Saturday, June 26, 2004

Campaign Finance laws In Kenya

This is a an opinion that I wrote that was published in the Kenya Times newspaper.

If the allegations that Mr. Kamlesh Pattni spent Kshs. 4.5 billion to finance the 1992 KANU campaign, and that he was reimbursed for the money using public funds (DN 15th June 2004) prove to be true, they should bring to light a major problem with the electoral process in Kenya. The lack of laws to govern campaign fund-raising and expenditure. What the saga illustrates is that in the current scheme of things it would be possible for politicians to strike deals with rich financiers, in return for positions in government, prime no bid contracts, or other benefits that could be detrimental to the government coffers.
Campaigns are an expensive venture and are, therefore, prime opportunities for corruption to occur. It is therefore, incumbent upon the parliament (as they agitate for public financing of campaigns) to enact laws that would make their campaign fund raising and expenditures public. This would ensure that the rich do not have undue influence on politicians, public funds are not misappropriated for campaign activities, and that campaign funds are not used to bribe voters. Such laws to make campaigning more transparent can only enhance the democratic process in Kenya.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Team Bush : Leadership Lessons from the Bush White House. By Donald F. Kettl,

The author’s main objective in this book is to illustrate what makes president Bush an effective political executive. His principle focus is on Bush’s leadership style that revolves around forming an effective team, dealing with broad strategies and leaving the details to the team: “ Bush has carefully honed a style, based on building an effective team, to make strong decisions” (1). The author argues that Bush’s style (developed at Harvard and utilized in his business career) has made him a very effective political executive and has contributed to his success in office (in Austin and Washington).
The author begins with an examination of the president’s life at Harvard and his early business career. This is where Bush honed his leadership skills and made contacts that would come to his aid when running for office. The author then proceeds to evaluate Bush as an executive. From his crafting of an agenda, and building a team, to providing rules and regulations for the interaction of the team: “I hope that the American people realize that a good executive is one that understands how to recruit people and how to delegate, how to align authority and responsibility, how to hold people accountable for results and how to build a team of people” (43)
The author also looks at other aspects of good leadership. Apart from having a strong team, the author argues that a leader needs to have a strong and narrow, the discipline to stick to a message, an ability to build coalitions and the strength to use ones popularity and strengths to ensure that the agenda succeeds.
A number of interesting issues are raised in the book. Amongst the most interesting is Bush’s prowess at playing the expectations game and how the “missunderestimation” of Bush, by his opponents, has served as one of his most potent tools. As the author argues: “Perhaps the most consistent thing about George W. Bush’s career is that he has consistently exceeded expectations (169)….Bush has made playing the expectations game into an art form. He started with expectations very low indeed. One republican pollster, Whit Ayres, was pleased with that. “It makes it all the easier for president Bush to succeed.” (170) The significance of playing the expectations game is best summarized by Kettl’s apt expression: “Leadership always revolves around expectations. Success depends on beating them.” (171)
Another uncanny and quite admirable quality of the Bush administration is its ability to stick an agenda. As the author correctly points out, in these days of twenty four hour television and talking heads, it becomes very difficult for the president to have his agenda remain front and center. However, Bush and his team have been very effective at this, may it be during the campaign: “But Bush’s relentless refocus on the basic themes helped the story (whether he had used drugs) fizzle and avoided continued questions that could have unhinged the Bush campaign” (86) or through the numerous ‘scandals’ (corporate scandal, uranium assertion in the state of the union address, the outing of a CIA operative) that have threatened to undo the president’s agenda: “The drumbeat of corporate scandals had threatened to squeeze the administration’s agenda – and especially the Iraq initiative – out of the public debate. By defusing the scandals (by promising to investigate them fully) and repeating the foreign policy theme, the administration got the debate back on track and refocused attention on the message it preferred.” (94)
Bush’s ability to create contacts and rely on those contacts for his political career is also quite venerable. As is his knack for building a team out of people he already knows and trusts (which enables him to hit the ground running): “Bush’s reliance on team members he already knew and trusted gave Team Bush a running start and ensured few snags.” (46)
However, a number of negative issues were raised as I read the book. The fact that the author failed to mention that he worked as an advisor to the Bush administration (from 2002-2003 with the office of Budget and Management), is quite perplexing. In the interest of full disclosure the author should have informed – even if only cursory reference to – the reader of his stint in the OMB. This would enable the reader to better evaluate the objectivity of the author and probably explain the overwhelmingly positive view of the Bush that the author has (though I do commend him for his discussion of the seven leadership traps). Moreover, the mere fact that he worked in the white house would probably explain the dim view of the Clinton white house that the author seems to have. One needs only look at the comparison he makes between Bush and Clinton (29-30) and in numerous other pages to see that he does not necessarily have a positive view of Clinton. Though he may have been genuinely trying to compare the two, it would have been better to compare two or more presidents.
Furthermore had he looked at past president’s, especially Ronald Reagan, he would have seen very many similarities with the style Bush has adopted. From his quick start, short and focused agenda, strong team, coalition building, relations with the media and stage craft. All these were introduced during the Reagan administration (Gergen 165-193). In addition, according to the author, Bush had studied the past five administrations, it would not be a stretch to think that he borrowed heavily from the effective first term of Reagan, not only in style, but substance (read tax cuts, defense spending): “ Bush knew from his study of previous presidencies that many of his predecessors started off balance and struggled to regain their footing. He worked hard to develop and project a confident stride, in style and substance, because he knew that first impressions last.” (75)
One the most interesting issues that I found in this book was the author’s discussion of the Iraq initiative. Upon reading the book a number of questions were raised. Did Iraq pose a real terrorist threat, or was it conveniently placed in the category after September 11th 2001: “They (the administration) connected the Iraqi leader to the spread of terrorism, claimed that he was linked to the September 11 attacks, and argued that he had to go.” (70) It is worth noting that the Bush administration had wanted to get rid of Saddam even prior to 9/11 (27), did 9/11 provide the perfect cover? Another question stems from the fact that Iraq became a major administration issue at the same time that the corporate scandals were biting hard and the 2002 elections were around the corner:
"Research then (January 2002) and throughout the year, was clear. The president’s personal popularity was high because of the way he dealt with September 11. If voters focused on terrorism and foreign policy, Bus would remain popular and his fellow republicans would do well in the midterm congressional elections. On the other hand, if Enron, WorldCom, big business failures, and the plunging stock market dominate public opinion, Bush would be in a heap of trouble, which would likely result in the republican loss of seats in both the House and the Senate in the midterm elections. For most of the year, Rove (political adviser to Bush) kept the
spotlight on foreign policy. The president’s foreign policy team had long since
concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that they constituted a
genuine threat. (92)"
The question becomes did the administration “wag the dog”?
This book gives great insight into the workings of the Bush administration, it also gives some strategies for budding politicians, especially team building, agenda control, coalition building and image control. I believe that this book has some very good advice for the public sector as well as, private industry.

Currency Portraits in Kenya

A lot has recently been made about the return of the old Kenyatta notes. According to reports the government wishes to reintroduce the Kenyatta notes and slowly phase out the Moi notes. I find this a wee bit vindictive and uncalled for. The current government may not like the previous president, but they can not change the fact that he was president and cannot erase him from our history books – though many may wish they could. I believe that a compromise can be struck that will enable us to have both faces on the currency; but I believe more can be done to straighten out this issue of whose face is on the currency notes or coins.
I believe that we can borrow from the Americans and institute a policy whereby one individual is limited to one currency note or coin. I believe that this policy should not be limited to presidents alone and should be extended to cover important figures in our countries past. I would suggest the following: one denomination dedicated to our heroes in the pre-colonial period (Mekatilili, Koitalel arap Samoei, Wayaki Wa Hinga). Another dedicated to the fight for freedom (Dedan Kimathi): another to the past presidents Kenyatta and Moi and the last one to the struggle for democracy (Odinga, Matiba, or Muliro). My choices for the portraits on currency denominations would be:
50-shilling note: Mekatilili, this would not only signify the struggle against colonization, but also glorify the importance of women in Kenya’s history.
100-shilling note: Dedan Kimathi, he is I believe the most recognizable face from the struggle for independence and would show our appreciation not only to him but also to other freedom fighters.
200-shilling note: President Kenyatta, as the first leader of our country and prominent figure in the fight for independence.
500-shilling note: President Moi, as our second leader.
1000-shilling note: Oginga Odinga, for his relentless fight for democracy since the advent of an independent Kenya.
As for the coins:
1 shilling coin, Moi and Kenyatta.
5 shilling coin, Wayaki Wa Hinga or Koitalel arap Samoei,
10 shilling, Matiba or Muliro.
20 shilling, Harry Thuku.
The denominations and the portraits on them should also be made permanent (by an act of parliament or constitution) so as to avoid any future alterations. With this I would hope that the future debate on portraits would be stymied and at the same time foster a sense of history and pride in our nation.

International Ethics: Concepts,Theories, And Cases in Global Politics. by Mark R. Amstutz

The author had a number of interesting things in mind that he hoped to
expound upon in this book. The issues that I could ascertain were: He wanted to show that morals play an intrinsic role in international politics, and on the same token discredit the realist perception that power and security are the driving forces behind global politics. He also aimed at giving an introduction and analysis of the current scholarly situation in the field of International Relations and how it could be improved, this was to be illustrated through case studies andanalysis of contemporary and historical events. Whether or not he effectively and convincingly articulated his argument is left to individual taste and opinion.
In my view the author had a number of views that were quite compelling.
His assertion that though the world is a mix of different cultures, certain issues and norms are common to all peoples: “[D]ignity of human persons, freedom from torture, impartial application of the law, and freedom of conscience.” (10). Though these notions maybe steeped on western ideals and are not necessarily true in all cultures, they are widely accepted in today’s world. These norms form the basis of comparing the situation in different countries and enable us to identify countries and societies that may not be abiding by them and in turn we are able to come up with solutions to such problems. On the other hand, the author does try to limit the impact and use of the above norms as universal truths, he cautions against the use of moral absolutes and ethnocentric application of these morals. “ However, a state that seeks to foster rights in foreign countries should proceed tentatively, recognizing that international society is comprised of a plurality of cultures and world views.” (91).
As with everything in life, there is a downside to the author’s views. I may not be an expert in the field of International Relations, but with the little knowledge I have and historical data that I have collected, I have a couple of problems with this book. I do not disagree with the basic premise that morality exists in Foreign Relations, my contention is to what extent morality actually influences Foreign Policy. The author is seemingly to dismissive of the realist point of view- that I believe plays a major role in international relation-: “Clearly, the claim of moral skeptics that power and necessity alone dictate international politics is unpersuasive.”(198). One need only look to Afghanistan to see that national interests do pervade over morals. Prior to 9/11 many cared little about the condition that Afghans were living under, and it is only when the national interests of a particular country were threatened that something was done to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban. Morality, I believe, maybe an inherent aspect of human life, but I doubt that it is consciously applied when a country is considering a particular foreign policy. Morality is more often than not ignored or simply used to cloak self interest and the author does in no uncertain terms admit this: “ Rather that guiding and judging policies, morality has been used to
clothe and justify national interests.” Furthermore, the illustrations that the author gives to illustrate his moral standpoint are a bit vexing and may actually illustrate the folly of believing that morality is principal in the formulation of foreign policy. I pick Somalia for instance, sure the intervention was all about helping the people of Somalia and things went well for a while, but in the absence of a clear national interest in the region, troops were withdrawn and peace initiatives abandoned. It was only after 9/11 that the peace initiatives were renewed- so as to avoid Somalia turning into another Afghanistan- and are currently moving towards restoring peace in Somalia. The same goes for the Sudan and to an extent Afghanistan- after the Taliban were taken out and the world pledged billions of dollars to restore the country, the attention of the world shifted to other areas and Afghanistan has slowly drifted out of our radar.
At the risk of sounding like a reactionary, I find it had to believe that democracy is a necessary tool for the development of this world. I do not believe that if all of the world was democratic that all things would be much easier as was insinuated by the author in his discussion of America’s intervention in Haiti.
Therefore, the principle problem that I have with this book is the pedestal on which it places morality at the expense of national interest. The author on numerous occasions through the book does acknowledge this but does so in a seemingly nonchalant and dismissive manner: “ As a result what appears to be a dispute over political ethics might in reality be a conflict over different interpretation of facts or different assessments of political strategies.” (201). This tells me that morality in essence plays a small part in International Politics and usually plays a background or very basic role, one that can easily and is usually superceded by national interests.
It may be that the author focuses on what society ought to be and I focus on what society seems to be that causes my problems with the author, but using contemporary issues I find it hard to agree with the author whole heatedly.

A Lesson Worth Learning

The year 2003 marked the 30th anniversary or the Arab oil embargo. On October 17 1973 Arab countries decided to limit oil production and prohibit the sale of oil to the U.S. and the Netherlands. This was aimed at getting concessions and pressuring the two countries from supporting Israel in a war that was going on (Yum Kippur war). The embargo had an immediate and quite debilitating effect on the U.S. economy, oil prices rose 300%, long fuel lines became the norm, electricity rationing became prevalent and a ban on fuel sale on Sunday was instituted. The American economy – that is very dependent on oil – was adversely affected. However, though the embargo was crushing in the short-term, the US learnt from the experience and instituted measures to ensure that it could survive a similar shock in the future. This lead to the creation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR), 700 million barrels of petroleum used as the first line of defense against future oil shocks. The U.S. also expanded its purchasing base, and now depends less on Arabian oil. There was also a movie to limit oil usage and today a great deal of effort is put into producing fuel efficient vehicles and other machinery. Most important – I believe – is the transfer of wealth that occurred after the embargo. A lot of money was pumped into the Middle East and the economic ties between Arabia and America grew, to the point that the interdependence between the two parties precludes a repeat of the embargo (as it would spell economic doom for the Arabs and Americans).
I believe that Kenya can learn from the 1973 oil embargo in dealing with the recent and debilitating travel advisories instituted by the U.K. and U.S. Kenya’s economy has been suffering tremendously, by all accounts the country is losing Ksh.1 billion per week, 90% of its regular market is inaccessible, the tourism industry is on the verge of recollapse, other industries such as horticulture are also feeling the pinch and the government has to spend more of its already merger resources to satisfy the demands of the U.S. and U.K. I believe that this should be our oil shock, a shock that forces Kenya to institute safety net policies to ensure that in the case of future shocks, the country is able to survive.
I believe that Kenya needs to expand access to the country, it is unfortunate that 90% of our markets can be inaccessible due to the British banning flights to Kenya (the return of Alitalia is a positive, Air France and other airlines should be lured back as well). We also need to expand our market base, exploit the near and far east (positive moves in that direction commendable), exploit the rest of Africa – especially the West and North. And dare I say exploit the U.S. we could take advantage of the disenchantment that exists toward European countries after the Iraq war. All this would call for an uptempo advertising campaign targeted at these markets – I fail to see why Egypt and Malaysia can advertise on CNN and Kenya doesn’t. We can also borrow a leaf from the Saudi Arabians, they are the masters of spin here in America, and they broadcast advertisements here in the U.S. to ward of any negative press. I believe Kenyan embassies should use the same tactics to assuage fears that the populace may have (have a rapport with the populace and the government seems to become irrelevant). On the issue of marketing Kenya I would also call for an upgrade of the product, let us movie away from the old cliché of safaris and develop new areas of interests (cruises, business holidays, ecotourism and the like would be ideal candidates for further exploitation. With the power that business and industry hold in the U.S. and U.K., Kenya should entice businessmen into Kenya who can invest in our resorts and industries and become more active in our economy. With closer ties between us, the governments are likely to think twice about issuing travel advisories – wonder why the U.K. hasn’t issued an advisory against the U.S. and vice versa? They have a lot to lose by banning flights etc.
These efforts will take a longtime to effect and that is why I would characterize them as long-term strategies. For now, we need to comply with the demands of the Brits and Yanks, this should ensure that the no longer have an excuse to keep their egregious bans in place; and we would live to fight another day.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Bush and Africa

The same George Bush who opened the gates of the White House and welcomed Kibaki and dedicated a whole day and night to meeting Kibaki, even holding a banquet in his honor.

The same Bush who on May 27th 2003 signed in to law HR 1298 (US leadership against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria Act of 2003), which promises $15 billion over the next 5 years. The same Bush who requested $2.7 billion dollars for the global war on AIDS for the FY 2005, a 22% increase in funding from years past (according to the Kaiser family Foundation:

The same Bush who informs his citizens of potential danger in various countries and there are around 50 countries that are considered to be dangerous, unfortunately Kenya, due to previous attacks, and lax security in one among the number.

Clinton never forwarded the Kyoto treaty for ratification by the senate and Bush simply did what Clinton was reluctant to do - withdraw the US's signature. Interesting tit bit, guess who also hasn't signed or ratified the treaty? ...KENYA. If the treaty was such a high priority Kenya should have signed it by now (the only member of the EAC not to have done so.

As for WMD, the onus was on Saddam to prove that he did not have the junk. Res. 687 (8,9,10,12) and about 10 other resolutions demanded that he do so. If he had no weapons or had destroyed them, then he should have given the international community all information regarding the estruction of the weapons. Moreover, it may still be possible to find the junk, in the past month some Sarin and chemical agents have been discovered and there is the potential that more will be found.

The same Bush who since he came to power and especially after 9/11 he has been pushing for peace in the Sudan and has pressured the government in Sudan to stay at the bargaining table. As for his taking credit for the peace, I would like you to substantiate that claim.

The same Bush who went against the wishes of his security detail and returned to the White House to address Americans and the world after the 9/11 attacks.

The same Bush who was the first American president to espouse an independent and free Palestine in co-existence with Israel.

The smae Bush who has liberated 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, a people who are now beginning to enjoy the freedoms that you and I craved for under Kenyatta and Moi, and we now take for granted.

The same Bush that was able to force Libya to admit to its illicit WMD programs and to forswear support of terror groups. The same Bush who through the CIA was able to crack the nuclear trafficking of pakistani AQ Khan. The same Bush who has pressured Tehran into accepting IAEA monitors and North Korea to agree to multilateral talks.

The same Bush who did more than lob a few missiles into empty terror camps and an asprin factory, as a responnse to terror attacks.

The same Bush who extended and enhanced AGOA and created the Millenium Challenge Account, to give aid based on good governance and which has the potential to be beneficial to many African countries.

The same Bush who has set up a base in Djibouti to fight terror in the Horn of Africa and has afforded $100 million to the countries of the region.

The smae Bush who has met more African presidents than any American president in his first two years and has done more than give lip service to Africas problems.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Africa and the UN


The United Nations is an organization that does a great deal for Africa, it gives Africa a voice in international affairs, assists in humanitarian activities through UNICEF, UNDP, WHO, WFP, UNHCR etc. It is therefore in Africa’s interest to maintain the credibility and relevance of the organization. However, over the last two years the UN’s credibility and relevance has been greatly damaged, first there was the inability to enforce resolutions, quickly followed by the appointment of Libya to chair the Human Rights Commission and appointment of Iraq (under Saddam) as the Vice chair of a disarmament conference. A greater threat has emerged with the oil for food scandal, where an estimated $10 billion was diverted from assisting needy Iraqi’s to the pockets of Saddam and potentially UN employees, this scandal threatens to greatly damage the UN’s credibility as a manager of humanitarian efforts. The result of this is that there are growing calls for U.S withdrawal from the UN, or at least a reduction of US payments and with every scandal, these calls grow louder. The most recent blow was the election of Sudan into the UN human rights commission. A move roundly criticized by the US and human rights organizations. The election of a country that is supporting the systematic elimination of a people (in the Darfur region of Western Sudan), to a body that deals with human rights, and with sanction of African countries – especially after the Rwanda genocide – is very disturbing. African countries should be the most sensitive to human rights violations and should condemn them wherever they may occur, even in Africa. It is unfortunate that the quest to embarrass (or “outwit”) the US would lead to the undermining of the UN’s credibility. African countries owe a great deal to the UN and they should work to ensure that it remains as the premier organization in International Affairs.