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Saturday, June 9th, 2018


Jomo’s incidental Kanu membership and how a shaky start set itself up for failure

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Old and near deserted, Kanu marks its 58th birthday Monday without fanfare. The only reminder of its halcyon days is perhaps Jogoo House and Jogoo Road, named after Kanu’s insignia of a cockerel. The rest is history which triggers vicarious nostalgia.

Forgotten is the role played by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in the subsequent rise of Kanu and why the desire to destroy him turned the party into a monster that finally cannibalised itself. But in the party wars, Mr Odinga was not a saint either.

It was at Dr Julius Gikonyo Kiano’s house in Riruta, Nairobi, that a meeting had been called for all elected leaders in 1960 with the aim of launching one national party. The meeting, called by Mr Odinga, had agreed that they would register what was to be known as Uhuru Party for tactical reasons. With the fear that the colonial government might not register a nationwide party, they had agreed that they would later change its name to Kanu (Kenya African National Union).


Interestingly, Mr Odinga did not invite Tom Mboya to this meeting which was also attended by James Gichuru, Arthur Ochwanda, Dr Kiano and Argwings-Kodhek and he only came to learn about the meeting when a journalist took to him a photocopy of the signed agreement.

“Has Dr Kiano signed?” asked Mr Mboya.

After realising that Dr Kiano was number one on the list, Mr Mboya knew that all his allies had deserted him.

“The meaning of Odinga’s plan was patent: It was to shut Mboya out from any position of leadership in the main organ of Kenya nationalism,” wrote Mboya’s biographer David Goldsworthy.

And that is how Kanu was born —in acrimony and backstabbing. For how long the party would survive as a nationalist party depended on how Mboya, Odinga and the Kiambu group perceived power.


Although some quarters credit Mwai Kibaki as the one who drafted the Kanu constitution, the original draft was done by Mr Odinga’s personal assistant, the late Ojino Okew, who, however, did not see the emergence of the independence party. Okew, who has a backyard street in Kisumu named in his honour, died in a road accident on the day that his draft constitution was adopted, albeit with a few changes, during a meeting that was convened in Kiambu.

The reason the May 1960 meeting, which saw the birth of Kanu, was held in Limuru was because of fear that the rivalry between Mboya’s Nairobi People’s Convention Party and Argwings-Kodhek’s Nairobi African District Congress would turn bloody. The two had outsmarted everyone else on Nairobi politics and Mr Odinga’s fear was on Mboya whom he felt was a stooge of the Americans. As he would later write in his autobiography, Mboya “was interested in his own ascendancy to power” by using his “unlimited supplies of foreign money”.


Mr Mboya knew that if his NPCP party skipped the Kiambu meeting, he would be roasted by Mr Odinga. But Mr Odinga made a tactical blunder that rescued Mr Mboya from a possible doom. Two days to the conference, he released a list of Uhuru Party officials which had Ronald Ngala, Jeremiah Nyagah and Gichuru. Shortly after the list was released both Ngala and Nyagah denounced it while Mr Gichuru said he had been misled by Mr Odinga. They had signed on the assumption that Mr Mboya would be included.

According to Mboya’s biographer this was “an important breakthrough for Mboya; at least a few of the conspirators were having second thoughts about the wisdom of trying to keep him out.”

“By the time of the Kiambu conference, however, Mboya’s supporters had convinced him that he would lose support if he isolated himself from the national party and so he came to the conference,” Mr Odinga wrote.

The importance of this political episode was that it would shape Kanu going forward and the alliances that emerged would later inform the country’s politics.


The battle of supremacy between the two had reached a crescendo during the Lancaster Conference when Mboya — with the help of the Americans — brought in eminent black lawyer Thurgood Marshall to ostensibly advise Kanu. But this was a unilateral decision, according to Mboya’s biographer, and that was the reason Mr Odinga sought a second adviser, the self-exiled Mbiyu Koinange, to “provide symbolic representation of Kenyatta himself (and) counter the authorities’ and settlers’ determination to keep Kenyatta offstage.

What we know today from declassified British Cabinet papers was that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had agreed that Kenyatta should never rise to become Kenya’s leader and it was felt that eyes were either on Mr Mboya or Mr Gichuru.

The British had a problem with Mr Odinga because of his links to the Eastern bloc. The Mi5 had intercepted tens of Mr Odinga’s letters which are now in file KV2/40 at the British archives. Mr Odinga describes the 1960s period as “difficulty” in his autobiography because of “concerted world press campaign to elevate Tom Mboya to the unchallenged leadership of Kenya Africans.”


Shortly after he was released, Kenyatta was reluctant to join Kanu because of these internal wrangles. Actually, minutes of the Kanu Governing Council meeting held on Saturday, October 28, 1961, at Parliament Buildings indicate that Kenyatta was taken to task over his reluctance to declare support for Kanu during a meeting with only one agenda: “To discuss Kenyatta’s position”.

One delegate Onyango Ayodo — who became the first MP for Kasipul Kabondo — warned that Kanu leaders were “dangerous and tricky and would destroy him if he was not careful and aware of what he was taking over”.

But Kanu survived these wrangles and won the elections with two distinct Pro-West and Pro-East factions, the later coalescing around Odinga and Bildad Kaggia.

 The entry of Kenyatta into Kanu eclipsed everything else and soon all that mattered was Jomo Kenyatta — especially after he managed to destroy the opposition, Kenya African Democratic Union of Ngala and Daniel arap Moi.

Kanu had very weak structures and no control over policy matters. The Kanu Parliamentary Group meetings were the rubber-stamps of executive decisions taken at the Office of the President and at State House.


Jennifer Widener, who wrote The Rise of One Party State in Kenya, argued that the weakening of Kanu was deliberate. “Kenyatta tried to rig electoral competition so as to force elites to bargain and compromise with one another” within the party.  The idea was for Kenyatta to keep loyalty within Kanu and maintain his hold on politics.

But this did not survive for long. While Mboya had been elected the Kanu secretary-general, there were machinations by the Kiambu elite to clip Mr Odinga’s wings as Vice-President. Kanu was no longer holding conferences and Mr Odinga was being excluded from decision-making, even at the Cabinet level. There were also manoeuvres to remove him as the vice-chairman of Kanu Parliamentary Group.

Meanwhile, Mr Mboya was being used by the Kiambu elite to organise branch coups which were quickly registered by Attorney-General Charles Njonjo’s office, which handled the societies registry.

And as Kenyatta’s health started deteriorating in the mid 60s, a meeting was called in Kiambu to dilute the powers of Kanu vice-president. Mr Moi and Mr Mboya handpicked delegates for this conference and Mr Odinga saw the plot and left to form his own Kenya People’s Union (KPU). 

With his ouster, a reckless Kanu ran amok and it culminated in the assassination of Tom Mboya in July 1969, proscription of KPU and detention of its members, and the assassination of JM Kariuki, the socialite millionaire and government critic.

To silence it critics, Kanu supported the emergence of detention without trial and most of its critics in Parliament — Koigi Wamwere, Martin Shikuku, and Jean-Marie Seroney — were jailed in a bid to intimidate alternative voices within the august House.

This trend would continue into President Moi’s leadership and although he strengthened the party, it was turned into a notorious weapon.

Kanu, during the Nyayo era, was used to silence any of the critics of the Nyayo “philosophy” and as power went into its head, it had a disciplinary committee in the lines of Soviet’s Communist Party.

As pressure started building and underground movements emerged in 1980s, Kanu decided to become de jure, the only party in Kenya. A new section 2 (a) was inserted in the Constitution which recognised Kanu as the only political party.

To remove that clause took 10 years of bitter wars, detentions, deaths and campaigns as Kanu demigods fought to maintain the status quo. But the amendment of section 2 (a) did not harm Kanu as a party since the structures of the single party remained in place. President Moi managed to win two elections and it was not until 2002 that Kanu finally lost power.

But most of the political parties that took advantage of the newfound freedom were crafted in Kanu’s image and likeness.

Had Senator Gideon Moi not stuck to the party, perhaps as an honour to his father, Daniel arap Moi, chances are that the party would be dead by now. For all intents and purposes, the great- grandfather of Kenya’s political parties has withered with time and is now on life support.

For a party that inspired millions of people and challenged the colonial institution to surrender, it is sad that Kanu became a victim of its success as hubris and deep rot.

With only eight elected MPs, Kanu, in terms of elected members, plays in the league of Mandeleo Chap Chap, Economic Freedom Party and Ford-Kenya. But its offshoots and clones have continued to metamorphose — albeit with different names but heavily borrowing from the original Kanu manifesto.

When it reigned, Kanu managed to sneak its emblem of a cockerel into the coat of arms and had its official colours included in the national flag, albeit with a slight change to incorporate the opposition Kadu, then led by Ronald Ngala.

It is interesting that 58 years later, Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party — the most popular of the Kanu offshoots — and Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, whose base is still the former KPU, are once again speaking the same language after a bitter rivalry.

Happy Birthday to Kanu!

Lobbyists should take Lamu coal wars to foreign firms

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Kenyan officials took advantage of this year’s World Environment Day last week to try to rally the public around a tree planting campaign meant to boost the country’s forest cover and tame the destructive effects of climate change.

The “Panda Miti, Penda Kenya” campaign championed by the new Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko looks to have one billion trees planted across the country.

Influential conservation NGO World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Kenya), backed by its strong community networks in most parts of the country, has rolled out a similar programme called “Keep Kenya Breathing” which has set itself an even higher target of 1.8 billion trees.


If both campaigns succeed, Kenya could well be on course to restoring its forest cover to the internationally recommended minimum 10 per cent much faster than imagined.

But will it?

Fat chance that – especially if the country doesn’t fix its governance flaws and policy contradictions that always seem to conspire to hold back its progress.

Recent media reports suggest that much of the money allocated to the government-backed tree planting campaign for seedlings is already stolen.

The board of the Kenya Forest Service, the agency responsible for protecting forests, was only reconstituted last week after Mr Tobiko disbanded the former governing body for abetting graft.


The government’s tendency to speak from both sides of the mouth on some particularly hot environmental issues has also raised questions about its commitment to its own climate change agenda.

Take its approval of the controversial plan to construct a coal-powered plant in Lamu, for example.

The idea of a dirty energy project this century contradicts the government’s stated aims in its original Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan, which emphasises low carbon investments.

Revelations by the energy regulator last week that the plant’s production capacity might be cut by half due to higher costs of excess power indicate that even the economic benefits are becoming dodgy.

A standoff with environmental campaigners has raised a cloud of dust over the project and a public interest suit is before a local court.


But the campaigners won’t feel too confident about their efforts, having recently failed to stop the Chinese from excavating their way through national parks to give us the standard gauge railway.

Their best bet seems to lie in putting pressure on the foreign firms who have invested or are planning to invest in the coal plant in future to pull out or keep off, starting with the American energy firm GE Power which was late last month reported to have bought itself a big stake.

Multinationals are increasingly reluctant to make money at the expense of the environment and public health in their home countries but have little qualms doing so in places like Africa.

Intrigues behind KPA Managing Director Catherine Mturi-Wairi’s exit

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The abrupt resignation of former Kenya Ports Authority managing director Catherine Mturi-Wairi, shortly after the court reinstated her, has sparked great speculation.

In a letter dated June 8, 2018, Ms Mturi-Wairi said she has voluntarily quit as the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director.

“I hereby wish to inform you of my decision to voluntarily vacate from the office of managing director of the Kenya Ports Authority with immediate effect, to enable me pursue other personal interests,” reads the letter addressed to Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.

The resignation came against a backdrop of two separate court cases filed at the High Court and the Employment and Labour Relations Court challenging the KPA board’s decision to send her on compulsory leave, orders which KPA had sought to have lifted in a Friday application.

In lifting her suspension, the court suspended the appointment of Dr Daniel Manduku as the acting MD. Rights activist Okiya Omtatah had also filed a case at the Employment Court protesting Ms Wairi’s removal.

It is not clear why Ms Wairi decided to resign abruptly yet the case involving her suspension was still pending in court. The case against KPA was filed by Mr Emmanuel Chengo Kenga through lawyer Gunga Mwinga.

The fate of the acting MD is now not clear, following the court order. Mr Kenga, in his petition, argued that Ms Wairi’s ouster was unprocedural, as the board was illegally constituted at the time.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday appointed retired army man Joseph Kibwana to replace Major (rtd) Madoka as KPA chairman.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia also appointed Peter Gibendi, Mary Ngare, Conrad Thorpe, Kariuki Njiri and Alice Mwaisaka as members. 

The appointment of Michael Maina, who had been the session chair when the decision to send Ms Wairi on leave was taken, has also been revoked. Mr Maina also presided over the handing over ceremony to Dr Manduku when Ms Wairi was suspended. 


During the press briefing at the port, Mr Maina on behalf of the board said Ms Wairi had been sent on compulsory leave over incompetence and theft of containers at the port.  

However, it has emerged that prior to her suspension, Ms Wairi and all members of the KPA board were appraised by the State Corporation Advisory Committee.

“During the appraisal, Ms Wairi scored 85 per cent and she topped all the board members,” an insider at the port said. 

Just a day after Ms Wairi was suspended, a tender for the expansion of Kipevu Oil Terminal (KOT) worth more than Sh40 billion was opened. Four firms bid for the tender. 

They include China Communication Construction Company, China Gezhuuba Group Company, Consortium of China Engineering Company and China Ocean Engineering Construction General Bureau (CNAC). Evaluation of the tender will begin soon. 

Ms Wairi is also said to have clashed with powerful individuals over the buying of land for the expansion of the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) after she stopped payment for the same over alleged inflated price. 

“She ordered KPA to re-value all the pieces of land that were to be bought and directed that the National Land Commission (NLC) conducts due diligence, sparking off a series of events,” an official privy to the issue said. 

It has also emerged that the whereabouts of millions of shillings collected as freight charges by Kenya Railways (KR) for transportation of containers from the port by the standard gauge railway (SGR) from January to March is unknown. 

According to interviews by government officials conversant with how freight charges for the SGR were to be collected and secured, only money collected from April can be accounted for.

The money in question was for transportation of containers from the port to the Inland Container Depot in Nairobi. 


“The money was supposed to be banked in a KPA-KR joint escrow account that is supposed to facilitate the SGR loan repayment, but this was not done,” one of the officials said. 

Ms Wairi is said to have raised the matter with KR managing director Atanas Maina and other government officials before KPA introduced an SGR freight tariff in its billing system in April and took over the responsibility. 

A committee comprising officials from KPA and KR has been formed to reconcile the number of containers transported from SGR from January to March. “The committee is also supposed to establish how much money was collected and where the money was banked,” a person close to the team added. 


According to the loan agreement between Kenya and China, the burden of the SGR loan repayment falls on KPA as it guaranteed the Sh320 billion project. 

For example, if KR is supposed to move 1,000 containers per day and fails to meet this target, KPA is supposed to pay the shortfall.

Recently, KPA was forced to refund importers more than Sh155 million after their containers destined to Mombasa were instead taken to the Nairobi ICD. 

Also, following cargo delays caused by breakdown of the Kenya Revenue Authority manifest management system, a directive was made to have containers taken to container freight stations.

DP pitches camp at Coast, hopes to eat into ODM base in 2022 bid

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Deputy President (DP) William Ruto has pitched camp at the Coast in a bid to eat into the ODM support base in the region ahead of the 2022 elections.

The region has become a battleground for top candidates eyeing the presidency since President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga announced a political ceasefire in March.

The handshake has led to new political formations and re-alignment with some ODM MPs defying the party and backing Mr Ruto’s quest for the top seat.

This, has seen the DP make several trips to the Coast in what is seen as trying to build a team that will support his presidential bid.

The DP’s huge financial muscle and move to dish out development projects has endeared him to many leaders, some of whom have since abandoned Coast political kingpin Hassan Joho to back him.


Before the Uhuru-Raila political union, it had been difficult for Jubilee which performed dismally at the Coast in the last two General Elections to penetrate the region which has been under ODM’s lock and key.

ODM won most of the seats in the six coast counties in 2013 and 2017 polls.

Mr Ruto’s overtures in the region got a boost when Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi who has been one of key opposition pointmen in the region signalled he could work with him ahead of the next elections.

Some of Mr Kingi’s allies including Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa have since thrown their weight behind Mr Ruto for the presidency, hurting Mr Joho’s political camp that has been working to consolidate the coast’s votes.

Mr Joho who is also eyeing the presidency in 2022 met Kanu chairman Gideon Moi who is seen as one of the biggest threats for Mr Ruto’s bid and announced they would work together.


The Coast has been used as a swing vote in the last elections due to lack of a ‘serious’ presidential candidate from the region.

Locals and political observers had however expected Mr Joho and Mr Kingi’s plans to enter the race in 2022 would have changed the situation.

During his visit to Mombasa last week, Mr Odinga who was accompanied by Mr Joho said their push for constitutional changes is to enable area’s like the coast produce a Head of State. Only two communities have been able to produce the presidency since independence.

Last evening, Mr Ruto was expected in Kilifi for an Iftar dinner where Governor Kingi and Ms Jumwa were also expected to be in attendance.

On Sunday, the DP will attend an Iftar dinner in Kwale hosted by the Coast Parliamentary Group chairman Suleiman Dor.

The Iftar dinners come barely a week after Mr Joho hosted Mr Odinga for a similar event.


During the Mombasa Iftar Dinner, Governor Kingi did not turn up though it cannot be confirmed whether he was invited or not.

Mr Kingi and Mr Joho who in the past appeared in public most of the times together speaking in one voice have since been drifting apart after the ‘handshake’ with the former being perceived to be leaning towards Mr Ruto.

Since March, the DP has attended a number of events in Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa counties as he seeks to extend his political wing.

He was in Kwale on Wednesday for World Environment Day and told the residents he would be meeting them again in a couple of days.


Other leaders perceived to be warming up to support the DP include Kwale Senator Issa Boy, MP’s Benjamin Tayari (Kinango), Badi Twalib (Jomvu) and Ali Mbogo (Kisauni).

The DP is also expected to visit the region this week to launch the Vanga-Jengo-Majoreni-Bodo-Ramisi-Shimoni road.

Party Leader. If this is wrong, then the party should start by acting on Raila,” the Magarini MP said.

Moi’s first ever meeting with Jomo and how DC described it

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Daniel Toroitich arap Moi was just a humble teacher when Jomo Kenyatta was arrested in 1952. It was not until October 26, 1959, that he came face to face with the man he would later serve as vice-president and succeed as president.

Mr GG Hill the DC, Turkana, who was present when the two met in Lodwar, filed a  report stating: “Moi was genuinely overcome at meeting Jomo and made grunting and squeaking noises to express his pleasure,” the DC writes in his private papers.

To record the memorable occasion, Moi, who was accompanied by his secretary Henry Cheboiwo, carried a Kodak folding camera. Unfortunately he didn’t know how to use it and had to seek the assistance of the DC. “In the event I took the photographs. As it was about 6pm and I know nothing about photography there is possibility that the snaps will not come out.” These and other details are contained in recently declassified colonial information.

The events that culminated in the historic meeting began way back in 1958 when a leaked letter exposed the inhumane conditions at Lokitaung prison where Kenyatta, Paul Ngei, Kung’u Karumba, Bildad Kaggia, Achieng’ Oneko and Fred Kubai were imprisoned.


The letter caused a furore both locally and abroad, with the international community questioning the circumstances in which a government was justified in denying liberty to its subjects.

In the LegCo, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga described the Kapenguria Six as the leaders of Africans during a debate on a motion calling for an independent inquiry into conditions at Lokitaung prison on June 26, 1958.

The following day he  made another  statement  demanding that Jomo Kenyatta’s health status be made public  and that he be given the same treatment as that  given to Archbishop Makarios, a Cypriot priest and the first president of Cyprus, who was arrested by the British and  exiled in Seychelles, where he was treated as the guest of Governor William Addis.  

Reeling in embarrassment because of the wide publicity given to the letter, the government started looking for a better place to restrict the prisoners, and by December 1958 it had already found three places, Sigor in West Pokot, Marsabit and Lodwar, although the latter was considered  the better option.


In March 1959, the Ministry of Public Works finished building new houses for the prisoners on the outskirts of Lodwar Township, at a place  named Freetown. The cost of construction was around £7,500 (Sh1 million at today’s rate) and each house was built to the “standard approved for an African officer”. Kenyatta and fellow prisoners were transferred to the new detention centre in an operation codenamed “Leg Bye” on April 15, 1959.
Three months later, on July 15, they were joined by their families in another operation, which involved the government using police lorries to ferry the detainees’ wives and children from their reserves.

Unlike Lokitaung, Freetown detention centre  provided prisoners with more freedom. They had their families, vegetable gardens and  spacious  houses.  Doctors Mustapha and Patel, were also available to provide  medical services.

Despite the government’s efforts to salvage its tainted image, there was a growing interest in the future of Kenyatta and the possibility of his return.

October 1959 was particularly a turning point in the quest for Kenyatta’s  release as it marked the seventh anniversary of his arrest and the declaration of the State of Emergency.


The Kenya Independence Movement, made up of  radicals such as Tom Mboya, Odinga and  Gikonyo Kiano, organised demonstrations in Nairobi on October 20 to coincide with the day the emergency was declared  and the subsequent arrest of Kenyatta.

Africans heeded the call and came out in their thousands to express solidarity with their leaders as  the police carried their revolvers for the first time in many years.

Kenya National Party, on the other hand, was a party of moderates such as Moi, Masinde Muliro and Ronald Ngala, who decided to pursue the question of Kenyatta’s release diplomatically by sending a delegation to the governor.

Following the meeting, Moi, as the representative of Rift Valley in the LegCo, was permitted to visit Kenyatta and other detainees at Lodwar.

He arrived in Lodwar on October 26, 1959, and  was hosted at the DC’s house.


After a wash, squash, lunch and coffee, the DC granted him permission to interview Kenyatta and other detainees. Moi had hoped to get permission to  interview the detainees  together but this was denied by the  DC who  instead permitted him  to conduct separate interviews.

A couple of chairs were then arranged in the sports room behind the DC’s office where Moi was to conduct the interview. Since Freetown was some few miles away from his office, the DC had to drive  to summon the detainees for their  interviews with Moi.

However, his decision to offer Kenyatta a lift in his Land Rover did not go down well with the other detainees, led by Ngei, who demanded to know why Kenyatta was being given preferential treatment while they walked on foot.

“None of the other four was pleased when I took Jomo away by Land Rover for the first and longer of the interviews,” noted the DC.

When Kenyatta arrived, Moi stood up and they hugged and had a warm handshake. The DC seemed displeased with the encounter as he wrote, “Falling on each other’s necks reminds me of similar distressing scenes to be found nowadays on association football fields.”

Moi spent one hour interviewing Kenyatta and 30 minutes each with the other detainees. At the end of the interviews, which started at 2.20pm, he went back to the DC’s office to raise with him some of the complaints the detainees had made.

Among them was that their accommodations were too small, they were not allowed to talk to people and their  subsistence allowance was inadequate.
Moi also informed the DC that the “people wanted Kenyatta back, very badly” adding that he would propose to the Minister of Defence to transfer the detainees to their home districts as they were not a security threat. He then requested permission from the DC to visit Freetown to inspect the detainees’  homes and also see their families. This was not in the programme, so the DC agreed, but on condition  that it had to be short and he also had to be present.

Moi agreed, and together with his secretary, boarded the DC’s Land Rover to  Freetown where he inspected every house, met  the detainees’ wives and patted  all the children on the head. All the detainees complained about snakes and mosquitoes entering their houses because of lack of mesh or wire gauze on the windows and under the eaves.


Kenyatta also complained about the poor design of having the kitchen between the bedroom and sitting room, a complaint that was supported by the DC in his confidential report.

Of all the things Moi saw at Freetown, none surprised him more than the detainees’ well-tendered flower beds and a vegetable garden that was irrigated by the effluent from the septic tank.

Then followed a photo session during which Moi struggled to use his camera. The DC would later write: “I wonder who gave Arap Moi a camera which he knew nothing how to use.” Kung’u Karumba used the opportunity to pass a letter to Moi, which he slipped in his back pocket.

It was suspected that Kiano was the likely recipient. Moi’s warm farewell to the detainees as the visit came to an end was “Uhuru Karibuni” meaning freedom is at hand. The party returned to the DC’s house where Moi refused to have anything stronger than orange squash. His excuse was that the Nandi and Kipsigis constables at the nearby Kenya Police lines  had organised a meat feast in his honour.


“Moi left my house about 1900 hours and went to the Police lines where he fed. He left at 2100 and stopped at the dukas for 3-4 minutes where he turned out his vehicle lights. It appears he spoke to the night beat who have made no report so far,” read a  report sent to the Provincial Commissioner Isiolo on Oct 27, 1959. Moi’s movements were  monitored on his way to Nairobi.

The policemen manning Loiya roadblock past Turkwel reported sighting his car at 4 in the morning with Chepkurui on the driver’s seat, and Moi and Cheboiwo as passengers.


Although Moi was classified as a moderate, the DC noted during their brief interaction that he showed the highest respect and admiration for Kenyatta. At the same time he described him as a “double-faced” politician who was difficult to understand, a description that matches well his attribute as a sharp-witted master tactician who was always ahead of his political opponents during his reign.

Initially considered a passing cloud when he succeeded Jomo Kenyatta in 1978, he managed to outmanoeuvre his enemies,  consolidated power and ruled Kenya with an iron fist for 24 years.

Lessons learnt about ‘handshakes’ while on a trip to Rwanda countryside

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I spent two weeks of July 2009 in Rwanda. While there I sat through three sessions of Gacaca Courts in the Rwandan countryside.

Gacaca Courts is a traditional judicial system in the country where recognised village elders constitute a jury to hear and resolve communal disputes.

In this case, the courts had been set up to try cases related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide where Hutu extremists massacred an estimated million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The first session of Gacaca Courts I attended was in the southern part of the country where a former education officer was accused of having drawn a list of teachers to be executed in his locality. The accused was a dark, tall and massively built fellah with intimidating looks of former Uganda dictator Idi Amin.

He spoke so rapidly through gushes of saliva that the English translator only captured a third of what he said. But his accusers, too, had come prepared and made him sweat and foam at the mouth throughout the session.


The second session of Gacaca Courts I attended was in the western part of the country. The accused was a wealthy man alleged to have funded genocide activities in his neighbourhood. He was a fat, inarticulate old man with sleepy eyes.

It’s either they had just woke him up or he had sat the whole night imbibing liquids that had little water content.

If I were his lawyer I would have requested him to remain silent and let me do the talking for him.

The third session I attended was in the outskirts of the capital Kigali. On trial was a former government administrator.  He looked exhausted and tortured.

I learnt he’d just been released from jail on humanitarian grounds but told he must go through Gacaca system as a final step before he was accepted back into the society.


I wasn’t in Rwanda long enough to hear conclusions of the three cases. However, I got the drift of the Gacaca Courts.

It clearly came out that the main purpose of the communal courts wasn’t to fix blames and mete out punishment, but rather an opportunity for victims and their accusers to ventilate, then reconcile and move on.

From Gacaca Courts, I can draw some comparisons with the Kenyan post-2017 election healing process popularly called the “handshake”.

The Kenyan “handshake” is at the top of the pyramid. In Rwanda it was at the bottom. In Kenya, it is the leaders who need reconciliation not the ordinary citizen, the Wanjikus and Akinyis. In Rwanda, it is the ordinary citizens who needed to be reconciled after decades of mutual communal hatred.


From their colonial history, the two dominant communities in Rwanda – the Hutu and the Tutsi – (there is also the Twa who are rarely mentioned) were taught to hate one another. A Hutu child was born knowing there is an enemy called Tutsi and vise-versa.

It was therefore inevitable that a social re-engineering be done after the genocide to make the Rwandese henceforth regard themselves as Rwandese not Hutu or Tutsi. Actually, ethnic profiling is today a criminal offence in the country.

The Kenyan case is different. Communities have no in-built hatreds. I know it from experience.

I was born and spent my early life in Elburgon in Nakuru county where Kikuyus and Kalenjins lived door to door.

There were no hard feelings about one another. Many of my childhood friends from Elburgon speak fluent Kikuyu and Kalenjin and you can only tell the community of their origin from their surnames.


From Elburgon my family settled in Laikipia, an area where you find all the Kenyan communities. In my adulthood, I have lived for many years in Lang’ata next to Kibra slums and it has never occurred to me that different communities are uncomfortable with one another. If you doubt it, go to any jua-kali motor garage in Lang’ata.

A Luo will do your panel-beating as his Kikuyu colleague does the mechanics, and the Mkamba supplies retread tyres and lubricants.

Unlike in the old Rwanda, Kenyan communities have no in-built hatreds. The problem is the politicians who make Kenyans rise against one another come election season.

That is why while President Uhuru Kenyatta needed a “handshake” with opposition leader Raila Odinga, the Mama Mboga in Kiambu and fishmonger in Siaya didn’t need any. They have no grudge.

If any, their common beef is on the political class who haven’t facilitated the fishmonger to sell as much fish in Kiambu as the Mama Mboga takes more of her commodities to Siaya. In the process, their nephews and nieces could have met and gotten married.

That said, however, there is a bad seed we are germinating particularly in rural Kenya. Children in rural Kenya are growing up encased inside their communities with little interaction with other Kenyan communities.

A child born in Nyeri is going to a local primary and secondary school, then to Karatina University for first degree and a masters degree at Dedan Kimathi University all in Nyeri.

Likewise, another child born in Bondo is attending local primary and secondary schools, then proceeds to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Maseno universities for tertiary education. So one grows up with only Kikuyus and the other one with only Luos next door.

It wasn’t so in my youthful days. For instance, I attended a district secondary school, not provincial let alone a national school, but we were all there.

My school admission number at Nanyuki High School was 8424. 8425 was Feisal Mohamed from Isiolo; 8426 was Kenneth Ochieng from Kapenguria; 8427 was Sinkil ole Karia from Narok; 8428 was Samuel Chelimo from Elgeyo Marakwet; 8429 was Eric Mwongera from Meru, and 8430 was Allan Wanjala from Trans Nzoia.


In the class was also an Indian, Indranil Dutta, from Nanyuki town. In contrast, a few years ago I happened to be in Nanyuki town and dropped in at my old school. When I looked at the school notice-board every name of student and teacher were Kikuyu. It depressed me.

The other parallel I can draw from the Rwanda experience is political inclusivity, another common term in today’s Kenyan politics. From Gacaca Courts, I learnt that much of the community hatred was because one community felt excluded from the high table.

Next time I meet my old friend lawyer Paul Mwangi, the joint co-secretary of the Team “Handshake”, I will suggest that his committee comes up with an inclusive formula that will take care of the Big 5 and the Elmoro as well.

This is it: Over 70 per cent of Kenyan voters come from five communities, Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin and Kamba. Why not create an executive system that has president, deputy president, prime minister and two deputies. That takes care of the Big 5.


As for the Elmoro and the Ogiek, let’s have only two and at most three strong political parties. A strong political party in the mode of Tanzania’s CCM or South Africa’s ANC can pick a presidential candidate from any community in the respective counties. So would a strong Jubilee or Nasa (does Nasa still exist?) pick Dr Ethuro Aukot as its presidential candidate?

But having our “own” at the high table isn’t a guarantee that Wanjiku will have bread on the table. In Kiambu county which has produced two presidents since independence, there is a place called Ndeiya where women in labour are taken to deliver at the only poorly equipped dispensary using donkey carts because there are no roads.

Elsewhere in Nyeri country, which gave us our third president, there is a place called Kieni where people still live on relief food. Even worse, a place called Tiaty in Baringo country is the most God-forsaken place I ever visited in my life, yet Baringo gave us a president for a record 24 years!

Devolution, if well implemented, is the surest route to take bread to Wanjiku, and ensure Gacaca Courts shall never have to come to Kenya.

Cartels, chaos and crisis in Kenya’s urban governance

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I first heard the word cartel in my undergraduate history class in Makerere University in 1973. The lecturer, Professor MSM Kiwanuka, often made reference to this word in relation to Vladimir Lenin’s theory of economic imperialism as an explanation to the scramble for and partition of Africa.

In brief the theory argues that in the course of the development of capitalism in late 19th century Europe, there ensued such cut-throat competition among the merchant, industrial and finance capitalists that for purposes of their survival, a few of them merged to form cartels or combined to enjoy powers and privileges of monopoly.

In spite of this, the capitalist system experienced more crises as production, merchant and financial profits generally declined, persuading European countries to look for a vent for investable surplus capital and trade markets in Africa. It was this that led to the colonisation of the continent for the benefit of Europe.

For some time I have been wondering whether the emergence of so-called cartels in Kenya could be a positive response to a crisis as happened in Europe.

Well, the answer is that the situation in Kenya is quite different. The cartels in Kenya are a group of individuals who are taking advantage of the chaotic urban process and are exacerbating the crisis of governance in our urban areas for their own selfish advantage.

But who are the cartels in the Kenyan context? Are they, as defined by the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, simply “a group of people who all agree to sell something at the same price so that they can all make profits without competing with one another”?

What led to their emergence and what precisely do they sell? Do they operate legally and, if not, why haven’t their operations been criminalised as in the United States of America and the cartel godfathers imprisoned?

What is the impact of their illegal operations on the governance of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and the other smaller cities in the country?

The cartels in our urban areas are simply blue collar thieves whose operations are absolutely criminal. They are products of the chaotic nature of the country’s urban process.

For, unlike the urbanisation in developed countries, which was logically and naturally occasioned by agricultural and industrial revolutions, ours was externally brought about by the requirements of colonial administration, colonial trade and the onset of secondary industrialisation, particularly after the Second World War.

The urban process was, therefore, largely external and parasitic as it relied on the exploitation of the rural areas through labour supplies and the production of exports to Europe. Africans were meant to be periodic migrants to the urban areas rather than permanent residents. Those who were unemployed and had no identity cards or kipande were often repatriated back to their rural homes or imprisoned.

Africans were completely excluded from urban governance and from European and Asian residential and recreational areas.

They were denied licences to carry out trade. They survived by establishing informal settlements and trading activities in their quarters.

The attainment of political independence in 1963 dramatically altered this situation. It opened the floodgates of massive rural-urban migrations and, of course, an opportunity for semi-educated Africans to replace European administrators and Indian businessmen.


This has since led to “exploding cities in an un-exploding or dependent economy”, a condition that has made our towns and cities unable to effectively manage the exponential growth of the urban population.

Kenya’s towns and cities have largely failed to cope with the delivery of the required services such as housing, employment, transport, medical care, education, sanitation, collection of garbage, clean water, recreation, security, political representation, stable family life or what Luise White in her book Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi calls “the comforts of home”.

Not least, they have also failed to provide land, which is the dream of every Kenyan, to the majority of urban dwellers.

The reason for the lacklustre service delivery is, therefore, primarily because of the externally driven and parasitic nature of the urban process itself, the country’s weak agricultural and semi-industrial base and the weakness of the institutions of urban governance. As a consequence, the urban population is engaged in a vicious and painful struggle for the scarce urban resources.


These struggles have taken the following complexions: inter-ethnic rivalries; inter- and intra-class struggles; conflicts between national and international entrepreneurs; quarrels between county and national governments and officials; competition between men and women as well as between the youth and the elderly. All these have increasingly amounted to chaos and all forms of socio-economic and administrative malaise, which the weak national and urban governance institutions have failed to effectively deal with.

The consequence of all this has been the cartels’ proliferation. The cartels thrive in the interstices or cracks of the urban process and weak institutions which are also reflected in the weak governance of the country.


For their own survival the cartels widen the cracks and exacerbate the governance crisis. In other words they struggle to form a parallel and invisible government.

The cartels thrive because their operations have created the following illusions in the minds of the urban populace: That they speed up the necessary processes of getting things done; they provide services where urban institutions have failed; they step in to protect weak and vulnerable groups; they provide the necessary link with powerful politicians and entrepreneurs for jobs, businesses and other favours; finally, they provide financial assistance to their godfathers in high places, allegedly including political parties.

Ndege is a professor of history at Moi University

Why Kenyan intellectuals and the media have a duty to support our government

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I don’t consider myself an intellectual, but for the last few days I’ve been thinking seriously about what my relationship with the Jubilee government would be if, by some miracle, I woke up one morning and found myself transformed into an intelligent and articulate thought leader.

If that ever happens, I would support President Uhuru Kenyatta to the hilt and ignore incitements from my dog, Sigmund, that we should be skeptical about Jubilee government’s commitment to anything, including the fight against graft, a scourge plaguing most public offices in Kenya.

I’d support the government to improve the lives of every Kenyan — including my own. But Sigmund thinks government functionaries are just playing with our minds to manage our anger at serial cases of corruption, high unemployment rates, and general poverty.

Your friend Michel Foucault defined an intellectual as that person who questions everything and to whom there are no sacred cows.


I don’t belong in this category of humans. I’ve no reason to doubt that the government is dead serious in its pledge to fight corruption. It has fulfilled most of its election promises so far, and it’s about to deliver the President’s Big Four agenda — big as burgers for all Kenyans to enjoy.

Some of us don’t seem to realise how lucky we are to have Uhuru as our leader: A sober competent man who deeply cares for every citizen of this country, irregardless of our ethnicities. Since he came to power in 2013, he has turned Kenya around into one big tent where we share the national cake equally and everyone is happy — except for a few disgruntled elements, who exist in every society.

It is because Kenyans from every corner of the nation trust and love him that they overwhelmingly voted for Uhuru (98 per cent), giving our fourth President the mandate to transform our lives for the better.


The results are now obvious: Media freedom to even criticise him, improving healthcare, better schools, fewer street muggings, increased electricity connectivity, and better jobs for our young men and women.

In other less fortunate places of the world, leaders would have rigged themselves back to power and ruthlessly suppressed protests against a compromised election.

Probably they’d have, using computers, also grabbed more than the two per cent of dissenting votes and claimed the opposition garnered negative votes.

In those countries, their so-called leaders are like the chichidodo. This is a bird in the well-known novel by the Ghanaian Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. The bird loves eating maggots from human excrement but will frequently stop in the middle of its meal to pronounce how it hates bad smells, before proceeding with its stomach-wrenching fare.


Like the chichidodo, the big kahuna in those other countries condemns corruption in public pronouncements while strategically looking the other way when his relatives and acolytes from his tribe gut national institutions to the ground with gusto.

Since I squandered my chance to be an editor of this newspaper by running back to the academy to starve there, I haven’t kept in touch with many journalists.

But I usually tell those I talk to once in a while to be wary of the intellectual types. They use all tricks to overcome censorship — an editor’s God-given duty to gate-keep against excessive truth. Some of these supposedly learned fellows might praise you while they’re actually insulting you. I can’t remember the word for that kind of writing. But there’s a word for it in the dictionary.

The media is filled with anti-government elements united by their pessimism regarding every government effort to improve the commons.

Indeed, it is not lost on us who support the government that the media are out to tarnish the President’s legacy by painting his administration as corrupt to the core.


I am gratified to see in our media a few “professors” who support the government. They may not be real professors, in the sense that they don’t hold higher degrees and are not affiliated to any university. But we can still call them newspaper and YouTube professors — really great patriots who have a genuine connection with the tribal masses the government needs to stave off any opposition that may arise in the distant future.

In spite of the naysayers like my dog Sigmund, all of us can see the great work the government is doing to punish the corrupt elements in the Uhuru administration.

They will be stripped of their honour and stolen wealth, and soon they’ll be beggars eking a living at the dark street corners, asking for the charity of some passers-by and mugging others to make ends meet.

Indeed, with the arrests and prosecution of corrupt cartels, I’m happy to declare the government mission accomplished: Graft will soon be a thing of the past.

Sigmund (yawning and wagging his tail):  Are we gonna get something to eat today, sir?

Me: When you say: “Serikali Juu! Juu!”

Sigmund: Serikali Guu! Guu! Guu! Guu!

Me: Good boy! But not too loud. They might think we don’t mean it.

World Cup: We must rethink our national strategy

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Anthropologists will authoritatively tell us that rituals are important in binding communities and enhancing community productivity. That is why national groups, regional groups and even international categories have events that help them to keep together. While a lot of people may not see it that way, sports events – if organised properly – are a major ritual that binds communities, national, regional or even international groups together.

Look at the countries – including ourselves – that were part of the British Empire. They have the Commonwealth Games every so often.

The global community has the Olympic Games which are a major ritual aimed at uniting the world we live in. The same global society has other events – rituals – that focus on individual sports events. Right now, there is the French Open Tennis competition that brings all competent tennis players from every part of the world together. These rituals are important for keeping communities and people together and united.


The biggest ritual in the world of football is now here with us. The World Cup begins in less than a week. I am not a very big football fan – even though I love watching a good game – so when this World Cup ritual comes along every four years, I somehow keep my eyes open and generally get excited and watch whichever game I can.

My big question has been: Where are we Kenyans? Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other African countries have over time demonstrated that indeed Africans can do it. Where have we Kenyans been in this matter?

With regard to international football there is no doubt that if enough energy and effort are applied by all concerned, we do have the requisite ability to be part of the world community and probably shine better than most.

I am reliably informed that the best we have ever done is to win – once – the Africa Cup of Nations in the 1980s.


Then at, some point, the Gor Mahia club won the African Club Championships. In spite of all the talent and ability there is in this country, we still have never been able to get anywhere close to be considered worthy of playing in the World Cup. Should we not rethink our strategy going forward?

There is a ministry or department charged with the responsibility of running sports nationally. People who have a passion to do this job should get it. If we are going to get anywhere, it will be necessary to put resources at the disposal of sports managers while at the same time taming these persons so that these resources are well spent. Sports is a big industry that will employ many talented young people. 

Court ruling renews political battles in Ukambani and the future of Gov Mutua

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It has been an eventful week, with the Court of Appeal nullifying the election of Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua. Earlier, there was a court decision against the mass suspension of procurement officers in the ministries, with the Judiciary yet again ruling for narrow individual rights rather than the broader public good.

Mutua has appealed to the Supreme Court and, for the time being, he will continue holding on to his seat. The Court of Appeal ruling has thrown Ukambani politics into a fresh tailspin. The governor’s rivalry with Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has, for a long time, polarised Machakos County.

Mutua upped the ante by declaring interest to run for president. The court ruling has gratified Kalonzo’s supporters, and interestingly also, others outside Ukambani who are determined to check Mutua’s grandstanding at the national stage.

For now, Mutua’s importance is not because he wants to be president; it is the firm position he has taken in the ongoing high-level war against corruption. He has rattled sacred cows with his demand for lifestyle and financial audits of top people — all the way to the Deputy President.

Some days back, he had made a big show of hosting Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, another presidential wannabe, and announcing they were “working together”.

It was the clearest signal of the alignment he had taken in the ongoing power struggle within Jubilee over the 2022 succession. Gideon, like Mutua, is not formally in Jubilee, but he is caught up in a vicious conflict in the Rift Valley with DP William Ruto.

I won’t go as far as to say the Judiciary has been roped into this succession battle – yet. However, Mutua’s supporters are insinuating this is the case.

Some have even murmured that the “handshake” has some role in the governor’s setback, which seems rather far-fetched.


If the endgame is a gubernatorial by-election in Machakos, a can of worms will be re-opened. A defeat will expose Mutua as a mere paper tiger as his detractors say, but if it is a win, it will further push Kalonzo into the sidelines.

Ukambani has some remarkable governors, but its team at the national level is below par. With the “handshake”, it was left confused and embittered.

The assumption was that Raila Odinga would remain steadfast and restate support for Kalonzo as Nasa’s presidential candidate for 2022.

Raila no longer talks about this deal, being engrossed entirely with the “handshake” and what he aims to achieve with it.

The governor who is really setting the pace in Ukambani is Kivutha Kibwana of Makueni.

His application of devolution has been thoughtful and far-sighted. In particular, his model of people participation in formulating development projects has caught attention far and wide, with dozens of governors set to converge in his county for “bench-marking.”


It is a pity he doesn’t seem to have any higher ambitions, preferring to continue tethering himself to Kalonzo even as they remain stuck at the crossroads since the “handshake” happened. Recent suggestions by some Wiper MPs that Kalonzo try and fill the vacuum in Nasa left by Raila were inexplicably downplayed by him.

All the same, too many people have cast doubts whether he is up to the task.

It would make sense for Kivutha to team up with the other two Ukambani governors — Mutua and Kitui’s Charity Ngilu — and agree on a common course now that Kalonzo’s pact with Raila seems to have come unstuck. Ngilu can be unpredictable, but she is a useful fighter to have on your side.

Kivutha’s recent proposal to Kalonzo to work with Jubilee the way Raila has done could turn out to be a dead end.


Ukambani leaders should be under no illusions: Jubilee has bigger sharks who are better prepared for the 2022 showdown, and who won’t cede ground to Kalonzo, or Mutua, no matter what. Mutua has opted to throw his hat into the ring, hoping that the main frontrunners will implode along the way, perhaps in the course of the anti-corruption war, which he supports politically. If he were to lose the governorship, he would be in big problems himself.