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Kenya’s object lesson to Cairo on how hope can be raised and then crushed

Friday February 18 2011


The greatest achievement in the Egyptian uprising has been the restoration of hope and energy into a people who had been described as “living dead” from the weight of the total oppression of the Mubarak regime.

They must guard and defend this hope, for as they can learn from Kenya, it can be crushed and destroyed by a predatory ruling class.

From Kenya they can learn how hope and aspirations have been smashed by a ruling class that uses the state as personal property. They can learn how apparent change can be reduced to musical chairs that merely changes faces, leaving the attitudes of entitlement, impunity, corruption, exclusion and top-down systems intact.

For even now the Kenyan ruling class has begun crushing our hopes and aspirations generated by the new Constitution! Make no mistake, the issues around the nominations and the efforts to thwart the ICC are about the same thing: How to maintain impunity. Simple.

The idea expressed by Kalonzo Musyoka, that simply because we have a new Constitution means our judicial system is reformed, is absurd and insulting. Reform does not just happen by passing a document.

The police, the epitome of impunity, corruption, and incompetence must be transformed first. How will they ever get evidence on crimes against humanity if they are already admitting that they have no capacity to investigate drug trafficking?


The ICC has announced that there are efforts to interfere with potential witnesses. Now, do we really expect ordinary folk to speak out in Kenya against these really Big Fish?

And knowing how they hire lawyers to file application after application, do we really expect that there will ever be trials? The Goldenberg cases have never taken off for more than 10 years with all the applications filed by lawyers!

Kenya provides tragic lessons on how hope is raised and then crushed and Egyptians should take note. In 1964, Jomo Kenyatta, after raising our hopes for what Uhuru could mean, proceeded to casually thwart our dreams and aspirations, installing into key positions many of the same people who had resisted independence while working for the colonial regime!

Freedom fighters were scorned and attacked, jailed and marginalised. The turning point was the merger of KANU with KADU, which resulted in the KADU ideology of conservatism, elitism and corruption being institutionalised.

Politics became solely about ethnic mathematics and exclusion of the majority, with corruption, impunity and land grabbing for the favoured few who spoke the necessary language.

In 1978, Moi took over, but expectations were far less after he warned us that he would follow Kenyatta’s Nyayo (footsteps). And he did that with distinction, increasing the scope for corruption, manipulating ethnicity, and collapsing political and civil space.

Torture, massacres, forced exile, impunity and oppression became part of our society. But Kenyans resisted in 1990, though, unlike the Egyptians who drove Mubarak away, we succumbed to Moi’s small compromises and went into elections without changing the Constitution.

In 2002, we got another golden chance with the end of the Moi era. Our hopes soared as we sung that we were “unbwogable.

But we did not reckon with the lessons that Kibaki had learnt from Moi and Kenyatta. Before long, our hopes were again crushed as we learnt that zero tolerance to corruption meant that some could be corrupt.

And that “diversity and inclusion” basically meant that some positions — such as in strategic and sensitive areas of finance and security — were reserved for homeboys.

Our hopes sank and we reverted to our survival tactics learnt since independence: back to ethnic divisions, accepting corruption and voting “3 piece” as we came to believe that only “our own” could deliver us. A part of us as Kenyans died.

But we recovered hope with the new Constitution, believing that this time, a nation of inclusion, equity, accountability and fairness was born. But they who believe that “might is right” and see compromise as weakness want to thwart our hopes.

I reckon they are in for a bigger fight than they expect for Kenyans have changed and learnt. And they will stand and be counted to maintain our precious hope — taking inspiration from Speaker Marende’s bold and correct ruling.

The political class has perhaps bitten more than they can chew.