Fighting Terrorism in the Region: President Museveni’s Approach

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Clip from K24 – Speech by President Y. Museveni during the 52nd Madaraka Day celebrations in Nairobi

During the Madaraka Day celebrations, the President of Uganda who was a state guest to the celebrations gave a rousing speech in Kiswahili on how Kenya can defeat Al Shabaab. This eye rousing speech was heavily borrowed on his earlier opinion piece which he had written and circulated to newsrooms in the region. The opinion piece titled President Museveni gives rare insights on Al Shabaab which was published in Mail Guardian Africa

One of the things that caught my attention watching this fete was the mode of delivery used by the Ugandan President. The President used Swahili to deliver his speech. Normally Ugandan’s do not speak Kiswahili but President Museveni spent a couple of years in Kenya during the years of turmoil in Uganda. So, he is rather well acquainted with Kenya’s lingua franca but that said it shows the lengths the President went on to explain his philosophy of fighting terrorism to the common folk. His speech won a lot of admiration both online and offline and it does go on to cement his credentials as a former general and as a master strategist who led a guerrilla war on Idi Amin administration. It shows he still has it. One of the main problems with the fight in terrorism in Kenya has been both on the strategy (mostly the lack of it) and disconnect between the authorities and the citizens. The State has resulted in bastardizing the Somali community.

‘Foot in Mouth’ Strategies
After the Garissa terror attack, the administration scored a number of own goals such as the remarks by the Deputy President in which he was quoted indicating that the state wanted to close Dadaab Refugee Camp. The state has since revised its position on closing Dadaab but this was as a result of international condemnation and lobbying by the United Nations Office in Nairobi.

The other preposterous idea by the administration in Kenya was the building of a wall on the Kenya Somalia border. It looked like Kenya was going to join the leagues of Israel-Palestine, East-West Germany and US-Mexico wall barriers. In what is expected to be a 700 Kilometres stretch, the state seems to be going retro on its fight on Shabaab. It is a no brainer that this money would be better spent equipping and beefing up the security personnel along the Kenya-Somalia border plus fighting corruption along the border posts.
Kenya’s great wall as it has been ironically referred to, is well highlighted and analysed here

The other strategy which was pursued by the state immediately after the Garissa attack was the closure of Dahabshiil, the money transfer platform which mainly used to remit money to Somali by Kenyan Somalia’s and Somali’s in the diaspora. The rationale used by the state was that this was a conduit used to send money to Al Shabaab in Somali but this has been perceived by the Somalia community in Kenya as blanket condemnation of the whole community. This strategy would be akin to closure of M-Pesa platform in Kenya which is used to remit money to and from urban-rural areas.

Lastly, the state has clumped on the bank accounts of NGO’s which work or are associated with the Somalia community. Instead of the state cultivating a positive relationship with these NGO’s affiliated or working with the Somalia community. Especially to find out why youths are being radicalised and seek subtle ways and solutions of fighting this endemic, the state has embarked on a path of distancing itself with the Somali community. Intelligence is crucial in the fight against Al Shabaab and there is no way the state will win the war on terror is it seeks to alienate itself from the Somali community. As President Museveni noted;

The one factor that we must emphasize is intelligence – tactical (in a locality) and strategic (in the whole country and the region). – President Museveni

The above measures taken up by the state are not consistent with rationale and strategic thinking. One can only be hopeful that the Kenyan administration can be schooled in the ways of the general as espoused in the Madaraka speech of the Ugandan President which focused on strategic ways of dealing with the Al Shabaab. That is why this speech comes at a very crucial time and is most welcome. Also, the fact that the President Museveni chose to pass this message in Swahili was a strategic communication coup in my opinion. This is because he was able to reach many people in the republic. National celebrations are usually given ample airtime by the state broadcaster and are expected to reach all parts of Kenya.

The other outcome which is laid bare by the Ugandan President’s visit to Kenya and his fight on terror speech is the power play in the region.

President Museveni: First among Equals in the Region?
In my consented opinion, Museveni’s speech further indicates that Ugandan President is considered as first among equals by his peers in the East Africa region. President Museveni happens to be the senior most statesmen in the region. During his speech, he did indicate that he had called on his Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta and advised him on how to tackle on the Shabaab menace.

This is especially important considering the events taking place in the region. Whereas Kenyan President seems to represent the future of the region and Africa in general and managed to attract a lot of pull with his ICC predicament. When it comes to matters of security, and as long as we have Al Shabaab menace it seems President Museveni will always be relevant. However, on economic frontier the Kenyan President seems to be taking the lead on these matters together with his Rwandan counterpart. The two seem to represent a dynamic duo which is keen on pushing on a developmental state paradigm to give relevance to their rule, democratic or otherwise.

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Guest Post: Balancing between freedom and security; the dilemma Kenya faces

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By Dr. Washington MacOdingo

This post originally appeared on the Standard Newspaper on May 25, 2015 and the consent of the author has been granted to republish it on this platform.

There can never be freedom without security, and there can never be security without freedom. The tricky part for any government is striking a balance between the two for the enjoyment of both. President Uhuru Kenyatta is famed for uttering the words, “Security Begins With You”. At the time, many people (myself included) frowned at the idea of the State throwing back its core responsibility to We, the People. How could the President ask us to be responsible for our own security yet we pay taxes so that the State can protect us? Kenyans on social media went wild with rage. The President had lost it, we said. Then the attacks on Garissa University College happened. From reports, these were well-calculated attacks. The terrorists clearly understood their target. They knew there would be prayers at 5.30am. They knew where the bulk of the students were.

They knew where the vantage points were for cover. They had probably been to this compound. It is even likely that some students had noticed strangers, but dismissed it as normal. A similar situation probably happened at Westgate Mall. They could have rented a stall in the mall for months. There were probably local security guards that had befriended them as they studied the mall and stockpiled weapons. It is feasible that had wananchi in these instances been just a little bit more vigilant, the attacks would have been thwarted. None of this happened. As a result, more than 200 people lost their lives in these incidents. Just recently, a bandit attack in Turkana left over 60 people dead. Without knowing the specifics, it is clear that such an attack could not have been planned and executed unnoticed. Someone knew it would happen and kept quiet. When you walk on Tom Mboya Street, you are not going to spend the entire time talking on your iPhone 6 oblivious of your environment. If you did that, you would not have possession of that phone by the time you reach half the distance. Your arm would probably have suffered a fracture in the process. In the same vein, it would be pretty stupid to park your car unattended in Grogan overnight and then wake up to blame the Government when you find the chassis suspended on stones. My point is, we must play our part in the war against insecurity. We must be suspicious of strange people around us. And if one of the terrorists in Garissa (a learned lawyer with a promising future) is anything to go by, the next terrorist maybe that guy or lady you hang out or strike a deal with.

Of course, the State must also take its responsibility to protect Kenyans seriously. It must gather proper intelligence and act on them promptly. It must investigate all reports from wananchi and take prompt action where the reports turn out to be credible. But to do this, the State needs certain tools; and wananchi need to talk to security officers and provide information. This is why the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2014 (now Act) was introduced. Among other things, it provided for the National Intelligence Service officers to be given powers to arrest and detain suspected terrorists. It also proposed to allow the National Security Organs to intercept communication for the purposes of detecting, deterring and disrupting terrorism. It provided for the limitation of information the media can release on ongoing investigations so as not to jeopardise the outcome. It provided for stiff penalties to public officers facilitating the entry of criminals into the country. It provided for the admission of digital evidence, mostly to ensure that surveillance material can be used in trial. It also created an offence for possession of weapons for terrorist purposes, possession of weapons in places of worship or public places, possession of weapons by an institution or place of worship and radicalisation. Unfortunately, some of these provisions were struck down by the High Court. The Bill (now Act) sought to give national security organs the tools to detect, deter and prevent terrorist activities against the People of Kenya. In doing so, it may mean that once in a while the privacy of your conversation may be infringed if you are having a phone call with a suspected terrorist or terrorist financier. It may mean that the next time you are entering a public place, your right to privacy may be infringed by having a search done on your person. It may mean that the security organs, on reasonable grounds, may stop and search your car in traffic if there are credible reports that an attack could occur in heavy traffic. But the inconvenience of a disconnected call, or a few minutes of search, or the occasional traffic stop is nothing compared to the realistic possibility of being blown into pieces by a terrorist. The Constitution may guarantee these rights, but these rights are only enjoyed by those who are alive to read them.

We are at war – and it is not a conventional war. We have an enemy we don’t know by name. We don’t even know what this enemy looks like. We cannot even begin to pretend that we know where the next attack is likely to be in or come from. It is precisely for this reason that we must all give just a little bit of our freedoms so that the national security agencies may have the necessary tools to protect all of us from those amongst us who intend to do us harm. The President is right – absolute freedom means nothing to dead people. And as he has said before, “Usalama unaanza na Wewe”.

The author of this piece, Dr. Washington MacOdingo is consultant based in Nairobi. He has worked for the government, the private sector, NGO’s and CSO’s. He is also a FES alumni – Political Leadership Development Program (Intake II, Class of 2005/6).

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Fighting Graft in Kenya: The President’s War on Graft, Stepping Aside and Other Short Stories

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Corruption is one of the vice’s that has been affecting the Kenyan Economy. If you ask me, I would say the rains started beating us after the implementation of the Ndegwa Commission. This commission was tasked to investigate whether public servants ought to be allowed to engage in business while still public officers. The commission found it worthwhile to recommend that civil servants should be free to engage in business activities provided they did that during their free time. It is from this point that I can authoritatively say that corruption in the public service raised its ugly head and there has been no turning back henceforth.

Although during the Kibaki administration, there was the initiative which was assented in to law where Civil Servants are required to declare their wealth. In doing so, it was thought that officials can easily compare the declared income and sources of income – if the wealth of a public official does not correlate with the sources of income then chances would be that the said official is dealing with some underhand dealings. Also, the crafters of this legislation thought that such legislation would prevent public officials from engaging in underhand dealings.
However, the main shortcoming of this legislation is that the wealth declarations have not been made public and as such public scrutiny does not exist. This renders the whole exercise useless.

2015: The Year of Fighting Corruption?
At beginning of this year, the President in his New Year’s speech addressed the issue of corruption and his administrations resolve to fight this vice. In this speech the president said;

Corruption destroys public trust, undermines democracy and the rule of law, and creates space for organised crime and other threats to security. Tackling corruption will see private sector grow, attract investment, and ensure benefits of growth shared by all Kenyan citizens.

Corruption remains a major obstacle to our national development agenda. Government processes will become more transparent.
In addition to the menu of policy and institutional frameworks, my Government will digitise public service transactions to make them more transparent and thereby eradicate the opportunity for corruption.

The New Year’s address to the nation typically lists the agenda of the president. It was worthwhile to hear the president speaking out loud against corruption and making this one of his agenda’s for 2015.

Fast forward to March this year, in his State of the Nation Address, corruption was one of the Presidents talking points. On this occasion the president stated;

When I spoke to the Nation on the eve of the New Year, I assured Kenyans that in 2015, my administration will deal firmly with corruption.
I have continuously engaged with all institutions charged with the responsibility to deal with corruption, and firmly expressed my expectations, and the people’s desire, that their respective mandates are executed robustly, urgently and without fear or favour.

I pledged my administration’s full support, as well as my own personal support, to any actions that will reverse the course of this cancer eating at the soul of our motherland. Rather than unite against this common enemy of our people, these institutions have elected to be mired in personal and institutional conflicts that have chipped away at their legitimacy and brought disrepute to the State.

From the commission charged with the responsibility in the fight against corruption, Parliament’s premier oversight committee, the corridors of justice, and the security organs charged with the safety of this nation, Kenyans are witness to the betrayal of their trust.

When our Treasury was processing our first sovereign bond, this country was forced to settle a foreign court judgement to pay shadowy entities 1.4 billion Kenya shillings. When I addressed the nation on this matter, I pledged that my government would do everything in its power to ensure that we recover all that was due to the Republic. From that moment, I took a personal interest and asked to be briefed on a regular basis of the progress on Anglo Leasing related investigations. My administration also supported the investigating authorities in obtaining support from a number of friendly foreign governments.

These investigations bore fruit. However, obstacles have appeared threatening the prosecution of the perpetrators. The Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission is now embroiled in infighting and finger-pointing, a state of affairs likely to cripple the investigative capacity of the institution with the likely outcome of subverting the course of justice. From reports I have received, I strongly believe that this is a further attempt to subvert the successful prosecution of the Anglo Leasing cases.
As I have indicated, constitutional officer holders, State Officers and every public servant, are bound by the values enshrined in our Constitution. They are required to uphold the highest standards of personal integrity in the discharge of their official functions.

In view of the oath of office that I took as the President of this republic, let it be known that today I draw the line. No one will stand between Kenyans and what is right in the fight against corruption and other monstrous economic crimes.
I have asked the Attorney General to liaise with the Council on Administration of Justice to focus on coordination within the Justice, Law and Order sector. The Council must ensure the efficient and speedy processing of corruption-related cases, including hearing such cases on a daily basis.

I direct the Attorney General to review the legislative and policy framework to ensure the effective discharge of Constitutional imperatives related to integrity.

The highlight on this occasion was the below directive to EACC;

Three weeks ago, I issued Executive Order Number Six (6) on Ethics and Integrity in the Public Service. In it, I directed any civil servants to get in touch with my Office should they receive any pressure to engage in unethical or illegal conduct regardless of the status of person pressuring them to do so. I want to reiterate this personal commitment, which is also provided for in the Constitution.

The latest report I have received from the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission contains a catalogue of allegations of high-level corruption touching on all arms and levels of Government. It is the view of the CEO of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission that the institution and especially its Secretariat are under siege because of the nature of the cases they are currently investigating. I know that Parliament is seized of this matter and urge them to deal with it expeditiously.

(a) Today, I take the extra-ordinary step of attaching the afore-mentioned confidential report from the CEO of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission as an annex to my annual report on Values to Parliament.

(b) Consequently, I hereby direct that all Officials of the National and County governments that are adversely mentioned in this report, whether you are a Cabinet Secretary, Principal Secretary, or Chief Executive of a state institution, to immediately step aside pending conclusion of the investigations of the allegations against them. I expect the other arms of Government, namely the Legislature and the Judiciary, to do the same.

(c) The investigating authority must ensure that the Director of Public Prosecutions has received the subject files without delay.

(d) I also want to caution that this should not be an open-ended process, justice must be expeditious, as justice delayed is justice denied. Therefore, this exercise should be concluded within the next 60 days.

(e) Let me reiterate that it is not my place to determine the guilt or otherwise of any of the people mentioned in the said report or any other. However, the time has come to send a strong signal to the country that my administration will accept nothing less than the highest standard of integrity from those that hold high office.

After this speech the talk of town was to know the contents of the list of shame as it was referred thereafter. This list was made public shortly after when it was tabled in parliament. The names in this list included Cabinet Secretaries, Governors, Public Secretaries and even Ambassadors. The President gave a directive that those featured in this list ought to step aside to give way for investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

This was a big one by any standards and I could compare this to the corruption purge in the Judiciary undertaken in the first years of President Mwai Kibaki administration. This was led by Justice Aaron Ringera and mainly focused on removing the Moi era judges who were corrupt by all circumstances, since that was the entrenched culture by then. However, this purge had a political dimension as well, which were also getting rid of judges who were anti-NARC (then the ruling coalition).
Stepping Aside and Intrigues at the EACC.

As directed most of the high ranking government personalities featuring in the list of shame stepped aside following the President’s directive. However, most analysts felt that the said stepping aside was not enough – the listed individuals needed to resign. However, not in Kenya!

The other interesting phenomenon was the intrigues at the body responsible with investigating the corruption allegations and forwarding them to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The CEO and his deputy engaged in a public spat which was widely reported in the dailies. This was the public face of the body leading the war on corruption. There were feuds reported as well inside the commission. These fights took an ugly turn when parliament recommended to the president the investigations of the CEO and his Deputy. A tribunal was thereafter appointed by the President as enshrined in the constitution however the CEO and Deputy resigned and never faced the tribunal.

The 60 days given to the EACC lapsed May 24, 2015 and the EACC has forwarded some files to the DPP for his considerations as to whether to pursue charges against the said high ranking individuals.

So far no one has been arraigned in court yet but names of those to be arraigned in court are in public domain.

My Reading of this Whole Exercise – Fighting Corruption
The President seems to be genuinely interested in fighting graft. This is further emphasized by the joint communique issued by the President, British High Commission and Embassy of Switzerland. This communique was issued after the envoys of Britain and Switzerland visited the President at State House to show their support to the war on graft.

However there seems to be some complications even at the presidency level. The Deputy President’s name has been floated in a number of corruption allegations. Unlike the President, the DP has a history which traces back from his days as a youth winger in KANU during the Youth for KANU (Y2K) days. The President on the other hand is what you would call a Prince (being the son of the founding father). The two were joined in the hip by the ICC cases something that is no more for the president whose case was terminated for lack of evidence (in what CSO would consider hazy circumstances). The DP’s case is still ongoing.

An interesting distinction was in the way the Presidency acted once the list was made public. This list contained name of a PS based in the office of the Presidency based at State House and an aide to the DP. The President relieved the PS based at State House his duties while the aide to the DP stepped aside and has not been fired as of today. This speaks volumes that inside the administration there might be differences of opinion on how to fight graft. However, the President has stood by his DP on claims of corruption leveled against him. This would possibly long game on his part – most of the Kenyan’s believe that DP’s case at the Hague might result into a conviction which would relieve the President of his alliance but at the same time allow him to keep the empire both of them built.

In the coming weeks we can expect either a reshuffle of the cabinet or a filling in of the positions left by Cabinet Secretaries that are formally charged in court. The Public Service Commission on the other hand has been conducting interviews for possible replacements in PS’s dockets.

As to whether corruption will be brought to a grinding halt especially on the senior most levels, as far as I am concerned the jury is not yet out on this matter. But it will be interesting to see how this purge on corruption will end. Given the fact that the country is pursuing a number of big projects most of the replacements to these high offices will in a matter of fact be taking poisoned chalices.

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Détente in Nairobi

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US Secretary of State John Kerry during a CSO meeting at Pawa 254 Nairobi | Photo via Pawa 254 Hub

In the run up to the 2013 General Elections in Kenya, Johnnie Carson, then Assistant Secretary of State and top ranking diplomat in charge of Africa quipped that choices have consequences. A phrase I think the State Department regrets in foresight. This is because this statement was one of the clarion calls used by the then presidential candidates Uhuru and Ruto to mop up support for their election to the highest office in land in Kenya.

At that point in time, both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were facing charges at the International Criminal Court for their actions and/or inactions (presumably) for the Post Election Violence that begot Kenya after the 2007 disputed polls.
Fast forward to today. The president’s case has been withdrawn by the prosecutor for lack of evidence and the stepping down of witnesses in some rather bizarre circumstances plus disappearance of others. The Deputy President’s case however is still on going at The Hague.

Once Uhuru Kenyatta was elected as president the west which had indicated before the elections that should the duo be elected as President and Deputy President, they would have what they referred to as ‘essential contact’. What that meant in the diplomatic language! However, this did not stop the newly elected president from discharging his duties.
In one of his best appointments to date in my opinion, the new administration tapped Amina Mohamed as the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign affairs. Previously, she had been an assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of United Nations Environmental Programme. Basically, she had a good understanding of how diplomacy works.

In the first year of the UhuRuto administration, we witnessed high level diplomacy from Kenya, where the country went full throttle to lobby the postponement of the then president’s case at the ICC. The African Union spearheaded the adjournment of the ICC cases at the United Nation’s Security Council which was unsuccessful.

However, the president in his first year in office visited key strategic countries, Russia and China, the two permanent members of the UN Security Council. China which has had substantial investments in the continent welcomed the president in Beijing with open arms. China, which also is an exponent of non-interference policy, seemed to take up the cue from African Union and they voted for the postponement of the cases when the matter came up for a vote at the UN Security Council.

Also, in the first year of his presidency the president seems to have developed a gravitas which unified the African heads of state and in the process his predicament brought some unforeseen fortunes in his doorstep. The president was seen by the rest of Africa as a new voice of the continent partly due to his excellent communication skills in front of the camera and also partly due to his rhetoric. The president also developed a very cordial relationship with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. The two gentlemen have been preserved as the new generation of African leaders and in turn the continent a changing continent and thus taking up from the well thought former South African President Thambo Mbeki.

Détente in Nairobi
Enter the second year of Kenyatta presidency, the diplomatic offensive and his rising clout seems to have convinced the west in my opinion the funders of the court to drop the case and as such be able to engage with the president without any hindrances.

As was expected the case was withdrawn by the ICC prosecutor early this year. As a consequence, Nairobi has seen a fair share of high ranking western leaders. This train, if I may call it so has seen the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair come to Nairobi. News of the Prime Minister being tapped to be an advisor of the president have percolated through, although how he got appointed and the remuneration he receives is still a mystery.

The other notable figure to come to Nairobi has been the former US President Bill Clinton. The former president was in town for his foundations business but he had time to meet the president at state house.

Then early last month word came in from the White House that President Barack Obama would be coming to Kenya in July this year. This initiated the recent visit by the Secretary of State, John Kerry who was in town to prepare for his boss’ visit and also try and offer support to Kenya in fighting terrorism. However, ultimately the recent détente can be attributed to the west seeing the enormous gains which has been made by China and as such America seems to be trying its fair share of remaining significant to the continent and also checking the Chinese influence in the region.

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Burundi: The Arithmetic’s (mostly the lack of it) of Two Terms in Bujumbura

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Two years ago, the celebrated columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo penned down an opinion piece in the East African titled, Why Burundi needs a sex scandal to be noticed. As expected this piece did not go down well in Burundi though it did ask an quintessential question;

What can Burundi do to get East Africa’s attention?

It seems the President of Burundi unwittingly and all for the wrong reasons decided to put Burundi squarely on the world map!

In the last couple weeks we have heard and seen disturbing news emanating from Burundi which has been precipitated by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s attempt to run for a third term. Though I am not an expert in the affairs of the great lakes region I have tried to keep myself a breast with the events leading to this situation, as most of us have been. This has been made much easier by my friends and YLF alumnae who are living this horrendous ordeal. We can only hope this situation ends soon so that they can go back to their usual life.

What is more baffling has been the response (mostly the lack of it) to this crisis from the neighboring countries and Africa at large. The current crisis in Burundi did not ‘just happen’ as one would put it, the writing has been on the wall for a considerable amount of time. The regional and continental bodies in which Burundi is a member have been passive to say the least in trying to address the unfolding crisis. Which makes one question the role and need of such institutions – the AU has an early warning mechanism yet its hands seem to be tied in proactively addressing situations such as this when they are unfolding.

Initially, when the issue came to the fore the African Union through its president announced on Twitter that it preferred the issue of the third term to be addressed through the constitutional court (the Senate had taken this matter to the court for interpretation). The African Union had come under considerable criticism especially on its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa and this time it tried to show where it stood on this matter. However, as would have been expected, and the African Union should have known better! The administration in Bujumbura exerted pressure on the court and as such a ruling (unanimous for that matter) was struck in favor of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

As this was happening people have been fleeing the country, mostly relocating to Rwanda and Tanzania. It is only after reeling to the unfolding humanitarian crisis have the two countries come to the fore on this crisis. One might not be privy but perhaps the East African countries were trying to reach out to President Pierre Nkurunziza through diplomatic channels.
However, the quintessential question which begs is when does the sovereignty of a country end and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle set in? Although Nkurunziza administration has cut down access to social networks, the citizens of Burundi like in any other country in the world have found means of by passing these restrictions.

Now one might ask why a president who has already served two terms would be interested in extending presidential term limits (through dubious interpretation of the constitution) so that he can serve another term. Aren’t there qualified people in his party who are a position to take the reins? If not why did he not mentor a successor?

Equally baffling has been the international community response to the crisis, case in point was the recent request by the United Nation’s Secretary General. The UN Sec. Gen. requested Uganda’s President Museveni to intervene in the ongoing crisis. In my concerted opinion, the UN Sec. Gen should have requested the Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete to mediate the crisis since the presidency of the East African Community currently rests with him. We have also seen the foreign affairs ministers of EAC going to Burundi and currently COMESA seems to have sent elder’s to access and possibly intervene.
The problem with this is, if there are many focal points trying to mediate then chances of success are minimal since the president might be bidding his time till it is too late. This concept is well laid down in Back from the Brink – the 2008 mediation process and reforms in Kenya.

This week the EAC heads of state will meet in Arusha to deliberate on the crisis in Burundi. One can only hope that the EAC leaders will come up with a road map to the current crisis in Burindi and that they are able to appoint one focal point to handle the crisis. If the EAC leaders are not in a position to convince President Pierre Nkurunziza to rethink on his candidacy the one can expert more volatile times in the great lakes region.

Recommended readings
1. An idiot’s guide to the Burundi crisis by Daniel K Kalinaki – The East African
2. Raila wants East Africa Community, world leaders to act on Burundi by Moses Njagih – The Standard

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Xenophobia

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By: Davis Wesley Tusingwire

“Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders.
Claustrophobia – the fear of small/tight/enclosed spaces.
Xenophobia – the fear of foreigners.

However individuals who are afraid of spiders do not go around killing spiders, rather they avoid spiders. Equally, individuals who are afraid of small and tight spaces do not go around trying to eliminate the existence of small spaces.

Thus, xenophobia does not by definition imply the killing of foreigners. Yet, we continue to label this current wave of killings and murders in South Africa as xenophobic – and now the cooler term – “Afrophobic” attacks. Can we please just get real? What is happening in South Africa is genocide, a genocide fuelled by a deep-seated hatred for which no single foreigner is responsible.” – Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi.

Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi is a Nigerian. Born in Nigeria to two Nigerian parents and raised in Queenstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa by those same parents.

Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi goes further to indicate in this post here that if we think what she is putting forth is too extreme, then we need to revisit what Genocide is, which happens to be the systematic/targeted killing of a specific tribe or race.

Is this not what is happening in South Africa? Is it entirely true that when you have a phobia, you avoid it. But what triggered the killings in South Africa, where even the sight of a pregnant mother or her baby doesn’t stir compassion? A little baby is burnt to death, alive. Its crying goes unheard, for it’s drowned out by the songs of hatred of its attackers. Trying to figure this all out, in my little head and trying hard not to feel the pain stabbing at my shrinking heart, my mind drifts away to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. We felt it here too, and we still do. But what really triggers these moves across the world?

Countries attacking each other, as are almost normal in the Asian countries. The world watched in shock as the Hutus hacked their fellow countrymen, the Tutsis in a bloody genocide in Rwanda. In a space of about 100 days, thousands of people; children, women and men were murdered in cold blood. Families were wounded and broken or separated as the United Nations intervened. In 2014, the BBC released an in-depth report on the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame which implied that he could have fueled the genocide. His former close associates confessed so, in the story feature titled Rwanda: The Untold Story.

Is it the same thing happening in S.A? Did the leaders of those people insight this genocide on foreigners? It is ironical, that while they kill their African brethren, their white oppressors walk free in the land. The closest they could go to attacking them, was bringing down Cecil Rhodes’ statue. Cowards! Or should I say; hypocrites! The leaders denied having any involvement, the Zulu king to begin with, for it started in his township, and then the S.A President … begged his citizens to stop the killings.

As Africans, we are heartbroken. We cannot believe the nation we stood with while they suffered apartheid could turn against us. We could work out a few assumptions, basing on a few of the facts;

The actual people who carried out the brutal killings were actually the poor, the minority. It’s very easy to stir whatever emotion you want from such a group of people, because they are desperate. That need doesn’t allow them to think through their actions. They are like a greedy person biting off more than they can chew, unaware they will soon choke on it. Who said what?

The Zulu king, who was said to have said something that triggered the killings, and later denied any involvement, could have actually said something, but without such intention. Well, you see, he being king means he lives off the contributions from his people. And these people are the poor majority. The really well-to-do usually do not just give away their hard earned wealth to anyone. Meanwhile, professional foreigners are coming in to the area and doing what brought them, earn the most they can. This leaves the indigenous people poorer and unable to contribute as much to the king. Probably somebody pointed it out to him and in a bid to advise his people, it sparked more fire than he envisioned.

We could go on and on. But what form of justice can undo this? Families across Africa have lost their beloved; some have lost the sole bread earners, in such a manner that they can’t even have their bodies given a proper burial.

With globalization, we trade and live as one. The world is one global village! We acknowledge that not all South Africans agreed to or participated in these xenophobic attacks. There is a reason this happened and we pray that the souls who started this and those who still think such levels of violence are a solution to their problems, find peace in other hearts and feel the love from across the world. May they be moved by the gravity of their mistake and seek reconciliation with their African brethren. God is for us all.

For God and My Country!

Excerpts used in this post from Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi can be accessed on this link

Davis Wesley Tusingwire is a member of FESYLF (Uganda), you can follow him on twitter @w_tusingwire.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

One Party’s Quest to Solve the Unemployment Question in Kenya

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Employ Me Now! launch poster

The Social Democratic Party in Kenya has a campaign dubbed ‘Employ Me Now!’ which was launched in February this year. This is probably the first grassroots led campaign by a party (and young people) not in power. This is new and welcomed approach the employment question in Kenya. This campaign is basically a petition by young people to the government requesting the state to employ them. Though not the best solution there could be on unemployment, it does show the worsening conditions on the ground in regards to lack of employment opportunities. It is also an indication of the increasing audacity of the Kenyan youths who are now petitioning the state to offer employment opportunities to them.

To fully understand this campaign one needs to read the speech given by Benedict Wachira, the Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party given on February 1 2015 at the launch of this campaign at the San Valencia (a restaurant based in Nairobi – ironically situated next to the University of Nairobi).
Benedict Wachira was a colleague in the University, he is one of the young people who are putting their heads in matters of party administration in Kenya with the hope of changing the narrative. I hope he succeeds and I wish him the best of luck. This speech, which I mostly agree with apart from some sections which I will highlight below paints a picture of what is happening on the ground – especially what job seekers go through in search of employment opportunities here in Kenya. In my consented opinion this is also a reflection of what is happening in the region.

Also, to fully understand the campaign, one needs to know that there was a freeze in government recruitment in Kenya at some point. I am not fully aware if this was lifted but this freeze was put in place as a result of the government wage bill reaching unsustainable levels. However, also one has to note that appointments to parastatals and ambassadorial positions have largely gone to the ‘old gizzards’. This has left most of the youths – the majority of the population who voted for this administration disenfranchised.

Going back to the launch speech, I disagree with the notion that formal employment ought to be the default option as is advanced by the SDP secretary general. I think I understand where he is coming from, party ideological point of view nonetheless that should not stop him from appreciating the role of markets.

I think one of the biggest failures in Kenya has been the education system which pins everything to formal white collar jobs while overlooking other channels such as vocational training. This clearly highlighted by the government’s push to turn technical colleges to universities. At the end of the day what you have is degree conveyor belts! However, if vocational training can be taken up as an official policy where making of livelihoods becomes the centre piece of learning, then perhaps things would change.

The Secretary General has put the blame of unemployment squarely on the doors of capitalism! That as it may be I do not think that is entirely correct because even under socialism you have some form of unemployment. I think instead of blaming ideology, the right thing to do would to seek a balance perhaps been the two such that in areas where blunt capitalism is a danger to the welfare of citizen then it is tamed. Capitalism can be checked with a strong trade union and enacting policies that protect the weak in society.

One of the things we have been observing in Kenya and other countries in Africa has been the rise of tenderpreneurs. Basically middlemen who are well connected in government or working in cahoots with government. The tenderpreneurs seems to be the new face of capitalism in Africa and unless we divorce public service from business and business from public service that shall we get our act right. Many of the so called scandals which result to siphoning of public resources are as a result of collusion of the two. The leakage of taxpayer’s funds subsequently results less resources in public coffers which could be used to employ new workers.

The other thing I don’t agree with is obviously the socialist ideology advocated by the SG in the latter parts of his speech. However, I wholeheartedly support the petition by the party since this will give traction to this conversation and the more people talk of this – the more people will try to look for solutions for this unemployment endemic.

i) This petition by SDP can be found on this link: https://www.change.org/p/this-is-a-petition-to-the-president-of-kenya-his-excellency-uhuru-kenyatta-to-come-up-with-solutions-to-the-high-unemployment-rate-in-kenya-the-petition-is-sponsored-by-the-social-democratic-party-of-kenya-sdp
ii) Speech: http://sdpkenya.org/87-recent-news/145-speech-by-benedict-wachira-at-the-launch-of-the-national-campaign-against-unemployment

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Identity Blues!

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By Davis Wesley Tusingwire

For little Jennie, going to one of the best schools in town, where your mother is a teacher and thus guaranteeing special treatment and extra access where students/pupils are concerned, was not such a big deal. She disliked how that particular environment worked against her true identity. See, she wasn’t looked at or treated as Jennie. Instead she was expected to be more than she could be at the time. She probably had the potential to be more, but constantly comparing her to elder sister Judith wasn’t exactly helping. Teachers punished her because she did not write as well as her sister, did not dress as smartly as her sister and for a teacher’s daughter, did not perform as excellently. No body cared about who she really was.

She is not the only one. We have heard stories about mistaken identity, mixed personalities, misjudgement, among others. An identity crisis is common among teenagers across the world, as they discoover themselves and their abilities. Books have been writen and movies have acted about this issue.

And yet it doesn’t end there. Beloved and now fallen, former NTV News anchor Rosemary Nankabirwa endured the bitter words from critiques when someone leaked a picture of her, sick and frailing . To the public, she and all the other public figures are regarded as super human and therefore not expected to be as human as everyone else. It is funny to think, people were surprised she could look that way, as though she was born on Mars. They are human, like you and me and therefore, bound to suffer illnesses, eat the same kind of food, gain or lose weight or even die. Just like everybody else. But alas! A very dangerous stereotype is attached to their identity and we see them misjudged if they dressed differently from what we expect of them, or visited places we think are way below their standards. We almost think they are immortal.

During Easter prayers, a Burundian National dorning a Rick Ross look alike beard was arrested at Rubaga cathedral in Uganda where he had gone for service and detained on suspicion of being a terrorist, all because of his beard. Most terrorist attacks across the world have been linked to the Muslim fraternity, who as a cultural practice grow a beard; for whatever reasons, and this young man could have innocently grown one too, unaware that it would get him into trouble.

Ladies have been called sluts/whores because they dared expose more flesh than the ordinary woman.

Men have been branded homosexuals because they are more soft spoken than their brothers, or because they have a pierced ear or because they prefer brighter colors in their wardrobe among others.

Not so long ago there was a debate on social networks especially Facebook and the mainstream media in Uganda as to who is the fairest? This discussion centred on our current Miss Uganda-Miss Leah Kalanguka who upon being crowned, was criticized and demonised for being ugly because of one poorly taken photograph of her that appeared on the scene. The criticism arose from the angle and comparison with the the recently crowned Miss Rwanda who was deemed and declared a true beauty due to her appearance on the outside.

We have witnessed some people being harrased because they are related to a given person or are over worshiped because of the same.

And through all this, nobody seems to notice what they have to endure, if they manage to make their true self shine through. Many go unrecognised most of the time.

Families are distabilized by identity battles. Children want to be their own person but their parents/guardians want them to be something else. Siblings compete with each other, and of course the brightest usually steals the show and the other(s) are almost forgotten. In schools teachers favor some for given attributes and forget the others. And those forgotten are teased/bullied so badly, sometimes they never recover from it. In workplaces we see superiors harrass their subordinates of out of insecurity. They fear their identity in the company will be overshadowed by those they lead, and so they feel threatened.

Identity is a broad and sensitive issue. It is encouraged though, to always give each individual an opportunity to identify themselves and decide what/who they want to be remembered as. It can be hard to accept others for who they truely are, but since we all need to be accepted or want to impose on others what they should be, it’s only fair that we let them be. It is easier to live with a happier person, regardless of their identity crisis.

What is identity? What identifies us?

The author of this piece is a member of FESYLF (Uganda). The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

You can follow him on twitter on this his handle @w_tusingwire

Garissa Terrorist Attack

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Thursday April 2 2015, I heard the news of Garissa terrorist incident on Radio on my way to work – probably like everyone else I know. My initial reactions were ‘not again’. Since April 2 was a busy day of moving around I did not have an hour to hour breakdown of what was taking place. However, around 3 pm I picked wind that the situation was still happening and naturally the ghosts of Westgate were awoken. It was only later in the evening that I was able to have a sense of what had taken place.

Today it is two weeks since the Garissa incident happened. A lot has been written especially on how the security apparatus responded to the incident (mostly the failures). We are now aware that Recce Squad, an elite group within the General Service Unit (GSU) was not able to be on location due to lack of a helicopter to take them to the terrorist scene as early as 6 am when the attack was made aware in their radar. The Police helicopter which would have taken them to the scene was in Mombasa – apparently it had taken the daughters of the air commandant on vacation. Details of this were unearthed by one of the bloggers in Kenya and shared widely on social media.

That as it maybe, it there were few things the security apparatus was able to do right. Their response thought slow was far much better than what happened during the Westgate incident. The Inspector General and the Minister for Interior and National Coordination, both new in their offices were at the scene of the incident fairly early. However, the question raised by most analysts has been what their use was being at the scene early as opposed to the paramilitary who would have disposed of the situation. Developments on this end have been – Recce Squad now has been allocated aircraft – helicopters.

The other notable development has been the civil society involvement in the whole episode, during the Westgate incident the government was more or less controlling the narrative. Especially, events that took place – there was the ‘we are one’ narrative which was pushed by corporates and other big entities. This was enviable and it is still is today. Immediately preceding the incident the government communication machinery came up with the ‘One Kenya’ hashtag. Good as it may have been there seemed to have been a deliberate effort not to remember the students who lost their lives in the terror incident. This is something that is quite common in Kenya – where a phenomenon happens and people either forget or it is swept under the carpet. That is why a group of activists – to be specific, Boniface Mwangi (a photojournalist by profession who now runs Pawa254 Hub) and Ory Okolloh Mwangi (a technologists and a founding member of Ushahidi) came up with the hashtag on twitter ‘147 is Not Just a Number’. Their intention was to remember the 147 mostly students and security personnel killed during the terrorist incident.

The 147 is not just a number picked up pretty fast and overtook the government ‘sanctioned’ hashtag ‘one Kenya’. This has had a snowballing effect to the rest of the world and they went a step further to organize a vigil and a memorial at Uhuru Park. This was unprecedented.

I for once have been trying to figure out what this means – is this a ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ moment? For those not in the know, I think the Boko Haram situation especially the kidnapping of school girls in Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram was the beginning of the end for the Jonathan Goodluck Presidency. The question is, will the insecurity posed by terrorism be the Achilles heel for President Uhuru Kenyatta presidency?

Time will tell but going by the events I noticed while in Lamu for the Lamu Food Festival and sentiments/comments from the Deputy President, we are a long way from getting it right.

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

To The Young of Our Day

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Picture via Ancestral Essence’s Facebook Page

by Wobusobozi Amooti Kangere & Chris Nkwatsibwe

Saw the story below this picture on the Facebook group ancestral essence, and got moved to share a few words from our journey in this time. These I send to the young of our day.

The story behind the picture is a first person account of a captured slave. It recounts his experience of first contact with ‘the new world.’ and his thoughts and sentiments of the dehumanizing ordeal his captors put him through.

The story itself is likely fiction. But sometimes we need fiction to rearrange the facts so that we can see TRUTH in its context.

Many of we who remained here on the continent are often disconnected from the experience of those who were taken. We must never forget though that we are of one blood; we are of one root.

Today the same snake that came to steal our men, women and earth 500 years ago, stealthily makes its way to finish the job it started. The fires in our shrines have gone cold from neglect. The mountains where our journeymen made pilgrimage to carry our children prayers to the gods are abandoned.

Our homes, which once never needed doors, are as sterile as prison garrisons and boarding houses for travelling strangers. We have forgotten how to have conversation with each other. We have forgotten how to remember the names and works of those who came before us. And so we carry their names like lifeless limbs we can’t wait to replace with alien sounds like Laquinta.

When their voices reach out to us from beyond to help us correct the error of our ways, we call them demons and bind them; yet the real demon is this strange culture that plants inhuman instincts in our young. And then we wonder why everything in Afrika is a mess.

Remember who you are Afrika. You are the children of the SUN. You are the body in which its living essence dwells. That is the secret behind your skin. Your blood is the Holy Grail. Humanity begins with you. Your ancestors were once called gods because of their power. But what they had was wisdom and knowledge of the stars, the wind, the earth, and of how life came to be.

Fool yourself not, you are not mortal. You are the immortal essence of the sun; clothed in flesh for a time. A time defined by a purpose measured in your talents and mental fields of prowess.

As for you slavers of our kind; in the different shades of skin in which you come…Enjoy the comfort of the living tombs you have turned our land into. A time shall come, in this lifetime or the next, when the tables will turn. The fires that burn in our shrines shall warm our spirits again. Those taken and those lost will return. The children will find their way back home.

This is not prophesy: It is only statement of the inevitable. The ancestral power wakes from its long sleep. And when the Afrikan wakes, you who laugh at our passing fate will remember that your Jesus and Muhammad learnt at the feet of our ancestors. And that Krishna and Budha were spawned from this soil.

Remember who you are children of the sun. Memory is the beginning of knowing, and knowing is the spring of life.

They will do everything to make you forget. They will keep your eyes in TVs, and teach you that their history of war is greater than your history of peace. And you will believe them for that is all you will know.

They will tell you that the conflicts engineered by their agents and puppets are tribal clashes. And that your ancestors- those beings who made your parents and spent their lives building the heritage you have squandered- hate you and wish to destroy you, just as you hate and wish to destroy the lives of the descendants you toil for every day in a job you hate.

You will celebrate the conquest of your backward past filled with spears, superstition and treacherous spirits. And seek haven in their cities where justice is for sell and truth is whatever you want it to be.

Your men will sleep with men and call it nature. And when the temperature of debauchery is just right, the tourists will make way for settlers, and then for colonies. And what started as kidnapping of our folk 500 years ago, and the partitioning of our lands into mega ranches controlled from cities in Europe; will be completed in your annihilation.

And when there is completely no trace left of you, and your beloved cities have turned into the ghetto concentration camps they already are degenerating into; may be then, someone will remember that prophets of old warned of such times.

But we are fools- we who speak of such things. We are foul evil creatures- we who speak of ancestral voices. We are lunatics, we who read the signs of the times and share what we see. And so our words shall remain lofty and befuddled to you.

For those whose minds still yearn for better times, the future is bright when the past is resolved. You don’t have to look far. The future and the past are all in the present. You, young African, are the meeting point between your ancestry and your progeny. So choose your path wisely. You are the hope of this nation.

You do not have to live in huts to be in touch with your past. We are the parents of civilization. We built the first cities. The ancestors ask only that we remember them kindly, as we ourselves would wish to be remembered by those we leave behind.

Build families. Make communities. This is the message that reverberates daily from beyond.

We should like to think that even the Jesus and Muhammad of whom our slavers and exploiters preach would not be offended by this simple counsel.

Blessings and Peace

Chris Nkwatsibwe is a Human Rights activist from Uganda

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES