As I step out briefly from the birthday festivities at the DR HQ, I do so to ventilate and share some quick thoughts on several events which have shaped this past week.
Depending on where you’ve lived in the diaspora
or visited in Karen, hearing anyone trivialise racial discrimination isn’t something you take lying down. This clearly explains the public outrage and condemnation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s remarks that in the case of football, any racial incidents could be settled by a handshake at the end of a match. That would be like Francis Atwoli saying that ethnic and gender discrimination doesnt exist in the workplace and if you’ve been discriminated against, you should just hug it out with your employer or colleague and move on. REALLY?
But the thing about discrimination in Kenya in particular is that more people need to speak out against it so that we can move past labeling and stereotyping and start looking at each other as brothers and sisters working towards building one nation: Kenya. The problem especially with ethnic discrimination in Kenya today is that it is so entrenched in our every day life that it has become accepted as normal and in politics, we accept it simply as the modus operandi. This mindset must change. Do keep in mind that we have a Bill of Rights now that enshrines Equality, which means that if you’re ever discriminated against, you can now go to court and seek damages.
Moving on, Forbes Magazine claims that Uhuru Kenyatta, 2012 presidential aspirant, International Criminal Court suspect and son of former president Jomo Kenyatta, is the richest man in Kenya and 26th richest man in Africa. Does it not bother us to have one surname owning over 500,000 acres of land in Kenya? Okay, that was rhetorical. Frankly, I pray that Mr. Kenyatta never sees the inside of State House in 2012 (although he was born there 50 years ago) because I have a sneaky feeling that Kenyatta would be among those that oppose all broad-based land reform/land redistribution policies that would be made pursuant to the Constitution. All in all, I find it all very sad that he sits on all these huge tracts of prime land, most of it unused, yet we still have displaced persons living in camps all over the country while the government continues to deprive many more of land including the residents of Syokimau.
Yes, ofcourse Syokimau had to come up. On this issue I could be that guy that immediately starts lecturing you on the eight years I spent in Law School and how all this could’ve been avoided if the Syokimau residents (you know, the ones that had their suburban houses demolished by the government) had come to my Chambers and allowed me to carry out a thorough search at the Ministry of Lands. But I wont. Why? Because unlike the Justice Minister and Lands Minister (who happen to both be lawyers), I believe, in this case, two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, most of those title documents are tainted with illegality. Yes, the government may well own the land. But that still doesnt justify getting bulldozers to arrive suddenly one day and flatten the homes people have worked so hard to build on land they’ve sacrificed so much to acquire. Like one commentator rightly put it, by violating the basic fundamental rights of the residents in such a callous and heartless manner, the government of Kenya is ostensibly at war with its own people.
Speaking of war, I unfollowed @MajorEChirchir so I am not up to date with the latest developments but I do know that the Harambee Stars have certainly done their bit against some “pirates” this week. Hongera!
On a serious note, this ‘war’ has been a costly one for Kenya in more ways than one and my fear is that it is become a political tool and convenient way of justifying use and/or abuse of public funds. The Executive arm of government even suggested that the demolitions and evictions in Syokimau were necessary because the disputed land was in the flight-path of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and posed a “threat to national security”. So, is our government saying that pulling out the national security card allows it to violate the constitutional rights of our fellow Kenyans? Putting Syokimau aside once again, this war we are engaged in has also been raised as a justification to break an agreement to increase salaries for university lecturers promised by the government several years back.
As a result those of us attending lectures in public institutions of tertiary learning have been sitting at home for the last week and a half while unversity dons went on strike. I think the government should be ashamed to pay doctorate-holding lecturers so little given the enormous role they play in nation-building. If nothing else, this is exactly why we need a Salaries and Remuneration Commission because there’s absolutely no way a bone-headed MP should be receiving an income of over 1 million shillings and our engineering professors are getting a maximum of 200,000 from the same government purse!
And finally I shall end my
rant recap of the week by addressing the developments in the Supreme Court. For me, this election date case coming before the highest court in the land was be a litmus test to see how independent, impartial and expeditious this brand new court would be in dispensing justice and whether indeed it could rise to the occasion being guided only by the law and not the partisan politics of the day. In the end, the Mutunga-led court declined to give an Opinion on the election date and has referred the matter back to the High Court (as you recall the matter had previously been referred to the Supreme Court from the High Court).
However my widely shared disappointment with the Supreme Court doesnt end there. As the seven judge bench made their first appearance before the court and the cameras this week, they were wearing these green and gold robes that caught the eyes of many.
At the risk of being disbarred, Pheroze Nowrojee must’ve snickered to his learned counsel that the Supreme Court gowns looked like the warm-up kit for the South African Springboks team, innit? In fact others have commented that the gowns make our Supreme Court judges look like prison staff, rural church choir members, traditional dancers… and the list goes on and on. If you recall, the idea of shunning the colonial British robes and wigs was part of Chief Justice Mutunga’s grand plan to break from the past and make the Judiciary more accessible and less intimidating to the common man. But let’s agree that although CJ Mutunga’s intentions to transform the dresscode in the Judiciary are in good faith, the Supreme Court gowns need to be addressed and the input of the public sought so as to come up with something agreeable to all. Who knows, once we come up with a uniquely Kenyan gown for our Supreme Court judges, we can get back to coming up with that elusive national dress of ours?
Happy weekend, folks!