Posts Tagged Uhuru

I stand with our doctors

Nothing that has value, real value, has no cost. Not freedom, not food, not shelter, not healthcare.
~ Dean Kamen

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After all the grandstanding, and the threats, and the dithering, predictably, the chickens are coming  home to roost… Doctors will not back down, and this fight has finally come to a head.

Initially a lot of Kenyans on social media were talking about the doctors’ strike like something that’s way out there, that’s not really touching their lives directly, after all it was just another protest like many others. In fact I even saw some argue that doctors could be proving they are not indispensable because the country had gone 70 days already without doctors and they were still breathing. I just shook my head.

The update-posting, selfie-taking, pizza-eating, mall-cruising, tweeting middle-class did not particularly feel the pinch, not until today. You see many of us have medical covers and are not planning on going to that Vihiga District Hospital where patients relieve themselves in buckets on the ward floor; few of us have ever set foot in Kenyatta Hospital where you can watch a tractor drive out the back every morning with a pile of bodies from the wards headed to a mortuary piled to the ceiling with corpses in various states of decay; many have never been to those level 4 hospitals where you can watch patients die in waiting lines; they couldn’t understand how a quack doctor has been performing caesarian operations in a county for years without detection.

People felt cushioned from the ongoings, aloof to the struggle of the public hospital doctors; after all Aga Khan, Mater, Nairobi, Getrudes, etc, were all still operating at full speed, and with personal doctors sat dutifully at their work stations and doctors’ plazas. That’s until yesterday when things changed. That’s when panic set in, that is when matters were thrown into perspective, that is when shit got real.

I have got news for you: it’s always been real, it hit the fan a long time ago, and for us all. If you ram your jalopy into a truck carrying broilers pumped with steroids at Ngoliba you will not be taken to Karen Hospital, you will be dumped at the nearest public hospital which is manned by those same doctors we watched march on our wall mounted curved screen TVs as we discussed ‘their greed for money’ in our posh accents; your relatives in the sticks don’t have those medical cards to swipe at 5 star hospitals, they depend on those district hospitals where doctors don’t even have gloves or clean syringes, they sorely need those public hospital doctors; mothers giving birth in the boondocks, they don’t have the options of epidurals at fancy hospitals with Cayenne driving doctors; little babies in the ‘reserves’, those don’t have several branches of Getrudes at the corner of every estate. These calibre of patient all need better public hospitals with working facilities and well motivated doctors. In fact we all need the same things they need whether we know it or not.

As a matter of fact, it has been pointed out several times that what we call a middle class in Kenya is just but a working class, basically that means a class that is just one missed salary away from desperation and destitution; lose your job today and of course that medical cover will disappear faster than money is siphoned out of Afya House.

Let me give you a personal story: In December 2005 my late father was preparing to retire for the night at the Nairobi Club when he felt a sharp pain in his upper chest and neck, he called his doctor at Aga Khan, Kisumu, who on hearing the symptoms advised that he take a taxi immediately to Nairobi Hospital because it sounded like the onset of a heart attack. The old man did as he had been told and called a taxi which took him directly to the hospital, in fact he walked by himself from the car to the hospital main door as the taxi guy then left; which is the exact reason he was all by himself when he collapsed right there in the reception. Now the hospital could not book him in unless someone signed a guarantee. By the time they found my mum’s number in his diary and called her and she called me to rush over to the hospital, it was too late. You can’t sit around with a heart attack waiting for a cash guarantee (I hear it is now 600K). In fact in 1996 my dad had fallen gravely ill and been rushed to MP Shah, he was lucky that at that time he was with my mum and they had a Diners’ Club credit card, or they would not have been booked in without a 150,000 shilling cash deposit.

So what’s the point of my story you might be wondering, and just what is its relevance to the current doctors’ strike? Well look at it this way: doctors are fighting to have public hospitals equipped better, working and living conditions improved, and facilities for patients upgraded (it is all there in the dishonoured CBA, but the government would rather you only pay attention to salary demands). If this fight had been won all those years ago and public hospitals were better equipped and manned with motivated staff then it would have made better sense for the taxi driver to take my dad to Kenyatta Hospital instead (where they don’t ask for a Diners’ Club card or a deposit of half a million shillings to admit a dying person), maybe if Kenyatta Hospital or Mbagathi hospital had been a viable option I wouldn’t be writing this today and I would instead be telling you about the pressure from my dad to settle down… These second chances at life, these options for patients everywhere, that is what the doctors are fighting for.

If you are walking by yourself on the street and suddenly fall down in a heap, there’s a very good chance that you’ll find yourself at Mbagathi Hospital or Kenyatta Hospital, than that you’ll end up at Karen Hospital or Aga Khan. And even if you were taken to one of those premier private hospitals, woe be unto thee if you are not walking around with a travellers’ cheque for a million shillings in your pocket, for otherwise you might still find yourself at Mbagathi, if you make it there alive at all. That is when you will understand what the doctors’ strike is about, at that shattering moment when your relatives find you lying alone in a dark corridor because there was no space in the wards, and worse no one knows what’s wrong with you because there’s no functioning X-Ray machine, there’s no basic equipment, no anaesthesia, and in any case the doctors themselves are languishing at King’ong’o, Kamiti, and Kodiaga like common criminals for shining a light on our dark despicable healtchare conditions.

This fight is not just about better salaries for doctors, this fight is not just for the poor that go to public hospitals. This fight is about improving all public health facilities, it is about improving working conditions for medics and ultimately for patients, it is about equipping healthcare facilities with at least the basics. It is a fight that you are invested in whether you realize it or not.

Don’t wait until that day you wake up on the cold cracked floor of a public hospital with nothing but painkillers in your hand and not even a cup of clean water to wash them down with to come to the startling realization that this was your fight.

Don’t wait until that day you will be writing a story about losing a parent(s) at the reception of a private hospital that needed a million shilling deposit to book them in; and worse, they only went there because there was no public hospital in the vicinity that could have saved them.

#IStandWithDoctors #HealthCrisisKE #KMPDU

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Nothing strengthens impunity so much as silence and fear

To sin by silence, when we should protest, Makes cowards out of men.
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 

IEBC Protest 2016

The price of free speech; blood and tears.

 

Kenyans, they say we are the most optimistic people in the world, maybe so, because even I thought we had learnt from PEV and never again wasn’t just another cliche. I was very optimistic about 2017, not anymore. Now I sit here wondering whether it will be best to be near the Uganda border immediately after voting.

Going by what I saw yesterday, our uniformed forces clobbering civilians senseless and even shooting protesters in the back (as happened in Kisumu and in slums in 2007/8) is clearly something that can happen again and that if nothing changes we should brace for.

I have heard all the arguments to justify both the protests and the conduct of the police, and I have come to one conclusion: on which side the law and right falls depends on which tribe the person commenting belongs to most of the time.

Thugs who infiltrated a lawful protest are being described as CORD supporters by Jubilee supporters, outlaw rogue police who waded into crowds with “jembe” stumps and bludgeoned everyone in sight are being defended as acting with reasonable restraint by government supporters; in the meantime pockets of CORD supporters saw it fit to attend a peaceful protest armed with stones and other projectiles, some of them saw it fit to try and uproot a railway line later on in the evening. All worryingly reminiscent of the spontaneous chaos nine years ago.

We are in trouble. I don’t think the country has ever been this divided and most people this blind to their own prejudices, or perhaps everyone is fully aware of the chasm and are choosing to deliberately walk on the edge of this blade.

In the meantime, our names continue to betray us.

“with the police doing all the killing, who do we call when our hero’s are the villain”
― O.S. Hickman 

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Irony: Responding to carnage with ethnic division in the face of a common enemy

The cretins are winning, the killers have us by our gonads, and it is all because we took their bait and decided to play this game, this deadly game, their way.

I don’t often quote Tony Blair, after all if I were to channel the much more progressive Noam Chomsky then I’d recall that he aptly said “Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism”, in which case I’d have to classify Blair and his pal Bush as among the worst of the lot. But still one of Blair’s quotes rings true, that: “The purpose of terrorism lies not just in the violent act itself. It is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, to produce consequences which they then use to justify further terror.”

And therein lies our biggest problem. That we have swallowed the gambit, and we’ve brought out the ethnic bogeyman in response to the wave of attacks in our midst.

The Aftermath of Arson and gun attack in Mpeketoni.

The Aftermath of Arson and gun attack in Mpeketoni.

You see terrorism by nature is a form of psychological warfare, a propaganda assault of sorts. Those who trade in murder and mayhem ultimately aim at to manipulate us and force us to make changes in outlook and thinking by creating morbid fear, uncertainty and limbo, and divisions based on irrational and illogical reasons in society.”

We need to step back, examine how we have responded to the recent on social media and in conversations with friends and families and ask ourselves if whoever is attacking us isn’t succeeding.

I am very disappointed that I look around and see that these faceless murderous bigots have succeeded in leaving most of us with our undies in a bunch as we:

  • Spew vitriol at perceived tribal enemies,
  • Cook up fantastic conspiracy theories that are borderline insane as well as incendiary and
  • More or less get paralysed from thinking of much else when we have so much more to fear than sporadic attacks from deranged murdering bastards.

I have come to the conclusion that we are our own worst enemies, or at least our collective inability to see beyond our own noses is, basically:

  • Anybody who thinks that these are attacks targeted at just a particular tribe or ethnic group needs to have their head examined.
  • Anybody who imagines the opposition in Kenya is really that well organized, and shockingly diabolic, that they’d pull off hours of indiscriminate slaughter to further an agenda needs to check if the doctor dropped them on their heads at birth.
  • Anybody who swallowed the sad and pathetic deflection and prevarication that Ole Lenku gave in the name of assurances, as well as the reckless allusions to a certain prominent individual being somehow tied in with these atrocities deserves the reaming they are getting.
  • Lastly, anybody who imagines we can solve conflicts rooted in religious differences and/or ethnicity by throwing in more religion of our own and engaging in a pissing contest about whose God is greater, or by balkanising and banding together in ethnic cocoons, deserves a Darwin award themselves.

It would do well to remember that terrorism itself is not limited to attacks on malls, or markets, or buses. We should not lose sight of challenges that simmer below the surface that terrorize us more than the perceived terrorists who dominate our national dialogue. We should not take our foot off the government’s neck in terms of demanding accountability and the provision of basics of life as mandated in our constitution (basics which lack of murders more of us than any terrorists ever have).

In the words of Pope Francis: “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.”

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A president’s hardest task is not to do what is right but to know what is right

“No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.” 
― John Adams

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Uhuru might not cooperate with the ICC after all, cooperate here might not mean what we think it means, so before we get our underwear in a bunch we need to ask what is really being demanded. I believe Uhuru has yet to say he intends to completely disregard the court proceedings and thus invite a warrant of arrest from the ICC in the mould of the butcher of Darfur; what I think has been requested is that his actual presence at trials be dispensed with given his busy schedule and status, something that is not unreasonable if you ask me.

I’ve been wondering what it would take away from Bensouda to allow Uhuru to use a video link instead of having him sitting there on his hands, wild eyed and pensive in the dock just listening to testimony after testimony when he’s not required to contribute a thing, perhaps for weeks, and as a result demeaning our office of the presidency (the office, not the man; but the man just happens to be in that office regardless of how or by what margin).

I know he was not president when this cases begun, I know he said it was a personal matter, but I also know that we knew (at least those of us with a modicum of sense) that if he became president then things would somewhat change, in fact those who had their eyes open knew that that very leverage a president has in getting some reprieve from the indignities of trial is what drove team UhuRuto to burn the candle at both ends to deliver ‘victory’ to Jubilee.

I am aware that as usual the ordinary mwananichi cannot see beyond tribe and party affiliation, and so the cabal around Uhuru would have us believe that Raila controls the ICC and is to blame for all of this, that’s bullshit, UK and Ruto asked to take the ICC option themselves, I am also aware that supporters of CORD, who number almost half those who voted, might not be ready to accept UK as ‘their’ president and would love to see him squirm in the dock at the ICC, that’s like cutting off our noses to spite our faces, the guy happens to be our Commander in Chief and as such his humiliation is our humiliation as a country and a proud country at that.

Madam Bensouda, I’d suggest that if Uhuru is willing to continue with this trial and that all he asks is not to have to appear in person for every single sitting unless his testimony is required of course, can you please be a little accommodating. What will it take away from the court to use a video link? It will certainly take away less than it will from us as a sovereign country having to watch the public humiliation of their head of state for months on end.

A friend of mine, a lawyer by profession, adds:

“On the whole ICC saga and UK’s appearance at The Hague, he may have some merit in asking the court to be more accommodating. There have been no cases where a sitting president has been tried by an international court, however there are a few cases in a number of jurisdictions where the law grants presidents special protection (South Africa) Nelson Mandela had appointed a Comm. Of Inquiry in a manner that contravened the law, he was called before the High Court to testify. His lawyers tried to prevent him from testifying given his status as President, however he came and testified nevertheless. On appeal before the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, the CC stated that where a President is called as a witness, special arrangements are often provided for in the way evidence is given. It adds ‘Courts are supposed to ensure that the status, dignity and efficiency of the OP is protected…at the same time however, the administration of justice cannot be impeded by the court’s desire to ensure that the dignity of the President is safeguarded.’ So we see to aspects of the public interest – respecting the office on the one hand, and not impeding justice on the other. The two must be balanced. The court added this gem ‘Except in exceptional circumstances requiring the President to give evidence, the special dignity and status of the President together with his busy schedule and the importance of his work must be taken into account.’ (USA) In 1991 then Governor Bill Clinton propositioned one Ms. Jones, four years later she sued President Clinton for sexual harassment. Merits aside, the Supreme Court, on appeal, stated the following: ‘The testimony of the President may be taken at the White House to accommodate his busy schedule, and that if a trial is held, there would be no necessity for the President to attend, though he could elect to do so.’ The court added that while the President can be tried, ‘High respect is owed to his office…’ When a president testifies, respect for the office, the need to reserve his dignity, and an understanding of the implications of his busy schedule must be carefully considered. (Germany) The German Civil Procedure Codes explicitly state that a President need not attend court in person and may give testimony at home. He may also refuse to give evidence were it to be detrimental to the Federal Republic of Germany or a German State. Those three jurisdictions are what I can find and recall from administrative law. They can be distinguished in some ways. One, this isn’t the ordinary judicial body of a state, it’s an international court. Two, the nature of the crimes may be the ‘exceptional case’ the South African court spoke of and thus are more grievous offences as compared to Mandela’s wrong COI appointment or Clinton’s pre-Lewinsky philandering. My personal opinion is that the ICC has failed to be more accommodating, it is still bound by principles of International Law – of which include the principles created by the courts of states such as South Africa, the USA and Germany. The court has failed to accord even an inkling of respect, dignity and accommodation to Kenyatta – they could have reached a balance of the two aforementioned interests by even sitting in Arusha. UK must be tried for these offences, that I fully advocate for, however, I’m of the view that the Trial Chamber and the OTP should reconsider their stance on how Kenyatta will testify.  “

“In my country, we go to prison first and then become President.”
— Nelson Mandela

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A country of free men is not free if they are owned by somebody else.

“Debt is the fatal disease of republics, the first thing and the mightiest to undermine governments and corrupt the people”
Wendell Phillips 

Numbers, huge sums of money, mind boggling debt, billions in expenditure, very few people like these or can process articles about such quickly while dealing with the other hassles and vagaries of daily life in a third world republic.

Lately I have felt that I have been inundated with news to do with just such numbers. Whenever I look at headlines all I see are staggering figures bandied about like they were mere exercises in mathematics class, except they are not.

We are in trouble, we have let unbridled expenditure coupled with borrowing at the rate of a drunken sailor take hold of our lives.

Sample this:

Kenya’s gross domestic debt (government’s borrowing from the local markets) had in June this year hit the trillion-shilling mark up from 859 billion twelve months ago.

We already have an external debt burden of Sh800 billion, therefore the national debt comes to about Sh1.8 trillion, which is basically one half of our Sh3.6 trillion economy.

That is not all, we have during this August borrowed another 425 Billion Shillings from China, this means our external debt is now more than 1.25 trillion Shillings, there’s a ceiling on how much we can borrow externally and this ceiling is 1.2trillion which we have exceeded.

And lest we forget: “Debt is an ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver. ” 

While looking at these figures we have to remember that there’s no record of anyone having ever managed to wildly spend their way out of a slow economic growth or to borrow their way out of debt, certainly spending money we don’t have by borrowing more and more while our debt burden rises cannot be good economics.

if-all-the-countries-in-the-world-are-in-debt-where-did-all-the-money-go

Meanwhile I read today that in our country a Judicial Service Commissioner ‘earns’ Sh80,000 for every sitting, and that in the last year; the JSC held 247 meetings, meaning a commissioner who attended all 247 meetings took home Sh1.6 million every month in allowances, coming to a total of KES 19,760,000.00 per year. This then led to a situation in which in the 2012/2013 financial year, commissioners gobbled up Sh377 million in allowances for board meetings, conferences and seminars, foreign travel and subsistence, catering service and accommodation, gifts, food and drinks and legal fees.

The CJ had a house bought for him at 310 million, when the initial budget was 200 million.

Remember, while this was going on we couldn’t pay teachers, policemen, and health workers the pittance we offer for their crucial services.

The government also had time to throw in half a billion for offices for a retired president, as well spend another half a billion shillings building a home for him on his private land at Mweiga.

And then there was the plan to blow Sh2.5 billion on celebrations to mark 50 years of Kenya’s independence with: Sh690 million for events management and logistics, Sh286 million for conference and exhibition during the one week celebration, Sh300 million for publicity and communication, Sh365 million for entertainment and a handsome Sh320 million to go towards identifying Kenya’s most prominent personalities.

It also includes Sh50 million for erecting a bronze statue of retired President Mwai Kibaki

And we think MPigs are the worst of the lot?

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The plutocrats won again, as always. Now get back to the drudgery of making them richer.

“Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.”
― Thomas Jefferson

capitalism-pyramid-simplified

The loud cacophony of the campaigns is a distant memory, the razzmatazz of the manifesto launches all but forgotten, the vitriol and name-calling of the rallies no longer daily fare, and finally we are getting back to our senses as long-time friends who could not see eye to eye over their tribal kingpins start to text each other with requests for that MPesa soft loan required to cover the deficits brought on by our food and alcohol binging in either celebration of “victory” or anger at a perceived injustice of a “loss”.

Well the election results were announced, the ensuing court proceedings have been concluded, and the verdict was read out in about five minutes.

I can only hope we, both those that think they won something and those that feel they lost something, can come to a realization that we are nothing but mere pawns without any real choice in the matter of who wields executive power in this country. You do not choose your leaders, they choose you; they choose you when they need you and that just happens to be at election time, then we are back to the daily struggle for subsistence, that holds true for the vast majority of voters.

Those of us who live in slums and supported Uhuru are still in the same hovels with bloated egos and empty stomachs, our names will not give us entry to the house on the hill. Those of us who supported Raila and live in far flung dirt poor villages are still in the same hamlets nursing our bruised egos while facing the constant threat of hunger, if a retirement package is signed into law for the former PM we shall not be getting a slice of it. Both UK and RAO get to get chauffeured home in luxury limousines, dine on gourmet meals, lie on silk bedsheets, and prance around on cashmere rugs. Their children will go to prep schools and Ivy league colleges. Yours will not.

Nothing will change for you. Nothing ever does for the majority of us when the wealthy are playing their Game of Thrones.

So rather than worrying about power at a grand scale that you really have no control over, sit back and think, think, think; and instead occupy yourself with: things that are within your purview, things that appear small and insignificant, things that can change the attitude of or educate just one single bigoted friend. And let the children know there is hope.

In the words of an American scribe who inspires me and from an article of his I read recently: “Do what you can within reach of your arm, because anything you touch is part of a tapestry that reaches far and wide, even unto the highest and mightiest seats of power. Do what is possible within reach of your arm, make the weak mighty and give the voiceless a clarion call right where you are, where you live and breathe, within reach of that strong, sure arm. Do what you can, always.”

“Those in power must spend a lot of their time laughing at us.”
― Alice Walker

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They never should have given us freedom to choose

“I have refused to ALLOW MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY in Kenya because it will divide Kenyans along TRIBAL LINES.Vyama vingi vitaleta UKABILA Kenya.Siku moja mtakubali haya maneno yangu”

DANIEL TOROITICH ARAP MOI
2RD MARCH 1992

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Baba said it, we thought him mad

I look at the slim pickings of the likes of Kiyiapi and Karua, then I look at the close to 100% votes for UK and RAO in their “ethnic strongholds” and I am left wondering: Is this really democracy?

Is the choosing of leaders based on number of votes garnered a good thing for a country where for the vast majority the only criteria considered is the tribe of the person being voted for?

How can we say we are voting for a symbol of national unity when we are engaged in a national contest of tribal chiefs and ethnic coalitions?

This would be comical if the implications of the choices we make (if you can even pretend there are choices) weren’t so grave.

Moi was correct (albeit for selfish reasons): Multi party politics has only managed to bring out the tribalism ingrained in our bones.

What a bloody shame

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