By: WAGA ODONGO
We are living in interesting times. The shilling is still north of Sh100 and only a collapse of global oil prices has spared us from an inflationary noose. The stock market has just about halted its free fall but is nowhere near where it was. The government has run out of cash and raided the local markets, the Treasury is spending like a drunken sailor on projects of questionable return and inflated kickbacks while the CID is having journalists’ collars felt.
Our children are being saddled with debts that their children will struggle to pay, devolution is an expensive mess, we are constructing herds of white elephants because we love pouring concrete and our education system is unravelling before our eyes.
Thank goodness through all these tribulations we still have KDF to believe in. Just look at all the hashtags launched whenever criticism is levelled at the beloved military forces.
There is a view that, although the government is slow and incompetent, the military is disciplined and relatively corruption-free.
Kenya has a professionally trained army that is the envy of the region, and the force is immunised from vice and stands above the murky swamp.
KDF, it was reported, conspire with Al Shabab to sell charcoal and aid in smuggling sugar. The first report that KDF were running this racket was made in 2013 by the UN. In 2014, the Institute of Defence Analyses, a US government-funded organisation, pointed the accusing finger. In 2015, it is Journalists for Justice repeating the claim.
Each time the top brass has denied these claims. We can surmise that the United Nations, the US government and journalists are lying to us. KDF are paragons of virtue, whose ethics are Persil-white, who we should be begging to run our elections.
I believe the claims. It has been repeated several times that the top brass is filling its boots with the proceeds of criminal enterprise from the Somali adventure.
To the conquerors the spoils. Everywhere soldiers have gone around the globe in the past century of conflict, they have opened up a black market for goods. Peacekeeping is usually an avenue for profiteers, wars are open season for smugglers.
The American army, for example, stands accused of aiding heroin production in Afghanistan. Indeed, heroin production increased during the American occupation of that country.
The myth of a fundamentally incorruptible KDF has long been shattered.
The annual recruiting process degenerates into a farce involving bribery for enlistment.
Kenyan soldiers have been known to bribe to be included in peacekeeping missions, the parliamentary Hansard tells us.
Our military serves as an avenue for extorting the public pocket through hushed-up deals: we bought a fishing boat and christened it a frigate for the navy. We were told that goat herders routinely steal from the air force, and that we needed a quarter of a million worth of lights for the Laikipia Airbase.
We also saw KDF carrying paper bags from Westgate that we were reliably informed contained bottled water. When the owners of the shops returned, they found their safes had been pried open and valuables looted.
The most audacious attempts at robbing the public purse have been conceived under the security docket. No leader would dare significantly cut the military’s budgets lest he invoke the ire of soldiers.
The fact that KDF still has its reputation intact is more a feature of our forgetfulness and national genius at self-delusion and the scantiness of the information reaching us about their activities in Somalia.
I prefer what Uday and Qusay Hussein did when they turned up at the Iraqi central bank with a lorry and demanded $1 billion loaded at the back just before the Americans struck. It is better to know when you are being robbed outright rather than through deals conceived in silence and in secrecy.
Already, we prioritise frontline soldiers and generals before frontline health services and general hospitals. We cut university education budgets and bolster security budgets. Our spending on the military is not based on an assessment of risk and is a detriment to the social programmes in the country.
KDF now stands accused of being in a symbiotic relationship with Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab serve as the bogeymen who ensure that money always flows KDF’s way; KDF, on its part, facilitates the selling of charcoal to the Middle East from Kismayu, ensuring Al Shabab makes enough to terrorise both Somalia and Kenya and ensure we increase the KDF budget.
The JFJ report claimed that KDF made Sh1.3 billion a year allowing bags laden with charcoal and sugar to pass without asking questions. Mumias sugar loses billions selling sugar while KDF is said to make billions smuggling it.
The buck stops with the commander-in-chief. The President loves playing soldier so much that he sometimes (usually after bad press) becomes a generalissimo by donning all his five stars and walking around in a military costume (only when earned is it a uniform).
As commander- in-chief (he wears his uniform as though he would at a moment decide to lead the charge) he should speak and act very strongly on the claims laid at the foot of KDF.
The armed forces stand accused of subsidising the activities of an enemy that hurts us so intimately. This is an enemy that has in the past targeted our shopping centres, our children in university and our cities.
It is too damaging a claim to be repeated by internationally reputable bodies with no tangible action seen to be taken.
Perhaps it’s time to let the people of the Middle East decide on their borders
THE MIDDLE EAST now has the bloodiest borders in the world. It is clear that the lines drawn by the Europeans failed to appreciate fully the differences of the local people. The remains of the Ottoman Empire are burning and self-destructing before our eyes.
Perhaps it is time to let the Middle East find its own level.
In many cases, European states are usually made up of a people with a shared language and religion. Sudan split on religious lines, as did India and Pakistan half a decade before it.
I suggest that perhaps it is time to allow the middle easterners to do the same. This Sunni versus Shia war in Iraq, Syria and Yemen is spilling over to other countries as terrorism.
Bahrain is predominantly Shia but the ruling family of the island, the Al Khalifas, are Sunni. In Syria, Sunnis are the majority but Shia’s rule. In Iraq, the Sunni and Shia are still going at it, especially with ISIS. Several of these arrangements where minorities rule majorities are maintained by coercion. During the Bahrain uprising, the government got help of their fellow Sunnis to crush the Shia majority.
Let Sunnis congregate under the banner of Saudi Arabia, Shia’s gather under Iran and give the Kurds their own Kurdistan.
Lebanon can be broken into as many countries as there are sects. Perhaps then we will have peace and we can go back to worrying about what to do with Israel and Palestine.
FEED BACK: On exam cheating at all levels of our education system
I DO NOT KNOW the current CS for Education, so what I am writing is based purely on I have read in the press about him and my impressions from what I have seen on television.
I went to Jamhuri High School, in the 1970s, and we had a headmaster called Mr Dancun Mwangi.
Mwangi’s students can be found all over corporate Kenya, at the very highest levels of leadership.
Like Waga, I shudder at the thought of the future of corporate Kenya, given the fraud that is Kenya’s education today.
In lakeside communities, there is a saying that the head of the fish is the most important part, so if the head is not perfect, then it follows that the rest of the fish is not wholesome.
Is it any wonder, then, that the education system under the current CS is somewhat unwholesome?
The article by Waga Odongo was incisive and hit the nail on the head.
I have been involved in higher education for the last 15 years as a lecturer and it is clear that we have thrown away the principles our land and cultures are founded on, and as Odongo says, we have a pagan cult that worships money for its own sake. The effects of this are evident in the sorry state of all pillars of our society: the family, business, religion and even government.
When you lose your way, the noble thing to do is acknowledge you are lost and find your way again; that is what will save us. Let us all deliberately find the true north and follow it faithfully. Otherwise, what is the value of an education without morals? he value of work without ethics? What is the value of relationships without integrity?
SOURCE: DAILY NATION