Uhuru Kenyatta’s Attack on Press Freedom is a Copycat of His Father’s Tactics of Tyranny

Kenya: Behind the Façade of the Ideal State a Rule of Fear


Last weekend’s attempted military coup in Kenya shocked most people who have come to regard it as a stable African country. CYPRIAN FERNANDES, a Herald journalist who was born in Nairobi and left Kenya in 1973 recalls that political division was deeply entrenched at independence in 1963 and it was only Kenyatta’s power that stopped it surfacing.

JOMO Kenyatta, Kenya’s first President who died in 1978, was all powerful, ruthless and ruled with fear. For over 13 years as a journalist in Kenya, my family and I lived with that fear — fear of detention without trial, deportation or the plain fear of death, if I did not toe the Kenyatta line.

It was this fear that was injected into every sphere of life that enabled Kenyatta to maintain the façade of Kenya being the epitome of the ideal African State; stable, democratic and moderately prosperous.

The key to survival in Kenya was the many things one didn’t do:
• Don’t criticize Kenyatta and all things Kenyatta in private and especially not in public.
• Don’t laugh at Kenyatta, crack anti-Kenyatta jokes, lampoon Kenyatta in political satire, in jest, or in any way that would make a monkey out of him.
• Don’t write or say anything that might displease Kenyatta.

As several foreign journalists were to find out in the 1960s the price of any criticism was a quick plane out of Kenya. Why did everyone in Kenya fear the man? Everyone knew what the Mau Mau had done during the emergency of the 1950s. Kenyatta’s role in the movement was well-known but never proven, and so the psychology and the terror of his past reputation were enough to frighten even those who had remained in the Mau Mau after independence in 1963.

Soon after the first batch of deportations and detentions in 1964 and 1965, the two local dailies, The East African Standard and the Daily Nation, adopted a form of self-censorship until proper channels which were often headed by the present Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Charles Njonjo, reflected Kenyatta thinking. He vetted editorial copy on anything from international reports to a local tribal killing — anything that might even slightly embarrass Kenyatta.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up with the ministers in office then. As Chief Reporter on the Daily Nation, I also traveled with most ministers to international conferences all over the world. At least on one occasion, I was not able to write the full story, because I knew what the consequences would be.

At the CHOGM summit in Singapore in 1970, a brilliant procedural maneuver by the British Foreign Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, quashed what had looked, potentially at least, like an African uprising over the British arms sales to South Africa.

Daniel Arap Moi, Kenya’s current president, then Vice-President, was leading the delegation, but he knew very little about the issue and would have been quite useless (as it proved, since he made little comment) at the family talk-in suggested by Douglas-Home, knowing full well that most African heads of delegations would be silent without foreign ministers and advisers.

At a poolside meeting it was agreed by the Kenya team that Moi would feign illness and the Foreign Minister would take his place. Charles Njonjo, who was Kenyatta’s right-hand man at the time, had other ideas.

Njonjo said then: “I don’t know why you people (the Kenya delegation) are bothering with all this. If it was up to me, I would open diplomatic relations with South Africa tomorrow.” There was a silence that was almost deathly. In the context of African politics, this was the worst kind of blasphemy.

The next morning the Foreign Minister who had spearheaded the anti-arms sales campaign through the Organization for African Unity, the non-aligned nations summit meeting and the UN, breakfasted early and was rearing to go to present his case at the talk-in.

Some time during the night, Moi had had his mind changed. The minister was standing in the lobby of the Ming Court hotel when Moi swept past him on his way to the meeting. The anti-arms sale campaign which had threatened to split the Commonwealth was not silenced at the conference table; it was killed dead in that lobby that morning.

I mentioned it to my editor and he suggested that I best forget what I had heard, since Njonjo reflected Kenyatta’s thinking; this was very dangerous for both of us.

With the press silent, only two other elements threatened Kenyatta: the Kenya People’s Union which was led by the Luo leader, Oginga Odinga, and university students and their academic seniors. Odinga, who represents the second largest of Kenya’s 150-plus tribes, was detained at the first opportunity along with other officers of the party and the party summarily banned. Students who took to the streets were bashed silent by the para-military unit, the General Service Unit, whose members hit first and never stop to question, just silence their victim. The academics were easily frightened into submission.

This then was Moi’s inheritance when he was elected to the presidency after Kenyatta’s death in 1978. At first it looked good, Moi repealed the dreaded detention without trial. But he was always insecure. He knew that he was allowed the presidency only because in-fighting within the Kikuyu had failed to produce a leader. Besides, when Kenyatta was alive, the question of a successor was never raised; he didn’t like it. Moi was going to be the man for convenience.

News-generation Kenyans were coming of age and the academics who had remained silent now asked for a more democratic Kenya, rather than the autocratic path that Moi was taking to ensure his own position. If Kenyatta did it why couldn’t Moi? So he too took to detaining without trial and hence the attempted military coup.

Life, in Kenya, is not going to get any better. For some, it will get worse. Now that it has had its façade blown away, foreign investors will start thinking twice. The depressed state of the world market will continue to pose its economy problems. Moi will not be in a position to appease the mass of the people with any instant solutions. The attempted coup will spur others to question, where once they had stood silent. Those in power will find it harder to remain in power. Moi himself could as well have an assassin’s bullet aimed at him right now.

The ideal looked so good. The reality was a different matter, but until African politicians learn to lose (gracefully), the situation will be no different from anywhere else in Africa.

The Sydney Morning Herald – Wednesday, August 4, 1982 (Page 7)


  • UhuruKenyatta=Ayatollah Khamenei

    Quincy Timberlake: Kenyatta replaces Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei as the world’s most hated leader

    By PlaCentaNews | Posted December 7, 2013 | Melbourne, Australia

    By winning the elections with a “massive landslide”, Uhuru has reminded the world of when populist Adolf Hitler won the German election by landslide in the early 1930s. President Uhuru now qualifies to be compared with the most vilified leaders in modern history. He joins the ranks of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Jan Perón, Augusto Pinochet, Ayatollah Khamenei, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Robert Mugabe, Jacob Zuma, Sani Abacha, Eydaemas of Togo, Mobutu Seseseko and others. The same Uhuru once attacked Kibaki saying his government was in disarray and expressed his admiration for the leadership style of his mentor Daniel arap Moi. According to Uhuru, during Moi’s time, there was a clear authority and, as a result, stability.

    Wikileaks has revealed that Uhuru is planning to wipe out tribes that pose a threat to his dynasty. This was revealed in what was supposed to be a private conversation. Fortunately, thanks to the people at WikiLeaks, we are able to know what many of our leaders really think away from the cameras, through the thousands of cables the anti-secrecy campaign group released on the Internet.

    The cable dated May 25, 2007 offered insights into what kind of president Kenyatta would like to be. There is no doubt about it. The Jubilee administration is trying to take the country back to the days of Moi and Kenyatta Senior.

    There has been no detention without trial, and the torture chambers have not been reopened. But the country has returned to the early 1990s when the press was routinely intimidated with illiberal laws, civil society actively confronted and undermined and any individual or institution that did not toe the State House line labelled a traitor.

    The government has now embarked on totally sidelining all tribes associated with their challengers. These ones will be deprived of basic services and financial support. They will clamped on if they dissent. They will be reduced to a handful of kneel-down-to-me’ers. Suspicious foods will be transported to those opposition strongholds to create defects in their brains and bodies. Lab manufactured diseases will be transported through drinking water and their names will be replaced with the dead by the polling master.

    What is a dictatorship? In Kenya, it is now officially a system in which there is no institution that is independent from the presidency. They are restoring to the President the powers that the Constitution took away from him. By having non-political Cabinet secretaries the President has been handed loyal servants who cannot question his decisions. We need to repeal that section from the constitution. Now even Deputy President is the latest victim of those enormous powers.

    Even the jua-kali partisans are carefully watched because you are not sure that its members only discuss panels and scraps behind closed doors. Effectively, the jua-kali association must be put under the control of the Association of Associations which, in turn, should report to the Ministry of Associations.

    In effect, that is what the amendments to the Civil Society Bill meant. And this is the precise import of the Media Bill. State House is saying that no institution will operate outside the ambit of the Executive and Parliament, which it dominates. Uhuru said he is not opposed to media freedom but he has to challenge negative media articles ostensibly because they have been used as evidence against him at the ICC.

    Is this what Kenyans voted for? I don’t care about speculation on whether he was “validly” elected or not. What is true and of importance is that he jostled for power to oppress freedom and the ICC. The ICC noose in the horizon threatens many – the accused, the witnesses, their friends and their associates. Their main struggle now is to delay, postpone and at best, terminate the cases. If the country is not vigilant, the affected and the fanatical followers can cause problems aimed at ‘influencing’ the courts and international community.

    Kenyans should now brace for fresh extra judicial killings and assassinations. Uhuru wants to survive by creating fear everywhere and silencing every upcoming leader and voice in a manner to achieve ‘an end which justifies the means’. He wants to create terror, maim, displace, grab, eliminate, deprive, exclude and incarcerate while his followers and supporters sing beautiful praises of the demigods. He wants to cause disappearances of his political foes (peoples’ leaders), assassinate and give unbelievable reasons for disappearances. This is why Media Bill is vital to Uhuru now – so that journalists cannot report the disappearances and assassinations of dissents.

    Kenyans follow elections — and electoral disputes at the Supreme Court — much as football fans follow matches. That is why I formed a committee to rally the government on creating a Bill to erect Election Offences Courts. They stole my Price Control Act and then threw away my party’s manifesto when it sneaked in to their hands. They also stole my recommendation to amend ministries to departments and ministers to secretaries.

    Kenyatta seems to be living under the misapprehension that the victory he secured was a mandate to change the nation’s laws fundamentally. If he wants to do that, he should go the whole hog and call a referendum on a new Constitution. The most troubling aspect of Jubilee’s attempt to impose authoritarianism on the country is the enthusiastic support they are receiving from their supporters. Very brain-fogged bunch of losers who don’t have Kenya at heart. Regardless of the suffering their fellow Kenyans go through on an hourly basis, they are stuck to the belief that it is only people from a certain region of Kenya that deserve to live on State House hill.

    The public must not forget that dictators can only exist because the people allow them to. In the end, those very supporters will suffer when power changes hands as it inevitably will one day. I don’t support democracy for the sake of it, but I support the concept of constitutionalism. Seven in ten Kenyans agreed on a democratic and open system of governance in August 2010.

    Kenyatta should not sneak dictatorship in through the back door. If he wants to be an authoritarian like Moi or Kenyatta Senior, let him call a referendum on a new Constitution. Shredding the current one and trying to rule by Executive fiat is dishonest and deceitful.

    Deputy President William Ruto is a thoroughly frustrated man but is unable to take any action due to lack of an alternative political strategy at the moment. When Senator Charles Keter spoke about some issues the other day, he was summoned and told to go slow. Similarly, when I first raised concerns about this issue in Kericho they tried to subdue me but I told them off. If I must be a sycophant I can only be one for the people of Nandi Hills. What creates the most bitterness is how those who have gone public on the silent discord within the coalition are quickly summoned and cautioned.

    A group of sycophants and well known corrupt personalities have crept back into government and are fast taking control of the President and his deputy. This is what I am opposing.

    Kenya is being mortgaged to China, by saying that I mean the debt ceiling had been broken following the launch of the standard gauge railway construction by the President in Mombasa. The question is, why pay Sh400 billion extra for the new railway line then sack 100,000 Kenyans in the public service citing lack of money? Consider the diplomatic appointments. Strategic diplomatic positions in countries such as China, Japan, Britain, Korea and the US, among others, have already been filled by TNA. The creation of a tribunal to investigate the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by President Uhuru Kenyatta is another wider plot to introduce the reign of dictatorship. This President’s move of suspending six JSC members is tragic and that it will erode the country’s democratic values. Jubilee has realised that the only way they can stay in power is by having a weak Judiciary which they can control. Dictatorships do not grow in a day. The pillar for democracy is always the courts. Once the courts are emasculated and interfered with, that is the end of democracy. What is happening in the Judiciary is a calculated move to ensure the Jubilee Government gets a user- friendly institution. Uhuru wants to rule like his late father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who used courts to oppress the public.

    President Kenyatta must be careful not to undermine URP or the Kalenjin with 50 MPs from the community in the coalition. There is a massive walk out plan and that will bring down Uhuru’s dictatorship. On behalf of the PlaCenta Party of Kenya and Kenyans at large, I am watching.

  • Kikuyus should leave power

    Quincy Timberlake: Kikuyus must voluntarily relinquish power come 2017 elections

    By PlaCentaNews | Posted 23 hours ago | Melbourne, Australia


    “On one thing, however, all MUST agree: There must and shall be no more Kikuyu presidencies for at least 10 years from the next election. The price of Kikuyu hegemony has already proved greater than anyone wants to pay. Come 2017, a Kikuyu candidate will stand no chance at all. We will not allow that to happen and we have acquired enough power to declare so. We don’t want to be further isolated from the presidency just as our fellow Kenyans, Kikuyus don’t want to be further isolated by other communities for their selfish beliefs and clinging to power. Should they fail to heed this cautious advice and go ahead and ascend to power by means of poll rigging again, I will call for national economic boycott of their products and services” Quincy Timberlake (the Mutongoi Njamba) – Melbourne, 2013
    Retired President Mwai Kibaki after winning elections in 2002. Former PM Raila Odinga protected Kibaki’s predincy-elect from KANU scavengers besides declaring him “Tosha”
    Retired President Mwai Kibaki after winning elections in 2002. Former PM Raila Odinga protected Kibaki’s predincy-elect from KANU scavengers besides declaring him “Tosha”
    The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting. The worst software in us Kenyan voters is that we quickly forget what a politician does or says. We as voters crave authenticity. What politicians are not aware of is that Kenyan voters from regions other than Mount Kenya are looking for credibility.
    This is my message to the clowns who believe they were born to rule over others either by force or through trickery. Please, DO NOT underestimate the Kenyan public; technology has made these disgruntled voters more informed than ever. We at PlaCenta Party of Kenya have come up with the following conclusion about the most intimidating politics in Kenya’s history.
    Kenya is marking half a century of freedom from British colonial rule, and while many agree there is much to celebrate as it forges its path as an economic power, there is the unfortunate reality that it is still in the grips of corruption, inequality and violence. Meanwhile, jokers have raised another flag on the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya – happy with leadership in their custody while other Kenyans are internally brewing over injustices that have been entrenched through tribal patronage by successive governments.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed crowds during the country’s 50th jubilee, just as his father Jomo Kenyatta did in 1963 when he became the first Kenyan to lead the nation. Uhuru’s speech was heavy with anti-western rhetoric, amid international pressure ahead of his trial for crimes against humanity early next year.
    Jaramogi Odinga selflessly declared he would not accept any senior post until Jomo Kenyatta was released
    Jaramogi Odinga selflessly declared he would not accept any senior post until Jomo Kenyatta was released
    Uhuru who denies all charges of masterminding violence following the contested elections in 2007, has campaigned hard to have his trial at the International Criminal Court suspended, appealing for support from fellow African presidents and the African Union.
    At midnight, Kenyatta called for the honoring of the country’s freedom fighters of the Mau Mau uprising, a largely ethnic Kikuyu insurgent movement in the 1950s brutally suppressed by colonial powers. As well as dealing with a violent past, many Kenyans want to focus on the country’s current issues and struggles.
    This week the World Bank has cut the growth forecast for Kenya for 2013 and 2014 to five percent, suggesting Kenya is drifting behind regional nations.
    Security remains a challenge, with Somalia’s al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab threatening Kenya with more attacks following its Nairobi Westgate mall massacre in September, in revenge for Kenya’s two year military intervention in southern Somalia.
    I hasten to add that I hold the view—that Kenya should not have another Kikuyu president; at least not in the next round anyway—not because I have anything against Kikuyu’s—I don’t—but I do hold this view for the same reasons progressive Kenyans (and Kikuyu’s) hold the same view, and that is, it is just neither fair nor just for an ethnically diverse and vast country such as Kenya to have three of its four presidents since its independence, hailing from the same tribe.
    All of us as Kenyans were happy to have and accepted Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as our first president and we lived with the fact that he was to be our president to the day he drew his last breath, which was fine; the man, after all, was very instrumental in our country’s gaining independence.
    Kenyatta was, of course, succeeded by Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi. In 2002, having been fed up with the Moi rule, Kenyans in a euphoria never seen before, showed Moi and his pet project Uhuru the door and ushered in the Kibaki era.
    Timberlake with DP Ruto. Timberlake was by his side during the hardest times of his political career.
    Timberlake with DP Ruto. Timberlake was by his side during the hardest times of his political career.
    Any informed political observer could not but recognize that, just like his father Jaramogi made the Kenyatta presidency possible, Raila, Jaramogi’s son, made the Kibaki presidency possible by his “Kibaki Tosha” declaration.
    Jaramogi assessed what was best for the country, and concluded it was best to put his own political ambitions on the side and make it possible for his friend Kenyatta to become president for the good of the country.
    Fast forward to 2002, Jaramogi’s son, Raila, was faced with essentially the same decision, albeit under different circumstances, namely to do that which was politically expedient for him personally, or to do what was right for the country and just like his father before him, Raila chose to back Kibaki with his “Kibaki tosha” declaration, which made it possible for Kibaki, to be elected president.
    On their own, conducting themselves in their respective times with such unparalleled political judgement and vision, coupled with their unmatched sense of self-confidence and sound decision making in the face of the most difficult of times, except as son mirroring father in this only such known example, these are qualities that have already enshrined the names Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and and Raila Amolo Odinga in the annals of Kenyan political history.
    What reward does either of these men deserve for stepping in at the right time in our country’s critical points and acting unselfishly to save a nation of uncertainty but ensuring her of certainty as to new leadership of its people when doing otherwise would have perpetuated an undesirable status quo much to more suffering of the country? Jaramogi was briefly rewarded with vice-presidency, only to have it taken away and he sent on permanent political exile. What Jubilee is now enjoying in political party freedom was unveiled by the Odinga dynasty in the early 1990s. Whether we like it or not, he is the doyen of opposition politics equalling freedom.
    By historical nature and other considerations, the Kikuyu shall and will always be an integral part of the Kenyan social-economic and political fabric. How Kikuyus vote in 2017 will reveal quite a bit about how the community sees its role in the vastly changing and new Kenya: vote as a block for one of their own and remain stuck in the past or move in the direction of new Kenya by spreading their vote around as they ought to, even on a limited and constrained manner.
    The main cockamamish thought in Kenyan politics is that each and every August House is formed to contain the Raila Odinga tide. To them Raila appears to be the one to beat. This is far from the truth – Raila will be beaten by the only force than can stop him and that is, tribalism or more specifically, what Kikuyus decide to do about it.
    Timberlake’s family has of late been receiving death threats from President Kenyatta’s regime
    Timberlake’s family has of late been receiving death threats from President Kenyatta’s regime
    If Kikuyu’s were to look back at history, the choice for president for them come 2017 would be Raila Odinga, even if one their own is on the ballot. They keep on forgetting that while they exclusively invest all their energies in stopping the former premier, a deep threat is growing within their own alliance. Deputy President Wiliam Ruto is not a fool as Jubilee may think. I have sat, visited, dined and campaigned with the DP while in Kenya. I campaigned with him across the country from east to west. Kalenjins accorded me a very warm welcome – what an admirable, hospitable community. I know what Ruto is capable of. During our private talks, I learnt a lot about him some of which I may not share here now. But what I did learn was that he is a force to reckon with in political circles, not to be underestimated. Ruto is fully cooperating with the ICC, playing low, as injustices within the Jubilee alliance take a negative and painful toll on him, even turning his own URP against him. But don’t be too quick to misjudge Ruto. He will rebound from this debacle. He does not need Kenyatta – Kenyatta needs him. The alliance may not last 5 years unless they clamp down on dissent which could provoke civil war or ethnic clashes.
    Jaramogi was not looking at Kenyatta as a Kikuyu in deciding not to throw him under the bus and assuming the presidency himself. Neither was Raila looking at Kibaki as a Kikuyu in deciding not to throw him under the bus and either heading to the State House himself, or throwing his weight behind someone else who would have been equally elected as Kibaki was in 2002.
    Both men from the Lake region obviously knew the two individuals they supported in their respective times, were Kikuyu men but that was not the deciding factor in their choosing to do what they did: they both looked at the men in their respective times and concluded each was fit and, indeed, the best person to take the helm of power in Kenya as president at the critical times in our history when, by their unselfish and nationalistic move, each declared their man tosha and the rest is history.
    Jaramogi, in his mind, said “Kenyatta tosha” and that was enough to usher in the Kenyatta era. Raila said “Kibaki tosha” and that was enough to usher in the Kibaki era. But it won’t happen now.
    The focus on Raila is all wrong. There’s a force that is silently raising on an hourly basis against the tide. It is called Kenyagenes. This is the multi-ethnical group forming to beat the forces that are much too focused on Raila right now.
    CORD must stop playing into the hands of the Jubilee wolf’s trap. They portray that Kenya has no official opposition
    CORD must stop playing into the hands of the Jubilee wolf’s trap. It must remember that Kenya must have a strong official opposition to defend the voiceless
    Kenyagenes are now working underground and are prepared to create shock in upcoming political events. To them, Kikuyus are Kenyans and must be part of that real Kenya, not the Kenya they are trying to create. This group is equipped financially, politically, multi-community-wise and have convinced almost all tribes in Kenya to see ahead and use their political muscle to pluck the feathers of a one-tribe dynasty.
    By clinging on to the idea that we must have a Kikuyu president, the Kikuyu inadvertently give credence to the erroneous perception by Kenyans of the other tribes that when a tribe has the presidency, all members of the tribe benefit immensely. Most kikuyu depend much more on business to eke out a living. What they need isn’t a president from their tribe, but a conducive environment to carry out the various activities to earn a living as they have always done. Having a president from another community will remove resentment against the Kikuyu for monopolizing the presidency, thus helping in cohesion and integration- all food for business to thrive.
    To all my brothers in Kikuyu community, the peace butterfly is in your hands. You can set it free by letting go of your presidential ambitions and allow us all to live in peace in Kenya. Alternatively, you can squash and kill it by hanging on to your stupid idea of “the Kikuyu fought for independence so they deserve the presidency”, which will force the other tribes to unite to pry your claws out of the statehouse. The rest will be history.
    I know that all the big books state that everyone has the democratic right to run for presidency, what they forgot to include is that democracy must be tempered with a little common sense…
    We need to start by giving Luos or Kambas or Luhyas or any other tribe that has not been at the top job before, at least a five year term as president. They can deliver, and by allowing them to govern Kenya, their communities shall also share wealth distribution as the other 2 have in the past. When will Nyanza, Ukambani or Luyhaland elevate to affluent status if Kikuyus continue to believe they themselves were blessed to govern?
    Here are a few crucial steps that Kenya must follow towards a more harmonized nation. First of all, Isaac Hassan must be thrown out of office, IG of police David Kimaiyo must resign, CJ Willy Mutunga must be investigated that means he must “step aside” and KDF chief of staff Julius Karangi must also step aside. All these for national reconciliation and healing purposes. Majority of Kenyans have now realised the folly of fighting among themselves in order to have one of their own (read fellow tribesman) in power. The fight has now shifted to both economic justice and democracy rather than political power for its own sake.
    Quincy Timberlake ni mutongoi njamba wa 2017
    Quincy Timberlake ni mutongoi njamba wa 2017
    The relationship between the Kikuyu and the rest of Kenya has been warped, residents sense, possibly beyond repair. Nyeri’s inhabitants are haunted by a more immediate fear. Most of the 300,000 people displaced in the violence during 2007/08 were Kikuyus.
    Land scarcity is the leitmotif of the Kikuyu, the historic source of their anguish and the motivating force behind their success story. Accounting for around 22 percent of Kenya’s population of 38 million, the Kikuyu’s mark on the East African nation has been far greater than the figures imply, thanks to that driving hunger.
    Under Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, another kinsman, they streamed out of Central Province, settling in the Rift Valley and on the coast. Today, they dominate the economy. Kikuyus drive most of Kenya’s matatus and its taxis, run its newspapers, and constitute much of its civil service, their entrepreneurial reach extending from the glitziest of hotels to the remotest roadside duka (kiosk). They also, joke Kikuyus, account for the biggest share of the country’s criminals and prison inmates.
    They hail themselves as “the Jews of Kenya,” envied and hated in equal measure for that entrepreneurial zeal. But there’s a difference: Europe’s Jews never combined economic influence with political power. The Kikuyu have done just that, providing three of Kenya’s four presidents. And their current predicament can be traced to that double-fisted grip on the nation-state and the resentment it stirs among their compatriots.
    The Kikuyu, outsiders feel, have been rubbing other communities’ noses in their pre-eminence ever since. “We’re obnoxious, we’re thrusting, we’re loud, and we’re everywhere,” acknowledges a Kikuyu banker. “Our problem is there aren’t enough of us to dominate, yet we’re too large to ignore. We are at once both obnoxious and indispensable. If we are not careful, we will plunge this country in to unsolvable chaos that will see us lose what we have achieved economically.”
    On one thing, however, all MUST agree: There must and shall be no more Kikuyu presidencies for at least 10 years from the next election. The price of Kikuyu hegemony has already proved greater than anyone wants to pay. Come 2017, a Kikuyu candidate will stand no chance at all. We will not allow that to happen and we have acquired enough power to declare so. We don’t want to be further isolated from the presidency just as our fellow Kenyans, Kikuyus don’t want to be further isolated by other communities for their selfish beliefs and clinging to power.
    President Kenyatta is the latest tyrant in world politics
    This presidential sword of authority must now leave the hands of the ruling class and feel hands of authority of other communities
    As I wind up this important message to my people, I venture to state on a more sinister note that some cockamamie daring stupefied high profiled personalities have recently sent my young family very long lists with death threats should we step on Kenyan soil again. My message to them: We are the most protected family from Kenya in Australia. You can use your embassy in Canberra but any miscalculated mistake may trigger a very afflictive scenario diplomatically. This is not the Quincy Timberlake of 2010,11 or 12 any more who was a silent victim of torture, inhumane treatment, degradation, national scolding, molestation and forceful incarcerations. This is a new formidable force in the Kenyan political industry with intentions to relieve other Kenyan voiceless communities. I am well equipped to combat any threats that have been coming especially from you officers at the CID and KDF whose information is now with the Australian Federal Police. Send more death threats and I dare you, you may provoke me to unearth more that I know and have kept in my secret files. I may be provoked to stand against Uhuru Kenyatta at The ICC. Dare me not because whether you like it or not, Uhuru Kenyatta is the last Kikuyu president of the Republic of Kenya. After him, no community is willing to let them back to power for at least 10 years or else, there will be no business as usual in the Republic and you all know this. Stop intimidating, terrorising, loading your forceful rule over other communities, inciting hate and extra-judicially killing Kenyans who air their dissent. It is a free country.

  • Ethiopia like Uhuru
  • journalists killed
  • press freedom almost dead
  • social media gag in Nigeria

    Nigeria: Gagging Critics or Fighting Cyber Crime?

    Posted 10 December 2013 23:34 GMT

    Nigerian lawmakers [1] are deliberating over multiple bills of law that aim to fight cybercrime — but could gag government critics along the way.

    “An Act To Provide For The Prohibition of Electronic Fraud In All Electronic Transactions In Nigeria And For Other Related Matters” [SB198, Year: 2008] would target various forms of fraud and financial crimes [2] carried out online or via mobile phones. Initially sponsored by Ayo Arise [3], a Senator in the 6th National Assembly [4] of Nigeria, the bill’s original draft [5] provided long prison terms (of five to 14 years) for violators of the law.

    The bill’s new sponsor, Senator Sefiu Adegbenga Kaka [6] of the 7th National Assembly [7], has promised to excise “any unacceptable clause(s) in the proposed bill.” [8]

    This bill’s prohibitions on electronic fraud are broadly articulated and cover activities ranging from accessing electronic devices “without authorization” to “trafficking” passwords:

    Prohibition of Electronic Fraud

    (1) From the commencement of this Act no person or body corporate shall:
    1.Without authorisation access a computer (or) and other electronic devices or in case of authorisation, exceeds authorised access to computers and or communication devices;
    2.use counterfeit access devices;
    3.use unauthorised access devices;
    4.possess any device designed to manipulate credit or ATM card;
    5.damage a government computer with the intent to defraud;
    6.access computer and or electronic device to commit espionage:
    7.traffic in pass words for public, private and or financial institutions computer or relevant electronic devices;
    8.traffic in any password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorisation with intent to defraud, copy financial institutions website, email customers with intention to defraud customers and financial institutions; and
    9.Intentionally create computer worms to destroy government computer.

    (2) Anybody who contravenes any of the subsections above shall be guilty of an offence punishable with a sentence of 7 years imprisonment or a fine of 5 million Naira or both.

    The section of the bill that has drawn the ire of netizens addresses “false” information:

    Section 16 (3): Anyone who intentionally propagate false information that could threaten the security of the country or that is capable of inciting the general public against the government through electronic message shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction shall be sentenced to 7 years imprisonment or 5 million Naira fine or both.

    Without question, this section of the law could be used to criminalize critical speech, calls for protest, and other forms of political activism. Nevertheless, some influential members of the tech community see value in the measure. Blossom Nnodim [9], creator of the AdoptATweep [10] social media and entrepreneurship project, thinks that “false information” is the operative word in the bill. Nnolim believes that while freedom of speech should be sacrosanct, there must be regulations against defamation or peddling of false news.

    The bill could effectively impede Snowden [11]-style disclosures of classified documents with the following sanctions:

    Tampering with protected computers

    9. From the commencement of this Act, any person who being employed by or under Local, State or Federal Government of Nigeria with respect to working with any protected computer, electronic mails commits any act which he is not authorized to do by virtue of his contract of service or intentionally permits, tampering with such Computer, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

    Obtaining electronic messages

    11. Any person or organisation who by means of false pretence induces government of Nigeria or any person in charge of electronic devices to deliver to him any electronic messages which includes but is not limited to E-mail messages, credit and debit cards information, facsimile messages which is not specifically meant for him or his organisation (in the latter case except he is authorised to receive such messages for and on behalf of his organisation) is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for two year or a fine of no more than 1 million Naira or both.

    ‘Gbenga Sesan [12], Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria [13], drew Global Voices’ attention to what he described as a greater potential threat to online freedom in Nigeria — the Cyber Crime Bill (2013) [14] – which is currently in the National Assembly.

    Why is the Cyber Crime Bill a grave threat to free speech? Sesan explains:

    The new Cyber Crime Bill (2013) has gone through various drafts, including having been known as Cyber-Security Bill (2011) at some point. The bill was jointly authored by the… wait for it… National Security Adviser’s office and the Ministry of Justice. It had some provisions such as security agents having the power to seize equipment based on reasonable suspicion but this has since been improved to include the need for a court warrant. The problem with this in the Nigerian context is that warrants are easy to obtain since the judiciary isn’t exactly an institution that activists or ordinary internet users can rely on. In fact, there’s a joke that for the Nigerian judiciary, “the rich get bail but the poor get jail.”

    Sesan fears the bill tips the scales in favor of security agencies and could be used to target critical voices online. However, he suspects it may end up on the shelf with 2015 elections not too far off.

    This is not the first time Nigeria has come under scrutiny for restrictive Internet-related policymaking. In July 2012, we reported on calls from the President of the Nigerian Senate for social media censorship [15]. Earlier this year, we looked into government plans to ramp up Internet surveillance [16] using software purchased from Elbit Systems, an Israeli company.

    Update [December 11, 2013]

    The Nigerian Senate bowed to public criticism and has expunged the offensive section from the proposed bill [17].


    Article printed from Global Voices Advocacy: https://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

    URL to article: https://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2013/12/11/nigeria-gagging-critics-or-fighting-cyber-crime/

    URLs in this post:

    [1] Nigerian lawmakers: http://www.nassnig.org/nass/index.php

    [2] fraud and financial crimes: http://www.jidaw.com/security/aisa/cybercrime_measures_nigeria.html

    [3] Ayo Arise: http://www.senatorarise.com/index.html

    [4] 6th National Assembly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigerian_Senators_of_the_6th_National_Assembly

    [5] original draft: http://www.nassnig.org/nass/legislation.php?id=349

    [6] Senator Sefiu Adegbenga Kaka: http://www.nassnig.org/nass/portfolio/profile.php?id=SEN.%20KAKA%20SEFIU%20ADEGBENGA

    [7] 7th National Assembly: http://www.nassnig.org/

    [8] “any unacceptable clause(s) in the proposed bill.”: http://www.theparadigmng.com/?p=10140#

    [9] Blossom Nnodim: http://www.blcompere.com/author/admin/

    [10] AdoptATweep: https://twitter.com/AdoptATweep

    [11] Snowden: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden

    [12] ‘Gbenga Sesan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gbenga_Sesan

    [13] Paradigm Initiative Nigeria: http://pinigeria.org/

    [14] Cyber Crime Bill (2013): http://pinigeria.org/download/cybercrimebill2013.pdf

    [15] for social media censorship: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/07/30/nigeria-senate-president-calls-for-censorship-of-social-media/

    [16] plans to ramp up Internet surveillance: http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2013/07/12/nigerian-government-to-ramp-up-internet-surveillance/

    [17] has expunged the offensive section from the proposed bill: http://www.punchng.com/news/senate-reverses-decision-on-jail-term-for-online-critics/?utm_content=buffer7e338&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

  • To succeed, Uhuru must look and act like a Prince.

    Nic Cheeseman18 July 2013

    In this column for the Daily Nation our Co-editor Nic Cheeseman uses Robert Jackson and Carl Rosberg’s work on leadership in Africa to ask: what kind of ruler will Uhuru Kenyatta be? And, what can Kenyatta learn from those who went before him?

    People who know nothing about Africa often assume that all African leaders are all the same — arrogant, uncaring and selfish. Once I was being interviewed on BBC radio about Robert Mugabe’s brutal repression of MDC supporters in Zimbabwe and the highly respected presenter asked whether we could expect any better in Africa.

    The implication was that Africa had no good leaders; that Mugabe was little more than a manifestation of a general trend. Of course, this is nonsense. From philosopher kings such as Senegal’s Léopold Sédar Senghor to former military leaders like Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and on to committed democrats such as Sir Seewoosagur Rangaloom of Mauritius, Africa features as many variations in leadership styles as any other continent. But what kind of leader will Uhuru Kenyatta be?

    Two of the most influential writers on leadership in African, Robert H. Jackson and Carl G. Rosberg, placed presidents into four categories: prince, autocrat, prophet, tyrant. Princes are shrewd, flexible and accommodating — willing to be more inclusive than they need to be in the short-term in order to maintain peace and stability. The real genius of the prince lies in their ability to realise that what is good for the country can also be good for them.

    Jackson and Rosberg saw Jomo Kenyatta as a classic ‘prince’ for precisely this reason. Kenyatta allowed his ministers to get on with their jobs without constantly micro-managing them, while under the “harambee” model of development the State pledged to meet the running cost of schools and health clinics for whichever communities were able to build them.

    The second category of African leader is the autocrat, who is less willing to share power with others and more determined to dominate the State. In contrast to princes, autocrats are not prepared to allow their ministers to do what they want and instead seek to control all aspects of political and economic life.

    Such figures are unwilling to accept constraints on their power, and rule like absolute monarchs. They are also keen to promote stability as a means to ensure their own longevity, but often achieve this through repression rather than inclusion. Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and Felix Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast are two examples of this kind of leadership.

    In terms of Kenyan history, Daniel arap Moi’s leadership in the late 1980s most closely conformed to this ideal type. Figures who disagreed with Moi were systematically removed from power as he sought to secure unlimited control over both the party and the State.

    Prophets are different — although they may use authoritarian means, they do so because they are optimistic transformers of society. While princes are typically concerned to preserve the status quo, prophets attempt to use their control over the State to “pursue an ideological vision of a better world”. Such leaders are often seen as teachers, redeemers or messiahs and excite great devotion from their people, but also place great demands on them.

    African socialists such as Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere come closest to fitting this profile. It is striking that Kenya has never had a “prophet” president. Jomo Kenyatta was against the redistribution of wealth, while Mwai Kibaki concentrated on kick-starting the economy and paid little attention to society. Daniel arap Moi was perhaps the leader who came closest to challenging the status quo, but even he never sought to tackle inequality, build a stronger sense of Kenyan identity, or reorganise rural and urban life.

    Of course, some leaders have proposed more radical ideas, such as Oginga Odinga, Martin Shikuku and JM Kariuki, who warned against Kenya becoming a country of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars. But precisely because these figures threatened the interests of those with wealth and power, they were never allowed to ascend to the presidency.

    The final category of leader identified by Jackson and Rosberg is the tyrant, whose rule is characterised by oppression, despotism, fear and amorality. Presidents such as Francisco Macias Nguema Biyogo of Equatorial Guinea and Idi Amin of Uganda, were cruel and unjust, willing to abuse their populations to get their own way. What unites them is that they rejected any kind of check or balance on their power and instead ruled in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

    The difference between a tyrant and an autocrat is that tyrants are far more willing to destroy institutions and instigate terror in the pursuit of absolute power. For this reason, the rule of tyrants often gives rise to pervasive social and political instability. The period of Kenyan history that most obviously resembles this description is the second decade of the Moi presidency. In the dying years of the one-party state and the early multiparty period, Moi’s government engaged in increasingly desperate strategies to stay in power. As a result, the State was progressively weakened, corruption increased, and inter-ethnic relations deteriorated, sowing the seeds of the 2007 post-election crisis. Kenya can ill-afford another tyrant.

    So what kind of president will Uhuru Kenyatta be? He is clearly not a prophet — Uhuru is known to be a conservative thinker and has a personal interest in preserving the status quo. His government may well increase economic growth, but it is unlikely to be too concerned about whether or not it benefits the poor. Social transformation may happen if a stronger economy raises living standards, but it will take a very long time for these benefits to trickle down. The Jubilee Alliance election campaign promised to make Kenya work better, not to change the way that it works.

    Many Kenyans seem to be expecting Uhuru to follow in his father’s footsteps and rule like a prince: to recognise that what is good for the country is also good for him. There is no doubt there is some truth to this: if he can deliver high levels of economic growth and preside over an efficient government, his popularity will rise and so will his chances of re-election. The announcement of a more technocratic cabinet that — with the exception of Najib Balala and Charity Ngilu — appears to signal a step in this direction. Kenyatta’s carefully thought-out message is clear: “give us a chance and we will get things done.” In a country in which millions still live below the poverty line this has the makings of an attractive political platform, and one that is likely to go down well with foreign donors.

    Optimists argue that Uhuru is less likely to develop into an autocrat or a tyrant because he already has high status and vast wealth. Time will tell, but a term in office with fewer corruption scandals would go a long way to repairing the reputation of the government at home and abroad. However, while Uhuru has made all of the right noises since taking over the presidency it is important to be cautious, because the more open style adopted by princes often obscures the fact that they employ many of the same strategies as autocrats and tyrants.

    Consider the styles of leadership of his father and Moi. The latter no doubt used intimidation and coercion more systematically and brutally, but most of the major assassinations in Kenyan political history — Pio Pinto, Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki — happened on Kenyatta’s watch. It is also important to remember that Kanu’s hegemony in the 1970s under Kenyatta was underpinned by a similar combination of carrot and stick that Moi used to retain control in the 1980s. The Kenya People’s Union, for example, was first prevented from effectively contesting the “Little General Elections” of 1966 and later banned in 1969.

    In other words, while princes appear to be more democratic and responsible leaders, they often use the same tactics as autocrats when push comes to shove. But precisely because they present themselves as being more responsible and inclusive, this reality is often overlooked. There are already good reasons to doubt Uhuru’s democratic and reformist credentials given his association with Moi in 2002 and the role that he played during the 2007 post-election violence. To prove the doubters wrong he needs not just to look like a prince but to act like one too, in hard times as well as good.

    This column originally appeared in the Daily Nation.

  • attacking human rights defenders

    A Briton has gone to court to avert possible deportation after the government refused to renew her work permit.

    With human rights activist Maina Kiai, Lucy Hannan set up InformAction, an NGO that screens human rights films in rural areas and holds community discussions on justice and governance. It has employed 40 people.

    She “came to Kenya in 1988. She has worked in Kenya as a journalist, human rights author and film maker. She has set up companies, built a home and started a family in Kenya,” her petition states. “She has a son with Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan.”

    Yesterday, Hannan received interim protection when High Court judge Isaac Lenaola extended her work permit to January 13 when the case will be heard.

    Lenaola also issued a temporary order barring the government from arresting, prosecuting or deporting her from Kenya pending determination of her suit. Her first work permit was issued in 2007 and has been renewed since.

    “The absence of formal notification of the rejection of her application for renewal of her work permit and the absence of reasons for such rejection is evidence of unreasonableness, irrationality, mala fides (bad faith), unfairness and unlawful action,” said her lawyer Kethi Kilonzo. Hannan’s work permit expired on September 19.

    In November, an officer at the Immigration department told her that her application for the renewal of the work permit had been rejected but she was not given any reason or formal communication. Hannan said she has invested for more than six years in Kenya and legitimately expects to enjoy the fruits of her investment.

    She said the government is breaching the constitution and the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act by not exercising its authority in a transparent and accountable manner. Hannan said she has done everything required to obtain renewal of the working permit.

    As a journalist, she worked in Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Uganda and Sudan for the BBC and British newspapers, The Guardian, The Observer and The Independent.

    In 2009, she was a witness in the High Court in a case where a policeman was charged with shooting a demonstrator in Kisumu during the post-election violence. Hannan’s video was used as evidence.
    – See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/article-147518/british-investor-court-over-work-permit-removal#sthash.be89Spmq.K3ZaVH9b.dpuf

  • attacking human rights defenders

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

    Human rights defender Justus Nyang’aya shot in Rongai

    More by this Author

    Human rights defender and the Amnesty International country director Justus Nyang’aya was shot and seriously injured in his residence in Rongai, Nairobi Wednesday morning.

    Nairobi county commander Benson Kibue said that Mr Nyang’aya is admitted to a city hospital in a stable condition after he was shot three times, including on the chest.

    Gunmen, police say, raided his house and robbed the family of cash and other valuables before shooting him. They then escaped but police are yet to make any arrests. “We are yet to establish the motive of the shooting but are investigating,” said Mr Kibue.

    A witness, Mr Kibet Chebii, said that he was from visiting the victim’s neighbour in Acacia estate Kajiado County when he heard gunshots and alerted the police. Police rushed to the scene and also recovered two bullet heads and a spent cartridge of 9mm calibre.

    Just two days ago, Mr Nyang’aya attended a function at the Law Society of Kenya offices where he awarded lawyers who offer probono services in Nairobi.

    The lawyers awarded included Elisha Ongoya, a constitutional lawyer, Tony Mulekyo and John Chigiti, who represented hundreds of Muthurwa residents facing eviction and also acted for refugees.

  • Uhuru has made it clear that this is not Jubilee but Uhuru/TNA/kikuyu for 10 years and then URP/kalenjin/Ruto for another 10 years. This government now is therefore TNA/Kikuyu and not Jubilee per se. Uhuru supporters therefore need to take responsibility for what is going on and cannot get away by bringing in Raila all the time. Move on folks. Raila is nolonger here to blame.

  • Standard Digital News

    If indeed civil society is evil, then I am a proud member of that “evil society”

    Updated Monday, December 16th 2013 at 23:32 GMT +3

    By Makau Mutua


    Last week, a trashy semi-literate online rag, speculated that I was in Arusha, Tanzania coaching witnesses for the International Criminal Court ( ICC) in the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

    The gutter publication, which savagely attacks anyone critical of the Kenyatta regime, has purported to out ICC witnesses. It regularly refers to me as the “ ICC mole”. It’s infamous for primitive attacks on what it calls Kenya’s “evil society”. Let me confess for the avoidance of doubt – I am a proud member of that “evil society”.

    Ordinarily, I wouldn’t waste a column on some deranged online peddler of lies and uncouth attacks. But this is different. Why? Because the publication simulates attacks by the Jubilee regime on its critics. Often, it posts “news” from the state before it becomes public.

    The implication is that it’s got an inside track with the powers that be. It regularly predicts, sometimes with accuracy, what’s happening in the corridors of power. It’s steeped in the schemes of intriguers and government propagandists.

    Everyone now and then, the rag will put out diversionary alerts to confound critics. Which begs the six million dollar question – who’s behind the Daily Post? Methinks Parliament, or the Media Council of Kenya, should investigate.

    Government by propaganda, disinformation, and media manipulation is nothing new. It was the Third Reich’s Paul Joseph Goebbels – Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda – who taught states how to lie effectively. The evil genius famously said that, “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.

    He said that the “truth is the mortal enemy of the lie,” and added, chillingly, that the “truth is the greatest enemy of the state”. The gutter publication isn’t brilliant, nor is it even thoughtful, but like Minister Goebbels, it prides itself on channeling the bald-faced lie. The most important and destructive of these lies is that Kenya’s “civil” society is indeed the “evil” society.

    A little lesson is in order here. Civil society is the necessary cartilage between the state and the people. It’s the “independent eye” of the people that stands between the tyranny of the state and liberty. No society can be democratic without a civil society. Ask Kanu. Its demise was brought about largely by civil society.

    The 2010 democratic Constitution – that everyone Kenyan now swears by – was civil society’s baby. The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHCR), whose board I chair, and which was run by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, UN rapporteur Maina Kiai, writer Muthoni Wanyeki – and countless others – was the early and relentless instigator of the struggle for a democratic Constitution. Other Kenyan NGOs were equally valuable in this fight.

    That’s not all. The key institutional democratic framework is the handiwork of civil society. Think of police, prison, and other justice reforms, including constitutional commissions. The truth commission, which the political class has mangled, couldn’t have been possible without civil society.

    Civil society has provided basic services where the state’s writ and ability have collapsed. Ask folks in Northern Kenya the value of civil society. It’s civil society that’s trained thousands of Kenyans about their rights, especially how to defend them from a predatory state. Civic education on the electoral system couldn’t be possible without civil society. In short, Kenyans would still be in bondage today but for civil society. We make no apologies for confronting tyranny and autocracy.

    In short, Kenyans would still be in bondage today but for civil society. We make no apologies for confronting tyranny and autocracy.

    Where does one get the gall to call civil society evil? How can those who’ve dedicated their lives to eradicating the evils in our society be themselves evil?

    I am glad the Bill to neuter and destroy NGOs was defeated, thanks to CORD MPs. This is the question – why does the state want to hogtie NGOs and muzzle the media?

    The state can’t have its cake and eat it too – it can’t pretend to support democracy and then kill the institutions that make democracy possible.

    The state and its social acolytes – who operate anonymously – must stop demonising Africog’s Gladwell Otieno, International Commission of Jurists’s George Kegoro, Inuka’s John Githongo, Ms Wanyeki, feminist Betty Murungi, KHRC’s Atsango Chesoni, Mr Kiai, Prof Karuti Kanyinga and human rights advocate Ndung’u Wainaina.

    I want to end by turning wisdom on its head. Yes – I belong to the evil society. I am “evil” because those who don’t believe in freedom and liberty see me – and my colleagues in civil society – as evil. To them, we are “evil” because we oppose the vices that they practice. We are “evil” because we hate kleptocrats and impunity. We are “evil” because we believe in democracy and human rights.

    We are “evil” because we support justice at the ICC. “Mimi ni member.”

    didn’t we hear uhuru leaning towards opening doors to African citizens victims of misrule to come to Nairobi ? what is the long term effect of this kind of open door immigration policy to Kenya and Kenyans in terms of insecurity,social inequality,unemployment,social cost of hosting foreign layabouts in the name of African solidarity,terrorism remember boko haram of Nigeria and you know Nigeria connection with jubilee,is jubilee working in national interest of Kenya or Africans ?
    what are the likes of museveni up to ?

  • Kenya slides toward authoritarianism

    Kenya slides toward authoritarianism

    By Robert Herman, Guest blogger / February 10, 2014

    Recent pressure on civil society and independent media in Kenya is not only a significant threat to democracy in a geopolitically important country. It is also the predictable outcome of the international community’s failure to punish earlier, comparable state-driven repression in Ethiopia — another African nation that is viewed in Western capitals as a strategic partner.

    There is nothing terribly surprising about the attempt by newly elected Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta to create a more hostile environment for advocates of democracy and human rights.

    He had telegraphed his intention in the run-up to the March 2013 presidential vote, all but vowing retribution against such activists because of their support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of those (including Mr. Kenyatta and his now vice president, William Ruto) accused of directing ethnic and political violence following the 2007 presidential election. That violence left more than 1,200 Kenyans dead and some 600,000 displaced. Many victims remain quartered in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, too fearful to return to their home communities.

    When the retribution came, it followed a sadly well-worn script developed by authoritarian states, which are more inclined and better equipped than ever to export “worst practices” when it comes to repressing civil society and silencing dissent.

    The new administration first attempted to close the space for independent political activity by proposing an amendment to the Public Benefit Organizations Act that would severely restrict Kenyan groups from receiving funding from international sources.

    This would have been akin to a death sentence for local democracy and human rights organizations, which face major obstacles in securing contributions domestically. The amendment would also have established a regulatory authority with wide-reaching powers to block registration. The executive branch would have had considerable influence over the proposed body, increasing the likelihood of politicized decisions.

    Fortunately, a combination of diplomatic pressure from donor governments and stepped-up advocacy efforts by leading NGOs convinced the Kenyatta administration to back down, at least temporarily.

    But this reversal did not deter the president from moving swiftly to enact a new media law designed to muzzle what has been a vibrant, if not always terribly professional, press corps. The Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Act, signed into law last month, empowers the executive branch to appoint the leadership of the Communications Authority of Kenya as well as the board of the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal. It also allows the Authority to set limits on the percentage of foreign content in the media.

    Finally, the new law imposes debilitating fines of more than $200,000 on media houses, more than $5,500 on individual journalists — for violations of a code of conduct that is created by legislators.

    Last September’s deadly terrorist assault on a Nairobi shopping mall has raised the possibility of another common repressive tactic: anti-terrorism legislation with such vaguely defined offenses, that it can be used to crush political opposition and imprison civil society activists at the government’s discretion.

    No new law of this kind has been enacted in Kenya so far; but it would fit a pattern established by leading authoritarian states around the world.

    The broader phenomenon illustrated by Kenyatta’s actions is not just a matter of coincidence or independent imitation. Whether they are selling sophisticated technology to track down dissidents online or sharing legislative approaches that provide a patina of legitimacy for their crackdowns on political opponents, repressive governments are actively working together to push back against nonviolent movements for democratic change.

    Indeed, such authoritarian solidarity has arguably outpaced collaboration among the world’s democratic states, which are often feckless in mobilizing to defend their own values and assist like minded activists under duress.

    RECOMMENDED: Think you know Africa? Take our geography quiz.

    In East Africa, evidence of authoritarian contagion is growing. The governments of Uganda, once seen as a great hope for democracy, and South Sudan, the world’s youngest country and a recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance, are contemplating restrictive legislation targeting NGOs.

    However, the true regional pioneer of this approach has been Ethiopia. Under longtime prime minister Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, the Ethiopian government issued laws on NGOs, the media, and terrorism that have collectively devastated the country’s political opposition and civil society. The most prominent democracy and human rights groups have been forced to abandon or radically scale back their work, and many of the leading activists have fled into exile.

    Other leaders in East Africa and beyond no doubt observed with interest as the international community failed to mount any serious challenge to the Ethiopian government’s repressive actions. Donor countries declined to use their extensive development aid as leverage. Instead they meekly promised to monitor how the new laws were implemented.

    Whether out of consideration for Ethiopia’s role in combating terrorism in Somalia, or fear that the country would turn to China as an alternative patron — the world’s wealthy democracies declined to challenge the Meles regime even after its legislation’s ruinous effects became apparent.

    The citizens of Kenya, particularly those who opposed Kenyatta’s presidential candidacy or documented his role in fueling past ethnic violence, may now be paying the price for the international community’s hesitation to act on Ethiopia. It is certainly possible that Kenyatta — facing ICC indictment — would have taken the same steps in the absence of a successful model for repression in the region. But his political allies might well have deserted him if they had reason to believe that Kenya would pay some meaningful price for anti-democratic initiatives.

    One hopes that the US and other democratic donor governments will draw their own lessons from these experiences, finally recognizing that the prioritization of security and macroeconomic concerns over democratic performance is a self-defeating strategy.

    In the long run, repressive states are less stable, less prosperous, and less friendly to democratic partners than open societies, and the spread of authoritarian practices can only damage the interests of Washington and its allies.

    The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of Africa bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers’ own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs.

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