African politics, Asymmetrical Warfare, Book reviews, Horn Watch, Kenya Watch, Kenya-Somalia relations, Uncategorized

Confronting Violent Extremism in Kenya Debates, Ideas and Challenges


Immediately after the militarily intervening in Somalia October 2011, Kenya was hit with an increased number of violent attacks domestically. These attacks have been attributed to Al-Shabaab, the Al Qa’ida affiliated Somalia based armed group and its local Kenya cells.

Some of Al Shabaab’s high profile attacks includes the Westgate Shopping Mall attack on September 21, 2013, when four gunmen stormed the shopping mall popular with foreigners and wealthy Kenyans and killed at least 67 people using assault weapons and grenades.

April 2 2015, Al Shabaab again attacked Garissa University College, in Garissa town killing 148 students and injuring many others.

In June 2015, Al Shabaab attacked the Kenya Defense Force’s (KDF) military barrack in Lamu.

In between these attacks, there have been small-scale, yet deadly attacks.

State’s Response

As a response to these attacks, the national government launched a series of counter-terrorism security operations, primarily targeting the “Arc of Terrorism”- North Eastern Kenya, Eastern part of Nairobi with majority Muslims- Eastleigh and Majengo, and coastal Kenya.

However, these operations have been at best ineffective and at worst counter-productive, they have alienated the community and created trust-deficit between the communities and the security agencies. Additionally, there have been evidence the security agencies committed egregious human rights violations during these operations.

However, increasingly, the government is acknowledging to be successful “hard” approach has to be coupled with a “softer” approach.  As part of that, the national government launched a national Countering Violence Extremism (CVE) strategy on 7 September 2016, after years of consultation with various stakeholders.

This was followed by select counties crafting their respective CVE plans through a broadly consultative process with the national government and other none-state actors including human rights groups.

Pivot towards CVE

While there is no universal consensus on the definition of CVE, there is an emerging understanding that, it is a mix of security and development approaches provide an important platform to build bridges across divergent areas of policy and practice that focus on the prevention and mitigation of violence.

In the past security agencies saw themselves as the primary and exclusive actor in security management. In 2014, Cabinet Secretary for Interior the late Major-General Joseph Nkaissery said, “We cannot have civilians commanding uniformed people. It cannot happen, it has never happened anywhere in the world. It is only the activists and civil society which brought this law and it is what is affecting the command structure”.

But with County CVE plans, there has been discernible shift from Nkaissery’s posture to a more inclusive approach involving civilians into security management.

Localising CVE

CVE’s chief gap in Kenya is the lack of locally-generated empirical evidence to guide public policy. Most of the policy interventions crafted or suggested are hardly anchored in best practises and accompanied by tested evidence. Some verge on derogation of parts of constitution, especially those relating to individual and group freedom.

Confronting Violent Extremism in Kenya, Debates, Ideas and Challenges a compendium produced by Centre for Human Rights and Policy studies, a Kenyan think tank, is arguably the first locally produced multi-disciplinary output combining theory and praxis, in dealing with CVE.

The Horn of Africa is beset with incessant and multiplying cycles of conflict, especially Post the Cold War. However, most of the CVE discussions in Kenya hardly acknowledge the linkages between Kenya and the Horn of Africa.

Gendering CVE

 Masculine warrior culture in security discourse has exclude many women from peace and security arena, when they are involved, they cast as agency-less victims. In Countering Violent Extremism: A Gender Perspective, Nerida Nthamburi disabuses the notion women as just victims she argues they are also perpetrators of violence. In most groups, women not only play the traditional “soft” roles of cooking, and serving as sext slaves, they take part in actual combat.

Understanding of the duality of the role of women in extremist groups will help in policy and programming.

Samar Al-Bulushi & Mohammed Daghar, Rehabilitation or Indefinite Detention? A Critical Examination of an Emerging Approach to ‘CVE’  provides a good sequel, but further atomizes the role of men in violence extremism; “young Muslim men become homogenised figures who are interested only in jihad and politics; their private lives, rendered inconsequential, are abstracted from their social, political and religious commitments, and from broader historical processes”

The chapter also is a useful examination of CVE’s discourse that has been uncritically embraced spurning a subgenre of experts servicing multi-national, regional organizations and national and county government, all working on CVE. Regardless of the fact that what CVE aspires to achieve is not new, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, (DDR) in post-conflict situation was designed precisely to address what CVE is intending to do.

CVE’s long term success is predicated on empirical evidence, participation of local communities and customised context-specific intervention. Thus, Centre for Human Rights and Policy studies’, Confronting Violent Extremism in Kenya, Debates, Ideas and Challenges is a useful contribution to the CVE academic and public policy discussion.

One quibble, the chapters started as an inverted pyramid, starting from the macro and distilling down to the micro, but changed somewhere along the line; Paul Goldsmith Horn of Africa’s regional context was correct, but that should have been followed by “Operation Sanitize Eastleigh”: Rethinking Interventions to Counter Violent Extremism by Kamau Wairuri because, in some ways, it shows the limits of Counter-Terrorism (CT) and hence CVE. That should have been followed by Kenya: Fighting Terrorism Within and Without the Law by  Ken Nyaundi. Countering Violent Extremism: A Gender Perspective – Nerida Nthamburi and Online Radicalisation and Recruitment: Al-Shabaab Luring Strategies with New Technology – Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen, should follow each other since they are addressing specific issues.

Countering Violent Extremism: Lessons from Lamu, Kenya by Patrick Mutahi and Nathaniel Kabala and Rehabilitation or Indefinite Detention? A Critical Examination of an Emerging Approach to ‘CVE’- Samar Al-Bulushi and Mohammed Daghar and Returnees and Justice: Alternative Justice System as a Mechanism for Amnesty in Kwale County of Kenya – Steve Ouma Akoth, should have been of similar cluster.

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African politics, Uncategorized

Museveni, Besigye are Uganda’s past, Bobi Wine is Uganda’s future


Like with many stories, the story of Yoweri Museveni and Kizza Besigye was consummated and nurtured by idealism. Similarly like many stories built on idealism, inevitably, it ended in betrayal, real or imagined.

The story of Ugandan politics over the past two decades has been dominated by two personalities – Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent president, and Kizza Besigye, his main challenger. In many ways, the political vision of both men has been marked by a certain idealism inspired by their participation in the 1981-86 liberation war, but whose relevance is increasingly coming into question by many Ugandans

Though they are widely seen as polar opposite, consciously or unconsciously, over the years, Museveni and Besigye have needed each other to maintain relevance among their respective constituents. Museveni cannot operate without Besigye, and vice versa.

The two are, thus, stuck in a historical time warp of unfulfilled revolutionary utopia.

In dealing with Besigye, the most formidable opponent yet, Museveni is guided by a sense of entitlement, while Besigye is led by grievances, both individual and collective. Museveni believes that he rid Uganda of dictators and tyrants and, therefore, that he should rule as he wills, unencumbered.

Besigye on the other hand is convinced that Museveni has perverted the ideals of the revolution they fought for together, and similar to the dictator and tyrants they fought, he should be fought, as a matter of principle.

The difference between the two, one could argue, is that Museveni is “flexible” and Besigye is “obdurate”. Museveni, sees himself as the grand patriarch of Uganda’s revolution, but with sheds of flexibility that allow him to stay in power. Besigye on the other hand sees himself as an egalitarian moral crusader, a position born of his days as the National Resistance Movement’s Political Commissar. In his unbending vision, he saw National Resistance Army as a movement to end all of the Uganda’s ill. He was and still remains a doctrinaire ideologue.

Besigye sees NRM as incurably corrupt, inimically unaccountable and a one man-circus- show. Museveni however sees NRM as the heir to the rich revolutionary tradition of restoring dignity and improving lives of the citizens.

Besigye’s obduracy- even if it costs him power and friends, in essence, is the difference between the two men- one a successful Uganda’s President and another the ‘People’s President.’

In real terms, Museveni is undoubtedly the winner- he has defeated Besigye in three straight elections, although, some may argue unfairly. But in symbolic terms, every Museveni’s electoral victory felt hollow, and insecure- the more he won, the more he and Uganda lost. In the end, Museveni’s victory looks increasingly pyrrhic, while Besigye’s electoral and personal losses – innumerable as they are, look like a victory for him and for Uganda.

But Besigye has reached the elastic limits of his defiance, he needs to give space, support and share his wisdom with the younger leaders because his cosmic ego war with Museveni is not good for Uganda.

But recent political trends seem to suggest that the egoistic contests between Museveni and Besigye, both drawing on revolutionary mantra, are fast losing their appeal among the younger generation.

Enter Bobi Wine

Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known by his artiste name Bobi Wine, was 4 years old when the NRM came to power in 1986.

While Museveni’s and Besigye’s world view and program of action is mostly about history – fear, Bobi Wine’s world few is shaped by the future – hope. His background as a ghetto kid, figuratively and metaphorically, has more resonance with the majority of Ugandans, who identify with his story of triumph over adversity. Over 60 percent of Ugandans are under the age of 30. To this group, Amin and Obote’s horror stories which Besigye and Museveni are is wont to use, sounds like an old-lady’s myths. They would like to be entrepreneurs, music moguls and successful civic leaders.

Bobi Wine’s combination of a remarkable personal story of rising from the Ghetto to become an independent MP, defeating candidates sponsored by both Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change Party and Museveni’s national Resistance Movement, should be illustrative.

His campaign was funded by common people. Or, at least, it seemed to be so. Once the voting ended, they were willing to protect the votes by staying at the polling station. Even Besigye, with all his appeal to the masses, and Museveni, with all his state power, cannot inspire people to defend their votes.

Bobi Wine’s rise could also upset the regional ‘balance of power.’ Museveni and Besigye both come from Western Uganda. Bobi Wine is from Central Uganda, a region that has been a thorn in the side of Museveni, and which the president has attempted to subdue using all means necessary fair and foul, the land question being his latest assault.

If he would like to transcend the Museveni and Besigye duopoly, Bobi Wine needs to expand his base beyond the urban areas to the rural areas. Like every wily politician, Museveni has ignored the urban areas, and instead concentrated all his efforts on the rural areas. This has been lucrative for him politically. Bobi Wine needs to speak to the youth in Kampala as well as those in Kitgum.

The musician-cum-politician needs to be aware of economic ruin that Museveni visited upon those who threatened him. Amama Mbabazi- the super Minister, is a recent and poignant example. In the meantime, he should hire a tax attorney to ensure his tax returns with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) are up to date, including from his days in the music industry.

The land question and the age limit have sufficiently radicalised a significant constituency in Uganda. And there is a significant number of the younger constituency in need of direction. To win them over, Bobi Wine will need to proactively and innovatively capture their issues and provide them with leadership.

Whether he will succeed in doing so is another matter, but that his rise so far marks the beginning of a turn from liberation war politics in Uganda is beyond doubt.

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African politics, Horn Watch

America and China’s arms race in Africa


Africa has become an unlikely Ground Zero in China’s attempt to break America’s global hegemony. Nothing demonstrate this than two tiny African countries with a combined population of less than 3 Million- Namibia 2.303,000 and Djibouti 886, 313 that have become the epicentre of the Sino- American competition.

For comparison, Kansas State, 34th in terms of population, has more people than the combined population of Namibia and Djibouti. In terms of the size Djibouti is the same size as New Jersey.

Remarkably, Africa which until recently was regarded as the backwater of global diplomatic game, a poster child for conflict, famine and coups, because of decades of sustained economic growth and the search for the next frontier by the global powers, placed Africa at the sharp end of geostrategic contest.

DJIBOUTI.jpeg

 

As an emerging power, everything China does attracts attention, and therefore, the South China Sea tension rightly hogs the major news headlines- because it ticks off all the necessary diplomatic boxes. However, another equally high octane diplo-maritime competition between China and America is taking place behind the headlines.

Decades of sustained economic growth

Over the last few years, Africa has recorded remarkable stable economic growth; in 2010, Africa had a middle class of about 313 million people, or 34 percent of the population, according to the African Development Bank— almost three times the count in 1980, when they made up 26 percent.

Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa. Seventy percent of the continent’s people live in countries that posted average growth rates in excess of 4 percent over the past decade, has made the continent as the next frontier of business/political and diplomatic.

africagraph

 

According to African Development Bank’s 2015 Economic Outlook “many African countries have improved their investment climate and conditions for doing business, which enhance long-term growth prospects. Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Senegal and Togo are even in the top ten countries worldwide with the most reforms making it easier to do business”.

However, major African currencies have been performing poorly against the major global currencies. Nonetheless, this and many other impressive statistics has made Africa the next frontier of economic growth. The nexus between Africa’s economic growths, hence a decent return on investment, and global powers search for the next place to invest has made the continent a perfect candidate for the competition, with each wooing, as opposed to conditionality- a modus operandi decades ago.

Djibouti’s “Arc of Democracy” or “String of Pearls?

Djibouti has assumed an outsized strategic importance in the Indian Ocean pitting China and United States and its allies. While the United States and its allies would want to make Djibouti part of the Arc of Democracy connecting Djibouti to Port Blair to Yokosuka, China wants Djibouti to be under its Strings of Pearls orbit.

According to reports, China will in the next few years build naval bases in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Mynanmar in the northern Indian Ocean; Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique in the western Indian Ocean; and Seychelles and Madagascar in the central South Indian Ocean. Most of these primarily target the lucrative Indian Ocean trade route.

Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.gif

 

China is in discussions with Djibouti to build a naval base in the town of Obock where lucrative and strategic Bab-el-Mandeb Strait acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea via the Red Sea and the Sauz Canal.

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) fact-sheet on global oil chokepoints, 3.8 million barrels of oil and “refined petroleum products” passed through the Bab el-Mandeb each day on its way to Europe, Asia, and the US, making it the world’s fourth-busiest chokepoint.

According to World Oil Transit Chokepoints, Energy Information Administration, US Department of Energy, In 2006, an estimated 3.3 million barrels (520,000 m3) of oil passed through the strait per day, out of a world total of about 43 million barrels per day (6,800,000 m3/d) moved by tankers.

China’s Djibouti overture is back on the heel of United States signing of a 20 years lease for Camp Lemonnier, the Naval Expeditionary Base, situated at Djibouti’s Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport and home to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa of the U.S. Africa Command, the face of the United States presence in Africa.

The terms of the lease renewal is about $70 million a year — $63 million in lease fees and the rest in development aid — more than double the current leasing fees of roughly $30 million a year. A clean demonstration of the value the United States attaches to the base.

While in the past China looked at Africa largely through the economic lens as a counter weight to the West, here, stealthy, China is guided by security more than trade, and Djibouti ticks the dual security and trade box.

Namibia

In Namibia China is exploring building a naval base in Walvis Bay. “The South Atlantic, while below the radar of most policy makers today, has played an outsized role in modern naval history. Therein lies the importance of Walvis Bay’

 

 

map_namibia

The Walvis Bay will provide China with the ‘ability to patrol the critical Cape of Good Hope around Africa and Cape Horn around South America. The approaches to the key North Atlantic sea lanes linking the Americas, Africa and Europe would be nearby’

Walvis Bay and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait gives China a significant naval leverage and control of the major routes.

Recognising the critical utility of Walvis Bay, the United States, has embarked on charm offensive; barely three months in office, President Hage Geingob Ray Mabus of Namibia met United State Secretary of the Navy at the Pentagon.

With Facing East- being in China’s sphere of influence, or West being a choice most countries have to make, a stark throwback to the Cold War era, how this two African countries negotiate the tricky ‘double dipping’, will in the future form the template of how to accommodate the West and its technological prowess, and the East, with trade first approach. Either way, the sea change of Africa’s relations with the outsider needs to anchored on a solid mutually beneficial foundation, rather than one way traffic; whether that involves China- the most significant player in recent years, the West- that is playing catch up, or both at the same time.

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African politics

On-off-not-there-at-all electricity is Africa’s curse, but watch out for these dams


THE world has caught the new sweet smell of Africa, and it has fired the collective imagination of Africans themselves.

The undoubtedly impressive economic numbers coming out most of the continent are slowly but surely replacing the ubiquitous negative headlines that had marked headlines about the continent for decades – famine, war and poverty.

However, to maintain the present economic upswing and to address poverty sustainably, Africa has to fix its poor and erratic power production and distribution.

read more http://mgafrica.com/article/2014-07-21-on-off-not-there-at-all-electricity-is-africas-curse-but-watch-out-for-these-dams

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African politics, Asymmetrical Warfare, Horn Watch, Kenya Watch

The Fear Industrial complex


Kenyatta, the Father of the Nation?

Kenyatta’s well-cultivated myth of the unquestioned “father of the Nation” was severely tested when on 25th January 1964 African soldiers at the Lanet Barracks mutinied over discrimination by their expatriates over salaries. The African members of the Kenya Rifle broke the armory in Lanet Barracks and demanded a forum with Kenyatta to discuss their grievances. To the Mutineers, Independence heralded a new era where the Africans will determine the African destiny. Further, Kenyatta’s personality as a freedom fighter, just like much of independent African leadership, was built around fierce anti-imperialism rhetoric. And the soldiers thought he will be sympathetic to their plight, instead to resolve the problem sought British’s help, and decision, led to a series of agreements with the British by which the former colonial power agreed to provide military support in the event of any domestic or foreign threat to Kenyatta’s government. For Kenyatta, the attempted mutiny became a perfect bogeyman deployed conveniently against any domestic opponents. Kenyatta elevated the presidency by making it the be all and end all, and effectively placing it above the law. To consolidate his rule, Kenyatta employed five strategies; 1) at the party level; he purged ruling party KANU; off any dissenting voices he considered alternative centers of power. 2) He established a firm grip over the economy through strategic patronage using members of his ethnic group. 3) He deployed the full force of security and the intelligence to address both real and imagined threats. 4) He instrumentalised the liberation struggle by crafting an alternative convenient national discourse and ruling philosophy using his “gift of garb”, especially, the Swahili language. 5) He used the law. This became the template for all the subsequent administration.

Moi, Fuata Nyayo za Kenyatta

Just like Kenyatta used the 1964 Lanet Mutiny to consolidate his power, Moi used the August 1 1982 failed coup to shed his “Mister Nice” image. After the coup, detention and arrest of pro-reform movement became rampant any perceived threat real or imagine was brutally suppressed. And with it, any residual veneer of Moi being different from Kenyatta was shattered. From there on, the state laid down the marker- reform was interpreted as an underhand attempt at state capture. But Mwakenya, a progressive movement largely aligned with the progressive left was undeterred. They started organizing in the urban areas and university halls. But when the state got wind of it, they ruthlessly pursued them. Moi ruled by fiat and fear.

Simultaneously, just like Kenyatta, Moi cultivated an endearingly myth of Baba wa Taifa– Father of the Nation. And a larger than life personality was created around this myth that was celebrated in songs, institutions- schools, hospitals, universities etc, and roads named after him. Moi was always at pain to present himself as a man with his hands on the pulse of the man on the street.

Avenues of challenging the status quo were formally closed through a constitutional change. Even within the ruling party dissent was not tolerated. The party established a severe disciplinary committee to streamline the party’s operations. Unlike Kenyatta who cared little about the political party, to Moi, the party was another avenue of control-a fulcrum around which he consolidated his rule, although it was by no means the only one.  When all avenues were closed, the pro-reform movement went underground and some went into exile.

The West tolerated Moi’s domestic repression because Kenya was in the Western bloc. But the end of the Cold War changed the Western countries calculus regarding Kenya as a vanguard against communism, signaling the end of an era of tolerating Moi’s malfeasance. After years of refusing to allow multiparty despite relentless pressure, arguing, multiparty will deepen ethnic division and violence- a self-fulfilling prophecy because all the subsequent violence were state engineered, Moi begrudgingly accepted the introduction of multiparty. But before accepting multiparty Moi ensured he has created his ruling party, KANU’s exclusive electoral blocks through forceful evictions of potential opposition population in the Rift Valley and coastal Kenya, the two places that became synonymous with electoral violence.

Kenyatta II, the post-Westgate warrior?

Even ardent Kenyatta’s supporters will gladly admit his election was a protest vote against external intervention, especially the ICC. Many admit their vote was not for Kenyatta, but against the ICC. And by joining with William Ruto, Kenyatta coasted to victory on the crest of anti-ICC rhetoric. Kenyatta has always been cast as a child of privilege; his father was Kenya’s first president. And he was not “presidential” enough. But even trenchant anti-Uhuru would be hard pressed not to admire his presidential performance during the Westgate attack. Since the West gate attack Kenyatta’s statesmanship has given way to reflexive criminalization of spaces for dissent. Since his elections campaign sprung from protest against external interference, he has turned the same rage machine domestically on the two institutions that are not in his exclusive ambit- the media and the civil society. But these institutions especially the civil society faced scathing part of his election campaign rhetoric. They were called the evil society; they received external money to prevent his accession to power. In parliament Kenyatta has super majority, which has reduced the opposition into cyclic impotence outburst. Free of parliamentary censure Kenyatta turned on the media and the civil society by proposing laws that will cripple them financially. Part of the new media law proposed special quasi government body that will police the media and impose prohibitive fines are the major thrust of the media bill that was passed 5 December 2013. However, the NGO bill failed to garner the requisite number in parliament. If passed the NGO bill would have placed them under de facto government management and capped international funding for NGOs at 15% of their budgets, notably hindering a key source of cash for many rights groups and anti-corruption watchdogs. This was designed to hit the NGO’s where it matters most. The bill was defeated 83 to 73 votes, with eight lawmakers abstaining, marking the first significant defeat for the ruling Jubilee coalition.

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African politics, Kenya Watch, Uncategorized

Ocampo speaks about the Kenya ICC cases


In an extensive interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide touching on several issues,  former Chief Prosecutor of International Criminal Court (ICC), Moreno Ocampo gave his thoughts on the ongoing Kenyan trials, his legacy and the lesson learned from the Kenyan cases.

On the whole, Ocampo’s assessment on the Kenyan case is less sanguine; well, Kenya is not Sweden, but things are not catastrophic. This doesn’t sound reassuring.

Under his tenure, six Kenyans were identified as the suspects who bear the gravest responsibility for the electoral violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential elections.

From Ocampo six to Ocampo four

On the 7th and 8th of April 2011 the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC convened to hear for the first time in The Hague the six individuals.

The purpose of the conference was to verify the identity of the suspects and to ensure that they have been informed of the crimes they are alleged to have committed, as well as aware of their rights under the Rome Statute, founding treaty of the ICC.

The six Ocampo suspects included Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto,  Henry Kosgey,   Joshua Sang,  Francis Muthaura,  Mohammed Hussein Ali,

However, 23 January 2012, charges against Ali and Kosgey were dropped.

Since taking over as the new Chief Prosecutor in 2011, Fatou Bensouda has dropped charges against Francis Muthaura 11 March 2013. 

Witness coaching and witness intimidation

Since the beginning of the trial, incidences of witnesses failing to appear in court has become a concern.

This has led to accusation between the defense and the prosecution.

The prosecution  argues witnesses have been  intimidated from testifying with several of them recanting their earlier testimony.On its part the defense argues the witnesses were coached in the first place. .

For instance, the Kenyatta’s trial was initially slated to begin last week, but it was postponed for a fourth time last month when prosecutors said another witness had withdrawn and requested more time to conduct further investigation. The defense is now arguing that the charges should be dropped all together because the prosecution simply does not have sufficient evidence.

Regardless of the whether the witnesses have been coached or intimidated, the fact that they are withdrawing or failing to appear is an acute commentary on the status of the court’s witness protection scheme.

But when asked about the witnesses, Ocampo provided what might be construed as a pre-emptive plea for forgiveness for job not well done.

Here is an excerpt from the interview

HTK: Could anything have been done to prevent witnesses withdrawing now?

LMO: I don’t think you could do anything to avoid the problem we have now because we protected our witnesses. We transferred them from Kenya to different places. But in some cases, we know families in Kenya were affected or threatened.

THTK: What was the biggest challenge you encountered in the investigation?
LMO: In Kenya, the biggest challenge was to collect the evidence in a free way because the Kenyan government was really worried and there were people in the Kenyan government who were involved in the crimes. We had evidence against Francis Muthaura. The evidence was not enough to go to trial, but we had evidence against him. And Muthaura was one of the most powerful persons in Kenya in those days. So it was very difficult to collect evidence against them. And then when we tried to interview people, the Kenyan government was asking us for a very formal process, where we were going nowhere. When we extracted witnesses from there and we put people outside the country, protection was a big issue because it’s difficult to be protected. Imagine a Kenyan person living in a European country. Some of them became drunkards.

Watch the entire video here The Kenya’s case is a referendum on the court. But whichever way the court  rules it will be damned; if it find the suspects guilty it will be accused of imperialism and race hunting, and if it acquits them it will be accused of failing to successfully prosecute any high level suspect.

Since its formation in 2002, warlord Thomas Lubanga is the only person convicted by the court in 2012.

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African politics, Kenya Watch, Uncategorized

Hii ni system ya majambazi


hii system ni ya majambazi,

ma-pastor majambazi,

ministers majambazi,

ma-lawyer majambazi,

na si vijana wa ghetto,

maja-mbazi,

askari wazazi,( Kalamashaka, Mashifta)

One of the often-debated issues in Kenya is why the country is stuck in take off mode despite having all the requisite ingredients. This frustration has further been accentuated since the departure of Daniel Moi in 2002- who in the popular narrative was seen as the symbol of all what has prevented Kenya from being successful such reductionist mindset notwithstanding.

But Post- Moi Kenya has been only mildly successful. The question of how crop idealistic, well-intentioned, worldly and highly educated opposition leaders turned into the mirror image of the Moi’s state in a short period of time has been a source of disappointment for the majority of Kenyans.

Pre- Moi, the lowest common denominator that united the opposition was their desire to remove him from power. That state capture rather than the flowery rhetoric of governance and accountability was just a façade was made clear by the late Minister John Michuki when asked why they stalled on constitution reform; Michuki answered since Moi was no longer in power there is no reason for the constitutional reform. Just like the post-independence leaders who saw no reason to reform the colonial state since beberu left, those opposed to Moi saw no real desire to reform the state.

After the 2002 elections, according to the Gallup International Annual End of Year Survey, Kenyans polled as the most optimistic people on earth.

This was not without a foundation; many Kenyans truly believed the departure of Moi, would herald better things.

But very quickly the enormous goodwill invested in the regime evaporated under the weight of infighting, incessant mega corruption and a sense of entitlement by those in government who felt since they fought Moi, they shouldn’t be asked any questions- they were somewhat above reproach. They indulged in all malfeasance they campaigned against during their opposition days.  This brought with it a distinct feeling of de ja vu.

 Multiparty and its discontent

 In Kenya, the introduction elections after decades of fighting was collectively celebrated. With the introduction of the multiparty elections many opposition parties were registered; and their overarching discourse at least rhetorically was Moi’s departure would herald a new dawn.  Many drank the Kool Aid.  Few if ever interrogated the existence of Moi-ism without Moi; despite his departure, the system he inherited from Kenyatta, and conveniently sustained was too sweet to be dismantled.

Many in civil society who invested tremendous amounts of capital in ensuring Moi’s defeat were surprised to realize their erstwhile “comrades in arms” once in power changed.

Banality of Evil

The New Yorker sent Hannah Arendt to Jerusalem to cover the trial of Otto Adolf Eichmann who was captured in Argentina on May 24, 1960. During the trial, Arendt in her seminal article banality of evil found the feared Nazi Lieutenant Colonel as banal. According to her, “the deeds were monstrous, but the doer … was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous.” According to her, Eichmann represented an acute thoughtlessness authentic inability to think.

In Kenya’s settings, even those with the best of intention are not immune to the bureaucracy system ya majambazi. Being a creature of routine, our intention and ethics aside, it is incredibly difficult to change a bureaucracy, and instead it changes many into unthinking zombies conditioned to follow “orders from the above.”

Kenya post-Moi is littered with well-intentioned individuals who have since resorted to what Arendt refers to, “clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression” in defending their explicitly indefensible position.

Professor Kivutha Kibwana’s during his opposition days was one of the most respected reform leaders. He was one of the fiercest critics of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) regime. For his belief he was beaten multiple times for leading a demonstration for constitutional reform (he wasn’t the only one), images of him beaten up during protests littered newspapers. When he joined the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (NARC)  government after Moi left, the law professor was indistinguishable from the people he was fighting when he was in the opposition. In fact he sounded more like a member of KANU than the redoubtable former KANU Secretary General Joseph Kamotho.

Kivutha’s case is a perfect illustration of “it’s the system stupid.” Once you are in the system, one is socialized to stay within its limitation, and hardly want to rock it. Overtime, the “evil” of the system cease to be “evil” and instead becomes routine and the way of life.

The Kenyatta campaign was built on the buzz of youth and digital excitement, however recent appointments of old familiar faces have jerked plenty of jubilant into planet reality. Few whispers have started emerging from the hardcore jubilee supporters, who claim this is not what we voted for. The reality is once elected politicians become victims of the establishment; regardless of the anti-establishment platform they run their election campaigns. If in doubt, just look at the chief hope-monger, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

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