Onyango Oloo Maps Out an Alternative Path...
This Essay is dedicated to Our Late Ndugu Karimi Nduthu and the Comrades in the Release Political Prisoners Pressure Group
Has anyone been to the new KTN Forum? If you are wondering where or how, just go to the new East African Standard Site and look for the little KTN icon next to the archives at the top of the home page.
Let us give credit where it is due:
The Standard has, in my opinion, the BEST designed site of all the major Kenyan dailies online. The Nation, with the DEEPEST pockets and a raft of incredibly talented cartoonists, reporters and analysts, remains the MOST INACCESSIBLE to its overseas readers while the much maligned Kenya Times beats its competitors hands down in two categories: it is the FASTEST ONLINE- posting sometimes as early as 1 pm Eastern Standard Time; it is also the MOST OPEN to critical viewpoints from diverse ideological sources ranging from the extreme right to the militant left. I still miss the People and Taifa online- when I was in Kenya I made a point of buying ALL the main English and Kiswahili dailies.
By the way, my old University of Nairobi classmate (I have not set eyes on him since 1982) Tom Mshindi DID NOT SLIP ME A GUNIA OF JIRONGOS to give the Standard a plug, just in case you suspect that I am also cashing in on the so called CCM Chukua Chako Mapema) craze…
As they say in my mother tongue, gima ber to ber yawa (rough literal translation, “what is good is good”).
The reason I was asking you about the KTN Forum (needless to say, I have promptly joined it, being the news junkie that I am) is because I wanted to direct you to some videotaped comedy that is packaged in their current News Shot. Go there and check out Viscount Kimathi reprising Oloo Aringo’s former court jester role even as Kibaki calls his driver kumbaff!(is it the same word as the Kiswahili “pumbavu”?) and Kanyingi threatens to tender his resignation this coming January if all the roads in Kenya have not yet been updated to his satisfaction. In the meantime, Kajwang and Kiraitu are up to their usual hijinks.
Before I go on to my main topic I just wanted to say SHAME ON PRESIDENT KIBAKI and the NARC government for DOING ABSOLUTELY NADA as wananchi ONCE MORE
take up bows and arrows to try and kill their neighbours because of petty land disputes that are dwarfed by some of the bigger stories like Mutegi Njau’s expose in the Nation which comes on the heels of the series of explosive exposures in the Standard(click here and here and here) and coinciding with the threat by the LSK to sue the government if Kibaki’s regime does not unleash the Ndungu Land Report
Of course, any unbiased observer who has been browsing the Kenya Democracy Project blog will have to agree with us that we have commented extensively on this land issue as can be evidenced by this posting and this one and this other one....
2.0. The Bankruptcy of Kenya’s Mainstream Political Parties
It has been chilling and heart stopping, reading the pronouncements of the various sub-chiefs and headmen who speak on behalf of the various political parties on the Kenyan scene.
It is impossible to believe that most of these politicians seriously believe in multi- party democracy and its associated tenets of freedom of expression; freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of association etc.
Every time I log on to a Kenya news site I am seeing dire warnings of this political party warning supporters of this other political party not to step into their “zone”, or in a fit of machismo chest thumping, try and venture there kama wewe ni mwanaume(a threat that obviously assumes there are no female political actors in the country).
And these “zones” are demarcated roughly along tribal lines.
It is bad enough when the opponents of NAK paint it as a so called “Mt. Kenya Mafia” outfit; it is worse when 15 politicians from the so called NAK zones repeat the KANU tactics of old to declare their communities and regions out of bounds for the LDP where the “L” is assumed to stand for “Luo”; it is bad enough when the LDP is called by a section of Kenya’s press as “Raila’s party”; it is worse when LDP appartchiks at the Coast crow triumphant about how they are going to crush their NAK rivals. It is unfortunate when you hear FORD-People tagged as a Kisii outfit; you shake your head sadly when you read from Nyachae’s aides warning other political party leaders to stay away from Nyamira and Kisii districts; it is pathetic when we see pundits paint FORD-Kenya as a Luhyia gang; it is even worse when you hear rabid docs like Bonny “Let Me Roga Watu wa Kitale” Khalwale threaten LDP organizers from venturing into Western Province.
Not to be outdone, check out
these startling remarks from various Rift Valley based KANU leaders in regards to who they think should control the former ruling party.
There are hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who are extremely political but as yet do NOT have a membership in any of these mainstream political parties.
I am one of those thousands of partyless Kenyans.
And I must say that NONE of the mainstream political parties has given me a reason for me to want to join them.
Apart from their blatant TRIBAL and REGIONAL biases; apart from the FACT that most if not all of these parties revolve around the ambitions of a BIG CHIEF, the one thing that has PUT ME OFF from all of these parties is their lack of a COHERENT, IDEOLOGICAL PLATFORM.
I hate the Republicans, have nothing but disdain for Blair’s Labourites and have very little love for Paul Martin’s Liberals here in Canada.
But you know what:
George W. Bush is RIGHT.
They do stand for something.
In the case of the GOP, they are openly pro Big Business, anti- poor, anti- immigrant, racist, sexist and homophobic and generally downright rightwing and backward so everyone who approaches them knows straight up where they stand on issues. You would be out of your mind if you expected to see Dubya at a pro-choice rally in Austin, Texas or hear of Cheney presiding at a fundraiser for Indymedia in New York.
Tony Blair stands squarely for Fortress Europe and some of his lieutenants have written position papers arguing in favour of British Recolonization.
Canadian multi-millionaire Prime Minister Paul Martin will not hesitate to award his fat cat buddies another tax break if he can get away with it.
The Kenyan parties in sharp contrast, are a SAD, but TRUE REFLECTION of our acute neocolonial political underdevelopment.
And they lag way behind other political parties in other parts of Africa like Mauritius, Seychelles, Senegal, South Africa and even tiny Burkina Faso which had FIVE COMMUNIST PARTIES during Sankara’s time.
3.0. Where are the Kenyan Progressives and Socialists?
That is a question many of my fellow communist(Marxist-Leninists if you prefer the alternate term) COMRADES from Iran, Iraq, El Salvador, Canada, India, Guyana, South Africa, Sudan, Grenada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Portugal, Burkina Faso and Australia have posed to me over the last fifteen years at various conferences, picnics, assemblies, anniversaries, demonstrations and discussion group meetings.
It has not been an easy question to answer.
In the neocolonial Kenya of the early 1980s, even common, garden variety ordinary Kenyan liberals and run of the mill average nationalist grew serious goatees, well cultivated moustaches and bushy 19th Century beards(some with mandatory stinking tobacco pipe accessory) went to Wanyee’s Bookstore next to the Uchumi near Nairobi Cinema and purchased Maxim Gorki’s novel, Mother and baptized themselves "communists".
A few years later, in the mid 1980s, at the height of some of the worst excesses of the Moi-KANU regime(James Opiyo's Golden Age) the same "bearded Kenyan Marxists" shaved off those very same beards and used their collected works of Mao and Stalin to start bonfires near their servant quarters in the dead of the night-before dashing to the Kenyatta International Conference Centre first thing in the morning to purchase a KANU life membership. I am told that one of the prominent cabinet ministers who comes from the western part of the country did his doctorate dissertation defending the Nyayo philosophy somewhere in the Scandinavian countries-but I am not so sure about that…
By the late 1980s and beginning of the 1990s ANY Kenyan who chanted:
Dictatorship No! Democracy Yes!
Moi Chini, Chini, Chini Kabisa!
Was immediately welcomed to the Kenyan “progressive tent” even if their social and economic beliefs had more in common with Ayn Rand and Rush Limbaugh.
NOT BEING A MEMBER OF KANU was considered enough to be called a "reformer" and a "second liberation activist" if not an actual YOUNG TURK(forget that we were all Kenyans and Turks are found in TURKEY for goodness sake!)
The 1990s was supposed to be the decade when we Leftists "grew up" from our so called "orthodox" and "doctrinaire" delusions and illusions.
After all, had the Berlin Wall not fallen?
Did we not hear Mikhail Gorbachev refer to Ronald Reagan as his “good friend”?
Was Castro not desperate enough to open up the Cuban economy to the detested yankee dollar?
Was China not marching forward along the previously despised capitalist road?
Was Vietnam not implementing World Bank friendly free market reforms?
Was Vaclav Havel not President of one half of the split up Czechoslovakia?
Was Lech Walesa not President of a non-Communist Poland?
Was Boris Yelstin not peeing in his pants after ingesting gallons of vodka in a post CPSU Kremlin?
In Kenya, I watched, in the early nineties, mouth agape, as some of the leaders of the underground movement I was part of-UWAKE (a merger of the Me Katilili Revolutionary Movement and the Kenya Anti-Imperialist Front) dissolved our organization WITHOUT CONSULTING US and its top leadership scattered in several directions- one became a FORD-Kenya (and later NDP) MP; one became one of the chief lieutenants of Kenneth Matiba; one became among the founding officials of Safina; two or three became very high profile NGO activists; one was to later join the diplomatic corps; a couple retreated back into their university senior common rooms while a couple lost their poor minds; in the broader Kenyan anti-imperialist movement, we saw some of our friends become Special Branch informers(I still cannot forget the candid and honest call I got from a fellow exile here in Canada in late 1989 who at least had the courtesy to inform me that HE WAS SELLING OUT and going back to Kenya to become a kachero-echoing his real name). Two prominent Kenyan Leftists who write a lot of books (and you can fill in the blanks) decided to fuse their long history of anti-imperialist politics with a somewhat parochial descent into cultural nationalism-with very mixed results) while another veteran Kenyan ex Marxist became converted to the Post Modernist Cult.
Around NINE YEARS AGO, I wrote, using the pen name “Zinduka U Pambane” a provisional historical assessment of the contemporary Kenyan Left called, “ Every New Beginning Has An Old Origin” that appeared in the first issue of a very short lived clandestine , exiled based Kenyan ideological journal that we called Itikadi.
In it, I traced the history of the Kenyan Left from the organizing in the 1930s and 1940s by Makhan Singh, Fred Kubai and Chege Kibacia (leaders of the Labour Trade Union of Kenya, the East African Trade Union Congress and the Mombasa based Africa Workers Federation respectively) to the militant revolutionary nationalism of Kiama Kiama Muingi featuring Kimathi wa Waciuri, General Muthoni, Bildad Kaggia, Isaac Gathanju, Eliud Mutonyi and other comrades and supporters like Pio Gama Pinto, Achieng Oneko and Joseph Murumbi; the Not Yet Uhuru anti-imperialist protest by Oginga Odinga and Bildad Kaggia & the KPU in the mid to late sixties; the early 70s parliamentary populism of JM Kariuki, Marie Seroney, George Anyona and Chelagat Mutai; the post 1975 consolidation of Cheche Kenya, the March 2nd Movement, the December Twelve Movement and other Marxist underground formations; the early eighties attempt to form the Kenya Socialist Alliance by folks like Anyona and Gutto; the 1982 crackdown on and the evolution of the DTM cells into Mwakenya by July 1985; the Marxist clandestine discussion groups and cells that sprouted at Kamiti, Naivasha and other prisons; the split within Mwakenya because of ideological differences both within the country and in exile; the rise of Koigi’s KPF, Raila’s KRM, Micere and Gutto’s KAIF and the Me Katilili Revolutonary movement whose core members were Onyango Oloo, Adongo Ogony, Kaara wa Macharia, Omondi K’abir, Mwandawiro Mghanga and others who I will not mention today; the morphing of the London based Ukenya (Ngugi, Abdilatif Abdalla, Wanjiru Kihoro, Yusuf Hassan, Shiraz Durrani etc) into first, Umoja and later on Umoja/Mwakenya with Ngugi as the main spokesperson of the expanded movement; the big fall out among Kenyan Leftists that occurred in October 1987 at the London Umoja Conference-a rift that left wounds that have NOT BEEN HEALED to this day; the presence of the Harakati ya Kupigania Demokrasia Kenya group based clandestinely in Mombasa and other Kenyan locales which is significant in Kenyan historical terms because it was a movement led by Kenyan socialists of South Asian heritage (comrades who are still very much ideologically clear and active if I may add); the rise of the February 18th Movement in western Kenya in the 1990s and other details right up to the couple of years FOLLOWING the first multiparty elections in December 1992 (the document was completed at 5:11 am on 5 January 1995)… one day a reworked version of that document will make its appearance as three or four chapters in a book about the Kenyan socialist movement.
Given when it was written, the above mentioned document did not touch on later important progressive developments like the emergence in Sweden of the Kenya Socialist Democratic Alliance at the turn of the 21st Century or home based mobilization taking place within such entities like the Kimathi Movement and other new social movements among the middle and lower ranks of the Kenyan trade union movement( militant workers disgusted by the Mugalla, Juma Boy- Atwoli aristocrats) youth, students, women, elements déclassé, squatters, retrenchees, People Living with HIV/AIDS, Muslims, ethnic and cultural minorities and the rural reserve army of labour in the Kenyan countryside.
Anyhoo, by the time the 1997 Presidential and parliamentary elections rolled around, the Kenyan Left, still a very tiny contingent, had been atomized and scattered into half a dozen shards and microscopic fragments- one or two very committed socialist mentors and comrades that I still keep in touch with were so disgusted by what they termed “the whole mess” that they decided to conserve their energy and focus on progressive and revolutionary projects that spoke to their long standing internationalist and Pan Africanist alliances both in Africa and the West. They know who they are.
By the far, the biggest hit in terms of depleting the ranks of Kenyan socialists and anti-imperialists came in the form of the mushrooming of NGOs in Kenya in the second half of the 1990s.
PRECISELY BECAUSE these NGOs were PROGRESSIVE, many of our former comrades managed to confuse being an employee of a human rights or civil society organization with being a member of a national liberation movement.
This was due to the fact that many of the PROJECT GOALS, OBJECTIVES and even MISSION STATEMENTS coincided almost EXACTLY with the MINIMUM PROGRAMMES of many of the clandestine socialist oriented formations that so many of us had worked so hard to build in the shadows of the Moi dictatorship in the 1980s.
Many of these NGOs had and still have a strong and genuine social justice agenda; were committed, sometimes at the very centre of the agitation for democratic reforms; supplied some of the lieutenants of the fledgling opposition parties; managed to jump start the constitutional review process at a time when many of the mainstream politicians now hogging the Katiba limelight were jostling for personal power; these NGOS were at the forefront of gender struggle and were quite successful in mobilizing international public opinion to isolate the KANU regime and bring donor pressure to bear on Moi to open up democratic spaces. If you could do this as part of your job description, why would you need to belong to a disciplined revolutionary cell that made certain demands of your time, your commitment and yes, your financial resources?
Many of the comrades we lost to the NGO quagmire, were, like the writer of these lines, people either directly from a petit-bourgeois background or aspiring to belong to this social stratum if they had origins in the Kenyan working class and peasantry.
The pressures and contradictions of working within progressive NGOS that are beholden to WESTERN IMPERIALIST FUNDERS was to take their toll.
Even those of us who were outside Kenya found ourselves working for the Canadian and European cousins of these Kenyan NGOs- in my case, I have worked exclusively for Canadian NGOS since 1990.
There is NOTHING WRONG with working for an NGO. Personally I have been relieved to be a work environment where I DO NOT HAVE TO HIDE MY POLITICS; I have been happy to be in offices where my supervisor can sign a petition calling for the release of Kenyan political prisoners; being in a Canadian Government funded non-profit organization in the past HAS NOT prevented me from participating in anti-Canadian government rallies and demonstrations…
I am going to all these lengths to emphasize that there is A SLIGHT DIFFERENCE in PERSPECTIVE between say, how I look at NGOs and how a comrade I cherish and admire like Wafula Buke (who has also worked in this field) views the NGO sector.
I see it as a CONTESTED terrain that can provide a very positive contribution- IF YOU HAVE YOU HAVE YOUR IDEOLOGICAL PRIORITIES RIGHT AND POLITICAL HOME ELSEWHERE AWAY FROM THE NGO.
The NGO cannot and should not be confused for the social or national liberation or democratic movement.
I prefer to see the NGO sector as a space where Kenyan revolutionaries, patriots, progressives and democrats can work for social justice and sustainable development if they keep things in perspective and remember that the organizations they work for- even if they founded these bodies have an agenda that will sooner or later end up bolstering the neo-liberal agenda rather than the people’s agenda.
James Petras has looked extensively at this question of Imperialism and NGOs in Latin America that should be read together with his ruthless Marxist critique of Post Marxists which is further bolstered by another essay on how Left Intellectuals are searching for “respectability” within the bourgeois mainstream status quo.
I strongly suggest that all Kenyan Leftists (and the right wing haters who stick to us like white on rice even as they dismiss us hypocritically as allegedly “irrelevant”) take the time to read and reflect on ALL THREE of Petras’ contributions because I think his perspectives are very germane to our contemporary Kenyan reality in certain respects, although not in a willy nilly mechanical fashion.
4.0. Which Way Forward for Kenyan Progressives?
This essay was immediately sparked by a very extended long distance conversation I had last week with Okoth Osewe, the Secretary of the Swedish based Kenya Socialist Democratic Alliance.
Okoth was recently in Kenya (you all remember his international campaign for a passport a few months ago) and he compiled this report which I found to be insightful, incisive, informative and intriguing.
I was especially enthralled by this excerpt:
Millions of Kenyans and exploited workers who have lost faith in Narc’s ability to transform their lives do not have hopes in KANU, the official opposition party that looted the country’s resources for 24 years before Narc took over. Despite the political and deep economic crisis facing Kenya, there is no organization or party that can put forward hard solutions to the general crisis of capitalism in Kenya. Likewise, there is no political party that can raise the issue of a revolution to overthrow the corrupt capitalist ruling class looting the economy.
According to a KSDA study of the situation on the ground for one and a half months, registration of a Socialist revolutionary Party could still meet with some resistance from the ruling class even though the country is officially under a multi-party democracy. This is because a decree issued by Moi in the 90s banning the registration of “ideological or religious parties” and parties that do not advocate for “Parliamentary democracy” has not been lifted. Likewise, the banning by Moi of Socialist books and literature has also not been lifted 20 months after Narc took power. In fact, Moi’s decree has been used by the Narc government to block the registration of Chama cha Mwananchi which the Assistant registrar of Societies has claimed, “has a Marxist leaning”. Chama cha Mwananchi is looking for funds to take their case to court. Moi’s decrees are serving Narc well by making it difficult for Kenyan Leftists to organize politically and expose the bankruptcy of opportunist Parties running the show at the moment.
For the Narc ruling class, a Socialist Party armed with a revolutionary theory and Program for revolutionary change in Kenya may have to be frustrated because such a party could quickly exploit the revolutionary potential in the country to become a political factor thereby putting other parties out of business. The youth in Kenya are no longer interested in the mainstream politics because they don’t see anything radical that can challenge the system or better their poor conditions. Many youth see the political field populated with old guards whose role in politics is not to change the situation but to enrich themselves through looting the State. For this reason, revolutionary ideas seeking to overthrow a system that is not working could easily become attractive to the youth which also forms the bulk of the voting population.
Putting the gigantic preparations that will be needed into consideration, the major task of KSDA and other revolutionary forces on the Left should be to begin the process of registration of a Socialist Party or organization that can link up with other democratic forces on the ground struggling to broaden the base of struggle.
Despite their ability to challenge the authority of the ruling class and to mobilize the masses to protest against “single issues” such as a new Constitution or respect for human rights, the civil society will never lead or provide guidance to the Socialist revolution that is the ultimate anti-dote to the capitalist crisis in Kenya. While supporting every initiative of the Civil society aimed at broadening the democratic space, it is the responsibility of Kenyan socialists to rise above “single issues” to lead the struggle for the smashing of capitalism as a condition for genuine change in the social and economic conditions of millions of Kenyans suffering under the system.
Our observation is that today, what is possible immediately is the setting up of a Socialist publication (in whatever form) which can be used to give a different perspective of politics in preparation for the launching of a revolutionary Movement or party. With superior Socialist analysis of the situation in Kenya, constant exposure of the rotten ruling class and a clear outline of what needs to be done, a Socialist publication on the ground in Kenya could easily become the focal point of radical thinking within the working class, students, unemployed and the youth. Even if Narc government opts for the ridiculous and bans such a publication using Moi’s decrees, it should still be possible to distribute such a publication from abroad using the numerous conduits available including the Internet.
The Kenyan Left has made the biggest contribution in the liberation struggle in our country and any new initiatives should be seen as a continuation of the anti-capitalist struggle. Comrades have been killed in struggle, others currently in the government have been assimilated into the capitalist/imperialist ideological frame work while others are idling in the opposition. Massive expectation that comrades who made it to Parliament could help in rejuvenating the Left are fading as one comrade after another support neo-liberal politics or agree with the capitalist ruling class. Those in the opposition are giving all sorts of excuses for not doing anything to profile Socialism or to move towards the building of a socialist Movement or Party. The masses are asking: “Why were people detained or persecuted ?” Majority of former detainees, political prisoners and exiles with Leftist thinking who returned to Kenya have gone on holiday. “There is nothing radical or revolutionary in their politics. They are the same people”, said a dejected University student when former detainees and exiles failed to oppose the million salaries for MPs in one of the major looting scandals of the Narc government.
The big lesson Kenyan Socialists outside Parliament are learning is the “crisis of expectation” that a Socialist who goes to Parliament without allegiance to a Socialist revolutionary Program could still fight for Socialism once elected. We are witnessing an ever ending line up of turn coats who are frustrating the anti-capitalist struggle after getting to Parliament using radical histories based on political persecution, detention and exile. Instead of advancing the ideological struggle, indications on the ground is that former Comrades will be jumping from one capitalist party after another as they strategize to get back to Parliament on populist platforms. For this reason, KSDA believes that the way forward is to stop pinning hopes on individuals but to set up a Socialist structure which draws it’s strength from an organized membership committed to the anti-capitalist struggle.
At the moment, Capitalism is not facing any challenge in Kenya and all parties are practicing politics within the framework of capitalism. All parties are aspiring to take over power under the tutelage of imperialism to sustain the culture of dependency and exploitation of Kenya’s resources. This arrangement is acceptable to imperialism because there is no immediate threat of a revolutionary mass Movement emerging at an organized level to shake the foundations of capitalism in Kenya or to “poison” the minds of Kenyan workers and the youth with revolutionary ideas. It is the breaking of this status quo that, we believe, should be addressed by Kenyans looking for change.
In the run up to the next elections, we predict that new opportunist parties and Alliances will emerge to be used by individuals as vehicles for the acquisition of political power, privilege and prestige. However, our position is that it is time to test the waters with a Socialist/revolutionary outfit even if it means opening a new struggle for the registration of such an outfit. To address the issue, KSDA will consult with interested Kenyans at home and abroad to discuss the organization of an International conference in Kenya or abroad to explore the immediate and possible methods of intervention as the struggle against capitalism and imperialist domination in our country continues.
The neo-liberals and other opportunists are still holding ground in Kenya because there is no challenge from the radical revolutionary wing of the struggle, the same tendency that created Mwakenya and other progressive movements that shook Moi’s capitalist system and drove the regime to the level of paranoia. A new rebirth to fight for a Socialist Kenya is possible.
Now I could start a whole fierce debate with Okoth Osewe about that excerpt because there are aspects of the Kenyan reality that I may see in slightly different terms.
But I am in complete tandem with his last sentence:
"A new rebirth to fight for a Socialist Kenya is possible."
It is in the pursuit of this very rebirth that I sought out and met with more than a dozen Kenyan Leftists during my own one and a half month trip to Kenya in September and October of 2003.
I met with a very wide variety of Kenyan comrades- from veteran Marxists from the 1960s to youthful militants who were born AFTER I was imprisoned in 1982. I met Kenyan patriots in Nairobi, Mombasa, the Rift Valley and Western Kenya; I met feminists and Muslims; I went to Bomas and hobnobbed with AIDS activists at the Fairview Hotel close to the fortified and heavily guarded Israeli embassy.
I was thoroughly reenergized to find out that all WAS NOT LOST- different Kenyan progressives and patriots in their own way were doing amazing and tremendous work in fighting for a new Kenya.
With all of these comrades there was already a CONSENSUS that the future of Kenya lay outside and beyond the existing NARC and the other mainstream Kenyan political parties- yet no one was romanticizing the long gone days of clandestine and exile politics of a decade past.
I had gone to Kenya with an agenda of launching the Kenya Indymedia Centre AFTER MEETING and involving compatriots and activists from back home and I consciously sought nooks and crevices where I could reconnect the work that some of us were engaged in here in Canada and what was happening at home.
The consolidation of the Kenya Democracy Project, and its conduit, namely this blog that you are reading, was itself an outcome of that Kenyan trip because I did pledge to the comrades I met back home that on my return to Canada I would work with others to create a more organized way to keep in touch with folks around the world in a collective effort that involved other comrades.
I am happy to report that today whether our detractors want to admit it or not, our Kenya Democracy Project mailing list is one of the most widely distributed WITHIN KENYA. Apart from the over 100 civil society groups and individuals that we reach all over Kenya, every item on this blog is sent to an email address that reaches EACH AND EVERY MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, all the four main English speaking dailies, all the foreign press corps in Nairobi and of course internationally via all of the popular Kenyan discussion forums like Mashada, Mambogani, Kenya ni Yetu, Kenya Online, Africa Op-ed, the Nation Forum, Kiswahili, Kisii.Com, Mwananchi and many others. And we know that within those distribution channels individual recipients further forward our links so that we have a modest but growing readership around the world.
We are happy that we took our reader’s intelligence very seriously; we knew that most Kenyans(including people who have NO SYMPATHY FOR SOCIALISM)are nevertheless OPEN MINDED ENOUGH to read well researched critical viewpoints that give alternative analyses of the contemporary conditions in Kenya.
We take this endeavour as a very serious responsibility and that is why we go to extra lengths to source most of what we say (to the extent we can do that without jeopardizing those very sources).
And we have been part of a growing current in Kenyan cyberspace circles- the emergence of serious, patriotic Kenyans who visit online forums not to exchange tribal brickbats and trashy personal gossip, but rather to reason and converse about our national condition. This current is very much apparent also in the new orientation of the Kenyan media. And that is why I was mystified when I read the attack by KUJ’s
Ezekiel Mutua on the Kenyan media for being “too political”. Personally I do not think that there is such a thing as “too political.” For me, the Kenyan media is SUPERIOR these days to their Ugandan and Tanzanian cousins in terms of depth of analysis and diversity of coverage and this includes radio, television and internet portals.
Yes, the Kenya Democracy Project is proud to be part of this emerging PROGRESSIVE ALTERNATE KENYAN CULTURE that is taking place DESPITE the repression and the betrayal of the NARC CHARLATANS. And yes, in spite of the yelping, meowing and braying of its supporters online.
But before I wax poetic even further, let me remember to stay on point and point out that the point that I was trying to point out was this point :
Which Way Forward for Kenyan Progressives?
6.0. Is It Time for a COMMUNIST Party in Kenya?
Quite frankly NO, and I am a PRACTISING Kenyan Marxist-Leninist even as I rule out the formation of a KCP-an idea that some of us have mooted more than twice in the past, quite seriously.
Right now Kenya needs a PROGRESSIVE party that represents the broad democratic forces of the Kenyan Left.
And the Kenyan Left is NOT limited to the handful of the Marxists who are scattered within the country and around the world.
Who qualifies as a POTENTIAL member of the Kenyan Left?
1.Any Kenyan who sincerely believes that Kenya is NOT YET UHURU- someone who recognizes the reality of FOREIGN DOMINATION and wants to do something to complete the national liberation tasks of Field Marshall Kimathi and the Land and Freedom comrades. And talking of Land, we know that part of the problems we are facing around land in this country has to do with the question of the COLONIAL and IMPERIALIST legacy. So the struggle for progressive and comprehensive agrarian reform is definitely a plank on the Kenyan Left agenda- and you do not have to be a Marxist to believe that.
2. Any Kenyan who opposes the IMF and World Bank and neo-liberal agenda pursued so diligently by the Kenyatta, Moi and now Kibaki regimes. Any worker who opposes retrenchment; any student who opposes astronomical hikes and the privatization of education; any patient who is opposed to user fees in the hospitals; any farmer who opposes the agenda of the World Trade Organization; any occupant of the EPZ who fights the exploitation of those rapacious foreign firms- if you are that person you may have been a Leftist all your life and did not even realize it… any slum dweller who resists the gentrification of unscrupulous real estate “ developers” aka urban land grabbers.
3. Any Kenyan who opposes the Anglo-American dictatorship of our foreign and domestic policies. If you almost threw up on Edward Clay’s shoes when he was lecturing us as if Kenyans were a bunch of kindergarten kids; if you oppose the devious and insidious Suppression of Terrorism Bill, you could be a Kenyan Leftist- irrespective of whether you are a Muslim or a Christian.
4. Any Kenyan who stands up for the rights of Kenyan women, including their equality, property and reproductive rights belongs in this family as well. The struggles of Kenyan women, whether against violence or FGM, gender parity or inheritance, must and should form part of the essential platform of a New Kenyan Left agenda.
5. Any Kenyan who stands up for the youth of this country is a progressive person. Enough said.
6. Any Kenyan who stands up for the rights of religious, cultural, ethnic and other minority groups is fighting for a new Kenya.
7. Any Kenyan who fights for the rights of people with disabilities, works with all marginalized social forces is a welcome member of the alternative Kenya we seek.
8. Any Kenyan who supports the rights of Kenyan musicians, writers, artists, dancers, film makers and other cultural worker should give themselves a round of applause.
9. If you have ever planted a tree and defended the environment, you have booked your ticket to the future. It does NOT COUNT if you are a tree planter who grabbed chunks of Karura Forest- and yes Moi and Company I am talking about YOU GUYS.
10. If you are a Pan Africanist your heart is in the right place.
11. If you are a businessperson who is convinced that the Kenya government should put Kenyans first when it comes to awarding telecommunications, television, radio, and other business contracts then we will be having long and fruitful conversations for a long time to come.
12. If you want a new democratic constitution, please send me an email so that we can organize, mobilize and strategize together.
13. If you believe that the likes of Biwott and Opiyo and others alleged to have committed crimes against humanity should be brought to justice, you are a progressive Kenyan patriot.
14. If you think that Kenyan government should disband Goldenberg and prosecute Saitoti, Pattni and all those thieves already, then I am with you sister or brother.
15. If you are for zero tolerance on corruption, see you at the next rally or demonstration.
16. If you oppose tribalism and parochialism with all your heart, all your body and all your soul, you have a lot of friends who want to work together for a new Kenya.
17. If you believe in world peace, promote good neighbourliness, are for regional integration and international cooperation then you are playing for the right team.
18. If you are proud of Kiswahili, your mother tongue and ALL the diverse Kenyan national cultures and identities, then we share the same political DNA,
19. If you believe that all Kenyans have a right to health,especially Kenyans who are HIV positive and living with AIDS then welcome to the club called fellow progressive.
20. If you oppose the death penalty, are committed to identifying the root causes of crime even as you are eager to learn about the the Nyumba Kumi Community Vigilance system, then call me Ndugu.
21. If you have a hungry mind, are committed to physical fitness and you embrace the polytechnical and holistic approach to education and pursuit of human knowledge where cooperation is emphasized over competition, then give me a ring and I will teach you our secret handshake.
22. If you respect religious, spiritual, cultural and ideological beliefs THAT YOU DO NOT SHARE and are willing to coexist peacefully with people who think differently from you, then please approach our meeting hall with confidence.
There are at SEVEN OTHER POINTS but I am getting lazy so I will let you fill in that part as I go on to the next section.
7.0. Should This New Party Run a Presidential Candidate in 2007?
Of course NOT.
A baby crawls before it walks.
I believe that our IMMEDIATE AND MOST PRESSING STRATEGIC POLITICAL TASK is to build an IDEOLOGICAL HEGEMONY of the KENYAN LEFT over the next SIX YEARS.
By that time we will have a KENYAN NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION ANYWAYS-we will be in POWER and that question will have been practically solved you see?
Do I sound slightly flippant and demented?
But I have argued my case IN FULL IN THIS EARLIER ESSAY that is worth revisiting.
Does the Kenyan Left have an agenda for 2007?
Run as many progressive parliamentary and civic candidates as possible and work to wrest control of as many regional governments and municipal councils as possible- assuming the next election will be fought under a new DEMOCRATIC constitution.
I think, in order NOT to dissipate our energy and draw as many of the more progressive mainstream politicians into our ranks, the Kenyan Left should follow the lead of the Koreans and make a tactical alliance with the MOST PROGRESSIVE MAINSTREAM POLITICIAN VYING FOR THE PRESIDENCY IN 2007.
It is not for Onyango Oloo to say who that person will be.
It will hopefully be a COLLECTIVE DECISION of the ORGANIZED KENYAN LEFT.
Which naturally brings me to the NEXT POINT:
8.0. HOW to Organize the Kenyan Left?
Well, the VERY FIRST THING we should do is to ORGANIZE A NATIONAL CONFERENCE IN NAIROBI or MOMBASA between June and August 2005 (for folks at home, the summer months allows Kenyans abroad to travel more easily than other times).
This Conference should be one that tries to BRING TOGETHER all plus more of the same kind of progressive democratic forces that I have identified above.
Out of that conference should be struck an Organizing Committee for the Formation of a New Kenya Progressive Party(this is a prototype hence the awkward name) that should give itself SIX MONTHS to set up the manifesto, constitution, structures and other founding documents of the new party.
These documents should then be distributed for discussion to the delegates and affiliates from that conference who should take two months from the time they receive those documents to provide their feedback.
If those documents are endorsed, then the Organizing Committee should set itself another task- preparing for the formal launch of the New Left Wing Party.
The same formula for choosing delegates to the national conference can be used to determining the founding delegates at the launch. At this point it should be declared what positions of leadership are open for ELECTION and the available candidates should start campaigning to be elected into those offices.
The Launch of the New Progressive Party should take place by May 2006 at the latest with the Founding Congress Ratifying the Party Manifesto, Constitution, before it ELECTS the NATIONAL, REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP and strikes a SECRETARIAT from among the ranks of its members.
Obviously I could write a COMPLETE BLUE PRINT on this.
But do you think I am NUTS TO POST IT ON THIS BLOG THIS PREMATURELY?
U MUST BE KIDDING NANI…
DREAM ON MTOTO WA NANI…
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Time For Progressive Kenyans to Have Their OWN NATIONAL Party
Posted by Kenya Democracy Project at 8:48 AM
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Thank you for your input. Yes, it is high time that the progressives got organized. It is time the progressives sat at the table of Kenyan politics. I mean, it is time progressives as a unit fought for thrir rightful place in Kenyan politics. It is time to fight not just for projects but for power. It is time to get into the mud to build a new house.
Let us get dirty. Taste and smell the sweet aroma of building.
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