Monthly Archives: June 2016

LONDON’S BURNING

London’s burning, London’s burning.
Fetch the engines, fetch the engines.
Fire fire, Fire Fire!
Pour on water, pour on water.

As little kids we sang this nursery rhyme often, mumbling our own words as we rarely had a chance to find the rhyme book to read the real worlds from, we just learnt the words from other children.
Think broken telephone.

However this popular nursery rhyme of yore has taken on a new form in recent days.

World Economists concur that what PM Cameron’s office at 10 Downing Street should have meticulously managed was largely underwhelming due to the over confidence of the ‘stay’ voters. The Brexit has generated so much heat that has quickly spread to markets around the world, exerting significant pressure on the pound and trillions of dollars wiped out across key stock markets across the world.

The Brexit was in fact a stark reminder of the impact Britain has on the world economy.

The clearly emotional debate is growing by the day, and campaigners of the Brexit are now being accused of fueling a campaign riding on the fears of the ‘Have-Nots’ those who are most affected by the strain that globalization and immigration has placed on the British government. Yet somehow, the clarity that was required by the ‘stay’ campaigners was a little uninspiring and spectacularly failed to convince the 52% who voted for Britain to leave the European Union.

I must admit however, that Brexit figurehead campaigner Michael Gove grabbed my attention last week, a powerful orator, the intelligibility of purpose was clear and quite convincing. His state of agency was unwavering, and it wasn’t hard to see why, even with a tight 4% margin, the ‘leave’s’ had it. Gove put his hand on the plough and didn’t look back; I believe that even he was shocked that his Brexit won the day.

I have been following the intense Brexit conversation both online and offline, and as of last week I was almost sure that Britain would stay. On Wednesday however, just a day before the vote, I stumbled upon a Facebook post by Footballer David Beckham, stating why he was voting to stay. But it wasn’t his post that struck me; it was the hundreds of comments thereafter, from what I read were regular Brits expressing why they would rather Britain left the EU.

The emotionally packed comments section was mostly about how Britain’s rich had lost touch with the ordinary life in Britain, where Education, Health and Housing were continuously under pressure. They went on to tell Beckham that he had a life outside Britain and he and his family did not have to deal with lack of basic amenities such as healthcare which had taken a beating due to a rise in the number of immigrants.
‘Leave’ campaigner Nigel Farage during his campaigns had said “If immigration continues at the current rate our population will be 80 million by 2040, and just to cope with that, we need to build a new house every four minutes, night and day, just to cope with the current numbers”.

A report by Migration Observatory showed that between 2011 and 2015, the total number of EU-born migrants living the UK increased by 696,000 to 3.277 million. Other reports show that In 2015 alone, an estimated 270,000 citizens from other EU countries immigrated to the UK, the number of EU citizens in the UK is said to be about 5% of Britain’s population.

Critics of globalization and Immigration won the Brexit debate, with so called populist campaign themes raving the emotions of the segment of the population that hurts the most from globalization and its capitalistic ways. I suppose the question and perhaps the lesson even for us in East Africa would be what cushions the poor when Globalization really starts to happen?

Across the pond, It gets worse. Scotland may seek independence, terms such as a less important Europe are now being bandied about, as well as questions such as “Will the EU survive this?

France may leave the EU, and Britain may revert to being England again, closely watching its borders.

Will Kenya be affected should Britain opt to leave the EU?

Kenya’s central bank Governor says the country has enough foreign exchange reserves and funds available from an IMF standby facility to weather any external shocks as a result of fallout from a British referendum.

Senior Vice President in charge of Financial Risk, Riyad Bank, Mohamed Wehliye, shared with me recently about how the impact on rest of the world would from financial markets perspective rather than trade in goods and services saying London is the financial market nerve and the sterling’s depreciation would be a major disruption to the UK financial sector and is likely to be transmitted globally.

But, he adds, like the financial crisis of 2008, no one knows the known unknowns. It would become contagious and could transform itself from banking into sovereign risk.

Burundi , The Children’s Crusade

map-burundi

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think. – Margaret Mead.

The arrest and detention of 11 school children in Burundi last week for allegedly defacing a picture of President Pierre Nkurunziza was a shocking turn of events in an already tense situation. About two weeks earlier more than 300 students of a different school in Burundi were sent home after staff found a defaced picture of the president in their textbooks, which is a crime termed as ‘insulting the president.’ In most instances‘Insulting’ the president in Burundi attracts a 5 year jail term.

These separate incidents were for me a hark back of our President Moi era childhood. We were just little girls and boys playing hide and seek and chasing butterflies, but we were told that we were not to talk about President Moi or even mention his name. The stories about him were usually told in hushed tones during late night conversations between the adults, and many times they would allow us to quietly listen. We couldn’t ask too many questions and were often told that Intelligence officers were moonlighting as Watchmen, Shamba boys and house maids.

We feared and loved him with the same measure, but we, as young as we were began to crave for change.

The reports of handcuffed children of Burundi draws parallels with the Children’s crusade of 1963, at the height of Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement when Children in their thousands held a protest march against racism in Birmingham City, Alabama.

It also reminds me of 13 year old Hector Pieterson and Hastings Ndlovu who were both shot during the Soweto uprising of 1976, when South Africa was in the reins of apartheid.

History has taught us that the voice of children in politics cannot be ignored.

What are usually whispery conversations about rulers especially in Africa are now rising by several decibels. The protests are heavily visible across Africa.

‘To say goodbye is to die a little’ they say.

The seduction of power has intoxicated the youthful African leaders of Burundi and Rwanda. Nguema, Biya, Dos Santos, and Mugabe clearly set an example.

Let’s quickly look Nkurunziza’s grip on power. He ‘became’ president in 2005 after being voted in by parliament.
In 2010 June he was re-elected in an uncontested poll after main opposition parties boycotted the polls.
In April 2015, bloody protests began against the president’s decision to run for a third consecutive term, claiming his first term wasn’t an elective post.
Since then around 450 people have been killed and over 200,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries.

However, history has been unkind to Burundi.

Since independence in 1962, the small mineral rich country has been in and out of war, ethnic conflict and even genocide. Little is known about its gold, copper, uranium, platinum and nickel among other minerals whose earnings would easily transform the green and hilly country into the gem of east Africa.

Burundi’s political history is marked by power struggles since Independence. From Prince Louis Rwagasore, Buyoya, Bagaze, Ndadaye and many more, presidents rise to the throne amidst assassinations, overthrowing of governments, coups and seizures.

Burundians however agree that Nkurunziza, who is a football coach and an avid Avocado farmer has brought some peace and stability to the country. But Nkurunziza seemed to have blurred the lines and is now, like his mates Kagame and Museveni, just not saying goodbye.

Nkurunziza’s spokesperson told the BBC recently that the President, a staunch Christian believes his presidency is a divine appointment.

Here’s then hoping for divine intervention.

My hope is that the president will read the lips of the children as they quietly begin their children’s crusade and that he will stop the blood that’s flowing on the streets of sleepy Bujumbura.

If he doesn’t, I hope that Africa will remember Burundi.

#IamAfrica