My Appearance on KTN News on 29th November 2017 alongside Ken Ruoth of HRW and Yvonne Ndege of UNHCR Kenya discussing the enslavement of African migrants in Libya.
On Tuesday the 28th November 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for his second and final term after a prolonged high octane election period. He gave a lengthy colorful speech full of hope and aspirations for the future. Two items caught my attention as an Immigration consultant because they are core to something I believe in.
Firstly the president directed that in the spirit of pan Africanism, ALL Africans should be given visas on arrival or the so called category 2 (a) in the Kenya Immigration Visa policy. He added that this will not be based on reciprocity as is the practice in Immigration practice. Important to note is that will benefit only a few countries: Somalia and Eritrea because the rest of the African countries are already getting their visas online or on arrival but still this is laudable.
Secondly and most fundamentally, the president directed that East African Citizens be treated as Kenyans in as far as Immigration processes are concerned. What does this mean? Ordinarily, for citizens of east Africa to travel to Kenya, they need a passport, temporary passport or National ID for Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. They then must be cleared at the port of entry where they are given the duration they need to stay in country. If they need to work or do business in Kenya, such persons require an Entry Permit subject to meeting the set requirements. What the President’s directive means is that these people will only need to show their IDs at the point of entry and they are in to do business, get employed or get married without any additional process…just like citizens.
So then, is this a good or a bad thing for Kenya?
Well, from the face of, it looks well intended and in line with the aspirations of both the African Union and East African Community of a borderless Continent. I am sure this will be very good news to those that will benefit but not sure that Kenyans will feel the same. This morning as I was having my shoes polished, I overheard a discussion by ordinary Kenyans concerned about that move by the president on two things: one is security concern and two is influx of foreigners that will take over Kenyan jobs. I share similar sentiments in addition to the fact that all this puts no obligation on other countries whose citizens will benefit to accord similar courtesies to Kenyans because the president made it clear that this is NOT on reciprocity basis.
It is therefore my considered view that, once this is discussed by concerned agencies like Immigration Department, National Intelligence Services ( NIS), Foreign Affairs Ministry among others, there could be moderated implementation of the presidential directive. It is not lost on Kenyans that just a few weeks ago Kenyan herders had their cattle seized and auctioned in the neighboring Tanzania. Chicks from Kenya were burned alive at the Namanga border.
If the Kenyan public is not involved in the implementation of this directive either directly or through their elected representatives in Parliament, the well-intended gesture could see acrimony between Kenyans and the foreigners akin to xenophobia as we see in South Africa. I hope those that advise the president should get it right if this has to be well taken by ordinary Kenyans raising concerns.
KENYA: THE DISCOURSE ON SELF DETERMINATION IS HEALTHY…BUT!
As we await eagerly with bated breath for the supreme court of Kenya to determine the presidential petition number 1 of 2017 in accordance with the constitution and the law, a debate has surfaced online in which some Kenyans are pushing for an initiative on self-determination. The renown Kenyan economist and scholar Dr. David Ndii is under fire from those that feel irked by his sentiments on national TV about the Kenyan state and it’s future. The jury is still out there as to whether his sentiments were bordering on treason or not but I wish to briefly ventilate on this discourse.
Important to note is that the constitution of Kenya 2010 has given immense rights and freedoms under chapter four, the Bill of Rights. In addition, all sovereign power belongs to the people who may exercise it directly or through elected representatives…the point is that the people are the real deal here…by people it means all Kenyans in totality not a sections of Kenyans. So it is my considered view that Kenyans are at liberty to hold discussions about their state and lives…let the people ventilate.
Self-determination is mainly about people’s freedom of choice without external influence about their territorial unit of their own future political status and basically how they want to be governed and or govern themselves. As to whether this is same as secession, it is quite debatable. That be as it may, is this a sure way of ensuring that everyone is happy about the leaderships and political environment? Again this is very debatable but my view is that it is not. I am a believer that bad leadership is bad everywhere and it matters not whether it is in your own house or village. We just need to fix our politics and greed. I believe the fact that all the four presidents have come from mainly two tribes in and of itself is not the source of the disenfranchisement that we see today. The problem has been nepotism, corruption, looting, greed…etc. we must fix that if we must have a country.
I have seen the activist Okiya Omtata propose some kind of devolved presidency to go the electoral college way where each county is allocated some votes that would then determine who wins the presidency. I must say that I find this very healthy and worth looking at. The way things stand today, we have a tribal democracy where the gorilla ( big) tribes coalesce together into respective camps and then look for the smaller tribes to fill in the gaps… it is a game of numbers so they say. Unless you have the numbers behind you, then you will only get to the periphery of real power and make do with crumbs of left overs…you are at the mercy of those in power.
I believe a lot of the solutions to the challenges facing Kenya today can be addressed through the current constitution if politicians are willing to genuinely follow the law. For instance, on state appointments…lets even start with the Executive: If you look at the positions available, we can comfortably have all the tribes of Kenya represented: If you gave 1 slot each to all tribes, about 30 tribes would be in the cabinet, then the remaining will be represented in the Principal Secretaries. At this point we would have all the tribes in the executive even before touching other high level jobs in parliament, Judiciary and state agencies. Unfortunately, this has not happened: instead we have departments and institutions headed by members of one or two communities that taunt and lord it over the rest of the population in the name of our time, our man or woman…etc! This my friends is what ails Kenya.
I come from a small tribe called Tharaka from among the larger Ameru people. Since independence, we have only heard and read about big people in government: a member of parliament was the senior most person I grew up knowing from my community: The late Hon. Njeru Gituriandu and the current Tharaka Nithi deputy governor the Hon. Francis Nyamu Kagwima were the only sons of Tharaka to get appointments as Assistant ministers in both Kenyatta and Moi’s government. Under Kibaki’s government we only got Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia as the chairman of NCIC and prof. Kithure Kindiki as Secretary in the Ministry of Justice. Under the current leadership we have the Senate majority Leader and one or two members of low key boards of state parastatals but overall nothing to sing about. If you contrast that with some parts of Kenya where in just one village you could find over 10 presidential appointees then you will really start to fathom how it feels to be in a country you call your own yet all you do is escort others to ascend to power. I must accept that I do not have the full record of sons and daughters of Tharaka in Public service in the National Government but I dare say it is hard to get 5-10 people in job group P and above.
I have used the story of my people to show you how fallacious this notion of different Countries for different tribes is. I guess for many others not from the mount Kenya region, all of us from mount Kenya are doing very well and occupying big positions in the National government…well how wrong can you be? Only a handful of people are enjoying the gravy as the rest of us toil and labour to milk stones. I recently drove from my village in Mukothima ward through Tharaka Constituency and the situation is sad… in Mbeere regions of Embu county (Ishiara)…citizens too are just surviving as crops are snuffed out by the scorching sun.
I could write this story until the cows come home but I want to shorten it and say this: We have big problems of negative ethnicity, corruption, bad government, greed…etc and this has been perpetuated in successive governments from independence. Even where some members of our communities are given positions in government, it has always been for personal aggrandizement and feel good as the rest of us go to beg and worship them rather than for communal benefits and therefore to have an illusion that because so and so from this community is in government then that community is eating with a big spoon is disingenuous to the core. There are very many people from the mount Kenya communities like I have just demonstrated with the Tharaka Community, that are suffering more than people from Nyanza or Western regions of this country. Women in many places in my community still walk over five kilometers to fetch water…. Over 50 years since independence we do not have electricity in our homes ( There are places that guys have had electricity and running water all this while)…..
In conclusion, I must say that we must look at the myriad of issues on the face, call them by name and fix them however painful it shall be. All Kenyan tribes are entitled to public jobs and resources regardless of who is the president because those are public resources not private enterprises. Granted, the president must look for likeminded people to work with in order to fulfill his promises to the nation but he can find these people, at least one or two from every single tribe in this nation! To pretend that there is time for some people to eat as others wait for their turn at the table is both atrocious and unconstitutional. Unless and until we do that, we shall continue having agitations that range from self determination to anything.
I am sorry if I spoke about anything that you don’t like but unfortunately I am not your employee or a griot to keep you entertained…go ahead and get yourself a life and live it…this is my view!