Political Contestations in Africa

Electoral processes in most African countries have been characterized by fierce political contestations and electoral malpractices sometimes ending up in blood-letting violence. It’s worth noting that ethnic groupings is a very key phenomena in the African setting that African politicians always cash on to gain mileage. It’s this reason that makes it almost impossible to separate between Politics and Ethnicity in most African countries. These ethnic communities each have varied and competing interests-political, social and economic- which according to popular opinion can only be achieved by having one of their own at the highest rank in the country’s political leadership so that those communities who will not have one of their own in power and in control of the tools of power will stand a chance to loose. The zero-sum, game where the winner takes all comes into play hence ethnic communities literally fight to marshal sufficient numbers to have their own in power hence resulting in ethnic conflict and violence in most instances.

This notwithstanding, it’s important to laud ongoing efforts aimed at effecting a paradigm shift. Some African states have started putting efforts to ensure political processes are free and fair and that such processes are not a cause of violence. In Kenya for instance following the 2007/08 post poll violence and the subsequent findings on the root causes of the violence and recommendations thereafter, there have been quite a lot of structural, legal and institutional adjustments including a new constitution, the set-up of independent bodies to oversee elections as well us setting out guidelines to dealing with electoral mal practises or disputes. This largely contributed to a relatively peaceful poll in 2013 such that even though there were disputes, the aggrieved parties activated the non-violence way of having their grievances amicably addressed by constitutionally recognized mechanisms including the judicial system.

2015 is here and is set to define how electoral processes are going to be conducted moving forward. Several African countries are expected to go into elections this year with Africa’s largest country, Nigeria, preparing for presidential vote on the 28th March after it was postponed in February due  the Boko Haram Islamist threat, a militant group that has carried out sectarian killings in the North and threatening to disrupt the election. It has already been reported that most northerners who are non-Muslims have begun exiting the area to safer places for fear of attacks during the elections. The two main contenders the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan who is Christian from the south and his rival Muhammadu Buhari a Muslim from the North have signed a pact promising to respect the outcome of the election . The two have asked their supporters to maintain peace and order and refrain from any kind of violence which is a really good sign of their commitment to a peaceful process. Political pundits have however expressed fear that if Goodluck Jonathan wins the presidency then the Islamist group Boko Haram which wants to establish the use of sharia laws might be charged to attack and seek to take control of others states besides those in the North. Nonetheless, a peaceful and successful election will mean that Nigeria will have an opportunity to concentrate more on maintaining her position as Africa’s strongest and largest economy and deal with issues of concern such as inequality bedevilling the oil rich country.

Other African countries on the election line-up include Burundi, Sudan, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast and Tanzania.

The Highs and Lows of Devolution

The promulgation of the constitution in 2010 is undeniably one of the most celebrated event by a majority of Kenyans that the books of history have recorded. It was a landmark event that managed to unify Kenyans amidst increasingly ethnic divisions in the 21st Century. The constitution promised to deliver Kenyans from the shackles of marginalization through a devolved system of governance hence this was largely the motivation behind the massive support for the constitution and its subsequent promulgation. A system that accords every citizen an opportunity to exercise their power through voting leaders of their choice at the grassroots, a system that facilitates transfer of power and resources to the counties where the local people can be able to determine how such resources are used to develop their localities.

Two years down the lane since devolution was actualized, Kenyans have a lot of experiences to share regarding what has since happened viz-a-viz what they had hoped for. One of the milestones made so far is the passage of the prerequisite Acts that facilitate operationalization or actualization of the structures including the county government Act among others. The various structures are already up and running including the county public service boards, the county assemblies among others. County Integrated Development plans have already been developed and approved in most of the counties. Most of the devolved functions have already been transferred to the counties as stipulated in the Transition to Devolved Government Act. In this regard, most services have been brought closer to the citizens. A considerable amount of progress has also been realized in terms of development projects in the counties. It’s worth mentioning that devolution has created massive employment opportunities for Kenyans through the county public service boards, in fact to some extent the urban centres have experienced decongestion because most of the professionals who were initially working there have since landed jobs and moved to the counties.

A host of challenges however have continued to rock devolution hence impeding the full realization of the actual and tangible benefits that a common Kenyan expected out of devolution. Whilst the constitution requires meaningful public participation in all county processes, most Kenyans are a disillusioned lot because county governments have implemented policies, projects or initiatives without sufficient input from the public. The authorities have been blamed for failure to provide timely information regarding forums on public participation.

Some counties are currently in some sort of a standoff because of emerging wrangles pitting various sections within the structure. Cases of County Assemblies impeaching Governors and Speakers for a myriad of allegations have been very prominent over this period. Embu, Kisumu counties are just examples of such cases. Deputy Governors on the other have at some point ganged up against their bosses. Members of County Executive Committees have not been spared either. The Senate and the National Assembly have differed sharply as well on a number of issues regarding devolution. Narok County is for instance currently in a stalemate as the Members of Parliament and the Governor face off in an ordeal that has really threatened security and stability of the county.

A lot of the multi ethnic counties are facing the threat to ethnic/clan/tribal conflicts. Some counties have contravened the constitutional provision requiring that not more than 1/3 of county employees should be of one tribe. Nepotism, clanism and tribalism have featured prominently in the allocation of employment opportunities in the counties. On the other hand there are struggles among ethnic communities over who should control the resources available in the counties hence threatening peaceful coexistence among such communities.

All this leaves the once expectant Kenyan, a disappointed lot. However, the teething problems are just an opportunity for us to derive critical lessons that should help us strategize on how to get over to Canaan.

This Evil Called FGM

This is one of the crude cutting tools used to perform FGM

One of the crude tools traditional circumcisers use to perform their art on the innocent young lasses

Female Genital Mutilation is what I would personally describe as a gruesome physical and emotional torture that sends chills down spines of many eligible-for-circumcision girls especially during long school holidays (It’s usually rampant during school holidays).FGM is a form of Gender based violence that’s deeply rooted in some cultures for years on end. They inflict pain on women some of them very young girls, even toddlers, in the name of initiating the girls to adulthood. They inflict permanent scars on the girls’ genitalia in the name of making them marriageable. The girls writhe in pain in the hands of the ruthless circumcisers who at times use very crude tools to perform their barbaric, useless culture in the name of fulfilling a religious obligation. The girls bleed profusely in some instances because they are being cut in the name of taming them from promiscuity and infidelity in marriage. Hundreds of them drop out of school merely because their folks value a tradition that has not proved to have any benefit. Reality strikes when the time to usher into the world a 9 month old baby shows up at the doorstep, the good ladies who’ve gone through the cut experience a lot of complications yet young men give in to the cultural demand to marry only circumcised women. In fact it’s been proven that circumcised women hardly enjoy their sexual life compared to how an uncircumcised woman would.

Every other holiday, we hear of reports about girls in their tens if not hundreds fleeing their parents’ abode for their dear lives. Many of them flock rescue centers that well-wishers have constructed to shelter such victims. Some of them who don’t find space in the rescue centers find it in bushes where dangerous animals are frequent guests hence putting the lives of the girls in danger. We hear of local administrative officers the likes of chiefs and village elders trading on very dangerous paths to rescue girls bound for circumcision. We’ve heard of cases where rescuers have been attacked by the girls’ parents for attempting to thwart FGM from happening. Women and girls are a very valuable people in the society that must be protected at any cost, they certainly must be allowed a safe environment to live in to the extent that such stories as narrated above should not have a place in our society.

So many initiatives have been going on in a bid to fight FGM and eradicate it completely from the world map. It’s however disheartening to realize that some political leaders who hail from communities that practise FGM keep off the FGM debate apparently because they fear losing votes. In other words these few leaders are afraid of discouraging FGM because they will be seen as traitors by their kinsmen and that will definitely translate into a vote loss. It is unethical if you are in a position of influence and better yet if you have known the truth to keep mum on an issue that you consider wrong. It’s is wrong for these select few leaders to play safe and fail to support policies that are geared towards eradicating FGM. Political leaders and other influential community leaders as well should support any initiative including the full implementation of anti FGM laws.

Entities that have engaged fiercely and fearlessly in the fight against FGM must be lauded for what they have done and what they continue doing. Some of the interventions have been very successful to the extent of even transforming fellows that have been performing FGM to become anti FGM crusaders. Thumbs up to those that have mobilized resources to put up rescue centers that have become shelters for girls fleeing the cut and even for withstanding the threats from the elders and parents for trying to interfere with their tradition. The fight has to rage on to the last bit until we see a society completely free from the shackles of FGM.

Christmas in the Village

church

Christmas is considered one of the most celebrated event in the world

It’s an event that marks the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ

Lots of activities take place during this season, guys taking long breaks from work, and others go for holidays and lots of other sweet sounding things

Talk a walk with me to the village and get the feel Christmas in the village

It’s time when urban dwellers usually pack their belongings, from their exquisite sofasets, to huge music systems and their kids as well to travel to the village for the festivities

When they get to the village everything changes

The air around the village during Christmas usually smells different

The usually abandoned dusty roads in the village get busy during Christmas

The urban folks make their presence felt across

They roam all over showing off their the latest gadgets (smartphones) and flossing in their city walking styles

Christmas in the village is normally an opportunity to hook up with old friends and share experiences about life

Christmas in the village offers an opportunity for folks to don in new dresses and hairdos

Some folks make their maiden visit to church for the year during Christmas because they now have a new dress most likely a gift from a brother, a sister or a cousin who lives in the urban

When it comes to matters stomach, this type of food called chapatti is normally the most valued food in the village during Christmas

If you don’t make chapatis for your kids during Christmas rest assured that you will have conflicts to resolve thereafter so it’s normally imperative if you are a parent to begin preparing when the year starts so that you don’t disappoint your young ones during Christmas

By the way village folks love singing during Christmas, they also sing Christmas carols

By the way most village weddings are strategically held during Christmas weekends and the reason is to simply tap into the Christmas glitz and glamour wave, so that the wedding photos appear colourful, so that the Christmas tree appears somewhere on the background of the wedding snaps

Let’s take note that the celebration of the birth of Christ is a key ingredient of Christmas in the village, the book of John, Matthew and Luke are normally the main references in all Christmas sermons in the village.

A few days later, all the color fades, the dusty roads become even dustier the city fellows are off back to the city Christmas is over we start the county down to next one.

And that’s all about Christmas in the village

The Booming Construction Industry

city

The constructive industry is becoming a very lucrative sector with multiple kinds of buildings coming up almost every day across Nairobi and its environs giving the city a completely new skyline. This is particularly contributed by the rising demand for housing and office space. The middle class population is increasing and they are looking for lavish kind of housing, foreign investors are thronging the Kenyan space and most of them prefer to set up their operations at high end office structures. It’s equally worrying that the acreage of arable land is dwindling at a relatively alarming rate as owners of land abandon their venture to put up residential houses. The implication of this is that agriculture which is Kenya’s backbone is going to be greatly affected, the food basket is going to dry up.

In areas such as Kilimani developers are flattening old bungalows to pave way for high-rise structures some of which are really splendid with breath-taking architectural designs. Upper Hill area is another interesting area. The-soaring-to-the-sky structures there are giving the central business district’s outlook a run for its money. Westlands and Mombasa road are also in the list of areas where such magnificent buildings are becoming prominent. Ruaka is a classical example of areas on the outskirts of Nairobi enjoying the construction trend with malls, shopping complexes and lavish apartments jostling for space.

The growth of the construction industry has helped a lot in addressing the unemployment question. Hundreds if not thousands of people are busy spending their days in construction sites and in the evening you will see them packed like bananas in lorries being ferried home of course with something in their pockets. Temporary food kiosks have been set up near construction sites providing meals to the workers and so at the end of the day the women who operate these kiosks earn something to support their families.

Even in the face of all these interesting developments, it’s also important to figure out what the future is going to look like. When all the land is completely exhausted and construction stops what next, what happens to the thousands of foremen, the casuals, and the construction companies. What happens if all the arable land available is exhausted will the country be forced to import food from outside as it does to products such as oil, machinery and so forth. These are some of the issues that need to be thoroughly thought through so that where possible a raft of measures can be put in place to pre-empt any undesirable outcomes.

Proliferation of SALW,A thorn in the Flesh of Africa

cacheThe proliferation of small arms and light weapons (guns, rifles and explosives included) and particularly into the wrong hands is a huge menace in Africa. It is the reason as to why violent conflict has seemingly created an abode in Africa with estimates showing that up to 90% of casualties in such conflicts are caused by Small arms and light weapons translating to hundreds of thousands deaths and an almost equivalent proportion of others living with permanent wounds. Continue reading