Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guess who is casting his lot with capitalist Chelski

It's 93 years since Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Today, in Moscow, London has invaded the Red Square with red devils and blue angels. As if indicating a change of heart, Lenin would have looked towards the angels to save his soul from this capitalistic invasion. I wonder how his socialist head have reacted had he been told that Chelsea is owned by Roman Abramovich., a Russian!

We'll have to wait for the final whistle at Luzhniki stadium to know the answer.

The first shall be last, says Kibaki

Some things happen only in Kenya. It reminds me of Kinyume Mbele, a poem I read in secondary school over 20 years ago. I forget the author due to the cobwebs in my head.

Names of top PSs missing in jobs shuffle

Story by NATION Team
Publication Date: 5/21/2008

Three of the Permanent Secretaries whose ministries featured in the top 10 list were replaced during the naming of the grand coalition Cabinet.

Ms Rachel Nzombo, formerly of Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services, was given her marching orders when the new Cabinet was formed last month. The ministry was rated the best in the evaluation report on the performance of public agencies for the financial year 2006/07.

Also shown the door was Ms Rachel Arunga of Special Programmes which was declared the third best ministry.

Ms Alice Mayaka, the former PS in the ministry of State for National Heritage, also missed out in the list announced by President Kibaki after the signing of the National Reconciliation Accord. The ministry was seventh out of the 37 evaluated.

In the list of 10 worst performers, five PSs were retained.

(Full story here)

Let me first salute this piece of good journalism from the Nation.. No other newspaper caught this classic irony.

Do not be surprised. Kibaki, the appointing authority, is walking a well-trodden path. In the last election, he came second but like Mugabe, he remains president. Kalonzo Musyoka, the man he appointed vice-president, who came a distant third in the presidential election, is now No 2, and the man who won the elections comes athird in the pecking order. That's how Kibaki sees things.

Mugabe's big guns trained on elections

A few weeks back, I posted a few thoughts on the African Union with focus on Comoros and the Zimbabwean election. You can revisit the article here. I had suggested that the African Union had shot itself in the foot by sending troops to remove the speck in Comoros while conveniently ignoring the elephant in Zimbabwe.

Some two months later, Mugabe is still in power in Zim, and the AU can't dare lift a finger at the Bim.

I must say kudos to the patriotic South Africans who refused to offload weapons Mugabe had imported from China. Ironically, at that time, while the South Africans argued that the weapons would be used to torment their brothers in Zimbabwe, the same South Africans are now finishing off the job that the Bim failed to complete.

More bad news: The weapons shipment has found its way to Zim through a port in Congo (sorry, can't find an English translation). The timing is perfect, at least for the Bim. His country will be running a repeat presidential election on June 27.

Initially, he had said the country was too broke to afford a rerun between him and Morgan Tsvangirai. Now that the weapons have arrived (apparently, cash was readily available to take the shipment through the circuitous route), the Bim can confidently campaign again, for the big guns are literally trained on the election.

SA President Thabo Mbeki visits him often, SADC pats his back, and the AU remains poignantly silent. What more can a Bim ask for?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Amnesty call a tricky affair

Handling of violence suspects a tricky affair

ON Monday, Justice minister Martha Karua said at least 130 suspects had been arrested over some 9,000 crimes committed during the post-election chaos.
Coming amid calls for amnesty, the figures also indicated that some 340 suspects were still being sought and that investigations were continuing. The majority of the cases are pending in courts in Rift Valley and Nairobi.
The question that has divided the Cabinet is whether to declare amnesty or prosecute the suspects. ODM politicians, including the Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, and Agriculture minister William Ruto have called for amnesty.
The PNU/ODM-K side, including Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Justice minister Martha Karua, and her Internal Security counterpart, Prof George Saitoti, are against it.
Some leaders opposing amnesty say only those accused of ‘petty crimes’ may be pardoned, but those accused of more serious offences – rape, physical harm and destruction of property – must face the law.
While Kenya battles with amnesty and reconciliation, I’m reminded of a story that touches on forgiveness at the individual level and amnesty on a larger scale.
On December 22, 2003, a shocking murder was reported in the Republic of Palau in Guam, an island in the western Pacific.
Here is how it was reported: “A triple murder; husband, wife and their 11-year-old son were bludgeoned to death in their home Monday night. The fourth family member, a 10-year-old girl, was abducted from the home, raped, strangled, and left for dead on the side of a road.”
The victims were members of a missionary family: Pastor Ruimar DePaiva, 42, his wife Margareth DePaiva, 37, and their 11-year-old son, Larrison. The suspect, Justin Hirosi, 43, later “pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect”.
The Palau murders were so gut wrenching that that the small island organised a state funeral for the DePaivas. It was at the funeral that Ruth DePaiva, the mother of the slain missionary, asked for Hirosi’s mother.
"Here we are, two mothers," wire services reported her as saying. "I am sure the mother of Justin has prayed so many times for her son, and I am sure her heart hurts terribly. I just want to take Justin's mother and let her know we will be praying for her ... and for Justin."
Then, the Adventist News Network reported, she forgave.
While we ponder over the implications, Kenyans can, at an individual level, follow the example of Ruth DePaiva.
(Lest I be misunderstood, although Ruth DePaiva forgave, the suspect remained in custody regardless, since the offence was also against the state.)
Palau President Tommy Remengesau, who attended the funeral, said Ruth’s ability to forgive allowed the entire nation to begin a healing process over a crime that had never occurred in the country before.
Kenyans who have heard that story may find it unbelievable. After witnessing grotesque killings in January and February, with over 1,000 killed, more than 350,000 displaced, and anger welling up in the hearts of those affected, can anyone really forgive?
Forgiveness is unthinkable for victims of violence. That is partly why calls for amnesty ring such discordant bells and beg many questions.
How will the victims feel? Will the alleged perpetrators not do it again? Will amnesty not embolden criminals and encourage impunity? Will pardoning criminals restore normal relations? Is there benefit in forgiving an unrepentant criminal? How about the ones who got away without being arrested?
Some feel it may be fine to pardon petty offenders – placard wavers and stone throwers, for example – while ensuring that killers and rapists face the law.
While that sounds reasonable, it would be a case of selective justice if only those in custody are prosecuted, knowing some of those who would have faced similar or worse charges remain free. That kind of justice would be dubious at best.
The circumstances and the places where the arrests took place may make it appear as if mainly perceived ODM supporters were targeted. The police must show they were not biased in arresting the 130 suspects, and the judicial system must show it is impartial in dispensing justice.
To date, nobody has given satisfactory answers to accusations that criminal gangs were given uniforms, armed and set loose on demonstrators. Who knows for sure if anybody was arrested for killing 35 people in a church in Kiambaa, Eldoret? And who knows if anybody was arrested for killing 13 women and children in Naivasha? Only the courts can answer those questions.
But even if all the suspects got arrested, there is the lingering question of the ‘big man’. This does not only mean the masterminds being brought to book, but also the root causes of the violence being addressed. What purpose would it serve to prosecute perpetrators of post-election chaos when the political causes of violence remain unaddressed?
Even when applied to the tittle, the law must serve a practical purpose, giving benefit to the community at large. That is why calls for amnesty cannot be dismissed offhand. When considered, it can act as a catalyst for national reconciliation.
Presumably, sticklers want to enforce the law, assuage the pain of victims and teach the important lesson that crime cannot go unpunished. On the other hand, those supporting amnesty are wary that selective prosecution of suspects may trigger lawlessness, fan the flames of hatred and create disharmony. They condemn crime, but look beyond the acts of crime themselves.
Had Kenyans kept confidence in the judiciary, few would have paid attention to political noise. It is a catch-22 of sorts. If some are jailed over post-election crimes, unless care is taken to ensure all stones are turned everywhere, social harmony will have been sacrificed at the altar of selective justice.
In such a case, those being resettled in the midst of anger and disenchantment will be left at the mercy of angry neighbours. The hapless returnees would remain vulnerable, quite aware that they are the ‘big stick’ for the predictable sequel to January 2008. That is why some displaced people will simply not return home.
At the same time, if blanket amnesty is declared, the sticklers will rightfully claim the law has been trampled underfoot. Impunity abounds and there is no knowing what other crimes will be committed. The perpetrators know they can hide behind ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and political godfathers to claim pardon.
Yet amnesty and forgiveness cannot be ruled out. This is not mere pontificating; there are practical benefits at the individual and national levels.
One more thing to consider, prosecuting the suspects of post-election violence may send the wrong signals to potential witnesses at Justice Johann Kriegler’s truth, justice and reconciliation commission.
While its success is debateable, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the closest example Kenyans can cite. It focused on apartheid crimes over 34 years and heard testimonies of 21,000 victims. It is instructive that it received over 7,000 applications for amnesty. It granted only 125.

Ruto, Wanyeki and Kamau Kuria on amnesty

Man's helpless state

No, I will not preach. Not yet. I'm referring to China. An earthquake that occurred last week has left at least 71,000 killed, buried or missing. I can't imagine 71,000 people dead. That's several villages all wiped out, just like that.

I was thinking this is the worst earthquake in history when a friend pointed me to January 23, 1556, also in China. That day, more than 830,000 lay dead after an earthquake.

The worst thing is that there is almost nothing people can do about it. You cannot predict at short notice when an earthquake will occur, where exactly it will hit and to what scale. You can't do nada about aftershocks either, although they are a lot easier to predict.

China has declared three days of national mourning.

Did I hear someone ask where was God when all this was happening? Why does he let bad things happen to good people (ok, Chinese authorities have problems with Tibet, Darfur, Zimbabwe and Tiananmen square, but that does not call for an earthquake)?

I don't know why God let it happen. All I know is that Jesus told His disciples (maybe that helps) that when they begin seeing earthquakes, famines, pestilences and strife, when they hear of wars and rumours of war, they should prepare to go home. That doesn't explain why earthquakes kill so many, or whether those killed should be among the disciples preparing to go home, but it is good news.

The fact is that even if you survive an earthquake (like we all have), some day you will die unless Christ comes back and finds you alive. Some day soon, you will go west, either courtesy of an earthquake, a tsunami, a car crash, illness, heart attack... The question then is not the means by which we will leave the earth but our preparedness for the big day when Christ returns.

Man may appear helpless in the wake of earthquakes, disease, illness and other agents of death, but there is good news: It will end soon! One day we will ask, O death, where is your victory? Where, O death, where is your sting?

Let me share what a friend once told me: Live each day as if it were your last; one day you'll be right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Xenophobia rears its ugly head

I got this from the Thought Leader. I'm not sure if Kenya's Transport minister Ali Mwakwere 'makwerekwere' has any relation to this animal. I first heard it early from a friend who once lived in Windhoek, Namibia, but had relocated back to the country. He says everywhere he went he was referred to as 'kwerekwere'.

On makwerekwere…

Submitted by Boitumelo Magolego

The inside cover of my Oxford English dictionary features a word with which I have become all too familiar: the word is kwerekwere.
(It may be more familiar to you with one of its vernacular language–dependant prefixes prepended — the Sotho singular being le– and plural ma–, the Nguni singular being i– and plural ama–). This word is used to refer to black (in the morphological sense) Africans who are not South Africans — South African being defined as Sotho, Nguni, Venda and Tsonga ethnic groups (by that measure the Swazis, Batswana, etc. would be South African?). This word has a very negative sting to it and is often used with contempt. From what I gather it has undertones which speak of how black Africans are believed to be sub–human, too dark and have a pungent smell. Two other words also used in this regard are grigamba and kom–ver (as in the Afrikaans kom van ver) — each prepended with the relevant prefix.

Even though these words seem new to some people, I have been hearing them as far back as I can remember. My grandparents also say that these words have been in use for as long as they can remember. What’s my point? The contempt with which South Africans regard black African foreigners is not a post–democracy phenomenon. The question which everyone has been asking since the May 12 Alexandra killings is: What has made South Africans behave like this? What has brought about all this anger and rage? To me a more relevant question is: What was the trigger event which resulted in the outpouring of all this pent–up contempt?

To read the rest of the article, click here..

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Let's watch KBC laugh at the log in SABC's eye

The other day a friend remarked that I was obsessed with the South African media. Maybe I am. Most of the media stories posted here are on SA. There are three main reasons why. The first is the sheer vibrance of the SA media. Two is that the country has many parallels with my country (many ethnic groups, a regional economic giant, former British colony, and gyrates to similar political music).

There are major differences, of course, but the parallels are significant. For example, President Thabo Mbeki is serving his last few months in office, the same as Kibaki (we thought he had a few months to go last year, and some still feel nothing really changed). The presumed incoming presidents (Zuma in SA and Raila in Kenya) share a history of persecution and are seen as radically different from the incumbents.

Heck! Graca Machel, Madiba's wife, even visited Nairobi quite a few times in January and February to persuade us that killing each other was not really a sport. A few years back, it was Prof Washington Jalang'o, a Kenyan, who convinced IFP and ANC leaders that their adversary was laughing on the sidelines as they squared with each other.

The third reason is esoteric: I have a few friends in SA who care about the media and current affairs. Today, my post will focus on SABC, where I have a few friends. Any similarities with the backside, front, head or sole of any media house, real, imagined, living or dead, in Kenya and elsewhere, are purely coincidental. My gut feeling is that a media house near you will undergo similar gyrations very soon.

I will quote from my favourite SA newspaper, Mail & Guardian. The update is that Mpofu has now been suspended.

Celebrity SABC boss Mpofu splits board
Ferial Hafajee and Kwanele Sosibo | Johannesburg, South Africa
21 April 2008 08:09
The opposing forces in the SABC boardroom battle became clearer this week: CEO Dali Mpofu is up against board chairperson Khanyi Mkonza and her deputy Christine Qunta, who want him axed, while his supporters include businessman Peter Vundla, President Thabo Mbeki’s former spokesperson Bheki Khumalo and electoral commission chief Pansy Tlakula.

Mpofu’s future, and that of the SABC board, will be on the agenda when the broadcaster appears before Parliament early next month.

The board is deeply split on Mpofu. Mkonza and Qunta accuse him of being an absentee CEO and failing to make key staff appointments, and hold him personally responsible for losing football and cricket broadcasting rights and tabling a loss-making budget for the next financial year.

Monday, May 5, 2008

You aren't white enough, SAHRC tells black journalists

A few days ago, the South African Human Rights Commission delivered a ruling on the case raised by white journalists who has been barred from a Forum for Black Journalists (FBJ) imbizo addressed by president-in-waiting Jacob Zuma.

SAHRC ruled that "barring journalists from joining the Forum for Black Journalists on the basis of race is unconstitutional".

The argument the FBJ used to justify excluding white journalists did not pass the scrutiny of the Constitution, he said.

Among the loudest was Radio 702's editor, Katy Katopodis, who said excluding whites from covering an imbizo attended by Zuma was tantamount to denying them access to Zuma based on the colour of their skin.

FBJ have called the ruling a "judicial ambush" and a "banning order". FBJ's Abbey Makoe said the ruling amounted to "criminalising black people". He said:
"By its ruling the HRC has found us guilty for being black; it has criminalised black people; it has found us guilty for exercising the initiative to solve the problems not of its making. The HRC is bastardising the ability of black people to confront their experiential exigencies."

Related to the ruling was an incident in which a columnist referred to two journalists as "coconuts". While SAHRC "discouraged the use of the word, it did not find any wrongdoing by the columnist. In SA parlance, "coconut" refers to those who are black on the outside but white inside. In this case, it referred to black journalists who walked out of the FBJ imbizo in solidarity with their white colleagues.

While we try to exorcise Kenya of tribal ghosts through forced resettlement of IDPs, SA is using its institutions. The running thread is that you cannot force someone to like a neighbour, regardless of colour or tribe.