By Onyango Oloo in
It is about nine minutes to nine on this Tuesday morning, this second last day of a warm tropical February 2007 and I have just finished listening to the BEST live radio interview in
I am referring to the fifty minutes of absolutely wonderful, unedited, free flowing encounter with Germany-based Kenyan revolutionary, poet, writer, and renowned Kiswahili scholar
Abdilatif Abdalla in a warm, revealing, politically conscious conversation on Radio Citizen.
The author of Sauti ya Dhiki, Utenzi wa Maisha ya Adamu na Hawaa, Kenya Twendapi? and
other literary and political classics was in his element, retracing the history of Kenya’s anti-imperialists struggles (overt and covert); skewering the mainstream politicians in government and opposition; puncturing holes in the much vaunted 5.8% “growth” (he says he will start believing there is growth when he is told that the poor person who has to wait for his one shirt to dry before wearing a clean shirt now has a second one) ; bigging up Mwakenya and other socialist oriented political formations-registered and unregistered; denouncing tribalism, nepotism and other backward vices; allaying fears that Sheng will corrode Kiswahili Sanifu and refusing to put a time-line on his permanent return to the country of his birth.
What a fresh gust of progressive air! What a wonderful blast of political optimism!
And what a marker, a pointer, a milestone of how far Kenyans have come in terms of freedom of expression!
As Abdilatif himself observed, that interview would have been unthinkable a mere decade ago- because every single word that the poet-activist uttered would have been tagged “seditious” by the powers that be. What is even more incredible is that this interview was being carried over the state-friendly Radio Citizen-hardly a bastion of the opposition.
Before Dr. Alfred “Goebbels” Mutua rushes to recruit Onyango Oloo as the latest prize catch Kibaki propagandist, let me hasten to add that this expanded democratic space has NADA to do with the policies of the Kibaki administration which is more well known to me as the employer of the fascist Internal Security minister and the bully that thwacks peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators, often not hesitating to open fatal, unfriendly fire on its own former supporters who voted it to power in the year 2002.
Rather, the space that allows an Abdilatif Abdalla to go on the public airwaves and extol the virtues of Mwakenya and other former proscribed underground movements has to do with blood, with sweat and with sacrifice of unbowed patriots like Ngugi wa Thiongo, Micere Mugo, Abdilatif Abdalla, Adongo Ogony, Mwandawiro Mghanga, Karimi Nduthu and many, many, many other wazalendo who spoke truth to power, endured police torture, torrid prison conditions and debilitating exile keeping theirs eyes firmly locked on the Kenyan democratic prize.
The just concluded Radio Citizen February 27, 2007 interview with the man whose friends, comrades, relatives and colleagues sometimes refer to as Atifu rekindles the sentiments I had expressed in an essay I wrote way back in November 2002 which I extract as follows:
“…Cynicism is a luxury I cannot afford.
What keeps me going after decades of working with fellow compatriots and progressive activists around the world for social change is the conviction that fighting for a New Kenya is still a worthwhile endeavour; that at the end of the long night that Ngugi wa Thiong’o talked about, there will indeed be a bright new dawn in our nation; that iniquity, inequality, corruption, sloth and social decadence are not the prescribed destinies for millions, whether in Kenya or elsewhere around the world; that it is possible to organize a successful social transformation process in this very country of ours and turf out the notorious Kenyan political crooks, swindlers and charlatans; that the day of reckoning for assorted local tyrants and unconvicted despots can not be put off indefinitely.
Indeed, taking inspiration from the South African poet Dennis Brutus, we soldier on with stubborn hope, not oblivious to the gargantuan hurdles and realistic of the myriad challenges ahead of us, with our ideological foes making futile attempt after futile attempt to construct roadblocks to our prospects of overcoming ingrained reactionary obduracy to national renewal in
Sometimes one must admit though, that this resilient optimistic vision and hopeful world view is very difficult to maintain in the face of a world increasingly dominated by a notorious global bully from the west and in light of the repeated disappointments from former comrades and once upon a time political colleagues and fellow travelers who decided, after decades of keeping vigil at the barricades, that it was easier to sell three quarters of their conscience to their former tormentors while making a half-hearted gesture at sustaining the flickering flame that once blazed in youthful and zealous eyes.
Surrounded by burned out ex-revolutionaries, bombarded by a shrill triumphalist screeching tinged with xenophobic and tribal ranting, it is tempting to throw in the towel; it is inviting to walk away from the activist trenches to a safer petit-bourgeois demi-world of skeptical by-standers, suburban social climbing fence-sitters washing their opportunistic hands with a supplicant’s sigh and a traitor’s shrug with the tepid, thread-bare excuse:
“ I tried, I gave it my best, let others take it from here”-
escaping their rueful sold out lips even as the Kenyan wananchi continue to meander towards an uncertain political horizon.
What tempers these temporary vacillations however is the glaring reality that one has to soldier on, one has to keep fighting against all odds, against the snide side swipes; one has to continue struggling, working tenaciously for the eventual realization of the national democratic goals that made some of us forego mainstream conformity for revolutionary disobedience…”
For the last week or so the Nairobi based newspapers and the two main Kenyan television stations have been more than obsessed with the wrangling and infighting apparently raging on within ODM-K and NARC-K despite protestations to the contrary by their respective leading lights.
To be sure, part of the hullabaloo is pure media hyperbole and bombast.
Part of it is impish digs by spinners from the opposing camps.
A fraction is misdirected mischief as in the cyber squatting incident when some internet prankster tried to play havoc with the websites of Kalonzo Musyoka, ODM-K and NARC-Kenya respectively.
Last night I saw an interview clip on KBC’s Channel One of ODM-K State House aspirant Ms. Nazlin Umar castigating some of the interim officials of ODM for cheer-leading for “one candidate”- a thinly veiled reference to Raila Odinga and his supporters.
In the meantime I see the resident media pundits on television and in the newspaper columns giddy and dizzy with their recycled takes on the political situation.
It is frustrating, that a lot of what passes for political analysis in our country rarely ventures beneath the surface with many “observers” remaining virtual clones and lazy copy cats of each other.
Anyways, this is not a slag piece so let me go ahead and give my own take on the internal contradictions in the stables of the alleged two main race horses.
Tempting as it may be to zoom in on the psychological profiles of the Kalonzos, Railas, Kivuthas, Kituyis, Kibakis, Mungatanas, Muites and Karuas et al, it may be more fruitful to locate all these tussles within a context underpinned by the ongoing transformations in
A Sri Lankan activist/poet/radio journalist friend and mentor that I met in
Unsurprisingly, all the hot, sexy news on the front pages (at least in
We rarely bother to seek any correlation, if any between the latest political cat fight and the latest reading from the Nairobi Stock Exchange.
Is there a connection in the first place?
The dialectical and historical materialists out there are no doubt smiling indulgently as they shrug their collective shoulders at my very rudimentary prod. Those connections after all, form the bread and butter of their intellectual infrastructure.
To other thinkers reared on the pap of liberal discourse, they detect a detour in a supposedly doctrinaire direction.
Well, never mind their carping and hear me out instead.
I want to analyze the inter/intra contradictions within and across the Kenyan political establishment by locating these within an economic and historical context.
Without understanding what drives Kenyan politicians to seek the highest office in the land, one cannot understand their gambits, ripostes, about turns and other flip flops.
Without wearing a historian's thinking cap one will not understand why politician X who used to be in Y camp is today veering towards Z.
The most fundamental thing for my readers to grasp is that the current kinyanganyiro for political power is based, NOT on so called “blind ambition”, apparent “insatiable greed” or congenital “tribalism” or even rapacious “corruption” but rather a very rational, sober and determined effort to be in a strategic position to loot and plunder Kenyan national and natural resources in the immediate and mid term future.
Many of the country’s leading lights are acutely aware that
To put it more crudely, our top politicians know, from their internal economic intelligence gathering that
Where are the indicators to back up my claims?
First of all, we are about to earn, as a country the “The East and Central African peace dividend” as neighbouring countries long tainted by bloody conflicts enter into a period of sustained stability and tranquility. I am thinking of countries like the
As a country, we have had a head start because our relative “stability” and believe it or not, our relatively more entrenched infrastructure-pot holes and endemic road carnage not withstanding.
Officially, we are seen as “honest brokers”- despite the evidence of our meddling and partisanship in
Names like General Sumbeiyo, Ambassador Kiplagat, Presidential hopeful Kalonzo Musyoka and even former kleptocratic dictator Daniel arap Moi are counted among the region’s respected peace makers.
Never mind the contents of the Akiwumi report for a split second…
In any case, I started arguing almost four years ago that the Kenyan political leadership has more than an altruistic interest in pushing regional peace efforts in the East and Central African region.
Apart from being obvious local conduits for US led imperialist (and increasingly Chinese) ideological and geopolitical objectives, our Kenyan leaders-many of whom have extensive comprador business empires-can savour the truism of Sir Cecil Rhodes’ infamous sneering quip:
“Philanthropy is good; philanthropy at 5% is even better.”
Of course the famous imperialist conquistador is more notorious for his brutally honest statement:
Of course the famous imperialist conquistador is more notorious for his brutally honest statement:
“We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labor that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.”
For example, looking at the emerging scenario in
How many Kenyan politicians have cashed in on the long presence of the SPLA leadership in our country?
In 2003, a somewhat senior Kenyan public administrator confided in me that Lokichoggio was fast becoming a boom town with real properties in that once sleepy township being gobbled up by top SPLA leaders- and the likes of Nicholas Kipyator Biwott.
By now, at least according to one of my good journalist pals, it is a very poorly kept secret that ODM-K’s Raila Odinga has oil interests in the
Besides, we need not confine ourselves to the high flying luminaries among the Kenyan mainstream political stratum.
Hundreds, if not thousands of Kenyan professionals, civil society players and business people are resettling in southern Sudan in droves because that once conflicted region is being transformed into an oasis of bustling economic activities.
Kenyan-based construction, energy, banking,wholesale/retail, security, telecommunications and related infrastructure firms are at a comparative advantage versus other companies from the region to be the most effective junior (read comprador) partners for the slew of Chinese and Western transnationals flooding to the Sudan and the other soon to be post-conflict states in the region.
One can extend the same prognosis and projection to the DRC once a peace deal is hammered out with the recent ascendancy of the Kabila civilian government.
Now when I said earlier that Kenya is on the cusp of long term economic growth and prosperity, I was NOT referring to the pie in the sky hallucinations of pro-Kibaki rabid cheer leaders and veteran court poets who point to the mythical 5.8% leap in GDP or the 2030 phantasmagoria which is unsurprisingly slated to be realized AFTER all its major authors, architects and proponents are residing comfortably in their fetid decades-old graves.
Nor am I talking about the ephemeral IPO madness deluding misguided wananchi that if they purchase these many shares from East African Cables, Ken Gen or Safaricom then they are on track to emerge as the next Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Prince So and So from
The fact of the matter is that these stock market transactions are just marginally better than purchasing sweepstakes tickets or throwing down a wad of a thousand shillings notes to a recognized karata playing trickster on the back alleys of
Investing on some of the financial options offered at the NSE is largely speculative. Many of these high-flying stocks are grossly over-valued and sooner or later some of our wannabe “capitalists” will be locking themselves up in their lavatories to cry their eyes out before flushing themselves down the loo after realizing that they have wiped out all their life savings with nothing to show for it. I know at least three, fairly intelligent Kenyan friends of mine (one of them is a doctor who scored straight As from kindergarten to university) who confessed to me that they are stuck with essentially worthless stocks that they were goaded into purchasing at the height of the frenzied hoopla and media hype regarding one well company that I will NOT mention.
I do agree with those people who have said that many of these IPOs are well-calculated gimmicks to raise money for Kibaki’s re-election effort.
Here is the scary downside:
If you are feeding the Trans Century cabal with your tens of thousands because you feel they are a safe bet because their major handlers are close to the Kibaki kitchen cabinet and political elite, what happens if Kibaki and NARC-K or NARC whatever is trounced at the 2007 elections?
You will be holding thousands of useless pieces of paper in your safe by mid next year. If anything you are contributing to inflationary trends that may help some magnates and their financial empires built on quick sand collapse even faster than they should.
I am also NOT ruling out the possibility that some of the free flowing millions being “invested” in the stock exchange is little more than drug and illicit cash from well-connected and protected political tycoons being cleaned up before being reinvested into apparently more legit business endeavours.
Well if you think I am overstating this, please go ahead and BITE ME.
So I am NOT talking about over valued IPOs, dubiously expanding financial empires, badly disguised political fund-raising and shady money laundering operations as evidence of a robust Kenyan economy.
Rather, I was contemplating the fact that recent natural resource findings and “discoveries” are harbingers of a rosy economic future, certainly for some rich people but hopefully for most Kenyans if we get our political act right. I will confine myself to the ongoing plans to mine titanium in Kwale and the hushed up oil exploration and drilling that is taking place in large chunks of northern Kenya and off the coast of Lamu.
Oil is not called “black gold” for naught.
Another marker is the laying of the undersea fibre-optic infrastructure to facilitate the broadband revolution and innovation sweeping the telephony and communication sectors.
Sooner or later (and I think it is already underway) some smart Kenyan entrepreneurs will cash in on two other things:
One, a big fraction of our highly educated, but largely unemployed young adult population to follow India, Senegal and South Africa in attracting outsourcing contracts thrown up by the vagaries of the globalized world capitalist economy and
Two, responding to the endemic health crisis engendered by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. My stay in
The next Makini Super Clinic and Health Matt will be a huge Kenyan based corporation serving the East, Central, West and Southern African market selling mass produced herbal capsules, crates of natural fruit juices, bags and bags of amaranth (terere) flour and other products increasingly consumed by Kenyans living with HIV and AIDS right across the country.
Call me kooky and demented, but I consider the above two paragraphs as 100% FREE INVESTMENT ADVICE TO KENYAN BUSINESS PEOPLE CRAZY ENOUGH TO THINK OUTSIDE THE CLICHÉD BOX.
I predict that some Kenyan Biz Whiz somewhere will seize this once in a lifetime market opportunity before the beginning of 2009.
As the brand builders of the West aver, if you want to build a brand new brand, you have to first create a unique category that only your product fits in and ANTICIPATE, rather than FOLLOW trends…
Kenyans (including yours truly) often yak about John Michuki, the intolerant cabinet minister with a home-guard past. I think we should be keener on deciphering the business moves of Michuki the old-money billionaire country golf club owning magnate and his cozy ties with Chinese big money. He is ahead of the curve in terms of realizing another source of future wealth in this country.
Speaking of ministers, in future the most POWERFUL cabinet position will be that of Energy.
Putting away my management consultant’s hat for a few minutes, let me revert to the kernel of this essay.
My argument is that the expanded business opportunities in the offing are the BIGGEST drivers of the vicious tussle for political power in
Being a neo-colonial state wedded to the diktats of the capitalist market, the political contestations that are taking place in Kenya today are predicated on the fact that whoever controls the levers of the state puts them as at a competitive advantage when it comes to minting trillions over the next few years.
If you accept the basis of my argument, then it is very easy to discern and dissect the wrangles within NARC-Kenya and over across at ODM-Kenya.
Within NARC-Kenya it is all about creating dynastic rule anchored in
Saitoti’s challenge to Kituyi is NOT personal; it is all about ensuring the supremacy of a mundu wa nyoomba to succeed Kibaki- that is if Kibaki succeeds in the first place to retain his bed at State House after the 2007 polls. There is a certain cynical arrogance among the so called Mount Kenya Mafia political elite that you can BUY political power in this country to sustain tribal based rule at the central government level.
A crude and quixotic manifestation of this was the recent shower of bank-notes that rained down in Ikolomani courtesy of one “NARC-Kenya activist” and mysterious millionaire Livondo.
Many Kenyans suspect that the recently launched Youth Fund is just an upgraded version of the YK92 experience in political bribery.
Unfortunately for the barons and thinkers of NARC-Kenya it would appear that the foxy Kibaki has realized that NARC-Kenya is a leaking vessel that will most certainly drown him at the polling stations should he decide to captain it.
Sadly for Kibaki also, he has alienated the core constituencies that make up DP, FORD-Kenya, NPK and other government friendly parties that if he now decides to lurch over to the original NARC, the stench of opportunistic betrayal will leave a swarm of hungry house-flies trailing him wherever he goes.And speaking of NARC, Kibaki should remember that you do not step in the same river twice-NARC is no longer NARC without the LDP faction which formed a sizable component of it back in the day...
Kibaki is basically an ex president already-unless things completely unravel over at the ODM-K edifice.
Which is a possibility that we should NOT rule out.
Despite the brave façade of unity erected for mass media and public consumption, the same high economic stakes that I mentioned are driving the internal wars within ODM-Kenya.
Buoyed by opinion polls tagging him as the “most acceptable and appealing candidate” Mwingi MP Kalonzo Musyoka may throw a petulant fit and trudge over to the Third Force to undercut what will be seen as an insurmountable march to power by Lang’ata powerhouse Raila Odinga.
It flabbergasts me that a formation touting itself as a credible alternative to the Kibaki status quo DOES NOT seem to have TRANSPARENT and democratic methods of executing the simple task of choosing a presidential candidate to face Kibaki at the polls later this year.
The key to the solution will be the moves, NOT by Raila OR Kalonzo, but by the OTHER Presidential aspirants, ESPECIALLY Ruto, Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta- in that order.
William Ruto holds the key that will unlock the impasse. The custodian of the sizable Rift Valley vote, the eventual ODM-K Presidential nominee MUST KISS HIS KALENJIN ass to succeed.
Musalia Mudavadi CANNOT be the ODM-K candidate, but will turn out to be the second kingmaker who decides whether it is Kalonzo or Raila who becomes the ODM torch bearer. He has clout due to the leverage of the SWING VOTE in western
Uhuru Kenyatta should NOT be underestimated, despite his current standing in his home province and among his kith and kin that make up
Najib Balala KNOWS he will not be the ODM-K nominee. He is playing a strategic game to ensure that he is a powerful cabinet minister in the next government to protect his business interests.
Ditto for Dr. Julia Ojiambo.
In terms of her RHETORIC, Ms. Nazlin Umar is the most “left wing” of the ODM-K aspirants. However some of my sources within the Kenyan Muslim community suspect that she is an AMERICAN Trojan Horse within the opposition and therefore quite dangerous. Given the systemic sexism and patriarchy in
It would appear, as of the time of writing that Raila Odinga has probably managed to out organize and out strategize his rivals in ODM-K. The question is whether he can risk the defection of Kalonzo Musyoka to the Ngilu/Kombo fronted “Third Force” or even horror of horrors the Biwott Moi backed Kibaki camp.
Whatever the case, whoever turns out to be respective protagonists/antagonists facing each other come the end of the year, they will NOT have transcended the naked struggle for power. Their political vehicles will remain just that- electoral machines to catapult them into the State House.
That is why the MOST IMPORTANT TASK for progressive Kenyans, especially the socialists and anti-imperialists out there is to create and build a NATIONAL democratic movement for progressive change which enters into the 2007 election campaign NOT to wrest power, but to MAINSTREAM issued based politics as the sine qua non for deepening the transformation process in this country.