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

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

Kenya and Regional Integration

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Kenya and Tanzania have been experiencing frosty relationships in the last few months. These events came to the fore when tour van operators from Tanzania were denied access to Kenyan Airports to collect tourists and also entry into the Kenyan National Parks. This situation then skyrocketed last week when Kenya Airways – the national carrier, was restricted as to the number of frequencies they could use the Tanzanian airspace. This being as a result of the Kenya Civil Aviation’s reluctance to allow Tanzanian operated low cost carrier, EasyJet entry to operate Kenya.

Also, still on the matter of regional integration, a parliamentary committee has been investigating circumstances in which the national carrier did not heed requests by the Ugandan President HE Museveni to pick him up from his rural home for the East African Heads of States meeting in Nairobi. The Ugandan President had to use Ethiopian Airways.
It is to be expected neighboring countries should have differences on various matters but it has been the way that this differences are being handled that is worrying. Kenya had a cabinet secretary in charge of East African Community and I presume the various East African members have a ministry or a docket in charge of EAC. Despite this and the fact that we have the East African Community Headquarters based in Arusha, these disputes have skyrocketed to the highest institutions of the land – the presidency.

This dispute which arose as a result of Kenya Civil Aviation’s refusing to grant or taking its time in allowing the Tanzanian operated EasyJet the greenlight to operate in Kenya obviously has many elements involved but it is primarily it has economic undertones. Kenya Civil Aviation can be argued has been trying to protect the monopoly of Kenya Airways whose bread has been buttered in offering expensive flights across the region. Also, the entry of EasyJet in to the country would mean the competition to JamboJet ‘the low cost carrier’ operated by Kenya airways. Although, JamboJet is offers cheaper flights the entry of EasyJet would knock them off the market since they are substantially expensive compared to EasyJet. This is to be expected since this is not entirely a new airline on its own but rather a subsidiary of a main airline trying to fill in a gap.

The economics of this aside, what begs is as a community shouldn’t there be better channels in which disputes at a regional level can be solved apart from the presidency level. Or shouldn’t there be a body at EAC that looks at the interests of the community as opposed to the interests of the respective countries? I am a Kenyan and I would very much wish to see the entry of EasyJet into the country because this would result to substantially cheaper flights in the region. Cheaper flights mean more Kenyans will have a chance of visiting their brothers and sisters in the EAC region and by in turn result to more regional integration. However, chief executives with a bottom line to look after are opposed to entry of low cost airlines in the region and in turn lobby to influence decisions that are to their advantage.

In the case of tour operators from Tanzania being denied access to collect tourists from Kenyan Airports and entry into Kenyan National Parks – I totally see no logic in denying the Tanzanian’s entry to our airport and National Parks and basing this on a 1984 agreement. I think it is time the EAC institutions made themselves relevant by addressing such wrangles and also having the foresight to detect this in due time and prevent them from happening.

I would be interested in knowing the views of other young leaders on the above matters and of any other issue that has not come to the fore but might be a problem in the near future for East African Community member states.

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

The Greatest Virtue of Leadership That Should Be Nurtured Amongst the Youth Is Integrity

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In the past decade, there has been a push all over East Africa to see that all holders of public offices are experts and specialists with relevant work experiences regarding the various responsibilities and duties delegated to them. This move came as a result of massive failure experienced in various public offices due to lack of ethics and professionalism.

In the past, senior positions in public offices were viewed as a political reward to the loyalist. These resulted into a culture where no one cared about service delivery to the public but rather balancing the political equation that awarded him with the position.

The consequences of this undertaking, had a major negative impact to our economy. Just to list but a few; poor service delivery, massive looting of public resources, nepotism and tribalism cropping up, citizen despair due to the unbearable cost of living and in extreme case mushrooming of slums and massive unemployment.

But contrary to the expectation, professionalism has not been the absolute solution to misuse of public funds and offices, even though it has reduced the crime to a certain degree. Still, in most countries within East Africa we have experienced worst financial scandals that entail millions of dollars being looted from the public coffers by individuals who were thought to be the most suited professionals and hence a quest for an ultimate solution that will terminate this menace is still being sought for.

In regard to this, I suggest that the best leadership virtue that should be cultivated amongst the youth as they quest to capture public offices is integrity.

Integrity entails self-cultivation; the constant struggle against identity, personality, nature, character, person, ego or any vices like tradition that are as a result of our socialization whether acquired consciously or unconsciously with a quest of being upright and stand by the values of the nation and humanity .

But self-cultivation is not a one day activity, it is a life time process that one continuously evaluates the importance and impact of his actions and contributions to the society and strives to better them. This can only be efficient is cultivated at a tender age.

Professionals equipped with integrity will stand a better chance to stir the desire of East Africans by bring them closers to their dreams of prosperity. This is because they will enhance the spirit of accountability and efficiency in the public offices by prioritizing the citizen’s aspirations above their personal greed.

Author: Javan Owala – Kenya

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

Youth Population- “A blessing or a curse?”

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Time to hide our head in the sand like the proverbial Ostrich is over. The fire of crime is burning our continent. The fire of terrorism is burning our continent. The fire of violence is burning our continent. Its time we ask ourselves the hard questions: Is the growing youth population a blessing or curse for Africa?

Various sources confirm that the youth population is increasingly growing in Africa. The UN put Africa as the continent with the youngest population in the world due to the fact that over 200 million people in Africa are aged between 15 and 24 years.  The Africa Union Commission agrees with this fact by stating that 65% of the total population in Africa are aged below 35 years and 35% are between 15 and 35 years. These statistics could be indicators of a ticking time bomb or an opportunity for the continent to rise higher.

The youth population is a blessing that does not require a rocket- scientist to see and understand it. A bigger youth population means a bigger work force which is promising for our economy. A bigger youth population translates to more innovation which increases Africa’s capability to compete in the world market. A bigger youth population means a strong police force and a stronger military force. A bigger youth population guarantees Africa a better future.

A bigger youth population becomes a ticking -time bomb when: there are no employment opportunities; when tribalism and nepotism replaces meritocracy; when democracy is replaced by dictatorship; when violence is the road to power; when the few rich continue getting richer while the majority poor get poorer; when good education is for the few rich and the majority poor are given average education. This situation has to stop in Africa or else we as a continent are courting serious trouble.

This article does not require research it simply calls for common sense! Ask your self about the level of youth unemployment in your countries. Ask about access to quality education. Ask about corruption level. Ask! Ask! Ask! Ask!

The youth question is a question of governance!

Author: John Wesonga – Kenya

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

December 2 President’s Speech on the Current Security Situation in Kenya

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Without a doubt security, mostly the lack of it has been one of the biggest talking points in Kenya. After the Mandera incident which took place while the president was out of the country on official duty in UAE.  The president received a lot of backlash on his reaction albeit lack of it at that point in time not to cancel his visit in UAE and come home to attend to the growing insecurity matters. It must be pointed that after the Mandera incident the Deputy President did address the nation in a well-choreographed speech which indicated that the Kenyan army had miraculously identified an Al Shabaab camp which it went ahead to bomb. Needless to say no level headed analysis believed the Deputy Presidents account of events since the evidence of this attack mostly the veracity of the photos produced was questioned by security experts.

As it would be, the Mandera incidence was immediately followed by another terrorist attack incident in the Northern part of our country. This point in time it seems the presidency learnt from its previous failures and the president within 24 hours of the attack addressed the nation, with what was going to be a far reaching speech. This as some analysis rightly put it was the first time the president was addressing the nation after the Mandera incident. A number of things had taken place in between these waves of attacks, with protestors having marched outside the office of the presidency asking for the sacking of the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government, John Ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police – Mr. David Kimaiyo.

There was growing pressure from within the country that the above two officers were sleeping on the job and that their failures in their respective offices were now reflecting badly on the presidency because ultimately the buck stops with the president.

The December 2, 2014 statement by the president was by all accounts a Kantian moment from the presidency since it indicated that our country was at war. It is more or less reminiscent of President Bush speech after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The speech narrated the history of attacks in our country and pointed a finger at Somalia and by extension showed cause as to why our military is in Somalia. Some of the highlights of this speech are;

In October, 2011, the Government authorized the KDF to pursue the Al Shabaab militia into Somalia. This decision was right then, and remains so today.

It was also noteworthy that the president went all out to show that Kenya’s military is part of the AU mission. This is because some sections of the population have been calling for the Kenyan military to pull out of Somalia – if this would help reduce the attacks on the Kenyan soil.

Following requests by regional, continental and global actors, KDF joined AMISOM in February 2012. We remain part of the African Union mission to date.

This is why we have witnessed intensified extremist rhetoric against the KDF campaign in Somalia as well as support for murder and impunity. This reprehensible rhetoric has embraced Al Qaeda’s extremist ideas of setting up an Islamic Caliphate in East Africa.

However, the biggest news was the December 2, 2014 statement was the sacking of the CS for Interior and Coordination of National Government, Mr. John Ole Lenku and the surprise voluntary retirement on health grounds of IG of Police, Mr. David Kimaiyo. The surprise of the evening however was the man tapped to replace Ole Lenku to the docket responsible for Security. Major General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery had been a Member of Parliament from Orange Democratic Movement (opposition) and in so doing it seems President Kenyatta was following in the footsteps of the US President Barack Obama who nominated the outgoing Secretary of Defense, Hagel from the Republican Party.

By all accounts the new nominee who has of yesterday been vested by his former colleagues in Parliament is a respected military man. Major General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery is an US educated General and many people have faith that he is the man for the job.

However, one of the main areas of concern from the president’s speech was the apparent reference for the media to ‘tone down’.

Our national conversation, whatever its temper, is facilitated by our media. The media must step back from being an inert funnel of sentiments, opinions and messages, and become a true mediator and an honest broker of the national discourse. The media must not allow intemperate, intolerant, divisive, alarmist and stigmatizing views.

You can access the full Mandera Statement by the President here

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.

The Rising Incidences of Insecurity in Kenya

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Mapped out Areas in which there have been Security Related Incidences | Map from Kenya Open Data website

The main focal point for this year’s regional young leader’s forum was regional security and key among those things discussed was the Westgate incidence – of which the Kenyan delegation which I was part of, gave a presentation on. No sooner had we gotten back home, than a number of security related incidences occurred. Starting with an attack on Mombasa barracks – where a group of youths armed with machetes and knives attached an army barrack.  This was immediately followed by Kapedo attack. In this attack, junior police officers some of them barely six months in the police service were killed by bandits in Kapendo. They has requested for help from the headquarters – but this was not forthcoming. This weekend we woke up to the terrible news of Mandera bus attack incidence in which Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility.

Kenyan’s are angry at least those on twitter and they have been making their opinions known with #MySecurityMyRight hash tag. This is coming in the backdrop incidences in which touts stripped women and Kenyans on twitter who were against this barbaric acts came up with this hash tag #MyDressMyChoice.

The increasing number of these security related incidences can be attributed to a number of things – key among them  porus borders, the culture of corruption which exists in our country and the state reaction to previous security incidences. A classic case is the ongoing operations at the Kenyan coast, where security personnel storm into mosques and the extra-judicial killings which are prevalent at the Kenyan coast.

For a better understanding of the current situation in Kenya, I would recommend one to read the International Crisis Group Update Briefing Number 102, Kenya: Al Shabaab – Closer to Home. 

Download this briefing here: International Crisis Group Update Briefing Number 102, Kenya Al Shabaab – Closer to Home. [pdf]

This update briefing by Crisis Group observes;

One year after the Westgate Mall terrorist attack in Nairobi, Al-Shabaab is more entrenched and a graver threat to Kenya. But the deeper danger is less in the long established terrorist cells that perpetrated the act – horrific as it was – and more in managing and healing the rising communal tensions and historic divides that Al-Shabaab violence has deliberately agitated.

Apart from observing the root causes of these increasing spikes of security related incidences, the report goes further to point out five practical solutions. Whether our government will not heed is another thing all together. I am not even sure if the government reads some of these reports!

However, one of the glaring omissions from this report, of which Kenyan’s on Twitter have been requesting for, is the sacking of the Joseph Ole Lenku, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Co-ordination of National Government and David Kimaiyo, the Inspector General of Police – National Police Service. During their tenure, Kenya has experienced a rise in insecurity incidences. However, the Inspector General has been on record saying the National Intelligence Agency has not given him timely and actionable Intelligence to act upon. However, the NIS has rejected this accusation – with them leaking briefs immediately after an incident has taken place to  counter this accusations.

Among the many recommendations Kenyan’s on twitter have been calling for is the overhaul of the entire security apparatus and also the reforming of the security docket – with the creation of a homeland security docket [similar to the US].

For a better understanding of the online conversations currently taking place, check @KenyanPundit tweets esp. the crowd-sourcing of solutions on this question;

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

YLF 2014: Recap and Way Forward

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The Regional Young Leaders Forum took place late last month in Dar es Salaam bringing in together young leaders from the region. This year’s forum focused on Regional Security and Local Grievances. Increasingly, in the East African region there have been incidents which necessitated the regional organizers of this forum to seek young leader’s intervention on this matter and if possible, try and come up with solutions to some of these conflicts and incidences.

In the run- up on the conference, readings on the subject matter had been circulated and among these was seminal literature on this matter; Militias, Rebels and Islamist Militants: Human Insecurity and State Crises in Africa edited by Wafula Okumu and Augustine Ikelegbe.

Well, it was only fair that one of the editors of this publication was invited to present an overview of this subject matter and the organizer lived to that expectation by having Dr. Wafula Okumu as a facilitator and moderator in the event.

Day 1

Dr. Wafula Okumu occupied the first slot of the first day with the uphill and unenviable task of summarizing the 251 pages book in two hours! This without a doubt he was able to do justice on.

Some of the key highlights of his presentation were;

  • A breakdown on the nature and characteristics of Armed Non-State Groups in Africa
  • Root causes of Armed Non-State Groups phenomena
  • The State response – in many instances which has been counterproductive or not well informed and thought out
  • Regionalization of Insecurity
  • Harmonization of youth power for public good – [positive role in which young leaders can play in their communities to curb the insecurity phenomena]
  • And like any prophet he finished with some words of wisdom!

The second keynote speaker was Amb. Augustine Philip Mahiga. The ambassador was a former special representative for UN-Secretary General to Somalia and he made an outstanding presentation on Somalia, Al Shabaab and Regional Consequences. It was during his tenure that some semblance of order after a long period of chaos was achieved.

He gave an overview of his three and half years stint in Somalia and some of the achievements made under his tenure such as;

  • Bringing together of clan leaders for the peace process – the Kampala Accord plus how he went for 48 hours without sleep and the intrigues behind the fall of the Prime Minister
  • The process of crafting an interim constitution – approved by reps from the grassroots [mind you in a post conflict environment]
  • Somalia and the peace process – which was taking place in their own country as opposed to the neighboring states and what that meant
  • Election of Parliament – 275 member assembly. A very intriguing process that involved the use of clan leaders since clans were the only institutions that were fully functioning after the collapse of the Somali state. The emerging questions on legitimacy that arose, issues of representation in terms of gender, marginalized communities
  • The intrigues of election of the Speaker and eventual election of the President
  • The envisaged referendum in 2016 and the players involved in that process.
  • Lastly, the ambassador gave a very comprehensive account on the Al Shabaab as we know of it today – the initial formative stages of this group and causes that lead to its formation – both internal and external plus what lead to its rise in terms of resources and manpower.

The two keynotes speakers laid the groundwork for the individual country presentations. Each country delegation had been tasked with coming up and preparing a presentation which was in line with the theme of the conference. The following are the presentations made by the country delegations during the afternoon of the first day and the whole of the second day;

  • Kenya: Local Grievances and Islamist Rebels

Moderator: John Olang Sana, Nairobi Slum Project

  • Ethiopia: Borders and Borderlands

Moderator:  Selahadin Eshetu

  • Tanganyika and Zanzibar: UAMSHO or an Awakening in the Making?

Moderator: Shaban Omari, Shamar Educational Centre – Tanzania

  • Sudan: Does Sudan Pose a Threat to the Security in the Region?

Moderator: Fatma Abdelkarim

  • South Sudan: Resources, Land Rights, Migrants and Rebels

Moderator: Dr. Luka Biong Deng

  • Uganda: Uganda’s History with the LRA and the Rational of the Military Intervention in South Sudan

Moderator: Eunice Akullo, Lecturer, Nkumba University – Uganda

The above country presentations were all well thought out, researched and well presented. They offered great insights into the subject matter and stirred debates, clarifications and inputs. This greatly impressed Dr. Wafula and Dr. Luka who noted that if the younger leaders present are the leaders of today then things were certainly going in the right directions.

Day 3

Getting Your Message Across – I: How to be interviewed on Radio and TV

This session was given by Colin Spurway, the Country Director of BBC media action – Tanzanian assisted by his team.

The reason as to why this session was on the cards is because many people and leaders for that matter usually have a problem in how they go about expressing their ideas and thoughts. Therefore is quintessential for young leaders to know how to interact and put their message across various channels and radio is as big as they come since it is able to reach many people.

Colin Spurway and his team offered practical facilitation on this subject matter.

The key take away from this session how to package my message and techniques of handling difficult questions.

Getting Your Message Across II: Blogging about Political Issues in Africa

Catherinerose Barretto from KINU Hub Tanzania and I [Robert Njathika] co-facilitated on how to get your message across albeit on blog platforms from mid-morning to early afternoon. This session was necessitated by the fact that there is a FES blog that needs input from the young leaders across the region.

One of the outcomes of this session is how the group would go about making their interventions on the YLF-blog.

The YLF-blog

The blog has been opened up to the FES affiliated young leaders in the region to discuss and debate issues. The rationale is there are a number of phenomena happening in each member country and there is no need to wait for the annual regional conferences to discuss this issues.

It is expected that the blog will serve the purpose of keeping the debate online on matters that are incidental to issues touching on EAC / Regional Integration, Economics, Foreign & Security Policy and Human Rights.

The manner in which the issues are presented could take the form of unpacking what is currently appearing in the local dallies of our respective countries, obviously with some background information. The essence of this is would be to keep other FES affiliated young leaders abreast with what is currently happening in the neighboring countries and to solicit some kind of feedback or debate on those issues [if at all they require feedback].

How to go about that?

In Kunduchi, 8 regional blog representatives were chosen. In the course of this week, I shall go about making them contributors on the blog platform – which means they can log in and post articles – the mechanics of how to post shall also be communicated.

I intend to use the blog reps that were chosen to represent each country as the focal point of input on the blog platform. So each country can decide on how they wish to go about passing content to their blog reps. However, if the blog rep in your country is unavailable, you can contact me and I will assist in getting the post on the blog.

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