Leta Siasa

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kenya Youth Movement: Who We Are


Background Information

(Profile provided to the Kenyan Democracy Project by Mwania Walter, Secretary General of the Kenya Youth Movement.)

The Kenya Youth Movement is a national initiative seeking to unite together all the Kenyan youth under one umbrella body for the sake of their political, economic and social prosperity. The youth constitute a large percentage of our population and over 60% of Kenya’s workforce. But even as such; they have been pushed to the periphery when it comes to matters of political and social, economic decision making. The movement has been in operation since 2003.

Rationale of a youth movement

The ideals behind the Kenya Youth Movement are build on the basis of equity of people in their pursuance of social basic needs and livelihoods, the necessary concern for the other. The youth lack any substantial representation in all social-economic and political spheres in Kenya and as such their interests have been disregarded for quite a long time. Decisions have been made from the local to the national levels which have grave impacts on the youth livelihoods. Besides, there is poor checks and balances on the functioning of the Members of Parliament. The Movement thus seeks to have civic, parliamentary district, regional and national representatives checking the utilization of every tax payers penny, influencing and formulating policy reforms that take into consideration their interests and those of the nation. The CDF, LATF, Bursary funds, Roads funds, HIV/AIDS funds are among the public resources where the Movement shall ensure that they are used for the benefit of the people.

Besides checking the functioning and operations of policy makers, the Movement strongly feels that to have a meaningful change in Kenya, there is a need for a generational change in the Kenyan leadership. This change must be ideologically driven and sphere headed by focused and visionary young leaders. In this regard, we seek to mainstream the young men and women of Kenya into active socio-economic and leadership affairs of this country. This shall be realized through building the capacity of the youth to stand for elective posts in the civic, parliamentary and presidential elections. Other sectors like the sports and Kenya Football Federation, The sugar boards, the City Councils, the councils, and all sectors touching directly on the livelihood of the youth then have to be governed and led by the youth for they suffer most when these sectors are performing below par. The youth are leaders for now and never the future for the future never comes since leaders never want let go power.

Moreover, the youth shall be involved in active processes of transforming the societies from participating in environmental conservation and protection, agricultural production, sports and talents development to mention a few.

Youth problems we seek to address

The movement seeks to address diverse problems affecting the youth including: -

  • Unfocused, and lack of visionary leadership
  • Political Oblivion
  • Unemployment
  • Poor sports management
  • No/minimal efforts to develop Sports and Talents
  • Exploitation by the employers
  • Drug – Abuse and HIV/AIDS prevalence
  • Lack of start up capital and or securities to begin businesses
  • Police harassment
  • Ignorance and illiteracy
  • Tribalism
  • Electoral Malpractices
  • Insecurity
  • Hunger
  • Teenage pregnancies
  • Environmental degradation
  • Corruption in the public service among others

Vision Statement

To provide a nationalistic and visionary alternative leadership.

Mission statement

To champion the process of general change in Kenyan Leadership and foster youth prosperity by uniting them nationally and promoting their participation in sustainable development through capacity building in social, economic and political affairs.


To give Kenya and Africa as a whole, an alternative approach to Social, Economic and Political development and independence by integrating the citizenry in the national development process.


The Kenya Youth Movement aims to:

1. Be the central body to provide a framework on how to address youth issues and co-ordinate youth programs throughout the country.

2. Give the youth a chance to elect their national leaders who best represent their interests.

3. Provide a national forum for the deliberations of youth affairs.

4. Integrate and promote youth participation in national development process.

5. Participate in national environmental conservations by mobilizing members to plant trees and participate in community clean up exercises.

6. Initiate comprehensive Civic Education enabling people shape public policy and advocate for national policy reform in all sectors at all levels.

7. Enhance agricultural development in efforts to empower people economically, eradicate national food insecurity and hence alleviate poverty.

8. Intensify the war on HIV/AIDS, Drug Abuse, Child Abuse and promoting both the rights of the girl and boy child.

9. Initiate Economic Empowerment ventures for the Youth and establish information Resource Centers.


· Governance and Leadership

Kenya Youth Movement seeks to promote the ideals of good governance among the youth and enhance their leadership capacities. This shall enable the youth to have the capacity to make informed decisions while electing their leaders as well as presenting themselves for elective posts in civic, parliamentary and presidential positions come general elections. Workshops and consultative forums across the country shall be organized to this effect.

· Youth Economic Empowerment

Lack of financial support for youth projects is a big deterrent in their quest for their economic prosperity. Banks are not easily accessible for loans to boost micro-financial ventures. Most of the youth are unemployed and prospecting entrepreneurs have no access to start up capital.

The KYM seeks to empower the youth economically by providing them with information on available and possible means and sources of funds to support their projects. The movement will also initiate self-employment projects for youth across the country.

· Sports & Talent Development

Sports are an aspect of life which affects the youth’s livelihoods and is currently a major means of employment. Poor sports management in the country is a cause for concern. Local young artistes in the music industry have worked extremely hard to improve the industry, and which has now turned to be one of the major employers in the country. We seek to push for policy reforms in all sporting activities in Kenya to suit the interests of the youth and enable them excel. We shall also seek to have youth managing sports in Kenya and especially in the KFF.

The movement shall undertake sporting activities across the country to identify talents nurture and develop them. The movement shall link talented youth to clubs both locally and internationally in line with promoting their social and economic well being.

· Community Development & Environmental Conservation

This program seeks to preserve and conserve the environment such that it may be able to support massive agricultural production to arrest the problems of food insecurity, hunger and poverty. The utilization of hybrid seeds and modern methods of farming shall be enhanced. This’ a multi sector programme addressing food insecurity, water and sanitary problems, community security problems, and environmental challenges. Workshops and practical lessons shall be undertaken.

· Health, HIV/AIDS & Drug abuse

HIV-Aids has been declared a global disaster and a threat to humanity. Much effort has been put in the fight against this scourge, but not without some shortcomings. Drug addiction and alcohol consumption among the youth are on the rise hence the high rate of crime and school dropouts. We seek to advocate for policy reforms on health sector to address youth reproductive issues and take the fight against HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse to the rural areas with an active participation of the youth.

· Human Rights Agenda

Though the current and previous Kenyan governments pledged to hold the rule of law and justice, the country’s human rights record is still questionable. Cases of police brutality, cold blood murder of crime suspects, delayed court cases, disruption of opposition political rallies, detention and torture of terrorism suspects, assault on journalist among others, are still rampant in Kenya. Human rights violations are in most cases meted out on the youth who are directly or indirectly linked to crimes.


  • KYM held a consultative forum at the Coast in September 2004 from the 23rd to the 25th at the Mombasa Polytechnic. The forum drew participants from Mombasa, Malindi, kilifi, Kwale and Taita Taveta districts and was attended by among other guests the Provincial Director of Social Services, coast.
  • We also have held consultative forums in Kenyan colleges and in the slums and the response if overwhelming.

Current Activities

· The Kenya Youth Movement is organizing numerous activities countrywide including the 27 & 28 th October 2005 on the proposed constitution and its impact and implications on the livelihoods of the youth.

Organizational Structure:


Board of Trustees

Three elder members of the society

The chairman

The Secretary General

The treasurer

National Secretariat


Secretary General


Organizing Secretary

Director of elections

And Their deputies

National Executive Committee

The national secretariat

The regional coordinators

National Delegates Council

The national secretariat

The regional coordinators

The constituency coordinators

District Councils

The constituency coordinators

Constituency Councils

The constituency coordinators

The ward coordinators

Ward councils

The ward coordinators


The Movement draws members from the youth and elder members of the society who subscribe to her ideals. We currently have a membership of 200 youth drawn from across the country.

Appeal for support

The movement seeks to address issues affecting the nation and the youth with quite a different approach. We haven’t yet reached a level of self-sustainability since we haven’t yet recruited members across the country who shall be paying fees to the movement. Before recruiting many more youth, we seek to enhance the capacity of the secretariat to coordinate participation of the members in various activities across Kenya.

The movement needs both structural and financial support. Your support will go a long way towards helping us set up an efficient secretariat and realizing our objectives. We believe change must emanate from focused and visionary leaders who are bringing paradigm shift in addressing the society’s problems and challenges.




Afya Centre, Mezzanine Floor 1,

Tel: 020-310245; Fax 020247842

Cell: 0723 514596; 0721 720841

E-mail: vijanakenya@yahoo.com

Miguna Demands Justice for Dr.Odhiambo Mbai

By MIGUNA MIGUNA* - 25 October 2005

With a brilliant smile that permanently exposed bright cotton white teeth between dimpled cheeks, Dr. Crispin Odhiambo Mbai was a beautiful man, with an exceptionally sharp mind and a tender heart.

I am using the word beauty in all its colourful connotations. But even this does not really capture the full nature and essence of this wonderful man whose life was cut short by an assassin’s bullets.

Dr. Mbai was more than a beautiful man, husband and father. The kind of beauty Odhiambo wuod Mbai possessed, and that I would like to write about today was more profound than the physical one; it was intellectual, spiritual and humane.

Odhiambo Mbai was what I have come to term as a full and complete human being – gingerly crafted by God, with an agile mind, a sense of fairness, originality, objectivity and vivacious commitment of purpose, especially on important matters affecting his fellow human beings. Why would anybody have wanted to kill such a person?

Someone senselessly killed Odhiambo Mbai that bright Sunday September morning. A fellow Kenya brutalized his body and thought that by so doing, Dr. Mbai’s intellectual contributions to humanity would be permanently undermined. The killers attempted to destroy his legacy and the fruits of his labour.

Sadly, those who killed Odhiambo Mbai

are still free, roaming our streets, cities and villages.

Those people may have killed other innocent Kenyans before and after that fateful Sunday, September 14th, 2003. Those cold-blooded murderers may be planning, if not already executing, another cowardly assassination. Why hasn’t the Kenyan government apprehended the perpetrators of this cowardly and grisly crime?

Dr. Crispin Odhiambo Mbai was a friend of mine. We met more than fifteen years ago at the University of Toronto. He was completing his PhD in Political Science, while I was completing my BA in Political Science, a degree program that I had started but had not finished because some busy bodies at Nyayo House had other ideas about me. He gave me hope and inspiration when nearly everyone was resigning to the ravages of dictatorship and the madness of the Big Man syndrome in Kenya. Why did they rob us of Dr. Odhiambo Mbai?

I have written and spoken with all kinds of people, including serving Cabinet Ministers in this Kibaki Government – asking, beseeching and coaxing them to assist us unravel what has now turned into a mystery murder case. First, I was reassured by a prominent Cabinet Minister that the Kibaki Government was diligently working on all the leads and that sooner or later the culprits would be brought to book. That has not happened.

On other occasions, my pestering emails and promptings have been met by either dead silence or blank but otherwise sympathetic empty expressions. Why has it taken this long to bring the murderers to book?

There was a time when a Cabinet Minister in this Kibaki Government said to me, nonchalantly, that “maybe we should hire you to handle this case.” At first, I thought the man was simply expressing exasperation at my unrelenting quiet campaign to see every available stone turned in order to resolve this case. Then it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps the minister saw me as naïve and wanted to sound sarcastic; demonstrating how ignorant I might have been about the weighty matters of state secrets that he must have been dealing with. I was, of course, never hired to pursue Dr. Mbai’s killers.

Since Dr. Mbai’s murder, my mind has never resigned. It has kept asking: why has this government that came to power on our collective backs, promising justice for the wrongs of the past, been lukewarm on pursuing the trails of the suspected murderers, some of whom were cited in Tanzania by a diligent investigative journalist from the East African Standard newspaper?

Dr. Crispin Odhiambo Mbai was the architect of devolution. He made the most significant single contribution in explaining this concept to politicians, intellectuals and ordinary citizens alike. His success in having devolution entrenched in the Bomas Draft lay in his soft spoken ability to cajole and explain fundamental concepts without sounding arrogant. With his dimpled smiles and warm voice, Odhiambo Mbai was capable, almost single-handedly, in ensuring that the overwhelming majority of Bomas delegates fully understood and appreciated how significant devolution would be for their future collective success and development as a united people. Who felt threatened by Dr. Mbai’s contributions?

In the Short Version of The Report of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission released on Wednesday the 18th day of September 2002, by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) in Mombasa, the Commission explained the process that Dr. Mbai was murdered defending as follows:

We have always considered that the review is more than merely agreeing on the terms of the new constitution. It is about self-discovery and identity. It is to give voice to the people and to affirm their sovereignty. It is to give them an opportunity for reflection on our national and constitutional history. It is also an audit on our state and government, the first truly popular assessment of the record of present and past administrations. It is a process to discover how the ordinary person defines what is to be Kenyan, and to articulate their singular and multiple identities. It is to reaffirm our commitment to a united Kenya and to resolve to find a framework for the co-existence of communities. It is to agree on, and strengthen, national values and goals. It is to find, together, the devices to realize our collective vision of caring, humane and just society…The function of constitution is not merely to provide a framework for society but to bring into being or consolidate society itself...

The foregoing were the ideals, aspirations and dreams for which Odhiambo Mbai dedicated his life and that he eventually died for. Odhiambo Mbai believed that Kenyans deserve the space, peace and environment within which they can collectively work to rediscovery their true identities and national goals as a united and indivisible people.

If we cherish the ideals for which Dr. Mbai paid the ultimate price, then we, as patriotic Kenyans, must conduct the ongoing referendum campaign in a tolerant, understanding and peaceful manner. Our collective attention should be directed at expressing our sovereignty as a people while at the same time auditing the government’s record since taking power, particularly its role in advancing or sabotaging our dreams of bringing into life our collective vision of a caring, humane and just society. If our audit determines that either the referendum process or the Wako Draft fails to fulfill these dreams, then, we, as conscious people, must hold this government to account by voting NO on November 21st.

Dr. Mbai believed in true and fundamental devolution of government; not chimeras. In all his contributions at Bomas, he asserted the need for Kenyans to determine how much they were taxed, how their taxes were utilized and where. In essence, Dr. Mbai stood and died for the empowerment of all Kenyans, irrespective of their differences. Could this have been the real threat he posed?

As our politicians criss-cross our beautiful country looking for votes, oranges and bananas, Dr. Mbai would have demanded that our political leaders explain to the people how the Wako Draft would ensure that all future presidents relinquish excess powers, act fairly in addressing our national problems, demonstrate intelligence, integrity and sensitivity in handling all public affairs.

Dr. Mbai scarified his life so that Kenyans can live free of all excesses, including the perennial corrupt practices. Can our leaders please explain why justice has not been done in this case?


*The writer is a Kenyan practicing law in Toronto, Canada

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Miguna's Bombshell: Tuju Headed for PM's Job



A close friend of mine and a tested political strategist has recently whispered into my ear, careful not to be overheard [I profusely apologize for betraying his confidence], that our mutual buddy, that

ever smiling congenial gentleman from Aram market in Rarieda constituency in Nyanza province, the undisputed territory of

Raila Amolo Tinga; the one Kibaki refers to as “Ralph my son”, yes, that newly minted party leader of what some have referred to as

“Pata Potea Party, is a major ace in Kibaki’s yet-to-be-played political cards, those that are still hidden safely under the table, away from the Orange team, or what other Banana Republicans love to refer to as “the Orangemen”.

According to my friend-cum-political strategist, Tuju will assume the role

Musalia played in Moi’s petty political schemes immediately after Raila stormed out of KANU with more than half its political heavyweights.
His theory goes something like this:

Whether the Banana Republicans Win or Lose, TUJU will be VP

Sometime after November 21st, 2005,

Kibaki will announce a reshuffle [shattering and shaking all corners of our lovely republic], appointing Tuju to the VP’s position and either firing or demoting Awori.

Raila, Kalonzo and the other Orange team members will also be fired, giving space for Syongo, Sammy Weya, Opon Nyamunga and other closeted regime friendly MPs from Luo Nyanza, who will either be elevated or appointed to full cabinet positions, possibly even directly replacing the Orange ministers.

Following this reshuffle, major appointments in the District administration, judiciary, the police, military, intelligence and parastatals will follow. But the latter appointments will undoubtedly be restricted to Ralph’s friends, supporters and party affiliates or those who have “good” reasons to hate Raila [please count me out].

My friend swears by the spirits of his dead grandmother that Kibaki will inevitably boost Ralph’s political profile, stature and prestige in Luo Nyanza and start a process of creating a national figure.

With unlimited state largesse, KBC, Citizen and Nation Media propaganda machines demonizing Raila and proclaiming how heroic, development conscious and peaceful Ralph is, it is calculated [by non other than the professor of mathematics,

Saitoti] that both Luo Nyanza, in particular, and the greater Kenyan nation, in general, will begin warming up to our new leader.

And with his disarming smile, handsome face, gift of the garb and sure gait, Tuju will rise to the level of TJ Mboya, minus the latter’s organizational and oratorical acumens. What Ralph lacks in TJ’s charisma he will make up in his polish, poise and properly tailored Armani suits. My friend quickly points out that while TJ might have dazzled Kenyans with his reported coziness to such American titans like the Kennedys, Ralph will call upon

the Italians and other wazungu friends he has made in his foreign sojourns, first in the UK and then in the US.

So, just like TJ made life very difficult for Raila’s father Ajuma wuod Alogo, so will Ralph make life impossible for Raila and other Orange team members.

Eventually, so I hear, Ralph will create a political nightmare for the newly announced ODM and clear the path for Kibaki’s return in 2007 and beyond.

Those Orangemen who dared question Ralph’s political influence will face the wrath of the NARC power men such as Murungaru, Michuki, Karume, Kiraitu, Kivutha, Mirugi et al, thus what Raila’s father, Oneko, Kaggia, Obok and others experienced in 1966 and after will be replyated with precision after November 2005. According to this insider, Orange team members’ loans and mortgages will be recalled, credit facilities cut, jobs lost and life made miserable each day and night.

My friend points out that what will follow November 21st, 2005 has been clearly mapped out by Kiraitu, Michuki, Mirugi, Murungaru, Karua and others in the recent days.
He gives me examples of statements made by the NARC high command during the banana campaigns such as:

Mungatana telling his constituents at St. Martin Primary School in Bahari Constituency, Kilifi District, on Sunday, September 25th, 2005, that “you elected me and I am commanding you to vote for the draft…”;

Kiraitu’s command to the civil servants that they must campaign and vote for the banana fruit as well as his declaration that their team is using state resources because the referendum is a government project;

Michuki directing the Provincial Administration to ensure that everyone under them votes for the Wako draft;

Karua telling those who are opposed to the enactment of the draft to go to hell; Kibaki calling every Kenyan who disagrees with his government liars and wapumbavu; and

Mirugi threatening Kivuitu with termination.

These, my friend points out, are just examples of things to come after the referendum.

Instead of Kenyatta’s refrain “Kaggia, what have you done for yourself?” the Orange team will be asked:

How many oranges have you eaten?”

And with that question, it is conceivable that

Nyayo House
will be reopened and the museum artifacts there transformed, once more, into truncheons of torture.

My friend’s second theory – Whether Banana loses or not, Tuju will be PM

My friend’s second theory looks more plausible than the first. He relays that he has heard it from impeccable sources within the corridors of power that Kibaki will fire the entire Orange team, hire the few turncoats from Luo Nyanza, and try another trick on Agwambo. This version has it that Kibaki will retain Awori but still appoint Ralph to the PM’s position, minus the executive powers. The reason for keeping Awori will be to retain a large chunk of the Luhyia votes, but only if the referendum results redeem him; that is, if he manages to deliver a sizeable number of votes for the Banana Republicans in November. If not, my friend posits, the VP’s job will be Kituyi’s; not Kombo’s. I hear that the MKM are adamant that the VP’s slot must be kept in the Luhyia country in order to lock Agwambo and his Orange brigade out of Western province. My friend doesn’t seem to think that Kombo stands a chance in the post referendum power equation.

However, even without executive powers, Ralph will be allowed to run a tidy outfit from Harambee House, with streams of eloquent, flashy and degreed Luos. That way, so the whisper goes, Luos will begin to view Kibaki as their ally, a true friend in development, and abandon Agwambo. The Odinga Political Empire, my friend reminds me, may be history post-referendum.

Then come 2007, with the Orange team’s influence reduced and their ability to organize seriously curtailed, the NARC brigade will have a good run for another term while ODM will be relegated to the dustbins of political experiments.

I have pointed out to my friend that the Banana Republicans may be planning to be more creative than he has analyzed. I have also warned him to be careful in analyzing Luos; that my people are tricky when it comes to politics. And that the community has a long history of felling those perceived to be sleeping with their enemies. However, my friend insists that the little birds chirping at his ears are as accurate as lightning.

And I say, good luck Ralph, give it a good run.


*The writer is a Kenyan practicing law in Toronto, Canada

Saturday, September 24, 2005



There are a few statements that have been attributed to both Kibaki and his ever decreasing number of core sycophants that can only be seen as either a sign of political desperation or some ingenious political calculation aimed at propelling the Orange campaign to the referendum victory.

Personally, I do not mind seeing the Orange team victorious on November 21st – I am actually spending my own hard earned money and time to see it succeed. However, I would have preferred if that victory was accompanied by the enactment of the Bomas draft as Kenya’s new constitution. We now know that this will not happen, at least as far as this Kibaki government is concerned.

We also do not know when or if the Bomas draft will ever be our supreme law; it is too early to judge what might happen after November 21st. And it is almost impossible to tell what 2007 will bring. An Orange success without a concomitant new constitutional and political dispensation would, in my view, be another unfortunate disappointment to the Kenyan people.

When (as it is now almost certain) the Orange team wins, Kibaki will remain president, not unless the Orange campaign gains a momentum hitherto unknown in our country and sweeps all that is under it, or Kibaki resigns or calls an election following his loss.

I doubt that Kibaki will dare call an election when he loses. Yet a banana win, of course, will be both a constitutional and political disaster for Kenya. If the Banana Republicans win, which is very unlikely, Kenya will remain in or revert to the era of the Big Man authoritarian rule [no matter which way we look at it]. Those in doubt should actually do what President Kibaki has asked Kenyans to do – read what is now popularly known as the Wako Draft. It is available from all the Kenyan Dailies’ websites.

But I am a bit ahead of myself here. I will take each issue in turn.

Brilliant geniuses win first

As it was said by an ancient Chinese philosopher, “[S]eeing what others do not see is called brilliance, knowing what others do not know is called genius. Brilliant geniuses win first, meaning that they defend in such a way as to be unassailable and attack in such a way as to be irresistible.”

Whereas I do not consider Kibaki and his supporters brilliant geniuses, a closer examination of their statements would reveal that the apparent misstatements are well calculated political utterances whose intention is to prepare the way for subsequent mischief. And because reasonable Kenyans have tended to portray these statements as misguided, stupid or careless, we have not been able to clearly discern their full import.

Immediately following NARC’s electoral victory against KANU in 2002, Michuki, who had quickly emerged as one of the central figures in the Kibaki kitchen cabinet, faced the media and LDP onslaught on the abrogation of the MOU and declared the often repeated refrain: “When we [read: DP and the Mount Kenya Mafia] were in the opposition and said that we wanted a new constitution with the powers of the president significantly reduced and a separate centre of power around an Executive Prime Minister, we did so as a strategy to get one of our own [read: Kibaki] into power. However, now that we have managed to get that power, there is no need for the dispersal of the majestic and imperial presidential powers; no need for two centres of power; and since Kibaki is not a dictator, no need for a new constitution.”

That is what this Kibaki government said and it is what they stand for now. Any other explanation, justification or excuse proffered by this government must be seen in exactly the same light as the Michuki statement. If this Kibaki government leaves a legacy of profligate lies, rampant corruption and tribalism, it will also leave this Michuki statement as a clear testament of what it stood for. This will not and cannot change. It is the only time this government came clean with Kenyans on important matters of state.

Michuki made the foregoing statement in the face of LDP’s persistent demands for the ratification of the MOU that it signed with NAK. It was also supposed to provide an explanation for the government’s refusal to embrace the popular clamour for a new people driven constitution that Moi and KANU had undermined for years. It was intended to indicate why the Kibaki government was opposed to having a new people-driven constitution introduced within one hundred days after NARC took power.

When the Bomas constitutional process finally managed to reach a stage where it was obvious that a new constitutional dispensation for Kenyans was within reach, the Kibaki government made a dramatic walk-out and abandoned the process. This action was not taken because of the reported division, laziness, ignorance or corruption of most Bomas delegates. The walkout was intended to undermine the process and render it useless so that Kenyans would not have a new constitution within 100 days of NARC taking power. Unfortunately for this administration, Prof. Ghai and his team plowed along and managed to produce a draft that closely resembled what Kenyans have been demanding all along. Once this occurred, the Kibaki government had to design new strategies of sabotage, and they found easy and compliant students in the name of Timothy Njoya and Ringera, who dutifully compromised the enactment of the Bomas Draft through judicial mischief.

But with the embarrassing revelation of grand corruption within government and the ever flickering popular demands by Kenyans for a new people-driven constitution, the Kibaki team, like impatient but incompetent army generals, had to devise new methods of appeasing the people. They wanted to project a false image that they were for a new constitution; that they were only opposed to the Bomas Draft. So, they went to Naivasha, then Parliament and Kilifi, sprinkled a few shillings here and there, and came back with some crude cocktail, which they now offered as the people-driven constitution. The idea here is to now transform the whole exercise into a government project and be the driving force behind it. If we say no, then the government can turn around and say that it is us, Kenyans, who do not want a new constitution. And if we say yes, then we can never again complain about the Big Man syndrome. The die, as they say, had been cast. We have reached a point of no return. As Raila recently said, the plane has taken off and there is no way of engaging a reverse gear without a crash. So, we have to hold our breaths and tolerate the ride, no matter where it is taking us.

Who then are the brilliant geniuses who have won the referendum? And how did they win before November 21st?

The superior militarist foils enemies’ plots

Standing recently on several podiums in both Central and Eastern Provinces, Ministers Kiraitu Murungi, Martha Karua, Murungaru, Mirugi Kariuki and Kivutha Kibwana announced to the whole world that the “government” (read: Kibaki sycophants) are using, and will continue using, state resources to ensure that the Banana Republicans emerge winners on 21 November 2005. According to Kiraitu, the referendum is a government project just like the construction of roads.

Shoulder to shoulder with Kiraitu on this platform were Karua, Michuki and Murungaru. These three political amateurs went further and warned those who do not like the use of state resources to advance the banana campaign to “go to hell.” Projecting his usual mischievous smile, Kiraitu sweetened the whole thing up by asserting that MPs supporting the Banana campaign will receive 500,000 Kenya Shillings each for incidental expenses. Assuming that the MPs who are aligned to the banana campaign are about one hundred, this would bring the money [mark you, not the entire banana campaign budget] drawn directly from our taxes and given as pocket money to government friendly MPs, at 50 million Kenya Shillings. Should we then be wondering why Karua, Michuki and company so enraged the public that they were literally chased away from Garissa and booed in Mukuruweni?

When Kibaki took one of his now familiar foreign trips to New York, two interesting things happened. The first one was his reported entourage of 94 advisors, friends and family members. According to newspaper reports, Kibaki’s entourage was the largest among all the United Nations’ member states, including even the G8 countries. Not only was the delegation too large and unwieldy, the only criteria of its selection was personal relationships and closeness to the centre of power. Even more outrageous was the fact that the delegation stayed at one of the most expensive hotels in the entire world. For this delegation’s air fares, accommodation, food and “pocket money”, Kenyans were thus fleeced of more than $987,000 (US), which would be more than 75 million Kenya Shillings for a two week trip of a section of Kibaki’s inner circle. We are only here talking of the most conservative estimates based on known newspaper reports that have not been credibly challenged by any government functionary. And we have not yet even examined how many briefcases were stuffed with cash, gifts and other ornaments to or from abroad by this group – thanks to the Kenyan tax payers. If Kenyans do not consider this a case of magnificent theft, and determine to vote in large numbers against the Wako Draft, then I honestly do not know what it is.

However, the mere fact that the Kibaki administration would not even bother to present a coherent and persuasive case for this obvious misuse of public funds indicate that, firstly, the government does not care about what we think about what it is doing, secondly that it no longer cares whether the people will use this as the reason for voting against the Wako draft, and that it actually wants the people to vote against the Wako draft so that Kibaki can continue ruling using the current constitution. Whichever way we look at it, Kibaki comes up on top. Just like he did in December 2002. And as Michuki added recently, “our people should sleep soundly because we are protecting the Kibaki government, which in turn shall protect the Kikuyu and their property.” So, you can see what this is all about when everything is boiled to the bottom of the pot. What remains is nothing but that old tribal sentiment. No wonder they recently formed GEMA and branded it MEGA, which is really GEMA reversed.

Several weeks before making the announcements in Mukuruweni, Kiraitu, in his usual eloquent lisp of wisdom proclaimed how the Banana Republicans will shake all corners of Kenya with a dizzying array of state resources that had never been seen before. Mirugi and Murungaru had then threatened Kalonzo Musyoka with severe penal consequences for an apparent “criminal” indiscretion some sixteen years before. Kalonzo’s indiscretion was later revealed to have been his alleged failure to comply with a dead judge’s civil court order; an order that had apparently been successfully appealed. To cap it off, Kiraitu declared that on Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, Kenyans would see Cabinet Ministers, MPs and several leaders being arraigned in court for their failure to file their wealth declarations as required by law.

Shortly thereafter, Kiraitu, Michuki and company directed all civil servants to campaign for this new government project. The police were also seen shipping people armed with crude objects and deadly weapons to Orange rallies and unleashing them on peaceful civilians. In the ensuing confrontations in Garissa and Thika, the attackers are protected and escorted by the police to safety as their Orange counterparts are arraigned in court with tramped up charges. Consequently, the Orange team is gaining momentum while the Banana team is increasingly becoming loathed, hated and despised, as their leaders designed.

However, as with his other announcements on the Goldenberg, Anglo Leasing and other Kenyan scandals, Kiaritu’s latest threat has turned out to be just another flute being played to the gallery. Maybe Kiraitu thought that he was simply foiling his enemies’ plots, trying to ruin their alliances before actually attacking them in Thika, then Garissa. Kiraitu, as you can see, has been reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War upside down.

A general that is not popular is not a help to the nation

On arrival from his most recent overseas trips, President Kibaki declared that the referendum on the Wako draft will proceed as planned. In his new assumed dismissive trait, he stated that those opposed to the Wako draft are losers; that they lost at Bomas and Parliament, and that they will lose again on November 21st. He also announced that Kenyans abroad support the Wako draft because it provides for dual citizenship. Maybe the president knows something that we do not (yet) know. However, from all reliable sources, it is Kibaki and his team that lost at Bomas and will likely lose on November 21st; not unless these loses were actually designed to be so by State House, which is what I suspect, hence his bold proclamations.

An ancient Chinese philosopher called Zhuge once stated that “a general that is not popular is not a help to the nation, not a leader of the army.” Kenyans will no doubt decide what kind of a general Kibaki has been.

As for the Kibaki Banana Republicans, their statement appear geared as a campaign for the rejection of the Wako draft. The more statements they make about how they will misuse state resources to campaign for the Wako draft, that the draft reduces presidential powers, that civil servants must campaign and vote for the Wako draft and their direction to the police to intimidate and harass Orange supporters, are all designed to make the Banana team thoroughly unpopular and despised. Whether this is a brilliant strategy like what they did in 2002 is for time to tell. But I suspect that it is. The general is leading an onslaught on his own people.


*The writer is a Kenyan practicing law in Toronto, Canada

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Daily Nation's Odhiambo Defamed Us- CLARION's Odhiambo Writes

OUR REF: P/454/01/05


Mr Bernard Nderitu

The Managing Editor

Daily Nation


Dear Sir,


The Centre for Law and Research International (CLARION) wishes to draw your attention to the story referred to above, which appeared on page 4 of the Daily Nation today. I decided to put this in writing after my attempts to talk to you on phone early today failed.

Your writer, Mr Odhiambo Orlale, whom we respect for his excellent reporting as consumers of news, called CLARION and talked to me on Wednesday, 20th September, a day before the said story appeared. However, from the beginning of our interview it seemed as if Mr Orlale had made up his mind about the angle his story was going to take, that is, advancing the view that CLARION cannot be an impartial civic educator because of purported links with Professor Kivutha Kibwana, the former Executive Director of CLARION, and now an Assistant Minister.

Again in our conversation, Mr Orlale appeared hell bound to make a connection between the selection of CLARION to conduct civic education in Makueni, Kaiti and Kilome constituencies and the fact of Professor Kibwana being a former director of the organisation. I laboured to explain that CLARION had in fact applied to conduct civic education in 10 districts and that we were dismayed to be assigned only three constituencies, and further, that we did not know the criteria used by CKRC to shortlist organisations. I went further to explain that we would take up the issue with CKRC since our capacity is far beyond working in three constituencies. To further emphasise the point, I pointed out to Mr Orlale that CLARION would consider boycotting the exercise since we feel we cannot create proper impact working in only three constituencies. This point was again ignored.

Just to set the record straight Professor Kibwana, whom CLARION respects as a Professor of Law of international repute, left CLARION in October 2002 when he decided to vie for the Makueni Paliamentary seat in Makueni district. This is in accordance with the organisation’s rules and regulations, which stipulate that an officer vying for parliamentary elective position has to first resign from the organisation. This was explained to Mr Orlale but he chose to ignore it. Instead, he went ahead to report that Kibwana left CLARION two years ago. What this means is that as a politician he was still running CLARION up to 2003.

In all due respect, it is not clear to myself as a reader what Mr Orlale’s story was meant to achieve. By portraying all the groups mentioned as groups that are linked to politicians the writer is clearly saying there can be no impartial civic education on the referendum around the country. To stretch the argument to its [il]logical end, it means Kenyans would be better off without civic education. We, as a human rights organisation, respect Orlale’s view even if it does not make sense to us at all.

However, we would like to point out that Orlale’s opinion puts CLARION in a quandary over its civic education programme. It is likely that civic educators associated with CLARION will face hostility since we have been portrayed as partisan. This is regrettable given the hostile political environment within the country caused by the on going Yes/No campaigns. CLARION, in fact, has to now rethink its engagement with the civic education programme because of this very real threat.

I would like to state clearly that CLARION is an institution with functioning organs including a General Assembly, a Board of Directors, a Management Committee and a Secretariat and does not rely on the goodwill of individuals to carry out its mandate. Like any other organisation anywhere in the world, CLARION was formed by individuals who had a certain vision of the society that they sought to pursue. Those individuals have since left the organisation. The professional staff members employed by CLARION have gone on with implementation of the programmes of CLARION and have contributed to the reputation being enjoyed by the organisation nationally and internationally as a leading research NGO.

We shall therefore be very glad if the impression created by your writer will be corrected.

Yours Sincerely,

Morris Odhiambo

Deputy Executive Director

Wednesday, September 21, 2005



Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you at this momentous time when our beautiful country is at the centre of a political storm. The storm has been gathering force and momentum each passing day. The political waves that have been lapping at the banks of our country’s landscape have pushed the people to the edge of a historical cliff where they can either fall over into a precipice or back into the eye of the storm. Should either of these occur, Mr. President, we would face a catastrophe whose effect may last for generations. Kenya may not fully recover from such inevitable calamity, unless we address the root causes of the problem and either divert the approaching political typhoon or seek safety elsewhere. If the storm facing us ends up tearing, uprooting and destroying our country, you will, Mr. President, bear a lot of responsibility, and would be required to answer questions, as to why you failed to protect the people of Kenya from the howling winds or what, if anything, you did to prevent the havoc from engulfing us Let me try to explain.

As the president of the Republic of Kenya, history has bestowed upon you a unique responsibility of ensuring that you truly, honestly and fully uphold the constitution of the Republic of Kenya. When you were sworn into office in December 2002, you took an oath to protect and uphold the current constitution, to conduct yourself strictly within the constitution and to govern (not rule) Kenya in accordance with the Rule of Law.

One of the central requirements of any constitution is for the chief executive, however defined, to protect all citizens from harm, oppression and injustice. You are constitutionally required to treat all citizens equally regardless of religion, colour, creed, ethnicity or political opinion or affiliation. To be faithful to the current constitution, you must not take sides between or amongst Kenyans, unless it is for the general public good. In all your executive choices Mr. President, the constitution requires you to always act within the law and parameters set by the constitution itself. You cannot and must not permit your choices to be dictated by parochial selfish interests, ethnic considerations or political survival.

Section 1A of the current constitution states that Kenya shall be a multi party democratic state. The cardinal words here are “shall”, “multi party” and “democratic state.” The use of the word shall in describing the type of country Kenyans should live in was deliberately designed by the drafters of the current constitution to direct everyone, including you, on what our country must be. Constitutionally, you have a positive duty to make sure that for the entire period of your tenure, this section is upheld without equivocation, qualification, abrogation or mischief by anyone, including yourself. It means that anyone who undermines, directly or indirectly, the multi-party and democratic aspirations or components of this country, would be acting in violation of the current constitution. Any such violators, Mr. President, are subject to the imposition of penalties as prescribed by law. Again, there are no equivocations, exceptions or qualifications. The constitution remains the supreme law of the land.

Section 47 (1) of the current constitution states that “[S]ubject to this section, Parliament may alter this Constitution.” According to all reputable English language and law dictionaries I have consulted over the definition of the word “alter”, Mr. President, I have inevitably found that it means: modify, adjust , amend or to make different. There is no dictionary published in English that would ascribe to the word “alter” any other additional meaning, especially one that would legitimize a complete “overhaul,” “replacement” or “repeal” of the entire current constitution. To do that one needs to amend this section to include “repeal”, “overhaul”, or “replacement” as one of those things that Parliament, or any other mechanism required for such to occur.

When the constitutional change process first started in early 1980s, Kenyans rightly demanded the complete overhaul of the entire current constitution. At that time, section 2A that made Kenya a de jure one party state was still in place. Even following the repeal of section 2A and the enactment of section 1A that made Kenya a multi party democracy, the overwhelming majority of Kenyans still demanded, and continue to demand, the complete replacement of the current constitution with one in which the powers of the presidency would be dramatically and significantly reduced, dispersed, devolved, counter-checked and counter-balanced. The central argument by Kenyans have consistently been that the imperial presidential powers that you currently enjoy have been the root cause of the grand corruption in the country, the misallocation and pillage of public resources, particularly land, and the repression that we have lived with since 1963. With the enactment of a new constitution, Kenyans wanted to say “never again” with respect to the kind of repressive rule they endured under Kenyatta and Moi. Similarly, Kenyans have consistently asked for a devolved and accountable government; not the retention of a monolithic all powerful central government. These two have been the pillars driving the constitutional change and reform movements.

At the end of the Bomas process, Kenyans felt that they had at long last produced a constitution for themselves. At the Bomas of Kenya, the people of Kenya debated, reasoned and argued amongst themselves, in their collective brilliance and ignorance and produced what they felt would protect them and their resources from the ravages of future despots and rapacious thieves. Notwithstanding the incoherent grumblings from a section of your Cabinet and political supporters, the Bomas Constitutional Draft is the only document that was produced through a popular democratic process. Judging by the Orange euphoria and popular uprising by most Kenyans in recent weeks, the Bomas Draft has the support of the majority of our people. No matter how right you and your advisors believe that you have been and the rest of us are misguided, the fact of the matter is that as the majority, democracy demands that you listen to us and subject your idiosyncratic feelings to democratic norms. We, the majority, have spoken and there is no going back.

Mr. President, it was a betrayal of the wishes, aspirations and feelings of Kenyans when your government orchestrated a coup de tat against the Bomas Draft at a posh Kilifi Tourist Resort and has now forced them into voting over a document that they had absolutely no input in preparing. Not only was the process fundamentally flawed and undemocratic, the product of that illegitimate process also resulted into a monster that is dramatically different from what the people had produced or wanted. Your monster has now generated all kinds of forces that threaten to engulf us in unprecedented storm. The hand-picked elites that prepared your illegitimate draft will either be hiding in their mansions or feeing abroad when the storm strikes. But what will happen to the rest of us Mr. President? Will you leave us for the forces of nature and man to ravage us until we are no more or will you stand up and lead?

Mr. President, the way out of this storm is not to ride it to the ocean like your advisors have said. If you do this, you will drown, like others before you have. Neither is the choice to sit it out and see as you are wont to do. If you continue doing this, it is likely that you will howl with the wind to the four corners of the earth. It is also not to introduce diversionary tactics like my friend Ralph, that loving son of yours, has tried to do. Diversionary tactics do not work at this late hour; the storm will scatter those trying this strategy to the deep sea. The only way out is to go to higher ground. In our case, this requires that you swallow your pride Mr. President, apologize to Kenyans for your stubbornness, ask for their forgiveness and allow them to say “yes” or “no” to the Bomas Draft. You would have retreated with us to a higher moral ground. We would live to tell the tale another day. That is our only salvation. And it is your only reprieve.

Mr. President, this is my only unsolicited advice. However, should you continue to ignore the approaching typhoon, we would call upon all Kenyans, those whose survival instincts are still agile, to abandon the cliff and join the howling wind, saying NOOOOOOOOOOOO to your government’s suicidal madness. Mr. President, we shall not fall over the cliff into the canyon.

20 September 2005, Toronto, Ontario


*The writer is a Kenyan practicing law in Toronto, Canada

Monday, September 12, 2005

Njeri Kabeberi-Kanene on Negative Ethnicity

Know the truth, it will free you
Opinion piece originally published in the East African Standard

By Njeri Kabeberi-Kanene

I thank God that I grew up in Nairobi’s Eastlands because although born a Kikuyu, I am tribe-less.

I still get shocked when I realise how ethnically divided the country is as we continue to allow politicians to use our ethnicity for their selfish interests.

Talking to my mother’s age-mates the other day, I realised that although most of their children were brought up in that beautiful tribe-less corner of the city of Nairobi, they themselves are still caught up in the ethnic manipulation of our politicians.

At the time, we were discussing the constitution, the referendum symbols and the vote.

In the end, the debate was reduced to a Kikuyu verses Luo vote. I asked: What about the other ethnic groups?

Don’t they matter?

Where do they feature in your version of how the vote should be?

Current statistics show that of the ethnic groups in Kenya Kikuyus are 17 per cent, Luyhas 12 per cent, Luos 11 per cent, Kalenjins 10 per cent, Kambas 10 per cent, Kisiis six per cent, Meru five per cent, Mijikenda five per cent, Masaai two per cent, Turkana one per cent, others 21 per cent.

The age breakdown indicates that 50 per cent of our population is made up of 0-14-year-olds, those between 15-59 make up 46 per cent, 60 years and above make up four per cent.

The above statistics, show that 72 per cent of Kenyans are neither Kikuyus nor Luos and that the largest population from all ethnic groups is made up of the youth. I would like to think that the youth, like me, are tribe-less or would love to be if it was not for political manipulation.

Although they belong to different ethnic groups (and ought to be proud of it) the youth should be tribe-less in their thinking and actions because the values of a nation can be destroyed if we continue to fan ethnic arrogance.

We have seen within our own country, and within the Eastern and Central Africa region just how negative ethnic animosities can be.

When disaster strikes — like when there was a terrorist attack in Nairobi — all Kenyans become victims; if Hurricane Katrina or a real tsunami were to hit Kenya (God forbid!) they would not select those to affect on the basis of ethnicity.

Why do we then seek for votes on governance issues on the basis of ethnicity?

I feel that as Kenyans we are forced to make choices on the basis of fear instead of facts.

Fear rules most aspects of our lives, yet fear is selfish, because it forces us to go into our narrow cocoons and disregard everyone and everything else.

Fear tells us that leaders of other ethnic groups will mess up the lives of those not in leadership; fear makes us look only at the one thing we imagine will benefit the individual, even when the individual is not really benefiting.

Kenya at the age of 42 should be tightening windows of prejudice instead of opening floodgates of disaster.

I have not come across any ordinary Kikuyu known to me who has directly benefited from Kenyatta’s nor Kibaki’s rule!

So what’s this business of voting on ethnic lines?

Aren’t we all hustling on bad roads, with poor services and in crime-infested cities?

The Constitution belongs to everyone, with the youth standing to lose or benefit the most.

Yet the rights of the four per cent who are over 60 years should not be ignored, nor should those of the 21 per cent of other ethnic groups.

I vote for freedom from fear and that is why we should be re-opening discussion and negotiations on the Constitution to free all of us from the negative prejudices being forced down our minds.

We are looking for a constitution that provides confidence for Kenyans as it ascertains the necessary safeguards for all, including the 250-300 El Molo Gurapau on the South East shores of Lake Turkana.

Njeri Kabeberi-Kanene is a board member of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and consultant for the Netherlands-Institute for Multi-Party Democracy.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mukoma wa Ngugi: New Orleans and the Third World

New Orleans and the Third World

by Mukoma wa Ngugi
September 08, 2005



The devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina is being compared to disasters in the “Third World” but with no specific countries or disasters named. And if not compared to this black hole or repository of disaster that is the “Third World,” a comparison to Africa is as specific as it gets. “New Orleans is a scene from the Third World”, “like the Third World”, “US Handles the crisis like a third world country”, “bodies floating on water reminiscent of Africa” etc. This has been a constant with news commentators, analysts, members of the senate and congress and other sections of America commenting on New Orleans. The accompanying statements to this have been “I cannot believe this is America” or “This is not supposed to happen in America”. It is supposed to and can only happen somewhere else. Attending a food festival event in Madison, Wisconsin I overheard a joke – “Where is New Orleans again?” New Orleans is next to Somalia”.

What role is the “Third World” playing in how Americans are dealing with the disaster? Where does the “Third World” fit in the imagination of the American? What does it mean to say that this is not supposed to happen in the United States? To me, it is almost as if by displacing disasters and human suffering to the “Third World,” the New Orleans disaster is not really happening in the United States. New Orleans is “out there” and everyone else is ! safe and American – the crisis in New Orleans is happening in a “Third World” outpost and the United States remains rich, strong and invulnerable.

The American citizen has been stewing in nationalism, manifest destiny and the myth of the democratic society that errors but never oppresses or marginalizes for so long that even a natural disaster cannot be seen and understood outside this lens. And the fact that most of the victims are predominantly poor and African American is not being understood as a creation of very specific domestic policies and conservative ideologies; it has to be filtered through the “Third World”. As if a disaster from that “part of the world” somehow managed to sneak through the porous Mexican borders.

Bush’s Remarks

It is interesting therefore to look at President Bush’s remarks after touring New Orleans on September 2nd after four days of inaction. His first sentence was “ I've just completed a tour of some devastated country”. A detached statement but it gets worse – a little later he says “I know the people of this part of the world are suffering…” and he goes on to talk about how progress is being made. Then he says “ The people in this part of the world have got to understand…” Shortly after this, he says “You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute, but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen” and again refers to his constituents as “good folks of this part of the world”. It is almost as if he is in a different country consoling its citizenry. He himself is so detached about what is happening in the very country he leads that he refers to it as “this part of the world”. As far as I know, no one in the mainstream media picked this up, they too are reporting on that “part of the world”.

Believing that humor is the best medicine, in the same speech he also makes a rather tasteless joke: “I believe the town where I used to come [to] from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself, occasionally too much, will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to”. Now, this is a President who up to this point has not visited New Orleans, a disaster area that is being acknowledged as probably the worst in recent U.S. history, yet, speaking to an evacuated, wounded and dying constituency, he refers to their drowned city that was their whole life as his old party ground. All in all President Bush gives the kind of speech a visiting leader would make during a hurriedly prepared press conference after being caught unawares by a natural disaster. It captures his inability to empathize, to really be one with the victims.

The Myth and the “Third World”

An American dying in a natural disaster will look like a human being dying in any natural disaster and not necessarily like an African. A homeless American looks like any homeless human being and not always like an African. And a natural disaster should not be seen as somebody else’s natural disaster but as one that afflicts all humanity. We are of a common humanity. It is the myth that only other nations torture that led to Abu Ghraib. It is the myth that only other countries have political prisoners that keeps political activists like Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier in American jails for fighting American marginalization. It is the belief t! hat only other countries exile those that oppose their policies that has led to the bounty on Assata Shakur – exiled in Cuba for fighting for African American rights – being raised to one million dollars. And it is the myth that only other countries ignore and exploit their poor that led to the disaster in New Orleans.

But there are ways in which America is like the “Third World”. Privatization, which in “Third World” Countries becomes structural adjustment programs, has been happening in the United States since the Reagan years of small government, through the Clinton years that saw a full assault on Welfare and affirmative action originally designed to buoy the marginalized, and through the Bush years that have been rewarding the rich while taking away from the poor through Federal and Supreme Court nominations that support big business and reduce the power of labor unions, among other things. These have been the years of ‘blaming the victim’ while preying on them. They are poor because they are lazy – ! enter the “welfare queen”. While the mainstream United States was busy trying to convince itself that poverty and racism were things of the past or happened only to other nations, the marginalized were becoming even more vulnerable. Most of the victims in New Orleans are black and poor – race and class - an inversion of Frantz Fanon’s one is rich because he/she is white and one is white because he/she is rich to read one is poor because he/she is black and one is black because he/she is poor. Just like in the “Third World” in times of natural disasters and wars, it is the most victimized in New Orleans that are doing most of the dying.


The reasons why the poor couldn’t leave the city are quite easy to understand. They couldn’t afford it. They simply did not have cars or money for transportation, are jobless, or live pay-check to pay-check and couldn’t have had any money saved up for relocation. Where poor people owned houses to which they had mortgaged their lives, where their homes had become the marker of their humanity and achievement, staying put and essentially fighting for their lives was the only option.

Like the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, or the ongoing genocide in Darfur, this particular disaster had been telegraphed – we all knew it was going to happen, and more political and economic will, including a more comprehensive effort to evacuate the city of New Orleans, could have minimized human suffering. What makes it even worse is that the millions being pledged now by private citizens and corporations and the 10.5 billion initially pledged by the government could have saved New Orleans ten times over through improvement of infrastructure. Because of the federal government’s push for privatization which translates into public services being slas! hed or sold to private companies, perhaps the government simply no longer has structures in place to handle disasters. This could explain why Bush ended his speech with “If you want to help, if you're listening to this broadcast, contribute cash to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross”. Each death in New Orleans was preventable. But money is not made in prevention but in reconstruction. Soon, like in Iraq, the big contracts for reconstruction will be on their way – some corporations will make a killing. Let the bidding begin.

Also, it is with a sense of irony that one reads of corporations like Wal-Mart contributing millions of dollars to the relief efforts. Yet were their employees in New Orleans working in better conditions and with better pay, some of those who couldn’t afford to evacuate would have been able to do so. These corporations are responsible for the loss of jobs through outside contracting to sweatshops in “Third World” countries where in turn occasional fires break out leading to hundreds of deaths. In “Third World” countries, they no longer pay government taxes in the tax free trade zones, leading to further des! truction of already fragile and poor economies. Where these corporations have remained in the United States as retailers and manufacturers, they have seen to wages being cut. They are rabidly against unions and essentially use the community the same way colonial companies used colonized communities – for cheap labor, extraction of raw materials and of course as buyers of products whose production is finished elsewhere.

Thus coupled with a government that has engineered its own version of structural adjustment to maximize profit, and corporations that economically and politically colonize a community, the vulnerability – which in real terms is the result of victimization – seen in New Orleans is not a surprise. Rather, it is the culmination of well planned and orchestrated policies that consolidate wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the poor. Globalization is not resulting in a world that becomes better as it gets smaller, but rather in a world where poverty becomes more prevalent and more apparent. This globalization of poverty makes New Orleans a village ! in everybody’s backyard. Instead of outsourcing disaster to an unnamed “Third World” it seems to me that citizens of the United States should be placing the responsibility for the preventable deaths and suffering in New Orleans on their government and corporate board rooms.

Mukoma wa Ngugi is the author of Conversing with Africa: Politics of Change and the forthcoming, Looking at America: Politics of Change.