Sunday, August 08, 2004

Some Thoughts on the LDP Retreat in Mombasa

By Onyango Oloo in Distant Montreal
Begun on the evening of Saturday, August 07, 2004
Finished at 5:41 am EST, Sunday, August 08, 2004

1.0. Let Us Remember August 7, 1998

Let us have one minute of silence in memory of the victims and in solidarity with the survivors of the August 7, 1998 terrorist bomb blasts in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that snuffed out and disfigured hundreds of lives:

And as we do so, let us rise above the small-minded petty potshots at Muslims as if there were no Muslim lives buried in the rubble above.

Terrorism is evil no matter who perpetrates it- and what makes it particularly despicable is that a terrorist bomb does not distinguish between Christians and Muslims, young and old, men and women, radical and conservative-it targets innocent human beings to make a callous and dubious selfish ideological point which always generates a bigger backlash and wipes out any residual sympathy for the cause that was being championed.

I happen to know a young man finishing his studies in one of the four universities here in Montreal whose mom was one of the survivors of that tragedy, outrage and atrocity.

My thoughts are with him and all the other families, friends and colleagues of those affected directly or indirectly.

It is very noteworthy that the NARC government was missing in action yesterday. I have looked closely at the online editions of all three main dailies of Nairobi and I have not seen a SINGLE MINISTER, leave alone the head of state lay a wreath at the memorial. Perhaps there is something I am missing. In which case I should call my optometrist.

What a shame!

As I write these lines I also feel a bit encouraged by a glimmer of hope coming to me via, of all places, Melbourne, Australia. According to one of the papers there, the 7 hostages, including the three Kenyan drivers are about to be released by their Iraqi captors:

click here

More updates(Sunday, August 08, 2004, 2:46 am EST):
click here

click here

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Although this even later update on Sunday afternoon from China is a tad worrying:

click here

Again, the true nature of the present Kenyan government has been discerned by its bumbling incompetence rather than its active diplomacy, in sharp contrast to the Indian government which assigned one of its ministers to be giving a daily briefing about the status of the hostages. In our case, our people took matters into their own hands when it was clear that Ali Mwakwere and his buddies like Amos Kimunya were more interested in holding out their hands to be twisted by the US embassy in Nairobi rather than respond to the plaintive pleas from the families of the Kenyan hostages. I will vomit if I see ANY Kenyan public official lining up to take a picture with any of the drivers.

2.0. Can Astrologers Make Good Political Analysts? Can Pundits Foretell the Future?

Mahendra Sharma is the person to go to if you want to gauge your chances of sleeping in the State House. The veteran astrologer has carved a niche as a specialist in political soothsaying. And it seems he is not alone:

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My own feeling about astrologers is that many of them are simply astute political observers who coat their analysis in esoteric, metaphysical terminology to brand themselves with a supernatural flair. In a sense, they are survivals of semi-feudal social systems where superstition still runs rampant. Don’t you remember early last year when a NARC MP drowned TOGETHER with his mgang'a?

This reliance on palmists and astrologers is by no means confined to Kenya. It is said that the late Ronald Reagan could not use the bathroom without an astrologer giving him the exact configuration of the heavenly bodies and whether Jupiter was dominant over Capricorn or whatever gobbledygook that seers dream up to impress.

The late Jean Dixon’s reputation as a famous psychic is very ill deserved:

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Late last year, one of my good friends in Johannesburg wondered in an email she sent to me whether Onyango Oloo too, had decided to be a Kenyan Sangoma. This was her reaction to my bold prediction that Mwai Kibaki would not see the end of 2005- an essay that I am not even going to TOUCH today, leave alone touch on…

I do not know about Mahendra and Josephine who hold their trade secrets close to their chests, but I do not mind sharing what guides my political soothsaying.

Fuata my Nyayos and who knows? Soon you may be giving Mahendra Sharma and Sheikh Yahya Hussein(if he is still alive)a run for their money.

Here are the tried and tested tips that guide my political forecasting:

1. Facts, facts and more facts.
2. A patient study of current and past political trends, comparing them with similar trends elsewhere.
3. Rigorous and wide ranging class analysis and study of the concrete material conditions prevailing in Kenya at any given time.
4. Insider information.
5. Simple intuition
6. Comparing notes with other activists, observers, players and people on the ground.

For instance, even though I am not a Cuban or an American, just one glance at the following story:

click here

Allows me to predict very comfortably that George W Bush will get LESS votes from the Cuban community in Florida this coming November than he got in that stolen selection four years ago. Political forecasting is really that OBVIOUS and STRAIGHT FORWARD, if one is honest with themselves.

For instance I can predict, judging by the waffling, wishy washy flip flops and general cake of mud that the Kibaki faction has covered itself with; I can say without fear of contradiction that the NAK faction has vanquished itself, it has ordered its casket, dug its grave, written its will and is now just waiting to be buried.

And I am saying this at a time when most pundits in the Kenyan media and on the internet naively think that the Murungarus and the Kiraitus have outwitted their LDP rivals.

What Kibaki and his sidekicks have done is to gain very TEMPORARY tactical advantages through superficial and inconsequential parliamentary “victories” while losing the larger, long term STRATEGIC contest for the hearts and minds of the Kenyan people and the confidence of the neo-colonial donor states.

Who remembers the Vice Presidency of Musalia Mudavadi?


The recent inclusion of Nyachae, Karume, Ntimama and the rest of the gang has WEAKENED, not SOLDIFIED Kibaki’s leadership; the wooing of Ruto and the passing of the Constitutional Review of Kenya(Amendment)Act of 2004 is making NAK lose valuable civil society allies like NCEC (click here to see NCEC's statement)

And lawyers like Kibe Mungai-check out his op-ed over here.

While gaining the dubious propaganda advantage of being PERCEIVED to have marginalized the LDP- which come to think of it, is a rather infantile way of gauging one’s political effectiveness. It is not what editorial page writers opine that matters at the end of the day-it is whether these moves makes it more or less likely that the NAK gang will be around after 2007. My own assessment is that since they are basically a bunch of selfish, greedy navel gazers who arrogantly ignore censure from their own coalition partners, widely expressed negative public opinions and direct critiques from their own donor partners, NAK is essentially, telling the Kenyan people that they do not give a F*ck about what anyone thinks- they will continue gorging at the trough. I mean, can you imagine Kimunya insulting the collective intelligence of Kenyans by brazenly lying that NARC NEVER promised to build thousands of houses- which of course echoes Murungaru’s earlier denials that NARC ever promised to deliver a constitution within 100 days.

This is not even arrogance.

It is deep political psychosis characterized by extreme self-delusion of the worst kind.

The thing which I find personally very dissatisfying in a big chunk of the political analysis I see in the Kenyan public domain has to do with its lack of depth. We tend to analyze issues as if the future consists of six months with nothing beyond that. This short termism is partly a consequence of the fact that many elite players live month to month, politically speaking- they are grateful for each day they wake up and find the sun smiling at them. Surely, this is no way to live, politically speaking. One should project events to a period when one is not even alive to benefit from the ramifications and implications of what one is doing in this life time.

It takes a serious committed patriot to think about Kenya in those terms and I am not sure how many of the mainstream political players have that kind of mindset.

3.0. Let Us Not Read Too Much Into the LDP Retreat

Such is the paucity of Kenyan politics that when a mainstream party decides to go on a weekend retreat, all kinds of imputations are drawn.

In a normal, functioning democracy, this would be considered a non-event, a routine annual exercise where the party faithful congregate to recharge their batteries, reaffirm party platforms, impose internal discipline and map out future plans. Our national bankruptcy however makes us drag out all the conspiracy theories that we can spin out.

For instance, it is probably going a little over the top to depict the Mombasa LDP meeting as a virtual coup plot against the Kibaki regime. Nor is it the kitchen where large sufurias of boiling water are being kept ready to be mwagwad on the NAK faction.

The LDP are NOT about to quit the NARC coalition-I somehow do not see Raila and Kalonzo granting Murungaru’s the most fervent wish in that benighted Internal Security minister's earnest daily supplications.

Last year when I went to Kenya I had a very fascinating discussion with Ms. Njeri Kabeberi. Well known in Kenyan progressive circles, Njeri is one of the founder members and the inaugural Chairperson of the Release Political Prisoners pressure group. She has also continued to serve with distinction on the board of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and was once the Treasurer of Safina. Currently based in South Africa, Njeri Kabeberi is engaged in probably one of the most important initiatives to consolidate multi- party democracy in Kenya. Njeri told me about her involvement in a capacity building initiative for Kenyan political parties. What is exciting about this is that she is ready to work with ALL political parties. Last fall when we were both there she was busy setting up public consultations and one on one meetings with NARC, FORD-People, KANU and other parties as well.

This initiative is financially supported by the South Africa based
Institute of Democratic Alternatives(IDASA)

and the Dutch based Institute for Multi Party Democracy

You can read more about their work here:

click here

click here

My only trepidation is that the arrogant intransigence of certain forces in the Kenyan government may end up mothballing this important venture.

Before we proceed further I would like to put in a musical break. This is an old habit that comes from doing a weekly two hour magazine show on the radio where you need to break up the talking with music. Of course if you are reading this after printing out from the internet, then what I am saying will not make sense.

Our selection goes back almost thirty years ago. I remember I was a kid of fifteen growing up in Mombasa. This was the year when the Chinese acrobats came to town; the year when I saw the great Ugandan hurdler John Akii-Bua strut around Mombasa stadium before storming to victory in his specialty as did the indefatigable and diminutive Ethiopian long distance ace Miruts Yifter in the 10,000 metres; it was the year when Sospeter Otin with his powerful free throws which went half-way across the stadium, Kiiza and his dependable middle field skills and Chege Ouma with his dribbling and striking prowess brought the East and Central Soccer Challenge Club Cup to Kenya. Was Eric Omonge in that line up or did he join later? I am a bit confused. Norwich City came to our city that year; as did those British wrestlers including Gil Tiger Singh; it was also the year, where I spied, via television that magical Cavacha dance troupe dazzling the throngs at that year’s Nairobi ASK Show. And no, I did not keep a diary. Just have something of a memory that has been ascribed to a certain large herbivore…. Firmly in my second year of teen hood, how could I forget the mellifluous rhythms from Goma, Bukavu, Kinshasha, Lumumbashi and other parts of the then Zaire? These were the heydays of Shama Shama, Bella Bella, Lipua Lipua, Veve and later Kamale and on the Kenyan scene Mangelepa, Super Mazembe, Simba wa Nyika, Arusha Jazz, Super Volcano. Maybe it is just my own Kenyan Baby Boomer thing (strictly speaking, there is no such generation in Kenya-there has been a baby boom throughout all of Kenya’s recorded history) but I think that this was for me, the Golden Age of African music- but like I said, each of us tend to peg our own adolescence as the Best of Times….

Which all brings me to the following point:

Here is Lukani, released in 1975 by Orchestre Veve:

I hope you enjoyed that.

4.0 Do I Have a Message for the LDP Delegates in Mombasa?

As a matter of fact, I do.

The ironical thing is that this is THE VERY FIRST MESSAGE OF ANY KIND that I am communicating to the LDP, contrary to the internet generated tribal myths of Onyango Oloo as the LDP mole and Raila’s mouthpiece abroad.

I know a couple of people in that crowd, like the two familiar faces below:

Onyango Oloo akiwapokea Raila Odinga, William Ruto and Najib Balala at the Pearson Airport in Toronto on Friday, August 25, 2000 when they arrived(with other SDP, KANU, NDP and other Kenyan politicians) for a town hall meeting held at the Toronto Public Library located on the south side of Eglinton Avenue West, just east of Dufferin Street;

One of the those LDP people(who is NOT in the pictures above)who will remain nameless for today was actually at one point the Chairperson of one of the Kenyan underground revolutionary formations at a time when many of the current so called reformers were either firmly in KANU or making a fetish of not being involved in politics.

My message to the LDP is a very simple one:

Break up!

OK. I admit it-I was trying to get your attention.

Did I succeed?

But I am serious.

No, I do not mean, break up with your NAK coalition partners. Oh no-you need that bad marriage for another year and a half at least.

What I mean is break up the LDP itself!


How could I give such advice to a party that is just coming out of a three day retreat?

Well, for one thing, it is because I am being mischievous. Secondly, it is because I know you will end up AGREEING WITH ME after you have heard what I have to say.

Look: you notice that Awori, Saitoti, Ntimama, Tuju and Mwakwere-all cabinet ministers from the LDP faction did not bother showing up for the Mombasa retreat. They have already voted with their stomachs. LDP was the matatu which ferried them to the cabinet so they do not need that ride anymore-they now have their own chauffer driven limousines.

Si Wamefika Jamani?

The LDP can no longer be a matatu where anybody who wants to go to Mazeras or Takaungu can hop on.

It must be a disciplined political party with a firm ideology, as Raila Odinga pointed out.

It should signal its seriousness by expelling Moody Awori, Raphael Tuju, Ali Mwakwere, William Ntimama and George Saitoti from the party. Surely when senior members and cabinet ministers choose to deliberately and wilfully ignore an important function of the party to which they owe their political presence in parliament, then it is time to call the bluff about the so called “NARC” party.

I echo Mutahi Ngunyi’s sentiments when he says that LDP is going to be the effective opposition in Kenya-and possibly the alternative government come 2007. It should therefore JETTISON its waffling turn coats and reach out to people in other parties- including NAK who are dissatisfied with their own parties.

But this cannot be simply a replication of 2002.

If LDP wants to be the party of the future, it must grow up from its KANU breakaway faction origins.

It is possible for the LDP to form the next government on ONE MAJOR PRECONDITION:

It is part of the process of building an ALTERNATIVE; grass roots based NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE from below.

In contrast to how NARC was cobbled together, the LDP should start working even more closely with Katiba Watch, NCEC and other Kenyan democratic formations to CONSOLIDATE a PATRIOTIC and DEMOCRATIC ALTERNATIVE to the current political crooks at the helm.

Unlike some of my friends online, I am not so quick to dismiss so and so as not being “credible” simply based on the fact that they happen to be in the LDP. Nor do I think the LDP is our panacea either.

The litmus test for me in terms of determining whether or not LDP has made that transition will be to see if it incorporates at least half of the following democratic demands into its POLITICAL MANIFESTO:

1. Passage of a National Democratic Constitution in the shortest time possible;
2. Principled and Determined Fight Against Grand Graft without Witch Hunts
3. Setting up of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission;
4. Prosecution of the Goldenberg Crooks;
5. Prosecution of the Masterminds of the Ethnic Clashes;
6. Stopping Retrenchments; Curbing the Exploitation in the EPZs and other IMF inspired atrocities like the detention of patients in medical facilities;
7. Renegotiating the Foreign Debt with a View to Total Cancellation
8. Closer Cooperation with Regional Neighbours; Stronger African Presence;
9. Defeating the Suppression of Terrorism Bill;
10. Have a Kenyan Workers Charter by May Day 2005;
11. Have at least 30% of the LDP MPs in the next parliament being women’
12. Entrench multi-party democracy to the extent that Kenyan Communists and Islamists can legally set up their own parties;
13. Forge an independent foreign policy;
14. Have a Blue Print for Creating Employment , attracting the Appropriate Investment and Spurring Economic Development, not just Growth;
15. Have a well articulated Youth Agenda, executed by the Kenyan Youth;
16. Integrate Kenyans Abroad in all Aspects of National Development;
17. Promote Kiswahili and all other Aspects of Kenyan National Culture;
18. Protect the Environment;
19. Defend National ethnic, religious, racial and cultural minorities;
20. Foster a Vibrant Civil Society;
21. Having a Humane, as opposed to FASCIST approach to crime, insecurity and other social problems;
22. Showing leadership in promoting science and technology and bridging the digital divide;

5.0 Kenyans on the Left Have an Independent Agenda That Goes Beyond the Mainstream

Those twenty two democratic demands are for me what goes into constituting the absolute MINIMUM programme where mainstream political parties like the LDP can start forging alliances with Kenyan Marxists, social democrats, revolutionary nationalists, Pan Africanists and other anti- imperialist forces in our country for a long term national democratic and sustainable renewal.

We should NOT WAIT for the LDP to meet this standard. We ourselves should use it as the criteria in recruiting for a Wananchi based National Democratic Movement that must be built by progressive Kenyans whether the LDP comes on board or not.

Onyango Oloo
Sunday, August 08, 2004
5:41 am EST

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