Maina Kiai's Column

Maina Kiai's Column

Only those who bring honour and pride should be celebrated

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Last week I discussed two of the four awardees of the Right Livelihood Award, otherwise known as the alternative Nobel Prize. This week we will look at the remaining two, Yetnebersh Nigussie of Ethiopia and Colin Gonsalves from India. Yetnebersh, a young Ethiopian lawyer, was cited for “working for human rights based on her own experience of being discriminated against coming from a “developing country”, being young, a woman — and blind.  She is fearlessly pushing for women’s and girls’ rights, inclusive education and a vibrant civil society.  EARLY MARRIAGE Nigussie is an outstanding advocate for the rights enshrined in…
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We should be vigilant against environment damage by top firms

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I was privileged to serve on the jury for the Right Livelihood Awards a few months ago. This award, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel, was started by Swedish-German writer and philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull in 1980 after the Nobel Prize committee declined to include environmental rights, and human rights and democracy in its awards categories. Past winners of the awards include our own departed Prof Wangari Maathai in 1984 and the late Dekha Ibrahim in 2007, who both, coincidentally, died in 2011. Prof Maathai was cited for converting “the Kenyan ecological debate into mass action for reforestation.”  There is…
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Advice to Jubilee: The more violence against Nasa, the more opposition

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In 1997, I was invited to a meeting by then United States Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell, who, along with Johnnie Carson and Mark Bellamy, was one of the better American US diplomats to our country.  This was when civil society was leading mass action to force the Moi regime to accept the need for a new constitution. The mass action was simple but dangerous due to police brutality. We gathered every Saturday morning for demonstrations that would be brutally dispersed by the police. Despite the dangers, civil society — led by Prof Kivutha Kibwana and Rev Timothy Njoya, one…
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Is it possible to reclaim our values with current decay?

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The question of value systems has been the subject of recent conversations with some African colleagues.  More precisely, is it possible to reclaim or rebuild progressive and positive values in societies once they decay, as they have in Kenya and many other African societies?  Only someone from Mars will deny that our once vaunted value systems — whether African, Islamic, Christian or whatever — have not rotted from within and without. Where we once focused on the community — Ubuntu or Utu — we now focus on self. Africa produced the concept of “I am what I am because of who we all are”…
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We must resolve our divisions for Kenya to have proper peace

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Notwithstanding the decision of the Supreme Court this week, only a totally dishonest and/or die-hard partisan can believe that the ‘election’ of October 26 was better than the annulled one of August.  We are yet to know how the Court will justify their bizarre decision given the numerous illegalities, unconstitutional actions and omissions and irregularities that we all witnessed, including an IEBC whose figures for the number of people voting kept on changing even after polls closed and when they were supposed to have firm and final figures from the Kiems kits that cost us millions. I am certain that…
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When rights are treated as gifts, you’re in a dictatorship

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Outside of pure political witch-hunting, it is really quite hard to understand the legal thinking that informs the purported decisions of Fazul Mahamed of the NGO Coordination Board. He is clearly not a lawyer. And his decisions amplify the fact that he was discontinued from university for academic reasons.  He clearly takes orders which he goes overboard to fulfill.  He is also one of the few people in public service jobs without the pretence of academic qualifications, yet he can countermand a Cabinet secretary.  NGOs He owes everything to his owner and if that means looking stupid, unreasonable and uncouth,…
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