Tuesday, January 31, 2006



The Kibaki government is finding itself in very unfamiliar territory where it is cornered and is seeking to defend itself. The various commanders are trying to muster their troops but most of them are either AWOL or on sick leave. The few present are simply too demoralized to act. A demoralized army is a defeated army. The Kibaki troops are well fed, pampered and brightly attired but their morale is zero. The commander is not able to give that pep talk that uplifts the sunken spirit. The troops are unwilling to die for their commander.

Every commander knows that his troops will die for him if they believe that he is there for them at all times. Soldiers would fight in tatters, hungry and cold if they believe in their commander. If they see his tenacity, resolute determination, guts, and sheer abrasiveness in the face of the enemy, they will throw their full might at the battle ahead. Soldiers do not necessarily believe in a cause, they believe in their commander. When a commander commits his troops to battle he better be prepared to lead them. All successful generals in history physically led their troops to battle, Hannibal, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, McArthur, Swarznekoff, etc., were physically there with their forces. Their presence emphasized their commitment, and their leadership from the front augmented the resoluteness of their cause. The war on corruption is no exception. The big general and his field commanders must be physically present.

Kibaki is sending his lieutenants to marshal the troops, but there are no discernible battle plans they are articulating. Theirs is to praise the genius of their general at reading the many battle plans and commissioning the drawing of others that are never tested on the ground. Out of all those commanders only the novices are loud enough to be heard. Where are the battle tested old guards? Or are they just laying low mistaking the cannon booms for thunder, the bullets for hail stones and saying it is a matter of time the cloud will pass? How wrong they must be, the battle against corruption and looting of public kitty is not a passing cloud. It is a relentless bombardment and onslaught of justice on the ubiquitous malady that has permeated the Kibaki government in the short time it has existed. The corrupt dealings and subsequent imbroglio that the nation has been immersed into, will face the unremitting artillery of public scrutiny and accountability until every penny is accounted for and every culprit punished.

Do the various field commanders have faith in their general? There are feelings that some of the field commanders have sold the others to the enemy. As such they are wavering and teetering in their support, and are not confident of winning the battle where trust is lacking. The big general himself is loud in his silence. Wars are not worn in the silence and comfy of the garrisons, they are worn in the rough of trenches and bunkers, the desert sand dunes and the urban dark alleys. The soldiers need to be exhorted, encouraged and reassured that the though the battle is tough the war is just and winnable. This can only come from the big general himself and it must come sooner rather than later. It must be accompanied by actions that will reinforce the words and reinvigorate the troops with morale and drive for victory.

Some of the Kibaki troops are too polluted to be allowed into the public domain without risk of contaminating the rest. They will need to be quarantined until their suspected plague is diagnosed and treated. Unless this happens, all the efforts at damage control by the other lieutenants are futile. Excreta do not stop to stink just because you cover it.

When the World Bank turns off its flow of support, it is a clear signal that something is drastically wrong. Kenyans remember the way donors and foreign governments were competing to be the first to open their coffers for us after the 2002 elections. The looters thought this was because of their own selves rather than the trust bequeathed them by the Kenyans, they squandered this goodwill that we enjoyed. Other foreign donors are surely going to follow the World Bank lead. You do not go borrowing or begging to maintain affluent lifestyles incongruent with your capacity and sustainability. Kenyans today view any defense of the corrupt Anglo Leasing and allied dealings as effort to preserve the frivolous and wasteful opulence that the leaders exhibit in the midst of misery and hunger.

The big general has caused the war on hunger to be forgotten. Corruption and maladministration has turned famine and accompanying human suffering to the periphery. We should fight both fronts with same vigor and vitality until we achieve victory. One thing is clear, the war on corruption will be relentless, not the way the government sees it but the way it should be, which is no sacred cows to be spared. Resigning of the leaders, though a necessary pre requisite is not sufficient. After any war, there are war criminals, and there are trials and meting of justice, or at least there should be. Kenyans will not be satisfied until justice is done and seen to have been done. They will not be satisfied with commissions, judicial or otherwise. History has shown that commissions in Kenya are just a way of buying time and wishing away an issue. There have been far too many commissions whose reports have not been implemented. Some have not even been made public, this has been shear waste of our meager resources.

This is the time the clean men and women of our nation came forward to salvage the little credibility remaining in our nation. Kenyans cannot continue to entrust their sheep to the hyenas. There was an allegation, which has not been denied, that the president’s lieutenants told the anti corruption czar that the president himself knew how these things (corrupt deals) worked, him having worked in the treasury. That this has not been dismissed as upumbavu talks volumes. Where there is smoke there is fire. The big general must muster his troops and lead from the front.

Moi, despite his failings, led from the front. His troops knew where to tread, if they got out of step they were quickly sent back to the ranks. But the big general knows this for he was a culprit once. Our troops are not matching together, some are out of step and others are simply too tired to match. Halt the whole platoon and sort them out otherwise they will sort you out.

Capt. (Ret) Charles Wairia

Monday, January 30, 2006


Do We Still Trust Our Government?

During the 2002 national elections the NARC coalition pleaded with Kenyans to entrust them with the mandate of leading the country to greater glory. Over three million Kenyans responded by trusting that once the NARC was elected things would change for the better. At the beginning of 2003, Kenyans were the most optimistic people in the world.

Trust is defined as confidence in and reliance on good qualities, especially fairness, truth, honor, or ability. Do Kenyans see good qualities in their government in the handling of the Anglo Leasing saga? No. Do they see fairness? No. Do they hear the truth from the government? No. Does the government fail on the trust test? Yes. Trust is the principle currency of any government. No government should allow the people’s trust to be eroded. If a government loses the trust of its people, it loses its moral authority to govern.

The revelations by Githongo on Anglo Leasing, cannot be wished away as LDP agenda as the empty rhetoric of Kanyingi and Kamanda seem to suggest. Kenyans trusted the government to fulfill its promise of zero tolerance of corruption. Yet a cabal of ministers saw it fit to propagate corrupt deals and expect to get away with it. If the government cannot make the individual ministers answer for their actions then the whole government cannot escape a charge of complicity in defrauding Kenyans of their trust.

The Anglo Leasing saga and the events surrounding it has eroded the trust the people of Kenya had on their government. The loud silence coming from State House is reminiscent of the see no evil hear no evil adage. You cannot sit back and wish away a festering cancerous growth on your foot after diagnosis. You must submit to chemotherapy, if it doesn’t work amputation, otherwise it will spread to the whole body and you will die. The organs that are not tainted with this cancerous blood should be protected and preserved. The putrid ones should be surgically removed.

The head surgeon however, does not feel confident to perform the operation. He has all the tools and the patient is ready on the operating table. Can we trust him with the surgeon’s knife?

Friday, January 27, 2006



Anglo Leasing is a hydra that is sprouting new heads faster than you can cut them. The perpetrators, in their hurried scheming, seem to have ignored the obvious. Not everyone in their team was playing ball. There seem to be pockets of integrity determined to protect the public kitty.

The revelations of the scrupulous manipulation of the public procurement procedures and the accompanying apparent loss of public funds are issues that would bring down any government in the civilized world. The government is the custodian of public property. We, the citizens, bequeath our government the prudent and judicious management of this property. It is disheartening to note that our government through its agents is a frequent abuser of this trust. If this was an employee, he would get a letter referenced ‘show cause why your services should not be terminated’.

The Anglo Leasing saga has phantoms returning money that they do not admit having received initially. Restitution is an acknowledgement of guilt. In the old impromptu audits, especially in the military, if the money was not in the cash box, or the safe, it mattered little that it was in your pocket, it was missing and whether you returned it or not, you were culpable. Even now if the money is not in the treasury or has been properly expended someone is culpable. The last time I checked this was called theft by servant.

Something is not right with our procurement system. We seem to be very eager to set up high level committees and commissions which become moribund because they are either too bloated or there is no political goodwill for their success. At such times they become tools of manipulation by the few in the know. The inter-ministerial committee is either complicit in the frauds or ineffectual and past its sell by date. It neither barks nor bites.

There are a milliard companies in the world that are competent and willing to tender for the various supplies and services. Why we should continue to single source from the same supplier whose previous dealings are suspect beats the sane mind. Once a supplier is involved in dubious dealings, they should be blacklisted and denied future business. Only in Kenya do we keep going back to the same discredited supplier, this stinks of vested interests which we call corruption, which is a crime.

Government procurement contracts are public property. They should be available at least to all the parliamentarians and by extension to the wananchi. The MPs, as the people’s representatives, should familiarize themselves with the sourcing, contracting and payment procedures to be effective watch dogs. We are spending too much money on our MPs, per capita, for the services they are rendering. Each MP should have the capability to research issues in the public domain for them to make positive contributions in their debates. They should grow the teeth to bite for the sake of the wananchi. Vested interests and camaraderie should not cloud objectivity and truth.

The central tender board should be strengthened and manned with professional purchasing and supply managers. The workings and tender manipulations in the Anglo Leasing saga, Mahindra saga, AP Communication Equipment saga, where one family is linked to all the lucrative and dubious contracts in the government, is nothing new in the trade. To beat the single sourcing rule, one family will register five companies, say in five countries, all will tender for a particular contract, with inside collusion other companies will not be invited to tender. To the outsider, you will have five different companies from five countries tendering, a façade of a truly international sourcing but they all belong to the same family. Check those addresses in UK; India, Switzerland or Nairobi, there is bound to be some common link. In such a situation, what is to stop the company quoting any price they want? Somebody is being economical with the truth.

A simple search in the internet or on the ground can unravel most of this mystery. This is one reason why the former regime restricted access to information. Any company worth its salt has a website giving at least some basic information of its operations. Let us utilize technology to beat the corrupt and treacherous at their game. The Narc regime has no business being economical with truth. The public is entitled to information, not only the sugar coated PR, but also the bitter truth of its failure and incompetence.

It is only in Kenya where the government buys items in wholesale volume at a higher price than you get at the retailers! Even when it is duty and VAT free! This beats common sense, even if you do not take advantage of the economies of scale, you should take advantage of the guarantee of payment, or do government checks still bounce?

If this mess is not sorted fast enough, then, even those who are very clean will be stinking to the heavens when the ***t hits the fan.

Public money is not a wild cow to be milked by whoever wants. The owner has come home and the cow is now under zero grazing. No dairy meal, no milk.

Charles Wairia

Wednesday, January 25, 2006



The collapsed building in Nairobi brings to memory the reaction to the Nairobi bombing in 1998. Then, as now, the first government responders were the GSU fully armed with guns, only to find that what was most required were shovels and wheel barrows. I hear this time the police arrived fully armed with rifles. Whether the rifles were to be transformed into shovels remains to be seen.

The disaster response team is an unknown entity. I, like most Kenyans, don’t know whether it is under the police, army or city council or whether it really exists. They, assuming they are there, are supposed to be prepared to respond to any disaster, natural or man-made, anywhere in the country. If they exist they were caught flat-footed. There was no evidence of professionalism in the rescue mission. Eight years after the Nairobi bomb the lessons learnt seem to have been lost. We had to rely on Israel and the USA to sort out our inefficiency, just like we did in ‘98. Thank God we do not have these calamities as often as the Israelis, for if we did the Americans and Israelis would permanently camp somewhere in the city. I hate to imagine the consequence of a major disaster like an earthquake. There was an earth tremor in the city recently, people simply ran out of the buildings. What next? Suppose a building had collapsed. Do the occupants of the various buildings know the nearest fire exits? Can they maneuver the stairs in complete darkness?. Do the various buildings have a disaster management strategy. Where would the employees muster after evacuating the building? These are basics of fire drills that every office should have. Muster and roll call is not demeaning, but it helps the rescue teams know where to concentrate their efforts. Time is of essence in disaster rescue and you do not need to have it wasted on searching endlessly in areas where the occupants have all evacuated and not accounted for due to lack of operable systems.

How many times has the fire brigade arrived at a scene of fire only to run out of water? The various fire hydrants in the city stopped carrying any water decades ago. The ladders are too short and cannot reach the higher floors, the fire fighters end up just warming themselves in the fire as the buildings are consumed to the ground. I saw the picture of seven fire fighters gawking at one of them digging with the only shovel available. They might as well divest themselves of those colorful jackets, which must be suffocating in the heat, instead of just idling in a disaster area completely lost as to what to do. We must professionalise the firefighting teams to be able to cope with any disaster in the city. Professionalism is not rushing through the city with the blaring sirens, or wearing colorful uniforms and marching during Labor Day Parade, it is what you do at the scene of disaster and how you confront the challenge of your calling. Fire fighting is a calling not just another job, if you have no dedication, guts and tenacity you are a danger to the others, and yourself, best you keep off.

Our police respond to all disasters almost the same way, keep the people at bay while they take the vantage point to watch and agape. This might be useful when you have the professionals managing the situation, but this is not always the case. Most times the wananchi become the professionals. Every body wants to help but they don’t know how to help. Sometimes the injured are best left in their state if there is no immediate danger of more harm, until a professional medic is available. All the wananchi think about is to take the person to the hospital by any available means thereby handling the injured like a bag of cabbage without due care as to the nature of the injury. Immobilization is never considered since most believe that the greatest danger lies in your not getting to the hospital. They will throw you onto the back of a pick up truck, after frisking your pockets, and will mistake your fixed stare of shock as smile of appreciation.

The government was quick in getting foreign help. This of course is tacit acknowledgment of our inability to cope with such a disaster on our own, so much for our sovereignty. We are not lacking in examples of preparedness, I would even guess that these countries would be willing to train a team of disaster management experts who in turn should train others. But like every thing in Kenya, there is always the question of how do I benefit. But collapsing buildings do not ask what tribe you are, nor do they ask for the kickback.

Somebody is guilty of homicide if not murder in this disaster. Were the plans for this building properly drawn and approved by the relevant council authority? Did a qualified and registered architect draw them? Is the structural engineer a qualified and registered practitioner? Did he/she inspect the building during the various phases of construction? Was the foreman qualified for such undertaking? There are a lot of questions that the public is entitled to ask. The moment a Kenyan life was lost and the government resources were expended to sort out a private investor’s mess, then the issue is no longer private developer versus city council but the people versus the private developer, city council, architects, engineers and others. They all must answer for their negligence, omission or commission, the guilty must be punished in accordance with the law and the public must see it done.

Let us hear from our disaster management team. Let us hear how they are preparing to meet any future challenges. We do not want to hear there are no resources, no money, we will start when funds become available. Disasters will not wait until the funds become available, they will strike at any time. The funds therefore should be availed especially when we received back all those billions from Anglo Leasing. Transparency means openness, disaster management need not be done in secrecy, in times of crisis like the recent one, you will need the cooperation of the citizenry, if they are ignorant of your role they will not be swift in cooperating. Educate the people through the media of the need to respect those with the responsibility of managing such situations. They in turn should be loud and visible by uniform or insignia. Do not crowd just to see, give way to emergency vehicles. Buses, matatus, and private vehicles should divert from the disaster area. A bus ploughed into a rescue ambulance causing injury. The police should have sealed off the area, this is common sense but that is not very common among most people.

But wait, in three months the disaster will have been forgotten, new labor will have been hired, construction will resume after a number of people make token appearance in court, they will be released on bond with surety, the case will be fixed for mention in six months time. By this time we will have forgotten this whole saga and will be thinking about the world cup, the budget and the next elections. People having died in this building will be dismissed as bahati mbaya, just another statistic in our national tragedies. Until the next tragedy strikes and we will start the whole cycle again.

Charles Wairia

Friday, January 06, 2006



The other night I was caught in the middle of a storm. Not of the political or social nature, but of the rain variety. I have watched storms come and go from the safety of my house, but never have I driven in one. It began with the splattering of heavy rain drops on my windscreen. There was the rumbling of distant thunder and flashes of lightning. These were not new to me. I grew in the tropics where rain is often accompanied by thunder and lightning. A mile up Highway 301 north, I met with the fury and wrath of the gods of thunder. Lightning and thunder were trying to out do each other. Flashes of lightning lit the road so often I nearly put down my sun visor. Thunder was no longer rumbling and distant but was making itself known to me in a cascade of noise all around my car. One time it was the loud clapping on my ears the other the sharp staccato bedlam threatening to split my eardrums and render me deaf. The rain itself was heavy and incessant. I was leaning forward trying to maintain my driving on my side of the lane. With lights on and the wipers on maximum I could hardly see beyond twenty feet. I tried the full beam and it came right back at me. I therefore settled for the low beam and trudged on. I thought I was driving too fast and checked only to find I was doing 35mph. for a while I saw no other vehicle on the road and I wondered, could there have been a call for vehicles to keep off the roads. I checked the radio and they were happily playing their music, no mention of the storm. So much for local storms.

Why must the gods fight in the middle of the road and when I was driving there? I had one mission, outrun the storm. The weatherman had said the storms would be localized, I therefore knew I would get out of it in a little while. And sure enough by the time I got to Sharpburg, the storm had died, I had actually outrun it. And so I drove in the drizzle and got to Rocky Mount. By the time I parked my car the storm had caught up with me. It took a straight line while I followed all the meandering of the road. The storm was furious that I had attempted to outrun it and cheat it from beating down on me. So it summoned all its fury and beat upon my car making it impossible for me to get out. It summoned all its relatives, lightning thunder, wind and beat upon me. My mind started wondering can you be hit by lightning while inside a vehicle? This thought made me cling away from the window.

The storm did eventually pass and I was safe from its vagaries and fury. As I sat in the vehicle waiting for it to subside I remembered a story told me by my Masai friend. In the Masai folk role it is believed that when you have just a drizzle or splattering of raindrops, the god of rain was actually urinating elsewhere and decided to shake in your area. You end up with a sprinkle of rain drops. With this wisdom, I realized the gods of rain really meant to urinate on my car this night. I hate to think what the thunder and lightning was.



I was watching the news and saw the president of the USA, George Bush, holding a meeting with former secretaries of state and secretaries of defense going back to the Kennedy era. In Kenyan parlance this is called holding consultation. These are men and women who served or continue to do so, as experts in foreign affairs and defense. They went through senate grilling and confirmation and gave their best in the positions they served. They have published writings about their work, given lectures, have been consulted and have given advise. They form a reservoir of knowledge and experience that the nation can tap on at a time like this when America needs to re-focus her Iraq policy. These were eminent citizens from both mainstream political parties, Republicans and Democrats.

This sent my mind on a whirl tour of our political landscape. Who would our president call at his table, as experts, to discuss national issues, set aside international? In Kenya today our MPs become experts and professionals overnight on being appointed to the cabinet. A constitutional lawyer becomes an expert in environment and pollution, a former councilor becomes an expert in sports, a cycle repairman is an expert in wild life. Tomorrow, if there be a reshuffle, the same faces will become experts in foreign affairs or water.

The appointments into the various positions of authority tend to lean on political expediency rather than professionalism. The Permanent Secretaries, who as accounting officers, are supposed to be the experts in their respective ministries are not exempt from this game of musical chairs. Most of them are in the wrong ministries per their training and experience. The same case with the high commissioners and ambassadors, some were plucked, as it were, right from their slumber in the village and planted on these posts with no prior training, experience, or even inclination for the job. This is a major de-service to the nation and an embarrassment to those experts in the profession.

Back to the issue of whom the president would sit down with. Looking at the political spectrum over the past forty two years of independence, and three presidents, we have had more ministers of foreign affairs in that period than America has in the same period with nine presidents. This dearth of expertise is not limited to foreign affairs it is prevalent across the whole civil service and pre-eminent in the cabinet. Our level of experts is at the lower cadres of the civil service whose advice is often ignored.

Which field is Kalonzo Musyoka an expert in, education, foreign affairs, environment, deputy speaker, law, ODM all of which he has served, with distinction in some I should add? How about Nyachae; public service, agriculture, finance, energy, industrial enterprise, opposition, where has he left his mark? We do not suffer from lack of experts rather from lack of appreciating our experts. In every field we have qualified manpower whose talents we can tap, yet every day we ignore them and seek counsel where it is least available. We have to distinguish between sycophancy and expertise. We have our Washington Omondis, Yashpal Ghais, Wangari Mathais, Mazruis, Bethuel Kiplagats, people whom the world hungers after and whose opinions are respected and sought. Yet at home we are tinkering with the psychos who will dance at the wriggling of the threads. Let us give honor to our prophets and respect their message.

The art of consultation need not be left to the kitchen cabinet. That some ministers would threaten to resign if the president sat down with the ODM leadership, shows the extent to which our political leadership value national unity. For the president to succumb to such threats and cancel a meeting of national importance and significance is to show how weak he has become. Wapende wasipende, progress in constitution making will be only possible when the bananas and oranges are mixed together in the salad bowl.

You cannot clap with one hand. Right now, by locking out the ODM out of the plotting the way forward in the constitutional process, the government is attempting to clap with one hand.

Thursday, January 05, 2006



There was a time I used to receive letters from the government signed your obedient servant. It made me proud that I was an employer of a very obedient servant. I therefore coughed my PAYE (pay as you eat, we called it) tax very happily. I was not even afraid of the GPT because I at least enjoyed the role of a master employer.
Somewhere along the line, the servant forced his way into my house. He started by not being obedient, then he decided that he could no longer proclaim loudly and in writing that he was my servant. He was no longer sincere and could not dare claim he was faithful. He kept double dealing moving from my employment to others on the side stealing my hours. He could not claim to be true as he never kept any promise or fulfilled any pledge. Finally he ceased to be even civil to me. He became my master and started demanding advance pay before providing services.
We had to share costs, share the labor, I pay for added value, genuine or mystic, I pay fuel levy and a milliard of other visible and invisible taxes. This created a dilemma since I was still paying him his monthly salary, allowances and stipends. I was no longer the master but the servant. Only one thing did not change, I continued paying the servant without the servant giving the services.
That is why I continue to suffer, one day dying from lack of food, another from eating un-inspected meat, another from the terror of the thugs at night, but I am still the employer only this time of a not so obedient servant. Only after catastrophic events will the servant come and arrogantly demand why I should embarrass him by exposing his inefficiency.
Your obedient master,
Charles Wairia.

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