Friday, 16 November 2012

Lest we Forget

As I write this the next general elections in Kenya are less than 4 months away. Naturally our print and electronic media are awash with political  news particularly about who's forming alliances with whom. The alliance in essence being just alignment of tribes.

We're getting into the election mood to determine who will be in charge of the national and the new county governments. Slowly by slowly as the day approaches the stakes are being raised. Something that worries me is the violence we are seeing, could it be that the fuse is short? for instance a man got gunned down in Ngong by police men and 6 hours of riots broke out. Similar story in Mombasa when a Sheikh was killed, Kisumu too. Not a good sign in my book

Our last election was disastrous to say the least and immediately after the country descended into chaos before temperatures cooled down. However even before the elections tensions were high and suspicion of manipulation was rife. The stage was set so to speak because how did people organise so fast. Right now there are people who are accused of organising the chaos and in the opinion of the ICC bear the greatest responsibility. Two of them want to run for the presidency and this has become a hot topic of discussion- should they be allowed to run? One of them William Ruto has gone so far as to suggest that he can administer the country from the Hague which to me is a lot of misplaced bravado.

In the midst of all the political noise we could forget what exactly the crimes were and the affected displaced persons who are still living in camps to this very day. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and so I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Photographer Boniface Mwangi of the "Vulture Revolution" chronicled the violence through his Camera lens and came up with a photo book- "The price of Tribal Politics". As you look at it contrast all the mayhem with the final photo of the people in whose names all that stuff was done.

here's a link to the PDF copy of the book   . WARNING : the pictures are very disturbing

May it not happen again!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A Tale of Two Prayers

Luke 18:9-14 the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else,Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fasttwice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Pharisee’s prayer is full of self commendation and aggrandisement. He sees himself to be perfect, doing the right thing, an exemplary person all based on his works. He even goes so far as to assert the inferiority of the tax collector who is right there next to him. He prays with many words and probably very loudly so that everybody can hear exactly how good he is. He has got it together and this is not really a prayer but a boast before God with him presenting a list of his achievements.

The tax collector is brief and to the point and with just a few words acknowledges his true state- he is a sinner in need of mercy. No doubt he was a man in conflict with himself collecting money from hardworking people to support a tyrannical government and in other places in the gospel the tax collectors were seen as the worst kind of people. When accusing Jesus Christ he was referred to as a friend of tax collectors and sinners Luke 7:34. They were the poster boys for sin and enemies of God. However something is different about him as he comes to God with a broken and contrite spirit- that which God can not despise Psalm 51:17

During the sermon on the mount the first beatitude is “ blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” Matt 5:3. Poor in spirit not poor in material things. One who is poor lacks and is very aware of that lack and does what is necessary to make ends meet and stay alive. In the spirit it means that one also realises that they lack something and need to reach out to God. If you think you are okay spiritually you will be oblivious of a need for God and will continue as normal. This is very much what the Pharisee was doing, he thought that since he was doing and saying all the right stuff he was okay but nothing could be further from the truth and Jesus brings that out in the parable in verse 14 that the tax collector is the one who went home justified. He went on to add that who ever exalts himself shall be abased but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.

What can we learn from this? First when coming before God it is not a show to tell how great we are. It may look like that the Pharisee was being outrageous but we do it in our own ways. We imagine that if we tell God how good we are and focus on the good works we've done he’ll hear us. It may look all nice and holy but it is actually about us not Him. Even worse when we compare ourselves to “sinners” who are so wicked and we are so much better than yet nobody can do anything to forgive their own sin but it is  by the grace of God. I also have fallen into that trap sometimes and looking at it critically it is just an exercise in making myself feel good. As much as we don’t have tax collectors as the “bad people” nowadays we have similar groups of moral punching bags. I think if this parable was written today the “sinner” would probably be the homosexuals that we have become so good at bashing. We've seen how not to do it from the Pharisee so what about the other side?

The tax collector was simple, stood afar off and knew his state well and what he needed. He was honest with himself and knew that it is not about what he did but God’s great mercy that he was even able to stand before God. He asked and he received unlike the other who did not bother to ask and went away with nothing. It reminds me of what the church in was told in Revelation 3: 17 you think you are rich but you are poor wretched blind and naked. If there is anything that we should learn from the tax collector is to be humble, like I mentioned earlier it is not about our works but God’s grace.

So are you here and like the Pharisee you have been going around thumping our chest and looking down on others who you deem better than yourself? It is time to humble yourself and come back to the realisation that the righteousness comes from God’s grace. Are you like the tax collector and have realised your need for forgiveness? God is always willing and gracious to forgive.

Friday, 9 November 2012

A moment with Peter Kenneth

He most definitely the man of the moment in the Kenyan political scene. After his snazzy presidential bid launch at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre this Sunday there has been a lot of attention going his way on social and mainstream media. Sometimes more of that attention is focused not on him but on his offspring particularly his son who was a hit with the ladies on social media leading to all kinds of jokes and puns. Inevitably memes started appearing too as the hype continued. He presents a fresh face to the race, young, internet savvy, good looking and apparently squeaky clean. a different kind of politician is the image he is trying to portray with some going as far as likening him to Barrack Obama. So behind all the 'eye candy' and the hype machine, what is the substance of his candidacy and his plan for Kenya?

This past Wednesday morning I got an opportunity to visit his office with a group of young Kenyans who'd organised a meeting with him to discuss his candidature and ask the tough questions. So we congregated then checked in to The Treasury at 11 o'clock for the meeting which ended up being delayed to about half past 12. After his apologies for the delay due to an interview he was having with the BBC the session go underway.

After brief introductions he took a few minutes to outline his proprieties for the next 5 years as they are on his site first off was food security, we need to invest in irrigation to ensure this. along with that Unemployment has to be addressed with the rate officially at 40% percent it could even be higher in practice. He noted that if the poor are hungry and jobless they could end up being treated as rich. Infrastructure was another point , he noted that most settlements are dotted along the major roads, more infrastructure needed into the interior and every county needs an allocation. Tourism was noted as an important driver for growth and to get that up security and infrastructure are key. Healthcare was also a major part of the plan and he decried the increasing problem of lifestyle diseases like Cancer and Diabetes which could be controlled if detected early. He mentioned that he buries way too many in his constituency who could have survived with proper care. Tackling impunity is also another area he touched on and discipline is needed in government and that will only work if there is swift punishment to deter culprits as opposed to the case now whereby the process takes very long.

After his introduction we went into specific questions some of which I'll highlight here from what I can remember

What drives him? what is his passion?
He said he has his children in mind and wants to ensure a brighter future for them and also other young people.

Why did you choose the presidency why not Governor?
He said that he chose Kenya first as opposed to the much easier job of becoming governor of his home county  which he could have won easily as Murang'a he has a wider vision for the country.

What are his plans on healthcare?
He has a 3 year plan. He said 1 billion will be invested in each county in the first year to build referral and the next year the next year will be about getting the much needed equipment. The medical fraternity are not only agitating for improved terms but for better equipment to serve the people. With required equipment he believes even Kenyan medics in the diaspora can be convinced to come back home. The third year was not clear. As for where he would get the funds he mentioned attacking the budget system so that the allocations go where they are needed most. Having been in the planning ministry he knows a lot about it. He even went so far as to say he could save 180 billion shillings in recurrent expenditure.

What about the slogan Tunawesmake?
He said that his team had brainstormed about it for over 6 months and finally came up with it as it incorporates English and Kiswahili and is easily understood. He noted that it has got people talking. He admits he got hammered about it but it is a clarion call that it can be done.

Why should he be trusted?
His track record in Gatanga constituency and elsewhere in public life.

What will be done about security?
In his plans for security he mentioned implementing a Sheriff system to get others into the police system especially the youth.

Where do you get your Money?
From friends and well wishers. Donations go to as small as 50 shillings. He also added that he is ready to declare his wealth.

What do you do in your free time? what are you currently reading?
He says he's a lot of a home person and is currently reading Greg Mills on African Leadership

What is his priority in the first 100 days?
He said that the first person he wants to meet is the Chief justice so as to streamline the judicial process for swift and firm justice which will go a long way in dealing with corruption and other crimes that hold us back.

What is he doing at the grass roots? as currently he is more on social media and the urban youth.
He detailed how he has engaged first with people form marginalized areas and places where there is no presidential candidate. Has held forums with the local people to hear their needs particularly with the youth and so has done a lot of ground work.

Do you have anything to hide?
I have nothing to hide.

What about the ICC?
He voted for the local process when that question was in parliament. He also went on to note that there are still the IDPs and other affected persons who need to be addressed as well. He doesn't mind the ICC suspects running and will engage with them on issues.

Are you seeking alliances?
He is ready to work with those who share his values and has met other presidential candidates in the past.

What about Sally Kosgei?
He says that they were in a firm together and if the only story they have about him is one woman then he must be a very good guy.

What about allegation that your Insurance company is linked to Harun Mwau?
He did say he has an interest in a company that insures 20% of Nakumatt but ht e Majority is insured by Kenindia.

What about his tenure at KFF?
He insisted that his record there was clean

Are you married?
He said he is but I did not see a ring though.

That's pretty much what I can remember from the meeting and more can be found from my Twitter stream here.

Now I will give a brief summary. Peter Kenneth presents something fresh and new to the race for Kenya's presidency. He does not dwell a lot on tribe and alliances but instead takes time to articulate his vision for the country backed by facts and figures. He also has a good track record as Member of parliament for Gatanga constituency since 2003 and has been acknowledged as the best at accounting for Constituency development fund. He is also known to have done good work in uplifting the condition of his constituents  He also has a relatively clean image. However the big question remains as to how well he can engage with the larger population of the country in the rural areas who are out of the scope of his social media campaign. The challenge is to get the numbers behind him and to have an image that resonates with the people. it would be good to have a leader of integrity but he seems to be a lone ranger. Where is the team to implement his grand plan?

His team has got the buzz right now but they have to sustain and strengthen the momentum and get the message out to the wider population. It is a breath of fresh air and all the best to him.