August 22nd 1978 - 23rd August 2001
Michael Mundia Kamau
Code 00500 Enterprise road
P.O. Box 17510
23rd August 2001
August 22nd 1978
Kenya has just marked the 23rd anniversary of the passing on of her founding leader, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, in a manner befitting his stature, and in the wake of intereting revelations. The revelation by the Head of the Presidential Press Service, Lee Njiru, that Mzee Kenyatta annointed President Daniel arap Moi as his successor at a ceremony at Lake Nakuru National Park is what has generated the most interest and controversy. Ragardless of whether Lee Njiru's claims are accurate or not, it is tragic that this country still feels robbed and cheated, and has never accepted the hard fact that it was Kenyatta's wish for his vice president to succeed him.With or without Lee Niru's assertion, it is clear from the events preceding Kenyatta's death, that he had long decided on the fate of his succession.
One of the most interesting incidents to support this is found in the masterpiece "The Kenyatta Succession", by Philip Ochieng and John Kirimi, in a segment that analyses the change-the-constitution movement that sought to block vice president Daniel arap Moi's ascension to the presidency. At the height of the debate, Kenyatta summoned the protagonists to State House, Nakuru, and ordered an immediate stop to the debate. The protagonists further suffered the indignity of being called "stupid" by Kenyatta and being reminded of the proverb that "a cow is not shown the rope that will strangle it." In their book, Ochieng and Kirimi, refer to Kenyatta's blood relations as the "family" spelt with small letter "f" at the beginning, and to the inner circle that included both his closest confidants and his family as "Family", spelt with a capital "F" at the beginning. It can be concluded that Kenyatta keenly observed the manoeuvres of the Family during this period, as he did on numerous others, and was not impressed. It can be further concluded that that Kenyatta was quietly and inwardly impressed with the ability, calmness, skill, wisdom and control, with which his loyal VP handled such crises. A comparison can be drawn here with John F. Kennedy who is known to have cautioned his inner circle about taking the apparently meek vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, more seriously.
At the official opening of the 1994 Nairobi International show, long after the death of Mzee Kenyatta, President Daniel arap Moi made a very telling remark when he said in kiswahili "Kenyatta alikuwa aki nituma hapa na pale, na nilikuwa nikienda sababu Kenyatta alikuwa Mwongozi" ("Kenyatta used to send me up and about and I obliged because Kenyatta was the Leader"). Moi revealed a trmendous lot with this statement, which must be tied in with another interesting revelation made five years later during commemorations to mark 21 years of Kenyatta's death. A former driver with the Kenya National Transport Company (KENATCO), wrote a letter that was given prominence in Kenya's two leading dailies. He mentioned that contrary to officialese, the public were aware of Kenyatta's failing health. In his last public function at a primary school, the taxi driver writes how the gathering could easily tell of Kenyatta's discomfort and unease. They could tell that something was terribly wrong when Kenyatta was prematurely rushed off the podium and away from the function. He narrates how he thereafter drove a member of Kenyatta's family to Mombasa airport to catch a flight to Nairobi, and could not understand how such a close family member could abandon Kenyatta in his hour of need. There is a dramatic end to the story when the ex-KENATCO employee narrates how he passed by Mombasa airport the following day, August 22nd 1978, and noted a heavy police presence at the airport, and what looked like a casket being loaded onto an airforce carrier, and instinctively knew that it was Kenyatta's body being flown to Nairobi.
It has also been held for 23 years that just before Kenyatta passed away at about 3.30 p.m. on 22nd August 1978, he woke up and asked about his closest confidant, Mbiyu Koinange, Minister of State in those days, "the Prime Minister". This incident has always been used to show just how close Kenyatta and Koinange were. Given that Koinange's fortunes quickly dwindled after Kenyatta's death, it is safe to draw a different inference from this celebrated incident after so many years. It is that Kenyatta decided to rest once and for all, confident of the fact that the one person capable of disrupting the smooth transition of power, was far off in Nairobi. Connected to this is the level headed, procedural and professional manner with which the then Coast Provincial Commisioner, Eliud Mahihu, handled the transition. Eliud Mahihu was one of the last people to see Kenyatta alive and speak with him. Indeed it is Mahihu who aided Kenyatta out of the toilet at the above mentioned function where he collapsed. In revelations carried by the "Sunday Nation" about three years ago, Mahihu pledged to publish his memoirs, which would contain details of the events surrounding Kenyatta's death, and steadfastly refused to reveal anything beforehand. Did Kenyatta reveal his premonition to Mahihu and sternly instruct him on how to deal with the outcome ? What's for sure is that had Mahihu dealt with the immediate transition any differently, I probaly would not be writing this today. Thank goodness there were no mobile phones in those days.
Finally, inspite of any premonition that Kenyatta had, he was in control to the very end. The incident where he asked for Koinange just before his death, is one example of this. Prior to this, is the admirable manner in which he hosted a party in honour of the triumphant Kenyan team that had returned from the Commonwealth games in Edmonton, Canada. There is a poignant photograph of Kenyatta smiling delightfully as he pins an award to one of the athletes. If Kenyatta had intended for the transition to be any different, he would have announced a cabinet reshuffle at this stage. Why did he peacefully pass away soon thereafter if it was his intention for someone different to have succeeded him ? How capable are we of handling another potential succession on the hands of this country, when the facts of Kenyatta's succession are still distorted ?
Other intersting details have also come to light this past week, such as those by Gitau wa Njenga carried in the "East African Standard". For the first time in memory, it is stated that Kenyatta obtained a Diploma in Anthropology from the London School of Economics. It is absolutely imperative that this is corroborated because it has never exactly been known whether or not Kenyatta left the London School Economics with a qualification. That Kenyatta was under the tutelage of distinguished anthropologist, Bronislaw Malinowiski, is not in dispute, but we must know for sure if and what qualification Kenyatta obtained from the London School of Economics.This does not in any way however dent the sound legacy of Mzee Kenyatta.
The commemoration of his death has over the years, appeared to draw more public attention than even October's Kenyatta Day, named in his honour. At this rate, Kenyatta day may even be switched to August 22nd of every year. I was not honoured to have seen Kenyatta alive and only remember once catching a glimpse of the old man's silhouette in his official limousine (what we used to call "The Merc 600"), as his motorcade passed by the junction of Kenyatta avenue and Uhuru highway in 1977. Along with hundreds of thousands of other Kenyans, I also got to see the body of the old man lying in state in 1978. My older brothers and sister however got to see Kenyatta on several occasions and in this regard, it must be said that time and nostalgia really placate. Six years ago at around Kenyatta day, we were watching some of Kenyatta's speeches in nostalgic silence. One of my older brothers remarked how delightful it was to hear his voice again, especially remembering how tired people had gotten of hearing everything attributed to "the wise leadership of President Kenyatta ". A thirty day mourning period was declared after Kenyatta died, and for thirty days Voice of Kenya (VOK), televised nothing but tributes, something many considered unbearable and unforgivable. We now long for those tributes to be televised. It reminds me of how I recently read with disbelief of how many Congolese already miss Mobutu Sese Seko, only four years after he was deposed. Amongst the things missed are Mobutu's thunderous speeches where he would first ask gatherings to be silent Nye ! Nye ! ( Silence ! Silence !). Mobutu would then ask "Na loba ?" ("Can I speak ?"), and the crowd would roar back "Loba !" ; "Na sopa ?" ("Can I speak frankly ?"), Mobutu would then ask, and the crowd would roar back "Sopa !", and finally "Na panza ?" ("Can I speak openly ?"), and the crowd would roar back "Panza !"
It is also time that serious thought is given to the establishment of a self-supporting Jomo Kenyatta Musuem or Jomo Kenyatta Memorial Library. Jomo Kenyatta's legacy belongs to this country and not just to his immediate family. Just about all items on Mzee Kenyatta's legacy, such as his ceremonial seat housed at the Kenya National Archives, need to be assembled and put under the care of a trusteeship. There are many, both in Kenya and abroad, who want a closer glimpse into Kenyatta and his illustrious life. At the just concluded 23rd commemoration of his death, there were indeed calls made for his mausoleum to be opened up to members of the public on the 22nd of August every year. The location of Kenyatta's memorial could be either his Gatundu home, Nakuru, or Mombasa, where he liked to spend alot of time. Our home area is many ridges away from Kenyatta's Ichaweri village, but ever since I was a boy, and whenever we have used the road that passes Kenyatta's home, I have curiously tried to catch glimpses of the inside compound, and indeed wanted to go in. We should make this possible in our time.
Much more is yet to be revealed about Kenyatta, and this will come out with time. During his memorial in 1999 for instance, "The People" revealed that Kenyatta never spent the night in Nairobi and would always be driven to his Gatundu home ( One dreads to imagine the bills that the presidential escort used to run up ! ). This is something unknown to many. Seven years ago as well, a group of about twenty of us, were involved in the sub division of a piece of land upcountry. During the lunchtime break an elderly man amongst us, gave us an interesting account of how Kenyatta was once confronted at a public gathering in the locality over land, being accused of only paying lip service to land reform. Everyone was in shock and disbelief at the suddeness and audacity of the confrontation, and it earned the aggressor seven acres of land. Many such stories remain untold, and like that of the ex-KENATCO driver above, need to be told and help us with so much unfinished business.
Michael Mundia Kamau
One Country, 42 Nations - 16th August 2001
Michael Mundia Kamau
Code 00500 Enterprise Road
P.O. Box 17510
16th August 2001
One Country, 42 Nations
In less than one week, Kenya marks the 23rd anniversary of the passing away of it's founding Father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, signifying a very momentous period in the history of this country. It is the time that one era passed on and another began, and it is indeed a time of reflection.
This country is reeling heavily under an extreme and torturous state of socio-economic and political hardship and uncertainty. This is the dominating topic in Kenya today not necessarily by choice, but by harsh reality. This country has never been in as much need of reflection, insight and redeeming as it is now. Mzee Kenyatta still has a very revered standing in this country. The very mention of his name even to Kenyans born long after his death, evokes respectful attentiveness. His is still regarded as a long eventful and distinguished life of service to his country and to mankind, an edifice of repute. A study of Jomo Kenyatta is a study of contemporary Kenyan history, and any meaningful refection must include this period.
Older Kenyans have fond memories of times gone by when the system appeared to work, be they rural or urban folk. The fond nostalgic tales are of the government providing for it's people, medical attention and medical supplies in health centres, teaching and teaching facilities in learning institutions. If it once worked, why can't it be brought about to work again ? What and why has it gone wrong ? Are we incorrigible and beyond salvage ?
The people of this country also once appeared cohesive and focused on common goals. Around this time, television stations in Kenya air grainy black and white footage of the Kenyatta era as a tribute to the founding father and his legacy. There is one particularly inspiring clip which appears to be to have been shot in Nairobi's Kaloleni estate, African quarters in pre-independent Kenya. In the clip are young black men singing in kiswahili for the release of Kenyatta then incarcerated in Maralal. "Tuna mulilia Jomo, Jomo, Jomo, tuna mulilia Jomo, Jomo Kenyatta ", they sing in kiswahili, calling for his release. The singing done with deep conviction is not by Kenyatta's Kikuyu tribesmen, but by tribesmen from Western Kenya. It is a priceless clip and many wish for it to have been frozen in time because what we have today is One Country, 42 Nations.
It reminds me of a friendship I had with a compatriot from Western Kenya a few years back, who is significantly older than me. The friendship developed on the late night bus home where we frequently met, and we got to like each other. The discussions we had centred around different topics, though we both had an interest in politics and as is common in Kenya today, relished pouring venom on the establishment. He left high school in 1968 and started working for the government in 1970 after a two year course. After many of such encounters, he took the initiative at formal introductions. This is the part I dreaded and had hoped not for. I gave him my first name, but you cannot get away with that in this country. I hesitated and then gave him my surname, and bang ! The look on his face shall remain implanted in my memory for as long as I live. It's describable as a mixture of shock, dismay, fear, horror, dejection, disbelief, regret and disappointment. The mere mention of a name altered the course of a relationship between two individuals, very unsettling. I don't blame him one bit though. As mentioned above, he started working in 1970 when the affairs of this country were dominated by a tiny clique of wealthy and and well connected Kikuyus. Underneath this was a supportive network whose allegiance and loyalty was to the said clique, and it is this world that my friend was initiated into. The look on his face when I mentioned my surname told of the experiences he underwent at the hands of what was perceived as a Kikuyu system, additionally given that Kikuyus can be very arrogant and contemptuous. I saw the condemnation of an entire community on my friend's face at the mention of my surname. Indeed, there are individuals who will never forgive Kikuyus because of the sins of a few, just like there are individuals who will never forgive Kalenjins. Need another community face a similar fate ? My friend is preparing for retirement and return to his rural home, though we still occasionally meet and talk.
All Kenyans have had similar experiences, a good number of which are documented in brilliant works such as those of Professor Francis Imbuga, Professor Bethuell Ogot, Professor Ngugi wa Thiongo, and Professor Micere wa Mugo, capturing pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial times. This is a part of us that needs to be re-addressed, as it is here that solutions lie. Morale, self-esteem, and self-worth are so low in this country that people even call for us to be re-colonized by the White man. I smiled when a Kenya Bus Services conductor mentioned this to me last year, but he didn't smile back : he was dead serious.
Mzee Kenyatta's commemoration and celebration of his legacy is incomplete without the mention of his loyal confidant, understudy, friend and compatriot, Daniel arap Moi, Kenya's current president. Indeed focus is on him, his regime, and a beckoning general election. Disechantment and moblie phones reign supreme in Kenya, and so does the grand old man of Kenyan politics, "Mukulu wa Bakulu" (Strongest of the Strong), "Mukonzi Munene" (The Leader). There are no clear indications as to the intentions of President Moi. No clear successor has been annointed as was the case with South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Long before Thabo Mbeki was elected President of South Africa in 1999, Nelson Mandela publicly declared that he was the "de jure" president of South Africa, while Thabo Mbeki was the "de facto" president. This is not the case in Kenya so close to election time, where Daniel arap Moi is the "de jure" and "de facto" President of Kenya. He recently reorganized the top brass in the civil service and, and appointed as it's Head a long standing confidante and powerbroker of his government. Prior to this, top brass in the armed forces were also reshuffled and reorganized , and a new Chief of Staff appointed. Intermittenly, there continue to be frequent reshuffles of the country's powerful Provincial and District Heads, as well as key Heads in the Police Force. Very significantly, further, the opposition National Development Party (NDP), recently joined ranks with KANU, as a junior partner in government, in a dramatic cabinet reshuffle. Whatever conclusions one draws out of these maneouvres the outcome will be totally different, Moi's trademark. And really aiding him in his schemes is a self-righteous public.
Several motorists studiously avoid a petrol station on Nairobi's Langata road known to belong to a leading personality in the KANU government, so much so that it looks headed for closure. On the other hand, Kenyans have flocked in big numbers to purchase greatly discounted moblie phones, a duopoly that is known to be backed by very powerful individuals in the regime. What emerges is a case of fighting the good fight only when our inflated egos and twisted attitudes, are not under threat. The solutions to this country's problems do not however lie here, they lie elsewhere.
A number of years back, I watched a documentary on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), which featured a water development project in Kenya's Luo Nyanza. The documentary covered the project's initiation, it's pricing, the funding, the involvement of the local community, and it's successful conclusion. The project was labour intensive and the community's involvement was very captivating. People sang and prayed as they worked. There was a need and a people centred approach and solution was adopted. The solution to this country's problems lie right here. We act and talk as if we need to land on the moon like tha Americans did, when the solutions are with us right here on the ground. They are staring us straight in the face as we look to the sky.
Many recall the remarkable feat accomplised by Israel when she rescued her countrymen from captors at Uganda's Entebbe airport in 1976. It is one of mankind's greatest, boldest and most daring feats, and can be compared to Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon, and Hannibal's crossing of the Alps. Interstingly, morale in Israel was very low at the time of the Entebbe raid, with soaring inflation, unemployment, and general economic hardship. Entebbe restored confidence and self-belief in a faltering Nation. Our Entebbe is to be the water projects or otherwise above. Our Entebbe is to salvage this country from the deep abyss of hopelessness that it now lies in.
The Black Nation everywhere is in dire straits be it in Africa's numerous slums, America's inner cities or Jamaica's Trench Town. Poverty and discord reign supreme. This is not our time and we need to work towards making next time ours. In our despair inspiration is drawn from those at the top such as General Colin Powell, Nelson Mandela, Condoleezza Rice, Denzel Washington, Michael Jordan, Venus Williams and Tiger Woods. It would however be nice to start hearing of General Colin Obasanjo, Condoleezza Madikizela, Whitney Akinyi, Minister Louis Nkrumah, Reverend Jesse Nyerere, Martin Luther Rukanyangira, Denzel Cheruiyot, Eddie Machel and Oprah Wanjiru, more closely identifying with the continent of origin and giving renewed meaning and significance to organisations like The Nation of Islam (NOI), and occasions like the Kwanzaa Festival. It's nice to note that one of Quincy Jones' daughters is named Kenya.
It's not only the Black Nation that is reeling but the entire world. The past three meets of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), have been characterised by strong public protests as was the case in 1999 in Seattle, 2000 in Melbourne and this year in France where one person unfortunately died. It is not just about a Nation in Distress, but about a Planet in Distress, and bearing this in mind, we must move fast to salvage ourselves with the resources at our disposal. "The Million Dollar Hotel" which recently showed in Kenya and which is a depiction of the downtrodden in America, also brings this out. There is a charged moment where Geronimo, played by Jimmy Smits, avers "Power to the People !" (I thought such phrases only existed in the Third World !). As indicated by Fredrick Engels and Karl Marx, it's a class struggle for the means of production and not a struggle between different races per se.
It is worthy to note that the best acclaimed Film productions over the past fifteen years have been gallant stories about different Nations, their trials and tribulations. These include "Dances with Wolves", "Unforgiven", "The Colour Purple", "Out of Africa", "Schindler's list", "BraveHeart", "Apollo 13", "The Ghost and the Darkness", "Shakespeare in Love", "The English Patient", "Patriot", "Beloved", "Armistad", "Saving Private Ryan", "Empire of the Sun", "Devil in a Blue Dress", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "Gladiator", and "Pearl Harbour". We must also feature in the list above and must work very hard towards it. We must build on the dreams of our forefathers including that of Koitalel arap Samoei and the Nandi Resistance. We must finish unfinished business. We must build Kenya.
Michael Mundia Kamau
HENDERSON'S KENYA - 1st April 2001
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
1st April 2001
The dramatic sacking of Kenya's "dream team" of government technocrats last week is a resounding statement from the office of the president of whose in charge in Kenya. It is also almost certainly a dramatic prelude to the imminent resumption of donor funding to Kenya and another "coup de grace" for President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya.
The battle of wits in Kenya doesn't seem to be relenting. On the one hand you have Daniel arap Moi, the master tactician of Kenyan politics, "Mukonzi wa Bakonzi" ("Chief of Chiefs"), and on the other you have 29,999,999 pretenders to the throne. This losing battle has been going on for far too long now and the vast majority of us are on the losing end.
It is time that we started taking Daniel arap Moi much more seriously than we do. The very fact that the vast majority of us do not give him half a chance at anything is what has fueled his continued reign over us. When a foe is contemptuosly dismissed, then half the battle is lost. This country is in a state of total confusion, and President Moi loves this every bit. In the week gone by 70 secondary school students perished in a school inferno. Two weeks ago, two of Kenya's oldest sugar companies, Muhoroni and Miwani, were placed under receivership, putting at stake the livelihoods of 3,000 workers and their families. At about the same time, the government made known it's intention to degazette huge chunks of forested land across the country. Underlying all this are numerous other problems facing this country. The populace is impoverished, hungry and in an ill state of health. Literally all of us are on the wrong side of capitalism.
Despite relentless calls for change from all areas of the country however, there is little real committment from the majority. Many people now even openly state that the problem in Kenya is Moi and change will only come if he leaves office. These calls bear alot of irony. What has managed to sustain Moi in leadership all these years is his ability to change while the vast majority inordinately holds on to old beliefs. Many of us forget that this is the man who decamped from the federal leaning Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), to the central government leaning Kenya African National Union (KANU), 37 years ago, where he still remains, and where he is the party's staunchest supporter. It is Moi's government that made Kenya a "de jure" one party state in 1982, reversing this to make way for multi-party politics in 1991. It is also Moi's government that implemented the much detested Structural Adjustment Programmes in the early 1990s after years of resistance. What emerges is a man who changes with the times, a man who pays close attention to current trends. The constitutional review process is also being adopted as a way of dislodging Moi from power, forgetting that Moi was there at the Lancashire House conferences in 1961 and 1962 where Kenya's independence constitution was formulated. Many have ignored this vast experience and exposure and it is the reason we are losing the battle for change.
Daniel arap Moi has never been accepted as the leader in Kenya since his ascent to power in 1978. In essence Kenya is not 23 years behind it's time but actually 34, because it was in 1967 that Moi was appointed vice president and was perceived as nothing more than a lame duck. This country is still in 1967 when Moi is in the year 2010 which is very tragic. This clearly explains why the battle is being lost.
Moi's regime is run on Machiavellian dictates. He fully understands that The vast majority do not have access to the basics i.e. food, shelter and clothing. In such circumstances, survival is the key. One lives for the day and there is practically no energy left for intellectualism or intricate forecasts for the future. Like Kenyatta before him, he has ensured that that the vast majority remain in such circumstances. It is a brutal system thatruthlessly deals with dissent. On the other hand global politics is about interests and Moi's regime has served donor interests well for many years. Multi-National corporations and
especially banks, continue to reap huge profits out Kenya's devastated economy. Moi has proved himself the one man capable of effectively walking this delicate tight rope, pleasing those he serves and containing those he leads. Moi is something to everyone and that's what politics is about. It's not about an ivy league education or sophistication.
Five generations of Kenyans have undergone this kind of persecution and the result is growing desperation in the face of dwindling resources. Whether or not the governments degazettes the intended forested lands for instance, it is of little consequence since these are areas that have long been encroached on. Terms like ecology, environmental degradation, desertification, and water catchment areas, have no meaning to a hungry, desperate people. The real solution lies in the redistribution of the hundreds of thousands of hectares of land held by a few wealthy and powerful families.
The tragedy is that change is not going to come to Kenya soon. Moi is determinedly pushing ahead with his agenda, and the people are determinedly fighting each other and not focusing on the issues. There is certainly someone lurking in the shadows of Moi paying close attention to how the game is played. He or she will succeed Moi and carry the persecution to the sixth generation. Moi himself learned from Kenyatta. Former boxing heavyweight of the world, Larry Holmes (1978 -1985), was boxing legend's Muhammed Ali's sparring partner for many years. Stick with winners long enough and you yourself become one.
The people of Kenya are not happy. People are smiling but there is no joy. People are talking but there is no communication. People are walking but there is no direction. People are holding in the accumulated frustration and bitterness of five generations and this is what makes living in Kenya scary right now. We shall sink lower before rising and this is the bitter reality.
When Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was the vice president and minister of home affairs close to 40 years ago, he had a no nonsense approach to dealing with dissenting Whites and Asians who still treated Blacks with disrespect and contempt. Many Whites and Asians were deported by the late Jaramogi at the time. Ian Henderson, the superintendent of police who was behind the capture of Mau Mau leader, Dedan Kimathi, was one of those who faced Jaramogi's wrath. When there was an outcry against Jaramogi, he memorably replied " I understand that Ian Henderson is as much of a Kenyan citizen as I am....... whose Kenya is it ? Henderson's Kenya was buried under the ashes of independence bon fire !" Henderson's Kenya was however not buried under the ashes of independence bon fire and continued to thrive in the mutated forms of Kenyatta's Kenya and Moi's Kenya. Like Jaramogi we must ask, "Whose Kenya is it ? " This country cannot accomodate another one of the mentioned Kenyas and the next Kenya has got to be your Kenya and my Kenya, "Our Kenya"
Michael Mundia Kamau
NO MUX ! NO MUX ! - 4th March 2001
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
4th March 2001
NO MUX ! NO MUX !
The results of last year's Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), were released last week in
standard tradition. Once again a small pocket of elite students have performed very well and are destined for schooling in top notch careers both abroad and at home. Once again a second larger tier of equally brilliant students who attained less higher marks, is destined for schooling opportunities both at home and abroad. Once again the majority of students will end up with nothing to do and no where to go. Once again, and tragically so, the Kenyan Nation sinks deeper into problems, anxiety and stress.
As has been said numerously, the Kenyan Nation is a time bomb waiting to explode. The most troubling part regarding the announcement of examination results for both primary and secondary school leavers, is the the huge percentage of individuals that cannot be absorbed by the system in traditional openings. Other less traditional openings are struggling to get a foothold which makes the situation precarious.Over the last fifteen years, an average of about 200,000 individuals per year have found themselves with no where to go on completion of primary school and secondary school, going by the figures released by the Minister of Education. This modestly translates to an unsettling figure of 3,000,000 men and women that the system has turned it's back on , shoved into obscurity to fend for themselves. And to think that these are the lucky ones. Lucky in the sense that they attained a certain level of education.
A substantial number of young Kenyans drop out of school or have not gone to school at all because of financial constraints. A modest estimation of the number of people in this group is 6,000,000 , considering that the population of Kenya is approximately 30 million people, and that those born after independence in 1963 constitute about 60% of the population. Even elite achievers are in dire straits because employment opportunities are scarce and many are getting by doing menial tasks. Kenyan politician J.M. Kariuki's forecast of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars made in the 1970s has come to be, only that the proportions now are 30 billionaires and 30 million beggars.
No one has paid attention to this trend of events and what we find ourselves with now is a population of largely young, energetic, intelligent, disenchanted and bitter individuals, rearing to go. This is good only if the latter two are removed.
This is the plight of what Njonjo Mue refers to as the "Uhuru Generation" i.e. the generation born after independence in 1963, in his brilliant essay "UHURU GENERATION: TAKING A STAND ON HIGH GROUND!" (http://www.africawired.com/KCAaddress.htm). It is also indeed the plight of a generation that is "so close to knowing the deep fears, emotional turmoil, and desperation suffered by the 'the people' " , as described by Mkawasi Mcharo in her equally brilliant essay "Stand in the Gap !"
(http://www.africawired.com/stand_gap.htm). The two essays give a clear depiction of the hopes , fears and aspirations of many Kenyans.
The Uhuru generation to which I belong, is in dire straits. It is a generation that has been overtaken by events and one that has stood still in time. It is however time to look within ourselves and seek
solutions to our problems instead of merely shifting blame to the pre-Uhuru generation, indeed our fathers and forefathers. How is that we can correct earlier errors ? How is it that we can improve on our plight ?
As educated and as widely exposed as many of us are, we are still very far from making our mark on society. Apart from well spoken english and bright ideas, little else can be said for the Uhuru generation. For instance many of us still stay on properties acquired by our parents. There has been very little growth in wealth. It is extremely alarming, yet common to find fully grown, sound and stable, men and women aged 35 - 40 years staying on properties acquired by their parents, yet these are individuals earning incomes or are fully capable of making ends meet. How can we make any claim to leadership ? How can we be entrusted with the management of the vast resources in this country if we are incapable of managing our resources at a personal level ? It appaers that the the Uhuru generation needs to be weaned and brought up again. It's time to get real.
Even South Africa's Nelson Mandela who many young Kenyans admire, only really felt like a man when he acquired his small property in Soweto in keeping with true African tradition (source: "A long walk to freedom", by Nelson Mandela). This is something he achieved in his 30s, a struggling attorney at law, a marked firebrand by the establishment and at the height of apartheid injustices against blacks. We do not have much of an excuse. We are by and large failing to make our mark socially, intellectually, economically and politically, because we have disregarded certain crucial values imparted to us by the pre-Uhuru generation. Our focus and values have changed for the worse. We have failed to pay homage to the teachings of our forefathers and are paying the price for this.
Uhuru generation marriages are crumbling and are as meaningless as those in the west. Intellectualism and constructive activism are at an all time low. We have failed to draw from the example of the youthful Jomo Kenyatta campaigning for land rights, or the youthful Oginga Odinga campaigning for business opportunities for Africans, or the youthful Tom Mboya campaigning for political change. Listening to the speeches made by legends like Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya in 1950s , one is struck by the brilliance of delivery, the eloquence and the clarity of focus. We were once watching one such recording of Tom Mboya at the Kenya National Archives six years ago in revered silence, when one individual broke the silence by remarking " no wonder he had to go". These were brilliant individuals ahead of their time. Very few individuals can match their intellect after 40 years, and even after the advances that have taken place in those 40 years.
The Uhuru generation is also yet to make a mark politically. The so called "young turks" failed as miserably in the 1992 and 1997 general elections, as they will with the doomed "Mungaano wa Mageuzi" (kiswahili for "movement for change"). Something crucial is lacking, something such as that that drove the legendary Mau Mau movement, led in later years by the youthful Dedan Kimathi, another credit to the pre-Uhuru generation. Mau Mau has variously been dismissed as the work of inconsequential rag tag peasants. If this is so then why was it necessary to declare a state of emergency in 1952 ? No other state of emergency has been declared in the history of Kenya though one appears imminent. If this was again so, why was it necessary to fly in the the U.K. based Lancashire fusiliers to quell the rebellion ? Why was villagisation and screening necessary if Mau Mau was so inconsequential ? How can we throw a grand commemoration of Lord Baden Powell when Kimathi's remains still lie in Kamiti Maximum Prison, and when hundreds of former Mau Mau fighters and their families languish in poverty and oblivion ?
Mau Mau was a nationalist movement aimed at removing the oppressive white colonial government and replacing it with a just government of indigenous Kenyans. It was about regaining our heritage. Some actions by Mau Mau are unforgivable but it will always remain that Mau Mau was a just movement aimed at redeeming this Nation. Nothing so frightened the British and indeed nothing contributed so significantly to the hasty initiation of independence negotiations. I am not advocating for a Mau Mau like uprising and indeed one is not necessary, but are portraying the lack of principle and committment in the Uhuru generation. An old man who was there at the height of Mau Mau once narrated an interesting episode to me. He told me how one of the fighters attempted to rape one of the girls who used to place food for the fighters at strategic points. The girl successfully fought off the fighter who in an act of savage counter-retaliation, brutally assaulted and killed the girl. Word of this reached the war council in the midst of the forest, which led to the fighter being court martialled and beheaded. The stakes were too high to allow for such hideous, abhorrent acts. One gets a general idea of how Mau Mau operated.
The onus is therefore on the Uhuru generation to prop up itself and this Nation by utilising the virtues of those mentioned above who came before us. One can only be taken as seriously as one presents himself or herself. The Uhuru generation needs itself now more than at any other post independence period in the history of this country. The solutions must be in built and homegrown. The outlook and situation is bleak and only we can correct this. I know of an architect who is working as a bank clerk because prospects in in his field are bleak. The irony of this is that when he sat his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination 10 years ago, he emerged amongst the top 100 students in the country. Education in Kenya has lost most of the glamour and significance it had in earlier years. It should however not be abandoned but restructured to cater for the needs of a restless and agitated populace. Inevitably and invariably, small scale enterprise will carry this country through the the next 20 years, indeed through the next generation. A big part of the solution must be sought here and the Diaspora which numbers about 800,000 globally will and are playing a crucial role in this.
One thing the majority of us will however not inherit from our forefathers even if we wanted to, are the plum opportunities in the elite Multi National Corporations, which makes the case for small enterprise all the more pressing. Vast impressive complexes with vast in built resources such as East African Breweries Limited, Brooke Bond tea estates in Kericho, Del Monte (formerly Kenya Canners), Kenya Ports Authority, Kakuzi plantations, British American Tobacco Kenya Limited and Rea Vipingo plantations will become a thing of the past. Other leading Multi Nationals like Barclays Bank of Kenya Limited and Standard Chartered Bank of Kenya Limited can only absorb a limited number of individuals and contribute only so much to the exchequer. The trend globally is downsizing and Kenya is no exception to this. Many of us will literally and symbolically find ourselves "scrubbing toilets and scrubbing them well" over the next 20 years to borrow from the great American leader Martin Luther King Jnr. , who many young Kenyans also admire. These are tasks we must perform with urgency for our sake and for the sake of coming generations of Kenyans. A new Nation will only be built by actions and not by general elections, handouts and mobile phones.
Twenty one years ago the world watched one of the most spectacular performances in boxing history when two of boxing's greatest legends, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, met in the ring. The grace and skill of the fight are legendary. The fight drew to a dramatic close when Mexican, Roberto Duran declared "No mux ! No mux !" (No more ! No more! ), in what are now immortal words. He had had enough. It is now time for the Uhuru generation to put a stop to the mediocrity and move on to and with something much more meaningful. As to whether we shall echo the great Roberto Duran in our native kiswahili ( "Imetosha ! Imetosha !" ), or not, is not so much of the point. The point is that we have taken enough of a self-inflicted beating and it's time to move on.
Michael Mundia Kamau
IS MARWA - 15th October 2000
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
15th October 2000
Kenya’s lukewarm performance at the Sydney 2000 Olympic games further necessitates the need for an overhaul in sports administration in this country. Two gold medals are simply not good enough for a country like ours which has a vast reservoir of running talent and experience. Kenya’s potential at Sydney was 12 gold medals. Full credit however goes to Ethiopia and Cameroon for bringing joy and pride to the African continent. The Ethiopians triumphantly edged us out in Sydney and this must serve as a wake up call.
Sport continues to grow into a bigger and bigger business the world over and there is every reason for us to cash in and not be left behind. Many of the barriers preventing sporting progress in Kenya are easily identifiable and need to be broken down. Our forte still remains in athletics which is administered by the Kenya Amateur Athletics Association (KAAA), a body more renowned for it’s running battles, than it’s running exponents. KAAA’s short history is mired by controversy and acrimony, and it is a miracle that Kenya continues to do well in world meets. For instance, KAAA was involved in a bitter and unnecessary selection dispute just before the Sydney games, that resulted in it’s being taken to court and it’s suffering a humiliating defeat. Just before the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games, KAAA was also at the centre of controversy when it’s secretary general was involved in a bitter exchange of words with the Kenyan Chief de mission, none other than the legendary Kipchoge Keino. Other controversies revolve around financial impropriety and sexual abuse. The latter could be the reason why Kenyan women athletes have failed to triumph on the Olympic stage.
As with most other matters in Kenya, these are some of the causes of sporting underdevelopment in this country that need to be addressed. It is ironic that despite of the joy and pride that athletics has brought to this country, it is still a long way off from being incorporated into our National heritage. Our athletes are only heroes and only gain recognition when they triumph on the world stage. After that they are consigned to oblivion like the rest of us. For instance, none of the 12 universities in Kenya have a scholarship scheme for athletes, and neither do lower colleges and schools. There is neither a pension scheme to cater for athletes on retirement. The Kenyan parliament voted itself a generous pension package last year enabling members of parliament to qualify for pension even after serving only one five year term. There is no such scheme for Kenyan athletes.
KAAA does not solely come in for criticism because the administration of sports in Kenya in general, is in the doldrums. Soccer administration for instance lacks a long-term structure, and this has resulted in erratic inconsistent performances. There is also a vast wealth of soccer talent in this country that is not being harnessed. Many Africans including myself have fond, nostalgic memories of the 1990 soccer world cup where Cameroon triumphantly made it to the quarterfinals. The team that partly comprised of Roger Milla, Cyrille Makanaky, Thomas Nkono, Francois Omam Biyik, Andre Nkana Biyik, Richard Massing, Emmanuel Mbouh Mbouh, Mfede and Mabuong, brought pride and joy to the continent. One of the main reasons behind Cameroon’s success in the 1990 world cup was the fact that many of their players played in European leagues, and even then, not first division sides. Cyrille Makanaky for instance, then played for a third division French side, yet his performance in both the 1990 world cup and the 1990 Africa cup of nations was outstanding. We must also be challenged to encourage many of our players to play in Europe. At present, it is only Mike Okoth who is playing first division soccer in Belgium.
Another soccer game that is remembered with nostalgia, is the quarterfinal match between France and Brazil in the 1986 soccer world cup, when dazzling soccer skills were on display. I recall watching a similar provincial soccer game between Ofafa Jericho secondary school and Jamhuri high school in 1983 in what was known as “carpet” football in those days. Those were the days when Kakamega high school reigned supreme on the National school’s soccer scene and the days when our soccer clubs were known for playing the ball in the air, as opposed to “carpet”. It goes to show the amount of talent that has gone to waste in this country, and continues to go to waste. The last commendable performance by a Kenyan side in soccer was in 1987 when Gor Mahia F.C. won the continental, though second string, Africa Cup Winners Cup.
Boxing is another sport in dire straits. Nothing confirms this more than the fact that two Kenyan boxers absconded from the Kenyan contingent to the Sydney Olympics and are still being sought by Australian authorities. The two boxers cited all manner of frustrations. This is a far cry from the glorious days of Kenyan boxing when the team was known as the “Hit-squad” and had to it’s credit several triumphs such as the King’s cup in Bangkok, and Africa’s one and only Olympic gold medal in boxing in the 1988 Seoul Olympic games, won by the late Robert Wangila Napunyi. Credit also goes to boxers that existed before Napunyi’s time such as Dick Tiger Murunga, Stephen Muchoki and Ibrahim Bilali.
Progress however has been made in diversification and immediate commendation goes to Kenyan cricket for attaining test status and for hosting the just concluded high profile International Cricket Council (ICC), mini world cup in Kenya. It was a great honour to have world class players like Sachin Tendulkar of India on Kenyan soil. Jacob Okello also deserves high commendation for emerging as runner up in the high profile Kenya Open golf tournament in 1998. These are Kenyan accomplishments to be proud of.
We should also emulate our neighbours the Ugandans, who appear to have a sound sports policy. It is common to see different Ugandan sporting disciplines window shopping on the streets of Nairobi while on transit to sports meets in Europe and North America. In 1998 for instance, there was a weightlifting tournament in the little known pacific island of Nauru, which Uganda attended. The organisers were so impressed and moved by the attendance of the little known Ugandan weightlifters from far off Africa, that they met all they bills for accommodation and meals. It is this kind of resolve that we need to build into ourselves.
Strength is in diversification and we need to diversify our approach to Nation building in order to create opportunities for as many Kenyans as possible. Sport is one avenue of attaining the desired diversification. Patriotism in this country is at a record low, thanks to a warped system that is incapable of delivering service to the people. It is crucial that we take up the calling of Kenyan musical duo, “GidigidiMajimaji”, in their latest CD, “IS MARWA”, meaning “it is ours”. The title “IS MARWA” represents an apt fusion of the old and the new, “is” from English, and “marwa” from the Luo language meaning, “ours”. At least two interpretations can be read into “IS MARWA”. One is that Kenya is our country, and the other is that we need to fuse our different cultures, talents and abilities to develop this country. Part of this fusion is sport.
This country is in deep trouble and tangible solutions for the future need to be sought and defined. The Kenyan system is crumbling fast and the two terrifying words in common usage nowadays are “staff retrenchments”. It is a tragedy that we continue to insist on doing things the age old way even as we witness the collapse of the system before our very eyes.
Many of us still desperately subscribe to the beliefs of a system that has hopelessly let us down. Many of us are making the same mistakes that our parents made. Many of us were told to go to school for a better future and many of us are still desperately yearning for that better future. Let us not stop going to school, but let us also create tangible alternatives for ourselves, and dispense with the notion that formal education and formal employment, are the one and only means to a bright future. If running a marathon will put food on the table, then let us run marathons and run them well. If playing soccer will pay the school fees, then let us play soccer and play it well.
Many of us are under the illusion that the much-heralded change will come about by way of a grand and instantaneous event, which is not the case. This country is already undergoing the crucial process of change and those who will be at the forefront in 20 years to come, will be those who hard the foresight, character, strength and determination to be innovative and pick the signs of the time. That time is now.
Michael Mundia Kamau
MOI'S COUNTRY - 30th July 2000
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
30th July 2000
The Kenyan nation has been treated to an interesting spectre of dramatic events in the past two weeks. On July 18th 2000, the widely touted "List of Shame", a parliamentary Bill seeking the prosecution of leading figures in and outside government linked to impropriety, was passed by parliament after major amendments, that rendered it ineffective. One week later on July 25th 2000, the contentious Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill was passed, giving parliament the mandate to oversee the review of the constitution. Finally on July 27th 2000, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, approved the resumption of quick disbursing aid to Kenya, which effectively spells the resumption of widespread donor funding to Kenya: quite a marathon for a nation in a deep abyss of quagmire.
One man takes full credit for all this and that is Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, President of the Republic of Kenya, and Commander in Chief of it's armed forces. For 45 years now, Daniel arap Moi has been in active politics, but no one seems to give this serious consideration. For 22 years now, Daniel arap Moi has been the president of Kenya, but many regard him as an inconsequential stooge warming the seat for a grand master. Many still see and regard Moi as the timid vice president suffering the indignity and humiliation of being physically slapped on the face by a provincial police officer, and suffering numerous other similar indignities at the hands of junior government and societal figures. The events of the past two weeks further stamp Moi's authority and were set to take place.
Moi has been working hard lately and has made several trips abroad, which have definitely been aimed at repairing the badly dented image of his government. In October last year Moi visited a number of European countries. In the same month U.S. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright visited Kenya in a warm and memorable visit. She seemed very at ease during consultations with Moi and other government officials at State House, Nairobi. However she seemed ill at ease during a similar session with opposition figures at Nairobi's Grand Regency Hotel in what certainly appeared as a dressing down from television footage. Added to this is the fact that local media were allowed a very brief photo and filming session at the meeting.
The strongest indication yet that the government was making progress came out during Jamhuri day celebrations in December last year when Moi stated in kiswahili, "mambo siyo mabaya sana" ("things aren't that bad"). Another big indicator came earlier this year when Moi was in America and was hailed as "an authority on African affairs" by President Bill Clinton, further being hailed as "a great African leader", by the Black Caucus in America, an influential lobby group. Finally, Moi has been in Europe thrice in the past six months, for week long tours. It is instructive that that one of these tours fell on Labour Day this year, at a time when Kenyan workers needed all the guidance, inspiration and hope that they could get. Moi must have felt that it was more important for him to be in Europe at the time, than to be with a beleaguered and inconsequential Kenyan workforce. It indeed appears that President Moi is more confident of his rule now than at any other time of his presidency, given the numerous trips he has been making abroad lately, and given the pathetic state that this country is in. This country has never been in worse shape: there is widespread drought and famine, an electricity rationing programme threatens the continued existence of several enterprises in Kenya, the economy is in recession, there are widespread job cuts, and unemployment is rampant. It is against this backdrop that it is very interesting that Moi was in Tanzania recently to mediate in the Burundi crisis, when his own country is under siege! It can therefore be concluded that the governance of this country is no longer a challenge to Moi and he is more concerned about other matters such as his legacy. Come the year 2002 for that matter, he may retire as scheduled and become a glorified African statesman as was recently deceased Julius Nyerere, and as is Nelson Mandela, much to the shock, amazement, and chagrin of many. Moi is however a man who saves the best for last, and only he knows what he intends.
The opposition on the other hand is in a state of disarray. The Ufungamano constitutional review initiative is anything but functioning. It's budget has been drastically scaled down from the initial figure of 490 million Kenya shillings (approximately US $6.6 million), and even then, the lobby is making an appeal for every Kenyan to make a donation of 20 Kenya shillings. If you are looking for comedy, please come to Kenya don't go to Hollywood. To add to the comedy that Kenya firmly is , a leading opposition figure recently paid glowing tribute to a leading figure in government, declaring that he be the ruling party's sole candidate in the next general election. Other opposition figures have started campaigns for the next general election due in two and a half years time. The biggest election in the world, the U.S. election, indeed that of the wealthiest nation on earth, is in November 2000, and campaigns proper, have not even began.
The leading newspapers in Kenya, DAILY NATION (http://www.nationaudio.com), and EAST AFRICAN STANDARD (http://www.eastandard.net), the so called proponents of change, justice and fairness, are also not helping matters one bit, and are giving Kenyans a hopeless sense of guidance. Take for instance the manner in which the DAILY NATION reported the events of the past two weeks: "Raila reform Bill is rejected" (Daily Nation, Wednesday, July 5, 2000, page 1 / http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/05072000/News/News103.html), "Opposition stalls list of shame bid" (Daily Nation, Friday, July 21, 2000, page 1 / http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/21072000/News/News105.html), and "Graft: MPs move against aid deal" (Daily Nation Headline, Saturday, July 22 2000 /
http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/22072000/News/News63.html). I contrast this with what can be termed the ruthless western press which does not even spare it's own. For instance, the New Zealand Herald lashed out fully at the New Zealand All Blacks after their surprise elimination by France in last year's Rugby World Cup. I felt the heat even as a foreigner reading the scolding off the Internet, as I have been a supporter of the All Blacks for many years now.
It was also just last year that President Moi humiliated the two dailies in the space of just one week, at the time of the cabinet reshuffle on September 6th 1999, and the appointment of a new Chief Justice on September 13th 1999. The cabinet reshuffle was supposed to have been trimmed and the two dailies carried lengthy analyses on who was set to be dropped, and who was set to be retained. All that the president did was to reduce the number of ministries and retain the same number of ministers. One week later, the president appointed a new Chief Justice. Prior to this, the two dailies again carried lengthy analyses of who was likely to be appointed the new Chief Justice from members of the judiciary. The president went ahead and appointed the Director of Public Prosecutions as the new Chief justice of Kenya, someone who had featured nowhere in the said lengthy analyses. It is either that the dailies are made up of novices as bad as the rest of us, incapable of deciphering Moi's elusive "Modus Operandi" or are not revealing his "Modus Operandi". Either way, this renders them ineffective. Even at this very late stage, they are making it appear that it is the "Dream Team" of technocrats that is responsible for the resumption of donor funding, and not President Moi.
I must however commend Kwendo Opanga, Managing Editor, Sunday Standard, for an objective piece of reporting he gave back in 1992 while at the Nation Media Group (then Nation Newspapers Limited). He then had a column in the Sunday Nation called "The week that was", and warned of an imminent split in the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), prior to the 1992 general election. There is not an insult under the face of this earth that Opanga did not receive as a result of this article, including quite a number from myself. FORD was the mass party, the people's party that was destined to redeem this country. How, therefore, could Opanga make such an assertion ? The rest is history, but I have never forgotten Opanga since. As a result, I endeavour to read his articles as much as possible. By and large though, one is better following the president's numerous speeches to the nation, to really know what is happening in this country, and the course that it is taking. The man has an admirable grasp of domestic and international affairs, and knows precisely what he is doing. It's the rest of us that do not. I recently watched him on television addressing a symposium on government expenditure in Kisumu town and was greatly impressed by his articulation of government policy. This was a far cry from the man who has declared that "he is not a rainmaker", or who declared last year "that appointing a vice president would not add two pots of tea to every Kenyan household".
Moi is Kenya and Kenya is Moi. A self-made man, a one man show, Kenya is indeed Moi's country. This was confirmed in early 1995 when Moi went missing from the public for one week, reportedly ill. The country was gripped by tension, fear and uncertainty, and there was a sense of major relief and jubilation when he resurfaced at his Harambee House office and made a brisk walk to parliament, making a statement that he was in one piece, fit and fine. Kenyans were never as happy to see Moi as at that moment. It however revealed how insecure we were as a nation, and how hopelessly reliant we were on the doomed system that he, Kenyatta, and the colonialists had created. In this regard, it must be stated that this was once Kenyatta's country, as much as it is now Moi's country: soon after independence in 1963, a call was made to freedom fighters to emerge from their hideouts in the forests, as independence had been attained, or so we thought. When Kenyatta was asked what would happen to the weapons in the possession of the freedom fighters, he famously replied, "They shall bring them to me, to their government" (Source : "End of Empire", Kenya segment, a production by Granada Television of the U.K. , 1985 ).
The 1983 Njonjo commission of inquiry and the snap general election of the same year should have made us aware that Daniel arap Moi is the ruler in this country. If not these, then the 1992 general election should have been an eye opener to the man's firm grip on this country, because this country is deeply asleep and urgently needs to wake up. It is instructive that prior to the 1992 general election, Moi said that he had a "secret weapon", that would ensure his victory and that of his party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), in the forthcoming election. No one took him seriously. In the same year, he declared that KANU would rule Kenya for the next 100 years, and even this must begin being taken seriously, especially given that no one in the opposition or otherwise has renounced their life membership in KANU, literally or symbolically.
Michael Mundia Kamau
A REVIEW OF KENYAN RUGBY - 28th June 2000
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
28th June 2000
A REVIEW OF KENYAN RUGBY
Kenya’s unexpected good showing at the just concluded Safari sevens, and subsequent qualification for the 2001 rugby world cup sevens, must be commended. Ominously though, our loss to arch rivals Zimbabwe in the final and to Uganda earlier in the tournament, are an indicator of the low levels of progress that Kenyan rugby has made.
For many years now, rugby in Kenya has rightfully been considered a bourgeois sport, and the following has remained limited. The game was started in Kenya by settlers during the colonial era and participation was indeed restricted to whites only. Standards in those days were high given that the respected British Lions toured and played Kenya. Africans got the first opportunity to learn and play rugby soon after independence in 1963, and soon after the desegragation of the school system. Even then the sport was limited to elite schools that had previously admitted whites only such as the Duke of York (today’s Lenana School), and the Prince of Wales (today’s Nairobi School).
The first generation of Africans to play rugby included recently deceased Chris Onsotti, John Gichinga, Dennis Awori, George Kariuki (current Chairman of the Kenya Rugby Football Union, K.R.F.U.), Jim Owino and the legendary Mwangi-Kioi brothers. The first generation of African players must be credited with preparing the crucial groundwork for the second generation of African players to blossom further.
The legendary second generation of Africans to play rugby are credited with establishing Kenya as a reputable rugby playing nation in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. They were the new kids on the block, young ,energetic and hungry to make a difference. The radicalism and agitation for change that characterised Kenya in the 1970s extended to rugby, with proponents calling for greater African participation in the game both at playing and administration levels. The period witnessed an explosive renaissance of Kenyan rugby. The second generation partly comprised Jackson “Jacko” Omaido, his brother Walter Omaido, Tom Oketch, Alunga Omolo, Peter Akatsa, Frank Ngaruiya, Stan Ramogo, Max Muniafu, Michael “Tank” Otieno, Evans Vitisia, Godfrey “Chief” Edebe, Peter Belsoi, Pip Omamo, Larry Okinyo, David Akelola, Wycliff Mukulu, John Akatsa, Tim Githuku, Ken Sagala, Andrew Kimwele, Frank Sabwa, Fred Odhiambo, Jimmy Owino and JJ Masiga (better known for his exploits as a Kenya soccer international). It was the second generation that was behind the formation of the University of Nairobi’s Mean Machine R.F.C. in 1977 and Kenyatta University’s Black Blad R.F.C. The intensity and drive of the young men that formed Mean Machine (Machine), is manifest by the fact that Machine won the prestigious Kenya Cup in it’s year of inception. This was a sterling achievment at a time when rugby was still dominated by white clubs such as Kenya Harlequins, Nondiescripts, Impala and Western Kenya / Oribis. It was a most gratifying and inspirational accomplishment in real and symbolic terms,personifying the firm foundation that had been laid for Africans playing rugby in Kenya.
Another very notable accomplishment for the sport in the 1970s was that of Jackson “Jacko” Omaido in 1975 when he was selected to represent the East African Tuskers for a tour to Zambia. The now defunct Tuskers comprised players from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and was indeed our version of the British Lions. Jacko was then a school boy at Lenana School doing his form five, which made the accomplishment all the more magnificent, and is something that has not been accomplished again to date. Jacko would move on to play for Machine, Kenya and a host of other select sides such as Watembezi Pacesetters, Scorpions and Chairman’s XV . Jacko is indeed the best fly half that Kenya has produced so far. His legend spread far and wide such that Metropolitan Police of the U.K. had prior knowledge of him when they toured Kenya in 1980. I watched Jacko play in the 1980s towards the end of his career and was indeed every bit impressed. I asked to be introduced to him in 1982 and could not hide my admiration. It was also during Jacko’s time that the now defunct Miro R.F.C. ( “miro” is colloquial for black ), was formed to cater for budding African players.
On graduation, many ex-Machine players, and ex-Black Blad players, unwilling to play for what were perceived as white clubs and still teeming with radicalism, formed Mwamba R.F.C. which like Machine in earlier years, steam-rolled the Kenyan rugby scene. Mwamba (which means rock in kiswahili), carried on with the crusade to enlist a greater African share in Kenyan rugby. One particularly memorable season for me was the 1983 season when the Tom Oketch led Mwamba R.F.C. vanquished all clubs on the Kenyan scene including the dreaded Nondiescripts R.F.C. and the equally dreaded Kenya Harlequins. Mwamba were very instrumental in instilling a deep sense of pride in those who related to their accomplishments. Other notables in the triumphant Mwamba side of 1983 included Jimmy Owino, Martin “superman” Mwituria, John Akatsa, Peter Belsoi, Buba Muimi and Pritt Nyandatt. I ocassionally meet Tom Oketch, who now runs his own Quantity Survey firm, on the streets of Nairobi and greet him with alot of admiration. He always has a puzzled, curious look on his face, unaware that it is an admiration that goes back 17 years. It is true that heroes never die. Standards of rugby in Kenya were much higher in those days. When the Watembezi Pacesetters attended the Dubai Sevens in 1983, there were some New Zealand All Black trialists who made remarks of the respect they had for Kenyan rugby.
The third generation of rugby players arrived on the scene in the late 1980s / early 1990s as the likes of Jacko were waning. This partly comprised the legendary Edward Rombo, Gordon Anampiu, John Ohaga, Stephen Kimwele, Joseph Muganda, Duncan “Yakas” Kioni, George Adul, Henry Miheso, Oscar Khabure, Martin Ndeda, John Kiwinda, Tito Okuku, Solomon Munyua, Eric Kibe and JC Wakhu. Even at this later stages the Black vs. White rivalry for the domination of Kenyan rugby persisted though teams like Oribis R.F.C. and Miro R.F.C. had fallen away. Edward Rombo’s accomplishments were however the most outstanding.
For one, Rombo led Machine to two successive Kenya Cup titles in 1989 and 1990. Rombo was a class player who dazzled many a person with his brilliant back play. He had speed, mesmerizing side steps, was absolutely daring, and had an ability to quickly detect weaknesses in opponents and fully capitalise on them. I remember one such display at the Easter Blackrock Rugby Festival for clubs in 1988, when Rombo was playing for Machine. Stuart Melville of the U.K. were touring Kenya at the time and after their game with Machine, members of their contingent kept asking to meet “Rambo” (It was the 1980s and Sylvester Stallone’s action sequels “Rambo” were a big hit). Rombo also had a lip and is Kenya rugby’s equivalent of boxing legend, Muhammed Ali. He taunted and disarmed opponents with memorable phrases.
All this caught the attention of selectors at the Singapore Cricket Club Sevens and led to Rombo being drafted into U.K. rugby league side, Leeds R.F.C. , for a professional career in 1991. Rombo further secured a scholarship to study Law at the prestigious Leeds University. Rombo’s grand achievement wrote an entirely new and historical chapter in the history of Kenyan rugby. While at Leeds R.F.C. , Rombo played and excelled alongside the world’s best, such as former All Black full back, John Gallagher. Rombo’s achievement thus speaks volumes for itself and he indeed did Kenya proud. He certainly did not have access to the same facilities that the All Blacks did, but he nonetheless reached the top. Regrettably however, younger generations of rugby players have not measured up to or surpassed Jacko’s and Rombo’s accomplishments.
The fourth deneration of Kenyan rugby players partly comprised / comprises of Sammy Khakame, Paul Murunga, Thomas Lopokoiyit, Tolbert Onyango, Victor Ohoya, Sidney Obonyo, Albert Onyango, Thomas Opiyo and Christopher Onyango. It is a generation that is no less brilliant than the previous generations, but is one that hasn’t quite blossomed as much. The closest that this generation has come to a major break was in 1996 after the inaugral Safari Sevens tournament, when Sidney Obonyo was drafted to play professional rugby in the United Kingdom. Sidney was named man of the tournament after a dazzling display of running rugby. The deal however fell through and the reasons have never quite been made public. Sammy Khakame also deserves credit for a consistently brilliant display throughout his career in high school, with Machine, with Kenya Harlequins and with Kenya. Indeed Sammy Khakame, Jacko and David Evans (mentioned below), are the best fly halfs that Kenya has produced.
Whites have also made a most worthy contribution to Kenyan rugby and as mentioned above, it is they that laid the foundation. As also mentioned above, the British Lions toured Kenya in the early years of Kenyan rugby, and this is a huge credit. Later years would see the emergence of greats like Roger Betramm, Andy Price, Johnny Yakas, Marco Brighetti, Neil McKenzie and the legendary Evans family of Rod, David, Mike and Clive. Rod Evans was an outstanding eighth man for Nondiescripts R.F.C. and Kenya, and was also once Kenya coach. David Evans was an excellent kicker. Teams dreaded conceding penalties anywhere on the pitch because Dave would either venture deep into your half with fabulous place kicks for touch, or kick over three pointers, which he rarely missed. Nondiescripts won many a game by virtue of Dave’s left boot. Dave could also sell dummies (soccer’s distant equivalent of dodging), something I never quite understood myself when I watched him play in the 1980s. There was something mythical about his dummies.
Kenyan rugby however, still regrettably remains at the level of Black vs. White with the age old rivalry still in place. This has greatly hampered progress. The point that white is as good as black and vice versa has been made, but there’s yet to be meaningful integration. In this respect I blame blacks as much as I blame whites. When Kenya won five gold medals at the 1988 Olympic games, it was black Kenya that celebrated. When Kenya beat the West Indies in cricket during World cup cricket in 1996, it was Asian Kenya that celebrated. When Kenya sent a polo team to Zimbabwe in 1996, it was white Kenya that celebrated. This is the situation that is plaguing rugby in Kenya, as much as it is plaguing all Kenyan sport. We need to borrow a leaf from Nelson Mandela’s action of donning a Springbok rugby jersey in the 1995 Rugby world cup and going full out to support the former enemy. Mandela’s magnificent action of forging inter-racial harmony will only be fully felt and fully appreciated by future generations. It can be likened to a communist buying shares in the Coca-Cola company.
In this very regard, deliberate steps must be taken to forge stronger ties with South Africa, since they are at our doorstep. Many Kenyans now even get to South Africa by road, at a fraction of what it would cost by air. The South Africans play brilliant rugby and we stand to benefit tremendously by adapting their structure. More and more Kenyans must be encouraged to play in South African leagues and get the necessary exposure. We must be prepared to play in the lower leagues because standards in South Africa are very high. It’s time to lose sight of the shoreline and embrace higher levels.
Schools rugby, indeed the grassroots, is also in dire need of revamping and here lies another bitter point of contention. As mentioned earlier above, rugby in Kenya is regarded as a bourgeois sport whose participation is confined to former white strongholds such as Lenana School, Nairobi School and Nairobi’s, St. Marys School. This is confirmed by the fact that the 18 year old school’s Prescott Cup has been won by only three schools : Lenana School, St. Marys School and the predominantly white, Rift Valley Academy. This has been the cause of a further conflict of Black vs Black, where blacks associated with rugby are regarded as whites with black skins, “sell-outs” , as it were. There was a move to spread the game to other areas of the country with the inception of the Damu Pevu schools league in the early 1990s, but this has not borne fruit. For a brief period in 1993, the Rift Valley’s Njoro High School dazzled crowds with brilliant displays, and it strongly appeared that Kenyan rugby was spreading it’s wings. This is a goal that is far from being realised and the Kenya Rugby Football Union (K.R.F.U.), and the Rugby Football Union of East Africa (R.F.U.E.A.), need to be sufficiently challenged. Control of the game in Kenya is firmly in the hands of a few and there is a reluctance to widen the expanse of the game, because this could very well result in a relinquishing of power by those in control. Economic interests have therefore hampered growth of the sport in Kenya.
Even the structure that existed in established rugby playing schools, has largely collapsed. In the days that I joined high school, there existed different developmental and participatory levels. The form one level of participation was referred to as “baby colts”. The form two level of participation was referred to as “junior colts”. The form three level of participation was referred to as “middle colts” and the form four level of participation was referred to as “senior colts”. Form fives played in the school’s second fifteen side, while form sixes played in the school’s first fifteen side. Exceptional individuals like Jacko and Rambo were already playing for their first team’s while in form three. It is regettable that no similar structures are in place nowadays.
Rugby is a useful sport for this country and it’s growth needs to be fully encouraged. Like soccer, it is a sport that requires minimal infrastructural input. It’s growth in Kenya will however require a tremendous amount of worthwhile effort. It is rugby that made Edward Rombo acquire an education at the prestigious Leeds University. There are several other Kenyans who can benefit from similar programmes and it is terribly disheartening that so much talent is going to waste in this country. At higher levels there are huge benefits to be reaped from lucrative sponsorship contracts and tourism.
Chris Onsotti, Jackson “Jacko” Omaido, Edward Rombo and Sammy Khakame belong to four brilliant generations of Kenyan rugby players, whose potential has not fully been utilised. Our focus now should be on developing the full potential of coming generations of rugby players in Kenya, on building rugby into a common man’s game in Kenya, and on firmly establishing Kenya as a top rugby playing Nation. This is an ambitious undertaking that can most certainly be attained.
Michael Mundia Kamau
A NATION IN NEED OF CHANGE - 14th May 2000
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
Sunday, 14th May 2000
A NATION IN NEED OF CHANGE
The apparent furore that has been created by the recently released recommendations on constitutional review by the Raila Odinga led parliamentary select committee, is merely a theatric display of hypocrisy and ineptitude . Given the nature of politics in Kenya over the last 37 years, no one can seriously claim that they expected anything the least different from what was tabled by Raila Odinga's committee. No one can further claim that they seriously expected anything productive to come out of the ill-conceived Unfungamano House initiative and/or the ongoing empty display of bravado and defiance by it's convenors. Not many people however are paying much attention to the games that the elite in Kenya are engaged in, because the majority of us are preoccupied with personal survival, having lost almost all hope in the system and our leaders. For instance, the recent announcement by Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), that it had made a two billion shilling loss in 1999, passed unnoticed: this is an example of the glaring apathy in this country.
If there was any goodwill in this country then we would be addressing such crucial issues as the deplorable performance of Kenya Commercial Bank, poverty, unemployment, job creation, road carnage, crime, insecurity, and disease, instead of making misplaced calls for mass action. Living standards in this country have sunk to levels where deaths and disabilities continue to be caused on our roads with reckless abandon, where Kenyans continue to abuse local beverages despite the lethal repercussions, and where we have taken to relieving ourselves everywhere and anywhere in what are referred to as "flying toilets". We surely do not expect to solve these and numerous other problems by reviewing our constitution. Indeed the problems in this country are much deeper than many of us are aware. One only need recall the flare up that emerged out of the ownership dispute of Nairobi's Soweto plot two years ago. One of the combatants was hacked, doused in paraffin and set ablaze in full view of television cameras and the press at large: the paraffin was administered by a woman. This is an example of how little we care anymore. Much further back in time but no less unsettling are the events of August 1st 1982, 18 years ago, during the abortive coup. The widespread mayhem and looting that took place in those few hours are a clear indication of disenchantment. That was 18 years ago in which time our situation has grown much worse. The level of poverty and disenchantment is what should be causing us concern and where we should be directing our energies.
The challenge for us is to exercise a lot more diligence, responsibility and ambition in the manner in which we conduct our affairs. For many years now we have been waiting for our leaders to bring about desired change to no avail. We waited for Jomo Kenyatta to dismantle the colonial structure but he merely re-invented it. We waited for Daniel arap Moi to do the same but he went ahead and did precisely what Kenyatta did. No other event or personality has dominated public life in this country more than the duo of Jomo Kenyatta and his successor, Daniel arap Moi. It's no wonder that the two remain comrades, friends and political soul mates as much in death as in life. Notice that the only person that Daniel arap Moi seeks to give his personal greetings during National days is Kenyatta's widow, Mama Ngina Kenyatta. This speaks volumes of the relationship between the two in life as in death.
In the years that we have been waiting Nelson Mandela was released from prison and became president of a new South Africa, something many of us thought impossible. In the years that we have been waiting, the formidable Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R), broke apart, something many of us thought was impossible. In the years that we have been waiting, the Berlin wall came down, something many of us thought was impossible. Why is it therefore that time has stood still in Kenya? What is so difficult in implementing structures that will bring about real change in Kenya? What is so difficult in accomplishing what others have accomplished?
We have distinguished ourselves as such conformists to mediocrity and absurdity in a world that is drastically changing, holding on to the empty romanticism of the Kenya colony. This applies to all Kenyans, white or black. True, whites and Asians in Kenya are still affluent and in every way live the good life engaging in such activities as deep sea fishing, rallying, motor-cross and horseracing, but that's as far as it goes. Our impact on a global scale is however marginal. Ours is a Nation that starts and ends within our borders. We should seek to emulate the South Africans for instance, who have produced the world class Springboks, and world class golfer Ernie Els. India also has the distinction of having produced Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of reputable internet company, Hotmail, which has 65 million users worldwide, I being one of them. Anil Singh, another Asian, is also a key figure in another very reputable internet company, Yahoo. We can only expect to come to terms with our predicament by coming out of our cocoons. For instance, there were demonstrations revolving around homosexuality in Robert Mugabe's troubled Zimbabwe last year. There was a photograph of a white policeman and a white policewoman apprehending one of the demonstrators, regular cops on the beat, nineteen years after Zimbabwe attained independence, and something unheard of in Kenya. Zimbabwe is once again engulfed in another controversy, though much more archaic, barbaric, and brutal. Robert Mugabe has set a very dangerous precedent, because when a Ndebele becomes the president of Zimbabwe, Robet Mugabe's Shona tribesmen will face the same terror currently being meted out on white farmers in Zimbabwe.
In the same token, it was also gratifying to note the multi-racial composition of demonstrators against Thabo Mbeki's wage increment in South Africa last year. Teachers of different colour marched and chanted alongside each other. In Kenya, the demonstrators would have been all black. There are three distinct Kenya's but this forms only part of our problems.
Many Kenyans are semi-literate and impoverished, both in economic and intellectual terms. This applies to both the educated and uneducated. The mentality is the same and this is the reason we have such rabid disrespect for one another. We see ourselves as going through life engaged in one career or another, with the firm expectation that we shall retire and be buried in our rural homes. This is a mentality that has held for far too long and it is a big cause for our being left behind in global matters. Even those with properties in towns would rather that they managed them from the distance of their rural homes, however inappropriate. This has resulted in a deplorable rate and state of development, and one in which we seem determined to stay. There are many neighbour-hoods in Kenya today where people turn in for the night with basins, because one dare not venture out at night to answer a call of nature because of prowling thugs. This is not a life. In the major towns of Kenya one notices women tightly clutching their handbags while walking on the streets. This is not a life.
Almost all Kenyans are living lives of terror, misery, despair and insecurity. Law and order has broken down, and a total breakdown is imminent. The likelihood of the despair and terror that obtained in Idi Amin's Uganda, Jean Bedel Bokassa's Central African Republic, Samuel Doe's Liberia, and Mobutu Sese Seko's Zaire, are fast becoming a reality in Kenya. We mused at Idi Amin's Uganda and made a fortune from their coffee through smuggling at Chepkube; we ridiculed Julius Nyerere's Tanzania, making fun of Ujamaa's inability to cater for the basic provisions many Kenyans took for granted. Our turn to be ridiculed and taken advantage of has come.
The fact that many Kenyans are bitter and have reason to be, cannot be in dispute. Take for instance the signature tune played by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation for several years aimed at motivating the youth to take education seriously. The tune as many of us remember, partly went, "Someni vijana, mwisho wa kusoma, muta pata kazi mzuri sana" ( kiswahili for "Study hard, at the end of which you shall secure a good job" ). What could be further from the truth in Kenya today ? The system has lied to many and is callously turning it's back on those it has lied to. To add insult to injury, those who didn't study as hard, or who didn't attain as much, are in charge of the system, and relishing every moment of it. Much as I don't support this state of affairs, it should have dawned on us by now that it takes more than just qualifications to build a Nation, the same way it should have dawned on us by now that it takes more than just independence to put us at par with whites. The legendary Bill Gates for instance, does not have a university degree. What the occident and orient has behind them is years of persistent hard work dating back to people like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Genghiz Khan, William Shakespeare, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, Julius Ceaser, Alexander the great, James Cook, Beethoven, Bach, and Michelangelo amongst others. Their systems have been developed over centuries of persistent hard work. To now regard ourselves as equals because we have a grasp of their systems is folly of gigantic proportions. We are not equal. The occident and orient have a crucial head-start of numerous years and it is for us to close the gap by also putting in a tremendous amount of hard work, utilising the knowledge that has been imparted on us, as once said by Kenya's Tom Mboya. We do not need to be number one. We however need a placing of self worth, a placing of dignity, a placing of economic, social, political, and intellectual empowerment.
This is not to say that Africans lack a heritage and have never had worthy leaders or a worthy vision. South Africa's Shaka, West Africa's Samore Toure, and East Africa's Koitalel arap Samoei (the Orkoiyot), are among Africa's great sons, bastions of vision and intellect. The epic Ngoni migration also took place in Africa. Our heritage is rich but we don't have much to show for it which is why we are still regarded as second class citizens the world over. We must not lose our identity, but should take deliberate steps to emulate features that have built the occident and orient. It is very admirable for instance and especially so amongst Anglo-Saxons, to read with such clarity about an event that took place on 15th April 1593 or about an event that took place in June of 453 B.C. Even more significant is the fact that the majority of Kenyans are Christians and use the Holy Bible as a reference and source of teachings. The Holy Bible in it's untampered is the history of mankind and we can therefore in no way profess ignorance.
Many leaders in Kenya are making reckless calls for mass action and/or federalism (majimbosim), without the slightest inkling of the bitterness and resentment on the ground, and glaringly ignorant of the fact that they shall be the first victims of revolution. As mentioned above, the majority of Kenyans are semi-literate and impoverished. A revolution in this country, which is imminent, will thus not be based on ideology, but will be a passionate, bloody and gory affair of revenge and acquisition by the masses. We don't know better and have not taught ourselves better. The Kenyan struggle, as were the French and Russian revolutions, is based on class and goes beyond just a tribal struggle for domination. As also mentioned above, many of us have rural mentalities, regardless of schooling or exposure. Foreigners, who in this case will be anyone who does not belong to a particular tribe or clan, will be expelled from a region so that it is solely occupied and administered by a particular tribe. The criterion of determining what in Kenya belongs to who will be a point of further contention, and a cause of further bloodletting. This alone makes one see the folly of Robert Mugabe's actions in Zimbabwe.
Those in Kenya therefore calling for mass action and majimboism will get it but not in the way they had anticipated. Revolutions of this kind are not to be desired. A close study of the French revolution reveals high levels of treachery, betrayal, deceit, and greed in which the ideals of the revolution were lost, and in which the result was a re-enactment of the old order as depicted in George Orwell's "Animal Farm". The revolution that we should desire and work towards is an intellectual revolution, where we revamp our way of thinking.
Much of what we are encountering in Kenya today, has to do with the politics of repression practised so assiduously by Kenya's first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his successor, Daniel arap Moi. The two men are replicas of each other. Indeed a study of Jomo Kenyatta is a study of Daniel arap Moi and vice versa. For instance, Mzee Kenyatta appointed the youthful Dr. Zachary Onyonka to his cabinet at the tender age of 27 years to ensure unswerving loyalty, which is the same thing Daniel arap Moi did when appointing the youthful Musalia Mudavadi to his cabinet at the tender age of 28 years. Machiavellian dictates have been applied by the regimes of both men to perfection. With Daniel arap Moi however, it goes beyond politics and is personal.
President Moi has never forgiven Kenyans for not according him the same kind of recognition, honour and acceptance that we did Jomo Kenyatta. Having closely worked with Kenyatta and having learned from him, he is fully aware that Kenyatta was not the saint that many people see Kenyatta as having been. To this day many people see Kenyatta as a visionary who would have led this country to great heights had he lived. Many see Kenyatta as a hero whose only crime was to allow Daniel arap Moi's ascent to the presidency. The fact of the matter is that had Kenyatta been alive today and been president, this country would be in the same state that it is today, if not worse, and this is something that Daniel arap Moi is fully aware of. To this day people regard the power behind the throne as the feared Nicholas Biwott. In earlier years it was Charles Njonjo. Daniel arap Moi is rarely given credit for his actions and this is something that he is very bitter about. During the Nairobi International Show in 1994 he let out part of his feelings when he stated in kiswahili that "Kenyatta ali kuwa aki nituma hapa na pale, na nilikuwa nikienda sababu Kenyatta alikuwa Mwongozi" ( "Kenyatta used to send me up and about, and I obliged because he was the leader"). This is something he has not quite gotten in his 22 year presidency and something that he is not pleased about. Kenyans still treat him with disdain and ridicule, waiting "for the cloud to pass".
Daniel arap Moi is by all means the personification of a ruthless dictator, but he is also shrewd and pragmatic. He has a firm grasp of world affairs and is a master in the "Big Boys" games of world politics. It is for this reason that he has systematically conceded to Western demands for reform in Kenya over the last nine years, albeit reluctantly. Ten years ago for that matter, this very writing would have been considered a seditious publication and would have made me a guest of the dreaded Special Branch for the notorious "assisting police with investigations". Nowadays, even the moderately radical publications may consider it too mild for publication. However any perceived threat to Moi's regime is dealt with swiftly. When in 1998 the Nation Media Group acquired the East African Television Network (EATN), it was the Minister for Information himself who cancelled the EATN broadcast frequencies, citing all manner of reasons.
Daniel arap Moi has succeeded where numerous others have failed, and for this reason he has won the respect and admiration of many worldwide. The Black Caucus in America recently hailed him as "a great African leader" while Bill Clinton further hailed him as an "authority on African affairs", adding to his prestige by stating that he might soon visit Kenya. Men with more education and greater resources than himself such as Dr. Kamuzu Banda, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, and Mobutu Sese Seko, have been deposed but he still reigns supreme. Right here in Kenya for that matter, he outwitted a retinue of powerful and wealthy individuals to become and remain the president of Kenya. All the odds were against him : he was from a small tribe regarded as backward, his education was basic, he had no clout, and by the standards of the Kiambu Mafia, he was an extremely poor man.
Despite all this, Kenyans still treat Moi as a menial figure. Even his own Kalenjin community treat him with disdain, with little support forthcoming from these quarters. He could quite easily reverse the economic recession that has characterised this Nation for many years now, but he wants to teach us a lesson that we shall not forget. He wants us to bring us to our knees so that we will acknowledge, either publicly or privately, who the leader in this country is, who the real power in this country is, indeed who Daniel Toroitich arap Moi is. This forms another portion of our problems.
The youth are a barometer of a Nation's future and right now Kenyan youth are a diverse mixture of brilliance and absurdity. In the first instance is the category that has high flyers who attain top grades in high school and join internationally renowned institutions such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Cambridge University. On graduation, such individuals secure employment with equally reputable organisations such as Microsoft, IBM, Coca-Cola, Chicago Memorial Hospital, Chrysler Daimler, Philips, Merrill Lynch, Sony and Yahoo. Below this category are equally brilliant individuals who attend either local or foreign colleges and who end up working for leading locally owned companies or locally based Multi-Nationals. This category also consists of a growing crop of individuals who are acquiring the prestigious Certified Public Accountancy qualification ( the UK's equivalent of ACCA), while still at the University and at the tender ages of 21, 22, 23, and 24. Some actually end up acquiring doctorate degrees at the age of 27. Young upcoming entrepreneurs with innovative ideas also characterise this category.
The third category consists of individuals who are in and out of work, who have skills, but whose future is not that clearly defined. These are individuals who are holding on and buying the most time that they can, "survivors", as it were. This category consists of a substantial number of Kenyans both at home and in the Diaspora, and it is where I personally place myself. In this category can also be found professionals such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, who supplement their income by selling stationery, second hand clothes and by offering bureau services such as the sending and receiving of E-mail.
The fourth category and which is the one that is of concern, is the category that has in a sense given up on life and do anything and everything, legal or illegal, to make a shilling which anyway ends up being wasted on alcohol or drugs. These form the idlers in our towns, centres and estates across the country. The barometer is therefore in a state of disrepair.
The future of this country is in a precarious balance. There is little consolation in the anticipated resumption of donor funding because our mentality has not changed. The problems in this country go beyond government and are about a people with no direction and no will to change. Time has stood still in Kenya. It must be re-stated that the problems in this country are much deeper than we know and the sooner we come to terms with this the better. Future generations of Kenyans will indeed judge us very harshly.
The road to recovery is going to be a slow painful process and entire generations will spend their lives in the recovery process. What we done to this country and continue to do with it, is unforgivable. We must however move on. If we don't change now, then we never will. That's just how serious our predicament is
Michael Mundia Kamau
LEADERSHIP PLEASE, NO POLITICS - 23rd January 2000
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
23rd January 2000
LEADERSHIP PLEASE, NO POLITICS
The much heralded and much publicised year 2000 dawned on mankind three weeks ago characterised by a widespread feeling of elation, that has quickly been overcome by the stark realisation that apart from from a significant change of digits/time from 1999 to 2000, life goes on from the points at which it had been temporarily put on hold. Nothing depicts this better than the chaotic situation that obtained in Kenya at State House, Nakuru, where official celebrations to usher in the New Year have been traditionally held over the past several years. As everywhere there was jubilation at the significant year change, which even impassioned pleas from the president himself, could not calm. A clearly irritated President Moi decided to go ahead and read his New Year's speech, in the course of which the invited guests calmed down.
True, Kenyans have learned not to expect much from such landmark addresses ( President Moi made a pledge of constitutional review by the end of 1995, in his new year's address of 1995 ! ), but it is unsettling to see such indiscipline and open disrespect for the Head of State at a private function undoubtedly attended by those loyal to the government and the ruling party, KANU. This kind of behaviour would be excusable at a public gathering, but not at a private function attended by top party brass.
As one who has followed such new year functions on national television for the past 14 years in the period of which I have never witnessed such a spectacle, I am left to draw the ominous conclusion that Kenya determinedly enters the year 2000 more disorganised, more indisciplined, and less focused on any meaningful change. This is a matter of grave concern and challenge for re-awakening. When a Nation sinks to the levels where leadership is treated with ridicule, where anyone and everyone is a law unto himself or herself, where there is no law and order, it signals the need for drastic change. I contrast our situation with that in Washington D.C. , U.S.A., where those assembled listened in respectful silence to the masterful oratory of President Bill Clinton : the leader was speaking.
That Kenya is in dire need of change is all too apparent, and has been for some time now. Time is running out on a growing population that is hopelessly not keeping pace with available opportunities. This country needs leaders, not politicians and/or religious fanatics, and not leadership in the context of which many of us understand, or choose to understand. Leadership is about intellect, foresight, discipline, rationale, courage, humility, modesty, a broad world view, sacrifice, persistent hard work, thrift and compromise. This what is in critical short supply in Kenya and in stating so I am not only pointing a finger at the executive, judiciary, and legislature, I am pointing a finger at all of us. This country has too many politicians and religious fanatics, but very few leaders :
The Jomo Kenyatta of the 1920s fervently defending the customs of his kikuyu people is an apt example of leadership ; the Jomo Kenyatta of the 1930s bravely expounding on the cause of his people in Britain's Trafalgar square, is an apt example of leadership ; the Jomo Kenyatta of the 1940s, part founder of the Pan African movement along with other luminaries such as Kwame Nkrumah and George Padmore, is an apt example of leadership ; the Daniel arap Moi of the 1970s who proscribed tribal oriented organisations such as Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association (G.E.M.A.), New Akamba Union, Abaluyha Football Club, and Luo Union, is an apt example of leadership ; the Daniel arap Moi of the 1980s whose schedules included impromptu meals/snacks at roadside eateries, is an apt example of leadership ; the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga of the 1940s who started the Luo Thrift and Trading Company , is an apt example of leadership, and the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga of the 1990s who had an abode in Nairobi's humble Ofafa Jericho estate, is an apt example of leadership. Finally eight year old Sylvia Baraza of Mombasa saving her siblings from a house inferno, and ten year old Patrick Karanja saving his younger sister from a python, are apt examples of leadership and gallantry. We fully trust that that the likes of Sylvia Baraza and Patrick Karanja, are to this country what the youthful Bill Gates and Microsoft were to America.
Our biggest undoing in this country is that we have politicised and trivialised everything and anything to the point that the majority of us are confined to restrictive cocoons in which no more than a village mentality prevails. That is why to this day we still have large numbers of rural dwellers still emigrating to urban centres in search of life-long employment ( not to mention that in many cases fertile uncultivated land is left behind ), and return to rural dwellings at retirement. Even those in the Diaspora harbour intentions of returning to Kenya one day with no real efforts being made to extend the Kenyan nation, as is the case with the Asian Diaspora. True, there are third and even fourth generation Kenyans in places like Europe and the U.S.A., but these are in the minority. Added to this is our unproductive insistence to unnecessarily communicate in mother-tongue desperately clinging to a false sense of security. One notion that is particularly repulsive is that kikuyu is a "national language". At an entirely different level, and paradoxically so indeed, we desperately seek to be associated with what are perceived to be symbols of success. We will go out of our way to be heard to speak the little English we know, illogically go out of our way to acquire cars, or pursue wasteful investment options, just to be seen to have "reached".
West Africans and specifically so , Nigerians, are proving more aggressive and resourceful in building a better Nation than ourselves and we should take this as a challenge. They have more of a foothold in Global matters than we do. You will hear of a Hakeem Olajuwon leading the Houston rockets to two successive NBA titles ; you will also hear of a Wole Soyinka being the receipient of the Nobel peace prize ; finally, you will hear of a Kanu Nwankwo blazing the European soccer scene. Yes, we still boast of our prowess in middle and long distance running, but that's as far as it goes, and for how long anyway. A Nation is not built by running alone and/or tourism. We must seek to diversify our talents and rate our success levels by World standards and not by Kenyan standards. To accomplish this, and as mentioned above, there is need for drastic change which may prove unpopular , resulting in revolt and calls for the "good old days". Such measures would include the legislation of compulsory eleven hour working days, six days a week, geared at shooting up productivity.
Secondly, given the dismal performance of politics/politicians in the 36 years that independent Kenya has been in existence, radical steps must be taken towards the dissolution and suspension of Parliament, and in it's place have a National Governing Council (NGC), headed by a Chairman/President of the Republic of Kenya, with clearly defined mandates on National governance, National poverty alleviation, National economic empowerment and long term National Development. The NGC would operate on the lines of a cabinet, supported by a civil service as we know it today, and would have branches in every district of this country. The NGC would invariably and refreshingly result in the abolition of the repressive provincial administration. This being a sensitive and crucial proposal, the terms of reference of the NGC, it's constitution and it's dissolution, it's powers, it's representation, modalities on discharging it's duties and gathering feedback from the populace it is serving, would have to be very carefully formulated. The NGC would have a five year renewable mandate for a maximum 10 years after which a general consensus would determine whether to reconstitute parliament or give the NGC an extra 10 year lease. This will depend on the level of progress made by the NGC, which would largely consist of technocrats.
Another measure would involve the making Kiswahili and English compulsory subjects in the Kenyan education curriculum as appropriately recommended in the just released Koech Commission on education reform. I would go a step further than what has been recommended in the Koech Commission, and recommend that that Kiswahili/Fasihi, be made compulsory for locals at university level and other tertiary and middle level institutions of learning. Coupled with this would be the legislation of a ban on the use of mother-tongue in public, in favour of Kiswahili, English, and/or a language from another part of the world, the idea being to inculcate a sense of nationalism and globalism. One of the things I admire Julius Nyerere most for, is his emphasise on the use of Kiswahili by Tanzanians, which built a strong sense of nationalism in them.
A fourth way to stem further National decay lies in the area of land reform. Land problems in Kenya largely revolve around non-utilisation and under-utilisation of land, or both. The first instance, and as mentioned above, involves cases where many rural dwellers abandon their abodes in search of greener pastures in urban centres. It certainly does not make sense to leave an already green pasture in search of one that is purportedly greener. One of the things that caused a bitter clash between Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, both legendary Kenyans, is Jomo Kenyatta's assertion that Oginga Odinga had not been pivotal in getting the Luo community to make proper use of their land. Much as this may have been true, Kenyatta's central government did not do much to see to it that the land in Luo Nyanza came under cultivation, which really constitutes the cause of our predicament : empty politics. There are areas in this country where there is genuine pressure on land, but this need not be the case given the large tracts of un-utilised or under-utilised land. This scenario definitely gives credence to the government's proposed introduction of a tax on idle land. With regard to non-utilisation and under-utilisation of land, deliberate steps must be taken to buy-off large settler farms that are a relic of the colonial era , and which are largely serving no useful purpose. Most of the land in this country is owned by powerful and wealthy individuals who are not making use of it. In the spirit of nationalism, national development and free enterprise, this land needs to be converted into settlement schemes of an agricultural or commercial nature.
Undue pressure on urban centres and industrial centres needs to be alleviated and re-located at new development points, which invariably translates to land reform. Semi-arid and arid land also needs to be encompassed in a land reform programme The Israelis have been successful in land reclamation ventures on their semi-arid land. We need not only invite them to our country when there has been a bomb blast. With regard to land reform, it must be stated that that this country has aggravated the problem of joblessness with a state of unemployment and underemployment. The lack of a job in the conventional way that we understand it , does not constitute unemployment. One may be jobless, but not unemployed, because this can be made up for by one utilising one's capacities and deploying oneself in a manner that will earn one a few shillings, or in a manner that will generate a meal/s, a basic tenet of survival. Many in Kenya are jobless, but aggravate this by choosing to be unemployed. Unemployment is a state of being jobless and idle, and this is unforgivable. If academic or professional qualifications are unable to secure one a job, then by necessity, one needs to move to God-given plan B and secure employment of some kind. A good number in Kenya also have jobs, but are grossly underemployed, and this has badly hurt national productivity. What is however deeply unsettling is that this grim state of affairs doesn't seem to be eliciting any urgency from the populace , and specifically so, from indigenous Kenyans.
In recent years and by virtue of my employment in a public office where I interact with different kinds of people, I have come to importantly realise that White-Kenyans and Asian-Kenyans, may be doing more to help the plight of indigenous Kenyans than indigenous Kenyans are themselves. This is leadership. I have dealt with a former African farm hand on a settler farm who was literate, was good with numbers, and was well versed on investment options in the stock market. I was curious and asked her how she acquired all this knowledge, given the repressive nature of things in this country. She told me that that her European employer insisted that her and her daughter learn these things for a better future. I have also interacted with African shop attendants in Asian businesses with similar experiences. It is also a fact that White-Kenyans and Asian-Kenyans remit monthly contributions of the National Social Security Fund (N.S.S.F.), for their employees, which acts a cushion at retirement, and are also known to encourage their employees to take up life insurance policies and/or pension schemes. Most African employers do not even do half of this for their fellow African employees. The tendency is to oppress and under-pay. It is also not uncommon to hear of employees remaining unpaid for up to four months. Welcome to the real Kenya.
The efforts of the much maligned Asian and White community to better this country must be applauded including those of Mike Mills of the Karen Langata Association, Sylvia Fraser of Thika, H.W. Blunt of Nakuru, Pheroze Nowrojee, renowned constitutional lawyer, and numerous other unseen and unheard heroes, indeed leaders. It is heartening to see people like Mike Mills and Pheroze Nowrojee boldly sticking out their heads on National issues, most certainly to the chagrin of some in their respective communities. They are true Kenyans, true sons of this land, true leaders.
The Asian and White communities have not been spared the economic ravages that this country has experienced in the past 10 years, but have been spared the brunt of it because of "old money". In my opinion though, the real winners in Kenya over the last 100 years, have been the Asians, something all of us can learn from. They have built themselves a wealthy globally networked Nation. Even the revered kikuyus of Kenya do not come near the Asian colossus, that has vast holdings in Europe, North America, and the Oceanic. Some of the wealthiest Asians in Britain for instance, have emigrated there from Kenya. That's something. In contrast, Whites in Kenya largely have the holdings they had 100 years ago, while the African plight has worsened. In real terms, it is the Asians that have progressed.
This country fast needs to shift from being a mediocracy to being a meritocracy, the intellectual way. We cannot keep on hoping, and praying, and anticipating. Something is definitely very wrong in Kenya, a situation that cannot be rectified by mere hope and prayers, critically not backed by action. If it were not for our ancestors, we would not be living today. At the very least therefore, we must question what it is that our ancestors did or would have done when faced with a similar crisis, because we are resolutely and earnestly working towards the demise of the Kenyan nation and it's people. If we are unable to get inspiration and leadership from our supposed leaders, then we must create it ourselves, or seek it elsewhere. If Bill Gates had not taken the bold , calculated, and courageous step that he did, we would probably never have gotten to hear of him and/or his Microsoft Corporation. His choice to forego an education at the prestigious Harvard university, has today resulted in his Chief Executive Officer being a graduate of Harvard University. It's time for Kenya to make a similar bold, calculated and courageous step. This country has had a Kiambu Mafia, and is undergoing the reign of the Kalenjin Mafia. How many more Mafia's need there be? ; a Nyanza Mafia, a Kisii Mafia, a Kangundo Mafia , a Bukusu Mafia, a Turkana Mafia, an Ogiek Mafia, a Borana Mafia, a Parklands Mafia, a Karen Mafia………? There need not be any more Mafia's of this kind, and if anything it's time for the Kenyan Mafia : it's for all of us to "eat". It's time to say no to Politics and yes to Leadership. It's time to change.
Michael Mundia Kamau
A NATION IN DISTRESS - 13th November 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
13th November 1999
A NATION IN DISTRESS
The landmark bill passed in parliament this week that seeks to make the legislature independent of the executive is a milestone in the history of this country, but reeks of devious, suspicious intent on the part of the KANU government. It strongly appears like one of the numerous ever-changing schemes adopted by KANU to ensure it's continued hold on power. The government's sudden turn-around to sponsor the motion after initial attempts to quash it , is very suspicious and cause to put celebrations on hold. The government has something up it's sleeve which it will reveal, and which will defeat the purpose of the bill. One only need remember how parliamentarians rushed to pass the constitution of Kenya amendment bill of 1997 only to discover that KANU had simultaneously sneaked in a bill that gave control of the crucial Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and Public Investments Committee (PIC), to the ruling party. Two years down the line, the constitution of Kenya amendment act of 1997 is yet to be implemented because of numerous hitches and technicalities that have been engineered by KANU, and which in hindsight, must have been foreseen by the ruling party.
The tragedy of these and other actions is that they geared at sustaining the oligarchy that Kenya is and has been, and at most, shift control of the oligarchy. If parliament wanted to be of assistance to this country, then it would address the alarming revelation recently made by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), of misappropriation of public funds to the tune of Kshs. 550 billion (approximately US $ 7.3 billion). These are funds that were meant to develop Kenya, but have been instead used to keep the oligarchy in power. As the vast majority of Kenyans hunger and despair, a tiny minority lives a life of luxury and opulence with tales of overseas holdings, such as apartments in New York city, hotels in France and Saudi Arabia, estates in Japan, and ranches in Australia. This can be described as nothing but evil. It is inconceivable how the minority in Kenya continues to live lives of unproductive luxury when the majority of Kenyans are unsure where their next meal will come from.
Matters in Kenya are at a depressing stand still. It is no longer a question of if there will be a social upheaval, but when the social upheaval is going to occur. This is not merely a sensationalist statement, but one based on the current situation in the Nation as a whole. The populace is hungry, angry, and extremely agitated. The upheaval has already began in small doses going by the ongoing co-operative unrest in Nyeri, and the recent ejection of expatriates by Muhoroni sugar farmers. The rot has set in too deeply and our task is to limit the magnitude and consequences of an impending uprising. This is something of utmost alarm and concern because we will assault, attack, and destroy each other in frenzied acts of frustration and bitterness, before settling down and addressing the cause of our predicament.
The fact that the government remains adamant in pursuing repressive and dictatorial policies that have sustained it in power all these years, albeit in restructured moulds and strategies, does not help the cause of bringing about change in this country. This very week I had occasion to witness the President launch a fleet of buses by virtue of our office being in the proximity of the event. The court made a grand entry in the very same way that Kenyans have seen two courts make entries over the past 36 years: pomp and pageantry. The President was praised as usual for his "wise leadership", conducted the business of the day, and was bid farewell by "adoring citizens". The episode appeared like a typical neo-colonial depiction, only this time, it was the real deal. The display of theatrics evoked memories of past neo-colonial writings such as John Ruganda's "The Burdens", Francis Imbuga's "Betrayal in the City", Ngugi wa Thiongo's "Detained", and Chinua Achebe's "Things fall Apart".
After making a statement of whose in charge, much the same way that Mzee Kenyatta made a statement with an Armed forces march past arising out of strong murmurs in the aftermath of the brutal murder of former Nyandarua North M.P. , J.M. Kariuki in 1975, President Moi flew out the following day for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Durban, South Africa. Amongst the people that were at the airport to gleefully bid the President farewell for a routine state visit, was recently appointed Head of the Civil Service, and Head of the initiative for economic recovery in Kenya, Dr. Richard Leakey. Is Dr. Leakey really focused on his monumental task ? If he was, he would not have the time or energy for inconsequential functions.
Two incidents in two days show quite clearly that nothing has really changed in Kenya. We must also not forget that Daniel arap Moi is a political tactician par excellence who only let's people see what they want to see, only for him to resurge with resounding vengeance, his famed "secret weapons". Just before the 1992 general election, President Moi appeared on National television looking forlorn, haggard, and nervous, making an appeal for Kenyans to forgive him and his regime for past mistakes, and vote him and KANU in the forthcoming election. People were delirious with joy, the second liberation had finally come to be. We were too consumed in our supposed victory to realise that the machinery for a KANU victory was well in place. Arap Moi and the kitchen cabinet knew of their last laugh well in advance. Matters are not being helped by a disjointed and desperate opposition, what with the recent call for the involvement of the military in a government of National unity by the moribund, indeed defunct National Convention Executive Council (NCEC). Who requested a crash course in Advanced mediocrity ?
Many of us are quick to blame Daniel Moi and his 21 year dictatorial regime for our predicament. Much as this is true, it is myopic to absolve the Kenyatta regime and the repressive colonial regime from blame, because in doing so we shall seriously compromise our efforts to effectively address and solve our numerous problems. The current system was put in place by the colonialists. An appropriate description of the colonial era is made by Sir Charles Markham in the television production "End of Empire", where he states that Whites were No. 1, Asians No.2.5, and Africans No. 4.25. These ranks applied socially, economically, and politically. This structure still holds today, only that the African ranking has dropped to No. 5.25, stripped of all dignity, pride and purpose. In a Nation where millions of indigenous people are unemployed, labaour is imported from the occident. What kind of an evil system have we created ? The White man came and changed our destiny overnight, with no explanations, just brutal orders and instructions. The truth of the matter is that we have never really recovered from the initial shock, the initial baptism of fire. We were forcefully and brutally pushed 1,000 years ahead of our time.
Resistance to this violation emerged in initiatives to reclaim back our heritage. These initiatives were led by well known luminaries such as Kimnyole arap Samoei, Waiyaki wa Hinga, Laibon Lenana, Jomo Kenyatta, Oginga Odinga, Muindi Mbingu, Ronald Ngala, Dedan Kimathi, Moraa Okiage and Me Kitilili. These individuals were very instrumental in creating a sense of nationalism, pride and purpose, in grossly aggrieved communities.
There is yet to be a more joyous occasion in this country then the coming of independence in 1963. We had finally reclaimed what was rightfully ours in the very first place. However Jomo Kenyatta and his regime turned out to be a bitter disappointment. Jomo Kenyatta entered into a covert pact with the British to protect their interests in return for the inheritance of the system, intact. Jomo Kenyatta was not a democrat at all. He was the exemplification and personification of the African "Big Man", a ruthless dictator. Jomo Kenyatta carried on where the British left off, continuing with the plunder of public resources, and theft of public land. He mastered the art of oppression the African way, by ruthlessly exploiting the ignorance, biases, and prejudices of most Africans, a trend that still sadly persists. Governor Patrick Renison was not entirely of the mark in branding Jomo Kenyatta " a leader to darkness and death". What is Kenya today after all ? An example of Kenyatta's ruthless intolerance comes out in Koigi wa Wamwere's autobiography when he states how Kenyatta once drew his gun in parliament intending to shoot the late Ronald Ngala for criticising his government , and was only restrained by then Speaker, Humphrey Slade. The myth that Kenyatta was a democrat and professional must be dispensed with immediately, if we truly hope to solve the problems of this country. The only essential difference between Kenyatta and his successor Moi, is that Kenyatta was more widely traveled and more eloquent in english. Further, Kenyatta has gotten off the hook lightly, because he had to deal with a smaller less complex populace and a less intricate global framework.
A visit to Jomo Kenyatta's Gatundu home reveals that his brethren are amongst the most impoverished Kenyans. Kenyatta does not squarely take blame for this, because the brethren of other luminaries such as Oginga Odinga, Ronald Ngala, Masinde Muliro and Jean Seroney, face the same fate. Indeed Daniel arap Moi's own Kalenjin community, are amongst the most impoverished in Kenya. The theory of electing a man of your tribe to the Presidency so that your tribe can "eat", indeed prosper, is all a myth that has been bequeathed to us by our untrustworthy leaders for far too long. This we are paying for and shall pay for.
The daunting task ahead of us is one of dismantling the system and replacing it with one that caters for the needs of the majority. We must not despair. A mark of despair is in the decadence that has taken root. This is manifest in the fact that every corner of this country has a bar, a beauty salon, and a lodging house. Undoing 100 years of rot is not an easy task, but we must push ourselves because the alternative spells our demise. I still maintain that there is going to be a social upheaval, but we still have a chance to limit the scale and magnitude. Let's make full use of this chance. We have in any case contributed to our predicament by standing by as passive observers, much the same way we do during numerous muggings in our country nowadays, arguing that the assailants are armed and dangerous. The system is indeed powerful, wealthy, armed and dangerous, but that is still no excuse for us to sit back as passive observers. One advantage we still have is that the system still largely plays by the rules. One strong indication of this is the failed James Orengo parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Kenya government last year. There was a KANU parliamentary group meeting the day before the vote, with President Moi himself attending parliament on the day of the vote. This is a very strong statement of the system, how it operates, and how we can dismantle it.
There is still hope and potential in this country. However, untapped hope and untapped potential, is as bad as no hope and no potential at all.
The Struggle Continues
Michael Mundia Kamau
THANK YOU, AMERICA - 23rd October 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
23rd October 1999
THANK YOU, AMERICA
The just concluded state visit to Kenya by U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright may be the best thing that has happened to Kenya this year socially, politically and economically, and to borrow from the Reverend Jesse Jackson, has "kept hope alive". Relations between Kenya and the United States of America have been strained for many years now, and Madeleine Albright's fruitful trip potentially spells favourable things to come for both Nations.
Other than the crucial deliberations on economic and political reform, it was very heartening and touching to see Ms. Albright freely and cheerfully mingle with Kenyans from all walks of life. On the one hand, she met a delegation of Kenya's opposition at the majestic Grand Regency hotel and then proceeded to Nairobi's much less majestic Kibera suburb,for a drama presentation on the A.I.D.S. scourge, without showing any tinge of discomfort, arrogance, superiority, or highhandedness. It was a spectacle to see Ms. Albright's entourage manoeuvre through our famed potholes ! She indeed came to pay us homage and memories of her visit will stick for a long time to come. It's really something because delegates to the recently held COMESA conference did not generate even half the warmth and goodwill that Secretary Albright did. The Kenyan people must fully capitalise on this positive breakthrough for the benefit of this Nation. The United States still wants to do business with us, a very positive indicator.
The United States of America is an immensely wealthy and powerful Nation and we stand to benefit greatly from an association with the U.S. Our economy has been in recession for many years now and deliberate steps must be taken to rectify this anomaly. We stand to benefit immensely from technical assistance programmes between ourselves and the U.S. We specifically need skills on the setting up and management of micro-enterprise, a vital development approach for our Nation. It is also important that we introduce legislation and guarantees that will encourage American corporations to invest in Kenya. These are some of the vital measures that we have to take to ensure greater American involvement in Kenya, as hinted by Ms. Albright's address to the Nation.
An opportunity has presented itself and if we are only half-serious about reform, we shall fully utilise it. This country is in trouble and needs all the help it can get. To all intents and purposes there is an undeclared "de facto" state of emergency with widespread poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and uncertainty. If we really care about this country and it's future, we shall take the American offer seriously. We are beggars and are therefore in no position whatsoever to choose.
The Kenya government is to blame for the current mess in this country, but no more than the rest of us. The biggest threat to this country is not the Kenya government, but self-interest. It is self-interest that made bankers continue with their strike even after the terrible Nairobi bomb blast of August 7th 1998. I don't think we have ever failed a character test so miserably. It is self-interest that is causing so much furore over review of the Kenyan constitution as drought affects millions of Kenyans. Routine activities such as school are being abandoned so that people can search for food, yet the hottest thing in Kenya right now is the review of the constitution. It is self-interest that consigns a university graduate from the Kikuyu community to duties as an office messenger, because his less educated Kikuyu superiors perceive him as a threat to their interests. Who is more of a threat to the poor university graduate ? the Kalenjin dominated Kenya government, or his myopic Kikuyu superiors ?
We must accept that it is all of us at fault, because the majority of us have refused to wake up to certain realities. With all the confusion in Kenya right now, we still have the luxury of time and energy to focus on trivialities, conducting ourselves like regality. We have not been effective in pressurizing our government to bring about effective change in this country because we are so consumed by self-interest. This is regrettable because the Kenya government has so far showed itself as being responsive to pressure. The government recently appointed an economic recovery team following strong protests of economic mismanagement in Kenya by the IMF and World Bank. The government has also agreed and part-implemented it's divestiture in key state corporations following concerted demands by the World Bank. The government also accepted the re-introduction of multi-party politics in 1991 following strong protestations, in the very same way that it consented to the constitution of Kenya Review Act of 1998. These signs are a clear pointer that we have not been effective enough in pressurizing our government to bring about real and positive change in our country.
We must start taking such signs much more seriously than we do. We must indeed begin with the just concluded visit of the U.S. secretary of state to Kenya, which manifests itself as a positive sign and invitation for the Kenyan people to do business with the United States of America.
Michael Mundia Kamau
JULIUS KAMBARAGE NYERERE : A MAN OF SUBSTANCE, A HERO - 16th October 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
16th October 1999
JULIUS KAMBARAGE NYERERE : A MAN OF SUBSTANCE, A HERO
The passing away of Julius Nyerere on 14th October 1999 is a sad event that has taken away one of mankind's greatest sons, but left us intact with the ideals, inspiration, fortitude, courage and vision, that he stood for. Julius Nyerere has physically departed from us, but his teachings, ideals and inspiration, shall forever remain in this world.
Julius Nyerere has numerous accomplishments to his credit, one of the most admirable being the sense of nationalism, pride, and dignity he instilled in the people of Tanzania. This is something I have observed over a period of time by virtue of my employment in a public office which deals with people of different Nationalities on a day to day basis. I met a Tanzanian of Asian origin in one such encounter two years ago, and was moved by his sense of belonging. He spoke freely, fluently, and with a lot of pride in swahili, telling me of his home in Dar es Salaam. Interestingly, he criticised Nyerere's socialist programme of "Ujamaa", referring to it's purge on private enterprise as "Nyerere bomber", a term used in those days. In this particular brief and intense encounter, I did not see an Asian, I saw a fellow African. Julius Nyerere fully takes credit for this.
Julius Nyerere is also instrumental in the triumph of the freedom struggle in a number of African countries. Foremost amongst this is the support and refuge that Nyerere and his government gave to South Africa's African National Congress (ANC), and Mozambique's FRELIMO, under the legendary Samora Machel. Related to this is the fact that it was Tanzanian troops that deposed the brutal regime of Ugandan butcher, Idi Amin. Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, himself a great son of Africa, also owes his accomplishment and that of the Ugandan people in part to Tanzania's Julius Nyerere, by way of Tanzania's accommodation of the then National Resistance Movement (NRM). In these actions, Nyerere comes out very clearly as a pillar of intellect and a staunch proponent of Human emancipation, indeed a statesman.
Finally, homage must be given to Nyerere the pragmatist and master strategist. One of Nyerere's greatest political accomplishments is the Tabora conference of 1958 which culminated in the Tabora declaration, where Nyerere skillfully averted a looming crisis in the then Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), by convincing the party to take part in the contentious tripartite elections, which formed a crucial prelude to full independence for Tanganyika. Nyerere will also be remembered for his graceful exit from power in 1985, his courageous admission that "Ujamaa" had failed, and his vital realisation that the management of affairs in the United Republic of Tanzania, had to be passed to a younger, energetic, and more vibrant generation. It is regrettably instructive however that "Ujamaa's not succeeding is rarely seen in the light of Nyerere's bold, broad, and courageous attempt to give Tanzanians a Nation "of Tanzanians, by Tanzanians, and for Tanzanians".
The United Republic of Tanzania is going through a trying moment following Nyerere's death, reminiscent of the situation we ourselves faced when Mzee Jomo Kenyatta passed away in 1978. A number of factors are at stake, one of which is the call for the breakup of the United Republic of Tanzania , so that mainland Tanganyika and the Zanzibar and Pemba islands, become autonomous entities. We fully trust that the transition shall be ably managed, with due concessions and compromises being made, a fitting tribute to the deceased Nyerere. We also fully trust that Nyerere's long time contemporaries and associates, such as Rashid Kawawa ( the elders ), shall be leading figures in Tanzania's period of mourning and transition. I personally feel honoured and privileged to have been part of the Nyerere era. Nyerere has indeed left us a worthwhile legacy.
We in Kenya are also going through a delicate period of transition as a Nation, and need all the inspiration, courage, fortitude and vision, we can get. Julius Kambarage Nyerere is half that inspiration, courage, fortitude and vision. Rest in Peace, Mwalimu.
Michael Mundia Kamau
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES - 2nd October 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
2nd October 1999
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
The veiled threat of 29th September 1999 by the Catholic Church in Kenya of imminent civil strife should the Kenya government renege on an earlier commitment to have a people driven review to the Kenyan constitution, is a belated and empty threat coming from an organisation that in itself, is in dire need of reform. The threat of civil strife is indeed real, but it's coming about will be as a result of factors such as poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and uncertainty, and not by a document that the majority of us do not understand, and do not even bother to understand. The said proclamation by the Catholic Church further represents how detached from reality the established Church order in this country is. The Catholic Church in Kenya is grossly misled to believe that it can bring down the present regime the same way Cardinal Sin brought down the dictatorial and repressive regime of ex-Philippines President, Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
The constitutional review process is turning out to be nothing more than an exercise aimed at transferring state control from one section of the "Exclusive Boys' Club" to the other, because one section feels the other has "eaten" for too long. The other section in turn feels that they have not "eaten" enough. The fate of the rest of us, as to whether we live or die, is not the real concern of the convenors of the constitutional review process. In any case the 38 political parties that there are in Kenya have similar manifestos with no radical departures, so why should there be 38 political parties in the first place ?
The established Church order in Kenya and in particular the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), and the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), have played a very big role in bringing about positive developments in this country, a role I am in no way attempting to demean. Almost all luminaries in this country, and indeed all of us, owe our accomplishments to the Church in one way or another. Jomo Kenyatta himself received his early education and training from the Church Missionaries of Scotland (CMS), at Thogoto. It is Church endeavours, Church projects, and Church enterprises that have greatly helped us be where we are as a Nation today. However it has lately become apparent that the Church in Kenya has lost focus of it's ideals, and in so doing contributed to the mess in this country. The strong foundation that previously existed has been tampered with and resulted in many flock moving to the new and flourishing sects that promise glory and riches in the "Kingdom of God". This in itself is strong testimony of the fact that many Kenyans have lost faith in the established Church order. The Kenya government has of-course cleverly contributed to this disharmony by allowing the registration of numerous and unnecessary religious sects.
As mentioned above, the majority of Kenyans are not even aware of what is contained in the constitution, but are being led to believe that a review of the constitution is the solution to this country's problems. The real and serious issue in this country is not constitutional review ; the real and serious issue in this country is that we have lost direction, as a result of which the majority of Kenyans are hurting. It is for the Church to provide effective mediation by applying pressure on the government and citizenry to correct the disorders that exist, and not just apply pressure for change of just one element that is supposedly a hindrance to real and positive change in this country.
As the Church order plays hide and seek with the Political order, who is addressing the needs of the mini-bus tout who has to contend with uncooperative and abrasive commuters on a daily basis? As the Church order plays chess with the Political order, who is addressing the needs of the secretary who has to rush home at 5.00 p.m. every weekday, to prepare supper for her school going children? As the Church order plays monopoly with the Political order, who is addressing the needs of the carpenter from the Majengo slums who has began recovering from depression, caused by the death of his young son, which could have been averted had he been able to raise the US $ 12 required to buy medicine? As the Church order plays poker with the Political order, who is addressing the needs of the civil engineer who has been unable to get a job in his line of training for the past three years, but has nevertheless taken heart, and began to find joy and satisfaction in his job as an insurance salesman? As the Church order plays scrabble with the Political order, who is addressing the needs of the nurse who has been forced to merchandise second hand clothes, to supplement her income? As the Church order plays pool with the Political order, who is addressing the needs of the rural farmer who has not received payment for his produce, and who's children have been chased away from school for non payment of fees? In other words, who is addressing the needs of the ordinary men and women of this country?
These are the realities in this country, realities that are threatening to get out of hand. The biggest threat in this country right now is not however the problems that exist per se, but the callous, cavalier and criminal approach to addressing these problems that has been adopted by our supposed leaders, Church leaders included. What constitution is there to speak of anyway, when the Town Clerk of the Nairobi City Council is committed to civil jail, remains free, and has the audacity to tell journalists to go and search and see if they will find her in any Kenyan jail?
In the current pathetic state of affairs however, the government still has an upper hand because it still appears to have the people's welfare at heart. The President still actively tours the country making clarion calls for "unity" and "cohesiveness". This has a profound effect on human nature and psychology. In many cases this is interpreted as a sign that the President and the government at large, genuinely cares for it's people, however humble, or however remotely situated. Many of the rest of us have no inkling of how the area 150 kilometres away from us looks like, however accessible, and are not even bothered to find out. Further still, many of us "progressive" types have cut off links with our rural homes and abandoned them. How do you build a Nation like this?
So when the President and an entourage of his "good government" makes an appearance and a stay at a remote area of this country, it leaves a very favourable and lasting impression. When it comes to voting, people in such areas will definitely vote President Moi and the Kenya African National Union (KANU). This is something that the government is fully aware of. The government of Kenya is still also in firm control of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), the only local media establishment that is able to relay information to all the corners of this country. An individual in Lokitaung will for instance keenly listen to the tireless efforts being made by our "good government", in bringing about progress in our country. The Church and indeed all of us, had better wake up to these realities.
Nevertheless, the Catholic Church is still correct in predicting civil strife if circumstances maintain the current trend. They should not however be unduly concerned because if things got really bad, the leadership is assured of safe passage to another country where they can continue with the comfortable lifestyles they have come to be associated with.
The struggle continues.
Michael Mundia Kamau
"WE LOVED YOU, WE RESPECTED YOU" - 19th September 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
19th September 1999
"WE LOVED YOU, WE RESPECTED YOU"
The month of October 1999 is two weeks away, a month in which there are two public holidays in Kenya, Moi day on October 10th, and Kenyatta day on October 20th. In real terms the two public holidays are a glorification of two individuals, and an attempt to ensure lasting legacies for the two presidents that Kenya has so far had. As we continue to reform as a nation, and as we review the constitution, an amendment must be made to scrap the two public holidays in favour of one alternative public holiday that the entire nation can relate to.
Kenyatta day is supposed to be a tribute to the Kenyan freedom movement and a time for Kenyans to reflect on our past history. There is therefore no need why the day had to be named after Kenya's founding president, Jomo Kenyatta. In the same token, Moi day is supposed to be a day when Kenyans reflect on the need to be "mindful of each other's welfare". There is therefore no need why the day had to be named after Kenya's second president, Daniel arap Moi. It is highly unlikely that Kenya's next president will have the opportunity to have a public holiday named in his honour, but we must nevertheless undo the ridiculous precedent set by Jomo Kenyatta, and Daniel arap Moi.
The process of scraping Kenyatta day and Moi day in favour of one alternative Kenyan national holiday is an exercise in which all Kenyans must participate. We cannot properly honour the Kenyan freedom movement before rectifying the glaring anomalies that still exist, with regard to the freedom movement. We cannot be truly mindful of each other's welfare with the glaring disparities that there are in our society today, with no real efforts being made to rectify them : 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars in the words of the late J.M. Kariuki.
In establishing a day that celebrates the heritage of our nation, real efforts must be made to incorporate the views and feelings of all Kenyans, including White-Kenyans and Asian-Kenyans. It is important that White-Kenyans and Asian-Kenyans be allowed to air their views on this crucial and important national matter , as much as Native-Kenyans. We all share a common heritage and an effort must be made to close the gaps. Granada television of the United Kingdom produced a television series in 1985 titled "End of Empire", which featured the last days of British colonial rule. In the Kenya feature there is a white settler who states that the White community felt cheated because in his words, "Churchill promised them the land in perpetuity". In the same feature, efforts are made to both glorify and castigate the legendary Mau Mau movement. It is indeed time to set the record straight on such sensitive matters. The creation of a truly Kenyan nation is hinged on this. Asian-Kenyans also have their side of the story. Can we hear it , instead of all of us harbouring unnecessary prejudices, biases, and animosities? The interaction of Native-Kenyans and Asian-Kenyans has however been more pronounced with some Asian-Kenyans even adopting African names and getting married to Africans, a strong indication that they have accepted this as their home. Once in a while you will meet an Asian-Kenyan called Surinder Onyango, or Prakesh Matheka. One of the legendary Louis Leakey's children is also named Priscilla Muthoni. No one community is more to blame for our current predicament, but all of us will certainly have to play a part in solving our problems.
I recall in 1989 when animal poaching in Kenya reached alarming proportions, sparking a public outcry. One of the people to raise concern was the then U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Smith Hempstone. Hempstone's criticism of animal poaching was met with a barrage of counter-criticism from a cross section of Kenyans, with certain individuals stating that Kenyan wildlife was Kenyan property and that the Kenyan people could do with it what they pleased ! Hempstone's answer to this was equally stinging and has stuck with me all these years. Hempstone said that Kenyan wildlife did not belong to Kenyans, but belonged to humanity and was being held in trust for present and future generations of mankind, by the republic of Kenya ! Let us all therefore be able trustees of the Kenyan nation for present and future generations of mankind. Kenya belongs to Native-Kenyans, Asian-Kenyans, White-Kenyans, and at large, to all of mankind.
Once we have approached and resolved these crucial matters as a nation, and put important instruments of nationhood in place, then a national selection programme can be convened in which all will participate, and in which a suitable name for a national day which reflects our heritage, goals and aspirations, will be chosen. By an act of parliament, Kenyatta day and Moi day will then be scraped, and the new public holiday will come into being.
When the legendary Nelson Mandela visited Kenya in July 1990, he paid glowing tribute to our freedom movement, summed up in the famous words, "we loved you, we respected you". Nelson Mandela is a great son of Africa, and coming from him, this means something. It is now time for us to love and respect not only the South Africans, but the world at large. When a monument to honour the South African freedom movement was unveiled in South Africa, Mandela refused to have it named after him, because he was not the only player in the South African freedom movement. The Zimbabweans and Zambians also have a hero's corner which is a tribute to the freedom movements in Zimbabwe and Zambia respectively. Kenya's Uhuru gardens far from being a true symbol of our nation's freedom struggle and heritage, is an aesthetic display of architecture in which even the flag raising structure is an Unnecessary replica of the American conquest of the pacific island of Iwo Jima in the second world war ! It is indeed time for us to love and respect those around us and in so doing create a truly representative Kenyan nation.
Michael Mundia Kamau
THE GOVERNMENT IS US AND WE THE GOVERNMENT - 18th September 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
18th September 1999
THE GOVERNMENT IS US AND WE THE GOVERNMENT
The Kenya government cabinet adjustment of 6th September 1999 and the appointment of a new Kenyan chief justice on 13th September 1999, are a clear statement that it is political business as usual for President Moi and his government. Simply put, no broad regard has been given to logistics, expediency or merit. Once again President Daniel arap Moi has taken the world by surprise. The tragedy of the saga is that none of the players is being sincere, and President Moi is making ruthless capital out of this. The Kenyan nation at large is a stark exemplification of President Moi and his government, whereas the donor community are only interested in advancing their interests, and are not the noble benefactors they come across as being. With belated adjustments in place , donor funding will resume in the next one year, but our problems will be far from being solved. Who's fooling who ?, is the question. The answer to to this question is of course not as relevant as the fact that the plight of millions of Kenyans has still not been addressed, and continues to get worse.
The fact of the matter is that standards are not only lacking in the government of Kenya, but in the Kenyan nation at large, and all of us have contributed to this. We have been instrumental in creating a system that rewards mediocrity and shuns merit, a system in which in which no one is safe. It is not particularly the government or a particular tribe or community that is at fault here, it is the system that we have created, and it is the system and it's proponents that need dismantling. Kenya today is a nation where university graduates are working as office messengers and tea girls/boys, as colleagues with less qualifications and less experience, are placed in higher grades with higher responsibility and higher pay. This is a nation in which the government is constantly attacked for lavish expenditure on luxury vehicles, the very same nation in which unnecessary fund raisers for pomp weddings have become the order of the day. This is a nation where the government machinery has been vilified for the deaths of certain suspects while in custody, yet licensed drivers continue to cause unabated deaths and injuries on our roads. This is the reality that Kenya is.
Personal ambition and personal glorification have blinded us to broader considerations, and made us slaves of our own making. It is precisely for this reason that that the president will get off lightly by appointing two ministers to head one ministry and by ignoring a retinue of highly reputable judges to pick the director of public prosecutions as the chief justice of Kenya. Why ?, because expensive mortgages have to be paid, loans have to be serviced, and school fees is in arrears. We have sacrificed our souls at the altar of mediocrity, by accepting to live beyond our means.
Our dreams, hopes, aspirations, and ambitions as a nation cannot be pegged to donor funding, cabinet re-shuffles, political parties, or general elections. Our aspirations as a nation must be pegged to us taking this nation's destiny into our own hands. This must start with tangible sacrifices being made by all of us. It makes no sense for us to continue to conduct fund raisers for lavish weddings, when individuals in many parts of the nation are dying of hunger, before which desperate measures such as the eating of the carcass of a dead dog have been taken. It makes no sense for us to continue to abuse alcohol as heavily as we do, only to wait for a contaminated consignment of maize meal to be inappropriately discarded at a dumping site for us to rush for our fill, and thereafter "thank the good government for it's generosity". Matters are desperate for the majority, but there is no sense of urgency. In this times of abject poverty and high rates of muggings, an upcountry dweller will still arrive in the city of Nairobi at 9.00 p.m. with no idea whatsoever of his or her destination. All he or she will say is that they want to be directed to the home of his or her brother, John. How many John's are there in a city of two million hard up and tense people ? It is hard for ourselves ,let alone foreigners, to sympathise with our plight. We have become too greedy, too casual, and too short sighted for any standard of comfort. Practically all of us are taking shortcuts and have nothing to show for it. There are no standards in Kenya, and we are not moving forward, not because we lack the ability, but because we are not utilising our intelligence and intellect.
There was a time in this country when the co-operative movement was the pride of place. There are a sizeable number of Kenyans who have acquired wealth and status as a result of the co-operative movement. Many Kenyans have acquired education, skills, and training as a result of the co-operative movement, a home made idea that has lost it's glory. Almost all co-operatives are however today cash strapped and riddled in petty, endless squabbles. Operations have in many ways ground to a halt. The most admirable thing about the co-operative movement was that it was an idea conceived by Kenyans, built by Kenyans and run by Kenyans, indeed made in Kenya. The co-operative movement best illustrates that our approach to nation building will be tackled by simple home made ideas in which all of us will play a part. No need for high sounding rhetoric or principles of development, or for that matter, nuclear scientists.
All Kenyans, at home and in the Diaspora, and regardless of age, tribe, race, or creed, must be part of the effort to revive and sustain the establishment of an independent nation where all men are equal, and where all men have equal access to opportunities, and will progress or fail to progress, in direct proportion to input. Before this time comes, we must contend with a political survivor of a president who will appoint three vice presidents if need be. The KANU regime is made up of highly intelligent manipulators and strategists, something many of us take for granted. It is the KANU government that cleverly allowed for the loss of fifteen cabinet ministers in the general election of 1992 so that observers could rate the election as free and fair. It is the same KANU government that cleverly ensured a marginal victory in the 1997 general election in order to gain another rating of free and fair, and then embarked on a policy of "co-operation" with certain political parties and political figures. It is the same KANU government that is currently laying a strategy for victory in the 2002 general election as the majority of us waste time theorising, criticising, and compiling meaningless sugar-coated polls and predictions. At the rate at which things are going, KANU is indeed assured of victory in 2002. The Kenyan nation, and not just the government of Kenya, needs to be revamped.
The problems in this country are real and serious, and are threatening to get out of hand. We are not however utilising the options available to us. The point to start at is to accept that we have gone wrong as a nation, and can only expect to get back on the right track as a nation. Until then, the government is us and we the government : none the better, none the worse, just one untidy situation.
Michael Mundia Kamau
THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA - 28th August 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
28th August 1999
THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA
This week the Kenyan nation marked 21 years since the passing away of her founding president, Jomo Kenyatta. In contrast to previous years, this year's commemoration has been characterised by efforts to establish a better and clearer understanding of Jomo Kenyatta and his legacy to this country. The "People Daily" for instance has featured a lengthy one week analysis , whereas "The East African" is about to conclude it's own serialisation. Inevitably, negative aspects of Jomo Kenyatta and his leadership have emerged and will continue to emerge, which is very encouraging , because this is an indication of National maturity setting in. It is very important that as many of us as possible have a proper grasp of past events in this country to lessen the task of national healing, national reconciliation, and national advancement.
In celebrating Jomo Kenyatta and his life, we must also not forget to celebrate the lives and times of other luminaries in the Kenyan freedom movement such as Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Tom Mboya, Ronald Ngala, Harry Thuku, Masinde Muliro, Bildad Kaggia, Martin Shikuku, Taitta Towett, Joseph Murumbi, Dedan Kimathi, Kimnyole arap Samoei, C.M.G. Argwings Kodhek, and Rading Achieng Oneko.We must indeed not forget to celebrate the entire Kenyan freedom movement. The fact of the matter is that had Kenyatta not become president, then any one of the aforementioned individuals, or otherwise, would have become the first president of Kenya. In other words, Jomo Kenyatta belongs to a diverse array of highly intelligent Kenyan intellectuals and visionaries, who were the architects of independent Kenya. While paying tribute to Kenya's founding fathers, the public almost always overlooks one man, probably because his government is linked with almost all ills currently bedeviling Kenyan society. That man is Daniel Moi.
Inspite of all the bitterness and acrimony associated with President Moi and his government, very little effort has been made to credit him, and indeed learn from the story of his life. Here is a man who rose from being a teacher to become the president of Kenya, something practically all of us will never achieve. Many are of the opinion that Jomo Kenyatta made a grave mistake by allowing Daniel Moi succeed him. I disagree and am of the opinion that Kenyatta made his decision to have Moi succeed him after a patient and thorough scrutiny of those in government. Kenyatta must have been moved by Moi's legendary patience in his days as vice president in the face of all manner of adversity and glaring contradictions. It is precisely for this reason that Kenyatta put a stop to the change the constitution lobby of 1976 that was aimed at preventing Moi from ascending to the presidency, by calling the propagators "stupid", and telling them the proverb "that a cow is not shown the rope that will strangle it"( Source: "The Kenyatta Succession" ). Kenyatta was also moved by the loyalty of Daniel Moi throghout the 11 years that Moi was Kenyatta's vice president. There is no doubt that Moi faithfully and loyally served Mzee Kenyatta and his government. There is not more and individual can ask for in this tough world indeed remembering that Jesus Christ himself was betrayed by Judas, Julius Ceaser was betrayed by Brutus, and closer home, Milton Obote was betrayed by Idi Amin. There are also unconfirmed reports that the legendary leader of the Mau Mau movement, Dedan Kimathi, was himself betrayed by a Mau Mau operative. Finally, it can be safely concluded that Kenyatta had a premonition of his death when events of his last days are analysed. If he was not confident of Daniel Moi as his successor, he would have re-shuffled the government at this late stage.
Moi has in turn paid back Kenyatta's noble gesture by amongst other things, publicly defending Kenyatta and his legacy. It is interesting how fate and destiny bring people together : Jomo Kenyatta was from a bantu speaking and sedentary community, whereas Daniel Moi is from a nilotic speaking community, that was pastoral in days gone by. Many Kenyans have never really accepted that the soft spoken and seemingly harmless Daniel Moi, is the president of this country. Well, "the passing cloud" has been the president of Kenya for the past 21 years, and could be for another ten. This is not an accomplishment to be taken for granted. The refusal of many Kenyans to accept this reality is returned in kind by Daniel Moi's contempt of our intelligence, by amongst other things, appointing a vice president by a roadside, while addressing a jubilant section of the radically anti-Moi kikuyu community, while on his way to his upcountry home for a weekend rest : welcome to Kenya !
As equally important as paying tribute to the architects of independent Kenya, is the need for us to utilise the instruments of national advancement bequeathed to us by the said leaders. One serious problem about us is that we seldom address issues and are almost always emotional about everything that affects this country. Almost no attention indeed is given to policy. For instance, Sessional paper number 1 of 1966 on African Socialism was meant to set the tone of Kenya's development policy. The essence of the sessional paper was to create a blend of capitalism and socialism, vital for a nation like ours. There is also Sessional paper number 10 of 1986, the "District focus for rural development" strategy, whose impetus was to have development focused at a regional level under the auspices of different District Development Committees (DDCs). The point in this, is that almost all Kenyans, myself included, have a very shallow understanding of the policies and/or laws of this country. It is very ironic that these vital documents are available at the government press at very affordable prices.
Many of us who are privileged to be literate are widely read and at most, take one week to read say, a John Grisham novel. Why not use the same amount of energy and time to read say Sessional paper number 6, to have a better understanding of this country, and a better understanding on charting a future for this country ? Practically everyone nowadays also, is a born again christian , with individuals taking pride in studying and quoting verses from different parts of the bible. It is also important that we study and quote different sections of Kenya's policy framework. We must act from a level headed, informed point of view, and not from an emotional point of view. Further, the Kenya National Archives, which has very important information on the heritage of this country, is open to public membership at the paltry fee of 50 Kenya shillings per year ( approximately U.S. $ 0.70 ). It is absolutely ironic that I myself ( among several others ), is not a member, yet I am a member of the information resource centre of the United States Information Services, where the annual membership fee is 1,000 Kenya shillings ( approximately U.S. $ 14 ). The best lawyers are those have a proper grasp of the law. In the same token, the best Kenyans will be those who have a proper grasp of this country's ideals. Let us therefore effectively take charge of this country's destiny. Let us disagree yes, but let us disagree on principle. Let us however think of ourselves as one unit, the Kenyan unit.
Inspite of the multiplicity of problems this country is experiencing, this is still our home, and each and every one of us in one way or another has something to be grateful about, as much as we all have something to be bitter about. It is however very disturbing that we are not making much of an effort to solve our problems and make third party references to ourselves, in an apparent attempt to escape reality. It is not them, it is us ; it is not they, it is we ; it is not theirs, it is ours ; it is not mine, it is ours ; it is not this place, it is this Nation, and indeed it is not just this country, it is the Republic of Kenya.
Michael Mundia Kamau
DECEMBER 12TH 1963 - 7th August 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
7th August 1999
DECEMBER 12TH 1963
The city of Nairobi has for the last few days been host to a flurry of activities aimed at commemorating the first anniversary of the terrible bomb blasts that rocked Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on 7th August 1998. Grand commemoration programs have been put in place, in the process of which have arisen bitter conflicts involving the different organising committees. With all due respect to the bereaved families, the families of the injured survivors, and the nation at large, the grand bomb blast commemoration ceremonies are once again a sad and pitiful reflection of the mediocre standards this country has sank.
The 1998 Nairobi bomb blast is being treated like the most terrible thing that has happened to this country, when in fact it is just one of the terrible experiences that this country has undergone in it's history. Take for instance the abortive coup of August 1st 1982, whose very commemoration was meant to be this week. August 1st 1982 is the terrible day in the history of Kenya when reckless officers of the Kenya Air Force, attempted to unconstitutionally and unlawfully usurp state control. The actions of the reckless officers in the early hours of August 1st 1982, resulted in the terrible loss of innocent lives, and led to unneccesary lawlessness. The abortive coup of August 1st 1982 was a crime committed on Kenyans, by fellow Kenyans. There has never been a nationwide commemoration for the victims and families of the August 1st 1982 abortive coup in the last 16 years. No coup disaster fund was set up to cater for the bereaved families.
There is also the Wagalla massacre of 1984 that took place in the North Eastern province of Kenya, and which also resulted in the terrible loss of innocent lives. The Wagalla massacre is another example of a crime perpetrated on Kenyans, by fellow Kenyans. It is instructive, cruel and insensitive as this may sound, that the August 7th 1998 Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings, were targeted at U.S. interests, and could have been prevented had the governments of Kenya and the United States of America, taken prior and crucial precautions. This has emerged from preliminary investigations on the twin bombings. This is in contrast to the innocent killings of the abortive coup of 1982, and the innocent killings of the Wagalla massacre of 1984, whose targets were Kenyans, and whose perpetrators were Kenyans.
Some of the other forgotten tragedies experienced by this nation over the years include the tribal massacres caused by the territorial incursions of the then Imperial British East Africa company (I.B.E.A.), in the early years of this century, the Lari massacre of 1955, the clashes between the Nandi and Luhyia communities in 1983, the Miteitei clashes of 1991, the Molo clashes of 1992, the Ngai Ndeithya train disaster of 1993, the Mtongwe ferry disaster of 1994, the Likoni clashes of 1997, and the school boy burnings of this year. The aforementioned tragedies have been forgotten as quickly as they have happened. We have so quickly forgotten that bitter seeds of discord have been sown, and also forget that some of the wounds that were, and continue to be inflicted, may never heal. There has been no National initiative to honour the victims of these happenings, and more importantly, correct them and ensure they do not happen again, yet when Princess Diana and her companions passed away in a road accident in 1997, we flew our National flags at half-mast, and laid wreaths at British missions in Kenya. We do not respect ourselves and do not care for ourselves, or for each other, and even worse, we are not making any effort to correct this terrible state of affairs.
We have run amok and are butchering each other in daily domestic confrontations. Road carnage in 1991 alone claimed the lives of over 2000 people and maimed several other innocent people ; this terrible trend continues. Car thieves and criminals have been responsible for the deaths of countless Kenyans, and Foreigners as well. Health care in this country is on the verge of collapse, with the majority of Kenyans inaccessible to proper health care services, and which has resulted in an increase in the mortality rate. The fabric of this country is indeed in a terrible state and it is our responsibility to face up to our problems and solve them. It is no longer a question of turning a blind eye, it is a question of us having become blind. The soul of this country is in dire need of healing.
It is time that we start conducting our affairs much more seriously than we do. The salvation of this country does not lie in donor funding, nor votes of no confidence in the government, nor a constitutional review, nor countless crusades of a religious nature, or otherwise. The salvation of this country lies in the drastic change of our attitudes. The above examples of some tragedies experienced by this country are a terrible representation of a nation that is unwilling to take charge of it's destiny, seemingly awaiting some kind of divine intervention. No one, if not ourselves, is going to solve the problems of this country.
The 7th of August 1998 is a terrible day in the history of this country. It is not however an occasion to be accorded any special treatment or significance. Above all, the greatest tribute we can give to the victims of the tragedies that this country has experienced, is to put aside our parochial and short sighted interests, and embark on a nationwide campaign to alleviate the terrible suffering in this country.
Michael Mundia Kamau
A GLOBAL RE-ASSESSMENT - 5th August 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
5th August 1999
A GLOBAL RE-ASSESSMENT
The recent serialisation of "The life and times of Thabo Mbeki" in Kenya's "The East African", provides a crucial insight into the operations of South Africa's African National Congress (ANC). It is indeed befitting that South Africa is now being led by a president who belongs to the generation of South Africans who helped dismantle apartheid while in exile. The South African freedom struggle represents the last great emancipation struggle of this century. It is a story that has moved the world and bestowed legendary status on Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress at large. As we move into a new century, it is vital that mankind reflects on the achievements of the outgoing century, and the past at large, using the South African struggle for equality as a starting point, given that it passes as the last great human accomplishment of this century.
The 20th century has undoubtedly been a remarkable century for mankind. It has in the large part been a century in which fascinating technological advancement has been made. It is the century in which man became aerodynamic, courtesy of the Wright brothers, and it is indeed the century that man set foot on the moon, courtesy of the American space exploration programme. It is the century that that saw breakthroughs in the field of medicine with discoveries such as penincilin, and milestones such as the eradication of small pox. In the field of politics, the 20th century witnessed the birth of the league of nations, later the United Nations, the grand colonization and decolonization of Africa, and the grand rise and fall of communism, amongst other things. In technology and communications, the 20th century is credited with the birth of the computer age, as well as fascinating breakthroughs in the field of communications. In terms of communication, this world has indeed become a small place. Socially, the world has been closer brought together by initiatives such as the Olympic movement, and World cup soccer. In terms of economics, this century has seen the emergence of multi-national corporations with extensive and powerful global networks. The 20th century has also had occasion to witness the fragile side to these corporations with three New York stock exchange market crashes, this century. Finally, the 20th century is credited with the birth of of the atomic and nuclear age.
The above represent just some of the remarkable accomplishments of the 20th century brought about by man's quest to become better, stronger, bigger, faster. The world today is in many ways a better place than it was, say 500 years ago. In spite of all that man has accomplished in the 20th century and beyond, there still exist glaring disparities in this world. As we enter the 21st century, and as we reflect on our past experiences, it is vital that we formulate a global re-assessment initiative that will set renewed standards for mankind in the 21st century and beyond. Man has set foot on the moon, but there is so much poverty, hunger, and disease in this world ; man is now freely aerodynamic, but there is so much bitterness , hate, prejudice, and bias in this world ; man has built magnificent works of engineering and designed magnificent buildings, but there is so much unhappiness, pain and misery, in this world. There is a real need to re-assess ourselves inorder to effectively eliminate these glaring disparities. There is absolutely no reason why man should be racing against himself and time. I'm not an atheist and believe that there is a god, but in many ways believe that this world will not end, unless we want it to. A re-assessment of ourselves must involve a renewed pact with our creator, which can only be achieved if we fully exploit our intellectual capabilities.
There is a need to re-focus our energies and intellect so that whatever venture it is that we decide to undertake, it is for the good of each and every one of us. The crippling, unnecessary problems being experienced by this world today, are a backlash for selective progress. Development can only be meaningful and effective if it encompasses everyone. This means that the needs of an individual in New Zealand are as well catered for as the needs of an individual in Alaska. In the same token, the needs of an individual in Peru, must be as well catered for, as are the needs of an individual in Siberia. In the scheme of global matters, this is very possible. Over the years , and courtesy of advances in communication, man has been made aware of the fascinating resources it takes to manufacture one nuclear bomb, for instance. The same resources could be used to feed, clothe, and shelter a significant percentage of the human race. The kind of selfishness, greed, mistrust, and insecurity that makes man make such irrational , short sighted decisions, is totally misplaced. What superhuman force are we protecting ourselves from ? ; aren't we our own worst enemies ?
The 21st century and beyond, must be a time of reflection and intellectual growth. We must devote our energies to making this world a better and safer place to live. There is nothing as beautiful as the blossoming and growth of the mind. When all the faculties of the mind are properly in place, all else in the surroundings falls into place. A friend of mine once told me that many of us aspire for a loaf of bread, when a slice is sufficient. Intellectual growth will ensure that all of us deservedly gets a slice of bread, without a single fist being clenched, or without a single bullet being fired. An advanced and highly refined degree of intellectual development will ensure balanced and unprecedented levels of growth in this world. Human Beings will be in a position to reflect on their origins, their inter-personal relations, their purpose in this world, their weaknesses, their strengths, their mistakes, their triumphs, and their future. This will however require a high level of virtue, integrity, selflessness, and dedication. Selfishness, greed, and deceit, have greatly stifled real progress in this world. An example of intellectual accomplishment lies in the example of the South African freedom movement above; in Nelson Mandela's autobiography, "Long walk to freedom", he states how the ANC managed to win the support of some white prison warders during their incarceration on Robben island by building a friendship with the warders, and enlightening them on what the African National Congress stood for. On the other hand, there are individuals, both black and white, who may never forgive the ANC because of the terror tactics of the guerilla arm of the ANC, "Umkhonto we Sizwe", that resulted in the terrible loss of innocent lifes. It is noble though that Mandela seeks forgiveness for these expensive actions in the same autobiography, "Long walk to freedom". The power of the mind must always triumph over the power of might.
This world has been host to a diverse range of remarkable events, presided over by a diverse array of remarkable individuals, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawarhalal Nehru, David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Samora Machel, Shaka, Nelson Mandela, Samore Toure, Gamel Abdel Nasser, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jnr., Otto von Bismarck, Garibaldi, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles de Gaulle, William the conqueror, The Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill, Vladamir Lenin, Genghiz Khan, Kubulai Khan, Mao Tse Tung, Deng Xiaoping, Kool and the Gang, and the New Zealand All Blacks. The 21st century and beyond is the time for us to however break new barriers of accomplishment; the 21st century and beyond is the time to fully exploit our intellectual capacities for global harmony. This is the time to critically review the efficacy of our past and present actions. All the people of this world have teachings of virtue in their respective cultures, which are fused together by the common teachings therein, and which will form a critical starting point for global intellectual development. It is very regrettable that we have discarded our age old enriched values.
This is not about black or white, east or west, first or last. This is about a global re-awakening, a global rebirth, indeed a global rennaissance. This is about a global re-assessment.
Michael Mundia Kamau
TO CHANGE OR NOT TO CHANGE ? ...... THAT IS THE QUESTION - 24th July 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
24th July 1999
TO CHANGE OR NOT TO CHANGE ? ...... THAT IS THE QUESTION
The dramatic Kenya government re-shuffle of 23rd July 1999 is yet another cosmetic and belated public relations exercise, aimed at hoodwinking the public, and buying time for a government that has proved incapable of fulfilling it's pledges. This is the umpteenth time that an exercise of this nature is being carried out, and no goodwill can be perceived in the high sounding rhetoric. It is therefore surprising that the two leading Kenyan dailies, "DAILY NATION", and "EAST AFRICAN STANDARD", have paid glowing tribute to yesterday's changes in their editorials of 24th July 1999. It is also surprising that the World Bank country director for Kenya, has given yesterday's changes a clean bill of health. What is soo special, or soo different about yesterday's changes ?
For several years now the Kenyan nation has been a study in mediocrity and inconsistency, from which a very small minority has managed to reap huge benefits. There are, and have been very capable individuals in this country, but with no meaningful framework to utilise their capabilities. It seems that the more mediocre a person you are in this country, the more a chance you stand of succeeding. A brief review of this country's history very clearly shows why yesterday's changes cannot at all be taken seriously :
In 1983, the then Minister for Tourism, Maina Wanjigi, unveiled an ambitious plan that targeted one million tourists a year visiting Kenya by the year 1988. It was a relatively inexpensive program whose central impetus was the aggressive marketing of Kenya in major cities around the world. Soon thereafter, Maina Wanjigi, was transferred to a different ministry, and that was the last that was heard of grand plans to market Kenya as a tourist destination. Indeed, Maina Wanjigi ended up being sacked from the cabinet in 1990, in the aftermath of his opposition to the brutal Muoroto squatter eviction of the same year, carried out by the then Nairobi City Commission. The Muoroto incident still remains unresolved to this day ;
Soon after the 1992 general election, Musalia Mudavadi was appointed Minister of Finance, young , ambitious, focused, intelligent, and very well educated. Musalia took charge of a tottering economy and is credited with revamping it by implementing key changes to the economy, and instilling confidence. It is indeed during Musalia's tenure that sweeping, all important changes, were made to the foreign exchange Act. It therefore came as a surprise that Musalia was not re-appointed Finance Minister after the 1997 general election ;
The newly appointed head of the Civil Service, Dr. Richard Leakey, also had a sterling record as Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service before he was acrimoniously hounded out of office in 1994, in the face of all manner of unfounded allegations. Dr. Leakey brought runaway animal poaching under control, and converted Kenya's national parks and game reserves into very viable ventures. It beats logic why Dr. Leakey has accepted his appointment as head of the Civil Service, or should have accepted his re-appointment as Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service last year, in the very first place. Isn't this the self same government that humiliated Dr. Leakey in 1994, and was further responsible for the physical assault of his person in 1995 ? ;
There is also the highly touted Mbagathi economic forum of 1998 which recommended far reaching austerity measures that were in part meant to instill financial discipline in the public sector, and enable the government meet it's budgetary targets. Between that time and now though, a brand new presidential limousine has been acquired, reported to have cost the princely sum of 34 million Kenya shillings (approximately U.S. $ 450,000). What is more, is the indication that a further two limousines of a similar kind are on their way, which will further cost the exchequer 68 million Kenya shillings (approximately U.S. $ 900, 000). U.S. $ 1.35 million is a huge, huge sum of money by Kenyan standards. It is also very painful indeed that such expenditure is being incurred at a time when the majority of Kenyans are unable to meet their basic needs.
There are other cases of misplaced acrimony such as the recent resignation of Najib Balala as Mayor of Mombasa town, following his sterling record of rejuvenation at the coastal town. It is also highly inconsistent for instance, that the Hon. A.A.A. Ekirapa should be an Assistant Minister for Information and Broadcasting, with all his extensive media and corporate experience. At the very least, Albert Ekirapa, should be the Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
It is instructive however that not once in the above examples or causes, has the Kenyan public rallied in support of the individuals or the issues at hand. It is apparent that Kenyans are their own worst enemies, and only pay lip service to real change. If we really cared, there would have been public support for the Maina Wanjigi's, the Musalia Mudavadi's, the Richard Leakey's, the Najib Balala's, and the Albert Ekirapa's :- every man for himself and God for us all ? Other than the overwhelming support for the government of National unity at independence in 1963, this country has rarely exhibited instances of national unity thereafter. The path taken after colonial rule, was greatly distorted and it is for this reason that many Kenyans today feel betrayed and harbour a lot of malaise and mistrust. One recent showing of public conviction however, was the 1993 bread boycott, when inflation soared to unprecedented levels. In that year the price of a 500 gramme loaf of bread sharply rose from Kshs. 7 to Kshs. 20 , which was a lot of money in those days. I remember then that there was a general boycott of bread, which forced the parties concerned to reduce the price to Kshs. 13. We should display the same kind of public conviction on far reaching matters plaguing this country such as corruption, poverty, unemployment, road carnage, general misconduct, crime, tribalism, and nepotism.
At this point in time it matters little whether Njoroge, Ogolla, Mukhwana, Mong'are, Mutiso, Kipchumba, Hussein, Mwachofi, Sikempei, Patel, or Smith, is appointed to effect change. What matters is that the Kenyan Nation develops a real will to change, and a real will to ably support those chosen to effect change.
Michael Mundia Kamau
10 MILLIONAIRES, 10 MILLION IN THE MIDDLE CLASS, AND 10 BEGGARS - 21st July 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
21st July 1999
10 MILLIONAIRES, 10 MILLION IN THE MIDDLE CLASS, AND 10 BEGGARS
The ongoing calls for a people driven review to the Kenyan constitution, are in principle and deservedly, becoming a lost cause. The reason for this is that the various lobbies calling for a people driven change to the constitution, are exhibiting open bias, aimed at advancing vested interests. The Nation media group is an example in this regard. The leading Kenyan newspaper group has unashamedly dedicated three editorials on this subject in the short span of eight days: "GIVE IN TO POPULAR DEMAND" ( Daily Nation, 7th July 1999 ), "REVIVE STALLED REFORM PROCESS" ( Daily Nation, 12th July 1999 ), and "SEIZE INITIATIVE TO REVIVE REFORM TALKS" ( Daily Nation, 15th July 1999 ). The Nation media group is also yet to disclose the sources of their recent survey in which the majority of Kenyans are said to have called for a people driven review to the constitution. Did the Nation media group collate views on this important subject from the people of Nairobi, as much as it did from people residing in other areas of the republic such as Lokitaung, Moyale, Mandera, Liboi, Shimoni, Namanga, Suna, and Endebess ? : I highly doubt it.
I can only assume that the Nation media group is eager to have legislation passed that would easily enable them to commence broadcasting in this region, something the group has been trying for the last nine years. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it doesn't cater for the needs of millions of Kenyans. This country is far too young and far too impoverished to be advancing minority interests.
For several years now, the small man in this country has not had a voice, and has been subjected to all manner of abuse. This is largely the reason for our present predicament. Many years ago , the late member of parliament for Nyandarua North, J.M. Kariuki, indeed prophesised Kenya becoming a Nation of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars. This has symbolically become very true in modern day Kenya. As we enter the 21st century, the late J.M. Kariuki's prophesy must be reviewed so that we symbolically become a Nation of 10 millionaires, 10 million in the middle class, and 10 beggars.
As mentioned above, the framework in Kenya has for several years been geared towards catering for the needs of a minority. This was the case during the colonial era, during the Kenyatta era, and now during the Moi era. This country has grown in a way that the structures currently in place are no longer able to meet the Nation's needs. The problems in this country are largely of the mind and attitude, rather than of inability. We need to reform at an individual level before advocating for sweeping reforms. All manner of accusations and abuse (some justified no doubt ), are being levelled at the government nowadays, for instance. However an analysis of our lives at an individual level reveals an equally mediocre and wanting state of affairs : if one drinks away his month's earnings in one night of spending, as many of us are prone to doing nowadays, you cannot blame the government for this; if you bring seven children into this world, and are unable to cater for their basic needs, you cannot blame the government for this; if you engage in reckless sex despite all the factors against this nowadays, and in so doing contract the dreaded AIDS virus, you cannot blame the government for this; if you soo savagely defile a girl of 5 years of age as has become commonplace, you cannot blame the government for this; if you brutally and in a most cowardly manner, assault your wife or husband, you cannot blame the government for this.
This is what we have become and this is what we urgently need to reform : the Kenyan has become his own worst enemy. Life has become soo cheap and one can easily get people to do their bidding in so far as you can provide an intoxicant of one kind or another, or provide a new set of cosmetics. We have to take the initiative, and learn how to fish. Private enterprise must take a lead role in building a Kenya of 10 millionaires, 10 million in the middle class, and 10 beggars. Religious organisations and non-governmental organisations are playing a very crucial role countrywide in alleviating poverty and creating opportunities, by imparting very crucial skills in micro-enterprise. This is an initiative that all of us must support, because this is where the future of this country lies.
There is also a lot we can learn from our cultural practices, many of which we have abandoned. In the olden days amongst the Maasai for instance, one had to kill a lion in order to graduate to moranhood. We all know that a lion, when threatened, can be a very vicious animal, capable of killing a fully grown man with one strike. To qualify to be a Kenyan moran in this day and age, one must also symbolically tame a lion. In this regard, the achievement of the legendary American entrepreneur, Lee Iaccoca, can be used as an example. In the early 1980s, Iaccoca salvaged the giant American car maker, Chrysler, from insolvency by paying off all the corporation's creditors, and re-building it into a viable venture, eight years ahead of a recovery schedule that had been put in place. Soo impressed were Americans by this achievement, that Iaccoca was approached to vie for the U.S. presidency in the 1988 election, but declined. Lee Iaccoca undoubtedly passes for a modern day moran, and the giant Chrysler corporation of the 1980s, the lion he successfully tamed. This country needs Iaccocas at all levels and in all spheres of life :- Men and Women of action. There are numerous symbolic lions to be tamed in this country. Indeed, we need to tame the Kenyan Nation as a whole, which has become a vicious lion on the verge of becoming unmanageable. This is what the Kenyan Nation must aspire to achieve in the 21st century : we must aspire to become a Nation of 10 millionaires, 10 million in the middle class, and 10 beggars.
Michael Mundia Kamau
KENYA vs. KENYA : THE CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW DEBATE - 11th June 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
Friday, 11th June 1999
KENYA vs. KENYA : THE CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW DEBATE
The Kenyan nation is once again engulfed in an unnecessary public debate on whether to make the constitutional review process a public referendum, or a parliamentary referendum, and vote that it be confined to parliament, because this country does not need a constitutional review as much as it does a review in the mentality of the people. However perfect a constitution we can possibly have, it will be of little consequence if implemented before we have reviewed our general attitudes and perceptions towards the life we live. Granted, the constitution does need reviewing in areas such as the immense and undue powers vested in the office of the president, and despotic and archiac laws vested in the chief's act. This can however be carried out piece meal, and under the present harsh economic quagmire, in the confines of parliament.
What makes nonsense of the call for constitutional overhaul is the fact that laws that are already in place, and which are geared for the benefit of the majority, have been grossly abused. The controlled tenancy act is an example of one such law. The controlled tenancy act came into being soon after independence in 1963, and was part inducement for the setting up of African businesses. The essence of the act was to ensure that rents were regulated by the Business Premises Rent Tribunal (BPRT). Landlords / property managers could only increase rents bi-annually, and with the approval of the BPRT. This law has been grossly abused in present day Kenya, with BPRT mandates being openly flouted. We have today the notorious, punitive and man-made, "goodwill", which is simply money extorted from would be tenants, and which is of complete detriment to business in general.
Our foremost priority should be how to combat the debilitating ills of momumental corruption, poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease, crime, and drug abuse. If there is to be a public referendum, then it should be on how to combat these ills, and how to create wealth for the majority. Experience has shown that this country lacks a real will for change, and this is the reason why we still moving in circles 36 years after independence. We lag behind even by African standards. An example of this is our poor showing in in the African renaissance of the 1990s, inspite of the the persistent complaints against the present regime. This clearly comes out when the following comparisons are made vis a vis the Kenyan nation :
In 1992 the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), was voted into power in Zambia following years of disenchantment against the Kenneth Kaunda regime ; in 1994 the late Mashood Abiola won the Nigerian presidential election, and General Olusegun Obasanjo repeated this very feat this year ; in 1995 , Bakili Muluzi beat the late Kamuzu Banda for the Malawian presidency ; in 1994 the legendary Nelson Mandela became the president of a new South Africa by popular vote, and Thabo Mbeki has just accomplished this same feat ; in 1996 Yoweri Museveni became the popularly elected president of the Uganda on his very charismatic campaign slogan of "no change" ; in 1995 Benjamin Mkapa was popularly elected president of the United Republic of Tanzania ; In 1996 the charismatic Jerry Rawlings, was elected president of Ghana, though belonging to an earlier generation of African intellectuals ; in 1997 Congolese president Laurent Kabila, led a popular uprising against the then government of Mobutu Sese Seko ; in 1992 and 1997 the Kenyan people voted in Daniel Moi and the Kenya African National Union (KANU), into power.
People like President Fredrick Chiluba of Zambia, and President Laurent Kabila of the United Democratic Republic of Congo, may not have lived up to their people's expectations, but the beauty part of it, is that they are products of the epic African renaissance of the 1990s, the second liberation so to speak : a people clamouring for change, and actively seeking it. Kenyans from all walks of life are forever calling for change, but our experience shows that we are not for real change, and would rather that the status quo maintain. What is depressing is the fact that no practical lessons on change were learned from the Kenyan general election of 1992, and it is apparent that history will again repeat itself in 2002, if not sooner.
What adds mockery to the constitutional review debate, is the fact that religious bodies have averred to press the government for a people centred change to the constitution. This is when a brief overview of religious organisations in Kenya reveals a Catholic head who drives the latest model of Mercedes Benz in the face of abject poverty, an Anglican church head who was recently involved in a physical confrontation regarding leadership wrangles in a diocese, and Muslim leaders who publicly squabble over the commencement and conclusion of the important muslim fast month of Ramadhan. As this goes on, we see media images of people in Malindi, who daily risk their lifes to cross crocodile infested waters, and read about a "prosperous" slum family in Kisumu that is the envy of neighbours, because they can afford to set aside 10 Kenya shillings (approximately $ 0.14 ), for emergencies.
The majority of us are living a miserable life with scant hope, and it will only get worse, until we develop a real will to change. We have gone wrong because we are self-centred, self-seekers, unwilling to listen to the voice of reason. Everyone is an authority unto themselves in this country, and it's no wonder that basic functions like queues, which are aimed at creating law and order, are brushed aside with contempt. We don't respect the basic tenets of law and order, yet there is a clamour for constitutional change : how ironic. Like Marie Antoinette, many of us are under the illusion that there is no bread, but that there is cake in abundance.
All of us have to make sacrifices for the common good, and in any case, there's not much we are holding onto. This is a good country, and there's absolutely no reason why we are mistreating it and ourselves in the way that we are. A review in the constitution of thought, and not a constitutional review, is what we need.
Michael Mundia Kamau
THE UNRESOLVED ISSUE OF THE KENYAN FREEDOM MOVEMENT - 8th May 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
Saturday, 8th May 1999
THE UNRESOLVED ISSUE OF THE KENYAN FREEDOM MOVEMENT
I refer to recent and ongoing media reports on a group of individuals that have come together with the objective of petitioning the British government to pay hefty compensation for injustices perpetrated against the Mau Mau movement by the then British colonial administration. The intended suit can be described as nothing more than a sham, and an insult not just to the Mau Mau movement, but to the entire freedom movement in Kenya.
It is extremely far-fetched to attempt to make the British the number one culprits for injustices perpetrated against Mau Mau, when it is the Kenyan Nation that has been foremost in keeping the freedom movement distorted. The remains of the legendary Dedan Kimathi are for instance still interred at Kamiti maximum prison, 45 years after his hanging, and one wonders whether the said lobby intends for the British government to come and exhume Kimathi's remains for reburial in a more suitable place !
The whole issue of the Mau Mau movement in itself is unresolved with opinions on Mau Mau as diverse as the 42 ethnic communities that there are in Kenya. Was Mau Mau for instance a national movement intended for the removal of colonial rule and the creation of a free and just nation , or was Mau Mau an organisation which the Kikuyu used to gain power for their own selfish ends ? Was Dedan Kimathi a cult figure or was he a charismatic leader who had a vision for a better life for his people, and the Kenyan nation at large ? This latter question is of particular significance, because apart from the letter Kimathi wrote before his hanging , and which is on display at the Kenya National Archives, little else is known of the legendary Dedan Kimathi.
There are also unanswered questions on the other prominent freedom movement in Kenya, the Nandi resistance, bearing in mind that Mau Mau was not the only freedom movement that there was in Kenya ! Far too little research has been done on the essence of the eleven year Nandi resistance. In the same token, was the legendary Kimnyole arap Samoei a cult figure, or was he a charismatic leader of the Nandi ? Why did arap Samoei agree to a peace meeting with the British ? ; did arap Samoei sense imminent defeat, or was he convinced that he was at best, attending a peace meeting of his equals ? The unresolved issues of the Nandi resistance have to be attended to with even greater urgency, because it is close to 90 years since the treacherous slaying of Kimnyole arap Samoei by the British, and the subsequent defeat of the Nandi warriors.
The two examples above represent just two prominent freedom movements in the history of this country, and even they remain unresolved. What about the contribution of the other 40 ethnic communities ? What efforts over the years have been made to gather information on the other freedom movements, which though not as prominent as the above two, were instrumental in creating the Kenyan nation ? It is plain to see that we have a big task of putting our heritage in it's proper perspective and the above lobby is better placed seeking funding from the British government to accomplish this task. The feeling of disenchantment and betrayal amongst the majority of Kenyans has a direct bearing to our distorted heritage.
We do not treat our heritage with the seriousness it deserves, and this is deeply regrettable. If we truly aspire to alleviating the problems we have (many of which are self-inflicted), and indeed aspire to building a great nation, we must start from the very basics. We cannot forever continue moving in circles.
Michael Mundia Kamau
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE - 15th May 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
Saturday, 15th May 1999
The Group Managing Editor
The Standard Limited
P.O. Box 30080
RE: A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
This letter is written in appreciation for the recently introduced practice by the Standard Limited of publishing historic photographs in the "Sunday Standard", and take the opportunity to urge your publication to not only continue with this welcome innovation, but to take us further back in time, given that the East African Standard was established in 1902.
It is very encouraging to note that we as a Nation are beginning to openly discuss and display past events. It is from here that we shall be better able to understand ourselves, and better able to chart out a course for this country's future. It was for instance very refreshing to recently hear the official leader of the opposition, Hon. Mwai Kibaki, and former attorney general, Charles Njonjo, discuss past events at the funeral service of the late Minister for lands and settlement, Jackson Angaine. Njonjo spoke of how the late President Kenyatta always referred to Angaine as "Muthoniwa" ( a term used to refer to your in laws in kikuyu), even during heated exchanges ! It definitely came as a surprise to many Kenyans that day to learn that Kenyatta used to clash with his Ministers ! Who outside inner government circles, thought this was imaginable or happened ? The only person known to have openly differed with Kenyatta is the now deceased and equally legendary, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. The 1969 Kisumu clash of the two is indeed a celebrated event.
Kibaki's revelation was not as spectacular as Njonjo's, but was equally interesting. Kibaki (then Minister for finance), revealed that in 1970, Kenyatta sent Kibaki, the late Angaine, and a third unnamed person to the United Kingdom to notify the British government that the Kenya government was not only unable to pay back money loaned to the Kenya government by the British government to buy out white settlers from the former white highlands, but was outrightly not going to pay back the loaned monies ! Kibaki said he was very apprehensive about the mission, and let Kenyatta know. Kenyatta answered by telling Kibaki to be brave, and to let Angaine take charge if things appeared to be getting out of hand.
The above two experiences were given most sincerely and candidly, without pomp, pageantry or boastfulness ; just two men giving their past experiences. Every one of us has a story we would like to tell in the very same sincere and candid manner, stories that are about us , and about the history of this country. Let us tell these stories, let us understand ourselves better, let us move forward, let us build a better Nation.
Michael Mundia Kamau
THE KENYAN QUESTION: WE MUST GET REAL - 7th February 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
Sunday, 7th February 1999
"THE KENYAN QUESTION: WE MUST GET REAL"
My attention is drawn to a debate on the Kenyan colonial question that has been ongoing in the "Daily Nation" for sometime now. My observation is that the debate has a clear divide with one party glorifying the contribution of colonialism to Kenya, and the other admonishing the dehumanization of Native Kenyans by the colonialists.
It is a matter of concern that several years after the birth of the Republic of Kenya, we still allow ourselves to engage in such limited scope of debate, as this country continues to sink into deeper and deeper levels of mediocrity by the day. Millions of Kenyans are living a life of despair and it helps little to debate on the pros and cons of colonialism without offering tangible solutions. Our immediate focus right now should be the alleviation of the poverty, despair, and state of confusion that is currently characteristic of this country. The first point to begin at in this task, is the development of a firm Kenyan intellect.
The initial step in developing a Kenyan intellect should be a proper evaluation of our roots. Here we must question who we are, what we stand for, and where we came from, amongst other things. While on this point, I must assert that one blessing arising out of colonialism and it's aftermath, is the revelation that Africans did not have a strong Socio-Cultural framework. I state this because virtually all our cultural traits have been replaced by Western values. Save for the Maasai and Somali communities, for instance, the rest of us have largely abandoned and/or abused our Socio-Cultural practices and the significance they carried. In this regard, credit must go to the West Africans, for preserving their culture more than we have.
The second point to address in the development of a Kenyan intellect, is the assessment of our position today, relative to what our position was in the past, and relative to what we want our position to be in future. It is paramount that we accept the colonial chapter of our history and move on: it is futile to try and and turn back the clock of time. In this regard we must utilise the gains made from our past experiences to build a formidable Socio-Cultural, Political, and Economic framework, based on the heritage of this country. We must of necessity re-assess our goals, aspirations and ambitions, to encompass the needs of the majority of Kenyans.
Here lies the solution to the myriad of problems afflicting this country. We must accept that the British came to East Africa with their own agenda and found Africans in the process of formulating their own various agendas. Somewhere in between, the Asians were brought in to attain a particular agenda, and thereafter stayed, and formed their own agenda. It is time for one common agenda:- " The Kenyan Agenda".
Anyone who claims to be a Kenyan and claim to have the interests of this country at heart, must be part of the effort to create and sustain a Kenyan agenda, a Kenyan dream, a Kenyan reassessment, a Kenyan process of healing and reconciliation, a Kenyan future, and indeed and truly, a Kenyan Nation.
We urgently need to let go of our individual considerations because limited interests are no longer able to meet the needs of millions of Kenyans.
"The Kenyan Question: we must get real".
Michael Mundia Kamau,
Sunday, 7th February 1999
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ABDULWAHID SYKES - 2nd January 1999
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
Saturday, 2nd January 1999
The Group Managing Editor
Nation Media Group
P.O. Box 49010
RE: "THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ABDULWAHID SYKES"
This letter is again written in appreciation of the just concluded serialisation of "The Life and Times of Abdulwahid Sykes", in "The East African".
The book by Mohamed Said brings into focus very interesting details about the struggle for Independence in Tanzania. It was also curiously interesting to note that the signature tune of Kenya's ruling party, KANU, "Kanu yajenga nchi", is derived from a Nyamwezi victory song !
The Independence movement in virtually all African Countries was undoubtedley led by Men and Women of high intellect and vision, and we the later generations, are deeply indebted to the forebearers of the Independence movement.
The essence of the Independence movement has however been greatly demeaned given that the majority of Africans are in dire straits.
In this regard we have ourselves to blame because no real efforts have been made to develop our intellect, and this has resulted in widespread poverty, ignorance, recklessness, and illeteracy.
Intellect can only be developed by persistent hard work, hard work that must be geared towards identifying and meeting the immediate and long term needs of a People.
In real terms most African Countries are still colonies, because little of the colonial structure has changed over the years, and if anything, regimes have become more corrupt and repressive.
A Nation is built by a People's will and there is an urgent need for us to develop an African will.
The Asian Diaspora is a shining example in this respect. In Kenya for instance, Asians largely emigrated here as a result of the construction of the Kenya - Uganda railway line at the turn of the century. From a Community of labourers, low ranking workers, and small scale traders, they have built themselves into the formidable self - supporting Community they are today, resplendent with Intellectuals, Industrialists, Businessmen, and Professionals.
There is absolutely no reason why we are not emulating the example of the Asian Community, if non other. In place, we have a host of excuses for our current state of affairs, but not a single good reason.
We have the intelligence and manpower to develop the African Continent, but only if we set aside our petty considerations. The second phase of the Independence movement is long overdue, the phase where the majority of Africans develop an enabling intellect, imperative for the attainment of meaningful Socio-Cultural, Economic and Political Development.
Michael Mundia Kamau
Mfungwa Tuliyemsahau - 12th December 1998
Michael Mundia Kamau
P.O. Box 17510
Saturday, 12th December 1998
I make reference to the recently concluded run of " Mfungwa Tuliyemsahau" ( kiswahili for " the convict we forgot" ), a drama presentation by Mzizi troupe, whose main theme was the tribulations that have been faced and indeed, continue to be faced by the Kenyan Nation.
The sterling performance brings to focus very pertinent issues about the history of this country and indeed sheds light on events that I believe are largely unknown to many Kenyans , myself included.
In the first instance, very important historical facts were raised regarding resistance to colonial rule such as the 1895 Mazrui revolt led by Mbarak bin Rashid. Further revealed were the endeavours of leading personalities who led their people against colonial oppression. These include Giriama heroine Meketilili wa Menza, Kimnyole arap Turgat of the Nandi, Otenyo of the Abagusii, and Moraa Okiage, also of the Abagusii.
There are certainly several other cases of Nationalism which are undocumented and which as a matter of priority need to be obtained, researched, corroborated, and documented, because this country seems to have lost all manner of direction in all facets of life. We can only truly make meaningful gains if our heritage is put in it's proper perspective, an onerous task, and one that will involve the efforts of each and every one of us : there is no doubt that our heritage has been grossly distorted, altered, and in most cases , dispensed with.
The role of all Kenyan Communities in the struggle for Independence for instance, must be properly established because history has placed undue prominence on the role played by the Mau Mau rebellion and by extension the Kikuyu Community, at the expense of the other Kenyan Communities.
Mau Mau indeed played a crucial role in the struggle for Independence and a close scrutiny of the movement reveals high levels of organisation, discipline, gallantry, resolve, military intelligence, and nationalism, and it is regrettable that Mau Mau and it's proponents have in themselves been accorded fractional measures of honour !
Even then, the study of this particular facet of our history does not begin and end with Mau Mau, and there is need to critically study and document the role played by other Kenyan Communities. The Nandi resistance for instance, that lasted a whooping eleven years, is only given passing reference in history books !
Secondly, in as much as the colonial era is viewed with bitter resentment, we must appreciate and indeed pay homage to the very positive changes brought about by colonialism.
The British brought us formal education , modern institutions, modern skills, modern professions and modern training, which have been, and continue to very instrumental in moulding the destiny of this country. The advancement and placement of Kenyans in different parts of the world has largely been as a result of this. Had it not been for the resilience of the pioneer settlers, it is indeed hard to envision where we would be today.
It is therefore regrettable that almost no homage is paid to these great pioneer British settlers and/or their descendants. It is hardly the case to read of, or hear of, the endeavours of these great Men and Women in a positive light, Men and Women who played a crucial role in shaping the history of this country. It is indeed a shame that such gallantry is not accorded it's due honour.
In light of the foregoing, there is no doubt that the history books of the Kenyan Nation have to be re-written as a matter of priority, and the revised editions carefully but surely tutored to each and every one of us : opinions are hard to change, but we must take that all important step for the sake of this country.
The crippling problems being faced by our young Nation today, the malaise, the poverty, the rampant corruption, the indiscipline, the high rate of crime, the unwarranted prejudices, the pent up frustrations/ bitterness, and the dashed dreams, have everything to do with our distorted heritage, and as was quite correctly pointed out in the play, it is time to go back to the drawing board : we can only appreciate ourselves if we properly understand ourselves.
However much we choose to ignore the fact and/or choose to downplay it, this country has serious problems which are threatening to get out of hand. We and only we, can diffuse this life threatening state of affairs, and only if we choose to. This will and can only start with a proper understanding of ourselves, and a proper understanding of where we want to go.
"Mfungwa Tuliyemsahau" - a need to re-evaluate ourselves.
Michael Mundia Kamau
Saturday, 12th December 1998