Road to 2017…

As announced by the electoral commission on  Thursday,  it is now official that  Kenya’s next general election will be held on August 8th 2017 . This decision comes in the midst of a slightly politically tense climate; as Kenyans attempt to grapple with the increase of ethnically motivated “hate speech”.

The results of the last tow general elections were both heavily disputed. The 2013 elections passed peacefully with a few hiccups, that were properly contested in court; However, the same cannot be said for the 2007 elections that put Kenya under the international spotlight. Post election violence resulted in the death of over 1,200 people with some of the worst incidences of ethnic violence Kenya has ever witnessed.

Hate speech had long since been banned to prevent a repeat of 2007 that can also be described as Kenya’s darkest hour.  Recent months have proven that the country hasn’t fully healed from the wounds of 2007. It can be suggested that well known government officials are often to blame, using their influence and power to negatively to promote ethnic intolerance and preach hate. In a country where tribal loyalties and pride are so intertwined with Kenyan culture, these acts cannot go unpunished.

Nairobi mayor George Aladwa, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, and Kiambu Governor William Kabogo are a selection of leaders who have played their part in trying to polarise the country, by making derogatory remarks that incite hate. Once again current President Uhuru Kenyatta, is set to go head to head with Raila Odinga, who has been his remained as his main opposer for the past two elections.

With the celebrations for Jamhuri Day set to take place this weekend, I cannot help but think that those who fought to free the country from the evil of the colonial administrators, the heroes of our country, are turning in their graves as they see a few small minded people use the small things that divide us for their selfish gain. Hopefully the institutions charged with bringing about social cohesion and justice, can support us in ensuring peaceful elections in 2017.

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Systematic Aid is Killing Africa.

Aid has become one of the most controversial subjects in Global politics over the past 50 years,  some argue that plowing billions of pounds into failing African economies is doing more harm than good, while others argue that the use of systematic aid is vital in order to drag Africa’s economy on par with others around the world.  In the recent decade there have been many different journals and articles written, summits called all arguing for and against the use of systematic aid in Africa.

  Over the past fifty years Africa has received over £1 trillion in aid from western countries alone. Yet the economic situation on the continent remains in dire straits. The situation on the continent has in fact gone backwards spiraling out of control, during the 1970’s in fact only 10% of Africans lived on 1$ a day but incredibly in 2010 70% of Africans lived on $1 dollar a day. So what has gone so wrong? The aid model was initially designed in the 50’s as a short term solution to help emerging newly independent states develop, but African governments have grasped onto it and now it so deeply entrenched in the African political system, that aid accounts for up to 70% of some governments yearly budgets. The fact that systematic aid has been given to African country’s for so long may be the reason many are so reluctant to give it up. Africa began borrowing money in the 1970’s when interest rates were low, but rising rates by the end of the decade made many countries go bankrupt trying to pay the money back.  Some nations though opted out of aid and the results have definitely shown, one such example is South Africa, its economy is one of the most powerful in sub Saharan Africa, and is globally emerging. Some argue that the only way for Africa to assert itself in the global market is with enterprise, Africans in order to take its self out of this whole, need to invest in each other first in order to attract foreign investors on the continent. Africa is an extremely open market with extremely enterprising and enthusiastic people, the sooner people realize this and shed the image of poverty and disease, the sooner the continent will prosper.

The presence of aid has not only had detrimental effects on the African economy, but has also had serious effects on infrastructure and societal development in the continent.The notion of poverty is something that was recently created and African politicians realized this, capitalized on it,  and rush to get into  government, because for some this means  access to the aid money and with that, control of the country. Which has been the cause of many civil wars and divisions within African country’s. Ethnic groups now vie against each other in order to be number one and control the country’s resources. This point I believe is at the forefront to why Africa will not prosper, while systematic aid is being implemented in Africa.  There is also a severe problem with corruption on the continent, which is not been addressed and now seems like taboo. Countless presidents and politicians are caught red handed stealing money from the state and not paying taxes on a yearly basis. African politicians are even some of the most highly paid on the globe, in Kenyan politicians are paid a third more than British politicians, but produce arguably less results. The aid module has also created a vacuum within the African class system, there are only two categories people can be divided into, and those are rich or poor. You will find that in most African countries 5% or less of the county’s population own and control 95% of the country’s wealth, extremely disturbing if you think about it.The great class divide is responsible for the lack of infrastructure.

The issue of aid is more than a issue of just money, its moral and ethical one.
I think the west blames its self for many of the problems in Africa today, and the only way they see themselves solving these problems, is by throwing as much money as they can at the continent. This will never ever produce results, in order for Africa to exploit its resources to their full potential, real independence needs to be gained. Independence from debt, independence from corruption and systematic aid systems that are failing the continent. Africans also need to look at developing with in our own continent in order to promote growth and attract investors. It will still be a long time before Africans will be 100% free from the things our continent is typically known for (poverty, disease, corruption and debt) but I’m hopeful that one day Africa will be able to stand on its own two feet .

God Bless Africa.

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Zimbabwe’s trials and tribulations.

2013 is an extremely crucial year for Zimbabwe, as the country decides on whether it will democratically elect a new leader or remain in limbo with the power sharing agreement between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. After such a resounding YES to the March 16th referendum on reforming the constitution paved the way for these elections, Zimbabweans are now relishing the chance to take the polls. With the elections now confirmed for 31st of July, will these elections go down without a hitch? .After the five years of the power sharing agreement between Mugabe and Tsvangirai not too much has changed in the southern African nation, the country is slowly deteriorating and becoming a failed state. The outcome of these elections, be them negative or positive will have an extremely huge effect on the fate of Zimbabwe for the foreseeable future.

Once known as ‘Africa’s best president’, Robert Gabriel Mugabe born on the 21st of February 1924, rose to political prominence in the 70’s gaining control of Zimbabwe in 1980 but not executively until 1987. Mugabe, an extremely controversial figure within global politics, doesn’t seem keen on relinquishing power. Seen by many in Zimbabwean nationalists as the anchor of the country, for his role in freeing what was then Rhodesia. But in stark contrast in western media he is often portrayed as a villain and a dictator. The question i posed to myself is why would a man who recently turned 89 still want to hold onto power?, why is he running yet again? These are serious questions that have gone unanswered in the run up to these elections. I spoke to an good friend of mine (a Zimbabwean immigrant) about the issues surrounding these elections, he believes that. “Mugabe is scared of abdicating power, because if he does then the ICC will be on his trail”. This is an extremely valid point because throughout the three decades that Mugabe has been in power, there have been numerous cases of human rights violations, stories of political intimidation and unexplained disappearances and deaths of people challenging Mugabe. The ICC have recently been extremely active on the continent, taking a number of high profile cases to the Hague, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, and former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo just to name a few. Even in the last week in a disturbing four journalists were attacked and left for dead, in what is seen as a clamp down of propaganda against Mugabe and his party in the run up to these elections. Unrest grows with in Mugabe’s party though, they have yet to find a person such suited to fill the void left by Mugabe’s inevitable exodus . What Zanu PF needs is an like minded charismatic successor to the throne, then the process of transition would be a much easier one, but i personally believe the Zanu PF are trying to buy as much time as they can, in order to find a replacement for the one and only Robert Mugabe. By rushing into these July elections (which Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has already condemned) Mugabe risks international backlash and condemnation, he may already be trying to water down reforms introduced in the March referendum and by pass laws without consulting parliament.

Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, head of the MDC-T, is and almost always has been Mugabe’s main opposition in government. Tsvangirai played a crucial role in the controversial elections of 2002 and 2008 and is certain to lock horns with Mugabe again for the last time, on the 31st of July . Tsvangirai has stood firm in the face of adversity to will his party on for over a decade, refusing to bow to pressure and intimidation tactics imposed by Zanu PF in order to stabilise his ship. Before signing the power sharing agreement between himself and Mugabe, Tsvangirai lost his wife in a well documented road accident, a bodyguard and good friend, despite these atrocities in his personal life he still signed the agreement with Mugabe, at one point Tsvangirai was being arrested and beaten every other week, for charges that would eventually amount to nothing. He has exhibited incredible integrity, and is a true believer in the resuscitation in Zimbabwe. When i asked my friend to comment on Tsvangirai he had this to say “Morgan is very much a man of the people, he does what is right for Zimbabwe, but since he signed the power sharing agreement he has not said a lot”. In my research this issue was also highlighted, before 2009 i would always see Tsvangirai campaigning and being outspoken with crucial issues to do with Zimbabwe, but also took an active role in his party. But since 2009 i have not seen the same enthusiastic character, as i have not seen him be anywhere near as vocal as before. Ryan has this to say : “Now he has the Prime Ministers seat, he has almost as much power as the president, so he can just sit back and relax and get fat while everyone else starves, he is just as bad as Mugabe”. Maybe this true for Tsvangirai, maybe he just wanted a place in government for his own pocket. Zimbabwe has not changed a lot since the power sharing agreement was announced. It will be interesting to now see if Tsvangirai will revert to his old tactics in order to sway voters to vote for his MDC-T party, after losing some plaudits and allies for his agreeing to enter into the agreement with Mugabe, it will be interesting to see how the country fares now that the coalition is over .

The Shona within southern Africa have a saying, that ‘The soil in Africa is red because of all the blood that has been shed over it’ this statement is true especially for Zimbabwe, land issues have plagued the country ever since British colonists landed in the country in the 1800’s. The issue did not reach the forefront of the counties political agenda until the signing of the Lancaster agreement in 1979. The land issue is probably the most viciously debated issue with in Zimbabwe today. Zimbabwean nationalists claim there is some what of a war going on in Zimbabwe, a war fought without arms, and war to regain and keep the sovereignty of the land, but to regain the native land was once forcefully taken from Zimbabweans over a century ago, by white settlers, in order that all the diamonds minerals and numerous natural resources that Zimbabwe holds are used to there full potential. Zimbabwean nationalists believe that if Mugabe is to leave power now, then all of their hard efforts to rightfully restore their land will be, reversed by outside forces using ‘local agents’, namely members of Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party. Mugabe securing another half a decade in office would make the gains made during his tenure in office irreversible. These gains they speak of are of course Mugabe’s controversial land reforms which he put in place in the year 2000, white landowners were snatched of their land and it was relocated to Zimbabweans. The ‘fast track land reforms’ and subsequent violence that came as a result of these reforms led to calls for Mugabe’s resignation, western leaders refusing to acknowledge or shake his hand, and international condemnation. But in the face of all this criticism Mugabe still insists on doing things his way, winning him admirers across the continent, such as the deceased Libyan head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi. Even though this might have been seen at first as a rash and harsh decision, i believe Mugabe acted in the best interests of the nation, the issue though has still not completely been resolved, and needs to be if the nation is to move forward.

Zimbabwe though was not always in such turmoil though, there was a point in history when Zimbabwe was considered one of the most socially, economically and politically stable countries in Africa. The country still boasts an adult literacy rate of 90% which is one of the best in Africa, but due to political unrest and hyper inflation, the literacy rate has been slowly decreasing in the last decade .Zimbabwe once had one of the most prestigious education systems in the world, but teachers and lecturers fled to other countries once the unrest had began . The economy also took a heavy beating during such uncertain times in the country, at the end of 2008 the unemployment rate stood at 94%, even with the ‘Fast track land reforms’, the land was not distributed fairly, with one source claiming the land was distributed between 1,000 people, mainly politicians, army generals, and high ranking police officers. This led to the land not being looked after or cared for properly, and because 60% of the country relies on agriculture, the country has no way of producing enough basic food necessities for the country to develop. 80% still earn below the poverty line earning less than a dollar a day. The country is probably best economically known for its sharp inflation increase in the 00’s, when the country experienced an unprecedented 231 million percent peak in 2008, as a result the countrys currency was suspended, and now the US dollar and South African Rand are in circulation.

It seems to me that Zimbabwe is a country that has been through much, but still has so much to do in order to reclaim its place amongst Africa’s elite nations. These elections only matter for the near future of Zimbabwe. Only when Mugabe has stepped down and has loosened his grip on the country, then and only then will we see what Zimbabwe is really made of, who will step up and be counted. I pray for the country and hope it can achieve all it is truly capable of.

God Bless Africa.

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What’s next for Kenya?

On March 4th the international community once again turned its attention to Kenya, as the nation aimed to regain some pride after the debacle of the last elections in 2007. Over 1000 Kenyan people lost their lives and countless others lost their homes as the country erupted in unforeseen ethnic violence, hundreds of thousands from the Kenyan diaspora scattered around the globe (my self included) huddled around televisions in anticipation of what would unfold in our beloved Kenya, would we let tribal divisions once again ruin the country, or stand together as one in peace and unity.

On 2nd January of 2008 “Amka Haraka, Amka Haraka” were the yells Ian Mwas or Goofy as he is known by to his friend was awoken by. “All I remember is my mother shaking me violently, telling me to get up, she was screaming that the estate is on fire”

For Ian who lives on a poor estate on the east side of Nairobi. The violence of the highly disputed election had reached his estate, he tells me he ran outside to the sight of a local shop up in flames, with a mob carrying machetes and shouting things in their mother tongue.”I was scared for my life”. This is the moment reality hit me Ian tells me, the shock still noticeable in his voice.

These sporadic acts of violence would be carried out all across Kenya for the next two months, threatening to drive the country into civil war. The election results had divided Kenya in two, with ethnic groups joining together. The Kikuyus (the tribe that former president Mwai Kibaki hails from) had been accused of rigging the votes in order to secure another five years in office. While Raila Odinga from the Luo tribe, the Kikuyus traditional rivals or enemies, was the leader of the opposition the ODM. This added even more plot to the story. The disputed fact in the whole matter not being Kibakis victory, but the way that he won. On December 30th Odingas lead shrunk by about 38,000 votes almost by overnight, he accused Kibakis government of fraud and urged him to defeat. After the news had broken that Kibaki had claimed a victory by 232,000 votes, the electoral commission declared that there had been irregularities within the election, but it was not for them to look at, it was for the courts. Violence immediately erupted across the whole country aimed at Kibakis clan the Kikuyus. This violence continued for six weeks, with the UN having to intervene, calling for a shared government between Kibaki and Odinga. This has been fairly successful enough for the past five years, but with the next election rapidly approaching, what does the future hold for Kenya as a democratic nation?

The presidency in Kenya is held in such esteem, seen by many as the jewel and most developed country in East Africa, the presidency is seen and held somewhat in the same steed as the monarchy in modern Britain.There seems to be a monarchy system developing within the Kenyan presidency system, with sons of former presidents at the front of the line to take over from the predecessor. Uhuru Kenyatta now president is son of the first Kenyan president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, and the second president of Kenya Daniel Arap Moi, has a son who has also recently won a seat in parliament, raising fears of the hierarchy system being employed by those in charge. Pictures of the president hold proud places in offices all around the country. The president is loved and adored by all citizens and highly respected. Even though he does not make a lot of executive decisions he plays an integral role in the development of Kenya. It is a highly sought after seat, and now that Uhuru Kenyatta has gained it, it will be interesting to see how he develops the country’s infrastructure. I had the pleasure of watching him give a speech yesterday at the Somalia Conference in Central London . And he struck me as an extremely well spoken and confident man. He reassured the British diaspora that he was working in conjunction with the high commissioner in order that Kenyans living outside of Kenyas voices were heard.

Edward Ochieng, an employee of Widows and Orphans international, an NGO in the western coast city of Kisumu was sceptic about the upcoming polls, I spoke to him before and after the polls, before the polls he had this to say : ” The mood in the city at the moment is a subdued one, but at the same time one of excitement, we expect Odinga to claim the presidency once and for all, and dis-spell this myth that only Kikuyus or Kalenjins can lead the country.” As Edward came to London for a leadership scheme I had the chance to discuss with him the issues to do with this election. Being a Luo himself, I could sense the odium in his voice, that he felt like his clan had been robbed for the last 50 years since Kenya was freed from the British colony. “Since I was a child Kikuyus and Kalenjins have ruled the country, not giving the rest of us an opportunity or a chance, Kenya needs change.” He duly added that he would be voting for Raila Odinga his fellow tribesmen. Speaking to Edward shortly after the elections he was not impressed with the result for the election at all “We have obviously been robbed once again (by we he is referring to his Luo clans men) I don’t know how long this will continue to go on for.” Having spoken to many Kenyans concerning the voting, I have the feeling that voters were once again swayed to vote in their ethnic lines, instead of voting for who was the correct political candidate.

There were a few other candidates forgotten in the whirlwind that was the showdown between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. Politicians such as Peter Kenneth, Martha Karua and the charismatic Mohammed Abduba Dida. Each of whom did not manage to gain over 100,000 votes. It is argued that Peter Kenneths approach to Kenyan politics, and ideas are ahead of his time in terms of the Kenyan political landscape. It suggests that voters are still voting with in tribal lines and not really analysing what each nominee has to offer to their individual needs. To me this issue of tribalism is a problem that will not be eradicated for many decades to come. When Kenyans realise that even that the president can not make executive decisions in favour of one tribe and dis-spell another, that he plays only a minor role in the development of laws and funding. Only then will Kenyans elect a leader that they think will help Kenya move forward.

Kenya has still not fully recovered from those two devastating months with the UN estimating 180,000€-250,000 people are still living in makeshift refugee camps around the country, the Kenyan shilling also suffered a sharp decrease in value the longer the violence continued. Kenya’s status as East Africa’s powerhouse has slowly been regained and Is set to continue. Even with the unease in the country right now, politicians, musicians and activists all made an active effort in stopping such horrid violence occurring again. Popular artists such as Camp Mulla and Nonini joined together to do their part to avoid further bloodshed, with the message being ONE KENYA. Political activists in late 2012 held peaceful protests through Nairobi and in other major cities. Even the two main competitors were pictured holding each others hands aloft in a victory stance, both have said if they are defeated they would go quietly without even a word.

Raila Odinga chose to not accept the IEBC’s independent decision, but chose to settle his qualms in a peaceful manner, taking his queries to the courts. He urged his supporters to be calm and wait for the IEBCs decision concerning the voting process. On March 30th in front of a hushed courtroom, the Kenyan court upheld the IEBC’s decision to award Kenyatta the presidency of Kenya, instantly a sigh of relief swept through Kenya, everyone was keen to avoid a runoff, plotting the two main contenders against each other once again in a straight vote off.

The west also had a very close eye on these elections, it is believed that if Raila Odinga had won then America and Britain’s agenda in East Africa would have been safe for another five years. But if Uhuru managed to clinch the victory, the US and Britain have slightly distanced themselves from the President with one news article recently calling Honorable Kenyatta “Kenya Criminal President”. Uhuru Kenyatta , and his vice president William Ruto are still being waiting trialling at the Hague for crimes against humanity, after being accused of arranging death squads to reign terror in the last elections. Kenya’s youngest ever leader though seems none phased by these accusations, and remains adamant that he will clear his name, and finish his term in office.

This is such an incredibly testing time, for a country that has given the world so much, but with the deep divisions in the country, and the sub text of clan divided running all throughout Kenya, I am really thankful and happy that these elections managed to pass without any bloodshed or wrong doings from any parties. Hopefully the citizens of Kenya can put aside tribal differences and hopefully Uhuru Kenyatta can now lead Kenyans as one forward as the nation embarks on its 50th jubilee,

God bless Kenya.

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