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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dark secrets of the presidency Part 1

Kumekucha Weekend Special

I have been to State House Nairobi. Once.

It is such an anticlimax this revered house on the hill. The sacrifices, the murders, the killings and all the crazy things Kenyans have done in the name of getting to live at this address, you would have thought that it would be a much grander place than what you end up seeing. Alas the red carpet is clean and well maintained but it is rather old. In fact the whole place looks like it needs an interior designer badly.

In the 46 years of independence only three men have called this place their official residence and held the office of President of the republic of Kenya. Johnstone Kamau (aka Jomo Kenyatta) for 15 years, Daniel Torotich arap Moi for 24 years and the rest of the years Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki. Interestingly whatever happens Kibaki will be the man who has occupied that office for the shortest time and yet history will record that his presidency has caused the most damage. This weekend we shall try to understand these three men better because in understanding them we will understand our beloved country much better. Trust me on that and hold me to account for it when we finish our journey late Sunday evening. We shall dig into their true characters and reveal many secrets in their lives.

So lets start from the beginning shall we.

Violent struggle has happened in Kenya several times through its short history but it has never worked out too well or even proved to be effective. More recently the saba saba riots that hit the country in the 1990s were quickly crashed by security forces. In the end change came to Kenya mainly as a result of pressure from the International community.

Still many Kenyans cling to the mirage that our independence was won from a violent freedom struggle. Very romantic but NOT true. Yes the gallant Mau Mau warriors spread terror in everybody. Indeed they inspired others in far away lands most notably Nelson Mandela which led to the formation of the armed wing of the ANC in South Africa. You have all heard of the Umkonto We Sizwe (spear of the Nation). Indeed the influence of the Mau mau spread as far away as the streets of New York where at least one notoriously violent street gang called itself the Mau Mau. But back home it was ineffective in winning independence for Kenya. The Mau mau uprising reached its’ height in 1952 and was quickly crashed. Mainly because it was about one tribe’s fight for their land rights. Actually the Kikuyu were joined by other neighboring tribes like the Merus. The leader of the Mau mau, a man called Dedan Kimathi was executed at Kamiti prison on February 18th 1957. By that time the Kikuyu uprising had been well and truly crashed.

The statistics of the Mau mau struggle tell an even more interesting story. The Mau Mau rebels killed over two thousand African Kenyan civilians, but killed only 32 European settlers and fewer than 200 British soldiers during the 8 years of the uprising. The British in turn killed 20,000 Mau Mau rebels in combat, hanged over 1000 suspected Mau Mau supporters, and interned more than 70,000 Kikuyu civilians for years in brutal detention camps on suspicion of providing material support for the uprising. Actually some researchers say that the true number of Kikuyus who were held or detained during that period was closer to one million. Read more details on this HERE. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dedan_Kimathi.

The man who was to later become Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta always had a frosty relationship with the Mau mau. They threatened his life several times and then he ended up on trial trying to prove to a compromised court his innocence and the fact that he had no links with Mau mau. The chief witness in that sham of a trial Rawson Macharia admitted only in recent years that he had given false evidence against Kenyatta. In all likelihood Kenyatta was not a violent man at heart and did not believe in violent means and yet when he became president he worked hard to glorify the Mau mau as the chief freedom fighters of Kenya and always emphasized that independence was won with a violent resistance. We shall understand later what his motivation for this may have been.

But for now it is important to appreciate the circumstances under which Jomo Kenyatta ended up as the first president of Kenya. This is important because to date every single man who has ended up as president of Kenya has done so as a compromise candidate. We wait to see what will happen in 2012 but in all likelihood history will duplicate itself once again.

In the run up to independence Jomo Kenyatta was rotting away in detention without a hope of ever getting back to politics. The white settlers government officials swore in public that that would never happen. The two front runners for president were Jaramogi Oginga Odinga who firmly believed that he should be president by virtue of his age over the other front runner Tom Mboya who was barely in his twenties. Sensing defeat, Odinga decided to fix his main opponent politically by demanding the release of the forgotten Jomo Kenyatta. That decision set in motion a chain of events that handed over the presidency on a silver platter to Kenyatta. Indeed when he was receiving the instruments of power on June 1963, Kenyatta still looked dazed and unbelieving. Like he wanted to pinch himself to convince himself that all these wonderful things were suddenly happening to him after years of struggle and very hard times which had been set off by false accusations against him in 1952 that put him in jail. Kenyatta’s words on that day perfectly capture the mood and his personal feelings. He did not start by saying that it was a great day for Kenyans. Instead he said; “Today is the happiest day of my life.”

I have closely studied the first years of the Kenyatta administration and read many accounts and watched many clips. All of them paint only one picture. That there was a mood of constant celebration in the corridors of power in those early months. More like the ancient court of Kings where every day was a day of celebration and entertainment, unless of course there was a problem. Kenyatta loved traditional dances and alcoholic drinks flowed freely from the State House bar to the kitchen cabinet and their regular visitors. Kenyatta loved to trade stories with his brother-in-law Mbiyu Koinange (brother to his first wife Grace Wahu) about the good old days when they were younger.

Evidence suggests that Kenyatta entered office with high ideals and a genuine determination to make good. But the honey moon was quickly and rudely brought to an end as crisis after crisis hit the infant administration. There was the scary army mutiny at Lanet in 1964 just a few months into the Kenyatta administration. There were numerous coups in other African countries most notably Nigeria. Closer to home there was the extremely bloody coup and revolution in neighbouring Zanzibar.

It soon became very clear that there were plenty of threats to the presidency which had to be addressed immediately. Kenyatta started by appointing close relatives and village mates to sensitive positions in the security forces. Later after the assassination of Tom Mboya the Kenyatta administration launched secret oath-taking amongst those same senior officials in the security forces.

Then the threat that all three men have faced early in their presidency also quickly emerged for Kenyatta. The dominant economic force at independence was the small group of white settlers who had chosen to stay. The president’s close advisors correctly identified this small group as a potential threat to the presidency. In such a poor country as Kenya, money can do a lot of damage in any political cause. These settlers were the financiers of KADU which was the main political opposition to Jomo Kenyatta’s KANU. These settlers had never really trusted Jomo Kenyatta and it would only be natural for them to jump at the first chance at a change of guard.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Kenyatta’s early years in State house were chiefly occupied with neutralizing these threats. We shall now see exactly how that was done, sometimes pretty ruthlessly.

To be continued: In the next post; Was Kenyatta capable of siring children after detention?

Get a Free copy of almost the entire book Dark Secrets of the Kenyan Presidency

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

9 comments:

benson said...

It is true that the previous two gorverment were bad.But Kibaki one has done alot,road,economy,freedom of speech etc. look at the glass half full not half empty.

Abass said...

I do not think that the Mau Mau uprising was futile as you seem to suggest. It was always obvious that the British with their superior military could easily crash the Mau Mau militarily any day. But the Mau Mau, even though it never had a chance militarily against the might of the British army, set the ball rolling towards independence.

You have to understand the aim of freedom fighting and resistance. The desire is not a military victory as that is almost impossible given the always military superiority of the other side. It is meant to make life so difficult for the colonisers that they will eventually be forced to accept or offer concession to the people they are colonising, something that would be impossible if there is no resistance. It is not by accident that independence from colonialism, across the entire world, came almost exclusively after an armed rebellion. You are misguided if you think independence would have come if everyone was a collaborator and there was no one standing up to the colonisers.

So I think in hindsight, we should always admire the courage and the desire of a few to put their lives down so that those after them can enjoy freedom. To this end, we should always respect and appreciate the effort of the Mau Mau and not be dismissive or give it a lip service as our politicians do.

Anonymous said...

Mau: KIbaki supports PM

President Kibaki has backed Prime Minister Raila Odinga's push to conserve the Mau Forest complex.

"Omena imetoka Mau lakini Mbuta bado wako. Hiyo Mbuta pia tutatoa. Waswahili wanasema siku za mwizi ni arobaini," said Mr Odinga in Kiswahili.



In his Jamhuri Day address the President said the government was keen on conserving the Mau and other water catchments in Kenya.

"We have taken decisive measures to conserve the five main water towers of Mau, Cherangany, Mt Kenya, Mt Elgon and Aberdares. Our aim is to ensure that forests and water catchments are properly conserved," said President Kibaki during the celebrations at Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.

He said that the government had employed many young Kenyans under the Trees for Jobs programme implemented in 46 districts so far in its reforestation efforts.

"To enable all Kenyans access adequate water and other environmental services, the Government is currently implementing a “Trees for Jobs” programme in 46 districts that has so far employed nearly 16,000 young people, and will have over 65 million tree seedlings available for reforestation.

"Members of the armed forces will also be expected to take part in this aggressive tree planting campaign," he said.

Mr Odinga told the crowd that he will not relent in his fight to reclaim the Mau despite "noise" from certain quarters adding that the government was moving into the next phase of evictions.

"Omena imetoka Mau lakini Mbuta bado wako. Hiyo Mbuta pia tutatoa. Waswahili wanasema siku za mwizi ni arobaini," said Mr Odinga in Kiswahili.

(The small fish are out of Mau but the big fish are still there. We will also remove the big fish. The Swahili say a thief's days are numbered.)

The PM flew back into the country Saturday morning from Copenhagen, Denmark where he was attending the climate change summit to join in the Jamhuri celebrations.

President Kibaki also restated Kenya's desire to have the United Nations Environmental Programme upgraded to a world environmental body.

"Indeed as the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Program, Kenya will continue playing a leading role in regional environmental conservation. The government will also be appealing to World leaders meeting in Copenhagen to strengthen UNEP into a World Environmental Organisation that Kenya stands ready to host."

The Mau issue has been a stern test to Mr Odinga's political ambitions with his party, the Orange Democratic Movement divided over the evictions.

A section of ODM MPs, largely from the Rift Valley, has vehemently opposed the evictions saying the resettlement of squatters from the country's largest water tower was done in an inhumane manner.

The leaders, led by Agriculture minister William Ruto, criticised the PM over his handling of the evictions saying the squatters were "camping by the roadside" and the move was against a Cabinet decision on the resettlement programme.

Anonymous said...

Hajujakucha said:

Still many Kenyans cling to the mirage that our independence was won from a violent freedom struggle.

Kenyans and others across the world who revere and recognize the gallant Mau Mau warriors, do not do so claiming that Mau Mau millitarily beat the British. The same way as most who respect Mandela do not claim that his spearheading of Umkonto we Sizwe is what dealt the final blow to the Apartheid regime...

People understand the limitations of armed resistance especially when the odds are insanely stacked against those resisting. What we recognize and honor is the GUTS and sacrificial martyrdom of those who for reasons larger than themselves, opted to take arms to fight for their and their children's freedom. In fact, the fact that Mau Mau did not stand a chance of defeating the might of the most powerful army in the world (then)but chose to take arms against it nevertheless, should make us realize the extent to which they were committed to the liberation of their people.

It is very painful to see tribal jingoism turn fellow Africans into peddlers of colonial history. It is perhaps incidental that Mau Mau was comprised mainly of Kikuyus...after all they took the most brunt of colonialism. But it is something that every Black Man in the world should be united in recognizing and honoring...that our grandfathers took arms and stood up to the mighitiest army even knowing that by doing so they were digging their own graves.

Part of the process of decolonization entails the former colonized writing history which for the most part had been slanted by the colonizer. Through writers such as Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Grace Ogot, Kenyans have strived towards that end. Unfortunately, Kumekucha is tirelessly working to undo all that.

Black Oak said...

Chris, what is your obsession with undermining the great and symbolic role of the Mau Mau? Hope you do not mention Mau Mau in your part 2 of the series

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, Kumekucha is tirelessly working to undo all that."

Someone, maybe Obama, said that those swimming against the tide of history will not succeed. Yet another (I dont know who) said that a croaking frog does not prevent a cow from drinking from the stream. Regardless of Kumekucha's attempts at distorting and/or revising history, the facts will not change. Bonne chance!

Anonymous said...

Attention to the author of the "Dark Secrets of Kenya's Presidency - Part I"

Help us educate ourselves and at the same time learn more about our nation's history, by providing us with some new twist, nuggets of information or old morsels information that has never been told, heard or published in the past.

Suprise some of us, your Kumekucha's idle obervers for a change.

@3:00 PM
#
Swimming against the tide of history will not succeed. Whose history do you (we) have in mind?

What a bout those people who love to flow with the tide of fabricated history? Do they alawys succeed?

##
A croaking frog may not prevent a cow (an elephant is the animal in the original version) from drinking deadly waters from an infected stream (river). But a swarm of bees will drive a herd of cattle (elephants) crashing to each other death in a sudden stampede.

###
When and where does Kenya's history begin?

Keep in mind that Kenya's history as told by the colonial settler/author/writer/missionary/tourist from the storytelling club (historical society) has been distorted since the mid-late 1800s, and early-mid 1900s to benefit the shrewd storyteller.

A lot of revisionist history took place during the WWI, WWII and thereafter.

####
History is in the mind of the beholder.

Mau Mau sympathizers have a different version of events from that held by the colonial symbathizers aka patriotic home guards, loyalists, Mau Mau turncoats, and fence sitters.

Be my guest and tell me otherwise.

#####
That facts will not change

What facts? When were the facts established and by what historical party?

What about fabricated facts? Wiil they ever change?

lol! For instance, take a good second look at Christmas season. There people who will kill you or run you out of town (any european country), if you told (reminded) them that the Christmas Day 25th of December is a political/pagan fabrication with no religious relevance.

And that Christmas tree, nativity scene and Santa Claus are major commercial inducements. There is no religious value to the end years hadditives.

Jesus son of Mary was not born on a cold winter morning?

All Christmas carols are later day European inventions that have no Middle Eastern connotation or religious traditions.

Catholics in Nyeri will kill you or stone you to death, if you dare remind them to carry a statue of a BLACK MADONA rather than usual ones that have been made in the image of a EUROPEAN (ITALIAN) WOMAN.

Talk of facts that will never change our backyards in Kenya as we know it.

Anonymous said...

Thinks we should give this article a chance till part 4 before we can so aggressively attack the writer.

First I think he is giving a different side of the same story which to me sounds true. (every story has two or more sides to it)

Second I think the history we know now about kenya is totally fabricated esp by the first -Kenyatta- government

Third which I so strongly believe Kenyatta on the other hand closly worked with the colonizers. Reason behind the british being so comfortable with leaving him in power.

And lastly KUDOS to the mau mau for what they so strongly believed in and gave up for the contry's independence.

Anonymous said...

Anon8.23am

Religion is such brain washing. The other day I told a christian I am a Skeptic (basically an atheist) and he said I am just following wazungus. I reminded him of the wazungu missionaries (am aware some parts of north africa had some of christainity around 300CE). kEnyans believe they invented christainity.

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