Do hashtags that push for social justice really connect us? – By Billy Osogo

WHAT IS SARS?

SARS is an acronym for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes.

WHY #ENDSARS?

#ENDSARS was created in 2017 by Nigerian human rights defenders and activists. This was in response to the brutality and torture perpetrated against innocent Nigerian citizens. It gained even more traction in early October 2020 when a video surfaced online of a man being shot allegedly by members of SARS. The situation careened on October 20th. It is reported that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting of protestors. Amnesty International confirmed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protestors. 

#ENDSARS has continued receiving global attention with citizens from all walks of life asking the Nigerian government to put an end to the violence. 

COLONIAL UNDERPINNING

Reports of the use of excessive force, extrajudicial killings, and other forms of human rights violations by the police are not new. Despite enormous strides in democratization, there remains an uneasy relationship between law enforcement and citizens in many parts of the world. The unjustified use of excessive force on Wycliff Cox and the gruesome killing of Breonna Taylor are stark reminders of its pervasiveness. Not even the most advanced democracies in the world are inoculated.  

Africa faces an inevitably uphill task in arresting police brutality. The obsession with excessive force by law enforcement was inherited from the colonialists. The brutal force was the glue that held the colonial state together. Land, taxes, resources, and even loyalty, were all taken by sheer force. Native Africans were either beaten to submission or death. Post-independent elites, despite their erstwhile promises of reform, merely inherited the colonial infrastructure. State-sanctioned violence (via the military or the police), has remained a constant weapon in governments’ arsenal. 

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

The life-force of police brutality is the unholy trinity of power, corruption, and control. This nexus is designed strategically to scare citizens into fear and disillusionment. It works to shield the powers-that-be from accountability. Which ipso facto defeats the very purpose of elections. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. writing from his Birmingham jail aptly said:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #Iamwillie and #EndSARS are testament to this. Technology has made it possible for us to connect with each other’s pain and suffering. The global coalescing behind these campaigns has revealed that we all aspire for the same things – dignity, respect and love. The outpouring of support from people continents away shows that we understand what’s important. That there’s more that unites us than divides us. That our common humanity is far greater than our differences. 

Moreover, the youth are leading these protests world-over. It corroborates what we have known all along. The youth remain the joker in the pack. They collectively hold more power to catalyze change than any other force on earth. 

WHAT NOW?

A lesson from Kofi Annan’s memoirs, Interventions.

“What is needed are, on the one hand, a set of governing institutions and rules, which have to be built up over time, that protect the results of elections and so the rights of people; and, on the other hand, responsible and accountable leadership that serves the people.”

Written by Billy Osogo – BA Political Studies. Researcher on Governance, Elections and Human rights.  |   Facebook: Billy Osogo

Public Participation; Histrionic yada yada or real? – By Kibet Brian

Article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 recognizes public participation amongst others as one of the national values and principles of governance. The end game of public participation is to put the citizen at the core of decision making. Tacitly it gives effect to the constitutional provision in Article 1, that the people may exercise their sovereign power directly.  Therefore persons who may be affected by a government process or activity are accorded an opportunity to influence the substance of the decisions made. Consequently the elevation of a citizen from a mere bystander in governance to a person that actually influences the decisions and actions taken occurs.

By consulting persons on decisions that affect them, the quality of the decisions made is enhanced and is more likely to be acceptable since they conform to what that community considers ethical and moral. This consultation also makes people feel dignified since they are involved in their own governance structure. It also provides the opportunity for the interests and wants of the community to be heard directly from the horse’s mouth.

Whereas public participation seeks to give citizens the power to interrogate and actively engage with decision-makers, it remains a foreign concept amongst many Kenyans. It is commonplace to walk into the forums convened for this purpose only to find the halls technically empty. It seems to me then that people are yet to fully embrace their right to participate. Why then is it so?

While human lives may have equal value, inequality in literacy and au courant levels is inevitable. That the ability to speak the ‘right language’ in these forums remains a big problem to many is not rocket science. As a result, many people feel intimidated to give views. Access to information is a major obstacle to persons making insightful contributions. Hence the contribution of many is considered ‘bland’ and takes the form of general views that are not considered critical to usurp the status quo.

This partly explains why many still refrain from making their views known. Further, Kenyans are brutalized, people. Perhaps the torture that marked the second liberation is still fresh in people’s minds and so many are not keen to speak about issues even where they are remotely connected to politics for the fear of being politically incorrect. An even more important question arises in the form of the level of consideration that decision-makers give to the views submitted by the public.

To this end, methinks decision-makers need to picture themselves as a cog in the wheel. They must never, even in an instance think of the power they exercise as innate. Rather they should view their power as a ‘public trust’ as ensconced in Article 73 of the Constitution. Thus the views of the ‘small man’ must be considered in accordance with this ‘trust’.

The Kenyan person also needs to see themselves as an important part of the Kenyan hegemony. The country does not belong to a selected few but all. Everyone must therefore arise and make their voices heard when it is sought. Cowering and giving a wide berth to forums meant for raising voices on pertinent issues only makes the views of a selected few to be considered the common view. No wonder, many go challenge some laws and development projects in court later on yet they themselves participated in formulating the nitty-gritty of the impugned matter.

The refrain is that public participation is only real when views made actually influence the decisions made thus the citizen is actually able to pinpoint the impact of their views on important decisions. It is histrionic when citizens do not avail themselves and even when they do, the views are not taken to account when decisions are made. Public participation is an excellent concept that needs to be ingrained deeply in the fabricof governance and public policymaking.

The next time public participation on a matter is convened near you, do avail yourself and add your voice to the matter at hand. It matters.

Kenya’s Youth: G.O.A.T or Scapegoats? – By Billy Osogo

The death of the two young people in Kenol, Murang’a, should disturb us. I watched poignantly as their families spoke to news reporters. The anguish in their voices was palpable and their tears should drown the people responsible. 

Reports that scores of young people were ferried to the venue, their raison d’être being to cause violence, are damning. This is a testament to the malignant equipoise that bedevils the youth in this country. The diabolical paradox of being a youth in Kenya – under-qualified to direct the script (read as duty bearers), supremely qualified to be cast as victims of rabble-rousers (read as goons). 

These events are reminiscent of the days leading up to the 2007/2008 post-election violence and the Rwandan Genocide. Both were characterized by a smattering of small, ominous incidents that should have set alarm bells ringing. This anomaly should have captured the attention of our security agencies. People don’t suddenly develop a craving for farming tools. 

Both our Constitution and National Anthem acknowledge the supremacy of the Almighty. All our Commanders-in-Chief since independence have sworn the Oath of Office, on the Bible. The police, whom they command, lobbied teargas into a church is blatant betrayal. It is incontrovertible proof of the malaise that plagues us. Nothing is sacrosanct anymore. Parliament is dishonorable. The Executive is remiss. 

Remember the Kiambaa church tragedy? With everything and everyone in it incinerated to ashes? That fire was lit by young people in the name of supporting their preferred candidate. 

Thirteen years and a new Constitution later, we are staring down the barrel of the same gun. In the words of George Bernard Shaw;

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience?”

 In many ways, COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise. The cessation of movement order and a ban on gatherings tacitly cooled down political temperatures. Albeit tentatively. Over the last few weeks, the premiere of ‘Impunity’, guest-starring our politicians, has graced our homes. We have witnessed the very people who banned gatherings address mammoth crowds. Our leaders are preaching water and drinking wine. Billions meant to alleviate the suffering of Kenyans have disappeared in astonishing acts that would baffle Houdini. 

The youth are used as scapegoats. Loans are taken in our names only to disappear as soon as they hit the Exchequer. Administrations are formed on our backs only for octogenarians to be rewarded with government appointments. Constitutional dispensations are mooted for our futures only for us to be relegated to the periphery. Funds are constitutionally allocated for our empowerment only for them to be swallowed by the black hole of government bureaucracy.  

As 2022 nears, there are only going to be more of these overtures. The youth form 75% of Kenya’s population. Numbers don’t lie. We mustn’t be used as pawns. He mustn’t be used to further anyone’s agenda at the expense of our own. We mustn’t be used as the matchstick to light the powder keg of violence. We must break that cycle. 

In lieu, we must be the change we wish to see. In the words of President Obama:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Concerned, Aware, Active Youth.

Written By Billy Osogo

International Tax Justice Academy 2020 – by Faith Ogega

Illicit Financial Flows are a significant threat to Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals. The International Tax Justice Academy (ITJA) is a capacity-building program launched in 2014 under the umbrella of the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA). The academy was started as a pan – African initiative to bridge an existing knowledge gap on tax justice in Africa. And since then they have been on course to achieve the goal.

International Tax Justice Academy’s main objective is to encourage the participation of tax justice campaigners at national, regional, and global levels. The capacity building program is to intensify the capability of Civil Society Organizations (CSO), academia, trade unions, researchers, journalists to enlighten and engage citizens on tax justice issues.

ITJA training strengthens evidence-based advocacy, awareness, and distribution of relevant information to increase knowledge-base, influence policy reform, and monitor progress. The methodology of training ensures learners grasp the knowledge and meet TJNA’s aim of increasing participation of CSOs and journalists. 

Since the United Nations member state adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015 as a global call to action for zero poverty, hunger, and protecting the planet by ensuring peace and prosperity. African countries have a long way to go, and the 17 SDGs are all integrated; one effect on an area will affect the outcome of the rest and SDGs can only be achieved by initiating a balance between social, economic and environmental sustainability.

ITJA offers skills for sustained advocacy, dialogue and discussion through courses on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), tax governance and Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM) in Africa, supported by research and participation of key players. Illicit Financial Flows are a significant threat to Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals. It has slowed and destroyed the progress of African countries’ economies and contributed to the increase of insecurity and inadequacy to raise tax revenues.

On the contrary, most developing African countries are not maximizing the use of domestic resources not because they lack them, but due to the significant levels of Illicit Financial Flows that have reduced the ability to raise the required tax revenues.

Hence, the Sustainable Development Goals in African developing countries are at risk. IFFs have posed multiple threats to SDGs’ agenda by consuming the much-needed tax base for public investment and social spending.

Instead of working towards achieving SDGs in Africa; reduce the continent’s $31 billion infrastructure financing gap, youth unemployment and tackle climate change, governments are continually using domestic savings that could help replenish our infrastructure systems. All we see is African countries struggling in poverty, governments fighting against each other, and an increase in inequality and rent-seeking rather than maximizing the use of domestic resources for productivity.

Illicit Financial Flows is destroying our African nations as this practice threatens not only banks and financial intelligence units but also legal mechanisms for detecting and prosecuting perpetrators of illicit financial flows. These trends leave us desperate for external aid, putting our continent in the light for exploitation, and yet we have the resources to build Africa and even supply to the rest of the continents.

IFFs have continually made us helpless and economically dependent on other continents for aid. Such a scenario is reflected by the proportion of official development assistance in the budgets of African Governments.  In some countries, official development assistance accounts for 70 percent of total government revenue. If it were not for Illicit Financial Flows, our African countries would not be so dependent on foreign aid. And yet we could use our domestic resources, grow our economies, and still employ millions of African youths.

It is time for our African governments to establish working policies and stop the flow of illicit finances, apply their ‘political will’ in achieving SDGs and most importantly, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive organizations at all levels. While those in the private sector expect fair, clear and transparent tax and trade policies, they must do their part by ensuring their tax and trade practices comply with local laws.

If our governments work closely with the private sector, civil society organizations, trade unionists, and the media, to stop the circulation of incentives to engage in illegal behaviors, we could give the people their rights, security, and opportunities to develop our economies.

Written By Faith Ogega  |  Email: faithogega95@gmail.com

Men, we must check our privilege – By Billy Osogo

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ 2019 census count shows that there are 24, 014, 716 women in Kenya compared to 23, 548,056 men. Women account for 50.5% of Kenya’s population. You’d think this to be a good thing. After all, there is strength in numbers, yes? Yet nothing could be further from the truth. 

In the words of Malcolm X;

“The most disrespected person in America [rea+d as world] is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is a black woman. The most neglected person in America is a black woman.”

In Kenya, women continue to receive the short end of the stick. Bereft of their contribution, the Mau Mau struggle for independence would have come to naught. Women participated as fighters, gathered food, and disseminated information to those in the forests. Since independence, however, the Kenyan State has systematically marginalized its largest population group from decision-making platforms. 

The Constitution of Kenya in 2010 tried to remedy this systemic ill. Article 27 (4) stipulates:

“The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.”

Ten years later, Parliament is yet to pass the Two Third Gender Bill. This contravenes the spirit and letter of the Constitution. Failure to implement this provision perpetuates the historical and systemic marginalization of women. Whereas strides have been made, victory is still far off. Not too long ago, we were treated to the mortifying scenes of a mother forced to give birth right outside the hospital gates. Successive administrations have promised free delivery for expectant mothers. However, the horror movie that is Pumwani Hospital seems to have no end. 

An electioneering process is a sacrosanct event that profoundly determines and vindicates the democratic maturity of a country. Yet it is during such periods when the grossest human rights violations are committed in Kenya. Guess who are the biggest victims? Women!

True freedom can never be attained when the largest section of our society is still shackled in the chains of patriarchy, sexual abuse, retrogressive cultural practices, and negligence. We, men, have inherited so much privilege.

Privilege can be understood as systematically conferred advantages individuals enjoy by virtue of their membership in dominant groups with access to resources and institutional power that are beyond the common advantages of marginalized citizens. 

Men, we must check our privilege. The benefits are twofold. One, we will identify areas where we are perpetuating oppression and therefore arrest it. Two, we will also be identifying areas where we have the power and access to change the system as a whole. 

In the words of Ijeoma Oluo:

“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunity to make real change.”

Written By Billy Osogo

Instagram: @a.b.osogo  |  Facebook: Billy Osogo

 

Implement the two-third gender rule now, it is long overdue – by Kibet Brian

Of the innovations of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 the gender parity provision that not more than two-thirds of positions in all state offices shall be occupied by persons of the same gender, has proved to be the most problematic to implement. A decade after the promulgation of a constitution that has been described as transformative and revolutionary, processes aimed at attaining this particular aspiration have remained reactionary with the trading of barbs and blames being a norm.

Gagged and barred from decision making for many years, the voice of women has been heard at the periphery and muffled to mean nothing even where it matters. On August 4th, 2010, in a plebiscite, Kenyan spoke in one voice and decided it was time for their women who form a majority of the population deserved more than they were getting. It was time for women’s voices to be heard.

It is said that this is yet to be. It is disturbing to note that the gender rule is still a mirage even in instances where it can be achieved vide presidential fiat; appointive positions. It will be utter tomfoolery to suggest that there are no women who can be appointed to these positions given the strides made by women in education and the participation they have shown in civic society and in other spheres of leadership. To this end, there is a need to see that more women are appointed to the cabinet and as directors of government agencies and departments.

As to how this noble cause will be attained in elective positions, particularly in the National Assembly remains a Gordian knot. Gender parity has been attained in the county assemblies at the face of it, this is laudable. However, critics have been quick to point out that men have been hell-bent to influence and actually control how these nominations are done. As such, a majority of women who are nominated to these positions are stooges who are only keen to assuage the interests of men who nominated them and do little to articulate the issues of women who they supposedly represent. 

The good news is that although women are yet to be accorded the opportunities the constitution grants them, a few strides have been made. In the recent past, women have been appointed to serve in cabinet positions that are considered “powerful”. In this regard, Monica Juma and Rachel Omamo continue to serve the nation as defense and foreign affairs cabinet secretaries. Our very own Amina Mohamed went very close, with the support of the government, to serve as the African Union Secretary-General. This demonstrates a bit of commitment from the government to actualize the gender parity dream.

Women in leadership positions continue to demonstrate that they can equal and even surpass their male counterparts in terms of service delivery and in meeting the development demands of their electorates. Kitui governor, Charity Ngilu best exemplifies this. Her administration is a benchmark for what devolution means to the people. The county has made great strides in the attainment of food security and continues to be a trailblazer in the provision of quality and affordable healthcare. Her brainchild Kicotec, a textile factory based in Kitui, is proving to be a game-changer in the fight against the ravaging coronavirus as it continues to churn out thousands of facemasks every day. 

It is therefore oxymoronic that society continues to place hurdles to the ascension of women to leadership yet they have shown they are capable of delivering and they possess the willpower to go for global positions when given the necessary support.

The zeitgeist of our times is the full liberation of women from the shackles of oppression they have been bound in for a long time. Let us accord them the opportunity to serve in state positions. They form the majority of the population and therefore deserve more than they are currently getting. The achievement of this is dependent on the full implementation of the two-third gender rule. This is long overdue and should happen now. 

Written by Kibet Brian who is a Student at the University of Nairobi – School of Law in Parklands. He comments on topical issues with a bias for Tax, Social, and Administrative Justice.

Twitter: @Kibett_Brian   |   Facebook: Ki-Bett Brian

Pro Choice, Pro Life: A complicated debate – By Mercy Chepkemoi

 Abortion is an emotive, sensitive, and divisive issue often riddled with arguments on the fetus as a right bearer and woman’s right of autonomy with each side believing to be the correct position. This controversy is exacerbated by the inconsistency in Kenya’s legal framework in regards to abortion. 

Article 26(3) sets the foundation basis for the protection of life in the unequivocal affirmation that the life of a person begins at conception to the natural death of a person. Termination of this life in pregnancy can only be done within the precincts of the law and not ‘on-demand’. Where in the opinion of a trained medical professional there is a need for emergency treatment and that the life of the mother is in danger, abortion can only be procured. 

Section 2 of the Children Act, 2001 defines a child as any human being under the age of 18.  This definition doesn’t state any limitation as to when the child starts being called a human being or referred to as an individual. It merely says under the age of 18 implying that an unborn child falls within the definition of a child who deserves to be protected under the Act. This is also an undisputed idea that the unborn child will eventually become a human being that enjoys fundamental rights under Article 19 of the Kenyan Constitution. 

The Constitutional reference to ‘birth’ under Article 27(4) implies that an unborn child forms part of every person and should not be denied constitutional protection through abortion. Read together with Article 26(2) on when life begins, the provision recognizes the unborn as a person entitled to the right to life and equality. Moreover, under Article 28 of the Constitution, all persons have inherent dignity and the right to have dignity, respect, and protection. Failure to protect the life of the unborn child amounts to a violation of the said article. 

Pro-choice lobby groups have more often than not arguing that women are autonomous and have the moral right to decide for themselves what to do with their own bodies If a woman is denied to have the right to not have the baby and have a safe legal way of doing so, she is denied the right to the possession and control of her own body. The common-Law argument is that denial of a choice is a violation of a right. 

The Penal Code Section S. 214 provides a contrary argument in relation to the definition of who a child is as defined by the Children Act. The Penal Code provides that for a child to become a person capable of being killed when it has proceeded in living state from the body of its mother whether it had breathed or not and whether it has an independent circulation or not. This provision appears to imply that a child who has not proceeded from the mother’s body is not a living human being and can lawfully be killed or aborted. 

Regardless of the discussion on pro-choice and pro-life, unsafe abortions remains a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in Kenya. The treatment of complications of unsafe abortions also consumes health system resources. 

Kenya’s legal framework on abortion is inconsistent and therefore doesn’t adequately protect the life of the unborn child. For a meaningful discourse and solution to be found in addressing the gaps, it is paramount the rights of a woman be seen not as unethical to those of the unborn child. Although it is established that the two are distinct and separate persons with equal rights to life, it cannot be denied that protection of the rights of one necessarily requires the willingness to protect. Adequate laws will serve to advance this position for the common good of both persons and society in general.

By Mercy Chepkemoi

Our politicians are spending too much time focusing on the wrong thing – By Barbra Ouma

To say politics is a dirty game is an understatement. Kenyan politics is a notch higher. It is filled with propaganda, deceit, malice, threats, and fraud. All these served on one plate. Unfortunately, there are some who can take in all that any time of the day, while others are not able to stomach it at all. The air is currently filled with dirty politics and propaganda. Just like Groucho Maxx once said “politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies” such are the antics of our politicians. Recently the tunes and beats are BBI and most people are excited at the drop of reggae tunes accompanying the BBI referendum. The major theme in the political arena is the politics of succession and the drums are enjoying the political flow of events. One would think that we are in the electioneering period.

John Adams once said ‘Government is instituted for the common good: for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men’. Many countries are busy working round the clock to bring back their economies, but the Kenya government is busy paving the way for the BBI referendum. As a country and the citizens of this country, we expected a great economic comeback instead of an enormous political comeback. People lost their jobs, companies lost huge profits, and businesses were ruined as a result of the corona novel. The government should come up with strategies to ensure that those who were fired from their jobs to be reinstated and move on with their lives as before. The government should restore sanity to the people and ensure that we are back to where we were economical. There should be economical strategies between the government and companies, the private sector, and various institutions in ensuring the steady flow of businesses and government activities.

In political rallies, the crowd is unfathomable. Lest I forget, the WHO standards are also not adhered to. We have completely forgotten that there is an ongoing pandemic and one may be excused for asking if the virus was true with us. As patriots of this nation, we all want economic growth. We want our lives improved and poverty fought by all means. Every one of us has a responsibility in ensuring that the country is developing so that we all experience personal growth that we can be proud of. But our leaders are acting contrary to our expectations. There is lots of politics and propaganda going on to an extent that they have forgotten their sole duty to the citizens which is service. Some think that they are in those offices by their own right, while others feel entitled to those offices yet most of them are in there for personal selfish gains without really serving the interest of the people who elected them.

If I am to choose between politics and economic development, I would go for the latter. I would dance to the tunes of economic freedom, I would dedicate all my time towards achieving economic growth whether at a personal or national level. I believe all the citizens of this country would go for the economic path to have financial freedom because that is what we all need as a country and not the political theatrics we are experiencing in this COUNTRY today.

Written by Barbra Ouma from Kisumu county
Twitter: @barbaraouma18
Facebook: Barbara Ouma

 

A lost academic year for many – Kibet Brian

With the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world and changing peoples’ lives in many ways, the education sector is arguably the most hit. In conforming with the new normal, most schools have adopted online learning as a way to continue engaging their learners.

Whereas the adoption of online learning was adopted with noble intentions, the opposite has been the reality for many learners across the nation. For many, it has been a nightmare to attend lessons convened online leading to a feeling of alienation and disenfranchisement from the institutions they had put their trust and faith in. Many of them have been left to their own devices with very little done to mitigate their suffering.

Think with me, is it probable that with the high costs of data bundles and versatile devices required to access the lessons coupled with the cognizance necessary to navigate the platforms on which classes are held, that a young person in an impoverished neighborhood can possess all of the above in these hardest of times when livelihoods and lives have been lost? I think not.

For those in rural areas, the network signal is poor and in some cases zilch. Electricity connectivity in most of these areas remains low and thus many learners do not have a reliable power supply for the devices they are to use in their classes. This is no bloviation but a reflection of as-is on the ground.

By technical learners who have no access to the aforementioned, compulsory online classes and examinations are discriminatory. The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 though Article 27(4) outlaws discrimination of persons on several grounds including social origins. Further, it is only right that quality and affordable education is availed to all regardless of social standing if education is to be the equalizer of the conditions of men.

However, this is not to imply that learners should completely stop their educational discourses. Those with access to the online learning resources should continue doing so but the institutions running them should not make them compulsory for all and if they must, then they should lay down measures to ameliorate and enable those who cannot access them easily and seamlessly access them.

Kibet Brian is a  student at the University of Nairobi, School of Law in Parklands. He comments on topical issues with a bias for Tax, Social, and Administrative Justice.

Twitter – @Kibett_Brian   |   Facebook- Ki-Bett Brian

Government Responsible for Rising Rates of Unemployment & Underemployment – Sitati Wasilwa

The discussion about unemployment and underemployment in Kenya could be considered by some as tiring or stale but still remains as relevant as schooling and seeking means of survival are. 

Youth are the most affected cohort of the population. Recent statistical data published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that out of about 1.8 million unemployed Kenyans, slightly more than 1.4 million are aged between 15 and 34 years. Further, 651,491 youth aged between 15 and 34 years are underemployed out of almost 1.2 million underemployed Kenyans. 

Of course, the above data was based on sampling implying that the unemployment/underemployment situation could be worse in real terms. 

Considering that the situation is gloomier on the ground than the figures otherwise presented by KNBS, then who shoulders the blame of an economy that’s typically a jobless growth model? The buck stops with the government, and by the government I mean its three arms; Parliament, Executive, and Judiciary.

Collectively, these three entities have failed especially in taming runaway corruption, and secondly, by allowing warped economic policies to flourish. 

Kenya loses approximately one-third of its annual budget due to corruption. Based on this, then we have cumulatively lost at least Kshs.7 trillion since the Jubilee administration assumed office. This amount dwarfs the country’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and trails the nominal GDP which the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) estimates to be Kshs.5 trillion & 9 trillion respectively.  

Even though GDP does not accurately measure an economy’s state, the truth of the matter is that more decent jobs would have been created in the public and private sectors if the government was fully committed to stamp out corruption. 

The Jubilee administration has failed to deliver the annual 1 million and 1.3 million jobs it promised in 2013 and 2017 respectively, largely due to corruption and indecent borrowing to finance high-cost infrastructural projects. 

According to the 2020 Economic Survey report, from 2015 to 2019, about 502,000 and 3.7 million jobs were created in the formal and informal sectors respectively. From 2017 to 2019, there has been a consistent decline in the number of jobs created in the formal sector which can be attributed to most business enterprises closing shop. 

Warped economic policies have contributed to slow growth in the number of employment opportunities created. For instance, borrowing to invest in high-cost projects like the standard gauge railway line instead of investing in sectors where the majority eke out their living such as smallholder farming, eventually crowds them out and suppresses their productivity.

Although prioritized as one of the four pillars of the farcical Big Four Agenda, the manufacturing sector is still struggling and yet, with effective political goodwill, could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly. 

A harsh business environment that has forced some enterprises to relocate from Kenya and local ones to collapse is an indicator of unfavorable economic policies. Taxation, in particular, is cited as one of the main causes of relocation and folding up. 

The government has embarked on short-term solutions such as the government internship programs and the Kazi Mtaani initiative to address unemployment. Economically, this is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition to fix the challenge of unemployment. 

In 2019, the national government hatched a plan to export one million jobs yearly as a measure to address unemployment. Recently, Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui, revealed that Kenya was finalizing bilateral labor agreements with some Gulf countries to formally export labor. This could appear economically and socially viable in the short-run but may actually perpetuate brain drain in the long-run.

Therefore, addressing unemployment and underemployment in Kenya starts with electing competent politicians. That’s how we can get an effective government, and on matters of unemployment/underemployment, the buck stops with the government. Accordingly, the only path to economic prosperity is political prosperity. 

Sitati Wasilwa is a political economist. Twitter: @SitatiWasilwa LinkedIn: Sitati Wasilwa Facebook: Sitati Wasilwa Podcast: Sitati Wasilwa

 

People Power – Lincoln Oyugi

Kenya describes itself as a Democratic Nation but that Democracy is largely on paper. I say so because the wielders of power are the minority few. A certain clique of leaders has addressed themselves as the owners of Kenya. This sets a very terrible terrain for the leadership of the country. Among the mature Democracies, that we purport to admire, no individual wields any excess powers to an extent of capturing the state. For example in the USA, of which we’ve borrowed a huge chunk of constitutionalism from having the best illustration of what a Democracy should look like. The power is vested in the people and through political parties. Separation of powers has also been inclined so well, that the Executive, Judiciary, Congress, and the Federal units know what is expected of them.

For Kenya to be like these countries, then the people must come out and claim what belongs to them. This power belongs to them. They are the true owners of the system. The constitution gives us the freedom and the chance to exercise our mandate and power through the ballot.  Politicians however have mastered the art of dividing the local man. They know that in case the local man is given the platform to exercise his will without any interference, the likelihood of change is high. This is why instead  of just asking for your vote, they go to the extreme to a point of bribing you to make a decision. Voter bribery is not uncommon and this has led even to the phrase, the ‘biggest briefcase’  takes it all. Where this cannot apply effectively, they marshal their community against the other on divide and rule tactics leading to deep ethnic divides. And when this fails they employ violence. 

It is such practices that have made the  Kenyan people unable to partake in good governance as it is enshrined in the constitution. However, as Kenyans, we must let go of the notion that power only belongs to a few lucky people. This makes Kenya sound rather like a monarch than a democratic state. 

We must guard our conscience and take responsibility for our leaders through the ballot. We must come out as the lot that refuses to be suppressed into submission. We must take back our power. But for that to happen, then we have to let go of ethnicity and stop accepting bribes from politicians. We must also fight violent attacks and hold the electoral commission accountable for the election results. 

Through this, we will achieve complete people’s power and we will always partake in nation-building.   

Lincoln Oyugi – Law Student at MKU and Member of Africa’s Formula For Development

Facebook@ Linc Oyugi   |  Twitter @ lincoyugi Instagram@lincoyugi 

I know things are tough, but we should spend more – Melchizedek Asuma

“On or about 1910,” writes Virginia Woolf, “human character changed.” 

The truth behind this statement – despite the writer’s conviction- is sketchy at best, fallacious at worst, and frankly portrays a sort of wishful thinking that I, and the irony is not lost on me, am about to espouse today. 

“On or about 2020, Kenyan character needs to change.”

 Now, there are so many ways that Kenya could benefit from a character change. However, today I am only interested in one: a simple, extremely simple, character shift that many, elites and otherwise, might consider, as undoable. However, all I ask is that you suspend your judgment for a few minutes to hear me out.

“CoronaVirus.”

Without any further explanation, your mind has probably conjured up some dreadful statistic or fact about the virus. You may have also reflected on its effects upon your life and felt a sense of hopelessness and dread about what comes next. The word ‘next’ here does not strictly imply ‘what follows after’ as experts have speculated that the virus might never go away. Even more importantly, we are all feeling the economic sting of the halt that the disease has brought our country to right now.

Following a record number of employment losses that left many Kenyans impoverished, people have turned to businesses, more specifically hawking. Everywhere you turn, you see a former teacher – and I use the word ‘former’ loosely – hawking foodstuff, former students selling clothes, former journalists selling tomatoes from the boots of their vehicles, and so on. It is increasingly seeming that there are more businesses than there are customers. This throws us into a quagmire, where everyone is selling, yet no one is actually buying; We all remain broke.

With many of us down on our luck, and looking for ways to re-strategize, we need to turn our eyes to and heed the advice of Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, who after the 2007-2008 economic crisis urged his countrymen to increase their spending. And with China also has set the groundwork for this strategy, Kenya should not be far behind. It is a simple enough strategy which, I admit, seems too simple to be true, yet has the potential to restore our economy, and grants the added benefit of boosting local industries.

Splurge. Comma. Kenya Splurge. It is essentially a simple strategy that plays on the principle of the circulation of money: A Ksh 1000 note is valueless inside your pocket but achieves its pecuniary value when taken out and exchanged for a good and/or service. As a people, we should splurge to increase money circulation and boost businesses that are already threatening to close their doors for good.

Kenyans as financially conservative people is a foregone conclusion. We bargain incessantly whenever we shop, and we tend to keep money in our pocket (and mattresses?) for longer than we should, and we look for the lowest prices when buying, and we resort to buying faux goods just to save. Hence, we need to change ourselves at the atom level to accommodate such a strategy.

Some will interpret this as a utopian view of the world – that if everyone spent more, then there would be more money for everyone. However, there is both a sound rationale behind it -with evidence backing it – and a charitable aspect to it. Whenever you stop to buy a cup, you help the vendor fill another with tea the next morning. 

Splurge. Comma. Kenya Splurge. I am no financial expert. Yet it is a commonly known fact that the higher the demand of a product, the higher the supply tends to get. Essentially, as Kenyans spend more, then producers will have to produce more, and employ more people, with higher pay, to assist in the production. This completes the chain quite neatly: As spending increases, then revenue for the government increases, and, hopefully, our national debt decreases, and, even more hopefully, our inflation rate decreases.

The government and financial sectors will also need to take an active role to facilitate such a movement. Long term, low-interest credit should be made available to the people to boost their businesses; Short term tax bailouts offered to allow some breathing room for Kenyans on the onset; Major discounts are given, and social protection programs extended to cover more people.

Splurge. Comma. Kenya Splurge.

Wriiten by Melchizedek Asuma, Journalism student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Instagram: @asuma_melchi  |  Twitter: @MelchiAsuma

 

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