Articles Tagged Life & Society

Jan 18, 2004
Spare the poor taxpayer all this wasteful spending

I am not a fan of TV soap operas. They are poorly written, with wildly unbelievable plots. They focus almost exclusively on adultery and sexual intrigue. The characters are overheated and very far removed from common reality. Or are they? Kenyans have found themselves fascinated in recent weeks by the real-life soap opera that is […]

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Jan 11, 2004
To win in 2007, start to deliver in 2004!

It is the dawn of 2004, and you might be forgiven for thinking that we’re already in the run-up to the 2007 election. Every politician in the land seems to have his or her beady eye fixed firmly on December 2007. All the political buzz in the land is about coalitions, alliances and deals. The […]

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Jan 04, 2004
New roads need new standards of driver behaviour

Have you ever found yourself caught up in one of those inexplicable traffic jams on one of Nairobi’s (very few) dual-carriageway roads? You’ve been there for an hour or more, crawling along amongst several hundred other cars, wondering why two whole lanes should be blocked. An accident, perhaps? Then, as you creep over the cusp […]

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Dec 28, 2003
Narc is a problem child for its voter parents

Last week we celebrated the achievements of the child called Narc in its first year in government: the opening up of discourse in society; the granting of free basic education; the very public steps taken to tame the HIV/Aids pandemic. These are real achievements, worthy of real praise. Now that the spirit of Christmas is […]

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Dec 21, 2003
The real achievement of 2003: an open society

It is traditional in December to offer a review of the year that has passed. And 2003 is well worth reviewing – the first year in our history in which a non-Kanu government took the reins of power. Narc itself has published a glowing record of its achievements in office in year one. On the […]

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Dec 07, 2003
Where have all the ‘Kenyans’ gone?

“Where have all the Kenyans gone?” Your reply to my question might be: “Where have all your senses gone? Have you finally lost your marbles? Kenyans are all around you, in all sizes, shapes and colours. Check out all their passports and identity cards. They are all Kenyans, over thirty million of them.” So, are […]

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Nov 30, 2003
Kenya at 40: let us celebrate with maturity

When I first heard of the government’s plans to celebrate 40 years of independence by indulging in 12 days of pomp and pageantry, I reacted as most of you did: with outrage. Celebrate what? What does the government think we have to show for our 40 years of self-determination? Are we celebrating the fact that […]

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Nov 16, 2003
Our roads are neglected arteries

It was a familiar sight: a traffic log jam on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. The usual ingredients: roadworks; a bit of rain; idiotically ill-disciplined drivers; the absence of an authority able to impose discipline and clear the mess. The result: traffic brought to a total standstill on our main transportation artery. In Britain some years ago, […]

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Nov 09, 2003
It is time to let the poor participate in their own development

The poor people of Kenya woke up to an amazing revelation at the end of 2002: they had the power to remove a government that did not perform! This had seemed impossible even weeks earlier: a government that had systematically impoverished this country seemed destined to last forever, a millstone around the necks of its […]

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Nov 02, 2003
Our corrupt judges mirror our own degraded values

Our once-dignified judges are on the run, scattered here and there by the broom sweeping through the judiciary. They were barely given enough time to gather their robes before being bundled out of office. The tales of their exploits have shocked some of us, and confirmed the worst suspicions of others. Most Kenyans are watching […]

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Oct 26, 2003
After the glamour of the White House came the harsh reality of JKIA

This week I can reveal some of the things that happened behind the scenes during the recent presidential state visit to the USA. Did you know that long before our President and his entourage arrived at Washington airport, Kenyan security personnel had arrived as an advance party to sort out the security arrangements? Our boys […]

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Oct 19, 2003
To attract investors, Kenya has much to do

The president and his entourage have been on a trip to the USA and UK to re-establish strong ties, build bridges, demonstrate commitment, renew partnerships etc. A taxi driver told me that this sort of thing is characterised slightly differently in Central Province. It’s called “looking for money here and there”. This government does indeed […]

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Sep 21, 2003
The West preaches peace whilst selling guns

London is one of the conference capitals of the world. At any given point in time, you will come across a wide assortment of seminars, workshops and fairs in this city. Last week, London’s Docklands hosted an event that you and I might find rather unusual. In Nairobi we are used to attending exhibitions where […]

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Sep 14, 2003
Kenya: the poor country that spends lavishly

Meet John: he is a sensible sort of chap, but he’s going through a rough patch economically. His finances are in disarray, and he cannot currently meet his obligations. What does John do? For one thing, he makes sure that his spending goes down to an absolute minimum. This means focusing on the absolute basics: […]

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Sep 07, 2003
Oh, what a letdown these politicians are!

On Monday 30 December 2002, I sat amongst several hundred thousand people at Uhuru Park as our new president read out his oath of office. The joy of the crowd could almost be touched. It grew to a crescendo, and as the president reached the end, the final lines were said in a rousing chorus […]

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Aug 17, 2003
Miriam – the little lady with a lesson for us all

Have you heard of Miriam Wanjiru? If you watch Nation TV or tune in to Nation Radio, you certainly will have. Miriam is not your normal celebrity. She is not a film star. She is not a pop singer. She is not a beauty queen. She is not a hip and go-getting yuppie. She is […]

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Jul 27, 2003
Assaulting the poor is unspeakable folly

We are bedevilled by violence in this country. I have asked the question before: where does it all come from? Who teaches us this savagery? From the events of last week, the answer is obvious: our leaders. The pictures on our TV screens last Saturday were gruesome, to say the least. Hulking bulldozers met flimsy […]

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Jul 13, 2003
In Africa, Big Brother watches us all

Unless you’ve been in serious hibernation for the past three months, you will be aware of a phenomenon called Big Brother Africa. In case you’ve just woken up, however, here’s what you need to know: twelve contestants, each from a different African country, are holed up in a specially adapted house in South Africa. They […]

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Jul 06, 2003
The travel ban was a wake-up call for Kenya’s tourism industry

So, the travel bans and nasty advisories are virtually gone. The European tourists are beginning to trickle back. Industry bigwigs, mayors, and beauty queens are usually at hand at the airport to welcome them back, dollar signs visibly gleaming in their eyes. The smiles are back. We can treat the whole episode as an ugly […]

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Jun 15, 2003
The lost art of speaking plainly

Do you understand the following words? “The government is committed to developing innovative, proactive and goal-focused policies that reflect the aspirations of all Kenyans and meet the expectations of key stakeholders. We will focus on efficient and effective service delivery in an environment of transparency and accountability.” Or consider the following typical ‘mission statement’ from […]

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Jun 08, 2003
The aid circus is back in town

The shilling did its dance of joy last month, in anticipation (I’m told) of wonderfully large aid flows that will wash up on our shores in a matter of weeks. Our currency, like us, waits with begging-bowl outstretched. In business and government circles, the talk is the same: we’ll be OK because aid is on […]

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Jun 01, 2003
We collectively blew Kenya’s tourism away

What ails Kenyan tourism? Why does it go reeling from disaster to crisis? Is it really all to do with bombs and clashes, terrorists and politicians? These are merely smokescreens; when you look through the miasma, an ugly picture of complacency, giant-sized egos and misguided strategies emerges. Look first at the product. There’s no doubt […]

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May 25, 2003
Tourism and terrorism are now inextricably entwined

So, Kenyan tourism takes another body blow. An industry that has taken a frightening number of knocks over the past 10 years is put to the sword again. Already, we are told, the damage done by travel warnings, flight re-routings and conference cancellations runs to billions of shillings. Reeling from the bang, the tourist industry […]

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May 18, 2003
The frightening loss of common decency

Whatever happened to decent behaviour? Where along the rocky road we have been travelling did we lose our civility? What became of the ancient virtues of kindness, gratitude and courtesy? I only ask because I fear they may be lost forever. You think I exaggerate? Read on, and decide for yourself. Are you a worker […]

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Apr 27, 2003
To the victor the spoils

I grew up in Kenya, and believed in America. It was easy to do in those days. To a child’s eyes, America seemed to stand for freedom and liberty, for the power of the individual, for wonderful affluence. On the other side were arrayed a bunch of undesirables: dour Russians intent on taking away everyone’s […]

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Apr 20, 2003
Demand and deliver the Kenya we want

Kenyans have started to dream again. Up to last year, dreaming was a dangerous pastime in this country. How many of us would try to imagine a better country, and be left holding the shattered pieces of that vision in our hands? How many of us would hope for a safer city, only to find […]

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Apr 06, 2003
What our cricket team says of us

On Thursday 20th March 2003, Kenya’s cricket team was doing a lap of honour having just lost a match in South Africa. Why? Because our cricketers had just been beaten by India in the semi-final of cricket’s World Cup. The crowd – South Africans, Indians, Kenyans – was on its feet applauding. And those of […]

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Mar 30, 2003
They see no blood; they see only a chessboard

And so we have a war. If you listen to George W. Bush, this is a noble war indeed. It is about freeing Iraqis from the shackles of a cruel dictator. It is about creating a model for democracy in the Middle East. It is about eliminating terrorism from its roots. Don’t listen to this […]

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