Maina Kiai's Column

Maina Kiai's Column

Why all Kenyans must reject 'six-piece voting'

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Presidential candidates Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta have been going around the country extolling the public to use the ‘six-piece’ voting tactic, claiming that that will help them govern better if they get elected. The tactic calls for voters to ignore the suitability or otherwise of the candidate in ODM or Jubilee or how they got the party ticket, and simply vote for the party because Mr Odinga or Mr Kenyatta have said so. That is pure nonsense. The six-piece format of voting, where voters barely scrutinise the candidates beyond the party, is really about the party leaders and their…
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Peaceful election possible, but we must do the right things

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There are a lot of legitimate worries about the potential for violence, including from the state, during this election season. The messiness of the party primaries does not auger well for stability — and a credible peace — as the two major political formations proved, yet again, that they are unable to organise any meaningful primaries. From Kirinyaga to Kisumu to Nyamira, documentation from the ground including video documentation, presents a worrying picture, as citizens vented their frustrations by resorting to acts of violence including stoning vehicles and burning ballots and tires on roads. It is fine to protest peacefully,…
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Rights organisations and trade unions must work together

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Over the past few years, I have focused significantly on issues affecting workers at the global level, but also nationally in countries such as the USA, UK, South Korea, Oman, Kazakhstan and Chile. Like the human rights movement, the workers’ rights movement is in defensive mode, trying to fend off attacks that hit at the core foundation of trade unions, which is the right to form unions, collectively bargain and the right to strike to benefit workers. We now talk about “closing civic space”, and there are few better examples of this closing space than what is happening to trade…
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IEBC's plan on tallying and transmission a recipe for chaos

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Think about it. Elections in Kenya are predictably tense and difficult to manage. So much rides on them precisely because we have a winner-take-all system, in a first-past-the-post approach, bequeathed by our British colonisers. This is an outdated system that we should have eliminated during the constitutional reform process. The winner-take-all-first-past-the-post system is especially unwieldy and dangerous in divided societies, where differences are identity-based. It is compounded by decades of historical marginalisation and a culture of thieving where access to power inevitably means more and incredible wealth for those in the inner sanctum. Devolution has mitigated this system to some…
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America has plenty to learn in their war against repression

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Americans this week were treated to a classic Moi move when FBI Director James Comey learned that he had been fired on TV.  Daniel arap Moi, the master of firing officials by radio or by the roadside, must have been proud!  But the point, and which was stressed over and again at a major human rights defenders meeting at the Carter Center in Atlanta, attended by former US president Jimmy Carter and Senator Bernie Sanders, is that the days of “America exceptionalism” are over.  America has now officially joined the rest of the world in terms of repression, intolerance and…
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Why one-term presidency is the answer to our leadership woes

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A friend of mine was back in Kenya recently, visiting after four years away.  He is an “Africa hand”, as they like to say and we sat and had a long talk as he was leaving. He had two questions for me. First, what is it about elections in Kenya that people are so engaged, and candidates so keen on getting elected that they spend Sh29 million to get a party nomination?  After the new Constitution, he continued, surely politics should not be as crucial, now that there are “independent” institutions, and what fundamental difference can any candidate or party…
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