Sunday, May 22, 2011
For any democracy to thrive there must be justice. For justice to thrive there must be impartiality within the justice system. For impartiality to thrive there must be men and women who understand the law and are capable of applying it while asserting their independence from executive control.
Kenya, like most developing countries, lacks an independent judiciary mainly because of the lack of judges who are incorruptible, firm and independent. Time and again atrocities have been seen to be perpetrated by the judiciary and government officials against the weaker members of the society. As a result the citizens of Kenya fail to accord the much-needed respect to this very important organ of the nation. They continue to display their disgust and anger at the judiciary because of the open injustice that is continually carried out by the judicial system and government officials against the innocent and mostly poor citizens. Many a time the judiciary has appeared to be doing the dirty work for the corrupt politicians, businessmen and wealthy who seem to be holding the whole country at ransom.
With the nomination of Dr. Willy Mutunga and Ms. Nancy Baraza to serve as Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice respectively, Kenyans are seeing an opportunity for them to be served with justice. They are seeing great judges, a man and a woman of courage, who are incorruptible and prepared to accept the consequences of their decisions. They are seeing judges who will consider the law and the feelings of all parties with sympathy and understanding. They are seeing a man and woman whose knowledge of the law and human affairs is so extensive that they will experience little difficulty in grasping the main issues of any dispute. Their past records display their impartiality, an attribute that is so rare in Kenya and it inspires the confidence of the citizens in their ability and sense of justice.
It is against this background that we implore our politicians to be more mature and to have more depth as they deliberate the nominations of these two judicial nominees. Kenyans are deeply disturbed that some of our politicians, regardless of their political parties, prefer to dwell on trivial issues. Pointing out the stud that a person wears as being a factor in his ability (or lack of it) to carry out his duties displays a dangerous lack of wisdom, knowledge, maturity and genuine leadership qualities. Such leaders are harping on issues that have no relevance to the judiciary and the country at large. With the national judicial crisis that we are facing, one would expect them to focus their energy and resources on how best they could help Kenyans and their judiciary face this dangerous uncertainty and weakness in the justice system. The issues that these politicians are bringing up are trivial, disappointing and retrogressive. They are calculated to play on the minds and emotions of the simple-minded people with the aim of exploiting religious and cultural divisions for their own selfish agenda. Kenya belongs to all Kenyans irrespective of their religious, cultural, sexual, racial, political or ethnic affiliations. Kenyans should reject all leaders who try to play the religious, cultural, gender or ethnic card. They should focus on the most important issue that confronts all of us and that is restoring the image and dignity of our judicial system by giving a chance to a man and woman who have earned the right to be at the helm of our judiciary.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
"How many deaths will it take till they know that too many people have died?" sang Bob Dylan of the civil rights struggle and the war in Vietnam. But the same might be said of efforts to cut, curtail or curb the rate of growth in Medicare.
Count the corpses:
1. Hillary Clinton's healthcare proposals led to the Democrats' loss of Congress in 1994.
2. Newt Gingrich's proposed cuts in the rate of growth in Medicare led to Bill Clinton's reelection in 1996.
3. Obama's and Pelosi's cut of $500 billion in Medicare led to the Republican victory in the House in 2010.
Now, the GOP, unmindful of the odds, is falling into the very same trap. As George Santayana said, "Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it."
Having defeated Nancy Pelosi in 2010 over the Medicare cut, the Republicans marched right back into the House of Representatives -- now under their management -- and voted to affirm the cut in their budget. All $500 billion of it. The House Republicans took their signature issue and broke their pledge to stop the Medicare cut. They took the noose they had fashioned for Nancy Pelosi and put their own necks into it. They fell into a trap of their own making!
It will make no difference to the voters that the $500 billion will be kept in the Medicare trust fund to prolong the program's existence. Especially when one's life is at stake, funding for tomorrow's medical care is scant comfort today. Except for a tiny $10 billion restoration of funding for Medicare Advantage programs, the entire cut that got the Republicans elected in 2010 is still there. And now they have added to it a plan to replace Medicare with a voucher in 10 years.
The voucher plan might well work like the prescription drug benefit did -- companies might well bring down their costs to fit within the parameters of the voucher. But voters will have 10 years to worry about it and to vote Democratic to prevent it.
And the Medicare cut is totally unneeded and gratuitous. It is not Medicare that got us into this budget deficit. And, until the boomers start to retire in droves in the next decade, we do not need to reduce Medicare spending to get out of it.
Medicare has only gone up by 16 percent since Obama took office. Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation, Section 8 housing, AFDC and other welfare entitlements have risen by 54 percent. And regular discretionary domestic spending has risen by 41 percent. By directing the nation's attention to Medicare -- as opposed to these other programs -- the House Republicans have totally played into Obama's hands.
The leadership has it backward. The Tea Party does not demand cuts in Medicare. It opposed them in 2010 and opposes them now. It wants welfare spending slashed. The watchword must be welfare, not Medicare. Medicaid, not other entitlements. Discretionary government spending, not aid to the elderly.
By making all but four of their members vote for the Medicare cuts in the Ryan budget, the House Republicans have set the stage for their own demise. The leadership, if it wishes to be known by that moniker in the future, must offer its members a chance to backtrack on that vote. Wisely, the budget negotiators have indicated that they will not put Medicare on the table in their talks with the White House and the Senate. But the House freshmen, if they wish to become sophomores, must demand that Speaker Boehner set a vote that permits them to undo their support for the Medicare portion of the Ryan budget.
Kenyans in the Diaspora will field a presidential candidate in the 2012 general election, a forum has announced. More than three million Kenyans who have attained the age of voting, but live outside the country, have never participated in elections.
The co-convener of New Vision Kenya Movement Shem Ochuodho said the Kenya Diaspora Alliance is supporting former MP Bonny Khalwale in the May 23 Ikolomani by-elections.
Speaking at a Nyeri Hotel during a sensitization workshop attended by youth, grassroots leaders, civil society groups and opinion leaders from the six constituencies of Nyeri County, Ochuodho said the movement encourages leaders to have integrity and openness. "We are supporting the chairman of Bull Fighting whom we believe is not corrupt and is non-violent. He is selfless and tolerant," said Ochuodho.
Ochuodho said the leadership in the country is unable to unite Kenyans.
The workshop which drew 60 participants was organised by the New Vision Kenya Movement, the Kenya Diaspora Alliance and the Nyeri Social Forum.
Nyeri Social Forum coordinator David Ngige said they will support vision-driven servant leaders who aim to economically empower their constituents to earn a sustainable livelihood.
Among the speakers were the former president of Kenya Community Abroad Gichane Muraguri, the president of Diaspora Movement of Kenya based in Salt Lake City Robinson Gichuhi, Kenya Dairy Board MD Machira Gichohi and Omieri Angima from the Centre for Multiparty Democracy.