Thursday, 11 July 2013

Is Kenya really a failed state? You be the judge

Posted  Saturday, July 6  2013 at  10:21

Every time the Fund for Peace publishes its Failed States Index (FSI), it is greeted with uproar from Kenyans and other Africans. Kenyans and their leaders are emphatic: We are not a failed state.
In this year’s index, Kenya was ranked at position 17 after Nigeria. Seven out of the top 10 countries are African. The first five are Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Chad. Our other neighbours, Ethiopia (19), Burundi (20), Uganda (22), and Rwanda (38) rank better.
Debate on weak and failed states has gained currency because of the belief that they pose serious threats to international peace and security.
The designers of the index argue that the FSI makes political risk assessment and early warning of conflict available to policy makers and the public.
The index is based on 12 social, political and economic indicators that have an average of 14 sub-indicators. They include youth bulge, pollution, IDP camps, ethnic violence and brain drain.
The effort of the FSI is commendable, but is this index intended for us and should we pay attention to it?
There is no consensus among political scientists on what state failure is, but there is an appreciation that all states exist in a continuum spanning stability and collapse.
But before one attempts to classify states as stable, weak, failed or collapsed, it is necessary to first understand the concept of the state. The state can be seen as a set of institutions that generates and administers laws within a specified territory. To understand state failure, we should then evaluate the extent to which a state lives up to this definition.
States fail to the extent that they lose their control of the instruments of violence or certain socio-political and geographic spaces. Armed militant and secessionist groups within a state is therefore a key indicator of state failure.
So, we should check whether our state has a monopoly over the instruments of violence. Do we have militia groups? Do we have secessionist groups?
If we were to review the events of the past one year, we would revisit the murder of 42 police officers in Baragoi within the Kenyan territory.
We would also recount the killing of 118 civilians in Tana River county between August and December 2012, and several grenade attacks on innocent Kenyans. Is the state in control of these spaces? As a citizen, do you feel secure?
There are many indices that are meant to indicate the health of states. One can consider the WHO cholera country profile the UNDP Human Development Index, or even the Low Income Countries Under Stress (Licus) index from the World Bank.
Each one of these has its own merits and demerits. We can spend our waking hours analysing and criticising them, but towards what end?
The FSI may not be targeted at an audience in the developing world. It may not even be perfect. But do I really need an index to tell me the state of my country when people are being killed in inter-clan conflicts in Mandera in northeastern Kenya?
What do I need an index for when I live in fear that the next grenade attack may be on my path? Is Kenya a failed state? You decide.
Stanley Kamau
Via E-mail

Uganda should not be a haven for fakes
It amazes me that the Ugandan government seems to be scared of traders and taxi drivers, and always gives in to their destructive demands — like opposing pre-shipment inspection.
This is in the interest of everyone. We cannot afford to position Uganda as a haven for counterfeits.
This will counter our efforts to attract investors. One fellow made a fortune importing recycled plastic into Uganda in form of sabots (locally called Niigiina). The things are now an environmental hazard.
Ethiopia, which is strict on quality, recently got one of the biggest Chinese leather companies to manufacture shoes for such European brands as Tommy Hilfiger. This is the way to go if Uganda is to become a middle income country.
Free trade does not mean anarchy. Uganda must deal with manufacturers, not speculators. And since we are moving close to integration, this should be done at the East African Community level. We should not allow traders hold us to ransom.
Matsiko Kahunga
Via E-mail

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