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I’ve taken a long time away from blogging as life has been happening. Its been a crazy tough balance once I got back to work from maternity leave and had to balance full time work, project A, baby, and a marriage.
I’m taking a break from taking a break about blogging to post an email I thought was so incredibly important about the ongoing constitutional debate in Kenya.
It was written by Ngunjiri Wambugu of Kikuyus for Change and I think the point he makes are incredibly relevant at this important moment for Kenya.
I am at Adis Ababa with some colleagues, and we have just been reminded how it feels to be in a ‘controlled’ environment. It also reminded me of a comment I heard that was once made by President Museveni to some Kenyan journalists; he told them that Kenyans have too much democracy.
As we were standing at Adis International Airport waiting for our transportation, we watched the local population milling around & one could feel that ‘feeling’ that you cannot explain; the feeling that tells you someone is watching you on behalf of the state. It is something similar to what Maina & I felt in Nyeri over the weekend when we were showing the ICC movie-and police officers showed up to ask what we were doing, as a guy who claimed to be an AP Officer hovered around Maina with a notebook & pen.
A group of us started reminiscing about where we have come from as a country; & being younger than most of them, I was reminded of stuff that happened before I knew what civil society is.
I was reminded of the mwakenya years when university students and scholars could get thrown out of campus (and that was the easy option), for being friends with ‘undesirable’ elements. I was reminded of Rev Njoya being caned like a child, on a street, with police watching; I was reminded of Kepta and Rev Njoya being followed into All Saints Cathedral by armed police officers, teargased in there & beaten to near death, for daring to demonstrate before Moi; I was reminded of Prof Wangari Maathai standing up to Moi’s plan to build a multi-storey bulding at Uhuru Park, and what she went through: I was reminded of Muite, Orengo et al, being arrested in the middle of the night & airlifted to police cells in their home towns, to be charged there; I was reminded of Saba Saba; of the mothers keeping vigil at Freedom Corner & stripping naked, for their illegally detained sons; I was reminded of KBC; I was reminded of roadside firing & hiring; I was reminded of Saitoti’s humiliation, & the fiasco that was our elections; I was reminded of Moi saying how ‘hawa watu wataokotwa mmoja kwa mmoja, mpaka watetemeke’, and how some of our current leadership clapped at his words: I was reminded of Moi saying ‘kutoka leo sitaki kusikia mambo ya human rights tena’, and people clapping.
Then I was reminded of the optimism of 2002; how we screamt saying Moi has gone, Kenya is saved; I was reminded of Kenyans taking responsibility of their areas of residence, volunteering for community policing: I was reminded of citizens arresting corrupt police officers and taking them to police station; I was reminded of Kenyans travelling from upcountry to bring their taxes to KRA to help the new government; I was reminded of Kenyans walking so that the PSV industry could get streamlined: I was reminded of how we all believed that we now had an opportunity to right old wrongs & that there was nothing that would stop us from rebuilding our country.
Then I was reminded of the Standard raid; I was reminded of the First Lady’s visit to Nation; I was reminded of Michuki saying if you rattle a snake, you should not be surprised if you are bitten; & saying that the last constitution was bad because we had a good president, and how we did not need to change it because we had a good president now; I was reminded of Anglo Leasing: I was reminded of unknown MOUs made & broken; I was reminded of 2005 firings of the whole cabinet; I was reminded of the 2007/2008 PEV violence; and I was reminded of how helpless I felt then.
Then I started asking myself whether Kibaki’s laidback gentleman mien had lulled us to sleep; whether we realized that there was nothing to stop him doing all the things that Moi had done: I wondered whether we appreciated that part of the reason why we were having the open conversations on Kibaki, his government, the constitution, etc was because people had lost their liberty, limbs and lifes so that we could have this space; i wondered whether we realized that what we were enjoying was actually a temporary repreive, that was based on the operating structure of our current president; I wondered whether we realized that were it not for this particular president’s disdain for political posturing, he could do everything Moi had done; I wondered whether we had envisioned Kenya under a new president but this constitution after NO had won; maybe someone as energetic as Raila-active and focused, & who does not take criticism as well as Kibaki.
I pictured Martha Karua as president under this constitution; or Raila Odinga; or Gideon Moi; or, Uhuru Kenyatta; or Peter Kenneth: or Kalonzo Musyoka; or William Ruto, or Paul Muite, or Maina Kiai,….or even myself. Then I asked myself whether we as a country should first sort out issues of kadhi’s courts, abortion, etc, or put in place a structure that ensures that the law, not a person’s personality, is what determines how we are ruled.
That is when I realized that the YES vote is first & foremost all about managing our executive leadership to safeguard our current space. I realized that we were choosing between allowing the state to beat clergy like children on the street walk, & having them hold press conferences to take on the government; I realized that it was about ensuring no single person had the right to tell me I could be his friend & vice president, but not the next president: It was about ensuring appointments were open & transparent; It dawned on me that the new constitution had one primary and overriding benefit;-to expand & permanently secure the democratic space that Kenya was enjoying, and allow us to elect anyone president, without fearing whether he would turn into another Moi.
Folks, we must let the NO campaign run on single issues as it is doing-it is a hard-earned democratic right, and it was earned in ways that some of us cannot even fathom. However, let us also realize that the YES campaign is also single issue-it is about ensuring no-one else can ever do a ‘Moi’ in this country.
At that point I realized that the concerns on the Kadhi courts; was an issues I could deal with latter; I realized that I can afford to not understand the land clause; that I can live with the abortion clause as it is & work to have it worded different latter. I realized that alot that could be improved; but I also realized how dangerous the option we are not talking about was. The current constitution allows Nyayo Dungeons to come back into existence. It allows police to raid media houses; it allows universities to throw out students on political reasons; it allows clergy to be bludgeoned by shadowy security agents; it allows another Moi to exist.
Guys, the YES campaign is actually a single issue campaign;
Everything else can wait, everything else can be sorted out later; but if we do get the benefits in the draft constitution, we wouldnt even have the space to re-discuss the constitutional process again after Kibaki/The Coalition government are no longer at the helm. Without the 90% good we will not even be able to fix the 10% Bad
If we do not say YES this year, we will not even have the space to say NO in future
Honestly, I thought the world had moved on from these pseudo-scientific explanations of race!!
“In the long run, people with dark skin tones have little chances of survival under Northern conditions. Also, their birth rates drop. The reason for this lies in the weather’s impact on their bones. Says Professor Schiefenhövel: “Their bones quickly become soft and warped. The womens’ pelvises become distorted which eventually renders child-birth impossible for them.”
“Barack Obama’s victory means that for the first time a Coloured has been elected into the highest office of the US. His frizzy black hair, negroid lips and dark complexion stem from his parentage…”
This is just some of the racist content of a newspaper article that has recently been published in the german newspaper “AZ” (Abendzeitung, Munich) and on AZ’s online presence. The article was motivated by Barck Obama’s election and stayed online despite numerous protests during the commemoration day of the Pogromnacht on November 9 and 10. Scroll down for full translation of the article.
The fact that it appeared in a not specifically right-wing but mainstream newspaper, shows very clearly the lack of awareness in German media.
The response to negative reactions from readers throughout Germany was an e-mail from the author in which he regrets that his article evoked such negative reactions – a reaction far from an apology. The executive board, publisher and editor in chief haven’t found any reaction necessary so far.
Please help Germany’s mediashpere comprehend that the use of racist language and content -even if seemingly ridiculous at first- is harmful and watched with concern from people all over the world.
You could do so for example by writing an e-Mail to the AZ’s editor-in-chief with cc to us for documentation of your reactions. Or cover the issue in your blog and forward it to counter-racist-organisations.
Mail contact to the newspaper:
full article translation:
Author: Michael Heinrich (Editor at Abendzeitung)
Publishing Date: November 5th, 2008
Circulation print version: 148,000 sold copies, 290,000 readers
Circulation online version: not known
Circulation areas: mainly Munich and Nuremberg
The Mystery of Skin Colour
In the past, all people were black. The fact that at one point they turned white, red or yellow, is due to the duration of sunshine
Barack Obama’s victory means that for the first time a Coloured has been elected into the highest office of the US. His frizzy black hair, negroid lips and dark complexion stem from his parentage: his father is a black African from Kenya, his mother is white. A good occasion to pose the question: Why is it, actually, that people have such diverse skin complexions?
In the past we were all black. The undisputed scholarly opinion is that humans originated in Eastern Africa – and this region had massive sun exposures already millions of years ago. “In that region those humans had better chances of survival whose strong pigmentation protected them from harmful ultraviolet rays”, Wulf Schiefenhövel told Abendzeitung. Schiefenhövel is a Munich based Professor of Anthropology. During the course of thousands of years skins turned ever darker until they were black. Until today, the populations of some parts of Africa and also Melanesia are nearly inky.
In the long run, people with dark skin tones have little chances of survival under Northern conditions. Also, their birth rates drop. The reason for this lies in the weather’s impact on their bones. Says Professor Schiefenhövel: “Their bones quickly become soft and warped. The womens’ pelvises become distorted which eventually renders child-birth impossible for them.”
All other skin complexions are hybrid forms of black and white. Schiefenhövel explains: “People always call the Chinese yellow, and the Native Americans Redskins. Obviously, that is wrong.” Both these groups have simply developed skin complexions that had the “right” mixing ratio for their respective habitats. I.e., their skins would sufficiently protect them from the ultraviolet rays while at the same time absorbing just the right amount of sunlight.
By the way, the skin shade only plays a minor role in the definition of human “races” or “populations”. Decisive factors are, amongst others, the shape of the head and the body height.
The United States of America, your quality supplier of ideals of liberty and
democracy, would like to apologize for its 2001-2008 service outage.
The technical fault that led to this eight-year service interruption has been
located, and the parts responsible for it were replaced Tuesday night, November
4. Early tests of the newly-installed equipment indicate that it is functioning
correctly, and we expect it to be fully functional by mid-January.
We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage, and we look
forward to resuming full service — and hopefully even to improving it in
years to come.
Thank you for your patience and understanding,
A while back I blogged about how annoyed I was getting by Kenyans’ refusal to recognize that we have very little to claim for Obama’s success and that indeed we were acting like the deadbeat Dad who only returns many years later to claim credit for his son’s success.
I mean, how conveniently we forget that Obama’s Kenyan dad had the nerve to leave the boy at a tender age, and proceeded to start an entirely new family. We have been so quick to forget that Barack endured having to grow up without his biological father and that there are enough similar stories in the U.S. and in Kenya!
Indeed I think that even as we celebrate Obama’s impending victory (note I said even as, not instead of,) we should take the opportunity to think about how not only our country works as a deadbeat dad to all the brilliant minds and entrepreneurs out there who get screwed by the system and are never able to achieve their potential, but about all the literal deadbeat dads in the country. Oh yea, and deadbeat moms too. Because there are plenty of those as well.
Surely this is a set-up!
I’m watching the vice presidential debates and i’m shocked. I can’t help but think that the Republicans are up to something evil. Why else would they put on their ticket such an inept woman!?? Is it to prove that women can’t do it? Surely did McCain fail to find a more qualified woman for his ticket?
At this point i’m even pining for someone like a Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman. Palin is straight up painful to listen to!!!!
She has such a poor command of english grammar, makes ridiculously circular arguments that make absolutely no sense, and to top it all off, the world finaly deserves a U.S. leader that can actually pronounce the word ‘nuclear’!!!
This clip is hilarious!
RACIAL VIEWS STEER SOME WHITE DEMS AWAY FROM OBAMA
By RON FOURNIER and TREVOR TOMPSON
Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) – Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks – many calling them “lazy,” “violent” or responsible for their own troubles.
The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 – about two and one-half percentage points.
Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He’s an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation’s oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.
More than a third of all white Democrats and independents – voters Obama can’t win the White House without – agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don’t have such views.
Such numbers are a harsh dose of reality in a campaign for the history books. Obama, the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a seminal moment for a nation that enshrined slavery in its Constitution.
“There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s only a few bigots,” said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.
The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush’s unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
The findings suggest that Obama’s problem is close to home – among his fellow Democrats, particularly non-Hispanic white voters. Just seven in 10 people who call themselves Democrats support Obama, compared to the 85 percent of self-identified Republicans who back McCain.
The survey also focused on the racial attitudes of independent voters because they are likely to decide the election.
Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren’t voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn’t vote for any Democrat for president – white, black or brown.
Not all whites are prejudiced. Indeed, more whites say good things about blacks than say bad things, the poll shows. And many whites who see blacks in a negative light are still willing or even eager to vote for Obama.
On the other side of the racial question, the Illinois Democrat is drawing almost unanimous support from blacks, the poll shows, though that probably wouldn’t be enough to counter the negative effect of some whites’ views.
Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger, the poll indicates. More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that.
Three in 10 of those Democrats who don’t trust Obama’s change-making credentials say they plan to vote for McCain.
Still, the effects of whites’ racial views are apparent in the polling.
Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama’s support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.
But in an election without precedent, it’s hard to know if such models take into account all the possible factors at play.
The AP-Yahoo poll used the unique methodology of Knowledge Networks, a Menlo Park, Calif., firm that interviews people online after randomly selecting and screening them over telephone. Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to report embarrassing behavior and unpopular opinions when answering questions on a computer rather than talking to a stranger.
Other techniques used in the poll included recording people’s responses to black or white faces flashed on a computer screen, asking participants to rate how well certain adjectives apply to blacks, measuring whether people believe blacks’ troubles are their own fault, and simply asking people how much they like or dislike blacks.
“We still don’t like black people,” said John Clouse, 57, reflecting the sentiments of his pals gathered at a coffee shop in Somerset, Ohio.
Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word “violent” strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with “boastful,” 29 percent “complaining,” 13 percent “lazy” and 11 percent “irresponsible.” When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.
Among white Democrats, one-third cited a negative adjective and, of those, 58 percent said they planned to back Obama.
The poll sought to measure latent prejudices among whites by asking about factors contributing to the state of black America. One finding: More than a quarter of white Democrats agree that “if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites.”
Those who agreed with that statement were much less likely to back Obama than those who didn’t.
Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks “intelligent” or “smart,” more than one third latched on the adjective “complaining” and 24 percent said blacks were “violent.”
Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they “try harder.”
The survey broke ground by incorporating images of black and white faces to measure implicit racial attitudes, or prejudices that are so deeply rooted that people may not realize they have them. That test suggested the incidence of racial prejudice is even higher, with more than half of whites revealing more negative feelings toward blacks than whites.
Researchers used mathematical modeling to sort out the relative impact of a huge swath of variables that might have an impact on people’s votes – including race, ideology, party identification, the hunger for change and the sentiments of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s backers.
Just 59 percent of her white Democratic supporters said they wanted Obama to be president. Nearly 17 percent of Clinton’s white backers plan to vote for McCain.
Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well, a finding that suggests many of her supporters in the primaries – particularly whites with high school education or less – were motivated in part by racial attitudes.
The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
Associated Press writers Nancy Benac, Julie Carr Smyth, Philip Elliot, Julie Pace and Sonya Ross contributed to this story.
Seriously, are the Republicans joking?!! WTF?!! Sarah Palin?
I’ve held my tongue long enough and I really don’t want to spend any ounce of my life energy thinking about the incredible double standards in the McCain campaign.
This guy already said it better than I could:
This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise
For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who
are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it,
perhaps this list will help.
White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol
Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your
family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you
or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black
and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified
as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,”
like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone
messes with you, you’ll “kick their fuckin’ ass,” and talk about how
you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a
responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather
than a thug.
White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six
years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of,
then returned to after making up some coursework at a community
college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to
achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as
unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first
place because of affirmative action.
White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town
smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state
with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island
of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people
don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S.
Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means
White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under
God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for
the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately
disqualified from holding office–since, after all, the pledge was
written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until
the 1950s–while believing that reading accused criminals and
terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you
used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous
and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.
White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make
people immediately scared of you.
White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an
extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the
Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your
patriotism or that of your family, while if you’re black and your
spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with
her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s
White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and
the work they do–like, among other things, fight for the right of
women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end
to child labor–and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if
you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month
governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in
college–you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.
White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even
agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your
running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the
ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made
them give your party a “second look.”
White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your
political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being
a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and
merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in
Chicago means you must be corrupt.
White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose
pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize
George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly
Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian
theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who
say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for
rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good
church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black
pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of
Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign
policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on
black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.
White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by
a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you
such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give
one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging
the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.
White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has
anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being
black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a
And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly
allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W.
Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing,
people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is
increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters
aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too
vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which
is very concrete and certain.
I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears watching Mbeki’s resignation speech on c-span just now!
And then it turns out he is to be replaced by South Africa’s current speaker, a woman! Even though it will be an interim placement, i’m thrilled for Africa to have its second woman president!
From the bits i’ve just been reading it seems like South Africans aren’t too sad to be rid of Mbeki. I wonder though, how Mama Mbete will fare considering her past issues with apparently getting a fake driver’s license……
Then of course Zuma will step into the post shortly and I must admit to be a bit nervous about him and the implications of his leadership for South Africa and Africa as a whole. I mean the guy thinks a cold shower will take care of HIV infection after you rape a HIV infected lesbian. (WTF?!!!)
so much to go read up on.
Haki Kenyans hatuna adabu.
You would think from the way we are celebrating Barack Obama’s nomination that Kenya has been a kind place for the man. Now, I completely celebrate his success and am in no way Obama-hating. My point is about Kenyans and our lack of hindsight.
It seems to me no Kenyan is remembering how horribly his alcoholic and abusive father treated his mother and that the man actually left his mother to raise a young child by herself.
How many other Kenyan men have done the same? There is nothing to be celebrated in this behavior!
No, we’re happy to forget all that and claim the man without as much as an apology for how badly he had to suffer as a result of Kenyans’ understanding of masculinity.
Instead of his success causing us to ask deep questions about masculinity and fatherhood, we go ahead claiming him for ourselves and seeming to forget our unfortunate part in his difficult childhood.
Shame on us!
Whats up with the term ‘morning sickness’. Nothing about it is happening in the morning for me. Its more like all day sickness. In fact, the only time that i’m not feeling like throwing up or actually worshiping the porcelain goddess is in the morning when I first wake up.
Oh, and nobody tells you about the killer heartburn. Now heartburn sounds like a polite problem that should be easy to deal with. Not this stuff. Its constant! It feels like someone has lit a bonfire in my throat. Peanut (the euphemism that Mzee and I use for him/her) better be taking all this time to grow. Damnit! I’m going to be so pissed if all this is for nothing!
On to happier topics; In the meanwhile i’m having a good time visiting with old friends, spending alone time in my old haunts, and writing in my journal. Its been a fantastic vacation though I must admit some of the lunch meetings with (soon to be former) professors have left my stomach in knots rather than relaxed me. I still have a lot of anger about how unnecessarily hard this process has been and the major damage that the last seven years of stress has done to my body.
O.k. Back to being positive: Tomorrow is the big day. I will be a Dr. Mwananchi Mkenya at 4pm tomorrow and thats a good thing. Woohooo!!!!!
I stumbled on this website a while back and have been thoroughly impressed by the initiative. I subscribed to the mailing list and every once in a while will receive and email with the profile of an amazing Kenyan doing incredible things. Like this week’s profile of Tom Oketch, a peacemaker in Kibera.
According to their website, “In 2007, a group of Kenyans decided to start thinking about ways in which our country’s demi-centenary, in 2013, could be approached. We thought that one of the ways in which it is important to mark Kenya’s 50th Birthday is by telling the inspiring story of Kenyan achievements in the last fifty years. We wanted to celebrate ordinary every-day heroes, in a variety of fields of endeavour who have taught us and challenged us as Kenyans, by their lives. Indeed, we would focus specifically on those Kenyans whose life-spans have mirrored that of this wonderful country of ours: Kenyans born since 1963. We would document these lives through beautiful fine art photographs, and attempt to put down a record of our times through the recounting of these extraordinary and well-lived Kenyan lives in well written socio-biographies by professional writers. This was the idea behind GenerationKenya, the project.”
For a while now I’ve been very interested in the role of the Kenyan middle class in our democratic development. So i’ve gone back to the books…
According to widely respected Political Scientists Rueschemeyer Stephens and Stephens in their book on Capitalist Development and Democracy, capitalist growth is “associated with democracy because it transforms the class structure, enlarging the working and middle classes, facilitating their self-organization, and thus making it more difficult for elites to exclude them. Simultaneously, development weakens the landed upper class, democracy’s most consistent opponent. The relationship of capitalist development to democracy, however, is not mechanical. As the authors show, it depends on a complex interplay of three clusters of power: the balance of power among social classes, power relations between the state and society, and transnational structures of economic and political power”
The question for Kenya’s democracy is whether the interplay of these three clusters of power is in favour of our democracy.
I would argue that they are not quite yet. Indeed the new bloated cabinet and government that was sworn in last week shows that the balance of power in Kenyan society still favours the elites and that the Kenyan middle class, as was represented by members of civil society who were teargassed as the protested the bloated cabinet, has not yet formed enough of a power base to effectively challenge the elites.
The balance of power in the second power cluster, that between the state and society is still not in favour of Kenya’s democracy. Again this is evidenced by the ability of the state to unleash security personnel on protesting civil society not to mention the protesters in Kibera and Kisumu among other places.
Finally, I think that now, more than in the past, the transnational structures of political and economic powers are in favour of Kenyan democracy. Yes, there are major problems in the location of Kenya in the global economic matrix. But still, the fact that for the last couple of years we have been able to read a national budget that did not heavily rely on foreign aid means that we are, to a limited extent, free to chart the course of our democracy.
My advise to those pursuing the growth of democracy in Kenya: focus on pressuring the new parliament to enact legislation that will expand the size and power of the working and middle classes.
First among this legislation needs to be a strengthening of the legal system and particularly a strengthening of private property rights including limiting corruption.
Private property rights not only includes the rights of those dispossessed in the Rift Valley, but also ensuring justice in land allocation to those communities who feel that their land resources have been usurped by Kikuyus.
For more on the importance of private property rights on capitalist growth see Hernado De Soto’s explanation
NO TO OIL FOR LAND!
Merti Range Users Association
The following memorandum was prepared by members of the Merti Range
Users Association in northern Isiolo, Kenya. It expresses their
concern about concessions recently granted to a Chinese company to
prospect for oil in the rangelands. It illustrates the potential
threats of this kind of external investment on the ecosystem and
local livelihoods, and the lack of transparency in the negotiations.
Memorandum submitted by the Merti Range Users Association of Isiolo,
Kenya, in relation to a Chinese company undertaking oil prospecting
activities in the area
To: Hon. Kiraitu Murungi, Minister for Energy
Hon. Mohamed Abdi Kuti, MP Isiolo North
The Director, NEMA
The District Commissioner, Isiolo District
All Councillors, Isiolo County Council
Whereas Rangeland Users Association is an institutional framework
developed for the purpose of the welfare of the pastoralist people
living in Merti division of Isiolo district;
Recognizing that pastoralism is the mainstay of the economy of the
area and thus the majority of the population are therefore members of
Further noting that a Chinese company is now said to engage in
undertaking oil prospecting activities in the heartland of the
rangeland on which the pastoralists raise their livestock and manage
the environment, its fauna and flora;
Apprehensive that the said prospecting activities will lead to
massive environmental destruction, thereby destabilizing an already
fragile ecosystem that is constantly pressurized by the vagaries of
ever-changing climatic conditions;
Further noting that the said Chinese company is undertaking these
activities in total exclusion of the local people and its leadership;
Realizing that this oil prospecting activity will ultimately lead to
not only destroying the existing ecosystem, its economy and the
people depending on it but have serious long-term negative effects on
the environment on which we derive our livelihood;
And having further realized that the said Chinese company is not
willing to engage the local population, its leadership and
institutions on any of the issues,
We therefore submit the following:
1. That an urgent immediate action be taken by the elected leadership
to engage the relevant government organ/department to ensure the
above-raised concerns are addressed in the following manner.
2. That the Chinese company is practising unethical labour procedure
in total contravention of international labour conventions, Kenyan
labour laws and rules of natural justice. This they do by engaging
persons without any signed papers, not informing them of their
renumerations, working long extensive hours without commensurate
overtime payments, tight social restrictions bordering on enslavement
and human rights abuse. This is all supposedly happening in your own
country and village. This must be urgently redressed and corrected.
3. That any further employment opportunities must be given to the
local people unless such expertise cannot be sourced locally.
4. All sourcing of goods and services must also be given to the local
people as propriety.
5. That the oil company should pay for the havoc they will cause to
the local economy in view of the destruction their activities are
going to occasion to the environment, economy and infrastructure in
the area such as roads.
6. That the process of granting concessions and rights by the
government must involve the local pastoralist communities whose
livelihood depends wholly on this land and the natural resources
7. That these are grave matters touching on lives and livelihoods and
should be addressed with the urgency they deserve.
*Signed for and on behalf of 68 elders representing all the
localities of Merti division, Diba Golicha Galma, Chairman, Range
Users Association, Merti.
When I was in Kenya over Dec/January this year I bought what I think might be Nonini’s latest CD; Mwisho wa mawazo which is amazing, fantastic, awesome, and genius.
Usually when you buy a cd you resign yourself to the fact that there will be at most three amazing tracks and the rest will be o.k. if you’re lucky. Not with this cd where each of the songs on the CD is a pleasant surprise. My absolute favorites: Love To Party (Featuring Ngoni),
Being the nerd I am, I was driving home yesterday blaring the music fantasizing about teaching a class on the politics of the lyrics of genge music. Wouldn’t it be awesome if one of the local Kenyan universities would let me teach such a class?!
Highlights would include Nonini’s Ngoma Yako which deals with problems with intellectual property, joblessness, gender relations, lack of opportunity, and overall many of the conditions that have been understood to foment the emergence of Mungiki and other such groups. Other tunes to study would include Kumekucha (Featuring Professor J & Q-Chilla) and its discussion of regional co-operation, and social change with intensifying globalization.
Another giddy purchase in January was Mashifta’s “Mashifta classics”: This cd is an inspired Kenyan hybrid of digable planets and The roots. Particularly the Roots’ things fall apart cd. Mashifta classics is a treasure trove starting with the hit “majambazi” which is so rich in analysis of the youth’s perspective of our ‘system ya majambazi’. Others from this amazing cd include V2 Zinazofanza Uende!? with its disillusionment with current socio/politico/economic Kenyan situation and its offering for Kenyan youth, and magazeti maradio matv with its harsh criticism of our media.
O.k. I’m getting carried away so I’ll stop.
Oh, and yeah, what other CDs should I explore for my dream class?
President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister-Designate, Mr Raila Odinga (left), follow action at the 40th Kenya Open Golf tournament at Karen Country Club, on Sunday March 9th.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Kenya……
what was all this for?
so you could play golf together?
I’m fed up and utterly disgusted!
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!
I’ve just discovered this initiative and I think its incredible.
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!