KSB has received mails enquring what needs to be done in the situation in Kenya. Some readers have raised the issue of ”Armed struggle”. We are re-circulating an article on this subject first published in December 1999 in ”Harakati” which used to be the mouth piece of “Kenya Youth Movement In Sweden”. The article is not related to the situation in Kenya today but answers certain questions raised by readers about the subject.
No doubt armed struggle is a recognised method of struggle that has succeeded in bringing many liberation movements to power across the world. Russia, Cuba, China, North Korea, Spain and other numerous historical examples across the world show the huge possibilities of overthrowing Dictatorial regimes by taking up arms. In Columbia and Mexico, armed leftist guerillas have been waging a guerilla war against capitalist regimes in the region for decades. Some of these Movements control vast territories. The military threat posed to the Turkish State by armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) forced Imperialist forces to help Turkey capture Abdullah Ocalan (the PKK leader) who was kidnapped in Kenya in February 1999 through the collaboration of the Dictatorial regime of Daniel arap Moi.
In South East Asia, East Timor has just gained it’s independence after a protracted armed struggle that eventually forced the Suharto regime to allow for a referendum on the question of Timorese independence. Guerilla wars are continuing in the Philippines and Sri Lanka where hundreds of civilians continue to lose their lives in protracted armed conflicts. In Britain, the IRA’s prospect of participating in the running of the Irish government is a direct product of decades of bloody terrorism and urban guerilla warfare. Peace talks between armed BASQUE separatist Movement and the Spanish government have just collapsed, opening the way for fresh bloodshed.
In Africa, the Mau Mau of Kenya took up arms in a bloody war against British colonialists before the Movement was betrayed by home guards. Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Algeria, Ethiopia and Uganda are examples where organised armed liberation movements succeeded in coming to power. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe had to arm his movement to seize power while the case of Amilcar Cabral and his guerilla Movement in Guinea Bissau still remains the subject of hot debate. Eritrea, the newest State in Africa, got it’s independence after the Eritrean Liberation Front waged a 30 year armed insurrection against the deposed Bonapartist regime of Mengistu Hail Mariam. Because of the numerous dimensions of the “military option” in revolution, we will deal here with the question of armed struggle very generally.
IS AN ARMED STRUGGLE NECESSARY IN KENYA?
Can an old Dictatorial regime that Daniel arap Moi heads in Kenya be overthrown through guerilla war fare? Is an armed struggle necessary in Kenya and does overthrowing a regime through this method of struggle automatically lead to a revolutionary transformation of society? These questions are important because workers and the oppressed in Kenya are losing hope in the ability of the capitalist opposition to give direction in the face of deep crisis.
The issue of armed struggle is finding it’s way in different Kenyan discussion forums both at home and abroad. In Kenya, the American-sponsored National Council Executive Committee (NCEC) has publicly called for the Kenyan Armed Forces to intervene in the country’s politics, thereby exposing the confusion and naivety that exists in the country as to the role of the standing army in a capitalist State, the futility of military intervention in the democratic process and what needs to be done to solve the crisis in our country.
The frequency of armed skirmishes between “cattle rustlers” and security forces in North Eastern Province together, with the spreading of anti-government leaf-lets by previously unknown groups claiming to be armed has raised the question as to whether rudimentary guerilla activity already exists in this Province. In the recent past, a government helicopter has been downed by “armed bandits”, killing top government officials while the government has sent permanent armed detachments to the area to maintain security. Leaflets have also been spread in other parts of the country like Nakuru encouraging the Army to rebel against Moi’s dictatorship and seize power. At least one Kenyan claiming connections with a Kenyan guerilla movement is seeking asylum in Uganda.
In urban areas, thousands of sophisticated arms (including AK 47 rifles and automatic sub-machine guns) have found their way on the hands of idle unemployed youth who are using them to commit crime in order to survive. The situation is so serious that Asian capitalists in Kenya are fleeing to Europe and other destinations because the rising crime wave has destroyed the peaceful environment necessary for the quiet exploitation of the poor. Sporadic Kidnapping and bloody murders of leading Asian capitalist have led to at least one demonstration by the Asian bourgeoisie in Nairobi. The point here is that the smuggling of arms and ammunition to urban centres is already a reality. What is missing is a coordinated plan to engage in organised military activities of the urban guerilla type.
In Africa, the experience of guerilla wars has shown that this method of struggle has the capacity to overthrow those regimes and ruling classes lacking a powerful social base in the population and which have been unable to reinforce themselves adequately with the aid of foreign powers. This was especially so in the case of Uganda where Dictator Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986 by defeating a rag-tag army that had become exhausted from years of hopeless ethnic conflicts. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Laurent Kabila came to power without much opposition after defeating a demoralised Mobutu army that had not been paid their salaries for months.
In Mozambique and Angola, guerilla war led to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. This was mainly due to the weakness of the capitalist class, the total collapse of the colonial state, the impact of the guerilla war and the revolutionary movement of the Portuguese working class that was intrinsically opposed to Portugal’s continued war and colonisation of Angola. Because they borrowed their revolutionary models from the former Stalinist Soviet Union that was already staggering under the weight of bureaucracy, Mozambique and Angola ended up with Bonapartist single party dictatorships that totally sidelined the working class from the running of society.
THE MASS MOVEMENT MUST GAIN CAPACITY TO USE FORCE
Kenyan working class and the youth recognise the fact that armed force can lead to Dictator Moi’s overthrow. However, examples of genocide in Rwanda, total chaos in neighbouring Somalia, blood bath in Liberia and the fiasco in other armed conflicts in Africa have all prevented armed struggle from being seen by Kenyans as a viable option of bringing political change in the country. Many armed “wars of liberation” in Africa have, in the past, been waged without a revolutionary programme aimed at transforming society. Unfortunately, these fratricidal wars have constantly been used by the capitalist media that has implanted in the consciousness of the masses the false notion that armed struggle is an invitation to chaos.
From our view, the most formidable opposition any armed Movement will face in Kenya is military opposition from British and American imperialism. This is because Kenya is of immense political and strategic importance to both American and British imperialism. Britain controls half of foreign investments in Kenya (estimated at 500 million pounds) while the US controls half of the remainder. This is besides the fact that the CIA uses Kenya for it’s East and Central African operations. These combined imperialist interests have forced the US into maintaining a permanent base of solders at the port of Mombasa. The port has now been privatised to make it easy for US and British imperialism to use it much more effectively without government interference. To expand their understanding of possible guerilla terrains, Britain operates regular military exercises in North-Eastern Province while the US continues to send it’s military personnel to “train” Kenyan solders in readiness for “peacekeeping” operations in Africa.
If we look at Zimbabwe, the methods of guerilla war failed to overthrow capitalism but instead, led to compromise with the ruling class and with imperialism. While the Zimbabweans could sing the national anthem and raise their flag as a “free” nation, the fundamental tasks of the revolution – land to the landless, jobs for all, power to the people and other promises upon which Zimbabweans shed blood remained unfulfilled. The guerilla leadership led by Robert Mugabe reached a “settlement” with the bourgeoise because of the passivity of the working class throughout the process of revolution. Despite these setbacks witnessed in armed struggle in different parts of the world, KYMS does not rule out possible outbreak of an armed struggle in Kenya. The movement finds it necessary to contribute to the debate on armed struggle by putting forward its general perspectives on this question.
KYMS believes that armed struggle has to be developed as the struggle of the working masses, as an expression and extension of the organised strength of the working people, their social aims and their need to change society. If armed struggle is limited to armed action of guerilla detachments, the problem is that the regime will find an excuse to amass deadly military weapons and personnel intended fundamentally for use against the mass movement of the oppressed. However, when the mass movement has gained the capacity to use armed force, the question will be the amount of preparation that will be needed for the arming of the workers and youth; importing and stockpiling of the necessary arms as well as acquiring and making arms from all possible sources within the country. The issue that will have to be sorted out will be the carrying out of military training within Kenya in conjunction with the building of underground political networks of the revolutionary movements together with concrete designs of tactics and strategy.
AN UNDERGROUND PREPARATION OF TRAINED MILTIAS
Any serious movement contemplating armed struggle has to put in place a revolutionary programme that will have to be implemented upon seizure of power. This is important in preventing the development of a distorted revolution that might give rise to a new form of dictatorship over the workers and the youth. KYMS’s military policy is based on preparing the forces for the future armed insurrection against KANU or any capitalist State that succeeds it. However, the movement is opposed to any reckless and adventurist policies in the mass movement which may immediately provoke massive military retaliation against Kenyan workers and the youth, still in relatively early stages of mobilising their forces. The idea is to prepare with the eventual aim of insurrection in mind. When President Museveni seized power using force, he had to compromise with Western imperialism because Museveni’s movement did not have a revolutionary programme that had to be implemented upon a power-take-over. Now, Museveni has transformed his regime into a one party dictatorship fed by IMF and World Bank, invited Asian capitalists from Europe to exploit the country’s resources and rooted an authoritarian regime.
In the cause of the development of the revolutionary situation in Kenya, occasions for the effective use of arms will continue to arise. However, any effective armed onslaught against the armed capitalist State (with or without Moi) will require an underground preparation of the nuclei of trained workers’ militias and the youth. A plan for caching arms will have to be in place before sporadic attacks against state installations can begin. As the revolutionary situation matures, co-ordinated offensive actions would also begin as difficult questions of tactics and attention to circumstances and detail are worked out.
Guided by a clear programme for workers power, an armed struggle in Kenya remains a possible method of overthrowing capitalism in the country and setting the stage for the re-building of a new society where people can live together as equal human beings. KYMS will continue to support this method as an option alongside other methods of struggle like mass insurrection, general uprising civil disobedience and other democratic options open in the situation.
Mwai Kibaki has named his Cabinet, casting a huge dark cloud over the planned Talks with ODM on Friday. The move comes as Ghanaian President John Kufuor is on his way to Kenya to try and broker a deal between Kibaki and Odinga.
After rigging elections, this move is further evidence that Kibaki is not interested in a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Kenya but to plunge the country into further blood shed.
The Statement of the Kenya Elections Domestic Observation Forum – KEDOF has been released. Each and every information on the elctions from observers indicate that Kibaki stole the vote. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE (pdf).