From: Mugo Muchiri
Los Angeles, CA
July 1, 2013


Q: Good morning Bwana Mugo and welcome to our first meeting of the summer. It reminds us of how big our world is – doesn’t it? – when we complain about heat here in LA, even as our brothers and sisters in Kenya experience the cold chills of June-July.

Mugo: Yes, this is true. Good morning ndugu and asante for another session.

Q: Start by giving us your tip of the month?

Mugo: Sawa. Because I have a food fetish today, why don’t I share with our readers a foodie item that’s been intriguing me lately? It’s called digestive lassi. Not only is it great tasting, but as its name suggests, it’s also a potent aid to digestion. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, a lot of our health problems are largely attributable weak digestion which leads to food not being completely digested. A by-product of this feeble digestion is ama, a sticky residue that binds to some part of the body (like the joints) giving rise to discomfort, pain and ultimately disease. So here’s a simple digestive lassi recipe (for one serving) that can be easily made at home and enjoyed by the family:

-1 cup room temp water

-¼ cup fresh homemade yogurt

-a pinch of ginger, cumin, coriander and salt

Blend for one minute and drink after lunch………you’ll be sure to notice a difference in just a matter of days as your digestive juices perk up and burn all that ama away. Good luck and great health!


Q: Asante for that ndugu. There are good number of areas that I’d like us to touch on for this issue. But why don’t we start with governance in general, and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s style of leadership in particular. When you compare Uhuru to immediate former President Mwai Kibaki, would you concur with me that there’s a substantive change in style of leadership?

Mugo: I think it’s a little early to talk ‘substantive’, but there is an important ‘style’ difference. President Uhuru Kenyatta appears keener to engage with the different facets of Kenyan life – businesspeople, students, athletes, teachers, and so forth. I welcome this and consider it a 180-degree pivot vis-à-vis Kibaki’s style which came across as rather stoic and distant……unless, of course, you were a visiting dignitary, or perhaps had something to do with building a road.

It didn’t seem to matter to Kibaki whether folks had just lost their lives from a landslide or even the fall of poorly-built buildings, as was the case in Kiambu on a number of occasions. Moreover, I distinctly remember feeling that the president needed to go and be with the IDPs to do some hand-holding. But Kenyans failed to see a ‘feeling’ Kibaki. And if he did indeed feel something, he certainly had a curious way of showing it by not showing it. I think it’s important for a president to be seen to “feel your pain.” And this is where I see an immediate contrast with Uhuru for whom visibility seems to be an important part of his politics and diplomacy. You get the sense that he wants to be there, that he wants to be seen to care.

Q: But you think it’s too early to gauge ‘substantiveness?’

Mugo: I do. In all fairness 100 days haven’t even elapsed. As I said, Uhuru’s style is a propitious development for the presidency. But being a ‘seasoned’ Kenyan who’s now had the opportunity of seeing three presidents in motion (I was rather unsophisticated during Jomo Kenyatta’s tenure), I first wait to see how much tofu is on wananchi’s table first. The mouth follows the eyes.

Q: Meaning?

Mugo: Meaning engagement is not the end product, simply the means. When I begin to see the business of Government becoming increasingly free from corruption, then I think we can talk ‘substantive.’


Q: Let’s view some the changes that have occurred this past month through this prism. And ‘hoot, hoot!’ the Port of Mombasa is our first call. Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto view an efficient port system as being pivotal to Kenya’s economy. Are you happy with the steps the president has taken thus far?

Mugo: Yes. Remember Mombasa cannot be seen outside the context of its vast hinterland which spans Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern DRC. Interest in Mombasa has even been expressed from some unlikely quarters. Zambia was exploring the possibility of using Mombasa as a conduit for its copper exports about 1 ½ years ago (about 95% of Dar’s capacity is consumed by Tanzania’s own imports and exports). All these partner-states have one common denominator: the centrality of Mombasa to maintaining and growing their economic vibrancy and overall wellbeing. And I think this fact dictates how far up Uhuru’s to-do list this item gets positioned. I’m happy with the noises I’ve heard so far from State House…… joyful noises, I’m sure, if you asked our neighbors.

Q: Given all the cartels at the port, do you actually see the son of Jomo taking the bull by its horns on this on?

Mugo: Clearly yes. This is no longer Uhuru the Campaigner; you’re seeing Uhuru, the Chief Executive, setting a goal (5 days for cargo to move from Mombasa to Malaba), having a plan crafted to achieve that goal, and, importantly, overseeing the necessary follow-up in order to gauge performance. I think he realizes that large bureaucracies often lose sight of the big picture, not to mention getting caught up in turf wars.

Q: What is the overall picture?

Mugo: Well I’ve partially sketched it out from the geographical point of view. Moreover, the big picture requires a foundation of gratefulness: it’s about being grateful to our neighbors for the opportunity to serve their business interests vis-a-vis ‘they-have-no-choice-but-to-go-through-us’ type of attitude (in Kiswahili slang, Uta do?). I think the president wants this ‘servant’ mentality to underlie port operations as a precursor to continuing to earn our partners’ trust. Second, it’s about understanding that Mombasa cannot operate outside the commercial axis of Dar es Salaam and – judging by the $10 billion agreement inked by Chinese President Xi Jinxing and President Jakayo Kikwete this March 2013 – Bagamoyo.

Have we been good stewards of our port endowments? Uganda certainly doesn’t think so. Why would she otherwise begin exploratory talks with Rwanda and Burundi about a railway line through their three nations and then on to Dar es Salaam, totally bypassing Kenya? They’ll continue exploring that option as long as they feel we’ve basically insensitive to their needs. I think Uhuru’s efforts should be seen in the context of securing the future of Mombasa both as a major economic hub and a crucial employment provider in the Coastal region. And I really like Michael Kamau, his point man in all this. Gichiri Ndua, the KPA MD, has an unsigned letter that would give anyone the chills.


Q: Interesting. Let’s talk a little about Nigerians and drug dealing. These guys didn’t arrive in Kenya yesterday. It’s safe to say that they’ve had significant time, resources and protections to sink their roots. The President was pretty irate about ‘sing-song’ drug conferences that turn out to be a bridge to nowhere. He ‘coughed,’ and certain folks got expelled from jurisdiction.

Mugo: Again, a superb demonstration of how the levers of presidential power can quickly turn the tide and make it ‘BUSINESS AS UNUSUAL.’ 40 drug dealers were escorted back to their country in one fell swoop, ‘’even without sweating,’’ as the Nigerians would say. Talk about a tsunami with no warning! This is ‘chamtemakuni’ policy and we need more, not less, of it.

People begin to see why elections matter; new blood brings new vitality and a new environment where old protections don’t necessarily hold. But it’s still too early to celebrate. A lot more needs to be done to rid our society of this menace. Will we see investigations to finger big-time colluders in the police and in politics? Will the ‘sensitive’ but neutered American evidence about specific senior government officials as being sponsors of the drug trade in Kenya be reverse-neutered and used to go after Mbuta dealers? This belongs to the future, hopefully Uhuru’s Kenya future.

Q: I remember there being virtually no drugs in Kenya during my teenage years. We just saw or heard about the stuff in movies. Seeing someone in high school with bhang (marijuana) was a huge deal. Let’s hope we quickly return to those days. Alright, let’s move on to wildlife and poaching. We touched on this subject last month and it doesn’t appear to be receding as a news item. Share with us some developments recently.


Mugo: Four things: first, the Cabinet approved more stringent punishments for poachers. If the Legislature moves in tandem and approves the measures, it will be a powerful signal that the matter is being given the weight it deserves. Second, global players are coming in to correct the tilt in power dynamics that have favored international wildlife trafficking networks. One that needs to be singled out for praise is the Google initiative called ‘Global Impact Awards’ which recently advanced US$ 5 million to the World Wildlife Fund for the purpose of enhancing herd tracking & management capabilities through the use of sensors, tagging collars and other digital analytics. Lastly, the Philippines recently demonstrated their resolve to be partners in the service of protecting the world’s elephants and rhinos by destroying a huge stockpile of ivory tusks in the full glare of the media and public. They didn’t write articles about sending text messages to their citizens.

I’m glad to see WWF pioneering the use of drones in a few Southeast Asian & African countries. Kenya, I suspect, will be a test case. We called for the use of drones in the fight to save the rhino and elephant here in this report some 7-8 months ago, and it’s gratifying to see this happening.

Finally, before leaving Tanzania at the end of his second visit to Africa, President Obama announced via Executive Order the setting aside of $10million to be distributed amongst several African nations – Kenya is slated to be a recipient of $3million – to boost the fight against poaching. These are small but significant steps that should boost our wildlife protective assets.


Q: I wanted to conclude by reviewing some missteps that the President and Deputy President have experienced this past month. Why not start with Ruto’s trip to several West African states at a cost of KShs. 18 million. There are some reports that the total contractual amount is a staggering KShs. 100 million! What are your thoughts?

Mugo: This issue is still murky due to lack of transparency in government dealings. It was clear that Bitange Ndemo was out to protect Ruto, perhaps hoping perhaps to line up a job as Principal Secretary for himself in the same vein. In any case, this was an unfortunate development for a government that’s trying to carve out a message of fiscal prudence. But I would wait and see if this is acknowledged – albeit not publicly – as a faux pas. Kenyans through the press should scrutinize Ruto’s future foreign travels for spending indications. Talk about the role of a free press in our democracy…..the NATION did an outstanding job on this expose!

Q: Why in the midst of the need to be fiscally prudent would President Uhuru approved the allocation of KShs 700 million for the purchase of a building to house Kibaki’s office in retirement?

Mugo: Another unfortunate development of shooting yourself in the foot and chipping away at wananchis’ trust. Remember, but for the diligence of Suba MP John Mbadi and Committee Chairman Musyimi Mutava, this sneaked-in allocation might have very well gone undetected. I’m not proud of the president on this one, especially since it was hot on the heels of his admonishment of MPs, teachers, etc. about a ballooning public sector wage bill and its threat to national development. Even the scaled down figure of some KShs. 250 million still smacks of wastefulness.

I think the principle ought to be that former presidents’ library-cum-offices be entirely privately funded. Now there’s no doubt that our constitution drinks heavily from America’s fountain. So, I argue, must our best practices. George W. Bush’s presidential library at Southern Methodist University is an illuminating example.

There are other more worthy projects. Like the 1million acre irrigation project which I admire. Or a genuine reforestation program that seriously takes a stab towards the 10% forest cover we all desire. Both would elicit broad public support; even each alone would cement an enviable legacy.

It’s important for the two leaders to realize these ‘on-the-quiet’ allocations will just make them lose credibility in the public’s eye. Recently we read about tenders to re-furnish the Deputy presidential mansion in Karen at a cost of some KShs. 100 million. Apparently the current gym facilities, the swimming pool tiles and the mansion windows are not entirely pleasing to Ruto.

Can you juxtapose that with the KShs. 10 million solar-powered water borehole that World Vision recently commissioned in Ol Makau, Namanga area, and whose direct impact was to provide water for 700 families and 1,500 animals? Now multiply that by 10 – water for 7,000 families and 15,000 herds. Do you see what I mean?

Q: Sawa. I think we stop here. Asante for a stimulating discussion. Mpake next month, ndugu.

Mugo: Asante vile vile. And happy ‘digestive lassis’ to you.

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