Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

It’s 8 O’clock on Monday morning when I start putting this piece together. A little happier than I have been about Mondays in the recent past – happy because today there will be no street protests in my city, Kisumu.

Mondays have been marked with street protests called by Kenya’s opposition coalition CORD over electoral reforms ahead of the 2017 presidential elections. Though the protests were meant to be peaceful, they have resulted in the death of five people, several injuries caused by bullet wounds, loss of billions of shillings due to closed businesses during the protests and destruction of property.

It does not end there.

The street protests being championed by the opposition coalition have renewed the deep rooted ethnic animosity between some of Kenya’s largest tribes. In the run up to the stolen 2007 presidential election, political animosity pitted the Kikuyu (who mainly supported President Kibaki’s PNU at that time) against the Luo and Kalenjin (who supported ODM leader Raila Odinga). Today the Kikuyu and Kalenjin are together in the ruling Jubilee Coalition while the Luo and several other tribes make up the CORD coalition under the leadership of Mr. Odinga.

The rivalry between the Luo and Kikuyu is something that has been exploited by politicians for their own political gain and it dates back to the immediate post-election period when Kenya’s founding President Jommo Kenyatta (father to Kenya’s current President) allegedly betrayed a pre-independence MoU with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (father to CORD’s Mr. Odinga). The rivalry would become amplified when Kenyatta fired Jaramogi as his Vice President in 1966.

This political rivalry was revived in 2005 after a short stint in which the two communities were in power together and successfully defeated former President Daniel arap Moi’s KANU candidate (Uhuru Kenyatta). The relationship between the Luo and Kikuyu would take a nose dive over another alleged betrayal of an pre-election MoU between former President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga.

The political campaigns in the run-up to the 2007 elections would ignite the ethnic mistrust between three communities; the Luo and Kalenjin on one side and the Kikuyu on the other side. The Luo and Kalenjin would accuse the Kikuyu of being responsible for all their economic problems.

When the election results were disputed, the ODM Party would immediately call for mass protests that quickly degenerated into full-blown ethnic conflicts that led to the death of more than 1,300 people and the displacement of about another half a million people.

Before it got that bad, there were the reckless political statements that incited communities against each other. There was the planning. The mass action called by the opposition (whose victory was stolen) provided a conducive environment to execute.

After a supposed resolution of the conflict following international interventions under the leadership of Dr. Koffi Anan, cases against those thought to be most culpable began at the ICC. One by one the cases were dismissed until no one is currently facing charges.

This has been interpreted back in Kenya as :”people can get away with these crimes.”

Fast forward to today, the war drums similar to those that were beating in 2007 have started beating again. Last night I watched two videos that were sent to me via social media. In one of the videos a Kikuyu politician  is heard proposing the shooting dead of opposition leader Raila Odinga and adding that, “the Luo will throw stones for a week and then move on.”

That statement has sparked angry responses, most coming from the Luo community who are also demanding action against the said politician. One of the reactions I read goes:

” I put it to you MK and those who share your caustic tongue that if Raila is ASSASSINATED, Luos will not DEMONSTRATE. They will FIGHT! An all out war of HONOUR!”

Another politician at the same function called for the mass circumcision of Luos (Luos are one of the few African communities that do not circumcise their men). What should worry anybody about that statement is the fact that forced circumcision was one of the ways in which Luos who were living in predominantly Kikuyu regions were tortured during the 2007/2008 post election violence.

My examples might have revolved around statements from Kikuyu politicians because that is what triggered this post but for the sake of being fair it is worth noting that even the tribes on the opposing camps have made extremely dangerous statements as well.

One comment on Twitter aptly describes my feeling about this whole conversation though:

You see, politicians can only get away with this because their supporters allow them to. They cheer them on because deep down that is what our society is.

These statements are coming as the CORD coalition intensifies it’s push for electoral reforms through mass protests and just months to the 2017 general elections. Kenya is at cross-roads and even though the situation is calm today, the volatility can be felt in the air.

After 2007/8 we said “never again” but it looks like we forgot too fast. Maybe because we never really saw someone pay dearly for their actions – on that we blame the ICC.

This post was written for http://www.africablogging.org – a network of African Politics bloggers.

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Even as the AU announced that it will not allow “another genocide” with strong indications that a peace keeping force will be sent to quell the violence in Burundi, Kenyans took to the streets to protest against the “state sponsored” currently being witnessed in Burundi.

White Friday

Rallying each other on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter using the the hashtag #WhiteFriday4Burundi, a group of young Kenyans walked from the iconic Tom Moboya statute in the heart of Nairobi to the Burundian High Commission.

The peaceful demonstrations were to call on the Burundian government to stop the senseless  killing of civilians in Bujumbura.

It also served as a means of shining the spotlight on the crisis in the landlocked East African nation that is now on the brink of a full blown civil war.

The demonstrators and the online community using the hash tag #WhiteFriday4Burundi asked tough questions to world leaders and citizens.

Others called for international action against President Pierre Nkurunzinza.

Bold messages like the one above are however not just coming from Kenyan protestors. The silence of the international community on in the crisis that is now threatening to spiral out of hand has been noted even by the East African Law Society who are now calling for investigation by the ICC into the developments in Bujumbura.

In a letter to ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the East African lawyers’ body say they are concerned that very disturbing images continue to come out of Burundi despite a media ban being in place.

“It is upon this platform, and in accordance with Articles 15 and 54 of the Rome Statute which empowers the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to conduct investigations propio motu on the basis of information on possible crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, that we call on the office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to commence investigations into possible commission of crimes against humanity by the government of the Republic of Burundi against its citizens,” reads the letter.

Petition

The Nairobi protesters also had a petition which they read out to the press.

The Petition drafted by the East African Peace and Security Women Network among other things wanted the AU and UN to initiate measures that will bring the violence and human rights violations to a stop.

They also sought for protection of women and girls from sexual violenece.

Due to mounting pressure such as this one staged by Kenyans, the AU seems to be going back on it’s “non-inteference on internal matters policy” as it is considering sending 5000 troops to Burundi. The AU is however still non-committal as to when this force will be in place – this as innocent civilians continue to die.

Though the demonstrations were only in Nairobi, Kenyans on social media from across the country have consistently stood with the people of Burundi even as their own government remains tight lipped on events unfolding across their borders.

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Uhuru corruption

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So serious was Uhuru’s statement this time that the vice was not only termed as a “sin” but declared a threat to national security.

On March 25th 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation from parliament buildings, making his 3rd ever State of The Nation adress.

In his 7,346 worded speech (punctuated by several standing ovations), the President made what would be know as the strongest ever indication that he was sincere in his fight against graft.

His tough statements, were welcomed by pundits, supporters and foes but there were those like me who saw that there was going to be a tough journey that needed to be walked.

243 days later the President was making yet another statement – a tough talk on corruption. So serious was it this time that the vice was not only termed as a “sin” but declared a threat to national security.

Kenyans are tired of tough talk

After the much anticipated speech, Kenyans in their usual character poured onto social media platforms to “analyse” the president’s tough talk on corruption.

These two examples are from thousands of tweets from Kenyans who think Uhuru’s fight against graft is a big PR joke meant to hoodwink Kenyans who have the past weeks shown their displeasure with the government’s handling of corruption issues.

This speech and the presentation of corruption reports and an anti-bribery bill coming just days after the resignation of the powerful Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru who was accused  of being involved in the theft of Ksh. 800 is more than just a mere coincidence.

These statement’s expressed by “Kenyans on Twitter” show that the country is tired of speeches and want action taken against perpetrators of graft.

We do not lack laws, implementation is the problem

While some of the suggestions in the report on fighting corruption and the bribery bill are very commendable, it should be noted that Kenya’s problem with the war on graft has never been about the unavailability of strategies or legal frameworks.

Kenyan’s agree that it will definitely take more than good laws – we already have enough starting with the biblical “ten commandments” (or Torah in Islam):

Across the border in Tanzania for instance, newly elected President John Magufuli is leading from the front in fighting corruption and wastage of public resources.

Kenyans are now increasingly afraid that Tanzania which has been lagging behind other East African states will finally surpass Kenya due to the good will of the current regime.

As the Pope lands in the country tomorrow, I hope that he will have a strong message, to the leadership of this country – Good thing the President is Catholic and we hope he will listen to the wise counsel on service delivery from the “Holy Father” who has exemplified what true servant leadership is all about.

If he refuses to listen then let’s hope that Pope Francis will inspire a modern day miracle – this country is badly in need of one because we do not have too many options.

All said, that was a good speech but as far as the intentions to actually defeat  corruption is concerned, we are not buying his speech:

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The widespread exam leakage should be a reminder to the education stakeholders that the sector is in dire need of reforms.

The widespread exam leakage should be a reminder to the education stakeholders that the sector is in dire need of reforms.

While releasing KCPE results almost a year ago, Education CS Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi announced the abolishing of school and candidate ranking in national exams. This announcement would be the basis of a raging debate on the pros and cons of such a move for a couple of days that followed.

Today, as both form four and class eight students sit for their national exams, I still believe in my stand that the move was a first step in the right direction. The ills that schools were engaging in to score good mean grades were not only unethical but bordered on outright obscenity.

However just like I said in that article the move was just but a first step. 

Today as these students complete their final exams, the credibility of our national examinations is sharply coming into question after the nation witnessed massive exam leakage for both primary and secondary schools final exams. Even as the ministry and the examinations council tried to conceal the magnitude of the leakage, papers were still circulating on social media as recent as Monday evening.

Nation media group for instance managed to get their hands on the Mathematics paper sat on Tuesday more than 12 hours before students sat for it.

Treating the symptoms

While it is actually very commendable that the government’s security agencies moved swiftly and  arrested some of the perpetrators, without looking deeply into why such mass leakages occur in the first place and why teachers, parents and those charged with protecting the integrity of these exams actively participate in stealing the exams will be like prescribing panadol to a patient suffering from Malaria. All though the symptoms might be suppressed for a while, it does not completely cure the patient.

While it still remains to be seen if the ministry will keep up to it’s policy of not ranking students and schools, there is still a lot left to be done to ensure that we have a properly designed education system.

Overhauling the university admission process

I am writing this piece sitting at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg waiting for my flight back to Nairobi from South Africa where I have been attending two conferences; the last one of which ends tomorrow at The University of Witwatersrand. This university which is now hosting a investigative journalism conference was a few weeks ago the center of student action demanding for reduction of tuition fees.

While Kenyan university education is fairly affordable for government sponsored students, admission to the university continue to be based on bed capacities. According to the Kenya Universities and Colleges Placement Service (KUCPS), students who score C+ and above deserve to be admitted for undergraduate degree programs at public universities.

That is however usually in theory rather than practice. What happens is that because of the limited places available the cutoff points usually rise to B+ with special considerations to marginalized groups.

Coupled with competition for admission to lucrative courses like medicine and law, students (aided by their teachers and parents) will go to unhealthy lengths – which includes cheating: to secure admission.

Expanding the capacities of universities to take more students will reduce the pressure on students  to get A and B grades – as much as that would also be very desirable.

Moving away from the first and second steps of overhauling our education system, there needs to be a strengthening of middle level colleges to offer technical training for students.

In an attempt to increase the capacities of universities to hold more students, the government embarked on an ineffective approach that involved transforming technical colleges in the country which had for years produced some of the best skilled workforce into university colleges.

This move not only robbed the workforce of middle level technicians but also reduced chances of bright students who score between B (plain) and C+ (plus) getting opportunities for tertiary institutions. This in effect means every student sitting for their secondary education will be fighting for the KUCPS admission places in public universities.

The situation is not any different for KCPE candidates

The suggestion to have students continue straight from class eight into form one without a national exam will ensure a100% absorption and eliminate exam cheating at this level.

So it will not be surprising that students who were scoring Cs and Ds will next year get mean scores of As and be admitted to medical schools and law schools across the country where the reality of our failed education system will check in as these students will not be able to cope. That is however not the tragedy – the real problem is that the students who really deserve to be the next crop of doctors will have been left out – if that is not obscene I don’t know what is.

This is definitely not the silver bullet that will solve Kenya’s education sector process but ultimately we have to start somewhere if we are to achieve our goal of streamlining the sector. Sorting out the exam and related issues amounts to that “first step” in the direction of creating an education system that can not only compare to the very best of the world but also provides the job market with people who have the right skills.

The widespread exam leakage should be a reminder to the education stakeholders that the sector is in dire need of reforms. That the policies that were formulated more than four decades ago can no longer cope with the demands of the modern environment.

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