The Babylon System

Brenda Wambui
9 May ,2017

We refuse to be what you wanted us to be

We are what we are

That’s the way it’s going to be.

You don’t know

You can’t educate I for no equal opportunity:

Talking ’bout my freedom, people freedom and liberty

Yeah, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long

Rebel, rebel!

Yes, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long:

Rebel, rebel!

Babylon system is the vampire,

Sucking’ the children day by day,

Me say de Babylon system is the vampire, falling empire,

Sucking’ the blood of the sufferers,

Building church and university,

Deceiving the people continually,

Me say them graduating thieves and murderers;

Look out now: they sucking the blood of the sufferers

Tell the children the truth/ Tell the children the truth;

Tell the children the truth right now!

Come on and tell the children the truth;

Cause – ’cause we’ve been trodding on ya winepress much too long/ Rebel, rebel!

And we’ve been taken for granted much too long/ Rebel, rebel now!

Trodding on the winepress/ Got to rebel, y’all!

We’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long

From the very day we left the shores of our Father’s land, we’ve been trampled on.

Bob Marley and The Wailers – Babylon System

Babylon features heavily in reggae music, and it is usual to hear Rastas blame things on the Babylon System, as did Bob Marley and The Wailers. In my years of listening to reggae music, the only other words that feature as heavily are “Jah Rastafari” and “Haile Selassie.”

To understand the origin of this reference, we need to look at scripture – the Bible mentions Babylon 260 times, second only to Jerusalem. Babylon was a city of great wealth, located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It grew through agriculture and trade, and developed a bureaucratic system to manage this growth, making the people even more materialistic. In many ways, Babylonians originated capitalism. This led to much of the behaviour the book decries, including slavery. While Jerusalem is viewed as a holy city, Babylon is seen to be a place of depravity. Seemingly everything bad that can happen according to the people who wrote the book happens in Babylon. It is not just a place, it is a system of evil.

Babylon, according to the Bible, seeks to take away the promised land from God’s chosen people, the Israelites. This land was their right. Marcus Garvey made this reference when he likened the presence of Afro-Caribbean people in the West to the exile of the Israelites in Babylon. Just like the Jews were captured and enslaved in Babylon, so were Afro-Caribbean people captured from Africa and enslaved in the West (the subject of yet another Bob Marley and The Wailers song, Buffalo Soldier.) Rastas rightfully recognize the similarity between this biblical story and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Remember, similar tactics were used during slavery and colonialism – the same way we were stripped of our culture, identity, and rights, and allowed to read mostly the Bible was the same way Afro-Caribbean people were – hence the biblical references in reggae music.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade may officially be over, but black people in the Caribbean still suffer from racism and poverty, which went hand in hand with slavery. Likewise, colonialism may officially be over, but black people on the African continent also continue to suffer from racism and poverty. This Babylon System so well described by Bob Marley and The Wailers remains.

Our global economic system is built on the coerced and unpaid labour of slaves (most of them black due to the racialization of slavery) and Africans, and on the theft of resources from Africa and other colonies. It capitalizes turning a profit at whatever cost, be it human lives (the diamonds from Sierra Leone, for example), human rights, animal rights or the environment.

It reduces human beings, with all their rights and freedoms, to a factor of production – labour. Thus is becomes a priority to effectively and efficiently use this labour. To eke out as much as one can from it for as little as possible. This is why we create free content on Facebook and Twitter all day, every day, get paid nothing (we are “sharing” with our friends after all) while these services sell advertisements against our content and make millions of dollars. Even friendship, it turns out, can and will be commoditized.

This is why Uber and its driver partners are constantly at war. Kenyan Uber drivers even protested against being Uber slaves. The rise of the gig economy sees tech companies that act as platforms and not employers drive down the cost of professional services while attaining billion dollar valuations. What is this, if not wage slavery? Yet, as Karl Marx would say, labour is a fictitious commodity that should not be included in market exchange because it cannot be produced on market demand.

The Babylon System is alive and well. It co-opts all of us – the Nyabinghi, for example, say that both white and black people can be downpressors (oppressors). Anyone can be a part of the Babylon System, so how does one get out? As Bob Marley and The Wailers point out in the song, it begins with historical and identity awareness. Once we are aware of all the ways we remain oppressed by this system, we must resist its effort to re-shape us in its image. The global economic system is supposed to serve and create value for us, not the other way around. We make this system, and we must be careful not to allow it to make us instead. Human rights and dignity have to be centered if we are to see a better world.

Now and always, chant down Babylon!

Unravelling the African Union Elections

Brenda Wambui
7 February ,2017

We have been treated to weeks of intrigue following Kenya’s failed campaign for its current foreign affairs cabinet secretary, Amina Mohammed, to become the next chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC). The AUC is the executive arm of the African Union (AU). The election was instead won by Chad’s foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Our response this loss has been anything but diplomatic, with Aden Duale, who is the National Assembly majority leader, blaming Kofi Annan, a former United Nations (UN) Secretary General for manipulating the elections, and Amina Mohammed, the failed candidate, said that we should investigate our neighbours who may not have supported us. These include Burundi, Uganda, Djibuti and Sudan. In the seventh round, Tanzania also did not vote for Kenya. This was after the president, his deputy and a select team had lobbied 51 African countries (allegedly spending KES 4.5 billion on lobbying) and were convinced they had this in the bag. She had name recognition, a good network, and was supposed to be boosted by the fact that the East African region had never produced a commission chair. Kenya however lost to Chad after seven rounds of voting. Many people feel betrayed, and a lot of fingers have and will continue to be pointed.

It is worth looking into why we failed, as well as the importance of this institution that has long been an afterthought of our political leaders, until now. Uhuru Kenyatta has rallied African heads of state against the International Criminal Court (ICC) since he took the presidency in 2013, and this would have been a perfect position for mobilizing African countries that are members of the ICC to pull out. This was a key element of his personal agenda, seeing as he and his deputy spent a significant amount of their first term facing charges at the court.

Many have said that it may be because Francophone Africa is much more united than Anglophone Africa, using the same language, and the same currency (the CFA Franc). Others said it was because we did not clarify where we stood on the Western Sahara – Morocco issue, what with Morocco wanting to rejoin the AU. It was also said that Chad’s win could be attributed to the fact that it was leading the regional fight against Boko Haram, a menace in West Africa.

It may be as simple as the fact that our current government has a poor record on the platform items it was running on. Amina had said she would take a business-first approach to solving Africa’s problems and focus on job creation and economic growth – focusing on foreign direct investment, innovation, trade, industry and tourism. This approach fails to acknowledge that most of our problems as a continent stem not from these areas, but from poor governance, hostility to human rights, neocolonialism, insecurity and armed conflict. She also said she would promote integration, support young people and help open up markets – stating that she was the best candidate to implement Agenda 2063, which is Africa’s 50 year plan (from 2013 to 2063). I wonder how, since the most immediate target is to stop armed conflict by 2020, yet her focus was to promote commerce. Our government’s track record on these issues is also wanting, at best.

I believe this loss is an indictment of our government and its approach to governance, one that we discuss here every other week. At a time when regional integration is becoming more and more important, ironing out the kinks that make it difficult – such as terrorism, war and poor governance needs to be given top priority. Agenda 2063 also prioritizes the elimination of oppression and discrimination based on gender – something Kenya has been unable to formalize in its parliament by passing the two-thirds gender bill.

One of the AU’s key priorities is self-funding – if we are to truly pursue a pan-African agenda, decolonize and dictate our own path to prosperity, we must be able to fund the AU’s operations, at least to a large extent (the target being to self-fund all operational costs, 75% of development programs and 25% of peace and security by 2018). At the moment, the AU is extremely dependent on donor funding – every 9 out of 10 shillings it spends comes from donors. Efforts to free us from this cycle are being led by Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, and will perhaps lead to the body gaining more relevance in member states among their citizens, many of whom do not really understand what the AU does or feel its impact in their lives.

Perhaps once we are funding our own operations, the AU will become more invested in what happens in its member states, and act decisively when there are crises such as Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to give up the presidency, or when terror groups like Al Shabaab and Boko Haram paralyze entire regions. If further integration and unity is the key to solving Africa’s problems, then it follows that we have to put our money where our mouths are.

The Rise and Rise of Nationalism

Brenda Wambui
15 November ,2016

Depending on your school of thought, you may believe that globalization has its roots in the modern era due to international commodity trade, which experienced an uptick in the 1750s. Or, like Adam Smith, you may attach huge significance to Vasco Da Gama’s and Christopher Colombus’ campaigns around the world in the 1490s, and even claim that this truly set off globalization. If you’re Thomas Friedman, you may believe in three waves of globalization: Globalization 1 (1492 to 1800, a la Adam Smith), Globalization 2 (1800 – 2000, a la O’Rourke and Williamson), and Globalization 3 (2000 – today). Globalization, as we know it, is a process of integration. People, goods and ideas spread across the world, leading to increased interaction between the world’s cultures, economies and governments.

Whichever your school of thought, however, many agree that since the global economic crisis of 2008 which was triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, many of the benefits of globalization have begun to be rolled back. The crisis led to the narrowing and reduction of size of these global connections. Many argue that the economic crisis was in fact caused by globalization, and the inequality that it had consistently been creating over the years.

The prevailing theory before the crisis was that globalization led to an increase in incomes for countries, and that this increase benefited everyone across societies, from the rich to the poor. The opposing school of thought says that while globalization does lead to an increase in incomes, these benefits do not accrue evenly to all citizens, and that there are clear losers both relative to other citizens, and even absolutely – globalization causes them more harm than good.

The income inequality comes about as such: say we have two countries (one developed, one developing), and one factor of production to consider – labour (the developed country with highly skilled labour, the developing one with low skilled labour). These two countries then decide to increase trade openness by reducing tariff barriers to trade. The developed economy of course finds it cheaper to buy products from the developing country due to the reduction in tariff barriers and the lower cost of labour since the labour is not as highly skilled as theirs. This leads to an increase in the pay of the low skilled workers in the developing country, and a reduction of those in the developed country where labour is highly skilled. Thus, in the developing country, incomes are going up, while in the developed country, income inequality is growing due to the loss of potential jobs and reduction of demand for their skills. This increased openness tends to hurt regular people in developed countries. Of course, this only happens to countries that produce “competing goods”. In the case of non-competing goods, which are those either country did not produce in the first place, the effects are wildly different. Reduction of tariff barriers would lead to a reduction in their price in the importing country without changing the wages and prices of goods in the exporting country. In the long term, it is argued, if the good in question forms a large enough part of the consumption basket of the poor, it would actually reduce income inequality.

This income inequality thus creates new challenges, such as welfare and other social support structure concerns on the part of the government. And, we must never forget that globalization only continues to exist due to the goodwill of populations around the world, which has been on the decline since the 2008 global economic crisis. Fringe right wing nationalist groups, also known as the far right, have quickly become mainstream due to their capitalization on the pain of those affected. They have positioned themselves as against “the global/liberal elite” who are the only ones to have benefited from globalization and increased multiculturalism. They practice extreme nationalism (nationalism is the shared belief that your country is great and superior because you, and the other people in it, were born in it).

Far right parties and groups are anti-immigration, because according to them, immigrants come and take their jobs, and bring “foreign cultures” to their countries. As you can imagine, this contingent is not only nationalist and anti-immigration, but it tends to be authoritarian, xenophobic, racist and inflammatory to others, whom they view as inferior. We cannot ignore the connection this has to globalization and income inequality, and the proclivity of human beings to blame “the other” for their misfortune.

The leaders of these far right movements, from those in the USA, the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, Poland and others, are undeniably xenophobic, racist, authoritarian and insular, but they masterfully manage to conflate their bigotry with the masses’ very real concerns about income inequality, and point a finger outwards at “them.” They are steadily gaining popularity, influence and power, as detailed in the articles linked to above. In Europe, “them” has been refugees in the past year. Before, it was immigrants from poorer EU countries who were “taking their jobs.” The leaders of these movements have claimed that these refugees, most of whom are from Muslim countries, especially Syria, would bring diseases, parasites and terrorism, and that they may be forming an army, and they have said that “Islamism is the Nazism and Communism of our time.” The leaders of these movements forget to mention that the West is quite responsible for the refugee crisis that has seen people from the countries they have started “Wars on Terror” in flee to their countries.

The mainstreaming of far-right nationalism already has had devastating effects, and more are yet to come. The endorsement of Brexit and Donald Trump by the publics has also brought the extremist ideas of the people who made this possible to the fore. In the days after the Brexit vote, racist, sexist and xenophobic attacks were on the rise. The same has happened in the days after the election of Donald Trump. Thoughts and actions that we had formerly managed to make taboo are now OK again.

Yet this is something we should all have on our minds even as we watch it unfold in the West, especially since we are pursuing a deeply pan-African agenda as a continent and their actions will affect us. And because similar events have happened before.

In 1929, what we now know as the Great Depression began. The economies of Europe and Japan were decimated by it, experiencing mass unemployment and poverty. This then led to more aggressive and nationalistic policies and politics which pointed blame at others. This created fertile ground for the fringe, far-right Nazi party to take power in Germany, with Adolf Hitler soon becoming German Chancellor in 1933. A militant cabal also took power in Japan. While there has not been another Holocaust, Hitler espoused many of the ideas far-right nationalists today espouse. Due to pre-occupation with the economic crisis, many countries failed to deal with the rise in fascism and nationalism. Hitler then invaded Poland in 1939 under the claim of defending Germany, and the rest is history.

Many echoes of this past can be seen today, and if history is to be believe, this past could very well be repeated. We should be wise enough to put our foot down regarding nationalism once and for all.

My Land, Your Land, Our Land

Brenda Wambui
27 September ,2016

As far back as our collective memory as a species goes, land has played, and continues to play, an important role as both an economic resource and the basis on which we organize ourselves, be it in ethnic groups, nations, continents and so on. In economics, land comprises all natural occurring resources whose supply is inherently fixed – be it the land itself, mineral deposits, the atmosphere and so on.

In classical economics, it is considered one of the three factors of production, alongside labour and capital, and while we have managed to liberalize the capital and labour markets (to put it simplistically, you are able to acquire external sources of capital, from banks for example, and increase your production while paying an interest for the provision of the capital, and you are also able to hire labour for wages/salaries and benefits), the land market remains far behind in most economies and societies. Land remains one of the biggest causes of disputes and wars, and has played a role in most, if not all, systems of oppression, from slavery, colonialism, tribalism, sexism and so on. Wars continue to be fought over oil and minerals, and land reform remains a utopic dream for many around the world.

So, when I saw that in line with our constitution, we had passed the Community Land Act (2015) just ten days before the prescribed deadline, I breathed a sigh of relief, perhaps prematurely. Land has played a prominent role in all major clashes we have had as a country, and despite the prevalence of customary law in most ethnic groups, before the passing of this law, their community land and resource rights were not protected by the state.

The Act provides for the recognition, protection and registration of community land rights, management and administration of community land, and the role of county governments in relation to unregistered community land. It seeks to move Kenya from a society in which land ownership is individualized to one where the focus is on communal ownership for the larger benefit of communities. It aims to resolve the problem of illegally acquired community land and community land disputes, set apart community land for public purposes and provide conditions for holding of unregistered community land in trust by county governments. Under the (now repealed) Trust Land Act, communities could be dispossessed of their land through irregular allocation by County Councils, especially to individuals.

However, when we drew up the National Land Policy (2009) and the Constitution of Kenya (2010) we took the first bold steps towards correcting these atrocities. According to the constitution, community land consists of land lawfully registered in the name of group representatives under the provisions of any law, land lawfully transferred to a specific community by any process of law, any other land declared to be community land by an Act of Parliament; and land that is either (1) lawfully held, managed or used by specific communities as community forests, grazing areas or shrines; (2) ancestral lands and lands traditionally occupied by hunter-gatherer communities or (3) lawfully held as trust land by the county governments, but not including any public land held in trust by the county government under Article 62 (2).

Under this new law, any unregistered community land will be held in trust by county governments on behalf of the communities, and community land cannot be disposed of or otherwise used except in line with legislation specifying the nature and extent of the rights of members of each community, individually and collectively. This is important, as it vests ownership and dominion over the land in the communities it belongs to, and unlike before, we specify that both individual and community rights must be respected when it comes to the use of the land. Communities in this case are identified on the basis of ethnicity, culture or a similar community of interests.

It affords equal status and recognition of title to community land with other titles, and empowers community members to determine the management and administration of their land, affording all members equal rights, and (hopefully) eliminating discrimination. The National Land Commission will appoint an adjudication officer for every community registration unit who will be in charge of land adjudication, including recording the community land claims. These communities will be vetted to ensure there is no discrimination or registration of illegal communities. Given our history as a country, we need to be very careful with this process so as to not further dispossess people of their land.

Upon adjudication, the title relating to community land will be issued by the registrar. Community land may be registered in the name of a community, a clan or family in accordance with the customary practices applicable, or a community association in accordance with the document constituting the association. During the registration process, a public notice shall be broadcast on a radio station 30 days before the land is registered as community land, as well as in a conspicuous place on said land. The community involved will be engaged and made aware of their land rights, and they will draft and validate of a constitution that will govern community land and natural resources. They will then form the relevant community institutions, and the title will be conferred to them.

The institutions in question are, firstly, the registration of the community as a legal corporate entity (with a common seal and legal powers to sue and be sued, to enter into contracts, to acquire, purchase, hold, charge and dispose of property, and the power to borrow money). A community assembly is also required, and consists of all members of the community. Such an assembly shall then appoint a community land management committee of seven to eleven members to administer the land on a day to day basis. The committee must have gender balance and include person(s) with disabilities.

There shall also be community land management boards established in every sub-county where there is community land. The board will act as a watchdog of the community land management committee(s) and can recommend to the community assemblies to review or suspend a decision of a committee if the committee acted in bad faith, recommend to the community assembly the removal from office of any member of the committee, and make rules of conduct and procedure for the committees. The board will be required to set up dispute resolution mechanisms in accordance with a community’s constitution for resolving disputes. Priority shall be given to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and a person can go to court only if aggrieved by a decision of the board, though he/she may first appeal to the community assembly prior to moving to the court.

It is important to note that community land can still be converted to public or private land. It can be converted to public land through compulsory acquisition, transfer or surrender, as long as this conversion is approved by the community assembly. It can also be converted to private land upon approval of the community assembly through transfer, in accordance with the Land Act (2012) any other applicable law. Conversely, both public and private land can be converted to community land as well.

Natural resources found in community land shall be used and managed sustainably for the benefit of the whole community, with transparency and accountability and with equitable sharing of benefits. Every community that finds such resources will prepare a natural resource management plan in consultation with relevant state agencies, and assess and document natural resources within the land. Any investment related to exploitation of natural resources in community land shall also be on the basis of an agreement between the investor and the community.

Many questions have been raised about the Act, including whether the people holding this land in trust on behalf of the community will uphold the best interests of the community, and what we plan to do about the overlaps between community land and public land. What happens when nomadic or pastoralist communities define forests, which are classified as public land, as their ancestral land? And, will the Ministry of Lands co-operate and help this process go over smoothly? As this law was passed recently, we do not have the answer to these questions. What we can do now, though, is act. With over 60% of the land in Kenya qualifying to be community land, this is a very important law. Communities can begin to organize and ready themselves to claim what is rightfully theirs, and in the cases where there are hindrances, they can hold both the state and county governments accountable. This is yet another opportunity to heal and right the wrongs visited upon us by the colonialists, and the subsequent post-colonial governments.

A Pound Of Flesh

Brenda Wambui
13 September ,2016

English literature classes were one of the few things I liked about the Kenyan high school experience. In my year, we studied William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, a play about many things, but central to which was the plot about the Venetian moneylender Shylock (who was Jewish), who lends the Christian shipper Antonio money. Antonio’s friend, Bassanio, needed the money to woo Portia, a Venetian heiress. Because of Antonio’s anti-Semitism towards Shylock, the conditions of the loan are pretty steep: Antonio was to pay up in three months or Shylock would have a pound of his flesh. This being a Shakespearean play, of course Antonio doesn’t manage to pay the money back in time and a dance around the pound of flesh Shylock is owed becomes central to the plot.

In the years that have passed since Shakespeare wrote this play, the word Shylock has come to mean a (ruthless) moneylender that charges extremely high interest rates. Shylocks are also called loan sharks. However, given that definition, and the disdain with which Kenyans hold their banks, I would think they also fit the description. Many of us have come across stories of bank loans causing people so much stress that they are hospitalized, or worse, die. I am reminded of this story I read on Larry Liza’s Facebook page in which a taxi driver died and was found with a note in his pocket saying “Bank imeniua.” They got their pound of flesh, I guess.

So, it is no surprise that we recently managed, after 16 years and three failed attempts, to regulate bank interest rates by law using the Banking (Amendment) Act, 2015. We have known this Act since it was known as the Donde Bill, named for its proposer, former Gem MP Joe Donde. Donde rightly felt that borrowing was out of the reach of many Kenyans, with interest rates in 2000 as high as 24%, and he pointed out that Kenyan businesses were dying because of these expensive loans: when they were unable to service the loans, their assets would be auctioned, leaving them unable to operate.

While the law has made some key changes, the most outstanding ones have been with relation to interest rate capping. It caps the maximum rate for a credit facility at no more than 4% of the base rate set and published by the Central Bank, and sets the minimum interest rate one can earn on a deposit held in Kenya to at least 70% of the central bank rate. The current base rate used by the Central Bank is 10.5%, setting the maximum interest rate one can be asked to pay at 14.5%, while the minimum that can be paid on deposits is 7.35%. The Commercial Bank of Africa, though, has decided to use the Kenya Banks Reference Rate (KBRR), which is 8.8%, making their interest rate for loans 12.9% and interest paid on deposits 6.23%.

The Act requires that banks or financial institutions that offer loans to borrowers disclose all charges and terms related to that loan. The people need to understand all the charges and rates that apply before making their decision. It also makes it illegal for persons (which banks and financial institutions are) to enter into agreements to borrow or lend at interest rates in excess of those prescribed by the law. It prescribes to fine banks or institutions that contravene this to a fine of no less than 1 million shillings, a one year jail term (for their employees), or both.

Predictably, many experts have cautioned against efforts to cap interest rates, with reactions ranging from mild cautionary messages to warnings of doom. Before this law, banks would comfortably pay you 2% interest on your deposits, while charging you an upwards of 25% for loans, many times with the discretion to increase your interest rate or payment period (this would always be hidden in obscure terms and conditions). There is a well-worn economic argument about interest rates: they restrict the flow of capital and distort financial markets by going against the theory of free markets.

This, of course, is hinged on multiple assumptions. One, that the market is a free market, which is an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses. In a free market, the prices of goods are dictated by suppliers and consumers, and the credit market is just like any other market. The sellers are the banks and financial institutions, and the buyers are the borrowers. The price is the interest rate. The lower the quantity of credit, the higher the interest rates, and the higher the quantity of credit, the lower the interest rate. But, from what we know, there are no actual free markets globally, and this extends to the credit market.

When it comes to restricting the flow of capital, the argument goes that banks and financial institutions could grow much slower, withdraw from the market altogether, reduce their presence in costly markets (for example rural areas), or just find a way to be less transparent about their total loan costs. Some say that banks will now stop lending to the average Kenyan citizen, and focus on more low risk borrowers, such as government and established corporations whose risk of default is low. But, as we know, lower risk equals lower return (they would have to charge these borrowers less), and the banks are in this to make money, and the money is with the higher risk borrowers, so this argument is moot.

Then, there are those who cite “the environment”, saying hat we recently increased the banking capitalization requirements, and now we are reducing their margins, and this is entirely too much for banks to handle. According to this theory, their fastest route to meeting our capitalization requirements is generating as much profit as they can, and we are making this difficult since moving forward, they will have less retained earnings (which are factored into capitalization). Poor, poor banks.

The thing I find missing from all these theories is regard for the Kenyan, who these banks are actually supposed to serve. The assumption being made here is that these banks were pro-poor to begin with, an argument that cannot be backed up by data. The very existence of chamas and SACCOs provides goes against these assumption. In many chamas, every member contributes monthly and the total kitty is given to one member to pursue a cause of their choice, and it goes round and round, quite possibly ad infinitum, hence why they are also called merry-go-rounds. Some chamas invest this money into projects and assets increase the economic stability of the chama members as opposed to distributing it monthly. SACCOs also provide an alternative to these banking and finance institutions that have a history of not being pro poor. They provide loans at relatively low interest rates (for example 12%) and do not have the same asset requirements as banks.

Before this Act, how many Kenyans are able to get an unsecured loan from the bank anyway? The ones with employment contracts and salaries. These are only 2.3 million Kenyans, out of the over 43 million people in our population. 77.9% of our jobs are in the informal sector, which is actually the largest informal sector in Africa. How many of these people could get a loan from the bank without some kind of security? Close to zero. So why all this hue and cry, yet banks were never serving mwananchi anyway? The banking and finance industry has a history of being hostile to the average Kenyan.

I am optimistic about the situation moving forward. There is still a lot of room for banks to provide services to Kenyans (given that they were serving such a small cross-section before anyway), grow and make money. It just has to be fair now. Banks have been treating all customers equally, offering them the same credit terms, yet there is a stark difference between a person who has taken 10 loans and repaid them all on time, and a first time borrower. We have credit reference bureaus (CRBs) in Kenya that can assign credit scores based on one’s history with debt, and there is no good reason why these credit scores should not be taken into account when offering loans. Failure to do so just smacks of laziness and complacency on the part of the banks.

There is also research that shows that when the legal ceiling is above the market rate of interest, which in Kenya is currently 10.5%, the law has no effect at all. The market forces of supply and demand are not bound by the usury ceiling, and the equilibrium price and quantity of credit are unchanged.

Finally, I think this law is going to lead banks to pick areas of specialty, in which their knowledge of the markets in question is their competitive advantage. There could be banks that are focused on agriculture, on manufacturing, on technology and so on. Then, these banks would become the banks of choice for people in those respective fields, and grow their market share and profits in this way. This way, the banking and finance sector can become a key driver of the growth of Kenyans and their enterprises, as opposed to being a key factor in their impoverishment.

Why the World is on Fire

Brenda Wambui
26 July ,2016

“When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.”

Thomas Piketty

Few books are as meticulous (and as boring, because of the great detail) as Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century, from which the above quote is taken. The book studies inequality and wealth concentration, and their implications to economic growth across twenty countries, with data dating as far back as the 1700s. He establishes that faster economic growth will reduce the importance of wealth in a society, while slower growth will increase it. Only spurts of fast growth or government intervention can stop this increasing inequality. He recommends a global tax on wealth to prevent increasing inequality that has already begun to cause economic and political instability.

Enter Kenya, where it was recently reported that 8,500 people control two-thirds (KES 4.24 trillion) of our KES 6.2 trillion economy. The wealth of those classified as high net worth individuals grew by 75% from 2007 to 2015, while they only increased in number from 8,300 to 8,500 in that time. In the next decade, the number will almost double to 15,300. This happens while most Kenyans are poor, lacking access to quality and affordable education and healthcare, basic building blocks of a good society.

This reflects, according to another report, the effects of Kenya’s anti-poor policies. Pro-poor policies reduce poverty by accelerating economic growth and/or changing the distribution of wealth in favour of the poor. This type of growth is sustainable, and directly reduces wealth inequality and, as a result, poverty. Two potential engines of growth in Kenya, manufacturing and agriculture, are seen so be declining and stagnating respectively, however.

To solve for this, lower and middle income countries (Kenya included) would need to create ideal conditions for capital to flow from rich countries to theirs, driven by production (which is where manufacturing, agriculture, ICT and other sectors come in). Yet, in the world of economics, they are constantly researching why this doesn’t happen at the rate it should, a phenomenon called the Lucas Paradox. Robert Lucas Jr. asks: why doesn’t capital flow from rich to poor countries? One obvious answer is that economics relies on too many assumptions that do not hold true in the actual world, however a more nuanced answer would be the one that Lucas proposes: the flow of capital is impeded by differences in human capital, external benefits of human capital and capital markets imperfections.

As Robert Lucas finds, labour not only needs to exist, it needs to be effective as well. We need to invest in the upskilling of our workforce. We need to fix the imperfections in the capital markets that stem from our days under colonialism, where real wage levels in the “third world” were kept artificially low by stemming the flow of capital, all to the colonialist’s benefit. Key to doing this are the following fundamentals: (omitted) factors of production such as human capital and land, government policies and institutions. Building better and stronger institutions should be at the heart of any campaign to end poverty. This will then support the investment in human capital through education, healthcare, sanitation and social services. We also need to put our land to the most efficient use, as opposed to endlessly subdividing it for people to hold onto for speculation, we should zone it for productive use, and tax those who keep it idle/for speculation.

Perhaps if we begin here, we can begin to solve for the inequality that is surely behind phenomena such as terrorismBrexit and the rise of Donald Trump, and prevent further division and violence in Kenya. Only once we place human dignity at the centre as opposed to capital can we fight this disease.

Entrepreneurship is Not for Everyone

Guest Writer
7 June ,2016

by Alan Ong’ang’a

Many young Kenyans today yearn to be entrepreneurs. They long to attain financial freedom. They want to influence things and attract fame. They want to make lots of money. With money comes the easy life and social recognition. How we so hate living in obscurity!

Yet so, many often have the wrong objectives for wanting to venture into entrepreneurship. Their sole objective is to make money and become famous. Granted, every business launched is in it to make money. That is the core design of capitalism. But when your sole aim of establishing a business is to amass wealth and become socially acceptable, then you are setting yourself up for a very big disappointment.

Social pressure

Many young Kenyans have been conditioned to believe that unless they launch their businesses and become self-employed, then they have not achieved anything. It is almost the same as being conditioned to believe that unless you own a parcel of land somewhere, then you have not achieved anything yet. So what happens is that young people like Robert live with a heavy

weight on their shoulders. They want to fit in. They want to become somebody. It does not matter whether they have a passion for entrepreneurship in the first place. So long as he or she can introduce him or herself as an entrepreneur, then the details will follow later. But hey, there is nothing wrong with working eight-to- five for the rest of your professional life. Many millions of professionals have lived fulfilling lives knowing too well that entrepreneurship was not for them. So they made a conscious decision to plan their finances within the realms of formal employment. With that comes delayed gratification. Financial discipline is needed to make delayed gratification a success.

Every day social media and online material is inundated with young people who pontificate about how aspirations to build careers out of everyday eight-to- five is to have one’s vision in the wrong lane. These young men and women posit that one cannot attain professional fulfilment unless they are running their own enterprises. And so the race heats on. People are registering business with blistering pace as the race to become the next entrepreneur heats on. And part of the consequence is that majority of these businesses end up making the wrong statistics.

SME Sector

Studies done in the past have shown that out of every 5 small and medium enterprises that launch their operations, only 3 live to celebrate their third birthday. That is a 60% success rate, considering that youth unemployment stands at a staggering 67% of the total unemployed workforce. However, the SME sector’s contribution to the GDP is promising and thus youth enterprises should be encouraged. The SME sector has an employment absorption rate of between 12% – 14% and this figure is expected to grow considering that 98% of all registered business are from the informal sector.

But why do many young enterprises fail? The pressure to become entrepreneurs perhaps is too great for some to weather the storm. Many young minds will launch startups without enough managerial experience to help navigate the murky waters of the business world. When this happens, what follows is an array of poor business decisions, one-man show approach and a tendency to suffer founders’ syndrome. Coupled with poor financial management, since most can barely afford to hire financial experts to manage their books, the businesses’ only path is an assured oblivion.

In today’s start-up ecosystem, investors want to not only invest in businesses. More than that, they want to invest in people. When the people presenting their ideas have no known track record of business management, or any work experience, then getting an investor’s money becomes a hard-sell. What follows is frustrations with getting financing capital to plug any deficits that the business might be experiencing. Matters are not helped by the fact that financial institutions will only finance business that have gained some traction.

A considerable segment of the young population will run businesses on the side as they also juggle with formal employment. For most, it is a means of making the extra bucks. I have been in that bandwagon. For some, it is a matter of waiting for the business to gain some traction before they can quit and run their outfit full time. But often, the result of such experiments is failed deliveries, disgruntled customers, and missed deadlines leading to missed opportunities.

The biggest source of business is happy customers. When you fail to deliver because you could not convince your boss that you had to dash out to attend to an ‘emergency’ then your customers will find the next available service provider. When this starts happening, what follows is the cancer that has led to many business failing to celebrate their third birthdays.

We all have a role to play in our beloved Kenya. It is unfair to yourself and your customers to give expectations you know you may struggle to meet. Running a business requires a full time commitment. You cannot have it both ways and succeed. Those who quit formal employment to set up their outfits seldom fail. Why? They have the benefits of experience and the much needed time to form a personal relationship with the businesses and their clients.

If entrepreneurship is not for you, you need not apologize to anyone or feel like you are not an achiever. If running a business as a side job is too much work for you, then you owe it to everyone to quit and concentrate on the one thing that you know can give you fulfilment. If you feel a whole load of weight from your peers and mentors about launching a business, remind yourself that it is still okay to be an eight-to- five person.

The Wrath of the Gods

Brenda Wambui
17 May ,2016

“You could hear women lamenting, children crying, men shouting. Some were calling for parents, others for children or spouses; they could only recognize them by their voices. Some bemoaned their own lot, others that of their near and dear. There were some so afraid of death that they prayed for death. Many raised their hands to the gods, and even more believed that there were no gods any longer and that this was one last unending night for the world. Nor were we without people who magnified real dangers with fictitious horrors. Some announced that one or another part of Misenum had collapsed or burned; lies, but they found believers. It grew lighter, though that seemed not a return of day, but a sign that the fire was approaching. The fire itself actually stopped some distance away, but darkness and ashes came again, a great weight of them. We stood up and shook the ash off again and again, otherwise we would have been covered with it and crushed by the weight. I might boast that no groan escaped me in such perils, no cowardly word, but that I believed that I was perishing with the world, and the world with me, which was a great consolation for death.”

Pliny the Younger

I have long been a reader of the Roman civilization’s documented history, and in a recent examination of the letters of Pliny the Younger’s description of the destruction of Pompeii by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, I could not help but be reminded of the daily Kenyan struggle, displayed in a rather extreme fashion by the flooding in Nairobi on major roads and in neighbourhoods. Only that the destruction of Pompeii happened in 79 AD, while the flooding of Nairobi happens in 2016 AD. And, that one happened at a time when there was little that could be done to predict such a disaster and save lives, while the other happens at a time when flooding continues to be caused by rains we know are coming meeting infrastructure we continue to build poorly. Only that one is a natural disaster, while the other is man-made.

The images of flooded roads stay with me, as I remember the six storey building that collapsed in Huruma due to these rains, constructed in ways that defied logic. The collapse killed at least 45 people, with 55 still missing. It is described as an accident, but how was the building constructed and inhabited without the knowledge of relevant authorities, such as the county government, the National Construction Authority (NCA) and the National Environmental Management Agency (NEMA)? It is easier to believe that the authorities were complicit, as shown by the existence of an audit report drafted in 2015 that recommended that residents of structurally unsound buildings be evacuated and the buildings classified as dangerous, which has yet to be acted upon. This was no accident.

As I sit with these thoughts, I am met online by images of police brutality meted out against protestors who are demanding for an overhaul of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in solidarity with Raila Odinga and the other CORD principals. This is what we are up against should we have the courage to question our government, or any of its agencies – a boot to our heads and necks.

Yet what is baffling to me is that we continue to think of these moments as glitches; flaws in the system that runs Kenya, as opposed to proof that it is working exactly how it was designed – to keep the majority poor, hungry and desperate, never with enough time to realize that their dignity is inherent; that they are deserving of rights; that it has never been about tribe, but about class and power, and that ultimately, the power was always theirs to use and give. We continue to sacrifice our nation’s most vulnerable at the altar of corruption and anyhowness, and we can only get away with it for so long.

Unlike Pompeii, this is no wrath of the gods (a common way to explain things we cannot understand, to this day, is to attribute them to gods). This is our very own disastrous masterpiece. This is a state whose leaders and powerful people elect daily to take the path of a weak/failing state, where they do not deliver goods and services. Where we have been on the brink of civil war (the Molo clashes, the 2007/08 post-election violence) but still, we do not implement the recommendations of the Truth and Justice Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). We remain very angry, and very violent, as shown by the police. Where institutions destroy, as opposed to support, political freedom, and where the path to economic prosperity is unclear to many. Where there is no control of the environmental public good(s), and medical services, water, electricity are a joke.

We continue to have signs that we are not globally competitive (increasing our chances of failure) such as restrictions on the free flow of information, the subjugation of women, the inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure, having the extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization, domination by a restrictive religion, a low valuation of education, and low prestige assigned to work. All these can be changed/reversed.

States do not just fail. People, sometimes an individual, and many times a group of people, fail the state, leading to its collapse. World over, we call these peoples our leaders, more so in Kenya. But a weak/failing state does not necessarily spell doom if there is political will to fix it. It usually begins by providing security to the people, and moving on from there. Our government needs to make sure Kenyans feel safe, especially from/with it, for us to move from here. But are they ready to do the work? Are we?

What is 1.66 Billion?

Brenda Wambui
1 March ,2016

It has emerged that the amount of money lost in the NYS scandal (according to a report seen by The Nation) could be as much as KES 1.66 billion, up from the previously reported KES 791 million. The extra amount, as much as KES 869,000,000, is thought to have been paid to an additional 15 companies, and is currently under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), though we all know how that will probably go.

According to an affidavit sworn by one of the accused, Ms. Josephine Kabura, the Banking Fraud Investigations Unit (BFIU) of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the EACC, two of the bodies charged with investigating this theft, took part in committing the crimes and/or covering them up. Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has now been drafted into the government created taskforce to investigate the matter (taking over from the DCI and EACC), and claims that the amounts owed by companies mentioned in the NYS theft for income tax and value added tax chargeable on payments are KES 352 million and KES 850.4 million respectively.

It may be hard to visualize what the amounts that are constantly being mentioned in the media as having been stolen from Kenyans by their public officials can do. Perhaps this is why we haven’t seen more sustained public action regarding these thefts: either we are fatigued by the cycle of corruption in Kenya, or do not really understand how much of our livelihood is being taken from us by people we elect, and the people they appoint to serve us. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is also currently investigating or prosecuting 88 high profile cases that involve theft of public property in one form or another.

To illustrate the impact of this theft, I will show what KES 1.6 billion (since this is the scandal that will define Uhuru Kenyatta’s first term as president) can do for this country based on a manifesto presented to us by the Jubilee coalition when they went around the country asking for our votes. We will see how many of their flagship projects could have been achieved already with prudent management of our money.

One of the goals the Jubilee coalition had was to resettle the remaining internally displaced persons (IDPs) resulting from post-election violence, the Mau Forest eviction, among other Kenyan tragedies. KES 1 billion was released to go towards resettling the last 5,261 households still in the camps, after which the camps are to be closed. The money stolen from us in the NYS scandal would comfortably have paid for this, and left KES 660 million in spare change.

To improve our security, the Jubilee coalition set as one of its goals the improvement of police pay and conditions of service. This would improve the service they give, and perhaps reduce the brutality occasioned on Kenyans by unhappy/uncaring police officers. According to a new salary structure proposed late last year, a police constable would earn a basic pay of KES 32,880. The 1.66 billion stolen from us would be enough to pay 4,207 police constables for a year. Given that Kenya needs a minimum of 95,000 police officers, up from the current 50,000 (to satisfy the one police for every 450 citizens ratio recommended by the UN), this would reduce our shortage by almost 10% in a year. Their goal in the manifesto is to recruit 15,000 police officers a year, and this would get them 28% closer to that goal. The government also said it intended to spend KES 25 billion improving security. As at July 2015, a quarter (KES 1.6 trillion) of the 2014/15 budget could not be accounted for. KES 25 billion would be 1.56% of this amount. The manifesto put special emphasis on CCTV as a means of improving security. The stolen KES 1.66 billion would be enough to cover 11% of the KES 15 billion tender awarded to Safaricom towards the installation of 1,800 damage proof CCTV cameras, as well as 60 LTE base stations in Nairobi and 20 in Mombasa, connecting 195 police stations in both areas to high speed internet to ease communication.

Health and education are also important pillars of the Jubilee manifesto, with improved pay packages for doctors and other medical practitioners mentioned as one of their goals. Based on a collective bargaining agreement arrived at between the doctors’ union and the government, the lowest paid doctor was supposed to earn KES 180,000 in basic pay per month, up from KES 60,000. KES 1.66 billion would be enough to pay 768 such doctors the pay they deserve for a year.

They also resolved to provide free mosquito nets to all families who need them. Mosquito nets are estimated to cost KES 255 (USD 2.50), last for 3 – 4 years, and protect an average of two people. KES 1.66 billion would be enough to buy over 6.5 million mosquito nets, protecting over 13 million Kenyans from malaria, and saving between 26,000 and 130,000 children’s lives.

The Jubilee coalition set as one of its goals the decrease of the student – teacher ratio to 40:1. Given that we have a shortage of almost 150,000 teachers, and that the Ministry of Education estimates that it would need KES 15.4 billion to recruit 40,000 teachers, KES 1.66 billion would be able to hire 4,311 teachers, leading to a 2.9% reduction. They also set out to provide free milk to every primary school going child, which is estimated to cost up to KES 154 billion per annum for about 12 million children. At an estimated cost of KES 12,833.33 per child per annum, KES 1.66 billion would provide 129,350 primary school children with milk for a year.

To improve social welfare, they set out to provide guaranteed free water supplies to those living in informal settlements pending slum upgrades. As at July 2015, according to UN Habitat, 56% of Kenyans live in slums. Since our population is estimated at 47,217,197 people, this would mean that 26,441,630 people live in slums. The average home uses about 100 litres of water a week. If buying in jerricans, this costs KES 50 per 20 litre jerrican, making it KES 250 a week, and KES 13,000 a year. If buying from a water ATM such as the one in Mathare slums, the cost reduces to KES 2.50 a week, and KES 130 a year. KES 1.66 billion would provide (assuming water ATMs are installed in all informal settlements) 12.77 million households with free, clean water for a year.

These are a few of the ways in which we are robbed by public servants; this is how they steal from us and leave us to die. When will this change? When you and I decide that enough is enough. Until then, the hustle continues.

The Predictable Nature Of Corruption in Kenya

Brenda Wambui
2 February ,2016

Corruption scandals have become a “fact of life” for many Kenyans, who have come to regard them as just another facet of Kenyan life, alongside high taxes, poor service delivery, our “cult of personality” approach to politics and religion, and the misfortunes occasioned to us by terrorism. These burdens seem to be ours for the long haul, and we seem to have accepted them, albeit half-heartedly. It is tiresome to watch or listen to the news; even being on Twitter at a time when one was not prepared for shock or disappointment can derail one’s entire day. A useful activity (for me) has been to see if these scandals follow any particular pattern. Indeed, they do.

The Reveal

A source leaks to the media/the judiciary/the ombudsman/an external authority some information that is supposed to shake us to the core. For example:

The Judiciary was yesterday jolted by claims that a senior judge received money to influence a case at the highest court in the land… Justice Tunoi is alleged to have received two million dollars (Sh200 million) in order to influence an election petition against Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, filed by election challenger Ferdinand Waititu. (The Standard)


It is now official, the National Youth Service (NYS) lost Sh791 million in a scandal allegedly involving six companies. Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, under whose docket the NYS is placed, said she received a reply letter from the Director of Criminal Investigations attesting to the fraud following submission of her probe request in June. (The Standard)

This is what has happened in many other scandals, such as Goldenberg, Angloleasing, Moses Wetangula’s Japan Embassy scandal, the Chickengate scandal among others.

The Outrage

Based on the report(s) in question, Kenyan people collectively lose their minds, wondering how public servants can be so corrupt/callous/immoral/brazen, and do not hesitate to express these views on any platform that has a text box and a submit/comment/tweet/send/update button. To witness this phenomenon in action, one only needs to visit the comment section of any newspaper website (especially on the articles that cover such scandals) or have a Twitter or Facebook account. If one is more old school, this can be witnessed on Nipate, Wazua or Mashada, as well as call ins to radio and TV station polls.

This is not to say that the outrage is not valid, or important; it is. Only that we are in a state of permanent outrage, because Kenyans offline and online get worn out screaming themselves hoarse about one corruption scandal to the next, leaving us with little energy to pursue matters to completion and hold corrupt officials accountable as they should be.

The Denial

At this stage, the accused and those partial to him/her come out to vehemently refute the claims, and make accusations of their own. For example:

Embattled Supreme Court Judge Philip Tunoi on Monday sought to clear his name in the wake of allegations that he received a Sh200 million bribe to influence a ruling in an election petition. In an affidavit filed with a special committee of the Judicial Service Commission, Justice Tunoi said the allegations against him were “fiction” and that they were made by “elements within the Judiciary” who did not wish to disclose their identities. (The Nation)


The embattled Devolution and National Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru has ruled out stepping aside over the National Youth Service scandal. Speaking on Citizen TV on Tuesday night, Ms Waiguru said people do not step aside because they have been told to step aside on the street. “How can they ask me to step aside when I blew the whistle? I’m the one who called CID,” said the CS, adding that just because an organization has been touched by corruption doesn’t mean that its head must resign. She added that all state organs and private companies have in one way or the other been touched by corruption allegations. (The Nation)

It is important to deflect blame to parties that cannot and must not be named that are invested in tarnishing your name because of your good work. You must offer an alternative explanation that boggles any sane mind, and stand by it without breaking into laughter.

The Pretense of Justice

This is the stage at which organs of the state pretend to care about what happened and attempt to “get to the bottom of the matter.” Tribunals/committees/commissions of inquiry are formed, and investigations proceed promising justice to Kenyans for the vast sums of money that have undoubtedly gone missing. For example:

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) CEO Mumo Matemu has revealed that investigation on various Anglo-Leasing contracts were still on-going. Matemu said the operationalization of the law on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) would assist the commission to broaden its investigations into the matter. He affirmed that whatever else happens the investigations must not be compromised but instead be brought to a logical conclusion leading to prosecution of the perpetrators. “Investigations are at a critical stage and I cannot discuss particulars without giving hints to the people we are investigating because we know they are good at that because we do not want anyone running faster than us.” (The Standard)


Kenya’s anti-graft agency is on the spot over its handling of the ‘chickengate’ scandal given that it is now more than a year since a London court convicted the British directors who paid out bribes codenamed ‘chicken’ totalling Sh53 million to Kenyan electoral and examination officials. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is still asking for more time to carry out investigations, yet the Southwark Crown Court in London has already jailed the Smith & Ouzman (S&O) executives who gave out the hefty bribes. (The Business Daily)

At this point, it is important for the people tasked with solving the issue to blame factors beyond their control and ask for more time, hoping (this has proven to be a very successful strategy) that we forget after some time.

The Getting Away With It

After giving many excuses, the people tasked with “getting to the bottom of the matter” ultimately fail, as we have come to expect. Investigations hit a brick wall, there is lack of cooperation/evidence from key parties, or, the people mentioned in the scandal are acquitted in the courts. For example:

Goldenberg architect Kamlesh Pattni on Friday walked out of Milimani Magistrate court a free man after all criminal charges against him were formally terminated. Criminal charges against Pattni were terminated by the Magistrate court following the judgment by High Court that absolved Mr Pattni and his associated firms from the Goldenberg scandal. The case was struck out by Chief Magistrate Waweru Kiarie following Mr Pattni’s application that the court terminates the case in compliance with High Court orders. (The Business Daily)


The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has cleared former Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia of allegations that he had allocated himself and his close relatives 31 government vehicles. In a statement, EACC Chief Executive Officer Halakhe Waqo said the commission had recommended that the file containing the charges be closed due to lack of evidence. (The Business Daily)

The Rehabilitation

This is when the parties accused of corruption/terrible behaviour utilize the media and anyone who will give them space to clean up their image and attempt to get back into the public’s good graces. Television appearances are made, especially at prime time, for maximum effect. Newspaper opinion articles written by the accused are published, and hashtag battalions are deployed on the internet to achieve maximum rehabilitation. For example:

Deputy President William Ruto on Tuesday evening used a live television show to defend himself and the government from allegations of corruption and insecurity. Appearing on the “Big Question” on Citizen TV, Mr Ruto accused political detractors of being “jealous” of his political success and insisted the Jubilee government was working to deliver on their manifesto. From the chaos at the anti-corruption commission to the saga of Lang’ata Road Primary School and back to the scandal at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Mr Ruto maintained the same line of innocence, accusing political opponents of dragging his name and that of the Jubilee administration into the scandals. (The Nation)

The Political Career

At this stage, given the millions worth of free coverage the accused has received from traditional and new media, and given the adage “All publicity is good publicity/there is no such thing as bad publicity”, the parties mentioned are ready to vie for political office, and the worst part is that they usually get elected. For example:

Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru has said she is yet to make a decision on her gubernatorial bid in 2017. Waiguru said she is consulting with experienced politicians who have approached her, businessmen and religious leaders before she clears the air on her said candidature. Speaking after attending a church service in Komarock, Nairobi Sunday, the former CS said her plan is to interact with the youth and women in their communities in order to know their needs and desires before making an informed decision. “Being a governor is a job for the people. So one cannot just wake up one day and decide to run. With the counsel from politicians and other leaders, I will be able to let the people know of the outcome,” she said. (The Standard)

After this, these corrupt persons acquire even more power and become godfathers and mentors to future thieves, creating pipelines for themselves (and their cronies) to continue draining this country of its wealth in exchange of zero work performed. The fact that corruption in Kenya runs on this predictable script is worrisome, and boring, and puts us at a high risk of state collapse due to indifference in some Kenyans, admiration of the corrupt in others, and exasperation in the majority. As Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said, we are living in a bandit economy, it’s about time we changed that.