An Easter Weekend Digital Essay by Onyango Oloo in Nairobi
2012 segued seamlessly from the flickering embers of yesteryear, trickling hope and dripping trepidation; blending optimism and fear; suffusing ambition, aspirations and despair.
Scowling conspiracy theorists, from garrulous gray beards to angst-ridden pimply youth; some gleaning through Nostradamus’ yellow medieval parchments; other sour puss contingents excitedly poring over fading obscure Mayan hieroglyphics etched in the ruins of once resplendent civilizations in the Turtle Island over on the other side of the Atlantic; all these dour soothsayers of end times and looming doom days, chortling with menacing finality, have zeroed in on 2012 as the year humankind kicks the proverbial bucket before our species evaporate from cosmic existence.
In our own Kenyan milieu, 2012 is the year that a lot of momentous events will gestate before bursting out in new births, new beginnings, or conversely, serve as the harbinger of the dissipation of certain ethno-class dynasties, corrupt tendencies and parochial proclivities.
This is the year that Kenyans await anxiously the next phase of the ICC process. Will the Ekaterina Quartet finally, balefully, have their opportunity to embrace responsibility and cuddle accountability in court rooms far removed from the familiar savannah jostles, ensconced in climes temperate alternating quarterly with frigid interludes?
This is the year Kenyans push and pull, toil and moil, mulling over the identity of the fourth president- who most certainly will be donated from the ranks of the rapacious, ideologically bereft elements of the spineless, vacillating comprador/bureaucratic bourgeoisie.
2012 is destined to be punctuated with national constitutional milestones as parliament, the CIC, the media; the voters put in place more concrete indicators in the zig zag trajectory of the constitution’s plodding odyssey towards full and diligent implementation.
But 2012 has also been branded by sounds of grenades exploding at downtown bus terminals and chest thumping martial war drums being banged from weekend media briefing sessions on the dreaded and despised Al Shabaab.
As we keyboard these clauses and compound sentences in real time, we hear, outside our window, the reverberations from the muted sobs and wails of spouses, siblings, work mates and neighbours disconsolate, devastated and near demented by the aftermath of the recent front page splash announcing the passing of more than a half a dozen surprised Kenyan lives abruptly snuffed out or permanently maimed by the callous explosives tossed impetuously by some furtive urban hit and run terrorists deluded that they are championing a cause through hurling lethal projectiles recklessly at clueless impoverished urban to rural commuters.
When some of us-a clutch of Kenyan scribes and organic intellectuals-doggedly digitally scattered our cautionary anti-war jeremiads throughout the cyber demimonde, lyrically signaling our advance warnings on the testosterone charged profound folly of the neocolonial state’s quixotic foray into the territory of our wounded neighbour to the north east mere months ago, we were needled, we were ridiculed, we were heckled, we were hectored and lectured to as reckless ingrates; condemned as treacherous anti-patriots; harangued as closeted jihadists, blasted as benighted bloggers, denounced as demented ultra leftists.
Now, even the loudest frogs from the pongy ponds of the embedded, jingoistic and flaky, flak jacketed fourth estate are croaking their crocodily dirges in the plethora of military funerals dotting the rural homesteads across the land with increasing abandon.
But have all these grenades and explosions been the handiwork of nationalist fundamentalist zealots from across/within the border? To what extent are these deaths the machinations of engineers working at the state terror factory or the devious designs of power thirsty elites wanting to scare the electorate into voting for a perpetuation of impunity?
On a more exuberant note, Kenyans are champing at the bit anxiously anticipating those heady summer high definition plasmic highlights as our Cheruyoits, our Rudishas, our Mutais, our Kiprops, our Maasais, and hopefully our Jelimos share the global golden medal pedestals with the Usain Bolts and Michael Phelps, the Ukrainian pole vaulters and the Cuban boxers, the Nordic hammer throwers and the Ethiopian long distance aces; the Chinese gymnasts and Canadian synchronized swimmers, the dynamic duo of the Williams tennis super siblings and the grunting German javelinists; the Croatian high jumpers and the Bahamian relay sprinters all at the occasional sporting carnival called the Olympics, the 2012 edition unfolding at the ancient Anglo-Saxon metropolis which is the domain and domicile of landscape characters like Big Ben, Westminster, the Thames, Kew Gardens and Karl Marx’s graveyard.
Pregnant with multifarious and multilayered possibilities, threats, and opportunities this year twenty twelve is determined to be a watershed, a defining moment in Kenyan contemporary history.
A famous grizzled and disheveled, mentally gifted but impoverished refugee who spent a lot of his time in a certain library in London where he honed his knack for churning out tomes on philosophy, history, ideology, economics and politics, quipped eons ago that the dominant concepts, fashions, trends and ideas in any society tended to be those associated with the men and women who controlled the economy, supervised the politics held sway in the social sphere-in other words the ruling class.
Who is the ruling class in Kenya?
Some people think it is the President, his friends, family members and fellow tribespeople.
Others think it is Kibaki, Raila, Kalonzo, Uhuru, Mudavadi, the cabinet ministers, their assistants, members of parliament and top civil servants.
Others think it is the WIVES and MISTRESSES of the above.
Or the respective waganga, jobilo, jujumen and/or religious/spiritual advisors of Kibaki, Raila, Kalonzo et al.
There are those who insist that the TRUE Kenyan RULING CLASS consists of the directors of Trans Century Group plus Maina Njenga, Manu Chandaria, Bob Collymore AND Michael Joseph. Without forgetting Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Didier Drogba, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin Van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, Tusker, Guinness Kubwa, Richot, Viceroy, Yokuzuna, Redds, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Kofi Olomide, Fally Ipupa, Ferre Gola, Reddy Amisi, P Square, D’Banj, the Yorri Yorri singer, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Kobe Bryant, Le Bron James, Obachi Machoka (simply because he is the BLACKEST man in Africa), Maina Kageni, Mwalimu King’ang’i, Catherine Kasavuli, Lillian Muli Kanene, Julie Gichuru, Caroline Mutoko, Dolce + Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Paul Gaultier, Donna Karan New York, Calvin Klein, Beemer, Hummer, Lexus, Benz, Jaguar (the car AND the Nairobi singer) your favourite DJ, Dennis Oluoch, Mariga, Gado AND Maddo!!
Some will whisper to you that is actually the NSIS, the top of the Armed Forces, the Police and the Prisons.
You will find some weird earnest young people on Facebook armed with slim sleek volumes INFORM you that of course it is the FREE MASONS, the JEWS or the ILLUMINATI or ALL THREE IN ONE.
Quite frankly, Kenyans have a wide range of opinions regarding this topic.
I will just share mine-which could very well be far off the mark.
I happen to believe that you cannot talk of the ruling class in Kenya without reference to the so called “international community” which is nothing but a nickname for the leading Western monopoly capitalist powers (and Japan, geographically located in the EAST is part of the geopolitical WEST). Or did you for an instant, for instance, imagine that the “international community” includes such muscle bound states like Lesotho, Swaziland, Rio Muni, Sao Tome and Principe, Mauritius, Mauritania, Gambia, South Sudan, Bhutan, Bangla Desh, Paraguay, Antigua, Iceland, Vanuatu, Nauru, Kiribati, Guam, Papua New Guinea or East Timor?
Without delving into a convoluted historico-ideological exposition, Kenya has been a NEO-COLONY since it received flag independence from the United Kingdom in December 1963. We are part of the “EMPIRE” led by the United States and her allies like Britain, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, the European Union, the Scandinavian countries and so on. They control our economy, determine our politics, and stage manage our ideology and influence our culture.
They give us the ILLUSION that we are “independent” “sovereign” and “free” and perpetuate the myth that our head of state is the President and that the Prime Minister is Kibaki’s equal.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
In the first place we do not have just two “principals” we have THREE- Kofi Annan completes the Triumvirate.
The ambassadors, high commissioners and emissaries to Kenya from the United States, the UK, Japan, Germany, Canada, France and the EU are not merely high ranking diplomats from their respective countries.
They are VICEROYS.
The top financial person in Kenya is not that goofy lawyer from Kirinyaga called Robinson Githae.
It is somebody from Bretton Woods- the home of the World Bank as well as the IMF.
Emilio Mwai Kibaki and Raila Amolo Odinga are nothing but the SENIOR MANAGERS of this tea plantation; this coffee farm; this banana republic called Kenya.
Don’t let their lofty titles fool you.
The Kenyan neo-colonial state has got certain structures- the executive, the judiciary, the legislature and related to those, organs such as the army, the navy , the air force, the police, the prisons, the security intelligence service there to PROTECT the interests of the transnational corporations, safeguard the geopolitical zones of influence of the key imperialist countries in terms of their strategic interests in the east and central African region, not forgetting the volatile Horn of Africa region particularly because of its proximity to the Middle East and the Indian Ocean.
As a reward for protecting these interests for US led imperialism, the mainstream politician/tycoons are given considerable leeway in SUPERVISING and even benefitting from operating the levers of state power.
These are the elements and contingents comprising the comprador/bureaucratic bourgeoisie.
Since I am using Marxist-Leninist jargon, some definitions are perhaps in order:
That part of the bourgeoisie of the economically backward countries (both colonial and independent) which acts as a go-between for foreign companies in domestic and foreign trade. This group is closely linked with the colonialists. Often it functions as an intermediary between the peasants and artisans of its own country and foreign monopolies.
The comprador bourgeoisie arose in the era of the formation of the imperialist colonial system. It was made up predominantly of the part of the native exploiting groups and classes that unconditionally submitted to foreign capital in both political and economic relations (merchants, usurers, feudal lords, and tribal aristocracy). From it and the clan-tribal aristocracy, the colonialists selected the cadre for the local officialdom. The characteristic feature of the comprador bourgeoisie was its antinational, proimperialist position and its refusal to participate in the bourgeois nationalistic anticolonial movement of the late 19th and early 20th century and the period between the world wars.
After World War I there was a weakening of the economic dependency of several large colonies on the mother countries, establishing the conditions for the accelerated development of the national bourgeoisie on the base of the growing native industry. The economic role of the comprador bourgeoisie simultaneously declined in importance. After World War II, with the collapse of the imperialist colonial system and the growth of the national liberation movement, the role of the national bourgeoisie increased, especially its anti-imperalist strata. Since the development of native industry was being impeded by foreign capital, in many developing countries the national bourgeoisie and, above all, its petite and middle bourgeoisie segments took part in the national liberation movement. The result has been the political isolation of the comprador bourgeoisie.
In the young states of Asia and Africa that are following the capitalist way of development, a comprador bourgeoisie continues to exist, serving mainly to maintain economic ties with foreign capital. Not infrequently its political interests coincide with the interests of the entire national bourgeois class, of which it is a part. However, even in these conditions, this group is the one most strongly affected by the economic and political influence of foreign capital, because by the nature of its activity it is the most closely linked with this capital.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
The United States, NATO, EU and Japan do not care really whether it is PNU or ODM in power-what they care about is “stability”-not for the sake of the struggling Kenyans.
In order to achieve this relative “stability” our so called “development partners” will pour millions of dollars, yen, Euros and even Yuan into “civic education campaigns” “public/private partnerships” “micro enterprises” “sensitization seminars” through ministries and government departments, parastatals, commissions, NGOs and CBOs.
Thinkers like James Petras have in turn demonstrated how Western (or Northern) funders like Open Society, Ford Foundation and others have consciously or inadvertently hijacked/softened or diverted the objectives and activities of grass roots organizations and social movements which were initially radical or militant.
Here is what Petras said, way back in 1997, when he was speaking in relation to NGOs in Latin America:
The confusion concerning the political character of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) stems from their earlier history in the 1970s during the days of the dictatorships. In this period they were active in providing humanitarian support to the victims of the military dictatorship and denouncing human rights violations. The NGOs supported "soup kitchens" which allowed victimized families to survive the first wave of shock treatments administered by the neoliberal dictatorships. This period created a favorable image of NGOs even among the left. They were considered part of the "progressive camp. Even then, however, the limits of the NGOs were evident. While they attacked the human rights violations of local dictatorships, they rarely denounced the U.S. and European patrons who financed and advised them. Nor was there a serious effort to link the neoliberal economic policies and human rights violations to the new turn in the imperialist system. Obviously the external sources of funding limited the sphere of criticism and human rights action. As opposition to neoliberalism grew in the early 1980s, the U.S. and European governments and the World Bank increased their funding of NGOs. There is a direct relation between the growth of social movements challenging the neoliberal model and the effort to subvert them by creating alternative forms of social action through the NGOs. The basic point of convergence between the NGOs and the World Bank was their common opposition to "statism." On the surface the NGOs criticized the state from a "left" perspective defending civil society, while the right did so in the name of the market. In reality, however, the World Bank, the neoliberal regimes, and western foundations co-opted and encouraged the NGOs to undermine the national welfare state by providing social services to compensate the victims of the multinational corporations (MNCs). In other words, as the neoliberal regimes at the top devastated communities by inundating the country with cheap imports, extracting external debt payment, abolishing labor legislation, and creating a growing mass of low-paid and unemployed workers, the NGOs were funded to provide "self-help" projects, "popular education," and job training, to temporarily absorb small groups of poor, to co-opt local leaders, and to undermine anti-system struggles. The NGOs became the "community face" of neoliberalism, intimately related to those at the top and complementing their destructive work with local projects. In effect the neoliberals organized a "pincer" operation or dual strategy. Unfortunately many on the left focused only on "neoliberalism" from above and the outside (International Monetary Fund, World Bank) and not on neoliberalism from below (NGOs, micro-enterprises). A major reason for this oversight was the conversion of many ex-Marxists to the NGO formula and practice. Anti-Statism was the ideological transit ticket from class politics to "community development," from Marxism to the NGOs. Typically, NGO ideologues counterpose "state" power to "local" power. State power is, they argue, distant from its citizens, autonomous, and arbitrary, and it tends to develop interests different from and opposed to those of its citizens, while local power is necessarily closer and more responsive to the people. But apart from historical cases where the reverse has also been true, this leaves out the essential relation between state and local power—the simple truth that state power wielded by a dominant, exploiting class will undermine progressive local initiatives, while that same power in the hands of progressive forces can reinforce such initiatives. The counterposition of state and local power has been used to justify the role of NGOs as brokers between local organizations, neoliberal foreign donors (World Bank, Europe, or the United States) and the local free market regimes. But the effect is to strengthen neoliberal regimes by severing the link between local struggles and organizations and national/international political movements. The emphasis on "local activity" serves the neoliberal regimes since it allows its foreign and domestic backers to dominate macro-socio-economic policy and to channel most of the state's resources toward subsidies for export capitalists and financial institutions. So while the neoliberals were transferring lucrative state properties to the private rich, the NGOs were not part of the trade union resistance. On the contrary they were active in local private projects, promoting the private enterprise discourse (self-help) in the local communities by focusing on micro-enterprises. The NGOs built ideological bridges between the small scale capitalists and the monopolies benefiting from privatization—all in the name of "anti-statism" and the building of civil societies. While the rich accumulated vast financial empires from the privatization, the NGO middle class professionals got small sums to finance offices, transportation, and small-scale economic activity.
Kenya is no exception.
I have recently seen proposals and position papers from USAID and other like minded institutions creating donor friendly templates for setting up harmless middle-class CBOs for corralling youth militancy based on the Bunge la Mwananchi concept. I have come across two documents on a so called “Youth Bunge” and another one dubbed “Ni Sisi” both funded by USAID.
To go back to my initial objective around setting a Wananchi-based agenda for 2012.
The Ekaterina Quartet (Sang, Muthaura, Ruto and Uhuru Co. Ltd) through their cross country “prayer rallies” want the agenda for this year to be “Anybody BUT Raila for President”.
Raila Odinga’s agenda for 2012 is unsurprisingly, “Raila for President”.
The folks who support the ICC process want 2012 to be a year for holding people accountable.
MPs want to remain in power, whether as parliamentarians, senators, governors or even presidents. Then there is a whole of bunch of people who want to be part of that eclectic elective mix.
Elements in civil society aver that the implementation of the 2010 constitution is the key NATIONAL PRIORITY.
Do any of these agendas reflect, coincide or echo what could be the Kenyan People’s Agenda?
Most of these positions-even the most progressive ones are being articulated by the country’s elite.
Let us commence with the notion of a “Kibaki Succession”.
The last time I checked, Kenya was defined in Chapter Two of our constitution as “a sovereign Republic…a multi-party democratic State ...”
I also remember reading article 136 (1):
The President shall be elected by registered voters in a national election conducted in accordance with this Constitution and any Act of Parliament regulating presidential elections.
There is an even more important passage in the supreme law of the land to be found right at the beginning in Chapter One:
“All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution. The people may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.”
We are a REPUBLIC folks.
We have Presidents, NOT Kings and Queens, Traditional Chiefs and Sultans.
In an absolute MONARCHY, like Swaziland, when a king or queen dies, he or she is “succeeded”. An article in Wikipedia informs us that:
In hereditary monarchies the order of succession determines who becomes the new monarch when the incumbent sovereign dies or vacates the throne. Such orders of succession generally specify a selection process, by law or tradition, which is applied to indicate which relative of the previous monarch, or other person, has the strongest claim to succeed, and will therefore assume the throne when the vacancy occurs. Often, the line of succession is restricted to persons of the blood royal that is, to those legally recognized as born into or descended from the reigning dynasty or a previous sovereign. The persons in line to succeed to the throne are called "dynasts". Constitutions, statutes, house laws, and norms may regulate the sequence and eligibility of potential successors to the throne…
Obviously NONE of the above APPLIES to our contemporary Kenyan context in any way, shape or form.
Yet every Sunday evening in Kenya during prime time news, there is a segment during Sunday Live, the weekend newscast hosted by Julie Gichuru on the popular Citizen television channel dubbed “The Kibaki Succession” which is devoted to speculating about which particular individual will take over the mantle of power when Kibaki is compelled by law to stand down having served two terms as President (the second one considered illegitimate by a large swathe of Kenyans who are convinced that he stole 2007 results and was foisted on the populace through a civilian coup).
But why “The Kibaki Succession”?
Is he a King, a Sultan, a Nabongo or a Nairobi based Asantehene? Should he be called Shaka Emilio or Kabaka Mwai the First?
Clearly not if we want hold on to our sanity.
If he is not a King or a Queen, then how come there are plans to “succeed” him?
Of course what I am saying is tongue in cheek but I am making the valid point that Kenyans have been bamboozled to accept the canard that the outgoing third president is being succeeded- a truly menacing and chilling thought.
It is because of this preposterous idea that pundits anxiously look to Kibaki to solemnly “anoint” his “successor”.
Is it going to be “Muthamaki” Uhuru “Kamwana”?
Is it going to be “Wiper Pita Katikati” Kalonzo?
Or George Kinuthia Muthengi Saitoti, the “Maasai” who does not speak ONE word of Maa?
Could Kibaki shock Kenyans by tapping Agwambo arap Mibey Jakom?
You see how RIDICULOUS the questions even sound?
Think about it: someone widely believed to have been implicated in massive electoral fraud a mere five years ago is now being venerated as a demi-god with not only a divine right to rule, but further with a royal duty of picking the next head of state of this allegedly “sovereign multi-party republic” where presidents are democratically elected in a supposedly Kenya Republic where the Wananchi are mandated by the constitution to exercise “sovereignty” over and above any and all individuals?
This outlandish notion of a “Kibaki Succession”; this reprehensible idea that there are certain elite families who have the preserve of calling the shots in particular constituencies and counties is something totally out of sync with the emerging constitutional dispensation.
I am proposing that the very first plank on the Kenyan People’s Agenda should be a DEPARTURE from elite pacting, the noxious, personality driven “succession” political maneuvering.
The elite are the numerical minority in Kenya, yet the majority of Kenyans let them set the agenda for the country.
The Kenyan Agenda for 2012 should be set by the Kenyan people, yes the Wananchi, the ordinary woman in the village, the ordinary man in Kawangware, Changamwe, Shauri Yako, Kondele, the ordinary resident in the working class estate, the regular slum dweller- the matatu passengers and boda boda commuters.
It is an agenda based on their everyday socio-economic realities.
The occupants of the Mathare 4A informal settlement- and I know some of them, like Vicky, Kwamboka and Jose-woke up the other day with boulders on their makeshift roofs and rocks cracking their skulls. Over in Umoja, mechanized caterpillars were bulldozing shell shocked artisans from their three thousand shillings a month shacks even as frenzied populist politicians were staging made for television street theatre to bolster their looming gubernatorial bids. Number 33 matatus plying the Pipeline-Tassia-Donholm-Jogoo Road-Commercial route are still charging double the regular rate whenever it drizzles-this despite the flamboyant maze of flyovers and bypasses reconfiguring the city courtesy of well connected Chinese road contractors. Twenty shillings only gets you three tomatoes and regular milk in a sachet is almost fifty shillings these days- we are told that there is a milk shortage even though I have not seen the dairy cows padlock their udders in a nationwide strike for better living and working conditions.
To a Kenya that has long forgotten its militant trade union traditions and the legacy of the Makhan Singhs, the Cege Kibacias and Fred Kubais, the recent work stoppages by health workers, teachers, airport and other public sector workers should be a harbinger of more assertive actions by Kenya’s working people to demand a living wage and more humane conditions.
No one captures the anguish, the agony and the angst of the ordinary Wananchi better than the musicians, actors, comedians, poets, spoken word artists, hip hop and genge stars. Not forgetting the graffiti specialists using the walls, streets and interiors and exteriors of the matatus as their tapestries and canvasses. The recent attempt by Philip Kisia-a wanna be Governor of Nairobi- to stifle the aspirations of a budding graffiti artist with a militant social consciousness speaks volumes of the fear of the establishment about the subversive messages from the subterranean loins from Kenya’s untidy metropolis.
Do ordinary Kenyans, including ordinary Gikuyus, really care if Uhuru Kenyatta becomes President or not?
Do ordinary Kenyans, including ordinary Kalenjins, really care if William Ruto becomes President or not?
Do ordinary Kenyans, including ordinary Luos and Luhyias, really care if Raila Odinga or Musalia Mudavadi becomes President or not?
Do ordinary Kenyans, including ordinary Kambas, really care if Kalonzo Musyoka becomes President or not?
How many ordinary Gikuyus, Embus, Merus and Kambas have benefited from Mwai Kibaki’s civilian coup of 2007?
How many ordinary Luos and supporters of ODM from other Kenyan communities have benefited from the elevation of Raila Amolo Odinga to Prime Ministership due to the National Accord of February 2008?
These are rhetorical questions which contain their own answers.
It is crucial to pose these questions in the context of an ongoing quest by fractions and factions of the comprador and petit bourgeoisie to consolidate consensus on regional and ethnic grounds as a precursor of a more embracing elite pact on how to divvy up the spoils of the increasingly privatized Kenyan neo-colonial state which still serves as the conduit of patron-client systems of rewards and punishment. The 2010 Constitution seen within the prism of contemporary realities will provide the juridical and legislative super structural framework of devolving corruption, nepotism and cronyism from the national to the county levels.
Already many suspected drug lords, ethnic kingpins and notorious war lords of yesteryear are lining up with stolen, licit and illicit swag to crown themselves governors, senators, members of parliament and county representatives.
The jewel in the neo-colonial crown is definitely the presidency, despite the legal checks and balances outlined in the constitution.
The recent indaba of GEMA tribal chieftains in Limuru; the just concluded encuentro of Kalenjin (well they say “KAMATUSA” but we know it was the Nandi-Kipsigis-Keiyo-Marakwet comprador elite who were calling the shots) big wigs in Eldoret; the ongoing internal fracas in ODM pitting Musalia Mudavadi against Raila Odinga are but three manifestations of just how desperate different fractions and factions of Kenya’s bureaucratic and comprador bourgeoisie are to position themselves to capture state power in the next few months.
It is actually laughable how the younger Kenyatta is anxious to seek legitimacy and brownie points from his ethnic base by recasting his ICC CRIMINAL case as a reprise rendition of the nationalist Kapenguria Trial with Uhuru’s handlers depicting the Deputy Prime Minister as a quasi Mandela/Jomo figure buffeted by waves upon waves of hostile imperialist machinations all determined to stop his anointment as the next Muthamaki, the next Mutongoria, the next President of Kenya.
This is laughable on many levels. At one level, with the benefit of hindsight and rigorous historical research Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s supposed credentials as Kenya’s freedom fighter numero uno are tenuous at best-he had denounced the Mau Mau freedom fighters in Nyeri the very year he was arrested; according to the late Bildad Kaggia, Kenyatta was already collaborating with the British as far back as when he was in colonial seclusion. But even if one grudgingly acknowledges Kenyatta’s recognition by nationalist forces like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Pan Africanist voices like Marcus Garvey as a force to reckon with in those circles it would take a gunia of sea salt to swallow the canard that Uhuru whose name means “freedom” is the persecuted anti-imperialist zealot his PR image handlers are trying to make him out to be.
The scion of Kenya’s most notorious land grabbing family cuts a bizarre figure when he tries on the liberation fighter’s agbada or the revolutionary's kente cloth. His father was propped in power for fifteen years by British intelligence and capital from all the capitals of capital during which period the Kenyatta family built a financial empire based on state power, looting of public coffers, assassination and suppression of opponents and tribal affiliation. The book that springs to mind when one contemplates Uhuru’s ill-fated and abortive attempt to inherit the State House master bedroom is Karl Marx’s eternal classic, the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.
Unfortunately GEMA, like the statue of Nebuchadnezzar in the dream that Daniel interpreted, is an edifice with shaky foundations- as evidenced by Maina Njenga’s dramatic gesture to claim his place as the spokesperson for the Agikuyu lumpen proletariat and elements des classes. Also the sharp riposte from patriotic Meru politicians like Gitobu Imanyara was a clear pointer that GEMA is not a monolithic entity commanding blind support from Gikuyu, Embu, Meru and Akamba grass roots.
Ditto for the Statement from Rift Valley Leaders.
First of all this was a declaration by a section of the Kalenjin elite. While ostensibly reflecting on transitional justice, the post-election violence and the 2012 elections, in actuality the statement read by retired military officer Seii was a signal from that fraction of the comprador bourgeoisie that the Moi era beneficiaries of state largesse had no intentions of being locked out of the scramble and jamboree of looting and plunder of public resources and tax payers’ money.
Two immediate problems with the statement.
Like the GEMA pronunciamento which has been criticized by Koigi wa Wamwere among others, by transposing the elite preoccupations of the dominant partner (Kalenjin) in the KAMATUSA conglomeration the statement instantly alienated the Maasai, Turkana (with new found clout thanks to the recent announcement of the petroleum find) and other communities who occupy what was formerly Kenya’s administrative region. Secondly, by trying to insert Kenya’s world beating track stars (who are predominantly Kalenjin) they sparked the ire of the athletics establishment. The first to speak out was Kipchoge Keino, Kenya’s most famous and venerated athlete ever-and who just so happens to be Kalenjin as well.
In addition, by convening the KAMATUSA gathering without, the blessings of retired President Daniel arap Moi, the forces bent on making William Ruto the capo di capo of the Kalenjin spectacularly miscalculated. In any case, even among the Kalenjin elite there is no consensus about who should be the tribal supremo. The Kalenjin, being, like the Abaluhyia a convenient colonial construct is punctuated by internal tensions and fissures between the dominant Kipsigis, Nandi, Keiyo and Marakwet elite factions. Not to forget that the tiny Tugen, from where Moi emanated, along with the Pokot and the Sabaot feel marginalized within the context of the larger Kalenjin laager. And where do you place minority groups like the Elchamus and the Ogiek. And can it make sense to speak of the “Rift Valley leaders” without corralling the Agikuyu who occupy the Central Rift, the Maasai who are in the southern reaches of that expanse, the Abagusii and Bukusu settler farmers, the Luo workers in places like Nakuru, Naivasha, Eldoret, Kericho and Kitale and other communities as well?
Unfortunately the statement by the so called “Rift Valley Leaders” will only serve to rekindle the fires and apprehensions of an ethnic cleansing pogrom among the Agikuyu in the former Rift Valley far from contributing to healing and reconciliation with the Kalenjin. It is not lost on many observers that the National Accord of February 2008 was really a temporary ceasefire in the conflagration between Kenya’s two largest, and politically most powerful ethno-class blocs.
Into this mix one must throw in the surreal mini reshuffle that rewarded the anti-ICC forces of impunity that threw out the increasingly independent minded Mutula Kilonzo, replacing him with the horse faced empty suit Eugene Wamalwa.
For Raila Amolo Odinga, the sacking of Najib Balala had the effect of whittling his already dwindling ODM support base by incurring the wrath of the Muslim community who should have been “consoled” with at least a cabinet position by a Muslim preferably from Mombasa County itself.
Aside from these elite contestations the simmering issues revolving around historical injustices at the Coast symbolized by the protests of the Mombasa Republican Council are not just about to go away. Like the question of youth unemployment and underdevelopment among the Agikuyu which is dismissed as the “Mungiki Menace”, the MRC cannot simply be snuffed out through undercover police death squads, or as many observers are beginning to suspect special state dirty tricks consisting of blowing up innocent Kenyans and blaming the carnage on MRC- or Al Shabaab.
Stubborn social problems like systemic and endemic gender based violence cannot be solved through media generated hype that attempts to blame WOMEN for the spike in cases of domestic battery when the reality of the matter is that on a daily basis far more girls and women, as opposed to boys and men are victims of defilement, rape, physical assault, arson and murder.
And as a bleak backdrop to all this, negative climate change is exacerbated by cynical forays to impose a Monsanto led monster campaign of introducing potentially cancerous genetically modified organisms into Kenyan agriculture and divert efforts at attaining food sovereignty by taking over arable land and giving it over to dubious crops like jatropha for the production of bio fuels. On a related note, insufficient attention is being paid to the machinations of deep pocketed private developers at the Coast who are trammeling on the land rights of indigenous small farmers in places like Kilifi County through the development of giant golf and luxury resorts with the Vipingo project just being one instance.
Almost two years after the promulgation of the constitution we notice that human rights violations, increasingly by the police, the military, city council and municipal askaris continue unabated. Often it is the POLICE who are the first on the scene to harass, brutalize and evict poor urban dwellers. Corruption continues unabated. To echo the song popularized by the Release Political Prisoners group, the 5Cs ensemble and other activist formations, Mambo Ni Yale Yale.
What are we to do then?
Hurtle to our untimely doom from the revolving restaurant atop the Kenyatta International Conference Centre?
Leap to our deaths from the crowded Likoni Ferry?
Hang ourselves with Arsenal and/or Manchester United paraphernalia after watching our favourite Barclays Premier League team lose to a local UK rival or a formidable opponent from Spain or Italy?
Overdose on Yokuzuna or Viagra?
Shoot ourselves with an AK-47 confiscated from Al Shabaab?
Let me recycle a quip from Trinidadian revolutionary Kwame Toure and Nigerian born Pan Africanist Dr. Tajudeen Abdul Raheem who have both rejoined the ancestors:
Don’t Agonize. Organize.
I need another digital essay to expound on that.
Until next time.
Friday, 6th of April 2012