Divorce, extra-marital relationships and Kenyan political parties

With apologies to my Sunday Standard readers, this is this week’s opinion. My Sunday Standard column will resume next Sunday.

Prolonged political deadlocks directly endanger Project Kenya as we discovered last year. Dialogue and reconciliation could be as risky. Reconciliation, rage and rain dominated our headlines in equal measure this week. After the handshake, it seems our national opposition is spiraling towards a divorce that will change our political landscape.

Most of our scholars agree that political parties are the means by which voters inform Government policies in democratic societies. Many functional parties create political choices and competition. This, in theory, holds the executive accountable. As politician and now Meru County Governor Kiraitu Murungi once argued, our experience has been very different.

Politicians have been free to leave and join political parties as easily as the rest of us do matatus. Behind his comment lies the reality that most of our parties are largely underfinanced, disorganized, undemocratic and anchored on a dominant personality with a substantial popular following. Our parties are like Cinderella in that fairy tale. They flourish during campaigns and then vanish at the stroke of midnight, leaving confused voters holding one high heel.

There are a few risks with the way that NASA is imploding and alliances with Jubilee are emerging. Firstly, there are no signals yet that suggest the handshake will lead to a more strategic or inclusive approach to what fundamentally ails us. This is probably the red line for me. If the Kimani-Mwangi secretariat offer nothing more for the country than the accommodation of political class minority interests they will squander an important opportunity.

Secondly, signs of a NASA divorce and possible extra-marital relationships between individual NASA members and Jubilee makes for a set of complicated relationships. Divorce can be messy. What makes divorce messy is not the separation. After a month of ‘ghosting’ each other, mistrust and contemptuous back-biting, divorce could introduce fresh air and new politics.

What can make divorces bitter are the lies, indecisiveness and meanness of spirit it generates. If this is NASA’s choice, its leaders need to declare this relationship complete, offer forgiveness, accept their responsibility and powerfully declare the way forward like couples separating. Failure to do this will predictably usher in a period of Grand Confusion politics.

Many have argued this week that we should not be worried. The tendency for parties to break up and patch up again is as natural for our political class as their paid supporters. The latter swopped party t-shirts daily last year based on who is paying most. Perhaps like that popular series “The Modern Family” we should accept this is our “Modern Society” and get on with it.

After acceptance, perhaps we should embrace the reality that the quality of our democracy depends on how we exercise the power of Article 1. The supremacy of the constitution and the sovereignty of the people article was introduced very deliberately as a single Article. Without constitutionality, our actions are meaningless. Without action, our constitution is powerless.

Besides our comfort at being spectators, “our tribesman” thinking also imperils us. This week, Cabinet Secretaries Keriako Tobiko and Sicily Kariuki faced the brunt of the tribesmen and women of Kenya Forestry Services Director Emilo Mugo and Kenyatta National Hospital Chief Executive Officer Lily Koros. Elected representatives sought to interfere with their decisions to sack and suspend the two public officers respectively for failing to protect our forests and hospital patients.

Here too, citizens need to raise their voices against attempts to shield the poor performance of our public offices. Ethnic solidarity is not helpful in the fight against deforestation, illegal logging, dysfunctional and dangerous hospitals. The alternative is to watch the country follow our multi-party politics down our road drains along with the rain raging across the country.


After #UhuruRailaTalks ceasefire, we must fully address what ails us now

First published Sunday Standard, March 11, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard Group

Friday’s ceasefire announcement by Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga has the power of an epic war movie ending. Secretly crafted and carefully worded, their joint statement creates a fresh beginning for Kenyan politics. Whether it holds, depends on whether they, their advisors and the country see this as a journey rather than a symbolic event.

Nine months of violating our constitution and attacking public institutions, media, civil rights organisations and political parties had brought our democracy to its knees. Stuck in this political meltdown, we have worn down the nation and attracted local and international ridicule for our sins. In this sense, the dialogue that has led to a nine-point Friday agreement is both welcome and historic.

Like that tired and impatient Moses in the Bible, Kenyatta and Odinga have called on their followers to stop pounding the great rock that is Kenya. Kenya is indeed, infinitely bigger than the personal interests of two individuals or two parties. Congratulations gentlemen, for your leadership in this moment.

Over the last year, this column has devoted no less than five opinions to the topic of dialogue. I have argued that one-way communication, accountability dodging, threats to public institutions and ever-expanding egos is destroying our elected representatives the opportunity to be great leaders. Further that, without integrity and powerful conversations anchored in our constitution, neither legal intelligence nor political energy will guide us through the 2017 elections.

I will resist the temptation to speculate on how this happened, what to attribute to the leaders themselves, the religious, business, diplomatic leaders and which deals were really made. This is of secondary importance at this point. What is crucial as all negotiators know, is what happens next. The wider national leadership and Paul Mwangi and Martin Kimani’s secretariat must now concentrate on five strategies.

Deepen and financially resource some specifics actions within the nine points. Address the entire conflict comprehensively while also focusing on minor issues of public irritation. Thirdly, bring some creativity to our stale and predicable politricks. Include other public interest actors and third parties to chart the way forward. Lastly, see this resolution more of a journey than a Friday handshake.

Many of us are walking wounded. Traumatised men and women as peace builder Tecla Namachanja knows, have the tendency to seek revenge, lash out and even disrupt a future that is objectively in their interest. As post-accident survivors, it will take a while before we drive with our eyes firmly in front of us rather than obsessing on the rear-view mirror. The secretariat must patiently program for the walking wounded also.

Puncturing the political opposition and intensifying public cynicism with elected representatives must be avoided at this hour. The ever-revolving door of political parties is losing the public confidence and patience. In only one decade, we have seen hundreds die and thousands displaced in violent elections only to be presented with either #RailaKibaki, #UhuruRuto or #UhuruRaila as solutions.

Constitution tinkering to allow for a Prime Minister or adding more chairs at the Cabinet dining table will not address what ails us. It merely rewards zero-sum hardline electoral politics and balloons our over-representation.

Two signatures on an agreement and a photo opportunity will amount to little if they do not carry the political class and the rest of Kenya with them. Kenya is too complex and our wounds are too deep. For this agreement to powerfully hold, we need a series of meaningful national conversations and actions on what ails Kenya. There are obvious places to start.

Lift the discriminatory passport and fire-arms license bans and restrictions on NASA leaders. Both NASA and Jubilee must stop the abuse, hate-speech and reckless fiery speeches that have brought us to this brink once again. Stop also, the wanton disregard for court orders that protect constitutional rights and responsibilities.

Re-introduce security sector reforms to ensure live bullets will never again be used on protesters and bystanders including infants and school-children. Reform the Leadership and Integrity Act (2014) and election and campaign financing regulations to rein in the abuse of public resources during campaigns. Revive and pass the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report in the National Assembly. Commence the Public Benefits Organisations Act and restore some policy sanity to the development sector. Act decisively on the gender two thirds constitutional promise.

Friday gave us a fresh opportunity to re-imagine Kenya and #ChoosePowerfully. Let us not short-change or squander it.

VC and police must act over student leader Njoroge’s death

First published Sunday Standard, March 4, 2018. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard Group

It has been seventy years since the Colonial Government established the Emergency company that later became the General Service Unit and almost twenty years since a younger Njoki Ndungu wrote her dissertation on the need for police reforms.

Njoki Ndungu is now a Supreme Court Judge and the police is no longer a force but a service governed by new laws and public institutions. In the wake of the murder of Meru University student leader Evans Njoroge, we must all ask the question, what has gone horribly wrong again?

Alone, unarmed and in flight, Evans Njoroge was pursued and shot dead by a police officer several meters away from a public demonstration he organized to protest the increase of university fees and poor facilities at his university.

The demand for affordable university education, democratic and efficient management of universities is not a crime under our law. It has also been a recurrent global theme with South Africa’s #FeesMustFall student movement being probably the most famous.

His death comes just six months after the violence against at least sixty University of Nairobi built environment and medical students on September 29. For seven hours, the General Service Unit yelled “Mnajiona mlisoma, sisi hatukusoma. Leo tutawaonyesha.” (You think you are educated and we are not. Today, we shall show you) while indiscriminately wielding batons, exploding tear-gas cannisters in confined spaces, sexually assaulting female students and torturing both sexes.

Njoroge tragically joins the very large number of citizens killed by our police service. Last year, 252 men, women and children died at the hands of uniformed officers. This was 38 more than 2016. Most of these well-documented deaths and injuries are among young men in the killing fields of Dandora, Mathare, Kondele, Majengo and other urban poor settlements.

Bunty Shah’s death last year stood out for many. Asian, third generation industrialist and millionaire, Shah was shot in an Anti-Terrorism Unit raid. The family have now sued the Attorney General and Police Inspector General seeking Kshs 730 million in damages with Kshs 100 million as a punitive measure for widespread extra-judicial executions.

To date, the incidents have elicited an all too familiar set of official responses. Silence, denial then an admission of a few rogue officers acting alone, accidental deaths or a justification that violent crimes breed violent policing lead the arguments. Words are not backed by police cooperation where it matters. The refusal to supply duty rosters, weapon registers, attend court appearances or provide evidence has intentionally frustrated investigations and inquests.

Only two cases out of a staggering 9,200 cases brought to the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) have successfully ended in convictions. Without vigilance, the other cases will probably recede in the public conscience and our amnesia will again license excessive force in future.

Protests have been the default expression of public disappointment and outrage. I was reminded this week that protest also comes from a space of powerlessness. Parents don’t protest at the behavior of their children nor do employers protest the poor performance of their employees. They simply take disciplinary action. Perhaps, it is time we looked at this issue in this way also.

The Meru University Vice Chancellor and University Council, Police Inspector General, National Police Commission and Interior Cabinet Secretary have an individual and collective obligation to act. Stepping aside, issuing a public apology, establishing conflict mediation and safety strategies, releasing that morning’s deployment plan and a list of all the officers involved, their ranks and service numbers to IPOA and lastly, swift disciplinary and criminal proceedings against the officers responsible would be a start.

Sixty-four years ago, Colonel Young made history by resigning as one of Kenya’s shortest serving Police Commissioners. Disgusted by police violence and torture of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, he resigned after only eight months.

Having interacted with many decent, courageous and dignified police men and women, I know they must be appalled by the actions being taken in the name of “utumishi kwa wote”. Their reputation is now on the line. They too must speak up now.

Njoroge will not be among the 50,000 university students that graduate this year. Perhaps his family, comrades and rights organizations could also institute a civic suit to seek justice and kickstart desperately needed police reforms. We are not powerless. We also get to say how our public institutions treat us but we need to decisively act, if this is to happen.

Two days after this was written, Education CS Amina Mohamed sent the Meru University on terminal leave https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018/03/06/meru-university-vc-sent-on-terminal-leave-after-student-leaders_c1725485

Four days after, 500 students, 100s of Longonot community, Human Rights Organisations and the Nakuru County Governor Lee Kinyanjui, MPs Martha Wangari and Jayne Kihara gathered to bury Evans Njoroge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAEZyYP2GUQ

Trampling on the rule of law breeds instability

First published Sunday Standard, February 25, 2018. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard Group

Three incidents brought Amnesty International’s 400-page, 159 country report home for me this week. The first was Lancer Achieng and Joseph Abanja bravely appearing in a Kisumu court to demand justice for baby Pendo.

In a Nairobi court, LGBTIQ citizens sought to strike out sections of our archaic penal code that criminalise intimate same sex relationships. Lastly, thousands of kilometers away in Florida, students from Stoneman Douglas High School demanded their Congress leaders and National Rifle Association lobbyists take responsibility for the mass killings of seventeen of their fellow students. Their words “We refuse to be ignored by those who will not listen. We are not going away” could apply to all of those involved in the three incidents.

2017 saw both peril and progress for millions of people. Over 600,000 Rohingya muslims fled their Myanmar homes for safety in neighboring Bangladesh. A similar number of South Sudanese left one of Africa’s youngest states for Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. Imagine the entire people of Nyeri, Kajiado or Bomet being forced to flee en mass by famine, sexual abuse and violence. That is what happened to the Rohingya and South Sudanese last year.

Violent clampdowns by Governments also left many dead, injured, tortured or traumatized simply for expressing dissent or their right to expression and assembly within their borders.

While the cost of standing up has been expensive for many, 2017 saw new energies in unexpected places. #MeToo #TimeIsUp campaigns broke the global silence on sexual harassment in business, entertainment, NGO, religious and Government spaces. American and European citizens directly challenged their Governments’ treatment of Arab and African refugees and migrants. British, Greek and Algerian citizens confronted the silent killer of corruption and public health cuts.

These global trends paint a predictable common future for East African leaders and citizens. That future is restless and rebellious societies, unstable states, inequalities and repression. However, another future is possible if we are willing to confront three inconvenient truths.

As the power of digital information continues to grow over our minds, lives and countries, the toxicity of fake news imperils the human rights defender, leader and the average citizen. Misleading or polarizing each other with lies and half-truths is neither leadership nor citizenship. Fake news may be great for high suspense action movies but will not create safe and dignified societies for all of us.

Human rights defenders have to insulate themselves better from party and or Government capture. Political party capture comes at a very deep cost. Left unaddressed, we will choose our targets and our words selectively not based on constitutional principles but on which side we are on. Inevitably, we will find ourselves trapped in the crossfire of party hardliners caught in zero-sum politricks and unable to elevate their thinking.

Too many Government leaders still believe or tolerate the myth that strong autocratic leadership creates regime stability and smooth leadership transitions. If most autocratic leaders were allowed to write memoirs, I suspect the dizzy pre-occupation of stopping this, pre-empting that, would occupy several chapters. More honest tombstones would read, “Here lies a troubled and hyper-tensive failure of a man. Besieged for most of his rule, he had thought he kept his citizens in check. Then he watched it all fall apart”.

Simply, trampling on the rule of law and repression breeds instability. New ways of transforming popular dissent are desperately needed. The more courageous and wise of our leaders know this. Only by creating value-based and virtuous conversations and institutions can we create stable and inclusive nations. Even jobs, health, housing and food cannot do this alone.

If the political courage to act differently is needed among both citizens and leaders, friends of Kenya need it too now. Donor bashing in Kenya is one of Kenya’s fastest partisan sport. Those that engage, find false comfort in cyber-attacking the diplomatic community. The real cost is that we are not collectively finding new ways to confront inequalities, corruption and abuse of office as well as reforming our electoral system and security sector.

Baby Pendo would have celebrated her first birthday this month. We owe it to her, Stephanie Moraa, Lilian Khavere and many others to act differently. Until we can create a respect for human rights as mainstream popular culture and boldly inspire our youth to lead us, rights violations and the violence of 2017 will sit out there in our future as well.

We are destroying the democratic fabric

First published Sunday Standard, February 18, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard Group

Our national fire smolders still. Blinded by the smoke of zero-sum tactics of hardline politicians, many of us still cannot see the difference between yesterday’s smoke and today’s flame. This week’s happenings and the significant upsets in South Africa and Ethiopia requires us to re-focus and engage. Oddly, Marvel’s “Black Panther” movie that hit our cinemas this week offers some clues where we can go next.

The appointment of Parliamentary committees and vetting of the Cabinet by our National Assembly edged to a close this week. Transparency International brilliantly just invoked the constitution to strike down the 2015 Public Audit Act and open up the finances of our security agencies to the Office of the Auditor General.

Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, Madat Chatur and Arthur Sakwa were arrested for attempting to de-fraud the country of a staggering Kshs 633 million. Police-officer Titus Musila found himself alone in a court and convicted of a public Githurai street execution in 2013. Abandoned by his employers and a community who either tacitly ignored or approved of his shoot to kill operations, his conviction sends a clear message that extrajudicial executions do not come without consequences.

That these four moments have received little broader attention worries me. On this important week, NASA took a sabbatical to create a separate state or abuse western diplomats. Jubilee remained upset with the judiciary for not joining in on their opposition and media crackdown. Both appear to be driving with their eyes firmly fixed in their rear-view mirrors not on the road ahead.

Keeping our new Cabinet under public scrutiny is everyone’s business not just the media. Instituting a forensic management audit of the debt register would be a prudent way to probe the Keter incident as the Institute of Economic Affairs have proposed. Can police reformers seize the opportunity of the Musila conviction to demand that all shoot to kill units are dismantled?

Incredibly, two African Heads of States resigned under public pressure for an end to kleptocracy and dictatorship. It was fourteen years ago that the brave National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka declared a prima facie case of corruption against the then Deputy President Jacob Zuma. This week, the African National Congress finally stripped Jacob Zuma of the Presidency. He now faces close to 783 criminal suits on corruption and his legacy has just been shredded like the Biltong South Africans like so much.

Dawn has begun to break for our Ethiopian neighbors. For close to a decade, excessive and lethal police force has been the only response to courageous protests against political repression, economic and cultural exclusion. Mass arrests, unfair trials and torture of the political opposition had decimated all rights to freedom of expression and association. This week, the Federal Government released 700 political prisoners, many of them journalists. Prime Minister Haile-Mariam Desalegn also resigned, citing his prolonged stay as an obstacle to democracy. There are obvious lessons for our leaders in power in the South African and Ethiopian cases.

The struggles for justice and smoke of African politricks deserve their own movies. Until then, we watch others for hope and inspiration. I watched “Black Panther” at a special premiere organized by the #StillWeRise” African-American community living in Kenya. Over ten thousand people across the world have watched “Black Panther” by now. This must-see movie powerfully explores the twin dangers of social injustice and radicalism without virtues. Two statements still stick out for me. Wakanda leader T’Challa’s words “Your heart is full of hatred, you are not fit to be a King” and “Wise people build bridges, foolish ones build barriers” should be repeated by everyone who consider themselves a leader every morning before they put on their clothes.

We are losing our capacity for empathy and engagement. We listen not to understand or even to persuade others. We listen only to find new ways to restate old grievances or score political points. We are too comfortable listening to only those that think and sound like us. Regardless of which side we are on (and some believe there are only two sides), we are destroying the fabric of a democratic, tolerant and engaged society that makes it impossible for corrupt and dictatorial leaders (even benevolent ones) to reign. We still need to re-focus and engage. #KenyaForever

Protect Environmental activists

First published Sunday Standard, February 11, 2018. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard Group

A photo of a woman crouched in the bucket arm of an industrial excavator dramatically caught my eye last week. The woman climbed into the huge yellow excavator coincidentally on #WorldWetlandsDay to stop an attempt to illegally encroach on a Kiambu wetland. I had just stumbled on an environmental crime scene.

Familiar whatsapp group discussions followed. Shock was expressed and questions were asked. Elizabeth Nzani-Wachira promptly declared she would be by the whistleblower’s side in a couple of hours and she did. Three days later, Peter Kinyua and the Kenya Forest Services team arrested and arraigned two persons in a Kiambu court and impounded their low-loader and excavator.

Kenya’s 27 rivers, 16 lakes and coastal mangroves constitute our wetlands. Without them, the careful ecological balance between water, soil, vegetation, humanity and animals is cooked. The current drought and food insecurity is directly connected to how we are managing this gift from nature. It is also the reason why my and and some of your taps have been dry for six days straight now.

Within this context, it is amazing that crimes against the environment are now the world’s fourth largest criminal enterprise. Only drug, counterfeit and human trafficking beats it. Environmental crimes or ecocide as the experts prefer to call it, ranks higher than the sales of illegal arms. There were 2,335 cases of natural resource based conflicts across the world last year. Four lives were lost each week in the struggle against this trade. This number has gone up four-fold since 2002. To avoid being one of these statistics, Kenyan Phyllis Omido and her team of environmental defenders briefly went into hiding last year.

Our history is littered with stories of corporate and community encroachment of our wetlands from Yala swamp, Kwale mangroves to Nairobi’s Kileleshwa Dik Dik gardens and elsewhere. Developers have built mansions, commercial blocks, malls and estates on riparian reserves and then watched helplessly as mother-nature floods their properties. Others have built septic tanks or emptied their sewage and garbage into neighboring rivers and streams. This ushenzi is the reason why 72-year-old Nairobi dam is no longer a source of drinking water for Nairobi residents.

Our history is also colored with stories of citizen’s actions to protect their environment. Professor Wangari Maathai is probably our best known eco-warrior, but she is not the only one. In 2017, the United Nations took steps to recognize and hold Member States like Kenya accountable for the empowerment and protection of environmental defenders.

The model is a simple one. Update laws and enforcement systems, actively avail information on companies and agreements and strengthen Government capacities to settle disputes between communities and investors. Insist on environmental impact assessments and promptly investigate and act when whistles are blown. Deliberately nurture, protect and build the capacity of forest dwelling and indigenous communities like the Sengwer and Ogiek to defend our forests, lakes and rivers.

Too many of our state officers still see environmental activists as trouble-makers, disruptors or even a necessary nuisance. Before Parliament this week, incoming Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko listed an increased conviction rate for wildlife crimes as one of his achievements. Courageous ivory investigator Esmond Bradley Martin was murdered in the same week that Tobiko spoke. Martin and others directly contributed to the achievement cited by Tobiko.

If Tobiko passes parliamentary and public vetting, he owes it to the late Martin to raise and protect a community of environmental whistle-blowers and defenders. The scale of the challenge is beyond our Goevrnment agencies. Much more also needs to be done in our counties to domesticate and enforce national conservation policies and laws.

The Green Belt Movement turns forty this year. It is one our oldest public benefits organisation or NGO. They and others like the Friends of Lake Turkana, Greenpeace Kenya, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Kenya Forestry Group are committed to protecting our forests, rivers and lakes. They cannot do this without our voice, action and membership.

My take home from the woman who sat in the excavator bucket? The next time a wetlands warrior acts, reach out and help, you might both win. Alternatively, keep buying imported vegetables and water from the cartels while the country gets drier and more conflictual. Cape Town just dried up, any of our county capitals could be next. We have to #choosepowerfully and make protecting our wetlands and forest cover personal. This is a precondition for the survival of Kenya.

New curriculum opportunity to deepen national values

First published Sunday Standard, February 4, 2018. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard Group

A few years back, I persuaded one of my teenage children to accompany me to a television panel discussion on teenage substance abuse. As we were driving to the studio, he confided for the first time that he had experimented. Wide-eyed and trying not to crash, I asked him why he was sharing this now. He replied that if he was asked, he would tell the truth and wanted me to know before he told the country. I relaxed, he had just passed the bigger integrity test.

Substance abuse and under-age drinking is more prevalent across all our public and private schools than we like to admit publicly. So is corruption, cheating, bullying, beating, intimidation, sexual harassment, strikes, radicalisation and violence. In 2016, 1,000 students were arrested in 483 cases of school unrest. Incredibly, students have been caught with answers to leaked examination papers written on their hands, legs, clothes, bits of paper or on smuggled phones. Last year, 40 per cent of Head Teachers have reported pupil-pupil sexual harassment in their schools while 41 teachers were fired for teacher-pupil misconduct last year. Just two weeks back, student violence left 35 Jamhuri Secondary High School students, Head Teacher Fred Awuor badly hurt and four others in court. Sadly, this tragic event is not isolated to this Nairobi school alone.

Our schools are at the center of an epic battle for Article 10 of our constitution. This battle for ethics, rights and national values is not just confined to our public schools. The gap between our public and private schools and wider ethnic, class and geographical divisions in our society play out also.

Discussing with committed educationalists in the wake of the Jamhuri Secondary High School closure, I am convinced of the tremendous opportunity to get this right in the new curriculum. This curriculum reform is the first in 32 years and needs national attention. It enshrines seven values that seek empowered, ethical and engaged spaces for our students. It calls for new ways of managing formal interactions like parents’ days and assemblies as well as informal pupil interactions with role models, community leaders and mentors.

If there are some bad traits we need to break, there are some new habits we can all encourage. Old disciplinary command and control methods have to change now. We have to promote values and responsibility over rules and regulations as well as space for students to discuss and propose solutions to their grievances without victimization. The archaic two week suspension habit needs to be looked at. Why two weeks? What happens in between? The original reason for two weeks was that posted letters took that long. With email and social media platforms, does decision-making need to take that long?

Perhaps the new curricular vision requires schools to reframe their school motto, values, annual vision and missions and perhaps, students could drive this? Can we now retire that age old comment by us parents to our children’s teachers “so tell me, how is my child doing in school?” Raising children takes a parent, teacher and a neighborhood.

Could we accelerate private–public school diversity exchanges to break down stereotypes and discrimination? When will we demonstrate zero tolerance for sexist, ethnic and class jokes in our homes, schools and the media? Given the levels of corruption in our schools, is it time students got to look at the financial management accounts of their schools or spoke at annual general meetings?

KPLC has now connected 24,000 of our schools to electricity. Hopefully they are receiving more accurate bills then some of our homes (thanks Wakili Mboya). We need to protect this investment with national public, civic and business campaigns for our students to learn both rights and responsibility.

If we, our new Education Cabinet Secretary and the Ministry miss this moment, the future is predictable. The students cheating today will give us a national migraine tomorrow. Our mathematic geniuses will be skimming our credit cards and money laundering. Our English students will be grossly inflating procurements for kickbacks. Our agriculture students will be land-grabbing and importing genetically unsafe seeds and our science and technology students will be digging masterful tunnels into our banks to steal from us.

The English word integrity has a Latin root. It means whole or complete. We are only complete when our actions stem from our values. Let’s use this moment to #ChoosePowerfully and add value to our schools.