Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who Stands to Gain from Uhuru Park Bombing?

A Digital Essay from Onyango Oloo in Nairobi

At the very outset, my heart felt mkono wa tanzia (condolences) to the families, friends, lovers, neighbours, associates and work-mates of all those innocent people whose lives were brutally cut short by callous, spineless and politically well connected assassins over the weekend at the tragic Uhuru Park NO rally.

The planners and perpetrators of this demonic outrage should be scientifically, methodically and ruthlessly hunted down, swiftly arrested and arraigned in court to be held accountable for these latest crimes against Kenyan humanity.

There is simply no justification that can ameliorate the needless tears, pain and suffering that we as Kenyans are going through right now.

No doubt one of the biggest questions going through our collective minds is:

Who could have done this?

I will make an attempt to answer this question without succumbing to sub judice.

From the time I was able to string words along to make sense on a printed page- and that goes back to when I was six or seven, I have always been fascinated by detective stories.

As a Kenyan child growing up at the Mariakani Estate in Nairobi’s South B neighbourhood-and I am talking way back 1965, 66,67, 68- I remember how avid a fan I was for comic books like Beano and Dandy imported from the UK and available all over Nairobi. There was always an adventure, a mystery or something to be unraveled in those illustrated comic pages.

What I craved for even more were the more local stories of crime and punishment.

I do not know how many of the Kenyans reading this recall the exploits of Lance Spearman and Fearless Fang.

These were two intrepid crime busters who were portrayed by real flesh and blood Africans.

Both were to be found in slim magazines which I believe came out every week or so it seemed to me. At that time I was staying with my auntie Alice who had been my nursery school teacher at the Railway Training School and her son, my first cousin Evans Otieno Owiti who was two years older than I made sure we got the latest issues of Lance Spearman and Fearless Fang the moment they came out. We had quite a stack of those magazines.

These were comic books with an African difference.

The stories were told within the same comic book picture panel format, complete with dialogue balloons (yes, including the inevitable Aargh! Pow! !!!*!? that you could see in the Marvel Comic offerings featuring Captain America, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman and other mythical astounding North American men and women wearing their underwear in public).

The unique thing about Spearman and Fearless Fang is that they were not drawn, painted or computer generated, but featured real African actors photographed in black and white.

Lance Spearman was modeled on the Western gum shoe detective (think TV’s Colombo or paper back’s Marlowe). He always wore this fedora hat slanted at the side and had a somewhat ill fitting black suit on-whether he was flying through the air delivering karate kicks and judo moves.

Did he have the inevitable cigarette dangling from his pouting lips? I can’t remember that detail from publications that were all the rage forty five to fifty years ago.

But like all good detectives he always got the bad guys and had them delivered to justice.

Was he a Kenyan?

A Congolese?

An Ethiopian?

Somehow I don’t think so.

Given that Lance Spearman and Fearless Fang came out of the Drum magazine stable with its base in South Africa and branches in Kenya, Nigeria and elsewhere I have a hunch that the actor who was my Lance Spearman boyhood hero was probably a South African- that is if he wasn’t Nigerian.

Doesn’t matter.

The fact remains that, unlike my African-American and African-Canadian relatives across the Atlantic I and other African boys growing in Sixties, Post-Colonial Africa had a real flesh and blood African super hero to relate to, did wonders for my self esteem.

So to the 21st century delirious fans of the Seventies Makmende Super Hero (recently revived on Facebook by the Kenyan musical group Just A Band) I say:

Genuflect before Lance Spearman and Fearless Fang.

Speaking of the Fearless One, he was a burly African body builder guy who in hind sight, dressed in Zulu traditional warrior garb.

He was the inversion of the white Tarzan. Like the colonial fantasy that sustained Jane’s bare chested blond boyfriend, Fearless Fang lived in the “jungle” and used an elephant as his personal matatu or taxi.

He obviously knew Chimpanese, Leopardese, Ostrichese, Elephantese, Zebraese and many other Animal languages because he had no difficulties at all communicating fluently to these beasts of the African wild.

But he was a tough guy who always came to the rescue.

As I grew older I came to make the acquaintance of Monsieur Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Mr. Sherlock Holmes and assortment of Belgian detectives, English clergymen and derelict American private eyes all intent on solving mysteries and crimes committed on rivers, trains, gothic cathedrals and of course, bed rooms and office buildings.

We all know that this mythical criminal demi-monde is worlds apart from the hum drum day to day existence of real police women and men who have the thankless task of finding out who exactly poisoned someone’s Tusker when the owner of the drink dashed off to the choo for a quick leak before coming back to finish their nyamachoma using their unwashed hands.

Whatever the case, reading detective novels, following crime investigation series (Law and Order, CSI, Barnaby Jones, The Magician, Perry Mason, Kojak and even the Pink Panther movies featuring Peter Sellers) has made every human being above the age of seven an EXPERT on solving serious crimes.

And that is how I want to introduce myself, Onyango Oloo, as an expert with a valid opinion on who was behind the bombing at Uhuru Park. Everyone knows that you do not have to go to Kiganjo Police College, Scotland Yard or wherever those FBI guys earn their right to flash their IDs to know who dunnit, ama?

On a more serious, sober and political note, if one wants to find out who is behind the criminal outrage, one needs to apply one of the lessons from all the great detectives I have come across.

The best ones always asked themselves a very simple question:

Who stands to gain from this murder, this robbery, this forgery, this arson? (fill in the blankety blanks)

The flip side of the same question is this:

Who stands to lose?

Since these grenade attacks and the subsequent deaths and injuries took place at a packed NO rally, one must immediately answer these questions within the context of the increasingly fractious campaign for and against the proposed new constitution.

It immediately becomes a POLITICAL question swirling around STATE POWER, ECONOMIC and CLASS DYNAMICS and the OUTCOME OF THE REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN.

So let us, like all good private detectives, start by asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS in order to get the RIGHT ANSWERS.

Here we go:

1. POLITICALLY, which social forces in Kenya stand to gain from this latest terrorist attack? 2. POLITICALLY and ECONOMICALLY, who stands to lose if the proposed Kenyan constitution is ratified at the August 4th Referendum?

I say that politically, the YES side has NOTHING to gain from hurling three hand grenades to kill some innocent civilians attending a peaceful rally, exercise their constitutional rights to assemble, associate and express themselves. After all, proponents of the YES side are particularly enthusiastic about the expanded Bill of Rights in the proposed draft constitution.

So let us RULE OUT the Yes side from the list of suspects.

Let us also immediately rule out the Church and its leaders from this atrocity. Much as I detest the hypocrisy and the fake prosperity gospel bling bling of the Bishop Wanjirus and Pastor Lais, I seriously do NOT THINK that they could have organized to kill of those thousands of Kenyan worshippers who gather every Sunday to make sure that these men and women of the cloth continue living large and lavishly while their flock toil to raise those tithes and sadaka. That would be like using a sharp panga to scoop out their own intestines.

Since Phillip Onyancha is already in custody, he could not have done it- besides he likes drinking the blood of his helpless victims after strangling them. He does not do grenades at crowded public events. So it was not a ruthless serial killer acting on their own who bombed those innocent Kenyans.

And since they will already be on top of the suspects list, let me quickly take off ANY MUSLIM, Arab or someone looking remotely like them-even if they happen to be a or Sikh, Mungiki, AkorinoBobo Shanti Rastafarians.
Who are we left with?


These individuals have enjoyed the trappings of state power for almost half a century.

They are from all over the country and belong to a range of tribes.

They are not Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Animists.
Rather these big politician chief suspects of mine all worship abjectly at the gold plated temple of their deity, AVARICE.

Since they are land grabbers, they are naturally opposed to land and agrarian reforms anticipated after the passage of the new constitutions.

Since their fingers are still soaked with the blood of Pio Pinto, JM Kariuki, Dr. Ouko and all those victims of state terror and politically engineered ethnic clashes over the last forty seven years, they are urinating in their pin stripe suits at the prospect that they can one day be hauled to a Kenyan court or shipped to the Hague to be held accountable for their crimes against humanity.

Since they have profited from dictatorship, they detest the democratic gains encapsulated in the proposed constitution.

And they do have SOME EXPERIENCE, and to paraphrase Canadian singer-songwriter Jann Arden, LESSONS TO GIVE, on how to organize terrorist attacks against innocent Kenyan civilians.

And they will always unleash their carnage and terror at decisive, historic turning points in our country’s history-1965, 1969, 1975, 1992, 2008.
Remember the February 28, 1975 bombing of innocent passengers at the OTC bus stage in Nairobi, days before the mutilated body of JM Kariuki was picked up in Ngong?

I was only fifteen years old at the time but I still vividly recall those events which rocked Kenya.

We now know that powerful people in government organized that atrocity to divert attention of the Kenyan public when they were busy torturing the popular Nyandarua North MP to death.

How many of those high ranking government officials implicated in the assassination of JM are still alive and barking invectives at the proposed constitution?

That was a rhetorical question that you do not have to answer.

Remember the so called ethnic clashes of 1992 and 1997 that ostensibly pitted Kenyan tribes against each other but in reality were methodically planned from within the government itself?

How many of the architects of those acts of state terror are at the frontlines of the NO campaign?

I am giving out NO prizes for those who can guess the right answer.

NO trips to the Jabulani World Cup for you folks.

Who organized the killings of Ouko and Father John Kaiser to look like suicides? Are any of them taking part in the NO Campaign?

My Dear Sherlock, this one is too elementary.

Is there anyone among the leading politicians in the NO Campaign who is capable of bankrolling trained former police, paramilitary and military personnel to throw hand grenades into a crowd of innocent civilians?

Your guess is actually better than mine on this one.
Does any one of these leading politicians in the NO Campaign have anything in their political resumes pointing to a time when they were in charge of security operations at any level?
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Yes Colombo, you are on the right track.
Have any of these No Politicians been known to shed copious CROCODILE tears hours after killing their political opponents in COLD BLOOD?

You have got it

M. Poirot.

I rest my case, folks.

But a small footnote:
These heartless guys are cynically planning even more serious crimes, so the sooner they are thrown into the slammer, the better.

Onyango Oloo Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A Kenyan Socialist Reflects on the August 4th Referendum

A Digital Essay by Onyango Oloo

I met a young Kenyan-Canadian in Nairobi a few days ago.

He has been serving as an intern for a charity organization which runs an orphanage located in a Luo village which is about one hour’s drive from Kisii town in the western part of the country.

The young man himself is originally a Mswahili from Mombasa who relocated with his family to North America in the early nineties due to the economic pressures of neo-colonial underdevelopment in Kenya and the globalized allure of the West for the planet’s dark skinned exploited and marginalized Third World immigrants.

A couple of weeks ago he made contact via Facebook to inform me about his trip to Kenya.

Being an old Ontario friend of his family with ties going back almost twenty years, I have watched him grow from a bashful toy obsessed ten year old elementary school boy in Toronto’s west end into the quietly self-assured twenty something final year university student he is today.

It has been amazing to track the trajectory of his transformation and I was quite impressed to interact with him over our one hour lunch at the Café Pronto- a spacious Somali owned joint located two streets away from the 20th Century cinema in the heart of the business district of the Kenyan capital.

Noticing that the young man across the table from me was equipped with an agile and critical mind, I was ecstatic as we exchanged views on a wide array of topics- from the plight of African-Americans and Hispanics in the Greater New York area to the Islamophobic backlash which came in the wake of 9/11.

Needless to say, we are both members of the Barack Obama Admiration Society.

At one point in our face to face encounter, he asked me a question which made me sit upright in my café dining chair.

“Why is the United States government supporting the proposed constitution so much? What does it stand to gain? I know Uncle Sam- never does anything unless it benefits its national and ideological interests.”

I looked at the young man keenly.

As a first generation Canadian youth of African extraction and Muslim background, he must have seen first hand how the two North American Anglo imperialists look at the rest of the world. Thanks to the Bush Doctrine and the ramblings of the likes of Samuel P. Huntington, Washington and to a lesser extent, Ottawa, have, over the last decade or so looked at Africa, Asia, the Middle-East, the Caribbean and Latin America largely through its biased tinted spectacles coloured by the jaundice of the discredited War Against Terror which has the world’s Muslims in the cross hairs of their collective automatic assault rifles.

After pausing for a few long seconds pondering on the profundity of his rhetorical question, I mumbled that he was right, that I agreed with him 100% that the USA was throwing its weight behind the reform agenda aka the Agenda Four issues not because of its piety or commitment to democracy, justice and social equity but rather because it was in the interest of the “International Community”- a convenient euphemism for the Western capitalist countries- that Kenya remained stable politically, economically and security wise because of the geopolitical ramifications of an unstable Kenya in the volatile Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa region. I told him that Uncle Sam cared less whether it was Raila and ODM or Kalonzo and PNU who ascended to the helm of state power in 2012. In fact, if experience is anything to go by, the Americans would not be terribly opposed to perpetuating the shot gun marriage of the two feuding fractions of the local power structure first consummated after the signing of the National Accord on February 28, 2008.

“So you are going to vote against the proposed draft constitution?” he asked.

I promptly retorted:

“Of course not! I am very much on the Yes side!”

The sharp look he gave me was one of bewilderment, as if he had been startled to hear the words jump out of my throat.

I patiently explained my position to him.

You see, I began, I did not just come to Canada as a tourist. Nor did I arrive as a foreign student. I came to North America as a political exile, I told him. And I had been forced to flee Kenya in the late 1980s because the situation in the country was very volatile. I had just emerged from a maximum penitentiary after a stiff five year jail term imposed on me by a kangaroo court acting at the behest of the one party state which deemed a harmless draft essay by a first year university student to be a radioactive seditious tract threatening national security; I told him about the then prevailing political paranoia of the Moi dictatorship; about the culture of fear and silence; the embarrassing sycophancy; the screening of Kenyans who were ethnic Somalis; the waves of state sponsored killings, ethnic cleansing and other manifestations of KANU's reign of terror and error; the overweening powers of the executive which gave rise to a constitutional tyrant occupying the office of the president; the survival of outmoded colonial laws; the orgy of land grabbing, grand graft and callous impunity; the lack of a clear independent foreign policy; the denial of the cultural identity of a host of marginalized ethnic groups; the subjugation of women; the peripheral status of the youth; the exploitation of workers; the alienation of our national resources and mortgaging our country to transnationals and imperialist linked multilateral agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank; the white washing and blacking out of the patriotic contributions of generations of the true freedom fighters; the shoddiness of the educational system; the inefficiency of the national economy; in short, the broad parameters of the neocolonial malaise and imperialist quagmire that Kenyans found themselves in since 1963, Under girding this political, economic, social and cultural reality was the current constitution which buttressed all that was odious and opprobrious to our patriotic aspirations for a just, democratic and fair society.

In this contemporary historical context I expounded further, ALL our political struggles were ipso facto, struggles for a new order and therefore, really struggles for a new constitution, not for its own sake, but as the sine qua non for jump-starting a new Kenya built on equality, non-tribalism, justice and democracy.

I recounted how waves of patriots and democrats- Pio da Gama Pinto, JM Kariuki, Chelagat Mutai, Mwakdua wa Mwachofi, Oginga Odinga, George Anyona, Ngugi wa Thiong'o and many, many others had been killed, incarcerated, tortured, vilified, exiled and oppressed in their quest for the new Kenya. I identified myself with this long tradition of anti-imperialist resistance, pointing out that I was not the only young person or student jailed for fighting against injustice, dictatorship, corruption and pro-imperialist policies.

I told my visiting compatriot that the contemporary constitutional reform movement which dates its inception to circa 1988 with the entry into the national fray of the likes of Rev. Timothy Njoya and mainstream politicians like Charles Rubia and Kenneth Matiba was just the latest relay leg of a marathon race that had started decades ago. The 2003-2004 Bomas National Constitutional Conference and its betrayal in March 2004 by elite political forces linked to President Kibaki (during his first term) was an arena of struggle between the forces of progress and the forces of reaction as was the fractious 2005 Referendum on the mutilated Wako mongrel draft. My impromptu tour of our history of constitution making culminated with the events of 2009-2010 which saw Parliament unanimously endorse a document which had at first been savaged and bastardized by retrogressive forces intent on ensuring that Kenyans did not get a new constitution at all. I clarified the irony of the Rutos and Jirongos railing against a document they had been instrumental in inserting into backward clauses entrenching a pure presidential system as opposed to a parliamentary one and restricting devolution from achieving its true potential.

Perhaps I left my young friend’s head swimming, I am not sure.

In any case, I am planning to wake up first thing in the morning and vote YES come this August 4th at the Bidii Primary School, Buru Buru in Nairobi’s Makadara Constituency.

The date is a fateful one for me for at least two reasons.

In the first place, it will mark the 28th anniversary- to the day-when I was picked up by railway police off a train way back in 1982 before being transported back under armed guard to be charged with trying to cause disaffection against the government of Kenya as by law established through my fairly tepid draft student essay. So will there be some kind of vindication, however fleeting for those age-mates and contemporaries of mine who have spent the last thirty to forty years fighting for a new Kenya, or will it be a new setback for the national cause as the Mois and their political offspring- the Rutos and the Jirongos- crow like the KANU cockerel of yore of yet another victory over the forces of progress and freedom?

In the second place, if the YES side does prevail, and I believe, knock on wood (my dialectical materialism notwithstanding), that the proposed constitution will be endorsed at the August 4th Referendum- then it should be clear to all Kenyans that what we would have approved would NOT, contrary to the assertions of the high profile leaders of the YES Campaign, be a document for “all posterity for our children, grand children and grandchildren of our grand children”.

Instead, this constitution that will be the supreme law of the land will be in fact a very TRANSITIONAL document because in my opinion, it is a very flawed draft- but not in the twisted and distorted way that the anachronistic Neanderthals and the benighted Bigots in the NO camp are braying and praying about.

I am saying that the proposed constitution that I will be voting Yes for is an imperfect document because unlike the South African or the Rwandese constitutions, it is NOT the outcome of a decisive national struggle which has seen one side or the other take the reins of state power and proceed in introducing a new order.

Rather this proposed constitution is the product of protracted horse trading, vicious arm twisting, underhand middle of the night concessions among the different factions and fractions of the Kenyan comprador, nascent national and petit bourgeois classes and strata with the working people and peasantry largely reduced to bystanders, spectators and cheerleaders for this side or the other of the elite pacting squads.

That is why, in my opinion the struggle for a truly new national democratic constitution BEGINS with the passage and promulgation of the proposed constitution on August 4, 2010.

We will only be able to write and implement a New Democratic National Constitution when the popular forces for change have been able to successfully wrestle and REMOVE from power all these moth eaten odd balls who have been masquerading as the political leadership of this country for the last fifty years or so.

That is right:

We will get a new democratic constitution the day after we have managed to win state power and begin the process of a national democratic revolution.

By the way, let me end by noting in passing some of the surreal statements coming from some of MY friends and comrades in the Yes Camp.

One of them, a very good friend of mine, observed that Red was the colour of danger and some other negative connotations.

Another one, also a very good political buddy of mine, raised the bogey of secularism if the No side manages to remove the Kadhi’s Courts from the constitution.

I can only shake my head in disbelief and befuddlement.

I thought that RED was the symbol of revolution, or have we ceased to be socialists and revolutionaries?

All in all, I thought it was a mistake by the Committee of Experts to use two colours which have such potent and POSITIVE symbolism in our beautiful, world famous national flag in such an oppositional , NEGATIVE manner as the signifiers for the Yes and No voters.

Red, at least to those of us who still call ourselves patriots, stands for selfless sacrifice, especially spilt patriotic blood while Green is for regeneration, the environment you name it. These colours are on the same flag as the Black and the White!

They could have chosen something else- like monkeys and donkeys.

As for the scepter of SECULARISM, I find that scarecrow troubling, hoisted as it were, by a former Secretary General of one of Kenya’s few openly socialist parties.

I think that we WANT and NEED the Kenyan State to BE SECULAR. Currently, and even in the proposed constitution, it is NOT Islam which will remain a state religion but CHRISTIANITY. We have a Catholic President; the Prime Minister is a registered Anglican while the Vice President is a fundamentalist Charismatic Born Again.

Who speaks for those of us who are secular, agnostic or even atheist?

Incidentally I am Pro-Choice and I would have been happy if the proposed constitution had legalized abortion.

Also I do not know why so many Kenyans-including those who are presumed "progressive"- have such a difficulty recognizing the humanity AND equality of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and intersexed people by having explicit clauses in the constitution outlawing homophobia, lesbophobia and other forms of hatred against members of these communities.

Enuff Sed.

Onyango Oloo
Nairobi, Kenya
Tuesday, June 9, 2010