On Twitter

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Homage to Comrade Fidel Castro - Lessons for Us

As Comandante Fidel Castro’s ashes are interred today (4th December 2016) in Santiago de Cuba, the place where the July 26th rebel movement began its journey to overthrow dictatorship and capitalism, there are many lessons that Kenyans and the whole of humanity can learn from the life of this great legend.

He remains a great inspiration to the young people of this country who are disturbed by the ever rising levels of poverty, greed and corruption. In his twenties, Fidel’s conviction for a just society led him into organising two attempts to overthrow the then military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, and he was eventually successful at the young age of thirty-two.
Fidel disembarked from the Granma boat with a rebel army of 87 men and got to the Sierra Maestra mountains with less than twenty guerrillas. Through such actions, he continues to inspire those working for a better society but are few in numbers. He was never discouraged by the loss of combatants or the greater fire-power of Batista’s army, he understood that what he needed on his side was the support of the masses and not bigger guns.

Fidel teaches us to always be prepared. It was through preparation and working with the masses that Fidel Castro was able to defeat the U.S trained soldiers who invaded Cuba from the U.S in 1961 at the Bay of Pigs. It is this preparedness that has deterred the U.S from militarily invading Cuba since then.
Unlike the primitive accumulation tendencies that we see with our African leaders, Fidel Castro and his leadership never sought material riches for themselves. They worked hard to ensure that every Cuban had equal and unlimited opportunities to achieve what they humanly could. That is how Cuba was able to achieve unparalleled successes in the fields of education, preventive and curative health, sciences, gender and racial equality, housing and employment among other aspects of human development. All this was achieved in spite of the existence of the most brutal economic, commercial and financial blockade from the U.S that has been in place for over 50 years.

Through Fidel, a lesson on resilience and being true to self is learnt. Not many countries can survive a blockade such as the one that has been imposed on Cuba. through resilience, Cuba has not only survived that blockade, but has managed to mobilize the whole world into condemning this U.S aggression on Cuba. Every year at the UN General Assembly, virtually all countries except the U.S and Israel vote against the blockade. Fifty-four years into the blockade, the U.S President Barack Obama admitted that its policy had failed and he began the process of normalization of relationships between the two countries. However, the blockade still remains in force.

After the fall of the USSR, Cuba lost its closest trading partner and the Cuban economy was brought to its knees. Many countries abandoned Socialism, many Socialist Political Parties across the world dropped Marxism-Leninism as their ideology, and many Marxists intellectuals and politicians no longer wished to be identified with Socialism. However, Cuba’s Socialism did not fall with the fall of the wall. The country instead diversified and realigned its Socialist economy by moving towards green energy, popular organic farming, pharmaceutical and biomedical technology and other niches that are today the envy of many. Out of this resilience and inspiration, Socialist countries began to rise a decade later in Latin America, from Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua to Ecuador. Leftist governments also came into power in Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries. Throughout Africa, the old 'Marxist' intellectuals were replaced by young Marxist revolutionaries who’s understanding was/is not pegged on mother Russia but on the principles of equality and prosperity of humanity, just like Fidel Castro did.

Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, Cuba taught the world the most important lessons on giving and solidarity. Cuban Universities have awarded thousands of full scholarships to youth from developing countries who are now serving their countries as doctors and other professionals. Cuba does not award these scholarships because it is a rich country. In fact, Cuba’s GDP is smaller than that of many developing countries, including Kenya. Cuba gives because sharing is a human responsibility. This poses a challenge to countries like Kenya that are surrounded by worse off countries. How many scholarships does Kenya give to young people from Somalia, South Sudan or the DR Congo?

Cuban combatants have fought alongside their African compatriots in their struggles against colonialism and imperialism. Cubans assisted Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Ethiopia and South Africa either in their struggle for independence, or in their wars against external aggression, and as Raul Castro once said while in Angola, Cuba fought alongside Africans and left not with coffee or minerals, but with the body bags of their heroic soldiers. Cuba’s internationalist policy is unlike the U.S globalization policy; Cuba did not sacrifice its children so that they could exploit and dominate others, but it did so to fulfil its internationalist duty to humanity.
Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony continues to be up to this day. Are African countries waiting for Cubans to come and fight for the decolonization of the Saharawi? Do we think petitions and African Union commission reports will convince Morocco to leave Western Sahara? Haven’t we learnt anything from the sacrifices of the Cuban people?

Today, Cuba continues with this internationalist practice, but now by sending humanitarian ‘combatants’ wherever humanity needs them. From hurricane crises in Asia and the Americas, to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Cuban doctors have always been on the frontlines of fighting and containing these disasters. While commenting on the Haitian earthquake, one Haitian expressed his gratitude to the Cuban doctors by stating that “After God, Fidel.”

Fidel gave us lessons on how to fight today's emerging crimes like terrorism. In the 80s and the 90’s, terrorists from Miami (supported by the CIA) tried to destroy Cuba’s tourism industry by bombing hotels, Cuban airplanes and other economic interests, even going to the extent of using bio-terrorism on innocent civilians. Rather than terrorise and alienate innocent civilians like the Kenyan government is doing today, Fidel sent his security personnel to infiltrate the enemy and unearth terror plans before they happened. That is how the world famous Cuban anti-terrorism heroes, popularly known as the Cuban 5 came to be (They were arrested in the U.S and given harsh/life sentences for espionage, but were freed by President Obama in December 2014).
Throughout his life, Fidel has survived assassination attempts on his life and worst still on his character, but this never dampened his resolve. They lied about his wealth but he continued living a simple life. They lied about human rights violations but he continued to provide the highest attainable human rights for his people. Even at his death, reactionary media continues to desecrate his name by publishing lies about this great revolutionary. Fidel has taught us to ignore the liars and detractors and instead soldier on and do what is right.


I therefore reiterate the homage that Carlos Aznárez paid to Fidel Castro where he wrote;
 "So, when difficulties seem too much, and we believe we’re running out of strength, when we lack answers and when confusion makes us doubt about who the enemy is, when times are dark and without hope, let’s go back to Fidel, to his ideas, to his ethic, to his audacity, to his courage, to his revolutionary power, and let’s rise again to continue this wonderful adventure to take the skies.
A little heartbroken but never defeated, we salute you, dear Commander. We will turn back to you every now and then and ask you: “Are we doing well, Fidel?”

An avid reader, a sportsman, an arts enthusiast, a teacher, a great leader, a prolific writer, an environmentalist, an orator, a thinker, a fighter, and above all, a Communist.

Hasta Siempre Comandante,
Long Live Fidel Castro!
Long Live Socialism!
We shall be Victorious!

Benedict WACHIRA
Secretary General
Social Democratic Party of Kenya

December 4th 2016
6:41am

Monday, July 4, 2016

Extra Judicial Killings in Kenya: Why the IGP Joseph Boinnet must Resign or be sacked

In an interview with Larry Madowo last week, Mr. Charles Owino, the Kenya Police spokesperson asked why people were calling for the resignation of the IG of Police, yet rogue elements are found in every profession, including the one that the LSK belongs to.

But the case of the Mavoko 3 brings out several issues which demand that responsibility must be taken at the highest level if this country is to be prevented from falling into anarchy. These issues include:

1. Confirmed Incompetence
Through the murder of the three, the Police Service has shown us the extent to which it is incompetent. The lawyer and his client, a bodaboda rider were threatened with death by the same Policeman who was being prosecuted by the State for shooting the bodaboda rider. They reported the threat to the police. No action was taken.

Why was a Policeman who was accused, by the State itself, of shooting an unarmed man allowed to continue with his duties even as the matter was ongoing in court?
Why didn’t the Police take the death threat seriously, yet it had come from a man accused of what would qualify as an attempted murder?

After it became clear that the three had been disappeared, the IG of Police was informed, and lawyers even demonstrated at the IG’s office. Finally, the bodies of the three were found in a river, by ordinary citizens.
How difficult is it for the police to find culprits of a kidnapping when there is only one obvious suspect? One who is clearly not so bright? One whose full information they can easily find?

 Isn’t it clear that if the villagers had not discover those bodies, or if the Killer police had disposed the bodies of differently, then we would still be talking of a "kidnapping" today?

2. Faith in the Police service and anarchy
The Mavoko 3 were arrested at a road-stop mounted by the Police, who went ahead and kidnapped them and tortured them to death.

Going forward, how should Taxi drivers and Kenyans in general behave when they see Police road blocks ahead? Should they stop? Should they run? Should they panic?
If the police stop you in the streets, should you stop? Should you run? Should you fight them? If they arrest you, what should you do? Resist arrest? Search for toilet papers to write on? Panic to death?

How else can we regain the little confidence (in being stopped or being arrested, safely) that we had, if the big bosses do not show responsibility by resigning?
If the big bosses had reacted to put an end to the illegal arrests that are committed by the Police all over the country on a daily basis (where you are released on giving a bribe, or you are charged with funny misdemeanors), wouldn’t the three, maybe, be alive today?

If you are a lawyer, would you involve yourself in cases of victims of Police brutality or illegal arrests?
If you are a victim of Police brutality or illegal arrest, will you find lawyers to represent you in court? Should you even risk your life by reporting or following up the matter in the first place?

3. Extra-Judicial killings and torture
The region where the three were kidnapped is said to be the area where extra-judicial killings victims are taken for torture and (complete) disappearance.
Is it some coincidence that the Killer police kidnapped, tortured, murdered and tried to disappear the bodies of the three in this very region? I think not.

Numerous reports of torture in Police stations across the country have been reported to the NPSC, IPOA and to the Police themselves and nothing happens. When it comes to torture, these Mavoko Police are not rogue Police. They are ordinary Police.

The fact that the car that the Mavoko 3 were arrested in was driven many kilometers from the kidnapping scene so as to cause confusion may confirm that the Police have a hand in the disappearances that we have heard of in the past. The script is the same.

Maybe the IG of Police knew that the three had already been executed by his own men & women, and most likely maybe he was trying to save face for the Police Service and that is why he did not address the lawyers when they visited his office. Unfortunately for him, the three victims had sent out an SOS from the cell, and some villagers had bothered to know what the bags in the river were carrying.

The fact that the Police Service failed to suspend the killer Policeman when he first shot the Bodaboda rider;
the fact that the Police Service failed to suspend the killer Policeman when they themselves charged him with shooting the Bodaboda rider;
the fact that the police failed to suspend the killer Policemen & women when they fabricated charges against their own victim so that he would not give testimony in court;
the fact that the Police failed to take action on a very clear death threat;
the fact that the IG either had no idea that the three had been murdered, or actually knew that they had been murdered but chose to shield the police;
the fact that Kenyans are now afraid, and they don’t know what to do when threatened, stopped or arrested by the Police;
the fact that the three were tortured before being murdered;
the fact that these killings were carried out in an extrajudicial killing zone, in extrajudicial fashion by known Police from the area,


means that someone high up must resign, or be sacked, if for nothing else, just so that Kenyans may regain the very little faith that they had in the Police Service.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The KDF soldiers who fought the Al Shabaab in El Adde Somalia were indeed Heroic: Al Shabaab Video Review

A few weeks ago, the Al Shabaab, or the UGUS as they should be properly referred to, released a 50 minute video showing how they overran the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) camp in El Adde village, Gedo region of Somalia. The video has been referred to as an Al Shabaab propaganda video by some quarters, but I consider it an objective video, with the only element of propaganda being the fact that they do not show us their dead or injured.

This was the fourth major video in recent times that the UGUS have taken in combat. The first one was during their foiled attack on a Kenyan military base in Lamu, about 100 kilometres from Somalia border. They had over 100 fighters, where some of them were killed in the attack, and most of them in the pursuit that followed. Two KDF soldiers died in action. Sections of the video were posted by KDF after they got hold of the camera. This foiled attack was significant for two reasons; first it confirmed that the UGUS indeed had foreign combatants in their ranks, and secondly, it totally dismissed the idea that KDF’s withdrawal from Somalia would mean an end to UGUS attacks in Kenya.
The second video was released by the UGUS themselves after a Burundian camp was overran in Lego village in June 2015 leaving 50-80 Burundian soldiers dead. The attack was preceded by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) being driven into the base, backed up by over 200 fighters. The captured AMISOM survivors were beheaded.
The third video was released after the September 2015 Jalaale attack on a Ugandan camp where Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) lost between 20 and 50 soldiers. Again, this attack was preceded by a car bomb, followed by waves of UGUS attackers. The long video seems to mock President Yoweri Museveni by showing another video of him challenging the UGUS to attack soldiers rather than unnamed students. It also interviews a captured UPDF soldier. Through this video, we are able to see the impressive fighting spirit and capability of the Ugandan soldiers, as we can see many UGUS fighters being felled in the attack (including their first video man, before a second one takes over)
The fourth video was that of the Al Adde KDF camp attack where 60 to over 100 KDF soldiers were killed (both Al Shabaab estimates) and 12 taken hostage. This time round, the video is more detailed, with very gory images of the dead being shown, and it begins with an interview of the suicide bomber, and ends with interviews of several captured KDF soldiers. A voice-play of the slain Mombasa Sheikh Aboud Rogo mocking the KDF as inexperienced and weak fighters is included.
Apart from this mocking, and the fact that we are not shown any of their wounded (it is reported that they had three truck loads for their own), I dare say that the video was actually propaganda material for KDF. This is because of the following reasons:

1)      Just like in the Jalaale UPDF attack video, this video showed that KDF soldiers are indeed strong, resilient, courageous and dedicated combatants. Other than the soldiers who were ripped off by the VBIED, all the soldiers shown died with their M4 and G3 rifles on their hands. Most of them had exit wounds on their heads meaning that they died fighting behind the trenches. We see that the KDF soldiers do not die easy. Most of them are shot several times but continue fighting, taking cover or crawling to safer places.
2)      All the captured and interviewed soldiers (except one) had bullet or shrapnel wounds and were visibly in pain, and from the way they faced the camera, it was clear that they were psychologically prepared to die. Readiness to die is a very powerful mentality for any fighting force.
3)      The withdrawal was an accurate on-field analysis. With no back up or air support coming through, and with the UGUS fire power increasing by the hour, standing ground would have meant a higher death toll.  Also marching 100 kilometres to El Wak was a gallant of those who survived.
4)      The video confirms that what the CDF Samson Mwathethe reported on the events at El Adde was true. In a country where we have previously been told about burning mattresses, it was difficult to believe Mwathethe’s account of events, until he was corroborated by the video months later.

The video also shows that the KDF knew that there was an impending attack. The commander of the nearby Somali National Army (SNA) base that withdrew before the attack told the Voice of America radio that on being informed of the imminent UGUS attack, the KDF base commander responded by saying that ‘we are ready for it.’ What the KDF commander expected was an ordinary UGUS attack. It is important to note that before then, the KDF had thwarted numerous UGUS attacks, including car bomb attacks, similar to the ones that had been used in Lego and Jalaale. The only difference that made the difference at El Adde came in the fact that unlike the previous bombs that were loaded on small cars, the El Adde bombs were loaded on an armored African Union vehicle that were taken from the overran Burundian base in Lego. The amount of explosives was similar to what the ISIS use in Iraq and Syria (Here is a video of an Iraqi explosion and shockwave similar to the one that happened in El Adde https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIjyXBnBPTk, here is another one of Iraqi forces dealing with a moving ISIS VBIED https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7_Y4iA5rX8 )

The only way that a car bomb of such magnitude mounted in such a vehicle can be stopped is by knowing that it is coming. By expecting it. The fact that the UGUS heightened their attack to such a level demonstrated their tactical superiority in this particular situation. The fact that the KDF expected an attack similar to the previous attacks shows a great failure in intelligence gathering, and in their extrapolatory tactics.
This is because in both the Lego and Jalaale attacks, Anti-air guns, Tanks, Armored Personnel Carriers, Ammunition and other sophisticated weaponry fell into UGUS hands. Was it difficult to expect the UGUS to use these Materiel in subsequent attacks? Was it not logical to prepare for a better armed enemy? The first air support sent to El Adde had to be withdrawn on discovering that the UGUS had Anti-Air guns with them. Didn’t KDF expect them to have those weapons after they were captured from the Ugandan base? Isn’t it now obvious that the UGUS will try to use the Kenyan uniforms, vehicles and weapons that they took from El Adde in their future attacks most likely inside Kenya?
It is sad that those gallant soldiers died because of intelligence and tactics failure of the KDF and AMISOM command in general.

As I posted in January after the attack, I still maintain that “this is war, and fighters must die. The KDF soldiers can either die while fulfilling their AMISOM duties, or they can ensure that the Al Shabaab chaps die as they fulfil their Al shabaab duties.” However, any deaths of AMISOM soldiers must be out of reasonable circumstances and not through predictable errors. In recent days, two shiploads of weapons have been intercepted in the Indian Ocean on their way to the UGUS. It is possible that others have already been successfully delivered. AMISOM should prepare for such a possibility.

Also, the KDF should review their relations with foreign armies. It is believed that the shiploads of arms destined for the UGUS came from Turkey. It is believed that the UGUS are receiving support from ISIS, which in turn receives support from Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East region, Iran is at the forefront of fighting ISIS (in Iraq and in Syria) and Saudi sponsored terrorism, and they have been successful all through. It is time that Kenya evaluated its relationships and chooses the correct allies. Kenya must cut off ties with countries that support terrorism, and join forces with those who fight terrorism.

I also reiterate that “this particular tactical victory by the UGUS doesn’t mean that the KDF is generally tactically inferior to the UGUS. On the contrary, the tactical and strategical capabilities of KDF in Somalia are indisputable as has been proven by their involvement so far. They have engaged in more actual battles than their Ethiopian, Ugandan, Djiboutian, Sierra Leonian and Burundian counterparts have. They have ventured into territories that were considered no-go-zones for intervening forces, the strongholds and economic centres for the Al Shabaab. They have gotten involved with the basic issues of the Somalian people more than any other force in Somalia.”

 For instance, the UPDF contained itself in specific military, transport and political installations Mogadishu for a long time, and only dared to venture out after seeing the unexpected success of KDF in sector two region which was the main stronghold of the UGUS. Since then they have proved themselves as excellent fighters. The Ethiopian forces on the other hand have engaged in very limited combat with the UGUS, and they prefer withdrawing from their bases whenever there is an impending UGUS attack, something that is completely unprofessional and unsustainable. It seems that Ethiopia’s main interest is Geo-Political control, and not just regional security.
The Puntland forces have recently been inflicting heavy losses to the UGUS, and AMISOM should find ways of supporting them and working with them. The success of the Puntland forces shows that regional-forces approaches should complement the Somali National Army reconstruction efforts, if not take precedence.

Through the videos, the UGUS have not only exposed their ways of fighting, but more importantly they have shown themselves celebrating on empty roads, confirming that they do not have the support of the Somalian masses. That is critical information since the war in Somalia will eventually be won or lost depending on where the masses stand.
Every KDF recruit should be shown those three Somalia videos so that they can finally decide on whether they are still interested in joining the army, and also so that they can psychologically prepare themselves for the future.

We have in the past complained about the lack of information from KDF on the developments in Somalia, and they have responded by claiming that the information docket lies strictly with AMISOM. It looks like the El Adde attack forced them to turn around, and they have recently reactivated their twitter handle. They should also bring Major Chirchir back or introduce Colonel Oguna to twitter. I hope they will keep us posted like they used to during Operation Linda Nchi (which by the way, In terms of video propaganda, beyond the operation’s documentary by KDF, it would be great to watch some intelligent local movies based on KDF entry into Somalia, maybe circulating around Lieutenant-Colonel Jeff Nyaga or Maj Emmanuel Kaliakamur for a start?)

Lastly, the UGUS seem to be having many Kenyans in their ranks. The Kiswahili that they have been using in their videos in not the Kismayu or Barawe type. It is very Kenyan. In a video released about two months ago, a Kenyan UGUS leader originally from Majengo, Nairobi addresses Kenyans in Kiswahili, issuing a lot of threats, and displaying military uniforms, weapons, boots and IDs of the killed Kenyan soldiers. Before going to Somalia, this chap was under the radar of the Kenya police. Rather than allowing such people to disappear into Somalia, or executing them in the streets, can’t the Kenyan security agencies use technology on these people to get information on their organization in Kenya and in Somalia, and use the information to arrest their strategies and jail their members?

AMISOM is doing well in Somalia, and Kenyan security agencies have done well internally in as far as the terror incidences that were taking place every now and then are concerned, and they must be congratulated for that.
However, all these achievements are temporary. There cannot be long lasting National Security, without Human Security. The only political system that can ensure Human Security in our world today is Socialism. Young people do not have hope. That is why they are swayed by clerics who promise them hope in an imaginary afterlife. It is no wonder that throughout the recent history of the world, there has been an inverse relationship between religion-based terrorism, religious fundamentalism, tribalism, sexism etc and Socialism.

 As Mwandawiro Mghanga, Chairperson of the Social Democratic Party once said, “Kenyan youths need radicalization now more than ever. They need to be radicalized against capitalism, against corruption, against tribalism, against marginalization, against religious fundamentalism and against all the system-caused evils that we see all around today.”

Indeed, the Kenyan media should introduce a noun before the word radicalization, or simply substitute the word ‘radicalization’ with ‘retardation’ when referring to those who believe in the afterlife goodies and similar ideas; retardation of hopeless youths.

Benedict WACHIRA
24th April 2016
10:07pm

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

On tribalism, and the art of tribalism

The day before yesterday, a facebook friend of mine posted that he ‘heard on Kameme FM that Nairobi belongs to the Kikuyu’ and that therefore the Governor should also be a Kikuyu. I have also seen chaps post that Inooro FM or other ethnic FM stations have said this and that.
On the other hand, I have seen and heard William Kabogo, the Governor of Kiambu and George Aladwa, the chairperson of ODM in Nairobi engage in cultural abuses and incitement to violence on mainstream television stations.

This made me reflect on tribalism and the art of tribalism in Kenya.

What exactly does one mean when they say that “Kameme FM said...”? At what point does a media station say? Applying the same reasoning, would it be correct if one claims that Citizen TV said that for “…Raila to become President, people must die…”? Would it also be correct to say that ODM Nairobi branch made that statement? Would it not be propaganda if I posted on facebook that “I heard on Radio Citizen that for Raila to become President, people must die”? I indeed heard it on Radio Citizen, so that is not a lie. But doesn’t it qualify as propaganda? Isn’t it skewed truth?

When Governor Kabogo spoke, it was generally taken as Governor Kabogo’s speech, irrespective of the media station that he was speaking on/aired the speech. And even though he is the Governor of Kiambu County, it was not claimed that “…Kiambu County has said…
Indeed, Kiambu County can Say/declare/oppose. ODM Nairobi branch can also say/demand/request. Kenya can join/withdraw/refuse. Anyone objectively reporting on such knows how to differentiate the body and the individual.

Even though my facebook friend could have differently posted that “he heard a Mr X (or he heard a person say) on Kameme FM say that Nairobi belongs to…..” he consciously or unconsciously failed to attribute the statement to an individual oblivious or aware of the implications given that Kameme FM broadcasts in Kikuyu language.

The Art of Tribalism
Ethnic mobilization, just like National mobilization is an art that has been perfected over the years throughout the world, and in Kenya today, the social media tribalists have helped fine tune the art (of ethnic mobilization.) This is why tribalism is seen to be on the rise as elections near, then goes on the low after elections.
Most of the rich-people’s political leaders in Kenya today would not be where they are were it not for their ability to mobilize the ethnicities that they come from. Rich-people’s politics in Kenya is not about a competition of ideas, but a competition of ethnic mobilization. Indeed, if we withdraw tribalism, then most of them would be left naked and powerless.
Rather than the TNA and ODM social media chaps attacking each other on ideological grounds so as to gain support for their pay masters(which they can’t because there is no ideological difference), the art demands that they first attack the psychology and culture of the other ethnicity. For example, ‘the Luos are not circumcised, so they are ihiis. We cannot be led by ihiis.’ They then identify a particular stereotype or bizarre issue and generalize it on a whole ethnicity. For example, ‘Kikuyus are thieves or Kikuyus have sex with animals. We cannot be led by thieves’. They then generalize personal, group or class benefits/crimes to a whole ethnicity. For example, ‘Somalis are terrorists because some Somali terrorists were seen in Westgate or were killed in Garissa University. We cannot be led by terrorists.’
They make the other appear dangerous and may even blame them for all their problems. It then becomes an Us vs Them and eventually ends up as a Do or Die.

Meanwhile, there is that naïve Kikuyu, Luo, Somali etc chap who is generally not so interested in politics, and specifically doesn't support the rich-people’s politicians. If they were to vote, they’d vote for ideas. So when they see the hate on social media or at home, they try to reason. But as the hate keeps on getting stronger, they find themselves being compelled to defend their ethnicity more and more (eg by saying that it is Cabinet Secretary X that stole and not ethnicity X)…..they also begin to wonder why that other ethnicity hates them that much. With time they find themselves also abusing ethnicity Y (and not blogger Y), then they become proud of “their own” bloggers for having the courage to stand up to ethnicity Y, and eventually they “realise” that even though presidential candidate A has better ideas than the rest, if I do not vote for candidate X of my ethnicity, then ethnicity Y will win and “they” will finish us.
At the same time, none of the tribal leaders accept that they are tribal. They will claim that their butcher man is Kikuyu, their fish mama is Luo, their driver is Kamba and so on and so forth.
(If this was the defense against tribalism, then how would a peasant living deep in West Pokot defend herself?)
At the end of it all, it is the rich tribal politicians and their paid up tribalists who benefit, while the naïve citizen imagines that s/he has benefited yet they have not. No sooner are the elections done than the realities of their poverty hits them again.

Then there are those who are confused, and they think that by becoming tribal against their own ethnicity, then they have become nationalist, or they have risen above tribalism. What they do not understand it that tribalism against one’s own ethnicity is still tribalism. Primitive reasoning and mobilisation is the basis of tribalism.

 We also have opportunists who are consciously tribal against their own ethnicity so that they can benefit from the other ethnicity. Some are paid to validate generalizations. Some know that if the other ethnicity form government, it will need a national look and they will be the first to be considered. Others are merely looking for followers on social media.

(This reminds me of a debate on why Africans should not use the world tribalism and should instead use the word ethnicism, since the word tribe connotes primitivity. My position is that whereas we should never use the word tribe while referring to an ethnicity, we should nevertheless use the word tribalism or tribalist to refer to those who perpetuate this primitive form of mobilization)

Tribalists are mentally ill. They need help
In my evolution and growth in consciousness, I have come to realize that tribalists, just like racists have a mental problem. It is therefore of no use to get angry or offended when my race or my ethnicity is abused, just in the same way that I would not get offended when a mad person abuses me. It is a mental condition that should be looked into as such. This doesn’t mean that they should be left to operate freely. They actually need help. The help needed is largely psychiatric, they should be taken to a doctor or a mental hospital, but once in a while, especially in the formative stages, it can be dealt through corrective education/bigger picture projection, or through some decent beating (not primitive or violent or that which is driven by anger, but just some good beating, like the one that you give to a child who abuses other children. Corrective beating.)

And here when I talk about tribalism, I am not only talking about the populous ethnicities but many others whose conflicts may not always be electoral. I am talking about the tribal killings that we see between the Pokot and the Turkana, the Borana and the Burji, the clan mobilization of Garre and the Degodia among many others. I am talking about the ethnicities that mobilize each other to form a block against another tribally mobilized block.

How can we overcome this?
Kenyans can only overcome tribalism, by embracing ideological politics. We should have a clear Left and a clear Right in this country. Most of the current rich-people’s political bigwigs fall in the Right wing spectrum. That is why before the 2013 elections, William Ruto could have been accepted as either Uhuru Kenyatta’s or Raila Odinga’s running mate. Musalia Mudavadi almost became a compromise candidate for the Jubilee coalition, while Kalonzo Musyoka with all his reactionary history ended up as Raila’s deputy.

Their (the rich-people’s politicians) answers to fundamental questions concerning the ownership and control of the principal means of production like land, big industry, financial systems etc ; the role of the State in directly providing basic and secondary needs like decent housing, transport, food, quality education and healthcare to the highest levels; the existence of the capitalist State itself; the question of worker control of the work places; etc will more or less be the same. This essentially means that if we were to have politics based on ideology, then all of them would belong to one Party, maximum two. Then on the other hand, we would have the Socialists whose position on everything is that the interests of the masses must come first. In Kenya today, the only home for Socialists is the Social Democratic Party of Kenya (www.sdpkenya.org)

In order for us to have such kind of politics, Kenyans must choose to disappoint these rich-people’s tribal politicians and their activists. They must chose to ignore the propaganda in the mainstream media that paints a picture that Kenyans can only chose between two capitalist formations. They must ignore the fake opinion polls that are meant engineer the voters into supporting the two capitalist options. Kenyans should embrace ethnicity and reject tribalism.

The Socialists and the progressives in general must also move and organise in the villages. Sometimes a voter in Kahuro or a voter in Mindhine will vote in a particular way not because they are tribal, but because they cannot see or hear of any other alternative. They are pumped with the same line day in, day out.

02 Feb 2016

2:15pm

Monday, February 1, 2016

On Intellectualism and our Universities

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in the Programme for African Leadership forum (PfAL , hosted at the London School of Economics) in Kampala Uganda, where one of the Panel discussion topics was “Developing African Intellectualism, Research and Higher Education.” In that panel, there was a Ghanaian Dr. Ato Onoma whose presentation on the current state of African academia was on point. His views, which I will share later, were similar to what I have observed on the Kenyan academia.

Unlike in the past where most Kenyan academicians doubled up as intellectuals, today, many Kenyan academicians are no longer intellectuals. They fear to think; they run away from debates; their analysis on specific topics are upside down, amateurish, simplistic or simply absent; they endorse or question things without deeper interrogation; they do not enjoy reading and research-they were compelled to read so as to attain their degrees and they now read so that they can brag that they have read X and Y; they do not think of possible causes or solutions; they blindly and loyally follow tribal politicians instead of showing the way; they speak without putting a thought to what they say;……
One just needs to read the newspaper commentaries, watch TV debates or attend some conferences and forums to see the emptiness of these academics. They lack any form of intellectualism.
Some seek relevance by reminding people that they are ‘Dr/Prof so and so,’ or by using technical terms to hide their lack of knowledge. When you point out weaknesses in their arguments, they either run away (literally), or remind you that they are historians, political scientists, lawyers, economists etc without going further and substantiating those academic qualifications with more information on the topic at hand or with counter arguments. They cherish engaging less bright people, or those that do not challenge them.
At the end of it all, those who, actually think, tend to dismiss formal papers acquired, while those who do not think think that those views (of the academicians) are the ultimate and final views.

There are many lecturers who are so insecure that they do not share notes and reading materials with their students in advance, they kill students’ interest by not marking their exams in time (ever wondered why the final exam sheets are never returned to students after marking?) and they award more marks for students who parrot the lecturer in their exams. These lecturers give considerable marks for things like handwriting and tidiness of the exam sheet. They look out for spelling mistakes than for the ideas there in. (I remember a friend proudly telling me how they required applicants for small-business loans to write their proposals in handwriting, so that they could reduce their selection workload by first disqualifying those with bad handwriting! Probably they learnt of the importance of concentrating on appearances rather than the content from their University lecturers...)

On the other hand, you will come across paperless politicians, journalists, government spies, artists, activists, and many ordinary people who are intellectuals. You may not agree with what they espouse, but you cannot disagree on their intellectualism.
Marxists rank even higher. Most of them will take you from history, to politics, to culture, to environment, to art, to literature and many other fields with incredible command, analysis and application.

According to Dr Onoma, we have people who have been made academicians not because of their thirst for knowledge and thinking, but because of unemployment. They graduate with their B.A, fail to find a job, graduate with their M.A, fail to find a job, and they finally graduate with their PhD and get a teaching job at the university, still with no thirst for knowledge and thinking.
Similar to this type are those that are professional academicians. They have nothing else to do other than to lecture at the university. They are trapped in academia since that is the only job that they can do.
The other problem that he noted is that many academicians in our Universities do not publish, and when they do, they bring no new knowledge in the field.
He observed that the minimal funding to universities and towards research has reduced the capacity of African academicians. He seriously joked that the CVs of most academicians will list the consultancies that they've done, rather than the papers that they have published. (This also reminds me of a recent exchange between Professor Makau Mutua and the editor of the Platform magazine, where the good professor listed his academic credentials which included several pages of general lightweight commentaries published in several newspapers)
On the question of brain drain, Ato reasoned that we should not concentrate our little resources on bringing back those intellectuals that have left (for example by transporting and hosting them for a two day lecture), but we should mobilized resources to create more, and maintain the few true intellectual academicians that have remained on the continent.
He wound up by stating that just because we (Africans) are poor, it doesn't mean that we should not have the luxury of thinking just for the sake of thinking.

In this light, I think that Kenyan universities should be compelled to allow the freedom to think and question. We currently have a situation where academicians are sacked or denied funding if they oppose the University administrators, or if they side with the students on particular issues. Universities should also bring an end to their fear of Leftist lecturers. In fact, Right wing and left thinking (and even those who, like goats, lack any ideological position) should be encouraged to teach in our universities. The universities should be at the forefront of organizing debates involving lecturers, students and the public. It is through debates that growth of intellectualism arises. Inter and intra-university peer review of academic works should be encouraged and all the works should be availed on University websites. The government should take research funding seriously and fund both lecturers and students irrespective of their loyalty affiliation.

Universities must encourage thinking, invest in research and offer practical training.