Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is a Fake "Revolution" Being Courted in Kenya?

[The following piece is from the Jukwaa Kenyan Discussion forum. The author is a Washington-based Kenyan commentator].

By Dr. Job Obonyo

I have great respect for whistle-blowing corruption watchdogs and various human rights organizations that have recently sprung up in Kenya.

Some have recently burst into the mainstream with impressive zeal and vigor, questioning budgets, irregular procurements, extrajudicial killings and such.

My only growing concern is the increasing influence of Western forces (& foreign diplomats) in setting agenda within SOME of these organizations.

There seems to be exceedingly more donor input into agenda setting in the activities of certain NGOs and civil society entities.

Their funding by foreign agencies seems primarily hinged on total submission of their respective rights to determine intrinsic missions and goals surrounding their activities. In other words, they have become local appendages of select foreign interests.

Whilst we have excellent home-grown NGOs and civil society participants in Kenya, some entities that are overly praised by the West, get such accolades for very different reasons. By merely submitting their agenda-setting role to Western expatriates, donors and diplomats, such bodies readily get resources poured into them. They may literally end up engaged in fueling fake colour revolutions on behalf of the West.

I recently viewed several video clips posted in a civic organization’s website (I’ll not name it) and noticed one peculiar pattern. Right before my eyes, I was seeing the exact words previously uttered by a powerful foreign diplomat being played out at the grassroots. I was seeing a colour theme, a non-violent theme, and a youth-led initiative, against the government.

For the past year and a half, US Ambassador, Michael Ranneberger, has several times urged the Kenyan youth to mobilize ‘themselves’ and force the grand coalition government to bring reforms.

Other political pretenders masquerading as minders of youth interests have lately added their not-too-veiled rejoinders.

Fast forward to August 2009...and quickly following were these videos, on this website run by a contemporaneous non-governmental entity, depicting well organized and articulate youth at the grassroots, engaged in clearly targeted civic duties relating to promotion of voting awareness and civic participation in political discourse.

I see them in coloured T-shirts with a foreign slogan/logo. Well resourced, well trained, and charmingly persuasive. Penetrating institutions of higher learning as well as rural grassroots with a non-violent message for change. Liberally embracing Obama's speeches.

(A small sidenote - while verbalizing political neutrality, it is noticeable that one of its key participants has entered the parliamentary race for a seat in an upcoming by-election.)

In their well oiled activities, there is a very clear undertone to undermine the current grand coalition government and bring awareness about its failures to the populace.

No effort is made to dislose that both reform and anti-reform elements sit within the grand coalition, tussling in opposite directions for the right to steer the country forward.

At the backdrop is a salient theme to associate two individuals, one Mwai Kibaki and another Raila Odinga, as the sole custodians of the GCG carcass - who specifically need rejection by Kenyans in the process of 'expected' change.

Who is charting this type of change that seeks to predetermine democratic choice for Kenyans? Is it the West? Is it an intrinsic and local grassroots phenomenon? Or is it a little bit of both?

Glancing at recent opinion polls, it seems these Western-directed NGOs are at variance with the populace but nevertheless want to force their opinion on the masses.

Polls show that a majority of Kenyans want to give the GCG some time to effect reforms, while these NGOs scream about resignation and fresh polls (even before we get a new constitution).

Polls also show that Raila Odinga is overwhelmingly favoured to lead the country while the same NGOs keep blurting the trumpet sounds about Kibaki-and-Raila need to step down and allow change to happen.

Very very clever and disenginuous! Trying to deny Kenyans their very right to choose in the name of democracy and change.

While engaging in civic duty is a noble thing, it must never be an exercise of influence pushing. There are some NGOs currently bankrolled by the West that appear to be very keen to engage in suspicious civic duties that pretend to 'teach' people how to vote and how not to vote.

In some of their video clips, they keep yapping about how grassroots voters are illiterate and need some little 'awareness'. UNDP cites that more than 75% of Kenyans have literacy levels adequate for comprehending voting materials.

Many illiterate folks are often assisted at the polls with trained electoral body staff. These folks have a clear political conscience about what they want and majority have reasonable levels of literacy. People's voting must never be politically influenced by the civil society.

We must be very careful to note that while Kenyans badly seek certain fundamental reforms, certain powerful foreign governments also need urgent reforms of quite a different nature from ours.

They may be increasingly getting frustrated by the pace of reforms, but the West must not be allowed to force their prescribed agenda and speed upon Kenya.

A recent poll showed 45% of Kenyans want the coalition government to resign and hold fresh elections while 54% want it to complete its term while ushering envisaged reforms. This must be discomforting news to them.

One can’t fail to notice that the West is more anxious than the Kenyan public for different reasons. The tone and language of restlessness and frustration by several foreign diplomats (including those at the very top) is now commonplace.

While all masterminds and participants of the 2008 post election violence should face justice, whether at the ICC or locally, the failure of the cabinet and parliament to chart a clear framework cannot be reduced solely into a Kibaki-and-Raila problem by sections of the civil society backed by the West – all who incidentally have watched the clear machinations of known suspects sitting in the same cabinet and parliament.

Did anyone hear or see these 'revolutionary' NGOs organize protest marches demanding resignation of well known PEV masterminds who hold senior cabinet positions? Let us beware of fake revolutionaries. Even Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka once declared he was Kenya's foremost revolutionary.

For full disclosure, I personally want genuine, people based reforms instituted in Kenya in the earliest possible time. But for heavens sake, let us get the right reforms in line with our needs, such as the beautiful proposals held in the Bomas draft constitution that also guarantee human and labour rights.

Some Kenyan civil society actors claiming to be in the human rights front will soon find themselves in collision course with rights of labourers ( who happen to be human) - when they help entrench more Western liberal interests in our country.

I don’t think the Rannebergers and such folks can steer Kenya towards any good reforms other than more liberalization of our poorly regulated economy that encourage human and labour exploitation – thus I will be very careful to ride the same ‘reform’ bus with those Ambassadors and their collaborators in the civil society.

It seems these foreign interests don’t mind an openly concerted effort to mobilize a; youth-initiated, well-funded, grassroots-based, gender-inclusive movement, to stir rebellion against the grand coalition government led by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.

In the videos I witnessed were classic signs of a Western-engineered insurrection, probably aimed (in the near future) at installing a more pliant neo-liberal government in power in Kenya.

The idea is to tap into peoples’ anger and disillusionment with government, then prematurely misdirect them and plant a more Western-friendly puppet government.

It is a plain fact that Western-manufactured revolutions have been surreptitiously triggered before in Serbia (the 5th October Overthrow), Georgia (the Rose Revolution), and Ukraine (the Orange Revolution), and have also been previously attempted with no success in Zimbabwe.

The one common thing about all of them is their non-violent theme.

Non-Violence is a fingerprint of all insurrections bred through Western pro-democracy institutions such as the Washington DC based, National Endowment for Democracy, the International Center on Non Violent Conflict and others.

Incidentally, all those videos I watched depicting grassroots mobilization by the Kenyan youth, stress on Non-Violence, as a method of organization and mobilization – which is a good thing by the way.

This idea of non-violence, spoken before by Ranneberger, did not just spring up from nowhere... there was first, a Non-Violent Conflict Training Workshop organized in Nairobi last year, when these ideas starting being peddled by local ambassadors and select civil society players.

The local NGO forum proudly displays on its website as their logo/slogan (also appearing on conspicuous T-Shirts worn by their youth organizers), in foreign writing, the specific non-violent theme of the Western-engineered civilian coup in Serbia. The word in Serbian is traslated to - non-violent.

The big question is - are sections within the civil society working with the West, to trigger a choreographed (but christened ‘spontaneous’), non-violent, grassroots-organized eruption of popular anger against the grand coalition government? Who knows!

We need to interrogate the rationale held by our Kenyan brothers and sisters, the so called non-violence, pro-democracy activists who cheer on, and contribute to the organizing of fake color revolutions and popular coups that may only end up bringing more misery.

Let’s remember that fake revolutions inspired and funded by the West can often undermine truly popular home-grown revolutions.

We need to re-read Onyango Oloo's ideas (in the respective thread) about a truly popular United Democratic Front comprising the youth, women, workers (& labour union), farmers, peasants, disabled folks and all other groups in Kenya.


Beaverland said...

This is a commendable piece.

We must remember a few facts:

Raila and Kibaki are supposed to be deep rivals and enemies. They have however both shown leadership in many respects and the following few points come to mind:
-Mwai Kibaki refused to use Kenyan armed forces to fight/kill Kenyans at the height of post election violence. This would have been a terrible nightmare for it would have been very much possible for the armed ranks to fracture along tribal lines, break the chain of command and that would have been the end of Kenya as we know it. If you remember a lot of people within the BBC as elsewhere in the western media were very upset that Kibaki was not sending out the forces. Others were desperately urging Banki-Moon to send in UN forces.

-Raila Odinga angreed to participate in the grand coalition and to in many respects be percieved as some kind of number two vice insisting on the presidency. Had he remained intransigent,as the west would most probably have preferred, most probably it would be a Somalia situation right now.

Please also remember how nicely Kenya had progressed pre-2007elections. Had it not been for Raila supporting Kibaki, "Kibaki anatosha" in 2002, and supporting his president for five long years, it may never have been possible for those beautiful we heard about( I was away all this time relative to events since 2007).

We must also ask ourselves the following questions:

How many foreign organizations drove the agenda in the United States leading to the election of Barack Obama?

If it is so difficult for a sick Kenyan to travel overeseas for regular visits to us their relatives, for medical attention, for education opportunities etc because of visa requirements, and some Canadians of Kenyan decent are having their Canadian passports cancelled and thrown to jail by Canadian diplomats in Kenya, what deeper interests do these same diplomats have for the welfare of Kenyans in Kenya?

Why should we not trust that we have built our Kenya for forty six years since independence, by the way, from western direct political rule and entrench our capabilities to move to what was always meant to be the second phase: economic freedom. Jomo Kenyatta and colleagues did not chase all the British because they hoped for a gradual technological transfer. We forgot this when we began fighting each other and running away to foreign countries. That is what we should be busy doing. We should let our political institutions run the way they are. Our president and his cabinet, including the Prime Minister runs for five years. It is in our best interest that we respect that.

Anonymous said...

Even if some groups are too "pro-western", breaking ties with such would be foolish. Opposition needs to be unified to succeed. Often (always) it means making the deal with devil and co-operating with groups with opposite goals.

A true leader is not one who blindly drives his agenda and splits from people who disagree. A true leader joins unlikely groups.

ps. interesting countries in your total visitor counter - certainly shows that there is some truth that western countries are more interested in kenyan democracy than kenyans themself...

Unknown said...

Dr. Obonyo is correct to suggest that civic groups be driven exclusively by local grievances and propelled by domestic forces. But he is not correct when he lambastes all those nonviolent revolutions of recent years in various countries as being "fake" or "on behalf of the West". Serbians hated Milosevic, who was a dictator, and Yushchenko's predecessor in Ukraine tolerated the murder of journalists and the stealing of elections. They and their parties deserved to be ousted. The movements which did so were not operated or inspired by Western NGO's, who wouldn't have had any idea how to persuade a million ordinary people to take to the streets of those countries. You don't get people to do that unless they really want change. The false notion of a Western hand behind these movements has been promoted by the Russian government and other regimes to try to discredit what their own people might do. By the way, one of those NGO's, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, is not a "democracy-promoting institution" but a private, nonprofit educational foundation that only distributes books, videos and other information about nonviolent action of all kinds. It is important to make such distinctions about different Western groups, just as Dr. Obonyo does about Kenyan groups.

kawive, said...

This is a good commentary on the issue of revolutions or lack thereof in this country. There is of course alot of double grassroot mobilisation praised and joining elective politics condemned...but in the whole, all revolutions the world over can never be can not use both FAKE & REVOLUTION together in a sentence.

Much as i like the fact that we can have of a market of ideas, it is important to appreciate our circumstances.

We face in this country a failure of institutions and hence a collapse of the collective consciousness to do right: our way to recovery was lost during the referendum campaigns.

We have an opportunity though, and i have no quarrel with non-violence, but grassroot mobilisation should be coupled with national advocacy and the takeover of leadership positions.

Lets be realistic; when it was said the cold war ended, we were not told what replaced it. But world political tensions are battlegrounds, not necessarily of supremacy but necessarily of control.

Kenya Democracy Project said...

Note from Mwalimu Mati of the MARS Group:


Perhaps you could help me by sharing this link:


which perhaps constitute some form of explanation of what's being done and why - for whom although as yet not by whom.

"We reffirm our right to continue doing what we are doing despite people's perceptions."

Godfrey said...

Fake or not, we need revolution in Kenya. Its amazing that after everything that's happened in Kenya, there are people who still believe in Kibaki, Raila, etc. President Obama, Ambassadour Ranneberger, et al, have simply come to the obvious conclusion that the current ruling class in Kenya is an impediment to progress. Look at the lists of names that have been released in relation to PEV, Mau Forest, ADC farms, etc. There really is NONE among these group of kleptocrats that can offer any hope.

Anonymous said...

is kenya youth forum for change a genuine registered org?