Maina Kiai's Column

Maina Kiai's Column

Africa’s Development Must Not Come at the Expense of its Environment

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I was recently in a discussion with a group of young Chinese students studying in America and a couple of things stood out for me. When I asked them what they liked most about living in the US, they said it was the freshness of the air! I was astounded! As it turns out, China’s transformation into a leading industrial and economic power has come at a huge cost to the environment in most parts of the country. The students talked with horror about the smog in Beijing—in very similar ways to how we talk about traffic in Nairobi—and how…
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The Marginalised and the Poor have an Opinion, but Nobody is Listening

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One of the more fascinating dynamics of divided societies like ours is we strongly hold onto the idea that “our” individual view, “our” personal truth, is or should be the global truth. This “truth” is tied to the identity we value the most, which in divided societies is often tribal, religious or racial. And so it is in the US, another divided society. This week AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released a poll on American attitudes to the police and policing. While there were a few points of convergence, the differences based on race were striking.…
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Ruling Elite in Jubilee Should Worry About Growing Discontent in Country

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“What goes around comes around.” This saying was ably illustrated when President Obama called out the opposition for seeking US support on governance issues, when just a few years ago, when they were in government, they were lambasting the US for raising very similar concerns. While President Obama mentioned the opposition leadership, this also applies to the ruling coalition, who a few years ago were desperately seeking US intervention but now that they are in power, lambast and insult it. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of our political class: When they are in power, they attack critics…
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The Real Afro-pessimists Are Greedy Political Elite who Detest Criticism

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The other day, Mr Manoah Esipisu, the State House spokesperson, advised Kenyans to “celebrate our country and treat the Afro-pessimists, who see nothing positive about Kenya, with contempt.” I have since been trying, unsuccessfully, to figure out what Mr Esipisu meant by linking Afro-pessimism and criticism. Could he simply have been showing off his (reasonable) command of English, and had finally found a way to use the word Afro-pessimism? For he was way off: Criticism and Afro-pessimism are as far apart as night and day. Those who criticise this regime, and previous ones, are actually the ultimate Afro-optimists! For we…
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IEBC has to Avoid the 2013 Mistakes to Achieve Legitimacy and Acceptance

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I hope that Ahmed Issack Hassan and his fellow IEBC commissioners and chief executive Ezra Chiloba are learning from the depressing events in Burundi. For, in a few short months, Burundi has gone from being a somewhat promising country to the brink of collapse, all because of the decision of one man: Pierre Nkurunziza. His decision to run for president again is the cause of all the strife, tensions and chaos that have engulfed Burundi. It does not matter now whether Mr Nkurunziza is right about the legality of a potential third term. His decision — and consequent manipulation of…
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We Have Plenty of Double Standards in War on Corruption and Terrorism

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The double standards that mark the Kenyan criminal justice system are divisive and dangerous. There seems to be two sets of laws: One for the favoured and powerful, and another for the poor, weak or disfavoured. This schizophrenia in our approach to justice is one of the causes of tensions, frustrations and the fragility of the Kenya state. Take the treatment of an MP who is recorded inciting people to kill those who do not agree with him about the role of the National Youth Service, and the treatment meted out against Muhuri and Haki Africa for trying to ensure…
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