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Kenyan Burning Political Cringe By Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo

“My government has reduced me to a crude representation of power politics, a blank ballot whose ethnicity makes me complicit in the actions of a man who was powerful and is now weak. Give me back the freedom to be a Kenyan again. Give me something to believe in that is not the death of a dream. Give me the courage not to turn away. Give us people who can hold the line, no matter the cost, and keep us from being swept away. It might be too little–but let it not be too late.” Kui in Kenya Pundit blog.

In a knurled way, history is repeating itself in Kenya. The Lancaster House Conferences of 1960 and 1962 which paved the way for Kenya's independence brought unrest to the country's European community. The Africans had gained an effective African majority through the creation of thirty-three open seats out of sixty-five, in the Legislative Council. There was no doubt that the eventual destiny of Kenya was that of African control even though the facade of multi-racial government was temporarily preserved. Some considerable bitterness grew between the Europeans' Coalition "movement" led by Sir Ferdinand Cavendish-Bentinck. This "movement” felt it was necessary to stand up against Sir Michael Blundell's New Kenya Party that entertained the idea that it was possible to work with Africans.

Despite Tomas Joseph Mboya's and Gichuru's positive reassurances at the time to British investors in London, the two Kenyan leaders on the other hand reassured Kenyan Africans back home that "Europeans and Asians will kneel to us." Kenyan Africans were united then as nothing other than Kenyans. Now they are killing themselves while the European and Asian Kenyans rummage in their cupboards for old clothes, mattresses, pots and pans for the displaced Kenyans. Lending a helping hand where they can, while those Kenyan Africans who have more wealth than they would ever need, even if they lived for a


few centuries, are inciting the Kenyan destitute to shed each other’s cholesterol-poor blood, loot each other’s jikos, blankets, pots and pans and used T-shirts. The guesstimated number of dead now stands at 600, the displaced at 300.000. Not all the dead have been buried. The dead are baking in the streets. Kenya has joined the cadre of African countries who have forgotten that human beings bury their dead since entering the homo stage.

Everybody is hoping for things to return to normal. But what is normal? “Normal” had been sizzling under the surface all this time. John Githongo and the Anglo Leasing Affair, the Armenian Brothers Affair. The re-election of Kibaki simply made the sizzle turn into an explosion. There is a certain mentality of the old guard African political rulers – they tend to believe that the more chaos they cause, the more citizens they oppress and annihilate, the more the whole world is talking about them negatively, the more powerful they are. After all the amorphous international community seems to shun talking about the positive African and Africa with as much enthusiasm.

Corruption and human rights abuse grazed on the lush meadows of the last Kibaki government, but this amorphous community looked the other way even after the Githongo Report – Kenya was an “ally” in the “fight against international terrorism”. And the internal terrorism, corruption and human rights abuses? Disregarded as long as foreign citizens welfare, Western “interests” and investments were not affected. William Wallis and Michael Holman in London and Krishna Guha in Washington are reported in africanpress on January 11 as having report unearthing a “confidential memo from the World Bank’s Kenya office that supports President Mwai Kibaki’s claim of victory in the country’s disputed elections €and this• plunged the Washington-based lender into controversy.” The memo originated from

Colin Bruce, the World Bank’s country director in Nairobi. Bruce “lays out the case for accepting Mr Kibaki’s victory on the basis of ‘oral briefings and documents from senior [United Nations Development Programme] officials” who “monitored the overall electoral process’” and “the considered view of the UN is that the Electoral Commission of
Kenya announcement of a Kibaki win is correct”. The spokeswoman for the UN Seecretary-


General, Michele Montas, however, denied that the UN had adopted such a stance. UNDP officials said they had neither monitored the elections nor provided any assessment suggesting a Kibaki victory. I have chipped in my bit time and again about the World Bank and this body’s “interests” in how it deals with some African countries and why it poures huge sums into Kenya despite the highest level corruption under the Kibaki government. The large development programmes in Kenya in spite of evidence corruption are touted by the Bank as being vital for poor Kenyan. It must mean vital for making them even poorer because the poor inherit the debts. The Bank’s Washington officials, in support of Bruce, called Bruce’s laid back stance a balanced approach to the crisis crippling Kenya.

Colin Bruce happens to be living in a house which is the property of the Kibaki family. The Bank helps with an explanation that the tenancy was inherited from its previous country representative and was chosen on grounds of security.

Business as usual.

Telling Kibaki to back down and listen to good advice is to the man tantamount to advising him to be “weak”. Kibaki seems to have learnt from the Herero-terminator, the German General von Trotha, who maintained that kindness shown to the “natives” is interpreted by them as weakness. Ruthlessly kill them and they will cower away. Kibaki and his ilk mistake fear and fright for respect and reverence.

Without exonerating him and his party per se, I do not agree with the many voices urging Odinga and ODM not to encourage citizens to go out and peacefully demonstrate for their democratic rights, especially when the argument is that it encourages violence. Peaceful demonstrations by citizens who voted and feel cheated out of their right of democratic choice can never be termed the encouragement of violence. Not especially when this violence involves politically incited armed forces and the police who should be there for the safety of the people they are shooting. The Kenyan police should abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials


when dealing with demonstrations and rallies. Not only the international law but also Kenya prohibits a general ban on demonstrations. Human Rights Watch reported on January 13th that under Kenyan law, those wishing to demonstrate must notify the police and the police can reject the request on the grounds of public order, but no law permits the authorities to impose a blanket ban on public assembly. Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kenya ratified in 1976, a state may only impose restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly that are strictly necessary to maintain public order.

What is happening in Kenya is maintaining public disorder.

The police, GSU and any other armed forces should be there to make sure the rallies or demonstrations are indeed carried out peacefully without some inane Akinyi jumping to the throat of Njeri, some Kariuki starting a fist fight with a Kipkorir. The forces should protect the people who are actually their employers – the ordinary wananchi. It is the citizen’s right to take an affirmative action.

When African (in this case Kenyan) soldiers, militia or the police are set loose on innocent demonstrators, they seem to lose their humanity. Whether unleashed on university students or ethnic groups that have been deliberately incited to butcher each other by politicians motivated by dubious ambitions, these armed forces kill their own fellow human beings with feral abandon. It is not simply the way they have been trained; it is also their anger and frustration in having employment that regularly stock them with weapons and uniforms but does not pay them regularly and well enough to feed their families. They also kill fellow human beings as if they were butchering wild animals because their superiors expect it of them, or else they may lose their jobs to a “stronger” rival. They seem to lack the human moral conscience that would make them command empathy. Shoot-to-kill that the Kibaki “government” has instructed the policemen to carry out is politics of the stomach. For a cold Tusker and nyama choma and nicking state coffers and aid funds. In an atmosphere where the judiciary, the legislature and the executive become dysfunctional or partially lawless, political instability is pre-programmed.


Every time Odinga cancels a planned peaceful demonstration, Kibaki swells and feels “powerful”. And Odinga feels frustrated and “belittled”. The more reason Odinga would never accept any other post in Kibaki’s government but the presidency. Any other post would be tantamount to his accepting that Kibaki won the elections. Or that he lost the elections to Kibaki. We Kenyans know this mentality. All people of African descent know it. In my recently published book I have devoted two chapters on this, titled Elements Inhuman I and African Collective Psychic Damage. They are both about the callousness and lack of empathy for fellow Africans as well as a narcissism normally allotted children in the language of psychology. It explains why Kivuitu of the Electoral Commission of Kenya and Kalonzo Musyoka of ODM (who has jumped on the fleshy bone of vice presidency thrown at him by Kibaki, a Kibaki to be commended for wily tactics!) behave like they do. On Tuesday (15th January) when Odinga was sworn in he first demanded that Kibaki sit back in the benches with other MPs. When taking the oath he neatly omitted swearing any allegiance “to the president”. Thunderous grumbling and foot stamping. The MP for Budalangi pointedly swore his oath to President Raila Odinga. He had to do it again when the speaker reprimanded him, so this time he swore his oath to Rais (as the title was written in the Kiswahili). But on saying the word Rais he pointed fixed his eyes on Odinga. No mention of the President’s name.

So did the rest of the parliamentarians. Oath to Rais. No President’s name.

The political party tradition in Kenya is peculiar. Many registered parties have no party manifestos and the few who do have had their manifestos penned down by foreigners or donors. The manifestos are never scrutinized by party members because most African political parties tend not to be based on common or united strategies, visions, ideologies, discipline, struggles, moral values or code of conduct. Party members are sycophants motivated by banal self-interests, who keep changing membership from one party to another in no time, always looking for self-aggrandizement. The Kenyan parties are lined behind powerful personalities and oligarchs, with ethnic alliances, intrigues, public attacks and insults in the media of fellow members and insecure relationships to each other. The result of


such alliances (if they can be called alliances at all) is a daily political agenda of opportunism, despondency, inertia, anarchy, a culture of sycophancy, ethnicism and all manner of retrogressive characteristics. Kibaki was first elected into office primarily because he promised the citizens that he was going to fight corruption, probably the country’s worst factor that deters economic or any other form of development. But his first parliamentary debate was to discuss bloated perks and allowances for the members of parliament. Kenyan parliamentarians are among the best paid in the world, with a mammoth representation of 34 ministers (2 women in the first Kibaki government) and 39 assistant ministers. The number keeps on growing, in a country with neo-liberal economic policies that boosts the gap between the few mega rich and the tens of millions of the poor, making it one of the most unequal populations in the world. After the introduction of multipartyism, there are 54 parties in the country, 7 represented in the previous Kibaki parliament.

Now Kenyans have joined the several consecutive generations in the continent who have known nothing but starvation. They are herded together in camps, like dispossessed domestic animals, waiting for a kinder destiny to rain down on them grains from the sky and drinking water from a convoy of lorries — if the lorries are not ambushed by young people and children toting guns pressed in their palms by politicians or political aspirants in the armed forces.

Narcissism and callousness across the board. In the sociological sense, Africans have emerged through their stormy history of the last five centuries with a collective inferiority complex affecting their entire spectrum of thousands of cultures. This is known as the cultural cringe. They (the kleptocratic dictators, political leaders and the elite) feel inferior to nearly all other cultures and peoples and are afflicted with a pathological desire to overcompensate by spectacularly achieving or by adopting behaviour that is extremely antisocial. It assists nobody to deny the fact that Africans tend to have negative feelings of self-esteem and selfworth that fluctuates between over-evaluation (or idealization) and devaluation both of


themselves and of others. Particularly African politicians and persons in responsible positions seem unable to realistically accept that, like any other human beings, they have selflimitations. These Africans see insults and slights where even radar could not detect them. They cannot deal with criticism, failures, disillusionment, setbacks and disappointments, but base their sense of self-esteem and self-worth substantially on outside events like subordination, absolutism, Swiss bank accounts, Armani suits, villas in Malibu or Florida, vast domains in England and castles all over Europe.

These political narcissists are like children in the formative years trying to shield themselves from what psychologists term “the inevitable hurt and fears involved in the phase of personal development.” This phase is normally evident in children aged 6 months to 6 years. By the time the subject “toddlers” I refer to above arrive at “adolescence” and “adulthood,” they are drowned in infatuation and obsession with themselves to the exclusion of others. They display a chronic pursuit of personal gratification and attention, infantile verbal abuse and insulting of each other in the media and during parliamentary debates, bragging, social dominance and personal ambition, lack of empathy, insensitivity to other fellow Africans whom they devalue or annihilate senselessly, circumventing hindrances or any sense of responsibility in their daily livelihood and thoughts. Rather than progressing to maturity, they regress to the infantile-narcissistic phase. They feel omnipotent, underestimate challenges facing them and believe themselves to be almighty, misjudge their powers and the powers of their opposition. When the opposition — whether innocent citizens voicing their grievances, organizations and the civil society fighting for a humanitarian cause or political rivals gaining popularity — they simply “get rid of” such opposition. Their ability to appreciate the feelings and needs of others as well as to empathise with them rapidly deteriorates. They turn arrogant and haughty, paranoid and sadistic. The dissonance breeds the desire to keep on living in the world of fantasy, grandiosity and entitlement. Above all else they are in a perpetual feverish search for unconditional admiration which they do not deserve in the first place. Their preoccupation is their fantasy world and daydreams. And, at last, in this mode, they exploit others or pathologically envy


them and become quite literally explosive. Whatever they say or do is said and done from a position of omnipotence. Hence the urge to try to Europeanise themselves and to amass castles, villas and Western bank accounts with sums of money that would feed, educate and provide adequate medical services for the entire African continent. The real world keeps on frustrating them and the frustration is acute to the point of being unbearable. Theirs is a world in which everything is either all virtue or all evil. They live in the here and now instead of planning for the future. This explains why Kibaki could so blatantly deny Kenyans of the opportunity to see the swearing in of “their president” either personally or in the free media. The dead of night act was conducted without even the national anthem. It reminded me of the late 1970s when a group of politicians wanted to effect an overnight change of the constitution to get rid of the post of vice president and instead appoint eight vice presidents for all the provinces in Kenya plus the district of Nairobi. Then, Kenyatta was beyond recovering from his ailments and this group wanted to make sure that the future presidency of Kenya remained firmly in Kikuyu hands – the group’s hands to be precise. Again, history repeating itself. So far only Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (as a “world leader”) has congratulated Kibaki for being appointed president. Birds of a feather indeed! Under the present constitution in Kenya it would be futile to try running new elections. Many people have been either too disillusioned or too intimidated to think of going to the polls. The displaced are too worried about where to spend the night or find a bite to eat for themselves and their children – and this because they had cast their votes democratically. What incentive do they have to go back to the polling stations again so soon, when the president poaches on the candidate they had voted in order to (for the president) frustrate passing constitutional bills and to accumulate a majority in parliament? The suggested Government of National Unity is another trick out of Kibaki’s ill-fitting hat. All one has to do is remember the NARC (National Rainbow Coalition) days of the recent past. Kibaki made promises he reneged on and the man is increasingly getting out of touch with reality. If Moi wanted to keep in power forever, Kibaki has just overtaken him in this


ambition. The GNU is a transparent tactic for Kibaki to hold on to power because, as already explained above, Kenyan politics has a genre all its own. There are no team dynamics. Allegiances are not based on commonalities and trust even within one and the same political party, so what would the GNU achieve? Prior to the 2002 elections, Odinga and Kibaki teamed together, signing a memorandum of understanding that when they win the elections and knock Moi out of the throne, Odinga should step aside for Kibaki to be president and Kibaki promised to make Odinga his prime minister. Kibaki didn’t keep his part of the agreement. All the promises made in 2002 that led to Raila stepping aside for Kibaki were never fulfilled. Kibaki promised to run for only one term after the constituion was reworked. Making Odinga the primie minister would have then set the grooming of Odinga for the presidency in 2007. The disagreements finally led to a split in the cabinet and what has been termed open rebellion over a proposed new constitution. Commonalities between Odinga and Kibaki ceased. Topped with the December 27th re-election being rigged, Kibaki being sworn in one hour after the announcement of the election “winner” without the presence or participation of the citizens or the blanket banned media, these two would make strange bedfellows indeed. Kibaki is of the school that wants to stick to power till the grave, the proverbial African “president for life”; Odinga is of the school demanding democracy and ready to install it by all means and whatever the cost. Kibaki is unlikely to step down as president for the sake of GNU nor will Odinga once again let the opportunity to be president slip by him. Like chastity gone, these two have lost all confidence and trust in each other forever. And when ECK’s Kivuiti make an about face and reveal that he is “not sure that Kibaki won”, the unbelievable political immaturity and dilettantism is complete, and a negligence of duty is uncovered here that is worthy of a prosecution. Kenyans could insist on independent verification of votes, as one blogger in the Kenya Pundit suggested, but how would one be sure that the votes have not been tampered with in the meantime? Yet recapturing the high reputation of the country is not going to be an easy task unless the fighting politicians grow to maturity and put Kenya on the foreground.