Meet Reverend Frank Chikane, Kagiso Trust

Got to meet a leader I have always admired this week at the #KCDFat20 #DurableDevelopment conference. His personal and professional life has always demonstrated activist love and commitment for people. Reverend Frank Chikane was expelled from theological school and later defrocked for his commitment to bring apartheid. He was one of the founders of the Black Consciousness Movement, helped build the United Democratic Front and then joined Government as Chi. He is now the Kagiso Trust Chairperson.

Here are some of his thoughts paraphrased this week when he was in Nairobi.

“Apartheid was very destructive. We needed to build new values that could oppose racism, injustice and inequality. We did this knowing that saints would emerge. The United Democratic Front only had one indisputable leader but it didn’t need Mandela to tell it what to do next. Leadership must always ask itself. Are our people enlivened and confident or polarized and fearful? This is a question for leaders.

South Africa’s past was about human dignity and respect; it is now about economic empowerment. Today, South Africa has leaders who loot and then seek to retire. (Can’t resist interrupting this, but Kenya has a few leaders who loot and then seek to occupy the state).

Kagiso Trust approached the South African Government and agreed on the quality of education as a national problem. We offered to match Government finances to resolve them.

By creating a self-supporting organisation, we could build a replicable model for others. We have learnt that creating value-based spaces challenges corruption and inefficiencies. Challenging those that benefit from corruption and inefficiencies also produces new tensions.”

To read more on, see
Frank Chikane
Kagiso Trust twitter @Kagiso_Trust
The KCDF @ 20 conference twitter #DurableDevelopment #ShiftThePower

Financially independent civic and community NGOs are vital

First published Sunday Standard, June 25, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with edits and permission from Standard Group

The Kenya Community Development Foundation turned 20 this week. 300 community and civic leaders from Kenya and as far away as South Africa and Nepal joined them to reflect on community philanthropy, civic responsibility and financially sustainable organisations. The #DurableDevelopment conference conversations seem so different from other developments in the last fortnight they could be in another country.

This week, Journalist Walter Menya tragically spent two nights in detention for reporting on the Jubilee Foundation. He was allegedly framed by an employee of the NGO Coordination Bureau. The same Bureau recently declared Jubilee aspirant Mike Sonko’s Rescue Team, Kenya’s best humanitarian NGO, after registering it barely one month before. NASA leader’s Kalonzo Musyoka Foundation was less lucky. He had to go to court to stop the Bureau from arbitrarily closing their bank accounts. If this is not enough confusion. For the last seven days, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has technically been a fugitive. He failed to gazette the commencement date of the Public Benefit Organisation Act (2013) within the 30-day notice given by Justice Mativo.

Community development and governance has always been political. I remember a spirited debate as a member of the NGO Coordination Board member in 1994. Should FORD leader Martin Shikuku’s Foundation be registered alongside KANU leader Joseph Kamotho’s Foundation? We eventually determined that if their programmes were in the public interest they should both be registered and then regulated. Today, without a NGO policy compass, administrative integrity or political neutrality, our National Government is drifting in waters it seems not to understand how to navigate.

Cynics tell us Kenyans are self-disinterested and dispassionate about others. The facts speak differently. Yetu Organisation’s findings last year suggest that 93% of Kenyans regularly give to others less fortunate than them. A growing number now look beyond their families and village-mates to organisations that can invest their contributions and run sustainable programmes.

After a decade of corporate social responsibility initiatives, companies like Kenya Electricity Generating (KenGen) company have begun to establish a financially endowed and independent Foundation. They walk in the shoes of the Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations.

Both rural and urban communities are not being left behind. Globally, there has been a 75% increase in community based foundations over the last decade. South Africa’s Kagiso Trust and our own KCDF among them. What characterizes these foundations is new models of building endowments and matching funds, owning properties and share-capital.

Respected anti-apartheid leader Reverend Frank Chikane led the Kagiso Trust to the KCDF celebration (see next post also). With Kshs 8 billion of their own money invested in 200,000 students and other beneficiaries, several provincial governments have matched this investment. KCDF itself has worked with 2,000 partners to invest Kshs 1.9 billion and directly impact on 2.1 million Kenyans over the last two decades.

Thousands of these community foundations now exist globally. With the right policy environment, communities could soon be very significant donors in their own development. Within our lifetime, the next generation of community and civic organisations could be free of foreign assistance.

The Public Benefits Organisations Act foresaw all this four years ago. It contains a blueprint for how to increase domestic giving for development.  For those who care to see a bigger picture than state control, the paralysis on commencing the PBO Act has cost us much. Kenya is being left behind in a world that is dynamically re-engineering the relationship between citizens, communities and the state.

Vibrant, responsible citizens need more than an accountable, responsive state. Dynamic, issue-based and financially independent civic and community organisations are vital. To ignore this, is to risk the dangers of an under-organized, intolerant, rebellious citizenry and an isolated state. These dangers equally face all the political parties that seek to govern the 47+1 Governments.

In the same way that responsive public engagement strategies create effective political campaigns, they also anchor successful popular Governments. We must ask the aspirants in the upcoming gubernatorial, legislative and presidential debates how they will create this enabling environment. Alternatively, the Interior Ministry could pre-empt this discussion and commence the Act. It would create new and bigger possibilities for the country.


Effective fatherhood can can heal homes, transform the country

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

Of all the changes happening to Kenya, the most important is taking place within our families and personal relationships. A crisis is unfolding in our homes and we may not even know it. The sharpest edge of the crisis lies in the intense difficulties facing fatherhood.

Absentee fathers and female headed households are on the rise. One in three women who give birth today are single. Three in five women will remain single until the age of 45. One in five men on the other hand, will have had children with more than one mother. Nearly half of all Kenyan children have direct experience of violence or intimidation. Teenage alcoholism and suicide is spiking, yet fathers seem helpless.

Those that care have long turned inwards, closed the door to keep out the crisis. Others will justify their ineffectiveness with stories of childhood abuse, loss and pain. Their stories are often not spoken aloud. They are not dealt with and in burying them so deep, they have grown roots that strangle now their potential as fathers.

Acute gender inequality is both the cause and consequence of this modern crisis. As men, we have lost our ability to care for our families and this is beginning to haunt us. So, if we are not yet the best dads in the world, who are? Think past the Swedes and meet the 20,000 strong Aka people of the Central African Republic. Fathers and mothers have virtually no gender based restrictions on their behavior. Both look after cattle, hunt or prepare food for their children. Fathers have even been known to offer their breast to their babies to suckle. Okay, I struggled with this one but then also consider they tend to spend 47% of their time with their infant children.

The Aka make our attempts at fatherhood appear accidental and subject to chance not choice. Most of us struggled what to do with paternity leave. We held our infants only when they were clean and fed. We avoided our moody teens and only discovered they had their own thoughts when they dared to argue back.

A story is told of a couple who on retiring liquidated their pensions, bought and settled on a farm. Within a week their adult children arrived to berate them for making decisions with their inheritance without them. The elderly couple’s response was sharp and swift. The children were firmly advised that they had already received their inheritance. Had they not gone to the finest schools? Now the rest was up to them. The story reveals much of what we may be up against.

Sometime, somewhere, they missed that teachable moment in the supermarket. The one when your child discovers a thousand types of sweets and reaches to grab them all. Pulling the child away doesn’t help. They just wait until you are not looking. Showing children they are not entitled to grab everything and teaching  the value of honest work and money would have saved this elderly couple. It would also save us all from the current frenzy of “grabbiosis”.

Whether social or biological fathers, fatherhood fundamentally matters to us. The only thing that matters more are fatherly conversations. Powerful conversations about self and identity, the power of giving our word and the humility to know we are kind of making it up as we go along.

Kids, don’t judge your dads too harshly, most of the fathers out there are just stuck on repeat play. Whether authoritarian, authoritative, overly permissive or completely uninvolved, most fathers replay what they saw their fathers do or not. The sooner we recognize our parenting styles and intentionally create the fathers our children need, the faster our homes and country will heal and grow. Fatherhood, as Oyunga Pala says, is too important to allow women to see men as only sperm donors, ATMs and recurring headaches.

It is too important to be limited to our own biological children either. Clifford Oluoch and Shamit Patel of Homeless Nairobi are two of my favorite Kenyans. They spend most of their evenings after work feeding and coaching homeless young men in Nairobi’s streets. In so doing, without needing to quote it, they breathe life into our Constitution’s bill of rights and our very nation.

It is these efforts and others that will give our children, the homes, communities and a nation they can be safe in, proud of and responsible for. Happy Father’s Day to all the men out there who rise above self to serve their families, neighbors and the country’s children.


Doubt it no more, triggers of political violence are known

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

If we are not careful, the past creeps up and creates our future. Last week we tragically buried 17 GSU officers and 3 young boys from the Ratemo family. Violent extremism claimed the lives of the 20. It also has robbed the families and constituents of Churo Amaiya MCA Thomas Minito, Loyamorok MCA Kibet Cheretei, Tiaty parliamentary aspirant Pepee Kitambaa and several citizens.

Intense competition and preoccupation with the capacity of the IEBC to manage our August elections almost hid their tragic deaths from the public view. Yet, their passing offers us a wake up call that the 2008 electoral narrative of justice or peace offers us little clarity for a new way of handling the upcoming elections.

The two opposing narratives “No, justice no peace” and “Peace at all costs” were born in the aftermath of the controversial 2007 elections and the trauma of the Post-Election-Violence. This all-or-none thinking has pervaded the thinking of those vested in the 2017 elections up until now.

Ahead of the IEBC national conference on elections this week, a mental truce has been called. Thankfully, credible and peaceful elections is the new and important narrative. Free and fair elections will create the conditions for peace. In turn, peace will create an enabling environment for us all to go out and elect our leaders.

The joint call for credible and peaceful elections is an important shift in our national consciousness. It is consistent with the constitutional promise contained in Article 81 of elections that are free from violence, intimidation, undue influence and corruption. To achieve it we must expose the nature of violence and the role it plays in undermining our constitutional ambition.

Powerful politicians both in control of the state and the opposition have been guilty of creating pre-electoral uncertainty, fear and violence in the past. Preventing communities from coming out to register and vote has been their simple goal. It is the less violent equivalent of bribing voters to transfer their votes. Both undermine our democracy.

Worrying signs of extremism attacks on our uniformed officers and citizens in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir must be condemned. We must watch carefully the populous counties of Mombasa and the coast also, lest we see the resurgence of separatist and violent groups.

The triggers of violence are known and they have been used by those who control or don’t control state power. A falsified electoral register, campaigns based on public resources, biased or compromised electoral and security officers and results manipulation are also forms of violence. Using excessive state force to crush legitimate public protest is another. They are in turn, triggers for more violence. If this is not complicated enough, our devolved 47+1 states now make this a more complex and dangerous tool for any of us to exercise.

Delivering non-violent, objective and fair elections in August is not beyond our grasp. It will take removing one million of our ancestors off the elections register, contingency planning training for all party and electoral body staff, strengthening our complaints processes and establishing stronger inter-party liaison committees. It is not too late for civic educators to explain burning down your neighbor’s house or the nearest kiosk are not effective ways of responding to elections offences and rigging.

Weak politicians without leadership vision or skills need to divide and militarize us. How else would the voters not see they have no new ideas for our safety, employment or to live free of corruption and impunity?

All-or-none thinking is present across all the political class and us, the voters. As the National IEBC Conference on Elections opens tomorrow, party leaders will be asked to sign credibility and peace pledges. The fog of a violent and controversial past may still be lurking in the back of their minds. I call on them to sign with the clarity that violence and rigging ride together to stalk our upcoming elections.

The only way we can keep Kenyans safe and enfranchised is to leave our elections management and security forces independent and free of undue influence before, during and after the elections. To do otherwise is to risk all.

Three days later after this article, NASA and Jubilee Party Presidential aspirants Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to run peaceful campaigns


Electoral commission failed us by clearing tainted candidates

First published Sunday Standard, June 4, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group

For some, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s clearance of leaders with an unethical past this week was inevitable. Faced with repeated disappointments, it is easier on the emotions not to expect the future will be different. For the rest of us, our faith in our electoral system just suffered a crack and we must choose what to do next.

The establishment of the Chapter Six Working Group a month ago raised expectations that leadership integrity would underpin the upcoming General Elections. The last two weeks has seen a vigorous national conversation on whether a criminal or ethical standard would guide the Working Group’s vetting of candidates. Many Kenyans urged the IEBC, EACC and the Chapter 6 vetting agencies to put a clean list before the Kenyan voter in August.

The record of some of the most powerful and populist politicians found themselves under public scrutiny. The Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee, a Cabinet Secretary, the Cabinet Bishops, media editors, civic organisations and many citizens called for the IEBC to apply an ethical standard. Early this week, the National Integrity Alliance’s #RedCard20 became 87 when the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission submitted a list of 18 Governors, 4 Senators, 3 Women Representatives, 25 Members of Parliament and 37 Members of County Assembly.

Most of the politicians have dismissed this attention as the work of their detractors, political opponents and busy-bodies without mandates. One was mis-advised by his lawyer to sue for character defamation. Another more impressively exercised his right to reply and robustly responded to the allegations. Despite all this, in what could be one of the darkest moments in the history of Chapter Six, the IEBC has proceeded to clear nearly of the individuals on the EACC list. Unless, some of the clearances are revoked, this could be a disappointing end to an impressive set of integrity stress testing events.

Why is integrity testing important for our electoral democracy? Afro-barometer research suggests we are all about to check out or get really rebellious. Less than 25% of our younger citizens are committed to governance and public affairs. Army, religious and traditional leaders are now trusted more than elected leaders. Protests and riots are up tenfold and electoral violence has occurred three times more in this decade than in the last. Sadly, we live in a time of unprecedented contempt or praise for political leaders. Yet, neither leader vilification or glorification leaves us or them with new openings for raising the integrity bar.

We need to ask ourselves as citizens, when did we cross the ethical line? When did it become okay to justify and rationalize unethical behavior? That it is okay to bully and beat our children when they don’t do as we demand? That it is okay to use the company’s time and resources to do private business? That despite the explicit advice of the EACC, we may still vote for leaders unable to protect public monies. Until we are willing to throw five hundred banknotes back in the face of candidates, we are vulnerable.

As leaders, when did you cross the ethical line? When did it become okay to amass unimaginable wealth using public resources? When did the argument that you have accomplished so much and that corruption is not hurting anyone begin to make sense? When did your word become a tool to manage public expectations and not one that holds you accountable? How did your personal integrity become the cat and mouse legal game in our courts? Until you are willing to apologize, seek forgiveness and rebuild public trust in your leadership you will always be vulnerable.

Ultimately, the power lies with the electorate. Six incumbent Governors and 21 MPs were sent home during the primaries. Voters have tasted their power and exercised well could still produce the collective leadership we need. To elect unethical leaders would be like planting lemon trees on August 8 and expecting to harvest bananas in future. We cannot allow those that seek our mandate to govern enter our house with dirty feet.

The next episode in Chapter Six is about to written but it is only us who can determine whether it will a repeat episode or the premiere of a new season.

Read also

Are you suffering from Corruption Stress Disorder?

First published Sunday Standard, May 28, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group

Kenyans are not apathetic, but we may just be suffering from Corruption Stress Disorder (CSD). CSD is a mental health condition triggered by a series of terrifying events over the last five years. Many of us have experienced it. All of us have witnessed it.

In case you are wondering whether you are affected, there are three symptoms. The symptoms include vivid flashbacks of scandals, recurrent moments of anxiety about the quality of the aspirants that will be on your ballot paper and the feeling that nothing will come out of the #RedCard20 national conversation.

If you have any one of these three key symptoms, you probably need to see a psychiatrist or mentor. Alternatively, you could tap into some inner courage and face the fact that unless we do something to interrupt the quality of leaders now, the past is about to consume our future.

Over the last seven years, Kenyans have crafted a new Constitution and several laws. We have generated and reformed the Senate, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as well as County Assemblies. These new institutions join older bodies like the Office of the Auditor General, Parliament and the Judiciary. An impressive array of laws and an architecture of institutions now exist.

Incredibly, despite these laws and organisations the national sport of looting the public has become even more popular than betting. Aspirants under investigation or before our courts for corruption, hate crimes and unethical behavior seek public office. Parents seem incapable of leading families with ethical values. Priests and Imams reach out to God to change the hearts of the corrupt yet every Sunday or Friday, the corrupt pray in front of them. We seem collectively powerless or conflicted to stop the deterioration of our ethical standards.

The integrity or uadhilifu conversation goes to the shadows of our society. It raises the conversation whether applying a criminal standard to our leaders is enough. Consider this. Of the 1,500 men and women adversely mentioned in the reports of statutory agencies, only 180 have been convicted. Most of the 180 are small business-people, constables, clerical and labor officers, ward administrators and other junior public servants. None, not one, sio mmoja of the architects or managers of the mega-million dollar scandals are on this list of convictions.

Despite new energies from within the Judiciary, our courts still take too long to release or convict corruption suspects. At least sixty tactics are used to frustrate the administration of justice. Courts obstruct EACC investigations. Lawyers, witnesses and even judges fall sick or travel at critical points. Files and evidence gets misplaced or lost. The courts will face their biggest test in this season.

Should we lose faith in our chapter six, law enforcement and other public oversight institutions therefore? No, not unless you have an acute case of CSD. The rest of us must continue to speak truth to power. We must expect public institutions to follow their legal and professional mandates. We can request all our leaders to be accountable.

This week, a long national discussion on leadership integrity gripped our homes, work spaces, matatus, bars, Senate and places of worship. It is just the beginning. It’s time the party whips, councils of elders, religious leaders, professional associations, unions and voters raised their voices. Chapter six is not just a paragraph in our Constitution. It is not just a choice we made in 2010. It is the choice we must make every day by everyone.

Those who know about body-building know that building new muscle is all about damaging your existing muscle fibers. Building a nation based on ethical values is no different. Instead of pretending we accept corruption, let us have the grace to say, “No, no yet. Until you accept responsibility for past errors, I have no use for you in this role.” It’s time to set aside inertia and collectively raise the ethical bar.

The bigger question remains. How can leaders and citizens who have slipped restore their integrity? That, is the column for next week.

Lamu Coal Project will boomerang on us

First published Sunday Standard, May 21, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group

A fight has been brewing and it is about to boil over. The issue is coal and it pits powerful business interests and the Lamu community against each other. Under the ambitious LAPPSET programme, the Government of Kenya plans to build it’s very first coal plant. Worth conservatively at Kshs 200 billion, the coal plant is envisaged to generate 1050 megawatts of energy for the country.

Coal like oil or natural gas is a fossil fuel. It is derived from the remains of dead and ancient plants and animals buried in the earth. Coal has been a source of energy since the 14th century Aztecs. More recently, it drove the European industrial revolution powering steam engines, heating buildings and generating electricity. In burning fossil fuels to produce energy, carbon dioxide and other gases are produced and causes global warming.

In 2017, coal is a declining source of energy globally. Solar, hydro and wind based power or renewable energy, is already the second largest source of global energy. Renewable energy is set to overtake coal as the primary source of global energy by 2030. Investing in coal production today is like putting money into the production of facsimile machines. The future will be fueled by the sun, wind and water.

Understanding this, more than Kshs 340 trillion assets owned by a range of institutions from multi-national corporations, governments and universities across the world are moving their money from planet damaging fossil fuels to renewable energy solutions. Africa and Asia are in the forefront of this. In this context, the battle over Lamu’s coal plant is all the more curious.

In the heart of Lamu County lies Kwasasi village. It is here that the proposed coal plant was supposed to have started back in December 2015. Seventeen months on, Amu Power Company, a consortium of Centum Investments and Gulf Energy have been unable to secure a energy generation licence due to environmental concerns and opposition from the local communities. Represented by their leaders and supported by environmental coalitions deCOALonise and Save Lamu, communities have demanded assurances that their air, water and the entire eco-system will not be polluted.

May and June is a critical moment for Centum Investments and the community. The High Court and the National Environmental Tribunal are set to give their judgments. Project supporters have argued the plant could reverse the region’s historical marginalization, produce jobs and substantively meet the national energy gap. Opponents have counter-argued that coal is dirty energy and contributes to global warming. The plant will also endanger fishing and farming, the main source of livelihood. It could destroy the famous mangroves, negatively affect the tourism industry and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Former Kenya Energy Regulatory Commission Head Hindpal Jabbal has also raised strong concerns. In his view, renewable energy expansion renders the coal plant unnecessary for Kenya to meet its energy demand. The plant is too costly to run profitably and lastly, he sounds caution on the contractual obligations agreed by the Government. The Amu Power-Government agreement obligates the national Government to pay for key start-up costs and all of the electricity at fixed rates for twenty-five years. Regardless of how much electricity is produced, this will cost the tax-payer Kshs 36 billion shillings annually.

With the African Development Bank (AfDB) considering underwriting this, a sweet deal for Amu Power may be in the making. If it goes through, former AfDB President Donald Kaberuka could be a beneficiary as he now chairs Centum Investments board.

That Lamu County is in need of public and private investment is without doubt. The county has one of the highest poverty and inequality levels. Decades of land privatization and settlement schemes have disrupted social cohesion and caused communal tension. Years of marginalization have only just  begun to be turned around by devolved county governance. In this context, an environmentally risky, socially divisive and climate threatening large-scale extractive project is unwise.

For those of us watching the looming legal deadline for all Kenyan homes to install domestic water heating solar panels by May 28 or face criminal prosecution, it would seem this project also conflicts with the broader long-term vision of our national energy policy. Perhaps this project is best abandoned before we are left with a very costly asset that will soon be stranded as the rest of the world moves on.