Tag Archives: Racism

Foreign Intervention: A Necessary Evil To Prevent African Leaders From Being Successors to European Colonialists

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently told Africans and the world to “(F)orget foreign intervention, Africans are better placed to solve their own problems.” In a piece of the same heading in the Daily Nation, Mr. Kenyatta offered the assessment that the work the “founding fathers” of Africa begun is “…far from over…”

Using the tried but tired “blame-the-mzungu” meme that some in the diaspora accuse African-Americans of, the son of Kenya’s first president gave as a reason for Africa’s mediocre and erratic development, the “stiff resistance by those who benefit from a divided Africa.”

That there are those who benefit from a divided Africa is and has been a fait accompli for quite some time. However, seen within the context of the article’s heading, the president’s assertion is misleading. Penning a piece that announces that the continent’s problems are best “solved within rather than through….self-serving foreign intervention” without mentioning the many reasons why the dreams of the continent’s founding fathers lay in ruins is the height of irony and hypocrisy. Nowhere in the rather self-serving article does Mr. Kenyatta mention the many self-inflicted injuries the continent’s leaders have afflicted on the people they lead including corruption, impunity, abuse of humans, and the many isms and evils that continue to wreak havoc on Africans half a century after independence.

Mr. Kenyatta’s government recently unleashed its police force on school children who were demonstrating against a favorite Kenyan past-time originated by his own father – land-grabbing. Setting the police on schoolchildren protesting against the endemic corruption has very little to do with “foreign intervention” in the lives of Kenyans unless the foreigners being alluded to are the Singh brothers who allegedly serve as fronts for the mostly African land-grabbers.

Alfred Keter’s foul-mouthed rant heard and seen all around the world captured in no uncertain terms, the impunity with African leaders comport themselves away from prying eyes and alert ears.

Perpetration of the post-election violence of 2007 which Mr. Kenyatta was recently “acquitted” of was fomented, not by wabeberu or wakaburu:

The violence pitted Kenyans against one another – Luo against Kikuyu against Kalenjin against (fill in the blank). Civil wars pitting Africans against one another, of which the genocide in Rwanda was the worst, has been repeated with amazing regularity since independence. Indeed most of the continent’s killings (over natural resources and political power) have been instigated, indeed funded by foreigners. However, the inconvenient and uncomfortable reality is that the British, Belgians, Americans, French, Portuguese, Russians etc. would not have done so without the help of native Africans.

On a side but cautionary note, the continent’s current love-affair with China, while seemingly benign and a marriage of equals, is even more insidious and dangerous than the wars yore. Out-sourcing the continent’s economic development to a country whose record on freedom, open government and human rights is suspect and is only too willing to indulge the continent’s “big men” so long as they allow extraction of the continent’s natural resources and inflated contracts to build standard gauge railways (SGR) portends an extremely worrying development.

President Kenyatta does no one any favor when he makes lofty pronouncements such as the need for Africa to “jealously guard its sovereignty and assiduously work to secure its freedom” while his own administration moves to curtail the freedoms of those it disagrees with. The president is being disingenuous when he harps about “the exploitation by institutions” (such as the ICC) while institutions in his own government exploit and abuse citizens of Kenya as evidenced by the various unresolved extra-judicial killings and the corruption that has even seeped into his own Office of the President!

Until the continent’s leaders demonstrate a consistent ability to solve crisis in their own backyard, the calls by President Kenyatta will fall on deaf ears and provide ammo for those who decry the self-preservation decisions of the continent’s club for its “big men” – African Union (AU).

In an era of the global village where jet travel can transport the outcome of poor governance by a despot across the oceans in less time than it takes to navigate a rain-soaked Thika Highway, there is little doubt that foreign intervention will be needed in Africa for quite some time. The international community, of which the much-maligned International Criminal Court (ICC) serves as judiciary, would be remiss were it to take Mr. Kenyatta and his fellow “big men” at their word re: eliminating foreign intervention in Africa.

From confronting the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa, Ebola and other pandemics, and the mostly West African refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, Africa has yielded several crises that have morphed into full-fledged global security concerns. A leader in Europe or America would be deemed irresponsible were they to remain passive with such threats developing from afar. Stateside, President Obama has been repeatedly excoriated for his administration’s decisions to intervene in and/or withdraw from various global hotspots. The US President has been taken to task because he allowed the lack of “good” governance in faraway lands to morph into crisis at home in America.

Let me offer a different take on the very quote Mr. Kenyatta uses in his article. A founding Pan-Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah wrote that Africans needed the strength of their combined numbers and resources to protect themselves “from the very positive dangers of returning colonialism in disguised forms.”

“Colonialism” has many variants of which the one perpetrated by the Europeans and Americans is but one. The basic mechanics of “the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colony in one territory by a political power from another territory” i.e. colonialism has not changed since the “wazungu” left Africa in the 60s. In 1967, Kenyatta Pere’s nemesis Jaramogi Oginga Odinga offered the rather prescient analysis regarding the mutation of colonialism in his book “Not Yet Uhuru”.

Kenya’s first bona fide opposition leader offered the view that “Kenyans (were) still struggling to prevent (fellow) Kenyans in black skin…..from ruling as successors to the administrators of the colonial era.”

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Filed under Africa, African Union, AU, Big Men, Boko Haram, Corruption, Failed State, Foreign Intervention in Africa, Impunity, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya

The massive log in our collective eyes!

I am a Kenyan living in the United States and find the article by Ms. Muthoni Thangwa in the July 29th edition of Daily Nation to be laughable at worst and misleading, not to mention a case of deflection at best.

 http://www.nation.co.ke/blogs/-/634/1929974/-/view/asBlogPost/-/gepjjkz/-/index.html

God knows that America has its faults. This country has a very painful and sordid history; one that it continues to deal with to this very day as evidenced by the events at the center of Ms. Thangwa’s piece. It is a past AND present whose details I delve into in my book Wuodha: My journey from Kenya to these United States. However, the one thing America; the country I have called home for the past thirty-plus years has which the likes of Muthoni and her compatriots can only intellectualize and fantasize about is a system of governance that holds people, including the president of the country, not to mention their friends and family wholly accountable for their actions. And on a slight but pertinent digression, United States of America has institutions – judiciary, legislative, police and infrastructures – roads, railways, and buildings etc. that while far from perfect, make those in Kenya the very embodiment of a banana republic!

I do not agree with the verdict on the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. My disagreement with the verdict is however based on emotional considerations than on legal ones.

The fact is: a young man needlessly lost their life and his killer essentially walked away scot-free! I feel more for Trayvon’s parents and friends. I don’t feel for Zimmerman’s parents or friends. At least they still get to see him – he is alive even though he will forever be haunted by the fact that he took the life of another human – Thou shalt not kill. Finally, and adding insult to injury is the afore-mentioned history of racism and Jim Crowism in America, the south (Florida) in particular that African Americans have endured over the years. I therefore get the perception this verdict has created, not only throughout the world, but even here in America. I also get how the acquittal of Mr. Zimmerman for the murder of Mr. Martin has added to the narrative the Ms. Thangwa is working with. However bone-headed, the verdict was made within the confines of the existing law(s).

Having stated the fore-going, let me also state without any equivocation that Kenyans are as hypocritical a people as I have seen and I am Kenyan! I also know that I am generalizing, the very crime Ms. Thangwa commits in her piece! I also know that two wrongs don’t make a right! To which I say “oh well!”

The same yahoos screaming about racism and bigotry in America will shamelessly hack one another to death because they are “uncircumcised” and/or from the wrong tribe! The very folks shaking their fists at America about “due process” for Trayvon are the same ones who will turn right round and tell those who disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict during the 2013 presidential elections to “accept and move on“. The very Kenyans who bloviate about “human rights for Trayvon…and the hypocrisy of America..blah, blah, blah” are the same ones who will turn right round and throw stones at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “going after their sons”, sons who are accused of organizing over 1200 Trayvon Martins for the very reason Ms. Thangwa is accusing America of – violating the human rights of the less powerful! Maybe Muthoni can tell her readers whether the human rights of the internally-displaced people (IDPs) were violated by “our sons” as charged by the ICC. What of the rights of Robert Ouko, Tom Mboya, Pio G. Pinto, JM Kariuki?

In the 2012 US elections, there was a report of Kenyans, now naturalized American citizens who could not countenance voting for America’s first non-white president because he “…had Luo blood in him” courtesy of his father Barack Obama Sr.; the very definition of “judging someone by the color of their skin, not the content of their character!” These are the very people who will turn right round and tell those who accuse Uhuru of being the recipient of ill-gotten gains courtesy of his father Jomo “not to blame the son for the sins of the father.”

http://www.kenyan-post.com/2012/11/kikuyus-here-in-us-did-not-vote-for.html  

The very Kenyans who have no compunction about “toaring kitu kidogo” i.e. offering a small bribe or conversely asking someone seeking service to “ongea vizuru” i.e. give a bribe for said service will take to the streets to complain about “MPigs” or castigate the International Criminal Courts for “finishing off their sons and daughters”. It is this hypocrisy and double-standard that has resulted in a country and a people as synonymous with winning the Boston Marathon as it is/they are with corruption and impunity!

I challenge Kenyans, who are notoriously religious, are prone to being “born again Christian” and are religious (no pun intended) attendants of “prayer rallies” to follow the very teachings of their holy book The Bible and look at the log in their eyes before pointing out the sliver in the eyes of others!

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Filed under Corruption, Democracy, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Life, Politics, Race, Racial Discrimination, Racism, The Hague, Trayvon Martin, Tribalism, Tribe

Twin Rorschach Tests: On Trayvon Martin et al.

I have just listened to son of K’Ogelo and American President Barack Obama address the dichotomous reaction of Americans to the verdict by the jury in Sanford Florida on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17year old African-American boy. Trayvon was shot by George Zimmerman a bi-racial volunteer neighborhood watchman. Mr. Zimmerman, against orders from the police dispatcher who was handling his “report of suspicious activities”, followed Mr. Martin, got out of his car and in the ensuing tussle, shot him dead.

The verdict by the jury of six women; five white and one Hispanic – acquitted Zimmerman of all charges, basically ruling the death of the unarmed 17year old “justifiable.” America’s reaction to the jury verdict, much like Kenya’s reaction to the ruling by the Supreme Court on the results of the 2013 presidential elections and increasingly to the charges of crimes against humanity facing President Kenyatta and William Ruto has been a Rorschach Test on the two countries’ view on social issues such as race, racism, tribe, tribalism and impunity.

The Sanford jury verdict pitted Americans who supported the verdict against those who did not. On one side were Americans who believed that Trayvon Martin deserved what he got i.e. death at the hands of an overzealous neighborhood volunteer watchman who was just “standing his ground” against those “punks who always got away.” On the other side were Americans who believed that once again, the American justice system had let down an innocent black man (not to mention his friends and family) whose only fault was “being black in a neighborhood pre-dominated by non-blacks” and dared to challenge Mr. Zimmerman, who was just protecting those represented by their peers in the jury from his ilk; a young black man!

The April 2013 ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court to disallow forensic auditing of the much-maligned and sub-standard information technology (IT) infrastructure used by the equally maligned and incompetent IEBC and award the presidency and deputy presidency to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto pitted Kenyans who supported the verdict against those who did not support the court’s ruling: on one side were Kenyans who believed that the ruling by their Supreme Court was valid, rejection of the forensic audit of the failed IT infrastructure notwithstanding. On the other side were Kenyans who believed that once again, Kenya’s justice system had been manipulated by the rich, powerful and well-connected to maintain they hold on power.

And just as Kenyans who protested the Supreme Court’s decision awarding the 2013 presidency to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were told to “get over it and move on”, so were Americans who rallied in protest against the verdict acquitting George Zimmerman of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin.

To paraphrase a line from the July 20th New York Times editorial piece on President Obama’s surprise appearance at the White House press briefing http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/20/opinion/president-obamas-anguish.html, just as the verdict crystallized the dissonance regarding race and racism in America, so has the dynamics of presidential politics in Kenya done on matters of tribe and tribalism. Americans idealize their society and mythologize the role the founding fathers played in the creation of said society just like Kenyans idealize Kenya and the role its founding father played in its creation.

Once again, paraphrasing the editorial piece from the NY Times: Viewed within the narrow confines of matters regarding racial justice and harmony, there is no doubt that America has done a yeoman’s job given its sordid history. The tangible/physical remnants of racism and racial discrimination are few and far between, definitely a rarity and an exception in the daily lives of Americans. Similarly, long gone is the overt and blatant tribal chauvinism originated by one Jomo Kenyatta after Kenya’s independence in the early 60s; chauvinism that included oath-taking by those around him after the 1969 assassination of Tom Mboya to ensure that “the (Kenyan) presidency does not cross the Chania River”. http://kumekucha.blogspot.com/2007/08/kenyan-presidency-was-not-supposed-to.html

http://diasporamessenger.com/this-woman-mary-wambui-kibaki/

Given the Rorschach-esque reactions to the twin evils of racism and tribalism in America and Kenya respectively, Republican Andy Harris may as well have been addressing the groups that reacted negatively to the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the hastily convened swearing-in (and prelude to the horrors of post-election violence) of President Kibaki in 2007, not to mention the ruling of Kenya’s Supreme Court to reject forensic auditing of the information technology (IT) system used by the electoral board commission with his flippant “get over it” remark!

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Democracy, George Zimmerman, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Life, Race, Racial Discrimination, Racism, The Hague, Tribalism

To Serve and To Protect ALL Kenyans

Some of the comments in response to the article titled “Police siege on Kisumu and Kibera fuelling ethnic hate” written by Otieno Otieno in the April 20 issue of the Daily Nation reflect an ethnic chauvinism that is reminiscent of the racial animus and stereotyping common amongst conservative white Americans towards African-Americans and Latinos here in the US. Comments by bloggers such as Magu Wa Maitha, Mtadao, Frankyzilla, Njanemuiruri, Pikipiki, Zeki Timona and Oldframe that characterize fellow Kenyans as “stone-throwers” or as “having “genes…that invite rioting” or display “the phenomenon of overreacting emotional characteristic..” are similar to the stereotypes that describe others as “thieves” or “dumb”. It is the same bigotry that contends that Blacks are “lazy” and “like water melons and fried chicken”: The same stereotyping that characterizes whites as “serial killers” who like any one of the one hundred and fifty “stuff” listed in Christian Lander’s book Stuff White People Like! To put it bluntly, stereotyping is ugly and idiotic. The behavior should have no place in any discourse – public or private – and those promoting such views should be called out by those of us who want a society where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin nor the tribe from which they hail.

The bloggers making the argument that the heavy-handed approach to law enforcement by the police, General Service Unit (GSU) and other presidential security personnel is to be expected during “preparation for a presidential visit” or in response to the unlawful behavior of a small section of the population are part of the “law and order” crowd in the mold of William Bratton, Bernard Kerik, Benjamin Hinga, John Michuki, Darryl Gates, Patrick Shaw etc. The strong-arm approach to law enforcement by these law enforcement professionals may have garnered them short-term positive results in New York, Nairobi, or Los Angeles. The same tactics however alienated the very communities they were supposed to be ridding of the crime and illicit activities; the very communities whose inhabitants ended up bearing the brunt of said tactics. I abhor violence and do not condone the culture of “No Snitching” i.e. the unspoken rule amongst some communities to avoid giving law enforcement any information that may help them during investigation of a crime. On the other hand, I can see how police brutality, not to mention fear of retaliation by the perpetrators would foster such counter-productive behavior. It is my opinion that the onus is on those with the power, in this case the police, to break the cycle of brutality and abuse of power so that those they are sworn to serve and protect see them not as enemies, but as friends. The evidence in favor of community policing – systematic use of partnerships and policing techniques that proactively involve the community in addressing conditions that create crime/public safety issues – is overwhelmingly favorable.

I have been within a couple of feet of the “rope line” as former President Clinton “pressed the flesh” in Washington DC i.e. shook hands with the public just before boarding Marine One then Airforce One on his way to Morocco for the July 1999 funeral of King Hassan. In fact, my partner at the time, being from DC, was blasé about the presence of POTUS and inadvertently crossed the security line thereby “contaminating” the previously “sterile” security zone. The ever-present and alert Secret Service personnel hardly flinched or panicked when my friend entered the “sterile zone.” The agent closest to us lifted his left wrist to his mouth and said something into a microphone hidden under his sleeve. He continued to monitor the crowd paying extra attention on me, my partner and her five-year old nephew. I told my friend that she had crossed the security line just as the agent firmly but politely told her to “get back behind the rope ma’am” while simultaneously instructing all within earshot alternately to “keep both hands in front of you and visible please” and “let me see both your hands please.” The agent was calm, professional and efficient. He was also courteous. Needless to say, we all complied, quickly putting our hands in full view of the agent as instructed. I was also impressed with the cool and efficient manner in which the agent handled the breach. Granted not all security breaches go down as I observed on that day but the point is the manner in which this particular episode was handled by the Secret Service (law enforcement personnel) and the indelible and positive impression their professionalism left on me.

The history of acrimony between African-Americans and Latinos on one side and the predominantly white police/law enforcement establishment here in the US on the other side did not happen in a vacuum. The anti-police/anti-authority mind-set that Black American and Latino male have towards the “men in blue’ was caused by the well-documented history of racist behavior and racism within those institutions. Google “Rodney King,” Darryl Gates” and “LAPD” and see what pops up. These same institutions have also made great strides in improving relationships with the communities they serve, not by sweeping their sordid past under the rug, but by opening themselves up to criticism, objective and otherwise from those who were victimized by their brutality and resultant cover-ups. I would also argue that the animus that some communities in Kenya have towards law enforcement and the institutions therein did not happen in a vacuum. Kenya Police, GSU, CID/Special Branch, Nyayo House are law enforcement institutions in Kenya that have a long, sordid and terrifying history of botched and disproportionate responses to peaceful or boisterous and tense gatherings, shoddy and non-investigations of corruption, torture and assassinations not to mention the rampant acceptance of “kitu kidogo” or bribes that one would have to be wilfully naïve and ignorant to disregard said history in any analysis of law enforcement in Kenya.

And before I get mail accusing me of peddling racist, tribal or anti-police views, let me state categorically that the point of this piece is not whether or not Kenya’s law enforcement can do its work by investigating and arresting law-breakers or “stone-throwers” as Luos are derisively called by some commenters. The main point of this piece is to highlight the manner in which the police/authorities have discharged said responsibilities over the years and the consistency with which enforcement has been exacted from one group to the next. Evidence, while sketchy and not as well-documented as it is stateside points to a Kenyan law enforcement establishment that over the years, has been over-bearing, punitive, selective in enforcing the law, corrupt, and a “matundu-ya-uhuru” to be doled out to cronies and tribesmen/women of those in power. The resulting politicization of these institutions is evidenced in the afore-mentioned shoddy investigations of corruption, torture and assassinations not to mention the rampant acceptance of “kitu kidogo” or bribes and a recent addition – extra-judicial killings.

Until ALL Kenyans feel that law enforcement and those who oversee those institutions are impartial arbiters of law and order determined to serve and protect them without discrimination, the anti-police sentiment that is all too common among some communities in Kenya will continue unabated.

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Filed under Corruption, Democracy, Governance - Kenya, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Tribalism, Tribe