NHIF Fiasco: Constructive Tension, Individual Conscience and Access to Information under the Constitution

The nation continues to watch as the National Health Insurance Fund is embroiled in controversy over how a certain Clinix Healthcare Ltd received Sh202 million for treating civil servants, of which Sh91 million went to non-existent or ‘ghost’ clinics. Understandably, everyone is interested in knowing who are the directors and shareholders of Clinix Healthcare Ltd. However there is a larger issue that we must grapple with, that of responsibility. Responsibility here must be seen in two ways: collective and individual. Collective responsibility means that because of the actions of a greedy few within NHIF, both its Board and Management owe Kenyans Sh202 million. By extension, the government through NHIF’s parent ministry: Ministry of Medical Service is also responsible since it failed to regulate, supervise and monitor the goings-on at the embattled health parastatal.

But to many the more pivotal question is that of individual responsibility.

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Women Will Spearhead Kenya’s Constitutional Commitment to Equality

On this International Women’s Day 2012, allow me to start off by briefly discussing the dynamics of social change. Throughout history, it has always been the oppressed groups within any society that have been at the forefront of the struggle for equality. For instance, during the Civil Rights Movement, African American leaders were on the front lines of the struggle for social change because they knew first-hand what inequality and discrimination was all about. Within the human rights struggle in Kenya, the women’s movement has perhaps been a well organised and formidable force resulting in part to the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010. It is because of women’s own past experiences of prejudice and injustice that they continue to push for social change and reforms.

Equality is a difficult and deeply controversial ideal. At its most basic and abstract, equality is a moral idea that people who are similarly situated in relevant ways should be treated similarly. Therefore, in the context of the gender equality struggle, women and men must have full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms which includes the right to equal opportunities in all areas of life. So, the struggle for ‘gender equality’ as we know is not only about women but rather about both the male and female genders. However the struggle for equality and equity between the two genders is led predominantly by women precisely because they have endured decades of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of their gender. Therefore women understand the importance of ‘equality’ both as a social ideal and more importantly as a legally binding requirement that is the hallmark of Kenya’s constitutional dawn.

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Battered men: Maendeleo ya Wanaume betraying its own cause

From what I can gather Maendeleo ya Wanaume lives and operates from the briefcase of one Nderitu Njoka — it’s chairman and purports to be an organisation fighting for the rights of battered men.

It is common knowledge that gender relations are in constant flux and conceptions of masculinity and femininity are being reshaped and redefined as our time passes on. Therefore one wonders why Maendeleo ya Wanaume (MYW) has chosen to exclusively focus on battered men when there are a host of other emerging issues that are equally deserving of attention including the question of the boy child and others issues affecting men as highlighted by myself here and also by nittzsah here.

Putting aside the issue of MYW selective agenda focus, the Chairman’s own recent remarks are most troubling as they reflect a total lack of appreciation of some of the underlying causes of gender-based violence in particular the recently reported cases of wives assaulting their husbands in the county of Nyeri:

“It is not an issue of poverty any more. It is about women supremacy as they want to dominate men,” (reported on Feb 12th 2012)

“Mr Njoka blames “female superiority complex” for the rising cases of husband battery, tracing its roots to the high handed female colonial chief, Wangu wa Makeri, who reigned in Murang’a with an iron fist, and was particularly hard on men.” (reported on Feb 9th 2012)

“Men should be respected as family heads, but in Central Kenya, they have been reduced to the role of fathering children before they are dumped..” – Nderitu Njoka. (reported on Feb 9th 2012)

It is clear that MYW Chairman believes there should be gender hierarchy (which must be recognised and respected) and this is precisely the kind of mentality that women in Nyeri may be reacting against.

The point of departure MUST be that men and women are equal partners in the home and therefore each of them must be respected as such. The MYW Chairman’s recent comments are misguided and dangerous in that they are capable of inciting men to blindly oppose and question the empowerment of women and resort to violence as a retaliatory weapon to “put women in their place”, so to speak.

Furthermore, the MYW Chairman is at fault for implying that there is a distinction between violence against men by women and violence against women by men. This insinuation is retrogressive, baseless and does not help in addressing the root socio-cultural, economic and political causes of gender-based violence in Kenya.

Regardless of whether the victims of gender-based violence are men or women, violence within the family unit remains an extremely private affair. As a result the majority of its victims continue suffering in the muffled recesses of this private domain. An association like MYW would be advised to work closely with other NGOs including Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO) and The Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA Kenya) to properly address the issues relating to domestic violence, using the backing of the Constitution and existing legislation.

The Year That Was: DR Highlights of 2011

Seasons’ Greetings!

In the year of our lord Two Nought Double One, the folks at DR invited you into our minds, hearts and thoughts and we are ever so grateful for all of you who read, commented, contributed, criticised and still spread the DR gospel far and wide!

So the aim of this post is to give you a quick run-down of a few memorable posts brought to you by the fantastic crew behind DR: davina, nittzsah, 3CB, iCon and yours truly.

Here goes:

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East Africa Rising: Tanzania at 50

“We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where there was before only humiliation.” – Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, 22 October 1959 (before independence), addressing the Tanganyika Legislative Assembly.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere was just 39 years old when he led Tanganyika to independence on 9 December 1961. Today, Tanzania celebrates 50 years of independence! East Africa’s gentle giant, whose size covers the same area as Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy combined, with 123 ethnic groups, continues to be a shinning example of the African spirit of communalism and a beacon of hope for the process of nation-building and economic awakening in the region.

Focussed leadership in maximising Tanzania’s immense, untapped potential is what many argue, will be the difference in realising the country’s Vision 2025 and if the present GDP growth remains the same, the land of Kilimanjaro could well over take Kenya as the region’s largest economy by 2030. For Tanzania to do so, it is argued that the government must focus on three main sectors: agriculture, mining and energy.

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The Law is Broken: The Doctors’ Strike Isnt The Only Thing that May Be Unconstitutional

It is Day 3 of the on-going doctors’ strike by members of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and despite their willingness to try and avert a nation-wide health crisis through negotiation and mutual settlement, the government has decided to play hard ball with a profession that literally holds the lives of Kenyans in its hands.

Many have argued that the Constitution is on the side of the doctors’ two fold: firstly it protects their right to take industrial action and secondly the State is under a positive obligation to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Kenyans both from a health care perspective as well as from a general human rights perspective.
However, constitutional rights are not absolute especially where there are competing rights such as the right of the general public to the delivery of essential services, which arguably would include health care services.

Before we discuss these weighty matters of legality, let’s start from the beginning.

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