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Disaster that is Jubilee should not kill our bid to right wrongs

By Maina Kiai | October 20th 2019
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at a past campaign rally in 2017. [File, Standard]

I was surprised reading the glowing analyses of the Kanu era by two veteran and reasonable journalists. They are entitled to their opinion, but as people who are major influencers of opinions, it does behoove them to get the fundamentals right, especially as they are in — theoretically — non-partisan media.

Make no mistake: The current UhuRuto regime is the worst we have had. Though well educated, articulate, urbane and quite exposed to global trends and influences, its level of selfishness and callousness is astounding.

It seems to think that only force and directives will get things done. It ignores and contravenes the constitution willy-nilly. It celebrates impunity with stolen elections, complete with not solving the Chris Msando assassination, and unexplainable displays of wealth at churches.

It has almost enslaved us with debts that we did not need, with little to show for them. It has reworked the police back to the dreaded force it was in years’ past. It speaks anti-corruption rhetoric from one side of its mouth and condones the more egregious looting such as SGR, Eurobond, Kimwarer dam, Afya House scandal and others.

It punishes an entire region, Mombasa, for its disastrous mistakes in taking out a loan for the SGR project that was ill-advised, and whose opaqueness suggests that a significant chunk was looted.

But the disaster that is this regime should not blind us about the Kanu regime, the ultimate motherboard for the UhuRuto regime.

The hundreds of thousands of victims — killed, displaced, tortured — the Kanu regime left in its wake belie any idea of patriotism.

The people of Wajir are still haunted by the Wagalla massacre of February 1984, that left about 10,000 Kenyans dead at the hands of our security forces. There was no accountability for these deaths and a deliberate cover-up occurred. This can’t be said to be “good for Kenya.”

The families of Robert Ouko, Bishop Alexander Muge, Karimi Nduthu and Fr John Anthony Kaiser are still searching for answers about what happened to their loved ones, who were all brutally killed during this time.

And the people who went through Nyayo House still bear the physical and mental scars for the incredible torture they underwent.

While some have been getting court awarded damages after filing suits, a patriot would have apologised for this heinous treatment, especially considering that the MwaKenya Movement, which was the organisation most were accused of being a part of, was never much of a threat to anyone.

There was the continued pain and confusion in the Rift Valley from 1991 following the clamour for multipartyism.

I did a fair amount of research and documentation in the Rift Valley in the 1990s, going up to Mt Elgon to understand the depth and breadth of the violence in the region.

What was clear then, and affirmed in the Akiwumi Report, among others, is that the state was an integral part of the violence.

In fact, the original attacks were led by alleged security officers in plain clothes, before being outsourced. And again, there was never any accountability for the deaths, displaced and tortured, which has meant that the Rift Valley is always in tenuous position around elections especially if the Kalenjin and Gikuyu communities are not perceived to be on the same side.

There was also the looting, nepotism and tribalism that almost destroyed the economy. Unqualified people with the right ethnic heritage were given jobs they could not do and proceeded to destroy the organisations. I had a classmate from university who was appointed a company secretary in a parastatal before being admitted as an Advocate of the High Court. Remember the Kenya National Assurance Company? Kenya Tourist Development Corporation? Kenya Cooperative Creameries? Or those entities that were destroyed for political reasons like Kenya Farmers Association and Continental Bank?

There were some positives, of course, including the increased ethnic inclusivity under Kanu, especially in the early years. The school milk programme was necessary and useful, as I discovered after spending time in marginalised Kenya and high-density Nairobi, something I had missed growing up on the slopes of Mt Kenya with its abundance of food and milk. If only the programme had been better managed and not corrupted out of existence.

That said, one of the saddest things about Kenya is that we have never had a regime in power that delivered for the majority. The Kanu One regime laid the foundation for looting, killing and selfishness which the Kanu Two regime replicated.

The Kibaki regime squandered a wonderful chance to showcase what leadership could do by tearing up the MoU, engaging in the Anglo-Leasing looting, stealing the 2007 elections, and presiding over killings, torture and displacement in the aftermath.

But maybe the revisionism by these veteran journalists is not about getting history wrong. Maybe there is an agenda out there in the works? Or have they been smoking something?

- The writer is former KNCHR chair. [email protected]

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