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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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Kenya: Political Rights
Kenya: Political Rights
Date distributed (ymd): 010613
Document reposted by APIC
Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information
service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa
Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American
Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for
Africa at http://www.africapolicy.org
Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
This posting contains two commentaries from civil society prodemocracty
activists on the political future of Kenya, in the
context of anticipated struggles over next year's general election.
In related recent developments, Kenyan President Daniel arap
Moi has restructed his cabinet to incorporate several prominent
members of the opposition National Development Party. And last
month the coalition National Initiative for Peace, formed by the
Kenyan Human Rights Commission and other civil society groups,
wrote to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to request a peace
monitoring mission to preempt the resurgence of politically
motivated ethnic violence as the elections approach.
For current news see
and for additional background to the essays below, see the annual
reports on Kenya from Human Right Watch.
Human Rights Watch
World Report 1999:
World Report 2000:
World Report 2001:
KABISSA-FAHAMU NEWSLETTER 25
June 12, 2001
KENYA'S SUCCESSION POLITICS AND THE THREAT OF RENEWED VIOLENCE
By Mutuma Ruteere, Kenya Human Rights Commission
If nothing can be written about Kenya today without the name of
its President Daniel Arap Moi weaving its way into the narrative,
it is a testament to the legacy his twenty three years in power
has bequeathed Kenya. For in those twenty-three years, President
Moi has reduced a once proud country into an economic dunghill
foraged by his cronies and a political Babel in which the only
common language is himself. Even more frightening is his
transformation of a peaceful multi-ethnic society into a snakepit
where communities are manipulated to believe that their survival
depends on the annihilation of others.
Kenya has not yet gone the way of Somalia, Rwanda or Burundi. It
still has a largely functioning political infrastructure for
controlling ethnic conflict. It might even sound alarmist to
suggest the possibility of conflict. That might well be so and
violence might not be. But that is largely dependent on the
decisions of the regime of President Moi in the next few months.
Kenya is set to go to elections in 2002 with President Moi
constitutionally barred from running. Since 1992, when Kenya held
its first multiparty elections, politically motivated 'ethnic
violence' has become the byword for elections. With Moi set to
leave the scene and the ruling cabal scared of the possibility of
life without power, the entire future of Kenya might be up for the
In 1992 and 1997 Moi used actual violence and the threat of
violence to retain power. The orgy of violence left close to 2000
Kenyans dead and thousands displaced. No one was punished and the
real truth remains buried in the official rhetoric of 'building
Since then, the map of violence and impunity has continued to
grow. Close to 40% of the country is now under one form of
violence or another. The northern region bordering Ethiopia,
Somalia and Sudan has become bandit territory. With the government
focused on containing the activities of opposition politicians and
other political challengers, insecurity in these regions has
reached the levels of law intensity warfare, pitting rival
militias of local political kingpins of the ruling party. With the
political instability in Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia, easy
accessibility of arms has transformed the conflict from a
political shouting match to a deadly affair.
With the Kenyan economy growing at below zero, the economic
collapse has heightened the sense of despair. The uncertainty of
whether President Moi will abide by the constitution and retire
from politics or will seek to cling on has not helped the
situation. With Moi playing a 'wait-and-see' game over his exit,
investments have continued to board up for the possible
In the meantime, many of Moi's close allies, variously implicated
in planning violence and wanton corruption are proposing a
constitutional manipulation that allows Moi to continue playing a
role in Kenyan politics. With Moi back in power, either as
president or Prime Minister in a new constitutional arrangement,
they will be able to escape accountability for human rights
violations. Prosecution of the corrupt and those behind political
violence in Kenya, it has been argued, will only lead to further
instability and violence. Some supporters and critics of the Moi
government have argued that it is time to close the chapter and
move on. Time to turn the page, so to speak.
In all this, however, the cries of justice continue unanswered.
Closing the chapter may be easy to speak of for those who were not
been personally touched by the violence and corruption of the
government. But for those who lost relative and property and the
millions who have been economically 'disappeared' there can never
be a 'closure'. A new chapter will mean addressing their loss and
Kenya is now at the threshold of writing a new constitution.
Closing the chapter of corruption and political violence means
that the new constitution will not remember this part of Kenya's
past. For those who died under police fire while fighting for a
new constitution, a closure without justice is an erasure of their
memory and their existence. While a new constitution is a fresh
beginning, it is not a forgetting of the past.
The negotiation of the future in Kenya still revolves around Moi.
He still controls the machinery of political violence. He has used
this machinery to play hostage-politics in the past. Indications
are he is ready to use it again to allow himself to escape the
reach of accountability. Allowing Moi and his allies to escape
accountability for instigating 'ethnic violence' may buy the
silence of his extremist supporters. But will it be justice?
UNITY NOW, CHANGE NOW
Acceptance Speech by Kivutha Kibwana on the Occasion of the
Ceremony for the KCA Award For Excellence, 2000
May 24, 2001
The Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA),
P.O. Box 5635, Washington, D.C. 20016-5635, USA;
email@example.com; Telephone: (301) 622-0423;
Fax:(301) 622-0423; http://www.kenyansabroad.org
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I wish to thank you sincerely for joining Kenya Human Rights
Commission and myself to celebrate Kenya Community Abroad's 2000
Execellence Award. I humbly accept this honour as a proxy on
behalf of the NCEC [National Convention Executive Council], the
youth of Kenya, secular civil society, grassroot activists and
many Kenyans who have no voice. I confess I am happy to be a
center of attraction and not a radical, hardline, extremist,
anti-merger, uncompromising individual. At least for tonight.
It is unfortunate that the constitutional reform process has so
far been adroitly used to divide Kenyans. Today political,
religious and secular civil societies are more polarized than
ever before because President Daniel T. Arap Moi make us compete
to give leadership to constitutional reform. That way he dangles
a trap we fall into all the time: the mirage of power and glory.
Today I ask: how far have we travelled in constitution making
since Saitoti's or KANU's Review Committee of 1990? It appears we
have missed or are about to miss the opportunity to
comprehensively make our constitution before 2002. It does not
also look like we shall level the political playing field through
consensus. We have by and large wasted a decade.
Anybody who observes Kenya from a distance will tell you she has
collapsed. The economy has. That is why about 60% of Kenyans
live below the poverty line. Security has collapsed too.
Everyday people are killed by the police or robbers. Recently in
Marakwet, Kericho and now Gucha, genocide proceeds without much
care or comment from the rest of Kenya. We are getting
accustomed to genocide. Infrastructure has also collapsed.
Services too. Morality has. Leadership almost has. The current
government survives by use of tribalism, ignorance, hand outs and
the public purse, propaganda, violence and the public service.
At this juncture Moi seems interested in promoting a proxy
successor within a context where he retains leadership of KANU.
He is as usual carefully watching opposition moves and blunders
before he plays his ace card. And remember Moi does not play his
cards close but from inside his chest.
What is the opposition doing or put differently what is the
opposition not doing? Some from the opposition have argued: if
I can't be the president, why support any other person?; eligible
MPs from my tribe must have a presidential aspirant as the wind
beneath their wings; I should wait for all other opposition
hopefuls to unite under me. And yet Kenyans have been united in
their desire for change since1991. In the 1992 and 1997 rigged
elections, 70% of Kenyans voted for the opposition.
Is unity impossible for the sake of the masses and our motherland?
In 1991 and 1997, short lived unity enabled us to successfully
agitate for the repeal of Section 2A of the constitution and for
minimum constitutional and legal reforms. What will happen in
We must now unite so that two forces can exist in Kenya: those
for Moi and those against Moi. that is those for the current
status quo and those for reform and change. If the reform forces
cannot come together within a period of say three months, the
question will have to be asked whether we are for or against the
people. Unity talks must now be prioritized. We must accept the
message: UNITY NOW, CHANGE NOW. We must stop merely talking
about unity: we must now do unity.
NCEC views itself as a custodian of peoples' unity. We do not
want such unity squandered again. Since the Constitution of
Kenya Review Act, 1997 has given a major role for parliament and
local authorities in constitution-making, Kenyans must identify
single reform candidates in the next elections. They can come
from any political party. NCEC is now empowered by its
constitution to endorse and support these. Those opposition
inclined leaders who have declared an interest in seeking the
country's presidency and other reform minded national leaders
should urgently sit together. Some of these are Matiba, Kibaki,
Nyachae, Wamalwa, Ngilu, Orengo, Muite, Kirwa, Anyang Nyong'o
Wangari, Farrah and Mwandawiro. Maybe I will sit with them since
the Daily Nation has announced my presidential candidature. I
know NCEC will be in the thick of politics from now onwards.
'Every body - including each citizen must become a politician.'
The saying 'leave politics to politicians' must now mean 'leave
politics to the people, to citizens not just to the professional
Two routes are possible in terms of constitution - making minimum
reforms and sporadic constitutional changes which favour KANU
before the next elections or the promulgation of an interim
constitution which lays the basis for Kenya's genuine
democratization. The second route is possible if reform forces
unite as a matter of urgency. After the elections, a
comprehensive people driven constitution can then be finalized.
Again if the reform forces and the people of Kenya unite, a
transitional government can be instituted with representatives
from government, the opposition and civil society. Such a
government can halt the current repression, bloodshed,
lawlessness, endemic poverty and constitutional impasse. In a
word uncertainty. Such a government can begin the task of
reconstruction. It can facilitate free and fair elections.
I was personally disappointed by how Ufungamano [a civil society
initiative led by the religious sector including the Catholic
Church, the Protestant National Council of Churches of Kenya
(NCCK), the Muslim Supreme Council of Kenya, and the Hindu Council
of Kenya], unfolded. First we didn't grasp a fundamental reality
that from the word go the religious community wanted to merge the
civil society/opposition process, and the 1998 and 2000 processes.
Civil society thought the religious community was prepared, like
Moses, to lead the people from Egypt to Canaan. The youth sector
in Ufungamano was the most disappointed lot possibly because they
have - all things being equal - more years to live in Kenya. I
know that donors are being told NCEC incited the youth in
Ufungamano to heckle the religious leaders. The youth leaders
that I have known including Mungiki youth leaders have minds of
their own. In 1997 they rejected the agenda of minimum reforms
which I and others supported. We have to dialogue with them. We
have to knock and ask to enter their world. Unfortunately it is
now a world in ruins. I must say the abrupt collapse of the
Ufungamano process made me feel we were abandoned in the middle of
the Red Sea with mammoth waves rushing back. I must be forgiven
for stating that the hasty merger left me more crushed than the
initiation of IPPG [Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group] in 1997.
This was so because in 1997 I had been following a political light
but now in 2001, I was following a moral light. I apologize if
these remarks are perceived as offensive.
I hope that the pro-reform forces will work together to celebrate
Saba Saba 2001. Let us consider a countrywide re-awakening in
which we remember our dead and commit ourselves to the path of
unity, non-violence, and change. Let us build peace, let us
start rebuilding prosperity.
I admire the KCA. Kenyans abroad have overcome negative ethnicity
for the sake of Kenya. We must emulate them. They are also part
of our struggle. They must continue to develop the necessary
skills which will soon be needed for reconstruction.
NCEC believes change in Kenya is possible. All of us can
genuinely commit ourselves to:
- The making of a new democratic constitution
- Empowering the people through devolution of power
- Creation of a people - centred national economy
- Land and agrarian reform
- Restoration of rule of law and security
- National unity
- Recognition and promotion of basic rights
- Eradication of corruption
- Promotion of affirmative action
- Promotion of regional and international co-operation.
This is the NCEC ten point plan.
The basic pillars of the new Kenya must be the citizen, the family
and communities. The state and its leadership must be
facilitators, managers, enablers. They must promote the right of
Kenyans to organize their lives through the medium of
participation. Perhaps states and governments in Africa should
just leave citizens alone for sometime. Our capacities and
energies need time for self regeneration and expression.
People of all walks of life - especially the poor and marginalized
- must have the opportunity and support to create wealth. Why
can't the hawkers hawk in the Central Business District if they
can give a plan of how such hawking will not interfere with the
business of others? Every Kenyan has a right to produce and enjoy
wealth. Those who are not able must also be assisted. We must
especially make education, water and health available to all our
Foreigners cannot develop us. The primary responsibility for
Kenya's sustainable development lies with Kenyans. Part of
development is own framing of development agenda, own planning
and own mobilization of resources. The money we squander through
corruption and waste is more than aid. The more we rely on donor
aid, the more we become dependent and unimaginative. We must
think for ourselves. We must act for ourselves. Then we'll be
respected. Only then can we become a credible player in global
politics and the global economy.
We can build a national culture from our 42 or so cultures and
those aspects of other cultures that we choose to borrow. Culture
is the motor or soul of a people. Culture reinforces one's
identity. Culture is a resource. Culture shape the national
Kenya must undergo a moral revolution. We must after about 30
years of authoritarianism begin to learn as a country and society
what is right and what is wrong. We need to develop a moral code.
We must reinvent religion so that we can live our faiths. To
reconstruct a country, you must begin by reconstructing its
values. We must now begin to focus on developing the new values
of and for the new Kenya.
Before I conclude these remarks, I wish to remember Councillor
Richard Kalembe Ndile who is currently in Machakos Prison. His
crimes? Conducting Popular or Public Education. Questioning Land
Grabbing. Advocating Zero Tolerance of Corruption. Being a
Peoples' Leader. Relentlessly Challenging the Status Quo.
Empowering the Citizenry. Kenya is beginning to give birth to a
new breed of leaders. These are leaders who lead from and within
the community. I can begin to visualize the time when NCEC will
not be needed. Or NCEC will be taken over and owned by the
people. When I associate with some of our youth, I am also able
to take a peep into our future leadership and future Kenya.
I wish to pay tribute to my spouse Nazi Mwambura and our four
other family members Maureen, Kathleen, Kristopher and Robert
alias professor alias the poet. They are a wonderful family.
They challenge me all the time as I hope I do.
I once more wish to thank all Kenyans living abroad for the honour
they have bestowed upon others and myself. I am happy to belong
to the KCA prestigious family alongside Hon. Jim Orengo, a
courageous politician and Inspector Joel Kipkemboi Sang, a moral
policeman. I wish to thank my teacher Dr. Willy Mutunga and KHRC
for being an inspiration and for hosting this event. Thank you
all for coming and listening to us.
Let us unite for our people. Let us not deny them the key to
change - unity. Let us remember: UNITY NOW, CHANGE NOW.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by
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Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa).
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