This year’s Jamhuri day celebrations in Nairobi was marked by bitter protests by Kenyans which saw the arrest of journalists, brutalization of activists by equally brutal security guards and attempts by a section of protesters to disrupt the Jamhuri celebrations altogether as President Kibaki was giving his key-note speech.
At the center of the protests is the controversial passing by Parliament of the draconian Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008, high food prices that have led to starvation of millions of poor Kenyans across Kenya, failure by MPs to pay taxes for their million salaries and misplaced expenditure and looting of the economy by the ruling class as the country continues to beg for hand-outs from agents of Western imperialism represented by the United States, Britain and the European Union.
The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008 will basically allow the Minister of Internal Security to raid Media houses with impunity, seize equipment, arrest journalists at will and disable the Press anytime in Kenya. If converted into law by President Kibaki who is yet to accent to the bill, the move will amount to one of the most serious attacks on Press freedom in Kenya since the days of the Moi dictatorship which trampled on freedom of Press with impunity during his twenty four year reign of unmitigated terror.
When the Coalition took over government with President Mwai Kibaki as Head of State and Raila Odinga as Prime Minister, the general belief of Kenyans was that the government would move along the path of expanding the democratic space that would accord the Media greater freedom. In the absence of a political Opposition on the ground, the Media remains the public’s trusted watchdog and it is for this reason that any legislation designed to narrow or reduce Press freedom must remain suspect.
With the Media bill a few steps away from becoming law, the message the Coalition government is sending to Kenyans is that the new government is ready to violate the rights and freedoms of Kenyans (including Press freedom) which were won with sweat, pain, life and blood in protracted and bitter struggles that have been well documented in history books. This is unacceptable to say the least.
The scandalous attack on The East African Standard by the Kibaki dictatorship is still fresh on the memories of Kenyans and what the new Media bill being peddled by the Coalition is designed to do is to facilitate such attacks at anytime, at any Media house and for any reason. From the position of ODM-Scandinavia, the enactment of the Media bill amounts to a roll-back of the democratic gains of the last three decades, a move that should be resisted by all Kenyans and by any means necessary.
Arrests were illegal, draconian, oppressive and heavy handed
We congratulate the gallant Kenyans who took the unprecedented step of confronting the Kibaki-Raila dictatorship head-on with respect to the key issues mentioned. Apart from struggle, there is no short cut to freedom and liberation of a people suffering under the york of oppression, mass poverty, hunger and deprivation in the midst of plenty. As yesterday’s freedom fighters become today’s sell outs, new revolutionaries have to emerge to continue with the people’s struggle while learning from mistakes of the past. The Jamhuri protests should mark the beginning of a new era of struggle, not just against wealth grabbers who have refused to pay taxes but also against the exploitative system of Capitalism used by the rotten ruling class to keep the masses of Kenyan people deprived as the so called leaders lead opulent life-styles at Tax payer’s expense.
The Orange Democratic Movement in Scandinavia (ODM-Scandinavia) condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the arrest and brutalization of Kenyans who were protesting against the new Media bill on Jamhuri day together with those who sought to bring to the attention of the government the reality of high food prices that has created mass starvation across the country at a critical time when millions of Kenyans find it difficult to put food on the table.
Most importantly, ODM-Scandinavia is very disturbed with the arrest of activists who wore T-shirts calling for MPs to pay taxes and which advised Kenyans to stop paying taxes if MPs cannot do the same.
There can be no taxation without representation and if MPs who are supposed to represent the taxpayer cannot themselves pay taxes, then there is no justification whatsoever why Kenyans should continue paying taxes which are, nevertheless, looted by the greedy ruling classes.
We have in mind the arrest of Mwalimu Mati, the Chairman of the MARS Group who was taken into custody together with his wife, the arrest and brutalization of Mr. Odhiambo Owuor who has since been admitted to Nairobi Women’s hospital from where he claimed that members of the Presidential security guards tortured him, the arrest of several journalists who were protesting against the Media bill and the taking into police custody of several activists who were simply exercising their freedom of expression in independent Kenya by putting on T-shirts with a political message.
By arresting Owuor, the government has proven its primitivity because it should have accepted Owuor’s message to understand what he wanted to tell the President since he was un-armed and of no threat to the President. Instead, he says that he was on his way to being castrated.
The position of ODM-Scandinavia is that in making the illegal arrests, the action of the government was illegal, draconian, oppressive and heavy handed, given that those arrested had not committed any crime. The illegal arrests is further evidence that there is nothing to celebrate on Jamhuri day because Kenyans now have to go back to struggle to defend freedoms that were won decades ago.
ODM-Scandinavia warns the Coalition government that its attempt to revert Kenya back to the days of dictatorship of the Moi type will not be tolerated by Kenyans under any circumstance. We call for the unconditional release of all those arrested with immediate effect.
After stealing elections and installing himself illegally as President, the least Kenyans expect from Kibaki is a blatant attack on Press freedom and attack on both the right to free Assembly and freedom of speech.
Instead of instigating these attacks, the Coalition government should concentrate on lowering food and fuel prices, disbanding the ECK which helped Kibaki to steal elections, deliver a new Constitution to Kenyans and get the thieving MPs to pay taxes like all tax payers in Kenya. The struggle against the dictatorship of the Coalition government has just began.