President Mwai Kibaki has Abandoned IDPs: Part 1
During the 2007 presidential election, members of the Kikuyu community voted for President Kibaki to a man. Although Kibaki stole the Presidency through the conniving of the Kivuitu-led Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), the post election violence that ensued led to sporadic and cold-blooded murders of thousands of innocent Kikuyus while millions worth of property was also destroyed. Over 350,000 Kikuyus were converted into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), especially in Rift Valley. While this article acknowledges that there are non-Kikuyu IDPs, it explores how Kibaki and the Kikuyu ruling elite have abandoned Kikuyu IDPs.
Historically, Kikuyus have been displaced from their ancestral land in Central province since the colonial era. Immediately after Kenya’s Independence in 1963, then-President Jomo Kenyatta took different steps to resettle landless Kikuyus, some of whom had been evicted by the colonialists, or had been displaced during the Mau Mau war. One of the worst attempts was Kenyatta’s secret arrangement to send hundreds of them to tsetse-fly infested Mpanda Settlement Scheme, in Rukwa region of Tanzania. Former President Julius Nyerere had offered refugees from neighboring countries free land to settle in Tanzania, as part of establishing the Ujamaa system.
Kenya’s then-Home Affairs Permanent Secretary (PS), R.E. Wright, wrote a letter on July 15, 1963 to all PSs, which stated that: “the project to send more Kikuyu families (to Mpanda) has been discussed with the prime minister who has indicated his warm support for the proposal. I would be grateful, therefore, if you could take charge of the project for this season and organize the sending of the largest number of families that you can within the finance available.” The Tanzanian government was to be paid 30 pounds for each family and a budget of 6,000 pounds had already been availed for the proposal.
In his piece titled: ‘Kenyatta’s plot to settle Kikuyus in Tanzania’ (Business Daily November 9, 2009), John Kamau revealed that the Mpanda Scheme deliberations were initiated on June 26, 1963, around 25 days after Kenyatta was sworn in as Prime Minister. There are documents at the National Archives showing correspondence and names of families targeted for the transfer, which was to begin on September 14, 1963. However, the selected families who were being housed on a farm coded ‘Nakuru Transit Farm’ in the Rift Valley, felt they were being penalized for allegedly having been Mau Mau freedom fighters. They sent a delegation to the lands and settlement PS, N.S. Carey-Jones, asking why the government could not settle them in Kenya.
Carey-Jones suggested that a political approach be used in settling the families in Kenya, instead of pushing them out. He wanted Lands minister Jackson Angaine or a Kikuyu representative, to visit Mpanda and assess if it was habitable. A protest letter by the Kikuyu farmers mentioned that Mpanda should not be used as a dumping ground, “for undesirable people in this country. We should consider Mpanda issue after Uhuru [Independence] and not before.” In a letter addressed to Kenyatta, they said that they did not want “to leave the country in exchange for another.” Eventually, the Mpanda Scheme attracted only four families from Uasin Gishu that had volunteered to go, against the planned 100 families. The offer was therefore not taken.
Kibaki benefited from land allocation
The process of transferring British-owned land to Kenyan peasants through the British-World Bank sponsored loan program named, Settlement Transfer Fund Schemes (STFS), was riddled with grand corruption. Jomo Kenyatta saw to it that those who benefited were only his close Kikuyu cronies, a few non-Kikuyu senior civil servants, and politicians.
In his book titled: ‘Politicized Ethnic Conflict in Kenya: A Periodic Phenomenon’, scholar Walter Oyugi noted that: “Using the political and economic leverage available to them during the Kenyatta regime, the Kikuyu took advantage of the situation and formed many land-buying companies. These companies would, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, facilitate the settlement of hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu in the Rift Valley.”
“Kenyatta cronies including Mbiyu Koinange, Njoroge Mungai and others devised a clever scheme to further benefit themselves from the land transferred from the colonialists. They formed land-buying companies through loans which were actually funded with tax-payer money. At the height of land buying companies, most of the power brokers acquired huge chunks of land at the expense of the landless, who were meant to be the initial beneficiaries of the scheme” (see: ‘Who owns the land? Blood and soil issues in the Kenyan Rift Valley’).
According to Jennifer Widner (1992), “by 1971, more than 60 per cent large-scale farms around Nakuru and 40 per cent of small scale settler farms, were held by Kikuyu, who fared very well from this arrangement, at the expense of other Kenyan communities (in: ‘The Rise of A Party-State in Kenya: From “Harambee!” to “Nyayo!”’).
In his memoirs, ‘Kenyatta Struggles’, former Central Bank Governor Duncan Ndegwa, explains that Kenyatta initiated the type of settlement farms called “permanent improvement units”. This was after realizing that some Africans had taken over a mansion with 24 rooms abandoned by a white settler, yet could not maintain its high standards and lit charcoal braziers in it. He was disappointed and decided that such property must be protected. According to Ndegwa, who was also Kenya’s first head of civil service, Kenyatta ordered that from then henceforth, “any farm that had such property would be given to individuals in lots of 100-acres.” On that particular day, Kenyatta and Ndegwa had been in Ol Kalau, parceling out land with some settlement officers. At the end of the exercise, Kenyatta seized one permanent improvement unit surrounded by a beautiful orchard for himself and sighed, “Ni ka minoga” (it is for hard work).
The parceling out of 100-acre plots (code named Z plots) to the elite, was not what the British had anticipated when they set up the STFS. Although other tribes were affected by landlessness, the Kikuyu were worst hit because the British had occupied huge areas of Central province and many had been pushed into the forests during the Mau Mau war. Records indicate that some had also gone to work on white farms in the Rift Valley. However, Kenyatta overruled efforts to do away with the 100-acre plots’ system, when he found out that the British and a few Kenyan government officials felt it digressed from the original plan of settling the poor, in former white occupied prime land.
Kenyatta began dishing out land free of charge, contrary to the STFS program. John Kamau wrote in Business Daily (November 10, 2009), that the process behind purchasing the Z plots was so secretive that only Lands minister Angaine and a few civil servants knew about it. The agreed land purchase had turned into land ‘allocation’. This was the beginning of land grabbing and impunity, with the full support of Jomo Kenyatta. Former freedom fighter Jesse Kariuki, was allocated land by Kenyatta without paying a penny. When the then Lands PS, Peter Shiyukah, asked Director of Settlement Maina Wanjigi, to compile a list of the big shots who had been allocated land, he realized that there were many others whose names appeared at the Lands ministry, but not on Wanjigi’s list. One of them was Mwai Kibaki, then-Finance assistant minister.
In the publication ‘Who owns the land? Blood and soil issues in the Kenyan Rift Valley’, the following background is noted on Kibaki’s land ownership:
“One of President Kibaki’s earliest grabs is the 1,200-acre Gingalily Farm along the Nakuru-Solai road. And in the 1970s, Kibaki, who was then the minister for Finance under Kenyatta, via STFS transferred to himself, 10,000 acres in Bahati from the then Agriculture minister Bruce Mckenzie. Kibaki also owns another 10,000 acres at Igwamiti in Laikipia and 10,000 acres in Rumuruti in Naivasha. These are in addition to the 1,600 acre Ruare Ranch.”
How could Kikuyu peasants and the landless benefit, if the 100-acre package had already been hijacked by Kenyatta and his Kikuyu cronies? It meant quite a few rich members of the community owned so much land, shutting out the majority poor. Ironically, many of those big shots defaulted in loan payments and the poor Kenyan taxpayer was left with the burden of paying back to the British, a loan they barely knew about, let alone benefited from. Among the many defaulters were Cabinet ministers Jackson Angaine (Lands) and Gikonyo Kiano. John Kamau wrote that: “An experiment to settle the landless and put them on the road to prosperity had collapsed even before it began. ”Continued in Part 2…