news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+


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:

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


June 12, 2001


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 toss.

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 peace'.

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 eventuality.

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 misery.

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?


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;; Telephone: (301) 622-0423; Fax:(301) 622-0423;

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 2001/2002?

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 politician.'

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 people.

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 vision.

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 Africa Action (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Africa Action's information services provide accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

URL for this file: