Why Women Do Not vote For Women – First Published in The Standard, Nov 16th, 2016

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000223551/why-women-do-not-vote-for-women

A local newspaper announces with glee, “Kenyan women would rather have man at any leadership position, survey says”. It would seem stating the obvious now makes for news in Kenya. The prevalence of misogyny in a patriarchal and highly conservative society should surprise no one, certainly not journalists.

Rather, the survey simply underscores what feminists and female politicians have long stated about the Kenyan electorate. Unless, by law, gender inclusion and representation becomes institutionalized and part of the political structure, women will never gain gender equality or representation. If anything the survey simply amplifies the very reasons as to why the two thirds gender principle was put into the constitution.

The fact is a conservative society such as our own will always defer to men, seeing them as bearers of power. The entire electorate will vote on the “potential” of the man, verses the actual merit and resume of the woman. Thus, the election campaign will be littered with litanies against for example, Ms. Anne Waiguru, Ms. Martha Karua, Ms. Millie Odhiambo or Madam Charity Ngilu based on their previous performances in leadership, verses the vague election promises of their male rivals. In fact, it is public knowledge that any woman who chooses to vie for an electoral seat verses a man will ultimately face the most disgusting and most personalized slander, from being called “flower girls” to the allusion of sexual impropriety with party or government leaders.

The surprising outcome of the U.S elections underscores this. As much as we would like to pretend that the United States is a liberal society, the slow recovery from the 2008 economic meltdown and a global spread of fascist white supremacy, dressed as nationalism was tapped into by the Republican Party and used by Donald’s Trump campaign. Bigotry in America was finally at its most visible in the last one year.

I say visible finally, because if anything, up until 2015, America had perfected the art of veiled hatred, clothed as ‘American Exceptionalism’, whereby, despite the clear affront on the civil rights of minorities locally and the several wars created by American capitalism, somehow Americans still believed that they were the greatest country in the world.

The accompanying bigotry thus took on its most basic form. An outright disregard for the rights of ethnic, sexual and religious minorities complete with threats made directly to millions throughout Trump’s campaign, meant that it was clear that Donald Trump was all about upholding the power and privileges’ of the white population. This most certainly affected the first female presidential candidate. Bigotry is never limited; rather it will target even those considered part of the white elite, especially because Hillary Clinton is a woman.

The result was a theatre of the absurd. A woman with over 40 years of experience in politics and governance won the popular vote but still lost the election to a man who had no experience and no plan, just a four word statement. “Make America Great Again”. 66% of white women voted for Donald Trump, a cutting betrayal that exposed the ideological failures of western feminism. White women, it seems, will protect their white privilege FIRST and then consider their gender.

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump was reported by the Wall Street Journal to be so unaware and unable to meet the demands of forming an administration that he has been consulting with President Barrack Obama.

With the refusal of Kenya’s Senate and National Assembly to adopt the Gender Bill, Kenya’s parliaments are in constitutional crisis. Attorney General Githu Muigai remains unheeded by legislators, whose numbers currently lie at 75% majority male in the National Assembly and 73% male in the Senate.

Repeatedly we are told that ‘women should run against men in an equal playing field’. The fallacious claim that “women should vote for women” ignores the social reality that misogyny is the driving force behind the disenfranchisement and disempowerment of women, often entrenched by women themselves.

As Hillary Clinton’s case shows, even when the female candidate ultimately represents their ethnicity, is undisputedly far more qualified than her rival and is the better and more honest leader, the vast majority of women in that ethnic community will vote for a man. To rectify this situation ultimately demands a radical and systematic legal inclusion of women, especially within the political sphere.

It is a tragedy the Gender Bill did not pass. It is a catastrophe that the undemocratic locking in of aspirants after nominations in political parties is now legal. If women aspirants did not have a level playing field before, they now face the most impossible odds, regardless of whichever political party they belong. A completely ethnicized party that is entirely patriarchal will most certainly not give chance to the vast majority of female aspirants, because due to prevalent cultural misogyny they will lose the votes on the ground.

There is a battle ahead. If women leaders are to rise to power, they have to fight their own, prove themselves several times over and maneuver past misogyny somehow.

 

 

 

 

 

#Lipakamatender #CBA – Kenyan Doctors’ Industrial Action 2016 – Why Kenyan Doctors are Forced to Strike!

#Lipakamatender #CBA – Kenyan Doctors’ Industrial Action 2016
#Lipakamatender #CBA – How Kenyan Doctors got here –

Sunday December 4th 2016

Public Education

The nationwide doctors’ industrial action to commence at 0000 hrs Monday 5th December is the culmination of politicians playing with the health of Kenyans. As a result doctors are left with no choice but to result in industrial action which seems to be the only thing the government listens to. The hashtag is #Lipakamatender. The contention is failure of implementation of a legally signed CBA between KMPDU and MOH Kenya in 2013.

History of mismanagement of the health docket

Between 2007 and 2013 under the auspices of “reversing the trends” policy the health system underwent significant improvements. This came about because the health system did an introspection of itself, identified the root cause of problems that bedeviled the health system, put them down on paper and chatted a way to reverse the very poor trends in health that had plagued the system since independence. The health performance contracts were used as improvement tools. The DMSOs then were in charge of ensuring that the several hospitals under their supervision made continuous improvements on the line items of the performance contracts. Quarterly meetings presided over by PDMSs led to accountability. Afya house teams also had regular supervisory visits with the PDMSs. Management of health facilities improved dramatically. The health performance contracts are present in the individual hospitals and in the ministry of health.

As a result of this doctor-led improvements hospital managements improved so much that the revenues from FIF (Facility Improvement Fees) in the individual hospitals increased three to four fold in most hospitals. The hospitals were better managed, attracted more clients and revenue continued going up

Parallel constitutional process

At about the same time the constitutional process was ongoing. Guided by the policies that were in place at the time the medics pushed for two items i.e. a Health Service Commission to manage the scarce resource (medical personnel) and patient rights that would have included among other items strengthening further the hospitals with equipment. In the health workers minds health devolution was very clear – Primary health was to be managed by governors (promotion and prevention) while Curative health (medical facilities) were to be managed by central government with all health workers managed by the health service commission. The referral system was working well and would be strengthened. The stage was set and medical workers campaigned for the new constitution knowing that their health service commission was intact.

Political constitutional games played on health

The drama then unfolded.

1. The health service commission was sneaked out between Naivasha (Committee of Experts) and parliament. This was very deliberate. A “hidden force” is thought to be behind this. But a 5-year lifeline was put on it. It was stated in the Hansard of parliament that it could be activated by an act of parliament. During the various health problems in the counties members of parliament have tried to form some kind of HSC within the health bill but nothing has come of it so far.

2. A new constitution was passed in 2010 with the possibility of a HSC being created by an act of parliament. Luckily for health workers the constitution guaranteed the right to form a union. KMPDU was formed. A few industrial actions down the line only one yielded some fruitful improvements in the welfare of doctors. But to avoid future unnecessary industrial unrests by drs KMPDU and Ministry of Health signed a CBA.

3. The first notice in February 2013 that devolved health (notably before president Kibaki left office) was correct. It devolved primary health. Curative health was retained at national level. Afya house in the meantime had developed a fantastic master plan for health. It had 2 components 1. Healthworker management and improvement prior to and hand in hand with 2. Managed Equip

ment Scheme (MES).. keep this in mind as you read on.
Health workers were to be recruited, trained and deployed all over the country and remunerated well to make use of the medical equipment that was to be bought. This plan was as a result of the Musyimi Task Force report that was done during earlier industrial actions. The basis of this is that health equipment cannot use itself. It needs health workers.

4. March 2013 the general elections were done and the Jubilee government were charged with midwifing the new government structure. A non-medic is appointed cabinet secretary of health (I think this should never happen again).

5. Governors in their hunt for sources of income noted that hospitals were one of the few institutions within counties that had cash income in the form of FIF and the amounts were substantial. They thus wanted in on the gravy train. They directed their guns on the executive and accused them of being anti-devolution. The executive not wanting to look “anti-devolution” asked TA to devolve health illegally. They also did not mind throwing governors under the bus because managing health workers is difficult. What the governors forgot is that the wage bill of health workers does not come from FIF and of course they have continuously fallen short in paying health workers. Governors wanted to have their cake and eat it. The reality was different with the various health worker strikes. Governors though were also short changed by Afya house. Afya house retained the Medical Equipment Scheme portion (a procurement issue). Procurement is usually wrongly looked at as “income” by those handling it. Afya house acquired the medical equipment and pushed down the cost to the governors.

6. Transitional Authority unconstitutionally devolved curative health in August 2013 without withdrawing the correct notice of February 2013. This was done with no Health Act in place – total negligence.

7. KMPDU went to court in November 2013 and their case was thrown out

8. In 2014 health workers joined the case against unconstitutional devolution of health by Okiya Omutatah. Dr Kigondu participated in this case by giving the affidavit of what the spirit of health devolution was. Justice Lenaola declined to defined what national referral hospitals meant but said there was a process ongoing in parliament to streamline the health system. This was taken to mean that health is fully devolved but it did not mean that. If health workers appealed this case they would have won and the mess we are in would not have happened.

9. The Health Bill in the meantime was doing its rounds in parliament with multiple mutilations by various interested groups. Everyone is trying to put his hand in the cookie jar. There is no health act as of yet.

10. Salaries and Remuneration Commission has been used by the government in an attempt to hoodwink health workers. It does not hold the key to management of doctors. It is the body used to delay all major decisions that have to be made on doctors health. It is the excuse used to avoid having a health service commission. Yet it’s role is on state officers and advisory on all others. The judiciary always twists the law to try to say that SRC proclamations are binding. They are not.

10. The counties have continued to mistreat doctors. We have doctors who have been rejected for not being of that tribe. We have doctors who have not been absorbed yet there is need. We have doctors whose statutory deductions have never reached their destinations. Without laid down rules of how to manage doctors in this gubernatorial period without health laws the governors will kill health slowly. To protect the doctors a CBA signed by MOH Kenya must be implemented

In summary doctors are victims of a botched purported devolution of health. Doctors have in the past gone on strike to ask for equipment for hospitals for the benefit of the general public. Doctors have had input into the health bill that keeps being mutilated by too many interested parties not looking at the interest of the profession. Doctors are tired of being

manipulated by politicians. Why is it so hard for the government to implement a legally signed document yet it is so easy for them to throw doctors under a governors’ bus unconstitutionally so easily? Why must the welfare of doctors be sacrificed under the alter of political show offs. Doctors are tired. The collective fatigue of a misused profession has come together and this time round the government better listen. Otherwise the government of the people will act.

Ministry of Health of Kenya you will bear the responsibility for not implementing the #CBA. Let all doctors meet on Monday 5th December 2016 at Public Service Club for #Lipakamatender Day 1. Punda amechoka!

Sincerely
Dr Kigondu Simon

Health Social Thinker and Obstetrician Gynaecologist

Only A pink Revolution will save Women – First published in The Standard, October 2016

 

The complaints about London taxi cabs had always that women did not feel that they had a choice in their security or comfort because the cab companies overwhelmingly would hire male drivers. But in 2012, the pink revolution led by the ‘Pink Ladies’ taxi company, would guarantee a woman driver with every taxi. This simple change in management style drastically altered things for women, providing employment while increasing safety and comfort for users.

Kenya needs a pink revolution in the political arena.

The ‘Duale’ gender bill had an admirable and simple intent. What the gender bill wanted was to ensure that the two thirds gender principle becomes transmuted from rule to law. By allowing for changes in articles 81, 97, 98 and 177, there would be provisions for special seats to which female political aspirants would be allocated space within the national assembly should the elections outcomes not meet the required gender inclusion threshold.

The social science was quite bad. The creation of special reserved seats would automatically deign female aspirants be excluded from the party nominations on the notion there are reserved seats for women so the other elected positions belong to men. The extra positions would also result in a surge in the wage bill, a financial point that opponents of the bill harped on, stating that allowing for such financial demands would open the floodgate for other interested parties to also make a case for inclusion, further stretching resources. Finally, there were claims that the extra seats for women would not necessarily translate into greater representation for women in the electorate, seeing as the women nominated to the special seats automatically adhere to the patriarchal power structure of their political parties, and not necessarily the interests of women. Even so, the increase of women legislators in parliament was still a laudable goal and would certainly have made a difference in how the house business was conducted.

After two attempts, it appears that the battle for political gender inclusion in the national assembly has gone silent. Instead, the focus is now on The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill and the Election Offences Bill. The bills essentially have changed the political landscape permanently.

The bills lock in aspirants after the internal party nominations process, making it impossible for losers to jump ship and seek election nomination under other party vehicles as has been the trend in the past. As Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri stated, “this was a significant step toward political maturity of the country, it’s important to ensure that all parties are respected and that candidates respects the end results of polls.”

But the reality is the two bills do not take into consideration the dynamics within the political parties. Thus far, 15 governors have demanded automatic nominations from their respective parties, which in itself will be an affront to the democratic process. Further, the truth remains that cronyism, patronage and nepotism is rife in political parties and those with ample resources and the right connections can easily buy support from their parties and gain nominations. Most importantly, in the event of an undesired outcome, an aspirant is forced to abandon his ambitions, even though he has a democratic right to run in the election.

The worst effect is on women aspirants. Automatically, all nominations for women are guaranteed when it comes to seats already reserved for women, e.g. the women representative. the patriarchal structure will then state that since women have their automatic nominations all the other elective seats are for men. Women will then not get a chance to compete, nor will they get support through nominations. Regardless of their influence and popularity on the ground, women aspirants will not be able to competitively stand against incumbents even in the women reps position due to existing patronage, cronyism and favoritism.

This is the same argument that challengers are and have been making against the anti-party hopping bills that incumbents are given an unfair advantage, and that challengers to seats cannot possibly face a fair election. Some incumbents have already begun dictating that they should receive automatic nominations after all.

The effect this has on gender inclusivity is devastating. No longer are we talking about empowering more women towards running and aspiring for political office, we have now herded these women and locked them into 47 seats only, and reduced their participation nationally across all political parties.

There is a time to play the boys’ game and then there is a time for girls to make up their own game. I propose that a women centered ‘Pink Party’ be established, one that allows for political aspirants with ideologies and principles that not only address the concerns of the women in the electorate but that can raise the standards of party politics nationally to issue based instead of ethnic mathematics that support the patriarchal and detrimental vices of democracy in Kenya. Only with women in party leadership can there be broader inclusivity for women, youth and the disabled within the political landscape.

 

Only a Pink Revolt will Save Women

 

Hate speech could again trigger election violence in Kenya published in www.thehaguetrials.co.ke

In the period of investigations conducted after the violent outcome of the 2007 elections in Kenya, the Commission for Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) identified incitement to violence and hate speech as one of the main triggers behind the widespread violence. The Independent Review Commission, better known as the Kriegler Commission, also noted this. In addition, it recommended that a framework of legislation be enacted to prohibit and prosecute hate speech.

But it is much easier to investigate and recommend than to regulate and implement laws that criminalise hate speech and incitement. The performance of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission since its inception in 2008 has been weak, to say the least. The numerous cases of hateful remarks targeted at ethnic groups, coupled with clear incitement documented in the media, especially over the past year, are yet to see any full convictions. If anything, it has become a matter of exerting public pressure on the NCIC to move forward with prosecutions.
Perhaps the challenge is that though the NCIC was given the authority to investigate complaints of ethnic discrimination, abuse, hatred and incitement of violence, the NCIC did not and still does not have sufficient resources to go after every single complaint brought forward. In addition, as a result of platforms like social media, the number of complaints has been increasing. Be that as it may, the NCIC certainly could commit its limited resources to investigating complaints brought against politicians.

Judiciary: a key factor

Kenya’s judiciary in Kenya has been through several reform cycles, including the vetting of judges and magistrates, and a strengthening of its institutional powers. It is still a key factor in any potential investigation of violence. Just like in 2008, the judiciary is still unable to meet the threshold of justice in politically sensitive cases, lagging desperately behind in making convictions about complaints of hate speech or incitement. Indeed in 2015, there were actually no convictions for hate speech despite cases being brought against a number of politicians. It seems that though the NCIC, the police service and the director of public prosecutions may move forward to bring charges in hate speech complaints, the Judiciary remains unable to fully try and reach a verdict in these cases.
The result is clear – a lack of convictions for hate speech that emboldens the political elite and creates a culture of impunity and recklessness. Some, like Mombasa politician Suleiman Shahbal, have gone so far as to claim that the Jubilee alliance will win the 2017 elections “even if they have to rig the polls.”
Indeed, just like in the run up to the 2007 elections, claims that one party or other will rig the elections are rife. By 6 January 2016, opposition leader, Raila Odinga, had declared that the Jubilee regime was the “most corrupt and intended to rig the elections“.

Volatile formula

When you add to this volatile formula the fact that thus far there have been no convictions at the International Criminal Court for the crimes committed in Kenya after the 2007 elections, and that locally none of the mid-level or high-level masterminds has ever seen prosecution, this makes for a highly charged situation in Kenya.
By November 2015, the increase in the number of cases of hate speech complaints against prominent politicians was blamed by the police on the lack of convictions by the judiciary. In a statement to the press, Police Spokesman Charles Owino said that the police had gone after suspects of hate speech, irrelevant of their party affiliations, and collected watertight evidence but the courts had frustrated their efforts.

National Cohesion and Integration Act

A close look at the legal frameworks developed after 2008 to deal with hate speech indicates that Kenya is more than adequately equipped to comprehensively identify and address cases of incitement, hate speech and ethnic discrimination. The National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008 not only established the NCIC as an investigative body to deal with complaints of ethnic or racial discrimination, but Section 13(1) of the Act provides:
“that a person who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or distributes, shows or plays a recording of visual images which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up.”
In addition to defining what ethnic abuse is, the act works seamlessly with the provisions in penal code sections 77 and 96 that deal with penalising incitement to violence and enmity between races and ethnic communities.  So the problem is not in the legal provisions available.
Perhaps the weak link could be in the collection of evidence and witness testimonies in cases involving powerful and influential politicians. The institutions that are responsible for moving forward on complaints of hate speech are susceptible to the same influences of corruption, intimidation and yes, even human error in the processing of material and witness testimony.  Be that as it may, there is no denying that the judges involved in the cases can make a difference in the application of the law. But a number of suspects has got away with either not being in attendance at their own hearing, claiming they were in hospital, or finding a way to reach an out of court settlement.

1200 new police officers

Recently, the NCIC hired 1200 police officers to assist the institution in monitoring hate speech during the campaign period. While this may seem like a rigorous commitment by the NCIC to seek prosecutions, there is no doubt that this measure is likely to fail. The police are not lawyers, and they are not able to adequately decipher the nuances in the different ethnic languages to determine what simply is a cultural reference or an actual hate remark designed to instigate violence. Indeed, even the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has faced the same difficulties in deciphering cultural constructs and contexts in language in the case of Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joseph arap Sang. To expect a police officer to be able to prepare a reasonable report that could be used to bring charges is asking just too much. In any case, the material which is likely to be produced by the 1200 monitors is likely to result in an incredible backlog in documentation. Before charges are actually pressed, several months or even years could pass after the actual elections take place.
There needs to be a greater commitment to the powers given to the institutions charged with curbing hate speech and incitement to violence. The NCIC needs to become realistic – they cannot monitor all candidates or aspirants. It would behoove them to consider a different strategy and make better use of their resources.
Kenyan society is quite a fragile fabric of tolerance. Beneath the surface, the simmering sentiments that exploded after the 2007 elections remain active, and without a stronger commitment by institutions, it would take only a small spark by a handful of reckless and selfishly-motivated politicians to push Kenya back to the brink of widespread conflict once again.

Political violence consistently mars elections in Africa published in www.thehaguetrials.co.ke

 

If African nations could choose to learn from history, then the first lesson they would learn is to undo all the confusion they arose at independence. The moment the colonial mantle was lifted from the different countries, each nation chose to adopt a superficial version of Western democracy, loosely structured around ethnic communities, one that on paper should have led to the equitable distribution of resources and power. But in reality, it simply entrenched the already existing divisive policies and institutionalized discrimination.

A cursory glance across the continent in the past decade reveals that in every country that attempted “democratic” elections, there was a clear and deliberate weakening of the very institutions that make a country a democracy. Every country that faced violent election disputes had its judiciary weakened, its constitution suspended and the rule of law completely disregarded.
Madagascar, Burundi, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Kenya, South Sudan – these are just a few of the countries in which an usurping of constitutional order led to open post-electoral violence, military interventions and in the case of South Sudan, the most violent civil conflict in Africa in the 21st century.

Always the same script

The script is the same, whichever situation you look at – when a constitutional presidential term is coming to an end meaning that an election cycle is coming up, the opposing candidates will claim that their rivals (or they themselves!) will rig the elections and thus make it clear that they will gain power no matter what it takes. There will be public declarations that “fighting for rights” will have to occur should the results not be in their favor. The judiciary and the electoral body will be tarnished, vilified or threatened. People will amass arms, organise night meetings, and there will be sporadic outbreaks of violence. There will be a violent grab for power.
Kenya is no different. The 2007 elections were preceded by the same, structured script, designed to disrupt a democratic process and use violent means to attain power.  By the end of 2007, politicians had already begun declaring that “the elections would be rigged”, casting aspersions on the constitutional bodies created to conduct the electoral process and causing great doubt over the ability of the judiciary to soberly deal with electoral disputes as is their mandate. By the end of the elections, violence had erupted in various parts of the country, leading to over 600,000 internally displaced people and 1,300 dead.

Still no ICC convictions

Despite Kenyan suspects being arraigned and charged at the International Criminal Court, there has not been a single conviction so far at the ICC. Locally, though about 300 cases have been completed, the magnitude of crimes committed ultimately outweighs the judicial process and the abilities of the state to adequately prosecute these cases. There are various reasons for this: no witnesses, witnesses refusing to press charges, not enough evidence, failures in collection of evidence and so on.
The 2013 elections had a similar script. Again, there were claims that the incumbents would rig the elections, aspersions were cast on the electoral body – the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) – and there was clear maligning of the judiciary and its officials. The biggest difference is that during and after the elections, there was minimal violence as compared to 2007, although months before there were several politically-instigated conflicts in areas such as northern Kenya.

Another electoral cycle

Kenya is now going into another electoral cycle, the script remains the same. By early January, opposition leader Raila Odinga and other politicians had already declared that the incumbent was seeking to rig the 2017 elections. The entire IEBC is considered corrupt due to as yet unprosecuted allegations of corruption and bribery. The Supreme Court is in upheaval because the chief justice will soon retire. The deputy chief justice herself has past the age of retirement, and there are allegations of massive bribery against a Supreme Court judge and other members of the judiciary.
The script is the same, so what we need to look out for now is the evidence of weapons being amassed, night meetings conducted with the aim of planning attacks, sporadic violence and extreme views that are geared to raise temperatures and rile different ethnic groups against each others.
In the Kenyan newspapers and on television, you will see highly agitated politicians making clearly inflammatory comments. Moses Kuria, William Kabogo, Johnston Muthama, George Aladwa and Suleiman Shabal have all made incendiary remarks regarding the rigging of elections, the use of violence or use of what is considered tribal slurs against rivals. It is no surprise that these politicians come from rival parties. Their comments are ultimately targeted at the rival political party’s quest to participate in the elections.
Now that the inflammatory statements have begun, let’s look out for the investigative reports detailing the accumulation of weapons, as was seen prior to the 2007 and 2013 elections. These reports are surely on the way, as are the reports of night meetings, arming and sporadic violence.
It is the same script, with ultimately the same outcome – a usurping of constitutional order, an undemocratic grab for power, which could ultimately lead to the deaths and injuries of thousands. If Kenya wishes to end this sort of political cycle and enjoy true democratic freedom during elections then a conscious effort must be made to take note of the well-played script and bring an end to the deliberate machinations of politicians who use this script to grab power or stay in power.  African nations need to learn from history in order to stop being victims of their own history.

Kenyan Politicians need to tone down the divisive political rhetoric

We are barely a week into 2016 and already the fervor and excitement over 2017 elections has gripped the nation’s political elite. Be that as it may, this is no excuse for propagation of ethnically charged, inciting utterances that are not only false claims over an election that is yet to be held, they are quite offensive to the institutions charged with managing the election itself, adjudicating the outcomes and determining that the process is democratic and with no irregularities.

Who should we blame at this point? Is it the irresponsible leaders who have the temerity to declare in the full glare of the media about the sort electoral fraud they imagine will occur in future, which they are determined to perpetrate or claim will be perpetrated, or the media itself for giving space to politicians so hell bent on usurping the tenets of the constitution, and who have no respect for the elections themselves?

Surely the atrocities of the 2007 election period have not left our national psyche. Surely, and most certainly the suffering of the electorate, which we have endured for simply conducting our civic duty should not be discarded so quickly. As a nation it is our collective responsibility to hold the leadership to account; to insist, nay, force them to respect the rule of law, the already established constitutional offices and the determination of who will run this government as per democratic process.

If we continue to allow reckless politicians to raise the political temperatures, unchecked, unquestioned and unprosecuted we may have on our hands the collective responsibility, once again, of failing to protect citizens from the peddlers of anarchy and war for political gain.

We must challenge every single claim that comes out of these leaders mouths – this is the season to be promised heaven no doubt, and if we are lucky some leaders might awaken from their slumber and do some work for their constituents in the hope of gaining their support. We should not let them have it easy at all. Certainly, when a politician stands up and declares that his election will consist of fraud, whether conducted by him or others, we must challenge that claim and insist they be interrogated.

History tends to repeat itself when we do not strive to make a change in how we conduct our elections, and it is this same cycle of heighten political tensions, reckless remarks, derogation of institutions, public declarations of fraud and incitement to violence that marked the period before the 2007 December elections.

Lest we forget, the political elite bank on ethnic cocoons to carry their electoral victories and in this virulent ethnicity are the drumbeats of violence and refusal to accept democratic outcomes. For the record, and incase people have totally misunderstood what democracy means, it means that the majority will decide an electoral outcome, and in national elections the aim is to leave no doubt about what the majority have decided.

Democracy is not just about having functioning institutions such as the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. It certainly is not just about press freedom or an independent media. Democracy is also about accepting the outcomes of pitting yourself verses your political rivals in an election. Pray fervently that you have performed and impressed the electorate to the point that they can entrust your with a civic post, but do not mock our collective intelligence by rejecting an outcome of votes that we have not yet cast.

For the sake of this country, I believe the press should not allow any such inciting comments over the validity of the upcoming election go without challenge, and certainly point out that these claims come with no accompanying facts or evidence, in fact they bear on criminality. Certainly the media can be more diligent in blacking out the sort of divisive and violent rhetoric that seeks to cause enmity amongst citizens.

As for the politicians, we should insist that they tone down their divisive rhetoric 1000 percent. Kenya has not healed from the murderous wounds inflicted in the 2007 election cycle, nor the several bursts of violence in previous elections. The people are fed up of being violated for performing their civic duty simply because your own thirst for power does not allow you to accept or respect the process and outcome of democracy.

 First published in @Zambezian, January 30th.

Denial of Identity Cards Kenya’s North perpetrates gross injustices

In early January 2016, a 32 year old Somali woman was stabbed in the face by her husband, in Khorof Harar village in Wajir County of Northern Kenya. What ensued was a desperate fight to save the life of Fatuma Ibrahim Ahmed, because this victim of domestic violence, just like many of her village mates in Wajir, did not have a national Identity Card and as such she could not be flown to Nairobi for emergency care.

Despite the fact that AMREF flying doctors service were contacted quickly and were willing to transport the patient, it took several hours to secure her travel documents. The chief of Halane location had to write formally and give her a letter of endorsement so that she could leave the county and be flown for medical attention.

The knife remained lodged in her face throughout the entire time that this, rather ridiculous matter of documentation was being resolved. Without an identity card, people from Kenya’s Somali community living in North Eastern Kenya cannot cross the equator to come south to Nairobi, no matter what the reason, not even if you have a 10 inch knife lodged in your cheekbones. This outrageous incident, with all its dangerous implications for the patient is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to institutionalized discrimination against Kenya’s ethnic Somalis.

It has been 52 years of independence for Kenya, but also 52 years of deliberate government policy that restricts, denies access and even citizenship to Kenya’s northern communities. To call North Eastern Kenya marginalized is to understate the situation; The people quite literally are not considered Kenyan, do not enjoy citizenship as a whole and are denied access to adequate amenities like healthcare, education, and even roads.

For decades, the post independence push to secede by Somalis in the North was used to justify excesses by the regime; atrocities, violations and deliberate under-development forge the dark history of North Eastern Kenya. Despite several reports by human rights organizations, the attitudes by the Kenya government and state actors remain such that historical injustices are actually acted out as current, modern day actions and atrocities.

Consider the difference that having an identity card would make for the millions who live in the North. For starters, it means that they are finally considered a part of this country. It means that they can finally be integrated into the society, economically and culturally. It means that finally, the people in the North can freely move south as is their constitutional right.

Just consider what not having an I.D meant for a woman like Fatuma Ibrahim, who was clearly trapped in a very violent and abusive marriage. Without an I.D Fatuma not only could not travel south to seek refuge from her husband’s abuse among the Nairobi based women’s shelters and women rights organizations, she also could not open a bank account, or even receive cash via M-Pesa phone transactions. In other words, for most of the women in the north who face the ominous specter of domestic violence, and gender based discrimination, not having an I.D card means that they will never escape the violence. They can never be independent nor can they find legal support or health care.

The implications of not having an I.D become even more ominous in the face of alleged human rights abuses by state actors. The myriad reports of rape, battery, assault and abductions allegedly conducted by state actors upon a population that already is denied an identity seem simply diabolical. If justice were to be pursued against those that perpetrate human rights abuses, where would the investigators or prosecutors start, given that the victims are persona non grata and have no identity? How would the injuries caused be treated if the victims are not allowed to travel south to seek medical attention? More morbidly, how many victims died from their wounds simply because they had no I.D?

It’s an unacceptable situation, it is an incomprehensible injustice and there is no justification possible – no claims to fighting Al-Shabaab or banditry can be used to deny millions of men and women an identity and citizenship.
If anything, denial of identity by the Kenyan authorities only exacerbates the war against terror in favor of the terror groups; it makes it easier for extremists to move freely among undocumented populations, and even if the government attempts to restrict these populations to the North, we must remember that Kenya’s land mass North of the Equator constitutes 65% of its territorial integrity. By denying identity and refusing to meet constitutional obligations in documenting populations, the government effectively gives up control over a vast territory to enemies who have potentially infiltrated those populations.

The government must live up to its obligations and its own pledges to the people of the North, to not only integrate and deliberately institute interventions to resolve historical injustices and end marginalization of these communities. We must as a nation abandon the sort of nationally endorsed apartheid that is being conducted against Somali people as a community, it is unconscionable xenophobia, illegal and an affront to the Kenya constitution in entirety.

 First published in @Zambezian