Nairobi: Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga is in London, lecturing at the Oxford and the Cambridge Unions. He met Harriet Baldwin, Minister for Africa, at the Foreign Office to explain the recent political developments in Kenya, especially the reconciliation initiative between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Meanwhile in Kenya, President Kenyatta signed into law the controversial Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill, which does what it says on the tin; it prevents and prosecutes all computer related crimes, from espionage, hacking, fraud, forgery, phishing, theft, child or wrongful distribution of pornography to the drafting/publishing and sharing of “fake news”. Critics including the Committee to Protect Journalists say the Bill contravenes the Constitutional provision of freedom of speech and dissemination of information and the right to access information. Furious social media users feel it is an effort to cover up corruption, stem whistle-blowing and regulate the media. Those found guilty will face fines up to $50,000 and up to two years in prison or both.
Erstwhile political rivals Kenyatta and Odinga recently shook hands to improve ethnic antagonisms and instil a sense of national ethos and inclusivity into the nation. They agreed that Kenya should not be defined nationally or internationally by corruption and violence. Regrettably, this week, another scandal about money laundering in the National Youth Service has broken, with reportedly 90 billion Kenya shillings (about US$900 million) disappearing through false invoicing, ghost companies and embezzlement. Embarrassing the President, a list of top government officials are to be interrogated by the Public Accounts Committee. It appears that the Information and Communication Technology Authority (ICT) platform that enables all public finances through a system called Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS) can be accessed and manipulated, by the criminally minded with the inside knowhow, from anywhere and at any time.
In Kenya, the 2013 Devolution still receives mixed reviews, but Kenyatta and Odinga admit it needs more input to achieve economic viability and stability for the new 47 counties. The implementation has proved more complicated and expensive than forecast, the budgeting and accounting have lacked credibility. Some counties have spent their money well and citizens have benefited from development; local politicians are expected to channel resources to help their communities, but sometimes resources have been channelled towards more personal stakes. The many new layers of administration are aimed at providing devolved local governance, but also provide opportunities for self-interest. Transparency in auditing and accountability is critical, but lacking. Communal tensions have been exacerbated through bad coordination and cooperation from the Centre and between counties, thus some counties/communities have felt marginalised and neglected. In turn, this has led to a rise in tribalism, which is most apparent during elections. There are mutterings that the original eight provinces were a more equitable division. Others say 15-16 counties would have been more manageable.
Following the recent election of Kenyatta and the disunity during the campaign and following the result, William Kamket, MP is looking for support for his proposal to amend the Constitution to give the President but a single seven-year term in office. The President would become a ceremonial role. Elected by a joint sitting of Parliament, the Presidentt would have no political allegiance, but would retain the powers to create Permanent and Cabinet Secretaries and appoint the Commander of the Police. Kamket’s Bill seeks to create a Prime Minister with executive powers instead.