Friday, February 02, 2018

Kenya's Future Increasingly Looks Like Its Past

In early 1965, after just a year of independence, Kenya’s first President, Jomo Kenyatta suspected Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was planning a coup against his government. Deep divisions within the ruling Kenya African National Union - between those wanting radical and populist change to the inherited colonial system and those who were intent on consolidating it and seeking more gradual change – had been exacerbated by the murder of radical Nominated MP, Pio Gama Pinto in late February.

Determined to eliminate the threat, Kenyatta sent the paramilitary General Service Unit of the Kenya Police Force into Luo Nyanza to look for weapons and to intimidate Odinga’s Luo base. As related by Charles Hornsby in his opus, Kenya: A History Since Independence, “there was a press blackout on their activities, which included house searches, beatings and rapes, which were only made public at the end of the month, when angry Luo MPs raised the issue in Parliament”.

Within a year, Odinga had been forced out of KANU and had set up his own political party in opposition, the Kenya Peoples Union. As Hornsby states, Odinga was betting “that Kenyatta and KANU would play by the rules and that the West would ensure they did so.” However, Kenyatta’s patrons were silent during the next three years which witnessed “more serious abuses than were conducted against a political party at any time before or since in Kenya’s history”. These included changes to the electoral system on the eve of, and rigging during, the Little General Election; branding Odinga as a threat to “national stability”; the mangling of the 7 year-old independence constitution to concentrate power in the President and eliminate all checks on it; the reintroduction of colonial-style detention without trial; and intimidation of both the judiciary and the press. The period ended with the murder of Tom Mboya, Kikuyu oathing, a massacre of Odinga supporters in Kisumu, the banning of the KPU and detention of Odinga and his allies.

Fast forward half a century and Jomo’s son, Uhuru Kenyatta, is President and Jaramogi’s son, Raila Odinga, stands accused of attempting to stage a coup. Once again, the latter has been demonized by the ruling party and dozens have been killed beaten and raped by the GSU in Luo Nyanza. The media is silenced, the courts ignored, the state accused of electoral malpractice including engineering last minute changes to electoral laws and a round up of Odinga’s allies is under way. A new constitution enacted just 7 years ago which imposed serious limitations on Presidential power is roundly ignored and institutions meant to be a check on it, including the parliament, are completely servile. All the while, Western powers are silent. Just as in the 60s, they have opted to side with the Kenyattas whom they consider the best bet for preserving the colonial system that safeguards their interests above those of ordinary Kenyans.

So how will this end? Is it likely that Kenyatta will have Odinga arrested for treason? After all, his allies have been charged with abetting treason and the courts may have a hard time convicting them if the person accused of actually committing treason is allowed to wander freely. But perhaps the intention is not to seek convictions but rather to send a message. Still, history suggests some action may be taken though it might not be as drastic or as harsh as a treason charge. The senior Odinga was subjected to two years in detention by the senior Kenyatta and then house arrest by Kenyatta’s successor, Daniel arap Moi. The latter has already been bandied about as a possibility by Jubilee hardliners.

Any arrest of Odinga would undoubtedly spark massive unrest in Nyanza but, just as in the 60s, the Kenyatta government has shown that it is not averse to killing large numbers of citizens in order to cling to power. Further, the likelihood of the international community interfering to stop such is miniscule. Rather than an ideological battleground of the Cold War of yesteryear, Kenya is today on the frontline of other wars against terrorists and Chinese domination. These concerns outweigh Kenyan lives.

Kenya has basically regressed 50 years in the last 7 months and the 2010 constitution’s promise of a democratic renewal is fast fading. If extinguished, history suggests Kenyans may be in for decades of brutal and kleptocratic rule. It will be a steep price for the country to pay for not learning from its past.


Kahura Mareka said...

Exactly. Well put!

Nyakamlago said...

Ukweli wa mambo. Due to desperation of Mama Ngina to protect her ill gotten wealth and continued looting of Kenyans taxes, I forsee the bandits trying to harm Raila and actually invoke a state of emergency to give them a free hand for autocratic rule. Kenya is messed up and the only way we can be free is when Mama Ngina, Moi and UK exit the scene once and for all.

Anonymous said...

I doubt any possible unrest will be contained in nyanza only as you put it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Patrick,
I am sorry I have been out of touch for a while. I have been trying to email you but haven't got a response. Is this intentional? Does my email go to your spam?

Thank you for this writing. It is useful for our times. I see too many people writing about a reversion to the 24 years of Moi rule, as though the Moi years were a break with what came before. Miguna's case asks us to look back at the 130 years of this experiment, and to observe the ways in which we are recruited into cruelty and oppression. One quibble though. It is always important to make clear that Mboya was one of the chief architects of the tyranny against the KPU, the independence constitution, just land distribution, and the violence that was written into our labour and economic frameworks. A truly nasty man who continues to get away with it.

Thank you also for your Twitter excavations about Odinga. There really isn't enough of that going on, and I fear the overall consequence is that we are normalising truly shameful behaviour.

Nganga John said...

Gathara is raving mad again. Creating parrarells where non exist!

Anonymous said...

Gathara, your maxist friends under soros payroll or Rothchild forget that the fellows who fund them do so to use them as the break pads to a vehicle they built. Nowhere in thier investment do they intend to liberate communists.

robert Kariuki said...

Tom Mboya had become a serious threat to the Ojingaism the way things were going at the time Mboya was destined to become the luo kingpin and had to be eliminated and the Kenyatta govt blamed..Ouko also threatened the Ojingaism and had to be bl
Moi govt can fool some people sometimes but you can't fool all the people all the time

Patrick Gathara said...

I wouldn't know if you've emailed me unless I knew who you were.

meshack said...

The ruling elite who are mainly businessmen are seeking to protect there own wealth at whatever cost, this is why its difficult for anyone to ascend to power.the ruling elite have a final say on the presidency