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LOUD RHETORIC AND LOW DEEDS IN KENYAN POLITICS

 

Monday, December 17, 2007.

 

By Ronald Elly Wanda

 

In political philosophy, it is often argued that no man has enough prestige to tell or make wanainchi (citizens) believe that two plus two equals five. Or for that matter, make them accept any testimony which seems contrary to their experience.

 

It is a matter of weighting the evidential value of the experience.  In Kenya, the country’s oldest political party Kenya National African Union (KANU) was predictably ejected from power, having ruled the country uninterruptedly since flag independence from Britain in 1963.

 

Former president Daniel Arap Moi, the self proclaimed “Professor of African politics”, like his predecessor inebriated with autocratic power, in 2002 miscalculated the political temperature and as a result failed to comprehend the emerging socio-political as well as the socio-cultural phenomenon branded the “Unbwogable” (unreceptive) vigour- that had engulfed the Kenyan electoral college like a wet blanket on fire.

 

Moi who had ruled Kenya since the death of the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, in 1978, was constitutionally bared from participating in the 2002 general elections, having served two full terms in office a decade after the birth of partisan politics in the country.

 

However, that did not stop him from trying to impose Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president as his legatee in order to protect the ‘establishment’. The Kenyan voter, whom for a long time was assumed to be passive, became reactivated, and went on to overwhelmingly reject the Moi/Kenyatta/KANU monotonous political menu, where the equation was mathematically illustrated as one plus one is three and not two as is factually known.

 

What followed was a salient and historic demonstration of the power that the Kenyan electorate, suspicious of KANU’s motivations, possessed in deciding when the removal van was necessary in the ejection of the Nairobi Statehouse occupier.

 

Thus, it was the promise of a comprehensive political and economic change that swept NARC (National Alliance Rainbow Coalition- an amalgamation of political parties) to power in late 2002. At that time, Mr Mwai Kibaki, the then leader of the coalition, was escorted around by a jubilant crowd singing, "Yote yawezekana bila Moi" (All is possible without Moi).

 

This time round as Kenya goes to elections; he is the one under siege, facing the stiffest challenge of his political career so far. Those who were with him in 2002 — Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and Mrs Charity Ngilu — will be playing a different song.

 

Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and his former ally Mr Musyoka (of ‘Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya’- a breakaway faction of the ODM) are Mr Kibaki and his PNU’s (Party of National Unity) primary challengers in this year’s general elections.

 

President Mwai Kibaki, these days intermittently referred to as “Moi Kibaki” by his adversaries because of his close associations with the former President, is under fire from the electorate who sees him as having not lived up to his glossy and now shoddy “yote yawezekana bila Moi” NARC manifesto as well as fulfilling their valid expectations.

 

The reforms that Mr Kibaki promised then included the rapid completion of the current constitutional review process that was finally competed in March 2004 after much infighting among the coalition. However, it was not until July 2005 that the draft was finally presented to Parliament for debate and amendment.

 

The draft that the Parliament ultimately gave to wanainchi (citizens) for public approval by referendum was very different to the one agreed at Nairobi’s (Bomas) national constitutional conference. Most contentiously, the re-drafted document retained the powers of the president and central government.

 

These disagreements went on to split the already fractious NARC. That referendum, held in November 2005, saw Raila Odinga, who led the Orange Democratic Movement ({ODM} that was opposed to the new constitution) -now metamorphosed from ODM the movement to ODM (a leading political party in Kenya) emerging victorious, with 58 percent of those voting rejecting the new constitution. 

 

A catalogue of factors, failures, inaction as well as actions that are likely to influence the defeat of Kibaki’s PNU and give Odinga’s ODM victory in this year’s general elections are many but the selective dispensation of justice is likely to be amongst those at the forefront.

 

Several pointless Commissions of Enquiries that were set up by Kibaki’s administration to tackle corruption have failed to prosecute certain known names who have been looting the treasury, during both his, as well as his predecessor’s leaderships. Politicians, who have been identified as having been corrupt like Dr George Saitoti, have been protected by the government.

 

Members of the Judiciary and former Cabinet Ministers like Dr. Chris Murungaru who were found to have been involved in several corrupt deals have been left to go free. The Defence minister, Njenga Karume, a well known corrupt land dealer is still walking free.

 

Kibaki’s Vice president Moody Awori, is still comfortably placed in government after he was shamefully named as an accomplice in the Anglo-Leasing scandal, one of Kenya greatest corruption scandals.

 

Apart from been Africa’s greatest corruption scandal, the so called ‘Goldenberg scandal’ (of the Moi Era) that is yet to be resolved, Kibaki’s regime has been responsible for numerous other corruption scandals. Notably, the scandal involving 360 million Kenyan shillings helicopter servicing contract in South Africa, the Czech fighter jet scandal which could have cost the Kenyan tax payer Ksh 12.3 billion, the Ksh 4.1 billion Navy ship scandal and the Mahindra Jeep scandal involving the purchase of jeeps at a tune of Ksh 1 million each.

 

Apart from afore-mentioned, there is the US$ 3 million Prison Department scandal involving the purchase of 30 boilers, the Ksh 2.6 billion scandal involving the construction of Nexus - a secret military communication centre at Karen, a leafy Nairobi suburb. And numerous other scandals where top government officials have been implicated.

 

What this means is that the Kenyan ruling class has had a tendency of conspiring and protecting itself instead of sending one another to prison for crimes committed while in office. This explains Kibaki’s frequent consultations with the former President Daniel Moi.

 

In this connection, it is logical to argue that Kenya’s political problems, perhaps to Kibaki’s relief, are not entirely his making. This is because historically, the roots of Kenya’s political crisis like many other African nation-states lay in its preservation of the colonial state structure, in particular its forms of accumulation since independence in 1963.

 

Regrettably, the characters of the class forces, which have traditionally controlled it are still very much in place in a post-KANU epoch.  This is because colonial rule in Kenya witnessed the emergence of a profoundly unbalanced institutional landscape. With all capacity resided in a strong provincial administration, political parties have remained underdeveloped until now.

 

The co-option of sympathetic African elites during the colonial twilight into the bureaucracy, the legislature and the private property-based economy meant that the allies of colonialism and representatives of transnational capital were able to reap the ‘benefits’ of independence.

 

In the late hours of colonial rule, these elites not only attained the means of production, they also assumed the political and institutional capacity to reproduce their dominance.  

 

The post-independence state must therefore be seen as a representation of the interests protected, and promoted by the British during the latter years of colonial rule.  Whilst Kenya may have experienced changes to both the executive and the legislature, the structure of the state has demonstrated remarkable continuity.

 

From this information, it is clear that President Kibaki’s newly formed PNU is a desperate last minute political bandwagon aiming to recruit narcissistic, frightened men (Uhuru Kenyatta et al) whom for the sake of their political and economic safety would like to recycle themselves in the helm of power by any available rudder.

 

A Majimboist (federalist) discourse will pronounce an end to this culture by transferring power back to the people. This will in turn promote true ‘representative’ democracy whereby political legitimacy will emanate from the people, whilst making political accountability a reality and politics transparent.

 

The long term objectives of the Majimboism discourse would mean a positive and permanent alteration of Kenyan political and social landscape via a process of localization, Kenyanization and most importantly africanization.

 

It is for this reason, and this reason only, that all eyes are on Raila Odinga and his welcomed proposition of Majimboism (Federalism) This is an idea that seems appealing to the majority of poor Kenyans, whom for a long time, have seen their share of the national cake reduced by greedy wanabenzis (bourgeoisies) that have continued enriching themselves under the false gambits of Kenyatta’s ‘Harambee’, Moi’s ‘Nyayo’ and lately Kibaki’s ‘Muji enjoy’.

 

As such, the prospects of a sustainable society in Kenya can only be realized through a Majimboist discourse for it is evidentially the only political avenue that is likely to be pro-mwanainchi, non-ethnic and anti-elitist.

 

It is capable of ensuring proportional income redistribution, poverty alleviation and ultimately addressing the most fundamental question in politics: Who gets what, when and how.

 

Main Picture: Kenya's House of Parliament in Nairobi.

 

Ronald Elly Wanda is a London-based political scientist and a contributor to The New Black Magazine.

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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