Auditor General Ouko’s ouster unhealthy for oversight

First published Sunday Standard, March 19, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group who saw carried the same issue as their lead editorial on the same day. 

Born to parents Dr. William and Martha Ouko, the young Eddie was a quiet, introspective child who often kept the peace among his six other siblings. He demonstrated leadership at a young age by becoming Head of School and captain to both the rugby and football teams at the then Prince of Wales School (Nairobi School).

Armed with a B. Com (Hons) in Finance and Accounting from the University of Nairobi, he worked internationally first for Deloitte, Haskins and Sells in London and then for twenty-five years with the African Development Bank. By the time he left the AfDB as its Auditor General, he was directing anti-corruption and fraud investigations and audits into US$ 100 billion worth of investment across 139 development projects in 53 countries.

Regardless what you think about the allegations of corruption and misuse of office before the National Assembly today, it is unquestionable that Edward Ouko is probably Kenya’s most accomplished and highly regarded Auditor internationally to date.

Readers of a future biography will probably have whiplash trying to compare this part of his life and the last three years as Auditor-General of the Republic of Kenya. There have been no less than fifteen attempts to intimidate, prosecute, cut funding and curtail the mandate of the office over this period. The most recent of these attempts, a fast-tracked petition before the National Assembly continues to suffer from uncertainty over the identity(ies) of the petitioner, lacks evidence and the process to date falls short of the legal threshold of fair administrative justice.

His experience has attracted national and given Ouko’s global status, international attention. In many ways, how this flimsy case will be treated represents a line in the soil under our feet. It directly threatens the independence of an important over-sight institution. It risks the stability of a credible anti-corruption institution at moment when the very soul of our state is being literally robbed in broad daylight. Lastly, it brings into question whether honest accounting and audit professionals have a future in Kenya.

Globally, the accounting profession is only a few hundred years old. Less than four hundred years separates the establishment of the very first association of accountants in Venice in 1581 and our own Institute of Certified Public Accountants formed in 1978. Next year, Kenya will celebrate only forty years of the profession. It is still a young and maturing profession and we must protect it.

With this background, the silence from some quarters disturbs me. Kenya has 18 independent offices and constitutional commissions. It is curious that none of them have publicly or consistently commented on the way the OAG is being pursued. The Government’s chief legal adviser The Attorney General has been similarly quiet even after two High Court Judges issued desist orders to the National Assembly this week.

On the other hand, several individual MPs and Senators have privately expressed their frustration with the petition in the corridors of the National Assembly and Senate. Governance and accountability CSOs and Ouko’s own professional association The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya have urged the National Assembly to rethink its approach. President Kenyatta’s reassurance during his State of the Nation address of his administration’s support for the effective functioning and protection of independent bodies was welcome. We may have to wait until Tuesday to see if House Speaker Justin Muturi was listening when he may rule on how to proceed with the petition.

The legal complication of contempt of court aside, the petition remains weak. Recommending the establishment of a Tribunal and the stepping aside of Dr. Edward Ouko to the President would be tantamount to the state eating one of its own institutions.

Nile perch have been known to feed on each other and hens eat their own eggs, but cannibalizing an independent office whose mandate is protecting public funds is not in anyone’s real interest. The recommendation would also be tantamount to throwing a curve ball to the Presidency in full public sight at a delicate electoral hour.

Alternatively, assured that it has been fully heard, the House Speaker could dismiss this petition and bring this awkward saga to an end. Should the Speaker be concerned about the most serious of the allegations namely the procurement of the Oracle audit software, he could urge the case be expedited as recommended by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Dismissal of this petition would eliminate a growing fear that honest and courageous Auditors and Public Accountants are not an endangered species in Kenya. It would also send a global message that we will not destroy professionals and institutions to win elections or inflict revenge on those who speak inconvenient truths to the executive.

Devolution still holds great promise for us

First published Sunday Standard, March 5, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group

This week’s Devolution Conference left me with both a sense of achievement and expectation. The first phase of devolution is coming to an end but the journey to self-governance, public empowerment and universal public services has just started.

Overall, all devolutionaries can be justifiably proud of the significant shift of political and financial power to 47 smaller governance units in line with Article 174 of the constitution. New oversight mechanisms like the County Assemblies, right to information and public participation laws and county fora have expanded the space for citizens to influence local governance. Counties now receive substantial flows in revenue from National Government and some like Kiambu County have successfully begun to generate domestic taxation to meet the gaps.

The greatest challenge to the next round of County Governments is the endemic abuse of office and corruption. Over the last five years, no single County Government has escaped the censure of the Office of the Auditor General or the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Procurement abuse, bid-rigging and conflict of interest has created overnight village millionaires, a mini helicopter-industry and too many frequent-flyers in a time of famine, disease and insecurity.

It is in this context, that all Kenyans of sound mind must vigorously support the growing non-partisan campaign to de-list all election aspirants that fall short of the standard of Chapter 6. This initiative realizes that impunity is not just the bad behavior of public leaders, it is primarily the relationship between them and the public. Thieves seeking to be elected stand advised that there is a growing voter opinion that will red-card and lock out, roughly half of all current County Assembly Members and Governors.

This time, leaders working in the public interest will have the benefit of an emergent informed, vocal and empowered public. 70% of Kenyans can now distinguish between the different roles of an MCA and a Member of Parliament. A growing percentage are now using county websites, Face Book pages and ward meetings to exercise their right to inform their county governments decisions. All are now demanding an end to the high cost of living and trading, poor services and wastage.

However, 1 in 3 Kenyans still think they must travel to county offices for information and services. 3 in 5 Kenyans have never been to a county meeting and think they are a waste of time. The hudumarisation and extension of information and services must continue. This will make it easier for citizens to indirectly interact with their administrators. In turn, the administration’s investment will be better protected and used by citizens.

Devolution doubters can park their skepticism. The quality of public services is slowly transforming this country. It is happening in some of the most unlikely places. The experiences of new mothers Halima Abdullah and Khadijah Mohamed of Mandera County offer a promise that no mother need die while giving birth. Pre-primary school children are now increasingly accessing early childhood services. This week, Naivasha based trader Esther Nyokabi spoke powerfully of the difference new market-sheds and reducing the cost of doing business would make for her life.

Some real uncertainties remain. Too many counties still experience insecurity and a lack of public safety. The protracted health-crisis rages without a comprehensive solution. Despite the welcome presence of the President at this week’s conference after two previous no-shows, there remains too much tension between the two tiers of Government. The next set of 48 Governments must seek to transform this.

Considering the above, is devolution still popular among Kenyans after five years? Surveys seem to suggest it is. In any case, it is worth remembering that major political movements in history were unpopular in their time. Most Kenyans in the late 1950s thought the actions of the Mau Mau would hurt the cause of national independence and majority. 60% of North Americans in the 1960s thought civic rights sit-ins, mass demonstrations and pickets led by Dr. King Jnr. and the Freedom Riders would hurt the cause of civil rights. Most Kenyans in the 1990s thought the struggle for democracy and constitutionalism was a fringe issue and hopeless. Today, we all know the value these struggles for change have brought to our lives.

If boldness is not always popular, then it is also true that populism is not always bold. As aspirants court our ward and county votes over the next few months, we need to look carefully at both their proposals and personalities. We can influence their actions and in the process, we can take devolution to the next level.

 

Happy International Women’s Day

First published Sunday Standard, March 5, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group 

At a teary funeral service this week, three adult children bravely rose to publicly celebrate their very beloved mother. All Saints Cathedral was packed but you could have heard even the WIFI drop. I was moved several times by the experiences they shared possibly for the first time in public. It was the message “In life, we are not shaped by our experiences, but by the meanings we attach to those experiences” that moved me the most.

Death has a way of cutting through the clutter of life. I grew up in a blended family. My brother and sisters were born of parents from different relationships and we lived together as a single unit. Re-marriage and co-parenting after divorce, separation or loss makes this a growing phenomenon for many Kenyan families. If this is not complex enough, many of us were also brought up by generous aunts and uncles. My life has been touched by all these relationships.

Twenty-nine years after my biological mother died, my father transitioned in 2001. Four years later, I found myself apologizing to my “step-mother” (I don’t do “steps” but it will help some of you who do, to follow this story). It suddenly occurred to me in a transformative Landmark Forum that it took my father’s death for me to have an intentionally direct relationship with her.

My mother and father were happily married for twenty-five years. She built a profession for herself and a safe, disciplined and loving home for us. She continued to offer life advice even when our adolescence struggles to become independent teenagers made it difficult to hear her. Yet somehow I didn’t fully appreciate this until I was 31 years old, my dad had just died and I was a father myself. In that moment, my experiences took on new meaning.

This Wednesday, millions of women and men celebrate the social, economic and political achievements of women across the world. Several events are already being planned in Kenya. This year’s International Women’s Day theme #BeBoldForChange is intentionally personal and political. It offers us – men and women – new opportunities to create experiences that are meaningful for us.

Despite an unimaginable revolution of open data and information technology advances, millions of women and girls’ experiences remain unrecognized and invisible. At the current rate of progress, it will take 173 years more to achieve global gender equality. With a score of 0.7, Kenya ranks 63 out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality. We are doing very well in terms of access to health and education, but still doing poorly when it comes to creating opportunity for economic advancement and political representation. We need to do more to reach our constitutional ambition for gender equality.

Each of us could do no better this week than to sit down with a woman or a girl in our life who, in our opinion, remains under-recognized to date. Ask them to share a moment when they took a bold action, what motivated them, what difference they made and what others can learn from it. Do something unusual. If you are middle-class, talk with a domestic worker, an informal trader or the assistant in the office. If you are working-class or unemployed, talk with a woman manager, politician or a professor?

Lead your friends and colleagues in the spaces you are in to take a bold action and drive gender equality. How about taking a junior woman to a business meeting or challenging organizers of all-male speaking manels to stop this or educating boys about stereotypes and violence against women? Could you get your chaama, colleagues, friends and fellow students to donate time to a female-focused charity this week?

As always, everything is connected. Some of you regular readers may be wondering whether this column is slowly becoming women-centric. Take comfort in this thought. Invisibility and lack of voice corrodes our human spirit. Give up the comfort in all the current acquaintances you have. The possibilities of our lives are too big for the little relationships we tolerate and the experiences we block. Make every moment in your relationships personal and intentional. If we do this, we will be able to say goodbye to our loved ones, neighbors and fellow citizens when they transition with the completeness of a full relationship. Nothing left unsaid, unexplored or in the way.

Thank you Caroline for your life and your wise children. Let’s go create International Women’s Day all.

Kenya, wake up to girls’ potential

First published Sunday Standard, February 26, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group 

Last Friday, 600 girls sat rapt at a premiere screening of the movie “Hidden Figures”, Organized by Women in Real Estate (WIRE), dressed in a rainbow of different colored uniforms, the girls came from 17 public and private schools from Nairobi and its neighboring counties. They included schools such as Kibera School for Girls, Nova Academy for Girls, Bright Star Montessori, Providence Children Home of Lower Matasia, Our Lady of Mercy Girls of Kamukunji and Riverview High School of Dandora among others.

The movie is based on the life story of three African American women mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson in the early sixties as the United States raced against Russia to put a “man” in space. Known literally as the “black human computers” in an age before computers as we know them today, the three women simultaneously crossed three red-lines of gender, race and profession to become NASA legends at a time of legalized racism. Their story has tremendous relevance for Kenya today.

As a country, we could do more to invest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for both girls and boys. Studies show 80% of third-year primary school students are unable to read or do basic mathematics. Girls face greater obstacles and these challenges violate our constitutional promise of gender equality.

Too many parents still believe that science should be reserved for boys or that women STEM professionals are poor prospects for marriage. Too many teachers discourage our girls from taking the “hard sciences”. Lacking the confidence and self-assurance to contribute, too many girls turn their backs on science-based careers. As a result, women still only represent 3.2% of Kenya’s registered engineers today.

In this context, the post-movie dialogue was transformative. The girls got to engage many of Kenya’s own “hidden figures”. Women like microbiologist Dr. Marianne Mureithi, dentist Dr. Joyce Gitangu, forensic scientist Sophie Mukwana-Gitonga, biochemist Dr. Joy Kiano, software developer Mbithe Nzomo, architect/urban planner Mugure Njendu and data analyst Purity Kinyamu-Ngondi. More publicly familiar STEM leaders such as biologist Dr. Paula Kahumbu, architect Emma Miloyo and astronomist Susan Murabana joined Environment Cabinet Secretary Dr. Judy Wakhungu to encourage the girls to see careers in this field.

The story of Hidden Figures is ultimately a story of confidence over self-doubt and practical resistance to exclusion and the abuse of power. There are other lessons for us. White male astronaut John Glenn received countless awards for his achievement as the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. It would take three decades for a black single mother, Katherine Johnson to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for putting him there. How many other women remain still hidden by the shadows cast by scientific, development and commercial male leaders?

Another powerful wake up moment comes when “race-neutral” NASA Space team leader Al Harrison is shocked by the fact that his “human computer” Katherine Johnson is forced to run across the base to the “black” toilets because she cannot use the “white ones”. Leadership is not always present to the full impact of dysfunctional administration. Like Katherine, we have a responsibility to call them into action.

There are lessons also for citizens passionate for change that can be learned from engineer Mary Jackson’s husband. While radicalized by the killings of black Americans, he doesn’t immediately see his wife’s persistence to graduate from an all-white college as a practical action against racism. Sometimes the struggle for human dignity and justice doesn’t need placards and public marches.

The obstacles before girls studying mathematics also blocks the rapid advancement of Kenya as an industrial economy underpinned by sound science. As artificial intelligence rapidly replaces human intelligence this has to be a concern for us. Drones, self-driving cars, robot soccer or robotic surgery may seem far from us today but be present to the fact that every repetitive thought or action we have today can be replaced by a simple algorithm and automated.

The race to the moon exposed acute social divisions in North America in the 1960s. Today, the prospect of growing our economy rests on how we can remove the obstacles of poverty, gender and geography. If we invest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and internalize a culture of non-discrimination, then maybe, those girls who watched Hidden Figures last Friday might become the backbone for a future industrial economy and an inclusive society.

You can follow women STEM thought leaders on twitter @paulakahumbu @CiiruWaireri @Kerarapon @MbitheNzomo @MugureNjendu @EmmaMiloyo @sophieHMK @SMurabana @JudyWakhungu @MukamiPurity @HiddenFigures #HiddenFiguresKE

No more politricks, Kenyans are ready for politics

First published Sunday Standard, February 19, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group 

The mood at Uhuru Park on Wednesday was electric. Over a thousand doctors and other citizens marched, sang and danced as they waited for the KMPDU leadership to be released. National opposition party leaders, Senators and Members of Parliament came to express their solidarity. Every time their speeches veered from the health-crisis, the crowd roared “no politics”. Analyzed with what was to happen barely forty-eight hours later, this was a light-bulb moment.

By Friday, newsrooms and the internet had exploded with new hashtags, images and complex coding explanations to prove the insincerity and the smallness of the doctors. Politicians and digital bloggers bent over backwards to argue the union leadership comes from one ethnic community, were anti-JP and pro-NASA party alliances. It is not often the political soul of our country and its actors is revealed in all its nakedness. The latest twist of the health-crisis did this last week.

Most of us either deeply detest politics, see it as a source of entertainment or as a force for public good. The first group profoundly distrusts politicians and their speeches. They long stopped watching, listening or seeking to contribute to what is happening in the country and they are proud of it. While hurting from runaway inflation, they can still adapt.

The second group of Kenyans are energized by the theatrics and the very drama of our leaders. They look for the political equivalent of the very talented Churchill or Anne Kansiime. They love the personalities, emotions, conflicts and even the outrageousness of the scandals.

The third group of citizens engage politics and politicians because they know how important they are for the quality of life of all Kenyans. This group remains hungry for the language of public interest and social change.

While it feeds our sense of uniqueness as a nation, the truth is this phenomenon is being experienced all over the world. From India to South Africa, Italy to North America, the electorate is slowly pulling apart. They are pulling apart not on ideas of how power and resources could be distributed or what type of a society we want or who would effectively and inclusively govern us. Should these trends persist, the future of politics is predictable. As Plato once wrote, those who think themselves too smart to be in politics will be governed by those who are a lot dumber.

The “politics” that was denied by the Uhuru Park crowd was that of personalities, party criticism and propaganda. Let us call this poli-tricks for clarity. The politics that was welcome was the discussion of health-policy reform, leadership and change. The crowd engaged with over 50 speeches that called for improving the quality and quantity of health-care personnel, better equipped health-care and cheaper health-care for all. Given these policy dialogues were taking place in a 14-hour public rally and the average age of the rally was in its early thirties, it was even more impressive.

The moment also had its missed opportunities. JP Senators and Members of Parliament could have turned up and engaged the Doctors on how to fix the healthcare crisis. The Interior Ministry could have apologized for misreading and forcefully disrupting the night vigil two nights back. The Health Cabinet Secretary could have issued a public statement that he would personally lead the mediation talks from now on.

All political parties could have issued statements on how they would implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement if they are elected to office in August. Religious and civic leaders could have stepped forward from their press conferences to directly engage the parties. This would have been leadership in the moment. Sadly, like our health-facilities, this kind of leadership is still in short supply.

This country is maturing. The doctors have shown us this. The Council of Governors, Health Ministry and KMPDU out of court agreement to immediately release the Union leadership and re-start the talks demonstrated this. The public outrage at the suggestion that public health-care is failing because we are essentially using public taxes and NHIF to fund private hospitals and clinics proves this.

Do not stop our political discourse from evolving. Do not let our policy debates be drowned out by the language of personalities, ethnicity and propaganda. Do not use our security officers to crush our public expression, assembly, or our civic associations. We have got to recognize our public healthcare system is failing us and for the first time in decades, we have the opportunity to comprehensively fix this.

I wish all the parties to the health crisis mediation, conviction, open-mindedness and speed. Our lives depend on it.

What is the significance of the Wagalla Massacre for us today?

First published Sunday Standard, February 12, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group 

Thirty-three years ago today marks one of our darkest moments in history. On an isolated and abandoned airstrip in a marginalised district, 1,000s of Degodia Somali men were stripped naked, tortured, burnt and killed. Women were sexually violated, raped and killed. Nur Daqane Abdi remembers that time, “Every man was beaten. I stood up three times and asked the police officer to shoot me in the head. He told me I was not worth the Government’s bullets. I didn’t think I would get out of there alive.” He survived those four days. More than 1,000 men and women did not.

Kenya has experienced 2,500 violent conflicts since the Wagalla massacre in 1984. Intense competition for scarce natural resources, poverty and intolerance have driven these conflicts. As we approach the 2017 General Elections, we need to remember every election for the last twenty years has been a potential trigger for displacement, destruction and death. Modern violence is as Kenyan sadly, as the red in our beloved national flag.

To see our past and impending future only through the lens of violence is to miss the full picture. In each one of the 2,500 moments, men and women overcame fear and prejudice to stop the violence. This is the most enduring story of Wagalla for me. Countless men and women like the young muslim nurse Mohamed Elmi, Wajir East Member of Parliament Ahmed Khalif and Italian catholic doctor Annalena Tonelli moved quietly in the shadows to gather pieces of humanity together until it was safe to speak out. They are the primary reason why each year around this time I fast.

Their story is repeated in the personal narratives of Kenyans during post-election violence in 2008. The women of Burnt Forest who hid, fed and protected neighbors from their own families. The teachers who consciously earned the anger of some parents by re-opening schools for all children. Security officers who ignored shoot to kill orders and chose to dialogue with angry communities in Nairobi.

More recently, there are men like Salah Farah who placed themselves in front a bullet meant for a Christian. He chose to give his life than have his religion Islam soiled by violence. Young men and women like Noordin Tube, Maryam Hassan and the 50 Hope walkers who walked from Mandera to Garissa fearing both al Shabaab and the Kenyan army. We can also draw inspiration from those who interrupt violent extremism or expose unlawful police killings in the coast, north eastern and Nairobi.

Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah called them the healers and they can be found globally. They were there in the Rwanda of 1994, Darfur in 2010 and today’s Burundi. The recent film Hacksaw Ridge captures the real story of American soldier Desmond Doss during world war II. Ross was a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian. He willingly joined the army but refused to carry a firearm or any weapon of any kind. Unarmed, he saved over seventy people and became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the US Medal of Honor. His tradition continues with the thousands that gathered recently at America’s airports to protest anti-Islamic immigration policies.

Kenyans, the season that tears us apart is upon us again. We shall have to be brave. Should you see the darkness rise around you, be still. Look carefully for those who quietly move to gather up the pieces of our nation. They walk with those that have healed this nation countless times. Now ancestral, courageous women like Rose Barmasai, Dekha Ibrahim and Doreen Ruto.

Our resilience as a nation rests on what Paul Lederach calls exercising a “moral imagination”. The belief that even one’s enemies are still part of our community is critical for this. We must remain curious in your understanding of them. This is critical to transforming them. Lastly, we all have the power within us to act. Not others, us.

A word of caution for the healers. Stopping violence on top of legitimate grievances and impunity is like an elastoplast on an open wound. It has no real power to remove the divisions that caused the violence. So we must be active against injustice before the violence erupts. Only by building communities around our homes, farms, places of worship and work-spaces will we have the safety and security we all want.

Time to interrupt the climate denialists among us

First published Sunday Standard, February 5, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group 

To my shame, I realize I might just have grown up a climate change denialist. Sitting in the presence of 40 climate and energy specialists this week, I was left with another shocking thought. My denialism could have cost my children in future, the past fifty years I have enjoyed.

When connected, a series of isolated occurrences last week gives this thought greater urgency. My tap has no water and when it does, it is brown and undrinkable. President Trump appointed a denialist and passed Executive Orders that seek to hide climate science research, reduce US Environmental Protection Agency funding and regulation influence. United Nations Secretary General asked Kenya to lead peace-keeping contingent in Darfur, Sudan, probably the first massive global conflict explicitly caused by climate change.

The appeal by widely respected Kenya Red Cross Secretary General Gullet Abbas was met with uncharacteristic derision. Give for starving Kenyans, again? What does the Government do with the taxes we pay? There are bigger questions we could also be asking, like why are Kenyans starving in the first place?

Our planet is getting hotter, less predictive and accommodating of our lifestyles. Kenyan famines have gone from being 20 years apart to 12 and then 2 years. Now we seem to experience famines annually in key parts of the country. Rainfall is down 15%, the country is 1.4 degrees centigrade warmer since the 1980s and the agriculture growing season is growing shorter, perhaps by as much as 40%.

We have two frontlines to secure for the future. The first is urban. Seven of the world’s biggest cities are in Africa and Nairobi is one of them. Africa’s population will double in the next 34 years and it is in our cities that the majority of our citizens will be found. Our cities are not designed for this future yet. Yet here there is some good news. Africa’s city managers, mayors and governors are currently providing global leadership for the UN New Urban Action. Kenya has also recently been named the world’s least toxic country by The Eco Experts. They looked at levels of air pollution, energy consumption and renewable energy production.

Leadership is also emerging in unexpected places. Take Phyllis Omido for instance. She was an administrator and single mother when she discovered her Mombasa based employer Metal Refinery Ltd, a lead smelting company, was literally killing their neighbors with toxic lead. Still unrecognized and supported by Government, she continues to call for compensation and protection of the Uhuru-Owino community and other communities across the country.

Our rural farms and pastures are also on the frontline. With declining rain-fall, there are growing calls for climate-smart agriculture. We have to make choices about how much land for food or bio-fuel production, maize or cassava and whether we prioritize large commercial interests or small farmers.

The younger among us have most to lose as 24-year-old Ekai Nabenyo from Turkana County has realized. He says with conviction, “Even if the (global UN) Paris Agreements disappoint us, I will continue to defend my home against drought and developers”. Ekai presses daily for his entire community to enforce environmental standards on oil companies and engage in re-afforestation. 77,000 trees have been planted in one of Kenya’s harshest environments through the community’s efforts to date.

We voted for the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in our constitution. We can’t leave it to other people or to the Government. You and me are too important to look the other way. What can I do, I hear you ask?

Plant trees but avoid the beautiful and water-hungry jacarandas. To survive we will need to increase our national forest cover from 6% to 10%, share a car ride with a neighbor, workplaces, embrace public transport, a bicycle or walk where possible. Are you separating your household plastics, paper and food leftover? Are you water harvesting and using the water for farming? Parents, encourage a child to take on a career in environmental science, climate and renewable energy. Citizens, press our 48 Governments to govern our environment in line with Article 69 of the Constitution.

The world does not owe us an earth. We owe the world a sustainable earth. And it is time we started using our backbone instead of a wishbone on this issue. It’s time, we all started reading and acting up more.

I am thankful to UNEP Africa CC Coordinator Richard Munang for sharing his excellent article in response to the one above. Five days after this article, President Kenyatta declared national disaster to respond to the current drought affecting 23 arid and semi-arid counties.