Friday, December 24, 2004
Combating State Sponsored Political Ujambazi in Kenya
Onyango Oloo Offers A Leftwing Response to Warlordism and Factional Private Militias in Kenya
1.0.Happy Saturnalia to All Our KDP Readers!
Seasons greetings all you Xmas and Kwanzaa aficionados.
As you carve that turkey and rush to that fiercely sought over decorated Christmas tree, please remember that you are celebrating a well constructed MYTH. Jesus Christ was NOT born on Christmas Day. He was not even born in AD 1 to begin with- Mary delivered the boyish Prince of Peace FOUR YEARS BC(and yes, I know that stands for Before Christ, but blame it all on a goofy sixth century dude called Dionysius Exiguus aka “Denny the Dwarf” who did not know how to set up a proper calendar). JC was NOT even born in Bethlehem.
So that is why I say Happy Saturnalia to All the KDP Readers! As you can see, it Xmas started off as a Babylonian (ancient Iraqi rite) before it was appropriated and renamed by the ancient Romans.
By the way, what is the MOST OFFENSIVE Xmas Exploitation Ad running on (North American) television at the moment?
Visit this link to cast your own vote
You know it is NOT “too late” to be recruited into the
Christmas Resistance Movement you know...
I am sure my readers will NOT be shocked to learn that Montreal is a hotbed of anti-Xmas organizing complete with its very own website.
Even as I say this, my teen son, Sankara is getting ready to dig into a humungous and sumptuous Christmas FEAST in Uppsala, Sweden as the guest of two of my militant and ardent Communist buddies, Mwandawiro Mghanga (and his family) and Omondi K'abir who lives across the border from the Ndugu Mbunge in nearby Norway. On Wednesday December 22, 2004 I had this sardonic exchange about that very imminent dinner when I interviewed Mwandawiro. Tune in here------>
2.0. Political Ujambazi: As Kenyan as Changaa na Nyama Choma
We begin this section with four excerpts:
A poor turnout and violence yesterday marked the polling in the Kisauni by-election called to fill the seat left vacant by the late Karisa Maitha. And as polling stations closed last evening pundits were of the view that it was a neck-and-neck race between Joho and Mwaboza, with KANU’s Maimuna Mwidau a distant third. Mathioya MP Joseph Kamotho’s tomato red Toyota Prado car had its rear windscreen smashed as sporadic violence broke out in the afternoon. Rowdy voters who stoned the MP’s car roughly ejected Kamotho and Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo from Ziwa La Ng’ombe polling station. Kamotho and Ndolo were part of a strong delegation of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been traversing Kisauni campaigning for Mr Ali Hassan Joho, the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) candidate. Others include Roads minister Raila Odinga and his Heritage counterpart Najib Balala who is from the neighbouring Mvita constituency. The Prado was stoned and damaged by rowdy youths allied to Labour Party of Kenya candidate Anania Mwaboza. The rampaging youths forced Kamotho and Ndolo to retreat from Ziwa la Ng’ombe where they had entered to monitor the voting. Police had to escort the visibly scared MPs to the damaged car and shepherd them to safety as the youths bayed for their blood. And an expensive sports utility vehicle (SUV) owned by Kanu agent Maur Bwanamaka was badly damaged as the violence continued late in the evening. The front and rear windscreens of Bwanamaka’s black car were smashed by stone-throwing youths who had earlier stoned Kamotho’s car. Bwanamaka was roughed up and robbed of money and personal effects before his aides managed to spirit him away as pro-Mwaboza youths clamoured after the car. Electoral Commission of Kenya vice Chairman Gabriel Mukele confirmed that the by election had been marred by violence. He said two youths who had taken part in stoning Kamotho’s car had been arrested. Two more youths were arrested at Mlaleo where rival groups of supporters fought running battles. At the Coast General Hospital, The Standard counted six people who were injured in the violence. Some said they were beaten up at Mtopanga, Mishomoroni and Mlaleo. And in another incident at Mtopanga polling station, occupants of a car that had no registration plates were forced to shoot in the air to stop stone-throwing youths who charged as their vehicle approached the station. The pro-Mwaboza youths charged at the car shouting "Joho go away! Joho go away!" They were apparently convinced the occupants of the vehicle included Narc candidate Ali Hassan Joho or were his supporters. The gunshots sent the youths scampering for safety allowing the vehicle to make a U-turn and speed away. Police arrived at the scene soon after and were confronted by an angry crowd who wanted the occupants of the car arrested. But in a strange twist to the shooting, Assistant Minister Danson Mungatana said on phone that a spent bullet casing that was fired from the gun had been collected and would be used as evidence of violence by the Joho camp. In a separate incident, a Kanu agent at Shanzu polling station broke his leg when violence erupted between supporters of Joho and Mwaboza. The Kanu agent who was caught up in the melee was admitted at the Coast General Hospital. The Kanu team of Secretary-General Julius Sunkuli and Director of Elections William Ruto accompanied the victim to the hospital and complained about incidents of violence that hit the by-election. Several voters who were injured in varied violent incidents were treated at the Coast General Hospital’s casualty section. For Kamotho and Ndolo, trouble started shortly after 2 pm when youths who had gathered outside the Ziwa la Ng’ombe polling station learnt that the two politicians were inside the polling booth. They then started chanting in favour of Mwaboza and telling Kamotho and Ndolo to leave. Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) officials at the scene asked the two to leave to avert trouble. But as they drove out, youths hurled stones at the vehicle, smashing the windshield. They drove the damaged car to Khadijah Primary School, which served as the ECK centre, where they held a Press conference and filed a complaint. Kamotho and Ndolo then drove to Bamburi Police Station where they recorded statements. They both blamed Mungatana who has been spearheading the Mwaboza campaign of causing violence, with the saying intention of rigging the election. But Mungatana retorted that LDP "have sensed defeat which has been in the air since morning, let them stop blaming anyone for their loss." Mungatana said the Mwaboza camp had all along conducted a peaceful campaign and could not start anything rough on the final day. Violence, low turn-out mar Kisauni poll Standard December 17, 2004
The late Karisa Maitha’s campaigns were almost always violent and yesterday violence flared up as those seeking to succeed him as Kisauni MP went into Narc primaries. Supporters of Maitha’s former aide, Nyonga wa Makemba, one of the front-runners for the seat, met those of his main rival, tycoon Hassan Joho in the Kongowea area and fighting erupted. Nyonga was arrested and his vehicle found full of sharp metallic machetes and wooden hoes. At the same Kongowea spot, in 1992, the late Maitha was pictured, holding by the collar his then rival, Said Hemed, during the Kanu nominations that Maitha had lost. Both Maitha and Hemed lost the seat then that year’s General Election to Prof Rashid Mzee at the end of a violent electioneering period. Yesterday, as Nyonga got involved in a brawl at the spot where his late boss once had a similar tussle, the Kisauni legacy of violence that Maitha left, glared ahead of the electioneering proper that starts on Monday. None of the previous by-elections of this parliamentary term has attracted the interest that Kisauni has, with 19 candidates seeking the Narc ticket yesterday, eight going for the Kanu ticket this morning and at least four confirmed as candidates for smaller parties. The stiff competition in Narc is largely the factor that heightened the tension and potential for violence as most candidates appeared to believe that bagging the Narc ticket would be as good as getting the seat. "Violence Stalks Kisauni as more join the fray", Standard November 25, 2004
-Chege Maina, writing in Xpression Today over two years ago made the
Vigilante groups pose another threat to personal security in Kenya. Some politicians have recruited ad hoc "private armies" of jobless youths as their personal bodyguards. In the run-up to all three multiparty elections, candidates have used these groups to rough up their opponents at political rallies. The groups have such names as "Taliban," "Jeshi la Mzee," "Baghdad Boys," and "Kosovo Boys. They are not permanent groups, but rather loose associations of slum youths who are easy to mobilize at short notice into dangerous gangs allied to particular political parties or tribes. Vigilantes allied to KANU stirred up violence in the "ethnic clashes"-politically motivated battles whose purpose was to drive ethnic groups believed to support the opposition out of areas where KANU's support was insecure. Many of the impoverished youths who participated in the clashes blamed their landlessness and unemployment on migrants belonging to other ethnic groups, rather than on KANU's legacy of misrule and corruption. In 2002, vigilante groups in urban shantytowns were again responsible for outbreaks of violence, although the clashes were briefer and less destructive than in the past. The largest and most well known vigilante group is the Mungiki, a loose association of Kikuyu traditionalists who carry machetes, wear dreadlocks, and identify with the Mau Mau freedom fighters of the 1950s. At first, the Mungiki gained a following in slums, where they filled a void in services. They policed crime-ridden shantytowns, and took over water delivery and transport. Initially, residents welcomed them, but the Mungikis gradually became a law unto themselves, extracting bribes, trying "suspects" in kangaroo courts, torturing, and killing.-KENYA'S UNFINISHED DEMOCRACY:
A Human Rights Agenda for the New Government, December 2002, Vol.14. No.10 (A)
THE FOUR selections above underscore a very simple and fundamental fact: political ujambazi is as Kenyan as changaa na nyama choma or ugali na sukuma wiki. Political thuggery is not an aberration in the electoral process in Kenya- on the contrary it is one of its connecting threads; political gangsterism in Kenya is not a deviation from the civil, civic norm- each and every one of the major political figures in Kenya have used political hooligans at one point or another in their rise to the national political stage- Raila has his Baghdad Boys, and people like Shem Ochuodho have tasted directly the wrath of the Agwambo vigilante machine in Nyanza. Moi had his Jeshi la Mzee plus Fred Gumo, one senior minister has been fingered by a senior Mungiki leader to be a clandestine capo di capo of the Mungiki, we know about Maitha and his goons; Mama Rainbow aka Charity Ngilu has often taken political hooliganism into her own capable hands and beaten up a male police officer or two, very publicly; Najib Balala on Tuesday, May 6th, 2003 when he was still the Minister for GENDER, physically ejected the former Deputy Secretary in that ministry, Mrs. Keziah Muniu for allegedly sabotaging him. Najib’s own version of the incident is that he “gently pulled her out of the chair” when she refused to leave the building after he ordered her to “pack up and go.” More than anything, his version illustrates the thoroughly undemocratic and disrespectful way in which civil servants are treated by their political overlords.
The politically motivated ethnic clashes that flared up in Kenya during the 1990s illustrated how perilously close Kenya was to degenerating into the kind of nightmarish warlordism that has made countries like Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia an African byword for unending, state, paramilitary and privatized violence in which the main victims are innocent, unarmed civilians who may not even be supporting either side of these ideology free, bloody conflagrations for personal political power.
The wide ranging Akiwumi Report on the clashes is still in the public domain and available for instant download for anyone around the world with the inclination and an internet connection on their computer.
If you want to read the section on how people like Biwott were involved in the clashes in the Rift Valley province, click here; if you want to know what akina Maitha, Masumbuko, young Hisham Mwidau (can you believe he was practically a katiny, tiny, teenage boy in Form One in the same school when I was a Form Six prefect finishing my “A” Levels, Aga Khan Kenya Secondary in Mombasa and I still cannot believe that this innocent cherub faced fellow compatriot could be mixed up with KILLING innocent people) Sajjad and others then open this link and if you want to see what happened in Nyanza and Western province you can bonyeza hapa and finally this is where you go for the North Eastern province dossier.
3.0. War Lordism is the Cancer Eating Up Many Parts of Africa
In 2003 I had the opportunity of interviewing
Emira Woods, Co-Director of the Washington based Foreign Policy in Focus and she shared with the DUNIA listeners a lot of deep insights about the nature of the violent civil war in her home country of Liberia.
The UK based Christian Action Tear Fund put out this well researched report on the Liberian conflict not too long ago.
Here is an abstract of an editorial that appeared in Vol. 14, Summer 1989 version of the Review of African Political Economy introducing a special double issue that focused on the question of Warlordism and Democracy in Africa. From that very edition, is this summary of the conflict in Mozambique.
Just THREE DAYS AGO, on December 21st, 2004, the International Crisis Group filed the following report on the prospects of peace and political stability in neighbouring Somalia after that notorious warlord colonel Yusuf was catapulted into the Presidency. On October 16, 2004 I had penned the this essay on Somalia. On January 21, 2004, Abdulqawi Yusuf did an op-ed piece for the International Herald Tribune about how Somalia’s war lords were feeding on the "failed Somali state"(I reject the spurious notion of a so called failed state by the way, but this is not the place to get into it. If you want to see my argument about this, go here instead.) Three years ago, Adama Dieng, an assistant Secretary General of the United Nations did his own opinion piece for the same International Herald Tribune arguing that Africans needed the laws and courts to prosecute the continent’s war lords.
The Christian Action Tear Fund did another fascinating study on the link between economic exploitation and violent conflicts in Africa which is a definite MUST READ along with this
seminal treatise on the arms trade and development.
The last decade has seen the emergence of outfits like Executive Outcomes and Sandline International, these are essentially corporations that are in the business of running private armies rented out to assorted war lords, neo-colonial kleptocrats and what have you. The Moi son you NEVER hear a word about, Raymond is a partner in one such venture. The privatization of political and violent repression in Africa is something that ALL progressive and patriotic Kenyans must STUDY keenly and thoroughly and really there is no better place to start than this document.
4.0. The Special Case of South Africa
In my opinion, the most ADVANCED examinations of the phenomenon of warlordism in Africa have taken place at the southern tip of this continent, in “Madibaland” to be precise. This has a lot to do with the tortured history of that emerging powerful democracy and especially the way in which the apartheid misrulers in their twilight years used ethnicity, political gangsterism, special clandestine state trained death squads, media disinformation, infiltration and disruption of people’s movement in a last minute death gasp desperate attempt to derail the South African democracy project. In my view also, South Africa also has our continent’s most ideologically grounded and best organized and mass based popular democratic movements and therefore it should come as no surprise to see the plethora of fairly lucid treatments of the issue of political thuggery executed expertly by well grounded, thoroughly researched, ideologically clear analyses on this subject.
I find their literature on this subject by far the most RELEVANT materials among the gazillions of data bits that I collected in the course of doing research for this essay ( took me about two hours on the internet folks in the course of a single evening; it is easy. Cut out the unnecessary television addiction, the mindless telephone gossip, the toxic beer guzzling and the frequent sexual orgies and you will end up with roughly the same amount of time that I have, and yes, by the way, I do have a job just like any working stiff out there.)
So without further ado, as the cliché goes, let us jump right into the South African files.
Here is a monograph defining warlordism.
Next, we see this fascinating piece profiling Sifiso Nkabinde a warlord in Kwa Zulu Natal linked, NOT with Chief Buthelezi, but on the contrary, the more progressive ANC and South African Communist Party.
This is followed by a 1989 document by Nicholas Haysom on vigilantes and their role in state organized repression in South Africa.
From there we encounter this
1992 seminar conducted by Jaques Pauw on the role of the apartheid security forces in the violent conflicts in South Africa at the time.
In 2001 the anti-crime vigilante group known as Mapogo a Mathamaga came under a powerful political microscope
in this in depth study.
The above document should be compared to this briefing paper prepared by the CANADIAN premier spook agency, CSIS in
1991 when a man called de Klerk was still at the helm of the crumbling apartheid “failed” state.
In order to contextualize these conflicts within a progressive historical framework, one needs to understand the nature of political struggles taking place in South Africa at that time and the kind of tremendous mass mobilization that was shaking the foundations of apartheid with such devastating effect. I simply cannot think of a better treatment of this theme than the following overview by Dr. Blade Nzimande, General Secretary of the South African Communist Party looking back on the
20 years that had passed since the formation of the United Democratic Front.
That overview in turn, makes it that much easier to segue into the phenomenon of the ANC/SACP/COSATU affiliated
Self Defence Units.
5.0. Bringing it Back Home to Kenya
President Mwai Kibaki said something about war lordism and vigilante violence in Kenya the day after the Akiwumi Report was unleashed in October 2002. At the time, the Othaya MP and DP Chair was merely a contestant in the upcoming election, and therefore one would have expected him to pay even lip service to the question of prosecuting the perpetrators of politically motivated clashes. Instead Mwai Kibaki, in an eerie echo of Kenyatta’s “forgive and forget” balderdash that so incensed some Mau Mau veterans that they refused to come out of the forests, in an eerie echo of that capitulationist claptrap, Kibaki essentially told Kenyans to forgive these vicious pin striped killers. The Daily Nation of Wednesday, October 23, 2002 quoted Kibaki as saying:
“In his 30-minute acceptance speech, Mr Kibaki said in an apparent reference to the Akiwumi Report on tribal clashes, that people should not look back or find fault but forgive and work for reconciliation and peace. He said: "We are not sure whether it is the original report or has been doctored. Do not waste time reading through every paragraph. Read it and leave the rest to historians because it the nation's history and, forgive. The truth is well known.''
Here is the link to the full Daily Nation article.
I am therefore NOT at all surprised that NOTHING, NADA, ZERO has been done about implementing the recommendations of the Akiwumi Commission or following up the report of the Task Force headed by Prof. Makau wa Mutua that would have seen a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission summoning these politically well connected overfed thugs by now.
How can we expect Kibaki to do anything when he recently appointed William Ole Ntimama who is adversely mentioned in the Akiwumi Report along with Kipkalya Kones into his so called “Government of National Unity”?
How can we expect Kibaki to do anything when nothing is done in investigating PERSISTENT claims that NARC’s Chief Parliamentary Whip, Norman Nyagah was the mastermind who paid the thugs who shot the late Dr. Crispin Odhiambo Mbai dead on Sunday, September 14, 2003?
How can we expect Kibaki and his backroom boys to do anything when he sends state goons in police uniforms to clobber peaceful university students demanding answers about the resurgence of political assassinations in Kenya?
How can we expect Kibaki and his NAK faction to do anything about vigilante mayhem and criminal violence on election days when it is the Mungatanas, Mwabozas, Kibwanas, Koigis and Kahindi Kingis who incite, agitate and otherwise help to launch the physical assaults on the supporters of Ali Hassan Joho, the OFFICIAL NARC candidate during the Kisauni by elections?
How can we expect Kibaki to do anything about notorious war lords in Kenya when he was busy using Kenyan tax payers money to write off the debts of a prominent war lord like Karisa Maitha?
And it was NOT for nothing that Kibaki did that. His point man at the coast was none other than the notorious KANU warlord, Karisa Maitha!
I am sure there is at least one KDP reader who identifies with the poet’s indignation and anguish in this poem.
It is just ridiculous, this political ujambazi in Kenya.
And not one mwanasiasa in the mainstream has clean hands. In the Kisumu by election to identify Omino’s successor we saw mindless goons loyal to the LDP beat up Orie Rogo Manduli and her supporters.
We have seen virtually all of the other chieftains-Kombo, Nyachae,Biwott, Ruto, Kamanda, Mwenje, Murungaru, Kiraitu,Munya,Koigi, Kalonzo etc- claim entire geographic regions of Kenya as their own exclusive preserve warning their rivals and opponents to "stay out".
The effects of globalized marginalization on the Kenyan neo-colonial economy has given rise to hundreds of thousands if not millions of angry, hungry, directionless declassed elements from the ever shifty lumpen proletariat. Any time there is a rally to be disrupted expect a coterie of these desperate youths on the ready to throw a stone through the windscreen of a SUV or set a fire in a rival's residential neighbourhood.
At the petit-bourgeois, aspirant comprador bourgeois levels, you will find classmates of mine like Richard Momoima being implicated in the shady movement of army landrovers to vigilante groups and like I cited earlier, a mild mannered thirtysomething like Hisham Mwidau(I still cannot believe that this fellow could harm a fly) being recruited into bloody, often genocidal plots to physically eliminate opponents as a way of proving to the higher ups kwamba wao pia ni wanaume. You will always find political prostitutes like Cyrus Jirongo, Hezekiah Oyugi, Anguka and so on who are quite willing to dish out bribes, lure some of their own so called friends to their brutal murder and participate in cover ups.
Even the country's mainstream and alternative print and electronic media is implicated. From incendiary editorials in this or that mainstream publication to steamy, trashy, sensationalism in the much derided scandal sheets to the mushrooming ethnic based FM stations to certain forums in certain online forums, there is of overt and covert mobilization that is predicated on an agenda of ethnic incitement, empty headed chest thumping and the readiness to take matters in one's own hands and unleash terror and violence.
We have to factor in the increasing criminal insecurity in places like Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa and how common brigands, ngeta specialists, pickpockets and off duty bank robbers will often moonlight as the storm troopers of this or that mwanasiasa. It is also a known fact that many askaris- whether askari polisi, askari jela, askari jeshi, makachero etc-have been known to enter into informal contracts with political bigwigs either to provide beefed up "security" or as menacing private mercenaries.
More importantly, let us remember that NONE of the gangs used in the so called ethnic clashes of the nineties were ever identified for prosecution leave alone rounded up and disbanded. What happened to those gangs?
The proliferation of arms and former combatants in other civil wars seeping into Kenya from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and even as far away as Mozambique(read RENAMO remnants who were once trained at a camp in northern Kenya) make our country POTENTIALY a very volatile place if some of these ethnic and personality based bragging rights are taken to the next level. Yes, Kenya is a potential Somalia, a potential Rwanda, a potential Congo and a potential Sudan and we often underplay this possibility.
6.0. A Leftwing Alternative to Political Banditry in Kenya
So what is to be done?
Like I have been saying over and over and over and over and over and over again for the last thirteen or fourteen months Kenyan Leftists, democrats, patriots and other anti-imperialist forces must come together to coalesce into an ALTERNATIVE, national counterweight to the personality based ethnicity ridden electoral vehicles that have the audacity to label themselves “political parties.” Here is not the place to detail HOW this can be done, but it must be done soon. What we need is not so much another LDP, NAK or whatever, but actually a Kenyan homegrown genuine United Democratic Front modeled along the same lines as the South African original.
Those of us on the Kenyan Left must also take advantage of existing opportunities. For instance I read in the Friday, December 24, 2004 edition of the Nation an op-ed piece written by my name sake Dr. Carey Francis Onyango who happens to be the current secretary to the board of the Centre for Multi Party Democracy in Kenya. Now, I know that compatriots like Njeri Kabeberi worked very hard to set up this unit that will help to build up the capacity of the existing Kenyan political parties, so I am NOT going to knock that
All I am saying that given the nature of the current mainstream Kenyan opposition parties with their penchant for ethnic based machinations peppered with violent threats and campaigns against their real and perceived political opponents, any infusion of cash and material assistance that is not anchored in a precondition of dealing with proper party building will only end up boosting future political gangsterism rather than undercutting it.
The Centre for Multi Party Democracy should in addition support and fund efforts in the civil society sector (which I am sure is taking place). An outfit like ours, the Kenya Democracy Project is neither fish nor fowl. We are not a political party nor are we an NGO, CBO or what have you, whatchamacallit, a think tank either. Yet clearly KDP, while still fledgling, has done something minute in expanding the expanses of Kenyan political discourse. I will be sending an email to Dr. Onyango later today to see if the Kenya Democracy Project can also be funded to deepen multi-party democracy in Kenya.
More than that, as political violence escalates in Kenya, I think we should start planning ahead to the day when we will need Self Defence Units all over our lovely nchi.
How to go about this?
Well, Jeremy Cronin, ANC MP, NEC member and Deputy General Secretary of the South African Communist Party presented a paper way back in 1991 outlining one approach.
Over and above that, I think Kenyan progressives should study and embrace the concept of CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION- a much richer concept than either conflict resolution or peace building.
What is Conflict Transformation? One of my good friends here in Montreal, a Moroocan-Israeli-Jewish-Quebecoise peace activist
Eric Abitbol introduced me to this concept around 2001 when I started working for the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at McGill University. You can find out more information about this subject here.
Earlier this year, on Thursday, February 19, 2004 to be precise,
I was among the three main speakers who led a panel on Transforming Globalized Conflicts held at Concordia University here in Montreal. Click here to hear my presentation. And go here to browse the blog of Audrey the official rapporteur of the sessions on Transforming Globalized Conflicts.
And with that I end by saying
Happy Holidays as we look forward to a 2005 full of mass democratic mobilization.