How does it happen

that man, who calls in professionally trained doctors rather than shepherds to treat him when sick, has no reason, when well, to let public affairs be conducted by windbags no better qualified than shepherds?

                                                                                                           Ulrich, the man without qualities

Mau Mau and Nationhood

In political debates in Kenya, the refrain from a section of the polity are fond of remarking that only the Kikuyu fought for independence and remind the rest of us that without Mau Mau, there would be no independence or it would have happened much later than it did.  While I don’t want to cast aspersions on how knowledgeable about the history of our independence these people are, I will say they are mostly common folk who repeat what they have heard without ever bothering to do any digging.

Mau Mau and Nationhood is my current read. It’s a collection of articles by eminent scholars, and I don’t use that word carelessly.

Some time back I wrote this summary on the same subject and continuing with the same line of thought, I will just pose a few more questions that I find interesting.

  • Has there been a country where all the masses rose as one to fight the colonizing party? Why not? Why does a section of the polity not join in the fight?
  • Since we are told without the Mau Mau, there would be no independence, we can ask how many Europeans did they kill?
  • Kenyatta said we all fought for independence. Who, then, do we celebrate on the 20th?
  • was Kenyatta and Mau Mau concerned with the national project and was Mau Mau the only militant group?
  • Why did Mau Mau activists kill Ofafa?
  • Was Harry Thuku a collaborator or an independence hero?
  • There are those who argue that the national project, if it ever was there, ended with the assassination of Mboya. Is this really the case or did end it much earlier?
  • Why is there little talk of the Oromo people’s resistance?
  • Or why has no one ever mentioned to me the Somali-Galla line (PDF) and the Kittermaster line (separating the Samburu grazing lands of the Leroghi plateau from the larger Laikipia plateau, which had been reserved for white settlers)
  • Or why is there is little talk of Maasai nationalism with its headquarters in Sanya Chini, Tanzania?
  • what were the debates going on in the forest? how were the issues of gender, marriage, religion and violence dealt with?

Nation building makes for interesting history. Earnest Renan argued for forgetting the past and forging a new unified history, what is generally called, imagined histories. Others have argued differently. So here we are, trying to understand the early days of the nation called Kenya. What were the discussions taking place and where were these discussions? What form was the nation to take?

It’s all the same everywhere

From the time my friends in America voted for Trump as president, they lost every right to lecture any country on democracy and good leadership.

When Britain fired May in June and had a few people vote forBoris Johnson they forfeited that smug behaviour of lecturing other democracies. In the link provided, I have seen someone compare what is happening in Britain to what happens in 3rd world democracies. Well, let me be the one to remind you sometimes chickens come home to roost.

As for now though, we will be sending political advisors from the third world to help Britain deal with its crisis.

Burying Okoth, the politics of individualism vs communalism

In this earlier post, we were reflecting on the 1986/7 saga pitting the Kager clan vs Wamboi Otieno over who should have control of the body of the deceased. In that particular case, the Court of Appeal granted the prayers of the clan, allowing them to inter the body of SM against the wishes of the bereaved wife.

We again find ourselves in almost a similar situation, albeit, with minor variations. The body of the late MP Kibra has already been cremated and so there is no contest on where it will lie. But there are certain similarities; like SM, Okoth was married to a non-Luo. Both were successful at their trades. Both lived their lives mainly in Nairobi.

The issue we have at hand is whether our bodies belong to us in death, and by extension to our nuclear family or whether the clan has a claim to the dead. Are we right, the urbane African, in demanding as part of dying wishes that we be granted private funeral, when like in the case of Ken OKoth, he led a public life? Do those who birthed us have a say in how we are disposed of? Since when we are dead we can’t do nothing, should we be the ones to determine how we will be sent off, who will be present or should this question be left to those who we have left behind to determine?

On a related matter, during nuptials, those who go to church say “until death do us part”, as part of their vows. What does this imply in the face of death? Should it not mean that death frees us of the obligations to the other? Can the society, in a sense, lay claim to this person who was yours by law, but is no longer?

Or is this, in a sense, the logical conclusion of the individualized lives we live today where Ubuntu- I am because we are- as was eloquently put by Cannon Mbiti?

So I think, I can ask these questions again?

 

  • Who owns the dead?
  • Can any person claim to exclusively own the dead?

History repeats itself

first as farce, then as tragedy

I don’t want to be accused of impugning the reputation of the president and deputy president of Kenya by claiming they read anything beyond how to steal our money and security briefs on who was killed where by their security organs. Or which sector can they stuff or is it staff with their minions. Talking of which, I have never heard any of them cite any work. Nada. Nor have I heard them say anything that is worth quoting and no, I am not talking of silly things like mnataka nifanye nini or Ruto wept or security starts with you. 

In 1875, Engels, in an essay titled On social relations in Russia, wrote, and I will quote it extensively because it almost applies word for word for our situation in Kenya.

It is clear that the condition of the Russian peasants since the emancipation from serfdom, has  become intolerable and cannot be maintained much longer, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, a revolution is in the offing in Russia … Her financial affairs are in extreme disorder. Taxes cannot be screwed any higher, the interest on old state loans is paid by means of new loans, and every new loan meets with greater difficulties; money can now be raised only on the pretext of building railways! The administration, corrupt from top to bottom … The entire agricultural production … completely dislocated by the redemption settlement of 1861 … The whole held together with great difficulty and only outwardly by an Oriental despotism the arbitrariness of which we in the West simply cannot imagine; a despotism that, from day to day, not only comes into more glaring contradiction with the views of the enlightened classes and, in particular, with those of the rapidly developing bourgeoisie of the capital, but, in the person of its present bearer, has lost its head, one day making concessions to liberalism and the next, frightened, cancelling them again and thus bringing itself more and more into disrepute. With all that, a growing recognition among the enlightened strata of the nation concentrated in the capital that this position is untenable, that a revolution is impending, and the illusion that it will be possible to guide this revolution along a smooth, constitutional channel. Here all the conditions of a revolution are combined, of a revolution that, started by the upper classes of the capital, perhaps even by the government itself, must be rapidly carried further, beyond the first constitutional phase, by the peasants; of a revolution that will be of the greatest importance for the whole of Europe, if only because it will destroy at one blow the last, so far intact, reserve of the entire European reaction. This revolution is surely approaching.

If I were to rewrite the above quote to reflect what is going on in Kenya, it would read something like this

It is clear that the condition of the Kenyan worker (citizen) since the emancipation from colonial rule, has  become intolerable and cannot be maintained much longer, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, a revolution is in the offing in Kenya … Her financial affairs are in extreme disorder. Taxes cannot be screwed any higher, the interest on old state loans is paid by means of new loans, and every new loan meets with greater difficulties; money can now be raised only on the pretext of building railways! The administration, corrupt from top to bottom … The entire agricultural production … completely dislocated by the redemption settlement of 1963… The whole held together with great difficulty and only outwardly by an Oriental despotism the arbitrariness of which we in the West simply cannot imagine; a despotism that, from day to day, not only comes into more glaring contradiction with the views of the enlightened classes and, in particular, with those of the rapidly developing bourgeoisie of the capital, but, in the person of its present bearer, has lost its head, one day making concessions to liberalism and the next, frightened, cancelling them again and thus bringing itself more and more into disrepute. With all that, a growing recognition among the enlightened strata of the nation concentrated in the capital that this position is untenable, that a revolution is impending, and the illusion that it will be possible to guide this revolution along a smooth, constitutional channel. Here all the conditions of a revolution are combined, of a revolution that, started by the upper classes of the capital, perhaps even by the government itself, must be rapidly carried further, beyond the first constitutional phase, by the peasants; of a revolution that will be of the greatest importance for the whole of Africa, if only because it will destroy at one blow the last, so far intact, reserve of the entire African reaction. This revolution is surely approaching.

That, my friends is the state of the republic as it currently stands and as I have said, our leaders don’t read. It is likely they will progress with their heads buried in the sand while giving us the one finger salute.

 

on the housing levy

by the thieving UhuRuto government.

Housing can be looked at as a process and a product. And there are local and international instruments that underscore the right to housing as a fundamental right. For example Article 43 (1)b of the Constitution of Kenya provides specifically that every Kenyan has a right to accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation.

There are philosophies around housing provision viz: welfare (social housing) approach and market approach.

Habitat for Humanity notes the housing deficit in Kenya stands at 2 million and continues to grow at a rate of 200K per year.

Now that you know what housing is (this is where you say thank you Mak) and what the law says. The drafters of the constitution added this section

Article 21 (2) states The State shall take legislative, policy and other measures, including the setting of standards, to achieve the progressive realisation of the rights guaranteed under Article 43.

and while I am no lawyer, it is my belief that the government is riding on this provision to implement a housing levy in the pretext of financing housing ( I have learnt this is not the case. The stupid people in government are relying on HousingAct17of1953 (1) (pdf)! in developing these regulations). In the context of (local) economic development, this levy would be viewed as a method of capital formation. But having said so, I think it would only make sense if the government reduced massive leaks through corruption, was transparent in how it spends our money, reduced its expenditure among others. Short of the above, it does seem this government is only keen in increasing the money available to be stolen.

My countrymen and women are not amused especially if one were to check the #resisthousingfundlevy which, yours truly believes, is a flopped resistance.

But I digress.

We, the tax payers have genuine reasons to protest this levy. And it should not be construed by those in government or their mouthpieces that we have abandoned our right to adequate housing, far from it. There is good reason that this state capture by the Kenyatta family enterprise. If a government were to win a trophy for sleaze, this regime would take first place and first runners-up. It has made promises from irrigation to school laptops and failed miserably at it. It promised to house police in decent housing and has failed to do so. It is inconceivable that in the two years it has left in office that it could build 500K units. My professor makes the following observations and here where he argues among other things that the regulations are not properly thought out.

In my view, given the current economic circumstances many working people find themselves in as a result of the bad policies and habits of this government, this levy is an ill-conceived idea that should not have been left to see the light of day. While public participation in required by law, our government does not take a robust approach to meeting this requirement. It is not lost to us that the ICC duo treat the citizens with disdain and not surprising that government approach to the citizens is that of antagonism, and threats of violence.

It is time we collectively rise and send them home. We cannot be slaves to the constitution in the face of despotism waiting for the term of the government to collapse to try to do something. The time to do anything is now.