Maina Kiai's Column

Maina Kiai's Column

Let's take advantage of truce to address what holds us back

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The March handshake — or hand-cheque as a Zimbabwean friend called it — has generated all manner of reactions. Perhaps because of the secrecy preceding it, some consider it a betrayal by Raila Odinga, who has historically symbolised desire for real reforms in Kenya. The William Ruto wing of Jubilee also sees the handshake as a betrayal if it leads to changes in the status quo that could impede his plans to reign. As the reigning master of intrigues, the status quo — legally, institutionally and personnel-wise — favours Mr Ruto. Any changes that would increase democratic space, lead to…
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Opinion: Sparks of hope abound but only if we grab opportunities

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I attended the ninth World Assembly for Democracy last week in Dakar, Senegal. The gathering brought together hundreds of civil society and social movement activists, journalists, academics, politicians and trade unionists to learn from each other and address the global recession affecting democracy and human rights. The meeting came at a time when the world is different from ten years ago, and when expectations for democracy have lowered. What was considered abnormal and unacceptable is now normal, such as open sentiments promoting racial discrimination, and growing intolerance and repression of the “other.”   Some say this is just a “normal”…
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Opinion: Bid to entrench autocracy increases divisions, anger

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I celebrated World Press Freedom Day in Kampala, Uganda, at the Human Rights Convention 2018 hosted by a wonderful organisation called Chapter 4 (which is the Ugandan Bill of Rights) that is led by Nicholas Opiyo, whose name we would do good to remember.   The organisation defends and protects all the rights in that chapter including through using litigation to defend people charged for exercising their rights, as well as challenging laws that contradict the Bill of Rights. It was an inspiring time, especially as it showcased the wonderful talent and leadership emerging from Ugandan youth. There were many…
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Until we confront poll injustices, nothing will ever hold us together

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The effects of the March “handshake” between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta are still unknown except that it calmed tensions substantially. It is easy to bask in this calmness and assume things are “normal,” and the economy is all ready to take off.   That will be a grievous mistake. Part of the calmness is the shock within the bigger part of Kenya disaffected and angry for decades of election theft, marginalisation, graft and repression. That angry part is still undecided whether the handshake was a betrayal and selling out of their hopes by Mr Odinga, or whether it meant…
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Despite decades of education, sensitization, FGM is yet to go away

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A few weeks ago, I met the outstanding Jaha Dukereh, a young Gambian activist who is changing minds and laws as she campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM) or female genital cutting (FGC), which is prevalent in Gambia, many parts of Africa, some parts of Asia and in the Middle East. Still only in her twenties, Jaha has not only accomplished some major feats, she has also been celebrated and honoured, and is the subject of a fascinating documentary called “Jaha’s Promise.” She was mutilated as a baby, then sent off at 15 to marry a Gambian man in New…
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We must fix IEBC to avoid being the laughing stock on electoral contests

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It is amazing how the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) seems adept at repeating its own negative history. And frustrating that we never seem to learn from history, even as recently as 2013! There is no doubt that the 2013 elections were a mess and a façade. The Supreme Court made a disastrous ruling at the time endorsing the results, perhaps because they were fooled by the scrutiny delivered by then Chief Registrar, or perhaps because they did not bother to read the entire pleadings before them, relying instead on summaries made for them by assistants and on oral…
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