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Kenya: AFRICANEWS Report
Kenya: AFRICANEWS Report
Date distributed (ymd): 970717
Document reposted by APIC
This posting contains an article from the most recent edition of AFRICANEWS,
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AFRICANEWS: News and Views on Africa from Africa
Issue 16 - JULY 1997
KENYA: Hurtling towards anarchy
by Boro Klan
Recent events in Kenya portray a country sliding towards
purgatory. Kenyans must fervently hope that the country has reached the
nadir in the conduct of its political affairs. Lower than this, the country
can only implode into chaos.
Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi would like to forget June 19, 1997--whose
deeply humiliating memories will haunt him for the remainder of his life--in
a hurry. On that day, legislators brawled in Parliament disrupting this
year's Budget presentation. Opposition legislators--taking their calls
for constitutional reforms a notch higher--shouted down the Finance Minister,
Musalia Mudavadi, with chants of "No Reforms, No Budget" and
waved placards demanding the president's removal from power.
It was a scene unprecedented in Kenya's Parliamentary history. After
the clash in Parliament, Moi warned that he would deregister all "political"
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which he accuses of funding opposition
groups. Later on, he offered to hold talks with the head of the Catholic
Church in Kenya, Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a' Nzeki, after the church held
prayers all over the country to plead with God to give Kenyans a new leader.
But the worst was yet to follow. On July 7, riot police killed 10 people
as they violently dispersed demonstrators in Kenya's major towns who were
calling for constitutional reform.
To add insult to injury, riot police stormed into an Anglican church
in Nairobi where demonstrators were gathered for prayers--battering them
ruthlessly with truncheons and gun butts and critically injuring scores
of them. Amongst those beaten up and injured were a Presbyterian clergyman,
Reverend Timothy Njoya, who was taken to hospital in a coma.
Widely criticised for unleashing police terror on demonstrators, Moi
is still playing tough. One Kenyan newspaper, The People, likened the Kenyan
President to the Egyptian Pharaoh of Biblical times who--despite pleas
by Moses--persistently refused to let the children of Israel to go to their
The Catholic Church has called for the immediate start of the process
of reforming the constitution. But Moi will hear none of that and instead
accuses the United States government of favouring the Kenyan opposition.
The US State Department has strongly condemned the killing of the demonstrating
The Kenyan opposition wants some laws that give the Moi regime undue
electoral advantage changed. These pieces of legislation are primarily
a left-over of British colonial rule that ended in 1963. Key among these
laws is the Public Order Act which forbids any public assembly without
a government permit.
Kenya's Attorney-general, Amos Wako, has published a Peaceful Assemblies
Bill which allows meetings but only after a government official has been
informed. The officer can block the rally--or if he assents to it--just
But the Bill is just one item in the battery of reforms sought by Kenya's
opposition. Others are the Chief's Act which gives a village head massive
powers over assemblies. Also sought are reforms of the country's sedition
laws, the vetting of presidential appointees and the freeing of airwaves.
Currently, only the ruling party, Kanu, or its cronies have radio or
TV stations in the capital. Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, the only station
with a live transmission capacity is controlled by the government.
If the June 19 incident in Parliament indicated that the 73 year-old
Kenyan President cannot buy time any longer, the deaths of the pro-reform
demonstrators proved that Moi has not yet grasped the mood of his subjects.
But the reading has been on the wall long enough. As early as May this
year, the national Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK)--a respected coalition
of Protestant Churches put--forward a list of constitutional reforms that
would ensure a free and fair election. Moi - as is characteristic of many
African BIG MEN--sent back a resounding NO to the churches.
Nairobi-based foreign envoys, worried that the country was on a downward
hurtle to chaos, asked Kenyans to talk to each other to avert catastrophe.
Moi remained deaf as a rock to their pleas.
The July 7 killings were reminiscent of similar ones in 1991. Then Moi
sent his security apparatus to disperse Kenyans who were agitating for
plural politics. Moi's rationale then was that plural politics would divide
Kenyans along tribal lines and eventually lead to bloodshed.
The President did, however, buckle down to international pressure and
finally allowed multi-party politics in the country. Whether he similarly
buckles down this time--remains a matter of conjecture.
Aside from sheer brutal force, Moi owes his staying power to his ability
to manipulate the opposition. He has ensured that the opposition remains
fragmented and querulous. Indeed, he won the 1992 presidential poll on
account of the opposition's failure to file a single candidate--and not
a little tinkering with figures.
The uncertainty in Kenya is best captured by the mood during the enthronement
of Bishop Ndingi as the head of the Catholic Church in Kenyan June 21.
Said one speaker: "Kenya is bleeding and in need of prayers."
Moi, perhaps awed by the presence of high-ranking church people, responded:
"I'm not an obstacle to peaceful discussions relating to the future
Born in 1924 in Baringo in the Rift Valley Province, Moi started off
as a primary school teacher. His political career began in 1955 when he
joined the colonial legislative council. He has remained in Parliament
ever since--19 of those years as an autocratic leader of this East African
nation--a once a thriving economy that has been bled dry by mismanagement.
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