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Sunday, February 24, 2008

China's Influence in Africa

In retrospect The EU-Africa summit held in Lisbon in December 2007 was an explicit counterpoint to the China-Africa summit of November 2006. Mr. Bush just concluded a tour of five African countries. Korea and India are also becoming notable players in the continent.

Interest by the West in Africa quickly waned after the heady years of independence. Africa’s fledgling democracies quickly morphed into despotic regimes typified by violence, corruption, disease and poverty.

For nearly five decades, the West has typically shunned Africa. America and Europe have linked its loans, trade and investment to improvements in democracy and respect for human rights. Now the Europeans and the Americans are increasingly worried that they are reducing trade and clout in Africa.

All this attention has put Africa’s leaders in the enviable position of picking their friends and on their terms. African leaders have always lamented broken promises on aid and a hostile international economic system. What is on offer from Africa's suitors is blend of concessions and inducements.

Why the renewed scramble for Africa? Africa has 10% of the world’s oil resources. The continent holds 60% of the world’s diamond. 7% of the world’s Uranium resources are found in Namibia while Niger has 2.4%. 8% of the world’s proven gas resources are found in Africa.

Invariably, Africa’s oil and mineral wealth occurs in countries that have been characterized by Western powers as plagued with civil strife, chronic corruption, and weak governance. For the most part these countries are embroiled in conflict and occupy the bottom ranks on the UN Human Development Index.

2006 marked the “Year of Africa” in China’s diplomacy. China has calibrated its foreign policy to its domestic development strategy. The Chinese have stepped into the continent with deep pockets, fewer demands on commitments to democracy and respect for human rights on African governments.

Clearly, the real trigger for the new scramble for Africa is China. The United States and the EU are alert to the potential long-term disruption to important raw materials and energy sources as these resources come under “siege” by China to sustain economic growth. America’s renewed interest is tied to its desire to take 25% of its oil supply from Africa and reduce its dependence on the Middle East.

Sino-African trade was valued at $55 billion in 2006. This is a dramatic increase compared to $18.5 billion between 2002 and 2003. In October 2007, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China bought 20% stake in Standard Bank of South Africa at $5.6 billion.

China has secured a major stake in future oil production with a $2 billion package of loans and aid that includes funds for Chinese companies to build railroads, schools, roads, hospitals, bridges, and offices; lay a fiber-optic network; and train Angolan telecommunications workers.

China is also a credible partner in non oil or mineral rich countries such as Ivory Coast, where Chinese companies are building a new capital, in Yamoussoukro, paid for by Chinese loans.

China’s appetite for oil and minerals could resuscitate Africa’s economies. But China could also be the tripwire for Africa’s potential failure to attain sustainable economic growth. China’s offer of billions of dollars on long-term deals for rights to natural resources, unconditional aid and cheap loans to African governments risks driving back into debt, countries that have only just benefited from debt relief.

China’s quest for resource and potential markets is supporting African dictatorships, hindering economic development, and exacerbating existing conflicts and human rights abuses in troubled countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe. In an apparent reference to the post-election crisis in Kenya, China claimed recently that Western style democracy was not appropriate for Africa.

Europe is also getting into the spirit of compromise and concessions with Africa. At the expense of UK’s attendance, Europe overturned its travel ban on Mr. Mugabe to enable him attend the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon. Sudan’s al-Bashir also attended and was spared any scrutiny on the excesses of his army in Dafur.

In contrast, Americans say they are driven by compassion rather than strategic (trade and military) interests. At the start of his Africa tour, Mr. Bush proclaimed that his was a mission of mercy. By the end of its first five-year phase, in September, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will have spent $18.8 billion, mainly in Africa. Mr Bush has requested Congress to approve another $30 billion over the next five years to tackle AIDS in poor countries.

Renewed interest by China, Europe and America has both positive and negative effects. It's good for the continent because they are willing to invest in the “dark” continent. But it is bad for Africa if it reverses the modest gains in political and economic reforms.

Africa must structure its trade and investment relationships to produce outcomes that offer the most optimal pathways for delivering growth, opportunity and greater democracy for its people.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kenya: Light at the end of the Tunnel?

After nearly six weeks of ghastly murder, rape and plunder, Kenya’s negotiatiators appear to be edging close to a political compromise. Chief mediator, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said “I now can see light at the end of the tunnel”. This must become true if the anarchy and bloodletting that gripped one of Africa’s most stable nations is to end.

Mwai Kibaki and his team must conclude and implement an agreement that would genuinely share power with the main opposition, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Anything less than unfeigned commitment will provoke fresh fury and turmoil.

It is troubling how easily Kenya began to tear itself apart after December’s botched presidential poll-and after the electoral commission chairman admitted that he did not know whether Mr. Kibaki won.

The violence since has been horrendous: murders, rapes, amputation, mutilations and ethnic cleansing. Over 1,000 people have died, and nearly 350,000 displaced and dispossessed. While there has been an uneasy calm in recent days, the economy is beleaguered and experts warn that all sides are armed, mobilizing and ready for a duel.

Arch Bishop Tutu, the UN, UK and the African Union the EU, the United States have spent weeks nudging Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga toward a political settlement. China weighed in differently. Beijing claimed Western style democracy was not appropriate for Africa. Clearly, China has chosen not to stand with millions of Kenyans who travelled hundreds of kilometres in believing that only votes cast would be tallied.

On February 21st, Kenya’s government announced that it would create a new position of prime minister, hopefully for Mr. Odinga, one of the chief demands of the ODM. The expectation was that a final deal would be reached by February 22nd. The government side failed to show up at the talks in the morning. The talks resumed in the afternoon and by the close of business there was no deal.

Any deal would quickly come undone if Mr. Kibaki also doesn’t cede sincerely, some real authority and responsibility. The ODM deserves a central role in governance-and Kenya’s survival and eventual return to the path of peace and order demands it.

A Kibaki and Odinga led administration is certainly not a universal panacea. It certainly will not deliver justice. The government must prosecute the perpetrators of the heinous crimes of the post-election. Their must be a comprehensive plan to expedite the resettlement of those displaced and dispossessed.

I worry that there will be no sustained peace, unless Kenya addresses the fundamental questions of discontent, deprivation, entitlement and yawning inequalities that turned friends, families, colleagues and neighbours from different ethnic groups against each other.

Collectively, the two sides must quickly address constitutional and institutional reform issues that are the root causes of the anarchy. An independent commission, comprising Kenyans of high moral probity, must be constituted to establish what happened in the vote tallying process and to suggest comprehensive reforms to the electoral system.

The victor-vanquished system of democracy under which the president wields imperial, unbridled power and exclusively rewards their ethnic group and politically correct cronies is untenable. This winner-take all systems has turned governance and public service into a theatre for ethnic intrigue and partisan absurdity.

A fundamental constitutional reform is long overdue. The current constitution is an impotent, listless document that has woefully failed to deliver even on its modest promises. The current regime and regimes before executed social and economic policies that allowed untenable ethnic inequity to fester and failed to build social cohesion and ease the path to nationhood.

The current constitutional dispensation allows the president to emasculate vital institutions and constrains the civil service to prostrate in servitude to the presidency. Parliament is an innocuous and sterile ambler that disdains its legislative obligation. The reforms must create a civil service that eschews the tyranny of nepotism or tribalism and upholds the aristocracy of merit and equity.

The government must find ways to create new jobs and share resources and opportunities more equitably. Inequity begets inequity. Fortunately, just as four decades of inequitable policymaking engineered regional disparities, inclusive policy can address inequity and help build a just and stable society.

Poverty must be tackled. Poor children, wasted by hunger and malnutrition, crippled by disease, trapped in failing schools, have limited chances of receiving a solid education, gaining a decent wage employment, and providing a better future for their own children are severely compromised. These children, later as young adults, are easy to enlist as gangs and militias.

Kenya will rely on international largesse to get back on track. The new leadership must design and execute a responsible foreign policy and an international outreach strategy. Chest thumping and proclamations of sovereignty does not constitute and enlightened foreign policy. Kenya must redeem its international image and inspire investor confidence.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Global food crises looms as climate changes, fuel prices rise and economies boom

Thoughtless ethanol subsidies, rising consumption of meat products that accompany the growing incomes in emerging economies and climate change could herald the end of affordable food globally. For the world’s most vulnerable, especially in Africa, food could soon be prized out of reach.

In an unanticipated and unprecedented shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) predicts that cereal prices will rise by between 10 % and 20 % by 2015. In 2007, developing countries collectively spent $50billion importing cereals, up 10% from 2006.

On the supply side, there is a shift away from grain production for human consumption to crops for biofuels. Maize grain is a primary feedstock for United States ethanol. In 2007, farmers in the United States produced an extra 30million tonnes of maize for ethanol to run automobiles. Mr. Bush has urged steep rises in ethanol as part of America’s efforts to reduce demand for fossil fuels by 20% by 2017.

The competition for grain between 800 million motorists around the world, who want to maintain their mobility, and its 2 billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue. To fill up an SUV’s fuel tank with ethanol requires as much maize as is needed to feed a person for a year.

Demand for grain is increasing with the world population, and more is diverted to feed cattle as the population of upwardly mobile meat-eaters grows in emerging economies. It takes about 8kg of grain to produce one of beef and three of pork. Farmers now feed between 200-250m tonnes more grain to their animals than they did 20 years ago.

The food crisis will be compounded by climate change and land degradation, especially in the developing world. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020 in some African countries. IPCC further projects that by 2080, arid and semi-arid land will increase by 5-8% in Africa. This would adversely affect food production by reducing the acreage of arable land.

Nor less important, is the fact that high oil prices are likely to depress the use of oil-based fertilizers, which have been responsible for the increase in grain production during the past fifty years. Furthermore, higher oil prices will make transport more expensive, and at the same time make it more profitable to expand production of grain-ethanol and other biofuels.

High food prices present both a challenge and an opportunity. It will hurt the urban poor and the rural landless in developing countries. Soaring prices for basic foods are beginning to lead to political anxiety. High food prices are known to increase inflation. Governments often act by imposing price controls and export restraints.

In poor countries, food accounts for more than half of the consumer price index. There have been tension and political unrest related to food markets in a number of developing countries in the recent past; including Mexico, Morocco, Senegal and Mauritania.

High food prices have the potential to benefit agricultural communities in rural areas by increasing returns to their labour. In many poor rural areas, it will expand employment and boost earnings. If managed judiciously, high food prices have the potential to narrow the widening income inequality between urban and rural areas.

In Africa, big investments will be needed to rehabilitate and expand roads, railway lines and port facilities to deliver necessary inputs and provide access to commodity markets, both local and external. Bold policy reforms will be needed to remove the structural, institutional and capacity barriers that influence fertilizer demand and supply. Reforms will also be needed in the financial service sector to provide affordable credit to farmers.

In some African countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, painful agrarian reforms will be necessary to permit appropriate modernization of the agricultural sector to achieve even modest levels of efficiency and productivity.

Innovative policy and technical approaches will be needed for climate risk management. Properly established financial instruments will be needed to provide novel avenues to simultaneously protect the poor from climate risk while communicating risk through commodity prices.

But expanding food production in rural areas may come at a great cost and harm to the environment. For instance, new land in rural Africa will mean conversion of high-value conservation land such as forests, wetlands and savannas. In South America, soybean farmers and ranchers are encroaching on the Amazon, and palm oil plantations are continuing an alarming expansion across large swaths of virgin forests in Southeast Asia.

Higher food prices would make possible to reduce subsidies in the west, remove trade barriers, help revive the stalled Doha round of talks and boost world economy. Higher food prices have the potential to make the world richer and fairer. But will it?

The good news is that the use of grain-ethanol could decline in the medium to long-term. Similarly, the demand to expand biofuel production to agricultural land high-value conservation areas may not persist for long.

Recent research shows that next generation of biofuel crops, derived mainly from fast-growing grasses and trees, will be produced with little water or fertilizer on degraded soils, and may have far superior benefits to even the best sugarcane ethanol. This development is likely to reduce the volume of maize from the United States currently sold to make subsidized ethanol, with the long-term prospect stabilizing prices.

How countries cope, especially poor countries with large numbers of low income consumers will depend on innovations in the search of alternatives to fossil fuels, climate adaptation, agrarian reform and economic policies.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The poverty-health conundrum

Economists, development aid agencies and national statistics bureaus define poverty according to income and wealth. But simply put, poverty is the absence of opportunity and choices. Poverty is a day by day, hand to mouth existence that defies planning, saving and investment.

In the 1960s, many developmental economists believed in the "vicious cycle of poverty" theory, which argued poverty in the developing world prevented accumulation of domestic savings. Low savings resulted in low domestic investment and low investment was seen as the main impediment to rapid economic growth

Poverty is a constellation of difficulties that amplify one another: not just poor soils but low crop yields, hunger and malnutrition, not just low just unemployment and low wages but also low education and lack of skills, insufficient savings and lack of assets, not just lack of access to health services but lack of clean water and poor sanitation for households and whole communities.

Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta declared “War on Poverty, disease and illiteracy” 45 years ago. But progress stalled immediately thereafter: corruption and ethnic patronage produced political disciples and civil servants baptized in the spirit of “what have you done for yourself?”

Today we see little islands of prosperity in a vast ocean of poverty and misery. We have elected to explain regional disparities using unhelpful and patronizing ethnic stereotypes that obstruct honest and dispassionate public discourse and concerted action.

Living in or near poverty is a form of socio-economic exclusion from the larger society. The disparities in income and livelihood outcomes are much greater than it was 45 years ago, because incomes have risen in real terms while the official poverty line has not.

Poverty is essentially the absence of basic services (especially health and education), opportunity and growth. We must begin to see the poor not as lazy but as undercapitalized and unsupported entrepreneurs. They are in large part victims of what Paul Farmer, a physician-anthropologist at Harvard Medical School, calls structural violence, which determines the nature and distribution of extreme suffering.

Proponents of aid believe that the poor cannot create wealth. Proponents of aid believe that the poor cannot create wealth. Hence the need, they argue, to give aid. Opponents of argue that bureaucratic approaches of aid planners have never ended poverty and never will.

We need to step away from the straightforward absolutes on both ends of the aid dispute, and instead seek to better understand why and where aid works or does not work. This is the essential starting point for figuring out how to make it work even better.

A coalition of local entrepreneurs, NGOs, multinational companies, foundations, aid agencies, and governments can create a market-oriented ecosystem, providing poor people with skills, technology, information, credit, infrastructure, and markets necessary for sustainable development.

An evolutionary perspective can help to clarify the meaning of sustainable development. Sustainability can be viewed as the capacity to differentiate, select and maintain adaptive capability. Development is the process of providing services, creating growth and maintaining opportunity. Hence Sustainable development is the goal of fostering adaptive capabilities, creating growth and maintaining opportunities.

Alleviating poverty through wealth creation is essentially an evolutionary process. It proceeds through differentiation of local solutions, selection according to a criterion of fitness, and amplification or scaling up of successful practices and innovations to the next level. Hence creating growth and maintaining opportunity. In this context, fitness can be viewed as value-adding economic transformations and transactions that produce goods and services that meet the needs of the poor.

The poor are encumbered by an inordinate burden of disease. There is no room in a free market for the poor. Market-Based Medicine can cater to the needs of the chronically ill who often suffer from endemic diseases such as malaria, acute lower respiratory tract infections, diarrheal diseases, measles, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

The notion of poverty traps greatly limits the potential of pure market solutions to tackle poverty. The poorest populations in Kenya rely disproportionately on the natural resource base, ecological capital, on which agricultural productivity depends. A distressingly large proportion of the poor suffer chronic rather than transitory poverty.

The poor are trapped in a state of perpetual hunger, malnutrition, chronic illness, vulnerability due to poor asset endowments and market failures, especially for capital, that preclude their efficient investment in or use of productive assets.

Securing population health transition process, consisting of falling death rates from infectious diseases especially in infancy and early childhood, resulting in a greater proportion surviving to old age has been associated invariably, with the processes of economic, social and technological change, and improvements in environmental quality.

Children often suffer disproportionately from the burden of poverty. For instance, mortality in children under 5 years in urban slums is 2·5-fold higher than in other urban districts and 1·5-fold higher than the national average.

Poor children, wasted by hunger and malnutrition, crippled by disease, trapped in failing schools, have limited chances of receiving a solid education, gaining a decent wage employment, and providing a better future for their own children are severely compromised.

The first UN Millennium Development Goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and the second is to ensure that all children complete primary schooling. Improving early child development is clearly an important step to reaching these goals.

The sole quantitative environmental target in the Millennium Development Goals is the call to “reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.” A key rationale for this goal is the impact of poor quality water on human health, particularly on diarrheal disease, which kills 2 million poor children.

Early childhood development is affected by psychosocial, biological and genetic factors. However, poverty and its attendant problems such as malnutrition constitute significant risk factors.

Millions of children under the age of 5 years in developing countries are exposed to multiple risks, including poverty, malnutrition, poor health, and unsanitary home environments, which detrimentally affect their cognitive and social emotional development.

National statistics on young children’s cognitive or social emotional development are not available in Kenya like in most sub-Saharan African countries. This information dearth contributes to the invisibility of the problem of impaired cognitive development in early childhood.

According to neuroscientists, a majority of children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development. Such disadvantaged children are likely to do poorly in school and subsequently have low incomes, high fertility, and provide poor care for their children, thus contributing to the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Transactions with Martin Mule

Email to: from Martin Mule; John Mulaa;

Martin Mule Wrote

John; to be honest with you there is very little hope under the current arrangement. Both parties chose hardliners into the talks for a purpose. They did not want to dialogue or negotiate, their idea was to reinforce their positions. For once let us rule out negotiations or dialogue no matter what ones want to call it. If the Telegraph Story(above) is to be believed, which makes a lot of sense, then we are only seeing a postponement of the killings.

Hypocrisy is now eating Kenya real big. Annan or no Annan,there is bound to be more bloodshed. The more foreigners keep on coming to Kenya and especially the Western World, makes me think it is their interests at stake and not ours.Up to this moment, there is yet no Kenyan willing to stand up or worried by what is at stake in the current crisis, the causes and measures to prevent a recurrence in the future.

I do not think, there are no noble Kenyans, intelligent, compassionate, diplomatic and nationalistic enough to reconcile and heal Kenyans, and the fact that people like Mkapa(a journalist)whose party activism and propelled him into presidency and Graca Machel whose CVs strong point is marrying two Southern Africa former head of states underscores Kenya's dilemma as their mentality of whatever is foreign is better takes the better of their senses.

How many Western World government ministers will visit Kenya just to tell Kenyans their country is fatally wounded and bleeding profusely? Where are our heroes, where are our nationalists, where are our intellectuals, where are our scholars, where are our compassionate and caring politicians, where are our church leaders?

Only God grace will save us.

God bless you indeed.


My response to Martin Mule

Martin Mule,

It is my respectful opinion that it is neither helpful nor grateful to disparage the credentials of Benjamin Mkapa and Graca Machel. I find it troubling that you make this point after you point out that neither side wants “to dialogue or negotiate”. So clearly, the mediation talks must fail on two counts; incompetence of the mediators and the obduracy of the “warring parties”

Kibaki and Raila are bible wielding Christians. But I am sure even God and Christ have been unable to speak to their hearts. Just like many Christian Kenyans who know what really happened in KICC, many Christian Kenyans have killed maimed, raped and plundered. The same Kenyans believe that God will intervene and restore order in this nation.

I do not believe that the impasse in the mediation talks has anything to do with the competence, credentials or intellectual capacity of Mkapa and Graca. So far even the God that Kibaki, Raila and the rest of Kenyans worship has failed to convince them that the mindless megalomania, violence and murder does not serve the immediate and long-term interests of our children and posterity.

And I believe we have common values. Our mothers did not tell us that it is okay to rape our sisters, murder our neighbours and take what is does not belong to us.

And we are not wanting for heroes. Yes, Kenya is teeming with the most intelligent and the finest intellectuals and politicians on the planet. We have professor Moi. We also have Amb. Muthaura. We have our own John Cardinal Njue. We have illustrious ministers of the gospel such as Dr. Mark Kariuki. We have Martha Karua, William Ruto, Prof. Anyang Nyongo, John Michuki, George Thuo, Uhuru Kenyatta, Otieno Kajwang, Musikari Kombo, William Ole Ntimama. We have our most esteemed son and peacemaker VP Kalonzo. We also have Nobel laureate Wangari Mathai. And not to forget, the mother of our nation, Her Excellency Lucy Kibaki!

And who can be better mediators and peace makers than Kibaki and Raila? It seems like the outcome of these talks depend on them. The last I checked Raila and Kibaki were Kenyans.

And on second thoughts and introspection, I agree that we should send Graca and Mkapa parking. Especially Graca, there are countless women in Kenya who have been married more than ten times. Merely marrying two former heads of state cannot surpass marriage to ten full blooded African men. And we have our own stellar scribes; Gitau Warigi, Phillip Ochieng, Kipkoech Tanui, Linus Gitahi.

I also suggest that we re-examine Kofi Annan’s real value in the mediation process. We have our own Amb. Kiplagat. Just like Kofi Annan, he too has a head of silver. After all, what else does Kofi bring to the table? What does he know about mediation? Ten year tenancy of an office overlooking the East River on 44th &7th Av on Manhattan does not square as relevant experience.

There are also critics and sceptics like you and I who are too cleaver by half. I also agree that there are countless other unknown angles of peace and warmongers among us.

We must deploy this elegant tapestry of talent to the task of peace building for our beloved nation.

Alex Awiti

Reply from Martin Mule

-----Original Message-----
From: Mule, Martin []
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2008 2:57 PM
To: Alex Awiti
Subject: RE: Hope or Not?...NOT

Mr. Awiti,
My intention was not to disparage the credentials of Graca or Mkapa. I am a journalist too, like Mkapa. My point is we have Kenyans who are better equiped to solve our problems, and we need to make them understand so. I am more comfortable with a home made solution than foreign one.If you have had a chance to read our current constitution,it is more foreign than local. I totally agree with you that, it is Raila and Kibaki who hold the key to the success of the talks. I am disturbed by the unwillingness of Kibaki to demonstrate leadership and love for our motherland.

Post-election violence in Kenya and the unravelling of rural economies and livelihoods: The Case of Nyanza Province

The Social and economic disruption of the post-election turmoil is colossal. There is no doubt that feuding ethnic communities; Kikuyu, Kisii, Luo and Kalenjin have built an incredibly efficient network of trade that clearly supersedes the network of tribe.

The chain of commerce, from credit, agricultural inputs, produce, distribution, markets and consumption is highly integrated. This complex web of economic integration was until now unappreciated and undocumented. These once functional links of commerce have been brutally severed by machetes.

Knowing what they know now, it is highly doubtful that these communities would engage in such a broad scale conflict without external incitement. These rural folk, uneducated for the most part, may not have read Thomas Friedman's book. But they know that their world is flat. Trade had flattened the social landscape, creating unprecedented networks of exchange and collaboration.

Most of Western Kenya; Nyanza, North West and Central Rift Valley is headed for a devastating economic meltdown. Associated with this meltdown is a looming food crisis, hunger and malnutrition. These are largely rural based economies that rely on commercial maize farming, small holder subsistence mixed farming, small scale intensive horticulture and inter-community trade

Collectively, the Kalenjin own the largest tracts of land in the Rift valley. They are livestock keepers and large scale producers of maize and wheat. These operations are largely mechanized and rely on modern inputs (fertilizer, seed and pesticides). The large operations rely on inputs from stores predominantly operated by Kikuyu and Kisii merchants in Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kericho, Kapsabet, Nandi Hills, Njoro and Kitale. The Kikuyu and Kisii own smaller land parcels which they put to under intensive market oriented mixed farming.

The Kikuyu and Kisii community have been evicted from the major towns, trading centres and rural areas in the Rift Valley. The effects of these violent evictions have been fast and furious. Unit prices of inorganic fertilizers have doubled in the three weeks of turmoil. Besides, there is a looming shortage owing to major disruptions in road and rail transportation.

Farmers in Kisii, Nyamira and Keroka are sitting on a pile of produce that they cannot sell to their Luo neighbours in the towns of Oyugis, Homabay, Kendubay, Migori, Sondu, Ahero and Kisumu. Public transport in the central and southern Nyanza region is controlled by kisii businessmen. The Kikuyu owned matatus (vans and mini-buses) dominated the Kisumu-Busia, Kisumu-Kakamega and Kisumu-Eldoret routes. Following the post-election violence, the Kisii and the Kikuyu withdrew their vehicles, gravely paralysing road transportation.

The price of basic food especially of cabbages, kale, potatoes, onions and tomatoes has more than tripled in the towns Homabay, Kendubay, Sondu and Ahero as well Kisumu. National inflation is now 20% up from 12.5% in January 2008. Local inflation in Nyanza towns is currently in the neighbourhood of 30%. High transportation costs and short falls in commodity supplies are strong contributing factors. The Vice Chancellor of Maseno University recently said that food shortages and inflationary prices would present a special challenge to the operations of the University.

Large scale maize production in Nyanza happens in places such as Awendo, and Lambwe Valley in South Nyanza. Farm operations in these areas will be greatly affected by high costs of land preparation (high fuel prices will affect the cost of hiring tractors for land preparation; for inexplicable reason, the cost of land preparation using oxen power has shot up). There is a high likelihood that the total acreage under maize will decline this season due these high costs.

Rising inflation in urban areas will greatly affect remittances and cash flows in rural Nyanza. This will be made worse by displacement, dispossession and loss of employment and income among semi-skilled luo labourers who have been evicted from Nyeri, Nakuru, Naivasha, Thika and Kiambu and Ruiru.

Often these migrant workers provide for their wives and children who live in the rural homelands. Hence, decline or total collapse of cash remittances could precipitate severe hunger and malnutrition in the immediate term for most families in Nyanza. Families who are retuning to their villages from following the violence will be particularly vulnerable.

Medium scale farmers in Nyanza who rely on hired labour will cut back on production due to shortages of cash remittances from lower-middle income family in urban areas. Studies have shown that remittances, just like subsidies, are a critical to the viability of small holder production systems in western Kenya.

Over the next 3-6 months, there is a high likelihood that price of dry maize will rise steeply over most of Nyanza region. The price increases will be in large part due to high transportation costs arising from damaged roads and sheer scarcity of transport operators.

Marketing, supply and distribution of fish and fish products from Lake Victoria is controlled by the Kikuyu and Asian merchants. Revenue from fisheries has crushed since the onset of the violence. Fish and fish products no longer not reach the lucrative markets of Nairobi. The consumer demand in western Kenya and Rift Valley is too low to keep the fisherman and their gear on the lake. The temporary collapse of the fishing industry will further exacerbate the cash flow crisis in Nyanza and deepen the food crises.

There is a high likelihood of severe food crisis, hunger and malnutrition among a majority of families in Nyanza in the first and second quarter of 2008. The temporary relief of the post harvest period expected in July- August-September will not happen due to low production.

The the food situation will be worse in early 2009 when maize production short falls in Kitale and Nandi, Uasin Gishu and Kericho play out in full scale. Kenya may have to rely on maize imports to bridge the national deficit in 2008 maize production.

There is an opportunity here to explore the role of trade networks in building social cohesion and conflict prevention.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Charting the path of reform in Kenya

The goal of the Annan led mediation is to initiate a conversation between Kenya’s political groups and provide a road map and consensus for institutional, legal and constitutional reforms. The broad aims of the mediation talks are:

1 cessation of ethnic violence restore fundamental rights and freedoms

2. humanitarian response and resettlement of internally displaced communities

3. mobilize political cooperation to achieve a national consensus on constitutional and institutional reform

4. constitute a process for truth, justice and inter-ethnic reconciliation

In the short-term, power sharing on an interim basis provides the most promising platform for mobilizing political and civic society support for constitutional and institutional reform.

Political power sharing must:

1. be based on clear aims and principles

a. time bound; interim

b. purely for political and legislative cooperation and not partisan political competition

c. Set the size and composition of interim cabinet to demonstrate commitment to equity and merit. Not more than 24 ministers should be named

2. enshrine the spirit and letter of the transition/interim government in a constitutional amendment

3. be enforceable and supervised by parliament

4. define and appropriate responsibility and the spirit of the interim coalition government

5. spell the legislative agenda and timetable for parliament to debate and enact legal, institutional and constitutional reform

Agenda for constitutional legal and institutional reform

  1. Electoral Commission reform
    1. Constitutional offices of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission

i. Fixed and secure of tenure for commissioners

ii. The chief executive (president or prime minister) to propose three names for Electoral Commission Chairman and Commissioners

iii. Appropriate parliamentary committee to conduct public hearings on the qualification, integrity and suitability of the nominees

    1. Role of electoral commission be expanded to include managing of primaries for civic, parliamentary and presidential primaries for political parties
  1. Parliamentary parties
    1. Stipulate number of political parties

i. Stipulate criteria for membership/leadership

ii. Publication of party constitutions/manifestos

1. adherence to internal democracy

2. regular elections and annual party conventions, financial audit

iii. rules for party funding and finances/assets/liabilities

iv. party secretariat

v. must have an presence in every district

  1. Devolution of power to local governments
    1. District assembly

i. Chief executive (direct election)

ii. Legislative mandate

iii. Budgets

iv. Revenue

v. District education boards

    1. Direct election of city mayors

i. Legislative mandate for city governments

ii. Budgetary autonomy and control for city governments

iii. Fund raising/direct foreign investment

iv. Taxes (VAT & income tax, MV authority)

v. Metropolitan police

vi. Education boards

vii. Housing board

viii. Metropolitan transport authority

ix. Recreation and environmental protection agency

  1. Parliamentary reform
    1. Autonomy of parliament

i. Business calendar

ii. No member of parliament shall, during the time for which he/she is elected, be appointed to any civil office

iii. MPs remuneration shall neither be increased nor diminished during the time in which they are in office

iv. Time bound legislative programme during each session

v. Bills must sent to the president must be returned within 10 days

vi. Power to impeach the President, Vice President and members of the cabinets

vii. Declaration of assets and liabilities at the start and end of MPs term

  1. The executive
    1. Conduct of presidential election
    2. Term of office
    3. Must garner 51% of votes cast
    4. Presidential running mate must be declared during the electioneering
    5. President elect and Inauguration (within 30-60 days)
    6. Petitions on the presidential vote must be filed, heard and determined within 21 days of the announcement of the winner
    7. Cabinet appointed from outside parliament
    8. Cabinet must be approved by parliament

i. Key cabinet positions must receive parliamentary approval

ii. finance, security, foreign affairs, attorney general

    1. Size and composition of the cabinet (stipulate number and size of government)
    2. The President, Vice President and the members of cabinet shall be removed from office, on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours
    3. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of parliament.
    4. Declaration of assets and liabilities at the start and end of MPs term

  1. Public Institutions
    1. Constitutional guidelines for public and private sector appointments

i. Merit

ii. Equity

iii. Gender

iv. Affirmative action for marginalized communities

    1. Heads of the Central Bank, high echelons of the military, Revenue Authority must receive parliamentary approval
    2. Creation of civil service board

i. Under the supervision of a parliamentary committee, the civil service board will supervise the civil service

    1. Code of conduct

i. Outlaw ownership of businesses by civil servants

ii. Conflict of interest

    1. Strong restrictions on the police and security intelligence to prohibit abuse by the executive

  1. Public finance and allocation of public resources
    1. Earmarks for public spending must be transparent, equitable and subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

i. These shall include roads, water supply, electrification, public hospitals

  1. Bill of rights
    1. Entrenchment, protection and enforcement of individual rights and freedoms and obligations of citizens

i. Especially, freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wher do we go from here?

Where do we go from here?

A letter to members of Lake Fund Foundation

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must say at the very beginning that this is indeed a worthy cause.

This is a defining junction in our history. Our country is deeply divided. Inter ethnic suspicion is palpable. Our relatives and friends are dead, maimed and dispossessed. Many children are orphaned. Millions old, sick and infirm have been uprooted from the comfort of their homes and scattered in the squalor of field that have been turned into camps for the displaced. Hundreds across the country now returning to their “ancestral land” have no place to call home, nobody to call neighbour and no community to provide them with a sense of belonging. Thousands of children now have no friends, no school and no neighbourhood. Men and women who were once proud to provide for their families are now condemned to the demeaning plight of helpless beggars; lining up for food, shelter and clothing.

The wanton plunder of our cities has left hundreds of zealous and budding entrepreneurs without a business and staring at eternal debt and bankruptcy. Hundreds of thousands of young people have been tossed into the deep blue sea of unemployment as factories and businesses close in our towns and cities. Investors are running for cover. Towns and cities, once bright and vibrant are now like a candle in the wind. The lower and the middle-middle class are facing imminent retrenchment.

Most of all the politics is broken, political leadership is unravelling, and the nation is in deep despair. We now think Kofi Annan is our last and only hope.

But this group, this cause, and this great convergence of generosity is the greatest beacon light of hope at this dark midnight in our country’s history. You are all we’ve got to turn this nation around. Only you can do it!

Your intentions are angelic, your resolve is industrial strength and our mission is sublime. And most of all, God is on your side.

But you must do the heavy lifting. The enthusiasm and the resolve must morph into concrete action. You must bring leadership, resources and action to bear on the crux of the unprecedented socio-economic and political challenges we face today.

Here is the complexion of the problem you have to deal with

  1. Moving displaced people to safety of their homeland
  2. Dispossessed people who need to get a sense of their dignity back

a. Basic necessities –clothes, household items

b. A place to live

c. A job and an income

  1. Children who must get back to school
  2. People who lost their businesses

a. Need the wherewithal to rebuild their business and pay their debts

  1. Orphans and widows who need to assisted to get back on their feet
  2. A strategy for getting new investors into our city
  3. A strategy for getting back the lost jobs in the shortest time possible
  4. A strategy to keep this group plugged in and influential in the running of the city of Kisumu.

I would like to appeal to the group to devote sometime to think about moving this effort and the focus of the Foundation along these lines. If you break this problem down this way, then you will have a sense of just how much needs to be done and how best we can coordinate the response in ways that would yield the most gain for the people and the greatest bang for your buck.

I move that you keep the needless ethnic nationalism out of this. Everything that needs to be said has been said. The Luo people have vented. The world has heard your cry. You must not harp on the victim cord forever. Look at you all. You are immensely successful by any standards. You can your change our community. You can transcend the politics of hate, bitterness and revenge. You have come this far in spite of the politics. And you can turn a new page and move your community in a new and hopefully more progressive direction.

If you do not pull through this and get Kisumu back and buzzing, you will be a laughing stock and the butt of every joke.

The times are grave, the moment is now and you are the people to make a change. And YES YOU CAN!

Are you fired up? Are you ready to go!

Thank you.


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