A Digital Essay by Onyango Oloo
Two weeks to the August 4th Referendum, three separate polls- Strategic Research, Synovate and Info Trak Harris- have put the YES side firmly in the lead with projections of 62%, 58% and 65% of the vote respectively.
This could be an indicator of looming defeat for the NO side.
Don’t tell that to one William Samoei Ruto, the de facto head honcho of the forces dead set against a new constitutional order in Kenya.
First off, here is what the website of the popular Nairobi station is reporting:
Earlier this week, I was in the second floor offices of a certain Nairobi businesswoman who is a very close confidant of the Higher Education minister.
She told me that Ruto told her that he believes that the NO side is definitely headed for victory.
According to the Eldoret North’s own number crunching, his forces will garner 60% of the referendum vote. He gave further regional breakdowns as follows: Rift Valley 90% for NO; Eastern 50%; Central 50%; Coast 50%; North Eastern 50%; Western 50%; Nairobi 50% Nyanza: (i) Luo Nyanza 10%; (ii) Kisii Nyanza 70%.
No wonder if you go to column five, page five of the July 24th edition of the Standard you will read that “the NO team has chosen to ignore the two opinion polls that place them at the tail end of the referendum race.”
Now folks, you need to understand one thing about Onyango Oloo.
Throughout my formal schooling years, I was not particularly adept at Maths, so I will hesitate to call Mheshimiwa Bill Samoei delusional.
I was just passing on something I heard recently in the downtown core of the Kenyan capital.
In any case, that was all by the way.
What I wanted to do today was slightly different.
I have a bone or three to pick with some of my good political friends-Messrs Wanyiri Kihoro, Njeru Kathangu, Okoiti Omtatah, Koigi wa Wamwere and Ms. Jane Njiru- who issued a press statement on Thursday, July 15, 2010.
In all fairness, let me first reproduce that document verbatim before I proceed to tear it apart:
Muungano wa Katiba Kombozi Press Statement
We, the veterans of the Second Liberation assembled here, in conjunction with all those patriotic citizens who share our vision in civil society, in religious organisations, in professional bodies, in private enterprise, and in all walks of life, are here to formally launch our campaign against the Proposed Constitution of Kenya.
For a long time we have fought for the democratisation of this country, and the enactment of a new democratic dispensation, of which a democratic constitution is a major plank. Unfortunately, the proposed constitution is designed to throw Kenyans off course on the journey to our full emancipation as a free and prosperous people.
The Proposed Constitution of Kenya is a betrayal of the principles and purpose of the Second Liberation Movement. The draft Constitution is not what we had in mind when we put our lives on the line to fight for the liberation of this country and the emancipation of the Kenyan people. Though the draft has a sugar-coating made up of some of the things that we fought for, like an expanded Bill of Rights, it has toxic provisions that threaten the very foundation of the Kenyan State and, hence, negate all the good they represent.
Key among these are the threat of disintegration through reckless devolution and land laws that articulate our ethnic differences and not our similarities. No country in history has survived a decision by its political leadership to organise it not on the progressive basis of equality but on the retrogressive basis of special interests and the differences of its citizens.
Why do we want to throw our beloved country into turmoil? Whose idea is it? And whose interests does it serve?
We are also opposed to the way the campaign for the draft is being conducted. It is misplaced for anybody to traverse the country using all manner of negative adjectives to derogate those on the NO side as unpatriotic anti-reformers and do-no-gooder hypocrites. We are left wondering whether the said YES camp have misconstrued the referendum to be a witch-hunt.
The referendum is not a witch execution where we choose between good and bad guys. It is about democratic choice and, hence, it is unacceptable to think that we can use such undemocratic means to midwife a democratic dispensation. The constitution is about current and future citizens of Kenya; it’s not about President Kibaki, Premier Odinga, or the Cabinet. Nobody is boss or subordinate. We are in this as private and equal citizens.
This is not a Government project. The Government’s role is limited to facilitating both sides in the process as an honest broker. If there is reason for one side to use public resources to campaign, the same resources must be availed to the other side in the name of levelling the playing field.
We also strongly object to the deep and partisan involvement of foreign embassies led by the US ambassador Mr. Michael Ranneberger. Their involvement is not just a violation of their mandate, it is an unacceptable attack on our sovereignty and an insult to our intelligence.
From here we are going to hit the ground running to campaign for the rejection of the proposed Constitution in all corners of the Republic of Kenya.
1. Hon. Charles Rubia
2. Hon. Koigi wa Wamwere
3. Hon. Mtumishi Njeru Kathangu
4. Hon. Wanyiri Kihoro
5. Advocate Ms. Jane Njiru (Chief Agent)
6. Advocate Mwaure Waihiga
7. Okiya Omtatah Okoiti
Let me deal with some of their concerns one by one:
“The Proposed Constitution of Kenya is a betrayal of the principles and purpose of the Second Liberation Movement. The draft Constitution is not what we had in mind when we put our lives on the line to fight for the liberation of this country and the emancipation of the Kenyan people. Though the draft has a sugar-coating made up of some of the things that we fought for, like an expanded Bill of Rights, it has toxic provisions that threaten the very foundation of the Kenyan State and, hence, negate all the good they represent.”
In the first place, there was never ever anything called “the Second Liberation Movement”.
Although I am not Mandela’s age mate, I consider myself and people like Micere Mugo, Chitechi Osundwa, Willy Mutunga, Njeri Kabeberi, Alamin Mazrui, Edward Oyugi, Wangui wa Goro, Raila Odinga, Zahid Rajan, Mwandawiro Mghanga, Oduor Ong’wen, Zarina Patel, Adongo Ogony, Omondi K’abir, Sultan Somjee, Kamoji Wachira, Shiraz Durrani, Maina wa Kinyatti, James Orengo, Mwakdua wa Mwachofi, Wafula Buke, Miguna Miguna, Omondi Obanda, Wangari wa Muriuki, Silvanus Oduor and Peter Young Kihara to name but a handful, among those patriots who have been very active in fighting for a new Kenya.
Until the early 1990s the consensus among most of the comrades was that we Kenyans still had an onerous challenge completing the tasks of the FIRST liberation movement. In other words, our generation had to complete the unfinished business left behind by patriots like Dedan Kimathi wa Waciuri and his stalwarts in the Kenya Land and Freedom Army; Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his stalwarts in the KPU; Makhan Singh and the pioneering progressive leaders of the Kenyan working class movement; Mary Nyanjiru and other political grandmothers like Me Katilili.
In other words we were believers in Jaramogi’s credo of Not Yet Uhuru.
In this context, it was NONSENSICAL to talk about any “Second Liberation” when we had not even removed the neo-colonial shackles in the first place.
What has happened in the intervening years is that the socialists and anti-imperialists who used to be on the frontlines of the anti-dictatorship struggle against the Moi-KANU repressive regime receded to the background to cede ground to the latter day democratic retreads of the early to mid nineties.
That is how people like Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia and even (shudder!) Smith Hempstone became the new lions of the Kenyan democratic struggle. Somebody said that history is always written by the victors. When the heroes and sheroes of the Saba Saba uprising were being feted on the seventh day of the seventh month this year, very few of the names I cited above were mentioned as having played a seminal role in dislodging Moi, Biwott, Okiki Amayo, Mulu Mutisya, Stanley Oloitiptip, Joseph Kamotho, Sharrif Nassir, Rashid Sajjad, Moses Mudavadi, Jackson Angaine and others from their lofty totalitarian perches.
If historically, there was never something called the “Second Liberation” it follows that there was consequently no “movement” to accompany it.
In fact I remember quite distinctly-and here again my comrades Adongo Ogony, Wangari Muriuki, Kathure Kebaara, Atieno Odenyo and Omondi K’abir will bear witness to this-sometime in early 1992 when it was important for the Kenyan Left to consolidate itself and take advantage of the burgeoning democratic upsurge- all of the comrades I just mentioned were at that time members of the underground UWAKE group- a merger of the Me Katilili Revolutionary Movement and the Kenya Anti-Imperialist Front- we were shocked to hear, from our exile lairs in North America and Europe, that our Nairobi-based leaders had abruptly decided, without consulting its clandestine membership in the country and in exile, to DISBAND and LIQUIDATE our movement and instead join as INDIVIDUALS the amorphous broad movement for democracy which was symbolized by FORD. Our colleagues in Mwakenya led by their prominent international spokesperson Ngugi wa Thiong’o on the other hand, took a sectarian position, staying completely aloof from the broad front for the restoration of democracy. It was the same with the other left wing formations which disintegrated one by one, instead of consolidating itself as a staunch united democratic front with revolutionary nationalists at its helm.
Those twin leftist mistakes in the early 1990s-populism on the part of our leaders in UWAKE and sectarianism from the likes of MWAKENYA-allowed opportunists and fake democrats to infiltrate FORD, hijack the democratic struggle and introduce a lot of liberal muddle headedness which was to soon culminate in the defeat of the forces of multi-party democracy at the 1992 and 1997 presidential and general elections.
What is today referred to as the “Second Liberation Movement” is really nothing more than that concerted effort to foster the principles of multi-party democracy in the mid to late nineties here in Kenya.
A national political movement calls for a higher commitment, something that rises way above the periodic attempt to get elected to a parliamentary seat or win the presidency. A movement implies the existence of a focused, visionary and revolutionary leadership harnessing the skills,intellect and energies of a dedicated cadre of militant patriots working in a very disciplined organized national network which in turn mobilizes millions of wananchi to fight for progressive change, democracy, national prosperity and social justice.
It would be delusional on anybody’s part to claim that we had such a movement in Kenya in the nineties.
What we had instead, was a mushrooming of ethnic based and personality cult “political parties” on the one hand and a plethora of seemingly progressive “MONGOS” (as in, My OWN NGO) civil society formations on the other, all claiming to owning mantle of the “reform agenda” in Kenya.
Had we had a real “Second Liberation Movement” in Kenya, the Moi-KANU dictatorship would have fallen much earlier and somebody else, NOT Mwai Kibaki, would have been elected the Third President, perhaps in 1992 or 1997.
The Muungano wa Katiba Kombozi statement continues to rail and wail:
“Key among these are the threat of disintegration through reckless devolution and land laws that articulate our ethnic differences and not our similarities...”
This objection is simply SHOCKING coming from Kenyans of the calibre of Koigi, Kathangu and Kihoro.
What has been our national liberation struggle been about all along?
Has it not been about entrenching democracy, justice and freedom?
Has it not been about removing class oppression, gender injustice, youth marginalization and regional inequalities?
Has it not been about thorough going agrarian reforms and progressive land policies?
If so, then it behooves EVERY person claiming to be a democrat and patriot to agitate, mobilize and clamour for MORE, not less devolution, MORE not less progressive agrarian and land reforms.
Why would any “revolutionary” worth his or her uzalendo salt defend the repressive neo-colonial centralized state with its conduits for Nairobi centric patronage corrupt networks mostly exercised along tribal and nepotistic lines?
It is a sad day when a distinguished democratic patriot, respected land economist and courageous human rights lawyer like Wanyiri Kihoro finds himself on the same side with land grabbers and big landowners like Daniel arap Moi and Chris Foot.
And our comrades on the NO side continue:
“No country in history has survived a decision by its political leadership to organise it not on the progressive basis of equality but on the retrogressive basis of special interests and the differences of its citizens…”
Au contraire marafiki zangu.
I would rephrase the Muungano wa Katiba Kombozi sentence as follows:
“No country has survived a decision by its political leadership to IGNORE the special interests and differences (class, gender, culture, religion, age, ability/disability) of its citizens."
It is a No Brainer that a visionary leadership in Kenya now or in the future, will put in place programs, policies and laws that promote and entrench gender equality, youth empowerment, dignity for people with disabilities and YES, DEVOLUTION, DECENTRALIZATION, REGIONAL AUTONOMY and COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT at the local level.
If you are a Kenyan democratic reformer living and breathing in the 21st Century then you MUST be on the side of those progressive forces who promote national unity in Kenya while recognizing the need for regional autonomy and devolution of power away from the centre.
Here is another snippet from the Muungano wa Katiba Kombozi statement:
“This is not a Government project. The Government’s role is limited to facilitating both sides in the process as an honest broker. If there is reason for one side to use public resources to campaign, the same resources must be availed to the other side in the name of levelling the playing field.”
Actually it is, and SHOULD BE a Government Project 100%.
Remember why we-and yes I am including you comrades Kathangu, Kihoro and Koigi Co. Ltd- lambasted the FIRST Kibaki led NARC regime from 2003 onwards?
It is because that post-KANU regime DID NOT make Katiba a Government Project, instead becoming the most vicious opponents of constitutional reform in Kenya.
When Kibaki wakes up from his decades long political slumber you guys denounce him instead of covering him with garlands.
The Government of Kenya should have been SPEARHEADING the fight for a new constitution right from the time the KANU regime was removed in December 2002.
Thank goodness it is FINALLY doing the RIGHT THING!
More pertinently, the provisions of the National Accord that brought the present Grand Coalition Government into existence on February 28, 2008, commits and BINDs the two principals to PRIORITIZE the passage of a new constitution as part of its formal mandate to the Kenyan people.
Mtumishi Kathangu, what happened to your early 1990s militant comradeship with Raila Amolo Odinga which led to your arrest on July 13, 1990 at Mutugi's Bar in Dagoretti Corner, later to be harassed and tortured along with Raila, Prof. Oyugi and the late George Anyona for being the alleged masterminds of the Saba Saba Day Uprising of 1990?
The following archived news item from the vaults of the Nation newspaper should help to jog your memory:
Mzalendo Wanyiri, I recall you embraced Raila Odinga for President in 2007 when Ugatuzi (read Devolution) was a key plank of his platform. Have your views changed?
Ndugu Koigi, do you remember secretly meeting Agwambo at Arusha, northern Tanzania, in October 1988, to formalize an anti Moi-KANU alliance between your exile based Kenya Patriotic Front and his clandestine Kenya Revolutionary Movement? Were you fighting for the same things- constitutionally speaking that is? You know I knew about that meeting because those of us in the leadership core of the underground Me Katilili Revolutionary Movement based in Dar es Salaam were privy to those plans comrade. Today you are clasped in a gasp inducing embrace with the very man who detained you and even tried to hang you-Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, defending land grabbers, tribalists and human rights abusers.
I was particularly tickled by the following gem from the press statement:
“We also strongly object to the deep and partisan involvement of foreign embassies led by the US ambassador Mr. Michael Ranneberger. Their involvement is not just a violation of their mandate, it is an unacceptable attack on our sovereignty and an insult to our intelligence.”
Let me ask Mr. Charles Rubia (sorry Sir, I cannot claim you as a comrade. I have never even seen you in person, leave alone worked with you) this question:
Back in 1990, why did you NOT “strongly object” to “the deep and partisan involvement” of the then US Ambassador Smith Hempstone who practically convened your media briefings and helped to hide your friends from Moi when they were speaking out about multi-party democracy? Since when did you become a Communist (Marxist-Leninist if you prefer) like Onyango Oloo, objecting to the imperialist designs of Uncle Sam and her G-8 allies? Sir, I put it to YOU that you and co-signers are in fact, shedding crocodile tears on this particular bullet point.
We know that the United States and other Western powers are pushing for the passage of the Proposed Constitution for their own ideological and geopolitical interests.
But so what?
In 1918 Vladimir Illich Ulyanov aka Lenin COLLABORATED with the West to escape the Germans and during the Second World War the Soviet Union collaborated with the Americans and the British to vanquish the German Nazis, Italian Fascists and Japanese Occupiers.
The fundamental antagonistic contradictions between US-led imperialist globalized hegemony and the aspirations of the Kenyan national liberation movement will not be erased simply because a transient, somewhat publicity hungry US ambassador received some NO defectors in a Kenyan backwater during a pit stop rooting for the Proposed Constitution the other day.
As I wrap up let me direct a comment to each of the three other co-signers of the Muungano wa Katiba Kombozi press statement-Advocate Ms. Jane Njiru (Chief Agent), Advocate Mwaure Waihiga and Okiya Omtatah Okoiti-because I also happen to the trio personally to varying degrees.
Advocate Ms. Jane Njiru: I have known you since the 2007 election campaign when you were a youthful aspirant for the Manyatta seat on a Ford-Asili ticket. Remember how you, I (in my capacity then as the Secretary General of the SDP), Alice Wahome and others conspired and rallied to elect a progressive board during the AGM of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy in 2009? Hopefully we were cobbling together a team of like minded political parties that would fight for a better Kenya. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves today on opposite sides. But like I told you when I ran into you at that oasis (name withheld) near the 680 Hotel, you have a democratic right to be on the losing side of the August 4th Referendum.
My brother Okiya Okoiti Omtatah: It is many hours we have spent in that small room on the sixth floor of that tall building adjacent to the Nairobi Hilton discussing democracy, musing on justice and plotting strategies of combating police fascism which has led to you and patriots like Anne Njogu being tear gassed, baton charged and arrested on several occasions. Having been so resolute and resilient on matters affecting the average Kenyan citizen, why are you campaigning to essentially retain the current repressive status quo?
Advocate David Mwaure Waihiga- ever since I knew you as the leader of the Agano Party three or so years ago, you have been CONSISTENT- in opposing progressive constitutional reforms, so I take off my hat to you sir. You are HONEST and PRINCIPLED in taking your NO stance. I respect your right to hold views contrary to mine- and the majority of Kenyans.