Many young Kenyans have no idea what it was like living in the country in the 70s and 80s. The days when political dissenters were dealt with ruthlessly and decisively quick. If you did not disappear or your body was not found in some forest with some vital organs missing, then you would definitely have ended up in the notorious detention without trial.
In those days when you could sense the fear in the air, it must have been much easier to be president of Kenya.
Now one Mwai Kibaki who has seen it all took over as president in December 2002 and one of the first things that his administration did was to shut down the Nyayo house torture chambers. It seemed to everybody that it was the beginning of a brand new era of good governance. But alas, it was not to be because some silly document called an MOU (memorandum of Understanding) was allegedly not honoured by Kibaki and one thing led to another as the Kibaki administration staggered from one crisis to another like a drunk man trying to walk home in the dark. You will remember that things stabilized somewhat with the appearance of one Daniel arap Moi as one of President Kibaki’s key advisors.
In actual fact history was replaying itself before our very eyes because Daniel arap Moi himself went through a very similar metamorphosis shortly after he took over as president in August 1978. Moi released all detainees and dramatically increased democratic space and free speech in the late 70s and early 80s. However he was rudely shaken out of his good-guy image by the abortive 1982 coup attempt. Shortly after a shaken Moi appeared on national TV tears visibly in his eyes and thanking the security forces for crashing the coup, Kenyans started seeing a very different Moi. Detention without trial came back with a vengeance and a few assassinations followed, most notably that of former foreign affairs minister Dr Robert Ouko. Dozens of Kenyans vanished without trace.
Coming back to the present, it seems that Kibaki’s big transformation happened after he lost the 2005 referendum on a proposed new constitution. But detention without trial was NOT re-introduced. Instead something that send shivers down the spines of those in the know emerged. That thing answers to the name, the Kwekwe squad. Humndreds of young Kenyans have also disappeared without trace.
Political emotions aside, the question Kenyans must now ask themselves is a simple one but one whose answer will be very difficult in coming by. And the question is, is it possible to govern a country like Kenya without “tools’ like detention without trial or the terror of Kwekwe? If your quick answer is YES, then my next question is how come the Kibaki administration became much more stable after the introduction of terror instruments like the Kwekwe?
Kindly note that I do not support terror or human rights abuses in any form. However I am just asking a question to get Kenyans thinking. After all even developed democracies like the United States have the CIA and other national security spooks who get involved in all kinds of dirty things. Even the civil Brits have their spooks and shadowy projects in the name of national security.
Read about Kumekucha's terrifying ordeal in the hands of the then dreaded Special Branch