Monday, 6 May 2013

So why are we so loyal to a president who is not loyal to us

I read this article so why are we so loyal to a president who is not loyal to us, by Gary younge, and could not help thinking about the similarities with politics in Kenya. Kevin Johnson wrote an article criticising Obama on not appointing enough Black cabinet members. In the past with  previous Kenyan presidents, that was not a problem, they filled their cabinets with their own. At the moment, there are more Kalenjins and Kikuyus in the cabinet, and fortunately the whole cabinet is not filled with people from one region. Our problem is previous presidents have failed to meet the needs of all Kenyans, and Kevin Johnson is saying Obama is guilty of the same. Past presidents in Kenya have been loyal to their tribe, no doubt, and that is why we find ourselves in the mess we are in. A large proportion of the population was forgotten. No surprise that people vote along tribal lines, because of the inequality.

The difference I see for Kenyans now, is that we can find the space for these discussions about representation.  We were silenced with our previous dictators. Whether being able to have the discussion, will make any difference to the outcome remains to be seen. It is interesting how some who challenge the system eg John Githongo, Maina Kiai are seen as traitors(a defensive response), or having issues with their tribe.

I know what has happened in the past, but I wait to see who will be better off with Uhuru Kenyatta as president, and who will be left in the basement.

Quotes from the article below

Back when affirmative action was white, educational institutions were created for African Americans who were barred from admission elsewhere. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) became the breeding grounds for the "talented tenth" – the elite class groomed to lead black America. Towards the end of the last century HBCUs had produced 75% of black PhDs, 85% of black doctors and 80% of black federal judges. Among the most prestigious was Morehouse, in Atlanta, which counts Martin Luther King, Samuel Jackson and Spike Lee among its alumni.
Later this month, Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address at Morehouse's graduation ceremony. Another invited speaker was Morehouse alumnus Kevin Johnson, a prominent Philadelphia pastor. Then Johnson, an ardent Obama supporter during both presidential runs, wrote an article criticising the president for failing to appoint enough black cabinet members and to address the needs of African Americans in general. "Obama has not moved African-American leadership forward but backwards," he wrote. "We are not in the driver's seat – or even in the car … Why are we so loyal to a president who is not loyal to us?"
Shortly afterwards his speaker's slot was removed. Instead of addressing the students alone, the day before Obama, he will now be one of a three-person panel curated "to reflect a broader and more inclusive range of viewpoints".
Evidently, whatever they'll be celebrating at this graduation at Morehouse, it won't be critical thinking. And that's a shame. Because that's precisely what black America could do with more of at a time when the quest for greater black representation has been almost completely divorced from improving the material conditions of black people as a whole.
The brouhaha at Morehouse illustrates the degree to which space for this conversation within America's black communities has shrunk under Obama. "Too many black intellectuals have given up the hard work of thinking carefully in public about the crisis facing black America," said Princeton professor Eddie Glaude. "We have either become cheerleaders for President Obama or self-serving pundits." Hardly surprising when that "hard work" risks the backlash Johnson received. "I have friends," says Virginia state delegate Onzlee Ware, "who say I'm a traitor if I bring [Obama's shortcomings] up as an intellectual conversation."
This is partly a defensive response to the overt racism and disrespect that Obama has received, particularly (though not exclusively) from the right. But increasingly it feels more like a preference for mythology over meaningful engagement lest the symbolic importance of who Obama is – the first black president – be tainted by a substantial conversation about what he actually does. Yet the longer his presidency goes on, the more urgent those questions become.
For Johnson is right on two counts. First, Obama's second-term cabinet will probably have fewer black members than his first and those of either George W Bush or Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, there are the same number of black governors and Congressmen and one less elected senator than in 2008. "For all of the euphoria about the election of Barack Obama in black America, his election has not had coat-tails," said talk-show host Tavis Smiley.
Second, African Americans, as a group, are far worse off now than when Obama was elected and the wealth gap between whites and blacks has grown since the recession. Between 2007 and 2010 black families' wealth decreased by 31%; for white families it was 11%. "[Theracial wealth gap] was already dismal," Darrick Hamilton, a New School professor, told the New York Times. "It got even worse."
You can argue about the degree to which the relationship between Obama's presidency and that reality is causal. But you can't contest that it is factual. Obama's meteoric rise has coincided with black America's precipitous economic descent.
One reason why having that conversation is so difficult is because black people have rarely been more upbeat. They are considerably more optimistic than whites, presumably because the percentage in 2010 who thought black people were better off than they were five years earlier doubled, and a significant proportion think the standard of living gap between whites and blacks is actually narrowing. That optimism appears to be directly related to Obama's presidency. In 2011 African Americans were twice as likely to think race relations had got better as a result of his election than that they had deteriorated while 64% thought they would get "a lot better or a little better" in the years ahead. A third believe his election has been "the most important advance in terms of progress for blacks" in the past century.
So black Americans feel better even as they fare worse. Unravelling that contradiction demands more and deeper debate, not less. For while Johnson identifies part of the problem, his proposed solution is inadequate. Clinton's diverse cabinet coincided with a sharp increase in the black prison population and the slashing of welfare; Bush's diverse cabinet oversaw hurricane Katrina and the economic slump. Clearly, there is precious little correlation between the presence of black faces in high places and progress in black Americans' lives.
One shouldn't dismiss black representation as irrelevant or insist that symbolism is not important. But we shouldn't fetishise them either. For in themselves they are worse than meaningless without a discussion about what that representation is for and what those symbols mean.
It isn't that black Americans are entitled to special consideration because the president is black. Quite the opposite. They should demand of him what they would and have done of any president – greater equality and social justice. Only more so, because they gave him a greater percentage of their votes than any other group or to any other president. The "talented tenth" is barely worthy of the adjective unless it makes space for these debates or its progress is in some way related to the remaining 90%.
As Arundhati Roy explained in her essay Do Turkeys Like Thanksgiving, in which she referred to the presidential pardoning of a single turkey during Thanksgiving: "A few carefully bred turkeys … the occasional Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice … are given absolution and a pass to Frying Pan Park. The remaining millions lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, have their water and electricity connections cut, and die of Aids. Basically, they're for the pot … who can say that turkeys are against Thanksgiving? They participate in it!"
What difference does it make if a few make it through the glass ceiling if millions are still confined to the basement?

Update related article:Koigi wamwere has written a thought provoking article on why Uhuru's cabinet will not perform better than Kibaki's

Some quotes below

That done, Uhuru and Ruto supporters seem to expect that the Uhuru and Ruto team will perform better than ministers of Kibaki, Moi and Kenyatta.
Uhuru and Ruto supporters are optimistic because they believe in the popular propaganda that ministers who are technocrats will perform better than ministers who are politicians.
Here cabinet secretaries are referred to as ministers because they will be performing exactly the same political functions as previous cabinet ministers. But popular optimism in favour of cabinet secretaries notwithstanding, I beg to differ that they will save Kenya.
It strikes me that, despite election of its president and deputy president, the government of Uhuru and Ruto will not be a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
It will be a government of, by and for Uhuru and Ruto especially in extricating them from the ICC case which now hovers over their heads like the sword of Damocles.
But if the government of Uhuru and Ruto is tasked first and foremost to fight the ICC case, it is unlikely that it will concentrate on anything else at all. You cannot be dying of cancer and worrying about failing an exam.
If the Uhuru and Ruto government will be less a government of the people and more of their own, it is unlikely that their cabinet will perform better than Cabinets of Kibaki, Moi and Kenyatta.
Because Uhuru and Ruto are heads of their government, performance of cabinet secretaries will depend entirely on their political leadership. The neck never leads the head and the slave does what the master wills.
 When loyalty of cabinet secretaries was sought it was loyalty to Uhuru and Ruto, not the people. Equally, when ability to serve was considered, it was for service to Uhuru and Ruto, not the people.
And when Kenyans fought for independence and later second liberation, the most educated fought the least. Political leadership always neuters the highly educated.
Cabinet secretaries are also considered better because they are younger. But the notorious YK92 was youth fighting to preserve one party dictatorship. While strong on energy, youth is weak on wisdom.
 Kenya will not be led into the First World by unknown and faceless technocrats who are recruited from within the same failed civil service and are recommended into government by political connections that have put the country where it is now.
Why have Uhuru and Ruto selected unknown cabinet secretaries and refused to consider for appointment well known and highly educated champions of change and public service like Professor Micere Mugo, Dr. Patrice Lumumba, Dr. Kilemi Mwiria, Mrs. Jecintah Mwatela and others.
Is Uhuru’s government looking for tested technocrats with known passion for change, or technocrats that will give the government a good name without threatening the status quo?

When former acting governor of Central Bank Jecinta Mwatela was saying no to a corrupt contract that would lose the country billions of shillings, another technocrat, Attorney General Githu Muigai was writing a legal opinion for Long Horn Publishers against publication of my book “Towards Genocide in Kenya: The Curse of Negative Ethnicity” educating Kenyans against negative ethnicity. Yet Uhuru will pick Githu Muigai and skip Jecintah Mwatela!
Cabinet secretaries will not save this country merely because they are technocrats and not politicians. To take Kenya into the First World, cabinet secretaries need more than education.
They must have patriotism to put national interests before those of leaders and self, courage not to perpetrate corruption scandals like Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing when instructed, nationalism to serve Kenyans equally, and integrity to resist temptations of graft. Unfortunately none of the cabinet secretaries is known for these values.
When Africa was fighting Apartheid, I asked a friend why she worked for Barclays Bank that did business in South Africa. When she told me she did not care where the bank did business as long as it gave her a job and a salary, I knew educated Africans are mercenaries that will serve anyone, however, evil.
Lastly, we are told cabinet secretaries will save Kenya because they have been successful CEOs in their companies and banks whose success is their fabulous profits that are earned through milking same people they are now tasked to rescue.
But only recently, excessive greed of Western CEOs collapsed their corporations and national economies only to be rescued by public funding and austerity measures.
Kenya will not be saved by bank Shylocks but cabinet secretaries who will walk in the path of Jesus, Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jnr., Thomas Sankara, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro.
To reassure the public, cabinet secretaries are about to be vetted by same Parliament that itself avoided vetting by sidestepping Chapter six of the constitution.
Having compromised themselves morally, MPs cannot now deny cabinet secretaries work for sins they are themselves guilty of? Indeed, they have no moral authority or the will to vet cabinet secretaries.
Their vetting exercise is nothing but whitewash to hoodwink Kenyans that sterile cabinet secretaries will fight graft, negative ethnicity, impunity, marginalisation and dictatorship and lead Kenya into the First World.

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