Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Convene a Baraza to Elect Wananchi Delegation to World Forum on Agrarian Reform

Kenya Democracy Project Calls for Wananchi’s Baraza
To Elect a Kenyan Wananchi’s Delegation to the December 2004 World Forum on Agrarian Reform

Some Idle Day Dreaming by THAT Loudmouth in Montreal

Those who keep screaming that we should take précis lessons have the summary of the following essay in the first caption above.

So you may as well log out from this blog right about now.


I stole a glance at the news headlines when I was preparing for this essay the night before yesterday.

When I saw the following pictures:

I thought that it may very well come to pass, in the not too distant future a similarly sized crowd will be proceeding down the streets of Nairobi as Maasai morans

, Nandi and Kipsigis small farmers,

Luo slum dwellers from Kibera,

displaced Digo villagers from Kwale,

inhabitants of the Taita-Taveta (Dawida and other communities),

Mau Mau veterans from Nyandarua, Muranga and Nyeri,

Youth from Mombasa,

Somali women from Wajir,

Bukusu torture survivors from Bungoma,

scape goated Wahindis from Homa Bay,

struggling mothers from Makueni

join hundreds of thousands more to demand the tired jokers of this fraudulent NARC regime that urinated, regurgitated and defecated on the just and democratic aspirations of the very wananchi who so enthusiastically and hopefully to power on December 27, 2002 step down at last, and not a moment too soon...

But I will stay away from images of seething anti-Bush American outrage, reverting back to the simmering social and political crisis that is threatening to explode all over Kenya even as the Homungati of 2004 known as Amos Kimunya haughtily dismisses the historical injustices that saw Kenyan communities all across the land robbed of their land by land grabbers who taught their students like Kenyatta and Moi how to grab land.

The ongoing protests of the Maasai,the Kipsigis and the Nandi agitating for a return of their ancestral and communal lands has been well covered in the Kenyan and international media so I will not rehash it here, not venturing beyond a simple hint towards GOOGLE for those extraterrestrials joining this web cast from a galaxy several light years removed from our dimension.

In addition, Kenyans in Kenya have done extensive research and documentation about the wide range of issues affecting land in our country. In particular, Prof. Okoth Ogendo is recognized as one of the world's leading academics about land tenure within the African context. Here is what the veteran don had to say about his mother country on the question of land:

Another valuable insight can be gleaned from the Kenya Land Alliance led by Odenda Lumumba and Kituo Cha Sheria whose Executive Director is Harun Ndubi for this sterling output

For a one stop shopping centre for matters concerning land, not just in Kenya but all over the African continent, visit this superb site maintained by the UK charity,Oxfam:

Which brings this unusually fast paced essay to this other link to a document from the Land Research Action Network announcing the Pascual Carrion World Forum on Agrarian Forum that is happening in December 2004 in the Spanish city of Valencia:

I think it is important for Kenyans to attend this gathering.

And not just any old Kenyan middle class NGO types whose passports are full of stamps from Rio, Cancun,Mumbai,Porto Allegre, Beijing,Johannesburg. That sentence was not meant as a slight on any of my comrades and friends (and they know who they are) who have earned frequent flier miles attending timely and important conferences on each of the continents that this planet claims as its own.

I am simply saying that for ONCE, it would be NICE if,IN ADDITION TO THE AFORE- MENTIONED GLOBE TROTTERS, some of the delegates to these conferences FOR A CHANGE, and SOME VARIETY happened to be people who were DIRECTLY IMPACTED by the issues so studiously and ponderously pontificated over at these important international gatherings.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was interviewing comrade(yes, some of us still embrace this salutation!) Wahu Kaara, she used a term that I had not heard before but which obviously has been around for quite some time.

She spoke of “Civil Commons” as opposed to "Civil Society” and by so doing, she was consciously distinguishing formations representing the wala hoi as opposed to the wala hai within the class variegated Kenyan non-governmental throngs.

Here is my simple proposal and call out-and here is where you realize that Onyango Oloo is not “attacking civil society once again” but rather calling on their active participation in creating a more INCLUSIVE, and more POLITICAL organizing space that GOES WAY BEYOND fretting over whether THIS OR THAT project is “FUNDABLE”.

My simple proposal goes to ALL KENYAN DEMOCRATIC ACTIVISTS via the same same civil society actors that some may have rashly concluded that I was slagging.

I am addressing this message to the wider Kenyan progressive community via this email that I am SENDING DIRECTLY to the following people:

Odenda Lumumba of the Kenya Land Alliance
Wahu Kaara of the Kenya Debt Relief Network and Katiba Watch
Harun Ndubi of Kituo Cha Sheria
Njuki Githethwa of the Laikipia Human Rights Forum
Edward Oyugi of Social Development Network
Abdul Hamid Slatch of the Young Muslims Association
Wanjiku Miano of the Kenya Human Rights Commission
Gladwell Otieno of Transparency International Kenya
And 9 DOZEN names within the Kenyan progressive community within Kenya

Ironically, in order to get in touch with my core audience, I have to reach out to the people that I am HOPING WILL NOT ATTEND THIS GATHERING IN HUGE NUMBERS.

Blame it on the DIGITAL DIVIDE among Kenyan social change actors.

My proposal is a very simple one, that the Kenya Land Alliance and all the other partners I have cited above reach out directly to the actual leaders and representatives of the Maasai, the Kipsigis and Nandi as well as all other communities that are beginning to express their restiveness and frustration over lack of agrarian reform and redress in Kenya by taking matters in their own hands through farm occupations, street protests and angry press conferences.

Kenya is NOT Zimbabwe or even Brazil; the Kenya of 2004 is not the Kenya of 1904, but not for the reason that homungati sellout lout and neocolonial tout Kimunya is sneering and snickering about; our fight for Uhuru na Mashamba in the early 21st Century is qualitatively and quantitatively different from the KLFA armed struggle for Land and Freedom half a century ago; Kibaki is not the Governor General; he is not even Kenyatta or Moi.

One of the biggest differences between 1904 and 2004 is that in 1904 Kenyans did not HAVE a legal framework that would help to contextualize land policies in Kenya. Today we have the much maligned Zero Draft which had a lot of input from the Maasai, the Pokot, the Turkana, Dawida, Digo and other communities regarding land tenure, land use and other land policies germane to the project of germinating a new Kenyan society.

following documentgives you an inkling about what I am talking about:

Left to themselves the Maasai and Kipsigis jacqueries will eventually fizzle out or be taken over by demagogic political telephone farmers from the same communities who will cynically abuse these genuine grievances to wrest short sighted PERSONAL concessions from their cousins in the very same government of national unity that some of them joined just the other day; the urban uprisings of the Kibera slum dwellers can be quickly reduced by NARC’s repressive state machinery into yet another mop up GSU terrorist campaign against peaceful residents of Nairobi; we have seen how the Kulundus and Kalonzos have been bending over backwards to sell out the long term interests of the Digo peasants for the short term gains of a junior Canadian mining concern and some ephemeral passing clouds in the Kenyan government of the day; Beth Mugo and her cousin Uhuru Kenyatta are NOT about to champion the rights of squatters in Mwatate and other parts of Dawida country; angry protests in Kitale, Kitui and elsewhere are likely to remain just that.

What is important I feel,is to harness all this anger, all this frustration, all this collective and national sense of historic injustice perpetrated by the colonial and neo-colonial regimes against the Kenyan people; let us all work together, to take this energy and feed it into the smouldering flame of our indignation against our growing cahiers of broken promises unleashed against Kenyans by these political wagongaji, walanguzi na matapeli currently misleading and misruling us.

Anger is a useful and healthy emotion; it is not just the fuel that drives sustainable national democratic struggles over a very long distance you know.

We have to rise above the indignation; transcend the frustration; move beyond the spontaneous desire to lash out.

Let us remember the Kiswahili proverb:

Hasira ya mkizi(sio MKISII na wewe!), tijara ya mvuvi referring to how the cuttle fish is always hooked and snagged because of its temper tantrums.

Anger is exhilarating; venting is kosher and halal, but it is indeed time for cooler heads to prevail in Kenya.

Am I one of those COOL HEADS?

Well, you tell me!

Let us stop donating our people to the live bullets of the trigger happy Kenyan police, the baton wielding AP or military trained GSU.

We should remember that among those ranks of the security forces are the sons and daughters of landless squatters and hoodwinked village elders. On July 3, 2004 I interviewed a young Kenyan man, born in Kitui but currently living in Voi who told me that during the tear gassing at the Uhuru Park Katiba Watch rallyon the same day, some of the people who were COMPLAINING most LOUDLY about the reaction of the NARC regime were themselves in police uniform and that they were quite reluctant to swing their rungus against people they saw as defending THEIR (police) rights. What I am saying is that we should not DEMONIZE the Kenyan security forces who are often forced to do the dirty work that their political masters are too cowardly to perform.

Mark my words:

One of these days, the Kenyan police, the paramilitary and the military will refuse to carry out these fascist orders from the NARC regime and turn their guns in a different direction…

In the meantime, it is COMPLETELY FOOLHARDY for unarmed Kenyan peasants to be throwing themselves on the bayonets of the state security forces.

Such sacrifices, however heroic and exemplary, ARE NOT NECESSARY or even USEFUL.

We in Kenya can do better than the Zimbabwe, Chimurenga veteran style farm invasions and other angry knee-jerk reactions that have led to painful political blind alleys elsewhere.

In fact, if we calm down just a little bit and gather our slightly cooler heads together we will immediately realize that the failure to deal with the land crisis is probably going to be the one thing that will bring down the NARC regime-before 2007.

At the rate they are going, Kibaki’s arrogant gang will be lucky if Kenyans do not tear them limb from limb within the next two or three years.

If I was a member of the Kenyan cabinet (and at this point, I am reluctant to make ANY exceptions),I would start packing and inquiring about one way tickets to Zurich and the Cayman Islands.

I am serious.

Well, this essay is not really about offering free travel tips for angst ridden members of the Kenyan comprador bourgeoisie, so let me get back to that call out for a Kenyan Wananchi's Baraza(Civil Commons Convocation)on Kenyan Agrarian Reform.

The first thing I would like to propose is that this meeting DOES NOT take place in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kitale, Machakos, Kakamega, Kisii or ANY OF THE MAJOR URBAN CENTRES.

Flowing from that, I would like to propose that this meeting DOES NOT take place in a hotel,motel, inn, resort, conference centre or any of those regular haunts of the urban based NGO set.

The third thing I would like to propose that the working language of this gathering be primarily Kiswahili and that there should be translators for speakers who feel more comfortable contributing in their mother tongue.

The fourth thing I would like to propose is that registration to this gathering should be so affordable that an unemployed squatter can attend it and if they cannot that even this low fee should waived.

The fifth thing I would like to propose is that at least 50% of the participants should people who are DIRECTLY impacted by issues in their local communities. Of this number half should be women and at least one third should be delegates under 35 years of age.

The sixth thing I would like to propose is that the gathering should kick off with traditional blessings/prayers/incantations/rituals representing some of Kenya's communities.

The seventh thing I would like to propose is that this gathering should be totally self-financed- no direct overseas funding.

The eighth thing I would like to propose is that elected politicians from local to national levels should be BANNED from this gathering. Ditto for DCs, DOs, chiefs and their assistants.

Going by the foregoing, what am I proposing in practical terms?

That this meeting take place, whether permitting in an open air market, school ground, church or other community space accesible to all and that the location should be one that anyone traveling on a country bus, a matatu or a bicycle or walking on foot can reach without difficulty.

For security and logistical purposes it should be just a one day meeting with a very short agenda.

An implication from the last sentence is that this gathering should be PRECEDED by a series of local, regional meetings which discuss the issues and send ONE OR TWO delegates to this WANANCHI's Baraza.

For instance, the Maasais would meet among themselves decide on what are the main issues they would like to present to this gathering and send their delegate(s) to represent them; the Dawidas would do the same as would all the other communities. In order to prevent top heavy NGO presence, I would suggest that the human rights groups would be represented for instance by K-HURINET; women groups would have to decide the mechanism and number of representation and so on; the youth would do likewise.

This essay is about broad strokes- do not forget that I am in far off Montreal away from anything resembling the situation on the actual ground.....

That however DOES NOT PREVENT ME from SUGGESTING a theme for the Wananchi's Baraza on Agrarian Reform in Kenya:


It is my hope that if this or a similar gathering ever takes place it will take an EXPLICITLY POLITICAL approach. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to economic and agricultural development in Kenya has been this ridiculous stricture of "Wacha Siasa". When wananchi leave politics alone, the politicians cut deals among each other, leaving the wananchi alone.

Whatever the case I hope that a process similar to the one I have outlined will enable a coalition of Kenyan delegates WITH A COMMON, DEMOCRATIC and PROGRESSIVE agenda to travel to Spain this coming December to attend the World Forum on Agrarian Reform.

Enough of this.

It is 4:18 in the morning here in Quebec.

Even Oloo has to close his eyes while remaining still in the horizontal position on those contraptions known as beds you know.....

Onyango Oloo
Montreal, Quebec
4:19 am EST.