Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Green means Go

A Gado cartoon of people sitting on the fence demanding for their own colour left me ROFLMAO. In case you haven't caught on yet, its about fence sitters to the referendum on the proposed new constitution. More than give me a serious rib ache, the cartoon also prompted me to stop sitting by the sidelines and take a stand.

It is therefore with a profound love for my country and belief in a better Kenya that I submit that my answer to the referendum is a big yes.

As part of my education, I had sought to find out what the NO camp objections were, and what I discovered shocked me so much that I felt compelled to respond. You can read my response here

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Consitutional Anatomy - 003 - Economic & Social Rights

I woke up this morning with the lyrics of Boomba Clan's song Sina Habari. The exact line was where one asks "Nairobi Water niliwafanya nini, siwezi fua siwezi osha mwili" while fully soaped up in the shower but with no water from the shower head. Needless to say I was also having a dry tap morning. I remembered someone mentioning that with the new constitution, I could sue the government if they did not provide water. I decided to check it out and see exactly what it says.

[Aside] Checking out the constitution is now much easier thanks to a great new website called who get my two thumbs up for their fantastic effort. I wish though they would include a search on every page, and Previous/Next navigation as it would make the site so much more useful. Finding the article dealing with water was however much easier than the PDF file from COE that I've been using.

Article 43(1)(d) does give every person the right to clean and safer water in adequate quantities. However, in my case can I really enforce this against the state? The Fourth Schedule 11(b) makes water services a responsibility of the county government. If my tap is dry and I feel my constitutional rights have been infringed upon and that the constitution has been contravened, Article 258 gives me the right to institute court proceedings. I would bring such proceeding under the High Court which has jurisdiction under 165 (3)(b) to determine questions of infringement of rights.

Petty as complaining over water may sound, I am encouraged that Article159(2)(e) - which ensures that purpose and principle of the constitution is protected and promoted in the exercise of judicial authority - would get my taps running again.

Have you had a shower this morning?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Constitutional Anatomy 002 - Dual Citizenship

Away from the controversy, I sought to know what the draft law says about holding two passports. This is of particular interest to me as one of the services we offer under is work permit registration. I regularly communicate with many folks who are curious about the provision for dual citizenship in Kenya. In the current constitution that's a flat no, but I wondered what the draft law said.

A very brief section 16 spells out the main criteria for dual citizenship, you must first be Kenyan by birth. Section 14 describes what a citizen by birth is: (1) on date of birth, one of the parents is a Kenyan citizen, (2) applies to persons born before the effective date of the new constitution or (4) a child found in Kenya who is less than 8 years old. The birthers would find this interesting as it means that Obama is still a Kenyan citizen, and even if he had renounced Kenyan citizenship when he turned 18, then (5) allows him to acquire citizenship on application. Wouldn't that be interesting, a US president holding US and Kenyan passports?

Section 18 further provides for parliament to create legislation for among other things permanent residency. This is a significant change from the current consitution which doesn't provide for permanent residency, and the current immigration law which provides for resident permits ofa maximum of two years.

So are you a former Kenyan who would like to regain your citizenship or a non-Kenyan living and working in Kenya on a resident permit? What do you think about this section?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Safaricom: King of Innovation

A detour from the constitutional debate. This week there has been a very public back and forth between Safaricom on one side and CCK, Yu, Zain, and Telkom on the other. The brouhaha is over a set of regulations published by CCK, which you can view here and here.

Now, I'll be honest I tried reading the regulations but I got bored, but if I'm to believe the arguments of CCK and Safaricom then I'm going to give this one to Safaricom. Why lie Safaricom deserves to be market leader. Not only have they cranked out great product after great product, they've done this while keeping their business very profitable using the "just good enough formula".

In case you have not read The Innovator's Solution, by Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor, then I'll explain. The just-good-enough formula means that a product need not be perfect to be marketable, it must only meet the minimum threshold of the job the consumer is trying to achieve. The clearest example of this is call clarity, Safaricom's is far from perfect but it is just good enough to allow us to communicate (which is what we're trying to do) and being the market leader in low denomination scratch cards wisely ensured that we would not feel the pinch of low quality calls as bad.

Remember back in 2000, Kencell now Zain was the market leader, but they decided to go for high-profit customers (per minute) while Safaricom went for the low profit customers (per second). Eventually because of Kencell's management and ownership intrigues, Safaricom consolidate its base and moved into higher profits segments, continuously grabbing more market share. Fast forward 10 years later, and Safaricom can sit proudly on its throne as king of the telecoms.

In case you might not be able to buy the book, here is an excerpt which is a perfect description of what happened in the telecoms cellular market. (If Safaricom is the disruptor, then Kencell/Celtel/Zain is the incumbent.)

In low-end disruption, the disruptor is focused initially on serving the least profitable customer, who is happy with a good enough product. This type of customer is not willing to pay premium for enhancements in product functionality. Once the disruptor has gained foot hold in this customer segment, it seeks to improve its profit margin. To get higher profit margins, the disruptor needs to enter the segment where the customer is willing to pay a little more for higher quality. To ensure this quality in its product, the disruptor needs to innovate. The incumbent will not do much to retain its share in a not so profitable segment, and will move up-market and focus on its more attractive customers. After a number of such encounters, the incumbent is squeezed into smaller markets than it was previously serving. And then finally the disruptive technology meets the demands of the most profitable segment and drives the established company out of the market.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Consitutional Anatomy - 001- Kadhi's Courts

Jumping straight into the fray, I want to get started on one of the more thorny topics - kadhi's courts. The churches have made this one of the stickling issues to their opposition of the draft constitution, so I sought to read the clauses myself and see what all the noise was about.

At first glance the sections on Kadhi's courts in the current constitution (s.66) and draft constitution (s.169,170) appear similar.
  1. Both give parliament the power to determine how the Kadhi courts will be run
  2. Both make the courts subordinate courts. Subordinate courts means that their decisions can be appealed on and overturned by superior courts. 
  3. Another similarity is that both specifically state that these courts will deal only with matters of a personal nature, to people professing Islam.
I have noticed at least one difference. In the proposed constitution, in addition to professing Islam one is also required to submit to the jurisdiction of the court. I'm curious how this works, if I'm Muslim and I know I'm likely to come out on the losing end of a matter ending up in this court, can't I just say that I do not submit to the jurisdiction of the court? I guess the person bringing the claim would then have to go to the high court.

I've also picked out one more mention of Kadhi's courts in another sections in the proposed constitution, in section 24(4). This section limits the rights and freedoms of Muslims appearing under the Kadhi's courts, who might not enjoy the Bill of Rights in its absolute form.

The debate on Kadhi's courts has been expanded to one of equality of religions, so I went fishing for what the draft says about this. I did not find any section specifically giving all religions equality. What I found was sections 27(1) giving all persons equality, 27(4) and 27(5) preventing the discrimination of someone based on their religion, and 32 giving every person the right to freedom of religion and the preamble recognizing Kenya's cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.

Away from the legalese what does the inclusion of Kadhi's courts in the constitution mean to you in practical terms? How does it affect the sufurias of ugali on your table?

Constitutional Anatomy: Prelude

I've got to say, I'm pretty pleased with myself. I recently acquired something which makes me very proud, no its' not a 52" flat screen TV (damn!) but a spanking new voter's card. Despite chronically suffering from last minute syndrome this time round, I managed to get my card well ahead of the deadline, on April 16 to be exact. I never voted at the last referendum, mainly because I had no card and didn't really care about it.

Things are different this time. After seeing the devastating effect of politics gone awry I am now keen on putting my best foot forward in making sure my voice counts with what happens in this country. It is why starting today I intend to vigourously examine the proposed new constitution to determine whether it merits my YES vote or should be given a big NO.

I will warn you that I might already have some biases, being human after all but will do my best to keep this examination open-minded and impartial. So go get your voter's card and join in the debate.

"The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure." ~ Albert Einstein.