Council vs corporate, the good from the primaries and why the nomination lists are not that bad; all we learnt in the past two weeks

Council vs corporate; who’s our man?

Judging from the reaction on Twitter, that online blackboard where we are all very smart and calm, a fair number of people were surprised at how good Ferdinand Waititu was in that face-off with Evans Kidero.

It did not help that when he was given the chance to ask Waititu a question, Kidero condescendingly asked whether Nairobians ought to buy helmets (to protect themselves from Waititu’s stones). Yet when the former deputy mayor was given the same opportunity, he spent a minute putting it in context and then asked the former Mumias Sugar man what he was doing entangled with poor people and their land.

While we know from his past public life that Waititu is arguably a council thug, the suggestion he made, and which Kidero explained in a circuitous manner, is that the sugar man could also be a corporate thug. Question is; which thug can we trust?

We have all had that moment in life where the wiry chap in the fight delivers a blow so strong and so accurate that people wonder where the hell it came from and where it had been all along. Kidero did not end up prostrate like Manny Pacquiao but plenty of people agree that we surely need to listen a bit more to the declared front-runners in the race to become the governor of Kenya’s most important city.

Because he wrote me a long email on my gmail account, let me also add here that Mutinda Kavembu is also in the race to become governor.

What is clear though is that we, Nairobians and Kenyans in general, need more time listening to the people who will be shouting in our ears and messing up all public spaces with posters before we can decide who to vote for. We should also find out what they were up to in their other lives.

Before this, of course, was the small matter of the shambolic party primaries.

Try hard and you’ll see the good

It is impossible, I believe, to put in the words the extent to which party nominations were a sham. It is also impossible to see the good stuff that has come from these chaotic affairs.

While beginning the long wait for results in Kiambu, Billy Mutai and I settled down on some white plastic chairs at Kiambu Community Hall. We had not noticed the pile of ballot papers beside us until after we had emailed some photos to the office. We were struck by how easy it would have been for a voter to stroll over and pick a few extra ballot papers to mark and stuff in the boxes.

But then Billy expressed surprise that the papers actually had photographs of the candidates next to their names. Earlier, when we encountered the ballot boxes, we focused more on the late arrival of the ballot papers than the fact that for the first time in Kenya’s history, parties were using actual transparent boxes, and in some cases buckets, to ensure that the process is seen to be free of any undue influence.

That most of the parties failed to prove that this was going to be true is the subject of much analysis in the newspapers. In our analysis, we are bound to forget that all these delays could result from the fact that the party officials were inexperienced and would have been handing contracts to their friends, relatives and business partners. The optimistic ones should however mark this as a small but important step in the right direction.

C is for Communication, IEBC

This is more like a personal problem for professional reasons, I must confess. For four of the past week’s seven days, I was on the trail of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

I say ‘on the trail’ because it has been very difficult to get hold of the commission and the person they have employed as their main communication person is harder to reach than the chairman himself. When you do reach that person, you would be surprised if they gave you any information.

Yet the commission has extended deadlines willy nilly, made grand sounding statements about cancelling results in places where nominations went beyond the deadline without explaining how this would be done and then received and put the list of nominees in their cupboards.

I am among those who were glad when Mary Wambui, Rachel Shebesh, Njoroge Baiya and Cecily Mbarire stormed Anniversary and gave the commission a thorough psychological shake. I wasn’t surprised that they called a press conference the following day, and neither was there any news in their threat to disqualify the four from participating in the elections.

The good thing from all this was that they agreed to post online the lists submitted to them- which they should have done in the first place anyway because all that is public information.

It says something about the whole saga that we are yet to hear from the commission what action it will take against the four. We all know it will issue a formal warning, though.

We need the losers in Parliament

Still on matters nomination, isn’t it quite a surprise what the parties have gone and done with the lists of people they would give free seats in Parliament (the National Assembly and the Senate)?

I disagree with those who say that Oburu Oginga, Beth Mugo and other relatives of the big boys shouldn’t have been on the lists, and that the leaders of the Amani and Eagle coalitions and Martha Karua shouldn’t have been provided this soft landing either.

Those who complain about this are under the false impression that Kenyan politics is at the point at which politicians who lose in elections go back to their real careers. It was very clear when Danson Mungatana introduced to the Political Parties Act the clause allowing parties to nominate election losers to Parliament that this was designed to protect those the parties consider important from stepping out into the political cold.

Among the benefits is that Ms Karua can go back to being the reasonable, observant, concise, often impartial and robust debater she usually is in Parliament. It’s hard to say much about the rest because they have mostly been in Government, and have therefore not had much to say in Parliament.

The good thing about all this is they have to work very hard to ensure their parties get enough members in the two houses to guarantee them places.

If they don’t, we all know what will happen and how happy we will be.

Glad the beaten guy told his story

Hanging out at reception at the IEBC on Wednesday afternoon, a young man in a blue safari hat entered the room and after making a few inquiries settled down.

His right arm trapped in a white new sling, the man then took off the floppy hat.

And we all quietly shifted attention away from Twitter, Facebook and the games on our phones and had a good wide-eyed look at the young man in front of us.

He had a thoroughly blackened eye, a two-inch stitch down on the right side of his face, another long stitch on his head and several other threaded repairs to various other previously open areas on his head.

He told us he had come from Kuria and was a victim of violence during the party primaries.

The man wasn’t willing neither to have his photographs taken nor his story told but I was quite happy to see David Mwita on Page 5 of the Sunday Nation.






Fake cops, small parties, culled intros and other things we learnt in the first week of 2013

Even you can be a cop if you want…

The story of the week has to be Joshua Waiganjo, the man police arrested on the third day of 2013 after what police said was a dramatic chase in Eldama Ravine in the Rift Valley.

Waiganjo’s name  is now preceded by the adjectives bogus police officer, fake cop and  impostor. Just how can a man keeping the company of the Provincial Police Officer to for so long, and firing real cops along the way, be discovered to be a fake?

Pretty simple, it would seem, and we must also applaud the good journalists at K24 who, by walking around with two-way radios and sounding serious, managed to punk a few guys in Mlolongo and Athi River.

It reminded me of a guy I will call Tim. We were in campus together. Whenever he would get very broke, and that was very often, Tim would hook up with his cousin, who was an Administration Policeman in Shauri Moyo.

He would don one of his cousin’s spare uniforms and they would then wander through Shauri Moyo’s alleys, collecting bribes from chang’aa dens and harassing members of the public for money. These trips into the slum were all about getting money to buy drinks and generally have a good time.

When I asked him what happened when they met other cops, Tim would smile and say he only needed to salute and say “Afande.”

Now come to think of it, is there any official  and well known form of identification for the police?

All they are known to do is grab you by the belt at the back of the trousers, lift  and propel you forward, replying to your pained inquiries with “Utasemea mbele” or “Tutaongea ukifika kwa station.” You will then be thrown in the boot of the battered 504 Peugeot station wagon or a Land Rover that looks ready for conversion into a breakdown vehicle and that will be it.

All this thing taught me is we still have plenty to do before we can say we have a modern police force, and it doesn’t start with calling it a service.

… and prove it to some degree
Still on matters fake, I must admit I am waiting with real anxiety to see how Margaret Wanjiru will prove that her degrees are from accredited institutions and that they are, well, degrees.

Some say that she got her undergraduate papers long after obtaining her doctorate. Some say she attended, vicariously I must add, a college in the United States named Vineyard Harvester Bible College. Its location is reported to be rather suspicious.

When she launched her campaign to be governor of Nairobi, she refused to answer the questions put to her about the matter. But on the road later, the good bishop said she can only be called doctor because she deserves it and she deserves it because she has the degree, no doubt.

Some say that she might have blundered her way into this mess by asking the Commission of Higher Education to verify the authenticity of the colleges she attended. Rarely in the history of law do you find someone who asks the judge to have the authorities verify that they are not guilty. The prudent thing to do is to wait for the authorities to prove that you are.

But given that she beat a well-connected Maina Kamanda at the General Election in 2007 and then in the by-election in 2010, we cannot in any way doubt her toughness.

It’s Small Party Time

If you haven’t, please read a story by Billy Muiruri on Page 5 of the Sunday Nation on January 6. It is about a uniquely Kenyan phenomenon that happens every five years since 1992.

It goes like this. A few days before the party to which you belong holds it nominations, your people tell you that the secretary general of the party made a face at you as you looked the other way at a recent meeting. This same secretary general is also rumoured to have clicked and shaken his head in a most disgusted manner when you addressed the rest of the party. Indeed, you spies report, the secretary general has been seen eating meat and ugali and later having a drink with the man who you consider your main rival for the seat. As you browse through the paper to see whether your rival has a colour photo in those county profiles the  papers are running now, your eye lands on an ad by Saba Saba Asili, Farmer’s Party, Agano Party…you get the drift.

So you call up the party’s chairman, a very wise fellow who puts his number at the bottom of the quarter-page ad in the two papers with the biggest readership, meet him at Dove Cage and go home with a vital document.

If all does not go according to plan on the day of the nominations, you will be safe. If it does, you’ll tear up the damn certificate.

The man will be having another cold one at Dove Cage as usual.

Our excessively expensive election should be a one-off

Last week was very rough for Parliamentary reporters.

On Wednesday, when MPs met for the first time this year, every story that came through from the chamber was smoking hot, every document tabled and then copied and brought to us was packed with important info. I wrote five stories, none less than 500 words long and none deemed unworthy of publication.

On Thursday evening, the media liaison officer handed us a pile of documents,  and as we labored through them, it was easy to lose sight of one that seemed rather innocuous. It was the pre-election fiscal update from Treasury and it showed that the General Election in March will cost us Sh24.9 billion. Considering that the last big election cost Sh8 billion, I will refrain here from repeating that old adage about democracy and cost.

The update had one more surprise. We cannot afford a run-off. I support Githae when he says Kenyans should vote to avoid spending Sh11.2 billion in a run-off.

  and the intro we shouldn’t have culled

This blog likes to think of itself as a tool to measure what lessons, if any, we have learnt over the past week. It shall break with that short-lived tradition in the last post here below.

I was in Garissa in the week before Christmas trying to figure out why  and how there have been so many terrorist attacks there since June this year. Garissa is not a nice place to be at this time and on our last night there, the events recorded below took place. I made a very unwise decision and culled the following intro from my story.

Unlike many other targets, Timothy Kihuria saw them coming.

Kihuria and a friend, Ben Kihang’a, had just had supper and watched the headline news on the 7 p.m. bulletin at a restaurant popularly known as Kwa Chege on Kenyatta Street in Garissa town on Wednesday December 19.

They left the restaurant at about 7.15 p.m., walking out on to the street. As they stepped out of the way of a white vehicle that approached, Kihang’a fell in behind Kihuria.

Kihuria was a teller and Kihang’a worked in the customer service department at National Bank. Both had been in the town since June, with their families based back in Thika and Nairobi. Kihang’a’s wife had delivered a baby girl and they were chatting and laughing about it on the crowded street. With their bright white company shirts and caps, they probably stood out in the crowd of men in kanzus and white caps.

As they let the car pass, Kihuria heard loud footfalls. When he turned to look at whoever was in a hurry, he saw a man place the muzzle of a pistol on the back of Kihang’a’s head.

He took off, no doubt heard the gun go off, and realised in that split second that the gun would next be trained on him. He ducked as he ran. The bullets tore through his hamstrings and when the attack stopped, he crawled to another restaurant known as Kwa Njuguna and called for help.

As Kihuria was writhing on the floor at Kwa Njuguna, Garissa was falling into a familiar routine; iron shutters rolled down, shops were hurriedly shut, diners asked for their meals to be packed and the hordes of taxis parked on Kismayu Road sped out. The tension and fear that comes with terrorism has gripped Garissa for some time now, with the unfortunate part being that there seems to be no end in sight.