A man who has nothing to die for is not fit to live. ~ Martin Luther King
Before we begin, let me assure you. I am well aware of the risks of writing and publishing an article such as this one. Especially in a country like ours. Let me also assure you: I believe that any day is a good day to die. As a Christian, and a staunch Catholic at that, it would be foolish and arrogant for me to believe that my destiny and life are fully under my control. Brave, yes I am. Do not believe that bravery, or courage, means an absence of fear. It means acknowledging fear but acting in spite of it. It denotes a triumph over fear. Dying is easy, it is living that is hard. In this life The Almighty has seen fit to give me more than my fair share of pain and anguish, but who am I to judge. He has also given me a lion’s share of happiness, fun, love, friendship and pleasure, for which I am eternally grateful. By His Grace we live, and by that same token we are saved.
From Njoro to Marsabit, from Mombasa to Embu, from The Congo to Somalia, from Rwanda to South Sudan, I have looked into the abyss and it has looked into me. I have laughed in the face of the devil, and wept in his presence as well. I have nightmares and sleepless nights, begging, yearning, for daylight to arrive. I’m haunted by voices and memories of things I did and shouldn’t have done, and things I didn’t do and should have done. It is not an extraordinary thing for me to cry and laugh in one day like a baby coming from God’s hands, fully aware of what this despicable and delightful planet has in store for him. I am as intimate with man’s capacity for evil, as I am familiar with his propensity for good. But this article is not about me. It is about my country, the land of my brothers and forefathers, the land our people have shed precious blood, sweat and tears for, the land I love.
I am not a prophet and will not claim that I am prophesizing the coming of doom. I have not seen any vision, not had any dreams, not looked into any crystal balls, not burnt incense, and not had any commune with the spirits of the deceased and I am not even interested in the idea of fortune tellers. Anyone who has read some of my more serious articles will know my opinion on the fallibility of prediction; but will also know about my belief in the unexpected, what we refer to as the Black Swan. My argument stems from deductive reasoning, adding up the signs right in front of everyone, reading the headlines in the Kenyan newspapers and observing reactions of Kenyans to various issues. I have no prognostic aptitude for the future and there is nothing quite definite about the way the future will behave. The only conclusion possible by looking at the current state of this country and policies and politics being actively promoted by its leaders is an eminent conflagration; a war of immense proportions that will destroy what is left of the country after 50 years of active political mismanagement. That conclusion is not a scare-mongering attempt; it is as a result of objective analysis.
For some Kenyans the possibility of war is not breaking news. They know their country is on the fast lane to civil war but they are not prepared to concede it. Acknowledging that a problem is at hand confers upon the individual the responsibility to procure a solution and Kenyans are not willing to take that responsibility. There is an eminent war and the discussion about its likelihood has replaced boardroom banter on politics and business. The citizens of this country believe that it cannot happen here and want to solidify that belief with complete denial of the slippery slope we are on whose bottom lies the burning coal of civil strife.
Many countries in Africa have been overtaken by conflict and reduced to failed states. The war did not come overnight; it brewed over a long period of time. The embers of fire were sown first through colonialism, tribalism, corruption, class war between the poor and the rich and then through appeasement of foreign entities that create their own stooges in Government. By the time a war breaks out a country is so weakened by institutional inefficiencies that it is no longer able to serve its people. The rule of law breaks down completely, citizens take matters into their own hands leading to public lynching of criminals and those suspected of petty crimes. Extra-judicial killings by security forces become common place. Corruption is mainstreamed breeding tribalism, nepotism, favouritism and other isms that are used to describe unequal treatment of citizens because of either tribal, demographic, sex or some other likeness.
In failed states politics is an end game in itself. The players have no other goal other the political game they are playing. The political game is played at the elite level; the population is far removed from the politics of their country. Either the country is governed by a weak dictator ruling through symbols or a superficial democracy with degraded moral sense. Weak dictators are probed up by foreign Governments and corporations engaged in business or natural resource exploitation. The dictators hang onto power for themselves and the interest of their foreign backers. Where the country is ruled by an elected Government, its politics is perverted, infected by tribalism and corruption. The state suffers weak and ineffective governance systems and institutional failure. These are the ominous signs that something is afoot in an African country. Countries like Somalia of Siad Barre, Uganda of Obote and Amin, Zaire of Mobutu and Rwanda of Habriyamana fall in the first category while Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Kenya fall in the second category.[i]
A Government is created by choice of the governed to protect their life, livelihood, property and pride. This means a Government that does not protect the citizens life is not worthy of existence. One that does not take care of its citizens by guaranteeing their basic survival should not exist. A Government in which private property legally acquired by a citizen is not protected has failed its basic duties. Governments are supposed to create conditions for the citizen to live a comfortable life. It may not be the role of the Government to feed its citizens but it should not block them from feeding themselves. A Government can block a citizen from feeding himself through actions or omissions. Access to common facilities like roads, railways, airports, hospitals, schools, recreational facilities and other infrastructure should be taken for granted by a citizen. The actions of Governments to provide these facilities ensure that the individual citizen is able to aspire to improvement of his life. If a citizen cannot have an access road to a market for his products, this means the state is in fact blocking the citizen’s right to feed himself and his family. The state is the facilitator of business and professional life. Citizenry vote and pay tax to establish the structures and fund the administration of the state. This is the social contract, an implicit agreement between the state and the citizen in which the citizen accepts to live under the rules of the state and the state enforces the rules. The relationship collapses once one party fails to honour its part.
Citizens wage wars to get rid of bad Governments. The major cause of civil conflict therefore is the citizens’ grievance against the state. The tools employed for such wars maybe just an excuse. A tribal strife in a country means the state has created conditions in which the tribes feel that other communities are denying them their rightful share of the national resources. The basic demand for warmongers initially is equity and equality before the law and common participation in Government. If favouritism related to tribalism is suspected by tribes then that dissatisfaction may brew into a war.
In Kenya, mismanagement of national affairs has been going on for fifty years. Change at the top level of leadership has changed nothing. Introduction of multiparty system has worsened the situation by balkanizing the country into regional and tribal fiefdoms under snobby tribal chiefs. The elites and the rich have amassed unprecedented level of wealth and power through dubious practices at the expense of the population. Their sole objective is the need to consolidate their power and wealth. Criminals are holding the reigns of national affairs and they have insulated themselves against the law using the strength of their tribes.
The judiciary has all but collapsed. Chief Justice Willy Mutunga is doing an excellent job, but there are too many forces against him, both within and without. Despite the enormous number of political criminals, corrupt civil servants and powerful individuals being caught on the wrong side of the law, Kenya remains without even one successful high profile conviction of a celebrity criminal.[ii] The courts are as scared as the police are of the criminals in civil service. The politicians aligned their tribes behind them and are daring anybody to take any action. The consequences for the country of any challenge on these tribal chiefs will be calamitous. The tribes themselves have become enlightened to their own paltry status. They are blaming their fellow tribes as scapegoats since they are powerless against their own tribal chief.
The governance structure in Kenya itself is untenable. There is no separation of powers. The parliament is also the executive. The civil servants are political appointees whose loyalty is to those who appointed them. What is worse is that the civil service is frustrating the noble ideas and goals of the current government. The Jubilee Manifesto, if implemented, will change this country greatly for the better. But the civil service is trying to create a parallel government, which as as dangerous as a black market or a powerful Mafia. When a senior civil servant can say, to no less a person than the President’s speech writer himself, that the President should tone down his anti-corruption rhetoric because it is lowering the morale of the civil service, what kind of country do we live in? Where the morale of corrupt incompetents is more important than progress? Who is in control? Who is backing such civil servants? They think they are untouchable, but we will touch you where you have never been touched before. If we fall before we carry out this noble and patriotic endeavour, others like us will finish the job; rest assured.
The constitution is still a piece of dictatorial mumbo jumbo that means nothing to the citizens. Constitutional change has become almost impossible because vested interests will not allow any change in governance.
This is the country we have at this moment in our history. Increasingly the citizens are taking matters into their own hands and attempting to change this despoliation state. The war will become a reality the day the large numbers of security forces become tangled in the political and tribal quagmire. If the security forces feel that they are being discriminated against on tribal or other orientations, war is eminent. There is no way the security forces will be immune to the state of affairs of the citizenry. There are already murmurs that recruitment has been corrupted and tribalized, promotions are no longer on merit and institutional deficiencies are affecting the armed forces. The weakness of the laws that make extra judicial killings and mafia style targeting of witnesses possible make it impossible for honesty and impartiality in the keeping of the peace. The security forces will only be disciplined if there is a law to be upheld, a judiciary to punish offenders and a Government to fund this process. If these pillars are undermined there is a real risk of collapse.
My view is that all these factors are ganging up against this country and making it possible for a war to break out unless some circumstance or someone changes Kenya’s direction. Any challenges to the political cobwebs pulling the country apart may in themselves lead to war.[iii] There is no hope that the political class will look up and see the ominous clouds gathering overhead. The raindrops of blood fell in December 2007 claiming 1500 lives in the violence that followed the stolen elections. The blood of Kenyans is already oozing all over the place with gangs slaughtering villagers in Central province, Kisii and Mount Elgon, gun trotting bandits rustling livestock in Isiolo and run away crime taking over all major urban centres. Terrorists lobbying grenades and planting IEDs with abandon. Westgate happens and months later we have no meaningful response or change? There are hidden daggers drawn, arms are coming in from all major borders with neighbouring countries.[iv] While politicians are acting like they are in control, the country is already out of control. Kenya is spinning fast off course. The wave of mistrust and hatred between the 39 Kenyan tribes and the other 3 is very high. Politicians are practicing funeral politics, where they make political speeches over dead bodies before they are interned; an ominous sign of things to come. There is an agreement among experts that there is a grave concern of persisting political and ethnic strife, that there is pervasive public anger by the majority poor citizens and ethnic mistrust is deepening and all these will lead to an almost assured outcome of war come… Who knows when?[v] [vi] [vii] [viii]
The citizens have a right to be warned, to take heed to refuse to be drawn into the eminent war. That is easier said than done. The war is likely to spar citizen against citizen. The only option is massive revolt by the people of Kenya against the political class, a revolution whose leaders will be aligned to no specific tribe.
[i] In “State Driven Conflict in the Greater Horn of Africa” Professor Peter Wayande of the University of Nairobi analyses the causes and costs of wars in Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and other regions in the greater Horn of Africa. Richard Joseph in Challenges of a Frontier Region says, “Contemporary African leaders may govern as autocrats (Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea) or as democrats (John Kufuor of Ghana, Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania)—or else may oscillate between these two models”
[ii] There have been no high profile prosecutions for the political murders of J. M Kariuki, Tom Mboya, Gama Pia Pinto, Robert Ouko and Professor Mbai. No one was prosecuted for Goldenberg scandal, The Anglo-leasing scandal, the Mahindra Debacle, the Artur Brothers scandal, the Maize scandal, the Triton Scandal and the many other high profile cases of grand larceny. There has been no attempt to conclude the genocide case of the Wagalla Massacre victims. In fact Kenya has never successfully prosecuted a high profile criminal for any crime civil or criminal.
[iii] The report “On the Edge of a Precipice“ compiled by Kenya National Commission on Human Rights make pointed conclusions about the perpetrators of the 2007 election violence. The report names top tribal chiefs and their political supporters, people whose are able to dare anybody to touch them.
[iv] A source that needs to remain anonymous corroborates this statement. People living in various border points in Kenya have confirmed that they have witnessed unusual movements of arms destined for sale in Kenya.
[v] Kiai, M. & Gladwell Otieno, One year on: Kenya on a knife-edge Action points for US policy-makers on current risks to Kenya’s stability, a briefing for US Policymakers, March 2009.
[vi] Professor Bethwell Ogot, a prominent Kenyan Scholar and Chairman of Moi University council was quoted in the Daily Nation saying that the post election crisis has exposed the falsity of Kenya’s calm as a peaceful state.
[vii] Professor Ali Mazrui writing in Pambazuka News argues that ‘The Kenya presidential elections of December 2007 are potentially the most damaging episode to national unity since the assassination of Tom Mboya in July 1969’