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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Kenya Watch, Uncategorized

I’ll Never Be The Same

The Kenyan media played a critical role in expansion of the democratic space, especially after the Cold War when the demand for political pluralism was a norm across Africa.

During that period, the media became indistinguishable from the official opposition; it provided the opposition unfettered coverage, and also chastised the government by exposing its malfeasance.

After expanding its incredible capital in seeing Moi go, the opposition, just like several institutions- the civil society, the donors and religious organization, who formed a strong compact in calling for reform.

But after Kibaki came into power, the media, as the above institution found itself in the twilight zone. Instead, they wrongfully assumed since the opposition is in government, their role was done.

But few months into Kibaki’s administration, the media realized, they are outsiders. When they realized the Kibaki administration was as corrupt as Moi’s, and started exposing them, the government reacted like any entitled kid would.

Since then, every time people speak about the media’s failure, I am reminded of this Sinatra’s song -“I’ll Never Be The Same”

stars have lost their meaning for me,
I’ll never be the same,
nothing’s what it once used to be,
And when the sun-birds that sing tell me it’s spring,
I can’t believe their song,
once love was king,
but kings can be wrong,
I’ll never be the same,…

The Video below

I previously wrote a longer piece re the Kenya media after the 2013 elections here

But Nation’s article on Dennis Itumbi, the Director of Digital, New Media and Diaspora Affairs

According to the piece, which starts of, “The fate of the Director for Digital, New Media and Diaspora Affairs at State House hangs in the balance following a confidential intelligence report that questions his academic credentials and suitability to serve in a sensitive government office”

Additionally, the piece states, “According to the NIS security vetting brief, Mr Itumbi allegedly led student unrest at the institution and used this as leverage to force the then management of the college led by Mr Eliud Sang to “award him and his class (of 50) Diplomas in Broadcast Journalism while they were enrolled to do a certificate course in the same”.

This piece has several problems;

1. The Nation never quoted Itumbi in the piece which is journalism 101, someone makes an allegation against you, you have a right to reply.

2.The veracity of the allegation that Itumbi blackmailed the school to award him a diploma when he registered for a certificate course should have been double checked with the school not NIS.

3. That the NIS comes with a background check report about Itumbi a year after the man has been at the job has hatchet job written all over it. Background checks are conducted before, and not after someone is hired. This demonstrates  NIS’s priority and modus operandi; instead of collecting intelligence, it is engaged in rumor mongering.

4. When the country is gripped by insecurity, is Itumbi’s credential what should be NIS’s priority, really?

5. Kibaki’s politicization of NIS will come and bight plenty of people. Kenyatta was handed the opportunity to make changes after Westgate, and they’re slowly growing into a veritable monster. After Itumbi, their next move could be anyone, including the president himself.

6. Giving such an institution a warrant-less tapping of people’s phone not only creates an egregious human rights violation, but also gives them a blank check at political black mailing.

But the Nation piece is not an isolation, but a systemic commentary on the state of the media. The piece comes against the background of Larry Madowo hosting “socialite” Vera Sidika.

In a country teaming with poverty and unemployment, runaway insecurity and general despondency, the nation and NTV found it newsworthy to titillate us with tales of socialite of Sidika’s mould, and hatchet job from NIS passing as a background due diligence on Itumbi dripping with personal vendetta.

As some one who attended journalism school, I always find it hard to criticize my former colleagues because of the structural limitations within which the operate. However, it is about time some one call out the media for failing to fulfill its basic responsibility here.



Kenya Watch

The counter-terrorism efforts require a robust oversight

The Kenyan police raid of Masjid Musa in the coastal city of Mombasa, the result of the mosque’s alleged link with Al Shabaab in early February reveals the pernicious cost of the unfettered muscular counter-terrorism campaign led by an unreformed Kenyan police.

The Kenyan police have, over the years, accumulated a tattered reputation because of their use of excessive force and entrenched culture of corruption.

For instance, during the 2007-2008 post-election violence in which about 1200 people were killed, and of those, the Kenya police were accused of killing close to one-third.

While since then there have been police reform efforts, it is still inchoate to embellish the systemic institutional deficit within the police hierarchy.

The mosque raid came against the backdrop of extra judicial killings of suspected Imams by the police because of their alleged involvement in recruiting and radicalizing young Kenyans. This has gone on parallel to profiling that occurs within Kenyan Muslim communities.

Such heavy-handed approach could prove counter-productive and stymie the long-term efforts at reforming the police.

Kenya’s Somalia intervention

In the past, despite suffering multiple high-profile terrorist attacks, Kenya avoided the Western funded Zeitgeist of the War on Terror despite receiving funding from the United States.

That policy dramatically changed in October 2011 when Kenya sent its troops to Somalia to fight the Al Shabaab, the Somalia-based Al Qaeda affiliated group, following the group’s alleged cross-border kidnapping of Western tourists and aid workers.

By sending its troops to Somalia Kenya lost its distinctive regional profile as the only country whose military never went to war with any of its neighbors.

This had two consequences. The first was that Al Shabaab explicitly targeted Kenya for retribution as indicated by a series of grenade and other attacks on Kenyan soil.

According to a report by Muhuri ““We’re Tired of Taking You to the Court”, The U.S. Embassy reported  that in 2012 there had been over 30 attacks involving grenades or explosive devices in Kenya. The embassy reported that at least 76 people died in these attacks, and around 220 people were injured.2

This succession of relatively minor incidents preluded the spectacular attack on the upscale Westgate shopping mall on September 21, 2013.

The second consequence was to reinforce Kenya’s prominent role in the War on Terror in the region.

Domestically, the face of the aggressive counter-terrorism posture was the enhanced role of the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) and the passage of Anti Terrorism Bill in 2002.

The Counter-terrorism trap

One year after intervening in Somalia, Kenya passed the Kenya Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2012. The passage of the bill coincided with an upswing in extrajudicial killings by the police, especially in the coastal city of Mombasa.

Additionally, most counter-terrorism activities in Kenya employ an increasingly disproportionate amount of force especially along the coast and parts of Northern Kenya, the two regions with the largest concentration of Muslims in Kenya.

With the passage of the bill the false dichotomy of – you are either with the terrorists or with us. This took away any veneer of dialogue between state security and the Muslim leaders on how to address radicalization of Muslim youth.

There is no doubt Kenya faces genuine security threats emanating from Somalia and Al Shabaab. Further, there is the increasing radicalization of Kenyan Muslim youth and new converts across Nairobi, the coast and Northern Kenya.

But the massive use of force and the sharp profiling of innocent Somalis and the Muslim community more generally could prove to be counter-productive; it runs the risk of eroding community and security force relations. Further, unchecked use of force will destroy the modest gains made in human rights, rule of law and good governance that Kenya has enjoyed since the constitutional reform.

Western mixed signals

Presently the Kenyan government, itself, has little to worry about because the Western countries are providing the majority of counter-terrorism funding and training. Upon its establishment the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, Kenya received $10 million from the United States Government.

The mixed signals especially those emanating from the United States are insulating the Kenyan government from legitimate criticism. On one hand, the State Department emphasizes the principles of good governance, human rights and the rule of law; on the other the Department of Defense (DoD) gives a priority to counterterrorism. The DoD places their money where their mouth is- providing untied training and funding.

The Kenyan government has become adept at exploiting these mixed signals by defending any extra judicial killing with the reflexive default response that it was a pre-emptive counter-terrorism effort.

In such an environment the ultimate loser will be the ongoing process of police reform and innocent Kenyans. By its very nature, counterterrorism is cloaked in secrecy. However, under the new constitution, police reform is predicated on transparency and accountability. The police in Kenya have a dreadful reputation and a terrible human rights record.  Entrusting such a police force with counterterrorism before it is fundamentally reformed is akin to giving them a blank check.





Kenya Watch, Uncategorized

Wage bill is a symptom, not the cause.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto suffer from a fierce urgency to impress.

Combined with urgency, the Kenyatta administration projects a modernist posture, post-ethnic tech-driven governance aspiration.

In Uhurutoland, public service’s singular problem is pesky inefficiency that can be addressed through a combination of technology, corporate like efficiency using big data and technology.

After slightly being in office for over a year, this anti- political machine is confronting myriad problems, some expected, some self inflicted. This is coupled with the President and his deputy slowly becoming captive of their election-image campaign management zeal. They forgot you campaign in poetry and govern in process. And it is taking longer for them to break from their bubble.

The Anti-politics Machine.

There is a facile belief that ‘politics’ is ‘bad’ and ‘development’ is ‘good. This false, neat and simplified dichotomy creates a wall between development and politics. But such a division will inevitably lead to no development and no politics.

The two leaders who formed a counter-intuitive coalition were elected on the crest of fierce anti-ICC rhetoric, corporate efficiency, and transformational agendas, and they seem gratuitously determined in proving their critics wrong.

The more they strive to prove others wrong, the more they indulge in poor judgment.

And in the process they are eating the goodwill that brought them to power.

Many reckon Moi was an incurable political animal. He never let an opportunity to play politics. However, Kibaki was loath to play politics and he was more focused on development. Kenyatta was seen as continuation of Kibaki, but with a sharp corporate edge.

But corporate-fication of Kenya has done little to stem some of the myriad immediate challenges. Instead it has exacerbated them.

Wage bill debate The much-vaunted economic recovery has hit a dead end.

The cost of living has spiraled out of control. Run away insecurity has become the new normal. And slowly, it seems the center cannot hold anymore. The recent wage bill a symptom of a government that doesn’t have its hand on the pulse of people.

The mild support for the president, his deputy and cabinet secretaries elicited mild support. Many read it as yet another PR stunt. Simplify a complex problem into a bumper sticker news bite that is slowly emerging to be the default setting of this administration.

A more nuanced reading of the announcement is this a pre-emptive plea of failure to govern properly, and a harbinger for retrenchment of public service. Kenyatta will be well advised not to retrench civil service because the scars of Leakey led retrenchment have not healed yet.


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.

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.

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,


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.