Friday, 25 April 2008

Surprise, surprise

Kenya's parties 'bribed voters'

Kenya's political parties spent millions of dollars bribing voters in last year's elections, a survey says. OK, so is this really news, or did we already know this?

The Coalition for Accountable Party Finance says out of $90m raised by the parties, 40% was used as bribes.

The report also says public corporations contributed to President Mwai Kibaki’s campaign via his party.

The allegations relate to both of Kenya's main parties - the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Mr Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU).

The lobby group now wants legislation to compel politicians to reveal their sources of income and expenditure during election campaigns.

Charles Otieno, who heads the Coalition for Accountable Party Finance, says new laws are needed urgently.

"Most of the money politicians use is from tax-payers and without such laws they will continue to spend massive amounts from the public coffers with impunity," Mr Otieno said.

The report alleged that the state-owned electricity company charged customers around $8m too much and then donated the surplus to a political party.

But the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) denies the allegations.

"These accusations are completely untrue and the organisation should come up with evidence to prove their claims," KPLC’s chief executive Don Priestman said.

But Mr Otieno insists several government departments created inflated invoices and used the money for campaigning.

The report says the parties also raised funds from Kenyans in the diaspora and Kenyan companies based overseas.

The lobby group says candidates should declare their wealth before they contest an election, to prevent such abuses of power.

World Malaria Day

This is the first World Malaria Day and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to launch a new campaign to eliminate deaths from malaria.

I wish him luck. I have been studying malaria, or more accurately, mosquito control. Studies have been made all over the world, some with really encouraging results, but from what I can see, because these studies are carried out by academics (naturally), once the result has been found, that's the end of it. No one actually puts the trials into long-term meaningful action.

So, let us hope that Ban Ki-moon can kick the powers that be into some sort of shape to do something about this disease and the unnecessary deaths it causes.

The Kenyan government, a long time ago, started a programme of issuing insecticide treated nets to all under-fives, firstly at subsidised prices and more recently, for free. I raise my hat to them.

The problem is that the responsibility has been passed to NGOs, usually foreign. In my experience (admittedly limited), these NGOs are falling down on the job.

For example, my orphanage in Kisii has not received a single net although we have several children under five.

The director of the home has two children under five. He has not received any nets. And other people I talked to in the town with children under five have not received nets either.

The government is paying these NGOs to do a job. Where is the money going?

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Baby Naming

So the names Kofi and Raila are suddenly very popular in Kenya, especially in the West of the country.

A record number of boys are being named after new Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and the former UN chief Kofi Annan who helped mediate an end to the violence.

Baby girls have been named after Graca Machel who also helped broker the recent power-sharing agreement.

US presidential hopefuls, Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan, and Hillary Clinton, have also been popular.

Among the Luo and Luhya tribes in Kisumu, serious consideration goes into the choice of name, as it is believed the baby will adopt the traits of the person it has been named after.

Oh well, whatever rocks your cradle, I suppose.

Raila keeps his Promise

It is not often that it can be said of a politician that he has fulfilled a promise!

"We will ensure that power, wealth and opportunity are [in] the hands of many, not the few," he said after taking his oath of office.

Well Raila, you certainly have. With the inflated Cabinet, you have certainly made sure that wealth and opportunity is in the hands of many!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Back in the UK - again.

Back home, I have brought a lot of "tasks" with me. I have a list of people to contact over here. I have to make up a poster to say a big Thank You from the kids in Kisii to the people in my community for their help. And I have a bit of research to do, too.

The weather is appalling. Two days after my return, it snowed. Bearing in mind that in Nairobi the average daytime temperature is 26C, snow is most unwelcome.

The only good things I can think of to cheer myself up is that I have a fast broadband connection, a car and ... well, that's about it really.

On the downside, the government appears to be in self-destruct mode, fuel prices and the cost of living in general is on an upward spiral. Oh well, I suppose it is better than conditions in Kenya - for the wananchi anyway. There are still thousands of people displaced, unwilling to go back to their homes for fear of violence. There are thousands of children still separated from their families, still not knowing if indeed their families still exist.

Watching the news from Kenya, I am relieved to see that the two main players have agreed to agree and have formed a Government. But it looks so much like the law-makers are more interested in lining their own pockets, and getting comfortable. It appears that nothing is being done to help the displaced people, nothing is being done to avert a food shortage, in fact, as far as running the country is concerned, nothing is being done about anything! From the outside, it looks as if a terrorist organisation, the Mungiki are running the country!

And then, down the road, there is Uncle Bob in Zimbabwe, who seems to be copying Kenya's dash to the brink of civil war. The difference is that Kenya's Kibaki is not a bad man. He is not a despot. And when he saw that his country was about to fall apart around him, he did something about it.

Uncle Bob or Tim as he seems to be known by some (That Idiot Mugabe) is a despot. He is power-hungry. He cannot be holding on for the money. If, after 28 years of rule, he hasn't managed to divert enough money for his own use, he has left it a bit late.

Unlike Mugabe, I believe that Kibaki and Raila care about Kenya and the people. OK, so there is bickering about who should do what, who should get the plum jobs, cars, offices, etc. But they found a solution while Kenya still has a chance to rebuild itself.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, is going to be difficult to rebuild. A large proportion of the population has left the country. 80% are unemployed. And the Government is spending money on arms instead of food for the starving.