Maina Kiai's Column

Maina Kiai's Column

Burundi Debacle Shows Civilians Are Not Necessarily the Best Leaders

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The crisis in Burundi is heart-rending and tragic, and my heart goes out to the millions of ordinary Burundians who are suffering the consequences of bad and selfish decision making. This war is unnecessary and painful. And it could have been avoided if common sense and patriotism had prevailed on Pierre Nkurunziza. Mr Nkurunziza’s decision to seek the presidency for a third term was the beginning of a civilian coup. We often think of coups as military take overs, with soldiers taking power, but there can also be civilian coups. This is when civilians get into power, or remain in…
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Singapore Leader Was Great, But He Had Flaws That We Should Not Copy

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The old saying “show me your friends, and I shall tell you who you are” is as appropriate today as it was centuries ago. It can also be applied to the people that we choose as our role models, for that gives us insights into their focus and vision. It was thus with much interest that I read Uhuru Kenyatta’s article on the death of former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, declaring him his role model. This was the first open declaration of Mr Kenyatta’s vision and ideology — outside official platitudes and statements —and should be mandatory reading.…
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Chile has Lessons for Kenya in Terms of Democracy and Economic Growth

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There is perhaps no better poster child for the “democracy dividend” than Chile, from where I write this. After 17 years of Augusto Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship — staunchly supported by the US and UK — Chile reverted to democracy in 1990. Since then, it has been upwards for freedoms and development. A long and narrow multi-ethnic country, Chile has a long coastline, natural forests in the south, a desert in the north rich in copper and other minerals, and fantastic wine growing lands. A long dormant volcano in the South became active a few days before I got to Santiago,…
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Colonial-era Tactics to Silence Critics Didn’t Work Then, and Won’t Work Now

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I sometimes get emails from readers asking me to suggest solutions to the issues I critically write about, despite the fact that the solutions are embedded in the critiques, directly or indirectly. Thus, for example, when we criticise the policy of collective punishment of Somalis using colonial-era swoops and concentration camp tactics, the obvious solution is to stop these indiscriminate and heavy-handed tactics! Not only is this not effective — as we have seen with continuing terror attacks — but it is also counterproductive, increasing the chances of further radicalisation and extremism. This is not rocket science: These brutal colonial-era…
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The Only Way to End Terrorism is to Address its Causes and Uphold the Law

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News reports state that work on building the 700-kilometre wall between Kenya and Somalia has started. There has been no public procurement, as required, so we don’t know its cost. Now remember that suspect procurements have landed many people on the famous anti-corruption list. Will it now be updated to include the public officers who have authorised these works, which started with the digging of ditches in Kiunga, Lamu? It appears that rule by executive fiat is back, but I can bet there will be no formal document bearing Uhuru Kenyatta’s signature on this deviation from legal procurement. Instead, it…
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To Eliminate Insecurity, We Must Not be Tempted to Take Unlawful Decisions

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First my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the 147 people killed in the terrorist attack in Garissa. The scale of this attack is a warning that we are not out of the woods yet and that we all must do our part to eradicate terrorism in our midst. But dealing with terrorism must and should be part of the war on corruption and impunity. There is no doubt that our messes are all linked up. Corruption not only greases the engine of terrorists, it also creates anger, frustrations and a sense of marginalisation that then perpetuates terrorists’…
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