The December election was, by all accounts except the Kenyan government’s, rigged to ensure the “re-election” of president Mwai Kibaki. Since then Kenya has been plunged into ethnically-based violence.
Many hundreds have been killed and many hundreds of thousands displaced — overwhelmingly from among the poor.
The US, Britain and their allies saw Kenya as a relatively stable ally in the war on terror and a bulwark against Islamist threats from Somalia and Sudan. Now the threat to stability in East Africa is so great that the big capitalist powers, who at first in effect congratulated Kibaki on his “victory” have been forced to urge negotations, though typically what they advocate is power-sharing to ensure stability, not genuinely democratic elections.
The murder of hundreds of Kenyans in the last few weeks has been largely attributed in the Western media to “tribal” ethnic hatreds. That is part of the picture. But the background is a reality of staggering economic inequality and exploitation. In a country where millions are jobless and most of those who work do back-breaking, dawn-to-dusk, poverty wage jobs, the slightest spark can easily explode into violence.
Kibaki’s government has broken from the worst excesses of the old regime under Daniel Arap Moi (in power 1978-2002) and, with encouragement from the West, undertaken some very limited anti-corruption measures. The economy has grown quickly, but few benefits have “trickled down” to the masses.
This led to widespread anger at his regime and allowed the populist Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), led by former minister and — surprise, surprise — wealthy businessman Rail Odinga, to rally some of the poorest sections of society around rhetoric about redistribution of wealth.
In a society where unemployment and poverty are structured partly on ethnic lines, and in the absence of a class movement capable of uniting people across those divisions, class struggle can easily be short-circuited into attacks by the destitute on those slightly better off than them (small business people, or even employed workers) and into ethnic hatred. Meanwhile many local ODM leaders have turned a blind eye to violence against members of the Kikuyu (Kibaki’s tribe).
It is clear that Kibaki lost the election and should be ejected from office; but Odinga’s movement represents a dissident section of the ruling class, not a real alternative for the mass of the people. Events in Kenya vividly and horrifically demonstrate, in the negative, the need for class politics: for a workers’ party which organises across ethnic lines and provides a powerful pole of attraction to all Kenya’s poor and oppressed. We must try to find ways to make links with socialists and working-class activists in Kenya if we can.
This following is abridged from the liberal website kenyanpundit.com. While we would not endorse all the politics, it is an interesting insight into the situation for ordinary Kenyans.
Kenya: I refuse to fight for leaders who clearly care nothing for me...
I refuse to fight for so-called leaders who clearly care nothing about me, the common citizen. As we speak, they’ve already been sworn into parliament, which guarantees that they are on their way to becoming Kenyan millionaires (at our expense). In effect, we the voters, put them in that position, hence giving them the power to walk all over us now and for the next five years. My question is; what are we gonna do about it? What can we do for ourselves?
Many Kenyans have lost their lives or those of their loved ones, their homes and/or properties, their livelihoods, .... and they continue to suffer as they fight battles for leaders who seem indifferent to their plight. Who will pay for the loss of lives and the damage to property? Is it all going to be ‘collateral damage’ in the quest for justice and democracy?
We keep hearing about justice, but justice for whom? Everyone is entitled to this justice, regardless of their political (or other) affiliations. I say that we, the wananchi, the common citizens, must stand up and demand justice for ourselves. For those who have incurred losses (physical or material), who will compensate them? If I lost my livelihood or my home as a result of the post-election violence, should I just take it lying down? Why should I have to become a refugee or a beggar in my own country?
Political parties and their leaders must be held accountable for all the damage and losses caused by their supporters. The government must also be held accountable for the damage and losses caused by the state machinery.
My ideas of peaceful protests against injustice do not include getting killed or maimed by bullets or batons for the sake of supporting one side of the so-called “leaders”. We should take action against the “giants” who have put us in the situation we are right now. Many thought that giants like “Big Tobacco” companies could never be successfully taken on by “common person”. But it happened. Even colonial powers have been successfully taken on by small communities oppressed by them.
We Kenyans have to stand up for ourselves if we’re ever going to break the pattern of impunity by our so-called leaders. Serious crimes against humanity have been committed against Kenyans in the recent past. I’m sure there’s a lot that we can do for ourselves but we’ve got to stop being victims and pawns in a game that we’ll always lose in. We’ve got to start thinking of ways to help ourselves because it’s nonsensical to continue dying and suffering for so-called leaders who don’t even know (or care) that we exist.