Monday, January 17, 2005

Social Prosperity is a Distinct Possibility in Kenya

This is the Concluding Part of a 2 Part Essay on How To Solve Kenya's Economic Problems...

For Part 1 Click here...


Onyango Oloo makes the case that Kenya and Kenyans can, should and must transcend the present neo-colonial quagmire of poverty, inequality and chronic underdevelopment afflicting the east African country by pursuing viable and concrete political, economic, social, technological and cultural policies within the context of a patriotic and progressive ideological framework that puts the Wananchi of Kenya front and square in the quest for sustainable development, social justice and equitable realignments in Kenyan society. The writer details specific and concrete steps that can and should be taken to realize this goal.

1.0.Transitioning from a Neo-Colonial to a National Democratic State in Kenya

In Part 1 of this essay I argued that the current comprador bourgeois ruling clique mismanaging the Kenyan neo-colonial state on behalf of world monopoly capital is part and parcel of the malaise that has kept our country and our people groaning from poverty, unemployment, social inequality and marginalization. I stated that sustainable development could not be initiated by a venal cabal of political charlatans who are more interested in crude accumulation of personal wealth rather than increasing the national wealth of Kenya. I endeavoured to show the organic connection between our historical dependent ties to imperialism and our present day reality of underdevelopment. I posited that we need a new political dispensation if we were really serious about embarking on a long term trajectory of actual economic development in Kenya.

Ultimately all this will not happen spontaneously or by happenstance.

Progressive Kenyans must organize themselves politically into a national democratic movement that will mobilize the wananchi from Lamu to Lunga Lunga, Mombasa to Malaba, Lokichoggio to Loitoktok to somehow seize political power from present day jokers led by Mwai Kibaki and the rest of the Kenyan comprador and petit bourgeois opportunist politicians whether these politicians are in NAK, LDP, FORD-K, FORD-P, Safina etc does not really matter because they are UNITED by their narrow pro-imperialist class interests that will see them cut survival deals at the end of the day- even after all their demagogic and populist posturing, playing mind games with the wananchi.

I hope that I am not ambiguous on this point-only a National Democratic REVOLUTION will ensure that the wananchi are in power.

It is really that simple.

In March 2004, I wrote an essay elaborating on the theme of the Revolutionary Dimension to Constitutional Change in Kenya-you may wanna check it out, if you have the time...

And as regards a deeper discussion on the character of the Kenyan State, you can browse and peruse this recent intervention that I unleashed on my birthday last year...

The bitter Kenyan political experience since the NARC electoral victory of December 2002 demonstrates, in very stark terms that over and over again, irrespective of what they call themselves(KANU, NARC, whatever!) the various fractions of the dependent compradorial strata in Kenya will abuse the trust that the wananchi so naively invested in them. Nothing illustrates this more vividly than the debacle over a new democratic constitution for Kenya. Mwai Kibaki and his NARC gangsters promised the wananchi a new constitution within the first one hundred days of acceding to office. This is in fact, ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS why they were elected with a landslide. Oh, we stupid Kenyans actually believed these two faced, lying charlatans when they solemnly pledged to us, the gullible Kenyan voters all over the country, that they would make a clean break with the 39 years of KANU betrayal and obstacles towards a new national constitutional dispensation. We need not regurgitate what we have been saying over and over again for the last eighteen months- Kibaki and his political swindlers are guilty as charged when it comes to the crime of hijacking and sacrificing the just and democratic aspirations of the wananchi on the altar of their narrow factional sectional, tribal and yes, class interests. Truly truly I see to you: it is easier for an elephant to fit into a Size 7 dress than it is for NARC to deliver a new truly democratic Kenyan constitution within the lifetime of their current mandate.

Most of the static, flak and controversies percolating around the Katiba impasse have revolved around the question of executive powers and whether or not Kenya should have a prime minister with what kind of authority.

For the purposes of this essay, I want to completely disregard that aspect of the constitutional wrangling and concentrate on FIVE OTHER CHAPTERS of the Zero Draft which are very germane to this essay talking about sustainable development in Kenya.

I am referring to Chapter Six on the Bill of Rights, Chapter Seven on Land and Property, Chapter Eight on the Environment and National Resources, Chapter Fourteen on Devolved Government and Chapter Fifteen on Public Finance. Since you are lazy, let me point you to an online link for the entire Zero Draft. There.

Taken together, these chapters form the supreme legal basis for embarking on a sustainable development agenda for Kenya.

What do I mean?

The Bill of Rights (if you excise,for the moment those reactionary inclusions like that pro-life clause sneaked in by religious fundamentalists) speak candidly of equality, gender, youth, minority, religious and other rights and safeguards that will hopefully form the constitutional framework for an emergent national democratic culture in our country.

The chapter on land and property is an important one, especially in the current context of a raging national controversy and activism around land grabbing, the Ndungu Report and the consolidation of the Kenyan comprador bourgeoisie.

The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize award to Prof. Wangari Maathai coupled with economic and political ramifications of the tsunami catastrophe has all but ensured that environmental concerns will receive top billing this year and the years to come as Kenyans increasingly grapple with the socio-economic impact of global warming within our specific historical and geographic milieu. More than that the chapter on the environment and natural resources will further help to contextualize the delicate balancing act between the needs of the wananchi in the social environment and the imperative of protecting our pristine flora and fauna in the natural environment so valorized by tourists and mainstream environmentalists who often think that ostriches and hyenas are more important than starving pastoralists in human form.

The Chapter on Devolution provides an interesting take off point as Kenyans begin to implement national, regional and local development priorities in the very near future. I have commented elsewhere on the tango entanglement between national unity regional autonomy and local diversity so I will say no more here.

If implemented to the letter, Chapter Fifteen on Public Finance will serve to thwart the periodic reemergence of scandals like Goldenberg, Anglo Fleecing and the ongoing exposes of cabinet ministers who moonlight as drug barons and similar outrages implicating the politically connected economic elites of Kenya.

Those five chapters in turn provide FIVE REASONS why the NAK gangsters continue to block the adoption of a new democratic constitution in Kenya. Superficial pundits have their fingers frozen on the automatic redial/rewind button as they only go to the section of the Bomas video featuring the presumed Kibaki/Raila standoff over the executive powers. The mountain of ink devoted to the one chapter on the executive has provided a very useful smokescreen and subterfuge obscuring the more fundamental motivations powering the Block the Bomas Draft Rearguard Battle spearheaded by Kiraitu Murungi and Chris Murungaru and bolstered whether wittingly or not, by the Ufungamano congregation of political opportunists and fence-sitters.

2.0.Fourteen (Among Two Dozen) Critical Components of a Sustainable Development Agenda for Kenya

(i)A True National Democratic Constitution. See preceding section.

(ii)Comprehensive Agrarian Reforms. Again, the most democratic, transparent and legally accountable way to initiate comprehensive reforms is within the framework of a new democratic constitutional dispensation. It is simply outrageous that the Kenyatta family, the Moi family, and many of the most prominent names in Kenyan elite circles own hundreds of thousands of hectares of land (chunks of which remain idle) while MILLIONS of wananchi are landless, jobless and homeless.

(iii)Decentralized, Participatory People Driven Economic Planning. I am not talking of the district focus con trick and cul-de-sac where a few political appointees of the central government issue unrealistic decrees on what the local Maendeleo priorities shall be, but rather a serious attempt in initiating ongoing democratic participation by Kenyan workers, small farmers, women, the youth, civic leaders, MPs, public servants, private entrepreneurs, NGOs, trade unions, and civil society actors in mapping out concrete socio-economic projects for specific villages, locations, districts and regions- within the context of a broad based national development agenda that is worked out in close collaboration between the central government, regional autonomous structures and grass roots institutions.

(iv)Negotiations with Multilateral and Bilateral Institutions/Donors on Debt Cancellation. Our national debt is not just unpayable; it is also unjust and is one of the reasons for Kenya's continued underdevelopment. As Walter Rodney and Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu have argued in their seminal works, Kenya and other African countries were impoverished by the machinations of international capitalism. Foreign aid serves to keep us dependent and poor, rather than independent and prosperous. Kenyans should clearly build on the momentum of the Jubilee mobilization to demand a cancellation of the debt as part of a democratic dividend to spur economic development. The UK is already planning to cancel the debt of Tanzania and 70 other countries, so it is NOT that FAR FETCHED an idea if you sober up and think about it. Kenyans abroad can play a very prominent role in engaging G-8 countries like Canada, Germany; the UK etc to do something concrete about debt cancellation. Note that I did not mention the USA. It is just too far gone. At the very least, these “developed” countries should convert their loans into grants. But of course, we must get our act together. I understand that people like Edward Clay do not appreciate when our finance, justice and internal security ministers vomit on their diplomatic shoes. But we really should tell the IMF where they can stuff their snake oil once and for all.

(v)A Moratorium on Retrenchments, Privatizations Etc-It is by now beyond debate that the IMF Structural Adjustment Programs were a disastrous and socially costly failure. No one realizes this more than the Bretton Woods evil twin itself- that is why the imperialists and their local neo-colonial sidekicks are trying to repackage their neo-conservative clap trap as PRSPs, NEPAD and similar unsustainable pipe dreams. Kenyans need to STRENGTHEN their public sector, not weaken it. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the three areas of infrastructure development, health and housing. We all know about the parlous conditions of our roads, water ways and internal air line routes (remember the first tragedy that struck the NARC homecoming gang in Busia?). Quite simply without concrete leadership from the central government, none of the donors, private entrepreneurs, civil society actors etc will come on board. Even though I hate his andu aitu arrogance, we all saw how effective John Colonial Police TorturerMichuki was able to achieve in the matatu business (not ignoring the horrendous side effects like forcing wananchi maskini kote mjini Nairobi to take route 11 frequently because they cannot afford the new matatu fare). And need I say anything more about the fate that awaited those cowboy contractors? When it comes to health, I can remember when I could walk into a dispensary in Nyawara or Malanga in Gem in the early seventies and get treated free of charge. Contrast that with the sadistic ordeals that await single mothers who find themselves sick and also penniless in a private clinic in Nyambane and all over the country. The biggest health crisis currently facing our country revolves around the ripple effect of the AIDS pandemic. It is my contention that the key to winning this battle is decisive public leadership at the national government level. I have given my thoughts, controversial as they are in another essay so I will just move on. And we are familiar with the vibandas in Kondele, Korogocho,Laini Saba, Kibarani and Chaani not to speak of the 19th century huts where some of our relatives still procreate in today as we approach the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. Left to their own devices, private developers would prefer to build mansions and maisonettes and hardworking Kenyan families will build their own homes but in a very disorganized, haphazard way from a macro urban planning standpoint. If you want to know what I am talking about, go and stand on one leg in the middle of Nairobi's Tena estate and look around for seven and half minutes. David Mwiraria, does it make sense to retrench 24,000 workers this year only to go cap in hand next year to seek urgent emergency aid when 24,000 Kenyan families are starving from the direct result of unemployment ordered by the IMF and the Western donors?

(vi)Involving Women in Sustainable Development. Kenyan women comprise the majority of the country’s population and responsible for most of the food production in addition to the unpaid domestic labour. Yet Kenyan women bear the brunt of poverty, malnutrition and other manifestations of underdevelopment in this country. Enough said.

(vii)Integrate Kenyan Youth in National Renewal. Our country is a young country, in terms of age distribution. Most of our Kenyan Vijana, in spite of their education, their able bodied nature, their energy, their optimism and untapped potential, have largely been left out by all present and previous national economic planners. It is time to correct this anomaly.

(viii)Mobilize Kenyans Abroad for Business Investment, Technological Transfers and Marketing of Kenya Abroad. I wrote a piece for the Standard that they somehow declined from posting online, those strange editors that we always fight for when they are under siege. Here is a link to that obscure essay that I posted in one of the growing family of blogs that we are setting up.

(ix)Redress Regional and Historical Inequalities. Is North Eastern province a part of Kenya? How about the Coast Province? Why are these two regions of Kenya disproportionately poor, underdeveloped and under-served compared to the rest of the country? Answer this question if you want sustainable development to be more than a tired platitude mouthed endlessly in NGO seminar after NGO seminar.

(x)Kenyan Natural Resources and Cultural Heritage Belongs to Kenyans FIRST. In previous essays I have presented my views on the exploitation of Lake Bogoria and the Tiomin strip mining in Kwale. If you read those essays you will know where I am coming from.

(xi)East and Central African Regional Integration is Crucial for Kenya's Development. This is the only part where I pay GRUDGING, underline that, GRUDGING respect to the two neo-colonial regimes-Moi-KANU and Mwai-NAK-for taking some concrete steps in this regard. Obviously more can be done in this regard.

(xii)South to South Cooperation is the Way to Go. We could get hundreds of Cuban doctors, nurses and other health professionals treating Kenyans for FREE. We just have to ask them. We could work out cheaper oil deals with Venezuela. We could negotiate cheaper generic drugs from Brazil and India and yes, there are more than a dozen things we can exchange with the Chinese. What we need is the political will.

(xiii)Work Out Socially Responsible Joint Ventures with Transnational Corporations. From Microsoft to a dozen other corporate entities, opportunities exist to do some very creative things on a number of social development fields. Many of these companies are driven not so much with guilt and altruism, but by an unconventional look at the bottom line. I was reading an article in one of those American bourgeois business magazines I referred to in Part 1 of this essay. It features a new study conducted by University of Michigan strategy guru C.K. Prahalad (The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Wharton School Publishing, 2004) who is convinced that world poverty can be solved profitably if corporations start intentionally and intelligently targeting consumers at the lowest rungs of the economic food chain, who according to Prahalad, is “…one of the largest markets-5 billion poor people and represents $14 trillion in purchasing power, more than Germany, the UK, Italy, France and Japan put together. Demographically, it’s young, growing at 6%a year or more. Purely from a business point of view, you ought to position yourself where the growth opportunities are...” He goes on illustrate how this is already a reality in places like India :”…if they do not have lump sums to buy 20 ounces of shampoo at one time, do what Unilever did in India- sell single servings of shampoo sop the cost structure matches what they can afford..” And of course the guru pointedly reminds his Western audience that Sears, Singer and Wal-Mart were all created to serve poor populations in the North. In the same issue of the same magazine there is a profile of San Francisco based ApproTEC, a non-profit set up by two capitalists named Nick Moon and Martin Fisher who helped Njenga Kimani of Thika (yes, I believe that town is still in Kenya) who increased his earnings selling seeds and small tree saplings from $20 a month to $ 250 a month thanks to adopting ApproTEC’s Money Maker, a human-powered irrigation pump.

(xiv)Bring Back Njonjo Mue’s BOMB. That is Bring Our Money Back in case you started panicking and having nightmares of a Made-in-Loresho terrorist plot. Read more about BOMB here.

(xv)What Else? Can you think of other things? I can think of seven more points. I am tired. It is your turn to shower me with your thoughts…

Onyango Oloo


Kenya Democracy Project said...


thanks for your feedback. one of the reasons why i keep underlining my marxist ideas is to emphasize the fact that when it comes to the fundamental demands of most kenyans, marxists want essentially the same things. most kenyans first accosted marxism via the comic book imagery of the anti-communists. in actual fact, no serious marxist in kenya today thinks that it is socialism which is on the IMMEDIATE agenda in kenya today. what kenyans want and need, we feel is to complete those historic tasks around national independence that earlier generations of kenyan patriots like waiyaki wa hinga, me katilili, muindi mbingu, makhan singh, bildad kaggia, oginga odinga, pio gama pinto and others helped to move forward; we need to complete the democratic tasks that people like chelagat mutai, james orengo, george anyona, jm kariuki, gitobu imanyara, paul muite, charles rubia, kenneth matiba, change the constitution movement etc embarked on; we need to bring to fruition the anti-imperialist objectives of the mwakenyas, kaifs, uwakes, feras etc. without being independent, without being democratic and without wresting ourselves loose from foreign domination, it will be impossible, naive and completely pie in the sky to talk about "socialism" of any kind. now, i am aware that what i am saying sounds heretical to a certain stream of socialists who do not buy the notion that history does move dialectically in stages, not mechanical ones, mind you,but stages nevertheless.

i always chuckle with amusement when i hear, see and read people juxtapose "democracy" with "socialism" as if these are polar opposites. in fact "democracy" is present in capitalism as those of who live in germany, canada, the united states, britain etc know only too well- there are certain civic freedoms that are so embedded in the fabric of the society- like the right to vote, freedom of the press etc that when they are violated- as in the last two american elections, people get outraged because there is a minimum expectation that if one walks into an election booth and casts a vote, it should, at the very least, be counted. i guess where we marxists take the concept of democracy a stage further is to insist not just in its formal and civic aspects but also its comprehensive SOCIAL and ECONOMIC aspects. when marxists start talking about social democracy in its true all embracing self; when we start insisting on economic democracy and economic justice, all of a sudden the anti-communist rungus appear from nowhere.

for the last three or four years i have been consciously promoting the marxist-leninist perspective in analyzing kenyan issues because i am aware that the dark decades of the kenyatta and moi regimes(as you know some marxist books are still banned even in kibaki's kenya) shielded many of our people from the brilliant insights by a whole generation of kenyan socialists. how many people know that the two great kenyan trade unionists, chege kibachia and makhan singh were uncompromising socialists( the latter being the first kenyan to publicly call himself a communist)? how many people know that pio gama pinto was a socialist? how many people know that oginga odinga who was NOT a socialist but a progressive nationalist called on african communists like ruth first to collaborate in the writing of his class "not yet uhuru"? how many people know that ngugi wa thiongo who used to call himself a marxist until quite recently, wrote his "petals of blood" in the soviet union? how many people know that micere mugo, one of kenya's foremost feminists, academics and poets is still very much a militant socialist? people like willy mutunga cut their teeth in the famous marxist debates in the early seventies at the university of dar es salaam where ugandan scholars like dan nabudere and yash tandon faced off in gruelling ideological duels. our world renowned kiswahili linguists- alamin mazrui and abdilatif abdalla- were both part of kenyan anti-imperialist formations. if you read mazrui's kilio cha haki play and go through abdilatif's "sauti ya dhiki" poetry collection you hear clear socialist messages within a concrete kenyan context- the former being a dramatization based on the plight of the delmonte workers in thika and the latter being a courageous indictment of the horrors of the neo-colonial betrayal in kenya. one of my most cherished pleasant surprises has been to meet a whole bunch of kenyans of south asian descent, who contrary to the stereotypes of the righwing mhindi who is a life member of kanu- have on the contrary being very much part and parcel of kenya's patriotic, anti-imperialist and socialist tradition- comrades like zarina patel, zahid rajani, shiraz durrani, sultan somji and at least five others who are in kenya, europe or north america and still active politically as we speak.

when i look at kenya i see an emerging national consensus that brings together all consistent patriots and democrats- whether they call themselves liberals, nationalists, liberal/liberation theologians, radicals, anti-imperialists, leftwing anarchists, pan africanists or what have you. we all have a stake in moving our country forward.

and in doing so, the closest african example i can think of right now is the south african one where the anc led alliance of the ANC, COSATU, SACP and the affiliated youth, women and civic movements brought together all progressive south africans to fight for fundamental change. nelson mandela who is NOT a communist, did not have a problem working with joe slovo and chris hani who were part of the communist leadership. govan mbeki, the father of the current president, died as a member of the communist party while his son, who had been a member of central committee of the sacp in the seventies and the eighties quietly resigned from that formation when it was unbanned in the early nineties and today takes what i can describe as a mainstream, and often pro-imperialist social democratic stance.

of course the debates among and between socialists and liberals, marxists and nationalists and all the strains in between will continue; in fact these debates and discussions must continue. i firmly believe that progressive kenyans should help solidify the foundation of a true national democratic culture in kenya. those of us in the kenya democracy project are already doing so. this blog, by the way is open to ANYONE who wants to present a serious, well researched presentation on any subject that touches on democracy from a progressive standpoint.

alexander thanks again for your critical intervention, which as you can see, always trigger reflections such as the ones i am bringing to a temporary pause...

onyango oloo

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