Control your own food value-chain

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Growing our own food is obviously important, but controlling our food-chain goes beyond just growing our food. Controlling our food chain has two main benefits. First, It helps us minimize our losses by ensuring we have proper storage and safe preservation methods for our products. Remember that artificial scarcity is caused by the fact that someone else (other than the farmer) has better storage for products than the farmer who produces them. This weakness renders the farmer at the mercy of the store-keeper who has the storage equipment and preservation material. In my village at the Lake Victoria shores, many fishermen sell their fish at throw-away prices to vendors who have storage equipment. In average, a fisherman has between 1-2 hours to sell his fish after which the fish begins to go bad. I used to observe with anger as the selfish merchants from Nairobi waited in their refrigerated truck for the fishermen to become desperate and just when they were about to throw away their fish, then the refrigerator men would offer them little money, so little that some fishermen had to sell their boats and stop fishing altogether. Many others resorted to fishing for domestic consumption only. The storage and preservation issue is one of the greatest set-backs to production in Africa. To curb ‘artificial scarcity’ caused by such selfish businessmen, all farmers must invest in storage and preservation for their products. This is the first step on the value chain process. It is important simply because it makes it possible for us to store and preserve our own food.

food value chain

The food value-chain

Secondly, controlling our own food value-chain allows us to maximize on the secondary products that can be processed from the raw materials that we produce. So many books have been written about this. But my perspective is that we must only produce what we need. Should we produce what we do not need, we must convert it into a surplus of what we need which we can store and preserve for the future. Africa has been producing what they do not consume for so long in the name of cash crops that they hope to exchange for money. It is wrong for a tea, coffee or sugarcane farmer to use his entire farm to grow these cash crops at the expense of maize, cassava or millet which are his family’s staple diet. The history of these cash crops is that they were meant to service foreign markets – a subsequence of their economic colonialism. Our value chain should be based on our primary raw materials. From maize, we can get flour, from milk we can obtain ghee and cheese, from cow hides we can make shoes, from cotton and sisal, we can make clothes and rug and any such thing that we need. Nearly everything we buy at the shopping mall, we can make or improvise at home using our own raw materials.  From the value chain, there will emerge farmers, manufacturers, artisans, cobblers, tailors, carpenters, mechanics and doctors – a massive section of our jobless population. Most importantly, it will keep us safe from the creators and merchants of artificial scarcity. When our labor goes into our own farms and enterprise, our food will keep us from hunger, our water will keep us from thirst and we shall not be any one’s slaves ever again.

Store wealth in non-monetary forms

The modern financial world is built to extract from the bottom and to gather at the top. The concept of ‘financial inclusion’ is a herding concept where common citizens are encouraged and compelled to belong into an international financial system that they have no control over. It assumes that wealth should always be liquid so that it may flow to the top. Once at the top, it is inaccessible to the poor but available to the rich who can borrow it almost for zero interest. Thus wealthy men can always access poor men’s money through the banking system but it is way harder for poor men to access the rich men’s money. Wealthy men who know this secret always resist the attempt to liquefy their wealth and instead store it in various non-monetary forms where it is protected from inflation, taxation and other money risks.  To be wiser means we must be ready to reject this type of financial inclusion. “Must we bank our money?” Is therefore a question that every new African must ask. We must learn to store wealth in non-monetary forms – land, cattle, gold, etc and only use money as few times as possible. By rejecting the banks, we will be stopping the upward flow of wealth to the rich and concentrating wealth in the hands of the poor. We need to make such bold steps in order to secure freedom for ourselves and for our children. Such is the boldness with which we must also rid ourselves of the few converted Africans who sustain the oppressive system. Africa’s next revolution will be the elimination of selfish and greedy African leaders who have since supported and benefited from the oppressive economic arrangement with foreign merchants. These ‘house Negroes’ must be purged from our midst if we are to move forward and secure our freedom. Tokenism has no place in this age. Our land is rich and our forefathers were not beggars, why should we beg?

Avoid the banks!

bankers vs people-1

Banks are the hangman himself. Banks are at the center of an international financial structure constructed to concentrate wealth at the top. This principle alone works against the efforts of poor people to be rich. There is evidence everywhere that the trickle-down approach of economics has failed to distribute wealth to the poor. The banking system is one of the ‘trickle-down’ theory’s strongest vestiges. Their true function of the bank is to use the poor man wealth for the rich man’s purpose while lying to him that his money is safe and is garnering interest. This is the worst lie ever told. Wealthy men only go to the bank to take a loan – which in actuality it the poor man’s money. Many banks also offer so many exciting loan projects to their customers like mortgages, car-loans, business loans personal loans etc. These cleverly designed projects are made to ensure that you are trapped into the debt cycle. I cannot even start to count so many family lives destroyed because a honest breadwinner got convinced to take a bank loan. When you really investigate why you go to the bank, often you will realize it is not your liking but the complex compulsion by the various capitalist organs and the state which make it almost mandatory for all citizens to have a bank account. The government knows that it cannot tax you if you do not bank your money. I knew of a clever employer who paid his employees in cash protecting them from harsh taxation by the government bureaucrats and the bank cartels. Most importantly, do not convert your wealth into money to be stored in banks; rather invest in long-term assets that appreciate with time. Saves you from the greedy bankers, saves you from the government taxman and secures your wealth from value depreciation emanating from inflations and the stupid ‘hidden hand’ of the market. We need to wake up!

Distribute, but not as an act of charity

But the next paradigm shift will happen when we make this bold decision. When we learn the truth that private accumulation of wealth creates a deadly stalemate for the entire society which ends in the fall of the wealthy men. If anyone has been listening, this is the message that capitalism has been teaching us. That for as long as there is one poor person around, the rich men cannot sleep peacefully and their wealth is not secure. Wealth must be distributed. Like all things, if it sits in one place for too long, it begins to stink. But this is something that cannot come out of an economic policy blue-print. This is a new value system; to depart from our human principle of greed to a greater godly spirit of justice and distribution. Distribution – not as an act of charity, but as an economic principle. When all are secure, then one is secure. When more people can pay for something, then more people can buy it, then business grows, then the economy grows. The whole world is waiting for Africa to lead this new paradigm sphere. If we gather the courage and discipline to do it, we shall be ushering the world into a new vast era of humanity, progress and sustainability. We can make this world into our little heaven. A heaven for all of us, not some.

Part 3 coming soon…

Barely a century ago, the African society was entirely mechanical and people relied purely on physical labor for agricultural production. Expectedly, the returns were meager and could only take care of their subsistence. There was rarely a surplus to store for the future. As a result, there were famines when it did not rain for a long time. However, colonization and westernization brought western machinery into Africa – which contributed to increased mechanization and agricultural productivity. This lead to more food and more surpluses to store. We began to see less effects of famine which led to a better standard of life for people. The mechanization of production in Agriculture and the use of scientifically improved seeds was a radical shift in the mitigation of the effects of famine in many parts of Africa. This is a testament that in a large way, science has made it possible for modern man to alter the natural state of things. Hunger is therefore no longer a natural fate today as man has at his disposal, advanced weather and climate prediction tools, skills in agricultural development and food storage technology which if coordinated well, is capable of securing people from hunger.

flour scramble

Ugly politics: Hungry Kenyans scramble for donated maize flour

And so when we thought we were advancing the welfare of our people through the use of mechanized agriculture, a strange brand of ugly politics reared its head in our land. A political brand based on the belief that in order to govern people, one must always keep them in a state of dependence and want. Basic needs needed to be made scarce. Farm produce, however bountiful were made to ‘disappear’ in order to increase demand for them – which saw prices increase to the benefit of the selfish merchants. Most importantly however, this fake scarcity created a sense of privilege among those who could access the food and a sense of ‘lack’ among those who could not access the food. This division between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is what became known as class. As more food was accessed and stored by the few ‘haves’, more ‘have-nots’ remained in a state of dependence leading to an elaborate political and economic stratification in Kenya. The urge by the selected ‘haves’ to make food ‘disappear’ for a time developed into a bigger plan that is now called ‘artificial scarcity’. You know the story in Kenya’s ‘disappeared’ maize.

If one tractor manned by one man can produce food enough to sustain more than 100 families in a season, then it means that Kenya has more food today than we had 100 years ago despite our population increase. The terrible famines that we see today in Kenya can be attributed more to ‘artificial scarcity’ than to natural causes such as rainfall or bad seeds. It therefore becomes imperative for the scientifically created ‘poor’ people to fight the oppressive structure by making it difficult or impossible for their farm produce to be bought and stored by the selfish merchants. They can begin by taking charge of the future, which is first done by planning for it. We know that man does not secure freedom by standing in line and waiting for his turn. He secures his freedom by deciding his fate, accepting it and cultivating his life around his fate. He builds his first hut in the bushes and grows a city around it. By using this example, it becomes extremely and urgently important for our people to create and control their own food chain.

RELIEF-FOOD

Kenyans parading for relief food.

It is in light of controlling our food chain that i am going to be proposing some radical next steps for Kenyans and Africans at large in my next posts.

When a man’s training and livelihood is to kill men (Legitimately or not), he develops power and confidence over humanity, such power that no human being should have. In this sense, both the violent robber and the flying squad policeman are similar in character and form – they both possess the power to take away life. In consequence, their capacity to be in charge of themselves as normal human beings is eroded. Their conscience is blurred and they evolve into soulless machines – perhaps they have bills to pay. We have been told stories of death squads within the Kenyan government whose role is to eliminate ‘enemies’ of powerful people within government. We have seen assassinations target individuals possibly singled out by these guys or their agents. We have seen men die brutal, painful deaths like that of Jacob Juma – a man whose final moments of pain were even visible on his face as he lay in his coffin. When a leadership is scared of its people, it stoops to such levels of violence.

But let me also ask; are not all men potential killers? That pushed to the right limit, any man will kill, or will fight even though he may be out-numbered, even with his bare arms. Do they underestimate the capacity and resolve of the citizen to protest state sponsored violence? Who would stand there and watch you kill their brother or mother? Have they forgotten that this is the same logic behind terrorism? And you can kill one or two or even a hundred, until it is your turn to die too.

joho argues

Mombasa County Governor, Ali Hassan Joho being blocked by police from attending a ferry-launch event that the President presided over. He was later kept under ‘office-arrest’ until the President completed the event.

So when I saw the state security block the Governor of Mombasa at the Nyali bridge yesterday, I was drawn to look at the faces of the security agents ordered to block him. They were men like anyone else. In uniform or in plain clothes. They carried guns – which perhaps gave them more courage. Some of them wore dark glasses which perhaps helped them to hide their true identity and conceal their own shame. The shame of being the ones chosen for the dirty job. Who were these men? Some of them looked thuggish and scary, like real killers.  Perhaps they have done this for long. A part of me felt sympathy for them because I know however that in the long run, such people often suffer tremendous psychological trauma such as we witness in the lives of ex-soldiers and ex-policemen. They are Kenyans stuck in this loop. Often under-trained, un-rewarded and used for illegal purposes, many of them risk their lives and kill only to defend themselves. That they were used to enforce an illegal arrest and to clamp down on Governor Joho’s freedom of movement speaks volumes about the security priorities of the leadership. The government cannot deploy to protect citizens against violent Pokot herdsmen but it can deploy to stop a single man from coming out of his office.

I watched the clip where they pushed Governor Joho backwards as they blocked his way – they were pushing as though they were prodding him to lose control and do something stupid so that they may have the excuse to use violence. I recalled the several instances in the past where such men have been sent to Kibera by the lorries to provoke the people’s anger in order to find a reason to beat up and even kill some people. This is the kind of stuff that happens in uncivilized countries led by equally uncivilized leaders. The idea of democracy is tolerance. The capacity for violence is but a-posturing, reserved only to the military to be used across the border. A para-military institution like the police has the role to ‘keep law and order.’ Beating and killing of innocent civilians has never brought about any law and order anywhere in the history of this world. Intimidating popularly elected leaders with violence tends to radicalize communities further. Actually, violence has always preceded the fall and collapse of every regime that has used it in excess.

“…we must all teach our children that a president is not a god…”

The presidency is above all, a political office and the bearer of the title being a politician – must also play politics. But the law of the land demands that they must not use the instruments of the state in pushing their individual political agenda. This used to happen in Kenya years back under Moi and Kenyatta. But now that we have seen the sunshine and enjoyed its warmth, we will all die before we go back to the dark caves of political submission and dictatorship. Again, we must all teach our children that a president is not a god. His die-hard followers may want to believe that, but the truth is that he is human. He feeds, pisses and poos like all of us. The illusion of omnipresence and omnipotence should not get into his head. In matters freedom, the child is already out of the womb. So much blood has already been spilt on this subject. We are not going back.

(Note: I would still say these if the president were my brother.)

 

The writer is the founder of Forum 43 Kenya, a Kenyan organization working to pursue the implementation of article 43 of the Kenyan constitution – Article 43 emphasizes the delivery of Economic, Social and Cultural rights for all Kenyans, particularly those in marginalized communities.

“The man who will hide the light of a candle is the man ready to burn.”

Endless echoes among the folk

Posted: January 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

Folks are silent, preferring to whisper beyond closed doors and cheer the bulls on. The bulls continue to trample upon folks.

There is not a harmony of coincidences among the folks yet. When the feelings of agony are mutual among the folks and the clanking of the chains are loud enough. Their chains were forged long ago! Them folks are deaf.

So let me sleep and don’t bother me

Just wake me up

When the tall folk are ready to stand tall and not stoop low for the short folk

When the rapture of egos resound like a thousand thunderclaps with endless echoes traveling deep into the roaches caves where the forgotten folks live…

Wake me up when the stormy rain washes away my sweat and grime and the friction of the floods have smoothed my uncle’s rough hands. My uncle’s honest hands.

Wake me up when the little giants have left our land and the spirits of the folk have awakened.  When the lambs have become lions, when the dumb have begun to speak, when the dominoes have begun to fall… wake me up when the sun comes out and the slaves can stretch their arms wide, as wide as the gates of hell waiting for them…  Let the common folk believe it is heaven. They’ll kill themselves if they knew that the rich have  rented all the spaces in heaven.

Just let me know when the patient folk have lost their patience and the sky is dark and gloomy and the sun is but a-peeping beyond the clouds.  Call out my name when the rage of the folk is blind and deaf…

For i live among the folk.

 

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NGITO  KJ #Poetry

 

Whatever one’s feelings against the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya, every Kenyan should be proud of the courage of Johnstone Kamau Muigai, alias Jomo Kenyatta during the 1920s and the 1930s when as a young man he took courage to learn, speak and act against African colonial oppression. Activities that earned him the tag ‘terrorist’ and ‘leader unto darkness and death.’ Those days we are told, he spoke like a true African. He belonged to a generation of young Africans who wanted self-rule for Africa, even more; he was mature in his approach and suffered many repercussions for his political stand. Whether he spoke only for the Kikuyu is of no consequence, his words touched the hearts of every African. The Kikuyu primary issue of land was an issue elsewhere too and agitation was happening in most parts of Kenya despite being undocumented. Before we had Kenya, all major documentation about the struggle for autonomy focused on the Kikuyu – the only properly documented military campaign against the colonialists were the Mau-Mau – a Kikuyu organization.

But the Kikuyu also clearly enjoyed the benefits of first contact with the European missionaries, education being the first of such. Most of the first Kenyans to go to school were Kikuyus and exposure came with it.  These are facts of history that must be accepted by the wider Kenyan community. When the time to inherit government came, a majority of those qualified to be civil servants were Kikuyu. It is obvious therefore that when colonialism finally ended, not only did Kikuyuland finally belong to the Kikuyu, a wider country called Kenya was created to be led first by a Kikuyu.

As independence approached, the Brits could have left the native tribes exactly how they had found them. But because they wanted to keep a foothold on things and continue the amassing of wealth from East Africa, they encouraged the formation of a union of tribes, they needed such centrality and they needed someone with the capacity to unite all the tribes. Perhaps without the idea of a colonial protectorate later baptised ‘Kenya,’ Kenyatta would have remained the tribal spokesman for Kikuyuland or GEMA at the most. Jaramogi would have remained the spokesman of the Luo Kavirondo, Ngala would be the leader of the Coastal Mijikenda – where they would have to deal with an even bigger struggle against the threat of the Omani Arabs, the Maasai would have retained their traditional chieftaincy heaquartered at Narok and the Northern Frontier District (North Eastern) would have gone to Somalia. The excuse of eliminating tribal conflicts was the justification for forging a ‘national unity’ This would by extension help shield the Kikuyu tribe from the constant conflict with their ‘jealous’ neighbors. Here progress was made to unite all of Kenya’s tribes under one administration and Kenyatta became the leader of the union.

Years later, Jomo Kenyatta over-used the national-unity excuse to rob Kenyans of many political freedoms as President – a honest analysis of the first 10 amendments of our independence constitution explains the character of Jomo Kenyatta’s politics. Colonialism therefore laid the foundations for the Kikuyu community’s dominance over Kenya’s politics in the future. The politics to secure and sustain the Kikuyu ascendancy still dominates Kenya’s political landscape to date. In more direct language and in the minds of many Kikuyu, Kenya is Kikuyu country.

Because of this, many old and young Kikuyu believe that Kenya is theirs to rule (the concept of ‘uthamaki). In our shaken idea of electoral democracy 54 years later, we have had 4 presidents and 3 of them have been Kikuyu, one would say that is a fair reward for their pre-colonial troubles. Their stints in leadership of the country has brought benefits to their people; relatively easier access to government opportunities and services, relatively easier access to business and financing, relatively easier access to land and relative immunity from justice due to nepotism. Other than the 24 year interruption of their rule by Moi – a Kalenjin, Kenyans have witnessed the different faces of the different Kikuyu regimes, but there has always been a single thread; that is securing the place of the Kikuyu as the rightful rulers of Kenya.

kill-tribe

Global Capitalism has justified the rise of millionaires across the world, but in Kenya, it is hard to explain why there can be more millionaires in one region in a scale not comparable to the rest of the regions, often times at the expense of the rest of the country.   Colonialism gave us a country, but we have failed to build a nation. 50 years later, devolution has come as a result of pressure painted by patches of violent resource-based conflicts in various parts of the country. The pressure was usually upon the successive governments to share national resources with the rest of the country. The post election violence in 2013 was really never about the botched elections; if it was by any margin, it was because a large cross-section of the Kenyan population had decades of pent-up anger against successive regimes that had refused to yield to public pressure to honor promises and trickle wealth down – Kibaki whose government had became almost all-Kikuyu by 2007 had to resort to illegal tactics, swearing himself in after a botched election, sparking widespread violence never before witnessed in Kenya.

The fourth president, not-so-surprisingly is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, the father of the nation. He has had a clean sheet to write upon, a rare opportunity to seal his father’s  perceived legacy of laying the foundations of ‘uthamaki’. Could Uhuru escape the grip of the ‘Mafia’ and be his own man, a president for all Kenyans?  In most parts of Kenya that i have been to, i hear hushed whispers complaining against domination by ‘the Kikuyu.’ This sentiment is greatest among poor people and young people from marginalized tribes. Though silent, there seems to be a generational disquiet about the set up. The unspoken heard is that devolution is not enough; that 50 years later, Kenya’s presidency should be rotational among the various tribes. With sentiments of ‘uthamaki’ now resurging ahead of the 2017 elections propelled by die-hard Kikuyu tribalists, there will be raw emotions harbored by the rest of the Kenyan tribes which might give them the excuse to justify their own versions of ‘uthamaki.’

President Uhuru Kenyatta is younger, comparatively smarter and more alive to the reality of Kenya’s inequality and tribalism problem. He knows that leadership today isn’t about showing the people how best to demonstrate power; the younger generation does not recognize unwarranted authority and would prefer to be less governed. But if disenfranchised, they will become bitter adults who would have nothing to lose if the country burns. President Uhuru’s greatest assignment will be to remain a Kenyan President. One for all Kenyans. He would be expected to include more representation from a broader ethnic cross-section. His political adventures have already led to a Kikuyu political marriage to the Kalenjin. But we hope that his obligations to that partnership may not blindfold him so as to overlook the heating pressure from the rest of the Kenyan communities. Indeed, a president is a figure of national unity, not a party man.

Part 2 coming soon.

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I have faith that there is a section of younger, educated and de-tribalized Kikuyu who can look at these imbalances with an objective lens. Beyond the ethnic identity, there is a class identity. And they recognize that we must begin somewhere and that these words must be spoken the way they have to be spoken.

There has never been a time when Kenya so badly needed fresh blood in its system. A younger, liberal, visionary who would strike a new chord, for our generation already trots to a different beat. A beat that none of the leaders is playing at the moment. Yet by ‘fresh blood’ I do not mean ‘younger’ for we have seen the rise of ‘young thieves’ who steal with more gusto, defend themselves with more ruthlessness and silence critics with reckless abandon. Fresh blood means a new thought, a new perspective, a new courage and yes, new courage may come even in old age. Isn’t old age the apex of wisdom anyway? The propaganda that youth always do better in leadership is a farce. I have since lost count of intelligent-looking and well-dressed ‘youth’ whose brains are dripping wet with out-dated ideas and whose tongues spew foolish words like a burst sewer.

When the population is wise, the leadership will be compelled to be wise. If we chose to focus on the burning human rights issues and make them the benchmarks for elections, the leaders will adjust accordingly. Soon idiosyncrasies like age, pedigree, tribe, religion and wealth-from-any-source will never again be the basis of elections in Kenya, in Africa. But it takes courage even to be a great citizen. Practicing morality in a chaotic environment requires courage beyond its normal limits. For Kenya, it is time to rise once again. If we prefer to slumber while the house burns, then the issues I have mentioned below will lull us to permanent sleep.

court-o-farms

Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi: A mirage

Inequality

Inequality dogs Kenya like a disease that refuses to leave the patient. We have such wide disparities of life in Kenya that the Human Development Index of Nairobi (2015) of (0.773) is comparable to high HDI countries like Mexico (0.770) and Seychelles (0.773), Central Kenya region‘s HDI is comparable to medium HDI countries like Egypt (0.644) and Botswana (0.633) while parts of Northern Kenya such as Turkana have low HDI comparable to countries such as Afghanistan. We have such a mosaic. Imagine Mexico and Afghanistan in one country.

But because it is in our nature to justify pain and suffering in order to find excuses for not fighting, we like finding easy scapegoats like ‘colonial legacy’ and so forth and we attribute the income differences to biological stereotypes like hard work or laziness of tribes and communities. Even worse, we blame it on the rainfall patterns. But hey, we are in 2017, 54 years since the white man left Kenya.

We even have a new constitution that has equity as an outcome under the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act) with outputs such as the Equalization fund. The boldness of implementing it is what is lacking. Moreover, we have some of the most educated planners and managers. It is always the bad politics! We are hungry and cannot be fed, we are sick and cannot be treated and we are homeless and cannot be sheltered. Death is just a preventable disease away. Which leaders do this to their citizens?

In a country like Kenya, a sensitive leadership should (almost by impulse) emphasize priority for the poor and the marginalized. Leaders cannot claim a ‘middle-income’ economy status when 60 percent of the urban population in every city lives in slums and makeshift structures. Kenya cannot respectfully be a ‘Big brother’ in East and Central Africa with a rotten health system where doctors are not paid; nor can our national airline be ‘The pride of Africa’ with bad debts, dysfunctional planes and unpaid pilots.

Inequality is going to kill Kenya.

Corruption

We had high hopes in 2002 when Moi fell from power, these hopes were dashed by Kibaki hence we had to fight in 2007. We were patient again and resilient and our hopes were raised again in 2013. But we were fooled again. If we had thought that 2013 would mark an end to or at least see a reduction of grand corruption in the country, it was wish-full thinking. 2017 is here and corruption has grown in leaps and bounds, from Eurobond to NYS and Afya House (baptized Mafya house), we have seen unprecedented levels of corruption happening within very high levels of government and featuring names of cronies of the President and his deputy. What have these young, digital guys done to the country?

The clean-up is overdue. The rot is stinking.

Unemployment

This remains a key issue because it is connected to HIV/AIDS, drugs and insecurity and more than 60% of our population (Youth) are directly affected. Hundreds of thousands of young people in Kenya are wallowing in abject poverty and getting consumed into crime, drugs and prostitution. It is very easy to blame it all on the ‘recklessness of youth’ which is an easy answer to one of the most complex problems and we would rather bury our heads in the sand. Enough value chain experts are in the country and job creation is a matter of adjusting our policies and transforming industries to be people centered, to empower the local farmer, to formalize the private sector, to make it easy to start and do business and to implement trade policies that protect the local population. We cannot continue attracting FDR at the high expense of our people’s lives and survival. Unemployment remains a key problem as we begin 2017.

The question is, are the leaders listening or will the ground shift beneath their feet?

Bad Governance

What we like calling ‘lack of political will’ is simply the absence of a bold leadership. The people are crying for a leadership that has the moral courage to break loose from the manacles of corporate elites and land cartels including those hiding inside the various houses of parliament. Leaders who will listen to the people and do their bidding.

Kenya is still a chauvinist dynasty with sons of former presidents and vice presidents scrambling for the top position and lining up to ‘inherit’ the mantle. Things have not changed much in 50 years and Kenyans will once again have very limited choices on which to base their electoral decision in 2017.

We are yet to see a difference between the ruling party and the opposition party in ideology and vision. As it is, it is predictable that whoever wins the 2017 elections will differ only in intensity and speed of implementation. We should not expect many parallels.

Finally, Kenyans do not want another regime propelled into power by ‘survival’ instincts. A good leadership does not seek the presidency in order to ‘escape’ perceived or real misfortunes resulting from their previous perceived actions. In 2013, the ICC propelled the current regime into power; other reasons were only coincidental and consequential. As expected, they have taken our ‘debt levels’ to heights never before seen in Kenya among many other ills that we have witnessed in their first term in office.

Kenyans are intelligent people; they can see the rot beyond the PR. Nothing will stop them, not even the crackdown on civil society and the government criminalization of civic education done by NGOs. Kenya will not become Ethiopia. We have come of age.

It is not the time to THINK, it is the time to ACT. Get the VOTE ready.

Think for a minute about humanity. Why us? Why now? Why do we share time and space on earth? Above all, why were we brought into this world as human beings and not something else? Employ your mind. Just think.

My thoughtful speculation led me to one probable answer. That a common thread runs through our lives. Co-existence.  This co-existence binds us together in one undeniable statement “You are because I am.”  In this seemingly chaotic world, there is a balance in all things. Death gives room for birth to happen and decay brings forth more life. For every one dangerous and destructive evil act, there are hundreds of humane and constructive acts performed.  Good people still out-number the bad people and there is still a valid reason to give birth to children. This is enough reason to look outside the window, inhale deeply the moment’s fresh air, appreciate the sunshine and smile. In all considerations, we are still lucky people. But do we know why?

believe

For this balance to remain, opposites must exist.  And while we may be tempted to see the bad as a temporary state of things, deep down we must understand that bad is absolute and permanent. Bad people may cease to exist but badness as a circumstance is a permanent state that balances with goodness – another permanent state. We may get rid of evil people, but we cannot totally eradicate evil. Similarly we may get rid of good people but we may not suppress goodness forever. Once in a while a leader emerges that epitomizes either of the two.

Human desire is a permanent phenomenon, but human poverty is a temporary state.

 

Similarly, the state of poverty may be permanent, but poor people are not.

In truth, poverty does not end because an individual has left it. It remains alive, obtaining new recruits from the sea of humanity around us. However, much of what we call poverty is artificial and manufactured by us. Particularly because it is derived out of comparison with others. True poverty is rare and quite manageable.  It is simply the lack of very bare necessities of life. Food, water, security and medicine. Much of what we need is basic, but much of what we desire and want is based on comparisons with others on the premise of comfort and extra luxury. Indeed, many people could live decent lives on ten percent of their incomes if they did not live for other people. Many times, our protests against poverty are not because we lack but because we feel cheated by others who have more than we do. In a deeper sense, ‘poverty’ is a feeling of exclusion, a feeling of being left behind to eat after the others, to dress second hand, to lose some dignity at the expense of others. How the poverty indicators have changed since the coming of the white-man to Africa! My great-great grandfather was not a poor man, though he did not have clothes.

The actual war against poverty has been covertly replaced by the struggle for more by those who are not even poor themselves. Greed has found another justification and the sky is the limit for our modern capitalists. Somewhere in the dark, I still constantly ask; who exactly is the poor? Could he speak for himself?

Left to the laws of nature, this cycle would never end. But because humanity organized itself into states and governments, there have been attempts to lift people out of poverty, unfortunately by governments led by rich people – most of who feel that poverty ended when they left it. For these individuals, poverty is a distant problem that they need research after research to even imagine. Like performing a study on a patient who is dying of thirst to establish whether it is really water they need, they spend a long time and resources diagnosing the problem without treating it. This insensitivity to the greatest problem of our times has made our world a difficult place to live in. The wealthy cannot enjoy their luxuries in peace because the poor are not happy with them. The so-called ‘aid culture’ has become a thriving commercial enterprise that benefits its own practitioners more than the poor. Even modern art dramatizes poverty as though it is long past and lives in the museum. We have the seen the rise of ‘poverty romantics’ and poverty tourists (I call them poorists) – people who have a strange sentimental attraction to poverty but who make no attempt to make life easier for the people living in poverty. If indeed we share a world for a reason and the reason is to co-exist, doesn’t it become everyone’s responsibility to watch out for one another? Think again – Why us? Why now? Why do we share time and space on earth? Above all, why were we brought into this world as human beings and not something else?

For as long as we share this earth… We must learn to live together as wise people or perish together as fools.

Another fortunate balance is that nature itself makes it hard for a small section of humanity to enjoy everything at the expense of the others. Daily we witness wars and conflicts around the world by people fighting exclusion. It will require the rich to seek out another planet where they may create a world in their likeness. For as long as we share this earth, they will be forced to accommodate the poor worldwide for them to even enjoy the little they have accumulated. It takes more than an academic knowledge of economics to know that if there is no actual trickle-down, no ‘law’ of economics can secure sustainable and collective economic progress. We must learn to live together as wise people or perish together as fools.

Poverty is one big messy hole with many people stuck in it. Our task is not to fill up the hole and pretend it didn’t exist, but to constantly pull people out of it. So long as we continue to ignore this problem, no amount of technological advancement, academic achievement or economic prosperity will shield us from catastrophes of apocalyptic proportions when poor people will rise. And they shall do so without regard to nation, color, race, religion or politics.

We all deserve dignity. Don’t we?

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Mr Kepha J. Ngito is the founder of Forum 43 Kenya, a Kenyan organization working to pursue the implementation of article 43 of the Kenyan constitution – Article 43 emphasizes the delivery of Economic, Social and Cultural rights for all Kenyans, particularly the marginalized communities.

No Need to Fear President TRUMP

Posted: November 14, 2016 in Uncategorized
“One of they key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”   – Donald J. Trump

I was an exuberant Kenyan young man when Obama was sworn in for the first time. I was even interviewed on CNN to speak about what that meant for African youth. At that time, we could almost touch ‘hope’ from here in Kenya. Being the word artist that he is, Obama had made us feel as though it was judgment day; Armageddon for others and payday for Africans. “When will this payday be?” Joseph Hill sang from our ghetto stereos. Oh the changes that were promised! I remember watching TV images of Jesse Jackson crying. It brought back difficult recollections of Dr. King. Maybe this was the day Martin Luther King saw in his dream. I even stuck an Obama poster on the wall of my house, something i had sworn never to do for a politician. I was as happy as a dog with two tails.

Then the years began, the dust settled and I saw a man struggling to keep up with his own stride. Good things happened yes, intelligent speeches, #ObamaCare for instance, and Osama is ‘dead’ and the US economy got back on its feet. But even all that cannot equal the level of ‘hope’ he had created, the amount of expectation was mammoth. As our hopes deflated slowly like a bicycle tire on a hot African dusty road, we began to wonder whether the pregnancy was too big to deliver. Even when he came to Kenya during his second term, it was a bland and jaded visit, distant and tasteless like the return of Lupita Nyong’o. He was confined to the high towers of Nairobi and went back as quickly as he had come. He missed the parties in Kibera and Kogello, the tired and hungry people whose hearts he had excited with his speeches. I never blamed him though. As a Kenyan luo – his father’s tribesman, i am still proud of him. Sometimes, society thrives on hope. We might have remained hungry, but he gave us courage. He gave us a voice. You think I am lying, go to Kogello and Kibera! These are places where political loyalty is not connected to gifts of ‘development.’

I cannot blame President Obama because his remarkable era lay within the #Reagan framework of things, a 50 year strategic map he could not alter much. He had joined the chess-board halfway through the game. No matter how much he represented change, he could not alter the state of things. He could only play with the timelines. Americans were not yet ready for too much change. Even his second term was politically lackluster; perhaps that’s why we were fed on the internal white house family life and Michelle’s growing bum as she exercised the fat away at the gym. In short, even a bright star such as Obama was just another star on the constellation. In the wide spectrum of history, he will be a bright comet in the vast blue sky.

This is exactly how I want to place the surprise kid, Donald Trump.

trumpobama

Why Trump won.

Pundits have opined that Trump represents the dissenting voices of America. These ‘dissenting voices’ were actually Obama’s voters and Bernie Sanders’ followers who felt that Hillary – though democrat, was a different type of fish. These are the people who saw Hillary Clinton’s presidency as a presidency that would be manipulated by a cartel of oligarchs. Based on this premise, it is possible that Obama had been elected in 2008 NOT because he was ‘democrat’. He had been elected and re-elected because he seemed to represent some kind of ‘proxy rebellion’ against the ‘system’. The people loved him. He was also half-black and had a Muslim name. Obama represented the contradictions that many young Americans have. Once Obama’s term ended, it was obvious his voters would want another ‘rebel.’ And Bernie Sanders was the man! He was in the rhythm with Obama’s voters and they loved him! But the oligarchs that puppeteer the Democratic Party stopped him and pushed Clinton forward, a move that scared away many voters and drove them to the Trump camp. Americans knew that Clinton had been tested twice and her record is known. First as the wife of Bill Clinton, second as Obama’s Secretary of State. The opportunity for America to have its first female President was lost because the candidate had too much baggage!

“The only card [Hillary Clinton] has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else to offer and frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”   – Donald J. Trump

 

One thing the feminist movement misses in their gender-speak is that there is being a woman which is one thing, then there is being a good woman, which is required in leadership. The chickens of Benghazi had come home to roost much earlier that we thought.

America’s 50-year historical cycle.

In their historical pattern, Americans seem to get tired after every 50 years and make huge changes then. Between #Trump and #Hillary, it matters not who may have won in the grand scale of things. Both candidates happened to exist within the same 50-year framework set up by the Reagan administration at the fall of the Berlin wall, around 1989 – an era poised to end in 2035/39. In between, no matter how great/gross a leader Americans elect, no President can tilt the scales set by Reagan by any wide margin. (refer to the first paragraph on Obama) Whoever will be on the ballot in 2035 or 2039 is the one who will bring about real change, for that is the next time Americans will get seriously tired.
Therefore #WarOnTerror will continue, the re-emerging #ColdWar will continue – do not be mistaken, there can be no US union with Russia. Only a cagey balance can be attained. #NATO will remain stronger, #ObamaCare will remain – albeit like a stranger in hostile territory, #HumanRights gains such as homosexuality will remain solid and the US-Mexico animosity will increase. #Mexico shares America’s geopolitics in many ways which makes it a key threat. Canada is America’s backyard, hence no threat. Across the board, both #Brexit and #Trump are two major signs that a majority of the western world are becoming tired of the North Atlantic oligarchs and no powerful country wants to continue baby-sitting poor, corrupt and lazy countries. Each country must stand on its own. The era of aid and regional blocks will begin to peel away – strong countries will band together, weak ones will be left alone. But as Americans move towards 2035/39, a new pressure will rebuild from within. One that cannot be stopped. Whoever will ride on its wave on the election years of 2035/39 will be set the pace for the next 50 years. This is analysis for another day.

Trump_.jpg

Business as usual.

Trump will not send Mexicans home or build a wall nor will he expel the Muslims or erode #ObamaCare. If he does them – as human folly is always unpredictable, it will be at great risk to himself. That was campaign stuff. Like Muhammad Ali being a bad boy before the fight. Saying whatever it takes to demoralize the opponent but being kind and compassionate with his opponent after he has won the match. A man campaigning to become president and a man who is president are two different men. Once you are in, you no longer play on your terms. You are bound by too many strings.

In conclusion, people should not worry about the idiosyncrasies of President #Trump. The #US democracy is known to have a stable bullshit filter that could tame even a deranged president. If this was #Uganda, i would advise the citizens to vacate in a mass exodus.

Ever since independence, Kenya’s political history is like a chariot drawn by two horses; a black and a white horse, not agreeing yet pulling together. These two sides are redistribution and private accumulation. More like socialism and capitalism.  But I’d rather use the terms ‘redistributionary policies’ instead of socialism and ‘private accumulation’ instead of capitalism. For capitalism and socialism are giant words that slay the meaning of things they should describe and reduce the debate of human dignity into a mere ideological game of east versus west.

The Kenya train left the rail systematically steered by our post independence leaders. In the wake of independence, Kenyan leaders had a golden opportunity to dismantle the structure of inequality already laid down by the wazungu. If a thief steals from us, what do we do when we catch him? We repossess what he stole and redistribute to their rightful owners. We (Kenya) failed each other at the point of ‘redistribution.’

inequality

Scenario 1: If i should ask that wealth concentrated in the hands of a few be redistributed to allow poor people a chance at dignity, does it mean that I am dismissive of hard work and private accumulation? NO. Does it mean that i am lazy and waiting for others to ‘work’ for me so that i may ask for a portion of their wealth? NO.

It simply suggests that I am true to the ideals of humanity. That we all share a state and the government is responsible for sealing wide inequality gaps amongst its citizens. This I believe is one of the strongest reasons for having a government and a key clause of the social contract.

This is how we did it.

Step 1: We scandalized agitators and criminalized calls for redistribution.

The campaigners for redistribution (Jaramogi and by-extension the Luo elite) were dismissed as anti hard-work and lazy. Those days, everyone who pursued a redistributionary line of thought and pursued equality was fought off and sidelined by those who favored private accumulation (Kenyatta and by-extension the Kikuyu elite). Ironically, before independence, all Kenyans had joined the war against the white-man because they had believed that it was a struggle for equality; not just for one black person to be in power but for all countrymen to enjoy the resources available in their country.  When the white-man finally left the country, the promises of redistribution – which was the main rallying call for independence, were washed away by our black leaders who suddenly favored a ‘sacrosanct right to private property.’ Yes! it smells like a betrayal. This is the grand betrayal passed down to generations; this is the crux of the matter, the sanctus sanctum of the rotten Kenyan soul.

Scenario 2: Do i irritate certain people with these basic right issues because I am Luo? Or am I irritating them because I am telling the truth? Rather, is the point about the rights issues I am raising or my ethnicity?

Step 2: We ethnicized the dignity debate; we killed the issues

This was a conflict of ideology and class. And those days, it was recognized as a conflict of ideology.  Even opponents of redistribution saw it as an economic policy – they just did not agree with it. Not until somebody pointed out that Odinga was a luo. Then it became an issue of luos versus Kikuyu. Luos were suddenly stereotyped as lazy and desiring of other people’s wealth without working. Kikuyus were suddenly stereotyped as hardworkers who got their wealth through hard work.  This watershed moment marked the shift from class identity to an ethnic identity in Kenya’s politics. Kenyans were asked to wear ethnic lenses and see through them. From that moment onwards, anyone championing for redistribution was either seen to be a ‘communist’, an ‘oppositionist’, a ‘luo sympathizer’ and ‘lazy’ among other fancy adjectives still used today.

Scenario 3: We are angry about the lack of basic services such as hospitals, water, roads etc in our locality. Why tell us to blame another tribe for the omissions of the government? Is a whole tribe in government?

Step 3: Our leaders harvested our anger and re-channeled it

But even then, the ‘Luo’ were not the only ones seeking redistribution. Many ethnic communities sought redistribution – including some Kikuyu communities and leaders such as the disgruntled Mau-Mau war veterans and their children. But they were soon brought into line by being reminded that they were Kikuyu. Anger against unfair economic policies was genuine, but it was cleverly harvested and channeled towards perceived opponents. Indeed, there has always been popular anger against the accumulation of wealth by a few people across the country and the anger has not been limited to one particular region. Whenever such anger was demonstrated however, politicians on either side have always harvested the anger and channeled it towards perceived opponents.

Today, a Kikuyu family angry about the lack of health services in their area is still told that it is because of a particular ‘lazy’, ‘oppositionist’ and ‘opportunist’ luo politician that they do not have a hospital. Likewise, a hungry luo family is told that it is hungry because the ‘greedy’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘heartless’ Kikuyu politicians have taken everything from them. It is therefore not surprising that in the event of a violent conflict, luos and Kikuyus would target one another instead of channeling their anger towards the government. It becomes near impossible if the said government is led by a Kikuyu or a luo. The people no longer see a President; they see a Kikuyu, or they see a Luo.

Now devolve this culture into government ministries, smaller offices, corporate institutions, schools and even churches and you see how the maggot of ethnicity has laid so many eggs and infected every nook and cranny of our society. Ethnicity is a trap from which we have not been able to untangle ourselves. Some leaders have tried to kill ethnicity by muting the noises of agitation. This is like eradicating poverty by killing poor people or hiding them in a closet. It cannot work. Only true leadership can change this and such leaders exist amongst us.

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Positive steps

Devolution – now enjoyed by everyone in Kenya (including those who initially opposed it) is a redistributionist policy. But it had been proposed much earlier, and rejected right after independence by KADU leaders when it was quickly rubbished as a dangerous idea. History however has proven the KADU leaders right. A good idea never goes away; it simply stays somewhere until society is ready for it. A few more steps that way and Kenyans will feel equal again. Then, only then shall we be able to speak about ‘self-help’, ‘free markets’ and ‘private accumulation.’

There is no other way around this. An emotionally intelligent leader, one who is sensitive to the existing inequalities will make a deliberate effort to seal them. This one will be everyone’s leader, not a leader of a segment of society. A leader who would be able to balance the redistribution interests with the private accumulation interests without laying so much on one side? One who would NOT see the clamour for redistribution a project of ‘lazy luos and poor tribes’ and ‘oppositionist politicians’ who revel in opposing everything government is doing. One who would be loved by both sides alike.

This is a leader who would help Kenyans to remove their ethnic lenses and to see everyone else as a human being irrespective of their ethnicity. Ethnicity does not exist, it is what we manufacture, what we choose to see and we have control on what we choose to see.

The first thing I observed the moment we entered Hargeisa – the capital of Somaliland, was the number of people, officers and civilians who carried guns. I knew immediately that there must be a good reason for that. Moving out of the city and into the interior, i saw a more liberal display of guns. Our own security detail consisted of several policemen (SPU) who took their guns very seriously. I marveled at how they behaved, easily having their way with us. I decided to observe keenly what power lay in the carrying of a gun. As we traveled further, i saw guns held by both men in uniform and without uniform – but still men – men with desires, needs, emotions and every other human idiosyncrasy – they just had more faith in the guns that they carried than in the humans around them. I saw the power of military uniforms, I have seen the way a military jacket converts a gun-toting thug into a respected soldier. I saw the way guns made some men have the final say even without speaking a word. I saw how guns shortened conversations, minimized negotiations and catalyzed the pace of justice. With guns at the ready, I saw justice literally served ‘fast and hot.’ I saw how those with guns had the power to change the goal post and demand new terms. I saw the power of guns to force agreements and forge respect between men. I saw how those with guns had the capacity to violate the peace and enjoyed an equal capacity to bring back the peace. These were the people responsible for the occasional outbreak of peace! I noted that in places where most people carried guns, there was respect for human life – or maybe perhaps it was respect for other guns. I think it was respect anyway.

If a thief was to steal something – I was told, it would mean a bullet and a bullet would call for another revenge bullet and soon whole clans would descend into civil war. Even thieves know this, so they do not steal. Bundles of money including US dollars are displayed in the open by traders and gold ring dealers who sell in the open air markets even leaving their expensive wares unattended, yet safe. While it may be a cultural thing among certain communities to carry weapons, like the maasai with their swords and rungus, it is indeed remarkable when the weapon carried around is a gun. It changes the game completely.

Like onions

In Africa, tribalism is a normal thing, but among the Somali people, the tribe or clan is the lens by which everybody looks at everything. Here the tribe “is like an onion, the more you peel, the more you find another layer and with tears in your eyes.” On local leader told us. Political representation and distribution of resources always take a tribal and clanist form and everyone seems to have accepted the fact that the ‘dominant’ clans have more right to rule. Attempts to force in an alternative to this set up have resulted in serious consequences. In many parts of Somalia, it is near impossible for a local to find work or rise to a position of authority among people of a different tribe or clan.

Even expertise and qualification is secondary to this rule. Indeed, “Before anyone asks to know your name, they ask to know your tribe or clan to see if they should trust you with any information.”  Many times my colleagues and I were asked why we were working in Somalia when there were Somalis who were qualified. To this question, we simply responded that qualified Somalis have decided to keep staying abroad, hence Kenyans and other ‘foreigners’ have to be invited. However deep down, we knew it was hard for any Somali, however qualified to work in regions beyond their own clans.

For many years, Somaliland has struggled to emphasize its territorial integrity to its Ethiopian and Puntland neighbors. A passive-aggressive tension exists between their border with Puntland. In the 3 weeks that I was there, we spent 2 weeks working in Laascanood and Erigavo, regions that are contested  and claimed by Puntland and while Somalilanders are resolute in their decision to pursue self-determination, Puntlanders still consider themselves relatively part of Somalia and are hostile to the idea of separation. Looking from my roadside hotel window in my first few days at Laascanood, i saw several Lorries ferrying hundreds of soldiers heading to towards the contested border with Puntland. We shared a cafeteria with some of the soldiers later; I saw tired men and sad faces behind the oversized military uniforms that the soldiers wore. Their somber facial expressions carried heavy hearts. Perhaps they knew they were going to die there. War is costly and Somaliland has paid dearly trying to affirm its position as an independent state protecting its borders with Ethiopia and defending its contested border with Puntland.

somalia map_BBC

Seeds of corruption

With clanism and guns, petty conflicts have huge consequences. A little argument can open a Pandora’s Box pitting several tribes or clans against each other in mortal war. Many foreigners are advised to avoid any argument with a local. The alternative therefore is for one to pay their way through situations, a general habit that has already laid the building blocks for institutionalized corruption within the young government of Somaliland. In more interior towns, war-lords sit in government offices in full capacity and demand a share of every penny that comes in.

But one would have imagined that a young state, still in its formative stages should have a clean moral slate and begin on a different note having learnt the dangers of corruption from its elder siblings of the region. Like many countries, Somaliland is a product of rebellion. A single Somali tribe with its clans and war-lords dominate Somaliland. They have since succeeded in setting up their government institutions complete with a standing army and an electoral system. Despite the fact that the UN has not recognized them yet, they have created an organic economy mainly supported externally by their diasporic nationals and a few friendly states such as Kuwait and Oman.  These former war-lords have built a thriving democracy at least for the last 25 years showing the world that there can be stability in Somalia. One thing that I observed with great curiosity is the way they seem to be managing without major international aid and bilateral assistance and the strings that come with them. It is however fore-seeable that the petty corruption already happening is laying the foundations of a major graft culture which will find a fertile breeding environment catalyzed by clanism..

Far from the city, every powerful war-lord, regardless of his formal title – Mayor, Governor, Minister etc controls his region closely and monitors everything that happens – including the presence of a single foreigner from whom he would demand a visit and a small ‘something’ so that he may give the visitor a ‘green light’ to proceed with his or her mission in the area – it matters not whether the mission is the building of a school that his own children would attend or the construction of a hospital that his own wife would deliver in. He simply wants the bribe, period. Here corruption is overt, fast and really nothing to be ashamed of.  It drove me crazy to see our community fixer make progress by arranging a ‘courtesy call’ at the Mayor’s office or a Governor’s office paying every ‘big man’ in every city, town or village we visited. With a better functioning administrative system however, the government may be able to check this before it becomes a catastrophe like it is in Kenya and other corrupt African countries.