Friday, December 10, 2004

Raila, Kibaki, Kabila, Tabaka, Utawala na Siasa Kenya

Onyango Oloo Explores the LDP's Populism and The Potential for the Kenyan Left To Reconnect With the Wananchi...

1.0. Let Us Talk About Hali ya Anga in Canada for Three Seconds...

SO FAR, today appears to be better than yesterday, but just barely. The weather in Montreal and other parts of Quebec has been awfully atrocious, actually quite treacherous- a bit like some of those devious and dangerous, if not outright murderous NARC political gangsters, you know what I am saying. Yesterday around freaking dawn, our MTL time, not yours, oh you lucky NBI, MSA KSM, and especially you Malindi and Lamu residents, those of you in Kenya strolling carefree like the late Joy Adamson's adopted leonine offspring, those of you in Kenya strolling bare chest along the ufuo of the Indian Ocean, yesterday at dawn, on my way to host the DUNIA show, having left the Metro underground station, when I was navigating my way to the radio studios, gingerly tip toeing up the hill called Royal, trudging through the slush and sludge and tip toeing past the icy puddles lurking around curbs from Sherbrooke heading northwards towards the point where University meets the east-west Pine for a permanent kiss a stone’s throw at the foot of the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital, I eyeballed how the freezing rain had transformed the gaggle of anglo, franco and allo Quebecois early rising pedestrians on all streets into spontaneous sidewalk skaters with the inevitable pratfalls upending this or that silent sufferer on their precious derrieres. You will never catch me singing Bing Crosby's "White Christmas"- give me a Ndombolo, Benga, Chakacha or Roho Juu flavoured tune by, Uyoga, the Mombasa Roots or Safari Sounds or any tune that reminds me of

Mombasa any day. Forlorn souls like the present scribe, transplanted from tropical sun spots, pine and whine for the warm embrace so sorely missing in this sub zero frigidaire that the

sensible and wise Canada Geese flee annually for their all expenses paid Florida vacations...

2.0. Two Weddings and Three Funerals

Is it only me, or is there somebody out there pondering what I am pondering, wondering what I am wondering, shangaring what I am shangaring?

How come barely anyone is talking about the two people at the centre of what some pundits are calling

Kenya's wedding of the year?

Last time I checked, it was not former President Moi who walked down the aisle with present President Kibaki for all the attention they are getting.

And no,

Raila Odinga did not provide a public spectacle to showcase an official rival and brand new miaha to the hitherto one and only,

the unchallenged Mikaye from Gem,

Ida NyaMaliera...

There is a young Kenyan woman called

Rosemary Akeyo.

Over the weekend she exchanged solemn vows with her boyfriend, a fellow compatriot and graduate student called Amos Ndanyi Akasa.

What a moment it must have been for the two love birds?

Here they were, in the middle of an impossible dream come true, a spectacle that millions of young lads and young lasses fantasize about throughout their entire teens-the big ass wedding followed by the big ass bash.

are in order for one of Kenya's newest married couples.

And in lieu of actual wedding gifts(and bearing in mind that we did not make it on to that impressive guest list) we have decided to offer a bunch of wedding songs to the newly wed love birds nesting and nestling in a honeymoon suite somewhere…

First we have the incomparable

Tracy Chapman
singing her
Wedding Song

Then we have R& B’s enfant terrible, Chicago’s own

R. Kelly
entreating someone to
Marry Me.

And this is followed by Kenny G’s own Wedding Song from Breathless.

Mariah Carey

and Brian McKnight chime in with

this duet

Tony Bennett, the legendary crooner, the ageless balladeer gives us a timeless number from
My Best Friend’s Wedding

To be followed by 90’s Billboard mainstays
KCI & Jojo

on the same theme.

Glen Washington, who used to own a restaurant in Toronto currently resides in Jamaica but there is a reason why he makes many female hearts flutter. Give a listen to this...

Jamie Foxx, who has been getting major media ink because of his star turn on the big screen as the young Ray Charles, started off as a stand up comic but has been a fairly decent singer all along.

Listen to his Wedding Vows.

Did you know that Entertainment Tonight’s former host

John Tesh is actually a musician?

Here he is
, teaming up with James Ingram.

And speaking of famous heartthrobs, all I have to say is that it was

Elvis Presley who sang Hawaiian Wedding.

For country music aficionados we have

this little ditty

Dolly Parton

and not to be outdone,

Crystal Gayle singing here with Eddie Rabbit…

deliver their own masterpiece.

Traveling to other parts of the world we encounter
this Punjabi wedding qawwali
and if you are in the mood of going classical, we even have some
Tchaikovsky all lined up and ready to go with an excerpt from the Nutcracker...


What was I saying?

Oh yeah…

Is there such a thing as a "wedding of the year" by the way?

If you are getting married this or any other year, your very own customized do it yourself nuptials (especially if it is not your seventh or eighth) constitute THE WEDDING OF THE YEAR- whether it happens, like it did with some dear Kenyan pal of mine with the initials MG, when he muttered self penned Afrocentric vows under a solitary tree on a beach in beautiful, exotic Jamaica with no other witnesses present apart from the hijacked minister and tweeting birds and the peeping tom tiger fish, crabs and lobsters, ogling curiously from the nearby sea water or it is a simple Islamic ceremony presided over by an Imam in one of the well known North American cities as it happened to another dear Kenyan friend of mine when she got hitched to an African-American a couple of years ago.

Of course when the Father of the Bride is played, not by Steve Martin in the first of two movies, but by Raila Amolo Odinga aka Agwambo Tinga Tinga Owad gi Akinyi more than one or two people are bound to sit up and notice, often for the wrong reasons.

Here is not the place to detail the number of farm animals massacred in this gorge fest, this nyama choma chomping orgy, this busaa guzzling competition, this end of the year fashion parade, this joyous ode to comprador and petit-bourgeois organized gluttony...

From all accounts, messrs PLO, Kwendo Mc Machete, Walter Daniel arap Jaramogi Mwai Mongare kept everyone in stitches as the revelers obeyed the strictures of Kenya's First Gentleman(if there is a First Lady, there must be a First Gentleman ama?) that watu waenjoy bila kujienjoy.

Seriously speaking, the “Wedding of the Year" demonstrated a few things.

One, that the Kenyan comprador bourgeoisie is really ONE BIG, if somewhat DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY.

At the end of the day, the Odingas, Kibakis, Mois, Balalas and Mukhisa Kituyis have more in common with each other than they have with say the Oloos, the Adongos, the Mues and the Bukes. We often forget this basic and fundamental CLASS reality as we allow ourselves to be corralled by this ethnic chieftain or the other each demanding exclusive tribal allegiance and affiliation.

Two, Raila Odinga is one of Kenya's most effective organizers.

Look at the very high level of planning and detailed logistical coordination that was invested in pulling the whole thing off with barely a hitch or a glitch.

Raila, like his late Jaramogi dad is keenly aware how Kenyan social functions like weddings, funerals and even brand new baby baptisms can provide a lectern, a rostrum, a soap box with a megaphone, a conduit to play siasa in a small or grand scale, overtly or covertly.

Through the simple act of inviting all these political bigwigs to his daughter's wedding, Raila made a very simple and powerful statement- he is an impresario extraordinaire and maestro par excellance of grand political pact making in the Kenyan context and Agwambo telegraphed his future political intentions by deftly having a Mluo, a Mluhyia and Mkisii entertain or officiate-essentially sending a subliminal signal to both Kombo and Nyachae saying, without saying, speaking without actually speaking:"Listen, I can bring the game to your turf if I want to, so play nice." To the wananchi out there, Raila was saying, "I may not be the King, but I am the King Maker..Who was more presidential- Moi, Mwai or moi(as in the French word for the Kiswahili word mimi)..."

Three, that there is a serious disconnect between the lives of the powerful rich Kenyan elite on the one hand and that of the average mwananchi on the other. Hebu imagine comparing that gorge fest at Karen with what people in Korogocho, Chaani and Nyalenda had for supper that same day.

I will come back to some of these themes later.

There was another Nairobi wedding that we almost missed out on.

These were the nuptials involving the daughter of the award winning veteran Kenyan journalist Blamuel Njururi who is now the publisher of the muck racking Kenya Confidential. Apparently he was reluctantly cooling his heels in the coolers because of a story in that racy scandal sheet implicating that slimy despotic uberbureaucrat Francis Muthaura. What a vicious kick in the teeth for Kenyan journalists salivating over the nyamchoms at the Agwambo shindig.

There are
THREE Kenyan political funerals I would like to announce today, leaving out the scheduled 2005 demise of the current incumbent that I so casually projected from last year.

I am still not budging from that November 2003 prediction about Kibaki, so go ahead and shoot me.

I am actually talking of the political funerals of:

1.Nicholas Biwott.

He should kiss his political career bye bye.

He was recently declared persona non grata in the USA and it will be interesting to see Canada and Montreal specifically where he is a father in law will follow suit-the Canadians tend to be even more hardcore about some of these things. It has been thoroughly REFRESHING to see Biwott's own party newspaper, the Kenya Times, hacking him to pieces with detailed exposes from witnesses in the ongoing the Ouko Inquiry. The Total Man in DONE like dinner. If I were him, I would leave the country for AUSTRALIA where he is married.

2.Simeon Nyachae.
The Grand Old Man of Kisii Politics cut his own throat when he agreed to be a mere minister in the government of the man he could not bring himself to sign a formal coalition pact before the 2002 elections as he worked to be called President Nyachae. Nyachae's FORD-People has already lost Mwandawiro Mghanga and I predict that come the next elections, many of the constituencies currently in FORD-People hands in Nyamira and Kisii districts will go either to NAK or KANU.

3.The Mwiraria-Murungi-Murungaru-Muthaura Triumvirate Plus One.

It is essentially kaput.

The backlash against the latest betrayal of the struggle for constitutional reforms plus pressure from donors on Anglo Fleecing and other scandals will ensure the departure of two of these four NAK linchpins from centre stage within the next nine to ten months.

The only certain survivor left standing in my view will turn out to be the wily KIRAITU MURUNGI who is essentially not a bad person when he is in the right environment.

One of the things that will surprise Kenyans in the next three years is a complete rapprochement between Raila and Kiraitu.

Their politics, away from the grand standing is cut from the same progressive nationalist cloth.

Many people forget that Kiraitu's dad was jailed for Mau Mau related activities and Kiraitu first made his mark springing the political comrades and fellow detainees of Raila from prison. Kiraitu has more in common with Raila than he has with a technocrat and social climber like Amos Kimunya.

3.0. Raila's Massive Populist Clout and the Kenyan Left's Time Tested Ideological Pedigree- A Marriage Waiting to Happen?

Those of us who still call ourselves Socialists, Communists, Marxists, Anti-Imperialists, Pan Africanists, progressive Wazalendo, whatever, are THOROUGHLY DISGUSTED by the dismal record in office of the NARC gang.

The other day, as if to add an icing to the already rotting cake, President Kibaki did
another about turn about the free education pledge.

Kenyan parents have promptly informed him that they are not taking these comments lying down.

There is one phenomenon we on the Kenyan Left must grapple with sooner rather than later.

And this is emergence of the LDP as a mass based Kenyan POPULIST formation with the potential of crippling the present NARC government that it is a part of currently and catapulting ahead to forming the next serikali. One of the strangest things that Kenyans may witness in the coming elections is an election pact between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga to defeat whatever remains of the NAK axis by then.

Now all you anti-LUO tribal jackasses out there in cyberspace, can you do me a favour and check your tribal ujinga at the gate before you sit down to read much farther?

Please, extend me that courtesy if you do not mind.

I am looking forward to your INTELLIGENT critical feedback, not the usual, "Oloo is the LDP Chief Whip" upumbavu.

I want to analyse the LDP and I feel mighty pissed off that I actually have to preface this analysis with a caveat that I am NOT a member of the LDP even though I am a Kenyan from the Luo community.

Has your ujinga wa kikabila been checked at the mlango kubwa?


You can come in now.

In my opinion, in terms of mainstream political parties, the LDP is the single most popular entity in the country right now and its charismatic leader, Raila Odinga the single most influential mwanasiasa nchini- and this is an OBJECTIVE FACT regardless of what you think of Raila Odinga and the LDP.

A clear manifestation of the grassroots clout of the LDP was seen recently during the NARC nominations for the December 16th Kisauni by-election.

For a long time it was almost an unwritten rule that the handpicked relative of a dead or retired MP would inevitably “inherit” the seat- think of the offspring/siblings of Ngala, Jomo Kenyatta, Oginga Odinga, Daniel arap Moi, Moses Mudavadi, Tom Mboya etc. NAK naively thought that the death of Karisa Maitha narrowed the contestants to two- his younger brother Steve Mramba or his third wife Alice with the votes coming from overwhelmed and sympathetic Kisauni voters.

it did not actually turn out that way, did it now?

Of course the BANKRUPTCY of Kenyan mainstream politics can be discerned when we see these so called NAK/NARC Damu
the moment they fail to wangle themselves a nomination.

It was not long before Kenyans saw the NAK faction resort to what is by now a familiar ace they stash up their sleeves- just like they did it at Bomas when they could no longer stop the Zero Draft, they sponsored a so called voter Kazungu Katana(I hope it is not the same venerated VOK broadcaster who used to entertain us with his Wajue Wanamuziki all those years ago) to
file a law suit that would have the effect of placing a very UNDEMOCRATIC roadblock to deprive the 4,000 plus people who bothered to show up for the nominations a chance to vote for their overwhelming choice.

For the last few months I have curbed my enthusiasm to micro-analyse the internal rumbles and wrangles in NARC.

This was largely because there really was nothing new to say.

Also, I like watching trends for a while before opening my big Bakuli to weigh in.

The last three months has seen the NAK forces allied to Kibaki increasingly revert to a kabila laager- not just the Mount Kenya Mafia andu aitu kuchanganyikiwa ploys and play for ethnic allegiance from certain communities in Central, Eastern, Rift Valley etc but also a very amateurish attempt at cobbling elitist, top down tribal alliance like the crude one that catapulted Simeon Nyachae and his sidekicks into the Kibaki cabinet.

What astounded me was to read in the Kenyan media and among the numerous pundits in cyberspace that the NAK faction was actually “winning” the internal scuffles with its fractious LDP coalition partners. This had partly to do with those instances when some NAK/LDP/Ford People MPs acting like the shameless political whores they arwe were bought with a few ngiris and jirongos either to absent themselves from parliament during crucial votes or gang up and vote like trained punda mlia.
On the surface, it would appear that people like Chris Murungaru, Francis Muthaura, Lucy and Mwai Kibaki are “very powerful.”

In my opinion, the clout of the Muthauras and so on is based on terrible insecurities and sleepless fears of the Big Bad LDP wolf. When all your political tactics and strategies are driven by panic and speculating about the next moves of your opponent, then you are basically screwed, you know what I am saying. Real strength, real leadership, real resilience is anchored on an internally consistent, long term agenda where you have a clear vision of what you want, who you want around you and how you are going to get to your final destination.

Back in primary school some of the biggest boys were the biggest bullies, intimidating the younger kids to bring them one shilling every other day, stolen from home. But these big boys frequently owned some of the slowest brains in class as well. Their bullying was inversely proportional to their self confidence and self-esteem.

Look around the rogue gallery of past, present and future African despots. As a rule, the more insecure a leader was, the more ruthless he became- even if he started off as a popular leader- Isayas Aferworki of Eritrea and Robert Mugabe spring immediately to mind. We know how both Kenyatta and Moi, especially in their later years ruled through sheer terror and fear ruthlessly dispatching the JM Kariukis and Robert Oukos to early graves. Mwai Kibaki was a loyal apprentice to both despots and in his hands off way, he has anointed the Muthauras and the Murungarus to be the Njoroge Mungais and Nicholas Biwotts of today.

But the NAK nyoomba is an edifice constructed with cardboard paper on quick sand.

One of these days it will not only collapse, but as it does, the quick sand underneath will suck into nothingness the puffed up cowardly bullies we see swaggering on the Kenyan public stage these days.

The Kibaki regime has quickly surpassed both the Kenyatta and Moi regimes as the most openly TRIBAL and ARROGANT regimes in Kenya so far.

Kenyatta was a product of a certain history of anti-colonial protest- he had to include militant patriots in his lineup; Moi, for his own credibility had to play lip service to a certain shallow nationalism.

The NAK gang has no such qualms.

Internally they are determined in putting together the most elitist cabinet in Kenya’s history and externally they are waiting to kiss George Bush’s ass even more profusely than they did in the last year- you just watch.

And we can see that those Kibaki back room boys have no clue as to how to consolidate power.

See how they have alienated someone like Charity Ngilu who has no love for the LDP or Kalonzo Musyoka; see what they are doing to alienate the huge Luhyia voting bloc; it is a wake up call when you see a demented attack mbwa mwitu like Duncan Mungatana attack not Raila Odinga, but Chris Murungaru for imposing an unpopular choice on the Kisauni people.

And was that not Kivutha Kibwana the other day blasting the NAK regime for abandoning reforms?

How about Koigi wa Wamwere’s increasingly strident tirades against the same forces he defended just months ago (I have been waiting to say to you all- I did tell you so way back when)?

And can you say Prof. Makau wa Mutua?

Some of the pro-NAK apologetic leopards have painted over their spots I tell ya… The announcement that Kibaki blithely delivered to the teachers that they should not expect to see anything prior to 2008 when these same teachers have been waiting patiently since 1997 is not something that I would file under politically intelligent- in fact, quite the contrary.

It is partly by default that many ordinary Kenyans are beginning to look at the LDP faction as a mainstream alternative government, in fact as the REAL opposition party.

This is kinda ironic, given the fact that the LDP in numerical terms, has MORE MPs than its NAK rival and therefore have a vested interest in keeping the NARC ship afloat if they want those ministerial flags to keep on fluttering on their gas guzzling 4WDs.

If a free and fair election were to be held in Kenya today, there is NO DOUBT IN MY MIND that the LDP would get a landslide victory.

Raila Odinga remains popular in Nairobi, Mombasa and across the country. We know that the pro-NAK media blacked out the tumultuous and enthusiastic welcome that greeted Raila and Kalonzo when they were in Meru not too long ago.

The mass following of the LDP in certain parts of the country cannot be adduced simplistically to “tribal affiliations.”

That is just too lazy and frankly quite shallow.

It does NOT explain why Mwandawiro Mghanga who is neither a Luo nor a Mluhyia has helped to deepen this popularity of this opposition faction within the ruling coalition.

What concerns me however as a Kenyan Marxist-Leninist is the danger of LDP’s populist appeal.

Populism is something we all ought to study meticulously. Populism is a njora which cuts both ways. Populism can take a very progressive left wing bent. It can also easily unleash fascist tendencies. People sometimes forget that Adolf Hitler was actually ELECTED in 1933 to become Chancellor.

In fact, one of the main ideologues of Marxism-Leninism, Vladimir Illych Ulyanov matured politically precisely because of a RESOLUTE and RUTHLESS IDEOLOGICAL DEBUNKING of the Narodniks, the Russian Populists of the late 19th Century.

Zinoviev, one of the Bolshevik leaders later eliminated by Stalin looked at this question of populism when he wrote a monograph on the history of the Russian revolutionary movement.

What does Russian history of the bygone Bolshevik era have to do with the ongoing developments in twenty first century neo-colonial Kenya?

I am concerned, not so much about Raila Odinga himself, but some, NOT ALL of the LDP acolytes who do not have a progressive CV at all. In fact some of them are quite the opposite... What worries me is that we have the ingredients of a Kenyan Narodism which is even more bankrupt because NONE of the mainstream Kenyan political parties has bothered to inject ANY KIND of IDEOLOGICAL rigour or training in its members who do NOT even qualify to be called "cadres" because they largely lack that analytical, theoretical depth and seriousness that you expect a card carrying member of a serious party to have. They are no different from their NAK brothers and sisters who can change political parties more frequently than a Las Vegas diva changes costumes in the course of a single concert...

We have seen the penchant for deal making as one of the defining characteristics of the LDP. We have seen the disturbing tendency to anchor everything on the charisma of a Raila Odinga or a Kalonzo Musyoka. This is extremely dangerous because it can easily create a very unhealthy cult of personality that deifies individual politicians, invested with mythical superhuman attributes instead of investing more energy in ideological development and consolidation of party structures.

The reliance on political horse trading and factional pact making based on regional power equations circumscribes the strengths and the weaknesses of the LDP. Among all the mainstream parties, the leadership of this outfit has mastered the nuances of Kenyan petit-bourgeois elite politics and they know how to get out their loyal mass base.

At the same time, the LDP leadership as I have just noted does NOT pay a lot of attention to the deeper questions of ideology and sustainable principles. The LDP is a party machine predicated on the narrow goal capturing political power.

Now, there is nothing wrong with capturing political power.

The crucial thing is what to do with political power once you have it.

One of the most profound ironies about the way someone like Adongo Ogony or Onyango Oloo has been tarred and feathered as LDP moles has to do with the fact by and large the cloistered inner sanctum of the LDP has been an impenetrable fortress that is virtual foolproof in terms of having any access in to some of us. During my entire stay in Kenya I met many political figures-but not one of them was an LDP insider- and it was NOT from lack of trying. Adongo Ogony is actually from Bondo- Raila’s hometown. Despite the fact that he is known to the LDP head honcho, that has not made it any easier for him to make contact. In other words, the LDP shares the same characteristics as NAK when it comes to fostering certain ties with certain sections of the Kenyan Left. So while all these anti-Luo chauvinists are braying how Oloo and Adongo are LDP spokespeople we are both going- it would have been nice if we could at least have ONE MEETING with an actual LDP member to give credence to all these allegations.

Many of my buddies on the Kenyan Left are understandably wary of the LDP because of its history as a KANU offshoot and Raila Odinga’s own dalliances with a range of political forces, leading to charges of demagogic opportunism.

Now I am holding no brief for the LDP or any other political party.

The question that I would like to pose progressive Kenyans who consider themselves socialists or anti-imperialists is the following:

How can we, as members of the Left deal with the mainstream parties- LDP, NAK, Ford-People and KANU? Should we even sit down and talk to them? Can we join these formations?

My friend Mwandawiro has asked me to give serious thought to the prospect of running for parliament the next time around. Adongo has told me that some of his buddies have asked him to reflect on the same thing.

What should our answer be?

I know already what my answer will be.

Without a political home which keeps us accountable to a larger collective and keeps us on our toes ideologically, any individualist progressive foray into the shoals of mainstream parliamentary politicking will lead the usual zig zags and flip flops of mainstream siasa.

That is why I will reiterate that the only way the Onyango Oloos can deal with the Raila Odingas and the LDPs is as members of organized EXPLICITLY socialist oriented INDEPENDENT formations that have definite ideological and organizational agendas.

At the same time, I hope that members of the Kenyan Left do not repeat the sectarian mistakes of 1992 when we allowed our Leftist snobbery to thwart our attempts at creating a sustainable mass base among the wananchi.

This time around we have to acknowledge the existence of the mass democratic pull of Raila Odinga and his followers in the LDP. As members of the Kenyan Left we should then forge credible and sustainable tactical and even strategic alliances on such key issues like for instance the role of Islam, the suppression of terrorism bill, retrenchment and other social and economic problems. In other words the ready country wide political apparatus of the LDP in order to reach out to and radicalize that same mass democratic base, which in turn will provide us responsibilities of crafting a sustainable, left oriented transition to progressive politics in Kenya.

In my opinion our agenda must transcend and extend the agenda of parties like LDP who dream and drink political power but rarely beyond that.

How to go about this?

Wacha kunisumbua nani.


Tutaendelea na insha kesho kutwa ama mtondogoo.

Ama umekasirika?

Poa nawe.

Hata simba mkali mwenyewe alitulia baada ya kupewa chai masala nakuambia…

More seriously, this is still a work in progress…

Onyango Oloo

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