Saturday, 15 December 2012

Kenya's Demonic Politics

Kenyan politics has become demonic, not in any esoteric sense of being possessed. But in the sense that it has lost its way. As Walter Wink says in his book 'The Powers That Be', "If the demonic is the spirituality produced when the angel of an institution turns its back on its divine vocation... and if the demonic arises when an angel deviates from its calling, then social change does not happen on casting out the demon, but recalling its angel to its divine task."

The angel of Kenyan politics has turned its back on its divine vocation and deviated from its calling to work for the greatest good of the greatest number. It has become captive to a handful of rich families and their retinue of praise singers, reducing the rest of us to helplessly watching from the sidelines. It is time to recall this demonic angel back to its divine task, not just by voting in March 2013, but by speaking prophetically to the Powers that be and telling them "Thus sayeth the LORD, let my people go."

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Kenya will be rebuilt and Africa shall arise!

3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love;

    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

4 I will build you up again,

    and you, Virgin Kenya, will be rebuilt.

Again you will take up your timbrels

    and go out to dance with the joyful.

5 Again you will plant vineyards

    on the hills of the Rift Valley;

the farmers will plant them

    and enjoy their fruit.

6 There will be a day when watchmen cry out

    on the hills of Cherangani,

‘Come, let us go up to Mount Kenya,

This is what the Lord says:

“Sing with joy for Africa;

    shout for the foremost of the nations.

Make your praises heard, and say,

    ‘Lord, save your people,

    the remnant of Kenya.’

8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north

    and gather them from the ends of the earth.

Among them will be the blind and the lame,

    expectant mothers and women in labor;

    a great throng will return.

9 They will come with weeping;

    they will pray as I bring them back.

I will lead them beside streams of water

    on a level path where they will not stumble,

because I am Africa’s father,

    and Kenya is my firstborn son.


10 “Hear the word of the Lord, you nations;

    proclaim it in distant coastlands:

‘He who scattered Africa will gather them

    and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’

11 For the Lord will deliver Africans

    and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Kilimanjaro;

    they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—

the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,

    the young of the flocks and herds.

They will be like a well-watered garden,

    and they will sorrow no more.

13 Then young women will dance and be glad,

    young men and old as well.

I will turn their mourning into gladness;

    I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance,

    and my people will be filled with my bounty,”

declares the Lord.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Abe Lincoln & Nelson Mandela: statesmen who did not forget to also be politicians...

 Photo: Me and My Baby, visiting Abraham Lincoln - Washington DC, June 2010
 Me and My Baby, visiting Abraham Lincoln - Washington DC, June 2010
I had to re-share this photo which Katindi and I took with Abe Lincoln when we visited him at his Memorial in the summer of 2010. My sister, brother and I have just come from watching the movie 'Lincoln' at the Hilltop Mall Theatre and it was just excellent!

The key lesson we learn from Lincoln's success in steering the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery through the House of Representatives in the wake of the Civil War is that a statesman must also not forget to be a politician. As Joe Klein points out in Time Magazine, the miracle of Abraham Lincoln the politician was that he pursued the high purpose of moving justice forward via the low arts of patronage and patronization. Klein adds, "Indeed, in a democracy, it is usually the only way great deeds are done."

This reminds me of that other man that I greatly admire, Nelson Mandela. A key lesson we learn from Mandela's own struggle for freedom is that one should have a core principle - everything else is tactics. According to Richard Stengel in a wonderful book I am currently reading, 'Nelson Mandela: Portrait of an extraordinary man', Mandela is a thorough-going pragmatist who was willing to compromise, change, adapt, and refine his strategy as long as it got him to the promised land of equal rights for all, regardless of race, class or gender. Almost any means justified that one noble end.

So, if Lincoln was willing to apply the low arts of patronage and patronization, and Mandela was willing to compromise, change and adapt his strategies, what is the difference from our own politicians who are currently making coalitions right, left and centre ahead of the elections?

The difference is that both Lincoln and Mandela did what they did in pursuit of a noble goal. Our politicians on the other hand will go to bed with the devil for the purpose only of capturing power and retaining status for themselves and their families, not for the greater good of social justice or the equal development of all our people. When it comes to the art of statesmanship and the science of politics, we have a long way to go.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A brief encounter with Uncle Sam.

It's 1.30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday when our Delta Airlines Fight 71 from Amsterdam lands in Terminal 4 at JFK Airport in New York. I make my way to the immigration desk where a young woman asks for my passport, takes my photo and fingerprints and then escorts me to the office for a further interview. I've done this so many times, I am used to the drill. So I sit and wait as I catch up on my reading. Shortly thereafter, I am called to the counter by an immigration official.

"Have you ever been arrested in the United States?" He asks the question I have answered countless times before, upon every entry I have made to the US since my arrest in California in 1993. "Yes," I tell him. "What did you do?" He asks. "It was such a long time ago, I no longer remember," I tell him knowing he has the whole record on the computer and he can read it for himself.

"When you come into our country, you don't come here to break our laws," he says condescendingly as if he is lecturing a five year old. "Well, as I have told you, it was a long time ago and I have been here over 20 times since and I have not broken any law," I say trying to ignore my fatigue and to be polite. But he doesn't relent. "Do you hear what I am telling you. We have the right to deny you entry if you are coming here to break our laws," He says. "I already told you that I am coming for holiday and work, not to break any laws. In any case, as I have told you, that was a long time ago. I was a student, and as I recall, at least two of your presidents (Clinton and Obama) have admitted to smoking pot during their student days and you still elected them President."

"They are American citizens and you are not," He says to which I retort, "Well, Clinton smoked pot but he did not inhale while he was a student at Oxford, so he too was breaking the law in a foreign country," I tell him. "What were you doing at the time you were arrested in California in 1993?" He asks. "I was a student on holiday from Oxford University," I reply. "So you are quite clever then?" He tells me. "Oh yes I am," I reply.

He stamps my passport giving me six months to remain in the US no doubt hoping it's enough time for me to be tempted to break the law so he can deny me entry next time round. We smile at each other and wish each other a nice day. He was clearly the type that expects you to scratch even where there is no itch and to beg and plead, but I have spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of others and I'll be damned if I let Uncle Sam's nondescript Immigration official bully me for the sake of his own afternoon entertainment.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Registering to vote

It's Friday morning and my wife and I drive to the voter registration centre at KIRDI in South C. We are met by five young IEBC clerks, two girls and three boys (yes, they are so young and I am so old, so no disrespect meant!). They are friendly and respectful, even responsive to my old school humour. 

The two girls attend to us. They take our IDs, give us a form to fill our details, type them into the BVR laptops, take our fingerprints and photos and give us our new voters cards. All in less than five minutes. 

As we walk out of the centre, my eye catches a poster on the door that reminds me, that my vote is my future. I whisper a silent prayer for the land of my birth, now besieged by vultures currently forming coalitions of impunity circling for the kill, and I hope against hope that as many as are qualified will register and prepare to vote for real change when our date with destiny finally dawns upon our troubled shores...

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The fall of Kenya's Jebusites draws nigh.

"David and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David." 2 Samuel 5: 6-7 says.

Jebus, which David later named Jerusalem, had been a thorn in the flesh
 of the Israelites. It was inhabited by the Jebusites whom not even the mighty warrior Joshua had managed to dislodge during the conquest of Canaan. They were used to repulsing any attempted invasion, and they were sure that David and his army would be no different. In fact, the Jebusites were so arrogant that they proposed to send 'the blind and the lame' to resist David. Little did they know that their day of reckoning had come.

Likewise, our political elite has gotten so used to deceiving the people every five years and maintaining their stranglehold on power, that they laugh off any challenge that comes from anyone other than one of their own. But in their arrogance, they ignore the places where they are badly exposed:

Verse 8 says, "On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies."

Just like the attack that brought down the Jebusites came through an unconventional passage - the water shaft, which was not guarded - the assault that will finally sort out Kenya's political elite will come from a place they least expect.

Watch this space...

Thursday, 30 August 2012

I just finished reading 'Wanjira' ( a novel by Wambui Githiora and I found it a very refreshing reflection of a more innocent age that I fear we may have lost forever, especially on our university campuses where these days we read of all sorts of shenanigans and creepy goings on. The idealism of the student politics of the mid-1970s and the decency of the budding romances between sincere young people that is depicted in the novel made me nostalgic about an age when young people were not too much in a hurry to grow up and 'make it' and in the process sell out their ideals and bodies to the highest bidder. Cry my beloved country...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The following quote by J. Alan Peterson really blesses me. It reminds me that my marriage is only as good as what I put into it. It is more blessed to give than to receive, and this is particularly true in marriage. Thank you for such good advice Mr. Peterson. 

Most people come into marriage believing it is a box full of goodies from which we extract all we need to make us happy. Marriage is an empty box. There is nothing in it. It is an opportunity to put something in, to do something for marriage.

Marriage was never intended to do something for anybody. People are expected to do something for marriage. If you do not put into the box more than you take out, it becomes empty. Love isn't in marriage, it is in people, and people put it into marriage. Romance, consideration, and generosity in marriage, are in people, and people put them into the marriage box. Living for each other, releases both of you to relax and work together productively to keep the box full.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

REGAINING OUR SALTINESS: The Role of the Church in Post-Election Kenya

{ In the wake of Post-Election Violence, Njonjo Mue was invited by the Kenya Church Association in London to help clarify what was the role of the Church in the lead up to the disputed 2007 Election and what lessons the body of Christ could learn in the wake of the Violence. }

“The need today is for Christians who are active and critical, who don’t accept situations without analyzing them inwardly and deeply. We no longer want masses of people like those who have been trifled with for so long. We want persons like fruitful fig trees, who can say yes to justice and no to injustice and can make use of the precious gift of life, regardless of the circumstances.”
Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, The Violence of Love

I am delighted to be able to join you for this annual reunion of the Kenya Church Association. I am a grandchild of the East African revival and grew up in the Anglican Church before moving to the Nairobi Chapel where I currently fellowship more out of convenience than out of any fundamental differences with the Anglicans. I need to say upfront that I am a Christian and any criticism I might make of the Church here or elsewhere is based on my deep love for the church, my recognition that the Church has done so much to improve the lot of the African people, and my desire to see it achieve its fullest potential in lifting up the people spiritually and socially.

To understand the role the Kenyan Church played in the lead up to the 2007 General Election and what role it can play in the healing and reconstruction of the country after the widespread violence that followed the announcement of the presidential election results, it is necessary to briefly go back in time and examine the way the church has faced the challenges of each new political era. This will in turn help us in determining the way forward for the Church in post-election Kenya.

The Church and colonialism

The missionary church made a huge contribution to Kenyan society, especially in the areas of education and health. I for one am a result of a missionary education having attended The Alliance High School, which was the first high school founded to educate African boys in 1926 and the brainchild of the Alliance of Protestant Missions.

But if the Church did well in helping to lift the living standards of the colonial populations, it is also an inescapable fact that that it did little to openly challenge the social injustices of the colonial era, preferring instead to engage in quiet diplomacy with the colonial powers rather than seeming to rock the boat. It thus acquired the image of a collaborator in the evils of colonialism.

This image of the Church in the colonial era can be gleaned from an article I stumbled upon in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (Friday, 9th May 2008). Reacting to calls for disestablishment of the Church of England, George Pitcher wrote, “The Christendom paradigm…withered with the British Empire. The idea that the Church and the State co-existed is long gone, a dim historical memory of missionaries converting the noble savage, Bible in one hand, Union flag in the other. Furthermore… the Church should never have got itself into its unholy alliance with the State; the Church’s ministry is at its most authentic when it is not at the State’s heart, but a thorn in its side, a national conscience rather than a national Church.”

The Church in Independent Kenya

The perception of the Church working to civilize natives in order to pave way for colonization and therefore not questioning the status quo survived the end of colonial rule. In the early years of independence, the Church tended to concentrate on saving souls and to mind its own business, turning a blind eye to glaring social, political and economic injustices of the new order.

During the Moi era (1978 – 2002), however, when there were very few spaces for political expression, the Church rose to the challenge of filling the political vacuum by providing a social and political space for resistance to one-party dictatorship. A few courageous church leaders such as Bishops Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge and David Gitari of the Anglican Church and Reverend Timothy Njoya of the Presbyterian Church became vocal critics of the political establishment.

But the Church was not united in its approach. While Moi came to regard the mainstream denominations as “the enemy”, he closely aligned himself to the evangelical churches and was a staunch member of the African Inland Church and never missed Sunday service even as his repressive regime assassinated rival politicians, detained others without trial and tortured those who threatened his power base.

The Church was instrumental in pushing for constitutional reform through the Ufungamano Initiative that forced Moi to make certain important concessions and agree to a people-driven constitutional reform process.

The Kibaki Years (2002 – 2007 )

When Mwai Kibaki took over as President in 2002, the Church became largely silent on matters of social justice. Perhaps like the rest of civil society, it make the mistake of giving the new government the benefit of the doubt in the expectation that it would deliver on the various promises it had made in its manifesto when it fought the 2002 election. The then General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, an erstwhile critic of the Moi regime, became a close ally of President Kibaki and served as a presidential appointee on an anti-corruption body. (He went on to contest a parliamentary seat on the President’s party soon after stepping down from the Council and is now an MP. The recently appointed Cardinal of the Catholic Church is also a close ally of the President and has on several occasions issued statement that could be interpreted as being supportive of the establishment.)

Meanwhile, the Church remained silent as the new ruling coalition crumbled under the weight of a pre-election memorandum of understanding that the President refused to honour following the 2002 General Election, allegations of grand corruption and other signs that the new government was not really committed to a new way of managing the country.

In the run-up to the referendum on the new draft constitution for the country in 2005, the Church seemed to find its political voice once again, but its agenda was narrowly focused on resisting the inclusion of Islamic courts in the new constitution. This was hardly the prophetic voice that the Church had come to be associated with.

While not denying the Church the right to articulate its views on issues of concern to it, the expectation that it would rise and speak more forcefully on broader issues of justice in the constitutional debate largely went unmet. Instead its own forceful and largely insensitive articulation of its opposition to Islamic courts alienated the Muslim community, its erstwhile partner in fighting for constitutional reform in the last years of the Moi regime.

The referendum became the new frontline for forces aligned to President Kibaki and those coalescing around his former ally turned political foe, Raila Odinga, who was then leading a group of renegade ministers in opposing the draft. The campaign for and against the new constitution assumed the character of a campaign for and against the status quo with opponents of the draft arguing that it was meant to consolidate power in the hands of a few (read Kikuyu) elite.

At the beginning of the referendum campaigns, a vocal segment of the Church mobilized to reject the draft and publicly and forcefully stated their positions. However, with time, many key Kikuyu church leaders backtracked and counseled their followers to ‘vote with their conscience’. This was interpreted by the “No” camp to indicate that the Kikuyu church leaders’ change of heart was ethnically motivated.

The Church was thus seen as divided and serving narrow political interests depending on the ethnic group to which its leaders belonged. The prophetic voice of the Church to act as the conscience of society was lost, and the Church did nothing to evaluate its own role even after the people voted to soundly reject the draft constitution.

Approaching the 2007 General Election 

In the run up to the 2007 General Election, the Church was seen as being openly partisan, along ethnic lines. Christian believers were clearly confused by conflicting “prophesies” of prominent Christian leaders which predicted victory for various candidates and prayed and anointed them as God’s choice for President. The uncertainty generated by these conflicting views fuelled the divisions in the Church.

Reports from the Rift Valley indicate the church leaders used civic education, prayer meetings and other occasions to openly campaign for their preferred parties and candidates. It is no wonder that at the height of the violence in January, when asked to comment on the role of the Church, a political analyst famously quipped, “We have seen the Church of PNU and we have seen the Church of ODM but, pray tell, where is the Church of Jesus Christ?”

Against this backdrop, it is unsurprising that when the political crisis erupted leading to widespread violence in the wake of the disputed presidential election results, the Church struggled to find its voice. Church leaders could not rise above their partisanship and give the country a clear moral direction and the church was reduced to a helpless spectator to the emerging tragic drama.

The burning of over 400 churches during the violence was a sad reminder that many had come to regard churches not as sacred and neutral places of worship and sanctuary, but as part of the contested terrain of partisan politics. In the immediate aftermath of the elections, the overwhelming impression was that Christians had been betrayed by their own brothers and sisters and their own leaders.

Where do we go from here? 

In March, the National Council of Churches of Kenya formally apologized to the nation for having taken sides during the 2007 General Election. This is an important step in the long road to the Church recovering its credibility and playing its role of being the conscience of society.

Several churches also joined forces in an initiative dubbed Msafara – The Wheels of Hope in which over 500 believers joined a caravan from Mombasa through Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret to Kisumu praying to cleanse the nation from demonic influences and taking humanitarian relief to internally displaced persons. But the Church needs to do more to recover its leading role in raising a strong civil society to hold the government to account.
As Kenya grapples to come to terms with what happened in the first three months of this year and the way forward, the Church needs to prepare to take the lead in the following respects:

1.         Discipling the nation.  – There is need to ask ourselves how is it that Christians so easily turned on each other. The Church needs to be at the forefront of fighting tribalism and forging an abiding spirit of nationhood. There is need to seriously address issues such as the gospel and culture, which go to the ethnic divisions that have plagued Kenya for many years. There is also need to connect spiritual warfare with rigorous socio-political analysis and engagement. In this regard, the words of Archbishop Romero on Christians needing to be active and critical and not accepting situations without analyzing them inwardly and deeply are very timely for Kenya.

The post-election violence exploded the myth that Kenya is one united nation. The sad fact is that Kenya as a nation has never really been born. What exists currently is a collection of 42 disparate ethnic groups with very little binding us together. Politicians have made it very clear that if left to their own devises, they shall continue to mobilize for support along ethnic lines and therefore continue to fracture this fragile country. The Church therefore needs to urgently step into the void by defining the spirituality of our nationhood and helping us to define and own our Kenyanness.

2.         Constitutional, administrative and legal reforms.  – The protagonists in Kenya’s crisis have pledged to embark on constitutional reforms. As stated earlier, the Church in Kenya has in the past played an important role in pushing for constitutional reform. It must strive to recover its foothold in this important area. As Kyril, the Archbishop of Smolensk and Kalinigrand reminds us, “It is not acceptable for the Church to refrain from participation in law-making and from the opportunity to influence the political process, where not only the Church’s own future but the future of the entire country is dependent upon laws and political decisions”

3.         Land reform – the unequal distribution of land lies at the heart of Kenya’s political problems. The Church needs to push for more equitable land policies to ensure that this perpetual threat to national stability is dealt with once and for all. However, it has to be said that the Church has been reluctant to challenge the status quo in land distribution because mainstream churches are among the biggest land owners while some of the mushrooming evangelical churches have been mentioned in the Ndungu report as having been irregularly or illegally allocated public land during the Moi regime. Many churches are built on grabbed land.

4.         Peace building, reconciliation and restoration process. – The government and the political players have committed themselves to setting up a truth and reconciliation process, but this cannot be left in the hands of the politicians alone. The Church has been called to a ministry of reconciliation and must exercise this spiritual mandate in the wake of the election crisis. The Church shall have to closely monitor the process to ensure that it is genuinely aimed at achieving national healing and not merely a whitewash aimed at sweeping past injustices under the carpet for political expediency.

The Church should also use the pulpit to teach and preach genuine forgiveness and reconciliation and encourage people to participate in dealing with the past justly and comprehensively so that the nation can truly be healed of its multiple wounds. The Church also has an ongoing responsibility of healing of the trauma of the violence among its own members.

Finally, the Church should live as much as possible as a reconciled community and thereby become a model to the rest of society of what can be accomplished if people live together in harmony.

As part of a society struggling to come out of a deeply traumatic experience, the Church in Kenya has been left deeply wounded, disoriented and almost without voice. Fortunately, the Church can learn from the experiences of churches in other countries and other ages such as Germany after the 2nd World War or South Africa after apartheid. To do so, the Church must quickly move to recover its voice, restore its credibility and play its prophetic role in advancing the cause of justice, healing and reconciliation in the wake of the Kenyan crisis. As South African theologian, Charles Villa-Vicencio reminds us in his book, A Theology of Social Reconstruction: Nation Building and Human Rights,

“Unless the Church is able in these situations (of reconstruction) to translate the values of the gospel into practice and proclaim its beliefs in a language that makes sense even to those who are no longer interested in its views, it may well have no significant role at all to play in the period of reconstruction. This means that unless the church’s theological values make sense to those beyond its own membership, and are given expression through secular debate in a language understandable to a broad constituency of people… it may not be heard at all.”

In January, when Kenya was falling apart and looking for moral leadership, the Church stumbled and could not give a clear direction. The peace agreement signed between the politicians in February has given us some breathing space, but the root causes that led to the crisis are far from resolved. The Church must take advantage of the ceasefire to get its own house in order so that in the event of a future flare-up, it shall be there to speak with authority and to continue leading the country along the treacherous path to healing and true reconciliation.

I thank you.

*The Kenya Church Association is a UK-based fellowship of Kenyans and UK friends of Kenya of all denominations, committed to support and encourage Christian work and development in Kenya. The KCA was formed in 1920 in order to keep in touch people who have a special interest in Kenya, and particularly the work of the Church there. In the past many members have themselves lived and worked in Kenya as missionaries. Today there are many Kenyans who live in Britain, and many are Christians. So most of the KCA’s potential members are Kenyans who are resident in Britain. KCA is building a fellowship that includes former long or short term missionaries and Christian expatriates to Kenya, Kenyan Christians living or working in the UK and current missionaries in Kenya.
** Njonjo Mue is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a human rights campaigner. He currently works with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. The views expressed in this speech are his own and do not reflect the position of the Commission.

Time is Fast Slipping Away, Mr. President!

[In August 2001, as Kenya approached the historic transitional General Election of 2002 at which Daniel Moi was not expected to run after the expiry of his two terms, Njonjo Mue wrote a letter to Moi stating what must be done to guarantee a free and fair election, avoid violence, and assure a true transition from Moi to the people's choice. The letter was faxed directly to Moi at Harambee House and it was carried as an open letter by the People Newspaper of Sunday, September 2, 2001. ]

Njonjo Mue
P.O. Box
28 August 2001

H.E. Daniel Arap Moi
President of the Republic of Kenya
Office of the President
Harambee Avenue,

Fax: 254-2-721515/210150

Dear Mr. President,

In the past two weeks, two important events have taken place that observers regard as milestones on Kenya's political landscape. 

The first is the defeat in Parliament of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, No. 2 of 2001 which would have entrenched the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority (KACA) in the Constitution. This was a humiliating setback for your government, especially after you raised the stakes by turning out personally in Parliament to cast your vote in its favour. The second event is the agreement last week by KANU and NDP delegates to mandate the leadership of the two parties to effect a merger. 

While these two events are not directly related, I would like to take the opportunity they present to address you once again on crucial issues pertaining to the impending political transition in Kenya, and which as yet remain unresolved. 

I refer to my letter to you of December 22, 1999, which I attach here for ease of reference. Mr. President, in that letter, I warned of the extreme frustration that young Kenyans were experiencing at the hands of a political establishment which did not seem in the least interested in applying their minds to resolving the huge problems facing the nation at the dawn of the new century, notably the twin challenges of poverty and underdevelopment. 

Sadly, almost two years later, the situation has only gotten worse; and the chickens are coming home to roost as clearly illustrated by the recent explosion of unrest in schools and other institutions of learning. And instead of taking the bold steps required to reverse the decay, you have now turned your attention to presiding over marriages of convenience between your party and any other that might be interested in buying into your blurred vision for our country. 

At a glance, the merger between KANU and NDP announced last week is a matter entirely for the two parties in the exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of association. However, when viewed in the context of recent political developments, the impending merger assumes critical importance to all Kenyans. 

The proposed merger comes just as the constitutional review process gets underway. Kenyans have not forgotten the stony road we have trod to get to where we are with regard to the review, nor the controversial role that both you and Mr. Raila Odinga have played in barring the people from having any meaningful say in how they are to be governed. 

It is an open secret that Mr. Odinga wishes to see a parliamentary system of government with himself as Prime Minister. Odinga is obviously entitled to his dreams. But the fact that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review which he chairs is dominated by Kanu-NDP apparatchiks remains in place does not augur well for the country. Nor does the fact that Odinga's lieutenant, Mbita MP Otieno Kajwang' has brought a notice of motion in Parliament seeking to extend the term of the current parliament ostensibly to oversee the process of constitutional review. 

Mr. President, our path to nationhood has entered its most critical phase. You have stated time and again that you wish to leave behind a strong united country at peace with itself when you retire as Head of State next year. I opine that you have a very small window of opportunity within which to do this and time is fast slipping away. 

Swallowing NDP is in my view, not the way to achieve your stated goal. For I see no other purpose for which it is being pursued than to ensure KANU retains power by all means necessary. And while I do not begrudge KANU, or any other party for that matter, its right to seek power, I believe that there is a higher purpose to politics than this. Politics is meant to help people to realize their fullest potential, not merely to enable the powerful to trample over the powerless in the scramble to control the resources of the land. 

But even if you are not in principle inclined to exercise caution in this regard, you might be pragmatically so inclined. And this brings me to the defeat of the KACA Bill. In my view, the principal lesson lesson to be learned from the experience is that on the issues that are of real importance to the nation, such as anything to do with the Constitution, swallowing up former opponents will not suffice to provide a way forward. We must reach out in good faith across the political divide to provide and forge true consensus. What's more, we must find new ways of truly involving the people in determining their own destiny. The sooner you start doing that, instead of wasting precious time and resources cobbling together untenable alliances, the better it will be for Kenya. 

Finally, Mr. President, it is clear to me that in the political climate that currently prevails and that is likely to prevail in Kenya as we count down to the 2002 election, it is unrealistic to expect that we shall have written a new constitution in time for the election. And while I have the greatest faith in Prof. Yash Ghai and his team, I see a real danger in the process being manipulated to the advantage of certain political interests and the detriment of the Kenyan people. 

To avoid this, we should accept now what appears to be an obvious reality that there shall be no new constitution by 2002, and reason together while we yet have the time as to how best to proceed. This will avoid an IPPG being sprung again on us under the pressure of an impending election and national interest being sacrificed  on the altar of political expediency as has already happened once before. 

In the circumstances, I would strongly counsel that we proceed according to the following five-point plan:

1. The Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review, having served its purpose, should be disbanded forthwith;
2. The Ghai Commission's mandate should be revised and limited to drawing up a number of constitutional principles upon which a new constitution shall be based, as well as drafting an interim constitution whose aim is to provide a framework for free and fair elections next year and the governance of the country during the five years of transition after you leave office; 
3. Next year's elections should choose a parliament as well as an elected constituent assembly to draw up and adopt a new final constitution within the first three years of the next parliament. The new constitution should conform to the constitutional principles that shall have been drawn up by the Ghai team, debated and adopted by the nation before we go to the polls in 2002;
4. The period between now and the 2002 elections should be used wisely to create an enabling environment for free and fair elections. In this regard, the shameful behaviour the police exhibited in Mombasa against MP Charity Ngilu over the weekend cannot be tolerated. The minimum conditions for a free and fair election, in my view, should include the following: 
     a) The issuance of identity and voters cards without discrimination to all Kenyans who qualify. This exercise should start immediately and be continuously carried out until two months before the 2002 elections leaving just enough time to compile the voters' roll. Arrangements should also be made to register Kenyans living abroad who should be eligible to vote in the elections. 

     b) equitable access of all parties to state-owned media, especially the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. To make this a reality, KBC should be placed under the oversight of a multi-party board between now and the elections. Private media should have a public service focus inserted into their licences requiring them to equitably cover all shades of opinion in the run up to the elections. 
     c) Unhindered access to the electorate by all parties. This should be facilitated by dispensing with the requirement to obtain licences for rallies. Parties should only be required to give notice of their rallies to the police who should provide security but should not have the power to interfere with or arbitrarily cancel rallies unless there is a clear and present danger of violence breaking out. In the one-year period before the elections, the police commissioner should be made accountable to a multiparty Independent Directorate, which will monitor the police force's compliance
     d) The provincial administration should be forbidden from taking any part whatsoever in the electoral process, which should be the sole responsibility of a reconstituted and truly independent electoral commission.
     e) The ruling party should be prohibited from the unlawful use of state resources for its campaigns. The president and cabinet ministers should also be prohibited from using state resources or state functions for partisan political purposes. Where the president uses such functions and live radio transmissions for such purposes, opposition parties should have a right of reply in the same medium.
     f) There should be state funding for all parliamentary political parties on an equitable basis to be mutually agreed ahead of the next general election

5. The next government should have representatives on a proportional basis of all the parties that get over 20% of the seats in parliament. It should be charged with presiding over the transition to a democratic dispensation within a period of five years, i.e. the lifetime of the next parliament. All this should be carefully laid out in an Interim Constitution that should be agreed before the election. The Ghai team should now focus its limited time and resources spearheading efforts aimed at drawing up such an Interim Constitution. 

Mr. President, I need not point out that your government is in a state of terminal decline. It has manifestly failed in performing the basic tasks of a government, i.e. guaranteeing peace and security, facilitating economic growth and rolling back poverty, ignorance and disease. The time left in your presidency is not sufficient to turn back the tide. but it may just be enough for you to begin the laying of the foundation for a truly democratic system based on dignity, equality and justice for all Kenyans.

Future generations will judge you based on whether in the coming months, you will have the courage to reach out to all the people of Kenya for this purpose, or you will continue to go down the destructive path of divisive partisan politics that you have embarked upon in the company of turncoat politicians whose sole aim is to use the twilight of your presidency to propel themselves to power through manipulation rather than my election following a truly democratic process.

Yours faithfully,
Njonjo Mue

CC. Prof Yash Pal Ghai
       Constitution of Kenya Review Commission. 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Kenyan lawyer in custody for storming US embassy

On 12 October 2005, Njonjo Mue, then serving as the Executive Director of Christians for a Just Society (CFJS) was arrested at the US Embassy in Nairobi where he had gone to present a petition to Ambassador William Bellamy for compensation of Kenyans who had been injured or lost loved ones following the bombing of the US Embassy on 7 August 1998. Njonjo ended up spending 30 days in Industrial Area Remand Prison after being charged with creating a disturbance. Below is a testimonial of a former President of the Kenya Community Abroad who contributed to the debate that ensued following Njonjo's arrest: 


Subject: Re: Kenyan lawyer in custody for storming US embassy
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2005 13:30:43 -0000

I first met Njonjo Mue in London while he was doing his studies in
Oxford. We had been communicating over the Internet on the then
premier Kenyan network, kenya-net. I had a presentation to make to an
audience in London to an audience addressing issues on technology and
development and my paper was on African Telecommunications.

Njonjo travelled from Oxford to London where we spent a good part of
the day touring the city, talking about change and discussing how we,
the young generation, can help create a better Kenya for future
generations. I learnt a lot from the young lawyer and his commitment
to the cause of change.

We remained in touch thereafter and shared ideas on how we could
continue in the actvists' world. When I was elected KCA president we
discussed the possibility of him speaking at one of our conferences.
Minneapolis, MN came in 2000 and Njonjo Mue offered to attend, indeed
paying his way to the event that also featured MPs Orengo, Kirwa and

What amazed me is Njonjo Mue's courage and the ability to take on
these politicians. In his speech, he coined the term "Uhuru
Generation" and urged that old men and women that have been on the
political scene in perpetuity should step aside. He called upon the
Uhuru Generation to rise up and take the mantle of leadership, giving
examples of Dr Kiano who was minister at 27 and Matiba who was PS at
31! His argument was that the Uhuru Generation was old enough and
mature enough to take over the country's leadership.

At the same conference, he talked of the BOMB (bring our money back)
initiative. We supported this and directed efforts as a strategy to
get the necessary information to shame the country's looters and
thieves! It was a noble cause but which required extensive investment
for investigative work. Indeed, as has been seen with the NARC
government, the process for discovering where money has been stashed
abroad can be protracted, despite spending huge sums of money in the

BOMB remains a noble cause; results have yet to come.

Njonjo Mue is a passionate defender of human rights and continues to
do so. He is dramatic to the point and a brave soul to boot! His
statements are gutsy and uses powerful symbolism to drive the point home.



During his years living and working in South Africa in the late 1990s and 2000, Njonjo Mue formed and headed the Kenyan Democratic Initiative in South Africa - KENDISA - to put pressure on the Moi's regime to leave power. Below is an account of one of their activities held to mark 21 years of Moi's presidency:


Tuesday, October 17, 2000

A group of Kenyans resident in South Africa gathered outside the Kenyan High Commmission in Pretoria on Friday night to mark what was billed as Kenya's Day of Darkness. The occasion was designed to give Kenyans abroad an opportunity to empathize and show practical solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Kenya in their daily struggle for survival; to protest the failure of leadership and the loss of vision; and to symbolize and protest Kenya's leadership unto darkness.

The gathering was preceded by 24 hours during which Kenyans in South Africa switched off their electricity and turned off their taps, fasted and used public transport to go to work. In so doing, they hoped to experience, in a small way, what Kenyans at home are going through on a daily basis and thereby to establish a psychological link that would spur them to more concrete action in seeking solutions to the problems at home.

'The first step in solving any problem is to understand it,' said Njonjo Mue, one of the organizers of Siku ya Giza. 'These activities are meant to give us a deeper understanding of the situation at home by actually experiencing it ourselves instead of merely talking about it. The next step is to be proactive engaged, along with people at home, in seeking solutions to these problems.'

During the gathering outside the High Commission, which took place between 9 p.m. And midnight on Friday, 13th October 2000, a group of 34 Kenyans held a candlelight vigil marked by various activities including songs, prayer, meditation, reflection and sharing their hopes and dreams for a better Kenya. They also held a proactive discussion on ways to improve service delivery to Kenyans in the areas of healthcare, education, poverty and combating corruption. They prayed that God would intervene in Kenya and establish a rule of justice and equity, and committed themselves to get personally involved in bringinging their country back from the brink.

The new Kenyan High Commission to South Africa, Dr. Cairunji Chesaina, and the High Commission staff were invited to participate in the Siku ya Giza activities but they did not show up; but some people could be seen peeping through the curtain from inside the High Commission building throughout the duration of the vigil.

While Siku ya Giza was primarily targeted at Kenyans resident in South Africa, A few Kenyans in other countries also participated in the personal 24 hour blackout. Kenyans abroad have resolved to intensify protests at their Embassies and High Commissions in order to highlight the failure of leadership and abuses of human rights by the Moi government at home.


By Njonjo Mue

From the outside
We marveled and gazed
At institutions that towered 
Imposingly above us
With the confidence 
Of Kilimanjaro 

In our First Year
We were awed
By their intricate performance 
Fascinated by ideas
So new yet so old.

As we entered our Second Year
The beat of legal jargon
Began to lose its rhythm 
And we faltered as we danced
To its awkward tune
Embracing as it did
More ideas than ideals.

As we prepared to leave 
We were finally forced to admit 
This simple but harsh reality:
Structures, after all, are
Made by humans, for humans
And often embody the very frailties
That they seek to redress.

We departed in two unequal files
One qualification, two destinations:

The idealist
Feeling one step
Closer to the truth
Went forth
Strengthened in her resolve
To lend spirit to the letter 
Of the law

While the Cynic 
Armed with newfound skills
Determined to make a fortune
By going forth to find 
the most legal ways
Of breaking the law.

As we left to take our place
On the Stage of Human Affairs
Others came in to play their part
On this tour of duty
To a land where
At least for a while,
They could afford to dream
Of peace and justice
Talk of law and order
And discuss hopes
Of changing the world
Some day.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Do you see what I see?

[I wrote this article in June 1999. Initially titled 'Beggar, my neighbour', it was published by Expression Today issue of July 2000 under the title 'Do you see what I see?' The characters have changes somewhat, but the issues are still very relevant.]


Do you see what I see?

Sister, look yonder into the horizon, where hope once dwelt; what do you see?

I see a country, once a great nation, an erstwhile land of promise, now down on her knees. I see the seat of her government, once the pride of the land, an erstwhile beauty to behold, now a den of thieves.

Den of thieves? What are they stealing?

Bread, bread from the mouths of babes… a mother holds a dying infant; she cannot get medicine from the hospital. It was delivered a month ago – a whole year’s supply, in fact – but only on paper. The money actually ended up in a numbered account belonging to a cabinet minister.

But surely the child’s parents can buy some medicine…

Parent. She is on her own now, at least since last month. Her husband was killed in a road accident in Naivasha – head-on collision as the bus tried to avoid a pot-hole. They say his life might have been spared had money to maintain that road not gone missing.

Is she all alone then?

No, I see her brother. He graduated recently from university and was one of the lucky few; he was able to obtain employment after just eight months.

He ought to do something, then.

The spirit is willing, but the pocket is weak. He was laid off a month ago. He worked for Bata Shoe Company, you see.

Bata? Are you saying that Bata has shut down? Why, when we were growing up we thought that Bata was the only shoe brand in the world. What happened?

The government will tell you it fell on hard economic times. But those in the know say that, together with the entire textile industry, it was overwhelmed by imported second-hand wares whose chief importer is the president’s own son.

Have another look at the horizon, sister. Surely there must be some change now. How is the infant doing?

Doesn’t look too good. But neither does the country. It is bleeding… hemorrhaging in fact. Have you read the papers these last few days? It reads like the roll call of shame. Saitoti and Biwott – 850 million between them; Moi’s son – evaded duty on six luxury cars; Moi’s daughter – forced a parastatal to buy bicycles at exorbitant prices; Wako, Lotodo and a host of other worthies – unworthily stole public land. And this is just a tip of the iceberg.

And where is the big man himself? Can you see him?

Yes, the septuagenarian retired school teacher who has presided over this disaster for 21 years has just returned from witnessing a smooth transfer of power to a new generation by a man whose people would have begged to stay for a little longer. And the teacher has the audacity to say that if he could find someone who could unite the people, he would retire. What pathetic arrogance! You spend a lifetime dividing the people and undermining their democratic institutions and then blame them for not being prepared to go on without you! What utter conceit!

Anything else? Can you see anything else?

It is getting dark now… very dark…. Thick clouds are gathering over the skies….The child dies, the mother cries…darkness falls across the land. The kleptocrats reign supreme… the nation recoils in a whimper…

But why, why can’t the people rise and say ‘enough is enough’?

They don’t know any better. They feel the pain but can’t really point out where it hurts. And if they can, they are so anaesthetized by short-term solutions that they cannot bear the thought of a total overhaul. What’s more they themselves are not ready to pay the price; they  want to  replace the faces of the tyrants as long as it doesn’t stop them from bribing policemen on the road, buying their passports and drivers licenses, and evading taxes. The men want to continue abusing the women behind closed doors and Matatu operators want to continue mistreating commuters, only threatening to go on strike when their personal interests are threatened. Nor can the people unite because the teacher has so divided them over the years that they no longer regard themselves as belonging to Kenya and as being bound together by their common humanity. ‘It is our turn to eat!’ proclaims one group. ‘Our own must now preside over the lootocracy!’ declares another.

But did I not hear something about a new constitution?

Yes, but what good will that be if the whole country has become a nation of beggars and thieves? A piece of paper, however well written will not exorcise the ghosts currently haunting this land. In the current climate where all have become so baneful and corrupt, a constitution will merely be a name full of sound and fury but signifying nothing!.

So what are you saying? Surely you are not suggesting that this beloved country be left to remain steeped in the miry clay…

Certainly not. I am merely saying that it needs to do something more drastic than merely adopt a new constitution. Something has to happen to break the inertia. How is it that the same generation that took over the reigns of power 40 years ago is still running the show today? Don’t Kenyan women give birth to daughters and sons anymore? How is it that people approaching their sixties are called ‘young turks’ while those who became ministers and permanent secretaries in their late twenties and early thirties bid them to wait their turn? Why have young people agreed to be relegated to the position of youth-wingers to an old guard that is going blind with age and leading the entire country down the pit?!?

And the opposition? Surely there must be some hope there.

I don’t think so. Kenya is a one party state, whatever else you hear out there. All the so-called opposition parties are extensions of the ruling party even if they don’t acknowledge it themselves. Their membership is drawn from the ruling party’s disgruntled ranks; and they really haven’t had the time or space to develop an alternative agenda for serving the people. In any case, the country is so balkanized into tribal ghettos that the current parties cannot but reflect the country in microcosm. And that cannot be where the answer lies.

So what do you suggest as the way forward?

That is another story for another day. But Kenya will change. Let’s start from there. It will change. It’s not a question of whether, but when. It is like apartheid in South Africa. The teacher can either choose to be a PW Botha and cling to a fading nightmare, or an FW De Klerk and start managing a smooth transition. What he does now will determine whether that grieving mother wipes her tears away with the garment of revenge or the cloth of reconciliation. And let those who delight in causing so much pain today not delude themselves: Every last inch of stolen land shall be returned to the people. Every last cent stolen from our common chest shall be recovered with interest. Those who delight in killing and maiming our people under the pretext of maintaining law and order shall be called to account. And it matters not who you are today; tomorrow you shall be subject to the people, for the people shall govern…

Amkeni Ndugu Zetu!

Njonjo Mue
22 June 1999.