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Militarization Of Civilian Rule And The War On The ‘We’



By NLM Writer

‘While President Kenyatta may have campaigned for the constitution, it has never stopped him from trampling on it when it served his purposes’ — Author

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is revolutionary in character and transformative in intent. It is revolutionary because it proposes a radical shift from the old order where power centred on the Executive, and transformative in that it is not just a law to Kenyans but a means towards socio-economic emancipation.

The Constitution is also liberal democratic. Above all, it emphasizes individual autonomy which extends to freedom of enterprise — ours is a market-oriented economy which creates a level playing field for all and eliminates surprises. But the man at the bottom had to be taken care of, which is why it leaves a small window of government interference through social welfare schemes.

Implementing such a Constitution is not easy. Kenyans understood that while politicians were needed to stir the revolution and engage the masses in simple language, technocrats were necessary to implement the fine print and ensure that its transformative agenda did not fail. In their heart of hearts, they also knew that politicians are generally averse to reason, hence the reason Article 152 separates administrators from politics.

It was never going to be a popular choice with those in high places, the ones who thrive in chaos. At first, President Uhuru Kenyatta masked his disdain by appointing ex-politicians to cabinet dockets with a promise that they would not engage in politics. With time, the definition of politics became blurred and before long, CSs were spewing bile in rallies claiming that, like every Kenyan, they had freedom of expression including political expression.

It was not an isolated act. While Uhuru may have campaigned for the constitution, it has never stopped him from trampling on it when it served his purposes — from leading Mwai Kibaki into tearing apart the National Accord following the disputed elections of 2007 to the promise, to “revisit” the Judiciary, it has been a litany of orchestrated gaffes. The latest move to appoint an ill-equipped military man to public administration is part of a larger plot to take this country for himself.

To militarize institutions by, among other things, appointing military men to head them is to transform the country into a military dictatorship

A bad picture

Although military men swear their allegiance to the Republic first, in the practical sense their fidelity lies with the President as the commander in chief of the armed forces. It’s worrisome that people who owe their allegiance to an individual — one beholden to the deep state as we have come to understand it — are now tasked with running the affairs of the most important county in the Republic. It’s an absurdity, nay illegality that should concern us all.

In any case, it’s trite practice in liberal democracies like ours for military affairs to be oversighted by political civilian institutions. In Kenya, the military is supervised by Parliament and the Judiciary, which ensure that it aligns its operations with the Constitution. The practice echoes in the Police Service which is also oversighted by the Independent Police Oversight Authority. To militarize these institutions by, inter alia, appointing military men to head them is to transform the country into a military dictatorship.

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If we must violate the Constitution, then it must be for men of mettle with a demonstrable ability to discharge the duties bestowed upon them. At the very least, they should be an improvement to their predecessors. Most of those who have heard Gen. Mohammed Abdallah Badi speak and seen him in action — including a top government official who spoke in confidence — will agree that he does not come across as someone intelligent, not even remotely. And besides that perception, he isn’t. His initial operational decisions even in engaging with the county government in general and Governor Mike Sonko in particular are anything but confidence-inspiring.

Gen. Badi has no academic qualifications to write home about. He is an airman, which does not even begin to qualify him for the job at hand. Does he have any unique qualifications? What primarily did he excel at in the Air Force besides mundane cargo and personnel transport assignments? What qualifies him to oversee a budget of some Sh26 Billion — which the National Treasury allocated the Nairobi Metropolitan Services last month?

While it’s not guaranteed that suited technocrats make better leaders, it is very unlikely that a man of limited qualifications and little managerial and political experience like Badi will push the transformative agenda of the Constitution. Nairobi is the most important county in the republic and its health is crucial to the overall wellbeing of the country. It needs a man who can balance between making it attractive to investors and the socio-economic needs of its diverse population in light of its unique problems.

Sonko was good at the latter. Gen. Badi is an expert in neither.

Military men are associated with the National Intelligence Service, which they also largely populate. The role of NIS is known — they are political spies first before they are servants of the Constitution. In a peaceful country such as ours, these are people who earn their living settling political scores on behalf of their commanders. This is the calibre of people now entrusted with running Nairobi County; it is also part of a growing trend where President Kenyatta appoints mediocre individuals to head sensitive dockets. It’s not only an insult to Kenyans, but it also shows how the country is held at ransom by a powerful cabal of selfish individuals and their lobbyists.

The truth of the matter is that Badi is just another pawn in the long game of socio-political and economic domination by the powerful oligarchs of the old. When President Uhuru Kenyatta took over from Kibaki, he promised to serve the Republic and defend the Constitution: he has turned out to be a great president alright, but only for his family and cronies. His nefarious intent is obvious from every policy decision he has taken since he assumed office.

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Kenyatta has used state machinery to go after dissenters and business competitors: he has manufactured loopholes for his businesses to evade tax while parlaying as a crusader against wastage and tax evasion; the only obvious result of his diplomatic forays in the region has been the expansion of his dairy empire; he has seconded milk laws that have extinguished his largest competitor in the small scale producer; he has set about aggressively acquiring competition; and, as if that were not enough, he deploys State platforms to push his private business agenda — his unveiling of a beer plant in Kisumu for a company in which he owns stock is a classic example.

The President is increasingly authoritarian. Not only has he backed laws that intrude on privacy but he has also supported legislation that eats into the right to picket and demonstrate. He has made a habit of slighting the Judiciary and, under his watch, seen budgetary allocation to the critical institution fall to an all-time low in recent times. To crown his defiance, he has appointed malleable prefects to oversee the system while discarding all those he does not want like chaff to the wind — all whilst using public funds, and in the name of the presidency.

For those who can recall, the Standard Gauge Railway was never meant to proceed to Kisumu, but then Uhuru personally launched the Senator Keg Brewery in Kisumu and now, thanks to extra debt, the railway is headed west. That it was initially meant to halt at the mooted Industrial Park in Naivasha was bad enough. Coincidentally Naivasha is the home of Delamere, which now forms part of Kenyatta’s ever-expanding milk portfolio. All things considered, it makes sense that Kenyatta stubbornly defends the SGR.

If we must violate the Constitution, let it be for men of mettle who discharge the duties bestowed upon them. At the very least, they should be an improvement to their predecessors.

Back to Badi.

In May 2012 the World Bank released Sh33 Billion to fund the Nairobi metropolitan improvement project — which had been initiated when Uhuru was Finance Minister — specifically for the expansion of sanitation services in Nairobi City. Then-Governor Evans Kidero was opposed to the project. Like Kidero, Sonko was and is also opposed to the eviction of People in Kariobangi and Ruai, which had been earmarked for demolitions. The people now being evicted, through no fault of their own, are understood to have been conned into buying the land, which had been grabbed and sanitised by top-ranking public officials in the Kibaki and Uhuru governments.

After several extension of the said funding, the expiry date of project loan is nigh with little to show of it and the World Bank is stalling on an extra facility worth Sh400 Billion for Affordable Housing unless (the project) is completed. The total cost is Sh600 billion and the overhead will be covered by Kenyans through the controversial Housing Development Fund. On one hand, knowing how important affordable housing is to President Kenyatta — it nest in his Big Four Agenda — Sonko too had to “leave” on account of his opposition to the manner of execution of the project. This is how Badi has come to replace him, particularly on dockets necessary to its implementation. On the other, well-placed sources reveal that a high ranking Jubilee official has already lined up a company to do the project and rake in the kickbacks. It is the reason everyone opposed to the project even in the least, including Cabinet Secretaries, is leaving.

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Coincidentally, as all this is happening, the Kenyatta’s are constructing a Sh500-billion private megacity in Ruiru. As reported by the Business Daily, the proposed Northlands City will accommodate an estimated 250,000 people living and working within its boundaries. The project has received massive support from the national government in making it attractive to prospective investors.

In terms of cash injections, tax cuts have been proposed as part of a policy to promote the President’s Big Four Agenda. Kenyans are also sceptical that money from the Housing Development Fund will also be used to fund the business. After all, it bears all the hallmarks of the controversial SGR which, in retrospect, seems to have been built for the Kenyattas.

The general may not be anything else but he is a yes man, and that is enough. At the very least, his presence leaves Uhuru to pursue his desire without all the noise that Sonko was creating.

And urban planners and the National Highways Agency have factored the city in their plans. It is estimated that Northlands will generate up to 30, 000 vehicles per day, spilling onto the Eastern Bypass, and another 27,000 vehicles per day onto the Thika Super Highway. The Northlands industrial Park is a major beneficiary of dualling, with the National Highways Agency also factoring in a key interchange that will connect the City to the Northern Bypass in the ongoing Sh40-billion upgrade of the road into a dual carriageway.

This project, primarily, is the reason Governor Sonko was arm-twisted into handing over the Transport, Health Planning and Development and Public Works and Utilities functions to Gen. Badi. It is also the reason revenue collection was transferred to the Kenya Revenue Authority from the County Government. The general may not be anything else but he is a yes man, and that is enough. At the very least, his presence leaves Uhuru to pursue his desire without all the noise that Sonko was creating.

For Northlands to see the light of day and for his family business to continue enjoying government goodwill, Uhuru has to ensure that he continues at the helm. The Building Bridges Initiative exists for that. But as a guarantee, he also has to maintain control of the Judiciary hence the obvious meddling in the affairs of the Judicial Service Commission.

Meanwhile, the conglomerate continues to grow, all at the expense of the taxpayer. Wittingly or unwittingly, and whether he likes it or not, Badi is just a minute, hired cog in it.

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