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.