Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mkono wa Tanzia to Bradley, Levert & Palance

From Onyango Oloo at the India Social Forum in New Delhi, India

Rest in Peace Ed Bradley.

Shukrani for your incisive, sardonic pieces for 60 Minutes over the years.

Rest in peace Gerald Levert.

Your sizzling, melodious love lyrics and vocals acted as powerful catalysts for myriad couples seeking musically assisted nocturnal conceptions.

Rest in peace Jack Palance.

Growing up in Mombasa in the mid-70s, you were one of the reasons why the teenage version of myself strove to save at least one Kenyan shilling every week to get a chance to see you and others at the Moons cinema every Saturday at 10:00 am.

At this moment I am at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Grounds attending the India Social Forum, but as far as a place to sleep, I am currently holed up in a small hotel in the Greater Kailash-1 section of New Delhi. There is a whole bunch of us from Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Vietnam, Bangla Desh, Thailand, Zimbabwe, France, Pakistan and of course this vast country attending the India Social Forum which started on the 9th and wraps up on the 13th of November 2006.

Were it not for the fact that I have to get myself ready for an India-France International Video Conference in barely 45 minutes, I would have taken the time to upload to this site some of the fabulous jpegs I snapped earlier this mid-morning with my ageing Olympus digital camera. Just to tease you a bit, let me describe in words some of the images you should be oggling at:

A floating white ball/balloon trumpeting social justice hovering above fifteen foot trees; a gigantic vertical banner from WSF Bangladesh proclaiming STOP! Communalism Terrorism Arms Race Extra Judicial Killing; a proud twenty something South Asian lip sticked gay man in a crimson top and cream skirt; a group of energized Indian indigenous people shaking their collective fists as they make a dignified entrance to one of the ISF venues; a big banner at one of the entrances linking tourism to child prostitution and child labour; a snap shot of slum dwellings squating next to the ultra-modern Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Grounds; Dalit activists staging a play on a red stage; a squadron of black sari clad members of the Tamilnadu Women's Collective chanting in unison; another shot of five queer people, flowing hair and flowing saris in a multiplicity of hues; workers marching for their rights; Eileen Kutab from the Women's Studies Center at West Bank's Bir Zeit University making a presentation as part of the all women's panel that kicked off the India Social Forum....

Those pictures and the stories accompanying them will be the subject of a future cyberpost.

Almost forgot to mention in passing that early this Saturday Memorial Day November morning when I was watching a live edition of Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN I was moved and perturbed by the story of Iraq Vet Joe (forget his last name which is Italian sounding and begins with an N) currently calling his beaten up car his home in New York, grappling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and very bitter that the American state does not treat people like people. It is sadly unfortunate that he had to discover this old fact only after killing people he did not know at the behest of that very same government.

Rushing to the tail end of this blog dispatch I notice that the ODM heavyweights were in Mathare yesterday to call the governmment to account over the grisly slayings in that sprawling slum-with President Kibaki also making an announcement about his administration's stance on the burning issue.

As I pen off ( the media lady-an Afro-Parissienne- from France is tapping on my shoulder as I keyboard frantially away, signally the imminent start of the video conference on out-sourcing and how it impacts on Asia, Africa and the struggle against globalization) I hope that all Kenyans take very seriously the growing insecurity all over the country.

Our country is really a tinder box.

If we do NOT take proactive actions now, we could be facing a Somalia/Rwanda like scenario in our very own Kenya.

I am serious.

Onyango Oloo
New Delhi, India


jm said...

r u serious???

ur excessive intolerance of the current administration is only equalled - as of this posting - by your ostentatious display of dignity and importance ...u r likely 2 b disappointed 4 a long ass time coz dude is getting 5 more, whether u like it or not ...

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thursday, November 16, 2006
Raila Assassination Attempts
It is quite hallucinating to even think of what will happen to Kenya and the East African Region as a whole were anything sinister like an assassination happened to Raila Amolo Odinga.Meshack Owino (Kenya Times, 16th November 2006) in his historical genre of political murders in Kenya since the death of Gama Pinto,captures the aftermath of Raila's rumoured assassination attempts so predictably-The Repurcussions of such an event(sic)of a Raila murder will go beyond provoking a civil war in Kenya. Indeed, those who are even contemplating of it or even thinking of it know very well that if such a thing ever happened,their despatchers may not be caught,they may be caught but the state of affairs in the country could be worse than Somali,a state with no workable central government since 1992.Assassinations have been known to bring unimaginable human revenge-take a look at Rwanda.The circumstances there are totally different but the results are infact the most callous responses of brothers against brothers and sisters and the converse of that.Kenyans must remember that when Robert Ouko the former Foreign Minister was assassinated on the night of 12 February 1990,the undergrowth that kept the state firm begun to decay.Former President Moi was immediately faced with demands for a pluralist system,reforms he always rejected because our country was not 'cohesive enough'-too many 'tribes' to be one he would say.In Tanzania,they have 100 ethnic entities and are as 1 one as glue,thanks to Julius Kambarage Nyerere's optimism in a philosophy of No superior ethinicity,he engendered unified nation.Moi's rule radically changed when Ouko was assasinated.Ouko was not a people's charismatic leader,he was never detained for a single day but his suffering at the hands of his assassins can be used as a barometer to measure suffering of various deep levels that Kenyans have endured.To assassinate Raila will be a massive miscalculation of the possible geopolitical consequences which may go beyond the frontiers of the Sudan and will be well felt on the streets of many a small and great capitals.But whats more important such criminals would have created a fire that would rip through the quiet homes in the peaceful rural Kenya and equally devastate the cosmopolitan cities.Raila is not just a national figure.Those who hate him must remember that they dont have to agree with the gentleman.He's an accessible politician.A man who has fought for human rights in our beloved country and been detained in our prisons for standing firm for the liberty of all Kenyan people.Lord Steel (former Leader of the Liberal Democrats and first Speaker of the Scottish Parliament) attending Raila's daughter's wedding in 2004 described him as a great serviceman to the Nation.This is not a Railamania article as some uninformed critics of the mainstream press may insinuate.It is a fact of life.

Elly Omondi Odhiambo
send comments to -

Posted by elly at 10:12 AM

Ben said...
I share the same sentiments and believe those contemplating such a move are just naive in that they think the supporters of Raila are confined to one part of the country.They are bound to trigger one of the worst catastrophes in the land and beyond!!

They must be warned that the man is an enigma with a far-reaching network than can easily be imagined.

November 17, 2006 12:46:00 AM PST
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Anonymous said...

It was Professor William R. Ochieng' who recently discoursed in his book Place of Biography in Kenyan History, 1904-2004 that Mwai Kibaki attracted the epithet of a fence-sitter because of his non-committal character on major national issues. On the geopolitical field he hardly attended provincial public rallies or Harambee funds drive. Fundraisings for schools, hospitals, boreholes and so on were the domain of former president Daniel Arap Moi's regime. Kibaki never identified with this subculture. He was not a sycophant as such because while all his cabinet colleagues wore a badge with Moi's face pinned on their lapels, Kibaki can be remembered as the only minister who never took loyalty to the president this far. He was a loner though, just like the loneliness he recently experienced soon after announcing his cabinet when almost half of the nominees rejected the posts.

Perhaps age is playing a bigger role here, the septuagenarian Kibaki has definitely shed some of the eloquent and brilliant skin of the younger post-independence years. Most objective commentators will have a consensus on this age thing. His closest associates are the very old Njenga Karume, John Michuki, David Mwiraria, Matere Keriri and the like, people who have vowed to shield his shaky presidency while securing their own share of the nostalgia of their old days.

Another source of information on Kibaki is the statehouse website. It attempts to paint Mr. Kibaki as the warrior type; it is how you interpret this next line that matters. On the presidential profile page, it says of Kibaki of the late 1940s, he " was influenced by the veterans of the two World Wars in his village and once considered becoming a soldier in his final year at Man'gu High School. This did not materialize because of a ruling by the Chief colonial secretary, Walter Coutts, which barred the recruitment of the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru communities into the army." General Emilio Mwai Kibaki! What did you say? This would have been a bit of a 'colourful' history added to the low ebb the man is presently facing. Can you imagine Gen. Kibaki inspecting a guard of honour in his full military regalia? Don't forget Moi once did that when he came for a national celebration in 1983 complete with a full army general's uniform.

Kibaki became a full cabinet minister in 1966 serving as the person in charge of Minister for Commerce and Industry. In those days apart from the time when there was fallout between the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Kenyatta, cabinet reshuffles especially of important positions were not very frequent. Kibaki was synonymous to the furniture at the Treasury. He was finance minister for eight years, 1970-78. When Jomo Kenyatta died, Moi gave him the finance job again for an additional 3 years. The current economy no matter how you would like to analyse the doldrums surrounding it, is partly in its present form because of the pioneer finance chiefs like Mzee Kibaki. At some point, Kibaki's economic policies improved the speed of development. So for 12 years, Kibaki ran the ministry of finance, a record that has not been broken. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a rapid rise in the industrial sector under high tariff protection regime. Consequently, the economy recorded a GDP growth in 1980 that was 65% higher than in 1964. That was not Kibaki scoring a goal in the economic front. In fact some of his policies especially in a sessional paper written after independence marginalized the rest of the Kenyan community. Kibaki emphasised that places like North Eastern province did not require any special attention if the economy was to be boosted. That Sessional Paper No.10 of 1965, African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya was a joint effort with Tom Mboya. It was aimed at bringing equitable allocation of income to Kenyans. Its impact excluded the majority, the peasants and instead promoted the political and economic elites of the day

Kibaki, the finance guru was also beginning to attract the wrong attention especially from his political nemesis Ms. Jael Mbogo. Mbogo's supporters claim to-date that Kibaki did not beat Mbogo in the Bahati (now Makadara) 1969 constituency election. They claim the Kenyatta government rigged him in. The heated political environment spelled uncertainty for Kibaki who in 1974 had to move to his rural home turf Othaya for fear of losing the Bahati seat to Mama Jael.

Kibaki's 'leadership' crisis started in 1988 when his boss Mr. Moi reduced him to a cabinet minister for health from his earlier perch as Deputy President. He perceived this as the final insult to his political capabilities. Aides of the current president say that his predecessor was not just the former head of state but one he helped in the prelude and aftermath of the 1982 military coup. Months before the coup, Kibaki had engineered the Section 2A statute that entrenched the single party rule. The other political engineers were Charles Njonjo, the then Minister for Constitutional Affairs and a host of GEMA leaders in parliament. After the coup, Kibaki's home district, Nyeri was to be the first to hold the loyalty pledge rallies that were symbolic in defending and supporting Moi's KANU state. Curiously Kibaki and his colleagues rushed to protect Moi from the doyen of opposition politics, the late Mzee Odinga's (together with the late George Anyona) who had just announced that they would form a strong party to challenge KANU. What followed was one of the shortest recorded times in the history of parliamentary amendments in Kenya. The law was quickly passed and Section 2A was in.

History confirms that Mr. Kibaki was for many years during his time as Vice-President, one of the fiercest critics of the multiparty system of politics. In his infamous conservative remarks he once said that ending the one party state or KANU's rule 'is like attempting to cut down a mugumo tree with a razor blade'. That unsavoury metaphor, although fairly insignificant because of its source at the time, has resonated into relevance today. People can now view the president from this lens of history that he has never believed in a system of government of more than one party. In seeking to dilute or even completely phase out the opposition, the president has shown that he is not keen on reforming this great land.

One of the biggest tragedies of the Kibaki presidency is his unwillingness to give any meaningful public lead in the fight against corruption. In his new government, the president has decided to ditch the panacea of the country's graft cancer, Office of Governance and Ethics. This single action alone tells a lot about Kibaki's way of thinking and decision-making. He seems to defy his 2002 December contract with the people of enforcing zero tolerance on fighting corruption.

The recent cabinet reshuffle will only go down badly, it's the largest in the history of Kenya. It also makes Moi look like a saint if one compared this and the former president's antics of coercing potential opponents by giving them cabinet posts. In a somewhat radical speech while still in the opposition, Kibaki went as far as ridiculing fat people by emphasising the need of a slim cabinet. "If you look at it fat people are not very efficient!" Kibaki once told journalists.

Kibaki represents what may be termed a pseudo-democrat or a virtual democrat. These are mostly African democrats that exist on paper but their practices and policies defy the basic tenets of democracy, for example the allowing of opposition parties. In Kenya we are in a mere electoral democracy, which is a make-believe liberal democracy under a party system. The reality is more disturbing than that. The executive presidency can at any time neutralise these parties by offering their MPs jobs in the government. Instantly, the peoples' mandate comes into question-the authority and power they have vested on those who were elected is taken away by the presidential abuse of that very power. But in a survival presidency like that of Kibaki, it is virtually impossible not to invoke some of the extreme clauses that exist in that office. There is lack of legitimacy in such a government because those who are incorporated into it are NOT the ones who were voted in as the government party by the electors.

In understanding the mind of Kibaki, one must appreciate that he has suffered a major political amnesia, which many of us Kenyans undergo. The hypothesis is simply like this, if Kenya is going to develop, politically and economically, it will have to do so democratically and constitutionally. The forgetfulness that the constitution goes together with the development agenda is one of Kibaki's biggest problems. If we are not very careful, this country may turn into a developmental dictatorship like some of the East-Asian countries. But even Malaysia has turned round economically because of a measure of accountability in the political process. The popular fiction is that East Asian countries developed from the foundation of presidential dictatorship. Afro pessimists who would like to see the return of strong dictatorship in capitalist Kenya employ this school of thought. Ironically some commentators in the local newspapers have used the theory of the benevolent dictator whose principle candidate they hope, is Mwai Kibaki. Such thinkers are economical with the truth; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator period. It's a euphemism used to sanitise leaders who are already doing something harmful to their people.

Lastly one of the most interesting paradoxes in profiling Kibaki is the historical fact that it was Mzee Jaramogi, the father of Raila Odinga (Kibaki's antagonist) who headhunted him to serve as KANU's first Executive Officer.

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