Maina Kiai's Column

Maina Kiai's Column

We need to be resilient, we don't know when will reach the breaking point

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Imagine you live in a country that for nearly seventy years has been a nation state in every way, including being a founder of the United Nations. You have a flag, a currency, and a strong economy that is among the strongest 25 in the world, complete with Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. Yet, your country struggles to gain recognition as a nation state, and is claimed by your huge neighbour to the west, whose more than one billion population dwarfs your 23 or so million people. Your neighbour, whose power in the world has grown dramatically in the last 30…
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Being poor is enough to warrant a death sentence

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I find it extremely troubling that despite benefiting from the right of being innocent till proven guilty, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are presiding over a regime that denies that same right to thousands of poor Kenyans. In 2017, the Mathare Social Justice Centre reported that over 800 people were extra-judicially killed by police between 2013 and 2015. That is more than 1 person a day over the two years, and these are only the verifiable killings! It is estimated that between 10 and 15 people are killed every month by the police in Nairobi’s high density areas. And this…
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Sports, like culture, should be building blocks for nation-building

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What a World Cup that was! It was brilliantly organised, with wonderful moments of pure joy, excitement and disappointment. We saw individual creative genius on the field, but what really impressed were the teams that played as one, covering for the weaknesses of each player and making others better. It was a month of virtual escapism during which even many non-fans tuned in and followed, with the more avid fans shifting their lives around when the games would be played. But as much as football is a game and the World Cup its crowning moment, it is also about politics…
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It is time to make laws that ensure that profit is never be more important than people

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Reports emerged this past week that the Trump regime has opposed a resolution affirming breastfeeding as the best option for babies at the World Health Organisation Assembly in Geneva. The resolution also sought to discourage the false advertising for baby formula as equivalent alternatives to breast milk. There is a plethora of research that shows the overwhelming benefits of breast milk over infant formula, but the resolution was fiercely opposed by US diplomats.  Specifically the US wanted the removal of wording that required states to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding,” and also wording that required states to restrict the promotion…
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Impunity, graft have roots in the bad decision to retain a presidential system

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Turkey held presidential elections last week in which the incumbent President Recep Erdogan was declared duly elected, as expected. He had been Prime Minister under a parliamentary system from 2003 to 2014, before taking up the presidency which was then an elected but largely ceremonial and supposedly unifying and neutral position. Upon election as president in 2014, Mr Erdogan began clamouring for more powers in the presidency, with limited accountabilities.  He argued that a person directly elected by the people should be less hampered by checks and balances, have powers over the Judiciary, and should offer direction to the country,…
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Democracy needs effective checks and balances

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The recent surge of corruption and looting scandals should erase any doubts that there are possible national benefits in autocratic regimes. The scandals illustrate what a lack of transparency, accountability and adequate checks can do to an economy and a society. For make no mistake, the looting we are now discovering is all about impunity, a sense of entitlement and lack of transparency and accountability, which are the hallmarks of autocracy. To be clear, the fact that we have regular elections—even if they would be fair and credible, which they have not been since 2002—does not make us a democracy.…
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