Archive for February, 2008

We don’t need secret societies

The lead story in the February edition of the New African magazine suggests that secret societies are “the way forward for Africa.” 

It argues, and rightly so, that: “Powerful secret societies in the West and elsewhere rule their countries and the world behind the scenes.  They meet annually or thereabouts in secret locations.  They discuss and take decisions on major policies affecting their countries in the world.”

It continues:  “Their membership cuts across politics, business, media, military, diplomacy, academia, etc.  And they gel things done as planned.  Being part of the same world, doesn’t Africa also need its own secret societies (multiples of them, minus their sinister side) to defend its interests globally and speed up its development?” 

Baffour Ankomah, the magazine’s editor, in a wide-ranging peace, then proceeds to argue that it is about time Africa joined in the fest. 

In his argument, he helpfully draws on what he considers to have been both positive and negative experiences with secret societies around the world, including: Skulls and Bones, The Bohemian Grove, The Round Table, The Inquiry, Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg and Afrikaner Broderbund. 

It is an open secret that most prominent figures in global business, politics, religion and culture are associated with these and several other societies. 

In suggesting that Africa goes that way, Ankomah raises several assumptions, mostly faulty.

First, it is assumed that Africa has no secret societies, yet nothing could be further from the truth. 

Traditional Africa had its own secret societies, some of which were key in the continent’s nationalist and independence struggle movements. 

Equally important, some of Africa’s pre-independence leaders, as indeed those who followed them, are known to have joined the secret societies we have conventionally associated with the global North. 

In my Kenya of the 1990s, official investigations had to be launched into the activities of some of the societies owing to their influence on public life; the government never released its findings as it was thought too many prominent figures were into these societies. 

The Kenyan government’s failure to release the report points to the other assumption in Ankomah’s piece – that these societies can be used for good, contrary to experiences in nations across the African continent. 

Interacting with and talking to friends across the continent, I have come to the conclusion that most African movers and shakers are linked to most of the secret societies discussed in the Ankomah piece; the knowledge professions of law, academia and journalism are especially central to this trend in Africa. 

Also closely linked to this are those in politics and faith, as well as those we have come to designate as captains of industry. 

Not to be left behind, some who run some nations’ security systems are equally into this. 

The most influential secret society in Africa, thus far, would appear to be Freemasonry. 

In the final analysis, it would appear as though we already have our politics, economics and popular culture infiltrated by secret societies. 

I belong to no secret society myself, and yearn to join none, since my experiences as a young Kenyan journalist, politician and Christian have had me conclude that secret societies portend little good for my country and wider society. 

The political crisis following my country’s disputed polls in December 2007, an event in which I participated as a parliamentary aspirant in rural Kenya has had me get to appreciate the nature and effects of these societies on the conduct of public affairs and policies in my own country a little more intimately. 

Secret societies in Kenya, as indeed the rest of Africa, have occasioned the emergence and existence of a special interest group whose socio-economic and political vision has me wondering if Ankomah really appreciates what this could be all about. 

Author David Yallop it is who, in his book In the name of God, has suggested that it is not quite rosy in the grander scheme of things with such societies – no less a person than Pope Albino Luciani was killed over it, he avers. 

He had been in office for close to 33 days only, but was killed supposedly because he could not fit into the competing secret interests which had an intention in the Vatican. 

A certain European nation reportedly also had to reform its entire police force on account of a take-over by a certain secret society. 

Let us keep our state secrets where we can and should, but for God’s sake let’s steer clear of secret societies. 


February 25, 2008 at 1:38 pm 4 comments

Blogging faith

A clergyman friend, whose opinion on the state of the Church in Kenya appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Standard, is now blogging.

He says of his entry into blogging:

This weblog seeks to bring in the voice of the church missing in this influencial medium by exposing the happenings within her and analyzing her response to her dynamic context, as she finds her self in a borderless world aptly stated by Richard O’Brien, the end of geography. Aren’t we now being liberated from religion of holy spaces into life of the Trinity, who in the words of T Radcliff ; “is God, that centre, who is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”?

His blog should be of interest, for the reason that he is a major voice within the Anglican Church of Kenya, if nothing else.

Another friend, whose acquaintance I made in my student days across the pond, has now transformed her daily e-mail devotionals into a weblog after many years.

She is fairly sober on matters doctrinal and quite prayerful too.

Check out both weblogs, and savor their attempts at penetrating popular culture with the credibility of the Gospel of that Gentleman of Galilee.

February 25, 2008 at 1:32 pm 1 comment


Ok, I got tagged….
Here we go….

Rules: -Link to the person that tagged you. – Post the rules on your blog. – Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. – Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs. – Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

vision-launch-photos-028.jpg1. Last time I wore a suit / tie was a for a friend’s wedding in which I was part of the bridal party (late 2006) and my vision launch for the Cherangany campaigns (October 2007). I detest formalities, by and large.

2. Uhmmn, I don’t have much faith in Kenyan politics and politicians, despite having participated in it this past year. Evidence? I wasn’t certain how the politics would go after what we witnessed in the days following December 27th. As a result, I didn’t pay my fees at graduate school (Daystar) till I was certain Kofi Annan & co. had made considerable progress (uhmn, that was late last week 🙂 ). Even then, I just paid a lil bit 🙂 and told the Finance Manager nitamwona baadaye 🙂

3. I love kunde (cow peas).

4. I’m trying to learn Chinese. Been dropping cutlery in the house and trying to mimic the sounds 🙂

5. There is an African country I have been wanting to visit. Trouble is that it keeps coming onto and chucking off my list of interests depending on how I feel about Kenya that day…as the two are a tad too similar…

6. I don’t know how to swim and I don’t want to learn how to. Almost drowned twice in my life, once in Moi’s Bridge (Kenya) and Grantham (USA). Since then, I prefer water I can control (in a cup, bucket, tap, etc 🙂 ).


I’m not Luo / American, but Obama is my cousin, I swear 🙂 I need not produce a Form 16A for that, or do I?

And if you have read this post, consider yourself tagged.

February 25, 2008 at 1:12 pm 4 comments


*Got this in my mail.

Answer ALL the questions below

NB. Dubbing/rigging will lead to automatic disqualification. Make sure your forms 16A and 16 are checked before you leave the room!
Give two different meanings of the word rigging (2mks)
Question 2
Write an Essay in no more than 200 words on Gitobu Imanyaras visit to State House vividly recalling how the first lady sent him out (20 mks)
Question 3
Mary gave birth to a baby boy and named him KIRAKA after making out with a Kikuyu, Kamba and Luo, What is the meaning of this ACRONYM: KIRAKA
Question 1
With ODM having won 101 parliamentary seats and PNU 45 and ODM-K 16, what is the probability that after tallying ODM got 4.3million votes? (20mks)
Question 2
Two boys, one has six oranges and the other one, what is the probability of the boy with one orange sharing it with 8 others (2mks)
Question 1
Using your pipette determine the PH level in orange as compared to that of the banana? (2mks)
Question 1
Watu watatu (ODM ,PNU, ODM-K) walikua kwa mbio. Mtu yule alikua katika nafasi ya pili alimpita yule alikua katika nafasi ya tatu. Mtu wa pili yuko katika nafasi gani? (Alama 2)
Question 2
Tunga sentensi tano kwa kutumia ngeli ya ‘Rig’. Kwa mfano: Chama cha PNU kilitumia mbinu ya rigging kushinda uchaguzi bandia. (Alama 2)
Question 3
Fupisha sentensi kwa kuondoa maneno ambayo hayatajiki na tumia Kiswahili sanifu
‘Na wale ambao wanachoma nyumba ai jameni, bado tutajenga. Natutazidi kujenga wakichoma. Msije mukafikiria kwamba utachoma nyumba ya mtu nawe utaendelea kuishi, hapana. No way. Na yule anayechoma nyumba za watu huyo ni crazy. Na yule anayemwambia mwengine achome jamani hiyo ni crazyness, no haiwezekani’.Na yule anapiga watu makofi……haaaaapanaaa!! (Alama 10)
Question 1
Calculate the amount of energy in Kilojoules kJ lost in guarding an empty park with 500 policemen at a temperature of 30degrees centigrade (2mks)
Question 2
Calculate the speed of a teargas canister projectile launched somewhere in Kibera at a constant speed of 200miles in 2 seconds use the formula: velocity = distance x time
Question 3
Given the coefficient of friction is 0.09, what is the canisters speed at the base of the incline? (10mks)
Question 1
1. Judas betrayed Jesus as Kalonzo ‘waiper’ betrayed ……………….. (2mks)

General Paper

Question 1
Define mediation…………. (5mks)
Question 2
If PNU and ODM share power,what will become of a VP who is from ODM-K?…………………. (10mks)
Question 3
In simple terms describe Martha Karua…………………. (10mks)

February 25, 2008 at 12:28 pm Leave a comment

Sharing spoils among leaders will only buy time

Source:  The East African

      John Githongo, senior associate , St Antony’s College, Oxford, UK

Does the mediation process have a future? What factors can influence its success or failure? 

I think we need to define success more clearly. What are we mediating? A common elite has been temporarily split by a flawed election. Both sides say they won. 

In the short term, the success of the mediation efforts will depend on whether the current political protagonists put national interests ahead of their own political ones and reach some accommodation. 

To many, this means perhaps joining a government of national unity, a transitional government or some other such arrangement that sees a “sharing of the spoils.” 

In all probability, this will produce a temporary calm led by a dysfunctional government in which there are parallel lines of political accountability. 

Perhaps, although this is unlikely, in this Daliesque environment, Kenya can begin to address some of the key fundamentals underlying the present crisis. 

The elections were merely a trigger for the crisis, with the subsequent mayhem simply symptomatic of a wider leadership failure. 

This will not change and we should not pretend it will. Putting all the belligerents into one government, merely buys time. We need to be prepared to think outside the box. 

If power was contested to bring about genuine change, then perhaps that is what should be the subject of the current mediation: the big issues — constitutional powers of the president; past corruption that has exacerbated inequalities along regional and ethnic lines; increasing parliamentary oversight over the presidency; greater parliamentary accountability in itself; land reform and wider institutional reform to repair the civil service, judiciary and the ECK, among others. 

So I would be cautious about seeing the current mediation serving as some sort of silver bullet. We are at the beginning of a process, not approaching the end.

People are still in a state of shock, intimidation and terror are being used to “cleanse” more and more people, leaflets keep popping up. National reconciliation appears almost impossible from the current perspective. Yet societies have learned to live together again after really horrible bloodletting in the past. Is there hope?

This is perhaps the most important challenge arising from the current crisis. Even as leaders meet in Nairobi, significant population movements are underway physically and emotionally. Kenya continues to polarise along ethnic lines. 

This will devastate many of our institutions. Our schools, research organisations, institutions of higher learning, even our hospitals are feeling it already. 

The breakdown in interpersonal trust implies a terrible fraying of the social fabric. This will take a generation if not more of committed leadership to repair. 

If it is not dealt with as a specific issue it will make a mockery of all the other reconstruction initiatives that may be put in place. 

As Kenyans we will have to ask ourselves some tough questions. I would ask members of the Kikuyu elite: Why is it so frightening an idea to have, say, a Luo as president of Kenya; to the Luo elite I would ask for a careful listing of the mountain of grievances they feel against the Kikuyu elite; I would ask the Kalenjin leaders why they are so angry with the Kikuyu presence in the Rift Valley and so on. 

There is a lot of anger and resentment out there. What is it? Why is it? When we start grappling with these issues then we will be dealing with the underlying realities. 

Right now, it is being expressed violently, creating a cycle of fear, violence and reprisals. No one comes out the winner in such a situation.

Kenyans appear to have quickly forgotten that the Kibaki administration was ostensibly doing very well economically, at least the urban middle class and donors thought so, and yet ODM was able to mobilise tremendously and erase this advantage despite the billions of extra shillings being collected by KRA, the millions of extra tourists with their hundreds of millions of dollars; resurrection of key agricultural sectors, etc.

The underlying reasons why this happened are at the heart of why this crisis has happened. 

I’m convinced even if the economy had been growing at 10 per cent the sheer power of these simmering unaddressed resentment and parochialism would have led to similar voting patterns. The last elections showed us — “it’s the politics, stupid!” For now anyway.

On the face of it, the economy has been systematically dismantled. Can Humpty Dumpty be put together again? Going back to the Gunder Franck concept of external articulation/internal disarticulation, shouldn’t there be a complete rethink of infrastructure, now we have seen how vulnerable the “export orientation” of the “iron snake” makes it to having its back broken?

Humpty dumpty will not be put together again. Humpty dumpty clearly wasn’t doing that well before. 

Indeed, a rethink is in order and Kenyans are up to it. But this should not be seen as an acknowledgement, especially in light of the violence, that this is an exclusively internal problem; Africa turning on itself. No continent has been as “helplessly globalised” as Africa so Gunder’s thesis holds to that extent. 

But at the same time, our shot-gun insertion into the global economy in the late 1980s, when we were structurally adjusted, did allow liberation from a useless state service delivery sector — from telecommunications to the marketing of produce. We liberalised our politics in the 1990s with similar haste. The combination led — particularly in Kenya’s recent case — to rapid economic growth and a burgeoning service sector. 

But it also caused a deepening of political contradictions because too often growth did not mean development, it did not mean jobs, especially for the urban male youth who are now knocking on doors at night dropping scare leaflets and manning de facto roadblocks. 

The emergence of grand corruption merely exacerbated this, not just in the amounts of money stolen but rather because graft was perceived to be the preserve of a small group mostly from one ethnic community. 

Perceptions of ethnicised inequality typically take hold and find very potent political expression in a situation where there are no institutions capable of mediating them. That’s what happened in December. 

The business community was caught napping, although I think it has quickly woken up — in shock. For the World Bank in particular, Kenya’s current crisis should force a total rethink of the way they do business in Africa. 

They should ask themselves whether they contributed to this crisis by shovelling out the cash despite political warning signs (some of them very direct) and thus strengthening the hand of counter-reformers. What is clear is that the entire model will be rethought — by force of circumstance. 

Kenya has the brain power at home and abroad to make this important leap and will be relevant to colleagues across the African continent. 

Still we cannot escape the fact that we are globalised, and this has created pockets of extraordinary dynamism hampered by political elite who cannot make up their minds whether they want to lead or enrich themselves.

How does one address the inequality and unemployment that presumably have fuelled the rage? 

First by acknowledging it and doing so in a manner that acknowledges the dignity of all Kenyans. There is a snide attitude that Luos, some of the Coastals etc, are poor because they are lazy or good for nothing. These stereotypes should have no place in the mouths of those that pretend to be leaders. 

Second, by coming to the harsh realisation that there shall have to be a transfer of resources that helps to, as it were, demarginalise the marginalised. 

I think this principle informed former president Daniel arap Moi’s District Focus for Rural Development programme, but it was derailed by the seemingly unstoppable impulse to steal. 

Still, there is absolutely no way anyone born in Nairobi is born with the same opportunities as someone born in Mandera, or Kitui, or Bondo. Kenya’s stability and unity is dependent on those people born into different circumstances and realities feeling that they enjoy equality of hope and opportunity; equality of access to justice and economic opportunity. 

You can’t make people equal by passing a law. Even affirmative action measures do not necessarily solve these problems overnight. But we can craft institutions that deal with these issues very specifically, especially after the kind of horror we have just seen. 

It won’t be popular with the laissez fairists, but we need African solutions to African problems. 

If that means kicking out the agents of “growth-at-all-costs,” so be it.

How much can we retrieve of the Old Kenya, its dynamism and diversity-fuelled innovation? Are there any useful comparisons to make with post-1982?

Why bother? The First Republic is dead. Normal service will not be resumed as soon as possible. 

The period of normalcy accompanied by good gross domestic product statistics and other indicators that lent comfort to the middle class and donors determined to shove money down the throats of African governments between 2004 and 2007, was a period of growth without governance — growth while the politics was actually deteriorating. 

I was stunned to hear a businessman in London tell me gleefully that Kenya was great because the politicians were a bunch of useless crooks, “but they didn’t matter” — the economy was chugging away at full pelt and the elections were merely a blip on the profit curve. 

This grand illusion has ended rudely. But I believe this reality check should help us to confront our demons more realistically. Out of this we shall build a new Kenya. Sadly it is happening in blood. 

There is a fundamental resilience in Kenya. What has happened will wake us all up. 

It will also consume some of the most truculent troublemakers — perhaps sooner than they anticipate, but certainly for the better. 

I would hesitate to compare the current situation to the aftermath of the August 1982 coup attempt. Back then those events were followed by a dramatic shrinking of democratic space; increasing use of the security services to perform political functions; paranoia among the ruling elite transformed into policy; non-conformists intimidated, bribed, exiled or killed. 

Times have changed.

February 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm 2 comments

Readings on Kenya

  1. Rotberg: What to do about Kenya
  2. Q&A:  Kofi Annan on Kenya’s tragedies
  3. US official on African crises
  4. Kenya: Rights’ activist pushes for UN action
  5. Ethnic cleansing in Luoland

February 13, 2008 at 5:27 pm 1 comment

Extra (video) material from Kenyans in Germany

Editor’s note:  This post is an addendum to material published here earlier on.

  1. The March (part 1)
  2. The March (part 2)
  3. Worship song (part 1)
  4. Worship song (part 2)
  5. Worship song (part 3)
  6. The Gospel of the Kingdom of God
  7. Repentance prayer
  8. Unity song of hope

Source: Tom Rewe

February 13, 2008 at 4:56 pm 1 comment

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