Saturday, April 30, 2005

To Capture People’s Power, Ignore the 2007 Presidential Elections

1.0. NARC Is Worse than KANU in Sheer Incompetence and Elitist Arrogance

Sometime in late 2003, I exhorted my fellow Kenyans to look beyond 2007 if they wanted to ensure that wananchi captured state power in our country.

For largely understandable reasons, our personality obsessed chattering pundits got consumed by an unfortunate ethnic fuelled, frothing and barking frenzy of cacophonious cat calls and cybermakohozi spitting festivals-and all this in glowing tribute to my rather candid and admittedly undiplomatic assessment of the earthly longevity of the current tenant at Ikulu.

Today, as millions of workers around the world gear up for the most important holiday on the labour calendar-May Day, I want to renew this call to Kenyan patriots, democrats and progressives:

Forget about who will be the next President of Kenya if you are serious about deepening democracy in Kenya.

As we have seen, in the post 2002 period, even after the then Kenyan mainstream opposition parties got their act together and united behind a single presidential candidate, the ensuing rout of the

Moi-Uhuru-Mudavadi KANU candidate did not translate into tangible democratic gains for the wananchi.

Instead of having a democratic constitution adopted within 100 days of NARC taking office, we see, almost three years later, daily ferocious infighting amidst the so called "Unbwogable Team" of the chieftains of DP, LDP, NPK, FORD-Kenya and FORD-People.

Instead of seeing the killers of JM Kariuki,

Robert Ouko,

Alexander Muge,

Karimi Nduthu ,

Father Kaiser and

Crispin Odhiambo Mbai
behind bars, we witness the growing rapprochement between the NAK top dogs and the old KANU fat cats like Biwott.

Instead of having the crimes of Goldenberg, Anglo-Fleecing and other grand graft vices prosecuted, we see anti-corruption crusaders like

Gladwell Otieno persecuted and hounded out of office and the

Ketan Somaias crowing themselves hoarse about how just the Kenya justice system is.

Meanwhile two million Kenyans are facing starvation. The country's civil servants are threatening a strike in a couple of weeks; the nurses have given a similar threat for the end of June.

As the lofty pre-election pledges of Kibaki's regime lie everywhere in tatters, the globalizing tendencies of world monopoly capital continue to lumpenize not just Kenyan wafanyikazi and wakulima, but the mabepari mchwara, wasomi and other contingents of the middle strata.

Gloom and doom stalks the columns of the most intelligent media pundits in Nairobi.

In youth oriented online forums like Kenyaniyetu and Mashada, it is quite apparent that the present political gangsters in power are considered a big let down.

Some of the above realities formed part of the motivation for my spoken commentary entitled, TUMECHOKA! that I unleashed online on Thursday, April 28, 2005.

2.0. Creating a Real Wananchi-Based Democratic Movement is a Five Year Assignment

It is already TOO LATE to do anything to prevent one of the recycled mainstream wanasiasa from becoming the next President of Kenya come 2007.

In my opinion, Kenyan activists and progressive democrats should not WASTE THEIR ENERGY strategizing about who the next President of Kenya will be.

Electoral contests of the mainstream kind by their very nature often sap the energies of grass roots political activists and organizers, frequently fostering a very misleading illusion that fundamental political changes can be effected via periodic presidential, parliamentary and civic polls.

Dozens of my detractors in cyberspace have been practically hounding me to go back to Kenya and jump start my "Elect Onyango Oloo as the MP for Fill in the Blanks".

Over here in Canada, I know at least three Kenyans who are fairly high profile within the Ontario community already throwing their hats in the ring in their bid to enter bunge come 2007.

Well, let me also announce today that Onyango Oloo WILL DEFINITELY not be running for parliament in 2007.

But I will be very busy with Kenyan politics that year.

Let me explain where I am coming from.

I have no problems at all, with those Kenyans who are focused on running for parliament.

In fact, if different political circumstances prevailed in Kenya, I would be among the first to announce my intention to contest for a constituency seat.

I am also firmly opposed to doctrinaire, sectarian so called "hard line" positions. There are many occasions- the 1994 South African elections being the most memorable and symbolic-when the mere phenomenon of an election is infused with historic significance because of its democratic implications.

By the same token, I fully support democratic reforms while recognizing their historical and ideological limitations.

And in this stance I take my cue from something my political guru, Vladimir Illyich Lenin wrote on September 12, 1913:

Unlike the anarchists, the Marxists recognise struggle for reforms, i.e., for measures that improve the conditions if the working people without destroying the power of the ruling class. At the same time, however, the Marxists wage a most resolute struggle against the reformists, who, directly or indirectly, restrict the aims and activities of the working class to the winning of reforms. Reformism is bourgeois deception of the workers, who, despite individual improvements, will always remain wage-slaves, as long as there is the domination of capital.

The liberal bourgeoisie grant reforms with one hand, and with the other always take them back, reduce them to nought, use them to enslave the workers, to divide them into separate groups and perpetuate wage-slavery. For that reason reformism, even when quite sincere, in practice becomes a weapon by means of which the bourgeoisie corrupt and weaken the workers. The experience of all countries shows that the workers who put their trust in the reformists are always fooled.

And conversely, workers who have assimilated Marx’s theory, i.e., realised the inevitability of wage-slavery so long as capitalist rule remains, will not be fooled by any bourgeois reforms. Understanding that where capitalism continued to exist reforms cannot be either enduring or far-reaching, the workers fight for better conditions and use them to intensify the fight against wage-slavery. The reformists try to divide and deceive the workers, to divert them from the class struggle by petty concessions. But the workers, having seen through the falsity of reformism, utilise reforms to develop and broaden their class struggle.

The stronger reformist influence is among the workers the weaker they are, the greater their dependence on the bourgeoisie, and the easier it is for the bourgeoisie to nullify reforms by various subterfuges. The more independent the working-class movement, the deeper and broader its aims, and the freer it is from reformist narrowness the easier it is for the workers to retain and utilise improvements.

There are reformists in all countries, for everywhere the bourgeoisie seek, in one way or another, to corrupt the workers and turn them into contented slaves who have given up all thought of doing away with slavery...


More relevantly,Lenin,almost 85 years ago answered the question whether parliamentarism was "obsolete".

Briefly, Lenin brilliantly dissected the mistakes of immature left wing militants who narrowly mistook their political consciousness for that of the wananchi to come up with impractical, doctrinaire hardline and sectarian positions, that if carried through would ensure that these "leftists” dwindled into an obscure political cult totally divorced from the mass ferment.

By the way, if you think that a certain Canada-based Kenyan activist spends all his time writing political essays, then I do not know what you would say after you click on this link to peruse 3,994 of a potential 4,500 documents, pamphlets, tracts, letters and interventions that Lenin produced in his very productive lifetime.

What I am trying to emphasize is that I am not taking a purist position by urging Kenyan progressive democrats to shun the 2007 presidential contest.

Note that I did not suggest that we do not take active part in the parliamentary and civic contests-I just indicated that Onyango Oloo would not be personally running for public office that year.

Let me explain myself.

Since 1992 many Kenyan socialists, radicals and revolutionary nationalists have been the foot soldiers doing the donkey work to elect this or that councilor, this or that member of parliament and this or that presidential candidate.

Those of us who have done so, have not done so on our own terms, but on terms chosen and dictated by the leaders of the ideologically bankrupt mainstream political parties.

Objectively, despite our principles and "noble" intentions, we have ended up as hacks, propagandists and enforcers of this or that candidate.

In 2002, many of us, within and outside the country focused on the need to remove Moi and KANU from power. I remember being one of the most vocal proponents of a Kibaki presidency. This September 19, 2002 opinion piece is just one of several samples of my views back then. I still stand by those sentiments.

It was politically correct for the wananchi to force the bickering opposition chiefs to sacrifice their egos and unite behind the Kibaki candidacy. It was historically opportune for the Unbwogable tsunami to give birth to the NARC juggernaut and of course it was thrilling to witness the dramatic rout of KANU after decades of vote rigging, state thuggery, ethnic clashes and intimidation that rubber-stamped almost each KANU "victory".

The Wananchi did the right thing to vote out all but a couple of the previous KANU cabinet ministers; the wananchi were right to bring to parliament a record number of women, youth and human rights activists as new MPs.

December 27, 2002 was therefore a very important milestone in Kenyan political history-and it was not because Kibaki had won or Uhuru had lost. It was because the Kenyan people had won in making one more step forward.

What has taken us three years to realize is that Kibaki and his team never had a real democratic agenda for change-it is the wananchi who have propelled all the significant reforms in the country- from Goldenberg(sparked off by two firimbis blown by a junior clerk and a junior police officer) the Bomas National Constitutional Conference and of course the huge NARC victory.

That is why, when we rant and rave against Kibaki and his sidekicks for betraying our democratic and patriotic aspirations, we are only partly right.

We sell ourselves slightly short by not recognizing that without the wananchi, none of these NARC pranksters courting the dastardly TOTAL Man would be even around prancing so haughtily on the national stage.

It is for this reason that I am today calling on Kenyan progressives to reassess their political priorities:

Is it more important for Kenyan progressives to latch on to a candidate of their choice as the next President of Kenya or work together to put in place a PERMANENT national democratic movement with an effective, professional secretariat that cannot be ignored by any of the tribal based electoral machines masquerading as “political parties”?

Should Onyango Oloo, for instance, pack up from Montreal and go back to Gem, Kisa or Mombasa to stand for elections as a prospective MP, or should he be part of a national steering coordinating committee organizing to create a new political party that speaks not just of good governance, transparency and accountability but also of Pan Africanism, anti-globalization and socialism?

Should my buddy Adongo Ogony work on the reelection bid of Oburu Odinga, or should he work to organize the youth and unemployed workers of his native Bondo into a strong and independent democratic force?

Should my friend and my ex KK go back to Imenti and duke it out with my former lawyer Kiraitu Murungi or should she participate in preparing for a national consultative conference of Kenyan patriots, revolutionaries, democrats and radical reformers?

Many of my suggested answers to the above questions are NOT either or answers, because in many cases, one does not negate the other.

It is a question of harnessing our energy and focusing our fire and ire on the key political tasks of the coming months and next couple of years.

In my humble opinion, the NUMBER ONE political task of Kenyan progressives is NOT to elect the next president of Kenya, but rather create a rocksteady political movement whose impact is felt from Mombasa to Malaba, Mandera to Loitokok and all points in between.

This does not mean that we will be indifferent to the mainstream contests- it merely affirms that we should NOT subordinate our principles and long term political agendas to immediate skirmishes and tussles in the tea cups of the mainstream outfits jockeying to cobble together the winning tribal coalitions to ensure the continuation of elite misrule over the wananchi.

For too long Kenyan socialists in particular, have sacrificed their ideological goals for very short sighted mainstream reasons.

Three years into the NARC reign of error, sloth, deceit and unbridled arrogance, the Kenya civil society sector can now look back and weigh the consequences of investing so much democratic hope in these local minions of international finance capital.

The rapprochement between Kibaki and Karume and especially the long passionate embrace with Nicholas Biwott underscores the class reality that when the chips are down the Kenyan comprador bourgeoisie will reach internally within their own ranks to consolidate their rule.

3.0. Doing Things Differently in Kenya

The other day I posted an essay on the lumpenization of Kenyan society.

For me, these objective socio-economic changes in Kenyan national life provide the material basis for a new national political alliance in Kenya.

We as progressive Kenyan democrats should build a cross-country network whose bedrock is among these lumpenized populations with special attention being placed on the rural wananchi, the urban workers and poor and the increasingly lumpenized petit-bourgeoisie plus any patriotic and politicized members from the other strata.

, this new movement should take its cue from the programmatic failures of both NARC and its KANU ancestors. They have tried feeding the wananchi the poison from the IMF, the World Bank and the G-8 and it is not working. The new movement must have a specific anti-globalization agenda paying very close attention to the plight of retrenched workers, the EPZ, trade union rights, conditions in the flower farms, the rights of small farmers, the land rights of traditional and pastoral communities, the effects of mining in communities like the Digo and strategies of the urban poor, especially the women and the youth in finding sustainable livelihoods. This implies that the manifesto of this new movement should be dominated by ECONOMIC, SOCIAL and CULTURAL demands, in contrast to the middle class agendas of mainstream parties that rarely veer from the cookie cutter civic and political mantras associated with bourgeois liberalism. This is not to diminish the importance of civil and political rights, but rather to expand the concept of comprehensive human rights.

Strategically, this new movement should shift from the urban areas of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and elsewhere to the rural areas where the majority of wananchi live. This implies that the bulk of the activists for the new movement will be gichagi dwellers. Again, this is not to say that urban movements should be curtailed- quite the opposite the existing urban based civil society formations should be bolstered and replenished by a mushrooming of similar organizations mashambani.

In terms of gendered perspectives, there should be a conscious objective of making sure that there is at least 50/50 representation in terms of all the leadership bodies with a conscious affirmative bias to promoting women, especially young, rural women to top leadership positions.

A conscious new shift in terms of outlook is the promotion of an internationalist world outlook. The new Kenyan democratic movement must work diligently to link up with similar national formations in South Africa, Uganda, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Palestine, Canada, the United States, Ireland, the UK, India, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. There should be real attempt to send brigades and study teams to places like Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba and Vietnam to find out in concrete terms what other people are doing in terms of actual social transformation.

In terms of financial resources, the new Kenyan national movement must be very careful about the conditions attached to any funding received from the United States, Canada, Germany, the UK, Japan and all those capitalist countries in Scandinavia. Now mind you, I am not saying that we should take a rejectionist approach to such funding. It is just that we should be aware when we are being bankrolled by a front organization for the CIA or MI5.

In this connection, it may be more prudent if the new movement develops closer relationships to trade unions, women, youth and other grass roots organizations in the West and the North rather than just relying on the official state funding bodies. These ties can be developed through such simple things as sending Kenyan delegates to attend Canadian labour conventions, the annual general meetings of British women's federations or attending youth congresses in Germany and France.

Obviously there is more of the road that I could still travel on because this is a long journey to say the very least, but I will cut the engine here and reflect a little bit further, to continue my thoughts in another digital intervention a few days hence...

You can also see this other essay that I wrote the other day on the same theme.

Onyango Oloo

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I believe a move towards people power is evolving as I live and work in Nairobi. True the rich are getting richer and many of the poor even poorer still. My concerns with the comments so far are:

1. We must vote to be heard - it's the only way to get fresh blood in and for the MPs to realize Kenya does not belong to them alone!

2. Change our mindset from "village politics" thinking and realize that inspite of the massive powers African presidents enjoy, not all desirable change will emanate with the efforts of one man working alone

3. We must be increasingly active in the politics of our nation - kick out the fat lazy MPs, like Raila and demand real services and change. We must shun tribal/ regional leaders like the Langata MP and look for those who are willing to be Kenyans first, not old-guard style manipulators.

4. Keep blogs like this one alive, so that we can share our views!