Five ways to make our African cities places we will all love living in

DEMOGRAPHIC pressures associated with rural urban migration, massive urbanisation on the back of recent economic growth and failure to expand urban facilities in tandem with the increasing population has led to not only the ubiquitous traffic problem, but also a huge strain on other urban facilities – hospitals, housing and schools.

If endless rants in the morning and evening radio shows and persistent social media chatter about traffic jam during the work commute is the barometer, then traffic has become a major problem in most African cities.

According to a new UN report, The State of African Cities (2014)—Re-imagining sustainable urban transitions, “Africa is projected to experience a 16% rise in its urban population by 2050 – making it the most rapidly urbanising region on the planet – as the number of people living in its cities soars to 56%.”

This massive urbanisation, while impressive, unless properly and adequately planned for would make cities the next frontier of sharp social and political contestation.

To avoid such African cities, we need to do the following;  to continue reading click here http:// http://mgafrica.com/article/2014-07-31-five-ways-to-shape-african-cities-we-can-all-live-in/


The African criminal court, a dream comes closer

After four years of discussions, the African Union (AU) has agreed the statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights – a merger of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court of Justice. Heads of state adopted the protocol during a summit held in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) on June 26; but the long-expected dream of an African criminal court may take years to become reality and has already attracted many questions about its effectiveness. http://www.justicetribune.com/article/?tx_ijtarticles_homecarousel%5Barticle%5D=540&tx_ijtarticles_homecarousel%5Baction%5D=show&tx_ijtarticles_homecarousel%5Bcontroller%5D=Article&cHash=c4734c3ac3a24a8db5b90097056e1007


Will the TJRC reported be implemented?

“Forgiving is not forgetting; it is actually remembering – remembering and not using your right to hit back. It is a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you do not want to repeat what happened,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chairperson – South African and Truth Reconciliation Commission.

The Truth Justice and Reconciliation commission spent over a billion shillings and its report could remain un-implemented because of lack of political will

Moi and Kenyatta

Since independence in 1963, Kenya has witness several gross human rights violations, repression of dissent and theft of public funds. Both Kenyatta administration (1963-1978), and Moi administration (1978-2002) oversaw numerous forms of violations to stay in power.

During their administration, any form of dissent was interpreted as a de facto personal affront to the president rather than [a constructive criticism of] the presidency.

Creation of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in such an environment became untenable, since the state was the biggest purveyor of human rights violation.

The 2002 Elections

But after being in power since independence, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) lost the 2002 elections to the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) – a coalition of opposition parties.

Naturally, since many of them bore the brunt of KANU’s repression, upon assuming power, the new administration wanted to form Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) to inquire into historical injustices, massive or systemic human rights violations, economic crimes and the illegal or irregular acquisition of land committed by the previous ruling party.

Consequently, April 17, 2003, by a special issue of the Kenya Gazette, the Kenyan government through Hon. Kiraitu Murungi, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, appointed the Task Force on the Establishment of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission.

Makau Mutua, a law professor and the Chairman of Kenya Human Rights Commission- was appointed to chair the Task Force on the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

The Mandate of the Task Force

The terms of reference of the Task Force were to recommend to the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs whether the establishment of a truth, justice, and reconciliation Commission was necessary for Kenya.

If so, “the Task Force was mandated to recommend to the Minister how and when such a commission should be established; the membership of such a commission; the terms of reference of such a commission; the powers and privileges that should be conferred upon the commission in the execution of its mandate; and the historical period to be covered by the commission’s investigations. The Task Force was empowered to make such further recommendations incidental to the foregoing, as it may consider necessary”.

After public hearings, the Task Force presented its report the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs August 26, 2003. The debate about the establishment of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation was shelved since the administration lost the political will until the 2007-2008 electoral violence. However, during the Kofi Annan led mediation, the formation of a Truth and Justice became an imperative.

And October 2008, the Kenyan Parliament unanimously passed the bill for creating Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and recommend appropriate action regarding abuses committed between the country’s independence in 1963 and the conclusion of the power-sharing deal of February 28, 2008.

The 2007-2008 electoral violence, and the subsequent mediation by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan gave the formation of the TJRC further impetus. The commission was established as part of the Agenda Four of the National Reconciliation and Dialogue Accord spearheaded by Annan.
According to the TJRC Act- The law that established it, the commission’s objective were promoting peace, justice, national unity, healing, reconciliation and dignity among the people of Kenya.
Specifically, the TJRC was mandated to investigate and recommend appropriate action on “human rights abuses” committed between December 12, 1963 and February 28, 2008, when President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga signed the peace and power-sharing deal.

This included politically motivated violence, assassinations, displacements and major economic crimes such as grand corruption and irregular acquisition of land.

However, after being launched with fanfare, the commission was beset with leadership crisis.

Commission’s work and the leadership crisis

Few months after starting its work, the commission’s chair Bethuel Kiplagat was accused of being a party to some of the atrocities the commission was meant to investigate. The Chairman denied any involvement. This dragged on for a while.

The wrangle impeded the smooth operation of the commission because it brought unnecessary spotlight. After a while, to facilitate the smooth operation of the commission, the Chair was asked to step aside until his name was cleared.

The law that established the commission- the 2008 Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Act, envisaged such a situation. And the remedy was, the Chief Justice will form a tribunal to establish the veracity of allegation against the accused individual, and declare whether he’s either fit or unfit to lead the commission.

Eroded goodwill

The fight to force the chair to step down until he clears his names paralyzed the commission, with some commissioners threatening to quite unless he steps aside. Indeed the Commission Vice Chair, Betty Murungi, one of the most qualified to serve, resigned from the commission over the controversy. The parliament stepped in and gave the commission an ultimatum, either put your house in order or they’ll be disbanded in 72 hours.

After intense public pressure the embattled Chairman stepped aside, but he went to the High Court and obtained an injunction against the tribunal, which as a result never commenced its work. Subsequently, after the tribunal had lapsed, he approached the court again, which ruled that without a tribunal in place to investigate him, the court cannot decide on the matter. This gave the embattled chair a reprieve and he resumed his position.

By this stage majority of Kenyans were tired of ceaseless fight surrounding the commission. This lost the commission a great deal of public goodwill.

Further, amidst the wrangling, the commission’s constant seeking of extension of its terms also engendered public fatigue. Initially, the commission’s term was meant to expire November 3 2011. However, the commission sought an extension, which it was granted.

This meant the commission would release its report May 3rd 2012. But commission again failed to release its report as per this deadline, and was given a further extension to November 3rd 2012. This extension was contrary to the law that established the commission.

Altering the substance of the report

Compounding the cloud of suspect leadership that besieged the work of the commission, altering of the commission’s report contrary to the 2008 Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Act, raised serious questions about the integrity of the commission’s final report. In particular, the reported interference in the land section- a central driver of electoral conflict In Kenya, by the present administration, casts a significant integrity question on the commission’s work.

Additionally, the subsequent amendment of the 2008 Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Act by the Parliament to give itself the power to amend the report flies in the face of addressing impunity which is central to the formation of the commission in the first place.

While the TJRC Act doesn’t explicitly provides for the Parliament to adopt the report in its entirety, but reports of such commissions are tabled in parliament such that it can take note. This is because the Executive will approach Parliament to allocate funding for implementation of the recommendations.

Above all, despite the president receiving the commissions’ report May 21 2013, and the report being published in the Kenyan Gazette- the official government, June 7 2013, and tabled in parliament, albeit perfunctorily act, but instead of being debated and adopted as is required by the TJRC Act, the Parliament focused on changing the TJRC law to give themselves power to ‘consider’ the report. This means that the requirement for the appointment of an implementation committee and the deadline of six months given in the Act during which implementation should commence have all been missed.

Despite all its failings, the TJRC formation and its report form a reasonable basis for a debate and subsequent policy intervention.


To prevent more Mpeketonis Kenya must define Somalia exit plan

Since Kenya intervened in Somalia in October 2011, insecurity has spiraled out of control, with attacks (largely targeting Kenyans) becoming commonplace occurrences in Nairobi, the coast, and parts of North Eastern. These fall into two broad categories: large-scale and sophisticated (some foiled, some successful), and amateurish low-grade and low casualty.

Last September’s attack on the Westgate shopping mall, and more recently that on the village of Mpeketoni in Lamu County, fall into the large-scale category. Sandwiched between these are those targeting Matatus – public transport taxis in Eastleigh, a Nairobi suburb popular with the Somalis – and other public facilities like the Gikomba (East Africa’s largest open air market).

The government’s response to the attacks has been at best impotent and at worst, misguided. First, they instituted ‘Nyumba Kumi’ (know thy neighbor) – the ten houses initiative. The concept of Nyumba Kumi, borrowed from Tanzania, was predicated on dividing the households into groups of ten, and people in those households hold each other accountable through sharing information on any suspicious activities.

While the concept looks neat in theory, in practice, it is not the most effective way of addressing the ever-mutating threat of terrorists – people with no return address. It might work in some rural settings where the residents tend to be less mobile, but not in urban areas like Nairobi and Mombasa where residency is fluid and transient due to the economic pressures.

Second, the government conducted what it called Operation Usalama Watch. This was a large state-led profiling of the Kenya-Somali community. The community became the de facto scapegoat for all the attacks, despite the fact that it bore the brunt of most of them. This tactic also ignored the debatable efficacy of collectively punishing an entire community for the crimes of a few.

During the operation over 4000 Somalis were arrested and held in Kasarani football stadium. Over two months later some are still there in dehumanizing conditions. The security sweep touched a raw nerve and exacerbated the already fraught relations between the community and the state. The security situation also barely improved.

Travel advisories

The recent attack in Mpeketoni Lamu was preceded by Western travel advisories recommending that tourists avoid certain popular coastal regions. This was interpreted by the Kenyan authorities as being a cynical effort by Western countries to sabotage the country’s already ailing tourism industry.

As a response, the government announced rafts of measures to encourage local tourism to offset the departure of many foreigners. The anti-western rhetoric from the Kenyatta government is largely a continuation of the Jubilee Alliance election campaign – the Kenyatta/Ruto ticket was carried to State House on the crest of an anti-ICC and anti-western wave.

The nature of these attacks can be divided into three categories: First, some are the work of Al Shabaab Central. They bear all the hallmarks of the group’s previous work, and they have claimed responsibility. For example, the Westgate attack.

Second, some are carried out by Al Shabaab cells in Kenya – hence their amateurish and ineffective nature. They achieve little apart from sowing fear.

Third are attacks which are the work of opportunistic criminal groups that take advantage of the prevailing situation to act against a business rival, or similar.

Until we work out which attack was undertaken by which groups – which can only be achieved through a thorough and meticulous study – all are too easily bundled together as ‘Al Shabaab’.

A shift in tactics

Since Westgate, Al Shabaab has carried out two sophisticated attacks – one was foiled, and another one missed its target. In one incident on 23rd April two militants detonated a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) in Pangani Police station (near Eastleigh). Two police officers were killed. According to the authorities, the target was not the police station, but elsewhere in the Central Business District.

On 11th March, Kenya’s Anti-Terror Police detonated a pick-up laden with explosives in Chamgamwe Mombasa. The target of the attack was the police station. The police found six pipe bombs attached to a mobile phone detonator, and plastic explosives.

These two unsuccessful attacks demonstrate that the group has found Kenya to be vulnerable and that they are keen to carry out more ‘spectacular’ attacks. The regional military intervention in Somalia pushed Al Shabaab out of Mogadishu and diminished its capacity by denying them their critical revenue source – the port of Kismayo. However, the supposed defeat of the group was greatly exaggerated.

The great existential threat to Al Shabaab was the internal contest between the transnational jihadis and the Somali nationalists. But the battle for the ‘soul’ of Al Shabaab was won by the current leader, Ahmed Godane, who is aligned with the former group. He gained the leadership by expelling all he disagreed with regarding the group’s strategic vision. Al Shabaab is now a de facto transnational jihadi movement.

However, despite its diminished capacity, conducting an attack in a neighbouring country is a low cost affair. Bleeding Kenya through multiple attacks in far-flung vulnerable areas like Mpeketoni will make the country look unsafe, at least from the all-important outsider perspective.

Domestic political implications

After the recent attacks the Kenyan president addressed the nation and said; “The attack in Lamu was well planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons… This therefore, was not an Al Shabaab terrorist attack. Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous attacks.”

However, Al Shabaab had already claimed responsibility, saying; “The Kenyan government is fighting a losing war and has turned its vengeance on the Muslims in Kenya. As such, the Mpeketoni Raid was carried out in response to:

(a) Kenyan government’s brutal oppression of Muslims in Kenya through coercion, intimidation and extrajudicial killings of Muslim scholars, particularly in Mombasa, and the violation of Muslim honour and sanctity.
(b) Kenyan military’s continued invasion and occupation of our Muslim lands and the massacre of innocent Muslims in Somalia.
(c) In addition to that, the town raided by the Mujahideen was originally a Muslim town before it was invaded and occupied by Christian settlers”.

The statement from the president was curious considering the prevailing tense political/ethnic climate in Kenya.

The opposition leader Raila Odinga arrived in Kenya after three months stay at Boston University, upon his return he demanded a national dialogue, something the president initially accepted, before changing his mind. This occurred after his deputy William Ruto poured cold water on the plan, reckoning that what Odinga is was after was not talks but a coalition government. Odinga has replied that his group will be touring the country holding rallies and, more specifically, coordinating Kenyans to attend a ‘Saba Saba’-style rally on July 7th – a date that has great historical significance in Kenya’s democratic struggle.

The president’s address after Mpeketoni added fuel to an already polarized national political fire. But, ironically, he has contributed to a situation that he, in the aftermath of Westgate, identified was what terrorist were after: “[a] closed, fearful and fractured society where trust, unity and enterprise are hard to muster.”

The leadership’s blatant political point scoring on matters of national security is not only gratuitous, but also dangerous, and will only hand the initiative to a group that is facing multiple threats. This is not an effective way to fight terrorism.

Effective counter-terrorism

Throwing accusations at the political opposition, large-scale ethnic profiling and detainment of Somalis cannot solve what is a serious security problem in Kenya. Instead, any counter-terrorism effort should be linked with a clearly defined Somalia exit plan. The current open-ended stay by Kenya forces will only lead to mission creep and the window between when Kenya was seen as a liberator and invader closed a long time ago.

The president needs to define what the end-state in Somalia looks like. Insisting that we shall stay the course may sound like an admirable policy; in practice it is unsustainable given growing domestic insecurity.


Terrorism attacks and the case of two Kenyattas

The government response to the attacks have been impotent at best and misguided at worst. The government responded in two ways- both uncoördinated first; the government instituted nyumba kumi- ten houses, initiative. The concept of Nyumba Kumi- know thy neighbor, which borrowed from Tanzania, was predicated on dividing the house holds into groups of ten, and people in those households hold each other accountable through sharing information on any suspicious activities or foreigners.

While the concept looks neat in theory, in practice, it is hardly the most useful way of addressing the ever-mutating threat of terrorists people with no return address. It could work in some probably rural setting where the residents tend to be less mobile unlike in urban areas like Nairobi and Mombasa where residency is fluid and transient owing largely to the economic pressure.

Secondly, the government conducted what it called Operation Usalama Watch. Under the operation, the state embarked on a large scale profiling of the Somali community. The community was de facto scapegoated for all the attacks and profiled, never mind, the community has born the brunt of the terrorist’s attacks, let alone the efficacy of collective punishment of a community.

During the operation over 4000 Somalis were arrested, and held in Kasarani football stadium- over two months latter, some are still held in the stadium under dehumanizing conditions.

President Kenyatta’s response after the Westgate attack september last year was a study in statesmanship the president sounded like a leader who had his hands on the pulse of the citizens. The president touched all the nodes after his young administration was tested. In the 6 1/2 mins the president rallied the country to collectively meet the threat of terrorism.

Here is the video


Following the Westgate attack the president said, terrorists want a , ” closed, fearful and a fractured society where trust, unity and enterprise are difficult to master”.

In his subsequent address to the nation following Sunday’s attack in Mpeketoni in Lamu County, the president did exactly that when he said, ”

“The attack in Lamu was well planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons… This therefore, was not an Al Shabaab terrorist attack…Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous attacks”



In this speech which was almost 8 mins and slightly over 100 words, the president instead of uniting the country, he divided the country. He didn’t sound like the president of Kenya, but rather as the president of the TNA.

The president used word reckless four times, an implicit reference to Odinga and his party- here the president missed an opportunity to be presidential.