Report From Raila Book Presentation In Uppsala
On Monday, March 9th, Mr. Okoth Osewe gave a presentation of his new book titled: “Raila Odinga’s Stolen Presidency: Consequences and The Future of Kenya” at the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala. The invitation had been extended by the Foundation’s Director, Dr. Henning Melber, who is renowned for his research interest in Africa and is currently at the forefront in analyzing the current China-Africa Relations.
The presentation began at 17:15 after the Foundation treated the participants to tea and coffee. The audience consisted of Europeans, Africans and one North American who all have research interest in Kenya.
Mr. Osewe spent around forty minutes to walk the audience through the various events that led to the bungled 2007 presidential election in Kenya. He gave a summary of why President Mwai Kibaki lost election to Raila Odinga and how elections were rigged to open the way for chaos and mayhem in Kenya.
Thereafter, Dr. Melber requested the participants to field questions and give comments. One German student known as Goerg, who had completed his MA thesis on the issue of the post-election violence that began when the results were delayed, wanted to know whether the ensuing violence had been spontaneous or planned in advance. Of interest to him was the “ethnic angle” of the violence.
Mr. Osewe had to go back into the history of landlessness in Kenya that has affected the Kikuyu in Central province and how the process of land re-distribution after the colonial revolution was hampered by an organized political gang of land grabbers led by the late President Jomo Kenyatta.
Mr. Osewe stressed that Kenya’s land problem was worse than Zimbabwe’s or South Africa’s. Although the Kalenjin had lived side by side with the Kikuyu for many years, he said that the ruling elite pitted them against each other for political gain whenever necessary.
He cited land evictions in the 90s that also affected other tribes because former dictator Daniel arap Moi had instigated them in order to argue that political pluralism would lead to ethnic clashes in Kenya. The post-election violence of 2007 was the worst ever because so many Kikuyu people in the Rift Valley lost virtually all their possessions after being driven out by the Kalenjin.
Georg wanted to know whether Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had participated in the violence. Mr. Osewe clarified that the violence had various levels: organized violence, spontaneous violence especially in urban areas, retaliatory violence and defensive violence. He said that there was violence that was instigated by the State especially in ODM’s strong-holds and that resulted in extra-judicial executions in the streets, violence that emanated from gangs of ODM supporters responding to election rigging, violence from organized Mungiki gangs mobilized by PNU in retaliatory attacks and violence that erupted out of the need for self defence in various areas after people were attacked by “enemy tribes” and security forces.
Mr. Osewe said that the issue of gangs emerging to engage in political violence in Kenya was not new. He said that what was new was the extent and propensity of the violence. He said that it is fashionable for top politicians in Kenya to maintain gangs of youths routinely used to conduct political thuggery and cited examples of the Jeshi la Mzee that was allegedly maintained by the former dictator Daniel arap Moi, the Taliban that was loyal to ODM and Mungiki terror gang that was seen to have been on the side of PNU after election rigging.
Problem of IDP Return
Another female researcher wanted to know the role of civil society and the media today in raising political awareness in Kenya. Mr. Osewe answered that since there is no official Opposition in the country, these two sectors act as watchdogs in unearthing grand corruption within Government, sensitizing Kenyans on their rights and keeping the government on toes.
He said that the two sectors are trying to fill the vacuum left behind due to lack of an official opposition but added that both the media and the civil society have a serious limitation because they cannot compete for power and present alternative political programs that could change Kenya unless they transformed themselves into political parties.
Because of this limitation, Mr. Osewe said that Opposition movement in Kenya was leaderless while he advanced the view that if election was called in Kenya today, parties sitting in government would end up forming a new coalition to begin a new round of disappointment of the Kenyan people. He called for the setting up of a credible opposition in Kenya that could challenge the government and that could address the question of the Kenyan revolution to change a rotten system that, he said, has not been working for the last 45 years.
Dr. Melber then mentioned the recent gunning down of two top non-governmental organization (NGO) officials in broad daylight as a sad chapter in the country’s history.
A female Canadian researcher, who was recently in Kenya for six months, then described the sad situation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps and wanted to know Mr. Osewe’s position concerning their plight.
Responding to the question, Mr. Osewe said that the peace deal that was negotiated by Dr. Kofi Annan did not address the thorny issue of land ownership and landlessness in the Rift Valley which has been simmering for decades. He said that IDPs will never return to their homes without grass root solutions that can sustain peace even though majority of them had bought land legitimately in the region.
He said that the peace deal that was signed by Kibaki and Raila was a political document that did not take the dynamics of the situation on the ground into consideration. According to the author, the deal was signed to serve the interest of the Kenyan ruling class that was in a hurry to get their hands on State resources to start looting the economy and not in the interest of IDPs who were anxious to get back to their homes.
According to Mr. Osewe, there could be stage-managed and artificial shows of IDP returns in the Rift Valley played for the media but that these kinds of shows will never erode the fact that the return of IDPs needs a better and well thought out strategy that will address the fears of the IDPs and the real reasons why they were evicted from their lands.
Ms. Rose Adero, a progressive Kenyan resident in Uppsala, said that she had watched a promising segment on a recent episode of “Inside Africa” on CNN showing a group of women called “Mama Amani”, which is Swahili for “Mother Peace”. These are female IDPs who have taken a personal initiative to team up and work on their losses without bothering about their tribes or ethnic background. These are in the Rift Valley (around Rumuruti) and had lost family members and property so they seek to eke out a living on petty trade to survive.
Dr. Melber then ended by saying that Ms. Adero’s narration gave hope and that it had ended the presentation on a good note. People then mingled and some book copies were sold. Many thanks to Dr. Melber for the invitation, and his colleagues, Karin and Karim, who designed the presentation poster. Some Kenyans travelled all the way from Stockholm to participate in the presentation.
They included Mr. Martin Ngatia, Mrs. Ann Okoth, Mr. Odhiambo Opee Junior and Mr. Munala wa Munala (who was the cameraman). A Kenyan gentleman from the Coast who has been based in Uppsala since 1972 was also present and praised the presentation.
Dr. Jared Odero