Moi lacks moral authority on ethnic clashes

According to the Daily Nation, former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi has asked Rift Valley residents who attacked and killed their neighbours during post election violence to apologize.

Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Moi said an apology would lead to true reconciliation between them and the neighbours whose property they destroyed in the violence that followed disputed elections in December 2007. The violence left close to 1,000 people dead and half a million homeless.

However, the former president conveniently forgets that ethnic clashes in Kenya were institutionalized during his tenure of office. Government documents, such as the Akiwumu Inquiry on tribal clashes reveal deep involvement by Moi’s allies in fanning the fires of hatred.

The return to multi party politics prior to the 1992 General Elections created ethnic tension in the country, setting the stage for the chaos of 2008. The genesis of modern ethnic clashes in Kenya lies in the Rift Valley province, home to Moi’s Kalenjin ethnic group.

Kenya has eight provinces. According to electoral law, a winning presidential candidate must get at least 25% of votes in not less than five provinces in addition to a simple majority of national votes. As campaigns for the 1992 elections gained momentum, it was obvious that Kenneth Matiba would get a majority of votes in Central, Nairobi and possibly, Eastern Provinces. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga had a chance of getting at least 25% in his native Nyanza, in Western and Nairobi.

Matiba, a Kikuyu, also had strong possibilities of getting 25% in the Rift Valley thanks to the significant Kikuyu settler population. Moi, fearing that he could lose the presidency, began a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Rift Valley to ensure that he won the province. Huge chunks of the Rift Valley were declared KANU zones, in reference to Moi’s political party. Moi and his cronies went back to parliament unopposed.

Ethnic wars in 1992 pitted the Kalenjin – Moi’s tribe – with almost all settler communities in the Rift Valley. It was not only the Kikuyu who were affected but large numbers of Luo, Luhya, Kamba and Kisii. Non-Kalenjin tribes in the Rift Valley were refered to as, “madoa doa,” meaning, “specks of dirt.” The Rift Valley is also home to the Pokot and Maasai tribes whose politicians were drawn into the Moi alliance, called KAMATUSA. Consequently, Kikuyu, Luo and Luhya settlers were evicted from Pokot and Maasai areas especially around Narok, Enoosupukia and Kapenguria.

The pro-Moi ethnic alliance began calling for Majimbo, a form of federalism. According to such personalities as the late Kipkalya Kones, late Shariff Nassir, William Ntimama and late Paul Chepkok, a federal system of government would ensure that each ethnic group governed itself and had monopoly over jobs, land and commerce within its enclave.

The comments were targetted at the Kikuyu, who have emigrated and settled across the country mostly for economic reasons. Since Kikuyu settlers had a relatively higher standard of living due to commercial activities, the calls for ethnic federalism proved quite popular in the Rift Valley and Coast province.

With the Luo tribe facing persecution due to its oppositionist leanings, both Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his son, Raila Odinga, condemned Moi’s tactics. 30 years earlier, it was Jaramogi and founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, who had turned Kenya into a unitary republic after rejecting Majimbo federalism.

As a result of the ethnic chaos, Moi won the 1992 elections with 36% of the vote.

Five years later, there were politically motivated ethnic clashes prior to and after the 1997 General Elections. This time, the flash points were not only the Rift Valley, but also the Coast. In Mombasa, Sharif Nassir, a Moi ally, led KANU campaigns in the city.

Mombasa was founded by Arab traders almost a thousand years ago. The population of Mombasa and the Coastal strip consists of the Swahili, who are of mixed Arab and African ancestry. There is also the Mijikenda tribe as well as Hindus, Persians and Europeans. The building of the railway and the expansion of the Mombasa port in the 20th century attracted large numbers of workers from the interior of Kenya. The workers came mostly from the Luo, Kikuyu, Luhya, Kamba and Taita tribes. In the 1980s, a booming tourism industry attracted greater numbers of migrant workers in search of jobs and business opportunities.

During the 1997 campaigns, Nassir and KANU were worried that migrant workers would not vote for Moi. A campaign for Majimbo federalism was began, with Nassir claiming that migrant workers were taking up jobs at the coast meant for local people. Migrant communities were blamed for crime, prostitution and drug trafficking. As it turns out, the local Mijikenda tribe found these messages very appealing and gave their support to KANU. Then came terror.

In August 1997, a group consisting of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of raiders attacked the Likoni Police Station, just across the bay from Mombasa Port. Police officers were killed, prisoners released and firearms looted. Within the Likoni area, large numbers of Luo and Kikuyu were attacked and forced into trains heading for their ancestral homes. It was rumored at the time that the vanguard of the raiding unit consisted of Interahamwe militia, straight out of the Rwanda genocide. Other rumors indicated that the raiders were led by foreign-trained elite forces loyal to Moi.

Evidence was produced in the Akiwumi Commission of Inquiry implicating senior politicians in the Moi government and KANU party. An Asian farmer in Kwale District alleged that prior to the Likoni violence, his land was used to oath local youths but his reports to the police were ignored.

With Moi declared as winner of the 1997 elections, Mwai Kibaki, who came second, went to court to petition the results. Kibaki claimed that there had been electoral malpractices that gave Moi an unfair advantage over his opponents. Moi’s allies in the Rift Valley were outraged by what they saw as Kibaki’s challenge and a fresh round of ethnic clashes began. Kikuyu settlers in Laikipia District were especially affected by incidences of raiders burning homes and looting livestock.

From this overwhelming evidence, it is clear that Moi should be the first person to apologize as far as ethnic clashes are concerned. Otherwise, his calls for Rift Valley people to apologize can only be considered hypocritical at worst and cynical at best.

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Inheritance politics locking out promising leaders

“The apple does not fall far from the tree,” goes a well-known saying. For those in the dark, the proverb means that an offspring is likely to possess the same qualities as his/her parents.

In Kenya, we assume that guavas, lemons and bananas growing next to the apple tree will become apples. It is a twisted kind of political logic perfected by power brokers out to impose their will on voters. Unfortunately, the Kenyan voting public is complicit in its own subjugation to the wealthy elite.

Visionary leaders born outside the circle of prominent families cannot expect to achieve much in a political environment where political power is handed over from father to son, husband to wife, mother to daughter, etc … Not surprising, then, that our so-called leaders are taking us down the path of failed statehood. As experience has shown in other parts of the world, inherited leadership does not owe anything to the people. Instead, it seeks to preserve itself at all costs.

Voters in Bomet and Sotik constituencies, in addition to several civic wards across the country, will go to the polls on September 25th. The Bomet and Sotik seats fell vacant following the deaths of their legislators in a plane crash several months ago.

Bomet and Sotik are located in the wet, fertile highlands west of the Rift Valley. Picture by Masdar International.

Bomet and Sotik are located in the wet, fertile highlands west of the Rift Valley. Picture by Masdar International.

In Bomet, a widow of the late Kipkalya Kones will run on the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket, just like her husband. Meanwhile, an elder sister of the late Lorna Laboso, is taking up her sibling’s place on an ODM ticket. ODM is the most popular party in both constituencies and the candidates are highly likely to sail to parliament.

Mrs Beatrice Cherono Kones will be running against Nick Salat of KANU. For many years, the Bomet parliamentary seat has changed hands between the Salat and Kones families. Nick Salat is a political inheritor from his father, the late Isaac Salat. Clearly, the two families have a monopoly of leadership abilities in Bomet.

Prior to the death of her husband, Beatrice was quite obscure. During Kipkalya’s funeral, ODM leader, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, declared that, “the wife of a lion can also become a lion.” The remarks were a direct endorsement of Beatrice due to Raila’s popularity in the area.

But what does this mean for the people of Bomet and Sotik, and Kenyans in general? It means that these two newly minted politicians will owe their loyalties to their annointer. It also means that those constituencies will be dominated by these prominent families at the expense of hardworking ordinary people. It makes nonsense of the concept of equal opportunity for all. Incidentally, ODM ran on a platform of equality during last year’s campaigns.

The happenings in Bomet and Sotik are a microcosm of Kenya’s political elite, most of whom are inheritors. Prime Minister Raila Odinga inherited leadership of the Luo community from his father, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Both of Raila’s deputies are inheritors: Uhuru Kenyatta is son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta while Musalia Mudavadi inherited from the late Moses Mudavadi. Currently, Mudavadi is holding his late father’s cabinet portfolio as Minister for Local Government.

Joseph Nyagah is son of the late Jeremiah Nyagah who was in Kenyatta’s first cabinet after independence. Saboti legislator, Eugene Wamalwa is brother to former Vice President, the late Kijana Wamalwa. Oburu Odinga, Raila’s brother, took over his father’s Bondo seat after Raila decided to maintain his political base in Nairobi. Gideon Moi is the favorite son of ex president Daniel arap Moi.

Indeed, Kenya’s politics are filled with the wives, sons and daughters of former legislators, former senators (Kenya had a senate in the early 1960s), army generals, top clergy and high ranking civil servants. For instance, we have the son of former Police Commissioner, the late Phillip Kilonzo, in parliament. Dr Julia Ojiambo’s daughter, Josephine, is active in politics though in a different party.

Charity Ngilu joined politics thanks to connections made through her late husband, who was a government contractor. Naivasha politician, Jayne Kihara, was married to a former Member of Parliament for the area.

A second group of political inheritors consists of people not biologically related to their godfathers. For instance, President Kibaki was mentored by Jomo Kenyatta, while Kalonzo Musyoka and George Saitoti owe their positions to Moi’s guidance. Najib Balala is a product of the late Shariff Nassir. William Ruto would be nothing today if it wasn’t for Moi.

Most politicians in Luo Nyanza owe their positions to Raila Odinga’s family. Dr James Orengo, Raphael Tuju, Dalmas Otieno and Professor Anyang’ Nyongo have had to contend with this political reality at one time or another.

The ordinary man or woman born into a middle class or peasant family has little chance of getting to political leadership. However, Kenyans still have the power of the democratic vote, and should vote for people without looking at family background. There is no point voting for clueless people and then expecting rapid development overnight.

It is also obvious that the beneficiaries of inherited power are not ready to relinquish their priviledged status any time soon. Most of the presidential succession strategies being debated today revolve around which family will take over next. All the hype about “equitable distribution of resources” was really about “equitable distribution to political families”. That explains why politicians from across the political divide are busy appointing their spouses and children to head state organizations.

With this standard of leadership, it will be impossible to achieve Vision 2100, let alone Vision 2030. Ordinary Kenyans are hardworking, creative people. They should get equal chances to prove their worth.

Hostage to Fate: A Story of Raila Odinga

Immensely popular to some, widely reviled by others, Raila Odinga’s every act and speech undoubtedly stirs up differing emotions across Kenya’s people. So divisive is his character that the terms, “Raila mania” and “Raila phobia” have emerged to describe the emotions associated with the man who is now Kenya’s Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga at a press conference after disputed election results were announced, January 2008.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga addressing a press conference following disputed elections in January 2008.

In the past year, Raila’s international profile has grown. Lots of people from across the world seek to understand who Raila is, where he comes from and what he represents. The Nairobi Chronicle has received many such requests, hence this article titled, “Hostage to Fate: A Story of Raila Odinga.”

The story is written by the Nairobi Chronicle’s Chief Editor, who has had the chance of personally meeting Raila himself at various points in Kenya’s political evolution. The Chief Editor does not claim a personal relationship with Raila for it is highly unlikely that the Prime Minister would recall the several occasions in which they have met!

Here, the Chief Editor narrates the stories of Raila when he was out there being the man that he is. Please click on the link below to download the full details.

Click to download the story in Microsoft Word Document. (214KB)