Ringera: Too much noise over small issues

The furore over Justice Aaron Ringer’a reappointment to the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission is an unfortunate piece of drama that has induced a frenzy of euphoria among legislators and the general public.

Justice Aaron Ringera

Justice Aaron Ringera

When the euphoria wears off, most will realize that nothing really changed despite what is billed as an iconic step by Kenya’s Parliament to reject the re appointment done by President Mwai Kibaki.

If anything, the ongoing cheap drama is working out perfectly as a tactic by Kenya’s ruling classes to engage in political bargaining, or horse trading, while hoodwinking the people that democratic space is growing.

Now, legislators are on a blood frenzy as they vow to re-examine previous executive appointments and subject them to a similar fate. If Members of Parliament go through with their threat, there will be total chaos in State Corporations and government departments as it will be difficult to tell who is in charge.

Despite all the hullaballoo about the legality or otherwise of the reappointment, the core of the saga was that the ODM wing of government was not consulted over the appointment. Prime Minister Raila Odinga tried to play down the issue so as not to appear as opposing the President but his allies, James Orengo and Prof Anyang Nyongo, could not have opposed Ringera’s reappointment without Raila’s tacit approval and encouragement.

The Ringera saga is reminiscent of previous tussles over the powers of the two main principles in the Giant Coalition Government, namely President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The Prime Minister has numerously said that he is an equal to the President and therefore should be consulted in every government decision. The result of the impasse over powers has resulted in a divided government.

Confusion in government was evident in parliament during the week as Cabinet Ministers harshly attacked their own government. When challenged to resign for disagreeing with their boss – the President – the ministers argued that they were debating as ordinary legislators and not as Cabinet Ministers.

The principle of an independent prosecution agency to tackle grand corruption was proposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) back in 1997. It was then known as the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority (KACA) and was meant to be an independent body that could prosecute top government officials. However, the very concept of a parallel prosecution body was not acceptable to Kenyan authorities and efforts were made to ensure its downfall.

On December 22, 2000, the High Court in the case of Gachiengo Versus Republic (2000) ruled that the existence of KACA undermined the powers conferred on both the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police by the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya. In addition, the High Court further held that the statutory provisions establishing KACA were in conflict with the Constitution. That spelt the death of KACA.

The present KACC was established in 2003 by enactment of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act. Justice Aaron Ringera as Director and three Assistant Directors formally took office on 10th September, 2004.

KACC has been accused of not prosecuting top personalities who have been implicated in corruption and instead going after “small fish.” In its defence, KACC says that it lacks powers to prosecute and it can only investigate and forward the files to the Attorney General. This situation is likely to persist as there are many in government who are uncomfortable with the idea of multiple prosecuting agencies in the country.

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Raila foes lick wounds after by-election losses

Opponents of Prime Minister Raila Odinga are now engaged in a blame game after losing two constituencies where by-elections were held in the past week. Raila now feels vindicated in his earlier claims that he can ignore disgruntled legislators and work directly with voters.

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Raila was in an ecstatic mood over the weekend after his ODM party won the Bomachoge and Shinyalu by-elections. The victory came despite intensive campaigning by Raila’s opponents, many of whom are in the same ODM party as Raila. In a political scenario that can only happen in Kenya, ODM officials were campaigning for rival parties in a bid to prove who is bigger or more influential in ODM.

It goes without saying that Agriculture Minister William Ruto, who of late does not see eye-to-eye with Raila, was secretly hoping that the official ODM candidates would fail. Several other ODM legislators who have fallen out with Raila openly campaigned for candidates running on other political parties. These include Omingo Magara, Isaac Ruto and Joshua Kutuny.

In Western Province, the Kenyan African Democratic Development Union (KADDU) of Cyrus Jirongo suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the ODM candidate. So resounding was ODM’s victory in Shinyalu that Jirongo admitted that his campaign machinery made fatal mistakes that cost his party victory. Jirongo told Citizen Radio that the KADDU candidate, Daniel Khamasi, was not a favourite among youthful voters. Khamasi is a former area MP.

President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU party was so hopelessly disjointed that its presence was hardly felt during campaigns. Appearances by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and party leader George Saitoti could not salvage the situation. PNU’s campaign was riddled by wrangling and a total lack of co-ordination. Party members are beginning to question the leadership credentials of Saitoti, who is planning to vie for Kenya’s presidency in 2012.

Still in Western Province, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi was also ecstatic after ODM’s victory in Shinyalu. This was because the by-elections had been billed as a battle between Mudavadi and Jirongo. Both men are vying for the political control of Western Province. While Mudavadi was born into luxury in the family of the late Moses Mudavadi, Jirongo is largely a self made man who rose to prominence as the head of a KANU campaign outfit in 1992. Jirongo was spotted by former President Daniel arap Moi and appointed to head the Youth for KANU 92 with William Ruto as his deputy. Youth for KANU 92 had access to unlimited cash whose source remains a mystery.

Over the past decade, Jirongo has tried to become political pointman for the Luhya tribe that dominates Western Province. The role of community spokesman was previously played by the late Moses Mudavadi (Musalia’s father) then the late Masinde Muliro and late Michael Kijana Wamalwa. Jirongo is highly contemptuous of Mudavadi who is regarded as a reluctant politician waiting to be given power on a silver platter. Jirongo feels that he has worked hard to get where he is and sees Mudavadi as a spoilt brat unworthy of leadership. This explains why Jirongo is so eager to prove that he can influence voting patterns in Western at the expense of Mudavadi. However, Jirongo’s backing in Shinyalu for former legislator Daniel Khamasi was, by his own admission, a mistake.

That is not to say that the ODM candidate and Mudavadi were exceptionally popular with voters. Shinyalu voted overwhelmingly for ODM and Raila in 2007 and the by-election victory could simply have been a continuation of the trend. Any other person running on the ODM platform had a good chance of winning the seat.

In Bomachoge, voters may have wanted to vote ODM as a means of rectifying what they see as a mistake they made in 2007. The larger Kisii region was perhaps the only part of Kenya where almost all major political parties fared well. The Kisii were split between supporting Kibaki and Raila. After the elections, the Kisii people were violently attacked by their Luo and Kalenjin neighbours for not supporting Raila. This time, the Kisii were eager to show solidarity with their ethnic neighbours by electing an ODM, pro-Raila candidate.

With the by-elections now a closed chapter, the rival camps in ODM are assessing the lessons from that experience and gearing up for the next battle. Raila is unlikely to change his mode of operation and will want to continue working directly with voters. He sees the by-election victory as proof that he and ODM remain popular at the grassroots. The likes of William Ruto, Cyrus Jirongo, Omingo Magara and Joshua Kutuny will also be analyzing their actions. They should learn to present a more united front in future and to choose a viable candidate capable of connecting with voters.

In coming days, Parliament will begin debate on the enactment of a Special Tribunal to prosecute persons responsible for post election violence in 2008. This is likely to be the next phase of the war between Raila and his opponents. It promises to be a brutal showdown where those working against Raila will be eager to make up for their losses in the Bomachoge and Shinyalu by elections. Jirongo has said that he will work to ensure that the Special Tribunal bill flops. “The perpetrators of post election violence must be taken to The Hague,” says Jirongo.

As political contests continue, issues affecting the day-to-day lives of Kenyans have been shunted to the periphery.

Raila intellectuals angry with NGOs, diplomats and media

Pro-Raila Odinga intellectuals are accusing Western powers of funding the civil society movement and Kenya’s media in a plot to cut short the ODM leader’s political career.

“It seems these foreign interests don’t mind an openly concerted effort to mobilize a youth-initiated, well-funded, grassroots-based, gender-inclusive movement to stir rebellion against the Grand Coalition Government led by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga,” explains Dr. Job Obonyo.

Ongoing civic education in Shinyalu Constituency, where a by election will be held on August 27. Picture from the Jukwaa forum.

Ongoing civic education in Shinyalu Constituency, where a by election will be held on August 27. Picture from the Jukwaa forum.

Think tanks working for Prime Minister Raila Odinga are blaming the civil society, diplomats and the media for their candidate’s dwindling popularity. Convinced that their man is infallible, these intellectuals believe that outside forces are working to ensure that Raila never captures Kenya’s highest position. They specifically blame US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger and the Mars Group which is spearheading a campaign titled, “OTNOP”.

The think tanks are furious with civil society for preaching against the “three-piece” voting pattern or “party waves.” The three-piece pattern means that voters elect a councillor, Member of Parliament and a Presidential candidate from a single party regardless of the personal characteristics of the candidate. Civil society wants Kenyans to choose leaders based on a candidate’s viability rather than political party affiliation. Raila academicians see the tactic as a threat to ODM, which took advantage of the “three-piece” system in the 2007 General Elections.

Raila’s political history is characterized by three-piece party waves. First, it was FORD Kenya in 1992, then the National Development Party (NDP) in 1997 followed by the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) in 2002.

Raila’s think tanks are dominated by Marxists who were sympathetic to his father, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. As Vice President after Kenya’s independence from Britain, Jaramogi fell out with founding President Jomo Kenyatta due to his communist beliefs and ties to the Soviet Union. Kenyatta was more Westward looking and reconciliatory towards the departing British. There was a brief ideological tussle in the 1960s which culminated with Jaramogi in prison. Since then, Kenya has been openly pro-British and pro-United States, and supports the US-led War on Terror.

Kenya’s Marxists have blamed capitalism for the widening gap between rich and poor. They also criticize the capitalist system for neglecting low-productivity areas such as Northern and North Eastern Kenya. The 2007 election campaigns revived the ideological conflict of the 1960s, with Raila proposing political and economic reforms that were socialist in everything but name. President Mwai Kibaki, on the other hand, is a firm practitioner of the capitalist model of economic development.

On many occasions, Raila has talked of land redistribution and thereby earned the wrath of the propertied classes. Raila wants the government to control house rents and the prices of consumer goods. Indeed, Raila’s Lang’ata constituency has previously been the scene of rent riots after he called on landlords to cut rents by half. At the Kenyan Coast, Raila wants to take land from Arab owners for redistribution to Africans. More recently, Raila championed a government plan to provide subsidized maize to the poor but the plan did not succeed because the government lacks a retail distribution chain.

During the 2007 elections, Raila was criticized for planning to impoverish the rich instead of empowering the poor to generate wealth. This, say critics, is not the solution to inequality.

Raila’s intellectual wing has named the US Ambassador as the West’s pointman in its strategy for Kenya. “For the past year and a half, US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, has several times urged the Kenyan youth to mobilize ‘themselves’ and force the grand coalition government to bring reforms,” writes Dr Obonyo in the Jukwaa internet forum.

The pro Raila intelligentsia are convinced that Ranneberger wants a Colour Revolution similar to what happened in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of NGOs and particularly student activists in organising creative nonviolent resistance. So far these movements have been successful in Serbia (the Bulldozer Revolution of 2000), in Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003), in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), and Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution (2005).

In Kenya, Raila’s backers are accusing the Mars Group of undermining the Prime Minister. The Mars Group is running a Partnership for Change and has been distributing T-shirts labelled “OTNOP” (phonetically pronounced “OTPOR”). OTNOP means ‘Non Violent Resistance’ in Serbian – engaging grassroots folks on civic duty. OTNOP is currently teaching Kenyans to avoid the three-piece voting system, reject violence and refuse cash handouts. For this reason, OTNOP is seen in some quarters as a threat.

The Mars Group is associated with anti-corruption activist Mwalimu Mati. Last December, Mati was briefly detained for leading disruptions during Jamhuri Day celebrations and which greatly embarrassed President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Security services are convinced that Mati is inciting disaffection amongst members of the public and questioned him during his three day detention. It is interesting that Raila think tanks have swallowed what the security services have told them.

It is also interesting that both Raila and Kibaki are attacking the civil society and diplomats using language similar to former President Daniel arap Moi’s speeches in the 1990s. Back then, when Kibaki and Raila were in the opposition, Moi warned against Western powers funding civil society and opposition parties for seditious purposes. Kibaki and Raila rejected Moi’s arguments and fiercely championed independence of thought and association. Now, the tables have turned.

The Raila intelligentsia are still convinced that their man is popular. “Polls also show that Raila Odinga is overwhelmingly favoured to lead the country while the same NGOs keep blurting the trumpet sounds that Kibaki-and-Raila need to step down and allow change to happen,” writes Obonyo.

To prove their distaste for the activities of Ranneberger and the Mars Group, Raila academics have dismissed the Colour Revolutions as “fake.”

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Click here to see Job Obonyo’s discussion on the Jukwaa website.

Click to read about the Partnership for Change on the Mars Group website.
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Raila, Ruto clash not surprising at all

Deep ideological differences between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Agriculture Minister William Ruto are responsible for the split in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

raila_rutoIn their eagerness, or perhaps desperation, to win power in the 2007 General Elections, Raila and Ruto disguised their personal differences to unite under the ODM party. Both men knew that they could not get into government by themselves. This was more the case when Kalonzo Musyoka left ODM in mid 2007.

Immediately after Kalonzo’s exit, Raila and Ruto got into a very strong alliance that helped bring the Luo and Kalenjin votes directly to Raila’s presidential candidacy. Come the elections, the Luo and Kalenjin voted for Raila en-masse. When President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner, the Luo and Kalenjin were at the forefront in protesting the election results. The Prime Minister himself has acknowledged the role of Kalenjin warriors in forcing Kibaki to the negotiating table.

Today, that alliance lies in tatters. Raila and Ruto have inevitably parted ways and are both seeking alternative allies in readiness for the 2012 elections. While Raila is an obvious candidate, Ruto sees himself as presidential material for Kenya’s future. He will either run for the office or support somebody else in exchange for the Vice Presidency or the Premiership. Those mentioned as Ruto’s possible allies in 2012 are current Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Meanwhile, Raila is talking to politicians from Central Kenya in a bid to woo Kikuyu, Embu and Meru votes.

Raila and Ruto come from opposing schools of political thought. Raila is a socialist who learnt politics from his father, former Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Due to Communist leanings, Jaramogi fell out with President Jomo Kenyatta in 1966 and became a perpetual opposition to the Kenyatta and Moi administrations until his death in 1994. Jaramogi inculcated socialism in Raila by sending him to study Engineering in the former East Germany which was a Communist state. In the 1980s, Raila was tortured for involvement in the 1982 coup attempt. It was almost as though President Daniel arap Moi was deliberately targeting Raila in order to cause psychological anguish to Jaramogi.

Ruto, on the other hand, was an ardent student of the Moi brand of politics. Picked from obscurity before the 1992 General Elections, Ruto was appointed second in command of a new organization called “Youth for KANU 1992” or YK92 in short. YK92 had only one goal: to use any means necessary to ensure the victory of Moi and the KANU party. YK92 received an unlimited amount of funds to buy support for KANU. The source of the cash was a mystery but it is believed that the government engaged in massive printing of money. The Goldenberg scandal could have provided more slush funds.

Moi and KANU managed to win the 1992 elections but, needless to say, the operations of YK92 had flooded the economy with paper money. The years 1993 – 1994 witnessed the highest inflation in Kenya’s history as prices of basic commodities doubled and trebled. This was when the Shs500 currency note was introduced.

Come the 1997 elections, Moi supported William Ruto’s candidacy in Eldoret North constituency against the late Reuben Chesire. The interesting angle is that Reuben Chesire was related to Moi. However, friendship counts for little in politics and Moi is the master of use-and-dump strategies. With Moi’s backing, Ruto won the elections and was appointed to the cabinet. By 2002, Ruto was a powerful Minister for Internal Security and an ardent defender of Moi.

In a sense, Ruto symbolized the arrogance and corruption of Moi’s last years of office. He displayed a great deal of single-mindedness when defending Moi’s choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as successor in the 2002 elections. Ruto virulently opposed the constitutional review process led by Professor Yash Pal Ghai and which culminated in the Bomas conference. Often, Ruto appeared on national television frothing at the mouth as he dismissed constitutional reforms as an attack on the Moi presidency. To Ruto’s credit, Kibaki ally John Michuki confirmed in 2003 that constitutional reforms were meant to remove Moi and KANU from power.

Ruto has never subscribed to Raila’s populist approach to politics. Ruto is a hardcore conservative more comfortable with Mwai Kibaki than with Raila Odinga. It was naked opportunism that brought Raila and Ruto together. Raila needed the Kalenjin vote and Ruto wanted to get back into government after KANU’s loss in 2002.

Ruto is among politicians who believe that Raila is a reckless activist who cannot be trusted with leading Kenya. Ruto is certainly not a socialist. He is an extremely wealth man who made lots of money through his connections to Moi. Apart from unlimited access to YK92 funds, Ruto was allocated government land which he afterwards sold to state-owned corporations at a huge profit. For instance, Ruto made hundreds of millions of shillings selling land to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). Ruto’s companies won tenders to supply government departments and state corporations.

In 2007, Moi decided to support President Mwai Kibaki’s candidacy and told Ruto to follow suit. Ruto was convinced that Raila had the best chance of winning and refused to heed Moi’s calling. Now, it looks like Ruto is going back home to Moi and Uhuru Kenyatta as Raila’s political fortunes dwindle by the day.

One final point to consider: Did Ruto really fall out with Moi in 2007 or was it part of Moi’s political strategy of ensuring he had a stake in government regardless of who won the election? The hard fact is that if Raila had won the presidency, Ruto would have taken care of Moi’s interests.

Today, with Moi firmly on Kibaki’s side, Ruto doesn’t seem to be doing badly either. Early this year, Ruto survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament thanks to support from pro-Kibaki legislators.

Mutula Kilonzo an agent of confusion

Typical of Kenyan politicians, Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo is sowing seeds of confusion in a vain attempt at winning popularity. Mutula’s history, however, suggests that he has little empathy for ordinary people.

Mutula Kilonzo

Mutula Kilonzo

Professionalism in Kenya is fast declining, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Grand Coalition Cabinet. The principles of confidentiality and collective responsibility have been thrown out the window as each individual seeks to advance their own interests.

All over the world, cabinet bodies are supposed to exhibit unity to the public regardless of the actual situation in private. This is because a divided cabinet signifies a divided government. A divided government can never deliver anything tangible to the people. In Kenya, though, the lack of professionalism means that cabinet ministers tear into each other in public without caring how it affects the government’s public image. This is causing unnecessary confusion as regards the true government position on anything important.

Mutula Kilonzo has become the latest agent of chaos, opposing a government decision made at a cabinet meeting which he attended. Mutula is currently championing the formation of a Special Tribunal to prosecute those who planned and participated in the 2008 post election violence. His change in stance came after the cabinet decided to adopt a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) in order to avoid prosecuting anyone.

By adopting the TJRC route, the cabinet wanted to appease those within its ranks implicated in planning and funding the mayhem that resulted in over 1,300 deaths and half a million homeless. Among those linked to the violence are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, Tourism Minister Najib Balala and Culture Minister William ole Ntimama. Faced with a choice between establishing a Special Tribunal or taking the suspects to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, the Cabinet opted on Truth and Reconciliation in exchange for confession.

As a professional, Mutula should have voiced his reservations during the 6 hours that the Cabinet took to decide on TJRC. Instead, he is now playing to the public gallery in a pathetic attempt at winning public popularity. Perhaps he is hoping to emulate his predecessor at the Justice Ministry, Martha Karua, who resigned after falling out with President Mwai Kibaki. However, while Karua has been a consistent defender of human rights and democracy, the same cannot be said of Mutula.

Mutula was the blue-eyed boy of former President Daniel arap Moi and made billions of shillings in corrupt deals that cost the country massive amounts of money. Today, Mutula is among the richest people in Kenya. According to the Kumekucha website, Mutula was introduced to Moi in the 1980s by former Machakos KANU leader, the late Mulu Mutisya.

Mutisya is said to have heaped praises about Mutula’s exemplary ability to argue for his clients and his loyalty to Moi’s KANU party. The rest is history, Mutula became one of the president’s many lawyers and in the process got some of the most lucrative briefs including the NSSF (National Social Security Fund) where Kilonzo is known to have made Sh 900 million from the Fund in two deals. Towards the end of Moi’s tenure in office, Mutula was nominated to parliament by KANU.

A philanderer and notorious womanizer, Mutula’s amorous escapades are legendary as he is known to prefer women of light skin ranging from as young as 16 years. The man is now 62.

During President Mwai Kibaki’s first tenure of office, Mutula joined Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in aligning KANU with the Raila Odinga faction of Kibaki’s NARC party. Together, they campaigned against Kibaki during the 2005 Referendum on a proposed new constitution. This marked the beginnings of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

In 2007, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto fell out after Moi shifted his support to President Kibaki. Uhuru joined Kibaki’s side while Mutula Kilonzo stuck with Ruto and Raila. Later on, ODM split into the Raila Odinga and the Kalonzo Musyoka factions. Mutula shifted to the Kalonzo Musyoka side as Ruto continued supporting Raila. By some strange fate, all these personalities are now in government.

Due to Mutula’s allegiance to Kalonzo Musyoka (they are both from the Kamba ethnic group), his opposition to the Cabinet’s stand on TJRC has been interpreted as an attempt to eliminate Kalonzo’s rivals in the 2012 Presidential race. If Mutula’s wish for a Special Tribunal were to become a reality, then Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto will be eliminated as presidential candidates as they will be busy fighting criminal prosecution for the 2008 post election violence. Prime Minister Raila Odinga, having lost the support of William Ruto, Ntimama and Balala, will be in a weakened state. Infact, Ruto has vowed to bring down Raila should he be taken either before a Special Tribunal or to The Hague. That will leave Kalonzo at an optimal position to walk into State House.

Of course, Mutula has denied the allegations. He told the Standard newspaper that his determination to establish a Special Tribunal of international standards was not politically motivated. “That is laughable,” said the Mbooni MP, “I am a firm believer that reforms cannot be tied to an individual or any political party. Individuals come and go but the country will be there forever. Why would I want to cut my cloth just to suit 2012?”

“I am not going to make any amendments to these Bills and I can repeat this a thousand times. The Cabinet has a right to reject them but I will have no apologies. I have offered what is good for this country,” emphasized Mutula.

Good for the country? Coming from Mutula, that sounds like a sick joke.

Kenyans reject Truth Commission, local trials

The Grand Coalition has come under scathing attack from angry Kenyans, who have been dismayed by the decision to have a Truth Commission instead of criminal prosecution for the perpetrators of political and ethnic clashes.

President Mwai Kibaki addressing journalists last Thursday when announcing the controversial government decision.

President Mwai Kibaki addressing journalists last Thursday when announcing the controversial decision by the cabinet.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga want to shield their key allies from both the International Criminal Court or a Special Tribunal constituted in Kenya. Individuals implicated in organizing, funding or complicity in violence were seen grinning behind Kibaki as he announced that he was getting them off the hook.

Opinion polls show that a vast majority of Kenyans want the ruling classes to be stripped of their positions and face criminal charges at the International Criminal Court. There is widespread belief that the international justice process will be more credible than justice in Kenyan courts.

The sad reality is that, 18 months after post election violence, nobody has been jailed with most cases ending in acquittals. This has not inspired confidence among the estimated 500,000 survivors of the clashes. Most of them still survive in squalid camps with little government assistance.

Kenyans want a radical change in their governance structure. For many years, attempts at economic, social and political reforms have either been frustrated or hijacked by the ruling elite. Politicians have vast powers to appoint cronies to state positions and to allocate resources as they wish. Economic liberalization has only benefited the well-connected and Kenyan industry is dominated by companies allied to or owned by politicians. Corruption is the order of the day as nothing works without a word from “above.”

Today, recruitment into government jobs is a waste of time as politicians manipulate the process to benefit supporters from their ethnic groups. The recent recruitment of personnel for the August national census has been marred by favoritism and bribery. Rather than benefit the millions of unemployed youth, temporary census jobs have been allocated to teachers and civil servants already on the government payroll. In several districts, youths have vowed to disrupt the census unless the recruitment of enumerators is repeated.

Over the years, little has been done to fight corruption, ethnic violence and other crimes committed by the rich and powerful. This has fostered a culture of impunity because guilty parties do not suffer any consequences. Politicians in Kenya have become demi-gods who can get away with theft, murder, incitement and adultery. Moral rectitude among Kenya’s leaders has plummeted as they engage in torrid love affairs with married women from poor families. Girls seeking assistance for school fees or jobs are forced to perform sex acts, sometimes within parliamentary offices.

The culture of evil among Kenyan leaders has sparked bitterness among ordinary people. For many years, there was little that could be done about it as the masses suffered their indignities in silence. The prospects of sending powerful personalities to the International Criminal Court offers a chance at national renewal. As stated elsewhere in this website, the international justice process offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to purge the Kenyan political system of vermin pretending to be leaders.

Though the cabinet announced that it will support criminal prosecutions through the Judiciary, few expect this to happen. If anything, most of the talk was on “forgiveness and reconciliation.” Cabinet ministers repeated similar themes throughout the weekend at various public rallies as though they had been ordered to sell the idea to Kenyans.

As a measure of how far the government was willing to go in shielding ministers from international prosecution, President Kibaki candidly revealed that they considered withdrawing Kenya from the statutes that created the International Criminal Court.

“One of the options considered was withdrawal from the Rome Statute under Article 127 and repeal of the International Crimes Act, 2008,” said the President.

There has also been speculation that, because Kenya signed the International Crimes Act after the post election violence had subsided, there was a legal argument that the new law can only be applied after its been enacted. According to the Constitution of Kenya, a law cannot be applied on crimes committed prior to its inception.

It is clear that politicians are using every legal loophole to escape justice. Among those mentioned in various human rights reports are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama and Tourism Minister Najib Balala.

Political activist Mary Wambui, widely believed to be Kibaki’s second wife, has been implicated in organizing and funding ethnic militia.

Other prominent politicians who will face criminal charges in future include: Professor Peter Anyang Nyongo, Dr Sally Kosgey, Henry Kosgey, Elizabeth Ongoro, Franklin Bett, Kabando wa Kabando, Njenga Karume, John Pesa, Jayne Kihara, Ramadhan Kajembe and their respective supporters.

A host of councilors, security officers and political activists have been named by the Waki Commission of Inquiry and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

In the past few months, as pressure mounted on the government to act against the masterminds of political violence, the suspects have vowed to implicate both the President and Prime Minister. The argument has been that Kibaki and Raila benefitted from the violence and, therefore, cannot avoid responsibility. While Raila used mass violence to protest what he sees as electoral fraud that denied him the presidency, Kibaki was silent as violence raged on his behalf.

Mau Forest politics: a detailed explanation

It is estimated that there are 25,000 people who either legally or illegally have settled in both Mau East and Mau West forests. The Government plans to resettle them elsewhere and fence off the water tower, one of the five in the country.

Destruction of the Mau Forest. Picture source: (see below)

Destruction of the Mau Forest. Picture source: (see below)

The Kipsigis community, the main occupants of the water-catchment area, oppose the eviction, saying they settled in the forest legally. Elders say their community is being punished by the coalition Government following their stand in the 2007 General Election. The elders have warned the Government over the evictions, saying the move was causing panic among residents, some of whom were threatening to disrupt peace.

On the other hand, Maasai community leaders say there should not be any compromise over the evictions. Maasai leaders say that the illegal extension of ranches bordering the forest in 1998 by the Narok County Council was the genesis of the threat to the water-catchment area. They say the area was allocated to powerful individuals in Government who are now opposed to the evictions.

There are fears that the Maasai and Kipisigis ethnic groups, both of whom have stakes in the Mau Forest Complex, might clash violently.

The more than 25,000 settlers, who are mainly farmers, have totally degraded and destroyed the environment to pave way for their settlement and farming. These combined activities have caused several rivers to dry up permanently.

Origins of the current situation

The encroachment and destruction of Kenya’s forests is closely related to many controversial land issues. In Kenya, as in many African countries that experienced colonisation, the issue of access to land is complex and emotive.

During colonialism, white settlers were allocated the most productive and fertile 20 per cent of Kenya’s land mass. When Kenya was declared a British Protectorate in 1895, forest cover was estimated at 30 per cent of total landmass. At independence in 1963 this figure was just 3 per cent. Following independence, there was popular expectation of increased and more equitable access to land for ordinary Kenyans.

However, post- independence governments failed to put in place a land program that met popular expectations. Instead, land was systematically used as a tool of political patronage. Huge tracts of public land were allocated to political elites and to political supporters. Since independence forest cover in Kenya has further shrunk to just 1.7 per cent of the total land mass.

Lack of alternative livelihood opportunities in these areas has left land as the only resource to mine for people’s basic needs. Without a comprehensive approach to sustainable livelihoods, rural communities are degrading the very environment on which they depend.

Specifics of the Mau forest problem

Since 1993, the Kenyan Government has systematically carved out huge parts of Mau Forest for settlement of people from other communities. It is said that local leaders condone the destruction by using land as a political tool, oblivious to the consequences. Even members of the provincial administration were involved in the plunder.

For politicians and senior government officials, the settlement scheme was a political arena in which they promised their people land in return for votes. The majority of people who were settled were supporters of the [former] ruling party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU). They view the land as a political reward for voting their party into power.

On 16th February 2001, the Environment Minister, Mr Francis Nyenze, gave 28 days’ notice of the excision of more than 167,000 ha of forest land from the Mau. This decision caused a serious uproar from a cross-section of Kenyans opposed to the excision.

Recent actions

In 2003, the government set up a commission to investigate land grabbing. The Ndungu Commission, as it is known, reported to the government in June 2004, and the report was made public in December 2004. The report catalogues a staggering level of illegal and irregular allocations of public lands under the administrations of both Presidents Kenyatta and Moi, for largely patronage purposes.

For example, 1,812 ha of forest in Kiptagich, which is part of the Mau Forest complex, was cleared to resettle the Ogiek community, which has traditional rights to the forest, but the Ndungu reports states that the main beneficiaries were not the indigenous Ogiek but prominent individuals and companies.

The Ndungu Commission recommended that the large majority of the land grabbed should be revoked, stating in relation to forests that:

  • All excisions of forestland which were made contrary to the provisions of the Forests Act and the Government Lands Act should be cancelled.
  • All titles which were acquired consequent upon the illegal excisions and allocations of forestland should be revoked. The forestlands affected should be repossessed and restored to their original purpose.

However, the Commission made provision for addressing situations where forest land had been set aside in order to settle landless people. In such cases, where genuine landless people had been settled, the Commission recommended that while the titles should be revoked (given their inherent illegality), the Government should – subject to compliance with other legislation – issue new titles to the landless settlers.

Early efforts to remove people from the forest were stopped, among others, by a High Court injunction granted to seven individuals on the strength of their title deeds. It later appeared that the injunction applied only to the seven applicants. Later, based on increasing consensus among the Cabinet on the need to conserve the Mau, the Government decided to move ahead, evicting 10,290 people in May and June 2005.

In 2007, the decision to evict settlers from the Mau Forest suffered a setback due to the General Elections of December that year. The government of President Mwai Kibaki succumbed to pressure from opposition politicians who were using the Mau Forest evictions as a campaign platform to woo the Kalenjin ethnic group. In a bid to recover lost popularity, the government promised to issue title deeds to the settlers.

After the elections, and with the formation of the Grand Coalition, the government resumed its campaign to evict settlers from the Mau. The Sondu Miriu hydro-electric power station in Nyanza Province was unable to produce at full capacity because the Sondu Miriu River – whose source is the Mau Forest – is drying up. Opposition arose from within the coalition as majority of the Kipsigis settlers had voted for Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) which capitalized on local discontent created by the 2005 evictions.

The conflicting positions of cabinet ministers, especially opposition from Kipsigis legislators backed by their Kalenjin compatriots, paralyzed planned evictions. If anything, degradation of the Mau Forest intensified as settlers and loggers sought to make the most of their remaining stay.

Outlook

Protection of the forest and protection of human rights are not mutually exclusive, and in the case of the Mau Forest evictions, the failure to address human rights has undermined protection of the forest. The overall consensus amongst environmentalists in Kenya is that the forced evictions have largely failed to protect the forest – in many cases people have simply returned to their former homes because they have nowhere else to go.

Without an adequate resettlement plan in place, evictions not only violate international human rights law; they fail to provide a solution to forest protection. The Government’s argument that the title deeds are illegitimate fails to recognise that many poor people acted in good faith when they obtained title. Moreover, where people are suspected of having obtained title deeds through corrupt or illegal practices, the burden of proving this rests with the government.

The pressure on land, water, and forested ecosystems is a function of population growth, urbanization processes, increased per capita consumption of forest resources and the failure of previous interventions to adopt approaches aimed at achieving both social and ecological goals. Equitable and sustained poverty alleviation is contingent upon the pursuit of environmental sustainability in the context of implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which can be said to have mediated Kenya’s new generational laws.

In truth, the problems being experienced in the Mau Forest complex are a product of the government’s own making. This, therefore, necessitates the humane approach advocated by civil society, scientists and some politicians. There’s no doubt that the settlers must be relocated but considerations regarding the acquisition of title deeds must be kept in mind. While there’s no denying that the settlement was done by previous administrations and a political party which is today at the fringes, government actions supersede individual occupants of high office. A government decision does not become illegal just because the person who made the decision is no longer in office.

As political leaders and elders have noted, the issue of settlers in the Mau Forest must be handled with extreme sensitivity and through a just mechanism. Unless justice and compensation are handled to the satisfaction of the settlers, the government could easily be laying the grounds for armed conflict that could have major repercussions on the stability of the Kenyan state.

All over the world, the mishandling of problems similar to what we see in the Mau has led to rebel movements and possibly the toppling of government. The Mau Mau crisis of the 1950s was in large part attributed to the manner in which the British colonial authorities mishandled Kikuyu land grievances. We must learn from history so as not to repeat similar mistakes.

Sources

  1. Amnesty International (2007). Nowhere to go: Forced evictions in Mau Forest, Kenya.
  2. Kemei, Kipchumba (2004, February 25). Plunder of Mau Forest a Threat to 3m People. East African Standard.
  3. Masibo, Kennedy. (2008, November 25). Destroy Mau Forest and forget L. Nakuru Park. The Daily Nation.
  4. Nkako F, Lambrechts C, Gachanja M, & Woodley B (2005). Maasai Mau Forest Status Report 2005. Narok. Ewaso Ngiro South Development Authority.
  5. Sang, Joseph K (2001). The Ogiek in Mau Forest.
  6. Sayagie, George (2008, November 9). Groups differ on Mau forest evictions. The Daily Nation.