The Belt and Road Initiative, China’s ambitious attempt to create a global infrastructure corridor spanning 65 countries and connecting 60 percent of the world’s population, is the biggest imperial coming-out party in modern history. Not by armed conquest but by a strategy of debt-financed diplomacy, from Sri Lanka to Montenegro, from Islamabad to Mombasa, China is deploying its $3.2 trillion credit surplus to establish a 21st century Oriental Empire, impoverishing entire continents through the allure of roads, railways and bridges.
If Kenyan elections are an ethnic referendum, then the census next year already stands captured by the politics of ethnic competition - the lifeblood of Kenyan siasa. The 2009 census was disputed on the same lines. Now, the Council of Governors, firing a shot across the bow, has called for a third formula for revenue sharing. Will this be motivating logic for next year’s count? By JOHN GITHONGO.
If conducted transparently, the audits would breathe new life into our sinking public integrity regime and even turn the country into a shining example for the continent. What should not happen is for the President and his Deputy to be let off the hook - whatever else, let’s push for the public audit of the private lives of our state officers. By WILLY MUTUNGA.
A year later, the IEBC official’s murder remains a mystery about which the Government of Kenya is deeply disinterested - as it is of the scores killed in 2017 in honour of electoral injustice. Like all the ones that preceded his, that succeeded his, the State, hostage to its ethos of mediocrity, purveyor of fear, enemy of truth, is deeply implicated. When will we stop silencing our best and brightest? By MIRIAM ABRAHAM.
The constitution does not value roads more than footpaths, cars more than people, grand railways and glass office towers more than those who are forced to live and do business in mabati shacks and kiosks. The constitution shows preference for rights over law. It means it is not an adequate answer to say only “they were there illegally”. By JILL COTTRELL GHAI AND YASH PAL GHAI.
91 percent of Nairobians are tenants. WIth perhaps the best intentions - to turn slum dwellers and others into homeowners - Jubilee’s affordable low-cost housing agenda ignores a huge body of authoritative research that clearly demonstrates that for urban dwellers, home ownership at ‘home’ is eminently preferable to a house in the big city. By RASNA WARAH.
For the African bourgeoisie, the problem has always been subverting the civic sphere to feed the primordial sphere - the realm of the tribe, the cosa nostra that fuels the stealing in the first place. It made sense, was maybe even transgressive, as long as taxpayers money remained a colonial resource to which you were shut out. But the mbeberu is long gone. The taxes are ours. How can we continue to argue that theft is a revolutionary act, not a zero-sum game? By DAVID NDII.
No state in sub-Saharan Africa has a better organised anti-corruption infrastructure than Kenya. In a society where theft is a political strategy normalised among wananchi, Uhuru Kenyatta’s latest push against graft may end up being no more than a fig leaf to secure an uncertain legacy unless he starts to unravel sixty years worth of ossified patronage-related relationships. By JOHN GITHONGO
As expected, and in the wake of ‘handshake’, none of the Young Turks graced the 28th anniversary of the fight for multiparty democracy. They were elsewhere, opening a new hotel. In their absence, both literal and figurative, a new generation of urban youth, drawn from the slums and victims of the Kenyan police’s secret death squads, gathered to mark, perhaps, the re-birth of protest politics. By YASH PAL GHAI
A political miracle is currently underway in Ethiopia. Political prisoners have been freed; parties, once deemed ‘terrorist’ have been unbanned; opposition media, gagged for 25 years, can now freely operate. But it was last weekend’s historic embrace in Addis Ababa, between Eritrea’s Isias Afwerki and PM Abiy Ahmed, marking the end of a bitter 20-year war, that demonstrates the breathtaking speed and extent of Ethiopia’s perestroika - even as East Africa rushes headlong in the opposite direction. By MIRIAM ABRAHAM
In the beginning was a fiction - that the Chinese railway would freight 22 million tonnes a year, and in so doing, replace the trucking business. Turns out - and this from the government’s own internal assessments - that the maximum amount of annual freight on the SGR is 8.76 million tonnes, almost a third of what was promised. Interest alone on the $3 billion debt is in US$200 million (KSh 20 billion) per year, which works out to KSh 45,000 - KSh 60,000 per container. Contrary to official assurances, explains DAVID NDII, the railway will require both State coercion...
His whistle-stop low-key visit to Kogelo may have puzzled some, his rousing speech marking Madiba’s centenary may have been pitch-perfect, but while Obama was a class act (especially when compared to Trump), his capitulation to Wall Street, his foreign policy blunders in Libya and Syria, his drone counter-terrorism and his sustained attack on independent media and whistle-blowers raise disturbing questions about his real legacy. By RASNA WARAH.