Friday, March 28, 2008

Safaricom IPO goes tribal

Coming so soon after the bungled general elections and the subsequent flare-ups, the Safaricom IPO has since gone political and it follows that it will go tribal – if it hasn’t already. In the end, the Safaricom shareholding register will likely read more like a provincial rather than a national roll call. In a Television poll just yesterday, the question was ‘do you think the Safaricom IPO should be put on hold?” 55% said yes and 45% said no. True a TV poll may not be a true representative of the situation on the ground, but still the split was eerily similar to something we’ve witnessed recently. There are those, maybe not you, but there are those who will disregard the need for transparency and a clean fair market and go ahead to buy the shares based solely on where the leaders backing the IPO were born.

The IPO aside, what is more worrying is a scenario where the mobile telephone services themselves go the blue and orange way. If true Kenyan politics are anything to go by, and speaking strictly of the telecommunications industry, hitherto blue political areas could go green. And orange areas could go red in defiance. Kenya has been painted oranges and bananas in the past. After the blue and orange elections fiasco, you can be sure every national debate is likely to take a tribal angle and Safaricom is no exception. Is Kenya now about to be painted green and red? We have a knack for sweeping things under the carpet. There is peace thank God but let’s not kid ourselves - tribal tensions are still simmering under the surface and although they may not manifest in uprooted railways, they may take on a mellower but equally lethal angle. To this end, Michael Joseph might want to book an appointment with one Linus Gitahi for some advice.

Nobody wishes for a repeat of the chaos but if God forbid they return, looting and burning will depend on, among other things, the colour of your kiosk. Quiet Celtel will either benefit from some free marketing or be drawn into Kenyan tribal wars. Or both.

Na bado. That is just one sector.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What about the Children?

A few days ago I was buying newspapers in a local super market and there were two young boys of Coastal origin around the age of 7 just behind me in the queue. On the front cover of the East African Standard was Kibaki’s picture and one of the boys said, ‘yule babu ni mwizi’ (that grandpa is a thief). The other boy chuckled and said rather obviously, ‘eeh! Si nasikia ni Mkikuyu’ (Yeah, I hear he’s a Kikuyu). The other boy expressed shock that even grandpas steal.

I doubt these young boys knew too much about the inner workings of politics. For now the idea forming in their minds is that the average thief is most likely a Kikuyu. Or, God forbid, that the average Kikuyu is a thief! Coming from children, that was rather uncomfortable. Those were just 2 kids who are living comfortably in their homes and did not feel the effects of the post election chaos as such. Now there are those who have watched their parents and relative butchered and burnt. And those who are living as IDPs in camps - whose schooling and social lives came to a near halt. I worry about the ideas that have been planted into their minds. Some time back children living in camps were asked to express what was on their minds in form of drawings. A lot of them drew pictures of bows, arrows, fire and blood. It will take a lot to rid their young minds of such images but for the sake of future peace it has to be done.

Teachers, parents and counselors will have to work extra hard to cleanse this generation so they’re able to live in harmony with other tribes in future. Otherwise the hatred will always be in their minds and a single spark in future could ignite worse violence. We’ve seen it happen.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I stand accused

Just when I thought I had my faith all figured, the Vatican has come up with a brand new list of unholy transgressions. Modern times bring with them modern sins and some revision is in order.

  1. Thou shalt not be extremely rich
  2. Thou shalt not be a drug peddler
  3. Thou shalt not engage in abortion
  4. Thou shalt not be a paedophile
  5. Thou shalt beware of genetic manipulation
  6. Thou shalt not engage in social injustices
  7. Thou shalt not pollute the earth

Sins 1-5 are way out of my league – at least for now. Who knows I may be extremely rich one day. But I may have some trouble with sin No: 7 which Wangari Maathai has already endorsed by asking everybody to repent by planting a tree. If truth be told, chances of my planting a tree at the moment are next to nil. Ok, nil. But my bigger concern is that strictly speaking, even buying my favourite detergent (in a plastic wrap) and carrying it home (in a plastic bag) could earn me a one way ticket to the district of flames. That is before I use the detergent and pour poisonous chemical residue back to mother earth. And by the way, considering that noise too is pollution, I don’t know what to make of those churches that pitch camp in the middle of residential areas, hook on their public address systems, and go ahead to give people noisy Sundays and sleepless nights. There must be a law against that?

Anyway, I’ve done a cold inspection of my sin-ometer so far and to be honest, I still often indulge in some of the original transgressions. For one I don’t always keep the Sabbath. I’m also guilty of stealing employer time to browse and lying that I’m doing research on the net. I often use the Lord’s name in vain to express shock even when I’m not shocked. ‘Oh my God!’ Ngai fafa! You most likely are guilty of that one too. And as much as I do not covet my neighbour’s sheep and donkeys, once in a while I look longingly at their property. I’m not clear when things shift from innocent admiration to sinful coveting though.

I may be guilty of social injustices (Sin 6) but at least not to the extent of the likes of Kivuitu and some goons in parliament who recently plunged the country into chaos. But then again there’s no small and big sin.

Have a sinless day.