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Archive for August 23rd, 2009

If this is independence, call the British back!

Posted by Popular Ombudsman on August 23, 2009

“In all this there is, of course, nothing strange. Repugnance to the presence and influence of foreigners is an ancient feeling among men. It is peculiar to no particularly race or nation. It is met with not only in the conduct of one nation toward another, but in the conduct of the inhabitants of different parts of the same country, some times of the same city, and even of the same village. “Lands intersected by a narrow frith, abhor each other. Mountains interposed, make enemies of nations.” To the Hindoo, every man not twice born, is Mleeka. To the Greek, every man not speaking Greek, is a barbarian. To the Jew, every one not circumcised, is a gentile. To the Mahometan, every man not believing in the prophet, is a kaffe. I need not repeat here the multitude of reproachful epithets expressive of the same sentiment among ourselves. All who are not to the manor born, have been made to feel the lash and sting of these reproachful names”-Frederick Douglass (1869).

The question of the bungled 2007 polls in Kenya continues to occupy the minds of right thinking Kenyans, and in public dialogue no other topic has received more attention. Speakers and opinion leaders have given their viewpoints, while others sought to hung the “skunk in various people’s sitting rooms”, yet in the process some critical players were let Scot free.

First and foremost, this particular election was never conducted in a vacuum. There were laws to govern the orderly conduct of the elections. The parties had a law to govern their conduct, the ECK had election regulations to follow, and as is the tradition, there always are consequences for infringement of the laws. Obviously, elections are times during which politicians suffer from insomnia due to uncertainty. Uncertainty about their continued hold onto the purse strings of the national loot; uncertainty about their continued exemption from laws that ordinary mortals have to follow. Elections portend change, and politicians dread change. No one to the best of my recollection, almost two years down the line, has been charged for breaking election laws. Neither election officer nor government agent. We are overwhelmingly concerned with post election violence. Where are the people who planned the KICC debacle? Indeed where are the people who pre-planned for election violence?

Although many have talked of holding those who planned and facilitated post-election violence to account, other critical if not important facts have consistently been left unspoken. The elections were covered by the media in a manner reminiscent of the 2002 elections or 2005 referendum. The media were everywhere, posting results as soon as they were announced by the relevant electoral officers. By doing so, the media provided the critical means by which the citizen was able to follow the elections, and assess if it was fair or not. For this the media must be congratulated. The media provided a window for public scrutiny of the whole electoral process.

Having said that, it should not be forgotten that some sections of the media were compromised and ended up adding fuel to the fire by not only taking sides, but also inciting people. It should also be noted that shortly before the elections, it appeared PNU was sliding in the opinion polls. PNU supporters in Nairobi reacted by evicting tenants who were perceived to come from ODM strong holds. Keen observers may recall cases where people were forced to move houses before the elections in spite of being able to pay rent.

Any planner worth his/her salt will have a terminal objective, which must be achieved by achieving certain progressive goals. In terms of the post-election violence, it was precisely that: post election violence. It was not pre-election violence, it started spontaneously soon after the public became certain that the elections were being manipulated in Nairobi before announcement. The results announced in polling stations were suddenly irrelevant and at variance with what came out of KICC which was ringed by GSU soldiers. Whether they admit it now or not, die hard supporters of the main opposing parties admitted then that something was seriously wrong. The people in villages across the nation were flabbergasted. In the meantime, a hasty, secretive dusk swearing in ceremony was conducted for Mr. Mwai Kibaki. In accepting this travesty to be inflicted on Kenyans, Mr. Kibaki gave legitimacy to the criminal actions of several agents of the state. Similarly, by so swiftly accepting the outcome of such a flawed process, Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka emboldened the retrogrades who had planned and executed the fraud. Instead of seeking to identify and rectify any misdeeds, they dug in and prepared to resist. The treachery exhibited by these politicians shook the confidence of Kenyans more than anything else in recent times.

Elections may bring political change; and with it several privileges may disappear for certain individuals benefiting from the status quo. These individuals include judges and magistrates, politicians, compromised uniformed men and women, political appointees within the civil service and so forth. What use is it to accept the outcome of a flawed process and plan to go to court after wards when the court has judges who fear political change? The case will most likely drag on for five years and be decided in your favour two months before the next elections! Further still, it was an open secret that people could protest at the slightest indication of malpractice. Under these circumstances, the ECK was under grave national obligation to act with an even hand and save the citizenry an unnecessary catastrophe. They failed miserably.

It is with these in mind that it may reasonably be argued that post election violence was an unplanned uprising of citizens to demand for higher levels of accountability. Frederick Douglass stated in 1857 that if there is no struggle, there is no progress. He further said, “a person should fight for himself or herself, otherwise he is not worth being fought for by others”. Nine years later, Reverend Henry McNeal Turner, another luminary of the struggle against slavery, proclaimed that he would violently oppose those who crossed the threshold of his manhood. Post election violence was a logical consequence of the bungling. The state had crossed the threshold of iniquity and the citizens had to re-establish the boundaries which the state was trying to change. Kenyans who had been accustomed with statements like “my vote and that of my missus is enough to take so and so to parliament”…had tasted the power of the ballot and they were spoiled for it.

The violence was not only initially disorganized, it was also misdirected. It was not aimed at getting a Government of National Unity (which is what stopped it), but justice for whatever it was worth at that stage. The fighting was so diffuse and confused, I know friends who are Kalenjins but who were forced to flee from their homes because they supported PNU. Former president Daniel arap Moi’s property was burnt because of his support for PNU. A group of PNU-allied councilors, Luo by extraction had to flee to Tanzania for their own safety. Where was this planning then? People from almost all affected regions underwent unprecedented trauma in various parts of the country. If it was planned, then the planners would have told their people to move to their rural homelands. They did not. When planning started taking root, the roads were shut down and particular businesses started being targeted. The railway was vandalized and big business started collecting the losses. Then did I hear someone say, if that is the case, then we shall have civil war! in other words, it was now hurting the people capable of waging civil war. Victims turned into barbarians and planned and executed revenge attacks in places like Kiambaa in Eldoret, Limuru and Naivasha. This was the planned phase of post election violence.

What was the overriding reason for such a catastrophic misadventure on the part of the state agents and the ECK? It was fear. Fear of what would happen in a new political dispensation. Fear of reprisals from a new political order. Fear of losing control of national resources. It was the corruption networks which resisted the emergence of a new independent order not connected directly by blood to any of the two earlier presidents. If it is remembered that the three presidents Kenya has had were involved in independence politics, it becomes clear that the “half-life” of Kenyan politicians is far too long to help the nation progress. The same mentality has now been exported to the civil service where all the grey haired political rejects are taking up jobs meant for young civil servants.

Getting Kenya out of the clutch of colonialism was not intended to place Kenya in the clutch of neo-colonialists. It was not meant to introduce a newly discovered superior African group to replace the colonialist. However if that was the intention, then call the British back! We do not need that kind of independence. Shall some Kenyans have the right to vote but not to hold office? Shall segregation be introduced informally by putting elitism/ethnicity in place of skin colour? What is meant when a someone says, “such and such group cannot lead Kenya”? We hear talk of the sanctity of a title deed…when did a title deed for public land become more sanctified than entire populations of human beings? When did illegitimate documents replace human life in sanctity?

We need absolute and total equality among us. We should walk tall as Kenyans because we are equal and possess equal rights. But if independence means novel inequality, please keep it and thank you sir!

-Mzee Sumaku


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