My generation, my mission, our destiny…

Dr Frantz Fanon famously declared that  “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”  And for all generations living at any given point in time, a moment comes, an opportunity is presented, when their destiny is clearly visible; when they are loudly and stridently called to do a duty, for themselves and for all future generations. At that point in time, of all the options that they are presented with there will be one that is so obviously right, so compellingly irrresistible; an option which, if chosen, will have such profound ramifications as to irreversibly change the trajectory of the nation.

For the people of the United States, the most recent such moment came in 2008 when they were offered an opportunity to elect to the presidency one Barrack Obama – member of a minority group with a history of oppression, suffering, marginalisation and hopelessness; an individual carrying weird names with intimate family links to a faith that inspires fear, even revulsion, amongst his fellow citizens; an individual with ‘no relevant experience’ and just a very short history of service at the national level; somebody who believed that even the world’s most powerful nation needs the rest of the world! In our journey as a nation, we have come to a fork in the road that offers us choices with equally profound implications.

We have a choice to continue with business as usual, that will see our newly enacted Constitution systematically diluted, adulterated, dismantled and ultimately rendered useless and meaningless; a choice that will guarantee the continued grand theft of public resources, and a heartless and exploitative blood-sucking vampire crony capitalism; a choice that will perpetuate a rude, incompetent, oppressive and dehumanising public service; a choice that will further entrench a political leadership and economic and social elite whose only ideology is ‘self’, whose action platform is ‘me’ and whose only real constituency is ‘I’; a choice for a nation whose security services harass and terrorise, whose schools do not educate, whose health system kills, and whose agricultural policies have institutionalised hunger and malnutrition; a choice that will not save a nation riven with explosive fault lines of ethnicity, economic class and religion.

But we also have a choice to reset our destiny: a choice that will guarantee the full implementation if the contract with ourselves that is coded in our Constitution; a choice that will ensure we achieve takeoff by jealously safeguarding and making the best possible use of our public resources, while nurturing and protecting an entrepreneural spirit; a choice that will ensure our public service is both civil and actually renders service; a choice that will restore principle, honour, integrity and a sense of mission in our political leadership; a choice that will heal the rifts, meld us into one people, restore the nation!

Have you ever looked at something and it looked just right it made you feel ‘this is meant to be’? We can make things right! We can make it happen! Let us fulfil our generational mission and ensure this great nation lives up to its destiny! Let us elect Hon Peter Kenneth.

Let us legitimise all ethnic stereotypes, insults, genocide and extermination!

Three soldiers were killed in Garissa in a manner most heinous – we mourn their loss, and unreservedly condemn those that took their lives. The grief is made deeper by the recent loss of over 40 other security officers in a different part of the country. At about the same time, over ten innocent citizens lost their lives in yet another savage and callous terrorist attack on a matatu in Nairobi. Only the hardest of heart, the totally emotionally dead, the psychotically sadistic, would not feel the pain, suffer the grief and weep with their families, their friends, their relatives and their colleagues. Only the truly callous would not demand and pray that their killers be brought to justice and suffer retribution in equal measure.

But Compatriots, sad as they may be, heartbreaking as they are, these were just skirmishes in a potentially long drawn-out war. It does not make strategic sense to lose the war because of misguided acts of revenge that provide opportunity for the inevitable psychopaths and sociopaths within the security forces to freely exercise their deviant tendencies. It does not make sense to alienate a populace that could be an invaluable source of intelligence to pre-empt future attacks and acts of terror. It does not make sense to wantonly destroy property and livelihoods ‘teaching a lesson’ to pupils that are in all likelihood not even in that classroom at the time of teaching the lesson! It does not make sense that so many Kenyans find the action by our security forces in Garissa following that incident excusable, even acceptable. It is even more scary that so many Kenyans support the acts of the hooligans that attacked ethnic Somalis in Eastleigh in Nairobi following the terrorist attack in the city! Every Kenyan that believes in the rule of law, that believes that an individual should only be punished for their personal breaches of the law and nothing else, should hung their head in shame and grief at these events.

“Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.” Julian Asange, Wikileaks Founder

Modern counter-insurgency is first and foremost a battle for hearts and minds. It is a battle fought in the cognitive and normative realms just as much as in the physical theatre of war. The soldier or government seeking to exterminate insurgents must have the people on their side; they must clearly show the people that the insurgent is a common enemy, a danger to both parties. The insurgent often has an advantage – arising from a shared culture, a shared faith, shared grievances and possibly shared aspirations. When he who seeks to defeat the insurgent punishes the entire community for the acts of the insurgent, they are in effect winning the war for the insurgent – they are winning new recruits for the insurgent, disseminating his propaganda for him, providing incontrovertible proof for the insurgent’s disinformation and misinformation. A counterinsurgency operation that is built on brute force and collective punishment is therefore one that loses the people’s hearts and minds, one that serves the insurgent, one that loses the war!

Above all, the rule of law cannot be achieved through acts of lawlessness by officers of law. Our security agencies are not exempt from the law, they are in fact expected to religiously abide by it! The kind of brutal knee-jerk reaction witnessed in Garissa is the hallmark of rag-tag, drug-sodden, blood-thirsty irregulars led  by genocidal warlords, NOT a professional outfit like the Kenya Defence Forces! You do not enforce the law by breaking the law; you do not restore order by creating chaos and anarchy; you absolutely do not claim to be punishing the guilty when you torture, rob and rape the innocent; you do not fight terrorism by employing the methods of the terrorists! You cannot punish an entire community for the crimes of a few who may or may not be from that community. Indiscriminately violating the fundamental human rights of Kenyans because other errant Kenyans, and indeed quite possibly hostile non-Kenyans, killed Kenyan security agents and citizens is something all right-thinking Kenyans must condemn. We must demand that the perpetrators be held to account – the perpetrators and those that facilitated their crimes, not an entire community that is by dint of ‘easy solutions’ and pedestrian reasoning assumed to be their supporters or fellow travelers! If there are people in Garissa and Eastleigh harbouring these criminals, let them be dealt with to the full extent of the law – but them and only them, not every member of their community.

The doctrine of mass or community punishment entrenches hate and bitterness, subverts the cause of justice, and aggravates a bad situation. If community punishment is indeed the primitive standard by which our laws are enforced, let us wipe out all the people of Kwale, Kilifi and Mombasa because of the acts of MRC; let us vapourise all the people of Tana River for daring to harbour human vermin that kill Police Officers; let us kill all that moves, both human and beast, in Turkana and Samburu to avenge the deaths of those 42 security officers; let us exterminate all the people of Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Nakuru, Laikipia and Nairobi for the crimes of Mungiki; let us commit genocide in Kisumu for the crimes of the Baghdad Boys, Marines and Chinese gangs; let us live nobody alive in Mt Elgon and Trans-Nzoia for the crimes of the Sabaot Land Defence Force! Indeed let us take it a step farther – let us write into the law that all Kikuyus are thieves and incurably ethnocentric; that all Luos are proud, arrogant and lazy; that all Coastal peoples are ignorant and backward; that all Kisiis and Merus are hot-headed and emotional! Let us legitimise all stereotypes and ethnic insults! Once we have done that, we can in all honesty say that what happened in Garissa and in Eastleigh is fair, legitimate and justifiable!

We cannot normalise the relationship between Kenyan communities by advancing or perpetuating stereotypes and inter-ethnic insults. Law enforcement must be done within the provisions of the law – and those laws should be enforced without fear or favour, but also without prejudice. Northern and North-eastern Kenya have been subject to more rampages by security forces than any other part of the country – massively disproportionately so! I am a firm believer in the law, and retribution for those that break the law – but I reject indiscriminate community punishment because it is unjust and ultimately counter-productive.

We absolutely cannot afford to have any part of the country feel so alienated and disenchanted. Every Kenyan must believe they have a valuable stake and an inalienable interest in their country!  It is only those that feel like this, who KNOW that they have invaluable treasures to lose should our country collapse into chaos and anarchy, that will do everything they can possibly do to ensure that the country is protected from all its enemies – both foreign and home-grown.

Of course it would be grievously wrong to condemn the entire KDF for what transpired in Garissa – or anywhere else for that matter where our soldiers have been associated with gross indiscipline and violation of human rights. But both the military authorities and the civilian authorities that have oversight over the military must act decisively when these things happen; that way the message will be clearly sent out that this is neither official policy nor will it be tolerated when it happens. Case in point – a KDF soldier in Operation Linda Nchi was immediately arrested and confined pending investigations after he gunned down a group of Somali nationals at a roadblock . Because of the competent and expeditious manner in which that incident was dealt with, it did not degenerate into the chaos that similar incidents have caused in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere where foreign militaries are engaged. The military and civilian authorities must move very quickly to show that chaos and anarchy are not sanctioned as a means of investigation by either the KDF or Police; they must reassure us that our security and national defence agencies will abide by the law in enforcing the law and when pursuing lawbreakers and enemies of the state. There must be concerted effort to recapture the lost faith of the people of Garissa – and it all starts with a simple apology from the authorities.

The Garissa Community, the KDF, the ethnic Somali community in Eastleigh and Kenyans at large who are suffering fear and uncertainty due to the repeated terrorist attacks are all without doubt feeling a deep anger – the kind of burning anger that only comes from a sense of the great injustice of being attacked for no reason at all; of being punished for crimes that they have not committed; of being victimised by those charged to ensure we receive justice. But this is a time for cool heads and steady hands, a time for sage and thoughtful leadership – a leadership that will prevent a terrible situation degenerating into full-scale chaos and anarchy;  a time to appeal for de-escalation, not escalation. What has happened has happened and we must now work for calm and restraint by those aggrieved –  we must not let anger and bitterness have free reign, for that can only lead to even greater tragedy. Let us demand that the perpetrators be dealt with to the full extent of the law: both the killers of the security officers and the colleagues of those security officers whose misguided actions tarnish the sacrifice of their fallen brothers; both the terrorists that bombed the matatu, as well as the citizens that attacked ethnic Somalis in Eastleigh following the terrorist attack. Let us all urge the people to stay calm.

Let us pray that the people of Garissa and contiguous areas will have the benefit of good counsel, that will keep them safe from the real dangers of crossing over to the other side in their anger and bitterness. Let us pray that we the citizens will, even in our anger and bitterness, reject any suggestion that every ethnic Somali is a terrorist or potential terrorist – and that by some twisted reasoning, every ethnic Somali is guilty of the acts of the terrorists and must hence be punished for them. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will be gained if the situation were to escalate any further, riding on incendiary rhetoric or intemperate statements by the local leadership, government officials, or ordinary Kenyans.

We have been so infinitely proud of the professionalism, the courage and the strategic prowess of KDF – it is my ardent prayer that in a country where we have so little in government to be proud of, KDF are not about to be cast onto the dung heap of infamy by their own misguided actions. Because we have trained them well and armed them well and hence made them potentially dangerous, we impose a higher expectation of conduct and behaviour on our security agents and agencies. Indeed that is why all over the world martial laws are so much more demanding and severe. Our troops have every right to be angry, but they must never be allowed to be vengeful! As officers of the law, they should never by their actions become outlaws – they must never be allowed to act in a manner that is contrary to the law, or that may appear to place them above or outside the law. Let them relentlessly pursue the killers, and let those killers once arrested be subjected to the full force of the law (including martial law if they are combatants), but let not our troops and police officers engage in gross and indiscriminate violations of human rights and the destruction of painstakingly-built livelihoods. For that kind of action, there can be no justification – most definitely not outrage or sorrow or frustration.

“Once the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam) was sitting with his Companions, and one person used insulting words against Abu Bakr (Radhiallahu ‘Anhu) causing him pain. But Abu Bakr (RA) remained silent. The person again used bitter words against Abu Bakr [RA], and still Abu Bakr (RA) did not respond. The third time when this ignorant person hurt Abu Bakr (RA) with his tongue, Abu Bakr [RA] tried answering back. At this point the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) got up. Abu Bakr [RA] asked him, ‘Are you displeased with me, O Messenger of Allah?’ The Prophet [SAW] replied, ‘No, but (when you remained silent) an angel came down from the heaven responding to this man’s talk. But the moment you started replying to that man, the angel went away and the devil sat down. And I cannot sit where the devil is sitting.’ Abu Dawud B41#4878, lifted from Paul Samson

 

Coalitions of our own…

When the axe came into the forest, the trees said: ‘Do not be afraid, the handle is one of us! It will take care of our interests, it will not stand by and watch us get hurt or annihilated!’ The trees similarly remained passive and acquiescent when the match-stick, its head bulging with phosphorous, wandered by. Of course the trees were wrong – the axe did not spare them, despite its wooden handle; and neither did the match-stick, despite its wooden component!

The moment the wooden handle is joined to the iron head of an axe, it is no longer part of the Wood Kingdom – it is as much an enemy to the forest as the sharp iron head is. That wooden handle is indeed the anaesthesia that lulls the trees into a false sense of security – preventing them from taking quick and firm defensive action! The same goes for the little bit of wood that holds the phosphorous match-head!

Our political punditeratti are unanimously agreed that the coming Kenyan election shall only be won through ‘strategic’ coalitions – meaning conglomerations of tribes, slapped together for the benefit of their respective Eating Chiefs. The portion of the carcass of government that is due to each Eating Chief is determined by the value of the votes and counties that he brings to the gluttonfest, hence the quarrels over which counties who controls! And hence the desperation by the Eating Chiefs to obtain and maintain an absolute stranglehold of their respective tribal fiefdoms!

These pundits, the sum total of whose analytical power and prophetic ability is contained in the one word ‘tribe’, assure us that politics is a game of numbers – and that they that have the numbers shall win the contest; and that it does not matter how the contestants build up the numbers – even if it entails incorporating the most repulsive characters that ever walked the political landscape! Indeed, if it adds to the numbers, mortal enemies of the very recent past will negotiate a ‘like-minded’ intimate friendship – because all sins are forgiven in this headlong rush to the feeding trough that is public resources! And if perchance our mutual antipathy has now landed us both in legal trouble, the more reason for a shotgun marriage – we can always say it is part of the reconciliation process! And should the buy-and-sell negotiations collapse, we immediately resume combat with even greater vigour!

Meanwhile the voters that are being liberally traded by the Eating Chiefs, the trees in our political forest, are being lulled into a false sense of security. We are being told that a coalition with so-and-so will take care of ‘our community’s interests’; will ensure that ‘we’ are in the next government; will save ‘us’ from the agony of being in the opposition! And we the tress are not asking why ‘we’ need a proven thief, or suspected genocidaire, or obvious incompetent, or some lackadaisical political wind-vane to protect ‘our community’s interests’! Indeed, none of the trees is even asking why the community’s interests need protection – other than by the Constitution and the statutes of our laws!

The most exciting candidate of the moment – Hon Peter Kenneth is being urged by we that believe he could be ‘The Answer’ to seek a coalition to get him ‘the numbers’ to win the election. Indeed a coalition would be good for Hon PK – but only if it is a coalition of the clean. One of his greatest attractions at this point in time is that he is not sitting in the middle of mountains of political garbage that has been continuously recycled from party to party and government to government over the last 50 years! It is a great blessing that some of the filth that initially seemed to be clinging to his coat-tails voluntarily disembarked! He truly represents a sweet-smelling fresh start – not a semi-deodorised blast from the past to whom the smell of bygone corruptions of all kinds stubbornly clings despite all efforts to present themselves as a new creation! It would be a great tragedy indeed if in our desperation to get him elected we pushed him into sinful liaisons with the very characters we are rejecting by choosing him! Remember, they that lie down with dogs shall surely rise with fleas; and they that fly with vultures and congregate with hyenas must surely enjoy carrion!

Should Hon Peter Kenneth start to bring garbage on board for purposes of getting the numbers and winning the elections, then he will have lost what distinguishes him from the rest of the pack. His party will have become just another squabbling clan of grotesquely misshapen hyenas with a prominent vulture wing. We will then be back to where we have always been – a non-choice between a stinky selection of different dung heaps only distinguishable by the numbers of bluebottle flies hovering around each!

By all means, let like cling to like, and let vultures of a feather flock together – it is common practice that all garbage should be gathered together in one place before setting fire to it! But let us not pour into the new wine-skin that is our Constitution the same old wine that is our tired and tattered politicians! And should we chose to do that, let us forever hold our peace – for we will have lost the right to complain about state-sponsored corruption, lack of security, a poor education system, the dens of death that are our public hospitals, collapsing infrastructure, politically instigated inter-tribal warfare, an incompetent public service, and entrenched marginalisation and disparities of opportunity !

And I shall be voting for ….

A dear brother, Jackson Kimeli, asked me in very unequivocal terms who I would vote for between Hon Peter Kenneth and the Rt Hon Raila Odinga. A straight question deserves a straight answer – but alas, I am afraid I cannot just give one name or the other, for that would imply that these are the only two candidates worthy of consideration!

I am a firm believer that every one of our aspiring presidents must be judged on the basis of their past record in ALL respects, their vision for the country, and their action plan for achieving that vision. Their past record enables us to evaluate the probability of their success in the future, and their vision must reflect our vision as citizens. Their action plan, by laying out their proposed objectives, milestones and ways & means towards both, enables we the voters to judge whether they are merely making deceptive and unattainable wild promises or actually describing an achievable dream. Most importantly, that action plan enables us to hold them to account in the course of their term in office, and at the next election.

I have a reasonable idea of Hon Peter Kenneth’s past – and I have the privilege of sharing an alma mater with him. I know of his exemplary management of Gatanga CDF and the anarchic Kenya Football Federation. I know that he has always paid his taxes, long before the public outcry and long before it became politically fashionable for Members of Parliament to do so! I know that he is a man who has often gone against the general political trend, and that he has had the courage to defy the acknowledged Ethnic Chief. I love the fact that he has no fanatical ethnic constituency, and that his party is, so far, devoid of the usual recycled political villains that litter our political landscape. I know that issues have been raised about his integrity, but that no one has so far presented evidence that is even remotely believable to backup those allegations. From his website, I know that he has an intriguing outline of an action plan for the future of this nation – an outline that I find attractive and compelling.

I also have a reasonable idea of the Rt Hon Raila Odinga’s past – I know that he stood up to power at immense personal cost when lesser  men and women  chose the path of cowardly silence and/or collaboration – lesser men and women who now stand against him with amazing intrepidness. I know he has been consistent in his demands for an expanded democratic space, even as he has often been accused of being a ‘dictator’, whatever that may mean in the circumstances in which the accusations have been raised. But I also know that he is a man with a fanatical ethnic constituency, and there are those in his entourage that have derided and even harassed those that are seen to be opposed to him – he is in fact an Ethnic Chief! I know that his party has within it persons with a less-than-stellar political past, and whose integrity has been called to question. I know that issues have been raised about his personal integrity – but I am also aware that despite him being probably the politician with the most enemies in Kenya, none of these enemies, some immensely powerful, have been able to initiate and/or sustain any criminal case or other legal censure against him for these alleged acts of indiscretion. I know in as much as there are those that accuse him of being the primary cause of the bloodshed of 2007/8, there are also those that insist that peace was only restored because he was willing to surrender his claim to the presidency and accept an obviously inferior position. I know that there are those that from time to time cite the abortive coup of 1982 against him, without consideration of the political environment in which that ill-fated event happened. I know what his action platform was for the 2007 election, and have a good idea of what it is likely to be for the 2013 election. It is a platform as good as any. I am also aware of those that cite the desperate circumstances of his Kibera Constituency – making it appear as though the poverty and desperation in that constituency is unique, or that it is his personal responsibility to end it.

Having considered all these, I reject those that say Hon Peter Kenneth’s quest for the presidency is a lost cause and I also reject those that say that the Rt Hon Raila Odinga should ‘retire with President Kibaki’, or that he cannot possibly win the presidency! As for whom I would vote for between the two? I must hasten to say my choices are not limited to the two!  I will vote for the candidate that will most likely place the nation above self; that will promote national unity above ethnic hegemony; that will be prepared to declare their personal wealth and how they acquired it before they step into office; that will be ready to suspend their active participation in private business for as long as they are in office to avoid even the mere impression of conflict of interest; that is prepared to subject themselves to the proposed integrity audit, whether or not the laws have been successfully diluted and adulterated as to make them useless for this purpose; that is not seeking political alliances just for the purpose of winning office or seeking office for the express purpose of subverting the cause of justice; that is willing to bring to justice by fair and timely due process the crooks, the thieves and the killers that litter our political past,  without converting the same into a political witch-hunt or vendetta; and that will courageously and resolutely implement the Constitution, including reversing the adulterations already committed against it, with a view to addressing the entrenched poverty, inequality, and marginalisation.

I will vote for the candidate that has most likely sat where I have sat, that most likely shares my fears and aspirations, that most likely understands the pains of personal definition by ethnicity! I will vote for the candidate that has very personal reasons to desire and work for a future Kenya that is prosperous. Above all, I will vote for the candidate that is most likely to entrench and nurture individual sovereignty and the rule of law! Which of these two best suit my profile for Kenya’s 4th President? I dare say I have given the answer!