As Kenyans draw closer to the November 21st rendezvous with democratic destiny- when a referendum decides whether Kenyans build on the dejure proclamation of 1982 with the endorsement of an imperial presidency, or build on the gains of December 1991 and December 2002 with another step forwards to a democratic Katiba- as we draw closer to the climax of the contest between oranges and bananas, as we veer closer to what some people see as a precipice we can fall over or a doorway we can walk through- with each new day looks like yet another Made in Kenya Ground Hog Day- another ballot box face off, another round of unbridled politicized violence.
Last Saturday 4 ministers and other lieutenants of the YES campaign were pelted with oranges and rocks by a rowdy, irate crowd in
Garissa- an incident which left several injured and scores incarcerated.
a NO rally in Thika
(Some of the 14 people who appeared in a Thika court charged with preparing to commit a felony during a rally organised by the Orange team on Wednesday. Pic by Jackson Ngugi)
was disrupted when two bus loads of panga wielding, YES hooligans tried to hack their way to the dais where Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Raila Odinga and other leaders of the anti-Wako Draft campaign were seated.
Today, Thursday, September 22, 2005,
(Anti-riot policemen beat a man who had tried to disrupt a rally organised by the Orange group at the Baraza Park in Garissa Town, yesterday. A number of people were injured. Photo by Bashkash Jagsodaay. )
after another NO rally had been disrupted in Garissa, KANU Secretary General William Ruto called for the arrests and questioning of John Michuki, Kiraitu Murungi, Chris Murungaru,
Maina Kamanda and Juja MP William Kabogo alleging state interference and instigation in the acts of political hooliganism while LDP leader Raila Odinga questioned the role of a civil servant like Andrew Mullei in the Yes Campaign- even as
Kiraitu Murungi was insisting that the YES "Must Win" and Michuki was telling the Agikuyu in Mathioya:
Mugikuyu no athii akome na ang’orote atakuhura ngoro tondu thirikari ya Kibaki na Karume na aria angi nitumugitiire” (You Kikuyus can sleep soundly and let your hearts not be troubled because you have Kibaki, Karume and others protecting you).
The admission by Kiraitu, Michuki and others that they are using state coffers to fund their Yes Campaign is quite bizarre given how DP in opposition berated Moi for using tax payers' money to rig himself back to power in 1992 and 1997. It is also a bit of a misnomer for a faction of the coalition government to arrogate itself the role of the "government" unless of course they are tacitly admitting that Onyango Oloo was right in August 2003 when he predicted that this very clique was planning a civilian coup!
My former attorney should realize that one of the reasons why the civil service networks in Canada and the UK- and these are NOT perfect organisms- are lauded for their efficiency and professionalism is precisely because they assidiously stay out of partisan politics in their official capacity although they enjoy their full citizenship and civic rights as private individuals. In Ontario or Quebec for instance, you would have to guess the ideological leanings of that Ministry of Education officer or that Health and Safety Inspector that you spoke to on the phone last week. In fact their jobs are liable to be on the line should they display any overt biases. Likewise a prospective employee for the municipal, provincial or federal services can sue a hiring committee if they grill him about his or her political beliefs or voting record. For the same reason the same bureaucrat will still be doing their job no matter who is voted in or out of power. I know for certain that things are not any different in Kenya- at least in terms of policy expectations. If anything, these desperate ministers are playing with fire- are these not the same civil servants who were being clobbered only months ago when they tried to strike for better working conditions? Some of them are from the Moi era and if I was in that government of so called national unity, I would not PROVOKE civil servants further by basically ordering them to campaign for a document they may privately detest. It may very well boomerang and I am shocked at the crass display of naivete mixed with arrogance and tribal chauvinism that was on display within the Yes team today. Kiraitu Murungi is a fairly smart chap and he used to be a squeaky clean man of impeccable integrity. What happened to my once hard working and conscientious human rights lawyer? Did power get to his head? That is so sad...
These three incidents point to two persistent strains in Kenyan politics:
Machismo and organized thuggery.
In a sense, this is how we have grown up politically.
Before I came to
What a “shock” way back when we used to huddle together with people like Abdallah Bafagih, his sister Shekha, Mohamed Ibn Yusuf, the brothers Mohammed and Omar, the late Mzee Mahmoud Adam, Adongo Ogony, Hussein “Buyuni” Jahazi, Kathure Kebaara, Julius “Marx” Tago and other founder members of the Kenya Canadian Society filling out an application to hold a demonstration either outside the US consulate just south of Dundas on University here in Toronto or the Kenyan embassy on 415 Laurier Street East in Ottawa.
The “shock” came from the fact that permit was ALWAYS granted; more than that, there were at least 4 police officers assigned to the demonstration to PROTECT the protestors and guarantee that the two hour protests started and finished peacefully. Far from battling the cops, we actually rushed to report our then ambassador Peter Nyamweya to the police the moment he took out his camera and started taking snaps of the demonstrators- many of them from the Greater Toronto Area.
Those days we could go to a demonstration confident that we would survive the peaceful expression of our political stance against the undemocratic government of Daniel arap Moi.
It seems as if we Kenyans have allowed the violence of the state to spawn a counter violence from the masses- that saw for instance a Special Branch lynched at a FORD-Kenya rally in
This either/or treadmill is fuelled often by machismo chest thumping often orchestrated by our respective “leaders”:
Ugandans, Somalis, Ethiopians, Rwandese, Sudanese, Burundians, South Africans, Angolans, Liberians, Congolese and Sierra Leonians reading this may be surprised to hear a Kenyan describe his fellow Kenyans as inherently violent- because our country has the superficial reputation as one of the most “peaceful” nations in Africa.
Let us look at the violence against women- whether it is sexualized as rape or “domesticated” as wife battery; let us reflect on the violence by teachers against students; the violence of students against other students; the violence between communities, ethnic and otherwise; the violence of cattle rustlers and their Anti- Stock Theft Unit pursuers; the violence of competing soccer hooligans; the violence of rival matatu touts; the casual brutality of criminal home invaders; neighbourhood ngeta specialists; marauding kuzacha jewel snatchers and of course the gangsterism of opposing political factions….
We do live in one of the most violent societies in the world.
How many people reading these lines have paused from lunch time window shopping in downtown
A few days ago, about three quarters of an hour past midnight, I was strolling along
We struck up a conversation about the worrying escalation of violence within the Somali communities in
But really, seriously:
Are Kenyans born with a “Violent Gene”?
Do not be RIDICULOUS.
As a practicing Marxist-Leninist I do not buy the socio-biological determinist reductionist HOGWASH that reduces complex social issues to imperfect DNA wiring.
To get a handle on the roots of the violence embedded in Kenyan society, you have to look at our history as a nation.
Two hundreds years ago Kenyans DID NOT EXIST- although the peoples who make up present day Kenya were already inhabiting many of the regions they still claim as their traditional homes today.
The creation of
The laws we inherited in 1963 had been colonial Ordnances put in place to stifle our people’s collective aspirations- with some being written specifically with the Mau Mau War for National Independence in mind. Those of us who were born in the early sixties had parents who could relate RECENT anecdotes of colonial whites unleashing their Alsatians onto African children.
In a macro sense, until we start asking with Chinua Achebe where the violent storms started “beating us” we will forever flail, wringing our hands and draining our bleeding hearts with consternation about our propensity for violence.
If like I am arguing, the violence flaring up at Garissa and Thika is a direct outcome of the violent colonial and neo-colonial circumstances that have so far shaped the destiny of Kenya, it follows that only a sharp departure from that imperialist, colonial and neo-colonial trajectory will lay the basis of a more peaceful, more humane, more just Kenyan society.
And you guessed it- we come full circle to the way we live, the way we govern or misgovern ourselves. If our current laws and the constitution it is based on is rooted in our colonial legacy of violent state repression and widespread violent social relations throughout the length and breadth of Kenyan society, it therefore follows that a new political dispensation will provide an impetus for that potential reality to emerge.
At this stage in our country’s political history we have reached a national consensus as nationalists, liberals, communists, social democrats, conservatives, people of faith, women, youth, elders- we have come to a national consensus that the most democratic way forward in building Kenya Tuitakayo is through a New Katiba that is Democratic and People Driven.
So it all comes back to:
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