By Nana K A Busia Jr.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of 2017 resistance was the general discussion among Kenyans at home and in the Diaspora for the need to escalate the resistance to an armed struggle. There were instances when the youth openly asked Odinga that he arms them to fight the uthamakists. It was more serious than that. There were as it was gathered later from the research interviews that the different groups of Kenyans at home and abroad were plotting.
There were stories of different and often uncoordinated attempts by different groups to obtain arms. There were also reports of groups training secretly. Stories abounded about how the security forces of the country were to be infiltrated to had been infiltrated. There were individual accounts of how police and soldiers had openly assured Odinga supporters to communicate to him to swear himself in and leave the rest to them, the security forces.
What was more worrying about this particular period was that the plotting for armed resistance appeared to have been hidden from Mr. Odinga by the various groupings at home and in the Diaspora. The general view, as it was recounted to me by the informants, was the fear that Mr. Odinga was too much of a “pacifist” and would go against such proposal as he has done in 2007 and 2013. I am told some of the hatched plots for armed resistance to the regime in 2017 had reached an advanced stage just before the Handshake. I cannot verify but given the mood, as it were, I have no reason to doubt.
Uthamakism and the lack of Enlightened Self-Interest
The so-called Uthamakists in Kenya may be good at wealth creation, but they lack the skill and know-how of managing political power in a manner that is one of enlightened self -interest. Their quest and hold of political power has been too crude, manifestly manipulative and lacked sophistication so much that until the handshake almost all the groupings in Kenya were turning against them. Kalenjin support or marriage is opportunistic and lacks real peoples support.
What they need to know is that sometimes the only way to want political power is to pretend not to want it. Better still, with the economic power of the Uthamakists they could have controlled political power in Kenya without showing their visible hands. The urge to monopolize economic and political power in a polity
Tribal politics and ethnic dominance is a commonplace practice in many countries in post-colonial Africa. That is known but what is being canvassed here is when an elite group have deliberately devised a coherent ideology of the dominance of a group of a modern state like Kenya. That is unique to Kenya, when compared to about 40 African states I have visited.
Nigeria until the late 1990s was the only African country that I am aware of that had a similar ideology. This was the ideology of a group styled as the Kaduna Mafia; it was a Hausa- Fulani civil-military alliance to hold and control power after the Nigerian civil war in 1967-70, especially with the discovery of oil. In the unwritten script of the Kaduna Mafia was to ensure that no other ethnic group rules Nigeria and control its vast oil reserves other than the Hausa- Fulani. Like the case of Kenya, in some instances the Hausa- Fulani captured state used methods of political assassination and rigging of elections to cling to power.
The typical case was the Abiola, a Yoruba, who won elections in 1993 but was robbed the victory by the Kaduna Mafia. This resulted in a sustained resistance that was accompanied by sporadic violence. The Kaduna Mafia then realized that its strategy of crude monopolization of political power in Nigeria was suicidal. It, therefore, realized quickly that their, Kaduna Mafia, long term preservation depended upon allowing a Southerner, a non-Northerner, who is a Christian to also wield state power.
And, thereafter there has been a kind of Gentleman’s agreement of rotating power between the generally Northern Muslims and the Southern Christian ethnic groups. Ashantis of Ghana in the 1950s toyed with a similar idea of dominating the politics of the then Cold Coast because of their numbers, wealth and sophisticated social organization around the Ashanti King. But they abandoned the idea, and rightly so when they realized that their long-term self- interest is better protected in independent Ghana ruled by other ethnic groups as well.
There is a lesson for Uthamakists from Boers in South Africa. The Boers of South Africa after the end of Apartheid looked back and lamented that they have wasted time trying to control the Africans through military force and other forms of restrictions thereby losing legitimacy and eliciting armed resistance in the end. But they realized that after all post-Apartheid they even have more control and this time legitimated because they do not visibly control political power.
They, as some of the commentators write cynically, Boers have rented the Black Africans to run the state for and on their behalf without being seen or heard. This is because they have economic power. It has been easier to rule by allowing others to appear to be ruling.
The MoU of the Handshake
MOU is a dirty word in the Kenyan political lexicon. The mere mention of MoU sends shivers in the political spine of the politically conscious Kenyan and even any casual observer of the Kenyan political landscape. It is a term that has come to represent the highest form of realpolitik as played out at the domestic level.
It is therefore crudely about the primitive thinking that the end justifies any means employed to secure and or retain political power in the Kenyan polity. MoU thus depicts the worse form of Machiavellian politics and in Kenya, it evokes memories of past politics of deceit, naked lies, backstabbing, and chicanery.
In sum, in Kenyan political parlance, an MoU means a Meaningless political agreement of no Use (MoU). And, thus far so has most, if not all, of them, were. Often the papers they are written on are worth more than the terms therein.
Examples of such MoUs abound of which the Kibaki – Raila Narc MoU of 2002 is typical. So, the pertinent question to ask flowing logically from the Kenyan political experience is: will the MoU of March 9th Handshake with Uthamakists whatever its terms that the two presidents, Kenyatta and Odinga, as it were, be honoured? Or will it suffer the same fate as the others before it in accordance with the dirty norm of Kenyan politics?
Should that happen, God should save Kenya. It will not be about Odinga and his reformist approach to politics but the creeping revolution or quest for the violent overthrow of Uthamakism yearned for by the majority of Kenyans would come sooner than expected. To me, the greatest paradox of Kenyan politics is that the man Raila Odinga that Uthamakist love to hate most is the same person who has consistently rescued them from the general wrath of the people when there is a desire for a violent overthrow of Uthamakism.
The handshake was Odinga biggest political gamble. The humour aside, truly the people of Kenya were on their road to Canaan is difficult as it was but it was going to be the Final Act at a high price for the country; a painful one but agreeing to the Handshake with Kenyatta this changed the course.
Properly looked at calmly and stripped of any emotions, Kenyans wanted to make 2017 the Final Act since independence to overthrow Uthamakism which the overwhelming majority see as the negative mainstay of the political economy of the country. 2017 was an attempt to translate the build-up anger and frustration over the years and distrust in the electoral system into action by delivering the needed social change.
The common chorus among Kenyans is that there have been only one free and fair elections after independence, the elections of 2002, none before and none after. It is my hope and wishes that Uthamakist read 2017 for what it was really and will not play any of the old Machiavellian games this time by reneging on the MoU of the Handshake.
Should that happen I can see fire next time and because the only politician in Kenya with close to the nation following cannot and will not be allowed to save anyone. And like a snowball rolling how far and how big it shall be only God that knows.
Nana K A Busia, Jr. is a Pan Africanist, Research Fellow, and guest lecturer, public international law, ICWS University of London.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the position of any organization, employer or company.
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