Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Emerging Security Threats in Kenya

Analysis and Comment by Onyango Oloo

1.0. A Grim Picture Emerges…


A few days ago when I was strolling through the web, trawling for breaking news about Kenya, I was hit between the eyes by the following cyberbrick:

With reports of foreign jihadists streaming into Somalia, western security services are frightened Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network could get a grip on the failed Horn of Africa state," the Kenyan newspaper The Standard commented at the end of June. "Nairobi expatriate circles have been awash with alerts and rumors of a planned attack by Somali militants."

"They don't even have to attack," explained a leading Kenyan lawyer who didn't want to be identified, fearing for her and her daughter's life. "Al-Shabaab guerillas are already in the capital. They didn't use weapons — they bribed their way into Nairobi, bought property and Kenyan passports."

In June, Kenyan military amassed troops and artillery on the Somali border, contributing to rumors that it was ready to invade to stabilize the border area. But the warning from the other side was swift and chilling: "If you attack us we will launch suicide attacks in Nairobi and we will destroy the tall glass buildings," declared the spokesman of al-Shabaab in Kismayu, Sheik Hassan Yacqub Ali. The situation on the border remains tense.

"The problem here is simple and concrete: the potential for terrorism," explained the head of the Social Democratic party of Kenya, Mghanga Mwandawire, for this article. "Al-Shabaab is connected to al-Qaeda. Their influence is not only in Nairobi. Their people are now establishing themselves in the port of Mumbasa and elsewhere along the coast. In the poor Garissa their investment is now around 60%. The money comes from the jihadists and from the piracy on the high seas."

The groups from Somalia are now taking full advantage of the growing lawlessness in Kenya. Last year, tribal post-election violence left at least 3,000 Kenyans dead. Drought and economic crises are bringing one-quarter of the population close to starvation. Corruption is rampant. The U.S. think tank Fund for Peace ranked Kenya 14th out of 20 countries considered in the "critical" category in its failed states index. Once considered to be a proud star of East Africa, Kenya is now on its knees.
"Postcard from...Eastleigh" by Andre Vltchek July 24, 2009, Foreign Policy in Focus website


If I did not die of shock, I certainly did not rush dancing in the streets of Nairobi. While I wasn’t exactly rattled to the clichĂ©d core, I was definitely perturbed to an uncommon degree.

And that it is why I want to talk about the emerging security threats in and to Kenya.

Over the last Bush infested and blood soaked decade, the terrified, shocked and awed petrified globe has seen an explosion of security think tanks, security studies, security briefings, security legislation, security cartoonists, security courtesans, security bloggers, security venture capitalists, security experts and security consultants.

Within the ranks of the last two categories you will find individuals whose credentials consist entirely of the number of innocent civilians they helped to torture, imprison or blow up in Iraq, Afghanistan and other macabre US theatres of slaughter around the world.

Some are slightly deranged fascist journalists who dream of being latter day MacArthurs, Rommels, Powells and Eisenhowers. Some are left over greying academics who did not quite make it into the top ranks of the policy wonks who drove the right wing ideological agendas which stoked the fires of the discredited War Against Terror. Others are Nintendo, X-Box and PlayStation aficionados with a penchant for war games. Believe it or not, hidden somewhere in this pile, you will also find actual authentic experts on the security challenges facing the world today.

But I digress.

I want to talk about the emerging security challenges as they pertain to my pays natal, Kenya.

Let me begin by disappointing those eager readers who expect me to obsess about the clear and present danger posed by the Al Shabaab jihadists to Western geo-political interests in Kenya and the East African region.

I urge them to go and sniff at another blog because there is very little red meat of that variety embedded in this URL.

My take may be startling to one or two people out there because my opening premise is the following:

The gravest security threat to Kenya is posed by the Kenyan state itself, with the top political leadership being the leading suspects as the individuals most likely to plunge Kenya into a dystopic abyss of bloody civil war that could lead to the violent dismemberment of our country within the next two years.

Unless they are stopped, that is.


2.0. Defining Security

Now that I have your attention, let me warm up to my topic.

But just before I do that, I want to dispose of that Al Shabaab story so that it ceases to be a distraction.

Here is what a REAL, Western security expert and policy analyst had to say on the subject in a recent opinion piece posted on the All Africa website:

Kenyan media have been abuzz in recent days with speculation that Nairobi and its allies in the region could be planning a military operation to prop up the fragile Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu, which is under siege from militant Islamist factions led by Al-Shabaab.

Official rhetoric against the Somali Islamists has been hardening: Nairobi increasingly fears the TFG could collapse unless the international community provides it with additional troops to hold its ground.

The deadly suicide bombing in Beledweyne last week that killed the TFG’s security minister, Omar Hashi – a key figure in the regime’s military counter-offensive against Al-Shabaab – came as another shocking reminder of the group’s capacity to undermine the interim government. In a sense, the TFG is fighting for its very survival. Resurgent militant Islamist groups are clearly bent on overthrowing the current regime. President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has imposed a state of emergency to deal with these threats.

Despite the gravity of the current situation, the calls for foreign military intervention in Somalia are ill-advised. The TFG and its supporters have circulated dire warnings of a high number of foreign jihadi combatants in order to create panic about Somalia being on the verge of becoming another Afghanistan, the new den of international Al-Qaeda militants. This threat is supposed to also justify a foreign intervention.

Under Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the former leader of the Islamic Courts Union who was elected president last February, the TFG has regained some legitimacy and holds potentially valuable keys to a political settlement. It is more representative of central and southern Somalia’s populations and can probably articulate an Islamic vision for Somalia which will rally the support of its majority, contrary to the jihadists whose practice of Islam is foreign to the country.

Yet external military intervention is not the way forward.

Since the collapse of Siad Barre’s regime in 1991, there have been several foreign incursions. Every single one of them exacerbated the conflict by increasing radicalisation and political polarisation. They reduced chances for political dialogue and helped militant groups to recruit. Al-Shabaab has grown in strength over the last two years largely because it used Ethiopia’s intervention and the United States'
bombing campaign to whip up nationalism and rally the clans around its banner.

A Kenyan intervention force -- alone or as part of a force by the regional Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – would only lead to the same result. In fact, Al-Shabaab, currently under siege politically, desperately wants such an intervention for those very reasons. The movement may be militarily triumphant, but its political message is increasingly challenged in south and central Somalia.

Militant Islamist factions in Somalia are taunting Kenya into a military intervention in the same way they taunted Ethiopia in 2006. Kenya should be wary of falling into the same trap.

Another possible threat which Kenya needs to weigh is the direct security implications stemming from such an intervention. Al-Shabaab’s threat to strike Kenya, which could reasonably be dismissed as bravado, may become real. Al-Shabaab has honed its terror tactics and skills in recent years and is now by far the deadliest guerrilla movement operating in the Horn.

Kenya should not get sucked into the Somalia conflict but concentrate on securing its borders and actively supporting its resolution.

What is needed today is more international investment in the political process aimed at re-orienting and broadening the United Nations-sponsored reconciliation efforts known as the "Djibouti process" to ensure as many militants and radicals as possible are reached and the necessary concessions made to ensure their buy-in.

Reaching out to moderates is not enough: peace will have to be made between Somalia’s bitter enemies. This will be difficult, but it is not altogether impossible, as some suggest, and many channels of communications transit through Nairobi.

In the short run, rather than direct military intervention, efforts should concentrate on bolstering the TFG’s military capacity through additional training, funding and the provision of new military equipment as part of an overall strategy to restore the balance of forces conducive to political negotiations.

The African Union peacekeeping mission should not become a direct party to the fighting but should be used only to secure strategic points essential to the reinforcement of the TFG. No foreign army should fight the Somalis’ war; instead the TFG must be enabled to fight its own fight. This is what many Somali officials actually believe will be effective.

Nairobi’s traditional pragmatist tendencies and the practice of using dialogue to resolve problems have not lost their currency. In fact, despite the belligerent tone of some official Somali declarations, provincial and local administration leaders are engaged with Al-Shabaab in a dialogue to resolve the problems of banditry, armed car-jacking and inter-clan tensions along Kenya’s long border with Somalia, and they have effectively succeeded in managing the situation over the past year.

Now is not the time to beat the drums of a new regional invasion of Somalia but to invest in the political process that will provide an end to its decade long conflict.


Those are the sage observations of Dr Daniela Kroslak, the Deputy Director of the Africa Program at the International Crisis Group.

To move on.

Or rather, back.

To the topic that is.

Where were we?

Yes.

Definitions.

Dictionary.com tells us that “security” could mean the following...

Wikipedia has several quaint passages grappling with the meaning of this Greek derived English word-a lot of it veering towards militaristic applications, even when talking about “national security”.

For the purposes of this essay, I want to focus on HUMAN security and will therefore go with this 1994 UNDP definition revolving around seven aspects- economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, community security, political security and personal security- summarized as freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Using those 7 yardsticks, how secure are Kenyans in July-August 2009?

Well, let’s see.

3.0. Indicators of Insecurity in Kenya

3.1. Economic Insecurity

Here is the 2007/2008 Human Development Report from the UNDP on Kenya. And if you go to this Society for International Development link you will find information about disparities and inequalities in Kenya. For good measure gauge the impact of political violence on the profits of corporations harvesting in Kenya’s horticultural sector in this report titled, Guns and Roses: The Impact of Kenyan Post Election Violence on Flower Exporting Firms. Check out this Amnesty International report from June 2009 on the conditions of millions of urban slum dwellers in Kenya.

3.2. Food Insecurity

Let the following document from the Government of Kenya, USAID, the World Food Program and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network grab the words from my own throat and tell you the story of food insecurity in the rural and urban areas of Kenya for the period April to September 2009.

3.3. Health Insecurity

Rush here and see for yourself in this market research document prepared for private sector clients.

3.4. Environmental Insecurity

I invite you to browse David Ochami’s report in a recent issue of the Nairobi-based Standard newspaper to get a tiny inkling of the severity of the crisis in this sector.

3.5. Community Insecurity

We know about the reverberations from the 2008 post-election violence and the persistence of the IDP camps and their desperately desolate residents.

Here is an updated fact sheet (as of July 16, 2009) from OCHA on IDPs.

More recently Kenyans have been reeling at the news coming out of southern tip of Nyanza with the intra-ethnic clashes within the Kuria community.

IDMC has more information on their website, which you can access right here.

3.6. Personal Insecurity

Where do we begin in this sub section?

Let us start with violence against women and children. Read this recently published comprehensive report with the long name of Situation of Violence against Women and Children in Kenya:Implementation of the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment- Alternative report to the UN Committee Against Torture.

To get a snapshot on crime rates we need just hop, skip and jump over to the daily newspaper headlines, like this one here by Fred Mukinda from the Nation Media Group.

Next we should look at how state organs have brutalized, traumatized and butchered ordinary Kenyans under the guise of enforcing law and order.

For instance take this report from Human Rights Watch dubbed "All The Men Have Gone" about the military excesses in Mount Elgon in the attempt to flush out militants of the Sabaot Land Defence Force or the expose on police brutality during a similar police mop up operation in Mandera in 2008 titled "Bring the Gun or You Will Die".

And in case you have forgotten, the Waki Report is still available, so is the report by Prof Alston on Extra-Judicial Killings and the KNCHR's Report on Alleged Perpetrators of Post Election Violence.



3.7. Political Insecurity

The very existence of the Grand Coalition Government itself testifies to political insecurity which is a shame because it was supposed to be the exact opposite as we all remember.

Why do I jab President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila directly in the eyes accusing them of trying to bring the country down?

Well, for one, if you look at the first six indicators of human security cited in the preceding sub-sections, what glares at you most is the clear lack of effective leadership. Instead of devoting more of the allotted government revenue in the budget estimates for the last two fiscal years to development expenditure, the Grand Coalition Government has frittered away tax payers’ money in maintaining a bloated government, providing an “allowance” to the spouses of the Big Three and setting up extra districts and sub-provinces that we do not need. The growth of a unit of the police, the Administration Police as an autonomous para-military force beholden to commanders who bypass their own chain of command is not only worrying from a fiscal point of view but harkens to the period just before President Jomo Kenyatta died when forces close to his circle of hand picked, ethnic-based aides established the infamous Ngoroko elite troops in an abortive attempt to thwart Daniel arap Moi from ascending to office. I will come back to this sub theme in a minute.

The Mars Group and the affiliated Partners for Change are doing an admirable job in highlighting these democratic concerns with their current Budget Campaign. Kudos to both Matis and their team of scrupulous patriotic researcher activists!

Secondly, the foot-dragging on bringing the perpetrators of the post-election violence to justice is all but guaranteeing a repeat, at a higher scale of the 2008 carnage come 2012-if we get to that year without an implosion. We have seen leading and influential cabinet ministers from both PNU and ODM trash the recommendations of the Waki Commission.

Thirdly, the failure to promulgate a new DEMOCRATIC constitution more than 12 months after they promised to do so is a clear pointer that BOTH sides of the Grand Coalition Government would rather hang on to their parliamentary seats, cabinet positions and sinecures in the Kenyan state organs for the full five years even though the country had largely expected them to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate immediately after putting a new constitution in place.

Fourthly, the REFUSAL by President Kibaki to ACT on the findings of Prof. Alston regarding the extra-judicial killings can only mean one thing: he is protecting Police Commissioner General Hussein Ali; coddling Amos Wako and silently endorsing his infamous ministers for internal security and defence- Saitoti and Haji, not forgetting Muchiki as they supervise the atrocities visited on civilians as documented in the reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Release Political Prisoners and the state’s own Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Fifthly, crime rates are soaring not only because the police are not doing their job- some of the worst and most violent criminals have turned out to be off duty cops- but more poignantly because the Grand Coalition Government is NOT doing enough to address the underpinning factors which drive crime- poverty, unemployment, poor housing and lack of meaningful social programs to harness the energy, innovation and talents of the youth.

Yes, we know about the Youth Enterprise Fund. But I would advise my readers to digest what my Washington-based pal, medical doctor and perceptive and progressive political analyst Dr. Job Obonyo has to say in this posting from the Jukwaa online discussion forum about that program. It is too early to weigh in on judgment on the Kazi Kwa Vijana.

Seventhly, by not arresting those members of the police and security organs who gang raped and violently violated dozens if not hundreds of Kenyan women using the cover of the insecurity prevailing during the post election violence in early 2008, the Grand Coalition Government is sending a clear and blood curdling message to all women in Kenya that they will remain insecure in their own homes and wherever they go in the republic as long as this regime remains in place in its current form.

Eighthly, lack of concrete strategies to deal with grand corruption of the Anglo-Leasing and Goldenberg variety is a guarantee that our deep financial insecurities as a nation will not abate. For every Kamlesh Pattni and Ketan Somaia who is hauled before the court of public opinion as a South Asian diversionary scapegoat, there is a very black, very indigenous African Professor Saitoti and Eric Kotut who is granted immunity from prosecution by our own human rights lawyers and the courts.

Ninthly, the half-hearted attempts to deal with historical injustices are worrying many human rights crusaders and civil society activists. There is currently a raging debate on listservs like KPTJ on the efficacy of the brand new Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission given that it is headed by Ambassador and Professor Bethwel Kiplagat who was a former senior diplomat during the dark years of the Moi-KANU one party dictatorship.

Speaking personally, I have not been as keen to rubbish the efforts of the TJRC in advance pointing out that Kiplagat’s deputy is the well-respected human rights lawyer, feminist and democrat Ms. Betty Kaari Murungi who currently is the Vice-Chair of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and is widely respected internationally for her stellar leadership during the seven years she headed the woman focused Urgent Action Fund program for Africa. I have argued that that the TJRC is both a process and arena for struggle that social justice campaigners, former political prisoners and all progressive Kenyans and their allies should participate in, helping to shape the content, process and issues through mass mobilization and concrete interventions-in much the same way civil society influenced both the Waki and Kriegler and even the National Accord processes.

In fact, let me risk being guillotined next week by MY OWN POLITICAL FRIENDS in adding that when it comes to Ambassador Kiplagat, I have two things I can say IN HIS DEFENCE.

One, I remember moderating a day long meeting on the 22nd of December 2006 held at the Professional Centre in downtown Nairobi featuring hundreds of slum dwellers from Mathare and other informal settlements in and around the Kenyan capital. The focus of the gathering was to bring different tribes and communities together to dialogue around the then raging violent conflicts in places like Mathare. The grass roots organizers who put the event together were largely members of the radical Bunge la Mwananchi social movement. And one of their key supporters was none other than Ambassador Kiplagat (through Friends of Sports in Kenya) who along with the feisty and fearless Ms. Philo Ikonya and civil society leader Achoka Awori from the Sayari think tank were the main panelists at the meeting. The well attended event came up with very key recommendations around peace-building and conflict transformation. At the end of the meeting I could see Luos and Gikuyus hugging and pumping each other’s hands and I do know activists from both communities who later on carried on the spirit generated by this meeting to hold reconciliation and peace meetings in the same neighbourhoods at the height of the 2008 post election violence. How do I know all this? Well apart from moderating the session, I still have the DVD which covered every single minute for posterity. And lest you think my recording is fake, I will have you know that it was captured by none other than the intrepid PK Thumbi from the NCEC who Cyprian Nyamwamu, Kepta Ombati and Sophie Dola can vouch for.

The second reason for singling out Ambassador Kiplagat for praise dates back to the height of the post election violence. Some of my readers may remember a period when those patriotic Kenyans who happened to be of Gikuyu heritage and were working for peace, conflict transformation and national reconciliation were targeted with direct death threats. I am talking about death threats to people like Maina Kiai, Muthoni Wanyeki, David Ndii, Njeri Kabeberi and dozens of others working under the auspices of Kenyans for Peace, Truth and Justice. One of the less known activists in this category was a young militant known for his community organizing with Bunge la Mwananchi. He had been one of the main conveners of that December 2006 Professional Centre peace gathering that I mentioned above. He is one of the people who blew the whistle on the alleged meeting which took place in the State House just before the 2007 elections to plan the violence. He soon found himself on a death list and immediately went underground. Due to a number of developments that I won’t go into in the public domain, including some mistakes of his own, he found himself very vulnerable and trapped in the country. Guess who assisted him to leave the country and save his head from being separated from his body?

The same Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat.

Now, I am not saying that Prof. Kiplagat is a reincarnation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What I am saying is that the TJRC process is way bigger than any single individual and indeed if we started scrutinizing some of our latter day Kenyan democrats and civil society advocates we would find quite a few with somewhat murky pasts when it came to their records in defending human rights consistently over the last two decades.

For those of us who spent many years behind bars as political prisoners, who wallowed for decades in exile, who were perpetually harassed and intimidated by state agents for the long night of the 39 year old Kenyatta-Moi KANU one party dictatorship and indeed millions of Kenyans- the vast majority of our people actually, the idea of setting up a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission is not a moot academic point.

We need truth; we must hold the violators of human rights accountable- they should be tried and if found guilty, incarcerated, because they are the true big time criminals.

Of course we are painfully aware that processes such as the TJRC are deeply flawed. From the very beginning the powers that be tried to limit its agenda, exclude our most ardent voices from serving on it and cutting off other periods that should have been part of its mandate.

So what do we do?

Sit on our hands?

Shower its Commissioners with spiteful spittle?

It is NOT an option.

At least not for me.

The TJRC is an ARENA of struggle; it is like just like participating in imperfect elections under the rubric of formal multi-party "democracy" in a context of a very undemocratic constitution will remain frustrating and challenging interventions.

Seeking and finding justice, just like the quest for democracy and freedom can hardly be compared to boiling a cup of chai or rolling out three or four chapatis, to paraphrase Marehemu Mao Ze Dong.

Compatriots, friends, comrades and friends of Kenya, people have paid and are still paying with their blood for truth and justice, for freedom and democracy.

If we think that the TJRC will achieve those dreams by itself, then we are surely dreaming in pastel colours.

On the other hand, if we can use this imperfect process seeking truth and justice in our current circumstances, to consolidate the Kenyan progressive forces in our unequal battles against elitist interests then we have no reason to rush to the top of KICC and hurl ourselves to our ultimate doom in despair.


Let me go back to my pet peeves please.


4.0. Why Is The Kenyan State Our Gravest Security Threat?

I want to answer this question fully, but first let me get another thing off my chest.

I do not subscribe to the theory that Kenya is in the danger of becoming a so called “failed state”.

I have difficulties embracing the very concept itself. In one of my earlier blogs, way back
on August 19, 2004
I said as much.

Below is a summary and paraphrase of what was originally a very meandering, even rambling, convoluted essay:

Some people use the word “state” as a SYNONYM for “nation” or “country” and yet a “state” is not a nation, nor is a country necessarily a nation. And I am not going to veer off into a tangential controversy about the differences between a “nation” and a “country” although the Kiswahili distinctions of “serikali”(state), “taifa”(nation) “jamhuri” (republic) and “nchi”(country) should suffice to explain the differences in these concepts.

Marxist-Leninists have had more than their fair share of taking turns, waxing poetic and prosaic on the subject of the "state" and it is no surprise that even in the African parlance, a good percentage of the leading theorists on the state are either Marxists or people influenced by Marxism: Cabral, Nkrumah, Mafeje, Shivji, Tandon, Mamdani, Ntalaja, Slovo, Cronin, Ihonbvere, Ake, Jordan, Marcelino dos Santos and others.

So I am not issuing any prizes for any one who will be the first to guess where this definition of the state comes from:

“...the state is a special repressive force."

That is what Lenin (echoing Engels) said.

But what did he mean?

Bourgeois ideologues have seized on the language and especially the concept of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” to give it their own liberal spin- essentially distorting these words to imply that Lenin from the get go advocated a COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP led by a ruthless cabal of party apparatchiks and their bosses in their dachas.

THAT, is the SUPERFICIAL, gross misinformed and jaundiced misintepretation of Lenin's depiction of the State.

With his typical Marxist candour, Lenin was moving beyond bourgeois opportunism and cant to call things by their real name.

By the way, as an aside, was Marx a Marxist and was Lenin a Leninist?

Just kidding. Inside joke. Ha .Ha. Never mind. Let us move on...

And what he was saying was this:

In a socially stratified society, there is NO SUCH THING as a “neutral” dola (what some people call "serikali") that serves ALL of the citizens of a country equally.

There is NO equality before the law or equality of opportunity.

There is no social contract between the rulers and the ruled.

That is why I loved those KANU bigwigs of yesteryear when they used to say, “KANU ina wenyewe” meaning that there was a particular clique of politicians that really owned and controlled KANU.

Today one can say the same thing about political formations representing the various fractions and factions of the mainstream Kenyan elite.

Of course there is always the popular fiction rooted in Jean Jacques Rousseau and other petit-bourgeois liberal philosophers that a state comes into being as a result of some mythical social contract.

The contemporary version of this urban legend is that when “citizens” of a “democracy” go to the polls every four or five years, they “elect” a “government” that then proceeds to oversee the running of the “democratic state” on behalf of the “citizens” and “tax payers” who have given them a popular and legal mandate.


This illusion exists most strongly in advanced capitalist countries like Canada, Germany, Japan, the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France and so on.

Given the maturity of monopoly capitalism, these societies can afford the trappings of bourgeois liberal democracy- civil rights and certain fundamental freedoms guaranteed and protected by law and even politicians being occasionally susceptible to popular pressure.


At the same time we do know that when push does come to shove, the various elites representing the dominant forces of capital in these societies will call the shots.

But it is all done deftly and with a great deal of sophistication.

As Chomsky has taught us in another context, people are often persuaded to participate in their own subjugation directly or indirectly through the manufacture of consent.

And this gets to the point where someone feels there are “free” if they can get their letter to the editor published in their local paper; if they can get to smash a pie into the pudgy face of the local mayor, stomp on a flag, scream at a uniformed police officer or spit on their trained canine colleagues.


Going back to Lenin's depiction of the state as a special coercive force, we find out that he derived that concept from the following passages of Fredrick Engels' Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, which traces the concept historically:

"The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it 'the reality of the ethical idea', 'the image and reality of reason', as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of 'order'; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state...As distinct from the old gentile [tribal or clan] order, the state, first, divides its subjects according to territory...This division seems "natural" to us, but it costs a prolonged struggle against the old organization according to generations or tribes. The second distinguishing feature is the establishment of a public power which no longer directly coincides with the population organizing itself as an armed force. This special, public power is necessary because a self-acting armed organization of the population has become impossible since the split into classes.... This public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons, and institutions of coercion of all kinds, of which gentile [clan] society knew nothing..."

This Marxist-Leninist conceptualization of the State is very far removed from the familiar liberal and superficial fictions we often come across in texts churned out by run of the mill bourgeois academics the world over who have an ideological investment in keeping the true character of this apparatus of power and social control hidden from the very people it lords over.

It is very convenient for imperialists in the North and their surrogates in the South to lead their subjects by the nose, misleading them to think that they have some sort of say in the day to day running of the affairs of state.

To a certain extent, part of the seething anger by millions of Kenyans against Kibaki and his NAK cronies (an anger that I have myself, expressed several times) for “selling out” the aspirations of the Wananchi is thus completely misplaced because if you look at it from the perspective of the Michukis and Murungarus, they did not sell out anybody; their access to some of the state levers of power- everything from ensuring that Kibaki was the designated Presidential candidate to ensuring it was the Muthauras and Keriris handling the cabinet and public appointments in January 2003 were part of a consciously thought out plan to ensure that a certain faction or fragment of the comprador/petit-bourgeoisie in Kenya gained control over this or that segment of the state.

If for example, acceding to the Bomas Draft would thwart those plans they would put as many obstacles on the way to its passage as possible.

Likewise for the LDP faction- if pushing for the Bomas Draft would increase its overall chances of being the dominant local player in the Kenyan state then they would of course do everything possible to make this a reality.


Notice that these adroit factional manoeuvrings have very little to do with democratization.

But why would someone want to control the Kenyan state?

Just before that, any more light on what constitutes the instruments of state coercion?

Apart from the OBVIOUS ONES like the police, the prisons, the courts; there are other secondary ones like access to paid employment, the civil service and public sector, parliament, ideological institutions and instruments like the media and other affiliated structures.

In a so called “Third World” country with a dependent economy such as Kenya's, controlling the levers of state power is doubly crucial because the state is the ng'ombe ya gredi, it is the mrija from which these political business Anglofleecing Goldenbergers suck national resources from the state coffers to fatten themselves and their immediate families, friends, schoolmates, drinking and golfing partners and of course, the associated network of courtesans and get away drivers.

If you, dear, most likely “liberal-democratic” Reader, were to put on OUR Marxist spectacles that we are very willing to lend YOU, then you then see how impatient are the Murungarus and Co who are so impatient with people who are standing in their way as they to consolidate their local aspects of state power- which as we will soon see, is a little bit more complex, a structure so wedded to the global imperialist project as to reduce the Kibakis to mere errand boys who are rewarded with paltry personal payoffs that only serve to undermine the willingness of Kenyan politicians to exhibit a backbone that would enable them to stand up to the World Banks and the IMFs.

What kind of a state is the one that exists in Kenya?

First of all, let us rule out what IT IS NOT.

Kenya is NOT an INDEPENDENT state.

Clearly the vomiting (or the vomited on) Edward Clays and their fellow Western envoys have all but demonstrated that our local misrulers take their orders from smug, often racist, foreign, unelected securocrats, bureaucrats and diplomats.

Secondly, Kenya is NOT a democratic state.

Thirdly, Kenya is NOT a Wananchi's State- which definitely would have had a very different and definite set of priorities than the ones which sees today as Kibaki begs for food after blaming the weather while his ever fattening assistant minister Njeru Githae urges us to arm ourselves with rungus, mikuki, mishale and njoras with which to club, pierce, slash and chop up the mice, rats and bats senseless and into tiny bits and pieces if we want to guarantee our next available source of abundant and non-imported protein.

Fourthly, there is nothing “progressive” about the state that exists in Kenya today-it would not let a young mother of twins wallow in a medical clinic in Nyambene, locked up in the clinic because she could not afford her treatment.

Summing up, whatever else it is, we know this about the current character of the Kenyan State:

It is a dependent,undemocratic, backward anti-people structure of organized overt and covert coercion.

Sometimes we call such States “neo-colonial”.

Why “neo-colonial”?

Why not “post-colonial”?

Why not “rogue”?

Why not “failed” state?

For a very simple reason.

The person who is writing is neither a garden variety petit-bourgeois liberal hack yapping about “transparency, good governance and accountability” nor is he a pompous academic jackass who has blown the final whistle on all prospects for “reform” in Kenya because all these politicians and activists have refused to play nice and just do their little “liberalism, democracy and human rights” TM meditation session.

Mainstream bourgeois scholarship is notoriously nebulous and imprecise when it comes to nailing down concepts and definitions about various social, economic and political phenomena.

For instance, if you ask an average, regular petit-bourgeois Kenyan sociologist to describe for you, in their own words, our country's social class structure, they will immediately blurt out such crude and mechanical words like “lower class” “middle-class” “upper middle-class” and even throw in the notorious “underclass” that mean precious little when you want to examine the relationships that large groups of Kenyans have to each other in terms of their economic functions and attendant power dynamics.

This is not the place to go into details showing WHY an impoverished dukawallah in Shauri Yako estate, Nakuru, is STILL a member of the Kenya petit-bourgeoisie while a highly paid webmaster at Nation Newspapers on Kimathi Street, Nairobi, remains a member of the Kenyan working class- their CLASS IDENTITY being underscored by their relationship to the MEANS OF PRODUCTION rather than by their income levels-even as we realize that the dukawallah is likely to close his duka to become a cashier at Uchumi or Nakumatt even as the unionized webmaster ponders over whether it is time to quit his day job to open a cybercafe/webhosting business.....

Demonize and trash it all you want but many political scientists and others who dabble in the social sciences ACKNOWLEDGE the enormous value the Marxist-Leninist approach has added enormously and tremendously to the study of human society-whether you want to talk about philosophy, politics, economics, social theory, literature, psychology, anthropology, linguistics and yes, sociology as well...

The notion of the “post-colonial state” in my opinion describes a historical juncture rather than the structure or character of a specific, historically determined type of state.

It is like describing an adult as a “post-child”-the only useful information you glean from that label is that said individual is way past childhood- but you will still have to look elsewhere to describe the ADULT in front of you.

What is a “Rogue State”?

I think that the United States and the United Kingdom under Bush and Blair respectively QUALIFIED amply for this diagnosis of “Rogue State”, even though I suspect that the coiners of the term “rogue state” did not have these IMPERIALIST monopoly capitalist states in mind when they did that from their neo-conservative, Ivy League ivory towers.

And a “Failed State” to me would be more of a MORAL value judgment rather than an OBJECTIVE description of a certain political structure existing concretely at a given point in human history.

Why is Somalia a “failed state” just because it lacks a CENTRAL GOVERNMENT as opposed to Canada with its strong FEDERAL GOVERNMENT that has nevertheless SO FAR FAILED to solve the NATIONAL QUESTION in Quebec?

t is obvious that it depends on who is doing the FINGER POINTING and in whose interests.


If the present Kenyan state is a repressive, undemocratic neocolonial state maintaining a dependent, parasitic local “economy” that is subservient to the dictats of US led imperialist machinations in the region, then it follows that progressive Kenyans must struggle TO SEIZE STATE power in order to DESTROY the neo-colonial state and replace it with a NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC STATE whose main legal safeguard must be a people-driven KATIBA.


My problem with the Kenyan state has a lot to do with the reality that it is fully operational as a state, in the sense that Vladimir Lenin used the term.

The instruments of coercion, repression and outright state violence against the Kenyan people are fully operational as can be seen in the reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Release Political Prisoners, Kenya Human Rights Commission and similar watch dogs.

In this context, the Kenyan state as presently constituted is very much alive and killing.

Those of us who argue from class positions (considered anachronistic in these neo-liberal salad days) posit state structures are historically determined and influenced by ideology and particular alignments of social groups and economic interests with the most dominant controlling political power and therefore using state organs like the police, the armed forces, the prisons, the laws of the land, parliament, the civil service and other institutions of public administration, local government and parastatals to buttress their rule.

Kenya is a neo-colonial state, meaning that the structures we still have in Kenya today are almost virtually identical to those who inherited from the British colonialists with the only major difference being the skin colour of those misgoverning us.

It is therefore hardly surprising to find what the Waswahili refer to as Kasumba ya Ukoloni Mamboleo permeating all these institutions.

What we need to add is that there is a qualitative difference between the neo-colonial state currently being mismanaged by the Kibaki led Grand Coalition regime and the first two administrations of Kenyatta and Moi.

While in essence Kibaki is a continuation (was indeed part of) the first two KANU administrations, what distinguishes the Grand Coalition Government is a new quasi formal appendage on the side.

I am talking of the Three Vice Roys.

In an article that the Nairobi-based Sunday Express refused to publish when I was still their Political Editor and had a weekly column (which they abruptly yanked, sometimes in mid April 2009) I said inter alia:


What Do We Do With Our Three Viceroys?

Commentary by Onyango Oloo, Political Editor

The online encyclopedia site known as Wikipedia defines a viceroy as “a royal official who governs a country or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch”.

Even though Kenya does not have any medieval or feudal ties with any foreign country, I often get the impression that we have at least THREE viceroys based right here in Nairobi.

I am referring to the chief diplomatic representatives of the United States of America, the UK and Germany.

Hardly a day passes without one of the three ambassadors pontificating about the affairs of state in this country, which ostensibly got its independence from Britain almost a half century ago.

We see the trio lecturing and hectoring us regularly on corruption, the size of government and other national priorities.

I find this phenomenon simply bizarre and surreal.

Having spent close to twenty years as a permanent resident of Canada living in Toronto and Montreal I never witnessed the spectacle of foreign envoys deigning to rule a country they were posted in by proxy, wagging the finger at the head of state and issuing all kinds of threats.

Why are we, especially the co-principals of the grand coalition countenancing this?

I can answer part of my own question by reflecting on some of the trade offs emanating from the National Accord which created the power sharing arrangement between PNU and ODM last year.

Having pushed Kenya to the brink of civil war and genocidal conflict, the mainstream politicians found themselves roped in by Western powers anxious to safe-guard their geo-political strategic interests by imposing their own version of “peace” “calm” and “stability”.

Being bankrupt to boot, it was a moot question whether we could do anything about the wanton interference from our so called “development partners”.


With our proud history of resistance to foreign domination- a tradition which stresses back over 500 years to the years of opposing Portuguese rule at the Coast, we must strive to fix our own house by jump-starting the necessary constitutional and democratic reforms that will see us retake charge of determining our collective national destiny.

In the meantime, our three viceroys would be well advised to show more respect to the country and its internal governance structures and institutions.
(Submitted to the paper's Managing Editor on Thursday, Jan 29, 2009 at 6:33 PM; rejected 18 minutes later)


It is widely believed by many Kenyan pundits and observers (like Onyango Oloo) that it was t behind the scenes pressure from The Three Vice Roys which
catapulted Ambassador Kiplagat to head the TJRC.

With the Three Vice Roys in place, the Grand Coalition Government is in effect headed by the President, the Prime Minister and the respective Western ambassadors from the United States, Germany and the UK.

That means that the International Community (Ugandan activist scholar Prof. Mamdani argues in his latest book Saviours and Survivors that this is a euphemism for the Western powers) is also complicit in all the crimes of commission and omission perpetrated against the Kenyan people.

What has been worrying me for some time are the persistent reports I get from very many credible circles across the country that the various contingents of the Kenyan elite are busy piling up their respective war chests for 2012.

And I do not invoke the martial imagery of war chests loosely, I might add.

A very close friend of mine who happens to be a human rights lawyer hailing from Central Kenya told me a few months ago that in his own back yard most of the politicians are putting together THEIR OWN private armies. Come 2012, they will not have to outsource to Mungiki or any other brigands, because they would have in place their own hand picket and trained militias answerable directly to them.

Another close political associate from the Kalenjin community in the Rift Valley Province confided in me sometime in May that if Kenyans think that what happened in early 2008 was alarming, let us wait and see what will happen if Kibaki and PNU go ahead with their plans to dismember the country along ethnic lines with their projected micro- provinces and further proliferation of districts.

In Nyanza (whether you are talking about the Kuria, the Gusii or the Luo parts) what is now seen as criminal and vigilante-driven violence could easily and quickly metamorphose into something more deadly if over ambitious political aspirants decide to bank roll these thugs as their storm troopers come 2012. The same thing can be said of Angola-Msumbiji in Western province.

Let us not forget that the Maasai community is very much disgruntled at the failure to do something from the ramifications of the disastrous one sided “Agreements” at the turn of the last century. Consider this excerpt from a recent article in the New African by Wanjohi Kabukuru:


…The inimitable lake is in the Great Rift Valley which traverses through East and the Horn of Africa. It is near the historic Olorgesaile site, known for its anthropological secrets. It is called Lake Magadi, one of the world’s largest producers of soda ash, an important compound in the chemical industry.

The Lake Magadi deposits are exploited and processed into soda ash (sodium bicarbonate) by the Magadi Soda Company. Almost 90% of the company’s products is exported. Soda ash is used in the manufacture of glass, a variety of chemicals, soaps, paper and paper pulp, water treatment, oil refining, synthetic rubber and explosives.

But unknown to many people, Lake Magadi symbolizes a century of injustice to the Maasai community on whose land the lake sits. It all began on 10 August 1904 when the then British Commissioner in Kenya, Sir Donald Stewart, met Maasai leaders and made them sign the infamous Maasai Agreement of 1904, under which the Maasai “agreed” to “remove [their] people, flocks and herds into definite reservations away from the railway line, and away from any land that may be thrown open to European settlement.”

The agreement stipulated that the Maasai had to move to two reserves, the Laikipia plateau and the Ngong Reserve, separated by the railway line which cut across their land. As a consolation, they were to be linked by a track, half a mile long, for easy movement of both people and livestock. The agreement was to be in force for as “long as the Maasai race shall exist.”

The second Maasai treaty, the Anglo-Maasai Agreement of 4 April 1911, was reached by the then Governor Sir Percy Girouard. In both agreements, the issue of Lake Magadi did not feature prominently. Though the lake is principally within Maasailand, it is owned by foreigners. The local Maasai community provides labour only. They are not shareholders.

It is the 1911 Maasai Treaty that saw the Magadi Soda Company coming into being and at the same time falling into the hands of foreigners, with little regard to the surrounding community.

At that time a company formed in England, in the county of Cheshire, by John Brunner and Ludwig Mond under the name Brunner, Mond & Company was already producing soda ash. The global demand for soda ash and its derivatives saw the company grow steadily, and in 1924 Magadi Soda Company of Kenya became a wholly owned subsidiary of Brunner & Mond Company.

Two years later, long before mergers were in vogue, Brunner Mond merged with three other British chemical companies- Nobel Industries, United Alkali and British Dyestuffs- to form the formidable Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), which went on to become one of the world’s largest and most successful companies.

In 1991, Brunner Mond Holdings Limited bought the UK and Kenyan soda ash business from ICI, and the original Brunner Mond came back as phoenix and independent company.

Come 2006, Tata Chemicals Limited-a subsidiary of the giant Tata Group of India- got hold of the Brunner Mond Group, turning around the fortunes of Brunner Mond/Magadi Soda/Tata Chemicals group as the third largest producer of soda ash in the world, after FMC of the USA and Solvay Chemical of Belgium.

The Brunner Mond/Magadi Soda/Tata Chemicals group is the only one in the world to have both the manufacturing and supply links spread on three continents (Europe, Africa, Asia). Interestingly, Magadi Soda Ash has the cheapest production costs in the world due to surface mining and dredging. A tonne of soda ash currently sells at 160 Euros on the world market. Tata Chemicals has a controlling stake of 63.5 % of the equity of the Brunner Mond Group. The remaining 36.5% was acquired through an open offer in March 2006, making Brunner Mond a complete affiliate of Tata Chemicals. The acquisition was funded through internal cash balances, including funds from a recent $ 150 million convertible bonds issue.

Though the Maasai have complained for years about Magadi Soda and their land, little has happened. The Tata Group has an annual turnover of $ 14 billion. Little of this trickles down to the Maasai.
-Wanjohi Kabukuru, “The Wealth of Ashes” New African, June 2009, pp36-37.

At the Coast the failure by successive governments since independence to deal with issues of development, poverty alleviation, and politically well connected up country elites and blatant Muslim profiling may prove to be a recruiting ground not only Al-Qaeda but the Mji Kenda based irredentist movement which spawned the outfits that unleashed so much state-sponsored violence back in 1997.

We all know what is happening throughout northern Kenya- from the resource based conflicts between the Pokot and the Turkana (not overlooking illegal forays by the trigger-happy members of the Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces) to the spill over battles between the Ethiopian regime and the Oromo guerrillas who often seek refuge among their Borana cousins and of course the biggest head ache- the seeping southwards of the Somali civil war with Al Shabab recruiting not just in Mandera, Garissa and Wajir but right down to sprawling ethnic Somali neighbourhoods of Eastliegh in the Kenyan capital itself.

Mungiki affiliated gangs have grabbed our front page attention for the havoc they wreak in Central and Eastern provinces.

But Kenyans should be MORE worried about the so called “vigilantes” roaming around places like Kirinyaga in Martha Karua's backyard because they are in my opinion, little more than state sponsored death squads in the making, very much in mould of the thugs in El Salvador and similar private armies connected to the far right in Central and South America.

Folks, let us gird ours loins as we prepare for the very real possibility of a version of low intensity conflict in Kenya which is likely to be MORE bastardized and savage because its targets will not be politically conscious leftist well organized armed opposition groups, but on the contrary, innocent unarmed Kenyan civilians in the urban and rural areas whose only crime will be to belong to the “wrong tribe” and wear t-shirts from the “wrong electoral vehicle”.

Let me repeat a passage I had used in my last digital essay:

For almost one and a half years since that historic date, optimistic Kenyans crossed their toes and fingers and maintained a collectively held breath praying and hoping, cajoling and haranguing the principals and their abject attack hounds to get their act together and pull back Kenya from the brink of an ethnicized implosion that would reduce our beautiful country into a cauldron so scalding that the atrocious genocidal conflagrations in Liberia, Sierra Leone, DR Congo and Somalia would look like soothing coolers from a sturdy Frigidaire in comparison.

It is now becoming more and more apparent that millions of Kenyans are already sharing the fate of the frustrated gambler, locked in the lavatory, crying his eyes out after squandering all his life savings on the wrong cousin of the lowly donkey at the Ng’ong’ race course.

Yes, we have been boinked, forcefully and repeatedly, without our express consent. The criminal procedure code defines that act as rape.

The Kibaki and Raila led regime set up in February 2008 has conned and let down Kenyans by short-changing us of our democratic aspirations and derailing our efforts at implementing good governance, sustainable economic strategies, deepening a human rights culture and rooting out corruption, crime and insecurity.



5.0. So What Do We DO About All This?

Guess what?

That is the subject of my NEXT digital essay.

But the Anglican Church in Eldoret is already showing some of the baby steps we can begin taking with this Power Point presentation.

Onyango Oloo

3 comments:

ThinkingMansUhuru said...

"Kenya should not get sucked into the Somalia conflict but concentrate on securing its borders and actively supporting its resolution."

Indeed.. they have enough problems as it is with internal struggles, land grabs, cattle rustling in Turkana district, and other ills.

However.. one must not make the mistake of assuming that Marxism will bring about a change, in fact, while Marx may have been right on some things in regards to the situation in Kenya, Marxism enacted in Kenya would look alot more like another state, then what it might pertain to be.

What is really needed, which I think is what you were hinting at ( I don't think you were advocating Marxism in principle) is true democracy, and in this respect, I applaud the Anglican Church in Eldoret for it's persistence on justice and sustainable governance. Ironically, in a place with separation of church and state, it may be the Church that has thing right..

Kenya Democracy Project said...

Thinking Man's Uhuru:

I appreciate your comments.

One day we will engage further on the issue of Marxism and democracy, but for now all I will say is that to me, Marxist is a guide, one of the ways of analysing issues like democracy and so forth.

Onyango Oloo

Anonymous said...

Oloo,
I don't know how you expect anyone to read your mumbo-jumbo? Ever thought of making your articles short, clear and articulate? You exhibit the classic signs of chronic verbal diarrhoeia. I guess that is why most of those who know you do everything to avoid you?

To a more positive view. I see a highly intelligent individual penning your post. But at the same time, I see an intelligent individual who doesn't seem to know what to say, when to say, and most importantly, when to STOP belabouring the same point. Precisely why we kicked you out of Sunday Express!