Friday, July 18, 2008

This Punk b**tch better watch his back

A 25-year-old New York City graduate student is threatening to sue a T-Shirt designer after being assaulted for wearing one of his designs.

The woman bought a $69 shirt from Apollo Braun's Manhattan boutique that bore the words, "Obama is my slave." When she wore the shirt on Tuesday, four teenage girls accosted her - shoving her, pulling out her earphones, and spitting in her face, according to the New York edition of Metro News. The unnamed woman is reportedly seeking solace by suing Braun - born Doron Braunshtein - for "all he's got," the designer claims. He, of course, is shirking any responsibility for the incident and says that the shirt reflects the views of "ordinary WASPs."

“For a lot of people, when they see Obama, they see a slave. People think America is not ready for a black president,” the Israeli-born designer said. “I can’t stand Obama,” Braun says, but claims that it's not because the candidate is black. “That’s the only thing I like about him. He opens the door for other minorities.”

“He reminds me of Adolf Hitler,” Braun explained, adding he does not like the Illinois senator because “he is a Muslim” — a myth that Obama apparently cannot escape. The designer has sold several other anti-Obama styles from his boutique, including shirts with slogans such as “Jews Against Obama,” “Obama = Hitler” and “Who Killed Obama?”

SIASA DUNI EXCLUSIVE: Messy Jesse does it again

When Fox News aired the clip of civil right activist Jesse Jackson saying that he wanted to castrate Barack Obama, the media pounced on the major gaffe, forcing Jackson to repeatedly apologise to the Illinois senator and his family. Now it’s being revealed that Reverend Jackson made potentially more damaging remarks in his caught-on-tape moment of shame.

Though the actual footage has not circulated, transcripts of the illicit conversation have been leaked and show Jackson to have used the “n-word.” According to, Jackson said, “Barack…he’s talking down to black people…telling niggas how to behave.” Fox had edited out the racial slur in its broadcast. Jackson, who thought his mic was off while he made the comments, should suffer even more public disgrace with this new revelation. The reverend is known for crusading again the use of the so-called n-word and this incident shows gross hypocrisy. The former civil rights icon was among the loudest in bashing comedian Michael Richards for his onstage tirade, in which he used the charged words multiple times. And Jackson is known for leading boycotts against entertainment figures and companies that sell content featuring the word.

Following the leak of the transcript, Jackson apologized again, but dodged the presiding issue:

“I am deeply saddened and distressed by the pain and sorrow that I have caused as a result of my hurtful words. I apologize again to Senator Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, their children as well as to the American public,” he said in a written statement. “There really is no justification for my comments and I hope that the Obama family and the American public will forgive me. I also pray that we, as a nation, can move on to address the real issues that affect the American people.”

Has Tanzania finally torn apart Nyerere’s legacy?


One of the finest debates in Tanzania’s newspapers a few days ago was the debate about the Tanzanian education system. Critics of the system thought it was substandard, inferior and a disservice to the growing population of Tanzanians.

There were obvious concerns that the current products of the University of Dar-es-Salaam along with other local universities were incapable of competing with their counterparts from Kenya and Uganda; that products from Kenyan and Ugandan universities were better prepared for the competitive business world. However, what took me aback was the vicious attack on the use of Kiswahili in Tanzania’s institutions of learning at all levels. Because Kiswahili was Tanzania’s national language, Tanzanians spoke it freely and even preferred it in institutions of learning.

Quoting a number of professors from the University of Dar-es-Salaam, it was revealing that professors were frustrated by the low level of English language forcing them to resort to Kiswahili in order for their lectures to have meaning. More disturbing was the realisation that Tanzanians may not be as good masters of Kiswahili as the rest of East Africa may think. A number of them were said not to speak it well and even considered it as foreign as English. In Kenya, we always assume that Kiswahili is an urban language only useful for communicating with other ethnic communities when we are in town. When we get back to our rural homes, we abundantly indulge in our mother tongues with relish to the extent that for one to be elected a Member of Parliament in a rural constituency, proficiency in one’s mother tongue becomes a prerequisite.

What I didn’t know was that this is also the trend in Tanzania, contrary to our belief that Tanzanians only speak Kiswahili. Right now, many Tanzanians, journalists included, speak sheng Kiswahili, a corruption of English, Kiswahili and other local languages. It is very common to find words such as feki for fake, penalti for penalty and bethidei for birthday in reputable daily newspapers. For this reason, many able Tanzanians are sending their children to local expatriate schools or better still send their children to Kenya and Uganda before shipping them to the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries for quality education. Quality education here includes the notion that a good command of written and spoken English makes one a cut above the crowd.

If this degrading of Kiswahili succeeds, Nyerere’s philosophy of one language, one nation will have faltered. My fear is that if Tanzania loses the grip on Kiswahili, there may be no real motivation for the rest of the East African Community citizens to master the language considered the lingua franca of our region. However, the most shocking setback for Nyerere’s enduring philosophy was the realisation that last week, the Tanzanian Parliament finally made it official that the country had abandoned Ujamaism—the country’s version of socialism.

This policy statement was made in Parliament by Tanzania’s minister for East African Cooperation as part of the clarification that the breakup of the EAC in 1977 was due to divergent economic policies pursued by the three partner states at the time. For that reason, implementing protocols on the Common Market, Customs Union and the Monetary Union became impractical. At that time, while Julius Nyerere’s CCM pursued Socialism with vigour, Milton Obote’s UPC was toying with the Common Man’s Charter while Jomo Kenyatta’s kitchen cabinet clung to the Western mode of capitalism inherited from the British and buoyed by the Americans.

With the death of Ujamaism, the curtain will definitely fall on the most celebrated Arusha Declaration where the philosophy of Nyerere’s African Socialism was expounded. What may worry ordinary Tanzanians most is that as they embrace the new culture of capitalism that made them disparage Kenyans as a man-eat-man society, will they stomach the new culture of greed that has seen so many of their leaders in the Kikwete government thrown into the political wilderness? It is true Nyerere’s economic policies failed miserably to the extent that before he quit office, Tanzania was truly a man-eat-nothing society. There was nothing to buy in the shops. A bar of soap or cooking oil could cost and arm and a leg. However, despite all these hardships, Tanzanians were a proud people. There were few beggars on the streets while common theft or bank robberies were unheard of. All the land belonged to the state.

Will the end of Ujamaism usher in unbridled greed and high level corruption that has permeated the Kenyan society?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The things we do for love...

A teenage girl from Argentina has given birth to female triplets - for the second time!

Pamela had her first set of female triplets aged just 15, and gave birth to the second set a year later. As she gave birth to a son when she was just 14, that means young Pamela is now a mother seven times over, all before her 17th birthday! All seven children were born prematurely but without any kind of fertility treatment. Pamela and her children currently sleep in the living room of her mother Magdalena, who supports them all by house cleaning. The father of Pamela's first son abandoned them, the father of the first set of triplets was forced out of the house by the family for beating her, and Pamela refuses to identify the father of the more recent triplets. The young girl's mother, Magdalena, requested to have her daughter's fallopian tubes tied to avoid any further pregnancies, but was denied as Argentine law prohibits the procedure to be done on minors.

While doctors say the three newborns and their mother are well, the case has sparked debate across Argentina, the BBC has reported. In bars, cafes, and newspapers, there has been widespread criticism of Pamela's alleged promiscuity. Her family already receives help from the provincial authorities, which donated land and built them a house when the first set of triplets was born. But some Argentines are arguing that perhaps what Pamela needs is not financial help but more advice on contraception. Pamela's mother says they will now have to seek more assistance from the government. The teenager will be 17 years old on Monday.

Obama responds to New Yorker satire cartoon

The cover of the July 21 issue of the New Yorker magazine has caused a stir in the political circuit and prompted reprimand from the Obama campaign. The magazine depicts the presumptive Democratic nominee for President and his wife in a decidedly anti-American cartoon. Illustrator Barry Blitt drew the Illinois senator wearing traditional Muslim garb while his wife, Michelle, is in fatigues, sporting a big afro, and has an AK-47 slung over her shoulder. A portrait of terrorist Osama Bin Laden hangs on the wall of what appears to be the Oval Office - above the fireplace in which an American flag is burning. The two are engaged in the now infamous "fist bump" - which has been referred to as a "terrorist fist jab" in less flattering circles.

The candidate is now responding to the cover, calling it an unsuccessful attempt at satire that will likely fuel misconceptions he has long battled over the course of his presidential campaign, reports Obama, however, attempted to downplay the toon's overall impact. "It's a cartoon ... and that's why we've got the First Amendment," Obama said. "And I think the American people are probably spending a little more time worrying about what's happening with the banking system and the housing market, and what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, than a cartoon. So I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it. I've seen and heard worse," he said. "I do think that in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead. But that was their editorial judgment."

The cover drew heavy criticism from both political parties after it circulated on the Internet over the weekend. Both presidential campaigns immediately condemned the magazine, calling the illustration "tasteless and offensive." In an interview with CNN's Larry King, Obama also pointed out the implicit insult to Muslim Americans in the magazine cover. "You know, there are wonderful Muslim Americans all across the country who are doing wonderful things," the presidential candidate said. "And for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate. And it's not what America's all about."

David Remnick, the longtime editor of the publication, said Monday he believes the ironic intent of the illustration -- to satirize misconceptions about Obama -- will be clear to most Americans, according to reports.

Raila & Karua attack government on corruption

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Justice Minister Martha Karua on Wednesday tore into the anti-corruption policy of the very Government they serve. By virtue of their positions, the statements only added to the confusion that has characterised the war on corruption.

As Prime Minister, Raila is charged with supervising and coordinating functions of Government, which has been the breeding ground for corruption. On her part, Karua is the custodian of the Justice machinery. In principle, the two should serve as the fulcrum around which the battle must be fought. On his part, Raila appeared to plead lack of political will, but Karua attacked the Executive, accusing it of failing to live up to its promises. And by calling for the return of celebrated anti-corruption czar John Githongo, who fled the country in 2005 amid claims that his life was in danger, Raila appeared to openly express dissatisfaction with the individuals and institutions charged with the task.

Speaking at the third National Integrity Review Conference at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, the two Cabinet members cited lack of unity of purpose and an ineffective anti-corruption policy as reasons for the spiralling vice. They said more than three years after the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act was passed, the approach to fighting graft lacked a common focus and coordination, with public perception remaining unchanged. Said Raila: “Unwavering political will must be demonstrated in fighting corruption with action towards zero tolerance on graft. Political will must extend to all those in authority and public institutions.” Raila was speaking when he opened the anti-corruption review conference.

On her part, Karua said: “The Executive has failed to live up to its promise and commitment to fighting graft.” She went on: “Kenyans will be the judges of our success. They should ask us any questions because they have a right to know and we must not answer them begrudgingly. The Executive has fallen short of commitment to fighting the vice. We cannot effectively enforce integrity with loose laws and weak policies.”

Raila and Karua spoke at a time the spotlight is on three Cabinet ministers. Amos Kimunya stepped aside as Finance minister to pave way for investigation into the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel, while Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’ appears to be steadily weathering a storm over claims that he misused his discretionary powers to award permits to foreign nationals. Deputy Prime Minister and Trade Minister Uhuru Kenyatta is also in trouble over accusations by the ECK and his counterpart in Local Government, Musalia Mudavadi, that he fiddled with the list of civic nominees and gazetted it against the advice of the electoral team.

Old corruption networks
Raila said Kenya had slowly degenerated and joined the league of most corrupt countries in the world, like Nigeria and DRC, “without decisive action from top Government echelons”, which he is now a part of. He described corruption as a crime whose impact had far-reaching political, social and economic consequences and a vice Kenyans must rise against.

Those who attended the two-day conference were Francis Muthaura, the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of Civil Service, Fatuma Sichale, the Deputy Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, MPs and a host of senior civil servants. The conference was to review achievements, problems and failure in the fight against corruption. Participants will also share experiences in fighting corruption, identify priorities and plan future action.

Karua challenged the Grand Coalition to take the unique opportunity and bi-partisan approach and suggest policy and legal options to rid Kenya of corruption once and for all. “So long as we have pending cases of old corruption arising from transactions of Goldenberg, Anglo-Leasing and the Ndung’u Report, we cannot clear the backlog. The perception will be that the Government is still tolerating corruption,” Karua noted. However, Raila and Karua admitted that the Government faced legal and policy hurdles in the fight against corruption. “While the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission tries to freeze assets acquired corruptly in foreign jurisdictions, our own courts have issued injunctions against the same,” Raila said. Both challenged Kenyans to stop politicising the war against corruption. Said Raila: “A corrupt person does not steal public property on behalf of his tribe or political party. He does so for his personal gain. Don’t say we are being finished or our tribe or party is being targeted politically when we are dealing with corruption cases.” Backing Karua’s stand on unfinished business of old corruption, Raila said it was embarrassing to see people named in corruption cases reports of Public Accounts Committee and Public Investments Committee of Parliament demonstrating and accusing others of the vice.

On Wednesday, inviting Githongo, who is in exile, back, Raila said: “He should not fear for his life. Nobody will persecute him in this Kenya. We are dealing with issues of corruption. He should come back and live here.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

When caught sleeping at work...

...raise your head slowly and say, "In Jesus' name, Amen."

'Black Widows' sentenced to life terms

LOS ANGELES - Two 70-something women were sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for taking out insurance polices on two homeless men, then arranging to have them killed in hit-and-run accidents in Los Angeles alleys.

Helen Golay of Santa Monica, 77, and Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, of Hollywood, were convicted in April of murder and conspiracy. Jurors also found that the murders were committed for financial gain and that there were multiple murders, but prosecutors opted against seeking the death penalty.

Golay and Rutterschmidt were convicted in the deaths of 73-year-old Paul Vados, who was run over by a car in an alley in the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue in Hollywood on Nov. 8, 1999, and Kenneth McDavid, 50, who lost his life in similar circumstances in an alley in the 1200 block of Westwood Boulevard in Westwood on June 21, 2005. Prosecutors said the two women collectively received $2.8 million from life insurance policies they had taken out on Vados and McDavid. The women housed them for two years to exceed the period under which the life insurance companies could contest the policies. Golay claimed to be the fiancee of both victims, while Rutterschmidt claimed to be a cousin.

"They didn't need it, but they wanted it," Deputy District Attorney Truc Do said earlier of the womens' efforts to get money. "(The) motive absolutely was greed." Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace, who along with Do prosecuted the case, told reporters when Rutterschmidt was convicted of killing Vados on April 21 that it was "clear that money was the driving force behind both of these women."

"They spent a lot of their time worrying about money, trying to get money," Grace said. "... We were able to use, you know, motive, as a big foundation of the case, and that was important." Grace, who spoke with jurors after the latest verdict, said the panelists "felt that Olga Rutterschmidt was just as big a part of the whole scheme as Helen Golay."

"In fact, they felt that in some ways she was smarter than Helen Golay," the prosecutor said, noting that Golay fronted all of the money to house the men for two years and that Rutterschmidt "didn't put up any money" but collected nearly $1 million. Four days before convicting Rutterschmidt in connection with Vados' death, jurors said they were "hopelessly deadlocked," even after hearing re- arguments from attorneys for both sides. However, a jurors left the panel late that day because of a business trip. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley brought in an alternate juror and ordered the panel to begin its deliberations anew. The reconstituted panel deliberated for less than an hour before announcing that a verdict had been reached on the counts involving Vados' death. Rutterschmidt earlier had been convicted of murder and conspiracy charges in connection with McDavid's death.

Los Angeles police Detective Rosemary Sanchez, who investigated the case, said the crucial piece of evidence was the discovery that Golay called the Automobile Club of Southern California, asking for service for a disabled 1999 Mercury Sable station wagon about 1,000 feet from McDavid's body the night he was run over.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obama cartoon sparks controversy

A cartoon showing White House hopeful Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim and his wife as a terrorist has sparked outrage in the US.

Mr Obama's campaign team condemned the image on the cover of New Yorker magazine "tasteless and offensive". Even his Republican rival John McCain criticised the cartoon as 'inappropriate" and said he understood why it had caused so much offence. The illustration on the issue, titled The Politics Of Fear, depicts Mr Obama wearing sandals, robe and a turban, and his wife Michelle dressed in camouflage and combat boots, with an assault rifle strapped over her shoulder. The couple are in the White House's Oval Office doing a fist tap in front of a fireplace in which an American flag is burning. Over the fire hangs a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

In a statement, the magazine said the cover "combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are". It continued: "The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall? All of them echo one attack or another. "Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover." Mr Obama was asked about the cover by a reporter during a campaign stop in San Diego. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee simply said he had no response to give.

Patrick Egan, an assistant professor of politics at New York University, said the cartoon's meaning would be obvious to the average New Yorker reader. "The fact that it's on a magazine where the readers are relatively informed about politics and also probably have already very strong beliefs about who they are going to vote for in November makes me think that this is less likely to have much of an impact on anyone's actual beliefs about the two candidates," said Mr Egan.

Immune to their attacks

Michelle with the fro and giving Barack a pound... the idiots over at the New Yorker are getting real out of pocket!

The Illinois senator is depicted in traditional Muslim garb in the Barry Blitt illustration set in the Oval Office. His wife, Michelle, is in fatigues, sporting an Angela Davis-style sky-high Afro, an AK-47 slung over her shoulder. “The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said.

New Yorker editor David Remnick seemed shocked by the backlash. “Our cover … combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are,” he said in a statement. “The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said.

Obama brushed off the brouhaha. “I have no response to that,” he told reporters when asked about the cover, but his supporters are infuriated.

Charging Bashir a mistake - US envoy


While advocates and human rights groups focused on Darfur may applaud reports of Sudan’s President, Omar Bashir, being indicted by the International Criminal Court, they should think again about their enthusiasm. The question all of us who care about what happens to the long suffering Sudanese people must ask is this: what are the peaceful options for a way out of the crisis facing the country and what measures are likely to move the country closer to that way out rather than further away?

Without a political settlement Sudan may go the way of Somalia, pre-genocide Rwanda, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo: a real potential for widespread atrocities and bloodshed as those in power seek to keep it at any cost because of the alternatives. An indictment of Bashir will make it much more difficult for any country or international organization to help negotiate a political settlement with the Sudanese government.

Some forms of pressure may force the Sudanese government to negotiate a political settlement, some will only make their leaders more intransigent: an indictment is clearly in the later category. The regime will now avoid any compromise or anything that would weaken their already weakened position because if they are forced from office they face trials before the ICC. Free and fair elections are now much less likely, if they ever happen. They are much more likely to be rigged or if Bashir’s party loses them they will refuse to comply with the results just as Mugabe has in Zimbabwe.

Mr Natsios is the former US Special Envoy for Sudan and former Administrator of USAid.


KHARTOUM - Government officials yesterday remained guarded in their reaction after the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor charged Sudan’s president with genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur in a move Khartoum warned could set fire to the region.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court for an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the first sitting head of state to be indicted by an international court since Liberia’s Charles Taylor and before that Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic. “Moreno-Ocampo has presented evidence today showing that... Bashir committed the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur,” the prosecutor said in a statement. Fearing an upsurge in violence from an enraged Bashir and emboldened rebels in Darfur, aid organisations have tightened security in Sudan in recent days.

Khartoum, which is not a party to the court, said it did not recognise the move, but pledged to continue with peace moves in Darfur and said it would protect United Nations staff in Africa’s largest country.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has long accused President Bashir of supporting the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in retaliation for Uganda’s support for the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army rebel group. The LRA leader, Gen. Joseph Kony, and two other top lieutenants also have warrants of arrest issued by the ICC against them for crimes against humanity and other atrocities during their two-decade insurgency in northern Uganda. The SPLA signed a peace deal with Gen. Bashir’s government in January 2005 and formed the Government of South Sudan while a peace deal negotiated between Kampala and the LRA under the aegis of the GOSS since July 2006, is awaiting Kony’s signature and implementation. Despite these efforts to resolve the regional conflict, tensions between Kampala and Khartoum have remained high. In June while speaking at the Organisation of Islamic Conference meeting at Speke Resort Munyonyo, Mr Museveni said the Darfur conflict was between Gen. Bashir’s Arabs and black Africans and called on Islamic countries to help resolve it. “You can’t expect black people to be killed and we keep quiet,” he said.

Despite calls from the international community, including France, to respect the ICC decision, Sudan said yesterday it did not recognise any decree coming from the court. “We consider the indictment of either the president or any other normal citizen of Sudan the same -- we don’t recognise whatever comes out from the ICC, to us it is non-existent,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig said.

In a sign that the warrant is likely to be a divisive issue, a senior Tanzanian official yesterday called upon the ICC to suspend the warrant of arrest. “We would like the ICC to suspend its decision to seek al-Bashir’s arrest for a moment until we sort out the primary problems in Darfur and southern Sudan,” Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe told Reuters, speaking on behalf of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete who chairs the African Union. “We are asking ICC to re-examine its decision.” Mr Membe added that it was “not the right time” to seek Gen. Bashir’s arrest. “If you arrest al-Bashir, you will create a leadership vacuum in Sudan. The outcome could be equal to that of Iraq. There would be an increase in anarchy; there would be an increase in civil war. Fighting between Chad and Sudan would increase,” he told Reuters. A statement issued by the AU headquarters in Ethiopia said the pan-African body was holding consultations on the indictment and planned to send its commissioner for peace and security, Amb. Ramtane Lamara to Sudan to meet with President al-Bashir and other senior government officials.

Darfur is home to the world’s largest humanitarian operation and officials have also expressed concern an indictment could further stall the deployment of a UN-funded peacekeeping operation. Washington accuses the Khartoum government of genocide in Darfur, a charge it flatly denies.

Thousands of protesters chanted anti-American slogans as they rallied in Khartoum on Sunday to protest against a potential arrest warrant. After the warrants were issued, the United States said it had tightened security at its embassy and offices in Sudan while Andrew Natsios, former US special envoy for Sudan said: “This indictment may well shut off the last remaining hope for a peaceful settlement for the country.” The ICC was set up in 2002 as the world’s first permanent war crimes court.

As well as Darfur, it is investigating Uganda, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo but has no police force and only has four suspects in custody.

ICC judges issued arrest warrants for two Sudanese suspects last year -- government minister Ahmed Haroun and militia commander Ali Kushayb. Khartoum refused to hand them over. International experts say at least 200,000 people have died in Darfur and 2.5 million have been displaced since a rebellion erupted in 2003. Khartoum says 10,000 people have been killed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The great Safaricom IPO scam: how Morgan Stanley walked away with nearly half of the shares

Nearly half the Safaricom shares reserved for foreign investors have ended up in the hands of the lead transaction advisor, Siasa Duni can now reveal. It is not clear, however, whether the firm, Morgan Stanley Plc, kept the shares for clients or for itself. In the past, Morgan Stanley, which was the book runner for Safricom's IPO, had declined to reveal the names of its clients, heightening speculation over their identities.

Of the 2 billion shares on offer in the IPO, 814 million were allocated to Morgan Stanley. The firm, together with their local partners Dyer & Blair, did the historic IPO transaction for a consideration of 50 cents. If Morgan Stanley were to sell the shares at KSh. 7 each, they would make KSh. 1.2 billion based on the initial IPO price of KSh. 5.50. Another 9 million shares went to Morgan Stanley Investment Management of New York. The foreign lot was flogged for KSh. 11 billion.

Alcazar, the firm that Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale told Parliament had bought a huge chunk of the shares, did not feature on the list. That does not necessarily mean the firm, that owns slightly less that 8% of Telkom Kenya shares, did not buy.

There are several names on the list that are not known locally, and they could represent anyone. In any case, there is nothing, legally speaking at least, that could have barred the Dubai-based Alcazar, or anyone for that matter, from participating in the IPO. Most of the firms that "won" in the Safaricom IPO are based in London, Geneva and South Africa. The roll represents the original allotment and is still not avilable from the NSE, even after the statutory one month passed since the company's listing, during which the situation has certainly changed. Market sources intimate that a number of the so-called institutions have sold, casting doubt on whether the entire 5% stake in Safaricom went to institutions or speculators.

Safaricom has dominated trading at the NSE, dealing in upwards of 20 million units daily, a situation that can be attributed in part to the large number of retail investors in shareholding book. Indeed, the period has coincided with the shilling's volatility the dollar, which suggests massive capital repatriation. The list is, however, dominated by reputable well-known funds that are likely to guarantee the stability of the share if politicians do not ratchet up their anti-investment campaign. One is London hedge fund Millennium Global which took the largest stake at 150 million. Another is Genesis investment Management of London which bought 128 million shares, while its African fund took 12 million. Investec went home with 12 million and another 5 million on a separate account. Other big takers were London-based Emso Partners which bought 100 million shares and Pitcet Asset Management with 150 million. Pitcet London is part of a Swiss private banker with the same name and was founded in 1805. Imara Asset Management, a Zimbabwean asset manager, took a total of 20 million shares in two accounts.

The country where everything is done in reverse

Everything happens in reverse in Kenya. Take, for example, the recent ban on matatus entering the central business district of Nairobi. In most other cities, an efficient public transport system is seen as the key to easing congestion in the city centre, and people are encouraged to use this form of transport to get to work. Those who insist on using private vehicles have to pay a penalty. For instance, in London, people who bring their private vehicles to the city centre are charged a congestion fee.

But in Kenya, the rich, with big gas-guzzling private cars, are given priority on our roads; pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users are penalised for being poor and for using environmentally-friendly transport options.

The recent ban on smoking in public places is another example of how Kenya misinterprets the global war against smokers. In most countries that have adopted laws to curb smoking, smokers are allowed to do their thing in open spaces, which usually means on city sidewalks. But in Kenya smokers have to go into an enclosed space – a public toilet, restaurant or a vehicle – to smoke because most open-air spaces are no smoking zones. Meanwhile, matatus and trucks spewing noxious carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases are allowed to roam freely on out streets.

And for some strange reason, there seems to be a total silence on another addiction – drinking – that is ruining the lives of many Kenyans. Excessive use of alcohol not only damages the health of the consumer, it all also deeply scars family members of the alcoholic, who are a times deprived of school fees, food and other necessities so that the alcoholic can indulge in his or her addiction. Families of alcoholics are also deeply affected emotionally, and it is not uncommon to see children of alcoholics suffering from depression and other psychological illnesses. Yet, our bars are allowed to operate 24 hours if they like, and there is no limit to how much alcohol can be consumed by a patron.

Then there is the whole question of who is entitled to a work permit, visa or citizenship. Recent queries on the issuance of work permits to foreigners with dubious credentials have brought to the fore an issue that deeply disturbs all those Kenyans who dread the prospect of applying for a new passport at Nyayo House. The situation in Kenya is such that white foreigners are given all kinds of permits and visas to remain in the country while those who are born here often have to part with money to obtain what should be their birthright – a Kenyan passport. For some strange reason, Immigration officials look the other way when it comes to foreigners with white skin, but get all hot and bothered when the foreigner is black or has a Muslim-sounding name.

All that white-skinned foreigners need to step into this country is enough cash to pay for a tourist visa at the airport. Some of these “tourists” find jobs or start businesses; they do not bother getting a work permit. Others even find high-paying jobs in fields where there is a surplus of local talent. There are no mechanisms in place to monitor their activities. For instance, they don’t have to undergo any interview at the airport to determine the nature of their business in Kenya. Their records are not kept or scrutinised at Kenyan embassies abroad. They are not subjected to stringent conditions when applying for a visa to this country, as Kenyans often are when applying for visas to other countries. Nobody fingerprints them or asks them to provide proof that they can support themselves financially while they are here. No, we are Kenyans, and we are a hospitable people. We just smile, and say, “Karibuni Kenya! ”

So people with the most dubious credentials end up in the country. Paedophiles, drug and human traffickers, mercenaries, and even terrorists – are warmly welcomed at the airport, no questions asked. But only if they are white. Black Nigerians or brown Pakistanis with dubious credentials are often held in the airport cells and deported – unless, of course, they are well-connected, in which case they just breeze through immigration control.

Why do Kenyans behave in this strange manner? Is it because we were colonised and therefore see all white people as superior? Or is it because we have become accustomed to the indignity that comes with subservience and corruption? Maybe it’s because those who are now in charge of creating policies were once poor themselves, and having escaped poverty, want to keep the poor out of sight so that they are not reminded of their own poverty.

If we are to emerge as a middle-income country in the next 20 years, we must learn from other once-poor countries. Successful economies such as Malaysia and Thailand got that way, not by ignoring the poor, but by integrating them in national development plans.

What is Pharisaism?


When Parliament crucified Amos Kimunya, it recalled a gospel story that I am very fond of. Some Pharisaic males brought to Jesus a woman “caught in the very act” and demanded that the Galilean teacher impose a fitting punishment.

After their tirade, Jesus bowed his head as if in deep thought and, without looking up, advised those who had never committed that “sin” to hurl the first stone. Public stoning to death was ancient Jewry’s method of tackling capital offenders. But when the magus finally raised his head, all the accusers had vanished. Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes were the three major Jewish sects when Rome captured Palestine in 63 BC. The Sadducees disappeared in Titus’ holocaust which consumed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Holed up in the Dead Sea fort of Qumran, the Essenes were the Jewish branch of a Nilotic Gnostic or Christological movement, the one which the Romans hijacked and transformed into Euro-Christianity. Most Pharisees fled abroad to reappear, in Europe, as Talmudic (or rabbinic or synagogical) Jewry. Indeed, all modern Jewry is Pharisaical in origin. But, although this adjective refers to that objective ancient entity, nowadays it alludes also to the subjective speciousness, spuriousness or insidiousness which anyone may speak or preach. A “Pharisee” is any self-righteous and hypocritical person, a definition derived from the holier-than-thou attitude expressed in the New Testament parable I quote above.

So we must put Mr Kimunya’s case in perspective. For he is by no means the nigger in the woodpile. He merely helps to bring out the Pharisaism of all Kenyans. How many MPs can pass the test which Jesus set for the misogynists in the story? No, I do not defend our erstwhile minister for Finance. Ever since his days at Lands, I have publicly criticised his apparent insensitivity to the poor, especially the landless. I have questioned the extreme arrogance that issues from his mouth, the utter absence of political finesse. But I must ask: Is the Kipipiri MP guilty as charged by his colleagues? To be sure, something looks seriously wrong with the manner in which the Treasury has sold off some public assets. But equally certain is this: Were I in Daniel’s seat, I would not subpoena any MP as a prosecution witness.

FOR, IF THE CHARGE IS MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS, HOW can that charge be lodged by a group of people who have fleeced Kenyans throughout their legislative career by criminally dipping fingers into the same Treasury to pay themselves salaries and perks which break the backbones of other Kenyans? If the aim is to protect the public from robbery by any state organ -- such as the House -- then I would be keenly interested to know how Bonny Khalwale, Ababu Namwamba, Otieno Kajwang and others voted on Mr Kimunya’s proposal to tax the MPs’ emoluments.

Is this how the Young Turks are going to behave when Mr Namwamba leads them into a “Grand Opposition” in Parliament? Indeed, many Kenyans have commented that the MPs nailed Mr Kimunya merely because he tried to tax them, to make deep inroads into their fat bank accounts.

So the question is ineluctable: What is the difference between a minister irregularly selling a public hotel -- as the accusation goes -- and an MP voting to continue fleecing the public by not paying the taxes that might contribute to lifting the same public from the abyss of hunger? No, in principle, I fully support Parliament’s responsibility to declare its loss of confidence in anybody who may use his public office to do things which look like personal ingratiation at the public’s expense. But when an exceedingly avaricious and tyrannical parliament accuses a minister of avarice and tyranny and punishes him for it, the MPs show unacceptable imperviousness to logic and self-contradiction.

They express incredible absence of justice, public morality and good manners.

The MPs see mortal sin in every one of President Kibaki’s Cabinet ministers. But they see nothing iniquitous in their own itchy fingers. This hypocrisy, this moral ambivalence, this intellectual duplicity -- this is what is called Pharisaism. It is what enables politicians to listen so carefully, but with such cynicism, to just such sermons at church every Sunday. Like Taban lo Liyong’s Eating Chiefs, they continue, outside the shrine, to stuff their pockets full to overflowing with squalid money. By failing to stand up consistently and forcefully against this depravity, the priests show that their own moral fulminations are but godforsaken Pharisaism.

Clearly, however, as it is now constituted, Parliament is the cancer number one in our body politic. Kimunya or no Kimunya, if we do not redefine and rebuild that institution -- devising a water-tight means of controlling it -- we shall remain slaves of “parliamentary democracy” all our lives.

Of God, Mugabe and HIV/AIDS

The music was mostly in the category of dust. So, after two or three numbers from Nelson Mandela’s June 27, 90th birthday concert at Hyde Park, I switched off the BBC. My thoughts drifted. Aids, which was central to Mandela’s charity work. Mugabe. And God. Over the same weekend, Egypt would host Africa’s big men, including a freshly “re-elected” Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. For several weeks before the summit, a defiant Mugabe had spurned all his critics and vowed that only God could remove him from power.

On the eve of the ballot, a BBC correspondent asked an exiled Zimbabwean woman at a Methodist church in Johannesburg whether she thought the election would bring change. She replied that there would be change if God answered their prayers. So you have Mugabe daring God, and this woman begging God to intervene in Zimbabwe’s crisis.

With or without a white beard (Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel rendition is sometimes disputed), God must be the luckiest magician in the universe. First, He has the option of answering your prayers in a rational way; like delivering good rain after a long drought and widespread starvation. People will then thank Him for His mercy. He is not required to account for the dead.

Two, God can ignore any prayers without penalty. One of His attributes is that He makes decisions at His own pace. There is always the odd chance that He might one day act, so you pray even more passionately.

Three, God can act in the most brutal way and still earn the following response: God is just and must have had a good reason, but we do not understand His ways; which of course is a contradiction in terms. Oddly, the faithful never fear that God may find more good reasons to hand out even more pain. So they continue praying, hoping that He would find a good reason to reverse a brutal regime.

Therefore, when God does what pleases us, we fully understand Him. Our comprehension of His ways diminishes as we progress towards undesirable experiences. This is absurd. You either understand God or you do not. The alternative is that you are a superstitious wishful thinker.

Now, let us suppose I understand God; like Elijah, I talk to Him regularly. This is the divine message to the Zimbabwean exile in Johannesburg: "The election did not bring change because God is dedicated to Zimbabwe’s white people. God is still punishing Zimbabwe’s blacks because they supported the independence struggle and Mugabe’s seizure of white people’s land. Mugabe is now preserved as a tool of God’s justice. That is why, in Cairo, it was not Mugabe, but Zambia’s President Mwanawasa, whose heart God whipped, so that Mwanawasa’s planned attack on Mugabe might be foiled! Thus says the Lord."

Alternatively, God cannot handle Mugabe. When Mugabe finally goes, there will be other explanations that are more tenable than divine intervention. Similarly, God seems to have been exposed by the Aids test.

I see no reason why a god said to occasionally enable the miraculous healing of various conditions, including polio and blindness, should suddenly become impotent in the face of HIV/Aids. Yet, apart from outright thieves--witchdoctors and some of our born-again Christian pastors--virtually all other religious people agree that there is not a single recorded case where prayers have reversed a positive HIV test reading. Does HIV then enjoy divine protection?

Probably not; but because the infection attracts intense interest and submits to scientific diagnosis, a false divine healing can always be easily exposed. This implies that even with other conditions, any supposed divine healing is probably an arrangement of tricks and lies; at best the deployment of skilful human manipulation, but with reference to the patient’s brain disorder and/or socio-environmental contexts, rather than the intervention of an active God.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Swaleh: Jamaa mpenda wake za watu siku moja alikuwa akila uroda na mke wa jirani mtaa wa pili usiku wakati mumewe hayupo. Ghafla, mume karudi na kuanza kupigahodi mlango wa mbele. Mke kusikia mumewe karudi, kahamaki na kukimbilia kumtoa jamaa kupitia mlango wa nyuma. Jamaa alikurupuka mbio, akaruka ukuta akiwa uchi wa mnyama, akakimbia hadi nyumbani kwake. Alipofika kwa mkewe, akamwambia kapigwa na majambazi njiani wakamvuanguo zote na kumwibia kila kitu. Mkewe akamwambia: "Pole mpenzi lakini hawa majambazi si watu wema kabisa! Yaani wamekuvua nguo zote na kukuvalisha condom?"

Swaleh (bursts out laughing): Naam; nikipiga tama la maji, nawe ukitafakari hayo, ebu tupate kibwagizo cha leo...

Images of "the Zimbabwe crisis"

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Libyan Embassy implicates Kibaki in Grand Regency fraud

Amos Kimunya’s resignation on Tuesday came as a surprise for a man who had just a few days earlier vowed he would rather die than quit. By his own admission, high-level intrigues forced him out of office.

Kimunya buckled a day after the Libyan Embassy in Nairobi said President Kibaki and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi signed three protocols, which paved the way for the disposal of the hotel. At the Treasury, the browbeaten Kipipiri MP, while announcing his resignation, implied he might have been left with no option but to step aside. "Dragging in the President’s name into the saga may have brought pressure to bear on Kimunya to give in and leave the matter to investigation," said a Cabinet source who sought anonymity. The pressure that broke Kimunya’s resolve was said to have started piling on Saturday, a day before he went to Kipipiri, where he marshalled support from his constituents.

Then on Saturday Kimunya was summoned to State House by President Kibaki, in what is understood to have been a thorough debriefing on what he would do to control the damage caused by accusations against him and the vote of no confidence, sources said. Even though he had insisted on Sunday that Grand Regency was not the subject of his discussion with Kibaki, sources have confirmed that the President dwelt on the issue at length.

The disgraced minister claims he was summoned after another PNU minister — said to be close to the President — had also visited State House earlier that Saturday morning. On Tuesday, Kimunya admitted: "I’m aware the Minister was at State House where I have been informed that pressure was put and I was demonised before the President." Kimunya, who said during the rally at Kipipiri that he had been set up in Parliament to be vilified and censured, also admitted that a plot had been hatched by colleagues in PNU to abandon him at the last minute.

He wondered why, despite the PNU ministers having met on Tuesday evening and agreed to back him in Parliament against the Motion, none raised a finger, except Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka who wanted the Motion deferred. In the PNU meeting chaired by Justice minister Martha Karua and attended by the VP and ministers George Saitoti, Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Uhuru Kenyatta and Beth Mugo, they agreed to defend Kimunya but later on in Parliament none of them, save Kalonzo, stood up for him. Kimunya thinks he was being fought, even by his PNU colleagues in Narc-Kenya, because they perceive him as a succession candidate for 2012. "They are fighting me from all corners because my track record speaks for itself. I have better chances of ascending to a higher office than them," said Kimunya. "I have made it clear, even to the interim chair (Ms Karua), that Narc-Kenya should remain in PNU now and even in 2012," said Kimunya.

The departure of Kimunya now leaves Kibaki without one of his closest allies in PNU and a personal friend. From Central Kenya, Kimunya, Karua, Saitoti and Kenyatta have been viewed as possible successors to Kibaki. Kimunya’s chances may now dwindle, leaving the other three to position themselves for the regional supremacy.

Libya denies any role in Kimunya’s resignation

The Libyan Government has no role in disgraced Finance Minister Amos Kimunya’s resignation, its embassy announced.

The embassy insisted it bought the Grand Regency Hotel legally but acknowledged the Tripoli Government was unhappy with the adverse publicity generated by the controversial sale leading to Kimunya’s fall. Hisham Ali Sharif, the Charge de Affaires at the Libyan Nairobi embassy, who left for Libya as the hotel affair unfolded, returned to Nairobi on Monday. He arrived armed with a press statement from the Libyan Government, restating Tripoli’s purchase of the hotel amid reports the Libyan Government had protested to the Government over the damage caused to Libya’s investments by adverse publicity. "We do not know what happened," Hisham said, reacting to Kimunya’s capitulation and added that, "We (Libyans) are not happy with what is going on," referring to the raging debate. Meanwhile diplomatic sources in Nairobi indicated the Libyans piled pressure on President Kibaki for a fast resolution to the hotel controversy to salvage the reputation of its new investment drive across Africa.

Hisham’s terse statement on Monday declared that Libya’s hands in the matter are clean. On Monday the Libyan Government confirmed that last year’s memorandum of understanding between Libya and Kenya, paved the way for its purchase of the Grand Regency Hotel and vowed to defend its investments. President Kibaki and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi signed three protocols covering trade, air travel, hotel and tourism when the Kenyan leader visited Libya mid-last year. The protocols in the MoU accorded Libya favoured status to invest in local hospitality and energy sectors. And the Tripoli Government also claimed relevant departments and officials in the Kenyan Government were involved in the hotel’s purchase in May.

Adan Ahmed, the lawyer for the Libyan Arab African Investment, which concluded the purchase on May 20 and Sharif, claimed negotiations for the hotel’s sale began in March and ended on May 5, when Central Bank of Kenya Governor Njuguna Ndung’u and the bank’s lawyer George Abuga signed away the hotel to the Libyans at a price Adan claims was double what they had anticipated. Lawyer Muthoni Gachui for the Libyan Government, Ahmed Mohamed Maawal and Ahmed Shtewi Amaer, who are directors of the Libyan company, signed the sale agreement, according to Hisham and Adan. The head of the civil service in Libya, Alhaj Bashir Saleh, issued a statement in Tripoli on Monday showing the hotel was sold to Libya for $45 million after an agreement between Kenya and Libya.

Saleh who is also chairman of state-owned Libya Africa Investment Portfolio in which Libya Arab African Investment Company is a subsidiary, claimed the sale/purchase was "done with utmost professionalism" and declared the raging controversy of Grand Regency "will not distract or discourage us from deepening our relationship with Kenya and bringing more investments and development to the Kenyan people..." Saleh defended the firm’s record and said the state company has invested in hotels in West, East and Central Africa. Hisham declined to say categorically if President Kibaki and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi discussed the sale when they met in Libya mid last year, but told journalists that "this hotel was acquired following an understanding we signed last year. "It was a government to government agreement and the important offices in Kenya were involved and briefed."

Adan produced documents showing that LAAIC paid a 10 per cent down payment of $4.5 million.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

FIA boss caught up in sick Nazi romp saga

LONDON - Motorsport boss Max Mosley has denied a sado-masochism party he attended had a Nazi theme.

Mr Mosley, the 68-year-old son of the 1930s Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, launched a breach of privacy action against the News of the World after the newspaper claimed he took part in a "sick Nazi orgy with five hookers". The article alleged Mr Mosley, the president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, played the role of a concentration camp commandant and a cowering death camp inmate for sexual gratification.

Mr Mosley told the High Court he attended a "party" with five women in a Chelsea basement flat on March 28 but denied the women were prostitutes. He said he spoke German during a sado-masochistic session with the women because the "harsh-sounding" language suited his dominant role.

He told the court: "German also somehow sounds appropriate for a bossy dominant character. It is a harsh-sounding - rather than a romantic - language." He said that at no time did he or woman A, who arranged the "parties", ever use the word "Nazi" in their discussions, saying: "A Nazi theme would be abhorrent to me - and I suspect that none of the women would wish to take part should anyone suggest such a theme."

Mr Mosley agreed that the March 28 session involved women wearing black jackets, black boots and a black cap, but said: "Had I wanted a Nazi scene, I would have said I wanted one and A would have got some of the inexpensive Nazi stuff from the joke shop that provides uniforms and would not have gone to Marks and Spencer and got quite expensive jackets."

One of the women involved later gave evidence as a witness for Mr Mosley, saying: "I did not see anything Nazi." Mr Mosley said the women led "perfectly normal and respectable lives" and seemed entirely trustworthy. He has told Mr Justice Eady that Jean, his wife of 48 years, had not known of this aspect of his life.

Mr Mosley is seeking exemplary damages against the News of the World, saying: "In one weekend they have destroyed everything. It is difficult to describe how public this humiliation has been."

Breaking news: Kimunya finally quits

In a sharp departure from his chest-thumping weekend pronouncement that he would "rather die than resign", Amos Kimunya crumbled under sustained pressure and has finally resigned from the Treasury. And Kenyans are surprised that he is still alive.

Kimunya, the fourth Kibaki ally to resign due to corruption claims after Murungaru, Murungi and Mwiraria, called a Press conference and issued a brief statement, saying: “I have requested President Kibaki to be allowed to step aside to facilitate an inquiry into this matter.” He said his conscience was clean and that he managed the sale of the hotel well. “I’ve held several consultations with President Kibaki, my family, friends and colleagues on Grand Regency. My conscience is very clean on the role of the Treasury and specifically myself on this matter. I am open to an independent inquiry to prove my innocence,” he told reporters.

At the weekend, Kimunya had said he would only step down over the matter if three other top government officials, including Prime Minister Raila Odinga, did the same. Odinga, Lands Minister James Orengo and Attorney General Amos Wako have all denied any wrongdoing. Orengo has threatened to sue Kimunya, and Odinga was due to give a statement to parliament on the case later on Tuesday.

Anti-graft groups and some ministers have sharply criticised the no-bid sale of the Regency, saying it should have been public and that the hotel was worth nearly 6 billion shillings. In its no-confidence vote last week, Kenya's parliament accused Kimunya of ignoring public procurement laws in the sale and of contempt for parliament.

Meanwhile, police have beat up and arrested a group of activists who were meeting to plan protests against Kimunya’s handling of the Grand Regency sale. Police stormed a Nairobi restaurant and arrested a number of civil society activists who were planning demonstrations against Kimunya over the sale. The group, meeting under the aegis of Name and Shame Coalition Against Corruption, had gathered at the city’s Garden Square restaurant adjacent to the Kenyatta International Conference Centre when riot and regular police in full gear stormed the venue. It was upon seeing the uninvited guests in uniform that those in the meeting scampered for their safety. About ten members of the civil society were arrested including Anne Njogu and Okiya Omtata.

AU must force Mugabe out of power


Last week in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the African Union once again vividly demonstrated why it is not worthy of the respect of Africans.

Instead of locking Mr Robert Mugabe, the illegally self-declared president of Zimbabwe, out of its summit, the AU inexplicably embraced him. This disgraceful act, together with the AU’s call for Mr Mugabe to share power with Mr Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, gives a measure of legitimacy to a sadistic despot who should be sitting in prison.

Significantly, the AU’s weak-kneed response tells the world that Mr Mugabe is not the only sick man of Africa.

Visceral distaste
I have now developed a visceral distaste for all things Mugabe. Take his valiant struggle against barbaric British colonialism, for instance. What good is that history if all he has done with it is to destroy the country he so heroically fought for? The other totem that he pulls out of his bag of tricks is sovereignty. While no African can gainsay the importance of this universal principle, what good is it if all Mr Mugabe does is use it as a shield to oppress his people?

Take the hypocrisy of the West over the Zimbabwe crisis, for example. What good is recognising that hypocrisy when all Mr Mugabe does with it is insist that former colonial and racist powers have no right to oppose his brutalities? Mr Mugabe is adept at using all kinds of canards to escape responsibility for the ruin of Zimbabwe. Even if I agreed with him on his critiques of the West – and I do – I could never in a million years condone his despotic rule.

The West can go hang
It seems that the only thing that matters to Mr Mugabe is Mr Mugabe himself. As far as he is concerned, the West can go to hell, or “hang” as his lackey angrily told reporters at Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday. But the truth of the matter is that Mr Mugabe actually means to tell Zimbabweans to go “hang.” After all, he has no power over the West. His power – the crude instrument against an impoverished population – can only be wielded against his own people, not the West. I am deeply saddened that Mr Mugabe’s stellar history has turned into such a racist caricature of the stereotypical African tin despot.

Ruins of Zimbabwe
I remember that day in 1980 when he led Zimbabwe to freedom. For those who do not remember, Bob Marley, the iconic reggae star, performed at the independence celebrations to signify the renaissance of a country and continent from the chains of bondage. All that hope is now gone, replaced by – ironically – the ruins of Zimbabwe. What is in Mr Mugabe that makes him so sick? Is there something in his history or childhood that can explain his deep psychosis?

I am not a psychologist, but I will advance a hypothesis. In his person, Mr Mugabe embodies two of the three most damaging traumas that Africans have been put through in the modern era.

The first is slavery which, to my knowledge, did not directly affect Mr Mugabe. The second is colonialism, which defined the man and shaped his political identity and understanding of power. The third, and final, one is Cold War post-colonialism which stunted Africa’s political growth. Of the latter two, I believe that it is colonialism that was most responsible for Mr Mugabe’s psychological damage. His dialectical relationship with whites has forged his identity.

White domination
Mr Mugabe’s life – like that of many Africans his age – was marked by white domination from his childhood through adulthood. It was after all only a mere 28 years ago that he seemingly wrested Zimbabwe from whites. But, in fact, white domination of Zimbabwe continued in agriculture and other sectors of the economy until he ran everything into the ground. Even today, when many white Zimbabweans have fled the country, Mr Mugabe still sees himself as fighting against white oppressors.

To him, white oppressors are everywhere – if not in Zimbabwe, then in the West. He is obsessed with them. Is he merely hallucinating? Or is there some truth in his phobia?

Global power
Only a fool would not admit that the West or the global North – which is dominated by whites – controls global power and wealth. In that sense, Mr Mugabe is right to be resentful that the West exercises control over Africa. But that fact should be the reason why he must free and empower Zimbabweans, not oppress, kill, and pillage them. How else would Africa free itself politically and economically from the West if Mr Mugabe and his ilk continue to destroy their countries?

Historical traumas
The only fruitful answer to the historical traumas that Mr Mugabe and other Africans have suffered is to create open and free societies where the vast potential of Africa can be realised. Killing Africans to protest at Western domination makes no sense. Africa must choke off the Mugabe regime – through diplomatic isolation and cutting off all economic, political, and military links. Starve the regime to death. I do not believe that a military intervention disguised as peacekeepers – as Prime Minister Raila Odinga has suggested – is the answer. Military action is a last resort against a sovereign state in exceptional circumstances like genocide or a horrible civil war.

This is not the case in Zimbabwe. I am also not too crazy about a so-called Kenya-style solution. Instead, what is needed is a transitional government to organise free and fair elections in a year. I am confident that Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC would sweep the polls in a free vote.

Out of power
Mr Mugabe must be sent into retirement, and it is the AU that must do it, not the European Union or the United States. The latter can support African initiatives to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis, but they must not lead Africa in this effort.

That is why Africans and the AU must step up and squeeze the sick man of Africa out of power. Otherwise, Mr Mugabe’s continuation in power makes the entire continent sick.

A message from the Obama camp

Open Convention
From Barack Obama

I wanted you to be the first to hear the news.

At the Democratic National Convention next month, we're going to kick off the general election with an event that opens up the political process the same way we've opened it up throughout this campaign.

Barack has made it clear that this is your convention, not his.

On Thursday, August 28th, he's scheduled to formally accept the Democratic nomination in a speech at the convention hall in front of the assembled delegates.

Instead, Barack will leave the convention hall and join more than 75,000 people for a huge, free, open-air event where he will deliver his acceptance speech to the American people.

It's going to be an amazing event, and Barack would like you to join him. Free tickets will become available as the date approaches, but we've reserved a special place for a few of the people who brought us this far and who continue to drive this campaign.

If you make a donation of $5 or more between now and midnight on July 31st, you could be one of 10 supporters chosen to fly to Denver and spend two days and nights at the convention, meet Barack backstage, and watch his acceptance speech in person. Each of the ten supporters who are selected will be able to bring one guest to join them.

Make a donation now and you could have a front row seat to history.

We'll follow up with more details on this and other convention activities as we get closer, but please take a moment and pass this note to someone you know who might like to be there.

It will be an event you'll never forget.

Thank you,


David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Pressure mounts on Kimunya to quit

A parliamentary committee will lobby MPs to frustrate a constitutional requirement on the Budget unless the embattled Finance minister, Mr Amos Kimunya, steps aside or is sacked by President Kibaki.

The chairman of the parliamentary committee on fiscal analysis and appropriation, Mr Martin Otieno Ogindo, said Mr Kimunya should read the signs on the wall and avoid being humiliated again by members, after last week’s motion of censure and of no-confidence in him was passed overwhelmingly. Parliament is set to start scrutinising the Budget by the ministry in what is referred to as committee of supplies, which is the last phase of the budget-making process. If they don’t approve the Budget, the Government cannot effect the new tax measures announced in the 2008/2009 budget last month.

On Monday, Mr Ogindo, who is the Rangwe MP, said while addressing the press at Parliament Buildings: “It is now more urgent than ever for Mr Kimunya to step aside because Parliament will not transact any business on the Budget, in particular the committee of supplies, until he steps aside or is sacked.” The MP said his 10-member committee had met last week and resolved to ask Mr Kimunya to respect the motion of censure and of no-confidence and act accordingly. Elsewhere, the Public Accounts Committee chairman, Dr Bonny Khalwale, said parliamentarians will continue to press for the removal of the Finance minister even if the President does not sack him. He said the President would set a dangerous precedent if he failed to act against Mr Kimunya after Parliament passed a no-confidence motion against him. Dr Khalwale said the President should demonstrate his respect for separation of powers and sack Mr Kimunya in line with MPs’ rejection of the minister.

Meanwhile, religious leaders and civil society groups from Mumias continued to call for Mr Kimunya’s resignation. The Anglican Church of Kenya Mumias diocese bishop Beneah Salala and Support Activities in Poverty Eradication and Health director Justine Mutobera called on the two principals President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga to act.

In Nairobi, Name and Shame Corruption Networks lobby group is threatening to mobilise Kenyans to take to the streets countrywide, beginning Tuesday in what they are calling “duty to directly exercise their sovereign authority and evict Mr Amos Kimunya from office.” Group coordinator Geoffrey Birundu said they will not relent until Mr Kimunya is sacked or steps down. “The President continues to bury his head in the sand in spite of the fact that within the said seven days, the following grave developments that don’t bode well for the future of the country have taken place,” the statement read in part.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The spy chief and the Grand Regency saga

As the Grand Regency saga rages, one name that keeps popping up is that of the director of NSIS, Maj-Gen. Michael Gichangi. The question we are asking is: what the hell has he got to do with Central Bank? The problem is that NSIS is shrouded in unnecessary secrecy and it's vital roles are virtually unknown. And Gichangi is deeply involved in the "sale" of the hotel...

The report of the Cabinet sub-committee on the Grand Regency saga has a curious entry on the list of its findings. It reads: “...the Director-General of the National Security Intelligence Service was the first person to introduce to the Central Bank the possibility of a settlement and sale of the Grand Regency Hotel and that the Director-General indicated to the Governor of the Central Bank that a Mr Bernard Kalove, Advocate, together with Wetang’ula, Adan, Makokha & Company Advocates representing Kamlesh Pattni would contact him to discuss the matter.”

The first question that jumps to mind is what Maj-Gen Michael Gichangi, the NSIS boss, would be doing engaging in CBK activities. It is assumed the NSIS concentrates in the dark arts of spying and security surveillance. Even more curious is that the NSIS director would be playing match-maker between CBK and Mr Kalove, Mr Pattni’s long-time lawyer.

Outside his weekly media briefings, Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua rarely volunteers story leads. So it was a bit of a surprise when on Friday afternoon he called newsrooms somewhat urgently with regard to the reference to Maj-Gen Gichangi in the cabinet sub-commitee report. Out of all the actors mentioned in the Grand Regency saga, Dr Mutua’s interest seemed to be limited specifically to Maj-Gen Gichangi.

In itself, it was a hint that something must have infuriated his masters; maybe the dragging in of the hallowed Intelligence boss into the whole Grand Regency mess? According to Dr Mutua, the NSIS’s mandate extends not only to security and political issues, but to social and economic ones as well. “The Director-General talks to 10 or 15 Permanent Secretaries and ministers and heads of department to advise them on issues affecting their departments. He also issues five to 10 top-secret letters to different heads of department and to some ministers concerning issues that have arisen in their ministries,” he offered. Reportedly the NSIS follows up on foreign entities wishing to do business in Kenya and does its own due diligence checks. (“We don’t want the country getting entangled in business with the likes of Osama bin Laden,” added Dr Mutua). Presumably Maj-Gen Gichangi’s contact with CBK was routine. For his sake, let's hope it is.

The cowboy who stopped a .45 slug with his head

By Mutuma Mathiu

The scene is from one of my favourite movies, a Western whose name I have forgotten. A gunslinger called Tuco is lounging in a tin bathtub in a room above a saloon of ill repute. The soapy water reaches his neck, around which is a gun belt. He scoops bath water into his mouth and uses a finger to clean his teeth. A cowboy bursts in, gun in hand.

His face is a comical study in suppressed fury and hatred. He has come to waste the gunslinger, he says, “coz you killed my ma and my pa.’’ He goes on and on, gloating about how he has been following the man, who has no idea he has been marked for death, “You know why? Coz I am careful man." The guy in the bath tub nods in solemn agreement. “Careful, careful; it’s OK, amigo...," upon which he whips the pistol out of the holster and fires at the cowboy, who expires with shocked surprise and ketchup spreading throughout his shirt front. “If you want to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk,” the gunslinger says in disgust. He scoops more bathwater into his mouth and peacefully gets back to the business of cleaning his teeth.

For this week I had planned a flippant one about how I would have gone about stealing the Grand Regency, if I had had a chance. That is until the spectacle in the House earlier in the week, with the Grand Coalition looking like an old lion that had been rained on and the self-styled grand opposition walking all over it.

The spectacle of Finance minister Amos Kimunya being gored by Dr Bonny Khalwale, Mr Jakoyo Midiwo, Mr Ababu Namwamba, Gen Nkaissery and others and his stricken face on which there was such pain reminded me of that cowboy in the doorway: a man who thought he had carefully and meticulously figured everything out but suddenly found himself, to his horror, with a .45 slug in his brain. It would have been funny had it not been so tragic. He is a human being, after all.

But the soldiers of the Grand Coalition, the Cabinet, were glued to their seats in fear of their marauding opponents. Ms Martha Karua, a veteran of many skirmishes, was curiously seated on the back benches, a safe distance from the war front. Prof George Saitoti, a man of some courage as seen from his defiant address at Kasarani during the Kanu-NDP merger, was strangely quiet. They all looked like pupils who had not read up on a quiz and were anxious not to catch the teacher’s eye. The Prime Minister was in points unknown, and the Leader of Government Business was fighting a solitary, doomed battle. When he rose to sue for a delay, he could not raise support for his case. Yet he is the leader of all MPs, bar a few true opposition members. In this one-sided battle with a limp, disjointed government against a spirited, well-organised and generally young opposition, public outrage ruled the day.

I have been devouring Scott McClellan’s What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception which someone kindly gave me. Mr McClellan was the White House spokesman and Mr Bush’s press secretary. The book examines the fate of truth in a city in a permanent campaign mode. Mr McClellan concludes that in Washington, government is an extension of politics rather than politics being an extension of government.

In our own situation, the country has been on a campaign footing since 2004. And I will be the first to admit that our journalism is not what it used to be. Journalism is the search for truth, not for agreement, collusion or acquiescence. My contract with you, my reader, is not to agree with you. It is to find out the truth on your behalf and to tell it to you.

But these days we are too afraid of either being branded PNU, ODM or corrupt to go after the truth. It is much easier not to draw attention to ourselves by expressing views that are too radically different from the view of the majority. In this country we have politicians who have made a career out of lying to the media and to the country. I don’t think we have taken serious steps to challenge them and look for the facts. It is a fact that Mr Kimunya and the Central Bank of Kenya have handled the sale of the Grand Regency hotel disastrously in failing to make a complete, honest disclosure of the facts, particularly to Parliament.

My own evaluation of the accusations are based on three facts picked up from his accusers: That he sold a public asset below its value, that he failed to follow the proper transparent and legal procedure in its sale and that the whole thing was just fishy, given our history and Mr Pattni’s fraudulent ways. There is also the standard that was applied to ministers during the Anglo Leasing investigation by Parliament: the issue of ministerial responsibility. According to this principle, if a gnat breaks wind in a ministry, it is the minister’s fault. And it is a good accountability principle.

Was the Grand Regency a public asset? Did we owe that ugly monument to grand corruption?

I should hope not. It belonged to Mr Pattni but was held by the Central Bank as security for the Sh2.5 billion which he fraudulently obtained from the Central Bank through cheque-kiting, if I recall well. If a bank has your title deed for a debt, it does not own your property, I figure.

Did Mr Kimunya and the Central Bank fail to follow the proper procedures? I don’t know.

According to the Central Bank and the Commissioner of Public Procurement, the fact that the hotel was not a public asset but charged property means that CBK was free to sell it like any other bank. The Attorney-General’s probe committee concluded that the monument was ours and ought to have been sold according to the same rules as Safaricom. What about the alleged involvement of the security services and the whole question of the genesis of the deal?

Other than the fact that the government agreed to sell the hotel during a presidential visit to Libya last year, I haven’t the faintest clue.

So where is the truth? I am sitting in my office with that dead cowboy’s look on my face. Somebody please fire me.