Thursday, March 16, 2006



Our armed forces are reputed to be among the best in Africa. It is undeniable that the role they continue to play in peacekeeping in various countries makes us proud. We have managed to internationalize our armed forces to the point where it is, perhaps, the only institution that reflects Kenya positively to the world.

It is however ironic that while maintaining peace in Kosovo, Sierra-Leon, Congo and elsewhere and ensuring that the refugees in those countries receive food and water, their brothers and sisters back home are dying from lack of same supplies. They are not dying because of war or civil strife, but because there is no transport and other logistics in place to ensure delivery of the much needed relief. The stores in Eldoret and Kitale are bursting with excess grain while people are dying a few hundred miles away from hunger.

Over the past forty years of independence, the government has done little in form of communication and road network improvement in North Eastern, and Northern Rift parts of the country. The areas have been left principally as the training ground for our armed forces. The army is a regular visitor and a popular friend of most of the locals. This is why the army should get involved in the food distribution and water drilling in these areas.

There is the immediate need to send food to the remote areas where people are dying daily. The army should mobilize its transport battalion and render support. They are familiar with the terrain; they are disciplined, organized and capable.

The time to demystify the armed forces is now. The armed forces should not be viewed only as a source of entertainment during national days. We should not just take pride in their outward attire and well timed marching and trooping of the color, we should get some tangible benefits from the huge investment that we put in them every year. Yes, the forces should be ready to combat any external threat, but their transporting food to El Wak or Kipini does not compromise their preparedness. Using the Engineering Battalion to drill waterholes in Wajir Bor or Lokitang’ gives them a human face. After all as frequent visitors to those areas they will have assured themselves of regular water supply. The supply branch would involve their personnel in acquisition and distribution of the relief food, and the transport battalion be used in moving the food. The lessons learnt in such undertakings would be important in times of war mobilization. This would be the closest they would get to real situations over and above simulated training, which lacks the perils of nature.

Our armed forces have manpower trained in various fields, they are adept at withstanding adverse weather conditions, and therefore, drilling boreholes and building dams would not be way out of their role. Some people may not be comfortable with the army undertaking such civil responsibilities, but the army is best positioned in terms of training, equipment, manpower and adaptability than any team the water ministry can build. This is not an act of hostility but a civil responsibility, which is consistent with the Force Act.

Perennial famine in our country’s north and northeast will never end if we do not address the issue of water availability. Although we need the short-term transportation of food, the solution lies in provision of water all year round, both for the livestock and humans. Lon- term goals of irrigating the area and tree planting should be in the agenda. While Nairobi is preoccupied with mundane issues of mercenaries and press freedom, people continue to die and the government is clearly not on top of the famine issue. Since the president’s visit to the region last December, the fate of the residents seem to have been left to the NGOs which are handicapped by lack of logistical support. This is no longer news. It is becoming increasingly difficult to retain it in the limelight and give it the thorough attention it deserves. The international community has been given other fodder to chew at the expense of people continuing to die.

If we involved the military in such humanistic endeavors, the subtle suspicion and mistrust between them and the civil in their inordinately large budget allocation would diminish. The military should take the initiative; it is not like the people in those regions care who provide the food. All they care for is the food and water not whether it is coming from NGO or the military. Let us use what we have and save our people from hunger. Right now what we have in abundance is the might of the army in huge trucks being polished and oiled daily for the next Madaraka day parade. Load them with grain and take them to Turkana and Pokot, when they come back beat up, creaking and dusty, we shall willingly reach deeper into our pockets and bail you out. Right now we are penny pinching because we are not sure our money is well spent.

We have not had war in forty years, we pray we have no war in forty years, right now let us fight poverty in our nation, that is the only war most of us will fight in our lifetime. After all, according to Napoleon, an army marches on its stomach, yes you are your brother’s keeper when he is hungry you are hungry or are going to be hungry. Hunger is not a virtue; it does not need to be glorified.

Capt. (Ret) Charles Wairia

Friday, March 03, 2006



And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
Genesis 3:14
The good minister of internal security would like us to believe that someone in the Standard newspaper stepped on the serpent and stirred its wrath. The minister would like us to believe that the serpent was acting on the natural enmity that originated from the Garden of Eden. Be that as it may, my bible tells me that the serpent shall bruise my heel but I shall bruise its head. Now tell me Mr. Minister is this serpent tough enough to withstand the rod that it has made me pick.

I did not know that serpents are leading the people of Kenya. It is true serpents are the only creatures that slither and crawl through holes to wreck havoc especially at night. The serpent had to destroy and steal, beat and maim. The serpent had to make sure all other species crawl and slither like it. The serpent never chews its food it swallows its prey whole, horns hoofs and all. This serpent sought to swallow what is rightfully public property, which is right to information. By seeking to cripple the operations of the Standard group, the government has exposed itself to ridicule, calumny and mistrust. The government has come out of this shameful episode more divided and weaker than before. The days of the big man are gone; these are not the days of the colonial DO or post independence chiefs. Then the words of those fellows was law, the minister should know this having been one. In case it has escaped the ministers mind there is something called the rule of law. This is where the case between the serpent and the people is heard and decided.

It does not matter whether the serpent was enraged by the actions of the people, it can no longer decide to bite the heel without due process. Let us hope the Standard group will show the way and pursue this matter through the courts. Let us hope the courts will not be intimidated or cowed to favor the serpent. The serpent must be brought to trial for both punitive action and deterrence for future evil intentions. But already in the peoples’ court the serpent is guilty.

The minister would have liked the serpent to continue hibernating. Unfortunately while it was hibernating the people were going hungry. The very storekeepers entrusted with guarding it were looting the harvest store. When the media cried foul, the serpent was unleashed on the town crier.

Kenya is a nation of civilized beings, hence the massive condemnation of this act of thuggery. There is however cause to stop and wonder, if such destruction and misuse of police force can be executed without the knowledge of the police commissioner or even others in the chain of command, is it any wonder then that the police force has pockets of loyalty to individuals? Is this not direct abuse of the role of the police? Ministers come and go, but the government institutions are more or less permanent. This is why they should be de-linked from individual minister’s whims and wishes and be guided by the bureaucratic machinery. These systems must be institutionalized and not be changed with every cabinet reshuffle. If Michuki respected the rule of law and the official machinery of the government, he would not have taken it upon himself to release the serpent. That he did this shows his contempt of the very constitution he swore to uphold and protect.

There is no place for such arrogant leaders in the Kenya we want. He should do us a favor and tender his resignation, which is the measure of responsibility and maturity. Anything short of this is arrogance and abuse of the Kenyan people. The people reserve the right to take up a stick and hit the serpent on the head.

Charles Wairia

Thursday, March 02, 2006



Could a meeting between Mwai Kibaki and Kalonzo Musyoka be a threat to national security? Is this the reason why the police had to react by destroying the sources of dissemination of such highly seditious and sensitive news?

It is good to learn we have a QRU squad in the police force. It was indeed quick to respond to the news of threat to national security at the Standard newspapers. May be Osama bin Laden had been seen in the vicinity; maybe he was hiding in the building ready to address the nation through the KTN television network. Maybe the Standard was about to reveal another secret meeting of oranges and bananas. All these are plausible causes for the thuggery that was visited on the Standard, but they are not justifiable. Even if bin Laden was to address the nation from the studios the wanton destruction and mayhem was not necessary. The use of anti terrorist commandos to destroy equipment, beat and rob innocent citizens, burn newspapers and cause panic and alarm in the journalistic world is a dire violation of the rights of the people of this country.

The crack squads in the Kenyan security system are quite adept at flagrant display of raw power. They exhibit their ruthlessness to the wrong people. Beating innocent employees going about their business and shouting obscenities and stealing their phones does not augur well for a disciplined force. Respect for the law and protection of the innocent is paramount in any operation. This is never instilled in the minds of these goons who end up acting like the very thugs they are supposed to be hunting. Given that they were obeying orders, the civil thing to do would be to get court orders and then execute them in a manner commensurate with their training and regulations. Even then, dismantling of equipment, if ever justified, should be done in a civilized manner.

Was Osama bin Laden in I&M Towers or Likoni Road? Why did the police raid these premises in the middle of the night? So they think by burning the days edition they would stop the dissemination of information? That is classic idiocy and myopic thinking, stopping a man from speaking does not stop him from thinking. The thought will always somehow end up being vented and verbalized. But I guess this is too complex for the government system to comprehend hence, they seek to kill and maim the messenger.

We spend a lot of tax payers’ money to train and equip our police force, but when the same force is turned against innocent civilians, something is drastically wrong. Destruction of private property in the name of national security is scandalous. In a country that prides itself of being democratic, the practice of the democracy must be institutionalized. We cannot talk of democracy in the abstract; it must be there in every day operations and activities. Right from simple actions like letting the law take its cause when there are issues in dispute. It is not the work of the police to mete out mob justice on institutions like the mass media or wreck havoc and create chaos in private investors’ domain.

When will the government learn to respect the very laws that lead civilized societies? When will the government realize that the freedoms we enjoy are not gifts and largesse to be dispensed to their cronies but inalienable, fundamental, natural and succinct rights bestowed to all by virtue of their being human? For how long will the government continue to undermine the democratic space that cost the lives of many, and the continued impoverishment of others to create and nurture? For how long shall we continue to send wrong messages to the international community that they are the ones who do not understand us? Is it any wonder that we are beginning to be treated like a pariah nation in the international community? We are our worst enemies. The things we consider small and insignificant are the one that gain maximum attention. A raid in the middle of the night is headline news world wide in the middle of the day. Just because we are asleep does not mean the world is not awake. The gains of the last few years can be set back a decade by the actions of a single night. Let sobriety and reason supersede chaos and mayhem. Justice and candor supersede injustice and casuistry.

Charles Wairia

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