Prominent careers in political toilet

The Waki Report on post election violence has consigned the careers of Kenya’s top politicians into the toilet of collective memory among the citizens of the republic.

Indeed, the post election violence that killed at least 1,000 Kenyans and made half a million refugees in their own country has irredeemably tainted Kenya’s top political leadership.

Citizens across the republic are pondering in groups how they could have allowed themselves to be manipulated by a conniving class of political hypocrites who are now engorging themselves on the country’s meagre riches, while belching out incredible statements of forgiveness.

For the past five years, Kenyans were fed an endless diet of ethnic hatred by politicians unable to see far beyond their distended bellies. Ethnic groups were incited against each other, and made to believe that their poverty and misery was caused by the opposing side. Come the elections of 2007, five years of instigation erupted into an orgy of violence.

State authority collapsed in most parts of the country, especially the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza provinces. Government offices were looted, police officers killed and infrastructure blown up. Thousands of people were attacked, raped and killed as property went up in flames. The blame for the near collapse of Kenya falls on the political classes, whose selfishness has astounded the international community.

Now, the chickens are finally coming home to roost for Kenya’s cruel and corrupt leaders thanks to the Waki Report on post election violence. Of course, the political players would rather turn the Waki Report into toilet paper, but it is they who are going down the political sewer tubes, hopefully, for good.

As the Waki Report explains, President Mwai Kibaki cannot escape blame for the sorry state of affairs Kenya finds itself entangled in. His weak leadership allowed the rise of demagogues across the ethnic divide who exploited the resultant vacuum to raise hateful temperatures. Kibaki’s behavior can be described as negligent at best and incompetent at worst.

In the future, Kenyans will remember Kibaki more for his weak leadership than for anything else. Kibaki spent his first term in office trying to make the economy grow, which it did briefly in 2006 – 2007. However, all that growth was destroyed within the first three months of 2008, in effect negating all of his handiwork.

Kenyans will recall Kibaki as a leader who failed to unite the people, who allowed corruption to fester during his term of office, and who allowed impunity to rule. The deaths of 1,000 people in ethnic clashes will forever blot all recollection of his memory. The callous killings of 500 Kikuyu youths for alleged Mungiki membership will not be forgotten any time soon. If anything, the only reason the Kikuyu voted for Kibaki was because there did not exist a viable alternative.

And the reason why that alternative did not exist was because Prime Minister Raila Odinga was making bellicose statements that only added to ethnic incitement in the country. Moving across Kenya describing the Kikuyu as “adui” or enemy is not exactly the hallmark of a statesman. Raila and his ODM party made the Kikuyu a scapegoat for all of Kenya’s problems.

The violence of 2008 was largely the consequence of such loose, irresponsible talk. Though Kenyans are credited for having short memories, its highly unlikely that Raila can comfortably win the country’s presidency because of his recent past. Hardly surprising then, that his lieutenants are proposing that the president be elected by parliament. Its easier to convince 222 legislators to vote for you than to campaign for votes among 18 million voters. For that, Raila’s place in the political toilet is guaranteed.

It is impossible for the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Najib Balala and Musalia Mudavadi to make it into the presidency. Their reputations have irredeemably been scorched through their links to violence. Even though they may not have engaged in actual acts of violence against other Kenyans, the fact that they did little to stop it implies guilt by association. Instead of stopping violence in their constituencies, they kept quiet. Mudavadi even went for holiday at the coast.

Kenyans should realize that the path towards achieving justice for the victims of violence will not be easy. The guilty parties have in their control vast wealth and power which they will use to frustrate prosecution. In any case, the Attorney General is one of their own and he has already described the Waki Report as lacking in evidence.

Faced with the prospects of international prosecution, the Kenyan ruling elite is banding together while calling for a “homegrown” solution. Political entities named in the Waki Report should not be allowed to continue with their endless proselytizing at the expense of innocent lives among the majority poor.

Just a few months ago, clarion calls of, “No justice, No peace” rent the air as the political elites exploited ordinary citizens in the battle for state control – and the rewards that go with it. At the time, intellectual mercenaries-for-hire wrote acres of newspaper columns trying to explain that the absence of war was not peace.

Now, the same same intellectuals are trying to justify the inexcusable, claiming that prosecuting the masterminds of post election violence will disrupt peace and spark off fresh chaos. If these academics could not value peace early this year, why is peace suddenly so important to them now? For behaving like characters of loose morals who will do anything for small money, these pseudo intellectuals have earned their place in the national toilet.

Amidst the recriminations of Kenya’s zero leadership, who will be the winner? For once, the ordinary Kenyan has seen that the political class do not care about the people’s interests. The exposure of the rotting carcass of Kenya’s leaders is good news for those hoping for a leadership revolution in the country.

A new class of fresh, untainted and committed persons is sorely needed to lead the people into an epoch of unity and prosperity for all. The Waki Report should be the starting point for the much-needed political purge. Yes, it will be painful but what is the alternative?

Gang rape as a political weapon – Waki Report

One of the well known and regrettable tragedies of major conflicts and breakdowns of law and order is sexual violence. This has happened around the world.

Youths armed with crude weapons during political and ethnic clashes in Kenya. Picture by AFP.

Youths armed with crude weapons during political and ethnic clashes in Kenya. Picture by AFP.

Sadly enough, it also was a consequence of the 2007 post election violence in Kenya. Below, the Nairobi Chronicle presents accounts by victims of sexual violence as contained in the Waki Report. Please be warned that the stories you are about to read may contain graphic and disturbing description.

Raped as husband is killed – Waki Report

Kisumu woman raped, husband killed and home burnt

Waki Report: Luo men forcibly circumcised

We have strived to bring stories from different parts of Kenya in order to demonstrate that all Kenyans suffered at the hands of a cruel, corrupt political elite that cares nothing for the welfare of its own people. The question is: for how long shall Kenyans put up with this?

Moi Day Special: Kenya’s second president

On the occasion of Moi Day, the Nairobi Chronicle recalls milestones of the Moi presidency. For better and for worse, Moi’s 24 year presidency will influence Kenyans for a long time to come.

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Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Whereas Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was a transitional leader, managing change from colonialism to African majority rule, Moi got into power when Kenya had become a truly African state. With time, Moi’s actions and policies came to resemble those of neighboring states from which Kenya had distinguished itself with its relatively sophisticated socio-economic and political structures.

Moi’s presidency was a contradiction of sorts: on one hand he craved the awe which Jomo Kenyatta got from the public. On the other hand, he wanted to be different from Kenyatta, by being more in touch with the average man in the village.

When he assumed the reigns of government, Moi started traveling in a Volkswagen Kombi, raising eyebrows. As it was argued, such types of conveyance are for ordinary folk, not for a President. However, Moi was determined to get his people. The Kombi was the only vehicle which could grapple with the country’s difficult terrain – dusty roads, hairpin bends, precarious cliffs, unbeaten tracks.

One time, while on his way from Kisumu to Nakuru, Moi expressed the wish to use a short-cut from Sondu through Sigowet to Kericho town. His aides condemned the route as impassable. “Are there people living in the area where this road passes?” he asked and declared he had to tackle the road, passable or otherwise.

After ascending to the presidency on 14th October 1978, Moi pledged to maintain the stability that Kenya had enjoyed since independence. He sought to assure apprehensive citizens, investors and diplomats that he would follow the footsteps of Mzee Kenyatta. But it soon became clear that Moi had his own ideas for the country. Whereas Kenyatta practiced a hands-off style of leadership, Moi preferred hands-on management. He famously said, “Those who want to lead the country must wait their turn … I am the President and every minister must sing like a parrot to my tune.”

While emphasizing national unity, Moi laid great emphasis on the need for dynamism in a globalizing world. Moi can be credited for introducing changes that would have been virtually impossible under the Kenyatta era. Moi’s critics say his initiatives were expensive experiments culminating in failure. However, Moi’s critics are mostly Kenyattaists and had they been in power, the country would have petrified in stagnation. The fact that some of Moi’s programmes did not succeed could be attributed to sabotage by Kenyatta loyalists inherited by Moi’s administration.

As president, Moi’s first decision was to release political detainees from the Kenyatta era. These were politicians, academics, university students and journalists detained for criticizing Kenyatta’s government. Several of them had been in detention so long that they were in a critical condition requiring advanced medical treatment.

During Kenyatta’s presidency, the civil service, security forces and state corporations came to be dominated by members of Kenyatta’s tribe, the Kikuyu. This was not a deliberate policy on Kenyatta’s part but a product of historical circumstances that placed the Kikuyu at an advantage in work skills and entrepreneurial ability. Moi set about creating ethnic balance in government organs by appointing more people from other communities. Eventually, Moi’s Kalenjin tribe dominated the civil service and this evoked resentment among other Kenyans.

Unlike Kenyatta’s appointees, Moi’s tribesmen had little training for their new jobs. Matters were worsened by Moi’s tendency of picking individuals from lowly positions, transforming them into overnight power brokers and later dumping them when they became too big-headed for their own usefulness. Because of this, Moi had neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies. He was loyal to nobody but himself – a true Machiavellian characteristic.

Moi’s most serious challenge was the coup attempt of 1st August 1982. The poorly planned coup attempt by junior officers of the Kenya Airforce was crushed by Army and paramilitary units within a matter of hours. However the coup is said to have awakened Moi to the risks of power and from that day onwards, he took on a higher measure of political self-preservation. After the coup attempt, the security forces were purged of Kenyattaists who were replaced by Moi loyalists. In subsequent elections, politicians whose allegiance was doubtful lost their seats through political machinations engineered by the President’s henchmen.

Between 1982 and the early 1990s, Moi was determined to keep a tab on the opposition and resorted to tactics varying from detention without trial, torture, electronic surveillance, intimidation and outright thuggery. There has never been any direct evidence personally linking Moi with any of these acts and its possible he was misinformed about threats to his administration.

Moi’s political maneuvres provoked a backlash against the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU). Moi, eager to strengthen the party, had talked Parliament into enacting a constitutional amendment that made KANU the only legal political party. By the late 1980s there were demands for reintroducing multiparty democracy from the growing ranks of politicians seeking alternative avenues for contesting political office. Demands for multipartyism, coupled with pent-up frustration with Moi, led to riots in Kenya’s major towns in July 1990.

The riots were crushed; several dozen people lost their lives. International financiers and Western nations pressurized Moi to open up the political frontiers. Monetary assistance was scaled down – a devastating blow for a government that had 30% of its budget financed from foreign assistance. The international media went on a feeding frenzy and described Moi as a typical African dictator. In December 1991, Moi asked Parliament to amend the constitution and legalize opposition parties for the first time in ten years.

It would be another ten years before opposition parties could win power but only because Moi was no longer a candidate in the 2002 elections. Moi was unbeatable because his opponents often underestimated his intelligence by virtue of his rural-poor origins and heavily accented English.

Among the reasons Moi gave for opposing multipartyism was incitement to ethnic nationalism. Soon after the opposition was legalized, tribal clashes erupted in the Rift Valley and persist to this day. The clashes were sparked by Cabinet Ministers who declared the Rift Valley – Moi’s home province – out of bounds to the opposition. Ethnic groups thought to be sympathetic to the opposition were attacked by Moi’s Kalenjin tribe, houses burnt and farms forcefully occupied. The clashes caused major economic losses as property was destroyed, trading activities disrupted and agricultural production ruined.

Upon the re-introduction of multipartyism in 1992 until the close of his presidency in 2003, Moi stopped being development conscious. Moi devoted his time and energies exclusively to politics because of legalized competition for his job. Political intrigues intensified as politicians sought presidential patronage – and the cash that went with it. Financial scandals became routine in Moi’s government throughout the 1990s as his cronies devised means of acquiring wealth in the shortest possible time.

Moi turned state functions into full time campaign rallies and these were held, not only on weekends, but at anytime during the week. Cabinet ministers and members of parliament, eager to win the favor of the president, tagged along wherever he went. The result: possibly one of the longest Presidential motorcades of an African president. A typical motorcade accompanying Moi consisted of at least 50 limousines with cabinet ministers, heads of state corporations, security chiefs and several diplomats.

Among the notable successes of the Moi presidency was reform of the education system. By the early 1980s, a Canadian educationist said that education should stop producing white-collar graduates. The educationist said the future of labor was one of uncertainty, making it necessary to equip graduates with practical skills that are easily transferable across different work environments. Despite criticism, Moi went ahead and implemented the recommendations.

School children were introduced to home science, business education, agriculture, arts, crafts and music. In high schools, students were taught power mechanics, electricity, accounting, metal work, carpentry, social ethics and sex education. Today, education experts acknowledge the wisdom of imparting practical skills on children, in a world where retraining and career shifts has become the accepted norm.

During Moi’s presidency, thousands of schools sprang up across the country while four additional public universities were built to create a skilled work force.

Regardless of what is said about Daniel arap Moi, the former teacher, legislator, cabinet minister, President and Member of Parliament has left his mark not only on Kenyans but also in international affairs. He initiated peace efforts across Africa most of which were successful. These include Namibia’s independence, Uganda’s civil war negotiations that began the Yoweri Museveni era and the Southern Sudan peace process. Moi’s advice was greatly sought by world leaders such as US President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany.

Moi’s presidency began in 1978 with a promise to follow the footsteps of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. It can be said that Moi fulfilled his ambition of becoming a defining standard. “President Moi has made his own footprints in the sands of time,” said Mrs Thatcher.

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With references from Lee Njiru’s article: “The Making of a President.” Kenya Times, December 11, 1997
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Kenyan winter ended in dramatic style

Nairobi residents are once again enjoying sunny weather, just a week after an unusual ice storm in Nyahururu marked the end of the cold season. Heavy coats, scarves and knee-length boots have been discarded as warm weather favors lighter clothing.

People walk outside the Khoja Mosque on Moi Avenue to a backdrop of clear, blue skies.

People walk outside the Khoja Mosque on Moi Avenue to a backdrop of clear, blue skies.

Statue of Kenya's first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, taken as sunny skies return to Nairobi.

The early afternoon sunlight engulfs this statue of Jomo Kenyatta outside the Kenyatta Conference Centre

The intersection of Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway.

The intersection of Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway.

September is usually a sunny month but, this year, significant amounts of rain have fallen in Nairobi and its environs. The rains are a big relief to city residents, currently experiencing the worst water rationing since the year 2000. Meteorologists say that rains that usually come between October and December will be enough to replenish the city’s dwindling water reserves.

State authority collapsed during poll chaos

A report by Kenya’s official human rights body highlights the extent to which state authority collapsed as ethnic clashes raged following disputed elections last December.

A group of armed policemen were seen looting a shopping centre under the command of a police inspector.

Chiefs on government payroll led gangs of youth in an orgy of killing. Well-known politicians attended meetings to lay strategies for death and destruction. Business people availed free use of matatus, trucks, land and machinery for training and logistical operations. Funds drives were held to import weapons from Somalia and Ethiopia.

While police in the towns of Kisumu and Nairobi used desperate tactics to assert government authority, commanders in the rural areas abandoned their stations and took sides with their ethnic groups. A senior police officer in one of the worst hit areas told victims of clashes to take care of themselves.

The revelations are contained in a report released last month by the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights. Due to the ongoing Waki Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence, the press has been barred from mentioning the names of those linked to ethnic clashes. The Nairobi Chronicle has obtained a copy of the explosive report, which is freely circulating on the Internet. However, we are unable to publish names for fear of legal and other consequences.

Since release of the report, several politicians implicated in the violence have cited their innocence. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, Tourism Minister Najib Balala, Higher Education Minister Sally Kosgei and Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama have denied organizing and funding the clashes.

In an interesting twist of events, three of the top politicians named in the report have since died. One was murdered by a policeman while the other two died in an accident. Its not clear whether the unnatural circumstances of their deaths have anything to do with the political and ethnic clashes.

By March this year, close to 1,000 people were dead and half a million rendered homeless. International mediation efforts resulted in a coalition government that has presided over a tense peace. Many of the displaced are still in camps due to continued threats. A few thousand have settled in Uganda.

The KNCHR report unveils a financial angle to the violence. Youth were paid between Shs400 to Shs500 (US$5.8 – $7.3) a day for their “services.” The monetary inducement is obviously appealing due to widespread poverty and high rates of unemployment in Kenya. There was a monetary scale of payment depending on the ethnicity of the victim: even in death, certain tribes attracted greater wrath than others.

Eyewitness accounts reveal that there existed a logistical and financial chain between politicians in Nairobi and youth on the ground. Mobile phones were used to issue orders and to confirm implementation.

Entire ethnic groups rose up against their perceived rivals and politicians played a key role in mobilization. Its possible that majority of ordinary people were not initially inclined to violence. However, there were threats of death for those refusing to participate. Indeed, many who resisted the call to arms had their property destroyed. This happened in all sides to the conflict.

Serving and retired security officers trained militia groups at the behest of politicians. In several instances, the use of firearms by civilian combatants was recorded. Its not clear how these militias obtained guns. Bridges were destroyed using explosive material. The KNCHR report has confirmed claims that top politicians plotted on importing heavy weapons from Ethiopia and Somalia.

There has been a lot of debate over whether the post election violence was planned. It may well be true that the early violence was a spontaneous reaction to a botched election. However, once the violence began, it assumed a life of its own and became a monster.

People felt that the Kenyan government had stopped existing. The security structure, the civil service, all of it collapsed. There was no government to protect the people.

Trade, transport and agriculture stopped functioning. Vast swathes of land were cut-off from the outside world. Chaos reigned as food and fuel supplies ran out. Nobody knew what was happening in the next district, let alone the rest of the country. Every man had to do whatever was necessary to defend families and property. That explains why ordinary citizens went to extraordinary lengths to donate their time, energy, money and other resources.

Amidst all these, the politicians were comfortably placed in Nairobi, issuing orders from the comfort of their plush residences. When asked to stop, they adamantly refused. By the end of January, newly elected Members of Parliament started earning hundreds of thousands in salaries as the countryside lay in ruin. It may just be possible that some of that cash was channeled into financing more chaos.

Has Kenya learnt anything from events of the past nine months? Only time will tell.

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.

Lands ministry criticizes Jomo Kenyatta

A top official in Kenya’s Ministry of Lands has blamed founding leader Jomo Kenyatta for the country’s land conflicts, in remarks likely to justify land-driven ethnic clashes.

Permanent Secretary Dorothy Angote said that, “the colonialists left behind a lot of money to resettle the landless but the money was diverted.” Addressing a workshop, the Permanent Secretary admitted that, “the ruling class used land to bribe politically-correct individuals, rejecting the plight of landless Kenyans.”

Kenya is grappling with a land distribution crisis that has assumed violent characteristics due to ethnic politics. High population growth is placing increased pressures on land for farming and settlement. Most of Kenya’s population is concentrated on less than 30% of the land. Politicians, eager to win votes from their own ethnic groups, have in recent years demanded for land settled by immigrant communities. In parts of the Rift Valley, large numbers of Kikuyu, Kisii and Luhya farmers have been evicted by Kalenjin youth who went ahead and subdivided farms amongst themselves.

The Coast province is also home to large numbers of immigrants. Lands Minister James Orengo has said that he will review land ownership in favor of local ethnic groups. The remarks have intensified ethnic tension at the coast as unemployed coastal youths demand for what they call, “the land of our ancestors.” Dr Orengo has expressed opposition to the settlement of Europeans in coastal villas.

Ethnic clashes following disputed elections in December 2007 have been blamed on land pressure in areas settled by immigrant ethnic groups. The peace accord negotiated by former United Nations Secretary General, Koffi Annan, and which formed Kenya’s coalition government, was mandated to explore the land situation in order to avert future clashes. However, discussions on land reform appear to have stalled as the coalition parties get engrossed in government affairs.

After Kenya’s independence in 1963, President Jomo Kenyatta announced that land ownership will be on the basis of “willing-seller, willing-buyer.” The government would neither confiscate land from anyone, nor would it give it away for free. Kenya’s independence constitution gave its citizens the right to purchase property anywhere in Kenya. The policy served Kenya well, until the 1990s when populist politicians incited desperate youth to invade farms on ethnic grounds.

The remarks are likely to put Ms Angote into conflict with President Mwai Kibaki, who retains much respect for Kenya’s first president. Indeed, President Kibaki served in Kenyatta’s cabinet and was a baptismal godfather to one of Kenyatta’s sons, Uhuru. In 2003, when he assumed Kenya’s presidency, President Kibaki ordered the Central Bank to put Kenyatta’s portrait on all currency notes and coins.

Former President Daniel arap Moi wanted to cut a different image from Kenyatta but he did not tolerate criticism of his predecessor. Moi served Kenyatta as Vice President for 11 years. Had Ms Angote made the remarks during Moi’s presidency, she would probably have lost her job before the workshop was over.

Criticism of Kenyatta’s policies by a highly placed government official will complicate the land debate in Kenya. If anything, it may justify the actions of those elements that wish to drive out immigrant ethnic groups from certain districts. All in all, more blood is likely to be shed before a solution is found.

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