ODM diaspora attacks Kibaki – Raila duopoly

Press release by ODM Scandinavia branch.

Press release by ODM Scandinavia branch.

This year’s Jamhuri day celebrations in Nairobi were marked by bitter protests by Kenyans which saw the arrest of journalists, brutalization of activists by equally brutal security guards and attempts by a section of protesters to disrupt the Jamhuri celebrations altogether as President Kibaki was giving his key-note speech.

At the center of the protests is the controversial passing by Parliament of the draconian Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008, high food prices that have led to starvation of millions of poor Kenyans across Kenya, failure by MPs to pay taxes for their million salaries and misplaced expenditure and looting of the economy by the ruling class as the country continues to beg for hand-outs from agents of Western imperialism represented by the United States, Britain and the European Union.

The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008 will basically allow the Minister of Internal Security to raid media houses with impunity, seize equipment, arrest journalists at will and disable the Press anytime in Kenya.

When the Coalition took over government with President Mwai Kibaki as Head of State and Raila Odinga as Prime Minister, the general belief of Kenyans was that the government would move along the path of expanding the democratic space that would accord the media greater freedom. In the absence of a political Opposition on the ground, the media remains the public’s trusted watchdog and it is for this reason that any legislation designed to narrow or reduce Press freedom must remain suspect.

With the media bill a few steps away from becoming law, the message the Coalition government is sending to Kenyans is that the new government is ready to violate the rights and freedoms of Kenyans (including Press freedom) which were won with sweat, pain, life and blood in protracted and bitter struggles that have been well documented in history books. This is unacceptable to say the least.

The scandalous attack on The East African Standard by the Kibaki dictatorship is still fresh in the memories of Kenyans. The new media bill being peddled by the Coalition is designed to facilitate such attacks at anytime, at any media house and for any reason. From the position of ODM-Scandinavia, the enactment of the media bill amounts to a roll-back of the democratic gains of the last three decades, a move that should be resisted by all Kenyans and by any means necessary.

Arrests were illegal, draconian, oppressive and heavy handed

We congratulate the gallant Kenyans who took the unprecedented step of confronting the Kibaki-Raila dictatorship head-on with respect to the key issues mentioned.

Apart from struggle, there is no short cut to freedom and liberation of a people suffering under the yoke of oppression, mass poverty, hunger and deprivation in the midst of plenty. As yesterday’s freedom fighters become today’s sell outs, new revolutionaries have to emerge to continue with the people’s struggle while learning from mistakes of the past.

Hungry Wananchi at Jamhuri

The Orange Democratic Movement in Scandinavia (ODM-Scandinavia) condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the arrest and brutalization of Kenyans who were protesting against the new media bill on Jamhuri day together with those who sought to bring to the attention of the government the reality of high food prices that has created mass starvation across the country at a critical time when millions of Kenyans find it difficult to put food on the table.

Most importantly, ODM-Scandinavia is very disturbed with the arrest of activists who wore T-shirts calling for MPs to pay taxes and which advised Kenyans to stop paying taxes if MPs cannot do the same.

There can be no taxation without representation and if MPs who are supposed to represent the taxpayer cannot themselves pay taxes, then there is no justification whatsoever why Kenyans should continue paying taxes which are, nevertheless, looted by the greedy ruling classes.

We have in mind the arrest of Mwalimu Mati, the Chairman of the MARS Group who was taken into custody together with his wife, the arrest and brutalization of Mr. Odhiambo Owuor who has since been admitted to Nairobi Women’s hospital from where he claimed that members of the Presidential security guards tortured him, the arrest of several journalists who were protesting against the media bill and the taking into police custody of several activists who were simply exercising their freedom of expression in independent Kenya by putting on T-shirts with a political message.

By arresting Owuor, the government has proven its primitivity because it should have accepted Owuor’s message to understand what he wanted to tell the President since he was unarmed and of no threat to the President. Instead, he says that he was almost castrated.

The position of ODM-Scandinavia is that in making the illegal arrests, the action of the government was illegal, draconian, oppressive and heavy handed, given that those arrested had not committed any crime. The illegal arrests is further evidence that there is nothing to celebrate on Jamhuri day because Kenyans now have to go back to struggle to defend freedoms that were won decades ago.

ODM-Scandinavia warns the Coalition government that its attempt to revert Kenya back to the days of dictatorship of the Moi type will not be tolerated by Kenyans under any circumstance. We call for the unconditional release of all those arrested with immediate effect.

Martin Ngatia
Vice Chairperson
ODM-Scandinavia
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Mass action update – 14th December 2008

Mass action updates as at 16:15 Kenyan time.

  • Kenyan paramilitary police seal off Uhuru Park following reports of planned rallies.
  • Mwalimu Mati and his wife released from Langata Police Station following protests and blockading of Langata Road by civil society activists.
  • Police seal Kariakor roundabout after Mungiki threaten to demonstrate in the city.
  • Demonstrators dispersed from Ufungamano House.
  • Oscar Foundation head arrested.

Reports by Citizen TV, Nation Media and Capital FM.

Jamhuri Day mass action updates

Dozens of protesters were arrested at Nairobi’s Nyayo Stadium for expressing disgust at Kenyan legislators for receiving large allowances amidst inflation and food shortages that have worsened life for the poor.

Kiss FM’s Caroline Mutoko, Classic 105’s Mwalimu King’ang’i and radio personality Nyambane were whisked away from Nyayo Stadium, where President Mwai Kibaki was due to address the nation.

The organizer of the protest, Mwalimu Mati of Mars Group, was surrounded by a police contingent and driven to the Langata police divisional offices.

People dressed in black T-shirts as a mark of protest were turned away by police officers at the stadium grounds.

Meanwhile, Jamhuri Day celebrations in the port city of Mombasa were drowned by heckling from the crowd. From the North Eastern Provincial headquarters at Garissa, Citizen Radio reports that four youths were arrested for expressing dissatisfaction with Kenyan legislators.

Hours before the national celebrations, the government issued a warning against demonstrations and other forms of political expression during Jamhuri (Independence Day) celebrations.

The journalists and Mwalimu Mati were leading a show of disgust against members of parliament for refusing to pay taxes on their allowances. Kenyan politicians are among the best paid in the world.

The journalists are also angered by a new media law that allows the Kenyan government to raid media outlets and disable broadcast equipment at will. It is beleived that Parliament passed the bill to intimidate the media from speaking out against their hefty perks.

Jamhuri Day mass action looming

Fed up with a cruel and corrupt leadership, Kenyans across the social divide are planning to express discontent during Jamhuri Day (Independence) celebrations on December 12th.

A past demonstration along Nairobi's Moi Avenue.

A past demonstration along Nairobi's Moi Avenue.

The plans are as varied as the number of groups in the country. There are those calling for a White Ribbon campaign, where everybody attending Jamhuri Day rallies puts on a black shirt and white ribbon as a silent protest.

Then there are those calling for a total boycott of Jamhuri celebrations so that Kenya’s big-mouth politicians face empty stadiums. Debate is raging on whether to advance the boycott to include shunning voting come the next General Elections.

One thing is certain though: a major showdown looms between the politicians and the concerted power of the people. Indeed, the kind of discontent being witnessed in Kenya today has resulted in the toppling of governments elsewhere in the world.

The Kenyan government can take solace in the fact that a uniting personality, such as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Russia’s Boris Yeltsin or Poland’s Lech Walesa is yet to emerge into focusing the people’s anger towards tangible action.

The White Ribbon campaign is championed by the Mars Group, an anti-corruption body associated with Mr. Mwalimu Mati. Mars wants peaceful mass action as opposed to revolutionary tactics. Mars Group is urging all Kenyans to attend Jamhuri Day celebrations dressed in black T-shirts and white arm bands as a show of solidarity against a thieving political class.

Kenyan legislators, judges, diplomats and other office holders have flatly refused to pay tax, even as they enjoy exaggerated pay. The President of Kenya earns almost as much as the United States president or the British Prime Minister even though Kenya is at the bottom of the development ranks.

Furthermore, Mars Group is mobilizing Kenyans to boycott paying taxes, considering that 85% of the national budget is used to fund a bloated cabinet, paying entertainment allowances, buying luxury cars and building offices. Only 15% of Kenya’s budget is left for roads, water, electricity and health care systems.

To add to the pain, Kenyan politicians have been implicated in the worsening shortages of maize, wheat and sugar. Prices have risen dramatically in the past couple of weeks after politicians took up all the supplies at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) in order to sell to millers at 26% profit. Prices of maize are getting outside the reach of Kenyan families. Consequently, hunger looms as the Christmas festivities draw nearer.

Here’s an excerpt from the Mars website:

Each month Kenya Shillings 102 million (US$1.3 million) will be spent on household and press services for President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila and Vice President Kalonzo, which is more than the funding for roads nationwide. Kalonzo will get 100 million shillings ($1.2 million) for travel this year while people are starving in Ukambani. Raila’s household funding is more than the money allocated for slum-upgrading.

The Kenyan government is not likely to take the prospects of people power lightly and there’s a strong possibility of riot police being unleashed to cause disruption. Due to these fears, there are voices calling for a total boycott of Jamhuri Day celebrations. According to one blogger, walking into stadiums wearing black T-shirts and white ribbons would mark oneself as a target by riot police, with the prospects for arrest.

A boycott of the celebrations would certainly send a wake-up call to the government to change its ways. Considering that Jamhuri celebrations are usually covered by the international media, the spectacle of an empty stadium will be too embarrassing for the government.

It will show the politicians that Kenyans can chart their own destiny and are no longer willing to be used as sacrificial lambs to advance political careers. As Kenyans have been asking, what was the point the violence witnessed after elections, yet the politicians are quick to unite when oppressing the people?

There is bitterness among the Kikuyu ethnic group with President Kibaki for urging forgiveness for the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing. The Kalenjin are disillusioned with Prime Minister Raila Odinga for not appreciating the community’s role in forcing Kibaki to the negotiating table.

At least 1,000 people died in political and ethnic clashes between January and March this year. Hundreds of thousands of others are still living in refugee camps as its too dangerous to return home. Peace talks that ended the post election violence resulted in the current coalition government with Kibaki retaining the presidency and the new post of Prime Minister created for Raila.

Though Raila enjoys fanatical backing amongst his Luo tribe, many are of the opinion that he is not fulfilling his campaign promises. Last week, residents of Raila’s constituency in Langata ambushed a visiting United Nations delegation to protest rising food prices.

Such is the sense of helplessness among Kenyans that the turnout in the next elections will be the lowest in history. It would be interesting because the voter turnout in the 2007 polls was the highest ever recorded since independence in 1963. However, the 2007 polls were messed up so badly that the actual winner will never be known. For this, the government, the Electoral Commission of Kenya and politicians are to blame. None of the competing parties had any intention of conceding defeat.

One woman who lost her home in election violence told a TV station that she will never vote again. “I exercised my democratic rights but I was punished for electing a leader of my choice. Then what is the point of elections if you cannot vote freely?”

An election boycott would be a sign of frustration with Kenya’s politicians. Whoever becomes President, or Prime Minister, will only manage a few thousand votes.

There’s growing realization that only concerted action by Kenya’s citizens will save the country from destruction. Unless action is taken, the next General Elections scheduled for 2012 could be the end of Kenya as we know it.