A Case for Special Rapportuers in Kenyan Foreign Policy

May 16, 13 A Case for Special Rapportuers in Kenyan Foreign Policy

Posted by in Featured, Politics

The formation of a new administration is always an exciting time. It is an opportunity to seek innovative ideas that will help in the achievement of prosperity for Kenya.  In consideration of the country’s foreign policy needs, the Office of the President should consider the appointment of special rapportuers in foreign policy. This suggestion is inspired by prevailing speculation that the Executive Office envisions it will constitute trusted advisors and that the Foreign Affairs ministerial docket will fall under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s side of the coalition. It is also motivated by the confident speech, at the swearing-in ceremony at the Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani; which clarified the need for continued strengthening of East African bonds in the pursuit of “ultimate” integration. While the concept of ‘ultimate integration’ will require illumination, as the administration soldiers on, the President was unambiguous about how the Kenyan state understands: the global context; legitimate international mechanisms; and its role in the community of nations. In this respect ideological contours of a Kenyan external relations construct have emerged and they seek the: prominence of nationalism within a Pan-African agenda; stimulation of the existing regional integration process; opportunities of an Afro-optimistic continent that is abundant with wealth, human and natural resources; value of multilateralism; and inclusiveness in the spirit and practice of global governance institutions. Yet this must be viewed within the context that the country is an attractive ‘frontier’ market, a gateway to the region; a hub for trade and a centre for finance.  The country is keen on peaceful co-existence with its neighbours in order to ensure its economic prosperity. The focus of external relations is not only concerned with the survival of the incumbent administration but also a greater attention to trade and investment issues. However, despite the fact that economic and commercial diplomacy is the first pillar of Kenyan foreign policy, there is no distinct conceptualization in policy and practice that separates one from the other as defined by Raymond Saner and Lichia Yiu. In their...

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On The Future of Orange Politics in Kenya

Apr 08, 13 On The Future of Orange Politics in Kenya

Posted by in Featured, Politics

“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” -Albert Einstein A curious element of mature democracies is how political parties or movements deal with electoral loss. It cannot be ignored that many of those who voted for Raila Odinga are not particularly elated by the judgement of the Supreme Court. Yet the outcome has brought closure to the 2013 election contest that was mainly between the winning Jubilee Coalition that is led by Uhuru Kenyatta; and the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) that was led by Odinga. The shock of the outcome has sent CORD supporters wallowing in sorrow. Some seem to have assigned the court ruling pseudo biblical comparisons to the release of Barabbas. Nevertheless, in this darkest of night those who stand for democracy must find a way to see the brightest of day.  It is not time to begrudge the Chief Justice and his team as amicus impunitatem. This is too harsh even for a court of public opinion. A detailed judgement will be released and the conclusions that will be drawn from it can then serve as lessons for the ages. For most CORD supporters, the feeling of affront is buried deep within their inherent idealism. This optimism is grounded in the reform movement in Kenyan history that promises inclusivity in all spheres of life within the polity. However, the raw emotion of betrayal that is being exhibited in the continuing callous chatter of social media and the whispered conversations among different core elements of CORD support should lead to a place of self reflection. Thus the question on whether there is a steadfast commitment to ‘Orange’ politics? Orange politics is the political belief in constitutional democratic processes that sprouted from the legacy of the 2005 referendum and whose genesis can be traced to the reform struggles of Kenya’s history. The symbol of an orange...

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One way Kenyans can think about sanctions

The thing about Koffi Annan’s recent statement on Kenya was the sense one got of his “finger wagging”. Being a career diplomat he obviously did not do it literally but you got the clear meaning of it from the tone of his remarks. In an interview with the BBC, Annan remarked that Kenya’s “external relations could be damaged”. Evidently, he did not divulge to what extent this might be possible but he was unambiguous about this being a certain occurrence if Kenyans choose a leadership of International Criminal Court (ICC) suspects. Annan hinted at travel restrictions and the fact that many governments around the world will simply not deal directly with a leadership that will comprise of suspects. Of course a round of rebuttals, phrasing and campaign messaging about how Kenyans should be left to make their own choice was the expected reaction. However, my only wish is that out of this political gamesmanship an explanation on how we could survive any form of sanctions can be given. So, what do Kenyans need to know about sanctions? Of course a simple understanding of our political economy would suffice. The four major elements of the Kenyan economy are its land, its free market orientation, its need for foreign investments and its propensity to trade. Its production is highly driven by informal labour and varied skill levels of employment; the presence of Multi National Corporations (MNCs) in the country; and access to regional markets. The Kenyan economy is one that is highly dependent and responsive to world prices due to our production of primary products. It has a relatively vibrant manufacturing sector while it still relies on a massive agricultural base that is said to be shrinking due to growth in the service industry that has experienced an expansion in the communication and tourism sectors. An elaborate power infrastructure is being developed; the country has a proud constellation of profitable public; and private enterprises some of which have a regional presence. The country has experienced relatively...

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On Media Sensationalism

May 16, 11 On Media Sensationalism

Posted by in News & Media

I hold the opinion that melodramatic segments of African media houses hold too much sway in the industry. I therefore find many headlines, photos and sound bites too over the top to warrant attention. Two incidents in Kenya and South Africa caught my interest mainly for the sensationalism that surrounded them. Besides the fact that the two stories shared the similarity of protagonists appearing in court, I thought of no connection whatsoever. Nevertheless, the degree of rumour mongering and speculation that had circled these events provided me an awareness that led me to build a comparison regarding the nature of hyped news items. The first incident was Winnie Mandela’s ‘embrace’ of Julius Malema captured in a cheekily titled “PHOTO OF WINNIE KISSING MALEMA” as the latter left court on one of his recent appearances. Expecting a spectacularly scandalous photo I was disappointed to find a snapshot meant to play mind games on whoever stared at it too long. In the second incident, one of Kenya’s leading dailies reported the loss of $10 million by one of the International Criminal Court (ICC) suspects on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi from The Hague. Though the article named no names it was full of innuendo and a spontaneous internet buzz targeted at Uhuru Kenyatta, the son to the country’s first president currently serving as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance. It was later reported that all that was lost was a bag containing an ipad and cell phones. I dislike the sensationalism for its deliberate generation of loud attention-seeking, self-centered and theatrical nature. Driven by elaborate corporate structures of media networks, advertising agencies and sponsors, it combines show business, advertising and news. I am averse to the negative effects of the inefficiencies that arise from all three. Considering the almost miraculous power of the media, these influences directly affect society, culture and heritage by encouraging escapism, indifference and insulation from the realities of their contexts. Mainly by the means of distraction, media...

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