Thursday, July 28, 2005

Irony Is

I do not know if Irony is the right word. But imagine watching the following on the same night and at the same time:

Surviving Hunger in the Highlands of Ethiopia.
Surving a the long trek from Darfur to Chad.
The struggles of Homeless kids in North Korea. All the above were part of a 3 hour block on the Discovery Times Channel

Nothing weird you say, well on another channel - Bravo - they have a marathon of the reality show, The Restaurant. Now imagine this, on one channel you are watching a chef slathering a whole pig with butter, frying up some chicken, and grilling a ribeye steak. On the other channel you see folks (Ethiopian) forced to eat grass - which the refer to as cababage - a Sudanese family forced to go 3 weeks without food, and North Koreans forced to eat human flesh in order to survive. Curious are we, there is more.

The patrons in the restaurant can not stop complaining, ohh the food is not hot enough, it's taking too long, it's not in the right plate etc.. But the Ethiopian, Sudanese and North Korean just accept what little they have (though they try hard to get better) and do not keep complaining. Those with plenty bitch about not having enough or not the right knd, but those with little accept what they have, thank the lord for what they have and continue on with life. Kweli hardship hardens the skin.

Anyway, you decide if this is irony, or something more.

O'reilly on the UN

Should have written this on Tuesday, but being the great procrastinator that I am, I failed to. Please forgive me.

ON Monday's edition of the factor Mr. O'reilly contended that the United Nations has done nothing (that he knows of) to aid in the war on terror. He made this assertion during a discussion with two conservative commentators, about entities and individuals who are aiding the terrorists.

If the gentleman had actually done some research - even a quick google search - he would have found out that on September the 28th 2001, the UN passed resolution 1373, which condemned the 9/11 attacks and created a concrete multilateral framework that would aid nations effectively fight terrorists (all kinds not just Islamic). The resolution created the Counter Terrorism Committee, that reports yearly on the member states compliance with resolution 1373, and the moves to fight terror. For example, Kenya has been on the receiving end of negative reports on its terror war for the past two years.

It is quite disconcerting to see how the Iraq war has muddied the waters in the war on terror. This may be an exaggeration, but it seems that most countries see the War in Iraq and the War on Terror as two distinct issues, however, in America there is no distinction and this causes Americans to believe that nations not aiding in the War in Iraq, are not helping (or in some cases, actively hindering) the war on terror ( or as it is know known, the Struggle Against Extremism). Most people are against terror and most nations are actively involved in the fight against terrorism - case in point the arrest of a terrorist in Zambia today, Americans need to take this into account when they speak about the War/ Struggle, the world does not necessarily see Iraq in the same way, and just because the world is not actively involved in Iraq, this does not mean they are not actively involved in the wider struggle. The Struggle against Extremism is a multi year, multilateral effort and one needs to take the wider picture before criticizing the world of doing nothing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

One third of Seats Reserved for Women?

One-Third Seats Reserved for Women:

The clamor to increase women’s political participation in Kenya is an especially laudable one. According to statistics from the Electoral Commissions website, out of 1,035 parliamentary candidates in the 2002 election only 44 were women and of these only 9 were elected. It is very clear that we do indeed have very few women participating in the electoral process as candidates. There are probably many reasons why women do not participate in the electoral process, the balancing act between family and work, the expensive nature of campaigning, negative perceptions of women candidates and lack of experience in electioneering, and many others. The pertinent question is how do we tackle this issue. Some have argued, quite vociferously, for a strict quota, a third of all parliamentary seats be reserved for women. This strategy (quotas) has seen the number of women legislators rise in countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, and Burkina Faso.

However, there are a number of concerns about the quota system, apart from the obvious anti-democratic nature of the scheme, coupled with its arbitrary ceiling, one has to consider whether the root causes of the problem are tackled by reserving certain seats. This scheme would appear to be a band-aid measure considering that there are other measures that could be taken that would provide a lasting structural and systemic change to the electoral process.

In the United States and other Western nations, women’s groups have focused their attention on assisting women candidates participate in the electoral process on an equal footing with men. Organizations like EMILY’s List, the National Organization for Women, and the Susan B. Anthony list, are dedicated to the recruitment, funding and campaign organization of women candidates. They enable women to compete with men in an open and democratic process, where the best man/woman wins. This is where the focus of women’s groups should be, ensuring that Kenyan women can participate fully and effectively in the political process; politically expedient measures like quotas that do not necessarily tackle the root problem, should not be adopted.

Great year in Flight

This has been a great year for aviation. First there was the Space Ship One flight into space (though this was technically last year), then the flight of the Airbus A380 and yesterday’s flight of the Shuttle Discovery. I watched the last two live and I must say I had goose bumps all over my body. For some odd reason - even though I had nothing to do with the projects and they happened miles away from me - I could not help but well up with tears of joy as I saw those two giants take off. I can only imagine what the folks with proximity to the projects actually felt. The Wright brothers, Goddard and the other pioneers of flight must be some proud fellas, their dreams have led to this momentous period in flight.

Monday, July 25, 2005

American Zoo

Watching an American political press conference (especially during a controversy) can be a sight to behold. It is akin to watching lions on the hunt in the Mara, the press being the lions and the politician being the quandary. The press corps will stalk its prey waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce and disembowel the politician, who in turn is warily scanning the horizons to ensure that he makes no false moves and is alert to the journo moves. A perfect example was the press conference 2 weeks ago when NBC’s David Gregory savagely attacked Scott McClellan on the whole “Rovegate” controversy. The journo in that press briefing destroyed McClellan and as Afromusing has posted, the gentleman’s credibility has been badly damaged.

On the other hand, the pack mentality of the press corps can go too far in allowing the prevailing political winds dominate what otherwise could be more substantial press conferences. Case in point, presidential press conferences with foreign dignitaries. Last week Brian Kilmeade (Fox and Friends) made an interesting observation, it must be very difficult to be a visiting leader holding a joint press conference with Bush, as they (conferences) usually degenerate into a battle over American domestic issues and not the relationship at hand. Kilmeade was referring to the press conference Bush held with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, where the majority of questions from the American press were on Rove and the Supreme court, not on what the leaders discussed or the future of the Indian-American relations: it was American politics first. Kiran Chetry (Kilmeade’s co-host) made an even more insightful observation, according to her, the reason for the above, is that journos adhere to the “topic of the day” mentality and if one asks a question out of topic, they stand accused of “softball” journalism.

Whereas it is important to ask questions of the commander in chief when the opportunity arises (lord knows it is not an everyday occurrence), the press should stick to the issues at hand, or else they look like idiots. For example, the day after the Indian press conference the president held another with Australian PM John Howard, the president gave the press corps 4 questions (2 to each side). The American journalists focused on the SUPREME COURT and KARL ROVE. The questions did not deal (or attempt to) with the issues at hand (the US/Australian partnership) and the president simply dismissed the questions (referring them to the previous days answers). The president was magnanimous enough to give the give the American side a third question, but the journo went back to the Supreme Court. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result (paraphrased quote).

In contrast the Australian journalists asked some pointed and interesting questions (Bush acknowledged this) that elicited detailed and thoughtful answers from BOTH leaders. One was on the withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq, and the other was the US/China/Australian relationship vis a vis, economic versus security threats, as well as, human rights. From this episode (and many others) we see the pitfalls of journalistic groupthink; the American journalists were totally outclassed, by their Australian counterparts. In their quest to corner Bush, they ended up looking like stupid kondoo.

Thurgood Marshall and the Kenyan constitution

Learnt something really interesting last night. Was watching C-SPAN 2 (Book TV) a presentation by former supreme court clerk, Edward Lazarus author of "Closed Chambers" a 500 page book on the court (which I had to read for 1 of my classes), the quthor was discussing the court, justices and the ramifications of the recent nomination of Judge John Roberts.

As the author was discussing the decor in Justices' offices, he mentioned that Justice Thurgood Marshall (lawyer for NAACP in Brown V Board of Education 1954) had artificats from Kenya (spears, shields etc). If that was not interesting enough, he mentioned that Marshall got the artifacts from Kenya, after working on Kenya's first constitution. Woo things I did not know about this world. So this morning I looked up Marshall and the Kenyan constitution and found out that the gentleman was friends with Tom Mboya, attended the constitutional talks in London (1960-61) and help draft the Bill of Rights. The following links give some further info on the subject:

"In 1959, famous Kenyan freedom fighter Tom Mboya visited the U.S. and met Thurgood Marshall. Mboya was so impressed with Marshall that he invited him to Kenya to help draft a new constitution for independent Kenya. Kenya at that time was getting ready to get independence from Britain. In fact it is Marshall's friendship with Mboya that is credited with the huge wave of Kenyan students coming to the U.S. for further studies beginning in the 1960s. Marshall visited Kenya in 1960 on Mboya's invitation. His visit however didnt sit well with the Brits and the Americans, who considered him a radical. Under pressure from the British, the Kenyans barred Marshall from attending the conference. From Kenya, Marshall travelled to London, England where he continued to lobby for the Kenyan cause. Marshall returned to the U.S. a changed man in many ways. His trip outside America had opened his eyes to a lot of things and gave him a new perspective in life. He was particularly surprised by Europe, where contrary to popular belief, racism was not as prevalent as it was in America. In Britain, he was treated like the scholar that he was unlike in America where the fact that he was black was always thrown at him. He thus came back to America with a renewed thirst for drastic civil rights reforms. "

"Oh yes, because by early 1960 the British government agreed to sit down with us to work out a program for the independence of Kenya and to begin identifying the main issues, and also the nature of the constitution that would come out. Now I had done quite a bit of that when I was here in Berkeley, and so I could feel that my studies in the University of California at Berkeley were coming up. And, incidentally, we were very practical people, we said that we needed another expert so we wrote to Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was then not at the Supreme Court, I think he was then still at NAACP.
He had been the attorney in the famous Brown v. Board of Education case.
Yes, correct. He readily agreed to come to Nairobi and then to come with us to London to be one of our constitutional advisors, in fact, the main constitutional advisor. And one of his major contributions was to insist that, "You've got to have a Bill of Rights in that constitution." And so that was wonderful assistance that we got from him." Julius Kiano

Picture of Marshall with Kenyatta

Friday, July 22, 2005

O'reilly on BBC

This rant was meant to have been published a while back, but I had no time to do so. But here goes.

After the attacks on London 2 weeks ago, Bill O'reilly (I genuinely love his show) went on a rant about the "sanitizing" of the attacks by the likes of the BBC and other leftwing news organizations. He was particularly incensed by the fact that - according to him and others - the BBC had chosen not to use the word "terrorist" and would substitute it with "bombers" "suicide bombers" and the like. Now, I do not know if this is true, but I am an avid viewer of the BBC world news (comes @ 3 am out here in the left coast) and the folks have continued to use the term "terrorist" with regularity. However, I will let the BBC news director answer these queries more directly:,14173,1527063,00.html

I personally have no qualms with the word terrorist, whether it is used or net used makes no difference to me, I know that the attacks in London were terrorist acts, I do not need someone to tell me so, or to continuously drum that word into my head, if the BBC wants to use "bomber" etc.. Those words carry the same weight as "terrorist" and I see no big deal with the change of words. The same way I have ne problem with Fox saying "homicide bombers" instead of "suicide", I know they're pandering to the BUSH administration (which introduced the phrase a few years ago, but hardly ever uses the word) I have no problem with it. It's all semantics to me, and if people are going to be haggling over words, then I dare say we have greater problems on our hands. Whether u call them "terrorists" or "bombers" they're one in the same thing, I doubt that the phraseology matters to the regular folk, they car about making the streets safe from wanton acts of destruction, that is where our focus should be, fighting this guys, not on what word to use.

On another note, it is interesting that O'reilly and uncle Bob Mugabe see the BBC in the same light. As O'reilly is prone of saying, if everyone is attacking you, then you must be doing the right thing. And BBC is doing a great job, I learn more (about the world) from 30 mins of BBC World, than I do from 24 hours of FOX NEWS primetime or any other American news outlet. Kudos to the BBC, keep on keeping on

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Condi In Africa

Let me begin by saying that I have not been in blogging mode for quite a while - as seems to be the norm on the KBW - but this morning I woke up with great zeal and wrote down some thoughts on issues that have been on my mind over the last 2 or so weeks. The following are the fruits of my labour (some may think it is a waste of time, but I find it to be a very stimulating exercise).

For sometime a buddy of mine and I have been wondering why Condi has not traveled to Africa yet. In her first couple of months as Secretary she was racking up the frequent flyer miles, traversing the globe from Moscow to Mexico city and the list is endless, she made a number of high profile speeches but Africa was nowhere to be seen.

Now it's true that she visited Egypt - and my buddy and I took solace in this - but she was there to discuss the broader middle East and not Africa. This time round she is visiting the continent, Senegal and Sudan. She is finally going home. As the following link notes, it is a shorter trip than was initially planned, but we will take anything:

On a related note, Mrs. Bush was in Africa for the past week, but if you followed the American media you would not know this. According to Mrs. Bush her trip (with both her daughters) moved her
But one scarcely had a bip from the media about her (except that she wanted a woman in place of O'Connor). So I wonder has Africa exhausted her 15 min yearly quota of news coverage? Over the last 3 years Africa has seemed to only come on the radar during the summer (Bush's trip in 2003 and Darfur in 2004 and the G8 2005), and then quickly fallen from the radar screen. One need only look at the hoopla that was caused when Mrs. Bush took her first solo trip to Europe early this year, some speculated that she wanted a more robust role in foreign policy, but let the woman take a trip to Africa and nada.

The most unfortunate thing I have heard related to Africa in the past couple of weeks, was a Fox News anchor (Brian Kilmeade) arguing that the London bombings should distract from the ultimate goal of the G8 and bring terrorism back to issue 1:

Kweli we have a lot to swim against.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Party wrangles

I am a frustrated gentleman, and I do not think I am alone. I cannot be alone, no one can observe Kenyan politics (even casually as I do) and not feel completely and utterly dejected. Seriously, Kenyan politics seems to be an exercise in party wrangles, there has scarcely been a time (since the early 90s) when Kenyan politics has not been inundated with intra-party conflict. First it was FORD K vs. FORD A, then we had FORD K breakup into NDP, there was KANU A vs. KANU B, KANU then breaks into the Rainbow Coalition, then we have LDP Vs. NAK and now KANU vs. KANU. Politicians (and the nation at large) spend so much time on these petty political squabbles that little concrete action can occur. Many thought that the unity developed in NARC would be long lasting, indeed in his inaugural address the president assured Kenyans that there would be no wrangling: “Some prophets of doom have predicted a vicious in-fighting in following this victory. I want to assure you that they will be disappointed. When a group of people come together over an idea or because of a shared idea, such a group can never fail…" Oh how wrong he was.

The last two years have been marked by great rancor, what is most distrubing is that the fighting (as most political battles are in Kenya) has been over postions of power, not an “Idea”, or a “shared Idea”, but positions. I would be eternally more impressed with our politicians if their battles were over the soul of the party (or nation), if they were arguing over ideals and ideology (or even public policy), but alas, nothing like that seems to ever happen. Now we have KANU in the midst of an internal conflict that has little to do with developing effective and concrete policies that will see the party rise from its current sorry state. One would think the the defeat in 2002 would be encouragement enough for the party leaders to put aside their petty differences and work together.

It is quite interesting to compare and contrast the differences between politcs in other nations and Kenya. Democrats will have wrangles, but there usually over how far to the left the party will go, the same goes for the Republicans. In England Labour and the Tories have similar processes, as do Congress and the BJP in India. These political entities has an overaching ideal, or set of ideas that hold them together and guide their policy prescritptions. This is solerly lacked in Kenyan politics. The idea our president spoke of, was not an idea per se, it was a wish to get rid of a political force (Moi), there is little ideologically and politically that holds NARC or any other Kenyan party together and this is very sad and frustrating. It is my hope and prayer that one day we will indeed find a party or group of individuals who are united by an “idea” or “shared idea” who will move our politics from the superficial realpolitik, to a more serious ideological/policy based discourse.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Stupid Kondoo

I don't know whether to feel sad for the villagers or to laugh hard about these stupid kodoo:

450 Sheep Jump to Their Deaths in Turkey

remind you of anything? can one draw a parallel to Kenya's current cropeof politicians? I report you decide.