Friday, October 22, 2004

Insulting Hollow Homage To Freedom Fighters

By Adongo Ogony

I was slightly amused and mostly angry with the mock homage Kibaki and his Narc crew attempted to pay in honour of the thousands of Kenyans who fought in the Mau Mau war for national liberation on Kenyatta Day. The whole event reminded me why the day is named after Kenyatta, the founding father, who never lifted a finger to fight the colonialists but had a lot of energy later on to fight Kenyan nationalists, confining some to detention and others allegedly to their early graves.

I say amused because even as Kibaki poured well deserved praises on Ramogi Achieng Oneko seated at the podium, the widow of one of Kenya’s legendary freedom fighters Mrs. Elsie Mukami Kimathi, widow of our beloved Dedan Kimathi was not even allowed into the stadium leave alone even remotely acknowledged. With her out in the cold was Muthoni Baimunge widow of Kimathi’s comrade in arms Marete Baimunge as well as Doris Nyambura, widow of one of one of Kenya’s greatest patriots brutally assassinated during Kenyatta’s rule in 1975, Josiah Mwangi Kariuki.

The one thing that always exposes the neocolonial outfits that our mainstream politics continue to spit on our political landscape is that for them the struggle for freedom and democracy all ended in 1963 when we lowered the Union Jack and coined a brand new national anthem.

All that we are supposed to do now is development. I ask how can we develop when the Kenyatta family takes enough land for 10 million Kenyans. From the latest reports the Kenyattas own 500,000 acres of land. Just mind boggling, isn’t it? Of course you know who else follows. Yeah you got it right, it is the Mois and the Kibakis. What does that say about our so-called development? How much money did Kenyatta earn while in detention so that he could buy all that land? What this tells us is that proximity to power equals proximity to wealth and that is supposed to be called development. It sucks.

Let me remind these people that our struggle for national liberation has continued to this very day. How many Kenyans perished in the struggle to abolish section 2(A) of the fraudulent Kanu constitution that made Kenya a one party state by law? Are they also heroes of the Kenyan struggle for democracy? A lot of the pretenders to the throne today trace their political involvement to the volatile 1980’s and 1990’s even though most of them played it safe, either sticking with Kanu until it was safe to leave or simply engaging in mild protest politics.

Well let me tell you something. Among my heroes in the struggle for freedom and democracy in Kenya are people like Karimi Nduthu, the former RPP Secretary who was jailed for 10 years during the Mwakenya crackdown and later murdered in cold blood in his own room in Nairobi by political agents. You will never hear his name anywhere when Kibaki and co talk about respecting our heroes. Incidentally while the celebrations were in full throttle, Karimi’s dear friend and long time comrade, Kangethe Mungai who served ten years with him was being declared a national shame for having the guts to lead his comrades from the RPP to demand accountability of past crimes. The RPP had the audacity to write a message on the Moi Monument demanding it is time to hold people accountable. For that ten of them were hounded into the police cells and later into court.

From the brouhaha of the police and the media about the incident you would think ten of the most wanted murderers and robbers had been apprehended and the nation is safe now. Among those arrested was Njuguna Mutahi, the Coordinator of People Against Torture (PAT). Njuguna Mutahi spent some memorable days with me at the Nyayo House torture chambers and later at Kamiti medium prison. Actually for him it was a family affair. He was in both places with his late brother Wahome Mutahi, the fabled “Whispers”. Instead of Mutahi and his comrades who have fought and suffered irreparably in the struggle for a free Kenya sitting on the podium to celebrate the heroes day, something they richly deserve, the fellow is in a police cell waiting to be charged for protesting against those who tortured and almost killed him. And we call this progress. Some progress indeed.

Kenya is littered with abandoned heroes and heroines of our struggle while a bunch of mercenaries and even outright thieves are lording it over the country dancing all the way to the bank.

We have a habit of waiting until our heroes are dead or on death bed to acknowledge them, if they are lucky and then shed ugly crocodile tears and soon go back neglecting them. The politicians will pour into the hospital to comfort Bildad Kaggia and as soon as they leave the hospital they forget all about him.

By now we should at least have a Freedom Fighters Hospital and Rehab Centre to help people heal the wounds of battle with the chains of Kenya’s autocracy dating back to colonialism. We got people walking around with iron bars in their legs and with untold permanent physical injuries. Think about the FERA suspects, most of whom now we know were innocent people rounded up and charged with heinous crimes. A good number of them were brutalized beyond imagination through gruesome torture techniques including electric shocks to their private parts. Is anybody even bothered about their fate and dignity? Nope. Not the government. In fact some of them are still rotting in our jails.

Look at Dedan Kimathi’s widow, poor and abandoned. Our government can’t even find Kimathi’s body to give this great Kenyan a descent burial. Nobody has the guts to tell the British government to produce the body. They murdered him. The records are somewhere. If one individual ever deserved support it is this woman who was herself a fighter in the bush. But no, we have enough money to pay Wamalwa’s loans and to take care of Maitha’s children and may be they deserve it, but who the heck is going to give honour and dignity to Elsie Mukami Kimathi and Muthoni Baimunge and many others like them. Certainly not the phony patriots in Narc.

Most of us who join the struggle for democracy and social justice in Kenya, do not do so for some kind of recognition. We are not rock stars and have no such aspirations. Our business is a dangerous business. As an activist in the 1980’s when I was nabbed and almost got killed in the Nyayo House I expected to be in trouble. I was fighting a vicious regime. I knew I could get arrested, tortured and even killed. It comes with the territory. What we expect after these great battles is justice. That is the just reward for freedom fighters.

Kenyans have busted their behinds for decades to remove Moi and Kanu from power. When some of us used to utter the word “multi-party” and “human rights” in the 1980s we were considered lunatics. Irredeemable nut cases who belonged in the asylum. We never wavered. Even Kibaki who actually moved the motion to declare Kenya a one party state and later compared multi-party activists to those attempting to cut the Mugumo tree with a razor blade, later joined us. We welcomed him and many others and now we have made him our president. And what did they promise us? Narc promised a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission to look into past crimes and let Kenyans reconcile as one people, one nation. What did we get? Hot air. That is not my kind of justice.

Kiraitu Murungi our Justice Minister, formed a Task Force on the Truth Justice and reconciliation chaired by Prof. Makau Mutua to establish whether Kenyans wanted a TJRC. They went across the length and breadth of the country and the overwhelming majority said the time is now to face our past, warts and all and deal with it so we can face the future without bitterness and acrimony.

There was hope and expectation and in fact the final phase of the Task Force was a conference in Nairobi attended by one of Africa’s most revered personalities, Bishop Desmond Tutu who chaired a similar commission in South Africa. Bishop Tutu welcomed the idea and urged Kenyans not to be vengeful but to be honest and sincere as they search their souls.

One year later Kibaki is telling us it is time to pursue politics of development, whatever that means. Mr. President we have always pursued politics of development. Fighting to remove Kanu and Moi from power was politics of development. Fighting to end presidential tyranny and dictatorship is politics of development. The fiction that we can separate politics from development and pursue one and not the other is a tired gimmick. Lets give it a well deserved rest.

Why can we not get the TJRC as promised? Simple. Narc power mongers have messed up the country big time. As a matter of fact when the TJRC comes to fruitation Narc will be on the other side of the dock. The new thieves and abusers of human rights after Moi cannot be expected to establish a TJRC. At any rate when the tribalists in Narc got mesmerized with power and started their internal fights they soon realized they both need Kanu. Just look what is going on with the Kibaki-driven constitution making process.

Without Kanu Kibaki cannot govern and the LDP people too need Kanu. What this means is we can all kiss bye to the TJRC for now. Think about it, if Kibaki and his team can make 360 degrees turn on the constitution and basically retain the hideous Kanu constitution under a phony review by MPs completely trashing the efforts of millions of Kenyans with frightening impunity, what is to stop them from simply saying forgive and forget and lets move on. Easy for them to say since most of them are the ones demanding our forgiveness. Do you remember the fracas when Uhuru Kenyatta apologized for unnamed Kanu crimes. Kanu folks were furious with him. How dare he apologize to the imbeciles called Kenyans? They deserved everything they got. That is the message they wanted us to get loud and clear.

I almost fell of the chair reading a newspaper report about Mr. Kivuvani the former Chief of Intelligence who was in charge when Dr. Ouko was slaughtered.Mr. Kivuvani was declared a hostile witness at the Ouko Inquiry because he was evasive and basically rude and uncooperative. This is the height of arrogance. As Chief of Intelligence, Mr. Kivuvani was second only to Moi on matters of state security. This is the man under whose watch a cabinet minister was brutally killed under and a very obvious cover up put in place. This man should be coming to the Inquiry with maximum humility telling them everything he knows, even if it means doing it in camera. And what does he do? He goes there and thumps his nose at them letting them know they are toothless dogs wasting their time and our money. Good for him.

In the meantime, the Goldenberg Commission is turning into a sad joke. By the way when is our ex-president Daniel Arap Moi going to testify at the Commission, because if he is not then we should shut the whole thing down and count our losses. I found it strange that the Commission is begging Moi and others to say if they want to testify. I though people were summoned to the commission.

Those who claim to be Moi’s friends should tell the Mzee to go the Commission and clear his muddied name if he is innocent. The same applies to the Ouko Inquiry. There are all sorts of testimony and innuendo suggesting the ex-head of state was involved in this or that. Unless he comes up to tell Kenyans what he knows, it is easy to blame Moi for everything and let everybody else go free. That wouldn’t be fair to Moi, to other suspects and more important to the whole country. I have been the first to say when Moi peacefully handed over power he earned some respect from Kenyans. Nobody wants to put the old man in jail. There is nothing to be gained by that. But we need to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The truth of the matter is that the whole process of transition justice has been trashed beyond repair by the Narc opportunists who conned us into electing them on false promises. This means everything is being postponed for a future showdown. Rest assured the day is coming. There is nothing to stop us for example from simply constituting a Truth and Justice Commission and collect information and testimony from the survivors and decide what we want to do with the perpetrators. What is there to stop me from giving my torturers whom I know by name a visit with a bunch of my friends and having a discussion? I know where they live. What is to stop people whose lands were stolen from simply organizing to sort it out on their own with those who grabbed their land and are still occupying it? There is no army in the world that can stop a people ready to seize justice which has been denied to them. That is what the Mau Mau day symbolizes. Like Kimathi said “it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”. That is the spirit I celebrate on this day.

The writer is a human rights activist.

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