Challenges of the Grand Coalition Part 1(guest post)

BY ONYANGO OLOO

1.0. Challenge # 1: Credibility

The Grand Coalition is slowly rousing to its feet amidst widespread cynicism, bewilderment, anger and disappointment.

The fact that almost half of the 220 member Kenya National Assembly will be in government is astounding, especially if one takes into account the high falutin’ earnest pledges by the three leading presidential candidates in the 2007 elections-Kibaki, Raila and Kalonzo-on how they would all have lean, clean and efficient cabinets.

As one of the many Kenyans who were tear gassed recently for demanding a 24 member cabinet at Uhuru Park recently, I need not regurgitate what I think of the 42 member bloated cabinet.

Unfortunately, unless something dramatic happens over the next few days to reverse it, the reality of an obese (some say obscene) cabinet is a de facto reality.

The Grand Coalition thus has its work cut out for it when it comes to persuading Kenyans that it will somehow justify all those billions of tax payers’ shillings it is robbing from the meagre national coffers.

Additionally, some of the key members of the cabinet have serious credibility gaps. For instance, to at least half of the Kenyan people, Mwai Kibaki will always remain the Chief Thief who was installed illegally during the 30th of December Civilian Coup. Kalonzo Musyoka, the former ODM “Luminary” will remain the Traitor who gave coup conspirators a desperately needed lease of life by acquiescing to be VP under very controversial circumstances on January 8, 2008. To PNU loyalists on the other hand, William Ruto will always be the alleged “architect” and “mastermind” of the Rift Valley violence.

This challenge of credibility will dog the Grand Coalition for the next few weeks or months-unless something is done about it now. More on that later.

Incidentally I do not take the fake, conjured up “outrage” of MPs who were left out very seriously. They are just being PLAIN SILLY. I am talking of people like Franklin Bett, Isaac Ruto, Charles Kilonzo, several PNU MPs and a slew from Nyanza. For instance there is a story in the current Citizen Weekly which hit the streets today. It is actually the main front page story.

Here is an excerpt:

ODM MP weeps over cabinet list

An MP-Engineer James Rege- wept uncontrollably after he missed a cabinet slot in the grand coalition government. According to sources, Rege had lobbied for a ministerial post and had been assured by none other than Raila Odinga that his name was in the list and had reportedly started celebrating the political milestone as early Sunday morning only to receive a jolt in the evening as he waited in vain to leave Kibaki’s lips. Rege had been eyeing the ministry of information but smelled a rat when Kibaki read the name of ODM-K’s Samuel Poghisio as the member for information. Rege now blames Otieno Kajwang for his missed chance. But it not Rege alone who wept that fateful day. Also feeling betrayed are Asman Kamama and Wilfred Machage who were demoted and now have to relinquish their flags…

SOURCE: Weekly Citizen, Vol.11 No.14, 14th-20th April 2008, pp 1 and 19.

Now to be fair, I have met Engineer Rege at least once in person and he does not strike me as an individual who is prone to “weep uncontrollably” because he was bypassed in terms of a public appointment. I recall when I accompanied Ambassador Oginga Ogego to Rege’s palatial digs in September 2003 (it was then under construction) when the engineer CALMLY talked about how he had been swindled out of an expected senior appointment to Telkom Kenya or some other telecommunications posting. The publication I just cited puts quite a chunk of salt in its sukuma wiki.

When I watched some of these jokers on telly last night demanding that the Rutos, Balalas and Ngilus should stop harassing them and move over to the government side; chest thumping on how “they” were definitely going to construct the “Grand Opposition” from scratch, I almost wept uncontrollably-with a serious bout of extreme mirth.

Isn’t it a bit comical for these 10th Parliamentarians to suddenly grasp the urgent need for an opposition only after they find that they are no flags for them leaving them languishing in the Kenyan political Siberia?

A couple of years ago, my good friend and comrade Njeri Kabeberi told me that many sitting Kenyan MPs frequently display such an overt CONTEMPT for the very parties on whose ticket they vied that many do not give a hoot whether the party survives or not.

Now I have one more reason to see how true her observation was.

I mean, isn’t it incredible to witness this overnight “opposition unity” among PNU, ODM, ODM-K and other political party MPs come to the fore merely because they did not make it to the bloated cabinet?

In a way the most pathetic display of petulance, venom and envious frustration was displayed during the press conference convened by former State House Comptroller and apparent ODM die hards Franklin Bett and Isaac Ruto. Suddenly, they are no longer committed members of ODM. They are now Kipsigis sub-nationalists threatening Raila Odinga and the ODM Pentagon that they will no longer be voting machine- this froth and bile only spilling out that it was only Kones and Lorna who were “lucky” to be incorporated into the Grand Coalition.

But let us move on.

2.0. Challenge # 2: Grappling with National Insecurity

Literally the first major gift-after the spontaneous denunciation about the size of the cabinet- that the Grand Coalition received was the surprising, shockingly well organized and widespread protests organized by enraged members of the proscribed Kenya National Youth Alliance venting their anger at news of the brutal slayings of Virginia Nyakio and “AFCO” Njoroge-wife and driver respectively to the jailed leader of KNYA and founder of Mungiki, Maina Njenga. Given the extensive news coverage both locally and internationally, I need not repeat what has been happening in many parts of Kenya for the last few days.

Predictably, the state response was what it has always been- a display of brute state terror, fascism and uncalled for violence against INNOCENT civilians- like the pre-teen boy who was shot with a live bullet in the arm when he ventured outside his parents’ Dandora shack to see what was going on. Eric Kiraithe, Police Spokesperson is boasting about how thorough and efficient the police response has been- even as a Permanent Secretary in the Internal Security admitted that the police had once again been caught flat footed.

Attempts by the Kenyan neo-colonial state and it various organs of terror to deal VIOLENTLY with groups like Kenya National Youth Alliance, Mungiki, Kalenjin Warriors (including Group of 41 and the People’s Army) Sabaot People’s Defence Force, Mulungunipa Forest Group, Chinkororo, Taliban, Baghdad Boys, Kamjesh and other armed vigilante groups as if it was a mere police or military operation to “flush out” and “wipe out” “criminals” without looking at the deeper historical, political, social, economic and cultural contexts that gave birth to their rise are recipes doomed for total disastrous failure.

In the case of Kenya National Youth Alliance I am appalled at the levels of abysmal ignorance/or oblivious neglect in terms of accurate portrayal and serious analysis about the group and its ancestor Mungiki.

And this is not just by the Kenyan government.

The complicity extends to the Kenyan Media-both print and electronic-in covering the activities of the group. American commentator and political activist Noam Chomsky wrote a book called Manufacturing Consent where he delineated the role of the mainstream media in manipulating the public to accept certain government lies- for instance the rationale George Bush gave to justify the invasions and subsequent unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Right now the Kenyan media is manufacturing consent that has succeeded in persuading the Kenyan public-both within the country and in the Diaspora- that the excessive use of police force against the Kenya National Youth Alliance and the brutal military onslaught against civilians in Mount Elgon is not only “justified” but “absolutely necessary”. That is why there is virtually no outrage (outside human rights circles) when a television reporter casually repeats a statement that so many “Mungiki suspects” have been shot in cold blood by the always trigger happy Kenyan police- in a country where EVERYBODY is ASSUMED to be INNOCENT until proved guilty beyond all reasonable doubt in a competently constituted court of law. In a certain respect, a large fraction of the Kenyan public want more murders, more torture, more maiming of those the police and the media label as “Mungiki suspects” sometimes going by nothing more substantial than the fact that the so called “suspect” is young and has the Gikuyu language for his mother tongue- and wait for it, that the said “suspect” was found NOT to be WEARING UNDERWEAR at the time of arrest.

Mungiki is a complex social phenomenon. Contemplated by the proverbial blind men, it is an elephant which to some, depending on which part you touch- a “dangerous and violent extortionist gang”; a “Gikuyu religious sect” a “hit squad for PNU political god fathers”.

I have been made to understand that Mungiki has quite metamorphosed since its early 1990s origins in the Rift Valley as a self defence unit for Agikuyu youth targeted by state connected vigilante groups bank rolled by Daniel arap Moi.

Some people say that there is not one, but at least THREE distinct factions which are associated with the Mungiki moniker.

First, there are remnants of the original, culturally based Agikuyu sect which believed in facing Mount Kenya when they say their traditional prayers; female genital mutilation; preventing women from wearing trousers; sniffing snuff etc.

Secondly, there is the breakaway Kenya National Youth Alliance which disavowed the first trend, sought solace in the legacy of the Mau Mau freedom fighters and is therefore quite class conscious in their hostile attitude to the Central Province comprador bourgeois elite who they accuse to be descendants of the notorious homungati collaborators with British colonial rule. Members of the Kenya National Youth Alliance have a PATRIOTIC national conscious, quite Pan Africanist and even socialist oriented. Many of them are quite supportive of progressive countries like Venezuela, Cuba and other revolutionary trends. They are literally the STRONGEST youth-based social movement in Kenya at the moment with a membership pegged at 1.5 million members nationwide. This is the faction led by the incarcerated Maina Njenga who is revered as an almost Mandela-like icon within KNYA.

Thirdly, you have the Ndura Waruinge faction which after being infiltrated by the state as far back as the KANU era, readily collaborates with government friendly politicians to push the agenda of the ruling (especially pro PNU) clique. They are the ones who are said to have organized the pro Uhuru street demos in 2002 and the pro Kibaki processions in 2008). Allegations (and I have to see tangible proof to confirm this) abound that it is this faction which provided the storm troopers who were deployed to Naivasha and some of the informal settlements in January and February 2008.

Sources close to all the above three Mungiki tendencies further argue that the young killers of 2008 were nothing but ordinary criminals who seized the dreaded “brand name” of Mungiki to create credibility in selling themselves to PNU politicians who were looking for killers for hire against supporters of their perceived ODM rivals. It is said that some PNU politicians in Nairobi, Central and the Rift Valley were offering 15,000 shillings for every severed head and this was an incentive which was seized upon by two bit bounty killers who created pseudo Mungiki gangs to earn some quick quid.

Fifthly, Njuguna wa Njuguna, a spokesperson for the Kenya National Youth Movement gave interviews to KTN, NTV, K24, Standard and the Nation a couple of days ago from a Dagoretti area hideout where he claimed that senior police elements were not only behind the killings of Nyakio and “Afco” but further had formed the equally dreaded Cobra Unit which was responsible for all the beheadings attributed to Mungiki in order to justify the crackdown on the KNYA which left, according to him, over 4,000 victims of mysterious extrajudicial executions by the Kenyan police.

Is there an element of OVERLAP in all the above tendencies?

One cannot rule it out. For instance Ndura Waruinge and Maina Njenga are first cousins who helped co found the original Mungiki movement. Is it possible that actual Mungiki members are working with the police in killing their fellow Mungiki members? Knowing how state agencies especially police-linked death squads operate all over the world, again one cannot rule out that likelihood. Could it be that some Mungiki members were once actual petty criminals or have degenerated to criminal activity? That may very well be the case- although as an outsider, I am the last person who can speak authoritatively on that- especially given the fact that most, if not all the tendencies associated with Mungiki, depend to varying degrees on the “tax” collected from matatus every day.

What is most interesting is the story doing the rounds around Nairobi that at least one faction of Mungiki recently cut a deal, with Uhuru Kenyatta which saw hawkers linked to the sect grab the dominant position at the new Muthurwa market and that Uhuru in a further boost also directed the Eastlands routes matatus to terminate their city-bound journeys at Muthurwa to provide a captive market for the hawkers in return for providing support for Uhuru in his 2012 presidential bid. How far this is true is anyone’s guess.

Another intriguing factoid:

Day before yesterday I was exiting a rather tall building in the Nairobi Central Business District owned by a certain very prominent Kenyan tycoon when I ran into said business magnate chit chatting with a pal of mine who is also very prominent in civil society circles here in Kenya. I was called over for the perfunctory intros and soon, given the breaking news of the day, the topic quickly turned to Mungiki. This is when the tycoon made a cryptic comment to the extent that Maina Njenga was sitting on millions of shillings in prison he did not want to share even though the Central Kenya business community poured a lot of money in the Mungiki coffers to sponsor some activities during the post election crisis. He said that his opinion that Virginia Nyakio Njenga may have been tortured and executed because of a feeling that she was refusing to part with the cash. This particular tycoon has been cited in human rights circles as having been one of the financiers of the pangas used to behead innocent Kenyans so I am not sure if I could totally rule out his comments as mere idle talk. Hint: said tycoon is a founder of DP and very close to Kibaki.

What I am saying is that in regards to the current crackdown against members of the Kenya National Youth Alliance/Mungiki it is crucial that the Grand Coalition should proceed with utmost care-especially given the possibility that half of the cabinet are implicated in the alleged criminal activities of Mungiki-which may not be synonymous with the political agenda of the Kenya National Youth Alliance.

Same applies to dealing with Sabaot Peoples Defence Force.

12 comments to Challenges of the Grand Coalition Part 1(guest post)

  • Ssembonge

    I’m surprised you gave this cyber goon/bully free airtime on your blog. Always long on words but short on substance.

  • Ory Okolloh

    Ssembonge, cyber goon is a bit harsh no?

    You can disagree with him/his posturing, but I felt that he raised some interesting things that we don’t see in the local press e.g. the rise of the Kenya national youth alliance and the hypocrisy of the “grand opposition” agitators.

  • James Rege is a guy who has been involved thoroughly in the Information sector. it would have been a good thing if he had been brought into that ministry but then again its the politics that rule

  • Malaika

    I’ve always found Bw. Oloo’s writing to be meticulously researched and well balanced. The joke between my sister and I is that we can skip Kenyan news for months and catch up really well by reading a “digital essay” by Bw. Oloo. Thanks for keeping us well informed! I’d be curious to know what makes Bw/Bi Ssembonge feel that he is a cyber bully.

    On a different note, I wonder whether Bw. Oloo could tell us how he negotiates meetings such as the one he described with a well known tycoon who’s rumored to have perpetrated human rights violations. Did he shake hands and make nice? No moral judgment on my part. These things just interest me. Asante.

  • barasa

    Nothing is more humorous than the MPs calling press conferences to say that they are forming the official opposition. Oopposition is towards the benefits or losses of a particular motion on the floor of the house, which doesnt need a party but a clear concience ab0ut what is good for this country. You are right, their cries are not for Kenyans, but to the government, in a blackmail attempt of “if you dont bribe us nicely we will frustrate you on the floor of the house and kill your bills”. grand posturing is fast becoming a past time for some disgruntled political elements, including the Mungiki debate
    Barasa

  • Osas

    Have we become an ODM propaganda outlet altogether? Nothing wrong in chastizing the government(who amply deserves it), but a lot is wrong in lending a blog simply a as political mouthpiece to a party.

    Onyango Oloo actually is one of the instigators of unrest, violence and bloodshed, a former leftist who has become a rabid tribalist, and he should really not figure as guest author in your blog.

    Osas

  • I got this article as an email forward and immediately a few questions came to my mind:

    Which faction extorts money from matatu operators and Eastlands landlords/residents?

    I do not think that the media is manufacturing consent in this case. I have read Chomsky’s book and watched a film about it and do not think that it applies to either Mungiki or Sabaot People’s Defence Force.
    Any force that threatens the government by forming a parallel organisation is fair game to any government in the world. I believe it is what is called treason.

    The public is genuinely scared of Mungiki…man even matatu operators do nothing in front of them. No one objected when last year Mathare residents were subjected to lying down in the mud by armed GSU and police men – and by the way in the full glare of CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC cameras – because Mungiki had gone too far and was now causing unnecessary
    tension. The public demanded that the police do something which they did in their usual brutal manner.

    By the way how come the number of Mungiki killed by cops has now reached 4,000. Kiai is talking of 500 or is it 600?!

    In my opinion demands for Human rights in Kenya are overrated. A country does not need human rights to develop. It is a good aim for a government, but I think we live in a freer society than what we had before. Our government has not learnt how to “manufacture consent” unless you believe the crap Alfred Mutua propagates. Maybe they will learn from ODM how to do it.

    If the government knew how to manufacture consent, then I am sure the clashes we had a while ago would have been cast in a totally different light. The Anglo Leasing scandal would have been about a clerical mistake. The Standard raid would have had us thoroughly convinced that there was a plot to assassinate the president and the Artur brothers would definitely have been investors looking for business opportunities in Kenya to pour their money.

    In my opinion, Mungiki is a radical religious group that got involved in politics, then extortion to raise money and has now formed a political wing to further their cause. Just like Hamas, they have politicians as a show for the world to see and on the ground they have foot soldiers who enforce their rules and values on the society and also collect “security charges” from areas that they operate in.

  • NonPulsed

    Osas,
    instigator of violence , bloodshed? Could you provide evidence? What do you define as a leftist? How dangerous are leftists? Are rightists better?
    In the U.S. there are places if anyone talks of the evils of colonialism they would be considered a leftist? Is that what you are defining as a leftist?

    Tengeza,

    “Any force that threatens the government by forming a parallel organisation is fair game to any government in the world. I believe it is what is called treason”

    In that vein, ANC, Mau Mau were treasonous groups? There is a reason Mungiki exists, and it is not only due to thuggery. Some might say it has hijacked some of the reasons, but it does exist. It is a warning sign, there is an undercurrent of dissent, and a failure to meet the needs and wants of people.

    If you look at Germany for example, Hitler did not ride in from nowhere he was able to take advantage of the dissent, anger, frustration of Germans who were undergoing high inflation,

    Does this ring a bell? “between left-wing and right-wing groups, both of which committed violence and murder against innocent civilians and against each other, resulting in many deaths” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic).

    The Mathare raid was for show, that was not police work, I heard of a Chinese saying that is appropiate in this case, “Slaughter the chickens to scare the monkeys”. The Mathare raid did not hinder Mungiki. Human rights is also mostly about due process, and efficient use of police efforts. We are heading into a global depression, and it might help to learn from history to see similarities and patterns, so as to draft better responses. BTW, Tengeza, I do see on your website you mention the possibility of food riots… hmm I hear echos of Weimar. We are building the fertile ground for a strong man.

  • preethi

    “A Tale Of Three Kings”

    Last week I happened to watch a TV show where the guests were discussing a book called ‘A Tale Of Three Kings’. The author went on to explain that the three biblical kings Saul, David and Absalom represent the three kinds of authority figures one will encounter in the course of one’s life. The book talks of the leadership of David in contrast with those of Saul and Absalom.

    I just could not help draw the parallels between these three kings and the current political leadership in Kenya. It is amazing that as part of the Grand Coalition, we now have the rare opportunity to sample all the three kinds of authority figures at the helm of Kenya’s political affairs.

    We all know of the Saul of Kenya. He was definitely the chosen one in 2002. He and David were on one team and David did help him gain victory – the Presidency. But he was unfaithful to his calling and his leadership began to lose ground. Like King Saul, his insecurity was fueled by the growing popularity of David in the election year 2007. He was not ready to accept that David was the chosen one in 2007. He was unwilling to let go of his throne and make way for a change in leadership. Despite the disputed election results, he insisted, he was still the undisputed King. His stubbornness paved the way for the mindless post election violence which brought untold misery to the common man.

    Now to the blue eyed boy of Kenyan politics, David. Never mind the eye surgery he had last week, he is still the blue eyed boy and the darling of the masses. King David was anointed for leadership while he was still a shepherd boy but he had to wait twenty long years before he got his crown. The Prime Minister truly embodies the journey of King David….you can be chosen….yet not have the platform thanks to the likes of Saul. All along the long journey to being the Prime Minister, he faced popularity, envy, love and hatred from various quarters. King David was not infallible but he was humble and that is the stuff great leadership is made of. Great leadership is all about being secure yet humble, so as to empower other members of your team. Cheers to our homegrown David!

    Last but not least we have Absalom of Kenya. The biblical Absalom was the handsome son of King David but he envied the splendor, popularity and prosperity of his own father. Absaloms are opportunistic leaders who hang around with successful leaders like David but have a deep seated desire within them to unseat the Davids from their thrones. They are cunning, critical and competitive. Betraying others, promoting disloyalty and disunity are second nature to them. No one embodies this kind of leadership better than the Vice President. Betraying David was the miracle that got him the Vice Presidency. Despite the country-wide hue and cry over the results of the presidential elections, which he himself contested, he wasted no time in doing a complete turnaround and thanking the self proclaimed President for the Vice Presidency. Absaloms are self centered leaders who couldn’t care less for other people, just ask the disgruntled MPs of his own party. With the inclusion of Absalom in the Grand Coalition, one needs to watch out for signs of disunity and competion within the new government.

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