To Your Tents, O Israel! – The Cry for Secession is not without Reason, but we must never Secede

Cry, the Beloved Country
(Image courtesy of Nairobi Wire)


Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying:“What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David!” So Israel departed to their tents.

I Kings 12:16 (NKJV)

In 930 BC, the people of Israel seceded from the unified kingdom of Israel that Solomon’s son Rehoboam had just begun to rule. This was perhaps the first instance of secession in the Scriptures. The Divine Purpose was to punish Solomon’s idolatry. The earthly genesis of the matter, however, was economic: the people complained to Rehoboam that work had been too hard under Solomon. There is even a hint in Scripture that taxation was too heavy. When Rehoboam promised to be even harder on the people than his father had been, the ten northern tribes of Israel seceded. In a striking parallel to what is happening in Kenya today, the two tribes that were left behind by the ten seceding tribes were the same two tribes that had enjoyed rulership to that point: Benjamin (Saul) and Judah (David, Solomon and Rehoboam).

The secession did not end well. In order to prevent the people of Israel from worshipping at Jerusalem (which was in Judah) and re-uniting under a religious fervor, the nation of Israel instituted parallel worship-sites in Bethel and Dan. These centres of worship were actually centres for idol worship, and as a result the “ten northern tribes” were taken into captivity about 200 years later. The Kingdom of Judah lasted a further 130 years or so before falling to Nebuchadnezzar.

Nearly 2,900 years later, in 1960, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga uttered these momentous words:

“If I accept your offer, I will be seen as a traitor to my people. The British cannot elect me leader to my people… Kenyatta is around, just here in Lodwar. Release him and allow him to lead us; he is already our choice.”

It is from this point that any candid and honest appraisal of the current calls for secession must begin: we must begin from the fact that when Jaramogi Odinga was offered the leadership of the first post-colonial government in Kenya by the British government, he stepped aside in favour of Jomo Kenyatta. Odinga was a socialist by preference, with leanings towards China and the communist East. (These leanings, ironically, were to be imitated by Jomo Kenyatta’s son 50 years later as a result of criminal proceedings instituted against him at the International Criminal Court.) Within a short period of time Jaramogi Odinga’s views began to diverge from the views of the President he had stepped aside for. By 1966, just 3 years after independence, Jaramogi Odinga was so dissatisfied with the manner in which the nation was being led that he left the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) to form the Kenya People’s Union (KPU).

It is perhaps a sign of how little political progress we have made – and how constant the inequities of our politico-economic system have been – that 54 years after independence, our general elections are still pitting a Kenyatta against an Odinga. Yet from the formation of the KPU in 1966, a dissatisfied Luo nation (together with a varying set of allies) have sought to attain power.

The pain of repeated electoral loss beats constantly in the Luo heart. And while electoral loss is painful to anybody, this is not in and of itself cause for secession. But when such loss is believed to have been unfair (as in the 2007, 2013 and perhaps to a lesser extent in the 2017 general elections), the embers of that pain refuse to die, and are constantly fanned into flame by the bellows of that innate human aversion – the aversion to injustice.

And there are deeper hurts also. In July 1969, when this nation was just six years old, Tom Mboya was assassinated. Dr Robert Ouko was felled by the assassin’s bullet in February 1990. In September 2003, Professor Odhiambo Mbai was gunned down. You will say “JM Kariuki was also assassinated.” But it is not the same when you have never been in power, and when it is those in power who have done this to you. You may think these men have been forgotten, but they have not, for when Gor Mahia wins the Premier League, the fans chant the names of these men and dedicate victory to them. The lot of Luo is a deep and constant hurt, and a discussion of secession that does not acknowledge this context is a fraudulent and dishonest discussion.

And so we come to 22nd August 2017, when Dr David Ndii talked about secession on national TV. Now Dr Ndii is an economist of international repute. He has served as an economic advisor to the President of Rwanda and has been an economist with the World Bank. His academic credentials are impeccable: he is a Rhodes scholar and has both an M. Sc. and a Ph. D from Oxford. I have a lot of respect for his brand of economics, which despite his Oxford training and stint at the World Bank remains refreshingly people-centric, while remaining cerebral.

Why dwell on an economist? Because as the genesis of Israel’s call to secession was economic, so must we acknowledge that it is economic inequities that are the seed for the calls for secession today – a perceived exclusion from “sharing in the national cake”That said, Dr Ndii’s calls for secession are beneath a man of his intellectual stature.

For the solution to our tribal divisions cannot be to exacerbate them further; this is the fundamental flaw with Dr Ndii’s premise. Israel was not stronger for parting with Judah, nor was Judah stronger for parting with Israel. It is true that we cannot avoid our national disunity; we cannot pretend it does not exist. It exists in our offices; even – for some of us – in our families. It exists most tragically in our churches –

– And what of the church? It is a worry that the compassion of He Whom we call Master does not beat within our breasts. He Who taught to the Jew to call the Samaritan his neighbour; Whose eyes shed salty tears at the grave of Lazarus, and Who raised the weeping widow’s son to life at Nain – His attitudes are missing from our hearts, they are missing from our words, and they are missing from our bearing towards our countrymen.

Shall wife part with husband, that peace may prevail? Shall Pastor part with member and also call this peace? Shall employer terminate employee, over tribe, and call this peace? Shall countryman part with countryman, as a solution to their differences? Nay; it is a false peace whose genesis is in disunion and division. A solution whose father is the intolerance and insensitive bearing of the ruling peoples and whose mother is the pain of those who are ruled cannot be right. We must all reject secession as a false answer to the question of our national disunity.

And yet – in our rejection of secession we must not reject the context in which the call for secession has been made. We must be honest about what has brought us to this point. Calls to peace and unity that are made in the absence of a discussion about political and economic equity and justice are dishonest and unfair. We must put ourselves in our brothers’ shoes, no matter how much we think their victimhood is only perceived, or how much we ourselves are victims of the same misrule. We must walk 55 years in their shoes. And before we can claim to be dealing with the problem, we must start to correct the economic inequality in our nation.

Nearly 2,800 after the Israel secession, another secession took place – the secession of the southern states of the United States of America. The reason for the southern states’ secession was in order to defend slavery – another economic reason, for “free” slave labour enabled Southern enterprise to continue at a very low cost, an advantage the Southern states did not want to lose. And while we might like to think otherwise, the primary reason President Lincoln went to war was to preserve the Union. Nor was his resolution to go to war with his countrymen the lightly-taken, detached decision of a domineering tyrant. Nay, this is that Lincoln who buried a 3-year-old son in 1850, and an 11-year-old son in 1862. This is that Lincoln who was far too well acquainted with parental grief to send other people’s sons to war for matters of little consequence. And go to war he did – at considerable cost in human life – to preserve the unity of the United States of America. America went on to become the greatest nation in the world. The foregoing is not an argument for war. It is an attempt to show the lengths to which great men have gone to preserve a nation’s unity.

It is early yet. We should not go to war, brother against brother. Let us choose the path of peace. Let us choose the path of a just and equitable peace – a peace that acknowledges the context of the call for secession even as it casts off secession as a solution. Let us – on both sides – remember and live by the words of Dr Martin Luther King, who paid the ultimate price for believing that all men are equal:

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Christian, Politics


On the Passing of Jacob Juma

For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.

Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

Amos 5:12-13 (KJV)



In the Lord of the Rings movie Return of the King, there is a moment of great sadness and despair, when Aragorn and the army he leads are fighting before the Black Gate of Mordor. Inside Mordor, jealousy and selfishness for the Ring has taken hold of Frodo and he has put it on, making Sauron aware of its presence within the very centre of his domain. The battle begins to go hard on Aragorn and his army: they are vastly outnumbered, and the dark powers of evil, spurred on and strengthened by Frodo’s awful internal capitulation to self, are in the ascendancy.

For some strange reason, a measure of this sort of despair took hold on me when I heard that Jacob Juma had been murdered. I had not felt sorrow at the passing of a public figure before, and to date I can not explain why I felt this way: it felt like all the fighting, all the standing up for right and truth was in vain, needless, useless, capable of being ended by the gunhand’s bullet.

As Eric Ambler has written, “The important thing to know about an assassination… is not who fired the shot, but who paid for the bullet.” Why was Jacob Juma killed? At this time we can only speculate, for in the absence of a credible investigation, we are making guesses – educated guesses, perhaps – about the fate that befell him. Until such an investigation is completed, we find ourselves in the realm of hearsay and rumour. We are forced to rely on an investigation that has little hope of bearing any fruit, for 40 years after Josiah Mwangi was murdered, we still have had no justice; 25 years after Dr. Robert Ouko allegedly fired a bullet into his head and then subsequently set himself alight, justice yet eludes us. It is at such times that we may find hope in reminding ourselves that there is indeed another Court.

Mutemi wa Kiama (or @WanjikuRevolt) provides his own thoughts on the motive for Jacob Juma’s killing as follows:

Mutemi wa Kiama

Another view, as espoused by Macharia Gaitho in his May 10 piece, is that Jacob Juma was killed for his outspoken criticism of the Jubilee Government.

Predictably, Jacob Juma’s death has taken on political overtones. A sad and embittered CORD has tried its best to use his murder to put pressure on the Government, while Jubilants are annoyed at the coverage his death has elicited and are attempting to brush it off as inconsequential or to write him off has having not been a saint. This I agree with: it is true that Jacob Juma was no saint. I question how a man would be able to buy land from Jonathan/Jennifer Moi without having certain dubious connections. I cannot vouch for the source(s) of his wealth. He claimed to have introduced William Ruto to Cyrus Jirongo in 1991, a statement that has YK’92 overtones. A hashtag on Twitter taking the form #KabetesWasNoSaint was trending just four days after his death. True as this may be, should everyone who is not a saint be gunned down in cold blood?

I detest corruption and what it has done to this nation. Yet I would be the last to say that the corrupt should be killed as we have heard is done in China. 30-year jail terms and the forfeiting of stolen wealth to the State are measures which, if properly and consistently taken, would solve our corruption problem at a stroke and without the further loss of life. Corruption has already killed too many: every child or adult that has died from preventable disease; every overloaded vehicle that made it past a manned police roadblock and subsequently crashed; every citizen slain by criminals as a result of insecurity;  the 51 who recently died at Huruma as a result of faulty building approval mechanisms – life after precious, Kenyan life has already been lost through corruption, more blood-letting need not be done. God is the Giver of life and He can take it too; let us not presume to usurp His position and authority in this matter. This is why the murder of any man – Jacob Juma, or no – is wrong. His mother has lost her son. His wife/wives have lost a husband. His children have lost a father. But these are personal losses, more keenly felt for their intimate nature. Is there any loss to the nation?

In Jacob Juma, this nation had a wealthy man, beholden to no-one, with intimate knowledge of Government-sponsored corruption. He also had the exceedingly uncommon trait of being willing to let the public know about it. The uses to which he put this information – assisting CORD – we may not all agree with. Yet, by his death, critical information on Government-sponsored corruption will no longer be in the public domain. How does Kenya benefit from this state of affairs? Is she not the poorer for this fact? Is not impunity aided, indeed strengthened, by his demise?

And if we inwardly rejoice at this state of affairs, are we not, ourselves, corrupt?

We are in fact worse than corrupt, for we irrationally support the corrupt in their corruption, thereby accepting all of corruption’s horrible costs, while receiving none of its benefits.

I conclude by returning to the Scripture at the beginning. My Mum quoted me Amos 5:13 when news reached her that I had been blocked on Twitter by @WilliamSRuto (a situation, I am happy to report, that no longer persists). She convened a lunch meeting between herself, my Dad and I, and beseeched me to stop writing the things I write; saying that in evil times the prudent are silent. I promised her that I would pray about it.

So we who write and speak out on socio-political issues must ask ourselves: was Jacob Juma’s life worth anything? Does his death mean anything? Were the things he spoke about worth dying for? Is the price worth paying? Are there times when it is, and times when it isn’t?

If we keep silent, shall they not have won?

May evil find that though ten are struck down, ten thousand rise in their place to stand for what is right.

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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Politics


There is another Court

On New Year’s Day 2008, in the aftermath of a hotly-contested general election that pitted Raila Odinga against incumbent President Mwai Kibaki,  Kalenjin attackers bore down on the Kenya Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa, where around 200 Kikuyus were sheltering from what they knew to be imminent attack. Inside the church people silently prayed, their fervent yet unspoken pleas in awful contrast to their attackers’ hostile war songs. The Guardian reported that paraffin-soaked mattresses were pushed through the windows and used to block the door, and then matches were thrown in.

30-50 Kenyans died in the fire that day, many of them children.

On 28th January 2008, in an appalling parallel, a group of Kikuyu attackers surrounded Bernard Ndege’s house in Naivasha. He too pleaded – with his attackers. But instead of a response he heard one of them ask another to bring a can of petrol, which they poured around his house. The same man then asked for a matchbox and set Bernard’s house on fire, killing Bernard’s two wives – one of whom was pregnant – his eight children, and 9 other people.

In total, around 1,200 Kenyans were murdered in the violence that followed the disputed 2007 elections. The violence led to the trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, and radio journalist Joshua Sang. Proceedings began on 10th September 2013, over 5 years after the violence occurred.

On 5th December 2014, prosecutors at the ICC withdrew charges of crimes against humanity against President Uhuru Kenyatta. Then two days ago, on 5th April 2016, the Trial Chamber of the ICC dismissed charges against William Ruto and Joshua Sang. Judge Eboe-Osuji wrote as part of his verdict: “The proceedings are declared a mis-trial due to a troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling.”

Shall the mistrial at the ICC and the inability of that Court to successfully prosecute anybody be the end of the matter? Shall this violence go unpunished? Are the lives of 1,200 Kenyans as nothing? Is the agony and pain of the bereaved and of our IDP’s as nothing to God? Nay.

In I John 2:1, Scripture calls Christ our Advocate, promising that if we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father. In referring to Christ as our Advocate, the Bible implies that quite apart from our High Court, our Court of Appeal, or our the Supreme Court – courts that together comprise the corrupted justice system of our nation –quite apart from even the International Criminal Court, there is another Court. Further evidence of the existence of this Court is found in the Book of Hebrews, in which it is written that it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgement. Judgement implies the fair consideration of a person’s actions and intents. Judgement implies the presence of a Judge. And finally, judgement implies a verdict.

There is indeed another Court, and the presiding Judge of that Court cannot be met at a petrol station to be suborned with US dollars. This presiding Judge does not have a bank account. He cannot be offered a 10,000 acre farm, for heaven is His throne, the earth is His footstool. And who has instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and shewed to Him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. He is incorruptible, and He has said “My counsel shall stand, and I shall do all My pleasure.”

There is indeed another Court, and the presiding Judge of that Court is all-knowing. There is no creature that is not manifest in His sight, and all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

There is another Court, and before that Court all stand as equals. The witness will have his own case to answer. The compromised witness will have to answer for being compromised. The assassin will have to answer for the assassination of witnesses. The assassin’s sponsor will have to answer for the life of the assassinated. In that great Court witnesses cannot be compromised or assassinated. Assassinated witnesses are available to give testimony before the Judge. Compromised witnesses are available to give testimony also. No, in this Court, witnesses cannot be bribed or assassinated.

After the first recorded murder in human history that Court sat. And the Judge said to Cain “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.” Does the blood of the 1,200 slain after in 2007-8 lie silent in the dust? Nay, for the immutability of the Judge teaches us that He yet hears the anguished cries of innocent blood. And He will certainly demand a hearing.

There is another Court.


Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Christian, Politics, Uncategorized


Preliminary Thoughts on Foreign Influence

A U.S. soldier radios base, watched by displaced villagers, Mogadishu Image courtesy of: REUTERS/Dan Eldon  (SOMALIA)

A U.S. soldier radios base, watched by displaced villagers, Mogadishu
Image courtesy of: REUTERS/Dan Eldon (SOMALIA)

I have been reading the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman. In the third-to-last chapter of the book, the following quote from the New York Times of 14 April 2002 is included:

[The United States] supported authoritarian regimes throughout Central and South America during and after the cold war in defense of its economic and political interests.

In tiny Guatemala, the Central Intelligence Agency mounted a coup overthrowing the democratically elected government in 1954, and it backed subsequent right-wing governments against small leftist rebel groups for four decades. Roughly 200,000 civilians died.

In Chile, a C.I.A.-supported coup helped put Gen. Augusto Pinochet in power from 1973 to 1990. In Peru, a fragile democratic government is still unraveling the agency’s role in a decade of support for the now-deposed and disgraced president, Alberto K. Fujimori, and his disreputable spy chief, Vladimiro L. Montesinos.

Folks, allow me to repeat that that is a quote from the New York Times .

It is human nature to read this kind of narrative and begin to draw parallels between it and one’s own experience. (Human nature errs also; we sometimes inflate our own importance.) It is therefore difficult to read this article and find innocence in Raila’s sojourns in the US this year, or innocence in the speeches he made during his visit and upon his return. While in the U.S. he criticized Jubilee for blanket condemnation of an entire community (i.e. for targeting Somalis’ in its investigations on terrorism) – fairly inflammatory talk at a time when grenades were going off in matatus and markets. In the Uhuru Park speech he gave upon his return, he (at that time) gave Jubilee 60 days to convene national dialogue, prompting fears that CORD was seeking regime-change.

Let us add to this knowledge the fact that we have struck oil. Or rather that – perhaps more ominously – Western companies have struck oil in northern Kenya. Oil has been a major factor in many bitterly tragic tales of US neo-colonialism: in Iran in 1953; in Iraq in 1991 and in 2003; in Venezuela in a failed coup attempt in 2002; and in all likelihood Libya in 2011 to name but a few examples. The fact that Kenya has reserves of oil gives cause for a deepening of already grave concerns.

It is alleged that as Minister for Energy, Raila orchestrated the entry into the Kenyan market of Bakri Energy, a wealthy Arabian conglomerate; his brother Dr. Oburu Odinga is an active Director in the company (I was told this by a man who was a staff member of Bakri at the time). If this is true, then Raila Odinga is no stranger to the Machiavellian interplay between politics and wealth that always impoverishes a nation’s citizens.

Having carefully weighed all these issues, it becomes us to be extremely wary of the kind of foreign influence that does not directly benefit the Kenyan people (China is no saint, and this is why looking East is a fallacy that Jubilee itself has abandoned). We need the West’s markets for our tea, our horticultural products, our coffee, our tourism, and in future (we hope) our oil. We also need the East’s infrastructure and its technology. But these trades must be done on terms that are fair to Kenya and to all her people, and not merely a select political few.

Happy New Year, and may God bless the nation of Kenya.

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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Economics, Politics


The Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014

In the run-up to either the first or the second referendum on a new Constitution, I recall my Dad drily remarking that we did not need a new Constitution in order to jail certain corrupt individuals. He was right. Now, as then, we are being asked to believe that new laws are necessary in order to contain a new threat – terrorism. And now, as then, we need to carefully examine whether this is true.

The Security Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014, has a broad scope and seeks to make numerous changes to the law. It includes some excellent provisions, such as:

  1. Changes to the Immigration Department functions and operations that require applicants for work permits to apply for them while still outside the country;
  2. The strengthening of the Evidence Act to allow digital evidence and to allow any police officer (as opposed to a particular one) to submit evidence;
  3. Changes to the Investment Promotion Act that require investors to be sponsored by Kenyan citizens (this is how Gulf states have kept their wealth within their own nations);
  4. Changes to the Labour Institutions Act that require employment agencies to obtain Government approval before sending Kenyan citizens abroad.

However, like the proverbial Trojan Horse, the Bill slips in a lot of bad with the good. Let’s look at 4 key areas.

What is terrorism?

The first point to note is that the new Bill does not in fact define terrorism. It also speaks of acts of terrorism, without defining what these may be. This ambiguity and open-endedness is a grave concern. If terrorism can be construed to mean almost anything, hundreds of people could be arrested as “terrorists” without explanation. Then there are further provisions that rest on the concept of the undefined concept of terrorism, for example: “A person who publishes or utters a statement that is likely to be understood as directly or indirectly encouraging or inducing another person to commit or prepare to commit an act of terrorism commits an offence.” In the absence of a definition for terrorism or terrorist acts, publishers and the media are at risk of being jailed for up to 14 years (there are no fines) for publishing whatever the Government decides has “indirectly encouraged a person to prepare a to commit an act of terrorism.”


Public Order

The new Bill states: “Any person who unlawfully convenes, organizes or promotes a public rally, meeting or procession or neglects or refuses to comply with any law relating to public meetings commits an offence… The Cabinet Secretary may by notice in the Gazette designate the areas where, and times at which public meetings, gatherings or public processions may be held.” It is a matter of great puzzlement to many as to how these provisions will help us to fight terrorism. Terrorists are not known to hold public meetings/gatherings or processions. So who exactly does this law target? Concerned citizens who try to hold an ineffective Government accountable by holding peaceful demonstrations? In a democratic society the right to demonstrate should be protected, and indeed our Constitution enshrines it in Article 37. Indeed it has been said that public outcry at the President’s assertion that security and safety is the citizens’ own responsibility and the subsequent demonstrations contributed to the dismissals of the Immediate former Cabinet Secretary for the Interior and the Inspector-General of Police. We would do well to continue to protect this right.


Interception of Communications Without Warrant

The new Bill also allows the national security organs to intercept communication without warrants. We understand the grave risks associated with terrorism but this provision can also be construed as a contravention of Article 31 of the Constitution (The Right to Privacy), which accords every person the right not to have the privacy of their communications infringed. It may have been better to have a way to expedite terrorism-related search warrants in the Courts, rather than create the potential for Kenyans’ right to privacy to be revoked.


Security of Tenure

The principle of security of tenure is supposed to ensure that a competent person is able to perform their official duties without the fear of being sacked. The risk, of course, is that an incompetent person may be appointed to the position, in which case the security of tenure would protect the office-holder rather than the public. The Constitution mitigates for this in at least two ways. The first way is that the office-holder can be removed for incompetence. The second way is through (Parliamentary) vetting. The President’s nominees to various positions are supposed to be subjected to scrutiny by a supposedly objective Parliament (representatives of the people) such that ineffective people are weeded out at this stage.

Unfortunately, rather than appoint the best individual for the job, our leaders tend to appoint someone with a view to balancing tribal mathematics, (in)competence notwithstanding. Parliament, believing that opposing the President’s choice is playing into the Opposition’s hands, rubber-stamps the President’s choice (a process that is even further compromised by despicable tendencies such as the tyranny of numbers). When the individual proves incompetent, it then proves constitutionally difficult to remove them.

The way to solve this problem is to appoint competent people to office, and to use the grounds of incompetence to remove them, or else have them resign (as we have seen). Not to revoke security of tenure.



The Government would have us believe that to oppose the new Bill is to be on the side of the terrorists. This is a dangerous and fallacious argument. If we take this thinking to its logical conclusion, it will not be long before the act of opposing Government incompetence and corruption will fall neatly into the vague non-definitions of terrorism we saw earlier. Insecurity in this country is not a legal problem. Our borders are porous – a fact that was most crudely illustrated by the fact that our President’s own escort vehicle was stolen and somehow conveyed into Uganda. Corruption and graft are endemic – the rampant smuggling of sugar and charcoal across the Somali border has the political backing of wealthy politicians. There are now about 10,000 police assigned to guard VIPs – about a quarter of the police force if a 2010 report is to be believed. There is no accountability in the security forces – it is only two weeks ago, over one year after Westgate, that we saw senior officials being held to account for incompetence.

We do not require new laws to solve these problems. What is required is the enforcement of existing laws.


Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Politics


Caught Part III – Jail

Gaoled (Photo Credit: Black Politics Today)

Gaoled (Photo Credit: Black Politics Today)

They had just finished cleaning it. The Kibera Law Courts jail is best described as a square room with a long, continuous, narrow (and of course heavily-grilled) window running along the top (next to the ceiling). Within the larger square of the jail is a smaller square in one corner. This smaller square comprises what we shall politely call the ablutions. The trouble with the ablutions is that the wall of the ablutions does not extend all the way up to the ceiling of the containing main room/square. For this reason, the smell stink stench that inexorably rises up from the jailhouse facilities permeates determinedly through the entire room. Doubly so if the door is open. Deciding whether to endure higher concentrations of the malodourous fumes seeping from that toilet in order to go and close the toilet door and thereby lessen the fumes is a taxing exercise in circular logic. But apart from this, the jail was actually pretty clean.

I asked the cops supervising the jail if one could perhaps offset their fine and the cash bail.

“Ati off-nini? Offset? Hapana huwezi offset fine yako na bail yako Boss, we toa kimbelembele yako hapa. Kaa huko na ungojee mtu wako.”

I set about finding a way to pay the fine. I called a friend of mine who gave me a rider’s number and also sent that rider KES 7,000 to deposit at the bank for my fine (thank you so much!). This rider seemed quite well-versed in proceedings.

“Pole sikusikia call yako, nilikuwa na-ride bike.”

“Sawa tu, ulipata SMS yangu iko na hizo account details?”

“Nimeiget. Nikuulize…?


“Uko mashimoni?”

“Ee, mazeh…”

[Merry laughter] “Wacha nta-come saa hii.”

He and I haggled a bit about the cost of what he was doing for me, and I ended up paying him KES 720. I should probably have paid him KES 500 (though we did start off at 1K). But he knew exactly what needed to be done, reliable chap. What the extra 20 bob was for, we shall come back to later.

Moving swiftly on

In about an hour, the trusty rider on his noble steed boda-boda had arrived, bank slip in hand, and obtained a receipt which he was able to use to have me released.

Once your fine has found its circuitous and serpentine way into the labyrinth that is the Judiciary’s coffers, there remains the small matter of recovering your bail. As you know, the purpose of paying bail is to make sure you appear in court. If you do appear in court, you are entitled to a refund of said bail. The process beggars belief. You see, when you post bail you pay it either to the cops on the road, or you pay it at a cop station. The police station to which those cops are attached, or the station at which you pay it, is important here. Because on the day you appear in court, dear reader, an officer from that particular cop station must come with the bail that you paid during the weekend and return the very bail you posted. So when I asked for my bail I was asked:

“Station gani?” 


“Haya ngojea hapo.”

Luckily mine came before my trusty rider arrived because a lady officer from Kabete Police Station was already at the Law Courts with the money. My bail was selected from a sheaf of notes that appeared miraculously from quite literally under her belt. One hapless offender was slightly less fortunate. He had posted his bail at Kiserian Police Station and was appearing before the Magistrate at the Kibera Law Courts. This poor fellow availed himself in court, his case was heard, judgement was passed, he tumana’d to KCB Account No ___________, his fine was paid, the deposit slip was brought, a receipt was obtained, it was presented at the cells, and he was released…

…then he had to wait for the ka-Landrover to come all the way from Kiserian Police Station, negotiating Bomas traffic and all, to bring his bail.


The small matter of my rider's motorbike (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The small matter of my rider’s motorbike (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Friends, I don’t know which reforms Chief Justice Mutunga, former Registrar Shollei and Inspector-General Kimaiyo have been carrying out, but as a recent though temporary guest of the State I believe I am well-qualified to say that I am yet to see them. Is it not the Kenyan Judiciary and Police they have been reforming? Juu mi’ sioni! What an inefficient system! You miss work, the guy who you call to run that errand for you is also not working… in this day and age where we have computers, MPesa, and man has been to the moon, if someone has to wait for someone else to pay their own fines for them at the bank then come and get them out of jail, we must be reforming backwards.

I further fail to understand why money has to be physically brought from Kiserian to Kibera in a police vehicle for offenders to get their bail refunds. The powers that be in the Kenya Police must similarly be using a very loose definition of the term “reform”. At some point I began to think that I had ended up in hot soup in order to see these things for myself.

Before I conclude, dear reader, you may recall that I promised to return to the small matter of why I paid the rider KES 720 instead of KES 700. Do you know what the 20 bob was for? It was so that the rider could pay the askari at the gate of the Kibera Law Courts so that his motorbike was not stolen therefrom while he was getting me out. Yes. We live in a country where your motorbike can actually be stolen from the premises of the Law Courts themselves. Ati a guy just comes in wearing those fluorescent jackets emblazoned “Waititu for Governor”, hotwires the thing and disappears.

In the language of the court, I rest my case.


Caught Part II – In Court

In Court

In Court (Photo Credit: Neo Today)

To be honest, I toyed with the idea of not going to court and foregoing bail since I had my licence back, but the lawyer we met on Saturday advised me to go to Court. So it was that on Sunday I called my boss and explained the situation, and on Monday I went to court. I was there before 8:00 am but Courts rarely start sitting before 9:00 am. Take your time if this ever happens to you.

The session began, and a number of cases were read out before mine was. It was through these cases that I discovered what happens if you don’t appear in court. The process is as follows:

  1. Your name is called out.
  2. The prosecutor reads out your sin(s).
  3. If you’re present, the judge decides whether there will be a hearing that day (lengthy cases, perhaps crimes). If it’s an offence he/she will pass judgement.
  4. HOWEVER if it is established that the accused has not deigned to appear in court the judge simply says: “Cash bail forfeited to the State, warrant of arrest issued.” Next!

So the chance you’re taking by not appearing in court is that the police won’t come looking for you. It’s perhaps a risk worth taking, except that they ask for your phone number when you’re paying bail, so if they really wanted to they could nab you. But I think they have neither the time nor the motivation to look for a traffic offender. If they do look for you, and if they find you, dear reader rest assured that your bail-posting days are over. You will be hauled by the seat of your over-speeding pants straight to jail until court time.

Anyway, court was pretty quick. I stood up when I was called, I confirmed that the allegations were correct, and the Judge fined me KES 7,000. I had heard horror stories of KES 30,000 (the Naivasha court is particularly notorious) so on balance, it wasn’t too bad…

…or so I thought. For that was when the fun and games began.

Paying your fine

Some of the still-available payment methods in the Kenyan judicial system (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Some of the ancient payment methods still applicable in the Kenyan judicial system (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

I had carried KES 20,000 to Court, so I was ready to pay. But my spirited and determined efforts to pay my fine were thwarted by the belated discovery that one is not in fact allowed to pay one’s own fine. I abruptly found myself being escorted at a brisk pace to the Kibera Law Courts gaol. During this regrettably short journey I was brusquely informed by yet another officer of the law that I had to locate and instruct someone who could go and:

  1. Deposit the cash for me in KCB Account Name “Judiciary Kibera Law Courts” Account no __________________
  2. Bring the deposit slip to Kibera Law Courts
  3. Obtain a receipt from the Kibera Law Courts
  4. Present it at the cells and thereby
  5. Get me released.

I told the cop who was taking me to jail that I had brought myself to court, so it was unlikely I’d run away post-judgement. I actually asked him to let me go pay and come back. Ah the naïveté of ignorance…

“Hatufanyangi namna hiyo Boss. Tafuta mtu aende akulipie. Na ni kwa nini hukuongea na officer?”

“Hapana, unajua mi sihongangi…”

“Sisemi kuhonga…” [I honestly don’t know what else he meant, and he did not take the trouble to elaborate.]

Suddenly, I was in jail.

Next: Jail