Hot From The Studio
August 10, 2014
Hot From The Studio
August 6, 2014
As many relatives, friends and Comrades have aptly said, the death of Dr. Adhu Awiti, former MP for Karachuonyo, was not just devastating from the point of view of the huge void that Adhu’s departure has left behind. The death of this illustrious son of Kenya has also left a formidable challenge among Left-leaning Kenyan thinkers, political activists, fellow travelers and an assortment of Kenyan revolutionaries, active and retired.
Every time Dr. Adhu traversed the wilderness of Stockholm, he ensured that he touched base, not just to interact with the Onyangos, Wambuis, Ndambukis and the Kiplagats of Stockholm but also to avail himself for interrogation especially on core issues touching on the on-going struggle for liberation in Kenya. Adhu even accepted off-forum discussions and invited a coterie of Kenyan progressives in Stockholm to his abode in Nacka for an exploratory ideological analysis of Kenyan politics, past, present and future.
During these discussions, a dominant theme that is worth incorporating in Kenya’s political discourse following Dr. Adhu’s demise is the fate of ideological politics in Kenya and the challenges facing the Kenyan Left following theft of power by two suspected war criminals through election rigging. The situation is even more complicated because of the sudden conglomeration of latter day political opportunists of capitalist orientation within the opposition and the successful posture of imposters and other vultures of reaction as the “champions of the people”.
Although, from an ideological standpoint, there is no opposition to the rotten capitalist Jubilee political gangsters who took over State power, a significant section of the Kenyan masses has been convinced (through hysteria and political demagoguery) that an opposition does exist. The dilemma Adhu’s departure has left behind is that despite his illustrious political career that saw him detained under the former KANU/Moi dictatorship, and despite Adhu’s commitment to the establishment of a socialist Kenya under a democratic workers’ state, the last discussions with him tended to paint a pessimistic future in relation to any immediate intervention by the Left in Kenya.
Adhu’s view was that a new generation of radical Kenyan Leftists will have to emerge to continue with the ideological struggle because the known Left wing Generals had either been absorbed into the capitalist political mainstream, retreated into NGOs, went into political retirement, suffered ideological lethargy, kicked the bucket under different circumstances or betrayed the struggle and started working with the enemy.
In summary, Adhu’s candid view was that the “Mwakenya generation” had basically laid down the tools, either to live quiet lives or to dance with the thieving class of wealth grabbers that they spent the better part of their youthful lives fighting. Despite his pessimism in relation to any possible on-the-ground development of a Left wing movement or Party that could openly challenge the distorted brand of capitalism in Kenya, Adhu was very philosophical about why the Kenyan Left waned soon after the establishment of political pluralism in Kenya in the early 1990s.
The main obstacles against ideological opposition
From the discussions (which sometimes veered towards questioning his position as a former MP under a capitalist and opportunistic party) three key issues stood on the way to the construction of a socialist Movement or Party that could offer a political alternative to capitalism in Kenya. These obstacles, and the circumstances that created them, constitute the fundamental ideological challenges that Adhu’s demise has left behind especially among Kenyans who believe in the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with a socialist political system of government as the basis of wealth distribution.
The first problem was that following the establishment of a multi-party state in Kenya on July 7th 1990 (aka Saba Saba), Mwakenya, a clandestine Movement whose members are credited with having led the struggle against the one party dictatorship, was nowhere to be seen. At its critical hour, Mwakenya failed to surface from the underground where it had been suppressed (for years by Moi) to transform itself into a formidable political party that could openly challenge KANU and provide a left oriented ideological direction to the masses of the people in the new multi-party dispensation.
Consequently, a plethora of opportunistic political formations crystalized to occupy the opposition space and to fill the gaping void that was created by Mwakenya’s absence from action. Here, political formations like FORD, FORD-Kenya, Ford-People, Ford Asili, Kibaki’s Democratic Party, Mukaru Nganga’s KENDA, George Anyona’s Kenya National Congress and a rag tag of later creations quickly crept on to the scene to take strategic positions within the new opposition as Mwakenya basically disappeared into oblivion.
Known members of Mwakenya whose names continue to dominate the Mwakenya history, political detainees, former political prisoners and other firebrands either remained in their spider holes, continued to propagandize from exile or joined the emergent and mainstream opposition crickets whose pathognomonic feature was ideological bankruptcy. When the dust settled and the first multi-party election was called in December 1992, KANU ended up with no real ideological opposition while millions of Kenyans who viewed Mwakenya as a serious revolutionary force that could play a huge role in Kenya’s political transformation were disappointed when Mwakenya failed to show up in the political market place. What happened? This brings us to the second problem.
Critical failures of Mwakenya
Majority of Mwakenya members and activists both at home and in exile failed to surface to lead the struggle because the revert of Kenya to a multi-party state happened so quickly that the Movement was taken by surprise. That is, the Movement had not prepared politically for a situation where it would operate under an open multi-party system. The critical failure of top Mwakenya ideologues to fore-see the abrupt revert by Moi to a multi-party system deprived the leadership of the ability to prepare, organize and transform Mwakenya from a virulent underground propaganda group to a viable political party that could compete with other emergent parties in the struggle for power. The situation became even more pathetic when known Mwakenya members started setting up ideologically bankrupt parties, a situation which tended to confuse Mwakenya followers who were expecting a socialist formation to give ideological direction in the struggle to vanquish capitalism. The disorientation of Mwakenya members and the lack of direction was, however, understandable. Why?
The Stalinist regime in the former Soviet Union had just collapsed and this development had a debilitating psychological effect on many Mwakenya leaders and followers who believed that the autocratic and dictatorial Stalinist regime that was running a deformed Workers’ State in the former USSR was Socialist. The problem was that although Mwakenya was basically a Left-leaning Movement (from the point of view of its propaganda material), the leaders appeared not to have studied the various Left wing global tendencies that existed at that time to be able to differentiate between the various brands of socialism in the USSR, Cuba, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Eastern Europe.
Although the impending collapse of the USSR was constantly being predicted by other Left wing tendencies (especially the Trotskyists), the USSR remained the perfect representation of socialism in the eyes of Mwakenya leadership and when it collapsed, the leadership was sent into a downward psychological spiral. The lack of understanding of political events in the former USSR and the subsequent collapse of Stalinist states in Eastern Europe sent top Mwakenya gurus into serious ideological re-thinking, giving them no time to regroup after Saba Saba as opportunists took over the opposition. During closed door discussions, these are issues that appeared to have been well understood by the late Adhu Awiti.
Why Mwakenya Failed to regroup after Saba Saba
While the theoretical background of the collapse of the former Soviet Union could be complex and beyond the scope of this contribution, it would suffice to say that the Mwakenya leadership found itself entrenched in uncertainty after Saba Saba. The collapse of the USSR was a major set-back to the international working class Movement and the failure by Mwakenya leadership to understand the dynamics of the collapse led to a lack of explanation of what had happened.
In the ensuing psychological uncertainty, it was impossible for the leadership to re-constitute itself to deal with the multi-party surprise especially in the face of massive international propaganda in the capitalist world that “socialism had fallen”. Another problem was that Mwakenya leadership was mainly based in exile and when the leadership failed to show up in Kenya, local members became demoralized before resignation took over as multi-party euphoria seeped into the consciousness of millions of Kenyans who viewed this development as the solution to the political, economic and social crisis that faced Kenya. In the absence of Mwakenya, the new opposition politicians clothed in opportunism (the Matibas who had worked with Moi for years) became the new heroes as the real heroes retreated to their dungeons.
From the point of view of Dr. Adhu, what can be celebrated since Saba Saba is progress in the National Democratic Revolution – a revolution for political and democratic rights that never existed during the days of Mwakenya. While progress in the national democratic revolution has moved the struggle forward, it alone cannot resolve the bread and butter issues. The key ideological challenge for those who want to change Kenya is not to support ethnic alliances for the simple sake of removing one capitalist ruling class and replacing it with another. The big challenge is in setting up a political alternative that can clearly show the way out of the current political, economic and social crisis in Kenya.
Although Dr. Adhu is gone, he has left behind a big challenge of picking up the pieces from where Mwakenya left and building a socialist party that can lead workers to power. There is no short-cut to wealth re-distribution apart from the abolition of the outdated profit system and replacing it with a socialist system that can guarantee ugali on the table for every Kenyan, medical care for all Kenyans, free education at all levels, eradication of poverty and the right to self-determination of Kenya as a Nation. Kenyans can honour Adhu Awiti by continuing in his quest for a just, democratic and socialist Kenya where all Kenyans can live together as equal human beings.
Kenya Red Alliance (KRA)
August 5, 2014
The crisis in South Sudan was avoidable and a self-inflicted disaster created by the political and military leadership of that country. There is no excuse or justification for the war that started on 13 December 2013. Most scholars, researchers and experts on South Sudan generally agree that the underpinning causes of the armed conflict in that country include weak governance, poor leadership, weak institutions, and conflation of personal, ethnic and national interests, including unchecked corruption, particularly at the leadership level. The civilian population, unfortunately, is left to fend for themselves with no functional schools, hospitals or public utilities.
However, the immediate cause of the armed conflict is believed to be President Salva Kiir’s irresponsible political decisions to sack his deputy, Dr Riek Machar, several cabinet ministers and other senior government and ruling party Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) officials, including Mr Pagan Amum, the party Secretary-General. These political disagreements between top SPLM leadership very rapidly transformed into an ethnic conflict, a conflict between the Dinkas and the Nuers, each allied to their respective sub-ethnic groups. This ethnic division was replicated in the army, government and all public institutions. Soon after the armed conflict commenced in December 2013, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) unilaterally entered Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and took a side in the internal armed conflict by supporting President Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against the sacked Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer.
The response of the African Union (AU) to the now political-cum-ethnic conflict between the Dinkas, the Nuers and their respective allies was slow in containing the violence at an early stage, deploying a neutral force to protect the civilian population, and failed to follow examples of the UN Humanitarian organizations in providing protection to civilians most vulnerable, particularly women and children. Later, indeed much later, the AU appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the carnage unfolding in South Sudan (the Commission). As far as many AU analysts are concerned, the slow process adopted by the AU in the appointment of the Commission was an afterthought.
The Commission, chaired by Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria (the other members were Prof Mahmood Mamdani, Justice Sophia AB Akuffo, Ms Bineta Diop and Prof Pacifique Manirakiza), had the mandate to investigate human rights violations and other abuses committed during armed conflict in South Sudan and to make recommendations on the best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities.
To be fair to the Obasanjo Commission, its mandate is a tall order and was unlikely, in any event, to be concluded within the limited three-month period allotted to conclude investigations and submit its report to the AU, particularly as the Commission appears to have an open-ended mandate. Its temporal jurisdiction runs from 15 December 2013.
The Obasanjo Commission submitted its Interim Report to the AU at its 23rd Ordinary Session held on 26-27 June 2014 at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. And, as expected, the Commission also requested for extension of time to finalize the report (Assembly/AU/19(XXIII)).
The Interim Report, as acknowledged by the Obasanjo Commission, is inconclusive and makes no specific recommendation save to request for extension of time for the purpose of writing a final report. The Commission sees its challenge in implementing its mandate as the exploration of relationship between reconciliation, truth, justice and healing. The Interim Report appears to relegate the issue of criminal accountability to the bottom of its priority list. In its work, the Commission adopted an expansive understanding of the concept of accountability and defined it as encompassing four aspects: criminal accountability, civil accountability (reparation), administrative accountability (lustration) and truth telling. Along the way, the principal objective of the Commission to seek justice—as well as to protect the civilians in an ongoing conflict, recommend for a functional ceasefire, impose sanctions on parties that are in breach of the ceasefire and name individuals responsible for violations of international humanitarian law—got lost in the process. The Obasanjo Commission spent an inordinate period of time travelling to neighbouring countries and interviewing some leaders who, for all practical purposes, are accomplices to crimes that have been or are still being committed in South Sudan. It is surprising that the entire Interim Report has just two paragraphs on accountability (para.84 and 85), comprising 13 lines in the 26-page report.
According to the Interim Report, the Obasanjo Commission recognizes that there is credible evidence of widespread and systematic attacks against the South Sudanese civilian population, rape and sexual attacks on women and girls and widespread destruction of public utilities, infrastructure, public and private buildings, particularly in Malakal, Bentiu and Bor. The Commission also confirmed the discovery of mass graves and interviewed witnesses to the commission about the crimes, including crimes of sexual and gender-based violence. These acts, as identified by the Obasanjo Commission, constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law and are also violations of Common Article 3 of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol II of 1977. At this stage, the Interim Report ought to have made specific recommendations on how to address these violations of the laws of war and whether to investigate the perpetrators with an objective to prosecute them.
However, the Commission made no recommendations on what to do with the perpetrators of the crimes. The purported reason as articulated by the Commission is that it was: ‘still in the process of collecting information and investigating various allegations of human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law’. It then concluded that it was ‘not yet in a position to pronounce itself definitively on whether some of these acts [mass murders and sexual attacks] amount to international crimes…’ This conclusion contradicts the Commission’s findings, especially when there is credible evidence of the discovery of mass graves, widespread and systematic attacks including rape and sexual violence and destruction of infrastructure and of public and private property.
I submit that the Commission’s mandate is not to make a legal conclusion on whether serious international crimes were committed, or to identify all possible perpetrators before submitting a final report but rather, to report its findings and recommendations to the AU. It is for the AU to determine whether violations of international humanitarian law occurred by appointing a body of investigators and experts in the field to conduct further investigations and report their findings and recommendations to the AU for further actions.
The Obasanjo commission’s call to the warring factions to respect international humanitarian law without indicating any specific threat of sanctions is not a novel idea. It is, in fact, a standard practice to urge all parties to a conflict to cease violations of humanitarian law and to draw their attention to the fact that responsibility will attach to such actions. It is also common practice to urge individuals in positions of authority or command to take all measures to ensure that those under their command do not engage in violation of humanitarian law. What the Commission did, in urging the combatants to respect the law was, to that extent, not new. Urging combatants to respect rules of engagement is good practice. However, experience suggests that combatants often act when there is a credible threat of sanctions and criminal prosecution. Combatants do not respond to abstract threats.
To underscore the point, when the Commission obtained credible evidence that atrocity crimes were committed, it ought to have recommended to the AU that it appoint expert investigators to investigate alleged crimes with a view to prosecuting the perpetrators.
On healing and reconciliation, the Commission correctly noted that the war of liberation, the multiple conflicts that accompanied it, as well as the subsequent conflicts, have wrecked relations among South Sudanese communities. These factors underpinned the Commission’s conclusion of there being an urgent need to institute genuine national efforts at reconciliation to facilitate healing.
However, instead of making specific recommendations to address these acts of mischief, the Commission laments that ‘once it has engaged further with grassroots communities, and drawing on successful past experiences, [will] make comprehensive recommendations on reconciliation and healing’. There appears to be no sense of urgency on the part of the Commission, considering that various NGOs and UN humanitarian organizations have publicly expressed their concerns about the dire humanitarian situation in the country.
On the question of foreign troops, the Commission ‘[urged] an end to any form of military support to the belligerents that fuel and encourage hardening of positions and continuation of hostilities’. This vague statement alludes to the presence of the UPDF in South Sudan. The UPDF has taken a side in the conflict. Not being neutral, the UPDF has been asked by the international community, including the United Nations and the SPLM in Opposition, to withdraw. The Ugandan government has ignored those requests.
The bias of Uganda in favour of President Kiir’s SPLM faction is demonstrated by President Museveni’s lone presence at the 3rd Independence Day anniversary celebration of the Republic of South Sudan. All of the other leaders of IGAD, currently mediating the peace process between the two warring factions of the SPLM, though invited, declined to attend. On his part, President Museveni, when addressing the crowd in Juba, announced that Uganda lost ‘less than 10 soldiers’ but managed to destroy the rebels. This says a lot about Uganda’s neutrality.
The other armed force in South Sudan is the Ethiopian People’s Defence Force (EPDF). However, EPDF, to its credit, is in the country under the auspices of the IGAD.
The Commission made no findings or recommendations on the unilateral deployment of UPDF in South Sudan and on its refusal to withdraw. The Commission’s silence is significant since presence of the UPDF in the country is one of the reasons cited by SPLM in Opposition for the continuation of the armed conflict.
The Obasanjo Commission also made no recommendations on violations of ceasefire agreements. There have been two ceasefire agreements. The first was signed by the warring parties on 23 January 2014. It was largely ignored by both parties. The second was signed on 9 May 2014. The protagonists have not complied with the ceasefire and the many breaches are routinely recorded by the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mission. The Obasanjo Commission, however, ‘welcomed the March 2014 decision of the IGAD Head of States to deploy a regional force…’ but did not expressly condemn the presence of foreign troops in South Sudan or the combatants’ failure to respect ceasefire agreements. Yet, the Commission, in calling for deployment of a regional force, must also be aware of IGAD’s financial constraints. In all its activities, but for donor funding, IGAD often does not meet its financial obligations. Waiting for foreign donors to fund IGAD’s regional force is not one of the best strategies for the AU or South Sudan to protect the civilian population in South Sudan during the present crisis.
Finally, there is the problem of the applicable law to regulate the armed conflict. South Sudan is yet to ratify any of the major international instruments, whether regional or international, that regulate the conduct of armed conflict. As a matter of international treaty law, instruments not ratified by a state-party do not constitute sources of binding obligation for South Sudan, save laws that are already part of customary international law such as the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocol II of 1977. It would have been helpful for the Interim Report to make some form of recommendation on this point.
Overall, the Obasanjo Commission could do more and could do better to assist the AU in speedily bringing this conflict to realistic conclusion by putting in place structures that protect and defend the people of South Sudan from a political leadership that has gone rogue. The present Interim Report is too vague to provide a useful guide and falls short of expectation.
* Dr Obote-Odora is a Consultant in International Criminal Law and Policy.
First Published at Pambazuka here
August 2, 2014
When the biggest tree of the village falls, birds scatter and creatures that were enjoying its shade scamper for safety. So it was on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, when Adhu Awiti transited to be with his ancestors. How mind-numbing and distasteful is the hour when we can no longer see, listen to and converse with him! The hero for countless has fallen. And as Mark Anthony said of Julius Caesar, “Oh what a mighty fall thou was!”
Dr. Awiti was many things to many people. His wife has lost a loving husband and a life companion. His children have lost a father, a provider and a compass in life. Kanjira and Karachuonyo have lost a great son, a community role model and leader. But to me and hundreds of others that worked overtly and covertly with him, Adhu was a father, mentor, confidante, best friend and symbol of revolutionary disposition. He was a true comrade of mine.
Adhu enlisted discipline, patience and simplicity as natural allies and strategic thinking and tactical analysis as weapons of political struggle. He wore one the thickest skins, always appreciative of criticism and self-criticism, which he viewed as routes to individual self-correction and enrichment. He was a man of cheerful demeanor.
I first met Adhu in December 1980, when I had just joined the University of Nairobi. We had a student re-union in Kisumu and he was a keynote speaker. I was struck by his brilliance and eloquence. In that memorable speech, he reminded the students about their responsibility to the historic national struggle and the need to remain uncompromising.
Dr. Awiti told us that the quest for social justice, academic freedom, political plurality and democracy must remain our eternal battle cry. He noted that the political freedom was the fruit of the revolutionary tree watered by the blood of veterans like Dedan Kimathi, Pio Gama Pinto and Me Katilili as well as the unrelenting sweat and intellect of nationalists like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Bildad Kaggia. He beseeched us to defend it. I did not meet him again until April 1987, when I had the dubious honour of welcoming him at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. I was a year older there on Sedition sentence.
From this point on, we forged a comradely relationship that has lasted to this day. Even though we were held in Segregation Block, we managed to establish a study circle at Kamiti. Members of this circle included Odindo Opiata, Kiongo Maina , Kamonye Manje, Dr. Odhiambo Olel, Peter Young Kihara, Onyango Oloo and Owuor Atieno, among others. We spent prison time together reviewing our history and struggles; focusing on future revolutionary work. He was later transferred to Nyeri’s King’ong’o Prison where he joined Odenda Lumumba, Onyango CA and others.
On release from Moi’s jail, we regrouped to continue with the struggle. He became the fulcrum of our cell in Kisumu comprising among others Muga K’olale, Onyango CA and Olel. Following the disruption of this cell after the Sabasaba uprising in 1990, Adhu and I fled the country. We reunited in exile and continued to link up with the movement back home and intensify the agitation for return of multiparty democracy. As Moi remained recalcitrant, we were able to secure facility to train a Platoon in guerilla warfare, thanks to Adhu’s extensive international connections. Section 2A was repealed just when the recruits were finalizing their training. These cadres were quietly reintegrated and became active in the opposition.
The sheer tenacity of will Adhu commanded; the tactful and unmatched leadership he proffered; the sobering but penetrating tactical analysis, which was his gift; and the unparalleled generosity of spirit he exuded are virtues that belong to the greatest of ages. Kamoji Wachiira, Adhu’s revolutionary peer, says: “A remarkable comrade has passed on. In the early days we spent many seemingly endless weekend nights working away. Planning, reviewing and summarizing positions and strategies in varied hide-outs and strange dives, ever seeking security and anonymity. Strange hours tough schedule: Arrive on Coast Bus at 7pm. I pick him up at River Road depot. Then “unslept” drop him back at 4.30 am for departure westward. I recall one such night we also had to pick up a Museveni ‘sibling’ coming for Adhu to help get to Malaba. Most of these Museveni siblings were actually cadres not relatives as such. … Disciplined to a fault. A rare gentleman comrade, selfless and devoted always. One of the keenest, most honest intellectual minds we have had in the struggle.”
He evidenced these political skills on the national scene, being a founding member of the underground Workers Party of Kenya – the parent organization of, among others, the December Twelfth Movement – so central in spearheading progressive political change since early 1970’s. Dr. Awiti suffused his service in government with his beliefs about the principles of public service. As Planning Minister, he believed that government should be frugal, effective, and efficient and must be a rallying point where only the committed and selfless serve as leaders at all levels of our society. Before this he teamed with, among others, Prof. Edward Oyugi to found the Social Development network (SODNET) that has been at the forefront of anti-corruption and budget transparency campaign.
Much remains undone, of course, but Adhu leaves us a good legacy and a solid model to emulate. Fare thee well Omin Angela!
By Oduor Ong’wen
July 30, 2014
A Driving License belonging to a Kenyan national resident in Sweden has been recovered in Kisumu, Kenya. The Driving License belongs to Steven Ochieng Nyibule who lives in Ölsremma in Västra Götland. The License is currently at Pel Travel Ltd along Oginga Odinga Street, Kisumu city and Mr. Ochieng is advised to pick it up during working hours. A good Samaritan picked it up and alerted KSB about the loss. Anybody who knows Mr. Ochieng and who may come across this message can advise him to pick up his DL at the mentioned location.