Plumbing For 2014

Last week I had the interesting experience of watching a plumber unblock a clogged toilet.

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I will spare you of the nitty-gritty, but suffice it to say that it is surely a calling.

The plumber, a cheerful elderly gentleman named Omollo, informed me that he had been a plumber since 1974, and had fed and educated his children with his craft. As a matter of fact, his sons are also practitioners.

1974. Do the math, you innumerate cretins!

Watching him work, surrounded by the solid evidence and powerful aroma digested remnants of several days of meals, it suddenly struck me that his work closely parallels that of the Presidential Communications Unit.

  1. Your main work is handling the shit produced by the administration
  2. The hoi polloi do not wish to have do deal with such shit
  3. Sometimes the rate at which the shit is produced is greater than the rate at which you can deal with it
  4. When (3) above occurs, shit ends up everywhere
  5. The hoi polloi is even more upset when (4) above happens
  6. Most people do not actually want to deal with abrupt exposure to even more shit
  7. It is truly a special breed of people who are willing to deal with shit on a daily basis

Still, I must commend the gallant folks who work for this outfit. I for one would be totally unable to disseminate some of the things they disseminate with a straight face. And go home to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

I’m Having Illusions

For many years I have been a fan of what most folks these days would call an obscure rap group. Boooo to those folks!

Cypress Hill.

Their music surprisingly mirrors a lot of what I observe in our political dispensation today.

When I read that the China Road And Bridge Corporation, ostensibly a Chinese State Corporation, has directors rejoicing under the names Maingi and Ndungu, (popular names, apparently, in China) this comes to mind

Or when you read that one of the companies tendering to supply laptops reveal with surprise that the figure they put in their tender is lower than the one that was read out, this comes to mind

Yesterday, I read this, an OFFICIAL TWEET from (ostensibly) a human of sound mind and body

And this came to mind

Wow.

Even Damian Marley has to chip in on this one

Really? That’s why innocent men, women and children were killed, maimed, injured and terrified? Our war against poverty and inequality? Some people need a hug and kind words.

Jackie Chan, take it away …

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C’mon son!

How Long?

It was the sniffling that made me turn.

There she was. Seated cross legged on the grass. Tears rolling down her cheeks.

I’d seen her around, and we had talked on occasion when her busy schedule allowed it.

There’s something about a child in distress that will make you stop what you are doing and try to help.

So I turned round and walked over to her.

And lowered myself to the grass beside her. Cross legged just like her.

“My … daddy … died.” She sobbed.

My heart broke for her.

Children should not have to experience some things. But such is life.

My daddy died too,” I told her finally.

After some silence I looked down and realized she was looking up at me.

“Are you … sad too?” She asked.

“Yes,” I told her.

“How long does it last?” She asked finally.

After an even longer silence I answered her.

“I don’t know.” I said truthfully.

And so we sat there. On the grass. On a Sunday evening. Quietly. The shared understanding uniting and comforting us.

Jubilee Student

Headmaster: Ah, Jubilee. There you are. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your term project …

Jubilee (Smiling): Let me stop you right there headmaster. My commitment to my project is steadfast, unwavering and consistent. Ever since we began the semester I have always believed in the delivery and successful execution of my Vision

Headmaster: Indeed. But there’s the small matter of actual work  …

Jubilee (Standing upright): The importance of my project to me cannot be emphasized enough. Students before me have made lofty promises about their projects and failed to deliver. I however, stand head and shoulders on a firm foundation of sober leadership

Headmaster (Flustered): Yes, but I need to see actual progress on the project …

Jubilee: Many students have come before me and promised to hand in successful projects. I believe passionately in my potential, acumen and grit to deliver on my project. I am 100% committed

Headmaster: Er … yes, that’s right, but you see, I need to see …

Jubilee: A project is not something to be undertaken lightly. As I said at the beginning of the semester, the time for work is now

Headmaster: Yes …

Jubilee: Now! As you have seen in my preliminary pre-project draft, planning and execution is key

Headmaster: That’s true, but we are almost at the end of the semester and I haven’t seen …

Jubilee: Many a student when faced with such obstacles would undoubtedly bow to the pressures of responsibility. But I am pleased to affirm my continued and total commitment to my project

Headmaster (Desperately): But Jubilee, I need to actually see something …

Jubilee: I think you can agree that my communications strategy is top notch, delivering timely and continuous updates on my strategic tactical roadmap

Headmaster: Yes, but I also need to see actual …

Jubilee (Takes seat): Communication, headmaster, is paramount. I deeply urge you to appreciate the importance of timely, continuous and holistic communication

Headmaster (Grabbing top of head): Jubilee! Have you or have you not started on your project

Jubilee (Leans back): Headmaster you raise a relevant and poignant question. What is to start? Let me assure you headmaster, that my start is like no other start in the history of this school

Headmaster (Brusquely): So have you started or not? Where can I see …

Jubilee: A lesser student would be overwhelmed by the prospects of a project but not I. My unwavering commitment is second to none, and I believe you will be satisfied with my delivery

Headmaster (Loosening tie): Stop. Stop. Answer yes or no. Have you actually started your project

Jubilee (Smiling ingratiatingly): Sir! One of the lessons from this fine school is to refuse to confine myself in the pedestrian path of absolutes

Headmaster (Gritting teeth): Answer my question!

Jubilee (Looking surprised): Anyone who has known me and my methods can testify to my rigorous work ethic, passionate approach to responsibility and unflinching determination to do my duty

Headmaster (Grabs top of head): Dammit boy …

Jubilee: Sir, you look like you could use some quality quiet time.

No Traction

“I want to be a billionaire".”

“I want to be promoted to CEO.”

“I want to run my own company.”

“I want to retire by 40.”

“I want to do my masters.”

That’s you, right? Lofty dreams. Lofty ambitions.

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Now that we are well into 2014, just a week ago you were probably fondly re-iterating these dreams to yourself and perhaps your nearest and dearest.

And yet … is this your day?

6:00: {Alarm Rings}

6.01: {Snooze}

7:00: Wake up, shower, dress, breakfast

7:30: Stage

8:30: Arrive at work

8:31: Twitter. Facebook. Blogs

9:45: Email. Memos. Work

10:00: Tea

10:30: Twitter. Facebook. Blogs

11:15: Work

12:30: Twitter

12:50: Lunch

2:00: Return from lunch

2:01: Twitter. Facebook. Blogs

2:30: Work

3:30: Meeting

4:00: Work

4.30: Put out feelers on evening action – drink ups, nyama, coffee dates, movies, etc

5:00: Exit, stage left

6:00: Coffee joint

7:30: Local

9:00: Home

9:30: Supper

10:00: Movies / Series

12:00: Sleep

Rinse and repeat.

It is, isn’t it?

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Chances are you started January like this and before you know it it’s December.

You will then wonder how time flies as you pop the New Year drink. You will then say:

“I want to be a billionaire".”

“I want to be promoted to CEO.”

“I want to run my own company.”

“I want to retire by 40.”

“I want to do my masters.”

And before you know it another year has passed.

The next thing you know you are married, have two kids, a dog, a mortgage and credit card debts.

And come New Year …

“I want to be a billionaire".”

“I want to be promoted to CEO.”

“I want to run my own company.”

“I want to retire by 40.”

“I want to do my masters.”

Notice anything? Your goal is no nearer than it was 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 years ago.

Why?

Because you’re not doing anything consciously to move closer to your goal. You’re not making any traction.

donkey-and-carrot

So, you are stuck in the same job you have been at for the last x years, at the same level – or perhaps a level above.

And the world moves right on without you.

On top of that, threats are coming up every day.

Younger, faster, more energetic kids are being churned out of campus every day. Who don’t mind spending the night in the office.

Which you can’t. Because you must pick up the kids from school. Or cook. Or pick up your wife. Or take the baby to the doctor.

What happened?

No traction!

You don’t just magically do your masters. Or magically become a millionaire. Or magically start a business.

You must WORK at it.

Take “do my masters”.

That is an amorphous goal that you will probably never hit.

Break it down like so.

  1. Do research of what master’s degree I want, which includes WHAT PURPOSE
  2. Find out which universities offer
  3. Get the prospectus
  4. Choose the university and course
  5. Find out the fees
  6. Save / borrow / find money to pay
  7. Enroll for the course
  8. Do the course, assignments and group work
  9. Do the dissertation
  10. Graduate
  11. Plug in to #1

This way there one amorphous goal is broken into several concrete tasks that you can track progress.

You then assign resource to each task. Resources are not just money. Time is another resource, which you probably have plenty of.

However we fail to realize that you cannot be enrolled in a master’s and spend your day as the timetable above. You must find time somewhere. And since the day is just 24 hours, you must make sacrifices.

This requires you to cultivate discipline. You must be ready to say no to your friends. Ready to not follow the crowd. Ready to make tough choices. Ready to pass up fun for the greater goal.

Success is a long game.

If you like sleeping in, wake up early to get an extra hour or two of work. Cut down your going out and use that time to study or do research. Don’t the entirety of Sunday sleeping off hangovers.

If it gets to December 2014 and you find you are still at #1 – then you know you have wasted your year.

And that – that’s a pity

General Karangi & The KDF

I am mystified to read that General Julius Karangi’s term as Chief Of Defence Forces has been extended for another year.

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I find this mystifying. Let us consult the Kenya Defence Forces act.

What is the Chief Of Defence Forces anyway?

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Are the terms of appointment, dismissal retirement et al set? Of course they are.

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“Single term of four years or retire upon attaining the mandatory retirement age”

What is the mandatory retirement age?

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Mandatory to most folks means it is not optional.

General Karangi apparently is 62. We can infer he turned 62 this month from this:

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So, given that Karangi was appointed Chief of Defence forces in 2011, his 4 year term is yet to complete.

However he has reached mandatory retirement age.

On what basis will he continue to serve as Chief Of Defence Forces come January 1 2014, given the act says he can’t?

Also if interest is the article talking about how Kibaki split Karangi’s term. Is that legal?

Whither Amina?

From all accounts our Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Amina Mohammed, is an intelligent, articulate official, which normally tends to be an outlier in the typical African government.

And then I read this crock of shit obtuse diatribe of questionable substance cloaked in smoke and mirrors ostensibly penned by that lady where she denies corruption had any role to play in the Westgate fiasco.

Personally I refuse to believe this and find it more likely some acne spotted intern in the foreign ministry is the author of the piece.

Let us dissect the piece, shall we?

It was difficult to read Giles Foden’s article squarely blaming the attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi on alleged inadequacies of the Kenyan government and, as he puts it "rampant corruption" (Behind terror is corruption, 24 September).

Undoubtedly

The Kenyan military led the operation to free hostages and kill or capture those who had trapped them, and we are proud of the professionalism and determination of our forces.

True, but irrelevant. (Looting suspicious aside)

Foden says: "In Kenya crime and terrorism are deeply linked, not least by the failure of successive Kenyan governments to control either." And he continues: "These attacks are part of a spectrum of banditry, with corruption at one end, terrorism at the other, and regular robbery in the middle."

I can hear the muddy boots of the straw man argument coming up.

Make a brief comparison with other terrorist attacks. The disasters of 9/11 or the more recent Boston marathon in the US and 7/7 in the UK – both highly developed countries – could hardly be blamed on corruption, so why Kenya?

We do not recall Foden blaming corruption within the security agencies involved.

And there we go! Straw man argument!

Let me answer why Kenya, Ambassador.

Kenya has a distinguished reputation of corruption. Let me remind that good Lady that among the projects for Anglo Leasing where the funds where repatriated (ha ha) included

  1. Forensic laboratory
  2. Police communications
  3. Second generation passport scheme

It takes a particularly determined mind to fail to see the connection between appropriating the funds for those project’s, corruption, and the endemic failure that led to terrorists swaggering into Kenya with impunity.

For avoidance of all doubt, OF COURSE they are linked!

"A lot of money has gone into commercial property, and particularly the building of supermarkets. But without governance it all looks very shaky," says Foden.

I dunno why Foden said this either. Makes no sense in this context.

The country’s first truly free and fair multiparty election only took place in 2002, and since then the country has been transformed by a new constitution that gives power to all communities. Less than 10 years ago we introduced free primary education, now over a million children a year go to school.

The free and fair bit – perhaps.

Transformed by a new constitution? Nay. Chiefly because we follow only the bits that work for the affluent.

Free primary education may be true, revolutionary but is IRRELEVANT for this discussion.

Judicial reform, in some cases supported by international experts and donors – including the US and UK – has put the courts out of the political influence that once was common.

There can be only one response that our courts are not influenced politically, unlike before.

Anti-corruption campaigns by government and civil society, the requirement for open tenders for government contracts, and the development of a lively media, have transformed the country.

Accepting kudos for anti-corruption campaigns is like accepting kudos for the birth of quadruplets with the only evidence of your contribution being a well thumbed copy of The Joy Of Sex.

Campaigns are meaningless if corrupt people are not arrested, prosecuted and jailed. Quick, Ambassador, how many were arrested, prosecuted and jailed for Anglo Leasing? Education ministry funds misappropriation? TARDA?

Open tenders, eh? As they say on social media, LQTM.

This is not to say Kenya is perfect – far from it.

This is the first relevant and true admission made so far.

A multinational forensic investigation currently under way – including with British agents – will examine the tragedy and assess the government’s response to it. It shows the extent of our openness that we allow foreign security forces to share in an investigation we could probably manage ourselves.

Very mature to concede this, so soon after “we don’t need the West”

At the same time, we will strive to be as open as possible in our actions against al-Qaida and its regional ally al-Shabaab in the coming months, without compromising the security of our country and the safety of our military personnel.

Presumably she is referring to the multiplicity of social media accounts, some of which have been verified by Twitter, contributing a steady stream of feel good quotes and contradictions, my favorite being with the announcement of every terrorist killed, the count of dead terrorists dropped.

What I’d like to know is

  1. How many terrorists were there?
  2. Where are they now?
  3. Who lit the fire?
  4. How do mattresses bring down a 4 story building?
  5. How did the KDF get deployed?

It is important that there is responsible international reporting.

Undoubtedly.

In this age of budget cuts in the international media there are too few foreign journalists with expert experience of Africa living in and reporting from the continent.

True, but irrelevant.

Kenya suffered a terrible tragedy at Westgate. As information is released in the coming days and weeks, it is crucial – for the sake of the victims and the survivors – that reporting reflects the Kenya of today, and that we are judged by today’s reality, not memories of a Kenya past.

This sounds a lot like the Ruto-esque refrain, “Accept and move on”.

All I can do is bemoan the unfortunate truth that yet again the borg has struck.

Something seems to happen to good people the instant they are sworn in.

The Kenyan Armed Forces & You

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that the Kenya Defence Forces, in the form of the Kenyan Army was deployed to help contain the atrocious situation at Westgate.

As both a fan of history and military engagements, I have read a lot on armed forces throughout the ages, from the rudimentary mobs of yore to the sophisticated units we have today.

One thing that I believe personally is that it is a big deal whenever a standing army is deployed to deal with civilian and civilian matters.

There exists a civilian role, the Commander In Chief, who controls the army. This does not, and cannot mean that CiC can do as he likes with the army. There must be checks and measures and procedures to control this.

Consider the hardware that they air force, navy and army have in terms of weapons, munitions and vehicles. Consider also that the soldiers are trained to operate in a theatre where the mission is essentially to terminate enemy forces and infrastructure.

The KDF has been deployed a lot of late, most recently as an incursion into Somalia. Prior to that to contain matters in Tana River, Baragoi and to contain the Sabaot LDF at Mt Elgon.

Back to the matter at hand.

The KDF showed up at Westgate. Unannounced. The Cabinet Secretary in charge, to date, has not said a single word.

I am curious. How did they get there? Under what circumstances can the army be deployed? Who has the authority to deploy the army? What is the procedure?

For answers I turned to the KDF Act 2012 [PDF Link] that made for some interesting reading.  I will highlight the interesting bits.

Did you know that the KDF is bound to uphold the constitution with regards to freedoms and rights? Section 3

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Of interest is that diversity of people in equitable proportions is explicitly mentioned.

Also, in section 4, if you are an alleged spy, you are bound by the provisions and regulations of the KDF act.

Is it legal for the army to be deployed? Very much so. Section 8

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This means that the KDF can be deployed in conjunction with other bodies e.g. the police or on it’s own.

Note both are subject to the involvement of the national assembly.

When the KDF is deployed, certain things should happen.

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Has this happened yet? I dunno.

What does the Commander In Chief do anyway? Section 9

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Note the “command” bit.

Now much has been said about the powers of the Cabinet Secretary for Defence (or lack thereof) that has not been helped by the current office holder’s deafening silence.

A cursory reading of section 10 shows nothing could be further from the truth. The Cabinet Secretary for Defence is quite a powerful position

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Digest that my friends. That post is not cosmetic, contrary to popular belief and appearance.

Of special interest is section (d) that talks about “control and administration of the defence force as may be delegated by the president over the defence forces”.

If I understand that right, the President can delegate control of the army to the CS.

Of other interest is section (h). This report must make for some fascinating reading. If it is in fact submitted annually. I dunno.

So, so far the pecking order in CiC then the CS. Next in line is the Chief of the Defence Forces.

Section 12

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In other words section (c) says , Omamo is Karangi’s boss.

Much has been said about a mysterious body called the Defence Council. Section 19

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Note again the CS is not a trivial member of this body.

What does this council do? Section 20

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With regards to tenure, section 24 is pretty blunt

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Now, let us move on to co-operation with other authorities. Section 31

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Subsection (a) and (b) are pretty clear. Was (a) followed with regards to Westgate? We’ll get to that.

Much attention was given to the standoff over who was in charge between General Karangi and Inspector General Kimaiyo. Turns out the KDF act specifically mentions joint operations between the police and the KDF. Sections 33

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I draw your attention to sub section (3). Which says Kimaiyo was supposed to be in charge at Westgate.

Is there anything in the law that talks about governing the conduct and operations of the KDF while deployed within the territory? Of course. Section 34

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Subsection (1) is of interest. While supporting the police, the KDF must observe and protect human rights and freedoms of civilians. There is no carte blanche.

Subsection (2) and (3) also are of interest. Were they actually been executed?

Is there mention of the powers and duties of members while deployed? Of course! Section 35

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This has several interesting bits

Subsection (1) I understand to mean while supporting the police under the auspices of section (2) a soldier has all the powers of the police including arrest.

Subsection (5) I understand to mean a solider is bound by the same code of operations as a policeman and can be prosecuted for acting or failing to act in contravention of said code.

So, dear reader, I leave it to you. Under what circumstances do our armed forces keep being deployed? Is the law followed to the letter?

Unique – just like everyone else. Manufactured and bottled in Kenya