Mombasa’s anxiety about Lamu plans

There’s growing worry in Mombasa about the plans to transform Lamu island into a mega-port serving Sudan and Ethiopia.

lamu_port_railway_graphic

Diversion of shipping and transport from Mombasa will mark the death of this 1,000 year old city whose ideallic location on East Africa’s coast has been its economic mainstay.

The construction of new roads and railways linking Lamu with the interior is viewed as an example of misplaced priorities considering the dilapidated state of the existing railway line after decades of neglect.

If the Lamu plan becomes a reality, highway towns such as Mariakani, Maungu, Voi, Mtito Andei, Makindu, Mlolongo and Athi River will wither as vehicles get diverted into the bushlands of northern Kenya. Nairobi will also suffer from the loss of business generated by transit traffic.

Meanwhile, transportation experts argue that its cheaper to rehabilitate the Mombasa port, roads and railway links than building new ones in remote areas. In any case, the experts argue, new infrastructure will still have to be maintained.

The economy of Mombasa is completely dependent on both the old and new harbours. The Old Port of Mombasa is the original Arab port. It still handles small vessels plying traditional routes to Zanzibar, Pemba, Somalia and the Middle East.

Kilindini harbour was developed by British colonial authorities in the 19th century to handle large steamships. This is the point where the first plates of the Kenya – Uganda Railway were laid in 1895. The railway was meant to link Mombasa with the Buganda Kingdom, which had allied itself with the British.

Since then, the Kenya – Uganda Railway contributed to the building of the modern Kenya and Uganda states. It opened the interior to trade and settlement. By the 1950s, Kenya had the largest number of European settlers outside Southern Africa. Growing trade resulted in the railway spreading out to Nyeri, Nyahururu, Rongai, Magadi, Eldoret and Butere.

A parallel road transport industry developed over the years, especially after the highway from Mombasa was tarmacked in the 1960s by the government of President Jomo Kenyatta. Today, road transport handles at least 90% of the cargo between Mombasa and the interior due to corruption and mismanagement of the railway.

Regardless of the means of transport in use, the people of Mombasa have turned the port into their honey well. More than 70% of employment in Mombasa is totally dependent on the port. This includes transport companies, clearing agents, travel agents, hotels, manufacturing industries, the service sector, electricity and water supply, the oil industry and local government tax collections.

The tourism industry, which makes up the remaining portion of Mombasa’s economy, is also dependent on the port of Mombasa. Numerous cruise liners and naval vessels that arrive at Kilindini bring into Mombasa thousands of visitors willing to spend wads of foreign currency. The extensive road and railway links from the interior also feeds into this traffic, resulting in the flow of tourists from the Maasai Mara, Mount Kilimanjaro and Nairobi.

There’s no doubt that the port of Kilindini is in urgent need of expansion. Congestion causes delays, which pushes up costs and makes imported goods more expensive. Sometimes, there is so much congestion at Kilindini that ships have to drop anchor in the high seas while waiting for space to become available. Congestion at Kilindini has been attributed to poor management.

Since the early 1980s, there have been plans to expand the port into neighbouring areas. Unfortunately, the plans have never been implemented even as the Kenya Ports Authority makes billions in profits. Instead, the government has tried to de-congest the port through administrative measures that have only worsened the problem and created channels of corruption.

The enactment of container freight stations (CFS) is shrouded in mystery as prominent personalities monopolize the lucrative business. The chances of an ordinary person being awarded a CFS contract is next to impossible.

As political influences paralyze the port, Kilindini harbour is rapidly being overtaken by trends in ship construction. Kilindini cannot handle modern-day giant ships. The sea bed at Kilindini was last dug up by the British in the early 1960s. Since then, the flow of garbage from Mombasa Island and Likoni are filling up the harbour, making it difficult for ships to navigate through the coral reef.

Mombasa only requires dedicated management to reclaim its lost glory as the leading port of East Africa. Mombasa residents are therefore surprised to hear that the government wants to spend colossal amounts of money in building another port hundreds of kilometres away.

If the Lamu project comes into fruition, there will be massive business losses in Mombasa. Employment opportunities will decline and the city’s economy will collapse. Many of the thriving industries that contribute to the coastal economy will cease funtioning.

In short, the port of Mombasa will die out. People will leave in droves seeking better opportunities elsewhere, perhaps at the new Lamu port. What will become of Mombasa? It will be left as a ghost town of deserted buildings, rotting factories and empty hotels. Drugs and crime will be the natural consequence to this sad state of affairs.

Mombasa has survived 1,000 years of Arab, Swahili, Portuguese and British rule. Mombasa has survived floods and droughts, opulence and poverty. Mombasa has risen from the ashes after invasions from both land and sea.

Marauding African tribes, Arab swords and Portuguese cannons have all contributed into what Mombasa has become today: a thriving, multi-cultural phenomenon that has won the admiration of the entire world. Its no wonder that people from across the world want to settle in Mombasa.

It will be unfortunate if an independent African government kills Mombasa. Let us hope that common sense prevails.

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Showdown looms after Kibaki signs controversial media law

He did it! Against all the advice, protests and petitions, President Mwai Kibaki signed into law the Kenya Information, Communication and Technology Bill 2008.

Now, the Kenyan government can shut down broadcast stations and confiscate equipment without a court warrant. The government can, thanks to the new law, intercept your postal mail, disclose its contents or dispose of it altogether.

It gets worse

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his ODM party opposed the Communications Bill. With Kibaki’s signature yesterday, a showdown is in the offing that could wreck the giant coalition between Kibaki and Raila. The end of the coalition could stoke fresh ethnic clashes between ethnic groups allied to the two men.

But the Prime Minister and his party are not entirely blameless in the draconian law. When the Bill was brought for debate in parliament, Raila and ODM legislators refrained from voting. The Bill was passed by a mere 25 pro-Kibaki legislators, and ODM reacted only after mounting public outrage against the law.

After the Bill was passed in the absence of ODM, a key ally of the Prime Minister said that they would go to court should President Kibaki sign it into law. Some legislators even threatened to lead ODM out of the coalition. It now remains to be seen whether the party will make good on its threats. Should that happen, Prime Minister Raila Odinga will be in a very difficult situation.

Raila is now between a rock and a hard place. Either way, the country’s political stability will rapidly deteriorate. If he stays in the coalition, he will lose the reformist credentials that won him fanatic support during the 2007 presidential campaigns. If he walks out of the coalition, the international community will blame him for the consequences.

The current coalition between Raila and Kibaki is the product of international mediation following disputed elections in December 2007 where both men were front-runners. Political and ethnic clashes between their supporters left over 1,000 dead and half a million homeless. Many of the displaced are still living in camps, fearing fresh violence.

The Communication Bill 2008 was first introduced before the 2007 elections but was shelved as the government faced declining popularity. This year, it was reintroduced in what the government calls, an attempt to regulate the media industry.

Kenya’s media say they are capable of controlling their activities in line with the tastes of their audiences but the state argues that self regulation has not worked.

What the media bill says …

Under the law that President Kibaki has assented, the minister in charge of information and broadcasting has powers to unilaterally – without recourse to parliament or the courts – to enter, search and seize broadcasting stations and apparatus. The minister can dismantle and dispose of such stations and apparatus.

Workers at the post office will have the right to open up mail and read in the name of public security.

The minister for internal security will have overwhelming powers to unilaterally suspend and even obliterate constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, property, privacy, protection of the law and due process.

The future of the coalition

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his party oppose the Bill and might walk out of the Giant Coalition. This may or may not necessitate an election but with existing ethnic tensions its unrealistic to hold fresh elections any time soon. Violence will be the natural result and deaths and displacement will resume.

On the other hand, should Raila and ODM stay with Kibaki, their credibility will be irredeemably destroyed. Already, most ODM supporters feel that their cause was betrayed by Raila accepting to work as Kibaki’s Prime Minister.

In any case, with the Electoral Commission of Kenya’s dissolution last month, there is currently no legally constituted organization to oversee elections.

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With reports from the Daily Express newspaper
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New Year clouded by famine fears

Kenyans welcomed 2009 with joyous celebrations across the country amidst worries over drought and famine.

Concerns for the country’s political stability took a back bench as fireworks, shouts and song filled the atmosphere. For many, this was the first New Year feast in two years.

Last year began with political and ethnic clashes following disputed electoral results. The violence was to last till March 2008 when a peace agreement was signed between President Mwai Kibaki and his rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Amidst the ups and downs of coalition building, little attention was paid to the failure of seasonal rains. Most parts of Kenya, especially east of the Rift Valley, had very little rain in the second half of 2008. This is expected to worsen food shortages that have widely eroded the ratings of the Giant Coalition of Kibaki and Raila.

Just a few weeks ago, rumblings of discontent forced the government to take the unprecedented step of creating to different types of maize flour: one for the well-to-do and the other for the poor. By offering low-priced maize for the poor, Kenya was effectively getting into the food subsidy business which is currently the preserve of wealthier countries.

With clear signs of drought and the famine that goes with it, the government’s food subsidy bill is bound to rise astronomically. Already, the Treasury has ordered government ministries to shelve construction projects.

In their New Year speeches, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga vowed to tackle high food prices. It remains to be seen how this will be accomplished without either running a gigantic debt or squeezing the earnings of farmers. The second option – lowering farm gate prices – is already running into problems.

While launching its subsidized brand of maize, the government banned millers from buying directly from farmers. Instead, farmers were to sell maize to the state-owned National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at a fixed price. Maize farmers oppose the directive while wheat growers accuse the government of favouring maize farmers.

2008 food production was hurt by political violence. When the peace deal was signed in March, it was too late for the 2008 crop. Fertilizer stores had been looted and fresh supplies became extremely expensive. Those farmers not affected by violence could not afford fertilizer either, resulting in poor yields.

2009 food production will be affected by lack of rain and continued insecurity in the highly productive farmlands of the Rift Valley where ethnic clashes continue intermittently. Many farmers have not returned to their farms for fear of future attacks. All it takes is fallout between the president and prime minister before full scale violence resumes.

Meanwhile, the continued destruction of Kenya’s forest cover is negatively impacting food production. Once mighty rivers have become seasonal, many have dried altogether. Rainfall in former forest areas has declined dramatically and when it does rain, massive soil erosion is a consequence due to the lack of protective vegetative cover.

With clear evidence of food shortages, the government must import food but like everything else in Kenya, the importation process is mired in corruption and political intrigues.

It’s far from being a fair, transparent process.

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Price controls, subsidies to worsen food supply (previous article)
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Kenyans angered by out of touch leaders

As the year 2008 draws to a close, the problems afflicting the Kenyan people continue to mount by the day, resulting in rising anger that could be a danger to stability.

There are alarmingly frequent shortages of basic consumer commodities, such as food, sugar and fuel. Price hikes are the natural result of shortages, further putting pressure on an economy that is still recovering from the post election violence.

The worst thing about the current shortages is that they are caused by politicians, a rapacious taxation regime and lack of co-ordination within government. The commodities are stockpiled in warehouses and depots but they simply cannot get to retail outlets.

Apart from scarcity in essential commodities, Kenyans are still reeling in shock at how they were manipulated by politicians into butchering their neighbours on ethnic grounds. Today, the same politicians are in bed with each other, sometimes in the strictest sense of the term.

A recent road accident involving Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s son and a grandson of founding president Jomo Kenyatta, opened Kenyan’s eyes to the treachery of politicians. While ethnic groups are up in arms against each other, the children of big-shots were busy partying at 3am on a week day.

The mishandling of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has contributed greatly to discontent with the Kenyan government. After the post elections violence and the formation of the Grand Coalition between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, it was generally assumed that all efforts would be made into getting the displaced back to their homes. Unfortunately, divisions within the giant coalition prevent this from happening.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his ODM party is opposed to the return of mostly Kikuyu settlers into the Rift Valley. Whereas most of the Luo, Kalenjin and Luhya who fled the Kikuyu heartland are back to their old jobs, it is still too dangerous for the Kikuyu to return to ODM strongholds. Some have reportedly been killed in the Rift Valley when they went back to their homes. Others gave up and are resettling themselves elsewhere – with little government help.

One IDP committed suicide in Nairobi’s Dagoretti area after his meat hawking business was shut down by the National Environment Management Authority for alleged pollution of the environment. Another IDP took up a taxi business in Kerugoya but was shot by police who mistook him for a criminal. IDP women, frustrated at the government’s apathy, demonstrated in Nairobi and were clobbered by riot police. Many such tragic cases have been reported.

The indecision of the government over implementation of the Waki and Kriegler Reports has proved beyond doubt that Kenya is a ship without a captain. Though legislators are congratulating themselves for ‘sending’ the Electoral Commission of Kenya home, it still took almost a year to accomplish. Besides, serious constitutional challenges lie ahead in the wake of the last minute decision which, in reality, was meant to protect politicians from the International Criminal Court.

Indeed, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka came to ECK’s defence. Could it be because the ECK’s Chair, Samuel Kivuitu, is from the same ethnic group as Kalonzo?

The refusal of government officials to pay tax has surprised both local and international observers, while the Kenya Communications Bill 2008 is an anachronism in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, the government is attacking private corporations for ‘exploiting’ consumers. This is seen as an attempt to deflect public anger over rising prices and shortages in commodities. However, private entreprise is being blamed for conditions not of its own making. Doing business in Kenya is extremely challenging as companies struggle to break even amidst poor infrastructure, corruption and arbitrary laws. It costs more to transport cargo between Nairobi and Mombasa than it costs to ship similar cargo between Japan and Mombasa.

Blaming private enterprise for exploiting Kenyans sounds more and more like the rumblings of a communist-style purge against ‘exploiters.’ Price controls will create worse shortages and spark off the rise of a black market. Unfortunately, Kenyan leaders will be the driving force in a brutal black market that will rival Zimbabwe’s. Members of Parliament have already been implicated in creating maize shortages.

The problems in Kenya, to paraphrase a Nigerian writer, are first and foremost a failure of leadership. Kenya’s leadership is disconnected from its people through the lack of ideology, short-sighted deeds and insulting words. Kenya’s leadership lacks the vision to drive the country forward and instead is regressing towards infantile politics of chest-thumping and group orgies.

The description of Kenya’s leadership used here should not be construed to mean a particular individual. The problems with Kenya’s leadership are bigger than the personalities involved for they all exhibit the same qualities. For instance, replacing President Kibaki with Raila Odinga will not bring about any changes. Removing Kibaki, Raila and Kalonzo then replacing them with Mudavadi, Ruto and Balala will simply be a game of musical chairs. All these people are part of the problem and can never be the solution.

Kenya’s leadership and its government has lost touch with its own people. The government does not know what the aspirations of the people are, it does not know the challenges that ordinary people face in daily life and neither does it care for the future. National leaders seem to think that increasing salaries, creating commissions and sub-dividing districts will placate the anger of Kenyans.

Already, the money for such tactics is running out. What then?

Root causes of Kenya’s problems

Kibaki at State House, Nairobi.

Kibaki at State House, Nairobi.

While President Mwai Kibaki will be remembered as the man who bungled an election so badly that the winner will never be known, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has the dubious distinction of inciting ethnic cleansing in full view of the media.

The 2007 elections were the first under a Kibaki presidency. The 2002 polls that got him into power were organized under the tenure of former president Daniel arap Moi. The maladministration of the 2007 elections by Kibaki makes former president Moi look like a Swiss democrat – which he is not.

President Kibaki lost his supporters for failing to protect them from marauding ethnic militias. According to the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence, chaired by Justice Philip Waki, the government knew in advance that ethnic violence would erupt in parts of Kenya regardless of who won the 2007 elections. No action was taken and the result is at least 1,000 dead and hundreds of thousands unable to return home.

But then, this was not the first of Kibaki’s blunders and neither will it be the last. Kibaki won the 2002 elections under the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), a movement uniting most of Kenya’s politicians. Within one year, NARC was dead thanks to his moribund leadership. A politician who turns hope into despair can hardly be described as inspirational.

The disappearances and killings of thousands of Kenyans especially in the past two years is another cause of anger among Kenyans. Thousands of men and women have been grabbed from their homes in Nairobi, Central Province, Mount Elgon, Mandera and the Coast. The youths were tortured, killed and their bodies dumped in the bushes to be devoured by wild animals.

At the coast, Kenyan citizens were abducted from their homes by security forces and secretly flown to Ethiopia allegedly for sponsoring terrorism. Even the Ethiopians admitted that there was no evidence against the Kenyans but it took over a year for the Kenyan government to facilitate their return to the country.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga shares responsibility with Kibaki for Kenya’s woes. His personality-based battle for the presidency directly and indirectly led to the deaths of thousands of Kenyans.

A five year presidential campaign based on agitation against the Kikuyu ethnic group largely contributed to the violence that rocked the country after the 2007 elections. Between 2003 and 2007, Raila blamed the Kikuyu for his problems with President Kibaki. Diplomats, free from the delusion of reform espoused by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), say the party was mostly an anti-Kikuyu alliance.

At the Coast, Rift Valley and Western provinces, Raila’s and ODM blamed poverty on the presence of Kikuyu settlers and business people. Unfortunately, poor rural youth believed the propaganda and voted for ODM in large numbers expecting to get land, shops, jobs and business opportunities. During the 2007 campaigns, Raila referred to the Kikuyu as ‘the enemy.’

As Raila was busy lighting ethnic fires, his first born son got engaged to a Kikuyu woman. Another son of Raila’s is close to a grandson of the late President Jomo Kenyatta and buddies with the son of a former top detective – all Kikuyu. Raila Odinga has gone into joint business with prominent Kikuyu personalities.

The other characters who comprise Kenya’s ruling elite are not any better. Most of them are linked to corruption scandals and ethnic incitement. Others are afflicted by poor character. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka supported ODM’s ethnic-based campaign until he left the party a few months to the election. William Ruto has been implicated in ethnic violence and could easily find himself at the International Criminal Court. Musalia Mudavadi is widely viewed as a spineless politician whose claim to glory is his family name.

Uhuru Kenyatta, son of founding president Jomo Kenyatta, has also been blamed for ethnic violence and could end up alongside William Ruto at The Hague.

Politicians who wanted to form an Opposition to challenge President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila have been accused of hoarding millions of bags of maize, thereby driving up prices for the staple food. Incidentally, the politicians got approval from the Agriculture Ministry – headed by William Ruto.

Its not enough for legislators to decide to pay taxes and assume that Kenyans will be happy. The tax issue is a mere manifestation of a much bigger problem of impunity and lack of respect for the people. Even if the politicians succumbed to pressure and paid taxes, they will find another means of exploiting Kenyans.

Kenya does not have credible leaders at the current moment. The nation needs a complete change in leadership. None of the current crop of leaders should ever be allowed to hold any position anywhere in the republic. Kenyan leaders have reached the end of their usefulness: they cannot produce new ideas, but will merely recycle ethnic garbage to divide and conquer Kenyans.

Kenyan leaders are not for the prosperity of the people but are interested in pursuing the status quo of privilege for the few. That explains why government appointments only benefit their family and friends. The President, Prime Minister and cabinet ministers have filled the government with their brothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, cousins and grand children.

Freedom of residence guaranteed by international law

In recent years, a dangerous line of thought has emerged in Kenya where free movement of ethnic groups is under threat.

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State – Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The post election violence of early 2008 resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being evicted from their homes and farms. Migrant families were told, often violently, that they do not belong and they should return, ‘from where they came from.’

Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) became popular in the Rift Valley and Coast provinces largely by promising Majimbo, a form of ethnic based federalism. Though the concept of federalism may be noble, the term “Majimbo” in Kenyan politics has a very specific meaning regarding the creation of ethnic enclaves.

The word Majimbo was first used in the 1960s because Kenya was a federal state back then but the manner in which the word has been used since the 1990s has often heralded brutal attacks against ethnic groups that settled outside their homelands.

Supporters of Majimbo argue migration takes up jobs, resources and opportunities that could benefit local people. Due to rampant unemployment and attendant economic hardships afflicting Kenya’s growing population, migrant settlers are easy targets for political leaders seeking votes.

Supposing ODM had scored a decisive victory during the 2007 elections? Would they have implemented a Majimbo constitution along ethnic lines?

Well, according to international law, stopping individuals from freely moving and settling across the country is tantamount to crimes against humanity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in Article 13 that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.”

During the 2007 electoral campaigns, former Cabinet Minister, Dr Amukoya Anangwe said that if ODM won the polls, industry would be moved from Nairobi to the rural areas. “Only people from that location will be employed in those factories,” said Dr Anangwe.

If such plans are enacted, they would violate Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states thus:

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The tendency of politicians to blame migrant ethnic groups for economic difficulties has worsened ethnic tension in Kenya and ordinary people are starting to believe these messages. More people are convinced that their living standards will improve if only they can take over what immigrant communities currently own.

Experience and observation shows that ethnic exclusivity does not create wealth. Instead, it breeds worse poverty. The most prosperous parts of Kenya are ethnically mixed and this includes Nairobi and its environs, Mombasa, Trans Nzoia and the Central Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and Eldoret. Clearly, there is a relationship between multi-ethnicity and prosperity.

The United States is racially, ethnically and religiously mixed. Anybody is free to migrate and settle in the United States. The result is a confluence of ideas never before seen in world history.

Did you know that Chinese and Indian migrants play a major role in big software names like Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Silicon Valley? Did you know that the US military absorbs recruits from all over the world?

A climate of acceptance, tolerance and co-operation between races, ethnic groups and religions is the way forward. The rest of the world is embracing these attributes and reaping the benefits. Kenya seems to be moving in the opposite direction and the effects are obvious for all to see.

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