Monday, August 12, 2013

What Happens to former Presidents who Retire and Presidential Candidate who lose Election in Africa?

This is a qustion which has been on my mind considering we have now two retired presidents [retired President Moi and Kibaki] and a former Prime Minister Raila A. Odinga who was a co-principal in the Grand Coalition formed after disputed 2007 polls.

Also, joining this exclusive club is the former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai. I looked around and realised there is a 'retirement' home of sorts for this statesmen. There is an African Presidential Center in Boston which offers residency program to former democratically elected African leaders [I guess we can count out Robert Mugabe!] The Mission of this centre reads;
The African Presidential Center (APC) at Boston University is an unprecedented and unique approach to studying democratization and free market reform in Africa.
This year they had the African Presidential Roundtable 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa from June 5 to 7 where it is indicated that they discussed the cost of democracy. Looking at the participants you will notice former Presidents Moi and Mwai Kibaki are conspiquosly absent. The old leader from Kenya is the former Prime Minister. Perhaps, we can allude that our former presidents we're NOT democratically elected or that they are not into those sort of things! It could be they shall be attending one but albeit when the Chinese come up with an equivalent platform they might be more comfortable with such [tongue in cheek]
APR 2013  I  Photo credit to Prince Eno Bassey
The heads of state/governments who attended the 2013 African Presidential Roundtable at Constitution Hill, from June 5-8. From left to right, Ambassador Charles Stith, Prime Minister Sumaye of Tanzania, President Chissano of Mozambique, President Pires of Cape Verde, President Mbeki of South Africa, Prime Minister Odinga of Kenya, President Offmann of Mauritius, President Mwinyi of Tanzania, President Soglo of Benin, and President Karume of Zanzibar.

Photo additional info from African Presidential Center Facebook Page

[Events in Nairobi] Mindspeak: Aly-Khan Satchu Hosts Belgian Deputy Premier HE Didier Reynders, Aug. 17 2013 @ InterCon Nairobi

HE Didier Reynders – Belgian Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs
This event which I first posted in NairobiNow showcases the influence Nairobi is gaining as a regional financial/investment hub;

Date: August 17, 2013
Venue: Inter Continental Hotel
Time: 9 for 10 am

Chief Guest: HE Didier Reynders – Belgian Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Didier J.L. Reynders is a Belgian politician and a member of the Mouvement Réformateur (MR).
Didier is the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Di Rupo government. Previously he has served as a Finance Minister for 12 years

Aly-Khan Satchu is the CEO of RICH and convenor of mindspeak. Other prominent guests to grace mindspeak sessions in the past include sitting African heads of state [HE Paul Kagame & HE Yoweri Kaguta Museveni] and industry captains

An Eye on the Horn of Africa: Commentary by Prof. Peter Kagwanja on the EastAfrican – Aug. 3-9 2013

Last week’s commentary by Prof. Peter Kagwanja* on The EastAfrican caught my eye because it paints a picture of the role of international actors in the region. Perhaps my take away from his commentary is that we may be witnessing the entry of Somalia as the new play ground of global actors.

The unveiling of Unisom is also taking place against the backdrop of the discovery of valuable mineral and energy resources. This is raising fears in America and the European Union over a ‘Chinese takeover’ on the region and thrusting Somalia into the forefront of the fierce scramble for Africa’s strategic resources. This, in turn, is fueling renewed militarism, now everywhere fashioning the geopolitics of the horn. - Prof. Peter Kagwanja

Considering the considerable interest Somalia has been getting be it the Western interests as the professors points out to the interests of China as feared out by the west plus the invasion of the Turks to the party as it were things are bound to get interesting. Given also Kenya has a military presence in Somalia and would want to reap the peace dividends it remains to be seen if the entry of Somalia will be through Kenya. The unfolding Foreign Policy under Uhuru administration seems t be going that route given the president has spoken of strengthening intra Africa trade plus the rise of new wave of pan-Africanism.

* Prof. Peter Kagwanja is the CEO of Africa Policy Institute

Report: The OGP Conference in Mombasa, May 29-30, 2013 @ Serena Hotel

OGP Africa Conference Mombasa
Dates: May 29-30, 2013
Venue: Serena Hotel, Mombasa

The OGP Africa conference in Mombasa was an eye opener for me and I learned a lot of things despite my participation in webnars organized by ICJ at the country World Bank Offices.
I was able to make for day one despite some logistical problems. The formal opening of the conference was conducted by the then new ICT secretary Dr. Fred Matiangi. This was one of his first public events in his new capacity as the secretary of ICT in the new Jubilee administration. Thereafter, we’re welcomed to Mombasa by the deputy governor.
When government officials from other African countries stood to address the conference you could pick pan-African overtones. This was due to proximity of OGP Africa Conference to African Union at 50 celebrations and most of the government officials had flown to Mombasa from Addis Ababa. This trend was to change in the mid morning session when CSO leaders addressed us and the panel discussions we’re conducted. However, the time allocated seemed little since the panelist we’re many and this left little time for Q&A.
Afternoon presentation by Joe Powell and Paul Maassen on OGP was most informative. However, in my opinion this needs to have been scheduled earlier.
The breakout sessions were the best part of the day for me because in this sessions we we’re few in number and the panel was small and thus a lot was covered in this sessions. I attended managing public resources more effectively breakout chaired by Robert Hunja from WB. In these sessions the panelists shared their experiences. One of the panelists was a government minister from Tanzania who shared how their government goes about managing resources. There was also voice from the civil society and women organisation in this session.
Gala dinner was served in the evening and during this session I got a chance to speak to the Sierra Leone Information minister who was in our dinner table. We had a fruitful engagement at end of it I came to know Sierra Leone far better from the diamonds stereotype 
Day two was similar to day one however what sticks to my mind to date is the superb manner in which the moderator Rakesh Rajani handled the session. Rajani advised CSO’s to indentify champions in government who they can work with to progressive push their agenda. 
In the afternoon there we’re informal session and I attended the one organized by Open Institute Kenya on Open Data.

Transparency and accountability initiatives in different sectors
Transparency being one of the pillars of OGP movement was addressed both in the conference sessions and on the corridors. There is a tendency for CSO to pontificate on the need for governments to become transparent while they remain opaque. This notion was questioned by the then ICT PS Bitange Ndemo who in his hilarious presentations pointed some of this issues.
Also, in the breakout session I attended which was moderated by Robert Hunja went to great lengths to look into the assertions of transparency both at government level and at the CSO level.

Lessons learnt
In my breakout session on managing public resources I learned how the government tendering process works and how we have come far from an opaque process to a far better process that is not in any way perfect.
The need for CSO to identify champions and reform heads in governments they can work with.  After identification, seek for ways to work with these reform persons using an approach given to as by Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza, Tanzania.
The OGP was explained very well by Joe Powell and Paul Maassen
I got to appreciate different context and operating environments esp. the antagonism witnessed between
Uganda government and the CSO operating in that country.

  • OGP should have allocated more time for breakout sessions because they had the optimum number of people to conduct meaningful interaction.
  • The proceeding of this OGP in Mombasa should be made into a documentary which can be assessed by people who were not lucky like us to attend the conference.  Documentaries should also be made on countries going through the process of joining OGP movement so that they can be used by countries that are seeking to join this movement.
  • After the conference there is need to look for administrators who are in touch with what is happening in the African OGP movement to be updating this site: so that it is as vibrant and up to date like the international site:
  • OGP Africa movement should partner with a local university or research hub to quantum the benefits of OGP to the local ecosystems. 

Overall the Mombasa OGP Africa conference was a good exposure for me and I am currently working on my application for the London OGP Annual Summit. 

Emerging Trend: Jubilee Themed Narrative in Contemporary Art Spaces

The is an emerging trend in Kenya where artists are coming up with compositions which are pro-jubilee. This narrative is what is expected from a team that emerges victorious in an election contest. However, one must give credit to UhuRuto team with coming up with a unique name which had the right contest [Kenya celebrating 50 years of independence]. 
It would be interesting to know if these artists who come up with such compositions get any advantages from the current administration. Also, would be good to know if this is the start of a unifiication project by use of the art space.
  • Jubilation Remix by Ringtone
  • Kenya 50 years

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Thought Provoking Read: Africa's Big Brother Lives in Beijing by John Reed

John Reed in an investigative piece on Foreign Policy contends that China might actually be spying on Africa. One of the question he possess is Is Huawei wiring Africa for surveillance? 
"Generally, most of the employees operating these systems are Chinese and the arrangements usually include delegating maintenance and decisions about future updates to Huawei as well, thus ensuring the Chinese firm's control of the basic technological architecture's foundation, evolution, and operations,"  - Chris Demchak, co-director of the Center for Cyber Conflict Studies at the U.S. Naval War College
Looking at this from a Kenyan perspective and given the happening on the ground this might actually be true. If you look at Safaricom the biggest player in telecommunications you will notice that it has close relationship with Huawei. One of the goals of Safaricom Ltd is to offer it's services to anyone and that means getting in agreements with Huawei which offers affordable phones to the base of pyramids. This agreements between Huawei and Safaricom usually extend to other areas apart from the hand-set market.

Also, sometime back I happened to have gone to an official launch at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation headquarters and I noticed most of the equipments and renovations of the state broadcaster were installed by the Chinese. This was during Kibaki administration who found a win win situation with the Chinese government. 

When one also looks at the Chinese Consulate in Kenya one will notice that they have a substantially huge complex which is next to Hurlingham plus another office dealing with trrade matters along Ngong Road. Certainly if the all countries snoop on each other but Chinese seem to be on the look out for new trade deals for their companies.

Also, looking at the Chinese benevolence in providing the African Union with a state of the art new headquarters in Ethiopia. This is the same building John Kerry the American Secretary of State marvelled upon in his first visit to AU headquarters. 
The Chinese certainly seem to have done their homework on the continent and now they unlike Americans do not need an African Drone Programme! 

Euro-centric Reads: What to Read on Kenyan Politics by Prof. Joel D. Barkan

Prof. Joel D. Barkan presents a commentary on Kenya’s foreign affairs syllabus reads in the Council of Foreign Relations hosted publication Foreign Affairs. When I read the article I noticed some glaring omissions and deliberate characterization of Kenya’s history. First, to come to my eye was the division of Kenyan history into three epochs.
Its [Kenya’s] history can be divided into three eras: the late colonial period and the transition to independence in 1963; the post-independent period from 1963 to 1990; and the country’s two-decade-plus struggle since to become a modern democratic state. - Joel D. Barkan
In my opinion the post 1990’s period cannot be balked into one set and as much as the Kenyan state has had its struggles in transforming to become a modern democratic state. The new millennium should have merited an era by itself so that in the least we had at least four eras. The most notable and significant events in the Kenyan state have happened in the new millennium. The most notable being the smooth transition of power in 2002 from the then monolith KANU to the opposition party NARC. The election period and coming into force of a coalition government in 2008 after a bundled general election in 2007 and almost eventual collapse of the state. Then there is the coming into force of a new constitution in 2010 and challenges thereafter and problems within the framework of the coalition. Throughout the period of 2008 to 2012 Kenya has had its fair share of influence and interventions by international actors. Also, it’s during this period is when the ICC court came calling with significant consequences in the long haul.
My second problem with Prof. Joel’s piece is his collection of publications which he curates. The readers of this piece are typically non-Kenyans and they might not have the local knowledge we possess and thus they might miss some quintessential narratives. A good example is his analysis below that follow the era one reads.
Like most African countries, Kenya is a multiethnic society created by European colonialism. Unlike most former colonies, though, its territory was extensively settled by Europeans. That process resulted in a system of racial domination similar to those that emerged in Zimbabwe and South Africa. - Joel D. Barkan
While it is true Kenya is a multiethnic society with its fair share of problems tribalism being one of them. The settlement by Europeans could be considered extensive however this settlement happened in the fertile areas within the country. This resulted in the phrase ‘white highlands’ being coined .  
My bone of contention with Prof. Joel is in analyzing the present day contemporary politics he did not branch out of academic circles to explore modern day contemporary literature. Kwani? Publications offer insights into the contemporary political landscape. Also, his curated list lacks some African voices especially the pre-independence era. Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta is a book he ought to have considered for inclusion plus Not Yet Uhuru by Jaramogi Oginga for the second era.
In the same breath I must say I agree with most of the assertions presented in the article especially concerning few publications covering the present day contemporary politics.
Regrettably -- and somewhat surprisingly -- no concise overviews of contemporary Kenyan politics have been published in recent years. - Joel D. Barkan

Perhaps this could be explained by the mere fact that unlike the West where there are foundations which support such endeavors. Plus, universities which have a strict tenure system where a professor’s tenure is based on the number of publications and research projects they have done. In Kenya there are very few foundations which engage in supporting universities to conduct and publish this kind of research. This has lead to a phenomenon where you have researchers from the north jetting in to southern countries and conducting research funded by foundations from the northern.