republic).

The Pope’s visit comes at a time when the country is suffering economic turmoil brought about by the near collapse of the tourism industry following increased travel advisory by key tourist source markets as a result of the ever present Al-Shabaab terror threats.

Tourism

A visit by the leader of the world’s largest Christian Church coming hot on the heels of another visit by “The leader of the free world” is nothing short of a stamp of approval that “It is safe to visit Kenya.”

The high profile visits which culminate with that of British Prime Minister David Cameron early 2016 will go a long way in returning confidence among tourists. Frequent terror attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa and most recently Garissa University where 147 people lost their lives significantly drove down Kenya’s earnings from the sector which was for a long time the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.

It is my hope that the Pope will use this visit to remind the world that terror is a problem in Africa just like it is in the Western world where hundreds of lives have also been lost.

France, one of the world’s top tourist destinations has been a victim not once, but several times with the last being this weekend where 128 people were killed in six different locations in Paris.

Throughout his visits outside Vatican, his message has always been consistent – mankind’s duty to help the poor and less privileged. This is a message he needs to remind the West of, that it does more harm issuing travel restrictions to victims of terror like Kenya while not doing the same when Western Nations face equal or even worse terror threats. 

Unity

This visit comes at a time when religious tensions between Christians and Muslims are at an all-time high following increase in terrorism activities. Unlike his predecessors, the Pope is known for pushing a conciliatory agenda and visiting a region with a significant population of Muslims should provide him with an opportunity to reach out to Muslims and set the stone rolling for a process of inter-religious unity in the fight against extremism.

This approach will go a long way in defeating the Al-Shabaab propaganda that has been aimed at creating tension between Christian and Muslims. This I hope will be a key message during his public mass to be held at The University of Nairobi.

Religious unity though is the least of Kenya’s problems, this country is now far more divided along ethnic lines than it were in 2007 when hundreds died as a result of post-election violence. Today “leaders” have perfected the art of spreading hate messages at public gatherings – even doing so in the name of God.

Social media has been used to divide this country along two major ethnic/political blocks. The prosecutions going on at the ICC and the arrest and prosecution of hate-mongers locally has done little to deter people from engaging in spreading hate messages.

Across our borders, ethnic cleansing is rife in Burundi even as the world turns a blind eye the same way it did two decades ago. It is my hope that “the people’s Pope” will use this visit to call on world leaders to stop the violence before it grows out of proportion.

Tolerance

The biggest problem facing the world today is tolerance to divergent opinion which has given rise to religious extremism, ethnicity and human right abuses.

Even though the Catholic Church does not accept homosexuality in its doctrines, Pope Francis has widely been seen to be accommodative to the LGBT community compared to his predecessors – this has even ruffled some feathers in the Church.

If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” – Pope Francis.

While we do not expect him to push for the legalization of homosexuality, Pope Francis will almost definitely encourage African governments to deal with homosexuals in more a humane manner. The Pope is on the record acknowledging that criminalizing homosexuality is extreme.

Disappointment 

I am however disappointed that the Pope will not be visiting West African countries that have fought and defeated Ebola. This was a good time to show solidarity with that part of the continent and appreciate the men and women who volunteered – risking their own lives to save others.

Africa needed him to show compassion with the victims we lost to Ebola, their families and those who got infected but fought and defeated the deadly disease. I hope it’s not too late to change his schedule.

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For some reason Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are finding it difficult to believe that they are now in charge of the government and keep blaming Raila Odinga and his CORD coalition for their failure to deliver on their per-election pledges and the rudimentary expectations (if I may call them that) that Kenyans have of their government of the day.

With their reaction of taking every podium opportunity they get to respond to CORD, the two leaders and politicians in their corner are falling exactly into CORD’s trap  and at the end of they day failing to deliver on the mandate that they were given by over 6 million Kenyan voters on 4th March 2013.

The biggest concern Kenyans have right now is their security and the government has to be seen to be doing something to tame the crime wave in this country. Far from that though, the government and it’s operatives have taken every opportunity they have to recklessly swing the blame in CORD’s way. By doing that they are in fact making us think twice about who is really in charge of this country.

CORD is in the opposition and it is their work to ensure that they keep the government on it’s toes by challenging it’s decision whether they have a reason to or not – to them it’s all politics. To the government of the day though, it should be a different ballgame. There should be a clear distinction between delivering services that the citizenry expect of their government and politics.

The situation as it is right now is very regrettable as the government is always playing catch-up to CORD’s scheme and if they don’t change this by the end of five years they will have achieved nothing. CORD on the other hand will have successfully ensured that they have achieved their goal – making it impossible for the government to deliver. As things look, Jubilee is spending all their energy chasing its own tail.

It is even a bigger problem when public servants are drawn into this either out of eagerness to please the master or under instructions from the master as was witnessed in the first press statement issued by Ole Lenku in the aftermath of Mpeketoni attacks and the most recent one by Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa where both blamed Raila Odinga and ODM for the current spate of insecurity at the coast.

At the end of the day, Uhuru and Ruto must draw the line between playing politics and actually governing this country. If CORD, ODM or Raila is to blame for some of this things then we want to see action, people taken to court and charged with treason or whatever charges but not names and blame games being thrown left and right at political rallies and press conferences. Forgive us but we expect more from our Commander in Chief and his deputy.

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I have listened to politicians, parents, teachers and religious leaders speak in public forums about the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2014 and one thing is very clear, they are all against the provision of sexual and reproductive health services to our children.

The minister of health is on record saying that the new bill will promote the erosion of our cultural values among the young generation.

What nobody is talking about though is why this bill was introduced in the first place. This bill is not just about provision of contraceptives to children, in fact it is only in section 33 & 34 where it speaks about reproductive healthcare for adolescents and because that is where this noble bill is causing controversy, allow me to talk about the provisions of those sections.

Section 34 States:
“(l) The Board is consultation with government institutions and other bodies shall:

(a) facilitate the provision to of adolescent- friendly reproductive health and sexual health information and education;

(b) facilitate the provision to adolescents of confidential, comprehensive, non-judgmental and affordable reproductive health services;

(c) develop policies to protect adolescents from physical and sexual violence and discrimination including cultural practices that violate the reproductive health rights of the adolescents; and The Reproductive Health Care

(d) facilitate adolescents access to information, comprehensive sexuality education and confidential services.”

Those opposed to this bill claim that it will promote immorality among our youths, what they don’t say is that our youths are already “immoral” as we speak. Statistics have shown that girls as young as 9 years old are dropping out of school due to early pregnancies – some caused by the same teachers, parents and religious leaders who are against this bill.

The most recent report on the rates of new HIV infections indicated as much as there was an overall decline in the rate of new infections, the was actually an increase in new infections amongst teenagers therefore begging the question, how do we save our children?

Our parents, teachers and religious leaders should appreciate the fact that our children don’t listen to them. Parents rarely have time to talk their kids as they spend long hours in search of money and further education that by the time they get home the kids are already asleep. With the digital age our kids are more exposed to harm online than our parents were decades ago.

What nobody is telling you is that there is nowhere in this bill where it talks about a blanket distribution of contraceptives to children. The crossest to that would be part “b” of section 34 which states:  “facilitate the provision to adolescents of confidential, comprehensive, non-judgmental and affordable reproductive health services.” It is however noting that this part of the bill follows the part that talks about provision of adolescent friendly sexual health information and education.

What that bill indeed seeks to do is empower our children to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health by themselves. We refuse to accept the fact that they are already making that decision but to their own detriment. Empowering them to make those decisions will involve making them understand that sex is not the right thing for them at this stage but also equipping the few who will still want to engage in it anyway with the information they need to be safe. This way we will be protecting future generations from HIV and unwanted pregnancies which will definitely result in a cycle of poverty.

It is a tough choice to make I understand, but remember we are choosing between allowing some of our kids to die and equipping them with the information they need to make the right choices.

Your leaders need to understand this when time comes for them to vote for the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2014. Start this conversation and let your leaders know that you care about our future generation.

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                 The views expressed in this blog post are my own

Dear Raila Amolo Odinga,

I sincerely hope that my letter finds you in good health. I have written many letters before, some to Mwai Kibaki, others to Uhuru Kenyatta but none ever to you.

Today though I finally feel the need to do so. Allow me to explain to you just how far we come. your father and I were great friends back in the day, I know you are wondering how come noting that I am barely 30. You see I went to school with two of your younger brothers and a niece of yours. We always had lunch on Mondays at Jaramogi’s Milimani, Kisumu home and he was always glad to have us. I admired him a lot especially because my father almost literally worshiped him. When he died it was a huge blow to us but when you rose to take his place you filled almost every void he left in our hearts.

I have always known you as “the People’s champion” … those years you spent in detention for this country is a sacrifice that we will always cherish and appreciate. You remember I said I wrote to Kibaki and Kenyatta before but let me say if it was not for the free speech that you fought for I would not be able to do so.

Your accolades do not just end there, in 2007 when they stole your victory you sympathized with the thousands that shed their blood in the violence that followed and accepted to be a junior partner in a coalition government for the sake of peace and stability in this country.

Allow me to remind you at this juncture of the words of the former Vice President George Saitoti, words he uttered when you joined KANU. He said “there come a time when a nation is more important than an individual.” May the good Lord rest his soul in eternal peace.

That time that the good Professor talked about is a time like we are currently having in Kenya. Mr. Raila, however well your intentions are, this country is bigger that you and me.

I do not refuse the fact that we need to sit down and talk about our issues as a nation, but those talks cannot happen with ultimatums being thrown left and right. National dialogue is not about You sitting down with the president. It is about Kenyans of all walks of life sitting together – including religious leaders, civil society groups, politicians and ordinary citizens.

We got as much stake as you in where this country moves to Mr. Odinga and I humbly submit to you that you kindly reconsider your “Saba Saba” calls for the sake of this country.

We are still recovering from the effects of post-election violence and we do not want to butcher each other again. Our security is failing us as a nation but it is time you allowed the government to put it’s house in order then we can have this all-inclusive dialoge.

I could have said much but I think it is better that we deal with one thing at a time. Remember that this country will never forget your good deeds if you put if first but we will most definitely never forgive you if you take us to the dogs. How and what we remember you for is all in your hands now sir, make the right choice.

Yours Sincerely,

Another Blogger

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This week Africa and indeed the whole world is celebrating the life and times of one of the greatest men that ever walked the surface of the earth – Nelson Mandela. A man whose legacy can only be mentioned alongside the likes of Mother Teressa, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr.

That his death came at a time when Kenya is celebrating 50 years of self rule is more than a coincidence. I remember watching the national prayer service held in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday and one quote from one the priests stood out for me: “While the living close the eyes of the dead, it is the dead who open the eyes of the living.”

Nelson Mandela’s death should be an eye opener for us and the rest of the continent. Like the Christians live by the principle of What Would Jesus Do (WWJD), Africans should start living by the principle of What Would Madiba Do (WWMD).

In the past few days I have watched a lot of documentaries on Mandela’s life (thanx to Channel 200 on Dstv) and I can’t help but draw parallels to the Kenyan situation. When Madiba was released from prison, he came out to a deeply divided society. Divisions both racial and tribal.

Even though he had every right to seek revenge for the atrocities committed against him by the colonial administration he chose the path of peace. Embracing the same people who took him away from his family for 27 years…embracing them so much so that he gave them a share in his government.

It was not an easy ride for the statesman…in 1993 just before he became president, South Africa saw the first ever ethnic violence that followed disagreements between the Zulu tribe who wanted to set up their own autonomous Kingdom and the ANC supporters. That violence cost the lives of more than 4,000 South Africans. This was worse than the post election violence we had in Kenya….

Madiba still sought for negotiations and eventually brought the Zulu to the table with one of their own even running for President alongside him.

The biggest lesson we can learn from the fallen soldier is that of forgiveness and inclusion…as Kenyans we need to forgive one another for past atrocities for crimes we committed or for those that were committed by people purporting to represent us. Then moving forward we need to include everybody in the development plans for this country.

As divided as South Africa was Mandela found little things that united his people…SPORTS was one of them. He used football, rugby and cricket to rally South Africans for their nation. The results were indeed amazing. I love the unity I see when we support Shujaa Sevens team at the IRB circuit, the joy our athletes give us when they race and win medals abroad…our lovely footballers. What we need is a leader who will take advantage of the opportunities that these sporting events provide and use that to unite our people.

So instead of mourning a man who has lived his life so well, we should ask ourselves whether we are ready to take up the Mandela challenge. This country badly needs a Kenyan Mandela who will deliver us from the bondage of ethnicity, greed and haughtiness. It’s time for another Mandela to rise up – In Kenya.

Happy 50th Birthday Kenya….Long Live Nelson Mandela.

 “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela

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I have learnt how to do the Kemboi jig…seriously! My pal Dino Okech said he’ll get a tutor so I just decided to beat him at it…well, the biggest Lesson I have learnt from BBA Stargame and the 2012 Olympics is the value of the Kenyan flag and perhaps the National anthem. Well I am yet to hear our national anthem in the competitions so far and I am only going to talk about the flag.

From the first day Prezzo walked into the BBA house, he literally carried our flag with him. Many of us were not even supportive of him – personally I have never been a fan. The competitions however turned me into a follower because Prezzo was not just Prezzo. He was our ambassador, he wore our national colors at any given opportunity – this brought about the other side of Prezzo that none of us knew – the patriot. Now don’t get me wrong, just wearing the national colors does not make you a patriot. I know a lot of fools who wear those colors to every campaign rally but have never represented anything patriotic about this country. Prezzo proved through actions that he was indeed a patriot and within no time he had the support of Kenyans from all walks of life from the Prime Minister to Low Life Bloggers like myself. We were writing. Posting, Tweeting #TeamPrezzo and Voting for the “President”. Even when it was evident that he dint win the coveted USD 300,000, Kenyans still had his back and are so proud of him.

On the same night that Prezzo failed to capture the coveted Ksh.25M, another Kenyan was winning us gold in London. The most memorable moment was when Ezekiel Kemboi broke into his signature jig after winning the 3000M steeplechase final. That was a proud moment for Kenya and we all united in celebrating his achievements because he was carrying our flag, and he carried it high. That was indeed a moment for Kenya and as the whole world watched, we broke into celebrations irrespective of our tribes. I don’t think those from Rift Valley celebrated than most of us – no we were all celebrating on facebook, twitter, instagram and don’t forget the age old dancing around the house – which I did.

What really happens when it comes to politics. How powerful are our politicians that even when our athletes and artists prove to us that we are all black, white, red and green – Kenyans. They still find away of brainwashing us and make us go back to our usual Kamba, Maasai, Luo, Kikuyu, Kalenjin (etc ) cocoons?

I so much loved it when we were all about #TeamKenya and #TeamPrezzo irrespective of our tribes. I was so excited about our athletes and Prezzo’s winning despite the fact that none of them belong to my tribe – and so was most of us.

So as the elections draw near, let us maintain the spirit of #TeamKenya and everything we learnt about that from #TeamPrezzo, let us not allow our tribal inclinations determine how we decide the future of our beloved country.

So I ask: How will you personally benefit from having a president who is from your tribe? If you have an answer to that question, please hit the reply button and share your thoughts. Have yourselves a lovely week. May God Bless Kenya.

Photos courtesy:internet sources. I do not own copyright to these photos