Friday, December 05, 2008

Jamwa axing: Another lesson for doubting Thomases

"Trust not hounds brethren--they love the smell of blood." (Don)

So, the NSSF boss Chandi Jamwa and his deputy Prof. Mondo Kagonyera have been shown the exit. Anyone surprised?? Not me at least. I saw it coming. Not because the pair was incompetent but rather because they trusted politicians—worse still NRM politicians. This by the way—does not apply to Prof. Kagonyera directly. He is a politician; it is poor Jamwa, the civil servant, who suffered.
Look, you know in the middle of the NSSF-Temangalo scandal, where the security minister, Amama Mbabazi and his finance counterpart Ezra Suruma, were accused of peddling influence to have the workers fund buy their wetland at Shs11 billion, Mr Jamwa felt cornered and penned a letter to the President, detailing the pressure he had gone through to sign the cheques.
In Jamwa’s confession, he told the president how some of the guys had even described the State House bedroom, to show their political power. They had told him how they contributed to the president’s campaign coffers and how they could slot a good word for him if he “behaved”. Scared of these people’s might, the poor lad okayed the release of the money.
That was before the press got the story, splashed it in the media and forced parliament to act. Act---maybe clown, because later, the “informed” Attorney General said the whole parliamentary probe was a farce since the MPs lacked powers to enforce the Leadership Code.
Anyway I digress. So, Jamwa first puts up a brave face, actually shielding the culprits, until realizes, he is cornered. He asks the House to let him confess in camera. He then pours out his soul, at one point asking the MPs, “What could you have done were you in my position?”
Then, he writes to the President, seeking protection. Showing, how despite his large mass, he was dwarfed and cowed. That was the pinnacle of his mistakes. Thinking the president could shield him from the hawks—hawks he has worked with for the past three decades.
The moment the President summoned MPs and ordered them to get off Mbabazi’s back, I knew Jamwa’s goose was cooked. The President was shielding the men Jamwa has tried to expose. And once Mbabazi was safe—it was time to placate the public—somehow at least—and guess who the sacrifice would be? Jamwa, the technocrat. And collateral damage involved Prof. Kagonyera.
This is not to absolve Jamwa—he made a mistake to trust politicians. He should have come clean from the word go. But like most other people—he now has learnt---trust not Museveni and his clique. They use you and dump you---like a piece of toilet paper.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Stranger today

Something strange has happened to me today. You know when I walked into office, everyone kept staring at me. During the morning management meeting, it looked like the team could not concentrate and I saw members stealing glances-at me.
When I moved down to the canteen to have breakfast, the waiter kind of fumbled and before I knew it, the flask was on the ground—broken!! She had also been looking at me—with this strange look.
As I made my way back to my desk—I met this colleague—who after gazing at me for a while---asked, “Don, are you one of the candidates for the Kyadondo North by-election?”
I stared back, baffled. Then he contextualized. “Anti it is that suit. Why are you in a suit?”
Brethren, that is what you suffer when you go past your known bitenge and loose-fitting shirts to a Wandegeya-made suit. I am suffering it today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Today, I endorse Obama

So, you are wondering what an endorsement from a small, inconsequential blog will mean to this gargantuan race. This race that seems a clash of generations, civilizations.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this blog is not as redundant as you suppose. Just the other day (and I swear by my…) a friend called from Canada, saying the moment he asked Google for “serious” African blogs---this one popped up first. So, I know this endorsement means a lot---influencewise.

And let me make this clear. I have a host of buddies, residing in places like California and America in general, who look at me for political guidance. One of them is my good old Solo. To show his appreciation for the guidance offered in months gone past—he sent me an Obama T-shirt. So, you know where I am coming from.

That in the first place explains why I am endorsing Obama. I have his T-shirt. Look, the McCain guys never bothered to send me anything, why should I be nice to them?

Secondly, this endorsement is rooted in the fact that fellow smart editors have backed Obama. Look, Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune and even Alaska’s Daily Anchorage have thrown their weight behind this Kenyan. So, how can I betray my own? I mean fellow editors? Above all, I am told the only American TV channel rooting for McCain is Fox. For heaven’s sake, I have nothing personal against wildlife, but to be associated with hounds---

Then as stated earlier, Obama is Kenyan. Forget this white-mother thing. Look, for us Africans, a child belongs to the father’s tribe. Things are very patrilineal here. No debate. So, who would not want his neighbour running the world? At least, when I go to “outside countries”, I can boast, “You see folks, treat us East Africans well. We have the power to manage the credit crunch, besides, calling off the war in Iraq.” That conversation supposedly will occur in places like Amsterdam, when maybe I am in the infamous Red Light district.

But importantly for the Kenyans, a poll done two years ago by BBC showed that they were the “most frustrated” people on earth. This, of course, was after the Kibaki regime had turned round on all promises made as they swept aside Mtukufu Raisi Moi. Now, what a better way to boost their morale? Who knows, a new poll taken next year may show Kenyans as “the happiest” people on earth, considering that their Luo boy is sitting in an awkwardly shaped office—Oval.
Colleagues, it is on this academic and not-so-populist stand that The Other View throws its weight behind Barack Obama. Go vote, where possible, rig.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Els' departure; the true story

Our media has been awash with news of the departure of The New Vision editor-in-chief, Belgian Els de Termmerman, who ascended the position about two years ago. First, I realized that no one was willing to tell the real tale behind her exit. When she was asked, all she could say was the “working environment could not guarantee her the editorial independence she had been assured of when she was handed the job.”
And for the other protagonist, CEO Robert Kabushenga, he kept telling news houses that Els had quit on her volition and he kept reiterating how no individual was bigger than the media house. This morning, he published a statement saying the same, adding though that editorial independence was still assured.
Take it or leave it---Els’ decision to quit was not a result of accumulated incidences that could not guarantee her “editorial independence”. It was a few “minutes of madness” and a disagreement with Kabushenga that led to that decision. This was how the events played out.
On Tuesday last week, The New Vision’s lead story talked of heads of state arriving for the tripartite summit. But the story below the headline had nothing to do with that headline. The story, written by Anne Mugisa, actually was based on an interview she had with the Zimbabwean opposition officials, including MDC Vice-President Thokozani Khupe, who were in Kampala to state their case against Mugabe, who also was here for the summit.
Confidential reports indicate that President Museveni was not very impressed with the notion of a state paper giving space to a group that was here to “attack” his guest Mugabe. He then got in touch with Kabushenga to make his dissatisfaction known. The loyal CEO promised to make do for that “oversight”.
However, Els was not going to have anything like that. I directly worked under Els for a year, and many of the times, I did the foreign news pages, which she supervised. I can assure all folk and sundry that Els was no admirer of Mugabe. She categorises him among the African despots, who have ruined this continent.
She, therefore, told Kabushenga to his face that nothing like “making up” for Mugabe would have space in the paper. The sly Kabushenga beat her to the game. He got the article written under the “Vision Reporter” cover and took it to the chief sub. So, on Friday morning, Els wakes up to find a second page headline; “Museveni blasts traitors.” The story was basically meant to go even with the first.
That is when all hell broke loose. Els interpreted Kabushenga’s decision to by-pass her as unfair and it is what she called “failure to guarantee editorial independence”.
In the mad dash of fury, she confronted Kabushenga, and with the CEO standing his ground, threatened to quit. Jumping unto the line, Kabushenga told her to make good on her threat. At a “thuperthonic” pace as Kabushenga himself would say, Els sent the resignation mail, Kabushenga assented to it. End of story or was it?
Truth is there was nothing like systematic failure to guarantee editorial independence that could have pushed Els out. It was more of an ego clash and an act of fury. Kabushenga is a self-professed Movementist but he must get some credit---he has given editors in New Vision some space to do their work. That is how the New Vision led the crusade to defend Mabira Forest, one of those incidents that put this government to test.
Of course you can’t downplay the fact that in Els, Kabushenga saw a limitation of his own influence. Els was appointed by the President and some times took instructions from him. A Kabushenga, whom we all know is a politician in-the-waiting, may not have been happy sharing a room with someone who could also get his master’s ear. It would be best if he called all the shots---that is how, he quickly endorsed Els’ resignation. To have one competitor less.
But, and BELIEVE ME ON THIS; Els may have realized her folly. My sources tell me she is negotiating a come back and is willing to issue an apology. Just don’t rule out anything.
And finally, those Namanve bastards (read Red Pepper) on Saturday claimed I and some colleagues were among those fired from The New Vision. Facts are;
I resigned from New Vision to take up a slightly senior position in Monitor. When I tendered my resignation, Els rejected it. My salary was increased but I insisted.
Maria Muzaaki resigned in August to go for further studies in Oslo. She is pursuing a Masters in Journalism there.
Mariam Alowo resigned and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Sweden.
Rita Muzira resigned after getting a job with Uganda Revenue Authority.
Penlope Ankunda has resigned to go into PR, although Kabushenga is still making effort to convince her to stay.
Bernard Opwonya resigned and went to NTV.
It is not true that we were fired. Ignore those gossips.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nasasira is a shameful sham

Now, for starters and probably colleagues outside this country, there is a man who for many score years has passed under the title of Works Minister of the hallowed republic of Uganda. This ministry has over the years got appendages like “transport”, “telecommunications”, “lands” etc.
But the bottom line is that Eng. John Nasasira has been the custodian of roads and their state in this country. Now, one may be wondering why I would make a whole, respectable minister the topic for this blog. First of all, whereas he passes for a roads minister, there are literally no roads in this country. In few places, there are strips of tarmac guarding potholes, and these, we call roads.
Briefly put, this man has been overseeing a ghost ministry. But I wouldn’t mind the ghost ministry since he is not the first along these lines. We have had ghost soldiers, ghost teachers and in Kampala, most women offer ghost love. So, Ugandans being a very forgiving people, I was willing to extend my olive branch to Nasasira---but the problem is that unlike others—he is quick to pin others, forgetting the log in his eye.
Just the other day, after the NSSF wall collapsed (compelling me to write the dirge in my past blog), he rushed to point out that engineers of Roko, the firm building the Pension Towers, should be held responsible for the calamity. Never mind that realizing his goof days later, he called a second press conference to “clarify” his position on the earlier remarks. (Typical African politician mentality).
Now, where on earth does Nasasira (meaning I forgive) get the balls to ask anyone to take responsibility? Nasasira, whose over 10 years of managing the works ministry has seen him oversee road carnage and accidents that have taken thousands of lives?
Where does Nasasira, whose ministry can not even fix the smallest pothole in Kampala, albeit having one of the biggest budgets, get the guts to take others to task?
Where does this son of Kazo draw the energy to blame others when it is crystal clear that had we had better road supervision the 30 lives we lost in Lugazi last weekend could have been saved?
From the Rome disaster in 1991 when an Air Uganda crashed to the latest Lugazi road accident, I have never seen our pothole minister raise his head a single day and admit that he is to blame. When trains collide in China in the subways and when accidents of great magnitude happen in the developed West—ministers owe up and step aside.
But in Uganda—that would be asking too much. That is why the Nasasiras of this world can rush to blame others but are never men enough to say “I fell short of expectations”.

NB: This bad politics may be a question of the past soon. Last weekend, I held a meeting similar to one Obama held in 2002 to brainstorm about his political future. The people think by 2016, I should be ready to storm the national political scene---and bring the much-awaited change. Prayers and support is what I ask of you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

For colleagues dead in duty line

Tuesday shall remain dark
A moment of sorrow to this nation
Sorrow, for on that day, 8 brothers passed on
They were never your newspaper VIPs
Maybe never mentioned even at a village meeting
But crucial to the nation they were

Workers, they were
On a workers fund project they sweated
A Pension Tower they built
Never mind that they never had a pension themselves
A tower built from savings of the nation’s workers.
They laboured to put some kalo on their tables
For others like Julius Otike, it was quest for tuition
Tuition to see him rise to a better calling

He ended up buried
In a debris of soil—a soul taken
Though it could have been saved
Had the “Squealers” apportioned the right measures
Of sand and cement.
The papers screamed---but
A day, a week, after,
They will just be another stastic
Added unto the many faceless—
Who have perished—to no notice.

But trust me brothers
I know the roll will call
Steven Odong ----Absent
Willie Okello ----Absent
Richard Angweno ----Absent
Silver Olowo ----Absent
JB Tushabe----Absent
Nasib Kisembo----Absent

But to the common worker
You will always be present
A symbol of resilience, hardwork, sacrifice

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Be Afraid; the Movement is on its way down!!

Ladies and gentlemen, first let me make it clear. I have never been an advocate for chaos. I don’t entirely agree with the Cavarian principle that revolutions only succeed after being watered by the blood of their patriots. I do not believe in anarchy.
But behold, for this is what Uganda may be headed to. The squabbles going on among the government top brass can not be treated lightly. We have a potential explosive situation in our midst and if not resolved well (and I fear it won’t), tough times await us.
So, what is this fear gnawing at me? Look, the entire ruling NRM party is now fractured. And it is not a mere ideological contest or civilized disagreement. It is a native clash and in African terms, such clashes usually turn bloody.
The party secretary general is accused of breaking procurement rules as he sells his land to a national workers savings fund. Before we know it, his political foes (ironically from his party) have launched a full-scale war against him. “Bring him down!” they shout their voices hoarse.
The ridiculous thing here is that even those baying for his blood have their own dirty pasts. Some are in courts facing charges of aggravated lootocracy. Talk of the pot calling the kettle black.
But that is not the tragedy of the farce playing out before us. The potential bomb lies in how petty, personal and dangerous the differences have become. Now, one of those who was pushing for Amama Mbabazi’s censure is now implicated in a botched bank ‘robbery’. Maj. Gen. Muhwezi says he’s targeted because he wants Mr Mbabazi down.
If surely these politicians, who apparently belong to the same party, are setting up each other and doing whatever it takes to decimate each other, then we can expect the worst! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE WORST.
A friend, who is well-connected intimated to me that a senior spy chief is gonna be arrested too. This will follow the arrest of the former health minister. Thereafter, what should we expect?
All these guys have connections with the military and intelligence. They will not go down alone. Unlike in the past where the government officials fought opposition party members, this is a unique war. It is an internal war. And trust me, the causalities will be many.
It is obvious now that the only thread holding the NRM together is the President. God forbid should he die now—trust me we shall see the end of the NRM. But even if he lives on forever, the cracks in the NRM are so glaring that it will need more than the usual amount of cement to fix. Question is; do we have the materials?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mbeki's exit; South Africa sets the pace

I know a lot has been said about the Mbeki demise and I will not get into the nitty-gritty of his fall and the impact on South Africa and the wider region. I just want to focus on the divide this event has exposed about Africa.
In fact, the exit of Mbeki makes me admire South Africa and weep for the rest of Africa, especially my own Uganda.
Mbeki has been pushed out of office after a judge concluded that the corruption charges that were being placed on Jacob Zuma were actually politically-engineered. Remember it is this same Zuma, who had earlier survived rape charges, in a ruling that courts again concluded were fabricated.
So, with the latest ruling on graft, the ANC executive found it prudent that Mbeki steps down, considering that he is implicated for trying to witch-hunt a man many already see as his successor.
Similar events have happened in Uganda—but with different resolutions. When Dr Kizza Besigye returned from self-imposed exile in November 2005, a few months to the presidential election in 2006, he was arrested and charged with rape. Alongside, charges of terrorism were slapped on him.
Of course, like in Mbeki’s case, President Museveni was trying to bar his once liberation colleague from assuming the presidency.
In the rape trial against Besigye, the judge ruled that the State had made “an amateurish attempt” in trying to frame Besigye and dismissed the charges with costs.
But that is where the difference between South Africa and Uganda comes into play. In South Africa, the ruling ANC party quickly moved in to order a Mbeki exit since through normal lenses, he had done wrong. He had to take responsibility and resign.
In Uganda, no one even thought about asking the president to take responsibility since the ruling absolving Besigye was in effect a condemnation of the government, and consequently the president.
But that should surprise nobody. In a country where taking political responsibility is unheard of, it would be asking too much to expect a president to resign for framing a political opponent.
That is where South Africans, despite the cloud of uncertainty caused by Mbeki’s exit, should pat themselves on the back. They are ahead of the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Politicians manipulating tribe

Just before the genocide broke out in Rwanda in 1994, a silent campaign had been carried out to pollute the minds of a certain tribe against the other. Through covert propaganda and at times outright broadcasts on radios like Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), the Hutu, especially youth, were made to believe that Tutsis were the biggest threat to their “prosperity” (read political power). Therefore, to ensure this continued “success and dominance”, it was important to send all these “cockroaches” to their creator. That is how up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus came to be slaughtered in this genocide.
The real contest here, however, was about political dominance. The Hutu Habyarimana regime having realized that it was becoming increasingly unpopular and the RPF rebels led by Fred Rwigyema were gaining ground, decided to whip up tribal sentiments, with disastrous results of course.
Many of those youth who were armed with machetes to hack people, probably did not even know what governance meant. The neighbours, who rose up against neighbours just because they belonged to the “wrong” tribe, probably were not even living on more than a dollar a day. They were condemned to the same fate but somehow, someone had convinced them that the “other” was the problem.
But that is how our politicians whip up tribal sentiments to pursue selfish interests.
The same scenario replayed itself in Kenya after the disputed 2007 December presidential polls. With cries of cheating from both sides (PNU and ODM), Kenya became paralysed and divided on tribal grounds. Central Kenya, for example became a no-go area for Luos, while the greater part of Rift Valley province was turned into a blood field for the Kikuyu. They were massacred without mercy.
And again, it was the politicians behind the machinations.
Wondering why I am going about this topic? I was really infuriated this week when I heard Uganda Security Minister Amama Mbabazi claim the investigation into his questionable land sale to the National Social Security Fund is driven by tribal hate.
Through a minion, MP Barnabas Tinkasiimire, the minister claims people asking simple questions like why procurement rules were broached, are actually aiming at bringing down Bakiga politicians---what BULL SHIT!!
Like the Tutsi and Kenyan politicians, Mbabazi and co. are jumping to the oldest tricks in the trade. Whip up tribal sentiments, make the whole tribe feel persecuted and divert attention from the core issues.
Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), such tricks have worked. In 1999, President Museveni accused his now political rival Kizza Besigye of using the wrong forum, when he pointed out weaknesses in the NRM. He ordered a court martial for him, considering that Besigye was a soldier. But a tribal delegation from his native Rukungiri made an exodus to Kampala and the court martial was called off.
The same happened when former health minister, then primary education minister Jim Muhwezi was accused of abuse of office. A group of elders from Rukungiri came to Kampala to make a case for their son. Much as Parliament censured him, he still bounced back to Parliament and later Cabinet.
I will therefore not be surprised if a group of elders from Kanungu trek to Kampala to save their son. Irrespective of what the parliamentary probe might discover and recommend, the elders will prevail upon the President and their son shall remain in public office.
That is why I shed off tribe long ago. I am an African. Period.

Monday, September 08, 2008

NSSF; workers should not swallow the bait

After about a fortnight of media blitz on the famous or is it infamous NSSF scandal, I have decided to add my voice. It may not be to alter policy or create a head to roll at the mighty NSSF House, but well, let it not be said that I kept silent when everyone tried to salvage the pennies left in the coffers after the ‘revolutionaries’ had had their share.
Look, a public institution buys land in the excess of 400 acres, does not advertise in the media that it is in search of this land, buys it from a senior minister, who also does not advertise anywhere that he has that land; and his backers want us to believe that this is a deal cleaner than Desdemona’s purity.
Never mind also that this institution being public should subscribe to basic rules of procurement, which it did not. I have heard NSSF apologists like Andrew Mwenda and Simon Kasyate argue that the project of building cheap housing facilities for workers is noble and other than kill the entire project, let’s sort out the players but let the project proceed.
I find this fallacious but I will come to it later. Now, let’s begin with Minister Mbabazi. Obviously he has a right to sell his land at the highest price possible as an individual, but surely, when the buyer is a public institution and the price under contest, we surely can’t just look the other side and quote forces of demand and supply at play. We are right in thinking the deal could have been cut backdoor.
And as for NSSF, I sympathise with the guys there. Look at the MD, he might have all the Accounting diplomas and degrees one can have but poor Chandi is just 36 years. This is a boy. He might have been a senior partner at Price Waterhouse but for crying out loud, he is a boy—yet to cut his teeth.
Ok, picture Chandi sitting in his chair in his office, then guess who walks in? Minister Amama Mbabazi. Chandi springs from his chair, offers his hand, which Mbabazi shakes patronizingly. The minister then breaks the ice—tells the young man about the Temangalo land and how NSSF can carry out a profitable venture there.
All the young man has to do is call a board meeting and market the deal. Of course the above scenario is a creation of mind, but look, you can’t downplay the influence of politics here.
In 2001, Tezira Jamwa, mother to Chandi Jamwa lost her Tororo Parliamentary Seat which she had occupied since the CA days. The victor against her was Dorothy Hyuha, currently Minister without Portfolio. With her political future dwindling, the NRM resuscitated it by making her RDC. Look, why won’t a son of this lady, whose basic political survival has depended on the system, feel compelled to reward the godfathers?
Ok, back to those who think the bathwater should not be spilled with the baby. People like Mwenda think that the project, albeit dogged by procedural problems, should go ahead, considering how badly workers need houses. It is for this reason that he has used unflattering terms to describe the IGG, who has come out to block the venture.
In the late 1990s, the National Housing and Construction Company constructed low-cost houses in Mpumudde Estates in Jinja. But besides it, was another cheaper estate of middle-class citizens. These citizens saw in this new estate the opportunity to upgrade their status. They formed an association and began lobbying the Corporation over rates of purchase.
As the negotiations hit high gear, a certain senior lady politician from Busoga stormed the scene. She went on and offered a higher price for the estates, locking out the mass of workers. She then went on to even ask for much higher rates than what the Housing Corporation was asking for.
That is the kind of lie NSSF apologists want us to swallow. A housing estate will be built and do not get surprised to see Mbabazi buying it off, only to become an even tenacious landlord.
Workers, let’s not land for the bait. If NSSF feels like building us houses from our deposits, let us enter an agreement with them. Let us negotiate before the project is undertaken using the strength of our deposits. Let us own the houses before they are built. Short of that, the circles will continue. The wolves shall continue devouring us, and like Boxer in Animal Farm, we shall work harder!!!

Remember, in opposing this daylight robbery, we stand to lose nothing but our chains!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

change--time to move on

If a week ago someone had told me I would be at this current address, I would have called them jokers. Truth is I had not fathomed that within less than a week, I would be at the Monitor Publications and not The New Vision. But well…
We all have a sense of fear for change. When The Monitor came beckoning, I feared to move. I thought about the many friends (social and professional) I had made in The New Vision, I thought about my bosses (whom I was getting on very well with) and all those many other things.
Even the notion of moving The New Vision’s main competitor kind of sucked. You know, The New Vision gave me a chance to learn. Fresh from school, with no journalistic skills, they took me on and introduced me to the murky waters of sub editing. For this, I am eternally grateful.
But again change is a factor of life. As human beings, I believe it is prudent we should accept we can not be in the same place for ever. Of course I left the New Vision because at some point I felt I had taken on all the challenges there were in my position.
The New Vision also had failed to appreciate that the value of Don two years ago could not be the same value today. I had surely grown. I had become more efficient, I was delivering on time and I just thought to rate me the same way I was two years ago was not fair.
Of course the straw was broken when the HR officer in language not very civil rebuffed me when I made inquiries about my promotion. I felt then, it was time to move on.
My memories of the New Vision are fond. The friends I made there will remain dear and close.
But in Monitor I begin a new trek. A new journey. But I am optimistic. I am hopeful. I will do my best to hit my targets…
The journey has only begun.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

for Rita--so short yet so sweet

What does one do, when someone comes into their lives, brightens it and suddenly disappears? Linger on the memories so sweet? Sulk for the future not met? Or write a verse to celebrate the great moments? I opt for the last

Like a comet you came
Into this whirlwind of a life
Brought a smile where a frown was the norm
Reminded me of youth gone past

Where cold ash lay, you rekindled the fire
What had become grunge, you scrubbed to shine
Like diesel oil, you kicked a lifeless car into life

But time beckons
Nature speaks
Fate dictates
Go you have

And like Desdemona unto Othello,
I beg—for the next, offer life too
Tell the tale the way you told

Patronage begets fear--kills talent

Today, over lunch, I was discussing with friends, who have had the chance of being close to President Museveni on how he has used fear to subdue his subordinates, especially his ministers. One friend joked; how in the middle of a press address, the President summoned his local government minister to explain something to do with markets and the usually loud-mouthed minister stood up in apparent fright, addressed the President as “Sir” before mumbling incoherencies. The President waved him down and proceeded on other matters. This minister is not ignorant, he is knowledgeable. It is just that he was scared of the President!! And many of them are.
We therefore delved into the cause of this. Why do people we think are so powerful like ministers suddenly crumble in the face of their superior? Should respect be the same as fear? It is a common scene to see women ministers kneel to greet the President, including one who is about to hit the 70-year-mark!!
I reasoned and still insist that when people are given positions through patronage and not merit, they feel they owe their everything to the “giver”. It becomes a norm, therefore, to accord the giver a demi-god status. It explains why these 70-year-olds are willing to genuflect and bow before their master—in their place would be more capable, competent persons. But knowing that they survive on patronage, they have to stoop as low as they can---if only it will ensure a steady flow of bread and milk to their tables.
But what happened to talent and merit? In Africa, it is the norm that jobs are dished out on friends, relatives and in-laws basis. This same afternoon, I called a friend of mine who runs her father’s construction firm. I greeted her in Swahili (teasingly) and she told me she didn’t know. The conversation went thus.
Don: But B****, you work in a construction firm. That is the common language spoken by porters. How can you not know it?
B: For us we use Lukiiga on our sites. We don’t employ non-Bakiga.
And she went on to tell me how they had a project in Karamoja and still the porters they took there were Rukiiga-speaking. Imagine porters in Karamoja speaking Rukiiga.
But that is that. Society has become about whom you know, not what you know. It is about technical know-who, no more technical know-how.
But should we let things remain this way?

Monday, July 28, 2008

govts of national unity are bad for democracy

It is now clear that the warring political factions in Zimbabwe will in the coming weeks form a government of national unity, comprising members of Robert Mugabe’s ZANU/PF party and the opposition Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party.
To common Zimbabweans, whom peace and order had become elusive in the past months, this should come as a relief. They expect the country to become stable and probably the inclusion of the West’s blue-eyed boy Tsvangirai into the government will help resuscitate their ailing economy.
On the surface, this looks a juicy deal; but deep down it is a total travesty to justice and democracy. The purpose of holding elections is to enable voters pick a candidate they consider favourite. The criteria of choice may differ from aspects like tribalism, ability to solve economic problems or even physical appearance; but the rationale is that the most popular candidate at the end of the day should be declared victor.
But looking at this new fashion of coalition governments, it is obvious that Africa is slowly murdering the purpose of elections.
In Kenya, which also has a government of national unity, it was common knowledge that President Kibaki had been given a bloody nose by Raila Odinga’s ODM. Unwilling to hand over total power and with blood being shed, Kibaki agreed to ‘share’ power. Of course the biggest beneficiary here was the loser in the elections.
The same scenario replays in Zimbabwe. Defeated on March 29, Mugabe made it very difficult for his opponent to freely campaign in the run-off. With his thugs, he terrorized opposition supporters until Tsvangirai threw in the towel.
Knowing how illegitimate his government is, Mugabe is now willing to ‘share’ power. Probably cede some cabinet posts to the opposition and create a semblance of normalcy.
The truth is that the biggest loser in these arrangements is democracy. We should not conduct elections where people are sure they will rig blatantly and thereafter give a few concessions to their opponents and all seems well.
Of course the opposition can be blamed over this. One wonders why they would choose to share power with people they have defeated in elections, but probably their decision is understandable.
They are like the genuine mother of the baby in the Biblical story of King Solomon, who unwilling to see her baby chopped to be shared with another woman, offers to give up on her claim, just to make sure that the toddler lives.
But the bottom line is that many leaders, unwilling to leave power, are going to use this new phenomenon as a soft landing. They will rig opponents out of victory and offer the olive branch to in form of a government of national unity.
Curiously, it is the West fronting this mode of election dispute resolution in Africa. It should be rejected totally. We either have elections where the winner is declared fairly or we just forget about polls. There should be no middle line between democracy and totalitarianism.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

For You Mummy; Eternally indebted to u

At times I wonder how I emerged top of my poetry class at university. True, I was able to cram facts on the classical poets, mastered the epic of Beowulf, memorized the tales of Canterbury and off the fingers reeled facts on the Romantic poets---but surely, how could I, who even never wrote a single personal poem, emerge top of that class?
My conscience feeling betrayed, I today have decided to write a poem here (and you guessed right), it is dedicated to my mother, Felly. She turns 60 this December 12th and friends—guide me, what can I do to celebrate the life of such an inspirational woman?

Mummy; eternal grateful I am
Like the cow that watches over the newly-born calf
You guarded me jealously at birth,
Like the kangaroo that carries its young in a bag
You made sure I was tended to in childhood
Mummy—you went naked to see me clothed
On a hungry stomach you stood, so that I could feed
At five, you dragged me to watch my first stage play
I followed not, but you insisted I pay attention,
How I quacked when the boy passed near me, heading to the slaughter
Little did I know that he was the Ikemefuna I would later fall in love with,
Little did I know that I would grow to worship Achebe.

Mummy—you shaped my literary skills
Gave me abridged versions of Tom Sawyer
Warned me against taking on Huckleberry Finn’s manners
Told me to shun Okonkwo’s and Othello’s temper
And close to my mum I should be like Paul Morel.

Mummy—you have watched me grow
Like the tendril in the rainy season
From the mucus-dripping toddler
To the ranting blogger

I stood by and watched you teach
Little did I know that the quest would drive me
In front of hungry souls
And explain Jane Eyre to them
Like you mummy, I became a teacher.

No amount of praise here
Equals the sacrifice made

But rest assured—you are dearest to me mummy!
Happy 60th birthday mummy!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

for Mugabe's praise singers

To understand this piece in entirety, one must have read another blog It is a blog i contribute to with a couple of other Africans across the continent. Two bloggers there (Kay, a South African and Paul, a Kenyan), think Mugabe is a victim of witch hunt by the western media--. I choose to respond to them thus:

I have read your pieces Paul and Kay on how you believe Mugabe is a victim of harsh western press and unnecessary meddling of affairs by western powers. I have seen the passion with which you have come in defence of this despot. But again rules of common sense dictate that everyone should have a say; however thwarted that view may be.
So, do you in all wisdom believe that about a third of Zimbabweans have fled their country because the western press paints Mugabe as a villain?
Do you imagine that the pictures of people whipped and wounded in Harare and other suburbs are just a creative work of videographers and western photo journalists (who interestingly are banned from Zim)?
Do, you, Paul and Kay think that over 150,000% inflation is a mere joke perpetrated by some Ivy League economist at the World Bank headquarters and therefore not true of what is happening in Zimbabwe?
Are you, trumpeters of Mugabe, convinced that the bread queues and endless fuel lines we see relayed from Zimbabwe are fictitious?
Tell me, you who sing Mugabe’s praises--- was it fair to conduct an election where your major opponent at any slight occasion was detained by the Police and never allowed to address rallies. Have you ever fought a chained opponent? How difficult was that victory?
But again, I blame you not. Many of us are still caught in the wave of defending Africa, however grim things are. That is the only way we can prove our ‘patriotism’.
Call me unpatriotic but I will not back a leader who borders on dementia. Call me a traitor but I will not sing praises for a man, who led a country to prosperity only to hasten its downfall.
Label me a bootlicker of the west—but if they are the masters we have to worship in order to have stable economies, fuel and bread in proper supply, then so be it.
Guys, lets face up the reality. Mugabe is a mess. He can cling to all straws, point fingers elsewhere, but truth be told, he bungled in his economic policies. He screwed up. The people rejected him but the military keeps him around.
The west can be blamed for exaggerating, but reality is Zimbabwe ha gone to the dogs.
My only regret is why the ICC did not issue those indictments for him, although Bashir does deserve them too—just like many other African leaders.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Religion, rebellion, dog fate of the banished

APIRE, a failed student-turned-rebel, returns from his bush exploits to find his wife in the bed of a parish priest, the Rev. Fr. Dila. He executes both of them and hands himself over to the Police.
This is the thematic gist of Fate of the Banished - rebellion, religion and despair. Apire, his wife and Fr. Dila are the central characters upon whom this story, told in pure African English, rotates. Like in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, you cannot fail to distinguish the African overtones, even if the story is told in English.
Although Ocwinyo says at the beginning of the book that events in the story have no connection with true historical occurrences, through deduction and nomenclature, we can authoritatively state that the book is set in Teso.
The reference to cattle raids and a rebellion, which Teso once experienced, all back up this assertion. The author critically analyses the question of religion, especially the tenets of the Catholic Church like celibacy, wondering whether they are still relevant.
Through a lengthy critique (ironically authored by Fr. Dila), questions are raised about modes of worship, the nature of sermons and their relevance in the African context. The book may not be as damning on the Catholic Church as Mongo Beti’s The Poor Christ of Bomba or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, but it also raises critical questions that the Church may need to think about. The novel’s plot is uniquely backward-looking. It opens with the scene of the murder of the priest and the adulterous wife, but only at the end of the book, are we able to know why this gruesome act has happened. Ocwinyo does this with great narrative skill and suspense that you cannot help but keep turning the pages.
Other notable narrative skills include episodic incidents, dialogue, situational and dramatic irony, characterisation and allusions, especially biblical.
Through Apire, Ocwinyo tackles the plight of many people who, because of fate, end up where they should not. His father is murdered as the family watches. His mother becomes a celebrated drunkard. Apire drops out of school after picking a fight with a teacher and when he gets a job as a driver, he cannot keep it because the boss’ wife, like was the case with the Biblical Joseph, wants to have sex with him.
The way events turn out, it looks like Apire was banished from the word go. That explains the relevance and pregnancy of the title.
The story Ocwinyo tells is not entirely new, but we must credit him for how he tells it. And that could explain why our National Curriculum Development Centre, which is known to resent local authors, could have relented and put the book on the A’ Level syllabus. It is crucial that schools opt for it. If not for the closer-to-home nature of the story, then at least to support one of our own.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Africa needs more Mwanawasas

Ok, look, the news just trickled in that Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa had died in a Paris hospital. And as I was punching away this eulogy, more news trickled in that actually, he was not dead but “steadily” recovering after being treated for hypertension.
So, I am at a loss, but either way, I have chosen to proceed with this piece. A prosaic ode to a man I think this continent should not afford to lose now---not with the crisis that is Zimbabwe eating away at the southern end of this continent.
And it is with justifiable reason that I demand the Lord just waits a little bit longer before turning him into past tense.
I never praise politicians. Infact if you look at this blog critically, politicians are the fodder upon which my cannon survives. I tear them.
But look, Mwanawasa is not your typical African leader—he is unique and in a nice way.
In 1990, when it was clear Zambia had had enough of the old man Kenneth Kaunda, it was a foregone conclusion that the opposition Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) was coursing its way to victory.
All they needed was a stable anchorman and many wanted Mwanawasa to hold the mantle. Unprecedented in Africa, he turned down the offer. Guess what? He admitted that he was “young and inexperienced” to be president!!
Isn’t this a joker? Do I need remind you that Samuel Doe of Liberia assumed leadership at barely 25 years, what of our Kabila Junior in the Congo after his father’s assassination? His nose was still dripping with mucus when he began leading his people.
Even Jakaya Kikwete in Tanzania had to be restricted for about 5 years (and detained as foreign affairs minister) so that he could get enough experience. Otherwise, he was willing to take on Mkapa the first time, and trust me, he would have floored him.
So, here is a politician, who the prospect of being president is dangled before him, but has the balls to admit that he just can’t take the job yet. Look around Africa now, sure, how many presidents do we see, who assumed the throne too early? Gamblers on the job. I bet 95% of them still need induction that is if they qualify for it anyway.
But what makes Mwanawasa stand out, is his transparent approach to issues. When Chiluba made attempts to amend the constitution to allow him rule for life and the whole of Zambia was up in arms against him, he handpicked Mwanawasa in 2001 to succeed him. Look, in 1994, while serving as Chiluba’s vice-president, Mwanawasa threw in the towel. He accused the government of excessive corruption and called it a day.
Show me one African politician who quits because the system is corrupt and I will prove to you that we are on another planet, not earth. My guess actually is that droves would leave a government even bring it down, if it became accountable. African politicians thrive in corruption!!
So, Mwanawasa quits but Chiluba thinks he can use him as a pawn. He helps him get elected (albeit questionably) and LO! The immunity Chiluba had hoped for froze. Mwanawasa took the lead in opening Chiluba’s closet. You see, the short unionist (Chiluba) had caught the capitalist bug and literally looted his country. So, a horde of graft charges were opened against him—and his “pauper” told him to face the music.
Others may say Mwanawasa betrayed Chiluba, but I insist that leaders should be held accountable for their actions while in power. To loot, plunder, kill and maim and think you will make off because you have a pauper successor should be no security.
And now, there is this boil called Robert Mugabe. The madman of the Rhodesia. A liberator, whose people now need to be liberated from. he has run down the economy, exiled a third of his people, conducted a one-man election and still has the guts to call himself a liberator.
You see, this madman has scared everyone in Southern Africa from condemning him. The “mighty” Mbeki has chickened out. Others are merely producing muffled sounds, but Mwanawasa, who chairs SADC, has told Mugabe to his face that he disgraces this continent.
No wonder Mugabe must have been the happiest, when just after landing in Egypt for the AU summit, Mwanawasa was taken ill—Mwanawasa, who was expected to stand up in the club of looters (called presidents) and tell Mugabe to style up!!! Why did I hear someone say that Mugabe’s sangoma could have been behind Mwanawasa’s illness?
The bottom line to me though is that Africa needs more Mwanawasas---stand up and be counted!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

wild, weird west

Newlyweds Sharon Papo (L) and Amber Weiss (R) stand with Patti and David Weiss outside San Francisco City Hall after exchanging wedding vows on the first full day of legal same-sex marriages in California June 17, 2008. Gay marriage supporters see the move by the most populous U.S. state to allow same-sex weddings as an historic move long overdue, while opponents brand it a moral tragedy. REUTERS/Erin Siegal (UNITED STATES)

Guys, we all knew that mankind would lose his bearings. But did we expect it this early? How can those parents be happy "for their daughter and her wife"? Honestly, when Francis Imbuga noted in "Betrayal in the City" that when the madness of a nation afflicts an individual, perhaps it is not right to say the person is mad, he was right. This is madness of an entire nation!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tsvangirai should not have quit

Just hours after debating with my lovely friend Khadijja whether Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean opposition leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would pull out of the presidential run-off, the bolt hit us. I got home only to turn on the telly and see him make the decision. He could not continue exposing his supporters to “lethal violence” perpetuated by Robert Mugabe’s thugs.
In my earlier talk with Khadijja, I had said whereas Tsvangirai had all the justification to pull out, it was my utmost hope that he would not. Now he has and from the word go---I want to show that this could be the biggest miscalculation of Tsvangirai’s political career.
First, let us get this straight. The political terrain in Africa has never been smooth. You do not expect a level playing field if you are an opposition candidate in Africa. Before the 2006 elections in Uganda, the main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, was arrested on trumped up charges of rape. So, as incumbent President Museveni was going about campaigning freely, his opponent was shackled, making occasional appearances in court. Besigye’s wife, Winnie, took to parading their young son, Anselm at what should have been Besigye rallies. Only when the President had covered enough ground was Besigye released—a few weeks to the poll.
In Rwanda, Vice-President Kagame, who had set up a pseudo-democracy by letting Pasteur Bizimungu run the country for a while, shed off his coat and got Bizimungu arrested. He claimed the mantle and as we know today, Rwanda is a Police state. Dissent is harshly treated. I even believe that Mbeki was up to some games when he (albeit indirectly) orchestrated Zuma’s rape trail. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has had it rough as Mubarak plots to have his son take over. The list, in brief, is endless.
It should therefore have dawned on Tsvangirai, the day he took to politics that the faint-hearted do not thrive in this field. Success in politics does not come on a silver platter. You sweat for it, at times die for it. Look at Kenya; it took the deaths of close to 300 people before Kibaki could accept to share power with Raila Odinga—even when it was clear even to the blind that Kibaki had rigged. And we know that revolutions elsewhere have claimed lives in thousands and millions. So, Tsvangirai says 70 supporters have been killed in the run up to the elections and he calls it quits? That is a joke!!
And what did Tsvangirai think he would achieve by walking away from the polls? International condemnation that would yield nothing? For the past decade Britain and the US have taken to condemning Mugabe---imposing sanctions etc. But the megalomaniac has not moved even an inch. The US says it is going to raise the issue with the UN Security Council. But of what effect will that be? We know that the UN has provisions that allow for forceful intervention. But after the debacle in Somalia in 1994, I don’t think the US is ready to risk their marines on African soil. And with the Iraq invasion going haywire, a possible change in Washington in November, I don’t think that line (forceful removal) will work.
The regional bloc SADC had also proved to be a paper tiger. Apart from Levy Mwanawasa, the other presidents in the region are still revering their “liberator”. Mbeki, the regional mediator, is known to be the biggest coward in the region. He chooses to see things from a different perspective. He mooted the idea of a government of national unity, which Mugabe threw back to his face. Look at the nonsense he told Reuters after hearing of Tsvangirai’s decision:
"From our point of view it is still necessary that the political leadership of Zimbabwe should get together and find a solution to the challenges that face Zimbabwe."

So, it all comes back to one thing. Tsvangirai and Zimbabweans have the duty to uproot the cancer that is Mugabe. This will not be achieved by cowardice. The very reason Mugabe has unleashed thugs on people is because he is scared of defeat. His rumbles that only God can get him off the throne are an empty echo of a coward. The MDC should not have relented at this point. You do not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory just like that. The first round of voting was held in similar conditions but Tsvangirai came up on top. He has underestimated the will of Zimbabweans to change events. I was convinced that come Election Day, Mugabe was going to get a thrashing of his life. But see what Tsvangirai does—walks straight into the bastard’s net. Mugabe can now have more seven years of madness!!! And Zimbabwe will look on as they slope further into the doldrums.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Obama; we celebrate, but...

I am still reeling from the excitement of Barack Obama clinching the Democratic Party nomination at the beginning of this week. I am one guy, who every morning, goes through all the wires to get the latest on Obama. I have been doing that since November last year. I have subscribed to the Obama website and I am expectantly awaiting an autographed T-shirt of the man from the US (Solomon, get done with this quickly—I am anxious).
You, therefore, must understand my joy when finally he reached the delegate threshold to claim the victory against the unrelenting Hillary Clinton.
So, what is in it for me, that (like millions others) I should be preoccupied or as Khadijja would say, be obsessed with this Kenyan-American? This question partially offers the answer.
Obama is a guy from next door. As a Ugandan, I identify Kenya as a next-door neighbour. For other Africans, it is a question of someone from the same continent rising to the highest office on this planet. I am sure people elsewhere have found a way of associating with this enigma of a politician. Indonesians remember him as a guy who attended catholic school there in his younger days. Muslims do not believe that he has discarded his Hussein name, etc. A friend of mine has christened him the “world president”.
I think if that position existed (world president), one person we can be sure now, who would have taken it, is Obama. I am assuming Africans will not rig.
Ok, back to Obama. If he floors McCain in November, trust me, more than half the world will erupt with joy. I don’t know whether he knows what he’s shouldering. In fact Americans should do us a favour and vote him. if not for his abilities, than at least to save us of the deaths that will come as a result of shock, stress, high-blood pressure, in case Obama loses.
Look, this is serious. I have just finished reading Obama’s “Audacity of Hope”. But whenever I would pass with that book in the market, bar, taxi, office, everyone would immediately recognise the guy—and say something, even if factually wrong. That is the fascination. So, don’t say I am kidding when I say people will die, if he loses.
As an African, let me make this clear. Obama’s presidency will not change much about American policy on this continent. It will continue aiding rogue regimes, as long as they serve their interests and go for those that mean nothing to them.
The President George Bush AIDS Relief plan started in 2004 will be maintained, probably Congress will add a few dollars to it, but the scourge will continue to haunt this continent.
In his first year in power Obama will make a tour of Africa; probably five-nation tour, including his homeland Kenya. The madness on the continent will hit fever-pitch as millions throng to see “their son”. He will obviously condemn corruption and call for greater accountability but that will be all.
In brief, I am saying, as we run amok over this historical milestone, let us not set our hopes too high. Let us not think the VISA entry conditions in the US will be softened. Let us not imagine that Africa will become America.
No. we just have to get back to our work. Plunge in even harder. Break a sweat and only be inspired that if Obama could come from that far, break all the myths and barriers, than probably we too, may one day, get there.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

South African madness--Africa needs an apology

Ladies and gentlemen, the most despicable yet unsurprising thing has happened. Native South Africans have turned their guns on African immigrants in their country. Last week, up to 50 people were murdered by these marauding mobs, compelling Ndugu Mbeki to send the army onto the streets.
What do you call this irony? Consider that not less than two decades ago, Most of Africa was concerned about the suppression of the black community under the apartheid system, offering sanctuary to dissident South Africans and even funding the anti-apartheid struggle.
African countries in the UN compelled the body to impose sanctions, even when it was clear that countries like Britain were not warming to the idea. (Thatcher was doing arms business with the apartheid regime).
In Uganda, the struggle against apartheid, became so engaging that we even selected books on anti-apartheid like Ale La Guma’s “In the Fog of the Seasons’ End” to run on our syllabus. Do you guys remember that we also read “A Wreath for Udomo” and for more sophiscated people like Alex Balimwikungu, “Sizwe Bansi is Dead”?
So, why does a country that owes it current freedom and economic prosperity get the right to clobber and murder people who helped it get there? Of course one may argue that what we saw was not State-sanctioned violence. But surely, this is a point that should not be lost even to the densest of a South African.
And I was right on economic prosperity. The majority workers in South African mines were immigrants. And as we all know it is these mines that have put South Africa to the economic threshold it is on today.
The least South Africans can do is apologise to the rest of Africa and promise what we saw will not happen again.
I sought out the views of my fourth generation South African friend, Khadija Mohamed on this and below was her reply. Read the thoughts of a South African on this. And know that I value your replies…so please, post comments.

Regarding the xenophobic crisis: Firstly, it shouldn’t be seen as a sudden uprising but rather as a gradual amalgamation of other issues facing the country, poverty, crime and unemployment. I’ll share with you comments from a columnist of the local Times daily: ” South Africans, we have an attitude of entitlement. We think that the world owes us something.... directly or indirectly, (we) think apartheid is something to hold on to so that we can be viewed as victims and everything should be smooth sailing for us.Here we are 14 years since the beginning of democracy in South Africa and we are still holding onto 1976.”
It sounds harsh, but I can back much of what she is saying through my own experiences.
In the same edition of the paper, a report on Jacob Zuma’s visit to one the xenophobic hotspots (as it's now called): “... the atmosphere became tense when someone interrupted Zuma’s opening remarks to ask why the meeting was being held in a predominantly Indian, upmarket suburb....
"Zuma and others who went into exile stayed in the camps in (Zimbabwe and Mozambique), they were not all over the place like here," a resident said.
The man went on to tell Zuma that the reason Mozambicans were targeted was 'because bosses put them in charge over us at work. This is because every time the white man says 'Do this,' the Shangaan (Mozambican) says. 'Yes, baas (boss)'."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

back from the abyss--straight to Hillobama drama

I must apologise to all thee---fans of this blog. I last posted sometime in January, but truth be told, my system just broke down. Blogspot was just not accessible on my PC and senior blogger E Baz advised me to relocate to wordpress, but i was reluctant, knowing how many of you were already hooked here. Anyway, somehow i have managed to access it.

And let us blow it away with the American presidential elections or is it still party primaries (courtesy of the pant suit wearing Hillary---she itches like a jigger i must say. Why can't she just go away??)

Anyway, below is an opinion i came across this morning written by Associated Press staffer Calvin Woodward on the end of the Clinton era---or is it? My own rumbles on the topic will be coming soon. Indulge

By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – There’s been a Clinton running for the White House or living in it for approximately forever. Bill, it could be said, was born to run. Running became Hillary's destiny, too.
One quarter of Americans have never known life without a Clinton trying for or having the presidency. Millions have gone from diapers to diplomas in the time of the Clintons.
When Hillary Rodham Clinton finally exits the 2008 Democratic presidential race, she will end a decades-long, power-couple streak of unique political energy, savvy ideas, colossal policy flops and raw ambition dressed in pants suits and briefs, not boxers.
“Every day is an adventure," Bill said cheerfully at the start of it all. And how.
By now, the Clintons have been assigned mystical qualities of perseverance. The notion that the adventure is over is almost beyond comprehension.
“I never quit,” she says. "I never give up."
Even in defeat, Hillary Clinton has made history as the first woman favored for a major party presidential nomination — the first with a real shot at the presidency.
She’s gotten more than 17 million votes in her own right this year, enticingly close to the number won by Barack Obama, who is making history, too, because he's black.
With her cachet, not to mention her job in the Senate, Clinton won't drift far from the nation's consciousness. (Nor is Bill likely to get out of the country's face.)
"Whatever else you might say about them, they have contributed to substantive dialogue and policy,” says Mary Matalin, a Clinton-era Republican strategist. “Hats off to them substantively.
“They’re really kind of giants in this world.”
In the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaign years, Hillary Clinton, now 60, will still be younger than the Republican candidate, John McCain, is now. Meantime, she could become a powerhouse senator in the manner of the stricken Edward M. Kennedy. Or a Supreme Court justice. Or Obama’s running mate.
Soon, though, there will be no Clinton running for president or about to. Imagine that.
Clinton I:
Dial back to Bill Clinton's two terms and a few big achievements and various smaller ones stand out: unsurpassed economic growth, a balanced budget, welfare reform, free trade, a Middle East peace agreement, gun control, more money for police on the street, the first Cabinet without white men in the majority.
Here was a man who could wear people out talking about the fine points of policy while owning up to his choice of underwear.
Another legacy was the transcendent His and Hers failure: universal health care. The complex, secretively drawn plan to achieve that goal was sent to and killed by a Democratic Congress, no less.
And there were the scandals, His and Hers.
They are known, in brief, as: Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Whitewater, the White House travel office firings, White House coffees and Lincoln bedroom stays for donors, FBI background files on Republicans, missing documents and the presidential pardon of a fugitive friend.
The episodes involving women were his. Most of the others were theirs or hers.
Scene from a 'funeral':
In January 2001, shortly before George W. Bush was sworn in, some of the Clintons' fiercest critics from the right gathered in a Washington hotel to feast on filet mignon, salmon and sour grapes.
"It's our way of celebrating the fumigation of Washington," said L. Brent Bozell III, host of the "funeral" for the Clinton years.
"I've never seen a back I've found more attractive," said Robert Bork, the scuttled Supreme Court nominee, meaning Bill Clinton's back when he left town.
Bozell amended the Lord's Prayer to say of Mrs. Clinton: "Her socialist agenda got runneth over." And the Rev. Jerry Falwell gave the invocation, thanking God "a new wind is blowing."
They seemed to be forgetting someone.
Hillary Clinton came blowing into the Senate chamber, the newly minted junior senator from New York.
Clinton II:
She was diligent from the start, attentive to constituent needs and a hard worker on the Armed Services Committee. She promised to be "pretty New York-centric," and was.
But everything she did was colored by the expectation of a presidential run.
The most polarizing woman in politics turned into a workhorse and formed surprising alliances with Republicans.
She edged toward the center and attempted to accomplish in little pieces what she could not pull off as a whole in her years as first lady.
Clinton joined Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an architect of her husband's impeachment, in a law improving health coverage for members of the National Reserve and Guard serving in Iraq.
She pushed for tighter regulation of prescription drugs for children and help for recovery workers whose health was impaired by laboring at the site of the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack.
And she voted to authorize the Iraq invasion, which she would never live down after she cruised to re-election in 2006.
No monumental law bears her name.
But in the campaign, universal health care returned to her agenda. This time, she said, she would learn from her experience and do it right — more openly and less intrusively on parts of the health care system that work.
Clinton was the one to beat out of the gate. Everyone knew her, for one thing.
"Ninety-nine percent of the country feels they have a relationship with her," said Mike McCurry, former press secretary to President Clinton.
And there was Bill, still in everyone's face. He stumped for his wife as if possessed. Hillary Clinton flashed him that bright smile on stage through thick and thin.
For some voters, that was one Clinton — or two — too many.
"We've had enough of the Clintons," said Haydon Grubbs, 77, of Shalimar, Fla. "New direction, right?"
Grubbs, a Republican who voted in the past for the "He Clinton," backed Obama this time.
The "She Clinton" found her own voice.
But, like her husband, she seemed the strongest when her back was against the wall.
As the odds of beating Obama sank into the nearly impossible, she campaigned as if there were some previously undiscovered "third way" to win, just as Bill Clinton had sought a third way to govern between the old politics of left and right.
On Friday, she cited the 1968 Democratic primaries as a reason why she should stay in the race. She mentioned the assassination of Robert Kennedy in June of that year, then apologized for bringing it up.
Together, Bill and Hillary Clinton have pulled it out of the fire over and over, going back to 1976, when he bounced back from losing a congressional race two years earlier. He won election as Arkansas attorney general.
Two years after that, at 32, he became the nation's youngest governor.
Then, defeat in 1980 when he sought a second term. It would be his final election loss, but hardly the last dip in the Clintons' seemingly endless cycle of failure and renewal.
By the mid-1980s, when he was back in office in Little Rock, Clinton's name was floating as a Democratic presidential prospect.
He took a pass in 1988. But that year marked one benchmark in the rollout of the Clinton era.
He delivered a speech at the Democratic convention laying out a new orthodoxy that he would bring to the presidential race himself four years later, his activist wife at his side.
The Clintons' national conversation had begun.
The speech went on for so long that some people wondered if it would ever end.
In a way, it never did. Not until now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

So, Kenya finally is a failed state?

The heading sounds funny, doesn't it; a declarative question. Yeah, am wondering whether to agree that Kenya is a failed state or give it the benefit of doubt.

Kenya has been in the news for now close to a month since elections were conducted. And not just in the regional papers but even the global media. Not because Kenya conducted a great election, but because the election marked the start to an end of a state called Kenya.

Ok, what are the indicators? Finance minister Kimunya has been trying to put on a brave face that the economy would still survive the anarchy. But yesterday, he threw in the towel. He admitted that the clashes, which now have claimed over 1,000 people is sending Kenya down the recession road. He has admitted that tourism will take ages to rebuild.

As the massacres continue, especially in Naivasha and Nakuru, the police can only look on. Meaning they are either defeated, or conspiring to let Kikuyus kill Luos. I know that they are overstretched. But what do we call a state, which can not police itself?

The biggest component of a failed state is not the dead or even the economy. It is fear. The moment a country slides into a situation where people are not sure of their neighbours, where you must walk while watching your back, where you talk in whispers, for fear of being heard, then all freedoms are gone.

And believe me, Kenya has gotten there. I sent a mail to my friend (a journalist in one of the biggest media houses asking whether, the division bug had not bitten even they the 'elite' too. I asked her if in office, they are not segregating among themselves, and here is what she told me;

"Don, we do not want to believe it, but to be frank the bug has bitten us too. A Kikuyu friend of mine has suddenly stopped talking to me. When i greet him, he offers muffed responses. We hear some of our bosses from a certain tribe met to discuss how to guard their interests. We are now in a state of confuion and fear. Am not sure even sending you this mail is safe."

Fear, to me is the definition of a dead state. A people who live in fear of one another are as good as those living in cages. Kenya is a failed state.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

the job i don't envy

As a child, I dreamt about being a journalist. I loved the voice of Robin White on the BBC African Service, though many times then; I did not fathom what exactly he was saying. Then as my love for the profession grew, I learnt of people called spokesmen. I was impressed when some time in the mid 90s, I watched a NATO spokesman, during the siege on Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, address a press conference and answered questions from journalists in five different international languages!!
I immediately knew where my heart wanted to go—spokesmanship. I did not matter really what I should be speaking for, but all I wanted was to be a spokesman.
Then came the American invasion on Iraq in 2003 and the thrust into international spotlight of a man, we later termed Comical Ali. Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf was the Iraq information minister when the Americans descended over his country.
He, overnight, became a star when through comical interviews; he rubbished the attacking forces, even when it was clear that Baghdad was falling to the occupational force.
“There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad,” he declared to journalists on the roof of the Palestine Hotel as gunfire echoed across the city and tanks fired from the banks of the Tigris just a few hundred yards away.
As the audience of bemused reporters pointed out the fierce firefight across the river, he continued: “There is no presence of the American columns in the city of Baghdad at all. We besieged them and we killed most of them.”
“Today, the tide has turned,” he continued confidently. “We are destroying them.”
And after an American tank shell hit the hotel, killing two cameramen, he moved to reassure the world’s press corps. “We are not afraid,” he proclaimed, adding paternally “And don’t you be afraid”.
After such theatrical performances, I knew that speaking, especially for governments can be indeed tough business. Matters are not made any better, if it is a dictatorship you are speaking for.
You may be wondering what has suddenly forced me go through these archives. But it is events in neighbouring Kenya. You see, since election results were disputed in late December, there has been one man who has tried to defend an outrightly illegitimate Kibaki government. This man goes by the names of Dr. Alfred Mutua—the official government spokesman.
Small in build and rather tall, listening to him makes one remember the tragi-comedy sub-genre of drama. I was ‘privileged’ to hear him speak to a group of Kenyan students in 2005 at Makerere University just before his government was defeated in the referendum on constitutional amendments; I concluded that theatre had missed an asset.
In a bid to impress students, he took to mimicking accents of several Kenyan tribes and obviously, you could see a man who did not recognise the gravity of events.
This week, Mutua was again in the news. After several western nations threatened to cut aid to Kenya, unless it got its political act together, Mutua said the threat was idle, adding: “You are not here to threaten us. We have gotten ourselves free from the yoke of neo-colonialism and dependency.”
Poor man, he may be right, considering that only 5% of the Kenyan budget gets foreign funding, but little does he know that the western masters still wield influence, too much of it that no amount of independence can let you cross their paths. He should ask Mugabe, Saddam and a couple of African states. He is obviously overstepping the bounds.
But what makes me see the real Comical Mutua is his remark in relation to opposition leaders, who called for mass nationwide protests.
“They are just waking up at 10 o’clock, eating eggs and sausages, giving interviews and planning how to disrupt people's lives,” Mutua told reporters.
Of course, I no longer dream of being a spokesman. Am comfortable being a blogger!!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


We are now taking stock. Over 1,000 people might have been killed in the violence that gripped Kenya after elections, over 300,000 people are displaced both within and without the country.

Ease seems to return but the recent announcement of a partial cabinet by Kibaki and possible failure of AU-brokered talks means Kenya is far from peaceful.

Now, away from the political sentiments that gripped all of us, depending on what side we sat, we need to do a post-mortem on what exactly took Kenya down that path. We know that few African countries conduct fool-proof elections. We know that many African regimes lack legitimacy to rule but they go ahead and rule.

So, why did Kenya get caught up in this flame? Are the Kenyans more patriotic than other Africans? Are they the most sensitive that any form of electoral malpractice would yield the bloodshed it did?

Obviously not. So, why did we see youth, living in slums hold matchetes and clubs and maul each other? why did we see young men, with good command of English (telling from the TV interviews) decide to burn and loot shops and other institutions?

The answer in my understanding is; they are a lot of young people frustrated by unfair economic state policies, who seem to be losing hope in existence. They are a group of young people, who perceive themselves as already dead, and physical death will mean nothing to them. That is why, unlike the middle class, which most likely had voted for Raila also, these depressed youth took to the streets, ready to confront security forces and if possible get killed.

In subsequent accusations between the warring parties, PNU accused ODM of masterminding a genocide and terrorism. I beg to disagree on the genocide bit but fully agree on the terrorism accusation.

What is terrorism anyway: An American general described terrorism as the war of the poor against the rich, while war is the terrorism of the rich against the poor.

What we saw on the streets of Nairobi was indeed, a war of the poor against the rich. What we saw was a statement of discontent by the 57% of Kenyans who live on less than one dollar a day. The blood-thirsty youth we saw are no hoodlums. Many of them are Form Four leavers, who have failed to gain access to colleges. Some maybe graduates, who with the unflexible economic systems that favour those who already have, are confined to the misery of slums. They try to make a living the hard way. The education system has shaped them to reject rural life and have moved to urban areas, living in constant hope of a miracle happening and things getting better. Problem is---the miracle like the parousia, seems nowhere in sight.

It is such a lot of youth who are a time-bomb. They are ready to die for someone (like Raila) who promises them heaven when they get to power. To such youth, the State has failed them. That is why they will raze houses, they know they will never build. That is why they will loot property they have only afforded in dreams. That is why they will walk in the face of bullets, knowing their lives are as good as absent.

Two things though: Is Kenya the only African state with this growing class of frustrated youth?

Secondly, is it true that we are short of resources to ensure equity in our societies?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

kenya has let us down

Prior to the December 27 presidential polls in Kenya, it was universally agreed that the biggest economy in East Africa was also setting the right pace in terms of democracy and general respect of freedoms. The first five years of the Kibaki presidency had literally turned round the image of a country once seen as a waste under Daniel Arap Moi, into a thriving, enviable economy in the region.
At the back of this praise was the 2002 presidential election, where Uhuru Kenyatta, the then ruling KANU party candidate, lost to Kibaki of the NARC and gracefully conceded defeat. For once in this region, we saw a ruling party hand over power to an opposition party.
For the rest of us, especially in Uganda, we could only afford to watch on with envy, considering the fact that our own 2001 presidential elections had been declared unfair by the Supreme Court and some not-so-romantic images of paramilitary squads like the Kalangala Action Plan still fresh in our memories.
Therefore, going into the 2007 presidential election, we knew our Kenyan brothers had already set the pace for us. If the 2002 election was like setting a house foundation, we expected this election to be the harnessing of the ring-beam with the hope that the 2012 polls would be roofing the democratic thatch.
How mistaken we were! We heard the opposition complain about the composition of the electoral commission during the campaigns and saw a few skirmishes claim lives. But where in Africa don’t these things happen? Even our darling Kenya could be guilty of these small failures.
But we knew they would stand the biggest test---let the people choose and respect their choice of a president. That we knew was a sure deal.
By Sunday December 31, it was clear that the maxim ‘In elections those who count the votes are strong than those who cast the votes’-had caught up with Kenya. We have looked on with horror as a country hitherto known to be peaceful descend into anarchy.
We have looked on with disgust as a country taunted as being respectful to media freedoms clamp down on media with decrees on what they should air.
We have seen a country previously respected for its thriving economy slowly witness a slump with its thriving tourist sector already threatened by scenes of violence and mayhem.
It was very disturbing to see thousands of Kenyans flee their previously peaceful country and seek refugee at shelterless border towns in Uganda. We have with worry reports that gangs are attacking innocent people in churches and burning them, reminding us of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, where even the altars turned into slaughter grounds.
And of course we can never blame the majority ordinary Kenyans. They did their part and cast their vote. The degeneration of Kenya into a Police state will by posterity and history be blamed on the political leadership. It will be placed on those, who threw away conscience and altered results in places like Molo.
The blame will squarely lie on the politicians, who put egos before State, who put self-interest before country, who roused ethnic sentiments at the cost of national unity.
The rest of us in this region will look on and say, Kenya took one step forward and moved three steps backward.