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Dr. Jason Kapkirwok is a writer, poet, strategist and heads Trademark East Africa regional office in Tanzania. He is currently the columnist for Star Newspaper (Kenya) and has also been a columnist for The Sunday Standard Newspaper-Kenya. Kap Kirwok has received several awards and honors; including the Jonathan Orr Award for Excellence in Research and Writing and a first prize award for an essay contest on multi-culturalism; open to all Universities and Colleges in the USA. Born at Chemoge in Mt. Elgon District-Kenya, Kap Kirwok has lived in the USA,NetherlandsPhilippinesZambia and currently lives in Nairobi with his family and works in Tanzania.

West's Dilemma Over Uhuru, Ruto

Now that this is going down to the wire, the country must now reckon with the prospect of a Jubilee coalition win. And in that reckoning, it is down to meanings.

In his statement on Kenya’s elections, President Obama said, “The United States does not endorse any candidate for office, but we do support an election that is peaceful and reflects the will of the people.”

That is clear enough. The US supports an election that reflects the will of the people.

But then comes along Johnnie Carson, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs with his ‘clarification’. He says, “People should be thoughtful about those they choose to be leaders, the impact their choices would have on their country, region or global community. Choices have consequences." Again, clear enough. Or is it?

Kenyans are familiar with the Swahili saying “mtoto akililia wembe, mpe.” (If a child cries for a razor, give.) That seemed to be what Johnnie Carson was saying. Did he contradict President Obama’s assertion that the US will support a peaceful outcome that reflects the will of the people? Can you support and punish at the same time?

The US would probably answer in the affirmative, arguing that support for the outcome of the election does not negate US policy governing engagement with individuals facing crimes against humanity.

But these leaves many questions on the nature of consequences unanswered. Consider the statement by the British High Commissioner. He said, “It is well known the position of my government and others is that we don't get in contact with the ICC indictees unless it is essential.”

What would be the consequences of a “no-contact-unless essential" policy? What constitutes essential contact? Does ‘no contact’ translate into sanctions? If yes, would these be targeted at the two individuals only? And is contact with senior government officials, including cabinet secretaries, allowed as long as it is not with the indictees?

Will the razor in the hands of the child be sharp or blunt? There is too much ambiguity. Ambiguity can be a useful diplomatic tool. But not in this case. The West is in a dilemma.

It will be in greater dilemma if, having been elected in a free and fair manner, Uhuru and Ruto decide to cooperate with the ICC. The presumption of innocence (until one is proven guilty) makes it morally tricky for the West to punish Kenya before the due process of law is concluded.

Meanwhile, besides turnout and mobilisation, the outcome of this election seems to hinge on the degree to which the Kalenjin vote will swing one side or the other. In all the 'numbers' permutations, the Jubilee coalition takes it if there is an overwhelming vote for Uhuru by the Kalenjin.

The Kalenjin vote is still in relative flux. The reason it has not solidified is due to an intense debate in the community around two related issues: trust and influence in government. Who, between Uhuru and Raila, can be trusted to guarantee the community significant influence in government? (Sad, but this is the nature of ethnic politics in Kenya today).

Raila, they argue, has shown in word and deed that he cannot be trusted. They point to the eviction of (mostly Kalenjin) squatters from the Mau Forest, his unwillingness to fight for the release of Kalenjin youth who were arrested following the 2007/2008 violence, and his sacking of William Ruto. They say he has a propensity for playing to the international gallery and would not hesitate to ship Ruto to The Hague in order to burnish his “statesman” credentials.

Those opposed to Uhuru have equally serious issues with him and his community. They say Ruto is merely being used by Uhuru to ascend to power. They point to the dishonoured accord between Raila and Kibaki, and Kibaki and Kalonzo.

More importantly, they say the hatred by Kikuyus towards Ruto for his (alleged) role in the 2007/2008 post-election violence has merely been shelved temporarily and will resurface the day after Uhuru is sworn in as President.

They also point to recent murmurs of discontent from among those close to Uhuru, unhappy with Ruto’s "oversize influence" within the Jubilee coalition. Once Uhuru is sworn in, they see the gloves coming off and Ruto being thrown under the bus in short order.

(This, incidentally, provides Raila with a great strategy lever: nothing will swing the vote away from Uhuru more than credible evidence of Ruto’s mistreatment in Jubilee).

It is a quandary: between Raila and Uhuru, who will they trust more? This is the crucial question. How this question is resolved in the next two weeks could determine the winner of the presidential contest. And then the consequences or lack thereof will follow.

Source: click here

[The writer is based in Arusha-Tanzania where he is the country Director of TradeMark East Africa regional office].


Cats And Dogs At Top Job Debate


Shs! Keep your voice down. Do not let the contestants know about this letter until after the presidential debate, scheduled for Monday February 11.

The reflections and questions in this letter are only meant for Julie Gichuru and Linus Kakai, the moderators of the debate. We know the contestants are hunkered down right now, cramming all manner of facts and figures and sharpening their policy positions, ready to recite them back during the debate.

 Dear Julie and Linus,

 I write in regard to the Monday presidential debate in which you have the privilege to moderate. I know it is highly tempting to focus most of your questions on the contestant’s knowledge of the challenges confronting Kenya.

I know you will want to know their plans for improving the economy, tackling insecurity and corruption, forging national cohesion, and such. These would be policy questions aimed at probing deeper the contestant’s party manifestos.

I do not deny the importance of such questions. We all want to know for instance why the much vaunted rising tide of economic fortune is not lifting all boats.

It would certainly be useful also to know how the new president intends to finance an expensive devolved system of government at a time when Kenya Revenue Authority has been missing its targets, while domestic borrowing is inching towards unsustainable territory.

 Such questions are important. But the point is these types of questions are standard fare and they will elicit vanilla-type answers. They tell us very little about the character and skill of the candidates.

Nor do they go to the heart of the matter- namely leadership ethos and style. The presidency is still a powerful office with the authority and capacity to shape the nation’s destiny by its actions, inactions, messages and images.

 Julie, Linus

 If it is not too late, would like to urge you to be a little innovative in both method and content. Instead of the typical verbal-question, verbal-answer format (a la USA presidential debates), you could mix things up.

For instance, you could ask a question and have all the debaters write a short answer on a piece of paper; then have them read it out aloud.

You could then question them on their answer, allowing them to explain. A variation of this would be to ask each candidate a different question but on the same general theme.

The advantage of this is obvious: it eliminates or minimizes the ‘the trigger and refine effect,’ a phenomenon in debates where one debater’s answer is used by others to improve their own responses.

 There are three categories of questions that we should ask all the six candidates. These are outward bound, inward bound and interface questions.

You see, we consciously and unconsciously inhabit three ‘universes’. There is the ‘universe’ of how we view and relate to other people.

This is the outward world. Then there is the way we view and relate to ourselves. This is the inward world. Finally, there is the ‘universe’ created by the interaction (collision, you might say) of the inner and the outside worlds.

This is the real-time, lived reality that defines our character and manifests itself as behavior. Of course it is much more complex than this pop-psychology rendering.

 Now, here are the questions.

 Question one: If Kenya’s development was a public service motor vehicle, as president, which of these would you like to be: The vehicle, the driver, the conductor, the engine, the fuel, the lubricant or the road? Explain.

 Hopefully, this will give a glimpse of their self-image.

 Question two: Knowing that a dog is generally loyal and good in taking orders; and knowing that a cat is generally independent and poor in taking orders (in fact, it is good at giving orders!); if Kenyan’s offered them to you as pet gifts, would you take the cat, the dog or both? Explain. These are ego and humility questions. We want to know who likes their ego to be stroked.

 Question three: Consider the following facts and briefly tell us what you think. The recent salary guide for Kenya’s top public servants still places Kenya at par with the civil service pay of the United States – a country nearly 20 times richer.

The symbols and accessories of presidential power in Kenya - the escort, the motorcade, outriders, number and type of cars, carpets, welcome troupes, etc. – exceed many in the developed world.

 Question four: Chose one and explain. Kenya is akin to a complex, dynamic system that needs (a) very little interference (b) constant guidance and direction. (c) None of the above.

 Question five: Which country do you most admire and why?

 Question six: Human beings shape their own individual destiny. True or False. Explain.

 Good luck.

Source: click here

[The writer is based in Arusha-Tanzania where he is the country Director of TradeMark East Africa regional office].


Kenya Elections: The March to March Madness.
BY DR. JASON KIPKIRWOK. 7th February 2013.

Are we on the march to madness in March? Will there be chaos and violence on March 4 and soon after the result is announced?

After the chaos of the political primaries, these questions have taken on new urgency. Your life – indeed the life of the nation – may depend on the answers.

But to answer these questions we need further calibration. The answers, of course, are yes to both. Yes, we are (and have always been) on the march to madness.

And yes, there will be violence during and after the elections. It is only a question of magnitude. The question therefore should be: will the madness and violence in March be of such magnitude as to render the election result - and I refer here to outcome of the presidential contest - invalid? This is the big question. Framed this way, no one dares answer yes to this question. There is too much at stake.

But we must attempt an answer. The recent party elections (it was demo-crazy in full display) provide a useful pointer and allow us to dissect motives, means and methods.

There was what we may call the strategy motive: if the party bosses felt a particular candidate stood a better chance at winning the main contest, they blatantly ignored whoever was elected by the party’s rank-and-file.

Case in point: Bishop Wanjiru and Elizabeth Ongoro. In the cold calculus of means and methods and ethnic math, Wanjiru was deemed to stand a better chance of giving Mike Mbuvi ‘Sonko’ a real competition. She had proved herself (twice) in the rough politics of Starehe. Her direct nomination had little to do with Franklin Bett’s explanation, namely, avoiding two Luo candidates contesting for top positions in a cosmopolitan city.

We also saw candidates that were genuinely popular on the ground, who won clearly and in broad daylight, but whose rivals were mysteriously declared the winners.

Cases in point: Jakoyo Midiwo versus Elisha Odhiambo and Oburu Odinga versus William Oduol. In both cases, the incumbents were reported to have lost decisively yet the party bosses in Nairobi were determined to give them nomination certificates.

Here, nepotism appears to have been the motive (the relatives of the party boss had to obtain the nomination certificates by any means possible).

The method was blatant result-reversal (reminiscent of the infamous Kanu days), and the means the speed of announcement and issuance of nomination certificates.

Finally, in Mary Wambui’s ordeal in Othaya, we saw what appeared to be the hatred (some say ‘family’ rivalry) motive gone amok. The means and method of executing the motive (which as we now know, failed) were intimidation and force. The government officials on the ground were intimated and ordered to do everything in their power to stop the lady, or else...

When the overriding motive is acquisition of power at any cost, all manner of means and methods will be deployed to achieve the desired result.

And this is what is extremely dangerous. Prophets of doom see the worst case scenario unfolding: county administration officials, including the security services, being compromised, leading to deliberate chaos at some polling stations, ballot boxesbeing stolen or tampered with, the wrong winners announced and violence breaking out on a massive scale.

 I do not expect these to happen. True, there will be chaos and violence – invariably. It might even happen in many polling stations. And true, IEBC will not get everything right. And yes, some county administration officials will be compromised.

But all these will not be of such a magnitude as to cause massive violence and outright rejection of the results. There are three main reasons why these will not come to pass.

First, not everyone in the government system will be bent on subverting the process or tilting the result in one way or the other. Many will perform their duties as required by law.

The second reason I do not expect massive violence is the obvious one: The Kalenjin and Kikuyu – traditional rivals – are largely on the same side of the contest this time round. Any violence that might happen after the election would be related to the degree to which TNA will keep the promises they have made to URP.

The final reason is in form of a memo. Dear election observers: Ours is a young democracy. Many Kenyans understand that this election – the first election under the new constitution - will be hugely complex.

Some degree of messiness is expected and will be tolerated. Mistakes will be made and lessons learned. It would be foolish to judge Kenya during this transition by the yardstick of mature democracies. So, are we on the march to madness in March? Yes, but breath easy; all will be well.

Source: click here

[The writer is based in Arusha-Tanzania where he is the country Director of TradeMark East Africa regional office].

Of Bulletproof Vests And Mindsets

I have written many times –sometimes with barely suppressed disdain, sometimes with dispassion, but always with intensity of conviction - on the topic of national leadership.

I have mourned the loss of opportunity – year after year – due to what I have decried as a combination of leadership myopia, greed and incompetence. I have harangued the governed who, by their silence or cheerleading, are the greatest enablers of poor leadership.

I got my deserved punishment the other day when, as I railed against poor leadership, a friend asked a question that stopped me dead on my mental tracks. "If you were the next president, what are the three most important transformative things you would do?" he asked.

It is one thing to criticise, but quite another to be put to test on the same thing you criticise. For several long and uncomfortable seconds, I was stumped.

My mental gears jammed. I had never fancied myself as the president of Kenya – except occasionally in my dreams. During such moments, I could see myself doing so many things – from fixing annoying potholes to nailing the corrupt. But three most transformative things…this one got me scratching my head.

 After I recovered my wits, I mumbled the following answer. Bullet-proof vests. These will be my first priority. Enough ‘bullet-proof vests’ to engender a sense of security among those entrusted with the most delicate and serious public responsibility.

A caveat is in order here. I use ‘bullet-proof vests’ only as a metaphor to mean a high level of personal security. Full disclosure: I got this idea from a friend – a senior judge currently serving in the government.

His reasons were compelling. “We swear to serve the public without fear or favour,” he said, “but the truth is many of us with high responsibilities are full of fear. We either fear losing our jobs or our lives or the lives of those close to us.”

Now, when you reflect on this alongside chronic impunity, creeping state gangsterism, and the culture of money-at-any-cost, you begin to understand the Judge’s fear.

If those expected to fearlessly discharge justice, or those with the responsibility to fight corruption, or those with investigative and prosecutorial powers live in fear of being killed or sacked, you can understand all the widespread apathy, cynicism and the diminished expectations. As president, my first priority will therefore be to ensure these public servants enjoy a high level of personal and job security.

Changing mindsets. This would be my second priority. A mindset is defined as a fixed mental attitude that determines how we interpret and respond to situations.

It is simply a habit. But do not be discouraged by the word 'fixed'. Habit, as we know, is stubborn, but the good news is it can be changed – often through shock therapy!

The prevailing Kenyan mindset is (President Julius Nyerere was right) man-eat-man. We have no hesitation ‘taking advantage’ if that would get us ahead. We are coarse and getting coarser in our manners.

But how do I change the prevailing mindset? I will borrow some tactics from the late Thomas Sankara, the former president of Burkina Faso.

In just about four years before he was assassinated, he had profoundly transformed his citizens’ mindsets. He did this, in the words of his widow, “…through willpower, courage, honesty and hard work.”

Through a combination of charisma and personal example, and above all, dramatic action, Sankara literary held Burkina Faso by the scruff of its neck and shook it.

Three examples of this high drama: he refused to have his portrait hang in public places, sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars, including his own, and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and first class airline tickets.

Granted, some of the things Sankara did were a little over the top. But the point is, dramatic action, like good comedy, gets baked into the mind. Imagine the president of Kenya sacking and ordering the arrest of all ministers implicated in corruption. I will use a combination of dramatic personal example, seduction and force - where necessary - to effect a shift in public attitudes.

Intelligence. As president, my third priority will be to cultivate both the culture and competency in the art of collecting, analysing and interpreting information of military and economic value –especially from outside our borders. Strategy without intelligence is dead. Intelligence without strategy is lame. Successful nations (and businesses) know this.

I will seek to understand how a small nation called Israel has come to exemplify the best and most successful practitioner of the art of acquisition and application of military and economic intelligence.

With assured security, changed mindsets and superb intelligence capability, we can then implement all those things we have so fluently described in our development blueprints.

Source: click here

[The writer is based in Arusha-Tanzania where he is the country Director of TradeMark East Africa regional office].


Of Pots, Politics and Paradox


If Ngong Road could speak, it would, as I found out the other day, speak the language of pots, politics and paradox. Here is the little story –a microcosm, and hopefully a parable of life in Kenya today.

 But first, about Ngong Road. It starts off where Kenyatta Avenue and Valley Road meet and snakes its way in a south-westerly direction all the way to Ngong town. It must be one of the longest roads in Nairobi. As you head out of the city on this road, a key feature on either side of it is the parade of small, mostly informal, businesses fighting for space, attention and the shilling with the big boys. The most exciting for me is the stretch of road between Dagoreti Corner junction and the Lenana School turn-off. Here you will find Kenyan Jua Kali creativity at its most beautiful.

 Those who have used this road over the years will have noticed the increasing sophistication in the design and artistry of the clay pots and furniture. Last weekend I spend part of my time with Mr Githirwa, a pottery dealer on Ngong Road whom I have known for years. I consider him a friend. Now 29, Githirwa has been in the business for about 10 years. Starting as a freelance pottery artist, he now owns a patch of road-reserve ‘real estate’ on which he paints and displays his pots.

 As Githirwa and I discussed the latest pot designs and art work, a Nairobi City Council vehicle pulled up. Two muscular men walked out and headed straight to us. Githirwa looked at them as they approached. I looked at him. His eyes were more weary than wary.

 “Hey kijana. Fanya fanya. Haraka.” (Hey, young man, do the needful. Hurry.)

 Githirwa pulled out his wallet, took out some money and gave it to the one barking the orders. They took the money and off they went. I saw them approach their next victim, a woman selling potted plants. I turned to look at my friend, Githirwa. He had resumed his decorative artwork on one of the pots. When I asked Kamau what the money was for and why he did not insist on a receipt, he looked at me with a raised eye-brow but did not answer immediately. But I understood the unasked question “Which planet does this imbecile come from?”

 When he did finally speak, the words came out in a flood. “It has always been like this. They always come to demand money every week for what they say is permission to use the road reserve. When I once demanded a receipt, they arrested me and threatened to charge me with dumping and trading without a business permit. I don’t even know if these people are from Kanjo (City Hall) because they are not always the same people. Sisi wadogo kweli hatuna haki. (We small people truly have no rights).”

 “What do you think should be done to change the situation?” I asked him “We need serious and committed leaders; leaders who will protect the rights of the small person. We need a leader that will end corruption in this country. Did you hear about the fake cop in Nakuru? We need someone who can stop this. And by the way, I am not even sure if the person who comes to demand money from me is a real or a fake Kanjo employee.” He was getting heated up.

 I asked the question differently. I wanted to know which presidential candidate he was going to vote for and why. “I will vote for Uhuru Kenyatta because everyone in Dagoretti where I come from will vote for him.”

 Jarring food for thought.

 My friend Githirwa, a man with gifted hands and a creative mind, cannot provide a reasoned answer when it comes his choice of the leader of the country. Now we understand what Saint Thomas Aquinas meant when he said, “A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational.” We also now understand why irrationality is hardwired into the core of our beings: we are, as recent advances in neuro-science have confirmed, more emotional than rational.

 And therein lies the paradox. We rationally crave for change but we act irrationally in our political choices. A pity really because it means the exciting informal businesses such as Githirwa’s may never get the support that they deserve in order to grow and diversify.

 According to the 2012 Economic Survey, the small and medium enterprises sector’s contribution to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product and employment is around 25 per cent and 75 per cent respectively. The potential is vast if only the government would get serious about supporting this sector with the right mix of policy and legislative tools. But we must first confront t the daunting task of convincing my friend Githirwa to act less emotionally on March 4.

Source: click here

[The writer is based in Arusha-Tanzania where he is the country Director of TradeMark East Africa regional office].