IEBC: CAUGHT IN INDEFENSIBLE LEADERSHIP

By Dr. David Oginde,

When Isaack Hassan, the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), appeared on the JKL show last week, I could not help but admire him. His courage, calm and clarity of thought was simply commendable. This, especially in light of the pressure that has been on him and his commission over the last several months, could not be taken for granted. In the interview, Mr. Hassan made it abundantly clear that he and his fellow commissioners were not about to resign, not under any circumstances save for a political settlement that respects the Constitution.

The chairman advanced some very plausible arguments that cannot be easily ignored. Chief among them was the fact that the Constitution anticipated the very pressure and manipulation that they have been going through.122.jpg

Measures were therefore taken to provide the Commissioners collectively and individually with a constitutional shield against any such schemes. In his view, therefore, to step down because of such compulsion would set a wrong precedent that could serve only to undermine the very spirit of the Constitution that we seek to uphold. Well put, and I concur.

Yet, as author Richelle Goodrich rightly said, “Reality is a background so painted over by our own perceptions that every eye sees the world differently.” In spite of the chairman’s good arguments, the background to the current pressure is so painted by strong perceptions that make the commission’s continued stay in office look like a fraud and mere intransigence. Whatever it is that has contributed to this discoloring, it is so deep that it will take many liters of paint to restore a clean background. Consequently, in spite of the recent clearance of the team by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, the stains seem to endure.

What seems to be at play here is what is commonly known in sociology as the Thomas theorem; which simply says, “If men (people) define situations as real, then they are real in their consequences.” In other words, the way people interpret a situation will determine their course of action. They may be totally wrong in their analysis, and yet their actions will be affected by those subjective perceptions, no   matter how absurd. Therefore, according to this theory, the critical issue is not whether there even is an objectively correct interpretation, but rather how the perception will influence consequent behavior.

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It is perhaps for this reason that even the often sober groups like the religious and business communities have come out in strong support of an exit, albeit with soft landing. In their presentation to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on IEBC, the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, for example wrote: “We are alive to the fact that the presence and perception of free and fair elections are fundamental to the peace and stability of our young democracy. We are therefore convinced that the standard required of the Commissioners and Secretariat of the IEBC is that which was required of Caesar’s wife: the need to be beyond suspicion.”

On their part, the Multi-Sectoral Forum (MSF) meeting at Ufungamano, and bringing together the religious, business, and civil society groups, declared, “ We maintain that, considering the history of Kenya and the credibility crisis of the IEBC, even if they are not found culpable through an investigation, it is important for the current commissioners to give way,” The fear here seems to be that, whereas the negative perceptions of the IEBC may not be real, they could be real in their consequences-a gamble we may not want to take, considering our history at the polls.

Obviously, this places the Commissioners in a most awkward position. On the one hand, they must maintain their innocence and must defend their constitutional rights and duties. And yet they must at the same time be alive to the possible consequences of the subjective interpretations of people’s perceptions. This calls for serious introspection and objective considerations, for it a true test of their mettle in leadership. It is a most unfortunate situation to be in, but it is in such moments that leaders are made. Maybe Mr. Hassan and his team may love this other one from Richelle, “Perhaps, if you weren’t so busy regarding my shortcomings, you’d find that I do possess redeeming qualities, discreet as they may be.” Sadly, we are rather busy, and may only discover them after you are gone.

African Leaders Should Borrow a leaf from David Cameron

By Dr. David Oginde,

Let’s admit it. We are miles apart, not just by distance but especially so on matters that matter. By stepping down as British Prime Minister, David Cameron has shown what true servant leadership is all about- a leadership that acknowledges that whatever position we hold, it is first and foremost granted by the people and for the people. Thus, when the people speak otherwise than we believe-no matter how wrong they might be-then our continuance in that leadership role becomes seriously untenable. The wise thing is to step down and let the people determine their own destiny.

The nation of Israel, as conceived and constituted by God, was a theocracy under the headship of Jehovah their God. He oversaw their welfare and affairs through the agency of priests, prophets, and judges. He was also their commander of the armed forces and duly fought their battles ever so victoriously. But, several years after God delivered them from their slavery in Egypt and settled them in the Promised Land, the people of Israel began to be uneasy with this arrangement. They admired the human kings of nations around them. Thus they approached Samuel, who was their prophet and judge at the time, and demanded of him to give them a king like other nations. Samuel was aghast! He could not believe how his people could even imagine such a thing. But God spoke to Samuel and reassured and instructed him, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. So let them have their own way.” And with those words, the will of the people prevailed. God stepped down from being their King, and Saul was appointed as the first human king of Israel. The rest is history.

As I have watched the goings on in the nations of this continent, it vexes the heart that we are so bereft of this godly attitude. Lives are being lost in Burundi. Uganda is amending its constitution to extend the presidential term. Zimbabwe has an eternal president. And South Sudan is bleeding. Africa has buried, nay, lost many of its precious sons and daughters in numerous wars that are completely unnecessary, if only the leaders were more alive to the aspirations of their people.

In our own nation, the country is almost at standstill because of the IEBS question. After weeks of street protests that resulted in the deaths of several Kenyans and destruction of properly, a parliamentary select committee is now at work collecting the views of Kenyans on how to reform the electoral system.

But, at the core of this exercise is whether or not the commissioners should be removed or retained. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Committee on Administration and justice has also been grilling the commissioners on alleged corrupt practices. Eventually, a lot of time and money is going to be spent on processes whose outcomes are easily predictable. These are mere shenanigans that we should never have engaged in if only we demonstrated dignified leadership.

Whereas IEBC has maintained studious innocence in all accusations brought upon them, and whereas this is their legal and constitutional right, yet one wonders what would have happened if they had taken the path of Cameron early in the day. Where would we be today if, as soon as it appeared that the people had lost faith in them- whether rightly or wrongly- they opted to step down so that a new team is put in place? They would most likely, like Cameron, gone out with their heads up high having demonstrated a rare breed of leadership.Servant_Leadership_Empathy.jpg

But, it does appear that such things only happen in other continents and not in Africa. Here the will of the leader supersedes that of everybody else. Once granted a leadership position, we rule our people whether they like it or not. This is often true in the smallest chama, as it is in the largest corporate. Many of our leaders will simply not heed the voice of the people. Thus we marvel at the likes of David Cameron, and wonder why a man would step down from such a prestigious position for such a little thing as losing the Brexit vote! Yet, this is the godly thing to do. It speaks neither of weakness nor of guilt, but demonstrates the dignity of leadership.

 

Israeli Visit: A Dilemma to Kenya’s Diplomacy

By Dr. David Oginde,

Being the first by an Israeli premier, the recent visit to Kenya by Benjamin Netanyahu was historic. It certainly elicited excitement among many Kenyans especially because of the friendly role Israel has often played in times of crisis in Kenya. Yet it seems to have caused unease in some quarters. In fact, a group of Muslim clerics and political leaders termed the visit a danger to the nation.

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In their view, it would only exacerbate the already deplorable security situation in the country. They went as far as claiming that Israel is a violator of human rights, with whom we should associate, owing to its conduct in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Accordingly, the Muslim leaders asked Kenya to steer clear of Israel until a lasting solution is found to the conflict.

The truth is that Israel has been in constant battles with many of its Arab neighbors since its rebirth in 1948. These battles have been fought within and outside boarders of Israel, sometimes targeting their interests in other nations, including Kenya. At the center of these fights is the dispute over Israel’s legitimacy as a bonafide member of the community of nations. This legitimacy is something that some have refused to acknowledge, and especially its immediate neighbors, but which is an undeniable fact of history.

Thus the call by Muslim leaders raises fundamental issues with regard to Kenya’s diplomatic relations with the Middle Eastern nations. In recent times, the Arab nations have almost totally dominated Kenya’s diplomatic space with their leaders visiting Kenya one after another. In what has been regarded as trade and development ties, these nations have been assiduously aggressive in cementing ties with Kenya. Hence, their business interests are expansive and well entrenched.

Whereas there is absolutely nothing untoward about being astute in business, eyebrows were recently raised when Kenya was invited to join the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Announcing the move, Henry Rotich, the Finance Cabinet Secretary, declared that Kenya was set to become a member of the OIC, ostensibly to access cheap loans from the Islamic Development Bank, extended on interest free terms as per Islamic banking practice. Though this seemed like a noble venture, there were concerns with the fact that OIC declares unequivocally that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world.” Kenya was thus being invited to join a primarily religious outfit.

As previously argued in this space, such an eventuality was bound to throw Kenya into a diplomatic quagmire with Israel. Kenya has always considered itself a friend of Israel, though taking a neutral stand in the conflict between Israel and its neighbors.

Therefore, for Kenya to become a member of an organization that appears, at least covertly, to be unfriendly to Israel was most likely going to compromise that stand. This is particularly because the OIC position on Israel is clear. It has previously declared “the possibility of cutting ties with any (member) state that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or that moves it embassy to its environs” Certainly a veiled threat to members of the organization not to entertain Israel.

Therefore, with Israel stepping out of the woodworks to also find allies in Africa, Kenya may find itself at the center of a love triangle battle whose impact could be devastating if not carefully managed. It is curious that the Muslim leaders considered the visit by Netanyahu a danger to the nation and one that could undermine national security. This could be a loaded statement considering that Netanyahu had just pledged to share intelligence with Kenya to pre-empt terrorist attacks.

Whatever the case, it appears unfortunate that the Kenya Muslim community would come out strongly to oppose diplomatic relations with Israel, on the basis of the Palestinian conflict.

Bearing in mind that there are many Kenyans who strongly consider Israel to have legitimate legal and historic rights to the land they occupy, we run the danger of importing the Middle Eastern conflict to our own land-a situation that would certainly not to be happy.

It therefore behooves us to allow the government to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with all friendly nations but stay clear of their internal affairs. In this case, it is perhaps the only way to keep both friends. Otherwise Kenya should also cut ties with any perceived “enemies” of Israel in order to be truly neutral.

Kenyan Youth Are Sounds of Falling Branches

By Dr. David Oginde,

Back in my primary school days, one of the Safari English text books had a picture that got etched in my little mind. There was this man sitting on a branch of a tree, but cutting it at its joint. Perhaps finding it the most comfortable position from which to undertake his chore, the ultimate import of his folly was what a popular international TV series would call, “the science of the stupid.” This picture came to mind as I considered the possible causes of the destructive conduct of our young people, especially student. What exactly would cause a group of students run amok and burn down several dormitories, ostensibly because of being denied opportunity to watch a football match? These could be the sounds of a falling branch. Somebody somewhere must be cutting our social branch the wrong place.

Over the past years, we have been chipping away at this branch with assiduous resolve. We have not only abandoned the basic fundamentals of our Africanness- its social structure and practices-but have also gone ahead to throw out key tenets of faith and religion. Instead, we have embraced strange ideologies clearly at variance with natural social order. Thus, whereas many of us were brought up under strict discipline, enforced both at home and in school, we are now training children to demand their rights. Discipline in school has been reduced to passive activities that have little impact on hardened hearts of today’s child. No wonder, when their right to watch soccer is violated, they burn down the school.

At another level, the lift transforming value of religion is increasingly becoming an anathema among the progressive class of our society. Consequently, we have enacted laws to ensure that our children are not encumbered with matters religion. Preachers are being outlawed from accessing schools in favour of “life skill experts” with the hope of equipping our youth to cope with the vicissitudes of life. This is no new idea.

Back in 2006, Oduor Ouma, then a sub-editor with the Nation, argued against the acknowledgment of the supremacy of the Almighty God in the preamble of the draft constitution. Quoting Bertrand Russell, Oduor argued that all religions of the world are untrue and harmful. The consequence of their teaching is that “the minds of the young are stunted and are filled with fanatical hostility.” Therefore, Oduor wanted the opening clause of the Preamble struck out. Instead, he extolled the US Constitution as a shining example of freedom “from” religion.

Interestingly, when atheist leader Madeline Murray O’Hare petitioned the US Supreme Court to outlaw prayers in schools, it led to the landmark ruling ending official Bible-reading in American public schools in 1963. The Court had also prohibited prayer in schools only a year earlier.

Sadly though, it did not take long before things began to fall apart. There were cases of kids shooting one another in school; and increased cases of suicide and drug abuse among teenagers.

Then came the September 11 attack that rocked the nation. Soon after this attack, Billy Graham’s daughter was being interviewed on national television. Her interviewer, Jane Clayson, asked her “How could God let something like this happen?” Anne Graham responded, “I believe that God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman that He is, I believe that He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand that He leaves us alone?”

I agree. There is no way we can be cutting the branch we are sitting on yet not expect to fall.

HOW POLITICIANS PLAY WITH KENYAN MINDS

By Dr. David Oginde

One of the most admirable characteristics of politicians is their unusual knack for turning every experience into a prospect — exploiting every opportunity for personal gain. If a politician wants to talk about ants while watching a herd of elephants, he could begin with something like, “I’m just amazed how an elephant can be so big and an ant so small…” He will then spend not a few hours talking about ants. That is why politicians can go to whatever function and talk about what is uppermost in their minds, irrespective of whether that function is a wedding, funeral, or school prize-giving day — it matters not the occasion; it matters not the audience! Their personal agenda becomes king.

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I recall a classic one, in the days of constitutional review and the fight over whether or not to create the position of Prime Minister. I was conducting a wedding when a politician came to the church ceremony as a friend of one of the families. Given a chance by the family to encourage the newly-weds, he briefly congratulated the young couple and then proceeded to marvel at the mystery of marriage. He was amazed how God can bring two very different people together, and cause them to so love one another that they end up becoming one in holy matrimony. Then came the clincher — If God can do that in marriage, why not in government? Why would some people think that the positions of Prime Minister and President would create two centers of power? To the contrary, just like in marriage it would bring a beautiful union that brings blessings and harmony to the nation!

This characteristic came to mind as I watched our politicians come out of police cells and proceed to carefully choreographed get-togethers and luncheons. These men and women, who only a few days earlier had appeared to go after each other’s jugular, were now enjoying sumptuous meals in new-found comradery. With hearty laughter, they turned their ordeal in the police cells into an opportunity to feast and capture media attention. And as usual, many Kenyans watched in admiration at just how blessed we are to have such repentant leaders — ready to bury the hatchet and join hands in proclaiming peace and national harmony.

There is no doubt that this show of unity has been, for the nation, more powerful than a water hose on a raging fire. The flames of hate and violence died quickly with just a few pictures of jovial leaders dining together. This is the power of leadership.

Unfortunately many of our leaders seem not to fully appreciate the power they hold. Few seem to realize the impact their words and actions have on those of us who hold them in reverence. The truth, however, is that when they hate, we hate; when they fight, we fight; and when they laugh, we laugh. We are turned on and off like light bulbs that simply respond to the actions of the switch. The implications of this are profound.

Whereas for many a politician, all that they say and do are many times merely part of the political game, to their followers, each word and every action is a serious act of leadership. It has been shown that, especially in matters politics and religion, followers — even the most educated — follow their leader almost blindly. That is why some political or religious leaders around the world have led their members into committing suicide or causing major atrocities against perceived enemies. While Hitler seems to hold the political record of mass murder; in Christianity, Jim Jones led a thousand of his sect members into mass suicide, including US Congressman Leo Ryan, in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana. John Kony has been responsible for thousands of deaths in Uganda. Similarly, Al-Shaabab and ISIS are current religious examples.

That is why, in our case, it is sad that it had to take a few nights in police cells to hopefully sober our leaders to the reality of the negative impact of their speech. This nation is like a field of dry grass. A spark could burst it into uncontrollable flames. It is therefore our hope and prayer that our leaders will not simply play politics with their cell experience and then resume their toxic vitriol. Those who do should be taken back to the coolers, and the keys thrown away. They are a danger to a civilized society.

 

AN INCONSISTENT LEGACY THE RETIRED CJ HAS LEFT BEHIND

By Dr. Bishop David Oginde

As Chief Justice Willy Mutunga took his exit, the matter of his legacy has been on the lips of many. Opinions have been varied, with several at opposite extremes. There are those who have hailed him as the best CJ Kenya has ever had. To this group, Dr. Mutunga has been a revolutionary judge who did not care to conform to the traditional judicial architecture. Accordingly, he helped demystify judicial procedures and practices, thereby making the courts less formal and more user friendly. To this group, and in Mutunga’s own words, the CJ has defended and upheld the new Constitution, often at the risk of his own life and reputation.

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He has ensured the independence and integrity of the Judiciary, thereby restoring the face of this critical organ of the state. Mutunga has further decentralized and decongested the court system, thereby bringing justice closer to the people. But, at the other extreme are those who view Mutunga’s tenure as one that did not live up to expectation. To this group, the former CJ has left the Judiciary in disarray. In their view, the drama that dogged the Supreme Court, well up to the dying minutes of his tenure, was an indicator of an institution in disintegration. In fact, this group was perhaps best represented by an editorial cartoon posted in a local daily on Thursday.

According to it, the Judiciary represented by a minibus – has been left hoisted on stone blocks with no wheels, broken windows, and on fire. The passengers are in utter dismay that the driver could take off so majestically in the midst of such a crisis. Interestingly, this is a picture that has been confirmed several times by none other than the CJ himself. Not too long ago, the CJ lamented: “I’m riding a tiger, hoping that the monster will not devour me.” And in a possible sign of frustration he complained: “As long as I fight the cartels and they are protected, you cannot achieve anything. You are taking these people into a corrupt investigating system, through a corrupt anti-corruption system, and a corrupt Judiciary.”

Ahmednasir Abdullahi, a Nairobi lawyer, was even more dramatic as he decried the utter rottenness of the institution. In his view, Kenyans are “saddled with a Judiciary that is rotten to the core, stinking to the high heavens, byzantine and barbaric.” Nothing to be proud of.

It is a fact that the CJ took over leadership at a most critical time for the nation, but especially for the Judiciary. The expectations for judicial reforms were extremely high, especially in view of the much the hyped vetting process that saw many established judges exited from the institution.

The hope was that the new brooms would not only sweep cleaner but also faster. Top in the minds of many was a decisive and ruthless dealing with endemic corruption, in which justice seemed to be dispensed to the highest bidder in the court corridors, registry, and chambers. Sadly, if the CJ’s analysis is to be believed, this tiger seems to have been wounded but not completely slain.

The creation of the Supreme Court was another new feature that raised the hopes of Kenyans. With the said court populated with some of the most brilliant minds – mainly from outside the institution – Kenyans awaited a most robust justice system. Some pundits aver that something did not quite pick up on this front. The squabbles that have led to the almost total collapse of the court may be testament to this.

Several issues seem to emanate from this whole scenario. First is that perhaps the miracles expected were more than one human being could possibly deliver in the short period, especially given the status of the Judiciary at the point of entry. Secondly, we perhaps judged some of the exited judges too harshly. It now appears that if the current judges were to be taken through the same rigor of vetting as their colleagues went through years ago, few would pass the muster.

Thirdly, it is becoming apparent that there still is something about experience that cannot be replaced merely by high educational credentials and social activism. That we preferred men and women, who have never been at the bench to lead our highest courts, may be a matter worth interrogating.

Otherwise, we risk falling into the same trap as we seek to reconstitute the Supreme Court. It would be yet another travesty.

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Leaders: Refrain from Selfishness and Put Kenyans First

By Dr. Bishop David Oginde.

The spat between Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and Justice Njoki Ndung’u on one hand, and the discord between CORD and Jubilee leaders on the other, has exposed a strange characteristic of our leadership — a leadership devoid of every sense of dignity. It is a breed of leadership bent on pursuing nothing but one’s own ends at the expense of everyone else. Unfortunately, this is the brand of leadership we have become accustomed to and have in fact grown to admire. The fact, however, is that this approach to leadership tramples upon the rights and aspirations of those who have bequeathed the privilege of leadership to the leader. It is a tragedy that has befallen Kenyans time and again — yet we remain ever so hopeful.

Tuesday last week, I was in a meeting of senior Church leaders from across the country when word came that President Uhuru Kenyatta had just invited CORD leaders to a meeting in State House; and that CORD had readily accepted the invite and gone. The sense of relief and the expressions of joy among the Church leaders was not only palpable but spontaneous. In fact, the meeting took a moment to thank God for the apparent breakthrough over a matter that had gripped the hearts of many Kenyans and brought the nation to a near stand-still. Not one of the Church leaders in the room considered the invitation by the President or CORD’s acceptance as unnecessary or unacceptable — a clear evidence that Kenyans from across the nation want a peaceful nation, where their leaders treat one another with decorum and magnanimity. Unfortunately, our leaders somehow assume that such engagements would make them appear weak and spineless. No wonder, before we could fully rejoice, they cut short our joy by abandoning the path of peace in preference for their loved route to war.

It is one John Ruskin who aptly said, “I believe that the first test of a great man is his humility. I don’t mean by humility, doubt of his power. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not of them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.” The implication for us is that, by taking the grandstand, our leaders appear to have either abandoned the path of humility or they have never been there in the first place.

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Consequently, we have political leaders and public servants who seem to take pride in their boorish behavior, and others who hold us in contempt if we disagree with them. In the process they have totally undermined the dignity of leadership as they pursue personal interest at the expense of those they are supposed to lead and serve.

What our leaders do not realize is that, by abandoning the path of humility and decorum, they have set the nation on the road to destruction. Studies have shown that a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Researchers have found that small acts of rudeness can quickly escalate to increasingly harmful events that can destroy whole communities or nations. In-deed, history shows that families, communities, institutions, or nations that have abandoned decorum have inevitably imploded into nothingness. That is why the negative talk by our leaders must concern all of us. They sow within us seed of discord whose effects are most obviously evident in our discourse on social media. Pundits are agreed that these seeds of evil are germinating and, should matters come to a head, will readily degenerate into a civil war, perhaps beyond anything we have ever known — well beyond the 2007/8 clashes.

It is for this reason that we must appeal to our leaders, both in government and the opposition. Please, please we beg you — by the mercies of God — abandon the selfish grandstanding and place the people of Kenya first. Men and women of every walk of life — ordinary citizens, religious leaders, business fraternity, and the diplomatic corps have all pleaded with you to find a peaceful way of resolving the stalemate. Accordingly, by sticking to one position, you represent none other than yourself. Yet, as a leader, God has given you a mandate to lead His people to green pastures, not drive them to slaughter. Therefore, for every innocent person whose life is cut short, or whose blood is spilt be-cause of you, God will most certainly bring you to account.

Dialogue: Best solution over the IEBC standoff

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By. Bishop David Oginde,

They are at it again. Yes, the politicians are full throttle stirring up emotions and setting us up against one another. IEBC and their fate is now the subject of varying opinions and tensed up emotions. As is usual with Kenyans, the comments and stands are as predictable as our ethnic stock. The situation we are faced with has every potential of taking us down the path we trod in 2007, a path that generates genuine angst in the hearts of many Kenyans. Of course not for politicians – they are a different breed. With the first and only interest being self, politicians have no qualms whatsoever dragging the whole nation to war, as long as it serves their cause. South Sudan and Burundi are proximate and recent examples. But, do we have to journey this road? Three teams hold the key.

As the main contender, CORD holds the first key. Ever since the 2013 elections, CORD has argued that IEBC lacks the capacity and credibility to conduct plausible elections. On the other hand, the Commission found itself implicated in an international corruption scandal that saw their European counterparts consigned to prison. In Kenya, nothing has happened. Thus, the Chickengate scandal – as it came to be known – handed the CORD team new ammunition against IEBC. CORD is thus determined to get rid of the commissioners by whatever means – including physically ejecting them from office.

The IEBC has held the position that they have the capacity and an untarnished record of holding credible elections over the last almost five years. The commission contends that though there were teething challenges with the implementation of the electronic voting system, these have been streamlined and, as the Americans would put it, they are good to

go. For the Commission, Chikengate and other alleged scandals are mere figments of the imagination of those with an axe to grind. The Chairman and his team cannot therefore countenance vacating office before the legitimate end of their tenure.

The third and equally critical key is held by the government. Their contention is simple: It is too late in the day to change the referee in such a major contest. And even if it is to be done, it must be done within the confines of the law. Whereas each of these arguments is valid, what Kenyans are hearing are drums of war. We can therefore take sides, sit tight, and pray that all will be well, but history shows otherwise. If the exchanges in the social media are anything to go by, the battle lines are already drawn and daggers unsheathed. No – we must sound the voice of caution.

CORD is perfectly right in pointing out its misgivings about the state of IEBC. Many have voiced similar concerns and called for its reconstitution. This notwithstanding, the move to physically eject the commissioners from their offices cannot be considered legitimate in the current constitutional regime. Other than its desired political effect, it could easily spiral into unintended orgy of violence and destruction that is common with mob activities. Thus, CORD must explore other more civilized routes for dealing with the issues.

That IEBC has lost credibility is not in doubt. What could be discussed is whether this loss is a result of mere perceptions or reality the line between the two is often blurred. However, the onus that this loss brings to the commissioners is heavy. It behooves them to make the choice between self and the nation.

In the legal system, judges often voluntarily disqualify themselves from a case if a party to the suit raises impartiality concerns. Such self-disqualification is not necessarily an admission of guilt but an upholding of the high standards of justice. Thus, whereas IEBC commissioners have a legitimate task to perform, they cannot simply sit tight as the nation drifts into chaos – it is immoral.

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While government has the legitimate responsibility to maintain peace and order, how this is done must not undermine the same peace we seek to preserve. One can only imagine what would happen if, for example, Raila was to be injured in a police fracas.

For a fact, we are between the rock and a hard place. As Anne Frank, the little Jewish victim of the German holocaust wrote: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.” That is why the call for dialogue remains the most excellent way.

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Kenyan Ethnicity Is In Reality: Insincere

By Dr. David Oginde

It appears that Dr David Ndii stirred the hornet’s nest by calling on Kenyan nation-tribes to head for the divorce court and end what in his view is an abusive relationship. The reactions have been as varied. Yet, Dr. Ndii simply sounded a warning — a warning that all is not well in our family house.

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Kenya is not the first or only nation to struggle with ethnic or other diversity challenges. Even developed nations have not escaped this blight. Scotland recently held a referendum to determine whether or not to remain part of the polygamist marriage called Britain. Britain itself has chosen a come-we-stay relationship with the EU, refusing to tie the full knot of marriage. The French-English divide in Canada is well documented. Thus, many nations of the world have suffered some form of ethnic unease or other. Whereas each struggle has had its own unique history, studies have suggested that they share the incubation of predisposing factors that are then followed by a set of triggers that sometimes result in mass violence.

Many of these factors can only be understood by appreciating the nature of inter-ethnic relations within the particular context. In Africa, literature on ethnicity reveals that most tribes in contemporary Africa possess no pre-colonial antecedents. Instead, according to Patricia Daley, studies have exposed “the colonial state’s role in defining and categorizing the African population into supposedly distinct ethnic groups for the purposes of political control.” In other words, political leaders deliberately ignored the natural social categories and created artificial groupings convenient for political mobilization.

The assumption was that tribes, being either merely biological or based on false consciousness, would disappear with modernization and the development of national identities.

Unfortunately, as is the case in Kenya, they have not. It is perhaps in this light that Anderson (extensively quoted by Ndii) has argued that the nation is merely imagined. Interestingly, however, James Sidaway considered Anderson’s thesis to be materialist, “for he stresses that one of the things that makes nationalism possible is capitalism.” Sidaway argued that, on matters ethnic, there is no simple reduction, because complex dialectics are at work.

In a similar debate a few years back, Joyce Nyairo reasoned that our cultural and ethnic realignments are not created in perpetuity, “but are with the help of political actors and cultural brokers revised, rewritten, recreated depending on what people want to achieve and how they reposition their past to serve their political future.” Nyairo therefore argued for a new formulation of national identity driven by “the intellectual mettle to question the notion of tribe.” Kiriro wa Ngugi however stood with Anderson’s position, that nations are mere socially constructed entities open to processes of negotiation and revision. Wa Ngugi therefore argued that, whereas ethnicity must not be used for political mobilization, it is a critical and integral part of society that cannot easily, or perhaps never, be wished away. He thus took pride in his tribe, not based on original belonging to a place but as part of his DNA strain a fact that Diana Patel readily refuted; arguing that the differences in tribe have little or nothing to do with DNA.

What seems to emerge is that our cultural meanings and ethnic identities influence how we comprehend, explain, and act in the world. Yet, our selfish human nature drives us to want to dominate others, even if that other is a brother or sister from the same womb — a fact demonstrated by Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. That is why, in some situations, intra-ethnic conflict has been so strong as to render the notion of a tribal nation untenable. Whereas the contraption of a Western, a Central, or a Luo nation presupposes monolithic and homogenous groups within these regions that, once granted autonomy, would live happily ever after, nothing could be further from the truth. They will most likely claw at each other’s face right from wedding day. Check out South Sudan, and remember South Africa’s independence.

For Kenya, a critical reality is that our ethnic animosity is mainly superficial — not derived from fundamentals. As a city church, for example, the majority of weddings we conduct are inter-ethnic — often between a bride and groom from “enemy” communities. That is why; if there is to be a national divorce, let’s part ways with the political elite who, for their selfish ambitions, herd us like goats while painting other communities as our enemies.

This is a lie we must reject.

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Project ‘X’: A reason to retract our steps

By Bishop David Oginde

It most certainly caught almost everyone’s attention readily becoming the talk of town and easily upstaging the usual political rhetoric. The audacity of its adverts and the boldness of its promised recklessness was perhaps beyond what we are used to. Project-X challenged the safety of our discourse in every respect — especially on drugs and promiscuity. Parents have been waxing livid and the religious communities are off the stage, united in condemnation of the faceless organizers of this crude event. At some point, though, I wondered whether it was not all but a hoax. But I was duly silenced by some young people who confirmed that these parties do happen. For them, the only new thing was the brazen manner in which the organizers went public.

 
Indeed, further reading reveals that since the film by the same name was released in 2012, these kinds of events have been held in several nations of the world, sometimes “successfully” but many times with serious destructive outcomes. What is common though, is that in every nation where the plans have been known beforehand, there has been a public outcry. Even in the most liberal countries, parents have insisted on the cancellation and banning of the events. What is amazing, however, is the interest these events have stirred among teenagers across the globe. In almost every place where they have been proposed, the response has ranged from 500 to 10,000 teenagers expressing interest. Parties that have succeeded have recorded attendance of up to 5,000 teens in a home compound. Herein lies a major issue that should concern us all — what is it that is so attractive to our teens at these plots of wickedness? A Biblical example might shed some light.

 
Aaron, brother to Moses, was perhaps the first to successfully organize a “Project X” party. When Moses went up the mountain for a holy discourse, Aaron was left in charge of the pilgrims. Moses tarried long and the crowd grew weary. They demanded of Aaron to provide them some entertainment. Aaron readily obliged and created them a golden calf, to which the people made sacrifices and presented offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. The description of this revelry by commentators is something akin to what reportedly happens at Project X parties — music, alcohol, drugs, and sex with wanton abandon. By the time Moses came down to the camp, the orgy and revelry was more than he could fathom or stand. At God’s word, Moses ordered the people to kill one another in punishment. About 3,000 people died. Furthermore, the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did. Interestingly, in almost all Project X parties, similar deaths and plagues have been reported.

 
From this Biblical account, a few parallels can be drawn on the causes of these wicked desires. Key among these include: Weariness, boredom, weak leadership, and godlessness. After just about 40 days of waiting for Moses, these desert pilgrims grew weary and bored — nothing to engage their energies and nothing to entertain them. Could our teens be in a similar situation? In upmarket homes, it appears that young people are often confined with little or no meaningful engagement or wholesome entertainment. With no public social amenities, and home chores fully handled by house workers, the young people have almost nowhere to expend physical and social energy. The social media remains the ready outlet and wild parties become very attractive. Add to that the lack of strong leadership in many homes, where Moses tarries long at work, in business trips, or is absent altogether; then you have a perfect opportunity for Aaronic solutions such as Project X.

 
But, what is of even greater concern is the level of godlessness that is pervading our society. Many families are today raising their children with absolutely no reference to God. It has become chic to be unpolluted by religion — considered by many in this class as a pastime for the uneducated and the un-moneyed. The fact, however, is that without divine protection, many children from these homes are being lured into strange activities.
Empty hearts are being filled with drugs, promiscuity, and hedonism. For sure, without God, the devil is having a field day. Perhaps it is time we retraced our steps and restored our traditional values and lifestyles. Otherwise, the ground is set to swallow us up alive.footsteps-of-jesus-6-copy-001.jpg