Vi­o­lent roads to Kenya elec­tions

Keny­atta’s de­sire to cre­ate a Kikuyu aris­toc­racy en­trenched nepo­tism in head­ships of gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies, in awards of con­tracts and al­lo­ca­tion of land pur­chased from de­part­ing Euro­pean im­mi­grants with a loan bor­rowed from Bri­tain

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - by Okello Oculi

The tra­di­tion of vi­o­lent dic­ta­tor­ship by a mi­nor­ity ethno-racial group over ma­jor­ity ethno-racial groups marked Bri­tish colo­nial rule from Kenya to South Africa. Bru­tal use of the gun was rou­tine as Euro­pean im­mi­grants grabbed land from soils fer­tilised by vol­canic erup­tions from Mount Kenya and Mount El­gon on the cur­rent bor­der with Uganda. By the late 1940s, echoes from Mao Ze­dung’s guer­rilla war (1922-1949) from across the In­dian Ocean reached Kikuyu youths in Mom­basa and later Nairobi. Un­like Jomo Keny­atta who be­lieved in achiev­ing lib­er­a­tion by drink­ing tea with the colo­nial gover­nor, im­pa­tient youths started ad­min­is­ter­ing oaths to con­verts to vi­o­lent strug­gle. They called their army ‘’Mau Mau’’ to res­onate Mao’s name.

In an in­ter­view in his Nairobi of­fice, John Not­ting­ham noted that the lo­cal po­lice and their white of­fi­cers wore the same uni­forms they had adorned as they tor­tured ‘’Mau Mau’’ cap­tives at Kenya’s In­de­pen­dence Day pa­rade. Their vi­o­lent ori­en­ta­tion to­wards Africans was car­ried into the ethos of ‘’Uhuru’’/ free­dom. Like­wise, the un­re­solved war for re­dis­tribut­ing land to the land­less.

Jomo Keny­atta was ar­rested and im­pris­oned at Kapen­guria in the desert north be­fore guns rang out. He was widely pub­li­cised as the leader of the ‘’Mau Mau’’ even though Dedan Ki­mathi, the leader of the strug­gle and his com­mand held him in con­tempt. The Bri­tish ex­ploited that weak­ness to ex­tract con­ces­sions from Keny­atta for a post-colo­nial gov­er­nance ‘’by suf­fer­ing with­out bit­ter­ness’’, and non­ful­fil­ment of ‘’Mau Mau’’ de­mands for land.

In the 1966 gen­eral elec­tions, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who had been forced out of the rul­ing party - Kenya Africa Na­tional Union (KANU) - cham­pi­oned re­turn of land to for­mer own­ers and was widely pop­u­lar among Keny­atta’s fel­low Kikuyu. In des­per­ate re­sponse, Keny­atta fin­gered Odinga as an eth­nic op­por­tunist out to grab power from the Kikuyu for his Luo peo­ple. The Luo had, not sig­nif­i­cantly suf­fered and died in the ‘’Mau Mau’’ war and were ac­cused by Keny­atta’s cam­paign­ers of want­ing to eat the meat af­ter Kikuyu had killed the elephant. The rit­ual of ad­min­is­ter­ing oaths to fight­ers that ‘’Mau Mau’’ lead­ers had used were smug­gled back into elec­toral pol­i­tics against Oginga and his team who had pre­vi­ously used the slo­gan ‘’No In­de­pen­dence With­out the Re­lease of Keny­atta from Prison’’.

This cul­ture of po­lar­i­sa­tion would also poi­son re­la­tions with Daniel Arap Moi, the Kalen­jin politi­cian favoured by Euro­pean im­mi­grant politicians against Odinga who was ac­cused of links with Com­mu­nist China and the Soviet Union. Keny­atta’s de­sire to cre­ate a Kikuyu aris­toc­racy en­trenched nepo­tism in head­ships of gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies, in awards of con­tracts and al­lo­ca­tion of land pur­chased from de­part­ing Euro­pean im­mi­grants with a loan bor­rowed from Bri­tain. This did not find sup­port from Vice Pres­i­dent Moi. More­over, the in­ner cir­cle around Keny­atta - ac­cord­ing to Phillip Ochieng - were rou­tinely rude and keen to hu­mil­i­ate Vice Pres­i­dent Moi when­ever he came to con­sult with the el­derly pres­i­dent.

Fol­low­ing Keny­atta’s death, only Mwai Ki­mathi from Ny­eri Dis­trict op­posed a plot to ig­nore the con­sti­tu­tional stip­u­la­tion that Moi, as vice pres­i­dent, should be sworn in as pres­i­dent. Ny­eri is the home of Dedan Ki­mathi and his war cabi­net. It was Kibaki who, as pres­i­dent af­ter Moi, erected a statue of Dedan Ki­mathi in the cen­tre of Nairobi.

On as­sum­ing power Moi de­clared a pro­gram ti­tled ‘’NYAYO’’ or foot­steps. It re­as­sured the Kikuyu power group that they would keep their priv­i­leges and pre­dom­i­nance in pol­i­tics and the econ­omy. This ploy did not last. Dur­ing his 24 years in power, his NATO back­ers ig­nored his dis­lodg­ing the ‘’troika’’ of Kikuyu, Embu and Meru top of­fi­cials in favour of mem­bers of his Kalen­jin eth­nic roots. Busi­ness­men I in­ter­viewed at Kenya Club in 2006, re­called Moi grab­bing their pros­per­ous tea es­tates, real es­tate prop­er­ties, su­per­mar­kets, trail­ers, etc .,ac­cord­ing to his mood and the tem­per­a­ture of his brain. Thou­sands of crit­ics and dis­pos­sessed per­sons ended up in a dun­geon ap­pro­pri­ately named ‘’NYAYO HOUSE’’.

Both Jomo Keny­atta and Moi en­acted one-party dic­ta­tor­ship into law to block out de­feat in elec­tions. Se­lec­tion of can­di­dates, those who won and those who lost elec­tions was un­der their watch. Un­con­trol­lable chal­lengers were as­sas­si­nated of­ten in broad day­light. The charis­matic for­mer trade union­ist, Tom Mboya, was shot at mid-day as he stepped out of a phar­macy in cen­tral Nairobi. Ron­ald Ngala, a Mom­basa politi­cian, was of­fi­cially re­ported to have been stung to death by a swarm of bees which en­tered his air-con­di­tioned Mercedes Benz car as he drove on a smooth tar­mac road from Nairobi to­wards Mom­basa.

Fol­low­ing the end of the Cold War, Moi’s op­er­a­tives were al­leged to have armed eth­nic groups to burn houses, farms and live­stock of im­mi­grants among them. Those driven out of a con­stituency sus­pected of sup­port­ing op­po­si­tion par­ties were de­nied regis­tra­tion to vote. In 2002 op­po­si­tion par­ties crit­i­cized the prac­tice of vot­ers lin­ing up be­hind can­di­dates as a ploy to in­tim­i­date and vic­timise those who re­jected ‘’gov­ern­ment can­di­dates’’. At the start of the post-elec­tion vi­o­lence in De­cem­ber 2007, NGO ac­tivists told me that more peo­ple had been killed dur­ing elec­tions un­der Moi’s pres­i­dency.

The run-up to Mwai Kibaki’s quest for a sec­ond term in of­fice was char­ac­terised by a cam­paign rhetoric in which the op­po­si­tion saw noth­ing pos­i­tive in what he had done. Even wak­ing up alive the day af­ter a vit­ri­olic at­tack on Kibaki’s record was not con­sid­ered a mark of progress. My re­port about meet­ing a school teacher who had been tor­tured dur­ing six months in prison by Mao’s se­cret po­lice for us­ing my novel, PROS­TI­TUTE, in a lit­er­a­ture class, was dis­missed as friv­o­lous. That he had poured funds into co­op­er­a­tives and small and medium scale en­ter­prises was dis­missed as ‘’prim­i­tive trib­al­ism’’ since only his Kikuyu peo­ple had ben­e­fited. A list of per­ma­nent sec­re­taries was pub­lished by the me­dia which showed that over 90 per cent of them were al­leged to be Kikuyu. Charges of cor­rup­tion ig­nored Moi’s record.

The no­tion that death was prefer­able to Kikuyu dom­i­nance through Kibaki’s rule made vi­o­lence im­mi­nent. United Na­tions agen­cies, church lead­ers, for­eign diplo­mats and com­mu­nity el­ders ap­pealed for an end to ‘’HATE SPEECH’’. Opinion polls built up ten­sion with daily re­ports of flip-flop per­cent­ages of sup­port for ei­ther Raila Odinga or Mwai Kibaki. At an elec­tion rally I at­tended, op­po­si­tion politicians cho­rused that Kibaki was ‘’70 years too old’’ to re­turn to power. Abuse, in­sults and half-truths drowned de­bates over pol­icy is­sues. As we sat at the Keny­atta Con­fer­ence Cen­tre, the chair­man of the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion was re­ported - live on na­tion­wide ra­dio and tele­vi­sion chan­nels - stat­ing that bal­lot boxes in dis­tricts favourable to Kibaki had al­most cer­tainly been taken beer joints and to witch­doc­tors. It was a lethal way of seem­ingly pro­mot­ing trans­parency.

A long road full of rigged elec­tions; use of vi­o­lence by in­cum­bents to deny vic­tory to the op­po­si­tion; us­ing power to bla­tantly ben­e­fit a rul­ing racial or eth­nic groups thereby feed­ing mass dis­con­tent -have for long fol­lowed Kenya’s elec­toral pol­i­tics. Cor­rup­tion by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials was rampant un­der colo­nial rule, while Africans were de­nied the right to votes. Gov­er­nance was pri­mar­ily for their ben­e­fit. Jomo Keny­atta and Arap Moi fol­lowed that same road, with white politicians pulling strings from thin shad­ows. Just as it took the ‘’Mau Mau’’ rev­o­lu­tion to break gates of colo­nial mo­nop­oly, it is most un­likely that lo­cal po­lit­i­cal ge­nius will avert a re­turn to Bri­tain’s re­sort to over­whelm­ing or­gies of bru­tal­i­ties to man­u­fac­ture, in 2017, a po­lit­i­cal science an­chored on vol­canic in­jus­tice. Oculi is of Africa Vi­sion 525 Ini­tia­tive.

Party sup­port­ers in Kenya

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