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Perhaps the major factor that has been identified as a barrier to women’s leadership and participation in political parties is the maledominated leadership and patriarchal culture.

Studies on politics and elections have revealed a strong relationship between electoral politics and the occurrence of violence in African countries (Larry Diamond 2016; The Economist 2015; Steven Levitcky and Lucan Way 2015). For example, “armed conflict and electoral politics may be strategic substitutes, in that political actors may optimally choose to submit to the ballot box or instead attempt to impose their will by force; or they may be strategic complements, in that actors use violence to bolster their electoral aims” (Thad Dunning 2011: 328).

On a positive note, women could use disputed electoral returns as sources of information to advocate for more representation of women in leadership positions as a balancing act against the gender based violence associated with political campaigns. In Kenya, women still remain seriously underrepresented (19.5 per cent) in leadership and decision-making positions compared to Rwanda (63.8 per cent) (Kingsley Ighobor 2015).

This representation still falls short of the target set out of in Article 81 of Kenya’s Constitution, which states ‘not more than two-third of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender’ (Government of Kenya 2010). Moreover, it contravenes the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security.

A key question which remains unresolved is: How to institutionalise TTL (Transformative Thought Leadership) as a preferred ingredient for ensuring gender-responsive politics and peace-building processes? On this note, some scholars have espoused that the continent requires transformative thought leadership defined by African intellectualism (Vusi Gumede 2015a; Rosaline Achieng 2014). In this debate, however, there seems to be one line of thought that remains under the carpet: the role of the ‘African initiative’ in building a ‘women’s agency’ (Francis Onditi and Josephine Odera 2017). And how can such initiatives translate into substantive women’s participation in political leadership and national cohesion and integration?

It is against this African conceptual renaissance that the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (shortened in this article to ‘UN Women’), in collaboration with Kenyatta University in 2013 established the African Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership (ACTIL). This partnership evolved and later institutionalised the notion of TTL by designing training, coaching and mentorship programmess for developing a critical mass of women, men and youth across sectors-politics, conflict resolution, public sector and civil society organisations (Caroline Parver and Rebecca Wolf 2008).

In this article we define TTL as a condition necessary for advancing women’s inclusion in national politics as a means to consolidate peace in countries experiencing cyclic electoral related violence such as Kenya. Such insights demonstrate the payoffs to a more systematic integration of policy and scholarship on leadership, institutional evolution and women’s quest for representation in key national processes such as peace-building (Amanda Reinke 2016) as well as the dynamics of women in politics (Rashida Manjoo 2016).

This article suggests that further attention to the linked dynamics of leadership and participation of women in politics and peace-building would shed more light on important but separated themes. It should help to lay out a new research agenda focused on one of the key ingredients of this conceptual relationship, which is the institutionalisation of TTL in African based institutions.

What is Transformative Thought Leadership?

The notion of TTL is essentially an idea that seeks to provide a holistic picture of how Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) could be achieved holistically within the ‘boundary’ of the UN Women’s past and ongoing work within the thematic area, ‘leadership and political participation’. It includes UN Women’s corporate contribution to GEWE across its integrated mandate: normative, operational and coordination (UN Women, Coordination  Division 2015).

This paper explores how the TTL concept may have evolved over time and its socialisation through space and time, including within Pan African scholarship, and its linkages with women’s struggle involvement in political leadership and peacebuilding processes.

From a Pan-African perspective, the notion of TTL is characterised by four attributes. These are the ability: to inspire other leadership; to ignite imaginations; to explode old myths; and to illuminate paths to the future that others can follow (Akhona Nkenkana 2015; Li Wen-Dong et al. 2012). This implies that under the influence of such leaders institutions should depict radical departure from the norms or ‘business as usual’; instead, champion new ideas rather than anything to do with managing people (Loren Naidoo 2016; Robin Ryde 2008).

On a similar note, Vusi Gumede (2015b) suggests that responding to institutional challenges facing Africa will require integrating TTL into the African development agenda. The growing interest in the need to institutionalise TTL is mainly driven by the fact that while Africa’s development and economic integration continues apace, studies indicates that unleashing the development potential rests in the ability of institutions not only to reform their political architectures (Nicholas Cheeseman 2016), but also capacitate women to significantly contribute to leadership in all aspects of life (Roger Coate and Donald Puchala 1990).

TTL’s definition encompasses democratic principles: egalitarian, ephemeral, non-hierarchical, and is not easily monopolised (Richard Bolden and Philip Kirk 2009). This means that, unlike the traditional concept of ‘leadership’ that needs to exist for the life of an organisation, TTL starts with the spark of a new idea and ends with the implementation readiness for the idea (Tony Barnes 1996).

Hence, a transformative thought leader creates new ideas, sustains them and inspires others to take the lead. Likewise, women’s ability to elevate innovation as an integral part of TTL within the framework of the partnership between UN Women and Kenyatta University is a grand strategy.

The strategy is not only a platform for evolving societal values, but also a tool for the strategic engagement of women in politics by advocating violence-free electoral processes as part of the protection of women (Naomi Wekwete 2016; Aili Tripp 2003). In ethnically divided societies such as Kenya, electoral related violence is almost inevitable, occurring along the electoral cycles (Said Adejumobi 2000; John Hickman 2011).

Indeed, Melinda Adams (2016) observes that in order for women to contribute to legislation and avert potential political violence, deliberate efforts must be undertaken to illuminate their capabilities through the institutionalisation of initiatives such as thought leadership.

The paucity of thought leadership in the political arena has always been blamed on electoral related tensions or the violence that rocks African countries during elections (Dunning 2011). In situations of violence, studies have shown that women are disproportionately exposed to risks of gender based violence and sometimes disempowered to voice their opinion (Sibokuhle Ndlovu, and Soni Mutale 2015). It is critical therefore, to ensure the institutionalisation of TTL in Kenya to enable women to make significant contributions to decision-making, not only during elections, but across the full cycle of the electoral process.

It is against this vicious cycle of gender inequality in political leadership that Pan-African scholars such as Vusi Gumede argue: ‘the entrapment of African leadership and citizenry by the said foreign thoughts make thought liberation an important imperative’ (Gumede, 2015a; George Stevenson 2016; Japhase Poncian and Edward Mgaya 2015). This, coupled with low levels of critical thinking – otherwise known as transformative thought leadership in this paper – traps and tethers African people in the chains of poverty and circles of gender inequality (Gumede 2015b).

Yet TTL, which essentially is what the African ‘soil’ is lacking in the 21st century, has the potential to build sets of progressive ideologies, belief systems and movements (Verta Taylor 1999), hence reversing the current skewed trend in political leadership. In Kenya, the number of women represented within the ranks of political parties also falls below the legal threshold contained in the Political Parties Act (2011), which requires that at least one-third of political parties’ office bearers be female.

It is not difficult to link the lack of qualities of TTL with the exclusive style of politics in Kenya. The key contention of the TTL is that a top-down leadership style leads to the exercise of personal power by a dominant few individuals, which is often in direct contradiction to the will of collective (Achieng 2014). Based on a similar notion of domination by the few, advocates of TTL also contest the perennial exclusion of women in politics and peace-building (Sidonia Angom, 2011; Ronnee Shreiber 2016). Such a notion of leadership takes into account the actual reality of gender exclusion.

In Kenya, for example, the new Constitution that was promulgated in 2010 states that no single gender should make up more than two thirds of the membership of an elected or appointed public bodies. The debate around this provision has been sluggish and contentious. Hence, women’s substantive participation in politics and national cohesion and integration is not meaningfully implemented.

The participation of Women in Kenya

Scholars have linked authoritarian regimes to prospects of violent conflict, particularly during highly contested general elections (Thomas Carothers 2002). Similar studies have indicated that democratically stable states are more likely to tolerate inclusive political processes, while those on democratic decline are more likely to register violence during important national events such as elections (Hal Brands 2017).

As gender equality is strongly associated with a country’s degree of democratic and peaceful consolidation (Carothers 2016), this section examines the levels of women’s participation in various aspects of politics and peacebuilding processes in Kenya:

• political leadership;

• peace-making processes;

• police reforms; and

• the role of political parties.

Firstly, Kenyan political leadership depicts mixed gender representation. The country is currently ranked at position 75, under the World Classification of Women in National Parliaments. According to the 2015 Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU 2015), the proportion of female parliamentarians stands at 19.7 per cent within the National Assembly and at 26.7 per cent within the Senate (IPU 2015). The positions of deputy speaker and deputy majority leader are held by women, but only 7 out of the 27 parliamentary committees within the National Assembly are chaired by women.

It is ironical that although women comprise 52 per cent of the Kenyan population and 60 per cent of the country’s registered voters, political representation is heavily skewed in favour of men (National Endowment for Democracy 1996). In regard to executive leadership, 6 of the 18 Cabinet Secretary posts in government are held by women. During the 11th Parliament (2013-2017), almost 30 per cent of the Principal Secretary seats are also occupied by women (Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, KEWOPA 2016).

During the same period, women occupied approximately 31 per cent of the seats in the entire Kenyan Cabinet. Significantly, women are in charge of some security matters. Ambassador Rachelle Omamo is the Cabinet Secretary for Defence. In 2015, the Ministry of Defence recommended Brigadier General Fatuma Ahmed for promotion to the rank of brigadier, making Ahmed the first female brigadier in the Kenyan military.

Also, Ambassador Monica Juma has been the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of Government since 2014 (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2015). The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is also led by a woman, Ambassador Amina Mohamed.

In contrast, women’s representation at the county level is low. During the 11th Parliament beginning 2013-2017, out of the current 47 county governors, none is female. Only 19.2 per cent of the deputy governors are female.

Also, only 6.1 per cent of Members of the County Assembly and Councillors are female. Indeed, out of a total of 1450 persons who were directly elected as respective County Assembly Members, only 82 women were elected as members representing only 5 per cent of those directly elected (KEWOPA 2016). Based on these figures, there is clearly a need to encourage and support women to take up elective positions, particularly within political parties, parliament and at the devolved levels of government within the counties.

Secondly, during the Kenyan post election violence, women played a significant role as negotiators, mediators. Through inter-regional networks, South Africa’s former first lady Graca Machel was among the mediating team, as were two Kenyan women – Sally Kosgey and Martha Karua (both political protagonists in the conflict). Despite this participation, lack of capacity and continuous training for gender officers has hampered the sustainable participation of women in long-term peace-building processes (Jane Wakahiu and Mary Salvaterra 2012). In addition, the state-centric approach to peace and security issues is an impediment to women’s free participation in politics and peacebuilding processes, and this limits women from the grass-roots from participation in Kenya.

Kenya has a system of local peace structures in the form of peace committees (commonly known as Nyumba Kumi), but this structure is yet to be engendered. Their representation at the county level and sub-county level peace committees is mostly in supportive roles and few women hold leadership positions.

While some of the barriers to women’s inclusion in peace negotiations remain the same as the barriers to their inclusion in highlevel political positions, which include norms and customs that kept women subordinate to men as outlined above, there are other more ‘mundane’ reasons, such as: ‘a lack of information about the timing and location of formal and informal negotiations, particularly closed door negotiations that excluded women; difficulties in obtaining visas to attend negotiations; national laws or traditions that restricted women’s movement; and a lack of access to communication technologies and networks.

The third hindrance to women’s political participation is the sluggish police reforms. Although the Kenyan government has put efforts in police reforms by transforming it into a service and by creating the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), representation of women is limited to only high level appointments. Women are under-represented in Kenya’s rule of law sector-police service with available figures estimating that out of the 73 000 members, only 11 per cent are women (Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development ACORD 2009). Police reforms, which are still ongoing, are intended to address such gender imbalances through gender mainstreaming but the pace of reform is slow. The creation of women’s networks in the Police Service has assisted women to organise, share experiences and articulate their concerns (Ruth Aura 2015).

Fourthly, political party patronages disadvantage women political leaders. Given their responsibility for presenting candidate lists, political parties are decisive actors in Kenya in determining which aspiring politicians are nominated to stand for election. Additionally, their role in providing mobilisation and logistical support, volunteers, financing, media attention and votes gives parties great influence over which candidates secure election.

Perhaps the major factor that has been identified as a barrier to women’s leadership and participation in political parties is the male-dominated leadership and patriarchal culture. This is both unfavorable to women’s participation and unaccommodating in relation to the challenges they might face in terms of reconciling family commitments with political activities. The other key factor is the lack of gender commitment in party constitutions.

Research in Africa found that parties tended to “mention gender in election campaign promises without defining gender as a priority objective in the party constitutions, which more systematically inform political parties’ internal processes and practices” (International IDEA 2016).

In Kenya, structural inequalities count against women, including insufficient financial means and support, lack of political experience, and the lack of mobilising power necessary to build a broad and strong electoral base. Once women are in political office, it does not necessarily mean that they will become effective agents of change for gender equality issues. Some of the challenges include the fact that some women in politics are not particularly literate or articulate in gender interests and do not want to take up the gender cause simply because they are women; and often once women are in politics, they find themselves marginalised, resisted or silenced by their male counterparts; and women tend to be side-lined into ‘soft’ issues or social sectors once in government.

To sum it all up, it is important to appreciate the fact that, in order for ACTIL to effectively capacitate women to participate in political leadership in Kenya, the model should have the right tools and capacity. Four years after its establishment, ACTIL still rates below standard in regard to tools, processes; and systems for partnership identification, selection, formalisation, management and monitoring are not aligned with the needs of strategic partnerships.

They are mostly geared towards implementing partners involved in short term projects, rather than strategic partners that are peers in mutually beneficial and longer term relationships. They do not reflect the transformational vision of strategic partnerships, or acknowledge the need to support institutional partners in the long term, or provide ways to track long term results that may be difficult to quantify.

Because of lack of systematic approach to capacity development, this constrains the ability of ACTIL’s partners such as UN Women to address the underlying causes of inequality and discrimination. There is a strong need to complement the notion of TTL with both longer term partnership agreements and more systematic and responsive tools and processes.

Lessons from the last 4 years, since the establishment of ACTIL in 2013, demonstrate that increasing the number of women receiving training does not necessarily translate into the substantive and equal engagement of women in politics and peace-building processes. It is, however, emerging that strengthening the institutional capacity of ACTIL – including developing online knowledge exchange platforms, restructuring the centres human resource capacity and building partnerships that will guarantee comparative advantage towards self-sustainability by 2018 could have a significant impact. It should offer opportunities for women political leaders to significantly engage in politics, and eventually consolidate the peace and stability of the country and the region.

In order for ACTIL to achieve this level of efficiency, social re-engineering will be required in its activities. This will involve the following:

• deepening national reach, widening regional presence and enhancing global partnerships;

• sustaining women’s networks as a thought leadership quality;

• confronting patriarchy;

• actively ensuring the sustainability of the ACTIL model; and

• growing women’s representation in mediation and on negotiation platforms.

ACTIL: Challenges and Opportunities for the Future

The establishment of UN Women in July 2010 was part of the broader mandate and reform of the United Nations system (UN Women Coordination Division 2015) to accelerate the UN’s goals on gender equality and women’s empowerment. As earlier noted in this paper, the partnership between UN Women and Kenyatta University established ACTIL. ACTIL’s mission is anchored on the principles of gender equality, “To raise transformative leaders, particularly women and youth, as agents of change for more equitable, accelerated and sustainable development in Africa, through capacity building, mentorship and transformative alliances.“ (ACTIL Bulletin 2017).

Deepening national reach, widening regional presence and enhancing global partnerships

The location of ACTIL at Kenyatta University was a well thought-out idea as it provides a ready supply of future transformative thought leaders from among students and faculty members. The latter also form part of the resources for driving transformational processes-training, coaching, education and policy research. Moreover, the academic freedom engrained in a university environment provides a vantage point for this partnership to explore solutions and models for addressing challenges facing not only women leaders but the entire society.

With support of organisations such as the Israel-based Mount Carmel International Training Centre (MCTC), ACTIL has continued to develop and implement the notion of TTL through customised training initiatives across sectors. Despite this potential partnership and opportunities for north-south exchanges, like many other similar institutions in the global south, the ACTIL model is yet to establish a systems approach to capacity building, which is a prerequisite ingredient in ensuring a cogent network of knowledgeable women leaders capable of undertaking peacebuilding processes.

Implementation arrangements for the TTL notion within ACTIL also have implications with regard to UN Women’s Regional Architecture. Although the centre serves the continent, its location at Kenyatta University in Kenya has inevitably given the initial activities a ‘Kenyan’ flavour – with, it would seem, relatively low ownership of the Centre by other potential partners operating regionally or globally.

Sustaining women’s networks as a thought leadership quality

ACTIL represents a case example of capacity development /peacebuilding intersection. Scholars have described such an intersection as source of sustainable peace, conditions for inclusivity and people-centered development (Maia Hallward et al. 2016: 4). In this article, we postulate that foundations of TTL are pointers to the practical empowerment of the most vulnerable people in the society – women and girls (Sidney Schuler 2016). TTL as implemented by the ACTIL model and its relevance to women’s salient contribution to stability is a subtle form of what we refer to us ‘peace-building from the roots.’

An important result achieved through the partnership has been the number and diversity of people trained by ACTIL between 2013-2016, including approximately 880 women politicians, senior officials in public service, and women drawn from civil society as well as the private sector from 23 African countries. Kenya has particularly benefited through joint initiative between ACTIL and some governments. In ACTIL the notion of TTL forms the basis of the innovative nine-month mentorship and coaching programme. This has not been fully effective due to financial constraints.

As the mentorship period of the initial cohorts of trainees is coming to an end, there are some emerging success stories of how trainees have used newly acquired knowledge and capacities, and leveraged their expanded professional networks in favor of GEWE, both in terms of individual behavioural changes and institutional changes.

However this evidence is still too limited and anecdotal to systematically assess the partnership’s contribution to its final objective. The main challenge in the partnership between Kenyatta University and UN Women is to sustain the long term vision to build a critical mass of transformative leaders that can influence GEWE in the country.

This can only be achieved through sustained engagement between ACTIL and the Kenyan government on key institutions such as the Kenya Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) as well as the Kenya National Cohesion Commission on a variety of initiatives aimed at ensuring that political processes such as the 2017 General Election is gender-responsive as well as peaceful.

Similarly, application of TTL to peace-building processes through the ACTIL model would require not only institutionalisation of the concept, but also a conscious understanding that improvement begins with the admission that challenges are inevitable. The most effective framing for social change should therefore aim at promoting cross-functional teams of women and other gender advocates who can be empowered to challenge the status quo and drive the change through a learning process. The TTL provides such a platform.

For example, the HeforShe campaign, being led by UN Women, is a typical example of how the ACTIL model could systematically configure, standardise and customised the notion of TTL to different contexts and create advocacy for policy makers in the country and beyond. In essence, the TTL ethos and practice goes beyond the ‘women’ ecosystem to embrace inclusivity and stewardship in politics for tranquility and stability of the country.

Confronting patriarchy

In Kenya, although the form of government is devolved as espoused in the 2010 constitution, power remains highly centralised, even the women in government hold little to no power. In addition, the introduction of a special measure to increase women’s representation in Kenya’s parliament resulted in a backlash from both men and women (International IDEA 2016). Political parties themselves often have rigid structures that act as a barrier to women’s ascending the ranks and internal candidates tend to be the better-known male candidates. This tilted political architecture is embedded within societal patriarchy.

Male-dominated political structures expect compliance from women elected or appointed to positions of power in Kenya. In view of this, quotas do not always deliver the expected outcomes, as ‘adding women to unaltered social and political structures is likely to lead to frustration as women continue to suffer discrimination and exclusion in spite of their representation in decision-making’ (Stephen Burchard 2014; Leslie Schwindt-Bayer and William Mishler 2005).

Given that in Kenya, as is the case in other parts of the continent, quotas do not always translate into women holding any real power, opportunities for ACTIL to deepen the notion of TTL not only to women, but also men political leaders would immensely benefit from this notion as a system-wide strategy towards addressing some of the root causes of gender discrimination in politics.

Actively Ensuring the Sustainability of the ACTIL model

Although Kenyatta University has set conditions for sustainability, including provision of staff, facilities and executive engagement, the implementation and the tracking of the results of this partnership are still constrained by one-year planning and funding frameworks and related monitoring tools. Kenyatta University lacks the organisational means to secure long-term institutional commitment from development partners or to align behind the notion of TTL. There is therefore, a need for the model at large to reflect on partnership tools that can ensure multi-year commitments (on a reducing basis to encourage sustainability).

There is a need for the centre to have a mechanism for identifying, aligning behind, and tracking longer term results of its initiatives. Modern approaches for tracking outcomes and sustaining networking among the alumna may be required (e.g., social media, and other mobile-based applications) are key in local ownership of the model.

Growing Women’s representation in mediation and on negotiation platforms

Although Kenya held relatively peaceful elections in March 2013, this may not be guaranteed in future elections. This can be largely attributed to ethnic polarisation as well as the unresolved historical injustices, ranging from land disputes and marginalisation of some communities by the subsequent regimes.

As a result, the security of women continues to be jeopardised. Women are both victims of and active participants in this violence. Responses to terrorism have also tended to be reactive with policy approaches seemingly not gendered. Yet the role of women as mobilisers, sympathisers, preventers and peacebuilders is important to appreciate and acknowledge in any form of response.

The development of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 Kenya National Action Plan (KNAP) began following the 2007/2008 post-election violence (Vicky Karimi 2015). The action plan was developed through a participatory and consultative process, very much in line with global best practices (Torunn Tryggestad 2009).

It is premised on a human security framework, under the theme “Kuhusisha Wanawake ni Kudumisha Amani” (involving women is maintaining peace). However, its implementation faces integration dilemmas (whether to mainstream it within government and other development policies or having a wellresourced and separate and distinct national action plan).

ACTIL’s capacity in conflict resolution is limited to partnership within such experiences. Institutions such as the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) and KEWOPA are regarded as a “natural” partners with whom ACTIL and UN Women could contribute to cohesion efforts during elections. Through such collaboration ACTIL could contribute to the country’s peaceful and stable elections in various ways, including:

• monitoring, facilitating and advising on the integration of the principles of equality and freedom from discrimination in all national and county policies, laws, and administrative regulations in all public and private institutions;

• acting as the Focal point for the State in creating awareness among political and security stakeholders;

• co-ordinating and facilitating the mainstreaming of issues of gender and other marginalised groups in national cohesion and integration; and

• building the capacity of those institutions mandated to monitor and facilitate development of affirmative action for gender equality in politics.

One striking contrast, however, is that training initiatives at ACTIL compete with local, regional and global training solutions in other countries in terms of relevance and cost. This speaks to the wider question of whether the ACTIL model should be led by the UN Women Regional Office, or by clusters of country offices that are coordinated by the Regional Office.

For this reason, the success of ACTIL and the subsequent effective institutionalisation of the TTL notion may not necessarily come from direct implementation (as is currently the vision), but in positioning the centre as a model example and partner to similar initiatives elsewhere on the continent.


Analysis in this article shows some limitations with the conceptualisation and implementation of ACTIL and the notion of TTL: which is too elitist and less interactive with grass root realities; insufficiently attuned to the salience of national political and peace-building machineries; too focused on deliverable as opposed to long-term institutional ownership; and overly prescriptively committed and blind to the benefits of localisation and ownership of the notion of TTL. As a result of these conceptual and practical discrepancies, ACTIL is riddled with structural challenges. As such, there are questions that will require reflection.

Firstly, do its partners (UN Women and Kenyatta University and others) have a shared vision and mission? Secondly, what should be the strategic comparative advantage of ACTIL to other similar structures in the country or in the region? Thirdly, who should be the rightful owner of the transformative thought leadership idea, UN Women or Kenyatta University? And finally, what should the ACTIL architecture look like in order to sustain the development of women’s capacities towards consolidating peace?

Responding to this set of questions will require some reflection on the UN Women-Kenyatta University partnership strategy in defining the scope, content and rules that frames their partnership. Further institutionalisation of the TTL idea may help the partners understand that politics and peace-building processes are not events, but a highly webbed network of institutional development that should be designed to respond to societal perennial challenges, particularly those that require mindset transformation. In this case, ACTIL should be treated as the ‘means’ and not the end to the inclusion of women in politics and peace-building processes. And the idea of TTL should be added to the Kenyan national peace-building tool-box.


Author: Francis Onditi

Disclaimer: This article was previously published in The Thinker and is re-published here with permission