Scotland, Migori and Bulbul – what do they have in common?

President Kenyatta reacted well in Migori, but such incidents leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

Bulbul is one of those small, common places in Kenya, where inhabitants are astonishingly creative.

Migori is an important cosmopolitan town in western Kenya. Scotland is a country within the United Kingdom, which covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain.

Bulbul is in constant trouble. Migori was in trouble early this week, and Scotland will be in trouble next week.

They are different societies, miles apart in culture, size and development, but they share one important part of life; they are in trouble.

At first sight, Bulbul seems to be a harmonious village, where there is no rule of law, no police and no one watching, but things keep moving.

There is a delicate balance where most inhabitants have a natural sense of justice or fairness and they seem to respect each other, most of the time. If you steal on your lucky day you are beaten up, otherwise you may be burnt. It seems to work like the Wild West before the rule of law caught up with it.

Bulbul lives in a constant, delicate balance between chaos and harmony, between life and death. Title deeds pile upon each other; it is not clear who owns what.

No one really knows what is mine and what is yours but life goes on, after all it does not seem to matter; they are used to trouble.

Scotland is bigger and richer, a powerhouse within the United Kingdom. It has a nominal GDP of 235 billion dollars and a per capita income of more than 44,000 dollars per year.

Scotland is about to break its ties and walk away free after a 307-year marriage with England. Scotland existed as an independent, sovereign State until it entered into a political union with England on May 1, 1707 to create a single Kingdom of Great Britain.

FINAL LIBERATION BLURRED

Thursday, September 18, 2014 is D-Day. A referendum will determine not only Scotland’s political but also its financial fate.

According to Geoffrey Smith, Scotland’s two largest banks, Royal Bank of Scotland PLC and Lloyds Banking Group PLC, both reaffirmed that they would move their official headquarters to London in the case of a “Yes” vote.

RBS’s statement made clear that it expected its borrowing costs to rise as a result of its credit rating being downgraded unless it had the implicit backing of the UK government.

This has thrown the Scots into disarray. The “Yes” vote that sounded so appealing a few weeks ago has suddenly dimmed. Scotland’s final liberation is now blurred.

A divorce is always a terrible disappointment, but when it is coupled with financial threats, it becomes war; a sort of lose-it-all or retreat, with no real winning situation.

All the emotional and patriotic hymns turn unexpectedly to dreadful fears. It seems as if “freedom from hunger” might really become “freedom with hunger” in the near future. There are too many uncertainties.

MIGORI IN A DIFFERENT LEAGUE

The Telegraphreports that Adam Memon, the head of economic research at the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “The principal immediate threat would be to sterling and the stability of the financial markets. The recent sell-off is a mere warning of what may come if the Scots actually do vote for independence.”

And it adds that: “Given the constitutional and economic uncertainties attached to a potential break-up of the UK, a vote for independence would be likely to deliver a negative shock to UK financial assets and lead to meaningful currency weakness.”

The fact is that financial threats by the big banks and experts have made an impact on voting patterns, and the “No” side is winning momentum consistently. They smell trouble and they want to avoid it.

There is Migori. It belongs to a different league. They already got into trouble, but they don’t know it or simply don’t pay attention to it.

“Shoeing” the President is not a clever thing to do in a democratic system. It becomes even worse in a system where the national government is in charge of disbursing funds.

A BITTER TASTE

A county’s capacity to generate sufficient revenues to balance its own budget is practically non-existent. The Constitution placed drastic limits on counties’ capabilities to generate a sizeable share of their budget income.

The rowdy youths in Migori should have used better ways to channel their anger or frustration. They could be severely punished in many unknown ways, until they are left with no shoe to throw.

Certainly, freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution. But there are better and more civilized ways of expressing one’s feelings, ways that do not show the immature, harsh and headless behaviour of a section of the electorate.

The President reacted well; he forgave and advised the rowdy crowd, but such incidents leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

In other countries, banks would threaten to move their headquarters elsewhere, and investors would withhold their plans lest they are also “shoed”.

True, Migori is not Scotland, but both Scotland and Migori are in trouble. The difference is that Scotland seems to be aware of it, while Migori is not.

Dr Franceschi is the dean of Strathmore Law School. Lfranceschi@strathmore.edu, Twitter: @lgfranceschi