Saturday, January 30, 2010

Face to face with Shikuku!

By Shad Bulimo, August 3, 2009
Where in the world do you start writing a story spanning 56 years? In the beginning there was Joseph Martin Olukhanya but his father Johana Oyondi called him simply Shikuku. He started life as a seminarian at St Peter’s Seminary in Mukumu, Kakamega. His teacher, the late Mwalimu Matayo Shiundu Mukenya from Mumias described him as ‘’a clever and naughty boy.” It was a trait that was to catapult Shikuku into national limelight when at the age of 20 he quit the calling of serving the Lord to embrace the urgent need to emancipate his people from the yoke of colonialism.
But not before he tried to find a career that would earn him a living. His first job was a laboratory assistant at Magadi Soda. Although he liked his job, Magadi Soda was located in a remote outpost it did not suit a gregarious individual like Shikuku who got a kick by being closer to crowds. Consequently, he quit the chemical firm and found work as a train guard in Nairobi, the first African to hold that post.

Work in the Railways was considered a posh job in those days and Shikuku used the position to poise himself strategically. Although he had become politically aware aged only six in 1939 and was active since 1952 when Mau Mau fronted struggle for uhuru, it was not until 1960 that Shikuku was elected by Kadu as the national youth leader. Now well positioned to put his debating skills to good use, his first most important task was to travel to London as part of a delegation that was to negotiate the constitution of independent Kenya at Lancaster House, London.
The rest as they say is history. Shikuku has for five decades been at the centre of politics in Kenya. He is one of the few politicians recognisable across the land. He never made allegations in Parliament which he could not substantiate; a feat few politicians can boast of. Similarly he could not be bought or corrupted. When the powers that be felt he had gone overboard and was snooping too closely on their vested interests, at best they threw him into detention.

Across the land, mothers named their children after him and while his singular campaign against the bourgeoisie earned him the epithet ‘’People’s Watchman,’’ the story of Shikuku is larger than the man himself. Although his physique took a thorough beating in detention, his spirit is unbroken and at 76, he is still eloquent and the fire in the man undiminished. It is therefore befitting that the story of this courageous individual from Butere, Western Province, is told by Joseph Martin Shikuku (son of Oyondi) himself.

Detention by Kenyatta in 1975:
I was making a contribution to a motion on the JM Kariuki Murder Inquiry in Parliament when Clement Lubembe (then MP for Shinyalu) challenged me and I said “You want to kill this motion the way Kanu was killed.” At which point, Lubembe rose on a point of order that I should substantiate. “There is no need to substantiate the obvious,” came the famous rebuttal from Jean Marie Seroney , who was in the Speaker’s seat. Kenyatta who was given to listening to parliamentary debates on his ‘’kameme’’ (radio link) at State House, immediately dispatched special branch officers who arrested me and Seroney inside the precincts of parliament.

I was detained at all of Kenya’s four maximum security prisons – Manyani, Kamiti, Shimo la Tewa and Naivasha. Detention is supposed to kill you. If you have never been to detention in Kenya, here is a glimpse. As a detainee, you live in a block of cells within the prison fortified with a 25 ft wall. The cells are 7 ft by 13 ft and a ventilation of 4 by 4 inches with two four inch steel bar. You have a bucket for a toilet. You do not see anyone or hear anything. Food is passed to you like a dog through a small opening. I was not allowed to read anything. I was given the Bible only after two years. For beddings, I slept on cold cement floor rolled up in only one blanket. My legs suffered.

I hear that Kenyatta died:
I am tempted to believe that Kenyatta was a son of Satan. He was a very harsh leader even Ian Smith gave better treatment to Zimbabwean detainees. Colonialists allowed Kenyatta his conjugal rights with Mama Ngina even as he was in detention. But when my mother died, I was not informed nor given the telegram sent by my brother informing me of her demise in August 1978. I only knew about my mother’s death four months after her death on 12 December 1978 when I was released by Moi. It was then that I also heard Kenyatta had died . I emerged from detention on crutches, physically weakened but spiritually unbroken. One of the serious blows I suffered in detention was the loss of my diaries. They confiscated all my diaries which contained personal memoirs and contacts. That is irreplaceable. They also took away my fire arm and up to today it has never been returned to me.

Luhya unity:
One of the problems facing Luhya unity is the fact that we did not come from the same father and mother unlike say, the Kikuyu or Luo. Each Luhya sub tribe was a nation by itself. One way forward is to forge unity in blocks starting with those tribes that are closely related geographically and linguistically. This may take the form of Marama, Tsotso, Wanga, Shisha (Kisa), Nyore, Idakho, Isukha, Manyala ( Ndombi), Kabras (Abalasi) Maragoli, Tiriki forming one block; and Bukusu, Tachoni forming another block with the third block consisting of Busia tribes of Manyala, Samia, Bakhayo and Marachi.

Organisations like Abeingo Community Network can play a crucial role in uniting the Luhya. But also the youth are more enlightened and cosmopolitan and therefore have a better chance of driving this initiative which is crucial for our economic empowerment and pride as a people.

Luhya heroes:
Musa Amalemba: Moses (Musa) Amalemba (immortalised by an estate bearing his name in Kakamega) pioneered initial steps at forging Luhya unity. Before independence Amalemba from Idakho formed Buluhya Political Union (BPU) as the voice of the Luhya in the political dispensation emerging in Kenya at the time. When he had a position in Kenya Airways, he was not ashamed to employ Luhyas.

Canon Jeremiah Musungu Awori: I am a great admirer of Canon Awori for his contribution to the intellectual stock in Luhyaland. He sired 18 children from one wife – a record – all of whom have gone on to achieve great things. Some are scientists while others are doctors, politicians and businessmen. Some of the notable Aworis include the former vice president, Moody Awori, former chairman of Nation Media, Hannington Awori, the late Prof Nelson Awori carried out the first kidney transplant in East Africa while in Uganda, Aggrey Awori once challenged Yoweri Museveni to Ugandan presidency.

Moses Mudavadi: Mudavadi had Luhyaism in him. When he was in a position to help, he would help Luhya people first. For instance, when he was minister for local government, City Hall was like a Luhya village. And when he was minister for education, it is open secret that the majority of untrained Luhya teachers got employed by his direct intervention. Politically we did not see eye to eye as he was part of an oppressive system of Moi dictatorship which I was fighting. He rigged me out during the 1989 by after the death of Jesse Eshikhati Opembe. He used the vast provincial administration machinery to declare John Okwara the winner in the mulolongo elections although Okwara had polled 2,000 voted and I had over 5,000. When Okwara refused he was told he was being given leadership because he was Kanu and Shikuku was in opposition. Okwara’s supporters swamped his home to celebrate but conscientious Okwara told them to go away as he was not the winner and therefore could not celebrate.

Cyrus Jirongo: Unlike his contemporaries, I find that Jirongo is not afraid to take the bull by the horns. At least he tries to reach out to the community or involve himself in things that matter to the community. He has been chairman of AFC Leopards and was instrumental in setting up the Luhya Council of Elders which he funded. Ibrahim Ambwere was chairman with Burudi Nabwera and me as the other committee members. However, he seems to be interested in these initiatives for short term gain and when we refused to endorse him for president, he abandoned us.

Youthful leaders from Luhyaland:
People like Dr Bonny Khalwale (MP for Shinyalu) and Ababu Namwamba (MP for Budalang’i) have the potential to bypass Mudavadi in national leadership. However politics is a long haul undertaking and already Namwamba is limping after blundering with the maize scandal in parliament. If you live in a glass house, you should be the last to thrown stones at anyone. And if the target is big like the First Family, make sure you use boulders. But the moment you come to the House breathing fire, drag the name of the first lady in the maize scandal only to apologise the following day, you are finished. I never made any statement in the House which I could not substantiate nor did I ever withdraw any statement. That is my legacy. And while Khalwale is gaining inroads into Luhyaland and challenging Mudavadi, he needs to begin spreading his wings beyond western to have any serious chance of bidding for the presidency.

Kenneth Marende:
As House Speaker, I feel he has done a great job so far. I was pleased with his historic ruling when he defied the executive’s appointment of Kalonzo Musyoka, the vice president as leader of government business. That ruling defused tension that was threatening to tear the country apart again. I am glad he is emphasising standing orders and bringing discipline to parliament.

Other Kenyan personalities:
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga:
My relationship with Odinga was never hostile. I warned him in 1960 against his faith in the Kikuyu. In 1962, the colonial government asked Odinga to form a government but true to his nationalist credentials, he declined to be part of any independent dispensation until Kenyatta was released from jail . It is a decision that came to haunt him. Soon after Kenyatta became prime minister then president, the two began falling apart on matters of political ideology. Their rift peaked in 1966 when Kenyatta diluted Odinga’s position by creating eight regional power blocks in Limuru. Angry Odinga resigned, quit Kanu and formed Kenya People’s Union which was proscribed three years later and with that began Odinga’s long journey in political wilderness. My warning came to pass.

History was to repeat itself between Odinga’s son, Raila and Mwai Kibaki when the former endorsed the latter for president and signed a memorandum of understanding that would give Odinga the premiership in a unity government but no sooner did Kibaki take the oath of office as president and commander in chief of the armed forces, than he consigned the memorandum to the dustbin; never to see light of day again.

Kikuyu language has no THANK YOU. My own experience with Kenneth Matiba in Ford was no different. In 1992 I campaigned hard for him in Western Province where he defeated Moi but when I stood for president in 1997, Matiba neither campaigned for me anywhere nor did I get any support from Central Province.

Josiah Mwangi Kariuki:
When JM Kariuki went missing in 1975, there was heightened tension in the country. I was friends with him. I introduced him to the Hilton Hotel sauna. I knew his body well. While Moi was busy misleading the House that JM safe, George Giithi, editor of Nation was misleading Kenyans that JM was on a business trip to Zambia. I smelt a rat because the Hilton workers told me they had seen JM leave Hilton in Ben Gethi’s white Mercedes Benz. It later transpired that he was taken to Ngong Forest where he was shot dead and left to be devoured by hyenas. Luckily some Masai herdsmen discovered an unidentified body which was subsequently removed to the mortuary.

JM’s wife called me to say she understands the body found in Ngong was JM’s. I quickly organised a party of individuals including his family to rush to City Mortuary. When we arrived, one body was lying on the table ready for collection by a group of “Luo” men. After failing to find JM’s body in the compartments, something told me to check the body on the table. And behold; I saw the marks that I had seen in our many sessions in the sauna and winked to JM’s wife. She verified them. At which point, we shouted this is JM. The “Luo” men sitting on the bench just disappeared. Following Tom Mboya’s assassination, I told JM to second a motion I was planning to table in Parliament to probe the death of Mboya. JM refused. I told him today it is Mboya, tomorrow it is you or me. It came to pass.

Charles Mugane Njonjo:
When the msaliti (traitor) issue cropped up, I called Njonjo in the presence of witnesses and told him that I had evidence he was the msaliti; courtesy of his financial dealings in Britain, America and South Africa. I told him that if he resigned from his job as minister for constitutional affairs, there the matter would end and I would not table the documents. Arrogant Njonjo just walked away. Few politicians dared cross his path. Just ask Peter Kibisu (Sabatia), Mark Mwithaga (Nakuru), and Waruru Kanja (Nyeri). He used to keep files on everyone and woe unto you if you had any skeletons in the cupboard. When it suited him or his masters, Njonjo would pass your file to the prosecutor marked urgent. Luckily for me, I never had any such fears. I tabled the documents during the morning session. In the afternoon, Njonjo rose and said he had had a good look at the documents and … (prolonged pose) ‘’they were correct.’’ He resigned with immediate effect.

Margaret Thatcher:
In 1986, I gave a speech at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference in London and accused the British government of double standards. I pointed out that Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister of UK because her Conservative party had won majority seats at Westminster so why does a minority white regime in South Africa govern the majority blacks in South Africa and yet UK is mum about this glaring anomaly. Apparently that speech was so eloquent and factual word got to Thatcher who immediately sought a private audience with me. Among other things, I told her countries like Angola and Mozambique are not communist; they only turned East because they are neglected by the West. Shortly afterwards, Angola and Mozambique were invited to join the Commonwealth. When Thatcher came to Mumias, she sent me a private invitation to join her for lunch. Moi was shocked to see me seated on the second row at the luncheon.

Wisdom from my father, Johana Oyondi:
My father was a wise man. He taught me that I should not encourage borrowing or lending for this causes feuds and schisms. However if you must lend, he cautioned, do so only as a last resort; but you must immediately write off the loan in your mind. And should your debtor repay you, give thanks to God and take 10% to Church as an offering. If your debtor has reneged on repayment, do not go for him. Instead make a conscious effort to avoid him; for his quilt may drive him to kill you.

Second Liberation – Fight for multipartyism

From left Martin Shikuku, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Masinde Muliro. Second frame from right: Ngala Mwendwa and Shikuku – only two remaining attendees of the first Lancaster Conference in London that negotiated independent Kenya’s constitution.

We formed Ford in 1990 because Moi’s tyranny had reached epic proportions. Like a cat pushed to the wall, we felt we had nowhere to run to but fight back. When we sought a license to hold a rally at Kamukunji on November 16 1991 and it was refused, we announced that the rally will go on with or without a license. Thousands came but were beaten or killed by police among them, a 24-year old young man called Amakhumba from Kisa, kakamega. I remember playing hide and seek with police in the streets of Nairobi until we outmanoeuvred them. Riding on top of a pick up with Masinde Muliro (now deceased) and James Orengo (now minister for lands and MP for Ugenya), we dodged bullets as we drove to Kamukunji. And although the rally did not take place, the message was loud and clear. A year later, Moi yielded to local and international pressure and scrapped the notorious Section 2a of the constitution to allow multiparty politics.

Fighting for second liberation: Shikuku with a microphone, Masinde Muliro (2nd left) and James Orengo (right) on top of a pick up driving to Kamukunji on November 16 1991 to hold a rally which Moi’s government thwarted with fatal consequences.

2012 Presidential Candidates:
Consider the current line up of Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta. Of the five, Uhuru has no vision other than to perpetuate the status quo which is the only thing he knows. Musyoka, on the other hand is stuck with the traitor label and will struggle to get votes outside his Kamba community. Ruto is ambitious but outside the North Rift, I doubt he commands a national following as yet. As for Mudavadi, he is struggling even within his own community, let alone other parts of Kenya. That leaves Raila as the only candidate with any serious chance of bagging the 2012 presidential elections as far as I can see.

Luhya presidency:
I am the only Luhya to have stood for president of the republic of Kenya. That was in 1997. A Luhya may yet become the president of Kenya but presidential elections require tonnes of money. However, majority of Luhya people are straight and don’t have money on a scale you see in central province. Am afraid, unless we unite and get rich, we will continue to play second fiddle. Nonetheless, the Luhya remain the most democratic tribe in Kenya with representation across the political divide.

Politicians should be celibate:
I strongly believe a good politician should be celibate. If you want to work in the service of people, do not get married. A married person must compromise for the sake of his family and must call white yellow to save his job because his family relies on it. I have always called a spade a spade; not a big spoon and paid for it. When my mother, Lucia Andeche heard a rumour that I had died in detention, she travelled to Nairobi to find out if it was true. At Kamiti, she was told I was alive and fine but when she demanded to see me, she was rebuffed and so she returned to Butere broken hearted believing I was dead. She lost her appetite and died shortly afterwards of hunger. All my wives and children have also suffered a great deal only because they are a Shikuku. To me politics is a calling and that’s why I am still politicking. If I had joined politics to make money or become powerful, I would have quit a long time ago. I shall die a Politian, the people’s Watchman.

People’s watchman:
I was called people’s watchman because throughout my career I have always fought the corner of poor people. I am not saying that am poor. A doctor does not have to have gonorrhoea to treat a patient with the disease. It is just that my faith and conscience cannot be compromised. That is why to this day, I can speak my mind without fear or favour. And because I have always been consistent and honest, I gained the trust of common mwananchi during my time in parliament. A lot of the documents I tabled in the House were passed to me by wananchi.

Ugali at State House:
I want to set the record straight with regards to the ugali issue. Moi and I come a long way. We both belonged to KADU and despite political differences we’re are still friends and talk often. When I was accused of betraying the cause of Ford by allegedly being bribed ugali, I want to state the following. True Moi invited me to his residence at Kabarnet Gardens in Nairobi. Accompanying me was Japheth Shamalla, the lawyer and former MP for Shinyalu. Over a meal of ugali and chicken, I took the opportunity to tell Moi to stop his police from killing innocent people. I told him Kanu will not win the 1992 elections. I told him, he won’t get a single MP from either Central or Nyanza provinces and in Western, he’ll be lucky to get 35%. All this came to pass. I campaigned for Kenneth Matiba and he got 62% of the total votes in Western province which I had predicted. Since when does eating with a friend become a bribe? How can I be bribed and still fight against my alleged corrupter and win?

Paper citizens:
The question of Asians has been at the centre of Kenya’s political and economic dispensation since independence. The Asians have never been my friends. When I want a shirt, I go to an Asian shop buy one and go. I don’t like them because they taught Moi corruption and I don’t like that. At independence, they had a choice of citizenship. Majority chose Kenyan citizenship yet they continued to siphon money out of Kenya. Citizens must demonstrate patriotism but if you live in Kenya yet your heart is elsewhere, then you are a ‘’paper citizen” that is to say a citizen in paper only.

I’ll give you two examples. There was an Asian MP in Kisumu who was also an assistant minister for tourism in Kenyatta’s government. While abroad on official duties, he wrote to Kenyatta resigning. He never returned to Kenya. Then there was Joginder Singh, the rally driver dubbed, “Simba wa Kenya”. He fled Kenya under circumstances known only to him after selling his prestigious office block in Nairobi to the Libyans and money paid overseas. Someone like Kamlesh Pattni is very clever. Look how he exploited greed among our people to bleed the country dry using an elaborate scam known as Goldenberg? Pattni made sure he ensnared all the big wigs in both the ruling Kanu and opposition. When he asked to meet me, I refused. No community can be 100% good or bad but I wish I could meet a good Asian.

Grave digger:
I got stick from Bukusu traditionalists and some Christians for digging my own grave in Kimilili Settlement Plot Number 259 in Bungoma where I live but I tell you preparing your final resting place is not unchristian as some people would have you believe. Jesus of Nazareth was buried in a grave that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. It was a common practice to prepare your final resting place and that is the tradition that I am following. That is my answer to my Christian critics. As for Bukusu traditionalists, I told them that I am not a Bukusu and therefore not in breach of their traditions.

I have done all this so that I do not become a burden to anybody when I die. In fact at any one time, I keep four bags of maize and four bullocks to feed mourners. In my funeral, I do no want speeches from politicians or church service from priests. I do not want people shedding crocodile tears in my funeral. The only thing I want is eshiremba , a Luhya funeral rite where cattle are driven past the dead person while men sing war songs and engage in mock fight (equivalent of the 21-gun salute).

My biggest regret is fighting colonialism. It pains me to see children dying of hunger and disease and yet we fought colonial rule primarily so that we can provide basic needs of housing, health, education and food for all our people. But since Kenyatta took over, as a country Kenya has become a private club of a few billionaires while millions of poverty-stricken families roam the land in empty search of livelihood. Moi continued this trend through “fuata nyayo” philosophy and Kibaki for all his talk of zero tolerance has actually become the biggest apologist for looters and thieves. So I am quite disappointed and ashamed that for millions of Kenyans, the struggle for uhuru has not yielded fruits of independence and many recall the days of colonialism with nostalgia.

Foreign travel:
I have travelled widely in my capacity as member and African representative of CPA and Chairman of Kenya Arab Friendship Society, secretary general of Kadu and Ford. I have been to all countries of Africa except Chad and Gabon to all European countries. I have made several trips to the Middle East as the chairman of the Kenya Arab Friendship Society. I have also been to several states in the United States and Canada as well as South America and Asia. The only countries I have not been to are Australia, New Zealand and the south pacific islands. These travels have expanded my horizons and enriched my understanding of different politico-economic systems immensely. I only wish Kenya leaders seek positions to serve the country rather than themselves. There is plenty to learn out there.

Invitation by Angolan Parliament:
Being an expert in commonwealth parliamentary etiquette, the Angolan Parliament invited me to Luanda to give a speech. I educated Angolan MPs on how to make their contribution effective and keep government on its knees. When they started implementing these procedures, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos wondered what had happened. He was told a certain man by the name of Shikuku from Kenya had been in town to talk to MPs. He demanded that I should be invited to talk to his ministers as well.

Future of Kenya:
If we do not address the question of historical injustices and resource distribution, what you saw happen during the post election violence of 2007-08 will come to pass as a rehearsal to a bloodier proletariat revolution. The symptoms are everywhere. Anyone who cares deeply about our country can see where we are going. We must act now to forestall bloodletting. There seems to be a deliberate attempt by the ruling class to wish away Agenda Four of National Accord . However history shows that you cannot oppress all the people all the time. I can see people saying enough is enough and what is their life worth anyway. I mean the world is dotted with examples of people-driven revolutions.

For 20 years we have been fighting to have a new constitution that will do away with imperial powers of the presidency. I am only one of two remaining individuals who attended the first Lancaster House Conference – the other one being Ngala Mwendwa. I was there in the beginning and will push to be there in the end so long as I shall live. That is why issues to do with the constitution touch my heart. That is why I have kept this issue alive through my ‘’Katiba Watch’’ campaigns when others are wont to maintaining the status quo. In the end it is not what Shikuku thinks that matters. It is what the will of the people desires that will ultimately prevail.

Children: Shikuku has eight sons and eight daughters. Sons – Michael Majimbo, Sylvano Madanji, Emmanuel, Timothy Oyondi (UK), Abraham Andayi, Jacob Andeche, Stephen Ashiembi and Joseph Martin Shikuku Junior (deceased). Girls – Omusirikwa (married), Serila (deceased), Lucia, Maende (married), Martha Olenyo (married), Julia, Ayuka and Amunga (married).

Wives: Shikuku married four wives. Joska Indeche (deceased), Dolly Achieng from Alego (former Kenya Broadcasting Corporation announcer – deceased), Beverley Ongecha from Ebusakami, Bunyore (sister to William Ngah, the former Fifa referee – deceased) and Frida Nafuna from Mwibale, Bungoma.

Siblings: Silvanos Madanji (deceased), Domtilla Aloyo Oyondi, Wilfrida Alwang’a Oyondi, Ambrose Oluchiri Oyondi, Dr Lwali Oyondi (former MP for Nakuru), Peter Leo Murunga (former head of Hansard) and Victoria Obanda.

Mother: Lucia Andeche daughter of Olukhanya from Abashirotsa clan in Kisa (deceased).
Father: Johanna Oyondi son of Madanji. Madanji married Maende from Ebusiekwe Ebukolo, Bunyore (daughter of Nganyi, the famous rainmaker). Oyondi had one sister, Otenyo and three brothers: Atita, Titus Olendo and Alfred Ombunga.

Clan ancestry: I am from the Aberecheya clan whose earliest known ancestor is Abuti. From Abuti is descendent Ashibambo who was one of the elders seating on Nabongo’s council. A famous trait of Aberecheya is that they will never attack you from the back.

Shikuku and Shad Bulimo, the editor of Abeingo Community Network

Interviewer: Shad Bulimo, editor of www.abeingo.org, an online portal of the Luhya community. Interview conducted in Cambridge, England where Shikuku is a fellow of the Wolfson College, University of Cambridge writing his memoirs

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Attempt to Delay Justice in Kenya!

By Scott A Morgan

Although there has virtually no mention of this effort in the American Media there is currently an effort to delay justice in Kenya after the horrific aftermath following the Presidential Elections of January 2008.

Since the reaction that resulted in scores of Kenyans dead, millions more internally displaced and a Coalition Government comprised of the long ruling KANU (Kenyan African National Union) and the relatively new ODM (Orange Democratic Movement). At this time there are still concerns regarding Corruption with the Government in Nairobi.

But I digress back to the concern. One of the Actions taken by the Coalition Government was to address the causes of the violence in order to prevent such an occurrence from happening again. The Situation would also be investigated by the International Criminal Court as well. This is where the problem would begin earlier this month.

It starts on January 7 in Nairobi. At that time an Opposition Member of Parliament and some Human Rights Advocates held a Press Conference to raise some concerns. The reason that was given was that they had concerns that someone was trying to stop the ICC (International Criminal Court) from properly Investigating what happened in Kenya. And then events started moving quickly.

Within 48 hours two briefs were filed with the ICC at The Hague. One was by the IADL (International Association of Democratic Lawyers). The Motive behind this brief is unknown. This is their first ever involvement with Kenyan Politics ever. Those on the Conservative Persuasion will realize that in their view they take on what would be considered to be Left-Leaning Causes. The Other brief was filed by two American Professors. Their brief contends that the ICC overstepped their boundaries as Kenya does currently have an internal mechanism to investigate the violence. The Other Reason why they filed their brief is that they don’t think that Crimes Against Humanity occurred but that it was a matter of civil unrest.

When the US Undersecretary of State Jendayi Frazier went to Nairobi in an effort to stop the violence she believed that Crimes Against Humanity did actually take place there. At this time the ICC Prosecutor recently wrote Kenyan Authorities to express his concern about some witnesses to the violence being intimidated. It appears that someone has decided to cover their tracks as best as possible and delay justice to the People of Kenya.
The earliest action on these briefs can be taken on Feb. 11th or 12th. The week before the ICC Prosecutor will be in Washington. Hopefully the efforts to promote Justice in Kenya will be able to move forward. Because if this effort to stop the ICC investigation succeeds here then who knows what will happen in Uganda and the Congo.

The Author Publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet and Comments on US Policy Towards Africa. Confused Eagle can be found at confusedeagle.livejournal.com

Monday, January 25, 2010

Universities: When crisis management is not enough!

Take a clever academic. Give him (it is usually a he) time and money for research. Watch his reputation grow. See how he takes charge of his department, gaining a taste for academic politics and networking. Look how he jumps into the university hierarchy and before long is working all the hours God gave him as a pro-vice-chancellor, doing the dirty jobs for the vice-chancellor, the university top dog.

Our successful don may be trying to continue with his own research as well, but you can be sure he has precious little time for his wife and family or for any training in how to be a university manager.

Universities in the UK are run by relatively untrained people who have landed the job through being good academics. They may be running outfits with budgets of £200m-£300m a year, but they are doing so without the preparation given to captains of industry. Some have ended up at the top almost by chance. There is very little training for vice-chancellors, except for a one-year-old programme at the Universities and Colleges Staff Development Agency, and there is no salary structure at all.

It's not surprising then that people - among them Treasury mandarins - believe that universities are poorly managed. Professor Maurice Kogan, of Brunel University, says: "Most have tried hard. For the most part, however, I think that the quality of academic leadership is poor. The senior managers find it difficult to combine the collegial aspect - understanding what the academics are doing and gaining their assent to change - with actually running the institution."

Which is why Professors Gareth Williams and Michael Shattock of London's Institute of Education are creating a new Master's degree to help higher education do the job better (see box). "There are clearly some disaster stories around," says Professor Williams. "It is generally thought that some of the universities at the top of the league table are among the least well-managed institutions. Their success comes from individual members of staff and research groups."

The disasters include Thames Valley University, the former polytechnic which ran into trouble in 1997 after an inquiry by the university watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency. Vice-chancellor Mike Fitzgerald was forced to resign and troubleshooter Sir William Taylor was parachuted in to sort the place out. Student numbers plummeted and the university is only now beginning to pull itself up under the stewardship of Professor Ken Barker who built up De Montfort University in Leicester.

Stories abound about poor personnel management in all universities - staff not knowing what's going on, or the vice-chancellor being ignorant of what's happening in university departments. There is talk of faculties out of control, of a lack of staff development and of academics finding crafty ways not to co-operate with edicts from the centre.

Not surprisingly, the trade unions are particularly critical. "I think an awful lot of universities are very badly run," says Tom Wilson, head of the universities department of the lecturers' union, NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education). "Vice-chancellors are the chief executives, but we have found many don't know how many staff they employ, how much they're paid or what their payroll is. As a result, they're not doing a very good job. They resort to a series of fixes and fudges to balance the books."

If you can't gather reliable information about 60 per cent of your spending - the staff costs - you're in trouble, according to David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers.

In general, very few university leaders are prepared for the strategic job of running a large enterprise and knitting together the different bits, he adds. "That's a pity because we have some very good strategic management training in the United Kingdom now. In private industry, senior managers are trained to look at the options they face, assign an order of priorities and plan their financial management accordingly. That doesn't happen in higher education."

Other professions run proper training programmes. Civil servants have the Civil Service Staff College, and private- sector managers take MBAs to hone their management skills. But universities have not, until recently, thought it necessary to do the same.

That is odd given that their managers are working under considerable stress. Research by Professor Rosemary Deem at Lancaster University shows that they are clocking up 60- to 70-hour weeks - more than that claimed by those in private industry working long hours.

It is in fact widely accepted that running a university is an almost impossible task. In the old days, a vice-chancellor's job was like that of a conductor controlling bright if awkward chaps in a stable environment.

Today, it has almost become crisis management - how to keep the institution afloat in a world of change, when your budget is being cut but you can't control the input, the number of students, or your funding, and where you're having to account constantly to government for the quality of teaching and research.

The financial squeeze on universities, beginning in the early 1980s, brought with it a command hierarchy superimposed on the old collegiate structures. That hasn't worked particularly well, according to Professor Alan Smithers, of Liverpool University, because academics have sometimes felt put upon and have reacted by not co-operating.

"Under the old system, universities couldn't respond rapidly enough to the changing environment," he says. "You need something that can do that but it mustn't be Stalinist. You need to involve people collectively. If you keep sending out orders, they will find imaginative ways of ignoring you."

In 1981, a report by top businessman Sir Alex Jarratt recommended vice-chancellors be seen as the chief executives of their institutions. Dons interpreted this as meaning that the authority of the vice-chancellor should be rooted in being a good manager rather than a towering intellect. But, according to a new book, University Leadership: The Role of the Chief Executive, the ability of a vice-chancellor to prevail by sheer managerial will is still constrained. The top dog can't lord it over his or her academic colleagues - at least not for long and not very effectively - because it doesn't work.

Professor Heather Eggins, director of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) believes, however, that a university can be turned round by a good chief executive. Next week, the society is holding a seminar, sponsored by The Independent, in order to discuss the issue.

One place being transformed is Queen's Belfast, where Professor George Bain, formerly director of the London Business School, has got rid of professors weak in research. "What we're trying to do is to change an organisation that, for a whole set of reasons particular to Northern Ireland, had trouble changing rapidly," he says. The university has recruited 100 new people: it entered 74 per cent of academics in the 1996 research-assessment exercise; it will be entering more than 90 per cent next year.

Another man with vision and a strong desire to improve his university's reputation is Professor Bob Burgess of Leicester University. Formerly of Warwick, he has the experience of having helped to manage a stunningly successful institution which is now near the top of the research league table and has an enviable record for raising money from outside sources.

The new man at Thames Valley, Professor Barker, says one of the key qualities for a vice-chancellor is managing a budget creatively. "It's not just about housekeeping but a more comprehensive approach to financial management, including dealing with finance houses and taking financial risks."

Previously, Thames Valley saw its mission as teaching rather than research, and taking students who would not otherwise have got degrees. Unfortunately, that did not help its income stream. Now it is trying to build up research. Professor Barker has divided the university into three faculties and is hoping to blaze a trail in new vocational directions. He is trusting that growth will follow and the money will flow.

The first SRHE Millennium seminar, sponsored by 'The Independent', on institutional leadership is on 3 October at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education. The speaker is Professor Keith Robbins, Vice-chancellor of the University of Wales, Lampeter. Further details:020-7637 2766

'University Leadership: The Role of the Chief Executive', by Catherine Bargh, Jean Bocock, David Smith and Peter Scott, OUP, £19.99


Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Real Secrets of Success-The Asian Way!

Two days ago I was driving my three daughters to school in the morning when the subject of the three things that the State of Michigan needs to do if it is to get out of the economic limbo that it finds itself in came up on NPR radio. A number of suggestions were given but one clear point opened my girls’ eyes. Competition! They came to understand that a few decades ago the children in Michigan were “competing” with their peers in Ohio and Indiana. Today they not only have to compete with peers all across the USA but also those in Asia! A lot of US jobs are being outsourced to Asia and Latin American countries so not only must my girls in Michigan study subjects and acquire skills that will give them an edge over their peers in the neighboring states but also in Asia! This then led me and my girls to start asking ourselves what it was that the Asians were doing that was giving them an advantage over the Americans.

This is what we agreed on. The real secret of the Asian’s success is not cheap labor. Its not apparent disregard of copyright laws and general rules that sometimes make it “hard” to get ahead in economics in US and other countries. Its not dictatorship or authoritarianism in the Asian countries. The real secret of their success is mind-numbing hard work, discipline and sacrifice in many sectors of their lives!

Anyone in Asia who wants to succeed in life today be it in academics, business or politics must be pragmatic. They understand that luck may only take you so far but it will take sheer practicality to keep you at the top and multiply your success. As much as many countries of the world would like to admire the United States of America and emulate her success strategies, scholars are pointing out that the real success stories that developing nations ought to look at and learn from are the Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, and China. The pragmatic way of life in these countries has not only seen them climb to the top of the economic ladder but also has ensured that their culture is not polluted by practices that erode the very fabric of their success.

Studies are showing that generations in these Asian countries have been moving steadily from poverty to wealth through sheer hard work. They have been moving from being unskilled to highly-paid professionals in very lucrative fields. They have also managed to preserve the essential ingredients of their social life by preserving their cultural values and resisting temptations to ape the West. It is remarkable to observe that many Asian generations that have migrated to the US still hold on to their cultural beliefs. It is little wonder that many of them have avoided going to jail and instead made strides in the business and academic worlds. This has in turn resulted in them achieving a higher life expectancy than even the Americans. They have also taken a strong hold on the crucial sectors of science and technology that are pivotal to the economic growth of any country. The end result is that the Americans now need the Asians. They have no choice. Wish the same could be said about Africans and other races.

One other aspect of life that other people can learn from the Asians as far as their pragmatism is concerned is how they prioritize their “issues” and “headlines”. Unlike the American and other societies, Asians don’t waste their valued time and resources debating and fighting over issues of little or no significance like what the first lady wore on that occasion or whose turn it is to “eat” or who should have more powers that who.

Asians laugh at Americans and other nations when they see what we are wasting our time on. The Asian media does not spend weeks and months scrutinizing ones personal life. That is none of their business. It doesn’t help their economy and politics to mature. No! It does not. That is not to say that those matters are not there in their countries. They are there but they are no one’s priority and they are not of any value to the general economic growth of their society given the fact that they have daunting economic and scientific challenges.

Instead of channeling their energy, time and resources on non-issues they focus on science, technology, the economy and other more valuable issues. The Asians are also not polarized along tribal or political lines. They subscribe to various political beliefs but they do not let their politics to get in the way of economic advancement. Wish the “red” and “blue” states of the US could borrow a leaf from them.

Another thing that the Asians have done very well is choosing to build economic empires around the world as opposed to the military empire that the US is trying to build. The Asians understand that when you build factories, businesses and research institutions around the world you not only create jobs and practical income for the people in those countries but you also build lasting friendships and relationships. The US is spending billions of dollars on military might around the world.

Unfortunately this effort is not only draining the US economy but it is also resulting in unwarranted destruction of lives and property and the loss of goodwill in those countries where this is happening. One wonders how long its going to take the US to realize that their approach and strategy is not only expensive but also bound to fail since they cannot sustain it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2010 Michigan State Senate Race: Commissioner David LaGrand!

On January 6th 2010— Grand Rapids City Commissioner David LaGrand is expected to stand before an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in one of the most populated estates in Grand Rapids,MI to formally announce his candidacy for the Grand Rapids and Kentwood-based 29th Michigan Senate District seat that is currently held by Republican Rep. Dave Hildenbrand.It is the most Democratic district currently held by a Republican, going by Barack Obama's winning margin. It is basically all of the city of Grand Rapids plus a few suburbs. Both Republicans and Democrats have decent benches here, but Democrats have been making gains lately.

Unlike others who have opposed fully funding education, revenue sharing for Grand Rapids, Kentwood and other cities, and have been unwilling to look for constructive bi-partisan solutions to economic problems, Commissioner LaGrand, an attorney by profession with a solid Christian background, is expected to present himself as an agent of generational change who given an opportunity will transform a State government hobbled by cynicism, petty corruption and a smallness of politics. He is also expected to present his plan on how to transform the state’s educational system and harness various local and international resources to boost Michigan’s economy. It is expected that LaGrand will have a vibrant grassroots network that will harness support and votes among the people. Like in Kenya and many other parts of the world, winning an election in Michigan involves funds, connections, and a well-oiled political machine. Whoever combines these three effectively takes the day.

Reliable sources indicate that Commissioner LaGrand has what it takes to win the State Senate race. Most democrats and a sizable number of Republics that we have talked to say they will be inclined to support Commissioner LaGrand since he has a more balanced worldview and tends to be more rational when he discusses issues that are close to their hearts.Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics, says "Democrats look poised to pick up at least 3 seats" next year. If they take the Senate and hold the Governorship, they will have complete control over the redistricting process.Democrats have not controlled the State Senate since 1982. We will keep you updated on the developments.

Monday, January 04, 2010


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inaugural speech