Linda Katiba is a citizen’s voluntary initiative that is determined to resist the government-led move to unconstitutionally cannibalise and overthrow the will of the people of Kenya encapsulated in the 2010 constitution. It is a collective movement of Kenyans who believe that our constitution holds great promise for the Kenyan people and when fully implemented will bring about the transformative changes envisioned by its framers and the Kenyans who voted for it. Linda Katiba is therefore an effort to help citizens sift through the falsehoods being peddled by the proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and make informed decisions.
The most powerful feature of the 2010 constitution is that it places citizens (Wanjiku) at the centre of governance, providing them with the tools and the power to demand participation, inclusion, accountability, and transparency in governance processes. Where this is not complied with, the constitution further provides for interventions such as through the courts and people power.
This shift of power is what has put the political class in a direct collision course with the citizens amidst the recent misguided calls for constitutional reforms by a section of the political class. It is the reason why we must constantly remind ourselves that this constitution was negotiated by Kenyans over two decades with the objective of transforming Kenya by constitutionally overthrowing the old order that represented a parasitic model of government, where the political elite and top civil servants, despite earning hefty salaries, allowances and other perks (including multiple top of the range motor vehicles) on the peoples sweat, continuously ignored and failed to prioritise the critical needs of the people.
At its core, the BBI initiative is about defending this untenable parasitic model and that is why it is being led and defended not just by a section of the political elite, but also by top civil servants who by law are prohibited from participating in active politics. This nostalgia for a powerful past is probably the reason why BBI is being forced down our throats through bribery, threats and all manner of intimidation.
It is a life and death matter for a sizeable number of the political elite to defend undeserved and unearned privilege at the expense of underprivileged Kenyans whose right of access to critical government services such as health, education, water and sanitation, to housing and adequate food as guaranteed by Article 43 of the constitution has all but been ignored. The right to and provision of these basic needs is among the key reasons why protecting the tenets of the 2010 constitution matters.
Aware that Kenyans hold devolution dear, the political elite are using the promises of more money to the counties—a whopping 35 per cent compared to the current 15 per cent—as the bait to lure citizens to support the BBI project. This promise is coming from an administration that has for the last nine years been reluctant to disburse in a timely manner the 15 per cent, the minimum provided for by the constitution. Given that the constitution does not set a ceiling for the maximum amount that the National government may allocate to the counties, nothing is preventing the current administration and the BBI brothers, who jointly wield a majority in parliament, from implementing the budget increase coming June budget. There cannot be a better way for the BBI brothers to demonstrate good faith than to allocate the 35 per cent in this last year of Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency. I suspect that this administration will not actualise this promise because they know it is mission impossible in the prevailing economic situation.
Our country is reeling under a debt burden that is almost at ten trillion shillings, a debt that we are experiencing difficulties servicing, forcing the government to seek a six-month moratorium from its creditors. Much of our revenue is going towards servicing the debt leaving us with little or no money for development and recurrent expenditure including salaries. This is the context in which the BBI proponents are saying to us that we should prioritise the expansion of parliament and the executive over our health needs, our livelihoods and our children’s education. Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BBI project prioritises political deal making over the lives of Kenyans. The government is telling us that it will take us up to three years for only 30 per cent of the population to access COVID-19 vaccines.
We are not helpless. We need to make our voices count. We must rise up and tell the BBI brothers that our lives matter, that our needs matter and that they must be prioritised above all else.
From where I stand, the BBI project is a return to autocratic rule, to an imperial president who is not accountable to parliament. It is a gateway to a bloated parliament and an expanded executive. It is a return to political intolerance spearheaded by the state. We are back to labelling people with divergent opinions as “enemies of state”. Teargassing of perceived opponents of BBI is now the preferred weapon of the state. The political environment is toxic and does not favour rational discussion of the BBI project by citizens. Moreover, the Jubilee administration is split down the middle, with divisions even within the presidency. It is time to tell the BBI brothers: “prophet heal thyself”. Let them heal the divisions within their ranks which are threatening to burn the country. Let the BBI project cease fomenting intolerance.
Sold by its proponents as a people’s initiative, the BBI project has illegally spent and continues to spend scarce taxpayer’s money. No disclosures are made on what the money has so far been spent and how much more is expected to be splashed in these times of scarcity and a looming food crisis. MCAs countrywide have given the BBI project a nod in exchange for car grants. There has been little or with no public participation and nor has the public been provided with copies of the proposed constitutional amendments.
As citizens, we must not give up. It is time for Kenyans of goodwill to reclaim their voices individually and collectively and speak truth to power. We must refuse to be intimidated or silenced by a political elite and senior civil servants who number less than four thousand while over twenty million Kenyan voters are waiting to be informed and persuaded. All we need is the courage of our convictions to galvanise the country by word of mouth to say no to enslavement through the BBI project.
Let us be reminded that the independence constitution was eroded bit by bit until it became unrecognisable thus necessitating a fresh start. We should be wary of opening the door to a similar cannibalisation of our constitution even before we have implemented it.
To President Uhuru, you have time to stop this. Do not let your legacy be that of the president who destroyed our democratic gains. Live up to your oath of office to uphold and defend the constitution.
This is what is at the heart of the Linda Katiba resistance and defense of the constitution. It matters because it is easier to defend our democratic gains than to lose them and attempt to reclaim them later with no guarantee that it will be possible. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Let us all join hands to Linda Katiba.
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In Magufuli’s Shadow: The Stark Choices Facing Tanzania’s New President
One immediate concern is what steps Hassan will take on the pandemic, and whether she will change direction.
The sudden death of Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli has thrown the East African nation into a period of political uncertainty.
Vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has been sworn in as his successor, making her Tanzania’s first woman president.
The transition is all the more challenging given the major rupture – both political and economic – caused by Magufuli’s presidency. Magufuli, who won a second term in October 2020, dramatically centralised power and pursued an interventionist economic policy agenda. He courted controversy on a number of fronts, most recently, by claiming that Tanzania – contrary to mounting evidence – was Covid-free.
Hassan has called for unity and counselled that now is not the time to look at what has passed but rather to look at what is to come.
Despite the 61-year-old leader’s forward-looking stance, questions remain about how Magufuli’s legacy will shape her time in office.
The authoritarian turn
Magufuli oversaw the marginalisation of opposition parties and a decline in civil liberties. His first term was defined by heightened intimidation and violence against opposition leaders, including disappearances and physical attacks.
Thanks to five years of repression, the October 2020 general elections saw the opposition all but wiped out of elected office. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi now controls all local government councils. It also holds 97% of directly elected legislative seats, up from 73% in 2015.
But Magufuli’s authoritarian tendencies were not unprecedented in Tanzania. For instance, the rule of his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete was also marred by human rights abuses as well civil society and media repression. Kikwete also cancelled Zanzibar’s 2015 election due to a likely opposition victory.
It remains to be seen whether Hassan will adopt a more liberal approach, loosening restrictions on opposition parties, the media and civil society. Even if she does, the damage will take time to repair. Opposition parties, for instance, may well struggle to regain their strength. Among other setbacks, they have lost almost all local elected representatives – a core element of their organisational infrastructure built up painstakingly over decades.
Centralising power in the party
Another key pillar to Magufuli’s legacy is the centralisation of power within the Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
In the early years under founding president Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s ruling party was dominated by the president and a hierarchy of appointed state and party officials. But, following economic liberalisation in the 1980s and Nyerere’s retirement from politics, the party became steeped in factional rivalries. These were spurred by new political alliances and an emerging private sector business elite.
This factionalism reached its height under Kikwete amid accusations of widespread corruption. Magufuli’s nomination as party presidential candidate only occurred because the rivalry among these factions left him as the unexpected compromise candidate.
Once in office, though, Magufuli quickly signalled he would be nobody’s puppet. He used his position as ruling party chairman to create a “new” Chama Cha Mapinduzi. This involved breaking with party heavyweights, including Kikwete, suppressing factional organising, and consolidating his own support base.
Magufuli’s new base was a cohort of freshly appointed party officials as well as civil servants and cabinet ministers. His loyalists likened these changes to a revival of Nyerere’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi. But, in our view, the comparison is misleading.
Like Magufuli before her, Hassan will be taking office – and party leadership – without her own political base. She will also have to contend with revived factional manoeuvring as sidelined groups try to regain an upper hand.
Hassan could align with a loyal Magufuli faction, which includes influential figures within the party. But, early indications suggest she intends to follow the advice of “party elders”, notably Kikwete. The former president reportedly attended the party’s most recent central committee meeting on Hassan’s invitation.
Aligning herself with Kikwete will likely lead to the reemergence of the internal factional rivalries that characterised the former president’s tenure.
Implications for economic policy
If president Hassan does continue to take a political steer from Kikwete, one likely outcome is that there will be a change in economic policy. In particular, a return to growth that’s led by a more business-friendly approach to the private sector.
Calls are already being made for such a course of action..
A careful reassessment of the Magufuli era is needed to guide future policymaking.
Magufuli used his control over the ruling party to pursue an ambitious policy agenda. This was also linked to his political project of centralising power.
Although this trend actually began under Kikwete, Magufuli accelelrated a move towards more state-led investment. Under his leadership, both state-owned and, increasingly, military-owned enterprises were offered strategic contracts.
Many state enterprises remained cash-starved, relied on government financial support, and registered losses.
Alongside state investment, the president also sought to discipline private sector actors. Some observers suggest that this led to more productive investment, notably by domestic investors. But others point to renewed crony capitalist ties.
Magufuli’s most high profile corporate battle was against Canadian-owned Barrick Gold and its former subsidiary, Acacia Mining. From the two, he demanded USD$190 billion in tax arrears and a renegotiation of operating terms.
Many saw this resource-nationalist approach as an inspiration and a model for African countries seeking to take greater control of their mineral wealth. But in the end – partly due to externally imposed legal and economic constraints – Magufuli walked back on some of his demands. Instead he opted for cooperation rather than confrontation.
He negotiated a joint venture in which Barrick took a majority stake of 84% and Tanzania the remaining 16%. Key elements of the nationalistic mining legislation passed in 2017 were also reversed.
On the plus side gold overtook tourism as Tanzania’s biggest foreign-exchange earner. In addition, some small-scale miners saw their livelihoods improve. Results were more mixed elsewhere, especially for Tanzanite miners in the country’s north.
Ultimately, Magufuli leaves behind a mixed economic legacy. It combines misdirected authoritarian decision-making with positive efforts to pursue an active industrial policy. Reining in unproductive domestic investors and renegotiating adverse contracts with foreign investors were part of this agenda.
There is a risk, given this complex mix, that Tanzania’s policymakers may learn the wrong lessons from his presidency, leading back to the flawed model existing before.
The pandemic and beyond
One immediate concern is what steps Hassan will take on the pandemic, and whether she will change direction.
Whatever she does, the health emergency and associated economic crisis will likely define her presidency. It could indeed define the economic trajectory of the African region in years to come.
Both Kikwete and Magufuli ruled through an economic boom period. Commodity prices were high and access to international finance was fairly easy. This gave them latitude to choose between various development approaches.
If Tanzania reverts to the status quo of the Kikwete years, the risk is a reemergence of rent-seeking but without the same highly favourable economic growth conditions. Indeed, as external conditions worsen, Hassan may find her options far more limited.
Tanzania: The Curious Case of John Pombe Magufuli
The late Tanzanian president, John Pombe Magufuli, was initially lauded for his no-nonsense approach to corruption. But the cracks began to appear within months of his presidency.
The most tragic thing about the late Tanzanian president, John Pombe Magufuli, is that he and countless other Tanzanians might have died from a virus that he denied existed in his country. Although Tanzanian officials insist that the 61-year-old leader died from heart-related complications, it is widely rumored that he ultimately succumbed to COVID-19. Many of his top government officials have died from the disease in recent months. His mysterious disappearance at the end of February also suggested that he did not want his illness to be made public. As one Kenyan commentator put it, “Magufuli is a sad lesson of the illusion of invulnerability and indestructibility that newly-minted dictators revere.”
It did not have to end this way. When he was first elected president in 2015, Magufuli was lauded for his no-nonsense approach to corruption and for reducing wastage and grandiosity in government, earning him the moniker of “Bulldozer.” Jaded Kenyans, who have in recent years seen millions of dollars being stolen or misappropriated under the debt-ridden government of Uhuru Kenyatta, looked on with envy at their neighbor. Magufuli restricted unnecessary foreign travel by his cabinet members and was known to personally inspect hospitals and other public service facilities to see if they were doing their job. The Tanzanian president did not even shy away from telling off so-called “development partners.” He was probably the only African leader to have told China off for its punitive infrastructure loans (see the ongoing controversy over whether China will seize the Port of Mombasa if Kenya defaults on its loans). Kenyans even created the hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo to remind their own leaders what they were doing wrong.
But as the years went by, Magufuli became increasingly authoritarian, but not in the usual way of African dictators—which often involves the use of military might and the rigging of elections—but in a bizarre Donald Trump kind of way. Despite being a highly qualified scientist (he held a PhD in Chemistry), Magufuli turned his back on science last year by announcing that there was no coronavirus in Tanzania. He refused to impose lockdowns and social distancing measures (let alone consider the option of less extreme response strategies), and stopped releasing public health data on the number of COVID-19 cases in Tanzania. This not only made Tanzanians more vulnerable to the virus, but also posed health risks to countries that shared a border with Tanzania. Schools and restaurants remained open even as stories of people dying in hospitals from “pneumonia” were spreading.
The cracks had already begun to appear within months of his presidency. Shortly after assuming office, Magufuli started displaying the hallmarks of a tin-pot dictator. He banned political activities on the pretext that they interfered with “nation building.” He curtailed media freedom and arrested opposition leaders. Journalists who opposed his policies were harassed. In 2017, he decreed that girls who fell pregnant would not be allowed to attend school, a policy that shocked education officials and women’s rights activists alike. He also started displaying xenophobic tendencies that portrayed foreigners as the enemies of the Tanzanian people.
Commenting on his rule, the researcher Abdullahi Boru Halakhe described the difference between Magufuli and his widely respected and revered predecessor Julius Nyerere as the following: “Nyerere was an outward-looking globalist who saw Tanzania as a leader in world affairs. He invited people of African and non-African origin to witness Tanzania’s nascent experiment with an alternative model of governance and economic independence that was not controlled and exploited by global capital. Magufuli, on the other hand, is an inward-looking provincial nativist who wants a Tanzania for Tanzanians alone.”
Despite its poverty and dependence on donor aid, Tanzania has always been viewed as a nation that does not suffer from the sicknesses of its neighbor Kenya, where an avaricious and visionless political elite has no qualms about hollowing out the state for its own benefit, or of Uganda, where an ageing dictator is ruthlessly crushing a youthful opposition to maintain a hold on power. When a Tanzanian is in the room, Kenyans feel slightly uncomfortable, even ashamed, because we know that unlike Kenya, Tanzania is held together by an ideology that is not centered around primitive wealth accumulation and individualism, and also because we have never had a visionary leader like Nyerere. Fondly called “Mwalimu” (meaning teacher in Kiswahili), he once said that “We, the people of Tanganyika [what Tanzania was called before its union with Zanzibar in 1964] , would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where there was before only humiliation.”
While Nyerere’s African socialist experiment of Ujamaa was largely an economic failure in Tanzania, it left a psychological and social legacy of brotherhood and unity among the people. While Kenyans often deride Tanzania for its socialist tendencies that have only spawned more poverty, they have always maintained a certain amount of respect for the country and its leaders, even those who ended up being corrupt—because we know that despite its poverty, Tanzania has always held the moral high ground on affairs to do with the continent. When Kenya was secretly supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1970s, Tanzania was the frontline state that was actively arming and hosting the African National Congress and Pan-Africanist Congress’s anti-apartheid struggle. When Kenya almost descended into an ethnic-based civil war after the 2007 elections, it was the Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete (among other eminent African leaders), who was brought in to mediate with the warring political factions. Kenyans know that when confronted with an ethical dilemma, Tanzanians will always strive to do the right thing.
When I was in Dar es Salaam for a meeting just after the Kenyan presidential election in 2013, it was a Tanzanian taxi driver who reminded me that Kenyans had made a mistake by voting in two people who had been indicted for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. “Why did they do it?” he asked me. It was a question laced with incredulity, as if to remind me that despite claiming to be the economic powerhouse of the region (although Tanzania and Ethiopia’s economic growth rates have surpassed it in recent years), Kenyans lacked a moral conscience.
The death of a sitting president would most likely have led to a power vacuum in African countries such as Kenya, where ethnic kingpins would no doubt have jostled for power and positions and created conditions for conflict. But Tanzania, once again, has showed us the way. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in without much fuss or opposition as Tanzania’s president the day after Magufuli’s death, becoming the first female head of state in Eastern Africa, and a potential role model for aspiring women politicians across the region.
Her immediate task will no doubt be to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to a deadly third wave in many African countries, and to convince the international public health community that Tanzania is back on board. Since she is relatively unknown, even within Tanzania, she will also need to carve her own unique identity as an African leader that is not perceived as a continuation of her predecessor’s legacy.
Manifesto for Human Life
On the anniversary of COVID-19, we must build a world centered on human life — a planet of care, equality, and popular sovereignty.
The crisis of Covid-19 has exposed the myth of “global health.” There is no global public health system, and there never was. The pandemic has stripped the mask of multilateralism from the pharmaceutical-philanthropic complex, revealing a system that serves rich countries before the rest, and puts private profits before public health. We should not celebrate the anniversary of the pandemic by reviving the myth of “global health.” We should build a system that actually delivers it.
The foundations of this powerful myth were crushed at the very outset of the pandemic. The Trump administration walked out of the World Health Organization, and its allies stirred racist, orientalist, and xenophobic sentiment instead of prepraing for the spread of the virus. Within months, a handful of rich countries had stockpiled every existing vaccine candidate, hoarding more than half the world’s supply. Meanwhile, they voted to uphold intellectual property rules that would deny them to the rest.
The institutional architecture of the so-called global health system caved immediately to these nationalist interests, from global health organizations — two-thirds of which are headquartered in the US, UK, and Switzerland — to international financial institutions, mobilized to protect creditors’ right to collect interest over debtors’ right to survival.
Even the philanthropists — who have worked assiduously to construct the myth of global health — played their part in this process, urging the privatization of vaccine technology instead of sharing it with the world.
Now, these institutions mark the anniversary of pandemic declaration with debates about the future of global health — finance reforms, governance mechanisms, innovation costs, and so on. But we cannot save a system that does not exist.
Instead, we must revisit the question at the very heart of the health debate: How can we protect human life? How can we resist a health apartheid that protects the lives of the rich and discards those of the poor? How can we build a system that prioritizes the love and care that we need to keep each other alive?
Convening scholars, activists, and practitioners from around the world, the Covid-19 Response group of the Progressive International has proposed some principles in a new ‘Manifesto for Life.’
First, a People’s Vaccine for Covid-19.
As long as the virus spreads, it can mutate and move. No one country can end the pandemic alone; Covid-19 anywhere is a threat to public health everywhere. A system truly premised on global health would guarantee open access to all know-how for the COVID-19 vaccine and the creation of production facilities across the globe.
Second, a World Health Organization that can work for world health.
The interests of its rich countries, private funders, and bad ideas of big financial institutions hinder the World Health Oorganisation. It is time to free the WHO from these constraints. This does not mean building a supranational authority unaccountable to the governments it serves; on the contrary, it means delivering on the WHO’s core promise of multilateral governance. A WHO focused on world health would focus on building the regional and national public health systems that enhance the principle of self-determination, rather than riding roughshod over it.
Third, private capital must be made to submit to public health.
The plain objective of “Big Pharma” is to profit from people falling ill. The right to life is made into a commodity and sold as a luxury to a limited few. To enshrine a global right to life, we must begin from the principle of free and universal healthcare, shifting from a private locus of provision over to a public.
Fourth, human life is not a bargaining chip.
We are asked to believe in a “global health” system that considers public health a source of geopolitical leverage. The pandemic has made clear that seeing health through the lens of “national security” leads to policing over provision, aggression over cooperation. A true global health system will end medical sanctions and the deployment of security forces in response to public health emergencies.
Finally, pride of place for our carers.
‘Essential’ workers have been hailed as heroes but dehumanized in practice: underpaid and overworked, often without any rights as workers or recourse to social support. Carer unions will be key to any public health policies. Workers must be trained, protected, paid, and their right to provide or withdraw labour respected.
One year into the pandemic, it is easy to feel that everything has changed. But it hasn’t, and it must. We continue to live by the laws of a “global health” system that does not exist, preventing us from building one that does.
There are only two choices. One path leads us backwards to a planet of neglect, where the rich shield themselves with the bodies of the poor. This is a familiar story. The other leads to life. On the anniversary of Covid-19, this is the path that we choose.
Áurea Carolina de Freitas e Silva
Elizabeth Victoria Gomez Alcorta
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