Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No More Referenda on the Referendum!

A digital essay by Onyango Oloo

It is amazing isn’t it?

Hours after more than six million Kenyans had overwhelmingly endorsed the new constitution; the NO throwbacks that vehemently fought tooth and nail to block a major milestone of democratic progress in this country were already baying for claw backs.

Part of their fight back is disguised in an insidious idea disguised in a deceptively “innocent” phrase:

“We all won. There were no losers.”

With all due respect, I say, NO!, that is NOT true.

There was a clear choice in front of the electorate on August 4, 2010:

Either support the proposed constitution or reject it.

At least 67% of the voters opted to make the proposed document the supreme law of the land.

By that token alone, the YES side won the referendum.

Which simply means that the NO side LOST.

All their pre-referendum lies, innuendoes, emotional blackmail and fear mongering were decisively repudiated by millions of politically aware, disciplined democratic minded Kenyan patriots peacefully expressing their power and determination for a new constitution at the ballot box.

Not even having the decency to wipe the egg off their faces and apologize to Kenyans for their vile, divisive and bigoted propaganda, the ideologues and spinmeisters of the NO camp are now INSISTING that the “contentious clauses” must be “immediately amended”.

And to think that these cantankerous sore losers include top grey haired clergymen who should right now be at the forefront of lowering the political temperatures and encouraging Kenyans to move on with the business of implementing the new constitution!

I can and will compare the pouting puerile attitude of these eversaying No naysers who claim that “two million Kenyans cannot be ignored” to a surreal scenario where the 2010 Netherlands runners up soccer team would demand to keep the World Cup for at least six months in Holland based on the fact that since they made it to the final game in South Africa, they “cannot be ignored”.

Sorry Ruto, Moi, Njue, Kiema, Koigi, Shabaan and Kathangu Co. Ltd:

Referenda do not allow a sharing of the spoils.

To the victor goes the spoils.

If your side had won, my Dear Opponents of the New Constitution, you would have taken it all. And we know you would have been crowing yourselves hoarse like the KANU cockerel of yore with unbridled triumphalism. You probably would have DEMANDED the immediate resignation of the Grand Coalition Government led by the two principals as having lost their moral mandate to rule Kenya.

So please take a chill pill and chillax.

Besides, as my good friend Miguna Miguna has persuasively argued elsewhere , even if you wanted to, there is no way you can amend the new constitution until after the 2012 elections.

Turning to my friends, colleagues, comrades and fellow voters in the YES camp, I say:


It would be a big mistake if we allowed ourselves to be deluded that August 4th was it, in terms of getting a new constitution.

Experience has shown that the ancien regime and other reactionary bulwarks against progressive change are most virulent, precisely AFTER a DECISIVE BREAKTHROUGH.

Let me illustrate with a few historical examples.

Starting with Kenya itself:

What was the first act that Jomo Kenyatta did upon becoming Prime Minister in December 1963?

Forgive the colonial land grabbers and forget the imperialist atrocities meted out against the Mau Mau freedom fighters and other patriotic forces. By 1965, the newly formed Kenya Air Force, manned by former colonial pilots was hunting down the remnants of the Mau Mau like General Bamuingi who refused to come out of the forests because they felt that Mzee's government had betrayed their freedom and justice ideals. The heady pledges of the first Uhuru government in Kenya degenerated into empty promises as former home guards and colonial collaborators took the reins of power even as the freedom fighters and their families were ignored and nationalists like Pio da Gama Pinto assassinated.

Next is South Africa post the April 27, 1994 landslide victory for Nelson Mandela and the ANC.

One of the most progressive planks in the post apartheid regime’s agenda was the RDP- the Reconstruction and Development Programme- a very ambitious attempt to redress historical injustices, regional inequalities, poverty, gender discrimination and class oppression.

Because of the tenacious opposition of the apartheid former ruling class and their moneyed supporters, the new government which was majority Black led ended up buttressing apartheid in a new form- a socio-economic apartheid in place of the more overtly obnoxious racialized discrimination.

By 1996 veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle within the ANC, SACP, COSATU and other sections of the South African liberation struggle were already referring to the “1996 Class Project” denoting a unity of the parvenu rulers (with Black skins) from within the liberation forces who had forged a pact with their class siblings from the white dominated era of “separate development” to put South Africa on a somewhat neo-colonial trajectory similar to what political prophets like Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu and Amilcar Cabral had warned about on the eve of the Decade of African Independence (1960-1970).

We can draw three lessons from the United States:

The abolition of slavery in the 1860s; the breakthroughs on reproductive health rights in the 1970s and the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

The so called “emancipation” of African-American slaves was followed by the introduction of the notoriously racist Jim Crow laws which were a precursor to the “Colour Bar” laws in Kenya and apartheid in South Africa.

The US Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973 gave birth to the contemporary US anti-abortion movement infested as it is with the most rabid Christian fundamentalist bigots who are today exporting their backward parochial vile propaganda to places as far flung as Kenya.

Following the tumultuous victory of Barack Hussein Obama in 2008, there was a right wing backlash which forced the 44th President of the United States to back down on his pledge to close down the notorious Guantanamo Prison- he had to wait for almost a year before he could order it shut- and soft peddle on his election promise to fast track the return of US troops from theatres of slaughter like Iraq and Afghanistan.

What can we glean from the above historical lessons from Kenya, South Africa and the United States?

Two words:

Permanent Vigilance.

Among social change theorists, there are those who think that a revolution is COMPLETED once certain groups of people/social forces/political movements ascend to state power.

Then they are those who are convinced that the capture of state power IS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF THE REVOLUTIONARY PROCESS because it is then that you start constructing or reconstructing a new society while you are still in the womb of the old order.

I was long ago persuaded by the arguments of the second school of thought.

If we are to recycle and paraphrase the slogans of the 2007 election campaign:

Kazi ya kutekeleza Katiba Mpya Ianze Sasa!

What we did on August 4th was to begin the process of domesticating a new constitution- a very arduous task indeed.

Let us remember that comparatively, when it comes to democratic development, Kenya is still at its formative infant stages in relation to South Africa and the United States.

By the time the ANC came to power in April 1994, the liberation movement had been on the frontlines of the struggle for almost seven decades.

The United States of America became independent in 1776.

There are those who date the contemporary democracy movement in Kenya to the early 1990s. Even those of us who have a longer historical lens can only go back to the mid 1960s when both the ANC and PAC had launched their guerrilla skirmishes against Verwoerd, Vorster, Botha and De Klerk.

In the week after winning the August 4th Referendum we here in Kenya are led, not by a progressive, leave alone revolutionary party in power, but rather by a fractious consortium of feuding factions of parties with amorphous ideologies which have never transcended liberal democracy, leave alone social democracy or, for the radicals among us socialism and anti-imperialism.

Let us all remember that even within the YES camp there are some people for whom August 4 was a ceiling while for some of us it was a floor.

What do I mean?

For the majority of the people whose politics do not venture past the confines and safety of liberal democracy, they achieved the maximum they wanted with newly adopted constitution hence the reference to the "ceiling".

For some of us to whom August 4th was a small window prised ajar, it was just the beginning, hence the "floor".

That implies that in the coming months and years, there may be internal jostling as we struggle with each other to deepen the process of national democratic renewal.

Our main tasks as Kenyan progressives at this historical juncture include the following:

(1) Consolidate the broad unity displayed at the August 4th Referendum- a loose front that unites left wing nationalists at one end of the ideological spectrum and conservative businesspeople and religious people at the other end;

(2)Use the old dictum: “Unite the Many to Divide the Few”; In the contemporary Kenyan context it means completely isolating the hard core elements of the NO crusaders while reaching out to their social base who happen to be honest, well-meaning Kenyans who were led astray through lies and fear mongering;

(3) Ensure that we influence, infiltrate and CONTROL the implementing mechanisms of the new constitution;

(4) Start LIVING the spirit of the new constitution to do like civil society and human rights voices like Muthoni Wanyeki, Ndungu Wainaina and Hassan Omar have suggested in recent days- through vetting, lustration, litigation, whistle blowing, exposure and so on;

(5) Mobilize the workers, youth, women, faith groups, pastoralists, people with disabilities and other interest groups into what I want to call New Katiba Clubs to carry out advocacy, civic education and mobilization around the salient aspects of the new constitution;

(6) Prepare a battery of competent lawyers (people like Paul Muite, Harun Ndubi, Njoki Ndungu, Atiende Omollo rush to mind) to counteract the slew of legal challenges that are about to be unleashed by the NO holdouts;

(7) Consolidate the regional, continental and international goodwill by organizing delegations to places like South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, the United States, Canada and the European Union to seek resources to deepen the constitutional review process as part of the wider Agenda Four reform trajectory;

(8) Build what I have been pleading for over the last seven years or so:

A progressive national democratic movement with a social justice agenda that will ensure that come 2012 we have in place a patriotic team of ideologically clear candidates-from President to MPs, Senators, County Governors and County Assembly Members.

I could say more, but let me pause here.

Onyango Oloo
Nairobi, Kenya
Monday, august 10, 2010
6:10 pm

PS: If you think Kenyans have had "too many" referenda, please compare our situation with that of the Irish below:



Kenya Democracy Project said...

Comment from Zahid Rajan:


It would be worth highlighting that 40% of the Rift Valley voted YES. So much for Ruto’s weird mathematics that 3 million abstained and 2.5 million voted NO and so the 6M yes was a minority vote. Nuts!


Solidarity Network Kenya

P O Box 32843 - 00600

Nairobi, Kenya

Email: solidaritynetkenya@gmail.com

Blog: http://solidaritynetkenya.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Mr. Oloo,

I think you should mature you politics from politics of agression to politics of consensus building and maturity.
I have watched your articles in Jukwaa and here in KDP and its unfortunate that you dwell so much in personalities and technicalities in long widing treatise that you have continously missed the big picture.

Maybe the question you ought to ask yourself is what you will be remembered for when you are gone. Will it be that man who was fond of brewing controversies and hatred in pretext of fight for democracy or that lone man who strived for a better Kenya where the opinions of every community and politicians are respected regardless of our political affiliations?

The choice is all yours bwana oloo. The first option is easy and crowded. It comes with lots of monetary rewards and appreciation from those whose politics you favor and I am sure you identify with this. Thats why many have taken it while the second path is noble but full of solitude.

Kenya Democracy Project said...

To anonymous above:

I chuckled when I read your outburst. It is not for me to decide how I will be remembered. I leave that to future historians.But for more than half of my life, I have been dedicated to fighting for a better, more equitable, peaceful and democratic Kenya infused with the principles of social justice.

I speak truth to power which makes people like you uncomfortable.

Instead of your outlandish ad hominem attack, it would have been better if you had responded to the ISSUES I raised in my digital essay.

Onyango Oloo
Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya Democracy Project said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kenya Democracy Project said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Odhiambo T Oketchg said...

Permanent Vigilance; those are the key words.

Adam Nowek said...

Anonymous is right. Politics is not a game of aggression: it is a process of inclusion. The words on this page scare me. It's entrenchment of ideology that led to violence in recent years, after all.

Anonymous said...

I think people the age of oloo, 50's and above' have a terminal cancer of politics of aggression and biased activism. Luckily for Kenya, the new breed of young patriots in their 30's are more mature, have more business acumen and are less tainted by nyayoism, corruption and tribalism that have tied down the likes onyango oloo, etc

We only hope that soon they will realize that Kenya is bigger than their paymasters and their selfish interests. We should embrace all Kenyans and encourage dialogue for a peaceful coexistance.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Politics after all is a zero-sum game where the winner takes it all.

Your post is vintage OO. Its such incisive writing from OO of yore that we so dearly miss. Make more tome to write some more, the way you used too. Glad to see that both you and MM are still fighting the good fight.

Kenya Democracy Project said...

Once again, thank you for all your words-kind and unkind.

What amuses me about the anonymous people who rush here to trash me is that on the one hand they claim they cannot stand me because of "aggression (sic)" and "biased activism"- but at the same time, they ARE MY MOST LOYAL AND AVID READERS!

To Adam:

Please stop TRIVIALIZING the tragedy that Kenyans went through during the post election violence. It was not because of social justice bloggers like Oloo analyzing Kenyan politics. It was because of the blood-thirsty ambitions of the country's elite- including those who stole elections.

My own brother in law was shot dead by the police in an incident captured by live television cameras so please spare me the sanctimonious bull crap.

Can you imagine what some of you are doing- coming to my own blog to attempt to gag me! Keep on trying.

As for the young person fixated on age, let me just recycle an anecdote from the United States:

In the sixties, young people had a a slogan, "Do Not Trust Anybody Over Thirty". Well, guess what?

Most of the people stridently uttering those words are now pushing SEVENTY!

What I care about is the youthfulness of your ideas, not when you climbed out of your mama's womb.

Finally, to the folks who have encouraged me to write and who continue to appreciate what I am doing I say:

You sustain me with your affirming reassurances.

Onyango Oloo

Anonymous said...

OO, your fallen relative was a looter.

What about those whose only crime was to be born in the wrong tribes?? Case in point the Kiambaa church where innocent children and women were set ablaze by Raila and Ruto thugs.

Please be serious for ones and stop playing with Kenyan's emotions.

Death of a thief cannot be mourned in the same way as the death of matyrs.

Adam Nowek said...

A few things:

First, if you could point out how I'm "trivializing" the post-election violence, that would be great. I'm failing to see it. In fact, I think you're trivializing the tragedy: by isolating one incident, you're completely missing the broader picture.

Second, don't let yourself off the hook. You, yourself (yes, you!), as well as millions of other Kenyans, contribute to the discourse of politics. You, yourself, as well as millions of other Kenyans, have the power to not promote politics as a game in which there are winners and losers. How? Just stop doing it.

Third, I find it disturbing that you're amused that people who disagree with your viewpoints visit your blog in order to comment contrary to your arguments. Isn't that the entire purpose of public debate: to listen to what the other side is saying?

Kenya Democracy Project said...

one last intervention.

first to the anonymous coward who has the nerve to call my brother in law a looter. the cop who shot him was brought to trial with the state leading the prosecution. there was no evidence adduced to give credence to your dastardly allegations. and talking of people whose only crime was to belong to the wrong tribe, i am sure you have included those who were roasted in the naivasha inferno and the hundreds killed by cops all over the country or those forcibly cirumcised and beheaded. my faceless friend, why don't you have the courage to adopt at least a handle because you do sound awfully familiar-especially from around December 2007.

Adam: I will repeat that what I said. People like Onyango Oloo who analyze issues, frontally and courageously are NOT the ones who unleash violence-unless you have some information not in my possession.

I am saying amused at your ilk coming to a blog dedicated to free expression and asking me basically to shut up and close down my own blog! The fact that you have been able to post those comments and I have responded to them twice should demonstrate to yo that unlike you, I am not scared to death of contrary opinions.

To both of you:

Since I do not expect to see any ORIGINAL commentary from you-other than cowardly attacks sneaked in at the tail end of my postings, I look forward to reading some more nasty comments from you-after my next posting because that is when your keyboards will come alive.

Onyango Oloo

Anonymous said...


KK said...

A lot of people are missing the point here- that the push for a better Kenya is not over- its something that we always need to be striving for even when we achieve temporary wins. I've been reading his blog for a long time and i respect the depth,sobriety and interesting perspectives he provides. Oloo's writing is always thought provoking blog. I do not agree with everything he says but i respect the effort; he is seeking to be the change that he wants to see and trying to be of help in improving Kenya. Ye critics, what are you doing but throwing arrows at the one in the ring?

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