THE DANGERS OF A FIXATED MIND

As we close the year 2018, I have been reflecting on the real sense of passage of time. Although it is trite  knowledge that a minute is 60 seconds, a day 24 hours, a month either 28, 29, 30 0r 31 days as the case may be, a year 12 months and so forth, I have found myself wondering whether in real sense this means anything….my traditional mindset is one of day and night following each other in successive intervals thus passage of time. Days  are probably all the same…day and night following each other…anyway I digress.

In the last 8 weeks or so, I was privileged to be at Thika Law courts for my clinicals. Well, for my friends that clinic means what I have always known from my village mentality: a place where expectant mothers go for check up and once the baby is born take it there for vaccinations, allow me to explain these clinicals. It is a requirement for all students pursuing a Bachelor of Laws at the universities to spend some time at the law courts to acquaint themselves with how courts work. So this is what I was doing for 8 weeks.

As is the norm, people suspected of felonies or misdemeanors are arrested and charged before a court of law to determine if they are guilty of the offences charged for or not. The arresting officer drafts a charge sheet after conducting investigations. The charge sheet and the police file is then availed to the prosecution counsel to establish if it is proper before authorizing for the prosecution. The accused person is then produced in court within reasonable time to take plea. Plea taking is where the charges are read to you and your answer is either; it is true, not true or silence. The judicial officer then gives you a mention date of your case within 14 days and an option of cash bail or bond for you to argue your case while a free man or woman…. I do not wish to bore you with court procedures.

One day our court was slotted to go to Industrial area remand prison (Inda) where suspects either denied bill/bond or unable to raise such bill or bond are kept under lock and key as they await their day in court. Since the law is that one must appear before a judicial officer at least once every 14 days for a mention of their case then this day we had to go to ‘Inda’ for the mention. In simple terms a mention is where the accused person appears before a magistrate/judicial officer to get a date for their next mention or hearing…it also gives them a chance to raise any matters that they may wish the court to know or help them. Most of the accused persons in remand will have a forest of issues that they wish the court to intervene on.

At ‘Inda’ this material day, we accompanied the magistrate there to observe the process. I had only seen the gates but never been there before for any reason whatsoever. So at the gates we find these armed prison guards who ushered us into the compound. Inside the compound there are other high security buildings with prison wardens all over. We are then ushered into the first gate that is always locked from the inside after our orderly knocks the gate in their coded manner…we are now into the inside of another outside. Gate one is locked then gate two is knocked in a coded way and we are ushered into another passage leading to an open ground where inmates are playing various games including volleyball and football…we walk past them into a small room that serves as the court for the day. Once there the magistrate takes her position and we too did the same. The calling of the accused persons then starts…

We had quite a number of files to go through, may be 70 or thereabout, but one young man in his late teenage years or early twenties really stuck in my mind to date. When his time came he entered the room with his hand raised to show he had something to tell the court. The court assistant signaled him to go ahead and say what he had to say. Apparently he wanted his bond reduced to less then Kshs. 500K so that he could continue with the case while outside prison. He really begged the magistrate to have mercy on him and reduce his bond terms. The magistrate decline owing to the offence he was accused of: robbery with violence! However, the learned magistrate looked at the file and asked him why he had been in custody for 4 months for stealing a Kshs. 10,000 phone…could his people not look for the complainant and speak to him and pay him the amount to buy another phone upon which the complainant would withdraw the case?

Shockingly the young man failed to digest the statement from the magistrate and stood there with his cry for a reduced bond! “Please, I beg you to have mercy on me and reduce the bond so that I can do the case from outside…please help me “he continued. The magistrate responded, “I am actually helping you the best way possible but your idea of being helped is so narrow to the extent of failing to seize the golden opportunity I am offering you”. As I sat there watching, I was shocked at how dangerous a fixated mind can be. I am not sure if it is possible that being in custody could have affected his broad thinking but here was young man facing a capital offense for robbing the complainant of a mobile phone worth 10K being given a chance to have the case withdrawn upon talking to the complainant and paying for the phone but all he was imploring the magistrate to do is reduce his bond terms to less than 500K so as to continue with the case out of custody!

Akin to what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her now too famous TED talk on the dangers of a single story, I realized the dangers of a fixated mind are even more dangerous!

IMMIGRATION IS A RESOURCE WE CAN TAP TO GROW OUR ECONOMY

Since independence, Kenya has relied on a few sources of income to run the economy. Traditionally these have been agriculture, tourism and most recently we are on the path of becoming an oil producing country. Incomes from whatever resources we have, are not sufficient to sustain our budget and therefore we have borrowed heavily to fill the gaps. Kenyans are highly taxed as the government tries to raise money to run the country. As we speak the proposed VAT on petroleum products will hit every Kenyan in a huge way starting September 1st 2018 if no miracle happens. IMF has already warned Kenya of the ballooning debts that are becoming unsustainable by the day.

I know President Uhuru and CS Rotich are scratching their heads as to where the money to finance the ambitious budget we have for the year 2017/2019 will come from and I would like to give them some 10 cents worth of at least one place they can think of to get some extra cash to help with at least one item in the big 4 Agenda. Yes, this may sound funny but it is actually very easy money if we dare think outside the box. Immigration products! Yes…Immigration. Let us get creative with our Immigration laws and make some good money out of it.

Every time we talk about Immigration, people think of passports and those tired officers in our border control stamping passports…and most recently CS Matiang’I warning that all illegal foreign nationals in Kenya must go so as to protect jobs for Kenyans. Let’s throw that box away for now and let me show you why we are sitting on natural resource bequeathed to us as sovereign state by international law and our constitution.

Many countries in the world today have citizenship and residency by investments where good wealthy people invest money in those countries and in return are given residence or citizenship. Some of the countries with these options include; United Kingdom, Malta, Cyprus, Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis and closer home South Africa. The options and costs differ from country to country but the costs range from USD 100,000 to Millions. In the UK for instance one is required to invest at least 2 Million Pounds or about 260 Million equivalent in Kenya Shillings! I am talking of big money for sure.

Currently in Kenya, one can become a citizen by residing here on a lawful residence for 7 years upon payment of Kshs. 200,000. While this is fine, I think if we get creative with the category of residency or citizenship and create one exclusively for the Ultra High Net worth individuals that are keen on having residence in Kenya. I can assure you that in Africa, Kenya is one place many wealthy people would love to reside…either at the beautiful coastal beach fronts, Kenyan high lands or the leafy suburbs of Nairobi or other cities and towns in the country. I have been approached by such individuals keen on exploring Kenyan citizenship or residence by investment but unfortunately our Immigration laws do not have those kind of options. If for example Bill gates or Aliko Dangote wants to have a home and residence in Kenya today, their options would be either class K (ordinary residence) or Class G (investor permit) both of which are limiting and issued only for 2-3 years and renewable every 2-3 years. This is not the case with countries with residence or citizenship by investment. In those countries, once you meet the investment threshold and obviously get cleared on other considerations such as security you are either given permanent residence or citizenship allowing you to enjoy all the benefits attendant to it.

As an Immigration Consultant I believe if we get creative with our Immigration we can raise substantial foreign investment and cash injections into our economy from Ultra High Net Worth individuals of good global standing that are keen having Kenyan residence or citizenship. I am imagining Bill Gates or Aliko Dangote having a Beach front home in Mombasa that they frequent and what that means in terms of jobs created and money spent here. Additionally, the rich people are always scouting for places to invest thus they could be here on holiday and spot an opportunity and decide to inject more investments into the country. In fact the mere fact that such people own homes in a place make prices of properties in such places increase exponentially because it is likely that other wealthy personalities will consider investing there too.

I see Immigration as a natural resource akin to oil, gold or even the airwaves that we sell licenses to the telecoms to raise money…we can tap into this on our own terms and raise cash. We could for instance say if you inject Kshs. 100 Million to 1 Billion into specific sectors of the Kenyan economy as we decide then you get Kenyan Permanent Residence and if you inject more say 10 Billion we give you citizenship if you pass other security and legal requirements.

Unfortunately, this may take awhile or not happen at all because we see immigration role as the one of just policing who is coming to Kenya and what they are coming to do. If I were to have my 5 minutes of fame with H.E The President that is what I would propose to him. We shall not be re-inventing the wheel because there are many countries with this program and there are many wealthy Kenyans that have gotten citizenship in those countries by investing there.

Kenya is a beautiful country with quite a developed infrastructure, educated population, amazing weather, culture, fantastic tourist attraction sites and very centrally located in Africa for ease of travel across the continent and we need to tap into that and get the monies coming in… Yes we can do it.

George M. Mucee ( BA, MA, LLB-Ongoing)

Immigration and Communication Consultant.