Saturday, July 10, 2004

Deepening The Democratic Culture in Kenya

A Position Paper by

Onyango Oloo
Secretary, Kenya Democracy Project
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Montreal Quebec


THIRD DRAFT

1.0. Introduction

Relaunching the Kenya Democracy Project

We are relaunching the Kenya Democracy Project in July 2004 as a solidarity organization by Kenyans living outside the country.

Our main focus is to support the democratic forces in Kenya who are fighting to deepen political pluralism, defend democratic gains, champion civil liberties and advance social justice.

We have four immediate tasks that we have set for ourselves:

click here


Members of our group have been doing some work in their individual capacities on all the four immediate tasks listed above.

Henceforth, a lot of these contributions will be coordinated and organized through the Kenya Democracy Project.

2.0. Making Democratic Consciousness a Part of the Kenyan National DNA

We are composing these lines in the aftermath of a brutal crackdown by the Kenyan security forces of a pro-democracy protest in the lakeside town of Kisumu in the western part of the country. Here are two articles from one of the Kenyan dailies:


click here

click here


Initially, this document was going to be an angry denunciation of the police brutality perpetrated in Kisumu.

We were planning to fire off the document to the Kenyan Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister as well as other NARC government officials. We were going to copy it to as many human rights bodies around the world as we could and make sure it got into as many newsrooms.

But over the last two days, the focus has changed.

We are not going to use this document to confront the Kenyan government.

A very positive development is that the NARC government has acknowledged that there was a problem, arrested at least one police officer and dispatched a high powered team to investigate.

We like giving credit where credit is due and therefore we will not engage in ritual condemnations for their own sake- in any case, we have already done that elsewhere.

We will STILL send this document to all those aforementioned names, but it will be a different focus because we are bringing in a different audience:

The Kenyan people.

We feel there is a need for all of us who care about our country and claim to be progressive and patriotic to embark on a frank, wide-ranging serious national conversation about democracy and comprehensive human rights in Kenya and the need to defend, enhance and affirm those rights.

This feeling has grown even more as we have gauged the reaction of the Kenyan public to the horrific events of the last two weeks.

In this position paper:

We will examine reactions by the(mostly) middle class Kenyans participating in various Kenyan online discussion forums around the world, speaking freely (some anonymously, most through handles) without going through any of the “politically correct” filters and thus feeling unfettered to expose their overt and underlying class, ethnic and regional political and ideological prejudices and biases.

We will comment briefly on how the Kenyan mainstream media, through their skewed reporting and editorializing have played a very powerful role in shaping prevailing attitudes towards and manufacturing consent around ongoing human rights violations in the country.

And we will mention in passing the peculiar silence of a host of high profile, well-known Kenyan mainstream human rights organizations, mostly Nairobi based civil society groups and formerly proactive religious bodies who have remained uncharacteristically tongue tied and reticent when it comes to speaking out against the killings, atrocities and other acts of police hooliganism and paramilitary mayhem in Kisumu.

In the course of doing that, we will interrogate the assumptions of even some of the most ardent critics of the shootings, including Kisumu MPs like Reverend Nyagudi on the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to "disperse" demonstrators.

We are hoping that at the end of the day, we would have shared information that help our fellow Kenyans to be more sensitive and increasingly vigilant whenever human rights are violated ANYWHERE in the Republic of Kenya- be it Othaya, Namanga, Mandera, Kapenguria or Siaya.

We are further HOPING and BANKING on the expectation that this document will make its way, sooner, rather than later, into the eager and waiting hands of the curious Kenyan security and intelligence cats online and off-line so that Kenyan uniformed police officers, anti-riot squads, para-military units, undercover cops and other security personnel can be better informed about the roles and obligations expected of them under the provisions of the internationally ratified code of conduct for law enforcement officials.

Over and above all that, the main thrust of this position paper is to explore and jump start a multi-faceted online and face to face discussion among a wide cross section of progressive and democratic minded Kenyans about how exactly Kenyan social justice activists can involve and immerse themselves even further in the deepening and widening democratic struggles going on in many parts of Kenya to an even greater extent compared to the year 2002 even though it may not be as graphically and dramatically represented in the press coverage.

3.0 Distorted Media Coverage and the Manufacture of Consent Among Kenyans Abroad &
Online

If we take the Kisumu clashes as a case study, it is instructive to learn how the coverage of these clashes later on influenced the Kenyan public’s perceptions of what supposedly happened and how it effectively set the stage for the JUSTIFICATION, RATIONALIZATION and SANITIZATION of police brutality in the popular mind and of the attendant official NARC government propaganda and disinformation campaign against the vilified and demonized pro-democracy demonstrators and their Katiba Watch leaders and organizers.

And in order to do that, let us first go back to the days before the so called “riots” in Kisumu took place.

Here is how Karisa Maitha, a senior minister in Kibaki’s government reacted to the INITIAL July 3rd protest action of the Katiba Watch lobby group at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park:

“Monday, July 5, 2004

"Maitha commends action by the police
By Patrick Beja

"Tourism minister Karisa Maitha yesterday said those who earned the wrath of the police over the failed Katiba Watch rally in Nairobi got the treatment they deserved. And Coast MPs reacted sharply to the violence which erupted following the outlawing of Saturday’s Uhuru Park rally to press for constitutional reform. Maitha said he was happy that police moved with the necessary force to block the rally called by the Katiba Watch lobby. He said agitators for constitutional review process must follow the right procedure and respect law and order. And he said going to Uhuru Park after the rally was cancelled undermined the consensus- building process. "If you go to Uhuru Park, do you get a new Constitution from there?. The right procedures must be followed," he said angrily. Maitha said those who earned the wrath of the police at Uhuru Park after being advised by police to stay away deserved it."I congratulate the Commissioner of Police Brigadier Hussein Ali for not using excessive force to disperse the rowdy crowds which turned up at Uhuru Park. This was a display of professionalism by the police," he said.”

SOURCE:

click here

And here is what Dr. Albert Mutua, the newly appointed Government Spokesperson was quoted by IRIN as saying:

“The government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, said the Saturday rally had been banned because police had received information that "criminal elements" planned to use the gathering as an excuse to engage in unlawful activities. "The rallies were banned in good faith," Mutua told IRIN on Monday, insisting that the government did not intend to suppress basic freedoms.”

SOURCE:


click here


The abortive rally has been covered extensively in text, audio and video formats, like this online movie produced by a group of Canadian and Kenyan social justice activists:


click here


So let us move on to the July 7,2004 demonstrations and riots that broke out in Kisumu.

This too was an event that received a lot of ink in the international media:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L07540978.htm

http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=AD2BB1C1-0D13-4419-A9B63985A82277A0

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3873433.stm

http://allafrica.com/stories/200407070444.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/kenya/story/0,12689,1256336,00.html

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world/view/94454/1/.html

What was interesting was the editorial reaction from WITHIN Kenya by Kenyan journalists who themselves are no strangers to police brutality.

From the Standard newspaper we read:

“Quest for rights must be dignified”

“Yesterday’s riots in Kisumu were an absurd abuse of the freedom of expression and assembly. Enjoyment of any rights is obnoxious if it infringes on other people’s rights, and anarchy under the guise of freedom of expression must not be condoned. The destruction of property, looting, engaging police in running battles, blocking roads, stoning cars and similar excesses have absolutely nothing to do with agitating for a quick enactment of a constitution. It is doubly horrifying when such lawlessness takes on negative and destructive tribal hues, and innocent people die in the process. Hints of this were seen in Kisumu yesterday. All peace-cherishing citizens and their leaders must robustly reject invitations to attack any Kenyans on the vile excuse that their tribe is against this or pro- that position. Kenyans have a right to live anywhere they want, and this should be sacred. Kenyans are free to agitate for a new constitution in any lawful way they wish, including through rallies. We think it is dumb for the Government to deny licences for such meetings. But such demands must not degenerate into illegal and criminal actions against other people’s property. More profoundly, tribe must never be invoked to seek sympathy and victimise others. Wounds and losses from the kaya bombo (coast clashes in 1997) and the Rift Valley ethnic cleansing should warn us against such extremes. Such conflagrations have a tendency of spiralling out of control, consuming its victims and the innocent as well . Kenya is not ready for this, and it should stop immediately.”

(Standard editorial, July 8, 2004)

Their competitors over at Kaunda Street chimed in with the following:

"Events of the past week have seen the re-emergence of pitched street battles, pitting the advocates of a new constitutional order against the police. On Saturday, Katiba Watch leaders and their supporters defied a police ban and got out in their numbers to attend a rally planned for Nairobi's Uhuru Park, which had been cancelled in the last minute. They were met with brute police force that triggered violence and destruction. Thereafter, there were calls for more rallies. Thus, what had started as a simple initiative by the Katiba Watch to push for the enactment of a new constitution immediately, is taking a life of its own. This was well illustrated by the violence that rocked Kisumu on Wednesday, when hoodlums took to the streets under the guise of campaigning for a new constitution and caused mayhem. In the ensuing battles with police, one person lost his life while 19 others were injured. As was the case last Saturday in Nairobi, the use of excessive force by the police against the Kisumu youths, including firing live bullets, worsened things. Clearly, the police have not learnt to deal with riots in any other way besides unleashing violence, a sad carry-over from the dark Kanu days. By the look of things, the situation is likely to get worse when the lobby rolls out its planned meetings across the country. But we should not allow things to degenerate. More can be done to avert street battles and anarchy. The first is that the Government must realise it is in a major crisis and seek a genuine solution. It has to take charge and also restrain its police against brutality. On the face of it, the protesters have been floating the enactment of a new constitution as their main demand. But it is clear there are many undertones. The people are beginning to send a vote of no confidence in the Kibaki administration for failing to meet most of its election pledges. So, besides providing a way out of the constitutional review impasse, President Kibaki must deal decisively with the excesses in his government. Secondly, the lobbyists must learn moderation. They need to understand that a constitution is never written in the streets or at Uhuru Park. Moreover, they must be ready to take the blame for all the destruction that could be caused by their over-enthusiastic followers. We cannot talk of writing a new constitution with all this tension. All parties must agree to an immediate ceasefire." (Daily Nation editorial, July 9, 2004)


This was quickly echoed by comments on various Kenyan online forums like Mambogani, Mashada, RC Bowen, populated mostly by middle class Kenyans(the majority living abroad) in their twenties,thirties, forties and early fifties.

Here is a sampling:

From the Mambogani forum, a young Kenyan living in Australia using the handle “Tusker” writes(four of many pro- police responses):

“Before everyone starts criticizing the police, let me just say that when someone is throwing stones at you, it is likely that you would lose control. I'm not defending the police, and all those who fired live bullets should be arrested.“

“Looks like the rioters tried to attack a police station...well, what did you expect the police to do?”

”If a mob of 50 people attacked a police station, is there any doubt that there would be guns fired? Whether it was just a bunch of thugs or a bunch fighting for the constitution, any sort of attack on a police station is unwarranted. And the police have every right to protect it. It also seems that the people that 'apologists' like me were condemning were involved in attacking people of another tribe. Are these people seriously fighting for democracy?”


“Lets start by saying that Kenyan policemen and women are also Kenyans and are trying to earn a living. They risk their lives on a daily basis and almost get no appreciation. While there is obviously a lot of corruption amongst the police, there have also been a lot of instances of police losing their lives on the job. Last year, a policeman was killed in Australia on the job. He was given a state funeral and was made a hero. When was the last time a Kenyan policeman who got killed was given even more than half a page in any newspaper? Now try and put yourself in the shoes of these policemen. You see a crowd approaching you with stones in hand. You are an administration policeman and not an anti-riot policeman, which means there is a high chance that the only weapon you have in hand is a gun. Now these rioters are obviously attacking a police post. What exactly did you expect the police to do? There are press reports that they first shot in the air but in vain. I am all for a new constitution, but please don't try to destabilize an entire country with violence. Adongo, what do you mean by 'alleged rioters'. We have all seen the videos. 'Alleged rioters' do not throw stones at police and at innocent Kenyans.Real rioters do that. I don't think it is the right thing to do shooting rioters. But put yourself in the situation of the policemen. Two were injured in Kisumu. In the heat of the moment, you have no time to think. Your reflexes tell you to save your own life.”

And over at www.rcbowen.com forum, Njamlik, a Kenyan in his forties residing in Holland quoted comments from the previous forum approvingly:

“An observer from Mambogani evaluates the polemics: ’The 'riot' photos clearly show the 'rioters' to be young thugs. There is no-one waiving a placard. There are no women. Whilst there was indeed a Katiba rally, these people who are destroying public and private property are clearly not representative of Kenyan society and in my view are not anyone's political representatives. They are simply paid to cause trouble to cause instability and communicate the 'power' of those with an agenda for power through unconstitutional means. Secondly, in my view, anyone who shows sympathy for a column of protestors led by Gideon Moi calling for constitutional rights has got to assess whether they are being fooled. If I had told you Gideon Moi would be protesting for Constitutional Rights in Uhuru Park in 2001 you would have laughed me off this board. So when Gideon Moi leads a column of protestors, and shortly afterwards a load of youths start destroying kiosks, looting shops and throwing rocks when his 'rally' is kicked out of the park, what do you expect the government to do? Bow to their demands? I'd send them packing. Not that this means Kibaki is our constitutional saviour. Far from it. He is in the same camp as Gideon Moi in my view. What is the point of choosing sides here when both sides plan to steal your constitutional rights?’How wise, and how right! NJL”

And Dengu, a middle aged Kenyan woman living in the United States offers an academic insight:

“The slums are teeming with desperate destitute youth pining for a piece of the action. Any semblance of commotion is ideal and opens up a window for them to tear down shop grills and get what they would not otherwise afford. Agitation for political reform comes secondary to these instincts, otherwise what we would see are pictures of people holding up signs, and protesting without resorting to looting and destruction of property. A crowd that resists being drawn by confrontation and distracted from their goals. I have seen serious protestors forming a human chain by linking arms, resolute and focused in their mission, and in solidarity against any intimidation by the police. When police begin hurling their tea gas canisters, and shooting their rubber bullets it becomes very clear who the provocateur really is. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go in Kenya before we can get there. Kenya has a large proportion of restless youth who have grown up in an era that gave them neither hope nor faith, some having been born during the Moi tenure and now sucked into political instability and uncertainty. They become a ready reservoir for agitation for myriad causes, most of which are only understood by their architects. As long as their needs are not addressed, they will always be a thorn in any government – Whether it is one tier, two tier, a democracy or a dictatorship.”

Going over to the ever robust Mashada forum (whose membership is mostly Kenyans from their mid twenties to their early thirties), we see both rallies depicted with fascist gallows humour by a sadistic Nairobi based Sheng(patois) speaking urban tribalist rewinding, with obvious pleasure his recent satisfying TV watching reveries:

“Heh heh...Poleni...despite the seriousness of the matter at hand I couldnt help but laugh at some of the scenes in the running battles in Nai. I was asking for my second Cold Tusker in Kengeles west watching the Drama unfold.. live on TV Some of the Scenes were too much-
>
>Scene 1:
“The cops are at that roundabout that connects Holy Family, Intercontinental, KICC grounds and parliament grounds where Kenyatta was buried... Protestors have been forced into that ka road if intercon by other cops on Uhuru Highway...Nick Salat (KANU MP - Bomet) decides ati since he is an MP and since he has this "God Father" kofia (looking like he is from Texas) ati he can talk sense into the cops.. so he wachas the protesting crowd and walks solo towards the cops telling them tulizeni.. tulizeni.. Just as he fikas 10 metrs from the cops front line... FFFUUUTTUUAAAA PPPPP !!!! a KI-TEAR GAS CANISTER pasukas right infont of his face... Wacha the doba starts talking ki-kalenjin wollololol lyyaaaaa hoooooo... Then he chomokad.. masaa ya ngilu @ 140 miles per hours.. Aki I didnt jua MPs can run like that he even Overtook kina Ruto who were still in the crowd .... No wonder Kalenjins win GOLD medals... Tha jamma put on Gear 5 Cruise Control... Mbiiooooo he sprinted along uhuru highway, crossed the Hailesellasie roundabout, ingiad Railways golf club through the fence and sprinted up the hill , crossed the railway line and continued climbing on Gear 5 mpaka huko karibu na CitiBank.. that is where the doba stopped to checkout the situation... panting.. Journalists had a had time catching up... bana..
>
>Scene 2:
“Shikuku and Luo Damu Politicians (LDP) were bisi adresin a crowd of "Raila for PM" supporters when Shikuku said.. "WAZEE MBELE VIJANA NYUMA" .. BOOOMMMM several tear gas canisters exploded right inside the crowd... I think the cops were hidden in some bushes coz nobody expected canaister to land near them...The fumes surrounded the crowd and the Cameras could not see what was in there confusion.. jammazz chomokaring in all directions ...When the clouds kwishad... Shikuku was standing alone holding a wet handfkerchief...The surprising thing is that there was not a Jang'o in sight .. zooming the camera over Shikukus shoulder... the TV crew managed to film the Jang'os heels as they disappeard ove the horizon.. That is when Shikuku came to his senses and dove into that Mtaro that runs across Uhuru park..eeii bana ...
>
>Scene 3:
“The place is hapo Hilton as one crosses the road to International life house.. Some unfortunate Kenyan had kunywad soo much tear gas that he had forgoten he was a pedestrian... :D I think he thought he was driving :D hhe heh heh he coz he was running along the tarmac like a car.. yaani following the route a vehicle fuatas.. eeii wacha tu..So as he is cutting a corner hapo BOOM !! a KBS bus ngongas the jamaa from behind and tupas him 5 metres ahead.. the bus almost overan him bus somehow he survived the fron tyre of the bus.... Now the most surprising thing is that the doba woke up shrugged his coat kidogo then proceeded to run at a speed just below the ticket limit... as if it was 3000m Steeple chase..
>
>Scene 4:
“I thought Ruto was once a university student. ? I thought he should have known that Jeans and snickers are the combat regalia suitable for riots. Unfortunately the jamaa arrived for the demonstration in a KAUNDA SUIT and Italian shoes.... kwani ni MJINGA namna gani.. He must have thought it was going to be a walk in the park. Ama was he tuning some chic in the Katiba watch group..The baga didnt even have a hankerchief.. had to okota some dirty juala on the road to cover his head from the clouds of tear gas.. looking very funny
>
>Scene 5:
“As I am asking for my fourth cold TUSKER .. I scan a Lorry Load of KOFIA NYEKUNDU (GSU) LANDED ON UHURU HIGHWAY (At the Railway Bridge).. IN FULL REGALIA.. and I mean they had guns survival packs , with water some had helmets.. with camoflage leaves etc etc..The railway Bridge is approx 500metres form where I was watching the Drama... that is where I quickly malizad My Tusker and sprinted up Langata road to Langata Shopi.. From the experience I had with those Jammaz in Colle.. YOU can fight with the regular cops.. the anti riot cops.. BUT .. a VERY BIG BUT........ TAFDHALI ... NEVER F*CK WITH THE GSU....adios”


And here are some enthusiastic big ups from one ethnic chauvinist to another in Mashada:

mûriraikihia
Tue Jul-06-04 09:23 AM
Member since Mar 12th 2004
71 posts, 2 votes, -4 points

#50408, "RE: DRAMA as Katiba Watch and the Luos e..."
In response to In response to 0


"Homeboy, that's just waa-ay too Funny! LOL! It makes me wish I had a vantage seat to watch the drama as well. I have an idea, why not do this every weekend? Bring together a bunch of crazed LDP - Looters Destruction Party - hooligans, have them start their little jaluo chanting and shouting, then bring in and turn the GSU on them, turn on the TV cameras and sit back and watch our very own made in Kenya Reality TV. Hell, we can even have it on Cable TV and charge a fee for this entertainment. We can then sit at home, open a cold Tusker and get our funny bones tickled.”


Here is the same author in a different forum-www.kikuyu.com:

mûriraikihia
Junior Member
Posts: 44
Registered: Mar 2004
posted 07-05-2004 03:35 PM

"The true face of the LDP party is now well known to Kenya and the entire world. It turns out that really LDP stands for: Looters Destruction Party. At the orders of Raila, these LDP hooligans break into shops, stone motorists, loot, smash traffic lights and cause mayhem in the Nation's capital and this Raila fellow is supposed to claim to be national leader??? NO! Not in a Million years.Raila should be jailed for inciting riots and looting, Raila was even seen among the rascals who broke into a Nairobi shop and stole mobile phones. This fellow needs to be back in Kamiti where he spent a good amount of time in the 80's. The only people Raila can lead are the - Looters Destruction Party - members whose true colours we saw so vividly this past weekend.”

And finally here is a New Jersey based netter from Nyanza province who goes by the handle, “Public Eye”:

“When we play politics let us watch our steps not to endanger civilians who don't even earn anything from political saga. Our beloved country has several towns where Kenyans can go and demonstrate their political views. Every year the public is sick to have the same town, politician and tribe used to cause trouble to the nation which is having 42 tribes. Is Kisumu an ignition of hell cat for political demonstrations? Why should Kisumu be used as a political catalyst than other towns? Like this time Kisumu has been used to hustle political demonstrations most of them turning to be fruitless. Why Kisumu? Why this tribe? The recent complaint from CIPK (Council Of Imam Preachers Of Kenya) about police brutality is compromised with Hon: Najib Balala about MOU. There was no evidence that Muslims were in this demonstrations, but because the ball player Hon: Najib Balala is their boy in MOU they could complained about those demonstrations. MOU has now become a tribal entity instead of being a national entity. The Kisumu demonstrations brought into effect some effects. The burning of tires brought air pollution to the environment, the public was disturbed from the noise and unusual traffic and the closure of business on that day. Don't forget the image the town has to investors and consumers in the area. Parliament and Bomas Katiba Watch should use their powers to effect the constitutional amendment but not political mongers to use civilians to darken the image of the nation. Parliament has the authority to vote the president out of office if they feel like now that he has failed to honor what he promised them. Instead cheap politicians are using cheap tribal kinsmen to act as political shield. Did the government issue a warning for you not to attend this demonstrations? Why did you attend? The MOU demonstrations in Kisumu were made out of selfish and misguided interests for not approving the recent cabinet inter-party appointments. The Police could use plastic bullets and 2 out 10 have live bullets to protect themselves incase of danger. The police can shoot if their lives are in danger. Their lives come first. Did the government issue a warning for you not to attend this meeting? Why did you attend? Avoid the lose of lives for useless non beneficial gathering. University students should work hand in hand with Bomas Katiba Watch later than the helm of the tribe. Kenyans voted this government into office where it was given power and authority to enforce Law and Order. When we disobey government orders and cause chaos and havoc it kills confidence of investors, it scares consumers, it darkness the image of the government on donor countries which eventually brings instability to the nation which affects the common man. I don't care if you shed your tears, but I urge you not to dry your tears with your hand instead use your handkerchief and if you don't have one use leafs from the tree.”


4.0. The Tribalization and Regionalization of the Human Rights Discourse in Kenya

From the above extracts we see that a section of overseas based Kenyan middle class observers of political events have a markedly pro-police fascist law and order attitude; others are quite cynical and go as far as making fun of victims of police brutality; some are openly tribal, seeing the Kisumu and Nairobi standoffs in purely and narrowly ethnic-partisan terms between “good, law abiding , civilized tribes” supporting the NAK faction and “bad, lawless, hooligan tribes” opposing the same; others think that the deaths of small children from police gun shots call for sanctimonious,pompous academic fence sitting; while the ones who want to be “fair” and allegedly "objective" would say that on the one hand the police are violent but on the other hand they were provoked-thus effectively leaving the perpetrators of state violence off the hook.

Looking briefly at some of the law and order arguments, the biggest fallacy is the refusal to hold the police to the same law and order standards and strictures they demand of people they label as mindless, violent hooligans. Police hooliganism and para- military thuggery is no less odious and distasteful than the mayhem and looting unleashed by any bhangi and chang'aa fueled petty hoodlum from the teeming slums.

Poking fun at the victims of state repression is on the same abysmal level of moral turpitude as the frothing crowds in the Roman arenas waiting for suicidal gladiators to tear each other apart or the simple minded European villagers jostling for the best spot at the occasional witch burning extravaganza- not to speak of the rabid rednecks clamouring for Americans of African descent to be lynched in the southern United States. The fact that these smirking, smug, pampered and well-fed chortling sadists are relatively well educated and urbanized Kenyans underscores the commonplace observation that many contemporary fascist movements often recruit their most ardent members from among the most "normal" looking and acting middle-class boy/girl next door types. Away from their monitors, many of these tribal sadists are pretty “normal” young men and women-some of them may even be dating members of those nationalities who in their cyber sessions are considered in their warped ethnocentric minds to be the “enemy tribes.”

It makes one think of the ideologues of the Rwanda genocide-suave, urbanized, cosmopolitan, "respectable" university educated, well-travelled and well heeled “community leaders” who spoke impeccable French and went to church diligently every weekend- when they were not attending PTA meetings regularly.

Kenyan civil society formations must immediately start with rooting out this ideological and philosophical cancerous culture of demonizing and subhumanizing the ethnic other; and they must intervene before it is too late.

During the time of Daniel arap Moi, the community which was demonized as the “enemy tribe” was the Agikuyu.

It would appear that in 2004, the finger pointing is shifting swiftly westwards towards a certain lake named after a certain dowdy stuffy expired female monarch who clung to archaic aristocratic despotism for close to forty years in a century now archived in the hard drives of posterity.

It is also slightly disconcerting to witness formerly patriotic minded Kenyans who barely two years ago identified totally with the national democratic and human rights paradigm today waffling in willful ambivalence which in practice translates into actual abeyance to the diktat of the intolerant status quo with all its hate mongering and ethnic baiting.

There is a secular, peculiar and particular urgent need to recapture these “lost Kenyan souls” and bring them back to the democratic and patriotic fold- assuming they were even tangentially part of this twin demi-monde in the first place.

The polarized, personalized and highly tribalized nature of contemporary Kenyan politics has inculcated in many Kenyans, especially elements of the country’s middle class chattering strata this eerie and uncanny predisposition to fall in line loyally beyond whoever is seen to best represent the “interests of the tribe.”

In actuality, the interests of the tribe are nothing other than the selfish and personal aggregated interests of whichever section of the middle class elite in that ethnic group that has maneuvered itself to be at the centre stage of that particular ethnic unit of the Kenyan elite.

One cannot dismiss out of hand the distinct disdain with which a growing number of Kenyans, inside and outside the country, view the well-heeled politrickians who just yesterday were ordering the same ruthless police to swing into action today trying to spearhead the same restive process. Charges of opportunism are the mildest and most diplomatic retorts that Kenyans can hurl at these mostly KANU politicians- several of whom have a chequered history of abusing or hijacking popular or populist causes for their own selfish ends.

Yet it must also be said that part of the emerging discourse of “politicians using the ordinary wananchi” has hidden and embedded in it an increasing vocubulary of innocent sounding code words under which lie mega decibel subliminal tribal telegrams.

To take one example:

Complaining that Gideon Moi has no credibility in posing as a latter day Mandela is not a contention or position that I would necessarily have any problems with or quibble about- the scion of one of the wealthiest families in the country leave alone being the anointed heir of the former constitutional monarch, Gideon is just NOT CREDIBLE as a mass action activist. Ditto for William Ruto, the pioneer of the dastardly YK92.

However, when it is becomes a QUESTION OF THE ETHNICITY OF a GIDEON MOI or a WILLIAM RUTO then, for me at least, it becomes a flashback to the clandestine debates in exile and behind prison walls, the grey days of the 1980s when there was a fierce exchange within certain Kenyan pro-democracy formations around the whole notion of reducing and personalizing political tyranny to Daniel arap Moi the individual and members of "his" Kalenjin community.

Today some of us note with not so muted horror, the same danger in which we witness some critics of the Kibaki government looking at the regime in overly personalized and individualized terms-with some people degenerating to references as to the physiognomy, body weight and even facial mannerisms of the incumbent head of state and psychology of his spouse and his immediate circle of advisors.

This personalization of Kenyan politics speaks volumes about the paucity of trenchant analysis, the dearth of complexity of ideological dissection and the utter inability to grasp at the multi-layered tapestry of history and political economy where these local Kenyan bit players perform their brief walk on comprador bourgeois bit parts in the global puppet burlesque orchestrated by their western imperialist masters-whether it is done by those who want to characterize state repression in narrow ethnic terms or those on the other side of the fence who are wont to cast opponents of the regime in the same unflattering light.

The truth of course is very nuanced and ethnicity on all sides of these many sided political conflicts can only be wished away at one’s peril.

The scourge of tribalism in Kenya is both a consequence and a cause of our collective lack of political coherence, strategic vision and solid, sustainable organizations that have the credibikity and integrity to push the struggle for democracy in Kenya forward.

What is tragic is the quite misplaced hope invested naively by a large section of Kenyans at home in the ambitious presumption that Kenyans abroad are somehow, less narrow minded and allegedly relatively not as obsessed with ethnic differences as their compatriots in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu,Eldoret, Muranga, Kakamega, Kisii, Kajiado, Garissa, Lokitaung or Kutus.

What a hoot!

What a cruel hoax!

The irony, at least, judging from the daily raucous interactions in several of the Kenyan online forums, is that Kenyans abroad are but a microcosm of the Kenyans at home and therefore these overseas based compatriots are as prone to all the stresses-positive and negative- of remaining grounded in their tribal laagers, ethnic cocoons, digital gicagis or rising to the national challenge of seeking the alternative path of finding common cause with the collective plight of their fellow Kenyans by transcending narrow and negative ethno-centric visions and shunning the temptation of participating in spontaneous chauvinist orgies, cyber kiapo and muma "eating" ceremonies and the digital equivalents of tribal riots on the internet.

There are those Kenyans who manage somehow, to strike a comfortable, healthy balance, helping to lead or participate in regional, ethno-specific community ventures of their tribes while expending almost as much energy in wider national projects involving their fellow Kenyans whether these be humanitarian endeavours or political action campaigns.

And then you have extremists at both ends of the ideological-ethnic spectrum- the unabashed tribalists who will not look outside their ethnic cocoons to the “detribalized” elites who do not see the connection between ethnic identity, national consciousness and inter-community solidarity in working together for a new Kenya, a better Kenya, a more democratic, more just and more prosperous Kenya...

Unfortunately, many of these nuances evaporate suddenly and completely when disparate and often desperate communities- irrespective of where they stand in terms of the power totem pole and its attendant dynamics, feel threatened by other communities for empirically justified or totally demented paranoid delusions.

Right now in Kenya, the most obvious tribal fault lines are the ones which divide the so called “Big Two Tribes” the Luos and the Gikuyus, and secondarily the Kalenjin, the Abaluhyia and the Kamba with other communities following in tow.

Kenyans from minority communities like the Chonyi, the Teso, the Samburu and Borana for instance, are understandably very frustrated and considerably upset often feeling like the proverbial grass trampled by the two proverbial elephants duking it out in African folkloric cliche territory.

Yet the sad thing is that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was FAR LESS of these ethnocentric elitist power games playing themselves so overtly on the Kenyan political landscape.

For instance, if we look at the parents of Gideon, Raila and Uhuru- during their era the elitist conflicts were seen in much clearer ideological terms and one found that a Tom Mboya felt closer and personally more comfortable to a Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and James Gichuru rather than to an Achieng Oneko or a Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Likewise, a Bildad Kaggia and Munyua Waiyaki found it easier to work with Jaramogi, JD Kali and Pio Gama Pinto as opposed to Njoroge Mungai or Charles Njonjo and the schism when it came in KANU was largely an ideological split between the Left wing and the Right wing of that party.

Forty years on Gideon, Raila, Uhuru, Kibaki, Ruto , Balala, Kalonzo are seen largely in TRIBAL TERMS because the elitist politics of Kenya today is a vicious calculating game of ethnic arithmetic rather than a structured ideological strategy of mobilizing certain segments of the Kenyan society to persuade them to embrace this or that immediate and long term political platform of this or that political party. The so called "parties" are themselves a cruel joke-nothing but conduits to personal power for this or that tribal or elitist chieftain.

This ethnic reductionism in mainstream Kenyan politics is a manifestation of our backwardness and an indicator of the legacy of one party rule which engendered the notion of political ethnic chieftains who would be expected to “deliver” their communities to pledge total fealty to the incumbent head of state. It is also a legacy of the long tradition of colonial divide and rule tactics of the British where they pit "enemy" tribes against "friendly" tribes- and in the case of one ethnic group caused cleavages that have wounds lasting to this day as the offspring of the homungati sellouts, sneer contemptously at the pauperized descendants of Kimathi, Muthoni and Mathenge...

The elites love this arrangement because they stand to gain immensely if they are made part and parcel of the presidential patronage system. If an opposition politician, from say, FORD-People can convince his immediate (tribal) associates and a portion of his rural constituents that by accepting a ministerial position he will “bring development” then the star of said politicians is supposed to burn brightly for a while. Of course if he does not deliver on this long laundry list of his constituents often unrealistic demands, he can then easily find himself turfed out of parliament as yet another desperate search is conducted to see who can be relied upon the most to prostitute themselves for a few crumbs from the kitchens of Ikulu....

The tragic reality of course, is that individual members of parliament and sometimes even individual ministers, have very little leeway in influencing the "awarding" of so called "development projects" one way or another as an alleged reward for ethnic solidarity when the elites of tribe A want to vanquish the elites of tribe B. The fact that all the Kenyan governments have failed to implement their often detailed and well-researched development plans has not prevented these MPs from horse trading for personal perks and tribal rewards as myopic as they lack direction,lurching forward for decades without a vision, passion and focus on sustainable development..

It is when you look at these status quo realities that you grasp the momentous significance of the just concluded Kenyan constitutional review process at Bomas close to four months ago now- a truly historic event that dates back at least a decade. Within that period Kenyans have continued to agitate for change, breakthrough wrestled and won in spurts, in bits, in increments including the SYMBOLICALLY significant milestone- the devastating electoral defeat of the discredited Moi-KANU regime and its pet Uhuru Project.

UNBWOGABLE was not just a hit song by a popular hip hop duo- it was an all encompassing national spirit. The song reverberates everytime I utter the title:


click here to listen to UNBWOGABLE

We have described the UNBWOGABLE Spirit elsewhere as being:

“By the UNBWOGABLE Spirit I mean that spirit of transcendent militant Kenyan patriotism; by the UNBWOGABLE Spirit I mean that united desire for a new democratic dispensation in our country; by the UNBWOGABLE Spirit I mean that-fire-in-the-belly, idealistic zeal to wash away the legacy of corruption, tribalism, religious intolerance; by the UNBWOGABLE Spirit I mean that indomitable sense of being completely and totally unafraid of the threats of fascist repression; by the UNBWOGABLE Spirit I am talking of the demand for a people driven constitution helping to buttress and bolster an era of good governance, transparency and accountability.”(Onyango Oloo, “Recapturing the UNBWOGABLE Spirit”)

This is the spirit which started with the efforts of the Willy Mutungas, Timothy Njoyas, Davinder Lambas, Njeri Kabeberis, and yes the Kivutha Kibwanas in the heydays of the Citizens’ Coalition for Constitutional Change and the NCEC; it was in the militancy of the Amanya Wafulas, the Dorcas Atienos and members of the Kimathi Movement; it was in the radical and uncompromising political lyrics of Sinpare, Do Klan Revolution and Poxi Pressure; it was in the theatrical and satirical boldness of Wahome Mutahi; it was in the courageous videography and spoken word performances of Ndungi Githuku; it was in the quiet courage of the Asunta Waguras and professional determination of the relatively organized women’s movement coalescing around issues like domestic violence, inheritance and property rights, reproductive choice; it was in the meticulously researched presentations of the Kenya Land Alliance; it was in the progressive and aggressive work of democratic minded lawyers; it was in the monumental memory project of former political prisoners coming together to relive and transcend the horrors of Nyayo House; it was in pockets of Kenyans abroad reconnected with the aforesaid movements at home; it was in the soul searching among mainstream politicians about throwing their hat into the democratic ring; it was all this and much, much more.

And whichever way you look at it, Bomas- the national constitutional conference for the non-Kenyans reading this- Bomas was definitely part of that democratic, that national upsurge- that reentry of the ordinary wananchi people into history which had been growing gradually throughout the nineties, now reached this point where it was no longer trusted dozens of well known civil society stars- most of them based in Nairobi- but hundreds of Kenyans from every corner of the country many of them humble peasants, quite a few formerly stay at home mothers who suddenly found themselves in the middle of one of the most important historical junctures in Kenya.

The opponents of Bomas, specifically the complaint about the composition have cited the cynical machinations of Moi and KANU to stack the process with its supporters. There is obviously some truth in that. Other more honest voices in NAK like Koigi wa Wamwere have complained in writing that:

“..You may laugh or call it panic but I have a premonition. There will be national suicide at Bomas unless certain things are put right.

”For those who will call me "a voice in the wilderness" or "a prophet of doom", my reply is simple. Sikio la kufa halisikii dawa - a dying ear will not hear medicine and asiyesikia la mkuu mwisho huvunjika guu - one who will not listen to warnings ends up breaking a leg.

”The closer we get to Bomas, the more I smell doom and catastrophe.

”To begin with the media, especially the print media - The Nation, The Standard, The Kenya Times, The People and the so-called gutter press - are all highly polarized and biased for and against some. Instead of facilitating an open debate among all delegates, they will print the views of those they like and muzzle those they don't like. They will broadcast the opinions they share and kill those they disagree with. In so doing, they will block debate, exclude compromise and exacerbate tensions. Worse, though they are adept at criticizing others, they consider themselves above criticism.

”When the leader limps, the flock does not reach the pastures, so says a Gikuyu proverb. At Bomas Chairman Ghai limps and leads the National Constitutional Conference as a patriarch would his household. Instead of serving interests of the nation, he runs the National Constitutional Conference to enhance his curriculum vitae by squeezing the writing of Kenya's new constitution into his global-constitution writing program. As a Kenyan who will have to live with the new constitution forever, I am totally opposed to a chairman who puts his need to be in Afghanistan by October to write their new constitution before our right to have a well thought out and thoroughly debated constitution. Unless Chairman Ghai is able to be in Kenya for as long as it takes to have a properly written constitution, he should resign and leave the chair of the conference to any other Kenyan who can be with us until we finish thoroughly debating, amending and writing the new constitution. With Ghai as chair of the NCC, we shall not have the constitution Kenya deserves.

”I will say it again. I know of no delegates in history who wrote a constitution but had less than five minutes to talk about it. It is a joke - indeed a tragedy that delegates are going to Bomas merely to rubber stamp the draft constitution. What a waste of precious time, money and hope!

”As we go to Bomas, this Parliament has let Kenya down just as badly as it did in 1982 when it made Kenya a one-party state. History will never forgive it. It failed to give the new constitution legality and legitimacy by entrenching the writing of it in the constitution. It refused to guarantee a national referendum on the new constitution and it refused to redress under representation at the conference. And so we go to the Bomas with the KANU-supporting so called small and marginalized communities and areas over represented to impose their agenda on the new constitution and the previously opposition-supporting larger communities under represented to defend their interests. Instead of going to Bomas as Kenyans, we go to Bomas as ethnic armies not to protect our collective interests but vanquish our ethnic enemies.

”We are going to Bomas with the LDP faction of Narc agreed to combine their troops with the majority KANU delegates to make Raila executive prime minister in exchange of a promise not to investigate and punish past corruption and human rights violations by KANU operatives. Given the majority alliance of LDP (former NDP) and KANU delegates, I foresee the burial of NARC, democracy and one Kenya at Bomas.

”As creatures of gerrymandered under representation, many delegates are going to the Bomas not to defend democracy and equitable representation but to bury them. As conscious soldiers of our ethnic armies, we march to the constitutional battlefield not to die for national unity and one Kenya but to bury them. As beneficiaries and victims of negative ethnicity, many delegates march to the Bomas not to kill negative ethnicity but to bury nationalism. Without national agreement that negative ethnicity is our enemy number one and must not be our guiding light, we shall write a constitution that will not preserve the sanctity of Kenya but tear it into pieces. Unless we reject negative ethnicity before we go to Bomas, we could finish writing the new constitution and be at each other's throat the following day.

”Should we march to Bomas as sheep to their slaughter or stop and think before we cross the Rubicon?

”Hon. Koigi wa Wamwere, MP/13 August 2003, New York.”

That candid statement of Koigi has been articulated with varying degrees of honesty by large sections of the Kenyan civil society which see in the NAK faction of the Kibaki regime the “reformist” wing which would “husband”(where do people get these sexist loaded terms?) the democratic transition.

Having been to Bomas and attended some of the sessions, including some where Koigi wa Wamwere was present, I do not share the same contempt with which the Subukia MP held his fellow delegates- some of whom were fellow ex- detainees, fellow ex- exiles, fellow MPS and even many who were much more radical and ideologically clearer than him. I saw a cross section of highly intelligent Kenyans from around the country- young and old, men and women Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Atheists, Traditional African religion adherents, workers, peasants, professionals, artists,business people, civil servants, retired military personnel- you name it and I actually thought I had never seen such a national coming together of Kenyan democratic forces IN ONE SPACE.

Koigi’s depiction, imbued as it is with overt ethnic, factional and personal biases has helped to obscure the other fault lines at Bomas.

There were inter and intra-class struggles going on, overtly and covertly at Bomas.

And part of that class struggle had to do with the very meaning of democratic representation.

I am going to skirt the issue of numerical representation which is something that the Big Tribes like the Luos and the Gikuyus would obsess over endlessly and deal with the more germane question of EQUITABLE representation.

When affirmative action clashes with simple majority rule who wins?

In a society struggling to deepen its democratic experience, you bring the marginalized to the centre while not marginalizing the formerly dominant forces at the centre.

Women and youth must gain voice; Pastoral and far flung communities numbering a fraction of the dominant tribes, must ironically have a bigger say than previously because historically the dominant elites, nationalities and personalities spoke and voted for them. One simply has to look at the impact of the suffragate movement and the civil rights struggle and see what major impact guaranteeing women and people of colour the right to vote. And we see how the entry of female voters and Black voters changed US Presidential politics. At the same time we see a retrograde rearguard backlash which gave rise to the reactionary and sexist Men’s Movement and we witness White people complaining about “reverse discrimination” in their bid to main White Supremacy and White Privilege.

Obviously if you spoke to these two sets of people in the United States, you would get two different depictions of the impact of the Suffragate Movement and the Civil Rights struggle. Dominant elites rarely give up without a fight and what we noticed in Bomas, over and above the ethnic, personal and regional sabre rattling was a clash between petit bourgeois selfishness and a more broad based multi-class, multi-ethnic and cross country push for democratic rights.

If we accept for argument’s sake that outfits like the NCEC, LSK, CGD, KHRC, FIDA are PRIMARILY urban-based elitist organizations dominated by a very incestuous petit bourgeois elite, it should not surprise one to hear of contemptuous references to the intellectual capacities of a couple delegates from Kapenguria, Sotik or Nyahururu. When one of my good friends was MISQUOTED by the press for allegedly referring to this very issue there was such a visceral and angry reaction that, as another comrade told me, he was not able to attend Bomas sessions for quite some time because of the anger and danger that the more impatient delegates would push for a physical face off.

I do not think that the ire was personalized, but had more to do with the fact that many Bomas delegates were seeing in print what they had felt all along from their fellow, relatively so called “sophisticated urban socialite types”.

I want to argue that part of the CURRENT reluctance of the mainline human rights organizations to rush to the defence of the Katiba Watch supporters and condemn police brutality has a lot to do with this simmering undeclared inter and intra class warfare between different batches of Bomas delegates.

Sadly it is not surprising that the petit bourgeois civil society OPPONENTS of the Bomas process are also fervent supporters of the NAK faction and remain quite hostile to other partisan tendencies, especially the LDP and KANU. Nowhere is this more clear than in this leaked email from Prof. Makau Mutua, the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the best known NGO in the social justice arena in our country:


click here to read the leaked letter from Prof.Makau Mutua

This arrogant paragraph:

“This is also very sad because Mr. Odinga himself is no longer a reformer, if he ever was one. Mr. Odinga is an ambitious powermonger, someone who seems driven by an unquenchable thirst for personal political power. Just look at the cast of dubious and questionable characters that Mr. Odinga surrounds himself with: Otieno Kajwang, Kamotho, Kalonzo -- a discredited and utterly anti-reformist tribalist, Musila -- who cut his teeth in the brutal provincial admistration of the past, and a host of other sycophants drawn largely from Luo Nyanza. Are these the kind of people who, together with the now tragi-comical Shikuku, can lead mass action? I do not think so. Where is their moral superiority to demand a new democractic constitution? Does this lot even understand what democracy is? I do not think so.”

Apparently political forces which were able to fill stadiums with hundreds of thousands of wananchi demanding an end to the KANU nightmare do not understand democracy; apparently a political party that was able to wipe out KANU from an entire region does not know what democracy is; presumably political forces which include Kenya’s longest serving detainee know nothing about democracy.

It is such insufferable arrogance that has sharpened the internal contradictions within the Kenya’s broad based democratic reform movement.

One of the main leaders of the old line “reformers” of the 1990s, Kivutha Kibwana, is now one of the ministers in charge of suppressing public rallies and ordering live bullets to be used on an unarmed demonstrators. It is particularly easy to do so against former Bomas delegates if you share the sentiments of Makau Mutua that these Katiba Watch may not even know what democracy is. It is easy, if you lurk within some of the mainstream human rights organizations affiliated to NAK to sit back and mutter to yourself that Bomas delegates like Wahu Kaara, Oduor Ongwen, Mwandawiro Mghanga, Martin Shikuku and yes Isaac Ruto deserve to be teargassed because after all, what do they know about democracy? It is even easier if it is some young Luo youth in Kisumu running around screaming about Katiba Mpya- after all they are probably paid hooligans working at the behest of Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and William Ruto. If you are a journalist who is personally sympathetic to the NAK faction, you find it easier to nod in agreement to Karisa Maitha when he says that the police acted with restraints and that thousands of NARC voters who were clobbered and water hosed deserved exactly what they got.

If all of you- ministers, chairpersons of major human rights bodies, program officers of various NGOs, journalists and security intelligence forces huddled together, it would not require a Ph.D in Quantum Physics for you to figure out that the ideological war must be won on the airwaves and in the print media. It would be important to criminalize, demonize and vilify Katiba Watch and its s supporters as riff raff being used by tribal minded politicians to destabilize the country.

There were incidents of tribal animosity in Kisumu I am told- we all saw the bloodied head of a person who may have been targeted because he is Gikuyu. The police must immediately apprehend those culprits and make them accountable, if they are found guilty to the full extent of the law. This descent into ethnic animosity is the thing some of us have been warning the Kibaki government about for the last year. I know that I have personally written to either President Kibaki or Minister Kiraitu a MINIMUM of six times since NARC came to power. It is a bomb waiting to go off- and it may ignite ANYWHERE in the country.

There is also the possibility that there could have been what the CIA calls a black bag job- in other words, a Kitsonian dirty tricks operation predicated on the notion of the counter gangs in which state hired thugs unleash mayhem that would be later blamed on its foes.

We have gone into all this detail to make a simple point:

The fact that Kenyans are unable to reach a CONSENSUS that there was police brutality in Nairobi and Kisumu and that is was inexcusable is a precursor to an even more grim stage of the democratic struggle in Kenya.

There is the very real possibility that the mainstream human rights organizations, the churches and the media- the traditional vehicles of our country’s democratic conscience will soon completely abdicate that vocation and become full fledged ideologists and propagandists of the status quo.

And it is not far fetched..

There is the aforementioned Standard editorial. There is the almost total (with the exception of people like Kang'ethe Mungai, the LSK and a smattering of civil society voices) silence from the NGOs and mainstream human rights organizations in the face of some of the worst manifestations of state violence against its people- and NARC more or less- using vehicle and machinery and fire power which evoke Seattle, Prague, Genoa and Quebec City.

And then there is this press release from the Catholic Church in Kenya:


click here


5.0. Who Were the Real Hooligans in Kisumu?

Contrast the above to some HONEST reporting from Kenyan journalists who still have the integrity to tell the TRUTH about the actual victims of the police violence.

An honest photographer, the Standard’s Yahya Mohamed, recorded for posterity a pro-democracy supporter bitten by a police dog for demanding a new constitution. Kudos and Bravo I say to Yahya from far off Montreal: continue using your camera as a witness. Perhaps thanks to you, a hooligan in police uniform will one day have his or her day in court.


This is an account from the Daily Nation:

“Riot victims recount their harrowing experiences
Story by NATION Correspondent
Publication Date: 07/08/2004

“As riots rocked Kisumu Town, victims of police brutality recounted the harrowing experiences from their hospital beds.

“PATRICK OTIENO

The 10-year-old boy was on his way back home in Nyawita estate when a police bullet caught his left thigh.

“The Standard Five pupil at Kudho Primary School had just delivered a consignment of mandazis (buns) to his step-mother at Kondele market when the incident occurred.

"I had just run away from Kondele market where there was chaos everywhere. Stones were flying and I couldn't bear it. But my flight was curtailed by a policeman who accosted me just metres from home and shot me."

“SABINA ATIENO

“The 22-year-old woman had just opened the tailoring business she runs with her sister at Malo Malo tailoring shop within Kondele trading centre when a group of men with police officers in hot pursuit passed outside the shop.

“Moments later, a policeman burst inside and asked to know what they were doing there when there was chaos everywhere.

She said the officer opened fire in full view of her sister who begged him not to shoot them.

COLLINS ODUOR

The 22-year-old store-keeper in Kondele was arranging bags of maize in his employer's store. He heard gunshots outside and when he stepped out to see what was going on, he was shot.

JOSHUA JUMA

The 44-year-old employee of Ketepa Tea packers Limited was returning to his house in Nyalenda estate, at 10am, when he bumped into a policeman near Western trading centre. "He shouted demanding to know where I was going.

"He shot me when I defied his order to turn back. The next thing I remember is l found myself in hospital."

Further comment on the Kisumu event is in this piece by the Convener of Kenya Democracy Project, Adongo Ogony:


click here to Read Adongo's commentary, "Rambo in Kisumu"

There is also this report:

click here

One of the most bizarre comments from the above story is one ascribed to MP Ken Nyagudi wondering why the police did not use rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

Such is pervasiveness of state repression that we have to regard tear gas and rubber bullets as a standard part of demonstrations which should of course be dispersed by the police using, let us note, tear gas and rubber bullets instead of live bullets.

Let me share some sobering facts with Rev. Nyagudi about tear gas:


click here to read more about tear gas

click here

click here


I hope he and others who think that tear gas should normally be used to “disperse” demonstrators get to read and reflect on some of the side effects of tear gas on actual human beings.

Here are some more links from a website linking communities against police brutality:

click here


Now let us check out the 411 on rubber bullets:


click here


click here

Instead of insisting that rubber bullets should be used against Kenyans some of whom happen to be his constituents, maybe Reverend Nyagudi should be demanding that they BE BANNED!

Why should demonstrations be dispersed in the first place?

Over here in Canada I have attended literally hundreds of demos and while there are half a dozen or so which have gotten unruly, the routine thing is that people get a permit, for traffic control purposes they specify the route the protest march will follow they are police lined up along the route to PROTECT the demonstrators and DIRECT traffic. All police officers in Canada carry guns as a routine but you will NEVER SEE THESE GUNS DRAWN unless the situation is extremely unusual.

It seems like in Kenya we have grown up with the stereotype that a demonstration is just another synonym for “riot” and in fact that is how the mainstream media portrays them.

Everybody comes to a demonstration EXPECTING a confrontation and a show of force. It is a self fulfilling prophecy- more often than not, one side or the other will unleash the first provocation and it is downhill from there.

This mindset has to change, and our politicians could lead the way if they stop recommending the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

It reminds me of that tragedy at St. Kizito several years ago when marauding school boys killed their female class mates. The Weekly Review quoted the headmaster as rationalizing the whole affair with this infamous quip:

“The boys meant no harm. They just wanted to rape the girls. That was all.”

6.0. Have The Kenyan Police Heard About the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials?

Prof. Kivutha Kibwana is one of Kenya’s most distinguished law professors. He is also a doyen of the country’s civil society movement. He was head honcho at CLARION and one of the co-convenors of NCEC.

I am mentioning all these credentials because if there was ONE person in the NARC government who is likely to be familiar with all of the regional and international human rights declarations, conventions, protocols and instruments, that person is likely to be Prof. Kivutha Kibwana, perhaps followed very closely by Hon. Kiraitu Murungi, for a very long time the go to lawyer for Kenyan political prisoners, activists and dissidents. He was the man, as I never tire in marveling who was my lawyer(and for several other political prisoners and detainees) when I was suing the former regime for false imprisonment. And we won.

Back to Prof. Kivutha Kibwana.

These days he is no longer in the civil society. He is a member of parliament, a Bomas delegate and the assistant minister in charge of INTERNAL SECURITY. That practically means that rallies, demonstrations, sabotage, crowd control, tear gas, live and rubber bullets pass through his desk for approval and monitoring.

He cannot therefore claim that he did not know under what auspices the anti-riot and GSU units in Nairobi and Kisumu were operating under. He is therefore directly answerable for every dog bite, every gun shot and of course every death meted out by the Kenyan police on July 3rd and July 7th, 2004.

I am CERTAIN that Prof. Kivutha Kibwana is familiar with the aforesaid UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.

For the benefit of my readers however, I would like to examine the code a little more closely.

First of all, here is the link:


click here

Now let us go through it bit by bit:

“All governments are required to adopt the necessary measures to instruct law enforcement officials, during basic training and all subsequent training and refresher courses, in the provisions of national legislation in accordance with the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials as well as other basic international human rights standards applicable to law enforcement officials.


“These standards should be made available as widely as possible to the general public and fully respected under all circumstances. They should be reflected in national legislation and practice, and regular public reports issued on their implementation. Exceptional circumstances such as a state of emergency or any other public emergency do not justify any departure from these standards.

“All governments should adopt an active and visible policy of integrating a gender perspective into the development and implementation of training and policies for law enforcement officials.”

We know that the previous regime was openly fascist.

This NARC one however,we CONSCIOUSLY elected into office because of the slew of “reformers” who were running on a NARC ticket: Kivutha, Wangari Mathaai, Kiraitu, Mirugi, Koigi, Anyang Nyongo, Mukhisa Kituyi etc. So we would expect that at a minimum workshops and seminars for law enforcement officials to familiarize them the code of conduct which are binding to all UN members( and Kenya is yet to opt out of the world body).

Has this happened?

If it did then those workshops either had very poor facilitators or students with very shaky memories because there was no evidence that they were observing these code of conduct. But I am moving way ahead of my own tale.

Amnesty International further informs us:

“Everyone shares responsibility to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its entirety. Nevertheless the UDHR contains a number of articles which are particularly relevant for law enforcement work:
• Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person (Article 3, UDHR)
• No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5, UDHR)
• All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law (Article 7, UDHR)
• No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 9, UDHR).

• Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which they have had all the guarantees necessary for their defence (Article 11(1), UDHR)
• Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19, UDHR)
• Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and no one may be compelled to belong to an association (Article 20, UDHR)
Other documents directly relevant to policing work are the following United Nations law enforcement, criminal justice and human rights instruments:
• UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials
• UN Guidelines for the effective implementation of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials
• UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions
• UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances
• UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
• UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
• UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials
• UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
(hereafter referred to as Standard Minimum Rules)
• UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (hereafter referred to as Body of Principles)
• UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
• UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty
• UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women
• UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power
• UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Standard Minimum Rules and the UN Body of Principles set out several important principles and prerequisites for the humane performance of law enforcement functions, including that:

•Every law enforcement agency should be representative of, and responsive and accountable to, the community as a whole
•The effective maintenance of ethical standards among law enforcement officials depends on the existence of a well-conceived, popularly accepted and humane system of laws
•Every law enforcement official is a part of the criminal justice system, the aim of which is to prevent and control crime, and the conduct of every official has an impact on the entire system
•Every law enforcement agency should discipline itself to uphold international human rights standards and the actions of law enforcement officials should be open to public scrutiny
•Standards for humane conduct of law enforcement officials lack practical value unless their content and meaning become part of the creed of every law enforcement official, through education and training and through monitoring.
The term "law enforcement officials" includes all officers of the law, whether appointed or elected, who exercise police powers, especially the powers of arrest and detention. This should be given the widest possible interpretation, and includes military and other security personnel as well as immigration officials where they exercise such powers.
Copies of UN law enforcement, criminal justice and human rights standards can be obtained from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland (http://www.un.org/cgi-bin/treaty 2.pl or E-mail to: treaty@un.org)”

And here are the 10 Basic Standards with Amnesty’s elaboration, quoted verbatim:

Basic Standard 1:

Everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law,
without discrimination on any grounds, and especially against violence or threat.
Be especially vigilant to protect potentially vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, women, refugees, displaced persons and members of minority groups.
For the implementation of Basic Standard 1 it is of great importance that police officers at all times fulfill the duty imposed on them by law, by serving the community and protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession. They must promote and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons, among which are the following:
• Everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person
• No one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
• All persons deprived of their liberty have the right not to suffer torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
• Everyone is entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law
• Everyone has the right to a fair trial
• Everyone has the right to freedom of movement
• Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly
• Everyone has the right to freedom of expression
No law enforcement official may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, nor may they invoke superior orders or exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or threat of war, or political instability or other public emergency as a justification for such acts. Special attention should be given to the protection of human rights of members of potentially vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly, women, refugees, displaced persons and members of minority groups.
Sources include: UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (Articles 1,2,5), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (paragraph 2.2.4)


Basic Standard 2:
Treat all victims of crime with compassion and respect,
and in particular protect their safety and privacy
Victims are people who have suffered harm, including mental and physical injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal law.
For the implementation of Basic Standard 2, police officers must:
• Ensure that, if needed, measures are taken to ensure the protection and safety of victims from intimidation and retaliation
• Inform victims without delay of the availability of health and social services and other relevant assistance
• Provide without delay specialist care for women who have suffered violence
• Develop investigative techniques that do not further degrade women who have been victims of violence.
• Give particular attention to victims who have special needs because of the nature of the harm inflicted on them or because of factors such as race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, language, religion, nationality, political or other opinion, disability, ethnic or social origin, etc.
Sources include: UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (Principles 4, 14, 15, 16 and 17), CEDAW - General Recommendation No 19 (11th Session, 1992)


Basic Standard 3:
Do not use force except when strictly necessary
and to the minimum extent required under the circumstances
The implementation of Basic Standard 3 involves, among other things, that Police officers, in carrying out their duty, should apply non-violent means as far as possible before resorting to the use of force. They may use force only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the necessary result. Basic Standard 3 must be implemented in accordance with Basic Standard 4 and 5.
Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, police officers must:
• Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved
• Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life
• Ensure that all possible assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment
• Ensure that relatives or close friends of the injured or affected person are notified at the earliest possible moment
• Where injury or death is caused by the use of force by police officers, they shall report the incident promptly to their superiors, who should ensure that proper investigations of all such incidents are carried out.
Sources include: UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (Article 3), UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Principles 4, 5, 6 and 9)


Basic Standard 4:
Avoid using force when policing unlawful but
non-violent assemblies. When dispersing violent assemblies,
use force only to the minimum extent necessary.
Everyone is allowed to participate in peaceful assemblies, whether political or non-political, subject only to very limited restrictions imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society to protect such interests as public order and public health. The police must not interfere with lawful and peaceful assemblies, otherwise than for the protection of persons participating in such an assembly or others.
The implementation of Basic Standard 4 involves, among other things:
• In the policing of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, police officers must avoid the use of force. If force is indispensable, for example to secure the safety of others, they must restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary and in compliance with the other provisions in Basic Standard 3
• Firearms shall not be used in the policing of non-violent assemblies. The use of firearms is strictly limited to the objectives mentioned in Basic Standard 5
• In the dispersal of violent assemblies police officers may use force only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result. When using force police officers must comply with the provisions in Basic Standard 3
• In the dispersal of violent assemblies police officers may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary to achieve one of the objectives mentioned in Basic Standard 5 and in accordance with the provisions in Basic Standard 3 and Basic Standard 5.
Sources include: UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Principles 9, 12, 13, and 14)


Basic Standard 5:
Lethal force should not be used except when strictly unavoidable
in order to protect your life or the lives of others
The use of firearms is an extreme measure which must be strictly regulated, because of the risk of death or serious injury involved. The implementation of Basic Standard 5 requires, among other things, that police officers must not use firearms except for the following objectives and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives:
• In self-defence or in defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury
• To prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life
• To arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting the police officer's authority, or to prevent his or her escape
In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
Police officers must identify themselves as such and give a clear warning of their intent to use firearms, with sufficient time for the warning to be observed, unless to do so would unduly place the officers at risk or would create a risk of death or serious harm to other persons, or would be clearly inappropriate or pointless in the circumstances of the incident.
Rules and regulations on the use of firearms by police officers must include guidelines that:
• Specify the circumstances under which police officers are authorized to carry firearms and prescribe the types of firearms and ammunition permitted
• Ensure that firearms are used only in appropriate circumstances and in a manner likely to decrease the risk of unnecessary harm
• Prohibit the use of any firearms or ammunition that cause unnecessary injury or present an unnecessary risk
• Regulate the control, storage and issuing of firearms and ammunition, including procedures for ensuring that police officers are accountable for firearms and ammunition issued to them
• Provide for warnings to be given, if appropriate, when firearms are to be discharged
• Provide for a system of reporting and investigation whenever police officers use firearms in the performance of their duty.
Sources include: UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Basic Principles 9,10 and 11)


Basic Standard 6:
Arrest no person unless there are legal grounds to do so,
and the arrest is carried out in accordance with lawful arrest procedures
To make sure that an arrest is lawful and not arbitrary, it is important that the reasons for the arrest and the powers and identity of arresting officers are known. Therefore the implementation of Basic Standard 6 involves, among other things:
• Arrest or detention shall only be carried out strictly in accordance with the provisions of the law and by competent officials or persons authorized for that purpose
• Police or other authorities which arrest a person shall exercise only the powers granted to them under the law
• Anyone arrested must be informed at the time of arrest of the reasons for the arrest
• The time of the arrest, the reasons for the arrest, precise information identifying the place of custody, and the identity of the law enforcement officials concerned must be recorded; in addition, the records must be communicated to the detained person or to his or her lawyer
• Officials carrying out an arrest should identify themselves to the person arrested and, on demand, to others witnessing the event
• Police officers and other officials who make arrests should wear name tags or numbers so that they can be clearly identified. Other identifying markings such as the insignia of soldiers' battalions or detachments should also be visible
• Police and military vehicles should be clearly identified as such. They should carry number plates at all times.
• A person should not be kept in detention without being given an effective opportunity to be heard promptly by a judicial or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power, and be entitled to a trial within a reasonable time, or to release. It should not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial are detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.
• All detainees should only be kept in recognised places of detention. Such places of detention should be visited regularly by qualified and experienced persons appointed by, and responsible to, a competent authority distinct from the authority directly in charge of the administration of the place of detention.
• The detention of refugees and asylum seekers should normally be avoided. No asylum-seeker should be detained unless it has been established that detention is necessary, is lawful and complies with one of the grounds recognized as legitimate by international standards. In all cases, detention should not last longer than is strictly necessary. All asylum-seekers should be given adequate opportunity to have their detention reviewed by a judicial or similar authority. Reference regarding the detention of refugees and asylum seekers should be made to the competent authorities, as well as to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other refugee assistance organizations.
Sources include: UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (Principles 2, 8, 10, 11, 12, 20 and 29), UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Rule 55), UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Article 31), Conclusion 44 of the UNHCR Executive Committee


Basic Standard 7:
Ensure all detainees have access promptly after arrest to their family
and legal representative and to any necessary medical assistance
Experience worldwide has shown that it is often in the first hours or days of detention that detainees are at greatest risk of being ill-treated, tortured, made to "disappear", or killed. Unconvicted detainees must be presumed innocent and treated as such. The implementation of Basic Standard 7 requires, among other things, that:
• Detainees should be promptly told of their rights, including the right to lodge complaints about their treatment.
• A detainee who does not understand or speak the language used by the authorities responsible for his or her arrest is entitled to receive information and have the assistance, free of charge if necessary, of an interpreter in connection with the legal proceedings subsequent to his or her arrest.
• A detainee who is a foreigner should be promptly informed of his or her right to communicate with the relevant consular post or diplomatic mission.
• All detained refugees and asylum seekers should be allowed access to the local representative of the UNHCR and to refugee assistance organizations, regardless of why they are being detained. If a detainee identifies himself / herself as a refugee or an asylum seeker, or otherwise indicates their fear at being returned to their country, it is incumbent on the detaining officials to facilitate contact with these organizations.
• Police officers or other competent authorities must ensure that all detainees are fully able in practice to avail themselves of the right to notify family members or others immediately of their whereabouts. All detainees should be informed of this right. If they do not have the financial or technical means to send word to their relatives, the officers must be ready to communicate the message for them.
• Police officers or other competent authorities must ensure that accurate information on the arrest, place of detention, transfer and release of detainees is available promptly in a place where relatives and others concerned can obtain it. They must ensure that relatives are not obstructed from obtaining this information, and that they know or are able to find out where the information can be obtained. (See also the commentary to Basic Standard 8)
• Relatives and others should be able to visit a detainee as soon as possible after he or she is taken into custody. Relatives and others should be able to correspond with the detainee and make further visits regularly to verify the detainee’s continued well-being.
• Every detainee must be informed promptly after arrest of his or her right to a legal counsel and be helped by the authorities to exercise this right. Moreover, every detainee must be able to communicate regularly and confidentially with their lawyer, including having meetings with their lawyer within sight but not within hearing of a guard or police officer, in order to help prepare the detainee’s defence and to exercise his or her rights.
• An independent doctor should promptly conduct a proper medical examination of the detainee after taken into custody in order to ascertain that the detainee is healthy and not suffering from torture or ill-treatment, including rape and sexual abuse. Thereafter, medical care and treatment shall be provided whenever necessary. Every detainee or his or her legal counsel has the right to request a second medical examination or opinion. Detainees, even with their consent, must never be subjected to medical or scientific experimentation which may be detrimental to their health.
• Female detainees should be entitled to medical examination by a female doctor. They should be provided with all necessary pre-natal and post-natal care and treatment. Restraints should only be used on pregnant women as a last resort and should never put the safety of a woman or foetus at risk. Women should never be restrained during labour.
Sources include: UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (Principles 8, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25 and 29), Conclusion 44 of the UNHCR Executive Committee


Basic Standard 8:
All detainees must be treated humanely.
Do not inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or ill-treatment,
in any circumstances, and refuse to obey any order to do so
Detainees are inherently vulnerable because they are under the control of law enforcement officials who therefore have a duty to protect detainees from any violation of their rights by strictly observing procedures designed to respect the inherent dignity of the human person. Accurate record-keeping is an essential element of the proper administration of places of detention. The existence of official records which are open for consultation helps to protect detainees from ill-treatment including torture. The implementation of Basic Standard 8 requires, among other things, that:
• No person under any form of detention may be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and law enforcement officers have a right and a duty to disobey orders to carry out such acts. No law enforcement official may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, nor may they invoke superior orders or exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or threat of war, or political instability or other public emergency as a justification for such acts.
• Law enforcement officials should be instructed that rape of women in their custody constitutes an act of torture that will not be tolerated. Similarly, they should be instructed that any other forms of sexual abuse may constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and that offenders will be brought to justice.
• The term "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" should be interpreted so as to extend the widest possible protection against abuses, whether physical or mental, including holding a detainee in conditions which deprive him or her, even temporarily, of the use of any of his or her natural senses, such as sight or hearing, of his or her awareness of place or passing of time. Compliance with the other basic standards for law enforcement are also essential safeguards against torture and ill-treatment.
• A detainee may not be compelled to confess, to otherwise incriminate himself or herself or to testify against any other person. While being interrogated, no detainee may be subject to violent threats or methods which impair his or her capacity of decision or judgement. Female guards should be present during the interrogation of female detainees and should be solely responsible for carrying out any body searches of female detainees.
• Children should be detained only as a last resort and for the shortest possible time. They should be given immediate access to relatives, legal counsel and medical assistance and relatives or guardians should be informed immediately of their whereabouts. Juvenile detainees should be kept separate from adults and detained in separate institutions. They should be protected from torture and ill-treatment, including rape and sexual abuse, whether by officials or other detainees.
• Refugees and asylum seekers detained for non-criminal reasons should never be detained together with common law prisoners. Conditions and treatment should be humane, and appropriate to their status as refugees.
• Detainees should be kept separate from imprisoned persons and, if requested, be kept reasonably near their usual place of residence. All detainees should if possible wear their own clothing if it is clean and suitable, sleep singly in separate rooms, be fed properly and be allowed to buy or receive books, newspapers, writing materials and other means of occupation as are compatible with the interests of justice.
• Registers of detainees should be kept in all places of detention including police stations and military bases. The register should consist of a bound book with numbered pages which cannot be tampered with. Information to be entered in them should include:
The name and identity of each person detained
The reasons for his or her arrest or detention
The names and identities of officials who arrested the detainee or transported him
The date and time of the arrest and of the transportation to a place of detention
The time, place and duration of each interrogation and the name of the person or persons conducting it
The time of the detainee's first appearance before a judicial authority
Precise information concerning the place of custody
The date, time and circumstances of the detainee's release or transfer to another place of detention.

Other measures that can contribute to the proper treatment of detainees are:

• Police officers and other competent authorities should allow representatives of the local or national bar and medical associations, as well as local or national members of parliament, appropriate international bodies and officials, to visit any police station and facilities, including detention centres, without restriction for the purpose of inspection.
• These bodies and officials must be able to make unannounced visits
• These bodies and officials must have access to all parts of each place of detention and all detainees and be able to interview them freely and without witnesses
• These bodies and officials must be able to make return visits whenever they wish
• These bodies and officials must be able to make recommendations to the authorities concerning the treatment of detainees
• The treatment of detainees should conform as a minimum to the standards laid down in the UN Standard Minimum Rules and the Body of Principles.
Sources include: UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (Article 5); UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (Principles 1,2,6, 12, 21 and 23); UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Article 2); UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Rules 55, 85, 86, 87, 88, 91, 92 and 93); UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 10); UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 37), Conclusion 44 of the UNHCR Executive Committee


Basic Standard 9:
Do not carry out, order or cover up extrajudicial executions or
"disappearances", and refuse to obey any order to do so
No one should be arbitrarily or indiscriminately deprived of life. An extrajudicial execution is an unlawful and deliberate killing carried out by, or on the order of, someone at some level of government, whether national, state or local, or with their acquiescence.
There are several important elements in the concept of an extrajudicial execution:
• It is deliberate, not accidental
• It violates national laws such as those which prohibit murder, and/or international standards forbidding the arbitrary deprivation of life.
Its unlawfulness distinguishes an extrajudicial execution from:
• A justifiable killing in self-defence
• A death resulting from the use of force by law enforcement officials which is nevertheless consistent with international standards
• A killing in an armed conflict situation which is not prohibited by international humanitarian law
In an armed conflict, even if not an international armed conflict, armed officers and soldiers of the government, as well as combatants of armed political groups, are prohibited from carrying out arbitrary and summary executions. These acts would constitute breaches of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (which also prohibits mutilation, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, hostage taking and other gross abuses).
The "disappeared" are people who have been taken into custody by agents of the state, yet whose whereabouts and fate are concealed. It is a grave violation of human rights to carry out disappearances.
• No order or instruction of any public authority, civilian, military or other, may be invoked to justify an extrajudicial execution or a "disappearance". Any person receiving such an order or instruction has a duty to disobey it.
All police officers and all other law enforcement personnel should be aware of their right and duty to disobey orders the implementation of which might result in serious human rights violations. Since those violations are unlawful, police officers and others must not participate in them. The need to disobey an unlawful order should be seen as a duty, taking precedence over the normal duty to obey orders. The duty to disobey an unlawful order entails the right to disobey it.
The right and duty to disobey an order to participate in "disappearances" and extrajudicial killings are incorporated in the UN Declaration on Disappearances (Article 6) and in the UN Principles on Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (Principle 3). The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials protect the right to disobey by stating that no criminal or disciplinary sanction should be imposed on law enforcement officials who, in compliance with these Basic Principles and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, refuse to carry out an order to use force and firearms or who report such use by other officials.
To implement Basic Standard 9, it is important that the use of force and firearms by the police strictly complies with all the provisions in Basic Standard 3, Basic Standard 4 and Basic Standard 5.
Sources include: UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (Principle 1 and 3); Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions; UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (Preamble and Article 6)


Basic Standard 10:
Report all breaches of these Basic Standards to your senior officer
and to the office of the public prosecutor.
Do everything within your power to ensure steps are taken to
investigate these breaches.
All violations of human rights by the police or other law enforcement personnel, including any breaches of these Basic Standards, should be investigated fully, promptly and independently, for instance by the office of the public prosecutor. The main objective of these investigations is to establish the facts and to bring to justice those responsible:
• Has a violation of human rights or a breach of principles or of national law been perpetrated? If so, by whom?
• If a public official has committed a crime or breach of regulations, was he or she acting under orders or with the acquiescence of other officials?
• Has the office of the prosecutor opened a criminal investigation and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, sought to prosecute?
Sources include: UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (Preamble and Articles 1, 2, 8); UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Preamble)

All of the standards are crucial but let us look again at Basic Standard 4:

Basic Standard 4:
Avoid using force when policing unlawful but
non-violent assemblies. When dispersing violent assemblies,
use force only to the minimum extent necessary.

Everyone is allowed to participate in peaceful assemblies, whether political or non-political, subject only to very limited restrictions imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society to protect such interests as public order and public health. The police must not interfere with lawful and peaceful assemblies, otherwise than for the protection of persons participating in such an assembly or others.
The implementation of Basic Standard 4 involves, among other things:
• In the policing of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, police officers must avoid the use of force. If force is indispensable, for example to secure the safety of others, they must restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary and in compliance with the other provisions in Basic Standard 3
• Firearms shall not be used in the policing of non-violent assemblies. The use of firearms is strictly limited to the objectives mentioned in Basic Standard 5
• In the dispersal of violent assemblies police officers may use force only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result. When using force police officers must comply with the provisions in Basic Standard 3
• In the dispersal of violent assemblies police officers may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary to achieve one of the objectives mentioned in Basic Standard 5 and in accordance with the provisions in Basic Standard 3 and Basic Standard 5.
Sources include: UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Principles 9, 12, 13, and 14)

Was this standard observed, adhered to or enforced in Nairobi and Kisumu? How about the other standards?

There will be specific recommendations at the end of this document about this and related matters.

But here is a gift that I want any of the security intelligence operatives reading this online to pass on to Brigadier Ali, the Commissioner of the Kenya Police:


click here

And they should reflect especially on this part:

“The use of force
Everyone has the right to life, security of the person, and freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishmentlxxiii
Non-violent means are to be attempted firstlxxiv
Force is to be used only when strictly necessarylxxv
Force is to be used only for lawful law enforcement purposeslxxvi
No exceptions or excuses shall be allowed for unlawful use of forcelxxvii
Use of force is to be always proportional to lawful objectiveslxxviii
Restraint is to be exercised in the use of forcelxxix
Damage and injury are to be minimizedlxxx
A range of means for differentiated use of force is to be made availablelxxxi
All officers are to be trained in the use of the various means for differentiated use of forcelxxxii
All officers are to be trained in use of non-violent meanslxxxiii

“Accountability for the use of force and firearms

All incidents of the use of force or firearms shall be followed by reporting and review by superior officialslxxxiv
Superior officials shall be held responsible for the actions of police under their command if the superior official knew or should have known of abuses but failed to take concrete actionlxxxv
Officials who refuse unlawful superior orders shall be given immunitylxxxvi
Officials who commit abuses of these rules shall not be excused on the grounds that they were following superior orderslxxxvii

“Permissable circumstances for the use of firearms

Firearms are to be used only in extreme circumstances.lxxxviii
Firearms are to be used only in self-defense or defense of others against imminent threat of death or
serious injurylxxxix
-or-
To prevent a particularly serious crime that involves a grave threat to lifexc
-or-
To arrest or prevent the escape of a person posing such a threat and who is resisting efforts to stop the threatxci
-and-
In every case, only when less extreme measures are insufficient.xcii
Intentional lethal use of force and firearms shall be permitted only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect human life.xciii

“Procedures for the use of firearms

The officer is to identify self as police officialxciv
-and-
The officer is to give a clear warningxcv
-and-
The officer is to allow adequate time for warning to be obeyedxcvi
-but-
This shall not be required if the delay would result in death or serious injury to the officer or othersxcvii
-or-
It is clearly pointless or inappropriate in the circumstances to do soxcviii

“After the use of firearms

Medical aid is to be rendered to all injured personsxcix
The relatives or friends of those affected are to be notifiedc
Investigation are to be allowed for where requested or requiredci
A full and detailed report of the incident is to be providedcii

“Civil Disorder

All measures for the restoration of order to respect human rightsciii
Restoration of order to be achieved without discriminationciv
Any limitations on rights shall be only those determined by lawcv
Any action taken, and any limitations on rights shall be solely for the purpose of securing respect for the rights and freedoms of others, and for meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfarecvi
Any action taken, and any limitations on rights shall be only those consistent with the requirements of a democratic societycvii
No exceptions shall be allowed with regard to the right to life; to freedom from torture; the prohibition of slavery; the prohibition of imprisonment for failure to fulfil a contractual obligation;
the prohibition on ex post facto laws; the recognition of all as persons before the law; or the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.cviii
Non-violent means shall be attempted before the use of forcecix
Force shall be used only when strictly necessarycx
Force shall be used only for lawful law enforcement purposescxi
Force applied shall be proportional to the lawful law enforcement objectivescxii
Every effort shall be made to limit damage and injurycxiii
A range of means for the differentiated use of force shall be availablecxiv
No unnecessary limitations on the rights to free speech, assembly, association, or movement shall be imposedcxv
No limitations shall be imposed on freedom of opinioncxvi
The independent functioning of the judiciary shall be maintainedcxvii
All wounded and traumatized to be immediately cared forcxviii

“States of Emergency

States of emergency may only be declared in conformity with the lawcxix
States of emergency may only be declared where a public emergency threatens the life of the nation, and where ordinary measures are plainly inadequate to address the situationcxx
States of emergency must be officially declared before exceptional measures may be takencxxi
Any exceptional measures must be strictly required by the exigencies of the situationxxii”


Brigadier Ali and his boys and girls in uniform should ask themselves an honest question:

Did the NARC regime follow the rules expected of it by international human rights standards regarding law enforcement?

Or did Murungaru and Brigadier Ali drop the ball?

And if the Kibaki government did indeed drop the ball, what are we going to do about it?

I will revert back to these questions, but first, let me revisit the whole issue about Kenyans abroad and their democratic conscience.

7.0. The Shallow Ethnic “Politicking” of the Kenyan Middle Strata

Sometime in 2003, the author of this document wrote a digital essay titled, “Kenyans Abroad: Where is Your Democratic Conscience?”

Here is a link to that document:

click here

There is a feeling of déjà vu when I re-read words that I wrote almost a year ago:

"I have been amazed to notice the relative silence of Kenyans abroad about the act of police thuggery that took place at the Bomas of Kenya this last week. I am a member of the Kenya Community Abroad, an organization that is very quick to notice and condemn such actions- certainly during the Moi-KANU era. Why have we not seen a statement from the KCA on this issue? Irrespective of where you stand on the PM issue or whether or not you like Raila personally, or even what your ethnic background is, there is no way any sane democrat who believes in human rights could or should condone acts of state brutality that we used to rail so loudly against only months ago. Like I ask in the heading to this essay: Kenyans Abroad, Where is Your Democratic Conscience?

"Why do you sit on the sidelines watching atrocities being committed merely a month after Charity Ngilu exhorted ALL OF US to HOLD NARC’s FEET TO THE FIRE and call them on their shit? Human rights violations are human rights violations are human rights violations irrespective of whether they are perpetrated by a government you supporttargeting individuals you despise as pesky hecklers or not. We have to be consistent, we must be principled and we must be credible in our protestations of commitment to democracy, justice and human rights. I know that personally, irrespective of what any other Kenyan does individually or collectively, I know that later today I will write a personal note to Justice minister Kiraitu Murungi, asking him very plaintively whether he agitated for our release in order to supervise the kind of naked aggression and suppression of peaceful and unarmed civilians that we all witnessed this week. The matter goes beyond scuffle at the gates of Bomas of Kenya. I ask the same question in regard to the larger question of the issues being mooted at the constitutional conference and which are at the centre of the internal NARC wrangles. Kenyans Abroad, Where is Your Democratic Conscience? Now, let me preface my comments by stating that of course, not all Kenyans abroad think alike and hold the same opinions. We have communists like Onyango Oloo and neo-conservative apologists like a certain nameless stalker of mine on RC Bowen. That is wonderful. It would be a dull, grey world indeed if we all thought and acted alike.

"That, ladies and gentlemen, is NOT what I am talking about. I am talking about something else. Barely a year ago, there was a DEMOCRATIC CONSENSUS among most patriotic Kenyans inside and outside the country regarding the question of the devolution of political power in Kenya and the need for checks and balances. There was a DEMOCRATIC CONSENSUS about the need for a people-driven constitutional making approach. Today we see this DEMOCRATIC CONSENSUS reflected in the proposals of the LDP, FORD-People and even, of all parties, KANU. Today we see delegates at the national constitutional conference getting ready to carry out their patriotic duty and help bring forth the people-driven democratic constitution that so many Kenyans have been maimed (remember Rev. Timothy Njoya’s public flogging?) and even killed for. Why then are we hearing former political prisoners like Koigi wa Wamwere talk of Bomas of Kenya II as “National Suicide”? Why are we reading of victims of state repression like Mirugi Kariuki threatening other victims of state repression like Raila Odinga with possible assassination? And why are we, the Kenyans who are usually so raucous abroad about these matters by and large SILENT?

"There is a complicity in collective silence my brothers and sisters, and it is a terrible one. I still remember the dark days of the 1980s when we were behind bars.
Some of us,-like Maina wa Kinyatti- tried to get in contact with people like Kenneth Matiba to see if they could ask a question in parliament about the conditions in prison and possibly demand the release of political prisoners in Kenya. Other overtures were made by other comrades of mine behind bars to other progressive MPs to do the same thing. We were met with a terrible wall of silence, broken up by little cracks whispering that people were too scared to raise the matter for fear of brutal reprisals. In the meantime, the public condemnations of “dissidents, subversives inside the country and their cohorts abroad in the pay of foreign masters” continued unabated as the likes of Oloo Aringo, Shariff Nassir, Kariuki Chotara and Stanley Oloitiptip (before he too was swung in!) tried to outdo each other to earn the coveted title of most accomplished court poet. Friends, with the notable exception of courageous souls like Njeri Kabeberi largely shunned us as former “Leftist” academics at the universities hurriedly cut off their “Marxist” beards and burnt to cinders the contents of their Maoist and Leninist libraries.

"But that period we can understand. Even though we wished more people would have shown evidence of a political backbone, we did know of the price one paid for standing up for democratic principles and human rights in those dark days. But this is 2003, for goodness sakes jamani! It is just eight months since we won one of the biggest democratic victories on the whole of the African continent. This is a government bursting at the seams with former exiles, political prisoners, their human rights lawyers and friends from the progressive underground. Well....Plus some other people who used to be on the other side. What excuse do we have?

"Why are we not holding the NAK faction publicly accountable for their flip flops and strange about turns? Why are we not asking Kibaki, Murungi and Company why they are saying EXACTLY the opposite of what they themselves FORMALLY and PUBLICLY PROPOSED when they appeared before the Constitution of Kenya Review Committee a year ago? Why are we countenancing and going further, to justify, the unprincipled abrogation of written agreements that were the cement which brought the present ruling coalition together? Why are we keeping quiet as we see demagogues distort the debate on the PM to be some kind of a referendum on Raila Odinga’s ability to occupy public office? I have noticed that no one is singing ‘Unbwogable” anymore.

"To refresh your collective memories folks, that song, first composed by Giddi Giddi Maji Maji as a paean to Raila, soon was transformed into a MORE NATIONAL INCLUSIVE SONG that paid homage to ALL THE POLITICAL HEAVYWEIGHTS. You can still access the mp3, I believe, by going to the NARC website.

"What happened to that “Unbwogable” spirit? The few of us who speak publicly about these matters are often dismissed as “Loud Internet Luos” by political illiterates who think we are fronting for Raila Odinga…” (Onyango Oloo, “Kenyans Abroad: Where is Your Democratic Conscience?” August 24, 2003)


The reason why this is beyond déjà vu is because things have gotten worse. Less than a month after I wrote that essay, Dr Crispin Odhiambo Mbai was murdered in his living room by thugs who have been linked to NARC’s chief whip Norman Nyagah. Yet Norman Nyagah like Nicholas Biwott( alleged mastermind of the Ouko murder) and Julius Sunkuli(said by some to be linked to Father Kaiser’s death) is sill walking leisurely around Nairobi.

With the commendable exception of the Standard newspapers, Kenyans have allowed this death to slip into the shadows. It is has been a while since I heard civil society bodies put the pressure on the government to find out WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR FELLOW BOMAS DELEGATE. I remember meeting Dr. Mbai at Bomas when I was with another close civil society associate of mine, and the late don was his usual quiet unassuming self. I found out about his death when I came back over the weekend from Kisumu and I was so shocked and enraged.

Six days after he was shot to death, I went over to their house and sat sandwiched between his mother and his widow on the very couch he was lounging on when his political assassins burst in to do him in. After paying my respects to this compatriot that I had first encountered in Toronto in the early nineties, I walked over to a cyber cafe located in that hotel owned by NAK insider Matu Wamae and wrote the following:


click here

How many of us remember Dr. Odhiambo Mbai today in July 2004 ten months after he was killed in cold blood while relaxing in his living room off Ngong Road and a few doors down from Norman Nyagah?

For me, I see a DIRECT CORRELATION between the forces who killed him and the forces who ordered heavily armed police to use live bullets on ten year old school children.

Both incidents of violence are connected to the constitutional review process and both incidents have Luo victims of state sponsored mayhem in Kenya.

The only way we are going to stamp out the scourge of tribalism is by talking about it openly.

I really do not care if you think there goes another Luo complaining about Luos being finished.

Please look at my record both offline and online and spare me that ujinga, (yes that claptrap for those who jumped out of the window whenever they saw the Kiswahili teacher approach).

The fact of the matter is this:

The NAK faction has RETRIBALIZED Kenyan society to an extent one WOULD NOT HAVE THOUGHT POSSIBLE in those HEADY Yote Yawezekana Bila Moi and Rudisha Kila Kitu UNBWOGABLE months of September, October, November and December 2002.

This retribalization of Kenyan society is in turn a symptom as well as a further cause of the COMPLETE POLITICAL AND IDEOLOGICAL BANKRUPTCY of the ruling elites. Their wababi kids, their rich brat nephews and snot nosed nieces on the internet hear what daddy and mommy, mjomba and shangazi say at home and on the phone and simply rush tokenyaniyetu, mashada, kikuyu.com, mambogani, rcbowen, kenyaonline, africa-oped and other sites to regurgitate this tribal mavi ya ndovu online.

You know we as Kenyans are heading into canine territory (as I said elsewhere) when the complex legacy of neocolonial comprador oppression is REDUCED to a simplistic standoff between the Agikuyu on the one side and the Luos on the other- as if the 40 plus nationalities and tribes of Kenya do not exist.

But this is happening PRECISELY partly due to the FACT that the Murungarus and the Michukis, the Mwirarias and the Murungis are completely OBSESSED with this "andu aitu" stranglehold on the levers of state authority.

Unless and until we let go of that tribal ujinga, we will lurch slowly but surely towards Rwanda.

I keep warning of ethnic conflagration in Kenya and people keep calling me an alarmist and even a closeted tribalist-but I still hold stubbornly to the opinion that all the main ingredients of the Rwanda tragedy are present today,including the kibiriti and mafuta taa and one of these days somebody-perhaps even a child-will ignite the flame that will burn this beautiful 42 roomed home called Kenya down.

The spate of recent police shootings in Kisumu and the subsequent propaganda snow job in the Kenyan mainstream media are trial balloons that the killers in power are sending out to see what would actually happen if the NAK faction unleashed full scale war against certain communities in this country.

Yes, there is a conscious ETHNIC agenda to incite CIVIL WAR in Kenya and the fires are being lit by insecure power maniacs who see tribal enemies lurking around every corner.

Sooner or later, this state paranoia is going to manifest itself as overt fascist repression as these same power maniacs within NAK fret over how long President Kibaki will stick around on this planet.

And this event could happen much faster if the current self-censorship and TACIT COLLABORATION in state repression persists within the Kenyan mainstream media and the ranks of the country's civil society groups.

Call me alarmist and what not but I AM STATING PUBLICLY what a lot of Kenyans are whispering furtively and worriedly within the country and in a flurry of anxious private email exchanges around the world.

If the current tribal warfare on the internet is any indication, it would appear that there are hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who are quite willing to be recruited into all kinds of ethnic militias in Kenya.

We like scoffing at the so called "failed state" in Somalia, but wananchi wenzangu:

There is a Mogadishu and Hargeisa lurking, festering, brewing and mutating in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

Many of the members of the NARC government and some of the prominent forces in KANU are actual or potential war lords.

Again I warn:

I see civil war breaking out in Kenya IF AND ONLY IF PRESENT TRENDS PERSIST.

And one of those trends is the timidity and defacto assimilation of large chunks of Kenyan civil society actors and groups into the NAK faction of the Kibaki regime.

It is critical that Kenyan NGOs and civil society groups re-DECLARE their independence from the Kenyan neo-colonial state and the politically bankrupt and technically inept factions that mismanage that state if they want to remain politically relevant and credible to the broad masses of the wananchi in the mid to long term period in Kenya.

In my humble of opinion, the juncture we are entering in Kenya today is the juncture that the democratic movement in South Korea was in between 1987 and 1992. I have described this process in detail in another essay, but here is the cogent extract:


“…That was as far as theory went. As far as praxis, let us look at what happened in two distinct periods 1980 to 1987 and then 1987 to 1991.

In the early period, the main venues for recruiting Korean revolutionaries were universities. Revolutionary students trained new recruits to become professional revolutionaries through various activities including seminars(where first year students were introduced to critical studies of Korean contemporary history; by second year they had read a whole range of Marxist literature; banned books sold like hot cakes); illegal street demonstrations(“gatoo”) factory activity known as “konghwal” in which student members of underground groups were sent to the factories as temporary workers during school breaks) countryside activity( known as “nongwhal’- organized during the summer holidays when students organized ‘nongwhal” brigades to help farmers and also arranged political discussions and debates about government agricultural policies) and night-time activity( known as “yahak”, a practice that started in the late 1970s and was similar to nongwhal, but this time involving free classes given by revolutionary minded university students to factory workers- by 1980 300 yahak circles had formed the National Coalition of Labour Night Study Circles) and urban poor activity( known as “binwhal” that involved working with street vendors and squatters in fighting evictions, “beautification measures” and land development). In their final year, student revolutionaries were categorized into two- one group was for future labour activists and the second one was for leading cadres for student movements. It was considered a badge of honour among student revolutionaries of that period for one to become a factory worker. The act of going to the factory to become a professional revolutionary worker was called “Hyunjang-tooshin (total commitment to the workplace) or Jonjae-eejon (transcendence of social existence).

In 1987, the Korean revolutionaries faced one of their earliest major acid tests. Just like Kenya in the 90s, Korean political parties had engaged themselves from the mid 80s in debates over constitutional reform. Mi Park tells us what happened:

“…The main opposition party Shinmindang, argued for constitutional reforms to allow direct presidential elections. The ruling party decided to ban any discussion on constitutional issues until a successful completion of the 1988 Olympic Games. The government decision came when national discontent reached the highest point. It was a political miscalculation of the balance of contending forces…In January 1987, Park Chong-chul, a ND member of the Seoul National University had fallen victim to torture during a police interrogation. The public became enraged at the police brutality and the government’s attempt to cover up. In a series of national protests, hundreds and thousands took to the street and clashed with the police. Protest letters and statements condemning the police brutality poured in from all over society…Political tension, mass discontent and national protests were at the explosive point. In June 1987, about one million students and civilians (mainly small shop keepers and white-collar workers) participated in street demonstrations, what is now known as the Great June Struggle.”

‘The Jucheist/Maoist NL tendency saw the June struggle as an opportunity to expand democratic rights and expose US imperialist meddling with South Korean politics. NL’s slogans were in line with that of Jaeya, one of the major mainstream opposition parties and resonated with the majority of Korean wananchi. In contrast the more orthodox Marxist ND tendency defined the situation as a revolutionary one and called for the formation of a “revolutionary provisional government” and “constituent assembly”. The PD criticized the NL’s slogans as too narrow and the ND’s position as too abstract and ultra-left, calling instead for a democratic constitution.

‘Let us listen to Mi Park one more time:

“The Great June Struggle showed many signs of a revolutionary situation. The middle class turned against the government and took sides with protesting students. Although the middle class took sides with leftists students…their aim was limited and thus the alliance was temporary. The middle class and its political representative Jaeya and Kookbon sought to keep a distance from the leftist students. Stephen Cardinal Kim of the Catholic Church pleaded to students that they should shy away from ‘the left leaning radical ideology and cry of revolution’. The continuing mass participation throughout June made it very clear that the regime could not rule the way they were used to. A choice had to be made. A choice between partial reform or military intervention. During the critical days of June, the government deployed the troops around the major public buildings and seriously considered an option of another military crackdown. The ruling elite was split over how to deal with the situation. The June struggle eventually forced the regime to make some concessions. The government declared the 6.29 manifesto which promised a constitutional reform including a direct presidential election. Although the main active participants of the June demonstration were university students who were under the influence of mainly NL, once their demand for the direct presidential election (NL position) was met, they became politically disoriented. While revolutionaries dithered over what action to take, student protests gradually faded in importance and the movement lost ground. The following three months (July-September) after the 6.29 declaration saw the eruption of militant industrial actions by workers. Seizing the political opening created by the June Struggle, the workers went on strikes to demand higher wages, better working conditions, and the guarantee of democratic worker’s rights above all. The nation-wide workers’ industrial action caught most revolutionaries unprepared. Although revolutionaries played a pivotal role in bringing out this massive workers’ action for their basic labour rights, they were not capable of transforming workers’ illegal industrial action into a revolutionary uprising. ND was not functioning due to the arrest of its leaders. All three camps (NL, PD and ND) operated in small factory cells scattered around some key industrial cities. They did not have a national level political leadership which could coordinate activities of the revolutionaries during the critical July- September workers’ struggle. Their activities were local and confined to economic issues.”

‘The author then takes us through the second stage of the growth of the revolutionary movements in South Korea- a transition period between 1987 and 1992. This was a time marked by the mushrooming of mass democratic groups, sector specific formations, interest groups and social movement organizations. The state meanwhile, used a carrot and stick strategy trying to both co-opt and coerce its ideological adversaries. Under the Roh Tae Woo regime, all classes in South Korea became more assertive of their democratic rights. The military technocrats gradually lost much of their feared political clout. South Korean civil society groups became more vibrant and started OPPOSING the revolutionary movement with the direct and indirect sponsorship of the neocolonial regime. From 1987, all the major classes in South Korean society established mass organizations representing their interests. The class structure of the country had also changed significantly. By 1992, the Korean peasantry had declined to 13% of the population in comparison to 65% in 1960; by 1985 workers made up 43 of the population and by 1992, the Korean working class and the middle class together made a whopping 85% of the population. Between1987 and 1991, the working class in South Korea developed as a powerful social actor. The number of trade unions more than doubled from 2,725 in June 1987 to 7,358 by the end of 1989. There were 1,616 labour disputes in 1989 with the majority (68.5%) being declared illegal. Workers launched over 7,000 strikes between the summer of 1987 and late 1989 which roughly translates to 10 per day. At the same time, the number of white-collar workers and professionals increased, and with it, the growth of an affluent Korean middle class with increased consumer spending in its tow.

‘These changes in the class structure of South Korean society in the late 1980s and early 1990s had profound implications for the political struggle. It would be very prudent if Kenyan progressives, especially those active in civil society formations, paid close attention to the following extract:

“…The concerns of the middle class shifted from procedural democracy to quality of life. The previous regimes had a legitimacy problem but since after the 1987 election the legitimacy problem was solved. The government was no longer seen as an object to be overthrown. People, especially the middle class, were more concerned about issues such as culture, education, environmental issues, welfare and leisure. Against this background, middle class sponsored social movements grew rapidly…It was called the “shimin” (citizens) movement as opposed to the RMO (revolutionary movement organization) sponsored social movements (called “minjung” (oppressed people). The key organization of the middle class sponsored social movement was Kyungsilryun (the Citizen’s Alliance for Economic Justice). Shimin movement organizations contended that “public interests” should come first before any narrow class interests or the needs of certain groups. The criticized “violent” methods of the RMO sponsored minjung movement and instead argued for peaceful and practical methods. The (Korean) mass media and the government favoured movements like Kyungshilryun and actively sponsored them against the minjung movement. Before 1987 the RMO- sponsored minjung movement gained “automatic” moral support from the general populace since the previous regime came to power through illegitimate means…Political liberalization measures gave legal spaces for moderate social movement organizations while RMO-backed movements were suppressed. In this context, Minjung movement had to compete with shimin movements for their legitimacy and ideological justification...”

And of course the sweeping changes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union had a devastating negative effect on South Korean revolutionaries.

At Korean campuses, there was a sea change from the mid 80s:

“Increasing numbers of revolutionaries began to cast off their beliefs in Marxism-Leninism. Changes in student subculture and the political mood around the campus reflected the waning importance of Marxist-Leninist movements. Fewer students participated in political demonstrations. School libraries were full of students who were concerned about employment after graduation...”

These days in Kenyan progressive circles I often hear the underground veterans from the seventies and eighties muse and complain about the dearth of ideological depth among the current crop of activists. Well, does the following excerpt from Mi Park sound familiar?

“….In the early 1990s revolutionaries debated over the nature of shinsedae (the new generation) in South Korea. The new generation was perceived to be different from the old generation who ‘sat around with their somber and serious faces in political seminars, chain-smoking and debating’….The old generation was said to be influenced by the experiences of the Kwangju uprising but the new generation experienced a different situation with the material affluence and more freedom. The new generation was said to dislike the rationality and moralization of the old generation who imposed their ways of thinking in an almost “fascistic” way. The old left tended to view fashion and the pop art as petty-bourgeois culture. It was argued that the new generation wanted to escape from the strict moralization of the old generation. The new generation stressed on spontaneity and emotions, creativity, individuality etc…Against this background, a new post modern cultural movement became popular. Drawing on Guattari, Laclau and Mouffe, journals such as Mimesis and Hyunshil-moonhwa-yonggu praised emotions and sensuality of the new generation of the 1990s as opposed to reason and moralization of the old generation of the 1980s. They positively valued creativity and individuality in carious subcultures of dance music, fashion, and art….Like Deleuze and Guattari who argued that revolutionary liberation must be based on a ‘difference-creating desire’… the post-modern cultural movement like Mimesis insisted that difference is emancipatory and democracy must be based on people’s desire to differ…The Marxist movement lost its ideological appeal to young people. Political antipathy, individualism, and consumerism made a gradual inroad into the critical consciousness and revolutionary fervour of students…Facing an increasing difficulty in the movement’s reproduction(recruitment and support network) revolutionary movement organizations...came to doubt the political efficacy of their methods of struggle. The new historical development posed a challenge to the old way of Korean revolutionaries’ thinking…Against this background, revolutionary movement organizations reflected on their ideological frames and came to conclude that this crisis of revolutionary movement organizations cannot be resolved without finding a new direction..”

So what was this new paradigm shift?

Mi Park tells us of the flourishing of political currents like social democracy, post-modernism, post-Marxism, Trotskyism and the New Left.

And now we come to a very interesting juncture that almost exactly replicates the situation we are facing in the Kenyan Left right at this minute:

“…Revolution no longer occupied the central place in the discourse in the 90s. Instead ‘civil society’ and New Social Movements became the buzzwords…There are some similarities between the discursive repertoire of the South Korean left since 1991 and the New Left’s. Grappling with the failure of the Soviet system and domestic social changes( procedural democracy, the middle class and consumerism) South Korean revolutionaries in the 1990s resorted to the “Western Marxist” tradition including, among others, Gramsci, Althusser, Barlibar, Marcuse, Habermas, Negri, Laclau and Muffe..”

So what conclusions did the Korean left draw at this time?

“The Korean left identified a state-centred approach to democracy as one of the main reasons for the failure of the Soviet system. They believed that the state-centred democratization plan resulted in the statisation of all social realms and did not leave much room for the autonomous realm of civil society….The Korean left concluded that only the transformation of civil society…by the masses themselves could guarantee democracy and freedom. The Korean left of the ‘90s formulated a theory of Jinbo (progressive) movement as an alternative to both the minjung and shimin movements. In doing so, the Korean Left drew on Gramsci’s notion of civil society, hegemony and war of position. Gramsci’s notion of civil society was known in the 1980s but it was only after 1991 that the Korean left began discussing the political efficacy of the concept. They argued that the base-superstructure model in Marxism-Leninism should be revised to include civil society… The Korean left believed that the concept of civil society could capture the new reality of South Korea and thus new tasks of revolutionaries accordingly….The RMO-sponsored minjung movement was criticized for maintaining their old methods of struggle…The Jinbo movement argued that the objective condition of South Korea has changed in the way that social issues and struggle methods were too diversified and fragmented to be channeled into one single confrontational line against one common enemy…From this, the Jinbo movement suggested that the left should overcome the ‘narrow, rigid and outdated’ strategy of the old left… They contended that the left must learn from the middle-class sponsored shimin(citizen’s) movement which addressed issues such as housing, education, environment, transportation, healthcare, cultural facilities that concerned all members of the community…The minjung movement, in the past, repeated abstract maximalist slogans and looked down on those community issues as reformist campaigns…The Jinbo movement criticized the minjung movement for avoiding legal channels for problem solution by resorting to street demonstrations. To be perceived as alternative to the shimin movement, it was argued that the minjung movement must be able to provide “middle-range” or pragmatic measures to deal with problems such as housing, education, and transportation issues… The Jinbo movement argued that the struggle for social transformation should be diversified in various social and cultural realms…They criticized the old movement for narrowly focusing on changes at the structural level (the state and economy). Like the New Social Movements model, they argued that the left should pay more attentions to diverse forms of movement, contents and social bases. For instance, some suggestions for alternative movements included: ‘minority’ movements(movements of women, homosexuals, the disabled, immigrants among others) cultural movements, alternative school, peace movements, independent movie industry, communes, collective day-care, workers’ co-ops, squatters’ movements, underground music movement, anti-death penalty, environment etc…”

SOURCE:


click here

My message to the Kenyan Civil Society sector is simply this:

Over the next two and half years, there will be significant shifts of a negative and positive character in the political economy which will in turn accelerate social stratification and is attendant intra-alienations and social conflicts that will be manifested in more industrial actions by Kenyan workers, direct actions, boycotts and protests by squatters and rural farmers. The youth and the students of Kenya are getting not only more frustrated, but even more politicized and militant as well. The austerity regime that Mwiraria and Co. want to impose on Kenya has a flip side- Kenyan workers and their civil society allies will increasingly take on the EPZs, flower farms and other exploitative employers and will resist retrenchment and downsizing. In the meantime, Kenyan women will come to the fore even more to defend already won gender rights and push forward for reproductive choice and equality of opportunity. Muslims will organize against religious stereotyping and resist racial profiling as they grab more than a toe-hold in Kenyan society. Within the NGO sector, groups led by activists will form an informal social justice network. At the level of communities, unless rapid intervention takes place, there will be increasing tribal polarization that may end up creating a serious rift between the Luos and the Gikuyus for instance. At the level of internal elitist comprador bourgeois politics, NARC will continue to feed on itself.

If this is true (and I have based the above projections based on examining various current trends) right now is decision time:

Reform or Revolution?

And when I am talking of revolution I am taking about the national democratic revolution that I have defined elsewhere:

“…What are these tasks?

“Number one, we have not completed our tasks around national independence.

“Number two, we have not completed our tasks around national democracy.

“These tasks are inter-twined and inter-related.

……
“So what then are we fighting for?

“Regime change?

“Constitutional reforms?

“Democratic transformations?

“Economic and agrarian reforms?

“The short answer is: All That and Much, Much More.

“We are fighting for a National Democratic Revolution.

“Now don’t get scared now, even if you are liberal parliamentary adherent.


“Each word is chosen for a purpose.

The “National“ obviously refers to the fact that we can not fight for the liberation of Turkanaland, Masaailand, Luoland, Gikuyuland and Gusiiland separately in isolation and to the exclusion of other parts of Kenya. Neither can we fight for the tribal or regional hegemony of one part of Kenyan society to the exclusion of other parts. We are fighting for the whole of Kenya.

The “Democratic“ aspect defines the main content of our struggles. We are deepening the spaces to be occupied by the popular social actors and here I mean, not Mzee Tamaa and Mama Kayai and Redyculass, but rather, the social forces: the workers, the small farmers, the poor, the women, the youth and all the wananchi of Kenya who have been so far marginalized from the political mainstream. We describe some of the key democratic demands later on in this essay.

The “Revolution“ aspect underscores the need to go beyond PIECEMEAL AND INCREMENTAL REFORMS. We need a fundamental shift and reorganization of Kenyan society. And by the way, not ALL revolutions are VIOLENT. A revolution is simply a moment or process in time and space where one group of rulers (not individuals but social groups and/or classes) are replaced in terms of political power by another, previously marginalized social group/ class/alliances of various classes who then proceed to undertake a fundamental restructuring of that society. It flows from this definition that a revolution is not an elitist conspiracy but a moment when millions upon millions of ordinary wananchi are galvanized by a well-organized nationwide political and social movement with a strong leadership to achieve ownership and exercise immediate agency in enacting new pathways to the future.

“So, yes, we are talking about a National Democratic Revolution in Kenya.

“By its very nature, given the fact that we have defined the main obstacle as the neo-liberal universe of international finance capital, our national democratic revolution will have both a patriotic and anti-imperialist character. It will be in this context, a “Left oriented” National Democratic Revolution…”(Onyango Oloo, “Tujenge Kenya Mpya..” November 2003)

In order for Kenyan civil society to survive-and I am not talking about funding (there is no shortage of proposal writers in Kenya) in order for them to survive POLITICALLY, they have to be proactive and response to the upsurge that some of us see in the offing.

Of course many of them will be constrained by their own class limitations and fall politically by the way side as a new breed of third and fourth generation civic and community-based organizations, progressive research centres; militant writers and other artists; trade unions, women’s groups, radical environmentalists; youth activists; progressive Kenyans abroad; social justice as opposed to mainstream human rights organizations emerge to claim their new roles.

Yes, yes, I know people are asking what I have been smoking.

First of all, I do not smoke and secondly, you can spare me your snide comments and test my theory over events unfolding in Kenya in the next year, year and a half.

So where does the Kenya Democracy Project fit in all this?

Since we are ANTICIPATING these events, we want to and will make a point of being in the thick of things in the weeks and months ahead.

And just to underscore that militant message of hope, I leave you with Sinpare’s Jivunie Ukenya:


click here to listen to Sinpare's Jivunie Ukenya

Onyango Oloo
Montreal
Saturday, July 10, 2004
5:39 PM EST


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