Sunday, September 24, 2006

We Need MORE Donkeys!!

Onyango Oloo Interrogates the Eerie Assumptions of a 2 Party State in Kenya

1.0. How The Other Kenyan Half Subsists

First of all I wish to extend a hearty Ramadhan Karim na Saum Makbul to all our Muslim sisters and brothers as they embark on this, the holiest of months in the Islamic calendar.

Like many of my politically addicted compatriots, I have been following avidly the gyrations, permutations and segues in the mainstream contestations for ephemeral political power among and between the various contingents of the Kenyan comprador bourgeois stratum, the petit-bourgeoisie and other wannabe parvenu usurpers.

As I compose these lines, the main content of these tussles is manifested in the ongoing flexing of electoral muscles pitting the government connected upstarts in NARC-Kenya against the newly registered oppositionist conglomeration known as ODM-Kenya.

Over the last few days, the football that has been used to score political goals between the two mainstream adversaries has been the mutually acrimonious issue of the so called “fight against corruption” with each side marshalling as many innuendoes and poisonous darts as possible to fling against their foes.

I will come back to examine that “anti-corruption football” in more detail.

What is appalling, if somewhat unsurprising is the fact that this vuta-ni-kuvute is unfolding totally oblivious to other major national concerns affecting Kenyan workers, small farmers, squatters, fisher folk, youth, poor women, pastoral communities, slum dwellers and other marginalized groups.

For instance over the last seven days, I have seen on Kenyan national television, countless stories featuring the demolition and eviction of hundreds of slum dwellers in the Embakasi neighbourhood of Nairobi. A couple of nights ago (Friday, September 22, 2006) I watched as a group of evictees, featuring a sixty something Akorino man, a forty something woman among others, complain bitterly how they were now rendered homeless despite the fact that they had spent up to 200,000 Kenya shillings (representing, in the case of the Akorino man, his entire life savings) on setting up and maintaining their structures only to be thwarted by the violent attacks instigated by a private developer.

The sickening thing was that these vicious acts of inhuman vandalism were being supervised by uniformed members of the state employed and tax-payer bankrolled police force.

Ironically, these acts of government endorsed hooliganism were happening at the tail end of the much hyped Africities municipal summit which had featured hollow promises by President Kibaki to refurbish the rusting, rotting, corrupt and impoverished former green city in the sun.

One of my twentysomething young pals from Mathare #10 (he recently had to cut off his dreadlocks after being carted off to the overcrowded Industrial Remand “Home” on suspicions of being a Mungiki member- even though he is a Luo from Alego) was telling me that his neck of the woods saw some frantic attempts by the Nairobi City Council recently to spruce them up with ridiculous gestures to make the muddy, sewer strewn paths accessible to the continental delegates should they ever venture this far to the lumpen populated bowels of the Kenyan capital. This is the same City Council whose askaris are indicted in the killings of poor hawkers struggling to eke out a precarious existence on the margins of the “booming” 5.8% Kimunya growth economy.

Also on the same NTV evening broadcast was a vivid report from the Majengo slums in Mombasa where many residents openly wailed and complained that President Mwai Kibaki’s much ballyhooed dishing out of title deeds at the Coast recently was a cynical ploy because they (the residents of Majengo and other urban settlements on Mombasa Island) had actually paid thousands of shillings way back during the Moi era and were still waiting for the same said title deeds that would release them from the leeching clutches of the semi-feudal petit bourgeois mwinyi rentiers (like Swaleh Nguru, to name just one notorious Mombasa slumlord).

By the way, Celtel and Safaricom are both standing by to paint the historical tenements and culturally precious buildings of Ngomeni, Floringi, Mlango wa Papa and other parts of Mombasa’s Old Town red and green respectively in the surreal campaign to "beatify" Kenya’s second largest city ahead of the March 2007 World Cross Country Championships.

Women in Kenya are being raped, battered and murdered in their own homes on a daily basis all over the country...

Molo is burning once again, with the whiff of renewed "ethnic clashes" in the air.

Two school pupils in northern Kenya were slaughtered by armed raiders earlier this week as they were innocently swimming in a local river-on the same day that an elaborate hopeful inter-community ceremony was taking place to mark international peace day-a ceremony hoping to put in place the building and bonding blocks between the Pokot and the Samburu, two impoverished marginalized Kenyan communities left over to languish in 19th century conditions of under-development by a neo-colonial central government to engage each other in long-running acts of mutual savagery as they scramble viciously to garner the necessities of life.

Watoto (including watoto wachanga) are being defiled and brutally sexually violated by their own parents, relatives, neighbours and assorted strangers-that is when their limbs are not being burnt off by the same enraged parents for alleged minor domestic infractions.

Squatters all over the country are becoming more fearless in occupying and sub-dividing land left idle by absentee speculator "owners"- quickly earning the chagrin not only of the police and the local administration, but most tellingly, political land-grabbers from across the NARC-Kenya/ODM-Kenya divide.

The long exploited Kenyan EPZ workers are clobbered merciless by rowdy and blood-thirsty armed state goons with television cameras rolling whenever they rise up against intolerable working conditions- even as a letter from Joe Chifallu of the Export Processing Zone Authority is proudly featured by the Daily Nation (Friday, September 22, 2006, p.10) as the "Talking Point" with Mr. Chifallu claiming that

"…the export processing zones are a comprehensive economic tool that is widely accepted and has proven to be a reliable instruments to spur development. It can be used to realign the economy to spur industrialization, especially where investment in an export production orientation is envisaged. The programme is also useful in the Government’s regional development initiative and the spread of industrial enclaves into areas that would otherwise still be marginalized in terms of development of infrastructure…to date the 43 zones so far gazetted have created more than 38,000 jobs- a prime objective of the Government. Which other sector has such potential for job creation? The EPZs have continued to attract tours by visiting heads of state because they are a showcase in economic growth…"

Mr. Joe Chifallu’s noxious neo-liberal and toxic self-serving propaganda is of course, predictably silent when it comes to working conditions- including pay, housing, health care- that these 38,000 Kenyan EPZ slaves endure day in day out.

Some of my trade union buddies have become increasingly vocal in pointing out that Kenyan workers do not hanker for just any job- but DECENT, well-paying jobs carried out in humane working environments.

But I guess what Mr. Joe Chifallu is nattering about is in perfect tandem and synchronicity with the Kenya government’s mantra about the 400,000 low paying dead end jobs they created in the over-romanticized Kenyan jua kali informal sector over the last three and a half years.

Ironically, in the Saturday Nation (Saturday, September 23, 2006, p.17 Business section) the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry is quoted as stating that

"...although export processing zones have increased foreign exchange earnings and created jobs they have failed to contribute to industrialization. ‘We are still importing raw cotton from Tanzania and Uganda, and then we are exporting yarn to India and China..’ He said the incentive package given to companies operating under EPZ encourages them to export raw materials and not to support domestic industry. Some of the tax benefits companies setting up in the zones enjoy include a 10-year corporate tax holiday and a 25 per cent tax rate for a further 10 years thereafter. They also get a 10-year withholding tax holiday on dividends and other remittances to non-resident parties as well as an exemption from value added tax (VAT) and customs duties on inputs. Mr. Nalo’s comments come less than a fortnight after Dr. Thomas Kibua, a leading economist and former deputy governor of the Central Bank, asked the Government to abandon the EPZ programme. ‘If you looked at the sales earnings from the EPZs, particularly in this era of liberalization, the earnings are held abroad and don’t come back to Kenya’ he said. Dr. Kibua said that the Government is subsidizing these companies, meaning they come to Kenya because costs are cheap, but they are not here to create permanent structures…”

(“Is it the end for export processing zones?”Saturday Nation, Saturday, September 23, 2006 p.17).

While the Kenyan state subsidizes these amoral profiteers from the supposed “socialist” People’s Republic of China and elsewhere, critical industries like the textiles have been allowed to collapse. Walking around Nairobi I meet fellow wananchi proudly donning recycled tee shirts and jerseys testifying to their origins in Toronto, Montreal, Orlando, New York, St. Paul, Dallas, Houston, Boston, London, Sydney and who knows where. My mshikaji informs me that even the lesos (or what our Tanzanian majirani call khangas) are frequently from India, the Emirates and the Far East.

And yet some of us dream of Kenya morphing into the next Singapore, the reloaded South Korea or the 21st Century East African version of over-hyped Taiwan!


Maajabu duniani!!

Meanwhile, Kenya government officials fall over each other in an insane scramble to urge as many Kenyan professionals and skilled workers to EMIGRATE from Kenya having been subsidized by their parents, communities as well as other hard working Kenyan tax payers.

On a daily basis, there is an ad in the paper with a different picture every day trumpeting how this and that Kenyan won the jackpot of a US Green card lottery. The export of human beings from Kenya (it used to be known as the slave trade and human trafficking in other forms and earlier eons) has become a cornerstone of the official Kenya government policy in fostering rapid economic growth in this country.

One way of fast-tracking this booming human export industry is to market as many overseas educational institutions as possible academic Shangri Las to Kenyan youth hankering for higher education.

I have been amazed to see the plethora of advertisements trumpeting schools in Singapore, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, the UK etc as the lucrative training destination for knowledge hungry young Kenyan minds- never mind the exorbitant fees.

All this hoopla and over-hyped pizzaz while students at the derelict University of Nairobi main campus have to either prostitute their young bodies or engage in jua kali operations to make ends meet- even as they pursue degrees that will succeed in adding the eventual young graduates onto the conveyor belt that will eventually deposit them among the long term unemployed reserve armies of Kenyan labour.

Talking of Kenyan workers and other urban dwellers (including the middle class residents of the Nairobi suburbs), as if looking for and securing some form of employment was not ardous enough, they still have to contend with the battalions of pick pockets, ngeta mugging specialists, home invaders, car-jackers, kidnappers, prison-hardened violent robbers and other ruthless criminal elements-who are largely drawn from the armies of the desperately unemployed, hand to mouth semi-proletarians and the teeming elements déclassé sections of Kenya's extremely stratrified society.

I am not going to say anything about the plight of sugar farmers in Western province whose endeavours are constantly undermined by rapacious and egotistic cabinet ministers who keep on importing sugar into Kenya, nor do I need to say anything more about the wakulima wadogo in Central Kenya and elsewhere confronted with the long time decline of commodity prices on the world market. Who knows the impact that will face the small scale tea farmers in the Rift Valley and elsewhere if India goes on with its aggressive plans to invade traditional Kenyan tea markets like Egypt?

It is pointless to add to the mountain of words already written about the parlous nature of the Kenyan medical and health care system and how it impacts on the chronically ill, especially the low income sections of Kenyan society living with the ravages of HIV/AIDS, typhoid, dysentery, malaria and other ailments.

Speaking of malaria and the fight to eradicate it, I personally think it is a global tragedy, not a “triumph” to witness the World Health Organization finally capitulate to the sustained propaganda onslaught of the capitalist driven pharmaceutical lobby in successfully overturning the decades-long ban on DDT spraying. How many years will it take Kenyans to reap the negative and disastrous environment side-effects of kow towing with the disastrous decision on DDT?

Even though the Director of Medical Services, Dr. James Nyikal (who supports DDT use) has denied that Kenya has introduced the controversial DDT pesticide in parts of the country, the Sunday papers still think that the Kenyan government is likely to endorse DDT use, especially after Dr. Arata Kochi, the man who successfully lobbied for the comeback of DDT at the WHO at the launch of Kenya’s malaria policy in Mlala Shopping Centre in Makueni District on September 25, 2006- a ceremony that will be graced with the presence of none other than Mtongoria Kibaki himself.

I was also happy to see a very sober letter from Chris White (an actual supporter of limited DDT use), the Malaria Programme Leader at AMREF here in Nairobi blasting the WHO for forcefully endorsing the wider use of the DDT insecticide to exterminate and repel the mosquitoes that carry malaria. Here is a partial quote from Chris White’s letter to the editor:

“…those of us in Africa have to think logically and realistically about the socio-economic context in which we work. The first question is whether or not Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) is better than wide-spread use of insecticide treated nets. For effective control of mosquitoes, at least at 80 per cent of all households must be covered every 6-12 months by well- coordinated spray teams. Is this possible in Africa? Imagine trying that across the Congo basin! It is not realistic to assume that this will happen. It will just leave the communities vulnerable again. But now imagine every family in Africa having a net. Nets last four to five years and can be carried around by everyone, including internally displaced people and nomadic groups. The distribution of nets in a one-off large- scale vaccination campaign is less challenging than trying to reach 80 per cent of all households with a veritable army of spray teams every 12 months. Like the WHO, AMREF supports the continued use of DDT as a means to control malaria, but only in areas where it is cost-effective and possible to spray on a regular basis. This is one of the reasons spraying is primarily suited to the unstable transmission areas like the Kenyan highlands or the Afar region in Ethiopia…”

(“Talking Point” Letters to the Editor, Saturday Nation, September 23, 2006, p.10).

The crackdown on matatus has been portrayed in the Kenyan media as a valiant long overdue necessary surgical operation by the authorities in reining in the reckless drivers and touts of our most widely used form of urban public transport- a campaign that has earned the police the kudos from a big chunk of the public, especially the middle-class private road users. However, here is an alternative take from a newspaper reader known as Iddah Wandolo:

“…All rich people should be proud to be Kenyans as this country’s priorities are definitely skewed towards them. This has been evident in the past few weeks during which lack of proper planning by the Government has affected the low income earners or the so called ordinary Kenyans. The transport sector is one example where the common man has continued to suffer immensely over the year. The fares continue to be arbitrarily increased, without a thought about the ability of the commuters and other travelers to pay. As a result, many Kenyans who cannot afford to pay the raised fares are opting to walk long distances to and from work daily. All this is the Government’s and especially the Transport ministry’s doing, as leaders and officials do not consider the consequences of their actions. If they wanted to tell people that they mean well, that they are interested in their common good, they would have stuck to routine traffic checks. Instead, they have opted for the blanket crackdown on public service vehicles. With better planning, they could have saved the people the transport nightmare they have experienced in the past two weeks….”

( Letters to the Editor, Saturday Nation, p.10, September 23, 2006).

It was somewhat quixotic witnessing Chirau Ali Mwakwere beating a hasty retreat from his own pronouncement halting the matatu crackdown. The fact that he was at least candid enough to admit that it was not in his own economic interests as a matatu owner to continue the crackdown was quite revealing.

What is more interesting however, is to locate the class interests between a petit-bourgeois Mwakwere matatu owner vis-a-vis the more compradorial elements among the Kibaki era parvenu riche who support the crackdown because they hope it will set the stage for the phasing out of the 14-seater Nissans and the take-over of the public transport space by fleets of Citi Hoppa and their ilk.

How many Kenyans know that while he was being lauded as the Good Samaritan Transport minister, John Michuki was quietly setting up Citi Hoppa with his good business buddy Mr. Thuo who had helped to run down the Kenya Bus Services to the brink of bankruptcy?

The callousness of subjecting millions of workers in the major towns of Kenya to a commuter nightmare whose main long term motive was to create a stranglehold for cabinet connected fat cats is something that will eventually return to chomp some people in their derrieres.

2.0. Kenyan Socio-Economic Ills Within the Context of Imperialist Globalization

All these Kenyan economic and social trials and tribulations affecting the majority of our wananchi are playing themselves out against the back drop of imperialist globalization. In other words, what is happening in our country is a microcosm of what is happening throughout the Southern hemisphere and the numerous pockets of the South in the North.

For instance, contemplate the following excerpt from IPS that I gleaned a few days ago from the ever informative Common Dreams website in the United States:

Published on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 by Inter Press Service

World Bank Profits From Poor Countries-Report

By Anil Netto

SINGAPORE - The World Bank receives more from developing countries than what it disburses to them says a new report released Tuesday as finance ministers endorsed a controversial new Bank plan to tackle corruption in developing countries.

The Social Watch Report 2006, released here at the annual meetings of the Bank group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stressed the need to reform the current international financial structure. Net transfers (disbursements minus repayments minus interest payments) to developing countries from the Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction (IBRD), have been negative every year since 1991, the report pointed out.

The IBRD is now not making any contribution to development finance other than providing funds to service its outstanding claims. The International Development Association (IDA), which provides interest-free credits and grants to the poorest developing countries to boost their economic growth, is the only source of net financing from the Bank.

But these disbursements amount to only 4-5 billion US dollars a year. Taken together, the contribution of the Bank to the external financing of developing countries is negative by some 1.2 billion dollars, thus ‘‘failing to fulfil the purpose of its mission'', said Social Watch, an international network of over 400 citizens' organisations in 60 countries monitoring commitments to eradicate poverty.

Meanwhile, critics say the Bank has embarked on a public relations offensive using the good governance and poverty eradication rhetoric to mask its unpopular neo-liberal agenda of ‘deregulation', privatisation, and removal of government subsidies for essential services.

Good governance is not an end in itself, but the foundation of the path out of poverty, said Bank group president Paul Wolfowitz in his address to the annual meeting of the Board of Governors on Tuesday. ''It leads to faster and stronger growth. It ensures every development dollar is used to fight poverty, hunger and disease.'' Wolfowitz said that governance, a ‘‘much broader concept than anti-corruption'', was aimed at poverty reduction and would not be used as a new conditionality for lending.

‘‘Governments are the key partners of the bank in governance and anti-corruption programmes, while, within its mandate, the Bank should be open to involvement with a broad range of domestic institutions taking into account the speficities of each country,'' said the Development Committee of the IMF and the Bank in a communiqué on Monday. It added that ''country ownership and leadership'' are key to successful implementation.

Yet, it was country ownership and (previous) leadership that were responsible for the Bank's complicity with corrupt regimes in the past. In the case of Indonesia, the Bank poured some 30 billion US dollars over 30 years into the coffers of the dictatorial Suharto regime. It tolerated a significant siphoning off of its aid funds, turned a blind eye to blatant rights violations there and helped to legitimise the regime. When Suharto was eventually toppled, the credibility of the Bank's good governance rhetoric nosedived.

Critics say the Bank's demand for greater transparency would have better credibility if the Bank were to improve its own transparency, carry out a thorough audit of its projects, and provide full support to whistle-blowers. A former Bank staffer, who declined to be identified, expressed doubts to IPS over the practicality of the Bank's new anti-corruption guidelines. ‘‘How are they going to put their anti-corruption teams together? Are they going to be consultants or Bank staff or civil society groups?''

Some say an excessive focus on anti-corruption is simplistic and the desirable goals of good governance may be neither necessary nor sufficient for boosting development. ‘‘Our analysis seriously questions whether the governance agenda can be interpreted as a precondition for development rather than being a list of important and desirable objectives,'' said Mushtaq Husain Khan, a professor of economics, in a paper presented to a G24 briefing here, last week.

There was a real danger that the strong structural drivers of corruption are not being properly understood, he warned: ‘‘The desire to link lending and partnership with developing countries on the basis of small differences in governance and corruption indicators is seriously misguided according to our analysis.''

Reforms at the Bank would also have to address its extremely skewed voting structure that, like the IMF's, favours richer nations. The U.S. and Japan, for instance, each have one executive director with 16 and 7 percent voting powers respectively. Africa, on the other hand, has three executive directors (representing 53 countries), one of whom has less than two percent voting power while the other two have three percent each.

Though developing countries have very little power in decision-making, they are the ones that have to largely finance the administrative costs of both institutions through interest and other charges on loans, according to Social Watch. The Bank's prescriptions meanwhile have generally focused on economic work in developing countries that benefits large private firms rather than meaningful practical policies that empower the grassroots poor.

Its big-ticket projects have had disastrous effects in some of these countries and generated much grassroots resentment. Farmers in developing countries have blamed the Bank for pushing for privatisation, ‘deregulation' and ‘liberalisation' through numerous conditions attached to its loans.

In Sri Lanka, for example, development banks such as the Bank have advocated cutting subsidies on fertilisers and seeds, privatising state fertiliser manufacturing industries and seed farms, and selling off stores, mills and retail outlets. They have also attempted to introduce charges for irrigation water and to remove restrictions on the lease and sale of land given to farmers under government grants, triggering a deep crisis in the paddy sector.

"The World Bank is destroying our traditional agricultural systems and our livelihoods" said D R Jayatilake of the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform in Sri Lanka. "This is why we are telling the Bank and the IMF to get out of our countries.'' Peasant movements, especially in Latin America and Asia, have also struggled against World Bank land reform policies.

''The World Bank is promoting ‘market assisted land reform','' said Henry Saragih, general coordinator of La Via Campesina, the international peasants' movement. He said this was done through a process of privatisation of land markets, which distributes land to the rich who can pay for it. He noted that agribusiness firms are getting more powerful while small farmers have less access to land. ‘‘Farmers consider land as a source of livelihood, culture and community life and not as a commodity,'' he said.

In many countries, Bank-funded projects have evicted rural communities from their land, benefiting transnational companies and marginalising local communities. For decades, peasants and indigenous communities have opposed mega projects funded by the Bank such as the Pak Mun Dam in Thailand and the Kedung Ombo Dam in Indonesia.

The bias in the process begun by the Bank on good governance is interventionist, said the Latin American Network on Debt, Development and Rights (LATINDADD) in a pronouncement distributed at the Singapore meetings. In seeking to carry out judicial reform, combat corruption, and promote reforms in public administrations, the World Bank ‘‘intervenes in democratic state institutions (judiciary, executive and legislative branches and control bodies) promoting market mechanisms in public administrations that facilitate transnational investment.''

© Copyright 2006 IPS - Inter Press Service

I have been skimming carefully through that voluminous 2006 Social Watch report.

Sony Kapoor a senior policy, advocacy and economic advisor and international finance, development and environment consultant, in a piece for that 2006 Social Watch Report entitled “Exposing the Myth and Plugging the Leaks” makes the point that:

“...Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars, far in excess of aid inflows, flow out of poor countries to the rich. This money flows out in the form of debt repayments, private sector transfers and most significantly through the channels of trade and capital flight. These outflows undermine the mobilization of domestic resources, undercut local investment, weaken growth and destabilize countries by making them more dependent on inflows of unpredictable external resources. Moreover, the inflows, in the form of aid, new borrowing and flows of private capital come with strings attached in the form of prescriptions and restrictions on the kinds of policies that developing countries can pursue. These limits on policy space undermine the exercise of democracy, challenge the implementation of domestically owned policies and emasculate efforts to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development…Taken together, these leakages cost developing countries more than USD 500 billion in untaxed outflows which completely undermine the impact of aid and other resource inflows and hold these countries back from embarking on a path of sustainable development. In order to plug these leaks, there is an urgent need to control and reverse the liberalization of the capital account and re-impose domestic performance requirements and profit repatriation restrictions on foreign investment. Other steps such as the elimination of bank secrecy, closing down tax havens, and firm action against financial institutions, accountancy and law firms, and multinational businesses that facilitate the leakage of these resources, would also help plug the leaks. More than half of African and Latin American wealth now resides overseas, much of it in tax havens and financial centres such as London and New York – identifying and repatriating these assets, much of which were illegally acquired or transferred, and reversing the flight of capital, will mobilize domestic resources, free up policy space and allow developing countries to develop in a sustainable way.”

Nancy Alexander, the Director of Citizens Network on Essential Services skewers the IMF, WB and WTO driven policies on decentralization and privatization and how these impact on the lives of ordinary wananchi especially within municipalities and other local government contexts:

In many countries, citizens clamor for decentralization which can vest them with greater grassroots power and autonomy. The foundation of decentralization is the “principle of subsidiarity,” which assigns power and responsibility to the lowest level of government – the level closest to the people being served. However, market decentralization (another term for “privatization”) shifts power and responsibility from governments to firms-even in the areas of health care, education and water services. Particularly in the absence of strong regulation, citizens, especially poor citizens, have little power over firms.

Nairobians, especially those who reside in areas like South “B” and other locales hit with chronic water shortages and saddled with putrefying sludge slow sewer systems should reflect on Ms. Alexander’s Social Watch contribution particularly as it pertains to the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company.

On the other hand, my diasporic marafiki in the Kenya Community Abroad and other overseas based Kenyan groupings should interrogate their assumptions about how much they really contribute to national development through the regular and/or intermittent remittances from abroad. I am stating this having read and re-read Carlos Heredia’s essay on migrant worker remittances.

First of all, remittances are not public resources. They should not be accounted as development aid, since they are wages earned by emigrants. It is their money: they are private resources that governments are not entitled to allotting as they please. Only as long as the migrants themselves label their money in order to invest it in works that benefit the community may the resources be accounted as development funds. In Latin America, remittances more than double the volume of development aid. In Mexico, they are the second source of foreign currency income nation-wide, after hydrocarbons and thus displacing foreign direct investment and tourism revenues. The “addiction” Mexico has developed for remittances sent by migrants has become indispensable for 21% of households. These money flows went from USD 1,043 million in 1982 to some USD 22 billion in 2006. Although migrants earn 10 times more in the United States, the amount of money that actually reaches Mexico almost equals what they would earn here. “When a worker is in the United States, 80% or 90% of his earnings will remain there, that is lost. What reaches Mexico is that little surplus the worker can save.. without taking into account travel costs to the United States… this questions that migration may be a way out for the country’s poor families”, said Agustín Escobar, from CIESAS.2 Monetary dispatches do not always translate into a higher quality of life for the receiving family. Family remittances seek to support relatives that remain in the country of origin of the expatriate worker. They are to pay for their daily livelihood expenses. According to Dr. Jorge Santibáñez Romellón (2005), Chairman of the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana, Baja California, the money transfers of Mexicans living in the United States that come to visit Mexico are used as follows:

Food, rent, clothing and health 69%

Buying, repairing or improving 22%

their home

Productive use 5%

Other 4%

In addition, a 2003 study by the Pew Hispanic Centre reveals the following percentage patterns in the use of remittances:

Consumer expenses 78%

Education 7%

Savings 8%

Investment 1%

Other 5%

There may be various ways of classifying the final use given to remittances, but in every case the top priority is for expendables, made up mostly by: food, beverages and tobacco; clothing and shoes; housing, home appliances; health; transportation and communication; education; and entertainment. The Other” category may include – though not exclusively– investments made by migrants, but it never exceeds 5%. Even more complicated is estimating how remittances are a mechanism to alleviate poverty. Remittances are constant flows whose purpose is mainly subsistence. They are not aimed at capital formation or at the creation of new riches. It is income meant fundamentally for immediate expenses, and not for the stable or permanent creation of new income. Only a small percentage is used for savings or investments. The continuity in the flow of remittances has become for the Mexican government a matter of national security, which is imperative to “shield” so it becomes permanent, at least in the short term… We face the challenge of finding mechanisms to minimize costs and capitalize positive impacts of international migration in the different countries, in terms of remittances, savings, markets and new migrant skills. “For too long, Mexico has boasted about immigrants leaving, calling them national heroes, instead of describing them as actors in a national tragedy. And it has boasted about the growth in remittances as an indicator of success, when it is really an indicator of failure”, said Jorge Santibáñez, quoted by Ginger Thompson in The New York Times (2006). Our governments and societies should question themselves about the huge drain that our migrant exodus entails for the country’s productive capacity and the gash in the social tissue caused by the forced separation of families that remain divided. Mexico lacks a nationwide strategy that enables economic opportunities to reach the regions where migrants come from, and the efforts to strengthen those communities have not been addressed. In their absence, the alternative use of remittances has been promoted through savings or investment mechanisms, or their channeling toward financing development projects.

(Carol Heredia, Migrant worker remittances: a way out of poverty? 2006 Social Watch Report).

3.0. Is The Kenya Government SERIOUS About Fighting Corruption?

It has been more than a little cute to contemplate the ongoing see-saw and ping pong about the Anglo Leasing scandal going on like a third rate, endless tennis match from hell between the mainstream protagonists, the majority of whom have been represented in the cabinet at one time or the other over the last decade or so. Never mind that the main facts of the Anglo Leasing scandal have been in the public domain since at least the year 2004 without a single suspect being prosecuted. Set aside the following revelation by Kamau Ngotho writing in the September 223-28 edition of The Leader:

…This time I was a senior writer with the Standard newspaper in January last year. One morning I received a tip from a friend who worked at Primarosa Flower Farm along Mombasa road. It is owned by the Kamani family. Two of the Kamani brothers and their sisters have severally been mentioned as key architects of the Anglo-Leasing scam. The consultant mentioned in the Anglo-Leasing scandal, one Dr. Merlyn Kettering, was also an employee of the Kamanis. At the time my source called, Kamani and Kettering were said to be out of the country and the Kenyan anti-corruption authorities unable to locate them. The source, however, told me the Kamani brothers and Kettering had all along been in the country and holed up at the flower farm. My source drew me a sketch layout of the farm indicating where the three were hiding. He even went ahead to give names of government officials who had been visiting the three at the farm and whatever else he could remember taking place at the farm. I discussed the story with my editors and we agreed it was hot stuff to go to town with. My source helped us by directing us to a vantage position from where we took photographs of the house the Anglo-Leasing musketeers were hiding. I penned the story and passed it on to my editor. On the week we were to publish the story, Githongo had told the press for the umpteenth time that investigations on Anglo-Leasing scandal had stalled because the Kamani brothers and Dr. Kettering had bolted out of the country. One the day we were to carry the story, my editor and I telephoned Githongo just to tell him the three men were actually holed up at Athi River. Githongo swore to the high heavens that we were dead wrong and that Dr. Kettering was actually in the US attending a conference of the Mormons and Kamanis whereabouts were unknown. He insisted we should not carry the story as that would embarrass the newspaper. My editors fell for his argument. That amazed me as I was absolutely sure the story was correct. I still don’t understand why Githongo was so insistent that we “kill” the story. A curious footnote is that the following day, Kamani’s farm manager call an emergency workers’ meeting and threatened dire consequences for anybody found to discuss anything about the farm with journalists or any other strangers. Two weeks later my source at the farm told me Dr. Kettering had left the farm and Kamanis gone for a holiday to an unknown destination…

(Ngotho Kamau, “My personal encounters with John Githongo, The Leader, September 22-28, 2006, p.3).

Put aside all THAT and just remember this:

It was Martha Karua who led the pro-Kibaki cabinet charge, almost two years ago, in the rabid campaign to have Daudi Mwiraria’s name expunged from the people mentioned adversely in this putrid scandal.


"Mr David Mwiraria, Minister for Finance: He approved the controversial financing arrangements for the Anglo Leasing contracts. Parliament's Public Accounts Committee cited Mr Mwiraria adversely in its report on the Anglo Leasing deals, but the Government moved swiftly at the end of last year to expunge his name from the report via a Motion moved in Parliament by Water Resources minister Martha Karua. The report was subsequently not passed, but will be presented again in its original form after Parliament re-opens next month.(Daily Nation, February 13, 2005)."

My intelligence is insulted when official spin doctors shoring up the Kibaki regime ignore the collective elephantine memories of the Kenyan people.

Many observers in Kenya know that one of the reasons why there has been a lot of official foot-dragging over the Anglo-Leasing scam is precisely because some of the Presidential offspring have been mentioned in very unflattering terms as having been up to their gills in this sordid affair.

It is said, for instance, that Dr. Chris Murungaru’s continued swagger and braggadocio over the Anglo-Leasing and other NARC-era corruption scandals is linked to a conviction and perception that Chris was not in this alone and that if he goes down, many State House connected people will also go down with him.

How for instance do we explain the downfall of former inner circle Kibaki aides like Alfred Getonga- not to mention Daudi Mwiraria and Kiraitu Murungi?

Apart from the Anglo Leasing scandal, when will Kenyans know the truth behind the destroyed drugs cache? Is it true that true “owners” of those drugs had connections snaking their way straight to the top echelons of NARC power?

Mamlukigate implicated people very close to President Mwai Kibaki.

Is it a coincidence that like Dr. Merylyn Kettering, the two fake gun-totting, trinket donning, cash waving, chest-thumping, car-jacking philandering, fibbing and swaggering East European hoodlums also managed to mysteriously escape the wrath of Kenyan justice, courtesy of the polite police who escorted them safely out of JKIA to their presumed hideouts in Dubai and elsewhere?

The received wisdom among many serious non-partisan observers here in Nairobi is that Anglo-Fleecing, Mamlukigate, the drugs smuggling, the money laundering, the insider trading involving Kibaki fund-raisers like Eddy Njoroge are all part of a grand sinister POLITICAL plot to raise billions of shillings for NARC-Kenya’s 2007 election kitty.

Whether this is accurate or not is something which awaits the objective litmus test of an independent, thorough public investigation by an unfettered professional team with no axe to grind against either NARC-Kenya or ODM-Kenya.

The charade therefore, starring the above two forces about who is nore resolute in fighting corruption forces me to pause from writing this piece as I make a quick dash to my nearby bathroom to VOMIT in disgust.

I am back.


I wish myself a speedy recovery…

Having expressed my ire about the so called war against corruption in Kenya, let me turn my guns against the sanctiminous finger wavers in the UK, the World Bank and elsewhere.

I have had occasion to berate the West for their hypocritical piousness when it comes to corruption in Kenya and elsewhere.

Today I want to go on record to denounce Colin Bruce, the Caribbean born World Bank country representative in Kenya who like a demented Pharisee has been on a holier than thou sermonizing tirade against graft in our country for quite sometime.

The first question I would like to pose to Mr. Colin Bruce is the following:

Who died and made you the Royal Vice-Roy of Kenya?

And the second and last query I want to lob at the arrogant, puffed up Bretton Woods salesman is this:

When will you speak out about the World Bank’s complicity in perpetuating corruption in the South?

Having disposed of another fresh neo-liberal carcass, let me move on to two interlinked issues:

The supply side of corruption and the role of off-shore tax havens in impoverishing underdeveloped nations like Kenya.

As a preamble let me acknowledge upfront that the primary sources for the rest of this section are drawn from the deep wells of Please visit the site and download the copious amount of radioactive dossier that resides there.

A good place to start is with John Christensen’s Follow the Money: How Tax Havens Facilitate Money Flows and Distort Global Markets.

Here is an excerpt:

The elephant in the living room of the corruption debate is the role played by the global infrastructure of banks, legal and accounting businesses, tax havens and related financial intermediaries in providing an offshore interface between the illicit and the licit economies.

This interface facilitates capital flight and tax evasion, distorts global markets to the disadvantage of innovation and entrepreneurship, slows economic growth by rewarding free-riding and mis-directing investment, and increases global inequality. The offshore interface functions through collusion between private sector financial intermediaries and the governments of states which host offshore tax haven activities.

Despite the evocative images conjured up by the term ‘offshore’, it would be wrong to think of offshore as disconnected and remote from mainstream nation states. Geographically, many of the offshore tax havens are located on small island economies dispersed across the spectrum of time zones, but politically and economically the majority of tax havens are inextricably linked to major OECD states, and the term ‘offshore’ is strictly a political statement about the relationship between the state and parts of its related territories. In the British economy, for example, the bulk of offshore transactions are controlled by the City of London, albeit that many City financial intermediaries operate out of centres located on UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. These centres have a tangible form, with functional banks, trust companies and law offices, but in practice they do not function autonomously from the mainstream economies. They are primarily of use to the City because they offer zero or minimal tax rates combined with secrecy arrangements (including non-disclosure of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts) and regulatory regimes which are more permissive than those prevailing in onshore economies.

Most reasonable observers might expect that governments of onshore states would act collectively to prevent tax and regulatory degradation, but in practice key actors, notably Switzerland, the UK and the USA, act to restrain efforts at achieving global cooperation. The UK, for example, allows its Crown Dependencies to persist with facilitating tax evasion, despite the fact that it is ultimately responsible for ensuring the good governance of those islands. Notwithstanding the ‘smoke and mirrors’ appearance of quasi independence, all domestic laws enacted by the governments of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey need prior approval from the Privy Council. It is therefore safe to conclude that the UK Department for Constitutional Affairs, which is responsible for government relations with the Crown Dependencies, would resist any laws it considered contrary to UK interests.

A major feature of offshore is the existence of conditions of secrecy, either created through banking secrecy laws or through de facto judicial arrangements and banking practices. This ‘secrecy space’ creates an effective barrier to investigation of activities in the OFC by external authorities, and facilitates the laundering of proceeds from a wide range of criminal and unethical activities, including fraud, embezzlement and theft, bribery, narco trafficking, illegal arms trafficking, counterfeiting, insider trading, false trade invoicing, transfer mispricing, and tax dodging. According to one estimate, US$1 trillion of dirty money flows annually into offshore accounts, approximately half of which originates from developing countries. Despite the plethora of anti- money-laundering initiatives the failure rate for detecting dirty money flows is astonishingly high. According to a Swiss banker, only 0.01 per cent of dirty money flowing through Switzerland is detected. It is unlikely that other offshore finance centres are any better. Crucially the techniques used for tax dodging and laundering dirty money involve identical mechanisms and financial subterfuges: tax havens, offshore companies and trusts, foundations, correspondent banks, nominee directors, dummy wire transfers, etc. Legal institutions granted special status and privilege by society have been subverted to purposes for which they were never intended. For example, the original purpose of trusts was to promote the protection of spouses and other family members who are unable to look after their own affairs, and to promote charitable causes. Incredible as it must appear to those not familiar with the offshore economy, charitable trusts are regularly set up in offshore tax havens for the purposes of owning ‘special purpose vehicles’ used for international tax planning and for hiding both assets and liabilities offshore, as happened with Enron and Parmalat.

Another document to access on the same site is The Other Side of the Coin: The UK and Corruption in Africa.

Pay particular attention to the recommendations.

If Kenyans are serious about combating corruption then they should look at the supply side and work with other international actors like the Tax Justice Network to shut down the tax havens and other conduits for dirty money.

But in order to do this, they must have a government in place that is democratic and genuinely committed to fighting the venality of grand graft. That regime is certainly NOT the current one in Nairobi- Martha Karua’s strident grand standing notwithstanding.

One reason I am saying this is just by look at the shady undertakings by Kibaki insiders like Eddy Njoroge. I have already alluded to this matter in a piece I posted on the JUKWAA board recently. To read that essay please click on this link.

4.0. Who Speaks for the Kenyan Wananchi?

Given what I have endeavoured to outline above, you would expect the major political players to at the very minimum, pay lip service to the myriad problems that ordinary Kenyan wananchi have to grapple with.

Is there anybody talking about the massive retrenchment of Kenyan workers that has been ongoing for the last few years?

Certainly not the players in NARC-Kenya whose “government” has been at the forefront of laying off workers. I do not see the issue featuring at ODM-K rallies either.

Who is denouncing the exploitation of the 38,000 Kenyan EPZ slaves and their frequent brutalization at the hands of the slap happy rungu wielding cops?

The government has established the EPZ Authority as one of its corner stones of economic development- at least according to Joseph Chifallu from that agency. A luminary who shines very orange bright in the ODM-K camp-Najib Balala-was especially vicious to these same workers when he was minister for labour in early 2003.

Who speaks for the hawkers and other marginalized urban dwellers?

Who has echoed the calls of the Kenyan youth who were locked out of the recently concluded Youth Employment Summit?

Is there a mainstream political party which is out there denouncing globalization, unpayable debts, the US led state terrorism and other manifestations of imperialism, neo-colonization and recolonization?

These are all self-explanatory rhetorical questions.

5.0. Has Kenya Become a Giant Ngong Race Course?

First, former Kenyan Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi referred to ODM-K as one of the two main race horses in the Kenyan political landscape.

Yesterday, Raila Odinga, speaking in Kakamega, echoed Musalia’s casual arrogance by saying that FORD-Kenya was a donkey and that there was no space for a third force in Kenyan political contestations today.

I found Mudavadi’s and Raila’s comments not only startling, but also rather unfortunate- especially coming from Raila.

My age-mate Musalia I can forgive because for most of his political life he has been part of the status quo, rarely bothering to pick up the cudgels against tyranny and repression.

For Raila Odinga, one of Kenya’s most imprisoned politicians, it is almost unconscionable.

Why, Agwambo did you spend all those years in detention?

Why did you work so hard to help set up FORD and later FORD-Kenya, NDP, LDP and now ODM-K?

Surely it was not to corral Kenyan politics into a stifling two-horse race between a local Tweedledum and Tweedledee!

I thought all along, those of us who had to go to prison, detention, exile, operate underground, endure tear gas and police bullets, live with round the clock surveillance and so on were driven by a higher purpose and that one of the facets of that higher purpose was to increase and entrench political pluralism and greater democratic space.

Who would have foreseen the harbingers of a nation dominated by two cloned Kenyan political horses?

Multiparty democracy means simply that:

A multiplicity of political parties.

Currently there are over 70 parties (at least according to William Ruto who scribbled that data on a small sheet of paper that he passed to me on March 28, 2006 when were co-panelists at Ufungamano House dealing with theme of “Nurturing Alternative Leadership”.

6.0. We Need MORE Donkeys in Kenya

Contrary to the smug assertions of the ODM-Kenya leaders, our country is craving for more choices on our political party menus.

Those of us who have socialist, anti-imperialist and other radical persuasions and inclinations can not, in honesty claim that either of the two mainstream contestants for political power represent, leave alone articulate our interests.

Our ideological convictions are not contained in the respective ELECTORAL platforms of NARC-Kenya or ODM-Kenya.

In the United States, progressive Americans know how confining is this notion of the lesser evil in the context of a two party state.

Listen to Noel Ignatiev, an American commentator whjo worked for over twenty years in steel mills, farm equipment plants, and machine tool and electrical parts factories. He is the co-founder and co-editor of Race Traitor: a journal of the new abolitionism, the author of How the Irish Became White (Routledge, 1995), and co-editor, with John Garvey, of the anthology Race Traitor (Routledge, 1996). He teaches history at Harvard University:

Most people who vote Democratic do not do so because they believe what the Democrats say: indeed, one difference between Republican and Democratic voters is that the former hope their candidates mean what they say while the latter hope their candidates do not mean what they say. You have heard the assurances: Kerry or Hilary (or whoever) is going along with the war (or whatever) as an electoral ploy. In the meantime, aren't they less evil than the Republicans?

The flaw in that line of argument is that in every election one candidate (although it can be hard to tell which) will be less evil than the other. Deciding on that basis not merely does no good; it does harm. The effect of the policy of choosing the "lesser evil" is that over time it makes the choices worse.

It works like this: In the U.S., lacking proportional representation, both major parties are coalitions, one ranging from the center to the right, the other from the center to the "left". The dickering that takes place in other countries among parties after the election takes place here within each party before the election. Normally, each party takes its core voters for granted--where else can they go? The electoral campaign becomes an effort to occupy the center. As Nixon put it, the path to Republican success was to veer to the right in order to gain the nomination and then scurry to the center in order to win the election. Democratic politics are the mirror image of what Nixon described.

The effect of this process is to establish a "broad consensus" in the center, and to marginalize the "extremists" within each party; once the candidate is selected, they count for nothing--except their votes. But what if the "extremists" in one or the other party refused to be taken for granted--in other words, withheld their votes?

(Noel Ignatiev, “Once More in the Breach, Dear Fools” Counterpunch, September 6, 2006)

Is this what we want to see entrenched in Kenya?

I certainly hope not.

Come to think of it, when one compares donkeys and horses, one ultimately comes to have a soft spot for the less glamorous no frills beast of burden.

Unlike the flashy farasi which makes headlines in the sports section of the newspaper for winning (by definition 99.9% race horses fail to win on the race course plunging hordes of hapless gamblers into bouts of criminal depression and endless sessions of weeping in their drinks) this or that derby; this or that steeplechase; this or that jackpot, the humble punda slogs on in the parts of the paper dealing with ordinary people like small farmers, water carriers and other rural and urban toilers. The cheaper donkey is easier to acquire and maintain than the Mercedes like race horse. Donkeys live for donkey years. In some parts of Kenya, at the end of their long lives donkeys still serve their keepers as an excellent source of protein at the dinner table- a delicacy some of my Turkana pals aver, should be added to the national cuisine after overcoming unscientific taboos about their culinary suitability…

Raila and Musalia should also remember that the donkey could be the tortoise which outfoxed the over-confident hare in that Aesopic fable.

7.0. Is There a Role for the Kenyan Left in 2007?

The other day I went to visit a certain friend of mine. When I got to their place I found other friends and as we prepared to sit down for lunch other friends joined us. We ate a lot of delicious Kenyan food, drank beer, juice, wine, whisky or whatever was our chosen poison. And we shot the breeze a lot. One thing we had in common is that we were all ardent democrats, reformers, leftists, progressives or whatever label you chose to pin on our lapels. The other thing that united us was that we were all Kenyans who loved our country with a patriotic zeal that transcended Dr. Goebbels Mutua’s superficial wishy-wishy conformist “majivuno”. A couple among us were very high profile players on the Kenyan reform scene while some of us were anonymous activists who had held our own for several years in terms of grassroots organizing and militant mobilization.

Among the questions we asked ourselves were these:

  1. Are we going to sit back, our arms folded, as we watch NARC-Kenya and ODM-Kenya carve out the country between them?
  2. Who will be articulating the views, demands and aspirations of the common mwananchi when it comes to a new political dispensation?
  3. Is Another Kenya Possible?
  4. The ODM-K base is populated by downtrodden wananchi hankering for fundamental changes. The ODM-K top brass is headed by the likes of Kosgei. Is there a way how we can insert our influence and our ideals within and across the ODM-K popular base while critically and democratically engaging the ODM-K top brass?
  5. Does the Kibaki led-NARC- Kenya have ONE redeeming feature?
  6. Do we have a platform, an ideological vision and a program of action to intervene proactively during the 2007 electoral campaign?
  7. Do we have enough cadres to jump-start our dream?

There are others- but you get the drift.

What were some of the answers we came up with?

I am sorry I cannot tell you.

My lips are ZIPPED.

Onyango Oloo

Nairobi, Kenya


Acolyte said...

This post needs like 5 different comments coz it is really long but well written.

Anonymous said...

Githongo Calls on Wolfowitz to Resign

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Asserting that Western admonitions about corruption to Africa and other developing regions are undermined by the misbehaviour of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, Kenya’s former permanent secretary for ethics and governance, Dr. John Githongo, has called on Wolfowitz to resign his post.

“Corruption in Western capitals and in international financial institutions can do little but fuel the cynicism of corrupt officials in Africa and elsewhere,” said Githongo in a statement prepared for the news media. “When Paul Wolfowitz uses his influence as a US Government official and as president of the World Bank to fill the purse of his paramour (and, by inference, to line his own pockets as well), one can hear the cackling from state houses and presidential palaces all across Africa.”

Githongo said: “Paul Wolfowitz should resign now, before his poor example and bad judgment are emulated by petty dictators and venal middle managers throughout the developing world.”

He added: “Wolfowitz, of all people, should know better than to use his office for enrichment. He should be ashamed of himself.”

Since being forced into exile by a hostile political climate in his native Kenya, John Githongo has been a fellow at St. Antony’s College at Oxford University. In February, he accepted an appointment at Queen’s University in Ontario as a research fellow at the International Development Research Centre, where he is collaborating on a major research initiative on Ethnicity and Democratic Governance.

For further information, contact John Githongo at