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When a mentor disappoints

I have been hanging on for a while but I have to finally admit that i’m sorely dissapointed by Martha Karua. The admission should have come earlier but I’m biased and I wanted to believe against hope that she wasn’t as bad as she seems.

You see I met her when I was a kid, and she was a lawyer in private practice, before she became a member of Parliament and a political heavyweight.

My mom rightly percieved that I needed some inspiration in life and she was astute enough to realize that she wasn’t able to deliver it in quite the doses that I needed. (she’s a cool woman but thats another post for another day).

Anyway, so one day she had me get dressed and we trapsed into town and right to Martha Karua’s office. That was the first time I met a woman lawyer. A woman who had more power than my mom. (I’m sure psychologists have a term for this moment)

There she sat, behind her big desk, in her own office, at her own law firm. I was impressed. Beyond impressed, I was inspired. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. Her image was singed into my mind, urging me forward.

I met her again at a the founding of a woman’s rights organization. She had joined politics by then and even though well known, she was not all powerful. I sat next to her but was too nervous to speak to her. It was one of my proudest moment when I suggested a way to structure the voting system within the organization to ensure equity without deadlock. I made my suggestion to the floor and it was adopted! She congratulated me. I could have died!!!

That was another capstone moment for me. I realized/decided that I had an affinity to figuring out politics. Not being in them, just figuring them out. I began to see people’s political behavior as one large, enticing puzzle. Martha was there when that light went off.

Fast forward another ten years and I’m writing my dissertation on women’s politics and ethnic politics in Kenya. Martha is larger than life. She leaps from the pages of my dissertation to the newspaper headlines and marches right into yet another chapter of my growing tome.

I’m older now, and I know a bit more. I know enough to start to be critical of this incredible woman from whom i’ve drawn my inspiration until now. I appreciated her presence as the most powerful woman in Kibaki’s government. It gave me hope for the future of women in power in Kenya. I didn’t think much of her actions during the Kivuitu ECK vurugus even though I was a bit skeptical. I even cheered her firing back and Sir Clay on BBC.

Then I started reading between the lines and wondering about her role in the mediation talks. It slowly became apparent that she was one of the hardliners making a deal impossible. the today I read of her absence from the negotiations that resumed at Serena today.

And I sadly have to admit to myself that she is not the heroine I want her to be. Even though her rise to power has been on behalf of democracy, and she paid a steep price for it in the Moi era, she has slowly transformed to join the other side.

I”m thinking Darth Vedar before and after….

Actually, Its amazing the similarities between star wars and Kenya.

Hmmm. I just gave my class an opportunity to watch Disney’s Alladin for extra credit. perhaps I should have my African Politics class watch Star Wars for extra credit too.

In the meanwhile, I’m off mourning the end of a long but one sided relationship. I have to remind myself that she is just human after all.


So the deal has been signed and Kenyans wait with bated breath to see how it will all shake out.

some are lamenting that the deal effectively leaves Kenya without an opposition in parliament. I too have worried about that as was the case with Kanu joining sides with PNU. I”m not too worried about it because I think that the tensions within the government will be enough to serve as effective opposition. Perhaps Kenyans need to rethink the way we structure opposition politics in view of our ethnic politics. Perhaps coalitions and consensus is the way forward for us. Then again perhaps i’m just saying this out of sheer hope and so desperately wanting things to work!

I’m concerned that its not quite clear whether the deal reached yesterday will end in 2012 with the post of the prime minister ending then. Is it that this particular coalition government will disolve then but the post of prime minister and deputy prime ministers will remain?

I really hope that in this state of euphoria they go ahead and pass the non-contentious issues of the Bomas Draft. Why the heck not. It was the prime minister position that was the major sticking point so why not give Kenyans a late New Year’s present by passing the Bomas draft. At a minimum, as a Kenyan woman I really don’t want to have to make a choice to go deliver a baby in Kenya just so I can pass on citizenship to my kid. Yes. its personal like that!

Somewhat related: I wrote this a while back but never posted it so here it is:

There are some who would like to claim that Kenya’s Democracy was a sham and that the ongoing crisis is evidence that democracy never really took root in Kenya.

I couldn’t disagree more!

–CDF: This has been an incredible triumph for home-grown democracy even though I would like to see the process of allocation further democraticed. I’m keen to find out exactly what ODM proposes to change about CDF

–The fact that Kenyans came out to vote in massive numbers, in direct contrast, for example, to what happens in the U.S. where only about 40% of the eligible population even bothers to vote.

–Organizations such as the Kenya Human Rights Commission still function in Kenya. I remember a time when nobody could even investigate such things… A vibrant civil society is critical to democracy and Kenya certainly has not lost that!




The crisis triggered by the 2007 disputed presidential elections has brought to the surface deep-seated and long-standing divisions within Kenyan society. If left unaddressed, these divisions threaten the very existence of Kenya as a unified country. The Kenyan people are now looking to their leaders to ensure that their country will not be lost.

Given the current situation, neither side can realistically govern the country without the other. There must be real power-sharing to move the country forward and begin the healing and reconciliation process.

With this agreement, we are stepping forwarding together, as political leaders, to overcome the current crisis and to set the country on a new path. As partners in a coalition government, we commit ourselves to work together in good faith as true partners, through constant consultation and willingness to compromise.

This agreement is designed to create an environment conducive to such a partnership and to build mutual trust and confidence. It is not about creating positions that reward individuals. It seeks to enable Kenya’s political leaders to look beyond partisan considerations with a view to promoting the greater interests of the nation as a whole. It provides the means to implement a coherent and far-reaching reform agenda, to address the fundamental root causes of recurrent conflict, and to create a better, more secure, more prosperous Kenya for all.

To resolve the political crisis, and in the spirit of coalition and partnership, we have agreed to enact the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, whose provisions have been agreed upon in their entirety by the parties hereto and a draft copy thereof is appended hereto.

Its key points are:

• There will be a Prime Minister of the Government of Kenya, with authority to coordinate and supervise the execution of the functions and affairs of the Government of Kenya.

• The Prime Minister will be an elected member of the National Assembly and the parliamentary leader of the largest party in the National Assembly, or of a coalition, if the largest party does not command a majority.

• Each member of the coalition shall nominate one person from the National Assembly to be appointed a Deputy Prime Minister.

• The Cabinet will consist of the President, the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, the two Deputy Prime Ministers and the other Ministers. The removal of any Minister of the coalition will be subject to consultation and concurrence in writing by the leaders.

• The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers can only be removed if the National Assembly passes a motion of no confidence with a majority vote.

• The composition of the coalition government will at all times take into account the principle of portfolio balance and will reflect their relative parliamentary strength.

• The coalition will be dissolved if the Tenth Parliament is dissolved; or if the parties agree in writing; or if one coalition partner withdraws from the coalition.

• The National Accord and Reconciliation Act shall be entrenched in the Constitution.

Having agreed on the critical issues above, we will now take this process to Parliament. It will be convened at the earliest moment to enact these agreements. This will be in the form of an Act of Parliament and the necessary amendment to the Constitution.

We believe by these steps we can together in the spirit of partnership bring peace and prosperity back to the people of Kenya who so richly deserve it.

Agreed this date 28 February 2008
________________________ ________________________

Hon. Raila Odinga H.E. President Mwai Kibaki
Orange Democratic Movement Government/Party of National Unity
Witnessed By:

_________________________ _________________________

H.E. Kofi A. Annan H.E. President Jakaya Kikwete
Chairman of the Panel President of the United Republic of
of Eminent African Personalities Tanzania
and Chairman of the African Union
The National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008

There is a crisis in this country. The Parties have come together in recognition of this crisis, and agree that a political solution is required.

Given the disputed elections and the divisions in the Parliament and the country, neither side is able to govern without the other. There needs to be real power sharing to move the country forward.

A coalition must be a partnership with commitment on both sides to govern together and push through a reform agenda for the benefit of all Kenyans.

Description of the Act:
An Act of Parliament to provide for the settlement of the disputes arising from the presidential elections of 2007, formation of a Coalition Government and Establishment of the Offices of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers of the Government of Kenya, their functions and various matters connected with and incidental to the foregoing.

1. This Act may be cited as the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008.

2. This Act shall come into force upon its publication in the Kenya Gazette which shall not be later than 14 days from the date of Assent.

3. (1) There shall be a Prime Minister of the Government of Kenya and two Deputy Prime Ministers who shall be appointed by the President in accordance with this section.

(2) The person to be appointed as Prime Minister shall be an elected member of the National Assembly who is the parliamentary leader of –
(a) the political party that has the largest number of members in the National Assembly; or
(b) a coalition of political parties in the event that the leader of the political party that has the largest number of members of the National Assembly does not command the majority in the National Assembly.

(3) Each member of the coalition shall nominate one person from the elected members of the National Assembly to be appointed a Deputy Prime Minister.

4.(1) The Prime Minister:
a) shall have authority to coordinate and supervise the execution of the functions and affairs of the Government of Kenya including those of Ministries;
b) may assign any of the coordination responsibilities of his office to the Deputy Prime Ministers, as well as one of them to deputise for him;
c) shall perform such other duties as may be assigned to him by the President or under any written law.

(2) In the formation of the coalition government, the persons to be appointed as Ministers and Assistant Ministers from the political parties that are partners in the coalition other than the President’s party, shall be nominated by the parliamentary leader of the party in the coalition. Thereafter there shall be full consultation with the President on the appointment of all Ministers.

(3) The composition of the coalition government shall at all times reflect the relative parliamentary strengths of the respective parties and shall at all times take into account the principle of portfolio balance.

(4) The office of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister shall become vacant only if –
(a) the holder of the office dies, resigns or ceases to be a member of the National
Assembly otherwise than by reason of the dissolution of Parliament; or
(b) the National Assembly passes a resolution which is supported by a majority of
all the members of the National Assembly excluding the ex-officio members and of which not less than seven days notice has been given declaring that the National Assembly has no confidence in the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister, as the case may be; or
(c) the coalition is dissolved.

(5) The removal of any Minister nominated by a parliamentary party of the coalition shall be made only after prior consultation and concurrence in writing with the leader of that party.

5. The Cabinet shall consist of the President, the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, the two Deputy Prime Ministers and the other Ministers.

6. The coalition shall stand dissolved if:
(a) the Tenth Parliament is dissolved; or
(b) the coalition parties agree in writing; or
(c) one coalition partner withdraws from the coalition by a resolution of the highest decision-making organ of that party in writing.

7. The prime minister and deputy prime ministers shall be entitled to such salaries, allowances, benefits, privileges and emoluments as may be approved by Parliament from time to time.

8. This Act shall cease to apply upon dissolution of the tenth Parliament, if the coalition is dissolved, or a new constitution is enacted, whichever is earlier

I’ve just discovered this initiative and I think its incredible.

Between that, the I have no tribe campaign, ushahidi, and all the other initiatives going on, why oh why can’t we, as a country, seem to get it together!


I’m frustrated.

The first full draft of my dissertation is due in two weeks.  This is not a good time to be immersed in studying ethnic politics in Kenya.

Joseph Karoki has taken a personal interest in this family and has launched an effort to find the child and help the family out.

Please visit his Blog

My fingers are crossed that the talks have really not fallen apart. I can’t even wrap my brain around what PNU is trying to pull off. What exactly is going on within the ‘party’?  I would give anything to be a fly on the wall in their meetings.  Who are the powerholders within the organization?

As Kalonzo’s ODM-Kenya threatens to fall apart I must admit i’ve been impressed by ODM’s ability to hang together. I confess I didn’t think they would last this long especially in the face of the ongoing crisis.  Perhaps, just perhaps, for Kenya’s sake, we have a political party that is not just a ‘matatu’ for various political interests. Hopefully they are the beginning of a political culture of effective Political Parties in Kenya.

While PNU never, and ODM-K now offers me no hope, I continue to wrestle with my relationship to ODM.  On one hand they are making amazing contributions to democracy in the country.  PNU needs strong opponents and to be challenged on their crap.   They have shown remarkable resolve in standing up to PNU oligarchs, have built a truly impressive national machinery, and provided Kenyans with a much needed space to articulate the need for true democracy.

But on the other hand ODM is  seriously undercutting the future of democracy in the country.  My frustrations with them are in not working hard enough to avoid targeting one ethnic group.  In my view ODM has been too comfortable framing the issues plaguing the country as those of ethnicity and not those of class.

I really appreciated the way in which this author articulated the problem of ethnic politics as they are playing out in Kenya. He writes,

“This may not come out very clearly in the talks mediated by Mr Kofi Annan, but it is obvious that one of the most sensitive issues on the table will, in effect, be how to ensure that one group never again comes to dominate the political and economic landscape by dint of its wealth, numbers and geographical spread.

This in any multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nation is a legitimate quest. But the way in which it is being couched raises questions. This is because the debate is not about addressing inequalities or injustices, but simply about cutting a community down to size, as my friend William ole Ntimama unabashedly put it”.

The whole article is a fascinating read as indeed, all Kenyan ethnic groups are ‘originally’ from somewhere else.

Why then, can’t we articulate a Kenyan identity that is not based on ‘ancestral land’ but rather on justice and fairness by targeting those who clearly have gotten land illegally allocated to them. Kenya will be a better country the day we figure out how to wage a class politics instead of an ethnic politics. oh the day!

Yesterday I posted a piece on Tanzania’s less than warm reception for Bush.  On the other end of the spectrum, the Economist gives Bush a passing grade on his relationship with Africa.  Citing the success of PEPFAR.  But the economist’s lauding of the program is in such stark contrast to what Pambazuka authors contend!

What suprised me in the economist article is that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia is actively lobbying for “the Pentagon to put the headquarters of its Africa Command (AFRICOM) in her country, not least because it would make it much harder for ragtag rebels to mount another coup”.

I know that Kenya was being considered for this but I wonder if the election violence has spared us having a U.S. military on our soil.  Goodness knows the Brits have done us no good and especially not the women they’ve been raping an violating over the years.   It barely makes sense why Liberia would want a base there but why do other African countries actively want the U.S. military on their soil?

There is a hearty debate going on in the West about whether the word ‘tribe’ should be used at all when referring to whats going on in Kenya.  Some say the term is a loaded one with degrading insinuations of uncivilized barbarians.  Others argue that Africans themselves use the term and it doesn’t matter what word you use, Kenyans are still killing each other based on perceptions of their, and each other’s identity.  Still some find comfort in the term.

Since I’m going through a very Mamdani phase right now I thought i’d share something he wrote that is very germane to the ongoing discussion.  Its from his essay on Identity in a collection edited by Nadia Tazi:

He distinguishes between ethnicity as a cultural identity and ethnicity as a political identity. When it reflects cultural identity, ethnicity is based on a shared culture and it is consensual.  When it is a political identity, the legal and administrative organs of the state enforce it.  “After making a distinction between ethnic groups, between those considered indigenous and those not, those organs [of the state] proceed to discriminate between them; those considered indigenous are granted rights considered customary, such as the right to use land, but those considered not indigenous—no matter how long they may have been resident in the land—are denied these same rights”

I think those who, like Gukira, find comfort in the term are refering to ethnicity or tribe as cultural identity, the source of story.  Unfortunately, there is the other side of ethnic identity.  The side we saw in Kenya last and this month.  Where those who are from a different region, be they Luos in Tigoni or Kikuyus in Rift Valley, are violently sent packing for they are not ‘indigenous’

Ethnic politics is an unavoidable fact of Kenyan political life.

Until that stops being a fact I think one of the best things for democracy in the country are internal critiques of the leadership that happen within the ethnic group. I could go on a long rant about that but my view of the importance of internal critiques is informed by Mahmood Mamdani’s very astute observation that because the nature of colonial rule was ethnic, the nature of anti-colonial revolt was also ethnic based and that set the stage for current ethnic politics. (i’ll do another post on this one of these days)

anyway, from Seasons and Reasons I became aware of this incredible song by Kikuyu singer John De Mathew titled uguo niguo kuri.

From what I could gidge it sounds like its a critique of the Kikuyu elite from the perspective of the Kikuyu peasantry. Its an amazing indictment of the Kikuyu elite! And even more incredible that it came even before the elections and not as a reaction to them!! As the singer says, his is not a song, its a prophesy.

At this time of crisis it is easy to think of kiuks as one unified group with no internal friction but they really are not. There are stark class differences that come out in this song.

Some of the verses that sent my spine tingling included:
-That those kiuks who swore an oath to fight for independence were duped because look at who were those left ‘eating’? Not those who fought.

Also scary is the allusion to Michuki and how those who sold out Kimathi are cursed.

He makes the point that all J.M. was fighting for was to allocate land to poor peasants.

And that had Mboya not been murdered Luos and Kiuks would have no annimosity between each other.

unfortunately, the comments about the video on youtube reflect the disappointing reality of how Kenyans deal with ethnicity.

Question is, are there any Kikuyu leaders who have a progressive message for Kikuyus preaching an end to arrogance?

by the way, I hate that myth that Kikuyus are more hardworking than anyone else.  It really fails to recognize the real and material ways that, since the colonial days, Kikuyus have had access to more and better opportunities.  As a country we need to focus on making sure that all Kenyans have access to the same opportunities.  Only then can the myth of one community being more hardworking and others being lazy be busted.

I found this on Pambazuka which is a fantastic source of progressive African  news.  I’m not sure if its a work of fiction or a real suicide note. I hope its not a real suicide note…


I write this letter as my final mortal action upon this earth.

I have determined to collect email addresses of the prominent people
that I know and my friends and send it to them from an anonymous
email address for two reasons.

First, to spare them the distress of knowing beforehand what I am
doing, therefore saving them from culpability, and second, because my
identity is now and in future irrelevant — it could be any of those
men around the country who feel like I do.

As you might guess from my style of writing, I am a well-educated
man. I am a graduate of Nairobi and Strathmore universities.

I have been privileged to be educated around the world.

I have worked in Berlin, Stockholm, London, New York and many other
places. I speak six languages fluently.

Even with all these achievements, I have no more reason to live. If
you will want to look for me as you read this, go to City Mortuary
where I have determined to fester among the anonymous people there.

I will explain why in this letter, and like Pavlov, I shall retire.
This is my only protest.

Mr Kibaki, I indict you.

You stole the election that I stood for six hours to participate in.
By your actions, my life irrevocably changed. History will now forget
the great achievement and legacy that you were poised to make and it
shall remember that for your self-righteousness, people lost lives,
property, and most of all, hope. On the blood of my people, I indict

Mr Odinga, my chosen president, on the blood and tears of my people,
I indict you.

Because of your bitterness, justified though it is, my life
irrevocably changes. My greatest achievements, my family, died in
your name. My son, my heir, named after my great ancestors, went up
in smoke before he could say my name, or his great name. Koitalet.

My twin daughters, Wanjiru and Sanaipei, were found by my burnt house
in Eldoret, having bled out of their wounds. My wife died with the
seed of six men inside her, demented and finally catatonic. This
happened in your name, Sir. Because you have to get justice. Because
my wife was from the wrong community. Because you must get what is

You will read this and feel nothing. You will rationalise it as
accepted collateral damage. Some must die in the pursuit of justice,
isn’t it?

O.K. I don’t get the Kenda thing at all but I really find Linah Kilimo’s politics refreshing!

By the way, Whats the word on Kenda?

Whats your take?

I mean, is Kamlesh Patni for real? Did he get enough MPs to nominate some to Parliament?

We can in the U.S. and we can in Kenya.

Call me an idealist…. I”m an optimist:

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballots; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality.

Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.

Yes we can heal this nation.

Yes we can repair this world.

Yes we can.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics…they will only grow louder and more dissonant ……….. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea —

Yes. We. Can.

Stephen Derwent Partington

What does dug earth care at all about ethnicity?
A Mwangi fits a six-foot hole
as snugly as Owuor.

And tell me, where’s the corpse that anyone
can teargas with success?
Or did you do it to augment the tears of mourners,
out of kindness?

Can you tell a foe from how he skins a cow
or peels a spud
or guts a fish?
Are these enough to skin his hide?
Perhaps it’s speech, the way she shrubs?
And who’s the carrier, his mother or his dad?
Can we locate the gene for Enemy?
Today, can we condone the fact
Kikamba’s only got one word for ‘enemy’,

Reflect: that family you killed,
it had as little land as you.
Or did you see the old machete used to cut you?
Dented, rusty, cheap, like yours.
Reflect on this.

This warped deflection of your anger
isn’t justice:
it’s a coffinful of shit.

*Stephen Derwent Partington is a Kenyan poet.

This poem was posted on Pambazuka which you should check out if you aren’t already.