April 16, 2015
On 21st May 2008, I posted an article on the now defunct ‘African Path’ website about the then xenophobic attacks by black South Africans on other blacks in South Africa, which ended in around 62 fatalities and massive property destruction. Many believe that the latest violence in Durban erupted after the influential Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini recently said that foreigners should “pack their bags” and leave. Xenophobia means “intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.” This morning, my good friend from Uganda, Mr. Godfrey Onen Omony who lives in Stockholm, shared the following thoughts on WhatsApp, concerning the violence: “After the downfall of apartheid, all the black presidents (up to Zuma) who ruled SA did not address the apartheid-enforced issues of poverty, unemployment, education and healthcare among the poor blacks, coloured and Indians. They are all big headed corrupt thugs and idiots.” What is your take on the violence? Below is a verbatim copy of my 2008 piece.
We currently see ghastly pictures and read disturbing stories about the raw brutality unleashed by Black South Africans on foreign Black Africans. Why? Is it because of fear, hatred, wrong names and languages or perceived physical differences between them? Are the foreigners bearing the brunt of anger because it is assumed they enjoy the wealth that remains elusive to majority South Africans? Will the violence make the government improve its wealth distribution strategies?
I agree with Sokari Ekine that the present government has failed miserably in its post-apartheid economic reforms. I was in South Africa when Archbishop Desmond Tutu delivered the 2004 Nelson Mandela Lecture which described South Africa’s rising poverty as a powder keg waiting to explode, if no immediate solutions were found. He also criticized the Black Economic Empowerment program for favoring a small section of the emerging black elites thereby shutting out many blacks from sharing wealth. Some black ANC politicians defended the program saying many South Africans were better off today than during the apartheid era. When I discussed Tutu’s speech with some blacks, they told me that South Africans were doing just fine compared to the Palestinians who were then being confronted by the Israelis.
My take on xenophobia
In my opinion, xenophobia in South Africa (SA) is a product of the former Apartheid system that segregated races and communities thereby raising suspicions towards ‘outsiders’. Before I got started on this article, I thought of one song called Chileshe by South Africa’s great singer, Hugh Masekela. I looked at the CD cover which I have at home then googled to see if I could use its words and Voilà! Koluki had already done this last January. The song was originally sang in 1968 and urged black South Africans not to mistreat or call other blacks dirty names as done to them by whites during apartheid.
I cite a few lines from the cover: “With the influx today of peoples from all over the African Diaspora into South Africa, the level of xenophobia has risen to disgusting heights. Most paradoxically, the song is even more popular amongst black South Africans today and is deeply loved by the new immigrants which helped the ‘Black To The Future’ album to platinum heights.” It is important to note that the song focuses on the period when Africans from the neighboring countries used to flock the mines of Johannesburg to work. Already then, the Johannesburg people viewed themselves as more ‘advanced and civilized’ than those outsiders. Did black South Africans develop the current animosity when they refused to work in the mines but saw outsiders doing so, thereby earning income at their expense? Is it by coincidence that the present violence is centered in Johannesburg?
There are so many experiences that could add up to the current animosity targeted on non-South African blacks. A term that best defines how black foreigners are described by SA blacks is Makwerekwere. Henk Rossouw (a white South African) has penned experiences from his Zimbabwean wife about this: “I remember the guard called us dogs. And when I worked in the clothing factory they called us makwerekwere because South Africans say that the voices of black immigrants scrape against their ears, like insects.” From her experience, it does not matter that a black South African is physically darker than an outsider; he/she will ‘sniff’ you out directly because they know foreigners.
I recall reading another makwerekwere experience by Alois Rwiyegura in 2005 who was shocked when he was first called so. Even the police use this term when they stop non-SA blacks to check their papers (identification cards or passports). This is reminiscent of the PASS days when the apartheid police dealt ruthlessly with blacks who did not carry the right identification papers.
Lack of exposure and suspicious minds
During my first visit to Johannesburg in 2002, a colored policeman beckoned me with a gun out of a group of two other African colleagues as we went to meet a friend at the main train station. When I came closer, he asked whether I was from “Niger”, possibly Nigeria. I answered “NO” and asked to see my passport. I answered that I did not know there was a rule to walk with one. I showed him my Swedish national ID card which he could not understand its contents. One of my colleagues then produced his South African work ID card and said that I was a guest from Europe. That was when the policeman eased up and told me to be careful with my money and to enjoy my stay.
I also spent a lot of time talking to various people, watching TV and traveling to understand the social disparities especially among blacks. There was once a violent clash in a Johannesburg slum between black refugees and black South Africans, which ended in fatalities and fires that gutted a large number of shacks. The foreigners were then blamed for robberies, ‘stealing’ South African women and taking local jobs. When Ms. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela visited the slum to console the victims, she shed tears for the poor conditions they lived in. They showed her bags of rotten maize meal which were provided to them by authorities as part of the feeding program. She begged the South Africans to treat foreign Africans with dignity because they had accepted them in their countries during the anti-apartheid struggle.
Whenever I had an opportunity to socialize with black students at my host university, I realized that many were quite naïve and ignorant about other Africans outside their country. Quite a few had traveled within SA, let alone Africa. For instance, when they asked whether I was born in Sweden and I answered “No, I was born in Kenya”, they did not know the geographical location of Kenya. One breathed a sigh of relief when I explained that Kenya was in Africa. He then told me: “But we are feeding your people; we have so much food”; meaning that any African who was not South African depended on them. This period was also when Swaziland was going through a very bad drought and had to import maize from South Africa. They equally believed that their country was the largest in Africa.
The same students kept telling me how blessed SA was to be leading Africa from the bottom (geographically). Her position dominates the whole continent in terms of wealth and military prowess. When I told them about my objection to their government’s huge investment in the Swedish jet fighters called JAS-39 Gripen instead of improving the wellbeing of the poor, they were categorical that they needed the jets so that no African country could attack them, etc.
It was interesting to see the reaction of some black students when they visited my room at the guest house outside the university that hosted me. They were shocked to learn that I paid 150 rand per day for accommodation. It was unaffordable for the majority and they immediately asked if the South African government was paying for this. I told them it was part of my research funding from Sweden. I then reminded them that they had said they fed other Africans, so why were they shocked at the cost of my accommodation?
Another very interesting observation was when people greeted me in the local language (Setswana) yet I could not reply. One afternoon I was walking with the lady who owned the guest house to take a helicopter ride offered by one of her guests (a white man), who was a pilot. Two black men said hello at the entrance of the venue. Naturally, I did not understand but the landlady did (she is white but was brought up on a farm where they had black workers so had learnt Setswana). After walking a few meters ahead, she told me that those people said bad things about me because I had refused to return their greetings.
I had a similar experience in 2004 while in Durban and wore a shirt decorated with pictures of African wildlife. A man then began speaking to me in the Zulu language. I politely asked him to speak in English because I could not understand him. He replied that so many black South Africans were acquiring a bad habit of running away from their traditions by pretending not to understand their mother-tongue. I insisted I was not even South African, but he refused until I had to move away from him.
Who is a South African?
I conclude with a quote from Michael Bleby’s latest op-ed on the violence: “South Africa will only free itself from the sort of violence it faces right now when its practical policies of redress and affirmative action are informed by a level of thought that does not seek to define what it means to be South African, but permits an evolving definition. This is the only way to resolve the inherent contradiction of a society trying to alter the imbalances of the past 350 years while fostering a sense of national identity that embraces all people and that all people embrace. The alternative is too horrific to contemplate: Today it’s South Africans versus Zimbabweans. Tomorrow it’s white South Africans versus black South Africans and the following day it will be Zulus and Xhosas fighting each other. This is a downward spiral.”
April 15, 2015
It is with great sadness that the family of Jackie Omino, Caro Omino and Mary Omino, Kenya-Stockholmers, announce the passing of their dad in Kenya after a long illness. Since the three sisters are either in Kenya or on their way, friends, well-wishers and sympathizers are requested to get in touch with Lenza Odhiambo at 0739355553 for messages of condolences and solidarity. The departed dad is a brother to Job Omino, former Kisumu MP.
KSB sends deep condolences to the bereaved family following the passing of a loved member and pillar of the family. We hope that the family will father the necessary strength to go through this difficult moment of grief and mourning. May God rest the departed soul in Eternal Peace.
April 8, 2015
As Kenyans come to terms with the painful outcome of the terrorist attack at Garissa University College on 02 April 2015, many wonder why the Government of Uhuru Kenyatta did not deploy the elite Recce Squad of the General Service Unit (GSU) immediately, since they are trained for close-quarters fighting. The Squad has now been allocated two helicopters for future operations: too little too late. President Uhuru Kenyatta should have taken political responsibility and resigned for all the lives that have been lost due to terrorism, since the Westgate attack in 2013.
As noted in Part II of this series, Uhuru Kenyatta has never been to Mandera or Mpeketoni to show compassion for the brutal murders by al-Shabaab in 2014. Even if the victims were non-residents, he should have by now met the local community leaders to reassure them of better security and cohesion with other tribes. For two days on June 15-17, the Shabaab members went on a killing spree for hours in Mpeketoni-Lamu, and mainly targeted the helpless members of Uhuru’s ethnic Kikuyu community. It is important to note that the North-Eastern and Coastal regions of Kenya which are dominated by the Somali and Muslim communities have been marginalized historically, and harbor bitterness due to socio-economic disparities. They feel that over the years, each ruling government has treated them like second class citizens. Mandera County for instance, began constructing its first tarmac road in 2014.
It is a fact that al-Shabaab is composed of indigenous Kenyan members and sympathizers who may not necessarily be from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, a Kenyan man of Somali ethnicity identified as Abdirahim Abdullahi who graduated with a law degree from the University of Nairobi in 2013, was one of the killers in the Garissa massacre. His father, a chief in Mandera County, reported that Abdirahim had disappeared for one year to possibly join al-Shabaab in Somalia.
In October 2011, the then 28-year old Elgiva Bwire Oliacha alias Mohamed Seif, was jailed for life by a Nairobi court, for being involved in a grenade attack at the OTC bus stage, which caused serious harm to two Kenyan men. The state prosecutor handling his case mentioned that Bwire had supervised and directed the attack. He converted from Christianity to Islam in 2005, then went to Somalia in 2010, where according to court records, he received training by al-Shabaab on how to attack using firearms and ammunition. He returned to Kenya in August 2011, and recruited at least two men to join terrorist activities. Bwire hails from Budalang’i constituency in Busia County, which is part of the Luhya community. The Jubilee government is therefore aware of Kenyans who are members of al-Shabaab, but due to corruption (bribery for freedom when arrested), poor intelligence and evidence gathering, many terror suspects are never brought to book.
Jubilee government lies and propaganda
Ms. Tabitha Mutuku, a Kenyan woman interviewed recently by the BBC, said her late son who studied at Garissa University College, told her in 2014 that al-Shabaab had sworn to destroy the institution. Additionally, media reports indicate that the principal of Garissa Teachers Training College had asked the students to go home on March 31, 2015 because some strangers suspected to be terrorists, had been spotted in Garissa town. If such information was already floating around, why did the Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery lie that they had been caught unawares?
Since October 2011, Kenyan military troops have been in Somalia to “push back” al-Shabaab that had been attacking and kidnapping tourists along the Coastal region of the country. Elgiva Bwire whose case has been mentioned above, threw grenades at the OTC bus stage in Nairobi just two weeks after the Kenyan troops had invaded Somalia. He told investigators: “If they killed some of our members in Somalia, I had to kill some civilians here. It was tit for tat.” The Kenyan Government must go back to his case and ask why he, who is not a Somali by origin, had committed that act.
According to Reverend Wellington Mutiso, the head of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, “It is the recent coverts who [are] being used to bomb churches. It is not members of the Somali, Boran, or Swahili communities, which have many Muslims, but the other tribes which have been known to follow Christianity, like the Luo, Kikuyu, or Luhya.” In 2012, Fredrick Nzwili wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that: “Al Shabab, a militant Islamist group with ties to Al Qaeda, is no longer relying on its traditional base of Somali or Swahili Muslims. Instead, the group is recruiting a new multi-ethnic band of recruits, many of whom are former Christians, making it more difficult to identify would be attackers.”
On April 06, 2015 the Kenyan Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed was interviewed about the Garissa massacre by Ms. Christiane Amanpour on CNN. To the utter shock of world viewers, she fumbled with words and became irrelevant, veering off the reality faced by survivors concerning the slow security response in Garissa. Accounts from the survivors and family members who are undergoing trauma do not match her stupid damage control on TV that was full of lies. Kenyans are doomed with such leaders.
Proxy war and charcoal trade
The United Nations (UN) has investigated various sources of financing al-Shabaab and a lucrative one was found to be in the export of charcoal from Somalia to the Gulf region. Although the UN banned charcoal exports in 2012, al-Shabaab still makes around USD 25 million from the overall sale of USD 384 million from ‘taxing’ transporters and ‘shareholders’. A piece titled “A charred harvest” in the Economist Oct 11th 2014 noted that: “The UN investigators claim, in a report presented to the UN Security Council, that profits from Kismayo’s exports are divided between rebels, the region’s government and members of the Kenyan army—which has guarded the port since its capture from the Shabab in 2012.” The bounty is part of what pays for the import of weapons from Yemen into Somalia, and eventually into Kenya to kill innocent citizens.
In July 2014, the Gem Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Jakoyo Midiwo, who belongs to the CORD Opposition alliance, claimed in Parliament that it was public knowledge Majority Leader in the National Assembly of Kenya, Aden Duale, was part of the charcoal trade in Somalia. Duale is also the MP for Garissa Township Constituency in Garissa County, and comes from the Audaq of the Talamooge sub-clan, which is part of the larger Ogaden clan. Kenya’s most wanted man, (with a bounty of KES 20 million on his head), Dulyadin Gamadhere alias Mohammed Kuno who is an al-Shabaab leader, is a Kenyan national also from Duale’s Ogaden clan. Uhuru’s Government has never commented on Midiwo’s allegation.
In July 1993, two Kenyans working with Reuters television, Hosea Maina a photographer, and Anthony Macharia, a soundman, were beaten, stoned and stabbed to death by an angry mob in Mogadishu, Somalia, alongside two Western photographers when they had been invited to inspect the damage caused by an aerial attack by the UN, on a rebel command post which had killed more than 70 Somalis. Does Uhuru Kenyatta know whom he is fighting in the name of al-Shabaab? Is Kenya fighting a proxy war? Does Uhuru have an exit strategy from Somalia?
As long as Uhuru and his extremely rich and corrupt cronies continue to marginalize the North-Eastern and Coastal regions economically, Kenya will remain a breeding ground for al-Shabaab extremists. The Recce Squad members were paid KES 500 (around USD 5) only per person for lunch, to undertake the risky job of eliminating the militants in Garissa. Further, the squad members have been reduced to guarding the big-bellied politicians and other good-for-nothing Kenyan VIPs, instead of being put into good use to protect Kenyans who pay heavy taxes to maintain Kenyatta’s corrupt government that does not care for their lives. Meanwhile, the Kenyan Members of Parliament earn more than USD 15,000 per month and Cabinet Secretaries have a monthly house allowance of KES 200,000 per month, beside their almost KES 1 million monthly salary. On average, a Kenyan worker earns around USD 1,500 per year. In Kenya, the rich get richer at the expense of the poor taxpayer. Uhuru Kenyatta should ask himself, why then, would a Kenyan youth not become radicalized? TUMECHOKA!
April 5, 2015
First and foremost, I send my sincere and heartfelt condolences to all those who lost their loved ones on April 2, 2015 during the horrible attack by al-Shabaab terrorists at Garissa University College in Kenya. There were at least 142 students from the total number of 148 people who were killed. Secondly, I strongly condemn the callous actions of the killers who cut short the lives of those young and hopeful Kenyans, who had nothing to do with their evil minds.
Apart from the above, I am angered that President Uhuru Kenyatta rubbished the travel advisory issued particularly by the United Kingdom government on March 27, 2015 which warned about an impending terror attack in Garissa. “There is a high threat of kidnapping in the areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somalia border, in Garissa County and in coastal areas north of Pate Island”, according to a section of the dispatch. Uhuru was cited in the media on April 01, saying: “As much as they say they don’t want their taxi drivers to come, President Obama has said he is coming.” The Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary (CS) Joseph Nkaissery, equally acted with disdain to the warning by mentioning: “As government, we strongly believe that these advisories are driven by considerations, other than insecurity.” A day later when Garissa University College was attacked, Nkaissery responded that: “We were taken by surprise.”
Uhuru has been reckless with his words in the past, such as when he asked where the parents of a three year-old girl were, when she was raped by her uncles last November. Which normal parent would knowingly let their child be raped? Travel advisories by the European, Australian and American foreign offices should be taken seriously by sharing information across the security arms of the government to prevent unnecessary deaths. If Uhuru has a personal problem with the British because of refusal by the UK government to support Uhuru’s anti-ICC rhetoric since the son of Kenyatta came to power, he should solve it instead of sacrificing the security of millions of Kenyans.
Ironically, in 2013 Uhuru hired the London-based British PR firm, BTP Advisers, to run his presidential campaigns which reportedly cost 100 million euros (KES 10 billion). He has now added former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to his list of advisers. Uhuru’s family and a small group of Europeans, mainly of British descent, own some four million acres of land in Kenya. In 1943, Englishwoman Edna Clarke bore a son for his late father President Jomo Kenyatta, named Peter Magana Kenyatta. Moreover, the mother of Margaret, Uhuru’s wife, is German. He should therefore stop fooling Kenyans that he has a problem with white people, yet he is filthy rich and is much closer to them, than his poor sycophants.
Ineptitude and misplaced priorities
The Kenyatta regime has not learnt much since the Westgate Mall attack by al-Shabaab in September 2013. The group continues to kill knowing that the response by Kenyan security is often slow and ineffective. Harrowing narratives are gradually coming from some of the Garissa massacre survivors, who will remain scarred for life, because they either saw or heard their colleagues dying painfully from gunshot or machete wounds. Media reports indicate that it took seven hours for the Recce Squad of the General Service Unit (GSU) to get orders to fly to Garissa, after being alerted at 6 a.m. The first responders who were regular police, were overwhelmed at the scene and received support from the military personnel based at the Garissa barracks. However, they could also not do much since they are not trained for close combat like the GSU. Meanwhile, the four Shabaab members had a field day taunting and laughing at the terrified students, whom they slaughtered without fear.
Once again, Kenyans died mainly because they could not be saved on time due to logistical and decision-making weaknesses that saw the Interior CS Nkaissery and the Inspector General (IG) of Police Boinnet, board a plane to Garissa instead of flying the Recce Squad there immediately. The April 5, 2015 Sunday Nation newspaper has revealed that 18 members of the GSU were eventually deployed to Garissa and within 30 minutes, they had killed the Shabaab militants. It is claimed that the delay in flying the squad members was due to their heavy equipment which could not fit into the available police airplanes. The Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka has been quoted in the Sunday Nation saying that the nine hours taken by GSU to respond was normal, since they had many moving parts. Really?
When former Prime Minister Raila Odinga was preparing to bury his late son Fidel Odinga in January 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta personally offered four military helicopters to ease transportation to his rural home. Since he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defense Forces, why did he not order the military to provide choppers to deploy the Recce Squad members immediately to Garissa? Talk about misplaced priorities. Most of those students endured pain and psychological torture while trapped in their hostels waiting to be butchered, yet Uhuru was sitting in Nairobi knowing so well that he could have reduced the casualty by ordering a faster response. Has he ever learnt from the past? Apparently not, since he has never bothered to visit Mandera after the brutal killings of 28 teachers on a Nairobi-bound bus in November 2014, and soon after, 36 quarry workers, by the Shabaab. When more than 60 people were killed by al-Shabaab in Mpeketoni, Lamu County for two days in June 2014, Uhuru was quick to blame local politicians, especially CORD, the Opposition alliance. Later in early 2015, the Shabaab released a blood-chilling video showing how they entered Mpeketoni and slaughtered innocent Kenyans. Uhuru has never commented on the video and has no guts to call the killers by their name, al-Shabaab, and always refers to them as “our enemy.”
Uhuru the non-caring president
When Garissa University was attacked, Kenyatta went against a court ruling which had stopped the intake of police recruits in 2014, by ordering that they be taken for training immediately, at the police college in Kiganjo. According to him, the country does not have enough security personnel. However, the process had been stopped because of the bribes those potential recruits had paid to the recruiting officers. Uhuru issued an executive order on the matter, yet he could not exercise the same to reduce the brutal murders of those innocent students in Garissa. It is beyond imagination that four terrorists had a standoff with military troops for more than ten hours.
Beyond the Shabaab attacks, Kenyans are generally not secure and feel that the president does not care about them and only reacts with threats when killings have already taken place. Uhuru mentioned in 2014 that Kenyans should be responsible for their own security. Maybe the government’s slow response in Garissa was an example of what he meant. He should be aware that the immediate former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria ran out of luck because Nigerians felt he had failed to stop the perpetual killings by Boko Haram, and could not control corruption. As millions of Kenyans remain disillusioned with Uhuru’s failure to keep security in Kenya, and with the latest attacks at the University, there is every indication that the situation will only get worse. Kenyans should anticipate more attacks because the corrupt Uhuru government in incapable of governing, let alone keep security. Kenya needs a regime change.